Author Vivian Kay & An Unexpected, Shocking Conversation

Vivian Kay

My guest today is an author new to me who was recommended by another author I know well, Michelle Stimpson. Author Vivian Kay is offering one Ebook copy of Secret Places. So be sure to answer the QUESTION below to be entered into the drawing. Here’s Vivian:
Secret Places was inspired by an unexpected, shocking conversation about an unconventional marriage intervention.

I love spunky, imperfect heroines and my imperfect heroine, Moni Badmus certainly fits that description.

As Moni’s marriage implodes, she is very much aware of her contribution to the messy situation. The problem is, she finds it hard to let go of the wrongs of the past even as it robs her of peace in the present. And Mona tries keep her only child, a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl.

As the novel unfolds so does the transformation within Moni as she hits rock bottom because of her very real fears.

Moni also gets to a point where she has to determine the things important to her. Things only begin to turn around when Moni acknowledges the source of her strength. She also learns that if a woman isn’t sure about her convictions, she will fall for anything. And perhaps lose everything.”–Vivian

Secret Places

To purchase, click here. Secret Places


After many years of happiness, Moni Badmus’s marriage is falling apart. Will Moni’s fear of losing what she holds dear take her to dark places she never imagined she would go?

Sam Badmus has lost his thirst for the things of God. For a while, his extramarital activities seemed to be a cure for his unsatisfying home life. But soon his risky behavior exacts a steep price and Sam has to turn to the God he left behind to save his family and maybe even his life. 

Debo Ajala and his wife Adele are living the golden life or so it seems. Their lives couldn’t be better, that is until Adele’s feelings for another member of their church surface.

In this emotionally charged tale of sacrifice, temptation, and redemption, two couples learn sin has consequences and there is no place they can hide from the presence of God.

Thank you so much, Vivian. Your fearless treatment of the dark “underside” of some in the church took my breath away. Here’s my

QUESTION: Why do you think authors often steer away from the hard truth about sin? Leave a comment and be entered into the drawing for an Ecopy of Secret Places by Vivian Kay.

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Vivian Key's Character

PS. Annie justcommonly won my copy of Winnie Griggs’ The Proper Wife. Congrats!

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Lyn Reviews Winnie Griggs’ The Proper Wife

I am going to giveaway my copy of The Proper Wife so be sure to leave a comment at the end.

The Proper WifeThe Proper Wife by Winnie Griggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This wasn’t my first Winnie Griggs’ Love Inspired Historical. Winnie appears to excel with stories where a free-spirited heroine meets an uptight hero or vice versa. This book is a story of the former romance. Sadie Lassiter is the free-spirited heroine and Eli Reynolds is the uptight hero.

Eli wants and thinks he needs to find a proper wife who will be a good step-aunt to the little sister in his care. And Sadie is not even on his long list much less his short list. She’s too carefree and too casual and not the least interested in housekeeping.

Then a storm strands them together for a night and the gossips put their heads together. Eli’s plans and Sadie’s plans go out the window when Eli proposes marriage to avert scandal.

However, it seems that this marriage might be in God’s plans for both of them.

A fun read with a delightful heroine who is a match for the very proper Mr. Reynolds!

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To purchase, click the cover.

If you’d like to win my copy, please leave a comment. QUESTION: Do you like free-spirited heroines? Why or why not?–Lyn

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Author Margaret Daley Shares A Sweet Recipe & A Deadly Noel

 Margaret Daley
My guest today is USA Today Bestselling Author Margaret Daley, a powerhouse. She is one of the authors who wrote a novella for the Christmas Eve Kisses collection. And she’s here to share new holiday recipe. Here’s Margare and she sayst:

 calories don’t count during holidays :-)

This is the time of year to indulge in sweets. Like a vacation, calories don’t count during the holidays. I wish that were really true. Oh, well, we can always dream. I want to share a new recipe I came across from Braum, which is a chain of stores that specializes in ice cream and diary products in my area of the country.

Peppermint Cake-small

Peppermint Cake with Marshmallow Cream Frosting

2 cups of melted peppermint ice cream

1 box of white cake mix

3 eggs

½ cup chocolate mint flavored baking chips

4 oz. softened cream cheese

1 7 oz. jar of marshmallow cream

1 stick of softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¾ cups powdered sugar

small pieces of peppermint candies 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray nonstick cooking spray in a Bundt pan. Combine the cake mix, eggs and melted ice cream in a large bowl and then beat those ingredients  together for 2 minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in the baking chips until they are all mixed in. Fill the Bundt pan with the batter and bake for 35-40 minutes. It should be golden and cooked thoroughly. When you remove the cake from the oven, turn the Bundt pan upside down onto a plate and leave the pan over the cake for at least 4 hours.

