November 2016 New Releases in Christian Fiction

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical:

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope by Texie Susan Gregory — In a deadly race to save her son, a young slave woman dares defy the most powerful man in the world. (Biblical from Barbour Publishing)

Contemporary Romance:

Crazy Woman Christmas by Renee Blare — A quiet cowboy whisks Bianca to his ranch to ride out the Christmas blizzard where she discovers life is cold but also beautiful in the “Cowboy” state. (Contemporary Romance from Inspired [Prism Book Group])

Other Than a Halo by Valerie Comer — Even though she’s a new woman in Christ, single mom Bren Haddock was no angel as a teen. Now managing the Hiller Farm for a CSA, life is good until a friend offers to enter her daughter into the Little Miss Snowflake Pageant. Old insecurities flare when she meets the intriguing head of marketing the pageant. Rob Santoro isn’t so sure about handling the pageant portfolio until he meets Bren. Soon he’s fallen for her and her two kids. When a Thanksgiving adventure goes awry, he’s left wondering how to love a woman who refuses to be loved. What will it take for Bren to retire her tarnished halo and move into the future God has for her? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Do You Know What I Know? by Becky Melby — What if a phone call from the obstetrician’s office went to the wrong person? Elizabeth Schmidt can’t figure out why her husband doesn’t seem excited about the news she’s sure he heard. Is he unhappy? Or is James cheating on her? Pastor Jay Davidson is in shock. Bethany Schmidt, the woman he’s in love with, is pregnant. Should he walk away, or is God asking him to play the part of Joseph in real life and not just in the church Christmas program? Bethany can’t figure out why Jay is acting so weird. Has he figured out one of the two secrets she’s keeping until after Christmas? Can a ponytailed itinerant carpenter with a pet chicken help unravel the confusion? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

How to Charm a Beekeeper’s Heart by Candice Sue Patterson — Weddings are the last thing beekeeper Huck Anderson wants to be associated with, considering his past. So when he inherits a building occupied by a bridal boutique, he aims to evict the failing business and open a sporting goods store. That is until his tenant ends up being Arianne Winters, a woman he’s indebted to from a mistake made years ago. When a life-threatening injury derails Huck entirely, Arianne offers to aid in his lengthy recovery if he’ll allow her to remain in his building. But nursing her adversary proves challenging when her adolescent crush resurfaces. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay — After a whirlwind romance and marriage, Emily Price returns home to Italy with her new husband and learns that life at its richest is only found when she accepts its chaotic beauty. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Contemporary Women’s Fiction:

Forgiveness by Marianne Evans — Country music bad boy, Chase Bradington is on the comeback trail. Fresh from rehab for alcohol addiction and transformed by the power of Christ, Chase is battling to rediscover the music he loves and a career he nearly ruined. Then he meets up-and-comer, Pyper Brock and instantly sparks ignite. Despite her rampant attraction to the handsome and talented icon, Pyper knows of Chase’s reputation and soundly dismisses his romantic overtures. No way will Pyper repeat the mistake of trusting a man whose done battle with the bottle. Can a sin-damaged past be released in favor of forgiveness? (Women’s Fiction from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Historical:

Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson — As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path. (Historical from Waterfall Press)

Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert — Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan — On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Historical Romance:

The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Amber Stockton, Niki Turner, Gina Welborn, and Becca Whitham — Meet nine men and women whose competitive goals take them to state and county fairs between 1889 and 1930. From baking pie to polishing pigs, from sculpting butter to stitching quilts, everyone has something to prove to themselves and their communities. But in going for the blue ribbon, will nine women miss the greatest prize of all—the devoted heart of a godly man? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley — In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler…but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood’s marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace until she’s left at the altar by her no-good fiancé. Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there’s something about Meg’s sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in…even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart. (Historical Romance from Sourcebooks)

Mail Order Mommy by Christine Johnson — Nursing a broken heart, Amanda Porter had answered a frontier mail-order bride ad placed by Garrett Decker’s children—only to find the groom-to-be didn’t want a wife. But his adorable children are determined she’ll be their mother by Christmas… His wife’s betrayal and tragic death demolished Garrett’s life. Now he can’t even look at another woman, let alone marry Amanda, who resembles his first love. But with his daughter convinced Amanda is the perfect mother, will Garrett realize she’s also his perfect match? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Hope’s Design by Dawn Kinzer — An independent city girl aspiring to be a fashion designer falls for a stubborn artist from the country who wants to keep his talent a secret. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Brides of Wyoming by S. Dionne Moore — Roam the Wyoming range alongside three couples who meet under danger from bands of outlaws. Renee escapes a gang of outlaws and lands in the arms of a sheepherder. Olivia’s sleuthing upturns secrets key to solving the murder of a reluctant rancher’s father. Maira is trying to keep her ranch running alone when a drifting cowboy offers a hand. Can love develop where suspicion and greed roam the range? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Negotiated Marriage by Christina Rich — When the railroad pushes to buy her land, orphaned Cameron Sims will do anything to keep the only home she and her sisters have ever known. Even if she must marry a stranger. Duncan Murray doesn’t want a wife. He wants Sims Creek, a sanctuary that can help him forget a troubled childhood. But his reluctant, and captivating, bride-to-be is key to making his dreams a reality. And despite their business arrangement, Camy and Duncan might be signing on the dotted line for true love… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Love in the Seams by Jodie Wolfe — A little girl on a quest for a new mama has the local seamstress in her sights. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

His Perfect Love by Sharon K. Connell — On the run from a hit man, Patricia Campbell is unaware of the FBI’s search for her to learn what information she might hold, so she continues to hide out. Then she meets a persistent computer technician, a charming philanthropist, and a handsome, wealthy businessman who wants to marry her. But her fears resurface, and she wonders if she can trust any of them. Can she survive long enough to find peace…and perfect love? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Counter Point by Marji Laine — Her dad’s gone, her diner’s closing, and her car’s in the lake. Cat McPherson has nothing left to lose … except her life. And a madman, bent on revenge, is determined to take that, as well. Her former boyfriend, Ray Alexander, returns as a hero from his foreign mission, bringing back souvenirs in the form of death-threats. When several attempts are made on Cat’s life, she must find a way to trust Ray, the man who broke her heart. (Romantic Suspense from Write Integrity Press)

Speculative:

The Flaming Sword by Heather L.L. FitzGerald — When evil joins forces in the Tethered World, Sadie Larcen must risk all to protect the Flaming Sword and her family…even if it takes her life. (Speculative Young Adult from Mountain Brook Ink)

David Reflects on His Chat With Mary, Phantom Love, Chapter 10 continued

David logged off his chat with Mary and smiled. She had actually flirted with him today. He hoped that it was a sign that she was warming up to him. He stood and rotated his shoulders to ease the stiffness. He checked his watch and calculated he had been online for six hours and he still had a full slate of chats tonight. The women tended to all blend together, needy and pathetic in their desire for his repartee and suaveness.

Like Paula, who twenty minutes before their scheduled chat time, started sending out little forays to see if he would come online early. He never did, could barely tolerate her clinginess, even with the cybermiles between them. She had something he wanted, though, so he steeled himself to endure her come-ons and clumsy attempts at flirting.

Suzanne came online, asking where he was. She was fifteen minutes late like usual. Her scatterbrained messages sometimes arrived half-finished, sentences not going anywhere and thoughts left to hang incomplete in the wind. He wondered if she had a serious mental problem or some sort of addiction like drugs or alcohol, but his gentle hints to find out were only met with silence or nonsense.

His list of cyber ladies went on and on. Each day, he played the online gigolo to their lonely hearts. But, as Sylvia reminded him constantly, if he kept his eyes on the prize, he could endure their inane chatter. Only a few more weeks to go before the plan would come to fruition. At least Mary provided a bright spot in the otherwise dreary lineup.

# # #

Mary hummed the tune to “When You Say Nothing At All” as she waltzed down the stairs after her radio show ended. Her chat with David had sparked a new interest in life. During her show, she handled a record number of callers. Her mood stayed positive even after enduring a trifecta of listener-requested sappy love songs that included “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman, and “Endless Love” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross.

After her show ended, she couldn’t wind down enough to sleep. She decided a cup of tea would help. Mary spun into the kitchen without turning on the light and collided with the solid figure of a man. Her heart skipped a beat as light flooded the room.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.

A Conversation With Janet Sketchley

Janet Sketchley is an Atlantic Canadian writer whose Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense novels have each been finalists in The Word Awards. Janet blogs about faith and books. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea.

Janet Sketchley headshot 224x224How do you connect with your characters?
Janet: I need to find a specific connection point with each one, something I can understand or relate to even if the character is totally opposite to me. Without this emotional link, the character isn’t real in my mind. Sometimes it takes a lot of pondering, and other times it just happens.

In Without Proof, the character of Aunt Bay caught my attention when I “heard” her introducing herself to the heroine. I liked her so much, I put her in the story instead of another character. For the key players, I look to discover the lie they believe about themselves or the world around them. It gives me insight and sympathy for how they act and react, and it adds another layer to the plot as I try to bring them to a healthier place.

Have you ever regretted killing off a character? Why?
Janet: I didn’t plan it this way, but each of my novels are affected by characters who died before the stories open. Of the few I’ve killed off within the pages, the one I regretted most was the villain’s father in Heaven’s Prey. He needed to know the Lord, and I felt like I was taking that opportunity away from him. (Since this is a romantic suspense blog, I should state that this book is suspense, not romantic suspense like my others.)

Would you include curse words in your work?
Janet: I actually work hard not to include curse words, even though a few characters would use them in real life. Some readers wouldn’t care, some (like me) would choose to ignore mild profanity, and some would be upset. To include only mild profanity would already be changing the language of certain characters, so I avoid the whole thing by either breaking them off in mid-sentence, saying “he swore,” or showing another character’s reaction to the first one’s words. I figure, if I don’t want to read it, I’m not going to write it.

Current book: Without Proof
An artist’s assistant suspects the plane crash that killed her fiancé was no accident, but anonymous warnings and threats are her only proof.

Without Proof Front Cover 300x464Connect w/Janet
Website: janetsketchley.ca
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JanetSketchley
Twitter: twitter.com/JanetSketchley
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Newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews

 

David Flirts With Mary, Phantom Love, Chapter 10

Mary adjusted the shutters of the bay window enough to peek at Jared, who was mowing the grass at the back of the yard. A baseball cap covered his white-blond hair and a facemask guarded his mouth and nose from the dust and grass clippings kicked up by the mower.

A vague memory from their childhood stirred in the back of her mind. She closed her eyes to bring into focus the sight of Jared sneezing as a neighbor cut grass. Even as a child, he’d worn a bandana around his neck and frequently pulled it up over his mouth and nose whenever he encountered freshly cut grass.

She wondered if he hadn’t outgrown those allergies, which made her question why he would take a job that entailed breathing in grass on a regular basis. She shrugged, turning away from the window to move upstairs for her chat with David. She had more important things to think about than Jared working in her yard.

She slid into her computer chair and logged onto the chat forum a few minutes early. She grinned when David’s icon blinked.

Mary: Waiting for me, are you?

She felt ridiculously flirty this afternoon. And why shouldn’t she flirt with David. He was available and interested in her. She toyed with the idea of being more open about her growing attraction to this man who filled her thoughts during the day and her dreams at night. She might have a future with a man like David, if only he wasn’t going to Peru. But she shouldn’t get ahead of herself.

David: I feel like I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.

Zing went her heartstrings. Her fingers tingled as she typed her reply.

Mary: And now that you’ve found me, you won’t let me go?
David: Isn’t that a line from a song?
Mary: You do like Alison Kraus. I knew it.
David: Okay, so I gave her a listen after you went on and on and on about her singing a few weeks ago.
Mary: Nice to know I have some influence on you.
David: You have more than you know.

Her pulse kicked up a notch and for once it had nothing to do with anxiety and everything to do with the man on the other end of the chat.

Mary: Mmm, why don’t I believe you?
David: You should be careful with us cyber-guys. <:{ This is me raising my eyebrows and giving a sinister laugh.
Mary: Oh, now you tell me. I gotta go.
David: Don’t go, please. Have you no heart for this lovesick pup?

Lovesick, was he. Mary bit her lip and considered her reply. Part of her wished his words didn’t come across as so practiced in his flirting, but another part of her thrilled to be the recipient of his efforts.

Mary: Somehow I doubt your heart is that sick.
David: I didn’t have you pegged for such a cynic.
Mary: Not at all. I believe in love, except it usually happens to others and not to me.
David: Ah, been burned a few times, have you? Give me their names and I’ll take care of them for u J.
Mary: That’s sweet of you to offer, but there’s no need.
David: For you, I would lasso the moon.
Mary: Now who’s stealing famous lines. George Bailey to Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life.
David: It’s a great line and you remind me of that Mary.

Mary fanned her face with her hand. Whew, it was getting hot in here and it had nothing to do with the warm early June day. Her watch beeped and she sighed. It was probably a good thing she had to end their chat before she got in way over her head.

