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Saturday, November 17, 2012

No Safe Harbor

Elizabeth Ludwig is celebrating her new book with a Kindle Fire Giveaway and connecting with readers at a Facebook Author Chat party on 12/6.


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 5th. Winner will be announced at the "No Safe Harbor" Author Chat Facebook Party on 12/6. Connect with Elizabeth, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Edge of Freedom series, try your hand at the trivia contest, and win some great prizes—gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of No Safe Harbor and join Elizabeth on the evening of the December 6th for a chance to connect with her and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 6th!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sofia's Secret

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:

Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born and raised in western Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. After graduating, she traveled, then married one of her childhood friends, and together they raised two ldaughters. Now happily retired after teaching elementary school for over 30 years, “Shar” enjoys reading, singing in the church choir, traveling, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren—and, of course, writing. Her novels include Through Every Storm, Long Journey Home; the Little Hickman Creek series, the acclaimed historical trilogy, The Daughters of Jacob Kane, and the first two books in her latest series, River of Hope: Livvie’s Song and Ellie’s Haven.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 The River of Hope Series, set in the 1920’s, continues with the story of Sofia Rogers who is pregnant, unmarried, and guarding a secret. Nobody in Wabash, Indiana seems to know her real story and Sofia isn’t about to share it. She’d rather bear the shame than face the threat of consequences. When Eli Trent, the new doctor in town, gets involved, trouble escalates in the form of thievery, arson, and death threats. Nevertheless, Eli remains determined to break down the wall of silence behind which Sofia hides her secret. He is out to convince her she is not alone and to help  her come to the realization that trusting him—and God—is the only thing that makes sense.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160374214X
ISBN-13: 978-1603742146



