Sunday, March 31, 2013

Miracles and Dreams - Mary Manners

Hello, Mary, welcome back! My you've been busy! And as usual, I love your story, so I just wanted to bring it to light for those who haven't heard about it! Miracles and Dreams is a very sweet "second chances" romance.

Back Cover:

Jack Seaton moves mountains, literally, as he develops commercial property along the West Coast. But not a day goes by that he doesn’t think of Misty Larsen and the carefree love they once shared. He thought they’d end up married, but his job—and five thousand miles—got in the way. He’s sure she’s moved on and found a new man to love...Until he unexpectedly receives a letter Misty wrote the day he left Mills Landing nearly six years ago. Jack is shocked to learn Misty was pregnant with his child—a child that must be in kindergarten by now.

Misty Larsen is determined to give her daughter a good life. She’s put a business-management degree to good use by spearheading an online Web-design agency. Misty’s hectic schedule gives her little time to reminisce about Jack Seaton, the man who stole her heart. But when Jack storms Misty’s doorstep one thunder-filled afternoon, clutching her letter in his hand, the past bubbles up and spills over to merge their lives once again.


“This letter arrived special delivery. I had to sign for it.” Mike handed Jack a crisp manila envelope, the address personally hand lettered. It was a bit bulky, with the outline of a second envelope—or perhaps a square of cardboard—tucked inside. “It’s different from the rest—smells a bit odd, like a hint of sweet perfume. You got something going on, boss?”

“Nope.” The question, coming from anyone but Mike, would have offended Jack. But, after five-plus years working together, the two had forged a friendship that went beyond the jobsite. Mike was a stand-up guy whom Jack knew he could count on in any situation. “Nothing but a date with my pillow.”

“If you say so.” Mike shrugged and slapped the letter against his thigh before offering it up. “But, you might want to take a look.”

“Thanks.” Jack took the letter, distracted as one of the trucks inched dangerously close to a drop-off across the road. The driver was new and flirting with disaster. The road department had yet to come out and place guard rails. Jack had that at the top of the day’s To-Do list: hound the road department. The rails would have to come in before any of the new owners arrived.

Jack tucked the envelope into the pocket of his flannel shirt and started across the work field, motioning Mike to follow. “Do you see that drop-off at the entrance?”

“Sure do, boss.” Mike nodded as he fell into step. “Hard to miss that one.”

“Grab the specs and let’s take a look-see.” Jack lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the glaring sun. “It’s shaping up to be a problem.”


Misty sighed and rolled kinks from her neck before slipping from the chair and padding over to the sink. One of the fringe benefits of managing her own Web-design agency was the ability to work from home…in her stocking feet and with her uncombed hair swept into a messy ponytail. Jeans and a T-shirt were optional—some work days slipped away before she even changed out of her pajamas or donned a hint of make-up.

Today was the exception. She’d dropped Allie at school, and then taken an early jog along the Landing to get the creative juices flowing. Inspiration had flared by the time she indulged in a quick shower. A trip down the electronic highway followed.

Until she hit a roadblock at the first turn. The photos Spence Tucker had sent were all wrong, and the layout left gaps. She needed more—better—soon.

Ugh. She refilled her coffee cup, added a splash of French-vanilla creamer, and took a moment to gaze through the bay window that swaddled the modest breakfast nook. Sunlight spilled across the yard beyond, spotlighting toys peeking through blades of grass that cried out to be mowed. The lawn would have to wait until tomorrow—she’d promised Allie a trip to the park after school. It would give her a chance to snap more photos of the walking trail and landscaping just coming into bloom. The trail snaked around the park and through the Landing. With a little luck, she’d capture the beauty she yearned to express through the Parks and Rec Website.

She fingered the buttons on the oversized flannel shirt she wore over a scoop-necked navy T-shirt. Patches of baby blue and soft yellow had faded from hundreds of washings, and one of the cuffs was missing its buttons. She wondered now why she hadn’t thrown it out—or burned it—years ago. The fabric, if she imagined hard enough, still carried the faint, wood-spice scent of Jack’s aftershave. Cotton caressed her pale skin like a gentle hug, just as Jack once had—before the breakup.

Maybe she kept the shirt—and still occasionally wore it—because of Allie. Despite the heartaches that Jack Seaton had caused, he’d given her Allie. Misty would be forever thankful to him for the gift of her daughter.

Misty glanced at a photo of Allie she’d tacked to the fridge. The child had Jack’s eyes…a swirl of wolf-gray with flecks of stonewashed blue that danced with a hint of mischief. Her rich black hair held Jack’s thick and wavy texture, as well. Misty was helpless when it came to restraining the mass with bows or elastic bands. She’d considered cutting it, but Allie loved the long locks. So, a headband worked best, Misty had learned through trial and error, and Allie had an arsenal to choose from.

Misty tore her gaze from the photo and her mind from the memories. She took a final sip of tepid coffee and then dumped what was left down the sink drain. The screensaver popped on, and a cluster of willows danced in a breeze, their shadows reflected along the water’s edge. Misty longed to be in the cool shade of the trees down at the Landing.

She forced the thought away and tried not to remember how she’d once waited there—foolishly—for Jack to come for her.

He never did.


Well, I'm a real sucker for second chance romances, as just about everyone knows, so this one definitely found its way into my heart. Ms. Manners does a wonderful job of bringing her characters to life and making them quite, well, human.

The lost letter to Jack comes as quite a shock to him and the way he flies straight to Misty you know sparks are going to fly. And just cause Misty wants to think she's over him, her reaction to Jack when he steps back into their lives shows just how wrong she is.

And when they finally dig into the past and discover what really happened, they find themselves right back at the same crossroads of a decision.

Great story! I loved it!

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Friday, March 22, 2013

When Truth Whispers - Dora Hiers

Welcome back, Dora! We haven't seen you in quite awhile, but I see you've been busy and I have some catching up to do on my reading! I'm so glad this one was brought to my attention! And it looks like I have the rest of a series to read, too!

But I've got to ask, with all these stories coming out, have you ever suffered from writer's block? They say everyone does at some point, but have you?

Oh, yes. When I was a “pantser” and stuck on a particular scene, I experienced quite a few blocks when I could barely tug the words out. During those times, I’d let my Golden Retriever walk me around the park or spend a few minutes sitting outside, praying for God to release the creative juices. Now, that I’ve transitioned to a “plotter,” I map my stories out in advance, but I also experienced “plotter’s block” during the plotting phase.

Here’s what I recommend to overcome blocks: Make prayer your first step. There’s no point in moving on if you don’t ask God to be part of the process. Ask God to clean out the junk, to free your mind to ideas, to unlock the creative well. Then, on days when I’m not feeling well or particularly motivated, I really hunker down and keep at it. I might type only dialog if that flows better, or switch to action beats, whatever works to get the story moving forward. If that still doesn’t work, I regroup by working on another writerly task and try to compensate my word count during the week, but that’s a last resort.

Thanks for the helpful hints, Dora! Now let's have a peek at the story!

Back Cover

After a humiliating breakup, best-selling romance author Teal Benning flees to Promise Lake to complete her current novel, minus paparazzi and flashing cameras. Suffering from writer's block and a broken heart, Teal accepts the offer of help from neighbor, Hunter Miciver.

Hunter longs to be more than the friend who picks up the shattered pieces of Teal's heart, but when Teal finds out his secret, will she see him for the man he is—a man of faith and devotion, a man who would cherish her for the rest of her days—or will she lump him into the same category as all the other men in her life, including her father?

Will Teal recognize when truth whispers her name?


“You can stop screaming now, Kibbles. We’re home.”

Teal Benning downshifted and coasted into the gravel driveway, the wail of country music drowning the cicadas’ chatter coming through the sports car’s open windows. But the tunes did nothing to tame her cat’s occasional ear-piercing screech.

