Photo Courtesy of Lisa Heartman

In “High Heels and Handguns,” former Army Special Forces Sergeant Kate Howard wears civilian camouflage while guarding high-profile clients in a dangerous game of rock, paper, hollow point.

After an explosive and deadly end to her client’s reelection fundraiser, which left his young son in critical condition, Kate must accept help from an unwanted source: the soldier she loved and left in Afghanistan, bloody, broken and barely alive.

Special Forces Officer Paxton Banks, Kate’s former captain — now an FBI agent — is assigned to investigate the attempt on her client’s life. After 10 years, old emotions and new threats whip Kate’s world into complicated chaos. But when other elected officials are threatened, Kate and Paxton must tamp down their fiery feelings to catch a madman hell-bent on revenge.

“How do you even know SAC Dupree?” Paxton took a stiff step toward her. The tension rolling off him made her muscles tighten, tugging at the stitches in her shoulder. “Are you blackmailing him?”

“What?” The words hit her like buckshot, peppering her confidence with negativity. She wrapped her arms around her stomach. The burst of disappointment took her by surprise. How could he think she was capable of such brazen behavior? She should tell him she’d worked with Dupree as a linguistics consultant or that she’d conducted protective detail for his daughter, but he didn’t deserve that disclosure. “How could you even ask me that?”

“I don’t know why he would agree to this otherwise. Temporary consultant?” He took another step toward her. “It’s ridiculous. You’re not law enforcement. You’re not a profiler. You’re not even a private investigator.”

The heat in the room ticked up as Paxton ticked her off. Kate shoved her sleeves up to her elbows. “You’re right. I’m none of those things. But I’m quick on my feet, and I trust my instincts.” She fired back at him. “It makes me a damn good bodyguard.”

“For deadbeat douchbags and crooked CEOs.” His voice was louder, angrier. Paxton slid the cell phone into his pocket and crossed his arms over his chest. “This is the FBI, Katie.”

“You left me no choice.”

“No choice? What are you talking about?”

“You were all uptight about me being around the victims and evidence.” She focused her attention on keeping her voice steady. “Now you don’t have to. I already had the clearance. Now I have the approval.”

“High Heels and Handguns” by Lisa Heartman

The multi-award-winning romantic suspense and action-adventure novel — which can also be found in the women sleuths, mystery and suspense, and humorous mystery categories — was written by Southeast Valley resident Lisa Heartman.

A marketer by day and a fiction writer by night, Heartman attributes her love of reading to her mother reading to her as a young child. When she was in third grade, she asked for a typewriter for Christmas so that she could type out her own stories. Today, Heartman believes that reading and writing have helped her to open her mind to creative possibilities and escape the sometimes hectic everyday life.

Images Arizona caught up with Heartman — who also enjoys watching movies, listening to music, baking, crafting and traveling — to ask the author a few questions about “High Heels and Handguns,” the latest selection in its summer book club.

From where did you receive your inspiration for this book?
The story about Kate Howard, the heroine in the series, came to me in a dream. I was writing a contemporary romance at the time and having trouble making the characters feel whole or natural.

One night I had a dream about Kate, who would never have fit in the story I was working on, but I felt connected to her. I didn’t want to forget the details, so I started writing out everything I could remember about her, the story of where she came from and where she was in life.

Before I knew it, I had a complete character profile written and three chapters of the book. I’d never written suspense before, so I had a few friends read it, and they loved it more than my contemporary romance. After that, I switched gears to focus on Kate’s story. The first of the three novels has been published, and I hope to have book two available late this year.

Aside from that initial inspiration, were there any other experiences from your life that played a part in the setting, characters or trajectory of the plot?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an FBI agent. That quickly faded when my eighth-grade class took a tour of the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., and I realized that I’d have to carry a gun and possibly use it to take down a suspect.

I still love stories and movies about the FBI. Knowing what I did about Kate, making her an FBI agent wouldn’t have made sense. She’s not a rule follower, and she doesn’t see life as absolute right and wrong situations. She’s more of a trust-your-gut, live-in-the-grey-area kind of woman.

However, it did make sense for her love interest, Paxton, to be a by-the-book FBI agent. Plus, they have a heated history from when they were in the military, which amps up the natural conflict between them.

What themes did you aspire to tackle with this particular work? Did any other themes reveal themselves to you during the writing process?
I didn’t really think about the theme when I started the book. I was mainly focused on what life as a female bodyguard could be like. As the story progressed, it came clear that the why behind actions and words was just as important as what we do and say. That developed as a natural theme.

Everyone has different backgrounds and beliefs that motivate and guide them in life. Why people do and say things and how they see the world, good or bad, affects everyone around us. I hadn’t planned on it, but that theme came through on the page.

What or how are you hoping your book makes readers feel? What other takeaways do you hope they have?
I hope readers feel excited and entertained. I love these characters, and I’m looking forward to seeing them grow and how their lives change through the series. I hope readers are looking forward to that too and trusting me to take them along on the adventure.

As far as takeaways, I’ve had a few readers mention that they love how Kate is unapologetically herself. I think each one of us is perfect in our own way. Of course, if there are things about yourself that you want to change, you should work on that, but you shouldn’t apologize about who you are. You shouldn’t have to change for someone to like you. And I think those are great takeaways from the book.

What are some of your own takeaways? Specifically, did your characters teach you anything?
It’s not something the characters taught me, more like reinforcing my own beliefs, but human beings are complex. I don’t believe that being strong means you’re emotionless, and being brave doesn’t mean you are fearless. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I think that strength and emotion work hand in hand, and fear often fuels bravery.

There are several scenes in the book where a reader can experience the emotion and fear Kate’s undergoing internally. She does her best to hide it like many of us, but it doesn’t go away. She does things in the face of danger not because she lacks fear and emotion but because she embraces them. I think true strength and bravery are experiencing those emotions and making the tough decisions or being afraid and doing it anyway.

“High Heels and Handguns” was published in 2020 and is currently available in print, ebook and audiobook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Audible.