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Clare writes inspirational romance, usually of a suspenseful nature. Her books are available through her publisher Pelican Book Group and Amazon. She is married with three kids and lives in the UK. She loves watching sci-fi, crime drama, cross stitching, reading and baking.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley - Elizabeth Maddrey and others

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley includes:
Spring’s Blessing (Seasons of Faith) by Mary Jane Hathaway
Life gets complicated for Charlotte MacGregor when a motherless child and a handsome widower encroach on her carefully laid plans. Will she keep her heart above the fray, or take a leap of faith?
Loaves and Wishes (A Baxter Family Bakery Romance) by Elizabeth Maddrey
Inheriting her friend’s Bed and Breakfast in Idaho is a second chance to succeed, but falling for the farmer next door wasn’t in the plan.
Sheltered Hearts (Romance from the Heart) by Lee Tobin McClain
A curvy jilted bride gets stranded in a snowstorm with a handsome restaurant cook who’s not what he seems to be.
Sow in Love (A Garden Grown Romance) by Valerie Comer
A real estate consultant’s ideas for fulfilling a living trust are shot down by the elderly greenhouse owner’s grandson, but some of the arrows piercing her heart come directly from Cupid’s bow.
The Scent of Romance (Legacy of the Heart) by Danica Favorite
A high-powered lawyer must convince a woman determined to protect her family’s legacy to sell the family farm to his father’s development company, but finds his heart leading him away from everything he’s spent his life trying to accomplish.
A Romance Rekindled (A Homegrown Love Story) by Annalisa Daughety
When a formerly engaged couple find themselves thrown together after more than a decade apart, neither of them are thrilled about it. Can they let go of the past and consider a future together? Or are there some wounds that cannot be healed?

Extract from Loaves and Wishes by Elizabeth Maddrey:

Something banged against the back door. Ruth jolted.
Heart pounding, she leaned back and eyed the window. The mostly sheer and entirely too-frilly curtain barely hid the shape of what was absolutely a man. Fixing a polite smile on her face, she crossed to the door and pushed aside the curtain. Her eyebrows lifted and she raised her voice, praying it would carry through the glass.
“Can I help you?”
The man frowned. “Who are you?”
“I own the B&B. Who are you?”
He shook his head. “Where’s Naomi? Go tell her Corban’s here, would you?”
How did he not know? Ruth flipped the dead bolt and tugged the door open a crack, leaning her weight against it so she could slam it shut if she needed. Not that it would be much defense when the top half of the door was glass. But it might give her a few seconds to grab her phone and run. “How do you know Naomi?”
“I’m her neighbor. I live over there.” Corban gestured vaguely toward the farm across the road. But she hadn’t seen a farmhouse and had assumed it was just a set of fields that belonged to someone who lived elsewhere. However farms worked. “Not that you need to know, but I’ve been in Florida settling my parents’ estate. Naomi knows all this. Could you either let me in or go get her? I brought her the citrus she asked me for, and some avocados that she didn’t ask for, but I remembered she loves them and these are huge.”
Ruth sighed and opened the door. “You’d better come in. Why don’t you go through to the parlor, Corban, was it? I made some lemonade.”
He bent, his muscles flexing under his shirt as he lifted a crate off the step with what appeared to be no effort whatsoever. “Where should I put the fruit?”
“Um. On the counter, I guess. Lemonade?”
He shrugged one shoulder. “Why not? You never said who you were.”
Ruth took two tall glasses down from the cabinet by the sink. She filled them with ice at the refrigerator, poured the lemonade, and then decorated the rims with a transparent slice of lemon. “Let’s go sit.”
Another frown etched lines in his forehead, but he strode out of the kitchen. Ruth followed. Even frowns couldn’t mar his good looks. He was older than her by several years, if she had to guess. But not more than forty. At thirty-three, that wasn’t too much. Oh, good grief, what was she thinking? He’d probably had an eye on Naomi and now Ruth was going to have to break his heart.
He accepted the lemonade, his eyebrows lifting as he took a sip. “That’s good. Thank you.”
She couldn’t miss the implication that he hadn’t expected it to be good. Rude man. Ruth cleared her throat as she sat. Maybe it was better to blurt it out and be done. “Naomi passed away three weeks ago.”
Corban stared at her, his mouth open in a tiny O. Slowly, his lips came together and the furrows in his forehead deepened. He set the glass down with a thunk on the antique table by his elbow, completely missing the lace doohickey that would protect the wood. “I’m sorry. What?”
Ruth’s fingers itched to move the glass but she willed herself to stay still, perched on the edge of the settee. “She had cancer. And apparently never told anyone. I’ve been her best friend since kindergarten, we talk every week, and she only told me she was sick when it was clear that treatment wasn’t a viable option. Her obituary was in the local paper.”
“I told the guys watching the farm to read and recycle them. Nothing ever happens around here that’s worth saving a newspaper. I’m not even sure why I still subscribe, except that Ernie’s been a family friend for so long. She’d been acting odd. I knew I should have pushed.”
“You two were close?” Ruth watched his face. He looked shocked, certainly, but not as destroyed as a man in love should be.
“Not like you mean.” He offered a slight smile. “Though there were plenty of old ladies at church who were hopeful. No, Naomi was like a little sister to me. When she bought this place so my parents could move south, it seemed natural to keep an eye on her at first. And then...” He shrugged. “Then we were friends.”
“Naomi could make anyone into a friend.” Ruth’s heart cracked open a little wider. How was she supposed to go through life without her? “I’m sorry you had to find out from me.”
Corban nodded and stood. “I’ll be on my way. I... my number’s in her book. If you ever need anything, just give a shout.”
“Thanks.” He probably hadn’t heard her, given that he’d been striding into the hall before she’d managed to get the word out. The kitchen door slammed.
Ruth sagged against the back of the stuffy little couch and took several long swallows of her lemonade. She was going to make a success of her friend’s business. She had to. For Naomi, and for herself. And handsome, abrupt neighbors weren’t going to get in her way.

