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Long Contemporary Romance

Hope Harbor

Hope Harbor
Revell, 2015, ISBN 978-0800724528

Tracy Campbell never wanted to leave Hope Harbor, Oregon, or the idyllic three-generation cranberry farm where she grew up. But life—and love—altered her plans. Now she’s home again—with a floundering farm to run…a tragic secret…and a wounded heart. Romance is not on her agenda. Nor is it on Michael Hunter’s. The visitor from Chicago has daunting secrets and devastating regrets of his own. But when Tracy recruits him to help with a project that is close to her heart, winds of change begin to sweep through Hope Harbor, bringing healing, hope, and love to countless lives—including their own.

Come home to Hope Harbor—
Where hearts heal…and love blooms.

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reviews

“A gorgeously rendered romance."
                                                RT Book Reviews
 
“An inspiring tale. As the characters come closer together...they find that their lives are growing rich again in ways they thought were lost forever.”
                                                Booklist
 
“Promises to be a bestseller and classic…readers are falling in love with the characters of Hope Harbor.”
                                                CBA Retailers and Resources

“Hope Harbor…a place of emotional restoration that readers will yearn to visit.”
                                                Publishers Weekly

“I was captivated by the town of Hope Harbor and its colorful residents. The seaside town provides the perfect ambiance for this story of love, forgiveness and new beginnings ."
                                                Madison's Library
 
One of my favorite contemporary romance novels of all time."
                                                Amazon Reader

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excerpt

Closed until June 13

Michael Hunter stared at the hand-lettered sign on the Gull Motel office, expelled a breath, and raked his fingers through his hair.

Not the welcome he’d been expecting after a mind-numbing thirty-six-hour cross-country drive to the Oregon coast.

And where was he supposed to stay for the next three weeks, until the place opened again?

Reining in the urge to kick the door, he leaned close to the glass and peered into the dim, deserted office. Rattled the rigid knob. Scanned the small, empty parking lot.

The sign hadn’t lied. This place was out of commission.

He swiveled toward the marina down the hill, where boats bobbed in the gentle swells. The motel might be a bust, but at least Hope Harbor was as picturesque as promised. Planters overflowing with colorful flowers served as a buffer between the sidewalk and the sloping pile of boulders that led to the water. Across the wide street from the marina, quaint storefronts faced the sea. A white gazebo occupied a small park where the two-block-long, crescent-shaped frontage road dead-ended at a river. More shops lined the next street back, many adorned with bright awnings and flower boxes.

The town was exactly what he’d expected.

But with the only motel closed, it didn’t appear he’d be calling it home during his stay in the area.

A prick of anger penetrated his fatigue. Why had the clerk let him book a room if the motel was going to shut down for several weeks? And why hadn’t someone corrected the mistake in the thirty days since he’d put down his deposit?

If shoddy business practices like this were indicative of the much-touted laid-back Pacific Northwest lifestyle, the locals could have it—especially since such sloppiness meant he was now going to have to find another place to rest his very weary head.

He reached for the phone on his belt, frowning when his fingers met air. Oh, right. He’d taken it off as he’d rolled out of Chicago two days ago—a very deliberate strategy to make a clean break from work. Wasn’t that the point of a leave of absence, after all?

But the cell was close at hand.

Back at his car, he opened the trunk, rooted around in the smaller of his two bags, and pulled it out.

Three messages popped up once he powered on, all from the Gull Motel.
He played the first one back, from a woman named Madeline who identified herself as the manager.

“Mr. Hunter, I’m afraid we’ve had an electrical fire and will be closing for about three weeks for repairs. Please call me at your earliest convenience so we can help you find other lodging.” She recited her number.

The second and third messages were similar.

So the shutdown had been unexpected, and someone had tried to call him.
Slowly he inhaled a lungful of the fresh sea air, forcing the taut muscles in his shoulders to relax. Driving for fifteen hours two days in a row and getting up at the crack of dawn this morning to finish the trip must have done a number on his tolerance. Giving people the benefit of the doubt was much more his style. Besides, he was used to operating on the fly, finding creative solutions to problems. Glitches never phased him. His ability to roll with the punches was one of the things Julie had loved about him.

Julie.

His view of the harbor blurred around the edges, and he clenched his teeth.
Let it go, Hunter. Self-pity won’t change a thing. Move on. Get your life back.
It was the same advice he’d been giving himself for months—and he intended to follow it.

As soon as he figured out how.

Fighting off a wave of melancholy, he tapped in the number the woman had provided, his index finger less than steady on the keypad. For a moment he examined the tremors, then shoved his hand in his pocket. He was tired, that’s all. He needed food and sleep, in that order. The sooner the better. Things would seem brighter tomorrow.

They had to.

If this trip didn’t help him sort out his life, he was out of options.
While the phone rang, he looked toward the harbor again, past the long jetty on the left and the pair of rocky islands on the right that tamed the turbulent waves and protected the boats in the marina. His gaze skimmed across the placid surface of the sea, moving all the way to the horizon where cobalt water met deep blue sky. From his perch on the hill, the scene appeared to be picture perfect.

But it wasn’t. Nothing was. Not up close. That was the illusion of distance. It softened edges, masked flaws, obscured messy detail.

It also changed perspective.

If he was lucky, this trip would do all those things for him—and more.

“Mr. Hunter? This is Madeline King. I’ve been trying to reach you.”

He shifted away from the peaceful panorama and adjusted the phone against his ear. “I’ve been traveling cross-country and my cell was off. I’m at the motel now. What can you suggest as an alternative?”

“Unfortunately, there aren’t many options in Hope Harbor. But there are a number of very nice places in Coos Bay or Bandon.”

As she began to rattle off the names of hotels, he stifled a sigh. He hadn’t driven all the way out here to stay in either of those towns. He’d come to spend time in Hope Harbor.

“Isn’t there anything closer?”

At his abrupt interruption, the woman stopped speaking. “Um . . . not anything I’d recommend. I could probably find you a B & B that’s closer, but those are on the pricey side. Most people book them for a night or two at most, and I believe you intended to stay for several weeks. Plus, B & B’s tend to be geared to couples.”

Good point. A cozy inn would only remind him how alone he was.
“Okay . . . why don’t you line me up with some place for a few nights while I decide what I want to do. Bandon would be my preference, since it’s closer.”
“I’ll get right on it.”

“Don’t rush.” He inspected the two-block-long business district, such as it was. “I’m going to wander around town for a while and grab a bite to eat.”

“Sounds like a plan. And again, I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

Once they said their good-byes, he grabbed a jacket from the backseat and locked the car. The midday sun was warm, but the breeze was cool—by his standards, anyway. Perhaps a slight nip in the air was normal for Oregon in the third week of May, though.

Stomach growling, he started down the hill. If he weren’t famished, he’d head the opposite direction and check out the big, empty beach at the base of the bluffs on the outskirts of town that he’d spotted as he drove in. A walk on the sand past the sea stacks arrayed offshore would be far more enjoyable than wandering along—he glanced at the street sign as he arrived at the bottom of the hill—Dockside Drive.

The two-block waterfront street didn’t take long to traverse, and by the time he was halfway down the second block it was clear his food options were limited to a bakery and a bait-and-tackle shop with a sign advertising takeout sandwiches for the fishing crowd.

All the real restaurants must be in the business district, one street removed from the marina.

Just as he was about to retrace his steps, a spicy, appetizing scent wafted his way. He squinted toward the end of the block, where a white truck with a serving window on one side was perched at the edge of the tiny waterside park with the gazebo. Charley’s, according to the colorful lettering above the window where a couple of people were giving orders to a guy with a weathered face and long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail.

Another whiff of an enticing aroma set off a loud clamor in his stomach.
Sold. Whatever they were cooking, he was eating.

With a quick change of direction, he stepped off the sidewalk to cross the street.

“Hey! Watch it!”

At the frantic female voice, he swung around . . . and jumped back just in time to avoid a collision with the bicycle heading directly toward him.

The cyclist, however, wasn’t as fortunate.

She swerved away from him. Tottered a few more yards. Crashed to the pavement in a tangle of arm, legs, groceries, and wheel spokes.

It took him no more than a few seconds to recover enough to go to her aid, but by then she was already scrambling to her feet.

“Are you okay?”

She glared at him with vivid green eyes, rubbing her hip with one hand and shoving back the golden-brown hair that had escaped from her ponytail with the other.

“I’ll live—but next time you might look before you charge into traffic.”

“I’m sorry.” Lame—but what else could he say? “Let me help you with your bike.” He reached for it, but she beat him to it.

“I’ve got it.” She set it on its wheels and gave it a quick once-over.

“If there’s any damage, I’ll be happy to pay for it.”

She lowered the kickstand. “It’s in better shape than my groceries.”

xpression peeved, she surveyed the broken eggs on the pavement, then began gathering up the canned goods that had rolled a few yards away.

While she corralled the wayward tins, he picked up a package of ground beef and a semi-mashed loaf of bread. He also retrieved a crinkled white bakery bag. Through the gap in the top he spied a crushed cinnamon roll.

An instant later the bag was snatched from his grasp. “I can take it from here.” She held out her hand for the bread and meat too.

His stomach bottomed out at the blood oozing from a nasty scrape on the fleshy part of her palm, below her thumb. “You’re hurt.”

She gave the abrasion a quick inspection as she plucked the meat and bread from his grasp. “It’s not bad. I’ll deal with it after I get home.” She turned her back and continued to repack her plastic grocery bags.

“Look . . . let me replace the damaged food at least.”

“Don’t worry about it.” She tucked the bags into the baskets on either side of her back fender and swung one long, jeans-clad leg over the bar on the bike.

Just look before you leap next time, okay?”

With that, she pushed off, did a U-turn, and pedaled back down the street.
Michael followed her progress until she disappeared around the corner, then shoved his hands in his pockets.

What else could go wrong today?

Appetite evaporating, he detoured to one of the benches spaced along the waterfront. Nice of the town to provide a spot for residents and visitors to chill out and let their cares melt away.

Except his didn’t.

Instead, the familiar emptiness and dark despair that had been his steady companions for the past eighteen months crept over him, casting a pall nothing could overcome—not the bright sunlight, not the two thousand miles he’d put between himself and his memories, not the upbeat name of this town that had beckoned him, holding out the promise for a better tomorrow.

Hope Harbor?

He rested his elbows on his knees and dropped his head in his hands, snuffing out the idyllic view.

As far as he was concerned, whoever named this place had goofed.

questions

Discussion Questions

(Warning: Contains Spoilers!)

  1. When Michael arrives in Hope Harbor, everything seems to go wrong—but in the end, all the glitches worked to his advantage. Have you ever experienced a situation that seemed disastrous at the time but in hindsight led to good things? If so, describe it. How did it affect your perception of bad experiences?
  1. Charley gives Michael a quote from Job very early in the book. Do you think it’s accurate? Have you ever had a renewing experience when you needed it most? If so, describe it and how it affected you.
  1. Tracy is struggling to hold the family business together in what appears to be a hopeless situation. What would you have done in her place?
  1. Anna and her son have held a grudge for almost twenty years. Have you ever experienced a rift in your family? What caused it? How was it resolved? Could it have been resolved sooner? How?
  1. What did you think of Charley? In one word, describe how you felt about him by the end of the book and explain why you chose this word
  1. Michael carries a heavy burden of guilt for putting his wife second place in his life. Yet his reasons weren’t selfish; he was doing good work. Did you think his guilt was deserved or misplaced?
  1. Have you ever had difficulty juggling priorities? If so, how did you deal with it?
  1. Michael’s late wife didn’t believe in coincidence; she saw God’s hand in every situation. She also believed everything happens for a reason, and the best way to live is to trust God and go with the flow. Do you agree with this philosophy. Why or why not?
  1. Tracy, too, is dealing with guilt and grief. Do you think her guilt is warranted? Why or why not?
  1. Have you ever dealt with anyone who suffered from SAD or other types of depression? How did it affect their life? How can friends and families help a person in this situation?
  1. What did you think of Anna when you first met her? Did your opinion of her change during the course of the book? If so, give some examples from the story that explain why.
  1. How did you feel about Grace? Do you think her family dynamics were portrayed realistically? How would you deal with this crisis if it came up in your family?
  1. Have you ever been in a situation where tempers got out of hand, harsh words were said and relationships were permanently damaged? What are some ways to keep this from happening?
  1. Who was your favorite character in the book? Why?
  1. Who do you think changed the most during the course of this story? Why did they change? Give specific examples of how they changed.
  1. Anna finds new meaning and purpose in life when she comes out of her self-imposed isolation and rejoins the human race. What specifically did she do that started her down a new path?
  1. Do you think Michael will be happy long-term in Hope Harbor? Why or why not?
  1.  Did you think the romance between Tracy and Michael was depicted realistically? Why or why not?
  1. What was the most touching scene for you? Why?
  1. Did you think the plot of Hope Harbor  was well constructed and credible, and the characters believable? Why or why not? Talk about your impressions of the book from a literary standpoint—its strengths and weaknesses. If you were the author, would you have done anything differently?

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