About Me

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Clare writes inspirational romance, usually of a suspenseful nature. Her books are available through her publisher Pelican Book Group and Amazon. She is married with three kids and lives in the UK. She loves watching sci-fi, crime drama, cross stitching, reading and baking.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Grace and the Rancher - Mary Alford

Grace Bradford is living a lie. To the world she has the perfect life: A promising country music career and a husband who adores her. But her husband isn't the man everyone believes him to be. When a car accident widows her and ends her career, Grace escapes to Delaney Mountain. But moving to the remote town doesn't wipe away the ugly secret of her marriage.Kyle Delaney never intended to return to Delaney Mountain, but he promises his dying father that he'll turn their land into a working cattle ranch. He uproots his life in Austin, sells his flourishing business as a music agent, and returns to the Colorado town of his childhood.Can a runaway singer and a makeshift rancher, thrust together by circumstance and held together by the common thread of loss and a love of music, find hope and a happily-ever-after under the stars of Delaney Mountain?


Grace Bradford cast a worried glance out the storefront window as snow continued to fall. “It’s really coming down out there.” 
Martha McDougal, the store owner, stopped to watch the winter wonderland unfolding outside. “The storm seems to be moving in earlier than was expected. I don’t like it. Let’s give it another hour, and if we don’t have any customers, we’ll close up shop. I sure don’t want you to get stuck down here.” 
Grace smiled at her friend’s consideration. When she’d first arrived in town eight months ago, widowed, injured, flat broke, and desperate to find a job and rebuild her life, Martha had accepted her. Grace had been such a wounded soul back then. Still, Martha hadn’t asked a single question. She’d simply given Grace a job and invited her to the small church on the edge of town. Grace had found a home. 
“We had a delivery yesterday, thank goodness, so there's plenty of food on hand. Derek put some of the stuff away during his shift yesterday, but I don’t expect him to be in today. Since I doubt we’ll have a customer, you might as well stock a few items. But I’m serious, Grace. If no one comes in soon, go home. When you get ready to leave, just lock up and go. I think I’ll head out before the storm shuts down the pass outside of town, and I can’t get home to Ed.”
Grace walked Martha to the door. “That’s a good idea. You have a lot farther to go than I do, and Ed will be worried. Be careful. I’ll call you when I’m leaving.”
“All right, hon. I’ll talk to you soon.” Martha hugged Grace then forced the door open against the blustering wind and slipped into the increasing snowstorm. 
Once Grace was certain Martha’s car would start, she closed the door and went to the back of the store. She brought out boxes of dry goods while keeping a close eye on the weather. By the end of the hour, she’d managed to shelve most of the stock. She turned up the radio and listened to the local weather report. 
“Most of the roads leading into town have closed already or will be closing soon. If you don’t have to be out today, then we suggest you stay home. We’re expecting up to three feet of fresh snow with the storm clearing out sometime tomorrow. This one’s going to be a bugger, folks.”
It was time definitely to call it quits. She picked up the items she needed, left a check in the register, and then called Martha. “I’m heading out now. I have everything put away. If I’m able, I’ll come in tomorrow to make up my time.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait out the storm at the store?” Martha asked. “It’s really coming down here. I’ve barely made it home.”
Although the thought was tempting, Grace just wanted to get home. Her dog, Lizzy, would be anxious in this weather. “Thanks, but I’ll be OK, and it’s only a few miles. I’ll see you soon.” She carried out her groceries then turned off the lights and locked up. But the farther she drove up Delaney Mountain, the more doubts she had. Maybe she should have stayed in town. 
Grace blew out a frightened sigh, and her breath chilled the air as she clutched the steering wheel. Her palms grew sweaty as the SUV slipped and slid on the icy road. 
She slowed to a crawl as ice and snow began to accumulate on the windshield, destroying visibility. She strained to see, her gaze locked on the road ahead, as the storm continued to intensify. 
She remembered another terrifying time less than a year earlier. The day her promising career had ended with the death of her husband. To the world, she and Nick had been one of Nashville’s up-and-coming couples. Grace knew nothing was further from the truth. That night more than her career had perished. Everything she believed to be real about her marriage and her husband died along with Nick. 
Just let go. Let God take it...
Father, please, help me let go of the hurt… 
Even today—even right now when she knew she should be focusing on the road and the weather— letting go was a next-to-impossible task. 
At times, Grace still woke up in the middle of the night and could feel the car crashing into the tree, could feel the excruciating pain of the steering wheel slamming into her throat as it damaged her vocal cords. She couldn’t scream or cry out for help. 
Grace shoved aside those dark thoughts and scrubbed a hand over weary eyes. She leaned forward. She could barely see the hood, much less the road. The conditions were worsening by the minute, and she had no idea how much farther the vehicle would go. She eased down on the gas pedal, and the tires spun, spewing icy debris against the underside of the SUV. 
The vehicle jerked forward as the tires caught. 
Grace whispered a thankful prayer. The road continued its upward climb as it snaked around the side of the mountain. Her heartbeat pounded a frantic rhythm as she reached another ninety degree bend. To her right was a sheer drop off. She wouldn’t survive the fall if the SUV went over. 
Grace gently nudged the steering wheel, at odds with her terror. She had almost reached another treacherous turn when the vehicle slid closer to the edge. She panicked and jerked the wheel in the opposite direction. The vehicle skated backward some twenty feet. The tires lost their tenuous grip and slithered closer to the drop-off. 
She floored the gas and the vehicle jerked forward, swerved sideways, and headed straight for the overhang. Grace screamed and tried to turn the wheel but it was useless. 

