Adventures in retirement: When you’re a traveling family

When my husband and I retired, the idea was to travel as often as possible. A few years ago, we made an epic road trip so we could visit the final three states on our quest to see all fifty.

Our first major road trip. We drove up the east coast and ended up in Maine. Amazing Trip!

The following year, we planned to drive down the coast from Oregon to California. Things got in the way, including my father’s illness and subsequent passing, so that never happened. We did, however, manage a few short trips to the mountains of North Carolina, and as well as trekking to Houston several times. We haven’t given up on our quest to drive US 101, we’re simply not sure when that will happen.

Rick and I aren’t the only ones in our family

Jamie and Josh on the way to Milan–before the plane took a three hour delay.

who enjoy traveling, though we are the only ones who enjoy road trips. My daughter would do nothing but travel—if she could. Well, that and dance. She has been on numerous mission trips around the world, and I don’t see an end to that. One of the many things I love about her is that she always seeks a word from the Lord before the beginning of each year. This year, she felt the Lord telling her this would be a year of adventure—like she hasn’t already been on numerous adventures! This time, however, it’s not just mission trips. She’s an aspiring photographer, and has already done one photo shoot. She has signed up for a mission trip—not knowing where the money will come from, and she just checked something major off her bucket list.

The Colosseum at night.

My adventurous daughter just got back from a trip to Rome. She and her brother—who hasn’t been on a lot of trips—flew standby from New York to Milan, took a train from Milan to Rome, saw everything they could in Rome, and took a side trip to Pompeii. I was so proud of her for doing the research, checking the flights, and booking the hotels.

I’m not discounting my son’s sense of adventure. Though less experienced, he took the lead when it was needed, and made sure his sister was safe. Together, they figured out the money, transportation systems, and mapped out their days. They took care of each other, which made this mama proud.

The best part of their trip was that it mimicked my husband’s and my first big


adventure.We spent our honeymoon in Rome, with a side trip to Capri, and a few unexpected days in Paris—flying standby is an adventure in itself! Needless to say, when we went, there were no cell phones or Internet. We said “goodbye” to our folks, and “hello” nine days later.

The world is a different place than it was forty-one years ago, and I’m grateful we were able to speak to our kids daily. Yes, we prayed, and trusted God to keep them safe, which He did. Still, our daily Face Time was more than appreciated.

I don’t know what other adventures our kids have in store for them in the coming year—or for us, for that matter. All I know that retirement is a daily adventure. Whether it’s a trip to California or a trip to the grocery store, there’s only one guy I want by my side.

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Adventures in retirement: Fashion forward or fashion backward?

The other day, I heard a guest preacher speaking about how he loved being 52. In essence, he commented on how liberating it was to grow older; how one tends to care less about appearance and more about the important things in life. I realize not everyone will agree with him, but I do.  When I was young, I loved to wear trendy clothes and shoes. These days, I prefer comfort to style, and exchanged my heels for flip-flops, sandals and tennis shoes—with the occasional pair of boots thrown in.

I seldom wear makeup anymore—not that I ever wore much to begin with. Since I carry a little more “bulk” than I used to, my face isn’t filled with wrinkles. There have to be some advantages, right? I figure as long as I liberally apply moisturizer, I’m ahead of the game.

The preacher’s mention of getting older got me to thinking about my parents and in-laws.

One of the last pictures of both sets of parents.

One of the last pictures of both sets of parents.

When my folks first retired, Mom spent hours in a bathing suit, tanning by the pool. She and Dad played shuffleboard, delivered meals on wheels, and enjoyed the casual Florida lifestyle. About four or five years before Mom died, she quit wearing shorts and pants (for the most part). She loved her skirts and dresses, and wore a glass bead necklace most days. Mom did her best to look stylish, despite having to wear orthopedic shoes, and wearing some of the ugliest sweaters I’d ever seen. They made her happy and feel good about herself, and that was all that mattered.


Mom’s beads. I may never wear them, but I’ll always cherish them.

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, seldom wore dresses or skirts. She would dress for church in slacks (an occasional skirt), a blouse or knit top, and a jacket—always a jacket. When not dressed for church, she wore lightweight slacks and a plaid short-sleeved blouse. I know for a fact she wore several of the blouses for a good ten years or so. Her shoe selection was a bit more stylish than my mother’s, but not by much. Mary Ann wore flats or sandals when she dressed up, otherwise it was white or tan tennis shoes—in one particular style. I can still see the glue marks around the rubber lips, as she tried to get as much wear as possible.

