12:03PM

Friday, September 1, 2017

For by grace have ye been saved

through faith; and that not of yourselves:

it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Without question, the gift of grace is one of the greatest gifts God has given to man other than His Son. Grace = unmerited favor, something none of us deserve, but God's love makes a way.

Which is one of the reasons I love my latest novella, The Gift of Grace, because it truly is a story of unmerited favor, not only for a woman named Grace, but the man of God who falls for her. As promised, I've included the first and second chapters of The Gift of Grace as an excerpt below, so I hope you enjoy it.

 

Happy Release Day!

And guess what?? TODAY is RELEASE DAY for The Gift of Grace novella, along with my three other novellas, Grace Like Rain (can you tell I like "grace"??), A Whisper of Hope, and The Best Gift of All. So if you preordered them, they should be waiting for you on your Kindle right now, so THANK YOU and HAPPY READING!

If you haven't ordered the novellas yet, I hope you consider doing so since they are only 99 cents each, and I promise at least a few chuckles and tears for that price in each of the books. I mean, come on -- they don't call me a drama queen for nothing, you know! You'll find the buy links below along with a new giveaways, so read on!

 

Can You Help Me Out?

But before we go any further, I have a favor to ask. I know I harp more on reviews lately than I ever have before, but there are a number of reasons for that. For one, I have no publisher promoting my indie books, so good reviews are HUGE to indie authors. And number two, I used to run review contests, but that is no longer allowed by Amazon, so that means I have to rely on good reader friends like YOU to help me out.

So if you read the new novellas or have read any of the Isle of Hope series, from the prequel all the way to my latest release, His Steadfast Love, would you please consider posting a brief review on Amazon and/or Goodreads? It can be as short as one or two lines, just stating you liked the book. OR you can even write a 1-sentence generic review stating you liked the series and plop that same review on each of the IOH books. To be honest, it's the number of stars that people look for first and which have the most impact on whether they will buy the book or not. Now if you want to write a longer review, I truly appreciate that, too, but most people don't have that kind of time, so hopefully a 1- or 2-line review won't be an imposition for you. And if you DO post a review, PLEASE let me know so I can personally thank you, okay?

 

My Latest FB Live!

If you weren't able to make my 2nd "Q&A with a CDQ" last night, no worries, because I have the recorded video right here. And if you have any questions you'd like me to answer in my next Q&A, just leave them in a comment on the video. Then if I answer them during the next FB Live, YOU win your choice of my indie e-books. This video below explains how Keith and I met, so I hope you enjoy our first encounter! :) NOTE: YOU MAY HAVE TO UNMUTE IT BY CLICKING ON THE LITTLE SPEAKER IN THE LOWER RIGHT-HAND CORNER.

 

Fifty Shades of ... Pray??

Join me on SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 2ND on Novel Rocket blog when I get on my soapbox with “Fifty Shades of Pray” … Christian Romance in a secular world where the harvest is great, but the workers are few.  Leave a comment and you’re in the draw for your choice of my indie e-books, including any of the four novellas that just released! You'll find the link HERE (which won't be live till tomorrow, 8/2) so come on by!

 

30-Book Giveaway Ends Sun., 9/3!

Guess what? I have teamed up with more than 30 fantastic contemporary Christian and inspirational romance authors to give away a huge collection of 30 novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! 

You can win my novel HIS STEADFAST LOVE, plus books from authors like Becky Wade, Susan May Warren, and Melissa Tagg, so MARK YOUR CALENDARS, okay?

Enter the giveaway HERE by clicking here & good luck!

 

99-Cent Sale on A Light in the Window:

If you haven't read Marcy and Patrick's award-winning love story yet -- why not? It's the perfect read to kick off the holiday season with an Irish love story that's a cross between The Bells of St. Mary's and The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry, so I hope you check it out.

You can buy A Light in the Window in both e-book and paperback at AMAZON and e-book only at B & N.

