Friday, November 26, 2010

"Divine Appointments" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Divine Appointments
WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (September 21, 2010)
Charlene Baumbich

This book is a step away from what I usually read. It is full of main characters which makes it a little disjointed, I had some issues keeping the characters and the time line straight (not usually an issue for me). The overall storyline was quite interesting - Josie is a freelance consultant that goes into big businesses and helps them streamline and cut where necessary. Many times this means cutting staff, and in this case she has to make some recommendations. Soon Lyle, Barb and many more are out on the street while Marsha finds herself getting promoted. These are the 4 main characters and it is interesting getting to know them and seeing how the chain of events that is set in motion open doors for each of them... some of them very unexpected. I wouldn't say it is one of my favorite books of the year, but it sure made me think and people that love women's fiction might love this book.


Charlene Ann Baumbich is the author of the previous three books in the Partonville series. A popular speaker, journalist, and author, for several years she has lectured to women’s groups and retreats. Baumbich is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Today’s Christian Woman, and numerous other publications. She is the author of six nonfiction books of humor and inspiration.

Charlene says: For over two decades of writing and speaking, my passionate pursuit to entertain and rejuvenate using humor (I love to laugh-especially at myself), uncommon wisdom, and passionate insights has been affirmed through countless calls, letters, and evaluation sheets. A reader recently e-mailed, "There is so much depression and sadness in this world. I applaud you for reminding all of us to treasure the moments in our lives, and for encouraging us to find joy in the little things. What you do helps so many to rise above the heaviness of life and live, and laugh, and face another day, so thanks!!!!" That is exactly why I keep doing what I do.

I am a firm believer in the power of story (short or book-length, funny or insightful, real or fiction, on stage or page) to accomplish my purpose, which is to remind you: Don't Miss Your Life! Whether you're tuning into me live or in print, fasten your seatbelt. I promise you a wild, fun, provocative, heart-warming ride.


Josie Brooks, at the age of 47, thought she was leading an enviable single life. A successful consultant, she calls her own shots, goes where the money is, and never needs to compromise. But her precisely managed world begins to falter during a Chicago contract when an economic downturn, a bleeding heart boss, and the loyalty and kindness between endangered employees ding her coat of armor.

Throw in hot flashes, a dose of loneliness, a peculiar longing for intimacy, an unquenchable thirst—not to mention a mysterious snow globe with a serene landscape, complete with a flowing river and lush greenery that seems to be beckoning her in—and Josie’s buttoned-up life is on the verge of coming completely undone.

Maybe her solitary existence isn’t as fulfilling as she has convinced herself to believe. It will take a few new friends, a mystical encounter, and an unexpected journey to set Josie on her own path to “right-sizing” and making the life changes that really matter. Filled with laugh-out loud moments and a gentle dash of inspiration, Divine Appointments is another heartwarming charmer from a master storyteller.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Divine Appointments, go HERE.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The Lightkeeper's Bride" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Lightkeeper's Bride
Thomas Nelson (October 19, 2010)
Colleen Coble

I love it when I can read book #2 in a series without reading the first one and I don't feel like I missed anything, but I also know that if I went back and read book #1 that I would love it. That is what happened with The Lightkeeper's Bride.
Katie is a fun, quirky heroine that gets her nose into someone else's business when she overhears a conversation because of her job as a telephone operator. She decides to follow up on the conversation herself and stumbles into a situation where there is an abandoned baby and she decides she needs to care for it. The new lightkeeper in town stumbles into the same situation and decides he should look out for the baby since he is beginning to think that the baby may be his niece. Eventually they decide to care for baby Jennie together at the Lighthouse (there is a smallpox epidemic sweeping through town) and need a chaperone so Lady Carrington joins them. Take this and add in pirates, looted gold, mystery and a dose of suspense and you have a wonderful book by Colleen Coble. There was only one bad thing about this book - now I have to go buy book #1 (The Lightkeeper's Daughter) because if this one was good I can only imagine that the first one was as well!


Author Colleen Coble’s thirty-five novels and novellas have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA, the Holt Medallion, the ACFW Book of the Year, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers Best, and the 2009 Best Books of Indiana-Fiction award. She writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail and love begin with a happy ending.

