Tag Archives: Judith Keim

Change of Heart Blitz

Change of Heart banner

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Romance,
Women’s Fiction
A
Seashell Cottage Book
Publisher:
Wild Quail Publishing
Release
Date:
June 11, 2019
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Emerson
“Em” Jordan always wanted a Valentine’s Day wedding. But after being dumped by
her boyfriend, she spends the holiday at Seashell Cottage on the Gulf Coast of
Florida with Devin Gerard, a family friend who has no interest in her or any
other woman and is instead concentrating on his pediatric medical practice and
continuing medical missions in Costa Rica.
Em,
who’s always wanted a large family, doesn’t mind his disinterest. At thirty-two,
she’s decided she doesn’t need a husband to have a child or to adopt one.
First, she’s going to fulfill her dream of setting up her own landscape design
business in upstate New York and has promised to continue to help run her
grandmother’s flower shop.
It
isn’t until Em and Devin become friends that Em realizes she might want more
than friendship from him. But with his work in Miami and Costa Rica and her
busy life in New York, it’s out of the question until something happens that
changes everything, even a couple of hearts.
 
Excerpt
Emerson
“Em” Jordan closed her eyes as the sound of the music enveloped her in a cloud
of happiness. She was taking part in her sister’s wedding at a resort along the
Gulf Coast of Florida, but in her mind, it might as well be her own
celebration. The dreamy man holding her hadn’t proposed yet, but she was pretty
sure he soon would. She’d dropped all kinds of hints about a Valentine
engagement and a wedding a year later on Valentine’s Day. It had been a dream of
hers from the time she was a girl.
In
a burst of noise, the image of dancing disappeared. Em sat bolt upright in bed
and stared out her bedroom window. Through the glass she saw a colorful display
of fireworks, and then she heard another loud bang.
Em
lowered her head into her hands and sobbed as she recalled what had happened
earlier that evening. The Fourth of July picnic turned into a disaster when her
boyfriend, Jared King, had announced he needed to talk to her about something
important. When she saw his serious expression and how he was shuffling his
feet, a nervous habit of his, her stomach did a somersault. She’d watched her
family and friends head out to walk the four blocks to the town park to watch
the fireworks and wished she could run after them.
As
he studied her, Jared took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “ Like I said,
we need to talk. I can’t do this any longer. I love you, Em, I do, but I’m not
in love with you. It’s time to call it quits.”
She
lifted a hand to her cheek as if he’d slapped her and reeled away from him.
“You’re breaking up with me? Like this?”
He
sighed. “It’s not working. And it’s not going to.”
Shocked,
she stared at him wide eyed, certain she was about to throw up. She staggered
over to one of the picnic tables set up in her parents’ backyard and plopped
down on the bench beside it. Bending over, Em put her head between her legs
hoping to stop the world around her from spinning.
“Are
you all right?” Jared asked, standing a safe distance from her.
Anger
straightened her. “I’m not all right, Jared King! You just broke my heart! I’m
not sure I’ll ever be all right again!”
“I’m
sorry, Em. I really am.” He’d simply turned and walked away, leaving her to
clutch her body, too weak to run after him, her dreams scattered around her
like crushed blossoms.
###
For
the next few weeks, Em managed to continue working at the family’s flower shop,
but, in truth, she barely functioned. Jagged edges of her broken heart kept
poking her insides, taking away her breath, stealing the cheerfulness she
usually wore like a comfortable old sweater to protect her. Not even the sweet
smell of freesia in the flower shop could chase away the pain of Jared’s words.
It was a good thing that Jared lived in New York City, an hour away. She
couldn’t bear to see him.
She
returned to her task of putting together a basket of summer wild flowers. She
loved making things look as natural as possible, and woven baskets were good
containers for the colorful blooms.
“How
are you coming with the Williams order?” her grandmother, Julia Jordan, asked
as she entered the work area.
“Almost
done,” Em said, standing back to appraise the placement of flowers.
“Looks
wonderful, sweetheart.” After the death of her husband many years ago, her
grandmother had opened the flower shop she’d named Rainbow’s End in their
small, upstate town of Ellenton, New York. In her late sixties, Julia was still
an attractive woman with gray hair cut in a bob, sparkling eyes, and a face
that reflected beauty enhanced by her inner peace. Em smiled. Of all the people
in the family, her grandmother understood her best. Two optimists who came
together. Didn’t the name of her flower shop say it all?
Later,
as Em was putting together a bouquet for a husband to send as a surprise to his
wife, she couldn’t hold back the question that had been gnawing at her insides.
“Gran, Jared told me he loved me, but he wasn’t in love with me.” It still hurt
to say the words.
Her
grandmother’s blue-eyed gaze, so like her own, rested on her thoughtfully. “He
wasn’t the right man. Don’t worry. You have time.”
“But,
Gran, I’ll be thirty-two next spring! And every man I meet ends up being wrong
for me. First, there was Garrett. He turned out to be gay, for heaven’s sake.”
Gran
clucked her tongue. “The opera singer in New York was the hardest for me to
imagine your marrying. Imagine him already married to a concert pianist on
tour!”
“Yeah,
that was another bad time. He’d told me he was lonely. I thought it was because
he was living so far away from family. I didn’t imagine him having a wife.
Neither he nor news releases ever mentioned it.”
Gran
placed a hand on Em’s shoulder. “I’m so glad you agreed to come back to
Ellenton to live. The trouble with you, Emerson, is you want to believe only
the best in everybody in every aspect of your life. That makes you a special
person, but one who is bound to get hurt.”
“I
know everyone teases me about being a Pollyanna, but I’d prefer to live happily
rather than face doom and gloom all the time.”
Gran
drew her into a hug. “Maybe it’s time for you to have a change of heart, become
a little more careful, more realistic. Nothing too drastic, mind you.”
Em
laid the red rose in her hand on the workbench. “Are you saying it’s time for
me to grow up?”
“In
a way,” she said kindly, brushing Em’s long, blond hair away from her face.
“You and I, we’re two of a kind. We dream of what could be without seeing
things as they really are. Who knew my husband would die at a young age,
leaving me with a young son to raise and no money?”
“I’m
glad you decided to open a flower shop. I love it.” Em drew a shaky breath.
“But, Gran, I hope you understand I can’t go through Valentine’s Day working
here. That’s when Jared was supposed to propose to me.”
“No
worries. I already figured that out. Besides, my neighbor, Marilyn, needs to
find a job. I promised I’d hire her on a part-time basis, thinking if she
worked out, I’d bring her on board full-time before the holidays. That will
give you a chance to start thinking about opening the landscape design business
you’ve been talking about.”
Relief
sprinted through Em. She’d never want to hurt her grandmother, but no way, no
how could she endure making beautiful bouquets, lovely nosegays, or single-rose
love letters of her own design for others during the romantic time of
Valentine’s Day.
About
the Author

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Judith
Keim enjoyed her childhood and young-adult years in Elmira, New York, and now
makes her home in Boise, Idaho, with her husband and their two dachshunds,
Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
While
growing up, she was drawn to the idea of writing stories from a young age.
Books were always present, being read, ready to go back to the library, or
about to be discovered. All in her family shared information from the books in
general conversation, giving them a wealth of knowledge and vivid imaginations.
A
hybrid author who both has a publisher and self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes
heart-warming novels about women who face unexpected challenges, meet them with
strength, and find love and happiness along the way. Her best-selling books are
based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the
interesting people she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic
settings her many loyal readers love. Ms. Keim loves to hear from her readers
and appreciates their enthusiasm for her stories.
 Contact Links
Purchase
Links
Kobo  

 

RABT Book Tours & PR
Women's Fiction Date Published: 7/27/2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing Claire Blackwell can’t find that damn white
Women's Fiction Date Published: June 2019 Publisher: Riverpoint Press Laura Beckman’s comfortable suburban life would
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…