For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth with an electric mixer. Add in the marshmallow cream and vanilla and mix together. Finally put in the powdered sugar slowly mixing in ½ cup at a time. Spread the frosting over the cake and decorate with bits of peppermint.–Margaret

Here’s Margaret’s latest romantic suspense set around Christmas and I see a cowboy! :-)

Deadly Noel

To purchase, click here.

Deadly Noel (Strong Women, Extraordinary Situations Book 5)

Deadly Noel:
In this romantic suspense district attorney, Kira Davis, convicted the wrong man—Gabriel Michaels, a single dad with a young daughter. When new evidence was brought forth, his conviction was overturned, and Gabriel returned home to his ranch to put his life back together. Although Gabriel is free, the murderer of his wife is still out there and resumes killing women. In a desperate alliance, Kira and Gabriel join forces to find the true identity of the person terrorizing their town. Will they be able to forgive the past and find the killer before it too late?
For more online: 


Margaret, that recipe is really EZ and sounds delish. I may just give it a try. I love peppermint flavor anything! Thanks for being my guest.–Lyn


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Excerpt of “Winter Homecoming”

Christmas Eve Kisses

Here’s the Excerpt from my novella “Winter Homecoming,” part of the Christmas Eve Kisses Novella Collection.

Chapter One

Christmas Day, 1930

Why couldn’t life go according to plan? In the stark moonlight at the railroad freight yard, Will Gustafson sheltered his ears in his upturned collar against the bitter December wind. They called Chicago the Windy City and they weren’t wrong. In the distance he heard an engine idling. Relief flickered within him. Even late on Christmas Day, the trains were running.

At least something in this country was still working. He’d hoped the feared railroad guards or “bulls” he’d read about in the Tribune would be busy celebrating in their warm office and he could make his escape without meeting them. He didn’t know how to jump a freight, but he’d learn how tonight.

His nearly empty stomach clenched and cold regret had clotted in his throat.. He’d given up trying to swallow it down. In a cloth sack over one shoulder, he carried all that was left of the life he was leaving. He listened in the wind for harsh voices, for the bark of the guard dogs he’d read could savage a man. Icy fear settled in the pit of his stomach.

His mind brought up a memory as bitter as the wind—a beautiful woman in a summer dress, laughing at him. He shoved it away and moved silently through the shadows of the parked freight cars toward the idling engine, slipping soundlessly as if on the hunt for an elusive twelve-point buck.

His ears caught the subtle sound of footsteps on frozen ground. Will stiffened, ready to run, ready to fight.

“Hey,” a man whispered, “gonna flip a train?”

“Yeah,” Will whispered back, hoping flip meant jump.

“Then you better follow me.” A scarf and battered hat pulled down against the wind hid the man’s face. “There’s a train leavin’ in a few minutes but we gotta hustle to make it.”

Will started hustling. “Where’s the train headed?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes, I’m headed north toward home.”

Home.” The man spat the word like a curse. “You got one to go to?”

Will didn’t reply. He didn’t want to go home to humiliation and “I told you so’s” but he could survive there, hunting and fishing.

“Come on,” the stranger said. “Hustle.” At a breathless pace the man led Will through the maze of track and freight cars, the idling engine sounding closer.

The snarling of a dog split the wind.

The stranger pushed Will into the shadow of a freight car. They huddled there. Will’s heart pounded. But the dog, wherever it was, barked no more.

“Come on,” the stranger hissed. “Guess it’s too cold for the bulls or their dogs.”

And ahead in the moonlight Will glimpsed big wheels beginning to turn. He and the man zigzagged through the shadows and over tracks to the train just rolling.

Will moved to catch one of the handholds.

The stranger held him back. “Wait,” he snapped. “The bulls watch the trains leavin’. Has to be goin’ fast enough they won’t try to drag a man off. Too dangerous for them.”

And more dangerous for us. Will’s pulse sped up, keeping pace with the sound of the wheels on the track.

Now.” The stranger yanked Will’s coat collar and then flat out ran to the speeding train.

Will raced forward.

The stranger caught hold. Swung himself up onto a car. Shoved the sliding side door open.

A dog barked wildly behind Will.

“Come on!” the stranger bellowed over the roaring wind and clacking of the train.

The dog snapped at Will’s heels. Will swung up high. The stranger grabbed his arm. Dragged him toward the gaping doors.

The dog jumped, trying to nab Will’s foot.

Downward gravity pulled at Will. The stranger hauled him inside.

Panting, Will lay prostrate on the dusty wooden floor, feeling the clackety-clack of the wheels in his bones. He’d done it; he’d “flipped” a train.

