Land Ho!

Over the past few years I can’t count the number of times readers have asked (very patiently, mind you) WHEN my books would be in stores again.  It has been a long time coming, but this morning I’m taking a short break from writing The Promise of Home to happily announce that the books have landed! Saving Grace, Loving Helen, and Marrying Christopher can now be found in every single Deseret Book and Seagull bookstore. It’s a Christmas miracle, and I am very grateful to all those involved in the process.

Now for the shameless sales plug. Please buy them! Lest the Christmas miracle turn to a New Year’s Nightmare and they all get returned to me. Buy one for yourself, your sister, your mom, your husband (not quite a romance manual, but some definite tips to be found within). Buy one for your grandmother, your neighbor, your visiting teacher. If you’re done with your Christmas shopping, tell a friend who isn’t. Please. Marketing is so not my thing, but in this case it’s pretty important that readers know these are there and that the books move–if I hope to have future releases also in Deseret Book and Seagull. And I do. Hope. A lot of readers have asked for this, and I really do want to keep readers happy. I get that there is something about walking in a bookstore and picking up the actual book and holding it in your hand. It’s a little more magical then ordering an ebook or even the paperback off Amazon. So for those who have asked, I hope this helps with that wonderful book-buying experience.

While you may be enjoying that, I’m busy enjoying the book writing experience once more. For those following the latest Hearthfire series and awaiting The Promise of Home you’ll be happy to know that Katie hears the cry, “land ho” in the course of this story.  Her sea voyage is no picnic (as her painting in A Promise for Tomorrow foretold), but she’s going to survive to touch another shore. Though it is different from the one Alistair and her other clan members reach…

Happy reading!




Adulting is a term I’ve been hearing a lot lately, particularly from my grown and nearly-grown children. As a writer, it makes me cringe a bit–adult is not a verb, people. But another part of me–the part that is thrilled to see my children doing actions that can be summarized by this non-verb–is perfectly fine with it.  So much so that I’m doing a bit of my own “adulting” right now, blogging about my novel that was released today. Here goes–

The sequel to Yesterday’s Promise is here, folks! A Promise for Tomorrow begins right where YP ended. Collin and Katie are finally going to get off that cliff. The one they weren’t technically hanging from (I left them quite content in a tender embrace) but readers slayed me for anyway. In a weird sort of way I am thankful so many of you cared enough to let me know how terrible I was for ending YP as I did. Now please go read APFT and feel much better about it all :)  I really have repented of my cliff hanging ways.

Adulting over.

That is, unfortunately, about as good as I get at marketing. I love, love, love writing the stories I do. But the other side of writing, the actually getting people to purchase my books, I am admittedly lousy at. Thank you Heather Moore and Mirror Press employees who work on my behalf, for your patience. I’m trying.

It’s just that so many other things seem to compete for my time and need to come first. Today, for example, I awoke with the clear intent of writing this blog (should have been done already, I realize. My bad again). However, nearly adult daughter is in the process of finishing up her college application essays. For those of you who haven’t done this lately, it’s a beastly process. Talk about every word counting. At least part of her future is riding on these words, and with the challenge of being dyslexic, words don’t come easily to paper for her. So when the plea for Mom’s assistance with editing came, I had to answer the call. Because this daughter is awesome. This daughter paid her own monthly choir fees of $350 today, though there were many other things she would have liked to do with that money. This daughter is reliable and responsible and sweet and kind. I adore her so much I really shouldn’t help her with these essays, because when she goes off to college I’m really going to miss her.

Watching our children grow up is hard. Watching them struggle, letting them leave. Seeing them fail sometimes and then having to allow them to pick themselves back up is hard. All of it. When our daughter goes to college next year she’ll be our fourth child to leave. Daughter number three, our baby for so long, will be off adulting on her own. It’s crazy and sad and happy all at once. I love seeing her successes, but wow, will I miss her.

So please forgive me if I don’t do so well at reaching out to readers. I’m aware my website needs updating, I need to blog more often, and should post on my Facebook page more frequently. It’s not that I don’t love and appreciate my readers. I do–truly. I am so very grateful to each of you who do read my stories and make it possible for me to continue to do the thing I love.

It’s just that as real as the characters in my stories become to me, and as important as writing and marketing is, the son who wants me to snuggle each night (thereby stealing a bit of my writing time) is the one who is real. And I’m not sure how much longer he’ll want those snuggles.  The daughter who needs help babysitting so she can finish her degree is real too. As are the son and daughter and grandson we Facetime with each week and try to spend a lot of time with when they visit.  With a husband, five children, and four grandchildren, my family life is as full and overflowing as ever. And admittedly, I still am not so good at balancing it all.

There was no fanfare or launch party today to celebrate the release of A Promise for Tomorrow. Rather I felt a great deal of satisfaction when my daughter finished three of her five essays (two more to come tonight when she gets home from work. It’s going to be a late one). Maybe that’s what adulting is really all about. Putting what needs to happen, what has to happen first, and figuring out how to squeeze in the pursuit of our dreams on the side. It’s an ongoing process, one I’m pretty sure I’ll be working on for some time to come.

