Wish You Were Here

A Novel

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About The Book

Kissing the wrong guy days before her wedding leads Allison to become a runaway bride. But can it also lead to happily ever after?

Kissing the wrong guy days before her scheduled wedding leads Allison to become a runaway bride. But can it also lead to happily ever after?

Allison Denman is supposed to get married in five days, but everything is all wrong. The huge wedding. The frothy dress. And the groom.

Still, kissing the groom’s brother, Daniel, in an unguarded moment is decidedly not the right thing to do. How could she have made such a mistake? It seems Allison’s life is nothing but mistakes at this point. Daniel’s adventures—chronicled through a collection of postcards—have always appealed to Allison’s well-hidden desire for something more. But how can betraying her fiancé’s trust lead to a true happily ever after?

Can Allison find her way out of this mess? Recognizing she doesn’t have all the answers won’t be easy because she’s used to being in control. To find her way again, she will have to believe that God has a plan for her—one outside her carefully defined comfort zone—and find the strength to let Him lead.

Excerpt

Wish You Were Here

Chapter 1

She never should have said yes.

Allison smoothed the bodice of the wedding gown, the fitted lace sleeves clinging to her arms. Waves of material billowed out from her waist, threatening to overwhelm her like a silken tsunami.

The style was all wrong.

She’d known it months ago—the moment the saleswoman released the dress from its protective plastic covering. Allison doubted all those layers of ivory lace and silk, bows and beads would ever fit back into such a small bag.

Securing the myriad of tiny pearl buttons marching down the back took precedence over her request for something simpler. She’d been instructed to stand on a round carpeted platform in front of a wall of angled mirrors. Encouraged to turn this way and that for the assembled critics—her best friend, Meghan; her mom; her younger sister, Hadleigh; and Seth’s mom. Her future mother-in-law’s breathless “Perfect” sealed Allison’s fate.

While her mother paid a price as outlandish as the dress, the bridal shop attendant stressed the “no returns/no refunds” policy. And now . . . well, Allison couldn’t do anything about her decision five days before the wedding.

Allison moved toward her standing beveled mirror. The only thing out of place in the room was the garment bag emblazoned with the elaborate, oversize initials of the bridal shop lying across her spotless white matelassé bedspread. Four pillows covered in matching shams and arranged just so lined the open-rail headboard. A framed oval photo of a triumphant Seth after winning a marathon stood on the bedside table.

Allison turned the photo around so it faced the wall. “No seeing the bride before the wedding day. It’s bad luck.”

She leaned toward her reflection in the mirror, gathering her auburn hair into a haphazard pile on top of her head. Maybe with an updo, veil, manicure, makeup—

“Who am I trying to kid?” She let her hair fall past her slumped shoulders. “Nothing can turn the wrong choice into the right one.”

She should have spoken up, insisted she have the chance to try on a few more gowns. But if there was one thing she’d learned during the six years she’d dated Seth Rayner, it was how to go along with what someone else wanted.

Turning away from the irrefutable evidence, she fought to move past her bed as the gown swirled around her legs. The partially buttoned dress gaped open in the back, causing the sheer sleeves to slip off her shoulders.

She wouldn’t wear the dress forever. Just for the ceremony. The reception. The limo ride to the hotel. Six hours, tops. Once it was dry-cleaned and stowed in the cavernous walk-in closet in Seth’s town house, she’d never have to see the designer debacle again.

Except in the wedding photos.

“Scat, Bisquick.” Allison lifted the material as her cat swatted the delicate hem. “I am not wearing a pricey cat toy.”

Undeterred, her yellow cat stalked her out of the bedroom, menacing sounds warning Allison the game was still on. She sidestepped down the hall to her living room, keeping a watchful eye on her marauding feline. The five-foot train followed her like a guest who had overstayed her welcome.

She paced around her couch and matching chairs, upholstered in soft white suede. She was careful to avoid snagging the gown on her cognac-colored coffee table as she swished by. She hated the thought of storing the items in her parents’ attic, but it couldn’t be helped. There was no place to put her furniture at Seth’s.

Maybe she should practice walking down the aisle. Practice made perfect, right?

Allison closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. Sang the words “Here comes the bride . . .”

Just step forward. One foot in front of the other. One. Two. One. Two.

Her eyes flew open. “I’m flunking the wedding march five days before my wedding. If I can’t walk down a pretend aisle in my apartment, how am I going to manage the real thing?”

She collapsed on the couch, waves of material swelling up around her like a hot air balloon. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to get married. Seth was perfect for her. She was just tired of talking about the wedding and thinking about the wedding . . . and what came after. Most of all, she was tired of this dress—and she hadn’t even worn it for real yet.

She needed a diversion. Maybe Meghan would be up for a movie. Something happy, like . . . An Affair to Remember. She’d give her a call and then escape the bridal gown nightmare.

