Especially for Writers

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Coming Home: a Tiny House Collection

I’m in another novella collection with my ACFW critique group, the Penwrights, Coming Home: a Tiny House Collection. We’re excited about it and have had so much fun doing it that we’ve come up with a logo so we can publish a collection once or twice a year:


Penwright Publishing. Cool, right?

Now to show you our new cover, designed by the incomparable Ken Raney:

Tiny House Collection small

I really like the image. Most associate tiny houses with the boxy-looking things that are intended to ride on trailers, and those are cool too. But some of our stories involve tiny houses that are built on concrete slabs. I found the cutest possible one for Kayla Mullins in Kayla’s Challenge:


I love this enchanting Tudor so much, I wouldn’t mind living in it. It’s 300 square feet, but I think I could make it do. I wrote, hoping to get permission to use the image, but they never responded. When Kayla’s Challenge comes out in my novella collection (after it’s run its course with the Coming Home collection), I hope to use it as a cover image.

The collection doesn’t come out until May, but I’m so stoked! I’ve read several of the stories already, and I can promise you, this will be a great collection of romance and women’s fiction. You’re gonna love it!

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A Verse for Christian Fiction Writers

Rm 1:5 verse

As Christian fiction authors, we have a job to do: to bring about the obedience of faith throughout the nations. The way we do that is to illustrate Christian principles in action through the stories we write. This is our calling and our worship.

As believers, we approach both personal and universal problems from a Christian perspective; so whenever we’re presenting human frailty and folly, we’re to have in mind a scriptural solution. This is what makes “Christian Fiction” Christian; it’s what makes our works different from everyone else’s.

Does this mean that our works must be chock-full of sunshine and daisies? Of course not. Granted, I’ve seen reviewers who ding authors for presenting anything other than Phillipians 4:8-worthy stories. These stories are necessary, too. The world doesn’t offer the kinds of things we’re to meditate on, so we must create them.

But those aren’t the only forms of Christian fiction we can present. We can, and many do, present life with all its dirty, gray, and sometimes downright black realities. Hard times come, sins and temptations abound, life is crazy and confusing. Because we study the craft, we are equipped to write about such things, and because we study the Bible, we are equipped to lead others out of the darkness into the light. And because we get tempted and fail and sin and repent and return to our “first love” over and over—because we live—we are uniquely qualified.

Faith authors aren’t to skirt the issues, but to present them boldly, then illustrate God’s way, His glory—His light in the darkness. Whatever the plot, whatever conflict and challenge the character faces, when we settle it all with scriptural precepts, we are offering alternatives to the world’s way of responding to the same set of circumstances. That’s our job.

Let’s be fearless in obedience to our calling.





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Taxes! Bah Humbug!

Debt.It’s time. Our appointment is next Monday, and I’m scrambling like a madwoman to figure out income and deductibles from my writing/editing/speaking business. And while I pop Tylenol regularly and wear my pencils to nubs, I fuss at myself. This would be so much easier if I could discipline myself to be a better record keeper during the year.

I’m like a thousand other authors out there. I just wanna write (insert teary whine). I don’t want to deal with marketing and promotions, pricing and distribution strategies, and record-keeping and accounting. Don’t wanna. However—and again, like a thousand other authors—I can’t afford to have someone do it all for me.

Who knows why I put things off the way I do, but now I’m sitting before a mound of papers trying to figure out what that purchase was for, who this group is, and what-is-this-and-is-it-deductible?

Did you know, for instance, that some of the folks you purchase things from charge you under a different name than the one you think you’re doing business with? I have a recurring charge from Canada. Canada! I was paying an entire nation for something I didn’t recognize until I dropped everything today and spent an hour digging around. It was legit, it was deductible—but why couldn’t the company just call itself SocialOomph?

Doesn’t matter now, I guess. I don’t use it anymore.

By the way, when you order your books, keep in mind that the order of the books themselves goes under “inventory,” but the shipping and handling don’t. So, if like me, you have a payment to CreateSpace, or whoever, on your credit card, realize that this is for the entire amount, and if, unlike me, you’ve done a good job keeping records, or at least receipts, you know how much you paid for the books and how much you paid for S&H—which is deductible, but doesn’t go under “inventory.”

