Not an arranged marriage to a man she's never met. Hope scorns such old-fashioned ideas, until she meets the man she once refused as her groom. Soon she's falling for the rugged yet caring Irishman.
Ian McGrae's determined to make a success of his new Florida homesteadnot grapple with the woman who rejected him. But when the ownership of his land is disputed, Hope works by his side to uncover the threat. As Ian gets to know Hope, he finds she's his perfect match. And if they can forgive and forget the past, they just might have a future together.
About the Author
Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning and best-selling author. She is the founder of American Christian Fiction Writers Inc., and served as the group's first president for two years and two years on the Advisory Board. She makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, where her husband of 39 years serves as pastor of Friendship Bible Church. Together they are blessed with three children, 2 living and 1 in glory, and eight grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
St. Augustine, Florida, 1871
Ian finished his breakfast at the Seaside Inn and pushed his plate away. He had a full day ahead of him, looking for land to raise his sheep on.
He had come to St. Augustine to break a betrothal arranged when he was five years old to fulfill an obligation his parents owed the girl's parents. He shook his head. All the worrying and praying he'd done had been for naught. His betrothed had sent him a letter breaking things off. It had arrived the day before he left for America. It made it easier not to have to explain his own reasons for wanting to break off the marriage, but it still left a bitter taste in his mouth. Would he still have left Ireland and come to America if he hadn't made all the arrangements before the letter arrived?
The innkeeper's wife came over to clear the table. "Ye made a fine breakfast again, Mrs. Arman, thank ye."
"You're welcome, Mr. McGrae," she replied with a smile, and headed off to the kitchen.
Ian had been staying at the Seaside Inn since his arrival in St. Augustine, three days now. He looked around in hopes of seeing the beautiful redhead who worked there. He'd noticed her when he'd checked in but hadn't seen her since. He wondered who she was.
He stood, deep in thought, turned toward the front door and slammed into the very woman who had so recently occupied his thoughts. "Forgive me, miss!"
She reeled back on her heels. Ian reached out and caught the poor woman. "I'm so sorry. I must have hit ye harder than I thought." Still holding the young lady up to keep her steady on her feet, he called, "Mrs. Arman?"
"What's the matter, Mr. Hope, are you all right?"
"Hope?" Ian froze. Their gazes met, the shock in her eyes matching his own. "Hope Lang?"
Ian couldn't believe his ears or his eyes. Teetering in his embrace was the woman he'd been pledged to.
Her legs buckled. He scooped her in his arms and carried her to a chair. "I walked into her," he explained apologetically. "I must have hit her hard." He steadied her in the chair, concerned about her dazed look.
"You can let go of me now, Mr. McGrae."
Ian quickly removed his hands and stepped away from the two ladies. "Excuse me."
He bolted out of the inn. He didn't need to be around Hope Lang. He didn't need to be reminded of how this woman had been the thorn in his flesh for years. This was not how he had intended to meet the woman he'd been told since he was five years old he was going to marry; the woman who had sent a letter relieving him from his obligation. And yet there she was, a chambermaid, working at the very inn where he was staying.
Not to mention, she was beautiful.
He shook his head, confused by his own emotions. It wasn't like he hadn't wanted to be free from this burden his parents had put on him. He didn't want to be told who to marry, but he had saved enough to break the arrangement and pay off the debt. When she had written to break off their betrothal he had been relieved. But now he wasn't sure what he was feeling.
Frustrated with himself, Ian stomped to the barn and retrieved his border collies. "Come," he snapped. Tara came, tail between her legs. She was the older of the two, her markings black and white with a patch over her left eye. Conall, two years younger, skulked warily behind her. His markings were brown and white with a patch over his right eye.
He bent down on one knee. "I'm sorry." The dogs nuzzled into his chest as he petted and reassured them. They were his only connection to home, to the life he'd left behind.
Except, in a strange way, for Hope. How could he be attracted to the woman he was no longer betrothed to? And how could they have met this way?
"Mr. McGrae," Richard Arman called out, cutting into Ian's thoughts. "Forgive me for intruding."
"Not at all," Ian responded, putting a polite smile on his face for the innkeeper. It would do little good to share his frustration. "What can I do for ye?"
"I'm uncertain as to what happened inside. Did you and Miss Lang have a disagreement?"
"Indeed no. Forgive me, I was simply startled by meeting Miss Lang in such a manner." Ian sighed. He stood up and scanned Richard Arman's face, then decided to change the subject. There was no need to inform others about his personal affairs. If Miss Lang wanted to tell her side of the story she was free to do so, but he would keep his own counsel. "The bank should have me funds today. I'll be settling me account."
"You are welcome to stay as long as you wish." Richard extended his hand.
Ian grasped the man's hand, amazed again that a man who worked behind a desk would have such strong and rugged hands. "Thank ye, I appreciate it. I am looking at another piece of land today."
"God's blessings on you." Richard walked back toward the inn.
"Conall, Tara, come."
The collies obediently kept pace as Ian walked down the street and headed toward the heart of St. Augustine. It was an interesting little city with its odd shops and Spanish architecture. By the time he reached the bank, the stroll had calmed him down. After his business at the bank was done, he headed out to see a piece of land for sale that might meet his needs.
While this one had more acreage, he wasn't as thrilled with the land as he had been with William Sanders's property, which he'd seen the day before. Sanders's lot seemed a much better fit for his needsit had a river that ran along a third of the southern border, and it was only five miles from the city limits.
But did he even want to stay in the area? Would seeing Hope Lang ignite the anger he still felt about the betrothal? Anger he himself didn't entirely understand?
He headed toward the Sanders homestead, stopping only long enough to feed Conall and Tara. He knocked on the front door.
Mrs. Sanders greeted him. "Mr. McGrae, come on in."
"Thank ye." He turned to the dogs. "Stay," he instructed.
"Are these your sheepdogs?" Mrs. Sanders asked. She was a round woman with short-cropped white hair and a twinkle in her eye that said she enjoyed life.
"Yes. Conall is two, Tara is four."
"They're handsome critters. Are they house-trained?"
"Then come on in, Conall and Tara." The dogs sat in place. Mrs. Sanders gave Ian a questioning look. "They only respond to me command."
"Oh, my gracious."
Ian gave a flick of his wrist and the dogs pranced into the house, not departing from his side.
"I was fixing myself some iced tea. May I fetch you some?" Mrs. Sanders led him to the rear of the house, into the kitchen.
"That'd be most kind of ye, thank ye. Is Mr. Sanders home?"
"Ring that triangle and he'll be here shortly."
A steel triangle and rod hung from a string outside the back door. Ian did as instructed.
He turned and found Mrs. Sanders chipping some ice off a block. "Where do ye get ice down here? I thought temperatures in Florida never hit freezing."
"Well, that's not exactly true. From time to time it gets cold enough to freeze. But ice is shipped down here from the north and stored."
Ian nodded. "One of the many things I will need to learn if I settle in Florida."
"That you will, son. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable."
She poured some water in a bowl and set it on the floor for the dogs. Ian gestured and both dogs drank.
"Mable, what's the trouble?" William Sanders came hurrying in with a hint of panic in his voice.
"No trouble at all, dear. Mr. McGrae has come to pay us another visit."
William Sanders smiled as relief washed over his face. Mr. Sanders had told Ian about her health concerns, and Ian thought that was why the old man wanted to sell his land.
Ian's mind drifted back to the frantic face of Hope Lang, and the way she had felt when he had picked her up in his arms. Instinctively he had wanted to protect her. But he had to stop thinking about Miss Lang. They were no longer betrothed.
"What can I do for you, Mr. McGrae?"
"I was wondering if Conall, Tara and I could walk the property. The dogs will give me a sense of the type of critters that I'll find."
"Of course. But I can tell you. We have the occasional wolf, bobcat, panther, coyote and sometimes even a Florida brown bear."
Ian sat back, surprised. "We don't have many predators in Ireland."
"Most of the land is fenced off with split rail and barbed wire. But as you saw, there are a few sections where you'd need to do some repair work."
"Yes, it would take some time to make the land ready for the sheep. I'll have to remove all the barbed wire and put in sheep fencing."
"Which brings me to a conversation I was having with Mable last night. We can lower the price a bit since we'll be keeping the house. Or we could lease the property to you for a year or two. Then you can purchase the land if you're happy with the place. And if not, you can simply move on."
Ian rubbed the stubble on his chin. "I shall prefer to purchase, and the lower price for not including the house and the land around it would be helpful, thank ye."
William and Ian discussed the details of the purchase and put some notes down on paper for the lawyer who would write out the agreement. Ian stood and offered his hand. "A gentleman's agreement then?" Ian couldn't believe he'd made the decision so quickly but the land felt right, and he would enjoy having the Sanderses as neighbors.
William gave Ian's hand a hearty shake. "Deal."
Mable smiled. "Wonderful. Will you be bringing a bride?" Mable asked.
Ian's mouth went dry. "If the Good Lord blesses, then perhaps one day."
"I'll be praying for you," Mable offered.
William slapped him on the back. "As will I. There isn't anything better than to have a good woman working at your side."
What else could he say? He certainly didn't want to tell the world about Hope Lang and his broken betrothal. His feelings were still a jumble. He'd been planning to break it off himself, and then she'd done it, which should have come as a relief, but now that he'd laid eyes on her, held her in his arms, something in him had shifted.
Why did he feel so rejected?
Somehow, Hope managed to get through her chores at the inn after her encounter with Ian McGrae. She'd been helping Grace Arman at the Seaside Inn as a favor to her best friend. Grace had not been feeling well and suspected she might be pregnant.
If only she hadn't lost her job with Hamilton Scott. It wasn't the perfect place to work but it was a good place to start in the business community. Even at a secretary level she was still learning about the inner workings of a business. However, the loss did allow her to help Grace out.
While working at the inn wasn't the type of work Hope preferred, she liked being useful. She had always prided herself on her ability to make good, sound decisions, which was why she'd done so well working for Hamilton Scott and his associates. Until he found fault with her work. Which still didn't make sense to her even these many days later.
Of course, of all the hotels in St. Augustine, Ian McGrae had chosen to stay at the Seaside Inn. Hope had learned who he was the previous day and was planning to introduce herself and try to explain why she'd sent the letter.
With her responsibilities done for the day, she ran home, debating her next step. She felt it was still her duty to speak with Mr. McGrae and explain to him why she wrote the letter to break off their betrothal. But now she was wondering whether he'd even gotten the letter. If he had, why would he be here? If he hadn't, she would have to break it off face-to-face. Oh, could this get worse?
Hope's hands started to shake. Last night she had confessed to her parents that she'd sent the letter. They were not pleased but said they would not interfere with her decision.
Hope nibbled the inside of her cheek. She'd been hoping to receive a letter from Ian stating that he, too, wanted to end the betrothal. Instead he'd come to America.
Her mother walked into the kitchen. "Hope, may I have a word with ye?"
"Sit down." Her mother patted the seat of a chair next to the island in the center of the kitchen. Hope sat down and clasped her hands together. "Ye father and I would like you to know a bit more about why we accepted the betrothal of the McGraes with their son, Ian. We were betrothed in a similar fashion." Hope sat up straight.
"Ye father and I never gave it much thought because it was our way. But we have decided you'll marry whomever your heart, the Good Lord and parents approve of. Ye are an American. We can no longer live in the old ways. At the time, your father and Mr. McGrae thought it best, and Mr. McGrae owed your father in a way that money or words could never satisfy. But after our discussion your father and I have agreed that no such arrangement should have been set so long ago."
Hope glanced down at her lap then back up to her mother, who had the same green eyes she'd inherited. "Thank you, Mum. I'm going to speak with Mr. McGrae about why I sent the letter. I feel badly that he came all the way to America to marry me "
"Leave it in the Good Lord's hands, darlin'." Her mother gave her a light embrace and went to the backyard to tend to her garden. For so long she'd been building up her resentment toward her parents for making this betrothal arrangement and now they were loving, forgiving and supporting her. How could I have been so wrong for so long?
She shook off her thoughts and remembered the man she'd hurt. Grace had shared that Mr. McGrae hadn't had American currency to purchase meals, and she suspected that he was getting by with only his breakfast for the day, so Hope had decided to pack him a sandwich. Making him dinner was the least she could do to show Christian charity toward him. She'd offended him. She couldn't say that she'd broken his heart, since he didn't know her. No, it was a matter of honora commitment to their parents that she'd broken.
She loaded the carriage with the basket of food and headed back to the Seaside Inn.
Ian walked into the backyard and headed for the barn as the sun melted in the west. She watched from the back porch as he looked after his dogs, noting his loving touch upon their heads as he settled them down for the night.
He stood about six inches taller than her own five foot two. He had a sleek, muscular build with brown hair and a square chin, with a short, well-trimmed beard. Earlier she'd noticed how blue his eyes were.
"Mr. McGrae, may I have a word with you?"
Ian turned, and his expression hardened. "What would ye like to say, Miss Lang?"
"I'm sorry you came to America. I had hoped you'd received a letter from me " Hope trailed off uncomfortably.
Ian inhaled deeply and let the air out slowly, then simply nodded. Gone was the wondrous smile she'd seen on his face the previous day, before he knew who she was. "I did."
Hope stiffened, stunned. Then why did you come? She gathered her resolve and continued. "I would like to explain why I wrote the letter. Actually, I really would prefer not to explain but I feel you are owed an explanation." Hope gave him the best smile she could muster and pointed to her basket. "I brought you something to eat. Grace said you haven't had American money and have been only eating breakfast, so " She let her words trail off.
He looked down at the basket. "Me funds have been transferred into the bank now. Thank ye for the kind offer but I'm fine."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A sweet romance with Ireland threaded through the read.
Christian values of prayer, forgiveness, love, and marriage.
Wish this book hadn't ended!!!!!!!