July 25, 2022

The Stories Behind the Stories

Mary A. Felkins

This I Promise You, a jilted bride trope, is the prequel that kicks off The Heart of Moreland Manor contemporary romance series (released in May, Gardenia Press).

Story question ... What if finding your heart’s desire means entrusting it ... just once more ... to the one who broke it?

While hammering out the first draft, our church supported a backpack ministry that made a weekend of food available to food insecure students and their families. This inspired the idea of a heroine—an elementary school teacher—faced with the issue of food scarcity brutally evident in her students. When my father passed away this past March, the theme of faith in action ("I will show you my faith by what I do." James 4:18) came alive in the story. Dad taught the Gospel through his generosity and practical love for people. We, his blessed family, just had to watch.

When I learned that a brother-in-Christ had been wronged by another but who chose to offer the offender a pineapple ... literally ... as a peace offering, I knew I had to include this humble gesture in the book. Because, to my happy surprise, the unexpected offer healed months of hurt and estrangement between the formerly warring roosters.

Readers will enjoy a light-hearted take on the hero—a modern-day twist on the biblical account of Joseph, the favored son of Jacob—who is estranged from him family and falsely accused. In present day, the hero enjoys a posh life of a celebrity chef in New Orleans. When the past comes through his doors, it brings a long-awaited family reunion. But breaking his promise to the girl of his heart could be beyond forgiveness.

You Are the Reason, book 1 (Elk Lake Publishing Inc.) asks … What if you didn’t want your inheritance but it led to your greatest dream?

The story addresses the call that God places on our lives and our willingness to risk stepping out of our orderly existence. It elevates the divine value of hardship and rightly defines our identity found not in our success but in our relationship to God the Father as his dearly loved children.

The inspiration for You Are the Reason began with an 1846 manor house boasting 13,000 square footage. Madewood Mansion—formerly Madewood Plantation House—is located in Napoleonville, Louisiana on Bayou Lefourche (“Lay-foosh” ... yes, I Googled this). When Madewood operated as a B&B, my husband and I celebrated several anniversaries here. Under current ownership, the historic treasure is being restored and only available for daytime events.

Since I may have a teeny tiny fascination with houses, I wondered … what if an inheritance wanted its own happily ever after but the heiress wanted the house fixed up and sold asap—despite her late mother’s wishes? It was only right to satisfy the house’s desire.

But what to call the fictional Madewood Mansion ...?

During a drive from NC to Texas to visit my family, my attention snagged on a road sign marking the exit to ... Moreland. And then I knew ... Moreland Manor was established.

When Madewood’s previous owner first inherited the home from his mother in the 80s, he had no intention of opening it up for business ... until he received a timely call from someone interested in what they charged for overnight stays. He considered the costly electric bill, swiftly crunched numbers, set a price and became the proprietor of one of Louisiana’s most beloved historic B&Bs. I included this super fun backstory in the book.

The foundational plot ideas for this book are the result of brainstorming with Rachel Hauck during an intensive 5-day writer’s retreat in 2017.

Hollywood is no stranger to Madewood. Several major motion pictures have been filmed on location (among them, A Woman Called Moses and a remake of The Beguiled starring Nicole Kidman). On one occasion, Brad Pitt stayed overnight in the carriage house that sits behind the house.

The growing popularity of house restoration shows inspired the idea to include a film production company. Fictional MidDay Media is a spin on High Noon Entertainment, the production company that discovered Chip and Joanna Gaines. And not unlike what Chip and Joanna learned early on—the camera is always rolling. Yes, yes, clandestine romantic tension between heroine and hero is caught on film! Ah, the fun of writing romance.

What’s next?

Book #2 (Sweeter With You) and #3 (When You Smile for Me) will release in 2022 and 2023 respectively through Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.

Mary A. Felkins is an inspirational romance author, blogger, and contributor to writer’s blogs and online publications. Her debut novel, Call to Love, is set in Hickory, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband. They have four young adult children. She is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and My Book Therapy.

Her purpose in writing is to reclaim God’s intention when he created the world–to enable readers to know his heart and experience his love.

The unmerited gift of a large, unopened bag of Peanut M&Ms® will lure her from her writer’s desk. A surprise appearance by her teen idol, Donny Osmond, would also do the trick—although she’d likely pass out.

Upon introduction, if she likes your first or last name, expect to see it show up in one of her novels.

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