A Week Review with Siri Mitchell – A Constant Heart

I knew I enjoyed Siri’s contemporary romance novels, so when I saw that Siri had started writing historicals, I wondered if I’d have the same feelings about those. IN 2008 her novel, A Constant Heart, debuted. A beautiful story of love discovered and refined, this novel takes the reader back to the Elizabethan era – where ‘pomp & circumstance’ was defined.

Here’s my review from 2008:

In October 2008, I enjoyed one of my first Siri Mitchell historical romances. A Constant Heart.

Having loved her contemporary novels, I wondered if I’d like the genre switch. I wasn’t disappointed. Here is my review.

One true love……but not to your wife.
One faithful devotion…..but not to your marriage.

Under the watchful and paranoid eyes of Queen Elizabeth, where adoration is rewarded with influence and honor gained through tickling her Majesty’s fancy, the balance of life & death, wealth and ruin hangs by a precarious thread.

Simon, Earl of Lytham, knew the steps to his royal dance. His fidelity to his queen promised him a life with purpose, so marriage to a simple knight’s daughter offered no distraction, only the certainty of financial gain. His role as a courtier to the queen overshadowed his painful memories of his first wife’s betrayal, kept his status secure, and gave him opportunities to advance himself into the world of privilege.

Marget knew her place, her purpose. She would marry the Earl of Lytham as her father decreed, but unlike any hopeless resignation, she determined to bring her indifferent husband honor. Uncertain of the rules at court, Marget stumbles upon Queen Elizabeth’s disdain and sinks into deeper emotional debt to her husband, until an unlikely and unsettling alliance with Lady de Winter begins to improve Marget’s station.
Against his will, Simon softens under Marget’s genuine attempts to help him. The scars from his first marriage freeze his resolve against Marget’s love, but with each act of selflessness Marget displays Simon’s heart thaws – and finally seizes the beautiful, uncontaminated affection she offers. Her devotion, sincerity, honesty, and gentleness shine a light on the pretension, deception, and base rules of life at court.
But as their love deepens, the charade they play as emotionless courtiers by day and devoted lovers by night braids together until Queen Elizabeth feels the loss and threatens, not only their marriage, but their lives.

Is love worth the risk, the gamble, the loss? Can love truly conquer all or will the deception and desire for power break ‘a constant heart’?

It isn’t often that fiction unveils romance within a marriage relationship. Usually, the entire ‘male catch female’ – or visa versa, is the tone of the novel, but in Siri Mitchell’s novel A Constant Heart, the entire book opens up the lives of a married couple, who learn to love each other. The story was beautiful, tastefully and colorfully written, gripping, funny, and incredibly tender. I enjoyed the continual switch of points of view, from Marget’s thoughts to Simon’s thoughts. The most painful instances involved her miscarriages, but my favorite scene combined a dinner party with lots of radishes (for fear of spoiling the book for others, I will not give more details). Siri Mitchell transported me back in time, weaving historical facts seamlessly through the tale. I will read it again….soon.

LEAVE a comment about the characters you enjoyed in this novel – or why you think you would enjoy this novel, for your chance to win Siri’s newest novel – A HEART MOST WORTHY.

Winner will be announced in the weekend post.

A Week Review With Siri Mitchell


I started reading Siri Mitchell’s books in 2008 with Kissing Adrien. Since I reposted my review of this wonderful story in April, I decided to start off with a different contemp novel of Siri’s – but let me tell you, if you get a chance to read Kissing Adrien – DO IT!

Siri’s books are unique, lovely, and filled with lots of wonderful nuggets that make you want to go back and reread the story again and again. I’m reading A Heart Most Worthy (her newest novel) right now.

I had the honor of meeting Siri at the 2010 ACFW Convention in Indianapolis and she’s a wonderful lady – one of  quiet, gracious, serene sorts of folks (whether she agrees with me or not 😉 It’s been a pleasure to follow her career from contemp to historical – and what fabulous reads!!!

So this week, we’re going to look at 5 of Siri’s MANY novels – mostly historicals. To shake things up a bit, though, I want to take time today to revisit my January 2009 review of her contemp novel, The Cubicle Next Door.

Check this out:

Jackie Harrison used to like her job. It was perfect for her…peaceful, organized, and all about predictable computers, with no interference from the outside world except an occasional officer in need of technical support, but then Joe showed up. Joe is the new history instructor at the Air Force Academy and Jackie’s new cubicle mate. Worst of all, he’s friendly, funny, gregarious, and a pilot.  Out of pure frustration, Jackie begins to post her thoughts, struggles, and cries for help on her own blog entitled The Cubicle Next Door.

Slowly, as Joe’s disarming personality begins to unwind Jackie’s tightly wrapped heart, her blog becomes the outward evidence of an inward change. Jackie never expected her blog to be featured on T.V., or for Joe to become a habitual reader of it, or for her well-planned life to become her worst nightmare and greatest dream all wrapped up into one. The question is, will Jackie be able to move beyond her fears and seize her neighbor or will her past paralize her from accepting love from next door.

Siri Mitchell’s style is fun, interesting, and light-hearted with moments of deep reflection. Her heros are fantastic. This book is a good read, but can’t compete with my personal favorite, Kissing Adrien. I ended up rooting for Jackie, but it took me a while to really like her character, perhaps because she is so different from my own personality. Jackie’s grandmother and friends are a hilarious addition to the list of likeable characters. If you’ve ever read Siri Mitchell and enjoyed her work, you’ll enjoy this one.

Oh my, doesn’t that sound like fun?!?

To learn more about all of Siri’s novels, visit her website at www.sirimitchell.com

A Week Review with Julie Lessman – A Heart Revealed





Well, do to a power outage last night, I’m running behind on my blog post.

And this is the LOOOOOONG awaited excerpt day too 🙂 An excerpt from Julie Lessman’s upcoming novel, A Heart Revealed. Of course, after you read the excerpt you’ll be dying for September to get here. Unfortunately, since there are four months between then and now, we’ll just have to use the wise-old addage, “All good things come to those who wait.”

I keep repeating that to make me feel better.

Anyway – so…. let’s get a glimpse of Emma and Sean’s story….shall we?

Here is an excerpt from A Heart Revealed where Emma Malloy (a married woman) and Sean O’Connor (a confirmed bachelor) encounter feelings for each other. Emma has bullied Sean into learning to dance because he is going to a wedding with the girl he is dating, Rose.

With barely the sound of a click, she closed the door and turned, hands tight on the knob while she stared at him with those soft, gray eyes that always reminded him of a deer about to bolt.

His jaw set. To the devil with the deer—he wanted to bolt, but the shy, hopeful look in her eyes had him by the throat, a talent that Emma Malloy seemed to master without even trying. He blew out his frustration on a wave of noisy air. “You’ve got thirty minutes, Malloy, but I’m gonna warn you right now—Fred Astaire I’m not.”

Her lips curved into that innocent way that always melted his heart, and he found himself relenting—as usual—with a reluctant smile. He lumbered to his feet with a groan. “Okay, Ginger, let’s put your foot where your mouth is.”

“I promise this will be fun,” she said in a rush, hurrying to the cherry-wood buffet against the wall where an RCA Victor phonograph stood ready and waiting. His mouth went flat. Further evidence of her plot to goad him into making Rose happy. He shook his head and watched her while she bent over the phonograph, his gaze traveling the length of her before he realized what he was doing. Heat ringed his collar and his pulse notched up a degree when he suddenly realized Emma Malloy had a beautiful body. How had he never noticed before—those long, willowy legs that slid up to gentle hips and a small waist? Fire scorched his cheeks as he admired generous breasts all the more obvious in a new pale yellow sweater that brought out a touch of green in her eyes. He cleared his throat and looked away while she carefully lifted the needle into place with a scratchy sound before it glided into the record’s groove. The mellow sounds of Duke Ellington’s Three Little Words suddenly floated through the air and oddly enough, his muscles begin to relax. He closed his eyes to enjoy the magic of one of his favorite songs, by an artist Emma knew he loved.