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.
Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey

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You can find Elizabeth here:

Twitter: @elizabethmaddre

Elizabeth Maddrey is a semi-reformed computer geek and homeschooling mother of two who loves romance and a good happily ever after.

Friday, 6 January 2017

An informal date by Heather Gray

Could two people be more different?

Kimi Fairchild is pursuing an Art Therapy degree while working as a barista at a local hospital. She takes life as it comes and has a smile for everyone who crosses her path. She’s never much cared for schedules, either…until a mysterious man starts showing up at her coffee kiosk every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at exactly 7:05 a.m.

Owen Pratt is a research scientist on the verge of obtaining FDA approval for a new cancer-fighting drug. He has limited people skills, a fondness for caffeine, and a love of strictly kept routines. He’s the antithesis of Kimi in almost every way. Something about her smile, though, keeps bringing him back for more.

How can two such different people go from a shared interest in coffee to a shared future? By getting out of God’s way and letting Him handle the details. Ha! Easier said than done.

Kimi pretended to organize her muffin assortment as Dr. No-Name approached. She could set her clock by him. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:05 in the morning, he came for his large half-caff triple nonfat medium whip white mocha. Even though she knew what he would order, she waited for him to arrive. One day not too long ago, she’d started his drink as soon as he’d stepped into view. She’d had the steaming beverage ready and waiting for him. The poor guy had been so flustered he’d knocked over the fruit basket and taken out half the cookie display in the process.
She’d learned an important lesson that day. Two, really. Patience paid off. And some people don’t handle change well.
Dr. No-Name glanced to the side and tripped over a covered cable that ran along the floor. He kicked the toe of his loafer into the top of the cable’s molded rubber protector, lost his balance, hopped a couple of times on his left foot, swung his arms like a grade-schooler doing the windmill in PE, and finally got his right shoe back down on the ground. Despite the theatrical gymnastics, nobody but her appeared to be watching the show. She had to give him points for the landing. Not a brown hair on his head was out of place, and his lab coat hung from his shoulders with straight lines in complete denial of its recent whirlwind of activity.
The same cable had been positioned across that floor for as long as Kimi could remember. The doctor had to know it, too, but unless his eyes were trained directly on it, he seemed to forget. She’d witnessed his footwork often enough to realize that much, at least.
Kimi turned her back on him lest he catch her spying. Despite his oddities, she enjoyed Dr. No-Name’s visits to her kiosk and didn’t want to scare him off by staring or — heaven forbid — laughing.
“Um, excuse me.”
She turned around, her smile in place and hopefully no pity in her eyes. “Good morning! The usual?”
Dr. No-Name nodded. Most doctors wore their name embroidered on their official white lab coats, but not this one. Plain white, no fancy frills, and no embroidery. Either he wasn’t important enough for a name on his coat or he was humble enough not to care. She secretly hoped it was the latter.
Kimi set to work on his drink and tried to make conversation. “You always order a triple shot, but you want half-caff. Most people who want to go easy on the caffeine avoid the triple.”
She caught his shrug out of the corner of her eye. Getting this guy to talk was harder than pulling a barking dog’s molars with a pair of tweezers.

