Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CFBA Blog Tour: Simple Secrets by Nancy Mehl


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Simple Secrets

Barbour Books (June 1, 2010)



by



Nancy Mehl

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband Norman and her son, Danny. She’s authored nine books and is currently at work on her newest series for Barbour Publishing.

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “It’s a part of me and of everything I think or do. God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan especially for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”

CREATING FICTION FULL OF FAITH, HOPE AND HEART…

Nancy Mehl is a mystery writer who loves to set her novels in her home state of Kansas. Her three-in-one book, COZY IN KANSAS, contains the first three Ivy Towers’s mysteries: IN THE DEAD OF WINTER, BYE BYE BERTIE, and FOR WHOM THE WEDDING BELL TOLLS which was nominated for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award in mystery.

She and her husband attend Believer’s Tabernacle in Wichita.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Graphic designer Gracie Temple wants it all: the big city lifestyle and a successful job in advertising. And it looks like her life is on the right track when she takes a job at a struggling, midsize firm in Wichita.

But Gracie Temple's uncle left her a house in a rural Mennonite community. She soon learns he secluded himself for years to protect a secret about her own father. Now it's up to Gracie to decide if she'll keep the secret or if she can afford to expose it.

Sam Goodrich loves his fruit farm in Harmony, Kansas. But when he meets city-girl Gracie, he begins to wonder if he could leave it behind for a woman who makes him feel things he's never felt before.

When someone tries to keep Gracie from discovering the truth behind the town's collection of secrets, will Sam and Gracie cling to their faith to help them decide what's most important...before it's too late?

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

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart

About the book:

Life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother’s “nerve” problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.

As her life careens out of control, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious boy from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there’s the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.

Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.

My thoughts:

I have to be honest here....I almost did not finish this book. It started off so slow and sad that I just knew it wouldn't be a book that I would enjoy. But since I cannot leave a book unfinished, I persevered and continued on with Sammie's story. By the time I made it halfway through, I couldn't put it down.

The story was written very well, but it's very heartbreaking. Sammie had more thrown on her in one short year than most of us, as adults, have to endure in five years. And while I'm used to reading novels featuring kids, this is the first time that I've read an adult novel that revolved entirely around a kid. This is where Carla's talents as a writer shone the most, in my opinion. Sammie was portrayed as a completely normal 12-year-old trying to find her way through school, having her first almost-boyfriend, and praying that nothing ever happens between her dad and Aunt Vadine. She was a very well-mannered child trying to mature, while occasionally having an outburst that's all too common at that point in life.

Carla definitely has a bright future as an author, and I, for one, cannot wait to read more of her work! I'm really hoping there will be some sort of sequel in the future because I would love to visit with the people of Graham Camp again.

**This book was provided to me by the publisher through CFBA in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, June 25, 2010

CFBA Tour: Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart



This week, the
 




Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Chasing Lilacs
 




FaithWords (June 17, 2010)
 




by



Carla Stewart


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She believed in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She's a country girl living now in a mid-sized city with her engineering husband who just happens to be her best friend and biggest fan.She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren.

FROM CARLA:

I grew up in the Texas Panhandle with two younger sisters and loving parents. Small town school. Great neighbors. Today, those small-town, fundamental things resonate within me -- the twang in people's voices, the art of being neighborly and just being a decent human being.

Growing up, I preferred the company of books over TV and playing outdoors. I imagined myself in many different careers, but given my down-to-earth raising, I settled on nursing. I didn't faint at the sight of blood and did well in science, so it seemed a natural choice.

I worked as a registered nurse off and on through the years, but primarily I stayed home with my four rambunctious boys and dreamed of the day when I could write the novels I loved to read. When our youngest son was in high school, I quit my job as a nursing instructor and settled in to pen my first novel. It's been quite a journey. One I wouldn't trade for anything.

I'm committed to writing the stories of my heart and am truly thankful to Jesus, my Savior, for allowing me this freedom. May all the glory be His.

Chasing Lilacs is her first book!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

It is the summer of 1958, and life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for twelve-year-old Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother's "nerve" problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.

When her mother commits suicide and a not-so-favorite aunt arrives, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there's the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.

Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Spotlight: Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley

About the book:

All that glitters is not gold. It’s 1890, and Golden, New Mexico, is a booming mining town where men far outnumber women. So when an old wealthy miner named Philip Smith finds himself in need of a nursemaid, he places an ad for a mail-order bride—despite the protests of his friend Jeremiah.

Hoping to escape a perilous situation back East, young Madeleine Mercer answers the ad and arrives in town under a cloud of suspicion. But just as she begins to win over Philip—and Jeremiah himself—the secrets she left behind threaten to follow her to Golden...and tarnish her character beyond redemption.

My thoughts:

Every experience I've had so far with the Love Finds You series has been excellent, but I honestly can't say that about this latest book featuring Golden, New Mexico. Truthfully, the book started out great. I felt a connection with the characters at first, especially Madeline's plight of being forced to marry a man she hates. I also loved the Sneeds, and their genuine attempts to see Madeline come to no harm. But when the story changed from being completely set in Golden vs. Golden and Boston, I started to lose interest. It seemed that the same thoughts from Madeline and Jeremiah were just churned over and over again. In addition to that, the story was just too predictable.

I would recommend this story to readers that like a simple, sweet romance with a small hint of danger. Unfortunately, it wasn't my cup of tea.

3 Stars

Click here to read more about Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico.

CFBA Tour: Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Maid to Match
Bethany House (June 1, 2010)



by
Deeanne Gist

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After a short career in elementary education, Deeanne Gist retired to raise her four children. Over the course of the next fifteen years, she ran a home accessory and antique business, became a member of the press, wrote freelance journalism for national publications such as People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel, and acted as CFO for her husband’s small engineering firm--all from the comforts of home.

Squeezed betwixt-and-between all this, she read romance novels by the truckload and even wrote a couple of her own. While those unpublished manuscripts rested on the shelf, she founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products that would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility and provide character building activities.

After a few short months of running her publishing company, Gist quickly discovered being a "corporate executive" was not where her gifts and talents lie. In answer to Gist’s fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publish the next generation of her system, thus freeing Gist to return to her writing.

Eight months later, she sold A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers. Since that debut, her very original, very fun romances have rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere. Add to this two consecutive Christy Awards, two RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

Her 2010 books, Beguiled and Maid To Match are now available for order.

Gist lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-seven years and their two border collies. They have four grown children. Visit her blog to find out the most up-to-the-minute news about Dee.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Falling in love could cost her everything.

From the day she arrived at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled, by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in proper servant etiquette, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid, After all, the one rule of the house is no romance below stairs.

But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangles in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs, their aspirations...their hearts.

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

Join this SPECIAL GETAWAY (Click on the Button):







Monday, June 21, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Healer by Linda Windsor

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:

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

With an estimated one million books in print, Linda Windsor is an award-winning author of fifteen mainstream historical novels and one contemporary romance. She has also written another thirteen books for CBA publishers, including nine romantic comedies, laced with suspense, and a Celtic Irish trilogy for Multnomah entitled the Fires of Gleannmara series. A former professional musician, Linda speaks often (and sometimes sings) for writing and/or faith seminars. She makes her home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and prays for courage and strength to meet the needs of today's readers with page-turning stories that entertain, teach, and inspire.

Visit the author's website.





Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764788
ISBN-13: 978-1434764782


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Glenarden, Manau Gododdin, Britain


Although cold enough to frost one’s breath, the day was as fair as the general mood of the gathering at the keep of Glenarden. The only clouds were those breaking away, fat with snow from the shrouded mountains—and the ever-present one upon the face of the bent old man who stood on the rampart of the gate tower. No longer able to ride much distance, Tarlach O’Byrne watched the procession form beyond.

Clansmen and kin, farmers and craftsmen—all turned out for the annual hunt, but they were more excited over the festivities that awaited their return. In the yard about the keep, gleemen in outlandish
costumes practiced entertaining antics, delighting the children and teasing the kitchen servant or warrior who happened to pass too near. Great pits had been fired. On the spits over them were enough succulent shanks of venison, boar, and beef to feed the multitude of O’Byrnes and the guests from tribes in the kingdom under the old king’s protection.

Below the ramparts, Ronan O’Byrne adjusted the woolen folds of his brat over his shoulders. Woven with the silver, black, and scarlet threads of the clan, it would keep the prince warm on this brisk day. A fine dappled gray snorted in eagerness as Ronan took his reins in hand and started toward the gate. Beyond, the people he would govern upon his father’s death waited.

The youngest of the O’Byrne brothers rode through them, unable to contain his excitement any longer. “By father’s aching bones, Ronan, what matters of great import keep you now?”

Were the pest any other but his youngest brother, Ronan might have scowled, deepening the scar that marked the indent of his cheek—the physical reminder of this travesty that began years ago. Alyn was the pride and joy of Glenarden, and Ronan was no exception to those who admired and loved the precocious youth.

“Only a raid on the mill by our neighbors,” Ronan answered his youngest sibling.

His somber gaze belayed the lightness in his voice. The thieves had made off with Glenarden’s reserve grain stores and the miller’s quern. Ronan had already sent a replacement hand mill to the mistress. But now that the harvest was over and the excess had been sold, replacing the reserves would be harder. It galled Ronan to buy back his own produce at a higher price than he’d received from merchants in Carmelide. This was the hard lot he faced—this farce, or hunting down the scoundrels and taking back what was rightfully his.

Every year on the anniversary of the Gowrys slaughter, Tarlach insisted that the O’Byrne clan search the hills high and low for Llas and Joanna’s heir. But instead of going off on a madman’s goose chase after his imagined enemy—a mountain nymph who was rumored to shape-shift into a wolf at will—the O’Byrnes manpower spent their time ransacking and burning one of the Gowrys mountain settlements in retribution, for they were undoubtedly the culprits. It was the only reasoning the Gowrys thieves understood—burn their ramshackle hovels and take some of their meager stock in payment.

Even so, taking such actions only stalled their mischief for a little while. Then it was the same thing all over again. As it was, Ronan had sent trackers out to mark their escape route, lest the wrong camp be destroyed.

“Can I ride after them on the morrow with you?” Alyn’s deep blue eyes, inherited from their Pictish mother, were alight with the idea of fighting and possible bloodshed—only because he’d never tasted it firsthand. “After the Witch’s End?”

Disgust pulling at his mouth, Ronan mounted the broad and sturdy steed he’d acquired at last spring’s fair. Witch’s End. That’s what Tarlach O’Byrne had dubbed the celebration of the massacre that had made him an invalid and driven him to the brink of insanity. In the old chief ’s demented thought, he’d brought justice to those who had betrayed him and stopped an enchantress forever. Sometimes, as on this particular day, it pushed him beyond reason, for it was a reminder that there was one thing left undone. The heiress of Gowrys still lived to threaten Glenarden … at least in his mind.

“The mill raid is no different from any other raid and will be handled as such,” Ronan answered.

“So I can go?”

“Nay, return to your studies at the university.” The hunt for a nonexistent witch was one thing, but Gowrys were skilled fighters. “’Twould suit a Gowrys naught better than to send a son of Tarlach
earthways with an arrow through your sixteen-year-old heart.”

“So you and Caden will go after the brigands.”

Alyn’s dejection rivaled that of Tarlach’s, except the youth’s would be gone with the next change of the wind. The older O’Byrne’s would not leave until his last breath faded in the air.

Ronan opened his mouth to assuage the lad when a downpour of water, icy as a northern fjord, struck him, soaking him through. “Herth’s fire!” Startled, his gray gelding danced sideways, knocking into the door of the open gate. “Ho, Ballach,” Ronan soothed the beast. “Easy laddie.”

“Take that, you bandy-legged fodere!” a shrill voice sounded from above.

“Crom’s breath, Kella, look what you’ve done,” Alyn blustered, struggling to control his own spooked steed. “Called my brother a bandy-legged deceiver and soaked him through.”

Wiping his hair away from his brow, Ronan spotted the cherub faced perpetrator of the mischief peering over the battlement, eyes spitting fire. Lacking the ripeness of womanhood, Kella’s overall appearance was unremarkable, but she surely lived up to her name with that indomitable warrior spirit, bundled in the innocence of youth. It was an innocence Ronan had never known. The daughter of Glenarden’s champion, Kella O’Toole was like a breath of fresh air. For that Ronan could forgive her more impetuous moments.

“And for what, Milady Kella, do I deserve the title of a bandylegged fool, much less this chilling shower?”

Kella gaped in dismay, speechless, as she took in Ronan’s drenched state. But not for long. “Faith, ’twasn’t meant for you, sir, but for Alyn! ’Tis the likes of him that finds the company of a scullery maid more delicious than mine.”

Ronan cast an amused glance at his youngest brother, who had now turned as scarlet as the banners fluttering overhead.

“Ho, lad, what foolrede have ye been about?” Caden O’Byrne shouted from the midst of the mounted assembly in wait beyond the gate. Fair as the sun with a fiery temperament to match, the second of Tarlach’s sons gave the indignant maid on the rampart a devilish wink.

“’Tis no one’s business but my own,” Alyn protested. “And certainly not that of a demented child.”

“Child, is it?”

Ronan swerved his horse out of range as Kella slung the empty bucket at Alyn. Her aim was hindered by the other girls close at her elbows, and the missile struck the ground an arm’s length away from its intended target.

“I’ll have you know I’m a full thirteen years.”

“Then appeal to me a few years hence when, and if, your Godgiven sense returns,” the youngest O’Byrne replied.

Ronan moved to the cover of the gatehouse and removed his drenched brat. Fortunately, the cloak had caught and shed the main of the attack. Already one of the servants approached with the plain blue one he wore about his business on the estate. Irritating as the mishap was, his lips quirked with humor as his aide helped him don the dry brat. It wasn’t as princely as the O’Byrne colors, but it was more suited to Ronan’s personal taste.

It was no secret that Egan O’Toole’s daughter was smitten with Alyn. With brown hair spun with threads of gold and snapping eyes almost the same incredible shade, she would indeed blossom into a beauty someday. Meanwhile, the champion of Glenarden would do well to pray for maturity to temper Kella’s bellicose manner, so that his daughter might win, rather than frighten, suitors.

Then there was Alyn, who hadn’t sense enough to see a prize in the making. Ronan shook his head. His brother was too involved in living the existence of the carefree youth Ronan had been robbed of the night of the Gowry's bloodfest.

“So, are you now high and dry, Brother?” Caden O’Byrne called to Ronan with impatience.

Ronan’s eyes narrowed. Always coveting what wasn’t his, Caden would like nothing better than to lead the hunt without Ronan. Would God that Ronan could hand over Glenarden and all its responsibilities. But Caden was too rash, a man driven more by passion than thought.

“Have a heart, Beloved,” a golden-haired beauty called down to him from the flock of twittering ladies on the rampart. Caden’s new bride spared Ronan a glance. “Ronan’s had much travail this morning already with the news of the Gowrys raid.”

“Had he as fair and gentle a wife as I, I daresay his humor would be much improved.” Ever the king of hearts, Caden signaled his horse to bow in Lady Rhianon’s direction and blew his wife a kiss.

“No doubt it would, Brother,” Ronan replied.

There was little merit in pointing out that the ambitious Lady Rhianon had first set her sights on him. No loss to Ronan, she seemed to make his more frivolous brother a happy man. The couple enjoyed the same revelry in dance and entertainment, not to mention the bower. Too often, its four walls failed to contain the merriment of their love play. Neither seemed to care that they were the talk of the keep. If anything, they gloried in the gossip and fed it all the more.

Battling down an annoying twinge of envy, Ronan made certain his cloak was fast, then swung up into the saddle again. Alyn’s problems were easier to consider, not to mention more amusing. “Is your wench disarmed, Alyn?” Ronan shouted in jest as he left the cover of the gate once again.

Beyond Lady Kella’s tempestuous reach for the moment, Alyn gave him a grudging nod.

Ronan brought his horse alongside his siblings, facing the gatehouse of the outer walls, where Tarlach O’Byrne would address the gathering. Like Alyn’s, Caden’s countenance was one of eagerness and excitement. How Ronan envied them both for their childhood. He longed to get away from the bitterness that festered within the walls of Glenarden. His had been an apprenticeship to a haunted madness.

Tarlach straightened as much as his gnarled and creaking joints would allow. “Remember the prophecy, shons of mine,” he charged them. He raised his withered left arm as high as it would go. It had never regained its former power since the night he’d tried to attack Lady Joanna of Gowrys. Nor had his speech recovered. He slurred his words from time to time, more so in fatigue.

“The Gowrys sheed shall divide your mighty house … shall divide your mighty housh and bring a peace beyond itch ken.”

Ronan knew the words by heart. They were as indelibly etched in his memory as the bloody travesty he’d witnessed through a six-yearold’s eyes. The quote was close, but whether Tarlach’s failing mind or his guilt was accountable for leaving out “peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul,” only God knew. If He cared … or even existed.

“Search every hill, every glen, every tree and shrub. Find the she-wolf and bring back her skin to hang as a trophy in the hall, and her heart to be devoured by the dogs. Take no nun-day repast. The future of Glenarden depends on the Gowrys whelp’s death.”

At the rousing cry of “O’Byrne!” rising from his fellow huntsmen and kin, Ronan turned the dapple gray with the group and cantered to the front, his rightful place as prince and heir. He didn’t believe the girl child had survived these last twenty years, much less that she’d turned into a she-wolf because of her mother’s sins. Nor did he wallow in hatred like his father.

A shudder ran through him, colder than the water that had drenched him earlier. Ronan looked to the west again, where thick clouds drifted away from the uplands. May he never become so obsessed with a female that his body and soul should waste away from within due to the gnawing of bitterness and fear. Superstitious fear.

On both sides of the winding, rutted road ahead lay rolling fields. Winter’s breath was turning the last vestiges of harvest color to browns and grays. Low, round huts of wattle and daub, limed white and domed with honey-dark thatching, were scattered here and there. Gray smoke circled toward the sky from their peaks. Fat milk cows and chickens made themselves at home, searching for food. Beyond lay the river, teeming with fish enough for all.

Glenarden’s prosperity was enough to satisfy Ronan. Nothing less would do for his clan. The tuath was already his in every manner save the last breath of Tarlach O’Byrne … though Ronan was in no hurry for that. Despite his troublesome tempers, Tarlach had been as good a father as he knew how, breaking the fosterage custom to rear his firstborn son under his own eye. A hard teacher, he’d been, yet fair—equal with praise as with criticism.

“You are the arm I lost, lad,” Tarlach told him again and again, especially when the drink had its way with him. “The hope and strength of Glenarden.”

~~~~~

Ronan humored the old man as much as followed his orders. At midday, instead of stopping as usual for the nun repast, he paused for neither rest nor food for his men. They ate on the move—the fresh bread and cheese in the sacks provided by the keep’s kitchen. The higher into the hills they went, the sharper the wind whipped through the narrow pass leading to the upper lakelands. Ronan was thankful that the former stronghold of the Gowrys wasn’t much farther.

“Faith, ’tis colder than witches’ milk,” Caden swore from the ranks behind Ronan.

“Witches’ milk?” the naive Alyn protested. “What would you know of such things?”

“A good deal more than a pup not yet dry behind the ears. ’Tis a fine drink on a hot summer day.”

“Or for the fever,” Egan O’Toole chimed in.

His poorly disguised snicker raised suspicion in the youth. “They play me false, don’t they, Ronan?”

“Aye, ask our elder brother, lad,” Caden remarked in a dry voice. “He has no sense of humor.”

Somber, Ronan turned in his saddle. “I have one, Brother, but my duties do not afford me much use of it. As for your question, lad,” he said to their younger brother, who rode next to Caden, “there’s no such thing as witches, so there can be no witches’ milk.”

“What about the Lady Joanna?” Alyn asked. “She was a witch.”

“Think, lad,” Ronan replied. “If she’d truly possessed magic, would she or her kin have died? It was love and jealousy that addled Father.”

"But love is magic, little brother,” Caden put in. “Make no mistake.”

“’Tis also loud enough to set tongues wagging all over the keep,” Alyn piped up. He grinned at the round of raucous laughter that rippled around them at Caden’s expense.

But Caden showed no shame. “That’s the rejoicing, lad.” He turned to the others. “Methinks our Lady Kella has little to fret over as yet.” With a loud laugh, he clapped their red-faced little brother on the back.

Rather than allow the banter to prick or lift an already sore humor, Ronan focused on the first few flakes of snow already whirling in and about the pass ahead of them and the nightmare that already had begun. Twenty years before, this very pass had been just as cold and inhospitable. With possible flurries blowing up, Ronan had no inclination to prolong the outing.

The crannog, or stockaded peninsula, was now little more than a pile of rubble rising out of the lake water’s edge. Cradled by overgrown fields and thick forest on three quarters of its periphery, the lake itself was as gray as the winter sky. On the fourth was the jut of land upon which Llas of Gowrys had restored an ancient broch, bracing it against the rise of the steep crag at its back. With no regard for what had been, yellow spots of gorse had taken root here and there in the tumble of blackened stone.

Ronan could still smell the blaze, hear the shrieks of the dying.Ignoring the curdling in the pit of his stomach, a remnant of the fear and horror a six-year-old dared not show, Ronan dispersed the group. “Egan, you and Alyn take your men and search north of the lake. Caden, take the others and search the south. When I sound the horn, everyone should make haste back here. The sooner we return to warm hearths and full noggins of ale, the better.”

“I want to go with you,” Alyn declared, sidling his brown pony next to Ronan’s gray.

“I intend to stay here in the cover of yon ledge and build a fire,” Ronan informed him, “but you are welcome to join me.”

“I think not.”

Alyn’s expression of disdain almost made Ronan laugh.

“What if a raiding party of Gowrys happens upon you?” Caden spoke up. A rare concern knit his bushy golden brows.

“Then I shall invite them to the fire for a draught of witch’s milk.”

Caden laughed out loud. His square-jawed face, bristling with the golden shadow of his great mane of hair, was handsome by even a man’s standard. “I misjudged you, Brother. I stand corrected on the account of humor but would still hold that you act too old for your twenty-six years.”

“The Gowrys aren’t given to visiting the place where they were so soundly trounced … and I’m no more than a horn’s blow from help, should my sword not suffice,” Ronan pointed out.

He had no taste for this nonsense. What he craved most at the moment was the peace that followed after the others rode off, whooping and beating their shields lest the spirits of the slain accost them.

The hush of the falling snow and the still testimony of the ruins were at least a welcome change from the ribald and oft querulous babble of the hall. Time alone, without demand, was to be savored, even in this ungodly cold and desolate place. All he had to do was keep the memories at bay.

A movement from just above a hawthorn thicket near the base of the cliff caught Ronan’s eye, raising the hackles on the back of his neck. With feigned nonchalance, he brushed away the snow accumulating on his leather-clad thigh and scanned the gray slope of rock as it donned the thickening winter white veil. Nothing.

At least, he’d thought he’d seen something. A flash of white, with a tail—mayhaps a large dog. Beneath him, the gelding shivered. With a whinny, he sidestepped, tossing his black mane as if to confirm that he sensed danger as well. A wolf?

Drawing his sword in one hand, Ronan brought the horse under control with a steadying tone. “Easy, Ballach, easy.”

The speckled horse quieted, his muscles as tense as Ronan’s clenched jaw. The scene before him was still, like that of a tapestry. At his gentle nudge, the horse started around shore toward the high stone cliff. Dog, wolf, or man, Ronan was certain the steel of his blade was all the protection he’d need.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Healer by Linda Windsor. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 18, 2010

CFBA Tour: Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley


This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Love Finds You In Golden, New Mexico
Summerside Press (May 1, 2010)


by


Lena Nelson Dooley


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For several years, Lena worked on the support staff of a church, but in November of 2002, God changed things so that she could stay home and write full-time. It has been the desire of her heart for a long time. In Proverbs 37:4, it says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” She believes that this blessing is a result of her delighting herself in Him, and she praises Him for the opportunity.

She have been a professional writer with a free-lance writing and editing business since 1984. In that time, she has written curriculum for public schools, private schools, and three different denominations. For one company, she managed a writing team that produced a two-year American History course for at-risk students. One of her clients was a Christian comedian for whom she wrote several routines. An airline training company had her edit and design International business reports for them.

Her first novel was published by Heartsong Presents in 1992. Since then Lena Nelson Dooley has written more than 25 works of fiction and nonfiction.

Lena has been married to her husband James since 1964. Theirs was one of those love-at-first-sight relationships. They were married three months and three days after they met. He truly was God’s gift to her. They are absolute opposites, but that means that his strengths are her weaknesses, and her strengths are his weaknesses. Together they make a more perfect whole. She believe that is what God intends for all of us.

They have two daughters. Marilyn Van Zant is married to Roger, and they have a son named Timothy. Tim is now in Tennessee at Ft. Campbell. His son Sebastian is almost 2 years old. Jennifer Waldron is married to Eric, and they have three children—Austin, Marissa, and Amanda. James and Lena love to spend time with their family, and they are blessed that both families live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, so they see them often.


ABOUT THE BOOK

All that glitters is not gold. It’s 1890, and Golden, New Mexico, is a booming mining town where men far outnumber women. So when an old wealthy miner named Philip Smith finds himself in need of a nursemaid, he places an ad for a mail-order bride—despite the protests of his friend Jeremiah.

Hoping to escape a perilous situation back East, young Madeleine Mercer answers the ad and arrives in town under a cloud of suspicion. But just as she begins to win over Philip—and Jeremiah himself—the secrets she left behind threaten to follow her to Golden...and tarnish her character beyond redemption.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Finds You In Golden, New Mexico, go HERE.

"Love Finds You In Golden, New Mexico is a well-researched novel brimming With emotive conflict. Lena Nelson Dooley has crafted a historical romance that demonstrates that courage comes in many forms, but the courage to love is the most difficult of all.
-DiAnn Mills, author of Sworn to Protect and A Woman Called Sage
“Two strangers are presented with a ‘golden’ opportunity for love in this quintessential East meets West tale by well-loved author Lena Nelson Dooley. I found myself swept away by the beautiful writing and enmeshed in the lives of the players, who face many twists and turns in their journey toward the ultimate happily-ever-after. Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico is truly one of the loveliest historical romances I’ve read in ages. Highly recommended.”
─Janice Hanna Thompson, author of Love Me Tender and Swinging on a Star

**I should have this one finished in a couple of days, so my review will be coming up soon! :o)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Review: Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

About the book:

"Thank goodness you're such a plain child. You'll have to rely on your wits."
So went the words of Grandma Bebe. And for all of my growing-up years, I scoffed at the beauty of my sister and what I saw as her meaningless existence. But my wits hadn't served me well in this instance, for here I was, in jail. And while I could have seen it as carrying on the family tradition (for Grandma Bebe landed in jail for her support of Prohibition), the truth is, my reasons for being here would probably break her heart.
So how did I end up becoming a criminal? I've been pondering that question all night. Perhaps the best way to search for an answer is to start at the very beginning.
My thoughts:

Though Waters Roar is another win for Lynn Austin! It's clear why her novels win so many awards, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if this one garners a few of it's own.

It's no secret at all that Lynn Austin is one of my absolute favorite authors, but I have to admit that I struggled a little bit initially to get interested in this story. One of Lynn's trademarks is merging a present-day story with some history of another person within a family unit. This book had that same feature (which I love), but it was harder for me to follow for the first few chapters. Usually, her books are divided into parts with each part being about one person's story. This one was not set up that way at all, and there were times that I was so thoroughly confused trying to keep the characters straight, and where they belonged in the overall timeline. But....don't let that deter you from considering this book for your next read. Just keep in mind that it make take you awhile to fully immerse yourself in the story.

I loved the historical elements that were featured, too. This story focused on the era of women struggling to have a voice, particularly with voting. Another large chunk of the story featured alcoholism, and the resulting Prohibition movement. And yet another portion dealth with slavery. Each major character had a hand in each one of these parts of history, and it was so thoroughly fascinating to read about all of that in one book.

While it's probably won't ever be my favorite book ever by Lynn Austin, I have to give it 5 stars simply because the story was truly extraordinary. And as always, I can't wait to read her next book. :o)

5 Stars

**Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy for review.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Through Thick and Thin by Sandra Byrd

About the book:

Savvy Smith, 15, sees her chance to write a full column in the paper, making her name and making her way in her new hometown near London, England. But the choices she faces when given the chance to choose between friends, family, and fame may turn her dream into a nightmare.

London Confidential is a new series where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide, and an all-American girl learns to love life and live out her faith.

My thoughts:

Sandra's style of writing is at the top of the list...seriously. I love how she can take a seemingly ordinary story, add a little pinch of quirkiness, and create some of the best books I've read in a long time. Oh, and I failed to mention, ahem....London!

Even though Through Thick and Thin is a young adult novel (and I've certainly passed that stage in my life), there is something here for everyone regardless of age. In this series, Savvy has to learn to navigate a whole new way of life in a foreign country and a new school to top it off. A tad daunting, right? But ya know, Savvy has got more maturity in her pinky finger than I did when I was her age. Granted, this is fiction, but it's still nice to read about a girl that has some respect for her parents, and knows how to learn from her mistakes.

And uh, I'm sure it's obvious that I can't wait to read the rest of this series! If you've never checked out any of Sandra's books, the perfect one to start with would be Let Them Eat Cake for an adult novel, or book one of this series, Asking for Trouble, for a young adult novel. Either way, you won't be disappointed!

Click here to read my review of Asking for Trouble.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour and Book Review: Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James

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:

Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Katie Bond of Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cara Lynn James is a debut writer who has received numerous contest awards from Romance Writers of America chapters and the American Christian Fiction Writers. She resides in northwest Florida with her husband Jim. They have two grown children, Justin and Alicia; a grandson, Damian; and Papillion named Sparky.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546790
ISBN-13: 978-1595546791


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue


New York City, May 1893

Jack slowed his pace, his courage once more waning at the sight of the Westbrook home across the way. Anxiety twisted his stomach in a knot. But in the dusky light, Lilly’s glow of confidence reignited his own flame. She understood her parents far better than he did. Since she believed her father would agree to the marriage, why should he hesitate?

Arm-in-arm they strolled across the road. Among the row of fine brick townhouses facing them, the Westbrook house stood three stories tall like all the rest, with long, paned windows overlooking Washington Park.

Mr. Ames, the ancient butler, opened the front door. Jack and Lilly entered the dimly lit foyer.

“Where is my father this evening?” Lilly asked the butler.

“In the back parlor, miss.”

“Shall I go with you, Jack?”

“No,” he whispered, squeezing her hand, “I’d rather do this on my own. Say a prayer all will go well.”

Jack strode toward the parlor, determined to plead his case. Every nerve ending in his body fired with life—and more than a few with apprehension. He’d calm himself and then ask Mr.
Westbrook for Lilly’s hand in a respectful tone, solicitous, but not fawning. He’d restrain his usual brash attitude and hope Mr. Westbrook would consent to a marriage most would deem unsuitable. If he weighed the odds of success, he wouldn’t even try.

Jack inhaled a steadying breath and increased his pace down the narrow hallway leading to the back of the house. Gas sconces threw a pale light along the Persian runner that muffled his footsteps to a soft shuffle. The house lay silent except for the noise of a sledge hammer beating against his chest.

Lord, I need a large dose of Your strength. Don’t allow me to cower. I’ve never been a quitter and I don’t want to start now.

He hadn’t asked God for much in the past, but this was too important to rely on his own untested powers.

Jack paused before he came to the door of the back parlor, straightened his bow tie, and squared his shoulders. Voices stopped him before he moved forward. He recognized Mrs. Westbrook’s high, girlish tone. He’d wait for a lull in the conversation, excuse his entry, and then ask to speak to Mr. Westbrook. Jack waited for several minutes before he heard his name.

“Thomas, I noticed Jackson Grail seems especially fond of Lilly. You don’t suppose he wants to marry her, do you?”

Jack winced at the worry in her voice. With his back to the wall he stepped closer to the parlor.

Mr. Westbrook chuckled. “No, my dear, he’s George’s friend, not Lilly’s. She’s hardly more than a child.”

“For goodness’ sake. Lilly’s nineteen, certainly old enough to catch the eye of a young man.”

“All right, she ’s not my little girl anymore. But ready for marriage? No, Nessie, I don’t believe so. She has lots of time to choose a mate. There’s no rush.”

“Hmm. I wouldn’t want her to delay too long. I’ve given considerable thought to her future.”

“I’m sure you have,” Mr. Westbrook murmured. Jack pictured his wry smile.

“Well, it’s my duty as her mother to guide her. Oliver Cross or Pelham Mills come to mind as possible suitors. Maybe Harlan Santerre. He’s such a polite young man and his mother and I have been friends since childhood. Yes, he’s most definitely my first choice.”

Jack let out the breath he’d been holding, knowing he should break away, cease his eavesdropping—

“They’re all acceptable to me. But what about young Grail? You say he might be interested in her. He’s got a good head on his shoulders.”

“But no money in his pocket. Need I say more?”

Jack frowned and tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry.

Mr. Westbrook sighed. “No, my dear. You’re absolutely right. He’s not suitable, though I do like him.”

“I do as well. And now he’s as finely educated as our own George. But he would have to strike it rich quickly in order to court Lilly,” Mrs. Westbrook added. “And that’s highly unlikely.”

“Nearly impossible, I’m afraid. So I hope you’re wrong and young Grail hasn’t set his heart on Lilly.” Her father sighed. “He’s an intelligent boy. I’m sure he’d know better. Especially when she has an ambitious mama anxious to make her the perfect match.”

Mrs. Westbrook laughed. “Thomas, do stop your teasing.”

Jack bumped his shoulder against the curlicues of a large gilt picture frame. Turning to give it a hard shove, he stopped himself. He wouldn’t let his temper get the better of him. Leaving the oil painting crooked, he stumbled down the patterned runner, away from the awful voices. When he came to the foyer he dropped into a rosewood chair and ignored the curious stare from Mr. Ames.

Jack buried his head in his hands and tried to gather his wits before he had to face Lilly. But the Westbrooks’ conversation resounded through his mind. Poor. Unsuitable. Why had he ever thought they’d accept him as a son-in-law? His love for Lilly had banished all reason. He’d lived in a fog of hope these last several months, but now it cleared.

At the sound of light footsteps he looked up. “What did Papa say?” Lilly asked, grasping his hands.

He glanced at her without speaking and then saw his own languish reflected in her eyes. He so wished his answer could bring her joy. She gently pulled him into the dimly lit sitting room. The sheers and heavy velvet curtains blocked all but the final rays of daylight from seeping through the windows overlooking the park. They faced each other in front of the unlit marble fireplace, his arms tight around her slim waist, her hands lightly touching his vest.

“Tell me,” she said in a rasping voice, barely audible.

“I never had the chance to ask, Lilly. When I got to the back parlor your parents were already discussing appropriate husbands. And my name wasn’t on the list.”

“That’s because they don’t know we love each other. Papa has never refused me anything. It might take some persuasion, but you can do it. We can approach him together.”

Lovely, pampered Lilly, who owned her father’s heart—except when it came to marriage partners. And marriage among the rich was certainly a business transaction. Their kind never
married Jack’s kind. He’d gone to St. Luke ’s and Yale with the wealthy, but as a scholarship student, he didn’t belong to their set no matter how hard he tried to fit in. Maybe he would’ve accepted the impenetrable barrier if Lilly hadn’t swept into his life.

He gazed at her, drinking in her passion, memorizing her large, expressive eyes and flawless skin, her tall, slender form and thick brown hair framing her face.

Her eyes blazed like blue fire. “Come. We’ll speak to Papa. Right now.”

Jack caught her wrists. “No, I can’t. I’m so sorry. He won’t change his mind. It’s pointless to even ask.” Save me the humiliation.

Her strangled cry pierced his heart. “You won’t even try? We love each other. Isn’t that worth fighting for?” Lilly’s voice rose with disbelief.

How could he explain he couldn’t abide her father’s rejection? He refused to hear again that he wasn’t good enough to court Lilly—once was enough. And he didn’t want her to elope with
him without her parents’ approval. Jack groaned. As much as he adored Lilly, he wasn’t acceptable to the family. The daughter of a prosperous banker, Lilly couldn’t marry a man without a family fortune.

“We can marry without their consent. You’ll find a good job. I know you will. Don’t you see, Jack, we don’t need my parents’ permission.”

“But I want their respect.” And he’d never gain their esteem by stealing their daughter away. He turned from her, running a hand through his hair. He ’d been fooling himself. How could
he provide for Lilly, care for her in a manner in which she was accustomed? What could he promise her? A one room apartment in a dingy part of town while he made his way in the world, if he ever made it at all. How long before his beautiful, young and idealistic bride would realize she’d sacrificed too much for an improbable dream? He ’d harm her if he stole her from her family.

He glanced at her and could see in her face the stubborn, naïve hope that lingered there. But he understood reality as she never would. He’d let his love blossom before he should have.

Jack slowly moved away, steeling himself for the hurt yet to come. “Your parents are right. I’m in no position to marry. I should never have proposed, because I have nothing to offer.”

Lilly rushed to him and flung her arms around his neck, tears spilling down her cheeks. “What about our love? Why do you need more than that?”

“Lilly, we can’t exist on dreams. I have to earn a living. And I can’t support you on a clerk’s salary. You’d miss your old life.”

Her lovely, soft features hardened. “You must think my love is too weak to withstand hardship. It’s strong enough to survive anything. Why do you doubt me so?”

Jack shook his head. “I doubt myself, not you.” What if her confidence in his abilities weren’t warranted? What if he never rose above petty clerk, despite his fancy education? A girl from a
society family, proud and successful for generations, could never be content washing laundry, cooking meals, and scrubbing floors on her hands and knees. She’d grow bitter and resentful.

“I can adapt to less. I don’t care about a beautiful home. I only want you,” she said, her voice rising with frustration.

He wouldn’t argue about the effects of poverty and how it wore on a person. She wouldn’t understand. “If we came from the same background, I wouldn’t hesitate to speak to your father. But we didn’t.”

“But you will. I know it. I’ll wait until you feel ready to marry me. There’s no hurry. I’m patient. I can wait forever.” She pleaded with beautiful eyes glistening with tears.

“No, please don’t wait for me.” Jack’s voice cracked like ice.

He wanted her to wait, but he couldn’t ruin her chances of making a suitable, maybe even a happy marriage. The odds of succeeding in the business world without connections were small.
If and when he’d proven himself, he’d return and hope she’d still want him. And forgive him. But he couldn’t ask her to wait.

He blotted her tears with his handkerchief, but they kept streaming down her face. Her slender shoulders heaved with soft sobs. He kissed her again gently and then retreated to his bedroom before he was tempted to crush her in his arms and beg her to elope. He’d planned to stay for the week as George ’s guest, but now he needed to leave quickly.

Within ten minutes he was gone.
___________

Jack’s heart slammed against his ribs. The past two weeks had been a misery. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. Go back, go back! his mind and heart screamed. You’ve made a terrible mistake!

His stomach roiling, Jack fought to keep a dignified pace and not run all the way to Washington Square. At last, he stood before the Westbrook home and tapped the front door knocker against the heavy wood.

He’d explain he couldn’t manage without her and his infernal pride had blocked his common sense and their tender love. Would she accept his apology? They’d work something out. He didn’t know how exactly, but they would. He knew their union was sanctioned, indeed designed, by God.

Mr. Ames pulled the heavy door open. “May I help you, sir?”

“Yes. Is Miss Westbrook at home?”

The hunched-over butler shook his head. “They’ve all gone abroad. They sailed yesterday.”

Jack’s cautious optimism collapsed in a heap of despair. “And when will they return?”

“Next spring.”

Next spring. Jack groaned. “G-Good day,” he mumbled, turning from the door.

I’m too late. I’ve lost her.



Chapter One

Newport , Rhode Island — July 1899, Six years later


With a deep sigh of satisfaction, Lilly Westbrook whipped the last page of her manuscript out of the Underwood typewriter. Carefully she shredded the carbon and threw the messy strips into the wastebasket. No meddlesome maid could possibly reconstruct her work and tattle to Mama.

For a moment, a wave of sadness overshadowed the pleasure she felt at finishing another story. How she longed to share her secret with her mother, but as much as Lilly hated deception, she knew Mama would never understand. Mama was proud of her for dabbling in poetry, but this?

No. It was best to stay behind closed doors to write her dime novels.

Lilly shuddered to think of the disgrace she ’d bring upon herself and, even worse, upon her family, if her secret was revealed. The very notion of social ostracism weakened her knees and left her legs wobbly. A twinge of guilt pinched her conscience as it often did when she considered her concealment. Yet why look for trouble when her work was progressing so well?

Lilly scrubbed her hands until all evidence of the carbon paper and inky ribbon disappeared into the washbasin near her bed, then covered the typewriter Mama had given her as a birthday gift a few years before. Mama thought a typing machine unnecessary for a poet, but she wasn’t one to begrudge her children anything within reason.

Lilly withdrew a letter from her skirt pocket and smiled as she re-read the last lines.

My dear Lilly,

I want to again express my thanks for all you’ve contributed to the Christian Settlement House of New York. We so value the time and effort you have devoted to assisting our young ladies with their sundry life skills and English fluency. Your exceptional generosity and financial support have enabled us to continue our work in accordance with the Lord’s purposes.

Sincerely,

Phoebe Diller, Director

Miss Diller’s kind words sent a rush of warmth to Lilly’s heart and strengthened her resolve to continue writing. For without the profits from her novels, she couldn’t afford to donate more than a few dollars to her favorite charity. How could she possibly quit writing when her romance novels provided so many blessings to others?

Lilly locked the final chapter in the rolltop desk by the bay window and hid the key beneath the lining of her keepsake box. Time for a well-deserved walk by the sea. She removed her reading spectacles and placed her straw hat decorated with bright poppies squarely on top of her upswept hair. After a last furtive glance toward the desk, she left her bedroom to the morning sunshine that splashed across the shiny oak floor and floral carpet.

All the way down the staircase she congratulated herself for typing “The End” of her story, though it was only a few days before deadline. That was much too close for comfort. She sighed. Too many social events had disrupted her normal writing routine this summer. But she had no choice but to force a smile and attend the functions, even though most of them bored her to distraction.

She wouldn’t think of that now. At least she’d finished the manuscript before the deadline and for that she’d treat herself to a few minutes out of her room. With a light heart, she strolled through the deserted foyer, past Mr. Ames, the butler, and out the front door. A beautiful day greeted her with its sun-blessed smile.

As she crossed the veranda, her sister-in-law Irene Westbrook, seated at the end of the porch, peered over a small, familiar book. The lurid cover of Lilly’s latest novel, Dorothea’s Dilemma, popped out in garish color. Lilly stopped short and pressed her palm over her gyrating heart.

“Oh my,” she murmured. She’d never expected to see one of her novels in her own home, let alone in the hands of her brother’s wife.

Irene smoothed her halo of silky blonde curls caught up in a loose pompadour. She laid the slim paperback on her lap, her eyes gleaming with curiosity. “Why hello, Lilly. Where have you been on this beautiful afternoon? Cooped up in your bedroom again? My goodness, what do you do in there all day?”

“Sometimes I enjoy a few hours of solitude.” Lilly’s nerves seized control of her voice and it rose like the screech of a seagull. “I’m sorry I interrupted your reading.” Heat crept into her skin as Irene watched her, face aglow with interest.

“Do sit down, Lilly.”

She slipped into a wicker chair opposite Irene. A gust of salty air, typical of Newport’s summer weather, blew in from the Atlantic and brushed its cool breath across her cheeks. She prayed
it would fade the red splotches that came so easily when embarrassment struck.

Irene cocked her head. “Is something wrong? You look positively ill.”

“No, I’m fine.” Though every fiber of her body continued to quiver, Lilly steadied her breathing. She folded her hands in the lap of her charcoal-gray skirt and willed them not to shake.

“You aren’t shocked by my novel, are you?” Irene smirked.

“Of course not.” Lilly squirmed around on the soft chintz cushion and avoided Irene ’s skeptical stare. “Why should I be shocked?”

Irene leaned forward. “Some people claim dime novels are trash, and from your reaction I thought you might be one of those faultfinders. Of course they’re wrong. These books are filled with adventure and I love adventure.” She rolled the last word around her tongue like a stream of honey.

Irene, the niece of Quentin Kirby, one of San Francisco’s silver kings, fancied herself an adventuress, but Lilly inwardly disagreed. Irene merely appreciated fun and frivolity more than most. That hardly made her a woman like the heroines of Lilly’s books. “I’m so sorry, Irene. I didn’t mean to criticize your choice of books. I just wondered where you obtained your copy.”

“I discovered it in the kitchen while I was searching for a blueberry tart.” Irene grinned as if Lilly ought to admire her cleverness. “One of the scullery maids must have left it there.”

“You took it without asking permission?” Lilly could scarcely believe Irene had wandered downstairs to the basement kitchen, the domain of servants who strongly disapproved of visitors, even the family.

“Why yes. Well no, not exactly. I borrowed it. As soon as I finish reading, I’ll give it back. Of course.”

Irene tapped the big, red letters spelling out the author’s name across the cover. “Fannie Cole. She’s a splendid writer, the very best. Have you ever read any of her books? I devour them like chocolate.”

Lilly’s heart lurched. “Naturally I’ve heard of her. I believe her stories are rather popular.”

“They’re enthralling.”

At the sound of the front door squeaking open, Lilly looked away with relief.

Mama bustled onto the veranda, a frown knitting her eyebrows. “What’s that about Fannie Cole? She’s quite infamous, I hear.” Glancing from Lilly to Irene, Mama’s eyelashes fluttered, a sure sign of agitation. “Oh, I see you have one of her books . . .”

Lilly knew her mother couldn’t let this breach of propriety pass without comment. On the other hand, the kind and ever tactful Vanessa Westbrook would hate to offend her new daughter-in-law.

“Mama, Fannie Cole writes harmless fiction. You needn’t worry.” Lilly smiled her assurance, hoping she’d veer off to another topic.

Her mother sunk into a wicker chair beside Irene. “Perhaps, my dear, but you must admit, there are so many more uplifting novels.” She patted Irene ’s arm, which was robed in a cream silk blouse that matched the lace of her skirt. “Lillian is a poet, you know. Her work is delightful. You must read it. I’ll go fetch you a copy.”

Lilly cringed. “No, Mama. I wrote those poems years ago. She wouldn’t be interested in the meanderings of an eighteen-year-old ninny. It’s sentimental tripe.”

“Nonsense, my dear. You’ve always been much too critical of yourself.”

“Nevertheless, I’m sure Irene would prefer Fannie Cole.”

Who wouldn’t? Lilly thought. Still, she appreciated her mother’s enthusiasm for her meager literary efforts.

Irene tossed her a wide, grateful smile. “There, that’s settled.”

Mama’s round, girlish face tightened with distaste. “I wish you wouldn’t read dime novels because . . .” She looked toward Lilly for support.

"Really, Mama.” Lilly softened her voice, not meaning to scold. “While some of the dime novels are sensational, others are written to help working girls avoid the pitfalls of city life. They’re
moralistic tales that encourage virtue. Nothing to be ashamed of reading.” Or writing.

“Exactly.” Irene beamed. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course, I read for the story, not the moral lesson, but I’m sure it’s beneficial for those who enjoy a good sermon.”

Lilly suppressed a sigh of resignation. “No doubt Miss Cole hopes and prays her words touch the hearts of her readers and bring them closer to the Lord.” Lilly looked at Mama and Irene,
hoping they’d somehow understand her purpose and approve. But both looked puzzled over her words.

Irene ’s gaze narrowed. “An odd way to spread the gospel, don’t you think?”

“Not at all. The Lord is more creative than we are.” Lilly bristled and then glanced away when she found her mother and sister-in-law still staring at her.

She’d spoken up much more forcefully than she intended. With a sinking heart, Lilly realized Mama would never accept her viewpoint; it flew in the face of beliefs and opinions ingrained
since childhood.

Irene picked up a sheet of paper resting on a small table between two pots of ferns and waved it like a flag on the Fourth of July. Lilly immediately recognized Talk of the Town, a gossip rag published by that scandalmonger, Colonel MacIntyre, the bane of Newport society. He shot fear into the hearts of all upstanding people and others who weren’t quite so virtuous. Lilly swallowed hard.

Mama gasped. Her pale skin whitened. “Oh my dear, that’s hardly appropriate for a respectable home.”

Irene shrugged. “Perhaps not. But if you don’t mind my saying so, it’s great fun to read. I’m learning the crème de la crème of Newport are up to all kinds of mischief.” She laughed with
pleasure.

“Listen to this.” Irene leaned forward. “One hears that Miss Fannie Cole, author of wildly popular dime novels, has taken up residence at one of the ocean villas for the season. The talk about town claims this writer of sensational—some might even say salacious—
stories, belongs to the New York and Newport aristocracy. Which of our fine debutantes or matrons writes under the nom de plume, Fannie Cole? Speculation runs rampant. Would the talented but mysterious author of Dorothea’s Dilemma, Hearts in Tune, and several other delectable novels please come forward and identify herself for her public?”

Lilly’s throat closed. She clamped her hands down on her lap, but they shook like a hummingbird’s wings. Had a maid or a footman stumbled across her secret and sold the information? Colonel Rufus MacIntyre of Talk of the Town paid handsomely for gossip. No one was safe from his long, grasping tentacles, including some of the most prominent people in society.

“The colonel has mentioned Miss Cole in his column for the last two weeks, so I expect we’ll hear more about her during the summer.” Irene grinned as she studied the sheet. “I wonder who she is. I’d love to meet her.”

Mama’s mouth puckered into a small circle. “Undoubtedly someone from the wrong side of the tracks. No one we’d know.” She punctuated her words with a firm nod.

Irene persisted. “You must have an idea, Lilly. You seem to know everything that’s going on in society.”

Lilly turned away, sure that a red stain had again spilled across her pale skin. Her sister-in-law was right. She did listen to all the tittle-tattle, but she prided herself on her discretion. The foibles of her set provided grist for her novels, not for spreading rumors and innuendo.

“You give me far too much credit, Irene.” She hated to dodge questions to keep from lying, but what was her option short of confessing? She twisted the cameo at the neck of her tailored
shirtwaist.

Mama wagged her finger. “Mark my words. By the end of the summer someone will discover Fannie Cole’s true name and announce it to the entire town. Oh, my. What humiliation she’ll
bring upon her family. They’ll be mortified.”

“How delicious,” Irene murmured.

Lilly groaned inwardly. Her subterfuge gnawed at her conscience, worsening day by day, but she couldn’t turn back the clock and reconsider her decision to write in secret.

She rose. “Will you excuse me? I need to take my walk now.”

With her head held high and as much poise as she could muster, Lilly descended the veranda’s shallow steps. She strode across the wide, sloping lawn that surrounded Summerhill, the old
twenty-two-room mansion the Westbrooks rented for the season.

Once she reached the giant rocks that separated the grounds from the ocean, she picked her way over to a smooth boulder that doubled for a bench. As she ’d done every day since her arrival three weeks ago, Lilly settled onto its cold surface. Instead of watching the breakers pound against the coast and absorb the majesty of nature ’s rhythm, she rested her head in her hands and let the breeze brush against her face.

What would happen if her beau, Harlan Santerre, discovered that she and Fannie Cole were the same person? The wealthy railroad heir, a guest of the family for the eight weeks of summer, miraculously seemed ripe to propose. Her mother kept reminding her how grateful she should be that such a solid, upstanding man as Harlan Santerre had shown interest in a twenty-five-year-old spinster with no grand fortune and no great beauty. Mama and the
entire family would be humiliated if her writing became public knowledge and Harlan turned his attention elsewhere.

Yet the Holy Ghost had urged her to compose her simple stories, and as she wrote, her melancholy gradually faded. Her enthusiasm never waned thanks to the joy she received from doing the Lord’s work.

Why would He allow someone to ruin her and end the good deeds she accomplished? He should smite her enemies instead. All her life she ’d trusted the Lord to guide her and protect her, but never had she needed His help more than now. But would He continue to shield her?

Trembling, Lilly tossed a stone into the roiling surf and watched it sink into the foamy white waves. What if the surge of curiosity aroused by Colonel MacIntyre didn’t fade away and
everything she held dear was threatened?

My thoughts:

Without a doubt...Cara Lynn James is certainly new author to watch! I was so thoroughly captivated by this novel that I couldn't believe it's only her first! Her writing style is so beautiful and lyrical that I literally felt transported to the era of the Astors and Vanderbilts. Until now, my only experience with the Gilded Era has been through film, and now, I'm just itching for more of this era in printed form. January 2011 seems far too long to have to wait to read the next book in the Ladies of Summerhill series, but I will wait for it as patiently as I know how!

5 Stars

Monday, June 14, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts

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:

Zondervan (May 21, 2010)
***Special thanks to Londa Alderink of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Deborah Vogts and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 21, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031029276X
ISBN-13: 978-0310292760

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Five Months Later

Metal scraped against metal, waking Natalie from a restless sleep. Again, the screech came from outside. With a reluctant groan, she forced herself from her cotton sheets and fumbled in the dark to find her boots.

What was out there? And why wasn't Jessie barking?

She slipped her bare feet into leather ropers, then hurried from the bedroom down the stairs, hoping she wouldn't rouse her younger siblings. An instant foreboding caused her to grab the shotgun her dad always kept behind the back door. Natalie loaded it with a couple of shells before heading to the porch -- just in case. As her eyes adjusted to the outside darkness, she distinguished the faint outline of a truck backed up to the barn entrance. She crept through the barnyard.

“Who's there?” Her voice wavered as she clutched the wooden forearm of the aged Winchester, prepared to fire a warning shot at the moon if necessary.

A small beam of light darted inside the old limestone barn, then disappeared.

“Tom, is that you?” Natalie eased her finger closer to the trigger.

Silence. Then the hollow clamor of feed buckets knocked to the ground as though someone had tripped over them.

Natalie held her breath. Her heart thumped wildly against her chest as she thought about the recent thefts in the county. If only her dad were here.

But he's not, and you're in charge. Slow, mechanical breaths helped her to see this might be nothing more than their hired hand returning from a night at the bar. She knew little about Tom Walker, but the idea that he'd been out with friends on a Friday night was more probable than not.

A tall figure edged from the shadows. Natalie recognized the pale shock of curls highlighted by the luminous night.

“Hey there, don't shoot.” The ranch employee rested his hands on his head. “I was only putting some stuff away in the barn.”

“Working kind of late, aren't you?”

“Just got back from a rodeo.” Tom's voice grew louder as he approached. “Sorry if I frightened you.”

Natalie lowered the shotgun, then gazed up at the sky, relief lodged in her throat. “You could've turned on the barn lights. At least then I wouldn't have thought someone was sneaking around out here.”

“Didn't want to wake the house.”

In the faint moonlight, she caught the glint of an uneasy smile on the man's face. “How'd you do?”

“Tough night for steer wrestling.”

Natalie knew all about rodeo and tough nights. “There'll be others.”

He dropped his arms, and she noticed Jessie at his side. No wonder the faithful border collie hadn't barked. Suddenly aware of how she must look, she combed her fingers through her wayward locks. Dressed in baggy shorts, a torn T-shirt, and a pair of pink boots, she held little resemblance to her former title as Miss Rodeo Kansas, or of a rancher either.

And that's what she was now -- a twenty-two-year-old ranch owner in the Flint Hills of Charris County, Kansas. She shook her head, confounded by the turn of events her life had taken in the past week. “Well, I'm sorry for interrupting your work. I'll let you get back to your business.” Hoping he wouldn't sense her despair, she turned toward the house. As she did, an engine revved in the near distance. Tracing the noise, she saw a truck tear from behind the barn, its headlights aimed for the lane.

Staggering backward, she almost dropped her father's shotgun but somehow managed to bring the wooden stock to her shoulder. “Hey, you there,” she called out. “Stop or I'll shoot.”

The truck vaulted onto the dirt road and spun gravel as it sped away. Speechless, Natalie lowered the gun and whirled toward the hired hand, expecting him to go after the culprits sneaking around her father's barn.

Then she acknowledged the panic in the man's eyes.

“What were you and your buddies doing in there?” Her brows crinkled, and she instantly thought the worst. Dark barn, suspicious behavior. Had they been doing drugs, or were they stealing?

“It's not what you think.” The hostility in the air pricked her skin as the man stepped closer. He stood a half-foot taller than her own five-foot-eight.

Natalie gripped the shotgun, her palms damp with sweat. Did she have the guts to shoot a man? She aimed the barrel at his chest. “Is this how you're going to honor my father? By stealing from him? He's not been dead a week.”

“The boys and I --we were just having some fun --talking was all.” His gentle voice caressed her.

Natalie recognized the seduction of his lie --the flicker of deceit in his eyes. “In the dark?”

“No law against talking in the dark.” He reached in her direction, much too close for her comfort.

She shoved his lanky body back with the metal barrel and thought of all the work they needed to accomplish the next day unloading and sorting cattle. Could she and the kids get along without his help if she fired him? Could she trust him to tell the truth?

His lips pulled into a pout. “Come on, Miss Adams. I've been with your dad for nearly six months. He trusted me. We weren't doing nothing wrong ... honest.”

Natalie searched the man's eyes for a hint of sincerity. “Swear on your mama's grave?” Even as the words came from her mouth, she knew she was a fool to trust him.

“Better -- I'll swear on your daddy's.”

Natalie's throat swelled as hot tears threatened to fall. Her good judgment now clouded with grief, she eased the barrel toward the ground and shook her head in embarrassment. “I guess the stress is getting to me. Sorry for being so jumpy.”

Tom nodded in understanding. “No need to apologize. A person can't be too careful these days -- especially a young woman like yourself. It's good I'm around for protection.”

Natalie disregarded his remark, finding no comfort in it. Her gut twisted at the vulnerable position her father's death had placed her in as Tom drifted back to the darkness of the barn. With a weary sigh, she studied the moon above. Like a shooting star, her life had changed in an instant and no matter how much she wished it, not even the crickets or the moaning bullfrogs could set it right again.

Returning to the house, she peeked in on her twelve-year-old brother, asleep in his upstairs bedroom. His tranquil face reflected no worries, no hint of strain from their recent ordeal.

Oh, that her rest could be as peaceful.

When Natalie opened the door to her sister's bedroom, she failed to make out a form under the covers. A flick of the light revealed Chelsey's bed hadn't been slept in. She glanced about the room, and then noticed the splay of curtains caught in a warm breeze from the open dormer window. Natalie darted back to Dillon's room.

“Where's Chelsey?” She jiggled her brother's leg and watched the young boy rouse from a deep sleep.

Dillon rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed. “What?”

“Chelsey's not in her room. Do you have any idea where she might be? Out with friends? A party somewhere?”

Her brother shook his head, then yawned. “I heard her talking on the phone to Lucas earlier. Maybe she's with him.”

Natalie's mouth grew taut. Nothing good ever happened past midnight, and it was now close to two. She hoped the reckless teenagers weren't in a ditch somewhere.

A loud thump from Chelsey's room caused those thoughts to evaporate.

Natalie rounded the hallway to find her fifteen-year-old sister crumpled on the bedroom floor.

Chelsey raised her head, her eyes glazed. “Hey, sis.” Her words came out slurred as she tried to stand. “Did ya miss me?”