A word from Colleen: God has been faithful, though the path has not been easy. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. God wouldn’t let me give up, and I like to think the struggle made me stronger. God has given me so much in my life, most importantly my great family, a loving church family at New Life Baptist Church, and my wonderful publishing family at Nelson Books.


A thrilling romantic mystery set in the lush Victorian age.

Central Operator Katie Russell's inquisitive ways have just uncovered her parents' plan for her marriage to wealthy bachelor Bartholomew Foster. Her heart is unmoved, but she knows the match will bring her family status and respectability.

Then Katie overhears a phone conversation that makes her uneasy and asks authorities to investigate. But the caller is nowhere to be found. Mysterious connections arise between the caller and a ship lost at sea.

Against propriety, Katie questions the new lighthouse keeper, Will Jesperson. Then a smallpox epidemic forces their quarantine in his lighthouse. Though of low social status, Will's bravery and kindness remove Katie's suspicion and win her love. Katie and Will together work to solve the mystery of the missing girl and the lost ship as God gives the couple the desire of their hearts.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Lightkeeper's Bride, go HERE.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Winter Reunion" Book Review




(Aspen Creek Crossroads Series)


When wounded marine Devlin Sloane comes back to Aspen Creek, he's surprised by his late mother's will. His new business partner for the next six months is Beth Carrigan. His ex-wife. This might prove Dev's most difficult mission yet. He's never stopped loving the sweet bookstore owner, but his military career broke them apart. Now, as Beth and Dev work together helping others get a new start on life, Dev hopes that he can break down the walls between them. And explore the possibilities of a new life and love together.

Roxanne Rustand is known for her Love Inspired Suspense novels and she is branching out into contemporary romance with her new book "Winter Reunion". She has accomplished this feat quite well - in a world that is overflowing with contemporary romance this book stood out to me because of all the things that made it unique. Most books are boy meets girl, boy gets girl. But what happens when it is boy had girl, boy lost girl, boy must now work with girl for 6 months or lose his inheiritance. They have to put other people first as they manage the home (kind of a half way house for those needing a helping hand) his mother had started. The beauty of this book was that it wasn't cliched. I was impressed with Roxanne's first foray into Christian contemporary romance and I look forward to the next books in this series and heading back to the quaint town she has established for her readers in Aspen Creek.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Making Waves" Book Review


When spunky Marguerite Westing discovers that her family will spend the summer of 1895 at Lake Manawa, Iowa, she couldn't be more thrilled. It's the perfect way to escape her agonizingly boring suitor, Roger Gordon. It's also where she stumbles upon two new loves: sailing, and sailing instructor Trip Andrews.
But this summer of fun turns to turmoil as her father's secrets threaten to ruin the family forever. Will free-spirited Marguerite marry Roger to save her father's name and fortune? Or will she follow her heart - even if it means huring the family she loves?
Full of sharp wit and blossoming romance, Making Waves will whisk you away to a breezy lakeside summer holiday.


One of the most clever, fun books I have read this year. Lorna Seilstad takes a period of history and weaves a delightful story around the setting. The setting (Lake Manawa, Iowa) actually becomes one of the characters as the story progresses and I had so much fun visualizing the area around the lake. Marguerite Westing is a fantastic heroine - she is full of vim and vigor and won't conform to anyone's expectations, including the man who wants to marry her. Though her mother is pushing for the marriage, she is relying on her dad to let her marry for love not money... right? There are mysteries surrounding happenings at the lake, where everyone who's anyone is camping for the summer. It's hard for me to imagine camping as a sign of the "in crowd", but okay... I loved the history surrounding the lake as explained in the back of the book and I adored this story.

"The Silent Order" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Silent Order
Summerside Press (November 1, 2010)
Melanie Dobson

Melanie Dobson has taken something that I'm not overly fond of right now (Amish themed books) and given it such a fascinating twist that I couldn't help but love this book. When you mix the Amish with mystery, mayhem and the Mafia, how could it not be great. There are many twists and turns in this book that really kept me guessing. Melanie has a way of presenting all kinds of questions and then slowly but surely pulling the threads together one at a time. Giving just enough info to help you figure things out but not enough info to spoon feed it to you - I love that! I'm an intelligent reader, don't patronize me... and Melanie doesn't. She continues to write books that are making me a life long fan of her books!


Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of The Black Cloister; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana; and Together for Good.

