One Woman. Two Men.

One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.

But who will win her heart?

A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story

By Julie Lessman

WOW, what a week!! First … I finished book 1 of The Cousins McClare, Dare to Dream, and am now awaiting feedback from my husband and a dear friend. So far, Keith loves it and says every time he opens the binder, he feels like he freefalls into 1902 San Francisco with the salty smell of the sea and the clang of trolleys, so that’s a good thing, right?

Secondly, I have been able to sit downstairs on my lower deck and write for FOUR days this week—in the middle of January, no less!!! I’m not sure if you know anything about St. Louis weather, but the average low temperature for January is 21 and the average high, 37. Of course, I am bundled to the teeth in a jacket and cozy-warm blanket (thank you, Gabe!!) and drinking my beloved cinnamon hazelnut coffee (thank you, Joetta!!), but just to be outside with blindingly blue skies and my laptop is sheer heaven.

And, speaking of heaven … yep, that’s where I’ve been all week long! You see, I started writing Marcy and Patrick O’Connor’s prequel this week, A Light in the Window, and let me tell you—I haven’t been this giddy or excited about a book since I wrote A Passion Redeemed. Because I have a soft spot for Charity and Mitch, that book SO enthralled me that it literally wrote itself in two months, and that’s with me working part-time at my day job! But this story—the love triangle between Patrick, Marcy and San O’Rourke—has stolen my heart completely … not unlike Sam with Marcy’s! So my goal is to write this book in three months, which I honestly do not think will be a problem since I can’t seem to pull myself away from the computer … 🙂 

Anyway, because I am SO excited about this venture, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at it too, along with these images I have in mind for Marcy and Patrick. Here’s the story in a nutshell:

A Light in the Window is the prequel love story of Marcy and Patrick O’Connor whose discovery of each other is as turbulent as the era in which it takes place. The year is 1894, and following a decade of explosive industrial growth and immigration that Mark Twain called America’s “Gilded Age,” the nation plummets into the worst economic depression up to that time.

Marceline Murphy and her best friend Julie O’Rourke have been selected to assist Sister Mary Frances with the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen. The play is called A Light in the Window, based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve through Epiphany (Jan. 6) to welcome strangers as if welcoming the Holy Family. The novel itself ends on January 6th when Marcy has an “epiphany” of her own.

Patrick O’Connor and Sam O’Rourke are best friends who enjoy competing for the hearts of starry-eyed Southie lasses. When they’re caught drinking the unconsecrated sacristy wine in the confessional, Father Fitzsimmons metes out a punishment of endless hours devoted to building scenery for the Christmas play and working in the soup kitchen. It’s here where both men vie for Marcy’s affection, and although it’s Sam who wins her heart, it’s Patrick who loses his to the soft-spoken beauty who clearly only wants to be friends.

When Marcy’s grandmother Mima arrives for Christmas, Marcy tells her about The Light in the Window play as well as the charming Sam O’Rourke who has put a light in her eyes. Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the “light in the window,” meaning the message of Christ in her heart. Marcy is troubled because although Sam professes his love, his actions often speak otherwise. When a transient from the soup kitchen steals the play funds entrusted to Marcy, Marcy is devastated and racked with guilt. But in an O’Henry-style “Gift of the Magi” twist, she soon discovers that although two men have professed their undying love for her, only one has responded to “the light in the window.”

SOOOO … what do you think? And because today’s Journal Jot wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse at a scene or two, here is a peek at the opening page:

I will not throw up … I will not throw up … Seventeen-year-old Marceline Murphy set her overnight case on the O’Rourke’s wraparound porch and pressed a quivering finger to the brass doorbell, a battalion of butterflies barnstorming in her stomach. The last time she’d been this nervous was when she’d frozen on the top limb of a massive pine tree in the backyard of her best friend Julie O’Rourke at the age of eleven. The memory of Julie’s older brother, Sam, climbing up to rescue her made her hands sweat even now, his body close behind as he helped her down, limb by limb. At the bottom he’d tugged on her pigtail with that dimpled grin that had always fluttered her pulse. “Best keep your feet on the ground and your nose in a book, Marceline Murphy,” he’d whispered in her ear. “You’ll want to stay far away from danger.”

Danger, yes. Marcy swallowed hard.

Heights and Sam O’Rourke—two things that made her dizzy.

FINALLY … here is a tiny glimpse at part of a scene I love between Patrick, Sam and the parish priest who catches these newly graduated “bad boys” drinking the unconsecrated sacristy wine in a confessional. Their penance? To spend all of their free time working in the soup kitchen and building scenery for the Christmas fundraiser play:

“And if we won’t do it?” Sam said, a glint of challenge to his tone.

Father Fitz studied Sam with a firm tilt of his head, a faint shift of a jaw that Patrick recognized all too well from countless hours of detention with a man few students defied. “You know, it’s a curious thing, Sam—your parents have been after me to come to dinner for months now, so perhaps I should come next week, imparting some information that just may batten your hatches a wee bit.”

Patrick’s stomach took a dive. Great. Another knock-down, drag-out with Pop …

“I think I may just chance it, Father,” Sam said, the dark stubble on his jaw as menacing as the stubborn gleam in his eye. “I can live without my parent’s approval.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. O’Rourke, but the question remains—can you live without money?”

Sam blinked. “Pardon me?”

A faint smile played at the edge of the priest’s mouth, compressed like his jaw in a battle of wills. “Money, Mr. O’Rourke. You know, remuneration for a job well done that allows you to buy a round a drinks at the corner pub, dazzle a pretty girl with an ice-cream soda or purchase the proper clothes befitting the neighborhood rogue?”

The blood drained from Patrick’s face as quickly as it did from Sam’s.

“Yes, well, you see, gentlemen,” Father Fitz continued in a tone as a matter of fact as his smile, “a priest has friends in high places over and above the Almighty, you know, at let’s say, The Boston Herald?”

Patrick’s eyes lumbered closed, the lump in his throat as tight as the noose Father Fitz was tossing around their necks. Both he and Sam needed their jobs at the Herald if Patrick was going to go to night school and Sam was going to rise to management.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever told you boys, but Arthur Hennessey and I go way back.” Father Fitz nodded with a faint smile, his eyes trailing into what apparently was a fond trip down Memory Lane. “Actually played ball together on the parish league, if you can imagine that.” He snapped out of his reverie, his smile brightening considerably. “Of course that was long before he took over as CEO of the Herald, you understand, although I have to admit, nobody tossed a meaner knuckleball.”

Patrick stifled a groan. Except you, Father Fitz …

“So … “ Patrick jolted when the priest clapped his hands. “I look forward to seeing you gentlemen at the fundraiser meeting next week, where you’ll learn all about just why absconding with the sacristy wine is not a good idea.”

“This is blackmail, Father,” Sam said with a scowl.

Father Fitz blinked, a wedge popping at the bridge of his nose. “Yes, I suppose it is, Samuel …” He quickly dismissed his concern with a wave of a hand, his smile veering into dazzling. “Well, no never mind,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders, “I’m on good terms with the Man upstairs—I’ll just absolve myself.”

And there you go—what I will be working on the next few months, so say one for me, okay? Hope you enjoyed these brief glimpses as much as I enjoyed writing them. Till next week, Happy Weekend!