Featured at N.N. Light’s Wintertime Reading Event

Today my contemporary holiday release, Holly Bough Inn,  is featured at this event.

 

Blurb

Writer Kayleigh is spending Christmas away from her young son and just wants to be Kayleigh-the-woman during her vacation in a friend’s inn. Ex-Ranger Vonn needs to make a decision and wants some ski therapy. A chance encounter on the side of a road brings them together. But, after days of spending time together, will the unexpected appearance of her son cause a rift in the relationship?

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To enter the Wintertime Bookish Event for a chance at an Amazon gift card, see below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Promotion for the Proxy Bride Series

This month, the many authors are spreading the word about this historical romance series containing 71 stories that has been fantastically popular.

Click on the link below to view all the titles and their descriptions to find your next read.

https://heidimcgill822089357.wordpress.com/the-proxy-brides-series-promo/

I contributed two stories to the series, described below.

A Bride for Cody, book 42 (86 reviews)

Veteran Cody Sheffield went from surviving the Civil War to spending years building the Transcontinental Railroad. Finally, he finds solace on an uncle’s apple farm in southern California. A change in family circumstances demands he seek a bride.

Nurse Riona Gilbride pitched in to do her part when the war came to her hometown of Harpers Ferry. Years later, she’s still tending others when she realizes the time has come to care for herself, and she answers an ad in a matchmaking newsletter.

Expectations and temperaments clash. Soon, both Cody and Riona wonder if their decision to marry without meeting beforehand is a huge mistake.

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A Bride for Jordan, book 54 (85 reviews)

With a book deadline hanging over his head, Wyoming veterinarian Jordan Vardon needs a stenographer…fast. A contact made through a college friend puts him in touch with a lady from Chicago. A marriage-of-convenience is essential for propriety’s sake. He’s planning on a six-month commitment to get his book written and then file for annulment. What he didn’t count on is the attention the lovely Senta Volney attracts upon her arrival.

Tired of living where women have no legal rights, Senta jumps at the chance to use her shorthand and typing skills to help a Wyoming man write a book. Although she dislikes the idea of leaving her close-knot family, she yearns to live where she has the rights that go along with being an American citizen. A proxy marriage is expected due to the upcoming close working relationship. What surprises her is how well she gets along with Jordan. But he really should have mentioned his profession because she’s never been around animals. Can she adapt to the country life? Will Jordan have the heart to end their in-name-only arrangement?

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Holiday titlepromotion–A Christmas Tree for Trudel

Mail-Order Brides’ First Christmas, book 12

1890, Bear Valley, CA

Rancher Gibson Bartleigh travels to Pine Knot to investigate how his younger brother was swindled out of his mining claim. He finds the suspect, businessman Bernard Heinrik, at a poker table and squares off opposite him. Gib goads the man into betting big, staking the mining claim and then ends up with the winning hand and retrieves the deed. Goal achieved, he heads back to the hotel, planning how he’ll leave in the morning and arrive triumphant in Redlands at the family home in time for holiday festivities.

Mail-order bride Trudel Andersen traveled from Los Angeles to Pine Knot to meet up with her fiancé, Mister Heinrik, with whom she’s been corresponding for several months. But he’s a day overdue in meeting her. She waits in the hotel lobby with her lace-making materials and her little dog, Butterscotch. Released from the orphanage two months earlier, Trudel has been on her own and terrified she will always be so.

When Gibson realizes he’s the cause for the lovely lady’s misfortune, he’s stuck with a dilemma. If he confesses what he did, he’ll have to offer the woman a ride back to where she came from. Propriety demands they marry, and both agree it’s only for the duration of the trip. But will forced proximity deepen the relationship into something more?

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EXCERPT

His stomach rumbled, reminding him he’d skipped the noon meal so he wouldn’t lose his chair at the high-stakes table. He descended the wooden steps that bowed under his weight and stepped onto the path that had been packed down through the snow drifts at the side of the street. A breeze chilled his neck, and he flipped up the sheepskin collar on his long, woolen-lined coat. Sunlight faded fast in the mountains, and only the tips of the firs to the west blazed with golden light.

