Romance and Hope at a book club meeting in Pine Level


As a writer, you’d think I consume book after book, like a chain smoker igniting one cigarette with the stub of another.

Not so. Much of my reading time is spent on digital and print news – The Washington Post, the News & Observer, the Smithfield Herald and the Selma and Pine Level News. How can I resist headlines like this one:


Participating in the book club through St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Smithfield, North Carolina, forces me to read books.

This book club gathers once every two months, in member homes, after the eight o’clock morning service. We laugh, we talk, we eat brunch and drink coffee. We discuss the book du jour, from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins to A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. In the process, we share our lives with each other. The selection of the next read is by vote. Some books are challenging. Some are popular. Most are books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own, which almost makes it seem like a blind date with a book.


On Feb. 14, it’s my turn to host the book club. Since it is Valentine’s Day, we voted to read the romance Irish Encounter by Hope Toler Dougherty.

Hope is a local writer, and I invited her to join us for the discussion of her work. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, but I met her through the Johnston County Writers Group, which meets Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Selma Public Library.

hope toler dougherty

Hope is a librarian in the town of Princeton, which is so small, the public library is housed in, and amplified by, the media center at the local high school. I have visited this library numerous times and have thoroughly enjoyed hearing presentations by other local writers, such as Alice J. Wisler, Cindy K. Green and Ellen Edwards Kennedy.


I’ve also attended two of Hope’s presentations. One was the launch for her book, Mars with Venus Rising, which takes place in the town of Mars, Pennsylvania. The second was a craft talk, about things like using the software Scrivener to organize your manuscripts. Writing is hard work, and often a thankless endeavor. Editing, publishing and marketing your books is even tougher. Hope has worked hard to get two books published, and is currently working on a third and fourth manuscript.

I’m hoping the Valentine’s Day meeting of the book club will bring us all a good time, with lots of laughter, as we discuss Hope’s work.

I wonder what book we will read next?


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