Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's Time for a Giveaway!

In honor of my 250th blog post the other day, I decided it'd be a good time to have a giveaway! Woohoo, right!?!?! Yep! I decided to not just give away one book, but FIVE! :o)'s what you have the chance to win:

A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher
Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell
Wanted by Shelley Shepard Gray
One Perfect Gift by Kathleen Morgan
A Stranger's Wish by Gayle Roper

The rules are always....but with a bit of a twist. :o)

1. Leave a comment naming one (or more) titles that you are eagerly anticipating by the end of the year.
2. You must leave your email address in your comment.
3. Limited to the US only.
4. Giveaway open through 11:59pm on June 12, 2010.

Good luck!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher

About the book:

The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series delivers exactly what readers have been waiting for—smart, confident women who are not afraid to defy convention, live their own dreams and share their lives if the right man comes along.
In A Matter of Character, book three in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series, it’s 1918, and Daphne McKinley, heiress to a small fortune, has found contentment in the town of Bethlehem Springs. But Daphne has a secret.
A series of dime novels loosely based on local lore and featuring a nefarious villain known as Rawhide Rick has enjoyed modest popularity among readers. Nobody in Bethlehem Springs knows the man behind the stories … except Daphne.
When newspaperman Joshua Crawford comes to town searching for the man who sullied the good name of his grandfather, Daphne finds herself at a crossroads, reassessing the power of her words, re-thinking how best to honor her gifts, and reconsidering what she wants out of life.

My thoughts:

A Matter of Character is the third and final installment in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series, and out of the three books, this one was the one I liked the most. Even though Gwen from book one and Cleo from book two were portrayed as strong, confident women and fun to read about, Daphne's character in this book was the most interesting for me. I liked that she was independent, and that she managed to earn a living for herself as a novelist, even though she really didn't need to worry with any sort of a job since she was already wealthy.

Another enjoyable part of the book was the journal written by Joshua's grandfather. At first, I wondered how in the world this would connect to the rest of the story, and whether or not Joshua would ever know the things written there. Fortunately, this part of the storyline is tied up neatly by the end, and done very well.

I do have one criticism, though. Actually, a couple of criticisms....sorry. :o(

Obviously, this book is a historical romance, so it's not like I didn't expect something to happen between Daphne and Joshua. But when Daphne first acknowledges her feelings for Joshua, it's nothing short of infatuation, in my opinion. Maybe that was the author's intent, but it wasn't at all similar of her other novels when her characters begin to recognize their affections.

The other thing I noticed was the lack of Daphne's writings. If I remember correctly, there were only two small passages that were inserted into the storyline...nothing more. Considering that Daphne's occupation is a major part of the story, both with her novels and her newspaper column, I expected to see more of that included in the story in the form of her articles and snippets from her novels. It would've just added a whole other dimension to the story.

I would recommend this series for those who like a light story with a sweet storyline, and a nice dose of romance. Robin Lee Hatcher was one of the first authors I ever read when I started to read Christian fiction, and her earlier novels to this day are still some of my favorites. Personally, while A Matter of Character was a good conclusion to this series, I sincerely hope that the author's future novels have a little more depth than this series did.

3 Stars

**Many thanks to Zondervan through BookTourSpot for providing a copy of this book for me to review.

**Click here to visit Robin's website, here to purchase this book from Amazon, and here to purchase it from

Book Review: Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

About the book:

Moving home after a recent job loss was supposed to reassure Camden Bristow and give her time to decide what to do next. But when she arrives in Etherton, Ohio, she discovers that her grandmother, who she hasn't talked to in years, has passed away and "home" is an empty mansion hundreds of years old. Not exactly the comfort Camden was looking for. What happened to the house she played in as a child, the bedtime stories that told of secret passageways and runaway slaves, and all those family memories?

When antiques start disappearing and footsteps are heard, some of those memories start to creep back and Camden wonders if her grandmother's bedtime stories might actually be true. What really happened here . . . at Crescent Hill? How was her grandmother involved? Who still has access to the house? And for what purpose? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden also uncovers secrets about her family that could change the town-and her life-forever.

My thoughts:

Having read another novel by Melanie Dobson earlier this year and really liking it, I really had high expectations for this book. Honestly, this book fell way short. True, it's a totally different genre than the other book I've read by her (which was historical), but I really had a hard time getting through this book, in general.

I guess you could call this a suspense novel....maybe. In a way, I almost consider that a little bit of a stretch because in addition to reading Camden's side of the story, I was also getting the bad guy's side of the story. Sometimes that's good, but I don't know if I felt that it was, in this case. I like for a suspense novel to make me guess a little, even if really don't have it all figured out by the end of the story. There was a small twist at the end that I did not expect, but other than that, I felt the ending was a little anticlimactic.

I also felt no connection to the characters, except maybe a little bit with Camden. She's pretty much on her own, has no money, and has inherited a house that she can't pay to repair. All through her story, I was rooting for her to succeed, and hoping that she would not say yes to the first person to come along and make her an offer on the old house. Grant's character was just okay...nothing really spectacular to me. And the creepy guys were just....well....creepy.

In spite of this book being not so great, I know I'll be reading more from Melanie Dobson in the future. I typically like reading suspense novels, but this one was just a little flat. Overall, I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars.

**Many thanks to Kregel through FIRST Wild Card Tours for providing this book for review.

**Click here to read the first chapter, and here to purchase a copy of Refuge on Crescent Hill.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review: Almost Forever by Deborah Raney

About the book:

Unearthing a lost memory may cause her to lose everything she holds dear...but could it also set her free?

Bryn Hennesey, a volunteer at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter, was there the night the shelter burned to the ground and five heroic firefighters died at the scene. Among them was her husband, Adam. Like the rest of the surviving spouses, Bryn must find a way to begin again. But Bryn must do so living with a horrible secret....

Garrett Edmonds's wife, Molly, was the only female firefighter to perish in the blaze. As her husband, it was his job to protect the woman he loved.... How can he go on in the face of such unbearable loss and guilt?

And what started the fire that destroyed the dreams and futures of so many? Investigators are stumped. But someone knows the answer....

My thoughts:

No joke...Deborah Raney gets better with every single book she writes! This has to be her best book yet, and she's written some pretty awesome books! Her trademark is evoking emotion through her characters, which in turn, sucks the reader into an unforgettable story. Another author who does this well is Karen Kingsbury, but I don't think she's got anything on Deborah Raney!

The action begins in the very first chapter, and that is my kind of book. Unfortunately, it starts with a huge tragedy that affects 5 families and the community around them. As the days go by, the questions start to pile up. "Who's responsible?" "What started the fire?" Bryn thinks she knows how it started, but after awhile she convinces herself that she had nothing to do with it. It's not long, though, before the doubt starts to creep in, and she wonders if she truly was responsible.

Garrett's wife, Molly, was one of the firefighters who died in the fire, along with Bryn's husband, Adam. Even though I never got to read about them while they were among the living, I thought Deborah did an awesome job of portraying them after their tragic deaths. She also did an incredible job writing the emotions of the surviving spouses, and the incredible grief that each one felt.

