Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cozy Christmas Reads: Carrie's story

Excerpt from Ch. 2 of "The Substitute Bride" by Carrie Fancett Pagels:

The queasiness in Louis’s gut had nothing to do with this train but everything to do with it rocking along toward their final destination—his nightmare. He drew in a deep, steadying breath, and touched the small Bible in the pocket of his best wool suit.

“Ever ride in the luxury car before, Mr. Penwell?” Andrew Ellison’s deep voice held conflicting notes of sympathy and humor.

Louis sat up straighter in his heavily-cushioned, plush seat. “No, sir.”

The railway investor sucked in deeply on his cigar and then exhaled slowly. “Well, get used to it. With this promotion you’ll always be able to choose the executive compartment from here on out.”

“It’s certainly well-appointed, Mr. Ellison.” On the far wall, a built-in buffed-to-a-gleam cherry wood cabinet housed a full array of crystal and silver pieces. Crystal brandy snifters and liquor bottles sparkled as they rocked slightly in the high-sided, mahogany tray atop the counter.

“Should be for the money we put into this.” The investor narrowed his eyes and leaned forward, spreading his legs apart. “But you don’t seem to be enjoying the trip.”

Louis raised a palm. “Oh, no, sir, I am grateful for the promotion.”

“Your face says otherwise.”

“How could I not appreciate the luxury of this room—crystal carafes and our own refreshment bar, comfortable sleeping quarters and seats?”

“Perhaps it’s just the motion of the train giving you that sallow look.” Mr. Ellison’s pipe smoke drifted in Louis’s direction, bringing to mind the scent of his father’s favorite tobacco, a rich Virginia blend harvested in the area where the prominent Penwell family’s plantations had dominated for centuries.

“I’m not accustomed to traveling much by rail, despite my job.” Louis grabbed onto the excuse.

“You’re no longer stuck in South Dakota, with so few women as possible brides. And with that raise you should be a married man in no time at all and a good influence in the community—as your supervisor figures.”

Or not. His mouth grew dry. He’d not heard back from Cora about his proposal, and now he was on his way there. What if she cashed the check and was even now headed out to South Dakota? Everything had happened so quickly, he’d not had time to do much other than pack his belongings. Cora was not an impulsive woman, from what he could discern in the letters. At least he’d gotten a telegram sent.

Ellison rose and crossed the chamber to the wall cabinet and poured himself a tumbler of whiskey. “You’ve been away from your hometown too long, I hear.”

Louis’s gut clenched. Hometown? He had no hometown. “The home where I lived in Salt River burned, sir.” Not that it mattered, since he’d lost their temporary home when his father had drowned in the river. They’d moved to Salt River after his mother died and Father had finally ceased gambling and taken a job at the mill. But then his father died, too. And just recently, Louis’s benefactor in Michigan, Mr. Welling, also passed away. Except for his friend, Cora, Louis truly was alone in the world.

Ellison sipped his drink, which sloshed in the snifter with the train’s steady movement. “I’m a Michigander myself, and Shepherd has become a bustling railroad center.”

“Haven’t been back since I left.” Louis’s gut began to roil, and the train’s movement shuddered through him.

“No?” The man quirked an eyebrow. “Mr. Stewart was sure you’d jump at the chance to return home.”

Louis stifled the urge to cringe. “Is that why my supervisor recommended me for the job in Michigan?”


Mr. Stewart had always seemed so fond of Louis. “I have to admit, it came as a surprise.” Louis would rather have remained where he was and had Cora join him. He prayed Cora had received his telegram.

If only his supervisor had realized that he was sending him back to the one place he’d vowed never to visit again, to never set foot in again, much less in which to reside. When Louis had learned Cora corresponded from the Poor House outside Shepherd, he’d vowed that one day he’d rescue her from the place. Why God? Perhaps this disruption was for Cora. But would the townsfolk accept her as a prominent railroad man’s wife or still see her as the woman from the Poor Farm? Would they recognize him and view him as the boy from the Poor House, with no family to claim him? A boy called Louis Smith because his father wouldn’t use his Penwell name.

Author bio: 
ECPA-bestselling author Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of a dozen Christian historical romances. 

Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn't "cure" her overactive imagination! 

A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia but grew up as a “Yooper.” 

Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time! 

Book blurb for The Substitute Bride

A Christmas Carol meets It’s A Wonderful Life

A letter for Sonja’s deceased friend arrives at the post office in Michigan, and with it a proposal. With her father threatening to kick her out of his home, Sonja impulsively responds, offering to travel west to be a substitute bride.

At the same time, Louis’s railroad promotion sends him back to Michigan, the one place on earth he’d hoped to never return—where Christmas past was full of pain. 

A mysterious stranger leaves him marked copies of “A Christmas Carol” as he considers romancing Sonja in Christmas present. Will Louis discern the best choices for Christmas future? Does it include the Poor House, again? Even so—will God bring healing and love to him this year?

Book Review for The Substitute Bride:

As always, Carrie Fancett Pagels pens another delightful, heartwarming story of faith, hope, and healing—intertwining A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life! With a compassionate hero and heroine—and endearing secondary characters who will cause your heart to melt despite the scenic white carpet of snow and frosted evergreen trees—the magical sights and scents of Christmas come alive in The Substitute Bride! Shepherd is a real town in Michigan where its townsfolk keep their history alive to this day, and Carrie Fancett Pagels gives us a sweet taste of what it may have been Christmas past.

*Book Review written by Diana Flowers

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  1. Sounds like a great story. Carrie writes wonderful historical fiction and I enjoy her writing. This book is filled with regrets, hurts of the past, and so much more....would love to read it to see what God does with Sonja and Louis!

    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate your kind words! I loved writing Sonja and Louis into existence!

  2. The Substitute Bride sounds fantastic! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Crissy! This story has themes from two of my favorite Christmas movies. I loved my characters, they are both flawed but so sweet. Hugs!

  3. Replies
    1. I would love for you to read the story, Melissa! Hugs and love!

  4. I have read the paperback and it’s a great story!

    1. Hi Brenda! thanks so much! I love Sonja and have a few things in common with her! Hugs!

  5. Merry Christmas, Carrie. I would like to read this book because it sounds intriguing.

    1. Merry Christmas! My next novella's synopsis is done and includes a character named after you, Susan! Blessings!

  6. oh my this sounds like a fun book with a little mystery included.
    quilting dash lady at Comcast dot net

    1. Hi Lori! This book has some twists and turns and the mystery lady in the story is in My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude's Mooring!

  7. I’d like to read this story of Carrie’s because I always love her stories! It looks very good!

    1. Thanks so much Paula! Sonja is a sweet heroine! Merry Christmas!

  8. Hi Carrie! It is still quite busy in my household before Christmas, but I went ahead and purchased your novel on my Kindle! Looking forward to your book and I liked your excerpt! :)


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