Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Simple Secrets" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Simple Secrets
Barbour Books (June 1, 2010)


Nancy Mehl


I found this book to be a wonderful blend of the Amish style books (except that it is actually giving a wonderful insight into the Mennonite lifestyle) with contemporary mystery/suspense. I really enjoyed Nancy's writing style as well as the characters and the storyline kept me guessing throughout the book. I am not sure if this is the beginning of a series or not, but I know that I would like to read more about these characters and this setting from Nancy Mehl.


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Chasing Lilacs" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Chasing Lilacs
FaithWords (June 17, 2010)

Carla Stewart

This is a very well written debut novel by Carla Stewart, I would describe as woman's fiction for YA except that the subject matter is very heavy. I won't be letting my daughter read it yet, I pass most of the YA I review on to her, but not this one. Parental suicide, depression and much more... a little too heavy for her. She is on the young end of YA so for older YA this might be perfect. I loved the character of Sammie, she was easy to identify with and to really connect with. I felt her pain and her desire to hope for something better and then after tragedy strikes she is thrown into turmoil even more when her aunt comes to "help" and school isn't all its cracked up to be. This book was excellent, but very heavy for a YA. Good first book by Carla Stewart.


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


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

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

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

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

Chasing Lilacs is her first book!


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Claim" Book Review

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:

Claim: A Novel of Colorado (The Homeward Trilogy)

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

I have thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy by Lisa Bergren and was sorry to see it end. I liked focusing more on Nic in this book, but would've liked to see a little more from Odessa in this one. All in all it is hard to ask for more from a series. Two sisters and a brother who need each other, but end up spread all over the world journey back to each other in Colorado. I would recommend reading the 3 books in order, but definitely reading all 3. You will not regret it and may even see yourself in a new light. Excellent series!


Lisa T. Bergren is a best-selling author who offers a wide array of reading opportunities ranging from children’s books (God Gave Us Love and God Found Us You) and women’s nonfiction (Life on Planet Mom) to suspense-filled intrigue (The Gifted Trilogy) and historical drama. With more than thirty titles among her published works and a deep faith that has weathered dramatic career and personal challenges, Bergren is excited to add the Homeward Trilogy to her resume as she follows God’s direction in her writing career. Bergren lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband Tim (a graphic design artist and musician) and their three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143476706X
ISBN-13: 978-1434767066


1 August 1888

Gunnison, Colorado

“Keep doing that you’ll get yourself killed,” Nic said to the boy. Panting, Nic paused and wiped his forehead of sweat. For an hour now, as he moved sacks of grain from a wagon to a wheelbarrow and into the warehouse, he’d glimpsed the boy daring fate as he ran across the busy street, narrowly escaping horse hooves and wagon wheels.

“Where’s your mother?”

The brown-haired boy paused. “Don’t have a mother.”

“Well then, where’s your father?”

The boy cast him an impish grin and shrugged one shoulder.


“Is he coming back soon?” Nic persisted.

“Soon enough. You won’t tell ’im, will ya?”

“Tell him what?” Nic tossed back with a small smile. “Long as you stop doing whatever you’re not supposed to be doing.”

The boy wandered closer and climbed up to perch on the wagon’s edge, watching Nic with eyes that were as dark as his hair. Nic relaxed a bit, relieved that the kid wasn’t in imminent danger.

Nic hefted a sack onto his shoulder and carried it to the cart. It felt good to be working again. He liked this sort of heavy labor, the feel of muscles straining, the way he had to suck in his breath to heave a sack, then release it with a long whoosh. A full day of this sort of work allowed him to drop off into dreamless sleep—something he hungered for more than anything else these days.

The boy was silent, but Nic could feel him staring, watching his every move like an artist studying a subject he was about to paint. “How’d you get so strong?” the boy said at last.

“Always been pretty strong,” Nic said, pulling the next sack across the wooden planks of the wagon, positioning it. “How’d you get so fast?”

“Always been pretty fast,” said the boy, in the same measured tone Nic had used.

Nic smiled again, heaved the sack to his shoulder, hauled it five steps to the cart, and then dropped it.

“This your job?” the boy asked.

“For today,” Nic said.

Nic loaded another sack, and the boy was silent for a moment. “My dad’s looking for help. At our mine.”

“Hmm,” Nic said.

“Needs a partner to help haul rock. He’s been asking around here for days.”

“Miner, huh? I don’t care much for mining.”

“Why not? You could be rich.”

“More miners turn out dead than rich.” He winced inwardly, as a shadow crossed the boy’s face. It’d been a while since he’d been around a kid this age. He was maybe ten or eleven max, all wiry muscle and sinew. Reminded him of a boy he knew in Brazil.

Nic carried the next sack over to the wagon, remembering the heat there, so different from what Colorado’s summer held. Here it was bone dry. He was sweating now, after the morning’s work, but not a lot. In Brazil a man soaked his sheets as he slept.

“Listen, kid,” he said, turning back around to the wagon, intending to apologize for upsetting him. But the boy was gone.

Nic sighed and set to finishing his work. As the sun climbed high in the sky, he paused to take a drink from his canteen and eat a hunk of bread and cheese, watching the busy street at the end of the alleyway. He wondered if he’d see the boy again, back to his antics of racing teams of horses. The child was probably letting off steam, just as Nic had done all his life—he’d been about the child’s age when he’d first starting scrapping with others.

But that was in the past. Not since his voyage aboard the Mirabella had Nic indulged the need, succumbed to the desire to enter a fight. Several times now, he’d had the opportunity—and enough cause—to take another man down. But he had walked away. He knew, deep down he knew, that if he was ever to face his sisters, Odessa and Moira, again, if he was to come to them and admit he was penniless, everything would somehow be all right if he was settled inside. If he could come to a place of peace within, the kind of peace Manuel had known. It was the kind of thing that allowed a man to stand

up straight, shoulders back, the kind of thing that gave a man’s gut peace. Regardless of what he accomplished, or had in the past. Thing was, he hadn’t found that place of comfort inside, and he didn’t want what Manuel tried to sell him—God.

There had to be another way, another path. Something like this work. Hard manual labor. That might be what he needed most.

Nic heard a man calling, his voice a loud whisper, and his eyes narrowed as the man came limping around the corner, obviously in pain, his arm in a sling. “You, there!” he called to Nic. “Seen a boy around? About yea big?” he said, gesturing to about chest height.

“Yeah, he was here,” Nic called back. He set his canteen inside the empty wagon and walked to the end of the alleyway.

“Where’d he go?” the man said. Nic could see the same widow’s peak in the man’s brown hair that the boy had, the same curve of the eyes … the boy’s father, clearly.

“Not sure. One minute he was watching me at work, the next he was gone.”

“That’s my boy, all right.”

“I’ll help you find him.”

The man glanced back at him and then gave him a small smile. He stuck out his good arm and offered his hand. “I’d appreciate that. Name’s Vaughn. Peter Vaughn.”

“Dominic St. Clair,” he replied. “You can call me Nic.”

Peter smiled. His dimples were in the exact same spot as the boy’s. “Sure you can leave your work?”

“I’m nearly done. Let’s find your boy.”

“Go on,” Moira’s sister urged, gazing out the window. “He’s been waiting on you for a good bit now.”

“I don’t know what he sees in me,” Moira said, wrapping the veil around her head and across her shoulder again. It left most of her face visible but covered the burns at her neck, ear, and scalp. Did it cover them enough? She nervously patted it, making sure it was in place.

Odessa stepped away from washing dishes and joined her. “He might wonder what you see in him. Do you know what his story is? He seems wary.” Their eyes met and Odessa backtracked. “Daniel’s a

good man, Moira. I think highly of him. But I’d like to know what has burdened him so. Besides you.” She nudged her sister with her hip.

Moira wiped her hands on the dish towel and glanced out at him as he strode across the lawn with Bryce, Odessa’s husband. He was striking in profile, reminding her of the statues of Greek gods the French favored in their lovely tailored gardens. Far too handsome for her—since the fire, anyway. She shook her head a little.


Irritated at being caught in thought, Moira looked at Odessa again.

“Trust him, Moira. He’s a good man. I can sense it.”

She nodded, but inwardly she sighed as she turned away and wrapped a scarf around her veiled head and shoulders. A good man. After Reid and Max and Gavin—could she really trust her choice in men? Odessa was fortunate to have fallen for her husband, Bryce, a good man through and through. Moira’s experiences with men had been less than successful. What made Odessa think this one was trustworthy?

But as Daniel ducked his head through the door and inclined it to one side in silent invitation to walk with him, Moira thought about how he had physically saved her more than once. And how his gentle pursuit both bewildered and calmed her. Daniel had done nothing to deserve her suspicions.

She moved over to the door. He glanced at her, and she noticed how his thick lashes made his brown eyes more pronounced. He shuffled his feet as if he were nervous. “You busy?” he asked.

“No.” Moira felt a nervous tension tighten her stomach muscles.

“Can we, uh …” His gaze shifted to Odessa, who quickly returned to her dishes. “Go for a walk?” he finally finished.

Moira smoothed her skirts and said, “I’d like that.” Then, meeting her sister’s surreptitious gaze, she followed him outside. It was a lovely day on the Circle M. The horses pranced in the distance. She could see her brother-in-law riding out with Tabito, the ranch’s foreman.

“So, you wanted to talk,” she ventured.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t want to talk to you, Moira,” he said.

She looked up at him and then, when she saw the ardor in his gaze, she turned with a sigh.

“Don’t look away,” he whispered gently, pulling her to face him. He reached to touch her veil, as if he longed to cradle her cheek instead.

“No, Daniel, don’t,” she said and ran a nervous hand over the cover. He was tall and broad, and she did not feel physically menaced—it was her heart that threatened to pound directly out of her chest. Perhaps she wasn’t ready for this … the intimacies that a courtship brought.

She’d been dreaming about what it would be like to be kissed by him, held by him, but he never made such advances before. Never took the opportunity, leaving her to think that he was repulsed by

her burns, her hair, singed to just a few inches long, her past relationship with Gavin, or her pregnancy—despite what he claimed. Her hand moved to the gentle roundness of her belly, still small yet making itself more and more prominent each day. “I … I’m not even certain why you pursue me at all. Why you consider me worthy. ”

He seemed stunned by her words. “Worthy?” he breathed. He let out a hollow, breathy laugh and then looked to the sky, running a hand through his hair. He shook his head and then slowly brought his brown eyes down to meet hers again. “Moira,” he said, lifting a hand to cradle her cheek and jaw, this time without hesitation. She froze, wondering if he intended to kiss her at last. “I only hesitate because I am afraid,” he whispered.

“Afraid? You think I am not? I come to you scarred in so many ways, when you, you, Daniel, deserve perfection.…”

“No,” he said, shaking his head too. “It is I who carry the scars. You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am. Who I once was. What I’ve done …”

“So tell me,” she pleaded. “Tell me.”

He stared at her a moment longer, as if wondering if she was ready, wondering if she could bear it, and Moira’s heart pounded again. Then, “No. I can’t,” he said with a small shake of his head. He sighed heavily and moved up the hill. “Not yet.”

An hour after they began their search for Everett Vaughn, Peter sat down on the edge of the boardwalk and looked up to the sky. His face was a mask of pain. “That boy was hard to track when I wasn’t hurt.”

“He’ll turn up,” Nic reassured.

Peter nodded and lifted his gaze to the street.

“What happened to you?” Nic said gently, sitting down beside the man. His eyes scanned the crowds for the boy even as he waited for Peter’s response.

“Cave-in, at my mine. That’s why I’m here. Looking for a good man to partner with me. I’m onto a nice vein, but I’m livin’ proof that a man’s a fool to mine alone.” He looked at Nic and waited until he met his gaze. “You lookin’ for work?” He cocked his head to the side. “I’m offering a handsome deal. Fifty fifty.”

Nic let a small smile tug at the corners of his mouth. He glanced at the man, who had to be about his own age. There was an easy way about him that drew Nic, despite the pain evident in the lines of his face. “That is a handsome offer.” He cocked his own head. “But I don’t see you doing half the work, laid up like you are.”

“No, not quite. But I’ve already put a lot of work into it in the past three years, and I’m still good for about a quarter of the labor. To say nothing of the fact that my name’s on the claim.”

Nic paused, thinking about it, feeling drawn to help this man, but then shook his head. “I’m not very fond of small dark spaces.”

“So … make it bigger. Light a lamp.”

Nic shook his head, more firmly this time. “No. I’d rather find another line of work.”

Just then he spotted the boy, running the street again. “There he is,” Nic said, nodding outward. The boy’s father followed his gaze and with a grimace, rose to his feet. As they watched, the boy ran under a wagon that had temporarily pulled to a stop. Then he jumped up on the back of another, riding it for about twenty feet until he was passing by them. His face was a mask of elation.

“Everett! Ev! Come on over here!”

Everett’s eyes widened in surprise. He jumped down and ran over to them, causing a man on horseback to pull back hard on his reins and swear.

“Sorry, friend,” Peter said, raising his good arm up to the rider. The horseman shook his head and then rode on.

Peter grabbed his son’s arm and, limping, hauled him over to the boardwalk. “I’ve told you to stay out of the street.”

“So did I,” Nic said, meeting the boy’s gaze. The child flushed red and glanced away.

“We’d best be on our way,” Peter said. “Thanks for helpin’ me find my boy.” He reached out a hand and Nic rose to shake it. Peter paused. “It’s not often a man has a chance at entering a claim agreement once a miner has found a vein that is guaranteed to pay.”

Nic hesitated as he dropped Peter’s hand. “I’ve narrowly escaped with my life on more than one occasion, friend. I’m aiming to look up my sisters, but not from a casket.”

Peter lifted his chin, but his eyes betrayed his weariness and disappointment. What would it mean for him? For his boy, not to find a willing partner? Would they have to give up the mine just as they were finally on the edge of success? And what of the boy’s mother? His unkempt, too-small clothes told him Everett had been without a mother for some time.

He hesitated again, feeling a pang of compassion for them both. “Should I change my mind … where would I find you?”

A glimmer of hope entered Peter’s eyes. “A couple miles out of St. Elmo. Just ask around for the Vaughn claim up in the Gulch and someone’ll point you in our direction.” He reached out a hand. “I’d be much obliged, Nic. And I’m not half bad at cookin’ either. I’d keep you in grub. Give it some thought. But don’t be too put out if you get there, and I’ve found someone else.”

“Understood,” Nic said with a smile. “Safe journey.”

“And to you.” He turned away, tugging at his boy’s shoulder, but the child looked back at Nic, all big pleading eyes.

Hurriedly, Nic walked away in the opposite direction. He fought the desire to turn and call out to them. Wasn’t he looking for work? Something that would allow him to ride on to Bryce and Odessa’s ranch without his tail tucked between his legs? The man had said the mine was sure to pay.… I’m onto a nice vein.…

Was that a miner’s optimism or the truth?

Not yet?” Moira sputtered, following him. She frowned in confusion. He had been coaxing her forward, outward, steadily healing her with his kind attentions these last two months. But now it was as if they were at some strange impasse. What was he talking about? What had happened to him?

She hurried forward and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop and turn again to face her. Her veil clung to her face in the early evening breeze. “Daniel.”

He slowly lifted his dark eyes to meet hers.

“This is about me, isn’t it?” she asked. “You attempt to spare my feelings but find me repulsive. I can hardly fault you, but—”

“No,” he said, with another hollow laugh. “Contrary to what you believe, Moira St. Clair, not everything boils down to you. You are braver than you think and more beautiful than you dare to believe. I believe we’re destined to be together.”

Moira held her breath. Then what—

“No,” he went on. “This is about something I need to resolve. Something that needs to be done, or at least settled in my mind, my heart, before I can properly court you.”

“What? What is it, Daniel?” she tried once more.

He only looked at her helplessly, mouth half open, but mute.

She crossed her arms and turned her back to him, staring out across the pristine valley, the land of the Circle M. It hurt her that he felt he couldn’t confide in her as she had with him. She stiffened when he laid his big hands on her shoulders. “I don’t need to be rescued, Daniel,” she said in a monotone. “God has seen me to this place, this time. He’ll see me through to the next … with or without you.”

“You don’t understand.”

“No. I don’t. We’ve been courting all summer, whether you realize it or not. And now you say that there is something else that needs to be resolved? You assume much, Daniel Adams. You think that I’ll wait forever?” She let out a scoffing laugh. “It’s clear you do not fear that any other man might pursue me. Not that I blame you …” She turned partly away and stared into the distance. “Please. Don’t let this linger on. I cannot bear it. Not if you do not intend to claim me as your own.”

He was silent for a long minute. Oh, that he would but turn her and meet her lips at last …

But he didn’t. “We both have a lot to think through, pray through, Moira,” he said quietly.