The Jeep didn’t react to anything. She had lost control. She closed her eyes. She didn’t want to die. Not when she’d just started to live again. ‚Please, Lord, no.‛ Grace barely got the words out before the Jeep hurled itself head first over the side of the mountain.  

Buy links: Amazon US     Amazon UK     Barnes and Noble

Mary’s Bio:
Mary grew up in a small Texas town famous for, well not much of anything really. Being the baby of the family and quite a bit younger than her two brothers and her sister, Mary had plenty of time to entertain herself. Making up stories seemed to come natural to her.
As a teen, Mary discovered Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt and knew instinctively that was what she wanted to do with her over-active imagination.
She wrote her first novel as a teen, (it’s tucked away somewhere never to see the light of day), but never really pursued her writing career seriously until a few years later, when she wrote her first inspirational romantic suspense and was hooked.
Today, Mary still lives in Texas, and still creates people facing dangerous situations. In fact, she can’t think of anything else she’d rather do.
Learn more about Mary at www.MaryAlford.net, or send her an email at maryjalfordauthor@gmail.com

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Beyond the Storm - Mary Manners


Recreational Therapist Ava Kennedy is in charge of Valentine’s Day festivities for shut-in patients at Honeysuckle Cove Children’s Hospital. When a winter storm threatens to derail planned events and steal the children’s joy, Ava calls on longtime friend and firefighter Nick Jones for rescue. The two have been close, platonic friends since kindergarten, but Ava soon finds her heart whirling like the drifting snowflakes outside her office window.

Nick Jones is skilled at extinguishing fires, so he doesn’t count on kindling a flame with lifelong friend Ava Kennedy. But he’s got a sweet spot for kids and women…especially when one particular woman—Ava—possesses a soft heart and laughter that draws like an electron magnet. Despite Nick’s valiant efforts to resist, he finds himself caught up in the attraction.

Will these friends’ new feelings weather the shifting tempest…or is this simply a passing storm?


