Monday, December 18, 2017

The Chronicles of Luna City by Celia Hayes ends December 25th

Please welcome Celia Hayes to my blog. Celia is graciously giving away a copy of The Chronicles of Luna City. Leave a comment about Celia's post to be entered. Don't forget to leave your email addy and let me know if you are a FeedBurner follower for an extra entry.

The Fairy Star – Lotta Crabtree

Like many another performer who achieved super-star status by performing before audiences in California, Lotta Crabtree, the famed signing and dancing 19th century child star arrived from somewhere else – in her case, New York. Her parents had emigrated from the British Isles sometime in the 1840s; her father had a trade as a bookseller, by which one can surmise a degree of literacy and interest in the wider culture. John Ashworth and Mary Ann Livesey Crabtree named their baby daughter Charlotte Mignon, when they were blessed with a little shoot off the family tree in 1847. Four years later, John – seeking fortune and adventure – took ship to San Francisco, to join in the Gold Rush. Alas, by that time, most of the easily-made fortunes had already been made; late-comers to the gold mines either had to be insanely lucky or able to finance extensive and deep-rock or hydraulic mining ventures. John Crabtree had neither luck nor deep pockets. By the time his wife and daughter followed him in 1852, he had already given up on striking it rich. Legend has it that he was not on the San Francisco dock to meet them when they arrived. Undeterred, Mary Ann and the five-year old Charlotte found friends to stay with, while they awaited word from John. Eventually a message arrived; they should join him in the boom-town of Grass Valley, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Sensibly, he had given up on mining gold and resolved on a course of mining it from the gold miners by running a boarding house. In the
biographies of Charlotte ‘Lotta’ Crabtree that I can locate, this is last life-significant decision he may have made regarding his daughter. From then on, Mary Ann ruled Charlotte’s life and career choices – establishing herself as the first and possibly the most successful of California stage mothers to date. Mary Ann encouraged her red-haired, dark-eyed little daughter in learning songs and performing long sentimental ballads, playing the old-fashioned minstrel-show banjo and enlarging on a large repertoire of dance moves; Irish jigs, a little ballet, fandangos and soft-shoe, Highland flings and reels. The child was a born entertainer. For some years she was encouraged in her performing inclinations by a neighbor, the notorious adventuress and dancer Lola Montez – born Eliza Gilbert, fresh from a turn as the official mistress of the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, and eventually to travel on to Australia to perform in gold camps there. Mary Ann must have been terribly broadminded for a respectable married woman of that time to even consider the notorious Lola as suitable company, but women were still few and far between in the gold camps – and Mary Ann gives the impression of being a deeply practical woman.
One story has it that when Lola tired of Grass Valley, and decided to go tour the Australian gold fields as a performer, she wanted Lotta to come with her – but of course Lotta’s parents would not permit that. This offer confirmed that the kid had talent, though. Mary Ann – likely tiring of the sheer drudgery involved in keeping a boarding house – had no reservations about her child performing in public. The Crabtree family moved to another gold camp, Rabbit Creek, where a local tavern-keeper, one Mart Taylor, often hosted traveling dramatic groups, singers, and musicians in his business. Lotta Crabtree made her professional debut there at the age of six, dressed in in a green long-tailed coat, knee-britches, a tall green top-hat and brandishing a miniature shillelagh. She sang and danced an Irish jig … this brought down the house, and a rain of coin and gold nuggets. While there were a handful of other performing children touring the gold camps at this time, Lotta outshone the rest by far.
For two or three years, Lotta, her parents and two younger brothers, toured the gold camps; a kind of 19th century Shirley Temple and every bit as popular. Mary Ann turned out to be a hard-headed and scrupulously careful manager of her daughter’s fame and money. By the end of the decade, the family had moved back to San Francisco – a base from which Lotta continued touring and performing. Having conquered the West, the family returned East, where Lotta continued to perform to rapturous applause and tour with her own company. She performed in roles especially written for her; lively, petite, given to performing in male clothing and daring to smoke slender black cigars. By any standards she was attractive, and had many admirers and brief romances. Lotta spent the rest of her life in comfort and mild luxury, dabbling in painting, charitable work and foreign travel. Mary Ann had cannily invested the takings from Lotta’s theatrical performances in bonds and real estate – generating wealth sufficient to support the family when Lotta retired from performing at the age of 45. Her fortune was estimated at 4 million dollars when she died in 1924. She had never married, although after her death, a woman claimed that she was Lotta’s daughter, raised by foster parents, and had a right to a share of Lotta’s estate. The claimant insisted that Lotta had secretly married and given birth during a short residence in England, a claim rejected by the courts. Lotta’s fortune went where it was intended to go – to a charitable trust to benefit aging actors, animals, and veterans – and that was that.
A fabulously ornate cast-iron fountain still stands in San Francisco’s Market Street – a landmark funded entirely by Lotta Crabtree, and donated to the city in the 1870s. Thirty years later, it was a recognizable landmark in the aftermath of the great earthquake which reduced a large part of the city to rubble, and served as a place for survivors to gather, seeking word of other survivors. Lotta’s Fountain remains the oldest surviving monument in the city where she came as a child, and left as a star.
(Note – Lotta and her mother are supporting characters in my novel of the Gold Rush – The Golden Road, wherein the teenaged hero serves as a stage hand and body-guard for Lotta and her mother, as they tour the gold camps. I thought that Mary Ann was at least as interesting a character as Lotta; practical, level-headed and competent.)

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment about Celia's post to be entered to win The Chronicles of Luna City.

About Celia:
Celia Hayes spent twenty years as a military broadcaster in the Air Force, before retiring in San Antonio, Texas. She contributes to a variety of on-line magazines and websites and in 2012 became the owner of a small boutique publishing firm, Watercress Press. She is the author of thirteen novels set on the 19th century American frontier, and co-author with her daughter, Jeanne Hayden, of the Luna City Chronicles, a series of contemporary comic novels about life in a small South Texas town. She currently lives in San Antonio with her daughter and an assortment of dogs and cats, and her literary website is at and at

My latest releases are two rather different books: the fifth in the Luna City series, which is modern-day rural comedy –
The other book is a classic western adventure aimed at tween and teen boys – Lone Star Glory,

Monday, December 11, 2017

3 books by Autographed books by Anne Greene ends December 18

Please Welcome Anne back to my blog. Anne is giving away 3 autographed books so be sure to read on down on how to enter. Don't forget to leave your email address and if you are a feedburner follower be sure to let me now for a second entry.  


Felicity advertised for a husband and received a great many responses. She and her late father’s friend, Jed, go to dinner together at the boardinghouse.

“Say, what about that feller who’s staying in the downstairs corner bedroom? I’ve been studyin’ him, and he seems like a good Christian man. I see him at church every Sunday.”

She frowned. “I don’t know. There’s something about him that irritates me every time I see him.” And why not? Ben had not so much as walked her to the new church after she’d dropped a wagonload of hints. Those sky-blue eyes barely acknowledged her when he breezed into the general store to buy provisions. Ben had only gotten excited when she dropped everything dear Mrs. Baxter ordered into a jumbled pile in front of the sweet lady, and rushed to wait on him.

But he’d gotten plenty animated choosing which gold-mining pan he wanted. He’d chosen one of each. She sighed. He hadn’t picked up on her hint of the picnic lunch, the carriage ride, or the pie auction. She’d spent all her spare time baking that pie. Ben had no interest in her.

“The feller’s tall. He’s so clean and brown, looks like he’s been scrubbed with saddle soap. But you ask him where he’s from and where he’s aheadin’, he turns as dangerous as being’ up a creek with a grizzly. But otherwise, he’s right smart to talk with.”