My mother allowed her hair to go gray, while my mother-in-law refused to have a single gray strand show. I followed my mother’s example, while my daughter will follow her other grandmother’s lead.

Can you see the glue on the pair on the left?

Can you see the glue on the pair on the left?

I appreciate style and those who always look like a million bucks. I also appreciate those of us who like to look nice, but aren’t concerned whether or not our clothes are the latest fashion trend. I wouldn’t be caught out in public in my pajamas, but have no problem wearing them all day in the privacy of my home. Gives me a good excuse not to answer the door.

In truth, this post is less about fashion and more about originality. We’re all created in God’s image, yet no two are alike. Our clothes don’t define us, our hearts do.  Think about that the next time you’re ready to judge a person by what’s on the outside. Maybe you could take a minute to find out what’s on the inside.



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Adventures in retirement: catching up

tetonsIt’s been a while since I’ve written about our retirement adventures. When I first thought of this as a blog idea, I figured there would be lots of excitement to write about, and loads of travels to document. Turns out there hasn’t been nearly as much traveling as I assumed, but I’m not complaining. Our original thought was that we’d be on the road every three or four months, with at least one major trip each year. In the two plus years since Rick called it quits, we’ve managed one epic drive, allowing us to enjoy the final three states we had never visited, and a few shorter ones, but nothing on the scale we’d envisioned.

Part of the problem has been my father’s health issues. There have been atdad in hospital least a half dozen ER visits, a two week stay in the hospital and another two weeks in rehab. While doctor visits have increased, Dad has become less independent and more reliant on me (and Rick). It’s been a tough and sometimes stressful transition. You hear it often, how the parent becomes the child, and the child takes over the parenting duties. It hasn’t become a full transition, and I hope it never does. Dad still lives in the independent section of a senior living center, and my prayer is that he can remain there until the Lord calls him home.

310008_4938558835548_1858850451_nSince our travel situation has changed, Rick and I have discovered a new form of enjoyment—estate sales! Some people think of estate sales as a way to ravage a dead person’s home. I look at it as a way to keep a person’s memory alive—whether I knew them or not. I have a number of incredible items in my home that might have otherwise been destroyed: pottery pieces from a local artist, mid-century modern chairs that fit with the style of my home, a watercolor from a well-known British artist (never mind that I had to pay $100 to frame my $1.75 find), and a drawer with type-setting letters in it. The author in me had to have that one. I have eclectic tastes, and love finding unexpected treasures along the way.bird on plate

I think I’ve said this before, but I sort of dreaded the day Rick would retire. I had all these vision of him being underfoot, but we’ve managed a healthy balance of time together and time apart. My writing has suffered some, but that has more to do with Dad than Rick. Now that Rick and I have found a balance, I need to find the same with my father.

What will the future bring? I have no idea. I do know that God is in control, and that he’s doing a work in me. I’m not the most patient person, and God knows that. So does my husband. I’m grateful for a man who loves me, a God who loves me, and a family who puts up with me.

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Here’s to whatever the future holds!

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Christmas time is here!

P1020383 (620x465)It always amazes me how quickly the year goes by. When I worked as a teacher, I always felt the year was close to an end as soon as the school year started. Since I taught drama, I had to get an early start on the Christmas production. There were often outreaches to be considered as well. Now that I’m no longer in the field of education, I still think of the year as coming to a close when school starts. I guess old habits die hard.

Speaking of old habits, I’m one of those people who, though she dearly itches to, refuses to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving has passed. I have no problem with those who want to decorate early, but since Thanksgiving is squeezed so tightly between Halloween and Christmas, I like to honor the day.

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, it’s ready…. set… go!

I love Christmas. I love time with family. Though my sisters and I are separated by distance, and can’t be together during this time, we’re able to communicate by telephone or through social media. I miss my mother and my in-laws, but remember and cherish the wonderful times we spent enjoying each other while unwrapping presents, laughing, eating, and praying together. We’re a small group now, but that doesn’t lessen our joy.P1020396 (620x465)

Putting out the Christmas trees and reindeer I’ve collected over the years makes me happy, and decorating the trees (I have two) with lights, ornaments and special reminders of my children when they were young blesses me. My nativity sets (two again) help remind me not only of the birth of the Christ Child, but that He came willingly, knowing His ultimate fate.

P1020391 (620x465)So, with all the hustle and bustle of the season, I urge you to stop and remember what Christmas really means. Enjoy your family, food, and gifts, but take time to be thankful for the greatest gift of all.

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Remembering Mom

P1000809 (640x480)The other day I got a notice from Facebook that I had memories to look back on. This was nothing new, as I receive them daily. This one, however, brought tears to my eyes. It was from October 31, 2012.

After completing a “Month of Thanksgiving” during November, 2011, I decided to do a “Year of Thanks” the following year. Each day I posted something I was thankful for. It was tough, but I’m glad I did it. My mother was in a nursing home suffering from dementia, so many of my posts were about our time together.

My father moved into the independent living section of the retirement complex so he could be close to Mom. In the beginning, Mom had lots of lucid moments, but she was confused as to why she and Dad no longer lived together. She used to ask him if he had divorced her, or no longer love her. It was really hard on him, but every day, he visited her twice a day. He wheeled her to his apartment after breakfast, then sat with her while she had dinner.

By the time October rolled around, Mom was in a decline. She wasn’t eating much, which we were told was the beginning of the end, and that it would probably be three to six months at the most. Mom seldom spoke anymore. Most of her communication came in the form of groans and moans. On this day, however, she was a bit more alert. I asked her if she was thirsty, and she said, “Yes.” After giving her some water, she said, “Much better.” To most people those words wouldn’t mean much, but to me they were a gift from God. Little did I know Mom would pass away twenty days later.

390225_2539119711582_304029215_nMy first book, “Broken Vessels” was dedicated to my mother. Sadly, by the time it came out, she wasn’t able to understand what that meant. She had read an earlier version, and commented that she hoped the mother in the book wasn’t based on her. Yeah, the mom in BV isn’t exactly a loving person much of the time. I assured her that she and Louise weren’t the same person. But in truth, there were parts of my mother I incorporated in Louise, but she didn’t need to know that.

Reading that memory nearly three years later reminded me of how fragile and unpredictable life is. Parents aren’t perfect. Children aren’t perfect, Spouses aren’t perfect. Cherish every moment—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Love hard and forgive quickly.

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Friday Featured Artist: Mya O’Malley

Today’s spotlight is on Mya O’Malley and her contemporary romance, At First Sight.

Rating: G — a sweet, clean romance.

At First SightBlurb:

Modern love can be a headache.  Just ask Annie Morgan, who, recently divorced, finds herself in the middle of the proverbial online dating jungle.  Making a deal with her best friend, Annie agrees to go out on exactly five online dates out of seventy-six potential suitors.

Shane Nicholls was jaded, he had his heart broken and never got over the hurt. Now, convinced that all women are trouble, he avoids drama at any cost.  Funny thing is, drama seems to find Shane around every corner.

Can Annie, a romantic at heart, find love online or will she find love at first sight the old-fashioned way, by awkward, chance meetings with Shane Nicholls? Through a number of obstacles and heartache, Annie and Shane find that love at first sight really does exist if you truly believe.


Johnny’s was packed. Standing on line to place her order, Annie took in her surroundings. Just as the owner, Johnny, was coming over to take her order, something caught Annie’s eye. The guy near the window, he seemed familiar somehow. Where had she seen him before? He was eating dinner with a pretty brunette. He lifted his head to look at Annie as their eyes locked. On no! It was the guy from the mall, the one she bumped into. She quickly spun around, knocking right into the waitress who was carrying a tray of soft drinks.

Soda soaked her shirt and dripped onto the floor. The waitress was clearly annoyed and appeared like she would have loved to tell Annie off. Instead she rolled her eyes and ran to get a towel. If Annie thought she was embarrassed before, it was nothing compared to how she felt now. Every eye in the place was on her, including the guy from the mall. Helpless to do anything else, she grabbed some napkins and bent down to sop up some of the mess.

“It seems you have a knack for causing a scene everywhere you go.” It was his voice. The voice that filled her head with inappropriate thoughts, with longing. What was she thinking? Did she dare look up? His gaze was a magnet, forcing her to meet his eyes.

His eyes were a warmer brown than she had remembered, drawing her in.


“I’m joking. Here, let me help you with that.” He grabbed the napkins from her hand. The heat between them jolted her back. She moved quickly, surprised he could evoke such a reaction from her. Nobody had ever made her feel so exposed before. What was going on here? Annie felt foolish.

“I’m Shane. Shane Nicholls.” He extended his hand to her. They must have appeared to be quite the sight, bending over to clean up the mess while shaking hands.

