Shannon here: I’ve known Tara Johnson for several years. We’re in the same writers’ group and we went to Dallas to a writers conference once. And went around and around and around trying to get on the right loop to our hotel. I’ve been cheering her on since we met and I’m really excited to have her as my guest. Today, Tara shares how she met her husband, plus a romantic excerpt from her debut Historical Romance, Engraved on the Heart. Comment or answer the question at the end of the post to enter the drawing for a copy. Deadline: May 26th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Tara:
The Kissing Tree and Other Childhood Romances
“Do you see him? That cute boy over there?”
I turned to my mom, confused as to why she was pointing out the dark-haired boy across the church building. “Yes?”
“He’s a cutie. I’ve got a good feeling about that one.”
I’m sure my eyes matched the surprise flickering in my chest. “Mother! Good grief! I’m only twelve! He’s seventeen. Ancient!”
Mom laughed and winked. “I know, but maybe…someday.”
My mom was right. The sweet, shy boy she had introduced me to years before was the young man who stole my heart as a college freshman. Sometimes, the romances born of childhood friendships can be the sweetest and most enduring of all
There’s something sweet about a romance that begins as a childhood friendship, and nothing more tender than the time-honored tradition of carving initials into trees to mark a budding attraction. In my debut novel Engraved on the Heart, Micah and Keziah’s childhood friendship blooms into something so deep, it’s able to withstand the tumultuous upheaval and slicing betrayal of war.
Excerpt from Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson:
A pang pinched her heart and she roamed toward the grove, noting the multiple knife cuts carved into one particular tree’s thick flesh. She ran her finger over the deep gashes—letters, crudely etched names. She’d nearly forgotten about the Kissing Tree, but once seen, the rush of shame spilled through her just as it always had.
Micah’s strong presence behind her jerked her out of the bitter memories.
“Did you keep any secrets here?”
His voice, so low near her ear, caused shivers of awareness to traverse her spine. She kept herself facing away from him, content to bury her thoughts where he couldn’t see them.
“No, not me.”
He moved to her side and traced a name with his own fingers. “Really?” He turned to her, his face lined with surprise. “I find that hard to believe.”
She felt a flicker of stark pain. “I never took you to be cruel, Micah.”
At once, his expression sobered. “What are you talking about?”
She nearly tripped over her tongue, desperate to keep the pain from leaking out—but this was Micah. What she refused to speak he would easily enough ferret out. “You know what I was like in school.”
“Yes.” He spoke slowly, studying her. “Pretty. Sweet—”
“Stop.” She wrapped her arms around her middle. “Don’t tell me what I want to hear. I was skinny and backward, too shy to even scare a fly—to say nothing of my condition. I had few friends and certainly no boy ever took a fleeting interest in me.” She shook her head, pushing away the old pain. “No, there were no secrets, no sweet romances.”
He was silent at her side, and she allowed herself to touch the battered, gnarled tree once more, enjoying the feel of the scratchy bark against her fingertips. “I longed for some fellow to carve my name into the tree, but no one ever did,” she whispered. Instead of allowing the grimace she would normally permit, she chose to smile. “It used to bother me. Not as much anymore. After all, few—if any—of these pairings lasted longer than a week or two.”
Micah was so silent, she braved a glance to find him staring at her, his breath visibly thin. He looked as if he wanted to speak but could not.
She’d made him uncomfortable. Surely he pitied her.
Dropping her fingers from the old tree, she carefully began to pick her way across the yard. She didn’t want his pity. For whatever reason, no one had ever looked beyond her paralyzing shyness to see the girl longing to break free. And now, with her ill condition as unpredictable as ever, it was unlikely anyone would.
Some days the thought made her sad, but most times she was content. That is, until Micah had suddenly appeared in her life once more.
Refusing to analyze the wayward thought, she quickened her step upon spying the old tree swing on the far side of the school. “Push me?”
The earnest plea in his voice stopped her. Turning, she noted the somber shadow darkening his features. “Yes?”
“I—” He swallowed hard. “I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Oh.” A hollowness consumed her. “Where will you be sent?”
He refused to meet her eyes. “I don’t know. But I just wanted to tell you because . . .” He swallowed again and lifted his gaze.
Fear, excitement, uncertainty—all wrapped around her heart. Before he could finish, she jumped in. “Your friendship means much to me.”
He opened his mouth to say something before snapping it shut once more. Nodding slowly, he murmured, “Yes. Friends.”
About Tara: Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.
Her first historical romance with Tyndale House Publishers will be released in the summer of 2018, and is the first of three stories set during the Civil War. She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for twenty years and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.
Learn more and connect:
About the book – Engraved on the Heart:
Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.
Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.
Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.
Available July 1st – Preorder your copy now! Engraved on the Heart – Amazon
Question for Readers: Who was your childhood crush? I would love to hear!
Come back May 22nd for part two with Tara!