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
—Psalm 51:17
June 1930
Wabash, Indiana
The blazing sun ducked behind a cloud, granting a smidgeon of relief to Sofia Rogers as she compressed the pedal to stop her bike in front of Murphy’s Market and, in a most inelegant manner, slid off the seat, taking care not to catch the hem of her loose-fitting dress in the bicycle chain. She scanned the street in both directions, hoping not to run into anyone she knew, then parked the rusting yellow bike next to a Ford truck. These days, she dreaded coming into town, but she couldn’t very well put off the chore much longer if she wanted to keep food on the table.
Her younger brother, Andy, had won the race to their destination. His equally corroded bike leaned against the building, and he stood next to it, his arms crossed, a burlap sack slung across one shoulder. As she approached, a smug grin etched his freckled face. “Didn’t I t-tell you I’d b-beat you?” 
“That’s because you had a full minute head start on me, you rascal.” Sofie might have added that her present condition did not permit the speed and agility she’d once had, but she wasn’t about to make that excuse. “Just you wait. I’ll win on the way back home.”
“N-not if I can help it.”
She pressed the back of her hand to her hot, damp face and stepped up to the sidewalk. “We’ll see about that, Mr. Know-It-All.”
Andy pointed at her and laughed. “Now your face is all d-dirty.” 
She looked at her hands, still soiled from working in the garden that morning, and frowned. “I guess I should have lathered them a little better when I washed up.” She bent over and used the hem of her skirt to wipe her cheek before straightening. “There. Is that better?” 
He tilted his face and angled her a crooked grin. “Sort of.”
“Oh, who cares?” She tousled his rust-colored hair. “Come on, let’s get started checking those items off my shopping list.”
They headed for the door, but a screeching horn drew their attention to the street, where a battered jalopy slowed at the curb. Several teenage boys, their heads poking out through the windows, whistled and hollered. “Hey, sister! Hear you like to have a good time!”
At their crudeness, Sofie felt a suffocating pressure in her chest. With a hand on her brother’s shoulder, she watched the car round the bend, as the boys’ whoops faded into the distance.
“Who were those guys?”
“Nobody important.”
As if the baby inside her fully agreed, she got a strong push to the rib cage that jarred her and made her stumble.
“You alright?” Andy grabbed her elbow, looking mature beyond his eleven years.
She paused to take a deep breath and then let it out slowly, touching a hand to her abdomen. Even in her seventh month, she could scarcely fathom carrying a tiny human in her womb, let alone accept all of the kicks and punches he or she had started doling out on a daily basis. She’d read several books to know what to expect as she progressed, but none of them had come close to explaining why she already felt so deeply in love with the tiny life inside of her. Considering that she hadn’t consented to the act committed against her, she should have resented the little life, but how could she hold an innocent baby accountable? “I’m fine,” she finally assured her brother. “Let’s go inside, shall we?”
Inside Murphy’s Market, a few people ambled up and down the two narrow aisles, toting cloth bags or shopping baskets. Sofie kept her left hand out of view as much as possible, in hopes of avoiding the condemnation of anyone who noticed the absence of a wedding band on her left ring finger. Not that she particularly cared what other folks thought, but she’d grown weary of the condescending stares. Several women had tried to talk her into giving the infant up for adoption, including Margie Grant, an old friend who had served as a mother figure to her and Andy ever since their parents had perished in a train wreck in 1924. “The little one growing inside you is the result of an insidious attack, darling. I shouldn’t think you’d want much to do with it once it’s born,” Margie had said. “I happen to know more than a few childless couples right here in Wabash who would be thrilled to take it off your hands. You should really consider adoption.”
Because Margie had long been a loyal friend, Sofie had confided in her about the assault, including when and where it had occurred. As for going to the authorities and demanding an investigation—never! Margie had begged her to go straight to Sheriff Morris, but she had refused, and then had made Margie swear on the Bible not to go herself.
“That is a hard promise to make, dearest,” Margie had conceded with wrinkled brow, “but I will promise to keep my lips buttoned. As for adoption, if you gave the baby to a nice couple in town, you would have the opportunity to watch it grow up. That would bring you comfort, I should think, especially if you selected a well-deserving Christian couple.”
“I can’t imagine giving my baby away to someone in my hometown, Christian or not.” 
“Well then, we’ll go to one of the neighboring towns,” the woman had persisted. “Think about it, sweetheart. You don’t have the means to raise a child. Why, you and Andy are barely making ends meet as it is. Who’s going to take care of it while you’re at work?”
“I can’t think about that right now, Margie. And, please, don’t refer to my child as an ‘it.’”
The woman’s face had softened then, and she’d enfolded Sofie in her arms. “Well, of course, I know your baby’s not an ‘it,’ honey. But, until he or she is born, I have no notion what to call it—I mean, him or her.”
“‘The baby’ will do fine.”
Margie had given her a little squeeze, then dropped her hands to her sides and shot her a pleading gaze. “I sure wish you’d tell me who did this to you. It’s a crime, you know, what he did.”
Yes, it had been a crime—the most reprehensible sort. And it was both a blessing and a curse that Sofie couldn’t remember the details. The last thing she could remember was drinking her habitual cup of coffee at Spic-and-Span Cleaning Service before starting her evening rounds. She’d thought it tasted unusually bitter, but she’d shrugged it off at the time. Half an hour later—at the site of her job that night, at the law offices of Baker & Baker—she’d been overcome by dizziness and collapsed. She’d teetered in and out of consciousness, with only a vague notion of what was going on. When she’d awakened, it had been daylight, and she was sore all over. Fortunately, it had been a Saturday, and the offices were closed; no one had discovered her lying there, nauseous and trembling, her dress torn, her hair disheveled. A particular ache had given her a clue as to what had gone on while she’d been unconscious. As the sickening reality had set in, she’d found beside her the note that had haunted her ever since.
Breathe one word about this and you can say bye-bye to your brother.
It had been typed on the official letterhead of the sheriff’s office, making her even less inclined to go to the authorities. Whoever had assaulted her had connections to the law, and she wasn’t about to risk her brother’s life to find out his identity. Plus, without a name, and with no visual or auditory recollection, she had nothing to offer that would aid an investigation.
By the time she realized she’d gotten pregnant, two months had passed—too late to go crying to the authorities. Not that she’d planned to. Her attacker’s threat had been enough to keep her quiet. She could bear the scorn and the shame, as long as he left her alone. And the only way of ensuring that was to comply with his demands. No, she couldn’t say anything more about it to Margie.
“Margie, we’ve been over this. It’s better left unsaid, believe me.”
“But, don’t you know people are going to talk? Who knows what they’ll think or say when you start to show? If they learned the truth, perhaps they’d go a little easier on you.”
“No! I can’t. No one must know—not even you. I’m sorry, Margie.”
Margie had rubbed the back of her neck as if trying to work out a kink. A loud breath had blown past her lips and whistled across Sofie’s cheek. “You know I love you, and so I will honor your wishes…for now.” Then, her index finger had shot up in the air, nearly poking Sofie in the nose. “But if he so much as comes within an inch of you again, I want you to tell me right away, you hear? I can’t abide thinking that he’ll come knocking at your door. You must promise me, Sofia Mae Rogers!”
Sofie had hidden the shiver that had rustled through her veins at the mere thought of crossing paths with her attacker again. Why, every time she went to work, she couldn’t get the awful pounding in her chest to slow its pace until she was home again. She’d stopped drinking and eating at work—anywhere other than at home, really.
“Show me your list, Sofie.” Andy’s voice drew her out of her fretful thoughts. She reached inside her pocket and handed over the paper. When he set off down an aisle, she idly followed after, her mind drifting back into its musings.
***
Dr. Elijah Trent parked his grandfather’s 1928 Ford Model A in the lot beside Murphy’s Market. As he climbed out, he was careful not to allow his door to collide with a bicycle standing nearby. Another battered bike leaned against the building. It looked as if it could use some serious repair work. He closed his door and took a deep breath of hot June air, then cast a glance overhead at the row of birds roosting on a clothesline that stretched between two apartment buildings across the street.
When he pulled open the whiny screen door, an array of aromas teased his nostrils, from freshly ground coffee beans to roasted peanuts in a barrel. As he stepped inside, a floorboard shrieked beneath his feet, as if to substantiate its long-term use.
“Afternoon,” said the shopkeeper, who glanced up from the cash register, where he stood, ringing up an order for a young pregnant woman. Beside her, a boy dutifully stuffed each item into a cloth bag. The young woman raised her head and glanced briefly at Eli, who sensed a certain tenseness in her chestnut-colored eyes. Then, she shifted her gaze back to the clerk.
“Say, ain’t you Doc Trent’s grandson?” the man asked.
“That I am, sir. Elijah Trent. But most people call me Eli.”
The clerk stopped ringing items for a moment and gave him an up-and-down glance. “Heard you’re takin’ over the old fellow’s practice. That’s mighty fine o’ you. I understand you graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, an’ you worked at a Detroit hospital for two years, but you were itchin’ for small-town livin’. Timing’s good, since Doc’s retirin’. S’pose you two been plannin’ this for quite a while now, eh? Hate to see Wilson Trent retire, but most folks seem to think it’ll be good to get in some new blood. Get it? Blood?” He gave a hearty chortle, causing his rotund chest to jiggle up and down.
