A Valentine’s Title Featuring Mature Characters




Can online dating entice a divorced woman and a rancher to reveal the secrets of their lonely hearts?

As I’ve grown and developed along my writing path, I’ve also matured in years. Funny, how that happens. When I started plotting When Lonely Hearts Meet, I was aiming at a specific publisher call for submissions that dealt with the topic of online dating. Having a couple in their twenties involved in the plot seemed too easy. Going online, establishing a profile, and providing clever and intriguing answers would be normal for the tech-savvy generation.

But add twenty years to their ages and the characters are from a different generation. Individuals who are more hesitant about being open and accessible online. Ta, da–may I introduce Clover Damone and Wade Pallaton? Adults in their forties who have lived through contentious divorces and are a bit wary this time when they recognize they’re attracted to each other.

I loved writing this short novella set in Dorado, Texas as a companion to Gingerbread Wishes, the launch book in the Sugar & Spice Bakery series. If you’d like to add this story to your Want To Read list on Goodreads, here’s the link



All Romance ebooks


Barnes & Noble

KOBO Books


I’m giving away one ecopy of this story with the name chosen from those who leave comments on the following question by Sunday, February 8. For a small town romance, do you prefer a graphic cover (like the one above) or one containing a couple?


The older woman’s voice was pitched low but the throaty tone carried. What caught his eye was the sight of shapely calves encased in skinny jeans. The trio of brass bracelets and the long sweater that almost reached her knees clued him in that the lady was new in town. Not normal attire for this rural Texas town. He’d automatically registered that her left hand was ring-free.

The sight of the key making station meant he’d walked halfway down the aisle in his perusal of the interesting stranger. Wade glanced up and jerked when he spotted a narrowed gaze shooting daggers from the thin face of a woman close to his younger son’s age. Busted.

“Eavesdrop much?” The younger woman jammed a hand onto her angled hip.

Tread lightly around this suspicious one. “Beg pardon, miss.” Wade tipped a forefinger against the brim of his Stetson as he dipped his chin. “Ma’am, I heard the call for assistance and thought I’d see if I could answer a question.”

“You work here?” Eyebrow raised, she gave him the once-over. “Dressed like that?”

“Hayley.” The older woman gave a sharp wave, glanced at his length then stepped closer. “Do you know about paints?”

“Done my share of painting. And I’m a fair-to-middlin’ handyman.” He gazed at her, recording the details of her easy smile, her hazel eyes, and the waves of light brown hair framing her face. The combination piqued his interest, something that hadn’t happened in a very long time. “I’m not an employee here…” he shifted his gaze to the young lady and again, dipped his chin, “but I can be neighborly and try to answer your questions.”

“I’m clearing out my great-aunt’s house and it needs a bit of work.”

Just visiting. A niggle of disappointment ran through him. But he still intended to see if he could offer assistance, and maybe even volunteer to help. “First things first. Name’s Wade Pallaton, ma’am.” He extended his hand in a friendly greeting.

A moment passed as she glanced at his hand and then back at his face before sliding hers into his. The edges of her lips flashed a brief smile. “Of course, I’m sorry.”

Warmth built between their palms and he tightened his fingers. Ten years had passed since his divorce, and this was the first honest-to-goodness spark of attraction he’d felt. Her skin was soft and her bones delicate within his grasp.

“I-I’m Clover Damone.” She stared down at their clasped hands, sucked in her lower lip and then jerked her gaze back to his, eyes widening.

A raspy throat clearing sounded from just a few feet away.

“Oh.” Clover broke the connection, wiggled her fingers and then pointed over her shoulder. “And this is my daughter, Hayley.”

“Do you live around here?” Hayley tilted her head and a ponytail a shade darker than her mother’s hair swung to the side.

“Sure do. Got a ranch twenty miles outside of Dorado.”

“So, you’d know if mold is a problem in ancient houses. Cuz the smell that rolled out of that old farmhouse made me wonder about that ugly black stuff.” She shuddered and moved her hands through the air as she talked. “Like maybe we’ll get sick if we stay there.”

Shaking her head, Clover frowned and pressed her lips into a straight line. “I told you, the house just needs airing. We’re staying.”

“Fine.” Hayley jerked her head and pushed an ear bud into each ear, tapping the screen of her phone. “Pick me up in the magazine section when you’re done.” She flashed a glare his way, then spun and headed toward the front of the store.

Unsure of the conversation’s undercurrent, Wade just waited, giving him a few more moments to enjoy the sight of this intriguing woman. Not having raised a daughter, he’d always admired people who maintained a rational tone around sassy attitudes.

“I apologize. She’s really not a rude person. Hayley’s between terms at college, at least I hope she is, and I convinced her this Texas trip would be a fun getaway.” Clover braced her hands on her hips and stared at the floor for a second before meeting his gaze again and crinkling her nose. “I might have exaggerated the “fun” part of packing up family heirlooms, especially to my ultra-modern, social media-fixated child.” She let out a sigh then ran a hand through her hair. “And I have no idea why I’m revealing all this to a complete stranger. This is twice I’ve acted like this in two days. Just ignore me.”

