I am often asked of all the Marriage Lottery books, which one is my favorite. That's a difficult question to answer. Each of the Marriage Lottery books holds a special place in my heart and each one is unique.
Marriage Lottery #7 Shannon and Brian
When I wrote Marriage Lottery #7 Shannon and Brian I fell in love with the story. Here is an eighteen year-old girl trying to find a husband to help her care for her siblings and raise them right. What happens is a mix-up of epic proportions. She arrives in town right before the lottery and stays at the hotel with her four siblings. The hotel manager tells her to marry her nephew Gabriel Blake, the cutest brunette in town. It turns out that Mrs. Picket's definition of "cutest" varies widely from the rest of the town and most importantly it varies significantly from Shannon's definition of "cutest". So Shannon stands in front of Brian Bannon, the most aloof, surly, and arrogant brunette in town. He just happens to be the most handsome and the richest too. Once Brian discovers she has siblings and Shannon discovers she stood in front of the wrong man, all kinds of problems ensue. What makes this story charming are Bridget and Declan, her younger siblings.
One of my favorite scenes in Marriage Lottery #7 Shannon and Brian is the scene where they visit Brian's parents. Brian has already told Shannon and her siblings repeatedly that he's throwing her back and getting a divorce a next year. He's also told them not to call his parents their grandparents and not to get attached. They do anyway.
On Sunday, they went to his parents' house for dinner, against his better judgment.
While Shannon and his mother cooked and talked in the kitchen, the kids came with him onto the porch and sat with his father.
"What kind of chair is that?" Declan asked.
"It's a recliner," his father said.
"Can I sit in it?"
His father got up and sat next to Brian and Bridget on the sofa.
"You can sit here, Mr. Bannon," Sean said, getting up from one of the side chairs.
"Call me Henry," his father said. "I'm fine here. Sitting next to Bridget."
And just like that Bridget crawled onto his father's lap and kissed him on the cheek. "You smell good, like Brian," she said.
His father laughed softly. "Well Charlotte says I smell like apple spice."
"No, like old sweaters," Bridget said.
"And you like old sweaters?" his father said.
"Yes, they're my favorites. They feel like a hug," Bridget said.
His father nodded, then kissed her on the cheek.
Katie sat up straighter and stared across the street. "Who's that?"
Brian glanced across the street and sighed. "That's Kim Travers."
"No, the boy."
"That's Kim Travers."
She blinked and frowned at him. "That's a girl's name."
"Yes, it is."
"That whole family is a little odd," his father said. "Best not be looking for your lottery ticket in that direction."
"There has to be someone in this town my age. That's a boy. Without a girl's name," Katie said.
"You have five years to wait. What's the hurry?" Brian said.
"So I can get away from my sister's bossiness."
"You're lucky she's bossy. Or we'd be sitting up in Montblanc eating through the last of Ma and Pa's savings," Sean said.
"How'd your parents die?" Brian asked.
Katie got up and disappeared into the house.
"She does that," Declan said.
"She doesn't like talking about it," Bridget said. "Especially Ma."
"We don't have to talk about it," Brian said.
"Pa got pulled under the tractor," Sean said. "Closed casket."
"Ma died of pneumonia last winter," Bridget said. "She always smelled like Shannon."
"What does Shannon smell like?" Brian said.
Sean and Declan laughed.
You can see why this is one of my favorite scenes. Little children say the darned things and Bridget and Declan are no exceptions. If you love children and you love sweet Christian romance then this is the book for you.
Marriage Lottery #11 Briana and Colin
When I wrote Marriage Lottery #11 Briana and Colin it soon became my favorite too. That's because the protagonist Briana never intended on getting hitched. She's got a crush on the magistrate and he's the one who talks her into entering. She's also lonely. Most orphans are entered into the Brennanmen adoption program but Briana has a wicked uncle and aunt who have prevented her from being adopted. So she's like Cinderella in many respects with the evil uncle and aunt and the wicked cousin who is preoccupied with being wealthy. Briana on the other hand is looking for family and she gets that with her new husband. The problem is he doesn't want her and he plans on throwing her back. Colin is only twenty-one and to him Briana is "too serious". He's also jealous of the magistrate who takes a special interest in Briana, so he feels like a third wheel in a romantic triangle.
Marriage Lottery #11 Briana and Colin is one of the lottery books that describes a flu epidemic in this post-apocalyptic universe. Flu epidemics are responsible for wiping out most of the women so it's a huge deal. When Briana discovers that her new husband's family is suddenly in the middle of a flu epidemic she ties up her husband (so he won't chase her) and runs off to save his family. And she does. She also falls in love with three year-old Hank, a neighbor who becomes an orphan. This is one of the lottery books that really shows the power of love and the devastating effects of losing a loved one. It tears you apart and rips you wide open. You are never the same.