Prior to launching Dobson Media Group in 1999, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family where she was responsible for the publicity of events, products, films, and TV specials. Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master's degree in communication from Regent University. She has worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for fifteen years including two years as a publicist for The Family Channel.

Melanie and her husband, Jon, met in Colorado Springs in 1997 at Vanguard Church. Jon works in the field of computer animation. Since they've been married, the Dobsons have relocated numerous times including stints in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, Berlin, and Southern California. These days they are enjoying their new home in the Pacific Northwest.

Jon and Melanie have adopted their two daughters —Karly (6) and Kinzel (5). When Melanie isn't writing or entertaining their girls, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, traveling, hiking, line dancing, and reading inspirational fiction.


Rural America - 1928. After the murder of his partner, Detective Rollin Wells hides away in an Amish home near Sugarcreek, Ohio, to find out who in the police force is

collaborating with Cleveland’s notorious mob. While Rollin searches for answers to his partner’s death, he befriends an elusive young Amish woman named Katie and her young son. As Rollin learns about Katie’s past, he’s shocked at the secret Katie is hiding - a secret that has haunted Rollin for eight years.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Silent Order, go HERE.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Long Time Coming" by Vanessa Miller

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Long Time Coming
Abingdon Press (November 1, 2010)
Vanessa Miller


Vanessa Miller of Dayton, Ohio, is a best-selling author, playwright, and motivational speaker. Her stage productions include: Get You Some Business, Don’t Turn Your Back on God, and Can’t You Hear Them Crying. Vanessa is currently in the process of turning the novels in the Rain Series into stage productions.

Vanessa has been writing since she was a young child. When she wasn’t writing poetry, short stories, stage plays and novels, reading great books consumed her free time. However, it wasn’t until she committed her life to the Lord in 1994 that she realized all gifts and anointing come from God. She then set out to write redemption stories that glorify God.

To date, Vanessa has completed the Rain and Storm Series. She is currently working on the Forsaken series, Second Chance at Love series and a single title, Long Time Coming. Vanessa believes that each book will touch readers across the country in a special way. It is, after all, her God-given destiny to write and produce plays and novels that bring deliverance to God’s people. These books have received rave reviews, winning Best Christian Fiction Awards and topping numerous Bestseller’s lists.


Two women from different worlds find hope together.

Faithful Christian Deidre Clark-Morris is a professional career-minded woman with a loving husband, but no children. Kenisha Smalls has lived in poverty all her life. She has three children by three different men and has just been diagnosed with inoperable cervical cancer.

While the meeting between these two women appears accidental, it becomes their catalyst of hope. Neither woman expects the blessing that God has in store for her. While Deidre will guide Kenisha on the path to eternal life with Jesus Christ, Kenisha will teach Deidre how to stand strong against the hard-knocks of life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Long Time Coming, go HERE

Watch the book video:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Amy Inspired" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Amy Inspired
Bethany House; Original edition (October 1, 2010)
Bethany Pierce


"Amy Inspired" is about a girl who is really uninspired. She wants to be a great writer but spends more time watching tv than writing. She teaches creative writing but spens so much time grading papers that she doesn't do any creative writing of her own. She lives with an aspiring writer, Zoe, who is getting published and seems to have it all together... but looks can be deceiving. Amy on the other hand is about to have her world view shaken when Eli moves in. He is a friend of Zoe's that needs a place to crash for a few days... or weeks... or longer. She doesn't want to be friends because she is oddly attracted to him but he has a long distance girlfriend. As hard as she tries, they eventually become friends and life gets more complicated.

This is what I would consider women's fiction, deals with some heavy issues, not real light hearted and while Bethany Pierce definitely has a unique voice that I'm not really used to, it's a good book.


After completing a master's in Creative Writing and working as a visiting instructor at Miami University in Ohio, Bethany Pierce now lives with her husband in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she is a member of the McGuffey Art Center and continues to write. Her first book, Feeling for Bones, was one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2007.


With rejections piling up, she could use just a little inspiration...

Amy Gallagher is an aspiring writer who, after countless rejections, has settled for a career as an English professor in small-town Ohio just to pay the bills. All her dreams suddenly start to unravel as rejections pile up--both from publishers and her boyfriend.

But just as Amy fears her life is stuck in a holding pattern, she meets the mysterious, attractive, and unavailable Eli. She struggles to walk the fine line between friendship and something more with Eli, even as staying true to her faith becomes unexpectedly complicated.

