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Christmas is fast approaching, and New Bern, Connecticut, is about to receive the gift of a new pastor, hired sight unseen to fill in while Reverend Tucker is on sabbatical. Meanwhile, Margot Matthews' friend, Abigail, is trying to match-make even though Margot has all ...
Christmas is fast approaching, and New Bern, Connecticut, is about to receive the gift of a new pastor, hired sight unseen to fill in while Reverend Tucker is on sabbatical. Meanwhile, Margot Matthews' friend, Abigail, is trying to match-make even though Margot has all but given up on romance. She loves her job at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and the life and friendships she's made in New Bern;she just never thought she'd still be single on her fortieth birthday.
It's a shock to the entire town when Phillip A. Clarkson turns out to be Philippa. Truth be told, not everyone is happy about having a female pastor. Yet despite a rocky start, Philippa begins to settle in--finding ways to ease the townspeople's burdens, joining the quilting circle, and forging a fast friendship with Margot. When tragedy threatens to tear Margot's family apart, that bond--and the help of her quilting sisterhood--will prove a saving grace. And as she untangles her feelings for another new arrival in town, Margot begins to realize that it is the surprising detours woven into life's fabric that provide its richest hues and deepest meaning. . .
"This is one very talented writer. . .watch her star rise!" --Debbie Macomber
Today, I turned forty.
I wanted to let this birthday pass unnoticed, but when my lunch break came I decided I deserved a treat and walked around the corner to the Blue Bean Coffee Shop and Bakery, known to locals in New Bern, Connecticut, as the Bean.
My table was near a window frosted with little icy snowflake patterns where I could watch people bundled in scarves, hats, and thick wool coats scurrying from shop to shop in search of the perfect Christmas gift. When the waitress came by I ordered a plate of nachos, loaded with extra everything including so much sour cream they ought to serve it with a side of Lipitor.
Six bites in, a glob of guacamole and chili slipped off my chip and onto my chest. Dipping a napkin in water to clean up the mess only made it worse. My white sweater looked like a toddler's finger-painting project. I was on my way to the restroom to clean up when I spotted Arnie sitting in the back booth with Kiera Granger. That's where people sit when they don't want other people to know what they're up to. It doesn't do any good. Everybody in New Bern is well informed about the business of everybody else in New Bern.
On another day maybe I'd have been able to forget the sight of Arnie and Kiera sitting in the dimly lit booth, heads together, hands nearly but not quite touching as they talked intently, so intently that Arnie didn't even see me, but not today. I left my food and twenty dollars on the table and ran out the door and into the street, wishing the blustery December snowfall would turn into a blizzard and hide me from the world.
With only five shopping days until Christmas, Evelyn would need all hands on deck, but I couldn't face going back to work. I fumbled around in my bag until I found my cell phone. Evelyn answered on the fifth ring.
"Cobbled Court Quilts. May I help you?"
I heard a car round the corner; the engine was so loud that I'm sure everyone within three blocks could hear it. I stopped in my tracks, hoping the heap would pass so I could continue my conversation. Instead, it slowed to a crawl and the noise from the engine grew even louder. I pressed the phone closer to my left ear, covered the right with my free hand, and shouted into the receiver.
"Evelyn? It's Margot."
"Margot? What's all that noise? I can barely hear you. Where are you?"
"I'm going home."
I held the phone directly in front of my mouth, practically screaming into it. "I'm going home. I'm not feeling very well. I'm sorry, but ... aack!"
A blast from the car horn nearly made me jump out of my skin. It was more of a bleep than a blast, the kind of short, sharp tap on the horn that drivers use to alert other drivers that the signal has gone green, but what did that matter? At close range the effect was the same. I yelped and dropped the phone, dropping my call in the process.
When I regained my balance, my phone, and some of my composure, I turned toward the street and saw a low-slung, bright blue "muscle car," rusty in spots and with multiple dents, a tailpipe choking clouds of smoke, topped by a roof rack carrier piled high with possessions and covered with a plastic tarp that was held in place by black bungee cords—sort of. The tarp was loose on one side, exposing some boxes, a big black musical instrument case, and a hockey stick. Quite a collection.
