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Monday, July 29, 2013

Sisters of Mercy Flats Review!!!

Sisters of Mercy Flats by Lori Copeland


Book Description:
From noted author Lori Copeland (more than 3 million books in print) comes a romantic new story of God's faithfulness when hope seems lost.
The three wily and beautiful McDougal sisters can swindle a man faster than it takes to lasso a calf. But their luck is running out, and they're about to be hauled off to jail. When the wagon carrying them falls under attack, each sister is picked up by a different man. Unfortunately for Abigail, she's grabbed by a twit of a shoe salesman, Mr. Hershall Digman. She steals his horse and rides off to the nearest town, not giving him another thought...until she discovers those secret papers in his saddlebags. Could Mr. Digman be a Confederate spy?
As if to prove it, the man who comes storming after her is no shoe salesman, but a handsome captain who wants his papers back...at any cost. And Abigail wants a ride back home. Together they embark on his mission, determined not to trust each other...or the God who won't seem to let them go.

My Opinion:
A unique and wonderful story!!!
I REALLY love this book!  From the beginning I was laughing like crazy!  Abigail is my kind of character!  One that is tough and doesn't let anyone get away with anything.  From early on sparks fly both from tempers and chemistry between the two lead characters!  Sisters of Mercy Flats is an original and wonderful idea.  Lori fills the pages with some twists and interesting decisions.  I really loved the way the civil war was laced in and the back stories of the characters.  There was one issue that I had, and that was when they were getting milk from heifers.  You can't get milk from a heifer.  To produce milk the cow must have had a calf and therefore it is no longer a heifer but a cow and a cow alone.  (Sigh) but I digress. ;)  Anyway I loved this book and I can't wait to see what happened to the other sisters!  I am SO anxious to read the other stories and see if they really do all get back together in the end.  Another unique character that I can't wait for (and I don't want to give anything away but I must give a shout out) is the Crow brave that is not a villain but a hero.  So many times in history and many stories the Crow people are painted as villains and really cruel people.  While I kinda think that is the way quite a few of them were it was very refreshing to read about a Crow brave doing something good!  I think this is a Must Read and I will go so far as to think that this series is going to be one of my favorites.  The characters are so unique and lovable and Lori's stories and style are so great I must recommend that you read Sisters of Mercy Flats.  It made me laugh all the way through! :D

Songs for Sisters of Mercy Flats: "Amazing Grace" by Emma, "You Never Are" by Francesca Battistelli, and one of my all time favorite songs!  I just couldn't resist! "Tough" by Kellie Pickler 

Exodus 14:14

~ASC

Places to buy Sisters of Mercy Flats:

CBD.com

or Amazon.com

*I received this book from Harvest House for the purpose of reviewing it.  This in no way affected my opinion and the above is my honest review of Sisters of Mercy Flats. ~ASC

Thank you Stephanie for the help and thank you Aaron for sending me Sisters of Mercy Flats. :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Widow of Gettysburg Review!!!

Widow of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green

Book Description:
When a horrific battle rips through Gettysburg, the farm of Union widow Liberty Holloway is disfigured into a Confederate field hospital, bringing her face to face with unspeakable suffering--and a Rebel scout who awakens her long dormant heart.

While Liberty's future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty's hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.

In the wake of shattered homes and bodies, Liberty and Bella struggle to pick up the pieces the battle has left behind. Will Liberty be defined by the tragedy in her life, or will she find a way to triumph over it?
Widow of Gettysburg is inspired by first-person accounts from women who lived in Gettysburg during the battle and its aftermath.

My Opinion:
Widow of Gettysburg grabs you right from the beginning and takes you back in time to war, love, and the pain that comes with it.
Just like Wedded to War Jocelyn's tale is haunting and glaringly, historically correct.  There are times when I needed to take a break from reading because the story is just so heavy I need to digest some of it before moving on.  This time she completely threw me for a loop with her twists and turns in the plot.  I love that she always takes a character and shows you that until you walk in their shoes you don't know them at all and they can always change.  Most of them are beautifully complex, and the growth of these people is also beautiful to behold.  I really enjoyed the short return of Charlotte from Wedded to War as well as all of the new characters that fill these pages.  If you want to know how the Civil War really was and felt then this is the series for you!  From the battle field to the surgery table the good, the bad, and the down right haunting are painted with a fabulous story of strength and courage.  I can't really even fathom what these poor women felt as they endured the horrors of war though Jocelyn gives wonderful examples and expressions their emotions.  These people truly got their strength from The Heavenly Father watching over them because otherwise they would not have been able to go on and on.  I love that Jocelyn always wraps up in the end with the history behind her stories.  There she tells you who is real and you is fictional.  With amazing twists and true trials that had to be faced Widow of Gettysburg is a wonderful sequel and stand alone book.  I can't wait for more. 

Songs from the pages of Widow of Gettysburg: "Yankee Doodle Dandy - American Classic with Fife and Drum" performed by Patriotic Fathers, "Wade in the Water" sung by Kathy Mattea, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" sung by Judy Collins, "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by The Church Organ All Stars, "Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)" performed by Kari Jobe, "Weeping Sad and Lonely (When the Cruel War is Over)" performed by Craig Duncan

Psalm 121 and Psalm 30:5

~ASC

*I received Widow of Gettysburg for the purpose of reviewing it.  This did not affect my opinion and the above is my honest opinion of this book. ~ASC

Places to buy Widow of Gettysburg:

CBD.com

or Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

$50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway from a CrossReads Book Blast: One Night With a Rock Star by Chana Keefer

 
By: Chana Keefer

About the Book

It's Anne of Green Gables Meets Rattle & Hum. Worlds collide. When Esther was a young teen with frizzy hair and too-skinny legs, Sky’s music soothed her through awkwardness and pain. Now she’s a college journalism student and fledgling print model. One chance meeting rocks their worlds. Will Esther's deep roots in family and faith keep her feet on the ground when a tornado named Sky blows her world apart? This coming-of-age tale will delight young adult, new adult & adult audiences alike with homespun humor, dazzling celebrity, and a heart-wrenching tale that transports the reader from the wide open spaces of Texas, to the castle-dotted Scottish highlands. Explores themes of spirituality, relationship with God versus religion, and how one can have it all yet still search for meaning and purpose in life. One Night With a Rock Star is a rich, satisfying journey filled with multi-dimensional, lovable characters, sigh-worthy romance and a tale that will carve itself onto your soul.


(Then Scroll Below to Enter the $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway)
[ez_one_fourth]
Chana Keefer
[/ez_one_fourth] [ez_three_fourth_last] 
  Chana Keefer This whole writer's journey caught me completely by surprise and, to this day, I'm a
bit stunned by the ride. Blame it all on prayer. In 2004 I committed to pray every day, right out of the sack,for at least an hour. A year later I woke in the morning from a very cool dream. As the week went on, the dream wouldn't let go. It expanded in my brain until I HAD to start writing or just... explode. That story? One Night With a Rock Star. It's the novel that transformed me into a passionate storyteller. Two years later, in the middle of prayer, I asked a question and God answered. I yelped in shock but also had to admit the answer made so many of my faith elephants-in-the-room make sense. For the next month, every morning began with more mind-blowing insights. When I showed the 250 pages of notes to my hubby and an author friend, they both said, "This needs to be a novel." The journey of writing THE FALL was much more than writing a novel. It was a pilgrimage that crushed, shaped and changed me; the way I think, the way I pray, the way I love, even the way I view current events. BTW, I'm a mom of four, married to the best man alive, have a background in broadcast journalism and, many moons ago, worked as a model and actress. I love old barns, old movies, hot chocolate chip cookies and someday I'd like to sail around the world. Guess I'd better learn to sail first. [/ez_three_fourth_last]

Follow Chana Keefer Website | Facebook | Twitter

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $50 Amazon gift card, sponsored by author Chana Keefer!
This book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

*Thank you Crossreads for allowing me to be apart of this book blast! :) ~ASC

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dolled Up to Die Review!!!

