Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Comfort Food!

The view out my back door.

Winter arrived in SE Minnesota this last weekend. Later than usual, for sure, but way too soon for me. It's past time to put the snow tires on the SUV. I've made sure the scraper and brush are in the car, and I've gotten the extra blankets and my fleece jammies out of storage.

And I made soup.

Soup to me is a winter food. Especially creamy, thick, hearty soups. When it gets cold outside, I want to have a hot bowl of soup, some Earl Grey Tea, and a good book.

This week, in honor of the snow, I made Cheesy Wild Rice Soup, and I thought I would share the recipe with you here:

Cheesy Wild Rice Soup

1 lb. Bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
1 med. Onion
3 cups Cooked Wild Rice
2 pts. Half and Half
2 cans Cream of Potato Soup
2 cups Shredded or Cubed Velveeta Cheese

Saute bacon and diced onion in a skillet until bacon is crisp and onions are translucent. Drain. Combine with all ingredients in a crock pot. Low for 3 hrs, high for 2. (NOTE: 1 c Raw wild rice = 3 c Cooked.)

For a speedier recipe: I use pre-cooked bacon, cut small, and I buy pre-cooked cans of wild rice...Canoe brand is my favorite. I substitute a pt. of cream and a pint of milk instead of half and half, and this last time I made it, I added some chicken stock, which got a big two thumbs up from the family.

Also this week, someone on FB asked what your favorite thing to bake for the holidays is. My answer was Candy Cane Cookies.

You can find a recipe for these cookies HERE. 

What's your comfort food? What's your favorite holiday food?

Bonus Material: 

Gabrielle and I are part of some pretty awesome giveaways right now, and we want you to get to enter! You can enter to win a prize package from the Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway by clicking HERE and entering the rafflecopter giveaway. New prizes added every day through 12/12/16


And at the 7 Brides for 7 Texans blog, we're giving away a Kindle Fire LOADED with 15 books! Click HERE and check out all the doings on the blog. 



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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December #NewRelease for #Readers!

Hey all! I really love being able to bring these new releases to you each month. As usual, my personal interests are on the TBR pile and marked by the book covers. Scroll through and leave a blog comment on which ones you're personally excited to read!


     Contemporary Romance:

Bella Natale! by Marianne Evans -- An aspiring American artist and the widowed, Italian owner of a premier art gallery meet and fall in love in Florence when he champions her work, but there are her American family's expectations and his five-year-old son to consider. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

With this Kiss by Marianne Evans -- A kiss stolen in a midnight snow. A jealous colleague at Jonathan's firm is bent on revenge...revenge that puts Isabella's store into legal peril. Will love be enough to see them through? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Mistletoe Daddy by Deb Kastner -- Bubbly Vivian Grainger bids on gruff Nick McKenna at Serendipity Texas's annual Bachelors and Baskets for one reason--to help her build her hair salon; but once Nick finds out she's pregnant, he does his best to build a path to Vivian's heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

  A Hero for Heather by Marion Ueckermann -- When a "homeless" man she's been helping rescues social worker Heather Blume from a vicious attack, she's so grateful she violates one of the most important rules in her profession--she takes him home to tend his wounds. But the mysterious Paxton Rathbone is no homeless man…he's a gentleman. When feelings grow, and Paxton's past beckons, both he and Heather discover there's a fine line between gratitude and love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Husband for Holly by Marion Ueckermann -- Holly Blume loves decorating people's homes, but that doesn't mean she's ready to play house. Believing a house is not a home without a woman's touch, Reverend Christopher Stewart is in the market for a wife. What woman would consider him marriage material, though, with an aging widowed father to look after, especially one who suffers from Alzheimer's? Despite their differences, Holly resolves to finish her job of redesigning the Stewart home, while Christopher determines to re-form Holly's heart. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Rocky Mountain Cowboy by Tina Radcliffe -- Twelve years after she married another man, Rebecca Anshaw Simpson is back at Joe Gallagher's ranch as his physical therapist. But healing his body is nothing compared to guarding his heart from the woman he never forgot. Becca won't let regret and a surly rancher get in the way of her job and the chance to start over with her little girl. But Becca never expected she'd fall all over again for her first love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

  Cozy Mystery:

Christmas Cookie Mystery by Naomi Miller -- With Christmas right around the corner, Katie Chupp and The Sweet Shop get involved in a mystery when a certain dear family finds an unexpected package at their door. (Cozy Mystery from S&G Publishing)

  Historical:

Michel: The Fourth Wise Man by Katheryn Maddox Haddad -- This descendant of Daniel, also a wise man, sacrifices everything - his wife, his father, his home - to do what he is convinced God needs him to do, then finds out he was wrong (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)

Five Nights with Pharaoh by Kristen Reed -- Shortly after entering Egypt with her husband, Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s harem as his newest, most favored concubine. The breathtaking, ageless beauty is forced to cling to her faith in God as she prays for the strength to accept her new position and endures a series of mysterious plagues that can only be indicative of a wrathful deity’s divine judgment. Discover a remarkable reimagining of Sarai’s plight in Egypt, where she humbly set aside her own honor to protect the man through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Historical - Independently Published)

  Historical Romance:

seven-brides-for-seven-texansSeven Brides for Seven Texans Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Susan Page Davis, Keli Gwyn, Vickie McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Lorna Leslie Seilstad, Erica Vetsch -- Meet the seven Hart brothers of the 7-Heart ranch in central Texas. Each man is content in his independent life, without the responsibilities of a wife and children--until their father decides 1874 will be the year his grown sons finally marry, or they will be cut from his will. How will each man who values his freedom respond to the ultimatum? Can love develop on a timeline, or will it be sacrificed for the sake of an inheritance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

a-pony-express-romance  A Pony Express Romance by Misty M. Beller -- Pony Express rider Josiah English and the station master's sister, Mara Reid, fall in love, but when the Express shuts down and Mara's family home is in peril, the danger looming over Mara's life may not be half as destructive as that threatening her heart. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


         

Military Suspense:

conspiracy-of-silenceConspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig -- A former Green Beret is confronted by past mistakes as he and his team battle a centuries-old plague and the terrorists bent on rewriting history. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])





  Romantic Suspense:

Hazardous Holiday by Liz Johnson -- Just in time for the holidays, navy SEAL Zach McCloud returns home from deployment--and discovers someone wants his family dead. When he married his cousin's struggling widow, he vowed to help her and her seriously ill son, and now he'll risk everything to protect them. Even if their arrangement is only temporary. Kristi's certain an unhappy client from the law firm where she works is determined to hunt her down. But when a sniper bullet wildly misses its target, they begin to question whether it's really her someone wants dead. Working together, can they figure out why they've been attacked…and keep little Cody from the nefarious forces dead set on making this Christmas their last? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

christmas-conspiracy  Christmas Conspiracy by Susan Sleeman -- When Commander Jake Marsh loses control of a hostage situation and Tessa Long is injured, guilt eats at him. He blurs the line between the professional and personal, and visits Tessa at the hospital. But when a man tries to kill her in her hospital room, Jake disregards all of the rules and regulations that have allowed him to control his world and vows to keep her safe no matter what. Trouble is, the situation brings back memories from his childhood of the loss of his entire family, and for the first time in twenty years, he fears he's no longer in charge of his life, and knows when he's out of control bad things happen. Very bad things. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

So which one is your TBR??

_______________________


Jaime Jo Wright
Professional coffee drinker & ECPA/Publisher's Weekly best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy TinkerBell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.
Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures atjaimejowright.com.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Coffee Chats with @TessaEmilyHall

Here at Coffee Cups and Camisoles, we sometimes have the opportunity to meet some new authors even to us! Tessa Emily Hall has been a Twitter follower and social media friend for awhile now and we're as curious to learn about her new release as you may be. All in all, it's the holiday season and we're all cramming to meet some book deadlines, so Tessa has kindly offered to help us out this week! Pull up a chair and a cup of coffee and tea.

