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Monday, April 29, 2013

First Wild Card Tour (Madeline's Protector)

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:

White Rose Publishing (April 19, 2013)

***Special thanks to Tyora Moody for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Regency and Victorian eras have always been a magnetizing draw for Vanessa Riley. Even as she worked to complete her doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, she made time for renaissance fairs and any novel or cinematographic work depicting these genteel societies of old. Perhaps, the attraction arises from the kinship she feels with the period being brought up in the restrictive Southern Bible Belt with its stringent definitions of decent behavior and life expectations. Perhaps the common dominator to this appeal is her own thirty day Christian courtship or even the arranged marriages of her uncles; each is emblematic of the nuptials of those earlier times.

A technology muse like Dr. Vanessa Riley is probably not the immediate choice to write about haute ton English society set in the 1800′s. With her most recent published work being “Reducing Deformation by Phase Manipulation,” the common visceral reaction is that Providence has given another mule a voice to tell His story. Nevertheless, this mule uses her determined spirit and dogmatic tenacity to master the subject and to discover the hidden nuances of a character making him believable, her human and both ready to be used of God.

Vanessa holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a masters in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. She also earned BS and MS in mechanical engineering from Penn State University. She has been a radio anchorwoman and church announcer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writers of America.

Today, Vanessa juggles mothering a eight year old, her seventeenth wedding anniversary, engineering, writing and speaking at women’s events. She is known for her humorous delivery of poignant truths. Vanessa is currently, editor in chief of an online social network, www.busymama.net.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

If all the young men of England leapt off a cliff, Madeline St. James wouldn’t care. Then she’d have peace. Her nightmares of courtship would end, and she’d cozy up with a Psalm in her aunt’s quiet sculpture garden.

Yet, a chance meeting and a bullet wound change everything, and Madeline must trust the Good Shepherd has led her to the altar to marry a dashing stranger, Lord Devonshire.
Death and pain are no strangers to Justain Delveaux, Lord Devonshire, and he vows his dutiful bride will be kept safe and in her place. Though this compromised marriage is in-name-only, his wife and her unwavering faith both intrigue and allure him. Perchance when he thwarts his brother’s killer, Justain will tempt the unpredictable Madeline with the comfort of his arms.

But can Madeline and the stubborn earl forge a true bond before the next disaster strikes?




Product Details:
List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 354 pages
Publisher: White Rose Publishing (April 19, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611162262
ISBN-13: 978-1611162264


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Shropshire, England, Iron Country, August 5, 1821
"Stop, thief!" Madeline St. James grabbed the coarse sleeve of the man who stole her guineas, but he shook free and dashed away.
"Give those back, this instant." Mouth open, pulse racing, she stopped her pursuit. A scream bubbled in the pit of her stomach, but she pursed her lips. A St. James never made a public scene or conceded defeat.
The thief reached the other side of the vacant courtyard, well ahead of a wagon rumbling up the cobblestone lane. He shot her a toothless grin and traipsed to the main building of Tilford Coaching Inn.
The dray and its lumbering horse team swerved closer, but if she waited one more second, the thief would escape her view. Another man would've taken advantage of her. Not again.
Picking up her weighty skirts, she sprinted onto the slick rocks of the road. The silver hem of her long carriage dress slapped at the mud. Better to be dirty than a victim. Cupping her palm to her eyes, she scanned for the thief.
The man bounded up the stone entree. He'd vanish like her driver, amongst the sea of gaming travellers.
She lengthened her stride to intercept him.
One high step too many, her boot heel caught in the sagging silk, tripping her. The air pushed from her lungs as she fell flat. The soggy earth saturated her layers to the shift and petticoat. Her injured elbow stung anew.

Wheels squealed. Hooves clomped the cobbles. Soon the horses would be on top of her, stomping and kicking.
A couple of tugs and yanks couldn't fish her boot free. No escape this time. Abba Fatherforgive. She turned her head and braced for the onslaught.
A band of iron gripped her stomach and hauled her from the muck. She went limp, sprawled against the hard chest of a rescuer. He pulled her off the lane and under one of the overhanging galleries of the inn.
Wind slapped her cheek as the horses swept past. No one held the reins. The wagon swung wide, crashed into the inn's main building, and flipped to the ground. Ejected barrels hit the whitewashed wall and sprayed foamy liquid.
Madeline's breath came in heaves, and she clutched the titan arm sheltering her. No fainting. No need to lose more dignity.
One of the draught horses loosed from its tether and galloped to the emerald pines scalloping the surrounding hills. The other roan remained with the wreck, lifting its crooked leg. Poor lame creature.
An old man rushed out of the inn and cut at the horse's strap. "Bring my gun. This one needs to be put down."
With an awkward hold on her middle, her rescuer spun her, perhaps to keep her from seeing the cruelty. He needn't be concerned.
The past two weeks had numbed her to violence. Yet, God kept her as He did again today. "Thank you,

Providence/ but please…spare the roan."
"You're welcome, but it's Devonshire, Lord Devonshire." The low voice kissed her ear, heated the pulsing vein along her throat.
How could this man sound calm? They both could've died.
He flung open the door to an onyx carriage and eased her onto the floorboards. "Are you injured, miss?"
"No." She rubbed her arms and gazed at her rescuer. He was very tall, enough to make her feel dainty even at her Amazon height. With broad shoulders and a solid chin, she couldn't have sculpted a more perfect hero. "The horse, sir? Can you help it?"
"Stay put. This mere mortal will see what can be done." He grabbed his top hat from the seat and marched away. His elegant form, straight posture, disappeared into the growing crowd.
It didn't matter she sat on the floor, chilled in her clothes, imposing demands of a stranger. Even against this errant horse, Death shouldn't win. She'd seen its victories too often, with Mama's passing seven years ago and Cousin Thomas dying this past spring.
She squeezed her throbbing elbow. Falling aggravated the sprain.
A quick shake of her foot didn't release her trapped kid boot but tore the lace trim on her gown, Mama's carriage dress. A lump formed in Madeline's throat. She missed Mama so much.
A few choice words shouted from the crowd and a round of loud snickers interrupted her woolgathering.
Lord Devonshire returned and rubbed the scruff of his neck. "It cost three guineas, but your nag will be kept by the innkeeper's daughter."

"I'll repay you, sir. My abigail has my reticule." She swallowed gall. The thief took most of her money, but surely three coins were left.
He waved his hand. "I'd rather not be a paid fool." Leaning along the door, he stared at her with irises bluer than a summer day.
What could Lord Devonshire learn from her disheveled appearance? She didn't mind his gaze. Since travelling to Shropshire, grey ash painted the clouds, no doubt from the ore foundries. No sunny skies like Hampshire.
"Now to be of true assistance." He reached under her hem, gripped above her ankle, and freed her boot from the tangle of silk. The warmth arising from his gloved hands seared her thin stockings. "Not broken." He released her foot to dangle through the entrance.
Shocking and bold. Though dressed as a gentleman in buff buckskins and an azure tailcoat, this definitely wasn't someone with whom to be alone.
Her wits returned, and she bounced out of the carriage. "I'll get your payment."
"Wait." Deep and commanding like Father's voice, his words stopped her. "I saw you trip trailing the miner."
She pivoted and clasped her hands across her ruined pelisse. Mud covered the delicate puce rosettes embroidered on the bodice.
"You were very brave to run after him."
"Bacon-brained would be a more apt description." A raindrop splashed her forehead. Her bonnet must have fallen in the commotion. She wiped her brow. The cold balm of mud smoothed against her skin. Her heart sunk, and she wrenched off her soiled gloves. If her cheeks weren't already scarlet, they should be.

