Friday, January 28, 2011

Mutiny of the Heart


Book 1 in an exciting new series set in historical Charleston

By award winning author Vickie McDonough

When a young woman arrives on Lucas Reed's doorstep, claiming the small boy in her charge is his son, Lucas is certain she's a charlatan, but then he looks at the child's face—a face that remarkably resembles his own.

Charleston, South Carolina


Heather Hawthorne gazed at the monstrous homes of Charleston as another wave of doubt slammed into her with the full force of a hurricane. Was she making the right decision?

Hadn't she asked herself that question a thousand times since boarding the ship back home in Canada? Was it too late to hail the carriage driver and ask him to return them to the Charlotte Anne before it set sail for the Caribbean?

"Are we almost there, Aunt Heather?"

Smiling down at the lad she loved as her own, she ruffled his hair then found his cap on the seat and set it on his head. "Aye, dear one, we've nearly arrived."

Jamie furrowed his brow and leaned against her arm. "Do you think he will like me?"

Heather's heart clenched as she patted his soft cheek. "Of course he will."

Please, Lord. Let it be so. Holding the lad's hand, she watched the tall homes, and even taller palm trees, pass by. She hadn't seen the likes of such houses since her family left England and settled off the coast of Canada on Nova Scotia. Her poor cottage was probably a fraction of the size of the carriage houses that sat behind many of the giant homes. Nearly all had one- and two-story porches, or piazzas as she'd heard them called. Many of them faced the Charleston harbor, welcoming the cooling breezes of the sea. She lifted her head. Though she could not see the harbor at the moment, she could smell the salty air.

Lucas Reed was said to be one of the wealthiest ship- builders in the area and would certainly live in one of these large homes. No sooner had the thought taken wing than the coach slowed and stopped. Heather gasped and held her hand against her chest. The imposing brick house looming above them was three stories tall. The decorative front door was sheltered by a rounded portico supported by four massive white columns. Curved stairways on either side led up to the landing. Ivy clung to the brick below the portico and crept out onto the stairs, giving the home a soft accent.

The carriage driver lowered the steps and opened the door. "The home of Mr. Lucas Reed, miss."

She accepted the hand he held out and descended the steps, turning to check on Jamie. He shrank back, staring at her with wide blue eyes. "Don't be afraid, lad. I'll be with you."

He nodded then gathered the bag that held his favorite possessions and hopped down, looking around with a crinkled brow. "Where's the house?"

The driver chuckled and motioned toward the red brick structure. " 'Tis here, boy."

"But that's a big building." Jamie tilted his head back and looked up at the portico.

"Aye, the houses here are quite large."

Now that was an understatement if there ever was one. Heather swallowed the lump in her throat. She'd gone through so much to get here, but what if the man didn't want the boy?

Lucas Reed had more money than he knew what to do with from the looks of this house, and his reputation for helping others was widely talked about—although he surely hadn't helped Jamie's mother any. She pursed her lips, trying to maintain a proper attitude. She would see that he did right by the lad, even if she had to remain in this hated country to do so.

The coachman lifted out her satchel and Jamie's smaller one. "I shall run these up the stairs for you, miss."

She smiled, found a coin in her handbag, and paid the man when he returned to the coach. "Thank you for your service."

"Should I wait for you, miss?"

"Nay." Surely Mr. Reed could provide transportation back to the docks. Straightening her back and her resolve, she took Jamie's hand and climbed the stairs to the massive white door. She pounded the knocker and gazed around at the homes crowded together. How could one live with neighbors clustered so nearby?

The door opened, and she swallowed hard. A butler studied her, gazing down her length and back up. His eyes narrowed a bit. "How can I be of service?"

"We're here to see Mr. Reed. Is he at home?"

"Hmm. . .I don't remember him having an appointment today."

"We don't have one." Heather lifted her chin at the stern man. "We've just arrived in town, and I had no chance to notify Mr. Reed in advance."

Jamie tugged her hand, shuffling his feet. "I need to use the. . .you know."

The butler backed away, holding the door open. "Step inside, miss, and I'll see if Mr. Reed is available. May I tell him the nature of your business?"

" 'Tis rather private." Heather ducked her head beneath his stern gaze. She got the impression he didn't think much of her, but he wasn't the one she was worried about. They stepped inside, and he hoisted their bags and set them in the entryway then closed the door.

"Stay here. I'll return shortly. You may leave your card in the receiving tray over there." He pointed to a long, narrow table that held a hammered silver tray with three of the four corners bent inward, then strode into the interior of the house.

She wandered over to the table, taking in the fine furnishings of the home. In the dish lay several calling cards with the owners' names on them. She had no card to leave. What would it matter anyway?

"Aunt Heather. . . "

"Hang on a bit longer, please." She stooped in front of Jamie and brushed his dark hair from his deep blue eyes. Oh, how she'd miss him. He was like a son to her, but he deserved to know his father, especially since his mother had died.

But would the father be worthy of such a fine lad?

Vickie McDonough

Where to buy a copy:

Do Not Reproduce without permission.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Baby Promise

The Baby Promise

by Carolyne Aarsen

Romantic Times calls the Baby Promise - " An emotional story with a
heroine who is danger of making bad decisions out of love and a hero who
discovers God's plans are always best." 4 stars

On leave from the army, Nick Colter heads to a quiet Alberta ranch to
fulfill a promise. His buddy left behind a pregnant wife in need of
protection and friendship that only Nick can provide. Despite years in
combat, he isn't prepared for the battle to earn wary Beth Carruthrs's
trust. there is more than grief in her beautiful blue eyes, and caring
for her becomes more than an act of duty. He wants to bring a smile to
her face . . . and restore faith and love in her heart. Yet the secrets
she harbors may destroy the one chance at family he thought he'd never

Carolyne Aarsen

His buddy's description had not prepared him for this.

As the taxi that brought him from Calgary drove away, Nick Colter eased
a long ragged sigh, his breath creating ribbons of fog in the crisp
January air. He tossed his duffel bag over his shoulder and looked

The log house Jim had described lay nestled in a copse of pine trees,
smoke curling out of the stone chimney. Behind the house, rolling hills
blanketed with snow and frosted spruce trees edged toward granite
mountains, their rugged edges crisp against a blue midmorning sky.

Nick's eyes scanned the mountains, darting over their surface his
hand reaching for . . .

He caught himself and flexed his tightening fingers, reminding himself
to relax. These were the friendly mountains of Alberta not the enemy
riddled mountains of Afghanistan.

And he wasn't a soldier anymore.

He let the utter stillness ease away the memories of dust, heat, pain,
brokenness and war.

How long had it been since he felt the peace permeating this place? How
long had it been since he looked at space and did not scan it for enemy,
for trouble, but instead just looked?

He dragged his hands over his stubbled face and shifted his weight,
wincing as the movement resurrected pain from an injury that had given
him a one-way ticket back home.

Behind the pain came the thought that he shouldn't be here. He
needed to be back with his unit doing the job he'd trained for since
he was eighteen.

But he had a medical discharge he couldn't work around and a promise
to keep.

"Can I help you?"

A melodic voice broke the quiet of the morning. Nick spun around and
there she was, walking down a path toward him looking as much a part of
the picture as the house did.

Her curly blonde hair was pulled loosely away from her heart-shaped
face, cheeks pinked with cold. She wore a pale blue woolen jacket
straining over a rounded belly and black pants tucked into leather
boots. In spite of the cold she wore nothing on her head and her bare
hands clutched the handles of a large, black briefcase.

Beth. Jim's widow. Looking even more beautiful than the pictures Jim
had shown him.

And pregnant with the child his buddy Jim had talked so often about and
now would never see.

Nick walked toward her, pulling his hat off as he did. She stopped a few
feet away from him, her expression guarded and cautious, her violet eyes

"Hello, Beth. I don't know if you remember me. I'm Nick
Colter. I was stationed with Jim in Afghanistan."

As he spoke sorrow blanketed her features and she took a faltering step
away. Her small action sent a myriad of emotions running through him.

Grief, anger, sorrow but laying beneath all that, a deep well of guilt
at being the one standing here instead of her beloved husband, Jim. He
who had little to live for had survived, and Jim who had so much, had

This was wrong, he wanted to tell her. And I know it is. I shouldn't
be here.

Beth wrapped her arm around herself as if trying to hold in her sorrow,
her eyes flitting away from him. "I remember you." She spoke
quietly, grief softening her voice. "I saw you at the funeral."

Nick wanted to say something to ease her pain, but any words he might
have to say were too small for the moment. So he stood in front of her,
hat in hand, letting his silence say what his mouth couldn't.

Sometimes words couldn't say it all.

"What . . . what are you doing here?" she asked, still looking
away from him.

He was here because as Jim lay dying in his arms, he pleaded with Nick
to keep an eye on his wife, to watch over her

and make sure she was okay. While Jim's life seeped out of him into
the desert sand, his eyes held Nick's with an intensity branding
itself into Nick's very soul while he pleaded with Nick to take care
of his family.

But when Nick looked into Beth's eyes, he wondered if this was the
time to say all that.

"Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers asked me to come for a visit." He
decided to go with the safest reason for now. The visit was true. Bob
and Ellen had offered at the funeral when they had found out about
Nick's medical discharge from the army.

"That's very considerate of you," she said.

He slipped his hat back on his head, unable to keep his eyes off her,
remembering too well Jim's pictures of her.

In those pictures Beth's blonde, curly hair flowed free, and her
wide violet eyes looked as if they held some secret and her mouth barely
hinted at a smile.

Though her features now held the same ethereal quality, they also held
the stamp of sorrow.

"Jim talked about you a lot," he added, struggling with his own
grief. "He really loved you."

She took another step away from him, shaking her head and lifting her
one hand as if pushing him away. "I can't talk about Jim."

"Of course. I'm sorry. I'm sure this is a difficult time for

She turned her head aside, hiding her sorrow. "Enjoy your visit with
my in-laws," was all she said. She moved past him and walked to a
small car, got in and started it up.

Nick watched her sitting stock still in the car, her hands gripping the
steering wheel as she stared straight ahead, plumes of exhaust swirling
around the car.

He wasn't surprised at her reaction. She was still grieving. He was
still grieving. It had been only eight weeks since his friend breathed
his beloved wife's name with his last breath. Only fourty-one days
since he watched Jim's brown eyes slowly become lifeless and felt
his body grow heavy and slack in his arms.

Nick clenched his hands and tamped down the sorrow. He wouldn't be
any good to Beth or Jim's parents if he couldn't control his own

For a moment he cursed Jim again. Had Nick done what he always did -
went his own way, did his own thing, kept himself from making friends
like he usually did - he wouldn't have had to deal with this grief.

But when Jim burst into their tent with his big grin and boisterous
personality he also burst through the walls Nick had carefully built
around his life.

Now Jim was gone and Nick was alone again.

Nick slung his duffel back over his shoulder, then limped over the
packed trail toward the log house.

Toward Jim's parents and their sorrow.

The Baby Promise can be found wherever books are sold. Do not reproduce
without written permission.