When secrets, tragedy, and poor decisions cause rifts in Amy's relationships, she must come to terms with who she's become, her unrealized aspirations for her life, and the state of her faith. Can she dare to hope that she will find love and fulfillment despite it all?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Amy Inspired, go HERE.

"Hatteras Girl" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Hatteras Girl
Bethany House; Original edition (October 1, 2010)
Alice Wisler

Hatteras Girl is a fun, beachy book that follows Jackie as she tries to live her dream... to re-open a bed and breakfast that she used to go to growing up. She and her best friend have dreamed of that all their lives, but can it become a reality? Jackie is determined to try. She also wants a relationship, is it possible that her dreams of the B&B and a relationship might be tied up in the same man? This book is a fun way to find out.


Alice J. Wisler is an author, public speaker, advocate, and fundraiser. She has been a guest on several radio and TV programs to promote her self-published cookbooks, Slices of Sunlight and Down the Cereal Aisle. She graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and has traveled the country in jobs that minister to people. Alice was raised in Japan and currently resides in Durham, North Carolina.

Facts about Alice

* Born in Osaka, Japan and lived in Japan for 18 years

* Went to Kyoto International School and Canadian Academy

* Majored in Social Work and graduated in 1983 from Eastern Mennonite University

* Worked at a group home for disadvantaged kids outside of Philadelphia

* Taught English and Culture Orientation at a refugee camp in the Philippines

* Taught English as a Second Language in Japan

* Speaks and teaches on Writing the Heartache

* Has three kids on earth, and one in Heaven

* Recently got married to Carl on 2/7/09


There are two things twenty-nine-year-old Jackie Donovan asks God for: an honest, wonderful man to marry, and to own a bed-and-breakfast in the Outer Banks region. In the meantime, Jackie works for Lighthouse Views magazine, writing articles about other local business owners, and intrepidly goes on the blind dates set up by her well-meaning but oh-so-clueless relatives.

There's one specific property Jackie dreams of purchasing: the Bailey Place, a fabulous old home where Jackie spent many happy childhood afternoons, a place that has now fallen into disrepair because of its outrageous price tag.

When Jackie meets handsome Davis Erickson, who holds the key to the Bailey Place, Jackie is sure God has answered both her prayers. But as Jackie learns some disturbing details about Davis's past, she begins to question her own motivation. Will she risk her long-held dreams to find out the truth?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Hatteras Girl, go HERE.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Devotions for the God Girl" Book Review


What does it mean to be a girl who follows God? That's the question bestselling author and teen mentor Hayley DiMarco helped teens answer in the bestseller God Girl. And now in this 365-day devotional, she guides girls ages 14-18 on a daily journey of learning more about who God is and who he created them to be. Each one-page devo contains a scripture verse of the day along with a brief reflection that unpacks spiritual truths about becoming a woman of God. And in each entry Hayley challenges girls to choose God's way in every area of their life--with their thoughts, actions, and daily choices about everything from friends and fashion to faith.

In this 365-day devotional companion to her bestseller God Girl, DiMarco guides 14- to 18-year-olds on a daily journey of becoming a godly young woman. Each one-page meditation includes a Scripture verse, brief reflection, and practical application to help your daughter make better choices when it comes to her thoughts, actions, friends, fashion, and faith. 384 pages, hardcover from Revell.
One of the things that makes this devotional so great is that there are 365 days in it, so it will last you the entire year. As much as my daughter liked the last devotional she went through, there were only 40 days - so this one has a lot of staying power. The devotions are short enough to fit into your schedule but deep enough to make you think. Hayley DiMarco has been making her mark in the 14-18 year old age group, she continues that with this great new devotional!
Available in November, 2010 from Revell.
Special thanks to Donna Hausler from Revell for my review copy.

"Grace" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Avon Inspire; Original edition (October 26, 2010)
Shelley Shepard Gray


This book is like a Christmas novella, but with all the characters from Shelley's popular Sisters of the Heart series. You don't have to read those books in order to appreciate and enjoy this book, but if you have you will love seeing where those characters are now. At this special Christmas the family is all gathering at the Bed and Breakfast to enjoy time with each other. The only problem is 2 guests show up unexpectedly and life turns very interesting. Is it possible that God brought them all together for a purpose... just maybe. It is sure a fun ride to find out.


Shelley Shepard Gray is the beloved author of the Sisters of the Heart series, including Hidden, Wanted, and Forgiven. Before writing, she was a teacher in both Texas and Colorado. She now writes full time and lives in southern Ohio with her husband and two children. When not writing, Shelley volunteers at church, reads, and enjoys walking her miniature dachshund on her town's scenic bike trail.


It's Christmastime at the Brenneman Bed & Breakfast, and everyone is excited about closing down for the holiday.

Anna and Henry will be celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple, and for Katie and Jonathan Lundy, it's their first Christmas with baby Stefan. Winnie and Samuel Miller plan to stop by as well for a wonderful two weeks of family and rest.

But when two unexpected visitors show up, hoping to stay for Christmas, the family must test their commitment to hospitality. Levi is a widower who lost his wife four years ago and can't bear the thought of another Christmas alone. And Melody is a young pregnant woman who won't open up about how she ended up on her own at Christmas at almost nine months pregnant.

Anna, who knows a thing or two about keeping secrets, doesn't trust her, and strives to find out the truth about these two strangers who have disrupted their holiday. But as the Christmas spirit descends on them all, as well as snow that traps them in the inn, a healing and hopefulness takes over, allowing new relationships to be built, and the boundaries of family to be extended.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Grace, go HERE.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"The Perfect Blend" 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:

The Perfect Blend

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2010)

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

It's been awhile since I've read such a fun, enjoyable book. I was swept away by a fun, quirky heroine that I could root for and cringe with when things went wrong (which they often did). Yet there is a strong underlying message about acceptance and whose acceptance really matters in life. I really liked this book and am pleased to see that it is the start of a series... I'm certainly hoping to see more of Kendall and Steph.


Trish Perry is an award-winning writer and editor of Ink and the Spirit, a quarterly newsletter of the Capital Christian Writers organization in the Washington DC area. She has published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media, and she is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736930159
ISBN-13: 978-0736930154


Steph Vandergrift was jilted in a truly beautiful place.

She focused on her surroundings so she wouldn’t break down and openly sob in front of people passing her on their way to work. Eyes blinking and chin quivering, she desperately sought distraction in the old stone buildings, lush spring greenery, and fragrant wisteria and lavender from the well-tended landscape nearby.

Rick told her she would love Middleburg, one of the most charming little towns in northern Virginia. When he proposed—

She breathed deeply against the urge to wail as if she were at an ancient European funeral.

When Rick proposed, he said she would even love his law firm’s stately, historic building. This was where she sat now, her dark bangs in her eyes. Despite the warm spring air, she huddled outside on the front steps, certain her brain—or surely her heart—would burst if she didn’t stop and collect herself.

A sudden leave of absence. That’s what the receptionist told her. Rick had taken a sudden leave of absence. And Steph knew she was whom he had suddenly left.

She swallowed hard. She stood and dusted off her short flared skirt in an attempt to look nonchalant while she sized up her situation. Where was she going to go? Where? She wiped away a tear, but another one swiftly took its place. She needed to not do this here, in the middle of this quaint old town.

God, what do I do now? Please tell me.

Distraction. She needed another distraction right now.

Across the street a middle-aged woman stepped out the front door of a small building, the white-painted stone of which was gorgeously weathered. She bent to lift a watering can, and her loose blond curls fell forward. She tended to the flower boxes that hung, moss-laden, from green-shuttered front windows. Then she seemed to sense someone watching her. She turned around and smiled at Steph before calling out to her.

“Good morning, dear. Are you all right over there?”

Steph took a few steps away from Rick’s building and tried to look purposeful. She managed to say, “Yes, I—” before her throat seized and then released a torrent of weeping and incoherent babbling.

So much for her stoic resolve.

Within seconds the woman was across the street and at Steph’s side. She smelled like vanilla and strawberries.

“You poor girl. Whatever is the matter?”

Steph tried to speak between heaving sobs. “…were s’posed to elope…left everything…job, family, friends…he’s not here…leave of absence…what…gonna do?” And then full-on wailing obliterated any further at-tempts at communication.

The woman enveloped Steph with her free arm, the other still holding the watering can, and steered her toward the little stone house across the street.

“You just come with me this instant. You mustn’t stand out here all alone like this.”

