From the moment former nun and current FBI specialist in art crimes Emma Sharpe tries on her wedding dress in Carla Negger’s new thriller, Keeper’s Reach (Harlequin MIRA, 2015), we were hooked. Emma is engaged to fellow FBI agent Colin Donovan and they’re in for a wild ride before they arrive at the altar in this latest installment in the Sharpe & Donovan series. Adding to the intrigue is Colin’s big brother, Mike, former Special Forces and current outdoor guide, and freelance civilian intelligence analyst Naomi MacBride. We had the pleasure of talking with Neggers to ask about the new book and beg for some hints about where the series might go.
BookTrib: The Sharpe & Donovan series features FBI agents. Why FBI agents and can you tell us a bit about your research?
Carla Neggers: Character almost always comes first for me when I dive into a new book or series. Once I “saw” Emma Sharpe arriving at a convent on the Maine coast in Saint’s Gate (Harlequin MIRA, 2012), the first book in the Sharpe & Donovan series, I knew two things: she was a novice at the convent and now she’s an FBI agent. I could “see” Colin Donovan sneaking into the convent. Turns out he’s an FBI agent coming off a deep-cover assignment when he’s asked to keep an eye on Emma. Off we go from there! I’m passionate about research. I’ve written about FBI agents, deputy U.S. marshals, Secret Service agents and detectives, and I’ve been privileged to talk to a variety of law enforcement officers — including my cousin! — who’ve given me invaluable insights into their professions.
BT: Emma’s background is quite unusual being a nun and an expert on art crimes. What led you to combine those two things in a single character?
CN: Emma herself led me to combine them! She’s the granddaughter of Wendell Sharpe, an octogenarian private art detective, so her interest in art and art crimes came before her interest in joining the FBI. Wendell has ties to the convent where she was briefly a novice; she was drawn both to the sisters’ life and their work in art restoration and conservation. She didn’t take her final vows, no surprise to her family. At first Colin has no idea she’d been a novice. It’s a big surprise when he finds out!
CN: Art crime is an endlessly fascinating subject and far more complex and wide-ranging than it might seem initially. It takes in so much, everything from art history to organized crime. With her family background and her studies and her work as a novice, Emma’s expertise in art crimes is a natural fit with her experience in the convent. Her ability to meditate definitely comes in handy with Colin, who tends to have quick reactions and rely on his gut.
BT: Mike and Naomi have history, but with Naomi in town, what can readers expect from their reunion?
CN: I loved writing about Mike Donovan and Naomi MacBride! Naomi is courageous, plain spoken and utterly relentless. She never gives up. She and Mike, the eldest of the four Donovan brothers, fell for each other at the exact wrong time in their lives. Now they get a second chance, but do they want one? Life might be easier without the other, but is it better? They have a lot going against them, and not just the past. Mike is certain Naomi’s brought trouble to him yet again when she shows up in Maine.
BT: Can you give us a hint of Mike & Naomi’s staying power as a couple?
CN: Well…let’s see if Nashville’s own Naomi likes Maine ocean kayaking!
BT: Naomi has just returned from England. Is there any significance to The Cotswolds? Did you have to visit for research?
CN: My husband and I have been to the Cotswolds several times in the past few years. It turned out to be the perfect place for Oliver York, a.k.a. Oliver Fairbairn, a wealthy, mysterious British mythologist, to have his country residence. It was his grandparents’ farm, where he was raised after he witnessed the brutal murders of his parents in London, when he was eight. This is an incredibly beautiful part of England, with honey-stoned villages and meandering walking trails, a contrast to Oliver’s tragic past. Naomi ends up there, waking up to a crowing rooster at a bucolic inn. That might or might not be based on actual research. Ha!
BT: Is there a possibility that the tangled web that is weaved throughout the book spells a wedding day postponement?
CN: Emma and Colin’s June wedding seems ages away in the February cold and dangers they face on the Maine coast, even if she has picked out her wedding dress. I’m writing Liar’s Key now, the next book in the Sharpe & Donovan series. Spring is in the air again, so we shall see what happens!