Janice Thompson


  Award-winning author Janice Thompson also writes under the pseudonym Janice Hanna. She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over 100 books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children’s books and more. She particularly enjoys writing light-hearted, comedic tales because she enjoys making readers laugh. Janice was named the 2008 Mentor of the year for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She currently serves as president of her local ACFW chapter (Writers on the Storm), where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. Her tagline, “Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever Afters!” sums up her take on life.


  Join Annie Peterson, mother of the bride, as she solve crimes on her way to the wedding. In book one (The Wedding Caper) a $25,000 night deposit mysteriously disappears from the Clark County Savings and Loan, and Annie Peterson takes on the role of amateur sleuth to solve the mystery. Only one problem. . .she knows nothing about crime solving! With loads of humor and just enough of a mystery to make you wonder whodunit, this story is perfect for a cozy read. Note: This book has a Christian, faith-based message. Janice Thompson, author of more than 100 books for the Christian market, offers readers an inspirational, yet wacky story! AMAZON


  What’s a frenzied mother of the bride to do? The best laid plans of brides and men go awry when Annie Peterson’s future son-in-law Scott disappears. Have pre-wedding jitters caused Brandi’s fiancé to take flight, or are more sinister forces at work? Surely Annie can solve the riddle. But who could be behind this apparent kidnapping caper? Maybe the drug company Scott works for has hidden motives. Perhaps it’s the handiwork of Otis, Scott’s deceitful dad. But then again it could be the shady wedding photographer, or the “”political enemies”” of Scott’s mother. Will Annie solve the mystery and recover the missing groom in time for the wedding? Join inspirational author Janice Thompson for another rollicking good time in the second installment of the Bridal Mayhem Mysteries Series. AMAZON


  Annie Peterson, mother of the bride, has just married off her oldest daughter but still has another ceremony/reception to plan for Brandi’s twin sister, Candy.

When Annie and her daughter visit the Clarksborough, Pennsylvania, florist shop, Flowers by Fiona, to order Gerber daisies for the big day, Annie’s dachshund, Sasha, somehow escapes from the car. Sasha ends up in the floral delivery truck with young driver Justin Bastrop, en route to a delivery. Ironically, Justin stumbles into a crime scene at the local funeral home – complete with one too many dead bodies. The funeral director, Eddie Moyer, is DOA and Sasha is missing. Possibly for good.

Who is behind the funeral home murder? Is the local florist, Fiona Sullivan, somehow involved? Or could it be the delivery driver, Justin? After all, he’s been angry at Eddie Moyer for years, ever since the old guy fired him while he was in his teens. Then again, there is that matter of the disgruntled family member to consider. Roger Kratz has held a grudge against Eddie Moyer for weeks, feeling he was overcharged for his wife’s funeral service.

Annie dives into the investigation full steam ahead, hoping to solve the crime. Will she solve this riddle in time for her daughter’s ceremony? And, will Sasha arrive home safely? AMAZON


  Join Annie Peterson as she follows the clues to discover who set fire to the local dating service, the Perfect Match. Is the arsonist the financially strapped widow who owns the matchmaking business, a mismatched newspaper editor, an unsatisfied and unmarried 40-something customer, or the new female investigator who, except for her suspicious past, seems the ideal mate for Annie’s son Devin? The race is on – to see whether or not Annie and her cohorts can solve the crime before another building is burned to the ground and before Devin becomes enamored of the woman who may be Ms. Wrong. AMAZON


  Join Annie Peterson, mother of the brides as she solves another whodunit! In this light-hearted story, someone has poisoned over a hundred wedding guests. Did the caterer, Annie’s friend Janetta, deliberately plan this scheme, or are there more sinister forces at work? Inspirational author Janice Thompson is back with the fifth installment in the Bridal Mayhem Mystery Series. Settle in for a fun read! AMAZON


  Annie Peterson is supposed to be on vacation. . .not in wedding planning mode and certainly not in mystery solving mode. But when she meets a bride-to-be aboard the Navigator of the Seas cruise liner, Annie can’t help herself. She’s ready, willing and able to help with plans for the big day. And when the bride goes missing just hours before the ceremony, it’s Annie to the rescue! Who’s responsible for spiriting away the elusive bride? The maid of honor? The emotional mother of the bride? An over-the-top best man? The groom-to-be? A total stranger? Someone’s done the deed and it’s up to Annie to locate the MIA bride before the ship returns to port. Surely, with the Lord’s help, she can solve this mystery. Join Annie on this high seas adventure where everyone on-board is a suspect and no good deed goes unpunished. AMAZON


From Savannah to Montana…
In 1916, Southern belle Alanna Lessing travels to Montana on a mission—to rescue her older sister from the influence of suffragettes and bring her back home to Savannah where she belongs. Alanna fears that her sister, Margaret, has allowed herself to be swept away by these newfangled beliefs.

The Christmas season is drawing near, and sleigh bells are ringing among the snow-covered peaks. The charming town of Missoula begins to grow on Alanna, and so do a few of its inhabitants—particularly neighboring rancher Tanner Jacobs. Alanna takes it upon herself to turn Tanner into a true Southern gentleman. He plays along, in part because he likes being near her, and in part because he’s intrigued by her very different way of life. Will their differences bind their hearts, or forever keep them apart? AMAZON




Love blooms in unlikely places. In 1912, two years after a tornado left many children homeless, the town of Daisy, Oklahoma, needs help with its orphanage. Enter Rena Jewel, 38 years old and still single, who longs to do something important with her life. A lover of flowers, Rena believes the letter from Daisy to be a sign from the Lord, and she promises to help. Sheriff Gene Wyatt is a widowed father struggling to control several unruly orphans—and to keep his own two boys from burning down the town. So when he receives word that help is on the way, Gene rejoices. Until he meets Rena, that is—a genteel and far too pretty woman whom he assumes is not up to the challenge. Will they save the orphanage, filled with rascally children? And will they find love along the way?

NOTE: This story previously released as Love Finds You in Daisy Oklahoma. AMAZON



  In the quaint community of Poetry, Texas, Belinda Bauer spies an opportunity. The tiny town is filled with loggers and railroad men in need of wives, so she sets herself up as a marriage broker. At her invitation, potential brides begin to arrive in Poetry. There’s only one problem: Belinda doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing and all the brides marry the wrong men! One client is particularly unhappy. George Kaufman, the local barber, has lost more than one prospective wife to Belinda’s fumbled attempts. For some reason, she just can’t seem to find George’s “perfect match,” though it’s not for lack of trying. Is there a poetic ending in store for George— and for Belinda, herself? NOTE: This novel previously released as Love Finds You in Poetry Texas AMAZON


It’s 1900 and Brent Murphy, a prodigal son, is disillusioned with New York and his life as a newspaperman. Drawn home to Galveston Island, Brent knows it is likely he will face rejection from his father. On Saturday September 8, 1900, without warning, the citizens of Galveston Island are in for the fight of their lives when the hurricane of the century hits. In a single night of horror, more than 6,000 islanders lose their lives and countless others are left in devastation.Through the experience, Brent finally faces the truth of his own childhood and the stormy relationship he has with his parents. He finds the courage to write the story of his past and discovers a loving God. AMAZON


Katie Walken has been running most of her life—from her Amish upbringing, from her family’s expectations, and from an arranged marriage to Karl Borg. Now a real estate agent, Katie feels she finally has the life she always wanted. . .or does she? Karl lost his love when she fled from their future in Amish country. Leaving home, too, he became an attorney. But his heart remains with Katie. When Katie and Karl are reunited, they seem to have a second chance at love. Will they allow God to help them face their past while looking toward their future? AMAZON


Brianna Nichols hates football. Living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, makes this aversion a difficult one to have, midst all the diehard football fans. But Brianna has her reasons, and the men in Pittsburgh will have to adjust. So far she hasn’t found a guy who can resist the pull of the game. Nor has she found one interesting enough to overlook that flaw. Until now. For Brandon Campbell the dream of a lifetime has just come true. He’s been traded from Tampa and is about to become the quarterback for his all-time favorite team. Used to the adulation that professional athletes generally receive, Brady is intrigued by Brianna’s apparent hostility to all things football. Brandon and Brianna have pasts they must overcome. Can God take those pasts and make them white as snow? AMAZON


Sin has caused a rift in their relationship. When Adrianne, a Bible college student, realizes she’s expecting a baby, she faces a monumental decision. Filled with guilt and shame, she makes the impulsive and regrettable choice to run—to leave college, to leave the relationship, and to return home to her parents in Pennsylvania. The fog of shame has altered her thinking. Staying in the relationship will prevent the man she loves from fulfilling his God-appointed call to become a missionary. But, as the days, months and years tick by, Adrienne regrets her decision. After coming to grips with God’s grace, she attempts to find Chris—her daughter’s father, so that she can share the truth of what she’s done. Unfortunately, he is impossible to locate, now that he’s ministering in the jungles of Nicaragua. With all hopes of locating him gone, a reconciliation feels hopeless. Chris-rejected, confused, and heartbroken at the loss of the woman he loves-has finished school and finds himself in Nicaragua, loving life as a missionary. But the void left by Adrianne’s unexplained departure remains. When Chris returns to the States for a friend’s wedding, is his unexpected meeting with Adrianne a coincidence or a “God incidence?” Can they put aside the past and embrace a future together as a family? AMAZON


Tangie Carini had her sights set on landing a lead in a Broadway play. But when her career flounders, she ends up in Harmony, New Jersey, as a church drama director. Will Tangie find the role of a lifetime where she least expects it? Stodgy music director Gregg Burke realizes he needs help. But how is he ever going to work with the outrageously eccentric Tangie Carini? Or will he discover that opposites do indeed attract? Enjoy this third book in the Boardwalk Brides collection from Christian author Janice Thompson. AMAZON


Candy Carini has always had her head in the clouds, even while working in her family’s candy store. Now, at Newark’s Eastway Airlines, where she lands both a piloting job and a pilot, her dreams are finally coming true. When Eastway pilot Darren Furst meets Candy, he can’t help but think she could fill his empty home and arms. Then union troubles arises, and Darren finds himself caught between the woman he loves and his fellow pilots. Are his plans for their future now grounded? Or will Candy cotton to Darren—for better or worse? AMAZON


Taffie Carini enjoys working in her family’s candy store on the Atlantic City boardwalk. But when her parents begin planning their retirement, Taffie’s not sure she has the moxie or the know-how to manage Carini’s Confections on her own. When repairman Ryan Antonelli makes a service call at Carini’s, he’s irresistibly drawn to more than just the candy. Although his marketing degree has hardly prepared him to fix a taffy-making machine, Ryan will do anything to help Taffie, with the hopes of winning her heart. When a business mogul wants to buy Carini’s property to build a new casino, Taffie’s family’s future is threatened. Can Ryan help Taffie save Carini’s Confections? Will they find sweet love together in the process? AMAZON


Always the groomsman, never the groom… It’s 1914, and Jake O’Farrell has gained an unusual reputation among the locals: He’s played the roles of groomsman and best man in all four of his older brothers’ weddings, but he’s never been able to find the woman to capture his heart. And now with the upcoming wedding of his best friend, Jake will become the last single man in the town of Groom.

Anne Denning has made the difficult decision to move with her sisters to Texas, but a train derailment forces them to seek shelter in Groom, near Amarillo. Mrs. O’Farrell, hopeful that Anne will catch her youngest son’s eye, invites the girls to stay at her home until the train is repaired and ready to pull out. Anne has no idea of the blissful chaos that lies ahead! AMAZON


Steve Garrison is the newly elected mayor of the tiny town of Camelot, Tennessee. When his childhood friend Amy Hart comes up with a plan to revive the town’s economy, he jumps onboard. The townspeople will perform the musical “Camelot”
in the city’s park, drawing in nightly crowds at the new outdoor theater. While excitement is high, talent is lacking. Amy casts several of the parts but is stumped when it comes to the role of King Arthur.

In desperation, she turns to Steve. Will he pull the sword from the stone and save the day? Steve reluctantly agrees—on one condition. In exchange for his willingness to wear tights, Amy must play the role of Guinevere. And when a handsome newcomer cast as Lancelot takes an interest in Amy, the stage is set for a little tension—and perhaps love. Will they have the perfect “starry night” opening, or will the knights in Amy’s life provide drama of a different kind? AMAZON


When Laura Chapman’s husband of over twenty years passes away, she finds herself the sole provider for two teenage children, lonely and frightened, and determined to return to college to obtain a degree. Then she lands in the same history class with her daughter and finds herself offending the toughest professor on campus. Professor Andrew Dougherty, still a bachelor at forty-seven, has sworn off women. His heart was broken years earlier by a skittish fiancee. Just when Laura feels that she has no alternative but to drop out of school due to stress and finances, Andrew begins to realize that it is time for the battle to cease between them. He is beginning to discover that his feelings for Laura Chapman are not at all what he thought at first. AMAZON


It’s the opportunity of a lifetime…Jessica Chapman has her happy ending planned out. Does it really matter that she and her fiance’ don’t agree on every little detail? Or even on some big ones–like her passion for music and the theater. Jessica plans to become Nathan Fisher’s wife and live “happily ever after” in Houston. But then Jess is offered the internship of her dreams. The handsome and tenderhearted Colin Phillips sees something special in Jessica, believing the Lord has chosen her to train vocally gifted children–in Dallas. Could God also have chosen her to play a more important role in Colin’s life? Should Jess settle for an ill-fitting lackluster marriage? Or will the Lord orchestrate the perfect duet? AMAZON


A vivacious, undisciplined two-year-old named Charity has Shauna Alexander seriously questioning her calling as a child care provider. The toddler seems to thrive on wreaking havoc wherever she goes. Pastor Kent Chapman’s heart is still raw from losing his wife. He knows he spoils his daughter, but he can’t help but see his wife in her. Then during a computer repair mix-up, Kent finds himself distracted by Shauna. But when Shauna’s and Kent’s worlds collide over the rebellious toddler’s behavior, both must learn to accept responsibility and work toward reconciliation. Will the Lord cause Kent to choose between his daughter and his heart? Or will love sweeten Charity and their future? AMAZON


Success defines Kellie Fisher. She’s always had a head for numbers and vision of the tomorrow. But when her father is hospitalized, she leaves the big city behind and rushes to be at her parents’ side. Nathan Fisher loves his life. His wife Kellie is beautiful; his condo is top of the line; his job is about to make him a partner. But something has changed Kellie, and Nathans heart is torn between Houston’s bustle and his wife, who is learning to live and love today. Could Nathans priorities be bankrupt in the eyes of the one he loves most? Can they bank on God’s love to keep their marriage strong? Fall in love with this inspiring love story. AMAZON


Determined to prove she can be a good reporter, Angelina Fuentes begs her boss for one big story: She plans to tug the heartstrings by exposing a group of con men. To get the scoop, Angel must go undercover in Galveston Texas as a cleaning woman. Peter Campbell believes wealth has corrupted his father’s character – that the older man no longer cares for the down-and-out. To prove that he’s nothing like his father, Peter throws himself into working with the needy. When Angel and Peter cross paths in a most unusual way, assumptions bury the truth. Will Peter allow the Lord to remove his mask of good works to reveal a secret heart of pride? AMAZON




Two families on opposite sides of the globe are shaken by the rise and fall of the Titanic, ‘queen of the ocean.’
When pampered Jacqueline Abington secretly elopes with the family gardener, she asks another woman to take her place on the much-anticipated maiden voyage of the Titanic. Tessa Bowen hails from a poor corner of London but has been granted the opportunity of a lifetime — a ticket to sail to America aboard a famed vessel. But there’s a catch: she must assume Jacqueline’s identity. For the first time in her life, Tessa stays in luxurious quarters, dresses in elegant gowns, and dines with prestigious people. Then a wealthy American man takes an interest in her, and Tessa struggles to keep up the ruse as she begins falling for him. When tragedy strikes, the game is up, and two women’s lives are forever changed. AMAZON


Holly O’Brien’s plans are flipped upside-down when she receives what she believes to be a Christmas letter in the mail. Turns out, the letter is from a complete stranger, and is intended for someone else. The passionate note—written with shaky handwriting—clues Holly in to the fact that the writer wants to reconcile with her estranged family. Holly flies into action to find the sender of the letter. Getting it into the right hands is critical. Her journey leads her to the Shady Acres nursing home, where she meets Gertie, the writer of the cryptic letter. Only one problem: Gertie, who has Alzheimer’s, has no memory of writing it. Enter Liam, Gertie’s handsome grandson. Does he have to key to unraveling this mystery? When Liam and Holly come together, sparks fly, but not all of them in the right direction. Can they work together to solve the mystery behind the letter? And will Holly witness a Christmas miracle as she gets to know this wonderful family? Inspirational author Janice Thompson is thrilled to share this heartfelt holiday story with her readers and wishes them all a very Merry Christmas. AMAZON


Hannah Hibble is only a little concerned about the fact that her parents keep trying to fix her up with guys who come into the family’s Van Nuys costume shop to rent costumes. Each of these lucky fellows leaves with a costume and the promise of a date with Hannah. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) In the last couple of months she’s been out on four mercy dates. . .and all have been fiascoes. She’s more convinced than ever that the single life is the life for her. Duncan Evers is fairly new to L.A. He hails from Topeka, Kansas, and has come to the big city with stars in his eyes. His visions of taking L.A. by storm haven’t exactly panned out. After accidentally driving his older model sedan through the plate-glass window of Hannah’s costume shop, he determines that things can’t possibly get any worse. Wrong. He’s forced to take a part-time job at his great-uncle’s exterminating company to pay the bills until an acting job comes along. When Duncan and Hannah meet in the most unexpected of ways, sparks fly. . .and chaos ensues! Will their chaotic getting-to-know-you end in a true happily-ever-after? AMAZON


Sassy Hatchet, a widow in her fifties, is known for her peculiar temperament. She thinks she has life all figured out until God does something unexpected.



Love Me Tender Final

As “Love Me Tender” plays in the background, Debbie Carmichael determines to salvage her family’s restaurant, Sweet Sal’s Soda Shoppe, after her father’s health fails. Teen heartthrob Bobby Conrad agrees to perform at a fund-raiser concert. But just two weeks before the highly publicized event, Bobby backs out of the benefit. Enter…Johnny Hartman, a young, unknown singer. Debbie soon realizes the twists and turns leading up to the concert have been divinely orchestrated. And it isn’t dreamy Bobby Conrad who has stolen her heart—but the tender Johnny Hartman.


On Thin Ice

J.J. Williamson has hung up her figure skates. . .for good. The world of competitions, sequined skating dresses, and heartbreak is behind her. Until she receives a call from her old coach, needing help with a new skating program at a local rink. J.J.’s not interested. . .or is she?

Kevin Harrison is the new manager of The Big Skate, a rink once famous for its hockey teams. Can he help it if the old building is falling down around him? He doesn’t have the funds to renovate, so why bother? When his uncle decides the dilapidated rink needs a new figure skating club, Kevin is convinced it’s a mistake. . .until that gorgeous new coach enters.

Will J.J. and Kevin link arms to resurrect The Big Skate, or will their differences put them on opposite sides of the ice?   BUY NOW


Chapter One

Sassy Hatchett slipped her legs over the edge of the rickety wooden pier and dipped her toes into the warm, murky waters of the Port Neches River. She twisted a fishhook from her hat and then reached into the front pocket of her worn, blue denim overalls to pull out a small plastic bag filled with ice-cold shrimp. She yanked one out, then ran the clean silver hook straight through it.

“Why can’t everything be this easy?”

A host of irritating mosquitoes suddenly swept down upon her. She swatted them away with a wild swing of her right arm. “Pesky critters. Get on out of here.” They refused to budge, though she continued to slap at the air. Sassy pulled a can of mosquito repellent from the tackle box and sprayed it in every conceivable direction. They disappeared on sight. “Serves you right.”

Reaching for the comfort of a familiar wooden fishing pole, she tried to settle down, though an unexplained anger still gripped her. Troubling thoughts rolled madly through her head. She forced herself to turn her attention to the skies.

“Well, here I am again, Lord. Just You, me, and a mess of catfish I ain’t caught yet.” She lifted up a small, empty ice chest toward heaven, a sign she half-expected to see it filled before the conversation ended. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today, Lord. Nothing seems to be going right. Seems like everything gets me madder than a hornet, and this heat isn’t helping thing either.”

The late August heat enveloped her like a shroud, not unusual along the Texas coastline, but irritating, just the same. She paused to lift her hat, wiping the ring of sweat from her brow. Everything was so much easier when Joe was here to help me.

Sassy’s thoughts drifted to her husband, and tears began to flow. Six years had barely begun to ease the pain of his passing. Her heart still longed for him; not a day went by she didn’t think of him, wish she could have just one more moment with the love of her life. The day she’d pulled the ’n Joe’s from the sign out in front of their Bait and Tackle shop had been the saddest day of her life.

“It’s just too much, Lord. Running the store by myself sure ain’t no fun. Everything’s falling apart at the seams. I know I complain about this a lot, but every day it just gets worse. The lock’s broken on the front door and the roof needs to be patched. I can’t get up there to do it myself. And the nerve of those vendors, trying to talk me into selling my bait recipes to the big named companies. I won’t do it, Lord. I won’t!”

The tears flowed down her cheeks. Sassy added a couple of sinkers and a floater to her line and cast it out into the water as far as it would go. With the release of the line, she felt the weight of her problems lift a little.

“I’m sorry, Lord. I know I whine a lot. I do thank You for the friends You’ve given me—for Sue Ellen and Leota and Dottie Jean.” And Wendell.

Wendell. For weeks now, Joe’s oldest and dearest friend had ventured in and out of the shop on a regular basis. Seemed every time Sassy turned around, he came by again—to look at the latest in custom rods, to buy magazines, knives, bait, fishing lineanything and everything to fill his tackle box. Wendell seemed anxious to learn all he could about fishing before retiring.

Not that she minded. He had always been so kind, so tolerant, finding something pleasant to say with each visit. Somehow, just the thought of him brought an unexpected smile to her lips.

Sassy felt a sudden tug on her line. “Oooh, I’ve got something.” She clasped the reel and beginning to work it in her favor, then pulled in a large catfish, a fine catch. He looked up at her with sad, woeful eyes.

“Looks like I’m not the only one having a bad day,” she observed as she pulled him loose. Tossing him into the ice chest, she turned to bait her hook once again.


“Wendell Meeks, have you lost your mind?”

“Course not.” Wendell leaned his elbows onto the small table at the local Catfish House and grinned at his best friend, Gus, who sat across from him looking stunned.

“Well, what’s gotten into you, then? There are plenty of good women here in Port Neches without setting your sights on an ornery old thing like Sassy Hatchett. Sassy Hatchett, of all people!” Gus erupted into laughter, causing others in the diner to turn their heads in curiosity.

Wendell lifted his glass of sweet tea and tried to look casual and confident as he took a small sip. His hand trembled, causing the cold liquid to tumble out of the glass and slosh across the bottom half of his face. He carefully dabbed at his mouth and chin with a cloth napkin. “Sassy is a great woman,” he said after a moment. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend my time with.” He folded the napkin neatly and laid it in his lap.

Dottie Jean, the diner’s owner, chose that moment to appear with two plates full of steaming crabs, fries and hushpuppies. Placing one down in front of Wendell, she added her thoughts on the matter. “You’ve got your eye on Sassy? You’re a brave soul, Wendell Meeks! She’s a real pistol, that’s for sure. ‘Course, I love her. I always have. Gotta love Sassy.” Dottie Jean’s giggles caused her to lose her grip on Gus’s plate. It hit the table with a soft thud, sending the peppershaker into a tailspin. Wendell grabbed it just as it hit the edge of the table.

“Go ahead and laugh, both of you.” He unfolded his napkin and tucked it into the collar of his starched blue postal shirt. “It won’t do you any good. I know what I’m doing.” His elbow suddenly hit the glass of tea, knocking it off-balance. He managed to catch it before too much could spill out onto the blue and white checkered tablecloth below.

“Uh huh.” Dottie Jean left the table with a “Sure you do” nod, and the most aggravating grin Wendell had ever seen on a woman’s face. He went to work, trying to mop up the mess with his napkin.

Gus continued to laugh until his cheeks turned crimson. “When was the last time you even thought about trying to snag a woman’s heart?” he asked. “Thirty years ago? Forty? And why, in the name of all that’s holy, would you start with a piece of work like Sassy Hatchett? She’s as mad as an old wet hen!”

Wendell didn’t answer for a moment. He shook his head as he continued to dab at the tablecloth. “I’m not sure you’d understand, Gus,” he explained at last.

“Try me.”

Wendell fought to formulate the words. None seemed to come. Truth be known, he hadn’t deliberately avoided married life. In fact, he’d always wished for a loving wife. But the good Lord hadn’t seen fit to give him one, at least, not yet. In the early days, asking a woman out on a date had been a nerve-wracking ordeal. His own shyness and insecurities caused him to put off the matter for years. But now, at sixty, Wendell just couldn’t seem to get the idea out of his mind. He still had a few good years left after retirement, and he didn’t want to spend them alone.

“I don’t expect you to make any sense of this, Gus,” he said quietly. “You were married for nearly thirty years before you lost Nettie–even had a houseful of kids and grandkids. But when a man gets to be my age and he’s shut up all alone in the house, he gets to wishing he had someone to share it with, that’s all. I’ll be retiring from the post office in a couple of years, and I’d like to spend them with—”

“Sassy Hatchett?” Gus shook his head in mock despair. “Everyone in the state of Texas knows she’s got a bite worse than any shark in the Gulf of Mexico. Talk about a temper. Why, she could kill a man with just a look. Is that the sort of woman you want to spend your retirement years with?”

“Absolutely.” Wendell’s heart began a beat a little harder, just thinking about the possibility. “I know she has a quick tongue,” he said, his heart warming. “I sort of like that side of her. But she’s got a soft side, too. I’ve seen her in church on Sunday mornings. She really loves the Lord. She spends a lot of time up at the altar in prayer.”

“My point, exactly,” Gus said with a firm nod. “She’s repenting.”

“Come on, now.” Wendell popped a piece of crab into his mouth and swallowed it whole.

“I could understand all of this—the temper, the sharp tongue, the nasty disposition—if we were talking about a knockout here.” Gus dumped ketchup all over his hushpuppies. “But she’s no beauty queen. In fact, I’d be willing to bet she hasn’t been over to the Rhonda-Vous House of Beauty to have her hair done in years.” He gestured toward the beauty shop down the street. “And that crazy get-up she wears out on the pier wouldn’t attract much of anything but the flies.”

Wendell bit his lip to keep from responding. Sassy Hatchett had a beauty that ran far deeper than the physical, although Gus had apparently never noticed it. Her gray eyes glistened merrily when she got riled up. Lately they seemed to glisten a lot. Her skin, tanned from years in the sun, seemed firmer than that of most women her age. Her thick, curly hair glistened with a silver shimmer. Even her old, worn fishing hat with its dangling fishhooks held a certain amount of unexplainable charm.

“I don’t know how ole’ Joe Hatchett did it,” Gus rambled on. “Thirty-five years with Sassy. Gotta give a man like that a lot of credit.”

“Joe Hatchett was a good friend of mine,” Wendell said thoughtfully, “and a great man. He loved Sassy from the time he was a kid in school. Loved her till the day he died.”

“Died of a heart attack, poor guy,” Gus mumbled, his mouth full of food. “She probably gave it to him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“No, I mean it,” he said and then swiped his mouth with the napkin. “Don’t you know the story of how Joe came to open their Bait and Tackle Shop?”

“Yeah, I know.” Wendell swallowed down a couple of French-fries, then took a long, cool drink of the tea. He had heard the tale for years. According to legend, Sassy, who had been born and raised just outside of town, had come out of the womb swinging and swearing. Her parents had given her a good Christian name—though, for the life of them, no one in Port Neches seemed to be able to remember it. Her own mother had taken to calling her Sassy as a little bitty thing, and the name had stuck.

As the story went, Sassy’s temper would flare up to the boiling point pretty regular-like. Her father, being a good Christian man, would hand her a fishing pole and send her out to the pier at the edge of their property for a time of good, old-fashioned repenting. Young Sassy spent many a day at the edge of the Port Neches River fishing and praying, praying and fishing. As her temper grew, so did her ability to catch fish. Day after day she reeled them in.

Once Sassy and Joe Hatchett married, she spent more time than ever with a pole in her hand. After their twins, Tucker and Tilly, came along, she practically set up house on the pier. Rumor was, Joe Hatchett spent so much money on bait that he finally gave in and opened up “Sassy ‘n Joe’s Bait and Tackle” just to keep his head above water financially.

The whole thing made for a great story.

“You can’t believe everything you hear,” Wendell said, as he turned his attention back to Gus. “Besides, I think it’s nice that Sassy has a way to vent her frustrations. Fishing’s a good thing.”

“She’s pretty nearly supplied my restaurant with catfish for the last twenty years.” Dottie Jean reappeared with more napkins. “That’s quite a temper, if you ask me. ‘Course, I’m not complaining. I figure it’s true what the Bible says—”

“What’s that?” Wendell asked.

“‘What Satan meant for evil, God will use for good.’” Dottie smiled with a playful wink as she turned her attention to other customers.

Wendell shook his head in defeat.

“Just answer this one thing,” Gus said, suddenly looking serious. “Is this why you bought Dottie Jean’s boat last month? Why you’ve spent so much time fishing? To get close to Sassy?”

Wendell shrugged. “I like to fish. What can I say?”

“Right, right.” Gus nodded. “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you’re looking to hook Sassy Hatchett, you’d better have a good piece of stinkbait in your back pocket. Nothing else will work on an old snapper like her.”

He burst into laughter again, this time drawing the attention of nearly everyone in the restaurant. People began to murmur amongst themselves from table to table.

“Sassy Hatchett? Wendell’s taken a liking to that persnickety old thing? Pretty fishy, if you ask me.” The story went around the room and bounced back again, reverberating in his ears.

He stood so quickly the chair nearly toppled over behind him. “Now listen here,” he announced to all curious onlookers as he snagged the chair before it tumbled, “I may be old, but I’m not deaf. You all just mind your own business now, you hear. You leave my love life to me.”

Their laughter nearly deafened him.