If you love small-town romances, you’ll love Sweet Grove, Texas. People there will make you smile. Stories there will leave you feeling content.
Tomorrow, the first book I wrote for the First Street Church series will be FREE. I know, free books are one of my favorite things in all the world.
I hope you’ll adore Kyanna and Roth. They aren’t the typical romance couple. First of all, they’re middle-aged. *Gasp* I know! People in their 40s can fall in love?!? It’s true.
Kyanna has sacrificed everything to get ahead in her career. When she finds herself in a new town thousands of miles from her family, she begins to doubt whether her life has the right priorities. A scary call from the doctor? That’s enough to make anyone wonder if God’s trying to get their attention.
Roth has been a single parent since his wife died five years ago. New to Sweet Grove, his teenage daughter Ariel hooks up with the wrong crowd. And they both end up in the principal’s office. But Roth’s not prepared for the attraction he feels toward Kyanna.
And neither of them is ready for what will bring them together. But will they give love a second chance?
Four-star review: “The story was riveting and I had a hard time putting it down. The characters were so real that I felt they could be my friends, or even me had my path gone in the same direction.”
Five-star review: “What I love the most about this book is that it is a wonderful story by a Christian author. The writing is extraordinary, the characters heartfelt and the storyline does not allow the reader to put the book down. I read the entire book in one sitting and could hardly believe it was over! I didn’t recognize the time passing! Wow! Now I can hardly wait to read ALL her books.”
Here’s an annotated table of contents so you can see what you’re going to get. The italicized parentheticals are my mini-commentary on the stories because I’ve read them ALL!
The Witching Hour by Savannah Jezowski
As shadows encroach on the city of Lite, one cat stands between humanity and the hounds of darkness. Will true love save the day? (A comedic not-actual romance that is a perfect kick-off to this collection.)
The Tail of Two Kitlings by Sharon Hughson
Two kitlings. One tail. A mother’s sacrifice and a brother’s betrayal. Who will survive the Siamese curse?
Black Knight by Laura L. Laura Croman Zimmerman
When a jingly bell goes missing, there’s only one supercat to solve this crime—the mysterious Black Knight. (Not just another Batman tale. I smirked. Perfect bedtime reading for your kiddos.)
Sulphur & Sunshine by Grace Bridges
How to Handle a Dragon, Feline Edition: on a volcanic shore, the accidental appearance of a local fire-guardian has unusual consequences for a street cat. (A different sort of story. The perspective threw me off at first, but in the end, I liked it.)
The Magic of Catnip by A. J. Aletha Bakke
An impulse purchase of catnip leads to unexpected shenanigans. (Prepare to laugh.)
The Secret Treasons of the World by J. L. Rowan
When Braelin stumbles upon an outlawed Guardian, she must choose between his safety and her own—and the cost may be more than she can bear. (A gripping story with the feel of YA epic fantasy.)
The Poor Miller and the Cat by Lelia Rose Foremann
When a poor miller rescues a cat, it promises to make him a wealthy man. But what is true wealth? (The requisite fable.)
Alex the Cat and Alex the Prince by Ace G. Pilkington
The prince’s parents are telling him he has to marry for money, and his cat says it could cost him his life.
Whisker Width by H. L. Burke
Get a cat they said. It’ll be fun, they said. No one mentioned the portals to a mysterious realm opening up in Kara’s bathroom. (I didn’t want this one to end because it felt like it was just beginning. That’s author-speak for too good to be so short.)
The Honorable Retrieval of Miss Sunbeam Honeydew by Pamela Sharp
When two princesses of the realm claim the same cat, how far will their loyal retainers go to see that each princess gets her way? (Loads of fun, and another great story for bedtime reading to your kids.)
The Witch’s Cat by Rachel Ann Michael Rachel Harris
Walk under ladders. October the 13th. A black cat. Perhaps the only way to bring two lovers together is through the worst luck. (Entertaining. Defied some stereotypes.)
The Cat-Dragon and the Unicorn by Janeen Ippolito
Ademis the cat-dragon only wants his freedom but must graciously help a scared unicorn girl who should be glad of his benevolent assistance. (If you don’t want a cat-dragon after reading this, you’re not as far along the crazy cat lady road as I am.)