“Yes, well, let me know when that is accomplished,” she said over her shoulder, walking away as fast as she could, lest he see the tears that were already rolling down her cheeks.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Claim by Lisa Bergren. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Healer" Book Review

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:

Healer: A Novel (The Brides of Alba Series)

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

This book by Linda Windsor absolutely pulled me into another world and kept me captivated. I love a good speculative fiction book and this one is great. Fact blends with fiction to create this magical place where there really isn't any magic, just amazing characters with tight scenarios and beautiful settings. The immersion of two different worlds, two at war clans and forgiveness that transcends human nature. This beautiful book has it all!


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

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

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


Glenarden, Manau Gododdin, Britain

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

Clansmen and kin, farmers and craftsmen—all turned out for the annual hunt, but they were more excited over the festivities that awaited their return. In the yard about the keep, gleemen in outlandish

costumes practiced entertaining antics, delighting the children and teasing the kitchen servant or warrior who happened to pass too near. Great pits had been fired. On the spits over them were enough succulent shanks of venison, boar, and beef to feed the multitude of O’Byrnes and the guests from tribes in the kingdom under the old king’s protection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So I can go?”

“Nay, return to your studies at the university.” The hunt for a nonexistent witch was one thing, but Gowrys were skilled fighters. “’Twould suit a Gowrys naught better than to send a son of Tarlach

earthways with an arrow through your sixteen-year-old heart.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Child, is it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crannog, or stockaded peninsula, was now little more than a pile of rubble rising out of the lake water’s edge. Cradled by overgrown fields and thick forest on three quarters of its periphery, the

lake itself was as gray as the winter sky. On the fourth was the jut of land upon which Llas of Gowrys had restored an ancient broch, bracing it against the rise of the steep crag at its back. With no regard for what had been, yellow spots of gorse had taken root here and there in the tumble of blackened stone.

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

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

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

“I think not.”

Alyn’s expression of disdain almost made Ronan laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Maid To Match" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Maid to Match
Bethany House (June 1, 2010)

Deeanne Gist

Deeanne has out done herself with this book, I enjoyed Maid to Match tremendously and loved the history behind it along with the era it was written about. Complex characters set in a time where everyone has a place and position and they are not to exceed or strive for other than where they are. Tillie just wants to be a ladies maid (to Mrs. Vanderbilt) and is putting everything she has into becoming just that - it has been her mother's lifetime dream for her. Mack on the other hand has no desire to be anywhere but in the wide open spaces of his beloved mountains, but his desire to help his younger siblings trumps that when Mrs. Vanderbilt offers him more money to come be on staff for them. Now Tillie's job involves helping refine Mack, while he falls in love with her. But she can't be married and be on staff. Dreams vs. love. What is one to do?


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

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

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

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

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

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


Falling in love could cost her everything.

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

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

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

Join this SPECIAL GETAWAY (Click on the Button):

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Love Finds You In Golden, New Mexico" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

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


Lena Nelson Dooley

Lena Nelson Dooley has outdone herself with this book. I count this as my favorite Love Finds You book so far! I enjoyed Madeline's story as she followed God to Golden, New Mexico where He had a plan to save her, right? Philip is convinced that he is dying and supposed to help a woman in need by marrying her before he goes. His friend Jeremiah is very skeptical and determined to keep Philip from getting fleeced by some floozy. When Madeline shows up in response to Philip's newspaper ad for a mail order bride, Jeremiah is set in his opinion, especially after Madeline shows up with an infant and two elderly servants. Philip must be loony, not hearing from God. What exactly is Madeline fleeing from anyway?
I was sorry to see this book end and really enjoyed my trip to Golden, New Mexico!


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"Love Finds You In Golden, New Mexico is a well-researched novel brimming With emotive conflict. Lena Nelson Dooley has crafted a historical romance that demonstrates that courage comes in many forms, but the courage to love is the most difficult of all.

─DiAnn Mills, author of Sworn to Protect and A Woman Called Sage

“Two strangers are presented with a ‘golden’ opportunity for love in this quintessential East meets West tale by well-loved author Lena Nelson Dooley. I found myself swept away by the beautiful writing and enmeshed in the lives of the players, who face many twists and turns in their journey toward the ultimate happily-ever-after. Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico is truly one of the loveliest historical romances I’ve read in ages. Highly recommended.”

─Janice Hanna Thompson, author of Love Me Tender and Swinging on a Star

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Spring Reading Challenge

It's time for the Callapidder Spring Reading Challenge! And as always I'm going to post my list and we'll see how I do :-)

Make a list of books you want to read (or finish reading) this spring. Your list can be as long or as short as you’d like. (Also, feel free to modify your list during the challenge if it’s not working for you.)

1. McKenzie's Montana Mystery by Shari Barr
2. Alexis and the Sacramento Surprise by Erica Rodgers
3. Love Finds You in Homestead, IA by Melanie Dobson
4. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson
5. Disaster Status by Candace Calvert
6. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell
7. Sworn to Protect by Diann Mills
8. Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer
9. Rooms by Jim Rubart
10. Sing by Lisa Bergren
11. The Sword by Bryan Litfin
12. Heading Home by Renee Riva
13. A Corpse in St. Andrew's by Mel Starr
14. Miracle Girls #4 "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt
15. Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris
16. An Unwilling Warrior by Andrea Boeshaar
17. Finding Jeena by Miralee Ferrall
18. The Prophecy by Dawn Miller
19. Enemies Among Us by Bob Hamer
20. Allon by Shawn Lamb
21. A Woman Called Sage by Diann Mills
22. The Chosen Ones by Alister McGrath
23. Code Blue by Richard Mabry
24. Deadly Disclosures by Julie Cave
25. Starlighter by Bryan Davis
26. Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
27. Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson
28. The Overseer by Conlan Brown
29. Frenzy by Robert Liparulo
30. Deceit by Brandilyn Collins
31. The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister
32. Storylines by Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft
33. Asking For Trouble by Sandra Byrd
34. One Million Arrow by Julie Ferwerda

35. It Had To Be You by Janice Thompson

36. Too Close To Home by Lynette Eason

This list is just a start, I don't have all my June books picked out yet. These should take me through April and May :-)

Remember, if you leave a comment on this list telling me at least 3 books that you plan on reading by June 20th then I will enter you in a drawing for free books then!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Fatal Loyalty" Book Review

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:

Fatal Loyalty

Kregel Publications (April 23, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

Here is a book that is a good starter for people that aren't quite ready to read Brandilyn Collins suspense but want a little more edge than the regular book. While not as suspenseful as I expected I was pleasantly surprised by some of the plot and characters. Political intrigue, the FBI and the mob all combine to make an interesting storyline set in Florida. Andie and Evan are solid characters that make everything around thing more compelling. Good story.


Sue Duffy is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Moody magazine, The Presbyterian Journal, Sunday Digest, and The Christian Reader. Her first novel Mortal Wounds was published in 2001 and she has also contributed to Stories for a Woman’s Heart (Multnomah). She and her husband, Mike, have three grown children.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 23, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825425948
ISBN-13: 978-0825425943



In an instant, his world collapsed, and no one knew it but him. The giddy chatter of students rushing to and from the cafeteria swirled about him as he felt blindly for something to lean against.

Eyes locked on the overhead television screen, Evan Markham backed slowly toward a post in the crowded student union. Just moments ago, he’d been one of them, a Florida State student preparing for exams and the long-awaited summer break. But what he’d just heard ended it all.

He had only glanced at the News at Noon anchorwoman with the glossy lips as he hurried to class. He caught something about a shootout in Tampa, but kept going. As he reached the door, though, he heard a name that stopped him cold.

“. . . Leo Francini.”

Evan turned suddenly and stared at the screen as the woman switched the broadcast to an on-the-scene reporter. A cold sweat sprang from his brow as he moved quickly toward others gathering before the monitor.

“This quiet residential street in Tampa was the scene today of a bloody standoff between FBI agents and members of a drug cartel run by Miami racketeer Leo Francini,” the somber-faced young man announced. “Before the violence ended about nine o’clock this morning, two FBI agents and Francini’s son, Donnie Francini, were killed. It is believed that Leo Francini was in the area, though not involved in the shootout. An intense manhunt by the FBI and local police is now underway. A house-to-house search is being conducted in . . .”

Steadying himself against the post, Evan turned to see if anyone was watching him. How could they know? No one knows.

Then another name caught him.

“Florida Attorney General Tony Ryborg, visibly shaken by the deaths of the two FBI agents, just moments ago issued what he calls an iron-clad promise to the people of this state, saying, ‘Leo Francini will be brought to justice and pay the severest penalty for these deaths.’”

Two hours later, Evan was packed and ready to leave. For where, he didn’t yet know. He’d removed all his belongings from the apartment and left a note for his roommate, whom he hardly knew. He hadn’t allowed himself to get close to many people, switching roommates often during the three years he’d been enrolled. Still, the guy deserved an apology for the sudden departure.

Evan returned to the student union to close his checking account and put a hold on his mail, evading inquiries about why he would do so before final exams.

As he left the building, he saw her. As usual, she didn’t notice him. Andie Ryborg seemed as absorbed in a private world as he was. Only hers hadn’t just ended in a gunfight.

One last time, he hung back and watched her. Dark hair fell loosely about her face as she sketched beneath a tree, focused on the gurgling fountain in the center of the green.

They’ll find you. Get away!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Love On A Dime" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Katie Bond of Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy.***

This is a fun book set in a really fun time period of the Gilded Age when things were very different and while people loved reading dime novels, it wasn't acceptable to write them. Lilly writes dime novels because she feels led to do something and this is a way that she can earn some money to donate to charity when there is no other way for her to have money of her own. In order to do this among her set she must use a nom de plume so no one knows who is really writing the books. As they become more popular, people want to know who the author really is. One of those people is her former fiance who has come back to win her over, his desire to expose the author is probably not going to help in the romance department.
This is a historical romance with a bit of mystery and humor, lots of fun for summer reading.


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

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1595546790

ISBN-13: 978-1595546791


P r o lo g u e

N e w Y o r k C i t y , M ay 1 8 9 3

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

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

Mr. Ames, the ancient butler, opened the front door. Jack and
Lilly entered the dimly lit foyer.
“Where is my father this evening?” Lilly asked the butler.
“In the back parlor, miss.”

“Shall I go with you, Jack?”

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

Jack strode toward the parlor, determined to plead his case.
Every nerve ending in his body fired with life—and more than
a few with apprehension. He’d calm himself and then ask Mr.
Westbrook for Lilly’s hand in a respectful tone, solicitous, but
not fawning. He’d restrain his usual brash attitude and hope Mr.
Westbrook would consent to a marriage most would deem unsuitable.
If he weighed the odds of success, he wouldn’t even try.
Jack inhaled a steadying breath and increased his pace down
the narrow hallway leading to the back of the house. Gas sconces
threw a pale light along the Persian runner that muffled his footsteps
to a soft shuffle. The house lay silent except for the noise of
a sledge hammer beating against his chest.

Lord, I need a large dose of Your strength. Don’t allow me to cower.
I’ve never been a quitter and I don’t want to start now.
He hadn’t asked God for much in the past, but this was too
important to rely on his own untested powers.
Jack paused before he came to the door of the back parlor,
straightened his bow tie, and squared his shoulders. Voices stopped
him before he moved forward. He recognized Mrs. Westbrook’s
high, girlish tone. He’d wait for a lull in the conversation, excuse
his entry, and then ask to speak to Mr. Westbrook. Jack waited for
several minutes before he heard his name.

“Thomas, I noticed Jackson Grail seems especially fond of
Lilly. You don’t suppose he wants to marry her, do you?”
Jack winced at the worry in her voice. With his back to the
wall he stepped closer to the parlor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack bumped his shoulder against the curlicues of a large gilt
picture frame. Turning to give it a hard shove, he stopped himself.
He wouldn’t let his temper get the better of him. Leaving the oil
painting crooked, he stumbled down the patterned runner, away
from the awful voices. When he came to the foyer he dropped into
a rosewood chair and ignored the curious stare from Mr. Ames.
Jack buried his head in his hands and tried to gather his wits
before he had to face Lilly. But the Westbrooks’ conversation
resounded through his mind. Poor. Unsuitable. Why had he ever
thought they’d accept him as a son-in-law? His love for Lilly had
banished all reason. He’d lived in a fog of hope these last several
months, but now it cleared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack caught her wrists. “No, I can’t. I’m so sorry. He won’t change
his mind. It’s pointless to even ask.” Save me the humiliation.
Her strangled cry pierced his heart. “You won’t even try? We
love each other. Isn’t that worth fighting for?” Lilly’s voice rose
with disbelief.