Buy Links:

Author Bio:
Heather Gray loves coffee, God, and her family – not necessarily in that order! She enjoys people who embrace God even when life is hard and who aren't afraid to laugh out loud. Like her, the characters she writes are flawed…but loved anyway.

Social Media Links:

Additional Info:
An Informal Date currently has a 5-star rating on Amazon with 18 reviews.
An Informal Date can also be found in the Falling For You box set (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KWI4TDS) which has a 4.7-star rating with 46 reviews.
An Informal Christmas, book #1 in the series, won the 2016 Selah Award in the novella category.

An Informal Date on Goodreads

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve Devotion - Pastor Michael Duncan

’Tis the Season

As I look out the window I am surrounded by a forest of icicles. Clear crystal spires hang like ornaments from the eaves and endear the house with a magical aura. Even the grey clouds and quiet hour bring a sublime tranquility to this beautiful season. But soon the calm serenity will be overcome by a wealth of laughter and sounds of joy as families and friends join together to celebrate the birth of the King.

There is nothing like Christmas. Lights and tinsel, songs and parties, friendships abound and good will is offered to all who know the delights of the season. Despite the sense of busyness, there is a wonderful peace that fills the atmosphere. Yet, in this season, with all the trappings and festivities that fill our time, the actual meaning of Christmas might get lost. So, in these brief moments, I hope to take you back to Bethlehem and invite you to join with shepherds and wise men and seek the One who was born to be the Savior.

The clear night air shimmered with stars as shepherds maintained vigilance over the flocks in their care. A crisp breeze gently wafted across the hills surrounding the village of Bethlehem and no one imagined what was coming next…

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
~ Luke 2:9-14 (ESV)

This message came not by some secretive, covert messenger. This was no subtle whisper on a darkened night. No, with the glory of heaven as their background, the entirety of the heavenly host burst upon the scene and pronounced with boldness the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ!

So what are the shepherds to do? What would you do? With resolute purpose the shepherds set out for the city of Bethlehem and found it to be exactly as spoken by the angel. This longing from the shepherds is echoed in the heart of all who have believed the message concerning Jesus. The passion and desire to be in the presence of the One about whom angels testify is felt no greater than at this time of year when we celebrate our Savior’s birth.

Perhaps your sense of God’s presence is dimmed. Perhaps the true nature of why we celebrate this festival has waned in the onslaught of the commercial rush. There is no better time than now and there is no better way to renew your faith than to be as the shepherds and determine with unwavering passion to seek for the One who was born to be King.

What an honor and privilege to know the true meaning of Christmas. What grace! What love! He who is holy sent His only begotten Son into this fallen, sinful world to be the hope for all mankind. The great gift of Christmas is Jesus; and the greatest gift you can give to anyone is the love that has been given to you—the love of God in Christ.

Let us take time to remember the Lord Jesus Christ for whose sake we truly celebrate. As the wise men from the east, let us worship HIM who is born King. Like the shepherds of Israel, let us proclaim HIM to everyone. May the lights of the season remind you of the Light of the world; may the presents under the tree remind you of the Person given for you; and may the festivities of the day remind you of the festival that awaits all who are found in Christ. I pray that this season of Christmas bring you peace through our Lord Jesus.

