About the Book
Maggie Award Finalist 2016 in Romance Novellas
A Christmas Carol meets It’s A Wonderful Life
A letter for Sonja’s deceased friend arrives at the post office in Michigan, and with it a proposal. With her father threatening to kick her out of his home, Sonja impulsively responds, offering to travel west to be a substitute bride. At the same time, Louis’s railroad promotion sends him back to Michigan, the one place on earth he’d hoped to never return—where Christmas past was full of pain. A mysterious stranger leaves him marked copies of “A Christmas Carol” as he considers romancing Sonja in Christmas present. Will Louis discern the best choices for Christmas future? Does it include the Poor House, again? Even so—will God bring healing and love to him this year?
About the Author
Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of fifteen Christian historical romances, including ECPA bestsellers. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn't "cure" her overactive imagination! A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia but grew up as a “Yooper,” in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time!
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Sonja closed the post office’s heavy oak door behind her, shutting out the frigid breeze that had accompanied her. The blessed heat from the pot-bellied stove, center left, drew her closer. She trod across the wide-planked pine floors, and then held her hands out.
Bent behind the high, dark-stained counter, Mr. McLaughlin, the postmaster, glanced up over his spectacles. “Glad to see ye, lass.”
With no decorations, other than a few posters tacked to the wood-paneled walls, the Spartan room lay empty. From the fresh beeswax scent, the postal superintendent had already waxed the few furnishings in the room—a narrow table for folks to set boxes on, a straight-backed oak chair where elderly patrons could sit, and the counter.
“Has it been quiet this morning, Mr. McLaughlin?” Her words almost echoed in the chamber.
“Give it a few weeks, lass, as folks realize they need to get their Christmas parcels out.”
“That’s what Father says, too.” Among other things he often discussed, such as her need to find employment and to not merely be his substitute at the post office. “Hard to believe there’s already snow dusting the streets, sir.”
“Could be a hard winter.” He shuffled through a few envelopes. “Folks in these parts got their maple syrup to market just fine—and that’ll make the difference between hungry bellies and full ones this winter. Aye?”
“Yes, I pray so.” Sonja strode away from the stove and toward the postmaster, shivering,.
Conversation about Shepherd’s maple syrup always reminded her of the tragedy a decade earlier. An entire boatload of men had gone down in the river, their precious syrup lost, and one man, Abner Smith, dead. Where was his son, Louis, now? How did someone come to grips with losing everything—as Louis had? Sonja nibbled her lower lip. She was about to find out for herself what it was like to lose everything—if Father carried out his threats.
“How’s yer Pa faring today?” Mr. McLaughlin smoothed his bushy white moustache.
Ornery, demanding she find a husband, threatening to kick her out—just like her friend Cora had said he would do. But Cora was gone now. Buried in a pauper’s grave. Sonja blinked back tears.
“Ah, now, lass—he’ll be fine soon.”
Obviously he misunderstood her grief over her friend as fear for her father.
She dipped her chin.
Mr. McLaughlin tugged at his stiff, celluloid collar. “I need to head out back for a moment.” He jerked a stubby thumb over his narrow shoulder.
The silver-haired man pushed aside the curtains that separated the front office from the rear workroom. “I’ll return shortly, lass.”
Sonja circled behind the desk and reached for the stack of unfiled letters. Her heart leapt in her chest as she spied the top one—with Cora’s name. Sonja slid the missive closer. Mr. Penwell’s distinctive and elegant handwriting marked him as the sender. The poor man—his pen pal had died, but he didn’t yet know in far off South Dakota where he lived.
Would she, or possibly even her father, get into trouble if she opened the letter? This was, after all her father’s livelihood and she represented him when she substituted on his route. Sonja’s mouth went dry.
She exhaled a low sigh as sweet Mr. Akers opened the heavy door and entered the building, a heavy beaver coat draped over one arm, his cane looped over the other.
“Good day, Little Sunshine.” He greeted her with the same nickname he’d given Sonja when she was a child in his wife’s Sunday school class, more than twenty years earlier. A class Sonja now taught. Hard to believe Mrs. Akers had been gone to heaven for four years already.
“How are you, sir?” She watched as he laid the glossy coat on the counter.
“Perplexed, my dear, and disturbed.” He removed his tall, black hat and set it beside the coat.
“Oh dear, why are you mystified, Mr. Akers?” And why had he brought the fur here?
He leaned in and stroked his white beard. “Your father.”
She cringed, anticipating what the elderly man might say. Father wouldn’t. He didn’t. He probably had. “Please tell me he hasn’t asked you to marry me, sir.”
His aquamarine eyes widened. “How did you know, Sunshine?”
Groaning, she shook her head slowly.
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