Mary: Sorry to end our lovely chat, but work awaits.
David: When are you going to tell me what you do?
Mary: Maybe one day.
David: You don’t trust me? L
Mary: It’s not that, but a girl can’t be too careful nowadays.
David: That’s okay. I’m a patient man. I’ll be seeing you in my dreams tonight anyway, and that’ll have to do until we talk again tomorrow.
Mary: You’re too much. Night.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.

National Novel Writing Month is Here!

It’s November 2, which means National Novel Writing Month is well underway, and I’m supposed to have written at least 1,667 words so far to meet my 50,000 word goal. I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009, “winning” five times.

For me, it’s one of the best ways to start a new novel or to get an idea out of my head, so I can concentrate on my current work in progress.

This year, I’m working on the second installment of a planned trilogy. The first one, The Dark Guest, won the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest for romantic suspense. The second one, The Dark Atonement, has a mystery with its roots in the Cold War/East Berlin as well.

Also this year, my two daughters (N, 14, and L, 12) are joining me, writing their own 50K novels. We’ve been planning and having a wonderful time talking about writing.

So far, I haven’t hit a wall yet….but if I do, I’ll just throw in a fire or kidnapping. That always livens things up and gets me over any writer’s block I may experience.

Well, I’d better go write my words for today.

The Adventures of Jet & Goliath: A Forever Home

Author’s note: I wrote this children’s story a few years after we adopted Jet and Goliath. Jet died nearly nine years ago at age 14, and early this morning, Goliath died at age 20. This is posted as a tribute to these wonderful, loving felines, along with some photos of the real Jet and Goliath.

scan0021The day Jet and Goliath went to their forever home started out just like any other day. It was a Monday, not that the cats knew—or cared—that it was so. In Charge came to feed the felines at the Siamese Cat Rescue Center early in the morning, just like usual.

“Hello, my kitties,” said In Charge. “How are you this fine day? Hmmm?” “Meow, meow,” replied the cats, who really said, “Food, food!”

In Charge fed and watered each cat, letting the integrated ones out of their cages to roam around the converted garage. As soon as her cage was opened, Jet immediately ran up the fake tree into her hut at the very tippy-top. From there, safe and secure, she could observe the comings and goings of the other cats.

Another day spent hiding, thought Jet with a sigh. Jet had had her front claws removed, which made her feel particularly vulnerable around the other cats, especially the females. I wish I was less of a fraidy-cat, but there you have it. Every time I try to mingle with the rest of the girls, it’s always the same. They call me “fraidy-cat” and make fun of me because I’m small and get easily startled. If they had lived with those two ferocious bow-wows, they would have been fraidy-cats, too.

On the other side of the garage, Goliath plaintively cried from his cage as In Charge approached with his daily dose of medicine.

“Hi, there fellow. How are you doing today? Feeling better, are we?” asked In Charge as she tilted his head back and tossed a pill down his throat.scan0020

Yuck, thought Goliath. These pills taste gross. He flicked his tongue to get rid of the taste and meowed his displeasure. He twisted his head, rubbing the green bandana around his neck against the cage door. The bandana indicated that he was not ready to play with the other cats. Every cat had a seven-day period of cage-confinement at the Center before he or she would be allowed to mingle with all the other felines.

“Good boy,” said In Charge, as she scratched behind his ears. “Only a few more days before you’ll be off the pills and feeling much better.”

She closed the cage and moved on to take care of other cats. Goliath meowed after her. “Let me out, let me out. I want to explore! I want to play!” he said, but the other cats ignored him and followed In Charge around the room as she cleaned out litter boxes.

A little later, Tapping Fingers came in to say hello to the cats. “Hello, my pretty cats. How’s the day treating you?” he asked, petting a few felines before retreating upstairs to sit at the bright box and make clicking sounds with his fingers on a flat board with raised squares. Some of the cats came upstairs with him and talked to him while he tapped. “Do you like the computer, my lovelies?” Tapping Fingers would say, pausing to play with the more adventuresome cats when they approached him.

The other cats quickly went about their daily routines: eating, sleeping, looking out of the windows, playing, chasing dust mites. With more than 30 cats in residence, there was always something going on. The pedigreed felines would break off into their “high society” group while the mixed-breed cats would band together. But when visitors came, it was every cat for himself. Visitors meant that some lucky cat would be going to his forever home, that place where he or she would be king or queen cat, the top banana. Every cat at the Siamese Cat Rescue Center secretly wished that the next visitor would pick him to take to his forever home.

That particular Monday, someone knocked on the door in the early afternoon and when In Charge answered, the cats closest to the door heard her say, “Hi, and welcome. Come on in and see the cats.”

“New Scents, New Scents!,” shouted those cats, as they scampered back to tell the other kitties. “New Scents!” New Scents meant that a visitor had arrived, one who would hopefully take a lucky cat to his or her forever home. Oh, the anticipation! The friendliest cats immediately began their campaign for attention.

“Pick me,” they purred, rubbing up against the legs of the two New Scents. “I’m cute, I’m fun, pick me!”

In Charge began her standard tour, explaining to the two New Scents about the center and then moving around the room to explain each cat. The couple went halfway around the room before the male New Scent spotted the all-black Jet hiding in her hut.

“What about that one, way up there?” he asked In Charge, his voice sounding rather froggy.

“Oh, you mean Jet, of course,” said In Charge. “Jet has been with us for a while and she’s low-woman on the totem pole, which is why she’s stays out of the way. She’s seven years old and a pure-bred Oriental Short Hair. Quite a lovely cat, really, but a little on the shy side. I think she would do really well in a house where she was the only cat or only female cat.”

New Scents continued their tour, dismissing the kittens as too young and the rambunctious cats as too jumpy. Then the female New Scent spotted Goliath. “What about this one?” she questioned In Charge, her voice sounding musical.

“Goliath just came to us seven days ago, which is why he has not been integrated with the other cats,” In Charge replied. “I think I can let him out, if you would like to see him.”

“Oh, yes,” said the female New Scent. “Please do.” Goliath echoed that by meowing, “Let me out! I want to smell and play and run.”

Goliath scratched at the cage door as In Charge opened it. “Here you go, fellow,” she said. “Out you go.”

“Oh, he’s unusual,” commented female New Scent. “Is he Siamese?”

“Partly,” In Charge said. “He’s a mixed-breed with Siamese—that gives him his blue eyes, gray ears and tail—and snowshoes for his white stockings. Goliath is also polydactyl, which means he has six toes on each of his two front feet.”

“Six toes! Wow,” said male New Scent.

