Still living the virtual life

While life is slowly getting back to normal, a lot of events are still virtual this year and with good reason!

The first ever Vivian Awards Ceremony is this Saturday, July 31st in a virtual celebration of excellence in romance writing. As an RWA chapter president, I’m honored to be a part of the ceremony, and even more tickled to announce the Best First Book category since Soul Mate’s own Jeanine Englert is a finalist this year. One of the amazing things about being a romance writer and a member of RWA is the way we lift each other up, so I’m absolutely thrilled that Jeanine is up for this huge honor!

Another virtual event I’m very excited about is the Emerald City Writers Conference in October. ECWC is one of my favorite romance cons, and while I’ll miss seeing everyone in person, I’m sure the virtual conference will still provide  a great opportunity to recharge and connect with other writers. I’m also really thrilled to have been selected to present a workshop at this years conference. I’m looking forward to sharing my wisdom and giving back to the writing community, as well as attending workshops myself and deepening my craft. In this business there is always more to learn! If you are a writer, I hope you’ll consider joining this virtual conference.

So far this year, I haven’t found many reader events to attend, though I have been listening to lots of author panels and readings. Do you have any plans to go to bookish events this year? Are you ready to go back in person or are your still sticking with virtual events for now?


Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018.

Learn more about her around the web:

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YORKIES AND THE FINE ART OF PATIO SITTING by DE ANN SMALLWOOD

I am a genuine, certified, patio sitter. I hit the patio at 6:00am or earlier, coffee cup in hand, and work at planting myself there throughout the day. I am committed to my craft. My patio sitting work day lasts until it gets too dark to see. The Yorkies stick it out with me until it reaches 90 degrees then they leave me for inside the house and air conditioning. Our husky, Maybelline, (so named because of the dark eyeliner beneath her blue eyes) heads for the air conditioning at 80 degrees or earlier if she can sneak in. She wears her beautiful white fur coat winter and summer. . . all except the generous amount of fur she sheds throughout the house. Come winter and the much colder temperatures, we can’t coax her in. But I digress.

As I said, I start early and leave late. The job doesn’t pay much. Who am I kidding? It doesn’t pay anything. Nothing monetary but so much in other ways. Because I am part lizard, I bask in the summer heat and do not give in and turn on the portable cooling unit until the red mark on the temperature gauge reaches over 90 degrees. Then I welcome the breeze from the small cooler. Lately the temp has been in the triple digits. But do I abandon my post? NO. I open my faithful laptop and work on my latest book.

As I compose, my eyes are taking in the hummingbirds enjoying the feeder, the garden flourishing, the tomatoes with their shiny red faces, peeking out through the green vines, the robin hunting for worms, the birds sipping from the water tub, the smell of the neighbor’s freshly mowed grass, the buzz of the honey bees as they work the honeysuckle, and the everchanging summer sky. My fingers fly and my characters come to life as my story enfolds.

Unfortunately, I can’t sit there all day, hour after hour. I have pesky things pulling at me, calling me away. Such as: a patient husband wanting fed, although he’s great at scrounging his own meals as well as mine, a house needing cleaned (YUCK), and other demands that try to work their way to the top of my list. Of course, writing heads that list!

I have a new desk sitting in resplendent glory at a prime spot on the patio. I ordered it from Amazon not realizing it would come in many pieces of wood, pages of directions, and bags of nuts, screws, and bolts. It was boxed and delivered, waiting to be assembled. Notice I didn’t say quickly assembled. It took my husband most of a day to do the job. Of course I helped. I stood there and muttered things like: I didn’t realize, oh my, sorry, honey, and would you like a glass of iced tea? But the desk is marvelous and like a queen reigns over the patio. I finished writing my latest book: HEART WHISPERS sitting behind it. It was released this July 13th. It’s one of my favorite storiesI. I’ve written a total of fourteen books and while I delight in all of them, some are favorites. I’m working now on the final chapters of yet another story set in the 1800’s, located in the delightful town of Chesterfield Colorado.

