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Book Excerpt – Sweet Illusions

Book Excerpt – Sweet Illusions

Sweet Illusions

by Jeanette Lewis

©All Rights Reserved

The moon hung low and bright, bouncing off the sand and giving them more than enough light to hunt for shells. Arthur had stayed with Gina, but the rest of the children scampered ahead of Ben and Eva as they walked slowly up the beach. Ben had no idea where his shoes had ended up, and he was pleased to see Eva had slipped hers off too. They stayed on the edge of the water and every once in a while, a wave came boiling up the sand to swirl around their ankles before withdrawing again with a soft hiss.

“Man, I’ve missed it here,” he said, taking a deep breath.

“Jennifer said you’ve been in Atlanta?” Eva asked.

“Yeah. I was on the force there for six years.” His stomach knotted. What if she wanted to know why he’d come home? What if she’d heard about Griffin? Or maybe she already knew; she did live next door to Miss Lucille, after all.

“How do you like Indigo Bay?” he asked. Dumb question, but they had to start somewhere. He’d noticed how she tried to steer the conversation away from herself at dinner—a classic conversation tactic. Was she practicing Tinder’s Top Ten Tips for Dating, or was she merely a private person? And if so, how did he draw her out?

“It’s beautiful,” Eva said, and he remembered he’d asked her about Indigo Bay. “I love the ocean, and your parents’ house is amazing. I feel lucky to live here.”

“Yeah, that’s how I always felt too,” he said. Slightly ahead of them, three-year-old Ezra face-planted in the sand and Ben chuckled, watching as Abbie pulled him up and brushed him off.

“Do your brother and sister live around here too?” Eva asked.

“Tyler and Jennifer live closer to Hilton Head and Gina and Lee are about two hours inland,” Ben explained.

“Look at this one!” Jordan came running up, holding a small peach-colored shell.

“Calico scallop,” Ben told him. “Think you can find the other half?”

It would be nearly impossible to find a matched set of scallop shells, but the five-year-old took off running, his head moving back and forth as he eagerly searched the sand. Ben felt kind of bad sending him off on an impossible errand, but figured it was worth it to give him more alone time with Eva.

They walked past Miss Lucille’s house, rising three stories and ringed with balconies. Ben had never been inside, but when they were little, he and Gina had made up stories about Miss Lucille’s Fort of Surveillance. Inside would be set up like a crime lab from the movies—a dozen heavily muscled agents in black jackets sipping coffee in front of computer screens as they monitored everything that happened within a five-hundred-foot radius of the property; a helicopter waiting on the roof for a quick escape; three dozen cameras trained on the beach to keep an eye on the tourists; and a special forensics lab to determine exactly whose dog had pooped on the lawn.

Tonight, though, all the windows were dark except for one, where a small lamp burned on the lower level. Miss Lucille had mentioned setting him up with … was it her niece? He’d told her he planned to focus on work, but that had changed when he’d seen his mom coming across the sand with Eva.

He glanced sideways at her, noting how the moonlight kissed the bridge of her nose and the pale skin on her forehead. Her hair was so dark it blended into the shadows, but her enormous eyes glowed blue. He felt a stirring in his gut. She was reserved, but she’d laughed a few times at dinner and he’d found himself craving the sound, wanting to hear it again and especially wanting it to be because of him. He had an almost irrepressible urge to start showing off, like a teenager trying to impress a girl, wanting to be the source of her joy.

“Best thing about the chocolate shop—go,” Ben said.

“The chocolate, duh,” Eva said with a teasing lilt in her voice.

“And I’ll bet Miss Eulalie lets you eat as much as you can, right?”

“Of course,” Eva said. “We’ve got all the basic food groups covered: white in the morning, milk at lunch, and dark for dinner.”

He laughed. “Sounds like the perfect job.”

She threw him a quick smile, and he fought back a wild impulse to start doing push-ups.

“Actually, I like making them more than eating them. Is that weird? There’s something so satisfying about pulling the fondant out of the melted chocolate, putting a perfect little curl on the top.” She hesitated. “Sorry, that probably sounds lame.”

It didn’t sound lame at all. It made him want to watch her work, see her eyes come alight when she got the perfect curl.

