Much of June was spent in bonnie Scotland. While there, I desperately needed to start writing my next novella, but for fifteen out of seventeen days, I stared at a blank canvas, unable to put any kind of story together. Two days before leaving Scotland, it all fell into place. My story changed somewhat from what I’d originally envisaged. Most of all, my hero turned out quite different from what I’d thought or planned.
A Husband for Holly is the fourth book in my Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters series set in England. I’ve a few tiny surprises planned for each story. The first is to add a touch of fairytale magic to every story in this series. For those who have read Book 1, A Match for Magnolia, you’ll remember the Cinderella element with Magnolia fleeing the mansion and her shoe falling off on the steps.
The second interesting factor is that all the heroes are based on Bible characters, displaying certain of their character traits and/or having similar happenings in their lives. Their names are also variants of the original Biblical name. In Book 1, Baron Davis Rathbone shares characteristics with King David. He’s a handsome aristocrat who was a womanizer and is divorced, but he’s found Jesus and his heart pants after God. Davis spends much of his time penning poetry.
A Husband for Holly is my Christmas story, so I wanted the hero to be modeled after Christ. My initial plans were that he’d be a carpenter by trade, but when the planned story line just wasn’t working, I had to look at the character from another angle. I decided to focus on a different side of Jesus…his ministry…because Jesus wasn’t only a carpenter, He’s a High Priest—our High Priest. Before I knew it, man of the cloth, Reverend Christopher Stewart was born, toting a kilt and bagpipes (the influence of having been in Scotland). And he now enjoyed woodwork as a hobby, not as his career.
I could not help but to fall in love with this hero who initially was so reluctant to come to life .
Here’s the print book’s back cover with blurb.
To get you excited, I thought I’d share the scene where the hero and heroine meet. But first, a tiny bit of backstory.
Holly has been woken VERY early on a Sunday morning by the drone of bagpipes. She’s tired after a hectic week at work, and had planned to still sleep another two hours before getting up for church. She is NOT impressed.
Holly threw off the covers and jumped out of bed. She grabbed the quilt and wrapped herself in its autumn shades. Then she padded her socked feet down to the kitchen. As she looked out onto the field bordering her house and the old St. Stephen’s Church—used only once a month during summer—the breaking dawn cast an eerie glow across the light mist hovering above the green grass. She shoved her feet into her flowery-print Wellington boots and pushed open the back door, stepping into the half-light. Cold air hit her face, but she was too steamed up to ponder turning back for a hat and gloves.
Pulling the quilt tighter, she strode off between the trees to cross the field behind her house, headed straight for the church. The drone of the bagpipes grew louder with each step. Only one small mercy to this morning—it wasn’t raining.
“Holly, wait for me.”
Already halfway across the field, Holly turned to see Heather waving as she ran toward her, draped in a quilt, as well. She paused to wait for her sister.
Vapor turned the air a misty white with each breath Heather huffed out. “Who on earth is playing bagpipes at this hour? Do you have a new neighbor?” She bent over to catch her breath.
“Not that I’m aware of. But whoever he is, he’ll have to find another spot to play. I’m surprised old man Winkler isn’t already up that hill, giving the piper a piece of his mind.”
“Maybe he can’t hear. He is rather deaf. And perhaps it’s not as audible at his house—we are the closest neighbors to the church.”
“Perhaps. Whatever… I’ll save Winkler the effort.”
Silence descended for a moment before another blast of the pipes. Holly raised a hand to her brow. Where was that noise generator? She pursed her lips. “There he is.” She pointed toward the church entrance before taking off, weaving between the weathered gravestones, waving a hand. “Oi! What do you think you’re doing?”
The man carried on playing. Was he ignoring her, or could he just not hear above the blast of the bagpipes?
Holly glanced back at Heather, following close behind, before she marched up to the insufferable musician. She planted her flowery wellies firmly on the ground. Not that he could see with his eyes closed. Holding onto the quilt with one hand, she eased the other out from under the covering and poked his arm. “Some of us are still trying to sleep!”
His eyelids flew open to reveal pale cornflower blue circles. As his cheeks deflated, a gorgeous dimple formed on either side of his face, just above his strong, smooth jawline…with its cleft chin. Too much attention to detail—this wasn’t a room interior she was gauging.
“Mornin’,” he said, rolling his ‘r’. His smile weakened Holly’s knees and her resolve died a slow, miserable death like the bagpipe emptying of air.
Heather elbowed her in the side before smiling wide and greeting the Scotsman in her sweetest voice. “Hello. Top of the morning to you.”
Stabbing a look at her sister, Holly leaned closer to whisper. “That’s for the Irish.”
With a smile he raked his fingers through the waves of neatly-cut, light brown hair before lowering his gaze to their quilts.
Holly pulled her covering tighter.
“Och, I’m so sorry. Did I wake you?”
Holly eyed him, raising a brow. “Y—” She cleared her throat and tipped her chin. “You did.”
“Again, I’m sorry. I didnae know there were people so close tae the auld kirk.”
Sorry? Didnae know? Couldn’t he see the houses as he drove up? And those crystal pools of blue that held her gaze didn’t look sorry at all. In fact, they seemed to dance with mischief.
She glanced away, and her gaze fluttered down like an autumn leaf blown on a breeze, taking in his black double-breasted jacket and the white shirt peeking out beneath it. Then the intriguing Celtic-patterned belt hugging his hips. She stopped before she reached the white fur sporran in her peripheral view. Her eyes focused on the kilt he wore, and she sucked in a breath. She knew that tartan.
Holly held up the finger she’d jabbed him with, keeping her hand closer to her body than his. “J–just don’t do it again.” She pivoted then hurried back the way she’d come.
A Husband for Holly will be released in the Candy Cane Kisses box set in September, along with stories by 7 other great authors.