I hope I’ve imparted some words of wisdom on patio sitting. It is an art that improves with repetition and dedication. Start slow, maybe only two hours a day and work yourself up to the full days. Do arm yourself with hydration. . . diet beverages, iced tea, bottled water, or other liquids you prefer. Take your writing essentials with you and start, continue, or finish that book. Smell the roses or as in my case fresh mowed lawn. But most of all enjoy the outdoors whether its a patio, porch, or a shady spot. They all work as you let your creative juices flow.

I have to end now, the Yorkies are looking pleadingly at the door and airconditioning. Also, I’m longing for my third cup of coffee. Patio sitting is not for the faint of heart but I will perservere. With full cup in hand, I’ll resume my full time job behind my new desk and bask in the hundred degree temperatures. I hope I’ve helped you see the merits of patio sitting. Happy Summer!

Heart Whispers

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A Few Of My Favorite Things: Cynics and Dreamers

Long before I started writing romance, I was (and still am) an avid romance reader.  I’d like to share some of my favorite elements from romance novels and the reasons why I think they work so well.

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about a favorite falling-in-love combination: dreamers and cynics.  There’s something magical about it.  Logically, that personality combination shouldn’t work.  Dreamers are eternal optimists, always ready to grasp hope, while the cynic is always preparing for the worst.  In real life, the two tend to irritate one another more often than they fall in love.

But that’s the beauty of a romance story.  The main characters transform to become the best possible version of themselves.  The dreamer’s faith in hope gets tested (and eventually confirmed), leaving them grounded and stronger.  The cynic has to shed their protective armor to allow the dreamer into their heart but maintains their ability to act decisively.  They get the best of both worlds and maintain their own inherent personalities.  Plus orgasms and a happily ever after.

The gruff, laconic, protective cynic is one of my favorite types of heroes (you can check out my previous post about bodyguard romances for more details on why).  When I see a story with one of them, I know I’m going to get a moment when that character will throw aside everything because they’ve realized that the other main character means more to them than anything else in the world.  Those moments of ultimate realization are catnip for me because it’s the moment of no return for the character.  From now on, they can no longer lie to themselves.

But I also love a dreamer, someone who is unashamed to be passionate and eager about their life and interests.  Too often, dreamers get battered down by others who see their joy as immature or dangerous, so it’s wonderful to see one who has survived that with their hope intact.  They have so much to offer, both to the world and in a relationship.  They deserve to be cherished and protected by those who love them.

Maybe that’s why this combination means so much to me.  Hope should be nurtured and protected.  The world is scary and it grinds people down, so having a protector who is willing to do whatever is necessary is an appealing option.  Being loved so completely and thoroughly is a beautiful way to experience life.

I write paranormal romance full of suspense, action, and adventure.  My first book with Soul Mate is Deadly Potential (Federal agent Ben will do anything to protect songwriter Katie from a supernatural stalker who can hide in plain sight), available on Kindle Unlimited.  Or there’s my original series about a secret society of superheroes living among us.  Begin with Revelations for free!

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Writing the Book of Your Heart

As writers, we’re told not to write to the market, but to write what we know, what we love. It’s safer, they say, because markets change quickly. What’s popular today might have waned by the time our book comes out.

My favorite phrase relating to this advice is, “Vampires are dead.” Yup, they certainly are. But funny thing. Those suckers keep coming back and climbing on to the charts. What’s dead today will most certainly revive and flourish at a point in the future. If your vampire book is ready to go, but the market seems shy of them, yours might be the one to bring it back.

I don’t write about vampires or werewolves or witches. I know people who do and write them well. Some of them are quite sexy. Sexy? Put a wolf in a business suit with gorgeous teeth (a couple of fangs hidden of course) and make him a hero. Voila. Sexy werewolf.

I began my career writing small town contemporary romance, not because it’s what I love, because it’s what I know. I am a product of small towns. But what I love is history, so my next book was a Regency, a genre I have read since I picked up my first Barbara Cartland in a used bookstore decades ago.

My first Regency was Scandal’s Child. The hero and heroine are kept apart by a lie which is eventually discovered, along with a lot of other secrets. It is a romance, after all, and has a happily ever after. But this book is more. It is the book of my heart.

