Posts Tagged ‘Featured Book Except’





Series: Freedom Lake
Genre:  Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: March 20, 2018


Michelle Thomas has it all. Beautiful and successful, she’s just opened her own law firm in Freedom Lake. What more could she want? When her old flame rolls back into Freedom Lake, she’s intent on ignoring him. But how can she give the widower and his precious twin girls the cold shoulder?

Still reeling from the death of his wife, Guy Pierre returns to Freedom Lake to take over as town sheriff and raise his twin daughters. Alone. Yet, life keeps throwing Michelle in his path and sparks of interest began to rise.

Will old secrets tear them apart again or can they find the faith to let God’s grace restore what has been broken?





Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.






  1. How did you decide that you wanted to write Christian romance?  What inspired this?
    When I rededicated my life to Christ, I wanted to be used by Him. It wasn’t until I went back to school to get my Bachelor’s degree in English that the writing bug really called to me. Not that it hadn’t before, but that it could actually be a way to reach people. I went to my local library to see if they had any books like this. I had never heard of Christian fiction so once I found the section, I began devouring the books and the lessons found between the pages.
  2. How often do you hear from your reader fans? Do you have any funny and/or awkward stories?
    I hear from readers maybe once a month. Usually it’s because they’re sharing a review with me or they just want to share how the story touched their hearts.
  3. What inspired the idea forGrace Restored?
    When I wrote book one, I knew the characters for each series. It wasn’t until I was midway through book one, Returning Home, that I realized how much of a story Guy and Michelle had. As soon as I finished the first draft of RH, I dove into Grace Restored with anticipation. They did not disappointment me.
  4. What do you want readers to take away from reading Grace Restored?
    That no matter what skeletons you shoved in your closet, God’s grace is enough to restore You to the kingdom, to peace of mind, to faith.
  5. What is your current WIP? What can you tell us about it?
    Currently I’m working on finishing the fourth and final book in the Maple Run series. This book features Shorty and Nikki with characters from the first three books making an appearance. These two have really struggled to share their thoughts with me from the moment I tried to make them book 2, lol. Thankfully, they’re opening up but it’s still a struggle.



June 11, 2003

“Promise we’ll always be friends.” Michelle Thomas glanced at her best friends, Jo Ellen Baker and Chloe Smith. Graduating from high school was going to change their relationship no matter what. She just prayed it would stand the test of time.

“Of course, we will,” Jo said in her no-nonsense tone of voice.

“Just because we’re going to college doesn’t mean our friendship will change,” Chloe stated in her soft voice.

Michelle sighed. She loved her friends, but sometimes, they didn’t seem to understand how tenuous time could be. In the blink of an eye, life could be altered.

“I love you, guys.” She smiled at them, eyes misting over.

“Aw, group hug.” Jo exclaimed.

Michelle wrapped her arms around them. Life couldn’t get much better.

The sound of the doorbell brought the hug to a close. Her parents had gone out for date night and had allowed her to have a sleepover with her girls. She knew they didn’t like her opening the door when they weren’t home, but she was an adult now.

She peered through the peep hole and frowned. Why was there a police officer at her door? She opened the door. “May I help you?”

The officer removed his hat, a somber look coloring his features. “Are you Michelle Thomas?”

She nodded. This was getting stranger by the minute.

“I’m Officer Simpson with the Kodiak City Police Department, may I come inside?”

What were the Kodiak City Police Department doing in Freedom Lake?

“Who’s at the door, Chelle?” Jo called out.

“The police.”

Jo quickly padded to the door to stand next to her. “How do we know you’re really the police?”

Trust Jo to be cynical and non-trusting. Who would lie about that?

He handed over his badge and Jo examined it. Michelle wanted to laugh at her serious expression, but something was off. Something wasn’t right.

Chloe peeked over Jo’s shoulder. “Looks real to me.”

“I suppose,” Jo replied. She handed the badge back. “Just say what you have to say right there.” Jo pointed past the threshold, as if the officer wasn’t strong enough to cross it if necessary.

The officer met Michelle’s gaze, his gray eyes softening. “Ms. Thomas, your parents have been involved in an accident.”

“What? Are they okay?” She swallowed, trying to dislodge the lump in her throat. She met Jo’s eyes, noticing the creases in her forehead. She vaguely noted Chloe’s hand on her back.

“Ma’am, I regret to inform you…”

It sounded like a recording. The words didn’t make sense. How could they be dead? She just saw them. Her dad had teared up after the graduation ceremony while they were taking family photos.

Slowly, the sound of wailing penetrated her thoughts. She wished they’d shut up. How could she hear what the officer was saying if they wouldn’t stop?

Her knees buckled and she felt arms come around to steady her.

It was her.

She was the one wailing. She was the one making the incessant noise.

They were dead. At the blink of an eye, her parents were dead.




For a chance to win an e-copy (International) of Grace Restored by Toni Shiloh, comment on this blog responding to the following question: What verse capture’s God’s grace for you? (runs through 31 March)





#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, Grace Restored, Toni Shiloh

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Chasing the Wind book blitz

Welcome to the Chasing the Wind blog blitz and giveaway, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!



chasing the windTitle: Chasing the Wind
Author: Paula Scott
Publisher: West Butte Publishing
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Genre: Inspirational Historical Fiction
A beautiful, half-Indian girl raised by the Californios finds her fate intertwined with an American frontiersman haunted by his past in 1850 California.
As California comes to statehood amidst the madness of the gold rush, Isabella Vasquez must wed a buckskin-clad American who wins her in a card game. Though their union is passionate, Isabella soon finds herself abandoned in a brothel, where she rises to fame as a singer known as the Bluebird. Yet because of her Indian blood, the Bluebird will always be bought and sold in the white man’s world. When more is demanded of the Bluebird than just singing, Isabella flees to Fort Ross in search of her Russian father and her own race of people.

Peter Brondi has battled Indians all his life. The last thing he wants is a half-Indian wife. While taming the West with Kit Carson and John C. Fremont, Peter has fought the Mexican War and lost his beloved fiancée, Maggie, to his half-Indian brother, Paul. To satisfy his father’s dying wish, Peter vows to find his brother and put an end to the hate that’s between them. But when history repeats itself and Paul steals Isabella away, Peter must come to terms with his past and the animosity he holds against all Indians, including his half-brother and the wife he has forsaken.

*Chasing the Wind is the final story in the sweeping saga of California Rising, a tale of love, betrayal, and the ties that bind brothers together and California to the nation.


Peter released his own breath. He wished a real minister was here. He had no idea how to seal a vow before God with her.

She stared expectantly at him. With her hair pinned back, at least she looked old enough to be his wife. What if, like Maggie, she died giving birth? He closed his eyes, willing his thoughts into order. He’d learned long ago that worrying about the future only marred the present.

“We don’t have to do this,” she said, mistaking his hesitation.

He opened his eyes. Her gaze was intent on him.

Take care of my lamb.

He recognized that voice. It didn’t come from his own thoughts. It sounded just like Jedediah when he read the Bible as they sat beside the fire on cold winter nights.

He realized the words of the Bible had stuck. They’d bur¬rowed deep into his heart like an Indian arrow and killed the man he’d once been. He didn’t want to chase the wind any longer. He wanted to make a life with Belle.


PURCHASE A COPY: Goodreads | Amazon


paula scott

Paula began her writing career as a civilian contracted to write for the United States Air Force’s newspaper and magazines. Later, she wrote feature stories for a daily California newspaper. A fifth generation Californian, Paula’s great great grandmother came to California in a covered wagon and married a California farmer. Paula’s family has been farming ever since. Paula works on her family’s farm, writes historical fiction, and blogs about life, love, and farming at psbicknell.com

CONNECT WITH AUTHOR: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

chasing the wind blitz giveaway



Paula Scott is giving away a signed print copy of Chasing the Wind! (US Only) Void where prohibited by law. Enter via the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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tour schedule

March 28, 2018
Launch @ JustRead
She Lives to Read
All-of-a-kind Mom
The Christian Fiction Girl
Robin’s Nest
The Mary Reader

March 29, 2018
Singing Librarian Books
Edits and Reviews by Leslie
A Baker’s Perspective
Faithfully Bookish
Blooming with Books
Reflections From My Bookshelves
Radiant Light

March 30, 2018
Fiction Aficionado
Among the Reads
Cafinated Reads


#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, Chasing the Wind, Paula Scott, Just Read Tours

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#WreadingWednedsay is now dedicated to ‘wreading’ bits and excepts from my books—there’s five now! Book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases this month.




“I never did like wearing those things.”

“I would have thought you had one for every day of the week.” Polly stared straight ahead. She had never spoken to me so severely

Tears stung my eyes but I refused to let them loose.

“I’m sorry, Pearl.” She reached for my hand, but quickly grabbed the steering wheel as the car jostled upon a deep puddle.

“I know what people think of me.” She had apologized, and I accepted. But her words still stung; they had hit the mark. I had owned a dozen corsets once.

“No, Pearl, I don’t think you do.” Polly maneuvered the car from the lane and onto a smoother roadway.

“People think I’m superficial and flighty and silly.”

“I don’t.”

“You’re the only one.”

“I’d wager your husband doesn’t, either.”

“Yes, well…”

“And any number of mothers whose babies you’ve helped bring into the world.”

Polly’s words pressed on my thoughts and feelings of poor self-worth, ironing them into unwrinkled submission, to be folded and put away, out of sight.

“I did, didn’t I?”

We didn’t speak again until we were back at her house, cleaning instruments and restocking our supplies in our bags.

“What were you saying about corsets?” I finally ventured to ask.

“I had another young mother, several years ago, Lara Sullivan.” Polly sank onto a kitchen chair. “She was like Mrs. Eddington, insisted on wearing her corset. Even after she was pregnant. She refused to stop wearing it…”

I had not seen tears in Polly’s eyes before. Now her blue eyes puddled, and a tear trickled down her rosy cheeks. I put my hand on her arm and led her to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.

“She lost the baby. She pulled that damn thing so tight, she lost the baby.”

“Oh, Polly.” I tried to kneel in front of her, but had to pull a chair over instead. I embraced her across the chairs, and rocked her, singing lullaby words just as I’d heard her do so many times.




#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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#WreadingWednedsay is dedicated to ‘wreading’ bits and excepts from my books—there’s five now! Book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases this month.




“You need to go, my dear.” Polly was most kind, beyond understanding. She encouraged me in our endeavor. She knew somehow, the angst in my heart, the confusion and questions.

