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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.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Time Trap—The Time Counselor Chronicles #2 - Danele Rotharmel

Time Trap—The Time Counselor Chronicles #2

A chilling chess game through time is about to unfold…

When problems arise during a field exam, Director Peter Matthews and Dr. Laura Nelson are sent through a time portal to investigate.  While they search for their missing cadets, they encounter an enemy who is calculating and brutal—a mysterious nemesis who is holding a grudge against the TEMCO program.  As Peter and Laura race to unravel clues directing them to their kidnapped cadets, their own survival comes into question.  A deadly trap has been set, and they are forced to pit their wits against a serial killer who is intent on playing a deadly chess game through time itself. 

The soft sound came again. Standing to her feet, Laura tried to calm her breathing. The furtive sounds could only mean one thing—their captor was approaching.

“Whatever happens,” she said quietly, laying a hand on Peter’s shoulder, “don’t tug against your cuffs. You can’t afford to lose more blood.”

“Keep your head and take your time,” Peter said stiffly. “Be patient. Stay out of his reach until you see an opening. If he has a gun, you can use a roundhouse kick to disarm him, but you’ll have to be quick. If he gets you down and starts kicking you, curl into a ball and protect your head and stomach.”

Laura squeezed Peter’s shoulder. She could hear the tension in his voice, and she knew he was terrified for her. She also knew that his inability to protect her was ripping him apart.

Peter spoke quickly, “If he manages to get his hands on you, use the heel of your palm and thrust it up against his nose. Don’t be afraid to be vicious. Go for his eyes, throat, and groin.”

“Don’t worry,” she said in a focused, determined voice. “I’ll fight dirty.”

The door opened.

Moving to the center of the room, Laura took a solid stance.

Time Trap’s Formats:

Amazon: Paperback and Kindle eBook
Barnes & Noble: Paperback and Nook eBook
Smashwords: eBook
Apple: iBook

Time Trap’s Purchasing Links:

Danele Rotharmel’s life took an unexpected turn when a mysterious illness brought her close to death. Eventually, she learned that a carbon monoxide leak from a faulty furnace was poisoning her. This poisoning triggered Multiple Chemical Sensitivity causing her to be put in quarantine. For seven years, she could only talk to friends and extended family through a windowpane. During this time, she wrote the first six books in The Time Counselor Chronicles.  Although her journey back to health was difficult, it provided her the opportunity to grow closer to God and write her books. For that, she’s forever thankful. To learn more about Danele, visit her blog:  https://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com/

Danele Rotharmel’s Blog: https://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com/
Danele Rotharmel’s Testimony: https://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com/welcome/

Monday, 27 February 2017

Time Tsunami–The Time Counselor Chronicles #1 - Danele Rotharmel

Time Tsunami
By: Danele Rotharmel

Before I dive into this, a word from me. It's not often I binge read. But these were... incredible. I was hooked from page one. I got the third as part of a subscription from the publishers, and immediately got books one and two so the third made sense.
I read far later into the night than I ought. I woke wondering if such and such were okay, should i text them to check... then realised they were characters in a book. Eagerly waiting for book 4, because I need to know what happens next. No make that I NEED to know what happens next.

Time TsunamiThe Time Counselor Chronicles #1

To stop a cruel serial killer, she must travel twenty-four years into the past…

Gil Montgomery, a cadet in the Temporal Counseling Program, can’t wait to pass her field exam and become a professional time surfer. The TEMCO program targets death-row offenders for time-based counseling while they’re children.  For her exam, Gil will travel twenty-four years into the past to counsel ten-year-old Danny Winston before he murders his abusive babysitter, Rick Olsen.  Preventing the stabbing should stop the chain of events leading to Danny’s eventual execution.

Gil’s assignment seems simple until her adviser, Dr. William Ableman, learns that Rick is a serial killer targeting Danny’s mother.  If Gil stays and protects the Winstons, she might not survive.  William wants the woman he loves to be pulled from the field, but if Gil fails to complete her assignment, it will unleash a Time Tsunami and destroy the timeline.

As TEMCO undergoes an emergency lockdown, and Gil’s fellow cadets try to figure out what’s happening, Gil and William learn the importance of faith and the price of true love. Everyone’s fate is resting in Gil’s hands, but does she have the strength she needs to defeat a ruthless serial killer intent on annihilating everyone in his path?


