Tag Archives: Barbara Bretton

Barbara Bretton Continues The Love In “Stranger In Paradise”

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REVIEW:

If you read my October 17 review of Barbara Bretton’s Sentimental Journey, Book One in The Home Front Series, you know I love this series. Book Two, Stranger in Paradise continues with another mid-century tale that will tug at your heartstrings.

It begins with a whirlwind romance between an American reporter and a British journalist, Mac and Jane, that culminates with a quick wedding. Blissful as all this seems, there are obstacles on the horizon. The story is set in the 1950’s . . . a time of political uncertainty, cold wars, communism and blacklists. When controversial elements from their past create strife, the newlyweds must learn to bind together lest they be torn apart.

Once again, Ms. Bretton has infused life into a story by re-creating an era so vividly, you’ll swear you’ve stepped back in time. Her characters are interesting, likable  and draw you into their world with little effort. This book was a wonderful way to reminisce about a time I remember from my youth. For younger readers, it’s a great way to experience a piece of Americana.

But regardless of age,  The Home Front Series are timeless tales that will appeal to romance fans of any age.

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Stranger In Paradise

Home Front

Book Two

Barbara Bretton

Genre: Post -World War 2 Romance

Publisher: Free Spirit Press

Date of Publication: October 15, 2014

ISBN: 9781940665085

ASIN: B00MTC0RBY

Number of pages: 347

Word Count: approx. 70,000

Cover Artist: Tammy Seidick

Book Description:

Before they became The Greatest Generation, they were young men and women in love . . .

The year is 1953 and London is throwing the party of the century. Even though the ravages of World War II are still visible throughout the kingdom, the world is gathering on the Mall to celebrate the coronation of England’s beautiful young queen.

For almost ten years, journalist Mac Weaver has been far from his New York home. America has changed since the war ended and he wonders if there’s still a place for him in the land of backyard barbecues and a new Ford in every driveway.

However a chance encounter with beautiful English reporter Jane Townsend is about to change his life forever. As the new monarch waves from the window of her fairy-tale glass coach, a homesick Yank and a lonely Brit fall in love.

One week later, Mr. and Mrs. Mac Weaver board the Queen Mary for New York and a guaranteed happily ever after future in the land where dreams come true.

But there are dark shadows on the horizon that threaten Mac and Jane’s happiness and family scandals that just might tear them apart . . .

“This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”

–Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Available at Amazon   Kobo  Smashwords  BN  iTunes

Read a sneak peek at http://www.barbarabretton.com/sip.shtml

About the Author:bretton

A full-fledged Baby Boomer, Barbara Bretton grew up in New York City during the Post-World War II 1950s with the music of the Big Bands as the soundtrack to her childhood. Her father and grandfather served in the navy during the war. Her uncles served in the army. None of them shared their stories.

But her mother, who had enjoyed a brief stint as Rosie the Riveter, brought the era to life with tales of the Home Front that were better than any fairy tale. It wasn’t until much later that Barbara learned the rest of the story about the fiancé who had been lost in the war, sending her mother down a different path that ultimately led to a second chance at love . . . and to the daughter who would one day tell a little part of that story.

There is always one book that’s very special to an author, one book or series that lives deep inside her heart.  SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY and STRANGER IN PARADISE, books 1 and 2 of the Home Front series, are Barbara’s. She hopes they’ll find a place in your heart too.

www.barbarabretton.com

www.barbarabretton.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorbarbarabretton

Twitter: www.twitter.com/barbarabretton

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Barbara_Bretton

 

REVIEW: “Sentimental Journey” Has The Right Ticket For Romance

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Review:

Romance is ageless. From Adam and Eve to Antony and Cleopatra to Prince William and Kate Middleton . . . the world loves lovers. We can now add another couple to the list – Catherine Wilson and Johnny Danza.

“Sentimental Journey” is a historical novel set in World War II, weaving a tale of love lost and broken hearts but also of hope, compromise and following dreams. The book was originally published by Harlequin in 1990. However, it’s as good twenty years later as it was back then – thanks to Ms. Bretton’s wonderful ability to pen unforgettable love stories.

I enjoyed the details of this era. As I flipped through the pages, I found myself transported to another time and place, mesmerized like a small child curled on the floor at my Grandmother’s feet, listening to her recant a story from her youth. Ms. Bretton’s writing style boasts a familiarity and comfort that wraps around you like a warm blanket on a chilly afternoon.

I especially liked the tug of war between Catherine and Johnny as they struggle to define  personal identity as well as carve out parameters in a fledgling relationship . Johnny wants his future wife barefoot and pregnant but Catherine has discovered new independence running her father’s business. History reveals this was a common occurrence following the war when women were forced out of their homes to perform  factory jobs once held by their husbands, fathers and brothers. When the soldiers returned home, many women did not want to fall back into their old lives. They tasted independence, tested their abilities and found new self-esteem. And they liked it.

This is such an enjoyable story. I heartily recommend it to fans of mid century historical romance or anyone wanting a tantalizing story to whisk them away for a few hours on a “sentimental journey”.

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY

Home Front

Book One

Barbara Bretton

bretton_sj_cover_2700px (2) 2Genre: World War 2 Romance

Publisher: Free Spirit Press

Date of Publication: October 15, 2014

ISBN: 9781940665078

ASIN: B00MT9H93Q

Number of pages: 347

Word Count: approx. 70000

Cover Artist: Tammy Seidick

 

Book Description:

Before they became The Greatest Generation, they were young men and women in love . . .

It’s June 1943. From New York to California, families gather to send their sons and husbands, friends and lovers off to war. The attack on Pearl Harbor seems a long time ago as America begins to understand that their boys won’t be home any time soon.

In Forest Hills, New York City, twenty-year-old Catherine Wilson knows all about waiting. She’s been in love with boy-next-door Doug Weaver since childhood, and if the war hadn’t started when it did, she would be married and maybe starting a family, not sitting at the window of her girlhood bedroom, waiting for her life to begin.

But then a telegram from the War Department arrives, shattering her dreams of a life like the one her mother treasures.

Weeks drift into months as she struggles to find her way. An exchange of letters with Johnny Danza, a young soldier in her father’s platoon, starts off as a patriotic gesture, but soon becomes a long-distance friendship that grows more important to her with every day that passes.

The last thing Catherine expects is to open her front door on Christmas Eve to find Johnny lying unconscious on the Wilsons’ welcome mat with a heart filled with new dreams that are hers for the taking.

“This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”

–Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Available at Amazon  iTunes  Kobo  BN  Smashwords

Read a Sneak Peek:  http://www.barbarabretton.com/sj.shtml

About the Author:

brettonA full-fledged Baby Boomer, Barbara Bretton grew up in New York City during the Post-World War II 1950s with the music of the Big Bands as the soundtrack to her childhood. Her father and grandfather served in the navy during the war. Her uncles served in the army. None of them shared their stories.

But her mother, who had enjoyed a brief stint as Rosie the Riveter, brought the era to life with tales of the Home Front that were better than any fairy tale. It wasn’t until much later that Barbara learned the rest of the story about the fiancé who had been lost in the war, sending her mother down a different path that ultimately led to a second chance at love . . . and to the daughter who would one day tell a little part of that story.

There is always one book that’s very special to an author, one book or series that lives deep inside her heart.  SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY and STRANGER IN PARADISE, books 1 and 2 of the Home Front series, are Barbara’s. She hopes they’ll find a place in your heart, too.

www.barbarabretton.com

www.barbarabretton.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorbarbarabretton

Twitter: www.twitter.com/barbarabretton

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Barbara_Bretton

TWO CONTESTS. ONE REVIEW. Barbara Bretton’s “Just Desserts”

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TWO Contests. TWO opportunities to win!! (That deserves TWO exclamation points)

TWO Kindle Paperwhites will be given away during Barbara Bretton’s “Just Desserts” Virtual Book Tour. (I want one!!!!) To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112f453/

In addition to the tour wide contest, Barbara is also giving away TWO audio books at this blog (one book each to two winners – digital downloads – winner’s choice) . A list of available titles can be found at Audible http://goo.gl/29nRAU  To enter MY CONTEST, leave a comment following this post indicating what title you’d like and why.

Now on to my review of “Just Desserts”.

Just Desserts

Barbara Bretton

justdessertsfinalstandardGenre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: originally Berkley; this is a digital indie reprint

Date of Publication: print 2008; digital 2013

ISBN: 9781940665047

ASIN: B00G2EE306

Number of pages: approx. 320

Word Count: approx. 88000

Cover Artist: Erin Dameron-Hill

Smashwords     Amazon    iTunes    BN

My Review:

What can I say about this heartwarming romance from USA TODAY Bestselling Author, Barbara Bretton, that hasn’t already been said? With accolades rolling in for JUST DESSERTS from esteemed reviewers and publications like Romance Reviews Today, Romantic Times and Midwest Book Review, what can one reader from Charlotte, North Carolina possibly write that would seem like a fresh take on a strong chorus of “Hallelujah”?