Yes. That was it. She was all alone. Rick had lured her away from everyone she loved. Everything she knew. She had left them all to marry him. It seemed like such a romantic notion, to elope after her parents had expressed their disapproval of Rick. And then what did the dirtbag do but desert her here?

The enticing smell of fresh-baked bread wafted all around them when they entered the little shop. Despite her anguish Steph sensed a rumble in her stomach. She thought she must be more beast than damsel to actually harbor hope for a pastry or two in the middle of this catastrophe.

“You have a seat right there.” The woman coaxed her into a wicker chair at one of the lace-covered tables in the dining area. “What you need is a nice, soothing cup of chamomile. Just give me a moment.” Before she went too far away, she stepped back to the table and placed a box of tissues within Steph’s reach.

Once Steph was alone again, reality descended. What was she going to do? Granted, she hadn’t walked out on a stellar career. She could get another job selling men’s suits in just about any department store, she supposed. But she didn’t know anyone here in Middleburg. Should she hang her head and drag herself back home to Baltimore? Why had she made such a scene before leaving? She hadn’t quietly sneaked away. No, she had to pull an all-out, in-your-face confrontation with her parents. A dramatic disconnect with her friends and roommates. And all of them had simply been trying to save her from exactly what just happened.

As she had always feared, her judgment was completely whacked. She had forgotten plans for any long-term career once she and Rick became serious. She thought she would spend the rest of her life married to an up-and-coming real estate attorney and raise their two perfect children and faithful dog in this adorable, classy town. Why had she believed that would happen simply because Rick said it would?

“Here we go, dear.”

It finally dawned on Steph that the woman had a faint accent. British? That would fit with this cute little shop, with its delicately flowered wall-paper and elegant china cabinets. The small, framed paintings hanging here and there looked like scenes of the British countryside.

The woman set a serving tray on the table and placed each item in front of Steph. A white porcelain china pot, painted with miniature violets, from which she poured tea into a delicate rose-covered cup and saucer. A plate with a couple of triangular biscuits on it. They smelled like butter and sweetness. And two dainty bowls: one holding strawberry preserves, and the other holding what looked like sour cream.

Steph realized she was able to stop crying as long as she stopped focusing on herself for a moment. She looked up and pressed a tissue against her nose. “Thank you so much. You didn’t have to—”

“No need for that. Go on, now.” The woman gestured at the food and tea and sat down across from Steph. Her gentle blue eyes reminded Steph of her mother during better times. “You’ll feel better if you have a bit to eat and some nice, relaxing tea.”

As soon as Steph lifted one of the biscuits, the woman said, “I’m Millicent Ashford Jewell. Everyone calls me Milly.”

“Steph.” She spoke around an absolutely delicious bite. She rubbed crumbs from her fingers and shook Milly’s hand. “Steph Vandergrift. Thank you for being so kind.”

Milly smiled and put a spoon of the cream on Steph’s plate for her. “Clotted cream. One of God’s great gifts, in my opinion. Marvelous on the scones.”

Clotted cream. Now that sounded downright nasty. But Steph was a self-admitted people pleaser, and she had never been one to ignore God’s great gifts. So she put a little of the cream on her next bite of scone. And then nearly moaned, it was so fantastic.

“But that’s just really thick whipped cream!”

Milly said, “I think you like it, right?”

“I love it.”

Milly stood. “I have a few matters to tend to in the kitchen. Feel free to walk back and get me if you need me. We don’t stand on ceremony around here.”

The shop door opened as Steph swallowed a sip of tea. She followed Milly’s delighted gaze toward the door and took another nibble of scone. Mmm. “Absolutely yummy.”

A crooked smile spread across the face of the young man who walked through the door. He looked directly at Steph and acted as if her comment were all about him. With a lift of his eyebrows and a tilt of the head, he said, “Well, thank you very much.”

Milly laughed and approached him. They hugged each other.

“Welcome back, stranger,” Milly said. “How was vacation?”

Steph didn’t pay much attention to their conversation after that. The man seemed to be in a hurry, which was fine by her. Otherwise she feared Milly might want to introduce them. She’d rather a man that attractive not look at her too closely right now.

Steph watched his warm brown eyes, which never seemed to lose their smile. She noticed he never once messed with his short, tousled blond hair or fussed with anything else about his looks. Yet, when he walked with Milly toward the kitchen, Steph saw how perfectly, yet casually, he was dressed and groomed.