Gil sprinted into the hall. The broken rubbish on the floor crackled beneath her feet, making her easy to find. Grabbing at her, Rick tossed her into the kitchen. She fell against the sink and reached for the window. She tugged on it until she realized it had been nailed shut. Shrinking back against the counter, she knew with sudden clarity that Rick had made the kitchen a trap with only one exit—an exit he was blocking. Standing absolutely still, she forced herself to calm her rapid breathing. She had to be quiet, very quiet. Sooner or later, Rick would leave the kitchen doorway, and when he did, she would sneak past him.

“All ye, all ye, outs in free,” Rick sang in an eerie voice that sent chills racing down her spine. “Come out, come out, wherever you may be.”

Gil shivered and choked down a whimper. She saw Rick’s eyes flicker. Peering from side-to-side, he whispered, “Why don’t you come out and play?”

With bated breath, she watched as he slowly advanced. She knew he was trying to draw her out. If she moved prematurely, she’d give away her location. Her muscles tensed and a mist of perspiration beaded her brow. As he made his way deeper into the kitchen, she made a sudden lunge for the doorway.

Time Tsunami’s Formats:

Amazon: Paperback, Kindle eBook, Audible Audio Book narrated by Hollis Beck
Barnes & Noble: Paperback and Nook eBook
Smashwords: eBook
Apple: iBook

Time Tsunami’s Purchasing Links:


Danele Rotharmel grew up with a love of the literary word, and by age five, she knew she wanted to be a writer. However, her life took an unexpected turn when a mysterious illness brought her close to death. Eventually, she learned that a low-level carbon monoxide leak from a faulty furnace in her home was slowly poisoning her. This poisoning triggered severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and partial amnesia.

During this time, the hardest thing she faced was a crisis of faith. She had to quit her job and stop going to church. She couldn’t write, couldn’t drive, and could barely remember who she was. To say she was upset with the Lord was an understatement. She began reexamining her faith in light of her illness, and eventually, she came to the firm conclusion that God is real, God is good, God is interested and involved, and God is trustworthy regardless of tragedy.

When her illness became even more severe, she was put into quarantine and could only talk to friends and extended family through the glass of a window. This quarantine lasted for seven years. During this time, she wrote the first six books in The Time Counselor Chronicles.

Danele currently lives in Colorado where she continues to write. Although her journey back to health was long and difficult, it provided her with the opportunity to grow closer to God and to write her books. For that, she is forever thankful.

You can learn more about Danele by visiting her blog at https://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com/

Danele Rotharmel’s Blog: https://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com/
Danele Rotharmel’s Testimony: https://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com/welcome/

Friday, 24 February 2017

Spring Raine - Delia Latham

An uncharacteristic, last-minute decision to do something "wild and crazy" before entering the stressful world of forensic science sends Raine Presley to Cambria, California. Against a cloud of disapproval from her slightly manipulative, over-protective parents, she signs a seasonal lease at the beautiful Paradise Pines Lodge...and winds up over her head in life and love.
Declan Keller's just minding his own business—literally—when Raine drops into his world and turns it upside down. He's far too busy carving beautiful shapes out of chunks of wood to be babysitting a gal from Pasadena. Even so, his father’s promise to an old friend obligates him, despite a looming deadline that could make or break his career in the art world. He’s praying for anything but Raine when she comes along.

Neither Declan nor Raine is prepared for the seemingly divine influence of Paradise Pines—and Miss Angelina Love. A mysterious lady who may or may not own the lodge, Miss Angie possesses an amazing talent for mending ruffled feathers, spouting proverbs, and somehow bending even the most determined of hearts to the power of love.

For a moment she couldn’t breathe, and then the barest whisper passed her lips—half spontaneous praise, half simple awe. “Oh, my…I’ve found Paradise!”
From within her sporty little red convertible, Raine Presley peered through a misty, early March drizzle at the most beautiful piece of land she’d ever seen. Paradise Pines Lodge. Her home for the next three months.
Aside from the forest of tall Cambria pines, which she had expected to see, the grounds boasted a huge number of beautiful old sycamore trees—tall, stately, and dripping with silvery Spanish moss. Moonlight glowed through the lacy fingers of hanging flora, creating a somewhat haunting air, and a tiny shiver made its way up her spine. But not enough to make her turn and leave. The beauty far outshone the slight spookiness of moss in moonlight.
Square in the center of the surrounding forest of variegated tree species, many of which Raine found unfamiliar, the lodge itself demanded far more than a passing glance. The website had described Paradise Pines Lodge as “spacious.” Raine chuckled as she pulled her car under the east carport, as she’d been directed.
Spacious was a blatant understatement. The place was huge, and yet warmth and welcome radiated from within. Lights shone from every facing window—and they were many. Two chimneys, one on each end of the lodge, sent thin plumes of smoke spiraling into the sky.
Miss Angelina Love, with whom Raine had communicated via email, had provided a bit of history on the duplex, which had once been a popular fishing lodge. The former owner, known only as Preacher, renovated the interior shortly before his death, turning each floor into a single, large apartment. The upper dwelling was available for rent on a seasonal basis. No one got to stay at Paradise Pines for a week or two…it was all season or not at all.
The online photographs did little justice to this place. Now that Raine sat, stunned and overwhelmed, staring at the old lodge, she understood why the waiting list was long, even though the site made it clear Paradise Pines would host only one guest per season—or perhaps a small family. Only the upper apartment was offered for rent, and unit had only two bedrooms. She assumed the lower level was occupied by the owner, or possibly management.
An applicant’s chances of being chosen were slim, even within a few years of applying.
“Thank you, Lord!” She breathed a prayer into the silence inside her vehicle. How she’d managed to find favor with whoever granted access to this place, given her last-minute application for spring tenancy, she had no idea…but now, with her stunned gaze taking in the glorious surroundings, she had to believe God had a hand in it.
She climbed out and headed for the large entryway, pulling her suitcase behind her and trying to take in everything as she went. So much incredible beauty. Even the three months she planned to stay seemed inadequate. How would she ever make herself leave?
Pausing at the end of the walkway, she studied the log building.
Lights in a dozen windows lent the place an almost magical feel, as if she stood on the brink of a fairyland. But wasn’t there something else? Some aura that placed a pale but luminous glow around the entire lodge?
As she stood, suitcase handle in one hand and handbag hanging off the other shoulder, a large insect flitted close and hovered a few feet in front of her. Startled for a moment, she laughed when she realized it was a gorgeous monarch butterfly.
“Well, hello there.” She spoke softly, her eyes on the delicate creature. While she was by no means an expert in the ways of butterflies, it seemed odd to see one flying about in the wet weather. “Why aren’t you hiding away somewhere nice and dry?”
The monarch flew closer, brushed against her cheek, and then backed away to hover a foot or two in front of her yet again.
Raine laughed. “So you came out just to welcome me? Well, thank you kindly, little one. I appreciate that.”
She shook her head. Good thing no one was around to witness her talking to an insect. Her parents, in particular. They’d think she’d lost her mind.
The creature circled her body in a graceful, fluttering dance of delicate wings, and then flew off toward the woods.
In the next instant, the front door opened and Raine caught her first glimpse of Miss Angelina Love.
Snowy white hair formed a glowing nimbus around the woman’s head. With the lights behind her tall, willowy figure, and the moonlight between Raine and the door, the result was a perfect halo. Miss Love’s maxi-length sheath—the same pure white as her hair—only added to the startling illusion. Raine gasped when an amorphous shadow beyond the doorway moved in a soft wave, creating a massive pair of shadowy wings. She released a breath when the shadow disappeared.
“Raine! Is that you? Come in out of that drizzle!” Even Miss Angie’s voice had a melodious trill that, given the impression already created by light and shadow, made Raine think of angelic song.
She shook her head at the her own fanciful imagination. In her defense, however, she’d been driving several hours, and spent most of the previous night packing, after a long, grueling argument with her parents about this trip. No wonder she was seeing things and imagining even more.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m Raine Presley.” She arrived at the door and found herself mesmerized by a pair of eyes the bright, clear blue of a summer sky, and a smile that surely epitomized the word “welcome.” Tiny lines around Miss Love’s eyes and mouth spoke to the fact that she smiled often. She wasn’t exactly beautiful, and yet…something about her was. Raine couldn’t stop staring, and felt a blush warming her cheeks at her own impolite reaction.
The moment she stepped into the large, open entry area and released her grip on the handle of her suitcase, Miss Love folded her into a gentle hug.
“Welcome, child.” Her voice flowed over Raine’s exhausted body and mind like warm, soothing honey, refreshing her in some inexplicable way. “Welcome to Paradise Pines. Make yourself at home, because that’s where you are.”
For one awful moment, Raine was sure Miss Love’s kindness would open a floodgate, releasing a veritable deluge of tears.
This trip to Cambria had come at a high emotional cost for her. For the first time in the entirety of her twenty-six-year existence, she’d stood up to her parents for something she wanted. What was so wrong with taking a few months to just be…to simply enjoy life before launching herself into the career she’d worked hard and long to achieve?
A position within the state forensics department was no small accomplishment, even as an apprentice. Raine was well aware that she was the envy of many of her classmates at California State University Los Angeles. But the job would be taxing and life-consuming. She’d be sacrificing her secret dream of having a home and family—even a real life outside her job. So she’d demanded this getaway to Cambria, in the face of her parents’ blatant disapproval.
That disapproval had weighed on her during the entire four-hour drive from Pasadena. Her father’s thunderous expression, along with her mother’s disappointed one as she drove away, left her feeling like a bad daughter and a horrible human being. They’d always been wonderful, supportive parents…didn’t she owe it to them to be a perfect daughter?
But she so desperately needed this time away, to be on her own for a time. No one telling her what to do, or what decisions she should make.
Miss Love’s warm, open-armed welcome, and a smile that said Raine wasn’t a terrible person comforted her to a ridiculous degree.
After all, the woman needed to welcome her tenants. Her pleasant demeanor was most likely good customer relations. That’s all Raine could possibly be to her—a young woman who had rented the upstairs apartment for the next three months. If she didn’t leave happy, the owner of this beautiful paradise in the Cambrian pines risked a bad review online. No, she shouldn’t take Miss Love’s sweet welcome too personally.