I just LOVE the video my artist hubby did for it using my daughter on both the cover and in the video: 

A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW VIDEO

 

Grace Like Rain:

A Heart Of San Franciso Novella

Yes, it's true -- Blake "The Rake" McClare has found love in his own novella, so you won't want to miss this one because it's one of my faves. So much so, that I am including the first chapter down below, so do check it out. Here's the blurb:

He’s everybody’s lovable rogue.
She’s nobody’s fool
who hopes to steer clear.
Until a thunderstorm sinks them both
into a sea of love.

Blake “The Rake” McClare has a notorious reputation as a womanizer, which is why soft-spoken Patience Peabody carefully avoids the lovable rogue attorney at the law firm in which they both work.

Until a rare thunderstorm brings them together in a love soaked with the grace of God and a whole lot of lightning!

 ORDER GRACE LIKE RAIN HERE!

 

A Whisper of Hope:

An O'Connor Christmas Novella

Ahhhh ... Charity & Mitch ... two of my very faves, and now they have their very own Christmas novella that you will not want to miss.

I know that Mitch doesn't look a lot like his orginal cover picture on A Passion Redeemed, but it's incredibly difficult to find a historical-looking couple that actually resembles a prior cover, so I did the best I could, even though I realize the couple looks more modern than historical. But I do think the pose replicates the love Mitch has for Charity very nicely, especially after you read the story! ;)  Here's the blurb:

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
And love is desperate to surprise them both.

With a husband dead set against adoption, Charity O’Connor Dennehy has barely a whisper of hope for more children, but if hope doesn’t disappoint … will it be enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?

 ORDER A WHISPER OF HOPE HERE!

 

The Best Gift of All:

An O'Connor Christmas Novella

This is Lizzie and Brady's story because it was a subplot that was cut from A Love Surrendered, the final O'Connor book. Since it was already basically written, I used it instead of writing a Christmas novella for Faith & Collin and Katie & Luke. But rest assured that each year I plan to release another O'Connor Christmas novella until I have covered everyone in the family, including Marcy & Patrick! 

I have to say that this particular novella contains a very important life lesson I learned, so not only is it a good read, I hope, but it contains a powerful lesson as well. Here's the blurb:

 

  She longs to be the perfect mother.
He just longs for his wife.
Until they receive ... the best gift of all.

Everyone knows Lizzie and John Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?

 ORDER THE BEST GIFT OF ALL HERE!

 

The Gift of Grace:

A Frontier Christmas Novella

Although The Gift of Grace is basically a Christmas story, I didn't want the cover to be limited to only Christmas. And actually, since Grace almost burns down the hero's house on a number of occasions, I thought the flame-orange sky was somewhat fitting! ;) Here's the blurb:

She’s the Accident
to His Prayers …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny. She’s caught fire to the kitchen, dyed his long johns pink, and scorched nearly everything she cooks. But he’s desperate, and she’s a destitute ex-saloon girl.

Even though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s home, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died. But when Grace’s past threatens Cole’s family, she’s given one last chance to be home for Christmas . . . if she hasn’t burned it down yet.

 ORDER THE GIFT OF GRACE HERE!

THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH for your support and your friendship! Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

Hugs,

Julie

Excerpt for The Gift of Grace

For by grace have ye been saved

through faith;and that not of yourselves:it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

 

Chapter One

Last Chance, California, Fall, 1885

Shelter, food, and babies, Lord, that’s all I ask.

Grace O’Malley peered out the window as the railcar groaned to a stop in front of a tiny train station, her stomach rumbling louder than the iron wheels on the tracks. Hand to her queasy middle, she peeked up at an azure sky tufted with cotton and expelled a guilty sigh, almost forgetting her other important prayer.

Oh, and a decent job?

“Last Chance, California!” the conductor bellowed, and a flurry of activity erupted. Grace’s abdomen responded with a ridiculously noisy growl, turning the heads of several people despite all the commotion.

“Hungry?” an elderly woman asked with a sympathetic smile, relieving Grace’s embarrassment over a mortifying trait that plagued her since her youth—an abnormally loud stomach whenever she was nervous.

“Not really,” Grace said, her smile wobbly at best. Yet, oh, how she wished she could say yes! But her days of untruths were behind her. She drew in an unsteady breath. Just like my days in a saloon.

