Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him.
Unfailing Love. That’s the title of Book 1 of my Isle of Hope series, and I am a mere 75 pages of editing away from sending it to my agent, so needless to say, I am VERY excited!
My sweet hubby is my very first beta reader, which means he’s the first one to see what I wrote. So I am incredibly relieved to report that when he read it this week, he was totally immersed in the saga of the O’Bryens and Carmichaels, close neighbors and friends for 25 years on Isle of Hope, Georgia. Now trust me, when a man who doesn’t read books at all turns NCIS off to burrow in his chair in order to read a romance novel he devours in four days, he’s either crazy in love with the author or completely captured by the story. Personally, I’m hoping it’s a lot of both, but either way—it drew him in like I hope and pray it will draw all of you. And the icing on the cake? He just told me last night that he wants to reread because he misses the characters. Score!
You know, for a guy, Keith is incredibly perceptive and has given me so many good suggestions, that I’m blown away—from correcting me on sports and car lingo to pointing out plot points that just didn’t quite gel with him. I’ll tell you what—the man’s a keeper!
And I hope you’ll think the first book in the Isle of Hope series is too. So because I have a ridiculously busy weekend and need to post something fast and furious today for my Journal Jots, I hope you don’t mind if I post an excerpt from the book at the end of this blog. And if you’ll notice that Jack #1 from last week won by a LANDSLIDE, which is sooo cool because his personality in a movie I saw recently — Something Borrowed — was quiet and sweet and very mature, except for his indecision, so I immediately saw him as Jack O’Bryen, my next hero.
Now I will warn you that this is the prologue where the heroine, Lacey Carmichael, is a good girl gone off track due to the influence of her wild cousin who moved to Isle of Hope in their senior year. She is promised to her boyfriend and next-door neighbor, Jack O’Bryen, a straight-and-narrow pastor’s kid who is leaving in the morning for his first year in seminary college. The scene is critical to the novel because it sets the groundwork for a reversal of roles eight years later when the story actually begins. Estranged from family and friends for eight years, Lacey finally returns to Isle of Hope as a brand-new Christian, hoping to make amends to the father she defied, the boyfriend she deserted, and the best friend she denied. Unfortunately, due to an adulterous affair by his pastor father, Jack has since turned his back on God, setting the scene for a turning of tables—and hearts—that leads the way back to “hope” for them all.
So, happy reading and happy weekend!
VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS FROM 2014 IN FAMILY FICTION MAGAZINE’S TOP-TEN POLL!!
Family Fiction Magazine wants to know the best books you have read this year, so make a list and post it in a comment at their link below. I don’t know about you, but when I read a great book, I like to shout it from the rooftops, so now you the chance to do just that. Just leave a comment with your favorite books read in 2014 — as many as you want — and that’s it! Have fun!
VALENTINE’S DAY IS COMING … AND SO IS A FREE DOWNLOAD ON A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW!!
My Irish love story, A Light in the Window—winner of three awards—will be free the week before Valentine’s Day, so do check it out. Here’s the video my hubby did for A Light in the Window with my daughter as the model for both the book and video, so take a peek. ALITW Video.
NEW RELEASE COMING …
COMING SPRING 2015 … a novella about Blake “The Rake McClare” from the Heart of San Francisco series, so check back for when and where.
FREEBIES AND SALES!!
SALES ON THE FINAL BOOKS IN O’CONNOR FAMILY SAGA!! HUGE savings on A Hope Undaunted, Heart Revealed & A Love Surrendered!!
FREE Download of
A Passion Most Pure!
ACFW Debut Book of the Year & over 614 5-star reviews can’t be wrong! See why some have read it 20 times!
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him.
Isle of Hope, Georgia, Summer 2006
“Come on, Jack, I dare you.”
Jack O’Bryen stared at the black, undulating Skidaway River where his girlfriend Lacey Carmichael had just cannonballed in the dark and expelled a heavy sigh. Shaking his head, he watched the ripples of her wake, shimmering in the moonlight like tease always did in her near-violet eyes.
