Tag Archives: women’s fiction

A School of Daughters Book Blitz


A School of Daughters cover


Women’s Fiction



Date Published: 12/28/2020

Publisher: Red Lace Books


It’s funny how things sneak up on you…

After 22 years of marriage, Kate Willoughby loves her husband, Brian, with an even greater passion than when she spoke her vows. “My world spins on his axis,” she admits. But when Kate finds a love letter to Brian from “Micky,” she’s torn between proving Brian’s innocence and nailing him to the wall with his guilt.

Seeking comfort and guidance, Kate turns to the one constant in her life: her animals. No surprise since Kate’s a champion for throwaways—discarded dogs and cats, abandoned horses bound for slaughter, and all creatures great and small. But she never imagined she would become a throwaway herself.

Yet few things are as they seem. Finding evidence that Brian still loves her, Kate is at a fork. Will she follow her human heart…or animal instincts?

A School of Daughters standing book

About the Author

Kate René MacKenzie

Kate René MacKenzie spent her childhood overseas, the daughter of US diplomats. Attending college in Illinois, she volunteered at the local humane shelter, eventually becoming director. While earning a BA in Art and then an MBA, Kate worked at various jobs including go-go girl, bartender, and teaching assistant. At 26, she sold her 280Z and packed her dog and cat into a Ford truck and drove the Alcan Highway to Alaska where she spent 23 years exploring The Last Frontier in a single-engine Cessna. A vegan and animal rights advocate, Kate provides a sanctuary on her Arizona ranch for all creatures great and small. Every year, like the Gray Whale, Kate returns to Alaska. Kate Rene’ MacKenzie is the women’s fiction alter ego of romance novelist and Golden Heart nominee Maggie McConnell. Visit Kate’s website at KateReneMacKenzie,com.

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Summer Blitz


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The Matchmaker Chronicles Duets, Book 1


Chick Lit, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Women’s Fiction

Publisher: Mapp & McCurry LLC

Mothers. Meddling. Matchmaking. What could possibly go wrong?

Best friends Rina Thorn and Maggie Barnes decide it’s time to help their not-even-looking-for-love children find their happily ever afters.

Ander Thorn will do anything for his mother Rina—except get married. But when he collides with his mother’s beautiful home renovator, more than walls come tumbling down. Noelle DeWitt refuses to give into her attraction to the arrogant and aggravating man. At first. Time and proximity chisel her resolve. She falls hard for a commitment-averse Ander, which poses a dilemma because she wants forever.


Police officer Finn Riley reluctantly agrees to help his neighbor Maggie find a husband for her daughter, Jennifer. After he meets her, Finn puts his name at the top of the soul mate list. Romance is on Jennifer’s backburner until she meets Finn. Their strong attraction seems impossible to ignore until Jennifer discovers he’s been helping her mother in the crazy matchmaking scheme. Can their relationship survive when it began with deception?

Other Books in the Matchmaker Chronicles Duets series:

the Matchmaker Chronicles Duets series




The Matchmaker Chronicles Duets Book 2


The Matchmaker Chronicles Duets Book 3


The Matchmaker Chronicles Duets, Book 4


About the Authors


Lynn MappLynn Mapp is a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, teacher, writer…obviously a multi-faceted diamond, princess cut. Lynn was a navy brat, born in San Diego, California. While she was born in California, her Idaho roots are deep. Her mother and grandfather were Idaho natives. She has always looked for happily ever afters, the light after the darkness. Families and humor are central in her life and her stories.

Lynn Mapp

Janis McCurry – I was born and raised in Boise, Idaho, nestled in the beautiful Treasure Valley. I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else. We have four distinct seasons, mountains, lakes and deserts. My sisters and I were close growing up and we all still live in Boise. I could no more leave out a family connection than I could the romances I put in my novels. I write contemporary romance because I believe in happy endings, whether with a first-time love or a second chance love. An inveterate reader and moviegoer, I like romantic comedies, drama, and adventure themes.

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The Fourniers Tour

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The Fourniers cover

Women’s Fiction


Date Published: 5/26/2021

Publisher: Indies United

When Hannah Reilly steps off the ship on the shores of Ellis Island in 1912 she has no idea that it is not a convent that awaits her. It is a man who finds her far too beautiful to marry God.

Hannah turns her back on the church and she and Wade settle in Jacksonville, Florida, where the world holds the promise of sunshine. They have two wonderful children before life changes and Wade insists that Hannah abort her third child. When Hannah refuses, light turns to darkness and fate unfolds before Hannah with the cruel consequences of her choices.

A story told against the backdrop of the Depression, Hannah struggles with anguish and despair highlighted by brief moments of triumph, lost love returned, deep friendship and the cruelty of laws so unfavorable to women.

The Fourniers tablet



1892 – 1934

  • Chapter One

The morning was grey and damp. Color drained from the earth, washed off by rain that would not cease, might never cease, it seemed so committed. Hannah listened intently to the wind’s menacing murmur, stirring up the ground and whatever was on it. There was a clanking sound coming from the side of the house, which she could not place, perhaps the garden tools she had used the day before. They were like cymbals with the drum of thunder, both playful and irritating. The fire in the kitchen was warm, but the chill in her veins remained. She felt her future being written by the patter and the disarray of the storm.

She could smell her father’s pipe. It was usually sweet, but the dampness made it pungent, almost sour. It polluted the air like the large Irish setter at her feet, whose wet hair had a bad smell, like soiled clothes. She reached down and touched his head anyway, and the dog’s cold nose brushed past her palm.

She would not argue with her father any longer. She would not beg nor plead nor weep. Her father’s mind could not be changed; his absurd obsession with things that shouldn’t matter was set in stone. She turned her head toward the window, and the dark wind came at her so fiercely. The windows rattled as if phantasmal lunatics were attempting to reach her, as if phantasmal lunatics were about to shatter the glass and take the very life from her.

“Brutal weather,” her father said. “Raining pitchforks.”

Hannah nodded. “Yes, I hope there won’t be much damage.”

He went back to his paper and his politics, back to his unreasonable hatred of the Nationalists. None of it mattered a damn to her.

“Ay, there’ll be some of it, rest assured.”

“What? Damage?” she asked.

“Rest assured,” he said.

“Yes, I suppose there will be,” she answered and turned her head back toward the window and the angry gusts that took center stage and demanded notice.

Her father mumbled over something he had just read and slammed the paper to the floor. He shook his head, cursed under his breath. “Why the hell would we go backwards?” he yelled out.

Her sister was knitting. The action of the needles seemed to calm her. Contentment nestled around her smile as if the storm weren’t taking the roof off over them. Her pretty face was placid and untroubled. She whistled every now and then, adding to the drumrolls of Mother Nature’s tantrum.

“What’s that you got in your head?” Hannah asked her. “’On Moonlight Bay’?”

“Will you play it for me later?” Anne asked.

“You think you’ll be hearing it over all this thunder?”

Anne laughed good-naturedly. Her laughter had a melody, like violins hitting a high note.

“Well, play loudly then, and I’ll sing loudly,” she called out, eager to be heard above the storm.

Hannah tried to smile, but she felt the tension in her expression, surprising her by its sudden appearance. Would there be any singing in the convent? She wondered. Hymns, of course, but certainly not ragtime. She hoped that God was not her destiny. She didn’t want it, nor did she choose it. But that’s just the way it was. There was God or there was man … nothing in between but spinsterhood. Well, she would have gladly chosen spinsterhood, a future dimmed by lack of purpose, over a future dimmed by taciturnity and endless prayer.

“I don’t think I will be happy as a nun, Papa,” she said slowly, though she’d said it before, a hundred times before. She knew it would make no difference. Her father’s mind was made. She hadn’t the discretion to choose well, the good sense to choose a man with loyalty to Britain. What unearthly difference it made she could not begin to understand but it certainly proved her inability to make wise decisions, according to her papa.

“What’s that?” John Reilly asked.

Hannah turned her head away.” Nothing,” she said.

Her sister continued to knit, but Hannah knew she was holding her breath. She felt her papa’s gaze from across the room, felt the complexity of his thoughts. He had heard what she’d said, she knew it.

Hannah looked at the tip of her shoe, avoiding Papa’s irksome stare. Perhaps she should have said it louder. Perhaps she should have shouted it. The gray Dublin sky gave way to a cannonade of thunderous drumrolls. Hannah felt a shiver right through to her bones. She saw her life as one might see a dark cloud descending, swallowing the sun. She shivered again and pulled her shawl closer to her.

John Reilly dismissed what he might have wanted to say, which was rare for him; he always had a response to everything. Hannah knew he wanted to tell her that what she wanted didn’t matter, wouldn’t ever matter because how could she, a mere child of seventeen, know her own mind better than he? Hannah was used to it by now, her father thought for her, as if her mind wouldn’t work without him. She was grateful that this one time he had kept his mouth shut.

“You’re too independent, girl,” he finally said. “Men don’t like that. Not enough good men to go around anyway. Besides, doing God’s work is a blessed thing. You should be proud. Happy too, that we’ve the money for the convent.”

“I am not proud,” she said. “Or happy.”

