This wasn’t my intended post for the blog today. My intended post was titled, “Death by Laundry” and was about the escapades of the weekend with my daughter’s abundance of clothes. Before I got around to sending the post to Delilah, I got news that a friend had died of cancer. It shocked me because I didn’t know how close she was to the end and it broke my heart because she was so young, was such a beautiful person, and should have had her whole life ahead of her. So I decided to pay tribute to Jill Bronson Fillion in the best way I know, through my writing.
The tribute dates back to a year ago, when I had a story in my head about a strong, independent, caring woman who moves back to her childhood hometown and gets a second chance with her first love. The character had been born, but she needed a name.
I can’t write a story about nameless characters, so while I thought about it, I puttered around Facebook. As I scrolled through my newsfeed, I found a post from Jill, reminiscing about a post she’d shared a year earlier and celebrating her present health. While my heroine’s story was very different from Jill’s own story, the two women shared a lot of the same qualities: strength, resilience, a big heart, a bright smile. It was perfect, I would name the character Jill and pay tribute to a woman who seemed to have beaten cancer.
After I published Marrying for Love, I made plans to meet up with the real-life Jill to give her a copy of the book. To further pay tribute, I dedicated it to her and her brave fight against cancer. She was honored and my only regret is I didn’t have my picture taken with her.
I knew her cancer had returned and I knew the prognosis was grim, I just didn’t realize how far down the road she’d traveled. My heart broke when I heard the news today that she died on September 3rd. I can’t imagine the sadness her family feels…her husband, her son, her sister, her parents. She was a bright soul in an often dark world who fought a brave fight against a disease she didn’t deserve.
Jill isn’t the only one who has honored me by being a namesake to a character in my Superstitious Brides series. In my August 30th release, 3rd Trip to the Altar, I named the heroine Tristin after a former colleague who was killed in 2011 in a freak bicycle accident. I was inspired to write 3rd Trip while listening to a radio dedication on my way to walk in Tristin’s Live Laugh Love Memorial 5K. In the book, Tristin’s best friend Cynthia Munn was named in honor of two friends battling breast cancer, both of whom started their fight in the exact same month over 18 months ago.
And since we are talking names, my daughter has the honor of naming most of the pets in these books, so when you meet Jill’s dog Buttercup (Marrying for Love), Maddie’s horse Crystal (For the Love of Chocolate), Brent’s raccoon Rascal (3rd Trip to the Altar), Courtney’s dog Humphrey (The Perfect Pairing, available in the Romancing the Wine box set), Clairissa’s yet to be named yellow labs (Taking Back Good-bye, coming in October), and Clint’s dog Digger (Mistletoe Marathon, coming November 1 in Spicy Christmas Kisses 2).
Be at peace, Jill. I will think of your smile and kind heart every time Jill Butler-Hale makes an appearance in my Superstitious Brides series.
By the way, Jill is in EVERY book in the series, so grab your copy to honor this brave woman.
I’m giving away a copy of Tall, Dark, & Loaded, the Billionaire Boyfriends box set in which Marrying for Love was originally published with five other novellas. To enter the drawing, complete the form linked here. If you are in the U.S., I’ll also send a signed copy of Marrying for Love.
Here’s an excerpt from The Perfect Pairing that features Jill.
Courtney found Jill and Austin in the kitchen, each with a cup in their hands, courtesy of Cyn. She was always the gracious hostess, even when heading out the door.
“Good morning. Sorry, I overslept.”
“So I heard,” Jill cooed. “Making out with your boss will do that to a girl.”
Oh, she was so going to kill Cyn for that one. “It was the wine.”
“Don’t blame the wine. You need a little nooky, Courtney.”
“Oh my gosh, I don’t need…”
“Can we get down to business?” Austin cut in, saving the day. “We need to hit the road.”
Jill laughed. “Come on, babe, we talked about this and you agreed that Courtney needed to loosen up a bit. Nooky is the perfect way to unwind.”
“You think I’m uptight?” she asked.
“Not uptight. Focused,” Austin insisted.
“I’m close to finishing my degree. I need to be focused.”
“And I commend you for it,” Austin said, clearly trying to stay neutral. “Now, you ready to meet Humphrey?”
“Yes, please. Where he is?”
“Erik’s got him out in the field. Poor guy is a mess. His fur is all nappy and matted and he is malnourished, but he has spunk. You’ll love him.”
Austin snickered, raising Courtney’s hackles. “Define spunk.”
Jill jabbed her husband in the side with her elbow. “He’s very affectionate. Like I said, you’ll love him.”
Courtney would be the first to admit she had trust issues, but Jill had become a good friend, one Courtney trusted implicitly except when it came to how she described the pets she needed Courtney to foster. Every single one of them had had an issue that no one in their right mind would want to deal with. Based on Austin’s snicker, Humphrey had some sort of issue too.
“Here’s all the information we were able to gather. I trust you’ll get it into the database.”
“Of course,” Courtney replied, taking the handwritten notes. She had created the database for the rescue as a project for her Green Marketing course. The shelter now operated paperless, saving them money on ink, paper, and other office supplies while being able to brag about being an environmentally friendly non-profit. Jill was still old-school, though, and kept a small notebook instead of using one of the tablets.
“He can’t be left alone,” Jill added as Courtney skimmed the notes. “He needs a little food and water every hour. We have a crate for him. You’ll want to put him in that even if you’re only going to the bathroom. He’s a runner, so keep him on a leash when you take him out.”
“Got it.” Courtney stuffed the note in her pocket and started for the door. She wanted to be to work early, so didn’t want to waste any more time.
She saw Erik out in the field, but the grass was too tall to spot the dog. Austin called to his son and Erik came running. When they reached the lawn, which was freshly cut, the little ragamuffin dog appeared, keeping pace with his running mate.
Cyn was right, the little terrier was adorable, but as they got closer, Courtney saw how right Jill was too. He was in desperate need of some grooming and food. “Do you know how old he is?”
Jill shook her head. “Not sure, but Clarissa said she’d stop by to check him out anytime this weekend. Just give her a call.”
Clarissa Dean was their friend and local veterinarian who offered her services free of charge to the rescue. “Will do. I have to work today, but I’ll work something out with her.”
Erik slowed to a walk and handed the leash off to Jill before stepping back. Austin stepped back too. “What’s going on?”
“Just giving you some space to get to know him,” Austin said. Based on Erik’s chuckle, Courtney knew there was more to it than that, but the dog just licked her face and wagged his tail. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
“Jilly, we need to get going,” Austin said.
“Right. Good luck. We’ll be back next Sunday, but call if there are any problems.”
“I can handle it,” Courtney assured Jill.
“I know you can. Have fun. Keep me posted on things with your boss.”
“Nothing to keep you posted on,” she replied, turning her attention to Austin. “That reminds me. You don’t have any Black Vines wines on your wine list at the tavern.”
“I tried, but Neil had an ax to grind with my father, and therefore with me. He said he’d be dead and buried before any of his wines were offered at the Hale.”
“Well, Aiden wants to change that.”
“Good. Call Sadie and set up a meeting.”
“Thank you,” Courtney said, her cheeks aching from the smile. She knew Austin would be receptive and couldn’t wait to get to work and let Aiden know.
Erik grabbed the small crate from Austin’s shiny truck and handed it off to Courtney.
She debated whether to call Aiden and ask permission to bring Humphrey to work or to just show up. As she’d learned in the air force, it was better to ask forgiveness than permission, so Courtney put the pup in his crate and jumped in the shower. When she was dressed in slacks, a more practical pair of shoes, and a nice blouse, she headed out the door, only to realize she didn’t have a car, or a ride.
About the Author
Big dreamer and certifiable overachiever Susan Ann Wall embraces life at full speed and volume. She’s a beer and tea snob, can be bribed with dark chocolate, and the #1 thing on her bucket list is to be the center of a Bon Jovi flash mob.
Susan is a national bestselling, multi-genre author of racy, rule-breaking romance and women’s fiction. Her bragging rights include the Fighting Back for Love series, Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series, Superstitious Brides Romance series, Sunset Valley Women’s Fiction series (coming soon), and Devon Taggart Suspense series. She also likes to boast about her three perfect children, two amazing rescue dogs, and a happily ever after that started while serving in the U.S. Army and has spanned two decades (which is crazy since she’s not a day over 29).
In her next life, Susan plans to be a 5 foot 10, size 8 rock star married to a chiropractor and will not be terrified of large bridges, spiders, or quiet people (shiver).