Dear readers, I’ve more or less been running on fumes for the past month. Not coasting…running. I’m behind on the release of one book, Abide, the seventh book in my Lewis Legacy Series (it was promised Spring 2016, so technically it’s still on-schedule). Between marathon writing/editing sessions, family graduations, a planned vacation, a health crisis for my mother-in-law, and the busyness of life in general, things have been crazy. I will not release a book until I feel it’s ready, and I’m getting *this* close with Abide. Frankly, I put way too much pressure on myself and needed to take the time to step back, relax, and breathe…pray, study Scripture, and surrender it all to the Lord. After being stressed and pulled in many different directions, I came away feeling so refreshed and encouraged…onward and forward!
One of the reasons Abide is running behind is that I’ve just turned in my final manuscript for Gentle Like the Rain, a full-length novel included in the fabulous, upcoming Whispers of Love box set. I had a definitive deadline for that one. In my writing career, I have never worked on two books at the same time. I hate to split loyalties, so to speak. I don’t like to operate that way, and I feel like one of the two stories could suffer as a result. Basically, I worked on one until it was about two-thirds done, and then I switched to the other book. Then I had to put the second aside and go back to the first. That’s not the ideal situation, either. However, I persevered, and honestly, I believe that Gentle Like the Rain is some of my best work to date (likewise, I’m thrilled with Abide, which takes the Lewis Legacy Series in a new and fresh direction).
Whispers of Love is currently available for pre-order and releases on June 28th (just around the corner!). You can find the Amazon link at the bottom of this post.
Gentle Like the Rain is set in the fictional small town of Evergreen, Maine. It is the sequel to my 2015 novel, Heart’s Design. I had not planned to write any more books set in Evergreen, or to make it a series, but when the idea for Whispers of Love was proposed, I had just found a great photo of a couple kissing under an umbrella in the rain. I chose the title without knowing anything whatsoever about the book! When I heard the books in the box set should have a summertime theme, the photo screamed Maine in the summertime to me. I love how things come together like this! Sidney Prescott, the older brother of the heroine in Heart’s Design is a complex character (mentioned but never introduced in Heart’s Design), and I knew I needed to tell Sidney’s story in Gentle Like the Rain. While some of the same characters from the previous book are also present in the new one, this book can most definitely stand on its own. The solid elements are all in place for a satisfying contemporary Christian romance–emotion, conflict, humor, and heart-fluttering/stopping moments.
I chose a humorous excerpt (at least I hope you’ll find it to be so!) to share from this upcoming book. A few quick notes to keep in mind: Millicent is the town librarian. Secondly, I met Conway Twitty (mentioned in the excerpt) in a London hotel restaurant on Easter Sunday many years ago (he was having dinner with Ronnie Milsap). Thirdly, few of the townsfolk ever seem to get Isabella’s last name right. Here is the short blurb for Gentle Like the Rain:
Isabella Caccavale’s stable life plunges into a tailspin after she buys her aunt’s general store in Evergreen, Maine. When “runaway” lawyer Sidney Prescott roars into town, he jump-starts her wounded heart. Will Sidney find what he seeks in quaint little Evergreen or will he take Isabella’s heart with him when he returns to Boston?
I hope you’ll join us in celebrating the upcoming release of Whispers of Love! Now, here’s that promised excerpt!
EXCERPT FROM Gentle Like the Rain:
Soft sounds interrupted his musing. What was that? Like the mewling of a cat, or the soft whimper of a child. Had Humphrey come to the Twilight Dance? Surveying his immediate surroundings, Sidney searched for the source. Listening. Waiting. There it was again.
And then he saw her. Beneath a large pine tree, half-hidden, was the shadowed outline of a woman. Sidney’s first thought was not to intrude. A closer look confirmed she was alone.
His eyes widened, and he stepped closer. “Millicent, is that you?”
“Just go away, Sidney. Mind your own business.” He heard muffled sniffles.
“You can yell at me all you want, but I’m afraid I can’t walk away. Would you like me to take you home?”
“No.” When she twisted her hands together, a tissue dropped to the ground. Before Sidney could retrieve it, Millicent snatched it up and stuffed it in the pocket of her dress. The outfit flattered her, and she wore her hair down for a change. The eyeglasses were missing.
“You look very nice.”
“Okay then, I take it back. Contrary to what you might have heard, I don’t throw compliments around freely.”
“You’re the funny one, aren’t you?”
“Not usually,” he admitted. “A courtroom doesn’t lend itself to a lot of humor. I inject it here and there when I can, but it’s not appropriate in most cases. Pun intended, I suppose.”
Feeling awkward, Sidney stuffed his hands in the pockets of his slacks. He could walk away but something stopped him. This woman was hurting, and he couldn’t leave her crying beneath a towering pine tree.
“He doesn’t know I exist.”
“May I ask who—?”
Ah, yes, the country crooner. “I caught the floor show at Mahoney’s when he tried out a Conway Twitty song yesterday afternoon. Something about a job, an ode to fatherhood. Since it’s close to Father’s Day, I guess they play that song on the radio a lot.”
“That’d be ‘That’s My Job.’ It’s not as controversial as some of Conway’s other songs.”
Sidney snapped his fingers. “That’s the one, and I wouldn’t know about controversial.”
“Why won’t he dance with me?”
“Conway? I’m pretty sure he’s dead.”
“Hank,” she snapped. “Pay attention, Sidney.”
“Right. Just checking. You obviously know your country music, Millicent. Look, I don’t really know Hank, but I’ve met him, and he seems like an upstanding kind of guy. I played a few games of checkers with him yesterday since Marty couldn’t be there. I know Hank lost a leg on the job. Is it possible he doesn’t dance?”