In A Promise for Tomorrow Katie’s working on this too–on things like figuring out how to be a wife, understanding her gift, and ultimately using it as a map for her future. I hope you enjoy her story and a chance to visit the past and Scotland for a few hours. Adulting is fine, but we all need a break from it once in a while.

Happy Reading

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A short, sweet train ride

About a half an hour ago, while wrestling with my printer yet again (I won), I noted the date on my computer. September 28th seemed important for some reason, but I couldn’t remember why.

Phone bill due today. . . Wedding reception tonight. . . 3rd grader had a spelling test. . . 12th grader has rehearsal. . . Grandmother’s birthday (calling you shortly, Grandma)! I’d remembered all of these when I realized that I had also novella releasing today. I’ve been so firmly rooted in Scotland and wrapping up the details with Katie and Collin in A Promise For Tomorrow, that I’d forgotten The Heart Only Grows would show up on Amazon today. It was a nice break to revisit Addie and Miles for a minute as I pulled up an excerpt to share.

If I had only two words to describe this story they would be sweet and hopeful. I split the point of view in this one between Addie and Miles, and it was so fun being in his stubborn head. You can read the first chapter (Addie’s POV) on Amazon, and the excerpt below is from Miles’ perspective. He’s pretty upset with his brother’s meddling and matchmaking at this point in the story, but he already likes Addie enough that he can’t stand the thought of her being married to just anyone.

I loved learning a bit more about the Orphan Train children, particularly those stories that turned out happy, and I love that at 30,000ish words this novella can be read in one sitting (while still satisfying your family’s need for nourishment and clean underwear). Here’s hoping you can curl up somewhere cozy and enjoy the start of fall with a story that will warm your heart.

Happy reading.



Miles practically jumped off the train, clearing the three steps with one stride. Back on solid ground, he resisted the urge to turn around and see if he might glimpse Miss Campbell through the car window.

Better to forget her and this whole, unfortunate, business, he told himself. And he would have at once had he not taken two steps and run straight into trouble.

“What’re you here for?” he growled at Wade, who was heading toward him with hurried steps.

“Got to get Miss Campbell and those children off the train before it leaves.” Wade huffed as if he’d just run clear across town.

“Why would you want to do that?” Miles caught Wade’s sleeve as he approached the conductor.

“Not now,” Wade ground out, then focused his attention on the conductor. “I’ll be but a minute,” he said. “Official town business.” He fingered the badge on his vest, as if it was not already obnoxiously obvious to anyone who wasn’t blind.

What business?” Miles kept hold of Wade’s shirt. “Haven’t you caused that woman enough difficulty already?”

“Yes. And I feel terrible about it.” Wade jerked away and placed a foot on the first step. “But since you were unwilling, I’ve found her another husband now, so it’s all fixed.”

“You’ve found— who?” Miles demanded, mentally filing through the possible candidates, from the single men in town.

“Erastus said he’ll have her and those young un’s.” Wade climbed up to the second step.

“Are you out of your mind?” Miles shouted. “Erastus is pushing ninety. You can’t stick a pretty young woman like Miss Campbell with someone who can’t even button his own trousers anymore.”

“He’s not a day over seventy-five.” Wade stepped into the train. “And Erastus is lonely. As soon as I mentioned Miss Campbell and those children were in need of a home, he warmed right up to the idea of marriage.”

“I’ll bet he did,” Miles muttered, feeling his own temper warm at the thought of Miss Campbell being beholden to a man old enough to be her grandfather. I shouldn’t care, he told himself. Erastus was harmless enough. It was just…

“A wife can fix his meals, so he won’t have to take them at the hotel anymore.” Wade paused just inside the car to continue. “And Erastus won’t need help with his wash and cleaning no more. Not to mention how lonely he’s been for so long now. I think Miss Campbell and those youngsters will cheer him right up. Why, he might live to ninety with the three of them keeping him company. I should have thought of this match to begin with.”

“I’ll just bet she won’t have him.” Miles took comfort at the thought. There was no need for a woman like Miss Campbell to marry just anyone. New York was a big city; surely there were a lot of men there who might court her with marriage in mind.

“I’ll just bet she will marry him,” Wade threw over his shoulder. “She’s not thinking of herself, but those children. And this town is her last hope of keeping them together.” With that he disappeared, moving down the aisle toward Miss Campbell’s seat.

Miles stepped forward to follow.

“Not so fast.” The conductor was ready for him this time and thrust an arm across his path, blocking the narrow stairway. “You’ve assisted the lady already. If you wish to board again, you’ll need to purchase a ticket.”

“The sheriff’s my brother,” Miles said. “We’re on official town business.”

“I don’t see any badge.” The conductor moved in front of Miles so that more than his arm blocked the stairs. “No ticket. No boarding.”

“Fine.” Miles turned away and stalked off down the platform. As he passed the train car, he glanced up in time to see Wade and Miss Campbell engaged in deep discussion. Wade pointed outside, and she turned to look out the window in the direction of the general store across the street, where Erastus parked his aged body most every day.

Miles lifted his hand, waving to get her attention, gesturing his desperation. He wished he could throw a rock through her window with a note tied onto it that said, Don’t listen to any more of my brother’s harebrained ideas.

But there was no rock and no time. The whistle blew. The conductor shouted his warning. “All aboard.”

Panic welled inside of Miles as he watched, with a combination of disbelief and horror, as Miss Campbell rose from her seat.


The Heart Only Grows

Last year I was thrilled to be invited again to be a part of the Timeless Romance series. If you’ve somehow missed this extensive series of clean romance by some of the best writers out there, then you’re in luck! There are many great novellas, time periods, settings, and authors to choose from.

In 2017 TR launched a new series of novella singles, with stories that are slightly longer (okay, maybe mine is a bit more) than the usual novellas in their collections. I’m excited to be their September release with this sweet little story titled, The Heart Only Grows. It’s available for preorder now and will be released September 28th. Check out the gorgeous cover and synopsis below.

Happy Monday! Hope it’s a marvelous week.

For Children’s Aid Society employee Addelaide Campbell, riding the Orphan Train is a labor of love—a last, heart-wrenching attempt to do the best she can for the children entrusted to her care. If only she could keep them all…Or at the least, keep children from the same family together. When the sheriff of Somerset, Wisconsin, offers an unexpected proposal that might allow her to do just that, Addie takes a leap of faith—or possibly insanity—and decides to accept.

Miles Linden has sworn off women, children, marriage, and family. In the two years since he lost his wife and daughter to influenza, loneliness has been his constant companion, except on Friday nights when he drowns his sorrows at the local saloon. He’s coping with this arrangement just fine, until the morning he’s rudely awakened by a pert woman and two gawking children who mistake him for a real outlaw, instead of a man sleeping off his liquor on the cot at the jail. Being awakened and accused are the least of the surprises awaiting Miles, since Addie Campbell and the Orphan Train arrived in town.

More Timeless Romance Singles:51nEwQTxJRL
FROM CAIRO, WITH LOVE by Nancy Campbell Allen
THE HEART ONLY GROWS by Michele Paige Holmes


Yesterday’s Promise


Yesterday’s Promise is here at last! And when I say at last, I mean it. This story has been in the works for years.

Way back in 2000 when I first started attending the most amazing critique group ever (with nursing baby in tow) I was working on a historical romance set in 12th century Scotland. To make a painful and months-long story short, I spent a couple of years bringing that manuscript to our group, learning how truly awful it was, and going home to rewrite and revise. It did get better, but never to the point of being publishable. And finally I got smart, set it aside, and moved on. It was my training book, the one I learned on–mostly what NOT to do. And though it possibly has potential still, I think it’s better left on the jump drive forever.

But oh, Scotland. Just because that story did not end up published did not mean my fascination with Scotland’s history, land, and people lessened any. I made a promise to myself that someday I would publish a story (at least one) about this beautiful country and its rich history.

Ten books later, it was finally time. I had the seeds of an idea and was off and running when life threw me a curve ball (see my last post), and this story was delayed again. It was during those months that my interest and abilities in family history work really took off. I’ve known I have Scottish ancestry for quite a while, but something finally clicked for me in the past half year, and now I can’t get enough of researching my ancestors and their stories. I’m in love with the past in a whole new way, and it’s wonderful.

One of the documents precious to me is a handwritten chart tracing the Campbell line. Written in tiny print with some of the names are brief descriptions–“twins, was a hunchback, drowned in Lake Erie enroute Scotland to Milwaukee.” So many stories lie beneath those words. I’d love to know them all. One in particular that caught my attention some time ago–a more detailed note on another document–stated that that an ancestor had been exiled to the colonies after being on the wrong side of the war.  That one line spoke volumes to me and started a chain of thought that trailed through my mind for weeks.

What a life-altering course that must have been, to be forced from one’s country. And what of the events that led up to such drastic action? Why had he been on the wrong side?  And why, again in 1745, did the Campbells choose not to side with many of the other clans during the Jacobite uprising?  If they had, would the outcome have been different?

I couldn’t stop thinking of these questions and the scenarios that propagated such important, history making decisions. And so, the story I’d begun was suddenly more complicated, and I knew it was going to take more than one book to tell what I imagined might be the reasoning behind Clan Campbell’s decision to go against the other clans, to side with the English and end up on the right side of that particular war, yet despised by the other Highland clans for it.  I wanted to show the why as well as the what happened.

Yesterday’s Promise is about the promises we make that really matter, the ones we keep even when years and incredible obstacles separate us. I hope you’ll love this story as much as I loved writing it. And when you come to the end, know that you’ve really just reached the beginning. Book Two A Promise for Tomorrow will be out later this year, and The Promise of Home will be released in 2018.

Though Katie and Collin are fictitious characters, there is the ring of truth in the difficulties they faced during that time period–the aftermath of the failed Jacobite uprising and the strict injunctions to the clans which followed. As their story builds, so do the circumstances leading to what some consider the greatest tragedy in Scotland’s history–the Highland Clearances. Yet among the intense suffering and sorrows of that time–as proven by the records of my ancestors–there was still love and marriage, children born, and families reunited. That is the story these next three Hearthfire Historicals strive to tell. Promises made that were kept and love that triumphed over all.