Jogging the last few steps to avoid a buckboard, Gibson reached the hotel, stomped his boots on the bristly mat, and pushed open the front door. Warm air that smelled of cooking meat greeted his nose, and he couldn’t hold back a grin. Elton’s claim was secured. If Gibson left tomorrow, he could drop in at his mother’s birthday celebration in Redlands before traveling west to his small ranch in Walnut Valley.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bartleigh.” Bill Walters, the hotel clerk, lifted the gate on the pass-through then scurried around the end of the polished registration counter.

“Afternoon, Walters. Is the restaurant open yet?”

“Just fifteen more minutes, sir. Perhaps you can help me with an urgent matter, first.” His lips pursed under a thin blond moustache, and his gaze shot to the left and back.

Gib shrugged out of his coat and tossed it over his arm. “What’s that?”

“Well, sir, a woman arrived yesterday, and she’s asking after Bing Heinrik.” Walters cupped a hand at the side of his mouth. “Says she’s his fiancée, and he was to meet her here this morning.” With each sideways roll of his eyes, the clerk’s head jerked. “But I haven’t seen him at all today. Someone mentioned he played in a game with you at Two Pistols. Is that true?”

At the mention of his poker opponent, Gibson froze. Heinrik’s words—“delivery of a package…cut workload in half…life will be easier”—flooded his brain. His jaw tensed. He’d thought the braggart meant a new piece of logging machinery when he’d really been talking about a wife. With a slow move, he turned toward the grouping of upholstered chairs around the potbellied stove.

There sat a small woman with brown hair, her head bent over a pair of knitting needles. At her feet curled a scruffy bit of a dog and at the side of her chair stood a pile of various-sized luggage.

His gut clenched. Bing’s exit at a dead-run out the back door now made sense. He wouldn’t be coming to claim his bride.

At that moment, the woman looked up, and her body stilled, her eyes rounding. Then she scooped up the critter and dashed across the foyer. “Is this the man, Mr. Walters? Can he help us find Mister Heinrik?”

Of all the dumb luck. Gib did his best to keep a straight expression.

“Miss Trudel Arensen, I present Mr. Gibson Bartleigh. And yes, he’s the one you’re waiting on.” Introductions complete, Bill ducked his head and returned to the registration counter, suddenly intent on straightening the keys in the cubbyholes.

Out of habit, Gibson pulled off his hat. “Pleasure, ma’am.” He couldn’t help but stare. Her widened eyes were a clear blue-gray, set into a heart-shaped face with the perfect bow mouth.

“I’m looking for my intended, Mr. Bing Heinrik. We have an arrangement, um…” Her chin dropped, and she stroked the small dog’s fur several times before squaring her shoulders and looking up. “You have a kind face, and I feel I must trust someone.”

Him, a kind face? If the woman only knew. Shaking his head, Gibson held up a staying hand. This situation was not his business. “Probably I’m the wrong—”

“A mail-order bride, that’s what I am. There, I said it aloud.” Her cheeks bloomed a bright pink, and she bit at her plump lower lip.

An action that should not be as intriguing as it was. He focused on her words. What kind of woman traveled by herself to meet a complete stranger? He had two younger sisters, and if one of them ever suggested becoming involved in such a dangerous arrangement, he would put a definite stop to such foolishness.

What should he do? Knowing the truth of the situation as he did, letting her continue talking felt wrong.

Holiday title promotion–Holly Bough Inn

Writer Kaleigh Templeton types The End on her latest romantic comedy script and heads out for a much-needed vacation. That this week is the first time her young son is spending Christmas with his father provided the perfect reason for Kaleigh to pitch in at her best friend’s mountain inn. Stopping for coffee at a roadside restaurant, she encounters a brash, impatient hunk who definitely needs a dose of Christmas spirit. Five miles down the road, her SUV sputters to a stop, and she pulls into a turnout. Before she can hike to the closest callbox, she watches a huge truck pull in behind and faces the gruff guy from the restaurant. Of all the rotten luck.

