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Dude. When you said your family had a summer cottage near Savannah, I pictured something kind of different. More galley kitchen and bunk beds than Great Gatsby and mint juleps."
Emma smiled and yanked the camouflage duffle out of the back of Sherilyn's Explorer, heaving it into Fee's arms.
"The Great Gatsby was New York, wasn't it?" Sherilyn asked as she pulled her two floral overnight bags from the back. Leaning on the rear bumper, she wrapped both arms around her large pregnant belly and sighed as she gazed at the house. "It's been such a long time, Em. Are you glad to be back?"
Emma hummed her reply, slinging a burgundy tote over one shoulder and a brown leather bag over the other. She made her way across the sandy driveway and up the white-railed steps to the wraparound porch and pressed her grandmother's birthdate into the security pad. Once the beep of acceptance squawked its approval, Emma pushed open the massive double doors and turned around to grin at Sherilyn.
They sang it together: "Wipe yaw fee-eet."
How many times had they heard those same three words over years of spring and summer holiday visits! They scampered into a quick, animated run-in-place atop the large straw welcome mat while Fee stood behind them, eyeing them curiously over the bridge of square black sunglasses.
Emma dropped her bags at the foot of the staircase and hurried toward the vistas calling to her from fifty yards beyond the wall of windows. She unlatched the French doors at the top, and again at the knobs, and shoved them fully open with dramatic flair, expectant and eager. The salty sea breeze caressed her face just as she'd imagined, and the distant purr of the rolling ocean waves brought the perfect music to accompany the lyric of chattering gulls.
Emma approached the porch railing and leaned against it, mesmerized by the foam-capped dance on the white sand shore. Aunt Sophie had always called it "Atlantic Therapy," a term that had popped immediately to mind when Sherilyn had suggested they go away somewhere relaxing where Emma could pull her thoughts together and make some solid wedding plans after months of avoidance.
Well. Not avoidance, really. More like ... inertia. A numb sort of wedding paralysis that seemed to set in whenever key decisions needed to be made. Like the cake.
She wiggled the fingers of her left hand, allowing sunbeams to bounce off her beautiful engagement ring. She wondered for the hundredth time how Jackson had known that she'd always wanted a princess-cut diamond. She would have been pleased with a little square solitaire, of course, but the frame of smaller round diamonds that surrounded the stone and worked their way down to the platinum band caused the ring to catch that much more light. It was an exquisite ring. Perfect in every way.
"Sher, I never asked you before," she said as Sherilyn stepped up beside her. "Did you tell Jackson I wanted a princess diamond?"
"No, of course not. I was as surprised as you."
"No reason. I've just wondered, and I keep forgetting to ask him how he knew."
"Hey," she said after a moment's thought. "What do you say we unpack? Then we can head into town and get some groceries."
"No need," Emma said, breaking her gaze from the ring and fixing it on the sweeping blue horizon. "I faxed a list to Elmer and Louise. They took care of everything."
"Elmer and Louise!" Sherilyn exclaimed. "They still take care of this place? Are they still alive?"
"Twenty years connected to the Travis clan when they actually had a choice not to be," Emma summarized. "Boggles the mind, doesn't it?"
"Not really," she replied. "I've stayed connected without being required by blood." Emma glanced at Sherilyn, whose turquoise eyes were dancing with amusement as she mindlessly scratched her protruding stomach. "It's not such a bad deal, really."
"What's with this new move of yours?" Emma asked her, nodding at Sherilyn's belly.
"Oh, the scratching?"
"I can't help it. My skin itches all the time now."
"You've got, what, a few more weeks? If you're not careful, you'll wear down the skin and the baby can step right out on her own."
"Stop," Sherilyn groaned, smacking Emma's arm playfully. "Wait! You said on HER own. Do you have a feeling? You think it's a girl?"
"If you wanted to know the sex, you should have had them tell you at the doctor's office, Sher."
"We want to be surprised," she sort of whined without conviction.
"You mean Andy wants to be surprised."
Twisting her red hair around one finger, Sherilyn shrugged one shoulder. "Yeah."
"Well, I can tell you this with total conviction. I absolutely know it's either a girl ... Or a boy!"
Sherilyn swatted her arm again, and Emma rubbed her friend's stomach lovingly.
"Em," Fee called from inside. "Hey, Emma!"
Emma and Sherilyn went into the house, both of them looking around. When she spotted Fee standing at the top of the stairs leaning over the banister, Emma laughed.
"Can I have the blue room with the shells on the wall?"
She nodded, and Fee hopped away before she could utter the s in "Yes."
"Cool. This place has a lot of happy-looking rooms. But I think I can live with this one."
"What about you?" Emma asked Sherilyn. "Do you have any preferences?"
"Is the green room still green?"
"It is indeed."
Sherilyn grabbed her bags and waddled up the stairs. "I get the green room across the hall," she called out to Fee as she reached the landing, breathless.
Emma padded across the great room and through the open doors. Leaving her sandals behind on the porch, she rushed down the three wooden stairs and took off at a full run across the sand. She unzipped the heather-gray hoodie, discarded it at the halfway mark, and left her khaki shorts on the sand about three yards from the water's edge. She stopped where the sand darkened from a recent overflow of surf and adjusted the bottom of her red bathing suit. Knee-deep in the icy ocean, she tugged at the suit top before diving in and swimming out against the brisk green-blue current.
Just before surfacing again, she thought she heard her aunt Sophie's melodic laughter.
"Atlantic Therapy, Emma Rae. And the colder the better when you're looking for answers. They're all right out there in the Atlantic Ocean. God's hidden them there for us to find when we really, really need them."
* * *
The elevator door creaked as it shut, and the car groaned slightly before setting out on its shaky ascent to his fourth-floor office. Something about the klunk! before the door opened again waxed familiar. Jackson had heard that noise before.
Emma's sweet face fluttered across his mind. And that pink sweater of his sister's that she'd changed into for their job interview after wiping out in the lobby and smearing fondant all over herself. She'd struck him as cute that day, with a speck of carrot cake still in her hair as they sat down to discuss the impending opening of The Tanglewood; even more so, a bit of a know-it-all when she stood there beside him as trapped passengers called out from the elevator car below a short while afterward.
"I'm assuming this is a hydraulic system, right? ... Well, it probably is. Anyway, I'm thinking it's likely that the rails are just dry. A little oil can take care of that for you. But the door jamming like this is probably your drive belt. The service guy will take care of that when he gets the passengers out."
When the serviceman had confirmed her findings, Jackson recalled thinking that he'd better hire her, just so he could be around on the off chance that she might ever be proven wrong about anything. At the moment, as he pried the reluctant elevator door open, he felt pretty certain she hadn't been wrong about much of anything since.
"Call downstairs and tell them to place Out of Order signs on the west elevator on each floor, and call the repair service, will you, Susannah?" he asked his assistant as he passed her desk. "The doors are sticking. I think it could be the drive belt again."
"Will do," she returned as he entered his office and dropped into the chair. "Andy Drummond phoned. Says your cell goes straight to voice mail."
Jackson had turned it off after it rang about thirty times during his meeting with the front desk manager, and he'd forgotten to turn it back on.
"You can reach him on his cell for another thirty minutes."
Jackson pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket and dialed Andy. "Hey, buddy. It's Jackson.
"Cats are away," Andy announced. "Mice must barbecue. You in?"
"What can I bring?"
"Whatever strikes you."
"I'm there. You invite Sean since he's on his own too?"
"He's bringing soda and garbage bags."
"We're out. I thought since he was going to the store for drinks anyway—"
Jackson laughed. "Whatever. Later."
He ended the call and checked his watch. Twelve forty p.m. The growl from his stomach rumbled with regret that there wasn't time enough to grab some lunch before Bingham arrived for their one o'clock meeting.
Jackson produced a manila file of notes from his briefcase and opened it on the desktop. He'd been preparing all week to meet with Rod Bingham, and he probably didn't need to review the notes yet again. But he did anyway.
The possibility of franchising The Tanglewood into a start-up of six wedding destination hotels across the country flicked the back of his brain with excitement. Who could have ever imagined such a thing just a couple of years back when they'd opened their doors?
More than likely, Desiree would have imagined it. The place had always been her dream more than his, but the death of his late wife had choked the life out of things for a while. Once his sisters, and eventually Emma, hopped onboard, however, he'd caught the fire, and The Tanglewood Inn had become a well-known and successful venture. Now someone wanted to clone the place, setting up Jackson for making a fairly obscene amount of money in the process. Maybe it would allow him to become a little more hands-off for a while and to pursue other interests and challenges. Maybe after the wedding, he and Emma could even travel a little and leave The Tanglewood in other capable hands for a bit now and then. Not forever. Just for a while. They'd swum around in that Paris-for-a-year dream often enough that it surfaced almost immediately every time he considered cutting back on hours and responsibilities.
"Jackson Drake! How are you, my friend?"
"Rod. Good to see you," he said, standing to shake Bingham's hand.
"I'm really enthused about our meeting, Jack." Tapping his briefcase with a grin, Rod added, "I think I've got something here that's going to put some real wind in your sails. Are you ready to talk?"
"I'm ready," he said, and they both sat down and faced each other from opposite sides of the large maple desk. "Tell me what you've got."
"Well, first of all," Rod blurted, "this thing is bigger than even I had guessed. Hold on to your hat, Jack. And tell me what you think about this idea. Not only would Allegiant Industries be interested in planting wedding destination hotels all across the United States, Canada, and Europe over the next five years—while making you a very rich beneficiary in the process, by the way—but they would also be interested in purchasing the original hotel from you."
"Purchasing ... this place?"
"That's right, buddy. Allegiant wants to buy—"
"What do you mean?"
"What do you mean, what do I mean? They want to buy—"
Jackson gulped back the bubble of air stuck in his throat. "You want me to sell?"
"Yes. And not just for a song, Jack. For a symphony!"
He sat there quietly for a moment and rubbed his temple while the idea settled down on him.
"You want me to ... sell The Tanglewood?"
* * *
"Dude. What is wrong with you? Have you had a mental break?"
"No, I haven't had a mental break, Fiona. And you're not helping."
"Just decide. It's not like this isn't your forte, right? I mean, cakes are what you do. Picking a wedding cake design should be a piece of it for you."
The conversation was momentarily sidelined by the ghastly slurping sounds Sherilyn made from where she sat across from them, cradling a bowl on her basketball-shaped belly and scraping out the leftover chocolate muffin batter with a large rubber spatula.
"Sher, you're gonna make yourself sick," Emma scolded.
"No, I won't. It's just what was left in the bowl after you poured the rest out."
"Still. That can't be good for the baby."
"It's fine. It won't make me sick."
"Then it'll make us sick," Fee cracked. "Dude, you're gross."
"Anyway," Emma said with the shake of her head. "It's just not that simple, Fee," she retorted. "I'm a cake designer. How am I supposed to pick just one for ... Oh, you just don't understand."
"No. You're right. I don't understand. You've got the greatest guy in the world convinced that you're a catch. So like, maybe, you should, you know, pitch or get off the mound."
"Don't say that! How could you say something like that?" Emma groaned and tossed herself into the thick cushions of the couch.
"Okay," Sherilyn said, licking the chocolate batter from her finger before setting the bowl on the table in front of her and struggling to stand up. "Okay, that's good. We're communicating. We have a dialogue going."
Emma shook her head, her sigh morphing into the Pffft sound of a deflating balloon.
"But ... Fee ..." Sherilyn continued with caution, "maybe a little less aggression in our communication would better suit what we're trying to accomplish here. How about this? Can I get anyone some more iced tea? The muffins should be out of the oven soon, shouldn't they? Do you want me to make coffee?"
"Just stop it, Sher. No need to play nursemaid here, okay? Just drop into a chair and prop up your feet before they spring a leak."
Sherilyn stood there, in the center of the room, her swollen pregnant frame wobbling from side to side as she glanced from Emma to Fee and back again.
"Relax, will you?" Emma said, more softly this time, punctuating her words with a smile. "Let's focus on the things we can accomplish, okay?"
Sherilyn sighed with relief and waddled over toward her. "Really?"
"Yes. I can't think about the cake. It's too much pressure. But how about we look at those flower pictures you mentioned on the drive down here?"
Sherilyn's blue eyes shimmered as she plopped down on the other side of the sofa, and a grin pushed her plump cheeks upward. "Great! Yes, let's talk flowers."
"I'm going for a walk on the beach." And with that, Fee hopped to her feet and headed out the door.
"Turn on the floodlights," Sherilyn instructed. "It gets really dark out there at night. The switch is on the—" With a single thump, the door closed, cutting her helpfulness in two. Deflated, she sent the rest of her words into the air over Emma's shoulder. "—wall by the door."
"You know Fee," Emma comforted. "She got married in a hallway at the hotel, for crying out loud. The details just aren't her thing."
Sherilyn's pouty face made Emma chuckle. "Let's have a look at those flowers of yours, my wedding planner friend"
Emma watched as Sherilyn struggled to balance the neon-pink laptop on her beach-ball belly. A few clicks later, shesurrendered the fight and set the computer on the coffee table in front of them.
"Here. This will be easier."
Emma leaned forward and peered at the screen as Sherilyn arranged four rectangular photographs into symmetry.
"I thought because you chose such a lovely, simple silhouette for your dress, the flowers should —"
"Simple?" Emma interrupted. "Do you think it's too simple?"
"Not too simple, no. It's beautiful, Emma. It's just not one of those elaborate numbers where the flowers have to be bold and make a statement to stand out."
Excerpted from Always the Baker, FINALLY the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker. Copyright © 2013 Sandra D. Bricker. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 11, 2013
Fantastic conclusion for a sweet romantic series!
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for my review in any other way. I rated this 5 out of 5 stars and also marked it as a "Recommended Read"
Two years ago we were introduced to a wonderful set of characters in Sandra Bricker's Always the Baker, Never the Bride. While that story didn't give Emma Rae Travis and Jackson Drake the ending I had hoped for; it was more of a happy for now type ending, Ms. Bricker has kept us up to date on the comings and goings at The Tanglewood Inn, the premier wedding destination hotel Jackson owns and where Emma creates her one of a kind cakes. Now in Always the Baker, Finally the Bride, Ms. Bricker gives us a last glimpse into Emma Rae and Jackson's life with the big event we've all be waiting for .....their very own wedding.
In love with Jackson Drake from almost the moment they met, Emma Rae Travis has spent the last couple of years creating masterpiece's for other women's weddings. Now after accepting Jackson's proposal, Emma Rae is faced with the challenge of creating the perfect cake for her own wedding reception. Unfortunately she can't make up her mind about a design or even pick out the flavor. Especially since Jackson is thinking of selling The Tanglewood Inn, something which would impact quite a few of their friends, and spending a year in Paris to give them both a chance at their dreams.
Jackson Drake can't wait to marry the woman he's been in love with for two years. When a business opportunity provides him with a chance to make a fortune and sell The Tanglewood Inn, Jackson wonders if selling would be an answer to prayer or not. While he and Emma would get the opportunity to concentrate on themselves, they'd be walking away from a business they've built together and the chance to visit with their friends on a daily basis.
The scenes between Emma Rae and Jackson are fun, full of lively dialogue and give and take. They also showcase a mature love that comes when two people know what they want, are willing to work to get it and place their trust in their shared faith in God. Ms. Bricker does a good job developing their characters, their romance and their shared understanding of what they want in life, and what's really important. While they've both had challenges to get where they are; Emma Rae is a diabetic pastry chef who can't take more than a bite of her own creations and Jackson had to recover over the loss of his first wife, both characters relish the challenges they face ahead as they forge a new life for themselves.
The secondary characters are mostly characters we've met in the previous books in this series. From Fee, Emma's Goth assistant, who always makes me laugh, to Sherilyn, the wedding designer who can't get Emma to pick out a cake and is secretly angry that Jackson is thinking of selling the hotel, to Emma's mom and dad, who's second chance at romance took place in the first book. I especially love Emma Rae's aunt, whose words of wisdom and generous heart are clearly an inspiration for everyone around her.
Will Emma Rae get up the nerve to tell Jackson she doesn't want him to sell The Tanglewood Inn? And will their wedding go off without any last minute catastrophes? You'll have to read Always the Baker, Finally the Bride to find out. While I'm really sad to see this story end, I can't wait to see what Ms. Bricker writes for us next.
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Posted April 25, 2013
Three years ago I opened the pages of Always the Baker, Never the Bride and fell in love with Emma Rae, Jackson and the Tanglewood Inn. How could I help myself? The characters were zany yet loveable. The setting was absolutely magical. And the storyline was witty and fast-paced. All the makings of the perfect lazy afternoon read.
Over the following years Sandra Bricker gave us the next two installments, Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride and Always the Designer, Never the Bride. Each of these books added to the depth of the relationship between Emma and Jackson while introducing us to new people and new stories.
Now we’ve come to the end, but oh what an ending! Without giving anything away let me just say that the wedding scene is more than worth the wait. This last installment takes us on a sentimental journey that involves all the people we’ve come to know and love. I enjoy the way that each person is allowed to show their strong side and their vulnerable side. There are unique types like Fee and very sophisticated individuals like Jackson’s sisters. I have to say that my favorite person besides the main characters was Aunt Sophie. We all need an Aunt Sophie in our lives.
I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good love story. This is the series that my book club broke our rule of never reading the sequels. We just couldn’t resist! I think each of you will be just as delighted as we were. Start from the beginning, make some of the recipes, enjoy the advice sprinkled throughout and you’ll see exactly why the Tanglewood Inn is where we all want to escape to.
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Posted January 24, 2014
Number 4 in a series and it did not disappoint. The characters are all loveable. The storyline is very good. This book can be read on it's own, but I recommend reading the whole series in order to get to know all the characters and their individual stories.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2013
Posted June 10, 2013
Always the Baker, Never the Bride
Sandra D. Bricker
Book Summary: In Always the Baker, Never the Bride, readers fell in love with Emma Rae and Jackson, and they’ve gotten more acquainted with them in the two books that followed. But now it’s time for the diamond to meet the road as Jackson fields an offer to sell The Tanglewood, a move that will uproot this high-flying family act once and for all. Get reacquainted with all of the lovable and quirky characters from the first three books as your favorite diabetic baker figures out if she'll achieve her greatest goal of all: Will Emma, at last, become FINALLY the Bride?
Review: I am of a double mind about this book. The characters were streamlined throughout the series. There are obviously differences between older writers than Ms. Bricker. The main thing is a widening generational gap an example is tattoos. I am not fond of them. I never have, it has nothing to do with faith and tattoos it is more of a how I look at marking up my body. After reading one review who stated that the Christianity was not overpowering I would say it is nonexistent other than some weak poorly stated places. How can one be a Christian and not pray for the things which seldom to never occurred. Another minor but irritating point for me personally is the descriptions used ‘her smile stretched..’ it brought up pictures of rubber bands to my mind. Many of these things may seem petty but for me they interrupted the flow of reading. I found the main characters to be selfish – no children plans because they want to live in Paris not for missions but for them to enjoy it. There were a number of these things that were disturbing. I did like the supporting characters and there were a lot that surrounded this series. I liked Hilda a very real character and Aunt Sophie. These were two great characters that truly helped the main characters. I would still recommend the book because the book did have a great conclusion to this series, but this book was more secular than Christian fiction.
I would like to thank Net Galley and Barbour Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book in return for a free copy and I was never asked to write a favorable review by anyone.
Posted May 29, 2013
Well Sandra Bricker has done it again. This final book in the Emma Rae series has all the loose ends coverd and everyone gets thier happy ending. well maybe not everyone I am very sad that this is the end of the series. I will miss Emma Rae and Jackson and the wacky assorted family and friends that I have come to know. She has given us a great book and cast of friends.
Ms Bickers laugh out oud humor keeps me coming back for more. If this is your first time reading Ms. Bricker I am almost assured that this will not be your last.
If you have read the other 3 books in this series, DO NOT be afraid to read this one, Sandra outdid herself with a WONDERFUL ending to this series! I can walk away and not feel that I NEED another Emma Rae book (although I wouldn't be opposed to that idea). I honestly have to say this is probably the best ending I have ever read to a series and I have read a lot of series books (series are my favorites!).
Be ready to laugh, smile, worry (just a little), and even cry some happy tears!
Posted May 28, 2013
Sandra D. Bricker in her new book, "Always the Baker, Finally the Bride" Book Four in the Another Emma Rae Creation series published by Abingdon Press takes us into the lives of Emma Rae and Jackson.
From the back cover: Tanlewood turns into a circus as Emma Rae and Jackson head down the aisle...maybe.
We fell in love with Emma Rae and Jackson - as they fell in love with each other. But when it' s time for the diamond to meet the road, Jackson fields an offer to sell The Tanglewood, a move that will uproot this high-flying family act once and for all.
With a dash of humor and two scoops of love, our favorite diabetic baker sets out to accomplish her greatest goal of all: Will Emma FINALLY be the Bride?
I made a mistake and my mistake was that I was not aware of the first three books in this series before I set about to read this one. While Ms. Bricker does a wonderful job of getting all the events of the first three books out of the way you would feel a lot more comfortable with these characters if you had previously read the other books. Having said that let me now say that this is a wonderful, charming romance. Emma is baker who has her own shop and does designs for other people's weddings. Now, perhaps, it will be her turn. If so she cannot figure out what the cake will be for her wedding. Just by looking at the cover with the groom at the top of the wedding cake giving his bride a kiss and her legs sticking straight out should give you a clue that this book is going to make you laugh. Ms. Bricker does an outstanding job of bringing her characters to life and you really want their romance to succeed. I am going to go out and get the first three books in this series so I can enjoy them all over again. I am already looking forward to more from this talented author.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Pump Up Your Book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Posted May 24, 2013
Once again Sandra Bricker gives us a story that is both rich in characters and plot. I want to be a part of this group of friends! Here's hoping she' s got a new book already in the works. One of my favorite authors. I will read anything she writes!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2013
ALWAYS THE BAKER,FINALLY THE BRIDE by Sandra D. Bricker is an interesting inspirational romance.#4 in the "Emma Rae Creations",but can be read as a stand alone. See,"Always the Wedding Planner,Never the Bride","Always the Designer,Never the Bride",and "The Big 5-Oh". You will fall in love with the characters and the plot. With a bit of humor,lots of food,Emma may just be a bride after all. It is filled with delightful recipes,a bit of trivia,wedding cake drawings,wedding tips,romance and so much more.At the end of each chapter you will find delicious recipes for you to enjoy. Who doesn't love recipes,weddings and romance,right? You will delight in this story. This was my first read by this author and it will not be my last. If you enjoy Janice Thompson's "Weddings by Bella"series,you will delight in "Always the Baker,Finally the Bride". I plan to go back and read the others in this series,as this was the final book in the "Emma Rae Creations",although, I will already know the conclusion to Emma's story. A wonderful read! Received for an honest review from the publisher.
HEAT RATING: SWEET
REVIEWED BY: AprilR (Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More)