Faithfully Yours,
Michael Duncan

Friday, 23 December 2016

Miracle on Maple Street - Linda Rondeau

“Christmas is a time for miracles,” Ryan McDougal tells his mother, when he is told that a long lost cousin, Millie, has resurfaced after nearly forty years, the cousin whose picture his mother clasped the day his father abandoned him. Though they occurred decades apart, he always believed the two disappearances were connected like opposite links of a chain. With Millie’s arrival, perhaps he might finally receive the answers he so desperately sought. However, Ryan has a third thorn in his side, more devastating than any mystery. His wife, the love of his life, has left his arms and his bed. How long before she moves out of the house and takes his beloved son with her? He prays for his own Christmas miracle. Millie’s anticipated visit prompts Ryan’s mother to reveal secrets that bring all to light. However, when past and present collide, the truth is more than Ryan can bear.


Ryan McDougal
Christmas Eve

Why now? How did I come to this point on this night? Willing to throw everything away, like my father did more than twenty years before? Willing to do the very thing for which I’d hated him?
With doomsday predicted by many in the scientific community, the Y2K bug loomed on everyone’s mind. What did I care if planes fell from the sky because computers would not accept the year 2000? My world had already collapsed. What more could global chaos do to me?
I’d tried for a year to save my marriage. Didn’t tonight prove it was beyond help? Why stay any longer?
Earlier, I finally learned the truth behind the secrets shrouding my life, the trident that pierced my soul. Yet, revelation didn’t bring peace. I pulled my jacket collar over my ears as I wandered down Maple Street, my mind jumbled by a lifetime of lies.
Christmas, one more charade to add to the heap. To me, the holiday had become a one-act play where I pretended delight with feigned enthusiasm. For me, the holiday lost its magic many years ago when my father deserted us while I dreamed of transformers under the tree. An eight-year-old doesn’t expect to begin his favorite holiday in an upside down world. I woke eager to tear open packages. Instead, I found no presents under the tree, no blueberry muffins, and no turkey in the oven.
My mother sat on a chair. She stared blankly out the kitchen window, a gold-framed photograph on her lap. had always enshrined the picture of the pretty but sullen teenager. For reasons never shared with me, the unnamed girl ran away on her sixteenth birthday. I wondered why, from my earliest memory, her picture held a place of honor on the fireplace mantel.
I shook my mother’s shoulder. No response.
Where was my father? He could explain what was wrong—why Christmas dreams turned into yuletide nightmares. I searched for him, first his bedroom then the entire house.
“Mom, where’s Pop?”
She clutched the picture to her chest. “He’s gone, Ryan.”
“Where did he go? It’s Christmas. He promised to be here when I woke up.”
Pop was a telephone lineman. Whenever he went off for a job, he’d put on his yellow hard hat, rub my head, and say, “Take care of your mother until I get back.” If I’d already gone to bed, he’d wake me to give me the order. I always promised I would.
I rushed to the window. There’d been a fresh snowfall overnight. Maybe Pop had been called out. If he hadn’t come to wake me, he must have left in an awful hurry. He went someplace to save Christmas for other people. To me, my pop was a superhero in a yellow hard hat.
My gaze wandered to the kitchen table adorned only with my father’s yellow hard hat. Superman wouldn’t forget his cape. Why did my father leave his hat? My child’s heart sensed then I’d never see him again. From that point on, Christmas became another day on the calendar where I nursed a zombie-like woman who preferred her sorrow over her son—a woman who hopelessly waited for her man to come back.
Her energy, what little she possessed, would have been better spent in a job search. Our neighbor helped us get welfare so we wouldn’t starve to death. Every Christmas, she brought over a small decorated tree, a ham dinner, and presents. I think there’s a special place in heaven for people like Gina Forbes, one of the few true Christians I’d ever known.
Here I was years later, now dealing with the third fork in the trident that pierced my soul. As midnight zeroed in, I took another glance down Maple Street, the place my younger self couldn’t wait to leave. I’d lived with Stone Woman long enough. So two days after high school graduation, I left to begin my Army career. As I walked out the door, my mother lifted her head. Her eyes misted a goodbye. Were the tears for me or my long-lost father? Gina Forbes wrote occasional letters to let me know how Mom fared. I spent my leaves anywhere but home.
After basic training, I served as an MP. Somehow, I missed deployment overseas. A year before my hitch ended, I met Penny, a girl with a voice to match her beauty. We married a week later. When you know you’ve found the one, there’s no need to wait. Nine months later, our boy Ryan Junior came along. To avoid confusion, most everyone called him R.J. I went to his room every night to watch him sleep, and I made the same promise. “I’ll never leave you, my sweet sonny boy.”
Yet, here I stood. Ready to break the most solemn of promises.
When my Army hitch ended, I wasn’t sure what I’d do next. Sometimes life makes those decisions for you. For me, clarity came with a package from Gina Forbes containing a card, a blue quilt for my son, and a handwritten note: Sorry to tell you that your mother’s health has deteriorated. She was in the hospital for a few days last month. The doctor wanted to put her on antidepressants, but she refused to take them. She shouldn’t be alone. I’ve let the doctor know how bad she is. She refuses to go back to the hospital. Yesterday, out of the blue, she asked if I knew where you were. She’d forgotten you’d joined the Army. If you can find it in your heart to forgive your mother for her failures, perhaps you could at least brighten her day with a visit.
My protests proved moot against Penny’s insistence we move into the house on Maple Street to take care of my mother. “Ryan, no matter what your mother did or did not do, she is still the woman who gave you birth.”
How was it possible on this night, I stood ready to leave the most wonderful woman in the world?
A grandchild, as well as a daughter-in-law’s unconditional love, built the ladder Mom needed to climb out of despair, to the point she went to church with Gina Forbes. Life fell into predictable rhythms of acceptability for all of us on Maple Street. Until last year—when my wife left my bed and moved into the den. For the past year, with each sunrise, I asked myself the same question—why doesn’t my wife love me anymore?
Nor did the specter of unexplained disappearances ever leave our house. We relegated the unknowns to a corner, like a sulking child. Now my wife’s emotional abandonment completed the triangle of mysteries, a geometric spear of perplexity. Even so, we muddled through our existence, actors who performed their monologs on a shared stage.
Funny how life deludes us. One day, reality crashes upon a crafted, albeit imperfect world, which is why I now strolled up and down Maple Street and considered a different existence. Why not join the ranks of those who had disappeared?
For the second time today, I turned to a God I had yet to call my own.

