by Carol Burnside
Contemporary Romance, Sensual
Release date: 1.22.2014
Novel length, e-book
This book is the first in the Sweetwater Springs series of stand-alone books.
Sam Moreland is desperate to keep his daughter out of the clutches of her abusive mother seeking custody. He resists legal advice to provide the court with a complete family unit because past relationships have soured him on love.
Though she yearns for children, Rosie Baxter knows a failed pregnancy has likely left her barren. She remains single rather than bring her problems into a marriage and concentrates on her business with its financial woes.
A temporary marriage pact means Rosie provides Sam with the illusion of family in return for an influx of cash into her store. But kisses for show become all too real. When outside threats shake their growing bond, each must trust the other with their darkest secret or lose their best chance for love and happiness.
Fans of Marie Ferrarella, Tanya Michaels, Leanne Banks and Susan Mallery will enjoy this series, which contains sensual, contemporary romance against a backdrop of family and community in the small town of Sweetwater Springs, Arkansas.
Also in the series:
Book 2: Her Unexpected Family (Claire and Travis), February, 2014
Book 3: His Small Town Princess (J.T. and Cass), March 2014
Other titles are planned for this series.
“What you need is a wife.”
Sam Moreland glared at his attorney and longtime friend Bill Powers. “Right. Since my first marriage was so much fun.”
“Hey, you asked—”
“I didn’t come by for relationship advice, buddy. I wanted to be sure my position as custodial parent is solid, that’s all.”
Bill adjusted the suspender creasing his starched white button-down and settled into a leather executive chair. “Yours wasn’t an easy marriage, I’ll grant you that. But not all women are like your ex. I’m offering sound legal advice here.”
A chill that had nothing to do with the air conditioning washed over Sam. Needing to move, he paced beside picture windows showcasing a spectacular view of the New York City skyline. Even though he enjoyed living here, this particular view was wasted on him. Skyscrapers always made him feel he was in a steel and glass cage. Trapped. Like when Jasmine had gotten her claws into him. Damned if he could understand how Bill tolerated working on top of the world.
His back to the room, Sam felt Bill’s calm gray eyes cataloging his tension as nonchalantly as he assessed jurors during a trial. Bill knew his Achilles’ heel—a tiny package of unconditional love who’d turned him inside out the day she was born.
He took a deep breath and turned. “You still think I made a mistake in the way I handled things.”
Bill slashed his hand in a sideways motion, as if wiping the past away. “You got custody. That was the important thing then. But the fact is, now we have no proof of Jasmine’s drug use or her indifference toward Lorelei.”
“Don’t you mean gross neglect?”
Bill acknowledged his point with a nod. “If she surfaces, believing her loss of custody hasn’t played well for her in the press, you could be looking at a repeat performance without an ace up your sleeve. A wife would at least give you the advantage.”
The idea made him want to bolt for home, grab Lorelei and run. Good thing they were packed and ready to go. He planted his feet. Bill didn’t give advice on a whim. When he did, he usually had sound reasoning behind it.
“Have you heard from Jasmine’s lawyer?”
“No. But your asking the question tells me you aren’t as secure in your position as you seem.”
“I’m moving to a small town, where I have a network of friends.” At least he hoped that was still the case. The Baxters had seemed receptive to his moving back to Sweetwater Springs, south of the Arkansas capital.
Spending summers there with his grandparents and hanging with the Baxter kids, he’d felt more at home than anywhere else. Swimming in Sweetwater Creek along the back edge of their adjoining properties, fried catfish suppers on paper plates, watermelon so cold it hurt your teeth and toads croaking on a muggy summer evening were among the things he wanted his daughter to experience, too. “Lorelei will have a stable home life and a safe environment. How would having a wife be an advantage?”
“Insurance, in the event of another—and in my opinion—inevitable custody fight. Even today, some judges look more favorably on a family unit with two parents. Any judge will see that the move takes Lorelei further away from her mother. A marriage looks like you left to provide more stability.”
Sam scowled. “Should I hang a ‘Wife Wanted’ sign from the window as I ride into town? Run a newspaper ad?” He shook his head.
“You have resources and a brain. Use them again.”
Sam sank into the nearest chair with a sick feeling of inevitability. Truth was, he’d do whatever it took to keep his two-year-old daughter out of his ex-wife’s clutches. Even sacrifice his hard-won single status. He owed Lorelei that and more.