“Perhaps that’s why I don’t like him.” Or more likely because he ignored her smiles and attempts at revealing her interest.

“But jist take another look. He favors one of them men in a mail-order catalogue.”

“Oh, he’s handsome all right, with that dark, wavy hair and those brooding blue eyes. But he gives the impression he’s not interested in land in the Oregon Territory. He’s got Gold Rush Fever.

What a happy day for her if she could order a man out of the catalogue. A mail-order groom. That’s what she needed. One who fit all her criteria. She could check off all the things she wanted in a man…and mail him back if he didn’t suit her needs. She thinned her lips. But, darn if she wouldn’t order one who looked just like Benjamin.

She and Jed entered the dining room. Every chair at the double-trestle table held someone except for three empty seats at the far end. Jed seated her and hunkered down across from her, leaving the chair at the end for whoever came in late.

She glanced around the table. Of course, the missing boarder had to be the dar-haired cowboy. “Do you recall his name?” She’d already gone so far as to embroider his name on her pillow slips. Well, Papa always said, ‘Dreams never amount to much. Just get your hopes high until someone comes along and stomps them into the ground.’ Still, a blue-embroidered BEN on her pillow winked at her each night before she closed her eyes.

“Ben Bonneville. Cain’t think why I didn’t mention him to you as a possible. Seems to me he fits the bill, unless he’s on the doge from the law.” Jed glanced over his shoulder at the door. “Here he comes. Now don’t you go acting as prim as a preacher’s wife at a prayer meetin’. I’m thinkin’ this Benjamin might be jist the man we’re alookin’ fer.”

Felicity’s cheeks heated. Too bad Ben didn’t think so.

How about you?
Felicity Daniels was on her way to homestead the free land in the Oregon Territory when her

father died less than half way there. Would you have had the courage to pursue your dream,

though it meant advertising for a husband?

Scores of were eager to sign on as a husband to receive an all-expenses-paid journey to a new land, plus 240 acres.

If you had been there, how would you have decided on what special man to choose for a husband?

Anne is giving away an autographed copy of Avoiding The Mistletoe, and an autographed copy of A
Texas Christmas, and an autographed copy of A Christmas Belle. Answer one of the questions above to be entered in the giveaway!

About Anne:
My home is in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, just a few miles north of Dallas. My dear husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. My little brown and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares my writing space, curled at my feet. I have four beautiful, talented children, and eight grandchildren who keep me running. ANNE GREENE BIO

I’ve traveled in every location of each book I’ve written, and each book is a book of my heart. Besides my first love, writing, I enjoy travel, art, sports, reading, sailing, snorkeling, movies, and way too many other things to mention. Life is good. Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” Whether writing contemporary or historical, my books celebrate the abundant life Jesus gives.

I’ve written several other novellas. AVOIDING THE MISTLETOE, is included in the Mistletoe, Jingle Bells, and Second Chances Collection. My novella KEARA’S ESCAPE is included in the Orphan Train/Spinster Collection. DAREDEVILS is included in the North Carolina, 50 States Collection. SPUR OF THE MOMENT BRIDE is included in the Wyoming, 50 States Collection. A CHRISTMAS BELLE, is included in the Christmas Mail Order Angels anthology. THE MARRIAGE BROKER AND THE MORTICIAN is included in The California Gold Rush Romance Collection. My novellas, A FOOL FOR LOVE, A GROOM FOR CHRISTMAS, and A TEXAS CHRISTMAS MYSTERY are stand-alone novellas.

Moody Press published my first book, TRAIL OF TEARS. I love writing about alpha heroes who aren’t afraid to fall on their knees in prayer, and about gutsy heroines. My Women of Courage series spotlights heroic women of World War II. You might want to begin with the first book ANGEL WITH STEEL WINGS. Read my private investigating series, Handcuffed In Texas. The first book is RED IS FOR ROOKIE. Enjoy my award-winning Scottish historical romances, MASQUERADE MARRIAGE and MARRIAGE BY ARRANGEMENT. I hope my stories transport you to awesome new worlds and touch your heart to seek a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Buy my books on Anne Greene.


Monday, December 4, 2017

USA Word Finds by Vickie Mcdonough ends 12/11

Please welcome my good friend, Vickie McDonough, to my blog this week. Leave a comment to be entered to win USA Word Finds!

Writers tend to be creative people, in more ways than just one. When I’m not writing, I like doing artistic-type things, even though I can’t draw a box. For years, I’ve done cross-stitch projects. I dabbled in graphic design and also stained glass, making several pieces. I also repurpose small furniture pieces to sell in my booth at an antique mall.

Early last year, I turned in my last contracted book to my publisher after writing several stories in a short time period. I can’t say that I was burnt out, but I was tired and ready to do something different while still being creative. I watched some webinars on creating puzzle books and decided to try my hand at that.

I’ve always liked word search puzzles so I started with one of those. I decided on a USA theme then set about making over 75 word lists, all centered around United States topics, places or people. Once I had the words lists done, I put each list into a word search generator to make the puzzle. Then I had to compile them all in a book. It turned out to be more work than I’d thought, and the two-month project turned into an eight-month one. In my defense, I did have surgery in the midst of it, so that set me back a bit. I learned a lot through the process, so next time I create a word search, it shouldn’t take nearly as long. Here’s the cover of my “baby.”

Insert USA Word Find cover here

Next, I wanted to try my hand at a coloring book, but there was that little issue of not being able to draw. I settled on making a coloring book about mandalas, which are geometric repetitive shapes. The ones I used had thick, dark lines, which gave me the idea of incorporating the stained glass theme. Once one of the pictures is colored, it will resemble a stained glass image. I also incorporated vignettes of stained glass history, techniques and tools on every other page to make it educational as well as relaxing.

This book was much easier to create, since I’d already learned how to put a book together on the first project. Also, my skills in Photoshop are improving at a snail’s pace, so that made creating the cover slightly easier. Here’s the cover of my Stained Glass Mandalas book.

Insert Stained Glass Mandalas cover here

There was quite a big learning process in these two projects, but I’m glad I stuck to it and didn’t quit. I enjoyed doing something different and being creative in a different way. For those of you wondering if I’ll have more fiction books out, the answer is yes. Seven Brides for Seven Texas Rangers release in March. I can’t tell you what’s coming next though, because I’ve started packing for a move, but I predict I’ll find something creative to do before long.

Insert Seven Brides cover here

About Vickie: Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie is a best-selling author of more than 45 published books and novellas, with over 1.5 million copies sold. Her novels include End of the Trail, winner of the OWFI 2013 Booksellers Best Fiction Novel Award. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013. Song of the Prairie won the 2015 Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Gabriel’s Atonement, book 1 in the Land Rush Dreams series, placed second in the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Vickie has recently stepped into independent publishing.

Vickie has been married for forty-two years to Robert. They have four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and a precocious granddaughter. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, doing stained glass, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website:

Buy link for USA Word Find:
Buy link for Stained Glass Mandalas:
Buy link for Seven Brides for Seven Texas Rangers:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Daily Wisdom for Women 2018 Edition by Darlene Franklin

Please welcome Darlene Franklin back to my blog. Read on down to find out how to enter to win Daily Wisdom for Women 2018.

Any way I look at it, 2017 has been a banner year. Before, during, and after each think I mention below, here the big “PRAISE GOD!” that’s rising from my soul. Because that’s how I feel.
·        I reached the 50 book mark in July! I have published 2 books since then. For someone who took 14 years to have even one book published, that’s hugely exciting.
·        In 2017 alone, I have published six novellas with Forget Me Not Romances and two four books with Barbour Books.
·        I was invited to write devotions for the 2019 edition of Daily Wisdom, which goes through the Bible in a year. God finally showed that He had fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing devotions through the Bible, if I contribute to enough of these collections!
·        Two surprise invitations: to write prayer starters to accompany 12 Months to Better Prayer For Women (Barbour Books, TBR Feb 2018) and Praying Through the Bible in a Year (Barbour Books, TBR Nov 2018). What a privilege! I hope the readers gets half as much from it as I have in writing it.
·        Driving force behind Oklahoma Christian Fiction Writer’s second book of short stories, Cracked Ice
·        Oh, and Praying Through the Bible will be my first full length nonfiction book, all by me.
·        And more that I won’t mention here …

·        I am about to become a greatgrandmother! Little Brilynn is due on February 4th. Praising the Lord that her teenage mother is in good health and spirits. The mantle of motherhood is settling well on her.
·        Praising God for bringing family members back into my life—my step-sister Karen and my cousin Jan.
·        Astonished at the way God is answering prayers! Clear, immediate answer on concrete prayers, in a way I’ve never experienced so often before.
·        Although the frustrations of my daily life in a nursing home remain unchanged, I am dealing with them better.
·        Loving the colored pictures I work on daily. I’m sharing a few.

GIVEAWAY: Tell us something you are thankful for to be entered to win Daily Wisdom for Women 2018 Edition by Darlene Franklin. 

About Darlene:
Best-selling hybrid author Darlene Franklin's greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Moore near her son, and is expecting her first greatgrandchild in January. Mermaid Song is her fiftieth unique title! She’s also contributed to more than thirty nonfiction titles. Her column, “The View Through my Door,” appears in four monthly venues (including Oklahoma Senior News and Living. Other recent titles are Christmas Masquerade and Maple Notch Romances Eight Couples Find Love You can find her online at: Website and blog, Facebook, Amazon author page

Monday, November 20, 2017

Shattered Memories by Debbie Lynne Costello ends 11/27

Hope you enjoy the first chapter of Shattered Memories. Read on down to find out how to enter to win the book!

Chapter 1

Charleston, South Carolina, August 30th, 1886
“Why can’t you have him arrested and demand our money back?” Olivia Macqueen frowned at her brother. It seemed a simple enough solution. She shuddered at the thought of once being engaged to the detestable man they now discussed.
Simon gave her a placating smile but his eyes didn’t dance as they would if the smile were true. “It’d be bad for business.”
Olivia shifted on the floral tapestry chair across from where Papa sat holding Mama’s hand. “Why? He deserves that and worse.”
Papa cleared his throat. “We could lose all confidence with our policyholders if they learned that one of our employees had embezzled funds.”
Simon sneered. “You mean if they found out they weren’t even real policyholders. This could ruin our family name and our business. I wish I’d never talked you into hiring Lloyd. Then he’d never have swindled us—” He stole a quick glance at Olivia, his eyes pleading forgiveness. “I’m sorry.”
Olivia’s throat went dry. Of late, it had been easy to forget what Lloyd Pratt had done to her. With the attention her brother’s old friend, Drew, had been lavishing on her, Lloyd had faded to an unpleasant memory. “Nothing to forgive. He means nothing to me now. Besides, his unfaithfulness was actually a blessing in disguise. I’d hate to have married such a scoundrel. And I wouldn’t have gotten to know Drew.” However, breaking the engagement with Lloyd had angered him so much that he had taken his fury out on her, requiring her to seek medical attention.
“Drew?” Simon wiggled his brows, mischief playing behind his mock surprise. “When did you start calling Dr. Warwick by his Christian name?”
Heat rushed to Olivia’s cheeks. Simon could be such a pest with his teasing. He knew very well she’d been calling Drew by his Christian name for some time. It was only around her father she’d avoided using it. Father had always felt the need to coddle her and Mother, more so after Lloyd had hurt her. No need for him to worry that she might have her heart broke again. “Do I really need to answer that, Simon?”
Simon chuckled, his eyes dancing. “I do believe my little sis is blushing. I think she’s smitten with my dear friend.”
Olivia pretended to glare at Simon. “I believe we have a more pressing matter at hand—seeing Mr. Lloyd Pratt gets his comeuppance.”
Papa stood and paced the parlor floor, his hands clasped behind his back. He turned, creases appearing between his brows. The gray sprinkled throughout his dark brown hair softened his features and gave him a distinguished appearance. “Simon’s right. We’ve got to handle this with utmost care. If word got out it could ruin us. And we don’t know how many people he wrote fake policies for or what other ways he may have embezzled.” He stopped and looked at his son. “How could we have missed this for a year?”
Simon brushed his fingers down his mustache. “It’s my fault. I should have gone over the books with a fine-toothed comb. Any man who can’t be trusted in one area can’t be trusted in others as well.”
“I suppose it would have been difficult to find missing policies or false claims without knowing what you were looking for.” Papa sighed and resumed his pacing,
“I should have suspected. After the cyclone of ’85 there were questions. Remember we had several people claiming to have policies that we could never find? I should have investigated then rather than letting Lloyd handle it.”
“He said it was just an error in the books and he’d taken care of it. We’d heard no more complaints. There was no reason to doubt his honesty at that point. What is done is done.” Papa returned to his seat next to Mama. “Tomorrow, first thing, we need to find out which clients are without policies and get them posted.”
Simon leaned forward, resting his arms on his thighs, hands dangling between his knees. “Do you know how much money that could take?”
“I don’t care if it takes our last penny. I’ll not have our good name in tatters.” Papa shot the words back like the kick of a rifle.
Mama, who never involved herself with Papa’s business affairs, picked up the fan suspended from her wrist and waved it in front of her face. Her dark blonde hair pulled back in a chignon set off her high cheekbones and her flawless skin. Olivia had been told often enough that Mama looked less like her mother and more like an older sister. Her beautiful face was now pinched with worry.
Olivia dragged her gaze away from her distraught mother and let it fall on her father. “I don’t understand why we have to suffer for what that dreadful man did. Why can’t we go to the authorities and ask them to keep the information private? Surely they would understand our dilemma.”
Papa gave her a patronizing smile, and she knew if she’d been within arm’s reach, he’d have patted her hand. “One thing I’ve learned in life, Olivia, is that if you tell someone your secret, it is no longer a secret.”
“But Mr. Pratt should have to pay for this. It’s not right that he walk away with no consequences and a large portion of our money.”
Still leaning forward, Simon fisted his hands. “Oh, he’ll pay all right and there will be consequences. I’ll see to that. Did he think he’d never get caught? He’s lucky that none of the people he stole policy money from have come to file a claim.”
Papa stood and took Mama’s hand, helping her up from the settee. “Enough of this for tonight. We’re upsetting your mother.” He gazed down into his wife’s eyes with so much love that Olivia’s heart hiccupped. Drew’s face came into view. She imagined the two of them sharing that kind of intimate love. The thought of spending her life with the man she loved warmed her.
When her parents had left the room, Olivia leaned in toward her brother and whispered. “So, what are you going to do about this?”
Simon stretched and yawned. “Tomorrow I’m going to try to make sure every client has an active policy.”
“You know very well that isn’t what I mean.”
He winked. “I plan to find the proof we need if it’s the last thing I do.”
Dr. Andrew Warwick left the hospital after checking on a patient and sauntered down Mazyck Street, unable to get his mind off Olivia, his best friend’s sister. When they were young boys, he and Simon saw Olivia as a nuisance—someone they could annoy when bored. Then they grew up and Drew’s medical studies occupied all his time. Simon took on responsibilities of his own, and they rarely spent time together.
But when Olivia showed up in his office last year seeking medical attention, he could hardly believe this was the little sprite he’d delighted in tormenting as a boy. She’d grown into a beautiful woman.
Drew gave in to his impulse, passed Meeting Street and turned down Church Street, heading toward the Macqueen house. It had taken him almost the whole year to gain her trust, and he knew why. After looking at her injuries, her story of taking a bad spill hadn’t rang true. He’d recognized the telltale signs of abuse even if she’d denied it.
Thinking about the late hour, he quickened his pace. He would continue past the house if the windows were dark. But if lights did shine, he’d visit under the pretense of seeing Simon as it was a bit late to visit a young lady. Having a good friend with a beautiful sister one loved was indeed an advantage.
The Macqueen’s home came into view. Lights blazed from the windows, casting yellow beams onto the lawn. Taking the steps two at a time, Drew couldn’t help but smile—the perfect way to end his night. He tapped lightly, and a few moments later the door opened. To his disappointment, Simon stood before him, a cocky grin on his face.
“Drew, how nice of you to come see me.” Simon leaned his shoulder against the frame.
“After a long day at work, I thought your charming personality would brighten my evening.” Drew grinned back and strained his neck to see beyond the slim body blocking his view.
“Looking for something?” Simon’s eyes glittered with mischief.
The sound of swishing fabric emerged. “Simon Macqueen, have you no manners? Invite our guest in.” His lovely Olivia looked as ferocious as an angry nurse when taking on an unruly patient.
“He’s my guest. I may not want him in the house.” Simon winked at him.
She pushed past her brother, giving him a playful slap on his arm, and smiled past him. “I’m sorry, Drew. My brother has the manners of a boar.”
Drew sidled past his best friend. “Shall we put him out with the rest of the herd?”
The tinkle of her laughter floated on the air like sweet music.
“Just you try. I can still take you down.” Simon’s words followed the couple. “And let’s not forget you two need a chaperone.”
Drew snorted. “I’m certain you were the one yelling ‘uncle’ the last time we had this discussion.”
Olivia intercepted. “Really, now. You’d think you two were still schoolboys, the way you carry on.” She took a seat by the window and arranged her dress.
Simon elbowed Drew. “You heard my sister— behave yourself.”
Drew took a seat across from her where he could easily take in Olivia’s beauty and put an end to the bantering.
Simon was always full of himself. That was part of the fun of being around him when they were young. But right now, Simon’s sister captured all of his attention.
Olivia rubbed her arm above her wrist. He couldn’t help but wonder if it still pained her. Her hand slid down to her bracelet dangling on her wrist, and she fingered it. Why was she nervous tonight? His gut twisted. Would she say yes to his proposal? He’d planned a very special Friday evening when he’d ask for her hand in marriage.
He gave her a soothing smile. “I’m pleased you’re still up. Seeing you has brightened my long day.”
She lifted her head and locked eyes with Drew, the corners of her mouth lifting. “As you have mine.” Her gaze shifted toward Simon, then back to Drew.
“I thought I was the one who had bright—”
Drew shot Simon a warning glare that stopped his good-natured friend midsentence. He wished he could be alone with Olivia, but that was not appropriate. Someone had to be a chaperone, but Simon was like a boisterous puppy.
“I’m looking forward to our special day Friday.” That was an understatement. He’d been counting down the days eagerly. She didn’t appear nervous now. His fear of her saying no was getting the best of him.
“As am I, Drew.” Her lashes fluttered.
His heart stuttered. He loved to hear his name on her lips. He’d never tire of it. Spending the rest of his life with Olivia couldn’t happen soon enough. She had to say yes when he asked her.