“So I got twenty-two toes, what’s it to you?” Goliath said, rubbing up against female New Scent’s legs and getting a good scratching behind his ears for the effort. “I wish everyone would not be so quick to point out the extra toe thing. Does that get old. Why can’t somebody like me for my personality instead of my six toes,” he groused.img_0129

“At least people like you for something,” replied another cat. “Maybe you’ll get adopted soon because of your toes. That ain’t a bad thing, you know.”

“Let’s go over the house to see some other cats,” suggested In Charge, as she finished her garage tour. “I keep some of the older ones over there.”

The New Scents and In Charge left the garage and trouped over to the main house. As they were leaving, Goliath began to explore his new surroundings. “Free! I’m free at last,” he triumphed, sniffing the other cats, the floor, cages, food dishes.

Jet watched the New Scents leave, feeling a bit hurt. I thought those New Scents were interested in me, she said to herself. But I guess not. The girls are right—nobody will want a fraidy-cat.

Just when the cats began to settle back down, the door opened and In Charge brought back New Scents. “We’d like to take a look at Jet, if we could,” said the male New Scent. In Charge told them she’d try to get her out of her hut. Jet began to tremble as In Charge approached.

“Fraidy-cat, fraidy-cat,” chanted the other cats as In Charge reached up to chase Jet out of her hut. “Fraidy-cat.”

Jet bolted from the hut and flew across the room to her second-favorite hiding place, inside the fake tree hollow. She shivered as the New Scents cautiously approached.

“She’s beautiful,” said the female New Scent. “She’s so small, too.”

“I think she would do really well and if you wanted another cat, Goliath might be a good match for her, because he’s very laid back,” In Charge commented, carefully watching the New Scents’ faces to see which cat they were interested in. “I’ll leave you alone to decide. Just come on upstairs when you do,” she said as she left.

The New Scents stood in the middle of the garage, looking at all the cats mewling about their feet. “Take me!,” purred a seal-point Siamese. “Take me,” panted a playful kitten. Jet huddled in her hut and waited resignedly for the New Scents to pick a cat and leave. “They’ll never pick me,” she thought, a bit terrified at the possibility of going with strangers even to get away from the teasing cats at the center. Goliath roamed about, investigating the surroundings and sniffing the other felines. He hadn’t given the New Scents much thought, since he had so many other things to think about, like what was over in that corner, as he hurried to have a look-see.

Female New Scent said to her companion, “Well, which one are you thinking of?”

Male New Scent pointed in Jet’s direction. “I like the small black one hiding over there.”

“She’s pretty,” agreed Female New Scent. “But what about this one?” gesturing toward Goliath. “He’s certainly interesting. Imagine—six toes!”

“He’s friendly, all right,” replied Male New Scent. “I’m still partial to the dark one.”

“And I really like Goliath.” The two New Scents stood for a moment, thinking. “Can we get them both? I worry about one being lonely while we’re at work all day,” she said.

“Two? Are you sure?”

“I think that would be good,” said Female New Scent. The New Scents turned and walked up the stairs to talk with In Charge. Jet trembled in her hiding place, hardly daring to believe that she might be chosen to go to her forever home. They seem nice, she thought. Not loud at all. Maybe it will be okay to live with them. Goliath still romped about getting acquainted with the other cats.

Some time later, just when the cats had almost forgotten that In Charge and two New Scents were upstairs, the trio came back down. New Scents went out of the door and In Charge cautiously approached Jet’s hiding place.

“Now, Jet. Be a good girl and come down from there. It’s time to go to your forever home with these nice people. They’re going to love you and take good care of you.” In Charge used her most soothing voice as she gently picked Jet up and carried her to a plastic pet carrier.

“There you go, let me get your blankie,” In Charge said. Each cat had his or her own knitted blanket that stayed with them in their nighttime cages and went with them when they were adopted. In Charge put Jet’s blue blanket in the carrier with her and carried her to the door.

Jet meowed plaintively, “Where am I going? I’m scared, can’t you see? Don’t make me leave!?” forgetting for the moment her desire to have a forever home in her terror of change.

In Charge carefully placed Jet’s carrier in the back seat of the New Scents’ car, which was on to cool it down from sitting in the hot sun. Female New Scent turned from the front seat and began talking to Jet. “Don’t worry, Jet. It’s okay. Everything will be okay.”

scan0019Male New Scent took a cardboard pet carrier and followed In Charge back into the garage. In Charge quickly found Goliath and placed him in the pet carrier. Goliath immediately began butting his head against the flimsy top of the carrier in an effort to get out.

“Let me out,” he cried. “I don’t want to be in here! Let me out I say!”

As Male New Scent transported the cat from the garage to the car, Goliath continued his attempts to get out. In Charge followed with Goliath’s medicine, Jet’s hut and last-minute instructions for the New Scents.

“I thought Jet might like her hut,” she said. “She spent so much time there and I thought it would help her make the transition. Just put it someplace high, like on top of a bookcase,” In Charge advised.

The New Scents said good-bye and thank yous to In Charge, shut the doors and drove away with Jet and Goliath mewing in the back seat. But the car had only traveled a short way when Goliath succeeded in poking his head out of the carrier and wiggling his way free.

“He’s out,” said Female New Scent. “Well, put him back in,” Male New Scent answered. “I don’t think we can make him stay in the box,” she said. Goliath thought, That’s right. I’m not going back in that box, either. You can’t keep this cat down.

“He shouldn’t be loose in the car,” Male New Scent pointed out.

“I’ll hold him,” compromised Female New Scent, reaching behind her to grab Goliath. He settled happily on her lap, content for the most part to lie there while she stroked his fur. “Purrrr. Purrrrr,” he murmured, and Jet heard him say “Ahhh, this is the life. Attention is all mine.”

The long journey continued. New Scents talked to both cats periodically. Goliath tried to explore the car, but Female New Scent restrained him when he did. Jet expressed her anxiety every once in a while with a loud “Meow.”

Soon, the New Scents stopped the car. Male New Scent got out and walked around to get the cardboard carrier out. Female New Scent stuffed Goliath back into the carrier and then picked up Jet’s carrier and hut before following Male New Scent up a winding sidewalk. Two-story brick buildings lined the walkways. Goliath butted his head against the carrier’s top, eventually peeking out through a slit.

Finally, the New Scents opened a door, walked down a hallway and paused before another door. “We’re home, kitties,” exclaimed Female New Scent as Male New Scent unlocked the door. Goliath and Jet waited in anticipation as they were carried inside.