Hannah knew that if a girl wasn’t promised, she became a nun. That’s what God wanted if no man had asked for her hand. And of course, God knew best. Her father must have had daily conversations with the good Lord to know his mind so well. But had God forgotten that a man had asked for her hand? Certainly, her father wished to forget. Andy McGregor, with his fine good looks and his golden curls that fell onto his freckled brow, like a perpetual urchin; he had asked for her hand. He’d been teasing her relentlessly since she’d been a girl, too young to realize then that his teasing was boyish flirtation. When it finally dawned on her that he thought she was pretty, she was quick to acknowledge the acceleration of her heart and the flush to her cheeks in his presence. His smile had won her over long ago when he’d stood on the tips of his toes to kiss her. Now it strained her neck to find his smile. But he could never cross the threshold of her father’s door again, not with his Labor Party politics. Her father had strong British Unionism roots, and Andy was showing such poor judgment, wanting independence from Britain? How dare he join the Nationalist party and hand pamphlets out around the village that spoke of a return to Gaelic roots and Irish Independence? What absolute rubbish. “You will never marry Andy McGregor,” her father had insisted. “He is a dangerous fool, and I will not have a viperous traitor in my family. I will not have us split apart by that man’s absurd beliefs.”

Hannah shuddered. “Shackled would be more like it,” she said softly.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“How I feel,” she said.

“You’ll make me proud, daughter,” John Reilly nearly shouted. She knew he was angry with her, frustrated that she didn’t bend to his will as easily as he would have liked.

Hannah nodded in his direction. Acceptance now was all she had left. If she married Andy McGregor, he would not be proud? No, he would be ashamed and defensive and probably never speak to her again. And if she went against her father’s wishes she would break his heart. Better her own should break.

“You don’t like him because he’s poor,” she said.

She felt her sister’s eyes on her. Her father slapped the table with the palm of his hand. “Yes, you want not only to marry a poor man, but a stupid one.”

The kitchen shutter hit the window as torrents of rainwater obscured the view of Dublin’s hills. They watched as lightning lit up the sky, leaving behind a tenebrous shadow, blurred further by her tears.

“You are entitled to believe what you will, Father,” she said.

“I am more than entitled, I am deemed fit by the nature of being your father. I am wiser than you, I’ve lived longer.”

“Is it His will or your will, Papa, that I give my life over to a God who has never asked me directly for anything? I’ve received no calling except the one in my own heart.”

John Reilly did not answer. He picked the paper up and closed his eyes. “I see it as God’s will,” he said.

And I have no will? she thought to say but didn’t.

“You girls best be putting on the soup now, it’s nearing six.”

She would say no more. If she didn’t take it into her own hands it was to be her fate. She avoided her sister’s glance, knowing sympathy was being offered, but it was not sympathy she needed, it was a bloody miracle.


  • Chapter Two

The very next day the sun appeared like a blessing, as if making amends for the storm of the prior night. Hannah was happy to be greeted by the sun and couldn’t wait to feel the heat after such dampness. She nearly skipped to the Sweet Shop. Anne was following along as she always did. They’d been going there for years, for crumpets and hot cocoa. Hannah had a job, meager but respectable. She’d recently been hired by Mr. Smiley to teach his daughter to play piano. The back room had an upright, and Mr. Smiley insisted his daughter learn what to do with it.

“Another day looking for miracles,” Hannah whispered to Anne as she took her place at the piano bench and Mr. Smiley’s daughter sat beside her. Hannah felt somewhat giddy, despite the gloom of the convent hanging over her. Smiley’s Sweet Shop always smelled of peppermint and chocolate, and she was sure to get a handful of sweet creams at day’s end.

“Today we’re going to have some fun, my girl,” Hannah said. She was feeling rebellious, though God knows why; her rebellions were nothing but ripples in a mighty stream, never waves, or hurricanes.

Hannah winked at Anne, and the two smiled at each other, conspirators against the world but never with ill intent. They just had a way of knowing what the other was thinking, and Anne knew instinctively that Hannah was about to alter the agenda.

Hannah played ragtime often. Ragtime was her only real defiance. She loved it, though the older people held their ears. She played a few notes of “Ragtime Land,” and Mr. Smiley’s daughter, Brianna, tapped her foot to the rhythm of it as if she’d been wound up.

“Can I play this, Hannah? I love it.” Brianna moved her shoulders to the tune and laughed.

Hannah smiled at Anne and motioned for her to close the door. “Well, your father is terribly busy today. I don’t think he’ll hear us, and if he does happen to hear us, we’ll return to Chopin quick as a wink.”

“Rather not quickly enough, I’d say,” Anne said as she turned the lock.

“Listen to this and watch what I do. You can do it, too. It’s not that hard.”

She played Anne’s favorite, “Moonlight Bay.” Then she played all the songs that came to mind while poor Brianna tried to follow all the while saying, oh, I love this.

Andy tapped gently on the door, as he did each Tuesday and Thursday. Anne got up to let him in. He could never pick Hannah up at home anymore, not since he and Mr. Reilly had that horrible argument about Britain and the iron hand it had around Ireland.”

