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Catching Fireflies (Sweet Magnolias Series #9)

Catching Fireflies (Sweet Magnolias Series #9)

4.5 62
by Sherryl Woods

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When bullying threatens to destroy a teen's life, painful memories resurface for dedicated high school teacher Laura Reed and pediatrician J. C. Fullerton. With the support of the Sweet Magnolias, they bring the town together to ensure that a promising student's future isn't ruined. And to establish once and for all that bullying has no place in


When bullying threatens to destroy a teen's life, painful memories resurface for dedicated high school teacher Laura Reed and pediatrician J. C. Fullerton. With the support of the Sweet Magnolias, they bring the town together to ensure that a promising student's future isn't ruined. And to establish once and for all that bullying has no place in Serenity, South Carolina.

Both J.C.'s and Laura's passion for the cause is deeply personal, and their growing feelings for each other are just as strong. But with so many secret hurts to overcome, can these two vulnerable lovers find the strength to believe in happily ever after?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A teacher and a pediatrician have an obvious professional overlap, and making children a central concern was no doubt Woods’s intent in creating such a pairing. Unfortunately, that focus turns the ninth Sweet Magnolias novel (after Midnight Promises) into an issue book rather than a romance. English teacher Laura Reed and doctor J.C. Fullerton slowly figure out that a student’s unhappiness is due to bullying. Fully two-thirds of the book is given over to the circumstances of the abuse, the victim’s experiences, and the ways the teens involved interact (or refuse to) with adults. Woods conscientiously ticks the boxes that are so familiar from relentless media coverage: online attacks, symptomatic behaviors, refusal to confront. This leaves little time for the protagonists, both experience-hardened avoiders of love, to overcome their reticence and develop a relationship. Woods’s well-intentioned attempt to jump on the antibullying bandwagon leaves romance in the dust. Agent: Denise Marcil, Denise Marcil Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"Woods always thrills with her wonderful characters, witty dialogue and warm and loving family interactions." -RT Book Reviews

"Woods is noted for appealing, character-driven stories that are often infused with the flavor and fragrance of the South."-Library Journal

"Sherryl Woods always delights her readers-including me!"
-#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

"Woods is the master of conveying emotions of the heart."-RT Book Reviews on Beach Lane

"Once again, Woods proves her expertise in matters of the heart as she gives us characters that we genuinely relate to and care about. A truly delightful read!"
-RT Book Reviews on Moonlight Cove

"Characters are handled well and have real chemistry-as well as a way with one-liners."
-RT Book Reviews on Harbor Lights

"Love, marriage, family, and forgiveness all play an important part in Woods' latest richly nourishing, holiday-spiced novel." -Chicago Tribune on A Chesapeake Shores Christmas

"Sparks fly in a lively tale that is overflowing with family conflict and the possibility of rekindled love."
-Library Journal on Flowers on Main

"Launching the Chesapeake Shores series, Woods creates an engrossing...family drama."
-Publishers Weekly on The Inn at Eagle Point

"Sherryl Woods gives her characters depth, intensity, and the right amount of humor."
-RT Book Reviews

Product Details

Publication date:
Sweet Magnolias Series , #9
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.28(w) x 6.46(h) x 1.03(d)

Read an Excerpt

It was little more than six weeks into the new school year, and already Serenity High School English teacher Laura Reed was seeing signs of a potential problem with one of her juniors. Misty Dawson had been skipping class for the past week. Attendance records showed she was in school, but when it came time for English, she disappeared off the radar.

"Was Misty in your class today?" she asked Nancy Logan, who taught history and current affairs.

"Front and center," Nancy confirmed. "I wish I had a dozen students like her. She's smart and she's always prepared. Why? Don't tell me she skipped English again?"

Laura nodded. "Afraid so, and I just don't get it. All of her class records suggest that she's one of the brightest English students in the school. She belongs in my advanced placement class. The first papers she turned in were excellent. She's definitely not having trouble with the material. That's what makes this so frustrating. It's as if she simply vanishes during third period every day."

Physical education teacher and longtime coach Cal Maddox, who'd come in to grab some bottled water from the refrigerator, joined them at the conference table set up in the teachers' lounge.

"Sorry to eavesdrop, but have you mentioned this to Betty?" he asked, referring to their principal. "She needs to know if a kid's not showing up for class."

Just the thought of going to Betty Donovan with this made Laura shudder. A problem with a potentially simple solution would wind up being blown out of all proportion. Cal, of all people, should know that. Betty had gone after him for a violation of the morals clause in the teacher contract and created a whole hoopla that had required school board intervention before being resolved in Cal's favor.

She looked him in the eye and shook her head. "Not yet," she confessed. "Which means I'm breaking all sorts of rules myself, but frankly, I'm less concerned about Misty skipping than I am about why she's doing it, and why just my class."

Cal frowned. "Are you sure it's only your class?"

"You heard Nancy. Misty's been in her class every day. I've checked with Misty's other teachers, and most of them say she's had perfect attendance all year. She started out okay in my class, too. Then she missed a day here or there, but a week ago she simply stopped coming. That tells me something's going on in my class that upsets her. Or maybe she's having a problem with another student who's in there. I can't figure it out."

"But aren't most of the juniors taking the same courses?" Nancy asked. "If Misty's got a problem with another student, English wouldn't be the only class where they'd cross paths."

That wasn't as true now as it had once been, Laura thought. Serenity High School wasn't exactly huge. In fact, until the past few years, when developments had begun popping up on the fringes of town, the school had barely had five hundred students in grades nine through twelve.

Over the ten years that Laura had been working here, though, that number had started to climb. Classrooms were more crowded, and most core courses had to be taught multiple times during the day to accommodate the growth. Last year they'd had to add portable classrooms for the first time to accommodate the overflow until money could be allocated for new construction. However, there were comparatively few advanced placement students, and they did wind up in many of the same classrooms.

"You know I'm not a big fan of Betty's," Cal said, drawing her back to the problem at hand.

"An understatement, I'm sure," Laura replied, not allowing herself even a tiny smile over Betty's futile attempt to get Cal fired several years earlier for dating the older, divorced mother of one of the baseball players he coached. Most of the community and the school board had rallied behind Cal. He and Maddie were now happily married and the parents of two kids of their own. The son who'd brought them together was a star pitcher for Atlanta.

"Definitely an understatement," he agreed. "My point is that she needs to know when there's a problem like this. As I know all too well, she's a stickler for the rules, including a few that are more in her head than on the books. Despite our issues, I do know she cares about the kids. If Misty's in some kind of trouble, she'd want to help, not just rush to judgment."

"I suppose I know that, too," Laura admitted grudgingly. "And if I can't sit down with Misty and straighten this out, I'll go to Betty. Bottom line, though, I'd rather not involve her if I can avoid it. I don't want this girl suspended because Betty's intent on making an example of her." She gave Cal a wry look. "You know firsthand that's her style. Isn't that what she did to your stepdaughter?"

Cal winced. "Oh, yeah. She came down on Katie like a ton of bricks right after the school year started. Believe me, it was not fun around our house when Mad-die found out. She grounded Katie, too. It'll be a while before Katie pulls another stunt like that."

"Then you know what I mean," Laura said, pleading for understanding.

"I also know Katie deserved the punishment she got," he said.

Laura sighed. "On some level I know you're right, but something makes me believe there's more to this, and that I need to understand what that is." She knew firsthand what a rush to judgment could do to damage an already fragile teen. If she hadn't had a teacher on her side years ago, she'd have been a high school dropout herself. That teacher's mentoring and faith in her had driven Laura into teaching herself.

She met Cal's gaze. "I swear to you, though, I won't wait much longer before talking to Betty."

"Fair enough," Cal agreed. "I'll talk to Katie when I get home tonight. Maybe she'll have some ideas. She's in that same AP class, right?"

"She is," Laura confirmed. "And doing very well, by the way."

Cal hesitated, his expression thoughtful. "You know, I can't help wondering if it's just some weird coincidence that Katie was caught skipping and suspended. At the time she flatly refused to say why she was doing it, but she must know if there's some sort of dare the girls are taking to see if they can skip without getting caught."

"I remember being shocked about Katie's behavior, but I hadn't put it together with what's going on with Misty," Laura said, intrigued by the possibility. "Do you really think it could be a game to them, even with suspension as a consequence?"

Cal shrugged. "Kids that age don't always look ahead to the consequences. I doubt that Katie did. I can think of a few times over the years when the seniors have dared the younger students to do some pretty crazy stuff. Usually, though, it happens at the end of the year, when they figure the rules are more relaxed and graduation's just around the corner. Still, I wouldn't rule out some kind of informal hazing activity."

Laura shook her head. "I'd expect this kind of behavior from the usual troublemakers, but kids like Katie and Misty? It's a shock."

"I'll do what I can to help you get to the bottom of it," Cal offered. "Kids tend to see and hear things we miss. If Katie's picked up on something, I'll let you know. The guys in the locker room occasionally let something slip, too, so if there are rumors around here, I eventually hear most of them."

Laura nodded. "Thanks, Cal. I'd appreciate it."

"I'll keep my eyes and ears open, too," Nancy promised.

"Any insights would definitely be welcome. I know I can't put off talking to Betty forever," Laura said. "I think I'll scout around right now and see if I can find Misty. She's the one with all the answers. If I have to, first thing next week I'll have her called out of one of the classes she is attending."

She really hoped to solve this before a very bright student landed in the kind of trouble that could wind up hurting her very promising future, just the way Vicki Kincaid had kept her from making the second biggest mistake of her life.

Misty Dawson had waited until after the bell, then taken refuge in the stairwell for the second time that day. She'd been there only a few minutes when Katie Townsend opened the door, heaved a sigh at the sight of her, then came and sat shoulder to shoulder beside her.

"You're going to get thrown out of school if you don't stop this," Katie warned her, giving her a nudge.

"What about you?" Misty responded. "You're here, too. And you've already been suspended for skipping class once because of me. They'll probably expel you next time."

"I knew you'd be hiding out again. You have math this period and I know you haven't been going. I only have study hall right now and I told the teacher I needed to use the restroom," she said, holding up her hall pass. She gave Misty a worried look. "You can't keep skipping classes just because Annabelle's a total jerk. Don't you think Ms. Reed and Mr. Jamison are going to notice?"

"Mr. Jamison never takes attendance," Misty replied. "And I don't think he can see past the end of his nose, so he has no idea whether I'm in class or not. As long as you let me know when the tests are coming up and I show up to take those, he won't have a clue."

"We're not in the same AP math class, though," Katie protested. "They had to divide us into two groups, remember? One of these days he'll give the tests on different days, and then what?"

"I'll deal with that if it happens," Misty insisted.

"Well, Ms. Reed is neither blind nor dumb," Katie told her. "She's bound to notice. Just tell her what's going on, Misty. She's pretty cool. I think she'd get it. Maybe she could even help."

Misty shook her head. "I can't take the chance, Katie. Who knows what Ms. Reed would do? Whatever it is, it will just make things worse with Annabelle. They're bad enough already."

She gave Katie a pleading look. "You know I'm right. You know how mean Annabelle can be. And that mother of hers is this overprotective grizzly bear who's counting on her little darlin' to propel them into the entertainment big time one of these days. Mrs. Litchfield will tell everyone it's my fault, that I must have done something just awful to her precious darlin' for her to do these horrible things."

"I still say Ms. Reed would believe you," Katie countered, not relenting. "Or why don't you tell your mom and dad and let them handle it?"

Katie made it sound so simple, as if the whole world would be ready to leap to Misty's defense. Misty knew, though, that nothing in her life these days was simple.

"Come on, Katie. I can't do that," she replied wearily. "My parents are barely speaking to each other. Mom's so mad at Dad, she doesn't care about anything else that's going on. She just wants me and my brother to be invisible. She seems to have this crazy idea that if the house is perfect and Jake and I are little angels, Dad will change his mind about wanting a divorce."

Katie nodded, her expression filled with understanding. "I remember what that was like. I was only six when my mom and dad got divorced, and I didn't totally get what was going on, but there was way too much fighting that made my mom cry all the time. Even though I hated it when my dad moved out, things got so much better after that. And once my mom started seeing Coach Maddox and they got married, everything's, like, a thousand times better at home."

Misty sighed. "I wish someone like that would come along and sweep my mom off her feet. I don't think it's going to happen, though. She's going to hang on to my dad for dear life, even though it's so over for the two of them. I don't even think she loves him anymore. I think she's just scared to let go."

They sat side by side in silence for a few minutes. Then Katie glanced at her. "What if I said something to my stepdad? I know he'd help."

Misty's eyes widened with alarm. "Coach Maddox? No way. Leave it alone, Katie. It's my problem. I'll figure something out."

"You need to do it soon, Misty. You're gonna get caught. Look what happened to me. Mom and Cal came down on me even harder than Mrs. Donovan did. I've never seen my mom so furious. She even made me scrub the whole locker room at The Corner Spa, and believe me, that was gross. Women are really messy, even in a classy place like that."

"Suspension actually sounds good to me," Misty admitted, unable to keep a wistful note out of her voice. It was almost hard to remember what it had been like when she'd loved coming to school, loved learning and books and hanging with her friends. These days the only time she even saw her friends was if she hooked up with them after school at Wharton's, and even that was tense because Annabelle showed up every now and then and set out to make her life miserable.

Katie looked shocked. "You don't mean that. You love school! You're on track to get a scholarship, Misty. It'll be on your transcript if you're suspended. Believe me, I heard all about how it was going to ruin my future."

"I know. I'm just saying, it sounds better than being here and hiding in the stairwell during English and math. I can't even go to the cafeteria for lunch anymore. That's the one good thing about this daze my mom is in. She hasn't noticed I'm bringing my lunch to school all of a sudden, instead of buying it here."

She gave her friend a weary look. "I just wish I could figure out why Annabelle hates me so much. She's beautiful. She's got this incredible voice that will get her onto American Idol someday, just the way Travis McDonald said on the radio on the Fourth of July. And she's dating the most popular boy in school."

Katie regarded her incredulously. "Come on. I know you can't be that clueless, Misty. This is because super jock Greg Bennett, the most popular guy in school, is crazy about you. He'd dump Annabelle in a minute if he thought you'd go out with him. And worst of all, she knows it."

Meet the Author

With her roots firmly planted in the South, Sherryl Woods has written many of her more than 100 books in that distinctive setting, whether in her home state of Virginia, her adopted state, Florida, or her much-adored South Carolina. Sherryl is best known for her ability to creating endearing small town communities and families. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 75 romances for Silhouette Desire and Special Edition.

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Catching Fireflies 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
Catching Fireflies A Sweet Magnolia Novel by Sherryl Woods ISBN: 9780778313595 Laura Reed is a high school English teacher and she's noticed one bright girl has not been attending her classes. Misty confided in her friend Katie, who had gotten in trouble for skipping school because of her and Misty was now being pressured to tell an adult about why she no longer wanted to go to school. She had even gone to the doctor and made a deal with him that she'd talk to an adult about the problem. And now the coach was onto her skipping classes and she is also Katie's stepdad. Misty has to get a handle on the problem. Laura meets with the doctor, JC to compare notes as to why Misty wants out of her classes. The women in town have been trying to fix the doctor up with females for dates to no avail. Love catching up with everyone in town and that they all come together to help one when the need arises. Small town living, festivals, football games, and gossip. Had shivers as the authorities dealt with the situation... Easy to follow although there are a lot of players they are not confusing. Love how this book is so up to date with happenings in todays' society.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Sherryl Woods Sweet Magnolias Series and this was a very good read. This book is a good book for club discussions. Sherryl's books are for everyday happenings and most people can relate to them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual, all the Sweet Magnolia books are well written and very enjoyable and this one is no different. A new set of characters and generous helping of the ones we already know make this book a pleasant departure from our own reality and takes us back to visit what seems to be like old friends. Can't wait for the next one to come out.
Muggins43 More than 1 year ago
Another hit for the Sweet Magnolias. Highly Recommend it.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Posted on Romancing the BOok's blog Reviewed by Aubrey Review Copy Provided by Netgalley Catching Fireflies was an endearing read with a great message. Bullying is a topic that is close to many mother’s hearts because it happens so often. Even as an adult I have felt bullied by others. Serenity, South Carolina is not a town that takes such a serious matter lightly. Misty Dawson is a 16 year old with a bright future ahead of her who starts skipping classes because of the cyber bullying that is going on. Her name and reputation is being smeared by another student who feels the world owes her. Thanks to her English teacher, Laura, and her pediatrician, JC, and the rest of Serenity they are able to turn a potentially bad situation into one that Misty feels she can return to school. As always you get to see the dynamics of the rest of the Sweet Magnolias. You get to see a glimpse into how they are doing and how they interact with each other. Laura, is made a Sweet Magnolia during the course of the book. The love story that comes together between Laura and J.C because they spent so much time together fighting to find out the mystery of why Misty was missing some of her classes, is sweet and the happy ending you want when reading a romance novel. Both of them are strong characters who are well liked within the community. They both have also been fixed up with many eligible singles since they are so attractive and quite the catch. However, they both like many adults their age have issues they need to get over. Will they be able to get over the issues and be happy together? You will have to read to find out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, I will tell you I can't read these fast enough! I love them. Great summer reads. This one is a bit more intense than the others and I cried a few times. I also couldn't put it down wanting to know what happens. I'll be very sad when I finish this series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Will not b on tonughtl
MissLML More than 1 year ago
Being an avid reader, I must say that this is the best book ever. 10 thumbs up. Author Sherryl Woods addresses the prevalent issue of BULLYING most admirably. Nothing is sugar coated. Your awareness is heightened and everyone would benefit from reading this, it could make the world a much nicer place,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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quaintinns More than 1 year ago
Have read a number of Sherryl Woods’ books and in Catching Fireflies the sweet magnolias come together to address the issue to bullying. You will hear different perspectives of bullying from a number of different characters. Misty experiences shame and fear which causes the victim of bullying to become silent. This is a great book for parents and teens as parents often are involved in their own drama and overlook what children and teens experience in their own world which can be very serious and effect their lives. As in today’s world with social media, people can be so cruel which only escalates the bullying and attacks. With technology and photo editing programs are also a means to ruin the lives of those who cannot protect themselves and their reputation. In addition to the bullying, there is a romance budding between Laura and JC. They gather together to help Misty and at the same time their relationship grows. If you are a fan of the Sweet Magnolias you can catch up with those friends and characters you met in previous books. You will also find a new generation of Sweet Magnolias as now they are mothers. Catching Fireflies provides insightful information and insights about bullying and always fun to visit Serenity!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Somtimes i mastuebate anwatch porn nook sex?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nothing much. Just bored. Cant sleep. Again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ha me too sumtimes but then i just bore my self to bed lol
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love you too. Goodnight sweetheart.
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
Just as with most of Sherryl Woods books, this was truly a great read! I thoroughly enjoyed reading every part of this story. The Sweet Magnolia series is definitely one of a kind and worth a read for every single book. How could one not love the many characters of Serenity and the Sweet Magnolia's? Each character has such different personalities and depths that capture your heart and make you feel like you're one of them, and yearn for the atmosphere that they are in. The story is impeccable and such a taboo topic that was covered in such a nice way. It really got into the seriousness of bullying and showed the true side of a strong victim. I thought the writing was phenomenal, however, I did feel that it was a little slow getting to the culprit of the bullying.  One can never deny enjoying a good romance story to warm your heart, and this certainly is one of those stories! I enjoyed it much more than Midnight Promises and leaves me quite anxious to get started on the last of this series (at this time) Where Azaleas Bloom!
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SmittenWithReading More than 1 year ago
My Review: This was such an amazing book, partly because it faces head-on a subject that has gotten a lot of press lately, bullying. BUT what this book does is shows the very real consequences of bullying...both with teens, children, and adults. It's a REALLY wonderful book and has such an amazing message. In this book, J.C. (a pediatrician) and Laura (high school English teacher) are brought together by their concern for Misty, a junior in the high school. Misty is smart and talented and an all-around nice girl, but something's going on with her. She's skipping Laura's English class and went to J.C. hoping to get a note to excuse her from school, but she refuses to explain what's going on. The only person who knows is Katie, her best friend. Katie was in the last book and got in trouble for skipping school. We never did find out why she was doing that, but now it comes out....she's trying to help her friend Misty. Katie is the friend that every mother hopes her kid has...steadfast and true and willing to stand up for what is right. Katie's finally the one who finds help for Misty. It truly is just a great book. Already with the set-up, you know that J.C. and Laura are going to be amazing characters. They are out to protect this teenager who, at first, doesn't have many allies. But they both have such deeper stories. They both have their own harsh experiences with bullies and the mental scars from those. J.C. also has relationship scars which have put him off relationships forever. He has NO DESIRE to ever get romantically involved again and is very upfront with Laura about that from the very beginning. He's here for Misty and only Misty, but slowly that changes. I really liked the way that their relationship evolved and the morning he called Laura to go running had me cracking up. I love that they are friends first. Again this is a series with a VERY strong small-town vibe and this whole town rallies around this issue. I've only read the book before this one even though this is #9 in the series. You absolutely don't have to read the others to enjoy any of these novels, but I have a feeling you will find, like I am, that you will want to go back and read other books from the series after starting it. They truly are just good books. I'm a big fan of Robyn Carr's Virgin River series and these remind me a lot of that one. Just an amazing cast of characters that you can't help but fall in love with! I received a complementary copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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