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A Secret Gift by Tonya Penrose is a Love and Romance Festival pick #romance #lovemonth #giveaway

Title: A Secret Gift


Author: Tonya Penrose


Genre: Romance


Book Blurb: 


When Halley Bowen learns she has an anonymous benefactor who wants her to live out her dreams and move to the idyllic seaside town of Port Royal, she can't leave fast enough. The one hurdle - in one year's time, she must find everlasting love to satisfy the gift.Local contractor Ben Shaw is sarcastic, bossy, and too sexy for his own good. Every time Halley thinks he might be the one, they hit an obstacle until they admit what's in their hearts.




Chapter 1


Throughout her life, Halley was known for her punctuality. Ten o’clock sharp found her seated in an attorney’s office. An appointment that, as of half an hour ago, she’d no idea about. The mysterious early morning phone call from attorney Sam Langdale requesting her immediate presence had been quite a surprise. It had also piqued her interest.


“I have a what?” Halley’s expression reflected shock at what she’d heard. Sitting behind his desk, the portly attorney regarded her with sympathy, his kind manner doing nothing to alleviate her confusion. 


He offered a kind smile. “I repeat, you have a benefactor. And might I say, an extremely kind and generous benefactor.” Mr. Langdale leaned forward, glancing at the open file resting on his imposing antique mahogany desk. The trappings Halley saw in the office clearly symbolized a successful law practice. “A benefactor offering a most unusual gift that I’m prepared to now share with you. Let me endeavor to assuage any fears. This endowment is legal and, without question, serious and most considerable. You have my word on this, Ms. Bowen.” Sam Langdale rubbed his chin. “Yes, I’d say you’re indeed a most fortunate woman.”


Halley stared off into space, willing her mind to absorb what she’d heard. Surprise rained down, matching the deluge outside the attorney’s office window. She grabbed a breath. “Okay, for the moment, I’m going to humor both of us and ask for more details. I’m keeping my skepticism but accept your word on the legitimacy of this gift.” She allowed the leather wingback chair to embrace her growing anxiety. She smoothed the token corporate black pencil skirt and tilted her chin toward the man behind the desk. “Please proceed, Mr. Langdale.”


 “Yes, well, to put this succinctly, you have a benefactor that wishes to help you experience your ideal life. I think you call this flight of fancy your ‘dream life.’ Quite the uncustomary gift, I must say.” Langdale cleared his throat.


 “Excuse me, but how does this benefactor know anything about what I refer to as my ‘dream life’?” Halley had never felt more baffled yet intrigued.


“Please allow me to continue, and I will endeavor to answer what questions I can afterward.” Langdale didn’t pause for Halley to agree. “Your benefactor overheard your wish and wants to offer you a chance to experience what the benefactor refers to as your joy and heart’s desire, but of course, with a few straightforward stipulations.”


Halley found a modicum of composure, swallowed an oath, and leaned back into the chair’s protection. “Ah, the stipulations. Still, I’m fascinated. Go on.” She pulled a pen and a small notebook from her leather satchel.


Reading from the file, Langdale began, “As I understand this aspiration, you long to live in a Port Royal bayfront cottage, where you will pen an impassioned romance novel. Connect with your spirit. Leave the stress of the corporate world which you’ve grown weary with and exit our Queen City of Charlotte’s lifestyle to live happily ever after a few hours away.” Langdale’s face split into a grin as he pushed tortoise-framed glasses atop his head. “I think those are the high points. I’m presuming this will be your first attempt at authoring a book?”


Halley was confused. Port Royal, her absolute dream place? Who would know about that? She found a few words to gather a response. “Yes, it would be my first book, but I wrote for our local town newspaper to help pay for college, and I have this plot idea for a romance—never mind. What else?”


Langdale nodded, his expression mirroring amusement. “Yes, well, your benefactor believes you are worthy of developing this prospect, but, as I said, with some stipulations.”


“Okay, give me a second here.” Halley released a breath. She stood and paced across the room, turning her attention back to Langdale. Yep, he was real, no hallucination. Her mind offered no logical explanations. Why her? The tooth fairy never came to see her, and Santa lacked dependability when she was a child. Her spirit trumped her thoughts, prodding her to trust this benefactor indeed existed, and right now, she craved to hear more about this surreal gift. “Excuse me, but could I have some water?”


 Langdale smiled. “Of course.” He poured a glass of water from the nearby carafe. “Please, won’t you return to the chair? Allow me to continue detailing this for you. Forgive my haste, but I must be in court soon, and then I’m on a flight to London.”


Halley settled and nodded as disbelief washed over her once more. A benefactor. Simply nuts. She picked up her notebook and turned to a blank page. Pen in hand, Halley waited.


“The stipulations are as follows: You will move to Port Royal within a month and locate a suitable cottage to call home. There you will devote yourself to the writing life. This next requirement might give you pause.” Langdale coughed, which added to the growing flush of his cheeks. “Ms. Bowen, you are to find, and more, experience a grand passion with a man of your choosing to enhance your writing knowledge of enduring love firsthand.”


“What? You can’t be serious. Me find a guy and have some grand passion? Honestly, I can’t even fathom—”


“Please, I’d like to finish,” Langdale said, holding up his hand. He flipped to the next page, continuing. “You have one year to satisfy these conditions. Further, you need to understand and agree that an evaluation of your progress and success will be done by your benefactor and myself at regular intervals in that stated year. Ms. Bowen, are you following me?”


Halley massaged her temples, daring a migraine to intrude on this lunacy. “Yes, I suppose so, but this great romance part—”


Langdale eyed her warily.


Halley moved the empty glass his way. “I’m going to need a refill before you share more, and maybe an aspirin to chase it.”


The attorney tilted the carafe, emptying the contents into Halley’s glass while opening his desk drawer. He placed the aspirin bottle next to the glass. “Understandable reaction.” He waited for her to take the aspirin and chase it down with water. “Forgive me, but you and I need to wrap this up.”


“Yes, I know. It’s so much to try and absorb. Please go on.” Halley twirled the pen nervously.


Langdale’s voice shifted into a lawyer’s tone. “A determined amount of money shall be deposited in your name at Port Royal’s bank to cover the purchasing of a cottage. Additionally, you’ll be provided a stipend to cover living expenses, but you’ll need to take a part-time job for incidentals. Your benefactor believes that employment offers you the occasion to know the seaside town while still giving ample time for writing and socializing. If you successfully meet the terms of the agreement at the end of said year, your benefactor will deed you the cottage and a generous sum stated in the agreement I have before me. Understand from that day forward, you are free to live life as you see fit, but with no further financial assistance.” Sam glanced at Halley, one eyebrow raised in question.


“I’m with you.” Halley waited in anxious anticipation for the “but.”


 “On the other hand, if you fail to meet the terms of this agreement, you will be left to your own devices. You must vacate the cottage. However, no repayment of any monies given to you is required. Of course, the cottage won’t get deeded to you, nor will you receive the last monetary disbursement. Naturally, you retain your personal belongings, and any work done on your novel goes with you. The document is straightforward without complexities. I’d like to ask now if this most substantial gift proposal is to your liking, Ms. Bowen?” Langdale looked at his diamond-encrusted Swiss watch.


“Seriously? Do you think I have that answer after what I’ve heard? Mr. Langdale, I only have questions. Scads of them. Starting with this absurd ‘grand passion’ part. Might you elaborate?” Halley knew her past love life could be described as dismal, and that was her being kind to herself. Why in Hades would she want to bother her ‘dream life’ with some cliché romance? And if honest, her dating life never reached the level deemed romantic. It was more like lukewarm affection—once. She unclenched her teeth, accepting that truth before every tooth gave way. “Look, Mr. Langdale, love and marriage aren’t in my plans.”


Langdale covered a grin with his hand before replying. “I must confess that I’m no expert on romance and grand passion, but I trust you will come to understand.”


Halley sat thoughtfully. Her changing expressions mirrored her bewilderment. “Let me see if I’ve grasped this proposition. I have an opportunity to live my ideal life in a setting that I adore. I’m to find a cottage on the bay that speaks to me, priced within reason, of course, write my great romance novel, and receive an allowance to help with necessary living expenses. Oh, I’m to secure a part-time job to help offset other non-essential costs.”


“And to allow you to meet people and become a part of the town’s day-to-day doings,” Langdale confirmed.