He shortened the distance between them, a smile tugging at his full lips. "In mining country, the strikes have set everyone on edge. Some resort to crime. There's a would-be highwayman on every corner. You must take care around Tilford."
A fortnight ago, his concern might've warmed her, but not now.
"Father of Heav'n!" Mrs. Elsie Wilkins, Madeline's abigail, ran to her.
"Y' weren't to leave the livery." The good woman wrapped her stubby arms about Madeline's hips. "Too much for m' heart."
In vain, Madeline pushed at Mrs. Wilkins's indigo redingote to keep it from soiling, but no force could stop the woman's bear-like embrace.
Madeline's trampled bonnet peeked from the motherly woman's reticule. Dredged in dirt, the hat's ostrich plume lay crooked. Even in haste, her abigail took care of Madeline.
With another clench, Mrs. Wilkins finally let go. "Y' face?" She yanked from her pocket a crimson cloth and scrubbed Madeline's chin.
Madeline clasped her friend's wrist. "Dear, hand me my scarf. I'll do it."
Mrs. Wilkins shook her head and kept swatting the mud. She didn't want to come on this adventure, but how could Madeline be without her strongest ally? It must be the Irish blood bubbling in the abigail's veins, making her so loyal.
"First a broken wheel, now this." Mrs. Wilkins added a spit shine to Madeline's cheek then pivoted to Lord Devonshire. "The stable boys said ye saved her. Bless ye."
"I…I saw the lass fall in the path of the wagon. I

am the Earl of Devonshire. Very glad to be of assistance." An unreadable expression set on his countenance as he flicked a rain droplet from his sleeve. "Are there others in your party?"
"There's me--Mrs. Wilkins--and my lady, Miss Madeline St. James." She stretched on tiptoes and picked at Madeline's unraveling chignon, reseating pins and tucking tresses. "And m' lady's driver, but he disappeared, the no good lout."
Great. Mrs. Wilkins just confirmed they were alone. Now he'd be obliged to help. Indebted to a man. Could this day get any worse?
The earl rubbed his jaw. His gaze seemed locked on the colourful scarf.
Another drip from the overcast skies splattered and curled into the sable-brown hair peeking beneath Lord Devonshire's brim. He was too fine looking, too virile to be trusted. Step-mother's nephew, the handsome Mr. Kent, imparted that lesson before Madeline left home.
"Mrs. Wilkins, hand me my coins. I need to repay his lordship."
"No, miss. 'Tis my duty to escort you to your destination."
Madeline shook her head. "'Unnecessary."
"Cheshire. Please take us there." Mrs. Wilkins dabbed at her coat. "Like a divine appointm'nt, the earl being here."
"I can't speak for divinity, but you might say I've been waiting on a sign." He slipped the cloth from Mrs. Wilkins and waved it like a flag. "Someone brave to show me the way."
"I suppose we have no choice." Madeline snatched it from him with trembling fingers. She may be bacon

brained but not helpless or a plaything.
"There's always a choice. Like should I chase a scoundrel or let you freeze?"
She stilled her shaking palms.
He stepped near, removed his tailcoat, and draped it onto her shoulders. With his thick thumbs, he flipped the collar's revers to cradle her neck. His touch was gentle. "This should stop your shivers. I'll have my Mason get blankets."
Hugging herself beneath the weighty wool, Madeline gaped at Lord Devonshire. "Sir, we haven't agreed."
"The drizzle will get worse." He rotated to Mrs. Wilkins. "The young lady was just in my Berlin. Perhaps the visit was too short to attest to its comfort."
Trimmed in gold, the carriage could overshadow her father's. Either the earl possessed great wealth or liked the appearance of it. In her experience, both conditions made men pompous or cruel. She rubbed her elbow again.
Mrs. Wilkins curtsied. "My lord, we've two trunks in the stables with our brok'n carriage."
The earl nodded, opened the door to his Berlin, and then plodded the long lane toward the livery of the coaching inn. Was it confidence or arrogance squaring his shoulders?
He didn't pivot to check on them, not once. Arrogance.
"Come along, Lady Maddie. Don't get stubborn. Remember your plan."
Madeline raised her chin, grasped Mrs. Wilkins's forearm, and lumbered toward Lord Devonshire's carriage. "Another obstacle to peace."
Her friend's cheeks glowed. "The beginning of

peace, child. It's the beginning."
If only Mrs. Wilkins could be right. The unease in Madeline's spirit disagreed.
****
The temptation to look back almost overtook Justain Delveaux, the Earl of Devonshire. He strode faster to the livery. The girl had been spooked. If he seemed anxious, she'd run.
A fire of independence burned in her jade eyes. He'd have to placate Miss St. James and win her trust. Then she'd lead him to the killer.
At the entry of the hay-filled livery, his driver brushed Athena, Justain's filly. "Sir, are you ready to give up? The informant isn't going to show."
Justain stroked Athena's thick ebony coat, a shade lighter than Miss St. James's raven locks. "He didn't. She did. Look behind me. Are ladies entering my Berlin?"
Mason squinted. "Yes."
"The young one possesses the red cloth signal. She's the informant."
Furrowing his brows, Mason shrugged. "You and your jokes, sir."
"I'm serious. We're taking them to Cheshire, probably a clandestine meeting. Never thought to look for a woman. Well, not for an informant. The lass will lead me to lynch--"
"Must you wax poetic?" Mason chortled. "Genteel women shouldn't be left here/ but…"
"Just say it."
"We need to leave, sir. Something's afoot." Mason wiped water from the brim of his tricorn. "The miners

say a blood vengeance rides tonight."
"We'll leave soon, with my new acquaintances." Why was Mason hedging his words? Since Justain was knee-high, the man never held his tongue.
Rain fell in buckets. Justain moved under the stable's roof.
Mason and Athena followed. He searched his blue-black flap coat and retrieved his treasured silver flask and Justain's bottle of tincture. "The filly's cut is sealed."
"Superb, but no more of this." Justain pocketed the tincture. "Put away your spirits and say your peace."
"This chase won't bring Lord Richard back." His driver's voice grated like a rebuke from the old man, Justain's father. "You've other things to contend."
Justain concentrated on the steady rhythm of the shower. It blocked the memory of Richard's last breath and Justain's mounting guilt. He was to blame for Richard dying. Nothing took precedence over avenging his brother.
"Send blankets to my guests. Have the stable grooms load Miss St. James's trunks." He trudged toward the Berlin. This couldn't be a fool's errand. He hated being a fool.
****
Madeline forced a smile at Lord Devonshire as he leapt into the Berlin. He sat in the opposing seat, tossed his sodden top hat and gloves onto the floorboards, then pushed wet hair from his face. The rain poured hard minutes after she and Mrs. Wilkins entered his carriage, and it hadn't lessened.
Seeing him soaked eased her slight agitation at him.

"Thank ye, for savin' m' mistress." Mrs. Wilkins snuggled into the corner of his carriage, her greying red curls rested upon the creamy silk lining the walls. "Ye gen'rous to escort us to Cheshire." She yawned then winked at Madeline. "So noble and so handsome."
Heat crept up Madeline's neck. She didn't need to be reminded of his looks or his bravery. "We are grateful."
"Be at ease. It's not often I play the hero these days." His sable-brown mop shadowed a lean nose and tanned cheeks. "The escapade gave me needed exercise."
At least, he remained humoured. Gratitude should weigh on her spirit, but was his deed happenstance or had he followed her? Miles and miles from Hampshire, and the feeling of being chased refused to quit.
A servant stuck his head inside the carriage. Rain drizzled down his uniform causing the braiding on his mantle to droop. "To Cheshire, my lord?"
Twisting a signet ring, Lord Devonshire glanced toward Madeline and Mrs. Wilkins and then turned to the opening. "Yes, Mason, I haven't changed my mind. My guests have gone to great lengths to find me. I shan't forsake them."
What? Why did the earl think she sought him? What tales men must feed each other.
"Yes, my lord." The frowning servant nodded and shut the heavy door.
Madeline smoothed her bodice, trying to calm the tickle in her stomach. Father told her every kindness held a price. She'd paid enough for trusting Mr. Kent. The pain from his blows to her side persisted.

