Last month I showed you my new gorgeous cover for HAPPY IS THE BRIDE. This month I’m all in a stew about the sort of cover to update LONG WAY HOME.
I like the sweet expression on the face of the soldier (from a group of re-enactors), but this book is just not selling well. I think it needs a pizzazzy new cover to attract readers’ attention, but I can’t figure out what would be more appropriate and eyecatching. So—I’m turning to you, readers, to help me choose.
By the way, this is the only work I’ve written that isn’t set in Texas. The reason for that is that five friends and I did an anthology set in the Civil War. A friend had already spoken for Texas, so I chose Georgia, which is where my ancestors lived at the time of the War. But back to asking for your help . . .
Keep in mind LONG WAY HOME is a sweet romance with a bit of adventure, a kidnapping, and a gallant rescue set in Northwest Georgia at the end of the Civil War. A battlefield scene is probably the wrong way to go for a romance, right? I’ve looked for a photo of a Southern belle with blonde hair but with no success. The heroine lives in a Confederate area to which the hero Union soldier is assigned in order to capture a local man turned marauder—think Quantrell on a small scale but just as vicious. Years ago, the hero and heroine were sweethearts, but the hero had to move away. He didn’t write, and this is his first trip back. Needless to say, the heroine is a bit snappish toward him.
Here’s the LONG WAY HOME blurb to assist you:
Parmelia Bailey has promised to keep her family safe until the men in her family return from War. That includes bringing her brother’s fiancée, Sarah Hardeman, and Sarah’s mother and sisters to stay at her grandmother’s home in town. Maybe she shouldn’t have stolen back her horses from the Yankees, but she could think of no other way to rescue the Hardeman women.
Darrick McDonald waited four years to return to Witherspoon, Georgia and Parmelia. Who would have dreamed war would bring him back? He has to protect Parmelia from a renegade who’s vowed to make her sorry she turned down his marriage proposal. Darrick prays he isn’t too late.
Here’s an excerpt from LONG WAY HOME if that interests you:
Set up: Parmelia borrowed/stole back two of her family's horses from the Yankee corral in order to rescue her older brother's fianceé, Sarah Hardeman, Sarah's mother, and sisters from the Hardeman farm before fighting overtakes their home. With her help, Parmelia and the Hardeman women escape in the nick of time. She has managed to talk her way through a blockade and arrive at her grandparents house in town.
At last, she turned into her grandparents’ drive and pulled around to the back. With a huge sigh, she stopped at the carriage house. Surely a week had passed since she caught her horses last night. All she wanted now was to crawl in bed and sleep for days, pretend the war never happened. She couldn’t relax yet, not until the horses were back with those Yankee scoundrels.”
“Sarah, let’s see your mother and sisters inside. After that, Rob and I will deal with the chickens and cow.” Parmelia’s hands shook as she climbed out of the buggy. Fatigue, relief, and fear turned her limbs to jam.
She walked Sarah and her family to the back door where Grammy and Mama took over.
Parmelia returned to the carriage house. “Rob, help me unhitch the horses and put their bridles on so I can take them back.”
“Why don’t I do that.” Darrick McDonald stepped from the shadows. He appeared calm, until she looked at his face.
Parmelia was surprised sparks didn’t shoot from his dark eyes and ignite the entire carriage house. She clutched her throat, hoping a way out of this predicament would come to her. How had he known to come here, to wait for her?
“Darrick, you—you gave me a fright.”
“Did I? Perhaps you have a guilty conscience.” He freed one of the horses.
“When did you come back?” She fought for an idea, but none came to her.
“Late yesterday.” He walked back and forth beside Lady. “Funny thing, you having two horses after the Army confiscated all the livestock in town. Another coincidence, two Army horses went missing overnight.”
He stopped and gave her a piercing look.
She gave up with a sigh. “I can explain.”
“I’m listening.” His eyes were still dark with anger.
“My brother’s fiancée. You remember Sarah Hardeman? I had to bring her and her family to town. I—I had no way to do that without a team.”
Rob added, “These are our horses anyway. You low down, yellow-bellied Yankees stole them from us.”
Oh, Lord. Leave it to her brother to make things worse.
