THE SUMMER RETREAT
By Sheila Roberts
MIRA Books mass market paperback and eBook original
Moonlight Harbor #3
April 23, 2019
ISBN-13: 978-0778369400ASIN: B07MFVJMS6
Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.
As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.
Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach.
The Summer Retreat
Celeste had never been an early riser and on weekends made a habit of sleeping in. Which she was doing Sunday morning, splayed out on her stomach, one pedicured foot sticking out from under the covers, when Jenna shook her by the shoulder and announced it was time for breakfast.
“I’ll get something later,” she mumbled and turned her head away.
“There is no later. We have to get out the door to church in forty minutes.”
Celeste turned back and gaped at her. “Church?”
“Yeah, you know, that place Mom always took us to when we were growing up.”
“I’m done growing up.” Celeste settled back onto the pillow.
Jenna pulled it out from under her.
“Hey!” she protested.
“Now that you’re here for the summer, you have to come with us and set an example for Sabrina.”
“Is Aunt Edie going?”
“No, she’s old and she doesn’t like the loud music.”
Celeste grabbed her pillow back. “Tell Sabrina I felt it was my duty to stay home and keep Aunt Edie company.”
“Come on, don’t give me grief. It’s only an hour out of your day.”
“An hour of lost sleep.”
“Come on,” Jenna repeated. “Please?”
“Oh, all right. But I’ll probably sleep through the sermon.”
Not once she saw Pastor Paul she wouldn’t.
Forty minutes later they were walking into the church foyer. Sabrina’s two best friends, Jennifer and Hudson, had been waiting for her and instantly swept her off to hang with the other kids, the three of them talking and giggling.
What a difference from when they’d first come to town and Sabrina had resented not only being at church but also being in Moonlight Harbor. Jenna had been relieved when she’d finally found some friends.
She’d also found a boyfriend. Tristan was a nice kid, but four years older than Sabrina. Due to their age difference, and rampaging hormones, Jenna had limited boyfriend time to parties and hanging out at the house. He’d just graduated from high school and would be going off to college in the fall, and she suspected her daughter’s year-long romance would come to a painful end once he met some cute college girl.
Sometimes it seemed that all the women in her family were love-challenged. Sabrina had fallen for a senior when she was only a freshman. Celeste fell for users and losers. Their mom had never found another man to take their father’s place. And there was Jenna herself. After her disastrous marriage she was standing at the edge of the love pool with just one toe in the water, even though Brody was ready to catch her and urging her to jump in. Would she jump if Seth was in the pool? In spite of the chemistry between them, he wasn’t holding out open arms.
She’d figure that all out once she helped Celeste get her love life right.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard, considering the way Celeste was looking at Pastor Paul, who was approaching them. She could almost see the thoughts swirling in her sister’s head.
“Yes, he’s single,” Jenna said.
“Just because he’s in a church doesn’t mean he’s got it together,” Celeste whispered.
“This man does,” Jenna assured her. “Hi, Paul,” she greeted him. “I don’t think you’ve met my sister yet. Celeste, this is Paul Welch, our pastor.”
Celeste’s eyes got big. “P-pastor?” she stuttered.
Paul Welch was the polar opposite of balding, pot-bellied Pastor Munsen, the minister at the church they’d attended growing up.
“Welcome to Moonlight Harbor,” he said to Celeste.
“Thanks. You’re a pastor?”
He raised his eyebrows curiously. “Is that a bad thing?”
“No, it’s just that you don’t look like a pastor.”
“What does a pastor look like?” he asked, an easy smile on his face.
“Old. I mean…not like you.”
“Give me time, I’ll get there,” he said. “I hope you enjoy your visit with us today.”
“I will if you’re not boring,” Celeste teased, recovering from her shock.
“I’ll try not to be,” he said, still smiling. Someone called to him and he moved on, but not before saying, “I’m glad you could join us today, Celeste.”
Jenna elbowed her. “See what you missed when you didn’t come to church with me last summer?”
“Old.” Celeste rolled her eyes. “You could’ve warned me.”
“About what? That I have a cute pastor?”
“And an ulterior motive for getting me here.”
“You needed to get to church,” Jenna said as her friend Tyrella walked in. She waved and Tyrella joined them.
“You look too cute,” she said, giving Celeste a hug. “I swear, God overblessed you two when it came to looks,” she continued, hugging Jenna, also. “Have you been introducing her around?” she asked Jenna.
“Only to Pastor Paul so far.”
“I bet he’ll have trouble concentrating on his sermon now,” Tyrella joked. She waved at Hyacinth Brown, who was standing nearby, talking to two other women while simultaneously assessing Celeste. “Hyacinth, come on over and meet Jenna’s sister.”
Jenna didn’t know Hyacinth very well. She was a skinny little thing with big brown eyes who dressed in drab colors. She’d pretty much kept her distance since Jenna had been attending the church. Jenna had put it down to her being shy.