My only sibling, my sister Deborah, had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer when I began this book. She was excited for me and had always been my biggest fan and supporter (whether I was trying out for a play or twirling a baton or trying to land a job) and she offered to help with the research.

I needed her. She was terrific at research and sent me a great deal of downloaded information in precise files for me to use. Topics ranged from insects to furniture, styles of conveyances, dress, customs, how people were addressed. She did all this in between her chemotherapy appointments.

When I went to stay with her near the end of her life, she knew the book was finished, had finaled in a few contests, but had not been acquired. I assured her it would see print and planned to self-publish if it remained unsold. The book eventually was contracted to Soulmate, but not in time for her to see the dedication: To my sister, Deborah Ereth, who was taken from us far too earl

Scandal’s Child has become the backbone of a series that has grown to four books. It will be free from July 30 to Aug. 1 and will follow the release of my fourth book, Scandal’s Deception. Child still my favorite book, not because of its resiliency in a crowded market, but because it is and always will be my sister’s book—the book I pick up when I want to be close to her.

The book of my heart.

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Beach Read: Vampire Princess of New York by Susan Hanniford Crowley

I love going to the beach, where I collect shells, and sit under an umbrella.  Today I bring up Vampire Princess of New York as a chosen beach read. It is available in Kindle ebook and also in Kindle Unlimited. I pack up my covered iPad with its Kindle app to read. The Kindle app is free.

The book is set in Manhattan and Paris, two cities I adore. Every summer I would visit New York City to see my grandmother and aunt. My Aunt Helen felt it was important that I see the sites and she managed to always find new places for me to see. My favorite places are not necessarily famous but have ambience and that special something that touches the heart. Noblesse has a passion for antiquing, and so do I. While I love pieces that speak to me, Noblesse searches for her past through furniture.

Paris has a magic all its own which I explore in the book when Princess Noblesse goes there on her honeymoon. So many secrets from her past are revealed. Love is tested. For Noblesse, she is sad to find so much of her original Paris (prior to the French Revolution) has changed, but one place still has her heart.

I’m not going to spoil it for you. Whether going to the beach or enjoying the sunshine in other ways, read Vampire Princess of New York. https://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Princess-York-Arnhem-Knights-ebook/dp/B01LWXYX1G

Charlotte, a reviewer on Amazon said:

“Susan is my favorite author. I did not like vampire books before I started reading hers. She keeps you enthrald without heavy violence. This is a great love story for any romantic. She keeps you guessing what will happen next. This book is full of action and romance. I couldn’t put it down!”

Susan
Susan Hanniford Crowley, Author of Vampire Princess of New York
Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance
https://susanhannifordcrowley.com

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Writing Through Stress… Summer

It feels weird to feel “normal” again. No masks in our state if your vaccinated. (though there are some places I will wear it, because…eww) The new normal is weird and stressful, but it’s also okay.

We took a trip to see my uncle in another state recently. Like we crossed five states. Driving. Mostly in the rain. Ha! My uncle is the only surviving family member of our mom’s family. He’s an important guy to us. So we travel to see him and my aunt as much as possible, which, obviously hasn’t been much lately.

But, we had a blast. Lots of visiting and I even got to see a cousin I hadn’t seen in a really long time.

Anyway. The drive. Oy! It’s long. Like really long. Going there isn’t so bad, but coming home? Yikes! We’re still recovering, I think. Well, I think we’re recovering from the last 5-6 weeks really. We haven’t been home together for a solid week in that long. Either I’m gone or he’s gone or we’re both gone. It’s been really good though.

I did a writing retreat with friends, which was amazing. We rented the cutest cottage and got lots of writing done. I switched gears a little and decided to work on a different story for Sector Two, but it fits fabulously and my recent visit to pure farm land helped to solidify that.

So now it’s “back to normal” around here. I’m back at the office. It’s okay, but weird. I’d rather be home most days, but the office environment does have its advantages. We haven’t had a chance to get into a routine since I went back though, so that’s what we’ll be doing going forward.

I hope things are going well for you and that you’re “new normal” works well for you.

Behave!

