Covington Falls Series
Welcome to Covington Falls, Georgia a Southern small town filled with homespun charm, time-honored values and lovable, quirky characters just waiting to capture your heart.
A Covington Falls Chronicle (Book 1)
Julia Richardson is no fan of weddings. A lifetime of watching her parents treat relationships like the flavor of the month has taught her that love is for fools and faith is for naïve. She’s always put her faith in her career. Then her life is thrown into a tailspin. First, she loses her job. Then she gets a panicked call and learns her former stepsister is having a crisis with her pregnancy. The crisis has Julia returning to the small Southern town – and the family – she’s been avoiding for years. Before she knows it, Julia’s been pressed into service running her stepsister’s wedding planning business, Marry Me.
Julia doesn’t know a garter from a garden hose, but now she must navigate couples along the bumpy path down the aisle – despite wardrobe malfunctions, killer bees, and plenty of near disasters. In the midst of it all, Julia makes the most unexpected discovery of all…Love, with Seth Graham, the widowed local minister! Julia’s been running from love and everything spiritual for most of her life. It’s not until she finds the courage to stop running and learns to believe in the power of love, faith and family that she finds her own “I Do” moment.
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Read an Excerpt
Julia and Seth see each other for the first time in 15 years
The park was indeed crowded. There were kids all over the place, as well as adult volunteers, and from the looks of it, a good number of observers. The kids spotted Eric right away, and they swarmed around him like ants to a drop of honey, until they saw Julia. The younger ones looked at her with suspicion, while the older ones took on all the finer characteristics of your average construction workers. The whistles, ‘yeah baby’s’, and outright leers were nothing Julia hadn’t seen or heard since she’d started wearing a bra in the fourth grade.
“Young men do not make catcalls at a lady,” Eric said.
“Sorry, ma’am!” erupted all around.
“The only thing worse than whistling at a woman is calling her ‘ma’am’,” she said, matching Eric’s stern tone. “It’s Julia.”
“Come on, Seth is around here somewhere,” Eric said. “Let me introduce you. Oh, wait… I forgot. You two know each other, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but we weren’t exactly friends.”
Julia followed Eric, and in the distance she spotted a group of men helping to set up the field. She searched for a geeky-looking beanpole, but her eyes stopped on a beautifully built, dark-haired man. All she could see was the back of him. He was tall, with shoulders a mile wide, and long, powerful legs.
Who knew they grew such delicious specimens down here in Covington Falls?
“Hey, Seth!” Eric called out. “Look who I found.”
All the men turned, including the delicious one. Oh, yeah. Mr. Tall Guy was wonderful from the front, too. Nicely crafted masculine features. Julia couldn’t quite make out the eye color, but she had a feeling they were spectacular as well. Their eyes met, and she felt a little jolt. “This one,” a voice reflected in her head. His eyes widened, and Julia knew he felt it, too. If they were in a movie this would be the moment when violins swept into a chorus and drums started pounding.
Then he frowned, and his expression became shuttered. He broke away from the group and started over in her direction. That’s when it dawned on her exactly who she’d been drooling over.
The drums turned to clanging bells.
The breath lodged in her throat. There was no way the geeky boy she’d known had grown into… him! But somehow he had. She stiffened even more when she recalled this gorgeous man was also a minister.
Can you get struck by lightning for thinking impure thoughts about a minister? Isn’t lust one of the seven deadly sins?
Oh, this was not good. Not good at all.
It’s not good for a woman to look so amazing in a pair of denim shorts, Seth Graham thought. Not good at all.
How was it possible? Fifteen years and she still made him feel like… well… like he was fifteen. He’d grown up, answered the call to the ministry, and married and buried a wife. Yet somehow prickly, bitter, keep-your-distance Julia Richardson still scared the life out of him. Because prickly, bitter, keep-your-distance Julia Richardson was also still the sexiest female he’d ever met. A sexy woman who was now his stepmother’s ex-stepdaughter, making her his… well… he didn’t quite know what it made her. He only knew it was bizarre and twisted.
His mouth went dry like he’d swallowed a box of chalk sticks, and he could swear drums were pounding somewhere. As he walked toward her, he concentrated on not tripping over his feet or otherwise reminding her he used to be a huge putz. Their eyes locked. The drumbeat intensified. He knew the moment she figured out who he was because her eyes suddenly widened, and she drew in a shocked breath.
Yeah, Julia, the putz you remember did grow into this.
He stopped in front of her.
Eric did the honors. “Julia, this is Seth Graham. John’s son. Seth, you remember Julia, right?”
“Hey, Julia,” he said, with almost no inflection. If he was careful and kept his tone even maybe she wouldn’t notice his voice was shaking.
Her eyes made a visual track up and down again. “Hey yourself. You’ve changed a bit.”
He had to admit, it was nice she seemed so rattled by his changed appearance. It made his mouth twitch as he fought back a smile. “A bit. How’ve you been?”
“Wow, you two, don’t go overboard on the effusive greetings,” Eric teased.
At this, Seth and Julia both laughed, and it seemed to lighten the moment.
“Are we almost set up here?” Eric asked, gesturing to the field.
Seth swiveled his head around, grateful for any excuse to look away from Julia and try to regain his sanity. “Almost. We’ll be ready to go in a few minutes.”
“I’ll go check with the guys.”
Seth started to go after him, to escape, but Eric waved him off. “No, no, I can go. You two catch up. I’ll be right back.”
Seth fought back a surge of panic. Now what? Was he supposed to talk to Julia? Like they were long-lost friends? He barely knew her anymore. Plus, he couldn’t look at her without swallowing his tongue, which made conversation pretty difficult.
Buy your copy of Marry Me now and fall in love with Julia, Seth and the quirky little town called Covington Falls!
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A Covington Falls Chronicle (Book 2)
Addison Covington is the reigning Ice Queen of television. Until her producer husband falls in love with her on-screen daughter and a well-placed punch on national television casts her as the wicked ex-wife. Fired and disgraced, she escapes to the idyllic Southern town where she found comfort in a time of turmoil as a teenager.
Life is constantly on the brink of chaos for widower Ethan Thomas. Being a single father is one challenge. As a high school principle he also has to deal with hundreds of students, not to mention their interfering parents. Now he’s short one drama teacher and if he doesn’t find a replacement to direct the spring musical he’s going to have a riot on his hands. His childhood neighbor, Addison Covington, could be an answer to prayer. Or one more complication he can’t afford.
Before Addison can say “Casting Call” she’s drafted to direct the high school musical. Soon she’d dealing with some off-key caterwauling, a bitter stepson showing up on her doorstep, and the boy-next-door turned sexiest high school principal she’s ever met. One thing Addison and Ethan agree on is that there’s no room in their lives for romance. He’s got too much at stake, and she needs to reclaim her former glory in Hollywood. In the end, these two lost souls will choreograph a happy ending with the help of Grace, Love and a Curtain Call.
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Read an Excerpt
Dear Diary… I died today.
Deliberately plowed down in the middle of the street by the proverbial black, unmarked car. My funeral will be mobbed by the movers and shakers of the fashion world on three continents. The inquiry into my death will bring about a national manhunt for my killer and spark at least a half a season’s worth of who-dunnit episodes.
The list of suspects will be a mile long. My faithless husband? My nemesis and rival in romance and in business? My drug-addicted son? My angelic daughter? Wronged business partners? Wronged business adversaries? Pretty much anyone who ever had the misfortune to cross Corrine Barrett. Or get in my way.
“We got it.”
“Let’s set up for the next scene.”
Shouts went up as the director called out instructions to the crewmembers. With a deep sigh, Addison Covington opened her eyes. Rolling onto her hip, she performed an inventory of the various parts of her body. After being jerked back by the harness attached to her waist and landing on an air mattress in the middle of the street, she’d expected to feel like the roadkill Corrine had become. Her back would be protesting the abuse tomorrow, but for now she was only a little sore.
One of the grips approached her landing pad and helped her stand up. “You all right, Addison?”
“Never better, Charlie.”
Yeah, she wasn’t really dead. It just felt that way.
Corrine Barrett-Channing, ice queen and ruler over the Barrett Empire in the hit drama House of Fashion, was toast. But Addison Covington, her portrayer, was sadly still of this earth.
She slipped off the jacket of her white Armani suit so Charlie could remove the harness and fought back a wince. Perhaps she’d been wrong about only being a little sore.
Charlie scowled. “I told you to let your stunt double handle the fall.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Even as he unhooked the contraption, other crewmembers removed her landing pad, setting up the scene to reveal Corrine’s body lying in the street. At least Addison would be spared the humiliation of having to play dead. That job would go to her stand in.
Addison’s job here was finished. Literally.
“Stubborn woman,” Charlie said with a gruff affection as he took off the harness.
“Thank you, Charlie,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You’ve always been a prince.”
He shuffled his feet and then leaned in closer. “You deserve better, Addison.”
“Not according to the gossip rags. They all think I should be burned at the stake.”
From behind her, a familiar feminine voice rang out. “You punched America’s sweetheart in the nose. What did you expect?”
Addison glanced around to see her on-screen nemesis and off-screen best friend, Sydney James, approaching. “I expect it should be acceptable to rearrange someone’s face after she’s stolen your husband, but then I’m old-fashioned that way.”
Sydney laughed, and they both stood on the sidewalk watching the organized chaos unfolding. For several moments neither of them spoke.
Then Sydney bit her lip. “I hate this,” she said, fury and desolation etched in every word. “I hate what’s happened to you. I hate that you won’t be here with me anymore, and I hate that he gets away with everything.”
“Look on the bright side,” Addison said, digging her nails into her palm, hoping the pain would stave off the urge to curl up in a fetal position and wail. “You’ll probably never have to film a fight scene in a mud-bath again. Who knows, maybe Merrick will change his mind, and I’ll be back as my evil twin someday.”
A gurgle of laughter mixed with a sob escaped. “I think Corrine Barrett is the evil twin,” Sydney said, tears swimming in her green eyes.
“The good twin then. It would certainly be a stretch for me to play, right?”
Sydney took Addison’s arm. “Come on, there’s nothing more to see here.” They headed to the dressing trailers down the block. “You’ll need a hot bath tonight. Otherwise you won’t be able to move tomorrow.”
“What I need is my job and my husband.”
With an elegant snort, Sydney tossed her riotous mane of copper-colored hair over her shoulder. “Merrick isn’t worthy to lick the tips of your shoes.”
Addison ignored the comment, her eyes trained on Sydney’s trademark red tresses. “Since I’ve been fired, I’d like to state for the record how much I hate you.”
Sydney missed a step, scrambling to avoid doing a header on the pavement. “What?”
“From day one, you’ve always had the wild, do-me-baby red hair, while I’ve been stuck with my oh-so-proper chignon.”
“You don’t like your hair?”
“I’m thinking of coloring it. Platinum blonde is so passé.”
Sydney scrunched her nose. “Your stylist would have a heart attack. Jean-Lüc has made a name for himself with your head. Besides, why would you want to lose your signature Grace Kelly look? You always look so elegant. You’re the glamour girl. The—”
“Ice queen. Untouchable on screen and in life. Maybe I want to be sultry and exotic for once. Maybe then my husband would want to touch me instead of my on-screen daughter.”
Children’s author Emily Sinclair was supposed to be the next J.K. Rowling…Until her second book flopped and her imagination went on the fritz. Like the storybook heroes of her childhood, Emily sets out on an epic adventure to find inspiration again. Till a dead car lands her in Covington Falls, a small, Southern town with a healing power of its own. Soon Emily is taking up her quest, looking for inspiration driving a mobile library van, as a companion to a crotchety old woman and her insomniac dog, and as a very ungraceful baker’s assistant. Of course, what really sparks her romantic fantasies is a valiant hero, though he yields a paint roller instead of a sword.
Rugged, blue-collar Nate Cooper has spent most of his life avoiding the printed page. These days he doesn’t have much use for fancy words and certainly not for a slightly off-center writer on the lam. Not when his mother is battling cancer, his little brother has morphed into a teenaged ogre, and God seems to have taken a vacation.
On paper, these two would seem the least likely pairing, and a happily ever after nothing but fantasy. But with faith and imagination Emily and Nate are about to write a new chapter that will lead to unexpected love.
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A stomach-churning thunk. A disaster-laden chug. A scary, threatening gurgle.
Emily Sinclair’s hands clutched the steering wheel as she guided her how-could-you-give-out-on-me-now convertible to the side of the road. With a last ominous blunk and splutter, the car gave up the ghost.
She switched off the engine, waited a few seconds, and then turned the key again. Nothing.
Not surprising. As if anything glug-glugging like an octogenarian trying to cough up a lung was going to restart with so little effort.
A cranky yowl went up from the passenger seat. Emily glanced over at the pet carrier and sent the fat Persian inside a confident smile. “Don’t worry, Wordsworth. This is why modern man invented cell phones.”
She fished her phone out of her purse. A blank screen stared back at her. Pressing more buttons did nothing.
Dead as her car.
With a sound of disgust, Emily tossed the useless phone aside and stared out the windshield at the deserted country road in front of her. The very deserted country road that stretched around a sparkling blue lake and disappeared into the back of beyond. The kind of road featured in all the best horror stories. Emily’s mind conjured up every one, along with the opening line in the newspaper article.
Once–famous children’s author found mangled to death. Quest to locate her lost imagination and revive faded career ends in disaster… as her mother predicted.
Muttering an oath, Emily climbed out of the car and slammed the door as hard as she could. What a fix. And ironic. There were rules about writing. Not grammar rules, like where to put commas or when to use a semicolon. No, the unofficial rules for fiction writing. Chief among them is that an author should never start a novel with the character driving or thinking. No, readers wanted action right off the top, and you could never have the car break down.
In college, Emily had written a short story where the heroine’s car stalled in a typical these-people-will-murder-you-in-your-sleep town. Emily’s professor had written cliché in bold, red pen across the page. Not satisfied, she’d added boring cliché, underlining the boring with three thick red lines. The critique had stung. The fact that it had come courtesy of Professor Vanessa Sinclair, Emily’s mother, had been like ripping off an old bandage.
Emily was breaking all three cardinal rules of writing at once. Though technically the driving rule didn’t apply. Same for the sitting rule. She was thinking, though. Thinking her entire life had become a cliché, so what did it matter if she broke her mother’s precious writing rules? She was a one-hit writing wonder. A flash in the pan. A big-haired eighties’ rock band that had scored one giant hit and then disappeared into the oblivion of those nostalgic Where are they now? music specials.
Emily sighed. If one had to break down somewhere, one could do worse than… what had the sign said back there? Covington something. Covington something, Georgia. Muted afternoon sun shimmered off the surface of the lake. She lifted a hand to ward off the eye-watering glare and focused on the water. In her previous life, the golden flecks of sunlight reflecting off its surface would have transformed into a million different kinds of fantastical creatures. Or maybe something nightmarish would charge out of that bank of oak trees across the lake.
Unfortunately, Emily was stuck in her real life, and her imagination was on the fritz.
Well, at least she wouldn’t die of water deprivation while she waited to be rescued.
Speaking of rescue.
A car had appeared, winding around the curve of the lake. A big ole’ country truck calling to mind hoedowns and hay rides. A big ole’ rusty truck, Emily realized as it drew closer. Burnt red growth spread out across the hood like a marauding band of Vikings overtaking a defenseless village. She imagined rust was only thing holding the vehicle together.
The truck slowed and Emily tensed, torn between elation at being found and wariness regarding exactly who might be behind the wheel of the ancient rattletrap. The glare off the windshield made it impossible to see inside the cab, however.
The tires veered off to the side of the road and stopped, sending up a cloud of dust. Emily waved her hand, choking on the airborne dirt. Her mouth felt dry as if she had licked the ground. The door opened. Work boots emerged. Brown and roughed-up and covered in… paint. A man stepped out, and Emily steadied her hands against the car to keep from falling over.
Mr. Darcy. No, Heathcliff. Only instead of a cravat and breeches, he was dressed in faded jeans and a black T-shirt, which seemed molded to an impressive chest. Heath stretched up a good six-plus feet, towering over her puny five-foot-two frame. A lock of dark chocolate-brown hair brushed over his forehead. Their eyes met. Since she was already thinking in clichés, Emily’s mind offered up a million of them to describe his eyes. She could start with gray, but no way did such a mundane word do them justice. Slate, storm clouds, a roiling sea, glazed pewter. Devastating, and framed by thick sooty lashes no man had a right to possess.
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Covington Falls Chronicles (Book 4)
Noelle Joy Robinson should have been spending Christmas with her husband. Instead, she’s become the face of jilted brides in Covington Falls after her fiancé runs off with one her bridesmaids on her wedding day. To escape the constant sympathy, she decides to leave town and start over in a new city. But when her father has a health crisis, it falls to Noelle to save the family business and Christmas for the entire town. Soon she’s knee-deep in parades, dealing with a cantankerous ass (the animal kind) and negotiating disputes with Santa’s elves. But a different kind of animal is threatening to disrupt her peace on earth. An angel named Michael, the brother of the man who broke her heart.
Michael Campbell steps in to help Noelle with the holiday festivities, mainly out of guilt. He can’t help feeling he had a hand in ruining Noelle’s wedding and helping her save Christmas is his way of making amends. But soon an obligation turns into so much more, leaving him to wonder if Noelle could ever see past his last name and give him a chance. In the end Noelle and Michael will have to move beyond past heartbreak to find their holiday happy ending…By Christmas.
PLUS…look for the release of BY CHRISTMAS as a single title in November!
Read an Excerpt
“You’re on iheartu.com.”
Since she’d just taken a bite of her turkey-melt sandwich, Noelle Robinson couldn’t answer. All she could do was eye her cousin, Millie, with extreme wariness as she approached their customary booth in the 50s-inspired Old Diner.
Noelle finally managed to swallow; however, she could do nothing to clear away the sudden lump in her throat. She had no idea what iheartu.com was, but somehow knew she wouldn’t like the explanation. Above her head, Bogie and Bacall nodded in agreement.
“What did you say?” Noelle asked.
Millie sank into the booth and snitched a fry off Noelle’s plate.
“I’m eating those,” Noelle protested.
“Don’t worry,” Millie said, twirling the fry in a circle and popping it in her mouth. “Your appetite will disappear in a minute.”
“Fine, what’s going on?”
“My mom put up a dating profile for you on iheartu.com.”
Heads turned, and Noelle realized her shriek had carried through the restaurant.
She hunched her shoulders in an attempt to become invisible and leaned forward.
“Are you serious?”
“You had some winks, several smiles, and a whole bunch of suggestive messages before I made her take it down.”
Noelle studied her cousin’s face, hoping somehow Millie was pulling one of her psych moments. There wasn’t a glimmer of kidding in her eyes now.
“Please tell me you’re joking,” Noelle said.
“Not even I could make up something this good,” Millie said, snatching another fry.
“Good? My family members are trying to buy me a date online. What if someone tried to stalk me?”
Millie wrinkled her nose. “Maybe you’d get some action.”
“Not funny.” Noelle threw a fry at her cousin. “What in the world possessed her to do something so crazy?”
Millie picked up the fry and downed it in one bite. “She’s worried about you. Mom meant well. You’ve been so unhappy since that day,” she said, making air quotes with her fingers.
A lead weight lodged in Noelle’s chest.
Here we go again.
“That day?” Noelle echoed. “Are we reduced to talking about my botched wedding in secret code now? It’s been a year and half. Do you think I’m going to jump off the nearest bridge in a fit of despair after all this time? Lots of people get left at the altar, and they survive.”
“Not in Covington Falls.”
This was unfortunately true. The Covington Falls Main Library housed a book that recorded every important event from the town’s founding right up until the present day. In its 105-year history only four weddings had ended with a jilted bride or groom. Noelle Joy Robinson was the last name on the list. None of the other weddings had been brought to a screeching halt the day of the ceremony, of course. That honor went to her. The closest anyone else had come was in 1973 when Penelope Johnson had high-tailed it to Charleston a week before her wedding to Horace Jasper, the town mortician.
Everyone agreed Penelope had made the smart choice.
Poor Noelle Joy Robinson had been just plain humiliated.
That’s what people had been saying since her non-wedding day. “Poor girl.” “I don’t know how she holds her head up.” “How does she do it?” “Such a tragedy.”
Yep. Noelle was included in the Hall of Records under Prize Idiot. Forever remembered in history as the bride whose groom ran off with her best friend the morning of the wedding. Talk about a cliché.