Eli smiled at the friendly man. “It sounds like Grandfather’s been keeping everyone well-informed.”
“He sure has. Plus, the Plain Dealer wrote up that article ’bout you.”
“Yes, I heard that.”
The woman shifted her narrow frame and fingered one of her short, brown curls, but she kept her eyes focused on the counter. Beside her, the freckle-faced youngster poked his head around the back of her and met Elijah’s gaze. They stared at each other for all of three seconds, but when Eli smiled, the boy quickly looked forward again.
As the clerk resumed ringing up their order, Eli reached inside his hip pocket and grabbed the short list his grandfather had scrawled in his somewhat shaky handwriting. In Detroit, he’d taken most of his meals at the hospital. Helping his grandfather in the kitchen would be an entirely new experience. At least it would be only temporary, until Grandfather’s housekeeper of twenty-odd years, Winifred Carmichael, returned from her two-week vacation out West.
“You lookin’ for anythin’ in particular?” the clerk asked.
“Nothing I can’t find on my own, sir.”
“Pick up one o’ them baskets by the door for stashin’ what you need. Name’s Harold, by the way. Harold Murphy. I’ve owned this place goin’ on thirty years now.”
Eli bent to pick up a basket. He hadn’t thought to bring along a sack in which to carry the items home. The store he had occasioned in Detroit had offered brown paper bags, but the trend didn’t seem to have caught on in Wabash just yet. “Yes, I recall coming here with my grandmother as a kid.”
“And I remember you, as well, with that sandy hair o’ yours and that there dimple in your chin.”
“Is that so? You have a good memory, Mr. Murphy.”
A pleased expression settled on the clerk’s face. “You used to ogle my candy jars and tug at your grandmother’s arm. ’Course, she’d always give in. She couldn’t resist your pleadin’. Seems to me you always managed to wrangle some chewin’ gum out o’ her before I finished ringin’ her order.”
“It’s amazing you remember that.”
“Well, some things just stick in my memory for no particular reason.” He glanced across the counter at the freckle-faced boy. “Young Andy, here, he’s the Hershey’s chocolate bar type. Ain’t that right, Andy?”
The lad’s head jerked up, and he looked from Mr. Murphy to the woman beside him. “Yes, sir. C-c-can I g-get one today, Sofie?”
Her slender shoulders lifted and drooped with a labored sigh. “I suppose, but don’t expect any other treats today.”
“I won’t.”
The brief tête-à-tête allowed Eli the chance to disappear down an aisle in search of the first item on his list: sugar. He found it about the same time the screen door whined open once more, with the exit of the young woman and the boy. Next, Eli spotted the bread at the end of the aisle. He picked up a loaf and nestled it in the basket, next to the box of sugar.
“Well, I think it’s plain disgraceful, her coming into town and flaunting herself like that. My stars, has she not an ounce of decency? And what, pray tell, is she teaching that brother of hers by not keeping herself concealed?”
“I must agree, it’s quite appalling,” said another.
Eli’s ears perked up at the sound of female scoffs coming from the other side of the shelving unit at the back of the store. He stilled, slanted his head, and leaned forward. If he could push a few cans and boxed goods to the side without creating a commotion, he might manage a partial view of the gossips.
“I always did wonder about her and that pitiable little brother of hers, living all alone on the far edge of town. No telling what sort of man put her in a motherly way. Why, if I were in her place, I’d have gone off to stay with some relative in another state. One would think she’d have somewhere she could go. She could have birthed the child, given it to some worthy family, and come back to Wabash, and no one would’ve been the wiser.”
The other gossip cleared her throat. “Perchance her ‘lover’ won’t hear of her leaving, and she doesn’t dare defy him. She always did come off as rather defenseless, wouldn’t you say?” 
“Yes, yes, and very reclusive. Never was one to join any charity groups or ladies’ circles. Why, she doesn’t even attend church, to my knowledge. As I said before, the whole thing is disgraceful.”
Eli shuffled around the corner and stopped at the end of the next row, where he picked up a couple of cans of beans, even though they weren’t on Grandfather’s list, and dropped them into his basket with a clatter. The chattering twosome immediately fell silent. Eli cast a casual glance in their direction, and he almost laughed at their poses of feigned nonchalance. One was studying the label on a box, while the other merely stared at a lower shelf, her index finger pressed to her chin.
When Eli started down the aisle, both of them looked up, so he nodded. “Afternoon, ladies.”
The more buxom of the two batted her eyelashes and plumped her graying hair, then nearly blinded him with a fulsome smile. “Well, good afternoon to you.”  She put a hand to her throat. “My goodness. You’re Doc Trent’s grandson?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Well, I’ll be. I overheard you talking with Harold, but I didn’t lay eyes on you until now.” She perused him up and down. “You sure are a handsome devil.” 
“Oh, for mercy’s sake, Bessie, mind your manners.” The second woman bore a blush of embarrassment. “Don’t pay her any heed, Doctor. She’s such a tease.” She extended a hand. “I’m Clara Morris, the sheriff’s wife, and this is Bessie Lloyd. Her husband owns Lloyd’s Shoe Store, over on Market Street. Welcome to Wabash, Dr. Trent. We read about your impending arrival in the newspaper. I hope you find yourself feeling right at home here.”
“I’m sure I will.” Eli shifted his shopping basket and extended a hand first to Mrs. Morris, then to the annoying Mrs. Lloyd. He would have liked to remind them that two upstanding women in the community ought to put a lock on their lips, lest they tarnish their own reputations, but he hadn’t come to Wabash with the intention of making instant enemies, so he restrained himself. “Nice meeting you ladies. You have a good day, now.”
He glanced to his left and, seeing a shelf with maple syrup, snatched a can and tossed it into his basket. Casting the women one last smile, he headed down the aisle in search of the remaining items.
“My, my,” he heard Mrs. Lloyd mutter. “I think it may be time for me to switch physicians.” 
“But you’ve been seeing Dr. Stewart for years,” Mrs. Morris said. “What about your bad knee?”
“Pfff, never mind that. I’d much rather look into that young man’s blue eyes and handsome face than Dr. Stewart’s haggard mug. Why, if I were younger….”
Eli picked up his pace and made it out of earshot before she finished her statement.
Several minutes later, he’d rounded up everything on his list, so he made his way to the cash register. As he did, the voices of the two gabby women carried across the store. Evidently, they’d found a new topic of conversation. “I went to McNarney Brothers yesterday,” Mrs. Lloyd was saying, “and would you believe they raised the price of beef by five cents a pound? Don’t they know times are tight? Before you know it, folks won’t be able to afford to eat.”
“She could afford to go a few days without eatin’,” Harold Murphy muttered. His eyes never strayed from his task, as he keyed in the amount of each item before placing it back in the basket.
Eli covered his mouth with the back of his hand until his grin faded. He decided it was best to keep quiet on the matter. Something else bothered him, though, and he couldn’t resist inquiring. He leaned in, taking care to keep his voice down. “That girl…er, that woman, who left a bit ago, who is expecting….”
“Ah, Sofia Rogers? She was here with her little brother, Andy.” Mr. Murphy rang up the final item, the loaf of bread, and placed it gently atop the other goods. Then, he scratched the back of his head as his thin lips formed a frown. “It’s a shame, them two…well, them three, I guess you could say.” He glanced both ways, then lowered his head and whispered, “Don’t know who got her in that way, and I don’t rightly care. When she comes here, I just talk to her like nothin’s different. Figure it ain’t really my concern. I know there’s been talk about her bein’ loose, an’ all, but I can’t accept it. Never seen her with anybody but that little boy. She takes mighty fine care o’ him, too.”
“She’s his guardian, then?”
“Sure enough, ever since…oh, let’s see here…summer of twenty-four, it was. They lost their ma and pa in a terrible train wreck. They’d left Andy home with Sofie for a few days, whilst they went to a family funeral somewhere out West, little knowing their own funeral would be three days later.” The man shook his balding head.
The news got Eli’s gut to roiling. Even after all those years of medical school, which should have calloused him to pain and suffering, his heartstrings were wound as taut as ever. He needed to learn to toughen up. Needed to accept that, thanks to Adam and Eve’s fateful decision in the garden, bad things happened to innocent people; that he lived in an imperfect world in which evil often won.
“Where do they live, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Somewheres out on the southwest edge o’ town. River Road, I believe, just off o’ Mill Creek Pike.”
Eli didn’t know Wabash well, but his grandfather certainly did, having driven virtually every street within the town limits to make house calls. But what was he thinking? He ought to bop himself on the noggin. He knew next to nothing about this woman, and the last thing he needed upon taking over Wilson Trent’s medical practice was a reputation for sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.
Eli paid the shopkeeper and took up the basket. He had a good feeling about Harold Murphy. “Nice to see you again, sir. I’ll bring this basket back next time I come in…or shall I return it to you tonight?”
Harold flicked his wrist. “Naw, you bring it back whenever it’s convenient. You give ol’ Doc a hearty hello from me.”
“I’ll do that.” Eli turned and proceeded to the door, shoving it open with his shoulder. The first thing he noticed when he stepped outside was the absence of the two bikes, and it occurred to him then that Sofia and Andy Rogers had ridden to and from Murphy’s Market on those rickety contraptions. A woman in what looked to be her seventh month of pregnancy, riding a bike clear to the edge of town? In a dress? And in this heat?
This time, he did bop himself on the head.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Christmas at Holly Hill