Briana dreamed that night as she slept in Colin's bed. He was there too, on the other side of Hank. She dreamed of her parents and their backyard where they'd sit and play checkers for hours. Then a horrible flu came and her parents passed away. A dark-haired old man with pasty white skin and a black suit came and took her away. He was her aunt and uncle's solicitor, an evil attorney who whisked children away to orphanages so their relatives wouldn't be burdened with them.
After that she lived in a cold brick building with more than a hundred other children. They came and left, adopted by families. But she always remained, the only child set apart, unadoptable because she already had a family who didn't want her.
She woke to the sound of someone knocking on the front door downstairs. There were men's voices and a woman's voice too. She had one clean dress, a beautiful cream-colored dress that she'd made herself. Years from now, if Hank remembered her at all, she wanted him to remember her pretty, so she dressed and braided her hair and made herself pretty for him. Then she carefully took him from the bed and carried him downstairs.
Sharon and Hank Dredgeworth were kind people. Hank remembered them and called them Grandma and Grandpa. He even went to them without a fuss.
Her arms felt empty as she sat there listening to them talk about the tragedy that had befallen their family. Martha was their only child. They'd come and seen the sign and had been heartbroken until they saw the sign that Briana had left with Hank's name. Then they knew.
Angus sat beside her with an arm casually draped across the sofa behind her. Every few words, he'd say something to try to make them feel better, but Briana knew there was nothing to be said. They would never feel better. They'd lost a daughter, someone they loved.
The conversation ebbed and finally reached a point where all Sharon could say was, "So many dead. So much death. How is this even possible?" And she repeated this over and over again until her husband Hank held her in his arms as she wept.
Little Hank came to Briana then and climbed into her lap. He swung his arms around her neck and nuzzled against her chest.
She held him and kissed his forehead.
The Dredgeworths watched, but didn't look at all surprised. "We're good people," Sharon said. "And he's very loved. We'll take good care of him."
They finally rose and walked to the door and Briana was forced to walk with them. A part of her wanted to pull a pistol and hold them at gunpoint while she ran off with Hank, but how far would she get? And what would that do to a three year-old who had already been traumatized?
When they finally said goodbye and she had to hand him over, he cried and screamed and said her name over and over again. It was the first time she'd heard him say her name and it was the last.
Everything was a blur after that. She whispered to Angus that she wanted him to take her home. Then suddenly her things were by the door and everyone was hugging her goodbye. They kissed her and thanked her and told her Hank would be okay, but it wasn't just Hank she was worried about. It was her heart. She'd lost people before and she knew how long it took to get over it. Some losses you never got over. You just didn't. This was one of those.
You can see why this scene is painful. Briana has just lost the one person she can't live without and he's only three. If you're an orphan longing for a family and you love sweet Christian romance this is the book for you.
Marriage Lottery #13 Cat and Caleb
When I wrote Marriage Lottery #13 Cat and Caleb that became my favorite too. This is a unique lottery book in that it contains a romance between an older woman and a younger man, a Brennanmen. When Caleb Brennan was five years old he visited his Aunt May who he dearly loved. But May was grieving and pulled way inside of herself. The real Aunt May only came out when her friend Cat McMann came with one of her baskets. You see that's what Cat is known for--bringing baskets to the women in town who are single. Those baskets make the difference for May and Caleb notices. In fact he is so inspired by Cat's selflessness that he becomes a Brennanmen and takes on the last name Brennan, although he is not one by birth.
Sixteen years later, Caleb comes back to town to get hitched to Kiera Brennan and move into May's house which he has inherited. But then he sees Cat and her name is the one he draws. Like most Brennanmen he believes that God has a hand in the lottery and that the first name to drop in your hand is the one you're meant to marry, so he marries Cat. Kiera and her family are furious and they seek vengeance against Cat. That's what propels the story forward. But my favorite scene by far is the bear and the baseball bat scene which is why this particular Marriage Lottery is often called the One with the Bear or the One with the Baseball Bat. 🙂
The bullet hit her in the left shoulder. The force and shock of it knocked her right off her feet. She fell backward until she was lying in the meadow staring up at the sun. Clouds were floating by and birds were singing.
There was a piercing pain followed by a throbbing. Then Lucas Jacobs was standing over her with the rifle pointed at her head. "Get up," he said.
She blinked. The bat was still in her right hand. She could feel the handle. She gripped it tighter and waited for her chance.
"I said get up." He poked her with the rifle's tip which burnt the spot on her neck where it touched. "If you don't get up, I'll just keep shooting you until you do. And that would be a shame, because I don't want to waste time digging out bullets when I could be getting off this mountain. A storm is coming."
She waited until he poked her with the rifle again and grabbed it with her left hand, pointing it away from her. With the right, she swung and hit him in the jaw.
He stumbled and took a step backward, giving her time to get on her knees.
She grabbed the bat with both hands and swung as hard as she could, hearing a crack as the bat hit Lucas's skull.
