A Sparkling Vintage Life


Spring into a good book in March!

Look what the March winds blew in! Whether your taste in fiction leans toward “lion” or “lamb,” you’ll find plenty to choose from among these brand-new novels. (Psst! Take a look at lucky #13!)

March 2018 New Releases

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


Contemporary Romance:

Finally a Bride by Renee Andrews — Her dreams of love haven’t worked out, but veterinarian Haley Calhoun intends to grant an orphaned boy’s wish. She’ll heal Eli’s injured puppy—while resisting his charming counselor, Gavin Thomason, at the children’s home. Still mourning the loss of his wife and baby, Gavin believes he can’t commit again. But in losing their hearts to Eli, will Haley and Gavin discover they’ve found the family they need? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Love and Roses by Sally Bayless — Looking for a fresh start, former Manhattan lawyer Nate Redmond agrees to arrange the sale of the outdated Rose Park in small-town Missouri, not realizing it has deep sentimental value to his new neighbor, Abby Kincaid—a beautiful widow he’d like to impress. When their plans for the park clash, he learns he’s competing against the memory of her husband, a decorated war hero. With plenty of past mistakes hiding in the in the hedges, can Abby and Nate learn forgiveness and courage in time for love to grow? (Contemporary Romance from Kimberlin Belle Publishing)

Courting Her Amish Heart by Mary Davis — In this first book of the Prodigal Daughters series, Kathleen Yoder comes home after fourteen years in the Englisher world. Practicing medicine means sacrifice—no Amish man will want a doctor for a wife. Widowed Noah Lambright offers a cottage as her new clinic, seeing how much Kathleen’s skills can help their community. But as their friendship deepens, could love and family become more than a forbidden dream? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Amish Nanny’s Sweetheart by Jan Drexler — As nanny for her nephew, Judith Lapp is finally part of a vibrant, joyful Amish community instead of living on the outskirts looking in. But teaching her neighbors’ Englischer farm worker to read Pennsylvania Dutch wasn’t part of her plan. And the more time she spends with Guy Hoover, the more he sparks longings for a home and family of Judith’s own. Guy figured he would never be truly accepted by his Amish employers’ community – even though the Mast family treats him like a son. But Judith’s steadfast caring shows him that true belonging could be within his reach…if he and Judith can reconcile their very different hopes – and hearts. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Reluctant Groom by Kimberly Rose Johnson — When Ray O’Brien’s world is turned upside down, Katie Fairchild wants to help, but the personal cost is high. Neither desires a marriage of convenience, but when Katie blurts the first thing that comes to her mind Ray can’t dismiss her offer of marriage. It would solve all his problems except for one thing—they aren’t in love. Can these two friends team up for the greater good and perhaps find love along the way, or are their expectations impossible? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Anna’s Forgotten Fiance by Carrie Lighte — An accident leaves Anna Weaver with no memory of her Amish hometown’s newest arrival—her fiancé! After a whirlwind courtship, their wedding’s in six weeks…but how can she marry a man she can’t remember? Carpenter Fletcher Chupp takes her on a walk down memory lane, but there’s one thing he wants to keep hidden: a secret that might just lose him the woman he loves. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Grace Restored by Toni Shiloh — Michelle Thomas has it all. Beautiful and successful, she’s just opened her own law firm in Freedom Lake. What more could she want? When her old flame rolls back into Freedom Lake, she’s intent on ignoring him. But how can she give the widower and his precious twin girls the cold shoulder?
Still reeling from the death of his wife, Guy Pierre returns to Freedom Lake to take over as town sheriff and raise his twin daughters. Alone. Yet, life keeps throwing Michelle in his path and sparks of interest began to rise. Will old secrets tear them apart again or can they find the faith to let God’s grace restore what has been broken? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

General & Women’s Fiction:

Justice by Emily Conrad — Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she’s pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake’s coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both. (General from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel — When her heart donor’s parents give Megan Jacobs their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Sweet Meets by Deborah Raney — From short stories to novellas, from contemporary to historical, all of award-winning author Deborah Raney’s short works have been gathered into one great collection for one low price.
Includes the following novellas and short stories: Going Once, Special Delivery, Haiti’s Song, Prairie Lessons, Finally Home, Circle of Blessings. (Women’s Fiction from Raney Day Press)

Historical Romance:

Seven Brides for Seven Texas Ranchers Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Lorna Seilstad, Erica Vetsch, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Join seven Texas Rangers on the hunt for a menacing gang, who run straight into romances with women who foil their plans for both the job and their futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears — In early 1900s Kansas, Mercy McClain serves on the schoolboard, determined to protect Teaville’s children from the bullying she experienced as a child. When Aaron Firebrook, the classmate who bothered her more than any other, petitions the board for a teaching position, she’s dead set against him getting the job. Aaron has returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking to earn forgiveness of those he wronged. He sets out to prove to Mercy he now has the best interests of the children at heart. Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron put the past behind them in time to face the unexpected threats to everything they’re working for? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Jennifer Lamont Leo — In Jazz Age Chicago, Dot Rodgers sells hats at Marshall Field while struggling to get her singing career off the ground. Independent and feisty, she’s the life of the party. But underneath the glitter, she doesn’t believe she’s worth the love of a good man. Small-town businessman Charlie Corrigan carries scars from the Great War. After all he’s been through, he wants nothing more than to marry and start a family. But the woman he loves is a flamboyant flapper, used to a more glamorous life than he can offer. As his fortunes climb with the stock market, it seems he’s finally going to win her love. But what happens when it all comes crashing down? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason — A young man suddenly thrust into nobility is torn between the servant girl he hopes to marry and the father he’s always longed for. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Safe Refuge by Pamela S. Meyers — Wealthy Chicagoan, Anna Hartwell, is about to wed a man she loathes. The Great Chicago Fire erupts, postponing the wedding. After escaping to Wisconsin with her family she realizes she loves Irish immigrant, Rory Quinn, and prepares to break the wedding plans, which are still on. Then she learns a dark family secret that changes her life forever. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Husband by Arrangement by Angel Moore — Abandoned by her secret fiancé, the mayor’s pregnant daughter marries the sheriff. Can she overcome her past and help him save the town from corruption? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Beneath A Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer — Abigail Brantley grew up in affluence, but when she is cast from the social registers due to her father’s illegal dealings, she finds herself forced into a role she never imagined: tutoring rough Kansas ranchers in manners and morals so they can “marry up” with their mail-order brides. Mack Cleveland, whose father was swindled by a mail-order bride, wants no part of the scheme to bring Eastern women to Spiveyville, Kansas, and he’s put off by the snooty airs of the “little city gal” in their midst. But as time goes by, his heart goes out to the teacher who tries so diligently to smooth the rough edges from the grooms-to-be. How can he teach her that perfection won’t bring happiness? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])

Romantic Suspense:

Beneath the Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn — After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston moves home to Carrington, North Carolina to leave behind her troubled past. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. Leigh reaches out for help from her high school friend and volunteer underwater investigator, Ryan Parker. But when Ryan finds the body of a wealthy businessman in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer—one with a terrifying connection to Leigh and deadly implications for them all. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)

Secret Service Setup by Jessica R. Patch — Secret Service agent Evan Novak becomes the target of multiple hit men when someone puts a two-million-dollar bounty on his head. Is it the gunrunner he’s tracking…or a traitorous agent? Framed and wanted, Evan reluctantly accepts protection from bodyguard Jody Gallagher, his former love who lost her Agency career because of him. But then the bounty is raised to include Jody… (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Fugitive Spy by Jordyn Redwood — A spy with amnesia—and a mission he can’t remember. When Casper English lands in her ER with amnesia, Dr. Ashley Drager learns he has a picture of her…and the same tattoo as her long-missing father. With a dangerous man after Casper, and his memories possibly holding the key to finding Ashley’s father, she secretly whisks him away from the hospital. But can she keep him alive long enough to help him regain his memories? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

New Fiction for a New Year!


January 2017 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley by Valerie Comer, Mary Jane Hathaway, Elizabeth Maddrey, Danica Favorite, Lee Tobin McClain and Annalisa Daughety — Is love possible for a makeshift mom and a handsome widower? What about a bed and breakfast owner and the farmer next door? A curvy jilted bride and a mysterious, handsome chef? Then there’s the real estate consultant and the grandson of her elderly client; a high-powered lawyer and a woman farmer, and a formerly engaged couple. Can love make a difference in their lives? Exploring food, friends, and family in Arcadia Valley, each of these novellas kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This collection is only the beginning of your adventure! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Restoring Love by Jennifer Slattery — Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. As Mitch struggles to keep his business afloat, and Angela works to correct the mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends discover they have something unexpected in common–a young mom fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back from redemption and true love? (Contemporary Romance from New Hope Publishers)