Once the door closed, Male New Scent released Goliath from his cardboard cage and Female New Scent let Jet exit her carrier. Female New Scent picked up Jet and Male New Scent grabbed Goliath and they showed the cats where the food, water and the litter boxes were.

Then they put the cats down and Jet bolted away, running from room to room, looking for a good place to hide. She spotted a bed and quickly ducked underneath. Goliath immediately ran about, sniffing. “Free at last! I’m free at last!” he shouted.

scan0022Later, when the New Scents had gone to sleep, Goliath trotted up to Jet and asked her what they were going to call New Scents, since they weren’t new scents anymore.

“How about Froggy Voice for Male New Scent?” Goliath asked. “Okay,” Jet agreed, then hesitantly volunteered, “What about Sing Sing Voice for Female New Scent?”

“Sing Sing Voice?” Goliath parroted. Jet sniffed, “Her voice does sound like music to me.”

“Okay, okay. Sing Sing Voice and Froggy Voice it is.”

“What do you think of this place, Goliath?” Jet ventured timidly.

“I think it’s going to be a good Forever Home,” Goliath answered emphatically.

Jet nodded. “So do I.”

Jared’s FBI Friend Calls, Phantom Love, Chapter 9

Sweat trickled down Jared’s face as he bent to pick up another stick. His goal of mowing the backyard today was fast becoming unreachable given the number of sticks littering the ground. Mary told him several recent severe storms had shaken loose many dead branches from the dozen trees in the yard. Bending and straightening to toss the wood into the wheelbarrow made both of his legs ache. At this rate, it would take him a week to mow the grass. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve and pushed the wheelbarrow another couple feet to collect more branches.

He shielded his eyes and gazed at massive oaks, tulip poplars, and hickory trees. Come fall, this place would be covered in leaves. Good thing he wasn’t planning on hanging around that long. A few months of yard work should get his leg into shape. If only it were that simple to get his life back together.

But for now, his job involved picking up sticks. And to think he went to med school for this. His colleagues would find it amusing to see him struggling to clear a yard of debris.

He glanced up at the silent house as he passed. Pastor Smith hadn’t said why Mary hadn’t married and why she lived secluded in this old house. He frowned. All his life, he had wanted to help people and maybe he had as a doctor who treated the mind instead of the body. But he couldn’t get past the fact that with the very person he needed to reach, he had failed big time.

He dumped the wood at the curb and returned for another load. He might not be working in his field right now, but maybe he could do some good here. Mary was a far cry from the buoyant girl of his childhood, the one always up for a bike ride down to the creek or an exploring hike through the woods that framed their cul de sac. Somewhere inside that grownup woman there must be vestiges of the girl who left him without a word.

He worked methodically throughout the morning, thankful that his leg muscles held up to the exercise. He took a break around eleven and drank some water. Pushing the wheelbarrow through the tall grass was more of a workout than he had anticipated. Before the incident, he ran five miles three or four times a week and played tennis regularly with some of his former medical school buddies. Now, he huffed as he wheeled the barrow filled with sticks to the curb.

Why Mary had let the yard deteriorate was beyond his understanding. By the landscaping still visible beneath the neglect, he could tell someone had spent a lot of time and money making the yard a showpiece. Toward the back of the yard, he came across the remains of a brick labyrinth edged with an overgrown flower garden. At the center, a stone bench faced a nonworking fountain.

His cell phone chirped. He fished it out of the back pocket of his jeans. He checked the caller ID before answering. Will Fulton. He held the phone as it rang again and debated the wisdom of taking the call. Will would want an update on his progress, but Jared had nothing new to tell him.

“Hello?”

“Jared, how are you?”

Jared sidestepped a branch to lean against the fence. “Tired and sweaty.”

A brief silence, then Will continued. “I didn’t think the assignment was all that tough.”

Jared glanced over his shoulder at the house, but there was no sign of Mary. “To avoid suspicion, I had to go undercover as a yard worker.”

“Lawn care? There are hidden depths to you I had no idea of.” Will gave a short laugh. “How’s the leg holding up?”

Jared grimaced. “I can’t say I’ve seen much improvement, but the doctor wants me to exercise it regularly. I have a physical therapist to help with the tough stuff.”

“Sounds like you’re doing okay on that score.”

“Did you call just to ask about my health or was there another reason?” Jared wished he could call back the words as soon as they left his mouth. Will didn’t deserve his sarcasm—he hadn’t forced Jared to work on this or any other FBI case. It wasn’t Will’s fault Jared’s encounters with Mary were stirring up things from his past that he would prefer to stay there.

Will cleared his throat. “You know how sorry I am that you got shot and all, but your help on that case was invaluable. You did some good, too.”

Jared blew out a breath. “Yeah, well, tell that to my dreams, why don’t you.” He used his bandana to wipe his neck.

“Still having nightmares about the shooting?”

“Something like that.” Jared straightened up and stretched his legs. “I’ve got to go. I’ll let you know when I have something to report.”

Jared ended the call and slipped the phone into his pocket. He surveyed the yard. He had cleared enough to mow the back half. Better get on that before the city handed out another fine. Mary had told him her next-door neighbor was monitoring the condition of the yard and would call the city to report any noncompliance.

He grabbed the now-empty wheelbarrow and pushed it across the lawn to the carriage house. Opening one side of the big oak double doors, he pushed the wheelbarrow inside, parking it beside the riding lawnmower. Thank goodness Mary had working lawn equipment. He tugged on his facemask to block the dust and mounted the mower.

As he turned the key in the ignition, he reflected on his conversation with Will. He needed to stop taking his frustrations out on his friend. Will might have convinced him to help with that last case, but Jared was the one who doused it with gasoline and threw in a match to boot. He backed the mower out of the carriage house and headed to the far side of the yard. He was better off concentrating on mowing the grass than dwelling on his conversation with Will. He turned the mower to the left, questioning the wisdom of his decision to help Will again. He should have learned his lesson with his last involvement with the FBI, that if an agent asked for a civilian’s help, contrary to the FBI’s promises, there was nothing simple about it.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.

