by Cerella Sechrist and Loree Lough
Wait...what? It’s April, already! Hard to believe—especially as we East-coasters prepared for ‘wintry mix’ weather…right on the heels of ‘almost summer’ temperatures. Then again, it isn’t all that surprising, considering that this 30-day month has, throughout history, survived a few transformations: Aprilis had 30 days, until Roman King Numa changed it to 29…and it stayed that way until good old Julius Caesar came along and changed it back to 30. No wonder it can’t decide whether to come in like a lion or a lamb!
One thing you can rely on—all year long!—are exciting, poignant storylines presented by Harlequin authors. In May, Loree Lough delivers a brand new romance to the Heartwarming lineup. She closes out her “Those Marshall Boys” series with The Firefighter’s Refrain, featuring a Colorado cowboy turned firefighter who, after an on-the-job injury, puts his skills to use at the Nashville fire academy, teaching rookies what it takes to keep citizens—and themselves—safe.
But wait, you say, why did this rugged cowpoke trade life on the family’s Double M Ranch for the hustle-bustle of Music City, USA? Well, it just so happens Sam Marshall is a talented songwriter whose guitar skills are rivaled only by his smooth baritone… Things move along according to his plan…until he literally knocks the lovely owner of The Right Note Café off her feet.
Once he dusts her off and sets her back on her feet, Finn Leary tries hard not to get lost in Sam’s apologetic blue eyes. But he’s a musician, she reminds herself, and she hasn’t met one yet—wanna-be-stars parents included—that can be trusted.
Does she have the willpower to keep Sam at arm’s length? And does he have what it takes to choose between a lifelong dream and the woman who could complete his life?
Just for fun, here's a sneak peek into the moment when Sam and Finn first meet…
The movements of a short-haired brunette drew Sam’s attention to the kitchen.
“Didn’t your mama teach you it’s rude to stare?”
“My luck,” he told his pal, “she’ll turn around and give me an eyeful of hairy moles and missing teeth.”
Mark snickered, then pointed at Sam’s leg, stretched out into the aisle. “There are better ways to find out than to trip her.”
Sam, too preoccupied with hopes that the waitress would turn around, barely heard the warning.
“So it’s still bugging you, is it?”
“Now and then.” Sam shrugged. “Not much.”
“How long since the last surgery?”
Sam did the math in his head. The ceiling cave-in happened in 2009, and he’d had two operations since. “Going on three years.”
Mark leaned back. “Are you gonna talk to somebody about it, or keep playing the brave, silent hero?”
“I’m talking about it now.” He leaned back, too. “Unfortunately.”
The waiter arrived with Sam’s iced tea, and taking a pencil from behind his ear, asked, “You guys ready to order?”
Mark hadn’t even glanced at his menu. “Turkey burger and sweet potato fries, house salad with lite Italian on the side.”
“Holy health food, Batman,” the kid said, “what’s got into you?”
“That crack is coming out of your tip, wise guy.”
Sam read the boy’s nametag. “Go ahead and laugh, Ted. I’ll get the tip. It’s worth every dollar to see this guy squirm.” He tapped his menu. “I’ll have a BLT, a side of curly fries, and coleslaw.” And when Ted walked away, he leaned forward and whispered “So what’s her name?”
Mark’s eyebrows rose. “Whose name?”
“The woman who put you on a diet.”
Waving the comment away, Mark said, “Can’t a guy cut back a little without his friends jumping to crazy conclusions?”
“So I take it ‘be my best man’ isn’t the reason I’m here.”
“Man. You’re like a puppy with a bone.” Shaking a packet of sugar into his already-sweet tea, he said, “All right, Mr. Impatience, here’s the deal: Duke Miller is taking Eli on the road.”
“No kiddin’? Well, good for Eli. It’s about time that brother of yours caught a break.”
After leukemia took his little girl, Eli’s heartbroken wife committed suicide, and he found comfort at the bottom of a bottle. Hard to tell how long he might have stayed there if Mark hadn’t made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “Shape up and kick the addiction, and I’ll make you full partner at The Meetinghouse.”
“He leaves in two weeks. Just enough time to get his affairs in order.”
“Will Torry replace him as manager?”
“I’ll ask him, but he won’t say yes. He’s on the road more than he’s here in Nashville.”
Sam pictured Torry Martin, the big red-haired comic whose stand-up and movie career had taken off in the past year. “But Eli’s still your partner, right?”
Mark shrugged. “Therein lies the rub, Sherlock.”
“Wish I had a dollar for every time that line was botched.”
“For starters, it’s Shakespeare, not Sherlock Holmes. Hamlet, to be specific.”
“Gimme a break,” Mark kidded. “You know as much about the bard as I do. Which is zip.”
“Sez you.” Sam launched into the story of how, back in high school, the object his affections had signed up to play Gertrude in the annual winter pageant.
“Claudia’s family owned the ranch just north of the Double M, see, and I figured she and I might have a chance to get closer if I signed up, too, and offered to drive her to and from rehearsals.”
“Closer, huh?” Mark wiggled his eyebrows.
Sam ignored the disruption. “Claudia loved attention. Positive. Negative. Didn’t matter, long as people were looking at her or talking about her. She was a cheerleader. Recited the Pledge during morning announcements. Faked migraines and fainting spells in the halls, so guys would have to pick her up and carry her to the nurse’s office.”
“Figures you’d develop a crush on a girl like that.”
“Hey, I was young and dumb. What can I say? Anyway, it didn’t surprise anyone when she snagged the female lead. I read for the part of Horatio, thinking, fewer lines to memorize than Hamlet. But good old Mrs. Smith had other ideas.”
Sam nodded. “Yes way. You should’ve heard my cousins, mocking every line as I prepped for that part.”
“Well, at least you got the girl.”
Sam took a deep breath, let it out slowly.
“No way,” Mark repeated.
“Yup. I took all that razzing for nothing, since Claudia only had eyes for Bart Isaacs.”
“Captain of the football team?”
“Nah. His dad was a big shot in Denver politics.”
“Ah. Name-dropper, was she?” Mark took a swig of his tea. “But I didn’t just fall off the proverbial turnip truck, my firefighter friend. No way you’ll convince me you played Hamlet.”
Sam sat ramrod straight, and began:
“‘To sleep, perchance to dream: aye, there’s the rub. For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give—’”
A breathy oomph, the shattering of plates, and the clatter of silverware hitting the tiles interrupted his monologue.
There on the floor beside him, amid broken dishes, tomato slices, and a jumble of golden fries, sat the most gorgeous woman Sam had ever seen. Dark, long-lashed eyes flashing, she glared up at him.
“Did it ever occur to you that sticking your leg out into the aisle might trip someone who can’t see over a serving tray?”
Now we ask you…what would a Loree/Cerella blog post be without an easy, yummy, good-for-you recipe!
Spring Veggies and Spinach Dip
For the spinach dip…
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
One cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
3 spring onions, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 clove grated garlic
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt & pepper
For the veggies…
2 bunches asparagus
2 bunches kale
6 carrots, cut into strips
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 bunch spring onions
1 bunch radishes, each cut in half
1 head red cabbage, hollowed-out (to hold the dip)
For the spinach dip…
In a medium bowl, mix spinach, sour cream, mayo, green onions, carrots, garlic, lemon juice, half of the salt and pepper. Cove and chill for 2 hours.
For the veggies…
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In separate pot or large bowl, prepare an ice water bath. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water, until bright green but still crisp. Transfer to the ice water bath to stop cooking process. Drain, dry with paper towels, and set aside.
Line a pretty basket with a paper doily and cover with kale. Then, arrange the remaining veggies on top of it, leaving space in the center for the dip.
Spoon the dip in the hollowed-out cabbage and place in the center of the basket and voila! (Recipe and photo from Ree Drummund.)
And stay tuned for next month’s "We Talk to Ourselves...a Lot!" blog, when anyone who comments is automatically entered to win a $25 Amazon ecard and a free signed copy of The Firefighter’s Refrain!
Wishing you an easy-breezy April!
With nearly 5,000,000 books in circulation, best-selling author Loree Lough's titles have earned numerous 4- and 5-star reviews and industry awards. She splits her time between her home in Baltimore and a cabin in the Alleghenies (where she loves to show off her “Identify the Critter Tracks” skills). The release of The Firefighter’s Refrain (#3 in the “Those Marshall Boys” series for Harlequin's popular Heartwarming line) brings Loree’s number of books in print to 105! Loree loves to hear from her readers and answers every letter, personally. Visit her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and www.loreelough.com (home of her “The Lough Down” blog)!
Cerella Sechrist lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. She has won various competitions and a scholarship for her writing, which include devotionals, full-length plays, and novels. She divides her time between working in the office of her family’s construction business and as a barista to support her reading habit and coffee addiction. Her novels exhibit her love for both the written word and food in fiction. You can find her online at www.cerellasechrist.com where she pens “Literary Fare: Fiction & Food”, a blog for readers.