"Lord Devonshire, we haven't departed. Pray help us hire a post chaise to ferry my abigail and me to my aunt?"
"No. I will see this through." He cleared his throat. "I look forward to our conversation."
Though the earl's countenance appeared pleasant with his lips curling, he fidgeted his wilted cravat. Dried, the neckcloth might've held a little height in a fashionable sense. Was he one of those pompous dandies? Her scarlet handkerchief did hold his interest.
No. If he were, the earl would've let Madeline die than risk wrinkles to his clothes. The parade of fortune hunters Step-mother marched through Avington Manor surely would've made no effort. The shrewish woman probably hoped the flock of peacocks supping at their home could convince Madeline to accept her nephew for a mate, a lesser of evils.
The carriage lurched forward. Lord Devonshire reclined as if he posed for a portrait. His steady gaze set upon her.
Did he want his jacket returned? Did her slipping bonnet offend him? She righted it and smoothed its bent feather. "May I at least reimburse the livery expenses for my carriage?"
"Keep your precious gold coins. 'Tis my honour to serve you, Miss St. James." He grinned. Smooth white teeth peeked. "The opportunity to pull a headstrong beauty from harm's way is something I relish."
"Would you let a thief abscond with your coins?"
His smile dissolved. "No. I protect what is mine, and I'll avenge what is stolen."
Few had the patience for her opinions. She rolled one of the silver buttons of his jacket along her thumb.
"Praise be unto Prov…" Mrs. Wilkins snorted a harsh noise, her chin bobbling in the throes of sleep. With a fold and a tuck, Madeline secured the dear woman's blanket then tugged a book from the abigail's reticule.

"You two are my first guests in this new coach." The earl's tone was low.
He needn't be concerned about awakening Mrs. Wilkins. After this harrowing day, wild elephants couldn't rouse her.
Slumping near the window, Madeline glanced at the retreating landscape, the evergreens reflecting in the puddles. She'd enjoy nature now, before they crossed the Severn Gorge. Seeing the bottomless chasm would rattle her frayed nerves. The last time, ten years ago, she took this route with her parents and had curled next to Mama and hid within the folds of her shawl. Abba Father, please allow each of my steps to be surefooted. Tell Mama I miss her.
Lord Devonshire inched closer. Though the carriage rocked with each clip-clop of the horse team, he didn't sway. His tall frame sat erect like a sleek marble sculpture. "Is there anything I can do to make you comfortable?"
Mrs. Wilkins's bonnet fell onto her lap, her snores bleating to an embarrassing high pitch. The symphony of snoots quieted, but not before one protracted trumpet.
"No, sir." Madeline's cheeks warmed. Explaining her hasty exodus from Avington would lower his opinion of her, not that she needed his good opinion.
Egad. Step-mother was right. Madeline did over think things. She yanked her bookmark, flipped a few pages, and tried to lose herself in the passage.
He rapped the book and lowered it. "You'll ruin your sight, reading all the way to Cheshire. At our next stop, I'll have a lantern set down, unless I can capture your interest."

Another opportunist. Yes, he'd saved her from being trampled, but he was still a man. Did they do anything but seek their own pleasures? Like Mr. Kent.
Kent's sibilant whispers turned to yells ringing in her ear. He threatened to kill her for refusing his proposal. What type of life would she have if she'd eloped with a man of such vile temperament? She shuddered. Shoving her novel in Kent's eye darkened it and helped her escape.
"Miss St. James? Are you well?"
"Yes." She glanced at her wet hero. "You must be cold. I should return this." She lifted the tailcoat an inch and an ache rippled along her elbow. She clenched her teeth and let the jacket fall back to her shoulders.
"Just damp." He whipped his sleeves, rustling ivory buttons. "You seem to favour your right arm. Did I injure you in our last embrace?"
"No…no/ my lord." Her breath hitched, and she sniffed an odour similar to fresh dye. It reeked. She huddled deeper in the tailcoat and swathed her nostrils. The mild fragrance of sandalwood lingered in Lord Devonshire's jacket. Peace reined in every storm, and this one smelled of safety, like her father's robes.
The earl shifted his boots hard onto the floor. "Some say confession is good for the soul. Do tell. Why were you at Tilford--a gaming den, no less?"
Madeline wobbled on the tufted cushion. "My carriage broke down. One usually has no choice where this happens."
"And your driver's missing? Such a fanciful story.

I love a quality Banbury." He folded his arms like a solicitor in the midst of an inquiry. "Are you running from or to someone?"
"To my aunt in Cheshire, Lady Cecil Glaston. She's to tour Italy with me." Well, it would be the plan once Madeline convinced the art patroness. Madeline intended to sculpt such a stirring picture, Aunt would be anxious to see Michelangelo's David and abandon holding a matchmaking season. After Mr. Kent's betrayal, Madeline wasn't ready to belong to any man.
"I think you are running from someone whose wrath you fear. Don't lose courage. So much trouble is wrought from silence." For one second, the earl's sky-blue pools seemed to ripple with hurt before he blinked them clear. "We mustn't allow this."
She squinted at Lord Devonshire. Could he know she'd kept quiet about Mr. Kent?
"Help me, Miss St. James, my brave lass?"
Madeline's heart responded to the plea, thundering within her ribs, but could she be of aid without inviting Kent's revenge?
Lord Devonshire reached for her hand. "Tell me your secret. My dear, you can trust me."


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.


Madeline's Protector

COPYRIGHT 2012 by Vanessa Riley

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Pelican Ventures, LLC except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

eBook editions are licensed for your personal enjoyment only. eBooks may not be re-sold, copied or given to other people. If you would like to share an eBook edition, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.

Contact Information: titleadmin@pelicanbookgroup.com

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated are taken from the King James translation, public domain.

Cover Art by Nicola Martinez

White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC www.pelicanbookgroup.com PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410

White Rose Publishing Circle and Rosebud logo is a trademark of Pelican Ventures, LLC

Publishing History First White Rose Edition, 2013 Print Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-226-4 Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-225-7
Published in the United States of America


*I have not read this book, but I thought it sounded good! :) I hope you enjoyed a look into Madeline's Protector with me! :) ~ASC

First Wild Card Tour (Psalm 91 for Mothers)

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:

Charisma House (March 5, 2013)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Peggy Joyce Ruth and her husband, Jack, are former pastors from Brownwood, Texas. Peggy has taught an adult Bible study each week at her church for the past thirty years. She is a popular conference speaker and continues to teach a weekly radio Bible study called Better Living on KPSM and KBUB.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Psalm 91 for Mothers, Peggy Joyce Ruth takes the concept from her best-selling book Psalm 91 and applies it to her personal experience as a mother and grandmother. With compelling, emotional stories from her life and the lives of others who have been touched by this psalm, she guides you through a personal study, explaining verse by verse God’s promises of protection, provision, and blessing for your children.


Product Details:
List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (March 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616387343
ISBN-13: 978-1616387341


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Where Is My Dwelling Place?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. —Psalm 91:1
Think for just a minute of where, more than anyplace else in the world, you like to be when you want to feel protected and peaceful. I remember when I was a little girl and would wake up in the middle of the night and feel frightened. I would tiptoe down to my mother and dad’s room and very quietly slip in bed with them. As I lay there—silently listening to them breathe and feeling all cozy and protected—before I knew it, the fear was gone, and I would be sound asleep.

I am sure you can think of something that represents security to you personally. When I think of security and protection, I have a couple of childhood memories that automatically come to mind. My dad was a large, muscular man who played football during his high school and college years, but he interrupted his education to serve in the military during World War II. Mother, who was pregnant with my little brother, and I lived with my grandparents in San Saba while Dad was in the service. As young as I was, I vividly remember one ecstatically happy day when my dad unexpectedly opened the door and walked into my grandmother’s living room. Before that eventful day I had been tormented with fears because some neighborhood children had told me I would never see my dad again. Like kids telling a ghost story, they taunted me that my dad would come home in a box. When he walked through that door that day, a sense of peace and security came over me and stayed with me for the rest of his time in the army.

My Father, Albert Crow
It was past time for my baby brother to be born, and I found out when I was older that Dad’s outfit at the time was being relocated by train from Long Beach, California, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. The train was coming through Fort Worth, Texas, on its way to Virginia, so my dad caught a ride from Fort Worth to San Saba in the hopes of seeing his new son. He then hitchhiked until he caught up with the train shortly before it reached Virginia Beach. The memory of his walking into that room still brings a feeling of peaceful calm to my soul. In fact, that incident set the stage for later seeking the security a heavenly Father’s presence could bring.

When I think of dwelling in the shelter of God, I have another childhood memory that always comes to mind. My parents would often take my younger brother and sister and me to a lake. There was a wonderful place to fish for perch that very few people knew about, and we children loved to perch fish. It was such a thrill to see the cork begin to bobble and then suddenly go completely out of sight. There were very few things that I liked better than jerking back on that old cane pole and landing a huge perch. Dad had a good reason for having us catch those perch. They were what he used for bait on the trotline that he had stretched out across one of the secret coves at the lake.