The driver was a man about my age with black hair receding at the temples and brown eyes that peered out from rimless glasses. A boy of twelve or thirteen sat slumped in the passenger seat, looking embarrassed and irritated. The driver said something and the boy cranked down the window. The driver shouted to me, but I couldn't make out his words over the roar of the engine.
What kind of person shouts at strangers from their car? Or honks? In New England, honking in a situation that is short of life threatening is up there with painting your house orange or coming to a dinner party empty-handed. You just don't do it.
Climbing over a snowbank and into the street, I noticed that the car had Illinois plates and a Cubs bumper sticker. Were they visiting relatives for Christmas? If they were, I probably knew the family. So no matter how rude he was, I had to be nice.
Shaking my head, I mimed a key in my hand and twisted my wrist, signaling him to shut off the ignition. Instead, he shifted into neutral. That reduced the engine noise to a loud hum rather than an earsplitting roar. Better, but not much.
"Sorry!" he yelled. "If I turn it off, I'm not sure I'll be able to start it again. Can you tell me where Oak Leaf Lane is? We're lost." The boy, who I supposed must be his son, slumped down even farther in his seat, clearly humiliated by his dad's admission. I smiled to myself. Teenagers are so painfully self-conscious.
"Turn around, take a right at the corner. Oak Leaf Lane is the third right after the traffic light. Beecher Cottage Inn is down about a quarter mile on the left, if that's what you're looking for. Or are you staying with family over Christmas?"
Still grinning, he shook his head. "Neither. We're moving here." The man leaned across his son's lap and extended his hand out the window so I could shake it. "I'm Paul Collier. This is my son, James. James is starting as a seventh grader at the middle school after the holidays and I'll be starting a new job at the same time."
"Dad!" James hissed. "You don't have to tell her our life story."
Paul Collier rolled his eyes. "I wasn't. I was just making introductions. This is the country, James. People in the country are friendly. Isn't that right, miss?"
He looked to me for support, but I decided to stay out of it. Paul Collier seemed nice, but I had to wonder how he was going to fit into New Bern. The residents of New Bern are friendly but, like most New Englanders, they are also proud and a bit reticent. They like for strangers to act ... well, a little strange, at least initially. And they don't like it when strangers refer to their town as "the country." Makes us sound so quaint.
I bent down to shake his hand and changed the subject. "Well, it's nice to have you here. On Christmas Eve, we have a carol sing with hot chocolate and cookies on the Green. That's the park in the center of downtown," I added, realizing they might not be familiar with the term. "And if you're looking for a place to attend Christmas services, New Bern Community Church is right on the Green too."
"Great! I was just telling James that we needed to find a church first thing."
His enthusiasm piqued my interest. Most men don't put finding a church high on their list of priorities when they move to a new town. My gaze shifted automatically, searching out his left hand, but I couldn't tell if he was wearing a ring.
What was I doing? When was I going to get over the habit of looking at every man I met as a potential mate? Even if this man was single, his hair was too dark and his forehead too high. Not my type. And he was probably too short. And anyway, I was through with all that. And even if I hadn't been—which I was, I absolutely and forever was—Paul Collier's response to my next question would have settled the matter.
"So, you've moved here for a new job?"
"I'm a lawyer. I'm starting at Baxter, Ferris, and Long after Christmas."
A lawyer. Of course, he was. It was a sign, a clear sign that I was supposed to learn to be content as a single woman and stay away from men. Especially lawyers.
I let go of his hand and took a step back from the blue heap; he couldn't be a very successful lawyer if he was driving such a pile of junk. "Well ... good luck. Have a good Christmas."
"Thanks. Same to you, miss. Or is it missus?"
He was awfully direct, another quality that doesn't go over well in New England.
"Margot," I replied, leaving his question unanswered. "Margot Matthews."