The woman patted Grace’s hand, her rheumy blue eyes soft with understanding. “A new babe for you and your husband then?” she whispered, “causing a wee bit of morning sickness?”

Grace blinked, her cheeks suddenly toasty. Goodness, if only! But the only “morning sickness” Grace had ever known was from stale cigar smoke and late hours at The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City.

“Second call for Last Chance!”

Relief flooded as she welcomed the interruption, saving her a response while she quickly collected her valise. Offering a smile, she inched past the woman toward the exit when the cry of an infant snagged her attention. Tiny fists flailing, the child squalled in its mother’s arms while the poor woman herded two toddlers to the door. Compassion propelled Grace forward to assist.

“Landon, no!” the mother shrieked when one toddler escaped, plowing straight into Grace’s worn skirt.

Delighted, Grace dropped her bag and swooped up the runaway, her giggles merging with his as she snuggle-kissed his neck. “I think I may just gobble you up, little man,” she said with a squeeze, “but first we need to follow your mama off the train.”

“I am so sorry!” Cheeks blooming bright red, the young mother reached to take her son.

“Don’t be,” Grace said with a smile, cuddling the imp close. “I love children, so I’m happy to help.”

The pinch of the woman’s face eased, and with a tired nod of thanks, she turned to usher her family from the train.

Clutching the squirm-worm to her side, Grace retrieved her bag before hurrying after the boy’s mother, pretending for one blissful moment the little dickens belonged to her.

But that would never be.

“It’s called amenorrhea,” the doctor explained when pregnancy eluded her after eloping with Gabe at fifteen. She’d always known her “womanly time” was different, twice-yearly instead of monthly, but she’d always believed she’d have children despite the doctor’s awful prognosis. Barren. Nonetheless, three years of marriage had produced little but heartbreak, and when Gabe died in a mining accident, she was left with nothing.

No husband.

No income.

No babies.

A delicious giggle feathered her cheek, and her gloom instantly vanished. Hopping down onto the platform, she couldn’t resist a playful whirl or two, Landon’s giggles taking flight along with her blue calico skirt, which billowed in the dusty air. Flush with laughter, she delivered Landon to his mother, who’d already handed the baby to a silver-haired woman of striking resemblance.

“I can’t thank you enough for your help,” the young mother said, the gratitude in her eyes edged with fatigue as she took the toddler from Grace. “Can my parents and I offer you a lift?”

“I’m not sure,” Grace said, scanning with a hand to her eyes, stomach cramping at the possibility that Eileen might not even live here anymore. Her last letter was over a year and half ago when the young mother was expecting her fourth child and begged her to come. But the prospect of a saloon girl paying a visit to a pastor’s wife had been too painful to consider, especially since she’d lied to her childhood friend, claiming to be a “teacher.”

Only not in any school.

Gripping her valise, she squared her shoulders. But . . . she was a new creature in Christ according to Maggie Mullaney, a young nurse who tended her wounds after a barroom brawl. Sweet Maggie’s ministrations had not only helped heal Grace’s body, but also her soul, instilling a hope for a new beginning. One last chance to make things right.

In Last Chance, California.

Her lips tipped up at the corners of her mouth, the irony of the town’s name not lost on her. It had, in fact, been a motivating factor in even considering a visit to a friend she hadn’t seen in years.

Prophetic, she hoped. And God’s will, she prayed.

“I’m looking for the parsonage,” Grace said with a crimp in her brow when she saw no sign of a steeple on the dusty main street lined with a hodge-podge of buildings and pines. “I was hoping it would be in walking distance, but I don’t see anything that even remotely resembles a church.”

“That’s because the Last Chance Chapel is on the west hill, tucked away in the trees,” the silver-haired woman explained, joining her daughter as she jiggled the baby. “You must be here to see the McCabes. Are you a relative?”

The McCabes. A silent sigh seeped out. Eileen was still here!

“No,” she said too quickly, loud enough to mask another noisy churn of her stomach. “Just a friend of the family hoping to help out.” Anxious to avoid further probing, Grace started for the west edge of town, lifting a hand in farewell. “Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.”

“If you’re here to help, they’ll be mighty glad to see you,” the woman called as Grace picked up her pace. Offering a wave, Grace rounded a building that appeared to be a saloon, given the familiar tinkling of a piano and several bleary-eyed cowboys who stumbled out.

“Hey, pretty lady, where ya off to in such a hurry?” one of the men slurred, and Grace bolted down the wooden sidewalk without a glance back, hand plastered to her straw bonnet to keep it from blowing off. Ducking around the mercantile, she backed up to the side wall, hand splayed to her heaving chest. The foul scent of liquor and tobacco assailed her, and she willed the apple she’d eaten for lunch to stay in her stomach.

A wagon rumbled by, and she jerked from the building, spotting a steeple through the trees in the distance. Praying Eileen would welcome her despite the lack of notice, Grace finally arrived at a white clapboard church tucked among a peaceful copse of red maples. The sight literally stilled her soul. A shaft of sunlight illuminated the shingled roof like the finger of God leading her home. Behind it at the top of a hill, a log cabin peeked through the pines, a lazy curl of wood smoke rising from the chimney to fill the air with its welcome scent.

Gaze flicking back to the church, she decided a chat with the Almighty might be wise. “To hedge my bets,” she said, then ruefully glanced up. “Forgive me, Lord—gamblers and saloons are part of my past, not my future, so please don’t let Eileen turn me away.”

Grace carefully approached the cherry-red door as if she were trespassing, the whiff of wood shavings tickling her nose. Sidetracked by the wonderful smell that reminded her of her grandfather, she tiptoed around the corner to see a makeshift workbench beside a stack of lumber. Memories of Grandfather’s carpentry shop tugged, and breathing in the heady scent of cedar and lacquer, she knew this was a sign from God.

She was finally home!

Grateful she was alone, she tiptoed into the tiny vestibule before entering the dim church, blinking to adjust from blinding sunlight to stained-glass shadows. A loud gasp popped from her mouth when something moved in a far corner of the rafters, and her stomach immediately followed with a truly ferocious growl. The sound startled a poor man painting the ceiling, jerking him around so fast, his ladder teetered for several horrifying seconds. Right before his can of stain shimmied off the top, splatting onto the floor with an awful crash.

Along with her hopes.

Dark eyes circled in shock gave way to a tic in a hard-sculpted cheek as he slowly descended, the clamp of a steely jaw not a good sign.

Grace gulped. Finally home? Gnawing the edge of her lip, she groaned—along with her stomach.

Then again, maybe not . . .

Chapter Two

Battling a weary sigh, Colton McCabe gingerly stepped into a sea of mahogany stain, thankful he’d taken the time to put a tarpaulin down. His mouth zagged. This’d teach him to get testy with the Almighty in His own house. He’d been so lost in his mental “negotiations” with the “Boss,” he hadn’t heard the door open, too busy badgering God for divine assistance in caring for four small children and a woman with a broken leg.

He squinted at a small figure who appeared as stiff as a pew and bit back a smile, wondering how such a tiny body could make so much noise without saying a word. “Can I help you?” he asked, unwilling to take a step closer lest he track stain across the floor.

“I am so sorry,” a guilty voice whispered, its owner emerging into the light like a doe from the shadows. “I thought I was alone.”

“My fault, not yours,” he said, swabbing the soles of his boots with an old rag. He tossed it over a rung and approached a young woman who looked ready to bolt. Eyes wide, she, took a step back, hand clutched to the bodice of her faded calico dress as if he were Beelzebub himself. Swiping his palms on his work pants, he offered a warm smile. “I would have greeted you if I’d heard the door, but I tend to get lost in my work.” He extended a hand, his smile inching into a grin. “Name’s Cole McCabe, and I’m the pastor here at Last Chance Chapel.”

She shook it so quickly, it was barely a touch, the blush in her cheeks a nice complement to golden hair the color of winter wheat. “I’m Grace O’Malley. You’re Pastor McCabe, from Virginia City?” She paused as if expecting recognition before more pink dusted her cheeks, setting her face aglow like an angel. “It’s a true pleasure to meet you,” she said softly,  pale blue eyes the exact shade of her bonnet. “Especially after all the good things I’ve heard.”

