Wednesday, August 24, 2016

RESURRECTION OF HOPE - Tamera Lynn Kraft - One Free Ebook

Welcome back, Tamera. What kind of books do you write?
I write Christian historical fiction with a healthy dose of adventure and romance.

Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
The happiest day would have to be my wedding day. My husband and I have been happily married for 37 years and have two grown children who are married and serving God. My husband isn’t only the love of my life, he’s my best friend and biggest fan.

It’s wonderful when it turns out like that. My husband is, too. How has being published changed your life?
It really hasn’t changed my life all that much except for now I can say I’m a published author. I still work hard at writing and getting published. I do have a lot more marketing to do, and now my deadlines aren’t my own goals that I set for myself. I have to stick to the editor’s deadline. One thing that surprised me was before I was published, I thought all I’d have to do is get one publishing contract, and the doors would stay open. Unfortunately, no matter what stage you are in when it comes to becoming an author, the process never gets easier – just different. Someday I might find that breakout novel that gets my name known out there, but overnight successes normally take years to accomplish. I’m sure that success would also come with its own set of challenges.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Every Crooked Path by Steven James. Although I write historical fiction, I’m eclectic in my reading tastes. Steven James is one of my favorite Christian suspense writers.

What is your current work in progress?
Currently I am writing the first novel of a series about Jamestown Colony brides who came from England in 1619 to marry planters in Virginia. Each novel will focus on a different bride. I’m about halfway through the first draft. I also am doing final edits for my first full length novel to be published. It’s called Alice’s Notions and is a cozy romantic spy novel set in a rural West Virginia town right after World War II. Desert Breeze is due to release it in April, 2017.

We need to feature it on this blog. What would be your dream vacation?
I love history, but I also love scenery and nature. My husband and I have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States and finding places that provide both. So far we’ve been to 40 of the 50 states. One place we haven’t been yet that I would consider a dream vacation is Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming has so many historical sites that tell the story of the Old West, and I hear Yellowstone is breathtaking. I would also knock three states off my list since it covers part of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. If we drive, we could also visit North Dakota on the way there. That would make it four states. Another place I am looking forward to visiting is Hawaii. When I’m there, I plan to visit Pearl Harbor. Another trip we want to make is to drive up the California coast into Oregon. We also want to go to Utah and visit Brice Canyon and the north shelf of the Grand Canyon. After these trips, we’ll only have Maine and Delaware left on our list. Then we can start a list of countries we want to visit.

Sounds wonderful. How do you choose your settings for each book?
My settings sort of choose me. I love history. Usually when I’m reading about history, I’ll find an interesting event that took place and start wondering about the stories of the people who went through that event and time period. Before you know it, I have the characters for the next novel I want to write. Because of the way I get my ideas, the setting and time period are decided before the story takes shape.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
I would love to spend an evening with Dr. Ben Carson. He is such an inspiration. Here is a man, who was raised in poverty at a time where his race held him back, but he put his faith in Christ and it changed his life. I also love that he doesn’t back down on his principles, but he also speaks in a respectful way. Many people make excuses why they can’t get anywhere in life. Dr. Ben Carson’s life proves them wrong. I’m still bummed he’s not going to be our next president.

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I already mentioned that my husband and I love to travel and see new places. I love to knit and belong to my church’s Knit Wit group. I’m also a children’s evangelist for a ministry called Revival Fire for Kids, so I enjoy doing gospel illusions, balloon animals, and puppets. One great thing about being a children’s evangelist is it allows me to travel. I love studying history. I’m also a classic movie enthusiast. By classic, I mean the glory days of Hollywood in the 30s, 40s, and 50s with actors like Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, and Clark Gable. When I was younger I took dance lessons for over 20 years. I became good at ballet (on pointe), tap, and jazz. Now that I’m older, I can’t dance like that anymore, but I enjoy dancing with my husband at weddings.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
My most difficult writing obstacle is life. Life keeps getting in the way of my writing time. I have to be ruthless about guarding that time or it will get away from me. I also have to keep myself from getting discouraged when things I can’t avoid happen, like my mom needing surgery. If I’m not careful, I can get myself so worked up about not having time to write that I don’t write when I do have some time. We all have life issues to deal with. The key is not letting them stop us.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Don’t be in a hurry. The process of becoming a published author is sort of like watching grass grow. The average fiction writer writes seven novels before the first one is published. Don’t fret about every rejection you get. Keep working toward becoming the best writer you can be. You can do that by reading a lot of books, both fiction and writing craft books. It also is a good idea to join a writing group to fellowship and learn from other writers. I recommend ACFW. When you’re ready, also join a critique group. It helps your writing skills greatly to get feedback from other writers and to learn writing skills by critiquing others. Keep plugging along and learning. When it’s time, it will happen.

Tell us about the featured book.
Resurrection of Hope, published through Desert Breeze, is set in post-World War One rural Ohio. Here’s a blurb.

After Vivian’s fiancé dies in the Great War, she thinks her life is over. But Henry, her fiancé’s best friend, comes to the rescue offering a marriage of convenience. He claims he promised his friend he would take care of her. She grows to love him, but she knows it will never work because he never shows any love for her.

Henry adores Vivian and has pledged to take care of her, but he won’t risk their friendship by letting her know. She’s still in love with the man who died in the Great War. He won’t risk heartache by revealing his true emotions.

Resurrection of Hope is available at these online stores:

Please give us the first page of the book.
Palm Sunday, 1919
Tonight would be the last time Vivian Klein cleaned Mr. Adder's office. After she finished for the day, she'd take the Colt handgun she'd seen in the top drawer of his desk and finish off her miserable life.

Tomorrow morning, the owner of the Greenville Hotel would find her dead body sprawled beside the desk on his fancy wool rug. A certain satisfaction set in as a grin crossed her face. He'd have to find somebody else to clean away the blood.

First, she needed to finish her other chores. After washing dishes and changing sheets, she scrubbed the narrow linoleum floor in the second floor hallway. She tackled the scrub brush with a relish she hadn't felt before. These constant tasks taking over every moment of her existence for the last six months would soon end.

It wasn't like this had been the worst day of her life. A year ago, she received a telegram informing her James, the love of her life, had died in the Great War. She paused for a moment, leaning on her heels, the memories flooding her emotions.

"Soon, my love. I'll join you soon."

Setting aside the heartache, she wiped away a tear and got back to work.

Footsteps shuffled down the hall and stopped abruptly as the fetid scent of cigar smoke mixed with the sweet smell of lilac aftershave assaulted her senses. A prickle crept over her like ants crawling all over her skin. She dropped the scrub brush and stood to face Mr. Albert Adder. She kept her disdain at bay as she looked down at him.