Then it occurred to me – I’m exactly the kind of reviewer that Barbara Bretton should . . . and does . . . want. A normal, every day person. A romance addict. A fan of her enormous talent and long list of delightful books.

So  here goes . . . JUST DESSERTS, originally published in 2008 by Berkley and recently released as a digital indie reprint, is a wonderfully chaotic tale of love and family.  I read the print version years ago and had just as much fun re-reading the digital version. Re-acquainting myself with Hayley Goldstein and Finn Rafferty was like visiting old friends I hadn’t seen in years.

This story offers a slightly different twist to contemporary romance by featuring “older” (as in, not twenty something) characters. But as always, Miss Bretton fills the pages with a delightful cast – realistic, full bodied, enchanting – and adds a dash of eccentricity for fun.

When Hayley is given the opportunity to bake a wedding cake for an aging rock star, she’s beyond excited, and it has nothing to do with the handsome lawyer who hired her, Finn Rafferty. Well, maybe it does. Just a little. But then Hayley discovers she’s the long, lost daughter of the rocker and demands some answers from her mother. Finn struggles to prevent a media frenzy while falling hard for divorced Hayley, who has constructed walls not even an Olympian could breech. Throw in some juicy family drama like Hayley’s 14 year old daughter trying to win her deadbeat dad’s love by giving him money, a cast of colorful secondary characters, and you have a book that will tug at your heart long after the last page is read.

Book Description

Hayley had sworn off bad boys until Finn Rafferty set out to win her heart…

Once upon a time, Hayley had believed that a good woman (her) could turn a bad boy (her ex) into a knight in shining armor (pure fantasy). Ten years of marriage had finally drummed the truth into her head. In the real world bad boys didn’t turn into knights in shining armor. Bad boys grew up to be even worse men and the world would be a much happier place if little girls were taught that basic fact along with their ABCs.

Hayley Maitland Goldstein knew all about how these things worked. First a girl giggled, then she sighed, and the next thing you knew she was in Vegas taking her wedding vows in front of a red-haired Elvis with an overbite. You knew you had made a bad choice when Elvis slipped you his divorce lawyer’s business card while you were still shaking the rice from your hair.

But then Finn Rafferty came into her life and everything changed.

Hayley should have seen the kiss coming but it surprised her just the same. He had been looking at her with a crazy kind of unfocused intensity and she had been about to ask him if he was having a stroke when she realized she was about to be kissed by a man she actually wanted to kiss back.

Every now and then life handed you a perfect moment but the secret was figuring out how to make it last.

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ7ruFHrV1I

Praise for Just Desserts 

“Very few romance writers create characters as well developed and realistic as Bretton’s. Her books pull you in and don’t let you leave until the last word is read.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Once again Bretton produces a wonderful, heartwarming story full of strong emotion, humor, charming pets, delightful characters and a lovely romance. There’s also a poignant secondary romance. The way Bretton brings all this to life and pulls it all together for a satisfactory conclusion are what make her a wonderful storyteller.”   —Susan Mobley, ROMANTIC TIMES

“Good pacing and dialogue make this warm-hearted story one that readers are sure to relish. The romances have both serious and funny elements. If you like light-hearted, feel good, romantic tales, you are sure to enjoy reading JUST DESSERTS.”  —Marilyn Heyman, ROMANCE REVIEWS TODAY

“There are surprising, funny twists to this story and a lot of touching episodes to pique the emotional side. I found Barbara Bretton’s JUST DESSERTS to be highly entertaining, cleverly written and hard to put down. Being a witty and warm read, I recommend JUST DESSERTS and look forward to reading other novels by this author.” —Kay Quintin, FRESH FICTION

“If you’ve not ever read Ms. Bretton then you are in for a real treat with Just Desserts.” –Sandi, A Romance Review 

“Just Desserts is a fun, romantic read. I enjoyed it and recommend it for all those who like a great story filled with humor and romance.”–Victoria Kennedy, Midwest Book Review 

“JUST DESSERTS is a warm family drama filled with tender humor . . . Fans will appreciate Barbara Bretton’s invasion of South Jersey as everyone receives their JUST DESSERTS.” —Harriet Klausner, Genre Go-Round Reviews

“Ms. Bretton gives her readers an easy, yet not bland, story with wonderful, vibrant characters and wholly believable situations. You’ll want her backlist in your library, if it’s not there already.”--Amanda Killgore, Huntress’ Book Reviews

Excerpt:

Trish, one of the high school girls Hayley was currently mentoring, burst into the kitchen looking like she had just bumped into Justin Timberlake and then ricocheted off Johnny Depp.

“There’s two guys outside who want to see you and they’re unbelievably hot!” Trish was seventeen, the age when the arrival of any biped with a Y chromosome rated a breathless announcement. “One of them looks like a rock star from, you know, way back in the eighties.”

Ouch. She had been Trish’s age in the eighties.

“A rock star?” she asked, lifting a brow. Rock stars were in short supply in Lakeside.

“A rock star,” Trish confirmed. “And he’s wearing leather.”

There was only one reason an aging leather-clad hottie would show up at Goldy’s Bakery at three o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon and it had nothing to do with brownies, cheesecake, or bagels.

“Tell him Mr. Goldstein doesn’t live here anymore.” And that Mrs. Goldstein couldn’t be happier about it. Not even sending him his monthly share of the store’s profits dimmed her joy.

“But he didn’t ask for Mr. Goldstein. He asked for you.”

Why did that surprise her? She was the Goldstein with a bank balance, after all. It had been a while since someone had come looking for her ex but the knot in her stomach was painfully familiar. The faint stench of danger still lingered in the air. She wished she had a dollar for every angry enabler who had shown up at Goldy’s in search of the reluctant Mr. Goldstein. She’d be able to buy him out once and for all and still have money to spare.

“Then tell him I’m not here.”

“But, Mrs. G., I already told him you were.”

“Then tell him the truth,” she said. “I’m busy working on a cake that should have been finished an hour ago. I can’t spare a second.” And here she’d thought her life would settle down after Michael moved to Florida to mooch off his mother. The man’s problems had the half-life of uranium.

Trish rearranged her pretty features into an even prettier frown. “He really wants to see you, Mrs. G. Maybe—”

Hayley could feel the hot breath of the Cumberland County Association of Female Realtors on the back of her neck. She whipped out The Look, the same look every mother on the planet had down cold, aimed it in Trish’s direction, then hoped for the best.

“I’ll tell him,” Trish mumbled, then pushed through the swinging door to deliver the bad news.

The Look had stopped working on Lizzie when she was seven, but it was nice to know she still had enough maternal firepower at her command to keep her young staff in line.

She pressed her ear against the swinging door but she couldn’t make out Trish’s words, just a high apologetic string of female sounds that was followed by a male rumble. Leather Boy had a good voice, baritone, a little smoky. She couldn’t make out his words either but Trish’s answering giggle conjured up some painful memories of herself at that age.

First a girl giggled, then she sighed, and the next thing you knew she was in Vegas taking her wedding vows in front of a red-haired Elvis with an overbite. You knew you had made a bad choice when Elvis slipped you his divorce lawyer’s business card while you were still shaking the rice from your hair.

She listened closer. Trish said something girly. Leather Boy rumbled something manly. This time Rachel, her other counter girl for the week, giggled too, a sound that sent Hayley’s maternal early-warning system into overdrive.

Rachel Gomez was a serious straight-A student bound for Princeton next year on full scholarship. She needed the paycheck more than any mentoring Hayley might have provided her. Rachel had probably never giggled before in her life.

If Rachel giggled, then even Lizzie might not be immune. Fourteen was when it started, that fizzy sensation in your veins, the yearning for things you couldn’t define, the sudden realization that boys were infinitely more interesting than global warming or the fate of the humpback whale.

Fourteen was also when young girls parted company with their self-confidence and traded in their love of math and science for a date for the prom.

Sometimes she wanted to lock Lizzie away in her room with her computer, her books, and a cell phone (maybe), and not let her out again until she was twenty-one. Thirty sounded better but even fantasies had their limits. The advisor at Olympia Prep had suggested that Lizzie might be better served intellectually by skipping the rest of high school and starting college in the fall but Hayley was dead set against it. Lizzie might be brilliant when it came to science but when it came to life, she was still only fourteen.

The world could be a scary place. A mother did her best to protect her kid from fast cars, drunk drivers, broken bones, flu, the common cold, but there was nothing she could do to protect her kid from growing up. No matter what you did or how well you did it, your little girl wasn’t going to stay a little girl. Right before your eyes she was going to grow up on you anyway and all you could do was pray she didn’t follow in your foolish footsteps.

Once upon a time, Hayley had believed that a good woman (her) could turn a bad boy (her ex) into a knight in shining armor (pure fantasy). Ten years of marriage to Michael Goldstein had finally drummed the truth into her head. People didn’t change with time. They just became more of who they were to begin with.

In the real world bad boys didn’t turn into knights in shining armor. Bad boys grew up to be even worse men and the world would be a much happier place if little girls were taught that basic fact along with their ABCs.

Why didn’t women teach their young how to cope with the things that were really important instead of how to walk in their first pair of heels? Why didn’t they make a point of sitting their girl children down and telling them the truth about men instead of letting some guy in a leather jacket seduce them over a tray of black-and-white cookies?

That was one of the many reasons why she had helped institute the mentoring program at the high school. Lizzie claimed her overflow worrying needed an outlet but it went far deeper. She saw herself in those girls, insecure, struggling, hungry for love, and ready to hand over their futures to the first guy who came along.

Those idiot girls out there were like ripe fruit on a very low-hanging branch. The slightest breeze would be enough to shake them from the tree and into the waiting arms of Leather Boy or someone just like him and their entire lives would be changed forever.

Except it wasn’t going to happen on her watch. With apologies to the good real estate agents of Cumberland County, it was time to prepare for battle.

About the Author: 

brettonOh, how I hate bios! All of that deadly dull information about name (Barbara Bretton) and date of birth (June 25) and geographical data (born in New York City; lives near Princeton, NJ), marital status (many years married), and hobbies (who has time??). How do you gather up all of those dull, dry facts and turn them into something interesting?

No wonder I tell lies for a living.

I considered weaving a story for you about life on a houseboat on the French Riviera. Or maybe my years as a concubine, hidden away in a golden pleasure palace in the shimmering desert. Then I decided to do the unthinkable and tell you the truth.

When I sold my first book and my life changed forever. I sent in my manuscript on Thursday February 21, 1982 and four days later the telephone rang and I heard the amazing words, “We want to buy your book.” How I wish you could have seen me. I was standing by the kitchen door of our North Babylon house, the picture of cool sophistication, as I listened to Vivian Stephens explain the terms of the deal to me. You would have thought I’d sold a first book every single day of my life. Yes, I said. Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for calling. I look forward to our association. That cool sophistication hung on until I hung up the phone, took a deep breath, then promptly threw up on my shoes.

I was thirty-one years old, unagented, unschooled, unfamiliar with anything to do with the business of publishing. To put it mildly, I was in shock. My husband was working in Manhattan at the time (and finishing up his degree at night) so it would be hours until I could break the news to him. This was too exciting to waste on a phone call. I wanted to see his face when I told him that my dream had finally come true — and came with a $6000 advance!

He pulled into the driveway at midnight. I was waiting in the doorway, holding a bottle of champagne and two glasses. I didn’t have to say a word. He knew right away and the look of joy and pride in his eyes warms me now, years later, long after the advance faded into memory.

A lot has happened to me in the years since that first sale. I’ve learned that this is a difficult and demanding business (it takes a tough writer to write a tender book) and that I am happiest when I am most ignorant. I’ve also learned that a good friend, a writer and pal who truly understands, is worth her weight in good reviews and royalty checks.

I fell madly in love with Skye O’Malley in early 1982 and wrote an unabashedly gushy fan letter to our beloved Bertrice Small. By the time Sunny answered, I had joined the ranks of the published and Sunny became friend and mentor, guide and confidant. She has held my hand through broken dreams, disappointments, family illnesses, and accepted my bizarre need to go underground from time to time with great affection and understanding. Over the years I’ve come to understand the difference between the writer and her work, that loving the book doesn’t guarantee that I will love the author. But what a joy it is when you discover that the author of a beloved favorite is even more wonderful and witty and wise than the characters she creates.

So this bio is for you, Sunny, for being the best of friends during the worst of times and — even more wonderful — during the good times as well.

And now for the statistics:

Barbara Bretton is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than 40 books. She currently has over ten million copies in print around the world. Her works have been translated into twelve languages in over twenty countries.

Barbara has been featured in articles in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Romantic Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Herald News, Home News, Somerset Gazette,among others, and has been interviewed by Independent Network News Television, appeared on the Susan Stamberg Show on NPR, and been featured in an interview with Charles Osgood of WCBS, among others.

Her awards include both Reviewer’s Choice and Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times; Gold and Silver certificates from Affaire de Coeur; the RWA Region 1 Golden Leaf; and several sales awards from Bookrak. Ms. Bretton was included in a recent edition of Contemporary Authors.

Barbara loves to spend as much time as possible in Maine with her husband, walking the rocky beaches and dreaming up plots for upcoming books.

www.barbarabretton.com

www.barbarabretton.net

www.facebook.com/barbarabretton

www.facebook.com/authorbarbarabretton

www.twitter.com/barbarabretton

www.goodreads.com/barbarabretton

Crosse Harbor Time Travel Trilogy by Barbara Bretton & CONTEST!!!

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OH MY!!!! Who can resist a Barbara Bretton romance? You may not have to – if you leave a comment at the end of this blog post stating why you love Barbara Bretton. The lovely and talented Ms. Bretton has graciously agreed to offer a digital AUDIO copy of  “Somewhere In Time” to one lucky commenter on my blog. This could be your lucky day so read through my review, check out the other two books in this fascinating time travel trilogy, and then leave a comment. The winner might be YOU!!!!  Drawing will be held at the end of the day on Friday, June, 14th.

REVIEW: “Somewhere In Time”

What can I say about Barbara Bretton romances that hasn’t already been said? This wonderful author creates characters who seem to jump off the page and personify right before your eyes. The angst and confusion that accompanies true love is woven into the dialogue and character development so well that I often find myself pondering what might happen to these star crossed lovers aloud . . . as if discussing my best friend’s predicament. An example: I read “Somewhere In Time” well into the night, long after the hour when I should have been fast asleep. I didn’t finish the book. My eyelids were too heavy. Even though I wanted to keep turning pages, I gave into a fitful slumber.

What resulted was a restless night of crazy dreams, trying to figure out if heroine, Emilie Crosse, would choose  her first love – ex-husband, Zane Grey Rutledge, or find contentment with an idolized historical hero, Andrew McVie. The fact that a freak storm sent her and Zane back to 1776 only added a delightful twist to the scenario. Zane is a contemporary playboy who never quite recovered from the fact his wife walked out on his irresponsible ways. Andrew is everything historian Emilie envisioned from her research, and more. A true Patriot. Responsible. Reliable. And not bad on the eyes, either.

Zane still holds the key to her heart but is dead set on finding a way to return to the future, even if it means changing an important event in history. Emilie is caught in the middle.  What should she do? The answer lies “Somewhere In Time”.

I love romance. I love HEAs. The first book in the Crosse Harbor Trilogy definitely delivers both. The only thing I found slightly unsettling was Emilie and Zane’s relationship. There was a give and take confusion that often affects new romance but these two characters had been married at one time. Even though it was short lived, I felt they should have had a deeper understanding of the other. That’s just my opinion. The other thing that bothered me was Andrew McVie. I liked the guy. A lot. I understand Ms. Bretton was building this secondary character so we could enjoy his story in Book 2. However, Zane was acting rather badly and I found myself hoping Em would choose Andrew instead of our larger than life hero.  It all works out in the end, and I’m absolutely delighted with the final events. I’m also chomping at the bit to read Andrew’s story in “Tomorrow and Always”. However, before everything was resolved I kept waking up from fitful dreams where Em was with Andrew instead of Zane.

The only way to ease my distress was to open the book at 4 a.m. and finish reading the final chapters. It left little time to sleep before the morning alarm sounded an alert but I took pride in the secretive, smug smile which stayed with me throughout most of  the day – enticing others to ponder what I was thinking. 🙂

If you love old fashioned romance, Harlequin Presents, time travel, or any of the above, you absolutely MUST read Barbara Bretton’s time travel trilogy, Crosse Harbor.

Somewhere in TimeJPG_FINAL_SOMEWHERE_IN_TIME
Crosse Harbor Time Travel Trilogy
Book One
Barbara Bretton

Genre: Time Travel/Romance

Publisher: Free Spirit Press

ISBN: 9781301712953

ASIN: B008ELA6VK

Page count: 300-320

Word count: Approx. 80,000

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/tI8lHp9aSD4

Book Description:

Historian Emilie Crosse dreamed of a love that would last forever

Who knew she’d have to sail across two centuries to find it?

When her ex-husband Zane Grey Rutledge showed up at her door with a Revolutionary War uniform that was part of his grandmother’s estate, neither one suspected that their lives were about to change in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.

Swept back in time to 1776 where a nation is struggling to be born, Emilie finds herself torn between two men: Zane, her ex who still holds the key to her heart, and Andrew McVie, the Patriot hero of her long-ago dreams . . . .

Reviewers Choice Award – Best Historical Time Travel

Romantic Times

Amazon               BN             Smashwords

Excerpt:

Historian Emilie Crosse dreamed of a love that would last forever

Who knew she’d have to sail across two centuries to find it?

When her ex-husband Zane Grey Rutledge showed up at her door with a Revolutionary War uniform that was part of his grandmother’s estate, neither one suspected that their lives were about to change in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.

Swept back in time to 1777 where a nation is struggling to be born, Emilie finds herself torn between two men: Zane, her ex who still holds the key to her heart, and Andrew McVie, the Patriot hero of her long-ago dreams . . . .

 

 Near Philadelphia

Zane Grey Rutledge downshifted into second as he guided the black Porsche up the curving driveway toward Rutledge House. Gravel crunched beneath the tires, sending a fine spray across the lacquered surface of the hood and fenders. He swore softly as a pebble pinged against the windshield, leaving behind a spider-web crack in the glass. A pair of moving vans were angled in the driveway near the massive front door and he eased to a stop behind one of them and let out the clutch.

He didn’t want to be there. Rutledge House without his grandmother Sara Jane was nothing more than a haunted collection of faded bricks and stones.

“One day it will all matter to you,” Sara Jane had said to him not long before she died. “I have faith that you’ll see there’s nothing more important than family.”

But he didn’t have a family. Not anymore. With Sara Jane’s death he had moved closer to the edge of the cliff. The lone remaining Rutledge in a long and illustrious series of Rutledges who had made their mark on a country.

Lately he’d had the feeling that his grandmother was watching him from somewhere in the shadows, shaking her head the way she used to when he was a boy and had been caught drinking beer with his friends from the wrong side of town.

He leaned back in his contoured leather seat and watched as the treasures of a lifetime were carried from the house by a parade of moving men. Winterhalter portraits of long-dead Rutledges, books and mementoes that catalogued a nation’s history as well as a family’s.

His fingers drummed against the steering wheel. He’d done the right thing, the only thing he could have done, given the circumstances. Rutledge House would survive long after he was gone. Wasn’t that what his grandmother had wanted?

“Mr. Rutledge? Oh, Mr. Rutledge, it is you. I was so afraid I’d missed you.”

He started at the sound of the woman’s voice floating through the open window of the car.

“Olivia McRae,” she said, smiling coyly as she prompted his memory. “We met last week.”

He opened the car door and unfolded himself from the sleek sports car. “I remember,” he said, shaking the woman’s bird-like hand. “Eastern Pennsylvania Preservation Society.”

She dimpled and Zane was struck by the fact that in her day Olivia McRae had probably been a looker.

“We have much to thank you for. I must tell you we feel as if Christmas has come early this year!”

He shot her a quizzical look. She was thanking him? In the past few days he had come to think of her as his own personal savior for taking Rutledge House and its contents off his hands.

“A pleasure,” he said, relying on charm to cover his surprise.

“Oh, it’s a fine day for Rutledge House,” she said, her tone upbeat. “I know your dear departed grandmother Sara Jane would heartily approve of your decision.”

“Approve might be too strong a word,” he said with a wry grin. “Accept is more like it.” Bloodlines had been everything to Sara Jane Rutledge. No matter that the venerable old house had been tumbling down around her ears, in need of more help than even the family fortune could provide. So long as a Rutledge was in residence, all had been right with her world.

Although she never said it in so many words, he knew that in the end he had disappointed her. No wife, no children, no arrow shot into the future of the Rutledge family

“Just you wait,” Olivia McRae said, patting his arm in a decidedly maternal gesture. “Next time you see it this wonderful old house will be on the way to regaining its former glory.”

“It’s up to you now, Olivia.”

“We would welcome your input,” the older woman said. “And we would most certainly like to have a Rutledge on the board of directors at the museum.”

“Sorry,” he said, perhaps a beat too quickly. “I think a clean break is better all around.”

The woman’s warm brown eyes misted over. “How thoughtless of me! This must be dreadfully difficult, coming so soon after the loss of your beloved grandmother.”

Zane looked away. Little in life unnerved him. Talk of his late grandmother did. “I have a flight to catch,” he said. No matter that the plane didn’t take off until the next afternoon. As far as he was concerned, emotions were more dangerous than skydiving without a chute. “I’d better get moving.”

Olivia McRae peered into the car. “You do have the package, don’t you?”

“Package?” His brows knotted.

“Oh, Mr. Rutledge, you can’t leave without the package I set out for you.” She looked at him curiously. “The uniform.”

“Damn,” he muttered under his breath. The oldest male child in each generation is entrusted with the uniform, Sara Jane had told him on his twelfth birthday when she handed him the carefully wrapped package. Someday you’ll hand it down to your son.

He hadn’t forgotten about the uniform. He knew exactly where it was: in the attic under a thick layer of dust, as forgotten as the past.

“You wait right here,” said Mrs. McRae, turning back toward the house. “I’ll fetch it for you.”

He was tempted to get behind the wheel of the Porsche and be halfway to Manhattan before the woman crossed the threshold. For as long as he could remember that uniform had been at the heart of Rutledge family lore. His grandmother and her sisters had woven endless stories of derring-do and bravery and laid every single one of them at the feet of some long-dead Revolutionary War relative who’d probably never done anything more courageous than shoot himself a duck for dinner.

Moments later Olivia McRae was back by his side.

“Here you are,” she said, pressing a large, neatly-wrapped parcel into his arms with the same tenderness a mother would display toward her first-born. “To think you almost left without it.”

“Heavier than I remembered,” he said. “You’re sure there isn’t a musket in there with the uniform?”

Mrs. McRae’s lined cheeks dimpled. “Oh, you! You always were a tease. Why, you must have seen this uniform a million times.”

“Afraid I never paid much attention.”

“That can’t be true.”

“I’m not much for antiques.”

“This is more than an antique,” she said, obviously appalled. “This is a piece of American history . . . your history.” She patted the parcel. “Open it, Mr. Rutledge. I’d love to see your face when you –”

“I will,” he said, edging toward the Porsche, “but right now I’d better get on the road.”

“Of course,” she said, her smile fading. “I understand.”

She looked at him and in her eyes Zane saw disappointment. Why should Mrs. McRae be any different? Disappointing people was what he did best.

He tossed the package in the back seat and with a nod toward Olivia McRae, roared back down the drive and away from Rutledge House.

He was almost at the Ben Franklin Bridge when he noticed the needle on his gas gauge was hovering around E. He whipped into the first gas station he saw and couldn’t help grinning at the crowd of attendants who swarmed the sports car.

“Fill it,” he said. “And it’s okay if you want to check under the hood.”

He was thinking about where he’d stashed his passport after his weekend in London last month when out of nowhere he heard Sara Jane’s voice.

You didn’t think I was going to let you get away without a fight, did you?

He jumped, cracking his elbow against the gear stick. Sara Jane? Ridiculous. It was probably his guilty conscience speaking.

It’s not too late, Zane. Open your eyes to what’s around you and your heart will soon follow . . .

What the hell did that mean? It sounded like something he’d read in a fortune cookie.

He glanced toward the package resting on the seat next to him. Experience had taught him that the best way to handle anything from a hangover to a guilty conscience was the hair of the dog that bit you. He might as well get it over with while he waited.

“Okay,” he said out loud, unknotting the string then folding back the brown paper. There was nothing scary about a moth-eaten hunk of fabric, even if he was hearing voices.

He pushed aside the buff-colored breeches and inspected the navy blue coat. Dark beige cuffs and lapels. A line of tarnished metal buttons. The only unusual thing about the garment was the decorative stitching inside the left cuff and under the collar. It had to be twenty years since he’d last looked at the uniform and that had been a cursory glance. Still, he had to admit it was weathering the years pretty well. He looked again. He was surprised to note that the shoulders of the jacket seemed broad enough to fit him and he was a man of above average size. He didn’t know all that much about history, but he vividly remembered diving off the Florida coast around the wreck of the Atocha some years back and noting the almost Lilliputian scale.

So what are you going to do, Zane, toss it in your closet and forget it the way you forgot everything else? You owe my memory more than that. Do the right thing this time.

Okay, now it was getting weird. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear Sara Jane was sitting in the car with him. He wondered if he was getting high on dry-cleaning fumes or something. He didn’t have time for any of this..

Make time! Wasn’t I the only one who ever made time for you?

The truth hurt. Sara Jane was the one person he’d been able to count on when he was growing up, the only one who’d never let him down.

Maybe he was crazy. Maybe she really was contacting him from another plane of existence. Or maybe it was just that guilty conscience of his speaking up. Whatever it was, two hours and six phone calls later, he was on his way down the Jersey shore.

It wasn’t possible. He knew that as well as he knew his own name. The odds against it were just too overwhelming. But time and again he’d heard the same thing: “Emilie Crosse is the one you need to see.” From Professor Attleman at Rutgers to Deno Grandinetti at the Smithsonian, every historian he contacted all sang the praises of the woman with the old-fashioned name and outdated occupation who just happened to be his ex-wife.

The woman who had broken his heart when she walked out the door one soft spring evening and never looked back.

“You play dirty, Sara Jane,” he said as he raced south along the Garden State, “but it’s not going to work. I’m dropping off the uniform and then I’m leaving for Tahiti, understand?”

It’s a start, dear boy, the familiar voice said with a laugh. It’s a start.

JPG_FINAL_TOMORROW_AND_ALWAYSTomorrow and Always
Crosse Harbor Time Travel Trilogy
Book Two
Barbara Bretton

Genre: Time Travel/Romance

Publisher: Free Spirit Press

ISBN: 9781301018895

ASIN: B008ELGJ0M

Page count: 300-320

Word count: Approx. 80,000

Book Description:

Timeless Lovers . . .

Different Worlds

Shannon Whitney didn’t believe she had a future until Andrew McVie crash-lands his time-traveling hot-air balloon in her backyard one summer afternoon and changes her life forever.

He is a Revolutionary War patriot

She is an independent modern woman

Their paths should never have crossed but apparently fate has other plans.

Amazon               BN             Smashwords

Destiny’s ChildFINAL_COVER_destiny's_child_4_Child_corrected

Crosse Harbor Time Travel Trilogy
Book Three
Barbara Bretton

Genre: Time Travel/Romance

Publisher: Free Spirit Press

ISBN: 9781301054299

ASIN: B008ELGLGY

Page count: 300-320

Word count: Approx. 80,000

Book Description:

It’s not every day a woman goes traveling through time

Dakota Wylie is a wisecracking, unemployed, overweight psychic librarian from Princeton

Patrick Devane is an angry, hard-headed spy with a six-year-old daughter who hears voices

The only thing they have in common is New Jersey

But when Dakota leaps from the basket of a hot air balloon to help his crying child, little does she know that she’s leaping into history . . . and love.

Amazon               BN             Smashwords

 Praise for the Crosse Harbor Time Travel Trilogy 

“SOMEWHERE IN TIME sweeps readers away into a marvelous world where love is timeless and dreams come true. Combine this ingenious plot . . . with humor and sensuality and you have a great read.” –Romantic Times

SOMEWHERE IN TIME – Reviewers Choice Winner – Best Historical Time Travel

TOMORROW & ALWAYS – “Bretton is a monumental talent who targets her audience with intelligence and inspiration.” –Affaire de Coeur

“[TOMORROW & ALWAYS] is an entertaining story.” –Booklist

DESTINY’S CHILD – “Wonderful wit, a feisty heroine, a gifted child, and great glimpses of friends from the past combine to make magic!” – Romantic Times

Praise for USA Today Bestselling Author Barbara Bretton

“A monumental talent.” –Affaire de Coeur

“Very few romance writers create characters as well-developed as Bretton’s. Her books pull you in and don’t let you leave until the last word is read.” –Booklist (starred review)

“One of today’s best women’s fiction authors.” –The Romance Reader

“Barbara Bretton is a master at touching readers’ hearts.” –Romance Reviews Today

About the Author:

Barbara Bretton is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than 40 books. She currently has over ten million copies in print around the world. Her works have been translated into twelve languages in over twenty countries.

Barbara has been featured in articles in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Romantic Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Herald News, Home News, Somerset Gazette, among others, and has been interviewed by Independent Network News Television, appeared on the Susan Stamberg Show on NPR, and been featured in an interview with Charles Osgood of WCBS, among others.

Her awards include both Reviewer’s Choice and Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times; Gold and Silver certificates from Affaire de Coeur; the RWA Region 1 Golden Leaf; and several sales awards from Bookrak. Ms. Bretton was included in a recent edition of Contemporary Authors.

Barbara loves to spend as much time as possible in Maine with her husband, walking the rocky beaches and dreaming up plots for upcoming books.

WEB: www.barbarabretton.com

FACEBOOK:  www.facebook.com/barbarabretton

TWITTER:  www.twitter.com/barbarabretton

GOODREADS:  www.goodreads.com/Barbara_Bretton

RAVELRY:  www.ravelry.com/wickedsplitty

Review: “Just Like Heaven” – Heaven Sent for Romance Lovers

COVER_just_like_heaven_(2)Romance. It used to be readers knew exactly what to expect when they picked up a title in the romance genre. A man. A woman. External conflict. Internal conflict. Resolution. Happily Ever After.

Okay, so it was formula based but the stories hooked us and romance readers worldwide drove the genre to the top of publisher’s “money makers” list.

These days, readers must examine the sub-genre because a “romance” can include an assortment of couplings, heat content and might only allude to an HEA ending. The chick lit that no one wants to mention anymore has merged with romance (and often other sub-genres) to create a sometimes indefinable content – leaving readers conflicted about how to classify the book.

“Just Like Heaven” is a romance. It might also appeal to Chick Lit  and contemporary romance readers. It addresses real people (i.e. not a famous celebrity or a tough on the outside, soft on the inside detective) with real problems. And it still manages to deliver a charming, endearing story that will elicit a sigh or two at the end.

I liked it. But be warned, I have a sweet tooth and “Just Like Heaven” is a sweet story about an Episcopalian priest . . . yes, you heard me right . . . and a heart attack patient.  Kate and Mark are uncommon characters in Barbara Bretton’s tale of love – being over 40 is just one of the unique traits that attracted and held my attention. Yeah, yeah . . . I’m a baby boomer. Boomers know first hand that love doesn’t always happen when you’re twenty something and in perfect form.

At times, it feels as though the character’s intense attraction balances on a narrow path, with heaven on one side and hell on the other. At others, it’s almost lyrical and old fashioned with it’s delivery. Add a healthy dash of humor, a reality that feels “real”, and “Just Like Heaven” is an interesting, well written story that will keep you turning pages to the end.

Just Like Heaven Button 300 x 225

Just Like Heaven

Barbara Bretton

Genre: Contemporary romance/women’s fiction

Publisher: Free Spirit Press (previously published in print by Berkley)

ISBN: 9781301177493

ASIN: B00BH8FZVI

Number of pages: 320

Word Count: Approximately 90K

Book Description:

Because love can happen anywhere . . .

Even in New Jersey!

A beautiful morning in early spring. What could possibly go wrong?

Just returned from a buying trip in England, Kate French was jet-lagged and exhausted and running on fumes. She was already running late for an appointment but a wave of dizziness forced her to pull into the shopping mall parking lot in search of a quick fix of caffeine and protein.

When the pain first hit, she ignored it and continued racing across the parking lot toward the food court. But within moments she realized something was terribly wrong as her wobbly legs gave out and she dropped to the ground. The last thing she remembered as she started to fade away was the guy in the Grateful Dead T-shirt who held her in his arms and promised he’d never let her go.

Mark Kerry didn’t think of himself as a hero but the story of a Good Samaritan who had saved a woman’s life in the parking lot of the Princeton Promenade was attaining the status of suburban legend. Determined to return a stack of documents that had been left behind when the ambulance swept her away, he called in some favors and tracked her down at home one week later.

The moment Kate saw him again, the world and everyone in it disappeared. She knew his voice, the smell of his skin, the way his hands felt against her skin, the taste of his mouth, everything that mattered. All the things she would ever need to know about him.

And then she took another look . . .

PRAISE FOR JUST LIKE HEAVEN

*TOP PICK!* Bretton’s lyrical writing enthralls from the first page as she immerses readers in a tale of romance and new beginnings. –Romantic Times

Bretton has few peers among contemporary romance novelists when it comes to combining escapist romance with everyday, messy reality. She’ll make you believe that love can happen anywhere – or make you grateful that you’ve been fortunate enough to find it.  –Susan Scribner, The Romance Reader

This one will keep you reading past your bedtime. –Elizabeth Darrach, BellaOnline

*STARRED REVIEW* Very few romance writers create characters as well developed and realistic as Bretton’s. Her books pull you in and don’t let you leave until the last word is read.  –Shelley Mosley, Booklist

Excerpt:

Coburn, New Jersey – 9:30 a.m.

Kate French shifted the phone from her left shoulder to her right and plunged her hand deeper into her lingerie drawer.

“Mom!” Her daughter Gwynn was no longer a teenager, but you would never know it from her tone of voice. “Are you listening to me?”

“I heard every syllable.” Kate pulled out an orphaned hand-knit sock and a silky pink camisole carbon-dated from the Disco Era and tossed them on the bed behind her.

“So what should I do?”

Unfortunately Kate had shifted into maternal auto-pilot five minutes into the conversation and had lost track. Was Gwynn still debating her roommate Laura’s excessive devotion to the New York Giants or had she segued into an old favorite of all the French women: a dissection of Kate’s non-existent love life.

She bent down and peered deeper into the perfumed recesses. One pair of plain cotton panties. Was that too much to ask for? “Run it by me again, honey.”

“I know what you’re doing,” Gwynn said. “You’re answering emails while I’m pouring out my heart to you. I really wish you wouldn’t do that.”

“Gwynnie, I’m not on the computer.”

“I can hear the keys clicking.”

“What you hear is the sound of your mother searching her lingerie drawer for a pair of —”

“Hold on! I have another call.”

The distance between the thirteen-year-old girl her daughter used to be and the twenty-three year old woman she was hadn’t turned out to be quite as wide as Kate had hoped. She glanced over at the clock on her nightstand. Come on, Gwynnie. I have things to do.

“That was Andrew.” Gwynn the daughter had been replaced by Gwynn the girlfriend. She sounded almost giddy with delight. The sound hit Kate’s ears like fingernails on a chalkboard. “He called from the boat! Isn’t that the—”

“I’m going to hang up now,” Kate said. “I have an appointment down in Princeton and I’m running late. We can pick this up another time, can’t we, honey?”

“But, Mom, I still haven’t—”

“I know, I know, but this can’t be helped. I want to hear everything you have to say, honey, but not right this minute.”

“You’re going to Princeton?”

“Yes, but not if I don’t get out of here in the next ten minutes.”

“If I leave now I could meet you for lunch at the Mexican place and I can tell you my news in person.”

“I thought you were working lunch shift at O’Malley’s during the week.”

“Mondays are slow. They won’t miss me.”

“You can’t just not show up, Gwynn. That’s how you lost your last job.” And when you do show up, you’re always late. That’s not how you get ahead.

“You always do that to me.”

“Do what?” She glanced at her watch. Was she the only one in the family who believed in punctuality?

“Keep score. Why can’t you just accept that my career path isn’t like yours and let me live my life my own way?”

“Gwynnie, do we need to have this conversation right now?” She was still on London time and not up for a discussion of individual rights and freedoms with an independent young woman who still expected mommy to foot the bill for her car insurance.

“You sound pissed.”

“What I sound is jetlagged.” She waited for the appropriate response from her only child but none was forthcoming. “Did you forget I’ve been in England for almost ten days? I got home very late last night and I’m still on London time.” Does any of this ring a bell, Gwynn? She liked to believe most daughters would notice when their mothers were out of the country.

“You’ve been gone forever. That’s why I have so much to talk to you about.”

“Honey, this can’t be helped. I really have to go.”

“Are you okay?” Gwynn asked. “You’re not acting like yourself.”

“We’ll talk later, honey,” she said and then disconnected.

Normally Kate would have felt guilty for cutting her daughter short but today she only felt relieved. She loved Gwynn more than life itself but her daughter’s melodramatic outbursts had a way of sucking the oxygen right out of her lungs.

“Okay,” she said as she tossed the cell onto the bed. “Let’s get down to business.”

There had to be something wearable in the house. A ten-day trip to the U.K. shouldn’t deplete a woman’s reserves. She pulled out the second drawer of her lingerie chest and dumped the contents in a pile. T-shirts from various island paradises. A garter belt with tiny roses embroidered across the handmade lace, remains of a long ago Valentine’s Day celebration. More bras than any one 34B woman needed in three lifetimes. A puka shell necklace. The black lace mantilla she had found in a shop in Seville during her last married vacation. Ticket stubs, a McCarter playbill, a deflated balloon dachshund, and what was easily the worst birthday present her mother had ever given her: the infamous red lace thong.

Maeve had come of age at the start of the turbulent 60s and she believed in shaking up the status quo whenever she had the chance. How better to ignite some passion in her forty-year-old daughter’s life than to present her with outrageously sexy underwear in front of friends, colleagues, relatives, and a half-dozen prospective boyfriends. Unfortunately the passion Maeve ignited in her daughter had nothing to do with romance and everything to do with embarrassment. Kate had tried to be a good sport about it but it had taken every ounce of self-control at her command to keep from throttling her own mother.

She held up the thong. It wouldn’t cover a Barbie doll, much less a full-size woman. What on earth had Maeve been thinking?

She considered making a quick run to Target for a three-pack of Jockey for Women but the clock was ticking and Professor Armitage wasn’t known for his patience. And there was the fact that she was way beyond exhausted. Jet lag rarely bothered her, but today she was having trouble keeping her eyes open long enough to finish getting dressed.

She cringed her way into the scrap of lace and elastic then peered at herself in the mirror opposite the bed. That was better than a jolt of caffeine. The thong should have come with a warning sticker. This much reality so early in the morning was hard to take.

She looked closer. That couldn’t possibly be right. The human body wasn’t supposed to have quite so many indentations. Maybe they should add an instruction label too for the lingerie-impaired. She slipped off the thong, spun it around, then tried again.

A forty-one year old woman with a red lace wedgie was a sight to behold.

Thank God it was a sight nobody else on the planet would likely ever see.

Rocky Hill, New Jersey – 9:45 a.m.

“Congratulations,” the realtor said as Mark Kerry handed her four signed copies of the contract. “It’s now official: your house is sold.”

It was also officially the point of no return. “Now what?” he asked, wishing he felt more enthusiastic about the sale.

Bev the realtor scanned the signature pages then slipped them into a large folder. “We have a tentative closing six weeks from today. I’ll arrange for the appraisal, the home inspection, radon testing, smoke alarms, yadda yadda yadda. All you have to do is pack for your move,” she said with a cheery smile.

“And dig up the township permits for the new roof.”

“See?” Bev rolled her eyes. “I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached. We’ll need the roof permits, the signed lead paint disclosure, and your attorney’s name. You can fax copies to me and I’ll pick up the originals.”

“So far it’s been almost painless.”

“Five days from listing to contract,” Bev said, clearly pleased, “and we managed to get top dollar. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

She gave him a contact sheet with pertinent phone numbers and a metaphorical pat on the back.

“You look shell-shocked,” she said as he walked her down the gravel driveway to her car. “I promise you the hard part is over.”

Easy for her to say. When Memorial Day weekend rolled around he would be on his way back up to New Hampshire to find out if you really could go home again.

Where was home anyway? This small stone cottage in New Jersey didn’t have much going for it but somehow over the last two years it had become home. Or as close to it as he was likely to get.

Two postage-stamp bedrooms. Small kitchen. No dining room. No family room. A basement with its own share of troubles. When he walked through the front door he knew he was where he was meant to be.

But nothing lasted forever.

The other contract he needed to sign was propped up against the toaster, along with a note from his old friend Maggy Boyle who was shepherding him through the process.

The funny thing was, he thought he would have more time. Bev the realtor had warned him to be patient. The New Jersey real estate market wasn’t as hot as it used to be and the whole thing might take a while.

It didn’t.

Kris and Al Wygren showed up on Sunday for the first Open House and fell head over heels in love with the place. They loved the wonky windows, the big stone fireplace, the squeaky floor boards, every single thing. He had pointed out all the flaws and they only loved it more.

The Wygrens were all of twenty-five or twenty-six. Newly married. Newly pregnant. Ready to build a nest of their own.

He and Suzanne had been just like them. Young and in love with their entire future spread out before them like a field of wildflowers. Not that he would have ever thought of the wildflowers simile. That was pure Suzanne. She had seen life through a prism of joy that even in memory still amazed him.

Her mother used to say that God had been feeling generous the day he made Suzanne. He had granted her beauty and wit, intelligence and a kind heart, a sense of humor that could still make Mark smile across the years.

But the one thing God hadn’t seen fit to grant her was the one thing that would have made all the difference: a long life.

When she looked at him, she saw a hero. The kind of man his father had been, the kind of man he wanted to be. But time hadn’t been on their side. She had been taken from him while he was still very much a work in progress.

At least Suzanne never saw him stumble and fall. She never saw him flat on his face on their front porch, stinking of cheap whiskey and pain. She hadn’t been there to see him try to outrun the memories of their past. The lost days, those dark nights, belonged to him alone and for that he was glad.

She never found out her hero was only a man.

Central New Jersey – around 10:30 a.m.

Kate was stopped in traffic near the Bedminster exit on Route 287 when a wave of something uncomfortably close to nausea swept over her. Jet lag on an empty stomach was bad enough but for sheer misery she would put her money on the thong.

Traffic eased up as she neared Bridgewater Commons Mall but the cell phone calls kept coming. Her assistant Sonia called twice. Clive phoned from England to tell her she had left a pair of sunglasses behind. Armitage’s secretary wanted to make sure she was on schedule. Jackie the furniture refinisher with another one of her minor emergencies designed to boost her going rate another ten percent.

They all called for different reasons but every call ended the same way. You sound exhausted . . . you need a vacation, not a buying trip . . . I’m worried about you . . .

Bless call waiting, the greatest exit strategy ever invented. What was wrong with everyone? Sure, she had noticed the dark circles under her eyes but that was genetic. Maeve had them and Maeve’s mother before her. And unless she missed her guess, Gwynn had something to look forward to. She wasn’t twenty any longer. Not even Estee Lauder could turn back the clock.

She shifted around in the driver’s seat, tugging at the elastic band pinching her hipbone. Her mother had promised her that the thong would release her inner goddess and turn her into a siren capable of luring men away from ESPN and repeats of Baywatch, but so far her inner goddess was missing in action.

Her cell burst into the William Tell Overture as she neared the Route 1 exit. Her mother’s theme song.

“What did you say to Gwynn? She called me, sobbing.”

“Hello to you too, Mom. I thought you were in New Mexico.”

“I am and our girl woke me up with her tale of woe. What is going on back there?” Maeve was on the other side of the country, touring for her latest self-help tome, but family drama transcended geography.

“It was Gwynn being Gwynn,” Kate said. “She wanted to talk, I needed to finish dressing and get on the road.”

“You hurt her feelings. She had some news she wanted to share with you.”

“I cut her short once in twenty-three years and it’s a major incident?” She took a series of deep breaths and tried to calm herself. “I haven’t slept in almost thirty-six hours, Maeve, and my body thinks it’s the middle of the afternoon.”

“You don’t sound like yourself,” Maeve observed. “What’s going on, sweetie? We’re worried about you.”

“Is Mercury retrograde again or something? There’s nothing wrong with me that a good night’s sleep won’t take care of. Why is everyone suddenly asking if I’m okay?” Jet lag was hardly a new concept.

“Maybe because it’s clear you’re not yourself. You’ve seemed a little depressed, forgetful–”

“Ma!” Kate practically shouted into the tiny cell phone. “I think your imagination is running away with you.”

“You might be entering perimenopause,” Maeve volunteered.

The morning was actually deteriorating. She wouldn’t have believed it possible but she had learned long ago to never underestimate her mother.

“So how did things go in London with Liam? Any sparks?” Maeve was nothing if not resilient.

“We had tea together my first day. That was it.”

“Sharon said he would be perfect for you. She’ll be so disappointed.”

“Next time why doesn’t Sharon fix you up with the Liams and Nigels of this world. I keep telling you I’m not looking for a man and I mean it.”

“You might not be looking but you wouldn’t turn down a good one if he popped up.”

“I’m not sure there are any good ones,” she said, “at least none that I’d be interested in.”

“That’s not normal, honey. You sound like you’ve given up.”

“Mom, this is old news. I’m perfectly happy being on my own, even if that seems to bug the living daylights out of everyone else in the world except me. Can’t we just leave it at that?”

“Sara Whittaker’s son is back in town. He’s been working in Tokyo the last few years, a graphic artist. I think you two might hit it off.”

“Mom, I have another call. We’ll have to pick this up later.”

“You don’t have to use the call-waiting excuse with me, sweetie. I know when you’ve had enough.”

Kate had to laugh. “It’s a real call this time,” she said as her irritability lifted. “I’ll call you tonight. I promise.”

Paul Grantham, old friend and confidante, was next in queue.

“Took you long enough, French.”

“Thank God it’s you,” she said, adjusting the headset. “This thing hasn’t stopped ringing since I got off the plane.”

“So how was the big buying trip? Is there anything left on the other side of the pond?”

“Not much,” she admitted. “I may have struck gold.” She told him about the stack of Revolutionary War era letters she’d found in a tiny shop near Lincolnshire written to a colonel’s wife in New Jersey.

“When will you know if you found the mother lode?”

A truck, horn blaring, appeared out of nowhere in her blind spot. “Oh, damn! Sorry!” She veered back into her lane, heart pounding wildly. “What were you saying?”

“Are you okay?” he asked. “You sound a little out of breath.”

“I’m not out of breath. It must be the connection.” That and her surging adrenaline.

She held on while Paul answered an assistant’s question.

“Sorry,” he said. “Crazy morning. We’re still on for the Hospital Gala this week, aren’t we?”

“I take it Lisa’s no longer on the scene.”

“Lisa is looking for somebody who’s willing to go the distance,” he said, “and we both know I’m saving myself for you.”

It was an old joke between them, but lately she had the feeling there was more behind her old friend’s words than either one of them cared to acknowledge.

Paul was a partner in a prestigious Manhattan law firm, another one of the Coburn High School Class of 1982 who made good. He had been in her life for as long as she could remember, part of their crowd from kindergarten through high school. He had hung out with them at Rutgers where Kate had struggled unsuccessfully to combine marriage, motherhood, and college, and he had stayed a good friend even after their respective marriages fell to the divorce statistics. They had tried dating once early on but the absurdity of dressing up and staring at each other over candlelight and a bottle of Taittinger had pushed them both into helpless laughter which was pretty much where they had stayed.

Or so she had thought until recently.

“Oh my God,” she said through clenched teeth. “I almost rear-ended a cop.”

“You sure you’re okay?” he asked. “Maybe you should take the day off and catch up on your sleep.”

“That’s something you say to your aging aunt,” she snapped. “I’m not ready for the nursing home yet, Paul.”

“Tell you what,” he said. “How about if we’re not both hooked up by the time we hit retirement, we pool our social security checks and move in together.”

“Sweet talker.” She rolled to a stop. “No wonder Lisa’s not going to the Gala with you this weekend.”

“She’s twenty-eight. I don’t have time to wait for her check.”

She tried to think of something suitably witty to say in response but her mind was filled with nothing but air.

“Kate?” Paul’s voice poked through the fog. “Are you still there?”

“Sorry,” she said yet again. “I don’t know what my problem is today.”

“Did you eat anything? You’re probably hungry.”

“I grabbed a brownie and a Frappuccino at the airport while I was waiting for my bags to get through Customs.”

“And now you’re crashing. Pull into a McDonald’s and get an Egg McMuffin.”

He sounded uncharacteristically solicitous which made her wonder how bad she sounded.

“I don’t have time. Armitage expects me there in twenty.”

“Screw Armitage. Get something to eat. You’re running on fumes.”

Another wave of nausea gripped her. Maybe he was right. “I’m coming up on Princeton Promenade,” she said, easing over into the right hand lane. “They have a great food court.” She could grab some protein and a bottle of water and be on her way again with time to spare.

“Good thinking.”

“Oh, wait! I don’t have to stop. I have some nuts in the glove box.” She leaned across the passenger seat and popped open the glove box in search of smoked almonds, survivors of her last trip down the shore for the semi-annual Atlantique City extravaganza. The Atlantique City trade show was a must for New Jersey antique shop owners, and Kate was no exception. French Kiss maintained a prominent spot twice a year. She sifted through her insurance card, registration, owner’s manual and pushed aside a mall flashlight and an open packet of tissues. Where were the almonds?

She veered toward the fender of a white Escalade and quickly steered back into her own lane to a chorus of angry horns.

“What the hell is going on?” Paul asked. “It sounds like you’re at the roller derby.”

She caught sight of herself in the rear view mirror and the odd feeling in the pit of her stomach intensified. A single bead of sweat was making its way down her forehead toward her right eye. It was barely seventy degrees outside. Nobody broke into a sweat in seventy degree weather, least of all her.

“You’re right,” she said. Everybody was right. “I’m a menace. I should get off the road.”

“Want me to drive down there and get you?”

She turned on her blinker and made the right into the parking lot of Princeton Promenade. “Don’t be silly. You’re in Manhattan. I’ll be fine after I get something to eat.”

“I’ll send a car for you. We use services all over the tristate area.”

She zeroed in on a spot two lanes over and headed for it. “I’ll stop. I’ll eat. I’ll be fine.”

“I’m gonna hold you to it.”

She whipped around the head of the third lane from the entrance and zipped into the spot as a dented blue Honda angled itself behind her. “Uh oh,” she said.

“What’s going on?”

“Some guy in an old blue car is glaring at me. He seems to think I stole his spot.”

“Did you?”

“He didn’t have a turn signal on.” She hesitated, replaying the scene in her head. “I might have.”

“Where is he?”

“Stopped right behind me.”

“Blocking you in?”

She slunk down low in her seat. “I never do things like this. I’m the most polite driver on the planet.”

“Is he still there?”

“Yes.”

“Want me to call mall security? I can use another line.”

She hesitated. “Maybe you—oh, thank God! He’s driving away.” She watched through the rear view mirror. Good-looking men in her own age demographic had no business wearing Grateful Dead t-shirts.

Paul wanted to talk her into the mall and out again but her cell battery was running down. The only way he would let her go was if she promised to phone him after she saw Professor Armitage.

Normally she would have told him to back off, but so far nothing about the morning had been even remotely normal. It wasn’t like him to be so solicitous. The last time he had sounded that worried was when one of his daughters said she wanted to become a model.

A vague sense of dread wrapped itself around her chest and it wouldn’t let go.

“Okay,” she said out loud. “Don’t go getting crazy.”

The problem was so obvious that it was almost laughable: she needed food and water and she needed them right now. The food court was located near the multiplex at the south end of the Promenade. A huge round clock mounted to the left of the Sushi Palace sign offered up a reality check she didn’t need. Armitage expected her at his front door in exactly thirteen and one half minutes. Even if she ditched the search for protein she would never make it on time.

Why hadn’t she just cancelled out earlier this morning when she was trapped at the airport waiting for her boxes and bags? Why had she been so hell bent on squeezing as much from the day as was inhumanly possible?

She swallowed hard against a sudden, acrid burst of nausea at the back of her throat. The air was soft and sweet with spring promise and she swept huge gulps of it into her lungs in an attempt to clear away the discomfort but that didn’t help either.

She flipped open her phone and said, “Call Armitage,” then waited while it attempted the connection.

“Call Armitage,” she said again.

No luck this time either.

She would have to find a pay phone in the Food Court and –

And what?

Professor Armitage. That was it. Concentrate! The thought of facing the professor’s wrath wasn’t half as unnerving as this weird, disconnected feeling that seemed to be growing more intense. Unless Armitage wanted to assess the documents in the emergency room of the nearest hospital he would simply have to understand.

Understand what? She went blank for a second as scattered images flooded her brain. Professor Armitage’s wooly grey beard. His fierce little eyes. The cold slick feel of the metal box in her hands. The way that stupid thong pinched exactly where no sane person wanted to be pinched. The whooshing sound inside her head . . .

Don’t faint! she warned herself. She would die of embarrassment if the EMTs saw what she was wearing under her peach cotton twin set and pearls.

A shiver ran up her spine and she pushed the thought as far from her mind as she could. Clearly her imagination was as jet-lagged and out of whack as the rest of her, hopping without warning from one bizarre thought to the next.

She didn’t know the first thing about being sick. Her last hospital stay was twenty-three years ago when she gave birth to Gwynn. She was the one who visited patients and brought them flowers and candy and trashy magazines to while away the hours. She was always the one who got to go home when visiting hours were over.

The thong pinched when she took a step, then pinched harder when she stopped. What she wanted to do was duck between the parked cars and make a swift adjustment but wouldn’t you know it: the man she’d beat out for the parking spot was a few aisles over and looking right at her.

Bad enough she was wearing underwear ten years too young and two sizes two small for her. Imagine being caught fiddling with it in public by an angry man in a Grateful Dead t-shirt. They locked eyes for a second and she looked away. His look was disconcertingly direct but it wasn’t angry and that unnerved her. She had expected anger or irritation but she saw neither. His look wasn’t flirtatious but there was something there, something she couldn’t put her finger on. She couldn’t remember the last time a man’s gaze had unsettled her this way. The stupid thong was even affecting her judgment.

She shot him another quick glance. Tall, lean. Thick dark hair that caught the sunlight and held it. A deeply intelligent face alive with open curiosity aimed in her direction and a smile that–

Okay. Enough of that. The smile was for whoever was on the other end of his cell phone connection. Besides, the guy was wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt. What more was there to say?

A woman with three small children in tow raced past her in a cloud of baby powder and soap. Her stomach lurched at the sweet smell and for a second she thought she was about to faint. She tried to steady herself with another deep breath of spring-fresh air but suddenly her chest felt tight, like some unseen force was wrapping a band around her ribcage and pulling tighter and tighter and she knew she was going down.

Or was she down already? She wasn’t sure. The world had gone all soft-focus on her except for the sickening smells of pickled ginger, old Juicy Fruit, and motor oil.

I’m asleep, she thought. What other explanation could there be? This had nothing to do with real life. Open your eyes, Kate. You really don’t want to be having this dream.

The room smelled like a Dumpster. The mattress was hard as a rock and the covers were all tangled up around her legs and she felt like she was being —

She opened her eyes and screamed. Actually she tried to scream but she couldn’t draw down enough oxygen to manage more than a loud whisper.

The guy in the Grateful Dead t-shirt, the same guy she had beat out for the parking spot, was bent over her, tugging at the hem of her skirt.

“Glad you’re back with us,” he said, like they were chatting over cocktails at TGI Friday’s. “I was starting to worry.”

He tugged again and she tried to strike out at him but her arms seemed weighted with lead.

“Whoa!” He pretended to duck. “Take it easy. I’m on your side.”

She thought of a half dozen remarks she could make but none of them found their way to her lips. What was wrong with her? Usually she could deal out a smart remark at the speed of light. “Get your hands off me,” she managed. That’s the best you can do? Pathetic.

“You don’t want all of Princeton to see that red lace, do you?”

Oh God . . . the thong . . . just leave me here so I can die of embarrassment . . .

“So what happened? Did you trip? One second you were walking toward the Promenade and the next–” He made a falling gesture with his hand.

Couldn’t he see she wanted to roll under a car and disappear? Why was he trying to make conversation?

It wasn’t a hard question but she couldn’t seem to figure out the answer.

“Does this sort of thing happen a lot?”

“Never.” She cleared her throat. “Absolutely never.”

“I’m going to take your pulse again.”

Again?

“It was over a hundred when I checked your carotid artery. That’s not great.”

Not every Dead Head could use “carotid artery” in a sentence with such ease. Was it possible he actually knew what he was doing?

“No thanks.” But she wouldn’t mind an extra-strength Advil. Her shoulder. Her back. Her hand. Even her teeth hurt from the fall. Her left jaw was actually throbbing.

“I’m a licensed EMT.” He pulled some cards from his pocket and she pretended to examine them but the truth was she couldn’t focus on the text. “Fifteen years’ experience. New Hampshire and New Jersey.”

“This really isn’t necessary,” she said. Or at least that was what she tried to say. She was having trouble following the conversation and even more trouble synching her thoughts with her words.

“Do me a favor and lie down. You look like you’re going to pass out again.”

She wanted to protest but suddenly the thought of lying flat on her back in the middle of the Princeton Promenade parking lot sounded like the best idea she’d ever had. He opened a newspaper wide and spread it down on the ground beneath her head but the combined smells of pickled ginger, motor oil, and chewed-out bubble gum seeped through and made her retch.

He placed two fingers on the pulse point in her inner wrist and monitored the second hand on his watch. “One twenty. Any nausea?”

She nodded. You felt queasy in the car too. Maybe you should tell him that too.

“Any underlying medical conditions that might have some bearing on this?”

She was perfectly healthy. Why couldn’t he see that for himself?

“Are you on any medication?”

“Vitamins.”

“Are you in pain?” The man was relentless.

“Not–not exactly pain.”

“Discomfort?”

Oh God. Even through the fog swirling around her, she could see where this was going. “Yes.” Admit it, French: you’re in big trouble.

“Where?”

“My back.”

“Sharp pain?”

“Not sharp . . . pressure.” Three words and she was totally wiped out. What was happening to her?

“Okay. I’m not trying to worry you but we need to call 911.” He pulled a cell phone from his back pocket and punched in some numbers.

The band around her chest tightened and she broke into a sweat.

“. . . yes, I’ll stay here with her . . . thanks.” He jammed the phone back into his pocket. “You’re probably right. I’ll bet it’s nothing too but I know you’ll feel a lot better if you heard that from a doctor and not some guy in a Dead shirt.”

She wanted to laugh at his joke but all she could manage was a quick smile. She was sweating. How could that be? She wanted to say, “This isn’t really me,” but that required more energy than she could muster up. He wiped her forehead with the back of his hand and she almost wept from the gentleness of the action. “Heart attack?” she whispered.

“Yes,” he said. “There’s a good chance that’s what it is.”

“Lie to me,” she managed. “I don’t mind.” She tried to force another laugh but the iron band around her rib cage wouldn’t let her.

He didn’t pull his punches but the deep compassion in his eyes made her feel safe.

“It could be indigestion, a panic attack, a sprained muscle. But if it is your heart, we need to get help sooner rather than later.”

“Are you sure you’re not a –”

She was going to say “doctor” but the pain exploded and it blew everything else away. Deep crushing pain from the center of her body that stripped her of her identity, her memories, her future, stripped her of everything but bone-deep terror.

“Oh God . . . oh God . . . ” Was she saying it or just thinking it? She didn’t know. She felt like she was floating above the parking lot like a helium balloon on a very fragile string.

He leaned closer. She could feel his warm breath against her cheek. “What is it? Do you want to say a prayer? Is that what you’re saying?”

No . . . no . . . make it stop . . .

“Stay with me.” His voice flew at her on the loud rush of wind inside her head. “I’m not going to let you go.”

Don’t let go . . . don’t let me go . . . I’m scared . . . this is really happening . . . oh God . . . Gwynnie . . . I’ve got to see Gwynnie . . . I have to tell her I love her . . . I don’t even know your name and you’re the one who’ll have to tell my daughter . . .

“The ambulance is on its way . . . you’re going to be fine . . . just hold on a little longer . . . I’ll stay with you . . . ”

I can’t hold on . . . I want to but I can’t . . . don’t let me go . . . don’t let me go . . .

“Talk to me . . . come on . . . look at me . . .open your eyes and look at me . . . grab my hand and hang on . . . I’m not going to let you go . . . ”

Somewhere in some other universe he took her hand and held tight but it was too late. His words were the last ones she heard.

About the Author:

Barbara Bretton is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than 40 books. She currently has over ten million copies in print around the world. Her works have been translated into twelve languages in over twenty countries.

Barbara has been featured in articles in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Romantic Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Herald News, Home News, Somerset Gazette,among others, and has been interviewed by Independent Network News Television, appeared on the Susan Stamberg Show on NPR, and been featured in an interview with Charles Osgood of WCBS, among others.

Her awards include both Reviewer’s Choice and Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times; Gold and Silver certificates from Affaire de Coeur; the RWA Region 1 Golden Leaf; and several sales awards from Bookrak. Ms. Bretton was included in a recent edition of Contemporary Authors.

Barbara loves to spend as much time as possible in Maine with her husband, walking the rocky beaches and dreaming up plots for upcoming books.

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