“Annie.” Annie remembered her new rules of safety in the dating world. One of them was she would not reveal her last name or any other personal information until she was sure the guy wasn’t a stalker or anything.

“Annie. It suits you, I like it.” Annie had almost forgot about the woman waiting for Shane at the table near the window. She glanced over and took in a tight-lipped woman. It hit Annie that this woman was not the same stunning woman from the mall. Hmm, she had met his type before. This guy had “player” written all over him. She quickly brushed herself off and excused herself.

“Hey, Annie. Wait.” He reached for her hand. Annie forgot all about placing her order and made a beeline for the door. She didn’t look back. Well, Annie figured, it looked like it would be Chinese food tonight.

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Meet the author: Mya O'Malley

 Mya O’Malley was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, daughter and three step-daughters.  The family also consists of two boxers; Destiny and Dolce and a  ragdoll cat named Colby.  Mya earned an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in reading and literacy.   She works as a special education teacher and enjoys making a difference in the lives of her students.

Mya’s passion is writing; she has been creating stories and poetry since she was a child.   Mya spends her free time reading just about anything she can get her hands on.  She is a romantic at heart and loves to create stories with unforgettable characters.   Mya likes to travel; she has visited several Caribbean Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica.   Mya is currently working on her fifth novel.

How to reach Mya:





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Friday Featured Artist: Christina McKnight

Today’s spotlight is on Christina McKnight’s historical romance, Shunned No More, book one of the Lady Forsaken series. Book two, Forgotten no more, will be released Nov. 20th.

Rating: PG 13 — clean historical romance


A Lady Shunned by All…

Lady Viola Oberbrook only wanted to forget the ill-fated early morning duel that took the lives of two young, wealthy, promising men of the ton and sent her fleeing for her father’s country estate. Eight years later, she has her life in order: a fulfilling business, a few trusted friends, and no plans to return to London society. What she doesn’t expect is to come face to face with her past.


A Lord Betrayed by One…

Brock Spencer, Earl of Haversham, only wants vengeance. Recently returned from his military service to the King, his plans include repairing his family estate, finding a bride, and destroying the girl responsible for the untimely death of his twin brothers. What he doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with the only woman who should never be part of his future.

An Impossible Match, Destined to Be…


Hyde Park

April 1806

8 years ago…

Viola clutched the handle of her pink parasol to her chest tightly in anticipation of the spectacle to come. Her gaze fixed on the two figures shrouded in the early morning fog of Hyde Park. The men, really only boys, began to count as they paced away from each other. Shiny, pearl-handled pistols positioned in their right hands were at the ready.

She clamped her lips tight to suppress the giggle that threatened to escape.

Who would have thought that she, Lady Viola Oberbrook, would have two men seeking her hand in marriage…and in the first week of her very first season, no less? That they were the twin sons of Lord Haversham was an even greater coup de grǎce for her. She’d be the envy of every debutante. The talk of the town. As well she should be! Her father was the Duke of Liperton, after all.

If only she’d found a way to get all of London here to witness the duel. She’d done what she could by leaving word with Mrs. Tenchard. The old gossipmonger was sure to spread the word more quickly than Vi could spend her monthly allowance at the milliner’s shop.

And Vi prided herself on her ability to spend her father’s money.

“Miss Viola, beg’n yer pardon, but it be wise to don ye wool kid gloves,” her lady’s maid, Sarah, whispered beside her.

“Shhhh,” Vi hissed in return, raising her hand for Sarah to hold her tongue. She didn’t want to miss a single moment of what was to come. She would remember this for the rest of her existence. The day two men of the haute ton battled in her honor. She sighed.

The twins—Cody, with his hair cut longer than the current fashion permitted, and sporting a determined glint in his eye, and Winston, with his smartly trimmed blond hair falling respectfully above his collar—reached the required twenty-pace distance and turned.

Their pistols fired in unison. Vi’s heart soared. Her first duel…and certainly not her last, if she had anything to say in the matter.

The swift morning breeze pushed the smoke from the scene as both men dropped to the ground, soggy with morning dew. Shouts of urgency rang out in the air. Men rushed in to assist the twins.

A cold chill inched up her spine; her breath caught in her lungs.

Neither man moved.

A sharp inhale of breath sounded next to her, but Vi was hesitant to remove her attention from the scene as the pungent smell of a spent firearm reached her.

“Call Doc Durpentire. Post haste!” bellowed Mr. Rodney Swiftenberg. As a distant relative of the Havershams’, Swiftenberg stood as Cody’s second during the duel. Others, vaguely familiar, knelt over both fallen men.

