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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A NEW YEAR AND REFLECTIONS ON THE OLD

In 2013, I published 21 books counting indie ebooks and traditionally published print books. That gave me a total of 34 publications since I started writing seriously in 2007. My goal was to quit the day job and become a full time writer. I met that goal in May of 2013 and published the 34 book on the last day of December. The book which squeaked in at the last minute was Mistaken Assassin.

Marilu wakes one morning to the realization that the man next to her is not her husband. That awareness is the beginning to ten year's of memories returning. One of which leads her to believe she is a paid assassin. As she struggles with the realization of who she is and what she was, she begins a search for her daughter. Things are complicated when she runs into Brad Morrison, the undercover agent who is the brother to the man Marilu had been hired to kill. Together, the two go on the run to prove that all is not as it seems and Marilu is nothing more than a Mistaken Assassin. Can she let go of her fear and uncertainty to let God's will prevail?

KINDLE         NOOK


I signed a five book contract with Harlequin, two of which released in 2013, with three releasing in 2014. I published two novellas with Barbour publishing. A Pioneer Christmas collection made the CBA best-sellers list at #8.

God has richly blessed my writing and I am looking forward to many more blessings in 2014. In addition to my sporadic blog here, I am also a contributor to Cozy Mystery Magazine, Suspense Sisters, and Christian Historical Fiction Society.

I hope you stick with me on this crazy life of a hybrid author.



Tuesday, December 03, 2013

CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY!

A Merry Christmas raffle and a free gift!
What could make the season brighter than a chance to win two terrific Christmas Collections and get some new recipes?
The Pioneer Christmas Collection authors want to celebrate the Advent season
by giving our readers a FREE Christmas Cookbook PDF
featuring recipes connected to our stories PLUS family recipes from our own holiday traditions.
If that’s not enough, we’re offering a raffle for two terrific Christmas classics signed by ALL the authors:
our own
A Pioneer Christmas Collection
and
A Log Cabin Christmas Collection.
Raffle


Like one of us on Facebook, sign up to follow my blog, Shannon’s blog, or Vickie’s newsletter for a chance to win the two books. Rafflecopter contest runs until midnight, Pacific time, Wednesday, December 11.
logcabin raffle(The books will be mailed to the winner on December 15, so you should get them in time for Christmas!)PIoneer raffle
If all else fails, comment on this blog and you’ll get a free PDF of the cookbook sent to your email address!
Questions? Post them in the comments!
 
Win two classic Christmas Collections and get a free cookbook! Click to Tweet
Want an easy entry?    What’s your favorite Christmas memory?
 (The Pioneer Christmas Collection Cookbook is ONLY available as a PDF. No purchase required)

Monday, November 25, 2013

SIXTEEN REASONS TO GIVE THANKS

Here are 16 more reasons to give thanks this Thanksgiving, sixteen Christian ebooks for 99¢ each. They will be on sale from November 27, 2013 through Monday, December 2, 2013. Click the links below the graphic to "look inside" each book on Amazon and download your digital copies!

99 cents, sale, Christian fiction

Contemporary Romance

Shadows of Doubt by Susette Williams

Raffealle Gellermine has a very protective uncle and two protective brothers. They never like the men she brings home. Mathew Flannigan has a past, but for the life of her, she can’t figure out why Uncle Rob and her brothers are trying to encourage a relationship between them. Could her brothers be right? Does she unconsciously choose the wrong type of men as an act of rebellion? Can she trust Mathew? Especially with her heart? Will shadows of doubt keep Raffealle from finding true love? BUY Shadows of Doubt HERE