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Going Home – Blitz

Going Home banner

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Chandler Hill Inn Series, Book 1
Women’s Fiction
Date Published:February 13, 2019
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
 
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In 1970, Violet Hawkins’ only wish at eighteen is to escape her life in the Dayton, Ohio, foster-care system and make her way to the west coast to enjoy a mellow life and find the love she’s been missing all her life. She makes it to San Francisco, but soon learns she needs a job if she’s to live properly. A kind, young man named Kenton Chandler offers her a sandwich and a job at his father’s inn and vineyards. With nothing to lose, Lettie takes him up on his offer and begins a whole new life in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. She immediately falls in love with the land and is fascinated with the idea of growing grapes in order to make wines. She, Kenton, and Rafe Lopez become friends as she learns about running the small inn on the property.
At the same time she marries Kenton, a stroke kills his father. And then before she can tell Kenton she’s pregnant, he dies in an automobile accident. Heartbroken and burdened with the gift of the Chandler Hill Inn and Winery, she’s left with the task of making them a success. Struggling to raise a child alone while working to grow the business, Lettie makes a shocking discovery that changes everything.
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Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE
Some people’s lives unfold in the most unusual ways.
In 1970, the only things Violet Hawkins wanted for her eighteenth birthday were to escape the Dayton, Ohio, foster-care system in which she’d been raised and to make her way to San Francisco. There, she hoped to enjoy a mellow lifestyle and find the love that had always been absent in her life.
                Though she made it to San Francisco easily enough, she soon discovered she couldn’t afford a clean, safe place in which to settle down. At first, it hadn’t seemed to matter. Caught up in the excitement and freedom of living in a large city where free love and openness to so many things reigned, she almost forgot about eating and sleeping. One couch, one futon was as good as any other as long as grass or other drugs were available, and others didn’t mind giving her a place to sleep. But after spending four months there, the dollars she’d carefully saved, which had seemed so many in Dayton, were nothing but a mere pittance in a city where decent living was too expensive for her. She took to wandering the streets with her backpack until she came upon a friendly group willing to give her a sleeping space inside or a bite to eat.
                One June day, feeling discouraged, she’d just sunk down onto the steps outside a row house when a young man emerged.  
                He smiled down at her. “Tired?”
                She was more than tired. She was exhausted and hungry. “Looking for work. I need to eat.”
                He gave her a long, steady, blue-eyed look. “What’s your name?”
                “Violet Hawkins. But call me Lettie.”
                His eyebrows shot up. “With all that red hair, no flowery name for you?”
                She shook her head. She’d always hated both her hair and her name. The red in her hair was a faded color, almost pink, and the name Violet indicated a delicate flower. She’d never had the luxury of being the least bit frail. 
                He sat down beside her and studied her. “You don’t look like the hippie type. What are you doing in a place like this?”
                “On my eighteenth birthday, I left Dayton, Ohio, to come here. It sounded like a great plan—all this freedom.”
                “How long have you been here?”
                “Four months. I thought it would be different. I don’t know … easier, maybe.”
                He got to his feet. “How about I fix you a sandwich, and then I’ll tell you about a job, if you want it. It’s at a vineyard in Oregon. I’m heading there later today.”         
                Her glance slid over his well-built body, rugged facial features, and clean, shoulder-length, light-brown hair. He didn’t fit into the usual crowd she’d been with, which made her cautious. “Who are you? And why would you do this for me?”
                “Kenton Chandler.” His lips curved into the same warm smile he’d given her earlier. “I’m heading to Oregon, and, frankly, I could use the company. Keeps me from falling asleep.”
                “Yeah? And what is this vineyard?”
                He shrugged. “A couple of years ago, my dad bought a small inn with 75 acres in the Willamette Valley south of Portland. He’s planted most of the land with grapes. He doesn’t know that much about making wine and wants me to learn. That’s why I’m in San Francisco. I’ve been working at a vineyard in Napa Valley just north of here, learning the ropes.” He grinned. “Or maybe I should say, learning the vines.”
                “What kind of sandwich?” she asked, warming toward him and his wacky humor. Her stomach rumbled loud enough for them both to hear it. 
“How does ham and Swiss sound?” he said, giving her a knowing look.    
“Okay.” Lettie didn’t want him to think she couldn’t manage on her own. That was dangerous. She’d learned it the hard way, fighting off a guy who thought he could have her just because he gave her a puff of weed. She’d been careful ever since to stay away from situations and guys like that.
“Well?” He waved her toward the door.
Lettie checked to see if others were within hearing range if she needed them. Plenty of people were hanging around nearby. Thinking it was safe, Lettie climbed the stairs behind Kenton. He didn’t know about the knife tucked into one of the pockets of her jeans.
Inside, she found the same kind of contrast between this clean house and others she’d been in. It wasn’t sparkling clean, but it was tidier than most.
He led her into the kitchen. “Sit down. It’ll only take me a minute to make your sandwich.” He handed her a glass of water. “Mustard? Mayo?”
“Both,” she replied primly, sitting down at a small pine table in the eating area of the room.
She sat quietly, becoming uncomfortable with the idea that he was waiting on her. She wasn’t used to such a gesture. She was usually the one waiting on others both in her foster home and at the church where she’d spent hours each week attending services and events with her foster family. Thinking of them now, a shiver raced across her shoulders like a frightened centipede. It had been her experience that supposedly outstanding members of a church weren’t always kind to those they’d taken into foster care primarily for the money.
“Ready!” said Kenton, jarring her out of thoughts of the past. He placed a plate with the sandwich in front of her and took a seat opposite her.
She lifted the sandwich to her face and inhaled the aroma of the ham. Keeping her eyes on Kenton, she bit into the bread, savoring the taste of fresh food.
He beamed at her with satisfaction when she quickly took another bite.
“Who lives here? Lettie asked.
“A friend of mine,” said Kenton. His gaze remained on her. “You don’t look eighteen.”
She swallowed, and her breath puffed out with dismay. “But I am.”
“And you’re not into drugs and all the free-love stuff everyone talks about?”
Lettie shook her head.  “Not really. I tried weed a couple of times, but it wasn’t for me.” Her strict upbringing had had a greater influence on her than she’d thought.
“Good. Like I said, if you want to ride to Oregon with me, there’s a job waiting for you at the Chandler Hill Inn. We’re looking for help. It would be a lot better than walking the streets of Haight-Ashbury. Safer too.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “And if I don’t like it?”
He shrugged. “You can leave. One of the staff recently left for L.A. That’s why my father called me to ask if I knew anyone who could come and work there. You’re my only choice.”
Lettie’s heart pounded with hope. Acting as nonchalant as she could, she said, “Sounds like something I’d like to try.”
###
The ride to Oregon was mostly quiet as an easy camaraderie continued between them. Kenton answered any questions she had about him, the inn, and the way he thought about things. Lettie was surprised to learn he hadn’t joined in a lot of the anti-war protests. 
