Victoria’s Promise

Work is coming along nicely on Victoria’s Promise, the second book in my Brides of Serenity series. I am aiming for a Valentine’s Day release, but nothing is set in stone just yet.

Victoria’s Promise is the story of a grieving young widow who comes to Serenity to start a new life as the town rebuilds after the tragic fire that swept through the state the previous fall. She meets Will Baxter, the shopkeeper who is appalled to discover that the new schoolteacher is not at all what he was expecting.

If you’ve read Letters to Caroline, you’ll be happy to know that Caroline, Adam, and the others will be back for more adventures this time around. And if you haven’t read it yet, it’s only $2.99 on Amazon. (Hint, hint.)

Just to whet your appetite for my next book, here is a little preview of the opening chapter of Victoria’s Promise. I hope you all enjoy it!

 


“Promise, Victoria,” the man wheezed.

Victoria Dawson brushed her fingers across his warm face. “Shh, Matthew, I’m here. Everything is going to be all right. Just rest.”

Matthew turned his face toward her. His blue eyes were bright with fever, but she saw awareness in his gaze. For the moment, at least, he knew what was happening.

“Promise me,” he repeated.

“Anything,” she whispered.  “What do you need, my love?”

“Marry again . . . after. Find a man who will love you as much . . . as I did.”

“Don’t be silly, Matthew.” She laughed without a trace a humor in her voice. “You’re going to be just fine in a few days.”

“Victoria.”

“Stop it!” Victoria rose from her chair beside their bed and stalked to the window. The St. Clair River sparkled in the rising sun on what promised to be another hot, steamy day, and she ached for the touch of a cool breeze on her skin. She wondered idly if autumn was drawing near; she had lost count of how many days and weeks she had spent in this bedroom tending to her husband in his illness.

Dr. Winslow had told her that it was only a matter of days at this point. The disease that ravaged Matthew’s body was slowly taking his life, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him.

“I want you to leave Port Huron . . . start a new life away from . . . memories of me.”

She whirled and stared at him. Surely he was delirious again. No sane man would suggest that she leave the cozy little home they had made for themselves here.

But his eyes were still clear as he stared at her. “I wrote . . . letters,” he said, and began coughing.

She hurried back to his side and held him as the coughs racked his body. When the spasms finally eased, she wiped the flecks of blood from his lips and helped him take small sips of water. “Rest,” she whispered, kissing his cheek.

“I wrote letters,” he said again. “Forgive me.”

“What – what kind of letters, Matthew?”

“They need a teacher in Serenity,” he told her. “I said you’d . . . take the job. When I – when I am gone . . . sell the house and go. Start over.”

She gasped. She hadn’t taught since she married him nearly two years ago, and even then she’d been one of a handful of teachers at a big-city school. Serenity was a backwoods lumber town on the other side of the state. She wasn’t prepared to teach at under those conditions. Besides . . .

“But I want to stay and take care of you,” she protested.

“I’ll be gone soon,” her husband said. “Promise me, Victoria. . . you’ll start over in Serenity . . . you’ll marry again. Please. Give me your word.”

She opened her mouth to protest again, but stopped when she saw the haunted look in his eyes. In that moment, she realized that it was time to believe both her husband and the doctor. Matthew was not long for this world. He needed peace of mind in his final moments.

“I promise,” she said slowly, choking back tears.

He smiled and closed his eyes, drifting into a fitful sleep. Victoria stayed with him through the night, holding his hand and wiping his face with a damp cloth from time to time. And when he slipped away sometime near morning, she kissed his forehead one more time.

“I promise,” she told him again. “I promise to make a fresh start, and I promise to marry again. But I will never love anyone again, Matthew. Never.”

Redemption

re·demp·tion
rəˈdem(p)SH(ə)n/
noun
  1. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

The next book in my Beach Haven series is A Soul Redeemed, so I wanted to take a look at the word “redemption” before I share a little excerpt from the first chapter.

I like the idea that redemption can also mean being saved from error, not just sin or evil. Every single one of us has erred in life in some way, big or small. We’ve all sinned, too, for that matter, but I doubt that most of us can relate to doing anything that is truly evil. In this book, I wanted to explore some of those errors and the regrets that go with them.

