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Friday, February 24, 2012


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; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Cheryl Moeller is a seasoned mother and a standup comic. She is also a syndicated columnist with her own blog ( and contributes monthly to several online parent websites. Cheryl has coauthored two books on marriage with her husband and has written for and Marriage Partnership. Cheryl does comedy for parenting classes, MOPS groups, wedding or baby showers, church retreats, women’s conferences, and those in line at the grocery store.

Visit the author's website.


From the celebrated coauthor of The Marriage Miracle comes a new kind of cookbook and a new attitude toward planning meals. With an eye toward the whole menu, not just part of it, columnist Cheryl Moeller teaches cooks to use two crockpots to easily create healthy, homemade dinners.

Don’t worry about your dinner being reduced to a mushy stew. Each of the more than 200 recipes has been taste-tested at Cheryl’s table. Join the Moeller family as you dig into:

  • Harvest-time Halibut Chowder

  • Salmon and Gingered Carrots

  • Mediterranean Rice Pilaf

  • Indian Chicken Curry

  • Apricot-Pistachio Bread

  • Shrimp Creole

  • Rhubarb Crisp

... and many more! Perfect for the frazzled mom who never has enough time in the day, Creative Slow-Cooker Meals gives readers more time around the table with delicious, healthy, frugal, and easy meals!

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Spiral-bound: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944915

ISBN-13: 978-0736944915

AND NOW...THE FIFTH CHAPTER (click on pages to enlarge):

This is a great cookbook! Well organized with delicious sounding recipes!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wings of the Morning

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 (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Murray Pura earned his Master of Divinity degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and his ThM degree in theology and interdisciplinary studies from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more than twenty-five years, in addition to his writing, he has pastored churches in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta. Murray’s writings have been shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award, the John Spencer Hill Literary Award, the Paraclete Fiction Award, and Toronto's Kobzar Literary Award. Murray pastors and writes in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife Linda have a son and a daughter.  

Visit the author's website.


Lovers of Amish fiction will quickly sign on as fans of award-winning author Murray Pura as they keep turning the pages of this exciting new historical romance set in 1917 during America’s participation in World War I.

Jude Whetstone and Lyyndaya Kurtz, whose families are converts to the Amish faith, are slowly falling in love. Jude has also fallen in love with flying that new-fangled invention, the aeroplane.

The Amish communities have rejected the telephone and have forbidden motorcar ownership but not yet electricity or aeroplanes.

Though exempt from military service on religious grounds, Jude is manipulated by unscrupulous army officers into enlisting in order to protect several Amish men. No one in the community understands Jude’s sudden enlistment and so he is shunned. Lyyndaya’s despair deepens at the reports that Jude has been shot down in France. In her grief, she turns to nursing Spanish flu victims in Philadelphia. After many months of caring for stricken soldiers, Lyyndaya is stunned when an emaciated Jude turns up in her ward.

Lyyndaya’s joy at receiving Jude back from the dead is quickly diminished when the Amish leadership insist the shunning remain in force. How then can they marry without the blessing of their families? Will happiness elude them forever?

Welcome a powerful new voice to the world of Amish fiction!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736948775

ISBN-13: 978-0736948777


Lyyndaya Kurtz straightened her back and looked up at the blue  and bronze evening sky. It was that strange sound again, like a large swarm of bees at their hive, and it grew louder and louder. She leaned the hoe against the picket fence her father had built around the garden. Her mother, whose hearing was no longer very good, continued to chop at weeds between the rows of radishes and lettuce. She glanced at her daughter as Lyyndaya shielded her eyes from the slowly setting sun.

  Was ist los?” she asked, using Pennsylvania Dutch.

  “Can’t you hear them, Mama?” Lyyndaya responded. “There are aeroplanes coming.”

  Her mother stood up, still holding the hoe in her brown hands, and squinted at the sun and sky. “I don’t see anything. Is it a small one?”

  “No, it’s too loud for just one aeroplane. Do you see, Mama?” Lyyndaya pointed. “Coming out of the west. Coming out of the sun.”

  Now her mother shielded her eyes. “All I am seeing is spots in front of my eyes from looking into the light.”

  “Look higher. There are—three, four, six—there are half a dozen of them.”

  The planes were not that far from the ground, Lyyndaya thought, only a thousand feet, not much more. Each with two wings, the top wing longer than the bottom one, each plane painted a yellow that gleamed in the sunlight. As she watched, one of them broke away from the others and dropped toward them. It came so low that the roar of the engine filled the air and children ran from their houses and yards into the dirt road and the hay fields. They were soon followed by their mothers and fathers and older brothers and sisters.

  Lyyndaya laughed as the plane flew over their house. A hand waved at her from the plane’s open cockpit and she waved back with all her might. “Can you see the plane now, Mama?” she teased.

  Her mother had crouched among the heads of lettuce as the plane flashed past. “Ach,” she exclaimed with a cross look on her face, “this must be your crazy boy, Jude Whetstone.”

  “He’s coming back!”

  The plane had banked to the left over Jacob Miller’s wheat field and was heading back over the farmhouses while the other five planes carried on to the east. Its yellow wings dipped lower and lower. Lyyndaya’s green eyes widened.

  “He’s going to land in Papa’s field!” she cried. “Where the hay was cut on Monday!”

  She lifted the hem of her dress in both hands and began to run. The black kaap that covered her hair at the back, left untied, flew off her head.

  “Lyyndaya! This is not seemly!” her mother called after her.

  But the young woman had reached the old gray fence around the hay field, gathered the bottom of her navy blue dress in one hand, and climbed over, and with strands of sand-colored hair unraveling from their pins, she was racing over the stubble to where the plane’s wheels were just touching the earth. Others were running toward the plane from all directions, jumping the fence if they were spry enough, opening the gate to the field if they were not.

  The aeroplane came to a stop in the middle of the field and when the propeller stopped spinning a young man in a brown leather jacket and helmet pushed his goggles from his eyes and jumped from the cockpit to the ground. He was immediately surrounded by the several boys and girls who had outrun the adults in their rush toward the craft. He mussed the hair of two of the boys who came up to him and tugged the pigtail of a red-headed girl.

  “Jude!” Lyyndaya exclaimed as she ran up to him, the tan on her face flushed. “What are you doing here?”

  “Hello, Lyyndy,” the young man smiled, lifting one of the boys up on his shoulders. “The whole flying club went up and I convinced them to come this way to Paradise. I wanted to see you.”

  “To see me? You fly a plane from Philadelphia just to see me?”

  “Why not?”

  “But you were coming back on the train in a few days.”

  “A few days. I couldn’t wait that long.”

  Lyyndaya could feel the heat in her face as neighbors looked on. She saw one or two frown, but most of the men and women smiled. A very tall man in a maroon shirt wearing a straw hat laughed. She dropped her eyes.

  “Bishop Zook,” she murmured, “how are you?”

  Gute, gute,” he responded. “Well, Jude, what is all this? Why has a pigeon dropped out of the sky?”

  Bishop Zook was not only tall, at least six-foot-nine, but broad-shouldered and strong. He shook Jude’s hand with a grip like rock. The young man pulled his leather helmet off his head so that his dark brown hair tumbled loose. Lyyndaya fought down an overwhelming urge to take Jude and hug him as she had done so many times when they were nine and ten.

  “I wanted the children to see the plane, Bishop Zook,” said Jude.

  “Only the children?”

  “Well—” Jude stumbled. “I thought perhaps—I might ask Miss Kurtz—”

  “Ah,” smiled the bishop. “You want to take her up, as you flying men say?”

  “I thought—”

  “Are you two courting?”


  “You remember what is courting, my boy—you have not been among the English in Philadelphia that long, eh?”

  Everyone laughed, and Lyyndaya thought the heat in her face and hands would make her hair and skin catch on fire.

  Bishop Zook put an arm like a plank around Jude’s slender shoulders. “You know when there is the courting here, we let the boy take the girl home in the buggy after the Sunday singing. You remember that much after a week away?”


  “So your horse and buggy are where?” the bishop said.

  Jude continued to hunt desperately for his words. “In the barn, but I wanted—” He stopped, his tongue failing him as the whole colony stood watching and listening.

  The bishop waited a moment and then walked over and touched the top wing of the plane. He ran his hand over the coated fabric and nodded. “A beautiful buggy. Pulled by horses with wings, eh? How many, Master Whetstone?”

  Jude was trying not to look at Lyyndaya for help, but did anyway, and she was making sure she did not look at him or offer any by keeping her eyes on the stubble directly in front of the toes of her boots.

  “There are—” Jude stepped away from the crowd pressing in on him and Lyyndaya and turned around to look at the plane behind him as if he were seeing it for the first time—“there are—” He stood utterly still and stared at the engine as if it did not belong there. Then he looked at Bishop Zook’s thick black beard and broad face. “Ninety. Ninety horses.”

  The bishop nodded again and kept running his hand over the wing. “More than enough. There is the problem however—if God had meant us to fly, Master Whetstone, wouldn’t he have given us wings, hm?”

  He took his hand from the plane and looked at Jude directly. Several of the men and women murmured their agreement with the bishop’s question and nodded their heads. Most remained silent, waiting for Jude’s answer. Jude stared at the bishop, trying to gauge the look in the tall man’s blue eyes. He thought he saw a flash of humor so he went ahead with the answer he had used a hundred times in their own Amish colony as well as in dozens of the ones around it.

  “Bishop Zook,” he responded, “if God had meant us to ride a buggy he would have given us wheels and four legs.”

  “Ah ha!” shouted the bishop, slapping his huge hand against his leg and making most of the people jump, including Lyyndaya. “You have it, Master Whetstone, you have it.” He clapped his hands lightly in appreciation and a smattering of relieved laughter came from the small crowd. “So now take me up.”


  “As bishop, I must make sure it is safe for Miss Kurtz, ja? After all, who has ever had such a horse and buggy in our colony, eh?” He gave his hat to one of the men and climbed into the front of the two cockpits.

  “I only have a little time before I must head back to Philadelphia—” Jude began, again glancing at Lyyndaya for help, who had gone so far as to raise her gaze to stare fixedly at the bishop and the plane, but still refused to make eye contact with the young man.

  “Five minutes,” said the bishop with a gleam in his eye. “That is all I ask. I am not the one you are courting, eh?”

  The people laughed again. The thought passed through Jude’s head that the bishop was enjoying a lot of laughter at his expense. Then he shrugged and climbed into the rear cockpit. He saw his father in the crowd and gestured with his hand.

  “Papa, will you give the propeller a turn?” he asked.

  “Of course, my boy.”

  As Jude’s father, a tall, slender man with a short beard and warm brown eyes, walked toward the plane, Bishop Zook leaned his head back and asked, “Now, before the engine noise, tell me, what is the name of this aeroplane and where do they make such things?”

  Jude handed the bishop a leather helmet and goggles. “It’s a Curtiss JN-4, the Jenny, and they’re usually made in Buffalo, New York. But our flying club outside of Philadelphia was able to purchase these at a very good price from our Canadian friends just across the border. They are built there by Curtiss’s Canadian associate, the Canadian Aeroplane Company, so we call them the Canuck.”

  “But they are the same as the New York ones?”

  “Almost. They have one great advantage. I use a stick, a joystick, to control the aeroplane in these. The old American ones have a wheel that is not as good.”

  “Why don’t we put the stick in ours then?”

  “We will. The next model has the stick, the JN-4D. But they have only brought it out this month. There are not enough of them. Besides, it’s 1917 and they are all going to the army. Civilian clubs will not be able to purchase them while the war is on.”

  Jude’s father, in his brown summer shirt and straw hat, was standing in front of the plane and smiling. Jude played with a switch on the control panel in his cockpit. Then he pulled down his goggles and smiled back at his father and made a circle in the air with his hand. His father nodded, put both hands on the top blade of the wooden propeller, and swung it downward. The engine coughed twice and roared. His father’s hat went spinning into the sky with the prop wash.

  “Contact,” Jude said loudly. “Please buckle on your harness, Bishop Zook.”

  “Ah. So we truly do have something in common with the horses.”

  Jude’s father had caught up with his hat. He looked back at his son and pointed east. Jude turned the plane in that direction.

  “What is your father telling us?” shouted Bishop Zook.

  “The direction the wind or breeze is coming from. We take off into the wind.”


  “It gives us lift to help get the aeroplane off the ground.”

  The craft moved ahead, slowly bouncing over the field, then gathering speed and rising into the air. Jude took it to a thousand feet and made sure he flew over the entire town of Paradise and especially the bishop’s dairy farm on the west end. The sun was still an hour or two over the horizon and covered the plane in light. The bishop began to laugh and slapped one of his hands against the side of the Jenny.

  “Too beautiful, too beautiful,” Jude heard him call out. “Mein Gott, what a gift you have given the birds, such a gift, such a world.”

  When they landed again and the propeller had spun down to a stop, Bishop Zook climbed out, pumped Jude’s hand like an excited boy, and then beckoned to Lyyndaya.

  “Come, come, my dear,” he smiled, “your buggy awaits.”

  Feeling every eye on her, the skin of her face burning, she stepped up to the plane and the bishop helped her into the front cockpit. She used one hand to manage her dress and the other to grab onto parts of the plane. When she was finally in her seat, the bishop gave her the helmet and goggles and showed her how to tighten the buckles of the shoulder harnesses. Then he walked to the front of the plane and bent his head at Jude’s father.

  “May I?”

  Jude’s father stood back from the propeller. “Of course.”

  “I just pull it downward?”

  Ja, just a sharp tug and then let it go. Do not hold on.”

  “Yes, yes, all right—when?”

  “My son will tell you.”

  Lyyndaya sat in her cockpit feeling an odd mixture of embarrassment, excitement, and fear. Suddenly Jude’s hand squeezed her left shoulder from behind.

  “You will be all right, Lyyndy Lyyndy Lou,” he said.

  She could not turn all the way around to see him, but she knew he would be smiling just as his use of the childhood nickname had made her smile as well. Now, ten years later, without having had a chance to discuss it between themselves, the plane ride had become a buggy ride and they were courting, thanks to Bishop Zook. Well, it would give them something to talk about besides the weather and the crops when he came back to Lancaster County from Philadelphia in a few days.

  She could not see what Jude was doing, but the bishop all of a sudden nodded, swung down on the propeller with his enormous hands and arms, and the engine burst into life. They began to roll across the ground faster than she had ever traveled in anything before, faster than galloping her mare, Anna, bareback. She felt her heart hammering and her mouth go dry.

  “Hang on!” shouted Jude.

  The wind was rushing against her face and body. The earth streamed past brown and green. The sky was a streak of blue and silver. Then the plane lifted into the air and her stomach seemed to turn inside out and upside down. She looked down and the men and women and children were like dolls and the wagons like toys and the houses like tiny boxes. Suddenly the plane banked to the right and she felt herself falling out of her seat. The leather flying helmet, unfastened, was torn from her head, her hair exploded in the rush of air, and as her arms dropped over the side into empty space she could not stop herself and started to scream.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Love and to Cherish

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 (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Kelly Irvin is a Kansas native and has been writing professionally for 25 years. She and her husband, Tim, make their home in Texas. They have two children, three cats, and a tankful of fish. A public relations professional, Kelly is also the author of two romantic suspense novels and writes short stories in her spare time.

Visit the author's website.


In author Kelly Irvin’s first installment in the Bliss Creek Amish series, readers will find a charming, romantic story of how God works even in the darkest moments.

It’s been four years since Carl left. Four years since he left the safety of the small Amish community for the Englisch world. And in four years, Emma’s heart has only begun to heal.

Now, with the unexpected death of her parents, Emma is plunged back into a world of despair and confusion. It’s a confusion only compounded by Carl’s return. She’s supposed to be in love with why can’t she keep her mind off Thomas, the strong, quiet widower who always seems to be underfoot? Could the man she only knew as a friend be the one to help her to heal?

In a world that seems to be changing no matter how tightly she clings to the past, this one woman must see beyond her pain and open her heart to trust once again.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736943714

ISBN-13: 978-0736943710


  The ripe aroma of wet earth filling the air around her, Emma Shirack shifted the basket of tomatoes on her hip and picked up her pace on the dirt road. Her bare feet sank down as the mud oozed between her toes.

      The sky was dark overhead as rain clouds gathered in the distance. She should’ve taken the buggy, but hitching the horse seemed a waste of time when it was such a short walk to the produce stand on the highway. “Come on, girls. We have to get these tomatoes to Catherine at the stand quickly or we’re going to get wet walking home.”

  Giggles met her urging. She glanced back to see the twins squatting in the middle of the road. Lillie had a small rock in her hand, and the two of them peered at it as if they’d found a great treasure. “Girls! Now!”

  She used her schoolteacher voice. At five her sisters hadn’t been to her school yet, but they recognized the authority in her tone. Lillie hopped to her feet, Mary right behind her. “See, it’s a pretty rock, schweschder.”

  Jah, very pretty, but right now we have work to do.” A fat drop of rain plopped right between Emma’s eyes. “As soon as we give the tomatoes to Catherine we’ll go back to the house to start the chicken and dumplings for tonight.”

  Mary dropped the rock and clapped her tiny hands. “Dumplings!”

  Her braids bouncing in glee, Lillie did the same. “Dumplings!”

  Two peas in a pod. Emma smiled and focused on the road ahead. The smile faded. It would be so easy to pretend the twins were hers. But that would be wrong. They were her little sisters. At twenty-three, she alone among her friends had no babies of her own. As Mudder liked to say, “In God’s time, not yours.” Emma clung to that thought.

  One more curve and they would be at the highway.

  “Schweschder, where do the clouds—”

  The shrieking of rubber on asphalt drowned out Lillie’s question. Emma stopped dead in her tracks. The sound of ripping metal tore the air. A horse’s fearful whinnies screamed and echoed against the glowering sky.

  Emma’s basket hit the ground. She’d spent enough time at the produce stand to know that sound. She lifted her long skirt, leaped across the spilled tomatoes, and ran. “Girls, go to the side of the road and sit down. Don’t move! I’ll send someone for you!” she shouted, not looking back. “Do as I say!”

  The sound of their childish voices whipped in the wind around her. If she was right about that sound she couldn’t let them see what lay ahead. For a few minutes, they were better off on the side of the less-traveled farm road with each other for company.

  Oh, God, let me be wrong. Let it be a near miss. Let it be an empty wagon. Let it be…anything but the worst. She stumbled on the rutted road and her heavy dress tangled around her legs. Sweat mingled with splashing raindrops. She fought to breathe in the heavy, humid air.

  The road straightened. Emma blinked against a sudden gust of moist, hot wind. Where dirt road met asphalt, where their way met the Englisch way, a buggy sprawled on its side, its metal wheels twisted and broken, the orange triangle-shaped symbol for slow still dangling from the back. A mammoth wheat truck, the black tarp that covered its load flapping in the wind, dwarfed the spindly remains.

  Emma jerked to a stop. No air filled her lungs, and black and purple dots danced on the periphery of her vision. She bent, hands on her knees, and gasped for oxygen. Nothing. Her lungs ached. Her heart pounded.

  The horse reared and screamed, its nostrils flaring, eyes frozen wide open, frantic with fear. Her sister Catherine had two hands on the reins, trying to calm the flailing horse. “Easy, girl, easy!” Catherine’s words didn’t match the heart-wrenching anguish of her tone as she fumbled with the harness. “Down, girl. It’s over. Easy!”

  Catherine. What was she doing here? Their horse. Their gray mare. Emma forced herself to think. Their horse. Her sister. Her gaze dropped to the figure on the dark, wet pavement. No. No. No.

  Her neighbor Thomas Brennaman knelt next to a twisted figure that lay motionless. Her brother Luke crouched down next to him, bending over the still, white face. Mudder’s face. Thomas raised his head and his fingers touched Mudder’s throat. Emma swallowed the bile in her throat. She tore her gaze from the picture, her heart pounding.

  A man in overalls and a John Deere hat held a cell phone to his ear. “Hurry. Tell them to hurry. They’re hurt bad,” he bellowed. “It’s them Amish people with their buggies. I think I…I think I killed them!”

  Killed them. No. Suddenly adrenaline overcame the paralyzing dread. She dashed forward. “Mudder! Daed!”

  With all the strength he could muster, Luke staggered to his feet. “Emma, help Catherine with the horse! Let it loose before it hurts someone.”

  What was Luke doing here? Why wasn’t he at his shop? She shook off her questions and his command and dropped to her knees next to her mother’s still body.

  But Thomas grabbed her arms and pulled her to her feet again. His broad frame served as a formidable barrier between Emma and her mother. “No, Emma. Do as Luke says.”

  “I can help her!”

  Thomas’s grip kept her from sinking to the ground again. Eyes the color of maple syrup held her tight in their gaze. Thomas, of all people, knew this kind of pain. “Your mudder is gone, Emma.”

  Still, she struggled. “Daed!”

  Luke’s strangled sob spoke for him. “No, Daed.” She ripped away from Thomas and dashed around the broken buggy. “Please!”

  Luke held up two bloody hands, palms flat in the air. Emma slammed to a halt. Her brother’s raw agony radiated from his sweet, plain features. His lips trembled over his long beard. “No. Don’t look. Don’t! I tried, but nothing.” His voice cracked. “He was already gone. Help Catherine. Help her!”

  Sirens, their shrill cry an alien sound in this Kansas farmland, cut the air. Emma backed away from Luke. The rough asphalt scraped her feet, but she welcomed pain—the only thing that could penetrate this kind of numbness. She shook her head. “No. No!”

  Catherine’s cries forced her back into the moment. Here was something Emma could do, something to ease the horrible, enormous sense that she should be doing something. She ran to Catherine’s side and together they loosened the horse’s restraints and led her to the grassy shoulder of the road. The mare, sides lathered with sweat, snorted and pranced but didn’t bolt. “Easy, girl, easy.” Emma patted her long, graceful neck. “It’s all right.”

  Words of comfort murmured where there was none.

  Catherine threw herself into Emma’s arms. “It was horrible. I saw the whole thing from the produce stand. Mudder waved to me and smiled as they slowed down to make the turn. Then the truck came…”

  Catherine’s voice faded. Her knees buckled.

  Emma struggled to hold her up. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

  Her poor sister would have the images burned on her brain forever. Catherine didn’t need to see any more of this horrific scene. Emma grasped her sister’s trembling shoulders. “I need you to do something for me.”

  Catherine’s face was white and wet with rain and tears. “I couldn’t help them. I can’t help anyone.”

  “Yes, you can.” Emma hugged her and then gave a gentle shove. “Lillie and Mary are down the road. Go get them. Take them home.”

  Catherine shook her head and sobbed. “I don’t want to tell them—”

  “Don’t. Don’t tell them anything.”

  Catherine wiped at her face with a sodden sleeve. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay with you?”

  “Go. Make sure they’re safe. Take them home. Luke and I will come when we can.”

  “What about Annie and Mark? They’ll wonder why Mudder hasn’t come home from town yet.”

  “Tell them there’s been an accident. Then wait for Luke and me.”

  Catherine took off, her stride unsteady at first, then she picked up speed. Faster and faster, as if those horrifying images pursued her.

  Emma wanted to run after her, surpass her, and keep on running forever.

  “Miss? Miss!”

  She forced herself to turn and face the wreckage.

  “It was an accident.” The farmer, his craggy, sun-ravaged face wet—whether from rain or tears Emma couldn’t tell—moved closer. He crumpled the green John Deere cap in his huge hand, smoothed it, crumpled it again. “I’m sorry, so sorry. I was in a hurry to get to the mill in Bliss Creek before the rain came. I drove up over the bluff and they were right there. I guess they slowed down to make the turn. I tried to stop. I did, but the truck skidded into them.” He wiped his face with the backs of his stubby fingers. “It was an accident.”

  Luke strode toward them, his long legs eating up the road. Her bear-sized brother usually walked the road the way he walked life—in a calm, deliberate manner. Now the world had tilted, taking everything familiar with it. “I know, Mr. Cramer. Don’t worry. We forgive you.”

  The man’s mouth gaped wide, exposing crooked teeth. After a second, it closed. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

  Emma raised her head to the spattering of raindrops. Maybe they would wash away the anger in her heart. When Carl had left, she’d thought the worst thing that could ever happen to her was done. Over. Now this. Not an intentional abandoning, but an accidental one. In the end, the effect was the same.

  Luke was right to forgive. But sometimes right was too hard.

Now my review:
To Love and to Cherish
by Kelly Irvin

This book deals with forgiveness as well as other emotions. When we don't forgive others it eats at our happiness.

Only God can help us forgive what seems impossible to forgive. There are lessons to be learned by reading this book.

Even though the book is complete, I am glad it is the first of a series. This is the first book I have read by this author, and I hope it is not the last!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Amelia's Journey

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 (January 3, 2012)

***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***


Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.


For Ben Haynes it is love at first sight, but can a Boston socialite find true happiness with a cowboy from Kansas?

Once childhood friends, Ben Haynes is taken with Amelia Carlyle when he runs into her at her sister’s wedding. Although he will be returning to Kansas and life on his father’s ranch, Ben calls on Amelia several times, and they find they have more in common than they first realized. As he leaves for Kansas, they promise to write.

Back in Kansas, Ben begins to save money toward a home for Amelia even though he has not made his intentions known. He’s relying on God to make a way. Meanwhile, Amelia is presented to society and has several young men vying for her attention.

Although Ben has captured Amelia’s heart, her parents make every effort to discourage the relationship, even forbidding Amelia to correspond with him. Amelia tells Ben that she will wait for him as long as it takes, but will the love and loss they experience along the way bring them closer or drive them apart forever?

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (January 3, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616385820

ISBN-13: 978-1616385828


Saturday, August 19, 1876 

 Amelia Carlyle's face ached from the smile pasted on

Uit for the last three-quarters of an hour. Would this

ceremony never end? She balanced first on one foot and then the other to relieve the pain caused by the white satin pumps Amanda had insisted Amelia must wear.

  Amanda's face glowed with the radiance of the love she had for Charles Scott Bishop, the man who became her husband today. If that love ever happened to Amelia, and she decided to marry, it'd be a small and simple wed ding without all this pomp and circumstance.

   At last the minister pronounced them husband and wife, and Charles leaned forward to kiss his bride. Amelia's thoughts went immediately to the buffet to be served at the reception. Mama and Papa had spared no expense for their oldest daughter's wedding, and Amelia anticipated the spread of lobster, roast beef, croissants,  and wedding cake.

   Amanda and Charles made their way back up the aisle, and Amelia dreaded walking even that short distance in her shoes, but she put on another smile and made it to the front steps of the church where carriages waited to take them to the hotel for the reception.

   Once they arrived, guests mingled and  greeted the bride and groom, but Amelia found the closest table and sat down to slip off her shoes. Her white-stockinged toes wiggled in  great relief to  be free of  their bindings. She turned her back to the room to hide her most unseemly behavior, but comfort won over decorum. She lifted her skirts to run her fingers along the arch of one foot, which relaxed in contentment. Of course if anyone asked her to dance later, she may not be able to squeeze her feet back into the slippers, but she had seen no one with whom she cared to dance anyway.

“Excuse me, Miss Carlyle?”

   Amelia snatched the hem of her skirt and yanked it down to cover her legs and feet. She whirled around to find herself looking up into eyes so dark brown, they were almost black. The man towered over her with broad shoul- ders that blocked any view of the room behind him. A tingling started in her toes and progressed its way to her heart. Why had she not noticed this handsome young man before? “Yes, I’m Miss Carlyle, but I do believe you have the advantage.” His smile sent even more tremors through her bones. “I . . . I don’t recall having met you before.”

“Of course you don’t. You were twelve, and I was a skinny   fourteen-year-old.  Neither  of us paid much attention to the other when we last met at my grandparents’ home for dinner after church one Sunday. My name’s Benjamin Haynes.”

   Benjamin Haynes, of course, the son of her parents’ best friends of  school days, but what was he doing in Boston? His family lived in Kansas. “Oh, yes, that was a few years ago. Have you moved back here?”

He grinned, and his eyes sparkled with amusement. “No, but my parents found your sister’s wedding to be the perfect opportunity for a return trip, and I must say now I’m glad I came along.”

Heat rose in  her cheeks, and her tongue turned to mush. She simply stared back at him with what she hoped was not a stupid smile. What if he asked her to dance? Her feet crossed and rubbed against one another beneath her dress. She’d never get her feet back into those shoes.

“May I get you some refreshment?”

   Amelia nodded. “A . . . a cup of punch would be nice.” As he turned to carry out the request, she groaned. Another thing she’d forgotten, no buffet table without her shoes. If she dared walk across the floor without them, her skirt would drag and give away her secret. As if in protest, her stomach grumbled and sent a wave of hunger pangs to her brain. All that food so near, yet it may as well be in another town for all the good it did her seated across the room.

   Her gaze landed on Benjamin at the serving table. Although she vaguely remembered him from his last visit, he  appeared much taller and was certainly more hand- some than he had been then. His dark brown hair even curled slightly at the neckline. Of course she hadn’t been truly interested in boys at that time. Being noticed by him created a bit of delight in her now.

   Benjamin returned, not only with a cup of punch, but also with a plate filled with some of her favorites from the buffet array. “I thought you might not want to cross the floor to the serving table without your shoes, so I brought it to you. I hope you like what I selected.”

Heat again filled her face. He’d noticed her shoeless feet and had sought to save her further embarrassment by being so polite. For that her stomach thanked him. “Thank you, Mr. Haynes. This will do quite nicely, but what about you? When will you eat?”

“If you’ll allow me, I’ll get my plate and rejoin you.” “I’d like that very much, thank you.” Her heart beat

in double time as he returned to the buffet and made his own selections. His broad shoulders hinted at the muscles and strength that must be hidden beneath the sleeves of the black suit he wore. The evening took on a whole new interest, and Amelia tucked her feet well beneath her skirts to keep them hidden from view.

   When he returned, he sat in the chair next to hers. Miracles of miracles, no one asked to join them, and they remained alone. Her father may have a few words about that later, but for the time being, Amelia planned to enjoy every minute she could have with Mr. Benjamin Haynes.

   He spread a napkin across his lap. “Tell me, Miss Haynes, what have you been doing since the last time I saw you?”

It had only been a little more than five years ago, but it may as well have been a lifetime for all Amelia could remember. Her mind a blank, she could only stare at him.

He must think her to be a complete ninny. She cleared her throat. “In school, but of what interest could that possibly be to you? I would imagine your life has been much more eventful and interesting.”

   Benjamin grinned at  her and sipped his punch. He set the cup back on the table and cocked his head to one side. “My life has been herding cattle and getting them to market as well as bustin’ broncos to have horses to ride.”

“Now that sounds a lot more exciting than going to school, taking piano lessons, and learning to embroider.” She pictured him herding cattle or riding a bucking horse. An appealing image.

A young  man  approached  the table,  and Amelia cringed. The last person she wanted to see wore a deter- mined expression on his face. Rudolph, Charles’s brother, wanted to dance, but his surly attitude the night before at a family dinner had frightened Amelia in a way she couldn’t quite explain.

He  stopped  beside  Amelia  and  Benjamin.  “Miss Carlyle, may I have the honor of this dance with you?” His dark eyes held nothing but malice even though his words were polite.

She stuck a shoeless foot out from under her dress. “I’m sorry, Mr. Bishop, but I don’t have my shoes on and have decided not  to dance this evening. I’m  sure you under- stand I can’t be on the dance floor in my stocking feet.”

He glared at her for a moment, then, without a word, swiveled on his heel and strode across the room. Amelia shivered, thankful she had removed her shoes.

“I must say, that was rude.”  Benjamin frowned after the man.

   Amelia nodded then smiled at  Benjamin. “He’s Charles’s brother, and I’m glad I didn’t have to dance with him.” She picked up a pastry. “Let’s enjoy ourselves and not think about rude men like Rudolph Bishop.” Indeed, she wanted to know everything she could learn about Benjamin Haynes.

Ben wanted to know more about this intriguing young woman he’d known in childhood. Until his father decided to pick up stakes and head west to start his own ranch, the  Carlyle and Haynes families had spent many week- ends together as his father and Mr. Carlyle had been close friends and schoolmates.

   How thankful he was now that he had not insisted that he be left behind to help the ranch hands with the herds. If he had, he would not be sitting across from the lovely young woman in a pink dress.

“Amelia, do you remember the week my family left for Kansas? Your parents gave a wonderful farewell party for us. Of course you were only five, but I hoped you might recall that night.” If she did remember, he might find him- self in trouble as he had delighted in pulling her golden brown curls more than once just to see her reaction, and she hadn’t disappointed. She had stomped her foot and hit him each time until his mother corralled him the third time and made him stay by her side.

Amelia chewed a  piece of pastry and narrowed her eyes at him. She swallowed and pursed her lips. “Was that the time you kept pulling my curls?”

Heat rose in his face. “You do remember. I apologize for my awful behavior that evening, but you looked so cute with those long curls hanging down from that big yellow bow.”

   Amelia laughed. “I forgive you, but it hurt that last time, and I wanted to cry. I wasn’t about to let you see me in tears, and I believe your mother took care of you. Mary Beth and I had fun after that.”

“Yes, Mama made sure I  stayed by her side, and I didn’t have much fun the rest of the evening. I’m glad you did though. Then your family came to the railway station to see us off on our adventure westward.” That had been some scene with both their mothers crying and their fathers promising to keep in touch.

   “Oh yes, I recall how afraid I was of that big engine with its smoke and loud whistle. When it started up and began rolling on the track, I hid behind Mama’s skirt, but I saw you wave at us from the window. I thought you were so brave to move away like that with your family.”

   “It was quite the adventure.” And one he would never forget. He held no regret at all for leaving Boston all those years ago.

   He glanced up to see his sister headed their way. He didn’t often get to see her so dressed up with her dark hair piled on her head. He grinned when she squealed and grabbed Amelia, her brown eyes dancing with pleasure. “I’ve been looking all over for you. I should have known Ben would have you all to himself.”

   Amelia hugged the girl in return. “Mary Beth, I’m so glad to see you. I spotted you at the church when we went back up the aisle. Sit down and join us.”

   Benjamin shook his head and glared at Mary Beth, but she paid him no mind and plopped down in the chair on the other side of Amelia. “I’d be delighted. What has my big brother been telling you? I could reveal a few of his secrets if you’d like to hear about some of his antics.”

   “We were just talking about one on the night we had that party before you left.”

   “Oh, yes, that was some fun watching him get into trouble.” Mary Beth grabbed Amelia’s hands. “How I wish you could have come out to visit us, and I wish we could have come back to Boston more often. Ben almost didn’t come with us, but Pa persuaded him. I’m really sorry we haven’t kept in closer touch.”

Amelia glanced at him and grinned in a way he could only call wicked. “To think we might have missed reminiscing about old times if you’d stayed back with the cows. What a shame that would have been, Mr. Haynes.”

Again heat rose in his cheeks, but he would not let her teasing get to him. “Since we’re such old friends, call me Ben; everybody else does.”

“All right, Ben it is.” Then she turned back to his sister. “Now, tell me what it’s like living on a ranch with all those cattle and horses.”

Ben groaned. Once Mary Beth started, he’d never get a word into the conversation. He may as well just enjoy his food and listen to their prattle. At least he could sit back and show interest in what Amelia had to say without being obvious with his attraction to her.

Her chestnut hair sat piled on top of her head in an elaborate arrangement that must have taken hours to accomplish. Two  long  curls like those of long  ago hung down in the back from the curls amassed atop her head. His fingers itched to reach over and pull one of them as he had when she was five. Now seventeen, she had become a beautiful young lady with a sense of humor and a smile that could melt the heart of any man in her presence.

   He blinked his eyes and shook his head as Amelia squealed with delight and clapped her hands. He stared at his sister. “What was that you said about staying in Boston?”

“Ma and Grandmama talked with me last night, and

Pa agreed. I can stay here for the social season this fall.” “Isn’t it wonderful, Ben? Mary Beth and I can do so

many things together and have fun, and I’m sure there will be lots of parties.”

   Ben narrowed his eyes. “I’m sure there will be.” This was the first he’d heard of any desire from Mary Beth to come back here. She loved the ranch, or at least he’d thought so.

   “What will Ma and Aunt Clara do without you?” She’d been such a big help to them that he couldn’t imagine life without her around.

   “They’ll get along just fine. After all, there aren’t any more babies to care for. Gideon, Grace Ann, and Billy are old enough to care for themselves, so they don’t need me looking after them all the time.”

   That was true. With his youngest brother now eight years old and in school, no more children stayed at home needing care. Ma and Aunt Clara would manage just fine. Still, he had a difficult time believing his pa would let his oldest daughter live so far away.

Amelia and Mary Beth sat with heads close together discussing all the things they wanted to do in the coming months when Mary Beth would be presented to society just as her mother and grandmother had been before her. Then a bright side occurred to him. With Mary Beth here, that could mean Ma taking more trips to see her. Pa wouldn’t want to leave the ranch, so that would leave Ben to accompany Ma on such trips.

   More trips to Boston meant more opportunity to see Amelia Haynes. Of course, he’d have to gain permission from her parents, but that shouldn’t be a problem since their families were longtime friends. The future began to look brighter and brighter. This had been the best trip he’d taken in a long time, and he looked forward to many more like it—that is, if Amelia agreed to his calling on her.

Now for my review:

Amelia's Journey
by Martha Rogers

I enjoyed reading this book. It shows how others matter in a relationship. If we only consider our own wants and desires we cannot have a healthy relationship with our parents or a spouse.

Mrs. Rogers has introduced some interesting characters. Some rather humorous in their self absorption. I am looking forward to reading more books by her.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Against All Odds!

Blue Moon Promise
by Colleen Coble
A complex western adventure, with romance, treachery, deceit, manipulation, responsibility, insecurity, pain and happiness.
I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An Amish Family Reunion

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 (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to
Karri James of Harvest House Publishers  for sending me a review copy.***


Mary Ellis is the author of A Widow's Hope, Never Far from Home, The Way to a Man's Heart, and Sarah's Christmas Miracle. She and her husband live in central Ohio, where they try to live a simpler style of life.

Visit the author's website.


During rumschpringe, Phoebe Miller meets Eli Riehl, who charms her with his exceptional storytelling ability. When he sees her sketches of his tales, Eli encourages her incredible talent, and they decide to write and illustrate a children’s book. But can their love for a good story develop into something that lasts forever?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944877

ISBN-13: 978-0736944878


Winesburg, Ohio

  You would think that a person might be able to enjoy some peace and quiet on a Sunday afternoon. After all, it was the Sabbath—a day of rest. Yet Phoebe Miller found herself hiding behind a tree to escape from her family. There were just so many of them. Living next door to Aunt Julia and Uncle Simon guaranteed plenty of drop-in visits, impromptu potluck suppers, and more unsolicited advice than any seventeen-year-old girl needed. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her family, because she certainly did. She simply needed more alone time than most people.

  Holding her breath, Phoebe stood stock-still until Uncle Simon headed into the barn in search of her father and Aunt Julia entered the house looking for her mamm. Hannah wasn’t her mother by blood, but she had earned the title during the past twelve years of bandaging scrapes, helping with math homework, and remaining near while Phoebe suffered with the flu on long winter nights. She couldn’t remember her birth mother anymore. She had been only five when an impatient driver in a fast-moving truck decided to pass on a blind curve. It didn’t hurt much anymore. She had Hannah, her daed, and her little brother to love. They were all she needed…except, perhaps, for a little personal solitude.

  Phoebe sucked in her gut as ten-year-old Ben ran across the yard, chasing his dog, who was chasing a rubber ball. When the two ducked under a fence into the cornfield, she ran pell-mell in the opposite direction, clutching her box of pencils and sketch pad tightly. She dared not look back for fear some cousin would be waving frantically from the porch. This time she didn’t stop to watch baby lambs nursing from their mothers or to pick a fistful of wild trilliums for her windowsill. On through the sheep pasture she ran until she reached her favorite drawing spot—an ancient stone wall constructed by long ago pioneers of Holmes County. Phoebe doubted these early settlers had been Amish. Not too many Amish men would take the time to painstakingly stack flat rocks just so to form a long fence line, not when dozens of tall trees fell over in the woods each winter that could easily be split into fence rails. And not when stampeding cows spooked by thunder, or marauding sheep needing no reason whatsoever to bolt, could knock the entire wall down within minutes. That was probably why this twenty-yard section was all that remained. But it was all Phoebe needed.

  Settling comfortably on a smooth flat stone, she gazed over acres of rolling pasture, lush with thick clover and alive with honeybees and hummingbirds attracted to morning glories. Those climbing vines would entwine her if she sat too long. Beyond this pasture, where mamm’s beloved sheep frolicked and capered like small children, lay alfalfa and cornfields, peach and apple orchards, and stately pines in the distance. Like sentinels, they guarded the property line between their farm and the westerly neighbor, while a pond and lowland bog separated them from Uncle Simon and Aunt Julia to the east.

  Phoebe turned to a fresh page in her oversized tablet and selected a charcoal pencil from the box. What would she draw today? Horses nibbling on fresh green grass? Sunlight glinting off dewy treetops at dawn, while the rest of the land remained cloaked in darkness? It was well past midday, but Phoebe had witnessed the dawn enough times to remember what it looked like. Maybe their three-story bank barn with open hayloft doors against a stark backdrop of pristine, unbroken snow? Everyone loved the serenity that could be found within a winter landscape. It didn’t matter that it was May—and an exceptionally warm day at that. A good artist worth her salt possessed a memory capable of retaining visual imagery until the moment she re-created those images on canvas…or in her case, on a sheet of white paper.

  “I thought I would find you up here.”

  Phoebe practically jumped out of her skin, dropping her sketch pad and spilling her box of colored pencils, charcoals, pastel chalk, and various erasers and sharpeners. “Dad! You nearly gave me a heart attack.” She fell to her knees to retrieve her supplies.

  Seth Miller brushed off a spot on the wall and sat down. “You’re too young for a heart attack. And I wasn’t sneaking up on you. I came up the same path along the same fence that you took. You were too absorbed in your masterpiece to see me.”

  With her supplies safely returned to the box, she plunked down next to him, clutching the tablet like a shield.

  “Nothing is even started yet. I was waiting for the perfect inspiration.” She giggled, knowing how full-blown that sounded.

  “Plenty of pretty scenery up here to pick from. It would be hard to narrow it down to just one thing.” Seth bumped his shoulder into hers.

  Phoebe sighed. “Jah, but nothing I haven’t sketched a hundred times before.”

  Seth shifted his position on the wall to offer his profile. “How about me? Or am I too old and wrinkled?”

  She shook her head. “You’re not old, daed, even if you do have some serious crow’s feet.” She bumped his shoulder in return. “But once Uncle Simon caught me doing a portrait of cousin Emma and he scolded me. He said drawing a picture of an Amish person was no different than capturing their likeness with a camera.” Phoebe then lapsed into mimicking Uncle Simon’s stern voice, forgetting the person she was talking to for the moment: “  ‘As a deacon of this district, I won’t have my niece and my daughter committing such a sin.’  ”

  Her father merely shrugged. “In that case, you could draw our old buggy horse. Now that he’s been turned out to pasture, we no longer have to worry about capturing his image.”

  “I think I’ll stick to wildflowers today.” With her piece of charcoal, she pointed at clumps of purple violets, green mayapples, and elusive jack-in-the-pulpits. “Sam usually has too many flies buzzing around his head to contend with.”

  Seth stretched out his long legs. “I saw you hiding from your bruder behind that tree. Has he been pestering you? Is that why you didn’t want him to follow you?” He shielded his face from the sun, deepening the wrinkles webbing his eyes.

  “Oh, no. Ben’s been all right. It’s just that he’s ten years old. He doesn’t understand the concept of sitting still or remaining quiet. If I let him come with me down to the river or to the duck pond, he expects me to catch tadpoles or butterflies with him. Once he dropped a two-foot black snake at my feet and told me to draw him.” Phoebe met her father’s gaze. “I let him come along as seldom as possible without hurting his feelings.”

  “Mind if I have a look-see?” Without waiting for her answer, Seth pulled the giant pad from her grasp.

  For a moment Phoebe felt a familiar wave of panic. Her art was a private collection, showcasing her limited abilities. But the moment quickly passed. She was Phoebe Miller of Winesburg, Ohio, not Michelangelo of Italy. “Sure, why not?” she said, willing herself to relax.

  Seth paged through her assortment of sketches, some barely begun and others filled with vibrant color and intricate shading. “These are quite good, daughter.” He paused to study a picture of a small child kneeling in prayer beside a trundle bed. With white walls and dark pine floorboards, and the girl’s black prayer kapp and white pinafore, the drawing was a contrast of light and shadows. One could feel the presence of God in the rays of moonlight streaming through the open window.

  She smiled with pleasure, leaning over his arm. “That’s one of my favorites. Not bad for someone with no talent and no training, huh?”

  He shook his head. “You have talent—make no mistake about that. And what kind of training does an artist need? Either a person has the gift or they don’t.”

  “A few classes would have been nice in school. My teacher’s idea of art was coloring a seasonal mimeographed page. All the trees were green and every autumn leaf either red or gold. Everyone’s picture looked exactly the same.”

  Seth dispensed his usual daed look. “Plain folk have no need for individuality as long as you’re known personally to God.” He shut the sketch pad and handed it back to her. “But providing you get your chores done, I see no harm in capturing the beauty of nature in your pictures.” He rose to his feet. “Which of the lilies of the field will my artist choose to draw today?” He waved his hand toward the multitude of flowers and weeds growing along the vine-shrouded wall. “It’s going to be time for the evening meal soon. Don’t be late, Phoebe. You know how your Uncle Simon hates not eating at the appointed hour.” Seth started down the path and did not glance back. He didn’t have to. He knew she wouldn’t be late for supper, or neglect her chores, or forget to say her nightly prayers…because she never did.

  Phoebe was a good girl. She had never painted her face with makeup as Emma had during her rumschpringe, nor taken up with an English boy with a fast green truck. Everything was well and good now that Emma and James were married, raising two little boys, and sheep farming in nearby Charm. But when they first converted to New Order, both sets of parents lost more than one good night’s sleep.

  And Phoebe had no desire to go into business like her cousin Leah. Running a diner with a business partner as naive as she had almost landed Leah in the county jail. Who knew not collecting sales tax to send to the State of Ohio was a crime? Phoebe shuddered remembering how long it had taken Leah to pay her share of the debt incurred by the diner. Meeting Jonah Byler had been the only good thing to come out of that fiasco. Apparently, he hadn’t been looking for a wife with any business savvy.

  No, Phoebe was a good girl. She helped with cooking, cleaning, and laundry, and she did her fair share of gardening, canning, and berry picking despite having no particular fondness for domestic duties. Her mamm and Emma had their beloved sheep, along with the spinning, dyeing, carding, and weaving that came with the woolly creatures. Both women knitted such exquisite sweaters and sofa throws that tourists would pay more than a hundred dollars for one of their creations. Leah had her pie-making cottage industry. Bakeries throughout the county clamored for Leah Byler pies. But Phoebe’s heart had never thrilled over a particularly flaky piecrust or the perfect sweet-tart balance of her fruit filling. Only her art held any joy for her. Painting with acrylics from the Bargain Outlet or sketching people while they were unaware lifted Phoebe’s spirits like nothing else. Not exactly a practical pastime for someone Plain, but what else could she do?

  With a sigh she selected a moss-covered log for today’s subject. The dark moist wood, where decay added a blackish-green hue, along with the sun-baked topside, striated and gnarly from wind and weather, would provide a stark background to delicate yellow buttercups in the foreground.

  For almost an hour, feeling the warm sun on her face and a cool breeze on her neck, Phoebe surrendered to her creation. Adding a bold slash here or light shading there, the flowers on paper became almost as real as those growing near her feet. She lost herself in her work, unaware of hunger or thirst or the pesky hornet circling her head. Funny how mopping the floor, hanging laundry on the line, or slicing peaches for cobbler couldn’t hold her interest like this. When she was busy with those chores, all she could think about was snitching another cookie or refilling her glass with lemonade.

  Finally, as the drawing neared completion, she leaned back with a satisfied sigh. There had to be something she could do with her “gift,” as her parents called it. She’d been out of school for three years, yet she seldom brought to the household income more than a few dollars from selling eggs. She’d once hung up an index card at the grocery store that announced “Artist for Hire” with her name and address at the bottom in block letters. She landed two commissions from the advertisement. One, a local farmer needed an autumn replacement for his produce market sign once peaches, organic lettuce, and berries were long gone. Phoebe created a four-foot by six-foot masterpiece showcasing colorful apples, pumpkins, butternut squash, eggplant, and Indian corn. She tried to turn down the second project. An elderly widow needed someone to actually paint the white picket fence around her vegetable patch. But, of course, her daedmade her take the job. Painting was painting, he declared.

  Packing up her supplies, she started down the well-worn path to the rambling farmhouse filled with her parents, brother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. Lately, it felt as though she’d wandered into the wrong house but the residents were too polite to tell her. How could she live surrounded by affectionate and endearing people, yet still feel utterly, completely alone? 

  Julia stepped down from the buggy gingerly, always a little nervous to see if her legs would hold her. It had been years since her double knee-replacement surgery, yet she remained skeptical about the stainless steel substitute parts.

  Simon took her arm to steady her. “Easy does it, fraa. Did you take your pills today?”

  Jah, of course, like I do every day. I’m just stiff from sitting. Run off now and find your brother. With these perfectly fine store-bought knees, we should have walked here. What’s the advantage of living next door to Seth and Hannah if we must drag out the horse and buggy even in perfect weather?” Julia leaned heavily on her husband’s arm despite her assertion that she could have walked half a mile through scrub forest and bog.

  “I’m not running anywhere until you’re planted in one of Hannah’s kitchen chairs,” Simon insisted. “And our old gelding needs the exercise more than we do.”

  “If Hannah sees you practically carrying me inside, she’ll start feeding me more of her herbal cures.” They paused midway to the house. “Boswellia, bromelain, yucca, turmeric, sea cucumber—do you know what those things taste like?” Julie wrinkled her nose. “I burped the other day, and it tasted like stagnant green pond water.”

  “How is it you know what stagnant water tastes like?” Simon clutched her tightly around the waist as they reached the porch.

  “I’d rather not say what my sister was like as a teenager.”

  “Whatever she gives you to eat or drink, you’ll take without complaint. One of these days Hannah will land on a miracle cure that will have you skipping like a schoolgirl again.”

  Julie gulped a deep breath and climbed the steps, clucking her tongue in disapproval. “Miracles from teas and tonics? And you—the district deacon. What’s gotten into you?” She reached for the door frame to steady herself.

  “All miracles come from the Lord, but He uses a wide variety of delivery methods.” Simon kissed her cheek. “I’ll see you at supper.”

  Julia waited until she stopped panting like a dog before entering her sister’s large, airy kitchen. “Hannah,” she called, finding the room empty.

  Hannah Miller bustled into the room looking as fresh and cheery as she had ten years ago. Amazing what the lack of chronic pain did for a person’s appearance and attitude. “You’re alone?” she said, pulling aside the curtain. “Where are your daughters? I prepared way too much glazed ham and potato salad if the rest of your family isn’t coming to eat.” She left the window and carried tall glasses of iced tea to the table.

  Julia smiled, lowering herself onto a chair. “Just Simon and myself, but I promise to eat ravenously. Henry will stop over later. He took the open buggy for a ride after spending hours yesterday polishing every inch with leather oil. I think he’s courting some gal, but when I drop subtle hints, he turns beet red and clams up.”

  Hannah sat on the opposite side of the long table—a table large enough to seat the entire Miller clan. “You, subtle?” She winked one luminous green eye. “Julia, you’re as subtle as a blind bull in a spring pasture. Poor Henry, being the only one left at home. What about Leah? She’s not coming either?” Hannah laced her fingers over her still flat belly. “I was itching for one of her peach pies.”

  “No fresh peaches yet. You would know that if you left your loom and spinning wheel once in a while. And all her canned peaches are gone. Anyway, she and Jonah are staying home today, as are Emma, James, and their two boys.” Julia leaned back in her chair. “I saw Ben chasing that dog of his, but where’s Phoebe?” She craned her neck to scan the living room. “Let me guess. She’s upstairs immortalizing the intricacies of a spider in her web instead of whacking it down with a broom.”

  Hannah took a long swallow of tea. “Too warm upstairs in her room. She headed to the high pasture with her tablet. Seth walked up to check on her, although she can’t get lost or into any trouble up there. Still, he would prefer she stay within eyeshot of the house at all times.”