“I’ll only be away a few days.”

“Don’t rush yourself, Pearl. This is important. This is a big decision and you must take time to consider.”

I had considered. For months I had considered. And now I was on the brink of undeciding what I had so recently thought best. Had thought my only option.

“But how can this be the best thing, Polly?” Confusion weighed on me, exhausting my already pregnant-taxed body.

“Pray, my dear.”

“Pray?” I was diligent in my faith, read the Holy Bible every Sunday in church—a small gasp escaped me. We had been in Savannah two months and we’d not attended church. I had passed Saint Martin’s countless times, but hadn’t once ventured inside. My head drooped in shame.

“Of course, pray.” Polly smiled, I could feel it in the warmth of her voice and the gentle touch of her hands. “Pray always. Pray until you have peace.”

Peace. I hadn’t felt or known true peace in… years. Had I? Had I ever truly known peace?

I pondered on peace as I walked home. Peace, be still. But Christ was talking to the wind and the waves. He certainly wasn’t talking to me.

But the words wouldn’t leave me. They echoed through my mind like the waves lapping the shore, ever returning, ever repeating. Ever present.

And for a fleeting moment, I felt peace swell over me before it ebbed away again, ethereal as the very tide itself.

But the decision that lay before me weighed heavier than any wave on the shore, heavier than any ethereal peace. I’d never have peace in this decision. I’d not had peace about leaving Saisons, and I surely had known no peace in remaining there. My heart and my mind were in every bit as much turmoil as Europe was with German troops—

I stopped myself. Rolf was German, and I’d not besmirch his homeland, no matter the news. He was here now, in America, living as an American entrepreneur—

And wanting to go into business. In Savannah. Again the heaviness and confusion enveloped me, driving away that small lacy sliver of peace that had teased.




#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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#WreadingWednedsay is now dedicated to ‘wreading’ bits and excepts from my books—there’s five now! Book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases this month.



We went for a drive, uncertainty clouding the sunny day. The road took us south, along the shoreline, and I could hear the waves dancing on the sand through the palmetto trees.

We hadn’t driven an hour even when we came upon a heron perched in the narrow road. I was sure the rumble of the motor would frighten him away but he remained firm. He didn’t appear to be wounded; rather, he seemed curious of the beast that hummed just a few short yards from him.

My eyes locked with those of the bird, and he strutted toward me. He hesitated at the gentle click of the door, and I paused.

His eyes still drawing me, I moved as slowly as a morning mist hovering over the ground. Heron stood yet firm, his head tilted as in curiosity. My skirts whispered as I stepped closer, my shoes silent on the soft sand.

At my approach, he bobbed his head as though nodding to me. My eyes never left his, and after short moments stretched long, I was standing next to him. Standing on a fallen branch, he stretched the graceful S-curve of his neck, and he was eye level to me.

I reached out my hand. The sand colored feathers were downy soft as I stroked his neck. He quivered at my touch, and leaned in to me. A tremor emitted a purr-like sound, and though his face beheld a beak, it seemed as though he smiled at me.

Then with a grand flourish, he stretched out his wings and he lifted into the air. He circled around, lifted higher, till he was gone from view.




#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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#WreadingWednedsay is now dedicated to wreading bits and excepts from my books—there’s five now! And because book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases next month, here is an excerpt.


* not the final cover

COVER REVEAL this Saturday, 3 February


As I turned from Bay Street back onto Barnard I saw him. What was he doing here? Of course, Merkel never stayed in one place long. He was a spy or an agent or some such and followed his assignments. I ducked into The Indigo Café and lost myself in a small crowd of friends. They were making quite a racket, laughing and carrying on; I was certain I’d not be discovered.

But this was Marcus Pierpont Merkel and he had seen me. His large hand found my shoulder and I turned to face him.

“Pearl, my dear.” I was enveloped in strength and warmth and comfortable familiarity.

“Merkel,” I hedged, inching back toward the door. “It’s lovely to see you again but I was just going.”

“Ah.” He guided me to a table. “But you’ve no coffee, Madame.”

The silence between us was louder than the group of whooping and hollering friends on the other side of the room.

Merkel ordered coffee for the both of us, and he offered congratulations on my marriage.

“Though I must say I am deeply hurt that I was not invited to celebrate the nuptials.”

“We…” But the smile on Merkel’s face stopped my defenses. “Merkel! You are a rascal. You’d not have come if we had sent a golden chariot for you…” If he was a rascal, I was just cruel. “Merk, I’m so sorry.”

He covered my hands with his large ones. “Time heals all wounds, Princess.”

But I could tell time had not healed his.

“Now then.” He took a gulp of his coffee, steaming hot with neither cream nor sugar. “Tell me about your young man.” His cup knocked the table quite soundly as he set it down. “And tell me why you ran off like that.”

Sugar swirled in my own cup.

“I think you’ve stirred quite enough.” Merkel took the spoon from me and laid it on the table every bit as gingerly as he’d set his cup.

Still I stalled, taking a most delicate and ladylike sip of my coffee.

“Pearl Marchand.” Merkel leaned back in his chair, dwarfed beneath his large frame, and folded his arms across his broad chest.

“Grüber actually.” I took another sip. “It’s Pearl Grüber.”