“My best friend died in ’Nam. He believed in serving our country. I want to honor him,” he said to Lettie.
“A boy in my high school was drafted. His parents weren’t happy about it.”  
                “Well, if I’m drafted, I’m going,” Kenton said. “I don’t want to, but I will. I don’t really have a choice.”
                As they talked, they agreed that John Wayne was great in the movie True Grit.
“And I love the Beatles,” said Lettie.
“Yeah, me too. Too bad they just broke up.”
“And what about the new group, The Jackson 5?” Lettie said.
“They’re great.  And I like Simon and Garfunkel and their music too.”
At one point, Lettie turned to Kenton. “Sometimes you seem so serious, like an old man. How old are you, anyway?”
                He gave her a sheepish look. “Twenty-two.”
                They shared a laugh, and in that moment, Lettie knew she’d found a person with whom she could be herself.
###
                Lettie woke to someone shaking her shoulder. She stared into the blue-gray eyes of a stranger and stiffened.
“Lettie, we’re here,” said a male voice.
As she came fully awake, she realized Kenton was talking to her.
“Here at Chandler Hill?” she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
She looked out through the windshield of the Ford Pinto and gaped at the huge, white-clapboard house sitting on the top of a knoll like a queen overlooking her realm.
Lettie scrambled out of the car and stood gazing at the clean lines of the two-story building. Across the front, four windows offset by green shutters were lined up with identical windows below. Beneath a small, protective, curved roof, glass panels bracketed a wide front door, welcoming guests. To one side, a two-story wing had been added to the house.
Green, leafy bushes offset by an assortment of colorful flowers she didn’t recognize softened the front of the building. As she walked closer, she realized between the main house and the addition a small, stone patio and private garden had been installed.
“Come on in,” said Kenton. “There’s a beautiful view from the back porch.”
Feeling as if she were Alice in a different kind of Wonderland, Lettie entered the house. As she tiptoed behind Kenton, her gaze darted from the polished surfaces of furniture to gilt-edged mirrors to a massive floral bouquet sitting on a large dining-room table. It all seemed so grand.
Kenton led her to a wide porch lining the back of the house. Observing the rolling land before her and, in the distance, the hills crouching in deepening colors of green, Lettie’s breath caught. The sun was rising, spreading a gold topping on the hills like icing on cake.
“Nice, huh?”
Lettie smiled and answered, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful, so peaceful.”
At the sound of footsteps behind her, she whirled around.
A tall, gray-haired man with striking features similar to Kenton’s said, “Welcome home, son.”
They shook hands, and then the older gentleman turned to her. “And who is this?”
Shy, she stared at the man who seemed so familiar to her.
Kenton nudged Lettie.
Minding her manners, Lettie held out her hand as she’d been taught. “Lettie Hawkins. I’ve come for a job.” A niggling feeling kept her eyes on him longer than necessary. When she could no longer stop herself, she blurted, “Aren’t you Rex Chandler, the movie star?”
He smiled. “Yes, I am. But I’ve changed professions.”
Lettie held back a chuckle of delight. A friend’s mother had privately adored him.
“Why don’t the two of you come into the kitchen,” said Rex. “Mrs. Morley will want to talk to Lettie, and I need to talk to you, Kenton.”
As Lettie followed the men into the kitchen, a woman hurried toward them, crying, “Kenton! Kenton! You’re home at last!”
Laughing, Kenton allowed the woman to hug him. “You’d think I’ve been gone a year, Mrs. Morley.”
“You almost were,” she said, smiling and pinching his cheek. “And look at you! More handsome than ever.”
Looking as if he couldn’t wait for her to focus her attention elsewhere, Kenton said, “Mrs. Morley, I’d like you to meet Lettie Hawkins. She’s here for a job.”
Mrs. Morley’s gaze settled on Lettie. “So, you like to work?”
“She likes to eat,” said Kenton, bringing a smile to Mrs. Morley’s full face.
“By the looks of it, Lettie, you could use more food,” said Mrs. Morley. “Let’s you and I talk about what kind of jobs you could do around here. I’m short-handed at the moment.”
Kenton and Rex left the kitchen.
Mrs. Morley waved Lettie over to a desk in a small alcove in the kitchen. After lowering her considerable bulk into a chair, Mrs. Morley faced her. Her green eyes exuded kindness as she studied Lettie. Her gray-streaked brown hair was pulled back from her face and banded together in a ponytail, giving Lettie a good look at her pleasing features.  
“Have a seat, dear.”
 Lettie sat in the chair indicated for her and clutched her hands. After seeing the small inn and the beautiful countryside, she desperately wanted the job.
“Where are you from, Lettie? And why in the world do you want to work here in the country? I’d think a pretty, young girl like you would want to be in a city having fun.” 
Lettie paused, unsure how to answer her. She’d thought she’d like living in the city, being free to do whatever she wanted. But after four months of doing just that, the excitement had worn off. She liked to know where she was going to sleep at night and when she’d next eat.
 “Maybe I’m just a country girl at heart,” she answered lamely. Her two best friends at home would scoff at her, but right now, that’s how she felt.
“Well, that’s what you’ll be if you stay on. A lot of activity is taking place around here, what with people buying up turkey farms and the like, turning them into vineyards, but it is country. I hope it always will be.” She leaned forward. “Know anything about cooking? Cleaning?”
“Yes,” said Lettie. “I used to do both in my foster home. I was the oldest of eight kids there.”
“Eight? My land, that’s a lot of kids to take in,” said Mrs. Morley.
“It’s a lot of money,” Lettie said, unable to hide her disgust. “That’s why they did it.”
“I see,” said Mrs. Morley, studying her. “So how long have you been on your own?”
“Four months,” she replied. “I was in San Francisco when I met Kenton.”
“Such a good, young man. I’ve known him for a while now,” Mrs. Morley sighed with affection. “You’re lucky he found you. Why don’t we start in housekeeping, see how it goes, and then maybe you can give me a hand in the kitchen.”
“Okay,” Lettie said, jumping to her feet. “Where should I put my things? I need to get them from the car.”
Mrs. Morley gave her an approving look. “I like your eagerness. Let me show you to your room and then I’ll give you a tour.”
The north half of the front of the house consisted of a large, paneled dining room she’d seen earlier. The long mahogany table that sat in the middle of the room held seats for twelve. A summer flower arrangement consisted of pink roses and pink hydrangeas interspersed with white daisies and sat in a cut-glass vase in the middle of the table. Along one wall, above a service counter, an open cupboard made of dark wood stored coffee mugs, extra wine goblets, and water glasses. A coffee maker and a burner holding a pot of hot water sat on the marble counter. A bowl of sugar, a pitcher of cream, and a dish of lemon slices were displayed nearby. At the other end of the counter, a large plate of homemade, chocolate-chip cookies invited guests to take one.
“How many guests do you usually have?” Lettie asked.
“We have six guest rooms, so we have as many as twelve people for the breakfast we serve. During the day, people come and go on their own, tasting wine at nearby vineyards or sightseeing. We offer a simple dinner to those not wishing to travel to restaurants at night.” A look of pride crossed Mrs. Morley’s face. “Sometimes my husband, Pat, grills out, or Rita Lopez cooks up Mexican food. Guests like these homestyle meals. In fact, we’re becoming known for them.”
Lettie’s mouth watered. It all sounded so good.
Mrs. Morley led her to a sideboard, opened its drawers, and gave her a smile. “Let’s see how well you polish silver.”
Later, after being shown how, Lettie was working on the silverware when Kenton walked into the kitchen.
“Well? Are you going to stay?” he asked.
“Yes,” Lettie said with determination. The whole time she’d been cleaning the silver she’d been able to gaze at the rolling hills outside. This, she’d decided, is where she wanted to be. It felt so right.
About the Author