Finally he rolled over and sat up. The freight had sped up and was rocking along fast. Though the doors had been closed against the wind, city lights still flickered through cracks. The two of them weren’t alone. Other shapes huddled around the dark edges. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” the stranger sneered. Then he pulled out a pistol.

Will felt not only his shock but also a wave of shock from the others. “What?”

“Buzzard!” a voice jeered.

“Empty your sack.” The stranger waved his gun, ignoring the insult.

Will sized him up. And prepared.

“I said—”

Will reared up and knocked the man to the floor. He’d never before had to fight while in a moving train. He went down on the top of the man, punching, rolling. He clapped his hand around the wrist holding the gun. He’d grown soft in Chicago but he pinned the man down in a wrestling hold he’d learned in high school.

The stranger gurgled.

Will slammed down the hand with the gun, again, again.

The stranger released the gun.

Will snatched it up, shoved it in his pocket. Then patted the man down, searching for any other weapon or the ammunition. He found none. He flipped open the pistol’s chamber and found it empty too. “Well, that’s stupid. Threaten me with an empty gun.”

The stranger moaned.

“If I hurt you, it’s your own fault.” Will rubbed his throbbing elbow and slid back to his place against the wall. The man’s treachery stung more than the physical pain. Now he realized that what he’d taken as kindness from this man had merely been a strategy to get him where he could rob him away from the law. The stranger hadn’t expected anybody to come to Will’s aid here and no one had. When would Will learn that people here couldn’t be trusted?

The stranger finally dragged himself up and staggered to the opposite wall. The train had picked up speed, swaying more.

“What did you think I had to steal?” Will asked in the heavy silence.

The stranger was rubbing his side. “Hungry.”

The reply surprised Will again. Was it true? Sympathy touched him. The man must have suffered even more than Will had. “Why didn’t you just ask?” Will reached into his pockets and pulled out Hersey bars. “Anybody else want a piece?”

Stunned silence and then a few chuckles. One old guy with a white beard said, “Celebrating Christmas, are we?”

“It’s not roast turkey,” Will replied, feeling lighter somehow, “but it’s all I got.” He counted heads in the dim light and broke the two bars into chunks and handed them out, the last to the man who’d threatened him. Then Will sat back, letting the chocolate melt on his tongue.

“Give me my gun back,” the stranger said, his voice low and rough.

“No,” Will stated. “You’ll just get yourself killed with it. A man doesn’t wave an empty gun in a body’s face. I can use it for hunting.” A pistol wasn’t as good as a rifle but it was something. “I was wondering how I’d get a gun. Now I only need ammo.”

“So you’re stealing it.”

“I’m taking it into protective custody.” Still, his conscience pricked. Will pulled the pack off his back, reached inside, and pulled out a pair of gloves. He tossed them toward the stranger. “Here. Now you’ve been paid.”

The man picked the gloves up and peered at them in the flickering light. “Gloves. Leather gloves.” He pulled them on quickly.

“I can only wear one pair at a time,” Will said. “Deal?”

Another wave of surprise spread through the train.

“Deal,” the stranger muttered. “Sorry.”

Will nodded. “Anybody know where this train’s headed? What direction?”

“North,” one of the shadowy men replied.

“Good.” Will sighed silently.

One of the figures slid closer to him. “Hi.”

Will tensed, then saw that it was just a kid, not more than ten. “Hi.”

“How far north you goin’, mister?”

What was a kid doing here all alone? “Far.”


“Yes.” Will felt the tension leak out of him. The stress of everything that had happened in the last months, weeks, days, finally hit him as he sat there, swaying on the dusty floor.

The boy settled beside him. “Good.”

The excitement over, the men in the freight car turned in for the night. The cold wind found its way through the cracks. Will shivered. The kid next to him fell asleep and curled up against him like a puppy. Will welcomed the warmth, but he didn’t fall asleep. He couldn’t turn off the mocking images, the rude voices in his head. He deserved them. He’d been a fool. And now he was paying for it.

So there’s the beginning. Chapter 2 brings Cass Newton into Will’s life. So what do you think? Does the beginning grab your interest?–Lyn

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Lyn’s Latest Novella in Christmas Eve Kisses Collection

Christmas Eve Kisses

To purchase, click here.

Christmas Eve Kisses: inspirational romance boxed set (Inspy Kisses Book 4)

Maybe you missed it but I’ve been soliciting feedback about a cover and a title for my latest novella, “Winter Homecoming.” It debuts this week in an EBOOK holiday collection, along with novellas by Margaret Daley, Lacy Williams, and Brenda Minton. The above is the collection cover. I like it!

As soon as I have the finished cover for the print edition that will only include my novella that I’ll publish myself, I’ll share it. Today I’m announcing This EBOOK collection.

Tomorrow I’m going to post an excerpt of my novella and Wednesday I’m hosting author Margaret Daley who is going to share a holiday recipe. So here’s the

Winter Homecoming’s BLURB:

Catching a freight train out of Chicago is no way to spend Christmas Day.

But Will Gustafson has run out of options. The Depression has cost him everything–his classy wife, executive job  and high society life. Now he’s heading home to the northwoods of Wisconsin to face the “I told you so’s” he deserves. On the freight train a homeless little boy attaches himself to Will like a lost puppy. Who is the boy and why is he alone?

On the day after Christmas in her Model T, Cass Newton picks up Will and the boy and takes them home with her. Is she crazy? But a new widow, she needs a handyman to help her weather the winter in her isolated cabin. She’s concealed her “delicate” condition from everyone but can’t deceive Will.

A baby is coming and Will wonders how he’ll handle this–when his lady boss refuses to see a doctor. Why not for heaven’s sake? He fights his growing attraction to this good but stubborn woman–so unlike the wife who divorced him. The three of them become an unlikely “family.” Yet what will happen when the snow melts and all their secrets are revealed?

Here are the blurbs of the other 3 novellas:

Enjoy this collection from some of your favorite inspirational authors. This anthology is all about Christmas.

The Knight and the Damsel by USA Today bestselling author Margaret Daley
Retired champion bull-rider, Michael Knight, leaves his ranch when his younger brother calls for help. Someone is sabotaging and poisoning rodeo animals. Determined to stop them, Michael takes a job in the center of the action as a bullfighter.
Bella Rosenthal is one of the few female bull-riders competing with the men. Someone is harassing her, and Michael decides to solve that case as well, but Bella doesn’t want any help. She insists on taking care of herself until one of her bull rides is sabotaged, and she is nearly killed. Michael and Bella work to find out who is behind what is happening on the rodeo circuit while fighting their growing feelings for each other.

Jingle Bell Cowgirl by USA Today bestselling author Lacy Williams
It will be a Christmas to remember…
Prodigal cowgirl Lila Andrews returned to her hometown on a whim, but she’s been unable to step foot on the family ranch because of childhood memories that haunt her. That hasn’t stopped ranch foreman Ben Taylor from dogging her heels around town.
Ben has been managing the Circle A ranch since Lila’s father passed away. He made a promise to his mentor that he’d see Lila back where she belonged. But the stubborn cowgirl isn’t cooperating.
When Lila and Ben are forced to work together to rescue a neglected horse, they begin to discover their first impressions were wrong. Friendship blooms… sparks fly… but Ben needs a Christmas miracle to convince Lila to stay in Redbud Trails.

Meant to Be by Brenda Minton
What happens when love takes childhood friends by surprise? Laney Walton and Aaron Thomas have known each other since childhood. It was the dream of their  mothers that the two of them should someday marry. But Aaron married Angela and had a son. Laney remained the quiet wallflower, the girl every mom wanted for a daughter-in-law, but none of their sons wanted for a wife. Now divorced, Aaron is back in the small town of Red Oak and his mom finds she has one more chance to make the perfect match between her son and the daughter of her best friend.

Don’t forget to stop by TOMORROW and read the Excerpt from “Winter Homecoming.”

QUESTION: What do you think of the collection cover? Does it attract your interest?–Lyn

PS Catching up on Winners:

Marta Perry’s The Rescued to Lynn Grier
Marta Perry’s When Secrets Strike to Karen G
Betty Neels’ Classic Romance to Sunnie
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Author Piper Huguley & Fried Apples!

Piper Huguley

My guest today is author Piper Huguley and she’s sharing a family recipe for FRIED APPLES and her latest book, Treasure of Gold, a 20th century historical that really sounds interesting. Here’s Piper:

Hello everyone!

Fried Apples is a longtime Holt family favorite.

My mother taught me how to make them and she learned the recipe from her grandmother. We usually eat them as a side dish with poultry. I make fried apples often, about two times a week.

Fried Apples

4 medium sized apples (I use Golden Delicious, Fiji, Gala.  Granny Smiths are too hard and McIntoshes are too soft—even though I love the tartness of them).

½ cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup apple cider or apple juice (If you don’t have them, water is fine, but cider or juice does add flavor)

Melt the butter into a skillet on medium heat on top of the stove.  Thinly slice the apples (keep the peel on).  Pour the apples into the skillet on top of the melted butter. Pour on the cider/juice and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over all.  Cover with the lid and let simmer for 10 minutes or so until the apples are soft.  Once the apples are soft, take the lid off and continue to cook until the liquid has mostly thickened into a syrup. Once it has, the fried apples are done!

I can just see the Bledsoe girls, the heroines in my “Migrations of the Heart” series heroines eating these fried apples on top of those famous homemade cathead biscuits!   Enjoy!–Piper

Treasure Of Gold

When you follow your heart, never count the cost.
Migrations of the Heart, Book 3
Trusting in the One who orders her steps, Nettie Bledsoe is determined not to deviate from her route to the charity kitchen. Don’t stop for anything, her sisters say. 1923 Pittsburgh isn’t like Georgia, they warn. Yet when low moans of unholy suffering drift from an alley, she can’t help but investigate. It’s a man. The most beautiful man she’s ever seen.
Despite his scandalous reputation, something within her responds to his sinfully rich voice. Jay Evans is trying hard to stay on the straight and narrow, and doesn’t want help from any church do-gooder. But until his wound heals, he needs help caring for his young daughter, Goldie. Especially since Nettie saw fit to fire Goldie’s barely competent nanny. Despite their mismatched backgrounds, Nettie and Jay fight a losing battle against their growing attraction. But it’s only when Nettie is kidnapped that Jay realizes that if he doesn’t get her back safe and sound, his heart will shatter into uncountable pieces.
Warning: Contains a single father with a photographic memory for numbers, and a country girl out of her element in the city. It all adds up to a heart-winning tale.
Piper, what a great recipe. I have never thought of frying apples, but this sounds delicious and your book sounds very intriguing. I love stories set in the early 20th century. Thanks for being my guest.
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Lyn Reviews Betty’s Neels’ Classic Romance, The Right Kind of Girl

I will send my well-worn copy of this Betty Neels’ classic to one commenter. Don’t miss the QUESTION below.

The Right Kind of Girl (The Best of Betty Neels)The Right Kind of Girl by Betty Neels

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a longtime Betty Neels’ reader. I found The Right Kind of Girl refreshing. For once the hero wasn’t a Dutch doctor! He’s an English doctor!

And Emma isn’t a nurse, but a paid companion to a very spoiled wealthy old woman.

Of course our long-suffering Emma deserves to be rescued and so Dr. Wyatt does.

But even though Emma is always humble, she’s not a pushover. Her strength shines through.

I enjoyed this gentle read as I always do when reading a Betty Neels’ classic romance.

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QUESTION: Do you enjoy doctor-nurse romances? Why or why not?-Lyn

Goodreads Party


Don’t forget this week’s party! To join the fun and prizes, click here.

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Launch the Holidays Historical Costume Party on Goodreads!

If you’d like to have some fun next week, drop in and join the Love Inspired Group on Goodreads. We’re hosting a Launch the Holidays Costume Party. Dress like a Regency lady or a pioneer woman and be ready to describe your party wear. And bring a party treat (to go with Regency or Pioneer costume) to share (recipe optional). Let your imagination take flight!–Lyn

Goodreads Party

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Author Terri Reed’s Latest, Murder Under the Mistletoe & Excerpt


My guest today is Author Terri Reed and I decided to let her book tell you why you should pick it up at the earliest convenience! Here’s Terri:

my strong heroine in Murder Under the Mistletoe

Heather Larson-Randall, the heroine in my November release Murder Under the Mistletoe, book three of my Northern Border Patrol series, showed strength during her husband’s deployment and then when she lost him to the war in the Middle East. This left her to raise thier six-year-old son alone.

Her faith is tested and stretched at every turn,

but she falls back on the promises of the Bible, knowing that God is in control. I hope you will enjoy this story of a strong woman who gives love a second chance.”–Terri

Murder under the mistletoe

EXCERPT of Murder Under the Mistletoe

“Good night, sweet boy.” Heather Larson-Randall leaned in to kiss her six-year-old son’s forehead.

“Night, Mommy.” Colin snuggled deeper beneath the thick comforter. He lay in the twin-size bed in the room that once had been Heather’s.

Gone were the decorations of her adolescence—posters of the latest celebrity heartthrob and her 4-H ribbons and trophies. It had taken the past three days to transform the room in a superhero motif that would have made Ken, her late husband, proud.

A cold draft skated across the back of her neck. The late November night had grown chilly, but at least the northern Idaho rain had abated for now. The weatherman had predicted a drop in temperature over the next few days. Fitting for this year’s Thanksgiving. She just needed to get through the day for Colin’s sake. Then she could concentrate on Christmas.

Hopefully celebrating the birth of Jesus would take her mind off her brother’s tragic death.

She also hoped they had snow by Christmas morning. Colin loved the snow. And, as always, her life’s priority was Colin.

She moved to the bedroom door. The creak of the old farmhouse’s hardwood floor beneath her feet followed each of her steps, echoing the hollow, lonely beat of her heart. “Mommy?”

Pausing in the doorway with her hand hovering over the light switch, she smiled patiently at her son. Colin looked so much like Ken with his dark brown hair falling over one eye and his dimpled chin. She ached with love for her son and regret that he’d never know his father. “Yes, sweetie?”

Her late parents had taught her that replacing the word what with the more positive yes when talking to children created a strong, effective bond. The proof was in how close her family had been.

Colin’s big blue-green eyes stared at her intently. “Do you think Uncle Seth is with Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa?”

The innocent question speared through her like a hot poker. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep the tears of grief at bay. Five years ago, just before Colin’s first birthday, her husband had been killed while serving his country in Afghanistan, leaving Heather to raise their son alone. She’d made sure every day that Colin knew his father had loved him. Adding to her grief, her parents had been killed in a freak car accident when Colin was four.

Now, two years later and five days ago, she’d lost her younger brother, Seth, to what appeared to be a cocaine overdose.

She struggled to comprehend how Seth had fallen back into using drugs after being clean the past couple of years. He’d had so much going for him. A fiancée he adored, half the tree farm and a bright future. She didn’t know what had sent him running back to the abyss.

Placing one hand on her chest, she leaned against the doorjamb, needing the strength of her childhood home to keep her upright when the grief pressing down on her threatened to send her to the floor in a heap. “Yes, dear. I’m sure they are all together.”

A familiar tide of anger washed over her. Anger at God for allowing the tragedies that had left her and Colin alone in the world. On the heels of the anger came a flood of guilt for blaming God. Sometimes it was hard to cling to her faith when the world tried to knock her down.

The cell phone in the pocket of her plush robe buzzed.

“I’ll come back to check on you in a bit,” she told Colin, then flipped off the light and stepped into the dimly lit hallway to answer the phone.


“Your brother’s death isn’t what it seems,” a rough, low voice said into her ear, sending a chill down her spine. “Leave the farm. It’s not safe.”

Her breath hitched; her mind reeled. “What? Who is this?”

The line beeped, then went silent.

A tremor from deep inside worked its way out of her.

Leave the farm. It’s not safe.

She put a hand on the wall to steady herself, feeling the familiar fuzzy velvet texture of the flock wallpaper. This couldn’t be happening, not now with Seth’s death hanging over her like a cloud of doom.

His death had been ruled an accidental overdose.

Even if she wanted to leave the farm, she and Colin had nowhere to go. The day she had learned of Seth’s death, she’d given up her job and the apartment in Washington State to move back to Idaho.

Now the Christmas tree farm was her and Colin’s only home. Their livelihood. Without the farm she wasn’t sure what would happen to them.

Seeds of fear burrowed in her chest and took root. She quickly made her way downstairs, checking that the doors were securely locked. She peered out the front picture window. The full moon, big and round and shining brightly, bathed the sea of Douglas fir, grand fir and noble fir trees stretching over forty acres of land on the tree farm that had been in her family for three generations.

Long shadows obscured the front drive. The other work buildings on the farm were dark, as well. The small cabins that provided lodging for the seasonal employees couldn’t be seen through the thick grove of trees, creating a sense of isolation that had never bothered her when she was growing up here.

But she’d never had a menacing phone call before now.

Suddenly movement on the fringe between the trees and the wide expanse of lawn caught her eye. Then the shadow shifted and disappeared. Had she really seen something out there? Or was fear making her paranoid?

She yanked the curtains closed. Surely she was imagining things. Satisfied the house was locked up tight, she hurried back upstairs to the master bedroom that had once belonged to her parents and her grandparents before them. Though she’d replaced her parents’ belongings with her own, she still considered the room theirs.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, she called the local sheriff’s office and told the answering sergeant about the disturbing call. She couldn’t be sure she’d seen anything in the shadows of the trees, so she kept that to herself. Because there was no immediate threat, the sergeant promised to send a deputy over in the morning.

Not at all reassured, she hung up and crawled into bed. She held her phone to her chest. Right now she wished she’d given in to Colin’s pleas for a dog. Tomorrow she would go to the local animal shelter and find a nice big canine with a loud bark.

She leaned back against the pillows, her gaze landing on the picture of her parents hanging on the opposite wall. Her mother had been so beautiful and her father so handsome. But more important, they’d been great parents to her and Seth, providing a stable home and love. Lots of love.

The very things she wanted to give Colin.

Somehow none of that had been enough to keep Seth from turning to drugs. She didn’t know what had driven him to seek the high of narcotics when he was younger. Or more recently. The not knowing ate at her. He’d refused to talk about the dark days of his addiction. Heather had hoped one day he’d realize she loved him no matter what.