Ex-Ranger Vonn Lennart needs some ski therapy to provide clarity as he decides his next career move after the end of his military service. With a goal of opening a security company, he has to make some fast cash and is contemplating a job offer of military consultant on a big-budget movie to film in the spring. On the drive to his vacation spot, he keeps running into a perky brunette who he discovers is staying at the same inn. Their paths cross several times, and he’s intrigued, even asking her opinion of the movie script. But when things get messy with the appearance of her ex-husband and a kid, Vonn wonders if he’s in over his head.

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EXCERPT

Fingers tapping on the steering wheel to the beat, she soon forgot the rude man. A sign appeared for the first road that led to several church-run camps. Right about here was where radio reception from her favorite Los Angeles station got fuzzy, but she could still catch most of the lyrics.

Around the next curve, a red Check Engine light flashed on the dashboard.

“No, no, no. What is going on?” Kayleigh peered ahead for a sign announcing the next safe place to pull over. Her father’s admonition about not ever driving with a lit trouble light rang though her head. Don’t damage Lemondrop—the car she bought for cash with the first-year royalties from her initial book series. She steered into the next turnout, rolling up to the front of the curved patch of asphalt, and punched on her hazard lights. This far up the mountain was past all the Cal-Trans call boxes. Kayleigh lifted her cellphone from the outside pocket of her purse and check the signal strength.

No Service.

Now she had to wait for a Good Samaritan to come along. She depressed the lock button and listened to the satisfying click. Maybe that person had cell service, and she could call Todd to come collect her. But could she accept help from a random stranger who stopped? Moreno pretty much ruined her trust in anyone keeping his or her word. Bright lights brightened the interior of her car. A glance into both the rearview and side mirrors gave only one clue about the vehicle—that it was taller than hers. Maybe she’d get lucky and the driver was the deputy sheriff, who lived in the tiny town she’d passed.

Footsteps moved closer on the pavement.

She tensed, then breathed out a long breath. Inside the car, she was safe.

Bare knuckles rapped on the driver’s window.

Turning, she stared at a set of muscled abs covered by a tight, black thermal shirt. Oh my. With a cheek pressed to the cold window, she glanced upward, then rounded her eyes. Her pulse beat a bit faster. Lit by the truck’s headlights, the man’s face was cast in shadow. But she still recognized him.

Coffee Guy.

The dark-haired man leaned down. “What’s wrong?”

Relieved she could hear him clearly from inside the SUV, she waved a hand toward the dashboard. “The check engine light came on. If you have phone service, could I borrow your cell?”

“Pop the hood.” He straightened and walked toward the front of the car.

The tone of his voice forced her to pull the lever. Here was a man used to issuing orders and being obeyed. She scrunched down in the seat enough so she could watch his hands through the slit between the open hood and the base of the windshield.

Angling his head in all directions, he touched engine parts and moved hoses.

At least, the guy looked like he knew what he was doing. Unlike Moreno, who relied on the dealer to keep his luxury sedan running in tip-top shape. Kayleigh stared at Coffee Guy’s hands and imagined submitting herself to his tactile inspection. Sucking in a breath, she straightened. Heat flamed her cheeks, and she grabbed for her cup, sipping her cooling coffee.

Being a divorced single mother for the past two years hadn’t allowed much time for dating. But that was no excuse for her thoughts to veer into a weird direction. Tisha told Kayleigh that she needed to put herself out there…but with a total stranger?

Holiday title promotion–Lone Star Angel

Mischief comes to Wayside Gap, Texas

A repentant ex-outlaw, Carnelian Wendell, visits her sister Amethyst, the cook on a Texas cattle ranch. The deaths of the bandit gang straighten out Carni’s reckless ways and she’s looking for a new life. Solitary rancher, Luc Tarrant, hesitates about adding this spoiled lady to his struggling ranch but soon discovers he can’t resist her irrepressible spirit. A trip to town exposes Carni to the sheriff’s curious eye and she is jailed for suspicion of train robbery. Luc develops a plan to spring her, but when the sheriff calls his bluff, Luc’s plan backfires, leaving the couple with a decision that will change both their futures.

