new beginnings, do-overs, and self-discovery…
Susan Schild welcomes you back to the offbeat Southern town of Willow Hill, North Carolina, for a humorous, heartwarming story of new beginnings, do-overs, and self-discovery… When it comes to marriage, third time’s the charm for Linny Taylor. She’s thrilled to be on her honeymoon with Jack Avery, Willow Hill’s handsome veterinarian. But just like the hair-raising white water rafting trip Jack persuades her to take, newlywed life has plenty of dips and bumps.
Jack’s twelve-year-old son is resisting all Linny’s efforts to be the perfect stepmother, while her own mother, Dottie, begs her to tag along on the first week of a free-wheeling RV adventure. Who knew women “of a certain age” could drum up so much trouble? No sooner is Linny sighing with relief at being back home than she’s helping her frazzled sister with a new baby…and dealing with an unexpected legacy from her late ex. Life is fuller—and richer—than she ever
imagined, but if there’s one thing Linny’s learned by now, it’s that there’s always room for another sweet surprise…
“This charming and well observed novel about finding the courage to love after loss will make you smile as well as cry more than a few happy tears. Be prepared for a story of true tenderness, humor, and sometimes nail biting tension. Sweet Southern Hearts delivers all this and more.” –Holly Chamberlin, author of Summer with my Sisters
Jack stepped inside and gave her a wry grin. “I just texted Vera and told her the fighting was upsetting Neal and that we were coming home early to take him for a few days. I didn’t ask her, I told her. That should set off a firestorm.” He grimaced and held up his phone. “The furious calls should start in four, three, two, one…”
Linny stood with a hand on her hip, sent him a crooked smile, and waited. The phone rang, its tone sounding more shrill and urgent than it usually did.
Jack rolled his eyes, turned it off, and slipped it in his pocket.
Despite knowing that going home was the best thing to do, as they wound down the mountain in the truck, Linny fantasized about what it would be like to deal less with Vera, if just for a little while. Maybe she and Chaz would get a sudden burning desire to live off the grid for a year to fix their marriage. They’d move to a cabin with no plumbing in Talkeetna, Alaska. Normal-looking couples did it all the time on all those Alaska shows Jack and Neal watched. Vera and Chaz could re-bond while chopping firewood and fixing their broken snowmobile, which they urgently needed to go into town to get much-needed supplies because a blizzard was fast approaching. For one long moment Linny imagined how serene life would be with Vera in Talkeetna. She and Jack could walk together through a field of wildflowers, each holding one of Neal’s hands—something the boy would never allow them to do. Bluebirds and hummingbirds would fly around them.
Flushing guiltily, she glanced at Jack as though he could read her mind, but he was flipping down the sun visor. Linny blew out a sigh. Glumly, she stared out the window. She didn’t really wish for that Alaskan adventure for Vera. Neal really needed his mother and he’d grown to love his stepfather, Chaz, too.
Linny and Jack were quiet for much of the long drive home from the mountains to Willow Hill. Even her Technicolor daydream of Vera battling icy winds as she trudged to the outhouse in fifty below weather didn’t cheer her up. Linny was just too disappointed to make conversation. Jack looked pensive, the muscles in his jaw working.
Her phone rang and she glanced at the screen. It was Ruby, one of her mother, Dottie’s, two best friends. Had something happened to Mama? Her stomach tightened as she pictured her mother lying on the floor like that woman on the TV commercial who lived alone and didn’t have the emergency clicker necklace.
But Ruby sounded cheery. “Hi, sweetheart. Hope you’re just walking on air now that you’re freshly married. You tell that handsome hunk of a husband of yours that I said hey.” Ruby had been a looker in her heyday and still had a flirty streak.
Linny breathed out. This wasn’t a meet-me-at-the-emergency-room call. She called to
Jack, “Ruby says hey, you handsome hunk of a husband.”
Jack shook his head, but his mouth crooked up.
“We’re at your mama’s house and you need to talk to her,” Ruby said. “For weeks now we girls have been planning to go to the RV show at the Civic Center to make a final decision about what kind of camper or RV we want to rent for our trip. We’re fixing to get in the car to go and now she’s making all kinds of excuses for staying home. This is the last day of the show,” Ruby said, sounding exasperated.
Since coming to terms with learning that her late husband had had a longtime mistress, her mother had shaken off her dour, church lady demeanor and blossomed. She’d given up the yard sale habit that bordered on hoarding, taken a two-week Caribbean cruise with her girlfriends, and was now seeing a charming older man named Mack whom she’d met on the ship. Oh, and Dottie—a card-carrying Baptist and member of the Sisters of Dorcas ladies’ prayer circle—had won $250,000 on the nickel slots on the ship. So, emboldened with her first big vacation, Mama and her two friends had cooked up this RV adventure they called their “trip to see the US of A.” It was all the three of them had talked about for months.
“Let me talk to her,” a woman’s voice said insistently. Linny heard a fumbling as the phone changed hands. “Dessie here,” said her mother’s other best friend, in her usual brisk tone. “This is the second time she’s backed out of the RV show. Yesterday she said her feet were hurting her and today she’s claiming her sugar’s high.”
Linny paused a beat, baffled. “She doesn’t have bad feet or sugar problems.”
“We know,” Dessie said drily.
“Can you put her on the phone?” Linny asked, rubbing the spot on her temple that had begun to throb. What was going on?
More fumbling sounds, and the phone clattered as it dropped to the floor. Dessie picked back up. “Your mama doesn’t feel like talking right now. She and Curtis are going in to take a little lie down.”
Linny wondered again how her mother could get any sleep at all sharing her bed with Curtis, her 170-pound Great Dane. But maybe Dottie really wasn’t well. “Dessie, does she seem sick? Should you run her by the urgent care?”
Dessie said, “We ate lunch at Captain Finn’s Seafood and she had the First Mate’s Special with an extra order of shrimp and lemon chess pie for dessert.” She chuckled. “So her appetite’s fine and her color is good, too. You ask me, I think she’s just got a case of nerves.”
“Nerves about what?” Linny asked, coming up empty when she tried to think of any stressors in her mother’s peaceful life and remembered all the unexpected happiness that had been showered upon her over the last year.
Dessie’s voice was back at a normal decibel level and extra bright. “Well, we’re real glad you had a good visit to the mountains and we can’t wait to hear all about it.”
Her mother must have come back within earshot. Scanning the highway for signs, she saw they were almost to Greensboro. “Dessie, you and Ruby go on to the RV show yourselves and do reconnaissance for your trip. Jack and I are coming back early from the mountains and we’ll be home in two hours. Tell Mama I’ll stop by to see her this evening.”
“I will, honey, and you two drive safe.” Dessie ended the call.
“What’s wrong with your mama?” Jack asked, his eyes lit with concern.
“Not sure. The girls don’t think it’s anything serious, but I’ll run by and check on her. Dessie said it could be nerves.” She turned her hands palms up. “About what I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
Susan Schild writes wholesome and sunny Southern fiction. She likes stories about charming men, missing money, adventuresome women, sweet dogs, and happily ever afters at any age.Susan is a wife and a stepmother. She enjoys rummaging through thrift store for treasures like four dollar cashmere sweaters and amateur watercolor paintings. She likes taking walks with her Lab mix, Tucker, and his buddies. She and her family live in North Carolina.
Susan has used her professional background as a psychotherapist and a management consultant to add authenticity to her characters.