She shot up out of the water like a tow-headed sea nymph, water sluicing down gentle curves of her T-shirt that tempted way more than they should. Her chuckle was husky and low as she paddled in place, the sultry sound floating toward him like the mist on the water, hazing his mind, clouding his will. “This is our last night before you leave for that stuffy seminary,” she said with a toss of her head, “come on, Jack—let’s make a memory to keep us warm while you’re gone.” With a scrunch of her nose, she wiggled in the water and shot him a pixie grin that came off devil may care.
Devil may care. Jack grunted. That certainly nailed it to the wall. The edge of his mouth jagged up. With a freakin’ nail gun. He cocked a hip and sighed, tunneling fingers through his shaggy wind-blown hair. Ever since he’d gotten home from school in May, Lacey had been different—wilder, crazier, as if hungry for a lifestyle forbidden by a strict father with whom she’d never seen eye-to-eye. From honor-roll choirgirl to temptress in the blink of a semester. Sure, Jack knew she’d always had a streak of the rebel—she’d been his sister’s best friend forever, after all. But he just assumed graduation and turning eighteen would soften the edges. Help her settle down and become what he always hoped she would be—a pastor’s wife.
“Uh-oh, you’re doing that grinding thing with your mouth again—which means you’re way too tense.” She tipped her head, batting water-spiked lashes in that playful way that always breached his defenses. “Why not cut loose with a warm moonlight swim?”
Yeah, that’s exactly what he was afraid of—warm moonlight, warm water.
Exhaling a reedy thread of air, he latched his thumbs in the pockets of his paint-stained cut-offs and slacked a hip, his tone that of a responsible and well-grounded pastor’s kid hoping to heed the call on his life. The one from God and not the vamp in the water. “Come on, Lace, you know that’s not smart.”
“I don’t know anything of the sort, Jack O’Bryen,” she said with a hint of that little-girl hurt in her tone, his first clue that she’d butted heads with her father again. “Nicki always says you’re still living in the Dark Ages, Brye, and I agree. Skinny-dipping is no big deal.”
No big deal? A would-be pastor diving into danger? Jack exhaled a noisy sigh, expelling his frustration in one long, ragged breath that shuddered his body. Talk about temptation in the flesh.
A malaise seemed to settle over her like a morning fog on the river, dousing the sparkle in her eyes. “Besides, I love you, Jack,” she whispered, “and I need to feel close to you tonight.”
“Aw, Lace …” He shifted on the dock, his defenses slipping as always when Lacey was in one of her hurt and needy moods. A neediness usually triggered by a fight with her father, a man who treated her like dirt, crippling her confidence, both as a person and as a woman. Jack’s jaw hardened to rock. Not to mention Jack’s relationship with her as well, when Lacey’s wounded heart needed more love than he was able to give. He squatted to extend a hand. “Come on, babe, let me cuddle you in the chair.”
Like a chameleon, her mood changed in the space of a splash. Dipping her head in the water, she flung her hair back with a daredevil look in her eye. “I’d rather cuddle in the water, Pastor O’Bryen. You know, two bodies afloat in a sea of love?”
He stood and slacked a leg in a casual stance, hands perched loose on his hips with a crack of a smile. “Sorry, kiddo,” he said, hoping to tease her out of it, “but I’d sink like a 50-lb. anchor in that so-called sea of love.”
She resorted to a jut of her lower lip, employing that sad-eyed pout that always took him down. “Come on, Jack, you’re leaving me for a long, long time. The least you can do is give me a memory to seal our love.”
He couldn’t help it—he shook his head and grinned, thinking Lacey Anne Carmichael had to be the cutest, little thing on the Isle of Hope and absolutely everything Jack had ever wanted. Intelligent, warm, and brimming with life and fun and adventure, the perfect complement to his serious and sensible self. Half tomboy, half vamp, she was an adorable little brat in a woman’s body whose heart had always beat in time with his own. A best friend as deep as the Skidaway River who sparkled and shined on the surface with a sense of humor that made him laugh.