Dad and family on fishing trip
Dad would drive the boat over to the place where his trotline was located. Then he would cut off the boat motor and inch the boat across the water as he ran the trotline. That’s what he called it when he would hold onto to the trotline with his hands and pull the boat alongside all the hooks he had baited in hopes that he had caught a big catfish. A trotline was like having about twenty-five fishing poles baited and placed all the way across the lake.

I loved to perch fish, but it was an even greater thrill when Dad would get to a place where the trotline rope would begin to jerk almost out of his hand. That meant he had hooked a fish. It was then that all three of us children would watch, wideeyed, as Dad wrestled with that line until finally, in victory, he would flip that huge catfish over the side of the boat, right at our feet. Money could never buy that kind of excitement! The circus and a carnival all rolled up into one couldn’t give us that kind of a thrill.

One of those outings proved to be more exciting than most, turning out to be an action-packed experience that I will never forget. It had been a beautiful day when we started out, but by the time we finished our perch fishing and were headed toward the trotline, everything changed. A storm came up on the lake so suddenly there was no time to get back to the boat dock. The sky turned black, lightning was flashing, and drops of rain were falling so hard that they stung our skin when they hit. Then, moments later, we were in the middle of a hailstorm with large, marble-sized hail.

I could see the fear in my mother’s eyes, and I knew we were in danger. But before I had time to wonder what we were going to do, Dad had driven the boat to the rugged shoreline of the only island on the lake. There are many boat docks that surround the island now, but back then it looked like an abandoned island with absolutely no place to take refuge from the storm. In just moments Dad had us all out of the boat and ordered the three of us to lie down beside our mother on the ground. Quickly pulling a canvas tarp out of the bottom of the boat, he knelt down on the ground beside us and pulled that tarp up over all five of us. That storm raged outside the homemade tent he had made—the rain beat down, the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled. But all I could think about was how it felt to have his arms around us. There was a certain peace that is hard to explain as we lay there under the protection of the shield my father had provided. In fact, I had never felt as safe and secure in my entire life. I can remember thinking that I wished the storm would last forever. I didn’t want anything to spoil the wonderful security I felt that day—there in our secret hiding place. Feeling my father’s strong, protective arms around me, I wanted it to never end.

Although I have never forgotten that experience when we were fishing at the lake, today it has taken on new meaning. Just as Dad put a tarp over us to shield us from the storm, our heavenly Father has a secret place in His arms that protects us from the storms that are raging in the world around us.

Fear is running rampant in the world today. Even children who have the security of a home filled with the love of a mother and father cannot help but sense the growing anxiety that is plaguing our schools, our streets, our newspapers, and our televisions. Suicides are becoming a common occurrence. But did you know that this place in God is real for anyone who wants to seek refuge in Him? It is a literal place of physical safety and security that God tells us about in this Psalm 91.

This secret place is literal, but it is also conditional! In verse 1 of Psalm 91 God lists our part of the condition before He even mentions the promises included in His part. That’s because our part has to come first. To abide in the shadow of the Almighty, we must first choose to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

The question is, how do we dwell in the security and shelter of the Most High? It is more than an intellectual experience. This verse speaks of a dwelling place in which we can be physically protected if we run to Him. You may utterly believe that God is your refuge, and you may give mental assent to it in your prayer time, but unless you actually get up and run to the shelter—you will never experience it. I call that place of refuge a love walk!

Most children have a secret hideout where they feel all safe and secure, hidden away from the whole world. They need to be taught, however, that those places where they feel protected are nice, but a hideout cannot keep them safe from everything. It will be life changing, however, when they are told that there is a place of shelter that will keep them protected from every evil this world has ever known. What a treasure you are leaving them when you teach them that God says He is a place of real safety from any bad thing they can think of in the whole earth—if they will run to Him. And how do they run to God? They don’t run there with their feet. They run to God with their heart! They need to be taught that they are running to God every time they think about Him—every time they tell the Lord that they love Him.

Cullen and Meritt
When our grandchildren Cullen and Meritt were young, they would often stay the night with us. The moment they finished breakfast, each would run to his own secret place to spend some time talking with God. Cullen found a place behind the couch in the den, and Meritt headed behind the lamp table in the corner of our bedroom. Those places became very special to them.

Where is your secret place? Everyone needs the security and shelter of a secret place with the Most High.



*I have not read this book.  I thought since Mother's day is coming up I would let everyone know about this book.  Maybe it will make good Mother's day gift?  Thanks for reading! :)  ~ASC

North of Hope Review.

North of Hope by Shannon Polson


Book Description:
After her parents are killed in a rare grizzly attack, the author is forced into a wilderness of grief. Turning to loves she learned from her father, Polson explores the perilous terrain of grief through music, the natural world, and her faith. Her travels take her from the suburbs of Seattle to the concert hall where she sings Mozart's Requiem, and ultimately into the wilderness of Alaska's remote Arctic and of her heart.

My Honest Opinion:
First of all I want to say I don't want to hurt or upset Shannon Polson the author of this book. That said I must give my honest opinion about North of Hope.

I was disappointed. Some of you that follow know that I don't usually read non-fiction. But I dove into this thinking it would be interesting. And there where parts of it that are really good. I liked the way Shannon wrote some of the scenes and I even loved how I could relate to the pain of loss though her circumstances are far more shocking and heart breaking than anything I've personally experienced. Now, I must tell you that I didn't even finish reading the whole book. I got so upset and bogged down by the secular and miss information leaning (I felt) towards evolution with millions of years and carbon layers that I couldn't even finish reading. I was home schooled with a Christian curriculum. It was taught and further explained (in my opinion proven) that this world is only 6,013 years old. Starting with 4,000 B.C. and counting down to 1 then start counting back up; thus we have 2013 A.D. Some (or possibly most) of you may think I'm overreacting in not completing the book for these reasons, and I was going to just over look the years thing and make a comment in my review. But when the millions of years and carbon thing about the bear happened on top of other strange comments I got bogged down and frustrated. For those of you that don't agree or think that I am mistaken you are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but this is my honest opinion. Now like I said the whole book isn't bad. There are some great things, I think, especially for someone who may have a friend that has suffered a shocking and great loss recently and you are trying to understand the way they are acting out or actually feeling inside. But I do think you should skip over certain parts. The thing that bothers me is that the years and carbon issues did not have to be included/added in this book and it would have been SO much better with out them! I don't want to hurt the author, because I'm sure writing and sharing this journey was a helpful and great way to express pain and help healing, but this is my opinion of North of Hope.

I did not pair song with this book.

~ASC

*I received this book for the purpose of reviewing it.  This in no way affected my opinion of North of Hope and the above is how I truly feel. ~ASC

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First Wild Card Tour (A Cowboy at Heart)

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 (April 1, 2013)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.



Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen inspirational novels and more than fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with ecclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




When an unscrupulous cattle baron tries to steal Amish land, a brave cowboy intervenes and is wounded. Lovely Katie Miller, the young healer in the district, attends to him while trying to guard her heart. Could there possibly be a future with Jesse Montgomery only God can bring about?




Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736953418
ISBN-13: 978-0736953412



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Apple Grove, Kansas
May 1886

 The first fingers of sunlight danced across the tips of tender wheat plants that had poked through the rich Kansas soil only two weeks before. Jonas Switzer stood on the western border of the field, his face to the rising sun, and marveled once again at this evidence of the Almighty’s provision. Last fall he had sown this wheat into ground prepared to accept it, and throughout the long winter months it laid dormant with no visible sign of the planting. But now it rose from its earthy bed to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Jonas knelt to inspect a single plant barely taller than his finger. Though he was not normally given to poetic comparisons, something about the crisp morning air and the smell of the soil turned his thoughts toward symbolic expression. His life was much like the single grain of wheat from which this plant had sprung. How many times had he felt dried and shriveled, a tiny kernel buried in a barren field? When his beloved wife passed eighteen years ago, something died inside him. If not for the blessing of his daughters he would have sunk into the earth and disappeared forever, his life smothered by a grief he thought he might never throw off. But as they grew, the joy they gave him showered his parched world. He learned to trust that somewhere above the trench in which he was buried, sunshine warmed the earth and rains fell to nourish it.

