In March 2016, throughout a go to to the Major Hillard Library in Chesapeake, Va., Kimberlee Stevenson picked up a duplicate of “Until I Saw Your Smile” by J.J. Murray, a romance author identified for his multiracial story traces and characters.
“I finished the novel in three days,” stated Ms. Stevenson, 38, the proprietor of a literary web site the place she blogs about romance novels and a youth contractor specialist for the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, which affords employment providers. “I thought it was great and I like to meet the authors, so I sent him a friend request on Facebook.”
John Murray accepted her request the next day.
In October, Ms. Stevenson wrote a private essay about finishing a 5K run for the Ability Center of Virginia, a nonprofit group that gives providers to folks with disabilities.
“I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when I was 2 and a half,” she stated. “I post about my life and advocate for others. I tell people cerebral palsy is my super power.” The essay included a photograph and video of Ms. Stevenson along with her medal.
Mr. Murray, 57, was quietly following her accomplishments and posts. “I was going through a terrible divorce and was in a bad place,” he stated. “I accept everyone who friends me because those people are potential readers. But when I watched Kim’s video and read about what she had been through and accomplished, I found her inspiring. I found myself thinking about her a lot.”
Though they nonetheless had by no means communicated instantly, his ideas about Ms. Stevenson became 235 pages of Mr. Murray’s subsequent novel, “Kicked To The Curb,” which he accomplished in two months utilizing Ms. Stevenson as his muse.
The two first acquired to know one another by means of social media. She loved the romance novels he wrote and later grew to become a muse for one among his books.Credit…J. Rose Imaging
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“My characters are powerful women,” stated Mr. Murray, who’s the writer of 45 romance novels. “I’m drawn to women who have it all together. From her video I could see she did. I thought she was cute and fierce, and had a beautiful smile.”
Another 12 months handed with no communication.
In January 2018, Mr. Murray despatched Ms. Stevenson an e mail asking if she would learn his forthcoming novel for factuality and authenticity.
She was flattered, charmed, but additionally “creeped out.”
“He had to do some digging to find my private email address,” stated Ms. Stevenson, who agreed to learn the manuscript. “I was surprised at how accurate he’d gotten me and the material.”
After Ms. Stevenson gave Mr. Murray her suggestions, the 2 fell right into a every day e mail and Facebook Messenger alternate.
Mr. Murray was making an attempt to be skilled. “I didn’t want her to think I was stalking her,” he stated. “I didn’t write the book to meet her, but I wanted a friendship.”
That March, Ms. Stevenson spoke on the Cerebral Palsy Conference in Suffolk, Va. Mr. Murray drove out to listen to her.
“I was fangirling the moment I saw him,” stated Ms. Stevenson, who had introduced a newly revealed copy of “Kicked To the Curb,” the novel she impressed, along with her for him to signal. “He was attractive and established. I thought he wouldn’t be interested in me because I was younger.”
It was true: Mr. Murray is 18 years older. He had two sons from his first marriage; Ms. Stevenson had by no means been married and didn’t have kids. He lived round four.5 hours away from her in Roanoke, Va. Yet once they met within the parking zone of the convention, their connection was plain.
They spent the day collectively and had dinner. They couldn’t cease speaking.
In July, Mr. Murray went on his annual journey to Canada together with his father; Ms. Stevenson traveled to the Bahamas for a household reunion. When she arrived residence, she discovered a Canadian care package deal full of objects Mr. Murray thought she’d like — a teddy bear, scarf, tea and cookies.
“My mother said, ‘You know he’s in love with you. No man goes to Canada and sends all these things back,’” Ms. Stevenson stated.
“Kim went from character to pal to lover and now my spouse,” Mr. Murray stated. “I’ve discovered a happiness I didn’t know I might really feel.”Credit…J. Rose Imaging
They had their first official date a month later in August to rejoice Ms. Stevenson’s 36th birthday. They spent the weekend in Chesapeake, procuring, enjoying miniature golf, eating at a Mexican restaurant and sharing a Saturday afternoon kiss. A week later, Mr. Murray had a ebook signing in Raleigh, N.C. Ms. Stevenson accompanied him.
“That’s when we became a couple,” she stated. “I realized this is the person I want to be with. I dated other guys who had issues with my cerebral palsy or didn’t want to date me because I was sick. John was everything. He was considerate and caring. I didn’t have to worry if he was going to wash his hands and be done. After that weekend I knew he would be there for me.”
Mr. Murray spoke equally. “When she held my hand it felt like coming home — she made me feel calm,” he stated. “I’m a nurturer and a caring person. She became the one I wanted to give attention, help and love to.”
The subsequent 12 months and a half was full of Mr. Murray visiting month-to-month and with Ms. Stevenson forming a relationship with Mr. Murray’s sons, Jontae, 22, and Joshua, 26, and his father, John Stevens Murray, 82. There had been journeys to the hospital for Ms. Stevenson, household journeys to Aylen Lake, in Ontario, Canada, and journeys to jewelers to analysis wedding ceremony rings.
In December 2019, Ms. Stevenson grew to become sick. Two months glided by with out a analysis, which Ms. Stevenson thinks might have been Covid-19.
“That was scary; we didn’t know what was wrong,” Mr. Murray stated. “Kim had several strokes. That was scary, too. Her cerebral palsy has been a part of her life. Now it’s part of both of our lives. There are challenges, but they are worth it. Her spirit and mind and creativity outweigh everything else.”
In March 2020, Ms. Stevenson and her mom, Cecelia Carelock, left for Qatar to rejoice her mom’s birthday. The pandemic adopted just a few weeks later. Once they had been capable of return to the States, Ms. Stevenson quarantined along with her mother and father who dwell in Springfield, Mass. Imposed lockdowns and journey restriction meant she was unable to return to her residence till June.
“I didn’t see John for 101 days,” she stated. “That was torturous.”
A proposal got here on Aug. 30, 2020, the anniversary of their first date, which they recreated, right down to the table-side guacamole, served at their favourite Mexican restaurant, Plaza Azteca. When Ms. Stevenson returned from the restroom, a hoop was on the desk; Mr. Murray was crying. Ms. Stevenson did as properly when she stated sure.
“If this is as bad as life gets, we are going to have a great marriage because we have been through so much in this relationship,” he stated.
The couple had been married April 30, 2021, by Antonio Lundy, the pastor of Grace Tabernacle Church, on the Butcher’s Son restaurant in Virginia Beach. There had been 45 visitors in attendance; Mr. Murray’s sons served as greatest males.
“I’ve always written great loves for my characters. There wasn’t one in my own life. Now there is,” stated the groom. “Kim went from character to friend to lover and now my wife. I’ve found a happiness I didn’t know I could feel.”
The bride echoed comparable sentiments. “I never thought this was going to happen,” she stated. “This is the first relationship I didn’t feel I had to hide a piece of myself. John has stepped up over and over again. He’s my real-life romance hero.”
On This Day
When April 30, 2021
Where Butcher’s Son, Virginia Beach
The literary life “Everything at our wedding is based off John’s books,” the bride stated. “Signed copies of the six books John has written that I’m in are on the tables. My bouquet is flowers made from the pages of ‘Have Ring Will Marry,’ which came out last summer. My engagement ring is on the cover.”
First dance The couple had their first dance to “All My Life” by Ok-Ci & JoJo.
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