“Hush, Rob. Give me the bridles. Put the cow in the barn then come help me with these chickens.”
He pouted and handed over the tack. “Oh, all right. I never get to hear anything good.” Rob untied the cow and stomped toward the barn.
“So, you’re a Yankee officer now.”
“Captain.” Darrick crossed his arms. “I’m waiting for an explanation, Parmelia.”
Her temper conquered her good sense, and she stepped toward him. “You’ve got your nerve, coming here wearing that uniform, you...you traitor.”
He stepped forward until they were almost touching. “Call me what you will, but you’re the one who stole two horses in a time of war.”
She refused to retreat. “How can you accuse me of stealing, when you Yankees have taken over our town?”
“Because you did steal them, and you weren’t even clever about it. I followed their tracks to your grandparents’ home. You do realize that with a less sympathetic Colonel, they could lose their home?”
Dear heaven, she hadn’t considered her grandparents if she were caught.
“No!” She took a step backward. “I was going to return them. Rob’s right, they are ours. They know me, so they were eager to come to me.”
He pulled a small, withered apple from his pocket.
Rats, she must have dropped it, one of the few from their store of fruit in the cellar.
Darrick held the apple in front of her nose. “Looks to me as if you coaxed them away.”
She sighed, “Maybe I did, but it was only to use them for a little while. Sarah and her family were in great peril.”
He tossed the apple from one hand to the other, but stared at her face. “Are you crazy? You could have been killed.”
She grabbed the apple from him. “Sarah, her mother, and sisters could have been murdered and their home burned. We barely got away in time as it is.”
“If you had bothered to consult the Colonel, he would have sent soldiers for them. As it turns out, I would have taken my men and gone.”
“Are you crazy? You could have been killed.”
Shocked at the concern in her voice and in her heart, she continued, “Um, I mean, they might not have recognized you and could have shot you. Or, that man that tried to take my horse could have killed you.”
Oh, no, she hadn’t meant to tell that last part.
He grew angrier and grabbed her arms. “What do you mean?
She tried to twist away. “Nothing.”
“Parmelia Bailey, who tried to take your horse?” He turned her to face him.
Refusing to meet his gaze, she stammered, “There, um, there was a man in the woods, a ways north of the Mitchell’s house. He…um, he jumped at me and tried to take Beauty, but Rob and I got away.”
“You are the stubbornest, orneriest woman I’ve ever known. Don’t you realize what could have happened to you?”
“It crossed my mind,” she snapped and raised her face.
“If you were mine, I’d, I’d...”
“Yours? You moved away and left me, remember? And now you’re a Yankee officer.” Lord, she shouldn’t have reminded him she’d loved him. Worse, she still loved him.
She willed tears not to fall. Keep your anger up, don’t let him know how he hurt you.
“You know why I left Witherspoon. You know I had no choice.”
“There’s always a choice.” And she would have chosen to go with him, if only he’d asked, even if she had been only sixteen.
“Like you chose to steal these horses?”
She shrugged away from his grasp. “Steal? Soldiers stole them from us. Do you understand the term borrow? That’s what I did.”
“In times of war, the government has the power to confiscate items from civilians. Do you understand that?”
“Call it what you wish, it’s still stealing when you take what’s not yours and keep it.”
“Maybe we’re only borrowing your horses.”
She thought his mouth twitched to hide a smile. His humor only irked her more.
“Like you Yankees borrowed from the stores in town so we can’t even buy supplies—that is, if we had money. Which we don’t.”
He smiled. “I heard you had plenty of those Confederate dollars.”
“Oh, you...you Yankees make me so mad. Take my horses and leave.” She turned and stomped toward the house.
He called, “Aren’t you going to invite me in to say hello to the family? Maybe you could bake me an apple pie.”
She slammed the kitchen door and leaned against it. His laughter floated around her.
There it is in a nutshell, folks. Now here’s where you come in. What type book cover would guarantee you’d buy this book—keeping in mind it’s a SWEET romance? Help, please! Leave a comment or email me at caroline @ carolineclemmons (dot) com. I'll appreciate your constructive suggestions.
Thanks for stopping by!