The owner of the Greenville Hotel, as always, dressed in a dapper three piece suit and bowtie, stretched his neck and shoulders reminding her of a rooster trying to crow, but it didn't add one inch to his short stature. He glowered up at her over his bifocals and pointed nose, his dark eyes betraying the deviousness within. "I hope you've reconsidered my offer," he said, his characteristic smirk in place. "I only want to improve your situation."

The knot that never left Vivian's stomach tightened. "If you really want to help me, you could start by paying me a decent salary."

Adder ran his hand over his balding scalp. "I give you room and board. Nobody else came to your aide when you were left destitute. You should be grateful."

She dug her fingernails into her palms to keep from smacking his face. If he hadn't introduced her father to alcohol and gambling in the hotel's back room, she wouldn't have lost the farm. The room still operated even though prohibition had already been enacted in Ohio. "I'll never marry you."

"I know I'm a bit older than you…"

A snort escaped Vivian's lips.

"Lots of men marry younger women. Be reasonable, girl. If you agree to be my wife, you won't have to work so hard. You'll have everything you ever wanted." He touched her arm.

It took everything inside not to cringe. She tilted her chin up with the last vestige of self-respect she had. "I won't change my mind."

Mr. Adder's lips pressed together. "Fine then. If you want to be a scrub woman for the rest of your life instead of the wife of the richest man in town, so be it." He stomped down the stairs and out of sight.

She tried to pick up the scrub brush but couldn't get her trembling hand to cooperate. Please Lord, if there's another way.

It was a useless prayer. God hadn't come to the rescue when James was killed. Or when she cared for her sisters and parents as they died of influenza. Where was He when the sheriff showed up at her door and told her she had twenty-four hours to leave the only home she'd ever known?

God had deserted her. It was time to end it.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
Word Sharpeners Blog: http://www.tameralynnkraft.com


Thank you, Tamera, for sharing this new book with us.

Comment Starter Questions: Do you like to read historical novels? What time period do you like best?

Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

COLLISION OF THE HEART - Laurie Alice Eakes - One Free Book

Dear Readers, I’ve known Laurie Alice for a long time. Several years ago, she, Lisa Harris, and I wrote a three book series for Heartsong Presents that later was published in a single volume under the title Wild Prairie Roses, which is now out of print.

Welcome back, Laurie Alice. Since you’re being published regularly, what new avenues will your future books take?      
I think my books will take the same avenue of a blend of American and English-set historicals, as well as some contemporary romantic suspense. All that should change is a constant improvement in my storytelling ability.

What conferences will you be attending this year? Will you be a speaker at any of them?
I have attended two conferences this year—Romance Writers of America and The Beau Monde conference, both of which were in San Diego, California. I was a speaker at The Beau Monde conference.

If you were in charge of planning the panel discussion at a writing conference, what topic would the panel cover, and who would you ask to be on the panel, and why?    
The topic nearest and dearest to people’s hearts is what is the future of publishing in these ever-changing times where self-publishing is no longer looked down upon. People on the panel would likely include my agent, Natasha Kern, someone from Amazon Publishing, someone from Gilead Publishing—the new kids on the block—someone from one of the older publishers like Bethany for a Christian panel or Harper Collins for a secular one, and an author published in both traditional and self-publishing means and successful at both.

That should be very interesting. How important is it to you to be active in writing organizations?          
I think this is highly important. We need to connect with colleagues to keep up on trends in the industry, know what is going on with publishers, editors, and agents, and give and receive feedback on our work.

Where in the community or your church do you volunteer?     
Due to the fact that I am unable to drive and live in a city with terrible public transportation, I no longer volunteer my time in my community.

Who are the five people who have made the most impact on your life, and how?       
Other than my mother, father, and husband, finding others who have made the most impact is difficult to whittle down to just two more. The thing is, those people keep changing. The impact my life for a while and then circumstances change and the impact comes from another source. I might have to say Lee Tobin McClain, though, as she suggested I apply to the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, where I obtained my master’s degree. There I learned how to turn an idea into a novel publishers wanted to buy. So that leaves just one more we shall call Person at Large.

If you could write the inscription on your tombstone, what would it be?         
All that comes to mind are rather smart-alice words like: She has now joined the history she loved to study.

I like that. Tell us about the featured book.         
Collision of the Heart is a second chance at love story of two people who allow ambition and selfishness to interfere with the longings of their hearts for one another. The year is 1856 and Mia Roper is on her way back to Hillsdale, Michigan, to write an article about the women attending the second college in the country to allow women to gain an education alongside men, the same education. She left a year and a half earlier to take a job in journalism after obtaining her own degree. She thought Ayden would go with her, but he stayed behind to take a teaching position at the college. She hopes to avoid him on her visit, but the train on which she is arriving wrecks on the outskirts of town and launches her right back into Ayden’s life.

The train wreck is real. In 1856, two trains heading on opposite directions on the same track collided during a snowstorm outside Hillsdale, Michigan. Passengers were stranded in the town, and the townspeople came together to take care of them, providing food, shelter, and clothing.

This book was previous published by Love Inspired Heartsong, but I have rewritten it, adding several thousand words I had to cut for the Heartsong version, and re-edited by Amazon Publishing’s fabulous editorial team. And the cover is positively stunning.

This book is available in five formats: Kindle, Paperback, Audio CD, MP3CD, and audible.com download. The reader is Angela Dawe, who is also from Michigan and an experienced narrator.

I agree. I absolutely love the cover. Please share the first page with us.           
Hillsdale, Michigan
February 8, 1856
Near Midnight
In ten minutes, the westbound train would reach the town Euphemia Roper once vowed to never set foot in again.

Hillsdale, Michigan, was the town Euphemia—Mia to her friends—had called home longer than anywhere else in her twenty-six years and the town she had left with a broken heart. Only opportunity knocking too loudly to be ignored had drawn her back. For a week, she would research the story that would establish her as a professional lady of letters, while she avoided encounters with Ayden Benaiah Goswell.

She twisted in her train seat and rubbed frost from a patch of glass with her gloved fingers. The action accomplished little beyond making her hand damp through the knitted wool. The lights of Osseo had already dimmed beyond a veil of falling snow. The train gathered speed.

So did Euphemia’s heart.

Muscles twitching in her legs, Euphemia tucked her handbag under one arm and her writing portfolio under the other. Rustling pages, snapping locks, and a child asking if they were there yet rose like a wave before a high wind. Euphemia rose to get up the aisle and near the door before the train stopped so she could be one of the first passengers to disembark. Others preceded her, including a child barely old enough to walk. He paused to grasp the side of her seat.

“Are you lost?” Euphemia leaned toward the boy. Someone should be frantically searching for the little one.

Wow! This book sounds so interesting. Where can my readers find you on the Internet?
You can read excerpts from my books on my web site:
And I have a Pinterest account, but am just building it.

