Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Judgement Day" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Judgment Day
WaterBrook Press (September 21, 2010)

Wanda Dyson

I have enjoyed Wanda Dyson's books in the past and was really looking forward to this book. Since I was reading this book based on the author and not the content I didn't read the back of the book first, I just read and enjoyed every moment of the book. Great plot, wonderfully flawed characters (I hate perfect characters) and enough twists and turns to keep me flipping the pages fast! Wanda is a master of letting the reader in on somethings while holding just enough back to make us beg for more. One interesting note... after finishing the book I turned it over to finally read the back cover copy and see if it did the book justice. Well, I was a little surprised to see that it names the wrong dead person in Suzanne's house... a minor detail since who it named as dead is actually a main antagonist for a large part of the book! Someone missed that mark on that one (I bet it gets changed before the reprint), but Wanda wrote a book that I truly enjoyed.


Wanda Dyson – "a shining example of what Christian fiction is becoming..." (Christian Fiction Review). She's been called a "natural" and a "master of pacing," but her fans know that whether it's police thrillers, suspense, or bringing a true story to life, Wanda knows how to take her readers on a journey they'll never forget.

Wanda is a multipublished suspense author, currently writing for Random House/Waterbrook. Her one attempt at a nonfiction book was picked for an exclusive release on Oprah. In addition to writing full time, she is also the appointment coordinator for the CCWC, Great Philadelphia Christian Writers, and ACFW conferences.

Wanda lives in Western Maryland on a 125 acre farm with a menagerie of animals and when she's not writing critically acclaimed suspense, or away at conferences, you can find her zipping across the fields on a 4-wheeler with Maya, her German Shepherd, or plodding along at a more leisurely pace on her horse, Nanza.

With the release of her newest hit, Judgment Day, Wanda is heading back to the keyboard to start on her next high-octane thriller, The Vigilante.


Sensational journalism has never been so deadly.

The weekly cable news show Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell promises to expose businessmen, religious leaders, and politicians for the lies they tell. Suzanne positions herself as a champion of ethics and morality with a backbone of steel—until a revelation of her shoddy investigation tactics and creative fact embellishing put her in hot water with her employers, putting her credibility in question and threatening her professional ambitions.

Bitter and angry, Suzanne returns home one day to find her deceased boyfriend, Dr. Guy Mandeville’s nurse, Cecelia Forbes unconscious on her living room floor. Before the night is over, Cecelia is dead, Suzanne has her blood on her hands, and the police are arresting her for murder. She needs help to prove her innocence, but her only hope, private investigator Marcus Crisp, is also her ex-fiancĂ©–the man she betrayed in college.

Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne reluctantly agree to take the case, but they won’t cut Suzanne any slack. Exposing her lack of ethics and the lives she’s destroyed in her fight for ratings does little to make them think Suzanne is innocent. But as Marcus digs into the mire of secrets surrounding her enemies, he unveils an alliance well-worth killing for. Now all he has to do is keep Suzanne and Alex alive long enough to prove it.

Watch the book trailer:

If you would like to read the Prologue and first chapter of Judgment Day, go HERE.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"A Hope Undaunted" Book Review


As the 1920s come to a close, Katie O'Connor epitomizes "the new woman"---smart and sassy with goals that include a law career and the perfect husband. But when she spends the summer of 1929 with childhood nemesis Cluny McGee, Katie faces an unexpected choice: commit to her ideal boyfriend, Jack, ---or the man she's always despised?

Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


Julie Lessman continues the epic saga of the O'Connor family of Boston in her newest book, "A Hope Undaunted". This book follows youngest daughter Katie as she comes of age in the Roaring 20's. We still get to follow everyone else in the family but we meet a few new characters and see a few old ones return. This story line is full of more twists, turns and ups and downs than any of the others. Julie continues to stretch the boundaries of historical fiction and she brings this particular book is downright edgy. Take the passion in the characters, the circumstances of their lives and add in actual events like the stock market crash and all in all this book is a pleasure to read.

******Special thanks to Donna Hausler and Revell for my review copy of this book.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"The Secret of the Shroud"

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Secret of The Shroud
B&H Books (September 1, 2010)

Pamela Ewen


Pamela’s first novel, Walk Back The Cat (Broadman & Holman. May, 2006) is the story of an embittered and powerful clergyman who learns an ancient secret, confronting him with truth and a choice that may destroy him.

She is also the best-selling author of the acclaimed non-fiction book Faith On Trial, published by Broadman & Holman in 1999, currently in its third printing.

Although it was written for non-lawyers, Faith On Trial was also chosen as a text for a course on law and religion at Yale Law School in the Spring of 2000, along with The Case For Christ by Lee Stroble. Continuing the apologetics begun in Faith On Trial, Pamela also appears with Gary Habermas, Josh McDowell, Darrell Bock, Lee Stroble, and others in the film Jesus: Fact or Fiction, a Campus Crusade for Christ production.

Her most recent novel, The Moon in the Mango Tree (B&H Publishing Group, May 2008) is currently available online and in bookstores everywhere. Set in the 1920’s and based on a true story, it is about a woman faced with making a choice between career and love, and her search for faith over the glittering decade. Pamela’s upcoming book, Dancing On Glass, which was recently short-listed as a finalist for the Faulkner/Wisdom creative writing novel award, will be released in the spring of 2011, and she is currently working on a sequel.


A frightened apostle in AD 33, a tragic child in the 1950s, and a slick, twenty-first century church leader are all linked by the secret of the Shroud of Turin, the purported burial cloth of Jesus-and by something more.

Wesley Bright, a corrupt, media-savvy clergyman, is out to destroy the Christian church of the God who abandoned him in his boyhood. Likable and entertaining, Bright keeps his motives well hidden. But as he seeks revenge, leading the church toward unknowing destruction, the mysterious Shroud of Turin stands in his way.

Strange characters and clues emerge like shadows limned in mist as the most recent discoveries on the Shroud connect the pieces of a fascinating puzzle. When Wesley learns the ancient secret, he’s forced to confront a terrible choice: keep the secret—and the power, wealth, and fame he’s won over the years—or expose it...and lose everything.

At stake is one thing: absolute truth.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Secret of The Shroud, go HERE.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"In Every Heartbeat" By Kim Vogel Sawyer

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

In Every Heartbeat
Bethany House (September 1, 2010)

Kim Vogel Sawyer


Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren.


As three friends who grew up in the same orphanage head off to college together, they each harbor a cherished dream.

Libby Conley hopes to become a famous journalist. Pete Leidig believes God has called him to study to become a minister. And Bennett Martin plans to pledge a fraternity, find a place to belong, and have as much fun as possible.

