First loves never last . . . except when they do.
When Amy Welsh returns to Goose Bay as a substitute teacher, she has no intention of seeing Quentin Macmillan, the man who once left her waiting in the rain clutching her suitcase and dreaming of becoming his wife.
Seventeen years later, his teenage daughter shows up in Amy’s class with plans to reunite her widowed father with the woman he has always loved. When the assignment is forgiveness and healing, will this young teacher pass the test?
Awards & Other Kudos
“No Substitute is a tender, heartwarming story of lost love restored and filled with the power of forgiveness. I loved it.” Sharon Gillenwater, author, The Callahans of Texas series
“Suzie Johnson has written a delightful debut romance novel. The book is full of entertaining twists and turns provided by the hero’s playful teenage daughter. This story of love lost and rekindled is sure to warm your heart and inspire you to grow in grace and forgiveness.” Dina Sleiman, critically acclaimed author of Dance of the Dandelion
No Substitute won the Heart of the West contest for unpublished writers in the contemporary category under the title For Keeps. It also placed in the MARA contest for unpublished writers as No Substitute.
“True or false, Miss Welsh? Did you ever date my father? Were you once in love with him?”
Amy Welsh squirmed in her chair at the front of the high school classroom, shocked by the unexpected question. Shayna Macmillan stared with unwavering blue eyes, and Amy wondered why on earth she’d ever agreed to be the subject of a mock interview.
The rest of Amy’s students stared on in amusement. It was part of a class exercise, preparing her journalism students to do a real-life interview. Shayna asked to pose her questions to Amy rather than one of her fellow students. As Amy sat face-to-face with Shayna, it seemed as far as Shayna and the rest of the students were concerned, this interview was the real thing. The question appeared carefully chosen, deliberate, as if Shayna knew the answer but needed to hear it confirmed.
“He-llo-o, Miss Welsh.” Shayna waved her hand in front of Amy’s face, and a round of snickers drifted through the classroom.
“I—” Amy took a deep breath and glanced at the eager teenagers leaning forward in their desks with interest.
“Come on, Miss Welsh. Spill.”
She wasn’t sure which student spoke but it sounded suspiciously like Ashley Morgan, Shayna’s best friend. They’d set her up.
“Yeah. Inquiring minds want to know.” This, from one of the boys in the back row, set off a chorus of cheers accompanied by a couple of wolf-whistles.
“All right, people. This interview is over.” Amy ignored their groans and stood, eager to get out of the hot seat.
“But Miss Welsh,” Shayna protested. She jumped to her feet, her honey-blonde curls bouncing to one side. “We haven’t finished yet.” Hands on hips, eyes wide, her lips pressed together with determined insolence.
Amy blinked, surprised at the fierce resolve Shayna displayed. “You may not have finished. But I have. Besides, the bell is about to ring.”
“I’d say this only lends credence to the fact you were once in love with my father.” Shayna walked to her desk and collected her books with a huff.
Just then the bell sounded and the students—with the exception of Shayna—scrambled for the door.
Amy groaned. She should have known Shayna wouldn’t let it go.
Since the day Amy took over this class two weeks ago, Shayna Macmillan proved to be most inquisitive. Without a doubt, she’d make a great investigative reporter someday—a young Diane Sawyer in the making. Smart, determined, and much too grown-up for her fourteen years, Shayna took advanced classes and would likely graduate a year or two ahead of the rest of her class.
Quentin must be extremely proud of his daughter.
An imaginary knife twisted in Amy’s stomach whenever she thought of Quentin, and it never felt more real than now with his daughter standing before her.
Exactly where did Shayna learn about Amy and Quentin? And what compelled her to drag a confession out of Amy in front of the entire class? The girl definitely had a flair for the dramatic.
“I’m taking the fifth on this one, Shayna,” Amy said. “Run along. You, too, Ashley.” Shayna’s willowy, redheaded friend lingered at the door, a suspicious twitch at the corners of her mouth.
“But Miss Welsh,” Shayna said, “I just want to know—”
“Have a nice day, Shayna.”
Question 1: Amy lost her job due to downsizing, and learned of a job in Goose Bay, a town that held some unresolved issues in her life. Have you ever had an unexpected turn in your life, such as the loss of a job to later learn that God had orchestrated this unexpected turn of events? Can you think of a Scripture that promises that God has a plan for you in whatever circumstance you find yourself?
Answer Question 1: Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Question 2: As teenagers Quentin and Amy entered into a plan that was truly not God's will for their lives. When a confrontation and the needs of another changed those plans, leaving them both hurting and still in love, what Scripture might have been a comfort for both o them as they went their separate ways?
Answer Question 2: Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Question 3: Quentin struggled with the thought of older teen Bradley Baxter in his daughter’s life even while he recognized himself in Bradley's behavior. What is it that the Lord tells us about judging others?
Answer Question 3: Matthew 7:3:"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
Question 4: Are you, or have you ever been a single parent? What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them? Is there a verse that helped you cope day-to-day with the stress of raising a child alone?
Answer Question 4: Proverbs 22:6 is one such verse: "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Are there other verses you lean upon as a parent?
Question 5: Desperately needing answers to help him cope with his daughter, Quentin called a radio talk-show psychologist. Most parents have experienced moments of desperation with their teenagers. Should Quentin have sought wisdom from a better source?
Answer Question 5: Job 12:13 tells us, "To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understand are his."
Question 6: Amy knew when she went back to Goose Bay, she’d eventually run into her high school sweetheart. Though she wanted to see him, she was also terrified at the thought. Have you ever struggled with living in the past? What is the problem with living in the past?
Answer Question 6: While memories are sometimes good to look back upon, when we constantly gaze back to the past, we are failing to live out the precept set by the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14: "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Question 7: Amy struggled to forgive Quentin, even as she was trying to get him to forgive Bradley. What does God tell us about the importance of forgiveness?
Answer Question 7: Matthew 6:14: "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."
Question 8: For a time, Shayna had to give up her duck because of spiteful older neighbor. Anger would have been the first reaction of many, but Quentin showed a good example for his daughter. Can you think of some verse that may have helped Quentin to behave in a Godly manner?
Answer Question 8: Proverbs 15:18: "A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel." Proverbs 14:29: "Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly." Can you think of other verses?