Published by Independently publishedDate Published: 8 September, 2021
Genres: Clean Romance
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She’s sweet & cozy mysteries. He’s fun & cozy flings.Till a deadly secret reveals not-so-cozy things.
Twenty-six-year-old Molly Stewart—ex-Navy nurse and former evidence technician for the Charleston Police Department—has been burned by love. So when her friend, Pastor Chase Griffin, begs her to move to scenic Lake Loon to be a nurse and companion for Miss Lilly, his elderly landlady, she jumps at the chance. The secluded and cozy cottage on a clear mountain lake seems the perfect place to heal from her fiancé’s betrayal as well as indulge in one of her greatest passions—cozy romance. First with reading them by the bookcase and then hopefully, if dreams come true, solving them one day as a licensed detective. But when Miss Lilly’s estranged great nephew shows up, it’s no mystery as to why he and Molly butt heads. Because it only takes one stolen kiss—while she’s sleeping, no less—to discover he’s an even bigger player than the ex-fiancé who broke her heart.
When international playboy and Irish soccer star Brec McGill learns his long-lost great aunt is in a coma from a drowning accident, he rushes to her side. Not only is he anxious to reconnect with his only living relative he spent summers with as a boy, but her cottage on Lake Loon, Georgia is the perfect respite to heal from game injuries and escape a tabloid scandal. At thirty-three he’s disillusioned with the game, his fiancée, and life in general, craving nothing but a little peace and solitude to get his head on straight. But when he discovers his aunt’s cottage is not only inhabited by a crusty Aunt Lilly he hasn’t seen in ten years, but a pretty prude of a nurse as well, his plans take a nose-dive in the lake. Because suddenly it appears not only was Aunt Lilly’s accident no accident … but somebody out there wants to see them all dead.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Author/Author and was under no obligation to post a review, positive or negative.
I can’t think of a better way to introduce you to Brec and Molly than in the first chapter of the book, so here’s an excerpt and HAPPY READING!
It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.
Savannah, Georgia, Late Spring
“I was a fool, Molly. Forgive me? Please?”
Forgive him? Body numb, Molly Stewart stood rooted at Miss Lilly’s front door, staring at the man who had broken both her heart and her trust, and wondered if she actually could.
Today was to have been their wedding day at a pretty little church in Charleston. Instead here Tyler stood on the wraparound front porch of Miss Lilly’s secluded cottage on Lake Loon, more handsome than a louse had a right to be. Those piercing gray eyes were as repentant—and deadly—as she’d ever seen. Hands plunged deep in the pockets of his favorite Rock Revival jeans, he offered an awkward shrug, his rolled-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt emphasizing broad shoulders and a well-defined torso. “These last six months without you have been awful, babe, convincing me I made the biggest and most brainless mistake of my life.”
Yeah, me too. Cocking her hip, Molly slapped her arms into an impatient fold, not about to let Tyler Madsen disarm her again. “Well, I certainly concur with brainless.” Her eyes narrowed to slits, as thin as her patience. “What do you want, Tyler?”
That hard-sculpted jaw tensed as he threaded a hand through wheat-colored hair shorn on the sides. His Adam’s apple ducked twice, a sure sign she’d rattled his confidence, which wasn’t easy to do. “I rather hoped it would be obvious,” he whispered, catching her off-guard when he reached to caress her face with tender fingers. “I want ‘us’ back.”
She jerked away, arms glued to her waist in self-defense as she took a step back, warning bells going off in her head over the warm shiver he’d produced. She’d been head over heels for a solid year, ready to spend the rest of her life with him, so naturally his touch still affected her. Her mouth compressed in resolve. But she was also ready to spend the rest of her life forgetting him, too, and had a six-month head start, thank God. “There is no ‘us,’ Tyler. I wonder if there ever was.”
“There was and you know it, Molly,” he said quietly, gently tugging one of her hands free to draw her close. “Because despite my asinine mistake, we still love each other.”