But she could enjoy it for the moment.

Writing Heaven’s touch into earthly tales, Delia Latham puts her characters through the fire of earthly trials to bring them out victorious by the hand of God, His heavenly messengers, and good, old-fashioned love. You’ll always find a touch of the divine in this author’s sweet tales of romance.
Delia lives in East Texas with her husband Johnny. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and author of inspirational romance…with a finger or two immersed in the design pool, where she creates beautiful marketing material for other authors. Delia treasures her role as child of the King and heir to the throne of God. She’s got a “thing” for Dr. Pepper and loves hearing from readers.
Contact this author at any of the following locations:

Amazon purchase link for Spring Raine, Paradise Pines Series, Book 1

Friday, 17 February 2017

Grace and the Rancher - Mary Alford

Grace Bradford is living a lie. To the world she has the perfect life: A promising country music career and a husband who adores her. But her husband isn't the man everyone believes him to be. When a car accident widows her and ends her career, Grace escapes to Delaney Mountain. But moving to the remote town doesn't wipe away the ugly secret of her marriage.Kyle Delaney never intended to return to Delaney Mountain, but he promises his dying father that he'll turn their land into a working cattle ranch. He uproots his life in Austin, sells his flourishing business as a music agent, and returns to the Colorado town of his childhood.Can a runaway singer and a makeshift rancher, thrust together by circumstance and held together by the common thread of loss and a love of music, find hope and a happily-ever-after under the stars of Delaney Mountain?