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EXCERPT

“Whoa, Star, just a little breeze. Nothing more.” Carni Wendell pulled the reins to the left, wondering if she should have paid the stable master to drive her out to the Bar-T Ranch. This time she promised herself she wouldn’t be a burden as a visiting relation, so she’d hired the horse and cart for the month.

In the distance, dark clouds chased the afternoon sun from the base of a craggy mountain. A chilly wind blew across the west Texas hard-packed prairie, twisting a dirt devil and tossing stray tumbleweeds across the path. Star stopped and nickered as an apparition appeared on the horizon.

A dark horse with a rider cantered in her direction and stopped not ten feet away, scraping up a dust cloud.

“Take a wrong turn, lady?”

The broad-shouldered man’s voice was deep and full of suspicion.

“Easy, Star.” With effort, she pulled the prancing horse back to an uneasy stand and turned her attention to the stranger. His hat shaded his eyes, but couldn’t hide a strong jaw covered with beard stubble and a tight mouth pulled down at the edges.

A loose tendril of hair tickled her forehead. With a gloved hand, she tucked it under the knitted scarf wrapped over her ears and neck to fight off the chilly air. “I’m looking for the Bar-T Ranch. Would you know if I’m on the right lane? Can’t really call this uneven, pot-holed path a road.” She paused, expecting the silent stranger to answer.

Leather creaked at his shift in position. He rested a forearm across the pommel and stared.

“The stable master in Wayside Gap told me to turn south at the double fencepost. Not that I’m too good with directions, but those were the only double posts I saw.”

“Thought I recognized Einhardt’s mare.”

What? The man commented on ownership of a horse, not about the boundaries for a cattle ranch? She waited for his confirmation she was headed in the right direction. “So, I did take the correct turn?”

“Could be.” The man stood in the stirrups to peer over her shoulder. “What’s your business here?”

Carni’s gaze was pulled to the muscles straining the thighs of his muddy denims. The man obviously worked hard for a living. How dare a ranch hand question her? Rudeness was not to be tolerated. Grasping the reins with one hand, she reached under the cart seat to collect the velvet reticule lying at her feet. “I’m tired and I’m cold. As wonderful as our conversation has been, I need to get to the Bar-T ranch. I’ll pay you four bits to direct me to the ranch house.”

She dug out the coins and held them suspended over the side of the cart, staring with a narrowed gaze at the man’s shadowed face. When he sat as still as a statute with only his eyes tracking her movements, her temper simmered. However, discussing her personal business with a ranch hand was unthinkable. She shook her hand and raised an eyebrow in his direction. “Okay, six bits.” Another coin was added to her hand.

The wind teased her skirts, flipping back the hem to reveal several inches of a red petticoat.

His gaze flicked to the exposed lingerie and the right side of his mouth quirked for just a second.

She saw his reaction and steamed even more. He’d taken advantage of the wind’s mischief instead of averting his gaze like a gentleman would. “A dollar for the directions. Take it now, I won’t be offering more.” Money well spent to remove herself from the belligerent company of this quiet man.

Several moments passed before he clucked out of the side of his mouth and urged the horse forward until abreast of the cart. “Whoa, Hades.” He held a cupped hand under her outstretched one, looked up from under the brim of his black hat and winked.

Heat flashed through her at his bold gesture. With a quick movement, she released her hand and let the clinking coins drop into his gloved hand. “Your boss will be hearing about your surly attitude.”

He shrugged and wheeled the horse, guiding it to the middle of the path. “Follow me.” Without a look over his shoulder, he trotted up the small rise and disappeared over the top.

 

Holiday title promotion–A Quilter for Quint

Daydreamer Melisande Avenelle wishes all the social engagements her mother insists on would just disappear so she can focus on her quilt making. After her refusal of yet another man put forth by her mother, she’s informed she must choose from three groom–one is arranged by famed matchmaker Madame Treszka. Thinking Texas can’t be as bad as Newport, Rhode Island, for social engagements, Melisande boards a westbound train with the matchmaker as chaperone.