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

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

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

He glanced at her and could see in her face the stubborn, naïve
hope that lingered there. But he understood reality as she never
would. He ’d let his love blossom before he should have.
Jack slowly moved away, steeling himself for the hurt yet
to come. “Your parents are right. I’m in no position to marry. I
should never have proposed, because I have nothing to offer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, please don’t wait for me.” Jack’s voice cracked like ice.
He wanted her to wait, but he couldn’t ruin her chances of
making a suitable, maybe even a happy marriage. The odds of
succeeding in the business world without connections were small.
If and when he’d proven himself, he’d return and hope she ’d still
want him. And forgive him. But he couldn’t ask her to wait.
He blotted her tears with his handkerchief, but they kept
streaming down her face. Her slender shoulders heaved with soft
sobs. He kissed her again gently and then retreated to his bedroom
before he was tempted to crush her in his arms and beg her to
elope. He’d planned to stay for the week as George ’s guest, but
now he needed to leave quickly.

Within ten minutes he was gone.

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

His stomach roiling, Jack fought to keep a dignified pace and
not run all the way to Washington Square. At last, he stood before
the Westbrook home and tapped the front door knocker against
the heavy wood.
He’d explain he couldn’t manage without her and his infernal
pride had blocked his common sense and their tender love. Would
she accept his apology? They’d work something out. He didn’t
know how exactly, but they would. He knew their union was sanctioned,
indeed designed, by God.

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

“Yes. Is Miss Westbrook at home?”

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

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

“Next spring.”

Next spring. Jack groaned. “G-Good day,” he mumbled, turning
from the door.
I’m too late. I’ve lost her.

On e
N e w p o rt , R h o d e I s l a n d — J u ly 1 8 9 9

Six years later

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

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

No. It was best to stay behind closed doors to write her dime
Lilly shuddered to think of the disgrace she ’d bring upon herself
and, even worse, upon her family, if her secret was revealed.
The very notion of social ostracism weakened her knees and left
her legs wobbly. A twinge of guilt pinched her conscience as it
often did when she considered her concealment. Yet why look for
trouble when her work was progressing so well?

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

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

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

Phoebe Diller, Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do sit down, Lilly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why yes. Well no, not exactly. I borrowed it. As soon as I finish
reading, I’ll give it back. Of course.”
Irene tapped the big, red letters spelling out the author’s name
across the cover. “Fannie Cole. She’s a splendid writer, the very
best. Have you ever read any of her books? I devour them like

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

“They’re enthralling.”

At the sound of the front door squeaking open, Lilly looked
away with relief.
Mama bustled onto the veranda, a frown knitting her eyebrows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nevertheless, I’m sure Irene would prefer Fannie Cole.”
Who wouldn’t? Lilly thought. Still, she appreciated her mother’s
enthusiasm for her meager literary efforts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not at all. The Lord is more creative than we are.” Lilly
bristled and then glanced away when she found her mother and
sister-in-law still staring at her.
She’d spoken up much more forcefully than she intended.
With a sinking heart, Lilly realized Mama would never accept her
viewpoint; it flew in the face of beliefs and opinions ingrained
since childhood.

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

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

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

“Listen to this.” Irene leaned forward. “One hears that Miss
Fannie Cole, author of wildly popular dime novels, has taken up residence
at one of the ocean villas for the season. The talk about town
claims this writer of sensational—some might even say salacious—
stories, belongs to the New York and Newport aristocracy. Which of our
fine debutantes or matrons writes under the nom de plume, Fannie Cole?

Speculation runs rampant. Would the talented but mysterious author of
Dorothea’s Dilemma, Hearts in Tune, and several other delectable
novels please come forward and identify herself for her public?”

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

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

Mama’s mouth puckered into a small circle. “Undoubtedly
someone from the wrong side of the tracks. No one we’d know.”

She punctuated her words with a firm nod.
Irene persisted. “You must have an idea, Lilly. You seem to
know everything that’s going on in society.”

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

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

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

“How delicious,” Irene murmured.

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

She rose. “Will you excuse me? I need to take my walk now.”
With her head held high and as much poise as she could muster,
Lilly descended the veranda’s shallow steps. She strode across
the wide, sloping lawn that surrounded Summerhill, the old
twenty-two-room mansion the Westbrooks rented for the season.
Once she reached the giant rocks that separated the grounds
from the ocean, she picked her way over to a smooth boulder that
doubled for a bench. As she ’d done every day since her arrival
three weeks ago, Lilly settled onto its cold surface. Instead of
watching the breakers pound against the coast and absorb the majesty
of nature ’s rhythm, she rested her head in her hands and let
the breeze brush against her face.

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

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

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

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