Saturday Excerpt: Mornings on Main by Jodi Thomas

Welcome to the weekend! It’s time to celebrate with a book all about relationships, friends and family. Mornings on Main hits shelves on April 10, but you can get an early look at this new book right here!

About Mornings on Main:

From the beloved and bestselling author of the Ransom Canyon and Harmony, Texas series comes a powerful, heartwarming story about generations of family and the ironclad bonds they forge

When Jillian James lands in the small town Texas community of Laurel Springs, she’s definitely not planning to stay—except to find a few clues about the father who abandoned her and destroyed her faith in family.

Connor Larady is a single dad, and the only one caring for his grandmother, Eugenia, who has Alzheimer’s. And now he has to close Eugenia’s quilt shop. When Connor meets down-on-her-luck Jillian, he’s out of options. Can he trust the newcomer to do right by his grandmother’s legacy?

Jillian is done with relationships. But as she grows closer to Connor and Eugenia, she must consider giving up her nomadic life for a future with those who need her.

An inspiring family saga that asks us to consider what love and chosen family really mean. 

Harlequin | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | iBooks | Goodreads

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Laurel Springs, Texas, had the warm feel of a Southern town long forgotten by progress. A hundred years ago the main street had been built wide enough to turn a wagon around. Today, the only sign of change was marked at every intersection by swinging stoplights. They clanked in the wind like broken clocks beating out time in red and green.

A trickle of day visitors f lowed down the uneven sidewalks in front of quaint little shops with catchy names like A Stitch in Time, Hidden Treasures and Mamma Bee’s Pastries. Occasional sides of buildings and entrances to alleyways were painted with murals of cattle drives and oil fields, as if anyone needed reminding what built this state.

Jillian James drove through the heart of town, fighting back tears. This wasn’t where she wanted to be. It was impossible to remain invisible in a small town. Strangers would be noticed. People would ask questions. Welcome her with smiles or glare at her like no one ever did in large cities.

She dropped her chin, letting her dark, straight hair curtain her face as she waited for the light to change.

Look at the bright side, she almost said out loud. Time slowed in a place like this, and she had to catch her breath. She had to plan her next move. A small town. A slower pace would give her time to think.

She’d been a traveler, a wanderer for as long as she could remember, and like it or not, this town offered her a place to rest and regroup.

In a strange way, this dot on the map reminded her of Budapest, Hungary. But a creek ran through the center of this town, not the Danube river. No hauntingly beautiful Chain Bridge joined the split cities as it did in Buda and Pest, but she sensed the beat of two separate towns between the city limit signs.

Two worlds divided by a ribbon of water.

One side of town was dark and industrial, with warehouses and grain elevators that blocked the sunset to the west. The other side was postcard cute, with gingerbread trim on brightly painted cottages and the Texas flag hanging from nineteenth-century streetlamps.

Here she was, stopped at a tolling light in the middle of town. Not belonging to either side. Not belonging any- where. At first, her traveling had been an adventure she thought she was born for, but lately it felt like drifting. Just wandering with no more direction than the leaves dancing along the gutters.

Sniffing, she managed a smile, remembering what her father used to tell her every time they packed. If you want to see the world, Jillie, you’ve got to rip off the rearview mirror and never look back.

Somehow, she doubted he’d been talking about Laurel Springs, Texas, when he’d said the world. She’d grown up moving with him. Alaska in the summers, the oil rigs off the coast of Texas in winters. Norway when she was eight. Australia at ten. Washington State when she reached her teens, and a dozen other places. Never the same. Never staying long enough to grow roots.

When she was eighteen, he’d left her at a dorm on a small college campus in Oklahoma and disappeared with- out a trace. She’d made it two semesters before her money ran out. She hadn’t bothered to look for him. Her father had spent her formative years teaching her how to live without leaving a footprint to follow.

Travel light, he’d once said. Pack nothing from the past, not even memories. And, finally, he’d left without packing her along. Deep down she’d known he would leave someday. Whenever he talked of her as grown, he never mentioned being in the picture.

Only now, a dozen years later, she longed for an anchor. One relative. One harbor. One place where she felt she might belong for a while.

The light changed. Jillian scrubbed her face with a napkin from McDonald’s, where she’d had lunch, and followed a sign advertising the town’s only historic bed-and-breakfast.

Papa’s rule: Never stay at a cheap motel. It marks you as a drifter.

A small bed-and-breakfast was cheaper if you considered the one meal a day could stretch into two if you picked up fruit on the way out, and the friendly staff usually offered a wealth of information. Innkeepers almost made Jillian feel like she had a friend in town.

She parked her car in one of the four Special Guest of Inn reserved spots.

When she climbed the steps of what looked like a miniature Tara mansion from Gone With the Wind, a tiny woman, in her late fifties, rushed out with a welcoming smile. Her chocolate-colored apron was neatly embroidered and read JOIN THE DARK SIDE. We have chocolate chips in our cookies.

“You must be Jillian James. I’m Mrs. Kelly, the innkeeper, but the locals call me Mrs. K. I’ve got your room all ready, dear. Did you have a nice drive? The internet didn’t give us a home address on you so I don’t know how long your journey was, but I hope it wasn’t too far. Don’t you just love our town?”

Papa’s rule: Never give out too much information. It’ll trip you up.

“I had a great drive and I love your beautiful home. You’ll have to tell me a bit of the history of this place.” Jillian smiled, thinking of one of her own rules. Never try to out-talk a talker.

“Of course, dear. This house is old enough to have not only a history, but a ghost, as well, though he’s quite shy.” The innkeeper handed her the key, then they climbed all the way up to Jillian’s room on the third floor. “I’ll tell you about Willie Flancher over coffee some cloudy morning. It’s the only time to talk about ghosts, you know. Folks in town talk about the house Flancher’s Folly because he built it for his fifth wife and died on their wedding night.”

Jillian didn’t care about ghost stories. All she wanted was a quiet, clean place to stay for a while. Third floor, back of the house. Usually least expensive and quietest.

Once Jillian circled the tiny room, she gave an admiring smile. This room would be perfect. Just what she needed.

The chubby innkeeper, who was very spry for her fifties, moved to the door and made her official announcement, “Breakfast at eight, if that’s all right. Soft drinks in the small fridge on the landing, and I put cookies out in the parlor after sunset for those who like a late snack.”

“Thank you.” Jillian pulled off her coat. “I think I’ll rest before I explore the town.”

“You do that, dear. There are maps in the foyer but you’re only a half block from Main, so you can park your car around back and walk if you like.” Mrs. Kelly’s head rocked back and forth as if ticking off an invisible list of what she needed to say. “I’ll see you in the morning. You’re the only one booked up here tonight. Both my other guests are on the first f loor. No one wants to climb two flights of stairs these days.”

“I don’t mind.” Setting her suitcase and backpack down, Jillian grinned when she spotted the wide window. “It’s worth the climb for the view alone.”

Mrs. Kelly smiled as she backed out of the room. “I agree.” When the lock clicked, Jillian pulled out her ledger and curled up in a window seat that had three times more pillows than it needed. On a blank page she wrote the date and “Day 1” beside it, along with the cost of the night’s lodging:

“Winter rate: sixty-three dollars.”

Papa’s rule: Always keep count or you might lose track of how long you stay and forget to leave.

She had to be very careful. Thanks to car trouble a month ago and two crummy bosses in a row, she was less than a thousand dollars away from having to sleep in her car—or worse, a shelter. In her ten years on the road, she’d ended up broke twice before. Once in California when someone had stolen her purse, and again in New York City when she’d been in a wreck. None of her belongings had made it to the hospital with her. Both times she’d lost not only her money, but also her identification.

Papa’s rule: Always keep copies of vital papers somewhere safe.

Birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, social security card.

In New York, without money and looking like she’d been in a street fight, it had taken her three months to collect enough cash to buy a bus ticket to Oklahoma City. There, she’d found her stash, money, ID and the letter, still un-opened, that she’d left for her father just in case he ever used the secret hiding place beneath a shelf in the basement of the downtown library. Both times she’d come back to the hiding place, her stash was still there and the letter was unopened.

 

 

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt! If you’d like to add more romance to your life, don’t miss the Reem Acra fashion show in during New York Fashion Week on April 12…Harlequin (and free books!) will be there.

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