Monday, February 25, 2019

Showcase Low Country Hero by Lee Tobin McClain

Today I'm showcasing the latest release of Lee Tobin McClain who gives her fans what they've been asking for, a full-length of her trademark sweet romances, plus a Low Country South Carolina mystery. And it's of course published by the publisher who makes the world go round. Check it out!

ISBN-13: 9781335017642
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 2-26-2019
Length: 384pp
Safe Haven #1
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible



Welcome to Safe Haven, where love—and a second chance—is just around the corner…
Sunny, carefree days splashing in the ocean—it’s the life Anna George has always wanted for her five-year-old twins. And now that they’ve made it to Safe Haven, South Carolina, she won’t let anyone stand in her way. Not the abusive ex she’s just escaped and not the rugged contractor who caught her setting up house in the shuttered beachfront cabins he’s refurbishing. When he offers Anna and her daughters a place to stay in exchange for her help with renovations, she’s tempted. His gentle way with her girls makes her want to trust him, but she’s been wrong before…

A family is the last thing contractor and former military man Sean O’Dwyer wants right now. But when he discovers Anna and her girls, he recognizes kindred spirits. They’re survivors who’ve seen the worst of people, just like he has, and he’ll do anything he can to help them. As he and Anna spend their days bringing the cottages back to life and their nights sharing kisses in the warm bayou breezes, Sean must choose between the life he always wanted and the family he can’t live without.

Read an excerpt:

To make an end is to make a beginning.
T. S. Eliot
Present Day
SEAN O’DWYER LOOKED around the lived-in bayou cottage where he’d spent his teenage years, rubbed the back of his neck and dug deep for patience. Nothing like your childhood home to make you feel like a rebellious teenager.
He hadn’t been eager to return to the town where he and his brothers had a history that made people pity them. But Safe Haven was known as the place where you could lick your wounds in peace, and while that primarily applied to women, a handful of men had gotten their footing here, too.
Maybe he’d be one of them. He had nothing left to lose.
“Living by yourself out there in the salt marshes isn’t going to make you feel any better.” Ma Dixie, the woman who’d taken him in when he was an angry thirteen-year-old and raised him to be a decent man, glanced over from clearing the lunch dishes, her broad face wrinkled with concern. “You could just as well plan the renovation staying right here with me.”
Liam, who at twenty-eight was the youngest of Sean’s motley crew of adopted and biological brothers, leaned back against Ma’s kitchen counter and sipped sweet tea. “Your ex-wife was worried you’d do something rash.”
Sean blinked. “You talked to Gabby? You listened to her?”
Liam spread his hands and shrugged. “She was concerned.”
“Concerned enough to dump me for our marriage counselor,” Sean muttered, and then was sorry he had. He didn’t need their pity. He and Gabby had grown apart after his two tours in Afghanistan, so her sudden turnaround on their agreement about not having children had broken what was left of their marriage. That, he couldn’t compromise on. He knew himself and his history too well.
He didn’t even miss her, not really. He just missed the hope he’d felt, getting married. That an O’Dwyer could overcome his past, be a happy husband who treated his wife well and was loved in return. His throat tightened and he shoved aside that stupid dream. “I’m caretaking the place, too, that’s why I have to live there. Eldora was afraid kids or vandals would break into the cottages.”
Liam studied him steadily. “When I heard you were coming home, I thought you’d find a way to help the shelter. It’s not doing so well.”
“That’s your department.” Liam was a police officer and lived smack in the middle of Safe Haven.
“Your brother’s got his hands full. Looking at a promotion to chief.” Ma smiled at Liam with fond pride. She hadn’t raised him or their brother Cash when their family had fallen apart. Her small bayou house had only had room for Sean, but her heart had always been big enough to consider both of Sean’s natural brothers as kin. And although Liam and Cash had landed in different local families, both of them looked at Ma Dixie’s cabin as a second home.
Sean lifted an eyebrow. “Congratulations. Never thought my little brother would end up the top guy.”
His brother punched his arm, none too lightly. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. Where’s Cash, Ma? I thought he was supposed to help us talk sense into Stupid, here.”
“Sean’s not stupid. And Cash called. Some high-flying deal, so he’s stuck in Atlanta.” Ma Dixie pulled the shades to block the afternoon sun, then put her hands on ample hips. “I agree with Liam. You ought to stay in town, figure out a way to help the shelter, not go off and lick your wounds alone. Eldora can find another caretaker.”
Sean ignored the wounds part. “I’m no use to the shelter.” Just like the shelter had been no use to their mother. “Do I look like the kind of guy a woman in trouble would trust?”
“You could clean yourself up.” Ma pinched his bristly cheek. “Shave. Cut your hair.”
“Lighten up on the steroids,” Liam joked, then raised a hand when Sean bristled. “I know, you wouldn’t. But you’re huge! You must’ve been working out 24/7.”
Sean didn’t bother to correct his brother. The truth was, he’d been doing hard physical labor back in Knoxville, working construction alongside his team. Partly to pay for the divorce, and partly to keep his mind off things.
But the noise and chatter had gotten to him. It was getting to him now, making him think too much. Ma and Liam both had his best interests at heart, but they were overly optimistic about healing wounds and moving on and being happy. He stood. “If the intervention’s over,” he said, softening his words with a smile, “I’ve got a job to do.”
“You’ll come for Friday-night suppers, now that you’re back in the area?”
“Sure, Ma.” He put an arm around the woman and squeezed her shoulders. He owed her his life and would lay it on the line for her or any one of his brothers. Outsiders, not so much. “Don’t worry about me. I’m going to be fine. I just need a little peace and quiet.”