His laughter—all too rare of late—boomed through the church. “You’ve obviously been chatting with the Irish contingent in our fine community, Miss O’Malley, known for more than a bit of the blarney, but I’m glad to welcome you to our fair town. How may I help you today?”

Her smile faltered as she peeked up beneath a fringe of honeyed lashes. “Actually, Pastor McCabe, I was hoping I could help you.”

His brows lifted in surprise. Help him? His smile twitched, thinking this was one speedy answer to prayer.

“You see,” she continued, those blue eyes searching his, “I’m a childhood friend of your wife’s, so when Eileen sent a letter last year asking for help after the baby was born, I wasn’t able to come until now.”

He blinked, all air whooshing from his lungs.

“I know this is a surprise since I didn’t notify her I was coming . . .”

A surprise? The horrendous ache he’d tried so hard to dispel seared through his chest with a vengeance. No, this is a blow to the head with a two-by-four, Miss O’Malley.

“But my departure from Virginia City was rather sudden, you see . . .”

Cole’s eyelids closed. Yes, he knew all about “sudden.”

“So I hoped—well, prayed, really—that Eileen could still use my help.”

Eileen. The woman he’d been privileged to marry. A woman of God with a heart so pure, she’d been a beacon of light that helped chase away the darkness in his own sorry soul. God knows he hadn’t deserved her, and yet she’d married him anyway, giving him nine wonderful years, four beautiful children, and in the end—her very life.

Gut twisting, he reopened his eyes, loathe to tell Miss O’Malley that her friend now resided on the other side of eternity, as if saying the words would revive his grief all over again. The very grief he’d worked so hard to hide for the sake of his family and congregation for well over a year. But tell her he would, even offering lodging for the night if need be.

“I w-won’t stay long,” she said in a rush, as if sensing his hesitation. “You s-see, I was a teacher in Virginia City, and Eileen wrote such w-wonderful things about your t-town, I decided to resettle here. So I hoped to accept her k-kind invitation till I could find a home of my own. And, of course, I promised to help in any way that I could.”

Promised. His eyelids weighted closed once again. Yes, he’d promised Eileen something too. Something his aunt’s broken leg had made nearly impossible since caring for her and his children took so much of his time. Precious time he’d once devoted to making furniture to earn the price of the promise he’d made to his wife.

“I want a piano for Christmas, Cole,” she’d whispered on that fateful day he’d lost her, her voice so frail, he’d barely been able to hear. “For our girls to play . . . like I did when I was small.” She’d clutched his hand then, as if expending all her energy in a plea he could never deny. “Promise me, Cole, please. Give them music for Christmas . . . just in case.”

Just in case.

“If you need to discuss this with Eileen, I totally understand . . .”

As if the mention of her name had conjured her, Eileen’s sweet face appeared in his brain like a vision, smiling that serene smile that always assured him God was at work and all would be well. In his mind’s eye, he saw her touch her fingers to her lips and blow him a kiss like always whenever he left to work in his shop. And in one violent thud of his heart, he knew. Knew deep down, as if Eileen herself had whispered into his very soul.

Grace O’Malley was not just an answer to his prayer.

She was an answer to Eileen’s too.

He drew in a breath redolent with wood stain and the lemon oil he used on the pews and carefully expelled it again, his lips curving in the barest of smiles tinged with melancholy and awe. He vaguely remembered Eileen mentioning a long-lost friend, but he’d soon forgotten since his wife never brought it up again.

Until now.

He reached to tug Miss O’Malley’s valise from her grip, the stillness of the sanctuary underscoring the peace that slowly seeped into his soul. He ushered her out of the church into the blazing sunlight, grateful for God’s hand in his life.

“I assure you, Miss O’Malley, your help is not only desperately needed, but deeply appreciated as well. Maybe not by my sweet Eileen,” he said quietly, his tone hushed like the moment as he quietly closed the door, “but by the family she left behind.”

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