Rae Kirkland is a selfless and lovable teacher who’s ready to commence her summer break with a long-promised mother-daughter cruise. But leading up to the trip, she discovers an old letter in her mother’s shoebox which unearths the truth about her father, a man she’s never met.
After confronting her mother, Rae goes on the cruise alone, determined to uncover her father’s identity, but her makeshift investigation gets sidetracked when she ends up in Kelsy Stone’s stateroom.
Kelsy is handsome and charming and an other-worldly distraction, but once the cruise ends, he becomes more than a summer fling, and more shockingly, the compass that guides her to a place she never imagined finding her father.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My husband and I had taken a cruise when this story came to me. While sitting on the beach, I wondered, what if two people from the same town met each other on a cruise and fell for each other? What if it’s not just about romance? What if more than just their hometown connected them, even so far away? Moreover, I’ve always loved stories that involved secrets and unexpected plot twists that left me saying, “Wow. I never saw that coming.” So I wrote one of those stories.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I used personality tests, zodiac sign descriptions, and character interviews, but I mostly relied on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.
As Rozene padded down the steps to grab boxes we’d left by the door, I plopped down on the small settee to begin the next round of elimination and picked up a worn DSW shoebox with crinkled edges and very little weight to it.
When I opened it, there weren’t any shoes. Just old paper photo albums, like the kind you get from the photo center at Walmart.
In the first photo packet I opened, there were pictures of Rozene, Shaunty, and me. Spring 2005. Our first time traveling to the beach in Destin. In this picture, Rozene’s hair stretched to her waist, long and thick, natural before going natural became a trend. She looked just the same, only now she had a frown line carved between her eyebrows from the look she made when she was in deep thought about something.
Based on the picture, Shaunty had finally grown into her ears.
But me, little had changed, except for my weight. I was a toothpick in this picture with piles of dark curls spilling over my shoulders and an odd-shaped birthmark on my collar bone.
I studied the picture some more.
We all stood next to each other, smiling as the wind scooped our hair to the side. _Fun times_, I thought.
Sliding the photos back into the tattered pouch, I lifted other photo albums to peek at the dozen pieces of notebook paper folded up into pocket-sized squares at the bottom of the shoebox.
Notes—notes Rozene and her classmates had written back and forth to each other in high school, evident from all the Class of ‘91’s scribed inside miniature pink or purple ink hearts. Some notes gross and clearly nothing I’d ever want to lay my eyes on again, and some heartfelt and authentic, reminding me she hadn’t always been a mom, but at some point in her life, she was just a naive teenager too.
I picked up another note, this one tucked away into a blank, oxidized envelope. For a second, I glanced at the doorway to Rozene’s closet. _Maybe I should stop here._ But curiosity nudged me to slide the letter out of the envelope.
Neat handwriting scribed at the top-right corner of the page: August 17, 1990. Much neater and more serious than the other notes.
Past the date and the salutation, I continued reading until I reached the words that had my heart knocking so hard I could feel it in my chest:
_I’m so sorry about what has happened between us, and I know what I said before, but please don’t give up our baby. I want to make this work. I never would have asked you to do it if my parents hadn’t threatened to take everything away from me._
The wooden flooring in the hallway croaked.
I scurried to slip the letter in my purse, along with as many photo albums as I could and shoved that shoebox behind one of the clear plastic drawers in her closet.
“Hey,” Rozene said, her feet sweeping across the thick carpeting in her bedroom. “Can you come help me set up these boxes?”
I closed my eyes and swallowed hard, willing myself to remain calm, because what I’d just read in that letter had me simmering with equal parts of shock and anger. “Yeah, I’ll be right there. Just looking through a few more shoe boxes,” I said, heart swelling in my chest.
_Don’t say anything right now_, I told myself. So I breathed in and exhaled quietly and suppressed my emotions until I got home.
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