7:01AM

Friday, June 23, 2017

Contest at Bottom of Blog

"You should be kissed and often

 and by someone who knows how."

—Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind

Ah, kisses ... for a romance writer and reader, I ask you ... is there anything better?

Well, not for me! ;)

Free Download on Isle of Hope!

And so ... in honor of NATIONAL KISSING DAY (today, June 23, 2017) AND in honor of my upcoming release of book 3, His Steadfast Love, book 1 in the Isle of Hope series, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love, will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD for five days only -- June 23-June 27 -- so if you know anyone who hasn't read it yet, PLEASE let them know, okay?

After June 27, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love will go on sale for 99 cents through August 10.Here's the blurb:

Can a wild girl

gone good

rebuild bridges with

a good boy

gone bad?

She’s the girlfriend serving up temptation. He’s the pastor’s kid bent on serving God. Till tragedy separates them for eight long years.

Now she’s a woman of faith, back to make amends to the father she defied, the boyfriend she deserted, and the best friend she betrayed. But can a turning of tables—and hearts—lead the way back to “hope” for them all?


 Almost 50% off Book 2!

Yes, you read that right. In honor of my upcoming release of His Steadfast Love, book 2 is also on sale, so now's your chance to catch up before book 3. Love Everlasting has a 5-star rating on Amazon with 90 reviews, so here's the blurb:

HUNK OF HEARTACHE VS. SWEET & SHY

School teacher by day, ghostwriter by night, sweet and shy Shannon O’Bryen doesn’t mind writing romance on the sly, but to live it? No, thank you, not since the man she loved turned out to be a player who broke both her heart and her spirit. Now focused more on her faith and her fiction, she vows the next time she falls in love, it will be safely—through the pages of a book.

Dr. Sam Cunningham is a charismatic player who breaks hearts as regularly as he washes his pearl-white Corvette. Abandoned as a young child, Sam was an orphan shuffled through the foster-care system, bitterly driven to prove he is worthy of love—the kind that lasts forever. Once he learns Shannon is a romance writer, he enlists her help in winning back his ex-girlfriend. She teaches him about faith and the true definition of love, and he soon discovers he’s been seeking it in the wrong place all along—and with the wrong girl. But can he convince a woman who's been burned by love to open her eyes—and her heart—to a love everlasting?

 

His Steadfast Love, Pre-Order Now!

Book 3 in my Isle of Hope Series, His Steadfast Love, is finally available for PRE-ORDER! Cat's and Chase's love story releases August 1st in e-book and later this fall in paperback, so here's the blurb:

She’s bent on fun.

He’s bent on faith.

Till true love

bridges the gap.

Cat O’Bryen is a prodigal daughter unhappy with God. First, her father with whom she reconciled dies of cancer and now her twin sister and best friend marries, leaving Cat at home with a newlywed mother, her new husband, and a little brother. But when Cat moves in with a roommate of questionable morals, her family is worried, certain she’s on a path that could damage her faith forever.

Reluctant to get involved with a woman like the one who destroyed his life, ex-Navy SEAL Pastor Chase Griffin steers clear of the attraction he feels for Cat O’Bryen. Until her family begs him to take her under his wing, hoping he can draw her back into the fold. But when the draw she has on him proves too strong to resist, he must rely on the strength of God to offer friendship instead. A friendship that is hopefully as steady and strong as the God whose love is wooing her home.

PRE-ORDER HERE!

 

New Contest!

To celebrate my new release, I am running a contest where you can win ALL of the following:

— A character named after you (or a loved one) in both e-book & paperback of His Steadfast Love.

— A signed copy

— Your choice of $50 Amazon gift card OR box of 10 gently used & recent books by top authors like Rachel Hauck, Denise Hunter, Becky Wade, Beth Vogt, and more!

You'll find the Rafflecopter contest box at the bottom of today's blog AFTER the excerpt for the first chapter of His Steadfast Love.

  
 

1st Chapter of His Steadfast Love

The winds of change are blowing … and it’s a category five.

