Trish James is a strong woman who would like to not need help or others. Widowed and a single mother, she is attempting to build decorating business in the small town of Miller’s Creek. The book begins with mishaps, threatening her business and as she tries to make a go of it anyhow, she wonders if it will work.
Andy Tyler comes to a good friend’s wedding in Miller’s Creek and getting his small law firm established proves difficult, but nothing he cannot handle. Can he handle falling in love with a strong woman, who does not want to admit she needs him?
Anyone who grew up in a small town will relate to the business struggles in this book. It is not only building business you have struggle against, but the rumors that run wild as well. Trish often feels like giving in and heading out to the big city, especially when she is fighting against needing others. But when she shoves people away, she finds she misses them…her dad is moving on, her brother is having family dinners without her…..she is struggling in her parenting and facing the challenges of her son dealing with his father’s death.
The ups and downs in this book feel very real, and you will relate to Trish’s struggles. She is examining her feelings, her thoughts and trying to make the right choices, but there is so much happening.
I really enjoyed this book and will for sure be looking for more books by Ms. Bryant!- Martha
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
WordVessel Press (October 18, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cathy Bryant for sending me a review copy.***
A Texas gal since birth, Cathy Bryant continues the Mayberry RFD–only Texas Style!–stories with Book 2 in the Miller’s Creek series, A Path Less Traveled. Her debut novel Texas Roads was a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist. Cathy lives in a century-old Texas farmhouse with her husband of almost 30 years and a phobia-ridden cat.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: WordVessel Press (October 18, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In spite of the thousands of winking lights surrounding Trish James, a wedding somehow lost its luster in the wake of death. She nudged her shucked shoes out of the way with her big toe and adjusted the tulle on the wedding arch, the soft netlike fabric billowing beneath her fingertips as she encased the twinkle lights. The church sanctuary, with its white pews, stained-glass windows, and smoky blue carpet, served as the perfect backdrop to her design.
This wedding must be hard on you after Docs death. Dani spoke the words as if uncertain she should speak at all.
The ache in Trishs heart started afresh, a wound that never healed, but she pushed it aside with practiced expertise. This wedding wasnt about her. Im fine. Its not everyday my brother marries the most wonderful woman in the world. She forced a bright smile. Ive never seen Steve so happy.
Her sister-in-law-to-be didnt return the smile. Instead the area above her clear blue eyes creased. You sure youre okay?
Yep. Trish snipped the word and bent low to snag a sprig of silk ivy, then inserted it in the proper place and blinked away tears. In truth, it would be great to have someone to share her concerns with, but within boundariesnot right before the wedding, not with anyone who lived in Millers Creek, and definitely not with family members. The last thing she wanted was for them to feel like they had to come to her rescue.
Shed told Delaine some of the situation, but her best friend since high school now lived the fast-paced, Austin lifestyle, their conversations limited to when Delaine didnt have something else on her agenda.
I cant imagine how difficult it is to be both mother and father to Little Bo. Dani lowered her head, blonde ringlets framing her face. And then trying to start a business on top of everything else.
Oh, no. She wasnt going there. Trish clenched her teeth. Steve had already given her this lecture. With his best brotherly concern, hed told her she didnt have to be Superwoman. Yeah, right. Try telling that to her empty checkbook and refrigerator. She glanced at Dani, who sat atop the piano railing swinging her legs. Are you ready for the big day tomorrow?
A happy glow wreathed her friends face. And the day after, and the day after that. I think Ive been getting ready to marry Steve my entire life.
Im happy for you both. Though it hurt to speak the words, she meant it. It wasnt their fault her life was in the doldrums.
Dani sprang from her perch and trotted down the steps to view the stage. You have such a gift, Trish. Everything looks magical.
Trish gazed at the curly willow branches shed ordered and spray-painted white, now wrapped with tiny sparks of light. The fairy tale forest blanketed the stage and meandered down the side aisles in an aura of enchantment. Once the ribbons and flowers were placed, and candles inserted into globes and nestled among the boughs, her vision would be complete. I hope its what you wanted.
Its better than I couldve ever imagined. Dani hurried over and draped an arm across her shoulder. Once everyone in Millers Creek see this, youre gonna get loads of business.
A heavy sigh whooshed from her before she could contain it. From your lips to my bank account.