Ava Kennedy paced Honeysuckle Cove Children’s Hospital’s fifth floor breakroom as she watched Channel 12 News run down the week’s forecast. Snow and more snow was on its way.
She grimaced. Not now…please.
“The weather’s not looking good, is it?” Tami crossed the room and slipped a dollar into a drink machine nestled in the corner. The petite pediatric nurse often recharged her energy with an afternoon caffeinated soda.
“No. Not at all.” Ava frowned as she used a remote to lower the TV’s volume. “And the worst of it looks like it’s going to hit on Saturday—same day the Valentine’s party is scheduled for the kids.”
“Ouch. That smarts.” Tami snagged her drink from the dispenser, snatched her lunch box from the community fridge, and slipped into a plastic chair at a round table near the window. “All the work you’ve done…the months of planning…it’s all in jeopardy.”
“It’s not my work I’m concerned about.” Ava sank into a seat across from Tami and glanced through an expanse of window glass to study the sky. The temperature that morning had felt mild and even now the heavens appeared a peaceful, angelic blue without so much as the slightest hint of clouds. Perhaps the meteorologist had miscalculated his snow forecast and the storm would skirt right past Honeysuckle Cove. She sighed as she sent up a silent prayer and returned her gaze to Tami. “It’s the kids I’m worried about. They’ll be crushed if the party has to be cancelled. Mr. Aster has already phoned me half-a-dozen times to remind me that he refuses to drive in heavy rain—let alone through a raging snowstorm.”
Mr. Aster was a hugely successful sixty-something local business owner with ageless energy and widely-acknowledged eccentricities. He also proved one of the most generous benefactors of Honeysuckle Cove Children’s Hospital. He’d lost a granddaughter in a snowboarding accident several years ago, and had recently helped to fund a state-of-the-art physical therapy wing in her memory. He had backed Ava’s suggestion of a holiday party for the shut-in kids on one condition—he and his wife wanted to play the lead roles of Mr. and Mrs. Cupid, complete with matching red velvet, heart-shaped sacks of toys filled with gifts for the children.
The costumes had been specially hand-crafted and the Asters had brought them by to show off to Ava. The matching set now hung in the small closet in her office, waiting to be worn. Posters had been plastered along the hospital corridors and on elevator doors, and the entire hospital staff had talked up the party with the kids who were undergoing long-term treatments. Those children would call the therapy wing home during the holiday. Even the local newspapers and TV stations had done their part to spread the word. Ava couldn’t let the kids and their families down.
“Yes, I’ve heard about Mr. Aster’s odd driving quirks.” Tami scooped hummus onto a cracker and took a nibble. “He’s a bit of a nervous Nellie since he and his wife got T-boned by that snow plow during last winter’s ice storm.”
“Luckily, no one was seriously injured. I can’t say I blame him for being a bit over-cautious. Even so…” Ava pouted. “I suppose it’s a moot point since Mrs. Aster has the flu. She couldn’t come near the children anyway. During his last phone call, Mr. Aster finally admitted they wouldn’t make the event. He told me to find someone to take both their places. But I’m not left with much time. When it rains, it pours.”
“More like when it flurries, it blizzards.” Tami giggled briefly at her own joke, until she realized from Ava’s daggered stare that she missed the humor in it. “I’m sorry, Ava.”
“Me, too. It’s too late to change our plans. And even if we could switch the event date, it would defeat the purpose of the party. It’s for the kids. On Valentine’s Day. While they’re shut in here. Away from family and friends.”
“Right. Well, that’s crummy.” Tami frowned. “You know I’d be more than happy to help with the festivities, but I drew the proverbial short straw this holiday so I’m pulling a double shift at the nurse’s station that day.”
“Oh, you’re sure to have your hands full doing that, especially with the storm bearing down.”
“Yes, but I’m settling in with double duty for a great cause.” She winked conspiratorially. “Fiona has a hot date. I think Isaac is going to pop The Big Question.”
Ava wasn’t surprised by this tidbit of news. Fiona, a pediatric nurse and Isaac, a fifth year resident had been dating for more than two years and proved the picture of love. Most of the hospital staff had been wagering on when the nuptials might occur.
“That’s exciting.” Ava was happy for them, yet she couldn’t help but feel a little pinprick of envy. Though she’d weathered her fair share of frogs, she had yet to find her prince charming. She feared she never would. “I hope their plans aren’t derailed by the storm.”
“Oh, I don’t think Old Man Winter himself could keep Isaac from sliding that engagement ring on Fiona’s finger. He’s been hinting about it for weeks now. She’s the one who’s been dragging her feet. She thinks he should finish his residency first.”
“Well, if they can manage to carry on through the storm then so can I.” Ava nodded with stiff determination. “Yes, it’s time to be proactive. I’m going to launch a backup plan.”
“Well, you are the planner extraordinaire so if anyone can pull it off, you can.” Tami’s laughter danced along the window glass. “But from the looks of that mess—” She motioned to the TV, where a snow-ridden 5-day forecast was plastered across the monitor “—you’re going to need to pull out every trick.”
“Right. So it’s imperative that I draft someone who has use of a four-wheel vehicle and exhibits mad driving skills in the snow.” Ava pulled a steno notepad and pen from her pocket. She flipped open the pad, quickly scrawled a few notes, and then paused to tap her chin with the pen as she considered further possibilities. “He’ll have to help me pick up toy donations the morning of the party—or possibly the evening before if the storm hits early. It would be a bonus if he’d also roll up his sleeves to help with last-minute decorations and lead a few of the activities. Mr. and Mrs. Aster had planned to spend the entire day here and I was really counting on their help.”
“That’s a tall order.” Tami polished off the last cracker and snapped shut the lid of the hummus. “Paul Bunyan sort of tall.”
“Perhaps…but not impossible.”
“Of course it’s not. Nothing’s impossible. But what about Cupid and his heart-shaped sack of toys? Will this Jack of all trades be able to take Mr. Aster’s place? And will you take Mrs. Aster’s place?”
“I can certainly fill in as far as Mrs. Aster goes, but Mr. Cupid…hmm, that’s the most important part.” Ava frowned thoughtfully. “Well, whoever agrees to help will just have to be a good sport when it comes to wearing the costume and handing out gifts. The kids have their hearts totally set on the visit, and I’m not going to let them down.”
“Speaking of Cupid, is that hunky firefighter friend of yours going to bring you lunch again today?”
“Hunky…firefighter?” Ava wracked her brain until a light finally dawned. “Oh, you mean Nick?”

“Yes…Mr. Tall, Dark and Blue-eyed. Emphasis on the blue eyes…and the hunky.” Tami popped the tab on her soda, drew a sip, and then fanned herself with dramatics worthy of an Oscar. “Yes, definitely hunky. He’s oh-so-easy on the eyes.”

My review:
Another page turner from Mary Manners, that doesn't make an early night possible. Based in a hospital during a severe storm, this story has a hunky firefighter and an adorable nurse as the main characters. Not to mention a very fetching outfit. (not saying who wears it... spoilers, don't ya know)

Monday, 23 January 2017

Sunrise at Honeysuckle Cove - Mary Manners

The first in an exciting new series from Mary Manners.


Honeysuckle Cove Inn has been in the Brennan family for three generations. When Maggie Brennan’s parents retire, they call her home to Honeysuckle Cove and hand over the reins of the historical inn. If Maggie successfully maintains the business over the course of a year, the inn is hers forever. Maggie considers the timing perfect, with one exception—she finds her path entangled once again with that of Dylan O’Connor.

Dylan has made a name for himself as the go-to guy when it comes to renovations and repairs in Honeysuckle Cove, and he’s waited nearly a decade for high school sweetheart Maggie Brennan to return home. But his handyman skills will be put to the test when it comes to rebuilding the bridge between Maggie’s heart and his, and designing a future…together.