Honorable Intentions by Susette Williams

Have you ever wished you had a second chance with someone? Brand Stanford married Monica because she claimed to be carrying his child. Their marriage was one of convenience—for her. When they had finally become a happy family, Monica was killed in a skiing accident. Now, Brand is faced with having to raise their three-year-old daughter on his own. Tessa Duggan’s family had been lifelong friends with the Stanfords; and even remained in contact with them after moving out of state. Tessa kept secrets to herself for nearly ten years. She’d loved Brand for as long as she could remember. Having raised a son on her own, Tessa knows what it’s like to be a single parent. When Brand’s wife dies in a skiing accident, Tessa agrees to help Brand’s mother take care of his three-year-old daughter during the summer. Is it a chance for them to start over again? Or will Brand break her heart the second time around? BUY Honorable Intentions HERE

Scrooge Falls in Love by Susette Williams

Tate Stephens, the high school principal, begrudgingly agrees to play Scrooge in the school Christmas play. Tate is irritated that Charity Fletcher, his nephew’s teacher and director of the play, chose his handicapped nephew for the part of Tiny Tim. Didn’t she find it cruel to typecast his nephew that way? Can the school play be a success, or will Tate become the Scrooge who wouldn’t change and spoils Christmas? Charity Fletcher is inspired by how precocious, outgoing and sweet Matthias Reeves is in spite of his bone disease. His over-protective uncle, Tate, on the other hand, can be quite infuriating. She reluctantly gives Tate a role in the school play so that he can make sure that Matthias is safe. Charity hopes that Uncle Tate will make a similar transformation as Scrooge in their rendition of the play. If Matthias is lucky, perhaps his teacher and uncle can find true love with a happily ever after ending. BUY Scrooge Falls in Love HERE

The Gingerbread House by Jacqueline Hopper

Keren Joel has a phobia and, without realizing it, she's passed it on to her son, forcing her to seek professional help. What she doesn't expect to find is the man who'd been her best friend, twenty years earlier, and his shrine to a moment that forever changed the adults they became. BUY The Gingerbread House HERE

Faith, Hope & Love by Kimberly Rae Jordan

Six years after Colombian rebels took her missionary husband hostage, Cassie MacIntyre gets word that Quinn has been released and is on his way home. While initially excited to have her husband back, it isn’t long before joy turns to heartache as Cassie realizes that his time in captivity have robbed Quinn of his faith in God and apparently, his love for her. The man who has come back to her is a stranger. Cassie struggles to keep alive the hope that there is a future for their marriage, their family and the love they once shared. BUY Faith, Hope & Love HERE

Waiting For Rachel by Kimberly Rae Jordan

Damian Karlsson has decided it’s time to settle down and have a family. He has set his sights on Rachel Perkins, but can’t figure out why she won’t even give him a chance. It seems to Damian she feels something for him, but still she resists. Damian is determined to find out why. Though she is attracted to Damian, Rachel is equally determined to keep her secrets close to her heart. Men she loved have betrayed her in the past, and she isn’t prepared to take that risk again. But when her secrets are forced out in the open, will Rachel discover that forgiveness and trust are worth the risk when it leads to love? BUY Waiting For Rachel HERE

Act of Love by K. R. Jordan

After a year that involved a box office flop and a spectacular break-up, actor Jackson Wyatt returns home to fulfill a promise to his sister to act in a play at her community theater. What he didn’t count on was his sister casting his ex-girlfriend as the female lead opposite him. Returning to his roots has Jack taking a hard look at his life, and he finds himself wanting the things he gave up so many years ago. Natasha can’t believe she agreed to play opposite her ex in the play ‘The Gift of the Magi’ at her best friend’s theatre. But she feels a certain kinship to the main character, Della, and it’s not just her long hair. As if facing a Christmas where she barely has the money to make ends meet, let alone buy presents for those she loves wasn’t hard enough, now she’s having to deal with Jack’s reappearance in her life. Through Natasha, Jack sees a side of life he’s missed out on. With love as her currency she gives more to others than he ever could with all his money. But would she be willing to give him a second chance at love? BUY Act of Love HERE

Eden by Suzanne D. Williams

The last thing Eden Riske expected when she came home was the discernment of fellow teacher Austin Lowell. Football coach, history teacher, fitness buff, Austin is strength and patience in a handsome package. However, it seems even his presence can’t stop the rumors swirling around her or the hatred of someone determined to do her harm. But this job is supposed to be her salvation, her way out of her troubled past. Except now, everything is falling apart, and the one thing that might destroy her is the very secret she’s held inside for so long. BUY Eden HERE