Danis eyes clouded. I dont know how to say this, so Im just going to say it and get it over with. Are you okay? I mean do you need to borrow money or something?
No. Yes. Yes. She wasnt okay. She needed money. She needed something. Im fine. The lie popped out as she stepped to the box perched on the piano bench. With care she lifted two delicate cracked-glass globes and moved to the candle stands. The words Im fine were her constant mantra these days, like saying them made everything all right. Who was she kidding?
She closed her eyes and reopened them with a slow blink, weary of pretending. But what choice did she have? Her brothers wedding wasnt the time or place to air her personal problems. Besides, she was thirty-two years old, more than old enough to handle life on her own. A glance at her wristwatch sent her pulse on a stampede. Still so much to do to make the decorations perfect. God, please let this bring me business.
Dani plopped back onto the railing. Is Little Bo doing better?
How could he be? Sure, if you dont count the nightmares and barely letting me out of his sight. She omitted the fact that he was a hairsbreadth away from flunking kindergarten unless she could help him catch up before the school year ended.
So the psychologist is helping?
Before Trish could respond, the double white doors at the rear of the church burst open. Incessant rain poured from the April sky and silhouetted the form of a man. Dani let out a squeal. Andy!
The petite blonde flew down the steps toward a man who looked vaguely familiar. He wore a lightweight suit with a loosened necktie, and had an easy-going smile that brightened the room. Hey, hows the bride?
Dani looked up at him, her face radiant. Never better.
Yeah, I can see that.
She tugged his arm. Come here. I want you to meet someone.
His loose-limbed gait gave the impression of someone always relaxed, like hed just returned from a vacation at the beach.
This is Andy Tyler, my friend from Dallas. Andy, this is Steves sister.
Sea-green eyes sparkled. Well, does Steves sister have a name? He jogged up the steps and held out a hand, his smile still bright.
Trish laughed and took his hand. Im Trish James. Nice to meet you.
Danis face took on a crimson hue. Sorry. Guess my mind is elsewhere.
Andys gaze rested on her bare feet. Glad to know you have a name. What about shoes?
She couldnt help but smile. I have them, but kicked them off hours ago.
The hall door squeaked behind them, and Mama Beth, Danis mother and the mother figure of all of Millers Creek, bustled into the room. Along with her came the smell of fresh baked bread wafting from the fellowship hall. Trish could almost taste the melt-in-your mouth rolls. Maybe she could sneak a few leftovers for her and Bo to nibble on next week.
My goodness, Trish, if this isnt the most gorgeous thing Ive ever seen. Mama Beth hugged Andys neck. Hi, Andy.
A tender gleam lit his eyes as he wrapped his arms around the older womans shoulders and kissed her cheek. Hi, sweet lady. He turned raised eyebrows to Trish. You did all this?
She ducked her head, and pushed a silky strand of hair behind one ear.
All of it. gushed Dani. And wait until you see the fellowship hall.
Speaking of fellowship hall, I could sure use your help in the kitchen. Mama Beths voice took on a commanding tone as she scuttled to the door. Weve got enough work to do for this rehearsal dinner to keep an entire army busy.
Dani looked torn. But I cant leave Trish down here to do all this by herself.
Trish wrestled the wieldy greenery in place, longing to comment that she didnt need help. It would suit her just fine if theyd all go away and leave her alone.
Andy rested his hands on his hips in mock protest, his tan jacket pulled back. What am I? Pork belly? Ill help Trish. You go help Mama Beth. He held up a hand. Trust me when I say Ill be more help here than in the kitchen.
Good point. Ive had your cooking. Dani grinned and rushed after Mama Beth. Yall know where to find us if you need help.
Andy chuckled and shed his jacket, then laid it across the front pew and turned her way. What can I do to help?
Trish mentally checked her to-do list. I was actually waiting for someone with more muscles than me to come around. Theres a box full of candles I need brought in from my Suburban. She pointed toward the side door. Its out there and its unlocked.
He gave a mock salute that bounced his sandy curls. Yes maam. Andys stocky frame loped down the steps and disappeared through the doorway.
Her eyebrows rose as she made her way to the pile of greenery on the front pew. Danis friend was more handsome than she remembered. Trish burrowed through the tangled mess, remembering the promise shed made Dani to help Andy feel welcome. As if she needed a man to take care of along with her other responsibilities.
The door slammed, Andys eyes and forehead barely visible above the box he white-knuckled. She ran to him. Let me help. I know thats heavy. I loaded it this morning.
Nah, I got it. The words wheezed out. You loaded this by yourself?
She ignored the question and pointed to the stage. Can you bring it up the steps?
He shot her a youve-got-to-be-kidding glare then labored up the steps, his face red, his breath coming in agonized spurts. As he reached the last step, the toe of his leather loafer snagged the extension cord snaking along the edge of the stage.
Trish tried to speak, but her words congregated behind locked lips. Andy stumbled, and the box flew from his arms, the candles launching like small missiles. He hit the floor with a thud, the box crash-landing at the base of the first tree.
In slow motion, like carefully-placed dominos, the trees rippled to the floor in a sickening staccato of crashes and breaking glass. As if to punctuate the effect, the white metal archway in the center leaned forward with a creak as it teetered, then toppled forward with a bang.
Her mouth hinged open, and her hands flew to her cheeks. All her hard work ruined. In shock, it took a moment to realize Andy still lay face down on the carpet. Are you all right?
He pushed himself up on all fours and surveyed the devastation.
Assured he was okay, she slung herself down to the top step. The scene replayed in her mind. A giggle gurgled out then burst forth in an almost-maniacal laugh.
Andy chuckled and crawled to sit beside her.
Without warning, her laughter turned to sobs. She covered her face with trembling hands, rage surging at yet another unexpected crying jag. Now shed never be ready on time. No one would be impressed. No one would want her services. No business. No money.
Im sorry. Im so sorry. Andy slid a hand down her arm. Ill fix it, Trish, I promise. Im so sorry.
Trish fisted her hands, then straightened her spine and swatted at the tears on her cheeks. Will you please stop apologizing? There was no controlling her snappish tone. For Petes sake, it was an accident. Im not gonna sue. She clamped her lips, rose to her feet, and waded through the ruins. Fingers at rest against her lips, she knelt to retrieve shattered slivers of glass from the broken globes. These werent even paid for.
Andy stooped beside her, his eyes boring a hole into her skull. Here, let me get that. You start putting things back where you want them.
Trish could only nod at his softly-spoken words, a knot wedged in her windpipe. She lifted a tree into position, the light strands dripping from the branches like a child had thrown them in place. So far her determination to prove herself capable had been met with nothing but industrial-strength resistance.
* * *
Its all your fault. The familiar words in Andys head relentlessly accused, ushering forth memories and ghosts from the past. Trish obviously spent hours on the wedding decorations, and hed managed to undo her work with one false step. He forced the finger-pointing voice to the back of his mind and attempted to burn off the chill that now hung in the room. You live here in Millers Creek?
Yes. Her answer sounded pinched. My son and I live here. At least for now. She didnt look at him while she maneuvered the lights back on the branches with agile fingers.
Son? Now he remembered. Dani had mentioned something about Steves sister losing her husband in a freak accident. A cow kick, or was it a horse? And how long ago? Youre leaving town?
I dont want to, but we dont always get what we want, do we?
True, but sometimes what you thought you wanted wasnt what you needed. Andy rose, his hands cupped to contain the glass shards. No, we dont. You have a trash can?
Trishs tawny eyes looked his way. She grabbed an empty box and hurried to him. Here. She glanced around the stage, her face gloomy, her shoulders slumped. Are they all broken?
Dont know. He dumped the pieces in the box, where they pinged against each other. Is there some place I can buy replacements?
She rubbed one arm and shook her head. No. I had them shipped in. Ill drive to Morganville tonight after the rehearsal to see if I can find something thatll work.
The sadness on her face made his breath stick in his throat. Hed been in Millers Creek less than an hour and had already goofed things up. Ill go with you and pay for them since its my fault.
Trishs shoulders rose then fell. Its no ones fault. Its just something that happened. She returned to the branches and hoisted another one back into position.
Just something that happened. A shaft of light streamed through the stained glass windows and rested on her, and she slumped over like she couldnt bear the weight of the world any longer. Was she remembering the accident? He removed a pack of peppermint gum from his shirt pocket and popped a piece in his mouth. Her problems made the mess with Sheila seem trivial. What could he do to make things better?