And the sooner the better. If they had a fire in the building, she’d perish under five thousand dollars’ worth of lace, beads, pearls, and silk. As if to emphasize the ugly truth, someone rapped on her door. Meghan, reading her mind? Or the local fire marshal, ready to declare her a walking fire code violation?

Shoving the skirt aside, she pulled the door open with a welcoming smile. “Hey, Meggie—”

Or not Meggie.

Seth’s older brother, Daniel, leaned against the doorjamb. “Hey, yourself, Kid.” His mismatched eyes—one blue, one green—skimmed over her bridal frenzy. “Am I interrupting an elopement?”

A lazy grin slid up his face, as if he’d like to help with that adventure. Of course, Daniel’s motto might be “Grab Your Backpack and Follow Me,” thanks to the miles he’d logged in his hiking boots over the years. He appeared straight off some mountain trail, dressed in cargo pants and a life is good T-shirt under his brown leather bomber jacket, chin unshaved, brown curls tamed by a baseball cap.

How he and her starched, spit-polished fiancé happened to be kin baffled her.

“O-of course not!” She gathered the open back of her gown in one hand, shoving the ivory fabric back over her shoulders. “What are you doing here?” And why now, when she wore the fire hazard? She debated grabbing the coat hanging on the rack near the door, but knew a layer of hunter green wool wouldn’t improve her appearance.

“Seth asked me to help move some of your stuff to his house this week, remember? I thought I’d pick up a few boxes.”

“Boxes?”

“Books. Kitchen supplies. Knickknacks. Whatever you’ve packed.” He stepped into her apartment, his larger-than-life persona managing to shrink even her dress down to size. But Allison still had to part the waves of material as she backed up.

“Uh, is that the dress?”

Was he choking back a laugh? Confirmation the dress was a nightmare.

“Yes. Please, no comments.” Allison ran her hands along the flowing skirt as if she could tame it. Not going to happen.

“It’s impressive.”

Allison blew a wisp of hair out of her eyes. “Are you kidding me? I look like Bridal Fashion Disaster Barbie.”

“Hey, all brides are beautiful on their wedding day.” Daniel tucked the strand of hair behind her ear, the warmth in his eyes offering encouragement. “Seth won’t be able to take his eyes off you.”

“He’ll be trying to find me somewhere in all this fabric.”

As Daniel stepped around Allison, she caught the sound of his chuckle. She imagined his glance skimming the stack of assorted packing boxes piled in the living room of her otherwise immaculate apartment.

“You are planning on moving in with Seth after the wedding, right?”

“Of course I am. I’ve just been busy with deadlines and . . . and things . . .” She hated how the unused packing boxes made her feel guilty of some unnamed crime.

“Okay, so show me where the packed boxes are, and I’ll get out of your way.”

She longed to provide proof that she’d packed something. Say a few magic words and conjure up some boxes under the dress. Abracadabra, I do, I do. “I-I haven’t packed anything yet.” She shrugged, causing the lace to slip a few inches.

“Too busy playing dress-up?” The disarming grin Daniel tossed over his shoulder took any potential sting out of his question. “I really do like the dress, by the way.”

“You’re a liar, but thanks.” She tugged the fabric back in place. Stupid dress.

Daniel turned back and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close. Allison’s dress crunched in protest even as his embrace wrapped her in the scent of leather and remnants of the brisk November night air. “Listen, Alli, you don’t have to explain to a master procrastinator like me. Let’s just consider helping the bride pack a best man’s duty. Besides, what’s a future brother-in-law for? We can order Chinese and tackle a few boxes. Deal?”

“You sure you’ve got time? I’d have to change.”

“I hope so. Or I’m hopelessly underdressed.” He turned her in the direction of her bedroom, his hands warm on her shoulders. “Need help with the buttons in the back . . . ummm, that would be a no.”

Allison fled to her room, her laughter mingled with the heat of a blush that coursed across her face and all the way down her spine.

That Daniel—he knew how to make her laugh. She couldn’t wait until he was actually her family.



Daniel sat back on his heels, his hands braced on his thighs. “How many boxes is that? Six?”

“That makes eight.” Alli wrote linens across the top in block letters with a black Sharpie.

“I’ve never known anyone to color coordinate a linen closet.” Daniel stood and offered his hand to Alli. “Your über-organization makes it easy to pack your stuff. DVDs filed by genre and alphabetized by title?”

“It makes life easier. I don’t like wasting time looking for things.” She wrapped her fingers around his and stood, rubbing her neck with her other hand. “You know what they say: ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place.’”

“Yeah, well, this is why you’re marrying my brother, Mr. Clean. I’m more of a ‘let everything go all over the place’ kind of guy.” Daniel placed his hand over hers where she kneaded her shoulder. “Muscle spasm?”

“Just a little one.” Allison stilled as he worked to ease the tightness. “Too much time hunched over my computer, trying to finish up projects before the h-honeymoon.”