I know what you’re doing, I see it all too clear …

He inhaled deeply, and all of his resistance fled, because he knew exactly what Emma was doing and why. Her mission in life seemed to be to make those she loved happy, and for whatever reason, Emma desperately wanted to see him happy, to make a go of it with Rose, to walk down that aisle into a life she believed would bring him much joy. The air in his lungs released in a slow, tranquil sigh at the gift of Emma in his life. He had never felt this close to a friend, much less a woman, and he marveled at the fact that when he was with her, contentment seemed to purl through his body as languidly as the Duke’s music now oozed through his mind.

His eyelids opened, and there she stood, arms outstretched and an impish grin on her face. “I knew the Duke would work his magic,” she said, taking his left hand in hers and clasping it at eye level. “Which I must admit, has me feeling a wee bit like Charity.” With a chew of her lip, she placed his right hand on her shoulder blade and rested her arm on his. “Now relax, because you’ll find the foxtrot to be a smooth, easy dance very similar to the waltz.”

His lips angled up. “Oh, that helps, since I know how to waltz too.”

She lifted her chin, apparently striving to be professional, but the twitch of her lips gave her dead away. “First, left foot forward, one-two, then right foot forward, three-four …”

Without a word, he followed her effortlessly, as if he had Astaire blood in his veins. It should have felt strange, holding her this way, but somehow it didn’t and Sean wondered why. Maybe because he was from an affectionate family that hugged all the time, he reasoned, so naturally closeness and hugs had already become a part of their friendship.

“Left foot to the side, five-six …” she said, gaze intent on their feet.

Their proximity allowed him to study her close up … the way one side of her mouth tilted when she scraped her teeth against her lip, like now, indicating she was focusing hard on the lesson. For the first time he noticed an almost invisible sprinkling of tiny freckles across her nose, subtle and shy like Emma herself. He caught a faint whiff of the perfume Charity had given her—Shalimar—with its hint of lemon and vanilla, and he breathed it in, the scent teasing his senses with the same innocence and beauty of the women he held in his arms.

“Then left foot forward, one-two …” She glanced up with a smile. “Good … good, you’ve got it, now. Then turn your right foot one-quarter angle, three-four …”

He wasn’t surprised that he picked it up quickly—athletics had always come easily for him, and apparently dancing was no different, but to say he was shocked he enjoyed it was an understatement. The music seemed to flow in his limbs and in no time, he was whirling her in his arms, hand firm against her back as he drew her close with confident ease. He gave her a crooked smile. “Look out, Fred Astaire!”

A breathless giggle escaped her lips as the music stopped, and she put a hand to her chest. “Goodness, you’re a natural, although I should have expected that with your affinity for sports.” She dashed back to the phonograph to reset the needle, shooting a grin over her shoulder. “Once more, and you’ll be giving me lessons, I promise. And then it’s the Lindy, and your life will be complete.” She returned, clasping his hand.

Maybe it was the door being closed … or Emma near breathless … or even the velvet voice of the Duke that created an intimacy he found he rather enjoyed. He smiled, his voice husky with affection.  “So, Mrs. Malloy, tell me how you’ve become so light on your feet—have you been frequenting the dance marathons at Revere Beach?”

The pink of her cheeks deepened as she cocked a brow. “Why, yes, Mr. O’Connor, I find it a great release for the little energy I have left after 12-hour days, six days a week.”

He laughed and tightened his hold for a spin. “Then it’s a wonder we haven’t bumped into each other, because heaven knows that’s how I spend my spare time.”

Her eyes warmed with approval. “This will make Rose very happy,” she whispered.

His chest expanded as he studied her with a wry smile, reveling in her praise. “I know, but isn’t it about time you start thinking about my happiness? Dancing and marriage—two things that give me indigestion, and yet you seem intent on prodding me into both.”

It was her turn to laugh, the gray of her eyes sparkling like polished silver. “I am thinking of your happiness, bound and determined that your fears will not keep you from all God has.”

The music stopped, but he retained his hold, assessing her through pensive eyes. He nudged a finger to her chin and smiled. “So that’s how you spend your free time, then—as a guardian angel to the people you love?” His thumb grazed the curve of her jar, marveling at its silky touch. “Tell me, Mrs. Malloy, just how did I rate you as a friend?”

