Book Series Month continues with today's guest host, Amazon Best Selling author, Heather Gray. Welcome, Heather! Tell us about your Ladies of Larkspur series.
Ladies of Larkspur: The Birth Pains of a Series
Thank you Ariella for having me on your blog today! It's always a joy to be here, and to talk about my series – how could I refuse? J
The Ladies of Larkspur series came about sort of the way a second pregnancy turns up in marriage. You toy with the idea of having another child. You think about it. You waffle. Are we really ready? It's so much work. Isn't our family's complete just the way it is? But wouldn't it be fun to have another…? Babies are so cute…
When I started the first book in the series, I didn't know whether or not I was going to grow that book family. Mail Order Man was my first book, and I had so very much still to learn. The thing was, I met this girl while writing that first book. She had a teeny tiny little scene, but I was captivated. Mail Order Man was ready to be published. Editing was complete, and the pain associated with it had begun to fade. So I did what any gullible parent would do. I fooled myself into believing the experience had been completely pain-free and decided I was ready to add another book-child to the family.
Now here I sit some months later. Redemption (#3) is due to come out soon, and I've learned a few things. Writing a series is hard. It's complicated, even a little messy. There's a whole lot of work that goes into it – work for which your books will never thank you. You spend a lot of time second-guessing your decisions and wondering if you've done what's best for your characters. You have to accept that life is hard and not everybody gets a happy ending. As the parent of book-children, it's a struggle to let them out into the world to fly – or fall – on their own merit. And yet…ah, the joy. The exquisite joy of bringing another book-child into this world, the sense of satisfaction and excitement…the anticipation with which you wait to see what it's going to look like. There's simply no compare.
I've already forgotten the birthing pains of Redemption have begun to think about how much fun it would be to have another child in the family…
Mail Order Man (Ladies of Larkspur #1)
Back Cover Blurb:
Some people get a mail order bride. She got a mail order man.
A well-meaning friend places an ad to find a mail order husband for Sarah, the proprietress of Larkspur’s stage and mail office. Sarah, who is generally quiet and reserved, doesn’t know about the ad and has no idea what to do with all the people that are showing up in her community. Before long, the town is overrun with men and mail alike. Sarah is trying to avoid some men who have accosted her on the street when she stumbles into Samuel. Through long days spent together at the stage office, some very adventurous pots of coffee and a shared faith, the two become friends. Sarah knows that Samuel is hiding something from her, something important, but that doesn’t stop her heart from leaping wildly into love. Lacking the confidence to trust her heart, Sarah wars with herself over the feelings she can no longer deny. When some of the men who have come to town show their true intentions, a shootout follows. Sarah finally gets answers to many of the questions circling through her mind. One question remains, though. Where will her mail order man go when the dust settles?
Right then Claudio and Cesar came through the door. Both boys chimed a “Good morning!” in Sarah’s direction as they headed straight for the coffee on the stove. Sarah saw their intent and inwardly cringed. Not only was she not sure about how many scoops of grounds she’d put in, but the coffee had been percolating much longer than normal because she got distracted with the letters.
Samuel had his back to the stove and did not see the boys as they each poured a cup of coffee. Sarah was about to warn them as Claudio, the middle boy at age 16, took a big swig of the hot brew while Cesar, the youngest, opted to blow on his first. Claudio’s eyes grew wide as he swallowed. “Miss Sarah, I do believe that’s the best coffee you’ve ever made. That’s the kind of coffee vaqueros drink!”
Samuel visibly perked up at the mention of coffee. Sarah was sure he couldn’t know a vaquero was a Mexican cowboy and that they drink their camp coffee strong. If he understood what the boys were saying, he definitely wouldn’t be in a hurry to get a cup of his own. Cesar finally took a drink of his coffee. Sarah could see him trying not to make a face as he swallowed the brew. “Vaquero coffee for sure, Miss Sarah. Papa would be proud.”
Sarah had barely started to warn, “Uh, Samuel…” when he took a big gulp of the coffee Claudio had poured for him. She watched the shock on his face as he first paled and then grew red. His eyes flew wide as he tried desperately to swallow the coffee. He finally ran out the front door and spit the coffee out over the edge of the stage platform.
The boys could not contain their howling laughter as Samuel walked back into the stage office, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
Just Desserts (Ladies of Larkspur #3)
Back Cover Blurb:
Dessert…the perfect remedy when nothing in life seems to be going right.
What do you do when you are the sole protector of four children, your brothers and sisters? When each day is haunted by disappointment, disillusionment and desperation? When you believe that everyone who ever loved you, including God, has abandoned you?
You bake a pie, of course.
What do you do when you find a woman whose heart is consumed by fear? Who does not know how to trust? Who scoffs at your faith and throws your kindness back in your face?
You eat a pie, of course.
Seventeen year old Mary Fitzgerald stepped up next to the deacon, a strawberry pie in her hands. Today was the day she took lasting steps to protect her family. Pa was passed out at home, having drunk so much there was no way he'd be waking up to come to the festivities.
She had been taking care of and protecting her younger brothers and sisters as far back as she could remember, but her pa was getting meaner and nastier with each passing year. Her brothers were getting angrier, too. It was important to get them all out from under Pa's thumb before her brothers were ruined for life.
Hoping to find a man willing to wed her and take her brothers and sisters in, too, Mary had entered herself in the dessert auction at a picnic hosted by the church. Only eligible men were allowed to bid, and she hoped to find a husband. How old, ugly, or poor – Mary didn't care as long as he didn't beat or terrorize them. That was her highest hope, to find a man who did not cause her to cower, who did not break her bones, who would not harm her brothers and sisters. Harboring no illusions about love, Mary didn't even really care if the man was kind; she only needed him not to be too terrible.