Somewhere in the midst of her detailed retelling of a recent graphic design deadline, Daniel realized he’d stopped listening and let himself focus way too much attention on the curve of Alli’s neck and the softness of her skin as he massaged her shoulder. He patted her back—a nice brotherly gesture—and stepped away. “All better?”

“Y-yes. Thanks.” She turned, pulling at the hem of her oversize Air Force Falcons sweatshirt and then smoothing it against her black yoga pants. “So . . . interested in dessert? I mean, something other than fortune cookies? I’ve got some ice cream.”

“Sounds great.”

Shoving his hands into his back pockets, he followed her to the kitchen. She’d decorated in basic black and white—white towels, black ceramic containers on the countertops, a white KitchenAid mixer. Even her cat’s dishes were color-coordinated, one black, one white. The only splash of color was the large bulletin board displayed on one wall. He stood in front of it, realizing it was a pictorial travelogue of his past. An assortment of “Wish You Were Here” postcards threatened to overflow the frame’s borders. Almost all of the fifty states. Canada. Germany. The Bahamas. Turkey. Kenya. He went through passports the way some people went through credit card balances. He shook his head. “I can’t believe you kept all these.”

“Some people collect antique paperweights.” Alli came to stand beside him, a metal ice cream scoop in her hand. “I collect postcards from my future brother-in-law.”

“Isn’t this the first one I ever sent you?” He touched a postcard in the middle of the collection.

“That’s the one. And nice guy that you are, you kept sending them. Thanks. I liked seeing all the exotic places you were visiting while I slogged through midterms and finals.”

“I remember that trip to Australia. You and Seth were—what?—juniors in high school. You begged me to send you a postcard—”

“I did not beg!”

He deflected her well-aimed jab with the spoon, wrapping his hand around hers. “Were you already dating my little brother back then?”

“Barely.” Allison withdrew her hand and went to the freezer to get the ice cream. “He’d asked me to homecoming, and we just kind of started dating after that.”

“Kind of started dating?” Daniel gave a snort of laughter, watching her scoop mounds of fudge ripple into a white ceramic bowl. “You know Seth better than that. He had every step planned out to get you to fall in love with him.”

And he accomplished that goal, just as he gets everything he sets his sights on.

Daniel leaned against the counter, snagging a spoonful of ice cream. “Aren’t you going to have any?”

Alli stashed the carton back in the freezer. “I’m the one who has to fit in a wedding gown in five days, remember? I thought I’d share a bite of yours.”

He held a spoonful of fudge ripple in front of her. “I suppose this counts as another best-man duty—saving you from not fitting in that gorgeous gown of yours?”

“Very funny, wise guy.” She paused before handing the spoon back to him. “Hey, there’s a thought! If I can’t fit into the dress, I can’t wear it, right? Quick, I need more ice cream!”

She dashed toward the fridge, but Daniel was there ahead of her, blocking her way.

“Come on, Daniel. Move.”

“I’m saving you from a very rash decision, Alli.” He marched her back into the living room, directing her to sit on the couch. “I told you that you look beautiful in that dress.”

“And I told you that I don’t believe you.” Alli pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees.

Daniel started piling boxes by the door to carry them down to his truck. As he turned from depositing a box by the door, he caught Alli smothering a yawn. “That’s my cue to leave.” He moved Bisquick from where he lay snoozing in a chair—on top of Daniel’s ball cap. “Stupid cat.”

Allison followed him to the door, watching him slip on his boots. “I’ll ignore the ‘stupid cat’ remark because you didn’t laugh out loud when you saw my wedding gown.”

“Don’t worry about the dress, Alli. You’ll take Seth’s breath away.” He ran his finger along the line of doubt etched between her eyebrows.

“Trust me.”

“I can help carry the boxes to your truck—”

“Don’t bother, bride-to-be.” He leaned down to place a quick good-night kiss on Alli’s cheek just as she tilted her face up. His lips brushed hers, halting her thanks with the lightest of touches. The slightest bit of contact.

Not a kiss. Not really.

Just enough for Daniel to capture the softness of Alli’s lips and the hint of chocolate that lingered there.

He would never kiss his brother’s fiancée.

He looked up—and lost himself in Alli’s eyes, their gray-blue depths reminding him of a cloudless expanse of sky. The light citrus scent that always lingered in her auburn hair lured him closer. “Alli . . .”

He placed his hand against the curve of her back, drawing her against him. Caressed the side of her face, watching as the cloud of confusion in her eyes changed to a spark of startled awareness. Their lips touched again. He closed his eyes, his hand sliding through her hair to the nape of her neck, just enough to let her know that yes, he meant every moment, every gentle touch of this kiss.

And to his shock, Alli kissed him back.

Instead of slapping his face.

Just as he began to lose himself in the kiss, an incessant tone jarred Daniel’s senses, pulling him back to reality—away from Alli. What was that?