*Dolled Up to Die by Lorena McCourtney

Book Description:
When Cate Kinkaid receives a frantic call about a triple homicide, she drives to the scene against her better judgment--aren't triple homicides more up the police department's alley?--only to find that the victims are not quite who she expects. Now she has a new rule to add to those she's learned in her short stint as an assistant private investigator: always find out if the victims actually have human DNA. Because these three do not.

But who would shoot this nice lady's dolls? What possible reason could the shooter have? And then there's the startling discovery of another victim, who definitely does have human DNA . . .

With tension that is matched only by humor, Dolled Up to Die is the exciting second book in Lorena McCourtney's The Cate Kinkaid Files. Mystery fans won't find a place to stop and take a breath in this fast-paced and intriguing tale.

Buy it on Amazon here:

My Opinion:
It wasn't what I thought it would be and I was glad I was surprised.  Too many times you watch or hear about mysteries with dolls as the background and they make the doll maker and/or dolls creepy or just too into dolls!  That isn't the case with Lorena's work.  I actually found great interest in the doll maker's work and I wouldn't have minded Lorena going into how the dolls are made even more.  I LOVE Lorena's style of writing and immediately loved her characters.  The only flaw, if you want to call it a flaw, I personally found was that I wished Cate used a little more common sense at times, was a little more observant (and I don't mean when she's in a high stress situation it made sense why she didn't "pay attention to detail" when she was fighting for her life!) and paid a little bit more attention to the things people said.  There where times when I felt facts where repeated.  I LOVED the high suspense scenes (especially the final one) and I loved Cate's personal life as well as her professional life.  I also LOVE to read a book with a cat in it when the author knows cats!  Octavia's personality is so feline fantastic!  From her peering at people to having cat fits I loved every word of it, and humor is woven into this book, even the high suspense scenes, beautifully!! :)  When the first in this series came out I was interested in reading it, vaguely, but never got it.  So when I got the chance to read Dolled Up to Die I jumped at it, and I'm SO glad I did.  I REALLY want to read the first book in this series now (so I recommend if you don't have the first one yet get them both ;) ) and one more detail I wanted to compliment Lorena on.  Her witnessing!  This book is SO good at relying on God to help and lead you and her characters are great examples of being Christian witnesses! :)  Over all I LOVED this book and I highly recommend it!!!

I had some trouble coming up with songs for this book.  That was sad because I loved it so much!  I did however come up with these: "Center of It" by Chris August and because I think it's a good P.I. song "Pink Panther" by The Western Swing Authority if I am struck with inspiration I'll update this post.

Acts 16:31

~ASC

*I received this book from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  This in no way affected my opinion of Dolled Up to Die and the above is my true and honest opinion.  ~ASC


P.S. I would LOVE to have you follow my blog!  If you are not already a follower PLEASE become one! :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Winnowing Season Review!!!

*The Winnowing Season 
by Cindy Woodsmall


Book Description:
The tornado that devastated Kings’ Orchard pushed Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob to make a new start in Maine. Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community—and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them?

On the eve of their departure to begin a new Old Order Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is shocked to discover that choices made by her business partner and friend, Samuel King, have placed her and her unusual gifts directly into the path of her district’s bishop and preachers. She is furious with Samuel and is fearful that the Kings will be influenced by the way her leaders see her, and not what they know to be true—that Rhoda’s intuition is a gift from God.

Jacob King won’t be swayed by community speculation. He loves Rhoda, believes in her, and wants to build a future with her in Maine. But when the ghosts of his past come calling and require him to fulfill a great debt, can he shake their hold before it destroys what he has with Rhoda? Samuel has a secret of his own—one he’ll go to great lengths to keep hidden, even if it means alienating those closest to him. Throwing himself into rehabilitating the once-abandoned orchard, Samuel turns to a surprising new ally.

Book 2 of the Amish Vines and Orchards series asks: can the three faithfully follow God’s leading and build a new home and orchard in Maine? Or will this new beginning lead to more ruin and heartbreak?

My Opinion:
What an excellent sequel!  I absolutely LOVED IT!!!  From the beginning I though Rhoda was with the wrong brother.  Don't get me wrong I love Jacob but I loved Samuel first! LOL!  That said I was on the edge of my seat ready to read this sequel because of the way the first one ended!  In The Winnowing Season feelings fly and who will end up still together by the end?  This can be a stand alone book because there is a catch up in the beginning.  So if you missed A Season for Tending (I suggest you get it and catch up!) but you don't have to because Cindy will tell you the highlights of what you missed before taking you forward.  I love the relationships in this story with Landon, Leah, Phoebe  and Steven thrown into this mix I grew to love each character for there own right.  From the beginning I was surprised by the events happening; after we left them in Maine in the first book I had in my head how I thought things where gonna go.  I was a bit wrong! LOL!  Actually Cindy comes up with scenes that I NEVER saw coming and I LOVED THEM!!!  With trouble lurking around nearly every corner The Winnowing Season really shows the ups and downs people can have in this life.  But it also holds the message that if you trust and have faith in God's will and timing everything will turn out okay, and of how there are different paths for all of us.  God has His plan for us and others and we need to learn that we can't always control what those paths or plans are.  (A lesson some of us {ME!} have had to learn the hard way)  I have my suspicions of how certain things will tie together and I can't wait to see if I'm right! :D  Mystery, stress, joy, love, pain, surprise, lies, faith, friends, family, choices, and excitement are all swirled into a wonderful story!  I can't WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE!!!

I must compliment Cindy on having a glossary of Pennsylvania Dutch in the back of her book.  While those of us that have read enough Amish books to translate Pen. Dutch as we read, I always love when I see the courtesy of a glossary.  New Amish readers will be greatly helped with the translations and it never hurts to double check and make sure you really know what they just said! :D
  
Songs that go with this book and are taken right from the pages are: "Stand by Your Man" Tammy Wynette, "You Raise Me Up" by Sung Ji Song, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" by Amy Grant

Exodus 14:14

~ASC

Links with more info. about The Winnowing Season and Cindy:

Cindy's Website
Cindy on Facebook
More Info
Read Chapter One of The Winnowing Season
Cindy's Bio

Places to buy The Winnowing Season:

CBD.com

Amazon.com

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of writing an honest review.  This had no affect on my opinion and the above is truly my honest opinion. ~ASC


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Wild Card Tours (Love Stays True)

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 (May 7, 2013)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Can Sallie and Manfred overcome the distance that the war has put between them and find love?

In April 1865, the day following the surrender at Appomattox, Manfred McDaniel Whiteman and his brother, Edward, are released in an exchange of prisoners. They are given a few provisions, and they begin a long journey to their home in Bayou Sara, Louisiana.

At home Sallie Dyer is waiting word of her beloved Manfred. Though just a young girl when Manfred left, Sallie has grown into a caring young woman who is determined to wait for her love—despite her father’s worries that she is wasting her life on someone who may never come home.

On their journey Manfred and his brother encounter storms and thieves and are even thrown in jail. Will he make the journey home before someone else claims Sallie’s hand?


Product Details:
List Price: $11.33
Publisher Realms (May 7, 2013)
Language English
ISBN-10 1621362361
ISBN-13 978-1621362364
Product Dimensions 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Point Lookout, Maryland, Monday, April 10, 1865

Cold air chilled his arms, and a sharp object poked at his cheek. Manfred Whiteman reached down to pull a ragged blanket up over his arms and brushed away the straw scratching his face. A few moments later a sudden brightness aroused him again. His lids opened to a slit. Slivers of sunlight peeked through the tiny windows and dispersed the shadows of the night.