In short, I wanted to give a couple of my favorite supporting characters a chance to redeem themselves.

Jacqueline’s need for redemption is pretty obvious in light of her manipulative behavior in Her House Divided. To be perfectly honest, this character has really been bothering me since the end of that book. I’ve been wanting to tell her story, to explain why she does the horrible things she does. I wanted to face the challenge of somehow getting readers to like an unlikable character.

Ben, though, seems like a pretty nice guy, doesn’t he? The kind, easygoing, laid-back attorney has been sort of an understated comic relief character throughout the series. But what if he has a secret? What if he is the one who is truly in need of redemption?

That was my starting point for A Soul Redeemed.  I am tentatively looking at Friday, July 15 as a release date, but that date is not firm yet.

Ready to check out a sneak peek at Chapter one?

*****

A Soul Redeemed

Ben Jacobs took a deep breath and resisted the urge to kick the door of his car. It wasn’t the car’s fault that he was having a bad morning, after all. He tried shifting his briefcase, the box of doughnuts, the bouquet of flowers, and what remained of his coffee – having spilled half of it down the front of his suit on the drive to work – but still couldn’t manage to free one hand so he could shut the door.

Grunting, he put the box of doughnuts on top of the car and tried again. The box slid down the windshield, flipped over, and promptly landed upside-down on the pavement.

He closed his eyes. Bad enough that he had dumped the doughnuts on the ground; no man could be expected to gaze upon the tragedy of a fresh apple fritter destroyed in such a manner. The cruller and the éclair were acceptable losses on a day like today, but not the fritter.

Ben sighed. He set everything down on the ground and closed the car door with exaggerated care, after which he gathered his things and slowly made his way to his office. He half-expected the sky to open and dump buckets of rain on him just to continue with the whole theme of his morning, but the bright blue May sky remained annoyingly clear and cheerful, almost as though the universe itself were trying to get on his last nerve.

His assistant looked up in surprise when he dropped the flowers on her desk. “Happy birthday, Beverly,” he told her. “There were doughnuts, too, but they didn’t make it.”

“Thank you. My birthday is next month.”

“Of course it is.”

“The flowers are lovely, Ben. This was very sweet of you.” Beverly smiled up at him, taking in the rumpled and stained suit in one sweeping glance. “Spilled your coffee again?”

He nodded.

“And the white stuff on your shoulder?”

“Seagull.”

“Again?”

“Again.”

She chuckled. “Welcome back. I’ve put your mail on your desk,” she told him. “Along with your phone messages. Tiffany has already called twice this morning about the dog. And . . . I’m about to ruin your day a little bit more. There’s someone waiting for you in your office. I told her to wait out here, but she insisted. I’m sorry.”

Ben swore. His assistant was a deceptively tiny, middle-aged woman with the iron will of an army drill sergeant, and he knew from experience that there was only one person who refused to be intimidated by her. If that person was waiting for him in his office, his day was definitely going to continue with its downward trend.

He took yet another deep breath, squared his shoulders, and marched into his office. That’s right, he told himself. My office. Mine. This is my territory, my turf, and I am not going to let Jacqueline Davis push me around.

Jacqueline was seated at his desk rather than in one of the plush brown chairs that were intended for his clients. She was impeccably dressed as usual, in a mint-green dress that played up her porcelain skin and shoulder-length blond hair. There was an elegant grace in the way she moved when she leaned forward to rest her chin on one delicate hand, her lips curving into a humorless smile.

“Running a little late this morning, Ben?”

“Why are you here?” he asked. “Don’t you have some orphans to evict or something?”

“That’s on this afternoon’s schedule. I cleared this morning’s schedule so I could meet with you.”

“Fantastic. Beverly already told you that I have no interest in representing you,” he said. “Besides, you have an attorney, and you don’t need me.”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. Please, sit down so we can discuss my situation.”

“You’re . . . in my chair, Jacqueline.”

Her laugh scraped on his nerves. She stood and strolled around to the front of his desk like a spoiled housecat strutting in front of a captive audience, and he couldn’t keep his gaze from sweeping up and down her trim figure and appreciating what he saw.

She was a tall woman, her eyes almost even with his when she stopped directly in front of him. There was a triumphant gleam in her eyes that told him she had noticed exactly where he had been looking.