Saturday, March 16, 2024

#OnTheBlogToday #BookBlitz...The Helping Heart...#Adult #Contemporary #Women #Fiction @XpressoTours @SexyNerdRevue

The Helping Heart
Annie M. Ballard

(Sisters of Stella Mare, #4)
Publication date: March 15, 2024
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Helen comes home and everything should be wonderful. Even if she’s returning due to a divorce. But there is more…

The Madison sisters, once close, are suddenly alienated as oldest Helen returns to Stella Mare. Her desire to help everyone includes keeping them at a distance, so her own secrets stay private. Her plan backfires, making her persona non grata and upsetting her father. To keep the peace with Dad, she suggests a group activity: the four sisters will hike the Fundy Footpath, an iconic and challenging backpacking trip along the Bay of Fundy. Why not? They’re young, they’re strong, and besides, they’re Madisons.

Despite each sister’s reservations, the desire to reconnect pulls them into this adventure. The hike is arduous and not for the faint of heart. Daunting cliffs, deep forests, rushing rivers and unpredictable tides accompany the gorgeous views, stunning sunrises, and the sheer power of nature. The challenges, though shared, fracture things further, and even Helen’s campfire confession doesn’t heal the breach. But when crisis happens, Helen is called to rise to the occasion and be the sister they need her to be.

Returning to Stella Mare was hard. Regaining her place in the family was harder. Come home to Stella Mare with Helen, as she, Rett, Evie and Dorie learn once again how to be sisters.

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“Time to burn some of those calories,” Helen called out. “Let’s get going.”

Evie cast her a curious gaze. “Is there something we’re hurrying for? You should let us know, Helen.”

She narrowed her eyes. “We need to get going. We’re like sitting ducks here.”

Rett laughed. “We’re nobody’s target. We started early, we already did the tidal crossings, so we are not worried about tides right now, and we have time to take a break if somebody is vomiting. Really.”

Helen shook her head and walked away toward the tree line. Where was that wolf? And why couldn’t her sisters take direction?

Annoyed, she kept gazing into the woods, though she kept an ear tuned toward the conversations behind her. Soon enough, everybody got ready to go again, and Evie called to her. “We’re all set, Helen.” She huffed a little as she headed back, chin held high.

Evie started off beside Dorie, the two easily chatting. Rett waited for Helen. “Tone it down a bit,” she advised.

“Are you bitching about me, too?” Helen snapped.

“Like that,” Rett said noncommittally. “Take it down a notch.”

“You’re so helpful,” she sniped. “Like anybody even notices me.”

“Everybody notices you.” Rett’s tone was correcting. “Especially when you’re being a royal pain in the neck. Tone it down. Nobody’s here to make a fool of you.”

Helen, shocked, took the impact of those words on her chest. Nobody’s here to make a fool of you. She had nothing to say.

Rett nudged her with an elbow. “Come on. Let’s make it a good day for a hike.”

She nodded tightly and followed.

Hiking made her brain run faster. Rett’s words rang in her memory. Nobody’s here to make a fool of you, Helen.

I don’t need anyone to do that. I’ve done it myself, more than once. A lot more than once.

Despite her tired body, her mind was super-charged as thoughts, memories and feelings flooded her. She couldn’t outrace them, and even the challenging terrain didn’t distract her, though after a series of switchbacks, landing at the brook felt like an accomplishment. Or at least a break from her thoughts.

Author Bio:

Annie M. Ballard writes about women and family ties in the small villages that feel like home. With one foot in the Canadian Maritimes and the other in New England, she digs deep into the lives of her characters. When she’s not writing, she’s happily baking, gardening, powerlifting and trying to make friends with every dog in her neighbourhood.

Annie’s stories include strong women living real lives, good men trying to do better, and always a happy ending.

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