"Nice to meet you, Margot. Merry Christmas."
He put the car back into gear, revved the engine, made a three-point turn in a nearby driveway, and drove off, leaving my ears ringing. Or so I thought, until I realized that the buzzing was coming from my phone.
"Sorry, Evelyn. I accidentally dropped the phone."
"What happened? It sounded like an airplane was about to land on top of you."
"Just a car driving by. Listen, I don't think I can finish the rest of my shift...."
"Something you ate at lunch?"
"Sort of," I replied. "Will you be all right without me?"
"Sure. I mean ... if you're sick, you're sick. Do you think you'll feel better if you just lie down for an hour? Maybe you could come in later."
Evelyn is not just my boss; she's also my friend. She doesn't have a deceitful bone in her body, but something about the tone of her voice made me suspicious.
"Evelyn, you're not planning a surprise party at the quilt shop, are you?"
I told her, I told all my friends, that I don't want to celebrate this birthday. Why should I? There is nothing about being forty and still single that's worth celebrating.
"No. We're not planning a party at the shop. Take the afternoon. But you've got that meeting at church tonight, don't forget. Abigail called to see if you'd pick her up."
The meeting. I was so upset that it had completely slipped my mind.
I sighed. "Tell her I'll pick her up around six fifteen."
In the background, I could hear the jingle of the door bells as more customers entered the shop. I felt a twinge of guilt. I almost told her that I'd changed my mind and was coming in after all, but before I could, Evelyn said, "I've got to run. But feel better, okay? I know you're not happy about this birthday, but whether you know it or not, you've got a lot to celebrate. So, happy birthday, Margot. And many more to come."
I built a fire in the fireplace and stood watching the flames dance before settling myself on the sofa to work on my sister's Christmas quilt. Quilting, I have found, is great when you want to think something through—or not think at all. Today, I was looking to do the latter. For a while, it worked.
I sat there for a good half an hour, hand-stitching the quilt binding, watching television and telling myself that it could be worse, that my life could be as messed up as the people on the reality show reruns—trapped in a house, or on an island, or in a French château with a bunch of people who you didn't know that well but who, somehow, knew way too much about your personal weaknesses and weren't afraid to talk about them.
When I picked up the phone and my parents started to sing "Happy Birthday" into the line, I remembered that being part of a family is pretty much the same thing.
"I'm fine. Really. Everything is fine."
"Margot," Dad said in his rumbling bass, "don't use that tone with your mother."
I forced myself to smile, hoping this would make me sound more cheerful than I felt. "I wasn't using a tone, Daddy. I was answering Mom's question. I'm fine."
My mother sighed. "You've been so secretive lately, Margot."
Dad let out an impatient snort. "It's almost as bad as trying to talk to Mari."
At the mention of my sister's name, Mom, in a voice that was half-hopeful and half-afraid to hope, asked, "Is she still planning on coming for Christmas?"
"She's looking forward to it."
Looking forward to it was probably stretching the truth, but last time I talked to my sister she had asked for suggestions on what to get the folks for Christmas. That indicated a kind of anticipation on her part, didn't it?
"She'll probably come up with some last-minute excuse," Dad grumbled.
In the background, I could hear a jingle of metal. When Dad is agitated, he fiddles with the change in his pockets. I had a mental image of him pacing from one side of the kitchen to the other, the phone cord tethering him to the wall like a dog on a leash. Dad is a man of action; long phone conversations make him antsy.
"Wonder what it'll be this time? Her car broke down? Her boss won't let her off work? Her therapist says the tension might upset Olivia? As if spending a day with us would scar our granddaughter for life. Remember when she pulled that one, honey?"
A sniffle and a ragged intake of breath came from the Buffalo end of the line.
"Oh, come on now, Lil. Don't cry. Did you hear that? Margot, why do you bring these things up? You're upsetting your mother."
"I'm sorry." I was too. I hadn't brought it up, but I hate it when my mother cries.
"I just don't know why you're keeping things from us," Mom said.