Then they left the Amish. Jonas closed his eyes against a wave of sorrow. First his Emma and then his Rebecca had chosen to build their lives outside the faith in which they were raised.

It is their right. Their choice.

That he knew, but still his heart grieved that the children he loved had not found the same contentment in the Plain ways he clung to. That his grandchildren were being raised in a lifestyle foreign to his.

“Pride it is that makes you think yours is the only way. At least they are Christian. Gott sei Dank!”

His mother’s voice rang in his head, and a smile tugged at his lips. Her attitude toward the Plain way of life had been forever skewed by the few years she had spent with her Englisch husband. And yet he did thank Gott that his children and their husbands professed a Christian faith, though Bishop Miller would argue that their way was not enough because they did not separate themselves completely from a sinful world.

Jonas stood with a sigh. All he knew was that his daughters were happy and they lived their Englisch lives in service to the Almighty and to their families. They had showered his life once again with blessings, with fine, strong sons-in-law and happy, smiling grandchildren. With a full heart he formed a silent prayer of gratitude for Emma and Luke’s two, Lucas and Rachel, and for the baby Rebecca and Colin were expecting, who would be born before summer’s end.

His gaze swept the sun-bathed field. A breeze rustled the fledgling plants, creating waves that swept from one end of the field to another. He was but one small plant, but at least he had broken free of the soil and could feel the warmth of sunlight once again.

A movement in the distance caught his attention. Beyond the wheatfield he spied a pair of horses standing on the slight rise that separated this field from the wide creek that watered his small herd of cattle and goats. Wild horses, perhaps? Squinting, he stretched his gaze. Were those saddle pommels on their backs? Not wild, then. But where were their riders? With a glance toward the house in the opposite direction, where Mader no doubt waited for him with a hearty breakfast, he headed toward the horses.

When he was halfway around the wheatfield, something else came into focus. What was that post sticking up from the ground? Yesterday there had been no post. He scanned the area around his farm, alarm tickling his stomach when he realized there were many posts, strung out as far as he could see. And was that a wire strung between them? His eyes were not so good today. Sound drifted to him from the location of the horses. Men’s deep voices.

Slapping a hand on the top of his straw hat to keep it on his head, Jonas hurried toward the horses at a trot.

As he neared the rise, men came into view… Englisch men, four of them in their buttoned shirts and snug trousers held up by leather belts cinched around their waists. They worked at some activity. It took Jonas only a moment to identify what they were doing. Two of them were digging while the other two wrestled a large roll of barbed wire off a wagon. The wagon’s bed was filled with sturdy wooden posts.

He could hardly believe his eyes. These men were building a fence. On his property!

Jonas stood on the top of the rise, watching them work with his hands hanging uselessly at his sides. Someone had made a grave mistake, one that must be corrected.

One of the men with the wire caught sight of him and straightened. “Woodard, we got company.”

Woodard stopped digging and looked up. He planted his shovel in the soil and hooked a palm across the handle, staring at Jonas with a measuring look. “Howdy.”

The man managed to turn the word into a threat. Jonas kept his face impassive, but an alarm rang inside his ears. The four Englischers wore menacing scowls, and their rough appearance hinted at a familiarity with violence. An ugly scar ran down Woodard’s unshaven face from cheekbone to chin.

“Pardon me.” Jonas spoke in the same soft manner he would use to greet any stranger. “There has been a mistake. This fence is misplaced.”

Woodard held Jonas’s gaze while he turned his head to spit. “No mistake. This here fence belongs to Mr. Andrew Littlefield. Heard of him?”

The name meant nothing to Jonas. He shook his head.

“Whew, doggie,” said his digging partner. “Them Amish really are backward, ain’t they?”

The others chuckled. Jonas gave no outward sign that the insult had affected him, though inside his nerves stretched taut. A man who would insult another would be quick to injure as well.

A smirk twisted Woodard’s features. “Mr. Littlefield’s a powerful man in these parts. He’s your neighbor to the north. Moved up here from Texas to start him a ranch a while back. Gonna bring a herd of Texas Longhorns up from Amarillo.”

“We will make him welcome.”

“Welcome him, will you?” Woodard barked a harsh laugh, and the other men joined in. “Well, I’ll tell you right now that the best welcome you can offer him is to get your livestock off of his land.”

Jonas looked in the direction in which the man jerked his head. A little to the east, beyond the thorny hedge he’d planted to border the wheatfield, a few of his cattle were making their way toward the creek for a drink.

“Pardon, please, but it is my farm the cows are on.”

“Now, that’s where you’re wrong.” Woodard pushed his oblong Englisch hat back on his head with a finger. “See this fence?” He pointed out the length of wire that stretched to the west as far as Jonas could see. “This here’s Mr. Littlefield’s property. He’s filed a homestead claim to this land. The boys and me been working all night to get this fence in place.”

“But this is my farm, my home.” Jonas waved both hands to encompass the land that surrounded them.

“Yeah? I don’t see no sign.” He glanced at his companions. “You fellas see a sign?”

With their smirking gazes fixed on Jonas, they shook their heads. “Not a one.”

“Well, there you go.” Woodard’s smile did nothing to veil his scorn. “Looks to me like this fence is the only thing marking the boundary.” He waved to the area behind him, including the creek. “That means this part belongs to Mr. Littlefield. And that part,” he gestured toward the wheatfield and house behind Jonas, “must be yorn.”

A flicker erupted in the back of Jonas’s brain. Did they mean to take his farm, his home? The area on his side of the barbed wire was a fraction of his property. What, then, of the field beyond the creek, the one he and Big Ed had plowed only a few days ago in preparation for planting corn? What of the pasture where his cattle and goats grazed? Angry heat suffused his face, but he took care to pitch his voice so that none of the anger might escape.

“The land belongs to me. Almost twenty years have I lived here. A trench I dug all around, as I was told to do.”

Woodard’s eyes narrowed to mere slits. He tossed his shovel aside and closed the distance between them with a menacing stride, stopping only when he was close enough that Jonas could smell the rank odor of his breath. The others also moved. They went to the wagon and each picked up a rifle before coming to stand behind their leader.

“I don’t think you heard me, Amish man,” Woodard said, his voice as low as Jonas’s. “This property belongs to Mr. Andrew Littlefield. If you want to go on breathing, you’ll keep to your side of that fence.”

A cold lump of fear cooled Jonas’s burning anger. The message was clear. If he or his livestock crossed that fence, they would be shot.

Injustice churned like acid in his stomach. It was because he was Amish that these men did this. They knew he would not retaliate.

They are right.

Did Jesus not forbid His followers all revenge and resistance? He has thereby commanded them not to return evil for evil, nor railing for railing. The words rose from deep inside, placed there by years of repetition of the Confession that all Amish professed. Though his sinful self would love to rail against these rough men, he could not.

Maintaining his silence was the only way Jonas could keep his anger in check. Without a reply, he turned away from Woodard and began the trek around the wheatfield and back to his house. Behind him, derisive laughter rose from four throats into the morning sky. Jonas kept his head up, though his back burned from the weight of their scornful stares.

I will not rail against them. I will not dishonor the faith to which I have pledged my life.

The laughter stopped, and soon he heard the sound of shovels carving into fresh soil.

But neither will I give up my home. I will stand my ground, but peacefully, with my friends at my side.

He lengthened his stride, a sense of purpose giving him fresh energy. He would hook Big Ed up to the buggy and go to his Amish brothers for help.

-

“Ow, stop! It hurts, Katie.”

Katie Miller looked calmly into a pair of reproachful blue eyes belonging to her young sister-in-law. “The bandage must come off, Hannah, else how can I see if the wound is healing properly? Hold still. I will be gentle.”

Eight-year-old Hannah studied her with a measuring look, as though deciding whether or not to trust her. Finally, with a brief nod, she placed her bandaged hand again into Katie’s waiting one. She turned her head away, face screwed up and eyes shut tight, her muscles tense. Seated next to Hannah at the sturdy kitchen table, Ella Miller held her daughter’s uninjured hand, worry lines carving crevasses in the smooth forehead beneath her prayer kapp.

And well she might worry. The injury to Hannah’s hand had not been serious until infection set in. By the time they sent for Katie, it had swollen to twice normal size, and angry red lines stretched halfway up the child’s arm.

Katie unwound layers of cotton bandages, a half-formed prayer for the girl running through her mind. When she pulled the last strip gently away from the wound, she let out a pent-up breath.

“Das ist gut,” she told Mader Miller.

A relieved smile washed the worry from the woman’s face. “See you there, Hannah. The smelly salve that angered you so has worked.”

Katie pressed the skin around the wound with a gentle finger. Thank goodness the swelling was greatly reduced from two days ago, and the red lines had all but disappeared. “Wiggle your thumb and finger.”

The girl did, and Katie breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.

“By the good Lord’s grace, she will recover fully,” she announced, and then she turned a serious look on Hannah. “But you must be more careful when playing around your papa’s plow. You could have lost your hand, and then where would you be?”

A dimple appeared in one peachy cheek. “I would not have to milk cows.”

“Ach, what a girl!” Mader Miller swatted at Hannah with a tea towel. “Indeed you would, but twice as long it would take you. In fact, you can return to your chore tomorrow and see how you like working as a one-handed dairymaid.”

Scowling, Hannah slumped in her chair and remained silent while Katie cleaned the wound and slathered it with a layer of ointment. When a fresh bandage had been put in place, the little girl tested the tightness by gingerly clenching her hand into a loose fist.

Satisfied with the result, she bobbed her head. “Danki, Katie.” She looked shyly up. “Maybe if I hurt my other hand you will come more often. I miss you.”

The words twisted Katie’s heart. Since she’d returned to her parents’ home four months ago, she had only seen her family-by-marriage a few times outside of the district’s twice-monthly church services. But though she loved them, there were too many re-
minders here. She and Samuel had lived in this house during the five years of their marriage. At this very table they had sat side by side for meals with Hannah and Mader and Fader Miller. In the room at the top of the stairs, they had slept as husband and wife. A sense of grief threatened to overwhelm her.

She shook it off and tugged playfully at one of the laces dangling from Hannah’s kapp. “If you do, next time I shall make the ointment doubly smelly just to plague you.”

Hannah wrinkled her nose, and Katie tweaked it.

“Off with you, now.” Mader Miller snatched a basket off of the counter and pressed it into Hannah’s hands. “The hens have waited long enough for their breakfast, and the eggs need to be gathered.”

When the child had skipped out the door, the older woman set a mug of coffee on the table in front of Katie. “It is good to see you, daughter. Too long has it been since you visited.”

Unable to meet her mother-in-law’s eyes, Katie stared at the steam rising from the mug. “I know. I am sorry.”

Silence fell. Katie glanced up to see Mader Miller’s unfocused gaze fixed on something visible only to her. A sad smile tugged at one corner of her mouth. With a rush of guilt, Katie realized she wasn’t the only one whose memories of Samuel wedged like thorns in her heart.

She broke the silence with a whisper. “I miss him.”

Mader Miller nodded. “As do I.” Her eyes focused on the window. “And so does John.”

At the mention of Fader Miller, an uncomfortable knot formed in Katie’s stomach. Though she and Mader Miller had grieved Samuel’s passing as only a wife and mother could, their grief combined could not touch that of his father’s. In the span of a few months, Katie had watched the man go from mourning to near-obsession with his son’s death. A mournful cloud hovered over him, and instead of dispersing with time, it grew darker and denser and more distressful for those around him. Though he continued to administer his duties as bishop to the Amish community of Apple Grove, grief had made him rigid. Because he found no comfort for his pain, how could he give comfort to the families who looked to him for leadership? The community of Apple Grove sympathized with the devastating loss of a son, but they whispered that their bishop should attempt to put the tragedy behind him instead of wallowing in his grief. Thus would he advise others, but he seemed unable to heed his own advice. At home every conversation centered on Samuel until finally, unable to bear the constant reminder of her loss, Katie had moved back to her parents’ home. There she had been able to begin to let go of the pain of Samuel’s death, and more and more remembered the joy of his life.

Until today. Coming back here tinged all her memories with pain.

Mader Miller reached across the table and laid a hand on her arm. The touch was brief, only a moment, but Katie drew strength from the contact.

“Life is not meant to be lived in sorrow. You are young, daughter. One day the Lord will guide you into happier times.”

Katie looked up into eyes glazed with tears. Much time these past months had been spent asking the Lord what the future held in store for her. Surely love such as she and Samuel had shared came only once in a lifetime. Had the Lord not given her a task to occupy her lonely days? She had begun to learn the ways of doctoring and birthing, and through that had discovered the deep satisfaction of tending to those whose hurts were physical and therefore easier to heal. And yet…

She squeezed her eyes shut. Was she to always remain a widow, forever denied love and happiness until she quit this world for the next?

Mader Miller’s hand pulled away. Katie opened her eyes to see her staring through the window. “A visitor has come.”

“This early?” Katie twisted around to look through the glass. An Amish buggy approached, clouds of dust from the road rising beneath the wheels.

The buggy rolled past the house and continued toward the barn.

“That is Jonas Switzer.” The older woman rose. “I will put on more coffee and warm some rolls. Go, daughter, and invite him in when he has finished his business with the bishop.”

Obediently, Katie rose and headed toward the door.

The morning sun still hung low on the horizon, its brilliant rays shafting through the leaves of the apple trees that bordered the Millers’  yard. Mr. Switzer’s buggy had come to a stop, and Fader Miller emerged from the barn. He stood erect, waiting for Mr. Switzer to climb down from the bench and stand before him. Mr. Switzer began to talk, calmly at first. Then he waved his arms, churning the air around him. Clearly something had upset the normally unruffled man.

I hope Emma and Rebecca are well.

Jonas’s daughters had been Katie’s friends since childhood. Though she rarely saw them now that they had both left the Amish and lived almost two hours’ ride away, Katie stayed informed through their grandmother.

She slowed her approach, unwilling to eavesdrop on the men’s conversation. But Mr. Switzer was so upset that his voice rose and fell, and she couldn’t help but overhear a few snatches.

“…weapons…fence…shoot me on my own land!”

Oh, dear. Someone had shot at him?

Because Fader Miller faced her way, she heard his answer more clearly.

“You must go to this Mr. Littlefield and explain to him the mistake. Perhaps he will listen and respond honorably.”

Katie stopped several yards away and politely turned her back, though she could still hear.

“You will go with me? I fear to go alone will result in violence.”

A stern note crept into the bishop’s voice. “You threaten violence?”

“From me, no. From them? They are Englisch. Their honor is different from ours. If two of us go—”

“If two go, they will see a threat. If one man calls upon his neighbor to discuss a shared problem, it is a friendly visit. Have Marta bake a snitz pie.”

Jonas’s voice grew loud. “You would send me to the home of an Englisch man with rifles armed with a pie?”

Katie winced. Mr. Switzer must be distraught indeed to raise his voice to the bishop. She would never have the nerve.

Fader Miller’s reply was low, alarmingly so. She couldn’t make out the words, but the tone was one that would have set her knees to shaking if it had been directed at her. The sound of retreating footsteps followed.

Katie turned in time to see the bishop disappear into the barn, his back rigid. Mr. Switzer stared after him, shoulders slumped and arms hanging at his sides. Moving cautiously, she stepped toward him, and he turned at her approach. A struggle lay plain on his creased brow and troubled eyes.

She bobbed a quick curtsey. “Mader Miller says won’t you come in for coffee and warm rolls?”

For a moment she thought he must not have heard her. He stared at her without answering. Then he set his jaw.

“Danki, no. I must go.”

She stepped back and watched him climb into his buggy. Seated, he picked up the reins and then stopped. He looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. “Katie Miller. A favor you would do for me?”

“Ja. If I can.”

“Take a message to my house. Tell my mader I have gone to Rebecca and Emma, and will return after the noon meal.” He tossed a glance toward the barn, and his chin jutted forward. “I go to see my son-in-law, the Englisch sheriff.”

Without waiting for an answer, he flicked the reins. Katie stepped back as his buggy rolled forward. She almost called after him, “Give my greetings to Emma and Rebecca,” but somehow she doubted he would remember.



*I received a print net galley of this book and I will be reviewing it soon so stay tuned! :)

P.S.  Thanks Stephanie Bond for sending me the net galley! :)

First Wild Card Tour (The Random Acts of Cupid)

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:

Walker Hammond Publishers (January 19, 2013)

***Special thanks to Amanda Tru for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 With a lifelong love of reading and writing, Amanda Tru loves to let her imagination paint pictures in a wide variety of genres. Her current book list includes everything from a Christian time travel / romance series, to an action-packed suspense, to a romance involving a woman who likes to anonymously play matchmaker.

Amanda is a former elementary school teacher who now spends her days being mommy to three little boys and her nights furiously writing. Amanda lives in a small town in Idaho where the number of cows outnumbers the number of people.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Elise Hutchins has a secret. She likes to anonymously play matchmaker for people she doesn't really know. But when lawyer Ryan Jenkins discovers she's Seattle's Cupid, he thinks her methods are deceptive and she shouldn't be interfering in the lives of others. Now Elise has 24 hours to present her case and prove her character to Ryan. Otherwise, he will reveal her secret and ruin her reputation along with possibly all of the good she's done. Will following her around on her Cupid errands change his mind about her? And, in the end, will Elise sacrifice her own chance at love to make one final match for her best friend?


Product Details:
List Price: $2.99
File Size: 287 KB
Publisher: Walker Hammond Publishers (January 19, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00B3EHCAI
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Lending: Enabled


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:3

Prologue



My limbs were weak with shock as I rushed through the hallway, dodging past other students like a fish struggling to swim upstream. I had about thirty seconds to fix my mistake and save my best friend from feeling the worst emotion known to a high school girl—embarrassment.
I could hear my other friend, Britney, struggling to follow my trail.
“Hurry, Elise!” she urged. “Chandra was going to talk to him right after class!”
Tears of frustration burned my eyes. I wanted to snap back at Britney, but I couldn’t waste the time. Why hadn’t Britney simply told Chandra the truth herself, instead of running to report to me? As much as I wanted to blame Britney, I knew this whole situation was my fault. It had been my idea. I had handled the details. Now my best friend was going to face the consequences.
I hadn’t intended on embarrassing her. It had just been a stupid prank. Chandra knew we always pulled practical jokes on each other as birthday ‘gifts.’ After all, she had been the one to bless me with a brightly wrapped present of lace panties in Art class on my birthday. Now THAT had been embarrassing!
So when I sent her flowers for her birthday and signed the card as Damon Fiest, the boy she currently had a major crush on, I had assumed that she would immediately recognize her birthday practical joke and see the humor in her friends’ stunt. After all, Chandra didn’t really travel in the same circles as Damon. Since he didn’t seem to know that she existed, she should know right away that the real sender could not be him.
No one outside our small circle of friends was supposed to know about the prank. The flowers were supposed to have been delivered in 7th period, at the end of the school day. But before I could find Chandra after school and see her reaction, Britney had rushed up to me, saying that Chandra was looking for Damon to thank him for the flowers!
Dread had sunk like a rock into the pit of my stomach, making me feel ill. Immediate, intense guilt struck me. I panicked. Chandra was crazy about Damon, and now she was going to be humiliated when she tried to thank him for flowers that he never sent! Damon would probably think she was mentally unstable and never want to have anything to do with her.
I felt terrible! What kind of friend was I? Only an awful person would send flowers and lie about who sent them! Why had I been so stupid?
I burst out of the school doors, my eyes frantically searching the grounds. Chandra would have tried to intercept Damon before he reached his car. Since the star football player always parked his old Mustang in the same spot, then Chandra had to be around here somewhere.
Please! I prayed. Please let me find her before it’s too late!
My eyes tripped over dark hair and a purple jacket halfway hidden by a tree at the corner of the school. I rushed closer, my heart pounding as if I’d just run a race at the Olympics. As I came around the tree, I stopped suddenly, stunned at the scene in front of me. Britney skid to a stop beside me.
I felt my mouth literally fall open in shock as, apparently oblivious to the world around them, Chandra and Damon kissed.



Chapter 1

Ten years later


“Please, Elise!” Britney whispered fiercely. “I don’t understand why you won’t help me out just this once. This is your specialty!”
Since ignoring her friend was obviously not going to work, Elise turned away from the computer screen and tried to patiently answer Britney without rolling her eyes. “I already told you it doesn’t work that way!”
“But you’re Cupid!”
“Shh! Elise urged, nervously glancing around the quiet library. “Don’t call me that! Someone might hear you. I am not Cupid! Just because a campus newspaper wrote a stupid article doesn’t make it true!”
“But it is true! Look at how many matches you’ve made in the past ten years. It’s your job; it’s your duty to make matches. So why not for me?”
Elise wanted to remind Britney that this wasn’t the first time she had asked for help, and this wasn’t the first time Elise had refused. Instead, she sighed and repeated her standard answer. “Britney, you know I don’t make matches for close friends. Part of what makes it work is the fact that the couple doesn’t know me well.”
“But you set up Chandra and Damon,” Britney grumbled. “Now they’ve been married for like ten years!”
“Six years,” Elise corrected, wishing this conversation was over. As a librarian at the University of Washington, she had plenty of work to do. Not to mention that Britney should be working too. Britney should be over at circulation, not ‘helping’ Elise at the Reference desk. Though her friend held a stack of books in her arms, Elise was sure Britney was just using them as an excuse to corner her. “You of all people should know that setting Chandra and Damon up was not intentional.”
“That doesn’t matter. The point is that you are the reason they got together. You have a gift, Elise.” Britney bit her lip and turned her gaze in the direction of the handsome man sitting at a table across the room.
After her inadvertent matchmaking for Chandra and Damon ten years ago, Elise had unobtrusively arranged for a few other couples to ‘accidentally’ fall in love, finding that she had a knack for it. Since then, she had carefully arranged circumstances for numerous couples, people who never realized they were being set up, to find each other.
Britney and Chandra were the only ones who knew about Elise’s hobby, and Elise wanted to keep it that way. Unfortunately, she had been so successful at anonymously arranging matches, other people had started to notice as well. It didn’t take much to connect the few random stories from around the University of Washington campus about how mysterious events would bring two people together. After the story in the newspaper, the anonymous Cupid was rapidly gaining publicity.
Now Elise felt the pressure of not only the wildly circulating stories but of the fact that Britney Bowers was one of the two people who knew her secret. Chandra was so busy with her own life, which now included a husband and two adorable children, that she didn’t really pay much attention to Elise’s projects. Britney, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have her own life, and might yet drive Elise crazy! Worse, Britney tended to be impulsive. Elise knew it would be in her best interest to placate Britney if at all possible. Otherwise, there was always the threat of potential disaster if Britney should ever decide to share Elise’s secret.
“He’s my dream guy,” Britney said softly, turning pleading eyes back to Elise. “Won’t you please use some of your magic for us?”
As pitiful as Britney sounded, Elise knew she couldn’t do this favor for her friend. What Britney didn’t realize was that the anonymity of what Elise did was the major reason why she was so successful. The simple facts that the people never realized they were being matched and never connected her involvement gave her the necessary emotional distance to be able to observe people and their relationships without bias. Elise had always been extremely introverted; perhaps because of this, she had always liked to watch people and was pretty good at noticing things that weren’t obvious to others.
Elise wasn’t going to waste time trying to convince Britney or explain her method of matchmaking. Over the years, Brittney had occasionally tried to get Elise to use her skills in the direction of her current crush, but most of the time, Britney didn’t care what Elise did. However, since the paper had run that article, Britney had developed a renewed interest in Elise’s activities, and when Ryan Jenkins had caught Britney’s eye, that interest rapidly bordered obsession.
It was too risky to set up her friend. If the match didn’t go well, then Britney would end up blaming her. Elise had to be very careful if she wanted to continue being an anonymous cupid. Already the story was becoming almost an urban legend around campus, and the Seattle area in general was starting to take notice.
She couldn’t handle the thought of being caught, not to mention that, though her success rate was extremely high, the couples she’d set up over the years might resent that she had meddled in their lives. It was probably better for them to believe they’d been brought together through a little magic. The reality wouldn’t be nearly as romantic.
“No, Britney,” Elise answered flatly. “I will not set you up.” Making sure she had Britney’s undivided attention, she looked right into her friend’s eyes and repeated in no uncertain terms. “The answer is no.”
Intense anger flashed over Britney’s face. Without a word, she loudly dropped the books she’d been holding onto the desk, turned, and walked away.
Elise sighed and turned back to her computer. From their looks, to their personalities, to their likes and interests, she and Britney were opposite in so many ways; it was amazing that they were such good friends. Whereas Britney was tall, blonde, and outgoing, Elise was petite with dark brunette hair and an incurably shy personality. Elise had often appreciated that Britney forced Elise out of her comfort zone, challenging her to dance through life instead of always stand in the corner. But at other times, her friend grated on Elise’s normally calms nerves.
Despite the fact the Elise felt Britney was wrong, she still didn’t like having Britney mad at her. She would have to try to find a different way to make it up to Britney later. As bad as she felt about hurting her friend, she would not match her with Ryan Jenkins. That would be a recipe for disaster, especially since Elise had seen no indication that the man even liked Britney.
After spending the next few minutes trying unsuccessfully to get back to work at her computer, Elise gave up in frustration. She’d always hated to have someone mad at her, and now this situation with Britney was making it impossible to concentrate.
Needing a break, Elise left the computer and picked up the books Britney had left on the desk. She might as well reshelve them since Britney obviously wasn’t going to finish the task. She caught the eye of another librarian and signaled that she would be away from the reference desk for a bit. They definitely weren’t busy, and if by chance anyone needed help, Elise knew that Sheila would take care of it. The library normally used work-study students to do the reshelving, but sometimes Elise liked to do some of it herself. It often added the variety and mental break she needed during the day.
Elise glanced across the room at the object of Britney’s  affections. Ryan Jenkins was seated at a table in one of the study areas, focused on his laptop and blissfully ignorant of Britney’s devotion. Elise knew very little about Ryan Jenkins, but from what she did know, he was probably way out of her friend’s league.
Elise had seen him several times at church but had never actually talked to him. The church they attended was very large and boasted a healthy singles group. Though Elise was very involved and enjoyed the church functions, she preferred to keep to herself and fly under the radar. Besides, from the way the other women drooled over Mr. Jenkins, he didn’t need any more female admirers.
Elise did have to admit the attention was understandable; the man was gorgeous. He was tall with black hair and what seemed to be a perpetual tan. Elise had never been close enough to see the color of his eyes, but she had been fortunate enough to see him smile once. Though several yards away, she’d still been blinded by the flash of brilliant white teeth and breathtaking dimples.
Ryan didn’t attend the singles functions often enough for Elise to have gleaned a complete profile, but she did know that he worked at the University and was a graduate student. She thought someone had mentioned his field was Law. He certainly looked the part of a lawyer. Whenever Elise had seen him both at church on Sunday morning and when he came in to the library, he was wearing a suit, which of course made him look more dashing, more desirable, and in Elise’s mind, more unapproachable.
There was no way she was going to set Britney up with him. Historically, Britney seemed to pick either guys that treated her badly or guys who were quite unattainable. And Ryan Jenkins might be the pinnacle of the unattainable variety.
Drat! Britney had given her Anthropology books. That meant she was going to have to go all the way up to the third floor to return them where they belonged. Sometimes Britney’s immaturity was maddening! Elise was sure that Britney had known exactly what she was doing when she’d left those books.
As she marched up the grand staircase to the third floor, Elise rehearsed an angry tirade in her head. Not that she would actually ever have the guts to lecture Britney, but her friend really needed some direction in her life that didn’t involve chasing after men. It was almost as if Britney kept expecting to meet the right guy who would solve all her problems and carry her off into the sunset.
Elise and Britney had been roommates in college, but whereas Elise had stayed with a field until she’d gotten a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, Britney hadn’t taken college seriously and changed her major about five times. Both of them had worked at the library while students, and when Elise got her graduate degree, she was hired as a Research Librarian and Information Services Coordinator. Elise had done well in her position, and her duties now included other responsibilities. The rumor was that Elise would be promoted into her boss’s position when he retired in a couple years.
Britney, on the other hand, had stayed in the same minimum wage library assistant position that she’d had in college. She hadn’t graduated with a degree, yet she still took random classes with no clear purpose. It almost seemed as if she was stuck. She didn’t know what she wanted out of life and was seemingly content to spend her parents’ money while she waited for that Prince Charming to come rescue her.
Britney occasionally went to church with Elise, but she could definitely not be said to be dedicated to her faith or her church. In fact, Elise often suspected Britney only came to church to check out the male selection. Seeing Ryan Jenkins at church had only intensified Britney’s crush on him. After all, she had been scoping him out at the library for months.
Though Mr. Jenkins came in fairly frequently, Elise had never seen any evidence that he liked or was attracted to Britney in any way. Ellise would often cringe as she witnessed her friend find some excuse to interrupt the man’s studies or find ways to ‘help’ him. Mr. Jenkins never approached Britney or instigated a conversation, but he always seemed polite and didn’t seem overly bothered by Britney’s antics. However, Elise still hadn’t seen that spark of interest that would indicate he thought of her as more than just a library employee.
Heading toward the bookshelves, her eyes caught on a group of people occupying one of the study rooms.  The window along the front allowed her to easily see the students seated around the table. As she checked the numbers and carefully slid the books alongside their siblings on the shelf, she was also able to unobtrusively watch their study session.
This particular group of six students had been meeting regularly this semester, studying for their upper division history class. Though Elise was familiar with them, she couldn’t say that she really knew anyone in the group. But she actually knew plenty about them. After all, this wasn’t the first time she’d spied on them, though Elise really disliked the term ‘spying.’ She was closely observing with the motive to help. That really couldn’t be termed ‘spying,’ right?
With satisfaction, she saw the girl with long brunette hair, Shelby, steal a glance at the blond guy, Clay. Then, about a minute later, she saw Clay’s eyes light up when Shelby said something. Now she knew for sure that she’d been right. Those two did like each other!
Elise had been watching them interact for weeks. The furtive glances and smiles passed between them had made her suspicious. With a few more observations and well-worded questions when each of them had come for help, she’d learned their names and gathered that each of them was single and more than a little shy. Clay didn’t seem to realize that Shelby was just as attracted to him as he was to her, and vice versa.
Elise put the last book on the shelf with a smile. It was time to put her plan in motion. If she could arrange for Clay and Shelby to have an ‘accidental’ date, she was sure they would be able to overcome their reserve and make a connection. She’d had her eye on the two of them for a while. Valentine’s Day was in just a couple days. If everything went according to plan, Clay and Shelby would be a couple by February 14th.
As she went back down the stairs and returned to the Reference desk, Elise saw Oliver Purdue trying to talk to Britney. Elise smiled in amusement as Oliver followed Britney around the staff area like a puppy dog. Oliver was another library employee and also happened to be hopelessly enamored with Britney. He’d had a crush on her since he started working at the library about a year ago. Elise felt sorry for him. He really was a nice guy, and Elise wished Britney would give him a chance.
But even though Britney knew he liked her, she found him intolerably annoying. Also unforgiveable to Britney, was that he was about two years younger and looked the part of a typical nerd. He wore glasses, was always a bit over-dressed for work, and had a great fondness for computers.
Elise had tried to tell Britney how nice and thoughtful Oliver was, but Britney had no desire to look beyond the stereotype. Instead, Britney was frequently rude and condescending to the poor man, and yet, to Elise’s amazement, he cheerfully kept trying to earn Britney’s favor.
Attempting to focus on the report she was working on, Elise tried to mentally push all the people and problems aside. Five minutes later, she had succeeded in burying her mind to all but the words in front of her.
“Excuse me.”
Elise startled, literally jumping several inches off her chair at the sound of a deep, unexpected voice. Turning, she found the tall, gorgeous Ryan Jenkins standing at her desk.


Copyright © 2013 by Amanda Tru


Cover design by Samantha Bayarr

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any format either written or electronically without the express permission of the author or publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

This novel is a work of fiction. Although places mentioned may be real, the names, characters, details, and events surrounding them are the product of the author's imagination and therefore used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons; living or dead, places or events is purely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or publisher.

All brand names or products mentioned in this book are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names and are the sole ownership of the respective holders. Amanda Tru is not associated with any products or brands mentioned in this book.

All scripture references in this book are used from the English Standard Version of the Bible.



*I have not read this book.  It sounds cute but that is my only opinion I can give :)  I hope you enjoy the look into The Random Acts of Cupid and I hope it's a good read! :)  ~ASC

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