Dani told me youre engaged. Whens the big day? Trish strung lights along a tree branch. Perfectly.
He shifted his weight to the other leg then squatted to pluck glass from the carpet. Uh, were not I mean well, its over between us.
She raised her head, and her brown hair shimmered under the light. Im sorry. I didnt know.
Dont be. He stood. Its for the best.
Andy let out a half-laugh. Turns out she still had a thing for her ex-boyfriend. Thank the Lord hed found out in time. A wife would be wonderful, but not the wrong wife.
For a moment she didnt speak, but her face took on a knowing look. That mustve been painful.
He nodded, his lips pressed together. It was hard, but God can bring good from hurt.
Trish stared at him like she was trying to get a read on him then turned back to the lights. So neither one of us are really in the mood to celebrate. Especially a wedding. Her face matched her cynical tone.
Out in the hallway, muffled voices grew closer. The hall door swung open, and the smell of Mama Beths home-cooking watered his mouth. A little boy that looked like Trish raced toward them, then stopped, his dark eyes round. Whoa! What happened here?
Dani and Mama Beth followed, their mouths ajar. After them came Steve Miller, the mayor of Millers Creek, and Danis soon-to-be husband.
Its all right. Dont worry. Trish rushed to the two women and laid a hand on each of their arms. Its nothing that cant be fixed, I promise. We just had a little accident.
Andy watched through narrowed eyes. Now she comforted the two women when just a few minutes before shed been in tears. A good way to get a severe case of whiplash.
Steve sauntered toward him, his boots scuffing against the carpet, a friendly grin on his face.
He shook Steves hand. How you doing, Mayor?
The other mans grin expanded as he tucked his fingers in jeans that looked new. Ill be doing a lot better in a couple of days. Lightning fast, Steve untucked one hand and grabbed the boys arm as he streaked by. Hold on, tiger. I dont think you have any business up there. Have you met Aunt Danis friend?
The boy skewed his lips in a thoughtful pose and shook his head.
This is my nephew, Bo.
Andy stretched out a palm. Give me five, buddy.
Bo reared back and delivered a hearty slap.
Ouch! Andy pretended to shake off the sting. Man, Ill bet you can throw a baseball really far with that kind of muscle power.
The boy nodded, his face creased with a grin. Yep, but I cant catch so good.
Well, corrected Trish, as she came to stand with them. You cant catch well.
Andy assumed a catchers position beside him. The little guy had to be missing his daddy. Maybe he could help. I used to be a catcher, so I can give you some pointers later. Would you like that?
Bos eyes lit. Yeah.
Yes sir. Trishs tone held a warning.
I mean, yes sir. He looked toward his Mama. Is it okay if we play catch, Mom?
She sent Andy a tight-lipped smile, her expression cloaked with reserve, but when she turned toward her son her face softened, and she tousled his hair. Of course, but it might be tomorrow since Mr. Tylers already promised to help me clean up this mess. Almost looks like a tornado touched down in here. Steve rocked back on his heels and jangled the coins in his pocket.
A tornado named Andy. Trish gave a play-by-play account.
Steve laughed, but Mama Beth and Dani still fussed about like a couple of hens. Thats one way to get out of carrying more boxes. Steve winked. Ill have to remember that move.
Hey, look at me! Little Bo perched on the piano railing, one foot in front of the other, his arms out to balance. Andys heart moved to his throat. One wrong step would hurdle him toward the carpet, still full of glass.
All of them raced for the railing, but Andy arrived first. He grabbed him by the waist and slung him over one shoulder, amused at Bos contagious belly laugh. Come here, buddy, before you fall and hurt that amazing pitching arm.
Trish joined them, eyes wide with panic, her face white and strained. She gripped Little Bos arms. How many times do I have to tell you not to pull stunts like that? Her voice shook as she bent down, her face inches from his.
The boy said nothing, his lips stuck out in a pout.
Steve laid a hand on her shoulder. Sis.
Volumes passed between the brother and sister before Little Bo bolted for the door. Trish raced after him, her dark eyes full of hurt.
Both men faced the door, an awkward silence between them. Steve cleared his throat and turned, his eyes fixed on the floor. Sorry about that. Trish is uh going through a rough time.
Andy nodded. An understatement if hed ever heard one. Based on what hed seen, he was pretty sure not even Steve knew exactly how rough.