October Releases for Christian Fiction

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical Fiction:

Providence: Hannah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — When the prophet of Israel refuses to heal her, Hannah flees Jerusalem and is captured by an enemy with a curse all his own. (Biblical from Harbourlight [Pelican])

Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette — In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife. When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is? (Biblical from Bethany House [Baker])

Christmas Novella:

Christmas Lights by Chautona Havig, Vikki Kestell, Cathe Swanson, and April Hayman — From historical romance to contemporary cozy mysteries and Christmas wonder, these four “light” reads will warm your heart and ignite your Christmas spirit! (Christmas Novella, Mixed Genres, Independently Published)

Contemporary Romance:

Risking Love by Brenda S. Anderson — Can cautious bank employee Lissa Morgan risk falling in love with a former thrill-seeker, a widowed single dad, when she may have to foreclose on his house? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Mom for Christmas by Lorraine Beatty — Noah’s dream of a happy family and Beth’s dream of a continuing ballet career are both dashed, but when they come together they discover that the Lord might have a new dream for both of them. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra D. Bricker, Barbara J. Scott, Lynette Sowell, and Lenora Worth — Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters. The girls have inherited their father’s run-down horse farm for Christmas. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again? One thing’s for sure: nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart. Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas? (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Margaret Brownley — Stranded at the old Star Inn until the road back to his cabin reopens, lumber mill owner Rick Talbot suddenly comes face to face with the past. The only woman he’s ever loved is standing in front of the inn’s blazing fire trying to get warm. Both Rick and Sally regret what happened between them years ago, but his family lumberyard clashes with her tree-hugging ways and neither is willing to try again. It will take the storm of the century, one stage-struck young boy, a certain meddling “angel”–and even a cranky cat–to convince them that in matters of the heart, sometimes the second time around is best. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer — Marisa Hiller abandoned her modeling career to nurse a broken heart in Montana, far from the photographer who ruined everything. Her family farm is now part of a CSA program teaching gardening and cooking to single moms, but when the coordinator begs her to represent the program in the Miss Snowflake Pageant, Marisa balks. God has forgiven Jase Mackie but hasn’t answered his prayer to bring Marisa back into his life… until Jase finds himself out West as the official photographer for a beauty pageant, face to face with the woman he’s never forgotten. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Room at the Inn for Christmas by Mary Connealy — Ambitious hotel executive Amanda Star’s has got her sights set on the CEO job at the multi-national Halston hotel chain. But then she inherits the Star Inn, a place her father had always wanted her to run alongside him. With no time to be away from her job, she rushes home to put the inn up for sale. Once there, she’s struggles against keen regret, sweet memories, and the longing to return, which grows stronger when she is reunited with an old classmate: Anthony Carter, a handyman with a guarded heart. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac — A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

A Christmas Homecoming by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Interior design assistant Bailey Calderwood suspects the mysterious admirer sending her cards and flowers is none other than the son of her unpleasable, bed-ridden boss. When Stephen Belafonte’s mom demands he fire Bailey, can he find a way to heal the rift in his family as well his own heart, or will he be forced to let Bailey go? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson — When Caden Holt’s boss asks her to show off their own beautiful Prince Edward Island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the Red Door Inn, the reclusive executive chef is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen–and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post — Grant McAllister, a jaded big-city lawyer and small-town reporter Jami Carlisle have no hope for finding true love–except for a zany old matchmaker who won’t give up. In the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home. (Contemporary Romance from Waterfall Press)

Insight by Deborah Raney — She’s having a baby. It’s a blessing that brings comfort to newly widowed Olivia Cline. Yet with no insurance, no job and precious little money, how will Olivia care for herself and her child? The answer is a handsome and brooding artist seeking an assistant. Reed Vincent has recently regained his eyesight thanks to a donor. And through his eyes, Olivia begins to see all the possibilities before her. Before them. Until, in a flash of insight, she knows why his signature is so hauntingly familiar. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

Silver Bells by Deborah Raney — As Elvis croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon a small Kansas town, two people find the miracle of love. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

A Family Under the Christmas Tree by Terri Reed — In this heartwarming tale set during the Christmas season, a single father and a fashion photographer are brought together by a young boy and a mischievous Bernese mountain dog–but first they must learn to set aside their differences if they are willing to let their relationship bloom. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Third Strand of the Cord by Catherine Richmond — Caroline will do anything to keep her ex-husband from putting her son with Down syndrome in an institution–even enroll the boy in a class taught by a know-it-all karate instructor. Lee Marivaux is an expert at reading people. He knows his feisty new student will thrive with firm guidance – and he’s right. He pegs the boy’s mother as a clueless socialite who loafs at the country club – and he’s never been so wrong. When Caroline’s abusive ex shows up, demanding custody, Lee and Caroline must join forces to keep the boy safe. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Buying Love by Toni Shiloh — Impatient for marriage, Nina Warrenton places an ad in the newspaper for a husband–attaching a monetary reward. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef who answers her add, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant, but can he let it go to prove his love for Nina? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)

Moonlight Over Manahttan by Carrie Turansky — Professional organizer Sarah Montgomery is hired to organize her elderly neighbor’s cluttered apartment by Justin Latimer, her neighbor’s grandson. Sarah believes free-spirited Justin is a lazy, unemployed poet who is taking advantage of his grandmother’s generosity. Though attracted to him, she guards her heart against her growing feelings. As Sarah and Justin work together to help his grandmother and enjoy Christmas events in NYC, romantic sparks fly. When Sarah discovers who Justin really is, she must decide if she will continue to hide behind her protective wall or open her heart and embrace love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman — Charlotte Dolinsky needs time to recover after breaking up with her boyfriend, Ryan. But when a surprise visitor shows up on her doorstep in Texas, she’s forced to put aside her own worries to help her Amish friends in Lancaster County. Daniel Byler struggles each day in his Amish community to heal from his fiancée’s betrayal. When he discovers that a member of his family is in danger of being shunned, his pain turns to fear. His only way to help is by partnering with Charlotte, a woman he barely knows who has already deceived them all before. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Contemporary (includes Women’s Fiction):

Paint The Storm by Dawn V. Cahill — When Meg is challenged to love her lesbian daughter as Christ would, she struggles to live out God’s command, and when her daughter goes missing, she finds herself joined with the unlikeliest of allies in her search for Linzee, and finally learns of God’s unconditional grace for sinners. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Spring Mountain Publishing)

Restoration Road by Elise Phillips — Mallory Andrews’s short trip back to Texas for her mother’s funeral quickly becomes a move home to help her grieving father with his contracting business. When her old crush, Tres, hires them for a restoration project Mallory falls in love with the crumbling old house. And when feelings bloom between her and Tres, she finds herself on the road to a brand new, unexpected life filled with faith, sweet tea, and fresh paint. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Above All Things by Deborah Raney — Expecting their first baby, Judd and Evette McGlin are thrilled to become parents. But the couple faces the ultimate test when Judd learns he already has a child: a six-year-old mixed-race girl born amid secrets and lies. Now, Evette must decide if she can accept the child. She thought she was open-minded–until hidden prejudices threaten the future of an innocent little girl, Evette’s marriage and the very notion of who she thinks she is. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Raney Day Press)

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti — Alexis set out to restore a fieldstone farmhouse in need of repair. She didn’t expect to restore a life in the process. (General Contemporary from Worthy Inspired)

Strings of Faith by Terry Stafford — Darcy is a classically trained violinist who dreams of playing bluegrass and winning The National Oldtime Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho. When tragedy strikes, Darcy lays her gift aside for her family and faces unimaginable pain and loss, leading to dissension with her husband, disappointing judgment from her church, and anger with God Himself. Can her gift of music survive when her life is turned upside down? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

Historical:

The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan — On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith — When an accident forces Jonah Ashton to serve as a ship’s physician, he boards the Providence with the plan to escort a group of families to their new settlement in South America and then return to Pennsylvania to finish medical school before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. What he doesn’t count on is getting lost at sea… and Marian Foster. When the settlers finally reach land, Jonah makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but will it change his heart? (Historical from Crossriver Media Group)

Historical Romance:

The Rails to Love Romance Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens, and Liz Tolsma — Journey the Transcontinental Railroad along with nine unlikely couples who encounter all the dangers and disappointments of traveling the rails in the late 1800s. From sight-seeing excursions to transports toward new lives, from orphan trains to circus trains, can romances develop into blazing love in a world of cold, hard steel? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Julie Lessman, and Anna Schmidt — For widow June Harper, another cold front is about to hit. Most call him Hugh. She’d call him Scrooge, except as the man ensures her needs are met, June can’t help but wonder how to meet the needs of his heart. Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. And even if Roy, her hired help for the holidays, does take care of her, that doesn’t mean he cares for her or that he’ll stay past Christmas. Pastor Colton McCabe is not sure he’ll make it through the holidays with his new housekeeper. Grace can’t seem to do anything right but love. Perhaps being a homekeeper will earn her a permanent residence in his heart. Connie Lancaster is determined to return to St. Louis, and no cowboy can change her mind. But if Isaac can change her heart, maybe Connie will see the homecoming she’s been longing for isn’t to a place but a person. (Historical Romance from Gilead Publishing)

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep — Stranded in a strange land, Eleanor Morgan faces starvation or marriage . . . but who wants to marry a murderer? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Rightful Heir by Angel Moore — Cowboy Jared Ivy must work with stranger Mary Lou Ellison until a judge comes to town and determines which one of them is the rightful heir to his family’s Texas newspaper. Intrepid reporter Mary Lou won’t lose the Pine Haven Record–the legacy he left her–without a fight. But when she and Jared stop sparring long enough to investigate a story together, they become a force to be reckoned with. Will they let their battle over the Record get in the way of something even more newsworthy: true love? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Christmas at Stoney Creek by Martha Rogers — When newspaper reporter Tom Whiteman befriends a homeless man named Joe, Tom decides to bring him home to Stoney Creek, Texas for Christmas. As Tom and his childhood friend Faith Delmont set out to learn the truth about the mysterious old man with the kind, sad eyes, they discover that God’s love can turn tragedy and loss to triumph, and that true love comes to those who wait. (Historical Romance from Realms [Charisma Media])

Mystery:

Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard — In order to regain her grandmother’s favor FBI Special Agent Serena Jones agrees to investigate a missing Salvador Dali painting. But when the evidence points to members of the owner’s own household, it becomes clear that Serena won’t be winning any popularity contests. Then Serena stumbles upon links to her grandfather’s unsolved murder. (Mystery from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Romantic Suspense:

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon — After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime in the woods. But when someone threatens his neighbor, publishing executive Dana Lewis, Finn and Dana must work together to discover who wants her to leave her lakeside cabin before it costs both their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Identity Unknown by Terri Reed — When a John Doe washes up on the shores of Calico Bay, no one knows who he is—including him. But one thing’s instantly clear to deputy sheriff Audrey Martin: the man’s marked for murder. And she’s the only one who can protect him from the assassins who lurk at every turn. The arrival of a team of men claiming he’s Canadian Border Services officer Nathanial Longhorn only further complicates the matter. As his memories slowly start drifting back, Nathanial and Audrey work to uncover who wants him dead and why. If they don’t, this Christmas might be their last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes — What more can you sacrifice than your life? Parvin Blackwater is dead. At least that’s what the Council and the world thinks. But her sacrifice tore down part of the Wall long enough to stir up hope and rebellion in the people. Parvin and Solomon must uncover the mysterious clues that Jude left behind in order to destroy the projected Wall once and for all. Meanwhile, the Council schemes to new levels of technology in its attempts to keep the people contained. Can a one-handed Radical and a scarred ex-Enforcer really bring shalom to the world? (Speculative Young Adult from Enclave Publishing)

Unblemished by Sara Ella — Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength? (Speculative Young Adult from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Beast by Chawna Schroeder — For as long as Beast can remember, she has lived among her master’s dogs. With them she sleeps. With them she eats. With them she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold she dreams of one day becoming her master’s favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire. When her pack scatters after a surprise raid, Beast must defend herself against slavers, hunting down the loners. They are so strong, and she is only a beast . . . or is she? (Speculative Allegory from Enclave Publishing)

Accelerant by Ronie Kendig — He’ll destroy the world. But he must save it first. As the only able-bodied heir to the Fire Throne, Haegan, Prince of Seultrie must return to the Nine Kingdoms and fight for his people. But there are insidious forces at work. When reality itself falls into question, Haegan struggles to know where to fight, who to trust. Caught between duty to his country and duty to the world, Haegan must see clearly enough to choose the right path to save his devastated world. (Speculative High Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)

Thriller/Suspense:

Death in the Mind’s Eye by Rick Acker — It knows what you’re thinking. It knows when you’re lying. Does it know how to kill? San Francisco attorney Mike Webster and Dr. Johanna Anderson, a brilliant and beautiful psychologist, must clear Jo’s name of a malpractice case before the controversial, technologically-assisted Mind’s Eye therapy is seized by a shadowy finance firm and used as a weapon. (Thriller/Suspense from Waterfall Press)

The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig — A Special Forces team is thrust into a war with the past to save the president after an artifact unleashes a deadly toxin. Special Forces operative Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are tasked in a search-and-rescue–the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour. The mission nosedives when an ancient biblical artifact and a deadly toxin wipe out villages. Tox must stop the terrorists and the toxin to save the president. This is a free e-novella prequel! (Thriller/Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Deadly Infiltration by W. Richard Lawrence — Infiltrators inside the American government are betraying undercover agents while helping sneak weapons of mass destruction across our borders. To keep their work hidden, they are willing to murder anyone who gets in their way. Sara, a brilliant computer expert working for the FBI, finds herself caught in the middle. Sara’s young faith in God is gravely tested when she is framed for the murder of an FBI agent, forcing her to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Sara’s fiancé Derry lives up to a promise he made to her, and gives up his future to save her and hopefully the country. (Thriller/Suspense from Boarding House Publishing)

Western Historical:

Refining Fire by Carol Cox — Meet the Arizona Territory Brides. Four strong, independent women–each determined to stand on her own two feet, and not one of them looking for romance. But sometimes love shows up when you least expect it… (Western, Pioneer/Prairie, Independently Published)

Mary Has Dinner With a Friend, Phantom Love, Chapter 8

“Thanks for having me over tonight. Calvin’s out with his buddies and I wasn’t looking forward to watching whatever movie my roommate brought home.” Amy Donavan embraced Mary in a cloud of perfume and love. “Mmm, smells good in here. What’s for dinner?”