Author Bio

Award winning author, LINDA WOOD RONDEAU, believes God is able to turn our worst past into our best future, the purpose for her many contemporary novels. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths much like our own. After a long career in human services, Linda moved from her home near the Adirondack Mountains to Jacksonville, Florida, and now anticipates a move to Maryland. When not writing, she enjoys playing golf with her husband and best friend in life, Steve. Find Linda on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google Plus or visit her website at www.lindarondeau.com where you’ll find links to social media, information about her books, and enjoy her blog, Snark and Sensibility.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Ginger and Brad's House - Marion Ueckermann

While Ginger Murphy completes her music studies, childhood sweetheart and neighbor, Brad O’Sullivan betrays her with the new girl next door. Heartbroken, Ginger escapes as far away as she can go—to Australia—for five long years. During this time, Brad’s shotgun marriage fails. Besides his little boy, Jamie, one other thing in his life has turned out sweet and successful—his pastry business.

When her mother’s diagnosed with heart failure, Ginger has no choice but to return to the green grass of Ireland. As a sought-after wedding flautist, she quickly establishes herself on home soil. Although she loves her profession, she fears she’ll never be more than the entertainment at these joyous occasions. And that she’s doomed to bump into the wedding cake chef she tries to avoid. Brad broke her heart once. She won’t give him a chance to do it again.

A gingerbread house contest at church to raise funds for the homeless has Ginger competing with Brad. Both are determined to win—Ginger the contest, Brad her heart. But when a dear old saint challenges that the Good Book says the first shall be last, and the last first, Ginger has to decide whether to back down from contending with Brad and embrace the true meaning of Christmas—peace on earth, good will to all men. Even the Irishman she’d love to hate.


GINGER MURPHY had vowed never to return to Ireland. News of a sick mother will overturn the impulsive declarations of a broken heart.
She moved her hand and let the lace curtain fall back. How many hours of her life had she wasted gazing from her bedroom window at the house across the street? Far, far too many. She wouldn’t let old habits creep back in. Not now. It had taken five long years to heal her heart.
Being back home was wonderful. And hard. So many memories lived on that lane and in the fields nearby and beside the Liffey. The walks along that meandering river with its tea-colored waters were the best. Brad close to her, holding her hand. And those picnics beside its buttercup-lined banks… She trailed a finger over her bottom lip. After all this time, she could still feel, still remember, his kisses.
How had it all gone so wrong?
Her fingers curled around the thin lace again as she pulled back the fabric for one last look, one last reminder, lest she be tempted to forget. Her gaze shot to the house next door to the O’Sullivans. The day she’d moved in had been the day the foundations of her world began to crumble.
Remember that. Always.
The curtain swayed back into place as Ginger released it. She checked her makeup in the mirror, and then fluffed the fiery curls that tumbled over her shoulders. Brad had always loved the color of her hair…until he discovered he preferred brunettes to redheads. Not collectively—just a particular one.
Stop it. No thinking about Brad. But how could she not? It was impossible not to wonder whether he still lived on the other side of the tarred strip separating their houses. Mam and Dad didn’t say, and she hadn’t asked. The subject of Brad O’Sullivan had long not been permitted as a topic of conversation—with her parents, or her friends. Enduring six months of snippets about Brad was enough. She’d no longer wished to hear about his happy little life, with his perky little wife. More like pesky. Like a troublesome bug, Claire Madden—her nemesis—had infected Brad.
If Brad still lived in that white semi-detached house that had been a part of her life since she could remember, she’d find out soon enough. In the week she’d been home, the place had remained in darkness. But last night, two cars had parked in the driveway. The red van, branded ‘All Things Nice’, had been missing since early this morning. Brad’s van, or some stranger’s? Sugar and spice, and all things nice… Had Brad followed his dream and opened his own pastry business, or did the vehicle belong to someone running some kind of shady operation?
Maybe she should’ve allowed her family and friends to continue keeping her in the loop.
The chocolate brown chiffon of her layered dress swirled as she turned. She loved the color. Probably because she loved chocolate. Ginger grabbed her clutch purse, flute bag, and music stand, and placed them into a canvas carry bag, Australia printed repetitively across the fabric. She slid the bag’s strap onto her shoulder, and then hooked the ankle straps of her high-heels around the fingers of her free hand. She’d put those on downstairs. The block heels clunked together as she headed for the staircase. If she didn’t get going now, she’d be late. And she was the distraction to keep anxious guests entertained until the bride stepped onto the aisle, and the wedding march began to play.
“You look beautiful,” Dad said as he lowered his newspaper. “You sure you’re not the bride?”
Ginger sat down opposite him at the kitchen table. “Last time I looked, Daddy, brides wore white.” And they had a man in their lives—one who wanted to marry them and be with them forever.
She leaned forward to put on her shoes. “But, thanks.” She glanced up, her father filling half her view, the table the rest. “I made a mac and cheese this morning for you and Mammy for dinner. Pop it in the oven at a moderate heat for thirty minutes when you’re ready to eat. I’ll try to get home as soon as I can, but I’m booked to play until after the main course. Then the DJ takes over.”
“Thanks, Ginger. ’Tis so good to have you back home. I’ve missed my freckle-faced girl.”
“I’ve missed you, too.”
He smiled. “Thank you for giving up your new life in Australia to come home and help me with your mother.”
