EskieMama Reads Midweek Spotlight w/Giveaway: Sweet Carolina Morning by Susan Schild



Welcome to EskieMama Reads Midweek Spotlight!
Today we are spotlighting Susan Schild's 
Sweet Carolina Morning!

Enter below for a chance to win 1 or 2 copies of Sweet Carolina Morning 
from Susan Schild


Second book in the heartwarming and funny
Willow Hill series
Sweet Carolina Morning



Life down South just got a whole lot sweeter in Susan Schild’s new novel about a woman whose happily-ever-after is about to begin…whether she’s ready for it or not.

Finally, just shy of forty years old, Linny Taylor is living the life of her dreams in her charming hometown of Willow Hill, North Carolina. The past few years have been anything but a fairy tale: Left broke by her con man late-husband, Linny has struggled to rebuild her life from scratch. Then she met Jack Avery, the town’s much-adored veterinarian. And she’s marrying him.

Everything should be coming up roses for Linny. So why does she have such a serious case of pre-wedding jitters? It could be because Jack’s prosperous family doesn’t approve of her rough-and-tumble background. Or that his ex-wife is suddenly back on the scene. Or that Linny has yet to win over his son’s heart. All these obstacles—not to mention what she should wear when she walks down the aisle—are taking the joy out of planning her wedding. Linny better find a way to trust love again, or she might risk losing the one man she wants to be with—forever…



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Teaser for Sweet Carolina Morning by Susan Schild: (about glamorous ex-wives)

Ten minutes later, Linny was simmering. She’d stopped looking and started reading her e-mail to distract herself and avoid talking to Jack. Irrationally, she was mad at him because his ex-wife was late. Even if Vera pulled up now, it would be hard to get across town and to the restaurant by 7:20.

Jack sighed deeply and picked up the phone to call Vera again just as the shiny black Mercedes wagon pulled in beside them.

Vera sprang from the driver’s seat, smiling and waving gaily. “Hey, everyone!” she called, looking at Jack and tossing back her hair. “We just kept winning.” She turned her palms upward in a ‘what could I do gesture’ and gave a tinkling laugh. With a fleece thrown over the tiny tennis dress with mint green piping and a matching visor on her head, Vera strode over to the car on the trim, muscular legs Linny had only seen on Olympic figure skaters. She sniffed. Funny. Vera’d been chilly enough for the jacket but hadn’t bothered to throw on a pair of sweatpants. She wanted to show off those gams. Linny quietly steamed.

She pictured Vera mincing as she walked up to accept the silver tennis trophy at the club awards dinner, an endless piece of toilet paper trailing from her shoe. Next, a tragic hair flat iron malfunction leaving Vera looking like Big Bird as she stared, bewildered, at the hunks of blonde tresses burned off in her hand. Linny exhaled, feeling better. Those visualizations she’d learned
from that self-help book could be so calming.



Q & A with Susan Schild about Sweet Carolina Morning

Tell us about Sweet Carolina Morning.
Sweet Carolina Morning is wholesome Southern fiction and is the second book in the heartwarming and funny Willow Hill series. Here’s the gist of the series:

In the charming small town of Willow Hill North Carolina, thirty-eight-year old Linny Taylor is busy rebuilding her life after her thieving husband broke her heart and stole all her money. With the help of her feisty girlfriends, her church lady mama, and a stray puppy who steals her heart, Linny dares to dream again. When she meets Jack, the town’s beloved veterinarian, Linny is drawn to him but not sure she’s ready to trust love again. If their love is going to work, Linny must win over his young son, befriend his unenthusiastic parents and keep an eye on his clinging ex-wife. But ready or not, Linny Taylor is about to find her happily ever after...

What initially inspired you to write Sweet Carolina Morning?

I wanted to write a wholesome, friendly Southern series to create a warm community of women friends that readers could relate to: women over 35 who have work that makes them happy, have adventures, are trying to take care of their aging parents, blending families and falling in (or staying in) love at any age. Oh, and darling dogs. I love dogs and all my books feature noble and sweet mixed breed dogs!!

Tell us little about the characters in Sweet Carolina Morning.
Linny is a thirty-nine year old Southern good girl who is rebuilding her life after her charmer of late husband stole all her money. Twice widowed, she’s thrilled to accepted Jack’s proposal, but after all her losses, is afraid to trust love again. She’s also having trouble easing into the role of stepmother to be.