You can also find all my books in all their versions on http://www.amazon.com

Thank you, Laurie Alice, for sharing this book with us. I know my readers are as eager to read it as I am.

Comment started questions: Have you read any of Laurie Alice's books. If so, which one is your favorite? Have you experienced a train wreck.

Readers leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:

Monday, August 22, 2016

BURNIN' FOR YOU - Susan May Warren - One Free Ebook

Dear Readers, here’s book three in Susan May Warren’s Montana Fire Series. I’m very exited about reading it. I know you are, too.

Welcome back, Susan. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
I write the kind of books I like to read!  I love epic romantic adventure and I try and write the kinds of stories that I and my target reader (who is similar to me!) would like to read. I also need encouragement in my walk with Christ, as well as an inspiring faith story, so that is the kind of spiritual thread I put in my novels.

Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
When I married my handsome husband. I still can’t believe that God gifted me with this amazing man.

Me, too. I love how He creates someone who is just right for us. How has being published changed your life?
It’s made me more aware of my need to be a good steward of my gifts—that biblical phrase, to whom much has been give—I know I’ve been given much, and I’m not only grateful, I’m humbled and aware of the calling to write life-changing fiction.

What are you reading right now?
I am just finishing writing a novel, so my first book on my TBR is James L. Rubart’s The Long Journey to Jake Palmer.

I’m eager to read that one, too. What is your current work in progress?
I am just finishing up A Matter of Trust, book #3 in my Montana Rescue series, about a man who has to rescue the woman who betrayed him.  An epic story set in Glacier National Park in the winter!

What would be your dream vacation?
Hawaii, two weeks of SCUBA diving and surfing, great seafood, and a stack of books—with my hubby. (Actually, we do it every year…so it’s a fulfilled dream!)

How do you choose your settings for each book?
I find a setting that I want to visit (or my readers want to visit) that I can use to create more tension for my story, as well as a place that people will enjoy spending time in or learning more about.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Besides my husband, kids and bestie, Rachel Hauck?  I think, maybe I’d like to hang out with Michael Buble and let him sing to me. J

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I like home repair (really!), yard work (seriously!) and outdoor activities (skiing, scuba diving, kayaking…things that involve different forms of water, apparently. J)

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
I’ve written over 50 novels now, so finding that unique twist or storyline can be a challenge. Oh, and names. I tend to like to use them over and over again!!

What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Getting published is not magic…it’s hard work. Do the hard work and you’ll see success. But also—remember that your journey is different from anyone else’s—trust the Lord as he guides you through the journey to do what is best for you.  Don’t take your eyes off Him.

Tell us about the featured book.
Burnin’ For You is book #3 in my Montana Fire trilogy! It brings to a conclusion the question of the arsonist in book one. I loved this story about pilot Gilly Priest and sawyer Reuben Marshall who they race to save their friends after a terrible place crash.

Please give us the first page of the book.
If they started running now, they just might make the lake before the fire consumed them.
At least that’s what Reuben Marshall’s gut said when the wind shifted and rustled the seared hairs on the back of his neck, strained and tight from three days of cutting line through a stand of black spruce as thick as night.

After a week the fire in the Kootenai National Forest had consumed nearly twelve hundred acres. And as of breakfast this morning, his team of smokejumpers, as well as hotshot and wildland firefighter teams from all over Montana and Idaho, had only nicked it down to sixty percent contained.

Now the fire turned from a low crackle to a growl behind him, hungry for the forest on the other side of the twenty-foot line that his crew—Pete, CJ, and Hannah—had scratched out of the forest, widening an already cleared service road. CJ and Hannah were swamping for Reuben as he mowed down trees, clearing brush. Between the two of them, they worked like an entire crew, still determined to prove themselves. Pete worked cleanup, digging the line down to the mineral soil.

Reuben’s eyes watered, his throat charred from eating fire as he angled his saw into the towering spruce—one more tree felled and it would keep the fire from jumping the line or candling from treetop to treetop.

Chips hit his safety glasses, pinged against his yellow Nomex shirt, his canvas pants. His shoulders burned, his arms one constant vibration.

In another hour they would hook up with the other half of their crew—Jed and Conner, Ned, Riley, and Tucker—dragging a line along the lip of forest road that served as their burnout line. Then, the team would light a fire of their own to consume all the fuel between the line and the active fire and drive the blaze to Fountain Lake.

The dragon would lie down and die.

At least that seemed the ambitious but attainable plan that his crew boss, Jed, had outlined this morning over a breakfast of MRE eggs and protein bars. While listening, Reuben had poured three instant coffee packs into one cup of water and tossed the sludge down in one gulp.

Deep in his gut, Reuben had expected trouble when the wind quietly kicked up early this morning, rousing the team tucked in their coyote camp—a pocket of preburned space, their safety zone on the bottom of the canyon near a trickle of river. Already blackened, the zone shouldn’t re-ignite, but it left ashy debris on Reuben, the soot probably turning his dark-brown hair to gray under his orange hard hat. His entire team resembled extras on the Walking Dead.
He felt like it too—a zombie, barely alive, fatigue a lining under his skin. Ash, sawdust, and the fibers of the forest coated his lips despite his efforts to keep his handkerchief over his mouth.

They’d worked in the furnace all day, the flame lengths twenty to thirty feet behind them, climbing up aspen and white pine, settling down into the crackling loam of the forest, consuming bushes in a flare of heat. But with the bombers overhead dropping slurry, the fire sizzled and roared, dying slowly.

He’d watched them—the Russian biplane AN2, which scooped water from the lake, and the Airtractor AT, dropping red slurry from its white belly. And, way overhead the C-130 circled for another pass, a loaner from the National Guard.

Reuben wondered which one Gilly piloted—a random thought that he shoved away. But not before imagining her, dark auburn hair tied back and cascading out of her baseball cap, aviator glasses over her freckled nose. Petite at just over five feet, the woman had don’t quit all over her when she climbed into a cockpit.

But it did him no good to let his thoughts anchor upon a woman he could barely manage to speak to. Not that he had any chance with her, anyway.

Keep his head down, keep working—wasn’t that what his father had always said?

They all had expected the Fountain Lake fire to fizzle out with their efforts.

Until the wind shifted. Again.

And that’s when the fine hairs of Reuben’s neck stood on end, his gut began to roil.

A dynamite intro to the story!! How can readers find you on the Internet?
Yes, head over to www.susanmaywarren.com!!

Thank you, Lena!

My pleasure and great blessing, Susan. I love introducing you to new readers. I often get new readers on the blog.

Readers, here’s a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.
Burnin' For You: inspirational romantic suspense (Montana Fire Book 3) - Kindle

Comments starter question:

If you've read any of Susan's books, what is your favorite? If you haven't, why would you like to win a copy of this one?

Did you know that if you don't have a Kindle, you can download a FREE Kindle.
Kindle for iPhone
Kindle for Mac
Kindle for PC
Kindle for Android
Kindle for Tablets

You can read all the stories that are only ebooks that way.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:
Http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com

Friday, August 19, 2016

THE THINGS WE KNEW - Catherine West - One Free Book

Bio: INSPY Award-winning author Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine’s novel, Bridge of Faith, won the 2015 Grace Award. Her new novel, The Things We Knew, released July 12th, 2016, through Harper Collins Christian Publishing.

Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at Catherine@catherinejwest.com

Dear Readers, I love having friends in foreign countries. I first became aware of Catherine when someone told me there was a woman from Bermuda at the ACFW national conference in Dallas. I never did find the woman to meet her. Since then, we’ve become good writer friends. I’m always eager to hear about her new releases.

Welcome back, Catherine. What are some of the spiritual themes you like to write about?
I love writing about restoration, reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing, things I think are so needed in today’s world. My stories are also always infused with hope and grace.

What other books of yours are coming out soon?
My next book is called The Memory of You and will release March 2017. It takes place on a vineyard in Sonoma, and I’m very excited about it!

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so. And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

But finding freedom from the past means facing it.

I’m eager for that story to come out, too. We must feature it on my blog. If you could spend an evening with one contemporary person (not a family member of yours), who would it be and why?
I’d probably choose The Duchess of Cambridge. I think she’d be fun to talk to, and I would love to hear how she copes with being a royal and constantly being under scrutiny in the spotlight. I’d also hope for an introduction to her kids and their dog, and of course William. J I’m a monarchist at heart.

Although we don’t have a monarch in the U.S., I’m interested in royals. What historical person would you like to meet (besides Jesus) and why?
I would love to meet Jane Austen. I think she’d have some fabulous stories to tell, and we could talk about all her books, how she came up with her characters. She’d be fascinating!

How can you enourage authors who have been receiving only rejections from publishers?
My best advice is to keep going, don’t quit, even when it’s hard, even when you don’t see the way forward. If you truly believe that writing is what you are called to do, then you must accept that it’s a long and difficult journey. But God is at work behind the scenes, and I believe His timing is everything. Keep studying the craft, keep writing, make connections with other writers, attend conferences if you can, and keep believing in your dream.

Tell us about the featured book.
When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family¾and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.  

Please give us the first page of the book.
Sometimes in the dead of night, Lynette Carlisle heard her mother’s voice. Sometimes it was easy to forget her mother had been dead twelve years. Curled up in bed, covers pulled tight, she strained to hear the whisper over the wind. Some nights the voice was clear, like Mom was right there in the room, the faintest scent of light musk and lavender tickling Lynette’s imagination. Other nights, all she heard was her own sigh of disappointment as angry waves crashed against the Nantucket cliffs beyond the garden wall. Some nights she welcomed the voice. Some nights it made her wish for the impossible and remember life as it had been, before. Some nights, like tonight, it kept her awake and rattled the cage of her memory. Tonight the voice came to her, as it so often did, in a dream. The message was urgent, but she couldn’t remember a word of it. Dad. That was it. She sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. Something about Dad. A few sleepy moments later, Lynette stood in the doorway of her father’s bedroom and stared at the empty bed. Red numbers glowed through the semidarkness. Four a.m. She checked the bathroom, but he wasn’t there.

I wonder where he is. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Catherine-West/e/B004RWZUHK/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Thank you, Catherine, for sharing this new book with me and my readers.

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The Things We Knew - Christianbook.com
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The Things We Knew - Kindle

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

THE WEDDING SHOP - Rachel Hauck - One Free Book

Dear Readers, Rachel Hauck has been one of my favorite authors through all her books. When I grow up, I want to write like her. She does modern-day royals, and this Wedding series is totally awesome. If you missed The Wedding Chapel, you need go get a copy to read. It is lyrically written, and the depth of character emotions grabbed me in a deep place in my heart. I’m sure The Wedding Shop will do the same. I’ll find out when my copy arrives.

This post is a little longer than usual, but I'm sure you'll be glad when you read the prologue and first chapter of the book.

Welcome back, Rachel. Do you have a favorite genre to write? If so, what is it?
I love romance. Starting out, I didn’t see myself as a romance author but those are the stories I gravitate to and love. Now I write slip-time romances and love it!

If you didn’t live in the part of the country where you do, where would you live?
I love living in Florida but if I was forced to move, I’d like to live in northern California.

What foreign country would you like to visit and why?
I’ve visited a lot of countries. Two of them were our favorite – Australia and Ireland. But I’d love to see Iceland and England.

Describe what you think would be the most romantic vacation you could take.
Oh, I’d love to vacation in one of those huts out the water! I think they’re in Bora Bora.

I’d like to do one of the Ice Hotels, but not for a whole vacation. Only one or two nights. Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?
Hmm, good question. Most of my stories are set in the south but I think the Pacific Northwest is a great place for a novel.

What is the main theme of this novel?
Trusting your heart. Both the heroines, Cora and Haley, struggle to trust themselves when it comes to love. They both loved men who broke their hearts so when the right guy came along, they were skeptical. There’s also a theme of family and community in The Wedding Shop.

Tell us about the story.
The Wedding Shop is set outside Nashville in fictional Heart’s Bend, Tennessee. The protagonists live in two different eras—Cora in the 1930s and Haley in 2016. Then there’s the 120 year old wedding shop … the glue to the story and the “thing” that brings two different women, of different generations, together.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Prologue
Haley
Summer 1996Heart’s Bend, Tennessee
The scent of rain laced the afternoon breeze as it shoved through summer-green trees, ramming ominous black clouds together like a craggy mountain ridge. Haley scanned the heavens as she dropped her bike on the edge of Gardenia Park, a swirled chocolate-vanilla cone in her hand.

“Gonna rain, Tammy. Hurry!” Haley glanced over her shoul der toward their “fort,” an abandoned building once known as The Wedding Shop.

The wind kicked up and a bass rumble thundered through the park. Haley shivered, curling her toes against her flip-flops.

“Tammy!”
“Hold your horses. He’s making my dip cone.” Haley liked Tammy, the prettiest girl in their class, from the moment she met her in first grade.

“Just get regular chocolate.” A thunderclap approved Haley’s words, adding a lick of lightning for effect.

“But I like the dipped ones.”

“We’re going to get wet.”
From the ice cream stand, Tammy shrugged, grinning, reaching for her cone as Carter Adams finally handed it through the window. Haley couldn’t stand Carter. He was friends with her oldest brother, Aaron, and every time he came over to the house he teased and picked on her until she screamed.

Then Mama would burst into the room. “Haley, for crying out loud, be quiet. What’s with all the screaming?”

Did Aaron defend her? Or Carter confess he’d been teasing her? Noooo . . . That would be too much to ask. When she grew up, she was going to defend people. Help others. Stand up for the picked on.

A girl learned a lot about self-defense when she was the youngest of four brothers. She liked them all right, except when they were being boys.

“Where do you want to go?” Tammy sat down on a bench, motioning for Haley to join her, careful with her cone, catching the vanilla dripping through chocolate cracks with the tip of her tongue. 

“Your house? We can play Mario.”

“Naw, we did that already. Besides, one of my brothers is bound to be playing on it.” Haley glanced back at their fort, the old wedding shop. “What about your house?”

Haley preferred the neat, quiet calm of the Easons’. An only child, Tammy had the run of the place, including her own bathroom. Her very own bathroom! Haley had to share with Seth, two years older, and Will, four years older. They had what Mama called a Jack and Jill bathroom. More like a Jack and Jack with no room for a Jill. One of these days Haley was going to defend others, yep, and have her own bathroom. And that’s that.

“I think your brothers are nice.”

“Nice? Try living with them.” Haley wrinkled her nose.

“They’re loud and they smell. Bad too.”

More thunder rocked overhead, this time with a sprinkle of rain. From her bicycle basket, Tammy’s beeper went off.“That’s Mama,” she said, working hard on her ice cream to keep it from dripping down the sides and soaking the napkin wrapped around the cone. She reached for her beeper. “It’s a three.”

Ah, a three. Which meant “Be safe.” Usually Mrs. Eason sent a one, which meant “Get home.”

Darkness hovered over the large town-center park, over Heart’s Bend’s center square, as the wind blew sprinkles of rain. Lightning whipped through the black-and-blue sky.

Tammy shivered. “Better get someplace safe. Mama will ask me later.”

“Want to go to the fort?” Haley motioned over her shoulder toward the abandoned place.

As if on cue, the heavens burst open with buckets of rain. Tammy dropped her ice cream as she skedaddled for her bike, screaming, laughing as water poured from the clouds.

“Let’s go!”

“Wait for me.” Haley gripped her cone as she hopped on her bike and pedaled down First Avenue for all her life. “Wooooooo!” She ducked against the spiking rain, the water cooling her hot, sticky skin.

Dashing across the avenue as the light turned red, she bounced up on the Blossom Street curb, dropped her bike in the shade of the old oak tree, and ran her hand under the dripping Spanish moss, racing Tammy for the back porch.

The clouds crashed together, declaring war, wielding their swords of light and showering Heart’s Bend with their battle sweat as the girls tumbled onto the wide-board floor.

Haley jumped to her feet, hanging out of the door, her arm hooked around the weak screen doorframe. “Ha-ha-ha, you can’t get us now!”

“Come on, let’s go inside.” Tammy slipped through the shop’s back door by jiggling the doorknob, weakening the lock.

Haley followed, pausing just inside, next to what Mama called a butler’s pantry, shaking the rain from her stick-straight blonde hair. The shop’s stillness settled on her, speaking some- thing Haley couldn’t understand but definitely felt. And like every time before, Haley felt as though she’d walked into a place like home.

Daddy called it a sixth sense. Whatever that meant. But somehow Haley understood time and space and anything that might be beyond the world she could see. The notion excited her. And scared the living daylights out of her. Let’s just be honest.

“Look, I can’t get it off.” Laughing, Tammy flicked her hand in front of Haley’s face, pieces of the cone’s white paper napkin stuck to her sticky fingers.

Reaching up, Haley yanked the piece free, wadding it up in her pocket. She didn’t want to trash the place—like everyone who’d tried to run a business here once it was no longer a wedding shop. A shame, a crying shame, how folks could disrespect a building and all it stood for.

Haley may be only ten, but she’d heard the stories of the shop’s brides, of Miss Cora, and all the good she’d done. The place needed respect.

“Let’s play bride.” Tammy ran up the wide, thick grand staircase. The carved and curved banister put Haley in mind of a great palace. That’s what this shop was to Heart’s Bend. A grand palace. For girls getting married. “You be the bride this time, Haley. Walk down the steps from up there—”

“The mezzanine.”

“Yeah, that place.” Tammy licked the chocolate from her fingers and wiped her hand on her shorts. “How do you know it’s a mezzanine again?”

“I heard Mama say it when we watched some documentary.” Haley made a snoring sound. Mama was all about education, and just about everything in the Morgan family had to be “educational.” Even Christmas gifts. Praise be for Daddy who drew a line at Mama’s educational obsession during the holidays.

See, Mama was a doctor and Daddy an engineer. They worked long hours and employed a maid-slash-cook, Hilda, and a nanny, Tess. They were all right. Kind of cranky. Last time Haley asked either one of them to help her bake a cake, they tossed her out of the house.

“Go swim. Got that big ole pool out back and you kids all hang around inside. Crying shame, I tell you, a crying shame. In my day we’d have . . .”

Hilda’s “her day” stories shot Haley and her brothers out of the house faster than a greased pig.
Anyway, that was routine around the Morgan house. Daddy and Mama were home for dinner every night, though, because Mama believed in families eating together. But they had to discuss something intelligent. Mama always reiterated, “There’s nothing more important than education.”

Yeah? Except goal setting. That was Mama’s other bugaboo. Everyone had to set goals come New Year’s Eve. She made the family sit and write down what they wanted to accomplish. Even Daddy. So there was no way of ever getting out of it.

For the past three years, Haley wrote, “Get a puppy.” So far, she never got one. What was the point of a goal if her parents never helped her achieve it?

“Are you going to be the bride or not?” Tammy said. “I was the bride last time. It’s my turn to be the shopkeeper.”

Haley jogged up the stairs. She preferred shopkeeper to bride. “Okay, but who am I going to marry?”

“Who do you want to marry?”

“No one. I told you, boys smell.”
Tammy made a face. “Pretend they don’t. Now who?” She twisted the knob on the closet door under the dormer eaves. They liked to pretend the wedding dresses were inside.

But the door was locked. Like always.

Haley could only think of one boy at school who didn’t annoy the heck out of her. She peered over at her friend through the light falling through the mezzanine windows. “Cole Danner?”

“Cole?” Tammy sighed, making a face and planting her hand on her hip. “He’s mine.”

“I don’t really want him. Geez. This is just pretend. He’s the cutest boy in class and, as far as I can tell, stinks the least.”

“Okay, I guess it’s all right since it’s just pretend. But when we grow up, I got dibs.”

“On Cole? You can have him. I’m not getting married until I’m old, like thirty, maybe even forty.”

Tammy laughed. “But you have to be my maid of honor, promise?”

“Promise.” Of course she’d do anything for her bestie Tammy.

Overhead, the thunder rumbled. But the old wedding shop walls remained steady. Haley’s Grandma Morgan and her friend Mrs. Peabody bought their wedding dresses here. Mama was in medical school in Boston when she met Daddy, who was at MIT. They got married in a courthouse or she’d have bought her dress from Miss Cora too.

At least Haley liked to think so. Even at ten, she had a strong sense of tradition. Daddy and Mama moved back to Heart’s Bend when Haley was two, wanting to be near family, wanting out of the cold. And Mama started her own sports medicine clinic. She was pretty famous as far as Haley could tell. Athletes from all over came to see her.

“You need a veil.” Tammy claimed a discarded piece of newspaper, smoothed it out on the floor, and folded it over Haley’s head. Haley laughed, ducking away, the black-and-white veil slipping from her head. “If I come home with lice, Mama will have a cow.” She inched toward the third-floor stairs. “Let’s explore up here. Maybe we can find something to use.”

But the third floor was cluttered, full of boxes and old computer equipment. Paint peeled from the walls, the floor was covered with rotting carpet, and the bathroom was torn apart.

Tammy shivered. “This creeps me out. Let’s go back to the mezzanine.”

But Haley spied something peeking out from the edge of the carpet. She stooped, pinching the edge of a black-and-white photograph.

Tammy squatted next to her. “Hey, that’s Miss Cora. I saw her picture in the paper.”

“I know. I remember.” Haley looked up at the dank quarters. “Do you think she lived here?”

“I hope not. It’s gross.”

Haley stared at the haunting reflection in the woman’s eyes, like she longed for something. A strange twist knotted up Haley’s middle. Taut prickles ran down her arms. Her sixth sense again. Running into something she could feel but not see.

“Look, clothespins. And a piece of tulle. This can be your veil.” Standing next to a bookshelf, Tammy held up her treasures.

“Let’s just pretend I have a dress and a veil.” Haley stared at the face in the picture. Miss Cora was not very pretty, but kind looking with old-fashioned hair, like in Granny’s pictures, a curiosity in her expression. And sadness. She was definitely sad.

But she’d heard only happy things about Miss Cora. Did she like running a wedding shop? Did she have lots of brothers like Haley? That can make a girl sad. Or was she an only child, like Tammy?

“Hal, come on before Mama beeps me home.”

Thunder let loose a boom of agreement. Haley tucked the picture in her shorts pocket and hustled down the stairs.

“I changed my mind. You be the bride. I’ll be the shop owner, Miss Cora.”

“Miss Cora?”

“Why not? It’s pretend, right? Besides, if Cole’s the groom, it’s best you be the bride. You’ll marry him before I ever will.”

Back on the mezzanine, Haley hurriedly moved into pretend mode jogging down the stairs to the foyer. “Oh, hello, Mrs. Eason. Your daughter is putting on her veil right now.” She mimed opening the shop’s front door because the real one was dead bolted. “Please, have a seat.”

Overhead, Tammy shuffled across the mezzanine, then hummed the wedding song as she descended the staircase, one slow step at a time. Haley breathed out, blowing her bangs from her forehead, the stale, hot air of the shop making her sweat, causing dust to stick to her skin.

“Isn’t she beautiful, Mrs. Eason?” Haley jumped an imaginary line and pressed her hands to her cheeks to play the role of Tammy’s mother.

“Oh my stars, I’m going to cry. I’m going to cry.” She fanned her face with her fingers. “Darling, you are beautiful, so beautiful.”

Tammy modeled her newspaper veil, held out the skirt of her imaginary gown, and cooed how she couldn’t “wait to marry Cole Danner.”

Upon her words, lightning cracked, so bold, so loud this time the windows rattled. Tammy jumped into Haley’s arms.

Then they fell to the floor laughing, hooting, popping their hands on the splintered hardwood.
When they quieted down, Haley stared at the high ceiling.

“Let’s own this shop one day, okay?” She gripped Tammy’s hand in her own. “We’ll go to college, then maybe join the Marines or something—”

“The Marines! I’m not joining the Marines.” Tammy’s protest was sure. “But I’ll run this shop with you.”

“But first we go places, see people, visit Hawaii, then buy this shop.”

“Best friends forever.” Tammy hooked her pinky finger around Haley’s.

“Best friends forever.”
“We’ll come back here one day and own this wedding shop.”

“Pinky promise.”

“Pinky promise.”

The lightning flickered, kissing the front window again. Haley jumped up and ran screaming around the shop with Tammy in pursuit. Because make-believe was what best friends did. But make-believe ended.

Best friends were forever. And pinky promises could never be broken.

Chapter One
Cora
April 1930Heart’s Bend, Tennessee
The morning began like every other weekday, with Cora making her way up the back walk to the shop, unlocking the door, and clicking on the lights.

But today the spring sun’s brightness drifting through the trees stirred a sense of hope. A vibrant anticipation.

Let today be the day.

Hanging her sweater and hat on hooks in the mudroom, Cora entered the small salon and stood at the nearest window, pushing the lace sheer aside. She gazed toward the cut of the Cumberland River visible through the trees and wished for him.

While she treasured spring’s green and gardenia perfume, she missed the unobstructed view provided by leafless limbs. In the winter, she could see for miles from her shop’s perch on the hill. Despite the cold gray days of winter, its barrenness enhanced her perspective.

But now spring had arrived and, still, he had not. She so ached for a glimpse of his long, lean stride coming up from the port, boldly taking the avenue with his broad physique, his mass of blond hair tangling about his face while the loose sleeves of his white blouse billowed about his thick arms.

Come today, darling.

“Cora?” The back door slammed, drawing her away from her post. “I’m here.” Odelia, Cora’s shop assistant and seamstress, entered with a gust of cold wind and the scent of cinnamon. “Sorry to be late. The buns were still in the oven.” She chuckled, shifting the weight of the garments in her arms. “The buns . . . get it? I should’ve been in vaudeville. Anyways, couldn’t get the old car started so Lloyd drove me in on the wagon.”

Cora leaned over her shoulder. “Hmmm, those smell divine. And no rush. We’ve an hour before they arrive. Mama’s on her way.”

“Good, good. Ain’t no hostess like your mama.” Odelia set the hot buns in the first-floor pantry, where Mama would set up a service of tea and coffee along with pastries from Haven’s bakery. She’d have to delicately decide what to do with Odelia’s buns.

“Even your Aunt Jane said she couldn’t out hostess Esmé. Now, let me get the rest of the dresses out from the wagon. Lloyd has work back at the farm and he don’t cotton none to being held up.”

“I’ll help you.” Cora followed Odelia out of the shop and down the walk to Blossom Street. “Morning, Lloyd.”

“Cora.” He jutted his chin her way, then lowered his hat over his eyes, handing her several dresses swinging from hangers. “Got work to do.”