Widower Quinton Azar has a six-year-old son who wants a mama. Since his late wife’s passing four years ago, Quint breaks horses for the Army and parents his son with no time for courting. His mother manages the household and tends to her youngest grandchild. The telegram announcing the arrival of his mail-order bride—a woman his mother corresponded with—on the next stagecoach is a shock. Quint drives the wagon into town, intending to pay for her return ticket. The beautiful, but disheveled, woman who disembarks the stage is too dazed to trust traveling on her own. What has his mother arranged for his life?

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EXCERPT

If only she could back home, and in her sewing room, working on her latest fabric creation. She looked toward the closest window. Ah, to be outside and breathing the fresh breezes off the Rhode Island Sound. Through the glass spread a bounty of pink buds on a cherry tree. If she gazed long enough, the edges of the tiny blossoms would blur, creating clouds of—

“Did you hear me, Miss Avenelle?”

Jerking her head to the left, she cleared her throat. Had the man across from her asked something? Earlier, his droning, nasal voice delivering his highly acclaimed poem scattered her thoughts, like they escaped ahead of a buzzing bee.

Abner Thistle arched a bushy eyebrow and looked down his long nose, an action which flattened his double chin.

“No, Mister Thistle, I didn’t. Could you please repeat it?” Melisande dared not look in her mother’s direction for fear of the condemnation she’d see. Mother dragged her to this poetry reading for the specific purpose of encouraging another meeting with the acclaimed poet.

Please don’t ask what I think of your work. She would hate to have to admit she’d been transfixed by Penny Dunbar’s gown of green faille silk patterned with yellow and white flowers. With a reinforcing layer of muslin, the fabric would be perfect for the patch of landscape in her latest quilt hanging commission.

“I asked if you had any thoughts on the poem I read.” He wedged the Delft-patterned tea cup under his long mustache and slurped. His watery blue gaze stared across the low table between their seats.

She expected to see drips falling from the whiskers but they remained dry. “Oh, yes. Of course, you’d want to know.” How could she politely verbalize she really had no thoughts about the plight of a slug working its way across a gravel pathway? She’d read the great poets—Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Phillis Wheatley, Robert Burns —and Mister Thistle would not be remembered among their number. “Well, sir…” She glanced down, wishing her cup wasn’t empty so she might stall by taking another sip. “I like to spend time in our garden and appreciated your inclusion of a lesser-known insect in your work. Not everyone appreciates how hard life is for slugs.” A statement containing a compliment and an indication that she had been listening must prove worthy of polite conversation.

His brows pinched, and he huffed out a breath. “Not an insect, Miss Avenelle. Slugs are gastropods.” He set aside his cup on a nearby table and leaned his elbows on his thighs. “I chose the slug because its vital purpose of ridding the garden of dead vegetation is often overlooked. I thought the imagery was so clear. But you appear to have missed the entire spine of the poem. I was making a comparison about how hard man must struggle through the dead ends of life to achieve each and every reward.”

Why did he use the word spine about a creature who possessed none? Telling her she didn’t understand the poem’s theme bordered on rudeness. Rather than dwell on hurt feelings, she admitted, at least to herself, she just hadn’t cared. “Oh, I see.” But she truly didn’t. If that’s what he meant to say, why not use those words? Weren’t poets supposed to be masters of the English language?

Holiday title promotion–Snowflake Cottage

After receiving a life-altering health diagnosis, Jada Beldane heads to a holiday cottage in Sprucewood, Colorado. Armed with a handbook titled “Ten Days to Find Joy,” she vows to use every exercise to fight her way out of this funk and face a new year with a positive attitude. All she needs is a little time to herself and to stay away from children.

Following a disastrous marriage, single dad Graham Seaver does his best to avoid the tourists in his hometown. He’s determined to give his young daughter the best Christmas ever. Hopefully, keeping her busy will distract her from asking questions about getting a new mother.

On paper, Jada and Graham are a horrible match. But when the town’s scheduled events throw them together, will they succumb to the holiday magic?