“Mr. Smiley thinks he’s hearing things. Doesn’t know what to make of it,” Andy said as he entered the room.

Hannah felt the blush to her cheeks, a blush he always seemed to elicit from her. “I’ll tell him I’m playing Bach; his music is a bit crazy,” she said.

“Ay, I doubt he’ll know the difference.” Andy smiled at Briana. “No offense, girl.”

“None taken, Mr. McGregor.”

Hannah caught Andy’s gaze as he stood there smiling. Then he started whistling.

“If you don’t mind ladies,” he said and he began to dance, extending his hand to Briana, who twirled around with him. No one danced to ragtime, it was near impossible, but Andy would attempt it. His brown boots hit the floor like paddles against the sea. Hannah was playing the “Bacchanal Rag,” a tune she’d learned from a player piano, and he was acting like he’d had too much to drink, comical in his effort to coordinate his steps. Briana gave up and fell to the bench, laughing hysterically. Andy finally slid to his knees before Hannah, breathing rapidly, with his hands outstretched. She swung around and tussled his hair.

“Don’t be trying out for any dance choruses, not any time soon.” She bent to kiss his cheek. “Well, look at that, the hour has come and gone.”

“Come walking with me, darlin’,” Andy said, breathless from his rollick. “I’ve never seen a finer day.” He turned to Anne. “Would you mind?”

Anne glanced his way and smiled coyly. “No, I don’t mind, and I’m prepared to tell Papa that Hannah and I knitted after Brianna’s lesson, knitted for hours. Hands still stiff from it.” She held her hands up. “That’s what I’ll tell him if you’ll buy me a palmier with Irish cream.”

Andy reached in his pocket and put a sixpence in her hand. “I’ll buy you two if you can convince him he’s a damn fool.”

Anne and Hannah laughed together. “Ay, it’s no use going to the goat’s house to look for wool,” Anne said.

The sky had burst forth with a brilliant sun, growing hotter by the minute. It had settled the earth, made peace with it. It was like the bad weather of the prior day was suddenly vanishing and, in its wake, revealed the intoxication of pale blue skies. The heat had dried the dampness and had brought the scent of lavender to the surrounding countryside.

Hannah took Andy’s hand, and they walked out toward the farms and the winding lanes of Boyne Valley. They were careful not to be seen. If word got back to John Reilly that his daughter was keeping company with a damn Irish Republican she’d be held under lock and key until the nuns took her.

“If it were up to me, we’d run off tomorrow,” he said. “But we need just a bit more money to get to America. Can you stall your Papa a wee bit more?”

“He’s got my bags packed for the convent; says I’ll be leaving next week. He can’t wait for God to take me.”

“A week is not time enough for me to get the money together,” he said.

“And how will I get out of it?” she asked. “He’s so proud of me becoming a nun.”

Determination settled in his expression like night falling. “I don’t know, Hannah, but we’ll find a way. I won’t have you disappear from my life like that.”

“I’ll be coming back and forth; I won’t be there all the time. At least not yet.”

“I could be caught kissing a nun.”

She giggled. “Oh, Andy McGregor, nuns only kiss the foot of Jesus.”

He smiled. “We could elope.”

She pushed him back. “You’ll make me a widow in a week if we do that. Papa will surely come gunning for you.”

“I say we go to America now then,” he said. “If we wait, you’ll be locked away for all time. There’s nothing your father could do if we eloped to America.” He kicked some dirt under his foot and frowned. “I hear they never let you go once you’re promised to God. We’ve got to do whatever we can to prevent that. Not that I don’t believe in those that want to worship our Lord but not you, Hannah. Pray, not you.”

“I don’t want to be promised to God,” she said. “I want to be promised to you.”

He looked at her sadly. “Can’t you talk reason to your father?” he asked. “He’s acting like the most pig-headed man I’ve ever known. If it will make him happy, I’ll never talk politics again, well, at least not in his company.”

“And will you be in support of British rule?”

“You know I cannot do that.”

“We know how you feel. Our friends know how you feel as well, but can you not lie to my Father?”

“I suppose I could.”

“He won’t let me marry you because you believe in Irish Independence and he doesn’t. Is that reasonable? He’s the one who told me that I had the calling from God, is that reasonable? Now I ask you, why would God speak to him and not directly to me?”

“I should approach him and pretend to have changed my mind. After we’re married, I won’t care what I say.”

“He’ll speak with his fists if he doesn’t believe you.”

“We’ve got to try, Hannah. You’re right. We’ve got to do something. I’ll come tomorrow night. He won’t throw me out, not if you tell him I’ve had a change of heart.”

“I won’t let him throw you out,” she said. “But do you think it will make any difference?”