But as tensions rise around the world on the brink of World War I, the friends' differing aspirations and opinions begin to divide them, as well. And when Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete's family, will it drive a final wedge between the friends or bond them in ways they never anticipated?

If you would like to read the first chapter of In Every Heartbeat, go HERE.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Introducing Chloe and Stephen...


Chloe is our 10 1/2 year old ray of sunshine. She is incredibly artistic and creative, we set up an art studio for her in a storage room because she needed a corner of the world to let her creativity spill out. What was the first thing she did? Painted the walls yellow - sunshine yellow! It was the perfect fit for her. She is all about accessories in her clothing - I think she owns over 20 hats and she wears them beautifully! Gloves and scarves are popular (and not the kind for cold weather) she also sports vests and fun shoes - definitiely our stylish child. We see things with sequins and say, "That's a Chloe outfit!" She is a middle child to be sure - she has the gift to be friends with the person 5 years older than her and 5 years younger than her. Her sister Paige is 6 1/2 and wrote in her notebook today, "Paige and Chloe are BFF" - and they are. It warms my heart. Chloe is also the one I turn to when I need something cleaned and organized - she has a knack for beautifying everything around it and she enjoys it. To top off everything else Chloe loves dancing and because she is so competitive it is important to her to be the best at whatever she does. She is the youngest on the advanced dance team but is also half the weight - so she gets to do all the tricks and flips including the human jump rope. She is our most athletic child too - she can outrun almost anyone, could she have a future in track? Maybe... we'll have to see. For now I just love having Chloe to greet me every morning. Everyone needs a Chloe in their life!

Stephen is our 8 1/2 year old dynamo. He loves video games almost as much as Philip, loves the outdoors and running, running, running. He could be very athletic, but he's built a lot like his dad (NOT a linebacker!). His brain is very mathematically inclined and when he was about 4 years old he would ask people how old they were and when their birthdays were and low and behold he would update them periodically on when their birthday was going to be and how old they would be then. It was pretty cute coming from a little guy. Stephen loves to give hugs and get them and his love language is definitely physical touch - which is good for me - he seeks me out for a good night kiss and he is the one that used to have a little game with me. If I was leaving for any reason it would go like this...

Mommy: "I love you."
Stephen: "I love you more. I like you."
Mommy: "I like you more."

I love my Stephen. He is a little fireball and he brings an exurberance into our family that would be sadly lacking otherwise.

Up next, introducing Paige and Quinn.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"More Than Words" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

More than Words
Bethany House; Original edition (September 1, 2010)


Judith Miller

I was so entranced by Judith Miller's Daughter's of the Amana Colonies books. Living in Nebraska I am very aware that the Amana Colonies are in Iowa but I've never been there. Now that I have read the first two in this series I can not wait to make a trip there and see them in person! Judith absolutely brought the colonies to life for me and I learned so much about the colonies and how they work. I realized that while many people (like myself) tend to lump the Amish, Mennonites and people of the Amana Colonies all under the Amish label, there are really a lot of differences between them and Judith highlights a lot of the ways that the people living in the Amana Colonies are different. I found it fascinating. Then she creates this group of characters that are just wonderful and there is even some mystery woven into the story with the band of gypsies camped outside town and who started the fire and why things are disappearing. I don't think I could have been more pleased with this book.


Most readers want to know how authors 'got started' writing. My first novel, Threads of Love, was conceived when I was commuting sixty miles to work each day. I wanted to tell the story of a pioneer girl coming to Kansas and the faith that sustained her as she adjusted to a new life. When the book was completed, I tucked it away. I had absolutely no idea how publication of a book occurred and had given no thought to the concept. However, through a co-worker, I was directed to Tracie Peterson who, at that time, worked down the hall from me. Having never met Tracie, I was totally unaware of her writing career, but God intervened. The rest is, as they say, history....

With a graciousness that continues to amaze me, Tracie agreed to read my story, directed me to a publisher, and gave me information on a Christian writers conference. Since that first encounter many years ago, I have been blessed with the publication of numerous books, novellas and a juvenile fiction book. Joyously, Tracie and I had the opportunity to develop a blessed friendship. In fact, we have co-authored several series together, including The Bells of Lowell, the Lights of Lowell and The Broadmoor Legacy. In addition, I have continued to write several solo series. Please check those out on the "My Books" page on my website.

God's design on the lives of His people never ceases to amaze me! Because I am eternally grateful for my own forgiveness and salvation, I strive to share God's desire to pull us from the mire of sin and set us free to live exciting lives for Him. Through His abundant grace and love, God gifts and equips each of us to share the story of salvation and eternal life. Won't you share His story using the special gifts He has given you?


Journey to the charming villages of the Amana Colonies, 1885

Gretchen Kohler is an Amana storekeeper's daughter with a secret passion for writing. But artistic pursuits are frowned upon in her conservative Amana village, so she confines her poems and stories to her journals, letting only close friends read them.

When a young reporter comes into her store, she believes she's found a kindred spirit. She shares a few of her stories with him--only to have her trust betrayed in the worst of ways, resulting in trouble for her entire community.

The scandal is made even worse by the fact that gypsies have camped nearby and seem to be preying upon the Amanans' compassionate, pacifist nature. Will Gretchen lose her job, her reputation, and the love of her childhood beau all because of one bad decision?

Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her novels, two of which have placed in the CBA top ten lists. In addition to her writing, Judy is a certified legal assistant. Judy makes her home in Topeka, Kansas.

If you would like to read the first chapter of More than Words, go HERE.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"PETRA: City of Stone" 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:

B&H Books (September 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to T.L. Higley for sending me a review copy.***

T.L.Higley has done it again! She has picked a period and place in time that few people dare to tackle and she has brought history to life through a fascinating story. She has created characters that I love, a setting that I want to learn more about and a story that I didn't want to end. This time the setting is Petra, the city of stone, the time is about 170 AD and Rome is spreading their empire to absorb more and more places. Next on the list... Petra. Enter Cassia and her son Alexander who head to Petra upon learning that Alexander's dad was from there and so Alexander has relatives they could meet. They arrive to find more than they bargained for and before long both of their lives are in danger. Separately Julian arrives in Petra after leaving Rome to keep his family out of harm's way. He meets up with the church in Petra and Malik who is the elder there. Things are definitely stirring in the heavenly realms. The story takes off quickly and it is difficult to put down.

This book will be required reading for my daughter as part of high school history along with T.L.'s Ancient Wonder books. Her ability to bring history to life is an invaluable tool for keeping my daughter interested in ancient history. I can't wait for more from T.L.


Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After attending Philadelphia Biblical University, she earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University. She then spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as the series continues.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (September 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433668564
ISBN-13: 978-1433668562


The streets of Rome lay barren and empty, sucked dry by the colossal Flavian Amphitheatre that had swallowed seventy-five thousand Roman citizens in a single gulp, and would hold each one captive until they had enjoyed the horrors that Julian now raced to prevent.

More time. He needed more time. Already the crowd inside the four-story rim of stone cheered for the first event.

Julian’s sandals smacked the black basalt road that led toward the amphitheatre. The blistering Roman sun pounded the moisture from his skin and left him panting. He had run most of way, since an old servant in Vita’s house had pointed a gnarled finger toward the east, toward the Forum, toward the arena of death.

Eighty arches ringed the outside of the theatre on each of its first three stories. The bottom arches provided access to the public, and the second story’s niches held statues of the gods and emperors, who now looked down on Julian as he sprinted across the large travertine slabs that paved the arena’s edge.

He ran toward one of the four main entrances and fumbled for the tessera, the stone tile he wore around his neck. The designatores at the entrance would insist on examining it, to see the sector, row and seat to which he was assigned.

Indeed, the usher at this entrance was full of his own importance, and held a palm to Julian’s oncoming rush as though he could stop him with only the force of his arm.

“Too long in your bed this morning, eh?” His smug smile took in Julian’s hastily-wrapped toga and sweat-dampened hair.

Julian thrust the tessera before the man’s eyes. “Here, here, look at it.”

Still the amused smile. The usher opened his mouth to speak again.

“Look at it!”

Daunted, the man let his eyes travel over the tile, then took a tiny breath and stepped back. His grin faded to a look of regret over his own impudence, and he bowed his head. As if that were not enough, he bowed at the waist and extended a hand to invite Julian to enter.

Julian did not wait for an apology. He pushed past the usher and under the vaulted entrance, then straight through the arena’s outer corridor and up a ramp that led to the cavea, the wedge-shaped sections of marble seats. This main entrance led directly to the central boxes reserved for the elite.

He exploded from the dimly lit ramp onto the terrace. The morning sun slashed across half the seats, the height of the amphitheatre leaving the other half in shade. The red canvas velarium, the awning used to shade the spectators, would be raised before it got much hotter, but for now, thousands of bleached togas on white marble blinded the eye and the smell of the masses assaulted the nose.

Julian crossed the terrace in two strides, slammed against the waist-high wall that separated him from the arena, and saw a figure dash at him from the shadows.

His mother’s hands were on his arms in an instant. “Julian, what are you doing?” Her words were frantic, as clipped and terror-filled as his every movement.

“They have Vita, Mother!”

She wrenched his body fiercely to face her. Julian stood nearly a cubit taller than his mother, but Ariella had retained all the strength of her youth, along with the beauty. “There is nothing that can be done, my son.”

He yanked his arms from her grasp. “Do not say that!” Julian searched the cavea behind him, full to overflowing with the purple-edged togas of senators. “Where is Father? Is he here?”

“Julian, think! You must think.” Ariella’s voice was urgent and low and her clutching fingers again slowed Julian’s restlessness. “You will bring more harm – “

“I do not care!” His voice snagged with emotion, and he fought to harden the feelings into action. “I must end this.”

“You cannot, son.”

He turned flashing eyes on Ariella. “It is my fault! Do you not understand? I should be down in those cages.”

Ariella’s eyes misted. “I would not lose both my son and his betrothed on the same day.”

Betrothed. The word washed more guilt over Julian’s stricken soul.

A senator, one of his father’s friends, walked past and paused to hold out an arm in greeting to Julian. “Fine day for the games, is it not?”

Julian straightened at once, resuming the noble bearing trained into him since childhood, and returned the man’s grip. He nodded once in agreement, but did not speak. The senator moved on, and Julian dropped his shoulders, ashamed that he had not made a statement.

Ariella seemed to read his thoughts. Her dark eyes held his own. “It will take more than a day to change the Empire.”

Julian looked out over the yellow sand of the arena. “But this day, Mother, this day we must!” He slapped a hand against the top of the marble wall. “I am going to find Father.”

“Julian, you know that he can do nothing – “

He spun on her. “No. I am tired of both of you, always moving about your circles quietly, behind closed doors, the truth spoken only in whispers.” He lifted his own voice as an example. “There is a time to speak!”

Ariella’s nostrils flared, but she said nothing. Turning from her, Julian stalked to the nearest break in the seating and ascended the tiers alongside his father’s section. Here, the nobility did not sit on wooden planks as the rest of the citizens, but were given cushions or even chairs for comfort. He scanned the rows of seats for his father’s graying head, and instead met his dark gray eyes.

Julian shook his head and opened his mouth to shout across the intervening seats, but his father held up a hand, then stood and excused himself from his colleagues. He slid along in front of a dozen other senators, and emerged at the end of the row beside Julian.

Quietly, he spoke into his son’s ear. “I have just now heard. It is outrageous.”

Julian’s hands balled into fists at his side. “You must do something.”

“What can I do, Julian? The emperor has ruled, and Trajan is not a man to be defied.”

Across the arena, Julian watched as a trapdoor slid upward and a huddled band of men and women were prodded onto the sand at the end of Roman spears. Julian’s heart pounded with the shortness of the time left and he turned on his father with the frenzy of desperation. “She is out there, Father!”

But his father’s eyes held only grief, not anger. Not the fiery anger that could change the future, even now.

Julian pushed past him, down the steps. If his parents would do nothing from their positions of influence, then he would stop this madness from a position of strength.

It had been his fault, all of it. Trajan had made his stance clear. As long as they kept to themselves, did not flaunt their disagreement with imperial policy, did not take a public stand, they would be left alone. But that had not been enough for Julian. Passionate about the truth, eager to show himself a leader and foolish enough to believe himself invincible, he had spoken too loudly, in too many places.

And now this. Vita and the others arrested, convicted, and sentenced without his knowledge. Julian had brought this on them all, but he had escaped their fate.

At the terrace level he circled the arena toward the imperial box. The amphitheatre was one of the few places where the public had access to the divine emperor. Julian grasped at the thin hope that he could get near enough to plead for Vita’s life.

He had not loved her. Not like he should, though he had tried. He had never known a more virtuous woman. The arranged match between them was a good one. But Julian had never felt more than the flame of admiration and respect for her, and he saw nothing but the same in her eyes. Still, they would have been married.

We will be married.

The foot-stomps of the crowd rose around him like a hundred thousand drumbeats. The cadence resonated in his chest and pushed him forward. He knew that sound. It was the sound of a mob hungry for blood.

Terror drove his footsteps. He could not look to the arena. Not even when he heard more trapdoors rise and the low growl of beasts begin.