Meet Tessa :)

Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show others homemade lattes, speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. She writes in a small town nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southeastern coast. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website. they’re not alone—and because she remembers the teen life like it was yesterday (or a few years ago). The debut novel she wrote at 16-years-old, PURPLE MOON (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a Selah 2014 Finalist. Her second novel, UNWRITTEN MELODY, releases with Clean Reads November 2016. She’s the Founder of PursueMagazine.net, a magazine that inspires teens to embrace their calling. She also enjoys helping writers achieve their dreams through her internship at Hartline Literary Agency


___________________________________


Unwritten Melody: About the Book

                          
Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

Cassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Book Links:


In Unwritten Melody, my protagonist, Cassie, has a special relationship with her granddaddy—so much that she refers to him as “Dad”. (She’s never met her birth dad.) Since this book was written in memory of my own granddaddy, I decided to give Cassie’s “dad” many of his characteristics.

 For example, Cassie’s granddad used to play bass in a symphony orchestra. So did mine. He loves fishing, memorizing scriptures on index cards, and making homemade fudge. All of these qualities were stemmed from the significant memories I have of my granddaddy, who passed away when I was 13-years-old.

 In the book, there’s a scene where Cassie’s dad makes his famous homemade peanut butter fudge for Valentine’s Day. Of course, I couldn’t write a character based off of my granddaddy and not incorporate his passion for making (and eating) fudge!

 Although I don’t have the original recipe he used (sadly), I’ve decided to create a new recipe that uses healthier ingredients – just like the peanut butter fudge that Cassie’s dad made in the Valentine’s Day scene.
 

Believe me: 
This fudge tastes even better than it looks! Don’t let its healthy ingredients intimidate you. If I tried one of these blocks without first reading the recipe, it’d take a lot to convince me that it was made out of healthy ingredients. The combination of honey, peanut butter, and dark chocolate will melt in your mouth. (And on your fingers!) This is the perfect treat to indulge in while reading Unwritten Melody.


* The following recipe will make the same amount of fudge that’s pictured.

You’ll need…



       ½ cup natural, creamy peanut butter
     1/3 cup raw honey
     ½ cup melted coconut oil
    1 cup cacao powder
    ½ tsp vanilla extract
     Pinch of sea salt

How to make it

1.      Melt the coconut oil until it’s liquid
2.     In a food processor, blender, or bowl, mix all of the ingredients together until smooth
3.     Line pan with parchment paper and pour mixture, then spread it throughout the pan.
4.     Place pan in fridge for about a half hour or freezer for about 15 minutes (time may vary)
5.     When fudge is firm, cut fudge into small squares
6.     Open your copy of Unwritten Melody and enjoy!

“I take a bite of the fudge, eyes rolling in the back of my head, savoring the rich
chocolate-peanut butter taste. It’s the perfect balance of bitter cocoa, with a hint of honey.” - Cassie from Unwritten Melody


 à Giveaway

Enter for your chance to win the Unwritten Melody Prize Pack! Two winners will be selected and announced on Tessa’s blog the final day of tour (Friday, December 9th) and will be notified via email.

This prize pack includes…

·       E-copy of Unwritten Melody
·       Signed paperback copy of Purple Moon
·       Unwritten Melody mug, filled with goodies
·       Unwritten Melody swag, including a bookmark, pen, and poster
·       Starbucks mocha flavored instant coffee
·       Free Unwritten Melody: Page-By-Page Secrets PDF
·       Handmade journal
·       Typewritten thank you note

*This giveaway is open to the US only  


a Rafflecopter giveaway


à Connect With Tessa

·        Website: www.tessaemilyhall.com


à Blog Tour Schedule


Don’t miss the next blog tour stop! Be sure to visit the following blogs on its designated tour date. You can also email tessaemilyhall (at) gmail (dot) com and request to receive the Blog Tour Packet. At the end of the tour, Tessa will send you the downloadable PDF that will contain all of the content from each blog tour stop.

Tues., November 1 – Christ is Write
Wed., November 2 - Adriana Gabrielle Writes
Thurs., November 3 – The Depth of My Faith
Fri., November 4 - Sarah Ruut
Mon., November 7 – God is Love
Tues., November 8 – The Bibliophile Angel
Wed., November 9 - Emily Rachelle Writes
Thurs, November 10 – Word Changers For His Glory
Fri., November 11 – Christian Teen Book Reviews
Mon., November 14 – Phyllis Still
Tues., November 15 – In The Bookcase
Wed., November 16 – Girl Meets Publishing World
Thurs., November 17 - Anna Schaeffer
Fri., November 18 – Ramblings of a Writer
Mon., November 21 - Naomi and Books
Tues., November 22 – Reading is My Superpower
Wed., November 23 – Zerina Blossom’s Books
Thurs., November 24 - Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud
Fri., November 25 – Labor Not in Vain
Mon., November 28 - Barbara Bruitt
Tues., November 29 - Katy Kauffman
Wed., November 30 – Jen Pheobus
Thurs., December 1 – Northern Belle Meg
Fri., December 2 – 2Me From Him
Mon., December 5 – Coffee Cups & Camisoles
Tues., December 6 – The Destiny of One
Wed., December 7 - Catherine Castle
Thurs., December 8 - Rachelle Rea Cobb

Fri., December 9 – Leslie L. Mckee

Friday, December 2, 2016

Interview & #Giveaway with Author Julie Lessman

And we have the illustrious and energetic Julie Lessman with us today! She has soooo many fans and great readers and we're thrilled to sit down over coffee and tea to chat with Julie and give you some insights into her latest novella collection that's just in time for the holidays!

_____________________________


Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?

My pleasure! My latest release is “Last Chance Christmas,” part of Gilead Publishing’s Cowboy Christmas Homecoming historical collection that includes novellas by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, and Anna Schmidt. Think cozy Christmas tales on the prairie with hunky cowboys! ;)

My inspiration for “Last Chance Christmas” is a bit of a rabbit trail, I’m afraid, but it begins with one word: Bonanza. Yep, I’m talking about the Western TV show that aired fom1959 to 1973 set in 1800s Virginia City, Nevada with Pa, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe. You guys and most of your younger readers may have never heard of it, but it was a very popular TV series at the time that had a huge impact on me as a little girl. So much so that I decided to write a historical trilogy set in Virginia City, Nevada during the same time period, and my novella, “Last Chance Christmas,” is a spin-off from this Western series. It’s about a klutzy saloon girl who flees Virginia City for one last chance at happiness in Last Chance, California (a real place back then), promptly turning a widowed pastor’s family—and his life—upside down.

Here are the blurbs for each of the novellas in the collection, beginning with “Last Chance Christmas”:

Accidents Happen and Then There’s Grace …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny, ex-saloon girl Grace O'Malley. She’s dyed his long johns pink, taught his daughters poker, and scorched both his food and his kitchen—pert near torching his home. But he’s desperate, and she’s as destitute as they come.

Though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s house, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died.  When Grace’s past threatens his family, they have one last chance to celebrate Christmas together at home . . . if Grace hasn’t burned it down by then.

Glad Tidings, Hearts Binding.

“A Cowboy for Christmas” by Ruth Logan Herne:
They’ve weathered a lot worse than winter. 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.

“Longhorn Christmas” by Mary Connealy:
Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. Some hired help over the holidays doesn’t change that. And even if Roy does take care of her, that doesn’t mean he cares for her or that he’ll stay past Christmas.

“Connie’s Christmas Prayer” by Anna Schmidt:
And no one longs for a home more than Connie Lancaster. She’s 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 waiting for isn’t to a place but a person.


Of all your characters in this story, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?

Oh, without question, my heroine, Grace O’Malley, because she’s such a dichotomy—an accident-prone saloon girl with a tainted past who becomes the temporary housekeeper/cook for a widowed pastor and his four daughters. The woman can sing, dance, play poker, and musical instruments, but she’s a disaster as a housekeeper, scorching food, clothing, and almost the house. But what Grace lacks in homemaking skills, she more than makes up for in love, laughter, and lessons of what’s truly important—both in life and in celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.