Until now. He folded his arms, his smile taking a slant. “I thought that’s what the promise ring was for—to ‘seal our love.’”
She splashed away to float on her back, gaze pinched as she extended her hand to stare at the pledge of his love, a speck of diamond barely bigger than a grain of sand on the shore. “It’s a start, Brye, but sometimes I need just a little more …” With the slosh of a kick, she disappeared for several seconds before breaking the surface in a spray of seawater, yanking her T-shirt off to wave it in the air. “Like an uninhibited moonlight swim, for instance?” Her eyes glowed with mischief when the sopping material landed with a splat at his feet.
He lowered his voice several octaves, his tone considerably cooler than the blood pumping through his veins. “Come on, Lace—you know how I feel about that.” Bending over to pick it up, his fingers tingled at the touch of her well-worn T-shirt, so gossamer thin, it barely obscured the skimpy suit that she wore. The one that had driven him crazy all day. With a hard swallow, he tossed it back, ignoring the throb of heat that shot straight to his gut. “Put it back on, and I’ll take you to Cold Stone for a Oreo Overload.”
She cocked her head, tying the stretchy T-shirt on top of matted white blonde hair like a bonnet. “Mmmm … no go on skinny-dipping, but bribery’s an option?” Eyes twinkling she hiked her chin to address him in a stern manner that reminded him of an old-fashioned schoolmarm. “Don’t look now, Pastor O’Bryen, but I believe your moral tenets are at odds.”
Jack exhaled. Yeah? You should see my head and my heart. “Look, Lace, I want to do …” He stalled with an impatient flick of his fingers, determined to come up with a harmless word that wouldn’t trigger her hormones. “Whatever … as much as you do—”
“No you don’t,” she said with a purse of her lips that came off more as a pout. “Your idea of ‘whatever,’ Jack O’Bryen, is a couple of heated kisses in the car and ‘see you later.’” She slid the T-shirt off her head, all humor fading from her eyes. “It’s not natural,” she whispered, “and I need more.”
He chafed, biting back a rare curse that just itched to fly free. Did she not realize how hard it was to keep his hands off her? The restraint it took to say no when everybody else was hooking up with whomever, whenever? That he cared about her too much to take it for free? Huffing out a noisy breath, he gouged the socket of his eye with the heel of his hand, wishing Lacey’s cousin Nicki had never moved to Isle of Hope. A transfer from L.A. in Lacey’s senior year, Nicki was a bad influence who was nothing but trouble, and now Lacey seemed to be heading that way too. The girl with the heart of gold—who gave of herself and her summers to mission trips to Haiti, the Special Olympics, or as camp counselor to handicapped kids. His chest tightened. Now she wanted to give herself to him. He sucked in a sharp breath, the smell of fish and loam filling his lungs while he stared at the girl he loved despite himself—and her. “So do I, Lace,” he said quietly, “which is why I want to wait—I want to give you everything I’ve got, including God’s blessings because we did it the right way.”
“The right way for you, you mean,” she said in a dull tone that told him she didn’t agree anymore, even though she had at one time. His stomach buckled when her lower lip began to quiver, the sobriety in her face chilling his skin. “I’m not sure I can marry someone who’s not attracted to me, Jack.”
His groan carried over the water. “For crying out loud, Lace, I’m so freakin’ attracted to you I spend half my life in the shower, freezing my butt off.”
“Prove it,” she whispered, and the dare was back—defying him to say no. She hurled the T-shirt back and started to swim away from the shallow shore, out into the deep where river currents could too easily steal you away.