He went down and didn't get back up, but his eyes were open and he was mumbling. He had a death grip on the rifle.
She ripped the hem of her skirt and made a bandage that she pressed against the wound on her shoulder.
Lucas started to sit up.
She got to her feet with the bat still in her hand and noticed something coming toward them. The bear.
There was an old joke she'd heard time and time again, about two men in the woods being chased by a bear. The joke went that one man said to the other he didn't have to outrun the bear, he only had to outrun his friend.
She glanced at Lucas and then the bear. If she ran, she could make it. The bear would stay with the injured. So she backed away from Lucas until the bear was practically on him. Instead of stopping, the bear continued. He was coming for her. She turned and ran for the nearest tree.
There was an old oak tree less than fifty feet into the forest. Many times she'd sat under that tree eating lunch on her way to Gertie's. Now she climbed it as quickly as she could and heard the bear below her doing the same. She went up one branch and then another, going back and forth across the trees branches until she was more than thirty feet in the air.
If the bear had been a female he would've been able to climb faster and higher, but males had more muscle mass which made them very heavy, too heavy to climb the tree high enough to get at Cat. So he stood at the base of the tree digging his claws into it. She could almost hear the tree screaming with pain at losing its skin.
After twenty minutes he tired and went back to the meadow. She could see it clearly from where she sat on the branch. Lucas was groggy, sitting there like a drunk. The bear came closer and stopped four feet from him. It roared and Lucas was unable to move. He lifted his rifle and shot the bear. And he seemed just as surprised as the bear that it had almost no impact. One minute Lucas was sitting in the meadow, the next he was screaming as the bear chewed at his neck and pulled him apart.
She had never seen a man eaten by a bear before, but she'd heard stories. About men watching their fallen comrades getting eaten alive. She didn't know how that was possible. The bear's claws were like six inch razor blades, slicing through every part of Lucas's body. He had one shot with that rifle and he'd chosen poorly. Whatever he hit, the bear seemed to be hardly injured. It certainly didn't stop his appetite.
Time passed. She didn't know how long. The sun sank in the sky and it started to get dark. The bear sat next to Lucas's body, still eating. Then it rolled over and fell asleep.
For ten agonizing minutes she tried deciding what to do. To climb down and run or to stay the night and try in the morning. Her shoulder ached and she was bleeding. The scent of blood would make her easy to follow, no matter how far away the bear was. If she waited until morning, he might have wandered off far away, because as it was, she didn't think she could outrun him this close.
The bat was at the bottom of the tree. She'd dropped it when she grabbed the first branch. She had just started to descend the tree when the bear woke and started toward her. She climbed back to her branch and waited. He rose on his hind legs and clawed the tree. Then he turned around and rubbed his back against it until tufts of fur covered the bark. After awhile he circled the tree, found a nice spot, sat down, and slept. He'd made her decision for her. She was spending the night.
Lucas was right about the storm. A thunderstorm came and showered the mountain with water. Thunder claps sounded loudly overhead and a deep chill set into her bones.
The bear seemed unaffected by it. He'd gotten up twice during the night to go and nibble on Lucas's body and then came back to curl up under the tree. He even looked up at her as though he was checking his fridge and making sure the meat was still there. Apparently she was on tomorrow's menu.
It was hard to sleep with the throbbing pain in her shoulder and it was even harder to sleep balanced precariously on a branch thirty feet above a deadly bear. But these were nothing compared to the unrelenting rain and cold. By morning her fingers were icicles and she could barely move her hands.
The sun came out and warmed everything, including her. And the bear finally moved. He stopped at Lucas's body again and them moved into the forest up further on the mountain. She watched and she waited exactly thirty minutes. Then she climbed down from the tree, grabbed her bat and turned to run.
Twenty feet in front of her the bear was standing quiet as a mouse.
"Please just go away," she whispered.
The bear grunted and came toward her.
She climbed up the first two branches with the bat in her hand. It slowed her down but it was her only weapon. By the time she was on the third branch, the bear was there, rising onto his hind legs and scratching the tree. She reached for the fourth branch and slipped. The bear reached for her and missed. She swung the bat and hit it in the nose.
He roared with anger.
She reached for the fourth branch again and had just wrapped her legs around the branch. The bear grabbed the tree in its powerful grip and shook until she slipped. It only took one swipe. She felt those razor blades dig through the flesh on her back and screamed. She swung harder and hit the bear in the eye. He tumbled backward away from the tree.
"God, help me," she whispered and she used what strength she had left to climb two more branches into the air. It was less than twenty feet off the ground, but she was too weak to climb any higher. She clung to the tree and cried through the pain until eventually blessedly she fell asleep.
As you can tell from these two passages, Cat is a fighter. All of the Marriage Lottery heroines are fighters. If you like action adventure stories with guys you love to love (Brennanmen) this is the sweet Christian romance for you.
If I had to name my three favorite Marriage Lottery novels these would be the three.