Maggie Brennan tossed her overnight bag across one shoulder and slammed the door of her SUV. Her belly skipped with excitement and a jumble of nerves as she turned toward Honeysuckle Cove Inn. Her breath caught at the Victorian structure perched along an undulating knoll, its sweeping wrap around porch and turn-of-the-century style back-dropped by sun-dappled breakers of Wanderlust Lake. Whitewashed wood encased panels of glass that shimmered beneath late afternoon light, while a regal spire soared three stories to kiss the winter sky.
The rooms inside were filled with countless legends and stories that had grown throughout the years. Maggie wondered how many more tales might be woven over the coming months. The thought sent her pulse into a barrel roll.
Easy there, Maggie…pull it together. You can do this.
A light breeze ruffled her hair and whispered beneath the collar of her cotton shirt as she made her way up the winding walk. She shivered and gathered the overnight bag to her chest like a shield, wishing she’d thought to grab a sweater from one of the many suitcases and boxes piled in the SUV’s trunk and stacked across the backseat. She’d forgotten how cool January afternoons could be in East Tennessee. Not hard to do, since it had been several winters since she’d come home.
But an unexpected phone call from her mother had changed everything.
“Dad and I are heading south to the coast for the foreseeable future, Maggie. Surely the warm weather will soothe relentless aches that have worsened in your father’s battle with arthritis. The inn is yours. It’s too much for us to manage now, and it pains me to say we’ve really let things slide over the past year or so. Coaxing it back to life won’t be easy, but we know you have never shied away from a challenge…”
Maggie drew in a breath. With her sister Candice gone, the task of rescuing the family’s inn fell solely upon her shoulders. Her parents were right—she rarely shied from a challenge. But there had been one situation she’d run away from many moons ago. It remained the reason she hadn’t returned to the cove for more than a handful of days here and there since she’d graduated college and moved west.
And on those occasions she’d popped in for a visit, she’d done her best to stay put along the grounds of the inn, enjoying time with her parents and the beauty of the landscape while avoiding any chance of running into the one person she wanted least to see—Dylan O’Connor.
But the lure of the inn with all its intrigue and history…the many fond childhood memories that danced through her dreams when she lay her head against a pillow at night…made it impossible to stay gone any longer. Despite the fact that living twenty-four/seven in a small town like Honeysuckle Cove would make it much harder to avoid Dylan, she considered her parents’ offer to rejuvenate and manage the inn a blessing in disguise.
Who was she kidding? Considering recent disasters in both her work and personal life, their offer proved an answer to her prayers.
Except for Dylan…and the still-raw memories of her sister Candice, as well.
Maggie forced the thoughts from her mind before they had time to bloom. There was work to be done, and no time to waste energy on recent failures or regrets from the past.
The scent of honeysuckle drifted, drawing Maggie’s attention to a tangle of flowerbeds surrounding the inn and gardens. Broken pavers lined what once served as a walkway to the rear patio and lakeshore beyond, while unseasonably heavy rains had washed away layers of mulch, leaving trenches of dirt in their wake.
Maggie shook her head and heaved a sigh. Mom hadn’t been kidding when she said she and Dad had let things go. It would take a small army to put things to right. Not very promising, since she proved a lone soldier.
Refusing to be deterred, she made a mental note to launch an attack on the mess as soon as she had her bearings. She’d have to get moving if she planned to stick to the rigid schedule she’d outlined. Her parents hadn’t booked a guest room in more than six months and the inn’s business account now straddled the fence between operating in the black and plunging into red. But Maggie planned to start taking reservations just as soon as she had things in order again. She’d revitalize one room at a time, and also open the dining area to local dinner patrons as soon as the revamped website and a workable menu—as well as adequate staff—were up and running.
Which circled ’round to the fact that she’d need to hire a chef…and a landscaper…and possibly even a carpenter or handyman to help with simple—and not so simple—repairs.
Again she considered Dylan. He was the best carpenter she knew. Too bad she couldn’t call on him now. It would make things so much easier.
And so much more difficult.
Maggie’s belly blanched. So many things to consider. The enormity of the tasks that faced her threatened to wash over her like a tsunami, taking her prisoner if she allowed them to.
So she would keep her chin up and stand tall. She’d focus on first things first. The once-beautiful gardens tumbled with a graveyard of untended plants and tangled weeds. It wouldn’t do well to have visitors arrive to such unkempt grounds. And pulling weeds was a task she could manage on her own. She’d found digging in the dirt to be cathartic…at least when she was eight years old.
Clean-up would take some elbow grease, but all was not lost. As she neared the porch, a closer look at the flowerbeds proved that buried beneath the weeds a flurry of honeysuckle bushes lay dormant, their sleepy buds curled against the cold, waiting patiently for spring. Maggie imagined after so many countless seasons drenched in blooms, the inn itself had taken on the sweet scent that seemed to linger like a spirit, drawing its warm, fruity bouquet into the inn’s wood and fabric.
Even now, the inn sighed and whispered, welcoming Maggie home. The thought made her smile as she reached the front steps.
Suddenly a deafening screech ripped the air. Maggie tripped and stumbled. She clutched the stair rail and waited a beat for her heart to jig back into rhythm. What on earth…?
The earsplitting whine died and then wailed…died and wailed in a rhythmic assault to her eardrums. It took a moment for the realization to dawn that the brain-numbing sound came from inside the inn. She tilted her head and peered up toward the third floor of the spire. A shadow crossed the window and she zeroed in, studying the rangy figure that moved with an unmistakable, languid swagger. Her brain struggled to process information. It couldn’t be…it wasn’t…
No way. The inn was supposed to be empty—especially from the likes of Dylan O’Connor.
Maggie’s spine turned to steel as she climbed the porch steps and paused at the front door. She toed a worn welcome mat and found the keys her mother had tucked there waiting beneath. She bent, clutched them in her fist, and quickly realized there was no need for them as the door stood unlocked and more than slightly ajar.
It was just like Dylan to waste good money letting a steady stream of frigid winter air into the house.
She gave the door a shove, then dropped her bag in the hallway. Familiar scents of warm cedar, cinnamon-hazelnut coffee, and oak logs piled beside the fireplace conjured memories, while force of habit had her padding through the living room and past the library to a winding staircase that led to the third floor. She attacked the staircase, her heart thrumming with each footstep.
When the stairway opened to the third floor landing, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
There he stood—Dylan O’Connor—leaned over a pair of sawhorses with his back to her as he waged battle with a circular saw against a length of two-by-four.

The day had just become much, much more difficult.

The last thing Maggie wants or needs is Dylan back in her life. However it seems her parents, God and maybe even Dylan himself have other plans for her. Coming from Mary Manners, I knew this was going to be another good story and I wasn't disappointed. Can't wait for the next story in this series.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley - Elizabeth Maddrey and others

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley includes:
Spring’s Blessing (Seasons of Faith) by Mary Jane Hathaway
Life gets complicated for Charlotte MacGregor when a motherless child and a handsome widower encroach on her carefully laid plans. Will she keep her heart above the fray, or take a leap of faith?
Loaves and Wishes (A Baxter Family Bakery Romance) by Elizabeth Maddrey
Inheriting her friend’s Bed and Breakfast in Idaho is a second chance to succeed, but falling for the farmer next door wasn’t in the plan.
Sheltered Hearts (Romance from the Heart) by Lee Tobin McClain
A curvy jilted bride gets stranded in a snowstorm with a handsome restaurant cook who’s not what he seems to be.
Sow in Love (A Garden Grown Romance) by Valerie Comer
A real estate consultant’s ideas for fulfilling a living trust are shot down by the elderly greenhouse owner’s grandson, but some of the arrows piercing her heart come directly from Cupid’s bow.
The Scent of Romance (Legacy of the Heart) by Danica Favorite
A high-powered lawyer must convince a woman determined to protect her family’s legacy to sell the family farm to his father’s development company, but finds his heart leading him away from everything he’s spent his life trying to accomplish.
A Romance Rekindled (A Homegrown Love Story) by Annalisa Daughety
When a formerly engaged couple find themselves thrown together after more than a decade apart, neither of them are thrilled about it. Can they let go of the past and consider a future together? Or are there some wounds that cannot be healed?

Extract from Loaves and Wishes by Elizabeth Maddrey:

Something banged against the back door. Ruth jolted.
Heart pounding, she leaned back and eyed the window. The mostly sheer and entirely too-frilly curtain barely hid the shape of what was absolutely a man. Fixing a polite smile on her face, she crossed to the door and pushed aside the curtain. Her eyebrows lifted and she raised her voice, praying it would carry through the glass.
“Can I help you?”
The man frowned. “Who are you?”
“I own the B&B. Who are you?”
He shook his head. “Where’s Naomi? Go tell her Corban’s here, would you?”
How did he not know? Ruth flipped the dead bolt and tugged the door open a crack, leaning her weight against it so she could slam it shut if she needed. Not that it would be much defense when the top half of the door was glass. But it might give her a few seconds to grab her phone and run. “How do you know Naomi?”
“I’m her neighbor. I live over there.” Corban gestured vaguely toward the farm across the road. But she hadn’t seen a farmhouse and had assumed it was just a set of fields that belonged to someone who lived elsewhere. However farms worked. “Not that you need to know, but I’ve been in Florida settling my parents’ estate. Naomi knows all this. Could you either let me in or go get her? I brought her the citrus she asked me for, and some avocados that she didn’t ask for, but I remembered she loves them and these are huge.”
Ruth sighed and opened the door. “You’d better come in. Why don’t you go through to the parlor, Corban, was it? I made some lemonade.”
He bent, his muscles flexing under his shirt as he lifted a crate off the step with what appeared to be no effort whatsoever. “Where should I put the fruit?”
“Um. On the counter, I guess. Lemonade?”
He shrugged one shoulder. “Why not? You never said who you were.”
Ruth took two tall glasses down from the cabinet by the sink. She filled them with ice at the refrigerator, poured the lemonade, and then decorated the rims with a transparent slice of lemon. “Let’s go sit.”
Another frown etched lines in his forehead, but he strode out of the kitchen. Ruth followed. Even frowns couldn’t mar his good looks. He was older than her by several years, if she had to guess. But not more than forty. At thirty-three, that wasn’t too much. Oh, good grief, what was she thinking? He’d probably had an eye on Naomi and now Ruth was going to have to break his heart.
He accepted the lemonade, his eyebrows lifting as he took a sip. “That’s good. Thank you.”
She couldn’t miss the implication that he hadn’t expected it to be good. Rude man. Ruth cleared her throat as she sat. Maybe it was better to blurt it out and be done. “Naomi passed away three weeks ago.”
Corban stared at her, his mouth open in a tiny O. Slowly, his lips came together and the furrows in his forehead deepened. He set the glass down with a thunk on the antique table by his elbow, completely missing the lace doohickey that would protect the wood. “I’m sorry. What?”
Ruth’s fingers itched to move the glass but she willed herself to stay still, perched on the edge of the settee. “She had cancer. And apparently never told anyone. I’ve been her best friend since kindergarten, we talk every week, and she only told me she was sick when it was clear that treatment wasn’t a viable option. Her obituary was in the local paper.”
“I told the guys watching the farm to read and recycle them. Nothing ever happens around here that’s worth saving a newspaper. I’m not even sure why I still subscribe, except that Ernie’s been a family friend for so long. She’d been acting odd. I knew I should have pushed.”
“You two were close?” Ruth watched his face. He looked shocked, certainly, but not as destroyed as a man in love should be.
“Not like you mean.” He offered a slight smile. “Though there were plenty of old ladies at church who were hopeful. No, Naomi was like a little sister to me. When she bought this place so my parents could move south, it seemed natural to keep an eye on her at first. And then...” He shrugged. “Then we were friends.”
“Naomi could make anyone into a friend.” Ruth’s heart cracked open a little wider. How was she supposed to go through life without her? “I’m sorry you had to find out from me.”
Corban nodded and stood. “I’ll be on my way. I... my number’s in her book. If you ever need anything, just give a shout.”
“Thanks.” He probably hadn’t heard her, given that he’d been striding into the hall before she’d managed to get the word out. The kitchen door slammed.
Ruth sagged against the back of the stuffy little couch and took several long swallows of her lemonade. She was going to make a success of her friend’s business. She had to. For Naomi, and for herself. And handsome, abrupt neighbors weren’t going to get in her way.

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.
Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey

Buy links:

You can find Elizabeth here:

Twitter: @elizabethmaddre

Elizabeth Maddrey is a semi-reformed computer geek and homeschooling mother of two who loves romance and a good happily ever after.

Friday, 6 January 2017

An informal date by Heather Gray

Could two people be more different?

Kimi Fairchild is pursuing an Art Therapy degree while working as a barista at a local hospital. She takes life as it comes and has a smile for everyone who crosses her path. She’s never much cared for schedules, either…until a mysterious man starts showing up at her coffee kiosk every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at exactly 7:05 a.m.

Owen Pratt is a research scientist on the verge of obtaining FDA approval for a new cancer-fighting drug. He has limited people skills, a fondness for caffeine, and a love of strictly kept routines. He’s the antithesis of Kimi in almost every way. Something about her smile, though, keeps bringing him back for more.

How can two such different people go from a shared interest in coffee to a shared future? By getting out of God’s way and letting Him handle the details. Ha! Easier said than done.

