Girls Write Out
Monday, January 14, 2013

InSecretly smitten finalb honor of the release of Secretly Smitten, we're going to post each of our first chapters this week. At the end of the week, we'll pick 4 of the commenters on the blog to receive a free copy. :) Hope you like it!

Chapter One of "Love Between the Lines" by Colleen Coble

Wrapping paper lay strewn around the floor in a happy crumple of color. Tess Thomas handed her cousin one last gift and suppressed a smile. Nat would blush when she saw the filmy negligee Tess had bought. But Tess knew if anyone would look great in the gown, it was her cousin. It was something Tess would never purchase for her- self. But then what need would she have of a honeymoon gown anyway?

While Natalie began to rip paper with abandon, Tess glanced around the packed parlor of their grandmother’s old house. Their friends had all shown up for the bridal shower and there wasn’t space for another chair. A few women even sat on the floor with their backs propped against the wall. That was what Tess loved about the small town of Smitten, Vermont. Neighbors were like family. And they’d all pulled together in amazing ways this past year as they worked to put Smitten on the map as a town based on tourism—a romantic destination, in fact. There were so many new businesses, including a big hotel that had taken over the old lumber mill.

Their Great-aunt Violet bustled in with a tray of cookies and tea. “Tess, dear,” she whispered. “I’m not sure these glu- ten free things are worth eating.”

The cookies were as lopsided as Violet’s red lipstick. The color of that lipstick had never changed over the years—it was the same orangey red that clashed pitifully with Violet’s dyed red hair.

Tess took the most crumbly cookie and took a bite. “They’re good, Aunt Violet. And Natalie will appreciate that you went to the trouble.”

Her aunt’s smile brightened. “I’m so glad, honey. You always were my favorite niece!” She winked dramatically.

Tess’s sister Clare took the tray. “Let me help you with that, Aunt Violet.” She circled the room with the tray in hand, and to their credit, most guests took a cookie.

Natalie took a break from the gifts to nibble on a cookie and glanced around. “Where’s Mia?”

“In the attic,” Grandma Rose said. “You girls always loved to play up there, remember?”

This three-story Victorian was special. Tess, her sisters, and their cousins had loved exploring the attic when they came to visit their grandmother and great-aunts. The grand old home’s welcome enveloped visitors the moment they stepped onto the polished walnut floors.

Tess turned toward the hall. “You stay here with your guests. I’ll check on her, Natalie.”

When Tess reached the bottom of the stairs, Natalie’s adopted daughter, Mia, was descending. The six-year-old had a purple boa around her neck and a red velvet dress, the hem trailing on the hardwood. She’d found some lipstick from somewhere—probably Violet’s, judging by the color—and her small white teeth gleamed behind the smear of orange.

Mia reached the bottom of the staircase and twirled. “Look at me, Tess!”

A wave of love swept over Tess. If only she could have a daughter like Mia someday. “Smashing,” she said in genuine admiration. “That’s an unusual necklace.” She leaned down to examine the tarnished metal and realized it held a pair of dog tags. “Where did you get it?”

Mia looked down at her feet and shuffled. “In the attic.” “Was it in the trunk you were allowed to be in?”
“No.” Mia peeked up at her. She held up her arm to show

a bracelet. “My bracelet fell off and went down a hole. I put my hand in to get it and found the necklace too.” Red stained Mia’s cheeks. “Should I put it back?”

Tess put her hand on Mia’s soft hair. “No, it’s fine, honey. I just wondered where you found them. I’ve never seen them before.”

Natalie appeared in the doorway from the parlor. “Is something wrong?” She glanced at her daughter.

“Not really. I was looking at something Mia found in the attic.”

A frown crouched between Natalie’s eyes. “Are those dog tags? What on earth . . . there haven’t been any soldiers in our family, have there, Tess?” She held out her hand. “Let me see them, Mia.”

Mia’s lower lip quivered, but she took off the dog tags and handed them over. “I didn’t hurt them.”

“It’s okay, sweetie. I’m sure you didn’t,” Natalie said, reaching out a reassuring hand to embrace the girl. Lifting the tag to the light, she studied it. “David Hutchins.”

Her grandmother spoke from behind them. “David Hutchins? Where did you hear that name?”

Tess turned to see the color leave her grandmother’s face.

“On these dog tags Mia found upstairs in the attic.” Beyond Grandma Rose, she saw Aunt Violet turn pale and reach out to steady herself on the wall.

Grandma Rose grabbed the doorframe. “With David’s name?”

For a moment Tess thought her grandmother might faint. She rushed to her side. “Grandma, are you all right?”

Her grandmother wetted her lips. “I’m fine. I’m just try- ing to understand this. David died in the Korean conflict. As far as I know, his dog tags were never recovered. Neither was his body.”

“See for yourself,” Natalie said, joining them, hand outstretched.

Grandma Rose clutched the dog tags, then held them to the light. “Mia, where did you find these?”

“In the attic.” Mia’s voice wobbled. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re not in trouble, honey,” Tess said, embracing her. “Grandma is just surprised they were there.” She stared at her grandmother, who was as pale as the white blouse she wore. “Who was David Hutchins?”

Her grandmother was staring at the dog tags. She blinked rapidly. “My fiancé.”

Natalie frowned. “I’m confused. What about Grandpa Martin?”

Grandma Rose bit her lip. “I loved him, of course, but he wasn’t my first love.” She hesitated. “First love is special.” Her face took on a dreamy expression. “He used to call me his Betty Boop.”

Though it hurt even to imagine her grandmother loving another man before her own grandfather, Tess loved a good mystery, and this smelled like the best kind. “If he died in the war, then how did these dog tags get in your attic?”

“I don’t know. It makes no sense.”

“Could the military have sent them back to you?” Natalie asked.

“They didn’t. I would have kept them close. They wouldn’t be in the attic.”

“You’re sure he died?” Tess asked.

“Of course. The army notified his parents. I was there when they told us of his death.” She looked down. “It was the darkest day of my life.”

Darker than the day Grandpa died? Tess studied her grandmother’s face but didn’t ask the question.

“Did he live here in Smitten?” Natalie asked.

Grandma Rose nodded. “Over on Green Valley Road. In that big house where Ryan Stevenson lives now.”

Tess’s pulse kicked at Ryan Stevenson’s name. The handsome widower was a Saturday morning patron at her bookstore. Not that he’d ever noticed her.

“David’s family moved away after his death.” Her grand- mother’s voice broke, then she recovered her composure and managed a smile. “We’d better get back to our guests.”

Tess followed her back to the parlor, but her brain was whirling. What did it all mean?


The last guests had left and Tess and her sisters were picking up bits of confetti and wrapping paper from the floor. The older women had gone out to practice for Saturday night’s concert in the town square. Tess lifted the dog tags from the table and rattled them in her hands. “We have to get to the bottom of this,” she said.

Her mother, Anna, shook her head. At fifty, she was still trim and her skin was smooth and pink. Most people thought she was much younger. “It’s none of our concern, Tess. We shouldn’t be poking our nose into Mother’s business.”

“Something happened, and even Grandma has no idea what it was. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

Her youngest sister, Zoe, dropped a dustpan full of con- fetti into a wastebasket. “I think Grandma deserves to know the truth. How could those tags have gotten there?”

Clare stopped sweeping. “Let’s think about this.” As the middle child, she was the reflective one, with her feet firmly planted on the ground. “It’s very strange.”

“Maybe he didn’t die in the war,” Tess suggested. “Maybe he came to town. What if Grandpa answered the door when he got here and didn’t let him see Grandma?”

“Now, Tess, I’m sure it was nothing so unpleasant,” Anna said. “I’m sure my mother isn’t interested anymore.”

“Of course she is! You saw how white she went. She must have loved him very much. And what if he’s still alive?” Tess could see it now. A handsome gentleman with white hair stepping out of a restored Roadster. Her grandmother’s face bright with happiness. “We could get them together again.”

“He’s probably married by now, even if he did survive the war,” Clare pointed out. “But you’re jumping to conclusions. It’s more likely that his parents left the tags here or some- thing. Maybe Aunt Violet or Aunt Petunia tucked them away so she wouldn’t be upset.”

“If that’s the case, then there’s no real mystery at all,” their mother said.

Tess was sure it wasn’t something that simple.

Clare’s thoughtful frown was back. “We’ll need to handle this very carefully. If he’s married, we back off without even talking to him, agreed?”

“He should know the truth,” Zoe said. “He should know Grandma thinks he died.”

“The truth isn’t always the best thing,” their mother said. “Not if it hurts someone.”

Zoe rolled her eyes but said nothing. Clare cut her gaze to the carpet.

Tess picked up more paper from the floor. “I’ll do an Internet search. It can’t hurt just to poke around a little.” Ryan’s face flashed into mind. “Maybe Ryan would let me explore his attic, see if there’s any information there.”

“I’m sure you’d like that,” Clare said, her voice teasing. “The most eligible bachelor in town.”

Heat flooded Tess’s cheeks. “I’m the last person he’d be interested in.” She grabbed a last cookie from the plate. She’d mooned over Ryan since high school, not that she would admit it to anyone. He had a way of making you feel like he was really listening, really paying attention to you. With two younger sisters, she sometimes felt her needs were forgotten.

“Now, honey, you put yourself down too much,” Anna scolded. “You look fine just the way you are.” Even as her mother said the words, she stared at the cookie in Tess’s hands. “That probably has two hundred calories in it, sweetie.”

Tess put the cookie back on the plate. She avoided Clare’s sympathetic glance and unbuttoned her too-tight jacket.

Chapter One of "Love Between the Lines" by Colleen Coble

She’d bought it for the shower with the intention of los- ing those fifteen pounds. What was it they said about good intentions?

“You’re beautiful, Tess. You just don’t see it,” Zoe said in a matter-of-fact tone. “And Ryan likes you. I can tell.”

If only Tess could believe it. “His wife was Miss Vermont. I’m hardly in that league.” She resisted reaching for the cookie again. “I’m just thinking that one time at the book- store, Ryan mentioned that he needed to clean the attic. Evidently the Hutchins family left a ton of boxes up there. Maybe he’d like some help cleaning it out.”

“Perfect. It might just take you awhile to go through them,” Clare said, grinning.

“Don’t go getting any ideas. This is strictly research. I’m not interested in Ryan.”

“Whatever you say.” Clare stood up straight and stretched. “Looks like we’ve finished up here. And I need coffee. Anyone want to go with me?”

Zoe got up. “Not me. I spend enough of my life in the coffee shop. I want to go to Ryan’s ice cream store.”

“I’ll go with you, Zoe,” Tess said. When her mother lifted a brow, she added, “If Ryan is there, I can ask him about look- ing through the attic.”

She followed her sisters out of the house and told herself their grandmother would thank them in the end. 

Colleen Coble  
posted at 9:49 AM  
  Comments (61)
Delicious Delicious
At 9:54 AM, Blogger debbie curto said...

I would love to win! I have read most of Collen Coble books!

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Splash said...

Love every Colleen Coble book I have read and would love to win one!

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Tonya said...

Love Smitten!!! Been dying to read it. Thanks for the tease today.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Critter-Vet said...

Love contests. Hoping for a chance to win! :)

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Tina Beam said...

I would love the second book,to find out what happened to Grandma's long lost love,if Tess and Ryan get together. I love all the books you write Colleen!,

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Shandra Hathaway said...

Oh Boy, Oh Boy... I LOVE books, especially all these lady writers :)

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Linda Miller said...

I've got my fingers crossed to win!!! Love all these ladies books!! Keep writing because I'll keep reading! :)

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Marci said...

I would so love to win a copy of Smitten!!! I have been a fan for a long time!

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Annie Davis said...

I got started reading Colleen Coble right after I got saved at the age of 20. I have read every book by her and I even got a few other people hooked on her too. Would love to have a new book to read.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

Oh, I HAVE to read this book - love all of Colleen's books and especially love 'mystery' ones.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

Oh, I HAVE to read this book - love all of Colleen's books and especially love 'mystery' ones.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Beth Gillihan said...

Love it! Thanks for the chance to win!
Beth Gillihan

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Gail H. said...

I bought and started reading "Secretly Smitten". It is great and I can't wait to find out about the dog tags. Even though I have my own copy I'd love to win one to share with someone else, or better yet donate to my church library so many people can enjoy. We have several books by all the authors and they get checked out regularly!

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Would love to win. Thank You.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger livinglifenc said...

I am looking forward to reading this. I loved Smitten. It's fun reading different writers styles on the same story - and from each character's perspective.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Ginger Solomon said...

A wonderful beginning to the next Smitten novel. I'm sure each of the stories are equally as enticing. Going on my TBR pile right now.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Michelle V said...

Love it! Can't wait for the rest of the chapters and the whole book to come out! :) Thanks for the chance to win! :)

At 11:36 AM, Blogger muffin said...

Just after reading the first chapter I'm hooked!!!Just like all your books Colleen!!! Clare sounds a lot like me even.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Wendy Newcomb said...

Sounds like another great book, thank you for the chance to win it.


At 11:50 AM, Blogger Cyndi said...

Ok, I agree with Muffin... I'm hooked! Definitely looking forward to reading this book!

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow what a teaser!! I love Tess already; and that Ryan better let her in his attic. Mother Anna has a few bones in her attic to it sounds like! I would love to read this book. Thank you for the opportunity!

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a little confused at first with all of the characters. They seemed to come out of nowhere. Guess I have to re-read the first Smitten book. :)


At 12:16 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

I loved Smitten and have been waiting to read the next one! :)

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Glenda said...

I love reading a book written by close friends, it's heart warming to see how each of you contribute to give a book glory and compliment each other. I love each of you and pray for you all.
Thanks for sharing a bit of the new book.

Wishing you all a bundle of blessings!

At 12:48 PM, Blogger carol esquibel said...

You know what I love about Colleen's book is that they are EXCITING!
She writes with HEART..I am just starting Tide Water Inn and I read the page about your Grandmother..
I cried I want to be a Grandma like that..godly and want to be copied. :)Carol Esquibelx

At 12:49 PM, Blogger carol esquibel said...

What can I say I love Colleen's books they are EXCITING..I am reading Tide Water Inn and I cried and cried just over reading about your Grandmother..what a godly testimony.

I want to be a Grandma that is like that! Carolx

At 1:06 PM, Blogger jensmith0215 said...

I can't wait to read this new book! You are all great authors and I love your combined work!

At 1:07 PM, Blogger jensmith0215 said...

I can't wait to read this new book! You are all great authors and I love your combined work!

At 1:07 PM, Blogger jensmith0215 said...

I can't wait to read this new book! You are all great authors and I love your combined work!

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The part that I read on FB makes me want to get the first book and then be able to read all of this new one. I love a mystery and love stories. All of Collen's books I have read are wonderful.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Sandy said...

It sounds good already, can't wait to read the rest. Here's to hoping to win one.

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

B I want to real the whole book after reading the start of it.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Garber Grandparents said...

Love, love, love these authors! Can hardly wait to read the rest of the story. This book is on my "wish list"!

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Betz said...

Would love to win this book. Have enjoyed all the books that I have read, written by these authors. I love a mystery, and this sounds like a great one.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Jaime Wright said...

You girls! You make me smile! I love all your stories and yourselves :) :)

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Elizabeth Dent said...

Secretly Smitten sounds good. Is grandma's long lost love not dead? Will Tess and Ryan get together? Love to win this book! Thanks

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Amy Campbell said...

Yay! Another book to look forward to. This chapter is fabulous!
Campbellamyd at gmail dot com

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Kelli Jo said...

This would be a GREAT book to win!! Can't wait to read it one way or the other!

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Becky said...

Thanks for the teaser! Ready to read the book!

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Becky said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger angeland said...

Love it and can't wait to finish reading it.

At 6:53 PM, Blogger Marie Ferland said...

I love Colleen's books and would love to win This one sounds awesome!

At 7:04 PM, Blogger teacherprincess said...

Sounds like a grand adventure!! I love quirky and fun characters; I can't wait to dive into it!

At 7:23 PM, Blogger Jaime Halbrook said...

Excited to read the rest. These ladies are very tallented and encouraging to upcoming writers! Thanks Ladies

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Mary Curry said...

As a reader I'm excited because this is a fabulous tease to an intriguing story.
But a a writer, I have to say that I LOVE this language - happy crumple of color. Such a great image.

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Brenda Fatyol said...

As always leaves you wanting more. Can wait till the book comes out.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Michelle Morgan said...

Looks like a great read. I would love to win.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Michelle Morgan said...

Looks like a great book, can't wait to read it.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Ok, I wanted to read this before I read the chapter. Now I REALLY want to read it!! It would be great to win this book, but if I don't I'll certainly be buying it!

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Rhonda said...

I've been waiting for Secretly Smitten to be released. can't wait to read. Would love to win.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Rina said...

What an intriguing set up to the story! But what was the reaction to the gift? And why didn't the packed room of guests say anything about the grandma's reaction to the dog tags?
Maybe if I go find book one and read it the characters will make a bit more sense.
Thanks for the giveaway!

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Cindy Regnier said...

Fantastic Colleen! Love it and cant wait to read more. You 4 are my favorite authors - yes all of you. Soooooo want to read Secretly Smitten RIGHT NOW!!

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Abigail Richmond said...

Please enter me! Thanks!!!

At 5:59 PM, Blogger karenk said...

Sounds like a great story....of course :)

Thanks for the chance to read it, too

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

At 6:49 PM, Blogger Jackie Smith said...

Oh wow, can't wait to read it....please enter me.
Jackie S.


At 9:17 PM, Blogger Veronica Sternberg said...

This sounds so good! I love that you incorporated gluten-free cookies and I like the mystery! shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com

At 11:46 PM, Blogger Sue said...

Oooh, sounds good!

At 12:14 AM, Blogger DovSucar said...

I love a mystery! :) I am loving the way you ladies write!!! :)

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Claire Anderson said...

Every week I log into this blog to see what my favorite authors are writing and every time I do there is something insightful posted. I hope you all keep doing what you're doing, because I love it!! I loved "Smitten" and I'm sure I'll love this book too! I'd love to be one of the first to read it all :)

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

I would LOVE to win a copy of this book!! Thanks for the chance to win.


At 10:54 AM, Blogger Rebecca Boyer said...

I can't wait to read the rest of this!


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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