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 (September 4, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martha Rogers’s novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional. Martha and her husband are active members of First Baptist Church.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Can Clayton Barlow prove he has changed his ways in time for Christmas?

It is October 1898, and Clayton Barlow has just returned home after serving time in prison for his part in a bank robbery. His family welcomes him, but the townspeople are skeptical. Bored with life in the small town but determined to make a new start, he goes to work with his father, hoping to regain the town’s trust.

Clayton recognizes the schoolteacher at the Prairie Grove School as his childhood friend, Merry Lee Warner, and old feelings surface. Still, he doubts that he could ever get a woman like Merry to love him.

As the townspeople prepare for Christmas, their suspicions about Clayton lead to trouble. Will the trusting heart of an unlikely new friend be enough to restore Clayton’s relationships with his neighbors and reunite him with God and Merry?



Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616388374
ISBN-13: 978-1616388379



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prairie Grove, Kansas, October 1898 

Home for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Clay’s heart pumped blood through his veins at a

frantic pace. After serving five years for his part in a bank robbery, he’d be home for his two favorite holidays. The question looming in his soul was whether he’d be welcomed by anyone other than his parents.

The train hissed and steamed its way into the station with a blast of the whistle as Clay peered through the window. When the cars came to a screeching stop, he remained in his seat, fear gripping his heart. The conductor stopped in the aisle.

“Son, this is your stop. Time to get off.”

Clay willed himself to stand and make his way down the aisle. No one would be here to greet him since no one knew he’d be on the train. He’d planned it all as a surprise, espe- cially for his mother. He stepped to the platform, gripping the handle of the small bag containing all his worldly possessions. Around him the trees wore their best fall colors in welcome, and as Clay made his way to the street in front of the depot, he drank in the sight he’d seen only in his dreams for the past five years.

The good citizens of Prairie Grove moved about on their way to one place or another, oblivious to his presence. The livery still stood close to the station with the post office nearby, and right next to it a new addition announced itself in gold letters. The telegraph office was now the Prairie Grove Telephone and Telegraph center. His hometown had grown more than he realized.

He spotted the hotel and the Red Garter Saloon a few blocks away, then he breathed deeply of the fresh smell of baking bread drifting from the bakery next to his father’s store. The green and yellow letters on the sign hanging in front welcomed customers to Barlow’s General Store, still the only mercantile in town. A slight breeze

sent the sign swinging with a creak he heard from his position near the depot. Dust whirls danced across the street where he’d once played with other boys his age.

By Christmas those streets would most likely be filled with snow, and snowball fights would be the game of the day at the school. His days at the red clapboard schoolhouse had been some of the happiest of life. He viewed the bell tower of the school at the end of the street and could almost hear the sound of it clanging in his memory.

Doubt lodged in Clay’s throat, but he kept walking to the store. When he stepped through the door, it could well have

been ten years ago when he helped Pa. He inhaled the familiar smells of coal oil, fresh ground coffee, fabric dye, and pepper- mint candy. Nothing had changed.

Then he spotted his ma. He observed her for a minute or two, savoring the sight of her graying hair and slight frame. She didn’t move as fast as she once had, and she stopped to catch her breath after placing some items on a shelf.

From the corner of his eye he saw his father coming from the storeroom. A good five inches shorter than Clay, Pa’s sturdy frame handled the box in his arms with ease. He turned to set the box on the counter, and Clay cringed the moment his father recognized him. The meeting he both dreaded and anticipated had come.

Pa didn’t move from behind the counter. He simply stared for what seemed an eternity but in reality amounted to only seconds. His words barely reached Clay’s ears. “Son, you’ve come home.”

At Clay’s nod his father stepped around the counter and called to Ma. “Cora, our boy is home.”

A can clattered to the floor, and his mother turned with hands to her mouth. She hurried toward him and hugged him. “Thank You, Lord, for bringing him home safe.” Tears glis- tened in her eyes. “I’ve waited and waited for this moment to come.” She reached up and placed her hands on each side of his face then kissed his cheeks.

Heat rose in his face, but Ma’s arms and kisses were the welcome he’d hoped for in the past few days of travel. His arms went around her thin frame. She’d lost a good deal of weight since the last time he’d seen her, and that bothered him more than his earlier observations.

He glanced up at his father. His graying hair had thinned some, and his eyes held both a welcome and uncertainty. Gaining Pa’s trust would take time.

His parents stood in front of him and shook their heads. Pa wrapped his arm around Ma. “We’ve waited a long time for this day. Thank God you made it home.”

Clay didn’t know what God had to do with anything, since it had been Pa who had turned Clay over to the authorities five years ago. The road back would be long and hard, but then that’s no more than he’d expected.

Ma grabbed his hands. “Are you planning on staying here in Prairie Grove with us? You’re not going to get mixed up with those . . . those . . . thieves again, are you?”

Before Clay could answer, Pa added his own sentiments. “If you do decide to stay, I expect you to stay away from them. If you don’t, you won’t be welcome here.”

Clay stiffened but kept his voice neutral. “I understand, Pa, but I’m not going to get mixed up with Karl’s gang again. I would like to stay as long as you’ll have me.”

Or until the townspeople ran him off. Two older women in the corner eyed him and whispered between themselves. The prodigal had returned, but not everyone welcomed him. He nodded to the ladies, who immediately turned their backs. So much for the town’s greeting.

“Of course we want you to live here with us,” Ma said, not even seeming to notice the ladies. “Now let’s go upstairs and get you settled in. I know you’re hungry. You always were, and I have supper almost ready.” She held onto his arm and led him to the stairway up to the living quarters above the store.

A voice calling his name stopped him at the bottom. He odded for his mother to go on up and turned to find an old riend, Jimmy Shanks, grinning from ear to ear. “It is you, Clay Barlow.” The blond-headed young man reached out to grasp Clay’s hand.

“Yeah, it’s me. I decided to come home, Jimmy.” He grasped the outstretched hand and blinked at the strength in the grasp.

“It’s James now, and I’m married to Grace Ann Higgins.” Clay had to chuckle at that revelation. Grace Ann had run

away from Jimmy every time he’d tried to get close.

“So, you finally got Grace Ann’s attention. I’m glad since you always liked her.”

“You’ll have to come out to the house for dinner some night so we can catch up on old times.”

“I’ll think on that, Jimmy . . . James.” Not much to catch up on from his side since he’d been behind prison bars for five years. “And you’d better check with Grace Ann. She might not cotton to having an ex-con at her dinner table.”