“Yes, yes, the doings. And then we’re back to the part where I’m to find a man that I fancy so that I gain the firsthand experience with being in love?” Halley’s exasperation grew with her thoughts. “Mr. Langdale, my head is overwhelmed by what you’ve offered, and I feel enormous gratitude to this benefactor. Sincere gratitude. Truly. The generosity of this person is extraordinary, and I suspect—she?”


“You are correct. I’m free to say your benefactor is indeed a woman, a most refined woman of means,” Langdale responded. “I admit feeling quite fond of her, and besides, she’s a cherished longtime client of our firm. You need to harbor no concerns about her character or sincerity.”


“So, I can’t help being curious about how she knows me, and there’s no way I can cajole you into telling—?“


Langdale shook his head. “Sorry. Confidentiality.”


Halley released a whoosh of air. “Okay, I need some time to ponder this gift and its many entangled strings.” She thought about leaving a job that never fed her spirit but only her bank account. Could she afford to make this life-altering shift? She didn’t have a husband or kids. This chance might never come her way again. Imagining living in Port Royal brought an immediate release of the work stress that had stalked her daily for the last few years. Happiness found her spirit. Halley looked across the desk at Langdale, her face glowing. “May I give you my answer, say, in a week?”


Langdale’s look gentled on Halley. “I’m sorry, but you must state your decision before leaving this office. Your benefactor doesn’t want time to allow your mind to override your heart. She believes in you and your dream, and sincerely hopes you will allow her to open this door for you.” Langdale paused. “Look, I’m going to step out for a few moments and attend to some other matters. Please look over the simple-worded agreement. You’ll see the benefactor has no desire to interfere in the way you conduct your life. When I return, I expect your answer.” Langdale stood, but his expression remained sympathetic.


Halley managed a nod while accepting the papers. “Wait, Mr. Langdale. Can you maybe spare me thirty minutes? Before I can make this huge life-altering decision, I need to make two phone calls. I can’t give my answer until I speak with my sister and employer. I trust their responses will provide the clarity and practicality I need to move forward one way or another.”


“Of course. I do grasp the weightiness of this moment and quite understand why you’re feeling overwhelmed. Please, by all means, take that time. The offer does indeed bring a significant life change, but also an enormous lifetime opportunity. Why not start by asking yourself if you possess the courage and belief in your writing to at least try on that yearned-for ‘dream life,’ Ms. Bowen?”


Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):



What’s your favorite part about being a romance author?


I get to chase the happily ever after!


Here’s my tip to add romance to your love life:


Be fully present to the one you love.


Giveaway –


One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card



Open internationally.


Runs February 1 – 29, 2024


Drawing will be held on March 1, 2024. 


Author Biography:


Multi-genre Author~Inner Explorer~Humor Chaser~Labyrinth Lover~Waterfall Wanderer

Author Tonya Penrose (pen name) is a storyteller who believes in the power of humor and narratives to touch her readers’ hearts. She's always been moved by how a story can invite personal exploration and leave a lasting impression on those who read it.

When Tonya sits in her favorite writing chair gazing at a lake, she aspires to create beguiling characters that leap from the page and capture a reader’s fancy. Her characters aren't just words on a page. They become real, breathing people with their own flaws and quirks. She enjoys sprinkling her romps with moments that offer readers grins or even bursts of laughter.

But for Tonya, it's not only about the characters or the humor. The dialogue is where her stories shine. As a multi-genre author, she feels that engaging dialogue provides the heartbeat for any truly wonderful tale. It breathes life into the narrative and allows readers to feel they're with the characters in every conversation.

Whether you're seeking an entertaining escape or a thought-enlivening journey of inner discovery, Tonya's books are waiting to whisk you into her world. Embark on a path where humor meets introspection and unforgeable characters await at every page turn.

 Tonya invites readers to explore the familiar and enchanted settings with her. To uncover secreted truths, share inspiring moments, and awaken to her deeper message—that living in the now is how.

Tonya's fiction and non-fiction stories are published in numerous anthologies, e-magazines, local press, and literary magazines.


Find Tonya Penrose listed in the Poets and Writers Directory.


​If you enjoy Tonya's novels, please tell others.


*Represented by Birch Literary



X: @TonyaWrites

Instagram: @TonyaPenroseWrites @TonyaPenroseWrites

Substack @TonyaPenrose



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Feb 15

Thank you, Tonya, for sharing your book in our Love and Romance Book Festival!

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