But now she felt the chill as Hyacinth said a polite hello to Celeste. Okay, so Hyacinth wasn’t simply shy. She was also insecure and not open to welcoming single women into the church family, especially curvy ones with platinum hair, green eyes and plenty of personality. Considering who their pastor was, that shouldn’t have been surprising. Half the women in church crushed on Pastor Paul, and Jenna supposed Hyacinth was a member of his fan club. Maybe all that volunteer work she did around church had a hidden agenda.
“Is this your first time here at Moonlight Harbor Evangelical?” she asked Celeste.
Celeste nodded. “I came with my sister.”
“Oh.” Hyacinth took a moment to digest that. “Are you visiting?”
“I’m here for the summer. I’m going to help out at the Driftwood Inn. How about you? Have you been in Moonlight Harbor long?”
“Two years,” Hyacinth said, and didn’t volunteer any more information about herself.
“She owns the fabric store,” said Tyrella. “And you’re offering quilting classes right now, aren’t you?”
Hyacinth nodded but didn’t share any information about her classes, either.
“She made all the banners in the sanctuary,” Tyrella went on, “and she and Susan Frank are on the decorating committee. Actually, they the decorating committee. They do the flowers for church every week.”
“That’s appropriate,” Celeste quipped.
Hyacinth managed a wilted smile. “So you’re here with your…husband?”
Talk about the third degree. Was it because she’d seen Paul talking with Celeste?
Celeste’s smile suddenly looked a little wilted, too. “No husband. Not even a boyfriend.”
“Oh.” Hyacinth sounded surprised.
“I’m in between men,” Celeste said lightly, hiding her heartbreak.
Apparently, Hyacinth didn’t approve of being in between men. “I hope you enjoy your visit,” she said briskly, then excused herself and went back to the group of people she’d been talking with before Tyrella called her over.
“Yeah, I’ll bet you do,” Celeste said.
“A pretty woman in between men, just what the other single women want to see,” Tyrella cracked. “Come on, let’s go get a seat.”
Jenna enjoyed the service. She didn’t play an instrument and could never manage to sing in the same key as everyone else, but she loved music and she loved the morning’s selection of songs, which were all positive and encouraging.
Pastor Paul’s sermon was encouraging, too, although a couple of times he seemed to lose his place. Funny how those times coincided with when he happened to glance over at Celeste. “I know some of you have been going through hard times,” he said.
That was for sure. One of their members was battling melanoma. An older man had recently lost his wife. Annie, who’d slipped in late, was struggling with her alcoholic husband, and Jenna saw she was dabbing her eyes. And then, suddenly, right next to her, her sister was taking a shaky breath.
Pastor Paul looked Celeste’s way at that moment, and Jenna could have sworn that if he hadn’t been in the middle of a sermon, he’d have hurried over to offer comfort. “But,” he began. “Uh. But…” He cleared his throat and stared at his notes. “We can’t lose hope.”
Celeste sniffed, and Jenna took her hand and squeezed it.
“Let’s remember to embrace those difficult times in our lives,” he concluded, “knowing that they’re building perseverance and helping us mature in our faith. All things work together for good for those who love God.”
“Even those who haven’t been in church for a while,” Jenna whispered to her sister.
“He’s so right,” Tyrella said as they walked out of the sanctuary to an upbeat song the musicians were playing. “I have no idea why it is, but the times we seem to grow the most are when we’re under pressure. Like diamonds,” she added.
Celeste sighed. “I think I’d rather stay a lump of coal.”
“Too late for that,” Jenna said, linking arms with her. “You’re already a diamond in the rough.”
“Okay, then, let’s settle for that. I don’t want to be under pressure anymore.”
“As if you have a choice,” Tyrella scoffed. “Life’s gonna squeeze you whether you want it to or not. May as well work on learning to sparkle.”
Celeste had plenty of sparkle. She just needed to find a man who appreciated it.
Paul was at the door, shaking hands and visiting with people as they left. “A very good sermon, Pastor,” Susan Frank was telling him as they approached. She saw Jenna and managed her usual sour smile. “Good morning, Jenna. Say hi to your aunt for me.”
“I will,” Jenna said.
Not that it would make any difference. Aunt Edie hadn’t been in Susan’s clothing shop since Susan had dissed Jenna and her brain baby, the Seaside with Santa festival. That had been the end of a beautiful retail relationship.
“Thanks for coming,” Paul said and smiled at Celeste.
Oh, yeah. He’d be stopping by the house for a visit before the week was out.
The beach is one of my happy places and one of my preferred places to escape to. Where do you go when you want to get away from it all?
Have you read any of Sheila Roberts' books? Are you reading the Moonlight Harbor series?
Two people who leave a comment before 11:00 PM, April 10, 2019 will each receive a copy of The Summer Retreat. (U.S. only)
Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. She’s been writing since 1989, but she did lots of things before settling in to her writing career, including owning a singing telegram company and playing in a band. Her band days are over, but she still enjoys writing songs. Sheila's books are best sellers and often appear as Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Her novel "Angel Lane" was named one of Amazon's top ten romances in 2009. Her novel "On Strike for Christmas" was a Lifetime Network movie and her novel "The Nine Lives of Christmas" was made into a movie for the Hallmark channel. When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences or hanging out with her girlfriends she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.