“Barley lamb shanks and vegetables.” Mary surveyed her friend. “What’s going on? You look positively glowing.”

Amy smiled and waved her left hand around in the air.

Mary caught the sparkle of a diamond on the ring finger and squealed. “Calvin finally asked you to marry him?”

“Two days ago.”

Mary grabbed her friend in a hug. “Congratulations! This is wonderful news. Come in the kitchen and tell me all about it while I dish up dinner.”

Amy followed her into the kitchen and settled herself on a bar stool by the island. “Do you remember I sent you a text a few days ago that it was the worst day of my life? Calvin and I had a dinner reservation but my boss made me stay late and redo the cover letter to the fundraising packet that had to go out the next day. I had to cancel our plans.” She shook her head, brushing back a strand of hair. “To give him credit, Calvin didn’t snap at me for ruining his plans. He said that was okay and to call him when I was heading home, no matter the time.”

Mary set the small kitchen table. “What happened next?”

“I got into my car close to eight and called him. I told him I was too bushed to go out and could I have a rain check on our dinner. All I wanted to do was go home and crash. He told me he understood and he’d call me in the morning.” Amy grinned. “He called my roommate and got her to leave the apartment for a few hours. He brought in dinner from the restaurant where we were supposed to eat. When I walked into my apartment, he had candles burning, soft music playing, and the table set. I cried when he dropped down on one knee right there in the foyer and asked me to be his wife.”

“I gather you said yes.” Mary poured sangria into two glasses and handed one to Amy, who had been her friend for two decades. They had met at a small women’s Bible study group Mary had attended after Geraldine died. She smiled at her friend, tamping down the sprig of jealously that struggled to take root. Amy and Calvin were a lovely couple, but she couldn’t help feeling her chance at love had passed her by already, that soon she would be an old maid like her Aunt Geraldine.

“Of course I said yes.”

“I forget how long you two had been dating.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “Five years, if you can believe that.”

“I’m so happy for you both. Calvin’s a great guy.” Mary dished up the meal. “Come on, let’s eat.”

As the two women sat down at the table, Amy said, “Now I’ve just got to get him to set a date in the not-so-distant future.”

Mary said grace and the two began to eat. Amy shook her fork at Mary before spearing a piece of lamb. “You need to get out there, you know. You won’t meet a man staying around here.”

Mary thought of David just a click away online. Best friend or not, she wasn’t ready to share David with anyone, even Amy. Time to change the subject. “I guess you won’t be interested to know about the man who’s living in my carriage house as of today.”

Amy put down her fork and stared at Mary. “Wow, there are hidden depths to you that I am only just beginning to plumb. It’s your turn to spill the beans.”

Mary laughed. “Let me preface this story by saying it was all Pastor Smith’s idea. The city slapped me with a fine for my property’s grass length because I forgot about mowing the grass.” Mary paused. She didn’t want to share that her depression about her lack of a love life had meant some days she hadn’t bothered to even get dressed, much less worry about her lawn. “Now it’s a jungle out there and you know how I hate yard work of any sort.”

Amy nodded, sipping her sangria. “Go on.”

“So I asked Pastor Smith for recommendations of someone who would be willing to get the yard into some semblance of order and do a few minor household repairs in exchange for free rent in the carriage house apartment.”

“I see. So who’s the man?”

“Jared Quinby.”

“Details, girlfriend!” She narrowed her eyes at Mary. “It will go easier on you if I don’t have to pull every piece of information out from you bit by bit.” She twirled a pretend mustache and put on a horrible German accent. “I have ways of making you talk.”

“Okay, I’ll tell. Please don’t hurt me.” Mary took a bite of carrots as she marshaled her thoughts. She had never told Amy much about her childhood and she wanted to avoid answering more questions tonight.

“He’s my age, tall with a medium build. He has white-blond hair, and has a disability in his left leg that needs physical exercise to get better.” She forked another bite into her mouth and chewed slowly, swallowing before continuing. “The funny part of it is, we knew each other as children. He lived next door to me for a few years before I moved in with my aunt here.”

Amy shook her head. “Just goes to show what a small world we live in after all.”

Mary wondered what Amy would say if she knew about why she had never seen Jared again until a few days ago. And why David’s moving to Peru had brought back so many painful memories.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.

A Conversation With Terri Reed

Terri Reed’s inspirational romance and romantic suspense novels have appeared on Publisher’s Weekly top 25 and in Nielsen’s Bookscan top 100. Her novels have also been featured in USA Today, Christian Fiction Magazine and Romantic Times Magazine. She’s also finaled in RWA’s RITA contest, National Reader’s Choice Award contest and the ACFW’s The Carol Award contest.

MCP Terri Reed-4 small colorWhat’s the hardest part of writing romantic suspense?
Terri: Keeping the action and tension high while building a believable romance between the two characters. Often they are running for their lives, dodging bullets and mayhem. This doesn’t lend itself to warm fuzzy feelings and getting to know one another well enough to open their hearts to each other.

What’s the weirdest way someone has died or been killed in your novels?
Terri: I once had a secondary character die of arsenic poisoned cupcakes.

Where do you get the inspiration for your plots?
Terri: Life! I scour news articles; watch reality police shows and talk to law enforcement personnel for ideas. Once I get the germ of a story, I then play the ‘what if’ game. What if this happened…and then this…. and so on until I have a fully developed plot that I can then turn into a novel.

Current book: Identity UnknownIdentity Unknown
A hunted man with no memory and a pretty deputy sheriff must trust each other if they hope to survive for a merry Christmas.

Connect w/Terri:
Website: www.terrireed.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terrireedauthorpage/