ANNA GEORGE STOPPED her car in front of a pair of padlocked gates and stared at the sign.
Sea Pine Cottages: Closed for Summer Renovations.
Letting her forehead rest briefly on the steering wheel, she took a deep breath. What was she going to do now?
This whole mad, cross-country trek had been a terrible mistake.
“Mommy? Are we there yet?” Hayley’s voice piped up from the back seat.
Uh-oh. When one twin woke up, so did the other, and patience wasn’t a virtue most five-year-olds possessed. Anna needed a plan, fast.
She knew no one in South Carolina—which was the point—but as she and the twins had fled the cold mountains of Montana, she’d told them all about the low country’s cute, friendly little towns, salt marshes and warm, welcoming beaches. Right now, though, the closed gates in front of them blocked the first step of her plan.
“Mommy?” Hope was awake now, too, and her voice sounded anxious. “Where are we?”
“Let me think a minute.” Anna reached a hand to the back seat and gave each girl a reassuring leg pat. After what they’d seen and heard, they needed to know that they were safe, and that she was safe, and that she had a plan.
There were nice hotels, farther down the coast, but prices were too high. And the kind of small motels she could afford didn’t offer the protection and privacy she and her daughters needed.
Her stomach twisted and turned, but she didn’t dare panic. She wiped wet palms down the sides of her shorts and studied the sign again. If the place was closed for renovations, they had to be renovating something. Ideally, the cabins she remembered from her sole, idyllic childhood vacation—the same cabins that were supposed to house them now. And, God willing, the renovations wouldn’t have started yet and would happen at a slow Southern pace. Or maybe never; sometimes places put up an optimistic Reopening Soon! sign when it was doubtful they’d ever do business again.
The girls were murmuring in their abbreviated secret twin language, and they apparently reached a conclusion. “We want out of the car!”
“Okay. One minute.” She put the car in Reverse, backed up and pulled off to the side of the gates, where shiny azalea bushes grew thick and high. She eased deep into a hollow section, well sheltered from the road and entrance. Grabbed a couple of tools from the glove box.
You can do this, Anna. You don’t have a choice.

“Come on, girls,” she said, forcing cheer into her voice. “Let’s go exploring!”
Fifteen minutes later, they’d ascertained that there were no construction machines and no signs of workers. The place was deserted, which suited Anna just fine. From the road, they scouted the row of tumbledown cabins and selected a sturdy-looking one.
“Come on. It’s going to be an adventure!” She pushed sweaty hair out of her eyes and urged the girls up the overgrown path toward the cabin. This had to work.
“I don’t like bugs!” Hope, always more fearful and fretful, waved away a cloud of tiny sand flies and leaned into Anna’s leg, making it hard to walk.
“I’m first!” Hayley, as usual, ran ahead, reaching the door of the shuttered cabin and turning the handle. “It’s locked, Mom,” she said, tossing back her blond ringlets. “Where’s the key?”
“That’s the adventure part.” Tugging Hope along, Anna reached the door and knelt to study the lock, putting an arm around both girls. She’d hoped for an old-fashioned bolt she could just slide a screwdriver under, but this lock was modern and tight.
That would be better in the long run, safer. She swallowed a lump in her throat.
Who’d have thought that law-abiding, rule-following Anna George would calmly break and enter? She shoved aside her good-
girl fear of what would happen if they got caught. She had no other choice. No way would she be a lawbreaker long term, but for now, she’d do whatever was necessary to keep them safe.
Around them, birds had resumed their chirping and cawing. The salt air blew warm, bringing the fragrance of the sea, just beyond the dunes, if her childhood memories served. In fact, if she closed her eyes, she imagined she could hear it: the rhythmic pounding of waves against the sand.
“Mommy? What’re we going to do?” Hope’s voice trembled.
“I’m hungry,” Hayley complained.
But at least they were speaking. And Anna meant to make sure that continued, that their voices weren’t silenced as they’d been in the past.
She stood, stepped back. “Let’s take a walk around the cabin.”
“Yeah!” Hayley started to rush off.
“Wait. What’s the rule?”
Her impulsive daughter stopped. “Stay together,” she said reluctantly.
“That’s right—good job,” Anna said to Hayley, and then looked down at Hope’s anxious face. Though her twins were identical physically, their personalities were nearly opposite. “Want a ride on my back, kiddo?”
Anna knelt. “Jump up.” When Hope did, Anna staggered to her feet. Blackness started to close her vision, but she grabbed the trunk of a live oak tree and steadied herself, took a couple of deep breaths. No sleep and a boatload of worries were wearing her down, but she’d gotten this far. She could do this.
She looked up at the cloud-mottled sky. “Okay, let’s take a look.”
They made their way around the small cabin. Up close, she could see that time and neglect had taken their toll. Part of the screen that sheltered the porch was ripped, and white siding curved away from the cabin, warped by weather. She let Hayley slip through the torn screen to test the cabin’s back door, but it was locked, too.
They continued on around. Mushrooms, bold red and yellow, sprouted in the sandy soil near the small picnic table. No footprints, no trash, no abandoned beach toys.
The loneliness unnerved her a little, but it was what she and the girls needed, at least for now. And the cabin’s basic structure seemed sound. “Peek inside,” she urged Hope, moving closer to a promising window.
Hope hesitated, then leaned from her perch on Anna’s back to peer into the window. “It’s got a kitchen table! And a sofa and chairs.”
Perfect. As long as the furniture hadn’t become a nest for rodents or bugs, but she’d keep that fear to herself.
On the third side of the cabin, Anna found what she was searching for: a low window that looked loose in its frame. Just the entrance she needed. “Slide down, sweetie. I want you and Hayley to walk out to the road and back. Count the steps.”
“But what if it’s more than a hundred?” Hope asked. That was as high as the twins could count.
“Then we’ll start over.” Hayley grabbed her twin’s hand and tugged. “Come on!”
As the girls headed toward the road, squabbling, Anna watched them until she was sure they couldn’t see her, and then pulled a screwdriver out of her back pocket and eased it between the sill and the window edge. Working quickly, she jiggled the window open enough to get leverage, and then wedged the screwdriver in. The wood was swollen and tight, but she manhandled it upward with brute strength she hadn’t known she had.
If she didn’t find shelter for the night, and longer, she feared what harm might come to her children. It was bad enough, sleeping in the car and tangling with the drifters who hung around roadside rest areas and truck stops, but even worse was the ultimate fear: that Beau would find them.
The window broke free in a rush and sped upward, splintering the sill. A long needle of painted wood dug into her hand. She pulled it out, wincing, and leaned into the room.
kid scent. They needed baths, or at least a swim, soon. She was just thankful that they were safe and with her.
“Whatcha doing with that window?” Hayley asked.
“Are we allowed to open it?” Hope looked worried.
“It’ll be fine,” she said to Hope. “You’ll see what I’m doing in a minute. But for now, I want you to go stand on the front porch, and close your eyes, and count to...”
“A hundred!”
“Seventy-five,” Anna said. “Go on. Scoot.” It was a good thing they’d reached their destination, because she was running out of creative games to keep the girls entertained.
Hoisting herself up, she flung a leg through the waist-high window and eased through the casement, scraping her thigh on the rough wood. Blood beaded bright against her fading yellow-green bruises.
She was in. She dusted her hands together, did a quick inspection to assure herself that the place was solid and safe, and threw the front door open just as the girls shouted “seventy-five” together. “Come see our new vacation home!” she said, smiling at them.
They walked in, wide-eyed but accepting, and the three of them explored the small cabin. Faded, vinyl-covered camp mattresses remained on rusty cots, a single in one bedroom and a double in an
other. The living room was fully, if only basically, furnished, and the pine paneling on the walls gave the place a cozy, old-fashioned feel.
“Where’s the stove?” Hayley asked.
“And the fridge?” Hope added.
Anna came into the kitchen area and looked around, putting her hands on her hips. “They were taken out because people don’t live here anymore. But we’ll be fine. We have our cooler, and we can cook things on our camp stove.”
“Or just eat cereal,” Hope added helpfully.
Anna blew out a breath. “No. We’re going to start having real meals again, just as soon as we can go to the grocery store.” If memory served, there was a small one in the coastal village of Safe Haven, just a few miles down the road. For more supplies, they’d take the highway to Myrtle Beach.
“Hey, the lights don’t work!” Hayley stood flicking the light switch in the kitchen. Hope ran to check the one in the living room, and then the girls ran from switch to switch, testing each one and getting the same result.
Anna tried the faucet: no water. Of course. It made sense given that the rustic little resort wasn’t open for business. Electricity they could do without, but they needed water.

She let the twins run as she looked around, planning. A worried glance out the window showed a low-hanging sun, so she had to get moving. They’d bring in what they needed, light the lantern, get out dinner. Probably peanut-butter sandwiches, but she’d fix the girls some fruit at least. She’d locate a flashlight and go hunting for the main water valve, set the girls to work wiping down mattresses. They’d find a broom and sweep up the dust and litter on the floor. For tonight, they’d be okay.
Tomorrow, she’d deal with the fact that she was in a strange state where she knew no one, with two little girls to support on very limited funds. She’d figure out their next step.
She was just so grateful that they’d found refuge. They were beginning a new life without Beau, and for now at least, they were safe. That was all that mattered.

AFTER LOADING UP his truck with supplies from the hardware store—and a six-pack of beer to wash away the taste of his family’s annoying interference—Sean O’Dwyer pulled up to the closed gates of the Sea Pine Cottages, rolled down his window and just sat for a minute, enjoying the moonlight.
The vibrating hum of cicadas rose and fell, and in the distance, waves pounded. The Southern breeze that cooled his face felt like home, as did the looming cedar and live oak trees draped spookily with Spanish moss. Marshy salt smells reminded him of long days spent canoeing through the area’s black water rivers.
The low country would heal him. It always did.
And living here, alone, would be enough for him.
He got out of his car, keyed open the padlock and unwound the chain. He was pushing the squeaky, rusty gate open when the hair on the back of his neck rose.
Something was out of place.
His heart rate accelerated as he stepped back to his truck to retrieve his pistol, then did a deliberately slow three-sixty. His intuition for danger had been honed on the streets of Kabul and he knew better than to ignore it, even in these much-more-peaceful surroundings.
There. A flash.
He walked quietly toward it and realized there was a car parked behind the bushes that framed the gate. Decently hidden, but not to someone with his experience. A small Hyundai sedan that had seen better days. Hand on his weapon, he approached it.
Most cars held some evidence of their owners—a potato chip bag, kid toys, a spare jacket or sweater. This one was completely 
kitchen, a cooler, a couple of suitcases. Someone was intending to settle in.
But that wasn’t happening, not on his watch. He came around to the back porch of the cabin and lifted aside a broken section of the screen. Used his knife to slit it the rest of the way open. Stepped cautiously through.
The slight, silent figure that rose in front of him gave him two seconds of warning, and he ducked, but not soon enough.
Fire stung his eyes and he staggered backward, his skin burning. He grabbed his assailant’s wrist, realized with shock that it belonged to a petite woman, lost his balance and pulled her down with him.

Book 2- Low Country Dreams available May 28th
Book 3- Low Country Christmas available September 28th 

Listen to a Sample


Other Works by Lee Tobin McClain

About the author: Lee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. When she's not writing emotional love stories with happy endings, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.