“Now, shush. What do you think we’re doing here all day, playing tiddlywinks?” Odelia anchored her toe on the wagon wheel and lighted into the bed, taking the dresses from her man. “Don’t hold them against you. They’ll go smelling like horses and pigs.”

“Odelia, here, hand them to me.” Cora reached for three more dresses.

The woman was a backbone to the shop with her seamstress skills, yet a constant mystery. Part Irish, part Cherokee, she was a workhorse with smooth brown skin that defied her age. Mama said she’d stick a needle in her eye if Odelia was a day under sixty.

When they’d unloaded the dresses, Lloyd took off. Odelia called after him, “Come get me, you old coot, or there won’t be no supper.”

“How long have you two been married again?” Cora said, falling in step with her assistant. Odelia was an Aunt Jane find. Hired her when she first opened the shop in 1890.

“Since Jesus was a baby.” She examined one of the white satiny dresses. “If Lloyd’s old blanket left a mark, I’ll crown him.”

But in the light of the mezzanine, the dresses were perfect, the white skirts shimmering with purity and beauty. No one in Heart’s Bend could work a needle and sewing machine like Odelia.

“I’ll get the display cases set up.” Cora headed down the stairs. The grand staircase with the carved, glossy, wooden spindles divided the shop in two—the grand salon on the left, the small salon on the right.

The grand salon Cora treated like a Hollywood living room, at least from what she could tell from the movies and magazines, covering the hardwood with plush carpet and the walls with bold paper.

In the light of the front display window, she positioned ornate chairs around the long, curved davenport made of a polished wood and covered with heavy gold upholstery. Here she sat her clients and their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, cousins, friends, aunts, and nieces. Here they waited for the bride to descend the staircase in her wedding gown.

If the bride was so inclined, the bridesmaids also descended the stairs, modeling their gowns for the other women. Once in a while, a father insisted on joining the party. After all, they protested, weren’t they the ones footing the bill?

In the small salon, the display cases housed a variety of veils, gloves, sachets, clutches, stockings, and every other sundry a bride might desire. Dress forms and mannequins modeled wedding gowns, going-away dresses, and a very modest style of lingerie.

At the bottom of the stairs, Cora paused. What was she setting out to do? Oh yes, the display cases. And she needed to run and get the pastries from the bakery. But she paused at the front door, peering through the etched glass, unable to quell the stirring in her heart. It moved from taut anticipation to a burning restlessness.

Rufus, where are you?

In his last letter, he said he’d be on the Cumberland this spring. “Look for me in March.” But it was already the first week of April, when the dogwoods bloomed in Gardenia Park and down First Avenue.

She feared he’d been hurt, or fallen ill. Or worse, his boat had hit the snags and sank, a swift current trapping him beneath the surface.

“Do we have time to dawdle at the window?”

Cora turned to see her mother crossing the small salon, patting her hand against her hair, then smoothing her hand down the front of her skirt. “I was just checking the temperature.” Cora rapped her knuckle on the cool glass in the direction of the thermometer. A blessed coincidence.

“Checking the temperature? Or watching the river?”

Mama liked to think Cora was an open book. One she could read well.

“I’m fixing the display cases before going to the bakery. Can you open the top panes of the windows, let in the fresh air? When the Dunlaps arrive it will get warm in here. They are a large party.”

“You know, staring out the window pining for him won’t make him arrive any faster, Cora. Or make him a man of his word.” Mama unlocked the window next to the door and pulled open the pane.

“You’re being unfair. He is a man of his word.”

“Well, when he can change it at will and convince you it’s the truth, then I suppose you’re right. Did you say something about the bakery order? I glanced in the pantry and only saw Odelia’s cinnamon buns.”

“Yes, after I set up the cases I’ll head over to Haven’s. Will you start the coffee and tea at five till?”

“I’ve been hosting this shop since before you were born. I know when to start the coffee and tea. What I don’t know is what to do with Odelia’s buns. The woman can sew dry grass into a beautiful gown, but her baking leaves much to be desired. No wonder Lloyd never smiles.”

Cora bit back her laugh. “Shh, Mama. She’ll hear you. You can’t deny they smell wonderful.”

“They do, but I’ve told her to her face her sweet buns are like rocks.” Mama moved to the bottom of the stairs. “Isn’t that right, Odelia?”

“What’s that, Esmé?”

“Your baking could break the strongest teeth.”
“That’s what you’ve been telling me for twenty years, but Lloyd don’t seem no worse for the wear.”
“Except he never smiles.” Mama turned to Cora, whispering behind her hand. “’Cause he ain’t got no teeth.”

“Mama, stop.” Cora muted the laugh in her chest. “You taught me better. Now act like a kind Christian.”

“Telling the truth is being a kind Christian.” Mama moved to the remaining windows, slipping down the top panes. In the grand salon the grandfather clock chimed the hour.

Eight o’clock. Cora must get herself together. At the display cases, she retrieved the head forms from the bottom drawers and adorned them with veils, curving the long tulle around the glass and splaying it across the polished hardwood. On another set of heads, she stuck ornate combs into the coarse, fake hair.

Next she set out long, silky white gloves with pearl buttons and arranged a pearl set on a blue velvet runner.

The shop had an important client this morning. A Miss Ruth Dunlap from Birmingham, a society bride who also happened to be a shop legacy. Her mother, Mrs. Laurel Schroder Dunlap, born and raised in Heart’s Bend, bought her gown and trousseau from Aunt Jane in 1905. She would expect the royal treatment for her daughter. As well she should.

Jane Scott cut her bridal fashion chops in Milan and Paris in the late 1880s, bringing them back home to Tennessee when her mama, Granny Scott, died. Never in all their born days had the women of Heart’s Bend—farmers’ wives, mountain women, half-breeds, and former slaves—seen the likes of what Aunt Jane brought to town.

But they loved it. Aunt Jane’s elegant style made the small-town shop a legend in middle Tennessee and northern Alabama, launching an unlikely small-town tradition and becoming Heart’s Bend’s darling.

“Cora, I know you don’t like me nosing into your business,” Mama said, returning to the small salon. “But—”

“No, I don’t. I’m not a child.” Cora examined the last display case. Everything seemed to be in order.

With a smile at Mama, she headed up to the mezzanine and her desk. She shuffled the papers, shoving aside a large box of mail. All work for tomorrow after Miss Dunlap returned to Alabama.

Mama followed her up.

“You are not a child. Which is precisely my point.” Mama anchored her hands on the side of the desk and leaned over Cora. “You’re thirty years old, darling. I’d been married, given birth to two children, and become president of the local Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association by the time I was twenty-eight.”

“Cora, you want to choose a veil for Miss Dunlap?” Odelia popped out of the wide, long storage room. “I think gloves would go well with her gown too.”