Catherine “Cat” O’Bryen plopped her chin in her hand on the linen-clad table, grateful for the low lighting of the candlelit ballroom while she battled another onslaught of tears. Discreetly swiping at the wetness, she watched as her twin sister danced with her new husband, Dr. Sam Carmichael, who held Shannon close as if she were a priceless treasure. And she is, Cat thought with a sniff, a mix of both gratitude and mourning instantly welling in her eyes. A treasure I’ve lost forever.

As if oblivious to anyone else on the crowded dance floor of the Savannah Marriott Riverwalk hotel, the couple moved as one, and Cat wondered how she could feel such pain on the heels of so much joy. She would give her life for her twin, and now she had the chance. To let go of her other half—the best part of herself—and wish her sister well.

Shannon’s new “other half” was now a man who drew every woman’s eye, but he only had eyes for her sister, and at that exact moment, Cat knew beyond a shadow of a doubt there was a God. Because if anybody deserved a happily ever after, it was Shannon, one of the kindest, most loving human beings on the planet.

Unlike me.

“Hey, Cat, wanna dance?”

She jolted from her thoughts to blink up at Jordan Murphy, one of the guys from the Hope Church volleyball league who had asked her out several times. He was nice enough, she supposed, and cute, too, but it was the same old story with the guys at Hope Church—too nice and too spiritual.

“Come on.” He extended his hand, eyes warm with sympathy. “It’ll do you good.”

Heat scorched her cheeks when she realized her face was slick with tears, effectively announcing to the world she was the pathetic little twin who was now all alone. Slapping at her damp eyes, she managed a smile, tempted to blow out the stupid candle so she could hide away in the dark. The dark? She suppressed a grunt. Already there. She valiantly kicked the smile up a notch. “Actually, Jordan, would you mind saving me a dance for later? I think I need to visit the little girls’ room.” She offered a conciliatory shrug. “What can I say—I’m a sap for weddings.”

 He studied her as if trying to decipher the truth of her statement before he delivered a smile. “Sure thing, Cat. Catch you later.” Hands in his pockets, he sauntered back to his table, relieving Cat considerably when he asked one of the other girls from the volleyball team to dance.

Reaching for the silver clutch that matched her six-inch heels, Cat rose and smoothed out her lavender halter bridesmaid dress, desperate to hide her grief over the loss of her sister. Shoulders back and head high, she quickly upended the rest of her champagne, smuggled in from the lobby bar in lieu of the sparkling white grape juice provided. She seldom drank anything stronger than Diet Dr. Pepper, not with a mother who abhorred alcohol, but she knew she’d need emotional sustenance to get through the night without breaking down.  She stifled a grunt as she swiped moisture from her eyes.

Yeah, so much for that. 

Clunking the glass back down, her gaze snagged on Shannon’s bridal bouquet. More saltwater welled as she fondled one of its rose petals, her lips trembling into a watery smile. Yes, she’d caught the bouquet tonight—blatantly tossed to her by her sister—but she wondered if she would ever really find a love of her own.

She pushed in her chair, thinking for the hundredth time that life would be so much easier if her once-strong faith hadn’t been so damaged by her father’s affair and subsequent death. Like Shannon and Lacey often claimed, Cat could probably have her pick of guys at Hope Church—including Chase Griffin, the hot associate pastor—but she was still far too angry at a God who had already let her down twice.

With a practiced smile, she circled the head table as carefully as possible in six-inch stilettos and after two glasses of champagne, so very grateful she had a rare moment alone. The rest of the wedding party danced to the sounds of “Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath, including her designated groomsman—a friend of Sam’s who was dancing with his wife. It was certainly a song that fit for most of her family, she thought as she made her way to the restroom. But not for her. Out on the floor, her mother glowed in the arms of her new husband, Dr. Ben Carmichael, while the two of them danced and chatted with Cat’s brother Jack and his wife, Lacey, all people she loved and was truly happy for.

Anxious to avoid their attention, Cat hurried from the room and down the hall to the hotel lobby en route to the ladies room furthest away from the ballroom. She sure didn’t need more sympathy from well-meaning family or friends to soothe the sadness of the “unlovable twin.” And that’s exactly how she saw herself these days, at least since she’d been abandoned by both her father and God.

Tossing a look over her shoulder to make sure Chase Griffin was nowhere in sight, she blinked hard several times to keep tears at bay until she could find sanctuary in the bathroom. As their friend and associate pastor who had married Shannon and Sam, Chase had danced almost every dance with Cat, attentive to a fault. Her smile went flat. Either because Shan begged him to or because he felt sorry for her, and probably both.

She cut loose with another heavy sigh. If the man wasn’t as straitlaced as he was gorgeous, she would have reveled in his attention. But all she saw in those sexy eyes was a quiet empathy, like she was some lost little soul, and somehow, it always managed to tick her off. Just because she wasn’t into religion like the rest of her family didn’t mean he had to feel sorry for her. And right now, it felt like a double whammy—the awful malaise over losing Shan joining forces with Chase’s pity to take her down, aching till she thought she couldn’t breathe.

“Not unlike these silly shoes,” she muttered, wishing she hadn’t bought them. Never in her life had she worn anything higher than a four-inch heel. But how hard could a few extra inches be for a very athletic woman? Besides, at the time, she’d figured she’d need some boost of confidence as the spinster twin at her sister’s wedding. She winced when her ankle tipped off-center. Not to mention help in standing up to an associate pastor who always looked down at her like she was some delinquent little kid, not as mature as her sister. At least this way, her lowly five-foot-two could take on his lofty six-foot-two with some semblance of dignity.

 “Hey, coming back to see me, I hope?”                     

Mid-lobby, Cat skidded to a halt, wobbling on those stupid stilettos like she was in the middle of her own personal earthquake. Hand to her chest, she glanced up at the lobby bar, homing in on one of the bartenders who’d flirted with her before.

“So … what’s your pleasure?” he asked, warming her skin when his gaze boldly roamed the length of her, as intimate as a caress while it slowly traveled back up. “Another glass of champagne?”

Cat paused, rethinking her trip to the bathroom. Almost never in her life had she drank more than one glass of anything alcoholic, but this was her sister’s wedding after all, and one more drink might help her both celebrate and commiserate her loss. Besides, now that Lacey and Shannon were off the market, their single-girl nights were a thing of the past, which meant Cat could be as free as she wanted, no longer mothered by her two best friends. A bit unsteady, she headed for the bar, a rush of independence overpowering the sudden butterflies in her stomach. “No, not champagne this time, I don’t think,” she said, studying the bottles behind the bar. “I’m looking for something a little more adventurous that will help chase away the blues.”

“Boyfriend blues?” the bartender asked, swiping the area clean where Cat laid her purse. He tossed the rag below and leaned in, arms crossed on the bar with a twinkle in his eyes that all but devoured her. “Because, trust me—somebody that looks like you should never be blue.”

She giggled nervously, not sure if the skittery sensation she felt meant that the butterflies in her tummy were tipsy or tickled that a good-looking guy was hitting on her. Her pulse tripped. A very good-looking “man,” as a matter of fact, who appeared somewhat older and probably wasn’t shackled to a squeaky-clean lifestyle. She slid onto the barstool, relieved at its stability compared to her legs. “No, not boyfriend blues,” she said with a wispy sigh. “My twin sister got married tonight, and I’m just going to miss her like crazy.”

“You mean there’s two of you?” That dangerous twinkle in the bartender’s eyes joined forces with a sexy smile, whooshing those stupid butterflies in her stomach around and around in a whirlpool of warmth. He put a hand to his chest with great drama. “Be still my heart,” he whispered before extending his hand. “I’m Alex.”

Battling a nervous gulp, she slowly shook it, a virtual heat wave melting her butterflies into a near swoon when he lingered to graze her knuckles with his thumb.

“Why don’t I fix you something to sip on while I finish my shift?” he said easily. “I’m off in thirty, so maybe I can cheer you up with a stroll on the Riverwalk and a bite to eat.”