The crowd screamed as one, and their shouts lifted to the pale blue sky like a puff of evil smoke from the underworld. Julian’s bones seemed to turn to water. He raced on. The emperor’s raised box was in sight.

But then they were beside him again, both his parents this time, grasping at his arms, pulling him backward.

“It is too late, son.” His mother’s voice held the grief of both the present and the past, for she had seen much sorrow in the arena in her day.

His father turned him to the wall to face the sand. “You must say goodbye, Julian. You must say goodbye.”

He let his parents hold him there at the marble wall. He scraped his hands across the top, then gripped the white stone.

Lions. Six of them. Circling, circling the knot of friends in the center of the bright yellow sand that had been brought from one of the hills of Rome and spread on wooden planking to soak up the blood of gladiator, beast, and the condemned.

The lions charged at once, but for Julian, the moment stretched out, like a thread of silk spun from a slow-turning wheel, and though the crowd still bellowed, in his head all had gone silent and he saw only his group of friends, crumpling in on themselves like sand flowing into a sinkhole.

The lions must have roared before they pounced, though Julian heard nothing, and felt only the relentless scraping of his own hands across the stone wall. He scraped until his hands were torn and bloody, wanting to bleed with her, wanting to bleed with all of them, as he should have.

The sun had risen to pour its rays into the center of the arena, and the yellow sand beneath them turned to molten gold in the light, an oval of liquid gold with Vita and the others drowning in the center of it. He saw her face for a moment, lifted to heaven.

His mind disconnected and drifted strangely, then, to the words at the end of the Apostle John’s Revelation, and his vision of the New Jerusalem with its streets of pure gold.

Would Vita fall asleep in this golden sand and wake to streets of gold?

The beasts did their job well and quickly, and when it was over and the mutilated bodies of his friends lay scattered across the sand, Julian woke from his stupor and felt the guilt of every lost life bear down on him as though the stones around him had collapsed on his head. He tasted bile rising in his throat, and turned away from the wall to retch onto the paving stones.

His parents held his arms as he emptied the contents of his stomach. He heard the jeers directed toward him. When he stood, the tear-streaked faces of both his parents matched his own.

But he found no solace in their shared grief. They did not have to bear the guilt of it as he did. As he always would. He pulled from their embrace and escaped the amphitheatre, running back the way he had come, running like a haunted man.

Days later, when his guilt and grief had hardened into bitter anger, he tried once again to change the minds and policies of the Roman government. But in the end he brought only more disgrace, and more danger, upon his family.

In the cool of the evening three days after Vita’s death, he stood at the terrace wall of his father’s lavish villa in the Roman countryside, looking down into the flowered gardens his mother had commissioned, and listening to the fountain that trickled night and day into the central pool. He inhaled deeply of the night air, dragging in the scent of roses.

His guilt over Vita’s death had not abated, and he had added to it with his actions in the days since. His brazen words in the Senate House, and later the Forum, had identified him as one who should have also met his death in the arena that day.

Perhaps that was his wish. To be arrested himself, to be thrown before the gaping yaw of a dozen lions, to be given what he deserved.

But his family. He had not wanted the same for his family. His only brother, long since stationed in some military outpost, had never embraced the family’s beliefs, but even he could be reached by the long arm of the empire, and brought back to face condemnation with the rest.

Behind him, slaves stirred to prepare the evening meal and lit torches on the veranda. His parents would appear soon and they would all pretend that their privileged life continued.

But Julian had made a decision. His life in Rome was over. To protect his family, he must disappear.

He thought of his brother’s stories of the provinces that lay at the edges of the Empire. Of Britannia, of Judea. But even there the Roman army could search out a man. No, he must go further east than even Judea.

There was a place, a hidden city he had heard tales of since he was a boy. Stories that had sparked his imagination and given him the desire to travel across the desert sand to discover the city tucked between the rock cliffs of Arabia.

Petra. Capital of the Nabatean kingdom, wealthy center of the east-west trade route, and beyond even the Roman Empire’s reach.

Julian rubbed his hands together, palms still raw from being torn open the day Vita died. Yes, it was a good plan.

He would flee to Petra.

Introducing... Sarah and Philip...

It's time to introduce you to my kids, now that they are all here :-)


First off let me introduce you to my oldest - Sarah Charity Ryan. She just turned 14 and is typical of an oldest child in many aspects. She is the mother hen, strong willed and level headed but full of passion. Consequently, she can overreact easily too :-) She loves dance and has a wonderful group of friends. She used to be dyslexic and yet now she is an avid reader and reads many of the same books I do. She is a freshman in high school but is homeschooled so she's not exposed to a lot of the same garbage many girls her age are. She has a maturity that is wonderful along with an innocence that is rare. I rely on her a lot and walk a fine line between being her mom and being, not her friend, but a person she can turn to and talk to. She just started her first job and grows by leaps and bounds everyday. I am very proud of her.

Philip Matthew Ryan is my eldest son, and is 12 1/2 now. He is our silent power. Philip loves video games and computers and his mind is definitely inclined that way. He was loading computer games into the computer when he was 3 & 4 years old. He is quite smart but a slow processor so once he learns something he never forgets it, but he can get frustrated in the learning process. It makes him a perfect homeschooler because the public school system would not be a good place for him. He is really stepping into his role as a big brother - he is great with Quinn (our 2 year old) and has become a huge help with our newborn as well. He is not athletic and probably never will be, but he has his own areas of strength. He is loyal to a fault, intense, funny and very focused. He is learning to be reliable and is a huge help to us around the house. He makes me a happy mommy.

Next up - Chloe and Stephen...

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Immanuel's Veins" Book Review & Cool Giveaway!

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Immanuel's Veins
Thomas Nelson (September 7, 2010)

Ted Dekker


I love Ted Dekker. Seriously, I love his writing, his style, his stories and can I just say that I met him last year and he is just a great guy (and I'll just say what we're all thinking - he's pretty sexy too!). I love the way his stories suck you in and grip you until they are finished and then they keep your mind captivated for days after. "Boneman's Daughters" was really good, "Kiss" with Erin Healy was excellent, "The Lost Books" are amazing, you get the idea. I was really excited for "Immanuel's Veins". In theory this book should be right up my alley, I get into the whole vampire, otherworldly books - the setting and era of this book was great too. But for some reason I just couldn't quite get into this one. I've read some other reviews and a lot of people LOVE this book. That's great, I thought it was good, there is nothing wrong with it, it just isn't my favorite Ted Dekker book. I encourage you to read it though because it might speak to you in just the right way and really be a life changing book for you (as it has been for a lot of people). I am totally anticipating Ted's next book because if one thing remains true about Ted, it's that he is not afraid to try new things and he is always pushing the envelope!

