Front cover MelindaFreeland_LoveTexas-Population2_800pxpk

A Texas small-town reporter must decide what brings her true happiness, and is forced to reevaluate critical decisions she made in the past, when her ex-fiancé returns after a nine-year hiatus and tries to woo her back into a relationship not only with him, but with God, and asks her to exchange her journalism career for the lifestyle of a homemaker.  

Full book cover back 1989 pix LOVE Pop c

This Christian contemporary romance novel was inspired by reuniting with my first love and high school sweetheart, Gary.  It was also based on my life as a small-town newspaper reporter and photographer, and on my journey of faith from believer, to non-believer, and back to believer again.  (Amen!)

Love, Texas — Population 2 will be a nostalgic walk down memory lane for those of you born in the ’70s or ’80s, as this book is set in the years spanning from 1987 to 1999.  The first chapter is “present day” October 1998, then the following chapters go back and forth between the past when the heroine Rebekah and hero Joel were in high school, to the present day when Rebekah and Joel are adults in their mid and late twenties.

Summary of Love, Texas — Population 2

Rebekah Stone is an ambitious Texas small-town reporter who aspires to make it big in the journalism world, and she doesn’t have time for anyone to distract her from reaching her goals.  Then, her first and only true love Joel Foster—the ex-fiancé who deserted her nine years ago—walks back into her life and not only asks for her hand in marriage again, but also asks her to exchange her journalism career for the lifestyle of a homemaker. 

He shakes her world further when he returns as a “Jesus Freak” who tries to change her religious views, even though he knows about a horrific event that happened when she was 17 that caused her to stop believing in God.

Joel’s return interrupts Rebekah’s fast-track race to the big leagues.  He enters the picture at a time in her career when she’s getting increasingly prestigious journalism jobs that give her excitement and popularity—yet also the downside of minimal free-time and sometimes questionable moral values.

Rebekah tries her best to prevent any long-term commitment desires from bubbling to the surface, but there’s no stopping that around tenacious Joel, as that’s what he wants most, and his persistence forces Rebekah to decide what brings her true happiness.  His new “religious self” also compels her to rethink about changing her “Just Say No to God” mantra.

Her high school sweetheart’s return makes her question if her career alone, without a man in the picture, and without God, will provide life-long satisfaction.  Or, can she only obtain eternal fulfillment by loving Joel again, and by doing a complete 180 to transform from Riveting Reporter Rebekah into Pleasant PTA-President Homemaker?

And which is more important in the very end—a fulfilling career or someone you love?  Can she come to understand God loves her and she should trust in Him once again?  These are the tough choices Rebekah struggles with as she sorts through memories and complex emotions that have developed over a span of a decade, and as she encounters the rewards and consequences that arise when love is lost and then renewed. 


“This was my first time reading the Christian contemporary romance genre, and I loved it!  This author speaks from her heart.  The time settings are skillfully woven between the present and the past, giving the story depth.  I very much look forward to more from this author!”  — 5 Star Review on Amazon

 “Melinda Freeland’s account of life as a reporter in small town Texas is incredibly accurate.  She is a great storyteller.”  — 5 Star Review on Amazon

“This is the best book I’ve read in a long time.  I can hardly wait for her next one!”  — 5 Star Review on Amazon

“Melinda Freeland wonderfully depicted her own personal story in a manner in which the reader can relate.  As a native Austinite, reading her book became even more realistic when visualizing the plot due to the landmarks mentioned.  Melinda’s song and music associations made her story more vivid as well, capturing the essence of song lyrics in conjunction with her main character’s feelings.  If you’re looking for an easy read that captures your heart and spirit, Love, Texas — Population 2 hits the nail on the head.”  — 5 Star Review on Amazon


From Amazon: Kindle Format  (502KB, $0.99, ASIN: B0716HMNSZ)

From Amazon: Paperback Format   (302 pages, $11.99, ISBN: 978-1546433965)


If Love, Texas — Population 2 was made into a movie, it would be so awesome if these actors would play the main characters in my book.

Heroine Rebekah as a teen

  • Peyton List (from Jessie)
  • Sabrina Carpenter (from Girl Meets World)
  • Olivia Holt (from Girl vs. Monster)

Heroine Rebekah as a 27-year-old

  • Blake Lively (from Gossip Girl)
  • Hilary Duff (from A Cinderella Story)
  • Ashley Tisdale (from High School Musical)

Hero Joel as a teen

  • Brendan Meyer (from Mr. Young)
  • Cody Christian (from Teen Wolf)
  • Dylan Minnette (from Goosebumps)

Hero Joel as a 29-year-old

  • Zac Efron (from The Lucky One)
  • Miles Teller (from Whiplash)
  • Dylan Sprouse (from The Suite Life on Deck) but his looks as an ADULT

Which actors out of these do you like the best?  What other actors would you suggest who look similar to these actors, and / or you just like their acting style?  Tell me all about it in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of this page.


Excerpt for Love, Texas — Population 2



I can’t breathe.