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Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.
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Women's Fiction Date Published: 7/27/2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing Claire Blackwell can’t find that damn white
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A Christmas Star – Blitz

A Christmas Star BANNER

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Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date Published: November 2, 2018
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Two years ago, Noelle North’s then-fiancé left her waiting at the church on Christmas—her wedding day and birthday. She knows she cannot endure another holiday season at home in Boston. At the urging of four women at the assisted-living community where she serves as health director, Noelle decides to rent Seashell Cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida for the holidays. She meets Silas Bellingham, the cutest seven-year-old boy she’s ever seen, and his great-grandmother, Althea. Noelle discovers Althea’s caretaker has been abusing her and goes into action, ending up with the temporary care of both Althea and Silas. Becoming part of the Bellingham household has an entirely different series of challenges when it comes to Althea’s grandsons, Jake and Brett, who are having problems of their own with hotels to run and their parents missing in a plane crash. But after sparring with her, Silas’ father, Jake, realizes Noelle is just what he and his family need, and when she finds the perfect Christmas star for Silas, they both know he’s right.
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 Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE
               On the Gulf Coast of Florida, Noelle North walked along the white, sandy beach that lined the shore like the fur on her slippers back home. The sun’s heat washed over her, hugging her with its warmth on this early December morning. She unzipped her light jacket and lifted her arms to the blue sky, welcoming the day with an embrace. She had a whole six weeks of freedom from work and her dismal life back home.
Her family had wanted her to stay in Boston with them for the holidays, but Noelle knew she couldn’t endure another Christmas of everyone feeling sorry for her. Two years ago, on Christmas Day, her fiancé, Alexander Cabot, had left her waiting at the church on her wedding day, while he’d taken off with another woman, his best friend’s wife. She’d wanted to die of embarrassment. Even now, thinking of that humiliation, a shudder shook her shoulders, and her stomach filled with acid.
               The one thing that had helped her keep going throughout the healing process was the conviction that she’d never fall for a glamour guy again. Besides, at thirty-two and with her grim track record with men, she was pretty sure she was destined to be single for the rest of her life. The thought didn’t bother her as much as it used to. Why should it? She had the freedom to come and go as she pleased, nobody was around to tell her what she could or couldn’t do, and evenings after a hard day of work at the New Life Assisted-Living Community were blissfully quiet.
               Noelle stopped walking and gazed out over the water. Waves rolled toward her in a steady pattern, greeting the shore with a kiss and pulling away like a shy child. Above her, seagulls wheeled in circles, their cries shrill in the stillness of the early morning. She watched as a group of sandpipers darted toward the water’s edge, dipped their beaks into the sand for whatever little morsel they could catch, and continued on their way, leaving tiny footprints behind.
               A flash of black caught her attention. She turned to see a big dog galloping toward her, yellow tennis ball in his mouth. She braced herself to greet him and then chuckled as the dog circled and ran right by her toward a small figure farther down the beach.
               She walked on, watching with interest as the dog ran into the water and came out again carrying the wet ball in his mouth. As she came closer, she saw that the person throwing the ball was a boy whom she guessed was seven or eight.
               The boy smiled at her as she approached.
“Your dog is a very good catcher,” Noelle said. “What’s his name?”
“Duke,” the boy said. The dog, hearing his name, came and sat by him.
“And what’s your name?” Noelle asked, thinking the boy with dark red hair, bright green eyes, and freckles was one of the cutest kids she’d ever seen.
“Silas. Silas Bellingham.” He studied her. “Who are you? And why aren’t you working?”
She grinned. “I’m Noelle North, and I’m not working because I’m on vacation for the next month or so.” She glanced around. “Are you here by the water on your own?”
“Naw. My great-grandmother’s over there. See?” He pointed to a woman sitting in a wheelchair on the porch of a sizeable house overlooking the beach.
               Noelle smiled and lifted a hand in greeting, but the woman didn’t wave back.
               “See you later,” the boy said and ran toward his great-grandmother.
               Noelle watched him go, thinking of all her friends’ children back home. Of the four women who had stuck together through everything since college, she was the only one who was unmarried and without children. She’d always wanted a large family, but that didn’t seem possible now. At her age and with no prospects of a husband in sight, she would be lucky to have even one baby.
               Trying to fight off depression, Noelle resumed walking. It was bad enough to have been dumped at the altar on Christmas, but that day was also her birthday. With a name like Noelle,  she’d always felt the holiday season was something extra special, almost magical, in her life. Until two years ago, that is. Now, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, and especially Christmas music were nauseating to her.
               She walked on wishing her grandmother was alive. From an early age, she and Gran had had a special relationship. In fact, Gran was the reason why, as a graduate of Boston College’s nursing program, Noelle decided to specialize in caring for the elderly. She now headed the health program at an exclusive, assisted-living community outside of Boston. Over the past several years, some of the more active residents had become dear friends. Without them, she would not be in Florida.
               Noelle smiled at the memory of Edith Greenbaum confronting her with three of her closest elderly friends. “Now you listen here, young lady,” Edith had said with great earnestness, “it’s time for you to go somewhere, kick up your heels, and have a little fun. I was doing some research on the internet, and I’ve come up with the right place for you.”
               Shocked and pleased, Noelle had played along. “And where might that be, boss?”
               Edith and the other three women had tittered happily.
               “I’ve printed it out for you.” Edith handed her a sheet of information on the Seashell Cottage just south of Clearwater Beach in Florida.
               The minute Noelle saw the picture, she knew it was a perfect idea, the perfect place. Sitting on the edge of a broad expanse of white beach, a small, pink cottage beckoned to her.
With its painted clapboards, wide front porch, and two palm trees spreading shade nearby, it was everything she’d imagined in a beach getaway.
               “Thank you, Edith,” she’d said with meaning. “I’ll see if it is at all possible.”
               “You know we’re right, Noelle,” Edith replied kindly. “It’s time for you to move on with your life. If you don’t do it for yourself, at least do it for us. We’re stuck here. But you’re not.”
               Tears stung Noelle’s eyes as she’d embraced each one. It was the perfect time of year for her to do as they suggested.
               Thinking of those dear women, Noelle’s spirits lifted and she began to run.
###
               For the second morning in a row, Noelle awoke and stretched, relieved to be away from home. She’d wanted to come to Florida in time for Thanksgiving, but her mother had put her foot down and insisted that Thanksgiving be spent with all four of her children at home. Noelle loved her parents and her three older brothers and their families. But being with them for Thanksgiving had convinced her it was right to come to Florida for the Christmas holidays. Chaos reigned when the whole family was together. Eight nieces and nephews between the ages of one and fourteen were enough to rattle anyone. Even her mother, Jen, went to bed as soon as she could after everyone else had gone, leaving Noelle to do the last-minute tidying.
               Noelle put on her fuzzy pink robe, padded into the kitchen, and turned on the coffee maker. Through the kitchen window, she saw that the clouds the weatherman had predicted were marring the blue sky and hiding the sun. Still, with ice and snow back home, the day seemed full of promise.
               She took her cup of coffee out to the front porch and gazed out at the water. A sense of peace washed over her. Edith had told her life was full of challenges, forcing people to grow and change. Thinking of the past two years, she realized she’d been stuck in a pattern of self-doubt and hurt. No man, she vowed, was worth it. Edith was right. It was time for a change.
               With a fresh resolve to enjoy each day free from the past, she went inside, changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and headed out to the beach. Though the air was cool, the sun felt warm on her face as she headed down the sand at a brisk pace.
               Along the shore, egrets were dipping their beaks into the shallow water, retrieving small, silvery fish. Noelle loved their long legs and the orange beaks that accented their white feathers. How long has it been, she wondered, since she’d taken the time to stop and study the beauty around her.
               A number of people, children included, were searching the sand at the water’s edge for seashells. Some of the more experienced searchers held net bags that sagged with the weight of their treasures. She understood how hooked some people could be on searching for the best and the most unusual shells they could find. Each shell was truly a gift from the sea.
               As she got closer to the part of the beach where she’d met Silas, she slowed. But neither Silas nor the dog named Duke was in sight. Sorry to have missed them, she walked on.
               When she reached the long, wooden pier that reached out into the water like a finger testing for coldness, she sat down on one of the benches at the end of it. For a while, she watched fishermen patiently waiting for a strike. She especially liked to watch the young boys and girls fishing. The hope on their faces was priceless.
               Yawning softly, Noelle headed back to the cottage. The sea air, sun, and freedom from home were working their magic on her body, relaxing muscles that had been tight too long.
               In the distance, she could see Silas and his dog playing on the sand. Picking up her speed, she headed toward them.
               Duke bounded toward her. His black paws pounded the sand in steady, eager beats. Wagging his tail, he stopped in front of her, tongue hanging out. Laughing, she patted him on the head. “Hello, Duke.”