Kimi pretended to organize her muffin assortment as Dr. No-Name approached. She could set her clock by him. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:05 in the morning, he came for his large half-caff triple nonfat medium whip white mocha. Even though she knew what he would order, she waited for him to arrive. One day not too long ago, she’d started his drink as soon as he’d stepped into view. She’d had the steaming beverage ready and waiting for him. The poor guy had been so flustered he’d knocked over the fruit basket and taken out half the cookie display in the process.
She’d learned an important lesson that day. Two, really. Patience paid off. And some people don’t handle change well.
Dr. No-Name glanced to the side and tripped over a covered cable that ran along the floor. He kicked the toe of his loafer into the top of the cable’s molded rubber protector, lost his balance, hopped a couple of times on his left foot, swung his arms like a grade-schooler doing the windmill in PE, and finally got his right shoe back down on the ground. Despite the theatrical gymnastics, nobody but her appeared to be watching the show. She had to give him points for the landing. Not a brown hair on his head was out of place, and his lab coat hung from his shoulders with straight lines in complete denial of its recent whirlwind of activity.
The same cable had been positioned across that floor for as long as Kimi could remember. The doctor had to know it, too, but unless his eyes were trained directly on it, he seemed to forget. She’d witnessed his footwork often enough to realize that much, at least.
Kimi turned her back on him lest he catch her spying. Despite his oddities, she enjoyed Dr. No-Name’s visits to her kiosk and didn’t want to scare him off by staring or — heaven forbid — laughing.
“Um, excuse me.”
She turned around, her smile in place and hopefully no pity in her eyes. “Good morning! The usual?”
Dr. No-Name nodded. Most doctors wore their name embroidered on their official white lab coats, but not this one. Plain white, no fancy frills, and no embroidery. Either he wasn’t important enough for a name on his coat or he was humble enough not to care. She secretly hoped it was the latter.
Kimi set to work on his drink and tried to make conversation. “You always order a triple shot, but you want half-caff. Most people who want to go easy on the caffeine avoid the triple.”
She caught his shrug out of the corner of her eye. Getting this guy to talk was harder than pulling a barking dog’s molars with a pair of tweezers.

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Author Bio:
Heather Gray loves coffee, God, and her family – not necessarily in that order! She enjoys people who embrace God even when life is hard and who aren't afraid to laugh out loud. Like her, the characters she writes are flawed…but loved anyway.

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Additional Info:
An Informal Date currently has a 5-star rating on Amazon with 18 reviews.
An Informal Date can also be found in the Falling For You box set (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KWI4TDS) which has a 4.7-star rating with 46 reviews.
An Informal Christmas, book #1 in the series, won the 2016 Selah Award in the novella category.

An Informal Date on Goodreads

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve Devotion - Pastor Michael Duncan

’Tis the Season

As I look out the window I am surrounded by a forest of icicles. Clear crystal spires hang like ornaments from the eaves and endear the house with a magical aura. Even the grey clouds and quiet hour bring a sublime tranquility to this beautiful season. But soon the calm serenity will be overcome by a wealth of laughter and sounds of joy as families and friends join together to celebrate the birth of the King.

There is nothing like Christmas. Lights and tinsel, songs and parties, friendships abound and good will is offered to all who know the delights of the season. Despite the sense of busyness, there is a wonderful peace that fills the atmosphere. Yet, in this season, with all the trappings and festivities that fill our time, the actual meaning of Christmas might get lost. So, in these brief moments, I hope to take you back to Bethlehem and invite you to join with shepherds and wise men and seek the One who was born to be the Savior.

The clear night air shimmered with stars as shepherds maintained vigilance over the flocks in their care. A crisp breeze gently wafted across the hills surrounding the village of Bethlehem and no one imagined what was coming next…

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
~ Luke 2:9-14 (ESV)

This message came not by some secretive, covert messenger. This was no subtle whisper on a darkened night. No, with the glory of heaven as their background, the entirety of the heavenly host burst upon the scene and pronounced with boldness the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ!

So what are the shepherds to do? What would you do? With resolute purpose the shepherds set out for the city of Bethlehem and found it to be exactly as spoken by the angel. This longing from the shepherds is echoed in the heart of all who have believed the message concerning Jesus. The passion and desire to be in the presence of the One about whom angels testify is felt no greater than at this time of year when we celebrate our Savior’s birth.

Perhaps your sense of God’s presence is dimmed. Perhaps the true nature of why we celebrate this festival has waned in the onslaught of the commercial rush. There is no better time than now and there is no better way to renew your faith than to be as the shepherds and determine with unwavering passion to seek for the One who was born to be King.

What an honor and privilege to know the true meaning of Christmas. What grace! What love! He who is holy sent His only begotten Son into this fallen, sinful world to be the hope for all mankind. The great gift of Christmas is Jesus; and the greatest gift you can give to anyone is the love that has been given to you—the love of God in Christ.

Let us take time to remember the Lord Jesus Christ for whose sake we truly celebrate. As the wise men from the east, let us worship HIM who is born King. Like the shepherds of Israel, let us proclaim HIM to everyone. May the lights of the season remind you of the Light of the world; may the presents under the tree remind you of the Person given for you; and may the festivities of the day remind you of the festival that awaits all who are found in Christ. I pray that this season of Christmas bring you peace through our Lord Jesus.

Faithfully Yours,
Michael Duncan