Grace Bradford cast a worried glance out the storefront window as snow continued to fall. “It’s really coming down out there.” 
Martha McDougal, the store owner, stopped to watch the winter wonderland unfolding outside. “The storm seems to be moving in earlier than was expected. I don’t like it. Let’s give it another hour, and if we don’t have any customers, we’ll close up shop. I sure don’t want you to get stuck down here.” 
Grace smiled at her friend’s consideration. When she’d first arrived in town eight months ago, widowed, injured, flat broke, and desperate to find a job and rebuild her life, Martha had accepted her. Grace had been such a wounded soul back then. Still, Martha hadn’t asked a single question. She’d simply given Grace a job and invited her to the small church on the edge of town. Grace had found a home. 
“We had a delivery yesterday, thank goodness, so there's plenty of food on hand. Derek put some of the stuff away during his shift yesterday, but I don’t expect him to be in today. Since I doubt we’ll have a customer, you might as well stock a few items. But I’m serious, Grace. If no one comes in soon, go home. When you get ready to leave, just lock up and go. I think I’ll head out before the storm shuts down the pass outside of town, and I can’t get home to Ed.”
Grace walked Martha to the door. “That’s a good idea. You have a lot farther to go than I do, and Ed will be worried. Be careful. I’ll call you when I’m leaving.”
“All right, hon. I’ll talk to you soon.” Martha hugged Grace then forced the door open against the blustering wind and slipped into the increasing snowstorm. 
Once Grace was certain Martha’s car would start, she closed the door and went to the back of the store. She brought out boxes of dry goods while keeping a close eye on the weather. By the end of the hour, she’d managed to shelve most of the stock. She turned up the radio and listened to the local weather report. 
“Most of the roads leading into town have closed already or will be closing soon. If you don’t have to be out today, then we suggest you stay home. We’re expecting up to three feet of fresh snow with the storm clearing out sometime tomorrow. This one’s going to be a bugger, folks.”
It was time definitely to call it quits. She picked up the items she needed, left a check in the register, and then called Martha. “I’m heading out now. I have everything put away. If I’m able, I’ll come in tomorrow to make up my time.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait out the storm at the store?” Martha asked. “It’s really coming down here. I’ve barely made it home.”
Although the thought was tempting, Grace just wanted to get home. Her dog, Lizzy, would be anxious in this weather. “Thanks, but I’ll be OK, and it’s only a few miles. I’ll see you soon.” She carried out her groceries then turned off the lights and locked up. But the farther she drove up Delaney Mountain, the more doubts she had. Maybe she should have stayed in town. 
Grace blew out a frightened sigh, and her breath chilled the air as she clutched the steering wheel. Her palms grew sweaty as the SUV slipped and slid on the icy road. 
She slowed to a crawl as ice and snow began to accumulate on the windshield, destroying visibility. She strained to see, her gaze locked on the road ahead, as the storm continued to intensify. 
She remembered another terrifying time less than a year earlier. The day her promising career had ended with the death of her husband. To the world, she and Nick had been one of Nashville’s up-and-coming couples. Grace knew nothing was further from the truth. That night more than her career had perished. Everything she believed to be real about her marriage and her husband died along with Nick. 
Just let go. Let God take it...
Father, please, help me let go of the hurt… 
Even today—even right now when she knew she should be focusing on the road and the weather— letting go was a next-to-impossible task. 
At times, Grace still woke up in the middle of the night and could feel the car crashing into the tree, could feel the excruciating pain of the steering wheel slamming into her throat as it damaged her vocal cords. She couldn’t scream or cry out for help. 
Grace shoved aside those dark thoughts and scrubbed a hand over weary eyes. She leaned forward. She could barely see the hood, much less the road. The conditions were worsening by the minute, and she had no idea how much farther the vehicle would go. She eased down on the gas pedal, and the tires spun, spewing icy debris against the underside of the SUV. 
The vehicle jerked forward as the tires caught. 
Grace whispered a thankful prayer. The road continued its upward climb as it snaked around the side of the mountain. Her heartbeat pounded a frantic rhythm as she reached another ninety degree bend. To her right was a sheer drop off. She wouldn’t survive the fall if the SUV went over. 
Grace gently nudged the steering wheel, at odds with her terror. She had almost reached another treacherous turn when the vehicle slid closer to the edge. She panicked and jerked the wheel in the opposite direction. The vehicle skated backward some twenty feet. The tires lost their tenuous grip and slithered closer to the drop-off. 
She floored the gas and the vehicle jerked forward, swerved sideways, and headed straight for the overhang. Grace screamed and tried to turn the wheel but it was useless. 

The Jeep didn’t react to anything. She had lost control. She closed her eyes. She didn’t want to die. Not when she’d just started to live again. ‚Please, Lord, no.‛ Grace barely got the words out before the Jeep hurled itself head first over the side of the mountain.  

Buy links: Amazon US     Amazon UK     Barnes and Noble

Mary’s Bio:
Mary grew up in a small Texas town famous for, well not much of anything really. Being the baby of the family and quite a bit younger than her two brothers and her sister, Mary had plenty of time to entertain herself. Making up stories seemed to come natural to her.
As a teen, Mary discovered Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt and knew instinctively that was what she wanted to do with her over-active imagination.
She wrote her first novel as a teen, (it’s tucked away somewhere never to see the light of day), but never really pursued her writing career seriously until a few years later, when she wrote her first inspirational romantic suspense and was hooked.
Today, Mary still lives in Texas, and still creates people facing dangerous situations. In fact, she can’t think of anything else she’d rather do.
Learn more about Mary at www.MaryAlford.net, or send her an email at maryjalfordauthor@gmail.com

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Beyond the Storm - Mary Manners


Recreational Therapist Ava Kennedy is in charge of Valentine’s Day festivities for shut-in patients at Honeysuckle Cove Children’s Hospital. When a winter storm threatens to derail planned events and steal the children’s joy, Ava calls on longtime friend and firefighter Nick Jones for rescue. The two have been close, platonic friends since kindergarten, but Ava soon finds her heart whirling like the drifting snowflakes outside her office window.

Nick Jones is skilled at extinguishing fires, so he doesn’t count on kindling a flame with lifelong friend Ava Kennedy. But he’s got a sweet spot for kids and women…especially when one particular woman—Ava—possesses a soft heart and laughter that draws like an electron magnet. Despite Nick’s valiant efforts to resist, he finds himself caught up in the attraction.

Will these friends’ new feelings weather the shifting tempest…or is this simply a passing storm?