               She looked up to see Silas running toward her, waving.
               Her heart filled at the sight of him. She’d hoped for a little boy just like him one day.
               “Hi,” said Silas, beaming at her. “You’re early today.”
               “Yes, it was such a beautiful morning I decided not to stay in bed. How are you?”
               He looked down, kicked at the sand, and looked up at her with a sour expression. “Mrs. Wicked is back.”
               “Mrs. Wicked?”
               He nodded. “She’s my Nana’s nurse. I don’t like her. She’s mean. She was on her break. And now she’s back.”
               “I see. Well, nursing can be difficult,” Noelle ventured to say, unsure what the real problem was in the house.
               Silas took hold of her hand. “C’mon! I’ve got to hurry back. I’m supposed to stay right in front of Nana’s house. If I don’t, Mrs. Wicked will be mad.”
               Noelle allowed herself to be hurried along.
               Standing in front of Silas’s great-grandmother’s house, Noelle studied the old woman.
Even from a small distance, she seemed bowed in spirit and fragile as she sat in her wheelchair staring out at them. Others might not recognize these signs, but from her years of experience with the elderly, Noelle was used to seeing this. On a whim, she turned to Silas.
“Let’s go say hello to your grandmother.”
“She doesn’t talk much,” Silas said with a note of sadness in his voice.
Noelle smiled. “That won’t matter. I bet she’s curious about me and might like a visitor.”
As they walked toward the front porch, a figure emerged from the house. Noelle observed the big-boned, broad-chested woman and guessed that this was the person Silas called Mrs. Wicked.
“There she is,” whispered Silas.
Pretending not to have heard, Noelle lifted a hand in greeting. “Hello!”
The woman did not return Noelle’s greeting and, instead, went inside.
Noelle climbed onto the porch, walked up to Silas’s great-grandmother, and held out a hand. “I’m Noelle North, a new friend of Silas’s. I thought I’d come to say hello to you.”
From among the wrinkles and the downcast look on her face, her blue eyes lit and a smile emerged. “I’m Althea. Althea Bellingham.” Noelle could see how beautiful the woman must have been and wondered what kind of injuries kept Althea in a wheelchair when there seemed so much life to her.
“She’s Mrs. Bellingham to you,” said the woman emerging from the house to stand behind Althea. Dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt, she scowled at Silas and turned her disapproval on Noelle.
“And you are?” Noelle asked, curious about Silas’ name for her.
“Betty Wickstrom,” the woman said with a challenging expression.
Noelle held back a chuckle. Mrs. Wicked seemed such an appropriate name. She turned to Althea. “Maybe someday Silas and I can get you out in the sun for a bit. He and Duke play a mean game of catch.”
Althea nodded and then glanced at Betty.
“She’s doing very well right where she is. Right, Althea? And now it’s time for her medicine. So say goodbye to her.”
Althea’s expression changed to one of defeat.
“Silas, time for you to come into the house,” said Betty.
“No! I don’t want to go inside. I want to stay with Noelle. She lets me play with Duke.”
Noelle smiled at both women. “I’m happy to stay with him for a while longer. Will that is okay?”
“No!” said Betty.
As Althea reached up to touch Betty’s arm, her long-sleeved shirt revealed a bruise on her forearm. “Yes.”
“What happened to your arm?” Noelle asked as calmly as she could while suspicion rolled through her in a wave of unease.
Althea glanced at Betty.
“She’s fine, just a little clumsy, that’s all,” said Betty, waving away Noelle’s concern.
“You hit Nana there,” said Silas, moving closer to Noelle. “I saw you.”
“Why, you little … You know that didn’t happen. That’s where I helped her up from another fall.”
Silas clasped Noelle’s hand and shook his head. “Adults aren’t supposed to lie.”
Noelle knelt down in front of Althea’s wheelchair and spoke softly. “Althea, you can trust me. I’m a registered nurse who helps the elderly where I live in New England. Are you being hurt?”
Althea looked at Betty, turned back to Noelle, and nodded. Then she lifted her shirt. Bruises were everywhere.
Noelle scrambled to her feet and faced Betty, her hands fisted. The burning desire to attack the awful woman was almost overwhelming. Through gritted teeth, Noelle said, “I would suggest you pack up your things and leave now, Betty, or I’m calling the authorities.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” snarled Betty.
“I would, I can, and I will,” said Noelle, flexing her fists. The abuse of the elderly wasn’t new, but each time she saw an example, it made her sick to her stomach.
Noelle turned to Silas. “You stay here with your great-grandmother. I’m going inside to make sure Mrs. Wickstrom leaves.”
Mrs. Wickstrom placed her hands on her hips and glared at Noelle. “You can’t make me leave. You didn’t hire me.”
“If you don’t leave, I’m calling the police. I mean it. I’ve handled cases like this before,” Noelle said, well aware this really wasn’t her business. But she wouldn’t, she couldn’t let the abuse continue. The sight of those bruises felt like a punch to her gut.
“Okay then, I’m not leaving until I get paid,” said Betty.
“Write down what you’re owed, and I’ll see that you get the money. That’s the best I can do under the circumstances,” said Noelle. “It’s the nicest offer you’re going to get because if it were left up to me, you wouldn’t get a dime. You’d get a jail sentence.”
“You have no proof that I did anything wrong,” countered Betty.
Noelle’s smile was cold. “Oh, but I do. I have two very credible witnesses and, if necessary, I’ll take photographs to show the authorities. Now, get your things, and I’ll escort you to your car.”
Noelle followed Betty inside and to a bedroom off the kitchen in the back of the house. She watched carefully as Betty hastily threw her things into a small suitcase. When she’d zipped her suitcase closed, she turned to Noelle.
“What are you going to do about it now?”
Noelle drew a deep breath. “I’m taking your keys to the house and escorting you to your car.”
“And then what?” sneered Betty. “Althea isn’t an easy woman to deal with. Too stubborn, too demanding for her own good.”
“We’ll see about that. Come on, let’s go.”
Noelle escorted Betty outside, wrote down the license number, and stood by as Betty threw her suitcase into the back of a small, blue sedan and climbed behind the wheel. After starting the engine, Betty gave her a middle-finger wave and took off with a roar.
Alone, Noelle stood in the driveway, breathing in and out in a calming pattern to slow her heartbeat. What in the hell had she done? She didn’t know Althea Bellingham. And now she was in charge of her until her family could find other help for her.
She went inside the house and out to the seaside porch. Silas was sitting next to the wheelchair, holding his great-grandmother’s hand. Althea was asleep in the chair. At the sweet sight of them, tears sprang to Noelle’s eyes.
“Hello,” she said softly to Silas. “Mrs. Wicked is gone. Come with me. I need your help.”
Silas followed her into the kitchen.
“Who do I need to call? Where are your parents?” Noelle asked.
Silas gave her a look that was so sad, Noelle’s heart clenched. “My dad is in New York. He’ll be back at the end of the week.”
“Do you have a phone number for him?”
Silas smiled and pointed to a printed list by the kitchen phone. “It’s the one on the top. His name is Jake.”
Noelle studied the mounted paper. Jake Bellingham’s phone number was listed at the top. She picked up the phone and dialed the number.
“The Bellingham Hotel New York. How may I help you today?” came a practiced, professional-sounding voice.
Noelle’s heart pounded with dismay. Bellingham Hotel? The family-owned hotels? “May I please speak to Jake Bellingham?”
“I’ll buzz his office for you.”
After a minute, a feminine voice came on the line. “Mr. Bellingham’s office. How may I help you?”
“Please, I need to speak to him. I’m a visiting neighbor calling from his grandmother’s house in Florida.” Noelle’s pulse sprinted at the idea of telling him what she’d done.
“Please hold, and I’ll see if he can take the call,” his secretary said.
A moment later, Noelle heard a deep voice say, “Jake Bellingham.”
Noelle swallowed hard. “Mr. Bellingham, you don’t know me, but I’m a new friend of Silas’s. My name is Noelle North, I’m a registered nurse visiting from Massachusetts, but not licensed in Florida, and I’m calling to tell you that I just escorted your grandmother’s caretaker out of the house for abusing her. I specialize in care for the elderly and recognize abuse when I see it. I did not call the police. I need to know what you want me to do next.”
“Let me get this straight. You don’t know me, my grandmother, or the woman who was taking care of her. Yet you had the balls to throw her out after, what, five or ten minutes in the house?  Is that it?”
“Yes,” said Noelle with a confidence she didn’t feel. “That’s about it. As I said, I am a registered nurse, so I’ve seen too many cases of abuse like this before. She has bruises on her arms and torso that are very telling.”
“Abuse? Really? Put Silas on the phone,” growled his father.
Noelle handed Silas the phone. “Your father wants to speak to you.”
Silas’s eyes grew round. He took the phone and listened, then he spoke in a series of staccato sentences. “Yes! I told you Mrs. Wicked was mean! Yes, I like her! Her name is Noelle and she’s here on vacation. Nana showed Noelle her bruises. That’s why.”
After a pause, Silas said, “Love you too, Daddy,” and handed the phone back to Noelle.
“I had no idea this was happening to my grandmother,” said Jake. “I have you to thank for uncovering the situation. I’ve been mostly away for the last several weeks, and Althea never mentioned any problems with Mrs. Wickstrom. Nor did I notice anything like that. I’m sorry, but I can’t make it home for another few days due to some international legal problems. Can you stay with my grandmother and Silas until I can send someone else to take over for you? In the meantime, who can I call for references on you?”
“You can speak to anyone at the New Life Assisted-Care Community outside of Boston. I handle the health program there. I’m in Florida for a vacation, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not licensed to practice in Florida, and won’t be able to stay with your family for any length of time, and then only as a caretaker, not a nurse.”
“Until just this weekend, I promise,” said Silas’ father. “And if I can find a better service than the one I used for Mrs. Wickstrom, it could be for only a few hours. Don’t worry, I’ll pay you well.”
Noelle bristled. “You may be used to paying people to do your bidding, but it’s not necessary for me. I’ve done this because I care about others. Not to get your money.”
“Whoa! I didn’t mean … Forget it! I’ll be in touch.”
Noelle hung up the phone, still steaming from the notion that she and her work were for sale when she was just voluntarily helping to resolve a very tough situation.
“You’re going to stay with me now?” Silas asked, giving her a wide smile. “Maybe for a long time.”
“Just until your father can find a replacement,” Noelle said, not wanting to get Silas’s hopes up for something that wasn’t going to happen. She already knew she didn’t like Jake Bellingham.
About the Author