“This isn’t funny, Lace!” His temper quivered along with his body, a razor’s edge away from chucking his scruples and diving in. With his topsiders all but fused to the weathered dock, he forced his will to comply with a step back and then another. “Okay, that’s it,” he called, “I’m outta here. When you’re ready to stop all this seduction garbage, you let me know.” Stalking up the ramp, he shot a final glance over his shoulder and stopped, squinting hard to spot her in the moonlit water. His gut clenched when he didn’t see her, and sprinting back, he stood at the edge of the dock and waited, scanning the languid roll of the river, inky waters dappled only by moonlight. “Mike, this isn’t funny!” he finally called, employing the nickname he used whenever his emotions were high, the one that always signaled he meant business. His breathing was harsh through the clench of his teeth. He paused, straining to listen, but all he could hear was the rush of blood in his ears. “Lacey!” It came out hoarse and cracked, barely able to scrape past the lump of fear in his throat. “Where the freak are you?”
The river rippled quietly on, nothing but the squeak of the dock, the lap of the water, and the taunt of tree frogs and crickets.
Tearing his T-shirt over his head, he kicked his deck shoes off and dove in, eyes wide to peer beneath the murky depths before he shot up from the water, panic pounding in his chest. “Lacey!” Fear slithered in his mind like algae in the river as he pummeled the waves like a madman, arms pumping as fast as his heart while intermittently shouting her name. God, please …
He jerked in the water, the feel of hands circling from behind unleashing a spasm of both relief and rage. His curse hissed in the air as he spun around. “So help me, Mi—”
She cut him off with a kiss. “Come on, Jack,” she said with a husky giggle, “if a future minister can swear, surely he can go for a moonlight swim with his almost fiancee, can’t he?” She lunged to kiss him again, and he groaned, the press of her body against his a jolting reminder that nothing more than a thin T-shirt and skimpy suit separated his skin from hers.
With a hard shake, he held her at bay, his breathing shallow and fast. “Lacey, I do love you,” he shouted, “but please—I can’t handle this, so if you love me, stop torturing me this way.”
All tease withered away as she stared at him with hurt in her eyes, and he wondered why he was the one who had to feel guilty. “All right, Jack,” she whispered with a frail release of air, allowing him to tug her back toward the dock. When they reached the shallower water, she looped her arms around his neck, face forlorn as he she blinked up. “I’m sorry for being such a brat, it’s just that …” The muscles in her throat convulsed as a mist of tears sprang to her eyes. “Daddy and I had a horrendous fight tonight—the worst ever. He … he said the most vile things imaginable, Jack, and even threatened to kick me out, so I guess I’m feeling like I need to be close to you, you know? Like I need to know that you love me.”
“Aw, Lace, why didn’t tell me sooner?” He brushed wet strands of hair away from her face, his touch tender as he grazed her jaw with his thumb. “Of course I love you, you know that,” he whispered, wishing he could marry her now so he could love her the way that he craved.
Her chest rose and fell. “Usually I do,” she said quietly, but I guess I just need to hear it right now more than usual, you know—and maybe feel it a bit more …?”
He pulled her close to rest his head on top of hers, exhaling his surrender. He paused, his gaze trailing to the blue lights of the marina that blinked on and off like warning signs in his mind. “Okay,” he said softly, “how ‘bout I uncover my dad’s dory and hold you while we float?”
“Oh, Jack, could we?” She lashed away, eyes lit up like one of Uncle Joe’s gigging lights.
He grinned. “Sure.” He tapped her nose, then tucked a finger to her chin, giving her his best ministerial scowl. “But fully clothed, young lady—both swimsuit and T-shirt firmly in place, and no monkey business, all right?”
She splashed into his arms, almost sinking them both. “Oh, Jack, I love you!” she said with a giggle that softened his heart. Lunging, she took him by surprise with a lip-lock that coiled heat in his belly, making him wish the water was a whole lot colder than it was.
“I know, babe, and I love you too,” he whispered against her hair, his body thrumming from her kiss.
More than you’ll ever know.