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By Delia Latham
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2016 Delia Latham
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For a moment she couldn't breathe, and then the barest whisper passed her lips — half spontaneous praise, half simple awe. "Oh my ... I've found Paradise!" From within her sporty little red convertible, Raine Presley peered through a misty early March drizzle at the most beautiful piece of land she'd ever seen. Paradise Pines Lodge. Her home for the next few months.
Aside from the forest of tall Cambria pines, which she had expected to see, the grounds boasted a huge number of beautiful old sycamore trees — tall, stately, and dripping with silvery Spanish moss. Moonlight glowed through the lacy fingers of hanging flora, creating a somewhat haunting air, and a tiny shiver made its way up her spine. But not enough to make her turn and leave. The beauty far outshone the slight spookiness of moss in moonlight.
Square in the center of the surrounding forest of variegated tree species, many of which Raine found unfamiliar, the lodge itself demanded far more than a passing glance. The website had described Paradise Pines Lodge as "spacious." Raine chuckled as she pulled her car under the east carport, as she'd been directed. Spacious was a blatant understatement. The place was huge, and yet warmth and welcome radiated from within. Lights shone from every facing window — and they were many. Two chimneys, one on each end of the lodge, sent thin plumes of smoke spiraling into the sky.
Miss Angelina Love, with whom Raine had communicated via email, had provided a bit of history on the duplex, which had once been a popular fishing lodge. The former owner, known only as Preacher, renovated the interior shortly before his death, turning each floor into a single large apartment. The upper dwelling was available for rent on a seasonal basis. No one got to stay at Paradise Pines for a week or two ... it was all season or not at all.
The online photographs did little justice to this place. Now that Raine sat, stunned and overwhelmed, staring at the old lodge, she understood why the waiting list was long, even though the site made it clear Paradise Pines would host only one guest per season — or perhaps a small family. Only the upper apartment was offered for rent, and the unit had only two bedrooms. She assumed the lower level was occupied by the owner, or possibly management. An applicant's chances of being chosen were slim, even within a few years of applying.
"Thank You, Lord!" She breathed a prayer into the silence inside her vehicle. How she'd managed to find favor with whoever granted access to this place, given her last-minute application for spring tenancy, she had no idea ... but now, with her stunned gaze taking in the glorious surroundings, she had to believe God had a hand in it.
She climbed out and headed for the large entryway, pulling her suitcase and trying to take in everything as she went. So much incredible beauty. Even the months she planned to stay seemed inadequate. How would she ever make herself leave?
Pausing at the end of the walkway, she studied the log building. Lights in a dozen windows lent the place an almost magical feel, as if she stood on the brink of a fairyland. But wasn't there something else? Some aura that placed a pale but luminous glow around the entire lodge?
As she stood, suitcase handle in one hand and handbag hanging off the other shoulder, a large insect flitted close and hovered a few feet in front of her. Startled for a moment, she laughed when she realized it was a gorgeous monarch butterfly.
"Well, hello there." She spoke softly, her eyes on the delicate creature. While she was by no means an expert in the ways of butterflies, it seemed odd to see one flying about in the wet weather. "Why aren't you hiding away somewhere nice and dry?"
The monarch flew closer, brushed against her cheek, and then backed away to hover a foot or two in front of her yet again.
Raine laughed. "So you came out just to welcome me? Well, thank you kindly, little one. I appreciate that." She shook her head. Good thing no one was around to witness her talking to an insect.
Her parents, in particular. They'd think she'd lost her mind.
The creature circled her body in a graceful, fluttering dance of delicate wings, and then flew off toward the woods.
In the next instant, the front door opened and Raine caught her first glimpse of Miss Angelina Love.
Snowy white hair formed a glowing nimbus around the woman's head. With the lights behind her tall, willowy figure and the moonlight between Raine and the door, the result was a perfect halo. Miss Love's maxi-length sheath — the same pure white as her hair — only added to the startling illusion.
Raine gasped when an amorphous shadow beyond the doorway moved in a soft wave, creating a massive pair of shadowy wings. She released a breath when the shadow disappeared.
"Raine! Is that you? Come in out of that drizzle!" Even Miss Love's voice had a melodious trill that, given the impression already created by light and shadow, put Raine in mind of angelic song.
She shook her head at her own fanciful imagination. In her defense, however, she'd been driving several hours and spent most of the previous night packing after a long, grueling argument with her parents about this trip. No wonder she was seeing things and imagining even more.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm Raine Presley." She arrived at the door and found herself mesmerized by a pair of eyes the bright, clear blue of a summer sky and a smile that surely epitomized the word welcome. Tiny lines around Miss Love's eyes and mouth spoke to the fact that she smiled often. She wasn't exactly beautiful, and yet ... something about her was. Raine couldn't stop staring and felt a blush warming her cheeks at her own impolite reaction.