“Why, as a favor to Charity, of course,” she said with wink, the action so uncharacteristic that it made him laugh outright. “She asked me to keep an eye out for her big brother because … well, apparently he has a few flaws …”

“Flaws?” He released her with a cross of his arms, eyes in a squint. “Such as?”

She scrunched her nose. “Well, she says you’re a late bloomer for one …”

“Late bloomer,” he repeated, head cocked. “And what exactly does that mean?”

She peeked up, lips curved in a tease. “Oh, you know, a mature man on the outside, but inside, nothing more than a little boy who refuses to grow up and fall in love.” She nibbled on her lip as if to suppress a grin. “Which, Charity claims, is simply because you’re a little …” There was no mistaking the sass in her eyes now. “… dense.’”

His jaw dropped, along with his arms. “I’ll show you dense.” He tickled her, the plane of his hand to the side of her neck, causing her to squeal and tuck her head in a knee-jerk reaction.

“I didn’t mean it, I promise,” she shrieked with a giggle, twisting to escape.

Laughing, he pinned her arms to her sides, eyes narrowed in a mock glare. “Say it, Emma—Sean O’Connor is not dense; he’s one of the most brilliant men I know.”

Cheeks flushed with fun, she masked her humor with a serious sweep of lashes followed by a show of humility that softened the gray of her eyes. “Sean O’Connor is not dense,” she repeated slowly. “He’s one of the most …” She gave him an innocent blink. “brilliant men I know.” A grin broke free as she plucked the half-eaten Cherry Mash out of his pocket and lurched away. “I mean little boys!” she shouted, her giggles bouncing off the walls as she skittered for protection on the other side of the room. She faced him at the window, chest heaving and palms braced on the ledge, the candy bar smashed in her hand. Behind her, a tangerine moon rose ripe in a starry sky, its hazy glow encircling her like a halo despite the mischief in her eyes.

The thrill of the hunt broadened his grin as he took his time, his gait slow and easy while he rounded her desk, gaze hungry and locked with hers. “Give it back, Mrs. Malloy,” he whispered, feeling the adrenalin of horseplay that pumped in his veins.

“No!” she cried, more giggles bubbling over. She jerked her chair to block his way, then eased around the desk waving the Cherry Mash like a taunt, her impish smile reminding him of Gabe. “Not until you learn the lindy and promise to leave the candy at home when you go to this wedding. You may be a late bloomer, but at least you won’t smell like a little boy.”

That did it. Slamming the chair in, he lunged, surprising her with a firm clasp of her arm. He dove for the Cherry Mash, but she fought him with shrieks of wild laughter, the candy bar clutched tightly behind her back. He reeled her in and grinned, challenge coursing his veins as he gripped her to his chest. “Give it up, Emma,” he breathed, “you won’t win.” Locking her with one arm, his other circled her waist while his hand wrestled with hers to recapture the candy.

Her body stilled … and in a catch of his breath, everything changed. One moment she was laughing, and in the next, her laughter faded away, leaving her lips parted with shallow breaths while gentle eyes slowly spanned wide. The effect totally disarmed him, causing his heart to thud to a stop. Silence pounded in his ears as he became aware of her body pressed to his, her warmth, her scent engaging his pulse to a degree that jolted him. He swallowed hard, feeling the rise and fall of her chest, the burn of her hand embedded in his, and a flash of heat traveled his body until it scorched in his cheeks. He flinched away. “Emma, I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to manhandle you.” He stepped back and plunged his hands in his pockets, desperate to deflect the embarrassment he felt. His smile was awkward. “Keep the candy then, I have more in my bottom drawer.”

Julie – it’s been such a pleasure to ‘boast your books’ this week! Your ministry, your calling, is so evident and blessed. We are just a few voices that benefit from the words you write. Thank you!

 REMEMBER:Leave a comment about what you are most looking forward to from A Heart Revealed. Your name will be placed in a drawing to win one of Julie’s books. The winner will be announced this weekend! WOOHOOO!!!! Good luck!

A Week Review with Julie Lessman – A Passion Denied

Dreamy schoolgirls.

What’s not to love, right?

Bad boys turned GREAT! Definitely a gift of Julie Lessman’s.

“A romance born out of friendship is the most endearing type of love.” – From The Thornbearer by me.

That’s what happens with Lizzie O’Connor and John Brady. One catch of a breath changes everything. Add to that a little bit of infatuation on Lizzie’s part and a whole lot of self-denial on Brady’s part – and you get the makings of a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness and forgiveness – and one young woman’s determination.

So….here’s my review of A Passion Denied from 2009.

Julie Lessman breaks through the conventional mold of inspirational fiction once again with her newest novel, A Passion Denied, third book in the Daughters of Boston series. Chock full of intense emotional drama, sizzling romantic interludes, powerful spiritual insight, and a few chuckles along the way – A Passion Denied will leave you thinking about these characters long after you’ve closed the book. The emotions and the turmoil of the characters are palpable.What I admired most about the novel is Lessman’s consistent use of faith and Scripture throughout the book, instead of having it tagged on at the end. Our faith should be a continual pool of spiritual strength in our lives, in good times and difficult – transforming our worldview in every situation and moment. Julie Lessman does that. She portrays how faith is involved in every part of the characters’ lives and therefore guides their behaviors and actions.

Now, being a romantic at heart, there were times when I wanted to stop reading the book because I didn’t know if my heart could take it anymore. The emotional ‘valleys’ in the book are intense, but thankfully, Julie put me out of my misery by the end so I didn’t have to mentally slap any of the characters.

Brief summary of the book:

Sweet, innocent, Lizzie O’Connor has loved John Brady since her childhood.  His faith, commitment, and personal integrity are everything she’s longed for in all of her ‘fairytale’ dreams. As Lizzie grows up and begins to see the world through a woman’s eyes, a future romance with her best friend seems highly unlikely.  Despite their mutual growing affections, Brady will not give in to his love for Lizzie.  Secrets from his past, wounds that seem irreversible, hold him back from making a commitment with his heart to anyone but God.

When Lizzie learns the truth about Brady’s past, will her love remain constant or will another man draw her away from a love that is pure?  Will Brady accept God’s complete forgiveness for his past so he is free to love in his future?

I highly recommend this third and brilliant installment to The Daughters of Boston series and look forward to reading more of Julie Lessman’s work.

DON’T FORGET – leave a comment about which character is your favorite from this novel and get your name in the drawing for one of Julie’s books -including her up-and-coming novel, A HEART REVEALED.

A Week Review With Julie Lessman (Giveaway)

If you like to read about passion braided with faith and romantic tension, I have the author for you. Julie Lessman! I’d never read any of her novels, until I agreed to review her second book, A Passion Redeemed. Julie hates it when I mention that I read her series out of order, but let me just say I enjoyed it anway. Needless to say, I read the first book – THIRD! (I can just see Julie cringing)

Anyway, this week we’re celebrating Julie Lessman’s books – because a BRAND NEW ONE is coming out in the fall. Her fifth book, A Heart Revealed. In celebration of this week of reviews, Julie has graciously offered to give away one book (of the reader’s choice)to a lucky commenter. All you have to do is leave a comment about a particular character you enjoyed reading about during the book for that day (except Friday – which will be a ‘glance’ at book number FIVE).

Today let’s take a look at Julie’s AWARD WINNING DEBUT NOVEL – A Passion Most Pure

Introducing a reader to the O’Connor family is one thing. Leaving the reader on a page with Collin McGuire is definitely another. Whew… move over, Faith.

Faith O’Connor’s always had a flicker of attraction for Collin McGuire – wait, did I write ‘flicker”. Hmm… that was a bit understated.

Anyway, Faith has tried to stifle the attraction because Collin isn’t a believer, and Faith wants to wait for the man God has for her. Unfortunatley, making her heart believe that fact is very different – especially when her younger sister, Charity, has set her sights on marrying Collin. The novel weaves together the essence of a large family trying to work through the trials of their own humanity, the struggles of a world at war, and the constant battle we all possess between the passions of our flesh and the passions of our spirits.

As Collin realizes the beautiful woman, both inside and out, that Faith is – his begins to examine his own motives at the core. His respect for Faith – and her family- and the contrast of Faith’s behavior to her little sister, Charity’s, tosses him into a crisis of the heart and of truth. Will the family be torn to shreds by unbridled passions or will infatuation with the only One who can tame the heart and unleash the soul bring healing to all?

It’s a story as intense with the love of Christ as it is with the attraction of Collin and Faith. The reader feels the struggles and pain. I struggled with Faith, as she prayed to choose God’s way, but ached to be with Collin. Collin’s spiritual transformation, his growth is gradual and beautiful – but painful too. It was an amazing journey.

Oh Julie, btw, everytime I see Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert from the new Disney movie, Tangled, I think of Collin 🙂 (To read my post about the plot structure of Tangled, visit The Writers Alley today)

Learn more about Julie’s books at www.julielessman.com

And don’t forget to leave a comment to be in the drawing. Who was your favorite character in APMP? Why?

Spotlight – Coming Soon from Mary Connealy

Well, if you don’t like waiting long between books from your favorite authors – Mary is the author for you. With an incredible list of new books released last year, she continues to keep her fans happy with a new novel about every 3 or 4 months.

Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

Starting off the year with her novel, Sharpshooter in Petticoats, Mary’s next novel comes out in May. Deep Trouble sounds like another fun ‘ride’ and great romantic adventure. It’s available on May 1, but I’m hoping to find it a week or two early 😉

Mary’s next ‘cowboy book’, Out of Control, is set to be released in August. It’s her first novel released by Bethany House (right, Mary?)

You can learn more about it on Mary’s website at www.maryconnealy.com

In October, Mary steps outside her usual genre and enters the world of contemporary suspense. Her novel, Ten Plagues, holds a very different plotline from her usual historical romance genre, but I’m sure the same clever writing and high action will be intact.

To learn more about Ten Plagues visit www.marynealy.com – since she’s being published under a pseudo-pen name 😉

Do you have a favorite Connealy Classic? If so, which one?

Spotlight on Author Mary Connealy – Petticoat Ranch

Looking for some great books for summer reading?

Here’s your chance to get a sneak peek into some wonderful options from fantastic authors. For the next few weeks, stop by for the Author of the week – Spotlighting a new author each week with reviews of his/her books.

Who better to start the party off than with Mary Connealy!

Mary’s romance with cowboys…er….

Mary’s cowboys and romance…um…

Mary’s books about cowboys and romance are not only well-written, but fast-paced and funny. So let’s look at your options from the Connealy Classics, shall we?

And where better to start than the beginning.

Here’s my review from December 2007 – when I first got my hands on a Mary Connealy book.

I can’t wait to read more from Mary Connealy. This delightful novel really brings out the battle of the sexes in a fun, spunky, and hilarious way.

Sophie Edwards has been a single mom long before her husband was killed, and now she thinks she’s seeing ghosts. When Sophie’s husband’s unknown twin brother, Clay, stumbles upon her ranch and her four daughters, the last thing on her mind is romance. At first, she’s only worried about saving this insane stranger’s life, then she’s worried about going insane herself at his likeness to her dead husband. Somehow, within the expanse of a few days, she’s married to him, but now, besides figuring out how this new husband of hers fits into her life, she’s also battling against the men who killed her first husband and want to own her ranch.

Clay, on the other hand, is a good guy with the right intentions, but absolutely unsure of how to manage a household of crying, emotional, and talkative ladies. With a hint of intrigue, a gallon of drama, and a ‘wagon load’ of sidesplitting male-female relationship humor, this novel is a must read.

What’s new from Mary Connealy?

Her next book, Deep Trouble, comes out in May. Another great Connealy classic filled with cowboys, laughter, and adventure is sure to hit my bookshelf by then. Learn more about it at http://www.maryconnealy.com/deep-trouble.html

Vote Best Beginning – The evolution of a Novel

I’ve been working on a historical romance for 10 years.

That’s right. TEN!

Not to say I’ve been writing it for ten consecutive years, but the story idea started 10 years ago in my preschool office in Charlotte, NC. Since then, I’ve rewritten the entire novel three times, rewritten the first six chapters five times, and rewritten the first chapter (counting today) EIGHT times.

Rewritten, not edited. I can’t even recall how many times I’ve edited the thing.

When I look at my very first page from 10 years ago, I laugh (and cringe). Oh dear, I’ve come a long way….but so has the story.

I’m going to show the evolution of my novel, The Thornbearer, by showing the beginning paragraph of each rewrite (or the latest five rewrites). You vote. Which one do you like the best and why. I’d LOVE your opinion.

Do you have a similar story, where your novel has grown over time?

FIRST VERSION (actually third, because the first version was written on a typewriter. LOL)

Who would ever want to be married in the rain? Ashleigh Kavanaugh tucked the last few garments into her trunk and snapped the lid into place, distracting her heart with thoughts of her trip. England.

            The rustling of her skirts blended with the pelting rain against the window and she almost smiled. Rain today, of all days, made her feel better…less regretful. She glanced at her bedside clock, an ornate little thing passed down from her ornate big sister.

Half past nine. Right on schedule.

Her gaze flickered to the window and her body followed, drawn by the consistent drumming of cool April rain to steady her heart. Her weary heart.


The Lusitania’s four massive funnels loomed over Ashleigh Dougall, piercing into Manhattan’s morning mist like charcoal pillars of an enormous coliseum. A surge of energy flickered in the center of her chest. Soon she’d be free of America and all its hateful memories. She leaned against the window of the hired Model T, barely waiting for it to roll to a stop before she bolted out the door, her boots clinking a staccato rhythm against the pier.

The Lusitania’s advertisement did not do this “palace of the seas” justice. It towered overhead, a mammoth of black paint and billowing smoke, lined with hundreds of people bidding their farewells. She held the top of her hat to scan the ship, a cool spray of salty air sprinkling over her cheeks and promising freedom.


 She desperately needed to run away.

            Ashleigh Dougall leaned out of the hired Model-T to catch a glimpse of the famed Lusitania, her very own agent of rescue. Salty sea air misted her face as the massive liner came into view, a goliath among the crowded piers of New York’s harbor. Its four funnels loomed overhead and pierced into Manhattan’s morning mist like charcoal pillars of an enormous coliseum. She clamped down on the top of her hat, craning her neck as far as the auto car’s window would allow. A smile stretched across her face. If this couldn’t get her across the Atlantic at record speeds, nothing could. The ‘Palace of the Seas’ it was called, a stronghold of black paint and billowing smoke to wisp her back to England and away from memories.


Ashleigh Dougall stepped from the hired Model T to catch a glimpse of her rescuer. The Lusitania. Its massive funnels pierced into Manhatten’s morning mist like charcoal pillars of an enormous coliseum.  She steadied her broad-rimmed hat and craned her neck to view this ‘Palace of the Seas’, a looming goliath above Cunard’s dock offices.

“It’s huge.” Sam, her closest friend and escort, stepped to her side. “I had no idea it’d be so big.”

 Few men secured her complete confidence, but few men were as constant and genuine as Samuel Turner – even if he treated her like a perpetual twelve year old. “I had no idea it’d be so big.”

“We Brits are keen on making a good first impression, you know.”

“So that’s a fancy way of saying you’re show offs?” He crooked a bro and the wave of warmth his smile produced in her heart.


There is a distinct difference between marrying a man you don’t love, and knowing you’ll never marry the man you truly do. As Ashleigh Dougall looked across Manhatten’s crowded dock into Sam Turner’s familiar face, the sting of that truth stripped her of any doubt. She had to run away.

If she’d known all along she was in love with the wrong brother, she’d never agreed to marry Michael. Never subjected her heart to his ruthless betrayal.  Youthful blindness was her only excuse, and perhaps the fact Sam only saw her as Catherine’s little sister.  Dear Sam, ever-faithful, and forever Catherine’s. Her sister didn’t deserve his affections.

Ashleigh looked away from him, as he approached. The glint in his eyes warming much more than a smile on her face. His tender way of breaking down her defenses and striking a place in her heart held a surgeon’s precision. Some inexplicable connection existed between them– a beautiful friendship, and one she wouldn’t sacrifice to an impossible romantic fancy. He loved her sister. Heat drained from her face. Or the woman he thought her sister was.

Personally, I’m having a hard time choosing between version 3 and 5. What’s your opinion?


Above photos courtesy of: