"Enchanting." —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author
The first book in the Songbird series from country music star Sara Evans and New York Times bestseller Rachel Hauck!
It begins with a little red envelope . . . the one Jade doesn't want to send. The envelope that invites her mother, Beryl, to her wedding—and opens up more of her past than she cares to deal with. Jade has worked so hard to put her hard-scrabble childhood behind her.
And she's found everything she wanted in the beautiful green hills of Whisper Hollow, Tennessee. A thriving vintage shop all her own. A lovely one-eyed shepherd dog named Roscoe. And Max, the almost-too-good-to-be-true man she plans to marry in just a few weeks. For the first time in her life, her heart feels at home, and she can't wait to step out into their beautiful future.
But can she really have a sweet by and by if she can't come to terms with yesterday?
Lose yourself in the novel that readers and critics alike are calling . . .
"Heartwarming." —Publishers Weekly
"Breathtaking." —New York Times bestselling author Robin McGraw
"Beautifully real." —actress Eva Longoria
About the Author
Multi-platinum recording artist Sara Evans has garnered such honors as ACM’s Female Vocalist of the Year, CMA’s Video of the Year, one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People,' and the first country star to compete in ABC's Dancing with the Stars. This is her first fiction series.
Rachel Hauck is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of The Wedding Dress, which was also named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pet and writes from her ivory tower. Visit her online at RachelHauck.com; Facebook: RachelHauck; Twitter: @RachelHauck; Instagram: @rachelhauck.
Read an Excerpt
The Sweet By and By
By Sara Evans Rachel Hauck
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Sara Evans
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhisper Hollow, TN
The October sun warmed the Blue Umbrella's office. A pool of light washed over Jade's paint-chipped desk and the box of ruby-red invitations shoved against the windowsill.
"Here you go, Liz. Eighty-five dollars for your aunt's antique bread box." Jade pushed the box out of the way so she could grab the check she'd printed for her customer, exposing a solitary, displaced red invitation.
Beryl Hill, Prairie City, Iowa.
"Bless your heart, old Aunt Ginny, for never making friends with the garbage can." Liz Carlton blew a kiss at the check before folding it into her purse. "Jade, I've got plenty more items to consign with you."
"I'm always interested." She patted the small, spry woman on the shoulder. "And don't forget you can sell some of your valuables on eBay."
"On eBay? Goodness, child, I'd have no idea how to-"
"And there's the county dump." Jade walked her across the bright, polished shop to the front door.
"The county dump? I do believe you don't sound a bit grateful, Jade Fitzgerald. I bring in my precious family treasures for you to sell, sharing the profits with you, and what thanks do I get? A recommendation to the county dump."
"Liz, I appreciate your business. You know I do. But the Blue Umbrella is looking for timeless pieces, itemswith a story and a history. Last week you brought in a bag of peeling costume jewelry and some moth-eaten sweaters."
"Those sweaters had a story, Jade. I told you my great-great-granny knitted them by a coal fire."
Jade gently slipped her arm through Liz's. After all, she was a valued client, despite her lack of vintage prowess. "I'm looking for quality, not quantity, Liz. But I do admit"-Jade paused at the door-"your items always come with interesting stories."
Liz opened the door. "You wait and see what I dig up next."
"I'm holding my breath," Jade said with a grin.
Back in her office, Jade dropped to her desk chair, sighing. Liz was entertaining if nothing else.
She surveyed the row of lime-green sticky notes running along the top of her desk. Her to-do list. Her eyes fell on one sticky note, the one with the curled edges where her arm grazed over it:
Jade snatched up the note. The gummy adhesive was dotted with dust and lint and no longer adhered to the desk's surface. The lump she felt in her chest every time she moved the note had grown from a pebble to a rock. How much longer could she stall? The wedding was five weeks away.
"Hey, boss, what's up for today?"
Jade glanced up at Lillabeth, her sole and treasured part-time assistant. "You're early today."
"Coach rescheduled the team meeting for Friday." The seventeen-year-old folded herself into the rickety metal chair beside the desk. Her blonde ponytail swished over her shoulder, and a pair of tiger-striped Oakley shades rode atop her head.