“Loved!” she hissed, breaking free to thump him hard on a chest that felt like rock. “Past tense, buster, so you can just take your seductive song and dance and—”
Her gasp was silenced when his mouth took hers, melting her to the door with a kiss that reminded her of all she had lost.
A love for a lifetime.
“Forgive me, Molly—please?” He gently touched his forehead to hers. “Give me another chance, and I swear I will do everything in my power to make it up to you.”
“Ty …” She felt herself weakening, memories of their last year resurrecting the faintest glimmers of love and hope that she’d worked so hard to bury beneath a mountain of hurt. “I don’t think—”
Her resistance was swallowed up in another dangerous kiss so possessive, all her walls came tumbling down when he pulled away. Suddenly, his handsome face dissolved into a haze, disappearing into the same nightmare she’d lived for the last half year. A groan trailed from her lips as her head thrashed back and forth in her bed. “No, don’t leave again, please,” she murmured in her sleep, “just kiss me, please …”
Her body finally relaxed when he did—gently, softly—vaguely aware it had to be a dream because the scent was all wrong—not the vanilla musk scent of Ty’s Stronger With You cologne she’d given him for Christmas. No, this was more of a peppery scent with a hint of lilac and lavender, confirming it wasn’t Ty she was kissing at all, but someone else.
Lost somewhere between semi-consciousness and a slumber induced by a bleary-headed cold and a 2:00 a.m. dose of Nyquil Severe Cold & Flu, she burrowed deeper into the downy softness of her bed, never wanting the kiss to end. Definitely had to be a dream because Ty was her past, and yet this tender brush of lips against hers felt so real! So right.
Breathing in the heady scent of pine trees that surrounded both Miss Lilly’s Emerald Cottage and the glimmering glacial lake outside her open window, she allowed her subconscious to fade back into sleep, desperate to return to Prince Charming.
“Wake up, Princess.” A husky voice with a hint of a brogue breathed into her ear, accompanied by a trace of that delicious peppery scent, and she literally groaned out loud, unwilling for the magic to end. Rolling on her side, she yanked the cover sheet over her head, longing to slip away once again …
“Uh, excuse me, Goldilocks, but I think you’re sleeping in my bed.”
Her eyes snapped open beneath the sheet while she gasped, frozen for a split second before she jerked her Glock 36 from under her pillow. Launching from her bed, her limbs shook like Jell-O as she stood there in her ratty tank top and penguin shorts, arms extended. “Who are y-you?” she rasped, heart pummeling her ribcage while she trembled, taking shaky aim at a man in a sculpted T-shirt and jeans who made Prince Charming look like a frog.
Light blue eyes flared in surprise as he raised massive palms in the air, a lazy smile easing across lips way too full and sensuous for a man. “Whoa, take it easy, lass. I’m Miss Lilly’s great nephew, Brec McGill, but you can call me Papa Bear if you like.”
“How did you get in?” she demanded, snatching her cell phone from the nightstand before backing toward the door, punching 9-1-1 in just to be ready. Hands quivering, she tucked the phone into her shorts, rattled that a Greek god had entered her room and she’d never even heard him come in.
With an impressive bulge of a bicep, he casually scratched the back of his head, his smile patient as he tossed a set of keys in the air. He slipped them into the pocket of jeans so snug, they bordered on indecent. “A key. From Aunt Lilly. A long time ago.”
“Wait a minute.” She swallowed hard as she wiped her lips, gaze narrowing when the memory of her dream came back. “Did you … kiss me?”
“Depends.” One edge of his mouth crooked as he tipped his head, flashing the deepest, most dangerous dimples she’d ever seen. “Did you like it?”
Stance stiff, she jerked the gun higher, satisfied when it wiped the smile right off his face.
Taking a quick step back, he thumped a taut chest with a blunt thumb while he stared her down. “Look, Goldilocks, this is my room, and you were sleeping in my bed, so suppose you tell me who you are, aye?”
Her chin jutted up. “I am Miss Lilly’s temporary caretaker and companion, Nurse Molly Stewart. The one who left umpteen voicemail messages and a telegram that you never bothered to answer, I might add.”
He actually winced, which gave some small comfort that there may be a shred of concern somewhere deep down in this great nephew who hadn’t visited his aunt in years.
He cuffed the back of his neck. “About that,” he said with a sheepish look, “I’ve had a bit of bother lately with the press, so I’ve been off the grid, so to speak.” He gave an awkward shrug. “New cell phone, new apartment, dodged voicemail, you know?”
Expelling a silent sigh, Molly slowly lowered her gun. Yes, she knew. Miss Lilly had already filled her in on her notorious great nephew, the infamous Irish soccer star embroiled in a nasty scandal. The same nephew Miss Lilly’d been praying for since he went astray after college—both from her and from the faith she’d tried so hard to instill.
“But I finally got the telegram,” he continued in a rush, a definite apology lacing his tone as he buried his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. Those broad shoulders lifted briefly. “So, here I am.” His thick, dark brows tented in concern as he pinned Molly with a pointed gaze that held a touch of vulnerability. “How is she?” he whispered.
“Better.” Rolling her neck, Molly felt the tension slowly seep from her body. “She’s out of the coma and resting comfortably—”
“Coma?” His voice cracked as his golden tan bleached to pale. “She was in a coma? The telegram just said she’d fallen and was in the hospital, for criminy’s sake.”
Molly arched a brow, her manner cool. “She did fall, Mr. McGill—into the lake, as a matter of fact. Which resulted in a coma when she almost drowned. But she came out of it before I sent the telegram—which was a last resort, mind you, after all the phone calls.”
A groan rattled from his throat as he tunneled thick fingers through short curly hair—almost black—appearing as if he actually cared or at least putting on a pretty good act. He glanced at his watch. “Where is she? I want to see her right now. And I want to know everything.”
“All in good time, Striker Boy,” Molly said as she waved the gun toward the door, adding her own twist to his team nickname of “Striker Man” since he was his team’s primary scoring threat. “It’s barely six a.m. and we’re not going anywhere till I’ve had a shower and a cup of coffee, so don’t be in such a hurry.”
She suddenly remembered the brazen pass he’d made by kissing her while she was sleeping, and both her ire—and her gun—rose to new heights. “Oh, wait—you weren’t in a hurry, were you? Since you just arrived a week after the fact.”
Those blue eyes thinned to slits of sapphire. “It’s ‘Striker Man,’ for your information, Goldilocks,” he said in a gravelly voice as tight as hers, “and I detest guns, so stop waving that thing at me. I took the redeye as soon as I got the blinkin’ telegram, so don’t act like I don’t care about my aunt.”
Eyes wide, Molly feigned surprise as she placed a hand to her cheek. “Oh, forgive me, please, but I didn’t realize seeing your aunt once every ten years qualified as ‘caring.’”
Too late she saw the flicker of pain in his eyes, pools of regret and guilt that shamed her before he quickly looked away, shoulders slumping while he gouged the bridge of his nose. “It was twice,” he said quietly, the weariness of his manner reminding her he’d just flown twelve hours on a cramped plane in the middle of the night. “But I’m here now, Miss Stewart, and I would very much like to see my aunt.”
Oh, way to welcome the prodigal home, Molly, she thought with a pinch in her chest, heat warming the back of her neck over kicking a man when he was down. She was the Christian here, after all, and he was not, a point that caused Miss Lilly great pain whenever they’d discussed her wayward great nephew.
The same wayward nephew who’d just kissed me while I was asleep, for pity’s sake!
For pity’s sake, indeed. And Brec McGill’s, apparently. Because if Molly knew one thing for sure about Miss Lilly, it was that no matter how infrequently she saw her nephew, she longed to see him healthy and whole, both spiritually and emotionally.
“Deep down he’s a good boy,” she’d often say with that faraway look that told Molly he was her number-one priority before she went home to her Savior—that the nephew she loved would return to his, restoring the faith she’d worked so hard to instill. And that sure wouldn’t happen if Molly didn’t reflect the love of the merciful God she also espoused, forgiving this lost soul for abandoning the aunt who loved him all of these years.
Unleashing a heavy sigh of regret that mirrored that in his eyes, Molly placed her gun on the nightstand and gave a side nod toward the door. “Visiting hours are at ten, so you can either catch a few winks in the guest room before we leave, or you can wait for me in the kitchen. Where,” she said with a quirk of her brow, “I will happily whip up breakfast—something fast, hearty, and nutritious—plus coffee while I fill you in on the state of Miss Lilly and her affairs.”
A sense of peace settled over his features like a truce, making him appear all the more fatigued. Offering a tired smile, he nodded to the novel splayed open on her bed, her favorite Agatha Christie cozy mystery that she’d been reading before nodding off. He tilted his head to read the title. “Sparkling Cyanide?” he said with a scrunch of his nose.
“Research,” she said with a slight heft of her chin, “for a book I plan to write.”
He gave a slow nod with a twitch of a smile. “And hopefully nothing to do with breakfast, I trust?”
Head tipped, she crossed her arms with a shadow of a smile. “The jury’s still out, Soccer Boy.”
He gave a slow nod, mouth sliding into a smile that instantly slid into a yawn. “No wonder you were out cold, then. Cozy mysteries are better than a sleeping pill in my opinion—too sweet for my tastes. I like a lot more action, so I’m a Steven King fan myself.”
She angled a brow. “Makes perfect sense. And your favorite is Misery, is it?”
He paused on his way to the door to shoot a wry smile over his shoulder. “Hilarious, Goldie.” Hand on the knob, he turned, his weariness belied by a twitch of a smile that reminded her all over again just how handsome he was. And dangerous to a woman’s emotional health per the tabloids she’d read.
“Breakfast would be absolutely grand, lass,” he said in a husky tone that held more than a hint of tease. “And if you’re willing to forgive me for both my abominable lack of attention to Aunt Lilly and stealing a kiss?”—he had the audacity to give her a wink—“I’ll forgive you for stealing my room.”
“Forgiven,” she said with a pert lift of her chin, matching his shadow of a smile with one of her own. “The lack of attention to Miss Lilly, that is, Strike-Out Boy. But the sheer annoyance from the other?” She wrinkled her nose as she crossed her arms in a taut fold, dismissing him with a nod of her head to close the door. “Something tells me I’ll need that for self-defense.”
Y’all. If you don’t know me by now then you don’t know that one of my top authors is Julie Lessman. She is amazing. I’m telling you, her writing style is phenomenal. She creates stories with perfectly, flawfully chiseled characters that take your breath away. Her plot lines are always filled with beautiful messages and jaw dropping moments. Her books are easily devoured and leave you wanting more.
So, when I had the chance to read her latest release, The Secret Of Emerald Cottage, I jumped. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint! I loved every moment of this read. From the edge of your seat moments, to the page turning, heart pounding moments, to the sizzling steam between Molly (I may be slightly biased here) and Brec, this book kept me up long into the early hours of the morning. I absolutely loved that! I easily felt myself becoming Molly (I mean we share a name after all!) and falling hard for Brec. The intriguing mystery that makes up their beautifully penned plot line is perfect!
If you have never been introduced to the likes of Lessman, then stop what you are doing and grab this one up now. It’s a novel that will envelope you, take you on a roller coaster ride and twist you up inside in the best ways possible. This author knows what her fans love and what makes up a drool worthy, face flushing, heart pounding read that is absolutely unforgettable! I can’t wait for more from this superbly talented author!