Ava Kennedy paced Honeysuckle Cove Children’s Hospital’s fifth floor breakroom as she watched Channel 12 News run down the week’s forecast. Snow and more snow was on its way.
She grimaced. Not now…please.
“The weather’s not looking good, is it?” Tami crossed the room and slipped a dollar into a drink machine nestled in the corner. The petite pediatric nurse often recharged her energy with an afternoon caffeinated soda.
“No. Not at all.” Ava frowned as she used a remote to lower the TV’s volume. “And the worst of it looks like it’s going to hit on Saturday—same day the Valentine’s party is scheduled for the kids.”
“Ouch. That smarts.” Tami snagged her drink from the dispenser, snatched her lunch box from the community fridge, and slipped into a plastic chair at a round table near the window. “All the work you’ve done…the months of planning…it’s all in jeopardy.”
“It’s not my work I’m concerned about.” Ava sank into a seat across from Tami and glanced through an expanse of window glass to study the sky. The temperature that morning had felt mild and even now the heavens appeared a peaceful, angelic blue without so much as the slightest hint of clouds. Perhaps the meteorologist had miscalculated his snow forecast and the storm would skirt right past Honeysuckle Cove. She sighed as she sent up a silent prayer and returned her gaze to Tami. “It’s the kids I’m worried about. They’ll be crushed if the party has to be cancelled. Mr. Aster has already phoned me half-a-dozen times to remind me that he refuses to drive in heavy rain—let alone through a raging snowstorm.”
Mr. Aster was a hugely successful sixty-something local business owner with ageless energy and widely-acknowledged eccentricities. He also proved one of the most generous benefactors of Honeysuckle Cove Children’s Hospital. He’d lost a granddaughter in a snowboarding accident several years ago, and had recently helped to fund a state-of-the-art physical therapy wing in her memory. He had backed Ava’s suggestion of a holiday party for the shut-in kids on one condition—he and his wife wanted to play the lead roles of Mr. and Mrs. Cupid, complete with matching red velvet, heart-shaped sacks of toys filled with gifts for the children.
The costumes had been specially hand-crafted and the Asters had brought them by to show off to Ava. The matching set now hung in the small closet in her office, waiting to be worn. Posters had been plastered along the hospital corridors and on elevator doors, and the entire hospital staff had talked up the party with the kids who were undergoing long-term treatments. Those children would call the therapy wing home during the holiday. Even the local newspapers and TV stations had done their part to spread the word. Ava couldn’t let the kids and their families down.
“Yes, I’ve heard about Mr. Aster’s odd driving quirks.” Tami scooped hummus onto a cracker and took a nibble. “He’s a bit of a nervous Nellie since he and his wife got T-boned by that snow plow during last winter’s ice storm.”
“Luckily, no one was seriously injured. I can’t say I blame him for being a bit over-cautious. Even so…” Ava pouted. “I suppose it’s a moot point since Mrs. Aster has the flu. She couldn’t come near the children anyway. During his last phone call, Mr. Aster finally admitted they wouldn’t make the event. He told me to find someone to take both their places. But I’m not left with much time. When it rains, it pours.”
“More like when it flurries, it blizzards.” Tami giggled briefly at her own joke, until she realized from Ava’s daggered stare that she missed the humor in it. “I’m sorry, Ava.”
“Me, too. It’s too late to change our plans. And even if we could switch the event date, it would defeat the purpose of the party. It’s for the kids. On Valentine’s Day. While they’re shut in here. Away from family and friends.”
“Right. Well, that’s crummy.” Tami frowned. “You know I’d be more than happy to help with the festivities, but I drew the proverbial short straw this holiday so I’m pulling a double shift at the nurse’s station that day.”
“Oh, you’re sure to have your hands full doing that, especially with the storm bearing down.”
“Yes, but I’m settling in with double duty for a great cause.” She winked conspiratorially. “Fiona has a hot date. I think Isaac is going to pop The Big Question.”
Ava wasn’t surprised by this tidbit of news. Fiona, a pediatric nurse and Isaac, a fifth year resident had been dating for more than two years and proved the picture of love. Most of the hospital staff had been wagering on when the nuptials might occur.
“That’s exciting.” Ava was happy for them, yet she couldn’t help but feel a little pinprick of envy. Though she’d weathered her fair share of frogs, she had yet to find her prince charming. She feared she never would. “I hope their plans aren’t derailed by the storm.”
“Oh, I don’t think Old Man Winter himself could keep Isaac from sliding that engagement ring on Fiona’s finger. He’s been hinting about it for weeks now. She’s the one who’s been dragging her feet. She thinks he should finish his residency first.”
“Well, if they can manage to carry on through the storm then so can I.” Ava nodded with stiff determination. “Yes, it’s time to be proactive. I’m going to launch a backup plan.”
“Well, you are the planner extraordinaire so if anyone can pull it off, you can.” Tami’s laughter danced along the window glass. “But from the looks of that mess—” She motioned to the TV, where a snow-ridden 5-day forecast was plastered across the monitor “—you’re going to need to pull out every trick.”
“Right. So it’s imperative that I draft someone who has use of a four-wheel vehicle and exhibits mad driving skills in the snow.” Ava pulled a steno notepad and pen from her pocket. She flipped open the pad, quickly scrawled a few notes, and then paused to tap her chin with the pen as she considered further possibilities. “He’ll have to help me pick up toy donations the morning of the party—or possibly the evening before if the storm hits early. It would be a bonus if he’d also roll up his sleeves to help with last-minute decorations and lead a few of the activities. Mr. and Mrs. Aster had planned to spend the entire day here and I was really counting on their help.”
“That’s a tall order.” Tami polished off the last cracker and snapped shut the lid of the hummus. “Paul Bunyan sort of tall.”
“Perhaps…but not impossible.”
“Of course it’s not. Nothing’s impossible. But what about Cupid and his heart-shaped sack of toys? Will this Jack of all trades be able to take Mr. Aster’s place? And will you take Mrs. Aster’s place?”
“I can certainly fill in as far as Mrs. Aster goes, but Mr. Cupid…hmm, that’s the most important part.” Ava frowned thoughtfully. “Well, whoever agrees to help will just have to be a good sport when it comes to wearing the costume and handing out gifts. The kids have their hearts totally set on the visit, and I’m not going to let them down.”
“Speaking of Cupid, is that hunky firefighter friend of yours going to bring you lunch again today?”
“Hunky…firefighter?” Ava wracked her brain until a light finally dawned. “Oh, you mean Nick?”

“Yes…Mr. Tall, Dark and Blue-eyed. Emphasis on the blue eyes…and the hunky.” Tami popped the tab on her soda, drew a sip, and then fanned herself with dramatics worthy of an Oscar. “Yes, definitely hunky. He’s oh-so-easy on the eyes.”

My review:
Another page turner from Mary Manners, that doesn't make an early night possible. Based in a hospital during a severe storm, this story has a hunky firefighter and an adorable nurse as the main characters. Not to mention a very fetching outfit. (not saying who wears it... spoilers, don't ya know)