Happy reading.  Yesterday’s Promise

What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Writing–A story in itself

Last October the call from our son came. His wife wasn’t doing well. Doctors and therapists and medicines and numerous hospital stays had all failed to help her recover from the deep depression she’d been in since the birth of their son fourteen months earlier. It was time for a drastic step— if she was to get better, she needed time to focus on that and that alone. They had decided that Spencer and their son would go elsewhere while she worked at getting herself well.

Elsewhere was Utah. Specifically our home. Spencer was calling to ask if he and Corduroy could come live with us for a few months while his wife stayed in Washington and completed a therapy program she was enrolled in. The plan was that she would join them at some point—hopefully not too far into the new year—they would live in Salt Lake City where she could go to school and he could work, and they could move forward with life.

While Spencer’s request was surprising, we said yes. What else does a parent say when their child—adult or not—asks for help? Besides, we were no strangers to having people live with us. We’d hosted my mom for a year when she was going through a divorce, and our daughter, her husband, and their son had lived with us for two years, while they recovered financially from his premature birth.

So once again we drove the 15 hours to Bellingham, Washington (we’d moved our son out there too). Once there we loaded up the Uhaul and had an eye-opening look at just how bad the situation had become. Their apartment alone was enough to overwhelm and depress me, yet I was still really struggling with splitting this family up. I didn’t know Corduroy very well at all, but anticipating he was going to need a lot of extra love to get through this separation, I’d purchased a stuffed dog, the softest, cuddliest I could find, and hurriedly made him an equally soft and cuddly blanket. Paltry offerings compared to Mom’s lap for sure, but it was all I could think of to do in the week before we went to Bellingham.

With the Uhaul haphazardly loaded, I wrestled with installing the carseat a good 15 minutes (and rediscovered why I had been so very happy when my own children graduated from them!), and it was time to be off. My daughter-in-law kissed her baby, said goodbye to Spencer, and stepped away. I was the one bawling my eyes out, feeling horrible that we were doing this and silently asking Heavenly Father if their wasn’t some other way this situation could be fixed.

Back in Utah we had a lot to figure out— from where everyone would sleep to where Spencer would find a job. We were blessed, and those things worked out, particularly when Spencer landed a great job in the field he is pursuing. The only catch was that it was in Salt Lake City, a good hour from our home. With the commute his work days were often twelve hour days. So pretty soon after they arrived, Corduroy was stuck with Grandma most of the time, whether or not he liked it.

At first or not was probably the way he felt. I had rules he’d never considered before. We eat our food in the high chair and don’t walk around smearing it on the furniture was one he didn’t really care for. Another was, we wear shoes and socks and warm clothes when we play outside. When Corduroy first came to us, he was kind of a minimalist in the clothes-wearing department. But we were heading into winter, and I worried about him being warm enough. So we worked and worked at keeping socks on our feet and wearing hats when we went out. He hated hats at first, but I am happy to say that he LOVES them now. He will hardly go anywhere without his sun hat (now that it’s summer), and he loved his little knit beanies as well.

Last November Corduroy hated shopping carts and screamed when I tried to put him in them. This was a problem, as I had to do grocery shopping sometime. We had a few cringe-worthy trips, with both of us wrestling the cart at Costco. Once he was finally in the cart, he wouldn’t let anyone push the cart. If you tried, he would also scream. We had many a shopping trip with me walking beside the cart, moving it on the sly.

Then there was the day I went to get him up from his nap and found he’d been playing with his poop. I wanted to sit down on the floor and cry, but I had to clean Corduroy—and his crib and wall and blankets and stuffed animals. Corduroy hated baths too, so it was an extra fun afternoon.

When people found out he was living with us, they would often say things like, “you’re so lucky! Aren’t grandchildren the best?”

To which I would nod and smile, all the while reviewing my day of changing four messy diapers (note to self: quit letting the kid eat so much fruit), scrubbing peaches and applesauce off of my carpet and couch, and dealing with a full-blown toddler tantrum. I wondered a time or two if something wasn’t wrong with me, because I wasn’t in love with this situation. Plain and simple, it was hard. And a lot of me felt like the life I’d had before Spencer and Corduroy came had been stolen.

I missed deadlines for turning in manuscripts, so I made new ones. But I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that I was struggling to meet those too. After a few months I pretty much cried uncle on the whole writing thing but tried to keep editing so we’d have a little bit of my income still. This meant that any work I did was done late at night. My husband wasn’t a fan of this program, as our time together went out the window. I’d also stopped volunteering at my children’s school. I wasn’t available for field trips or class parties anymore. Our second grader started getting bullied, and I wasn’t as on top of it as I should have been. Hannah had friends over for New Year’s Eve and Spencer got mad because they were noisy and waking up Corduroy. So she stopped having friends over at all. I missed the troops of choir kids who used to show up for impromptu meals. More than that, I missed Hannah, as she started hanging out at other people’s homes—anywhere but ours. I wished I had a solution, but our house isn’t big, and I didn’t know what to do. The situation was definitely taking a toll on all of us.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (for those unfamiliar, a really long way of saying we are Christians and strive to follow Christ every day) we are taught repeatedly to serve. Service = happiness. Service isn’t convenient. Service changes lives. Serving one another is what Heavenly Father expects of us. When you are serving your others, you are really serving God, being an instrument in his hands.

