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Lorana Hoopes

Star Lake Collection

Star Lake Collection

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If you love Christian romance, you'll love this collection by Award winning and USA Today Best Selling author Lorana Hoopes. Four Christian books to keep you satisfied for hours.

This offer isn't available anywhere else. 

With 30% off this bundle, you'll have hours of Christian-themed books to enjoy!

Star Lake may be a fictional town, but once you visit, you'll feel like you've made friends.

Begin the journey with Max and Layla. He's loved her forever, but will he ever get the chance to tell her?

Then continue with the story with Brandon and Presley in When Love Returns. He's returned only to help his father out, but when he runs into his best friend from high school, will their love finally get the chance to bloom?

Next, you'll meet Audrey as she returns home, a failed relationship in her past and a child in her future. Blake was her friend in high school, but will he get to show her how much he cares now that she's home?

Finally, you'll meet Lanie and Azarius. After her divorce is finalized, she makes a mistake with Azarius, but can he show her that his love is true?

Plus, you'll meet a set of quirky characters sure to charm you and draw you in. Journey to Star Lake with Award Winning and USA Today best selling author Lorana Hoopes and enjoy these heartwarming stories of second chances and true love.

First Chapter

Max pulled at his blue and red striped tie again. He hated ties. Hated the look of them with their perfect knots and pointy ends and hated the way they felt around his neck like they were cutting off his air supply. A sadist must have invented them, someone who liked feeling like they had a noose around his neck all the time. Someone who didn’t know the comfort of a well-worn flannel shirt with the top two buttons undone and plenty of room for his neck to breathe.

He never wore ties or dress shirts even, and he couldn’t believe he was wearing them today. Scratch that. He couldn’t even believe he was here today. Sitting in an uncomfortable folding chair surrounded by people he didn’t want to talk to. Even the hum of their muted conversations annoyed him. He’d rather be anywhere else, but Layla was his friend and it would have been rude not to be here.

The problem was… It should be him at the front of the church. Not that he wanted to be wearing a silly monkey suit and flashing a fake smile at all the people in the congregation, but he wanted to be the one marrying Layla. He had since they were in high school, but he’d never gotten the courage to tell her.

Prom night had been the closest he’d come. Of course, she’d gone with Bruce Bollinger, captain of the basketball team - Star Lake was too small to even have a football team - but Bruce had left her in the middle of the dance floor to talk to some cheerleader from a neighboring town who had crashed their dance with a group of her friends. His heart had broken for her that night as he saw her freeze in the middle of the dance floor like a deer in headlights.

Max had swooped in and led her off to a secluded corner. He had offered his shoulder to cry on, and she’d accepted, soaking his jacket with her tears and filling his nose with the sweet scent of her shampoo. He wanted to tell her how he felt then, but it hadn’t seemed right. Not with her heart so newly trampled. 

So, instead, he’d held her until her tears stopped. Then he’d danced with her and joked with her and told himself he’d get the chance to tell her how he felt soon. He’d walked her home in the moonlight, trying to ignore the romantic setting and fighting the urge to kiss her as she stared at him under the soft porch light.

“Thank you, Max,” she’d said as she inserted her key in the front door. “I appreciate you being there for me. I must be a terrible judge of character. It’s a good thing I’m swearing off men.” And then she’d entered the house and closed the door. He’d walked home that night wondering how he could convince her that he wasn’t like the other men she’d dated but coming up with no answer.

A few months later, she’d begun seeing someone new, and after graduation, she’d decided she wanted to see the world. With him. Max’s heart had broken for the second time.

He was comfortable in Star Lake. He’d been born here, and he was a homebody. He liked working in the diner his father had opened. He enjoyed the slower pace of small-town life. He had no desire to go and see the world. What he saw on television - though he rarely watched it - was enough for him, and so he’d said goodbye to the woman he loved without telling her.

He’d tried dating a few times after she left, but not only was the dating pool small in Star Lake, but Layla had ruined him. No other woman had her smile, her vivacious personality, her quirky nature. So, he’d given up on the thought of love. Then his mother had died, and his father, unable to bear the pain, had retired and left the diner to him. Max had pretended that was enough. And then Layla had come home. Alone.

They’d fallen right back into their old routine. She’d come over every morning for coffee, harass him about his flannel shirts and ball cap, beg him to put something new on the menu, and flash her crooked smile on the way out the door as she went to work. He’d been so glad to have her back that he hadn’t thought there was any rush in telling her how he felt. And then Randall Jones had swooped in and whisked her off her feet. Now, here he was sitting in the stuffy church, wearing a scratchy shirt and a noose around his neck as he waited to watch the woman of his dreams get married to someone else. Suddenly, his life felt a little like an old Western. Or a sad country song.

“Do you think this wedding is even going to happen?” Ned leaned over the empty seat Max had purposefully tried to leave between them and invaded his personal space. The odd man had a way of rubbing on his last nerve though Max wasn’t sure if it was his Alfalfa hair or his habit of asking incessant ridiculous questions. “You think she ran? Maybe we have our own Runaway Bride.”

Max rolled his eyes as he glanced around for a clock. He never wore a watch, but thankfully the church had a small clock above the door. It was ten after two, but Layla was notoriously late to everything, so there probably wasn’t any need to worry just yet.