Alli stared at him, confusion once again clouding her eyes. She cut short the whisper of his name when she covered her lips with trembling fingers. “Y-your cell.” She shook her head as if clearing her thoughts and stepped out of his embrace. “You probably need to answer that.”

“Alli, wait.” He reached for her hand as he dug his phone out of his back pocket and flipped it open. “Daniel here.”

“Hey, it’s Seth. Did you go by Allison’s tonight like I asked? I’ve tried calling her, but she’s not answering her cell.”

“Seth.” Alli’s eyes widened, the lips he’d just kissed forming his brother’s name. Their eyes locked, and Alli seemed to hold her breath, waiting to see what he would say. What was he supposed to do? Add lying to his sins? “Yeah, I’m just leaving Alli’s. I grabbed a load of boxes. I’ll drop them by your house tomorrow.”

“You want to bring them by tonight?”

“No, it’s later than I realized.” He faced away from Alli, putting distance between them.

“How’s Allison?”

“She’s fine.” Not that Daniel was asking at the moment. “She’d tried on her dress when I showed up. Counting the days until the wedding.”

“I can’t wait to see it. Mom said it’s stunning.”

Daniel managed some noncommittal reply. Their mom was right—and wrong. The dress was stunning, but it wasn’t right for Alli. Didn’t matter. Alli would be a beautiful bride for his brother.

After signing off, Daniel shoved his cell into his back pocket. Took a deep breath and faced—an empty room. Where did Alli disappear to?

The kitchen?

Empty.

Daniel walked down the hallway to Alli’s bedroom. Her cat lounged in front of her closed bedroom door like a sorry excuse for a watchdog.

“Not necessary, cat.”

He eyed the door, debating. Beat a hasty retreat or face Alli like a man? The cat stared him down through half-closed eyes.

He rapped his knuckles against the door. “Alli, come on out.”

Silence.

“Come on, Kid. We need to talk.”

When he leaned close, he heard her muffled response: “Go away, Daniel.”

“This is ridiculous. We can’t have a conversation through a closed door.”

“We’re not having a conversation—”

“What do you call this?”

Silence.

“Alli?” Daniel stared at the door, unsure if he wanted her to open it or keep it closed.

She pulled the door open so fast that he took two steps backward. He missed trampling on the cat, who hissed and darted back down the hallway to the living room.

“You want to talk? Fine. What do you want me to say?” She raked her fingers through her hair. “How could you . . . how could we . . .” Her voice broke off as she choked back a sob.

“Don’t cry, Kid—”

She stomped her foot. “Don’t you dare tell me not to cry, Daniel Rayner! You’re not the one getting married in five days! You’re not the one who just made the biggest mistake of her life!”

He held up his hands. “Hey, I don’t think what happened is the biggest mistake of your life.”

She glared at him. “I am not going to stand here and discuss all my mistakes with you, letting you decide where k-kissing you ranks—”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

More silence.

“Look, I got ahead of myself, wanting to kiss the bride.” Daniel figured if he downplayed the whole episode, Alli would too. “Let’s not make a big deal out of it.”

“N-not make a big deal out of it?” She stared at him, looking as shocked as if he’d suggested they kiss again.

“It was just a kiss, not a one-night stand.” Daniel’s lie tore him apart. The kiss had mattered to him—not that he could admit it. How many lies had he told tonight? “You’re not the first woman I’ve kissed, Alli. You won’t be the last.” He forced a laugh that sounded fake, even to him. What was that verse his scoutmaster used to quote? Even a fool, when he is silent, seems wise. Daniel needed someone running a teleprompter with that verse on it.

Alli’s words were a strained whisper. “How could we do something like that?”

“It was my fault, Alli. Not yours.” He longed to take her in his arms and comfort her, but he didn’t dare touch her again. No more mistakes tonight.

She wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. “I-I need you to leave. Please.”

“I’ll load the boxes in my truck and lock your front door, okay?”

“Fine.”

Okay, then. His work here was done. The sooner he left, the better. He needed to put some distance between himself and the temptation of his brother’s fiancée.

Allison twisted the shower handles. Come on, hot water.

She tilted her head so the water streamed across her face and down her shoulders, waiting for the warmth to ease the tension from her body.

It was late for a shower—more like early—but she knew she’d never go to sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw Daniel’s face right before he kissed her . . .

Shampoo. She should shampoo her hair. One less thing to do when she got up for work in a few hours. She’d French-braid her hair before she went to sleep.

She lathered her head, savoring the familiar mandarin-orange scent of her favorite shampoo. Scrubbing her hair reminded her of how Daniel’s hand slipped through her hair as he pulled her close . . .

Rinse. She needed to rinse and condition.

And she needed to stop thinking about Daniel Rayner.

Massaging the cream from scalp to ends, she conjured up a mental to-do list.

One: Send off the PDFs of the magazine layouts she’d completed.

Two: Make sure Lori knew what deadlines would come up while she was on her honeymoon.

The honeymoon. She and Meghan were going shopping tomorrow—today—for some last-minute must-haves. She still needed a beach cover-up and some sort of hat. And maybe she could find a new dress for the wedding rehearsal.

The rehearsal.

Well, that was a huge number three on her list.

How would she survive seeing Daniel at the rehearsal? How would she survive being his sister-in-law for the next who knew how many decades of wedding anniversaries with Seth?

“Why did I kiss him, God? Why? Why?” Allison leaned her forehead against the shower tile. “What was I thinking?”

No answer.

Instead, Daniel kept interrupting her attempts to organize the upcoming day. The strength of his arms wrapped around her. How his lips coaxed an unexpected response from her. How he whispered her name right before he kissed her the second time.

The cold spray forced Allison to turn off the water. She’d emptied her hot water tank. Shivering, she grabbed her faded green robe and wrapped it around her still-damp body. She grabbed a towel off the rack and gathered her wet hair into the soft cotton. Turning, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror over her sink.

Don’t you look great?

Not.

Gray streaks of mascara marred her pasty white face. She looked like she had the twenty-four-hour flu. She certainly felt sick. The Kung Pao chicken and beef and broccoli she’d shared with Daniel threatened to come back up her throat.

“What have you done?” Allison whispered to her reflection.

Again, no answer. Apparently, both she and God were out of answers tonight.

She walked into her bedroom, toweling her hair. The pristine white designer gown hung in front of the window, the moonlight making it seem iridescent. It loomed like a silent judge, declaring her guilty. She ought to stitch a scarlet “K” across the bodice. If anyone asked about the last-minute embellishment, she could say, “Oh, this? I somehow managed to kiss my fiancé’s brother.”

Allison climbed into bed, too tired to care about dropping the towel on the floor. She removed a wide-tooth comb from the bedside table, worked out the snarls in her hair, and began braiding it.

How long would she and Daniel have kissed if his cell phone hadn’t rung? Did the caller have to be Seth? It was almost as if he’d caught her in Daniel’s arms.

As hard as she tried to avoid them, Allison knew she’d made some mistakes in her life. And now she could no longer lie about her feelings for Seth’s adventuresome brother. Part of her wished Daniel hadn’t answered his phone. The harmless first not-really-a-kiss had surprised her. But she hadn’t resisted when Daniel kissed her again. During her impressionable teen years, she’d imagined what it would be like to kiss Daniel. Now she knew.

She’d always admired Seth’s older brother—his love for the outdoors, his independent streak, his ability to make her laugh. Until tonight, she’d convinced herself that her mixed-up emotions for Daniel were remnants of an adolescent crush. Now she wasn’t sure what she felt for her fiancé’s brother.

But she was engaged to Seth. She’d dated him for six years. He was perfect for her. Reliable. Safe. Her dream come true.

How could she betray him like this? What kind of person was she to kiss her fiancé’s brother? Did she even deserve someone as good as Seth?

With a groan, Allison slipped under the blankets, rolling onto her stomach. How was she going to tell Seth?

Shame caused her to bury her face in her pillow, her prayer a broken plea. “I can’t tell him, God. I can’t. He won’t understand. I don’t even understand how it happened.”

Tears scorched her face as she imagined standing before Seth, confessing her sin. He would be so hurt.

Allison pressed her hand against the ache in her chest.

Could he hurt any worse than she did?

Shoving the pillows away, Alli turned onto her side, staring at her wedding gown.

What if Daniel told Seth?

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Wish You Were Here includes discussion questions and a Q&A with author Beth K. Vogt. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. In Wish You Were Here, Allison Denman is a bride-to-be having second thoughts about the dress she’ll wear for her wedding in five days. The dress is actually a symbol of Allison’s uncertainty about marrying her fiancé, Seth Rayner. Why do you think she allowed things to progress so far without expressing her doubts? How could she have talked to Seth about her doubts? Do you think he would have understood?
 
2. Allison shares an unexpected kiss with her fiancé’s brother, Daniel, which causes her even more confusion about marrying Seth. Should Allison have told Seth about the kiss and that she was having second thoughts? Was it best for her to try to forget about what happened and focus on the wedding? If Allison were your friend, what would you advise her to do? Have you ever done something impulsive and regretted it? Did you confide in anyone?

3. Allison makes it almost all the way down the aisle on her wedding day, and then she runs away. Should she have said “I do,” based on her six-year history with Seth? Have you ever found yourself confused about what to do in a relationship? Is it possible to be attracted to two men at the same time? What truths does God offer us when we are uncertain about our choices?

4. Seth is determined to marry Allison even after she returns her engagement ring and says they wouldn’t be happy together. While Allison’s best friend, Meghan, tells her that Seth isn’t a villain, were his actions those of a man who truly loved Allison? Did they demonstrate another motive? What do you think he could have done to win Allison back?