Do you travel with your job? Keep up with mileage and such? Do the gymnastics required to deduct all that? I don’t. Considering I’m as likely to be in MSB’s pickup as I am to be in my sedan, there’s no point trying. But we deduct hotels and meals. I can see it now:

Mr. IRS Auditor: “I see you’re deducting hotel expenses and meals in Houston, Tyler, Texarkana, Nashville, Hearne, Georgetown, but you’re not deducting any actual travel expenses. How did you get to these cities?”

Me: “Angel wings.”

I don’t know that I’d be able to admit that, even if we did use just one vehicle for business, I can’t figure out how to deduct it. It’s a condition I have. A severe allergy to numbers. One of the symptoms is numerical dyslexia, which is the easiest to deal with. Another symptom is an intense, deep-seated, psychological denial of the fact that I’m in business now and I’m supposed to be dealing with numbers. I understand the “in business” part, it’s the other part that my brain blocks like a terrifying memory. Like I said, it’s a condition. There’s no cure.

So, here I am, scratching my head as I go through a year’s worth of credit card bills, PayPal statements, and receipts, and vowing—again—to do better this year than last.

Tevye was wrong. If I were a rich man (or woman), I’d hire an accountant. And a publicist.

And a maid . . .


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The 2017 Insanity

Dealing With EmailThis year has been so disorganized. Off-schedule. Odd.

For instance, I’m writing my Monday post at 4:30 p.m. CST instead of 5:00 a.m. CST. Last week, I didn’t have a post for Wednesday at all. I’ve neglected social media only partly because of all the socio-political meanness. The primary reason is that I can’t get organized.

And one of the reasons I can’t get organized is because I’ve been sleeping late. Well, late for me anyway. Take this morning. I got up at 7. Not bad for a normal person, but for someone accustomed to waking at 4 and having both my Bible study and the bulk of my cyberspace duties performed by 7, the time is way off and driving me nuts. I have no idea why my internal clock decided to betray me now. Once I got used to it, I liked waking at 4. Now I feel like half the day is wasted by the time the coffee finishes brewing.

Another reason for my disorganization falls into the category of “good news/bad news,” and requires a little background.

Those of you who know me and have kept up with this blog for a long time know about my battle with Crohn’s disease and my remission with the Humira injections. You also know that remission resulted in weight gain, and that I’ve been resolving almost annually to lose weight and exercise. And, almost annually, I have failed within the first two weeks of January. Don’t know whether I’ve confessed that before, but there ya go. Until recently, the best I could say about myself is that I’d stopped gaining.

This year, I got into something different through my church: FirstPlace4Health. It’s a holistic approach to a lifestyle change that reaches you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I tend to focus on the spiritual through the Bible study and the physical through the diet (that I’m not supposed to call a diet, but hey—we watch calorie intake and portion size and measure our food. If it walks like a duck . . .).

The best aspect about this approach is the accountability. Each week, I’m weighed and required to recite our memory verse, then attend a class on healthy eating, followed by a weekly Bible study recap of our morning studies. I even have a prayer partner who knows exactly what I’m going through.

The downside is that all this has a bit of a learning curve. One of the reasons I’ve never been successful at dieting is because I don’t know how. I’ve never had to. But it’s amazing how much weight you can gain when you’re healthy enough to retain all those calories you consume. I’ve enjoyed learning everything I’ve learned so far and I’ve enjoyed revamping some of my recipes to make them healthier. However, it’s amazingly time-consuming, and it’s taking the place of other things—like writing.

Not everyone who reads this today—if they get this far—is going to care that I’m doing remarkably well on this “diet,” or that I don’t have too much farther to go to reach my goal, or that this is the longest I’ve ever kept a resolution (one of those New Year’s things I never admit to making). But if you’re wondering why my posts have been haphazard of late, well, now you know.

Despite my new hours and my outside interests, I hope to figure out how my schedule is going to work in 2017. I won’t have Ride to the Altar written by my self-imposed deadline  if I can’t concentrate on writing, so I’m praying I get all this figured out soon.

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Indie-Publishing: Devil’s in the Details

226Last week, I read a post by suspense master, Steven James, called “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” on the award-winning blog Writer Unboxed (Jan. 31, 2017). He warned against settling for less than your best, taking the easy way as an author, following the crowd—a number of things I agreed with 100%. His post was a good one, and I recommend that you read it. But for now, let me sum it up like this: If you’re going to be a writer, do it right.