“Wives don’t grow on trees, you know.” He winced at the acceptance in his tone. Back in college, Bill would have latched onto the advantage and driven his point home. It was one reason Sam had chosen his friend to handle his divorce. The killer instincts that had Bill’s friends cringing during contact sports years ago served him well in the courtroom.
“Then make it a business transaction. Look for a woman who’d make a suitable wife. Find what she needs from you and close the deal.”
Bill’s advice made him even more antsy, a condition that wouldn’t be relieved until he was several hundred miles from this city and Jasmine. If Sam needed further proof his friend was serious, Bill’s avoiding the jugular provided it. He could have mentioned a lot of things Sam had handled wrong. Like how he’d failed in the role of father or seriously misjudged the woman he’d married.
“I’ll think about it, but right now I need to get going. Lorelei gets anxious if I leave her with the nanny too long.” Sam offered his hand as Bill rounded the desk. “Thanks for everything. I didn’t want to leave the city without saying goodbye.”
“I’m glad you stopped in.” Bill took his hand, pulling him into a quick half-hug and backslap that left Sam feeling nostalgic and a little embarrassed. Other than the occasional handshake, Lorelei was the only one he’d had physical contact with in longer than he cared to admit. He headed toward the elevator.
Bill followed a couple paces behind, their footsteps silenced by the plush carpeting. “I’ll let you know if anything develops on this end.”
Sam pushed the down button without comment.
“It doesn’t have to be permanent. With a prenup you can enjoy your freedom again without much fuss.” Bill thrust a hand into his slacks pocket, fingers sifting through the coins there.
A whoosh and a soft ding signaled the elevator’s arrival. Sam stepped inside, his hand against the doors to prevent them closing. Bill was the most unflappable person he knew.
The nervous clinking continued.
Sam squared his shoulders and raised his gaze to Bill’s. “Whatever it takes.”
The coins quieted. Bill acknowledged his response with a curt nod, as if it was already a done deal. Sam released the doors, fighting the feeling of being trapped.
* * *
At precisely nine o’clock, Rosie Baxter unlocked the front door from inside the shop, turned on the lights and flipped the sign to open. Rosie’s Posies was now officially ready for business.
Moving with an efficiency born from years of experience, she donned a bibbed apron over her slacks and blouse and tackled the routine task of opening the register.
It felt weird to be starting her workday with the intent of ending it well before lunch. She almost never took time off, but Sam’s return to Sweetwater Springs warranted a deviation from the norm. The guilt she’d expected to feel about leaving the shop under her sister-in-law’s care was noticeably absent, with good reason. Sara could handle anything.
In the back room, Rosie set a clean white bucket under the faucet, and turned on the water, her fingers trembling with a sense of urgency and anticipation. An hour, maybe less, and he’d be right here in her shop.
She ignored the impulse to check her appearance in a mirror. Besides, she knew what she’d see. The same waist-length, reddish-brown braid she secured her hair into every morning. No doubt a few tendrils had escaped, as usual. And it wasn’t like a miracle had occurred, making her tall and willowy, like the supermodel Sam had married.
When a hand touched her arm, she jumped in surprise.
“Sorry. I called your name, but I guess you didn’t hear me over the faucet,” Sara said. “One of these days I’m going to beat you to work.”
Rosie grinned at the long-standing promise. “Not as long as you’ve got three kids to delay you.”
“J.T. qualifies, don’t you think? Aren’t most men still little boys at heart?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” A satisfied twinkle appeared in Sara’s gaze. “I’d have to say your brother was acting very manly this morning.”
“Okay. Eww. Too much information.” Rosie turned off the spigot and carried the partially filled bucket to a position about three feet from the refrigerated units, her assistant’s chuckles chasing at her heels.
“Maybe you’ll soon have a few innuendos of your own to share.” Sara reached for an apron before joining Rosie in choosing flowers for the day’s orders and standing them in the bucket of water.
“What makes you say that?” Her love life, or lack thereof, was mostly by choice. Rosie didn’t see that changing any time soon.
“I’m thinking all the sprucing up you’ve been doing to your house and the shop has a definite purpose behind it—to impress a certain best-selling author.”
“Oh, please!” The admonition escaped a trifle sharper than she’d intended. “Sam and I have known each other forever.”
