While writing this book, I was blessed with help from as well as the knowledge of many people. It would require the equivalent of a novella to describe all they’ve done for me. I hope they know how grateful I am.
Mel Berger, an extraordinary agent who has accompanied me through each phase of my career with wisdom, patience, and humor, and has never stopped believing in me.
Jennifer Enderlin, who said she wanted me to have wings, and helped me to find them. Not only is she a brilliant editor, she is a beautiful person, inside and out.
Sally Richardson, Matthew Shear, George Witte, Matt Baldacci, John Murphy, Dori Weintraub, Kim Cardascia, and the rest of the team at St. Martin’s Press, for all their talent and amazing work.
Linda Kleypas, Lloyd Kleypas, and Ki Kleypas, for their emotional support and insights, for helping me to know and understand the people we came from, providing answers to a million questions, and being great company and a loving family. Most of all, for being a small and perfect constellation of guiding stars. Because of you, no matter where I go I can always find my way home.
Special thanks to my smart and exuberant mother, who is, as Marie Brenner would say, a great dame.
Ireta and Harrell Ellis, for giving me the right advice at the right time, helping me to believe in myself, and for showing me the strength and steadfast love that always provide a safe place to anchor. Also for the wonderful evening spent sharing memories of Mac Palmer. Cristi and James Swayze, for their love and encouragement, and for changing my life all those years ago by arranging a Very Good Blind Date.
Christina Dodd, the dearest friend in the world, who told me I could write a “contemporary,” and turned out to be right. And Liz Bevarly, Connie Brockway, Eloisa James, and Teresa Medeiros, who always pick me up when I fall, defend me right or wrong, and surround me with a circle of love. I couldn’t do it without you.
Geralyn Dawson, Susan Sizemore, and Susan Kay Law, who listened patiently, offered invaluable insights, showed me how to make caramel cashew bars, plot vampire stories, and eat cereal out of teacups, and became friends I want to keep forever.
Stephanie Bascon and Melissa Rowcliffe, two dynamic and beautiful women, for sharing their legal expertise, and even more for the gift of friendship.
Billie Jones, the most generous woman I know, and her husband, James Walton Jones, for their love, wit, and wisdom, and for the dinner party one summer evening, spent with friends who shared precious memories and helped me to understand the real issues of my story. Thanks to these friends who have inspired me in a multitude of ways: Mayor and Mrs. Norman Erskine, Mena Nichols, Betsy Allen, J. C. Chatmas, Weezie Burton, Charlsie Brown, Necy Matelski, Nancy Erwin, Gene Erwin, Sara Norton, Hammond Norton, Lois Cooper, Bill Reynolds, and Mary Abbot Hess.
Patsy and Wilson Kluck, for their priceless reminiscences and their love, and especially to Patsy for showing me all that is best about Texas women.
Virginia Lake, who influenced me to write the story of a woman who triumphs over hardship with grace, determination, and humor—all qualities she has in abundance.
Sandy Coleman, for her friendship, support, and love of the romance genre.
Michelle Buonfiglio, a woman of great intelligence and charisma who makes me proud of my profession.
Amanda Santana and Cindy Torres, not only for answering technical questions about the hairstyling profession but also for sharing personal observations and memories.
Most of all, I am thankful for my children—my two miracles—who fill my heart and every corner of my soul with joy.