I’m not talking only about learning to write, though if you want to become an author, it’s vital that you do. I’m talking about investing yourself in this and realizing it’s a business, a career—a calling, if you will—that demands far more than mediocrity from you. If you sit around, waiting for that hussy of a muse of yours to bless you with her presence, then you’re not taking this seriously. You’re not a writer, you’re a hobbyist—or as one meme puts it, “you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”

In his post, Steven reminds us to “rage against mediocrity. Write worthy books, and tell the stories that God has given you to share with the world.” Wise words.

Only once did I disagree with something he said: “I have yet to read a self-published book that was ready to be published.”

Maybe he’s drawing some fine line between indie-pubbed and self-pubbed, or maybe he considers all non-traditional publications to be vanity pubs, I don’t know. These days, each term carries its own definition and connotation. But giving him the benefit of the doubt, I think he just doesn’t have time to read.

Over the years, since the self-pubbers began to squeal about the near-impossibility of going traditional, and since traditional publishers seem to offer so little to new authors, the number of indie books has skyrocketed. Along with the rise has come the realization that if indie is going to compete with trad, we have to be better and smarter about our writing and our writing careers. We have to pay attention to the details.

Judging from the sheer volume of requests to edit I received last year, indie authors have come to terms with the fact they need edits and revisions. They understand the need for professional covers and interior formats. They’re getting the idea that marketing is (perhaps a distasteful) part of the job, and they’re bellying up to the promotions bar. As I said, serious writers take this job seriously.

Believe me, I’ve read my share of onion-breath novels, books that needed considerably more polish before they hit the market. And I won’t give a book with an unprofessional cover a second glance. But bad novels with sorry-looking covers have become fewer. And considering the number of best-selling authors who have discovered the value of indie publishing, it’s safe to say the quality of self-published novels has risen to new heights.

For instance, let’s not forget my crit partner’s novel, StormingKM Weiland pretty much swept the board of indie awards with that one.

Granted, authors can pick each others’ works to pieces—shoot, we can pick our own works to pieces; we’re never satisfied—but if we gave the indie world an honest look, we’d see that it’s improved considerably. And it’s still improving.


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New Releases from ACFW Authors!

From the great authors of American Christian Fiction Writers:

February 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical:redeeming-graceRedeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith — When famine visits Bethlehem, Boaz holds out hope for rain while his relative Elimelech moves his wife Naomi and their sons to Moab. For a while, it appears the Lord is blessing Elimelech’s family, and his sons marry two lovely Moabite women. But calamities strike, one after another, leaving Naomi alone in a foreign land with only her childless daughters-in-law for comfort. When news reaches Naomi that the famine in Bethlehem has lifted, only Ruth will hazard the journey to her mother-in-law’s homeland. Destitute and downhearted, Naomi resigns herself to a life of bitter poverty, but Ruth holds out hope for a better future. And Boaz may be the one God has chosen to provide it. (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Biblical Romance:building-benjaminBuilding Benjamin by Barbara M. Britton — Naomi desires to dance well enough to catch the eye of a wealthy landowner. Her father needs a substantial bride price due to the deaths of her brothers at the hands of the tribe of Benjamin. But when Benjamites raid the Ephraimite feast and capture young girls, Naomi is bound and carried from her home by Eliab, a troubled shepherd who needs a wife. As Naomi awaits rescue, she finds Eliab has a strong faith in God and a just reason for abducting her. A reason that affects all the tribes of Israel. The future of the tribe of Benjamin hangs in the balance, but if Naomi follows her heart and stays with Eliab to rebuild his lineage, she must forfeit her family and become a traitor to her own tribe. (Biblical Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Contemporary Romance:grace-and-the-rancherGrace and the Rancher by Mary Alford — Can a runaway singer and a makeshift rancher, thrust together by circumstance and held together by the common thread of loss and a love of music, find hope and a happily-ever-after under the stars of Delaney Mountain? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

capturing-beauty Capturing Beauty by Brenda S. Anderson — Photographer Haven Carlysle is a changed man. He returns to Duluth to capture the North Shore’s beauty … and to recapture the love of his son. But that means making amends with his ex-girlfriend too. Enter Callie Beaumont. All her life, Callie has longed to work outdoors soaking up God-breathed beauty, and the opportunity is finally on the horizon. But being the liaison between the handsome photographer and his son has thrown her dreams, and her heart, into chaos. Can Haven capture her heart when she won’t let him capture her image? And will his poor choices cost Callie her dream job and him the love of his son? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

