Sunday Dinner with Mary Pat Johns

Sunday Dinner

For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Mary Pat Johns. Mary Pat lives in South Texas with her husband and their two spoiled dachshunds. A columnist for the local newspaper, Countin’ On Jesse is her first novel.

Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!

Without further ado, please tell us something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.

I once took scuba diving lessons, but when the instructor told me there was as much air under the water as on top, I didn’t believe him. That was the end of my career as the female Jacque Cousteau.

Can you tell us about your latest novel?

Countin’ On Jesse is an inspirational contemporary romance that takes place in Valiant, TX, at Peeps, an upscale exercise facility. 

Peeps’ gym owner Jesse seeks accreditation. Accountant Brenna desires to help Jesse and Peeps. They’re a great team, but can she count on him when trouble strikes?

Accountant BRENNA MCKINLEY only wants what’s best for Peeps, the wildly popular gym in Valiant, Texas. But when money goes missing, and she’s the obvious suspect, will she be able to clear her name or face criminal charges? Keeping her dream job matters, but falling in love with her boss isn’t part of the plan. Neither is the creepy guy stalking her.   

Young veteran JESSE JACOBS manages and co-owns Peeps, an exercise facility in Valiant, Texas. He needs help to gain accreditation for the gym, and his new accountant is all in. But is she who she seems? Too bad he’s falling for her like a man with no parachute. When the pressure builds, PTSD renders him moody and volatile, risking everything he loves. 

Why did you choose to write a story set around a gym complex?

I’ve worked out for years. It’s a great balance for my “sit on my rear” job. When I thought about writing a book, or a series in this case, I needed to start with something familiar. One day I was at the gym, and the Lord whispered I could start there.

What are important aspects to managing such a gym? How important is membership and accreditation? Why are these important?

Well, membership is crucial—can’t pay the bills without members. The gym I used as a partial model for the story is part of a local hospital and has to meet certain standards to satisfy hospital requirements. I took that model and applied it to a privately owned gym in the form of accreditation. In my book, Jesse works hard to change the gym’s former image to a family friendly environment. He has expansion goals, so I used accreditation as the first ladder rung he needs to achieve.

In your story, you call in a forensic accountant. Can you tell us more about that type of job and what it entails?

A forensic accountant investigates accounting practices for criminal activity. It’s done by studying a company’s books. In Countin’ On Jesse, a forensic accountant was hired to find out how money was vanishing.

What are some important accounting practices to avoid a situation where money can go missing?

In the case of Countin’ On Jesse, a former employee had an old card with a password that hadn’t been cancelled, so even though procedure was followed, the door was still open for fraud.

Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?

I didn’t have to do much digging to find what I needed, because the scenario was fairly straight forward. My favorite resource was a friend’s husband who was an accountant. He patiently answered my questions and helped me create the embezzlement situation.

What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?

Any type of forensic accounting takes weeks to months. I had to shorten the timeline of the process to fit the needs of the story.

Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?

On Jesse is book 1 of the series, Romance in Valiant. Book 2 will be released in April, 2024, and books 3 and 4 are works-in-progress.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

It’s never too late to follow the dream God puts in your heart. I wanted to write and be published since I was a little girl, but it took a lifetime of experiences to make it happen.

The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Mary Pat, thank you for joining us today!

If readers would like to purchase a copy of Countin’ On Jesse, where might they be able to do so?

Amazon and Scrivenings Press

If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?

My website is

You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

Over Sunday Dinner next week author Amy Anguish will be joining us. See you then!

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