He didn’t say a word. He could wait me out, I knew. I had witnessed it countless times when he and Papá were playing pool or cards, or discussing business. Business they thought a young lady mightn’t grasp, but business I surely and fully understood.

“Not here, Merk.” I reached for my purse and my parcels. “Not here.”

I was never more thankful for a motorcar than I was that afternoon. Just moments earlier, I hadn’t cared if I walked home in the rain. But my past, my true life, was colliding with my secret life and it seemed I couldn’t outrun it.

“How did you know where to find me?” We had just had coffee, even if only a single cup, and I felt inclined neither to make coffee nor to offer him any.

“Find you?” Merkel seemed always at ease, unruffled, unflappable. “Why should I be looking for you?”

“But you…”

“Bumped in to an old friend?”

“I am not old.”

“Old enough…” He waved toward my very round middle. “You, however, tried to elude me.”

I had no answer so I said nothing, watched the rain coursing down the window.

“Would you care to enlighten me?”

“Look at me, Merk.”

“Lovely as ever, Princess.”

“I’m pregnant.” I placed my hands on my belly for emphasis.

“I’m at a loss here, Pearl, but I’m not blind.” He winked. “That’s no reason to run away.”

“I met him last spring. We corresponded via post and I visited Charleston a few weeks later—told Papá I was going dress shopping for summer dresses—which I did. I didn’t lie to mon père. He came back with me and stayed in the guest rooms at the townhome.”

“Positively scandalous.”

“Marcus Pierpont!”

“My, my. I’m in trouble now.”

“Feel free to show yourself out.” I went to the kitchen.

“A man might like some coffee before he goes out in that rain out there.” He followed me.

“Help yourself.” But I busied myself with the making of it. “Merkel.” I sighed.

“And just why exactly do you think ton père would disapprove?” I shouldn’t have been surprised. Merkel was most perceptive; it’s what made him good at his job.

“You know, Merk.” I poured the coffee. “I never did know what it is that you do.”

“Sure you do.” He drank this cup of coffee just as he had at the café, and reached to refill his cup. “I save princesses from making terrible predicaments.”

“He’s German.” I sighed and added more sugar to my own cup. Merkel raised a brow. “It’s the baby.”

“You think that’s a reason to leave your home?”

“What will everyone think?”

“Why does it matter?”

“Merk, you don’t understand.” I gulped my coffee, still too hot and far too sweet. “I can’t face people.”

“What people?”

“In Saisons. I can’t live with the gossip and the looks.”

He tilted his head, leveled a stare, and poured another cup of coffee for us both.

“They won’t like me.”

Still he was silent.

“Say something.”

“What’s there to say? You’ve left already. You haven’t given anyone a chance.”

Meine Liebchen.” Rolf called as he came through the door.

I went to greet him, and Merkel followed. I made the introductions.

“Sorry my good man. I’d invite you to join us but it’s Valentine’s after all.”

“Nonsense. I couldn’t think of intruding.” Merkel reached for his coat on the stand.

“Tomorrow, though. Dinner, my treat.”



#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, Excerpt, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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Book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases next month, here is the first chapter of the final book in the series, The Whispering Winds of Sping

* not the final cover

COVER REVEAL Friday 11 May




My world came to an end the day I jumped off the top of Versailles.

I was not yet ten years of age; I couldn’t know what would come next. All I knew was what had happened of late—Mamá had died. And Papá had married that Lissette Fontaine.

Countless times, I had jumped into the black waters of the Edisto River. Countless times I had climbed the bank, only to jump in again.

This time, I did not climb the bank. This time, everything went as black as the water that swirled around me.



My return to Saisons had been just these eight months past. And still there were so many unanswered questions.

For certes, many of my memories had been recovered, small things, sweet remembrances. Ugly things, and horrid details. Lissette’s past, beyond her hysteria; her deceit and criminal acts, her lurid propensities.

She had died in the summer, and her death had upended my life. I had thought her ma mère, though I suspected otherwise. She had been cruel to me, and once I left her home I had thought to sever all connection to her. Until I got the notice, a note written on a scrap of paper, that she was dying.

It didn’t surprise me, nor did it grieve me. Truly, I dreaded seeing her at all, well or otherwise. She died quickly and I set to cleaning her apartment.

That was when I found her letters. Those letters had led me to Saisons, and Mercedes.

I had watched my friends, Mercedes and Pearl and Scarlett, blossom before my eyes these past months. Well, I can’t really say that about Pearl; she had left us in the fall, thinking to never return, thinking to never see us again.

Now, however, we all sat at Versailles, not so unlike how we had as girls.

“You’re looking very well, Pearl.” Mercedes and Simone and Scarlett and I were together once again. Pearl snugged her own new daughter, Bonnie, and Mercedes bounced Simmie on her knee. Simmie had nearly been born out here in the woods, right here at Versailles, just eight months ago. Scarlett and I were with child, my own babe’s arrival imminent.

“She’s right.” Scarlett agreed with Mercedes, and smiled at Pearl.

“It’s because she’s back at Saisons.” It was most logical; she never should have left. “What… ever… did…” With my own babe pressing on all my insides, breathing was an effort and I lowered myself onto the remains of the wall.

“Whatever did Lady Adélaide want with you?” Mercedes finished for me and I silently thanked her.

Pearl told us of her recent encounter with the elder woman; she held no ill will, indeed she sought only justice. She told us of the Colonel’s recent marriage; I had only ever called him Colonel though he never had been one. He had served in the Navy, and now was a detective and was known by several different names.

Scarlett was free from Fontaine, living now as a proper lady. Mercedes had discovered her own heritage, truly a lady of higher station—and wealth—than the rest of us. Not that it carried much weight in Saisons, or in America, and her servants would live free and independent lives, working for her and not owned by her.

Still, I didn’t know why Lissette had taken me, or why she had sought to escape Saisons. Still there was a great mystery and many unanswered questions of what had driven her to flee; Lissette had never known fear; indeed, she had been the one to inflict fear and chaos on all around her.

But something had happened that year, and by some great and cosmic error, I had been caught up in it.


July 1912


I gazed at the scene before me, the busy street, the bank, the post office. There was a lovely park, and it seemed to beckon me. I hesitated, though I couldn’t say why. Apprehension gripped me as surely as my hands gripped the bench beneath me. No, this was not merely apprehension. This was dread, it was sheer terror.

I saw her then, and I was sure she saw me. The face was familiar to me, but it was shrouded in my memory with so many other half and hazy memories. I chanced another glimpse at her then and I was sure a wave of confused recognition lapped over her face, too, like the ocean on the shore. Then it was gone again, washed back out to a sea of years gone by.


I stood to walk, but my feet would not move. Darting my gaze about me, I wondered if anyone would think it odd. But no, only nods of greeting and a smile or two.

I took a breath and crossed the street to stroll through the park. As I passed through the stone arch over the entry, a shiver passed over me and I paused. I again glanced about but no one was there.  Only my shadow.

Proceeding down the paved pathway, I took in the early spring azaleas and tulips and daffodils, carefully planted and tended. Tulips and crocuses greeted my every step.

A growing dread also met my every step.

And yet I could not stop. I could not turn back. Everything in me seemed to scream to turn back, to stay away from the park.

But my feet continued to move, of their own volition it seemed.

And then I saw it. Across the square.

The lawn and the tree lined drive leading to the house. For as surely as it was obscured from view, I knew it was there.

And I knew I had been there.

It was a manse, large and sprawling, situated on the far side of the happy springtime park. It was dark and shadowed under its canopy of trees, its windows shuttered like half-closed eyes, peering out at me. It knew me. And I knew this house.

It was ma grand mère’s house. And I had most certainly been here before.


June 1897


I remember waking up.

“There, there, my darling.” It was dark and I couldn’t see the owner of the voice. It was strangely familiar to me, and yet… Her hands caressed my face, and wiped the water from my eyes.


“Yes, my darling.” I felt a strange sensation pass through me. “Mamá is here.”

I was wrapped in a scratchy blanket and my head ached terribly.

It was cloudy and I knew it was nighttime because I could see the hazy light of the moon. And the water. I could hear the water. Maybe the dizziness I felt was from the water.

I heard the woman—Mamá—speak again, with a strange man.

“It was too lucky for me, that she fell in that way,” I heard her say. “I figured I’d have to draw her away from that awful church they frequent so often and drag her downriver.”

I always thought no one knew about Versailles—but I didn’t know what Versailles was; was I in France? I couldn’t remember where I was.

The lady, ma mère, spoke again, saying something about my hair not being as black as hers and that didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense that she called me Lara, either, but I didn’t know why; that’s what she kept calling me, surely it must be my name. Then again, none of it made any sense.

I must have fallen asleep again; I woke up lying on the bed in a decrepit cabin.

There was no blanket or pillow even, or sheets. It wasn’t night anymore, and I thought it must be raining. But when I went to look out the window, I could tell it was sunny outside. It was the windows that were cloudy; horrid and filthy, years of grime smeared across them. And I was alone. The lady, Mamá, was nowhere about.

I sat on the bed, no more than a cot, really, and stretched, and my head started pounding again. I touched the spot, there was a great lump.

I looked for the toilet but of course there was none in the place and I was sure it had been a slave shack. But I didn’t recognize anything and I didn’t know why I was here.

The outhouse was falling down every bit as much as the shack, cracks in the wall and a door that didn’t stay closed. I surely had never been in one, shabby or otherwise, but necessity left me no option.

Nothing looked familiar to me. Cotton fields stretched behind the outhouse, a sea of green as far as I could see. There was a narrow road in front of the shack, and more cotton on the other side. I couldn’t tell where the yard ended and the road began; it was all dirt.

I sat on the step and watched and waited. But the lady—Mamá—was nowhere to be seen, and I grew bored and restless. Nothing but gray sandy dirt and cotton fields as far as I could see. Only trees that lined the horizon far in the distance.

The sun grew warmer on my back and sweat clung to my face. The plaits in my hair were frayed but I didn’t know how to reweave them; nor did I know where my brush might be. I saw an image, a silver brush on a polished dressing table. Like a mirage it hovered, just out of reach, and I wondered where it was, and where I was.

A large oak tree hung over a curve in the road, and I came to five other tiny cabins. Though not elegant or even modest, they were neat and well kept. Several children played in the yards between them.

One girl sat off to herself, a book in her hand. It looked like a primer, though the girl looked to be older than me. I could tell she labored with the reading and I wondered if she might be simple. She glanced up and caught me watching her.