“Am I invited?” Simon teased.
“No.” Olivia glared at her brother.
Sweet mercy, she was beautiful. Light brown tendrils escaped the hair pulled up into one of the latest fashions. Beautiful brows arched over almond-shaped blue-gray eyes—eyes that breached his heart and soul. He caught himself right before he let out a sigh.
Simon cleared his throat. “Are you going to just sit there gawking at my sister?”
Olivia’s cheeks turned crimson, but she quickly turned to Drew. “Did you hear about the earthquakes that were felt in Summerville?”
Drew jumped in before Simon could remark. “I read an interview in the News and Courier. A Summerville resident was said to have heard a rumbling sound northeast of town, which was followed by an explosion that sounded like a cannon. But many are skeptical.”
Animation lit her face. “Some are saying a boiler probably blew at one of the numerous phosphate works, or someone was blowing up trees with dynamite.”
“I suppose it’s entirely possible that a tremor was felt. Time will tell.” He leaned forward. “What do you think?” He already surmised what her answer would be.
“I think too many people felt it for it to be some sort of an explosion. Some say that even Charleston felt the tremors. That’s too far for it to be anything other than an earthquake.”
Simon grinned. “Well, it caused a buzz that will keep Charleston talking for a few days anyway. Maybe we’ll get some more clients out of it.”
Olivia gave her brother a look that Drew couldn’t quite decipher. Simon only shrugged.
The next evening after Drew’s visit, Olivia sat in the parlor with her parents. She drew the needle up through the handkerchief she embroidered thinking about the camaraderie that her brother and Drew had shared the night before. “Simon sure flew out of here. You’d think he was late to see his lady love.”
Mama peeked up from her needlework. “If the boy ever finds one. I’m ready for grandchildren.”
“You can’t rush love. I learned that.” A shiver slivered down Olivia’s spine at the thought of Lloyd. She’d questioned if she would ever fall in love again after what Lloyd had done to her. He’d definitely hurt her in more ways than she could count. The welcome thought of Drew quickly replaced the unpleasant memory. She smiled inwardly. She wouldn’t mind giving her mother the first grandchild.
When she and Drew first started courting, doubt had harried her. As a little girl, dread would fill her when she saw him with her brother. The two of them together were as mean as cross-eyed snakes. Like the time they’d tied her shoes together while she napped in a chair, then stole her doll, woke her up and ran. When she jumped up to go after them, she fell flat on her face. The two laughed and disappeared with her doll. It took her the whole day to find where they’d hidden it.
Boys and tomfoolery must go hand in hand. Her brother now was a perfect gentleman, albeit a character—he’d never intentionally harm anyone. Surely Drew was the same. The two boys’ pranks were just that, childish pranks. She hated the way doubt tried to nudge its way into her thoughts. She needed to keep reminding herself that Drew was a doctor and had taken an oath to help people. He was nothing like Lloyd even if she’d known Lloyd for years and never thought him capable of the things that he did.
“Your brother rushed out of here to finish up some late night business,” Papa replied to her question.
“Did you get the policies written and posted?” Olivia inquired.
“We hope we were able to track them all down. Simon’s gone to check on a few loose ends.”
“Ouch!” Mama pricked her finger.
“Are you all right, dear?” Papa’s tender voice inquired.
Mama nodded and dabbed her finger on a handkerchief.
Papa pulled out his pocket watch. “It’s nine fifty.”
Olivia folded the white handkerchief she’d been working on and placed it in the basket beside the settee. She stretched her arms as she stood. “I think I’ll head to bed and curl up with Pride and Prejudice.” She waved her hand in front of her face to give herself some temporary relief from the heat. The sultry day hadn’t been relieved by an evening breeze. The curtains hung limp as an unusual stillness filled the air.

She reached the archway and turned to say goodnight. A long low rumble drifted in through the window as if a heavily-laden horse-drawn wagon approached on the street. But within seconds, the low rumble turned into a terrifying roar. The floor rolled beneath her feet. She grasped the archway wall. The whole house swayed as if dancing to the horrendous thunder. The chimney buckled and bricks spit forward like a child tossing blocks to the floor. A scream caught in her throat. Papa threw himself over Mama, his eyes locked with Olivia’s. Pain splintered through her head as her knees buckled beneath her.

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Debbie Lynne Costello has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children's Director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland Sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, she and her husband take pleasure in camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.