Friday Feature: A Summer in Shady Springs

Author’s inspiration:

When my sister was struggling with her faith, I had the idea of an artist who came to know Jesus through the process of painting a mural. From that seed, and from other conversations with friends, Madeleine and her story were born. I’m very thankful to say that my sister is a strong Christian now, thanks to the grace of God and not at all because of this book or anything I did.

About the book:

The last place Madeleine Mullins wants to be is back in Shady Springs, Arkansas–the town where her whole world fell apart. But when her beloved Aunt Clara begs her for help, Madeleine reluctantly takes a job painting a mural at her aunt’s church. Her plan is to finish quickly and leave her bad memories behind. But the more time she spends with the handsome youth minister and the more she reads her Bible, the more she wonders if she’s been wrong about God and the Church all along.



Madeleine jumped and fumbled to catch her pencil and notebook. Was the sound just a church member slamming the front door? Maybe Sam had come to meet her here instead of the restaurant. Or was it someone more nefarious?

“Hello?” Madeleine called out timidly.

Silence. Perhaps she could yell a little louder.

“Hello! Who’s there?”

Silence again. Maybe she’d imagined the noise, and no one was there after all.


Nope, definitely someone there. She would have to investigate.

Madeleine opened the nearest door to find something to use as protection, just in case. The room appeared to be a children’s classroom, and they must have been studying the Armor of God because Madeleine found a long, wooden sword labeled “Spirit” at the front of the room.

Brandishing the weapon in one hand and her phone in the other, Madeleine reentered the hallway.


She followed the source of the noises until she was fairly certain she was around the corner from the intruder. Madeleine took a deep breath and jumped into the hallway, crashing into a tall man and accidentally whacking him with the sword in the process, landing on her rear end.

She scrambled backward. Looked up. Felt completely ridiculous because the auburn-haired guy—young, handsome guy—was wearing earbuds and carrying a phone. And nothing about him suggested malintent. In fact, a bright yellow bucket spinning down the hallway suggested he was actually here to mop the floors.

“I’m so sorry!”

“Who are you?” His voice was shocked but not harsh.

Madeleine’s cheeks burned. “Madeleine. I’m so sorry! I called out, but no one answered, so I thought—but of course you were wearing headphones, or you would have heard me—and obviously you work here, since, you know, you have a mop—” Shut up! Stop talking! She clamped her mouth closed to prevent any more words from leaking out.

The young man stared at her, dumbfounded, and for a moment Madeleine wished she could sink into the floor. Turn into a puddle he could mop up.

But then he smiled. And it was the most handsome grin she had ever seen. Her stomach filled with butterflies as he burst into laughter.

“Is that a sword from the props bin?”

“Yeah, I…” Madeleine’s embarrassment fizzled away as relief that the young man wasn’t an angry intruder—and wasn’t upset with her—washed over her.

“I’m A.J.”

About the author:

Sarah Anne Crouch grew up in a small town much like Shady Springs. She cherishes the close relationships and beautiful memories from her hometown. Though she’s lived everywhere from Malibu, CA to Nashville, TN, Sarah now resides in Arkansas with her husband, three children, and thousands of books.

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