“Like another brother?”
“More like he’s a . . . cousin who came to visit every summer.” Her mouth refused to form the word brother where Sam was concerned. She hadn’t seen him in that role since shortly after her fourteenth birthday. By then, he’d been orphaned and living here with his grandparents for several years.
J.T. and Travis had teased her about her rapidly developing figure—as only brothers can—until she’d burst into tears and run away. Sam had effectively stopped the flow.
The chaste brush of his lips across hers had shocked her, but the recklessness in his gaze had subtly altered her world, leaving her breathless and harboring a serious crush. Gosh, she hadn’t thought about that in forever.
“I never got that soft, dreamy expression from thinking about my cousins,” Sara teased.
Rosie averted her face, remembering the comment that had started her wool-gathering. “The downstairs apartment needed airing and cleaning after being closed for months. I couldn’t let them walk into a dust pit. And the paint was . . . ” she flipped her hand dismissively, “customary for a new tenant, don’t you think?”
“And the shop?”
Rosie shrugged. “A business decision. Foster’s Formals and Frippery wouldn’t have included us on their recommended list if I hadn’t given the shop a facelift. You have to admit this place needed it.”
Meeting triple F’s rigid standards meant new shelving and paint in the stock room, a thorough cleaning throughout, new window displays, and having an expensive Venetian plaster finish applied to the walls of the small gift shop.
“That’s true.” Sara shrugged. “I would ask why Sam mostly corresponds with you when J.T. and Travis were his buddies, but I suppose you’d have a ready response for that one, too.”
They lapsed into silence, each taking an order and pulling flowers as if their movements were choreographed.
“I’m the only one who answers his e-mails in a reasonable time frame,” Rosie blurted out, certain it was true.
Sara pressed her lips together, struggling to repress a snicker that broke through anyway.
“Oh, be quiet.” Rosie’s face heated and she turned to survey the sales counter and gift area.
Everything looked fresh and clean. Even the wooden folding chairs at the bride’s table were now trimmed with ice-blue satin tied into a big bow around the ladder-backs. With careful money management, the shop would be fine. She should see a profitable return through referred business, but it would be a while since Foster’s wouldn’t release their new list for another two months.
Rosie wanted Sam to see how she had changed. She’d barely entered her teens when Sam left for college. Since then, he’d returned infrequently, the last time at J.T. and Sara’s wedding seven years ago. The little girl he’d teased and whose braids he’d affectionately pulled had morphed into a college graduate, successful business woman and a homeowner.
She’d gotten engaged, then became disillusioned and broke it off. But that was four years ago and best forgotten.
After placing the last of the blossoms in the bucket, Sara pulled on a light sweater and stepped into the prep room. A glass-fronted room with a long counter across it allowed them to monitor walk-in traffic while creating floral arrangements in cool comfort.
From behind the small sales area in the front, Rosie double-checked the workload, satisfied one person could manage it alone. She glanced at the plain wall clock above the door. Only 9:30. How long would it take Sam and Lorelei to drive here from their North Little Rock hotel in rush hour traffic?
The bell above the door jangled as a customer entered. She smiled in welcome, thankful for the distraction. They’d barely placed an order and departed when the bell was knocked about again.
“Be right with you.” She finished separating the ticket and put it in the orders-for-delivery box, then turned and sucked in a surprised breath.
“Sam!” His name burst from her lips, but her throat hitched around the sound, turning it into a sigh. She rounded the counter and halted, drinking him in.
“Hello, beautiful.” Their gazes collided and held. His features, so dear and familiar, were more mature. To be expected for someone who’d married and become a dad. Perhaps the divorce, some eighteen months earlier was responsible for his guarded expression.. Even so, a thrill shivered over her, making her startled heart thump more crazily than a moment before.
His eyes, impossibly dark and serious behind nearly black brows, held traces of good humor in the tiny lines fanning from the outer corners toward his hairline. The slight bump in an otherwise straight nose, and a few gray hairs above neatly trimmed sideburns marked the passage of years.
What now? She wanted to fly into his arms, but that seemed awfully forward for someone you hadn’t seen in years. Plus, he had his hands full with his daughter, a dark fairy who regarded her with open distrust.
She squelched the impulse and opted for safe. “Welcome home.” I thought you’d never get here.
He stepped closer, his eyes softening over a wide smile. Lorelei began to squirm, and Sam stood her gently on the tiled floor.
Unable to restrain the affection bubbling inside her, Rosie reached for him as he opened his arms and caught her in a fierce embrace.
“God, it’s good to see you again!” he said against her shoulder, his touch creating odd fluttery feelings in her stomach. “I didn’t realize until I reached the outskirts of town how much I’d missed this place and my friends.”
Friends. Rosie hugged him back, savoring the moment and the faint spicy scent that tugged at her nose.
He released her and stepped back an arms’ length, leaving her with the hollowed-out feeling she’d become well acquainted with. She preferred it over the alternative, after her last romantic entanglement had ended so badly.
Sam did a slow survey of her from head to toe. “If the guys in New York could see what I’m seeing, they’d fly south like the geese in winter.”
Rosie’s pulse jerked until she saw the teasing glint in his eyes. “Oh, stop.”
“What, you don’t believe me? As I recall, the last time we were together you were getting your fair share of male attention.”
Rosie could feel the heat stealing across her cheeks. “It was a wedding. Everyone had romance on the brain and too much bubbly, that’s all.”
“Ah.” Sam’s noncommittal comment was accompanied by a small wince. It was the closest they’d ever come to talking about what had now become a moment best forgotten.
She shrugged off the feeling she’d said something amiss, and smiled at the wary little face peeking from behind his knee. “Well, hello, there.”
Sam knelt on one knee beside his daughter. “Lorelei, this is Miss Rosie, a friend of Daddy’s.”
Rosie glanced at Sam, pleased he hadn’t forgotten the Southern tradition of introducing adults to children with a title. His gaze stayed on Lorelei as he waited for a response.
Lorelei merely looked to him for reassurance.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. Rosie’s the nice lady who’s going to let us live in her house until we find one of our own.” He stood and turned back to Rosie. “She’s more clingy than usual since we left New York. I’m hoping it’ll pass with time.”
“I’m sure it will.” She liked how Sam’s voice softened when he talked to Lorelei. During one of their recent phone calls, he’d warned her his daughter was terrified of the dark and strangers who approached her too fast, but hadn’t explained why.
“Pwetty,” Lorelei said, bringing Rosie back to the present as she pointed toward the flowers inside their refrigerated cases. Her big brown eyes sparkled with interest.
“She’s beautiful, Sam. Good thing she took after her mother,” she teased. If Rosie hadn’t been looking directly at his face, she would have missed the tightening of his jaw.
“I like to think I see a few Moreland traits in her occasionally. In any case, She’s a good kid. Puts up with me.”
“Then she must be angelic, as well.”
Sam rewarded Rosie’s acerbic statement with a short, humorless laugh. “I wouldn’t go that far. Wait until you see her grumpy act at nap time.”
“Speaking of that, we should probably get going so we can get her room squared away. Unless you’d like to reacquaint yourself with Sweetwater Springs.”
“I soaked in the changes on the way here. Getting settled would be good. My deadlines aren’t moving just because I am.” He tweaked the long braid hanging over her shoulder. “Good to see some things are the same.”
She hesitated, uncertain how to respond. She wasn’t the same, not at all, not after her ex-fiancé’s negative impact on her life. Dean’s need to control through mind games and manipulation was enough to turn a woman off men forever.
In the end, she opted to ignore Sam’s statement. “Even with the trendy coffee shop on the corner and the new office park by the freeway, a few minutes are all you need to see everything. Sweetwater Springs isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis.”
A slight movement to her left reminded Rosie they weren’t alone. “You remember J.T.’s wife, Sara, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course.” He took a step toward Sara, hand offered for a polite shake, his gray T-shirt stretching over well-muscled shoulders. Lorelei followed, clinging shyly to his jean-clad leg like a lifeline. His fingertips played in her dark hair. Its wispy look and her large, serious eyes gave her a soft, fragile appearance.
“I’ve read all your books,” Sara gushed. “J.T., too. He likes the action, I like the romance.”
“Well, thanks. I’m glad. How is he?”
“Quite virile, if recent reports are to be believed,” Rosie quipped.
Sara colored delicately. “I’d better get back to work. My slave-driver boss is very strict about the hired help keepin’ to schedule. Good seeing you again, Sam. We’ll have y’all out to the house for supper real soon.” With that, she waved and re-entered the cool confines of the prep room.
Sam did a slow circle so Lorelei could follow, taking in the cooling units, bridal table, gift shop and the display window. “This is nice. What made you choose to become a florist?”
“My Aunt Laurel made me a good deal on the place when she retired to Florida. Between my business degree and the experience I had working summers here, it felt like a good fit.”
“You must be doing all right. The place looks good.”
Suddenly all the late evening hours spent scrubbing and painting were worthwhile.
“Yes, but she spends way too much time here.” Sara’s voice came from the doorway of a cooler where she separated a few sprays of Gypsophilia, or baby’s breath, from a thick bunch. “Maybe now that you’re around, she’ll accept a few more invitations and rejoin the living.”
Rosie hadn’t heard Sara reenter the room and was momentarily tongue-tied. Sam’s frown and narrowed gaze urged her to set the record straight. “It’s not like I’m a hermit. I’m in here meeting the public every day. Is it any wonder I’d like a little quiet time?”
Sara shook her head and flicked a don’t-you-believe-it look at Sam. “She eats, sleeps and breathes this place. Some days she doesn’t even leave for lunch. Eats at her desk in the back.”
She started back into the prep room, then turned with a frown. “Rosie, these don’t look as perky as they should. Are these from the batch we received yesterday?”
“Has to be. We barely had enough to finish the Slocum wedding on Friday, remember?” Her gaze wandered to Sam. “Twelve attendants on each side. Can you imagine?”
A sound of disgust came from his throat. “Waste of good money.”
“Lucky for us though. That wedding brought us the most profitable month yet.” Not so profitable that she could afford anything major to go wrong over the next few months. She made a mental note to have the refrigeration in that unit checked first thing tomorrow.
“Perfect example of Miss Workaholic’s tendencies right there. Rosie stayed here until midnight making the bridesmaid’s bouquets.” Sara looked at Sam with amusement, but he was stroking Lorelei’s head, his attention on her.
Sara exchanged what-gives shrugs with Rosie. “Well, I’d better get back to it.”
“And I’m out of here. You’re on your own.” Rosie extricated herself from the apron and stowed it under the counter. “Throw some extra preservative in with the baby’s breath, and I’ll check it again tomorrow.”
Sara’s gaze flicked over Sam again. “You got it.”
Rosie smiled at the rounded eyes watching her from behind Sam’s knee. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
She was leading the way to her house, window of her aging van partially lowered to release the trapped heat, air conditioner on full blast before she allowed herself to examine the feelings of dissatisfaction surrounding Sam’s arrival.
His warm embrace and teasing aside, something wasn’t right.
She’d wanted him to see her as the mature grown-up and competent businesswoman she’d become over the last two years since grad school. Instead, she’d gotten the distinct impression Sam had withdrawn from the conversation a little further with each mention of her involvement in the business.
Both his mother and ex-wife had managed high-profile careers. Maybe hers wasn’t impressive enough for him. Rosie made a sound of disgust in her throat. Or maybe she was being too sensitive and egotistical. He was probably tired or something.
Until a few months ago, she and Sam had drifted to the greeting card stage in their correspondence, never completely losing touch. Over time their sporadic communications had become less personal. E-mails and phone calls regarding his move and living arrangements had alleviated some of that distance.
He’d probably felt a little apprehension about the reunion, as she had. They’d both changed, she in ways she’d never imagined. It was only natural to expect a period of adjustment, to wonder if they could reestablish their former easy friendship or if the bonds of childhood would remain elusive.
Oh, who was she kidding? Easy? Ever since that one-time aberration in their behavior—the kiss—there had existed an undercurrent of tension in their relationship. One she’d never had enough courage to examine closely. Therein lay the source of her apprehension. Did he feel it too?
* * *
Sam braked behind Rosie’s slowing van, then stopped as she pulled over in front of a house that stood proudly a good fifty feet off the road. The soft gray of a weathered roof, porch floor, and shutters subdued the large expanse of gleaming whiteness. A wraparound porch, dotted with wicker furniture displaying faded flowery cushions, flared around the house like a hoop skirt, while the porch ceiling reflected cool blue. Boston Ferns hung at regular intervals across the front of the house.
He sighed. Although he hadn’t made the best decisions lately, especially where his personal life was concerned, this was a good choice. It looked like . . . home, and he’d wanted something comfortable with a yard his daughter could play in. Until he and Lorelei could find a place of their own, this one would more than do.
Rosie stepped around the front of her van and motioned for Sam to pull forward. He rolled down the window and winced at the wall of heat. How did she manage to look so cool?
Her skin had a soft, dewy look lots of women would kill for. And her Caribbean blue eyes had depths a man could happily drown in. He’d almost done so while dancing with her at that damn wedding. It was one memory both of them avoided talking about.
“Back your trailer into the driveway along the side the house,” Rosie instructed. “That’ll put it right at your front door and make it easier to unload.”
He maneuvered the U-Haul into position, and saw he could access the apartment from a private side entrance.
Sam retrieved Lorelei from her car seat and stood looking at the house. She held onto the edge of his jeans with one hand and clutched a worn baby blanket in the other.
“Love the house, Rosie,” he called to her with a grin. “What a great porch.”
“There’s a screened-in version across the back. Both the apartment and house rear doors open to it.” She sauntered across the yard toward him, rounded hips swaying. Rosie had most definitely filled out in all the right places, her body more curvy than he remembered. Holding her earlier, however briefly, had about overloaded his senses.
“I appreciate you letting us stay here,” he said, pretending fascination with the house before she could catch him gawking.
“Hey, I need a tenant. You need a place to live. It’s as simple as that.”
“Lucky me. A great place to live and a pretty landlady. What more could a single guy want?” he teased, mostly because he’d come to believe it was expected.
She turned to the house with a shake of her head. “Come on, Slick, I’ll show you and Lorelei your new digs. You can save all that charm for somebody who’ll swallow it.”
Sam gazed after Rosie in amazement for a moment before realizing she didn’t want flattery. After living with Jasmine, so insecure and obsessed about every nuance of her appearance, he couldn’t quite wrap his head around the concept.
If Sara’s teasing were to be believed, the floral business was now Rosie’s life. He certainly hadn’t expected that either.
He’d seen her playing with her doll babies as a girl, laughed indulgently at her preteen wedding plans, and would’ve predicted Rosie married and the mother of a kid or two by now. Not that she couldn’t have those things and a career too. Just because his mother and Jasmine couldn’t handle both didn’t mean it wasn’t possible.
Rosie had showered him with protective, maternal instincts after his parents died, sometimes sitting beside him for hours without talking, their bare feet dangling into the creek waters. Until then he’d only seen her as J.T. and Travis’s little sister, an occasional tagalong. That summer, she’d become a friend.
Had the loving, nurturing girl he’d known changed so much that a career shifted into her number one priority? The thought saddened him, followed by the sharp pinch of shame. At the least, he owed her the benefit of the doubt.
She’d done more than sit with him. She’d stuck by him at a time when most people shied away, tolerating his vile moods and letting his caustic words roll off her shoulders with a wisdom that had belied her youth. They’d been an odd duo for sure, the sixteen-year-old boy and a girl of eleven. Time would tell if his Rosie still existed within the distracting outer shell she’d developed.
Whoa. His Rosie?
Since when had he started thinking of her like that?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“From friendship to love . . . a bumpy ride, but so worth it. This was my first time reading works by Carol Burnside, but it definitely will not be my last.” Shirley Buchanan, Romance Book Haven, 5/5 stars (Goodreads)
“This story tugs at the heart strings. Mrs. Burnside produces a perfect afternoon read not to be missed. You not only fall in love with the characters but the town of Sweetwater Springs!” – Susan May, 5/5 stars, Amazon review
“I loved this book, including the storyline and characters! can’t wait to read more in the series from this author.” — Anon, 4/5 stars (B&N)
“I thought I would take a quick look at the first chapter… Before I knew it, I was more than halfway through the book and the only reason I finally quit reading was because my Kindle battery died. I admit I came home from work the next day and finished the story. This book was well worth the sleepy morning.
A Suitable Wife has it all. Passion, friendship, a villainous ex (or two), picturesque settings, heart touching back-story, dedicated family, and some great love scenes. Sweetwater Springs is a place where anyone would feel welcome. Carol Burnside has created a community that I hope to visit often. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.” – Anon, 5/5 stars, Amazon review