Maybe if she’d stayed closer to home rather than leaving for college, Seth wouldn’t have turned into a junkie. Maybe if she’d begged, Ken would have left the army. Maybe if she’d been with her parents that night, they wouldn’t have died in that accident. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

She turned off the light and lay in the dark. She wanted to pray for God to protect them and lessen the burden of guilt she carried. But her prayers for Ken’s safety had gone unanswered. Why would God listen to her now?

Her eyelids grew heavy. Her head bobbed as sleep’s greedy hands pulled her into slumber.

A soft thud jolted her fully awake. Her heart nearly exploded with fright. She bolted from the bed and strained to listen.


Maybe it had been Colin getting up to use the bathroom. Yes, that had to be it. She sucked in air and slowly released her breath, working to calm her frantic pulse. She glanced at the clock. She’d slept for three hours.

After pulling on her robe, she padded quietly down the hall to check on her son. The bathroom was dark and empty. She moved on to his room. The moon’s glow streamed through the open curtains, revealing Colin fast asleep. She closed the door and waited. The house was silent now, yet the hairs on her nape rose and chills prickled her skin.

Cautiously, she moved to the top of the stairs and stared into darkness.

Was someone in the house?

Another noise jolted through her, making her tremble. She needed to call for help. As quietly as she could, she raced back to her bedroom and swiped the phone off the bed, then hurried into the hall and stood guard in front of Colin’s door. She dialed and when the sergeant answered, she whispered, “This is Heather Randall again. There’s someone in my house!”

“Are you sure?” the man asked. “Have you seen an intruder?”

“No, I heard a noise.”

He sighed. “Sit tight. I’ll send one of the deputies out.”

Sit tight? It would take at least thirty minutes for a deputy to reach the farm from Bonners Ferry, the nearest town. Was she supposed to wait and see if the intruder decided to come upstairs? Then what? She had no weapon, no way to defend herself or Colin. She thanked the deputy anyway and hung up.

She couldn’t sit there like some insipid victim. She crept slowly down the staircase, careful to avoid the spots that would creak. She knew every inch of this house, knew every board that would betray her presence, every piece of furniture to navigate around in the inky blackness. She made her way to the kitchen.

She glanced at the knife block with the razor-sharp knife set. As tempting as it was to grab a knife to use as a weapon, she knew that wasn’t a good choice. A knife could be too easily taken away and used against her. Instead, she moved to the stove.

Careful not to jostle the pans hanging over the range, she grabbed the largest cast-iron skillet. Her mother’s favorite. Hefting the heavy pan in her hands like a baseball bat, she crept back to the stairs.

At the bottom step, she waited, listening.

All was quiet. She was being paranoid. The noises she’d heard had been the house settling for the night. All the doors and windows were locked up tight. The phone call had been a mean hoax, meant to frighten her.

Well, it had worked. Her hands tightened around the cold handle of the skillet. She placed one foot on the first step.

A soft knock at the back door echoed in the stillness of the house.

Abandoning the stairs, she pressed her back to the wall. Adjusting her grip more firmly on the skillet’s sturdy handle, she inched toward the kitchen. She peered around the corner. The outline of a man shone through the curtained window on the back door.

She had seen someone creeping around outside. And now they wanted inside.

Who would come to the farmhouse in the middle of the night? Caution had her refrain from turning on the lights. If she didn’t answer the door, would the person go away?

She hoped so.

The person knocked again, louder this time.

Maybe it was the sheriff’s deputy. Right, one just happened to be close enough?

It was possible, she supposed. Wary, she approached the door and flipped on the outside porch light. But nothing happened. Great timing to have a burned-out lightbulb at the exact moment she needed the glow.

As indecision on what to do warred within her, the man outside turned the doorknob. She jumped back, prepared to use the skillet to defend herself.

She should retreat and wait upstairs as the sergeant had said. That would be the smart thing to do. But what if the intruder decided to break in? What if he got to her son before the police could arrive?

A surge of protectiveness coursed through her veins. Adrenaline shoved back the fear. She was alone. It was up to her to defend her house, her son. She stood her ground.

The unmistakable sound of a key sliding into the lock and the lock’s tumblers turning ratcheted her tension.

She moved swiftly to press her back against the wall next to the door seconds before the door opened and the intruder stepped inside. A small beam of light glowed in the darkness as the man moved forward. Holding her breath, she knew she had the element of surprise on her side and one shot at felling the trespasser. She had to make it count.

Stepping carefully behind the figure, she raised the iron fry pan and swung.

The swoosh of moving air alerted DEA agent Tyler Griffin to an impending attack. He spun around, the penlight dropping to the ground, and raised an arm to deflect the blow. He was too late. Something hard and solid glanced off his elbow and connected with his head, sending pain shooting in all directions through his body.

