Although I had friends and even a best friend as a child, my closest friends weren’t flesh and blood, nor were they imaginary. Instead, talented and gifted writers created the girls that I, a young girl who lacked self-confidence and never seemed to master all the social dos and don’ts the other girls were so adept at, was comfortable with.

Some of those friendships were fleeting; Cherry Ames, for example, was a dear friend until I realized there was no way I could draw blood or empty bed pans.  But there were other girls, girls who were longtime pals. There was Nancy, an intrepid and confident teenage sleuth who drove a convertible, and Anne, a young red-head orphan whose fiery temper masked a heard that was tender and easily bruised, and Trixie, who was always getting herself involved in all sorts of mysteries and was a member of a girls’ club.

I grew up and left Nancy and Anne and Trixie behind. I continued to read voraciously, but until recently, the characters in books were just that — interesting protagonists who entertained me for awhile and who, other than Kinsey Millhone, existed on the pages of only one book.

And then, in 2006 or so, I discovered Rainey Valentine, who led me to her sister Charlene and a wonderful group of people who live in Valentine, Oklahoma, and finally to Marilee. In the pages of her “Valentine, Oklahoma” books, author Curtiss Ann Matlock has created women who struggle with the same things we real-life women struggle with, whose parents age and pass on, whose hearts get broken, who have endearing quirks, who work hard and love much and have faith. Women who are sometimes strong and other times not so sure of themselves, women who are are busy raising young children and women who are navigating the middle or even latter years of their life with vibrant intention. Matlock quickly became my favorite author.

Last year, I discovered Paul Osborne, a retired dentist and avid fisherman living in a small town on a Milwaukee lake, My acquaintance with Paul was almost very short-lived; I’ve rarely been all that captivated by male protagonists, but there was something about the writing of Victoria Houston that made me want to read just one more page . . . and then another. Before I knew it, Paul and I were sharing lunch — well, I was eating a sandwich while Paul was helping his new friend and eventual love interest, Sheriff Lewellyn Ferris, solve mysteries and fishing at day’s end. Houston creates such an enticing picture of Wisconsin in her “Loon Lake” series that I, a die-hard winter-hater, am even a bit tempted to head north. And a real-life Paul Osborne? Well, if anyone could tempt me to be interested in dating again . . .

Just recently, through a free e-book, I found another friend I almost walked away from after a very brief introduction. Rose Brownlee lives in the 1800’s, and (other than a few mysteries and a book here and there over the years) I’ve never been all that fond of historical fiction. But like Victoria Houston, Vikki Kestell created characters and a story that kept me reading. And reading. Through, so far, six “Prairie Heritage” books and the companion “Girls from the Mountain” series. I’ve followed Rose and her husband Jan and then their daughter Joy through various trials and triumphs and have enjoyed the journey immensely. The Prairie Heritage books have not only captured my interest, they’ve enriched my spiritual life in a way novels usually do not.

If you are sitting there, brow furrowed, concerned about my sanity, you aren’t a Reader (yes, the R is capital on purpose — there’s a difference between a reader and a Reader). You don’t open the pages of a book and fall into the story told on its pages. You don’t wonder about what happened to the characters after that last chapter comes to a close. You haven’t wished the characters lived next door to you. You don’t have favorite books that you read over and over. Books that you can pick up, open to any random page, and read for a few minutes while you take a quick lunch break.

These characters — and a few more I’ll write about soon — have helped make lonely evenings less lonely. The lovely folks of Valentine, Oklahoma, even helped me move through the weeks and months in the first few years after I lost my husband. I can’t explain it — I just know it’s true. And if you’re a Reader, you don’t need me to explain it. You know exactly what I mean.

These writers — Curtiss Ann Matlock and Victoria Houston and Vikki Kestell — are who I want to be when I grow up. Heck, I want to be their personal assistant!

Instead, I’ll read their books and enter the worlds they’ve created, and I’ll enjoy every single moment I’m there.

If you haven’t yet read any books by these 3 very talented writers, you can find get them through your local bookstore or, of course, at I didn’t even begin to do them justice here — trust me, I could talk for hours about each series I wrote about here. You’ll just have to read — and enjoy — them for yourself, and I hope you do!

I also want to add that I received absolutely no compensation, not even any a single book, from these authors or from in exchange for this post. These authors don’t even know I’ve written and posted this. 🙂