“Some people really should learn to be on time,” Barnard piped from his other side. His too-small jacket bulged against his belly, and though Max was sure he thought he was whispering, his voice still carried through the small room. Barnard was the mayor, and he loved nothing more than hearing his own voice, even though the sound was like nails on a chalkboard to Max. “Some of us have other things we could be doing.” 

Max doubted Barnard had anything interesting waiting for him at home. Besides himself, the man only showed an interest in stamps and chess. Nothing exactly riveting in Max’s book, but then he was pretty sure most people thought the same of him.

“Maybe she took my advice,” Paula chirped up from behind him. Max turned to see her lean toward him, her bright red dress stretching across her ample frame. No one, except for Paula who was always looking for attention, would wear red to a wedding. “I told her not to marry him. He’s not from Star Lake.” 

Max furrowed his brow at her, wondering if she realized Layla wasn’t originally from Star Lake either. However, she’d become such a part of the town that he often forgot she hadn’t been born here as well.

As if she hadn’t seen his look or didn’t understand it, she continued. “Plus, there are certainly more handsome men here who would love to be with Layla.” She shot him a pointed look as she said the last statement.

Did she know of his feelings? Had she told Layla? Was he the reason she hadn’t shown? Should he try to find her? He wrestled with his emotions and his tie a few moments longer before standing and edging out of the aisle. He felt the eyes on him as he made his way toward the back of the small church, but he refused to look back and give them any satisfaction.

There were only a few rooms outside of the small sanctuary. Besides the bathrooms, one was the pastor’s office, one was used as the Sunday school room, and he had no idea what the other was used for, but he made his way in their direction.

Kitty, Layla’s best friend, stood outside the Sunday school room. Her auburn hair was pulled back in her signature fifties’ style making her appear put together, but her hands fidgeted with something white and a worried frown covered her face.

“Where’s Layla?”

She turned wide eyes in his direction and bit her lip. “I don’t know. She said she needed some air, but that was ten minutes ago.”

“Okay, stay here. Do you have any idea where she might have gone?”

Kitty shook her head and clenched her hands tighter. “She always goes to the diner when she needs to get away, but she knew you were here.”

He placed a hand on her arm to try and ease her anxiety. “I’ll find her. Don’t worry.”

She nodded though she didn’t look convinced, and he headed for the outside door. As he pushed it open, he lifted his hand to shield the sun. It shone brightly as if it had no idea the storm cloud brewing in the small church. He paused, thinking of where Layla might have gone. Back to the bed and breakfast she ran? Would she sit on his front step? And then it hit him. 

In the middle of town, there was a huge weeping willow with branches that seemed to kiss the ground. He’d found her there years ago when her parents separated and she felt her world was falling apart. Knees pulled to her chest, she had been the picture of innocence and sadness. It would be the perfect place for her to go now, especially with most of the town inside the church.

Why had she run though? Was it just nerves or could it be that she realized Randall wasn’t the guy for her? And if that was the case, did he have a chance? His heart did a funny little dance in his chest, and he pulled at his collar again, wishing he was wearing his comfortable flannel instead of this stiff dress shirt.

The tree came into view, the branches bending toward the ground as if pressed by some invisible force. Squinting, he thought he could make out a patch of white beneath the low branches. She was there, probably with her knees curled to her chest and grass stains on her backside, but then Layla had never been the type to care what people thought about her. That was just another thing he loved about her.

He spread the soft branches of the tree and crawled in next to her. His dress shirt pulled at his shoulders as he tried to get comfortable, and he loosened the tie from its death grip on his neck. She lifted her head and smiled at his awkwardness.

Leaning against the trunk of the tree, he cleared his throat. “You know, the wedding is supposed to be happening over there in the church.” He pointed to his left, but offered her a crooked smile to soften his words.

“I know, but I couldn’t go through with it.”

His heart lifted at her admission, but he tried to play it cool. He was her friend first and foremost. “Why not? I know Randall doesn’t have my skills in the kitchen, but he seems like a nice guy.”

She sighed and leaned her head against the tree. Her hair was nearly the same color of the trunk except for the soft red highlights that ran through hers, and her head was close enough to his that he could once again smell the sweet scent of her shampoo. “He was nice, and I thought that was enough, but as I was getting dressed today, the thought of marrying him just made me feel…” She paused and bit her lip. “Bored. Is that awful? I’m so awful.” Her head fell back to her knees.

Max placed a hand on her shoulder and fought the urge to pull her into his arms. “It’s not awful. It’s smart. Yes, Randall might be hurt, but believe me, he’d rather know now than marry you and find out later.”

She sniffed and lifted her eyes to his. He wanted more than anything to wipe her tears away and touch her lips with his, but it wasn’t the right time. It seemed to never be the right time. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t even need to be married. Now that I’m running the bed and breakfast, I can take care of myself.”

But Max knew. Yes, financially she could take care of herself, but Layla’s parents had split when she was in high school and her father had run off with another woman and had more children. She rarely saw him after the divorce, and her self-esteem had taken a hit whether she knew it or not. So, while she could financially provide for herself, she was looking for someone to love her like her father hadn’t, but he couldn’t tell her that. Instead he’d have to show her that he was the man who could do that. The man who had been and would always be by her side. The man who would wipe her tears at night and bring her coffee in the morning. He just wasn’t sure how.

“You know what?” she continued, “I know I’ve said it before, but this time I mean it. I’m swearing off men until I really know what I’m looking for. That’s only fair, right?”

It was, and Max just hoped that it gave him time to show her that what she was looking for was right in front of her face.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.