I was afraid at first—I’d been around Negro children before, but something tickled at my memory that always I had known them, known who they were. But this girl, this whole place, was unfamiliar to me.

She smiled then, a bright white curve in her ebony face, and I smiled back. Glancing over her shoulder, she came to where I was by the tree.

“I is Clover,” she said.

“Clover? You mean you’re name is Clover?”

She nodded, her wiry pigtails bouncing as she did.

“My name is Lara.”

“I ain’t never seen no white girl a’fore.”


“Ain’t nobody never comes out here much. Only ‘cept Mr. Walden or one of his mens. They’s white enough, all right. But ain’t no chilluns never comes out ’chere.”

I don’t know why I did it but I curtsied.

“Well it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Clover.”

“You is awful fancy, Miz Lara.”

She told me she was learning to read; she had never been allowed to go to the schoolhouse with her brothers and sisters. Clover was the eldest of nine children, and she pointed out each of her siblings to me. She said her parents had been slaves until the war, and now her pappy was a sharecropper and her mammy was a nanny in the big house.

Clover asked if I had brothers and sisters, but I wasn’t sure so I said no. She asked who my mammy was and why was a white girl out in the fields with Negro children.

“I best git.” Clover smiled at me. “I gots to go make biscuits for supper.”

My tummy rumbled as I smiled at her; biscuits sounded wonderful. I didn’t know when I had last eaten—or what I had eaten. I waved and turned to go.

“Is you coming back tomorrah?”

“I’d like that very much.”

I was several paces down the road when she called after me. “I brung you this. Jelly biscuits from breakfast.”

Efforts to be polite warred with the hunger gnawing inside me. I smiled and curtsied again and mumbled ‘thanks’ before I ran back to the cabin to eat my biscuits.


July 1912


Jelly stained the biscuit now as the sounds of the woods and the river swirled around me. Nothing had changed since I’d been gone, though I wondered how I knew that; I didn’t remember being here before.

And yet…

And yet, I knew I had. My mind might not conjure memories of this place, but I felt a… comfort here, like a familiar and warm embrace.

Sitting in this place, this burned out church, stirred images of grand adventures and detective stories. Adventures and stories shared with my friends.

As ghosts, my friends visited…




#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, Chapter One, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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#WreadingWednedsay is now dedicated to ‘wreading’ bits and excepts from my books—there’s five now! And because book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases next month, here is the first chapter.

* not the final cover

COVER REVEAL Saturday 3 February

The sounds of the swamp in winter would scare another person but not me. I grew up here. The sounds, these sounds—the swirl of black water, the tremble of the trees, and growl and hiss of alligators—they are comfort to me.

After Lissette left—and Simone died—Mercedes and Scarlett and I all swore we’d not come back here ever.

But I did.

It was the one place of solace for me. Home was, well home was a cold place even in the balmy heat of summer. Mamá never spoke to me. She never spoke to anyone. She never came out of her apartments. And Papá, well, whenever he was home, he was busy; he always had… company.

Lissette had been my companion and then she was gone.

The others didn’t understand. They didn’t know what she had meant to me; she had been more of a mother to me than ma mére.

I knew I shouldn’t fault Simone. She wasn’t to blame that Lisette left me to pursue Monsieur Dubois. But Simone had usurped the affection that had been mine always. And at not yet ten years of age, I knew only to lash out, to act in anger because the heartache was too much to bear.


I sat now at Versailles. It had been our secret castle; we had such grand adventures here.

It was nothing like Château de Versailles in Paris, of course. I had been there as a young girl and it was my idea to name this place Versailles. In truth it was nothing more than the ruins of Saint Allyons, two hundred year old church that had served not our town, but natives who lived hidden in these woods.

As I listened to the sounds of night, the sounds of winter, I knew my child would come into this world as I had, and learn to love this place, too. If only I could return. If only this mightn’t be my last time here.


July 1912


I had seen her of course. How could I not? Mercedes prided herself as our little detective, our Sherlock Holmes. And truly, she was. She examined and investigated and scrutinized all our childhood mysteries, the ones we made up and the real curiosities about Saisons.

They didn’t give me enough credit. They all thought I was frivolous and silly. I was dainty, and I was a lady, but frivolous I was not.

I was proper. Ma mère had seen to that. Etiquette school and elocution classes, a private tutor and piano instructor. It was how I came to play at all; I certainly was not accomplished at the keyboard, nor did I play particularly well, but I could read music and make out the chords of a hymn.

Reading, however, I mastered with great ease, and enjoyed with great pleasure. Papá saw to it that my private collection of books was the largest of anyone we knew. First editions of everything from Cicero to Canterbury Tales to Peter Pan, and Plato to Shakespeare to Beatrix Potter. And not English only, but Latin and German, and of course, en français.

I spent many hours reading, above any other activity or preoccupation. As a girl, I had been permitted very little time away from Ashley Santee, our family estate. Even to stroll les jardins, I was accompanied by my nursemaid, Twila—even when I was no longer a toddler in the nursery, or in her daily care.

Now, as an adult, I no longer lived at Ashley Santee. I was no longer under ma mère’s scrutinous eyes and exacting ways, no longer captive to her impossible standards. Non, Papá had built me my own townhome. And not just mine; he built seven rows of townhomes, just south of Saisons Plantation. It put me ever so much closer to my friends and to the marsh and to Edisto River where our Versailles sat.