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Alpha Males in Fiction:

I recently stumbled across two articles on the subject of the Alpha Male. One was very scholarly and the other a blog-type post. What struck me was how much both had in common, and I realized that I had written characters that were Alpha Males throughout my writing career. (Not that I’m patting myself on the back. A true scholar would have made a concentrated effort). The scholarly article by Frans de Waal was part of a TedMed talk entitled “The Surprising Science of Alpha Males.” De Waal examines how chimp behavior is similar to that of evolved humans. The blog post from “How to Beast” by David De Las Morenas shares many interesting similarities with the scholarly article by Dr. deWaal even though Morenas concentrates on the social aspect of human Alpha male identity. They both agree that the Alpha Male in more recent years has been portrayed as a bully. According to both authors, the bully is an aberrant form of the true Alpha Male. I found both perspectives fascinating and related them to my own characters. The descriptions were illuminating because novels, especially romance novels, often have Alpha Males as a central character. An Alpha Male portrayed correctly is the ultimate hero.

1. The Alpha Male Asserts himself: De Waal’s work is with primates, and he contends that the Alpha male has to be “impressive, intimidating, and demonstrate {his} vigor on occasion and show that {he is} very strong.” However, he disagrees with those who see the Alpha Male as an obnoxious loud mouth. According to deWaal, these people see the Alpha Male as a “bully.” In his study, male chimps that are true Alphas are leadrs but never bullies. Both authors agree that the Alpha male is assertive but not mean-spirited. According to Morenas, the top (human) dog isn’t afraid to make decisions or say what is on his mind. He “proceeds and states his honest opinion. . . ,”but he doesn’t make “people feel like sh– or {start} worthless fights.” He doesn’t let “uncomfortable interaction stop him from getting what he wants.” In From Ice Wagon to Club House, Jude Mooney pursues what he wants even when he knows it means incurring the wrath of his parents or society. His pious parents don’t want him working in Storyville, but he does it to save them from starvation. The gorgeous Irish rebel Maeve is the love of his life, and he woos her until she becomes his. During the bleak days of the Depression, Jude turns to bootlegging when his family again faces dire poverty, but he is never bullying to anyone he encounters and even helps a young man who tries to rob his house. In The Progeny, Jude’s sons, Daniel and Paul, are very much like their father. They join the military to fight Nazi aggression, and they make purposeful decisions that lead to love, risk, and adventure. 

2. The Alpha Male is Courageous. According to Morenas, “We all have insecurities and fears that we cannot control. However, the Alpha Male is able to push on in a particular direction in spite of his fears.” The Alpha Male always tries even if he may fail. In From Ice Wagon to Club House, Jude and his partner Pete open their own restaurant/bar even though they may fail. The mob wants in on their business, but they stand their ground. In Love at War, Keith Roussel takes on the mission of a sniper in WWII to take down dangerous German officers and defeat Nazi bullies. 

3. The Alpha Male is Generous. This theory was one that surprised me.  According to de Waal, the Alpha doesn’t simply become the Alpha through brute strength. The males have to be liked and respected by the group. When male chimps are campaigning to be top dogs, they “share food very easily with everyone or they start to tickle the babies of the females.” The males “spend a lot of time currying favor with all sorts of parties when they are campaigning.” This According to de Waal, we see politicians engaging in such behavior all the time. In my books, Jude as well as his sons provide for those they love; in return, they are respected and loved as well. This behavior remains in the Alpha chimp even after he become the Alpha and would be an appealing trait in a Romantic hero.  

4.  The Alpha Male Holds Himself with a Strong Posture. According to Morenas, the Alpha Male “doesn’t slouch forward or stare down at his feet.  .  . He holds his head high and looks you in the eye. And this strong, confident posture is mirrored inside of him.” In my books, my characters are not all tall or stunningly handsome. (Well, some are.) What they do possess is a confidence that they will succeed. De Waal has seen parallel behavior in chimps. The Alpha Males often “{stand} on two legs and {put} arms out. This is called bipedal swagger. It’s a very common posture in high-ranking males and it’s very recognizable because humans do this kind of stuff.” The male is asserting himself and achieving success. 

5. The Alpha Male Attracts Respect and Sex. According to Morenas, the Alpha is “the guy who men respect and women lust for.” According to de Waal, the biggest privilege of achieving Alpha status among chimps is “females.” Maybe this is why Alpha males are so popular in romance. Even in these more enlightened and liberated times, we like a man who can sweep his lover off the feet and inspire devotion. In Love at War, Keith Roussel inspires such devotion that Nuala extracts extreme vengeance of the enemy she believes kills him. In From Ice Wagon to Club House, Jude Mooney inspires love and lust in several beautiful women. 

I found both authors and their views enlightening. They provided a revelatory  analysis of what makes an Alpha: assertiveness and not aggression; generosity and not covetousness; directness but not bullying. Those traits should define the hero in any Romance novel. 

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It’s in My Bones

Never discuss religion or politics at a family gathering. That common-sense rule took on a greater urgency in recent years as the nerves and anger level in the country percolated upward. In a time of tribes and divisions the last thing an author wants to do is alienate folks.

I never discuss either when wearing my professional hat (in the form of my pseudonym). You might catch me expressing my faith when I’m out and about on social media in my real-world persona, but largely in general terms and you are unlikely to catch me talking politics. There are a few social justice issues that get a strong reaction from me, but because my impassioned positions fall on both sides of the political spectrum, they tend to confuse people.

Having said all that, faith is actually a great well of joy, creativity, and positive direction in my life. I find myself wondering how my faith is — or isn’t —reflected in my writing.

I write historical romance. My Regency and Victorian characters by and large attend church because people did. That’s comfortable to me. I don’t mention denomination often, but my English characters are vaguely Church of England. The French heroine of my last book, notably, was Catholic. It mattered in the plot. Her closest friend was Muslim. I may describe a character praying at some critical point, if that character’s emotional arc calls for it. It is simply a part of who they are. It isn’t something I impose over the top.

However, I can’t keep my values from my prose. My heroes and heroines reflect them, either by demonstrating certain traits, or by struggling to develop or practice them. Integrity. Honesty. Fidelity. Loyalty. Respect all people’s dignity, beliefs, and opinions. Respect for human life. Humanist values, certainly, but ones that also arise from my personal faith life.

The same values apply to setting and historical background. I can’t whitewash the era in which my stories occur. My characters of necessity struggle with the issues they are thrust into. I don’t write generic people. I try to create fully rounded human beings, which means saints and sinners, great virtue and vice, weakness as well as strength. The joy is pulling them into the light by the end of the story. To do that, I have to follow the light I’ve been given.

But I don’t discuss religion. Or politics. Honest.

Caroline’s latest Soul Mate publication is The Price of Glory, which tells the story of one man’s pursuit of knowledge that will bring him fame and respect, only to find it upended by a woman determined to serve the people of Egypt as a hakima, a healer. Neither has any idea where this journey will take them when they embark down the Nile toward Nubia and its mysteries, ancient and modern. Neither expects to face intrigue, unrest, and insurrection, to be forced to marry to escape death—or to succumb to amorous enchantment under a desert moon.

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Buzzwords and Dating Trends of 2021

I was surprised and a bit disappointed to discover that I was unfamiliar with the latest dating lexicon. In a recent interview on Cityline, celebrity matchmaker Carmelia Ray shared the following buzzwords and dating trends of 2021:

Sneating

Going on a dinner date with someone purely for the free food. (a.k.a. sneak eating)

Vulturing

Hovering on the edges of a dying relationship waiting to swoop in and claim him/her as yours.

U-Turning

Act of going full tilt into a relationship, getting super into it, and then quickly realizing that it’s not for you.

Hardballing

Dating like a CEO: not messing around with partners who aren’t serving you. Many singles are busy professionals who don’t have time to waste. Hardballers ask direct questions and set strong boundaries.

When asked if there is a right way to hardball, Carmelia suggests that singles date with intention. They can ask the important questions, but it shouldn’t feel like interviewing. Questions should be peppered into the organic conversation. Watch your tone!

Slow Dating

Spending more time getting to know a potential partner and working to create a deep connection before taking things to the next level.

This is how many people have been dating since the pandemic. They are more cautious and spending more time in meaningful conversation. Dating apps are seeing an increase in messaging, video dating, and longer time spent talking to each other.

New Dawn Daters

These are the people who broke up with their long-term partners during the pandemic. They are eager to start over and excited about what’s next for them.

Astrolove

Looking for compatibility based on your zodiac sign.

Any others to add?

Where to find Joanne…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

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Happy Book Birthday to The Widow’s Walk

I was delighted when Debbie Gilbert sent me a contract renewal last spring for The Widow’s Walk: Book Two in the Unfinished Business Series. That will keep it smack in the middle of the prequel, Breakwater Beach and the Sequel, Storm Watch.

It was July 4th weekend circa 2006 when I was opening up a summer cottage, vacuuming up flies and pulling dust covers off furniture that I had an inspiration to write a short story about a woman who finds a trunk full of old clothes in the attic and is left wondering who the owner was, and how they came to be there.

I missed most of the celebrations that weekend, but the 13,000 word short story Breakwater Beach had been born. My beta readers liked it, but wanted to know what came before. So, after much angst, I finished the very complex dual story line of Breakwater Beach: Book One.

I thought that was it, but one day after yoga (on the real Breakwater Beach in Brewster (Cape Cod) Massachusetts, an image of fisherman beached on the flats at low tide patiently waiting for the water to rise ignited a spark. Storm Watch continues the story, and gives more depth and dimension to some of the secondary characters. I have started on Book Four, as yet untitled, but I’m waiting for the lightning to strike again to help it along. My vacation is coming up on August, so just maybe….

This is pretty typical of my writing, both fiction and non fiction. Even the most mundane experience or encounter can lead to inspiration for a plot, or a character, or a scene. There have been a lot of distractions this past year and half, but now that life is getting back to a new normal, perhaps inspiration will once again strike.

I’ve enjoyed reading the Soulmate Author’s Blog this past few months, learning how my fellow authors’ stories are brought to life. What triggers your imagination?

http://amzn.to/2uSBZPt

The Widow’s Walk: Book Two

Was getting out, getting away, enough?

Mike and Liz Keeny are newlyweds, new parents, and the proprietors of the Barrett Inn, an 1875 Victorian on Cape Cod, which just happens to be haunted. By their own ghosts. The Inn had become an annex of Purgatory, putting Mike, Liz, and their infant son in danger. Selling the historic seaside bed and breakfast was the only answer, one that Liz and her own tortured specter refused to consider. Were they doomed to follow the same path that led to disaster in their previous lives?

An excerpt from The Widow’s Walk: Book Two in the Unfinished Business

Silk rustled as she ran her hands over the dress. The lavender scent deepened as Elisabeth swirled around inside, Her mind went numb as the ghost took control. She slipped out of her clothes and stood naked in front of the mirror. She put up her hair, preening for her husband, before she stepped into the middle of the deep green skirts and pulled them up over her waist, slipped her arms into the sleeves, and twisted them behind her back to fasten the buttons. She used the buttonhook to do up the shoes, then peered out into the hallway.

Liz bundled the sweat suit into her arms, along with the soap and paper goods, and hurried to the attic door. It wasn’t until she placed her hand on the banister and started up the steep staircase to the roof that Elisabeth’s needling eased. Like an addict in the throes of withdrawal, just the promise of being up there, her spirit communing with the long lost sea captain, offered relief.

Breakwater Beach: Book One

Would you take a second chance?

Liz Levine is convinced her recently deceased husband is engineering the sequence of events that propels her into a new life. But it’s sea captain Edward Barrett, the husband that died over a century ago, who has returned to complete their unfinished business. Edward’s lingering presence complicates all her plans and jeopardizes a new relationship that reawakens her passion for life and love. What are Captain Barrett’s plans for his wife, and for the man who is the new object of her affections?

Storm Watch: Book Three

One last chance, their only choice.

Mike and Liz thought they’d gotten control of the specters haunting the Barrett Inn. But things get very complicated when they’re the ghosts from your past life. The Category Five Hurricane bearing down on Cape Cod appears to be headed directly for them–or has it been spawned from inside them? Knowing it’s their last chance to end the hauntings, they face an impossible choice. Will they survive the storm?

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