“Uncle Ben, look at this!” It was Abbie this time. She extended her palm to reveal what looked like a small rock, only it was a matte green and gleamed in the moonlight.

“Sea glass,” Ben said. He plucked it from her hand and ran his thumb along the rounded edge. “Nice job, this is a good one.”

“Sea glass?” Eva asked.

Ben handed it to her and watched as she rubbed her delicate fingertips over it in fascination.

“It washes ashore from all over the world,” Abbie declared proudly. “Daddy says each piece could be hundreds of years old.”

“It’s really beautiful.” Eva held it up to let the moonlight shine through the frosty surface.

“Greens and browns are the most common; they’re usually from soda or beer bottles,” Ben said. “Or sometimes industrial glass like fishing floats. Most of it’s litter, but some comes from shipwrecks.”

Eva ran her nail along a small niche in the glass where the sand and salt hadn’t had time to completely obscure the shine. “It’s really neat,” she finally said, offering the glass back to Abbie.

“You can keep it,” Abbie offered.

“Are you sure? I mean, if it’s rare …”

Abbie shrugged. “I have a lot of green at home already.”

“Thank you.” Eva gave the girl a warm smile. “I love it.”

A whistle sounded above the waves, and Ben recognized it immediately, his dad’s call to muster the troops. The children heard it too; they did a one-eighty and charged back down the beach to where the embers of the fire hadn’t quite died out.

“Ben, can I ask you something?” Eva said as they followed the kids at a slower pace.

“Sure.”

“Did … did I steal your apartment?”

“Huh?”

She waved her hand toward the dunes, where the rooftop of his parents’ house was visible. “You could have had the apartment over the garage. Only now you can’t, because I’m there.”

Ben laughed. “Honestly, the thought never occurred to me.”

“You weren’t planning to stay there?”

“No.” He shook his head. “I love my family, but I don’t want to live at home again.”

“Your family is great,” Eva said with a slight defensive touch to her voice.

“True. But after being away for so long, I’m okay living across town from them. Don’t worry,” he added quickly, not wanting to worry her, “they’re a little intense sometimes, but way more Stark clan than Lannister.”

He’d been going for a laugh, but the look she gave him was totally blank. “Lannister?”

“Like in Game of Thrones? The Red Wedding, Rains of Castamere? We’re not into revenge killing. Though sometimes as kids Tyler and I would fight so much that—” He stopped when he saw the look on her face. The color had drained from her cheeks and her eyes were glazed, unfocused. “Are you okay?” Ben asked. He grabbed her arm, afraid she would faint, or something.

Eva shook her head as if to clear it. “Right, Game of Thrones.” Her voice shook. “Sorry, I got distracted for a second.” She threw a look to where the party was breaking up. “We should probably go help.” Before he could say another word, she hurried off, practically running down the beach away from him. During the chaos of cleaning up, she slipped away before he could tell her goodbye.

* * *

Eva closed the door and leaned against it, as if she could somehow shut out the past with her body. She turned the lock and dropped her shoes by the door, then dug the piece of sea glass from the pocket of her skirt. It was cool and smooth with indentations that fit against her fingertips perfectly, like a worry stone. She set it on the bookcase next to the lamp.

Worry was right. Clan. Revenge killing. He’d thrown those words around like they were nothing and sent her spiraling back into memories of dark days that were best forgotten.

She groaned. Of all the people in Indigo Bay to feel a spark with, she had to pick the cop? How long before he started digging into her past and showing up at her door wanting answers she couldn’t give?

Eva dropped her head into her hands as old fears and new combined to buzz at the base of her skull like a swarm of angry bees, trying to find a way in. Could she ever stop running?

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Book Review – The Handmaid’s Tale

Book Review – The Handmaid’s Tale

I am very behind the curve on The Handmaid’s Tale. I haven’t seen any of the TV show, but I finally read the book.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Margaret Atwood writes beautiful prose. There were paragraphs that made me want to go back and read them over and over, just for the pure pleasure of the way her words flowed. She is truly an artist with language and she is very good at setting a scene and building tension into a story. I also really liked how Atwood built on existing US culture and religion to create a story that’s extreme, but not entirely unbelievable as a post-apocalyptic world.

3.5 stars because once the novelty wore off, I had a hard time getting into the story. I didn’t care about any of the characters or what happened to them and there’s so much left unsaid and open to the reader’s interpretation, that I found the ending very unsatisfying. It’s also a pretty dark and depressing read most of the time, so not one I’d want to read again.

Q&A – 5 Things About Me

Q&A – 5 Things About Me

This will be an ongoing series where I answer the most common questions I get from readers:

Q1:  When did you start writing and why?

A: The first thing I remember writing was a story in first grade. We were given a picture of a duck, and we had to color it, then write a story for it. In mine, the duck was sad because it couldn’t find any friends. Then (plot twist!) a big group of animals showed up and they all became friends, the end. My teacher took me around to all the first and second grade classrooms and had me read it to them, so I guess it was probably above what you’d expect from a six-year-old. From then on, I started writing stories and trust me, my early versions were all just as riveting as the lonely duck story!

Q2:  What have you done besides write books?

A: I have a bachelors degree in marketing and I worked for several years in market research. I have also been (in reverse order) a legal secretary, an airline reservations agent, a retail clothing employee, a receptionist, and my first job was at McDonalds.

Q3:  What is your family like?

A: My husband and I recently celebrated our 28th anniversary. We have four kids, ages 22, 20, 13, and 12 – two girls and then two boys. The large gap is because we weren’t sure we were done having kids after the first two, then decided we weren’t. Our 13yo has autism and several other health issues, so he can take up quite a bit of our time.

Q4: What is your advice for new writers?

A: Figure out why you’re writing. Some people write because they have stories inside them that need to be told; others write because it’s therapeutic; and some write because they are skilled at it and can make a living. Your approach to writing will be different depending on why you’re doing it.

Q5: How did you get started?

My first book is a short Christmas story called An Unexpected Angel that was published in 2012 by Cedar Fort Publishers. Through that story, I met Lucy McConnell, a fellow Cedar Fort author, and we decided to write sweet romance and create the Snow Valley series. From there, it grew slowly. I’m definitely not as fast at writing as some of my author friends, but I’m at 20 books now and working on the next one.

Stay tuned for more! If you have any questions, you can send them to me at: AuthorJeanetteLewis@gmail.com

Book Excerpt – Kissing the Mountain Man

Book Excerpt – Kissing the Mountain Man

One of my favorite parts of a book to write is that moment when the characters have to choose if they’re going to run away, or push through the hard stuff and love each other. It’s a moment that sometimes gets overshadowed by all the feels and the kissy scenes, but it’s really the true climax of the book, the happily ever after, the reward we’ve been waiting for.

Sometimes in my books, it’s dramatic and filled with tension and chaos, and sometimes it’s soft and gentle, like a midnight sigh. In Kissing the Mountain Man, it’s a little of both and I love the physical actions that accompany the characters’ decisions … Kennedy, running after Clay’s truck in too-big boots … Clay seeing her in the rearview mirror and having to decide if he’ll stop, or continue driving out of her life.

These are the moments we dramatic authors are made for. *Swoon*

Here’s an excerpt from Kissing the Mountain Man, the book that landed me on the USA Today bestsellers list. I hope you enjoy it!

***

Kissing the Mountain Man – Excerpt

by Jeanette Lewis (All Rights Reserved)

In the rearview mirror, he saw Kennedy start running, following the truck. She was awkward in the boots, her coat flapping against her legs, hair flying. Clay put on the brakes, and when she reached him, she grabbed the tailgate and hauled herself into the back.

“Talk to me, Clay,” she hollered. She crossed her arms and settled onto the nylon bag that was his tent, her eyes flashing at him in the rearview mirror, daring him to stop her.

He threw the truck in park and climbed out, trying to tamp down the small spark of hope that flared suddenly in his chest. This was ridiculous. This would never work.

“What?” he demanded when he reached her side.

She took a deep breath. “It’s new. It’s uncertain. There are a lot of reasons it won’t work.”

He nodded, his heart falling.

“But,” Kennedy continued, “there are a lot of reasons why it could work too. I know it’s scary. I know it’s hard. But isn’t it worth a try? Isn’t it worth some compromise?”

His throat went tight. “I don’t know if I can stand to care about you and then lose you.”

“I don’t know if I can stand it either,” Kennedy said. “But I also can’t stand letting it go and then having to wonder for the rest of my life if I made a mistake.”

He was quiet.

“Hey.” She punched him lightly in the arm. “I cut down a tree. You bought powdered donuts from a store. We both did things this week we never thought we’d do. So why couldn’t we do this too? Why couldn’t this work?”

He clenched his fists, fighting against the fear that pounded in his chest. Beneath the fear, there was a small crack, a small glimmer of hope.

Kissing the Mountain Man is available exclusively on Amazon and is free for KU Readers!

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Tamarack Ridge Inspiration Photos

Tamarack Ridge Inspiration Photos

I’m not on Pinterest much anymore–I don’t like the way they’ve changed the layout and now it feels like a wall of ads instead of pictures from my friends. So now instead of using it as a way to find inspiration photos, I mostly just Google photos and save them to my computer. But that does make it harder to share them with you. Instead of simply unlocking a private Pinterest board, I actually have to go searching for them and upload them somewhere.

Ugh. *cue lazy sad music*

But, Tamarack Ridge is an awesome little town that exists only in my mind and my books. It’s modeled after the small town where I grew up, with some differences. Here are some of the inspiration photos I use when I write a new story for the Tamarack Ridge Romances. I hope you enjoy!

 

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Did you know that most of my books are free for Kindle Unlimited users? One of my most downloaded books is The Passionate One, Book 1 in my Billionaire Bride Pact series. Check it out!

Sweet Noel – Sneak Peek

Sweet Noel – Sneak Peek

Hi Bookworms,

I love Indigo Bay and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into my newest release, Sweet Noel, book two in the Indigo Bay Christmas Romances series.

Neither is looking for love, but is love looking for them?

Gina Andrews never imagined she’d be a single mother forced to move back to Indigo Bay and live with her parents. But she’s managing, all the while holding on to hope that her ex-husband will wake up to what he’s missing and agree to try again.

Noel Hamilton is a professional drifter and artist, in that order. He’s happy going wherever the wind takes him. He seeks freedom, art, and serenity.

When Noel meets the business end of Gina’s car and ends up in the hospital, he realizes he’s going nowhere fast. And when Gina’s mother steps in to help him, Gina and Noel are thrown together to stew in their mutual dislike.

But slowly, things change and as Indigo Bay prepares for the Christmas season, Gina begins to wonder if this year could be her sweetest Noel ever.

***

Chapter 1

Gina pulled into the familiar driveway in Cinnamon Hills, South Carolina, and killed the engine. Janice Millstead, her former mother-in-law, always went all-out for holidays. The two-story Victorian-style house was fully decorated for Thanksgiving, with pumpkins lining the porch and a garland of curly willow and autumn leaves woven through the gingerbread detailing. Gina knew that tomorrow, Janice would begin swapping out the autumn decorations for Christmas, and the entire house would sparkle like a piece of glass in the sand.

Janice was one thing Gina missed about her marriage. She’d been close to her former mother-in-law, but in the nine months since the divorce, Janice had made it clear that her loyalty was with her son, Lee, and not a cast-off daughter-in-law.

Lee and the boys, to be fair. Janice and Reid Millstead doted on their grandsons, and who was Gina to deny them the opportunity? Especially when the visitation schedule had been ordered by the court. Lee got Thanksgiving this year. She got Christmas.

Gina plucked her phone from the center console of her car and pulled up Lee’s number. She typed out a quick text.

I’m here.

An ache pounded in her chest. Thanksgiving was yet another bullet point in a long series of firsts this year, and she’d dreaded each one. She and Lee had divorced last February, deliberately timing it so the boys would have almost a year to adjust to their new situation before they faced the holidays. It seemed like a decade since she’d signed the divorce papers, and back then, it’d been easy to believe this time would never come. But it had, and each day in the calendar took her away from the comfortable life she’d known with Lee and onward toward a boatload of milestones she’d never wanted to reach.

First night moving back in with her parents in Indigo Bay. First time using her maiden name again. First birthday alone. First time at a parent/teacher conference as a single mom. And now, first Thanksgiving alone.

Well, not alone. She’d been with her family. But her boys were with Lee, so she might as well have been alone. The sting of missing them had been constant, a hovering sadness that hung low like the fog on a misty morning. But that was the deal. At least she could look forward to Christmas.

Her phone buzzed, and she picked it up. It was Lee.

They’ll be out in a minute.

Gina sent a simple thumbs-up emoji back. She leaned into the headrest and closed her eyes. In her long experience with Lee, “a minute” could mean two minutes or two hours. He’d keep them inside until he was ready to let them go and not a moment before.

That was how it had always been. They played by Lee’s rules. Even the divorce had been his idea. Funny how you needed two people to agree to a marriage, but only one to decide on a divorce. But then, you couldn’t force someone to stay married when they clearly wanted out. How could that be fair?

Gina’s attention drifted in the wash of the lights coming from Janice’s autumn décor. Orange and gold wound with warm white lights and gold-wired bows tied among the leaves, vivid against the ashy gray of the curly willow. Last year, she’d helped her mother-in-law hang this same garland along this same porch the day after Halloween. The sight was weirdly normal, like the past year hadn’t brought so much turmoil and sorrow.

It felt like everything from that life should have been destroyed with the divorce. But life went on, even though it seemed to have left her behind.

The front door finally flew open, and her boys barreled out. Gina pulled her attention back and watched as they exchanged hugs with Lee and then Janice on the porch. Jordan was eight now and showing signs of entering a growth spurt. Arthur, at age five, was still chubby cheeked, with wide blue eyes that were at once full of childlike innocence and dashed with pain someone so young should not endure. The boys were holding bags of something, most likely treats from Grandma’s pantry. Janice loved to spoil her grandchildren, just like she’d spoiled her children. Maybe that was part of the problem with Lee.

Gina’s smile was genuine as the boys threw open the doors of the car and climbed in, one on each side. Arthur’s cowlick was back with a vengeance. No matter how much water or gel she used on it, the hair refused to be tamed, and Arthur finished every day looking like he’d just tumbled out of bed.

“How was it?” she asked.

“Great!” Jordan blurted. “I ate almost an entire pumpkin pie by myself. And Grandma gave me these.” He held up a plastic bag full of homemade rolls.

Gina’s mouth watered. Her own mother was a terrific cook, but no one could match Janice’s homemade dinner rolls. How many times had she sat at a family dinner in this house and eaten the same rolls drenched in butter? A pang hit her heart. She was not welcome there anymore, and she knew it.

“An entire pumpkin pie?” she asked, pushing away the sadness. Her therapist had told her to focus on the positive, and she was gradually getting better at steering her thoughts in an optimistic direction—at least around the boys. “Impressive,” she told Jordan. “Are we talking slice after slice, or did you just belly up to the entire pie and go for it?”

He giggled. “Slice after slice. But next time I’ll ask Grandma to make me one of my own. I’ll bet I could eat it all.”

“Next time” would be Thanksgiving with Gina, probably at her parents’ house in Indigo Bay, but she wasn’t about to burst his bubble. “I’m sure Grandma would be happy to make your own special pie,” she told her son. “Both buckled?”

She twisted in her seat to check the road and their seat belts, then looked back to the house. Her throat went tight. Lee still stood on the porch, lifting one hand in farewell.

“Wave to your dad,” Gina instructed.

Lee was wearing a pair of khakis she’d bought him at the mall in Charleston and hemmed by hand. Lee had short legs, so she’d always had to hem his pants. She’d tried to act like it was no big deal, but he was sensitive about his height. Gina never wore heels around him, since that would make her taller than he was. Even on their wedding day, she’d worn flats.

Paired with the khakis, Lee wore a red plaid button-up and a tie the boys had given him for Father’s Day last year. That could be a good sign. If he was still wearing the clothes from their marriage, maybe he wasn’t entirely ready to move on. Maybe he was having second thoughts—remembering how good they’d been together. They’d been happy once; maybe they could be again. It was the idea she’d been secretly clinging to since the divorce.

She forced a smile and waved quickly at her ex-husband, then backed out of the driveway. Lee returned the wave halfheartedly, but it was enough to lift Gina’s spirits. She wouldn’t push. Lee never reacted well to pressure. He’d have to come back around on his own, and in the meantime, she would do her best to be patient.

The boys chattered about the day, filling her head with memories of other Thanksgivings as she made the series of the slow turns to take them out of the neighborhood and to the highway. It was a two-hour drive from Cinnamon Hills to Indigo Bay on a normal day, but with Thanksgiving traffic, Gina expected it would take much longer.

“Can we listen to Christmas carols?” Arthur asked from his seat directly behind her.

“Sure.” Gina jabbed at the buttons on the radio, searching through the stations.

“It’s too early for Christmas carols,” Jordan moaned loudly. He sprawled across his side of the car, straining his seat belt to its limits. “Besides, they’re lame. Let’s listen to something good, like OneRepublic.”

“Christmas carols are good,” Gina said evenly. She pressed a few more buttons and finally found a station. “Frosty the Snowman” burst from the speakers.

“No!” Jordan let out a frustrated howl. “This is so dumb.”

“I like it,” Arthur shot back.

“It’s a baby song,” Jordan insisted.

“Stop it, both of you,” Gina ordered, turning the radio down. “You just got in the car and you’re already fighting.”

“But Mom, he likes stupid stuff,” Jordan said.

“Do not,” Arthur said. “You’re a bully.”

“Stop!” Gina took the next turn a little faster than normal, and the boys went quiet. At least she had their attention. “We’ll do a Christmas carol and then a OneRepublic song. Deal?”

“Why does he always get his way just because he’s the baby?” Jordan mumbled.

“No more complaining,” Gina said. “Tell me something good about today.”

“Dad has a girlfriend,” Arthur said after a moment of silence.

Gina gasped, the air rushing into her lungs so fast it hurt. Her eyes pinned Arthur’s in the rearview mirror. “What did you say?”

“Dad has a girlfriend.”

“How do you know that?”

“She was there today,” Jordan said, with all the carelessness of a young child who doesn’t consider parents could have feelings. “She’s nice.”

Gina felt her cheeks flush with heat. “He brought her to Thanksgiving dinner?”

“Yeah,” Arthur said casually, as if those words didn’t have the power to cut straight through to Gina’s heart. “Her name is Kim. She’s pretty.”

“Pretty how?”

“Mom, look out!” Jordan screamed.

Gina whipped her attention back to the road, but it was too late. A man had appeared out of nowhere, stumbling from between two parked cars. Gina stomped on the brakes, and there was a squeal of the tires and then a muffled thump as the bumper of the car struck the man’s legs. She met his shocked gaze through the windshield for a split second; then he was gone, crumpling to the asphalt in front of the car.

Continue reading Sweet Noel

 

Is this it? Is this The Old?

Is this it? Is this The Old?

You guys… what has happened to my coordination? Today I had to change the code on the garage door opener and as I was getting down the ladder, I just … stepped off? When I was still halfway up the ladder? Like my brain just said, that’s enough, we’re done here. And then I landed on the floor of the garage.

Last month, when we were camping at my parents’s house, I did the same thing. Got up in the middle of the night to go in the house for water (because we dry camp at their house) and just did a Peter Pan off the top step of the trailer and landed on the cement pad.

I’m fine, just a few dignity bruises. But seriously, what? Did something in my brain switch to self-destruct mode when I wasn’t paying attention? This does not bode well for my next decades of life. Eep.

New release: Sweet Noel

New release: Sweet Noel

Neither is looking for love, but is love looking for them?

Gina Andrews never imagined she’d be a single mother forced to move back to Indigo Bay and live with her parents. But she’s managing, all the while holding on to hope that her ex-husband will wake up to what he’s missing and agree to try again.

Noel Hamilton is a professional drifter and artist, in that order. He’s happy going wherever the wind takes him. He seeks freedom, art, and serenity.

When Noel meets the business end of Gina’s car and ends up in the hospital, he realizes he’s going nowhere fast. And when Gina’s mother steps in to help him, Gina and Noel are thrown together to stew in their mutual dislike.

But slowly, things change and as Indigo Bay prepares for the Christmas season, Gina begins to wonder if this year could be her sweetest Noel ever.

Get Sweet Noel:

Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple