azalea laurelIn less than eight weeks, the final installment in the Appalachian Blessings series will be out and about–in stores, in readers’ hands, in the WORLD. I’m excited, but I’m nervous, too. Is it any good? Will readers like it? Will the story touch hearts the way I’m hoping?

The book is mostly set in 2008, but there are also quite a few flashbacks to 1948–the year Perla became pregnant with Sadie. Writing those scenes was my favorite part of the book–even though I wished I could save Perla all that grief! So, as the countdown to release day continues, here’s a little preview of one of those flashbacks to that fateful summer . . .

Reverend Anderson prayed before they ate dinner on the ground the first Sunday Sonny came to church with Perla. Aunt Imogene had one of her sick headaches and Uncle Chuck refused to let his neighbors see him hobbling around on a crutch, so Perla determined to go to the Methodist church on her own. She felt a little nervous. Although she’d been to church with Imogene several times, she’d hardly been anywhere all by herself—ever. As she set out, tugging her gloves into place and carrying a basket of food, Sonny loped across the yard to join her.

“Out for a Sunday stroll?”

Perla sniffed. “I’m off to church, thank you very much.”

“Oh-ho. Gonna get you some Holy Spirit.” His hazel eyes danced. “What’s in the basket?”

“We’re having dinner afterwards. I made chicken and some biscuits.”

Sonny’s eyes lit up. “Reckon I might come along then. I’ll carry that for you.”

Perla didn’t want to give him the basket, but it was in his hands before she could think.

“You oughtn’t to speak of holy things so disrespectfully,” she said adjusting her hat now that both hands were free.

Sonny watched her, something soft and warm in his eyes. “I expect you’re right. Ma raised me better than that. It’s just . . .”

“Just what?” Perla walked briskly now, hoping to have time to wipe the dust from her shoes after they arrived.

“Well, folks don’t always live up to what you think Christians are supposed to act like. Sometimes they flat let you down.”

He looked so sad Perla had an urge to reach out and touch his shoulder, but she resisted. “No one’s perfect except Jesus.”

Sonny snorted. “Now that’s the sort of pious talk I’d expect from Cousin Imogene. There’s imperfect and then there’s hypocritical. Guess I’ve run into my fair share of that second sort of late.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ah, nothing. I’m just talking.” He skipped off the dirt road and plucked a branch of fire azalea growing wild in the underbrush. “My lady.” He presented her with the flowers with a bow.

Perla pinked and took the deep orange blossoms. “Do you always act the fool?”

“Every chance I get,” he said with a laugh. Then he winked. “Some girls like it.”

Perla felt her cheeks grow even warmer. She matched her pace to his and tucked the flowers into the basket in his hand. Surely it wouldn’t do to arrive at church carrying them. Sonny grinned at her like he knew what she was thinking. He behaved himself the rest of the morning. He sat with some of the other single men at church and participated like a regular member proving that maybe his mother had raised him right.

After church, when the pastor asked them all to bow their heads, Perla snuck a look at Sonny. And what she saw chilled her. While everyone else bowed their heads in reverent prayer, he glared at the pastor like he wanted to do him harm. Perla quickly shut her eyes and tried to erase the image.

But here she was, sixty years later, the picture of Sonny’s anger just as clear. Maybe clearer now that she knew exactly how he—and even she—had suffered at the hands of pious people.