As the diminutive deacon was about to begin the bidding, Mary glanced up. Fear grabbed hold of her heart and squeezed so tight she thought she might faint right there. Neither the sea of curious faces nor the beautiful blue sky drew her attention. Pa was coming, and he looked madder'n a hot, hungry bull. Mary's breath came in short, shallow gasps as she tried to stay conscious. She was terrified of this man. They had been so certain Pa would stay passed out all day, that he wouldn't discover their plan. The kids had all dressed in their finest clothes and promised to be on their best behavior – no small feat for the boys – and now here came Pa, ruining their chance.
The deacon had not seen Mr. Fitzgerald yet and was preparing to start the bidding. His mouth was still open, sucking in air, when the bellow came from the back of the crowd, "That's my young'un and ain't nobody biddin' on her pie! I ain't raisin' no harlot to get paid for her favors!"
Redemption (Ladies of Larkspur #3)
Back Cover Blurb:
Murder, mayhem, marriage, and a horse named Mutiny…
Minnie's impulsiveness has been getting her into trouble her whole life. She never expected it to land her on a suspect list for murder, though. With nothing left but a few trunks of possessions and her own defeat, Minnie leaves San Francisco behind and returns home. In an effort to protect her family and friends, she keeps them in the dark about the ongoing investigation and the possibility that danger may have followed her to Larkspur. When events force her to trust someone with her secrets, she turns to the sheriff and finds both a friend and an ally.
It may have been four years since he last saw Minnie, but how could he ever forget her? When Art finds her sneaking through a back alley in town, he knows something's wrong. The once vivacious Minnie is a mere shadow of her former self, all sparkle gone from her eyes. Art knows that time spent with her will be dangerous to his heart, but he can't turn Minnie away. Even if it means protecting her from her own impetuous decisions, he vows to keep her safe.
In her attempt to take responsibility for her own choices, Minnie shut out her friends, family, and God. An unsolved murder isn't all that's chasing Minnie, though. Will she find her way back to the heart of her faith before it's too late?
Minnie needed to get home quickly. It was imperative. William would be displeased if she was away too long. He was not kind when angry.
She rushed around the corner only to be stopped by the familiar sight of police gathered outside the tenement building where she and William rented a room. Given the area they lived in, seeing police was a matter of course. The sheer number of officers present, though, was anything but routine.
At the time she’d married him, Minnie had expected to have a grand life with her husband. She was but the daughter of a small-town mayor, but William, why he was a gifted and recognized journalist. Her dreams of that happy life of travel, investigation, and collaboration had evaporated within their first month of marriage. The wonderful man who had courted her, caressed her with silver-tongued words, and danced into her heart had disappeared.
He'd left in his place a man who was bitter and angry because she, while the daughter of a politician, had no wealth to her name, no grand dowry to finance the illicit habits he had kept from her during their brief courtship. She'd had to adjust to a life far removed from her dreams, a life where the only thing more common than police at their building was the stench of squalor in the air.
Minnie hurried through the gathering of policemen and rushed up the stairs, hoping that William would still be asleep and wouldn't realize she'd been out. As she approached their room, she saw an officer standing in the hallway by the already-open door to the small space she shared with her husband. "Pardon me, ma'am," the officer said, "are you Mrs. Drake?"
Nodding, she craned her neck to see around the officer. He tried to block her view, but she caught a peek inside. A strangled gasp escaped her lips. With strength out of place in her small frame, she shoved past the policeman and dashed into their quarters. Her husband of not quite three years, William Drake, lay in a pool of blood, almost unrecognizable. His corpse lay there beaten – nay, bludgeoned – to death. His lifeless eyes stared off into the distance. "W-what happened?" she asked, her voice hoarse.
"Mrs. Drake." The man speaking wore his somber expression as comfortably as he wore his suit – both were threadbare from too much use. "I need to ask where you've been these past two hours."
Trying desperately to pull her eyes away from her husband's corpse, she fought to speak. "An errand." The words felt as if they were being pulled from her throat. "I had an errand to run."
"Where, Mrs. Drake?"
About a year into their marriage, William had stopped pursuing his journalism career. He was always either deep in his cups or giving up their every possession at the gaming tables. Going to work had become necessary, but she wasn't sure how she felt about exposing that part of her life to the man in the suit, a virtual stranger. It had been easy enough to step into Will's shoes and take over his position at the newspaper. She did her writing in secret, and everything was published under the name Will Drake, the byline her husband had used.
Minnie didn't know how to explain her job to these men without feeling the shame and embarrassment of having to admit both facts – that her husband was a sluggard who'd forced his wife to support him and that most of San Francisco believed her to be a man. Little encouragement was to be found in the stern faces of the officers, and she began to question whether either claim would be believable.
Looking into the eyes of the suited man, she saw something dreadful. Minnie lifted her hand to her throat in foreboding. "You suspect me, then, in my husband's death." It wasn't a question. She could see the truth of it on the detective's face.
"Answer the question, Mrs. Drake. Where have you been?"
"Everywhere but where I should have been, it would seem," she said softly.
About Heather Gray
Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order Man, Just Dessert, and Redemption. Other titles include Ten Million Reasons, His Saving Grace, and Nowhere for Christmas – everything from Regency England to modern-day America. Aside from a long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys are her relationships with her Savior and family. She decided years ago that she'd rather laugh than yell. This theme is prevalent in her writing where, through the highs and lows of life, her characters find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.
Where to Find Heather:
My Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com
My Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting
Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/LaughDreamWrite