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Lowcountry Stranger

Lowcountry Stranger

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Returning to the limelight are the beloved Sweeney sisters from Her Sister’s Shoes, faced with a new wave of suspense and family drama that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final, heart-stopping conclusion.

** Please Note: The audiobook version of this title has been digitally narrated. 

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Synopsis

In a quaint coastal town where everyone knows everyone, the arrival of a stranger is big news. So when a mysterious young woman crashes the Sweeney family wedding, the tight-knit community is abuzz with curiosity and suspicion. Meet Annie Dawn: an enigmatic waif with doe-eyes and a spunky personality that instantly captivates everyone she encounters. As the night unfolds, Annie wins over both young and old with her street smarts and spirited charm. But who is she, really? And what secrets is she hiding? One thing is for certain: Annie Dawn, whether for better or worse, is here to stay.

As Annie grows closer to the Sweeney family, hidden agendas come to light and loyalties are tested. Amidst the chaos, bonds will be strengthened, and relationships redefined. Ultimately, the arrival of Annie Dawn sets in motion a series of events that will forever change the lives of the Sweeney sisters.

Read an Excerpt

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A gentle breeze in the late afternoon of an early June day rustled the Spanish moss draped from the live oak trees, bringing with it the smell of the salty marsh to those gathered on the lawn for the wedding of the youngest Sweeney sister. Women tugged their shawls tighter around their shoulders, thankful they’d remembered to bring a wrap for what promised to be a chilly evening ahead. The sun shimmered off the high tide on the inlet, casting Moss Creek Farm in a pale glow. The white-frame antebellum plantation house—with its green-black shutters, large columns, and wraparound porches—stood like a grand old dame, proud and dignified and handsome. A sailcloth tent with wooden poles and pennant flags waving from its peaks graced the upper lawn, encompassing the terraced area adjacent to the house. Servers dressed in tuxedo shirts and bow ties stood ready to pass trays of hors d’oeuvres and champagne-filled flutes. Their instruments in position, the four members of a bluegrass band waited onstage for the minister’s signal to begin the recessional music. A picture-perfect evening for Faith and Mike to begin their new lives together.

Samantha Sweeney thought her baby sister had never looked prettier than she did in a simple sundress fashioned out of white eyelet material and a wreath of daisies atop her head, her mahogany locks cascading around her face in soft curls. The only jewelry she wore was a simple gold cross around her neck and pearl studs at her ears.

Sam approved of Faith’s new husband, a 100 percent improvement over her last. Mike’s rosy cheeks glowed, and his blue eyes sparkled as he stared down at his bride, promising to love and honor and cherish her all the days of their lives. Wearing a dress similar to her mother’s, Faith’s seven-year-old daughter, Bitsy, peeked out from her hiding place behind her mother’s leg—a position the child had not ventured far from in nearly a year. Sam wondered how Faith and Mike managed to have any intimacy with Bitsy as a permanent fixture between them.

Sam smiled at her son, Jamie, who was sitting next to her on the right. Emotion suddenly overwhelmed her as it often did when she took in the sight of his handsome face, dark curls, and coal eyes.

Jamie leaned over and whispered, “Bitsy looks terrified.”

Sam clasped her hands in her lap. “Poor baby. I’m not sure she’ll ever fully recover from her ordeal.” She closed her eyes as she thought about the three-week murderous rampage Bitsy’s father, Curtis, had gone on the previous summer, traumatizing his daughter and threatening the entire Sweeney family.

Sam caught sight of a doe-eyed beauty with honey-colored hair in the row opposite them on the groom’s side. Something about the teenager seemed familiar, although Sam was certain she’d never met her before.

“Do you know her?” Sam asked, dipping her head at the girl across from them.

Jamie cast a quick glance across the aisle and then did a double take. “Nope. I’ve never seen her before.”

“She’s kind of pretty, don’t you think?” Sam nudged him with her elbow.

Jamie had come home from his freshman year at the University of South Carolina talking nonstop about an auburn-haired beauty he’d met in his Psych 101 class. In that good-natured way that moms tease their sons, Sam had tried to tempt him with mention of some of the local girls who were his past girlfriends, but so far he’d remained steadfast to Sophia.

“Nice try, Mom,” he whispered. “But I prefer girls who bathe.”

Sam’s eyes followed her son’s to the ground where the girl’s filthy feet rested in a pair of dollar-store rubber flip-flops. On closer inspection, Sam noticed she was wearing denim cutoffs and a red halter top, inappropriate attire no matter how casual the wedding. Her hair was matted and tangled, and her chocolate eyes overpowered her too-thin face.

“She must be a friend of Faith’s,” Sam said.

Jamie added, “Or one of Mike’s coworkers from the hospital.”

Mother and son returned their attention to the bride and groom.

The Methodist minister who had baptized all three Sweeney sisters pronounced the couple husband and wife. Mike kissed Faith on the lips, a kiss that lasted longer than their mother would approve of but that brought cheers from the congregation. When the band launched into the recessional music, Mike swooped Bitsy up in his arms, and the new family retreated down the aisle and across the lawn toward the house.

Seated on her left, Sam’s boyfriend of twelve months draped his arm around her shoulder and drew her body close to his. “They look so happy. Aren’t you the least bit tempted to take the plunge?” Eli asked, his breath tickling her ear.

She gave him a quick peck on the lips. “We’ve been through this a thousand times, Eli. You know where I stand on the issue of marriage. We don’t need a license to validate our feelings for each other.”

She was growing tired of the argument. Eli was the right man for her. Of that she had little doubt. The problem was that he wanted to take the next step, and she remained terrified of commitment.

The crowd was beginning to disperse when the oldest of the Sweeney sisters joined the minister at the altar. Jackie clapped her hands. “If I could have your attention for just a moment please.”

Why does she always have to be the center of attention? Sam wondered and then chastised herself at the sudden resurgence of animosity toward her older sister. Much of her bitterness toward Jackie had dissipated during the past year, and their relationship had grown stronger because of it. She would have to work harder to control her feelings.

“I’d like to welcome you to Moss Creek Farm.” Jackie opened her arms wide. “The bride and groom will take a few minutes to pose for photographs. In the meantime, please help yourself to refreshments.” She gestured toward the tent.

As the band transitioned from the traditional recessional music to James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind,” the crowd began to gather their belongings and make their way up the hill toward the house.

Sam’s mother, Lovie, who had been sitting in the row in front of Sam and Jamie, turned around to greet them. “I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to say hello before the ceremony. I was running late, and I noticed you were as well. That was some kind of crazy day we had at the market,” she said, referring to Captain Sweeney’s Seafood, which she and her husband, Oscar, had opened in 1959.

“Tell me about it. I hope that’s the kind of business we see for the rest of the summer.”

“I’ve never known Jackie to wear pink, but I must say it suits her,” Lovie said.

Jackie had always sworn off all shades of pink, but the fuchsia silk wrap dress was a testament to her recent change in personality. Her hairstylist had recently cut layers in her shoulder-length dark hair, which softened her angles, making her face look fuller. Less stark. Less harsh.

Sam leaned over and kissed her mother’s cheek. “Yes, it does, Mama, as much as this shade of coral suits you.”

“Humph, this god-awful suit? Jackie insisted on buying it for me last year when she was convinced I was on my deathbed. Whatever you do, don’t let her bury me in it.”

“I’ll try to remember that.” Laughing, Sam turned her attention to the man standing beside her mother. “I hope you realize how much of a blessing you are to us, Mack.” She stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to the gray bristles on his cheek. “If not for you, she would have shown up in her pajamas,” she said in a low voice her mother couldn’t hear.

Lovie’s quirky behavior of late had driven many of her close friends to worry about her mental stability. Some thought her a candidate for the funny farm while others feared she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s despite the recent battery of tests at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston that proved otherwise. Regardless of her mental state, the Sweeney sisters were relieved to have Captain Mack Bowman playing an important role in their mother’s life. Although none of them dared to speculate what that role entailed.

“Taking care of your mother is my pleasure,” Mack said, giving Lovie’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. He removed a bandana from his coat pocket and mopped his brow. “It’s hot as daylights out here. Is anybody ready for some refreshments?”

Eli and Mack took drink orders and headed off to the bar, leaving Sam alone with her mother and son. They fell in line behind the throng of wedding attendees and slowly made their way to the tent. They spotted Jackie and her estranged husband, Bill, deep in conversation at the edge of the dance floor near the food tables. From recent conversations with her sister, Sam was under the impression that Jackie and Bill were working through their marital problems. But the somber expressions on their faces indicated otherwise.

Sam kissed the air beside her sister’s cheek. “You’ve done it again, Jackie. This is an amazing party.”

Other Books in the Series

About the books . . .

Her Sister’s Shoes
Sam Sweeney is the heartbeat that keeps the family ticking. But what happens when the caretaker needs care? After a devastating ATV accident shatters her son's world, leaving him confined to a wheelchair, Samantha's own unbreakable façade cracks. Witness the transformative journey of a mother pushed to her limits—how far will she go to hold her family together when her own world is falling apart?

Lowcountry Stranger
When enigmatic stranger Annie Dawn crashes a Sweeney family wedding, she captivates everyone with her charm and mystery. But her sudden appearance is no accident. As tensions rise and secrets unravel, the Sweeney sisters must confront both the enigma that is Annie and the hidden issues in their own lives. This gripping tale of family, suspense, and revelation will keep you riveted until its stunning conclusion.

Boots and Bedlam
Sam Sweeney's dream is simple: a Christmas Eve wedding surrounded by the people she loves. But life has other plans, from comedic mishaps to unexpected obstacles that could upend her big day. Between juggling a booming seafood market, untangling family traditions, and navigating the trials of teenage angst, even a forecasted white Christmas threatens to be more blizzard than blessing.

Tangle of Strings
Discover the gripping saga of a family on the brink. For generations, the Sweeneys have been a fortress of love and forgiveness—until now. A crisis erupts, threatening to shatter the very foundation that has always kept them united. At the eye of the storm is sixteen-year-old Annie Bethune and her boyfriend, Cooper. Their youthful dreams for the future spark a family-wide debate that leaves no one on the sidelines. As opinions clash and loyalties are tested, Annie feels like a puppet in a drama she didn't write. But when those strings snap and a family feud explodes, Annie makes a drastic choice: she runs. She doesn’t realize she’s running straight into the arms of danger.

Saturdays at Sweeney’s
When a devastating fire engulfs Lovie Sweeney's sixty-year-old seafood business, not only do the flames consume a family legacy, but they also ignite a whirlwind of suspicion. Was it a tragic accident, or is this tight-knit family the target of a malicious attack? As Lovie finds herself scrutinized in an arson investigation, the Sweeney clan faces a medical diagnosis that threatens to redraw the family dynamics.