I know from experience that all of those are true. It wasn’t convenient to have Spencer and Corduroy living with us. It did change our lives. It was the right thing to do, what the Savior would have done, and it brought the kind of joy that matters. I hope, at the end of the day, that we can all say it brought us closer to God.

Something happened during the past seven months, particularly to me, as I was the one blessed to spend the most time with Corduroy. We went from screaming wrestling matches at Costco, to outings being a really happy thing for both of us. He not only willingly sits in shopping carts now, but I think he genuinely enjoys the experience—particularly when samples are abundant. I can not only push the cart, I can sneak in tickles and games of head, shoulders, knees, and toes while we shop. Now we have giggles instead of tantrums.

Corduroy loves to read, so we hit it off there right away. The library became one of his favorite places, and I loved the chance to take another child to storytime. His naptime became my favorite time of day—and not just because I had an hour to get something done. The hours I spent reading to him and rocking and singing will remain some of the most precious memories of my life. I hope and pray he will remember them too. I hope he will remember that he is a child of God, and that he is loved—so loved.

I like to think that Corduroy changed too, during his time with us. Routine was a friend to both of us, and he thrived with the predictable and familiar. We played, we read, we rocked, we sang, we cuddled. He learned colors and coloring, counting and letters, saying please and thank you, eating with a fork. Screaming became a thing of the past, while a constant stream of chatter became the noise of our house, from seven-thirty sharp every morning until bedtime.

I can’t say that the hard part necessarily became less so, but my heart changed. I fell in love. My life had drastically changed over the past half year, but what else does one do when a tow-headed toddler is dropped in her lap? I am grateful to say that I loved him. We loved him, and though he is young, I hope he somehow always remembers his time with us.

We took Corduroy back to Bellingham this past weekend—another Uhaul trip in the direction I didn’t want to go. Unfortunately this story doesn’t have a happily ever after. Divorced parents, split custody, multiple homes, and being passed back and forth are Corduroy’s future—and it breaks my heart. Giving him back felt like giving one of my own children away. I keep telling myself that he was never mine. I never wanted to raise my grandchildren. I’m still busy enough taking care of my own, and they could certainly use the time they’ve sacrificed with me the past seven months. But right now none of that logic helps too much. I wake up before my alarm, expecting to hear a little voice calling out for me to come get him up. I wonder who is taking him from his crib this morning. Do they know that he eats best if you feed him his egg and toast first, before giving him the bowl of berries? Are they rotating his toys so he has something new to play with each day of the week without getting bored? Are they good at putting the Sesame Street Duplos together? Do they make the Cookie Monster voice while they play? Do they read him his favorite books ten times in a row if that’s what he wants to hear? Do they sing to him every day? I hope so. I pray he is happy and healthy and loved and secure.

I pray that his parents, grandparents, and any who are caring for him now will realize what a precious little boy they’ve been blessed with, that no matter the circumstances that got him here on Earth, no matter the heartache of their own, difficult lives, they will remember that Corduroy is the innocent in all of this. He deserves the best life they can give him, even if that requires sacrifice. It’s what you do for your children. And for your grandchildren if the occasion arises, as it did for us last fall.

And while I’m back to writing now, I’m grateful for the cuddly little boy who kept me from it a while. I’m better for having loved him. And that’s more important than any story I’ll ever write.


Between Heaven and Earth

26301710It’s another book birthday! To celebrate I am sitting at my computer, eating a Dole Whip (alas, not at Disneyland unfortunately) and thinking about some of my favorite scenes in Between Heaven and Earth. This Power of the Matchmaker book was a challenge to write–a fine line to walk with the characters and the all too realistic situations they faced.

I’ve heard from readers already that some are leery to pick this story up, worried that they’ll encounter characters who cross a line they wouldn’t. While I cannot answer for everyone’s personal values, I can assure you that this book holds true to my own. It’s a clean romance about two adults facing some incredibly difficult situations–situations that ultimately (along with the Matchmaker, Miss Pearl) bring them together. But–and here is the key–only after keeping them apart.

To give you a hint of what I’m talking about, I’m sharing one of my favorite scenes today. It’s one that marks a turning point in Matt and Cassie’s relationship, where each realize that the friendship they have could be so much more, if only they would allow it. Starting you mid scene, here’s the background.

Matt feels he’s floundering quite a bit as a parent. He wasn’t around much before his wife died, and he’s paying for it in spades now, as he tries to care for his two little boys. When the youngest gets sent home from preschool with lice (see what serious romance material awaits you!), he’s more than a little freaked out and calls Cassie for help. She comes to his rescue, and after treating the boys and then leaving them in her mother’s care, Matt and Cassie head to his apartment for more lice control. It’s the first time they’ve been alone together, and unromantic as the situation is, they quickly realize it needs to be the last time they’re alone.


“I wanted to preserve something of our old home, something of Jenna’s,” Matt said. “I got the idea that the bedroom would be the place to do it. You know.” He shrugged then walked past Cassie into the room. “This is the furniture and bedding she picked out. That’s the nightstand where she kept her water glass and jewelry at night. The pictures of us—” All traces of lightheartedness fled his expression, replaced by a bleakness so encompassing that Matt dropped to the bed, sitting hunched over as if weary. “The pictures are to remind me of what could have been.”

“What do you mean?” Cassie took a step closer, concerned with the change that had come over him. She knew Matt well enough to recognize his tone of self-recrimination. “There’s nothing you could have done to stop her aneurysm. It’s just one of those things that happened.” For all the times she’d heard such lame sentiments herself, Cassie couldn’t quite believe she was feeding them to someone else now.

“I couldn’t have stopped it,” Matt agreed, “but we could have lived more before it happened. There should be a lot more pictures on these walls.” His hand swept the room, over the dozen or so framed photos that made up his wife’s shrine. “I wasn’t always the best husband.”

“I find that very hard to believe.” Cassie came farther into the room, then sat on the end of the bed, a few feet from where Matt still sat hunched forward, elbows braced on his legs.

“I was caught up in my career and justified it in the name of providing for my family.”

“I imagine that’s something a lot of men do,” Cassie said, strangely relieved to find that was his definition of not being the best husband.

“I don’t want to be like a lot of men,” Matt said vehemently. “I shouldn’t have been. I should have been an attentive husband who loved and appreciated his wife more.”

“But you weren’t, or you think you weren’t,” Cassie clarified. “So you’ve put up all these pictures as a sort of continued self-flogging?”

He didn’t answer, so Cassie stood and walked to the head of the intricately carved four-poster bed and the matching nightstand that held a close up of Matt’s wife. She picked up the photo and returned to the foot of the bed, this time sitting slightly closer to Matt.

“She’s very beautiful,” Cassie said, admiring the picture of the smiling, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman.

“Jenna was beautiful. Inside and out.”

Was. The word struck Cassie’s core. Jenna was never coming back. Matt would never hold his wife again. They’d never have another chance to talk or laugh or make love. There was no hope for recovering the past he’d lost. Cassie’s heart physically ached for him as she tried to imagine how awful that must be. She could still have all those opportunities again. Devon would return to her. Life would go on, happier than it was right now. She just had to be patient and try to do her best during this difficult time.

Part of that best can be helping Matt. Maybe that was the reason she had to wait a little longer for Devon to wake up and come back to her. If he were awake now, she wouldn’t be here with Matt. The possibility brought a sharp and conflicted pain to her chest. She certainly wasn’t wishing for Devon to remain as he was. But since he had… well, she could only feel grateful for having Matt in her life, and not just because he could fix things for her.

Maybe I can fix this one big thing for him.

“How old are you, Matt?”

He turned sideways to look at her, question in his eyes. “Thirty-four. Why?”

“The average life span in the United States is somewhere around eighty years now, isn’t it?” Cassie mused. “Another forty-six years is a long time to be alone, don’t you think?”

“What is it you’re suggesting?”

She wasn’t quite sure. She was sort of making this up as she went, but she hadn’t forgotten everything she learned in school. She relied on that training now, along with the sincere desire to help him.

“Keep all of these pictures up for now but give yourself a deadline for when they need to come down.” Cassie stood and, starting with the pictures on the wall, studied the couple in each. The first two photos showed a younger Matt, dressed as he did now, in jeans and an untucked shirt, but the farther she moved around the room, the more the photos changed. Jenna’s hair was perfectly styled, and she wore more jewelry. Matt’s shirts were tucked in and accompanied by ties and jackets. The locations changed from places like the beach to fancier venues.

“Events through my employer,” Matt said, as if he’d heard her unspoken question. “NBA stuff.”

“Do you miss it?” Cassie asked.

“Not as much as I thought I would.”

She heard the revelation in his voice and turned to see that his face mirrored the discovery of his statement.

“It was an exciting life,” Matt said, “but I was missing out on the real excitement.”

“Like head lice.” Cassie grinned.

“Exactly.” Matt laughed.

She turned back to the photos and finally placed the one in her hand on the nightstand again.

“As you were saying…” Matt prompted.

Good. He wanted to hear this. He wanted to feel better. She’d learned during her internship that there were people who, oddly enough, didn’t want to get better but preferred to remain miserable, though Matt had never struck her as that type.

“Keep all of these up for now,” Cassie repeated, “but give yourself a deadline for when they need to come down. Maybe by the one year anniversary of Jenna’s death. When is that?”

“January.” Matt was looking down again.

“All right.” Cassie surged forward with her plan. “In January, I will come and help you take these down if you’d like, or you can do it gradually over the next few months. That might be better. You can keep one out, maybe this one.” She glanced again at the picture on the nightstand. “And the boys ought to have a photo of their mother in their room or readily available to them, too.”

“So I take the pictures down, then what?”

His interest encouraged her. “With each picture you take down, you have to forgive yourself for something with your relationship with Jenna, something from the past. You need to say it out loud and literally pack it up for good, put it in the box with the picture and tell yourself that it’s in the past. That part of your life is done. Unfortunately, none of us get a do-over.”

Even Cassie realized she wasn’t going to get that. Devon would never be able to live the first five years of Noah’s life. They couldn’t have those lost years back, but they could at least go forward together, just as Matt needed to move forward.

“What we get is a ‘do better.’” That’s pretty good. Her education was kicking in now, filling her with excitement and ideas. “With each picture you remove, you should put up a new one of a memory with you and Austin and Asher, of the things you’ll be doing with them between now and then. These will be your doing better photos.” Instead of punishing himself, Matt would see his successes and the happiness he could have with his boys now. “Along with putting the pictures and the past away, you need to make some long term plans for the future.”

“I did,” Matt said. “I sold our house, bought a new car, got a new job, moved.”

What more could you ask? she imagined him thinking. She was going to ask anyway, going to push him a bit.

“What about pursuing a new wife?”

His gaze was sharp as he turned his head to her again. This time he sat up so they met eye-to-eye.

“You think it’s that easy?”

“I didn’t say anything about it being easy or hard or anything else,” Cassie said. “I just asked you to consider it. You’ve got two little boys to raise, and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” What is with the trite phrases tonight? “You could make some woman very happy, and you could be happy, too.”

“I’m happy now.”

“Liar.” The word was out before she realized it. Cassie clapped a hand to her mouth as she uttered an apology. “I didn’t mean that. You’re not a liar.”

“Any more than you are, at any rate.” Matt looked at her appraisingly. “I’d say we’re both pretty good at pretending, though you’ve had a few more years than I have to perfect the deception.”

“Some things make me very happy,” Cassie said defensively. “Like Noah. I love being his mom. We have a lot of fun together.”

“And yet…” Matt prodded.

Cassie shrugged. “Okay, so the nights are bad. I miss Devon. I’m lonely. And sad. A lot.” She released a breath and looked away, not quite believing she’d just told him so much, so easily. How had this conversation been turned toward her problems? This was supposed to be about helping Matt.

“I know you feel all those same things,” Cassie said. “The difference is you have the choice to move on. I get that you’re still grieving right now, and dating probably sounds terrifying.” It did to her. She could only feel grateful that wasn’t her problem. “But you don’t have to do it all right now. I’m just saying that you need to quit punishing yourself for the past. No one’s perfect. Be as good as you can now, for Austin and Asher and for yourself. That probably means figuring out how to not be alone for the rest of your life.”

There. She’d said it. Now let him hate her or not.

Matt leaned closer, bracing his hand on the bed, so close to Cassie’s that their fingers were nearly touching. “The night I called you and asked if we could be friends I figured out how to not be alone.”

“That’s not what I—”

“It’s not a perfect situation.” Their gazes locked. “Some of the kinks are pretty big, but I think it mostly works. I’m happier. The boys are happier— mine and yours— when we’re together. I’d like to think that you do a little better, too, that my friendship maybe eases a bit of that loneliness you just admitted to, or that I’m at least worth hanging onto for my repair skills.”

“You are. You do.” Cassie fumbled for the right words that wouldn’t say too much and finally settled on his. “I am. Happier.”


Neither moved for a long moment. Part of her never wanted to move but wanted to suspend time in this moment, with Matt sitting so close that every nerve in her body was aware of him. His hair was a mess from the many times he’d run his hands through it all evening in various stages of frustration. She longed to reach out and smooth it down for him, the same way she wanted to soothe the hurt in his life.

In his eyes, she read unmistakable desire, which she knew she should have rejected at once, but it felt good to be noticed by a man. Probably without even realizing it, Matt frequently said and did things that made her feel like a desirable woman instead of the frumpy school secretary and soccer mom she worried she’d become.

Her gaze slid down to his arms and hands that were always serving her. How she wanted to feel those arms around her, not in a romantic sense so much as to feel of their comfort. She knew what a hug from Matt would mean because she knew what she’d say with hers if she ever gave him one, which she couldn’t. But if she did, it would mean so many things. I’m sorry for all you’ve been through. You’re such a great person. Thank you for being my friend. I need you. I care about you. I—

“I should go.” Cassie stood abruptly. “Tomorrow’s a school day and—”

Matt pressed a finger to his lips as he stood. “Don’t ever feel like you have to hide what you’re feeling or really want to say to me. We’re not sophomores in high school. We’re mature adults with a tricky situation, and a friendship I don’t want to mess up.”

“Okay.” Cassie nodded, then turned to go. Matt caught her arm.

“We’ll do better with each other if we’re honest. So I’ll say it tonight. Being together like this— alone— while awesome, isn’t a good idea. So we won’t do it again because I find you too attractive; we’re both too lonely, and I, at least, am only too human.” He raked his hand through his hair again and sighed heavily. “It would be too easy—”

“Good summary,” Cassie agreed as she hurried from the room.

This time, Matt let her go.


But maybe not forever :) Because in addition to writing clean romance, I promise happy endings as well. Though, as in real life, it’s not without some pain and sorrow along the way.

You can find Between Heaven and Earth here in ebook. The paperback will be coming in the next few months as well.

Happy reading and enjoy those last few weeks of summer!

She’s Leaving On A Jet Plane

My children are growing up way too fast–every single one of them, though I tell them constantly to stop it. Recently our youngest has shot up a couple of inches and lost two more baby teeth in front. I have it on good authority that the tooth fairy spent considerable time in his room last week, looking hard at those tiny teeth taped to his bed and then looking wistfully at the not-so-little boy sprawled out in the bed. How is this possible, she wondered. Didn’t this kid just get these teeth yesterday? And now he’s seven and looking oh, so much older with that gap in front. I share her bewilderment. Didn’t he just start kindergarten? And now he’s over 2/3 done with first grade and proudly spouting Spanish phrases and math facts all the time. Weren’t we just working on colors and ABC’s yesterday? A lot must have happened when I blinked.


As if my little boy growing up wasn’t bad enough, his older sister–my baby girl for so long–is suddenly all grown up too. Moving closer to her school has been great. I’m there more; she’s at home more. We’re together more. At the beginning of the school year I thought happily about the three years we had to enjoy before she graduated. But wait, now that three is down to 2 1/3, and again, I’m not sure how that happened so quickly. She’ll be sixteen soon, and then there will be dating, driving, and summer jobs taking her away from home even more than her usual activities do. I miss her already.

And I miss her today. At 2:30 this morning, she left with her choir for competition in Nashville. At the beginning of the school year, I had planned to go with her. After all, we’ve been together at every young women camp each summer, and I went with her on tour to California last year. Traveling with a bunch of teenagers–especially great ones like the group she is in–is fun! And it’s also great for one-on-one time with your child. The times my husband and I have spent traveling with our older children have turned into some of our most cherished memories.

But there is also this principle called independence. And at some point, each of our children have decided they needed a little bit more. And as parents, we have to honor this, encourage it even. It’s the natural order of things, even if I hate it. This was Hannah’s time to decide that, to see if she could go on a trip, fly for the first time, be on her own without Mom. I have no doubt she will do just fine. And so I resisted the urge to secretly buy a ticket and sneak behind her on the plane. This is good for her. And probably good for me too. After all, that 2 1/3 years is going to rush by fast, and then goodbyes will be harder and for longer periods of time.

Until then, I intend to cherish every minute. And right now it’s time to go play a game with my toothless boy.

Worth the Read–A little romance to chase away the January blaahs

Ah January . . . for many of us that means temperatures so cold we want to drag our blankets around with us when we get out of bed in the morning (anyone notice how popular “blanket scarves” are right now? I’m thinking that started with the whole blanket from the bed thing. Maybe I will start dragging mine along and calling it a scarf).

January is the time we start thinking about treadmills and taxes. We go on literal diets and spending diets to make up for all that Christmas eating and shopping. It feels like the cold will last forever and summer vacation is forever away. For many, January is sometimes just tough. I’ve always thought it would be a wonderful month to take a cruise to the Caribbean, but since that’s out of financial reality for many of us, I have an escape of a different kind to suggest.

A little romance. Found easily on your kindle, or in paperback for those who prefer. Grab one of these books, light the fireplace, wrap up in your blanket scarf, and pull out your stash of after Christmas clearance chocolates. For a few hours, at least, January might just be a little more fun.

Broken Things to Mend by Karey White

Karey is the talented author leading off the Power of the Matchmaker series which I am fortunate to be involved with later this year. This heartwarming story is set in the town of Sisters, Oregon–a place I promise you’ll want to visit yourself after reading. Though the Deschutes National Forest is an important part of this story, don’t expect to see any glistening vampires roaming the woods. But rugged firefighter Silas Toller is a worthy, if reluctant, hero when it comes to rescuing Celia, who is suffering under the weight of some of the worst heartaches imaginable.

I adored everything about this story. I loved the small town feel and the way Celia’s background and story unfolded. I love that not everything worked out perfectly for the characters–even at the very end. I appreciated the moments of joy each experienced and felt like their sorrows were very true to life. And best of all, the ending was full of promise and hope–exactly what a romance novel should be. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves happily ever afters and appreciates seeing the struggles and reality along the way. Five Stars.

You can get Karey’s book here.

Power of the Matchmaker by Heather B. Moore

If you’re looking for a shorter read, this moving novella can be read in one sitting. Mae Li’s story is the prequel to the Power of the Matchmaker series of twelve novels that will be released, one per month, in 2016. Mae Li’s story will truly transport you to another time and place (one that makes current day January look pretty good!), and her love and loss will tug at your heart. This beautifully written novella shows how the magic of Pearl’s (Mae Li’s) matchmaking began and the price she paid in order to help others through the centuries find their true loves.

Power of the Matchmaker is on sale for .99 and can be purchased here.

Keturah and Lord Death  by Martine Leavitt

This fairy tale was different from any I’d read previously, and so many of the passages/sentiments expressed in it kept me thinking for days afterward. The writing is gorgeous, and Keturah’s journey seemed much more about life and an appreciation of and for it, then about her ultimate appointment with Lord Death. I wouldn’t qualify this story as a true romance, but there was plenty to love about it.

You can find Keturah and Lord Death here.

Loving Helen by Michele Paige Holmes

And finally, if you haven’t read Loving Helen, and you’re on a spending diet like me, it’s on sale for .99 this week. Having written this story, I am of course, rather partial to it. Loving Helen parallels the time frame of my first Hearthfire romance Saving Grace, showing some of the same events from Helen’s perspective. Her love story is more tender while Grace’s was somewhat volatile. But each have their fun moments, one of my favorites being at the very end of Loving Helen. 

You can find it here.

A little romance can certainly put a spark in an otherwise dreary January. I hope one–or all–of these help you through the coldest of winter days. And I’d love to hear your suggestions as well. Happy reading.