There is so much more about this story I could share, but if I did, I would honestly be spoiling it for you! If you love stories that pull on your heartstrings, make you shed a few tears (I certainly did), and ones that just stay with you for days and weeks, then you need to get your hands on every single Deb Raney book available! I assure will not be sorry! :o)

5 Stars

**Many thanks to Howard Books/Simon and Schuster through Glass Road PR for providing a copy for review.

*Click here to purchase a copy of Almost Forever.

Book Review: Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell

About the book:

Amidst a backdrop of thievery and murder in historic Bridal Veil, Oregon, a schoolteacher is torn between the memories of a distant love and the man who could be her future. Margaret Garvey had given her heart to Nathaniel, but he left town years before. Now shes giving love another chance, but her decision to build a new life with Andrew is shaken when Nathaniel steams back into Bridal Veil on a riverboat to work at the nearby sawmill. When disaster strikes the town and threatens the welfare of its citizens, Margaret will be faced with the most important choice of her life.

My thoughts:

Just like Miralee's first historical novel, her second venture into this genre does not disappoint at all! This book is rich with descriptions, and easily addictive. In fact, I found that after awhile, I simply couldn't put it down!

The agonizing grief that Margaret felt with the loss of her first love, and then, her father, is simply heartbreaking. That'd be enough to make me want to crawl in a hole somewhere and die, honestly. Instead, she perseveres, and moves on with her life, both with her job as a teacher and her budding relationship with Andrew.

While the romance scenes in the book are small in number, they were enough to steal my breath away! I truly had no idea which man Margaret would choose, even after going back in forth in my own mind with who the lucky fellow would be.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the whole book is tucked away at the very end. (Don't worry...this is not a spoiler.) Miralee shares what inspired her to write this book, most of it coming from her own family history. I imagine that makes this book even more special to her on a whole different level. Several things are scattered through the story that are actual historical events...although, I can't let the cat out of the bag on that one, or I really would be spoiling the story!

Yep, definitely another great book for Miralee, and another fantastic addition to the Love Finds You series! I can't wait to read what she comes out with next! :o)

4 Stars

**Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.

**Click here to purchase a copy of Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Review: The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis

About the book:

A Murder in Fergus, Idaho, has the Townswomen Scared...

Gert Dooley can shoot the tail feathers off a jay at a hundred yards from years of test-firing the guns her brother repairs. But long after giving up on marriage, she years for rancher Ethan Chapman to see she's more than a crack shot with a firearm. When murder strikes in the sleepy town, Gert forms the Ladies' Shooting Club to teach the women how to protect themselves, their families, and their businesses.

Ethan Chapman didn't ask to be named sheriff, but he accepts the position and takes on the investigation into the mysterious death of his predecessor. Now he's between a rock and a hard place--being pressured by the townswomen to restore order and safety to Fergus, and by the men who insist Ethan disband the upstart Ladies' Shooting Club.

When another person is murdered, Ethan must turn to Gert and her ladies to help in the investigation. But will Ethan, Gert, and the Ladies' Shooting Club find the murderer before he strikes again?

My thoughts:

This was such a fun book, and I enjoyed every second I spent reading it! From the front cover and the description, I knew that I would be reading a book along the lines of Mary Connealy or Kelly Eileen Hake, and I was exactly right. I loved the small, almost up-start town, all of the townspeople, and the mystery that lurked through the whole book. I also thought the storyline was very unique as I think this is the first book I've ever read full of a bunch of armed women ready to shoot some lead! I cannot wait to read more about this little town with its strange name (Fergus, Idaho), as well as more about the Ladies Shooting Club!

Monday, May 24, 2010

CFBA Tour: Predator by Terri Blackstock

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Zondervan (May 25, 2010)


Terri Blackstock


Terri Blackstock’s books have sold six million copies worldwide. Her suspense novels often debut at number one on the Christian fiction best-seller lists, and True Light, published last year, was number one of all Christian books—fiction and non-fiction. Blackstock has had twenty-five years of success as a novelist.

In 1994 Blackstock was writing for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening drew her into the Christian market. Since that time, she’s written over thirty Christian titles, in addition to the thirty-two she had in the secular market. Her most recent books are the four in her acclaimed Restoration Series, which includes Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn’s Light. She is also known for her popular Newpointe 911 and Cape Refuge Series.

In addition to her suspense novels, she has written a number of novels in the women’s fiction genre, including Covenant Child, which was chosen as one of the first Women of Faith novels, and her Seasons Series written with Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye.

Blackstock has won the Retailer’s Choice Award and has appeared on national television programs such as The 700 Club, Home Life, and At Home Live with Chuck and Jenny. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country and the subject of countless articles. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.


The murder of Krista Carmichael's fourteen-year-old sister by an online predator has shaken her faith and made her question God's justice and protection. Desperate to find the killer, she creates an online persona to bait the predator. But when the stalker turns his sights on her, will Krista be able to control the outcome?

Ryan Adkins started the social network GrapeVyne in his college dorm and has grown it into a billion-dollar corporation. But he never expected it to become a stalking ground for online Predators. One of them lives in his town and has killed two girls and attacked a third. When Ryan meets Krista, the murders become more than a news story to him, and everything is on the line.

Joining forces, he and Krista set out to stop the killer. But when hunters pursue a hunter, the tables can easily turn. Only God can protect them now.

Enter the Terri Blackstock iPad CONTEST:

If you would like to read the first chapter of Predator, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer video!

Friday, May 21, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

**Click here for my review.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregal Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Melanie Dobson is an author as well as the owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media. A former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, Melanie has worked in the fields of journalism and publicity for more than twelve years. Her first book is Together for Good. Melanie lives in Oregon with her husband, Jon, and their two adopted daughters, Karly and Kinzel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825425905
ISBN-13: 978-0825425905


The glass door was locked, but that didn’t stop Camden Bristow from yanking on the handle. The imposing desk on the other side of the glass was vacant, and the receptionist who usually waved her inside had disappeared. Behind the desk, the Fount Magazine logo mocked her, whispering that the money she so desperately needed had disappeared as well.

She pounded on the glass one last time, but no one came to the door.

Turning, she moved to a row of windows on the far side of the elevator. Sixteen stories below, swarms of people bustled toward their next appointment. Someplace they needed to be. Not long ago, she’d been rushing too, up and down Park Avenue to attend meetings at ad agencies and various magazines . . . including the suite of offices behind her.

Human rights. Natural disasters. Labor disputes. Whenever the photo editor at Fount needed the most poignant pictures for news articles, he called her, and nothing had stopped her from capturing what he needed for the next edition. She’d dedicated the past five years to responding to Grant Haussen’s calls, but after she came back from Indonesia two months ago, he stopped calling her.

She’d e-mailed him the pictures of the earthquake’s aftermath along with her regular invoice of fees and expenses. He’d used the pictures in the next issue, but apparently discarded the invoice. She never received a check, and he didn’t return even one of her many calls.

A few years ago, she wouldn’t have worried as much about the money—those days her phone rang at all hours with freelance assignments to shoot pictures around the world—but her clients had slashed their budgets and were using stock photos or buying photographs from locals. The current results weren’t as compelling as sending a professional, but keeping the lights on—the rent paid—trumped paying for the best photography.

Her clients may be making rent, but she hadn’t been able to pay hers for two months. Her savings account was depleted. The income from her Indonesia shoot was supposed to appease her landlord and credit card company. Even though she hadn’t heard from Grant Haussen, she held out hope that she might at least recoup the expenses for her trip so she could pay off the whopping flight and hotel charges on her credit card.

All hope shattered when she read the morning’s headline.

Fount Magazine Declares Bankruptcy

Others may have skimmed past this article, but the news stunned her. Three hours ago, she left her studio apartment and started walking until she found herself in Midtown, in the lobby of the Reinhold Building. A few staff members might remain at the Fount office, packing things up. Or if there were some sort of bankruptcy proceedings . . . maybe she could collect a few thousand dollars. Just enough to pay a portion of her bills while she tried to find more work.

It appeared that no one had stuck around to say goodbye.

The elevator dinged behind her, and she turned away from the windows and watched a skinny man in overalls push a mop and bucket into the hallway. He was at least two inches shorter than her five foot six.

She forced herself to smile, but he didn’t smile back. She pointed at the offices. “I need to find someone at the magazine.”

He grunted as he dipped his mop into the gray water and wrung it out. Shoving her fists into the pockets of her long jacket, she stepped toward him. “They owe me money.”

“You and half this dadgum town.”

“Yes, but—”

“They ran outta here so fast last night that the rubber on their shoes was smokin’.” He flopped the mop onto the tile floor and water spread toward his boots. “I’d bet good money that they ain’t comin’ back.”

Camden slumped against the window. Even if she were able to track down Grant, it wasn’t like he would personally write her a check for money the magazine owed. He was probably out hunting for a job already, or maybe he was stretched out on his couch watching Oprah, enjoying the luxury of not having to report for duty. He could collect unemployment while he slowly perused for a new gig.

Unfortunately, there was no unemployment for freelancers.

The janitor swabbed the mop across the tile in straight brushstrokes like he was painting instead of cleaning it, taking pride in his work.

She understood. At one time she had been proud of her work too. There was nothing more exhilarating than flying off to a country rocked by tragedy and immersing herself into an event that most people only read about. She was onsite to see the trauma, feel the aftershocks, though she never allowed herself to get personally involved. It was her job to record the crisis so others could help with the recovery. All she needed to do her job was her camera equipment and laptop.

Because of all her travels, she hadn’t accumulated much stuff over the years. Her landlord had furnished her flat before she moved in, but for almost five years, the apartment and everything in it had felt like hers. It was the longest she’d lived in one place her entire life.

But tonight, her landlord was changing the locks. Her home had been rented by someone else.

The man pushed his mop by her, ignoring her. She couldn’t blame him for his indifference. This city was full of people who needed a job—he was probably trying as hard as he could to keep his.

She would mop floors if she had to. Or scrub toilets. It wouldn’t pay enough for her to make rent, but maybe it would keep her from having to call her mom and beg for cash. If she called, her mother would pass the phone to her latest boyfriend—a retired executive living outside Madrid. Camden would rather sleep in a shelter than grovel to him.

She hopped over the wet trail left by the mop and stepped into the elevator.

Her landlord said she had until five o’clock to pack her stuff and vacate the building. The little credit she had left on her card wouldn’t pay for a week in a Manhattan hotel. And the few friends she’d made when she wasn’t traveling were struggling as much as she was. One of them might let her sleep on a couch, but she’d be expected to help with rent.

The elevator doors shut, and she punched the button for the lobby.

Where was she supposed to go from here?

The basement of the town hall smelled like burnt coffee and tobacco. The navy carpet had faded to a dull gray, and the dais at the front of the room was scuffed with shoe marks. Five men and two women sat behind a table on the platform—the bimonthly summit of Etherton’s City Council.

As the town mayor, Louise Danner presided over the city council from the middle chair. Her hoop earrings jangled below the signature Bic pen she propped behind her left ear. Copper-colored bangs veiled her smudged eyebrows.

Three steps below Louise’s chair, Alex Yates drummed his fingers on a stack of proposals and tried to listen as Evan Harper begged the councilors to let him tear down the barn on his property and replace it with a guesthouse.

In the eight months since he’d moved to Etherton, he learned that Louise Danner was almost as permanent a fixture in Etherton as the town hall. Within days of him taking this job, she told him exactly how she became mayor over the eleven thousand people in their town.

She had been born in a small house off Main Street and reigned as valedictorian over Etherton High’s Class of ’67. Armed with a degree from Marietta, she returned home after graduation and worked in several businesses across town until she secured the job of hospital administrator. Louise served on almost every town committee for the next thirty years, from historical preservation to the garden club, but when she landed the mayorship almost eight years ago, she dropped anchor.

She’d spent a boatload of money to retain her position during the last election, and with the state of the town’s economy, she would be fighting to keep her job when voters went to the polls in five months.

Alex rechecked his watch. It was almost lunchtime, and Evan Harper was still pleading his case. Alex saw the dilapidated barn every morning on the short drive to his office. Guesthouse or no guesthouse, he agreed with Evan—someone needed to put the structure out of its misery. A hearty gust of wind would end its life if the council wouldn’t approve demolition.

Alex stifled a yawn as Evan named all the people who could stay in the guesthouse including his wife’s elderly parents and his daughter’s college friends. Apparently, no one had told the man he couldn’t filibuster city council. If the mayor didn’t curtail Evan’s speech, he’d probably pull out the local phone book and read until the councilors adjourned for lunch. And once they walked out of the room, they may not reconvene in time.

Alex couldn’t wait for approval. He needed an answer today.

For the past month, he’d been quietly courting the owner of the ten-acre property at the edge of town—part of the old Truman farm. If the council concurred, the owner was ready to sell the land and farmhouse for a pittance. The town could buy it and use the property to help with their plans to revitalize the local economy.

Alex caught the mayor’s eye and tapped his watch.

“Thank you.” Louise interrupted Evan before he finished listing off every construction supply he’d purchased for the guesthouse. “I think that is all the information we need to make a decision.”

Evan plucked another piece of paper from his stack. “But I haven’t read the neighborhood petition.”

“We appreciate all the time and thought you’ve put into this, Evan.” Louise propped her chin up with her knuckles. “We’ll let you know if we have any other questions.”

Evan sat down on the wooden folding chair at the end of the row, and Alex leaned back as the council began discussing the hot issue of preservation versus progress.

Most of the councilors were successful business leaders and attorneys, passionate in either their pro-growth or anti-development stance. Today he needed to convince them that voting “yes” on his proposal would commemorate the town’s history and lay the foundation for their legacy while generating new revenue and development for the town.

Alex glanced at his watch and sighed. If it took the councilors forty minutes to decide the fate of a rickety barn, how long would it take them to make a decision on his proposal?

When he parted ways with corporate mania last year, he thought he’d left behind the constricting strands of red tape that kept him from doing his job, but he’d learned that Etherton’s residents, along with the city council, rode the high of debate until they were forced to vote. Sometimes the debate lasted weeks, or even months.

Edward Paxton led the charge against development. He didn’t want his town to change nor did he want Alex involved with any of the town’s business. Rumor had it that he wanted his grandson, Jake, to take the economic development position that Louise had created last spring to solicit new business. The only problem was that no one else on the council wanted Jake Paxton to be involved. Edward seemed to hold a personal vendetta against Alex for stealing his grandson’s job.

At least the mayor was on his team. She’d gambled when she hired him, but he assured her and the council that he’d deliver. On their terms.

After almost an hour of discussion, Louise called for a vote, and Evan smacked his knees when they approved his guesthouse with a 4–3 vote. He saluted the row of councilors as he rushed out, probably on his way to rent an excavator. Alex guessed the barn would be in a heap when he drove home tonight.

He sighed. If only getting the council to approve a project was always this easy . . .

Etherton needed the tax revenue from new businesses to fix its brick streets, increase the police force, and build a high school. The city’s officials expected Alex to find a way to merge their small town charm with big city business.

Blending these two ideals was no small feat. Not long after he moved to Etherton, he worked a deal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a piece of farm property at the edge of town. Some towns didn’t want a Wal-Mart, but since their local economy had tanked, he thought most of the locals would welcome the store. After all, most of them drove forty-five minutes each week to visit the Wal-Mart in Mansfield, and this would bring discount clothes, groceries, car care, and—most importantly—jobs to their back door.

He was wrong.

When the council voted last December, residents of Etherton packed City Hall, a chorus of dissension over why their town couldn’t bear the weight of a conglomerate. The icy room turned hot as tempers flared. Small business owners threatened to overthrow the seats of every council member who supported the proposal.

In the end, the council rejected his plan. The town desperately needed the revenue and the jobs, but apparently not enough to put out the welcome mat for a mega store. A local farmer bought the field to plant corn, and Etherton missed out on the much-needed sales tax that would flood into Fredericktown when Wal-Mart opened its doors there this fall.

The council told him they wanted new business, but they wanted something quaint that would fit the town’s celebration of all things old. It was a hard task—but he’d found the perfect solution. If the residents were willing to risk a little, he was ready to deliver both quaint and classy . . . wrapped up in a pretty package and tied together with a sound financial bow.

Louise slid the pen out from behind her ear and tapped it on the table. She dismissed the few people in the audience, explaining that the rest of the meeting was a closed session, and then she pointed at him. “You’re up, Alex.”

He straightened his tie and stood to face the councilors. It was about to get hot again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Survived Another Star Wars Anniversary!

Well, I survived my evening with Star Wars...oh, and with the hubby, too. :o) In all honesty, we both really had a great time. And with even more honesty, this is probably one anniversary that I'll always remember...even it did revolve around Star Wars. The concert far exceeded my expectations, but I have to admit that I really love the music from all the movies anyway.

Alex was convinced that it would be okay to take a camera to the show, even though they're normally not allowed at arena events. As soon as we got in the lobby, there were tons of people already there looking at the exhibits that were set up for everyone. And to our great surprise as well, we even got our tickets bumped up. Our seats were originally much higher up, and when we were on our way up to that level, they had the area blocked off. Then, they switched out our tickets which was awesome because we ended up on the first row of a different section! I don't know about you but I absolutely hate sitting behind someone, especially if they can't sit still!

Oh, and one other really cool thing.... Anthony Daniels, the guy who played C-3PO in the movies narrated the entire concert. He would provide a small introduction to each song, and once he even broke out in character as C-3PO. Too cool!

No lie, the whole night was awesome. If this ever comes around to your city, and you've got a die-hard Star Wars family member or friend, you'd be their best friend for life if you suggested this event. Even for someone like me that is not a fan....I had a great time! :o)

Pretty good view, huh? :o)

Alex and Yoda

Alex and Darth Vader

Alex and me with Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and an X-wing pilot (at least, I think that's who he is)

Me next to the costumes for Queen Amidala

Alex and a Storm Trooper (?) - he said later that he used the Force to steal his weapon...crazy hubby of mine!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Love of My Life and Star Wars

Wow...I cannot believe that 8 years ago today, I married the love of my life! It is unbelievable how time really does fly. I will not lie to you...there have been some really rocky roads that we've had to travel during our time together, but there have also been so many special moments that I would not trade for anything in this world. Today, I want to share some of my memories with you guys.

This first picture was taken the day after Alex proposed. We had to take a trip to Portland, Oregon for his best friend's wedding, and oh, what a trip it was. Our flights all day long from Nashville to Portland were delayed, and when we arrived, we knew we'd only get to spend that evening with his friend and future bride. Well, what a night we had. The plan was to spend some time in downtown Portland just hanging out, and not really doing anything in particular. As soon as we get down there and park the car, Chris (the groom) locks his keys in his car. Jackie (his bride-to-be) did not have her keys on her at all, either....yep, they were locked in the car as well. So, we spent a lovely hour waiting for a locksmith. (Don't forget now, that this same night was the night that I got a proposal.)

Finally, after the long and cold wait on the curb in downtown Portland, we decide against spending time downtown, and they suggest we check out the Rose Gardens. We all agreed on the new plan, and head on over there. I kid you not, I have never seen so many beautiful flowers in all my life, and every last one of them some different kind of rose. was gorgeous. We spend a good 20 minutes or so looking around, and I say I need to find a restroom. Fortunately, there was one available right there at the garden. As I'm walking over to the restroom, I turn back and see that Alex is grabbing something out of Chris's trunk. When he sees that I'm watching, he stuffs his hands so far down in his pockets that I knew something was up. So, I finish up quickly in the restroom, and Alex is waiting outside for me when I come out. There was this little bench overlooking the entire garden, and he asked me to sit down with him for a minute. We talk about some inconsequential things for a little bit (cannot for the life of me remember any of that part of the conversation). All of a sudden, he tells me I have something on my back, so I lean up while I "think" he's taking care of whatever it is...I think I thought it was a bug. But no, he used that little diversion (sneaky man I married, I'm tellin' ya) to pull out the ring from his pocket, and say, "I was just wondering if you would want to marry me?" Probably the only time in my life that I have ever been that speechless....seriously. I could not have imagined a more perfect proposal....beautiful night, surrounded by a garden of roses. Oh, and obviously, I said yes. :o)

Nine months later, we got married. I tell ya, I shoulda thought about what I was getting myself into. See, my dear hubby is a Star Wars fanatic, and we're not talking about just a huge fan of the movies. We're talking about a collector. That man has got more figurines of the characters (he's probably got at least 10 different Darth Vaders...shoot, there's probably more than that) than I've ever seen in my life. So, it's been a little interesting through the years when various Star Wars happenings occur around the same time as our anniversary.

First, there was the year we got married--2002. Two days before the wedding, Episode 2 was released in the theatres. Here I am, breaking my back trying to get the church ready when he comes and asks me, "Hon, do you mind if I go see Episode 2?" Wanting to be an agreeable bride and future wife, I say, "Sure, go ahead." That should've been my clue for the rest of my life. On our honeymoon, we had to go see it again (which was mostly to satisfy him that I had gotten the opportunity to watch it, too).

Then, 3 years later--2005. Episode 3 is out, and guess what.....right around our anniversary again. I'm a little sketchy on the details of this one, but I want to say that we went to a midnight showing of this....and yep, still went to work the next morning at the crack of dawn.

So, now, we're at 2010. No more movies to go see, right? Wrong...well, sorta. Guess where we'll be going tonight? To see "Star Wars, In Concert." Yep, I really must love my husband.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 Christian Historical Fiction Challenge Complete!

Yep, I did it! Didn't really expect that it would be too difficult considering my love of Christian historical fiction. In fact, I've read more of that so far this year than any other genre.

Wanna know what I managed to read? Here's the list for ya! :o) I've linked up the books to the reviews that I've written so far, if you're interested in checking those out, too.

1. The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen--1/8/10
2. A Sinister Silence by Jane Peart--1/9/10
3. Outlaw's Bride by Lori Copeland--1/10/10
4. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith--1/21/10
5. A Place Called Bliss by Ruth Glover--1/31/10

6. A Kiss for Cade by Lori Copeland--2/11/10
7. Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith--2/20/2010
8. Fit to Be Tied by Robin Lee Hatcher--3/2/2010
9. Wind by Calvin Miler--3/16/2010
10. Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson--3/19/2010
11. The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake-3/22/2010
12. Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis--3/24/2010
13. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson--4/2/2010
14. The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake--4/8/2010
15. The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote--4/15/2010
16. Her Inheritance Forever by Lyn Cote--4/22/2010
17. Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers--4/24/2010
18. No Place for a Lady by Maggie Brendan--4/28/2010
19. Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy--5/1/2010
20. Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy--5/3/2010
21. Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy--5/8/2010
22. Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot--5/10/2010
23. A Woman Called Sage by DiAnn Mills--5/13/2010
24. Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell--5/16/2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review: A Woman Called Sage by DiAnn Mills

About the book:

They took away everything she, she’s out for revenge.

Sage Morrow had it all: life on a beautiful Colorado ranch, a husband who adored her, and a baby on the way. Until five ruthless gunmen rode up to their ranch and changed her life forever.

Now Sage is a bounty hunter bent on retribution. Accompanied only by her majestic hawk, she travels throughout the Rocky Mountains in search of injustice, determined to stamp it out wherever it’s found. The stakes are raised when two young boys are kidnapped and Sage is forced to work with Marshall Parker Timmons to rescue them. But Sage may ultimately get more than she bargained for.

In this exciting historical romance set in the late 1800s, murder, intrigue, kidnapping, and questions of faith will keep you in suspense until the final pages.

My thoughts:

Ok, seriously, who wouldn't want to read a book about a female bounty hunter? What a unique idea for story, and definitely a profession that would have been frowned upon in the late 1800's. This was my first experience reading one of DiAnn Mills's books, and I have mixed feelings about it.

The beginning....fabulous! I was hooked from the very first page because that's where the action starts. In a matter of minutes, Sage loses her husband and her unborn child thanks to a band of outlaws that are convinced that Sage's husband has something that belongs to them. Unfortunately for the outlaws, they didn't successfully send Sage to an early death, and now, she's out for revenge. She then spends a few years with her Ute ancestors, and after her time there, she becomes a bounty hunter determined to find the men responsible for the deaths of her husband and son.

Sage manages to catch up with Aiden McCaw, one of the outlaws, and brings him into the nearest town to turn him over to the marshall, Parker Timmons, and collect the bounty money. Aiden doesn't last long in jail thanks to his brothers riding into town to bust him out. They beat Parker to a pulp, and leave him unconscious in the jail. His brothers also manage to kidnap two of Parker's nephews. When Sage discovers all of this, she and Parker ride their horses into the mountains to rescue the boys.


For a book to be named after a main character, Sage's role in the story didn't seem to be a very large one after the first third of the book. True, her rescue of Parkers' nephews was very brave, but after that, she spends almost the rest of the story as an invalid recovering from a gunshot wound. My initial desire to read the book was based mostly on the title and the front cover, and after seeing Sage's character basically take a backseat for almost the rest of the story, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.

Remember the injuries that Parker got at the jail break? Well, when he and Sage return to town after rescuing the boys, it's like they disappear. They're not mentioned again until somewhere at the end of the book, and even there, it's in retrospect. I don't know if the author was trying to focus on what awaited them when they got back to town or what, but this part of the story just did not seem complete.

In short (because this has been a rather long-winded review), the beginning was great, the middle was less than great, and the end seemed a little too tidy. I think if Sage had not spent the majority of the book confined to a bed, and if the action from the beginning had continued all the way through, this would've been a 5-star book for me. As is, I'd give it 3 stars. Hopefully, someone else will enjoy it in its entirety.

3 Stars

**Many thanks to Zondervan and CFBA for providing a copy to review.

**Click here to purchase a copy of A Woman Called Sage.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cover Attraction: Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall

Title: Surrender the Heart
Author: MaryLu Tyndall
Release Date: 8/1/2010
Publisher: Barbour Publishing

About the book:

On the brink of the War of 1812, Marianne Denton must marry to unlock her inheritance. Without the money, her mother can't receive medical care and her sister will be destitute. But Noah Brenin needs to sail his cargo to England before the war commences in order to prove his worth to his father and make enough money so he won't have to marry at all.

Defying his father's wishes, Noah loathes the idea of marrying a woman he finds plain and pompous. Marianne wants nothing to do with the rogue who taunted her as a child, yet she must convince him otherwise or her mother will die.

But when Noah walks out on their engagement party, Marianne chases him down and ends up on his merchantman out at sea. The situation worsens when Noah's ship encounters a British man-of-war and the couple are impressed into the British navy. While a young lad's prophecy of destiny looms over them both, Marianne and Noah are forced to face their darkest fears as they desperately try to find a way to escape and fulfill their destinies-destinies that could change the course of the war and history forever.

CFBA Tour: Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Crossing Oceans
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (May 1, 2010)

Gina Holmes


Gina Holmes began her career in 1998, penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded the influential literary blog, Novel Journey. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in southern Virginia. To learn more about her, visit May 2010's issue of CFOM at Interview with Gina Holmes or Novel Journey.


Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But being told you’re dying has a way of changing things. Years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter, Isabella, must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank–toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter. As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love and its ability to change everything—to heal old hurts, bring new beginnings . . . even overcome the impossible. A stunning debut about love and loss from a talented new voice.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Crossing Oceans, go HERE.

Watch the Video Book Trailer:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot

About the book:

The future stretches out in front of Sarah Dobbs like the pure blue Texas sky. Leaving the past behind in Philadelphia, mail-order bride Sarah arrives in San Antonio ready to greet her groom, Austin Canfield, a man she has never met but whose letters have won her heart from afar. But there is one problem--he has died. And Sarah cannot go back East. As Sarah tries to reconcile herself to a future that is drastically changed, Austin's brother, Clay, struggles with his own muddled plans.

Though he dislikes working on the family ranch and longs for a different life, Clay is driven to avenge his brother's death. But something between them is growing and neither Clay nor Sarah is ready to admit it. Book 1 of the Texas Dreams series, Paper Roses will sweep readers into the Hill Country with a tale of love and loss, closed doors and beautiful possibilities that will leave them wanting more.

My thoughts:

Oh, how I loved this book! Initially, I expected it to be a rather long, drawn-out tale just because of its page length (378 pages), but how very wrong I was. This story was simple, but complex, and probably the best mail-order bride story to date that I have ever read.

Sarah was such a strong lead character in the story, in spite of the first impression one would get based on her physical ailments. At first, I thought it strange that she did not really mourn Austin's death, nor did she ever visit his grave (strangely, one was never mentioned), but as I kept reading it began to make a little more sense to me. She only knew him on paper, and never had the chance to form any type of physical bond with him. Also, her mind was more on making a life for herself and her young sister in this new place since going back to her home in Philedelphia was out of the question.

It took a little while for Clay to grow on me, though. His part of the story seemed to be more gradual and more hesitant than Sarah's. I think most of that is due to the fact that Clay thought of Sarah as a little bit of an inconvenience, plus he's got his mind thoroughly on finding Austin's killer. And then, ever so slowly, does he start to care for Sarah in the most beautiful way. His feelings for her (and hers for him) were paced just right--not rushed, but almost like it snuck up on them from behind. I truly loved every second of their realization of their feelings for each other.

This isn't just a mail-order bride romance. It's got the romance, plus a nice dose of suspense, some ornery town folk, and a dash of history. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of Scattered Petals, the next book in this series! Paper Roses gets a 5 star rating from me--what an exceptional story!

5 Stars

**This book was provided to me to judge for the 2010 Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest.

**Click here to purchase a copy of Paper Roses.

CFBA Tour: A Woman Called Sage by Diann Mills

**This book is awesome so far!! Haven't quite finished it yet, but should be done soon. Stay tuned for review! :o)

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Woman Called Sage
Zondervan (April 1, 2010)

DiAnn Mills


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies.

DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels.

Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2007, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007. She was a Christy Awards finalist in 2008.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.


They took away everything she, she’s out for revenge.

Sage Morrow had it all: life on a beautiful Colorado ranch, a husband who adored her, and a baby on the way. Until five ruthless gunmen rode up to their ranch and changed her life forever. Now Sage is a bounty hunter bent on retribution.

Accompanied only by her majestic hawk, she travels throughout the Rocky Mountains in search of injustice, determined to stamp it out wherever it’s found. The stakes are raised when two young boys are kidnapped and Sage is forced to work with Marshall Parker Timmons to rescue them. But Sage may ultimately get more than she bargained for.

In this exciting historical romance set in the late 1800s, murder, intrigue, kidnapping, and questions of faith will keep you in suspense until the final pages.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Woman Called Sage, go HERE.

Watch the Video Book Trailer:

Monday, May 10, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Unwilling Warrior by Andrea Boeshaar

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl and has published articles and devotionals as well as 31 novels and novellas. In addition to her writing, Andrea is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as: Write-To-Publish; American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); Oregon Christian Writers Conference; Mount Hermon Writers Conference and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 291 pages
Publisher: Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799855
ISBN-13: 978-1599799858


New Orleans, December 1861

Raindrops splattered against the garden’s cobblestone

walkway, forming puddles in low-lying areas.

Above, the heavens seemed to mourn in tearful shades of gray.

Staring out the floor-to-ceiling window, Valerie Fontaine realized

she’d forgotten the dreariness of the season. She’d been back

in New Orleans only a week, arriving Christmas Eve, but now

she questioned her decision to leave Miss C. J. Hollingsworth’s

Finishing School for Young Ladies, a year-round boarding school

in Virginia where she’d studied for the last sixteen months. She

let out a long, slow sigh. Life here at home was—well, worse than

the weather.

Closing the shutters, she stepped away and hugged her knitted

shawl more tightly around her shoulders. She strolled from the

solarium to the parlor, steeling herself against her father’s continuing

tirade. But at least they were talking now. He hadn’t said more

than six words to her since she’d been home. “You should have

stayed at school.” She had thought Father would be glad to see

her, given that it was their first Christmas without Mama.

But such wasn’t the case. Instead of spending the holiday with

her, he’d been at his gentlemen’s club almost continuously. His

actions hurt Valerie deeply. Nevertheless, he was the only family

she had left now.

“You should have stayed at school,” Edward Fontaine muttered

as he poured himself another scotch. His third.

“Yes, so you’ve stated. But isn’t it obvious why I came home?

I’m grieving, and I need the love and support of my father.” She

gave him a once-over, from the tip of his polished shoes to his

shiny, straight black hair. “And it might not seem like it, but I

think you need me too.”

“Need you? I should say not!” He teetered slightly but caught

her reaction. “And don’t roll those pretty blue eyes at me either.”

Valerie turned toward the roaring hearth so he wouldn’t see

her exasperated expression.

Holding out her hands, she warmed them by the fire. Although

temperatures registered well above the freezing mark, the cold and

dampness had a way of seeping into her bones. She shivered.

“I told you, ma fille, your efforts, as you call them, aren’t


She flicked him a glance. “I think perhaps they are.” She

sensed her father mourned Mama’s death too. However, drowning

himself in scotch would hardly help, and he’d lose his good

standing in society if anyone found out about his . . . weakness.

Did neighbors and friends already know?


Valerie turned to watch as he seated himself in a floralpatterned,

Louis XV wingback chair.

“You were to stay in Virginia and complete your education.”

Father gave a derisive snort. “I doubt Miss Hollingsworth will

give me a refund on your tuition.”

Valerie placed her hands on her hips. “How can you value

money over my well-being?”

“This is not a question of one or the other. These are

ous times . . . there are plans that you know nothing of . . . ”

“What plans?” Curious, Valerie tipped her head.



He lifted his gaze to hers, and she saw a flicker of something

in his eyes—regret perhaps? Then his face hardened. “My plans

were for you to stay in school and marry a young man from an

established family.”

Valerie groaned. Running her hands down the wide skirt of

her black dress, she gathered the muslin in clenched fists of frustration.

How could she make him understand? She simply had

to follow her heart and come home. Otherwise, she surely would

have stayed at Miss Hollingsworth’s, as many students did. On

most holidays, like this one, time constraints restricted travel.

School let out the Friday before Christmas and began next week,

on the sixth of January. However, Valerie didn’t plan on returning,

and her reasons to leave boarding school ran deep.

She lifted her fingertips to her temples as a headache formed.

“Father, school proved too much for me after Mama’s untimely

death. I tried to make it, stayed all last summer, but after the war

broke out I had to come home.”

“Silly girl. You risked your life traveling through that part of

the country. Did you think I wanted to bury a daughter too?”

“No, of course not. But I thought you would have wanted to

see me at Christmastime.”

He didn’t comment on her remark. “So, what am I going to do

with you? I can’t very well send you back. It’s too dangerous.”

“It’s not as if I need a nanny.” Indignation pulsed through

Valerie’s veins. “I’m almost nineteen, and I can take care of

myself—and manage the household for you too.”

“I manage my own household.”

Hardly! she quipped inwardly. Thankfully for him, Adalia,

their precious and loyal maid, had seen to almost everything

since Mama died.

But Valerie wouldn’t tell her father that. She’d learned neither

retorts nor reasoning did much good when he’d been imbibing—

which was frequently of late.

She watched as he swallowed the dark golden liquid, emptying

the crystal tumbler in his hand. He made a sorrowful sight, to

be sure. And yet Valerie knew her father was an honorable man,

a capable man who owned and operated a large business. Her

grandfather had started Fontaine Shipping when he had come

from France. Father grew up near the docks and learned everything

about ships and cargo, importing and exporting, and then

he took over the business after he had finished his education at

Harvard. Grandpapa had been so proud. And now Father secured

his importance among the international shipping community as

well as in New Orleans’s society.

Or at least that’s the way she had remembered him.

“I see I’ll have to marry you off myself.”

“Oh, Father, I’ll marry when I’m good and ready. Right now I

can’t think of a single man I’m even remotely interested in.”

“And what of James Ladden?” Father asked

“James is . . . a friend. That’s all.” Valerie moved to the

burgundy-colored settee. Gathering her black hoop skirts, she sat

down. Her fingers played across the rose-patterned, embroidered

armrest. Her father’s gaze seemed troubled. She shifted. “Perhaps

I should ask Chastean to bring you some coffee.”

He gave her a blank look, as though she’d spoken in a foreign


“Our cook . . . will bring you some coffee.”

He held up his empty scotch glass and said, “I’m fine with this.”

Valerie sighed when he rose to pour another drink. His fourth.

How she wished she could hide that scotch bottle!

“We’re having a houseguest tonight,” he said.

“What?” Her jaw slacked at the surprising news.

“You heard me.” He eyed the amber potion glistening in his

glass. “A houseguest.”

“Who is it?”

He lifted his slim shoulders and wagged his dark head. “Last

name’s McCabe. Don’t know his first. He’s the son of an acquaintance.”

He looked her way. “I extended the invitation before I

knew you would burst in from school unannounced.”

Valerie chose to ignore the slight. “Where did you meet him,

or rather, his father?”

Father’s gaze met hers. His brown bloodshot eyes watered

slightly, and his Adam’s apple bobbed several times as if he were

struggling to contain his emotions. “I met him,” he continued in

a pinched voice, “just after your mother passed away.”

Valerie swallowed an anguished lump of her own. He’d so

rarely spoken of Mama since her death.

Her mind drifted back to that terrible day she’d received the

news. She’d been at school, getting ready to paint with the other

girls when a telegram had been delivered. The weighty sorrow

that descended then returned now as she recalled the words:

Your mother took ill with a fever on 23 June 1861 and

has died. You have our sympathies and our prayers. The

telegram was signed Mrs. Vincent Dupont, the doctor’s wife.

Upon returning home, Valerie learned that a tropical storm

had detained the family physician when her mother had taken

ill. He hadn’t been able to reach Mama in time to help her.

Valerie had never gotten a chance to say good-bye or even

attend Mama’s funeral.

“I miss her too.” Valerie whispered the admission, hoping this

time it wouldn’t fall on deaf ears.

But Father drained his glass and poured another. Number five.

“Our guest will be arriving sometime tonight. I’ll be out. I’ve

left instructions with Adalia.”

“You won’t be here to greet him?” Valerie swiped away an

errant tear and squared her shoulders.

“Not tonight.” He suddenly hollered for his coat, hat, and

walking stick.

“Where are you going?” Stunned, Valerie strode toward him.

“The club. For supper.”

“Again? But I had so hoped you’d come to the Donahues’

tonight and celebrate the coming of the New Year with me.”

“You should know right now, ma fille, that hope is a useless word

in the English vocabulary. All of mine died with your mother.”

Valerie’s breath caught at the admission, tears obscuring her

vision as the portly British maid, who’d been part of the family

ever since Valerie could recall, entered the room carrying Father’s

belongings. He donned his winter coat.

“I hadn’t planned to stay home to entertain a houseguest.”

“I don’t expect you to.” He moved into the foyer and adjusted

his black top hat. “Adalia will show him to his room, and you

can go to your party.”

“But—” He swung open the front door and disappeared, closing it

behind him before Valerie could speak again. All she could do

was stand there, stunned.

At last she exhaled, her lower lip extended so the puff of air

soared upward and wafted over the strands on her forehead. “Oh,

this is a fine mess.” She folded her arms.

“You needn’t worry. I’ll be sure to tidy the gentleman’s room.”

“I know you will.” Valerie smiled at the good-natured woman.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, dearie. But here now—” Adalia bustled

across the room and slipped one arm around Valerie’s shoulders.

“Don’t look so glum.”

“I can’t help it.” Valerie’s bottom lip quivered as she peered

into the maid’s bright green eyes. “My father has no room in his

life for me, Adalia. I’m a burden to him.” She paused. “Maybe I

always have been, but I never noticed because of Mama.”

Adalia patted her shoulder.

When the moment passed, Valerie straightened. “Well, Father

said I can go to the party. I’ve been looking forward to it.”

“Go. I’ll take care of Mr. McCabe. Now you’d best be getting

yourself ready.”

Valerie gazed down at her dark skirts. “And another thing. I’m

tired of this dreary mourning garb. It’s been six months.”

“That it has, and you’ve fulfilled your societal obligations and

behaved as any good daughter would.” Holding her by the shoulders,

she turned Valerie so they stood face-to-face. “I don’t think

I’m out of place to say that y’ mother’d want each of us to go on

with our living. So go and have fun tonight. As for y’ father’s guest,

he can occupy himself in the library. Plenty o’ books in there.”

Valerie sighed, remembering some of Father’s former houseguests.

“He’s probably some eccentric old geezer who’ll just want

to read and go to sleep anyway.”

Adalia snorted. Her eyes twinkled with amusement. “We’ve

seen our share of those over the years, now haven’t we?”

“Yes.” A smile crept across Valerie’s face. “We certainly have

at that.”


Beneath the bright glow from her bedroom’s wall sconces, Valerie

studied her reflection. She selected a sapphire-blue silk gown

with satin trim around its off-the-shoulder neckline. The flouncy

creation matched the color of her eyes and complemented her

pale complexion. Adalia had expertly swept up Valerie’s dark

brown hair into a becoming chignon, although several tendrils

rebelliously escaped and curled around her face.

“Pretty as a princess, y’ are. Just like y’ mother.” Adalia stood

back to admire her. “You look just like her.”

“Thank you.” Valerie took the compliment as high praise. “But

do you think I seem a bit pale?” She pinched her cheeks until

they turned a rosy pink.

“Not anymore.” Adalia placed her hands on her hips. Valerie

smiled, then chuckled. Adalia turned and folded an article of

clothing on Valerie’s four-poster bed. “Now, you be sure to catch

the latest gossip, dearie. Chastean and I are dependin’ on you.”

Valerie whirled from the full-length mirror in a swish of silk.

“Why, Adalia, I don’t listen to gossip.”

“’Tis such a pity. We’ll be needin’ something to talk about

while we stir our soap.”

“Mama’s soap.” Valerie’s grin faded as wistfulness set in. She’d

almost forgotten how she and Mama used to create the specially

scented soaps from garden herbs and the essential oils that Father

had shipped in from around the world. The practice had started

with a church bazaar for which Mama had to bring something

she’d made, something unique.

She called her little square bars “Psalm 55 Soap” after her

favorite passage of Scripture. Mama gave them to friends or

left them near the basin in the guest room with a handwritten

portion of that psalm. Feeling a sudden deep determination to

hang on to the memory, Valerie decided to somehow keep her

mother’s custom alive.

“We’ll make a new batch soon,” she said.

“Good, ’cause we’re down to the last few bars of the lavender

rose.”One of Valerie’s favorites. “They’re from the last batch Mama


Adalia replied with a remorseful bob of her gray-blonde head.

That weighty sorrow descended again. Valerie’s shoulders


Several long, reverent seconds ticked by, and finally Adalia

picked up where she’d left off. “I’m particularly interested in

hearing if Mrs. Field’s wayward daughter married that sailor she

ran away with.” She fidgeted with Valerie’s dress. “So listen up.”

“I’ll do no such thing. Besides, James told me yesterday that

Nora Mae married the man in a private ceremony.”

“Y’ don’t say!”

Valerie turned to her. “I shouldn’t have even repeated that,

except there’s nothing wrong with saying a wedding took place,



Valerie narrowed her gaze. Maybe she had succumbed to

gossiping after all.

“Now you’d best get downstairs.” Adalia wisely changed the

subject. “Mr. Ladden’ll be here soon, and you know how impatient

that one gets if he has to wait even a minute.”

“You go on down. I’ll be there in a bit.” Valerie wanted to

check her reflection one last time.

“Don’t tarry.”

“I won’t.”

The maid left, and Valerie checked her reflection once more. It

felt good to shed those black mourning clothes. She thought of all

her friends she hadn’t seen in the almost year and a half since she’d

been away at Miss C. J. Hollingsworth’s. They’d always been such

fun-loving girls. Valerie smiled, thinking about how they used to

laugh together with chatter of balls and beaus and fashion.

Would it be the same when they saw each other again tonight?

Sadness spilled over her when she thought things might have

changed. She felt so removed from those subjects now. They

seemed trite, considering her present circumstances. She’d

never imagined her life without Mama. But here her future lay,

stretched out before her in grim uncertainty.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee . . .

Valerie smiled as part of Mama’s favorite psalm waltzed across

her mind. Drawing in a deep breath, she plucked her satin shawl

from where it lay on her canopy bed. She pulled it around her

bare shoulders, admiring its ivory softness, and fixed her mind

on the gala. She’d laugh and dance, and maybe some semblance

of joy would return to her life.

Leaving her bedroom, Valerie made her way down the stairs to

the parlor. As it happened, she turned out to be the one who did

the waiting. It seemed forever before she heard James’s carriage

pull up in front of the house.

At long last he entered the foyer, looking dapper in his overcoat

with its fur-trimmed collar. He shed it and handed the garment,

along with his hat, to Adalia. Valerie noted his foggy-gray dress

coat, waistcoat, and matching trousers. The flame-red curls on

his head, usually unruly, were combed neatly back.

“Why, James Ladden, don’t you look handsome!” She held out

her hand in greeting, and he took it at once.

“Thank you, honey. I’ll have you know this suit is cut from the

best cloth money can buy.”

“It’s quite . . . nice.” Valerie felt a bit wounded that he didn’t

remark on her gown or the style of her hair.

Instead James puffed out his chest and smiled. “We have some

time before we have to go.” He ambled across the parlor’s large

Persian carpet. “Perhaps a drink to warm the blood would be


“Yes, of course. I’ll call for Adalia.” She flicked a glance at him,

hoping he didn’t imbibe like Father. This was, after all, their first

public outing together. A moment later she decided to serve hot

cider in spite of the fact he hinted at something stronger.

She looked at him again. James had been a childhood friend,

an auburn-headed prankster who annoyed her by putting twigs in

her braided hair and calling her names. He threw slimy, creepycrawly

creatures at her and laughed when she screamed in terror.

But then James matured into a dashing young man, and when

he discovered that she’d come home from school, he offered to

escort her to every social event in New Orleans beginning this

New Year’s Eve. She’d accepted because . . . well, it was a kind offer,

and James seemed to have transformed into a gentleman.

“Is your father home?”

“No, he chose to ring in the New Year at the club.”

“He won’t be at the Donahues’, then?”

Valerie shook her head.

“I had hoped to speak with him tonight about an important

subject.” His frown turned to a smile. “You.”


“I have courtship on my mind.”

His news surprised her. “I thought we were just friends, James.”

“We are. But the way you look tonight makes me wish we were


So he’d noticed. That was something anyway. However, his

backhanded flattering didn’t change her feelings for him. But

unwilling to hurt him, she chose her words with care. “I am fond

of you. It’s just—”

“Y’ father’s houseguest just arrived.” Adalia poked her head into

the room. “What would you like me to do with him, dearie?”

Valerie grimaced. “Oh, yes . . . ” She’d almost forgotten about

the man. “Show him in.” Looking back at James, she said, “Excuse

me for a few minutes.”

“What’s this?” He stepped forward, frowning his displeasure.

“What houseguest?”

“Forgive me. My father only told me at the last minute.” She

moved toward the door. “I must see to him. It won’t take too


Putting on her best hostess’s smile, Valerie strolled into the

foyer in time to see a tall but shadowy figure of a man coming

down the hallway. He must have entered through the back way.

Over his shoulder he carried a large satchel and, in the opposite

hand, a valise. As he neared, she saw that he was soaked to the

skin. Rain dripped from the wide brim hat.

“Good evening.” He set his burdens down with a thunk onto

the tiled floor. “Name’s Benjamin McCabe.”

“Valerie Fontaine.” She held out her hand to him. He took

it politely, and Valerie felt how cold he was. He also appeared

young, in his midtwenties. Hardly the old codger she and Adalia

had envisioned.

“Miss Fontaine, I must say you look . . . lovely this evening.” He

spoke in a velvet baritone, and yet Valerie heard a hint of a twang

in his voice.

“Why, thank you.” It had been more of a compliment than

what she’d received from James.

He shifted his stance. “The liveryman is seeing to my wagon.”

He gave a backward nod. “I trust it will be safe in the stables.

Most of my equipment—”

“Your wagon will be just fine,” Valerie assured him. “Willie is

a very capable attendant.”

An awkward moment passed as Valerie tried to get a better

view of the man standing there in the dim, candlelit entryway.

“I apologize for dripping rain on your floor.” Mr. McCabe

glanced down at the puddle forming beneath him. “That last

downpour caught me.”