In connection with Immanuel's Veins we are asking the question, "What is sacrificial love?" My answer makes me think of my children, I love them so much and unconditionally that there is nothing I wouldn't do for them... if anyone threatened them I wouldn't hesitate to step in and protect them, to the point of sacrificing myself. That is sacrificial love to me.


I will be giving away an awesome T-Shirt from the publisher, it says "Spread the Love" on it and has a graphic heart - very cool (I got one too!). So leave a comment telling me what sacrificial love is to you. Leave the T-Shirt size you would like if you win (Adult S - 2XL) and your email address. I will do the drawing when I get back from the ACFW conference next week. Good luck!


Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty novels. He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans.

Early in his career he wrote a number of spiritual thrillers and his novels were lumped in with ‘Christian Fiction’ a surprisingly large category. His later novels are a mix of mainstream novels such as Adam, Thr3e, Skin, Obsessed and BoneMan’s Daughters, and fantasy thrillers that metaphorically explore faith. Best known among these is his Circle Series: Green, Black, Red, White and The Paradise Books: Showdown, Saint, and Sinner.

Dekker was born to missionaries who lived among the headhunter tribes of Indonesia. Because his parents’ work often included extended periods of time away from their children, Dekker describes his early life in a culture to which he was a stranger as both fascinating and lonely. It is this unique upbringing that forced him to rely on his own imagination to create a world in which he belonged.

After leaving Indonesia, Dekker graduated from a multi-cultural high school and took up permanent residence in the United States to study philosophy and religion. Upon earning his Bachelor’s Degree, he entered the corporate world and proceeded to climb the proverbial ladder. But his personal drive left him restless and, after many successful years, he traded corporate life for wide range of entrepreneurial pursuits that included buying and selling businesses, healthcare services, and marketing.

In the early nineties while visiting a friend who had just written a book, Dekker decided to pursue a long held desire to be a novelist. Over the course of two years he wrote two full length novels before starting from scratch and rewriting both. Now fully enamored by the the process and the stories, he realized that storytelling was in his blood and a new obsession to explore truth through story gripped him anew.

He sold his business, moved his family to the mountains of Western Colorado and began writing full-time on his third novel. Two years and three novels later his first novel, Heaven’s Wager, was published.

Now, Dekker’s novels had sold over 3.4 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Lee Ann and two of their daughters.


This story is for everyone--but not everyone is for this story.

It is a dangerous tale of times past. A torrid love story full of deep seduction. A story of terrible longing and bold sacrifice.

Then as now, evil begins its courtship cloaked in light. And the heart embraces what it should flee. Forgetting it once had a truer lover.

With a kiss, evil will ravage body, soul, and mind. Yet there remains hope, because the heart knows no bounds.

Love will prove greater than lust. Sacrifice will overcome seduction. And blood will flow.

Because the battle for the heart is always violently opposed. For those desperate to drink deep from this fountain of life, enter.

But remember, not everyone is for this story.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Immanuel's Veins, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Love Me Tender" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Love Me Tender
Summerside Press (September 1, 2010)

Janice Hanna


I love the concept of this new series by Summerside Press. Each book is set in a different music period and the music of that time plays a central character in the story. I believe this is the first one and it struck a chord with me because it is set in my favorite musical time - the 50's - love it! Janice does an amazing job of making the music an important part of the story and I loved the waves of nostalgia as I read it. The jukebox in the diner makes a fun addition as the songs change when people are having conversations and the titles usually have some commentary on the conversation - too fun! The characters are fun, Debbie and Johnny are great, I expected to hate Bobby but he turns out to be a good guy and then Becky Ann and her little friends add the groupie feel that is needed when you are writing about heartthrobs. The storyline itself is a little simplistic, not in a bad way - the style is reminiscient of Wanda Brunstetter, but it is different from the other books by Janice I've read. Nothing is left for the reader to figure out, everything is stated for us very clearly. But that also means that I can see this as a book I can have my daughter read and I think she would love it to. For me this was a wonderful walk in a nostalgic park that I would visit again.


Award-winning author Janice Thompson also writes under the pseudonym Janice Hanna, She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over fifty books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, childrens books and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. Janice currently serves as Vice-President of CAN (Christian Authors Network) and was named the 2008 Mentor of the year for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).

She was thrilled to be named the 2010 Barbour/Heartsong Author of the Year with three books on the top ten list for that house. Janice is active in her local writing group, where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Her online course, "Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer" has been helpful to many who want to earn a living with their writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. She lives in Spring, Texas, where she leads a rich life with her family, a host of writing friends and two mischievous dachshunds. She does her best to keep the Lord at the center of it all.


As "Love Me Tender" plays in the background, Debbie Carmichael determines to salvage her family's restaurant, Sweet Sal's Soda Shoppe, when her father's health fails. Teen heartthrob Bobby Conrad agrees to perform at a fundraiser concert. But just two weeks before the highly publicized event, Bobby backs out of the benefit. Enter Johnny Hartman, a young, unknown singer to take Conrad's place. Debbie soon realizes the twists and turns leading up to the concert are divinely orchestrated. And it isn't dreamy Bobby Conrad who has stolen her heart - but the tender love of Johnny Hartman.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Me Tender, go HERE.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Tender Vow" 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:

Tender Vow

Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)

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

Shar Maclaren has written some of my favorite historical romance books of all time. She has 2 separate series that were so good I was always on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one to come out (Daughters of Jacob Kane series and Little Hickman Creek series). While her historical books capture the essence of the time periods and places to me, her contemporary romances don't pack the same punch for me. Tender Vow is a nice story with nice characters and some little twists in the plot (nothing too big) but the whole concept of the widow of one man falling in love with her husband's brother just didn't sit quite right with me. It was probably a personal thing and there will be tons of people that love this book. For me, I will continue to be first in line for every historical book Sharlane Maclaren writes, but I won't be in as a big a hurry to get the contemporary books.


After over thirty years of teaching, with her children grown, “Shar” prayed for direction, asking God for a new mission that would fill her heart with the same kind of passion she’d felt teaching and raising children. She began to write fiction – stories filled with fallen heroes and redeemed villains, daring women and starry-eyed children – plotlines that ultimately brought her characters face to face with God’s grace and restorative power. That choice has proven to be an excellent career move as the prolific author is releasing her 9th novel in September 2010. Sharlene grew up in western Michigan and graduated from Spring Arbor University with a degree in education. She traveled the world with a musical group before returning home to marry Cecil MacLaren, whom she’d known since boyhood. The couple lives in western Michigan.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740988
ISBN-13: 978-1603740982



Icy breezes whistled through the trees in Fairmount Cemetery, prompting the faithfuls gathered there to pull their collars tighter and button their coat fronts higher, as the tent that had been set up for the occasion did little to protect them from the elements. Just two days ago, northern Michigan had experienced a warm front, unusual for late November, but today’s temperatures made a mockery of it. Twenty-nine-year-old Jason Evans shivered, no longer feeling his fingers or toes, and wondered if the numbness came from the dreadful cold or from his deliberate displacement of emotion. He still couldn’t believe it—it was just two days after Thanksgiving, and his brother, John, two years older than he, was gone. Gone.

As Pastor Eddie Turnwall from Harvest Community Church pronounced the final words of interment, sobs and whimpers welled up from the mourners. His mom’s guttural cry among them gouged him straight to the core. Jason’s dad pulled his wife closer while Jason placed a steadying hand on her shoulder. His girlfriend, Candace Peterson, stuck close by, her hand looped through his other arm. His sister-in-law—John’s widow, Rachel—stood about six feet away, clinging tightly to her father and borrowing his strength as tears froze on her cheeks. Her coat bulged because of her pregnancy of eight months, and Jason worried that the added stress of her grief might send her into early labor. Meagan, John and Rachel’s three-year-old daughter, was the only one oblivious to the goings-on; she twirled like a ballerina until Rachel’s fifteen-year-old sister, Tanna, bent down to pick her up. If she knew the significance of this day, Jason thought, she’d be standing as still as a statue. What a blessing God kept her shielded—at least, for the time being.

“And now, dear Father, we commit John Thomas Evans into your hands,” Pastor Turnwall declared. “We know—”

“No!” Rachel’s pitiful wail brought the reverend to a temporary halt. In the worst way, Jason wanted to go to her, but he had his mom to think about. Mitch Roberts supported his daughter, whispered something in her ear, and nodded for the reverend to continue. Pastor Turnwall hastened to a finish, but the last of his words faded in the howling winds.

At the close of the brief ceremony, many of the mourners stepped forward to give the family some final encouragement. Jason went through the motions, nodding and uttering words of thanks. While he longed to linger at the bronze casket, the weather made it impossible, so, as the last of the small crowd left the tent, he followed, Candace’s quiet sniveling somehow disarming him. He didn’t have the strength to comfort her, especially since she’d barely known his brother; she barely knew his family, for that matter.

“Are you all right?” Candace asked in a quavery voice.

“I’m doing okay,” he muttered, his gaze pointed downward as they walked along the frozen path. How did one explain how he really felt on a day like this?

In front of them, mourners scattered in various directions, heading for cars covered in a thin layer of freshly fallen snow. Despite the cold, Rachel walked with slow, faltering steps, sagging against her father. Even from ten or so feet back, Jason could hear her sobbing moans. The sound made his chest contract.

Without forethought, he left Candace to her own defenses and raced ahead to catch up with them.

“Rachel.” Breathless, he reached her side. “I’m so sorry.”

“Jay.” She turned from her father’s supportive grip and fell into Jason’s arms, her sobs competing with the sighing winds.

They stopped in the path, and he held her sob-racked body, feeling his eyes well up with tears. Through his blurred vision, he noted both families halting their steps to look on. One of Rachel’s girlfriends took Meagan from Tanna and headed toward one of the cars. “Shh. You can do this, Rachel,” he whispered. “Think of Meagan—and your baby.”

“I—I c-can’t,” she stammered, her voice barely resembling that of the Rachel he’d known since high school, when he and John would argue over who was going to win her in the end. Of course, it’d been John, and rightfully so. And not for a second had Jason ever begrudged him. They fit like a glove, Rachel and John.

“Sure, you can,” he murmured in her ear. “You are Rachel Evans, strong, courageous, capable—and carrying my brother’s son, don’t forget.” He set her back from him and studied her perfect, oval face, framed by wisps of blond hair falling out from beneath her brown, velvet, Chicago cuff hat. Her blue eyes, red around the edges, peered up at him from puffy eyelids without really seeing. Chills skipped up his spine, and he didn’t think they came from the air’s cold bite. “Come on, let’s get you to the car,” he urged her, thankful when Candace stepped forward to take Rachel’s other arm, and they set off together. Rachel barely acknowledged Candace, and he wondered if she even remembered her, so few were the times he had brought her home.

“I can’t believe it, Jason, I just—I can’t believe it,” Rachel kept murmuring. “Just last week, we were making plans for our future, talking about John Jr. coming into the world, wondering how Meagan would feel about having a baby brother….”

“I know.”

“He just finished painting the nursery, you know.”

“I’m glad.”

She frowned. “Tell me again what happened.”

His throat knotted. “What? No, Rach, not here.”

She slowed her steps to snag him by the coat sleeve. “I need to hear it again,” she said, punctuating each word with determination.

“We’ll talk later, but first, we need to get you out of the cold.”

“Jason’s right, honey,” Mitch said, coming up behind them. “Let’s go back to the house.”

“But I don’t understand how it happened. I need to understand.”

“We’ve been over it,” Donna Roberts said as she joined them. Tanna came up beside her mother and held her hand as they walked. Like everyone else’s, Arlene Roberts’s face bore evidence of having shed a river of tears.

“I don’t care!” Rachel’s voice conveyed traces of hysteria. She stopped in her tracks, forcing everyone else to do the same. “John was a good skier,” she said. “He knew the slopes on Sanders Peak like the back of his hand. You said yourself you guys used to ski out there every spring.” Her seascape-colored eyes shot holes of anguish straight through Jason—critical, faultfinding eyes.

A rancid taste collected at the back of his throat. “We did, Rach, and he was the best of the best, but it takes a champion skier to navigate Devil’s Run. Come on, your car’s just ahead.”

Her feet remained anchored to the frozen ground. “Did you force him, Jason?”

“What?” The single word hissed through his teeth. “How could you even suggest such a thing?”

“Rachel, now is not the time for such….”

But Rachel covered her dad’s words with her own. “Did you provoke him into taking Devil’s Run? Witnesses heard you two arguing, Jay. Why would you be fighting on top of a mountain?”

“We weren’t fight—”

“You’ve always been the risk taker, the gutsy, smug one, ever looking for a challenge. You pushed him to do it, didn’t you?”

“What? No! What are you saying, Rachel? It was a stupid accident, that’s all.”

She stood her ground, her eyes wild now. “John isn’t like you, Jay, never was. Why drag him to the top of Devil’s Run if only a ‘champion skier’ can handle it? You of all people knew his capabilities—and his limitations.”

