in this post: The Spice King
Happy February – official (according to me) KissingBooks month! And welcome to another Love Stories giveaway post! This LOVE STORIES giveaway series is thusly named for two reasons – first, because I love stories and second, because I love Love Stories.
Throughout the entire month of February, I’ll be spotlighting swoony Christian fiction & ‘clean read’ romances. Three cheers for KissingBooks!!! So… grab a fan or two, your trusty fainting couch, and maybe a freezer just to be safe and start making your KissingBooks tbr list! Oh… and did I mention there are GIVEAWAYS with EACH POST in this series??!! (Because authors are awesome!)
Today’s first book is The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden & I’ve got a swoony excerpt from the author to share with you!
THE SPICE KING
SERIES: Hope and Glory #1
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Bethany House
RELEASE DATE: September 3, 2020
Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building an acclaimed global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before they spiral out of control, he returns to his ancestral home for good after years of traveling the world.
As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.
Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?
Set-up for the Scene: Wealthy business tycoon Gray Delacroix has opened his home to Annabelle Larkin, a young botanist recently hired by the Smithsonian to find evidence of a rare plant in the Delacroix family archives. She has spent days in his home exploring his library, while Gray has been recovering from a relapse of typhoid. At last he drags himself out of his sickbed to visit with her in the library, and comes across her reading his old correspondence with his father:
* * *
His body ached with exhaustion as he lowered himself into a chair, relieved to be off his feet. “What did you think of them? Our letters?”
“I’m envious,” she said. “You and your father shared a wonderful friendship. That much is obvious from every letter.”
An ache bloomed in his chest as he looked at the letters, the only tangible memento of the bond he once shared with his father. Maybe because the two of them survived the crucible of war and then years of struggling back to stability made them closer than a typical father and son. He was proud of what they’d built together, and those letters documented every risk, plan, triumph, and failure.
“We were very lucky.”
“The world you paint in these letters is fascinating,” she said. “I could never be brave enough to sail to Java or Madagascar, but I love that you did. And these letters…. I can see how hard it was for you…. the distance, the heat, the illness. But also the people, the spices, and the adventure. I’ve always had a piece of my heart that longed to do something big. Epic. I love that you were brave enough to do it.”
He stared at her, mesmerized. She understood. They couldn’t be more different in background or personality, but she understood what drove him out into the world and the compulsion to work. A sense of unity with her grew stronger. He had never met anyone like her and once again his attraction to her was spiraling out of control.
This was dangerous for him. Why would a girl this young and naive want a stodgy, serious man like him? He was letting his emotions run amuck, when in all likelihood, she was only here to find something to impress her masters at the Smithsonian.
From the moment they met, they’d been completely honest with each other, and he didn’t want to stray from that now. No matter how mortifying, he needed to be frank with her. He wanted their friendship to be something more, but feared she didn’t feel the same. After decades of loneliness, a harbor was in sight, but if it was nothing more than a mirage, he needed to know.
“Annabelle, I find myself starting to care very deeply for you,” he began, tension making it hard to speak in a steady voice. “I’ve tried to help you by opening my home and greenhouses and library to you….but perhaps that was a mistake. I’d like a proper courtship with you, but if my feelings are not reciprocated, I don’t see how we can continue in this rather unconventional friendship.”
She blanched, her eyes widening as she sat back a few inches. Everything he’d just said was obviously offensive to her.
He looked away, unable to witness the distress on her face. “I’m sorry—
“Don’t apologize,” she interrupted. “Please don’t apologize.”
“But I owe you one. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but this is a new and untried territory for me. I am sorry I misread—
“You didn’t misread anything.”
His gaze whipped back to hers. Still sitting on the floor, gazing up at him, she looked insecure and painfully young.
“I want to be here. Please don’t send me away.”
The note of desperation in her voice was odd. It was the voice of a woman anxious to secure her position at the Smithsonian, not a hopeful woman who returned his affection. “Annabelle, I can still help you. If you need a steady job, I can open doors for you.”
“Are you throwing me out?” The desperation was gone, the challenge was back.
“No! I meant to say, in my hopelessly clumsy, fever-addled brain, is that I care for you. I can’t keep seeing you here every day if your only interest in is exotic spices or vanilla orchids. If that’s the case, for my own survival…I must bring this to an end.”
If he lived to be a thousand there would never be a more awkward conversation than this one. He stared out the window and wished this day was already over.
“It’s you, Gray. I’m interested in you.”
What little strength he had in his body drained away and he sagged against the back of his chair. She put a hand on his knee, and he covered it with his own. He was too exhausted to even smile, but inside, a hundred suns were rising. He’d never thought of himself as an overly romantic man, but suddenly everything felt right. Was it possible that God had guided Annabelle all the way from a wheat field in Kansas and straight to his front door? It felt that way.
“I’m very glad you’re here,” he said, wishing he was more eloquent. “Whatever you need from me, Annabelle…you have only to ask.”
Had he been too forward? She flinched for a moment, but then the stress on her face eased. “Thank you for that,” she said.
He leaned down and kissed her, and nothing had ever felt so right.
Elizabeth Camden is a research librarian at a small college in central Florida. Her novels have won the coveted RITA and Christy Awards. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband near Orlando, Florida.
Elizabeth Camden is offering a print or ebook copy of The Spice King to one of my readers! (print is US only, ebook open internationally except where prohibited by law or logistics) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about The Spice King?