5. Allison suspects her sister’s boyfriend, Evan, looked at X-rated sites on her computer. Should she have talked to Hadleigh about it before her sister brought it up? Should Allison have confronted Evan with her suspicions? What should she have said? Have you dealt with the issue of pornography, maybe with a family member or a friend? How did you approach the topic? What scriptural truths did you share?

6. Daniel believes he’s not the right man for Alli, so he sets her up on blind dates and then tells Seth where she’s living, even though she doesn’t want Seth to know she’s moved to Estes Park. Was that the right thing to do? Or was Daniel thinking only of himself?

7. Seth knows he’s always been his father’s favorite son, and Daniel knows he’s never been. Should parents have favorites? Have you seen this happen in families, maybe even in your own? Consider the biblical example of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25), in which parents chose favorites. What problems were caused because Rebekah favored Jacob and Isaac favored Esau?

8. After running away with Allison for two years, Allison’s father returned her to her mother, agreeing to walk away from his daughter. Allison tells him doing so was his “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Her father insists he was trying to let her have a better life than he could give her. Did he do the right thing by staying away from his daughter all those years? Should he have gone to jail for abducting Allison from her mom during their divorce? If he served time in prison, could he then try to have a relationship with his daughter later?

9. Struggling with how to handle her feelings for Daniel and her attempts to be friends with Seth, Allison believes the right choice has to be the hardest choice. Her aunt Nita challenges her by asking, “Is the hardest thing always the right thing?” What do you think? Have you ever made a decision under the assumption that it was the right thing to do just because it was the most difficult choice? What helps when you are faced with difficult choices?

10. Allison’s view of God has been shaped by her relationship with the men in her life—first her father, then both of the Rayner brothers. When she finds a Scripture passage that says, “Light, space, zest—that’s God!” (Psalm 27:1, The Message), Allison admits that’s not how she sees him. Who or what has shaped your view of God, and how would you describe him? Is your view based on what others have told you or on what Scripture reveals about him?

11. Do you think it’s possible to have a romantic relationship with the brother of the man you were going to marry? Was Allison right to reject Daniel at first because he was Seth’s brother, even though she loved him? Did you understand why, months later, she sent him a “Wish You Were Here” postcard? What—or who—had changed to allow them to have a relationship?

12. What was your favorite scene in the book? Which character in the book are you most like?

A Conversation with Beth K. Vogt

Wish You Were Here
is your first novel. What kind of challenges did you face? Did your original plans for the novel differ from what you ended up with?


Challenges? How do I choose? Maybe alphabetically? The transition from writing nonfiction to fiction was, at times, painful. My mentors—and I am blessed to have several—had to talk me down off the ledge several times. Why? I had a lot to learn. Storyworld—excuse me? I’m a trained journalist. I write tight. If I say my heroine walked into a room, figure it out. Four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. I learned that style of writing doesn’t work on the “Dark Side” of the writing world.

I wrote and revised Wish You Were Here for three years. Three. I had a lot to learn, remember? At one point, I thought: I need to increase the tension in this book. So, I turned the novel into romantic suspense. I went to an advanced My Book Therapy (MBT) writers conference with fifty-plus thousand words. During the weekend, author Susan May Warren told me, “Beth, you don’t write romantic suspense. That’s not your voice.” Susie was right. The suspense angle was a beginner’s attempt at ramping up tension. I went home and deleted all the suspense scenes. I had twenty thousand words left. I still had a story left too. And the desire to keep going.

Wish You Were Here has a recurring theme of doing things for the right reasons and, more important, doing them for yourself. Have you had any experiences that informed this theme?

Several years ago, I identified myself as an “Accidental Pharisee.” I wanted to be all about God’s grace, but really, law is so much easier. Just tell me what to do or what not to do—I can handle those kinds of directions for life. God’s grace, which he says he lavishes on us, is scary. It’s limitless—no boundaries. I want to embrace the truth in Romans 5:2 (The Message): We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory.

So, yes, I’ve done things for the wrong reasons. I wanted to make sure I was getting all good marks from God and that I was keeping everybody in my life happy. In doing so, I wasn’t being true to who God created me to be.

What kind of role has faith played in your writing? What kind of messages do you hope to convey through your characters?

I write because I believe God created me to be a writer.

Olympic champion Eric Liddell said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” I believe God made me a writer. When I write, I feel his pleasure. At a few precious times, there has been a tangible sense of God’s presence as I sat at my computer working on an article or a story. My “writer’s verse” is Psalm 90:17 (NIV): May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the works of our hands—yes, establish the works of our hands.

I thought long and hard about Allison’s and Daniel’s relationships with God and decided I wanted them to both believe in God, but to have mixed-up ideas—wrong ideas, really—about who God is. That was true in my life and I think it’s true for other believers. Many people have a relationship with God that is based on error. They don’t yet understand who he is and what he offers us. Why? Maybe they’ve been taught something wrong or maybe they’ve been wounded by life, and that hurt causes them to believe something untrue about God. 

Seth’s and Daniel’s treatment of Allison could not have been more different: Her relationship with Seth was borderline abusive, but her relationship with Daniel was accepting and supportive. These differences seemed especially intriguing given that Seth and Daniel are brothers. What were you trying to illustrate with their contrasting personalities?

My main goal with Seth and Daniel was to highlight what can happen when one child is favored over another child. I’m not saying the favorite child grows up to be abusive. I want my readers to step back and look at what happened to Seth and Daniel long before they met and fell in love with the same woman, and then see how it affected the brothers. Daniel knew he wasn’t the favorite son, and he knew Seth was. Daniel chose to distance himself from his father—and in some ways, found freedom to be himself. Seth, however, accepted the mantle of favoritism and found that it weighed heavily on him.

Aunt Nita is a particularly multifaceted, passionate character who possesses just the right measure of wisdom and doubt. Did you have any inspirations for the characters in Wish You Were Here? Who is your favorite character? Why?

We all need an Aunt Nita! She is a wonderful mixture of all the friends who have offered me encouragement and wisdom when I’ve doubted myself or faced struggles. At times I wove in actual bits of advice others gave me. (You know who you are!) And the name “Nita” is based on bestselling Christian author Donita K. Paul, who invited me to join a fiction critique group at her house when I was a trembling novice. 

My favorite character? I’ve seen other authors say they can’t choose a favorite character; that’s like choosing a favorite child. And I certainly am against that, aren’t I? Can I say Banzai, the llama?

If I had to choose, I would say I love how Allison changed through the story. She embraced who she was, grew closer to God, made the choices of her heart, and dared to risk loving the right man—no matter how wrong it seemed.

Allison’s mistakes ultimately lead her to finding true happiness. Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Now there’s a funny story . . . I met my husband, Rob, about five weeks after I broke off an engagement. No, I didn’t leave the guy at the altar. There was no frothy dress. Everyone told me I was crazy for letting this “perfect guy” go. When I met Rob, I was so not interested in getting romantically involved—and I told him so. 

And yet, God used Rob to lead me to my faith, and he also used Rob to show me what romance really can be like—thirty-one years and counting!

Are there people in your life who help you get through difficult times, the way Allison’s best friend and aunt helped her?

My husband was in the military for twenty-four years. We moved more than I ever planned on. One lesson I learned: Friendships have seasons.

The benefit: I have been blessed with a worldwide circle of friends. I do not know what I would do without my girlfriends. As my daughters were growing up, I taught them that you need your girlfriends.

Two quick stories: When we lived in Florida, I was experiencing some extreme heartache because I was working through my childhood sexual abuse. At one point, I left my house for the day, looking for a place to go to rest (hard to do with three small children). Where to go in a small town? McDonald’s? The local mall? I drove around and around and got the impression to drive to my friend Fran’s house. When I drove up, she was standing in her doorway, looking out. I walked up to the door and she said, “Rob called and said you were having a tough day. I prayed you would come here.”

Second story: Our move to Colorado was tough because I left behind close friends, and it took a while to make new friends. I had an unexpected pregnancy and, after some complications, was told I needed a hysterectomy. In tears, I called my friend Pamela, who lived back in Florida, to share the news. Five minutes after we finished talking, she called back and said, “Faith [another friend] and I have decided you need your girlfriends. Can we come out before your surgery and help?” The tears flowed again. They came out and we had a girls’ weekend before the surgery, and then they took care of my toddler and filled my freezer with meals before they left. 

I’m thankful to say I’ve developed close friends in Colorado too—ones who know the real me.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

I have my own office in our home. Well, it’s mostly mine. There’s another desk in the room where my husband works some and where our daughter does schoolwork and continually asks if I’ll help her browse Amazon.

But it’s painted according to my preferences: one bold red wall, and then the others are a warm harvest yellow. I have my favorite sayings or photos on the walls, including the cover of Baby Changes Everything, my first book. I invested in a new desk, a red ergonomic chair (yes, I have back problems), and two computer monitors—an editor’s delight! My daughter and her BFF just made two signs for my door. One reads: Yes, I can talk. The other states: BRRR! It’s Cold in Here! Enter If You Dare! I’m not divulging who made which sign.

How have your past nonfiction works affected the way you craft fiction? How are they similar and different from each other? Which do you enjoy writing more?

There’s that “more” question again. In some ways, nonfiction is easier because it’s what I am trained in—it’s what I know. It’s like breathing. Write a lead. Be short. Concise. Beginning, middle, end. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Some people will see my name on Wish You Were Here and think, “She’s arrived! She knows what she’s doing!” I know what I’m doing—and I know what I still need to master. In my next book, I am focusing on storyworld and weaving in spiritual truth.

The truth is, I enjoy writing both—and I enjoy editing. But my focus is now on writing fiction. I write fiction like a journalist. I write tight. My chapters tend to be shorter than some authors’ chapters. My journalism training is part of my voice.

What are you working on now? It felt like the story of Allison Denman is just beginning. Can we expect to see her again in a sequel of Wish You Were Here?

I will never say never to revisiting Allison and Daniel’s story—or possibly a closely related story. My agent, Rachelle Gardner, and I talked about whether Seth could ever have a healthy relationship with another woman. And then there’s the story with the Air Force helicopter pilot and the female family physician who has never been “picked” . . . and the one that popped into my head when I walked out of a bank and saw an armored car and thought, “I’ve never been in a bank holdup. What if . . .”

Any teasers you’d like to share?


Oftentimes, I distill my stories down to questions. Ones like:

• Do opposites attract or combust? (Answer: Yes!)
• What if your attempts to be yourself reveal your deepest
fear: You’re nothing but a failure?
• Does life only start after the “I do”?
• Where do you run for refuge?

About The Author

© Lisa Merino

Beth K. Vogt is a nonfiction writer who said she’d never write fiction. After saying she’d never marry a doctor or anyone in the military, she is now happily married to a former Air Force family physician. Beth believes God’s best is often behind the door marked “never.” An established magazine writer and editor, she now writes inspirational contemporary romance because she believes there is more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Howard Books (May 1, 2012)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451659863

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Raves and Reviews

“I was swept away to the splendor of the Rockies in Wish You Were Here, a lovely debut by Beth K. Vogt. This perfectly paced love triangle has endearing characters and plot twists that kept me turning the pages deep into the night. I loved it!” —Carla Stewart, award-winning author of Chasing Lilacs and Broken Wings

– Carla Stewart, award-winning author of Chasing Lilacs and Broken Wings

“Beth Vogt's Wish You Were Here is a heartwarming story of reconciliation and second chances. Her characters charmed me from the first page and had me tearing up by the end of the novel. Beth weaves in spiritual truth that massages the soul while sprinkling in LOL moments to tickle the funny bone. Definitely one for the keeper shelf.” —Lisa Jordan, Author of Lakeside Reunion and Lakeside Family

– Lisa Jordan, Author of Lakeside Reunion and Lakeside Family

“Beth K. Vogt creates character, paints personality, and defines drama within a romantic comedy that sparkles with fun. Wish You Were Here will tickle your fancy from the first misplaced kiss to the kiss that lands exactly on the right spot in the end. This could only be the first book of many to come from a sensitive and talented new fiction author.” —Donita K. Paul, bestselling author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles

– Donita K. Paul, bestselling author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles

“Vogt’s writing shines in this contemporary take on a timeless theme. She excels in portraying vibrant characters who grapple with vital questions. Wish You Were Here provides a postcard-perfect glimpse of the courage it takes to really be who you are.” —Siri Mitchell, author of The Cubicle Next Door and She Walks in Beauty

– Siri Mitchell, author of The Cubicle Next Door and She Walks in Beauty

“Beth Vogt is a sparkling, new talent whose Wish you Were Here brims with life, fun, and depth. Allison has acquired the wrong wedding dress, but worse yet, she may have grabbed the wrong groom. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. It's always refreshing to find a new voice in Christian fiction that shines!” —Kristin Billerbeck, author of What a Girl Wants

– Kristin Billerbeck, author of What a Girl Wants

"Beth Vogt hits a home run with her debut novel, Wish You Were Here. Quirky, snappy, and sweet, it's a story of finding true love that will leave you sighing and smiling." —Rachel Hauck, bestselling and award-winning author of The Wedding Dress

– Rachel Hauck, bestselling and award-winning author of The Wedding Dress

“One kiss can change everything! Wish You Were Here takes the reader on an emotional journey with Allison Denman as she struggles to find her place in this world. Allison comes to grips with the truth that playing it safe is not the same as living to the fullest—a good lesson for all of us. Beautifully written, Wish You Were Here is a lovely debut novel by Beth K. Vogt that illustrates the plans we make may not be God’s choice for us. A fun and satisfying read!” —Megan DiMaria, author of Searching for Spice

– Megan DiMaria, author of Searching for Spice

“What a delightful story! From the first line to the last page Beth captivated me with her voice and this charming, funny yet poignant story about letting go of your life and finding the love that's been waiting all along. A fabulous first novel . . . I can't wait for the next by this talented new author!” —Susan May Warren, Rita Award-winning, bestselling author of The Shadow of your Smile

– Susan May Warren, Rita Award-winning, bestselling author of The Shadow of your Smile

"Even though there are some snowy Colorado mountain scenes, this fun novel has 'beach read' written all over it. . . . With equal parts drama and comedy, Beth Vogt's debut romance is as heart-tugging as it is funny and it keeps the reader guessing as to what Allison's Happy Ever After will look like up until the very last scene." —USA Today

– USA Today

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