Home? Not technically, but close enough.

She’d grown up in this tiny house tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Promise Lake.

For the last five years, home was in Atlanta, where she was Teal Benning, best-selling romance author and pro-basketball superstar Ian Hartsuk’s fiancée.

In Promise Lake, she was just Teal Benning.

Teal sighed and closed the windows. Jerking the keys from the ignition, the silence settled over her and in the darkness, a glint sparkled from her finger, the remnant of her two-year-long relationship. Teal stared at the single diamond and clamped her lips together.

Correction. Ian Hartsuk’s ex-fiancée.

She tugged the ring off and smashed it deep into her laptop bag.

Why hadn’t she flung it at Ian’s head? She would have relished his expression as he watched several thousand dollars sink to the bottom of the hot tub. Wouldn’t that have been priceless? Nah. What was a few thousand to him? She’d figure out what to do with it later.

Teal stepped out on stiff legs, giving the short black dress a yank south and tugging her sweater tighter. She heaved the laptop bag over a shoulder and reached in for Kibbles’s carrier. Dried leaves crunched under high-heeled sandals as she wobbled around to the back of the car in the loose gravel.

The blackness settled around Teal’s throat like a noose. Her eyes burned, but she refused to give in to self-pity. What had she expected? Ian was no different from any other man she knew. Including her father. Cheating and lying, that was the name of their game.

Teal lifted her chin and pushed back her shoulders. All she needed was three months of disconnecting from the world and the constant paparazzi who hounded her in Atlanta. Without anyone traipsing around after her vying for the most obnoxious camera shot, and with Internet service more off than on, she’d forget all about Ian and the looming wedding date. The wedding that wouldn’t happen.

She had three months to pound out the words to the book that had already eluded her for eight weeks. Ninety days to create a heart-racing romance.

With a broken heart.


I loved this story! Between Teal's heartbreak and Hunter's heartache you can't help but love these two and hope for the best. It was wonderful watching Teal's eyes be opened to Hunter as her heart is filled with a love for God. And Hunter's faith, his trust in God's grace is truly a treasure to behold.

This was one story I didn't want to put down...and I didn't want it to end! Beautiful! Well done, Dora!

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Blood on the Cards - David Huffstettler

Well, Mr. Huffstetler sure knows how to twist up a story into a messy little mystery! Welcome to the Jack Harden series. If you like mysteries then you'll certainly like this bunch. First there was Blood on the Pen where we were met Jack Harden, now we have Blood on the Cards. Take a peek.

Back Cover:

A brotherhood of powerful men, a self-proclaimed prophet, and an ancient goddess hover over a series of murders that start with a game of Texas Hold-em. But are they to blame? Or has the embittered Comanche outcast returned to avenge his niece's death? Or has Jack Harden snapped as some would like the public to believe?

As Elsie and Jack try to salvage what's left of their relationship, an ever-widening canvas of death unfurls around them.

Can they stop it? Or will their blood be on the cards?


Dusk settled outside the window, and Reverend Lu stood at the head of the table. He turned toward the front door and said, “Ah, Tim is here. Let’s get started.”

Jackson smiled, nodded to the other ten men around the table, and took his seat. “Sorry to be late. We had a problem at one of the car lots.”

The men joined hands, bowed their heads, and Lu prayed. “Oh, Spirit of Truth, speak to us. Open our minds and our hearts that we may hear you, that we may yield to you. Amen.” Their hands slid off the table onto their laps and every eye was on Benjamin Lu. “Gentlemen, I asked you to come tonight for a special reason. You were twelve and now you are eleven. We had a traitor in our midst.” He took a Bible from a full bookcase and opened it. “Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, chapter five. ‘To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved.’ There are many books that speak to us of the truth, and this is one.” He closed the Bible and eased it back onto the shelf. “We have lost one of our number, but we have saved his soul. There is no greater sign of love than the shedding of blood. My brothers, only the strong and the pure can understand these teachings.”