He shut his eyes against the sun’s rays, but sleep would not return. He lay still in the quiet of the new morning and sensed a difference in the air that settled over him like a cloak of peace. Raising his head, he glanced around the room. The same familiar stench of wounds, dirty hay, unwashed bodies, and death permeated the air, but in it all the difference vibrated. Something had happened, he could sense it, but nothing unusual appeared in the confines of the prison barracks.

After being captured in the Battle of Nashville in December, he, his younger brother Edwin, and other prisoners had made the long march from Nashville to Louisville, Kentucky. From there they were transferred to Camp Chase in Ohio. Then, in the first week of February, they had been loaded onto trains like cattle and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland, a prison housing nearly fifty thousand men. Upon their arrival the captured soldiers had been stripped of everything personal, and as the days progressed, hundreds of men died. Manfred mourned the loss of friends but thanked the Lord every day for sparing his life, as well as the life of his brother.

Edwin lay sleeping on the pallet next to him, curled on his side as usual. Others still slept, their snores filling the air with sound. No use in trying to sleep now. Manfred’s stomach rumbled with hunger, but most likely the only breakfast would be hard tack or biscuit.

Several weeks ago an officer with the rank of general had visited. For some reason the general had asked Manfred about the one thing he would most like to have. When Manfred answered he wanted his Bible, the man had been somewhat taken aback. Still, he’d managed to find the Bible and Manfred’s journal, which he returned.

Manfred now pulled that worn journal from beneath his dirty mat. The almost ragged book, his lifeline for the past three years, fell open. Manfred wrote.

April 10, 1865

Three more died the night before last. The nearly full moon shining through the windows gave me light to see. I took one man’s shoes and left him with my holey wornout ones. He won’t need shoes, but I will. Took his socks and another man’s for me and Edwin. God, I never dreamed I would do such a thing, but we are desperately in need. Please forgive me. Help Edwin and me to get out of here and get home safely. I so desperately need to see Sallie and my family.



The scrape of wood against wood echoed in the room. Union soldiers, making their usual morning inspection, checked for any who may have died during the night. Manfred shoved the journal under his mat just before the door thudded against the wall and the guards’ shoes clomped on the wooden floors. He turned on his side once again to feign sleep. The blunt toe of the sergeant’s boot kicked Manfred’s hip and sent a sharp pain through his leg. He grunted in response and raised his head to let the sergeant know he was alive. When the man passed, Manfred sat up on his mat and stretched his legs out in front of him to relieve the usual early-morning stiffness.

Others awakened, and their groans filled the air as they rose to sit on their bedding. Manfred waited for breakfast, not knowing if he would even get rations this morning. The guards exited carrying the bodies of the souls who didn’t make it through the night.

Manfred voiced a silent prayer for the boys and their families who would receive the news of the death of their loved ones. He bit his lip. He and Edwin had to survive. They had too much life to live, but then so had the ones just taken away. What if God chose not to spare him or Edwin? No, he wouldn’t think of that. Instead he filled his mind with Scripture verses memorized as a child. God’s Word stored in his heart gave him the comfort and hope he needed to survive each day.

A little later the guards returned and ordered them to the part of the cookhouse where they would eat what the cooks passed off as food. Manfred accepted the cup of what the men called “slop water” coffee and a hard biscuit that would have to suffice until they brought a lunch of greasy water soup. Weeks ago the putrid smells of death, the filth in the camp, and the lousy food sickened him, but now he barely noticed.

Manfred managed to eat half his biscuit and drink a few sips from his cup then leaned toward the man on his right. “Here, James. You take the rest of mine. You need it more than I do.”

The man clasped a trembling hand around the cup and reached for the biscuit with his other. A few drops sloshed over the rim. “Thank you, Manfred. You’re a true friend.” He stuffed the biscuit into his mouth and lifted the cup to his lips to gulp down the last dregs of liquid. With a nod to Manfred, the young soldier returned the cup.

After they were sent back to their quarters, Manfred breathed deeply and almost choked on the rancid air. What he wouldn’t give for a bath, shave, and haircut. A good meal wouldn’t hurt anything either. His nose had mostly numbed itself to his body odor, but dirt and scum became more visible every day. When he had tried to wash his shirt, the brackish water left stains he couldn’t remove.

When would this nightmare come to an end? A question unanswered for these four long months of marching, fighting, and incarceration. Too many lay ill and dying. The end had to come soon.

He glanced once again at his brother, who cushioned his head on his crossed palms with his eyes closed. Manfred reached over to touch the boy’s shoulder. “You all right, little brother?”

Edwin didn’t open his eyes. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just hungry. I dreamed of home last night and Bessie’s cooking. When I close my eyes, I can see her and Momma in the kitchen, Bessie up to her elbows in flour making biscuits and Momma stirring the fire and making grits.”

“Shh, brother, you’re making me hungry too.” Manfred pulled what was left of his jacket tighter about his thin body. “We’ve been captive four months, but it seems a lifetime. Home, our parents, and Sallie may as well be a million miles away.”

Edwin sat up and pounded his fist into the straw. “Yeah, and sometimes I think we’ll never get back there.” He stretched his legs out on his mat, hugging what passed for a pillow. “I sure pray I’ll get to see Peggy again soon.”

Manfred positioned his body to sit squarely on his mat. “Soon as we’re home, I’m asking Mr. Dyer for Sallie’s hand in marriage, that is, if she still wants me. No telling who she’s met since I’ve been gone.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you, big brother. Sallie loves you.” He smacked his fist into the open palm of his other hand. “I just want to be out of here and out there where the action is, fighting with Lee. They told us the Yanks are fighting Lee in Virginny, and that’s just across the river. Lee has to beat them Yanks. We’ll be hearing about it any day now. I just know it.”

Manfred simply nodded. He didn’t agree with his brother, but Edwin cared more about the war than Manfred. At this point Manfred had resigned himself to waiting out the war.

If only he could somehow communicate with Sallie and let her know he was alive. Almost a year had passed since he’d seen her last summer and six months since he’d been able to send a letter to her or received one. From his Bible he removed her last letter and opened it, being careful to handle it as little as possible. Already small holes appeared in the creases from his folding it so often. She had written from her grandfather’s home last fall before he’d gone to Nashville. He prayed her family was safe there in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He’d been at Port Hudson, Louisiana, two years ago and would have been involved in that skirmish in May, but he’d been among the ones in the brigade deployed elsewhere in March. Major General had been sure he had enough soldiers to turn back the siege, but that had not been the case, and Port Hudson fell into Union hands in early July.

That battle took place too close to his hometown of Bayou Sara and had even damaged Grace Church up at St. Francisville. He’d seen the damage on his furlough home. His two older brothers had been captured at Port Hudson, and Manfred had no idea where they were now.

St. Francisville may have been spared, but it had been a close call for Sallie’s grandparents and the other citizens of the small town. He held the worn paper to his lips. With God’s help he’d get home and claim Sallie for his bride.

The hair on the back of his neck bristled, and goose bumps popped out on his arms. The foreboding feeling from earlier wouldn’t leave and swept over him now even stronger, as though he sat on the edge of something powerful looming in the day ahead.



St. Francisville, Louisiana

Sallie Dyer sat at her dressing table running a brush through her mass of tangled curls. Tears blurred her image in the mirror, and she grimaced as the bristles caught in another snarl. She dropped the brush onto her lap.

“Lettie, what am I to do? Not knowing about Manfred is too painful to bear.” She scrunched a handful of auburn hair against her head. “Nothing’s going right. I can’t even brush my hair. I hate the war and . . . ” Her voice trailed off, and she dropped her gaze to the floor then turned toward Lettie. “What am I to do?”

The housemaid clucked her tongue and fluffed the pillows on the walnut four-poster bed. “I don’t know, Miss Sallie. I hate the war too. Too many are dyin’ out there.”

Lettie’s skirt swished as she crossed the room. She picked up the discarded brush and began smoothing out the mass of curls. “You know, Miss Sallie, you have the prettiest red hair in all of Louisiana.”

Sallie lifted her tear-stained eyes and found Lettie’s reflection in the mirror staring back.

“You got to have courage. God is takin’ care of Mr. Manfred.”

“Oh, but the waiting is so hard.” Sallie swiped her fingers across her wet cheeks. In a letter last fall Manfred had written that he was headed to Nashville. Stories coming back from that area spoke of the volumes of soldiers killed at Franklin and then up at Nashville in December. Reports said the surviving young men had been taken prisoner, but no one knew to which prison.

“Lettie, do you truly believe Manfred will come home?”

“Yes, Miss Sallie, I do, and when he comes, you’ll be ready and waitin’.” In a few minutes Lettie’s skilled fingers had tamed the unruly ringlets and secured them with a silver clasp at Sallie’s neck.

“Thank you. I’m all out of sorts this morning. Here it is April, and I haven’t heard a word since November.” Her fears tumbled back into her mind. “Too many have died, and I don’t want Manfred . . . ” She couldn’t utter the words. Saying them might make them true.

She pressed her lips together and pushed a few stray tendrils from her face. She had to get her fears under control. She once believed God would give her the peace He promised, but no matter how hard she prayed, no answers came. God had abandoned her on that awful day last week when she had killed that young man. He hadn’t protected her that afternoon, and now her prayers fell on deaf ears.

Lettie secured the wayward strands with the others under the clips. “Now, Miss Sallie, I done told you we got to believe they’re alive and comin’ home. We can’t do nothin’ about the war. Your mama and grandma need you to be strong. When Mr. Manfred gets home, he’ll be courtin’ you right proper like. You’ll see.”

Lettie must be more concerned than she let on. She only slipped back to the dialect of her family when worried. Sallie turned and wrapped her arms around the dark-skinned girl’s thin waist. “I want to believe you, I really do, but it’s almost more than I can bear.”

After blinking her eyes to clear them, Sallie stared into the dark brown eyes of her friend. Lettie had been with Sallie since childhood, and they shared so much life with each other. If it had not been for Lettie and her mother, Sallie might never have regained her sanity after the incident in Mississippi that brought them all to St. Francisville.

A chill passed through her body at the memory of the day they had fled from their home. Sallie’s last act of defense would be one that would stay with her the rest of her life. Even now she could see the young soldier with the red oozing from his chest. It was the first time she’d ever seen a dead person, and now, only a week later, the image would not leave her, fresh as the day it happened.

The young servant’s brow furrowed, and she pursed her lips. “Are you thinking about what happened back home?”

How well Lettie knew her. Sallie sniffed and blinked away the tears.

“Then you best stop it. What you did had to be done, and we both know it. You saved all our lives.”

It didn’t matter that Lettie spoke true. The images of war could not be erased from Sallie’s mind. “I just want this war to end.”

“Well now, I want that too, but it’s all in God’s hands. But think how Mr. Charles and Mr. Henry got back from the war only a few weeks ago. Theo’s back home too, so you have to believe the other two will come home before long.”

True. Of the five Whiteman brothers, only Edwin and Manfred remained unaccounted for. Charles and Henry Whiteman had been taken prisoner at Port Hudson but exchanged and sent home. Even Theo now sat safe at home after his last escapade revealed him too young to be in the army. She must have hope for Manfred and Edwin.

Lettie lifted the edge of her white apron and patted Sallie’s cheeks dry. “There now, Miss Sallie. It’s all goin’ to be fine. It’ll all be over soon. I just know it. I feel it in my bones. Besides, Easter’s a comin’, and that means a new season, new life, and new hope.”

“You and Mama, the eternal optimists, but I love you for it. You always know how to make me feel better.” Sallie breathed deeply and reached for a green ribbon to secure in her hair.

She would get through this day just as she had all the ones since Manfred left. Then the memory of what she overheard between her father and mother last night drained away her determination. She peered up at Lettie. “I need to tell you something.” Sallie squeezed the hand now clasped in hers.

At Lettie’s solemn nod Sallie took a deep breath and revealed her worry. “Last night I couldn’t sleep, and I heard Papa come in from his trip back to Woodville. I sneaked downstairs to see him, but he was in the parlor talking to Grandpa.”

Sallie’s lips trembled. “Our house in Woodville is ruined. The Yanks ransacked the place and took all kinds of things from our home. Papa said they’d left it in shambles. Mama’s beautiful things. Oh, Lettie, it’s just terrible.” After Sallie and the other women had fled the land, Papa and her brothers stayed behind until the next day, then joined the rest of the family in St. Francisville. He’d gone back to Woodville a few days ago, a twenty-five mile journey, when he heard the Yankees had moved on north.

Lettie pressed her hand against her cheek, her eyes open wide. “Oh, I’m sorry. Your poor mama. It’s so sad. No wonder you’re feelin’ blue this morning.”

Sallie squeezed Lettie’s hand again and for the next few moments sat in silence. Lettie understood her better than anyone else. The servant girl knew her deepest secrets and could be trusted to keep them.

“You are such a comfort. I don’t know how I’d get through these days without you to share my worries.”

Lettie patted Sallie’s hand. “We’ve been together too long and been through too much for me not to be with you.” She stepped back. “Come, now, let’s get you dressed. Your family will be waitin’, and you know your grandpa doesn’t like cold eggs or tardy children, even if you are his favorite.”

That statement brought a bit of smile. She did love Grandpa Woodruff, but he could be gruff when the occasion arose. She hastened over to a bench by the bed and picked up a green and white print cotton dress. Lettie grasped it and slipped her arms up inside it, and Sallie held up her arms.

“I believe Mama invited the Whiteman family for supper one night soon. I’m anxious to speak to Manfred’s mother. Perhaps she’s heard from him.”

The dress billowed about her as Lettie placed it over Sallie’s shoulders. She pulled the bodice up over arms and let the full skirt fall down over her hips and the myriad number of petticoats. At least Mama and Grandma didn’t require her to wear a corset or hoops with her day dresses. Lettie’s nimble fingers went to work on the buttons lined up the back.

“I think you lost more weight, missy. This dress is looser than it was last week. You sure don’t even need your corset. You have to eat more.” She peered over Sallie’s shoulder into the mirror and shook her head.

Looking over her shoulder, Sallie smoothed the dress around her waist. She gathered the wrinkles from the excess fabric. “It is big, but I’m just not hungry.” At Lettie’s stern gaze she added, “But I’ll try to eat more.”

Lettie sniffed the air. “If that aroma coming from the kitchen is what I think it is, my mammy’s ham and eggs should do the trick. She’ll have biscuits and gravy too.”

Sallie nodded. “I promise I’ll eat some of everything this morning.” A promise she would try to keep, especially with her grandmother’s and Flora’s cooking being so delicious.

The two girls locked arms and walked down the stairs together. At the bottom Lettie headed for the kitchen to help her mother. Sallie forced a smile to her lips and went into the dining room to join her family for breakfast. 



*I did not request this book and I have not read it.  Therefore I cannot give my opinion on Love Stats True.  I thought some of my readers may be interested in it. :)  Happy reading! ~ASC

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Wedding for Julia (First Wild card Tours)

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 (July 1, 2013)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Julia Beechy’s dream of opening a café is shattered when her mother says she must marry or move to live with distant family upon her mother’s imminent death. Caleb Zook thought he would never marry, but can he help this beautiful, sad woman? Is this God’s plan for his future?



Product Details:
List Price: $8.79
Publisher Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2013)
Language English
ISBN-10 0736946160
ISBN-13 978-0736946162


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue

Pebble Creek, Wisconsin

March

Julia Beechy stood next to the open grave and prayed the wind would stop howling for one moment. Next to her, she could feel her mother trembling. Ada Beechy had turned seventy-eight the previous week, two days before Julia’s father had passed. It would have been perfectly acceptable for her mother to sit, especially in light of the mist, the cold, and the wind.

Ada Beechy had no intention of sitting.

But Julia did shuffle one step closer to her mother, so that their sleeves were touching, as the bishop began to read the words to the hymn Ada had requested—“Where the Roses Never Fade.” Ada had stared out the window of their kitchen, her attention completely focused on the rosebushes, which had yet to bud, while members from their church sat beside Jonathan’s body in the next room. She’d gazed at the bushes and made her request.

Bishop Atlee had nodded, ran his fingers through his beard, and said, “Of course.”

Julia tried to focus on the bishop’s words as the men—the pallbearers—covered the plain coffin with dirt. How many shovelfuls would it take? Would Bishop Atlee have to read the hymn twice? Why was she worrying about such things?

David King stepped back, and Julia realized they were finished. Bishop Atlee bowed his head, signaling it was time for them to silently pray the words from the passage in Matthew, chapter six, verses nine through thirteen—their Lord’s prayer. Julia’s mind formed the words, but her heart remained numb.

“Amen,” Bishop Atlee said, in a voice as gentle as her mother’s hand on her arm.

The large crowd began to move. Words of comfort flowed over and around her. There had been a steady coming and going of people through the house to view her father’s body for the entire three days. Julia had become used to her privacy as she cared for her parents alone. The large amounts of food and the people had surprised her. Some of them she saw at church, but others came from neighboring districts. Those she barely knew.

She and Ada turned to go, for their buggy was marked with a number one on the side. The white chalk against the black buggy caused Julia’s heart to twist. They had led the procession to the cemetery. They would lead the gathering of friends away from the graveside.

But Julia realized she wasn’t ready to leave.

She pulled back, needing to look one more time. Needing to swipe at her tears so she could read the words clearly.



Jonathan Beechy

11-3-1928

3-6-2012

83 years, 4 months, 3 days



Now she and her mother were alone.

Chapter 1

Tuesday morning, six months later

Julia glanced around the kitchen as she waited for her mother’s egg to boil. Everything was clean and orderly. Why wouldn’t it be? It was only the two of them. Except for the days when she baked, there was little to do. Julia was hoping that would change soon, and she meant to talk to Ada about it. Today would be a good day. She’d put it off long enough.

The water started to boil, and she began counting in her mind. Three minutes made for the perfect egg, at least for Ada it did. There were few things her mother could stomach on the days she wasn’t well, but a soft-boiled egg was one.

Julia walked around the kitchen as she counted, and that was when she noticed the calendar. She’d failed to flip the page to September. Where had the last six months gone?

Six months since her father had died.

Six months of Ada’s health continuing to fail.

Six months that Julia had continued to postpone her dream.

She flipped the page, smiled at the photograph of harvested hay, and vowed that today she would speak with her mother. Returning to the stove, she scooped out the egg with a spoon and placed it in a bowl of water to cool. Slicing a piece of bread from the fresh loaf she’d made yesterday, she laid it on a plate and added a dab of butter and apple preserves on the side. She set the plate on a tray, which already held a tall glass of fresh milk. Picking it all up, she turned to walk to her mother’s room and nearly dropped the tray when she saw Ada standing in the doorway.

“I’m not an invalid, and I don’t need to eat in my bedroom.”

She weighed a mere eighty-nine pounds. Julia had brought in the scale from the barn last week and confirmed her fears. Her mother was losing weight. She was also shrinking. Ada now stood a mere five foot four inches.

Why was it that the body shrank as it grew older? It was almost as if it needed to conserve its energy for more important things. Her mother had attempted to braid her hair and tuck it under her kapp, but the arthritis that crippled her hands made the task difficult. The result was snow-white hair sprouting in various directions and a kapp tipped slightly to the back of her head. She also hadn’t been able to correctly pin her dark green dress.

In spite of her appearance, the blue eyes behind her small glasses twinkled with good humor and complete clarity. Her mother’s health might be failing, but today her mind was sharp. Julia was grateful. Some days sporadic bouts of dementia robbed her even of that.

“Mamm, I don’t mind bringing it to you.”

Ada waved her hand, dismissing the notion. “When I’m too feeble to get out of bed, I’ll be praying the Lord sees fit to take me home.”

Julia didn’t think it was a good time to remind her she’d stayed in bed three days last week. Ada remembered well enough. She simply chose to ignore the bad days.

“Let me help you.”

Setting the tray on the kitchen table, Julia was relieved to see that at least her mother was using the cane Dr. Hanson had provided. He’d suggested a walker, but Ada had insisted “the Lord was her strength.” The cane was a compromise.

Julia inwardly winced as she looked at her mother’s hands. Some mornings the crippling arthritis was better than others. This morning her hands—wrinkled, and spotted with age—resembled claws. She wondered how her mother would be able to pick up the utensils to eat. She was tempted to offer to feed her, but the last time she’d suggested that had earned her a twenty-minute lecture on self-sufficiency.

Ada must have noticed her staring. Patting her daughter’s arm, she murmured, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”

“Indeed.”

She bowed her head as her mother prayed over her breakfast. While Ada thanked God for her food, Julia prayed for strength and wisdom.

Was today the right day? And how best to broach the topic? Why were her palms sweating?

She waited until Ada had finished the egg and eaten half the bread. Some part of her wanted to believe that if her dream came true, Ada would improve. Another part knew it was only a matter of time until she’d be left alone in the big two-story house beside Pebble Creek.

“My baked goods have been selling well at Lydia and Aaron’s shop.”

“Ya. That’s wunderbaar.”

Julia nodded but vowed in her heart to push forward with her plan. She’d thought perhaps she should wait until her mother’s health improved, but after the visit with Doc Hanson last week, she knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was imperative she not wait until winter. The tourist crowds came during the summer and stayed through the fall foliage. If she was going to do this, she needed to do it now.

“Mamm, I’d like to expand my cooking business.”

“You don’t have a business.” Ada fumbled with the glass of milk, and they both reached to settle it. “You have a hobby.”

Rising and walking across the room, Julia fetched the herbal ointment the doctor had recommended. When she opened the jar, the smell of mint balm filled the kitchen. Pulling her mother’s left hand across the table, she worked the cream into the skin, rubbing gently with her fingers to massage the muscles until they were straightened.

“I’d like to make it a business, though.” She looked up, peering directly into her mother’s eyes.

Why was this so hard? Why was she so afraid Ada would say no?

She was thirty-seven years old, and she was still worried whether her mother would approve of her plans. “I’d like to open a café here in the house.”

Ada didn’t speak as Julia reached for her right hand and began rubbing the ointment into it. When she’d finished, her mother touched her cheek, leaving the faint scent of mint and summer.

“Dear Julia, how can you open a café in these rooms if you won’t be living here?” Behind the glasses were blue eyes filled with calmness, sadness, and determination.

“I don’t understand—”

“Do you think your dat and I would leave you here after we’ve gone on? Leave you alone?”

“But—”

“Nein, Julia. It wouldn’t be proper. It wouldn’t be right.”

“What…” Julia’s heart was racing so fast she felt as if she’d run from the creek. She didn’t know which question to ask first. “How…”

“We always hoped you might marry. Your father spoke to you about this on several occasions.”

“Ya, but—”

“I know your reasons, and I even understand them. The fact remains that you can’t live here alone once I’m gone, which according to Doc Hanson will be relatively soon.”

Julia jumped up from her chair, walked to the kitchen counter, and glanced outside. Her gaze fell on the rose bushes. They still held some of summer’s blooms—a deep, vibrant red.

“So you’re deciding I have to leave? Just like that? I have no say in it at all?” Her voice rose with each question.

“You’ll go to Pennsylvania. Back to live with my family.”

“I don’t even know those people.”

“They’re family, nonetheless. You’ve exchanged letters with them for years.”

“This is my home, mamm. You would kick me out of my home?”

Ada bowed her head. She didn’t speak for the space of nearly three minutes—long enough to boil another egg. When she looked up, her words were gentle, but they still made Julia want to scream. “God is our refuge and strength, dochder.”

“The Psalms are not the answer to this!”

“Always you can find the answers in Gotte’s Word.”

Julia closed her eyes and forced her emotions to calm down. When she looked at her mother again, she saw the same quiet, loving woman who had been beside her every day of her life. What she recognized, in her mother’s eyes, was kindness—and it confused her as much as the decree she had just issued.

“There’s no changing your mind?”

“Nein. The papers were drawn up before your dat passed. It’s why we agreed to sell the pastureland to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott. This home will be sold when I pass, and the money will be put in a trust for you, to help support you the rest of your life—”

“Support me.”

“On the condition you live in Pennsylvania with my family.”

“Why are you telling me this now?” Julia’s voice was a whisper. How could her life have taken such a catastrophic turn? When she’d slipped out of bed this morning, she never would have imagined that her days in this home, her days living beside Pebble Creek, were numbered.

It was true she hadn’t been overly social. She couldn’t remember the last singing she’d been to, but then she was not a girl. She was a woman.

Instead she’d waited. She’d done what a good daughter should do, followed all the rules, and waited. For what? So she could be turned out of her home. So she could be told once more what to do.

It wasn’t fair.

And she hadn’t seen it coming. She had never expected such an answer. She had never dreamed her mother and her father—she mustn’t forget he had agreed to this plan—would betray her this way.

No, she’d been busy designing a café in the bottom floor of their home. Where should she put the tables she would purchase from David King? What type of sign would best attract customers? What would be the best location for it? Should she advertise in the Budget? What design should she use for the menus?

None of those things mattered if she would be living in Pennsylvania.

“Why now?” she repeated.

“Why? Because you asked.” Her mother stood, gripped her cane, and shuffled out of the room.

Leaving Julia alone, staring out at the last of the crimson roses.


*Review to come!!!!  Stay tuned! ;) ~ASC

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Small Town Girl Review!!!

*Small Town Girl by Ann H. Gabhart

Book Description:
In the autumn of 1941, rumors of war whisper through Rosey Corner. The town practically vibrates in anticipation, as if it is holding its breath. But for Kate Merritt, it seems life is letting out a prolonged sigh. As Kate watches her sister marry the man Kate has loved since she was fifteen, her heart is silently breaking. And even the attentions of Jay Tanner, the handsome best man, can't draw her interest.

Then suddenly, Pearl Harbor changes everything. Kate's friends are rushing to get married before the boys go off to war. The newspapers talk of women making airplanes and bombs. Everyone in town begins rolling bandages, planting victory gardens, collecting scrap metal. Kate finds herself drawn to Jay in surprising ways, and when he enlists she can hardly breathe worrying about him getting killed. Could she truly be in love with him? And if she is, will she ever see him again?

In her gentle and textured style, Ann Gabhart tells a timeless story of love, sacrifice, and longing that will grip the heart and stir the spirit. Fans of Angel Sister will be thrilled to see Kate Merritt all grown up. New readers will find that Ann Gabhart weaves in Small Town Girl a beautiful story that will touch their hearts and win their loyalty.


My Opinion:
I had always wanted to read angel sister so when I saw that this was about the same characters and sorta a sequel I was hooked! After reading Small Town Girl I want to read Angel Sister all the more! Ann has come up with a great group of characters, personalities, and back stories. I saw tiny feelings of Taming of the Shrew and Sense and Sensibility as well as slivers of To Kill a Mockingbird (Lorena and Scout are almost one and the same ;) ) in this stand alone novel. For me it started out interesting and then lulled a little, but I have found that Ann's writing, for me, starts out slow, grows in interest, and then she completely blows me AWAY!!! Small Town Girl is no exception. There are similarities in the characters and back stories from her book The Scent of Lilac, but they are good similarities! :) As I read on the pace picked up a bit and I was REALLY hooked! From little Lorena to quirky but wise Fern I LOVE THESE people! LOL! Ann weaves history with fiction and a wonderful message beautifully! Excellent read! :)

Songs for Small Town Girl: "Shall We Dance" sung by Julie Andrews, "Bringing in the Sheaves" sung by Patti Page, "God Shaped Hole" by Plumb, and "Rock of Ages" sung by The Mills Brothers

Psalm 139:8


~ASC

*I received this book from Revell for the purpose of reviewing it.  This is no way affected my opinion and the above is my honest feelings about Small Town Girl. ~ASC


or 

“Available July 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

P.S.  Thank you to all of my followers! :) 

Monday, July 1, 2013

First Wild Card Tours (Threads of Love)

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 (May 7, 2013)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as Write-to-Publish, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Oregon Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is cofounder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its advisory board and as its CEO.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Emily Sundberg has her life all laid out. She has a respectable job as a teacher and an idea of whom she should marry.  But does God have a better plan?

Emily Sundberg considers herself a proper young lady of the twentieth century. But a decade ago she behaved more like a tomboy. So when the neighbor’s grandson came to visit one summer when she was thirteen, they became fast friends. Emily even got her first kiss—quite by accident.

Unfortunately Jake Edgerton told all the boys something else. Rumors circulated, and Emily caved from embarrassment and guilt. Meanwhile Jake returned home to Fallon, Montana and she never saw or heard from him again.

Over the years Emily has worked hard to prove to her peers and the people of Manitowoc, Wisconsin that, despite past mistakes, she is an upstanding young woman, one worthy of being a schoolteacher—and possibly Andy Anderson's wife. But even with the passing of time, Emily has never forgotten Jake and how he nearly ruined her life…

And now he's a US deputy marshal and he’s back in town!


Product Details:
List Price: $11.28
Publisher Realms (May 7, 2013)
Language English
ISBN-10 1621362396
ISBN-13 978-1621362395


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

May 1902
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

An explosion of shattering glass sounded from directly behind Emily Sundberg, and a thunderous weight crashed into her. The world spun, and then she fell hard and facedown on the dirty Franklin Street plank walk.

Breathe! Breathe! She struggled to inhale.

“Are you all right, ma’am?” A male voice spoke close to her ear. “I’m terribly sorry about knocking you over.”

He helped her sit, and a moment later a rush of sweet, springtime air filled Emily’s lungs. She let out a breath of relief.

“Are you hurt?”

“I . . . I don’t know.” Emily spit dirt from her mouth. Her left cheek began to throb. Her vision swam.

He steadied her, his arm around her shoulders. “Easy there.”

She took several deep breaths.

“Allow me to help you up and over to the bench. Like I said, I’m sorry ’bout knocking you over the way I did.”

Emily wiggled her toes inside her ivory-colored boots. Nothing broken. She moved her jaw. Despite the pain around her cheekbone, she seemed all right. Her hand moved to the back of her head. Her fat braid had come out of its pinning and her hat—her hat!

She pointed to the paved street seconds before a set of buggy wheels rolled over it, grinding the lovely creation into the paved road. Not once. But twice!

Emily moaned.

“Careful, now.” The man helped her to stand. “There’re shards of glass everywhere.”

Emily thanked God she hadn’t slammed her head into the nearby hitching post.

“Hooligans!” A woman’s voice rang out amidst the strangely silent street. It sounded like Mrs. Hopper’s. “Hooligans, ever’ one of ’em!”

Definitely Mrs. Hopper’s.

The man held Emily securely by her upper arms, and Emily’s gaze fell on his walnut-colored waistcoat. “You sure you’re not hurt?

“I–I don’t think so.”