“Five years isn’t exactly a new life.”
“Aye, that’s why I know the decision wasn’t an easy one.”
It sure wasn’t, despite how difficult it had been to adapt to a new culture, even though she’d stayed with her aunt and uncle. Ireland would always be in her blood.
Would Brad O’Sullivan?
She hoped not. He was married, with a child…who’d be turning five in a few months.
Ginger rose, standing three inches taller in her heels than her usual five feet. She stepped to her father and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Bye.”
He grasped her hand and squeezed. “Have some fun, love.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Unfortunately, I’m there to work, not to play.”
“I thought you were there to play…” A laugh bubbled from Dad’s throat.
Ginger laughed, too, before she pulled back her hand and turned to go. “Well, I’ll be away then.” At the threshold, she paused and glanced over her shoulder. “It’s good to be home. Really.”
Ninety minutes later, the haunting melody of Ginger’s flute floated across the Orangery at Killruddery House. Sunlight filtered through the high glazed dome above. The late September weather had cooperated with the bride’s plans. What an amazing venue—the first of many she’d lined up. With her reputation in Australia as a wedding and corporate flautist, it hadn’t been difficult to be booked up almost every weekend until Christmas before she’d even stepped on the plane to Dublin—a few introductory emails to Irish wedding planners was all it took.
Soon as the ceremony started, Ginger gathered up her flute and her folded music stand. She tip-toed out of the Victorian conservatory to set up in the courtyard outside the 18th century barn conversion where the reception was to take place.
She gazed toward the large trees in the distance, beginning to morph into their autumn colors. Then she headed down the path beside the terraced lawn toward the sunken lavender and rose garden bordered by green hedging. She strolled along the gravel pathway. The spindly purple blooms and full peachy-pink English roses begged to be sniffed. Ginger paused to savor their fragrance. As she walked by the large pond in the center of the symmetrical garden, she dipped her fingers in. Ripples spread out as the cool water refreshed her fingertips. How peaceful.
If she could only stay there longer.
Taking the path to her right around the pond, she headed for the charming octagonal Victorian structure. The tea room. She stepped inside to enquire if she was headed in the right direction. She could not afford to get lost on this large estate and tarnish her reputation at the first wedding by arriving after the guests she was hired to entertain. The smell of coffee and zesty citrus cakes beckoned her to stay, and she made a mental note to return on a free weekend. Perhaps she’d bring her best friend, Tara.
After an affirmation by the young lady working the till, as well as an explanation of the rest of the way, Ginger arrived at the reception venue moments later. She stepped inside to have a look at the d├ęcor before setting up. And the cake.
Much as she’d tried not to over the years, she’d found herself on numerous occasions wondering what Brad would’ve done with the wedding cake had he been the pastry chef. He’d always been good in the kitchen, especially with sweet things. A miracle she’d managed to keep her petite figure through her teens.
She stared at the towering masterpiece—four tiers of decadent chocolate. Perfect. Must’ve set the father of the bride back many euros, although nothing about this wedding was cheap. Including her.
Ginger ran her tongue between her lips as she gazed at the smooth dark brown shine of the ganache. A tall, elegant bride and groom made of porcelain topped the cake while deep red roses edged each tier. She leaned forward and inhaled, expecting a repeat of the rose garden’s aroma.
She took a closer look. Icing? How was that possible? The blooms were so lifelike.
“’Tis not time to cut the cake, yet.” A cuckle followed the deep brogue of the familiar voice.
Her knees weakened. No. It couldn’t be. But there was no mistaking the sound. She’d heard that voice whisper sweet nothings in her ear since she was a teenager.
There was nowhere to run.