James blinked. “Don’t you worry none about that; we’ll always be friends.” He stepped back and picked up his pur- chase. “Had to pick up some coal oil. With the days getting shorter, we need more of it.”

Clay walked with him to the door and stepped outside with James, who shook Clay’s hand once again. “I’m so glad you’re home. This is one Christmas your parents will be glad to celebrate.” With a grin and a salute he stepped down to the street and mounted his horse. “See you around, Clay.”

If he’d stayed good friends with Jimmy instead of getting mixed up with Karl, things would have been much different. Still, the warm welcome from his old friend and the greeting from his parents lightened the load in Clay’s heart.

If Pa would have him, Clay wanted to work again in the tore. Being locked up with bad food, hard cots, little sunshine, and no privacy motivated him to stay out of trouble. He’d had a lot of time to think in prison, and one thing remained sure and steadfast. Clayton Barlow would not end up behind bars ever again.

Merry Warner stepped onto the boardwalk up the street from the school where she taught. The wonderful aroma of cin- namon stopped her in front of the bakery. Cinnamon buns for breakfast in the morning would make up for her being late this afternoon. She hurried up to the counter where Mr. Brooks placed fresh pies into the case. On second thought, two pecan pies for supper tonight would be even better.

She grinned at the baker, who reminded her of the pictures she’d seen of Santa Claus, right down to the white beard and rosy cheeks. “I’ll have two of those pecan pies. I’m sure Mama will appreciate them for supper tonight.”

“Good choice, Miss Warner. We had a good crop of pecans this year, so Mrs. Brooks is busy with recipes using the nuts.” Mr. Brooks placed each pie in a paper bag then tied the top closed with string. “There, that should make them easier to carry.”

She plunked several coins onto the counter and picked up her purchase. “I hope she makes some of that pumpkin bread for the holidays.”

Mr. Brooks laughed. “Oh, she will. I’m sure of that. You have a nice evening now, and tell your ma I said hello.”

Merry nodded and hurried out to be on her way. She

stopped short when she spotted a man standing in front of the eneral store next door. A gasp escaped her lips, and her heart skipped a beat. He looked just like Clay Barlow, but Clay was in prison. Surely she would have heard if he had come home.

He turned, and his gaze locked with hers. Recognition shot through her with streaks of delight that dissipated almost as soon as they began. No one but Clay had eyes so dark a brown that they penetrated to her very soul.

How could Clay be out of prison already? Then she counted and realized five years had indeed passed since he’d gone away. When Grandma Collins had said she needed Mama and Papa to come back and take care of the orphanage at Holly Hill, Merry’s heart had been torn apart. She loved Barton Creek and wanted to stay there, but the memory of her years in Prairie Grove beckoned for her to return. One of those memories included Clay Barlow and the schoolgirl crush she’d had on him before he got involved with Karl Laramie’s gang.

Shoving aside her misgivings, she gave in to her delight and ran up to hug Clay. “Clay Barlow, it’s been too many years.” Heat filled her face, and she jumped back. She was no longer a sixteen-year-old girl but a young woman who should practice better manners befitting her age.

Clay’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “Merry?”

“Yes. We moved  back to Holly Hill last summer after Grandpa died. I’m so glad you’re home.”

“I’m glad to be here too.” He stepped back. “It . . . it’s nice to see you. I . . . I . . . ” His voice trailed off, and he glanced over her shoulder. Without another word he bolted through the door to the store.

Merry stood with her mouth agape. How rude. Then she urned and saw three women staring at her with disapproval written all over them. Mrs. Pennyfeather, wife of the school superintendent, shook her head and frowned.

Heat rose in Merry’s face again. They’d seen her greeting Clay. No sense in trying to apologize. Mrs. Pennyfeather wouldn’t listen anyway. Merry gathered up her pies and fled up the hill toward Holly Hill Home for Children. Along the way her thoughts whirled. She had never expected to see Clay again, figuring that he’d be too ashamed to come back to his hometown. What could his return mean?

She burst through the door then closed it and braced her- self against the smooth wood. Her heart pounded not only from the long walk but also from seeing Clay again.

Imogene and Eileen raced over to grab her around the waist. The blonde-haired ten-year-old-twins wore matching blue-and-white striped dresses with white pinafores over them.

Eileen eyed the bags in Merry’s hands. “You went by the bakery. What did you bring?” She reached for one of the bags.

Merry held it high. “Not until after supper. Then we’ll have pecan pie.”

Imogene jumped up and down, her pigtails bouncing on her shoulders. “That’s my favorite. Oh, I love you, Merry.” The young girl wrapped her arms about Merry’s waist again.

Emmaline appeared with a stack of silverware in  her hands. “It’s about time you got here. Mama Warner could use your help.”

Merry set the pie bags on a table near the door and unwound Imogene’s arms. “I’m sorry I’m late. I stayed at the school to prepare the lessons for tomorrow. Did you know we have ten different varieties of trees around our school building?”

Emmaline shook her head. “No, and I don’t care right now. Are you going to help me or not?”

“Yes, I’m on my way.” Merry removed her shawl and bonnet then hung them on a hook by the door in the entry hall. She picked up the pies and made her way to the kitchen. Emmaline plunked the silverware onto the table behind Merry. At thir- teen Emmaline had begun to rebel against doing so many chores around the home, but Mama could usually get her to cooperate.

Merry sighed and pushed open the swinging door into the kitchen. She kissed her mother’s plump cheek. “Sorry I’m late. I got detained at school.”

Mama ladled stew into bowls and set them on a tray. “I figured as much. Check the cornbread for me. Supper’s about ready.”

Grandma Collins opened up the bakery sacks. “Pecan pie—now that’s going to make for a good dessert. Thank you, Merry.”

“I figured since I was so late coming home, I might as well contribute something to the meal.” Merry opened the oven door and removed two pans of cornbread. She set them on the counter and reached up to the shelf to grab a plate for serving it. She turned one pan onto the counter then cut it into squares and arranged them on the plate.

“Mama, did you know Clay Barlow came home?”

The ladle stopped, dripping stew back into the pot. Mama stood still for a few seconds, as did Grandma. “No, I didn’t. Has it been five years already?” She shook her head. “Such promise that boy had before he got into so much trouble. Where did you see him?”

“Outside the store. I’m . . . I’m afraid I made a spectacle of myself. I ran up and hugged him because I was so glad to see him back. The problem is, Mrs. Pennyfeather and her friends saw the whole thing. They weren’t too happy about it either.”

Mama laid the spoon aside and reached over to pat Merry’s shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll get over it. How did he seem?”

“I don’t know. Embarrassed to see me, I guess. He didn’t say much.”

