Author Bio: Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing. Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell. Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.
Dessert…the perfect remedy when nothing in life seems to be going right.
What do you do when you are the sole protector of four children, your brothers and sisters? When each day is haunted by disappointment, disillusionment and desperation? When you believe that everyone who ever loved you, including God, has abandoned you?
You bake a pie, of course.
What do you do when you find a woman whose heart is consumed by fear? Who does not know how to trust? Who scoffs at your faith and throws your kindness back in your face?
You eat a pie, of course.
Seventeen year old Mary Fitzgerald stepped up next to the deacon, a beautiful looking strawberry pie in her hands. Today was the day she started taking lasting steps to protect her family. Pa was passed out at home, having drunk so much there was no way he would be waking up to come to the festivities at the church today.
She had been taking care of and protecting her younger brothers and sisters, the four of them, as far back as she could remember, but her pa was getting meaner and nastier with each passing year. Her brothers were getting angrier and more volatile, too. It was important to get them all out from under Pa’s thumb before her brothers were ruined for life, sentenced to turn into men like their pa.
Hoping to find a man willing to wed her and take her brothers and sisters in, too, Mary had entered herself in the dessert auction at a picnic hosted by the church. The auction was one of many events at the picnic, but it was the only one in which Mary was interested. Only eligible men were allowed to bid, and she hoped to use the auction to find a husband. How old, ugly or poor – Mary didn’t care as long as he didn’t beat or terrorize them. That was her highest hope, to find a man who did not cause her to cower, who did not break her bones, who would not harm her brothers and sisters. She had poured all her hopes for escape into making this pie to help her find a husband. Harboring no illusions about love, Mary didn’t even really care if the man was kind; she only needed him not to be too terrible.
As the diminutive deacon with thinning grey hair was about to begin the bidding, Mary glanced up. Fear grabbed hold of her heart and squeezed so tight she thought she might faint right there. Neither the sea of curious faces nor the beautiful blue Idaho sky drew her attention. Pa was coming, and he looked madder’n a hot, hungry bull. Mary couldn’t move. Her breath came in short, shallow gasps as she tried to stay conscious. She was terrified of this man. They had been so certain Pa would stay passed out all day, that he wouldn’t be able to discover their plan until it was too late. The kids had all dressed in their finest clothes and promised to be on their best behavior – no small feat for the boys – and now here came Pa, ruining their chance for escape.
The deacon had not seen Mr. Fitzgerald yet and was taking a big breath in preparation to start the bidding. His mouth was still open, sucking in air, when the bellow came from the back of the crowd, “That’s my young’un and ain’t nobody biddin’ on her pie! I ain’t raisin’ no harlot to get paid for her favors!”
Some people get a mail order bride. She got a mail order man.
A well-meaning friend places an ad to find a mail order husband for Sarah, the proprietress of Larkspur’s stage and mail office. Sarah, who is generally quiet and reserved, doesn’t know about the ad and has no idea what to do with all the people that are showing up in her community. Before long, the town is overrun with men and mail alike.
Sarah is trying to avoid some men who have accosted her on the street when she stumbles into Samuel. Through long days spent together at the stage office, some very adventurous pots of coffee and a shared faith, the two became friends. Sarah knows that Samuel is hiding something from her, something important, but that doesn’t stop her heart from leaping wildly into love.
Lacking the confidence to trust her heart, Sarah wars with herself over the feelings she can no longer deny. When some of the men who have come to town show their true intentions, a shootout follows. Sarah finally gets answers to many of the questions circling through her mind. One question remains, though. Where will her mail order man go when the dust settles?
About the Author:
Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing. Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell. Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.
Will she be able to save him from himself?
Grace finds herself wed to a man who loathes her. She is shunned and exiled to the farthest corner of the land. It wouldn’t hurt so much if he hadn’t once been her best friend.
Thomas became a duke long before he was ready. Now he can’t go anywhere without women trying to entrap him into marriage. He expected better from his childhood friend.
How can friendship, let alone marriage, thrive in the face of bitterness, suspicion, and misunderstanding? What’s to be done when the hurtful choices made in anger have lasting consequences?
It takes a special kind of person to see past the pain to the beauty that lies beyond…
Grace soaked in Thomas’s warmth. She sighed into his waistcoat and said, “I appreciate the kind words, Thomas, but you shouldn’t be in here alone with me. We both know that.”
Thomas, his voice light, said, “It was in here with you or out there with the barracudas. I think I’m safer right where I am.”
Grace didn’t pull out of his comforting hug as she knew she ought to. Instead she said, “I’ve spent my whole life in Stafford Shire and have never even been to London before. All I’m asking for is one season. If I wait much longer, I’ll be completely on the shelf, and no decent man will even consider marrying me. My father has doomed me to the life of being some man’s courtesan!”
“You’ve been reading the newspaper again, haven’t you?” She felt the warm rumble of his chuckle against her cheek. “You shouldn’t even know words like that. If your parents knew you were reading those rags, they’d have your hide.”
Grace’s tears had quieted and were slowly being replaced by hiccups. Just as Thomas began to release her from his friendly hold, the library door opened with a loud bang.
“What the devil is going on in here?” demanded Lady Appleton.
Grace jumped out of Thomas’s arms and said, “It’s not what you th—ink.” The hiccups were gaining momentum. “I was up—set. Thomas found me, and I was—crying. He was simply be—ing kind.”
The skin on Lady Appleton’s florid face jiggled as she shouted, “Not only are you in a room with a man unchaperoned, but you were in an embrace!” Her gown truly was the most awful color. It was somewhere between green and brown, like a plant that had withered and died. To make the ensemble worse, she looked as if she were wearing an entire peacock atop her piled hair.
Seeming to thrive on spectacle, Lady Appleton continued to bombast them with accusation, her voice growing toward a crescendo. “You’ve been ruined, young lady! There will have to be a wedding at once!” If volume were the stick by which such things were measured, Lady Appleton’s screeching voice ensured that Grace would feel maximum shame.
“Th—at wasn’t an embrace!”
By this time, several people had gathered in the hallway outside the library door. When Grace’s father came on the scene, Thomas spoke directly to him, ignoring Lady Appleton. “I apologize for any misunderstanding. Gracie was crying. She was upset, might I add, by the cruel things you said to her. I’m nothing more than a childhood friend offering a bit of encouragement and reassuring her that her father is not the ogre he appears to be at present.”
Grace had never heard Thomas’s voice quite like this. The sharp edge of strong metal in it was unmistakable. This voice belonged to the Duke of Stafford, not her childhood friend Thomas.