Destined for Greatness by Jenelle Leanne Leanne Schmidt
Kendall knows he is destined for great things. The problem is, the Fates — if they even exist — don’t seem to agree. (Very tongue-in-cheek, but KITTENS!)
Sammy’s Secret by Karin De Havin
A ring is lost. A friendship is ruined. A cadre of cats is on the case!
Death Always Collects by Jeremy Rodden
Loki, a regular old Siamese cat, finds Death looming to take his human. Bargain as much as you want, but remember: Death always collects. (Not what I expected, but a regal portrayal of a cat’s loyalty.)
The Wild Hunt by Naomi P. Cohen
When an immigrant violinist’s music enchants a Cait Sidhe, she’s entangled in the secret world of the New York Fae. (Not your usual wild hunt, but a twist of some stereotypes written against a historical backdrop.)
My small publishers always want MORE people to read and review their titles. They also offer the opportunity for their authors to read any book for free in exchange for an honest review. By now, they know my truthful reviews aren’t generally worth five stars.
I volunteered to read an advance copy of TRUTH by Avery Woods because the blurb was appealing.
A few weeks before the release, the author emailed me to thank me for promising to review the book. I emailed her back to say that the review would be for three stars and that I would wait to post it if she wanted.
She told me to post it right away. I loved her confidence, and I think you’ll find that as you read her story.
Sometimes you shouldn’t ask questions you aren’t prepared to hear the answers to…
Cori Winters life seems to be going according to the plan. While completing her PhD in Chemistry, Cori is offered a Research Fellowship, by one of the most accomplished Chemists in the Country. In addition, Cori has finally agreed to marry her long term boyfriend, Erik.
Abandoned at a young age, Cori has been told growing up that her biological mother has been MIA due to a severe illness. After a visit with her father, Cori discovers her dad sending a large amount of cash to an unknown woman. Cori decides to take matters into her own hands where she finally seek answers regarding her mother. However, sometimes secrets are better kept hidden…
After a childhood incident ruined any shot of Jesse having a relationship with his parents, he is finally glad to be living on his own, where he isn’t constantly reminded of what happened. That is, until his seventeen-year old step sister, Bethany, confides in him that she’s pregnant. Jesse vows to help Bethany, but what is the right choice to make when she wants to keep her pregnancy a secret? The truth is bound to come out….
Cori and Jesse grow closer, when Cori’s fiancée attends a wedding in Italy. Cori and Jesse relate to one another, when each confides secrets of their own. However, when each reveal their secrets, will the other be able to handle the truth?
Cori and Jesse didn’t engage me. I didn’t buy their motivations.
This is a common complaint for me in romance novels. Many authors believe they’re telling the story of the romance, but if I don’t connect with the desires of the characters, the story–no matter how incredible–falls flat.
Much of this was the story of Cori discovering she didn’t truly love the man she was with and that she wanted to find out the truth about her mother, who she assumed was dead. I will give Kudos to Ms. Woods for adding a twist to the “true heritage” for Cori. It wasn’t your average, “mom died when I was young” or “given up for adoption” background.
Jesse’s story with his sister didn’t compel me in the least. Yes, it’s a common issue and the author handled it gracefully. But I felt like the events were relayed to the reader. How did Jesse feel? Why did he feel that way? What made him bond with Bethany so much?
And when we discovered Jesse’s wound, the opportunity for deep connection with him had already been lost. A powerful backstory didn’t engage me because Jesse never felt anything. Or I should say I was never invited to experience anything along with him.
The actual romance between these two felt rushed. My favorite romances are friends who become lovers, and that’s one of the reasons I picked this book up to read. But even their friendship developing happened before the story began and I was expected to believe they were friends when all I really saw was Jesse’s crush and Cori’s distance (because her boyfriend was the jealous sort).
The story earns three out of five stars from me.
Romance readers will likely enjoy this story. I expected more character development based on the blurb and then I didn’t truly connect with the characters.
Readers who like the slow reveal of an unexpected secret might find more here than they bargained for. While the story and characters didn’t engage me, it wasn’t because of poor writing.
I ADORE these characters. I read the last chapter super slow, hoping to extend my visit with them.
This book reads more like alternative history or even science fiction than fantasy, but I still loved it. Buroker does a great job making each narrator’s scenes distinctive to their voice and style.