The crack to his noggin sent him staggering backward until his back hit the dining room table. He toppled sideways into a sprawling heap on the floor. His elbow throbbed all the way to his shoulder.

He shook his head, trying to regain his equilibrium. He could barely make out the dark form of a body standing a few feet away. He wrenched his sidearm from the holster attached to his belt. “Halt! DEA!”

His shout didn’t quite have the normal amount of punch it usually held.

The figure retreated a few steps.

Tyler blinked back the spots and aimed. His finger hovered near the trigger, but he couldn’t keep his assailant in focus long enough to fire.

The sudden glare of the overhead light blinded him. With a sinking feeling, he realized he made an easy target if his assailant decided to finish him off. This wasn’t the way he’d pictured his life ending.

But, then again, he wasn’t in control of life’s happenings. He’d learned that long ago. The best he could do was pray that if God wanted to take him now, that it was quick and painless.

“You’re a cop?”

The distinctly female voice had him blinking rapidly to adjust to the light. He lowered his sidearm. His gaze fixed on the woman standing by the back door he’d just come through. She held a large black cast-iron skillet in her hands, looking as if she were ready to take another swing at his head.

He nearly laughed out loud. He’d allowed an assailant to get the drop on him. A woman with a frying pan, at that. Man, he must be suffering burnout.

He could only imagine the ribbing he’d suffer when his fellow agents found out he’d been clocked by a raven-haired beauty in a fuzzy yellow robe and… Were those toe socks?

Her tangle of thick ebony curls cascaded about her shoulders like a cloud, and the most amazing hazel eyes regarded him with stark fear. Her gaze moved to the gun in his hand, then back to meet his scrutiny.

Forcing himself to a sitting position, he reholstered his weapon and let his head sink into his hands with a groan. “You hit me.”

“I’ll do it again if you don’t tell me who you are and what you’re doing here and how you have a key to my house,” she growled.

Feisty, considering he’d had her at gunpoint. Lifting his head, he started at the sight of his hands covered with blood. Apparently the knock over the head with the pan had broken the skin on his scalp. Hopefully, that was the only thing she’d broken.

He reached for his ID wallet and held it up for her to see. “Agent Tyler Griffin, DEA. You must be Heather.”

One lip curled up. “Obviously.” Her dark winged brows dipped as she took a step closer to inspect his credentials. She danced back and frowned. “How do I know that’s real, and how do you know my name?”

“It’s real. You can check it out if you’d like.” He held the leather case out for her to take. “There’s a number on the card you can call.”

“Throw it over.”

Smart, too. He liked that. He tossed it so it landed at her feet. Keeping her focus on him, she picked the wallet up. Her straight white teeth tugged on her bottom lip. “You didn’t answer me. How did you get a key, and how do you know who I am?”

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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Murder Under the Mistletoe (Northern Border Patrol)



DEA agent Tyler Griffin must stop a drug cartel that’s using an Idaho Christmas tree farm to smuggle narcotics across the Canadian border. But to do his job, Tyler needs the cooperation of farm owner and widowed mother Heather Larson-Randall—whose informant brother died on Tyler’s watch. Tyler knows a crucial piece of evidence is hidden somewhere on the property. But getting the protective mother to trust him is the hardest part of his mission. As threats against Heather mount, he vows to keep her and her child safe…and clear the farm of danger before Christmas.

Northern Border Patrol: Keeping the US-Canadian border safe…

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Terri, thanks so much for sharing your new book and your heroine has to be strong to face all this! QUESTION: Is it easier or harder to face a challenge when it comes during the holidays?–Lyn

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Lyn Reviews Marta Perry’s The Rescued

I will give away my ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) to one commenter. Be sure to read the QUESTION at the end.

The Rescued: Keepers of the Promise, Book TwoThe Rescued: Keepers of the Promise, Book Two by Marta Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the 2nd in Marta Perry’s Keepers of the Promise series. Another interesting parallel story. Her Amish heroine Judith is trying to keep the peace between her husband (Isaac) and his younger brother(Joseph) whom they have raised together.

A deep sorrow has wounded Isaac which complicates his relationship with Joseph and catches Judith in the middle of two that she loves so much.

At the same time Judith is reading through an old family diary about an Amish widow caught in the crusade to do away with the old one-room schoolhouses where both Englischer and Amish children traditionally learned together. When the new high school is built, the Amish are put in the crosshairs of the battle between modern and traditional.

This was such a true to life story about a family’s struggles to work through pain and conflict. And also a story of culture clash which we seem to be going through again.

I highly recommend this to any reader who loves a story about family and bravery.

QUESTION: How and why are parents today taking different paths when it comes to educating their children?–Lyn

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