Jason wanted to shake her but refrained, merely giving her a pointed stare instead. “I did not drag him anywhere, Rachel, and we’ve both navigated Devil’s Run before. It’s just…the conditions were extra bad that day. I told him not to try it. You have to believe me.”

“Then why, Jason? Just tell me why he’d take the chance! Why?” she wailed, thumping him hard in the chest. Shock pulsed through his veins as he grabbed her fist in midair to prevent another assault. Everyone gasped, and Candace took a full step back, looking bewildered. Blast if he wasn’t dumbfounded himself. Where did she get off blaming him for the accident? Didn’t she realize his heart ached as much as hers over John’s death?

Mitch stepped forward and put his arm around his daughter. “Witnesses say John went down of his own accord, honey, and the police ruled his death accidental. No one forced him down that slope.”

Now she threw her father an accusatory glare. “How do you know that, Dad? Were you there?”

Mitch frowned. “Well—of course not.”

As if that should have settled it, Rachel pulled away and marched up the snowy walkway, albeit with stumbling steps. In robotic fashion, everyone else followed, shaking their heads in dismay. Taken aback by her insinuations, Jason fell in at the tail of the procession. “She blames me,” he muttered.

“She’s completely rude,” Candace said, taking his gloved hand in hers with a gentle squeeze.

“No, she’s just not thinking straight.”

“I don’t see how you can defend her. She just hauled off and hit you square in the chest.”

He cared very much for Candace, but she sometimes annoyed him with her snap assessments. “She just lost her husband, Candace.”

Mitch reached the car ahead of Rachel and opened the front door for her. “Where’s Meaggie?” she suddenly asked, almost as an afterthought, turning full around to scan the cemetery.

“Aunt Emily took her back to the house,” her mother said, climbing into the back with Tanna.


Before climbing into the car, she glanced about, focusing on Jason. “He was a good skier, Jason.”

Jason nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, he was, Rachel. No question about that.”

“As good as you?” she questioned with a cynical hint.

“Yes. As good as me,” he lied.

Seeming pacified, she bent her awkward, pregnant body and eased into the seat. Mitch closed the door behind her and went around to his own side, nodding at Jason’s parents, Tom and Donna Evans, and the rest of his family before climbing into the driver’s side and starting the engine.

When the car disappeared from view, Jason murmured again, “She blames me.”

“It will pass,” said Tom, removing his keys from his coat pocket. “Give her time.”

As they approached his dad’s late-model Chevrolet, Jason asked, “What about you, Dad? Do you think I’m to blame?”

“Son, please, let’s not talk about this anymore.”

“Well, do you?”

“Get in the car,” his dad ordered in a tone Jason hadn’t heard since his youth. Even though he was a grown man, he felt compelled to obey. Candace climbed in ahead of him, and they all rode back to the house in icy silence.


Ten months later

“Mommy, will you play with me?” Meagan asked for at least the dozenth time.

Rachel scanned the kitchen, overwhelmed by the sight of empty juice bottles, a spilled box of baby cereal, a pan of lukewarm potato soup, and a pile of several weeks’ worth of mail. A quick glance at the clock on the wall told her it was already 8:05 p.m. Her pounding head and jangling nerves were additional reminders of her upside-down life, and Rachel shot Meagan a weary look. “Mommy can’t play just now, honey. It’s already past your bedtime, and I still have to get you and your brother in the bathtub.” She wiped her damp brow with the back of her hand. It had been an unusually warm day for September, and the heat and humidity still lingered in the house, despite the open windows. In fact, the entire summer had been the hottest and driest Rachel could remember.

“I don’t want a bath.”

“I know, but you played hard today. A bath will feel good.”

“Uh-uh. Baths stink,” Meagan whined.

Rachel had a good comeback on the tip of her tongue, but she kept it to herself.

“Can you read me a book?”

“Not this minute, no.” Suddenly, it occurred to her that things were too quiet in the living room, where she’d left John Jr. Setting down her dishcloth, she headed toward the other room and found an assortment of magazines scattered about, their pages ripped out and thrown helter-skelter. Johnny looked up and grinned, his mouth jammed full with something. She ran across the room, knelt down beside him, and pried open his jaws, using her index finger to fish out a glob of wet paper. “Oh, Johnny-Boy, you little stinker, you’d better not have swallowed any of this.”

“If he did, it’ll come out in his diaper,” Meagan stated.

In spite of herself, Rachel laughed, something she’d rarely done since becoming a single parent. In fact, more often than not, she laid her exhausted self in bed each night and cried into her pillow, counting all the ways she’d failed at her mothering job that day, wishing John were there to ease the load.

She whisked Johnny up and headed for the stairs, deciding to leave the kitchen mess alone for now. “Come on, Meaggie. It’s bath time.” She lifted the latch on the gate and allowed Meagan to pass ahead of her, patting her on the back to urge her up the stairs.

“Noooooo,” came another expected whine.

Mustering up a bright voice, she said, “Remember, Grandma and Grandpa Evans are picking you up in the morning to take you to the circus! You’ll see elephants, tigers, horses…and I bet you’ll even see some clowns. Won’t that be fun?”

“Is Johnny goin’, too?”

“Nope. Tomorrow is strictly a Meagan day.”

“Yay!” she squealed, her mood instantly improved.

Later, with the children tucked in bed, the kitchen cleaned, and the house put back into a semi-ordered fashion, Rachel collapsed into her overstuffed sofa and heaved a mountainous sigh. Her chest felt heavy, a sensation she’d come to expect these days.

Be still, and know that I am God.

“I know, Lord,” she whispered, breathing deeply. “But it’s hard. Sometimes, I don’t feel Your presence. I will never understand why You took John.”

Be still….

She leaned down and pulled John’s Bible from a stack of books beneath the coffee table, guiltily wiping off a fine layer of dust. “Lord, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t even opened Your Word for weeks. What kind of a Christian am I, anyway? Shoot, what kind of a parent am I? I can’t even find time in a day to read Meagan a book.”

Be still….

“I’m trying.”

She opened the leather book, noting many highlighted verses interspersed throughout the slightly worn pages. John had been an avid reader, putting her to shame. She knew God more with her head than her heart, but John had known Him with both. She missed his wisdom, his courage, and his strength. Most days, it felt like she was floundering without her other half. If only she’d had the chance to say good-bye—then, maybe, she’d have fewer gnawing regrets. She gave her head a couple of fast shakes to blot out the memory.

I will never leave you nor forsake you, came the inner voice. It sounded good, but could she truly believe it?


Saturday morning dawned bright and full on the horizon, the skies a brilliant blue. The heady scent of roses wafted through her bedroom window. If John were still alive, he’d have headed out at daybreak and picked her a bouquet for the breakfast table. She smiled at the thought. Gentle, cool breezes played with the cotton curtains, causing shadows to dance jubilantly across the ceiling. She hauled her downy comforter up to her chin and turned her head to glance at the vacant pillow on the other side of the king-sized bed. His side always remained unruffled, no matter how much she tossed and turned in the night.

Two doors down, Johnny stirred, his yelps for attention growing by decibels. On cue, her breasts sent out an urgent message that it was feeding time. “I’m coming, Johnny Cakes,” she called out, then sighed as she tossed back the blankets, donned her robe, and stepped into her slippers. She padded across the room, stopping briefly to touch the framed photo of her and John on their wedding day before continuing to the nursery, where her towheaded, nine-month-old baby was waiting in his Winnie-the-Pooh pajamas. Oh, how she thanked the Lord she still had her beloved children. Yes, they wore her to a frazzle, but they also kept her grounded.

When the doorbell rang at nine o’clock on the dot, Meagan sailed through the house in her pink, polka-dotted shorts and matching shirt, her blond hair flying, and made a running leap into her grandpa’s waiting arms, wrapping her legs around his middle. Tom Evans laughed heartily and planted a kiss on her cheek, and Donna smiled, tousling the child’s head.

“Grandpa Evans!” Meagan squealed, reaching up to cup his cheeks with her hands. “You and Grandma are taking me to the circus!”

“No! Are you sure?” He feigned surprise. “I thought we were just going for a walk in the park.”

“Uh-uh. Mommy says we’re goin’ to the circus. What’s a circus, anyway?”

Tom laughed and began explaining what she should expect at the circus, while Donna took Johnny from Rachel’s arms and moved to the bay window for a look at the gleaming sunshine.

While her father-in-law talked to Meagan, Rachel looked on, getting glimpses of John in his every gesture. Tom Evans’ manner of speech, his pleasant face, his lean, medium build, the way he angled his head as he spoke, and even his rather bookish, industrious nature put her in mind of John.

She then thought of Jason, sort of the black sheep of the family, only in the sense that he was just the opposite with his tall, strongly built frame, cocoa-brown hair and eyes, and reckless, devil-may-care personality. And he was terribly likable to everyone—except Rachel, even though she, John, and Jason had been almost inseparable during their high school and college years. They had stuck together despite Jason’s penchant for weekend parties and John’s utter dislike of them; Jason had spent so much time socializing, it was a wonder he’d even graduated. But she and Jason had grown apart, especially after the accident, and she hadn’t seen him since last Christmas—her own choice, of course.

Tom stepped forward to plant a light kiss on Rachel’s cheek. “How are you doing these days, Rachel?”

“I’m all right,” she said with a mechanical shrug and a wistful smile. She never felt like discussing her innermost feelings.

Tom narrowed his gaze as he set Meagan down. The child scooted over to her grandma, who smiled down at her, then looked up at Rachel and said, “Say, why don’t you stop by the house tomorrow afternoon? You haven’t been over for such a long time.”

Visiting her in-laws’ home was like walking into yesterday, and Rachel didn’t know if she was ready to pass over the threshold again. The last few times had been too painful; she’d found herself glancing around the house and expecting John to come barreling out of one of the rooms. Silence followed as she bit down hard on her lip.

“Jason is coming home,” Donna went on, bouncing Johnny as she moved away from the window. “He called yesterday, and I convinced him to come for dinner. He hasn’t been home for a couple of months. I know he’d love to meet little Johnny. He asks about him every time he calls, and you know how much he loves and misses Meagan.”

Just hearing Jason’s name incited painful memories packed with guilt. For a time, Rachel had hated Jason, even blamed him for John’s death. Now, she just resented him for reasons she couldn’t define. In high school, the phrase “Three’s a crowd” had never applied to them. Instead, “All for one, and one for all” had been their motto—until she and John had become a couple, that is. After that, the chemistry among the three of them had changed. Oh, she’d had warm feelings for both brothers, and she’d even dated Jason off and on, but John ultimately had won her heart in his final two years of college with his utter devotedness to her, his promise of a bright future, and his maturity and passionate faith.

“What do you say, Rachel?” Donna asked, turning her head to keep Johnny from pulling on one of her dangling, gold earrings.

“Yes, you should come,” echoed Tom.

“I—I’m not sure. I think my parents are stopping over.”

“Oh, no; they’re coming straight from church to our place for lunch. They didn’t mention that?” Donna asked, bobbing Johnny in her arms. The two families had always been close, having lived in neighboring towns and attended the same church for years. Then, when Rachel and John had gotten married, the bond had grown tighter still.

“Um, I guess they did, but I…I forgot.” Panic raced through Rachel from head to toe. She didn’t want to see Jason, couldn’t picture him in a room without John there, too.

“Rachel.” Donna touched Rachel’s arm, her eyes moist. “We miss John more than you can imagine, but—we still have Jay. His birthday is Tuesday, remember? Won’t you come and help us celebrate it like old times?”

Jason’s birthday. She’d forgotten all about it. Yes, she did recall celebrating it as a family, just as they’d celebrated hers, John’s, and every other family member’s.

“I’m sorry; I just don’t feel like celebrating anything or anyone.”

“But he’s your brother-in-law, sweetheart. Don’t you want to see him? Remember how the three of you used to be so inseparable?”

“Mom, please,” Rachel warned her. “It’s all different now.”

“Of course, I know that. But—”

“Leave it be, Donna,” Tom said sternly. Meagan, growing as restless as a filly, tugged at her grandfather’s pant leg. “I can understand why Rachel wouldn’t want to see Jason. Too many memories, right, Rachel?” He reached up and touched her shoulder. “It’s probably for the best—you two keeping your distance, at least for now.”

She swallowed a tight knot and released a heavy breath. “Thanks.”

Donna blinked. “Well, if that’s how you feel…. But, at some point, I hope you’ll reconsider.” She shifted her fidgety body and frowned at her husband, then smiled down at Meagan and tweaked her nose. “Well, we should be getting to that circus, don’t you think, pumpkin?”

“Yes!” Meagan jumped with unadulterated glee. Oh, to be that innocent, Rachel thought.

“We’ll try not to be too late getting her home. How ’bout trying to get some rest when you put Johnny down?” Tom asked as Donna handed Johnny off to Rachel. “You look plain tuckered out.”

It sounded wonderful, but also completely unrealistic, considering the overflowing baskets of dirty clothes in the laundry room, the teetering pile of dishes in the kitchen sink, and the brimming wastebasket in every bathroom. Whoever said “A woman’s work is never done” must have been a single mom, Rachel thought. Then, nodding with a forced smile, she saw the circus-goers to the door.