Yes, they all got a happy ending, but I want to go on missions with Amaranthe and Sicarius. What sort of adventures will Sespian have with his new responsibilities? And let’s face it, Maldynado needs to pop the question before Yara dumps him overboard.
A perfect escape with people who make me laugh and a story that brings me to the edge of my seat. Thanks, Lindsay.
I’ve been hinting about my next story for weeks (okay, months). Yesterday, One Sultry Day went live at retailers everywhere.
There’s a contest. Scroll to the end of the post for details and a link to the entrance form.
BUT…I know it’s a risk to buy stories written by strangers. So, I’ve promised to share an excerpt from each of the stories. Each author has graciously contributed up to 500 words from their story.
Read on for an excerpt from ‘Second Chance Summer’ by Lily Carlyle:
Jason poured himself a large cup of coffee and went to the register to pay.
“Mornin’. That be all?” A t-shirt with “KDH Pier” emblazoned across it stretched tight over the cashier’s bosom and round belly, and although she did not have a cigarette dangling out the side of her mouth, both her demeanor and her voice suggested she might have just recently stubbed one out.
Jason dug three ones out of his wallet.
“You on vacation? Haven’t seen you before.” She punched keys on the old-fashioned cash register, took his proffered money, and handed him some change.
Jason hesitated, unsure whether she was being friendly or nosy. After so many years on the west coast, he wasn’t accustomed to strangers asking personal questions. “This is my first time here in 20 years. I just inherited a cottage, so I’ll be around most of the summer.”
“Yeah? Who died?”
Taken aback by her directness, Jason blinked, but was saved from answering by someone lining up behind him.
“Jake, dude, I haven’t seen you forever.” Her husky voice rose slightly as she greeted the person behind him.
Happily stepping aside out of the limelight, Jason turned and came face to face with the young man he’d seen earlier running on the beach. He blanched, realizing why the young man had looked so familiar. He was the masculine version of Summer. His hair was the same shade of rich, dark chestnut, and the high planes of his cheekbones were identical to hers. Even his gesture, as he swept the sweat-dampened hair off his forehead, reminded Jason of Summer.
He could feel his mind churning, trying to process this bit of information. Summer must have a son. Then he reminded himself, this could be a nephew. Or even a cousin.
As if to help him find an answer, the woman behind the counter interrupted his thoughts with her grating voice. “Where’s your mom? I haven’t seen her in forever.”
Jason tried to subtly lean in so as not to miss the young man’s response.
Jake shrugged and pulled on the water he’d just bought. “She’s been busy, I guess. She was at my grandparents’ a few days. Just got back last night.”
“Tell her I said hi and to stop being such a damned snob. She hardly comes around anymore.”
“Sure thing.” The young man turned to leave, rolling his eyes at Jason as he passed. He probably assumed Jason’s dazed expression was entirely in response to the cashier’s inquisitiveness.
He watched Jake walk away. Even his stride reminded him of Summer’s, not to mention his rangy build and long legs.
A husky cough drew his attention back to the woman behind the counter.
“He’s too young for you.” She straightened some straws in a container next to the register.
“What?” Then realization dawned. “Oh, God, no. He just reminds me of someone I used to know.” He took a big gulp of the bitter coffee, and although it burned from both temperature and sheer badness the whole way down, he never flinched.
“Is his last name Ingalls?” Jason tried to sound casual.
“Jake’s? Nah, he’s a Foster.”
Jason heaved a sigh of relief, but before he was finished exhaling, the woman added. “But his mom’s maiden name was Ingalls. Summer Ingalls. You might know her.”
Conscious of his quaking legs, Jason pulled out a stool from under the counter, and sat down with studied casualness lest he collapse on the floor. “How old is Jake?”
She narrowed her eyes at him, as if offended by his curiosity. “I dunno. 19, 20? I barely know how old my own kids are, let alone everyone else’s in Kill Devil Hills.”
Jason didn’t answer but pretended to watch the TV suspended behind the counter while he sipped the gut-burning coffee. His stomach churned, not so much from the disgusting coffee, but from his own suspicions.
Was Jake his son?
Can’t stand the suspense? Need to read more? Grab your copy of ONE SULTRY DAY now.
What Else You’ll Get
Since One Sultry Day is an anthology, that means you’ll get FOUR complete stories. Each one is written by a different author.
Although each one has something to do with summer, they are quite unique and distinct.
You’re a fan of escort services and accidental romances? Escorts for Hire – Heartaches for Free by Deryn Pittar
You like a little mystery or spookiness with your love story? Ghosts of Lost Summersby T.E. Hodden
Love comes in unexpected places, and those are the tales you enjoy reading. You’ll enjoy Unexpected by Sharon Hughson (yes, that’s me)
Still not sure? Come back tomorrow for a peek inside another story.
Enter to Win
There’s a little scavenger hunt. Enter your answers in the Rafflecopter form. The more stops you make and the more answers you give (pages you visit or people you follow) the better your chance to win either:
A $10 Amazon Gift Card or
A digital copy of One Sultry Day
Make sure you check back here tomorrow for another peek inside the anthology of sweet romances. It’s one way to insure there’s a little romance in your summer.
Have I mentioned how much I love using Overdrive to checkout eBooks without ever leaving my house? It is the perfect library. And THE SUNSHINE SISTERS by Jane Green is a title you should check out (by any checkout method).
This isn’t my typical read. I say that half the time I write a review, I know. Maybe you’re wondering, “What IS your typical read?”
Glad you asked. I typically read:
Fantasy – YA and series as opposed to epic. This is the genre that helps me escape and fully engages my imagination
Christian Romance – I’m writing in this genre fairly regularly, so I need to read it in order to write it better. I also prefer things like Susan May Warren’s adventure romances over a straight “boy and girl fall in love” romance.
Sweet Romance that’s more than just romance – I mean that there’s a mystery or an adventure or something. The romances I write tend to lean toward this, as well. The story is about the character’s struggle to change and the romance is a catalyst in that process.
Women’s fiction – usually this is for a book club (as is the case with Ms. Green’s book reviewed below), but I’m also branching out into this genre because it’s where I hope to write in the future.
This is the story of a mother and her daughters.
The mother is a “B movie” actress who is always hoping for her big break. This motivation informs every decision she makes and impacts her children.
The oldest daughter, Nell, closes herself off to emotion. It’s the way she learned to cope with her mother’s rants and rages. When she becomes a single mother, she makes different choices for herself and her son, fully loving him as she doesn’t anyone else.
The middle daughter, Meridith, becomes a people-pleaser. She runs to London and her grandparents when she’s eighteen, but she can’t make independent decisions. Every time she does, it turns out badly which reinforces the lie that she’s meant to make others happy while ignoring her own unhappiness.
And then there’s the spoiled youngest girl, Lizzy. She roars through life mowing down all who try to stand in her way. This doesn’t make her successful or larger than life, but it does make her more like her mother than she’s willing to admit.
The story problem: can this family overcome the differences that divide them to unite and become a true family?
This story starts at the end. I don’t like that. It steals the tension from the story for me.
I think, “Oh, so she’s going to..blank.” Why do I care about what leads to that decision?
Green won me over by sharing only vignettes from the forty years of the characters’ lives that mattered to understand 1) why each daughter responded to her mother in that way and 2) where their personal lie came from. She proved she knew how to craft a great story.
Often if there are more than a couple narrating characters, I disengage from the story of many of them and gravitate to those chapters narrated by the ones I connected with. Even with four (and more) narrators, that didn’t happen with this book.
This doesn’t mean I LIKED all the narrators, but their stories intersected in a way that kept me engaged. Each scene moved the characters closer to the big reveal readers glimpsed in the opening chapter (a prologue).
There were several aspects that felt contrived to me and even came out of the blue rather than being hinted at naturally. And I predicted every outcome of the story (but I usually do, that’s a curse of being a fiction writer).
The end satisfied me in every way and gave a glimpse into what the future might hold for THE SUNSHINE SISTERS.
This is a 4.6 out of five star read, and well worth the time investment (and I devoured it in two days).
This is a book for anyone with sisters or a mother. Yeah, that is most of you. Doesn’t everyone have a mother at least?
Even though I didn’t especially like the main mother character in this story, I could still relate to her struggles and failures. This is what makes the most meaningful story, and authors who are able to draw characters that our so real we “know” them deserve respect and praise.
Thanks for your wonderful snapshot of the Sunshine family, Ms. Green. You entertained, engaged and even enlightened me.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? What are your favorite genres to read?
In honor of summer, I’ve decided to give you a peek inside my sweet summer romance. It’s something of an unexpected story in an anthology with three other sweet romances.
If you want to read the blurbs, check this out.
As for my story, the meet cute was inspired by a very real hike on the exact trail where my shero is trotting in the opening scene.
There were no interesting males to meet on the trail. I’m a happily married woman. Dogs? Yes, there were many. Some without leashes like Rembrandt.
Their meet cute is the scene I sent to my publisher. You deserve something fresh and new.
When love and isolation collide, only the bravest hearts survive.
Ivory’s determination steams face-first into Prescott’s dream with unexpected results.
I admit I’m nervous because these characters are unique in ways I’ve never written before. She’s taller and broader than him, and he’s a little too skinny and pasty to be handsome.
They’re not the typical 22-year-olds, either. She’s heading back for a Master’s degree her parents oppose. He’d a college dropout with his paint-stained fingers and an aversion to physical contact.
It sounds nothing like a perfect match.
Read on for a peek at their story. This is from a non-line-edited chapter six (translation: it might not be exactly the same as what you’ll see in the book come August 6).
After multiple trips on roots and rocks, Ivory’s gaze stayed fixed on the ground. Until she plowed into Prescott’s back with an unladylike grunt. She peeked over his shoulder into a wash several yards away. A doe curled under a pine tree, ears tilted in their direction while a speckled fawn sniffed at the detritus of needles, cones, leaves and twigs lining the edge of the runoff. It hadn’t rained for several weeks, so the ground was dry, and the snapping of the fawn’s hooves against the foliage carried to their ears.
Prescott eased his camera upward. If he couldn’t capture the scene in a photo, hopefully his artistic brain could memorize it well enough to paint later. A portrait of the pair would make an excellent addition to his collection.
The snap of the shutter echoed in the quiet forest. A chipmunk chattering above them went silent, and birds stopped calling to each other.
Ivory held her breath. As if her breathing could be heard by the diligent mother.
A crow cawed. The fawn’s head snapped up and its ears swiveled forward. Snap. The Dumbo-esque ears twitched toward them. Prescott stilled.
Spots dotted the edge of Ivory’s vision. Her fists clamped Prescott’s hips, and she buried her face in his shoulder blade. Only then did she expel her air and draw another breath.
When she looked up, Prescott’s face was turned toward her, a wary look in his eye.
She was touching him. He didn’t like that. Although she didn’t really understand the pain he experienced at physical contact, she had no desire to hurt him.
“Sorry.” At the moment she mouthed the word, a flurry across the clearing drew their attention.
The doe scrambled to her feet and herded her baby into the trees. Her deep brown eyes stared right at them before she slipped into the forest, out of sight in seconds.
“How did she hear that?” This time there was actual volume in her words.
Prescott’s throat bobbed. His gaze flitted to her lips. Her pulse lunged into her throat.
She stared into his eyes. From a distance, the amber ring around his iris made his eyes appear hazel, but up close they were as brown as Rembrandt’s but accented by the golden halo.
“Your eyes are amazing.” As soon as the words tumbled out, Ivory regretted them. Too bad this wasn’t email. No immediate recalls if you hit send too quickly.
He angled his body toward her, his shoulder mere centimeters from her breast. “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”
“Why? My eyes are muddy green. You have this cool circle.” She nibbled her lip.
He stared intently into her eyes. “Your eyes are the color of a deep fishing hole or tarragon leaves.” His fingers touched the corner of her eye.
She blinked. “A poet and a painter. How is it you don’t have a line of girlfriends?”
His face flushed before a grin quirked half his mouth. Her heart lurched at the sight. If he smiled like this all the time, women would swoon at his feet for sure.
If you liked this, why not share it on your social media? Or maybe forward the link to your friends who like to read?
If you follow my Hero Delivery newsletter, I’ll be sending out an opportunity for a FREE advanced copy of the anthology in exchange for an honest review. Watch your email inbox OR join my Facebook group. Are you still interested in reading this? More or less interested than before?
I read because I love it. I’ve worked in education for about fifteen years, and it’s clear that passion is not strong with the younger generations. But there are plenty of other great reasons to read.
After learning most of the teachers I worked with for YEARS didn’t read a single textbook in college, I started contemplating this.
How much knowledge is attained through reading?
I’ll pick up facts without even trying when I read a book. I’ve heard people say they read historical fiction to learn about history rather than listening to dry lectures or reading a sleep-inducing text.
Not everyone learns visually. In that case, reading might not be the best source of knowledge for them. But in this era when there’s an app that will read a book for you, the audio learners don’t really have an excuse to avoid the textbooks anymore.
Is this the same as knowledge?
I don’t think so.
Here’s the way I would distinguish between the two. I search Google for the phone number so I can make an appointment for a massage. I needed specific information.
I wasn’t hanging out hoping the Internet would enlighten me on the different types of massage. That’s knowledge-seeking.
We read to obtain information dozens of times every day. This is why I believe schools should teach HOW to find information above trying to understand Shakespeare.
This is the major reason I pick up a fiction book. And I’m conscious of the entertainment value of the stories I write.
*The person who despises reading gapes* Yes, reading is highly entertaining if the writing and story are great. (No, writing is NOT the same as story.)
On the average day, I would rather read for entertainment than do most anything else. In our media-driven society, most people would prefer to watch TV or movies or play a video game. But those activities don’t stimulate your mind the same way reading does.
Which is why, when my brain is sore from the work of writing, I might choose to watch a movie or stream Arrow from Netflix.
Books offer a portal to places you could never dream. This is the reason I started reading fantasy when I was a kid.
Life was hard and ugly. I didn’t like the way my parents talked to each other. Then I didn’t like them getting divorced.
I would carry a book with me everywhere and read it whenever there was a spare minute. This way, I didn’t have to think about my own life. I could transport myself into someone else’s problems.
And even if they were worse (Hello? White Witch trapping everyone in winter?), they provided a break from what I was facing.
I don’t recommend using ANYTHING as an ongoing method of escape. But if you can’t afford a vacation or your world is tilting upside down, a book is a great way to escape long enough to regain your equilibrium.
We’ll head back to school now, and talk about reading because you’re required to do it. And we’ll try not to think too deeply about teachers who didn’t do their required reading. (Yes, this bugs me.)
But in adulthood, you might be assigned reading, too. Your boss might give you a report and say, “Read this, then we’ll talk about how to deal with it.”
Or you might need to read trade magazines in order to keep up with changes in your field. If you’re buying a house, you ought to read the sales contract (and the mortgage documents).
What are some other things people are required to read?
6. Personal Growth
In the past, I haven’t been a fan of reading nonfiction books. I mean, there are only so many reading hours in a day, and I’d rather spend them in Fantasyland.
But beginning last year, I decided to read nonfiction before going to sleep. And not just any nonfiction book would do. I chose those focusing on personal or spiritual growth issues.
I’ve read books on building a business, loving my family more and appreciating my creativity. I don’t read related subjects back to back, and so far, I’ve been impressed with the books I’ve read.
Many of them came through personal recommendation. If you know of some I should add to my list, leave the titles in the comments.
Some might argue that reading for your health is the same as personal growth or required reading tasks. I disagree.
Doing something to improve your health carries it’s own weight (even if you’re hoping for personal growth). And numerous studies reveal that reading helps improve memory and concentration, and relieves stress.
Those sound like three great reasons to pick up a book and read away.
Can you think of other great reasons to read? Let’s hear them!
Veronica Shay was born in my imagination more than two years ago. Today, the final installment of her love story hits the shelves of digital bookstores everywhere.
It’s bittersweet for me. I rejoice in the birth of another book into the wide world (and hopefully into the hands, heads and hearts of hundreds of readers). But it’s also a goodbye.
If you’ve been following Ronnie and Marcus’ romance, grab your copy of the final chapter now.
Maybe you’re new to the world of Sharon Hughson. Let me introduce you to my friend (and ofttimes nemesis) Veronica Shay. She had a little problem at her sister’s wedding (now that’s a story no one has read…and I have a surprise for you) and it sent her straight to Virtual Match. Anything to stop the well-meaning set-ups and continual nagging of her family—especially her mother.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a romance if Ronnie kept her Virtual Match at arm’s length. Things get real for her and Marcus in Reality Bites. And if the title doesn’t give you a clue, I can tell you reality slams Marcus and Ronnie hard in the second installment.
Grab your copy of Reality Bites now.
If you’re still not sure whether this series is for you, here’s an exclusive sneak peek inside the final chapter.
This comes from chapter four of the latest ebook:
Marcus pulled Ronnie against his side, and she nestled under his arm like a kitten seeking warmth. His hand squeezed her waist while his chin tapped the top of her head.
“Thanks for coming.” Her voice was hushed, as if a normal tone might wake the babies.
“Stop thanking me. I wouldn’t have let you come alone.”
An independent part of her raised its back at what sounded like overbearing words. Ronnie shoved the ire away. Marcus wanted to take care of her in the same way she wanted to take care of her brother.
Movement beyond the second nursery caught her eye. A dark-haired man stood up, his face covered by a mask and body engulfed in a yellow paper gown: her brother. He spoke with a nurse before walking out of sight.
Ronnie scanned for an exit, shuffling toward the nurse’s station visible through the nursery’s glass wall. She drew slightly away from Marcus, preparing to be strong for Tony.
Her brother was discarding the paper robe and mask when she rounded the corner. He swiveled toward her with military precision and wrapped her in his arms.
“How is Jen?” Ronnie pulled away slightly and watched his face for tells. Dark circles smudged his eyes and wrinkles drew his mouth into a firm line.
“Stable. She lost a lot of blood, but they saved her uterus.”
Ronnie had been reading about placenta previa and the related side effects during the flight. About five percent of women needed a hysterectomy to staunch the blood flow associated with the misplaced placenta. As much as Tony wanted to father a son, it would have been heartbreaking for them if this was their only child.
“She’s plugged into a breathing machine and hooked to a dozen different monitors. Most of her vitals are good, but she didn’t breathe on her own at delivery.”
A girl. This tiny one didn’t know how lucky she was to have a loving, protective father watching over her. A tug in her chest distracted. Was she wishing for a father? The one who sired her had walked away, and the replacement her mother chose had done unspeakable things.
She shook her head, tucking a strand straying from her upswept hair behind her ear. That was old news. This was the future.
Ronnie squeezed her brother’s fingers. “What can I do for you?”
“Are you ready to sleep?” Ronnie peered into the tired lines of his drawn face. The adrenaline she imagined fueling him all day had run out, but behind the hazel eyes like hers, she saw anxiety, and she’d been reading those eyes for three decades.
“How about a walk?”Tony says this?No, Ronnie. I think I fixed it…
Ronnie wasn’t sure if it would help him, but anything had to be better than sitting in a hospital room.
Marcus squeezed her waist. Ronnie glanced up at him, breath catching at the tender look in his cobalt eyes.
“I’ll book a nearby hotel.” It was the one thing he hadn’t done in advance since they might have stayed at the hospital with her brother. Marcus wouldn’t expect to share a room with her and understood she wanted to pay her own way.
Ronnie rose on her toes and nearly touched his ear with her lips. His indrawn breath made her heart vault against her chest.
His eyes widened. She pressed her lips to his in a perfunctory kiss then turned to thread her arm through Tony’s.
“There’s a waiting room down that hall.” Tony gestured to the opposite side of the nurse’s station.
As he navigated the maze of halls to another bank of elevators, Ronnie fell into step with her brother. On the ground floor, he led her into a walled-in garden. Their shoes thumped against the paved path around the edge. Minutes passed in silence, and she drew a deep breath of temperate air, so different than the chill moist air near her apartment.
“Greg and Angie will be down tomorrow.”
“When’s Mom going to be here?”
“Dennis wanted to drive over and stay through the holidays.”
The holidays? It was nearly three weeks until Christmas. Ronnie shook her head and drew a breath to comment.
Tony continued. “She doesn’t want to fly in case she has an episode. It embarrasses her to lose control of her limbs.” He sighed. “While Dennis relayed their plans, she never stopped blathering about this being the only grandchild she’ll ever meet.”
Ronnie hugged his arm. The firm bicep bulged beneath her fingers, reminding her of Marcus’s very un-engineer-like arms. She pushed thoughts of him away. He was a distraction, and she needed to focus on her family. Hadn’t she told him as much on Sunday?
If she could shake her mother right now, Ronnie would do it. Couldn’t she see that Tony needed encouragement? Obviously, this terminal illness was going to exacerbate her mother’s self-centered tendencies.
“How can I help?” Please don’t say handle, Mom. But, she would do it if that’s what he needed.
Tony stopped walking and faced her. A desolate look stared back at her. “I don’t know how to be a good father. How could I? I never had one.”
Ronnie’s stomach nosedived into her feet. The truth was too much of a burden for her brother, which is why she had kept her secret for so long.
“Stop.” Her voice broke. She stiffened her spine and squinted at him. “You are three times the man of anyone who ever claimed to be your father.”
His ragged breaths did nothing to cool Ronnie’s flaming cheeks. If she could go back, she wouldn’t tell him anything.
Remember how I mentioned Ronnie’s sister’s wedding? Well, I’ve written a short story recounting that delightful event. If you want to read it, FIRST sign up for my newsletter.
Once you’re a subscriber, drop me a quick email (info at sharonleehughson dot com) to say you’ve subscribed and you would LOVE to see how Ronnie was driven to the desperate place of hiring an invisible boyfriend.
Weekends are the perfect time for cuddling up in front of a fire with a good book. It’s even better if you can get a bite-sized story that fills the one or two free hours perfectly. And I have a recommendation that fits both bills: ONE SNOWY NIGHT.
This is a new collection of four short stories released by Roane Publishing only a few days ago. Because it’s my publisher, I read the advanced copy several weeks ago. And boy did it get me in the mood for snowy nights cuddled up with my honey.
I’m not going to give you the summary. You can click over to my blog earlier in the week to read the blurbs for all the stories.
You’ll enjoy four- and five-star reads in this collection. It includes stories with traditional tropes but all of them have a twist. That’s exactly the way I enjoy my tropes.
Melissa J. Crispin takes the “I lost my memory” trope and throws it into an interesting situation. What if you forgot you were divorced? What if you woke up after an accident expecting to see your husband? Asking these questions worked for the author because the husband under consideration hadn’t wanted the divorce in the first place.
These characters weren’t especially relatable as far as careers go, but their emotions were universally understood. Although I thought the story shifted too suddenly in some areas, it was still a powerful, feel-good read that made me tear up.
If you haven’t read anything by T.E. Hodden, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. I’ve read several of his stories, and this one has the most “feels” of any I’ve read. Again, he uses a common trope–friends to lovers–and freshens it up with incredible stakes.
He employs two devices I’m usually NOT impressed with. The first is that most of the story is a flashback. The reason this doesn’t really work for me is because I know where the story’s going and that takes away the tension in the progression.
That didn’t happen here. In fact, I kept turning pages wondering, “Well, how did this happen?” And although I figured out the big misunderstanding fairly early, I still wanted to keep reading.
The other thing is the use of first AND second person. I especially dislike second person because I never feel the “you.” In this case, the author pulled off this strange point of view. It came across as the narrator telling the story to the love interest (the “you” of the story). Some skilled writing went into this.
If you like the friends to lovers trope when it’s separated by a time lapse, you’ll like Laurie Treacy‘s story. While I felt like it told us the individual stories of Danielle and Quinn rather than truly building their romance, I still enjoyed it. Part of that could have been the hometown setting, which is one I generally adore.
The characters were well-developed and I could relate to their struggles. The plot progressed very much as expected in a romance, but I never felt the budding (or revisited?) relationship was in peril, so it didn’t have the sort of tension I need to fully engage with a romance-only story.
The final story I read in the collection was by Charlotte Snead. “One Snowy Day” took the trope of surrogate mother to wife and twisted it by giving an incredibly unique situation as the setup. It didn’t have the same “winter afternoon” feeling as the other stories, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable and engaging.
I never connected with these characters the way I did in the other stories. The only one who had my empathy was the little girl, Molly. I wanted the aunt and dad to get together so Molly would finally have a happy home.
If you enjoy sweet romance, you’ll want to pick up this collection. Each story offers enough familiarity to pull you right in and enough originality to keep you reading.
These aren’t holiday stories. Yes, most of them center on events that happen in the winter, but many of them span several months or years.
Once you sample these authors, you’ll be back to Roane Publishing to read more from them. And that’s a perfect way to throw support to a small indie publisher.