“Holiness is not a question of purity overcoming passion,

But of transforming passion into purity’s service.”

Seeking the Face of God, by Gary Thomas

I did it!! I didn’t think I would, but I did, and all because of the faithful prayers of good friends like many of you, so THANK YOU!!

What did I do? I finished book 2 in “The Heart of San Francisco” series, working title Dare to Love (still waiting on final title, but I’m hoping Revell picks Love at Any Risk) just in the “Nick” (the hero’s name) of time!

Not only is this series a departure for me from my prior “O’Connor” series in being shorter, sweeter, simpler, less passionate, and less complicated, but this particular book is also a departure in that it’s funnier (I hope!) than my other books, making it a light read for the most part, with a lot less nail-biting drama. True, there’s no jaw-dropping surprise in this one, which does bothers me a wee bit, but makes sense because it’s more of a fun read rather than high drama.

Despite the lack of a shocker surprise that my books usually include, this is actually one of my favorite type of novels to write—where the hero and heroine butt heads A LOT, a la Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in McClintock (or Charity and Mitch in A Passion Redeemed). Which is why I proposed a cover with a side view of a girl in a beautiful Gibson-Girl hairstyle and dress holding a string of boxing gloves over her shoulder. I don’t think Revell will use that suggestion, but you get the idea.

So … what does this have to do with today’s quote? Well, the moment I read the quote above in one of my devotionals this week, I was struck by how it not only applied to me (and each one of us, I’m sure), but also to my heroine Allison McClare. You see, I love this quote because it takes the burden off of me to sweat and strive to be more like Christ, and places the emphasis on deepening my relationship with God instead, allowing my love and passion to be the impetus in my quest to be holy. Not unlike the difference between a small child obeying because he wants to please the parent he loves rather than because he’s afraid of a spanking.

“Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16, a task accomplished far easier with passion for Him. Just like my heroine Allison McClare learns to love in a deeper capacity by channeling all of her passion (her anger and bitterness over betrayal at the hand of men) into her passion for God via forgiving and praying for those men who have hurt her, so can each of us channel our passions, whatever they may be, into Him and His precepts. Which is exactly what both of my heroines—Allison McClare and her mother, Caitlyn—learn do in this book, assuring them a happy ending, which, of course, means a happy ending for you, the reader, as well.

So to celebrate the finish of my 9th book, I thought it’d be fun to show you the first two pages of Love at Any Risk (2nd working title), which lights the fuse for a love story with fireworks galore, matching the wits and tempers of crotchety, hot-blooded Italian police detective Nick Barone and a sweet and sassy drama queen named Allison McClare, a socialite burned by love three times who butts heads and hearts with a jaded cop burned by the upper class.



Chapter One

San Francisco, Summer 1903

Merciful Providence … I smell a rat. Allison McClare sniffed, eyes in a squint and nose in the air, the unmistakable scent of Bay Rum drifting in her empty classroom of the Hand of Hope School. Although not an uncommon thing for an antiquated Victorian just a stone’s throw from the sewers and littered alleys of the notorious Barbary Coast, this smell of “rat” was altogether different and far more frightening. Allison wrinkled her nose.

The man kind.

With a keen sense of smell that boggled her family’s mind, Allison wished she could sniff out man rats as easily because heaven knows her heart didn’t have a clue, not after three near misses at the altar. She drew in another deep breath, hoping the salty scent of the sea and the heady fragrance of Mother’s tea roses breezing in the window would prove her wrong, confirming no rats were in the vicinity. She grunted, pinning another paper-mache flower to her bulletin board.

At least, not the two-legged kind.

“I think you took a wrong turn, lady, high tea is at The Palace.”

Body jolting, Allison whirled around, almost inhaling the straight pin lodged in her teeth. She blinked at a tall, disgruntled stranger cocked in the door of her classroom who might have been dangerously attractive if not for the scowl on his face. An unruly strand of dark hair, almost black—like his mood appeared to be—toppled over his forehead, peeking out beneath a dark Homburg he obviously felt no courtesy to remove. He hiked a thumb over his shoulder toward the front door, his gruff voice a near snarl as he glared through gray-green eyes that seemed to darken by the moment, the color of stormy seas. “I assume that’s your fancy car and driver out front? Well you need to move it to the back of the building pronto, lady, whether you’re here to teach or just out slumming with the poor folks.”

The straight pin in her teeth dropped to the floor along with her jaw as she gaped, hardly able to comprehend the rudeness of this Neanderthal who would be better attired in a bearskin and club than the charcoal suit coat draped over his shoulder. Rolled sleeves of what might have been a crisp white shirt at one time revealed muscled forearms thick with dark hair like the brainless caveman he appeared to be. His fashionable silk vest hung open—like his mouth—gaping wide across a formidable chest. It was only half past two in the afternoon, but already dark bristle shadowed his hard-angled jaw, lending an ominous air to a man who possessed less charm than found on the head of her pin. And a head just as pointed. Her nose scrunched again, the smell of “rat” surprisingly strong. She took in the high starched collar with an off-center four-in-hand tie as if he had loosened it in protest to fashionable attire he considered a noose ‘round his neck. Alli’s lips squirmed. Like the one I’m envisioning now …

He squinted as if she were the intruder instead of him, daring to invade his cave. “What, cat got your tongue?”

Yes, you pinhead … a polecat. She glared right back in silence, figuring if she waited long enough, his face would crack … something she’d pay good money to see. She almost wished she’d left with Mother and Cassie hours earlier instead of attempting to stay later on a Friday the week before they opened their new Hand of Hope School. Her gaze flicked to the clock on the wall that indicated her elderly driver Hadley was more than on time to take her back home. And not a moment too soon, she thought with a purse of her lips, if her encounter with this nitwit was any indication of the rest of her day.

Her silence apparently ruffled his fur because his eyes narrowed, if possible, even more than before as he blasted out a noisy exhale, shaking his head as if she were the one with a pea for a brain. “Great—a rich dame as dumb as she is lost,” he muttered under his breath, and every word his insolence had stolen from her lips marched to the tip of her tongue to do battle.

“Pardon me, Mr. Personality,” she said in a clipped tone that suggested he’d just crawled out from under a rock, “but the one who is lost here, you cave dweller, is you, so I suggest you lumber back to whatever cavern you climbed out of and search for the manners you obviously left behind.” In a royal swoop befitting the new drama teacher of the Hand of Hope School for Girls, she snatched the dropped pin from the floor with a swish of pink taffeta, jabbing it into the bulletin board as if it were the backside of this unsavory baboon and every other who’d ever broken her heart. Before the baboon could speak—or grunt—she whirled around with a flourish, satisfied to see a sagging jaw that likely resembled the mouth of his cave. She’d obviously rendered the beast dumb. Good—a perfect match for his brain.