“Well, I hope you can forgive me, ma’am.”

Emily’s gaze finally reached the man’s tanned and goldenwhiskered face. Shaggy blond hair framed his face and blood stained the corner of his mouth. In his canvas duster and matching trousers, the stranger looked out of place for Manitowoc, Wisconsin. But odd costumes weren’t totally uncommon, given the city’s lively port.

And yet, he seemed a bit familiar too . . .

“Unhand that girl, you hooligan!” Mrs. Hopper rushed forward and whacked the man on the shoulder with her cane.

He winced and released Emily. “I meant her no harm.” As Emily staggered backward slightly, the man caught her elbow. His velvety-brown gaze bore into hers as if to ask yet again if she’d been injured.

Funny how she guessed at his thoughts.

“I’m just shaken.” Emily glimpsed the remorse in his eyes before he bent and picked up the dark blue capelet that her grandmother, Bestamor, had knit for her. He gave it a shake before handing it over.

“And what about my hat?” Sadly she pointed again to the street.

The man collected its colorful but irreparably flattened remains.

“A travesty!” Mrs. Hopper’s age-lined face contorted in rage. “A travesty, I say!”

Travesty indeed! It had taken months for Emily to save for that fine bit of millinery with its silk ribbons, Chantilly lace, and pink roses on a velvet bandeau. Now Andy Anderson would never see it. She took the mangled remnants from the stranger’s hand. “I certainly hope you plan to reimburse me for this. I paid one dollar and fifty cents for it.”

“A dollar and a half? For a hat? I could buy a shoulder holster, cartridge belt, and ammunition for that sum.”

Unimpressed, Emily extended one hand of her torn netted glove. Another casualty.

Resignation softened his gaze before the man reached into his inside pocket and then placed two dollar bills into Emily’s outstretched palm. “This should more than cover it. Again, I apologize.”

“Thank you.” Emily smiled. “Apology accepted.” She folded the money and put it in her reticule, still attached to her wrist.

Mrs. Sylvia Hopper sniffed indignantly, but Emily caught the approving light in the older woman’s eyes. She’d known the elderly woman for a long while, as she had been Bestamor’s best friend back in Norway. She’d come to America just before Poppa was born, and now her granddaughter, Iris, was Emily’s best friend.

A small crowd pressed in on the boardwalk to gawk. Emily’s gaze moved to the man who lay sprawled out and unmoving several feet away.

She quickly turned away. “Is he dead?”

“Probably not.” The stranger bent and grabbed his hat that lay nearby and gave it a whack against his thigh. “My compliments. You took that tumble a far sight better than he did.”

“Who is he?”

“Name’s Wilcox. He’s wanted in five counties.”

Emily glanced at the motionless figure again. He didn’t look familiar.

“It’s actually amazing that you’re not out cold yourself. For a moment I feared I’d killed you.”

“And you could have killed her, you low-life hooligan!”

“Please, Mrs. Hopper . . . ” She glanced around, hating to be the subject of such a scene. “I’m fine. No need to worry.”

Muttering, the elderly woman walked to where several women stood a ways down on the boardwalk, holding parasols and whispering behind gloved fingers.

Emily felt suddenly unnerved. “I guess I’m sturdy for a woman. Even so, I haven’t taken a hit like that since my brothers jumped me and I fell off my horse. Those rascals pretended they were US marshals and I was one of the James Gang.” Emily moistened her lips, her gaze fixed on the handsome stranger. “They flung themselves at me from a tree limb. It’s a miracle we didn’t all break our necks. ”

A moment passed, and Emily wondered why this moment seemed sealed in time.

The man narrowed his gaze.

“Forgive my prattling.” She hadn’t meant to go on like that. “The fall must have shaken my tongue loose.”

Despite the injury to his mouth he grinned, and Emily could swear she’d seen that smile before.

“Both you fellas are paying for this damage to my front window!” Mr. Fransmuller stomped out of his restaurant and saloon. Emily knew him and his family, as young Hans had been in her class just the year before. “Look at what your brawl has done!”

Emily took note of the gaping hole where the two men had crashed through the window.

Mrs. Hopper limped over to the tavern owner. “There ought to be a law against such barbaric behavior in our town. Someone’s going to get killed. Why, Mr. Fransmuller, you should be ashamed, serving strong drink on a Thursday afternoon. Women aren’t safe to do their shopping in broad daylight anymore!”

“Just for the record, I wasn’t drinking,” said the familiar stranger. “Just playing cards is all.”

“And gambling, most likely.” Mrs. Hopper hurled another angry glare at him. “Gambling is a dirty sin.”

Fransmuller frowned and wiped his beefy hands on the black apron tied around his rounded belly. “Now, Mrs. Hopper, don’t start in on one of your holier-than-thou rants.”

“I beg your pardon?” Mrs. Hopper brought herself up to her full height of four feet nine inches. “How dare you speak to me in such a way, Mr. Fransmuller!”

“I’ve got a business to run, and I pay my taxes.” He threw a thumb over his shoulder. “But just look at my front window!” He gave a wag of his nearly bald head. “And you should see the saloon! One big mess!” Mr. Fransmuller marched up and stood toe to toe with the man beside Emily. “Who are you? I want your name. You’re paying for half the damages to my business!”

“Yes, sir.”

Emily watched as the stranger moved his duster to one side. She glimpsed the gun, discreetly haltered across his chest, before he produced his billfold and a silver badge. “Deputy Marshal John Alexander Kirk Edgerton at your service.” After a courteous dip forward, he counted out several large-sum bills. “Will this cover my portion of the damages?”

Emily gasped. Jake? Could it be?

Mr. Fransmuller stared at the money. “Yes. This will do.” He gave a nod of appeasement before walking away.

Mrs. Hopper moved down the boardwalk and continued her conversation with the other ladies.

“Jake?” Emily eked out his nickname, scarcely believing it was him. He was several inches taller, filled out some, and had grown whiskers since she last saw him ten years ago. “Jake Edgerton?”

His gaze slid to her and he smiled. “Well, well . . . Emily Sundberg.” He didn’t look surprised. Obviously he’d recognized her before she’d figured out his identity. “Look at you, all grown up—you even turned out pretty.”

“Hmph! Well, I see you haven’t changed!”

“It was a compliment.”

She bristled. It didn’t sound like a compliment. What’s more, she suddenly recalled that Jake was part of that US marshal stunt her brothers pulled.

Jake Edgerton was trouble. Trouble from the time they were thirteen and fifteen.

“So what are you doing in Manitowoc?”

“Attending my granddad’s funeral.”

Emily felt a sting of rebuke. “Oh, I–I’m sorry. I didn’t know he’d passed. I mean, I knew Mr. Ollie had been ill for a long while, but . . . ”

“Happened just last night.” Jake eyed her speculatively.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Me too.” He glanced away for a moment. “So what about you?” His gaze returned. “Married? Working at your family’s shipping business?”

“Neither. I’m a schoolteacher here in town. I only get home on Sundays.”

“A schoolteacher, eh?”

She nodded as the realization of Mr. Ollie’s death sunk in. A sweeping sadness prevailed. “Again, I’m sorry for your loss. Your grandfather was a good neighbor to our family.” She eyed the rugged man standing before her. Mr. Ollie spoke of him often, and Jake had been especially close to the old man. Oliver Stout, fondly called Mr. Ollie by Emily and her brothers, had been a respected attorney, one who’d boasted many times over the years that his only grandson would one day take over his law practice.

But it didn’t look that way. Not if Jake was a deputy marshal.

“I appreciate the condolences, Em.”

Such familiarity galled her. “So you’re a gambler as well as a lawman?” Emily could only imagine Mr. Ollie, weeping in heaven.

“I partake in a game of cards on occasion.”

“Family funerals being one of them?” She couldn’t squelch the quip.

