In Richards's latest stand-alone Shenandoah Album saga, childless Kendra Taylor and husband Isaac accept an offer from Kendra's younger sister-single mom Jamie-to conceive and carry a child for them. The sisters have recently inherited money from their father, so it's no hassle for architect-in-training Jamie, who is not quite 30, to come with her daughters, Alison and Hannah, to live in nearby Toms Brook, Va. Pregnant Jamie can be on-site while the house that Jamie designs for Kendra and Isaac is built-on Isaac's family property in the Shenandoah River Valley-by the extraordinarily handsome Cash Rosslyn. For her part, Kendra keeps tabs on Jamie, whose misspent youth had previously estranged the sisters, as Jamie carries Kendra's family's future. Cash's grandmother Grace, meanwhile, has plans for Cash and Jamie, and Grace's love of quilting, and especially her own touching love story from another era, draws these women of different generations together. Richards should've included a special pull-out hanky insert, but readers looking for positive resolutions won't be disappointed. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sister's Choice (Shenandoah Album Series)by Emilie Richards
Kendra and Jamie were never storybook sisters. But after a long estrangement, Jamie has offered Kendra and her husband their ultimate dreama child of their own.
Despite some lingering misgivings about her once-wayward younger sister, Kendra agrees, and Jamie, a promising architect and single mother, becomes a gestational surrogate for Kendra and Isaac. In… See more details below
Kendra and Jamie were never storybook sisters. But after a long estrangement, Jamie has offered Kendra and her husband their ultimate dreama child of their own.
Despite some lingering misgivings about her once-wayward younger sister, Kendra agrees, and Jamie, a promising architect and single mother, becomes a gestational surrogate for Kendra and Isaac. In addition to this amazing gift of life, Jamie designs a house for the couple on Isaac's ancestral property along the Shenandoah River. She hopes Kendra will finally see the woman she has become.
But when a medical crisis threatens Jamie's health and her budding relationship with Kendra's builder, the enigmatic Cash Rosslyn, Jamie learns that the most difficult choice in her life is still ahead, and its cost may be beyond calculation.
Read an Excerpt
Jamie Dunkirk could sell almost anything. Maybe her talents hadn't always been put to the best uses, but in her twenty-nine years, she had proven her ability to make quick connections and convince likely targets they had to have whatever she was peddling. Without conceit, she knew that nobody was better at building excitement until a buyer was ready to take the plunge.
Still, nothing she had sold in all her years had been as difficult as selling Kendra and Isaac on her offer to carry their baby.
In the end, her sister and brother-in-law's deep yearning for a child, not her own expert salesmanship, had prevailed. They hadn't been easily swayed by words. They had considered and reconsidered all the things that could go wrong, then balanced them against the possibility of a baby, their very own baby, in their arms. The scales had been heavily tipped.
Now, if luck and Mother Nature did their part, one of the embryos a doctor had placed inside her three days ago was settling in for nine months of incredible changes. And when that baby emerged and she presented the squalling, sticky bundle to its rightful parents, Jamie knew she would finally have sold herself the most important commodity of all.
As so often happened, a living, breathing child interrupted Jamie's train of thought. "Really, we have to be there," Hannah said. "Are you sure we haven't passed it?"
Jamie glanced at the passenger seat of her minivan and saw that once again her older daughter was tracing their route on the Virginia map with her index finger. A callus was sure to develop before they arrived in Toms Brook.
"The exit is just ahead," Jamie said. "And Aunt Kendra's stillfollowing us. Right? Don't you think she would have called me on the cell phone if I passed the turn by mistake?"
Hannah looked frazzled, but Jamie couldn't blame her. Since the end of May, their lives had changed so drastically that even the adaptable Hannah hadn't been able to keep up. First they had terminated the lease on their house in Michiganthe only home Hannah really remembered then they had packed their belongings and put most of them in storage. Finally Hannah and Alison had said goodbye to the friends and parents of friends who had peopled their little world. The future was a question mark, and even a whole week spent with Kendra and Isaac hadn't cured Hannah's anxiety about what was coming next.
Unfortunately that was just for starters. Hannah didn't know that her mother might be pregnant with her aunt and uncle's baby. There was plenty of time to tell her once the test was positive. The thought of explaining surrogacy to an eight-year-old, even one as mature and intelligent as Hannah, made Jamie long for the simplicity of the birds and the bees.
Hannah looked over her shoulder to see if Kendra really was following them. "I have to go to the bathroom."
"Which is why I suggested that you forgo that last juice box."
"Is there proof I wouldn't have to go now, if I had?" She sounded more interested than combative.
Hannah's analytical nature was Jamie's reward for sleeping with Hannah's father, a hotshot attorney. Larry Clousell wasn't often on the scene. He didn't like children and found parenting too complex to master in his brief interludes between high-profile court cases. Still, this little apple hadn't fallen far from the tree. More and more often Jamie saw flashes of Larry in their daughter, and she knew that before long, Hannah, too, would win every battle she engaged in. By the time Hannah was in college, no doubt Larry and Hannah would discover their similarities and become fast friends after he apologized for more or less abandoning her as a child. Until then, this verbal sparring was Jamie's penance.
"Hannah, what goes in must come out. That's a general rule of physics, and it applies here. We'll be there soon. You can wait."
"You're sure of that?"
Jamie lightly poked her in the arm. "Stop giving me a hard time. I'm tired, too."
"I liked the old cabin."
"You remember it?"
"Of course." Hannah rarely pouted, but now she was doing a reasonable imitation. "It had character."
Jamie tried not to smile. "Well, now the new cabin will have characters. Two of them. You and Alison. And your aunt and uncle say it's very inviting."
"Do we have to live there if we don't like it?"
Jamie considered. "No."
"Who could be more certain? I'm in charge. There are plenty of other places to live. It's just that this makes sense, don't you think? The contractors are going to start building Uncle Isaac and Aunt Kendra's new house using the plans I drew for them. We can live in the cabin, and I can be there to learn some things and watch it go up."
"Why did the old one have to burn down?"
"Because somebody was careless with a cigarette. Another reason not to smoke."
"And I quit."
"I hope so."
"Why would you start again?"
Jamie wished they were already at the new cabin and the questions were finished. "Some things have a very strong pull, even when we know they're bad for us. That's why it's a good idea not to start bad habits. Not starting is pretty easy. Quitting is not."
"Like the people at First Step? The ones who are trying to quit using drugs?"
"You got it."
"Is there a list of things I shouldn't start? SoI will know?"
"You learn them along the way. And I'll be helping, so you don't have to worry."
"You might want to put them in writing. So I can check every once in a while."
"I'll take that under advisement."
"Alison is lucky. She can sleep anywhere. I want to sleep, too, only I have to go to the bathroom."
Jamie was delighted to see the Toms Brook exit sign. "Hold on, kiddo. We'll be there in a few minutes."
"That will be just about right." Hannah closed her eyes.
The trip down I-81 had been scenic enough to remind Jamie what was in store for her. But now, turning off the highway and pulling over to give Kendra the lead, she let the cool green of pastures and the rise of mist-shrouded mountains blunt the fears she hadn't shared with her daughter.
Jamie knew herself better than most people. She had spent a year as a client at First Step, a drug treatment program, then more years as a staff counselor. No professional played games with addicts, because nobody could ever beat one. Addicts were the ultimate gamesmen, so brutal truth was the rule of the day. Her fellow staff members had never been shy about ticking off a list of her faults. She was impulsive and idealistic. Her expectations, particularly of herself, were ridiculous. She was tactful when she should be forthright; she was too slow to give up on losers and too quick to forgive. She continually strove for absolution.
Ron Rosario, the director of First Step, had put it this way: "You're not ever going to be content, Jamie, not until you make some sacrifice so huge that even you'll feel you've made up for the bad times."
So, knowing what she did about herself, Jamie had considered, then reconsidered, the extraordinary idea of becoming Kendra and Isaac's surrogate.
She wasn't sure when the idea had taken root. In September, after visiting them and seeing how delighted they were to spend time with her daughters, she had caught an interview on a morning news show with a woman who had carried her infertile sister's baby.
The story hadn't shocked her. She'd felt as if a question had been answered, a miracle had been witnessed. Somewhere inside, she must have nurtured this possibility, even if the words hadn't surfaced. Because when she heard the woman recount the joys of giving her beloved sister a baby she could not bring into the world herself, Jamie had known, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this was her mission, too.
But she was impulsive. She was prone to idealism. She knew it, had survived having it pounded into her psyche until she understood how she could be harmed by both. So she had researched. She had surfed Internet bulletin boards, spoken to a counselor at a local fertility clinic, consulted with her own doctor. She had scheduled a few personal sessions with Rosariowhich were guaranteed to knock the stuffing out of any bad idea. And in the end, the resolve that had formed while she watched that morning news show had grown even stronger.
She would do for Kendra what Kendra could not do for herself because of childhood injuries. She would carry her child. And when she was done, she would hand over the baby to her sister and brother-in-law, knowing that no couple would be better parents or love it more. Selfishly, she would know that she had helped create a cousin for her own daughters, who would never have one otherwise. Together, she and Kendra would raise their beautiful children to be healthy, happy adults. This new generation would have the start that she and Kendra had not. This would be a rebirth of the Dunkirk family.
"So, okay, that last part's a little over-the-top."
Hannah opened her eyes. "What?"
Jamie realized she had been muttering out loud. "See, we're at the top of the hill leading down to your aunt and uncle's land. We'll be there any minute."
Alison shrieked, not an uncommon occurrence when she first awoke from a nap.
"You might want to drive faster," Hannah advised.
"I want to get out!" Alison shrieked.
"Hold on tight." Jamie made noises of sympathy to her youngest and leaned on the accelerator.
Fitch Crossing Road had a Toms Brook address, but the tiny Virginia town was some distance away. The road was narrow and windy. Houses dotted the borders. Some had the shady, inviting front porches of another age, where inhabitants met in the evening to chat or tell stories; others were brick boxes that relied on air-conditioners for relief from the heat and television for entertainment. But no matter which they preferred, neighbors here relied on each other for help and support, rarely on elected or paid officials. Two years before, Kendra had moved here for several months and had made a number of friends.
Although the cabin where Kendra had retreated no longer stood, plans to live permanently on the property had survived. Now Kendra and Isaac wanted to begin rebuilding, with an eye toward moving here in the near future. Kendra hoped to use her experience as an investigative reporter at the Washington Post to freelance or work on a book, and Isaac, who was the head of a fledgling environmental group that concentrated on the health of the nation's rivers, hoped to move his office here, to the doorstep of the Shenandoah River, one of the waterways that needed his assistance.
Kendra braked, and Jamie followed suit. Then she trailed her sister down a long drive and slowed to a crawl.
"The driveway's a lot better. I think they've widened it. They've certainly graded it, and this looks like brand-new gravel."
"Gravel will be hard to ride a bike on."
Hannah had learned the rudiments of bike riding, but she was still prone to the occasional spill. Jamie had to agree. Spills on gravel would be lethal.
"We'll find good places for you to ride," she promised.
"Will there be anybody to play with?"
"If there isn't, I'll pick up your friends and bring them here."
"How will I make friends when it's already summer?"
"The neighbors are nice. I wouldn't worry too much. We'll find friends."
But even as she spoke, Jamie wondered how she and the girls would be greeted. Unless Kendra was completely open with the locals about the surrogacy, Jamie would simply appear to be an unwed mother. Having twice earned that title the normal way, she knew that not everybody would accept her or her children. For some people, the way a child came into the world was far more important than the child itself.
But even if the truth was widely known, there would still be people who felt what she was doing was unnatural and therefore wrong. They would not see that the act of giving birth to her sister's child was an expression of love, a family miracle. She just hoped those people would keep to themselves and not upset her daughters.
Kendra pulled to a stop before Jamie expected. The ruins of the old cabin were gone, and Kendra parked in the clearing near where they'd been. To Jamie's surprise, the new cabin that she had designed for her sister was nowhere in sight, although she had envisioned it on the western edge of the Taylors' property.
She turned off the engine and got out, then opened a rear door to help Alison out of her seat. "Did you forget to tell me something?" she called to Kendra.
Kendra slammed her door and started toward the van. Sunlight picked out the subtle red highlights in a wealth of brown curls. She was poised and elegant, despite freckles and a generous mouth. Kendra would look equally at home on a polo pony or a yacht, but Jamie knew that what seemed to be an aloof sophistication was just a barrier she erected to keep trespassers away.
Now Kendra snapped her fingers. "Oh, darn, I forgot. We didn't build your cabin after all. I guess you and the girls will have to camp out."
Hannah's eyes were wide. "Is there a tent large enough?"
Kendra ruffled her niece's hair. "I was just teasing your mom. There is a cabin, but don't worry, if you want to sleep in a tent some night, I'll come down and camp with you."
"Alison will want to come, too, and she is often afraid of noises." Hannah eyed her sister, who was rubbing her eyes. "We could wait until she's asleep."
"Oh, I think I have a tent big and safe enough for all of us."
"So what did you do with the cabin?" Jamie's curiosity was simmering.
"I think you'll be pleased." Kendra pointed to a road winding through the woods that bordered the clearing. "We can drive right up to the front door, or we can walk and stretch our legs."
"Little House in the Big Woods," Hannah said. "Like the book."
"This is more like Little House in the Tiny Woods." Kendra draped an arm over her niece's shoulders. "These woods were cleared sometime in recent history for timber, so there weren't a lot of big trees to worry about when we selected a site for the cabin. We cleared away the scrub and left the nicest trees in place. I think you'll love the view. You can see the river below."
"Hannah, you'll be okay?" Jamie asked, remembering their bathroom conversation. But Hannah nodded enthusiastically.
They didn't have to walk for long. The road wound to the right, and a clearing opened up in front of them. Perched in the center was the cabin.
"And here's your mommy's masterpiece," Kendra said.
Meet the Author
Emilie Richards began her writing career with a baby on her lap. Emilie, who has a master's degree in family development, finds family interaction fascinating and through the years, in many different ways, her four children have shown up in her books.
Emilie's daughter, who was adopted from India, emerged from a plane at age six, and was an instant addition to the family. Since then, Emilie has written several books about the trials and tribulations of adoption, as well as its myriad rewards. Wayward teenage boys have walked through Emilie's books, just the way they seem to walk through her life. The boys always turn out well and luckily her own have, too.
A long love affair with Emilie's minister husband convinced her that ministers can be heroes, too. Dragonslayer, a Silhouette Intimate Moments and RITA Award winner resulted from that realization. Endless Chain, the second book in her Shenandoah Album series for MIRA Books, did, as well.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >