Welcome to Magnolia Bay
Coming Home to Magnolia Bay (the third book in the Welcome to Magnolia Bay series) tells the story of Sara Prescott and Justin Reed, and Jett, the dog who brings them together. We’ve met Sara before: She’s the tall, willowy redhead whose son Max is best friends with Heather Gabriel’s son Josh. Heather and Sara are good friends who both volunteer for the Parent / Teacher Organization at their kids’ school. Sara is a journalist who works for the City of Magnolia Bay, producing the town’s free monthly magazine and daily ad flyer (the one Wolf kept bringing to Abby in Warm Nights in Magnolia Bay). After Sara’s divorce from her son’s dad, she and eight-year-old Max moved back home to Magnolia Bay to be closer to family and friends, a support network she needed since Max began having seizures. They’ve been living in Magnolia Bay for a couple of years when the book begins.
The hero, Justin Reed, lived in Magnolia Bay as a kid, but family problems caused him to leave abruptly; and Sara was instrumental in hastening his departure. But it was a long time ago. Justin has changed his name, and he looks very different now. The skinny, spotty, scared kid has turned into a tall, darkly handsome man. Sara doesn’t remember him.
But he remembers her. For years, he’s been dreaming—and fantasizing—about the chirpy cheerleader who helped to save his life. He recognizes her instantly, even though she’s changed, too. Real life has erased Sara’s bouncy perkiness. Her need to control her son’s life has turned Sara into an uptight, perfectionistic helicopter mom whose own life has been put on hold indefinitely.
But all that is about to change.
Book #3 - Coming Home to Magnolia Bay
Come Home to Love
Sara Prescott's eight-year-old son Max wants a dog. But their apartment doesn't allow pets, and the divorced single mom can't afford the certified seizure-alert dog Max needs. Instead, she and Max volunteer at the Furever Love Animal Shelter. Max forms a special bond with Jett, a big black bully breed and three-time loser who keeps getting dumped.
Justin Reed comes back home to Magnolia Bay to make peace with his past. Now an animal trainer for the film industry, he visits the shelter to find a dog actor for a series set in nearby New Orleans. Justin chooses Jett, but the shelter's director rejects his application because Jett needs a finally-forever home, not a job with an end date. The shelter's resident animal communicator proposes a win-win: Justin can use Jett as an animal actor if he also trains Jett as a service dog for Max.
Thrown together while Justin trains Jett, Sara and Justin have no business indulging their mutual attraction. Sara is focused on her son, and Justin will be leaving soon. But Max and Jett have other ideas….
Meet the residents of Magnolia Bay
Sara is a tall, willowy redhead, with long hair that wants to curl, but she works hard to make it lie straight. Her determination to curb her hair’s natural desire to curl is sort of a metaphor for her life right now. When her young son’s seizures impact her marriage, she divorces Max’s dad and quits her dream job as a photojournalist in San Diego so she can come back home to Magnolia Bay where she will have a support network to rely on. But Sara doesn’t trust anyone but herself to take care of Max. And as his seizures worsen, Sara’s need to control her son’s life begins to control hers. Her parents and friends are worried that Sara’s too-firm grip on every element of her life is pushing her to a breaking point. It’s going to take more than a group effort to help Sara relax and enjoy life again. And it all starts when Justin Reed comes to town to adopt a big black dog that Sara’s son Max has fallen in love with.
Justin has a past in Magnolia Bay, one he has tried to forget—and bury so deep that no one in Magnolia Bay will remember that he ever existed. He changes his last name and makes a new life for himself as an animal trainer for the film industry. The job involves following the work where it takes him, so he lives in a custom camper he has built himself. He’s the ultimate nomad, with no roots, and no permanent mailing address. But the small Louisiana Bayou town has a magnetic pull Justin can’t resist. He can’t help himself—he keeps coming back, though he takes care to make sure no one recognizes him, especially the family he left behind. The small animal shelter on the outskirts of town seems safe enough for him to visit when he needs to find a dog to train for the series pilot that’s being filmed in nearby New Orleans. Then he sees Sara and her son Max while they’re volunteering at the shelter, and he realizes that while he can never come back home, he can’t leave, either.
Max is Sara’s eight-year-old son. Max’s father is out of his life. Unable to deal with Max’s seizures, Rob left all that drama for Sara to contend with. Max doesn’t miss his dad; he barely remembers him. Max knows that without his dad’s help, Sara is struggling both emotionally and financially. He has become a tiny grown-up, as he tries to shelter Sara in much the same way she tries to shelter him. While Sara works to tie-down any threat to her son’s safety, Max does his best to do his best, so his mom won’t have to worry. He knows better than to ask to go to sleep-overs or parties with his friends, even though he desperately wants to be like every other kid in his class. He doesn’t ask anyone to do anything for him that he can do for himself, even when it’s hard. He is intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and self-contained. Still, he has a goofy, friendly demeanor that reveals his open heart and makes others feel at ease. For a little kid, he’s come a long way in life, and a lot of his strength has come from adversity.
Jett is a big black mixed-breed dog who looks scary and intimidating but is a softie at heart. He’s a healer who attracts humans in need of the unconditional love and support he has to offer. But he doesn’t understand why he keeps being returned to the shelter after he has helped the people who adopted him. They needed him, and while they needed him, they kept him. But once he’d worked his magic in their lives, they didn’t hesitate to let him go. Jett is a big dog with an even bigger heart, and he only wants to help. But he needs to be loved, too. He needs to belong. He needs a forever home. But after being adopted and then dumped so many times, it’s hard to trust that this will be the time when he really gets to stay.
Why I wrote this book...
Every book I write is inspired by the animals in my life. Our dog Jed was one of three mangy puppies I found after they’d been dumped on the side of the road. I named Jed after the character Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies show that I watched every afternoon of my childhood. Even as a four-month-old puppy, Jed had a slow, calm, easy demeanor. I named Jed’s sweet and beautiful sister after the character of Ellie May, who was also sweet and beautiful. (I wanted to be Ellie May when I grew up, because she walked around with a baby chimp on her hip and a raccoon on her shoulder. What’s not to love about that?) I named Jed’s brother Jethro, after Ellie May’s goofy, clueless cousin. Those names fit the dogs perfectly.
I had no trouble finding homes for Jed’s beautiful chocolate brown sister, or his handsome twin brother who, though solid black everywhere else, had a fine white blaze on his neck. Even just that small amount of white gave Jethro a bit of flair his solid black brother lacked. We already had a gazillion dogs, and the last thing we needed at the time was another dog. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find anyone to take Jed, even though he had the best temperament of the three. Reluctantly, we kept Jed. I’m sorry to say that it took me almost a year to understand that Jed was, and would always be, my dog. Even I didn’t want a big black dog, no matter how sweet and wonderful he was.
Jed isn’t perfect. No dog is. But he comes pretty darn close. (Unless you’re a goose or a wild animal who has ventured into the yard.) But he certainly deserved more consideration than I—or anyone—gave him in his first year of life. He had to work harder than most dogs to prove that he belonged. As an animal communicator, I’ve done my share of volunteering at animal shelters. I’ve known good dogs who had to take that last walk down the long hallway to the room from which they would not return. And a lot of those dogs didn’t get adopted because they were too big, too quiet, too plain. Too black.
It’s not fair. But apparently, that’s the way it is. So, I wanted to write a book that told the story of a good dog who was too often overlooked, until finally, someone saw him for the loving and worthy dog he was on the inside before judging the plain black wrapping he’d come packaged in through no fault of his own. I know that when you meet Jett in Coming Home to Magnolia Bay, you’ll fall in love with him. And I hope that the next time you’re looking for a dog of your own to love, you won’t overlook the ones whose big, loving hearts come wrapped in a plain black package.