By Its Cover (Love in Andauk #3)

Julia has been hurt. She still wants to find a loving husband and start a family, but she’s determined to do it the smart way. No emotions, no hormones, just a simple plan of finding a guy who shares her goals.

When Julia begins to receive notes from a not-so-secret admirer, notes that speak to all the things her head wants, she might not have to choose between a guy who looks good and a guy who looks good on paper. But only if she can recognize in time that fear also comes from the heart.

From the book: 

      He moved to the other side of the cart to shelve a book, then he picked up another one. “How would you spend Christmas in an ideal world?” he asked.      In an ideal world, I’d have a husband to lean on when other family was difficult. I’d always pictured myself married by the time I was twenty-six. But that was not an ideal I had any intention of sharing with Eric. Best to stick to my present reality. “Well, I’d go to Midnight Mass, then sleep in. What time is it?”
      Eric pulled a phone partway from his pocket and said, “About 5:30.”
      “No, I mean, Midnight Mass.” I moved to Andauk in February so this would be my first Christmas at St. Jude’s.
      Eric was looking at me with a lot of uncertainty in those blue eyes. “Are you seriously asking me what time Midnight Mass is?”
      “That’s not a stupid question,” I insisted. “The pastor at my old church scheduled Midnight Mass for 10 pm because he didn’t want to stay up so late.”
      Eric smiled. “Okay, I’m sorry for judging you without all the facts. It’s actually midnight here. How late would you sleep in?”
      “Not crazy late,” I said. “It’s just that my parents expect me to be at their house by eight so they don’t have to hold the girls off opening presents too long. I’d rather get up without an alarm, have a relaxing breakfast, maybe listen to some Christmas music, then go to my parents’ house in time for lunch.”
      “Do you like traditional carols or…” Eric raised his eyebrows, waiting for me to fill in the blank with what I liked.
      “I love it when modern bands make the traditional lyrics rock. My mom says that ruins them, but…” I shrugged. There was nothing wrong with having different taste in music than my mom.
      Eric nodded. “And then?”
      “Well, I’d spend a few hours with my family, during which nobody had a tantrum and everybody got along. Then I’d come back home for a quiet evening.” I tried to picture that quiet evening and how I’d be most content spending it by myself. I would not be completely alone though. “Snowflake would curl up on the couch next to me, and she’d be purring of course. I’d be rereading a big stack of Christmas cards even though I didn’t send many of them.”
      Eric interrupted again with a confused expression. “Do you normally send yourself Christmas cards?”
      “No… I meant… I only exchange cards with a handful of older relatives. If we’re talking ideal, I’d get a card from everyone I know regardless of how many I sent out. Speaking of Christmas cards…” Oh, no. Was I really going to bring that up in front of Eric? “I was talking to a friend the other day about someone who got a Christmas card from a secret admirer. That’s stupid, don’t you think?” Apparently, I wasn’t just bringing it up, I was asking his opinion. That was worse.
      It appeared Eric didn’t know what his opinion was. He considered for a moment before he turned it back to me. “Is it stupid?” he asked.
      “Well, yeah. The whole point of dating someone is to get to know him, to find out if you have enough in common to spend a life together. It’s pretty hard to get to know someone if he won’t even tell you who he is.”
      Eric nodded, slowly, like maybe he wasn’t fully convinced. And he smiled a little, like maybe he was amused by my argument.