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EXCERPT

In the clear light of day, playing like a child seemed the easiest from the book’s suggested tasks. Jada glanced at the swings, slides, and overhead bars. But she kept returning her gaze to the slightly tilted merry-go-round. When she was a kid, she used to love that apparatus. Pulling on her gloves, she looked in the car mirror. A few strands of long, dark hair dangled along her cheeks, and she tucked them into the forest green knitted cap. She took one last look at the book opened to the correct chapter on the passenger seat and scanned the instructions.

Play like you did when you were a younger version of yourself and every activity was an adventure. Tackle that single task and dig for your inner child to share the joy.

Once outside the car, she shivered and rubbed gloved hands along her arms. Even with a sweater underneath, this fleece jacket was not thick enough. When she knew skiing wouldn’t be part of the trip, she’d left behind her insulated clothes. Big mistake. Jada jogged to the merry-go-round painted in primary colors. She rested her right knee on the metal platform and shoved off with her left about every two feet in the wet dirt as the speed increased. Ah, the feeling of almost flying. Such a wonderful sensation for a kid who felt trapped by other people’s rules.

After she built up enough speed, she hopped on and slid her body flat, resting her neck at the outside edge. Miniature clouds formed above her mouth as she caught her breath. The cold from the metal platform seeped through her clothes. She hooked a leg around the upright bar in the center and stretched out her arms. The circling motion didn’t feel like too much as long as she focused on the puffy cloud directly overhead in the cornflower blue sky. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine all those times when she and Issie did—

“Daddy, what’s that lady doing?”

At the voice, Jada popped open her eyes and spotted two sets of legs—one jean clad, and the thinner one in gray sweatpants—as she circled. No…not a child. Her breath caught in her lungs and stuck. The merry-go-round slowed and came around again. The upside-down image of a tall man in a cowboy hat holding the hand of a small girl flashed then disappeared again.

“Spinning.”

“But why is a grown-up playing on the playground?”

Good question, kid. Unfortunately, Jada didn’t have an answer. She rubbed a fist on her chest to release the painful breath. Of course, a playground proved a risky place for avoiding kids. Why hadn’t she chosen a solitary child’s activity—like skipping rope or blowing bubbles?

“Dunno, Jellybean.”

“I want to spin and hang my head upside down.”

“It’s not safe.”

“But, Daddy…”

“No.”

The stern note prompted Jada to sit upright. Her stomach fluttered at the throaty warning. At the quick change in position, combined with the spinning, she swayed and wrapped both arms around the closest handle. His comment about safety stabbed her conscience. Setting an example for young observers never entered her thoughts as she sought her own enjoyment. A deep breath calmed her jumpy stomach.

“Let’s go to the swings.” The man stretched out an arm toward the other side of the playground.

“No, I want to spin.” The girl scrambled onto the platform and hugged the closest upright bar. “Hi, lady.”

“Hi.” Hearing the girl’s piping voice, Jada bit back a groan. The exact encounter she wanted to avoid sat not three feet away

Backlist holiday promotion–A Promise for Christmas

After a decade serving as a governess for a wealthy Chicago family, lively Fiona Carthage is ousted from her job and their house. She turns to the Matrimonial News and responds to an ad from a Colorado storeowner. Anson Lorentz, a man who prizes routine and a quiet life, sees the happiness a mail-order bride brought his friend and takes a chance on bringing a bride to Gunnison City. Fiona works to make his house into a real home. Her arrival sets his household upside down, which causes friction for this new couple.

Will Anson stand by his promise to provide Fiona a secure home, or will his newly discovered family ties sway his allegiance?

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EXCERPT

Why hadn’t they written physical descriptions of one another?

A few more seconds passed before a woman with auburn hair topped by a black hat paused at the highest step. She glanced around the immediate area then rested her gloved hand in the porter’s to disembark from the railcar.

Although not a close observer of women’s fashions, he’d seen enough sketches in the Montgomery Ward catalog to know her long coat was a style normally worn by women in a big city. As he approached, he took in her short stature and worried she lacked a scarf or muff. A frown pinched his features before he forced a smile. “Miss Carthage?”