Andy shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ll tell him whatever he wants to hear. If he believes me then it will be worth it.”

He pulled her into his arms. They had walked back to adjoining farms. For miles they had seen nothing but foxtail grass, blue-eyed and green. The land was covered in miles of thistle and butterwort. Only cows grazed peacefully across the hills, indifferent to everything but their own enjoyment of their effluvious field of flowers.

Andy smiled. “Before I saw that farmer there waving to us, I thought we were alone on earth.”

“I wish we were,” she said.

“Run away with me.” He spun her around. “Let’s just be done with it.”

“My father will only hunt us down. I fear he’ll put a bullet in you, or make sure you’re spending time behind bars. We must get to America as soon as we can. It is the only place we’ll be safe from my father and everybody else’s wagging tongues. Besides, America is the best place to be, isn’t it?”

“I’ll get the money,” he whispered as he kissed her mouth and she reached for him. “I’ll get it or my name isn’t Andy McGregor,” he said. “Even if I have to steal it.”

“You mustn’t,” she said, a bit startled.

“I won’t,” he said, “but I will get it.”

“You do want to go to America, don’t you, Andy?” she asked.

“Sure, I do, if it will bring us peace, sure I do.”

“I think it’s the only way we can find peace.”

“Let’s give it one more chance; let’s be smart about it. Maybe we can put an end to all this talk of the convent. Tomorrow night I’ll come by and I’ll apologize to him, tell him I’ve changed my mind about the British. I’ll lie like crazy. I’ll do anything to keep you from the nuns. Then once we’re married, I’ll call him a backwards, cantankerous old fool.”

Together they laughed as the warm winds came up behind them, and she tripped backwards. He fell beside her. They were on a hilltop that rolled softly to the grass below, and they slipped down the hill together. She landed on his belly. Their laughter was loud, as if they’d never stop. But soon, their laughter faded, and he put his hands up under her blouse. She felt her skin warm to his touch. She held him tightly and looked around.

“Do we have an audience anywhere near us?”

“Just the birds,” he said. “They are singing loudly, rejoicing in our love.”

“Pretend they’re marrying us, giving us vows, making us man and wife.”

Hannah spread her legs and lifted her skirt. She would have her lover the way she wanted him. She would have him completely. She would not be a virgin bride if God put a ring on her finger; that was for sure.

About the Author


Vera Jane Cook

Vera Jane Cook enjoys writing in a variety of genres. As Olivia Hardy Ray, Jane is author of the dark, suspenseful scifi novel, Pharaoh’s Star. In the fantasy genre she is the author of Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem, Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau. She has numerous forthcoming titles in this genre which include Annabel Horton and the Demon of Lodun, Fox Hollow and Nobody’s Road.

As Vera Jane Cook, she often explores her southern roots and complex family dynamics in her women’s fiction. Her novel Dancing Backward in Paradise won the Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction when it was first released in 2007 and an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence that same year. Dancing Backward in Paradise received a five-star review from ForeWord Clarion. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater, first released in 2012, was a finalist for the ForeWord Clarion Book of the Year Award. Additionally, Jane has published the southern fiction novels Where the Wildflowers Grow and Pleasant Day. Her newest women’s fiction novel, When Hannah Played Ragtime, Book One in a family trilogy will be published this year.

Jane lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her spouse, her Dachshund, Karly, her Chihuahua, Peanut, and her two pussycats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie.

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Despite the Devil Tour

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Despite the Devil cover


They Loved Collection Book 1
Women’s Fiction


Date Published: 11-11-2020

Publisher: Drummond Martin Publishing

To Stephanie, Andrew Simmons seemed like the perfect man. He was smart, handsome, kind, and athletic. And best of all, he was interested in her. As their romance begins to blossom, the truth about Andrew’s past comes to light. A misguided choice made many years before, hung over him.

When they start a family together, Andrew tries to move on from the past and enjoy his family life, but the past still haunts him.

As Andrew and Stephanie build a stable and happy home life together, they long for the day they can stop looking over their shoulders. With resilience and perseverance, can they overcome the dark cloud together?

Despite the Devil tablet

Despite the Devil by Shawna James

Chapter Two Excerpt

It was Monday, and Stephanie was supposed to go to the gym in the evening. By the time she walked out of the teachers’ room with Maya, she still had a couple of hours to spare. Maya left and Stephanie was now alone. She tried to decide whether to go home or stay around. Just then she remembered that she had to make a poster for the new drama play she was planning for that year. 

She spent the next half an hour designing the poster and getting it printed. Then, she went to the notice board to put it up. No such luck.  The notice board was all filled and she didn’t want to cover up any of the other posters. She scanned each one to see if there was anything that was past the event date so that she could ask the owner for permission to remove it. 

While she was looking at the posters, she noticed Andrew’s soccer poster and read it once more. 

“Interested in joining the soccer team?” came a voice from behind her. 

Startled, she spun around to see Andrew standing behind her, smiling and looking down at her. 

“You scared me,” she blurted out, placing a hand on her chest. Her heart was beating wildly. 

“Oh, sorry,” Andrew apologized. “I didn’t mean to scare you.” Andrew looked genuinely worried.  

Stephanie smiled at him reassuringly. “No, no. It’s alright,” she said. “I’m just looking for a place to hang my poster. I can’t decide which one to remove.” 

“You can remove mine,” Andrew offered kindly. 

“No, you don’t have to do that.” Stephanie blushed. 

Andrew stepped forward, and before Stephanie could say anything else, he took down his poster. Then, he took Stephanie’s poster from her hand and, despite her protest, posted it in the now empty slot on the noticeboard. 

“Don’t worry. I already selected my team and came here to take it down anyway.” 

Stephanie couldn’t discern whether he was telling the truth or being sweet to please her. She was glad that her poster was now on the notice board though, occupying a prime spot that could grab lots of attention. 

“You are too nice,” Stephanie complimented him. 

Andrew smiled and said nothing. He glanced at his watch. 

“Am I keeping you?” Stephanie asked, glancing at her own watch. 

“No. I have about an hour to spare and was wondering where I could get a good cup of coffee,” Andrew explained. 

“I know exactly the place!” Stephanie told him cheerily. She was encouraged by the fact that she hadn’t said anything stupid to Andrew yet. “In fact, it’s my friend Maya’s find. It’s on my way home; I could show you the spot. Have you met Maya?” 

“I haven’t met most of the teachers yet.” 

“You would have noticed her,” Stephanie quipped drily. “She’s bubbly and talkative, has short hair, and teaches math.” 

“Ah, yes, I think I have,” Andrew chuckled. Even his laugh was enticing. 

“Don’t tell her I called her bubbly,” Stephanie muttered in a low voice, glancing around them. Andrew cracked a smile and nodded. His eyes brimmed with humor and life. He had such a caring look and sense of gentleness about him. Stephanie tried to calm her stomach, which kept getting a swooping sensation every time she looked at Andrew. 

They walked out of the school, and Stephanie directed him to the restaurant, the one Maya and she regularly visited.  

“This place has the best coffee and cheesecake, approved by Maya,” Stephanie said by way of introduction. “Maya may be a math teacher, but her real expertise is food.” 

“Approved by the expert.  Got it,” Andrew replied charmingly. 

Stephanie glanced at her watch again. She also had another hour to spare. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Andrew studying her. 

“Why don’t you join me for a cup of coffee?” he invited. “Maybe you could lend me more expertise on food-related matters.” 

Stephanie could feel her heart skip a beat and her face flushed with excitement. She searched for words to politely refuse this invitation, but truthfully, she wanted nothing more than to spend time inside the restaurant with him. “I’m not the expert,” she argued lamely. “It’s my friend Maya who’s the foody, but I will join you for that cup of coffee.” 

“Consider this an apology for bumping into you the other day,” Andrew added and held the door open for Stephanie to enter. 

Stephanie stepped inside, her mind screaming ‘be cool, be cool … don’t show how much you like him’. 


They sat down with their coffee. Andrew ordered a doughnut and Stephanie had her favorite strawberry cheesecake.  

“Give me a second,” Andrew said when his phone vibrated. He took his phone out and started typing. Stephanie took a bite of her cheesecake and waited for Andrew to finish typing on his phone. 

“Where were you before coming here?” Stephanie asked, breaking the silence. 

“I was in Ontario,” Andrew replied, looking up. He really had amazing eyes. “I worked at a private school there, and once my contract expired I decided to come here.” 

Stephanie gazed at Andrew, infatuated. She really liked his accent and his handsome Scandinavian looks.  

To think that Maya had called him a Viking! 

“I can’t place your accent, where are you originally from?” Stephanie inquired. She wanted to know everything about him. 

“You mean you want to know when I came to Canada?” 

“Yes, something like that. I like a good story.” Stephanie took a sip of her coffee, barely tasting it. 

“I am not sure whether the story is good or bad, but it is definitely a long one,” Andrew laughed.  

Stephanie smiled, locking eyes with him. “I have time,” she encouraged him. “I have exactly one hour before I have to go to the gym.” 

“Well, I came to Canada about four years ago,” Andrew began. “Before that, I was in Africa.” 

“Africa? Really?” Stephanie could not hide her excitement in hearing that Andrew had been to Africa. She always wanted to go there and go on a safari in the Serengeti. Sadly, her bank account would probably laugh at her if she mentioned that, she reflected. 

“It will be a complicated story if I keep telling it backward like this,” Andrew corrected himself, staring off into the distance. He looked like he was gathering his thoughts. “I’ll start from the beginning.” Andrew took a long sip from his coffee, leaned back on his chair, and continued, “I was born in Norway. I grew up there. After college I joined a club to play soccer. Then came the military, and I was stationed in Bosnia as a part of the NATO peace force there, after having served in the Gulf conflict.” 

“I didn’t take you as a military man,” Stephanie interjected. 

“I wouldn’t call myself that, either. I was just completing my mandatory military service, but I guess my timing was just awful. Most of my friends completed their service without leaving Norway, but I was specifically trained as a sharp-shooter and was flown all over the place.” 

“How was the military?” 

“It was awful,” Andrew recollected. “The Gulf was tough, but for me, Bosnia was worse. I hated to see all that destruction and despair, and after seeing some horrors and enduring what I had to endure, I knew I could not go back to playing soccer professionally. I did try, though. I tried it for a few months after I left the army until one of my friends suggested that I join him on his trip to Africa, and I agreed.” 

“What made you want to go to Africa?” 

“It’s funny now that I think about it. My friend Liam was leading a small group that was going to conduct a research program on malnutrition in African countries. He had a very loose schedule and was planning to travel all over the continent. His organization had partnerships with UNICEF and WFO, so he basically had UN clearance to move around. So, when he offered me a post to be a part of his expedition crew, I said yes. He invited me one evening, and by the next evening I was on a flight.” 

Stephanie shrugged, and Andrew must have noticed her change of expression. 

“Don’t think I was too reckless. I was perhaps young, a little foolish, and wanted to see the world. None of which were really bad decisions, at that point.” 

“I wasn’t judging you.” 

“Of course you weren’t, but I just wanted to make sure that you don’t misunderstand.” 

“So, what happened in Africa?” 

“It was all fun and games. We hiked, slept in the desert, and ventured into different countries and cultures. Those were the best days of my life. The real highlight was our climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Have you been there?” 

Stephanie shook her head, “Was it hard?” 

“I won’t say it was easy, but it was worth every bit of it.” 

“I wish I could go to Africa one day to see the big cats,” Stephanie sighed longingly.  

“You like animals?” 

“Lions!” Stephanie replied enthusiastically. “I love lions. I hope to photograph them one day. My father did last year, and he brags about that every chance he gets.” 

“Wow! So you’re a photographer?” Andrew was eyeing Stephanie with interest. 

“I own a camera, but none of those fancy lenses, so I can’t call myself a photographer really,” Stephanie added modestly. 

“What do you photograph?” 

“Anything and everything; streets, food, travel, birds, wildlife, portraits.” Stephanie was moving her hands around, feeling more comfortable expressing herself now. It felt like Andrew was an old friend. 

“Photography has never been my thing, but I love birdwatching,” Andrew shared. 

Stephanie opened her mouth to reply just as Andrew’s phone started ringing. He glanced at his phone and his face darkened. He looked tense. 

He glanced at the door and then back at Stephanie.  

“Please excuse me, my wife is here to meet me,” he announced, standing up. 

Stephanie’s heart shattered into a million pieces. He has a wife! Why hadn’t he mentioned that already? Maybe he hadn’t gotten to that part of the story yet. Now, it seemed that not only did Andrew have a wife, but she was standing on the other side of the door to the coffee shop! 

Stephanie could feel a knot form in her stomach at the thought of Andrew’s wife walking in to the restaurant and finding her sitting with Andrew having coffee. 

Andrew took some cash from his wallet and placed it on the table. With a slight tense nod he walked up to the door and opened it.  

There she was. Stephanie could not believe her eyes. She watched Andrew walk up to Roberta and greet her. Stephanie just about fell off her chair. ‘What just happened?’ she wondered. The door closed and she couldn’t see them anymore.   

Stephanie sat there for a few more minutes. Just a minute earlier, she was listening to Andrew talk about his adventures in Africa. She had already been daydreaming about how she would go on a safari with him. Now, just a minute later, those dreams slipped away. He was married and married to that horrible woman, Roberta, no less. 

Stephanie couldn’t eat any more of her cheesecake, and she stood up to leave. She didn’t feel like going to the gym anymore. Instead, she decided to walk home. 


Stephanie was back in her apartment. It was a four-story building and she lived on the top floor. There was no elevator and climbing up and down the many flights of stairs would have turned away many people, but she didn’t mind at all. She loved the views from her top floor and she enjoyed the peace of not having a yard to maintain. 

Stephanie was a rather reserved person. She didn’t speak to strangers too often, but once she got to know someone, she became open and talkative. She loved living alone in her apartment. She had a close-knit relationship with her parents and her siblings, but having a place for herself, and not having to answer to anyone about when she came home or went out, was a dream. 

This evening in her apartment, she wasn’t the joyful girl she normally was. She sat looking out the window. The large window, by the dining room, opened to the back of the apartment building, through which she could see a set of small wooded hills. The room had one small table with four wooden chairs. On the opposite wall were a few photos Stephanie had taken. One was of an osprey flying away with a fish; another showed a sunset and the third, an eye of a heron. 

Today, she sat there with a cup of hot tea in her hand. There was a novel on the dining table, but she didn’t feel like reading; her head was aching. She felt the need to talk to Maya, and she called. 


“Hi, Maya.” Stephanie was sure that her voice sounded tired and weak. 

“Hey,” Maya replied softly, sounding a little worried. Stephanie didn’t usually call Maya on a weekday. “I thought you were at the gym tonight. Finished early?” 

“I didn’t go.” 

“Why, what happened, Honey?” 

“I don’t feel good.” 

“I can tell by your voice. Do I need to come over?” 

“No need,” Stephanie replied numbly. She tried to hold back the powerful emotions that were clawing their way up her insides. “I just wanted to tell you something.” 

“What is it?” 

“Well, I went to have a coffee with Andrew today.” Stephanie swallowed hard as if by doing so she could keep her disappointment from overwhelming her. 

“Holy moly, what??” Maya sounded as if she was jumping over the rooftop with excitement. 

“Hmm, it didn’t go as I hoped,” Stephanie tried to say offhandedly, but a single tear escaped her eye. She knew she was barely keeping it together. 

About the Author

When author Shawna James is not instructing at university or writing in her favorite coffee shop, Shawna spends most of her time reading, hiking, traveling abroad, and catching her favorite football games on Sunday afternoons.

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No More Secrets Blitz


No More Secrets cover


Women’s Fiction


Date Published: September 16, 2020

Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing

Angelica Delfino takes a special interest in the lives of her three nieces, whom she affectionately calls the daughters of her heart. Sensing that each woman is harboring a troubling, possibly even toxic secret, Angelica decides to share her secrets—secrets she had planned to take to the grave. Spellbound, the nieces listen as Angelica travels back six decades to reveal an incredulous tale of forbidden love, tragic loss, and reinvention. It is the classic immigrant story upended: an Italian widow’s transformative journey amid the most unlikely of circumstances.

Inspired by Angelica’s example, the younger women share their “First World” problems and, in the process, set themselves free.

But one heartbreaking secret remains untold…


***Free ebook of No More Secrets – thru June 10th***



Tupperware in all the pastel shades. Head-to-toe clothing and accessories in the same hues. Who does that? Bellastrega shook her head at the avalanche of plastic that accompanied Velia Russo into the kitchen. She was already on her third trip back from the car, puffing and panting as she placed her food gifts on the kitchen table. Bellastrega could feel her jaw clenching at the thought of all those white devils—heavy sauces and creams and pounds of sugar—contaminating the kitchen.

Velia held one finger. “One more trip,” and then she was gone.

Bellastrega turned her attention back to the hearty vegetable stew that had been simmering on the stove. She sighed contentedly as she breathed in the aroma of the rosemary and Italian seasonings. Angelica’s favorite. As she glanced at the appetizing array of vegetables, she mentally calculated how long it would take to finish cooking. Everything was on schedule, and dinner would be on the table at six o’clock. Why had Velia decided to arrive three hours early?

From the start, Bellastrega had her misgivings about this all-girls weekend. She had listened while Angelica lovingly described each niece and shared her concerns regarding their unhappy lives. At first, Bellastrega had humored her, not realizing Angelica was intending to help her nieces get back on track. Her duty as aunt, she had explained.

Bellastrega had formed her own judgments regarding the three younger women. Usually right on target, Bellastrega had been surprised when this particular incarnation of Velia Russo arrived, laden with her food gifts. From Angelica’s descriptions, Bellastrega had expected a younger version of her mother, Rosetta, a heavy-set hausfrau and gossip, not this glamour-puss who could pass for a younger Martha Stewart. But first impressions could be deceiving.

Help. I need your help.” The whiny voice interrupted Bellastrega’s thoughts. Sighing, she lowered the heat and made her way to the living room.

Bellastrega resisted the urge to laugh as she took in the comical sight before her. To save herself another trip, Velia had decided to lug in a large Pullman using her left hand, carry a pastry box in her right hand, and use her teeth to hold on to her purse.

All this for a weekend get-together? What would she have packed for a longer trip? Bellastrega forced a smile as she took the pastry box from Velia.

About the Author

Joanne Guidoccio

In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio took advantage of early retirement and launched a second act as a writer. Her articles and book reviews have been published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Joanne writes paranormal romances, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

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