Marji Laine: Faith~Driven Fiction

. . . Authentic and Intense


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AIN’T MISBEHAVING Chapter One

I’m so excited about the release of my newest book – a poignant clean romance that was a 4-tissue story for me!
Enjoy chapter 1 and be sure to order the full novel on Amazon (available both in print and e-book). Oh/, and don’t miss out on a free copy of COUNTER POINT today only! 1/16/18

Chapter 1

Her future wasn’t the only thing at stake.

Annalee Chambers slipped into the bare consultation room with her mother, father, and attorney. Reporters filled the hallway and shouted questions as the door closed.

She tugged at a stray blond curl the August breeze had pulled from her hair clip and sank into the wooden chair. If only invisibility were possible—a desire initiated when they’d arrived at the Frank Crowley Court Buildings, and cameras started flashing.

Leaning against the high back of the seat, she stared at a ceiling fan making a slow rotation. For a solid minute, she matched her breathing to the fan’s rhythm.

“The judge has to toss away this whole fabrication.” Her mother paced the same path as the shadows from the circling blades. “Can’t she identify the real victim in this case?”

Annalee bristled at the insinuation. “Mr. Madison was the victim. He and his family are the ones impacted by the accident.” Accident. She hadn’t even realized she’d hit anyone.

“It’s clear the district attorney is only trying to hurt my campaign.” Father lifted a slat from the blinds hanging over the only window in the room. The sunlight made him squint. “He’s been a fan of Mayor Ellis since the beginning. Now, since I’m a real threat, he’s doing everything he can to make me look bad.”

And Annalee had aided in the destruction of her father’s mayoral campaign when she traveled to club-row to pick up her tipsy friend.

“We don’t have too much time to plan this defense.” Mr. Walbright bent his balding head over his briefcase. He unearthed a stack of legal-sized documents and came up for air.

She caught her father’s disgusted glance. Poor Walbright. He probably hoped that his representing Annalee would pave the way for him to work at her father’s firm, but his lack of organization and planning for this case destroyed that dream in its infancy.

The man thumbed through the stack until his forehead relaxed, and he pulled a page from the chaos. “As I understand the events of the night, the officers didn’t actually see you driving the car. Is that correct, Miss Chambers?”

“Yes, but what does it matter?”

“That is the whole point. Can’t you see?” Mother took another lap around the room. “There are no witnesses. Not even Mr. Madison saw your face because you had something white covering it.”

“Giselle’s napkin.” She eyed her Versace bag, tempted to pull out her sketch pad and let this conversation fade from her mind.

“Whatever.” Her mother halted. “If no one can place you in front of the bar, there is no case.”

“But her car was at the scene.” Mr. Walbright pointed to another report he’d extracted from the mess. “Circumstantial, yet it does place her at the accident.”

“Except she wasn’t in her car when the police joined her in the parking lot.” Her father swung around, his blue eyes bright under his tawny hair. “She was helping her friend get in the backseat.”

Friend. A Strange term to use for Giselle. The woman claimed she remembered nothing of her trip home—not blocking Annalee’s view or hysterical giggling or even slamming her foot on the gas pedal. And she hadn’t so much as called to wish Annalee luck in court.

“If only you hadn’t gone to that club.” Mother stared at the ceiling.

“I told Giselle to call me. She needed a safe trip home.” And the ride would have been safe if her friend had stayed on the passenger side of Annalee’s Mustang. The moment she crawled across the seat, Annalee should have pulled over.

“I assume she didn’t appreciate having to sober up at the jail.”

Better than being in the hospital if she’d attempted to drive herself home. Annalee focused on the heavy table in front of her. What unpronounceable combination of elements made up the super industrial-strength material? And where could she get some to help her through this next hour?

Sharp heel clicks resounded in the hallway. The low rumble of voices gave way to a few raised ones, maybe questions being shouted but not distinguishable. The door opened. Annalee shielded her eyes against camera flashes. Several of the reporters called out, but she ignored them.

Her tall, elegant sister shut the door and tugged sunglasses from her face. “The people are crazy out there.” As a well-known model, Ramona Chambers knew what crazy looked like.

“Another reason why the judge will throw this whole thing out.” Her mother stood as tall as her daughter, though her hair was short-cut and silvery instead of the perfect long waves that Ramona enjoyed.

Annalee examined her French manicure against the smooth gray of the sturdy table. How many fists had pounded on it yet not affected its steady balance? The temptation to do a little pounding crossed her mind, but instead, she refocused on Mother’s comment. “If the judge throws out the case, what will happen to Mr. Madison and his family?”

“You’d better worry about what happens to your father and his campaign if Judge Vaught doesn’t.” Mother withdrew a lipstick from her purse and applied the pinkish tone.

“But the man works two jobs.” She lifted her gaze to the quad. Each of them stared down at her like her nose had gone missing. “His family will be on the streets.”

“Where did you get all of that hogwash?” Her sister pulled the wispy scarf from around her head and tucked it into her bag.

She stood. “It’s not hogwash. The story has been on the news and all over the Internet.”

“Well, you’ve got me there. Must be true.” Ramona chuckled.

