July 19, 2022
by Katherine Center
St. Martin's Press
Fiction / Romance
Hardcover, 320 pages
“My perfect 10 of a book. As funny and sweet as all the very best nineties rom-coms, but with Center’s signature heart-tugging depth. I wish I could erase it from my mind just to read it again for the first time. A shot of pure joy.”
-Emily Henry 

"With speedy pacing and sexual tension for miles, this tale packs a punch."
People, "3 Best New Books"
Katherine Center's unabashedly romantic, laugh-out-loud funny—and the perfect summer read—is here!

She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka "bodyguard"), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: he doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And therein lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.
Dear Reader,

I wrote The Bodyguard in 2020, during the darkest early days of the pandemic, and it’s how I made my own sunshine in some very gray times. It’s a warm-hearted romantic comedy where a woman bodyguard has to protect a famous actor by pretending to be his girlfriend on a Texas ranch. The characters and the story are fiction—but the ranch is real. It’s my grandparents' 500-acre working cattle ranch just west of Houston, a place I spent much of my childhood scampering around—climbing on hay bales, tromping through cow pastures, and hunting for fossils on the banks of the Brazos River. The ranch house in the story is my grandparents’ house, a place I can still see in vivid technicolor, even though my grandparents are both gone now, and my mom’s been renting out the house for years. Writing a story set there let me escape lockdown in the very best, most nostalgic way—if only in my mind. I could go back to visit people I loved and places I’d lost—all those details coming back like forgotten songs: honeysuckle everywhere, the smell of leather, the soft slap of screen doors—and it was such a bittersweet joy to be there. 

Houston is now the most diverse city in the country—and the fourth largest—and we have a thriving, diverse, mouthwatering food scene. You can get food from absolutely everywhere—sometimes in combination with each other. But when I think of dinners at the ranch, I think of classic Texas fare—something my grandmother would’ve served at the long wooden table before all of us kids scampered off to squeeze the last moments of fun out of the day.

Katherine Center
Book Club Menu and Recipe
In The Bodyguard, the Stapleton family gathers at the ranch on Thanksgiving for a big, friendly, potluck-style feast with friends and neighbors. They sit outside at tables with mismatched tablecloths under string lights, drinking peach schnapps with homemade moonshine. We don’t drink moonshine —my first time to ever taste it was for research for this book—but we do gather out at the ranch every year for Thanksgiving, usually with a big crowd of family and a few extra friends.
And every year since college, I’ve been in charge of bringing a homemade apple crisp, which is just about the sweetest, crunchiest, melt-in-your-mouthiest comfort food I know. The “crisp” of an apple crisp is essentially just cookie dough, so you’ve got warm, lemony, cinnamony baked apples topped with crunchy sugary crisp, and the combination is pure heaven. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and the contrasting cold creaminess takes it all to the next level. 

Enjoy my own personal, beloved apple crisp recipe!

Katherine Center
The Bodyguard Menu

*Peach Schnapps made with moonshine,
Shiner Bock beer, Topo Chico

*Green salad with avocado, tomato, scallions
and La Martinique vinaigrette
*Ribeye steak—seasoned with lemon pepper,
Lea & Perrins,
grilled over an open flame
*Homemade French Fries

*Homemade Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream
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