Light the Fire

Mary Manners
Light the Fire


Pelican Book Group
Release Date
March 2011
Inspirational Romance

A choice, a tragedy, and life-altering consequences…

When Rena Dunigan flees New York City and her dream of becoming a Broadway performer, she returns to her hometown of Knoxville harboring a life-altering secret and the shame of a shattered past. When her friend, Kelsie, talks her into helping build a house through the local Shelter the Homeless program, she meets Cody and his mischievous Saint Bernard, Sammy.

Cody is dealing with a devastating loss of his own, yet his gentleness and patience melt Rena's resolve to never trust–or love–again. But what will Cody think when he learns the consequences of Rena's past? And can Cody begin to hope–and to trust–that love can bind and heal their hurting hearts?

Interview by Laura

Hi Mary, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about LIGHT THE FIRE.

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

I have lost a child, and the healing process is long and oh, so difficult, even under the best of circumstances (if there is such a thing). Anyway, I really wanted to delve into the healing process for a young woman in the same situation who feels a tremendous amount of guilt, and bring her healing through faith and the tender love of a good man (who happens to be struggling with his own loss, as well).

Q: What is the main theme in this book?

Hope and finding healing through faith and trust.

Q: Who is Cody and what has shaped him to be the man that he is today?

Oh, Cody…He is a man who loves life, but is struggling with the loss of his older brother—who was also his best friend. Despite the hardship, he finds humor in difficult situations and is an anchor to his sister-in-law, Jeanne, as she raises three young sons. He's smitten by Rena, and his gentle demeanor, strong faith, and coaxing humor teach her to trust…and love again.

Q: What can you tell us about Rena that would make us sympathize with her?

Rena is broken, both emotionally and spiritually, when she returns to home. Yet she still reaches out to those around her who need help—Erin who suffers from dyslexia, and the homeless by volunteering to build a house. And Story Hour with the preschoolers at the public library she manages is her favorite time of the week. She's got an amazing heart, and we cry with her when it's shattered.

Q: What is the most romantic thing that Cody did for Rena?

Cody is full of romantic surprises…moonlight, Italian food…music—it's all there, and more.

Q: If Cody and Rena were to have a theme song, what would it be?

Oh…To Let You Feel My Love, by Garth Brooks, comes to mind. Cody and Rena would love to dance in the rain.

Q: We've heard so much about Jeanne and her three sons. Please tell us about them and the support unit they formed for Cody and Rena?

I absolutely adore Jackson, Seth and Tommy. They are a handful, but oh so much fun! There innocence is a perfect fit for the story, and Cody loves them as if they're his own. The boys help to give us a glimpse into Cody's heart—his sense of duty and his strong love of family. It's a big part of what draws Rena to him.

Q: What is your favorite scene? Why?

I like the following scene because it offers an early glimpse into the personalities of Cody and Rena, while hinting at the humor that helps to heal both of them. And who doesn't like a mischievous, sloppy Saint Bernard?

Here's a short excerpt:

"Where's the party?" Rena asked. "This place looks like a war zone with no survivors." Empty concrete bags and torn nail boxes littered the muddy ground.

"Kyle's working with the others over there."

At the far side of the concrete-block foundation, Kyle lifted a two-by-four into place, but it was the guy hammering beside him that caused Rena's breath to catch. Dark, unruly hair kissed broad shoulders. The thin fabric of his navy T-shirt strained over a terrain of muscles as he struck each nail neatly into place with a single, confident blow.

Rena tore her gaze away. She'd seen enough guys like him in New York City—handsome guys convinced they were a gift to every woman within a five-hundred mile radius—when all they really excelled at was breaking hearts.

Rena tightened the tool belt around her hips and strode toward the two-by-four frame, ready to drive a nail. Suddenly the thunderous crash of a stampede filled the air, and she was tackled by what felt like a runaway freight train. She flew airborne, then slammed to the ground. A finale of fireworks exploded in her head.

"Sammy, no. Bad dog. Sit!" Footsteps pounded as someone sprinted over gravel and leaped pallets of brick.

Stunned, Rena shook her head to clear the fireworks and came face to face with a massive, drooling dog. Jowls drew to expose spiked teeth; he loomed as if he intended to devour her for breakfast.

Her cries ripped the air. "Help! Kelsie!"

"It's OK." A husky voice slid over her like warm molasses as the guy who'd been helping Kyle dropped to his knees beside her. She breathed the clean, woodsy scent of his aftershave. "It's just Sammy. He's harmless."

"Yeah, right." Rena dipped her head and shielded her face with the collar of her windbreaker as the dog nudged his meaty snout in her tangled hair. "Just get him away from me."

"Sammy, no." He gave the dog's collar a yank. "Sit. Stay."

"That's not a dog. It's a bear." Rena scooted through damp grass to put distance between them. As if to mock her, Sammy followed. He sniffed her hair, and then lazily licked her face, leaving a trail of warm, sloppy saliva across one cheek.

"Yuck, I've been slimed." She swiped a forearm across the gooey moisture and tilted her head to stare into the most soulful pair of doggy eyes she'd ever seen. "What's your name, big boy?"

"My name's Cody."

A giggle erupted, and she covered her mouth. "I meant the dog."

"Oh, right. Meet Sammy." Cody offered a hand. Calluses mingled with the warmth that brushed her palm. She sat up cross-legged, brushing hair from her eyes while she waited for the dizziness to pass. "He's a Saint Bernard who thinks he's a toy poodle. He forgets he weighs as much as a truck."

She let go of Cody's hand. "Haven't you heard of obedience school?"

"For me or the dog?"

"Maybe you should check into a buy-one-get-one-free program."

Q: That's funny! I love your humor. So, what's up for you in the coming months?

My Dollar Download, STARFIRE, released May 27th, and KATE'S KISSES, the first of four books in the Sweet Treats Bakery Series is due out June 17th. Then there's BURIED TREASURES, due later this summer, all from White Rose Publishing. And I just finished the first book in the Lone Creek Ranch Series, LOST IN LONE CREEK.

Thanks, Mary, for such a wonderful interview, especially given how busy you are!

I grew up in Chicago, the second in a family of five children. Following my graduation from the University of Illinois, I relocated to beautiful East Tennessee. I have dual degrees in both special education and elementary education, and have been a middle school English and math teacher for twenty-five years. I have had a passion for writing since birth (really)! My husband, Tim, is the most wonderful and supportive man on the face of the earth. We have one daughter, Danni, and two sons, Tyler and Brad, who are both currently serving our country in the air force.



Tender Mercies
Mended Heart
Brenna's Choice
Love's Kindled Flame

Mary Manners is giving away 2 copies of LIGHT THE FIRE (1 print and 1 digital)!


Simply write a comment or ask a question in the comment box below to be entered into the giveaway!

Contest ends June 30.

Winners will be announced in July.
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