The gossip rags would have much to write about this day. Vi could hardly wait to see her name in print. Maybe her father would increase her dowry, seeing as she would be in high demand by the day’s end.

“Miss,” Sarah called. “I think it best we be head’n home. Ye Pa is going to be right mad when he finds you snuck out and now these poor men be lying dead at ye very feet.”

“Surely you jest. They are simply play acting for dramatics…in my honor, I do suppose.” Viola eyed the two groups of men where they stood, their heads shaking in turn. One took his coat off and laid it gently over Cody’s still body. Vi’s glare snapped to Winston, where another man shook out a horse blanket. The thick, coarse material drifted on the morning breeze and settled on the second body.

She studied the scene in front of her. It had the potential to be ever so romantic. A story she would regale her grandchildren with. It was a shame neither twin was the first born and, therefore, unworthy of her hand. But she’d seen no reason to inform them of this minor issue and spoil her fun. They’d find out soon enough.

Slowly, the eyes of every person present settled on her. She took a step back at the harshness of their stares. Her chilled hand rose to cover her mouth. She wanted to tell them to avert their eyes; she was the daughter of a Duke. They need show the respect due her. None of these men held a title higher than Baron. How dare they look at her thus?

A tall, slender man carrying a large cloth bag rushed to Winston. She assumed this was Doc Durpentire. He would have both men patched up in no time. But with both Cody and Winston taking a bullet, their feud would not be resolved. Viola imagined what the pair would think up next to prove one deserved her hand over the other. Perhaps a curricle race through Mayfair District. She knew she would be able to convince Cody to let her ride along on the adventure. She could practically feel the wind against her face as the carriage took the corners at a high speed, shifting across the seat so that her soft body might come to rest against Cody’s hard one.

Imagine what the silly, empty-brained young females would think. They’d envy her further. An unbidden smile played across her lips.

The doctor drew the heavy blanket aside and his hands moved over Winston’s body. Then, they stilled. His head dropped forward. He spoke to the men around him, but Vi was too far to hear their conversation.

Rodney, hands shoved deep in his pockets, moved in her direction.

“Whatever is the matter with them?” she asked when he was close enough to hear.

“I think you should go, Lady Viola. This is not a scene any innocent maiden should witness,” Rodney replied. His blond hair was so much like Cody and Winston’s, but his attitude had always struck her as arrogant for a man with no title or wealth to speak of.

“Who are you to order me about?” Viola closed her parasol with a swift click and handed it to Sarah, her hands coming to rest on her rounded hips.

“It is not the time for this. My cousins…they are both dead.” Rodney paused. “I must alert my uncle to his misfortune.”

“You are mistaken.”

“I assure you, no mistakes have been made this day.” He abruptly turned, stalking back to the crowd gathering between the fallen men.

He must be jesting, Viola thought. She looked between the fallen pair again, their motionless bodies so at odds with the twins she’d come to know in recent days. The heat of exhilaration drained from her as a hand settled at her elbow. Viola felt the calloused fingertips through her thin morning cloak.

“We should be going, Miss.”

Vi shook Sarah’s imploring touch from her arm and tried to focus her gaze on something—anything—other than the lifeless men on the ground.

“Well,” Viola stated. “This was…” Dread clawed at her insides, and her spirit shattered as she stared at the two men lying prone and unmoving before her. “…unexpected.” Her entire life had been leading up to this moment—a life of societal demands and the rigors one had to follow to be accepted. A life that had just stopped, as quickly as those of the two men who now lay dead. Dead. She had murdered these men—the realization came at her all at once, even as her mind rebelled. Cody and Winston, the silly twins who had entertained her so, were no more. Yet, she continued to breathe. With each breath, standing in the chill of early morning in Hyde Park, she felt the obligations of her station, its standards and protocols too powerful for a seventeen-year-old girl to overcome.

She glanced around her for help, for someone to tell her what to do, but all focus was on the boys on the ground. Years of being taught how to behave hadn’t prepared her for anything like this.

“Miss, what should we do?”

“I suppose we should…” She cleared her throat. “I suppose it is time to start over.” She sensed, somehow, that starting over might be impossible.

“Start over, Miss?” Her maid’s dark brow pulled low over her eyes.

Viola straightened her already impeccably postured back and forced her prized smile before continuing. “To find another suitor, you silly girl! This time, I intend to set my sights a bit higher.” She spun on her heels, determined not to stumble, to not falter before so many. She started back towards her carriage, moving through the men without meeting anyone’s eye,  feeling the weight of their stares as she passed. It didn’t matter. She had the evening’s entertainments to prepare for and an image to uphold—no matter the cost to her soul.

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Meet the author:  Author Pic

Christina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since. Currently, she focuses on Historical Romance, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance.


Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

How to reach Christina:

Twitter: @CMcKnightWriter


Facebook author page: ChristinaMcKnightWriter


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Friday Featured Artist: Debra Holt

Today’s spotlight is on  Debra Holt and her contemporary western romance, Under Texas Blue Skies.

Rating: PG for some kissing


J.D. Sterling, country music’s sexy superstar, has come home again.  He has achieved his wildest dreams and did what he set out to do when he shook the dirt of the small Texas town from his boot heels a dozen years before. Now, he’s returned for the final piece of the puzzle to completing his life….the girl who holds his heart.  Mandy.

Amanda Lawson has grown up.  From sheer heartbreak to struggling to survive to becoming a shrewd businesswoman, she has taught herself to never look back.  She survived once before the wild, green-eyed cowboy with only a guitar to his name and a pocketful of dreams.  He took her heart and so much more when he left her behind with his hollow vows.

Mandy was his muse…J.D. was her dream.  Despite tragedy, can they find their way home to each other again?


J.D. Sterling’s heartbeats were thumping loud as a bass drum at the sight of the red sedan as it pulled into the circular driveway, stopping just behind the other realtor’s Hummer. He had purposely seated himself in a corner of the wide porch, away from the glare of the noonday sun, where climbing vines and shade would enable him to be concealed from the woman’s line of sight. He didn’t want her to know he was there, at least not right away. J.D. needed to see her first, to get his feet under him. At least, that’s the excuse he’d given himself. For someone who always planted his feet solidly in the middle of any situation, this was one time the spotlight was not what he sought. His pulses were racing as he saw the driver’s door swing open, and two slender ankles encased in gray high heels became visible as they touched the ground.

The woman stood up, one hand pushed her sunglasses further up on the bridge of her nose, and then she closed the car door behind her. She slung the straps of her leather bag over her shoulder and moved around the hood of the car, her heels making soft crunching sounds on the pea gravel along the drive. In the early afternoon stillness of the ranch, those sounds seemed to be amplified.

The eyes in the shadows drank in the features of the woman as she moved toward the house. Nowhere in sight was the country girl he had last seen. The vision that approached was confident in her stride, her head up and shoulders resolute. The girl he used to know was just short of being painfully shy and always hesitant to stand out of any crowd. Sunglasses concealed her eyes from view so he couldn’t see if they were still the amazingly vivid blue he remembered and had even immortalized in song once. They had filled his dreams on many a night and gotten him through some really hard times. It was those eyes he would see when he closed his own as he sang across the bright lights into the dark recesses of some huge arena, packed with screaming fans and loud music. He would sing to the girl in his dreams… the one he had left behind but never left out of his heart.

“Hello, Mandy,” he spoke softly from the shadows.

Amanda’s head swung in its direction. Her eyes sought to focus on the tall figure that stepped from darkness into light. She went to take a quick breath but found she couldn’t. In fact, for some reason, the light was receding, and the darkness was swallowing them all up.

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Meet the author: 20131024-DebbieHolt-94-Edit

Born and raised in the Lone Star state of Texas, Debra grew up among horses, cowboys, wide open spaces, and real Texas Rangers.  Pride in her state and ancestry knows no bounds and it is these heroes and heroines she loves to write about the most.  She also draws upon a variety of life experiences including working with abused children, caring for baby animals at a major zoo, and owning a wedding planning business (ah, romance!).

Debra’s real pride and joys, however, are her son, an aspiring film actor, and a daughter with aspirations to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (more story ideas!)  When she isn’t busy writing about tall Texans and feisty heroines, she can be found cheering on her Texas Tech Red Raiders, or heading off on another cruise adventure.  She read her first romance…Janet Dailey’s Fiesta San Antonio, over thirty years ago and became hooked on the genre. Writing contemporary western romances,  is both her passion and dream come true, and she hopes her books will bring smiles…and sighs… to all who believe in happily-ever-after’s.

The Seymour Agency represents Debra and she is soon to have two contemporary romances published by Spencer Hill/Tulip Romance and Astraea Press.