The woman started then looked up. “’Tis I. And glad I am to have finally arrived. Are ye Mister Lorentz?” She glanced at the porter and nodded then stepped forward and extended a gloved hand. “Happy I am to meet ye.”

The lilting cadence of her soft voice was as he imagined—similar to Vika’s, yet all her own. Anson accepted the handclasp and squeezed, liking the connection with this pretty woman. She barely came up to his shoulder in height. “As am I.” Her chin was a bit pointed, but her lips looked well shaped, and her nose was straight. But her doe-like, wide-set eyes held him captive. Fiona Carthage was here, right here in his hometown. A day-long knot that sat in the pit of his stomach loosened. He released her hand then swept an arm toward the back of the train. “What luggage did you bring?”

“This satchel I’m carrying and a single trunk. Not much in the way of worldly possessions, ye might say. Mostly because in me past position, me employers provided me with everything I needed.” She ducked her head, and her shoulders raised and dropped. When she lifted her head, she smiled. “But I’m here to start anew.”

He debated about taking the satchel but figured he’d need both hands for carrying the larger item. “We’ll collect the truck and be on our way to my store.” Knowing the reverend expected them at the top of the hour, he set off toward the baggage car where he saw luggage being unloaded. At the second car from where they’d met, he didn’t hear an echo of footsteps beside him and glanced over his shoulder.

“Mister Lorentz, me stride is a wee bit shorter.” Pale faced, she approached then paused, pressing a hand to her left side. “I fear I canna catch me breath.” Her eyes widened, and she swayed, bringing up a hand to her forehead. “Oh.”

What to do? He couldn’t let her fall, but would she object if he embraced her? At the shuffling of her shoes against the planks, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and supported her back. “Take it easy. Just breathe deep.”

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Guest promotion–Waiting for a Miracle by Jennifer Wilck

Benjamin Cohen, widowed father of six-year-old Jessie, is doing his best to hold it together through order and routine. The last thing he needs is his matchmaker mother to set him up with her next door neighbor, no matter how attractive she is.

Rachel Schaecter’s dream of becoming a foster mother is right within her grasp, until her meddlesome neighbor tries to set her up with her handsome son. What’s worse? He’s the father of her favorite kindergarten student! She can’t afford to let anything come between her and her dream, no matter how gorgeous he may be.

Can these two determined people trust in the miracle of Hanukkah to let love and light into their lives?

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EXCERPT

Six-year-old bodies were good at many things— bouncing, hugging, and racing. Rachel was thankful they were also good at hiding her surprise. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine her favorite student, and her student’s father, would be at her neighbor’s house the same night she was invited to celebrate Hanukkah.

She met the hard gaze of Jessie’s father across the room. Eyes narrowed as if he suspected her reasons for being here. His broad shoulders were stiff. His jean-clad muscular legs were spread apart in a solid stance. Square hands fisted at his sides, and one of them held a menorah. Did he plan to throw it or club someone with it?

Giving Jessie a last pat, she rose. With an arm around Jessie, she extended her other hand to her father. “Happy Hanukkah.”

“Ms. Schaecter.”

“Mr. Cohen.”

“Oh, please,” Harriet said, “Such formality between you two. Rachel, this is my son Benny. I mean Benjamin.”

Benny. Rachel filed the information away for later, along with his flushed skin at the nickname. Interesting.

“And Benjamin, this is my neighbor, Rachel. We’re not at a school event. You can call each other by your first names.” Harriet pointed at Jessie, who gripped Rachel’s hand so hard, Rachel’s fingers lost their circulation. “Except for you,” Harriet added. “You have to call her Ms. Schaecter.”

Jessie giggled. “Yes, Grandma.”

Jennifer Wilck is an award-winning contemporary romance author for readers who are passionate about love, laughter, and happily ever after. Known for writing both Jewish and non-Jewish romances, her books feature damaged heroes, sassy and independent heroines, witty banter and hot chemistry. Jennifer’s ability to transport the reader into the scene, create characters the reader will fall in love with, and evoke a roller coaster of emotions will hook you from the first page.