“None of that matters, Annalee.” Mr. Walbright packed his things back in his case. “The judge will decide.”

“But if there is a case …” Father stood.

“If Judge Vaught accepts the DA’s charges, which she won’t, I’ll make sure the delays extend well past the election. After November, DA Barrett may lose interest when his man is no longer in office.” Walbright chuckled and led Mother to a back door leading to the courtroom.

Father patted Annalee’s hand. “See, Sunshine? Things are going to be fine.”

Fine? Maybe for her family, but the Madisons would see nothing fine about Mr. Walbright’s scenario.

He ushered her in front of him through the door. She followed her attorney to a small table on one side of a wooden rail while the rest of her family sat behind the divider.

The slender judge climbed to her place as everyone stood. She took her seat in a cascade of black robes.

In this heat? No wonder the woman’s gray-brown bangs stuck to her forehead.

“Be seated.” She proceeded to read the formal case title and all of the details of the accusation. “Defendant, please stand.”

Annalee rose, every eye watching like an audience at an open-heart surgery. She lowered her chin but glanced at the judge. The robed woman there gave her a lingering perusal.

“Straighten up.” Her mother’s whisper brought reality to the situation.

Annalee relaxed her shoulders and lifted her face.

“You stand accused of the crime of Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Injuries, a Class A misdemeanor carrying up to one year in county jail, a fine not to exceed $5,000, and restitution to the victim in this case …” The judge flipped a page in her file and continued in a robotic tone. “… a Mr. Robert Madison.”

She hadn’t considered the possibility of jail time. The thought chilled her. Maybe Walbright’s ideas were best after all.

“How do you plea?”

Annalee stole a look at her attorney. Why didn’t he say anything?

“Just say not guilty,” he whispered.

What? She had to talk in front of this whole roomful of people? Wait … she was the one to declare her plea?

A low rumble resonated over the room. The judge tapped her pen against a wood block. “Quiet, please.” She arched her unibrow in Annalee’s direction. “Miss Chambers?” The jerk of her head made her wispy bouffant teeter.

“Guilty.” Annalee’s answer came out in a conversational tone, as though she commented on the weather.

The room erupted with urgent voices. Annalee clamped her jaw tight. Her announcement would have repercussions of storm-like proportions.

Mother exclaimed and leaned over the bar, hissing instructions. Ramona joined her, though slightly more composed. Mr. Walbright called for the judge to give him a few minutes alone with his client. Father stared at his hands on his knees.

Annalee hated betraying him, but the mayoral race wasn’t life or death.

The judge tapped on the block again and raised her voice to gain order. “Mr. Walbright, you just came from a conference with your client. Didn’t you discuss this?”

“No, your honor. I mean yes, but …” He ran his fingers through what little hair decorated his bare scalp. “She’s confused.”

“Are you confused, Miss Chambers?”

Annalee shook her head and lifted her chin higher. “No, I’m not.” She dug her nails into her palms but kept her voice steady and strong.

“She seems coherent to me, Mr. Walbright.” The judge narrowed her eyes. “Perhaps you’re the one who’s confused.”

He nodded, adjusting his rimless bifocals. “A minute, please?”

“You have five while I consider the matter.” The judge held up her hand as Walbright shoved Annalee back through the side door and shut it behind him. “What were you thinking, Annalee?” The man mouthed her mother’s words like a ventriloquist dummy.

The thought caught her off guard for a moment, but she clasped her hands in front of her and straightened her shoulders. “I told you I didn’t want the Madison family to bear the financial burden of the accident. Then you and Mother and Father decided their needs didn’t matter.” She turned toward the window.

“So, you took it all on yourself?”

She whirled on him. “Who else should?” If her father’s money was the only valuable thing about her, then at the very least, she could support those poor people.

“But I could have gotten you off. You would have walked away.” He lifted both fists and turned toward the doorway, probably plotting his escape?

“Mr. Madison can’t walk. At least not for a couple of months while he heals.” Surely, Mr. Walbright could tell the difference between winning and stepping on people.

He spun in her direction. “Don’t you realize you can go to jail for this?”

Not until the judge mentioned it, but by then, Annalee had already made her decision. She crossed her arms. “It’s your job to see I don’t. Your magical defense?” She eased the sarcasm out of her voice. No need to further rile the man.

“The only thing I had was their lack of evidence. With your guilty plea, my defense is null and void.”

She hadn’t thought through the details but didn’t regret her action. “This was the right thing to do, Mr. Walbright.”

“Maybe yes, maybe no.” He took her arm and led her back toward the courtroom door. “But you put your future in the hands of a perfect stranger.” He paused as he pushed the door open. “And she was appointed by Mayor Ellis.”

Oops.

 

Summoned to Camelot.

CJ Whelan approached the expansive doors of the Preston Park Country Club. Hand-carved wood, wrought-iron handles, and lead-crystal insets proclaimed their value in a dignified tone. He jerked one of them opened and passed through the portal from normal life to luxury.

“May I help you?” The host’s tuxedo seemed too formal for such an early hour and way too hot for the Texas heat wave going on outside.

“I’m here to see Scott Whelan.” His dad had insisted he attend the Intercede Foundation’s board meeting. Everything in CJ wanted to rebel or at least, find a plausible excuse. But when he’d blown off last month’s meeting, they’d cut some of the funding for the program he directed.

This time, he’d spent almost an hour talking to God about the situation before he arrived. Dad didn’t understand the importance of the program.

Or maybe he only cared about getting his way.

The man behind the concierge counter dipped his gaze toward CJ’s sneakers and back up across his blue jeans and shirt. “I beg your pardon. Mr. Whelan is in the formal dining room.” He emphasized formal.

What was his problem? CJ wore a button-down shirt over his tee. In this August blast, that took effort and dedication. “And?” He lifted his chin and nailed the host with steady eyes.

The man didn’t meet the challenge. Instead, he dug through a drawer on his left. “The Preston Park Country Club has certain standards for our formal areas.” He pulled a folded, navy tie from the drawer. “This should satisfy the membership.”

Next time his dad forced him to come here, he’d not bother covering his Casting Crowns tee shirt. He ground his molars together and snatched the silk dog collar. Knotting it around his neck, he left it loose. The maître d’ attempted to tighten it, but CJ swatted his hands away. “I can see myself in.”

“No, no, no.” The man leaped to bar his way. “I must see your identification, sir. Mr. Whelan has given me a list of his guests, and I must check off your name.”

Of course. We mustn’t color outside of the lines, must we? He whipped out his license and dropped it on the host station. “There. We good now?”

“Mr. Whelan?” The host’s eyes widened. “I’m so sorry, sir. I had no idea.”

“So, I’m not on dear Daddy’s list?” CJ collected the card and stuffed his wallet into his back pocket.

“No need to be on his guest list. As Mr. Whelan’s son, that is, your father’s son, I mean of course you are, but your entrance is automatic, or at least it should be. I’m terribly sorry for all
of—”

CJ raised his palms. “Look, if you’ll tell me where to find my dad …”

“This way.” The man’s face had reddened from his ears forward.

He probably expected CJ to raise a fuss or make an official complaint. Fishing a dollar out of his front pocket, CJ stuffed it in his hand. Not the amount of tip the man normally received, but it would have to do. “It’s all right. Really.”

The worker slunk away and left CJ scanning the six faces around the table. His dad had his head buried in a deep discussion with two men on his left. Leon sat beside him with Davis one seat down. On his right, Mr. Simons had his arms crossed and lips pressed together. Next to him, the only woman in the group, Delfia Moncrief, matched his body language, only adding furrowed eyebrows. A large balding man, Arthur Bench completed the circle. The grimace he wore, along with his hand on his swollen belly, looked more like gas than disagreement.

“Ah. Carlton.” Dad’s toothy smile didn’t reach his eyes. “You decided to come.”

“After you cut funding during your last meeting, I didn’t have much of a choice.”

“And I didn’t agree with that motion, either.” The woman pointed a slender finger toward Dad.

With every seat occupied, CJ pulled a chair over from a neighboring table. Dear old dad hadn’t truly expected him. Fancy that.

“So, what is it you don’t agree with Mrs. Moncrief?”

“Selling that beautiful old house where the center is. I’d rather see it become some sort of monument than another parking lot.”

Sell the center? A thousand tiny scorpions stung the back of his neck and began traveling down his spine. “The center is kinda still using the building right now.”

Dad straightened. “We can’t expect you to come in mid-discussion and understand what all is going on.” He tapped the table in front of Leon.

Alton Leon cleared his throat. “I move this discussion be postponed until we can discuss details more fully.”

“I second.” Charles Davis puffed out his chest with the announcement.

“Well, I don’t. I want to discuss this now.” Mrs. Moncrief patted the surface of the shiny wooden table.

You go, Mrs. M. CJ studied his father. The man’s lips curled up a bit, and he acknowledged Mrs. Moncrief through half-closed eyes. He held the influence, and he knew it.

“Let’s keep moving.” Arthur Bench popped a couple of Tums from a small bottle and leaned on his elbows.

How had this group ever made any decisions? “Where are you planning to move the center if you end up selling the Haskell house?” He didn’t care what Davis and Leon declared. Dad was the puppet master, again attempting to direct CJ’s life for him.

“That’s a discussion for another time.” Dad pointed to Mr. Bench. “Didn’t you have a—”

“But I’m here. And moving the center will make drastic transitions for me and my team, not to mention the families we serve. If you move to a building too far away, those who walk to their homes, almost thirty percent of our children, won’t be able to use our services at all.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Dean Simons slapped his palms on the table. “Moving isn’t necessary. We can add on where it is right now.”

Add on? This was a discussion CJ could embrace. “Absolutely. The side lot goes virtually unused, except for the bus drive-through. We could move the lane further over and have enough room to make two more buildings, both as big as the first.”

Mrs. Moncrief smiled at him. “You are so like your mother, CJ. So singular in your purpose for those children.”

Dad stiffened at the mention of Mom.

“I love the idea.” Simons tapped the table.

“You’re getting ahead of yourself, Carlton.” Dad’s gaze, no longer under the comfortable half-lids, pierced him with warning. The others chimed in and a rumble of discussion overwhelmed the table.

CJ gave his dad a side-long look. “I’m not the one selling a building that’s still in use.”

Dad’s composure slipped. “No one said we were selling.” A red blotch grew above his proper business shirt.

“I second the motion.” Mr. Simons slapped the table again.

“That wasn’t a motion.” His dad pulled at his collar.

“All in favor.” Mrs. Moncrief’s wide smile overwhelmed her tiny mouse-like face, but she raised her hand and called out “Aye” along with Simons and Bench. “Opposed?”

“Now just a minute.” Dad’s graying hair, normally smoothed to perfection, had a few fraying edges. His eyebrows mimicked the look as he attempted to regain the control he’d lost. “This isn’t a real—”

“None opposed. The ayes have it.” Mrs. Moncrief let out a tiny giggle, girlish despite her sixty-some-odd years. Bench and Simons joined in her laughter. Davis and Leon looked confused.

Dad took an audible breath. “Very well. We won’t be selling the center … this year.” He drew a hand across his hair from front to back and lowered his tone. “But we have received a serious complaint from one of the surrounding businesses.”

Surrounding businesses? “There’s only one, and the owner and I are good friends.”

“I’m not speaking of the adjacent body shop. I’m referring to The Glan-Sec offices on the east side of the property. They insist the loud noises of the children while they play interrupt their business dealings.”

“What business dealings? One’s a dentist and the other’s a day-trader.” And neither of them could claim quiet offices if CJ’s visits were any indication.

“Nevertheless, the children may not play within fifty feet of their building from here on in.”

“That’s ridiculous. They can’t stop children from playing in their own yard during the middle of the day.”

“But it’s not their yard.” Dad’s volume rose and conversation at nearby tables silenced for a moment. His Adam’s apple dipped. “The center’s in a business district and had to earn the acceptance of the surrounding owners before we could move in.”

“And the owners of the Glan-Sec building approved. They can’t go back on their agreement now.” CJ leaned forward. “Besides, Glan-Sec are only lessees. They don’t have any say.”

“But they can complain to the city planning and zoning committee.” Leon agreed with Dad. Small wonder there.

“Yes, and the committee can remove the center’s license, making the entire foundation look bad.” Davis’s comment only confirmed CJ’s opinion that he was indeed a shadow of Leon and not a separate man at all.

“Still, you can’t force the children to stay indoors all day. That’s not healthy.” Mrs. Moncrief’s argument brought mumbles of agreement from the other two men.

“You seem to have a standoff, Dad.” CJ gripped the edge of the table. “Maybe you should postpone this discussion, too, until someone actually makes a formal complaint against the center.” Which would never come.

Dad squinted.

“Seems fair, Whelan.” Mr. Bench rocked forward. “I suggest we call this meeting complete.”

“Second.” Simons raised his hand as the rest of the attendees mumbled. “I think we’re on the right course, Scott.” Mr. Simons shoved against the table to stand. Bench engaged him in conversation as they walked out together.

“Well, if we’re done here, I have an appointment.” Leon didn’t look at Dad. “Good-bye, all.” Davis followed him out without a word.

What sort of invisible adhesive did those men use to be so synchronized?

“You’ve got a good man in charge over there.” Mrs. Moncrief smiled in CJ’s direction and patted his dad’s shoulder. “The afterschool center is in good hands.”

Dad’s eyes hadn’t strayed from CJ’s face.

CJ ignored the stare-down, drumming his thumbs on the polished wood. “Don’t you all eat at these meetings?”

“We ate before the meeting began. And you were late.”

“Better check with your secretary, Dad. I was here five minutes early according to her e-mail.”

He broke his choking glare and scooted his chair back. “I’ll do that. Next month, be here at eight.” He waved a finger at CJ’s neck. “And wear your own tie.”

Dad exited the dining room without a backward glance.

CJ resisted the smile wanting to spread.

This win was only round one.

 


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January Releases from American Christian Fiction Writers

And I’m so excited that my book is among them! Check out the third one down! Squee!

 

January 2018 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Her Handyman Hero by Lorraine Beatty — Reid Blackthorn arrives in Dover on a personal mission—to make sure his terminally ill brother gets a chance to meet his daughter. Deceiving little Lily’s guardian isn’t his intention. Yet once Tori Montgomery mistakes Reid for her new handyman, he knows it’s the only way to be close to his niece. Tori is honoring her friend’s last wish by keeping Lily away from her father’s family. And once she learns who Reid truly is, she realizes there’s too much at stake—including custody of Lily—for her to fall for the former DEA agent. But in keeping a promise, is she losing out on her chance for a happily-ever-after? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Beneath the Summer Sun by Kelly Irvin — It’s been four years since Jennie’s husband died in a farming accident. Long enough that the elders in her Amish community think it’s time to marry again for the sake of her seven children. What they don’t know is that grief isn’t holding her back from a new relationship. Fear is. A terrible secret in her past keeps her from moving forward. Meanwhile, Leo Graber nurtures a decades-long love for Jennie, but guilt plagues him—guilt for letting Jennie marry someone else and guilt for his father’s death on a hunting trip many years ago. How could anyone love him again—and how could he ever take a chance to love in return? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Ain’t Misbehaving by Marji Laine — True, Annalee’s crime amounted to very little, but not in terms of community service hours. Her probation officer encouraged her with a promise of an easy job in an air-conditioned downtown environment. She didn’t expect her role to be little better than a janitor at an after-school daycare in the worst area of town. Carlton Whelen hides behind the nickname of CJ so people won’t treat him like the wealthy son of the Whelen Foundation director. Working at the foundation’s after-school program delights him and annoys his business-oriented father. When a gorgeous prima donna is assigned to his team, he not only cringes at her mistakes but also has to avoid the attraction that builds from the first time he sees her. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Finding Grace by Melanie D. Snitker — Single dad Tyler Martin can’t be more grateful to the woman who finds his missing daughter. Even though he feels a spark between them, falling in love is a risk he shouldn’t take. Too bad chance encounters and his stubborn heart keep trying to convince him otherwise. After escaping a nightmarish relationship, Beth Davenport is content with her safe and blessedly normal life. Yet something about Tyler and his adorable daughter makes her wish for more. With the walls around her heart finally starting to crumble, she’s afraid of a future she can’t predict. Can they let go of their fear and trust God to lead them to the love they desperately need? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Marrying Mandy by Melanie D. Snitker — Mandy Hudson swore she’d never marry. Abandoned by her parents and raised by her grandparents, she has a hard time trusting that real love will last. When her grandmother dies, Mandy’s shocked to discover a stipulation in the will. Considering marriage to her best friend may be the only way to keep her family’s beloved bed-and-breakfast. The loss of his job threatens Preston Yarrow’s shaky financial stability. Besides, he can’t watch his best friend give up the only real home she’s ever known. Frustrated by Mandy’s stubborn refusal to let him help, he’s certain they are stronger together than they are apart. A marriage of convenience might be crazy… or an answer to both their prayers. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Historical:

Son of Promise by Caryl McAdoo — Can a wife find the grace to forgive when her husband’s withheld the truth? Travis Buckmeyer has a secret son, and the morning’s come to tell his sweet wife. He hates breaking Emma Lee’s heart. She promised him one ten years ago, but hasn’t been blessed to carry a baby to term. Every miscarriage made the telling harder, but now his clock’s run out. He’s going for his son, praying he won’t lose her.
Cody knows who his mother claims his father is, but he’s only interested in getting sprung from reform school then boosting enough from the do-gooder to bust out on his own.
Can Travis find redemption, Emma Lee forgiveness, or Cody the love he’s been longing for? (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

Hearts Entwined by Mary Connealy, Melissa Jagears, Regina Jennings, and Karen Witemeyer — Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Love Knot,” Claire Nevin gets the surprise of her life awaiting her sister’s arrival by train. Mary Connealy’s “The Tangled Ties That Bind” offers the story of two former best friends who are reunited while escaping a stampede. Regina Jennings offers “Bound and Determined,” where a most unusual trip across barren Oklahoma plains is filled with adventure, romance, and . . . camels? And Melissa Jagears’ “Tied and True” entertains with a tale of two hearts from different social classes who become entwined at a cotton thread factory. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])



A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Mary Davis, Kathleen E. Kovach, Paula Moldenhauer, Suzanne Norquist, Donita Kathleen Paul, Donna Schlachter, and Pegg Thomas — For seven bachelors, this bouquet of brides means a happily ever after. Meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Can love help them grow to their full potential? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)



A Mother For His Family by Susanne Dietze
Lady Helena Stanhope’s reputation is in tatters…and she’s lost any hope for a “respectable” ton marriage. An arranged union is the only solution. But once Helena weds formidable Scottish widower John Gordon, Lord Ardoch, and encounters his four mischievous children, she’s determined to help her new, ever-surprising family. Even if she’s sure love is too much to ask for.
All John needs is someone to mother his admittedly unruly brood. He never imagined that beautiful Lady Helena would be a woman of irresistible spirit, caring and warmth. Or that facing down their pasts would give them so much in common. Now, as danger threatens, John will do whatever it takes to convince Helena their future together—and his love—are for always. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



His Forgotten Fiancee by Evelyn M. Hill — Liza Fitzpatrick is stunned when her fiancé finally arrives in Oregon City — with amnesia. Matthew Dean refuses to honor a marriage proposal he doesn’t recall making, but Liza needs his help now to bring in the harvest, and maybe she can help him remember… Matthew is attracted to the spirited Liza, and as she tries to help him regain his old memories, the new ones they’re creating together start to make him feel whole. Even as he falls for her again, though, someone’s determined to keep them apart. Will his memory return in time to save their future? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White — Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a critical task at the outset of World War I–to secure a crucial cypher key from a famous violinist currently in Wales. Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only distraction he finds from his worry is in meeting the intriguing and talented Willa Forsythe. But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that key, or her own family could pay the same price his surely has. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Mystery:

Surgeon’s Choice by Richard L. Mabry, MD — Dr. Ben Merrick thought his biggest problem was getting his fiancé’s divorced parents into the same room for the wedding–and then, people started dying. (Mystery, Independently Published through White Glove)

Romantic Suspense:

Innocent Lies by Robin Patchen — Desperate to be safe from the man who held her captive and ruined her life, Kelsey must ensure her child is protected before she can take her enemy on. But a string of bad luck gets her arrested and lands her face-to-face with the only man she’s ever loved—the only man who can destroy all her plans. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Cold Truth by Susan Sleeman — When research chemist Kiera Underwood receives the cryptic phone call about her twin brother, she tries to contact him to no avail. Her twin sense tingles, warning her that something is wrong. Kiera’s not prepared when an attempt is made on her life and Blackwell Tactical operative Cooper Ashcroft delivers her second shock of the day. Someone killed the supervisor at the research lab where her brother works and stole a deadly biotoxin. The main suspect? Her brother, and Blackwell Tactical has been hired to bring him in. If that wasn’t shocking enough, she’s suspected of colluding with him. Setting out to prove herself and her brother is innocent, she is almost abducted before Ashcroft rescues her. He’s faced with the reality that she’s telling the truth and someone has likely abducted her brother—perhaps killed him—and now Kiera’s very life is in danger, too. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


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I was planning to …

… share all of the new releases for September, but not only did time get late, I have too many other things to share to squeeze that data in! Maybe later?

My Newest Release!

Yes, it’s true! I’m so excited to finally complete Dani’s saga with GRIME & PUNISHMENT. This one has more suspense than mystery, but finally ties up all the loose ends of Dani’s past and reveals all of her secrets! Here’s the short version:

Dani Foster has spent the better part of the last year in witness protection, seeking security against a dangerous man in her past. Even behind bars, he had wielded power enough to have her killed—if he could’ve found her. But now he’s escaped, and everything has changed. No longer can she live in a semblance of normalcy. Her survival depends on her acting talent, the masks she wears, and the hated lies she must continue to tell. Neither does she have any expectation of freedom from her masquerade. And no longer can she have any contact with anyone she’s left behind: not in Sacramento, and not in Dallas.

Jay Hunter is sure that, despite the secrets Dani hid, she is the woman with whom he wants to spend his life. Yet on the verge of him actually proposing, her past creeps in. Strangers shouting in a nearby parking lot spook Dani into an all-out flight. Jay’s determined to protect her, until she climbs into the car of another stranger, then tells Jay goodbye. With a permanent sound to the word.

Is it any wonder that the dangerous man, intent on killing Dani himself, would use her affection for Jay to his benefit? A shooter targets Dallas police, sending Dani into panic and giving the dangerous man exactly what he wants. Enough contact with her past to determine her present proximity.

But Jay has been alerted to her contact as well. Can he locate her, forgetting the pain of her rejection, in time to save her life?

The e-book will be coming out soon, but the print book is officially available at Amazon


August 2017 New Releases

This month has some riveting reads!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Action/Adventure:

Imperfect Lies by Elizabeth Noyes — When another woman emerges from the past to claim Mallory Cameron’s happily ever after, she cuts her losses and sets out to find a headline-worthy story to launch her journalism career. She embarks on a whirlwind journey that takes her across the United States, to the blue-green waters of the Caribbean, on to sunny Mexico, and deep into the dangerous parts of Africa where terror reigns. James Evers turned his back on a life of power and privilege to carve a place in the world for himself. Now that he’s finally discovered his niche as a small-town sheriff and found the woman he wants in his future, a past indiscretion struts in on high heels and sends his newfound love fleeing headlong into peril. His mission: neutralize old enemies, defuse new threats, resolve past mistakes, settle family disputes, and—most importantly—find and rescue his woman from terrorists before the unthinkable happens. (Action/Adventure from Write Integrity Press)

Contemporary Romance:

The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter — Young widow Kristina Montgomery moves to Kiptohanock, Virginia, hoping it will give her and her teenage son, Gray, a fresh start. She longs for the peace and quiet only a small town can provide. But her plans are thwarted by her new neighbor, Canyon Collier, a former Coast Guard pilot and a crop duster. Gray is instantly drawn to the pilot and his teenage niece, Jade—and Kristina’s not far behind. She and Canyon are soon bonding over parenting their charges and their spark becomes undeniable. Could it be that the spirited pilot is just what Kristina needs to teach her heart to soar again? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy — Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia, has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, Amanda’s heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high-school Valentine’s Day date. Camden may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller –It’s been ten years since Leah Fisher’s mother died in a buggy accident. But when Leah’s father shows interest in Naomi Yoder, Leah isn’t ready for a new mother. Will Leah be able to let go of her own ideas and realize that God truly does know best for her or will she allow love to slip through her fingers, destroying Samuel Fisher and Naomi Yoder’s happiness at the same time? (Contemporary from S & G Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli — An antique ring reunites a Boston Marathon bombing survivor with the man who saved her. Together they unearth the two-hundred-year- old history of a woman who suffered tremendous loss in the Boston Massacre, a woman torn between the love of two men – one a patriot, one a Redcoat. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Fresh Faith by Elise Phillips — Joy Abbott had been trying to start her life over for years — and failing. Then a letter summoned her to Texas and everything changed. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Historical:

Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson — In the spring of 1958, Jenny Winter embarks on a two-month adventure to a quaint village in England’s magical Lake District. With a new camera and an eye for capturing the beauty others miss, she can’t wait to explore the heathery fells and mystical waters. Adrian Kemp, a handsome and enigmatic local, makes the sightseeing even more beguiling. When Adrian shows Jenny his late father’s abandoned dream, a deserted island amusement park, she glimpses a kindred spirit in this reckless, haunted young man. Yet as she opens her heart to Adrian, the two stumble into a mystery leading back a generation to an unforgettable romance and an unsolved murder. As long-held secrets come to light, it’s left to Jenny and Adrian to put the past to rest and restore a lost dream. (Historical from Waterfall Press)

Titus: The Aristocrat by Katheryn Maddox Haddad — Titus intends to become a famous lawyer in the Roman Empire. Instead, he is sent by Paul to arbitrate between arch enemies in wild Corinth, wilder Crete, and wildest Dalmatia. In each place he suffers. But, long before that, he suffers from guilt over the death of his mother when he was eleven years old. How does Titus survive it all? (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)

Historical Romance:

 

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander — With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams – provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first. (Historical Romance from Zondervan)


The Second Chance Brides Collection by Lauralee Bliss, Angela Breidenbach, Ramona K. Cecil, Pamela Griffin, Grace Hitchcock, Pam Hillman, Laura V. Hilton, Tiffany Amber Stockton, and Liz Tolsma — Meet nine women who each believe their chance for lifelong love has passed them by. From the girls who lost their beaus to war, to the wallflowers overshadowed by others, and the widows deeply hurt by their loss, the desire to love and be loved spans American history from 1777 to 1944. Experience the sweet pull of romance on each life and the blossom of faith that leads them to brighter futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman — Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage. Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)

Romantic Suspense:

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason — When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan’s life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her–and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone. In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories–and the depths of the heart–Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn — Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she’s nearly abducted again. One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer. Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles’s sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job—the woman he’s falling for. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Cold Blooded by Anne Patrick — Detective Gwen Jamison has the highest closure rate in her division, but a string of armed robberies is about to take over her life. Not only will her job be on the line, but the troubling case also wreaks havoc on her personal life. Lieutenant Ian McKean knew he would have his hands full when he took over leadership of the detectives unit. He wasn’t prepared for the headstrong Detective Jamison, though, who quickly becomes a thorn in his side. If they can stop butting heads long enough they might realize they are more alike than either imagined. (Romantic Suspense from Anne Patrick)


New Releases for July!

I’m so excited to introduce FAUX PAS, the latest release from Write Integrity Press. This is a hysterical contemporary full of mystery and a collection of quirky characters that will have you laughing out loud! Order the e-book before it’s release on July 4th, and enjoy a 40% discount! Here’s the LINK.

Here are other new releases for this month. More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson — When Natalie O’Ryan’s fiancé books their wedding in her hometown, Natalie didn’t know the only reception venue available would be an old barn belonging to Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them. (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Their Ranch Reunion by Mindy Obenhaus — Single mom Carly Wagner is surprised to learn she’ll have to share ownership of the home she’s inherited with her first love—and first heartbreak—Andrew Stephens. The man who fled their tiny Western town is back and standing in the way of her dreams to expand her B and B. Now a successful businessman, Andrew has eight weeks to buy Carly out. But Carly’s too stubborn to persuade—and too beautiful to ignore. When fire ravages her inn and she and her daughter move in to their shared property, Andrew’s in over his head. Time is running out and Andrew must decide: leave and chase another deal…or stay and chase Carly’s heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Time and Tide by Kristen Terrette — Recovering from addiction and a near death experience, Chad moves to Moanna Island, a small island close to Savannah off the Atlantic coast, to begin a job with his family’s real estate empire, a job he was supposed to have taken years ago. Free-spirited Ryan Mason is a Moanna local girl from a blue-collar family. She’s dropped her own dreams to help her father care for her schizophrenic brother. When Chad and Ryan meet at the rehabilitation center where her brother lives, feelings develop between them. Can their crazy worlds ever fit together once he learns her secret and she finds out he is the sole heir to the Cusher Empire? (Contemporary from Hartwood Publishing Group)


Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh — When a workaholic interior designer returns to her hometown to check on her brother’s welfare, she reconnects with a soldier, secretly in love with her, over a renovation project that will help the struggling town. (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

Cozy Mystery:

A Tempting Taste of Mystery by Elizabeth Ludwig — Judging a pie contest leads Cheryl Cooper and friends into mayhem and mystery after someone begins methodically sabotaging the entries. (Cozy Mystery from Guideposts Publications)

Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard — FBI Special Agent Serena Jones arrives on Martha’s Vineyard with her family, ready for a little bit of R&R and a whole lot of reminiscing as they celebrate the engagement of an old family friend. But crime doesn’t take a vacation, and she’s soon entangled in an investigation of a suspicious death tied to an antiquities smuggling ring.When her investigation propels her into danger, Serena must stay the course and solve this case before anyone else dies. But just how is she supposed to do that when the two men in her life arrive on the scene, bringing with them plenty of romantic complications–and even a secret or two? (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:

 

The American Conquest (Window to the Heart Sage, Book 3) by Jenna Brandt — Margaret must leave behind her title and wealth in Europe in order to escape and start a new life in the Colorado Territory. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection by Susanne Dietze, Michelle Griep, Anne Love, Gabrielle Meyer, Natalie Monk, Jennifer Uhlarik, Erica Vetsch, Jaime Jo Wright, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Rebel in My House by Sandra Merville Hart — Promises can be impossible to keep–especially when a Confederate soldier trapped behind enemy lines looks to a Gettysburg seamstress for help. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Match for Melissa by Susan Karsten — Wanting a godly husband, Melissa’s only choice is to follow her father’s wishes, even when doing so may not achieve the desires of her heart. (Historical Romance from Prism Book Group [Pelican]).

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels — Moor your heart on Mackinac Island along with resident sweetheart Maude Welling, an heiress trying to prove her worth by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel. Meet Ben Steffans, a journalist posing as a wealthy industrialist who has come to the island to uncover a story about impoverished men pursuing heiresses at the famed hotel. Will a growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed in this Gilded Age romance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Salvation by the Sea by Kristen Reed — Life has been anything but easy for Muirigan thanks to a series of life-altering calamities, but she’s found peace with her new, understated life by the sea. However, the maid’s past comes back to haunt her when she saves the shipwrecked Prince Halvard one morning. Failing to recognize one of his dearest childhood friends, the prince invites Muirigan to live at court as a reward for her valiant heroism. As the two reconnect, something deeper than friendship blossoms, but will their newfound affection survive when Muirigan’s lies are revealed and Halvard learns the truth about what has befallen since their tragic separation? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble — As a 911 dispatcher, Dana Newell takes pride in being calm in tough circumstances. In addition to her emotionally-charged career, she’s faced enough emergencies in her own life. She recently escaped her abusive fiancé to move to tranquil Rock Harbor where she hopes life will be more peaceful. But the idyllic town hides more danger and secrets than it first appeared. Dana is continually drawn to her new friend Boone, who has scars inside and out. Then she answers a call at her job only to hear a friend’s desperate screams on the other end. Soon the pain in her past collides with the mysteries of her new home—and threatens to keep her from the future she’s always wanted. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Speculative:

The Genesis Tree by Heather L.L. FitzGerald — Deception is rampant, the enemy is subtle, and love dares to tug at Sadie’s heart amid the turmoil that forces her and her family back to the Tethered World below. (Speculative/Contemporary Fantasy from Mountain Brook Ink)


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North to Alaska

Such a blast – it was hard, even for me to put words to the awe-inspiring spectacle that was the rugged creation of our 49th state.

We started in Seattle, Washington on a simply gorgeous, blue-sky day. I’m thinking the stories they tell about the rain are merely to keep the rest of the country away from their little piece of paradise!

After a rocky, windy period at sea, we arrived at Ketchikan, Alaska on yet another sunshiny day! Got a sunburn on the water hunting signs of eagles and other wildlife! LOVED Ketchikan. I wonder if that little town could use an author/publisher as a new community member?


And this excursion was OUTSTANDING! All were good, but this was the best by far! Highly recommend this company!

 

The next day, we entered the Endicott Arm, a fiord with a large glacier at it’s base. It was so cool to see the greenish, blue water filled with blue and white ice. And even cooler to see the seals sunning themselves on the icebergs! (Cold is more the word here – frigid, but again sunny!)

 

In Juneau, later that day, we went on a whale hunt, also spotting eagles and sea lions along with a lighthouse in the process of renovations. Good; it was pretty!

Our guide said the sea lions were sure the Coast Guard had placed that buoy last some for their benefit and not because there’s a rocky point barely submerged at high tide. LOL! After our whale hunting, we got to view the Mendenhall Glacier and Angel Falls next to it.

This photo was a little dark, but the falls are spectacular. And yes, those little specks at the bottom are people. Amazing, right? These falls come from another glacier, Suicide Glacier, that hangs over the Mendenhall Glacier on one side. It doesn’t have access to the water, so its river of ice merely melts into a cascade down the granite cliffs.

The next day, we traveled to Skagway and took a train and a bus up into Canada. We crossed the border in the tundra (over the tree line) of British Columbia, then continued our trek into the gold territory of the Yukon.

The tundra looked like a moonscape!

Abandoned gold mine.

In the running for the state bird.

A new breed! LOL!

Are Alpaca normal Alaskan wildlife?

These dogs were in training for the Iditarod.

I did NOT expect to find a desert in the Yukon!

Bridal Veil Falls. An appropriate choice for the celebration of the our 30th Anniversary.

Our final port before returning to Seattle was Victoria, BC, but we enjoyed an evening of fine dining on board the ship.


Character Profile: Portia Abernathy

Source: Character Profile: Portia Abernathy