The moment she stepped into the large, open entry area and released her grip on the handle of her suitcase, Miss Love folded her into a gentle hug.
"Welcome, child." Her voice flowed over Raine's exhausted body and mind like warm, soothing honey, refreshing her in some inexplicable way. "Welcome to Paradise Pines. Make yourself at home, because that's where you are."
For one awful moment, Raine was sure Miss Love's kindness would open a floodgate, releasing a veritable deluge of tears.
This trip to Cambria had come at a high emotional cost for her. For the first time in the entirety of her existence, she'd stood up to her parents for something she wanted. What was so wrong with taking some time to just be ... to simply enjoy life before launching herself into the career she'd worked hard and long to achieve?
A position within the state forensics department was no small accomplishment, even as an apprentice. Raine was well aware that she was the envy of many of her classmates at the university. But the job would be taxing and life consuming. She'd be sacrificing her secret dream of having a home and family — even a real life outside her job. So she'd demanded this getaway to Cambria, in the face of her parents' blatant disapproval.
That disapproval had weighed on her during the entire four-hour drive from Pasadena. Her father's thunderous expression, along with her mother's disappointed one as she drove away, left her feeling like a bad daughter and a horrible human being. They'd always been wonderful, supportive parents ... didn't she owe it to them to be a perfect daughter?
But she so desperately needed this time away, to be on her own for a time. No one telling her what to do or what decisions she should make.
Miss Love's warm, open-armed welcome and a smile that said Raine wasn't a terrible person comforted her to a ridiculous degree.
After all, the woman needed to welcome her tenants. Her pleasant demeanor was most likely good customer relations. That's all Raine could possibly be to her — a young woman who had rented the upstairs apartment for a time. If she didn't leave happy, the owner of this beautiful paradise in the Cambrian pines risked a bad review online. No, she shouldn't take Miss Love's sweet welcome too personally.
But she could enjoy it for the moment.
* * *
After promising to join the older woman for a get-acquainted lunch at noon the next day, Raine accepted the key from Miss Love and headed upstairs for a look at her new "home."
She fell in love, just as she'd known she would. Someone certainly knew how to paint "welcome" into the walls and furnishings. Raine felt immediately at home, as if she could stay forever.
But of course, she couldn't. She had a job and two unhappy parents to get back to as soon as her springtime respite was past. Within an hour, she'd put away everything she'd brought and settled in to relax ... alone ... in "her own" place. What a grand feeling!
She rose early the next morning. Being overexcited wasn't conducive to sleeping in late, which she'd planned to do. Instead, come 7 AM, she'd already donned fitness clothing and running shoes. After circling the lodge twice, trying to take everything in, she spotted a narrow foot trail in the wooded area at the rear of the property and set off at a jog.
Birds called early-morning greetings as sunshine peeked through the branches hanging over the path. Butterflies flitted and bees buzzed around bushes and plants, the likes of which Raine had never seen, all in lush spring bloom. Their blossoms created bright splashes of color in the dim woods. A gentle breeze lifted her ponytail, and Raine pulled in a lungful of sweetly scented air.
Could Heaven be any better than this?
As she moved through the shadowy woods, in and out of bright spots of sunshine, something she could only call joy stirred from a deep slumber somewhere within her soul. Laughter bubbled from her lips, and she made no attempt to rein it in. By the time she burst into a clearing at the end of the path, Raine thought she'd explode if she didn't release some of the exuberance and just plain happiness that filled her soul.
She bounced into the clearing, whirling around in a joyous dance of praise, her feet moving in time to the song in her soul.
Throwing her head back, she laughed until her sides hurt, and then lifted her head to the glorious blue sky overhead. "Thank You, Lord!" she called into the stillness, absolutely certain God was right there, laughing with her. "Thank You!"
"What in the blue blazes are you doing on my property?"
A deep male voice, clearly not sharing Raine's "moment," crashed her happy time, sending shivers of shock and fright throughout her entire system — mind and body. She stopped whirling so quickly she stumbled, but managed to catch herself before falling flat on her face. Her heart, so full of abandon and joy the moment before, threatened to beat its way free of her chest.
Swinging toward the icy voice, Raine stared into steel-gray eyes beneath dark blond eyebrows pulled low in an angry frown. A matching beard and mustache, carefully maintained to look like a couple days of scruff, shadowed a face that might have been dangerously handsome — if its owner weren't trying to kill her with a piercing, narrow gaze.
"I — I —" She swallowed hard and almost pushed out another attempt, but the stranger interrupted.
"Never mind. You're on private property. And thanks to your noisy arrival, I've just destroyed my wood sculpture." He held up a small piece of wood, clearly bearing signs of new marks from a carving tool ... and a jagged break where it had broken off of something bigger and stronger.
"No!" Raine's horrified gaze drifted behind the man to what was clearly a workstation in a state of orderly chaos. Logs of different types and sizes lay in separate piles. Sawdust and bits of wood and chips littered the ground around a large carved piece ... a bear, its maw open in a shockingly lifelike display of aggression.
An unsightly gouge in the wood left a glaring flaw on one side of the animal's head. The irate man staring her down held the missing chunk of pine — or oak, or teak, or whatever this fellow used to create his masterpieces — in his hand.
"I'm so sorry!" Heat rushed into Raine's face, even as her stomach turned a double somersault.
No wonder he was angry.
"So am I — sorry you showed up." He tossed the ear onto the ground. "Just go, would you?" He whirled and strode off toward the bear. After three long strides, he turned to walk backwards. "You're still here?"
Anger battled with embarrassment, and Raine swung back the way she'd come. She deeply regretted having caused damage to the truly stunning carving, but she certainly hadn't set out to do so. How could she have known people worked in the woods in Cambria?
She stopped just before setting off down the path she'd followed to the clearing, and swung around to face the grumpy stranger. "You're a very rude man."
He took a step toward her, his lips drawn into a tight line. "I'm rude? Lady, I'm not the one who barged onto someone else's property without permission." His chilly gaze narrowed to a glittering slit, and Raine's eyes widened when his hands tightened into fists that looked hard enough to do some real damage.
He pointed one long finger. "Not another word. Just. Go!" Raine fled into the trees. Fast.CHAPTER 2
By the time she arrived back at the lodge, fury had replaced the fear that paralyzed her in the stranger's presence. How could anyone be so horribly unpleasant? She hadn't seen a single Private Property sign on her trek through the woods. What right did that awful man have to read her the riot act?
She showered, and then whiled away the morning on the balcony with a good book, making a deliberate effort to cool her temper before joining Miss Love for lunch. The shower helped her feel fresher, but she was unable to shake the rage that tried to choke her. Finally calling it a lost cause, she drew a deep breath and headed downstairs. She'd just have to hide her mood from her landlady.
It didn't work.
The woman answered Raine's knock, took one look at her face, and her blue eyes widened. She laid a slender hand on Raine's arm and drew her inside. "Oh my, sweetie — come in. Why are you so angry?"
Raine frowned. "How do you know I'm angry?"
"Because you're glowing red, dear. Now what's going on? No, wait ... come have a nice glass of raspberry tea and talk to me while I finish getting things ready."
After seating Raine at a small table covered with a white lace tablecloth, her hostess set out delicate china and silverware, along with dainty sandwiches and bowls of hot soup.
Raine couldn't quite wrap her mind around Miss Love's statement at the door. "What did you mean ... I'm glowing red?"
The older woman paused in her happy bustle around the kitchen. She said nothing for a moment, but filled a small bowl with green olives and joined Raine at the table.
"Sometimes I see things, dear — things other people don't seem to, for whatever reason. When I opened my door, you were surrounded by an ugly, dirty red aura. Your entire body was painted crimson." She shrugged and offered a tiny smile. "Red usually indicates anger, and the deeper the red, the more intense the emotion. You're very angry." She reached for Raine's hand and grasped it in a firm grip. "Let's pray, and you can tell me about it while we eat."
Raine bit at her lip, but she bowed her head.
"Dear, sweet Father God. Thank You, as always, for the beautiful gift of sustenance that You've provided. We are grateful. Thank You also for sending Raine to this lovely spot in Your world for a while. I will love having her nearby. And one more thing, Father ... whatever is bothering my young friend today, please give her Your peace, and calm her troubled spirit. I thank You now for what I know You will do." She squeezed Raine's hand. "Amen."
To Raine's surprise, she did feel calmer. She'd tried all morning to release the anger that had her by the throat, with zero success.
Her hostess's sweet spirit and simple prayer had accomplished what seemed impossible in a matter of minutes. What was it about this woman?
Miss Love swallowed a dainty bite of her olive-and-parsley sandwich on focaccia bread. "So. Will you tell me what's going on?"
"I met your neighbor this morning." Raine sipped tea, trying to keep the memory from raising her ire yet again. "He is not a nice man."
Blue eyes widened in obvious surprise. "You can't be talking about Declan Keller. Why, he's quite the nicest young man I've ever met ... well, one of the nicest." A twinkle from her cerulean gaze tickled Raine's lips into a smile. "I've been around a long, long time, dear. I guess I may have met someone nicer than Declan, but I really don't remember when."
Excerpted from Spring Raine by Delia Latham. Copyright © 2016 Delia Latham. Excerpted by permission of Pelican Ventures, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ever since I saw this book was coming, I wanted to read it. I was not disappointed. Delia Latham has a way with words that draws you into the story and the characters’ lives. Paradise Pines Lodge is a great place to be. I didn’t want to leave. Raine is vacationing with Miss Angie in her upstairs apartment and has a run-in with Declan, a neighbor. Miss Angie senses things. How can she know what she knows? Declan is asked to watch over Raine without her knowing, but after showing off his town to her, can he keep his heart to himself? Can he convince her to stay after her vacation is up? Or will she return to her parents and the job that’s waiting for her? Raine is shown in many ways that God is thinking about her. Do you see those signs in your own life? It’s the little things. A touch of a butterfly. A group of trees. The way sunlight glints through the clouds. Spring Raine fills you with hope and God’s love. But what happens when she finds her calling in Paradise Pines? Will she stay and disappoint her parents? Or leave her calling behind? How can we know what God wants us to do? Spring Raine-God will lead the way. I received a free copy in the hope that I would mention/review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
Reviewed by Deborah Stone for Readers' Favorite Spring Raine (Paradise Pines Series) by Delia Latham is a powerful Christian romance that delivers a whole lot more than romance; it offers wisdom and encouragement throughout. The growing affection between Raine and Declan is touching and tender and is a well designed plot that weaves God's love and truth throughout each situation. Raine is the adult child of controlling parents who have a "plan" for her life. Before she begins the career and life that her parents have chosen for her, Raine treats herself to a three-month vacation at Paradise Pines. A time to relax and enjoy life before she settles into her hectic, all consuming career. Raine finds herself surrounded by nature, peace and unconditional love - all new and inviting. As Raine enjoys the freedom to make her own choices, she begins to discover who she is and what she wants. A romance with Declan Keller seems like a waste of time since she is only here for the season, but God may have something else in mind. Raine develops friendships with people she has met and she has found a new relationship with God, a personal and real relationship that she never knew could exist. As many curious things happen around her, almost supernatural things, and her eyes are opened to new possibilities, Raine gains a new perspective and now she must make some hard choices. Delia Latham tells a tender and endearing love story, but this book is so much more than romance. Delia Latham's characters are complex, multi-dimensional and well developed. Raine comes to Paradise Pines to relax and finds a whole different way of life. She finds freedom within herself and with her God. Delia Latham has a gift of descriptive writing that sets you right in the middle of what is happening and makes you feel as if you are a part of it all. "There is no place more joyful or peaceful than where our heavenly Father is, and no arms more loving or tender than His." As the reader experiences the beauty and wonder of the story, you cannot help but be both blessed and moved. Delia Latham has a way of entertaining, teaching and blessing you all at the same time.
Fully enjoyable! This novel is a brilliant mix of discovery and romance—a great “book 1” for the author’s new Paradise Pines series. There were countless stirring scenes and incidents that added to the drama of this novel. The main protagonists, Raine and Dec, are both deep, interesting characters full of surprises. Raine is facing the challenging aspect of changing the direction of her life, and Declan looms precariously in her future plans. I especially love the angelic atmosphere that surrounds Miss Angie and that weaves a touch of mystery throughout the entire book This is a beautiful story set in delightful surroundings. There is enough inventiveness and thrill in it to satisfy the most zealous reader. I’m looking forward to the author’s next novel of this series.
A captivating story - I couldn’t put it down. It was easy to fall in love with the hero and heroine, Raine and Declan. Their growth throughout the book added a depth to the love story that went beyond the fluff you get in so many romances these days. Though there was plenty of wooing and romancing to satisfy a love story junkie like me! The ups and downs, humor and sadness, were perfectly paced, and the description of the butterflies was breathtaking. Miss Angie was an extra bonus, and probably my favorite character in the book. It was a wonderful read and much needed escape after a stressful week! Definitely recommend.
Totally loved this book, I read it in one sitting. This was an amazing story of a young lady (Raine) who strikes out on her own to discover herself but little does she know what that entails. Up till this point Raine's life has been planned out for her including her schooling and her future career by her parents. And being the dutiful daughter, Raine has just followed the path laid out for her. However, not that she has completed her schooling early, she decides to enjoy an extended vacation on her own before beginning her fulltime job that is waiting for her, against her parent's wishes. During this getaway Raine meets a lady who has the character of an angel or perhaps an angel for real, who can tell. This lady, Angelina, seems to know things about Raine that no earthly person should know and as Raine gets to know her, she realizes that Angelina seems to have such a peace about her. Moreover, Angelina is a walking Bible consistently quoting Bible verses. This is one thing I love about this book, the story is intermixed with many passages from the Bible showing how our lives are to be interspersed with God's Word. During her stay at the inn run by Angelina, Raine encounters the neighbor (Declan) who seems surly on the first encounter but upon future encounters, Raine discovers that her heart is drawn towards Declan. Declan and her begin spending much time together and you as the reader can see how they are both drawn to one another. Yet there are some roadblocks in the way of their relationship. First of all, Raine is planning to go back home at the end of her vacation and everyone knows long distance relationships rarely work. Secondly, Declan has been hired by Raine's father to keep an eye on her without Raine's knowledge and the deeper their relationship grows, the more difficult it becomes for Declan to come clean but how is Raine going to react when this comes out. The relationship between Raine and Declan is a beautiful picture of how God sends people across our path just when needed. Additionally a key element of this story is how God uses encounters with butterflies both in the art form and in live form to speak truth into Raine's life and to draw her to himself. During her time at this inn, Raine discovers that God wants a personal relationship with her. Up till now, she had religion but not a relationship. In fact, butterfly become such a big part of this story as Raine discovers her true calling in life and discovers joy in helping others. God uses the butterfly and others in her life to tell her that this is her time to fly. And during this journey with God, Raine finds healing for pain in her past. Bottom line is that I would have given this book a 6 out 5 stars if I could. The storyline is intriguing and draws you into Raine's life and her search for who she is meant to me. And all along the journey the reader is encouraged in their walk with the Lord as you will see how God continually draws Raine to himself in love and gives her joy and peace in return. Highly recommend!!!!!
A very sweet love story. Raine is looking for an adventure before she starts working as a forensic science. She throws caution to the wind & visits a lodge in CA where she falls in love with Declan Enjoyed this book. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
A heartfelt contemporary romance set on the beautiful Central Coast of California! Taking a timeout before beginning a new career, Raine has no idea of what is in store for her when she arrives at Paradise Pines Lodge in lovely Cambria. Hoping for some peace and tranquility, her life will open up in ways she never dreamed of before. I enjoyed the cast of characters, especially Miss Angie who adds a divine touch and sparkle to Raine's life, and her friend Shay. The mysterious way God works in Raine's heart and life made the story interesting, with a lot of spiritual depth. Butterflies were cleverly used as a metaphor in many ways, perfectly reflecting her spiritual renewal and newfound joy for life, as well as transformation in others'. Her relationship with Declan seemed realistic with a lot of emotional tension at times. I wasn't sure how it would end given the short time period. It kept me reading on to find out. Reading the descriptions of the area with its unique sights brought back some special memories for me after spending time there long ago. The artistic communities, rolling hills and ocean nearby are a lovely setting for a novel. It made me want to go back to visit. The funny house of the 'Captain' made of recycled materials is indeed a real place too! Recommend to readers who enjoy a clean contemporary romance with a lot of faith. 4.5 stars (An ARC was provided by the author. All opinions are my own.)
This is a Christian romance, and it's one I believe you all will enjoy. Spring Raine--Raine to her friends. The moniker was splashed on her as maybe her parents' hippy days finale, because from the time she was born Raine was expected to be the perfect child on her way to a profitable perfect profession. In her first ever act of rebellion, she has decided to take a vacation between her last class of college and her perfect career. Springtime at Paradise Pines is almost too good to be true. The proprietor of the lodge has an angelic personality, one that immediately sets Raine at ease. She has the entire upper floor, and the proprietor, Angela (aka Miss Angie) has the lower floor. Raine loves the area so much that she immediately goes for a hike in the neighboring woods, laughing in joy at her few months of freedom in such a spectacular setting. She yells, "Thank You, Lord!" at the top of her lungs, earning her an immediate raking over the coals by a homeowner/wood carver who chastises her for trespassing on his property. She goes back to the lodge and complains to Miss Angie about the unfriendly neighbor. Miss Angie concludes that the neighbor was probably just startled or interrupted at something, because he (Declan, aka Dec Keller) is the nicest of guys ever. Meanwhile, Dec has been offered a ghost guard job for some rich guy's daughter. Just what he needs when he's trying to finish a bunch of carvings for a showing, but he could use the cash and takes the job. The teenager he thinks he's guarding turns out to be none other than...you guessed it...Raine. This could get complicated. And does. I was given a free copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.