Baggage Claim by Amanda Tru

Montana native, Rachel Saunders, is looking forward to her all-expense paid weekend trip to New York. But, when her luggage is lost and she is accosted by an infuriating Homeland Security agent named Dawson Tate, events take a dangerous turn. Now, can she and Dawson elude their enemies and prevent a terrorist attack before the bomb in their possession is detonated in the center of Manhattan--all while keeping their obvious attraction to one another in check? BUY Baggage Claim HERE

Secret Santa by Amanda Tru

It was time for Hailey Rhodes to admit the truth: things were not going well. After losing her job as a teacher, she finds herself broke, unemployed, and tricked into accepting a date from a department store Santa Claus. When new opportunities and new love interests present themselves, will Hailey choose a career and a man she's always admired, or will she wait for the identity of her Secret Santa to be revealed? BUY Secret Santa HERE

The Romance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Amanda Tru

After one last performance, Calyssa Durant will be trading in her ballet slippers for an uncertain future. Having sacrificed so much of her life to become a ballerina, Calyssa has met her goals only to long for something more. She will dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the 'Nutcracker' one more time before quitting her traveling ballet troupe. But, when a late-night rehearsal ends with surprising danger, Calyssa and theater owner, Nikolas Clauson, are caught in a battle with an unexpected villain. As the smoke clears, Calyssa finds herself on a journey to her own, real-life 'Land of the Sweets'. Will she also find her own Nutcracker Prince, or will his stormy past and current secrets be more than this ballerina can overcome? BUY The Romance of the Sugar Plum Fairy HERE

Curtain Calls and Christmas Wishes by Cynthia Hickey

Do Christmas wishes really come true? Lacey Cooper dreams of directing plays. When the manager at the local theater company falls ill, she gets her chance to direct the annual Christmas play, A White Christmas. Then, the lead role is injured in an accident and Lacey must ask the man in charge of stage setup to step in. Dillon Marks is growing tired of his job as probation officer, but volunteers on a regular basis at the local theater company, bringing several of his clients with him. When Lacey begs him to step into the leading role, he initially says no. He can sing, but can't dance at all. She finally convinces him to step into the role. When Lacey makes it clear that she isn’t interested in a man with a dangerous profession, the two try to squelch their growing attraction for each other. Then, they are snowbound in the theater with a mad man and their feelings come to the surface. Can these two find love among the lights and action of a White Christmas? BUY Curtain Calls and Christmas Wishes HERE

Speculative Romance Adventure

Babel’s First Light by Sherry Chamblee

A family of secrets is no family at all. Jaiyl only wanted to escape, until she learned the truth. Finally she must face the hardest decision of her life - either fight for the freedom of those she loved, or be safe, and alone forever. BUY Babel’s First Light HERE

Romantic Suspense

Mountain of Fear by Cynthia Hickey

Widowed and broke, Rachel Kent collects her two children, packs up their belongings, and heads across the Ozarks to stay with her parents. They stop for the night at a newly opened campground, then take a short hike. The three return to find the other occupants of the campground murdered. They flee the campsite and stumble upon a ranger’s cabin, where they enlist the help of handsome, former-Army Ranger, Wesley Ward, who informs them a survivalist group laid claim to the mountain. Can a man who wants only to escape his past and be left alone and a woman damaged by life forge a love that survives a flight through the Ozark Mountains? BUY Mountain of Fear HERE

Captured Innocence by Cynthia Hickey

She’ll do everything it takes to save her son, even marry a stranger. Jocelyn Nielson is on the run from a man involved in selling children. When a man shows up on her doorstep, claiming to be her knight in shining armor, she’s reluctant to trust him. After all, memories are returning, and they are exposing things best left buried in the past. Conley Hook, private detective, is determined to protect Jocelyn and her son at all costs. Even if it means his life. Together, the two must learn to trust God and each other in their quest to save the Captured Innocent. BUY Captured Innocence HERE

Young Adult Romance

A Miracle for Mari by Suzanne D. Williams

Mari Tatum has a secret. Forced to be Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the church play, she finds herself working alongside Shay McNab, the very boy she’s keeping a secret from. Yet in the story of Christ’s birth, she finds that in God’s hands her fall from grace can become a miracle. BUY A Miracle for Mari HERE

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

BLACK FRIDAY DEALS


Mountain of Fear                                      Captured Innocence                             Finding A Way Home


                                                                 Mountain Redemption

Tis the Season for Deals. Buying someone a Kindle for Christmas? Load it up with .99 sale books. More books on sale listed here www.cynthiahickey.com

MOUNTAIN OF FEAR 4 1/2*
Widowed and broke, Rachel Kent collects her two children, packs up their belongings, and heads across the Ozarks to stay with her parents. They stop for the night at a newly opened campground, then take a short hike. The three return to find the other occupants of the campground murdered. They flee the campsite and stumble upon a ranger’s cabin, where they enlist the help of handsome, former-Army Ranger, Wesley Ward, who informs them a survivalist group laid claim to the mountain. Only God can help them now. Can a man who wants only to escape his past and be left alone and a woman damaged by life forge a love that survives a flight through the Ozark Mountains?

CAPTURED INNOCENCE 5*
She'll do everything it takes to save her son, even marry a stranger.
Jocelyn Nielson is on the run from a man involved in selling children. When a man shows up on her doorstep, claiming to be her knight in shining armor, she's reluctant to trust him. After all, memories are returning, and they are exposing things best left buried in the past.
Conley Hook, private detective, is determined to protect Jocelyn and her son at all costs. Even if it means his life.
Together, the two must learn to trust God and each other in their quest to save the Captured Innocent.


FINDING A WAY HOME (New Release)
Shelby Jenkins, former bad girl of Springdale, left town at eighteen when her boyfriend's best friend attacked her. Now, seven year's later, she's returned with her daughter to run the diner left to her by her late grandmother. Can Shelby and the town let bygones be bygones? Can Shelby trust that God knows what is best for her as she is drawn back into caring for her first love?
Blake Harvey is riddled with guilt over his part in Shelby leaving town years ago. Can she forgive him? Can he accept her forgiveness if it's given and make amends to his past treatment of her?

MOUNTAIN REDEMPTION 5*
Revenge is not always sweet.
Can their love survive a feud between mountain people and the moonshiners who are determined to take away all they hold dear?
Phoebe Lillie grows worried when her Pa doesn't return after what she thought was a routine hunting trip. Then, the new handsome school teacher arrives in Pine Ridge and starts wanting to make changes with his city ways. She resents his attentions, wanting only to find her Pa. When her and the teacher stumble across an illegal whiskey still, they are thrust into a feud that threatens to tear them, and the Ozark mountain hollow, apart. Then Phoebe is subjected to a horrible attack. Revenge fills her soul. Can God bring her out of her suffocating need for revenge before she loses Jacob's love?
Jacob Wright, takes the job of school teacher in Pine Ridge, after his job in law enforcement results in an innocent woman's untimely death. He's sworn never to draw his gun on another living person. He doesn't expect his new job to put him in the middle of a feud straight out of the wild west. Jacob must choose between his resolve and the life of the woman he loves.
Set during the Depression in the Ozark mountains, this story is sure to please readers of both historical and romantic suspense. Full of grace, forgiveness, and redemption, it still has plenty of danger for the most avid suspense fan.

Friday, October 04, 2013

A PEEK AT NINE GREAT BOOKS! - 99 CENT SALE




Nine Christian authors have joined together to offer you NINE ebooks, each for 99 cents for 99 hours. The sale runs from 12:01 a.m. EST Friday, October 4, 2013, through 11:59 p.m. PST Monday, October 7. Click the links below the graphic to "look inside" on Amazon and pick up your digital copies!
 
First Lines
 To Protect and Serve by Staci Stallings
“I promise concern for others, and a willingness to help those in need,” Jeff Taylor said as he stood, hands clasped behind his back, shoulder-to-shoulder with 28 of Houston’s finest. His chest swelled with the words he had committed to memory in anticipation of this very moment more than ten years before. “I promise strength… strength of heart to bear whatever burdens might be placed upon me…”
 Raspberries and Vinegar by Valerie Comer
 Josephine Shaw gritted her teeth as she jerked the harvest-gold range forward on worn linoleum. There it was again. That incessant scratching could only be from one source. Mice. Of course the old trailer would have the despicable creatures. It’d been vacant for how long? The beam of her flashlight found half a dozen naked newborns sheltered in a nest of insulation and wood chips. A full-grown rodent shot through the gap she’d created and scuttled right over her foot. Jo gasped, nearly dropping the light as she jerked back.
 A Time to Say Goodbye by J. M. Downey
 A lady should always have five minutes of peace. May Lynn Whitley pushed through the glass doors and made her way to the end of the porch, squeezing the rail. And she needed that peace.
 Something about Sam by Susette Williams
 Samantha Marlow had never held a job as a cook before but had always cooked for her family on their ranch. How much harder could it be to cook for a few extra men?
 A light tap on the window startled her, bringing her cascading back to reality. She was alarmed by the dark haired stranger’s sudden presence. As she rolled down the window she noticed a slightly amused look on his face.
 Patient Love by Rikki Strong
 Jasmine threw her phone across the room, sank down to the floor of the apartment she had moved into just days before, put her face in her hands, and cried. How could he have done this to her? Maybe if she crawled to bed and pulled the covers over her face, when she woke up the next morning, it would have never happened.
 Fudge Laced Felonies by Cynthia Hickey
 I marched into church on Sunday—not to search for God, but to find a killer. My prey stood in the corner of the foyer, lurking in the shadows. With narrowed eyes, I intended to face him. Instead, the delicious aroma of coffee wafted in the air, beckoning me like a siren’s song. I glared at the one I pursued long enough to let him know I meant business and switched my course across the tiled narthex of the large church to the fellowship wing. I needed caffeinated reinforcement before confronting the villain.
 The Road Home by Naty Matos
 When Desiree woke up that day, she talked to her lover as she used to do every morning. Talking to him used to set the tone for the rest of her day. He had something important to tell her that day. He revealed to her that He would come to take her home with him that day if the conditions were favorable, but she needed to make it happen.
 Out of a Dream by Rosemary Hines
 Michelle Baron’s heart raced, pounding in her ears. She panted, gasping for every breath. Her eyes searched for an escape. The passageway was dark, narrow. A faint beam of light flickered at the end. She fought the damp, suffocating air. Footsteps from behind made louder and louder slaps on the pavement. How much farther could her legs carry her?
 Rain Dance by Joy Dekok
 Jonica
Life as I knew it ended.
 Stacie
I wanted it to be over.
 
9, 99 cents, sale, Christian fiction

 

Contemporary Romance


 

Raspberries and Vinegar by Valerie Comer


 

Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.

 

Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can't handle? And surely there's something sweet beneath all that tart.

 


 

To Protect and Serve by Staci Stallings


 

Jeff Taylor is a fireman's fireman. No situation is too dangerous to keep him on the sideline if lives are at stake.

 

Lisa Matheson runs a semi-successful ad agency that's on the brink of falling apart. When she falls for a handsome but shy firefighter, it's possible that life might just be going her way for a change. The only problem is she can't control Jeff and the death wish he seems to have...

 


Patient Love by R. M. Strong


 

Jasmine Williams is trying to put her life back together after her fiancé dumps her hours before their wedding. Returning home to her parents' beachfront B&B she begins to realize how much Philip had insisted on controlling--everything from her hairstyle to her opinions of her home church; even how she viewed God's love. Just as she regains her identity, a summons from Philip demands she take him back. Will this time be different?