Jack is Willow Hill’s beloved veterinarian. He is a kind, low key, outdoorsy guy who has just proposed to Linny.

Neil is Jack’s bright and sensitive twelve year old son. He’s still struggling with his parent’s divorce. As much as he likes Linny, he can’t help being resentful of her. Secretly, thinks allowing himself to love her would mean he was being disloyal to his mother.

Vera is Jack’s glamorous and wealthy ex-wife who seems a little too friendly toward Jack. She’s married to Chaz, Jack’s ex best friend.

Linnny’s sister Kate is a sunny, Tai Chi practicing schoolteacher who is a loyal and devoted friend to Linny. She and her husband, Jerry, married later and are trying for a baby.

Best friend Mary Catherine is a blunt attorney with admits to having bad social skills. She gives good advice, and always has Linny’s back.

Mama (mother to Linny and her sister) is a yard sale addicted church lady with secrets who is headed for a happy and, let’s just say, a colorful epiphany.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Pulling all the pieces together as the book draws to a close is challenging. Making sure the characters stay in character takes attention. Ending a book and meeting a deadline is all about frozen pizza, 5:00 AM writing and being totally consumed with writing. Always a joy to hit the SEND button and know it’s winging its way to your publisher.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I loved the houseboat scene and the clay shooting scene. Fun to write and different scenarios than you might find in books in my genre.

What are your future project(s)?My new book in the series, Sweet Southern Hearts will be released 1/2/17. This book was a ton of fun to write. The women have rented an RV and are off to Dollywood, Graceland and Mt. Rushmore. Look for more adventures, new older gent beaus for Mama’s friends, lots of laughs, big surprises and more happily ever afters.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers about this book/series?
If you sign up for my quarterly newsletter, you’ll get access to free books, excerpts and behind the scenes looks at new books I’m working on for you. Sign up here: www.susanschild.com/newsletter.htmlPlease, please, please review my book on Amazon and Goodreads. For new authors like me, reviews make a huge difference in increasing my reader base and sales. So, please tell your friends about my books and write reviews!


Now an an exciting excerpt from Sweet Carolina Morning!

CHAPTER 1 --- TROUBLE IN THE STEPMOTHER HOOD

Though it was February, the galley kitchen at her future husband’s old farmhouse was steamy and hot, but Linny hardly noticed. Peering at the pages on the counter, she pushed back up her nose the reading glasses she'd had to borrow from Jack and double-checked to make sure she’d not left out any key ingredients. Why had she printed the recipe in ten-point font? Tonight’s menu came from a website she’d found called Recipes for Picky Eaters, and she hoped it was a winner. She shook her head, chagrinned at her Jack’s reaction to the first possible menu she’d suggested. He’d kept that pleasant smile on his handsome face, but his eyebrows had shot up. Once they’d come back down to normal, his veto had been so diplomatic. “Darlin, the mountain trout, braised Brussels sprouts and beet salad sounds tasty, and I hope you cook them for me real soon, but eleven year old boys’ tastes tend to be more… well, mainstream.”
Blowing back a stray lock of hair, she turned on the oven light and peeked inside. The neat rows of crusted chicken breasts were browning nicely in their casserole dish home. The side dishes - creamy looking mac and cheese and green bean casserole topped with onion rings – were both bubbling gently. She breathed in cooking smells and was transported back to Sunday
suppers at the farm when Nana and Paw-Paw were still alive. Sighing, she felt a wash of safety,
contentment, belonging. Those were just the feelings she wanted to infuse in this new little family.
Sliding into the chair, Linnie admired the old kitchen table and touched the swirls of the tiger oak. It felt warm, solid. How many other families had sat around it and shared their lives over meals? She pictured her and her two men gathered around like in a scene from the Hallmark Channel, talking and laughing about their days. Jack and Neal would lavishly compliment her on her cooking, she’d blush, wave them off, and act as though it was no big deal. “I just threw the meal together,” she’d trill.
Trouble was, it was a big deal, and not just because Linny was just learning to cook. She rested her chin on her hand and sighed as she thought about it. This morning, Jack had sat his son down after they’d cleaned up from their pancake breakfast and told him that he and Linny were marrying in the summer. Linny had just sat beside Jack and let him do the talking but felt a stab of sadness as she saw Neal’s face fall. Forlorn. He looked forlorn. When he asked in a trembling voice, “So, you and Mom aren’t ever getting back together?” she thought her heart might break. He still held out hope for his family to be whole again, the way it used to be. Never mind that Neal’s mother, Vera, had already remarried the year before. Though Linny and Jack had been dating officially since October, she’d only just started spending a lot of time with the two of them. Jack hadn’t wanted to introduce her to his son until he knew they knew they were serious, so Linny was only just getting to know the young man.
Linny got a nervous flip in her stomach when she thought about becoming a stepmother. She’d gone thirty-eight years without children, and in a few short months, she’d be slipping into this new role without even a course or certificate. Linny got up and made herself a mug of Chamomile tea. Calming, the label said. She sat back down and blew on the tea to cool it, and
tried to quell as the familiar thrum of anxiety was revving up in the pit of her stomach.
Staring out the window, she thought of the other scenarios she’d been imagining, in
living color and the minutest detail. If she messed up in this new job, he’d be that troubled teen with the shaved head who sold pot and lived in their basement after he dropped out in tenth grade. Neal would end up being the inebriated driver of a speeding car full of kids who drove them into a tree after leaving an un-chaperoned party. Her heart banged as she tried to obliterate the image she’d seen in this mornings News and Clarion – the mangled wreckage of a barely recognizable car driven by a teen going the wrong way on I-40. He’d killed himself, and badly injured a whole vanload of kids on the way home late from a church Youth Group Retreat.
Pulling out her phone, she scrolled through her e-mails as the good smells wafted from the oven and felt her shoulders relax as she re-read Mary Catherine's note. Nice to have a best friend who practiced family law.
Under the subject line, Impending Stepmother Hood, her friend wrote,
You asked for advice on your new parenting gig. Remember, a lot of divorced couples and blending families don’t talk civilly and don't act in the best interest of children. In my practice, we serve more of the send-the-kids-home-dirty and talk-trash-about-the-stepmother crowd. What not to do may be more useful than what to do.
Another disclaimer. I’m no expert on teenage boys just because I had one. Remember just a few months back, my nineteen year old almost got a DUI on a bike. Boys are knuckleheads between the ages of 11 and 24. Your nerves will fray no matter how hard you try to be a good mother - or harder yet, stepmother - but I will tell you what I know.
Meet me for a quick breakfast 7:00 AM Wednesday at Jumpin’ Joe’s Bean House?
Blowing out a sigh of relief, Linny replied, Perfect. She let herself sink back into the
chair for a moment. Thank goodness for Mary Catherine.
Glancing at the clock, she rose and fretted as she checked the timer. Last weekend’s
cookout at her place had been a bust. Neal picked at his food, claiming he 'just wasn’t hungry.' What American boy didn’t like grilled hamburgers and French Fries made from scratch – from the actual potato? Could it be that he didn’t like her? She tried to dismiss the thought. How could he not like her when she was already so fond of him? He was whip smart, mostly well mannered, sensitive, and had an offbeat sense of humor that would catch her when she wasn’t expecting it and make her burst out laughing.
Tonight would be different, she decided, setting flatware firmly at the three places at the table.
After grilling Jack extensively about his son’s food likes and dislikes, she’d scoured the Internet for the perfect menu. And if she was finally going to embark on this mother thing, she sure as heck was going to excel at it. She’d do the whole shebang – soccer weekends, volunteering on field trips, deep talks about life. She’d waited long enough for this little family, and now that she got it, dang it, she was going to do it right. The water glasses spilled over as she set them too firmly down on the table.
Jack and Neal were still at the barn with the mare that was about to foal. She picked up the walky-talky and pressed the button. “Supper’s ready, men.”
The line crackled. “Be right up,” Jack said cheerfully. “I’m hungry as a bear.”
She’d just finished putting on a slick of lip gloss as they clattered into the room, bringing with them a wash of fresh February air. Her hearts still skipped a beat when Jack gave her a boyish grin, and she longed for a kiss, but there was sweet-faced Neal, right on his heels. She felt a pang of regret. She and Jack had talked about it and agreed on the rule of no smooching or PDA in front of the boy right on the brink of becoming a man. She sighed wistfully. Leaning against the stove, she smiled as she took them in, amazed at how much commotion the two could make just walking into a room with their thudding boots, un-zippering coats, bicep punching and easy laughter. Linny raked back her hair with her fingers. Man. Her too quiet life had sure changed.
As they washed up, Jack chided the boy. “Scrub those hands, please. Don’t just wave them under the water.”
“I washed them,” Neal protested, his face darkening.
“Well, wash them more,” Jack said evenly.
With a small flourish, she placed their plates on the table. Jack caught her eye and then her hand and squeezed it. “Thank you,” he mouthed.
She felt a tingling in her stomach, a visceral reminder of how much she loved him. He knew how hard she was trying. She sank into her chair, waved the napkin into her lap, and from under her eyelashes, tried to get a read on their reception to the meal as she cut a small bite of chicken.
Neal sniffed and touched his stomach. “I’m just not hungry.”
Linny took a large swallow of tea and tried to make her face blank, hiding the hurt she felt. Warily, she watched as Jack quizzed him.
“Do you have a stomach ache or headache?” Jack cocked his head.
“No,” the boy mumbled, not meeting his father’s eyes. He seemed suddenly riveted by the view outside the window.
Jack touched Neal’s forehead, “You don’t have a fever. You seem okay, son. How about if you just keep us company while we eat?” Jack caught her eye and gave a little exasperated shake to his head.
“Fine,” the boy said grumpily as his hand snaked to the counter to snag his iPad.
Immediately, he fixed his gaze on it and pulled up a game.
Linny stopped chewing, distracted by the sounds – the boops, beeps and, then, a demonic ha-ha-ha.
“Turn down the volume, please,” Jack said and sighed happily as he tucked into the last of his creamy macaroni. “Neal, you don’t know what you’re missing. The Mac and Cheese is ambrosia, food for the gods.”
But the boy didn’t look up from his game. “My Mom makes good Mac and Cheese. She puts toasted bread crumbs on top of hers.”
Of course she did. Linnie studied a green bean before she took a sharp bite. Glancing over at the top of Neal’s head, she felt a flush of anger. Why was the boy allowed to play games at the table? Did all parents let their kids do this? Jack didn’t seem phased. She made a mental note to ask Mary Catherine what dinnertime rules she and Mike had for Dare when he was Neal’s age. Her last bite went down like sawdust, and she pushed her plate away, her appetite gone. Navigating these waters was going to be tricky. She glanced at Jack, and he smiled almost beatifically at her as he forked in his supper like a hungry - but well-mannered - stevedore. A smile played at her lips. At least he appreciated her.
In a too cheerful tone, she asked, “How is Gillie? When’s she going to drop her baby?”
Neal didn’t look up, his brows knit in concentration. “Foal. It’s called a foal, not a baby.”
Jack patted his mouth with his napkin. “She’ll give birth soon, I hope. She’s uncomfortable like all mothers get at the end.”
He said this like she knew, but she didn’t. She’d never had a baby. For a few long
moments, she couldn’t think of one word to say, and the silence stretched out.
Jack opened the dishwasher and Neal handed him glasses to load. Linny began to scrape
food scraps from the plates into the trash when she spied a flash of red and orange under the coffee grounds and banana peels. She glanced over at Jack, who was energetically scrubbing a pot. Quickly, she fished out the Snickers, Twizzlers and Kit Kat wrappers.
Bingo. She felt her neck prickle with irritation. Neal’s peckish appetite might have something to do with all the candy bars he’d eaten.
She sighed quietly. Why would he do this? Was he just a very hungry pre-teen boy? Linny had heard that they’d go through food like locusts through a field. Not Neal. His mother, the perfect Vera, claimed the boy ate no refined sugar. Should she tell Jack about the candy wrappers? She glanced over at him. Jack was enthusiastically using the pull down sprayer on his new kitchen faucet, rinsing dishes so lavishly that water droplets splashed and sparkled all around the sink. She smiled and felt a wave of tenderness towards him. Jack and his gadgets. No, she couldn’t tell him.
After clean up, the two Avery men drove her home. From her front porch, Linny smiled brightly and waved as Jack and Neal drove back down her driveway. Bless his heart, Jack was probably whistling, pleased the evening had gone so well, and that his soon to be blended family was, well, blending.
Was Neal deliberately turning up his nose at her meals? Was he trying to send her a message that she wasn’t welcome. Linny blew out a sigh as she stepped back inside her door. She couldn’t make an eleven year old like her and accept her. If she failed in her role as stepmother, how could her marriage work?

Back home, Linny locked the door behind her, leaned against it, and exhaled. Her
last house had been a six thousand foot stunner with a media room and a butler’s pantry, but she’d never felt as at home there as she did in her new home, this seventies era aqua mobile home she rented from her mother. Eight months ago when she’d landed on her rear end, the trailer had been a haven for her - a fourteen by sixty foot box of light and safety. Linny glanced around, still thrilled with the improvements she’d made since she’d moved in – the honey gold heart pine floors she’d salvaged from Habitat, the pristine sheet rock she’d painted a soothing shade called Lemon Cream, the sage green velvet throw she’d found in the thrift store and draped over her sofa for chilly nights. Linny had turned the neglected trailer into a tiny jewel box.
Last year, after her bank-account-emptying, philandering late husband had died in the arms of a woman named Kandi, Linny got kicked out of her big home. With no money, no place to live, and a financial mess to clean up, the then dumpy blue trailer that sat within spitting distance of her mama’s house seemed about as low as she could go. But this little place was where she’d gotten back on her feet, learned to dream again, home grown a thriving small business, and fallen in love to boot. She’d miss the trailer after she married Jack and moved to his farm.
Her puppy, Roy, barked his hellos from the crate in the bedroom. Linny sighed happily as she walked back to greet him. Home alone, just her and her dog - safe and sound and simple.
After Roy had a run around the yard and settled in with a chew bone, Linny sat down at her computer and tapped at the keyboard. Nodding determinedly, she enrolled in a six week online continuing education class at Worth County Community College called A Fun Mom’s Guide to Fast, Frugal Weeknight Cooking. She gave a shivery sigh, loving the idea of being a Fun Mom. Linny pictured her family in the car on family vacations, probably going to camp at a Park Service rough cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or taking the ferry to see The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The three of them would sing together, probably Carolina in my Mind or This Land is Your Land. She pictured herself laughing gaily as she zip-lined down Old Bald Mountain with Jack and Neal whizzing along right behind her. Next, Linny wore a sharp looking wetsuit and was ten pounds skinnier. She confidently hung ten on a surfboard as she rode a surprisingly large breaker for Topsail Beach. She'd grin and wave at her two boys on the next wave over - a much smaller wave. At the supper table, there'd be gales of laughter over oft-told family stories about their fun. “Remember that time we…”
She pictured Neal in a year or two, eyes downcast and shyly asking her, “How do you get a girl to like you?” and her saying the exact right thing. At his wedding, during his toast, he’d raise a glass to her and say, “I want to thank my stepmother, Linny, for helping me understand the fairer sex and finding my lovely bride.” Vera would be on the bench on the other side, red faced and steaming, wishing she was as wise - and fun - as Linny.
But, really, she wasn’t fun or wise. She just wanted to raise a boy into a kind man who treated other people respectfully and found his happy niche in the world. If tonight was
any indication of how she was doing, it was going to be rough in the stepmother hood.


Susan Schild writes heartwarming and funny contemporary Southern fiction. Her stories feature adventuresome women, good men, blended families, sweet dogs, friends and family who see you through, and happily ever afters at any age.

Susan is a wife and stepmother. She enjoys weekend getaways with friends, reading fiction, and rummaging through thrift stores for finds like four dollar cashmere sweaters. A dog lover, Susan has a special fondness for Lab mix rescue dogs. She and her family live in North Carolina where she is finishing up the third novel in the Willow Hill Series, Sweet Southern Hearts, which will be released January 10, 2017.

Susan graduated from James Madison University in Virginia, and holds a master's degree from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has used her professional background as a psychotherapist and management trainer to add authenticity to her characters.

Susan is represented by Gordon Warnock of Fuse Literary Agency.

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Sweet Carolina Morning Giveaway

Comments

  1. Thanks for the lovely interview and the post, Melissa! I really appreciate it, and am happy you liked the book!
    Best,
    Susan Schild

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very welcome! Thank you for the opportunity to spotlight your book!

      Delete

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