“I set out the veils and gloves on the display cases in the small salon. She can choose when she tries on the dress.”

Aunt Jane skimped on nothing when she hired Nashville architect Hugh Cathcart Thompson to design The Wedding Shop. It was the height of high class. A place of business and a place of residence. Though Cora had yet to occupy the third floor for herself, Aunt Jane had lived atop her beloved business for thirty years.

“What about a leaving dress? Casual wear? We have the samples from Elsa Schiaparelli’s knit collection.”

“Yes, of course, let her choose. We can order what she wants. The knitwear is still popular.”
Cora liked Schiaparelli’s styles. As if she knew women were real people, with real work to do.

“Odelia, help me out here. Tell Cora not to close off her heart.” Mama brushed her hand over Cora’s dark hair. “That’s all I’m saying. Walk out with another man. Don’t just stand at the window waiting for the captain. You run a wedding shop, yet have never been the bride.”

“Thank you, Mama. I hadn’t noticed.” Everyone in a town the size of Heart’s Bend noticed the thirty-year-old wedding shop owner had never been a bride. “Weren’t you the one who taught me to follow my heart?”

“Yes, but I sure didn’t know it’d lead to a dead end.” Mama started down the stairs. “I’ll say no more. I don’t want you upset when the Dunlaps arrive. Shall I go for the pastries? I have time before the coffee and tea.”

“No, Mama. I said I’ll go.” She needed the escape, the fresh air, the walk to straighten out her thoughts, to dream of him for a moment without Mama invading.

In the four years she’d known and loved Rufus St. Claire, he’d never lied to her. Ever. He’d been delayed, hampered by shipping schedules, and hindered by the rule of the river, but he always kept his word, walking up First Avenue with his rogue smile, his arms laden with gifts, his kisses more sweet and passionate than the time before.

Then he’d press his silky lips against her ear. One day you’re going to marry me.
Cora shivered, collapsing in her chair. She missed him so much she ached. She’d been fine all winter and spring, satisfied with his letters, until this week, until she saw the back end of March but not the face of the man she loved.

Leaving the mezzanine, with its three oval, cherry-framed mirrors used to dress and style the brides, Cora felt nothing like the brides she loved and served. But oh, she longed to walk where they walked.

She’d dreamt of her day in this shop since she was a girl. Of descending the grand staircase to the musical ooh’s and ahh’s of Mama and Odelia, her groom’s mother—if she was alive—her friends and family.

She’d sip sweet tea and nibble on a butter cookie with sugar sprinkles, full of joy and life over her coming day.

She fought feeling dull, old, and left behind. But he’d promised. And until she knew otherwise, she’d follow her heart, believing and waiting.

“Esmé, help me out here, will you?” Odelia said, motioning to the mannequin she styled with the dress Miss Dunlap chose during her first trip to the shop a month ago. Miss Ruth Dunlap had selected a dress from a Butterick pattern, and Odelia worked her magic.

Cora anticipated Ruth’s first glance at her gown. It was always a thrill, the bride’s face a sight to behold. It’s happening. I’m truly getting married.

When the clock chimed eight thirty, Cora fluffed the sofa pillows in the grand salon and made sure the curtains were opened wide. The shop was ready.

“Miss Dunlap is going to be swept off her feet,” Cora said, heading to the stairs. “Mama, Odelia, I’m off to get the pastries. Mama, remind me to put a record on the Victrola when the Dunlaps drive up.” Aunt Jane always liked the brides to enter with music playing, and Cora wanted to carry on the tradition. Because, after all, wasn’t love the truest song of all?

Collecting her hat and sweater, Cora ducked into the first-floor powder room to fix on her hat. Seeing her reflection, she paused.

Thirty. She was thirty years old. Not a girl. Nor even a young woman. But a grown woman, a working woman. Where had the years gone? Where had she spent her youth?

She had been in love with her high school sweetheart, Rand Davis, until the war. Then he returned home and married Elizabeth White.

Good luck to them. May they be blessed. Cora had been so grieved over the death of her big brother, Ernest Junior, at Somme that she never found the heart to pine for Rand.

She leaned closer to the mirror, gently touching the corner of her eyes where one thin line drew toward her cheek.

In the twenties it seemed everyone was marrying. The shop was busy. But the door just never opened for her.

Because, she liked to believe, she was waiting for Rufus. Oh, seeing him the first time . . . He walked into the shop bold as you please to personally deliver a shipment. “This was left behind on the Wayfarer. Thought I’d deliver it myself.”

His blue eyes locked on her and never let go. She yielded without hesitation to their beckoning. His voice nailed her feet to the floor, and for the life of her, she couldn’t utter one intelligible word. Aunt Jane had to step in, direct him where to drop the bolts of cloth, and apologize for Cora.

Now she angled away from her reflection, smoothing her hand over her bobbed hair. She wasn’t a beautiful woman. Handsome, Mama liked to say. Tall and lean, with the figure of a teen girl rather than a mature woman of thirty. But she kept herself dressed in the latest fashions and managed to keep what little shape she possessed without the aid of cigarettes or dieting.

Stepping out of the shop, down the front walk, Cora headed toward the center of Heart’s Bend. The small but affluent town in the shadow of Nashville was alive with morning commerce.
Shop owners swept their front walks, calling to one another. And she was one of them.
No one counted on Aunt Jane dying five years ago, at seventy, from a malaria outbreak the authorities claimed was contained. Robust Aunt Jane never saw it coming. No one did.
So Cora took over the reins of the shop. Proudly.

Down the avenue, the air twisted with the aroma of baking bread along with the sour odor of horse droppings. Rosie, the milk cart mare, swished her tail at the biting flies.

Cora crossed Blossom Street, heading along First Avenue, trying to take in the beauty of the day to break free of Mama’s comments. She spotted Constable O’Shannon across the wide avenue, at the entrance of Gardenia Park, talking to a giant of a man with blue leggings tucked into black leather knee boots and a loose blouse billowing about his arms, the breeze shifting his wild golden hair about his face.

Rufus?

“Rufus!” She shouted his name through her cupped hands, forgetting decorum, forgetting the gossips with their ears to the ground. “Darling! You’re here.”

Running into the avenue, Cora avoided a passing car. The driver sounded his horn, but she didn’t care. Her Rufus was here.

The breeze kicked up as she ran to greet him, her heart racing with love.
So her morning tingle of anticipation was correct. He had returned. Just like he said. “Rufus, darling! You’re here.”   

You can’t leave us here. What happens next? How can readers find you on the Internet?
My web stie at www.rachelhauck.com. From there you can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks Lena!

My pleasure, Rachel.

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The Wedding Shop - Christianbook.com
The Wedding Shop - Amazon
The Wedding Shop - Kindle
The Wedding Shop - Audio

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