 


 

Something about Sam by Susette Williams


 

Having lost the family ranch due her parents untimely death and their past debts, Samantha Marlow is forced to look for a job for the first time in her life. Accustomed to using her nickname, Sam, she is hired as a cook, based off of her resume, site-unseen.

 

Jake Dampier needs someone to manage his household while he manages his ranch. He never anticipated his foreman would hire someone without interviewing them in person, especially someone as young and beautiful as Sam. The last thing he wants is a distraction—but it may turn out to be just what he needs.

 


 

Historical Romance


 

A Time to Say Goodbye by J. M. Downey


 

Cotton plantation daughter, May Lynn Whitley sees nothing wrong with owning others. After all how would they fend for themselves if it wasn't for gracious people like her family? But a handsome young preacher’s probing words and mesmerizing blue eyes unlock a new sense of justice and lead her on a journey that will change her life and soul. But she is betrothed and May Lynn’s controlling fiance’ will do anything to make sure they wed. Anything including destroying all that she holds dear. Set in Antebellum America, May Lynn’s adventure spans the Eastern Seaboard as she joins a movement she once scorned.

 


Mystery/Suspense


 

Fudge Laced Felonies by Cynthia Hickey


 

While transplanting the rosebush her church's handsome greeter, Ethan Banning, inadvertently killed, Summer and Ethan discover a hidden stash of diamonds, a rusty can full of cash, and a bloody-gardening glove. This discovery sets Summer and her candy-making aunt on a search for a killer.

 

As Summer gets closer to the truth-not only of the theft but of her true feelings for Ethan-the diamond thief hatches a plan to hush the feisty sleuth.

 


Out of a Dream by Rosemary Hines


 

Newlywed Michelle Baron should be enjoying life in the quaint coastal community of Sandy Cove, Oregon. Her husband has joined his uncle’s law firm, and they have a cozy new home ~ what more could she want? But a series of nightmares leads her on a spiritual journey that challenges her Christian heritage as well as her marriage. Where will she find answers to her disturbing dreams? And how will those answers impact her life?

 


 

Women's Fiction


 

Rain Dance by Joy Dekok


 

What happens when a Christian woman facing a childless future and a woman seeking an abortion are waiting to see the same doctor? What if after that "chance" encounter they are unable to forget each other? What if they find themselves drawn together in spite of their drastic differences by their surprising similarities? What if they somehow find the courage to become friends? Rain Dance takes the reader into the hearts of these two women as they journey closer to the heart of the One who offers hope and healing.

 


The Road Home by Naty Matos


 

He was finally coming. He told Desiree that once her task was complete, he would be there to pick her up. And they could finally be together forever. Desiree was finally going to be with the one she loved. But what did she need to do? And how was she going to figure out what it was?

 


 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

ACFW Conference 2013

It's a very surreal experience when people you don't know, recognize your face and/or your name. When folks come up and say, "I read your book and loved it!" When fellow writers exchange business cards vowing to be friends for a very long time. When you hit it off with that one special someone! Oh, I made so many new friends. And there were many highlights this year.

Friday night was the genre dress up night. I went as a Harvey Girl with writer Sharon Lavy. She made the aprons, thank you so much. I'm not near the seamstress she is. One person actually recognized our characters.
 
Saturday night the Harlequin Heartsong authors in attendance went to dinner together and I got to meet my editor, Kathy Davis. What a sweetie, and a great sense of humor!

 
Best-selling author, Frank Peretti, was awarded the life-time achievement award, but the line was too long for me to get a picture with him. So here you go ... from a far.

It's always a special time to meet one-on-one with my agent, Chip MacGregor. Here he is with one of the other agents from his agency, Amanda Luedeke. I borrowed this off FB, hope Amanda doesn't mind.
 
I sat and talked with best-selling author, Brandilyn Collins for forty-five minutes. She truly has a heart for God. A very special woman.