"It's slow-day Monday. Why don't you work on the Baker estate inventory?"
"Shouldn't you have mailed these already?" Lillabeth slipped a wedding invitation from the box.
"You sound like my future mother-in-law." Jade took the envelope and jammed it back with the others.
"What about that one?" Lillabeth pointed to the banished invite.
"This one is special. Sort of." Jade tucked it a little farther under the box. "Tell me, what do you think when you hear the word invitation?"
"'You're invited,' I guess." Lillabeth shrugged, making a face. "'Come to the party. We want to see you.'"
"Come and participate? Your presence is requested?" Jade had been thinking about this for a while.
"Pretty much." The Whisper Hollow basketball star nodded. "Is this a trick question? Do I win a prize for answering right? Money?"
"Money? You're on the clock; you're getting paid." Jade got up and headed toward the storeroom. "Come on. Let me show you the Baker stuff."
On the opposite side of the shop was the old Five & Dime's storeroom, cool and dark with cinder-block walls, a cement floor, and a row of random old calendars hanging on the back wall.
When Jade set up the Blue Umbrella, she left the calendars for posterity's sake. A piece of the building's history. The first calendar was 1914. Then 1920, followed by 1929. There were calendars from 1945 and 1950, 1963 and 1967, 1980 and 1988, 1996 and 2001.
Jade planned to add her own, but she wanted to wait for a really cool year. Though so far, the one she lived now had been fairly stellar. When she moved to Whisper Hollow, a close-knit, small Southern town up the mountain from Chattanooga, she'd expected to moonlight for her former boss writing promotional copy for Smoky Hills Media. But the Blue Umbrella thrived its first year, ending in a lovely shade of financial pink.
Then she met Max-love wrapped in olive-toned skin, hazel eyes, strength, and kindness. Yes, this calendar year just might be worthy of the wall.
"Okay, where's this famous Baker inventory?" Lillabeth dropped to the stool in front of the antique-white secretary hutch Jade used as the storeroom desk and jiggled the computer's mouse. "Odd question about the word invitation, Jade."
"Yet you still answered it." Jade pushed a crate toward Lilla with her foot. "These are leather-bound, mint condition, first editions."
"Books? Since when do we take books?" Lillabeth angled to read the gold-imprinted spines while absently launching iTunes, then hunted for QuickBooks in the Mac's dock.
"Since these are worth money. A friend from college knew the family and hooked me up." Jade gave her a cheesy thumbs-up. "Jessup Baker was a Tennessee governor and his wife, Cecelia, earned all kinds of humanitarian awards for establishing reading programs in the hills."
"Who's going to read these?" Lillabeth wrinkled her nose as she examined one of the books, the spine creaking, the pages crackling.
"Plenty of people. We just need to figure out how to lure book snobs to Whisper Hollow."
Lillabeth settled the book on the secretary. "Who don't you want to invite to your wedding?"
"Someone. So, get to inventorying these and listen for the front bell. I'll be in the office." Jade paused in the doorway. "The camera is in the file cabinet. Take pictures of the books for the website."
"I'll crash your wedding if you didn't invite me." Lillabeth started typing in the publishing information. "I witnessed your first meeting with Max, right here in the shop. I should get a finder's fee or something."
"What is with you and money today?" Jade propped herself against the door frame.
"Nothing." The girl's light dimmed.
Jade regarded her for a moment. "Hey, if you need to talk ..."
On her way back to the office, Jade checked the shop for customers. It was quiet, like last year this time, and she welcomed the reprieve. Gave her time to catch up from the busy summer, scout out new inventory avenues, advertise for new consignment clients. It wasn't like vintage merchandise came with manufacturer sales reps.
Jade stood by her desk and scanned her sticky note to-do row.
Call Henna Swift about exhibiting at February's Country Home Antiquing Festival in Nashville. Upload new images to website. Call Ilene to pick up her consigned items. Dress fitting at 2:00 next Monday. Set appointment for trial wedding hairstyles. Pick up prescription for Max's back. Mail invitations.
She couldn't get past Mail invitations. Not today. She had been ignoring that particular note, despite her future mother-in-law's constant, "Please mail the invitations."
Beryl Hill, Prairie City, Iowa.
A snort resounded from under her desk. Jade took her seat to peek underneath, nudging the sleeping dog with her foot. "Wake up, Roscoe, and give me some advice."
The sprawled-out German shepherd lifted his head, viewing her with his one good eye.
Jade flashed him the red invitation. "Do I invite her to the wedding? What would you do if, say, dogs got married?"
He exhaled, tucked up his paws, closed his eye, and dropped his head back to the floor.
"And after all I've done for you." Jade tapped his belly with her foot. "Don't expect me to share my pizza crust next time, buddy." The threat carried no authority, caused no shiver of trepidation. One wink of his big brown eye, and she'd hand over a whole slice without hesitation.
"Okay, Roscoe, how about this. Heads, I invite her; tails, I don't." Jade fished a quarter from the stash she kept in the middle drawer's paper clips slot. "Lift your head for, well ... heads. Wag your tail for tails. Here we go."
Before she settled the quarter on her thumb and forefinger, a squeaky, airy sound emitted from Roscoe's hindquarters.
"Oh, dog. Phew." Jade fired her rolling chair across the floor, crashing into the filing cabinet. "Why don't you tell me how you really feel?"
"I need a soda." Lillabeth burst into the office, going straight for the quarter stash. "My throat is clogged with book mites."
"Wait." Jade rolled back to the desk and slapped her hand over Lillabeth's as she retreated with fifty cents. "Heads or tails?"
"Call it. Quick." With a flick of her thumb, Jade launched the coin high in the air. "Heads or tails?"
"Heads, no ... tails. Tails."
The coin rotated in midair, a silver glint slicing through warm afternoon sunlight, then fell to the floor, landing on its narrow edging with a ping, and rolled across the floor. Jade and Lillabeth hunched over and followed it until the quarter hit a crack in the floorboards and disappeared.
"Ack." Jade dropped to her knees and slapped the floor with her palm, then thunked her forehead against the wood to peer through the dark slit. "Get me a flashlight, Lilla. I want to see if it's heads or tails."
"You've gone crazy, Jade. What are you trying to decide?"
"If I should dye my hair pink for the wedding." Jade held up her hand, wiggling her fingers.
"Liar." Lillabeth snatched the flashlight from the leaning bookshelf and slapped it into Jade's palm. "Pink's not vintage."
"I do have more than one string on my violin, Lilla. I play contemporary now and then." Shining the round beam through the narrow slit, Jade tried to see how the coin had landed, but she couldn't even find it, let alone discover if it was heads or tails.
"Contemporary, maybe, but not 1999 punk. Too tacky. Dark brown hair suits you fine."
Jade sat back with a heavy exhale. "There goes twenty-five cents and the answer to my problem."
"Is this about the invitation? Jade, you have the answer." Lillabeth tapped her chest. "In your heart."
"Don't you have work to do in the storeroom?" Jade returned the flashlight to the shelf.
"Hey, you asked me. Heads or tails. Remember? I just came in for soda money." Lillabeth rubbed her two quarters together. "For what it's worth, I think you should send it. I mean, unless you're inviting an ex-lover or something. Or an ax murderer."
"Can I pretend she's an ax murderer?" Jade plopped onto her chair and stared out the window. The trash guys forgot to empty the Dumpster again.
"Who is this horrible person?"
"Someone." Raking her hair back from her face, Jade dug around her soul for a thimble's worth of emotion that might tell her what to do.
"Ah, the elusive someone." Lillabeth lowered herself into the rickety metal chair. "Hey, Jade, can I ask you something?"
"Sure. What?" Jade drummed her fingers over the invitation. If she sent it, the issues of her life she'd carefully dubbed "unusable vintage" would recycle through her heart and resurrect all kinds of ugliness. Liz Carlton's great-great-granny's moth-eaten sweaters had nothing on Jade's tattered past.
The teen inhaled long and slow, tapping the edge of one quarter against the face of the other. Jade watched her, slipping the invitation onto the desk.
"Must be hard to talk about. Usually I can't get you to shut up." Jade smiled and kicked the air in front of Lillabeth.
"Yeah, well"-big exhale-"let's say you did something you didn't mean to do and the result-"
"Good afternoon, ladies." A svelte, tan June Benson, outfitted for golf, swooshed into the office with a wide smile and grand gestures. "Lillabeth, goodness, how are you? I didn't see your mother on the tennis courts all summer. Here it is fall. Tell her we could use her on the golf course. We're missing a fourth."
"She's into Pilates these days." Lillabeth held up her quarters and motioned she was going back to work.
"Take me with you ...," Jade called after her, then laughed for June's sake, but the woman was focused on the invitations.
"As I suspected. These lovely"-June patted the box of invitations-"unique ... very red invitations are still here. We can say one thing: the envelopes will stand out in the mail. So what do you say we mail them, hm? Time is running out, Jade. Please let me take them. Except your mother's. You can keep that one until you decide."
"I haven't told her yet." Jade wadded up the lime-green sticky note. Mail invitations.
"Then call her. Land sakes, you're a grown woman." June collapsed in the metal chair Lillabeth had just vacated, catching herself when it listed to starboard. "What will people think if your mother is not at your wedding?"
"That I'm wise and gutsy."
June straightened the hem of her madras golf skort. "Or petty and childish."
Roscoe peeked out from under the desk, his eyebrows twitching as he scanned the space between Jade and June. Ladies, keep it down. Let sleeping dogs lie.
"If you'd let Max and me get married in a small ceremony up on Eventide Ridge at dusk like we wanted-"
"And have my only child married without a proper ceremony?" June propped her hand on the edge of the desk and leaned toward Jade. "No ma'am. And you'd regret it, too, in time. Trust me."
Jade matched her future mother-in-law's hard gaze. "Trust me. I wouldn't."
"Send the invitation, Jade, because these"-June rose, switching her handbag from one shoulder to the other and tucking the box of invitations under her arm-"are going out whether you're ready or not. I'm sorry, but time is running out. I don't mean to be so bossy ... goodness, I can't imagine what angst exists between you and your mama. Were you abused? Pardon my frankness."
"My granny, bless her soul, used to say, 'Whatever ill you have against someone isn't worth sending the Lord Jesus back to the cross.'"
"I don't even know what that means." Jade faced her computer screen and clicked on an unread e-mail. "But I'm not sending Jesus anywhere."
"It means Jesus' love and forgiveness is sufficient for any wrong or violation done to us, Jade. Don't you think it's powerful enough for you and your mama? This I do know"-June stood just beyond Jade's peripheral vision-"you need to forgive your mother for whatever it is that she did to you." She paused. "Believe me, holding a grudge does nothing but deepen and widen your hurt."
"I appreciate your input, June, but forgiveness has a twin: forgetting." Jade waved Mama's invitation in the air. "Which is what I'm trying to do."
The only way she figured she'd come close to forgiving was to forget her past, which included her mama.
"I won't argue with you. You know your own heart better than I do, but I wish you'd reconsider." June pressed her hand gently on Jade's shoulder. "See you at seven? Diamond Joe's, meeting with the wedding planner?" She leaned to peer at Jade's to-do list. "I declare, I don't know how you run a business this way."
"My system works for me." Jade rolled her chair away from the desk, giving June a good-bye, have a nice afternoon smile. "See you at seven."
"What's this?" June invaded "the system" and snatched up a sticky note. "A prescription for Max?"
Nosy. Jade took the note from her. "You have my wedding invitations; now you want my sticky notes too?"
"What's wrong with Max?"
"His back is out again, and the doctor called in a prescription to the pharmacy up here. He asked me to pick it up."
"I didn't know he hurt his back. What'd he do?" June snatched the sticky note from Jade, her expression drawn, her tone laced with concern. She seemed a bit ruffled.
Excerpted from The Sweet By and By by Sara Evans Rachel Hauck Copyright © 2009 by Sara Evans. Excerpted by permission.
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
First off I have to say I was really skeptical when I saw that Sara Evans (yes..the country singer) wrote it with the help of another author. I automatically think "OK..how much of this did she actually write?" I don't know- but I do know it was a good book. The story is of a woman named Jade, who had a not so ideallic childhood and clearly not coping with her abadonment issues. I have to say I hate characters, and people in general, who aren't able to move past things in their past. OK- so your dad left you. GET OVER IT. So this book really frustrated me because you just want to slap Jade up and let her know she's being an idiot. Get over yourself. But I did like how the book went back and forth from the present day to the past and how the story of her past unraveled as you went through the book. Jade is preparing to get married and her motto (and her fiance's) is "the past is the past" and neither has really talked about each other's pasts and so a lot of things are learned in the weeks/days leading up to the wedding. I thought the relationship between Jade and her mother, Beryl, was relatable if not frustrating. I can definitely see a "part two" of this book happening because the ending left some loop holes (i.e- the relationship with the dad- what happens? What is it like for Beryl at the end? What happens with Willow? How does Jade and Max handle marriage? Are there more secrets to come out? etc) Overall? It's a good story. It's a page turning, hard to put down book. It's a fast read and the story progress quickly and doesn't get lost in descriptions and plot set ups.
I am not a Sara Evans fan as far as her music goes, but after reading The Sweet By and By, I can see that her calling should have been in writing! I was so moved by this story! I am a mother of a daughter so this story really takes a special place in my heart. It is an emotional, twisty story. It's about faith, letting the past be the past, and hope and forgiveness. It is about life being the most important thing above all. Truly something that I, as a mother and grandmother, hold dear to me now, after reading this heart wrenching, moving story. This book deserves to be at the top of the best sellers lists! This book is 5 stars and highly recommended by me! ~A Copy of this book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
The Sweet By And By is a sweet debut novel. A lighthearted read that will leave you longing to spend more time with the characters you have grown to love. Sara Evans has a lyrical touch to her prose that sometimes read like a song-no surprise since she is a country singer and writes her own music! She uses flashbacks like a pro and the plot twists keep coming and coming and coming. I don't know that I've ever read a character so wounded as Jade Fitzgerald. And Jade comes a long way, emotionally, in this novel. Sara has created complex, deep characters that take the reader to an emotional level with them. And the characters don't always do what you expect. I felt complete and satisfied when I finished this novel. Great read!
I enjoyed this book because it caused me to reflect on my own childhood and my responsibility for my decisions and who I am. But, let me back up a moment. This story is about Jade Fitzgerald who owns a vintage shop in a small town and is about to get married. She has significant baggage but is about getting married. She and her fiancee had decided that they would let the past be the past and not dig into each other's baggage or dredge up the past. But, Jade isn't able to avoid this because of several circumstances in the weeks leading up to her wedding. The story flows smoothly and easily. It is interesting and I enjoyed the characters. There was only one major flaw for me but it has to do with how little attention her fiancee received and his baggage. It seemed very disproportionate. I have noticed that in our society today we are reticent to take responsibility for our actions and it was such a refreshing and convicting part of this story for me as Jade does this. It caused me to think about my childhood and how my actions affect my own life. There is a good quote in a conversation between Jade's sister and her mother early in the book at the end of one of the chapters about the 60s generation and the wars they started--I thought it was very well put. Christian fiction today is much like this book. It fits well within its genre. It isn't the best book I've read, but it is an enjoyable read and it's one you could sit down with a cup of tea and a blanket with and settle in to read.
Jade Freedom Fitzgerald is getting married. Marrying a young lawyer, Max Benson from Whisper Hollow TN. A match she feels very unworthy of, although Jade feels unworthy of nearly everything. She has major baggage she is carrying from her childhood. The daughter of a original flower child/hippie lawyer the actions of her parents have left huge scars in Jade. Scars she has tried to bury deep within her to never be dealt with. As wedding preparations take place however, old wounds start to resurface, as her mother-in-law to be pushes Jade to invite her mother to the wedding, and Jade's mom shows up three weeks early. Pre-marital counseling reveals to Jade that there are things she is definitely holding on to. Will Max and Jade make it down the aisle, to be wed and to live happily ever after? This book is a story of a wild tale of seemingly bad luck. Poor Jade, if it is something bad that can possibly happen, it does happen. Three full weeks of scrambling around trying to make everything right that has appeared from her past and that is major wrong, has Jade stretched to the point of snapping. Sara Evans and Rachel Hauk have brought us a modern day fairy tale, the princess meets her prince and longs to live happily ever after. However the monsters and dragons they face are the haunting hurts of a past. A book that will keep you reading into the wee hours of the morning (ask me how I know). 305 pages $19.99 US 4 stars This book was provided for review purposes only, no cash or payment of any type was received for this review.
I was given a chance by Thomas Nelson to review 'The sweet by and by. 'This book was written by country singer Sara Evans. After I agreed to read and review this book and it showed up, I got kind of worried. It has all the look of a 'chick lit' book. And to a large extent it is. This is the story of Jade and how her life comes crashing in right before her wedding. As the story unfolds we learn both about Jade and her mother and the various choices that they made and how they have affected their life since then. We see how worried Jade is that her past is 'catching up with her' and will ruin her perfect present with Max, her fiancée. What we find out is that Max isn't really perfect either and that everyone has sides to them that aren't always the prettiest. My thoughts on this book are first off, this is a really great read. 'chick lit' or not, I really enjoyed this story. The realistic dialogue was especially refreshing. The way that the story is revealed a little at a time from both Jade and Beryl (the mother) is also a nice touch But most of all I really liked how this story examined how we all have things in our lives that we wish others wouldn't know about. And that we will never get past or over them until we face them head-on and rather then blame others and circumstances realize our own responsibility. This being a first novel, I am hopeful that there will be others from Sara Evans.
Jade is about to get married but there's a sticking point--she has to decide whether to invite her mother to the wedding. She's been estranged from her mother (Beryl) for years, and she isn't sure whether it's worth the drama to have her there. Beryl used to be a hippie and spent much of her three kids' childhoods on the road with one musician boyfriend (or husband) or another. You should know that this is Christian fiction, although that wasn't too noticeable until the end. So if that would bug you, this probably isn't a book you'd enjoy. (Although you'd probably like it until the end.) I liked the pacing of the book a great deal. The details of Jade and Beryl's relationship was revealed in a timely fashion and there was a decent twist that kept changing everything.
Loved the spiritual content. What a blessing and a joy this turned out to be.
It was pretty good. I liked the story until it got all spiritual at the end. Those parts were pretty hokey to me. Think they could've done a better job with the wrap up.
I am just becoming an avid reader and I really loved this book. So heart felt. I like the Iowa connection as I am from Iowa myself. Great story line . Can't wait to finish the other 2 books and see how the story plays out.
I thought The Sweet By and By was an excellent story of redemption and learning to let go of your past and your fears to deal with the future. The Lord was certainly guiding Jade in this book. Look forward to reading the other two.
I was just looking around the book store one day and just so happened to come across this book. I bought it impulsively. Had no idea that this book would become one of my favorites. I would recomend this read to everyone. It is a heart warming book about healing and love. Its not a fake love. The characters really have to work to make their relationship work. It is never good to keep secrets from the ones you love. Definetly read this book and the other two also.
I reccomend this to all! I love it!
I'm not a fan of singer or actors turn fictional authors but I will say this book surprised. It was one of those books where I started to read it and had to keep reading. I kept thinking this is what is going to happen and I was wrong. My only concern is that parts of it didn't seem to give too much closure and the character's seemed to forgive without just a look. It is a good book and I can't remember if it was a Free Friday and Daily Find book but it was well worth the time I spent reading it.
I cannot express how much I love this series by Sara Evan & Rachel Hauck!!! I have recommended it to all my friends. I read all three in a week. I was so sad when I was finished. You will be so attached to the characters. Each book in the series gets better and better.
I was shocked to see that Sara Evans wrote a book and was so surprised to see that she truly wrote a great book. Such a great story with christian values and I hope to read the other books written by her. I love Sara Evans music and now I am a fan of her writing!
Wasn't sure what to expect from a country singer, but thoroughly enjoyed the story. Look forward to reading the next book in the series.
This was a nice story and an easy read, but not really terrific.
Great story and an easy read!