Mama nodded sagely. “It’s been seven years since we moved away from Holly Hill and went to Barton Creek. You were only sixteen when you thought you were so in love with him. Being in prison changes a man, so he won’t be that same boy you liked so much back then.”

“I know, Mama. It just seems strange that he would be released and come home not long after we moved back home.” Grandma shook her head. “I don’t know what

happened to that boy. I always liked him. Maybe he’s learned his lesson and will make something of himself yet.”

Papa chose that minute to swing open the back door and enter the kitchen with Henry and Kenny. The boys’ arms were filled with logs for the fire. Papa planted a kiss on Mama’s fore- head then motioned to the boys, who had unloaded their wood into the bin near the stove. “Let’s get washed up and have some of Mama’s stew.”

Merry finished piling the cornbread onto a plate and headed to the dining room with it. More talk with Mama and Grandma about Clay would have to wait until they were alone.

She settled in for dinner with her family. Although none of the children were actually her brothers or sisters, every one of them held that place in her heart after the few months she’d been back here with them. Emmaline and Henry had lived at the orphanage the longest, with Kenny and Robert next, but those two had been babies when her family had left. The rest were new to her, but she’d grown to love them quickly. Each one had their own tale of tragedy and loss.

Papa stood behind his chair and bowed his head to ask the blessing on the meal. Papa never varied his blessing, using the one his pa had taught him growing up. Merry only half listened to the familiar words until Papa took a new turn. “And Father, we ask thy blessings on young Clay Barlow. Guide him on the right path now that he’s served his time and come home. May we act and think kindly toward him. Amen.”

Merry swallowed hard and blinked her eyes. She lifted her gaze to her father’s and saw understanding in their blue depths. Around her the others clamored to know who Clay was and why Papa prayed for him. She bit her lip and bowed her head. No man or boy had claimed her heart like Clay. From the encounter this afternoon, she realized he still pos- sessed a piece of it, and she had no idea what to do with that revelation.
Now for my review:
Christmas  at Holly Hill
by Martha Rogers

I liked reading this book! There was plenty of adventure, accusations and misunderstanding. I think many people (I know I can) relate to being misunderstood. Another aspect of the story that impressed me was the willingness to help those in need. It is so easy to be caught up in our own lives and not see the needs of those around us.  I liked the fact that she wove characters from her earlier books into the story so you could learn more about your friends. I look forward to reading more books by this author.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

River of Mercy

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:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


 BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


In this third book in the Riverhaven Years trilogy young Gideon Kanagy faces a challenge and an unexpected romance. Meanwhile, Gideon’s sister, Rachel, and the "outsider" Jeremiah Gant add to the drama with their own dilemma and its repercussions for the entire Riverhaven community.




Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736924205
ISBN-13: 978-0736924207



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


 Prologue 

Too Many Long Nights

I feel like one who treads alone
Some banquet hall, deserted.

Thomas Moore

Amish settlement near Riverhaven, Ohio

November 1856

Rachel Brenneman had always liked to walk by the river at twilight.

There had been a time during the People’s early years at Riverhaven when she gave no thought to walking alone, day or night. After she and Eli were married, the two of them liked to stroll along the bank of the Ohio in the evening, discussing their day, planning the workweek, dreaming of the future. After Eli’s death, however, Rachel no longer went out alone after dark, although sometimes she and her ten-year-old sister, Fannie, took a picnic lunch in the early afternoon and sat watching the fine big boats and smaller vessels that traveled the great Ohio to unknown places.

Now though, venturing away from the community no longer felt safe, even in the middle of the day. In truth, there was nowhere that felt safe, not after the deadly attack on Phoebe Esch and the other troubles recently visited upon the People. At night, especially, Rachel stayed inside, sitting alone in her bedroom with the window scarcely open in deference to the weather, which had recently turned cold.

November was a lonely month. Rachel still loved to listen to the river from insider her home, but the nighttime sounds—the distant lapping of the water, the blast from a boat’s horn, the night creatures in communion with one another—never failed to set off a stirring of remembrance and an ache in her heart. Yet she couldn’t resist sitting there night after night, watching and listening, trying not to let her memories struggle to the surface of her thoughts, trying not to let new hope ignite the ashes of her dreams…

Trying not to think of Jeremiah.

But how could she not think of him? How did a woman love a man, even if their love was forbidden, and not see his face in her mind or hear his voice in her ear or remember the imprint of his smile upon her thoughts?

Common sense seemed to tell her it should be easy to put the man out of her head. They couldn’t be alone with each other. They couldn’t even pass the time of day unless they were in the company of others. If they happened to meet by accident, they were expected to separate as quickly as possible.

Yet even with all the rules and restrictions that kept them apart, Jeremiah Gant was still a part of her life. He flowed through her heart and traced the current of her days as surely and completely as the Ohio flowed through the valley, winding its way through the land, coursing through the days and lives of Rachel and the other Plain people.

Lately, there had been talk of leaving. Two years and more of unrest and harassment and threats— even death—had begun to wear on the Riverhaven Amish. It was rumored that talks were taking place among the church leaders, discussions of whether to remain in this once-peaceful valley that had become home to the entire community or to consider moving on.

There was no thought of fighting back, of seeking out the unknown adversaries and taking a stand against them. Even if the People could identify their tormenters, they would not confront them. The Amish were a people of nonresistance. They would not fight, not even to protect their own lives. It wasn’t their way. To strike out at another individual under any circumstances was strictly against the Ordnung, the unwritten but strict code that guided how they were to live.

The only person Rachel had ever known to defy the rule against fighting, even in self-defense, was Eli, her deceased husband. He’d gone against the Amish way when he defended Rachel against those who ambushed them on another November night, now four years gone. He had fought with desperation and all his strength, only to die at the hands of their attackers while allowing Rachel to escape.

She knew it was a grievous sin to have such a thought, but many had been the time she wished she could have died alongside Eli that terrible night rather than live through the grief-hollowed, barren days that followed his death. She had been totally devoted to Eli. Their marriage had been good, for they had been close friends as well as husband and wife. Rachel had thought she could never love another man after losing Eli.

And then Jeremiah Gant had come to Riverhaven, turning her life around, enabling her to love again— only to have that love forbidden. Even though Jeremiah had made it known he would willingly convert to the Amish faith, Bishop Graber refused to grant permission, once again leaving Rachel with a lost love and a broken heart.

Perhaps it would be better if they were to leave Riverhaven…leave the fear and the dread and the pain-filled memories behind.

Leave Jeremiah…

The thought stabbed her heart. Could she really face never seeing him again? Never again hear him say her name in that soft and special way he had of making it as tender as a touch? Never again see the smile that was meant for her alone?

In truth, it wasn’t only Jeremiah she would miss if they were to leave this fertile Ohio valley. She loved the land, the gentle hills, the singing river. She had come here when she was still a child, come from another place that had never truly been home to her. Here in Riverhaven though, she had felt welcome and accepted. At peace. At home.