Can you tell us about a scene that you wrote and eventually deleted? It’s always fun to know of the little details that didn’t make the cut J

Well … not a deleted scene, per se, but deleted kisses. You see, my tagline is “Passion with a Purpose,” and in some circles I’ve been known as “The Kissing Queen,” so I just assumed I could write love scenes the way I usually do—with a wee bit more passion than the norm in the CBA. But due to the sweet Christmas nature of CCH, new guidelines were implemented after I wrote my novella, which stated no kisses between unmarried couples. YIKES! So I had to cut a lot of the romantic scenes to reflect that, which was, needless to say, somewhat painful for this author to do ;)


What made you pick these specific names of your main two characters?

Well, Grace was easy because the original title of my novel was “The Gift of Grace,” which had double symbolism for me: the gift of Grace O’Malley to a family that desperately needed her laughter and love, and then, of course, the gift of God’s grace in sending His Son to the world.

Pastor Cole McCabe was originally supposed to be Joshua McCabe because I thought Joshua sounded like a preacher’s name. But because of a story twist at the end of the novella, I decided to change it accordingly, so he became Cole McCabe, something that our brilliant Gilead copywriters—Katelyn Bolds and Nichole Parks—had a lot of fun with in teasers like: Grace has been good all year, but she’s still getting Cole for Christmas.


Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What’s your least favorite household chore and why?

Oh, wow, GROCERY SHOPPING! But then, I pretty much hate shopping of any kind, so my sweet, amazing hubs handles all that for me. Much safer that way—for everyone!


What are your hobbies outside of writing?

Dinners with friends, movies, and READING!


Fall is upon us, and full of events. What is a special holiday tradition you celebrate with your family?

One of our favorite Christmas traditions over the years from the time my hubby and I started dating was to go to a movie matinee on Christmas Eve. Once the babies came, however, we had to forego until the kids were older. But then we picked right up again despite the challenge of finding a decent movie we all could enjoy.


We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?

Well, let’s put it this way, without God, there would be no books—period. God is not only my reason to write, He is my inspiration, my motivation, my confidence, and my talent. Like Michael W. Smith sings in his incredible song, “Breathe,” God is “the air I breathe.” I love romance, make no mistake, but without God in the middle, it is flat, empty, and pointless. So I guess you could say that although I write books heavily laced with romantic passion, they are also intensely spiritually passionate as well, with God always firmly anchored in the middle.

To be honest, my debut book A Passion Most Pure was my love letter to God, and my agent said there weren’t many books like it in the Christian market at that time. She said that with most Christian fiction, you might have a church scene or a salvation scene and the characters might pray and attend church, but with my books, “God is an actual character” who permeates the book. And I would have to say that’s true. Without Him, there would be no passion to motivate me because without Him, romance is empty and unsatisfying. But WITH Him at the center, WOW, everything heats up—my marriage, my job, my writing! He makes it all worthwhile and oh, so exciting!

So, how has my faith affected my writing? It has allowed me to take my passion for God and put it into stories that hopefully will convey how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. My books may be fiction, but this is NOT a fairy tale here. It is possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the living, breathing God of the Universe. So when I got the following e-mail from a precious woman who had read A Passion Most Pure, I was brought to tears. She wrote:

“I just wanted to write to let you know that in all my life, I've never before read a book that has inspired me to change my life as much as this one has! The desire to turn my life over to God has never been this strong. Thank you for making such a strong impact on both me and my family!”

Sigh. Trust me—for a Christian author, it just doesn’t get any better than that.


Tell us a little about a day in the life of you?

HA! It’s WAY less interesting than my books, I assure you! I usually get up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., suck down hazelnut coffee while I watch a bit of news with my hubby and plow through email. Next, it’s oatmeal with walnuts and bananas (new kick due to higher cholesterol at last physical) while reading Seeker blog (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/). We live on a lake, so if weather is nice, I sit/talk/pray on the dock with hubby prior to tackling the treadmill with prayer/worship followed by Bible/devotional time. After that, I finish e-mails, blog/FB comments, and minor household chores before I dive into writing till dinnertime. The day rounds out with an evening Hallmark movie, Person of Interest, or Bluebloods. See? Boring! Which is why I have to put all that angst and drama in my books, right?