Jake inhaled, but then seemed to think better of a reply. Instead, he guided her the rest of the way to the bench.

Emily tugged her capelet around her shoulders and sat. She eyed the crowd, praying no one would recognize her as Maple Street School’s third grade teacher or Agnes Sundberg’s niece or Jacob Dunbar’s cousin . . . or Captain Daniel Sundberg’s daughter. With so much family surrounding her in this town, Emily knew the odds were against her anonymity.

“Once again, I am terribly sorry you got in the middle of this whole mess.”

He couldn’t be sorrier than she!

Mr. Fransmuller began sweeping up glass and shooing people away from the scene when shrieks from across the street pierced the air.

Iris. She turned in time to see her best friend making an unladylike sprint from the department store.

“Emily! Emily Sundberg!”

Standing, she cringed. So much for hiding her identity.

Emily lifted a hand in a tiny wave. Iris spotted her and crossed the street. She held her hat in place on her head with one of her slender hands. In the other she clutched her wrapped purchases.

“What’s happened? Oh, my stars!” A pale blue dress hugged Iris’s wispy frame as she hurried toward Emily, while her wire-rim glasses slipped down her long nose. “I heard there was some barroom fight and you got trampled half to death. What would I do if I’d lost my very best frie—”

Iris’s gaze lit on Jake, and she slowed her steps. Giving him a timid smile, she let go of her hat and pushed up her glasses.

He touched the brim of his hat. “Ma’am.”

Iris leaned toward Emily. “Is he the one who ran you over?”

“That about sums it up. But I’m fine, so let’s finish our shopping, shall we?”

Iris didn’t budge. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” She nudged Emily, who felt a new soreness in her rib cage.

Jake spoke up before she could. “US Deputy Marshal Jake Edgerton, ma’am.”

“Deputy marshal? How impressive.” Iris’s smile grew. “I’m Miss Iris Hopper and Emily’s best friend, going on eight years now. Right, Em?”

“Right.”

“My parents were killed in a horrible mud slide in South America where we were missionaries. I’ve lived with my grandmother ever since.” She pointed to where Mrs. Hopper still stood, recounting the event to an accumulating cluster of women.

“Sorry to hear of your loss.” Jake’s gaze, the color of the brandy he denied drinking, shifted to Emily. “As for Em and me, we go way back too.” A slow grin spread across his mouth. “Ain’t that right? And I must admit it’s been a pleasure, um, running into you today.”

Shut up, Jake. She looked down the block, wondering if he had any idea how much heartache he’d caused her over the years. Because of him and his big mouth, she’d spent half her life repairing her blemished reputation in this town. Worse, Jake never wrote back to her when she’d attempted to apologize for her part in the wrongdoing.

“How’re your brothers?” He gave a nostalgic wag of his head. “That summer I visited Granddad and met all of you Sundbergs was the best in all my life.”

“Eden and Zeb are fine. Just fine.” She couldn’t get herself to say any more. “We’re all fine.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“Emily’s never mentioned you.” Iris’s pointed features soured with her deep frown. She leaned closer to Emily. “I thought we told each other everything.”

“No? You never mentioned me, Em?” Jake’s dark eyes glinted with mischief.

Tried half my life to forget you! She clenched her jaw to keep back the retort and realized that it hurt too.

His expression changed. “Maybe you ought to see a doctor, Emily.”

She wished he hadn’t picked up on her wince. “No, I’m fine.”

“She always says that,” Iris tattled. “She’s always ‘fine.’”

“How far’s the doctor’s office from here?”

“I don’t need a doctor, Jake. But thanks, anyway.”

“Well, goodness, Em, you certainly did take the worst of it.” Iris brushed off the back of Emily’s capelet. “And, oh, my stars! Just look at your hat. It’s ruined.”

“Yes, I know. But Jake reimbursed me.”

“How thoughtful.” After a smile his way, Iris examined Emily’s face like she was one of her fourth graders. “I’m not mistaken a bruise is already forming on your left cheek.” Iris clucked her tongue. “You’ll be a sight at the Memorial Day Dance tomorrow night. But if you need to stay home now, I will too.”

“No. We’re still going.” Emily knew her friend looked forward to this community event that honored war veterans as much as she did. In addition, Andy Anderson would be there. Maybe if he saw her in the new dress Momma and Bestamor had sewn especially for the occasion, he’d finally notice her, and not just as Eden’s sister either.

“Andy won’t give you the time of day if you’re all banged up. You might as well stay home.”

Iris had spoken her thoughts. Sadness descended like a fog rolling in from off Lake Michigan. Emily fingered her sore cheek. She’d decided months ago that Andy would make a perfectly suitable husband. Would this ruin her chances of finally catching his eye?

“Might help if you go home and put a cold compress on it,” Jake suggested. “I’ll bet no one will be the wiser by tomorrow night.”

“Sure, that’s right,” Iris’s gaze softened. “Perhaps Andy won’t see any bruising. And we can cake on some of Granny’s concealing cream wherever necessary.”

Glimpsing Jake’s amused grin, Emily blushed. How could Iris speak about such personal things in front of him?

“Excuse me, but are you speaking of Andy Anderson by any chance?” Jake hiked his hat farther back on his head.

“Yes.” Again, Iris seemed happy to provide all the information.

However, the last thing Emily wanted was Jake Edgerton to get involved in her life. “We should be on our way, Iris. Let’s catch up with your granny.”

“Well, I’ll be . . . ” Jake leaned against a hitching post. “Andy Anderson . . . what’s that rascal doing these days?”

“Andy works over at the aluminum factory.” Iris pointed just beyond Jake’s left shoulder and toward where the large, thriving business was located. “He’s quite the lady’s man, but Em hopes to change all that.”

“Iris, really!” Emily gave her friend a stern look.

“Interesting.” Jake gazed off into the distance, his lips pursed as he kneaded his jaw. He seemed to mull over the information before looking back at Emily. “I wondered if I’d see Andy while I was in town.” His gaze focused on Iris. “Andy and I go way back too.”

Every muscle in Emily’s body tensed. If only Mr. Ollie could have waited just a week longer to pass from this world to the next. Her hopes ran high for the Memorial Day Dance tomorrow night, and it vexed her that Jake might have the power to destroy her welllaid plans.

“Emily is counting on Andy to ask her for a dance tomorrow night, but—”

“Iris!” Aghast, she gave her friend’s arm a jerk. “I’m sure Deputy Edgerton doesn’t care about such things.”

“Sure I do.” He straightened, still grinning. “And I’ll tell you what, Em, if Andy doesn’t dance with you, I’d be happy to.”

“Thank you, but I can’t possibly accept.” She tamped down the urge to scowl.

“It’s the least I can do.” After another charming smirk, he arched a brow. “What time’s the grand affair?”

“Aren’t you in mourning?” He just couldn’t show up.

“Of course I am.” Jake rolled one of his broad shoulders. “But I know Granddad fought in the Civil War, and I think he’d want me to attend.”

Iris happily divulged the details, and Emily wanted to scream.

“I’ll be there,” Jake said.

“How grand!” Iris adjusted her colorfully decorative hat. “Then, of course, you must save a dance for me.”

“Iris!” How could her friend be so bold?

Jake didn’t seem offended. “It’d be my honor, ma’am.” He smiled rather sheepishly.

Enough! Emily turned on her heel and strode down the walk, passing Mrs. Hopper and the other women. Her heels clicked hard on the weathered planks. While she walked faster than a lady should, if she didn’t hurry, she’d lose her composure here and now— and right in front of the man who’d nearly ruined her life! 



*I had requested this book to review but I never received it and never could get a response from the Publicity Coordinator for Charisma House.  Sorry all :(  ~ASC

I would like to thank Mimi from First Wild Card Tours though.  You ROCK! :)  Thanks for the help and always being available! :)  Many Blessings!

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