The second book in my Chapel Lake series, Chapel Springs Survival, came from a real life event—and mother's revenge. Insert creepy music and evil laughter. The day started out normal, boring even. Then I got a phone call from our eldest son.
"Hey, Mom. I emailed you some pictures. Take a look and call me back." Click.
I hurried to my computer. The first photo was of a nice looking, very Latin appearing young woman. Something told me she wasn't from here. In the second photo, she wore a wedding dress.
I hit speed dial.
It seems our son, a widower with two children, had gotten himself a twenty-first Century mail order bride. He'd met her in a chat room for women in Columbia, South America, to meet and marry American men. They communicated for a year, then he flew to Columbia and married her.
Without me knowing anything.
He came back and spent the next year trying to get her into the U.S. legally.
Without me or his dad knowing anything.
He didn't let us know until she got here. Our two grandchildren knew. His brother knew. But we didn't. And for that, I told him it was going in a book. And it did.
Now, I do have to tell you that any similarity between our son's story and my book stops there. Our daughter-in-law turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to our Michael. We adore her and our two "step" grandsons and the newest Mulligan grandson.
But that wouldn't have made a good story. There was no conflict. But, mix Claire Bennett into that mix, and there's plenty. To find out how it turns out, you’ll have to read Chapel Springs Survival.
A mail-order bride, a town overrun with tourists, and illegal art ~
Can Claire and Chapel Springs survive?
Claire Bennett's Operation Marriage Revival succeeded and life is good. That is until the mayor's brother blabs a secret: Claire's nineteen-year-old son has married a Brazilian mail order bride. When Claire tries to welcome her, she's ridiculed, rebuffed, and rejected. Loving this girl is like hugging a prickly cactus.
Lydia Smith is happily living alone and running her spa—then the widow on the hill becomes a blushing bride. Then her groom's adult son moves in—on everything.
From the first sighting of a country music star in The Painted Loon, Chapel Springs is inundated with stargazers, causing residents to flee the area. When her best friends put their house on the market, Claire is forced to do something or lose the closest thing to a sister she’s got.
With her son's future at stake and the town's problems to solve, it's Claire's who needs a guardian angel.
An excerpt from Chapter 1
Like shot pinball, Claire Bennett pinged against, around and between hordes of straw hats, bikinis, and plaid shorts. All along Sandy Shores Drive, shoulder-to-shoulder throngs of people crowded the sidewalk and spilled into the avenue. A party atmosphere—with noise level to match—permeated the quiet morning and their once peaceful village.
What had they done? When she and her friends envisioned the revitalization of Chapel Springs, it was a nice, controlled rise in tourist trade—not this craziness.
One bruised elbow later, Claire reached the door of her art gallery, The Painted Loon, and turned her key in the lock. A heavy hand grasped her shoulder. Her heart skipped a beat. Was she about to be robbed?
Hold on. In broad daylight? With this crowd watching? She may not be the brightest color on the palette, but she did possess a little common sense. Her gaze traveled up the beefy arm to a scraggly-bearded face with beady eyes. A rolled red bandana wrapped around his forehead, held back salt-and-pepper hair. Beside him stood a bleached-blonde motorcycle mama, dressed in a halter-top and the skimpiest shorts Claire had ever seen. Strings hung from their ragged edges and drew attention to the lumpy cellulite dotting the back of her thighs. Who was this woman trying to kid? She was fifty if she was a day.
"You're the loon lady," Motor-mama said. "We want to see your pots." They tried to shoulder their way into the gallery, but Claire stood her ground.
"I'm sorry, we aren't open yet. Please come back at ten." She threw the deadbolt, pulled down the window shade, then leaned her back against the door and drew in air. The familiar scent of lemon oil-rubbed wood with the underlying twang of turpentine surrounded her like a security blanket.
After rattling the door handle a few times, the couple retreated. Claire released her breath in a whoosh as she slipped into the back workroom, where she and her gallery-partner-slash-best friend, Patsy Kowalski, created their art. And, Claire had to admit, a problem for Chapel Springs. The review they received last year—Patsy for her paintings and Claire for pottery—had put them on the art world's radar.
Between that and the town's cleanup campaign, Chapel Springs attracted half the population east of the Mississippi. Then Rod Campbell, Nashville's newest country heartthrob, strolled into The Painted Loon one day and bought some artwork. He told a Hollywood producer about them, and the producer told one of his starlets, who was an art collector.
Now Chapel Springs was filled with stargazers. Their quiet little village by the lake had become the trendy place to visit in north Georgia. Oh sure, Chapel Lake was the best summer vacation spot in the state, with its tournament fishing, beautiful beaches, and fabulous hiking trails. Naturally, the town's merchants wanted to increase the tourist trade.
Because Claire had come up with the revitalization plan, the mayor blamed her for the ensuing problems. And problems were plentiful. College kids decided their little village was the perfect party town. Aside from their noise and litter, and traffic congestion on the main road through town, Chapel Springs didn't have enough rentable living space for more than a couple hundred overnighters.
Claire sighed. Apparently, that lack of foresight was also her fault, along with the wild parties in Warm Springs Park. However, their cantankerous popinjay of a mayor sure took credit for the financial gains.
Peeking out the back door, she found the coast clear and sprinted for Dee's 'n' Doughs. One of Dee's apple fritters and fortifying high-test coffee would go down good. Then Claire and her friends, all local entrepreneurs, could strategize a way to survive this pickle.
She slipped into the bakery's rear entrance and was immediately plunged into gastronomic delight by the heady aroma of sugar and spice. It made her want to lick the air. Dee stood next to a large industrial mixer, pouring milk into its stainless steel bowl. Claire waved but between concentration and the noise of its motor, Dee didn't look up. However, her new assistant, Trisha, who was elbow deep in a huge batch of some wonderful concoction, did look up and frowned. With the back of her wrist, she rubbed the side of her nose, leaving a trail of flour.
Claire waggled her fingers as she passed by. "I'm avoiding the foot traffic out front."
"Well, just don't touch anything."
Sheesh. Even a newcomer knew her infamous reputation for calamity. She had hoped being elected to the town council would have brought her a modicum of respect. But no such luck. She was still the town's favorite joke. If Henderson’s hadn't had a Halon fire alarm system in the cooking school, it wouldn't have been a big story.
Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's a novelist, a humor columnist, and a multi-published playwright. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, she resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, their chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. Her debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, released Sept, 2014. "With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel." Following will be Chapel Springs Survival, Dec 2015, Home to Chapel Springs, May 2016. You can find Ane at her website, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.