“He’s not dead, he’s got a prosthesis. He gets around. No reason he can’t, well, shake a leg.” When he heard more sounds, Sidney thought Millicent was crying again, but this time she was laughing. So much so that her shoulders were shaking. What a strange little bird she was. On the other hand, he found this scenario fascinating.
“Is Hank here tonight? Somewhere?”
She angled her head in the direction of a few tables set up to the back of the gazebo. “He’s over there doing what he does best.”
She sighed. “You sure you went to Harvard? Do you hear a man singing, Sidney?”
“Then I’m guessing he has a checkerboard game going on tonight?”
“Something like that. The fool thinks no woman will want him, so he spends all the livelong day playing checkers. I got this new dress, and I’ve been using the goat’s milk soap like Isabella told me, and he hasn’t said two words to me tonight.”
“For what it’s worth, Millicent, I have a suggestion. You might want to come out from under the tree. A man can’t ask a woman to dance if she’s not within his range of vision.”
Millicent turned her head in Hank’s direction and didn’t speak for a long moment. “Dance with me,” she said.
“Your hearing’s fine, isn’t it? I asked you to dance with me.”
“Sounded more like you demanded, but why quibble?” She wanted to make Hank jealous? In its own way, that was very sweet. Why not? Sidney hoped it might work. “Miss Millicent, will you do me the honor of dancing with me?” He paused. “What’s your last name?”
“Don’t ask,” she grumbled.
“Fair enough.” He crooked his elbow. “Shall we go dance close to the gazebo?”
Stepping out from under the shadow of the tree, Millicent hooked her arm through his. “You can dance, right?”
“No worries. My mom made sure I learned to dance. I’ll try not to embarrass you with my lack of skill.” Sidney patted her hand resting on his arm. “Let me lead, okay?”
Sidney was relieved to see a few couples dancing near the gazebo. They wouldn’t be as obvious this way, and it should be interesting. “Hank’s a handyman, right?”
“Yes.” They began to dance together. Of course, this one had to be a ballad. No problem.
“Here’s a thought. Have you considered hiring Hank to repair shelves at the library?”
Millicent was quiet for so long that Sidney figured she hadn’t heard. “Or, you could invite him to come to your house and…fix something.”
“The only thing that needs fixing is his attitude.” After she snuggled a bit too close, Sidney took tiny steps back to put a respectable distance between them.
“You can’t very well invite him over to fix an attitude. How about an appliance? Anything along those lines? A broken toaster or a malfunctioning oven?”
“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” she said under her breath.
How could he convey to Millicent that a gentle word might go a long way toward capturing Hank’s attention? “I’m trying to give you suggestions to spend some time with Hank so he can fall in love with you. Is that wrong? I thought that’s what you wanted.”
She snorted and then clamped a hand over her mouth. “Do you think he heard that?” The words came out muffled, and Millicent looked up at him with wide eyes.
In response, he threw his head back and laughed. “Millicent”—he elevated his voice slightly—“you just reminded me of that Conway Twitty song I like so much.”
“What are you—?” When Sidney gave her a look, a slow smile crossed her face. “It’s working. Hank’s looking over here.” Millicent sounded excited. Her fingers gripped his arm tighter. “Say something else like that.”
“What? Talk Twitty to you?”
“Shhhh.” She laughed.
“Which country music singer that he impersonates or whatever is your favorite?”
“Give me the name of a Strait song, Millicent.” Wow, that sounded strange enough.
“‘Give It All We Got Tonight.’”
“I’m trying here,” Sidney said. “Give me some credit.”
“It’s the name of one of George Strait’s songs,” she hissed.
“You’ve gotta love country music.” Sidney winked, and then he started to warble although he couldn’t sing his way out of a paper bag. Closing one eye, he kept going, and he wouldn’t stop unless Millicent tried to shush him. She hadn’t stomped on his foot yet. Soon enough, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He sure hoped it was Hank.
“That’s not how it’s done, city slicker.”
Still dancing, Sidney opened both eyes and gave Hank a mock glare. “Not how what’s done, Hank? I’m trying my best to dance with lovely Millicent here.”
“You shouldn’t be singing if you can’t do justice to the song.”
“Think you can do better?”
“Yes.” Hank looked at Millicent. “How about it? You want to dance, Millie?”
Millie? Cute. “You know, Millicent was just telling me—”
“You can move on now, Mr. Prescott. I’ve got it covered.”
In the moonlight, Sidney could see Millicent’s blush. “I’ll do that. You two kids have fun.” With a nod, Sidney backed away. He doubted either one of them even noticed. He spied Isabella a few hundred yards away. Softly clapping, she smiled and mouthed Bravo!
Closing the distance between them, Sidney didn’t hesitate as he pulled her into his arms. “Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said in his best imitation of Elvis. “Shall we dance, Miss Cabaletta?”
“Cabaletta? What’s that mean?” she said as he spun her in a half-turn.
“A simple aria with a repetitive rhythm.”
Spinning beneath his arm, Isabella laughed. “You made that up. And I’m not sure it’s safe to dance with you.”
“I did not make it up. It was used in 19th-century Italian operas.” Sidney tugged her close to him. “And we’re friends. Is there a law in Evergreen that friends can’t dance with one another?”
Isabella nodded to where Hank and Millicent danced together. “You did a very good thing over there tonight.” She patted his chest, sending warmth searing through him. “Beneath all the bravado, you’re a kindhearted man, Mr. Prescott.”
“I couldn’t leave her standing beneath that tree pining away now, could I?”
Isabella’s laughter filled his soul.
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