I had seen her the same day Mercedes did. Mercedes didn’t know, of course, that I was watching her or that I had seen Simone. Lorraine Hershey and Caroline Dixon had invited me to tea at the new café, and we were sitting on the patio. And I watched and observed just as studiously as Mercedes ever did.

Truly, how would I have not seen her? How would I not recognize her? I was neither frivolous nor simple minded. I was quite the astute student and observer, and I had witnessed much in my life.

Mon père’s guests, for instance. I was not naïve to who they were nor their reason for visiting him. I was not naïve to their visits to his bedchamber. As a child, they had thought they were protecting my innocence, keeping me unaware. As a child I had known far too much, already.

I had observed ma mère’s indifference to Papá, and found it most curious. She had married him, after all. She must have, at one time, felt some affection for him.

Mon papá was a most handsome man. Tall by most accounts, and well built. Neither stout nor too thin. He had black curly hair and deep blue eyes. His square jaw was clean shaven and he kept a neat moustache. Papá was a kind and gentle man, friendly with everyone, including the servants—one thing that ma mère disapproved—and he was more than friendly with some of them. Papá’s smile lit his face and his laugh filled the room. No one felt ill at ease when mon papá was around.

He was well studied and well versed in topics from politics to religion to world history, and he was outspoken. No one, at least not in his presence, knew more than Eugéne Christophe Marchand. Or if they did, he waxed philosophical on the subject at hand, talking broadly and expansively, confusing his guest until the subject was changed. And he did this with such skill and in such a manner that none noticed, nor were they offended. Non, mon père made friends wherever he went.

And when he was at home, I was the apple of his eye and the center of his universe. Papá brought me treats and trinkets from all of his travels, from Africa and India, from South America and Australia and Europe, from New York and Chicago and San Francisco, the Paris of the West. He brought me dolls and tea sets, roller skates and bicycles. And books, he brought me books from all over the world.

But my favorite things mon papá brought me were the dresses. Saris from India, dirndls from Austria, kaftans from Egypt. I still kept them hanging in my wardrobe at Ashley Santee, in a back corner, in a hidden compartment.


I had watched Simone as she came into town. She was coming from the direction of the train depot, walking along School Street and passing right by the Tea Cup Café. Mercedes did her marketing at the mercantile at the far end of School Street, and when Simone turned onto Savannah Street toward the square, Mercedes turned in the same direction on Charleston Road. Situated as I was three blocks from the square, I couldn’t see more until I made my excuses to my friends, claiming to be overcome with heat and leaving our tea early.

I followed Simone at some distance, and observed as she sat on the bench in the square, just staring off at Saisons Plantation. Her face was a study of recognition and confusion, and I wondered that she didn’t go immediately and announce her arrival.

I wondered, too, the reason for her return. And I wondered the very fact that she was alive.





#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, Chapter One, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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#WreadingWednedsay is now dedicated to ‘wreading’ bits and excepts from my books—there’s five now! And because book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases next month, here is the first chapter of book 2, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn.




We never did play tea parties like other girls. We played detective. Because that’s what Mercedes read, detective stories. And she was our Sherlock Holmes.

As children, our ventures were harmless enough. Until the day Simone fell in the river and disappeared.



I still don’t know why they included me. The three of them were larger than life. Simone with her madcap antics, always scaring us, always making us think she had finally got hurt. Pearl was the princess. She was the debutante when we came of age, as Simone would have been… Pearl dressed the part of a young lady, while Simone had merely tolerated her trappings.

And Mercedes, well she and I were servants. But Mercedes had a confidence even Simone and Pearl didn’t possess. Mercedes was our leader. And not because she was older than us. She… never wavered. She guided us, reined us in, even Simone. Most times.

But me. I never did understand why they accepted me as their friend.  Bastille House was on the complete other side of town. And I was not allowed time away. Even as a child, I was expected to account for my whereabouts every moment of the day.  I suspect my mamá took many beatings as a result of the afternoons she sent me off to play with my friends.

It still haunts me. The guilt of it torments me still.


Mercedes and I were close, closer than the others. Simone and Pearl had been born into gentry, and lived in luxury their whole lives. Mercedes had only just discovered her heritage, and yet I felt I must keep childhood from her. From the others. They’d not understand; I didn’t understand it all myself.

My mother was a beautiful woman, kind and genteel, loved by everyone… almost everyone.

I was little when she died, just five years old, and I didn’t know what happened until much later, only that she went away. That’s what they told me.

My sister was sent away and I was placed in the care of Tierney, our cook. Mon père told me to call her Mamá but I could not. My dear mamá had gone but she’d come back for me, I knew she would.

I didn’t understand why I wasn’t given to the care of Alice, the nursery maid. Other than servants, Avalina and I were the only children at Bastille House and after she was gone I was alone.

Tierney was not cruel to me, but neither was she kind. She sent me off to play when I was yet a small girl, I think to keep me out from underfoot; she did her best to ensure Monsieur didn’t know, but I always suspected he knew everything that went on at Bastille House. I suspected she was punished for it, especially when I was older and she showed me a kindness of an afternoon.

Tierney tutored me and Daphne’s son, Yates. Yates was the same age as my sister and when he was older, he was sent to work in the stables. Daphne and her husband were both servants and Monsieur felt, not entitled to education. Still, Tierney made sure I did my lessons, reading and arithmetic and history. Her English was not so good and I wondered that she was so adamant that I learn my lessons in English. I wondered if that was why she was so… detached. Did she have family, perhaps? Family she had been torn away from? I never knew.



Now, Monsieur was in a… state. Not in his right mind. And I had been party to the cause of it.

Did I feel guilty for it? Non, I did not. Perhaps I should. It was a cruel prank we had pulled. It was less than a week and by all reports, he still whimpered like a puppy in his wife’s apartments.

To her credit, Madame Gertrude rose to the occasion. She could easily have denied him, and I wondered at her softness of heart.

I didn’t go back to Bastille, not in the days since Mercedes had brought me to Alés House. It was far too risky for me to venture anywhere near Bastille, lest Monsieur Fontaine come to himself and bring me back to his clutches.

He was so different than he had been. Monsieur had not always been the monster everyone else knew. I wondered, did no one else in Saisons know of his kind heart, the generous man before… before Mamá was taken from us. Did no one remember?


I was happy in my new position with Mercedes. Acting as her Lady’s Maid was hardly a demanding position. Not at all like a scullery maid which I had been at Bastille. Grueling work that, and arduous, smelly and in a small, dark room with no windows.

At Alés House, I lived practically as a lady, free to come and go, and to spend time with my children.

Instinctively my hand went to my belly. No one knew yet but my husband Donal, and Tierney and Mercedes. Of course Mercedes knew, she always figured things out. She herself had only just given birth so she was most attuned to it.

I was most thankful the sickness had not been so severe, and what little I had experienced had passed. Now, though, I seemed sleepy all day long. While Mercedes had been most magnanimous in her gesture, she didn’t realize what she had done. And I wasn’t sure how to undo it.

Still, life as scullery maid had taken a toll on me in my previous pregnancies. My first baby, named after my husband, and his brother, Max, had both been so tiny. Jabati, my midwife, said it was from working too much, from the strain of my position. I prayed this child would be not only healthy, but perhaps not so small as his or her brothers.


I had first seen Simone some weeks ago, not long after she returned to Saisons. Even though it had been so many years, I knew it was her. Her eyes, the color of palm fronds, had stared off into nothing. I wondered was she injured.

My circumstance had created in me a cautious nature. I wanted to rush to her, sweep her into a great embrace, to know was she well. I wanted to know why she had been away and not written; why she had come to Mercedes and not myself. But Simone and Mercedes had always been so close, more like sisters than the division of their stations in life.

I suppose it would have been easy for me to be jealous of Mercedes. The Dubois family treated their servants better than some nobility I knew, as they had their slaves before the war.

But Mercedes was far too kind for me to think ill of her. To wit, her recent kindness to me and my family. And for all her good will and the generosity of her gesture, I had to find a way to undo it.



#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, Chapter One, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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#WreadingWednedsay is now dedicated to ‘wreading’ bits and excepts from my books—there’s five now! And because book 3 in my Seasons series, The Silent Song of Winter, releases next month, here is the first chapter of book 1, The Long Shadows of Summer.



She looked so familiar to me, but I couldn’t place her. Sitting on the bench as she was outside Hooper’s Market. Her hat was at a rakish angle, her cocoa colored hair perfectly coiffed. Seemed there were tears in her green eyes. I was certain I had never seen her before. But she reminded me of someone…

It couldn’t be her, though. She was dead, we had all watched her die. Floating away like that in the swamp. Her lavender dress billowed up like a balloon, her dark hair fanning out on the black water. We had made a pact, Pearl and Scarlett and me, never to tell anyone what happened.



I was the oldest of us girls and we did everything together. As often as our elders would allow, at least. Ma mère worked for Simone’s grand-mère, Madame Antoinette Dubois. I helped Mamá most times, but sometimes I was allowed to play with Simone and her friend Pearl.

It happened in 1897, the summer I was eleven. Mamá didn’t make me help her as much in the summers and I was allowed to go outdoors with Simone and Pearl.  Our friend, Scarlett’s Mamá, though, made her help with dusting the abovestairs rooms, but she was permitted to come outdoors after luncheon was served.

Simone always was most daring, walking atop fences and climbing trees and such. That summer, though, it seemed she didn’t have a care. She wasn’t just daring, she was indifferent. She climbed higher than we had ever seen her climb. She would swing from the branches, like the monkeys we read about in our lessons, and then drop to the ground. She jumped right in the black water of the Edisto River that day.

And floated away, pale as death…



Excusez-moi, Madame Renaldi.” Brooks’s baritone voice ruptured my reverie. “This was left for you.” And he handed me a small crumpled envelope.

I thanked him, and mused at the curious communique. I was housekeeper, but did not typically receive mail abovestairs. Personal letters, and household accounting and the like all were brought to the kitchen entry.

The ivory blade of the letter opener slipped easily through the fragile parchment, and I retrieved a small scrap of paper, folder over once.

Meet me at Versailles.




#Blogwords, Wreading Wednesday, Featured Book Except, The Long Shadows of Summer, Seasons, Chapter One, Seasons, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, The Whispering Winds of Spring

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