Set your lineups and pull out the old game tape—football is here. This year, you can experience fantasy football vicariously through (or commiserate with) Harper Duquaine in First & Goal by Laura Chapman.
What begins as a way to make nice with her new co-workers soon becomes an obsession for Harper as she navigates the ups and downs of managing a fantasy football team. Add in a pair of meddling brothers, a crew of quirky colleagues, and a league-mate who makes her toes curl, and Harper’s football season has plenty to keep her interested.
This new romantic comedy is now available from Marching Ink on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Join in the fun and cheer Harper on as she takes on the old boys club.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Then beat them.
When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way). Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool. With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.
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Laura Chapman is the author of First & Goal, The Marrying Type, and Hard Hats and Doormats. Her work appears in Merry & Bright, A Kind of Mad Courage, and a forthcoming Christmas anthology from Marching Ink. A native Nebraskan, she loves Huskers and Packers football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Laura is currently in pursuit of a fantasy football championship while penning her next novel.
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What gave you the inspiration for this book?
When I set out to write First & Goal, the first book in my new Queen of the League series, I wanted to commemorate one of my favorite pastimes—watching football. I was inspired by my own experiences playing in a fantasy football league and growing up in Nebraska as a Cornhusker fan.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, I don't remember being born, what I received for my first Christmas or when I went on my first outdoor picnic—but I do remember my first Nebraska Cornhusker football game.
It was September 1992, and I was 6. I barely understood what a “Cornhusker” was, though I figured it probably had something to do with our mascot Herbie, a farmer sporting ginormous upper arm strength and a smile that freaked me out. For those of you who have never been blessed to visit Nebraska or the city of Lincoln, it’s actually a beautiful place in September. It’s still warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt or maybe a light jacket. There are more sunny days than rainy. And on Saturday, the city turns red.
My mom had to work, and my dad decided to take me in her place. They let me get a new red shirt that proudly proclaimed, “Go Big Red.” It was too big for me then, but they figured it would give me room to grow. It was big enough that my little sister, who inherited it after me, still wears it more than 20 years later.
Dad and I stopped by my mom’s work at the Lincoln Children’s Museum and grabbed a hot dog to eat before our walk to Memorial Stadium. It was kind of exciting to see downtown Lincoln so busy. The only time I’d ever been out and about downtown at that point in my life was my dad and I’s annual pilgrimage to see the Nutcracker each December. This was a whole different experience. The weather was beautiful and the streets were full of people who acted more like best friends than strangers.
At some point I obtained a red balloon, which I protectively clung to in the way only a 6-year-old with a deep appreciation for pretty balloons does. We stopped by the Lied Center so my dad could point out the brick on the pavement with his and my mom’s name on it—something I still look for more than twenty years later whenever I’m in the area. Outside of Kimball Hall, we listened to the UNL Marching Band warm-up before they made their way to the stadium.
We climbed up the ramp to our seats in the north stadium, and my stomach fluttered with excitement. I’d never seen so many people. (Fun fact: Memorial Stadium becomes the third largest city in Nebraska on Game Day with its record-setting sell-out crowds.) In our seats, I looked around the rumbling stadium while the sun warmed my face. In that moment, still clutching my balloon, there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
A beacon-like light flashed on the stadium screens—which would now seem puny compared to the jumbotron we now have—and the sound of “Sirius” by Alan Parsons Project filled the speakers. Everyone who wasn’t already standing jumped to their seats and cheered as the team streamed onto the field from the tunnel.
The Huskers were quick to make a statement and scored a touchdown in the first quarter. Before I could finish cheering, my dad grabbed the balloon I’d been toting around Lincoln for the past few hours and released it into the air. I was stunned. In my life, I’d been told repeatedly not to let go of balloons. Aside from the sad factor of losing something so neat, it was bad for the environment. Forget that everyone else with a balloon had done the same thing, I was shocked my father had stolen my balloon and littered.
From then on, I watched the game with some interest, not fully comprehending what anything besides a touchdown, field goal or kickoff meant. I was fairly confident we’d win the game. And we did. Just like the team won every other game I attended until I went to college. The ‘90s were a great time to grow up a Nebraska fan.
Aside from giving me unfair expectations of what to expect from all future Husker football games I attended—that Nebraska would win soundly—attending that game started my love affair with football. It has been a lot of fun to share that love writing the Queen of the League series. I hope you’ll see that love when you read First & Goal.
Thanks so much for having me as a guest and allowing me to share this story. And Go Big Red!
Photo caption: While I sadly don’t have a photo of my dad and I at my first game, here’s a photo of my dad and I at a game last season.