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Guest Promotion–Heart of Christmas Cookies and Dreams by Wendy Kendall

Liz buried her hopes three years ago when she buried her husband. She hides under a corporate desk, struggling for time with her young son and his grandmother Violet.

George is chef at the assisted living facility where Violet recovers from an accident. He loves his adopted beagle, Phil. This tail wagger is George’s only family. They are a therapy animal team for the patients.

Juggling work, her son, and Violet is complicated for Liz. Continual collisions with meddling George irritate, and intrigue her.

Violet plots a cookie bake, as matchmaker and to reunite her family. She conspires with George as chef, not realizing it puts his job at risk. Could baking together soften Liz’s heart?

Phil’s sudden disappearance interrupts plans. George is desperate to find his dog. The search leads him into a surprising twist of fate, and accidentally pulls Liz along with him.

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EXCERPT

She approached the car and noticed the back tire. Flat. She rolled her eyes and groaned. She put her hands on her hips and paced back and forth next to it. She gently kicked the rubber, but it squished against the rim, confirming no air inside.

She crouched down and pulled her wallet out, searching for her road assistance card. Phil walked around her, stuck out his dog tongue, and licked the back of her hand. “Thanks, Phil, but that won’t help me get to work on time.”

She stood up again and turned around to see George. His hands on his hips. “Flat tire? Can I help?”

“Thanks, but I’ll call somebody.”

“Do you have a spare?”

“Yes, in the trunk.”

He grinned. “Assuming your spare is in good shape, I can get this changed faster for you.”

Her mouth dropped open. Someone willing to help.

“Really? I couldn’t put you to the trouble.”

“No worries. Lunch is over, and we came outside for a dog walk and a break.”

“This isn’t a very nice break, but I’d really appreciate it.” She unlocked the trunk.

George took off his black chef shirt, putting it on the front seat of the car. He rolled up the sleeves of his blue shirt, revealing toned forearms. Liz’s glance lingered. She called her assistant to have the VP of Sales step in to host the client. Disaster avoided. Someone else could help. She felt like celebrating. She scratched Phil’s tummy, talked nonstop to George about his cooking, baking, and recipes, while she stole admiring glances at his physique, including his broad shoulders and flat stomach. When he finished, he put the jack and flat tire into the trunk. “You’re all set to drive.”

“I don’t know how I can thank you, but I’ll find a way. This was really nice of you.” Impulsively she hugged him. The warmth of his arms wrapped around, then her phone rang. They broke apart, and Phil barked. She looked into George’s brown eyes.

He grabbed his shirt off the driver’s seat. “I’m happy to help.” He turned toward the building and called Phil.

She glanced at her phone screen and let it go to voicemail. Had she misjudged George? She’d actually felt comfortable talking with him She hadn’t talked about baking in years. It felt good. When she hugged him, she’d surprised herself. What a pleasant embrace.

She drove across the lot to the exit, smiling to have all tires turning. She waited for a chance to turn onto the road, one problem solved. Maybe today she could dream of a little dream? In the rear-view mirror, her back window was fogged. She turned onto the road with an unfamiliar feeling of hope, although she had no idea what might be around the corner.

From designer bags to body bags. Kat Out of the Bag – Katherine Watson purse designer/sleuth. Purse-Stachio Makes A Splash – cozy cold case. Finalist, 2022 Best Suspense, Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For. Cherry Shakes In The Park blends danger, divas, and frothy delights. Ribbons of love run through Heart of Christmas Cookies and Dreams. Wendy enjoys Pacific Northwest life, as blogger, podcaster, syndicated columnist.

WEB LINKS

Website – WendyWritesBooks.com

Website url – https://sites.google.com/site/wendywriteshere/

Facebook – WendyKendallMysteries

Twitter – @wendywrites1

Instagram – wendyekendall

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20099387.Wendy_Kendall

by author Linda Carroll-Bradd