We have a bit of a war going on here at the CCC blog. Anne and Jaime LOVE coffee and Erica and Gabriella enjoy a joyful cup of tea. What is your preference? Help us break this tie…

LOL … don’t count on me to be the tiebreaker because I wake up with coffee, switch to iced tea all day till late afternoon when I treat myself to a K-cup flavored decaf. ;)
  
And a few fun and quirky questions always reveal of lot from our authors who visit. So, first, if you were to take a boat down the Amazon river, what would you be most interested in seeing?

Parrots, macaws, and other colored birds.

If you had a choice of living in any era other than the present, what would you choose and why?

Jerusalem during Jesus’ ministry, especially on the day that Jesus died because if His death has radically changed my life for the better through mere faith, I can’t even imagine the impact of seeing Him carry that cross for me in person.


We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! J Please share something below:

Okay, this is a scene where the family learns that although Grace is a disaster in the kitchen, she excels in music as she sings and plays the harmonica for them after dinner.

“How ’bout we liven things up?” The children’s cheers launched her into a lively rendition of Old Susanna that had everyone singing along, except for baby Abby, who dozed on her daddy’s lap.
“Daddy, dance with me!” Sarah shouted, tugging on his arm.
Lumbering to his feet, he put a finger to his lips and carried the baby to bed, quietly closing the door behind. He returned to spin Sarah around and around, unleashing a cascade of giggles as Grace finished the song.
“My turn, my turn!” Becca shouted, jumping up and down like Grace had fed her Mexican jumping beans for dinner. Cole whirled her to another tune, his laughter rich and low as it rumbled through the parlor, causing an odd flutter in Grace’s stomach. When he put her back down, Becca staggered to and fro, dizzy and whooping like a drunken cowboy.
But when Ruthy scampered off Millie’s lap and held hands up to her daddy, Grace’s heart turned over. A slow, easy grin slid across his handsome face, and the strait-laced preacher gave way to a man wild and free. Dark curls askew and a shadow of beard that lent a rakish air, he scooped Ruthy up with a snuggle growl to her neck, eliciting a rare squeal of delight from the little girl who seldom smiled.
“Daddy, can you dance with us like we’re ladies?” Sarah asked when he and Ruthy sat back down. “You know, like they do at the town social?”
“Uh . . .” He cuffed the back of his neck. “I . . . don’t really know how to dance like that.”
Grace glanced up, jaw dangling. “What? Didn’t you dance at your own wedding?”
“Humph. Not well,” Aunt Millie volunteered, smile flat as her knitting needles clicked away. “Poor Eileen limped for a week.”
A ruddy blush validated his aunt’s jibe. “I’m afraid she’s right, so perhaps it’s best to limit my dancing to just spinning you girls around.”
“Horse feathers!” Grace laid the harmonica aside and extended her hand, ignoring the stunned look on his face.
“W-What are you d-doing?” he stammered.
“Teaching you and your daughters to dance, Pastor McCabe,” she said with an impish smile, too caught up in the tease to consider the close proximity they’d share.
He was shaking his head before she finished her sentence. “Oh, no, I’m afraid some things are better left undone.”
“Daddy, please?” The older girls begged in unison while Sarah heaved Ruthy off his lap.
Grace bit back a grin when Becca yanked on his hand without mercy, tugging him up to do her bidding like he was Sassafras at the end of a rope.
“Ten minutes,” he threatened, jaw clamped despite a tight smile. “And then it’s time for bed, understood?”
Their squeals rose to the rafters as Grace stood in front of Cole, hesitating with a sprint of her pulse she hadn’t expected. Swallowing hard, she peered up beneath half-lidded lashes, suddenly overwhelmed by his height. Barely coming to his shoulders, she gave him a shaky smile, certain she’d get a crick in her neck.