At least for a time. It was almost as if she had become a part of the land itself. Even the thought of leaving made her sad beyond telling.

She sighed, knowing she should stir and make ready for bed, even though she felt far too restless for sleep. Would this be another of too many nights when her thoughts tormented her, circling like birds of prey, evoking an uneasiness and anxiety that would give her no peace?

Finally she stood, securing the window to ward off the cold, even though she sensed that the chill snaking through her had little to do with the night air. All too familiar with this icy wind of loneliness, she knew there was no warmth that could ease its punishing sting.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life With Lily

Win a Kindle Fire or Nook HD & RSVP for “Life with Lily” Author Chat Party {10/16} “Based upon Kinsinger’s own childhood, it’s reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie books.” —Romantic Times

Celebrate with Suzanne and Mary Ann by entering their contest and RSVPing to the “Life with Lily” Facebook Author Chat Party on 10/16!

Two fortunate winners will receive:
  • Either the new Kindle Fire or new Nook HD
  • Signed copy of Life with Lily for you and a young reader in your life.  
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 15th. Winner will be announced at the Life with Lily Author Chat Facebook Party on 10/16. Connect with authors Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger for an evening of book chat, Q&A about Mary Ann’s Amish childhood, trivia, and fun! There will also be gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of Life with Lily and join Suzanne and Mary Ann on the evening of the October 16th for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 16th!


My Review:
Life With Lily
Such a sweet book!
Reading this brought back memories from my childhood, especially the time she spends with her mother.
This book shows the children's side of day to day Amish life. Very descriptive, I especially enjoyed the cheese making day!
The illustrations are very nice.
I would like to read about more of Lily's adventures!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where Love Grows

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:

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


In Jerry Eicher’s conclusion to his popular Fields of Home trilogy, readers will be delighted to attend the wedding of Teresa, the young Englisha girl who has come home with Susan Hostetler to learn the ways of the Amish---and in fact to become Amish herself.



Product Details:
List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736939458
ISBN-13: 978-0736939454



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Susan Hostetler made her way to the barn to hitch the horse for the drive to the small farmstead where James and Teresa would live after their wedding next week. Susan smiled as she thought of Deacon Ray’s struggle to get used to the idea that his son James was marrying an Englisha girl. Nee, it had not been easy for him. Of course, Teresa was Amish now. In the months since she had arrived with Susan, Teresa had turned into a model of submission and humility. Deacon Ray shouldn’t complain even if Teresa’s baby, Samuel, had been born out of wedlock before she came to the community. Yah, in an unwed state, but wasn’t changing one’s life for the better a commendable thing to do? Of course it was.

And Teresa was now properly baptized. She knew how to cook, wash clothes, and sew with the best of the women. She even had her own quilt completed and stashed in the cedar chest upstairs awaiting the day she and James would marry. She would spread the quilt on their bed and be able to say with complete honesty that she had done much of the work. There had been help from Mamm, five of Susan’s eight sisters who lived nearby, and Susan herself. Between the work on the quilt, helping Teresa adapt to her new life, and now the plans for the upcoming wedding, the months had sped by.

Summer was waning, and it wouldn’t be long until snow would be covering the Amish farms spread among these rolling hills of southern Indiana. But now was not the time to think of snow. The rest of summer lay ahead, followed by fall, and perhaps a glorious display of Indian summer. How appropriate that would be for all of them. And Teresa deserved a wonderful stretch of gut weather, both before and following her wedding day. It would be fitting after the hard road she’d traveled after arriving in the Amish community.

Mamm hadn’t seemed worried back then by the attempt to match Yost Byler and Teresa. But Susan had been ready to panic before Yost finally decided, with Susan’s daett’s help, that marrying Teresa wasn’t a gut idea. Such a marriage would have been a disaster for Teresa and probably also for Yost. Yah, he needed a wife who had been born Amish to cook and clean for him. The gut news floating around the community was that Yost may have finally found an older widow as a potential frau.

Only a few days remained until Teresa’s wedding to James. It would take place here on the Hostetler home place, just like Daett had provided for all Susan’s sisters. How could things be more awesome than that?

Perhaps the icing on the cake was the love that was now beginning to stir afresh in Susan’s heart for her old flame, Thomas Stoll. Who could have imagined such a thing? Yah, she had loved Thomas since their school days, but that love came to a halt the day she caught Thomas kissing Eunice outside a hymn singing one Sunday night. Thomas had claimed he’d just had a “weak moment.”

After escaping into the Englisha world for a time, Susan was back now. And despite all the fuss, she and Thomas were getting together again. Of course, it hadn’t hurt that Teresa had encouraged her to restore the relationship after Thomas’s repeated apologies and continued attention. Mamm and Daett also gave their encouragement at every opportunity. But it was Teresa’s opinion that had carried the real weight. How strange that an Englisha girl should have such sway in her life. But that was how things had turned out. Teresa was now the friend closest to Susan’s heart.

Since Susan had returned from her flirtation with the Englisha world in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Thomas was the picture of repentance. Had he wanted to, he could be married to Eunice by now—or to just about any other young woman in the community. But Thomas hadn’t pursued anyone but Susan in the months since her return. The result was that Susan felt some trust returning in her heart for him. Perhaps someday soon her heart would be fully restored.

In the meantime, there was no need to rush into setting a wedding date, even with Thomas’s pleadings that they do. Yah, he loved Susan and wanted to marry her, but he also wanted to begin the work of taking over the farm from Susan’s daett. In fact, he wanted it very badly. Thomas had no background in farming since his daett was a cabinetmaker, but he was anxious to learn.

Mamm and Daett were older now and tired. They both yearned for the comfort of the dawdy haus, which would be built as soon as the matter between Thomas and Susan was settled by marriage. Until then, Daett had hired young Steve Mast to help with the farm. He’d started in the spring and was a hard worker—no doubt due to his being raised on an Amish farm over in Daviess County. During the days he worked Daett’s farm, Steve took his supper and lodging at Susan’s sister’s place. Ada and her husband, Reuben, lived just down the road a piece.

Steve was a rare find, Daett said. A real answer to their prayers. Not many Amish men were available for hiring out once they became of age at twenty-one. Either they were married, were planning to get married, or had work on their own family places.

Steve didn’t have work on his daett’s place, neither did he have a girlfriend or a prospect that anyone knew of. He was the second boy in a family of ten—six of them being boys. He wasn’t that handsome or forward about himself, a good quality for an Amish man.

Susan stopped just short of the barn and looked up at the swaying branches of the old oak where she’d once had a swing and had climbed to its highest limbs. She sighed to think she was too old for that now. But at least she was here. She was home, hopefully to stay.