My throat tightens and my chest constricts as I see his handwriting.  My cheeks burn.

After performing a quick calculation, I gasp.  This envelope arrives almost nine years after Joel Foster crushed my world like a fragile Christmas ornament.

A burst of laughter from the barbecue area startles me, and my stack of mail hits the sidewalk.  I gather it all up, then dash up the stairs to my second-story apartment.  I shake my head as I think about how only in Texas, with its crazy weather, will you find guys wearing swim trunks and no shirts as they tend to blazing grills in October.

Someone must have switched my hands with those of the downstairs elderly neighbor because it takes about three tries before I can hold my key steady enough to slide it into the lock.

Once I make it inside, I dump the mail and my camera bag onto my tile-topped dinette.  Joel’s letter lands on top.

Disbelief washes over me.  Why did Joel contact me after all this time?  Why now, Joel?  Why?

Taking extreme care, I open the envelope and unfold the college-ruled paper.

           Hey there,

            I hope this note is in the hands of the right woman!  Information

           listed only two Rebekah Stones, and the other address was under

           “Janice & Rebekah Stone.”  So, unless your sister Callie changed

           her name, or your parents adopted an adult female named Janice,

           then this has GOTTA be my Rebel who’s reading this!  I’ve been thinking

          about you (A LOT!), and about both our good and bad history.  I wonder

          if now I could make things better for both of us.  

         Call me at 555-0101.                 


Un-be-lievable.  What’s he trying to say?  We should get back together?  Bad would then turn to good for both of us?  What makes him think he could make my life better, and why does he think anything is wrong with it?

Awh … wait a minute.  I know exactly why he wrote.  No doubt his wife Kellie called it quits.

Joel wouldn’t ever cheat—especially with our past—so he’s got to be divorced and can’t stand the lonely nights.  Way to go, Joel.  You already ripped my heart out, so why not heap on some more hurt by contacting me almost a decade later just so you won’t be alone?  What?  Did you run out of other girls to call—because I’m sure you experienced plenty of new girls since you threw me to the curb.

I stare at the paper in my hands.  My jaw slowly unclenches as my eyes focus on two words: my Rebel.

Joel created that nickname, and he’s the only one who called me that.  He said Rebekah was too long, and he hoped I acted like a rebel, so the new name stuck.

Closing my eyes, I try to envision a 28-year-old man, but the only image I see is a wild boy who once rocked my world.

A beloved photo tucked away in an album pops into my mind.  Joel’s long brown hair is feathered ’80s-style.  His 6-foot-3 frame towers over his best friend Nick in the picture, and both skinny guys wear similar black T-shirts with band names; one is Motorhead, the other Metallica.  Joel displays a huge grin, and Nick’s raised hand forms that sign everyone does at heavy-metal concerts.

Joel can’t look the same now, can he?  I open my eyes and nod my head.  Probably so.  The word “change” was not a part of Joel’s vocabulary, except when it came to the most important aspect between us that he could change.

When he backed out on the plans we made, I needed to revise my dreams for the future.  I resolved to banish Joel from my life forever.  “Erase, erase” was the only survival tool.  Joel, or any other man, would not break me, ever again.

Yet, after reading Joel’s words, pain strikes me once more.  The taste of salt comes first, then I see teardrops smudge Joel’s writing.

That’s why I must call him.  Maybe Joel will explain the real reason he broke things off, or the other reasons besides he wanted to experience new people and things, and because of the one cheating incident.  I know my feelings for him should stay buried, but does a woman ever truly get over her first love?

A Candlebox song suddenly blares as I pace between my kitchen and bedroom.  Glancing out my window, I see a guy at the picnic tables adjust the volume on his portable stereo.  “Far Behind” playing right now is no coincidence.  I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason, but not because I fall for the notion of God’s Plan.  I stopped believing in that idea—and in God period—at the age of 17.

How could a “wonderful” God let something so horrific happen to my older sister?  How could a God who is supposed to bring such comfort allow such pain to enter my life and the lives of my whole family?  What about the millions of people throughout the world who suffer atrocities daily?  God cannot exist if there is such terror and heartbreak in the world.

So, I don’t think events, good or bad, occur because of divine intervention; I believe everything happens for a reason due to destiny.  This song and Joel’s letter—definitely something to do with destiny, but for what end result?

Goose bumps appear on my arms as the music continues, and I think about the tall stacks of rock albums and tapes that filled my room during my high school years.  After Joel left me, anytime I turned on the radio and heard one of our songs, like “Save All Your Love” by Great White, Joel would re-enter my life that day.  For example, I’d be adding pictures to my photo album, and I’d accidentally flip to a page that showed Joel’s smiling face, or a friend that day would recall a past event that included Joel.  It scared me, almost like I possessed ESP.

I realize some of our favorite bands received a lot of airtime, but not enough that this Joel phenomenon happened due to coincidence.  Destiny was somehow involved—just like now with this Candlebox song.  It’s a definite sign.

I sink into my hand-me-down, pumpkin-colored couch, and wipe my sweaty fingers across my khakis.  What’s wrong with me?  Why am I nervous?  I’m a 26-year-old newspaper reporter who faces situations every single day that are far scarier than talking to Mr. Heartbreaker.

I look at the phone on the end table next to me, and again I need to dry off my damp palms.  This trepidation is ridiculous.  Before I call this man and risk making a total fool of myself, I’ve got talk to someone who knows all about “The History of Joel and Rebekah.”

What stinks is right at this moment I can’t get advice from my sister-in-law and best friend, Monique, who got to know Joel just a few weeks after he and I started dating.  I barely can scrape enough change together for ramen noodles, let alone some lengthy, long-distance, expensive phone call to Germany.  I just have to wait a little less than a year before my brother Steve finishes his assignment at USAG Heidelberg, then he and Monique will return to Texas and I can talk to her any day of the week.

Only one person is left who I trust, who knows all the background with Joel, and whose opinion I value.  I dial my mom’s number, and she picks it up on the second ring.

“Hi, Mom.  Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“No, I can talk.  I’m making dinner while your dad feeds the horses.”

“Guess who sent me a letter.”  I glance at the paper in my lap, still shocked by its arrival.

My mom pauses, then calmly says, “Joel.”

“How did you know?”

“The tone of your voice.”

“Well, choosing Joel out of a billion other options still seems amazing.”

“What did Joel say he wanted?  You can imagine how I feel knowing a married man sent my youngest daughter—”

“I think it’s obvious Kellie and Joel split.  He didn’t write that, but I’m about 99% sure.”

“I hope you’re right, Sweetie.  So, tell me all about it.”

I read her the letter, and when I’m done, she sighs.

“Oh, Becky.”  Her voice catches on my name.

“What?”  I grip the receiver a bit tighter, preparing for what sounds like “a serious talk.”

“I can’t say for certain I ever got over Joel breaking up with you only weeks before your wedding.  If you call him, I’ll expect for him to at least confesses the real reason why he deserted you.”

“Oh, come on.  Do you think I’m going to whine to him, ‘Why did you leave me’?  I’m only wondering if I should call to see why he wrote.  If he’s dying and needs a kidney or something ….”

I chuckle, but my mom doesn’t laugh.  In fact, the stillness on the other end of the line reminds me of the uncomfortable quiet in a crowded elevator.  Finally, she breaks the silence.

“I know what Joel meant to you, and still does.  Even though you try to make it look like you no longer have feelings for him, you’d probably still take him back if given the chance.”

“Oh, come on!  I seem that weak?”  I thump my corduroy cushion and roll my eyes.

“I don’t see you as weak, but as a young girl who fell in love, and fell hard.  For so long after the breakup, I prayed to God, begging Him to give you the strength to let Joel go.”

“Well, there’s your problem.  Why bother trying to talk to someone who doesn’t exist?”

“Rebekah Elizabeth.”

“Sorry, sorry.  Go ahead.”

“After a long time, I realized that for whatever reason, God wanted to keep Joel in your life one way or another. I can’t say I understand God’s reasoning, but I trust Him.  It’s also clear to me that you will always love Joel.”

“Wow.  You’re sounding pretty melodramatic, Mom—like As the World Turns or something.  I stopped loving Joel a long time ago.”

“No, Sweetheart.  I don’t think you did.”

There’s no point in arguing with her.  All mothers think they’re right.

“Mom, I know one thing for sure.  I still love you.”

She laughs softly.  “I love you, too.  Listen, just one more thing.  I think it’s unwise to call Joel, but you’re so headstrong and I know the curiosity is killing you, so you probably will.  Please remember that just because you’re single, and he’s most likely single now—”

“Okay, okay, Mom.  Listen, I need to finish editing a story.”

“All right.  I’ll keep my opinions to myself for now and let you go.  Goodnight.”

I place the receiver back in the cradle, then close my eyes and lay my head against the back edge of my couch.  It shouldn’t irk me, yet it does, that my mom tends to bring up my single status every time I talk to her.

My phone rings again, and I sigh, thinking my mom has called back to tell me just one more little thing.  I fling my arm to the side and grab the receiver.




“Hey, it’s Joel.”



From Amazon: Kindle Format  (502KB, $0.99, ASIN: B0716HMNSZ)

From Amazon: Paperback Format   (302 pages, $11.99, ISBN: 978-1546433965)




    1. Yay! Hilary Duff is who I like best to play Rebekah as a reporter. Dylan though is for the teen Joel, as Dylan is only about 18 or 20. For the adult Joel, I like Miles (next to Hilary) best, or Zac Efron.


  1. Actresses I could see playing Rebekah are: Ashley Tisdale, Jennifer Lawrence, Cameron Diaz, or Drew Barrymore. Actors I could see playing Joel: Zac Efron and Christopher Mintz-Plasse


    1. I like your choices! Well, except Christopher Mintz-Plasse. He’s funny, but too nerdy-looking. JOEL isn’t nerdy at all — he’s too cool for school, so Christopher Mintz-Plasse wouldn’t do! 😀


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