the-lawman's -secret-sonThe Lawman’s Secret Son by Lorraine Beatty — Suddenly a Father Police officer Seth Montgomery knows all about order—but his world is thrown into chaos when he learns he has a five-year-old son. With little Jack suddenly in his care, Seth turns to neighbor Carrie Fletcher for help. Given her checkered past, Carrie prefers to keep to herself, but there’s no denying she cares for the boy—and her feelings for charming Seth are rapidly developing, too. When someone from Carrie’s past shows up threatening to jeopardize the life she’s worked so hard to build, Carrie will have to fight for her future with the new family she’s found…or risk losing everything. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

maybe-it's-youMaybe It’s You by Candace Calvert — Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive ER nurse, Sloane Ferrell. Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past. Can hope spring from crisis? (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

a-second-chanceA Second Chance by Alexis Goring — Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with her “best friend,” Traci resigned herself to being a bachelorette for life. Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. But his widowed sister Gina Braxton appreciates his compassion and kindness, since she’s raising her two kids alone. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, Traci and Marc find hope for their broken hearts. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances)

the-amish-wandererThe Amish Wanderer by Laura V. Hilton — After her daed, the bishop, is admitted to a mental hospital after hurting their small Amish community, Bethany Weiss is ready to get away from Jamesport, MO—and away from God. Silas Beiler, dogged by a rough childhood and a family who blames him for each new disaster, is hitchhiking toward Pennsylvania in hopes of stability. He sleeps in barns where he can and works for food when possible. When Bethany spies a man asleep in the hayloft, she first fears the return of an unwelcome suitor. But when it is Silas who turns and speaks, the memories flood back: a happy summer six years ago, full of lemonade, long walks, and budding courtship. Can their old love overcome both this new pain and the hurt and rejection of their past? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

avalancheAvalanche by Gayla K. Hiss — Set in the North Cascades National Park of Washington State, Avalanche is the inspirational story of one man set on revenge and the woman who risks everything to help him find the fugitive who killed his partner. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

the-doctor's-texas-babyThe Doctor’s Texas Baby by Deb Kastner — When Carolina Mason shows up in Haven, Texas, after a three-year absence, no one is more surprised than town veterinarian Wyatt Harrow. Especially when he sees Carolina’s two-year-old son, Matty. Their son. How could she have kept his child a secret? Carolina doesn’t deny the boy is his. She thought she was doing what was best for everyone when she left, but she realizes she was wrong. Though Wyatt is eager to make up for lost time with Matty, Carolina’s not so sure that extends to her. Can these former sweethearts navigate their complicated past to make a family for their son? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

spring-raineSpring Raine by Delia Latham — A last-minute decision sends a young woman to a seaside community and lodging at Paradise Pines…where life takes a whole new path. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

finding-joyFinding Joy by Melanie D. Snitker — A horrific accident changed everything for Parker Wilson. He returns to his family’s ranch, the scars on his face a daily reminder of all he’s lost, yet his mom still insists he needs to stop hiding and live his life again. The beautiful new employee she hires is the last thing he needs, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make the girl quit and regain the peace and quiet he prefers. Only deep desperation could force Chelsea Blake to work on a cattle ranch. But if she’s going to avoid her parents’ judgment when they arrive in three weeks, she must turn the temporary job into a permanent one. Between dodging mud, feeding longhorn cattle, and dealing with a handsome boss who keeps giving her the cold shoulder, staying gainfully employed is proving to be a challenge. Chelsea may not be cut out for ranch life, but her determination to succeed is stronger than Parker’s efforts at forcing her to leave. Surprisingly alike, will the two set aside their disapproval to find immeasurable joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

General Fiction:the-secret-heartThe Secret Heart by Marie Wells Coutu — After a whirlwind romance, beautiful Shawna Moore marries Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee. Now, she wonders if the governor ever loved her or only hoped to avoid a scandal. In this modern re-imagining of the biblical story of Bathsheba and King David, an investigative reporter is asking questions–the wedding took place only six weeks following the death of Shawna’s first husband in Iraq. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection, as well as Shawna’s reputation, will be ruined. But keeping their secret is destroying their marriage. Will Hunter’s choice mean the end of his political career or his family? (General Fiction from Write Integrity Press)

home-at-lastHome at Last by Deborah Raney — All her life, Shayla Michaels, owner of the Coffee’s On bakery, has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite–well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts? Everything changes one icy morning when Portia runs into the street and Link Whitman nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with Shayla. Can they overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? (General Fiction from Abingdon Press)