Impossible. Seemed that from the moment he heard her voice, Wade wanted to hear everything she could tell him. He let his gaze follow the flow of her wheat-colored hair as it spilled between her splayed fingers. “Don’t know that I’ve heard the name Damone in these parts.”

24 thoughts on “A Valentine’s Title Featuring Mature Characters”

  1. The cover you show looks bland and outdated. It doesn’t make me want to flip over the book to read the back. I don’t necessarily need a cover that shows a couple or sexy legs or a chiseled male’s chest. I like a cover that creates the book’s scene. Reading your except gave me the thought of seeing the front of a country hardware store with potted plants and a sign in the window promoting a valentine’s dance.

    One of my favorite book cover is “Bitsy’s Bait and Barbecue” by Pamela Morsi. I constantly lingered on the cover each time I picked it up. I like the aspect of feeling like I can “come in for a chat” with a book. That’s why I love the covers for Debbie Macomber’s books.

    1. Christine,
      Your comments are very interesting. With a smalltown Montana story I had with a publisher (until the company folded), I asked for a “Debbie Macomber” cover and was told by the publisher that style was outdated. But I think a scene like you describe shouts “sweet romance”. Thanks.

  2. Love the excerpt. My preference is for a couple on the cover. I’m even okay with settings on covers with people in the distance. But a great looking man always catches my eye. 🙂

  3. I agree with Frances! I definitely prefer a good-looking man on the cover. I also like to see something about the story whether its setting, the people, or an idea.

  4. The red in the cover appeals to me. I’m a flowery person, so when I’m in a bookstore, I’ll reach for a flowery cover and read the blurb. But I’m older than the audience you’re probably trying to market. Perhaps a handsome middle aged guy in a blue chambray shirt and cowboy hat in front of a store or her run down house. I fought long and hard against having bare-chested men on my covers, ending up with lack-luster sales. My husband–who I met online–said go with a sexier cover. Look at what sells. LOL Don’t’cha hate it when the guy’s right?

    1. Since the story is sweet, I don’t want bare skin but the idea of a guy in a chambray shirt is appealing. Vonnie, I didn’t know that tidbit about you met your husband. What a great anecdote. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Michelle, after a quick perusal of my to-be-read shelf, I have to agree that most of my contemporary romances have a couple on the front. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  5. I guess I’m in the minority. I prefer to NOT see a couple on the cover. When I’m reading a book (especially if it’s well-written) I get a picture of the couple in my head and it almost never matches the people on the cover. Like Christine, I need to get a feel for the setting. This cover is quite generic – it could happen anywhere, almost any time.

    1. Patricia, always love seeing a minority opinion. For my indie covers, I spend a lot of time finding a couple with similar physical characteristics–even going back into the manuscript and making changes to fit. Thanks for sharing your tips.

  6. I love the premise and the excerpt, and the cover is ‘cute’ but it isn’t something that would necessarily entice me to pick up the book. I used to be like Patricia in not wanting people on the cover, but now I’ve found that covers are more appealing if they have people, and in spite of that, I still develop my own image of the characters as I read. Good luck…if you change covers, I look forward to seeing the new one!

    1. Alicia, my original thought was these stories would look “different” because of the graphics but I’m learning that “different” is translated to “generic.” Thanks for chiming in.

  7. From the cover, I had no idea this was about an older couple; no clue to the setting. It’s cute but not intriguing. I didn’t used to like people on the cover but am changing my mind. I like them in shadows or the faces blurred so I don’t have an image in mind. That said, my last 2 sci-fi roms have women front & center. LOL

    1. Diane,
      I like your comment about “intriguing” because that’s exactly the response an author wants. Single female on sci-fi romances fits. So I need to search for images that better depict the sweet tone of my stories. I appreciate your response.

  8. I am also in the minority. I don’t like pictures of couples. It prevents me from immersing myself in the story and relating to the characters. But, I also agree with those who have said they would prefer another cover. Something compelling that evokes an emotional response is what I tend to be drawn to. I like JR Ward’s covers because her images spark my imagination. Her books are a very different style, but I do think that you want the cover to cause someone to stop, pause and be intrigued. Right now, when I look at your cover, I might think sweet romance but I don’t know if there is enough there to arrest my attention. I might use something that conveys online dating and romance (either a couple without the faces or just a woman). You may want to check out Penny Reid – hers are quirky but I think there were a couple of covers that might fit the style, message you are trying to evoke.

    1. Mia, JR Ward is definitely a different style but I will check out Penny Reid for ideas. I spent 2 hours on stock image sites last night and will continue until I find the right pic. Thanks for commenting.

  9. I think I like people on the covers of romance novels. And for small town romances, I like to see a bit of background, too, that grounds me into the type of area/story. I like iconic images for mysteries and thrillers and that sort of thing. But I like the bakery feel in your image. 🙂

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