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Friday Featured Artist: Rachel Jones

Please welcome Rachel Jones as she shares her modern day romance, and debut novel To Dance One More Day.

Rating: PG 13 for some steamy kissing


At age thirty-two, Jillian Russell has endured a life time of heartache. Alone in the world, she has also suffered the loss of her dance career. Redirecting her life, she opens the North Carolina Ballet Company. Intent on making it the go-to company for serious performers, she shuts down her personal life while she struggles to build her company into the success she envisions.

As far back as he can remember, trauma surgeon, Alan Armstrong has had a penchant for fixing things. Since his father’s death, the ambition to open a community clinic in a rural area on the eastern coast has directed his actions. Hopeful to prevent future deaths due to lack of medical care, he has made the clinic his top priority.

When Alan’s life intersects with Jillian’s, the connection they both feel is undeniable. As a new board member to her ballet company, Alan is eager to help solve the financial damage of lost federal funding. But he doesn’t stop there. He wants to help her build new relationships to chase the loneliness from her life. As they grow closer, secrets from their pasts cause them to be pulled apart. Will they be able to overcome their pasts to have a future together?


Jillian turned around and as she moved toward him, she tripped over a shoe left behind by someone. She lost her balance and with amazing timing, Alan broke her fall as he caught her by the shoulders. The heat from his hands spread through her body.

Pulling her upright, his hands lingered as he asked, “Are you okay? Your head almost collided with the edge of the bench and it wouldn’t have been pretty.”

Her breath caught in her chest. “Well, I guess my secret is out.” She giggled to hide her embarrassment. “I’m a klutz, except of course, when I’m dancing.”

“So, Ms. Klutz, are you sure you’re all right?” He guided her to sit on the bench. “You didn’t twist your ankle?”

His eyes pierced through her. She was not used to being so closely scrutinized and she felt she was losing control of the situation. One more flash of those dimples and she might cave.

“No, my ankle is fine. I’m good. So you said there was something you wanted to mention.” He must think I’m a klutz, first the water on his pants and now tripping over my feet. Looking up, she saw his eyes remained fixed on her.

“Are you sure you can’t skip rehearsal and go to dinner with me?” He removed his hands from her shoulders and reclaimed his seat.

“Somehow I think it would send the wrong message about professional obligations if I decided to cut rehearsal tonight.”

His head bobbed slowly up and down. He sighed. “Well, we can’t have that. So if you won’t lower your professional standards and go to dinner, I was wondering if you’d allow me to escort you to David and Ann’s wedding on Saturday.”

The question took her by surprise, but what a wonderful surprise! She sat without moving, her stillness rendering a statuesque appearance. The silence continued.

“It’s not a hard question. Just give a yes or no.”

Butterflies circled in her stomach. Her heart rate galloped and a seed of panic threatened to shut down her voice. On the one hand she wanted to go with him. On the other, she knew she shouldn’t.

Alan snapped his fingers in her direction. “Jillian — hello? Where’d you go?”

She focused her eyes on his handsome face. “Um, I’m sorry. My mind ran off on a little tangent about what dress I would wear. I’d love to go to the wedding with you.” She flashed a big smile and wondered how she could do such a horrible thing to him.

Available through:

Meet the author:    IMG_0625_(1)

In 1977 Rachel earned her BA in Music Education and taught music for ten years. After the birth of her second child, she returned to school and in 1991 earned her AD in Nursing and passed the state boards for registered nurses. She has been a labor & delivery and antepartum nurse since that time.

Anticipating her retirement from healthcare, Rachel decided to write her first novel at age fifty-seven. For years she had experienced scenes of heroes and heroines rambling about in her thoughts and spilling into her dreams. So it was a no-brainer that she should attempt to capture these thoughts on paper.

Rachel resides in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband of thirty-seven years. She has three adult children, who help spoil their Labrador retriever. She is a member of Georgia Romance Writers, Southeastern Writers Association and is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

How to reach Rachel:

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Friday Featured Artist: Kay Harborne

Today’s spotlight is on Kay Harborne and her modern day romance Never Say Forever.

Rating: PG — some serious kissing.


Do you follow your dream or follow your heart?

That’s the decision Kendall McKenzie has to make when she meets hunky businessman Jake Newman. It’s obvious that he’s as attracted to her as she is to him. But Kendall has vowed to never get married – and it seems that Jake, too, is determined to never commit. When the two are together however sparks fly and it’s obvious to everyone except themselves that they’re meant to be together. Can Kendall trust Jake enough to give him her heart? And if she does will she have to say goodbye to her dream?



He turned and saw an open door leading into the kitchen where Kendall, her back towards him, was unplugging the kettle. She was wearing a neat, grey, pinstriped suit, the jacket tapering in at the waist and the skirt finishing just above the knee, with enough of a slit to reveal her very shapely legs.

She turned around and smiled at him, and his heart missed a beat. She was incredibly pretty and fresh, even at this early hour. Her glowing hair was loosely tied back from her face, which was bare of make–‐‑up apart from a touch of lipstick, and her eyes were bright and sparkling, as if she’d had a restful night’s sleep.

“OK, I’m ready now. I’ve just got to get my suitcase out of the bedroom.”

Here was where he was supposed to tell her that she was staying at the Birmingham office, that he didn’t need her in Spain, after all. But the words wouldn’t come. He might not need her in Spain with him, but he definitely wanted her there.

“Ouch!” Kendall’s cry of pain interrupted his thoughts. He dashed down the hall and saw her bending down, rubbing the back of her leg, the suitcase on the floor behind her.

“Are you all right?” he asked, worried. His eyes rested on the hole in her tights and the bruise already forming. “That looks nasty,” he said sympathetically.

She flushed. “The case was heavier than I thought. I stumbled and caught the back of my leg with it. I’ll be fine. I just need to change my tights.”

“I’ll wait in the car for you.” He effortlessly picked up the heavy suitcase. “And we’re all right for a few minutes if you want to put some ice on that bruise.” Without waiting for an answer, he carried the suitcase out the front door.

Maybe he was the one who needed the ice, he thought, as he took the case down to the car. The sight of Kendall’s bare skin peeping through the hole in her tights and hint of cleavage as she’d bent down to rub her leg had certainly made his temperature rise.

Don’t even think about it, he warned himself as he pressed the remote to open the car boot. This was a business trip, and he had to keep it that way. He never mixed business with pleasure and he wasn’t about to start now. Not even with Kendall McKenzie.

Especially not with Kendall McKenzie.


It was only as she walked into the car park at the back of the flats that Kendall realised she didn’t know what sort of car Jake drove, but the sleek, midnight–‐‑blue sedan just had to be his. She was a bit taken aback when he got out, walked around,

and opened the passenger door for her. Not many guys did that nowadays.

“Thank you,” she said as she slid onto the leather seat.

“My pleasure.” There was a hint of teasing in his reply, as if he knew he’d surprised her.

“Love the car,” she said as he got in beside her.

He flashed her a smile. “I quite like it too.”

“It might have been better if you’d got someone to drop us off at the airport so they could take the car back,” she suggested. “I wouldn’t risk leaving a car like this parked at the airport.”

ʺI’m not. I’ve left a spare set of keys with my chauffeur. He’ll pick it up later this morning then drive it home for me. It didn’t seem fair to drag him out of bed this early.”

He’s a nice guy, Kendall thought, kind and considerate yet rich and successful. In her experience, the qualities didnʹt always mix.

As they drove along, she was acutely aware of his presence beside her, of his strong hands holding the wheel casually but firmly, of his left hand reaching down to change gears effortlessly and smoothly, just a few centimetres from her knee.

“How long did you teach in Thailand?” he asked her. “I spent a bit of time over there myself a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful country.”

“I was there for a year.” She was glad of the diversion. “I taught in a school in Chiang Mai.”

For the rest of the journey they spoke about Thailand and some of the other countries they had both visited, and she realised that he was actually very easy to talk to with a good sense of humour. She was almost sorry when they arrived at the airport; she’d enjoyed his company so much.

Careful, she told herself. I bet he’s as charming as this with all the women he meets. She knew he had a reputation for collecting beautiful girlfriends — Tanya had hinted as much at the engagement party. He was the eternal bachelor. Well, she was the eternal bachelor girl, wasn’t she? She could handle Jake Newman, even if he did make her go all goose-bumpy.

Available through:   Amazon US      Amazon UK

Meet the author:

Kay Harborne has written several romance stories for women’s magazines. Her romance Headshotnovel The Millionaire Plan was nominated for the RONE Award earlier this year. Never Say Forever was originally published by as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel, then in large print by Linford Romance. She is delighted that Astraea Press have republished it.  Kay has also written many children’s books under the name of Karen King. She loves reading, writing and eating chocolate.

How to reach the author:


Twitter: @karen_king

Amazon Author Page:

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