Heart-strong by Bonnie McCune
Are you headstrong or heart-strong? Just in time for Valentine’s Day, let this new Prism Book Group release bring a smile to your face, and warmth to your heart.
Headstrong. Rachel Kinsey fits the description perfectly. The divorced soccer mom may be ditzy and as sympathetic to losers as a charity, but she knows what she wants. A man completely different from her unreliable ex-husband and the outrageous characters she’s usually doomed to attract.
Enter Jim Landers, the ideal candidate. An accidental encounter introduces her to the tall, dark attorney who loves soccer and kids. The only problem? He’s not prepared for a ready-made family and a woman as comfortable as a beloved sweater rather than a beauty queen. A woman whose kindness, enthusiasm for life, and unguarded honesty may disturb a man who values order, perfection, and serenity. Jim turns to the flawless yet distant Donna as a substitute for Rachel.
She should show him how much he means to her, but rejection from an absent father and a capricious ex-husband may have ruined Rachel’s ability to connect to Jim Will she risk herself, her son and their future by revealing how much Jim means to her?
A touching, tender tale full of gentle humor, about thinking too much and feeling too little. Rachel must learn to be heart-strong in order to find her soul mate.
Rachel Kinsey always met men. Frequently unsuitable ones. Buskers whistling on pan pipes or thrumming drums. Winos old and young. Patched-up homeless with shopping carts asking for a handout. But also construction workers, computer techs, teachers. She related to all sorts, always inherently able to identify the human element in each.
Her universal appeal to them was a sympathetic outlook and an open, trusting demeanor, the result of her big hazel eyes fringed with curly lashes and her teddy-bear rounded cheeks. She may not have been the most gorgeous female in town, but she oozed empathy, compassion for their problems, understanding about their clashes with friends and family.
Their universal appeal to her was a human connection with the male of the species. Men of all shapes, sizes, and colors fascinated her. She considered them as nearly a separate class of creatures. Lacking brothers, cousins, uncles and assorted other men in her family, and robbed of the weak connection she’d had with an emotionally distant father when he divorced her mother, she made males the subject of informal but intense scrutiny. She knew this weakness for fellow mortals, even unreliable or penniless fellows, caused many of her personal problems.
But the failing, which had culminated in a defunct marriage with an infrequently employed handyman, also had brought her son Scott, now ten, so she loosed her curiosity unfettered.
Late one afternoon in August she announced to her sister, “I met a man today.”
“You’re always meeting men. Usually unsuitable ones,” her sister snapped back.
“I don’t know if he’s unsuitable, but he was tall and had the brownest eyes. I’d know him if I saw him again.” In her musings, she tilted the water pitcher somewhere in the vicinity of the glasses.
Sharon turned from the stove where she was wafting spoons of spaghetti sauce through clouds of steam and tomato splatterings. “Rachel,” she whooped and jumped across the kitchen to rescue the pitcher before the water spilled. “Was he another one of your weirdoes?” Sharon asked as she put the pitcher on the counter.
“Oh, no. None of those. He was just a regular man. Had a decent haircut. Even wore a sports jacket. Although he did look…a bit ragged around the cuffs. And his tie was off-center.”
“So a touch of vulnerability. Where did you meet him?”
“Outside Super Shop “
“What does he do?” asked Sharon.
“I don’t know.”
“Where does he live?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s his name?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. All I know is I want to see him again.”
“Well, you realize the chances of that.” Sharon moved the spaghetti pan to the sink and began draining it.
“Yes, slim and none,” Rachel recited Sharon’s standard philosophy.
* * * He could remember what she looked like. Just like the sketch he was attempting from memory. She’d made such an impression, he could almost see her sitting over there in the corner, her honey-colored hair matching the rays of the setting sun that filled the room, picking up the color of the potted mums and the warm tones of the oak dining table. Yes, not only was Jim a weekend artist, albeit a serious one, but also he was a romantic who’d absorbed his values in great gulps of popular culture—love songs, sentimental films, novels several decades past their initial popularity.
Jim hadn’t noticed her at first outside the grocery store. They both had been looking at the ad taped to the window listing weekly specials. Outrageous, he’d been thinking, apples for two ninety-nine a pound. “Criminal,” she’d said and turned toward him. “Criminal. Apples at two ninety-nine a pound!”
Then she’d looked up and up, and he’d looked down and down. She’d blushed. He’d flushed, never having felt such an instantaneous camaraderie with a woman before. He couldn’t, wouldn’t analyze the response, but figured her candor as well as her rounded figure and her understated attractiveness had something to do with it. He wished he’d thought fast enough to introduce himself, or ask her a question, anything to extend their time together. But he’d been too flustered.
He usually went for blondes, but this little lady had an indefinable spark, as if she enjoyed every moment of life and shared that delight with those around her. Probably she loved to cook—her appearance at Super Shop and her familiarity with prices of produce indicated as much. Jim was so bored with the frozen, canned, and dried selections he juggled for meals, he could puke. And eating out, even with friends, was costly and, he admitted to himself, sometimes boring with their constant conversations about sports or excessive drinking.
The woman he’d run into probably could discuss current events and art and had educated opinions on both. She certainly had decided judgments about costs of food. He wished he could get to know her better.
Jim thrummed the eraser end of the pencil on the counter. Maybe she was his dream woman. Too bad he couldn’t translate his feelings into an adequate work of art. He sighed, laid the pencil down, shoved the drawing in a stack of miscellaneous papers, picked up the can opener and went to work on the two cans of spaghetti destined for his dinner.