Pulse pounding, Ginger sucked in a breath and spun around. Deep-set blue eyes and a dimpled smile greeted her. “Brad O’Sullivan.”

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Luke's Crazy California Christmas - Cindy K Green

 High school senior, Luke Ryan, may have gone all-star in baseball the previous year, but nothing about his current life resembles that famed reputation. With Christmas break on the horizon, he resents the compulsory trip to visit his estranged father in California. Not only is he forced to abandon his mother over the holiday, but his pianist girlfriend, Andrea, also--who seems too preoccupied by her Christmas Eve charity concert to care that they’ll be apart. On the way to California, he meets free-spirit Charli who spins his world in a completely different direction. Once in his old stomping grounds, he’s forced to face the reality of his sister’s death and his parents’ divorce. Decisions assail him over his future, his girlfriend, and his home. Is he destined to move back to California to secure a baseball scholarship or does God have another plan for his life?

“Here.” Mom handed me a wrapped package as we pulled up in front of the airline drop-off at the Raleigh-Durham airport. 
“What’s this? I thought we said we’d celebrate Christmas when I got back.”
“It’s not from me. Andrea dropped it off when you were gone last night.” She leaned in as if to give me a kiss on the cheek or forehead like when I was little. Instead, she smoothed a piece of my dark hair into place. “I feel like I should tell you something important—advice or something, but you’re pretty much all grown up. Three more months and my baby will be eighteen.” Her expression turned playful as she gave me a light pat on the cheek. 
“I better get going before you’re towed by airline security.” I slid closer to the door and grabbed the handle. Before opening it, I turned back to her. “I hate leaving you at Christmas.” 
“I know you do, but I’ll be fine with Aunt Renee and Ray and the girls. I won’t be alone. Don’t worry about me.” 
“Love you, Mom.”

“Love you too. Have a good Christmas.” 
I hopped out and grabbed my bags from the trunk. 
I waved goodbye and headed inside to check my luggage. A biting wind shot through the entryway to the terminal just as I started to enter the automatic doors. 
I did hate leaving Mom for Christmas. I knew she’d be OK with my aunt and uncle and cousins, but it wouldn’t be the same. This was supposed to be our first North Carolina Christmas. Instead, it had turned out to be her first Christmas alone. The first Christmas since my older sister, Monica, passed away after being in a coma from a car accident. The first Christmas since she and Dad divorced. I couldn’t believe what a jerk Dad was being, forcing me to come back to California and leave Mom. No, that wasn’t true. Dad was being true to form. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Christmas Extravaganza - Nicola Martinez

Christmas is a magical time of year. As Christians, we know that Christ is the reason Christmas is special. There is a joy in the anticipation because in our spirits we’re looking forwards to the Saviour’s birth and the wonders His arrival means for the world. The Incarnation is the real reason people are happier at Christmas. (It isn’t the department store sales—although, they don’t hurt. :) ) The Incarnation is also why people are profoundly more depressed if life’s circumstances are not ideal during this season—not because the coming of Christ is depressing, but because deep down, we sense the reality that this time should be a joyous one; so when joy isn’t apparent for us, we feel the lack more acutely. For Pelican Book Group, this is where our Christmas Extravaganza enters.
If you notice, Christmas is a time of light-hearted, joy-filled entertainment. Christmas-themed music fills the air, Christmas-themed movies dominate television, happily-ever-after entertainment is in abundant supply. “Abundance” was what came to mind when I first developed the idea for the Christmas Extravaganza. I thought to overload people (in a good way!) with…well, goodness. Overwhelming joy. A plethora of smiles. Unending possibilities for happiness.  Undeniable romance…Christmas is the time for all these things. It isn’t really surprising, though, is it? Christ’s life is the greatest romance ever told, right? A God that “becomes lower than the angels” in order that He might experience humanity and overcome suffering, sin and death solely for love of us—and in the process offer us life more “abundantly”.

Each Christmas Extravaganza title had to leave readers with a feel-good experience. This was especially important for the reader who might be experiencing that lack which I mentioned earlier. Each story had to be relatively short—because people are busy during the holidays—but also long enough to leave readers satisfied with a tale that packed an emotional punch.  And, of course (and most importantly) like all Pelican Book Group titles, each story had to contain a Christian message.
When we put out the initial call for submissions, I was overwhelmed at the response. We received so many wonderful stories. It was difficult to narrow down the ones we would publish. That’s an awesome problem to have! And then, when the first Christmas Extravaganza set released, reader response was phenomenal! I’m not exaggerating, either. :)

Each year we continue the tradition. On average, the Christmas Extravaganza includes a dozen stories. During the entire month of December, all are available for just 99¢ each. I know money doesn’t stretch quite as far during the holidays, so I want to make the Extravaganza “abundantly” affordable.

Now, several years removed from that initial launch, we have over seventy Christmas Extravaganza titles in e-print, and I expect that will continue to grow annually for as long as we receive appropriate submissions and readers keep responding positively. (That’s the way abundance works!) The Christmas Extravaganza is one of my favourite sets, and it is my ongoing prayer that each story continues to bring a warmth to the reader, a respite from the bustle of life, and a deeper appreciation for the real reason for the season: Christ Jesus, who came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Merry Christmas!

Link to Christmas Extravaganza on Amazon:  
Link to Christmas Extravaganza on PBG