"I'm not keeping anything from you. But at my age, I don't think I should be bothering you with all my little problems, that's all."
I heard a snuffly bleating noise, like a sheep with the croup, and pictured my mother on her big canopy bed with her shoes off, leaning back on two ruffled red paisley pillow shams, the way she does during long phone conversations, pulling a tissue out of the box with the white crocheted cover that sat on her nightstand, and dabbing her eyes.
"Since when have we ever considered you a bother? You're our little girl."
"And you always will be," Dad said. "Don't you ever forget that, Bunny."
Bunny is my father's pet name for me—short for Chubby Bunny. My pre-teen pudge disappeared twenty-five years ago when my body stretched like a piece of gum until I reached the man-repelling height of nearly six feet. I haven't been a Chubby Bunny for a quarter century, but Dad never seemed to notice.
"It's Arnie, isn't it? Is he seeing someone else?"
Mom didn't wait for me to answer her question, but she didn't have to. Somehow she already knew. How is that possible? Is that just part of being a mother?
"Don't you worry, Margot. Arnie Kinsella isn't the only fish in the sea."
"Maybe not. But all the ones I haul into my boat seem to be bottom feeders."
"Stop that. You can't give up," Dad said with his usual bull moose optimism and then paused, as if reconsidering. "You still look pretty good ... for your age."
"You know what I think?" he asked in a brighter tone before answering his own question. "I think maybe your husband's first wife hasn't died yet."
"Werner!" My mother gasped, but why? Was she really surprised?
"What?" Dad sounded genuinely perplexed. "At her age, a nice widower is probably her best shot at getting a husband. I'm just saying ..."
"Hey, guys, it's sweet of you to call, but I need to get ready to go."
"Are you going out with friends? Are they throwing you a party?" Mom asked hopefully and I knew she was wondering if my friends had thought to invite any bachelors to the celebration.
"I've got a meeting." Not for two hours, but they didn't need to know that.
"On your birthday?" Dad scoffed. "Margot, they don't pay you enough at that quilt shop to make you go to meetings after hours. I keep telling you to get a real job."
Yes, he does. Every chance he gets.
I used to have a "real job" according to Dad's definition. I worked in the marketing department of a big company in Manhattan, made a lot of money, had profit sharing, a 401(k), and health insurance, which I needed because I was forever going to the doctor with anemia, insomnia, heart palpitations—the full menu of stress-related ailments. After I moved to New Bern and started working in the quilt shop, all that went away. Insurance and a big paycheck aren't the only benefits that matter—I've tried to explain that to Dad. But there's no point in going over it again.
"It's a church meeting. I'm on the board now. Remember?"
"Oh. Well, that's different, then."
My parents are very active in their church. Mom has taught fourth grade Sunday school since 1979. When there's a snowstorm, Dad plows the church parking lot with the blade he keeps attached to the front of his truck and shovels the walkways. No one asks him to do it; he just does. That's the way my folks are. They're good people.
Excerpted from Ties That Bind by MARIE BOSTWICK Copyright © 2012 by Marie Bostwick. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. 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 3, 2014
Posted March 21, 2013
Posted December 18, 2012
Bostwick has once again WOWed me! The Cobbled Court series is such a powerful set that always melts my heart. Bostwick introduces the reader to two powerful characters, Pastor Philippa and fellow townsperson Margot. These two characters bring shimmer to New Bern, and it seems to be just what the town needs.
Philippa is a new pastor, coming to New Bern to assist with a furlough of the current pastor. The townspeople have just a few days to acquire a new pastor and hire Philippa without an interview, let alone meeting her. When she arrives in New Bern they are shocked to find out they have hired a female member of the clergy. Scared, worried, and on an emotional roller coaster, Philippa paves her way into the hearts of many in New Bern.
Margot has not lived in New Bern long, but the town has already accepted her. It’s Christmas and her dysfunctional family is coming together, something they have not done in many years. However, tragedy strikes, and they must all overcome it. Margot and her parents do not see eye to eye; however, in the end, good prevails.
Bostwick has once again published an awesome novel! Time flies when I’m reading her novels, as I’m sucked into the town, wanting to be friends with all of the quilters. . . I’m looking forward to meeting more townspeople!
Posted December 14, 2012
Posted August 16, 2012
I loved this book. I picked it up every chance that I could. This is the first book that I have read by Marie Bostwick; I know it won’t be the last. I loved how her characters made this book come to life. Her portrayal of each one fit perfect with her story line. Margot Matthews was turning 40 and had hoped to let her birthday pass unnoticed. Her friends had other intentions. Life in New Bern, Connecticut fit her perfectly. She never regretted leaving the corporate world for a slower pace working for Evelyn the owner of Cobbled Court Quilts. Margot had made some wonderful friends since moving to New Bern. However, she thought she would be married with a family of her own by now. She figured that wasn’t in God’s plan for her and so she tried to accept life living single. Margot’s life starts to change drastically with the death of her sister. Philippa Clarkson didn’t start out wanting to walk in her Father’s foot steps as a pastor. It wasn’t until after the death of her husband she accepted God’s calling and relocated to New Bern to temporary fill in as an intern pastor while the current pastor recovered from a heart attack. This would be Philippa’s first church. The pulpit committee was expecting a Philip A Clarkson the son of the well known pastor Philip R Clarkson. Needless to say it was a bit of a surprise to the pulpit committee when they found out that Philip was really Philippa. This book is filled with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. I can’t forget to mention Grace, God’s Grace. While reading this book I went through many emotions. I was happy, sad, and angry. I had moments of laughing out loud and moments of crying. There are some tough issues and some tender moments. They were handled perfectly. I highly recommend this book to everyone. My thanks to the author for writing a book that not only is a great read but one that sticks with you for awhile. I wish to thank Kensington Publishers for sending me this book to read and review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 14, 2012
Not because I live a town or two away from the author. The stories are about all of us,our friends, and that faith we share, so everyone, give yourself a treat and read a book that gives something back to you!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2012
Reviewed by Karen P. for Readers Favorite
Marie Bostwick fans, you will not be disappointed in Marie's latest novel "Ties That Bind". Margot is forty, unmarried and childless and she feels time slipping away like the tide pulling sand from the beach. In New Bern, Connecticut, Margot has a wonderful network of friends and a rewarding job but she sees those around her with so much more and although she is supportive of the endeavors of her friends, she harbors secret jealousy. When her sister Mari and Mari's daughter Olivia are in a horrible car accident, Margot's life undergoes a life-shattering alteration as she struggles to piece together a family shattered by grief and anger. Several men then enter Margot's life and she must try to determine which, if any, of them can contribute positively to the resolution of her problems.
Bostwick skillfully provides the reader with likeable and realistic characters and the reader will surely develop a favorite among Margot's family and friends. The characters are all knowable, touchable and capable of enhancing or bringing about agony to the life of Margot Matthews. One of the most intriguing characters is that of Phillippa, a newly-widowed pastor who is thrust into a community in which she is bound to become infused into the lives of the people she serves through her ministry. Despite the initial shock of a female pastor, the brethren of New Bern embrace the woman and help to take her to dreams yet unrealized. This is a wonderful book for those who truly want a taste of everyday life in an average American town.
Posted June 6, 2012
This is the 5th book in the Cobbled Court quilting series. It's a wonderful addition. New characters are introduced--Paul and Phillippa--and regulars in the series return. What's wonderful about this entry and every book in this series is the believable characters. I believe anyone who reads these volumes will be able to identify with the strengths and weaknesses of the characters. They are all very human and frustrating and lovable in their humanity. I am already waiting for #6.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2012
Posted May 27, 2012
Margot Matthews thought she would be married and have children by the time she turned forty,but now that the birthday has come she realizes that she may always be single. Overall her life is actually pretty good, she has a job at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop in the tiny town of New Bern,does plenty of volunteer work at church and has plenty of friends that she can count on, but figures that she might never meet Mr. Right, and wonders if she should settle for Mr.So So.When the church needs to hire a temporary pastor they think they have hired a man, but instead get Phillippa, who is fresh out of seminary school. While some of the church members aren't happy, Phillippa hopes to win them over with hard work. When Phillippa needs some help with the teen group she decides to do a bit of matchmaking and pairs Margot together with the Paul, who recently moved to town with his son James. Meanwhile tragedy strikes Margot's family threatening to tear them apart at the seams.
"Ties That Bind" is actually the fifth book in the Cobbled Court Quilts series,which initially had me wondering if I would feel lost because I hadn't read any of the other books in the series,but I had no problems jumping right into the story. By the time I finished the book I felt like the characters had become friends. As the story unfolds the author writes the complications of life very realistically. From Margot dealing with a family tragedy,one that should pull her and her parents together,but does the opposite, to Phillippa who questions her abilities, but ultimately finds that God has a plan in store for her. As the story unfolded I couldn't help but wonder about Margot's sister Mare, but by the end of the story learned how her life had changed. A story about life, love,friends, relationships with a small town setting. The inspirational messages woven into the story are well done and certainly remind us of "The Ties That Bind." Overall while this is my first foray into The Cobbled Court Quilt series it certainly won't be my last, I plan on going back and reading the first four books in the series. Highly recommended!
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Posted April 21, 2012
Ms. Bostwick has done it again! She has enticed me to New Bern, Connecticut to spend time with all of the beloved personalities of the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop. We are re-introduced to “The Lovebirds”; Evelyn and Charlie, the “Queen of Quilting”; Virginia, Madelyn, Tessa, Ivy, Wendy, and Dana just to name a few. It takes a little while to get reacquainted with Margot, but once you do, you will follow her as she attempts to mend family discord by inviting her estranged Sister; Mari (Mariposa) and Niece; Olivia, to join in Christmas Dinner with their Parents and some of Margot’s friends from the quilt shop. Sadly, this meets with heart-wrenching disaster and the start of a journey of self discovery that Margot had never anticipated. Many paths appear, including those of heartache and sorrow, frustrations with family, love found in the most unexpected places and a new sense of courage and self-esteem Margot never thought possible in this, her fortieth year. Along the way, she is reunited with ex-beau, commitment-shy; Arnie Kinsella , and is introduced to the “New guy in town”, the handsome and down-to-earth, divorced attorney; Paul Collier, who is also the father of introverted 11 yr. old son, James. Where does suave and too charming Geoff Bench figure into all of this? Or does Margot really want him to?? When Rev. Tucker suffers from a heart attack and has to be on sabbatical during his recovery, The New Bern Community Church Board chooses a temporary replacement for Rev.Tucker with the well-known and respected Pastor Philip Clarkson’s offspring, counting on awe-inspiring sermons when little do they know this will be the newbie’s first pulpit and, as the parishioners find out, is a person full of surprises! You will meet the wise Elder of the Church and Patriarch of his Family of Daughters; Waldo Smitherton, who dispenses love and advice as a physician would medicine—with kindness and caring. I was brought to tears several times throughout this tale as well as experiencing the frustration and hurt Margot endures. Oh, you’ll want to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her as well as her stubborn, caustic Father and quiet-as-a-mouse Mother but many life lessons are learned along the rocky way. Try as I might, I could not postpone the inevitable—reaching the conclusion of this terrific story. I tried to make my journey to New Bern last as long as possible. As sad as I am as I close the cover on another unforgettable “quilt-alicious” experience, I am anxiously awaiting Marie’s next volume. Make room on your bookshelf for this is one you do not want to miss! Kensington ARC Nancy NarmaWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2012
I am anxious to receive my copy of this book. Love the series and am extremely excited there is another volume to this series. Great reads thus far and I'm sure this will be another good one! Marie Bostwick has done a great job on the Cobbled Quilt series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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