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Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people, she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.
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Women's Fiction Date Published: 7/27/2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing Claire Blackwell can’t find that damn white
Women's Fiction Date Published: June 2019 Publisher: Riverpoint Press Laura Beckman’s comfortable suburban life would
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
Romance, Women's Fiction A Seashell Cottage Book Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing Release Date: June 11,

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Finding Family – Blitz

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Salty Key Inn Series, Book 4
Women’s Fiction
Date Published: September 22, 2018
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
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Sheena Sullivan Morelli and her sisters, Darcy and Regan, work to complete their Uncle Gavin’s challenge of turning his rundown hotel into a profitable operation within one year. Winning means earning a share in their uncle’s sizable estate. More than that, it determines how they’ll spend the rest of their lives. Sheena wants to stay on at the hotel, overseeing the hotel operation. But Darcy and Regan want to move on with their lives—Darcy writing a novel and Regan going into the interior decorating business with Mo. But life has other plans for them. And in the end, all three realize that the only thing that really matters is finding—and keeping—family.
Other Books in the Salty Key Inn Series:
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Finding Me
Salty Key Inn Series, Book 1
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: February 2017
Sheena Sullivan Morelli and her sisters, Darcy and Regan, receive the unexpected news that their Uncle Gavin Sullivan, the black sheep of the family, has left them a hotel on the Gulf coast of Florida. The gift comes with a twist. They must live together for one year at the hotel and prepare the hotel to receive guests within a year. Sheena, eager to escape her role of unappreciated wife and mother, can’t wait for the opportunity to find herself. Dreams of sitting on the beach sipping margaritas are shattered when they see the property in need of renovation. But they begin their work of meeting the challenge. If they succeed, the bulk of Gavin’s estate will be theirs. Facing the unexpected, working together, the three sisters learn a lot about each other and the gift of family love.
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Finding My Way 
Salty Key Inn Series, Book 2
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: June 2017
Darcy Sullivan and her two sisters continue to work hard at the Salty Key Inn, the small, Florida hotel they unexpectedly inherited. In order to inherit the rest of Uncle Gavin’s sizeable estate, they must meet his challenge to open the neglected hotel by the end of the year. Darcy figures once they meet the challenge, she’ll take off, travel the world, and maybe, just maybe, begin writing the world’s best novel. When she meets Nick Howard, an older man who is a reporter for the local newspaper and takes over his weekly column, her life changes. Under his tutelage, she writes about local residents, learning to see people in a different way—especially after meeting a cousin no one knew about. Her joy at having the part-time job that’s always been her dream is shattered when she learns Nick is dying. For support, she turns to Austin Blakely, whose grandmother is terminally ill, and through their growing relationship, comes to understand what true love is.
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Finding Love
Salty Key Inn Series, Book 3
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: February 2018
As Regan Sullivan continues to work with her sisters, Sheena and Darcy, to meet their Uncle Gavin’s challenge to make the Salty Key Inn a success, she wonders why she can never find the man of her dreams. Her sisters are happily settled with men they love. Why can’t she do the same? When she’s involved in a motorcycle accident with Brian Harwood, Regan learns to think differently about both her appearance and herself. And as she deals with her injuries and helps Brian recover from the accident she feels guilty about causing, Regan discovers that the love she’s always sought has been there all along.
Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE
SHEENA
Sheena Sullivan Morelli stood outside Gavin’s, the new restaurant at the Salty Key Inn on the Gulf Coast of Florida, feeling as festive as the mini-lights wound around the trunks of the palm trees that softened the outline of the building. She was dressed in her finest on this unusually warm, mid-December night, and the tropical Gulf breezes felt good as they caressed her skin.
From among the hibiscus planted around the perimeter of the restaurant, lights twinkled like the stars in the inky sky above and lent a sense of peace to the area. That, and the fact that Petey, the pesky peacock Rocky Gatto had rescued and brought to the hotel, had decided not to bother with this celebration and was hanging out down by the bay.
“Let’s make this an evening to remember!” said Sheena, giving her younger sisters, Darcy and Regan, an encouraging smile.
Named after their uncle, the restaurant would, they hoped, bring in enough revenue for them to be considered successful in meeting the terms of his will. With less than a month before their final meeting with Gavin’s estate lawyer in Boston, they were trying their best to prove to him that they had succeeded in beating the challenge of turning his rundown hotel into a profitable operation within one year. Winning meant they would inherit Gavin’s sizable estate along with the hotel. More than that, it would determine how they’d spend the rest of their lives.
Sheena brushed an imaginary crumb off her blue linen dress and studied her sisters. Darcy was wearing a green sheath that offset her red curls nicely. And Regan, beautiful as ever, even with the scar on her face she couldn’t quite hide, had chosen a violet, flowy dress that matched her striking eyes. Funny, Sheena thought, how she hadn’t really known her sisters until the three of them had been forced to live and work together at the hotel. And when Regan and Brian Harwood, now her fiancé, were in a serious motorcycle accident a few months ago, frightening everyone, they’d become even closer.
“I hope everyone likes what they see,” Regan said. “Mo and I did our best decorating the interior with the budget we had.”
“Don’t worry. It’s gorgeous,” said Darcy, giving Regan an impish nudge with her elbow.
“The restaurant is stunning,” said Sheena, “and the food is great. We were lucky to get Graham Howard as our chef.” She turned as a stream of people headed their way from the parking lot, which was filling up fast.
“Here we go! Make it good,” said Sheena softly, prompting Darcy and Regan to roll their eyes at the big-sister moment Sheena couldn’t help.
They’d invited county commissioners, members of nearby city and town councils, other government officials, news people, owners and managers of other hotels in the area, and even the governor of Florida to join them for this grand opening. It had been a bold move on their part, but it had already paid off in publicity, even though the governor and some county commissioners had politely declined. The fact that Darcy had been writing a column for a local newspaper helped them. She was acquainted with the ins and outs of generating publicity and had invited several writers of local social columns, travel bloggers, and magazines.
 Sheena was soon swept up greeting people and ushering them inside to enjoy drinks and to taste the delicious-looking food displayed in the bar and on a long buffet in the dining room.
The dark wood paneling on the walls of the main dining room supplied a rich background for the brass and crystal wall sconces that spread a soft glow along the room’s edges. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, casting their own warm light. White linen cloths covered the tabletops, which were set with sparkling wine goblets and silverware that reflected the light from the chandeliers and sconces. Flickering battery candles sat among tasteful, holiday greenery, adding a pine perfume to the mouth-watering aroma of the hors d’oeuvres being passed by staff.
Upstairs, the large function room held another bar and more food to sample, drawing people through the entire restaurant. A buzz of conversation enhanced the sense of excitement. The crowd was a pleasing mixture of people who, hopefully, would be a source of future business.
Kenneth Cochran, better known as Casey, was a Cornell Hotel School grad and manager of the restaurant. Tall and thin, he was a natural at his job with his ever-present smile and alert blue eyes. Tonight, he seemed to be everywhere, overseeing staff, and greeting people. Sheena observed him with satisfaction as guests responded to his attention. If she and her sisters won the challenge, they hoped to hire Casey as the hotel manager to help Sheena, who would remain an active overseer of the property.
Sheena looked up as her husband, Tony, appeared with their two children. Tears stung her eyes when she noticed the effort Michael, at eighteen, and Meaghan, at fifteen, had put into their appearance. After initially being against her plan to come to Florida, they now embraced their new lives and were proud of all she was doing.
“Hi, Mom,” said Michael. His brown eyes, so like Tony’s, sparkled. “Okay if I help myself to some of the food?”
She laughed at the typical, teenage hunger of a still-growing, young man. “Of course.   Enjoy.”
“You look pretty, Mom,” Meaghan said. “Thanks for letting me wear your necklace. It’s great with my new holiday dress.” She twirled in front of Sheena. Her auburn hair, like Sheena’s, swung above her shoulders and brought out the hazel in her eyes.
“You look pretty, too, sweetheart,” Sheena said. Her little girl was growing into a beautiful young woman.
Tony gave her a smile that warmed her heart. His smile had been one of the reasons their marriage had been prompted by the unexpected creation of Michael all those years ago. And though they’d always loved each other, their relationship had grown even stronger during their time in Florida.
He kissed her. “See you later. I’m going to mix with the crowd a little. Brian and I are hoping to pick up some new business.”
She gave him a heartfelt smile. Following Brian Harwood’s motorcycle accident with Regan, Tony had agreed to become a partner in Brian’s construction company and was now settled into his new life in Florida. As Tony walked away, Sheena noticed Blackie Gatto headed in her direction.
Blackie was Uncle Gavin’s financial advisor and a great supporter of her and her sisters as they attempted to do as their uncle wished by transforming what had been a small, run-down, family hotel into the upscale, full-service resort property he’d envisioned.
“Welcome to Gavin’s,” Sheena said to him, giving him a quick hug. “I’m so glad you could make it.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he replied, lifting her hand, and kissing it in a gallant gesture. He indicated their surroundings with a sweep of his arm. “I think Gavin would be very pleased with this.”
“We hope it brings in enough new business and revenue for us to complete our challenge here the Salty Key Inn.”
He nodded and settled his gaze on her. “I hope so, too. The downside of borrowing the money from Gavin’s estate to complete the restaurant could be difficult for you and your sisters if you fail.”
Sheena’s stomach curled inside her, but she didn’t want Blackie to see how worried she was. For the sake of her sisters and her family, she had to remain upbeat. With only a few weeks remaining to accomplish everything they had left to do, self-doubt could ruin them.
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About the Author

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Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.
Contact Links
Purchase Links
RABT Book Tours & PR
Women's Fiction Date Published: 7/27/2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing Claire Blackwell can’t find that damn white
Women's Fiction Date Published: June 2019 Publisher: Riverpoint Press Laura Beckman’s comfortable suburban life would
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
Romance, Women's Fiction A Seashell Cottage Book Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing Release Date: June 11,

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Finding Me – Blitz

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Salty Key Inn Series, Book 1
Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: February 2017
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Sheena Sullivan Morelli and her sisters, Darcy and Regan, receive the unexpected news that their Uncle Gavin Sullivan, the black sheep of the family, has left them a hotel on the Gulf coast of Florida. The gift comes with a twist. They must live together for one year at the hotel and prepare the hotel to receive guests within a year. Sheena, eager to escape her role of unappreciated wife and mother, can’t wait for the opportunity to find herself. Dreams of sitting on the beach sipping margaritas are shattered when they see the property in need of renovation. But they begin their work of meeting the challenge. If they succeed, the bulk of Gavin’s estate will be theirs. Facing the unexpected, working together, the three sisters learn a lot about each other and the gift of family love.
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Other Books in the Salty Key Inn Series:
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Finding My Way
Salty Key Inn Series, Book 2
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: June 2017
Darcy Sullivan and her two sisters continue to work hard at the Salty Key Inn, the small, Florida hotel they unexpectedly inherited. In order to inherit the rest of Uncle Gavin’s sizeable estate, they must meet his challenge to open the neglected hotel by the end of the year. Darcy figures once they meet the challenge, she’ll take off, travel the world, and maybe, just maybe, begin writing the world’s best novel. When she meets Nick Howard, an older man who is a reporter for the local newspaper and takes over his weekly column, her life changes. Under his tutelage, she writes about local residents, learning to see people in a different way—especially after meeting a cousin no one knew about. Her joy at having the part-time job that’s always been her dream is shattered when she learns Nick is dying. For support, she turns to Austin Blakely, whose grandmother is terminally ill, and through their growing relationship, comes to understand what true love is.
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Finding Love
Salty Key Inn Series, Book 3
Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing
Published: February 2018

As Regan Sullivan continues to work with her sisters, Sheena and Darcy, to meet their Uncle Gavin’s challenge to make the Salty Key Inn a success, she wonders why she can never find the man of her dreams. Her sisters are happily settled with men they love. Why can’t she do the same? When she’s involved in a motorcycle accident with Brian Harwood, Regan learns to think differently about both her appearance and herself. And as she deals with her injuries and helps Brian recover from the accident she feels guilty about causing, Regan discovers that the love she’s always sought has been there all along.
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Excerpt
 CHAPTER ONE
SHEENA
In early January, Sheena Morelli sat with her two sisters in a conference room of the Boston law office of Lowell, Peabody and Wilson, waiting to meet with Archibald Wilson himself.
“Do either of you have any idea why we’re really here?” said her youngest sister, Regan. “The letter from Mr. Wilson said something about a reading of a will. But that doesn’t make sense to me. I didn’t even know Gavin Sullivan.”
“Me, neither. He’s probably some rich uncle leaving us a lot of money,” teased Darcy, the typical middle sister, who was always kidding around.
Sheena laughed with her. The three Sullivan sisters had no rich relatives that they knew of in their modest family. They were hard workers who relied on only themselves to make it through life. Well, thought Sheena, maybe Regan wasn’t as reliable as she and Darcy. As the baby of the family, Regan had always been a bit spoiled. At twenty-two and eager to escape her old life in Boston, Regan wasn’t about to spend too much time with the family. This time, though, at the formal request of Mr. Wilson, Regan had dutifully left New York City to come to “Bean Town.”
As Sheena waited in the conference room for Mr. Wilson to show up, she studied Regan out of the corner of her eye. With her long, black hair, big, violet-blue eyes, and delicate Sullivan features, she was a knockout—a Liz Taylor look-alike.
Darcy sat on the other side of Sheena in a stiff-backed chair. Studying Darcy’s blue eyes, red hair, and freckled nose, Sheena thought of her as cute…and funny…and maybe a little annoying, though everyone seemed to love Darcy’s sassy attitude. At twenty-six, Darcy claimed she hadn’t found her true calling. Whatever that meant.
Sheena had found her calling in a hurry when she got pregnant as she was starting college, where she’d planned to take nursing courses. Ironic as it was, her wanting to become a nurse and getting caught like that, had changed many things for her. Now, at thirty-six and with a sixteen-year-old son and a fourteen-year-old daughter, she still hadn’t recovered from losing her dream.
She straightened in her chair as a tall, gray-haired man entered the room carrying a file of papers.
“Good morning, ladies. I’m Archibald Wilson, the lawyer representing Gavin Sullivan. I’m pleased you all could attend this reading of his will,” he announced in a bass voice. He looked the three of them over critically. “Which one of you is Sheena Sullivan Morelli?”
She raised her hand. “I’m Sheena. Do you mean the ‘Big G’ Sullivan?”
Wide-eyed, her sisters released loud gasps. The name “Big G Sullivan” had been mentioned in the family on rare occasions, and only when her father and his two other brothers had had too many beers. And then it was never kindly.
Mr. Wilson nodded with satisfaction. “Yes, that’s my client. Sheena, though all three of you are beneficiaries, I will address you on most of the issues, as it pertains to the specific language of the will.”
Sheena sat back in her chair, her mind spinning. This scene seemed so surreal. Their father had broken his relationship with this brother years ago. He’d always said his brother was a loser, someone he could never trust.
“He’s left something for us?” said Darcy. “I was only teasing about such a thing.”
The lawyer studied Darcy a moment, took a seat facing the three of them on the other side of the small conference table, and opened the file he had carried in.
He began to speak: “I, Gavin R. Sullivan, of the State of Florida, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make, publish, and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament…”
Certain words faded in and out of Sheena’s shocked state of mind. Though her sisters might have been too young to remember him, she had a clear image of the big, jovial man who’d captivated her with his smile, his belly laughs, and the way her father grew quiet when they were in the same room together. On one particular visit, the “Big G”, as he was known, gave her a stuffed monkey that she’d kept on her bed for years. It wasn’t until the fur on the monkey was worn off that she’d noticed a seam was tearing. One day, while she was probing the hole, a gold coin fell out.
Sheena showed the coin to her mother, who snatched it away and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone about this. It’s very valuable. Someday you’ll need it. Until then, I’ll keep it safe for you. Your uncle loves you very much.” As her father walked through the doorway, her mother held a finger to her lips.
Until now, Sheena had forgotten all about the coin.
Archibald Wilson’s voice brought her back to the present. “Sheena, you, Darcy, and Regan are now the legal owners of the Salty Key Inn, but you, Sheena, will be in charge of taking over the small hotel in Florida, as your uncle directed in his will. Is that understood by the three of you?”
Sheena and her sisters dutifully bobbed their heads. The bewilderment on her sisters’ faces matched her own feelings. How in the world were the three of them going to run a hotel?
“Remember,” Mr. Wilson warned them, “the hotel may not be sold for a period of one year. And the three of you must live there together for that entire time if you are to have a share in the rest of his sizeable estate, the details of which will remain undisclosed until the end of your year in Florida. You have just two weeks to prepare. In conversations I had with him in setting up the will, I believe Gavin Sullivan intended for this to be a life lesson for each of you.”
“Whoa! Wait a minute! What about the lease on the condo I share with two of my friends? I can’t just walk away from that,” said Darcy.
“And mine?” said Regan.
The lawyer nodded. “Read over the conditions of the will. Any expenses like that will be taken care of by Gavin’s estate. All expenses as you settle in will be handled through me. But, beware, there will be hidden tests for you throughout this entire process. Tests that could make a lot of difference to each of you.”
Sheena exchanged worried glances with her sisters. She wished she’d asked their mother for more information about the uncle she was never to mention. And now it was too late. Their mother had died a little over a year ago.
“Live together in Florida for a whole year? Was Uncle Gavin crazy when he set up this deal?”
exclaimed Darcy. Her indignation was understandable.
Mr. Wilson stood. “I realize you all have a lot to talk about, a lot to think about. And let me know if you need any further clarification of the terms of the will. You are welcome to continue using this conference room, and please feel free to help yourself to any of the refreshments on the side table.” His lips curved with a touch of humor in what had been a mostly expressionless face. “Enjoy the challenge.”
After Mr. Wilson left them, Sheena sank back into her chair. Her mind raced at the thought of suddenly leaving Boston to go live with her sisters in Florida for an entire year. How could she do that? It would be difficult for her on many levels. They were sisters, after all, and like sisters everywhere, being together for too long sometimes caused battles to erupt. More than that, she had a family. And her husband, Tony, wouldn’t like the idea at all. Her children even less.
“What a joke,” said Darcy, shaking her head. “Living with the two of you for an entire year? Running a hotel? No way. And, Sheena, Tony would never allow you to do something like this. You’re what he calls ‘the Mrs’. And what about the kids?”
Sheena glared at Darcy. “Wait a minute! What did you mean by that ‘Mrs.’ remark?”
“Don’t take it the wrong way,” urged Regan. “It’s just that your family depends on you for everything. Especially Tony.”
Deep in thought, Sheena remained quiet. Tony was a good man who prided himself on always doing the right thing. And he expected her to fulfill what he thought was her proper role.
Though their relationship was still new when she got pregnant, Tony had stepped right up and offered to marry her to prevent her mother’s conservative church friends from counting on their fingers how long it took for their first baby to appear. It helped that their son, Michael Morelli, had started his life in the outside world a little late. Still, Sheena had always appreciated Tony’s consideration.
A worried sigh escaped her. She knew Tony wouldn’t support her being away from their family for an entire year. That would be going against his idea of her in the proper role of taking care of their family. And yet, with his business recently doing poorly, it might be an answer to their prayers—though Tony’s fragile ego might prevent her from actually saying so.
“What about you two?” Sheena asked. “You’ll have to quit your jobs. What then?”
Regan shrugged. “I don’t care. My job is boring—answering phone calls, greeting people and all. They’ll just find another receptionist to take my place.”
Darcy shook her head. “Receptionist? You were so much more than that. More like some kind of hostess with all those special meetings you helped them with. When I visited you in New York, I witnessed how it was—you serving them drinks before they went out to some business dinner.”
“What about you, Darcy?” Sheena asked. “You’ve got a very good job working in IT.”
Darcy grimaced. “Actually, I don’t like it very much. Working with numbers and codes all day isn’t that exciting. Mom was always so proud of me and my job that I didn’t dare tell her I wasn’t happy there. But, with her gone, I’ve been thinking of doing something else.” She smiled. “Maybe this whole thing isn’t dumb after all. Maybe this will be the beginning of something new for all of us.”
Sheena returned her smile. Put this way, it sounded wonderful. If, only…
###
 
About the Author

 photo Finding Me Author Judith Keim_zps4vmeqh5q.jpg

Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and long-haired dachshund, Winston, and other members of her family. Growing up, books were always present – being read, ready to go back to the library or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving everyone in her family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why she was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. Judith particularly loves to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges with strength and find love along the way.
Contact Links
Purchase Links
RABT Book Tours & PR
Women's Fiction Date Published: 7/27/2019 Publisher: Acorn Publishing Claire Blackwell can’t find that damn white
Women's Fiction Date Published: June 2019 Publisher: Riverpoint Press Laura Beckman’s comfortable suburban life would
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance Date Published: 6/18/2019 Sometimes love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
Romance, Women's Fiction A Seashell Cottage Book Publisher: Wild Quail Publishing Release Date: June 11,

3 Comments

Filed under BOOKS