Peeking up beneath thickly mascaraed lashes she seldom wore, she chewed on the edge of her lip, thinking this was not a good idea at her sister’s wedding. Especially with a man she didn’t know who seemed older and—a renegade gulp broke free as she slowly slipped her hand from his—certainly more experienced than she. With an older brother who watched over her like a rabid hawk, a sister and sister-in-law who refused to go clubbing, and her exposure to men limited to Hope Church, Cat bordered on naïve.

Oh, she was certainly the flirtiest and sassiest girl at church—where it was safe—but when it came to “men of the world” as her mother referred to them, even she knew he was out of her league. But for pity’s sake, she’d rather sit out here with a guy who seemed attracted to her than watch all the other couples in love, right? Settling on a compromise, she shimmied her stool closer to the bar with a neat fold of hands. “Thanks, Alex, but I only have time for one fast drink, because I really need to get back.”

“You got it, Miss …?” He cocked his head, obviously waiting for her to supply her name.

“O’Bryen, Cat, short for Catherine, but I hate Cathy,” she blurted, rambling as always when she was nervous. She offered a timid smile far more indicative of her shy sister than herself, and somehow the thought rankled. Right then and there she decided it was time to set the course for her own life, unencumbered by other people’s opinions and faith. Even if those opinions and faith belonged to the people she loved most.

“So, Miss Cat-short-for-Catherine-but-I-hate-Cathy O’Bryen—what’s your poison?”

 Poison, indeed. Ignoring prickles of guilt, she propped her chin in her hand and offered Alex her most alluring smile. “Why don’t you surprise me?”

Twenty minutes later the “surprise” was that she was laughing with Alex and other bartenders and customers, her gloom forgotten as she sucked the last of her drink through a straw with a loud, hollow noise. “Whoops, all gone.” She pushed her glass away with a giggle, thinking she could probably face anything right about now, even Shan leaving their house forever. Fumbling with her purse, she rifled through it for one of the twenties she’d stashed inside, easing it toward Alex.

“Nope.” He pushed it back, leaning near enough to reveal a rim of green in his hazel eyes. “It’s on the house, Cat-short-for-Catherine-but-I-hate-Cathy, and I’ll bet you’re hungry, so why don’t you let me take you to get something to eat?”

Suddenly feeling woozy, Cat blinked several times, trying to bring Alex back into focus. “Well—”

“No thanks, she has all the cake she can eat inside,” a gruff voice said, startling her so much, she almost fell off the stool.

And would have if Chase Griffin hadn’t steadied her when she spun around, his muscled arm firm at her waist. “Time to go, kiddo,” he said with a smile as tight as his grip.

“What are ya doing?” she rasped, the sound bordering on brusque. Her heart hammered at the stiff line of his jaw, so close she could see the beginning of dark bristle on his clean-shaven face. The musky citrus scent of “Eternity” cologne—a gag Christmas gift from the volleyball group—triggered a gushy feeling inside, riling her all the more at the obvious symbolism. Irritation flashed, both at the attraction she felt and his annoyingly paternal tone. “Lemme go,” she whispered loudly, her voice just shy of curt.

Face like granite, he slowly released her, clear grey eyes as cool as his manner. “Shannon asked me to find you.”

“Of course she did,” she muttered, ticked off that Chase Griffin would never seek her out on his own and then ticked off that it bothered her so much. He was the last guy she would ever be interested in, so why did it matter? She turned her attention back to Alex who stood a few feet away polishing a wine glass, eyes trained on her as if awaiting her next move. She shoved the twenty-dollar bill forward. “Thanks, Alex—I had fun.”

He strolled over and nudged the money back. “I told you, babe, it’s on me.” His gaze flicked to Chase and back before he took a card out of his back pocket and slid it her way. “Call me sometime, or come see me again, okay?”

“Oh, you bet,” she said in her huskiest voice just to get on Chase’s nerves. Feeling smug, she tucked the card in her purse and eased off the stool with a sultry look.

Then landed on the floor in a heap.

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