I met so many wonderful people, but here are me with a few I could actually tie down. The gala was a riot with Gina Welborn and Bonnie Calhoun.

Here's me and Rachel Smith and new friend, author Beth Goddard.


Here is me and Michelle Ule, one of the other authors in the A Pioneer Christmas collection. So nice to meet her!

I finally got to hang with author Kaye Dacus, after hearing what a riot she is. All the rumors were true. Here's Rachel Smith and Kaye Dacus.

I met so many other wonderful people and made friends I'll treasure forever. Someone also told me that I'm one of the biggest ebook sellers in the CBA, but I'm not sure that's true. Either way, I'll thank the Lord and enjoy the experience. I can not wait until next year when conference will be in St. Louis.




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

12 Days of Pioneer Christmas: Uncommon Romance

12 Days of Pioneer Christmas: Uncommon Romance


12 Days of Christmas promotionA Pioneer Christmas is the third inspirational romance collection for which I’ve written a story. As is my custom, I’ve read the stories written by my co-writers to get a feel for the book. This beautiful fat book with nine tales feels just a little different from your average Christmas romance novella.

The romance genre has specific elements that make it a romance: the point of view alternates between the hero and the heroine; the couple traditionally meet in the first chapter and don’t like each other; the stories end with a wedding.

Wikipedia notes: “novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
Most people translate that into a shorthand: boy meets girl; girl doesn’t like boy; boy loses girl; girl recognizes the boy’s finer qualities (perhaps he saves her); they marry and live happily ever after
But in A Pioneer Christmas, several writers–including me– tweaked the genre for a different angle on pioneer romance. I found them delightfully satisfying and a bit bemusing, wondering more than once, “how is this one going to end?”

Fully a third of these stories begin with a married couple–the romance is young and passionate, but the marriage already has been consummated.
So, where’s the romance in that?kissing
I’m not giving away any spoilers . . .

It’s helpful to remember that life on the prairie was difficult and widow and widowerhood was a frequent occurrance. Marriages sometimes had to be made for convenience and “falling in love,” often was not practical when stock needed to be tended.

Cynthia Hickey’s A Christmas Castle is upfront about marital challenges between virtual strangers: her heroine is a mail order bride. Or, in this case, a mail order widow upon arrival in a small Arizona ranch town riven with controversy.

She takes to her inheritance with dash and aplomb, not to mention instant motherhood. She displays the deering-do necessary to survive, particularly when the neighbors are out to get you.

The Christmas Angel by Lauraine Snelling features an anxious pregnant woman whose husband is long overdue from town with the necessary supplies. What will happen to her out on that prairie they’ve fought so hard to “own up” if he does not return?

Her cheerful example in the face of tragedy, a determination not to give in to despair, resonated with me and I marveled at her strength.

Anna Urquhart’s A Silent Night begins with a young couple fully in love but facing a voyage across the Atlantic to a new life. When her husband goes missing with blood left on the ground, the heroine is forced to consider the unthinkable: marriage to an older neighbor.

But how else is she to survive in a half-built cabin with a small child to protect?

The Gold Rush Christmas displays tension between the heroine and the would-be hero–even though he doesn’t appear until chapter two. And what’s the deal with her brother seeming to like the guy better than his sister?

Even Margaret Brownley’s story A Pony Express Christmas features an unusual twist: the hero is rescued from certain death by the matter-of-fact heroine.

You can read more conventional genre challenges in Vickie McDonough’s Buckskin Bride; Shannon McNear’s Defending Truth; Kathleen Fuller’s The Calling; and  Marcia Gruver’s The Badlands Christmas.

Christmas, of course, is featured in each story and most include at least a promise of mariage to come, My take away, though, was honest admiration for characters who overcame their circumstance to make a –mostly–realistic life in harsh surroundings.

A Pioneer Christmas Collection is an unusual and satisfying read–perfect for the winter when the snow is howling, the rain pouring, or the animals just in need of a little tending. And each one provides a complete and interesting night’s read.
But I admit–I’m biased!

What do you look for in a good romance?