He looked at each of them, until he stopped at Jackson. “Tim, do you see the wisdom in what has been done?”

Jackson swallowed hard, looked around, and said, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Look at me, Tim. We are the chosen, the elect. There has always been a remnant of true believers in an evil age, and you are part of that remnant. Do you understand that? Do you understand who you are--who we are?”

“Yes, I’m with you. I wouldn’t have gone out there, if I hadn’t been. But, what happens if the police come around?”

Lu pointed to Paul Thibadeuax and said, “Tell him, Paul. Tell us all.”

Thibadeuax’s voice was calm and smooth. “We are not subject to their laws. We have been called to a greater purpose.”

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Educated in Dallas, North Carolina, David Huffstetler holds degrees in Engineering and Business Administration. He has worked in the area of human relations and spent fourteen years weaving through the maze of politics, including participating in a Federal Law suit as Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, with a sitting governor over issues of separation of powers. David has served on Boards of Directors for numerous professional organizations including Crime Stoppers, SC Workers’ Compensation Educational Association, SC Safety Council, the SC Fire Academy, and the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Workers’ Compensation. He has advised governors and legislators on matters of public policy and legislation. His wealth of experience is broad and brings deep insight to his writing.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Beautiful Music - Marianne Evans

Welcome back, Marianne! And what a lovely story! I just love stories that involve music - and toss a child into the mix with a God given gift and it just sounds like a story from heaven! And this one surely is!

Back Cover:

Escaping the black residue of her past, Callie Phillips finds sanctuary at Queen of Angels Church. The reformed rebel is a middle-school choir teacher by day, and music director on the weekends, mingling with parish members over breakfast at her favorite after-church haunt, Sal’s Place. 

Luke West embraces a devout belief in the sacredness of human life. An EMT, he takes charge of life-and-death situations and acts as guardian for his ten-year-old niece, Dawn West who has a child’s zest for life and a God-given gift for music. 

When Callie takes the little girl under her wing and becomes a mentor and surrogate mother to Dawn, Callie and Luke are thrown together. She’s drawn to the dynamic and handsome EMT, but her sullied past threatens any future she and Luke might share. 

Despite Callie’s former life, can Luke’s love teach her there’s nothing God’s mercy can’t wipe clean? Will Luke forgive even the bleakest form of sin and desperation in order to embrace the love of an extraordinary woman?


Should she unburden to this man? What did she have to lose, really? She'd never come back here again. Maybe talking would help. There was certainly no one else to listen.
So, for the first time, she opted to give voice to her moment of truth. "I'm pregnant, and I'm getting an abortion. I have no other choice."

A long silence moved past, in a passage of time marked only by the pounding of her heart against her ribs.

"You must be terrified." He showed no anger. No hailstorm of fire and brimstone fell from the sky. Instead, her compassionate clergyman leaned back comfortably against the pew and his eyes radiated tenderness.

"I need to...get rid of it. I...I have to get an abortion." From there she rushed onto the ice rink that was her life and pushed forward in spite of the danger, wanting to attempt an explanation, wanting to justify a choice this holy man would never condone, or accept.
She was such an awful person.

"I'm getting the abortion." Her tone bordered on defiance—and defensiveness. "I called the clinic on the way here. Women's Care United. I guess I'm here because I just want God to forgive me, and I want Him to know it's for the best that I not try to bring this poor little baby into the world." Repressed tears and emotion burst; her nose ran and she let out a desperate, keening sound, wiping her nose, ducking her head.

"What's your name?" He leaned forward on his knees, tilting his head, and he smiled at her. "I'm Father Craig O'Hara, by the way."

Callie fingered back a slice of hair. He wasn't yelling at her. He wasn't condemning her. Yet. "Callie. I'm Callie." No last matter how nice he was. "You don't hate me?"

"Far from it, but I'm hoping you might open yourself just far enough to hear a different point of view."

Callie nibbled the corner of her lip and nodded.

"The way I see it, the circumstances that led to your pregnancy might make you heartsick. The life choices you've made up to now might leave you feeling lost, but nothing...and I do mean nothing...stops you from starting over, and creating the most beautiful things from the most terrifying situations."

"I wish."

"I know." He stopped there for a moment, long enough to deliver a pointed look. "Take very seriously the fact that you're not alone. You're not alone right now, and the life that's growing inside of you right now is one you need to take into consideration. The baby you carry is counting on you."

"Father, that's exactly what I am doing. I'm doing what's best. I'd louse everything up, and—"

"No. The being inside of you, the life you carry, is a creation of God...even if the circumstances surrounding it aren't. You feel you can't be a suitable mother right now. That's nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, consider the option of carrying your baby to term. Consider the blessing you'd give to a childless couple whom you would gift with the opportunity to raise it, and love it, and give it the life God ordained when your son or daughter was conceived."

For the first time during the course of their conversation, his tone went firm and sternly resolute. That, along with his use of the words son—daughter—captured her attention, and she could form no ready response for a moment.

"You don't understand. My parents will be so ashamed. I'm in so much trouble with them as it is. They'd finally have cause to just shut me out. They'd finally, justifiably, just wash their hands of me. Know what? I can't find it in myself to blame them anymore. I've made a gigantic a mess of my life, and it hasn't even started yet."

When she dissolved into sobs once more, Father Craig rested a stilling hand against her shoulder and waited, allowing her to empty and crumble.

Once Callie calmed, he looked into her eyes. "Do me a favor. Tell me what your life would be like if you could begin it fresh today, with nothing holding you back."

Callie drew up short. No one had ever asked her that question before. Certainly, her parents cared about her, but they centered themselves on providing for their family in what had become difficult and unstable employment and financial times. They didn't tend to dive deep, emotionally speaking. Meanwhile, Callie's older sister, Penny, was the golden child—the one dedicated to everything that was right. While Callie searched and fumbled, Penny made her way toward a better life, step by perfect step.

Ever since graduating high school, Callie had floundered, lost in a world of loneliness and emotional needs she had filled in any way she could, with any number of temptations that seemed so good and appealing at the time...

She shoved that noise aside so she could answer his question. "I love music."

Those three small words poured from her soul, wrapped in a blanket of longing and timid futility.

"I admire people who can create, or play music. I'm an artist myself. I love to swirl oil colors onto canvas, but put me near a keyboard and I'm helpless."

Callie gave him a wobbly smile. "Music fills me up. It makes me feel good. Connected. When I play the piano, I don't think about"—she went flush—"I don't think about mistakes and problems. I float with the music, and it carries me away, to a place that's beautiful."

"That's a gift, Callie. A grace. God gave you that talent and the need to fulfill it."

"Oh...I wouldn't go that far. It's just how I am, that's all."

"But, Callie, you're missing the finer point. You're the way God made you. You possess the characteristics and gifts God gave you. You're unique, and special, and He loves you—He treasures you, no matter what your past, no matter what you've done before. He loves your unborn child as well."

Tears built in her eyes once more, blurring Father Craig's kind face, melding holy statues, stained glass, and church columns into a murky haze. "But why would He allow me to become pregnant? He's omniscient. He's wise and all-knowing, right? Why me? Why this?" The tears spilled. "It makes no sense at all."


This story is a perfect example of why I love to read inspirational romances! These people are dealing with real problems, past hurts and failures, but hearts in the right place - wanting to please God. It's a beautiful demonstration of God's never ending grace and His open arms when we come back to Him. 

I loved Callie, who keeps her heart hidden, trying to protect herself from ever making a mistake again. And Luke has a heart of gold, and love to share. And then there's Dawn...what a sweet child. 

What a precious story! Keep the tissues handy!

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