baggage-claimBaggage Claim by Cathe Swanson — When Ben Taylor, widower and single dad, gets caught up in a dangerous insurance fraud network, he has to learn to take a stand for right – and make a leap of faith: can he trust his nanny – who isn’t quite what she appears to be – and his newly-discovered biological father to hide and protect his four young children? (General Fiction, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:the-matchmaker-brides-collectionThe Matchmaker Brides Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens and Liz Tolsma — Meet nine women of the late 1800s who have found themselves in the role of matchmaker. They think they have mastered the art of recognizing romantic potential in others, but when it comes to their own lives they have been unlucky in love. In small communities from Tennessee to Colorado, Wyoming to Indiana, love unexpectedly enters the women’s lives with men they never imagined marrying. But what will it take to get these ladies to say “I do”? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

the-reluctant-guardianThe Viscount’s Proposal by Melanie Dickerson — Leorah Langdon has no patience for Regency society’s shallow hypocrisy and unnecessary rules, especially for women. She’s determined to defy convention by marrying for grand passion instead of settling for a loveless union like her parents–or wedding a stuffy, pompous gentleman like Edward, the Viscount Withinghall. But when a chance meeting in the countryside leads to Leorah and Withinghall being discovered in his overturned carriage–alone and after dark–the ensuing gossip may force them together.Withinghall has his reasons for clinging to propriety and he certainly has no time for a reckless hoyden like Miss Langdon. But soon the two discover that Withinghall’s coach “accident” was no such thing: the vehicle was sabotaged. Strong-willed Leorah and duty-driven Withinghall will have to work together if they have any hope of saving her reputation, his political career–and his life. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)

the-reluctant-guardianThe Reluctant Guardian by Susanne Dietze — When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she’s rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her… Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he’d be. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

shine-like-the-dawnShine like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky — In a quiet corner of northern Edwardian England, Margaret Lounsbury diligently works in her grandmother’s millinery shop, making hats and caring for her young sister. Several years earlier, a terrible event reshaped their family, shattering an idyllic life and their future prospects. An even which…might not have been an accident. When Nathaniel Harcourt returns from his time in the Royal Navy and inherits his father’s vast estate, Morningside Manor, he also assumes partial control of his father’s engineering company and the duty of repaying an old debt to the Lounsbury family. But years of separation between Nate and Maggie have taken a toll and Maggie struggles to trust her old friend. Will the search for the truth about her parents’ death draw the two friends closer or leave them both with broken hearts? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook Multnomah)

the-bounty-hunter's-babyThe Bounty Hunter’s Baby by Erica Vetsch — Bounty hunter Thomas Beaufort has no problem handling outlaws, but when he’s left with a criminal’s baby to care for, he’s in over his head. And the only person he can think of to ask for help is Esther Jensen, the woman whose heart he broke when he left town. But can he convince her to put aside the past until he tracks down the baby’s outlaw father? Esther is ready to run Thomas off her Texas ranch–until she spies the abandoned newborn in his arms. Soon, working together to care for the precious babe stirs old hopes of a family. With trouble heading to their door, they could overcome it together–if she’ll entrust her wary heart to this sweet, second-chance family… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Thriller/Suspense:raging-stormRaging Storm by Vannetta Chapman — When a massive solar flare wiped out all modern technology across the globe, the small town of Abney, Texas, was thrown into chaos. Shelby Sparks and her diabetic teenage son, Carter, have found refuge, but Shelby knows Carter can’t survive without insulin–and Shelby will risk her life traveling to Austin to make sure he gets it. Shelby’s best friend and high school sweetheart, Max Berkman, won’t let her make the journey alone. Together, they reach the capital–only to discover that Austin has turned into an urban nightmare on the brink of anarchy. Now the only thing more uncertain than finding what they need is the hope of making it out of the city alive. (Thriller/Suspense from Harvest House Publishers)

Speculative:long-time-goneTime Search by Danele J. Rotharmel — While the TEMCO staff searches for clues to unravel the mystery of his real name, their enemy is lurking in the shadows searching for his targets–it’s anyone’s guess whose search will be completed first! (Speculative/Time Travel Fiction from Prism Book Group)

Western Romance:long-time-goneLong Time Gone by Mary Connealy — Rancher Justin Boden is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn’t help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on. With her and the doc’s timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It’s clear now that everything that’s occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine? (Western Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

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