“All right, girls,” she said, voice annoyingly breathless as she took Cole’s hands in hers, “the boy positions one hand on the girl’s shoulder blade like this, then holds her other at eye level like this.” She forced a bright smile, the touch of Cole’s work-roughened hands causing her stomach to churn. Heart thumping, she guided him through each step, her gaze fused to his feet to avoid the intensity of those piercing gray eyes. “It’s basically a box pattern to a count of three,” she explained, counting loudly to drown out the ruckus in her tummy. “One-two-three, one-two-three. . .” She peeked up with a shy smile. “See? Not too hard, right?”
“Till I step on your toes,” he said with a shuttered gaze, his husky tease almost buckling her knees.
“Which,” she said, jerking away with a flash of heat, “is why you will now practice with the girls while I provide the music.”
“Coward,” he said softly, as if for her ears alone, the glint in his eyes almost roguish as he swept Sarah into his arms, leaving Grace trembling as she began to play.
“All right, girls,” he said when he’d danced with them all, “it’s time for bed.”
“But I’m too excited to sleep!” Sarah said with a pout.
“Just one more song, please?” Becca’s face puckered in a plea.
Grace met Cole’s gaze with a tug of her lip. “A lullaby might help them sleep,” she suggested meekly.
He pinned her with a probing gaze that tumbled her stomach, his sobriety barely tempered by a shadow of a smile. “One. Last. Song.” He emphasized each word before reclaiming his rocker.
Closing her eyes, Grace began to play Amazing Grace, grateful for the one hymn that never failed to soothe her spirit. And she needed soothing right now—desperately. Like the girls, she was too keyed up to sleep, but for entirely different reasons. What in heaven’s name had she been thinking, attempting to teach Cole to dance? One touch of his hand, one look into his eyes, had stirred such turmoil within she feared their comfortable friendship would never be the same. Even now her heart drummed out a traitorous beat despite the sweet and soulful sound of her favorite hymn, painfully aware he was watching, mere feet away.
When her hands began to quiver, she lowered the harmonica to sing, only to stutter on the lyrics. She felt her face flame and unbidden, her lashes lifted, gaze colliding with his. The connection lingered with such intensity, the very air seemed to crackle and hum. Cheeks ablaze, she swiftly looked away, terrified he’d sense the unsettled feelings that had taken her by surprise. Dangerous, impossible feelings, unwanted, and most certainly uninvited. Feelings that at that exact moment made her want to flee both this house and the unexpected attraction that now burned in her soul.
The plan had been for her to stay past Thanksgiving, only two weeks away, when Millie could take over again. But because of her own ineptitude with the fire, Millie’s recovery was now slated for mid-December, and Grace only hoped she could bear it till then. Another month of his easy smiles, his teasing laughter, and his tenderness toward a family who adored him and deserved so much more than she could ever give. And something she could never have. She gripped the harmonica in her lap.
Lord, help me! What am I going to do?
And then the answer came so softly, simple and pure in the lyrics she sang, imparting a tender peace to her soul.
The Lord has promised good to me, His Word my hope secures; He will my Shield and Portion be, as long as life endures.
Tears stung as hope sprang anew. Because of His amazing Grace.
And, oh . . . how sweet the sound!

Jaime, Anne, Erica, & Gabrielle—thank you SO much for hosting me on your blog—it’s been fun! I love to hear from readers, so they can find and contact me at www.julielessman.com, or through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest or by signing up for my newsletter or my Journal Jots blog. I am also part of a group blog called Seekerville that inspires, encourages, teaches, and informs aspiring writers on the road to publication and beyond. Although Seekerville has been listed on Writers Digest 2013, 2014, and 2015 “Best 101 Websites for Writers,” it is also a blog devoted to readers as well. Oh, and readers can also check out my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books on the “Excerpts” tab of my website.

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YES, there IS a prequel to my latest novel, Isle of Hope, and it’s called A Glimmer of Hope, so take advantage of this free ebook HERE!





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