  “I remember when you used to hide from people. Sometimes in the woods, sometimes down by the river when you first moved here from Lancaster. Especially whenever my Simon crawled up your neck.”

  Hannah snorted dismissively. “I wasn’t hiding from your Simon. I was plotting how to snare Seth into my web, just like Phoebe’s pet spider. It wasn’t easy, but I ran away from him so often he finally caught me.”

  The two enjoyed a chuckle. “The two Kline sisters marrying the two Miller brothers. It sure made things handy, no? Maybe that’s what your Phoebe does when she wanders off by herself. She’s plotting how to capture the eye of some hapless young man at the next social event. Isn’t she seventeen?”

  “Almost eighteen. But no, she won’t go to singings. She says they make her nervous. She’ll only attend work frolics and quilting parties. Not too many eligible young men attend sewing bees.” Hannah finished her tea and rose to refill both glasses. “She says she has nothing in common with boys her age.”

  “How would she know if she never steps out from behind your skirt? Has she ever talked to boys other than to say ‘Pass me the catsup?’  ” The words escaped Julia’s mouth before she could clamp her jaw shut. She mentally winced at her bad habit of overstepping the role of big sister. Running roughshod over folks—that’s how Simon referred to it.

  “Phoebe’s still young. She has plenty of time. People aren’t marry­ing so early anymore, not like when we were that age.” Hannah tucked a stray lock of flaxen hair under her prayer kapp.

  Julia rubbed her fingers one at a time. “She shouldn’t spend so much time alone. It’s not healthy.”

  Hannah shot Julia a look that meant You’re treading dangerously close to thin ice. “I realize with both of your daughters married that you have no one to needle and advise. You can always go back to me to keep your talons razor sharp.”

  Ach, I would, but I threw my hands up years ago and declared you a hopeless case. You listen to advice as well as your sheep.” Julia stared out the window where the lilac bush was in full bloom without seeing the profusion of flowers. “At least your daughter has come a long way since you started courting Seth. How long did Phoebe go without speaking a single word—eight months, a year?”

  Hannah paused to consider. “Almost a year and a half. Constance’s death pulled the rug out from under her feet. Seth was trying to cope with a household without his wife, along with his own grief. He was too busy and too distracted to notice a little girl in serious pain.” She furrowed her forehead as memories of some very difficult months returned. “Seth wasn’t spending enough time with her because he had suddenly twice as much on his plate. But how can you explain that to a five-year-old?”

  “Then Phoebe watched all her daed’s attention being lavished on you.” Julia chanced a look at her sister.

  Hannah scoffed. “‘Lavish’ would hardly describe Seth’s interest in me.”

  “True enough. He erected quite a wall around himself while you patiently worked with Phoebe. Eventually, she came around and started talking again, but she’s still a very quiet child. No one would believe she was a Miller if she wasn’t the spitting image of Seth. They would have figured Constance discovered a foundling in the parking lot of Walmart and brought her home.”

  Hannah’s smile looked bittersweet. “Seth didn’t like being told how to raise his daughter, did he, but eventually he ran out of choices and took my suggestions.” She shook off the reminiscence like a dog in the rain. “Now he dotes on the girl, as much as she’ll allow him, to the point of wrapping her in a cocoon. Pity the poor boys that come around when Phoebe starts courting. Seth will probably stand guard in the front room with his squirrel rifle across his chest.”

  “I didn’t know Seth ever went hunting.” Julia lifted one eyebrow.

  “He doesn’t. He inherited that relic of a firearm from his daed. Just don’t tell the young men that gun hasn’t been fired in twenty years.” They enjoyed a good belly laugh while Hannah started pulling side dishes from the refrigerator.

  To feel useful, Julia pushed herself up from the table to get plates, glasses, and silverware. Sitting too long stiffened her arthritic joints, hastening the day when she would need more replacement parts. By the time Hannah carried the platter of sliced ham to the table, in trailed Seth, Simon, Ben, and Henry. Julia blinked at her son’s early appearance. “You’re back from your ride already, son?”

  Henry’s ears reddened while he washed his hands at the sink. “I saw what I set out to see.” He slunk to a chair like a stray barn cat.

  Phoebe slipped into the house then, joining them just in time for silent prayer. The moment everyone lifted their bowed heads and began passing bowls of food, Henry turned to his cousin. “After we eat, Phoebe, would you like to see my new filly?” Despite the fact he was a grown man at twenty-one, he blushed whenever he addressed females, even family members.

  “Sure,” she agreed, popping a gherkin into her mouth. “What’s wrong with this one?”

  “Hardly anything. I picked her up at the Sugarcreek auction for a song. She had a mild limp, so other buyers passed her over.” He drained half his glass of milk.

  Simon set down his fork, dabbing his beard with his napkin. “You bought a lame horse, son? What are we going to do with her if she’s not fit for the buggy or pulling a plow?”

  Julia and Hannah exchanged a glance. Father and son had been down this road enough times to wear grooves in the pavement.

  “She’s not lame, Dad. A slight limp, that’s all. And she’s much improved since I started applying liniment and wrapping the leg.” Henry built a sandwich with home-baked rye bread, several slices of ham, and hot pepper relish.

  Simon grunted, picking up his coffee cup. “Could she at least pull a pony cart to earn her keep?”

  “Eventually. Maybe.” Henry bit into the stack, rendering further speech impossible.

  “Look at it this way—she is a filly and could turn into a fine brood mare someday.” Seth interjected his two cents’ worth into the conversation.

  Simon’s brows beetled above the bridge of his nose, focusing on his brother. “We don’t have room for the horses we own now. They’re already two to a stall, and my horse pasture is grazed down to nubs by July. I’ll have to start feeding them oats and timothy year-round.”

  “Maybe I’ll lease you some of our pastureland. Hannah’s flock is down this year. If you’re willing to pay me a fair price, that is.” Seth bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.

  “I think it’s a fine thing you’re doing, nephew,” said Hannah, slicing pies at the counter. “Rescuing balky horses from the auction kill pen and then retraining them for useful lives is a noble calling.”

  Julia watched Hannah aim her dazzling smile at Simon. After all these years, she still loved getting her brother-in-law’s goat.

  Jah, Hannah,” said Simon. “But the idea was to resell the horses at a profit and make a little income while he’s doing his good deed.”

  “I have sold some,” said Henry, after swallowing another mouthful of sandwich. “Just last month I sold that three-year-old Morgan to the bishop’s son. He couldn’t believe the change that had come over that horse with two years of training.”

  Simon rolled his eyes, pushing away his plate. “Two years for a Morgan to let someone put a saddle on his back?” His muttering was barely audible, knowing he was outnumbered by animal lovers in his brother’s home. “Fine, nursemaid your new filly. Just don’t turn my barn into the Miller Horse Sanctuary.”

  Phoebe straightened up in her chair. Small and shy, it was easy to forget she was in the room. “That has a nice ring to it.” She flashed Henry a grin. “Would you like me to make you a sign to put down by the road? I could paint a stallion and mare, with a young filly in the foreground. I’m pretty good at drawing horses.” She winked one warm cocoa-brown eye at him.

  Some of Julia’s tea slipped down her windpipe and then flew right out her nose as she gagged and coughed. The rest of the family laughed more moderately, except for her beloved husband, Simon. He simply stared at his favorite niece as though she’d grown a tail.

  Danki for your generous offer, Phoebe, but that won’t be necessary,” he said in his most patient voice. “Everyone in the county already knows the location of Henry’s save-a-horse society.” Simon reached for the largest slice of pie among the dessert plates.

  Julia wiped her face and then left the table to blow her nose, trying to compose herself. She knew she needed to better control her drinking habits because she had a feeling it would be one long, hot summer.