Historical Mystery:

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering — Drew and Madeline Farthering visit the Yorkshire moor to catch a killer and solve a mystery that involves an old feud, a new rivalry and a huge, spectral hound that may or may not be a harbinger of death. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])

Historical Romance:

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander — A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to get an audition at the newly-formed Nashville Philharmonic. But the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. Women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, he says, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse–and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head–he must finish composing his symphony before the new opera hall opens. But far more pressing, he must finish it for his dying father, who inspired his love of music. Then Tate’s ailment worsens. Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman’s trust when you’ve robbed her of her dream? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The American Heiress Brides Collection by Lisa Carter, Mary Eileen Davis, Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Lisa Karon Richardson, Lynette Sowell and Kimberley Woodhouse — Meet nine young women in America between 1880 and 1911 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where “first comes money, second comes marriage.” What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Two Suitors for Anna by Molly Jebber — In 1903 Ohio, a young Amish woman must choose between the life she has long planned for with her beloved Noah Schwartz, and a new, very different future… But Noah has a surprise for Anna: once they’re married, he wants them to travel and live in other communities. Anna, who loves her home and her job at the quilt shop, is distraught when he takes her hesitation as rejection—and leaves. Daniel Bontrager’s arrival adds to Anna’s confusion. Since taking over his late brother’s farm, the handsome roofer has offered friendship and gentle attentions. Yet the pull of first love is strong and deep, especially when Noah returns. Through each revelation, Anna must search her faith for guidance, knowing she is choosing not just a husband, but a life to nurture and to share… (Historical Romance from Kensington)

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch — Journey to Fort Bliss, Texas, where a battle of emotions versus ideals is about to be waged. When a high-steppin’ eastern fashion artist, Priscilla Hutchens, swoops down on the fort to gain custody of her twin niece and nephew she is met with resistance by their uncle, post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who thinks he knows what is best for them. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Dead Run by Jodie Bailey — Kristin James’s morning run turns deadly when she’s attacked by a stranger who’s after something her deceased soldier brother stole overseas. Her neighbor Sergeant First Class Lucas Murphy steps in to help her and won’t let her brush the attack under the rug. He’ll do everything he can to keep Kristin alive, but he can’t tell her that he’s under orders to investigate her link to her brother’s misdeeds. Kristin has no idea what the bad guy is after and doesn’t want to believe that her brother wasn’t on the straight and narrow. But as evidence against him piles up, can they catch the criminals without becoming the next casualties? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley — It’s been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister’s sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn’t actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, the person who confessed to the crime is Will’s cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in one week–including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard — Undercover at a tiger sanctuary, Special Agent Grayson Wilde is convinced the owner’s involved in a wildlife trafficking ring–until someone tries to kill her. Gemma’s determined to rebuild the tiger oasis she lost when her family died, but someone wants her out of the way, and she’s starting to wonder if her parents’ and uncle’s deaths were really accidental. Grayson says he’ll do anything to protect Gemma, but she can’t shake the feeling that her alluring new volunteer might not be all that he seems. With a vicious criminal closing in, though, she has to trust Grayson…because she won’t survive without him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Buried Memories by Carol J. Post — A soldier hero suffering from PTSD and a young woman struggling to overcome a traumatic childhood fight for their lives and find healing together. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Still Life by Dani Pettrey — Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart. Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Supernatural Thriller:

Fatal Accusation by Rachel Dylan — Attorney Olivia Murray hopes her life in Windy Ridge will get back to normal after a hard-fought trial. But she soon finds out that the forces of evil have not given up. An embezzling scandal rocks the community church to its core. The New Age groups are ready to declare victory when a high-profile prosecutor files criminal charges against the local pastor. However, Olivia is not willing to give up on the community she’s come to love. She takes on the defense pro bono knowing it could destroy her career, but it’s a case she is called to defend. The battle will be fierce, but she’s not fighting it alone. Her friend and fellow attorney Grant Baxter is by her side. Olivia must use all the tools in her arsenal to combat those who seek to destroy the believers in the community. If Olivia can’t prove the pastor’s innocence, more than her career is on the line. The entire community of Windy Ridge could fall to the forces of darkness. (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published)


Sparkling Vintage Musings: Why I wrote this novel (and an invitation)

A fun present from my agent, now hanging by my desk.

A fun present from my agent, now hanging next to my desk.

Every so often someone asks what my novel is about. But recently someone asked me why I wrote it. That was a new question for me. I needed to give it some thought since I, too, was curious why I wrote it. For me, the best way to figure out what I think about something is to write about it. So here goes.

At the risk of sounding a bit unhinged, I typed “Chapter One” when I started hearing the characters in my head, and I knew they wouldn’t leave me alone until I told their story. But of course there’s more to it than that.

In middle school I had a friend who was fascinated by the American Civil War (or the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you sit. In middle school I sat in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, so connect the dots.). Anyway, my friend couldn’t get enough of reading about the war, watching movies about it, and talking about it (at least to me, her similarly nerdy friend. Let’s just say an obsession with the Civil War doesn’t win popularity points in middle school.) She knew the names of generals, the dates of battles, the words to marching songs. But when I’d ask her why she had such a deep interest in the Civil War in particular, she didn’t know why.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I’ve long been fascinated by the early 20th century, from 1900 through World War II. I think there’s something about people of faith banding together and pulling through hard times–wars, the Great Depression–that inspires me. I’m also attracted to eras that were in many ways much harder than our own, but in other ways simpler and slower-paced. Yet at the same time, not boring.

The Roaring Twenties in particular is rich territory for fiction. The era crackled with excitement. The aftereffects of a world war and enactment of women’s suffrage shook things up like never before. The automobile gave dating couples more freedom—and subjected them to more temptation—than they’d ever experienced in their parents’ front parlor. The highly publicized Scopes trial forced many people to examine their faith: some clung more tightly to it while others abandoned it. And of course there was the inherent drama of Prohibition, the tension between the “drys” and the “wets,” and the rise of the criminal underworld. Chicago, the setting of You’re the Cream in My Coffee, was at the epicenter of it all.

Further, the era had much in common with our own. It was a time of great upheaval between the older Victorian values and way of life—largely damaged if not shattered by World War I—and the rebellious, freethinking youth culture. In You’re the Cream in My Coffee, the protagonist, Marjorie, finds herself torn between the glittering world of the “flapper” and the traditional conservative values she grew up with. This is, of course, a universal theme that resonates with Christian women today—how to live in the world but not be consumed by it, and where to draw the line.

There’s also a spiritual thread to the story. You’re the Cream in My Coffee is in no way autobiographical. Even so, like Marjorie, I’ve known heartache and have blamed God when things didn’t turn out the way I wanted. At times I’ve made poor choices, headed down thorny paths, chosen questionable companions, and just generally been my own worst enemy. But our God is a God of second chances. And third, fourth, and fifth chances. As different as we are, Marjorie and I share a story of healing and hope, and faith in the One who gives them to us.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I wrote this story. If you’re reading this post in August 2015, then know that you’ve popped in at an early stage of the journey. Recently I contracted with a publisher. I’m currently scribbling away on a revision due this fall, fixing some timeline and pacing issues and the occasional anachronistic detail (gasp! and here I tried to be so careful…). This winter we’ll be finalizing the title, planning the cover, and doing all manner of furious underwater paddling to prepare to launch in about a year.

Would you please consider coming along for the journey and being part of my crew? I’ll be putting together a sort of inner circle, a team of a limited number of people I’m calling the “Cream Team,” to help brainstorm ideas, offer feedback at various points, spread the word about the book on blogs and social media as the publication date nears, and–above all–support the whole project in prayer. In return, Cream Team members will receive sneak peeks, yet-to-be-decided (but cool! definitely cool!) gifts and perks, not to mention my undying gratitude. It’s still early days, but if you’re interested in being part of the Cream Team, e-mail me privately at jenny @ jenniferlamontleo.com (without the spaces) and let me know you’d like to help.

All I ask is that Cream Team members be active on social media in some capacity (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your own blog, whatever) and enjoy reading fiction. If you want to be supportive but you’d rather chew tinfoil than read fiction, there will be other ways to get involved. 🙂

Have a question about the novel, the writing process, the Cream Team, or anything else? Leave a comment here or e-mail me at the address above. I’d love to hear from you.

Marjorie’s Story: In Which Frances Reads Her the Riot Act



Here’s another installment in Marjorie’s story. The setting is the Corrigan home, to which Marjorie Corrigan has returned after fainting at the Orpheum during a showing of The Big Parade. (To read the first episode, go here )

“If you wouldn’t attend those ghastly picture shows, this never would have happened,” my father’s wife, Frances, scolded that evening, after getting an earful from Sadie Miller, who heard it from Penelope Blake, who got it straight from Eugenia Wardlow herself. “I’m mortified. Simply mortified.”

You’re mortified?”

Feeling more like an obstinate youngster than a woman of twenty-five, I avoided her gaze and watched her hands tense and flex as she kneaded bread dough.

“‘Family way,’ indeed,” she sputtered. “That woman is a—a—” She gave the dough an extra-vigorous punch—whether on Eugenia Wardlow’s behalf or mine was unclear. “Well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say what she is. But she spreads a nasty rumor quicker than ‘one if by land, two if by sea.’ I’ll be on the telephone all evening, trying to set things right.” She straightened up and blew a strand of hair out of her face. “Honestly, if Eugenia weren’t the only florist in town, I’d order your wedding flowers elsewhere, just to spite her.”

“That’s what I hate about small-town life,” I said. “Everybody’s always poking their noses into everyone else’s business and offering up their own skewed versions of things. Since when is fainting a sign of the stork, anyway?”

“Since busybody spinsters like Eugenia decided to liven up the gossip mill.” Frances glanced at the 1925 calendar on the wall. “I suppose we could move the wedding

Frances Corrigan

Frances Corrigan


My heart lurched. “Earlier! That would only make matters worse. Then people would for sure think—would think—”

She sighed. “I suppose you’re right. We’d never be able to pull it off, anyway. So much remains to be done: the guest list, the invitations . . .” She paused. “You ought to see Doctor Perkins. Best make sure you’re not coming down with something.”

“I’m fine, really. The theater was simply roasting, and I . . .”

“Yes, Helen told me all about it.” Frances returned to kneading. “Marjorie, you’re a grown woman. I can’t stop you from going to the pictures, but I can at least insist you stop taking Helen with you. At her age she doesn’t need to see all that romantic folderol and get strange ideas in her head.”

Strange ideas like there’s room for a little romance and adventure in a person’s life. Like there’s a world beyond Kerryville. Anyway, at fifteen, Helen practically knew more about the birds and the bees than I did. But all I said out loud was, “Yes, ma’am.”

The back door swung open and my older brother Charlie shuffled in. “Hi, all. When’s supper?”

Frances covered the bread pan with a cloth. “Ten minutes. We’ll eat early since your father’s out of town.”



“Hey, sis, you all right? I heard you made quite a scene at the Orpheum. Swooning over some love scene?” He batted his eyelashes.

“Very funny. You’d like it. It’s a good war story.”

“‘Good’ and ‘war’ don’t belong in the same sentence. “ His face darkened. “I lived it. Why would I want to watch it?”

I changed the subject. “Where did you hear I fainted?”

“Some fellows were talking about it over at Riley’s.”

“Oh, that’s just swell,” I mumbled, embarrassed to be the object of gossip but secretly relieved not to detect any alcohol on my brother’s breath. When he’d returned from the war, broken in body and spirit, he’d too often drown his pain in whiskey, Prohibition or no Prohibition. With Frances active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, those were some tense years in the Corrigan household. Thankfully, as far as I knew, he’d remained sober for the last year or so. He’d gone back to church, too. Still, I couldn’t break the habit of expecting a whiff of alcohol on his breath and felt relieved when there was none.

“Don’t worry, I set them straight.” Charlie raised his good arm. “I’ll pummel any goon who gets out of line. I’ll go wash up. Glad you’re okay, sis.” He loped out of the room.

Frances pulled a pitcher from the icebox and set it on the table. “I do wish he wouldn’t hang around a tavern on Sunday with all that riffraff. It’s not seemly.”
I set out plates. “It’s not a tavern, it’s a soda fountain. And they’re hardly riffraff. Just friends he grew up with.”

“It was a tavern before Prohibition. I don’t trust that Riley not to keep a bottle stashed under the counter.” Frances frowned. “Charlie’d get farther in life if he chose a better class of companions. You don’t see the Cavendishes wasting Sunday afternoons at Riley’s—or at the Orpheum, for that matter.”

“Who cares what the Cavendishes do?” I muttered, knowing full well that at least one of the two of us cared deeply. The Cavendishes were Kerryville aristocracy. Doctor Cavendish ran Kerryville General Hospital. Mrs. Cavendish ran the Hospital Auxiliary, the W. C. T. U., and practically everything else. Frances, anxious for the Corrigans to rise in society, coveted the Cavendish seal of approval on everything from how we spent our Sundays to who our friends were. My engagement to Doctor Richard Brownlee was a jewel in her crown.

“I dread to think what your father will say,” Frances continued. “Fortunately he knows Eugenia Wardlow’s a ninny. What about Richard? You’d better telephone him right away, before he hears it from somebody else.”

“I’m seeing him tonight for dinner. Speaking of which, I’d better freshen up.” I stood, bone-weary and not of a mind to discuss any more of my personal business with Frances

She crossed her arms. “You know, you two would already be married by now, if only—”

“If only I hadn’t dragged my feet on setting a date,” I finished, sparing her the trouble of repeating herself for the thousandth time.

“He’s wanted to marry you for ages, and you keep putting him off. It’s no wonder people have started . . . speculating.”

Heat rose in my chest. “Let them speculate. Anyway, I’m not putting him off any longer.” September eighteenth, my wedding day, loomed just on the other side of summer.

“He’s a real catch, Marjorie,” Frances admonished, “and you’re not getting any younger.”

“Thanks.” I made tracks for the door, desperate to escape the conversation.

“Marrying Richard is the wisest decision you’ve ever made. You’ll be set for life,” she called after me, “if you don’t spoil your chance.”

On the staircase I ­­­­­bumped into the eavesdropping Helen.

“Was she sore?”

“A little. She’ll get over it. But no more pictures for you for a while.”

“Aw.” She trailed into my room. “Have you finished my dress for Spring Fling?”

Helen would be making her dramatic debut at the high school’s end-of-the-year program, reciting “The Wreck of the Hesperus” to a packed, and likely sweltering,



auditorium. I was her wardrobe mistress for the event.

“Not yet, Miss Impatience. I’ve been a little busy, creating a town scandal.”

“Will you finish it soon?”

“Not if you don’t stop pestering me. Besides, you don’t need it until Spring Fling.”

“Can I at least see it?”



I surrendered. “Oh, all right. Here. Mind the pins.”

She held up the pale violet frock—an old one of mine that I was altering to fit her—and swayed to and fro in front of the pier glass, glowing. “Oh, Marjie, it’s the cat’s meow.”

“That shade suits you. Brings out your eye color.”

“Am I pretty, Marjie?”

“Pretty is as pretty does.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Now you sound like Frances.”

I cringed. Sounding like Frances was not one of my goals in life.

“You might be pretty,” I teased. “Maybe the tiniest little bit. When your horns aren’t showing.”

She stuck out her tongue. “Oh, you’re a hot sketch. Be serious.”

I smiled. “You look like our mother.”

Her eyes widened. “I do? Honest?”

“Honest. And she was stunning.”

Helen was silent a moment as she absorbed that thought.

“But remember what the Bible says,” I said. “‘Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain . . .’“

“‘. . . but the woman who fears the Lord shall be praised, ’” we finished together.

“That’s Scripture,” I added. “Not Frances.”

“I know. Mrs. Varney had us memorize it in Phoebe Circle. That reminds me. She wants to know if you’ll help out next fall.”

“Help out with what?”

“Phoebe Circle. After you’re back from your honeymoon, of course. She says the circle is getting too large for her to handle all by herself. I overheard her tell Superintendent Lewis that we’re quite a handful,” she added with pride.

“I can imagine.”

“Aw, she’s just getting old. Anyway, she said you used to love Phoebe Circle, and she’s hoping you’ll come back and help lead it. She said she’s been planning to speak to you about it at church, but you always disappear right after the service. Which is true.” She tossed me an accusatory look.

I made no reply. Mrs. Varney was right. As a girl I’d been active in Phoebe Circle and other church activities. But that was before the Lord chose to take away everything that mattered most to me. His prerogative, of course. “Thy will be done,” said the prayer I still dutifully recited. But for the past few years I’d found it hard to pay Him much more than a perfunctory visit on Sunday morning. And even that was largely due to Frances’ insistence that “nice people” go to church.

“I’m sure she’ll ask you about it herself,” Helen concluded. “I only said I’d mention it.”

“Thanks for the warning.”

“It’d be fun, having you for a leader.”

“You just think I’d let you get away with more high jinks than Mrs. Varney does,” I teased. “You’d be surprised what a tough old bird your sister can be.”

She took one last twirl and handed me the dress.

“I don’t know about that. But you sure are a whiz with a needle and thread.”

As she whirled out of the room, I looked down at the half-sewn fabric in my hand, troubled. If only all of life’s problems could be so easily mended.

(Watch for further installments, coming soon to a blog near you.)