It was here she had played in the front yard with her cousins and older sisters during many a summer. Here she had watched Daett harness the horses in the first light of dawn. Here she had watched him take the teams to the fields, where his tall form moved in and out of view all day. Here her heart had taken deep enough root that she was pulled back after her time in Asbury Park. Susan sighed again. Was this why she was giving in to Thomas? Was this why she was allowing him to bring her home on Sunday nights again? Was she accepting his attentions although still feeling a little uncertain about their future?

No, it was more than that. It was high time she made up her mind and settled down with a husband. Steve couldn’t work for Daett forever. And Daett was getting up in years. He and Mamm deserved to move into a dawdy haus and not work so hard. Was that how her love for Thomas would grow? Her desire to stay here in her childhood home, Thomas’s desire to farm, and Mamm and Daett’s desire to settle in a dawdy haus?

It was possible, Susan supposed. Hadn’t Mamm said love could grow anywhere? Anywhere it was allowed to, that is. Then Susan would allow it for everyone’s sake. If love came slowly for her, then so be it. She and Thomas would have a lifetime for her love to grow stronger. That it was beginning small and uncertain for her would be her secret.

As Susan reached to open the barn door, a man cleared his throat behind her. Susan jumped and whirled around.

“Umm…I have the horse ready,” Steve said. “He’s tied up in the first stall.”

Susan relaxed. “You didn’t have to do that, Steve. I would have done it.”

A hint of a smile crossed Steve’s face. “It was no trouble. Happy to do it.” He looked up at the clear sky. “It’s sure a beautiful morning.”

“Yah, it is,” Susan answered. “Well, thanks for getting Toby ready. I wasn’t expecting that. I know you’re busy with the usual chores Daett gives you.”

“Your daett is a gut man and a gut farmer.” Steve tugged the hat rim down over his eyes more. “He’s done a gut job keeping things up on the farm, even with his age.” With that, he turned to go.

Without thinking, Susan asked, “Do you have any secrets, Steve?”

He stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “Me? Secrets? I’m a pretty ordinary fellow. No secrets.”

“Really? I thought everyone had secrets.”

“Not me. I’m pretty much what you see. No secrets and no roots. I’m kind of like the dandelions in the field. I grow where Da Hah blows me.”

“So why don’t you have a girl?”

His eyes twinkled. “Maybe I haven’t found the perfect one yet.”

“Is that why you moved to a new community? To…”

“Scout the land?” He finished her sentence. “Perhaps. Do you have anyone in mind?”

“Nee,” Susan said. “And I don’t know why I even asked something like that. Maybe it’s that type of morning.”

He smiled. “I’m afraid you’ll have to look someplace other than myself for secrets. And no offense taken.”

“Thank you,” she said. “What do you think of Teresa and James?”

He raised his eyebrows. “They seem like a nice enough couple. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason,” she said. “I suppose you heard about all the ruckus before they got together.”

Steve shrugged. “I don’t pay much attention to rumors. They look like they’re in love with each other. That should be gut enough for anyone.”

“I want nothing more from life,” she said, “than to settle down to a boring sameness, day after day, night after night, living in peace and love. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I’m not much into boring. I’m surprised you are. I heard you’d been with the Englisha for a while. That’s not something a person does who’s looking for boring.”

“So now you’re paying attention to rumors?”

Steve laughed. “I didn’t really hear that much. People seem to think highly of you. And I’m sure your mamm and daett will be happy if you plan to stay. And Thomas, of course.”

“What do you think of him?”

“Thomas?” He paused for a moment. “You want me to comment on your boyfriend?”

“Yah, I’m asking you. Coming from another community, you might have an unbiased perspective.”

“What if I don’t like him? Can I continue working here?”

She laughed. “I’m not going to chase you off.”

“Well…”

“Come on now. Tell me the truth.”

Steve tilted his head sideways. “Thomas comes from a good family, as far as I can tell. Of course, I don’t know what secrets lie in his past. Maybe he ran off to the Englisha world for a while too. You know, something wild like that.” His eyes twinkled as he spoke the last line.

“So you think that’s a character flaw? You keep bringing it up.”

“Depends on why a person did it, I guess.”

“Let’s just say I had my reasons.”

“Fair enough,” he said.

They stood silent for a moment.

Susan finally said, “Well, I better get busy or Teresa will wonder what’s happened to me.”

“And I better get busy in the fields before your daett thinks I’ve gone lazy on him.” He turned and left.

Susan went into the barn thinking about the exchange. Steve hadn’t given away much about his past. Not that it was any of her business. But a person just couldn’t help wondering. Had some girl dumped him? He’d probably had his heart broken, and the wound was healing slowly and out of sight of the people who knew him.

She’d done much the same thing by moving to Asbury Park. True, it had been time spent among the Englisha. But Da Hah had brought good things out of the experience. That time of her life was nothing to be ashamed of.

Susan untied Toby and led him outside. Lifting the shafts of the buggy, she swung him underneath and fastened the tugs. Holding the bridle, Susan looked toward the house and waited. There was still no sign of Teresa.

Thoughts of last Sunday night buzzed through Susan’s head. Thomas hadn’t tried to kiss her yet. In a way she wished he would. It might hurry things along. But apparently Thomas wasn’t willing to rush things until she agreed to a wedding date. To his credit, he seemed to ignore the fact that Eunice still made eyes at him almost every Sunday night at the hymn singings. Mamm was right though. Susan needed to trust Thomas and believe he wouldn’t fall again just because Eunice batted her eyes at him. After all, Thomas claimed Eunice acted that way toward all the boys, which was partly true. To his credit, Thomas really didn’t want Eunice. He was choosing her—Susan. That was worth something, wasn’t it? Surely his persistence would arouse some of the old feelings she used to have for him.

And now here came Teresa, running across the yard, her face glowing with happiness. At least somebody had things figured out in this world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Over The Edge

Win a Nook Color from Mary Connealy in Over the Edge Giveaway. RSVP for 8/29 Facebook Party. Celebrate with Mary by entering to win a Nook Color with GlowLight! See what folks are saying about Over the Edge!
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Now for my review:
Over the Edge
By Mary Connealy
The conclusion to the Kinkade Brides Trilogy.

One day….one cave….three teen brothers….one devastating event, and the lasting consequences that shape their lives and those around them.

I enjoyed reading this book, the adventure presented was very easy to imagine. I feel I know these characters. The author has a great way of presenting the characters, so that you know how and why they feel and act as they do.

I appreciate the way she drew the story to a conclusion that shows God’s work in their lives.

I am very interested in reading more from this author, I hope she gives us more adventures with these characters.

I would like to thank the publisher for my copy of this book. I was not under obligation to present a favorable review. But I did enjoy the story and am pleased to recommend it.