Her heart was broken, thanks to Rick’s wimpy, childish retreat from her life. But Milly’s chamomile tea and warm scones made her feel a little better. And despite her circumstances and the many question marks in her immediate future, she was still able to appreciate a good-looking man. She leaned sideways to watch him at the kitchen door until he disappeared from view. He and Milly were out of earshot, so Steph surprised only herself when she whispered it again.

“Absolutely yummy.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Head in the Clouds" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Head in the Clouds
Bethany House; Original edition (October 1, 2010)
Karen Witemeyer


Karen Witemeyer has such a fun, breezy writing style, so enjoyable to read with fun characters but then she infuses her stories with depth and mystery to make an all around amazing book. I liked her first book, but this book I love. Adelaide and Gideon make the most incredible couple - the young lady with her head in the books dreaming of the perfect Jane Austen hero and Gideon who turns out to be better than the perfect Jane Austen hero (British and everything!). A common enemy and a little girl they both love that needs protecting. It all comes together to make a wonderful book. Good job Karen!


Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

After growing up in California, Karen moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master's degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid-to-late 1800s.

Karen is living her dream by writing Christian historical romance novels for Bethany House. When she visited her publisher back in January of 2010, she was interviewed by the staff. If you'd like a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how she develops her story ideas and a description of her bumpy journey to publication, go to her website to listen to a podcast of that interview.


Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America's wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn't uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon--and intrigues him at the same time. But he can't afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.

When Isabella's uncle comes to claim the child--and her inheritance--Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man's evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Head in the Clouds, go HERE.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

House Fire

The Blessings We Take For Granted....

Sometimes in life you are presented with a situation that makes you really grateful for what you have. It takes the focus off of your lack and puts it on your blessings. This week such a situation presented itself to me. A friend and her family had a house fire on Monday and lost pretty much everything except each other. This mom and her teen son and teen daughter went back through their house the next day and as they sifted through what was left it was kind of interesting as to what burned and what didn't. Marti (the mom) had 3 Bibles, but one had emotional significance to her because of who gave it to her and at what point in her life she got it. She lost every book she owned including the other two Bibles, but she opened a box (they had recently moved to this house and hadn't even finished unpacking yet) and the only thing in the box not blackened and burned was the Bible that meant so much to her. Jessie (the daughter) was concerned about her great-grandma's watch that had been passed down to her. She found her jewelry box blackened and burned, but opened it to find her jewelry itself perfect, including the watch. She was thrilled in spite of her tears.

This has been a lesson to me in how much we take for granted, how quickly things can be gone, how a shirt is just a shirt and a pan is just a pan, but family is what matters. I have been blessed to be a part of helping them out. But the biggest blessing has been seeing all the blessings in my own life that sometimes I just take for granted.

"The Preacher's Bride" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Preacher's Bride
Bethany House; Original edition (October 1, 2010)
Jody Hedlund


This book may be Jody Hedlund's debut novel, but it certainly bodes well for readers that this is only a beginning for her. A novel set in Puritan England, where details bring the characters and setting to life and the story line is wonderfully original. A headstrong Puritan young lady with a big heart steps in to find a wet nurse to save the life of a baby whose mother has just passed away. She has to go head to head with one of the woman leaders of the church who doesn't approve. Elizabeth eventually steps in as housekeeper for the widower who is often gone to preach in neighboring towns. She takes care of the children and while she is only doing the work of God, she ends up square in harm's way. Threatened by someone who wants John's preaching silenced, will they find the culprit before he does serious harm to Elizabeth or someone else...

I didn't realize until the end of the book that this is a "true fiction" book about John and Elizabeth Bunyan. Totally fascinating! Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction and Jody Hedlund brought this story to life!


Jody has written novels for the last 16 years (with a hiatus when her children were young. In May of 2009 she double-finaled in the Genesis contest, a national fiction-writing contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW.Shortly after the final, Jody acquired an agent, Rachelle Gardner of Word Serve Literary. Her agent spent the summer of 2009 working on selling her books. In September of that year, Jody signed a three-book deal with Bethany House Publishers. Jody’s debut novel, The Preacher’s Bride, releases in Oct. 2010. Her next book will release in 2011 and a third in 2012.


In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher--whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John's protests of her aid. She's even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family. Yet Elizabeth's new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John's boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher's enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she's more determined than ever to save the child--and man--she's come to love.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Preacher's Bride, go HERE.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"The Black Madonna" 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:

The Black Madonna

Touchstone; 1st edition (September 7, 2010)

***Special thanks to Libby Reed, Publicity Assistant, HOWARD BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.***

Davis Bunn brings back the cast of Storm, Emma and Harry in "The Black Madonna" and sends them all over the world in chase of various ancient religious icons. It is full of international intrigue, mystery and suspense - who are the good guys, who are the bad guys? I was guessing through a lot of the book, Russia, Poland, England, America, who is behind the sudden outrageously high priced items at auction. Will it tear Europe apart when its discovered that the Black Madonna in Poland has been replaced with a fake? Who bombed Harry? Who wants Storm dead? This book will keep you on your toes to the end!


Davis Bunn is an award winning author who serves as writer in residence at Regent’s Par College, Oxford University. His novels have sold more than six million copies in sixteen languages.

Photograph by I.D. Bunn

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; 1st edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416556338
ISBN-13: 978-1416556336


FROM THE CREST OF THE Herodium dig, Harry Bennett could look out and see three wars.

The isolated, cone-shaped hill rose two thousand feet over the Judean Desert. Herodium, the palace-fortress built by Herod the Great, had been erected on the site of his victory against the Parthians in 40 BCE. Herod had then served as king of Judea under his Roman masters, but he had been utterly despised by the Judeans. When Herod's sons were finally vanquished, Herodium had been evacuated. Over the centuries, the city became a legend, its location a myth.

Modern excavations had begun in the sixties, only to be interrupted by wars and intifadas and disputes over jurisdiction. Harry Bennett was part of a group excavating the original palace fortress. The current project was supervised by a woman professor from the Sorbonne. She had fought for six years to gain the license, and nothing so minor as somebody else's war was going to stop her work.

The volunteers came from a dozen nations, to dig and learn and bury themselves in history. Most were in their twenties and tried to keep up a brave face despite the rumbles of conflict and the brutal heat. The day Harry arrived at Herodium, three Scandinavian backpackers had perished hiking above the Ein Gedi National Forest. With water in their packs. Just felled by the ferocious heat.

And here Harry was, huddled under the relentless glare of that same deadly sun, using his trowel and his brush to scrape two thousand years of crud off a stone.

Officially Harry and the other volunteers were restricted to the dig and their hilltop camp. With Hamas missiles streaking the nighttime sky, none of the other unpaid staff were much interested in testing their boundaries. But twice each week the Sorbonne professor traveled to Jerusalem and delivered her finds to the ministry. When she departed that particular afternoon, Harry signaled to the Palestinian operating the forklift. Ten minutes later, they set off in Hassan's decrepit pickup.

The angry wind blasting through his open window tasted of sand as dry as volcanic ash. Hassan followed the pitted track down an incline so steep Harry gripped the roof and propped one boot on the dashboard. He tried to ignore the swooping drop to his right by studying the horizon, which only heightened his sense of descending into danger. North and east rose the Golan hills and sixty years of struggle with Syria. Straight north was the Lebanese border, home to the Hezbollah hordes. To the southwest lay Gaza, provider of their nightly firework displays.

All West Bank digs were required to employ a certain number of locals. Hassan was one of the few who arrived on time, did an honest day's work, and showed a keen interest in every new discovery. On Harry's first day at the site, he had put the man down for a grave robber and a smuggler.

The West Bank was the richest area for artifacts in all Judea. There were thousands of sites, many dating from the Iron Age, others from the Roman era, and more still from Byzantium. Many sites remained undiscovered by archeologists but were well known to generations of Palestinians, who fiercely guarded their troves and passed the locations down from generation to generation.

Hassan's former job wouldn't have sat well with the Israeli authorities. But people like Hassan took the long view. Eventually things would settle down, and when they did, Hassan would return to his real trade. In the meantime, Hassan hid his profession from the Israeli authorities, lay low, and remained open to a little persuasion. In Harry's case, that amounted to a thousand dollars.

They arrived in Hebron three hours later. The city crawled up the slopes of two hills and sprawled across a dull desert bowl. Entering Hebron around sunset, in the company of a Palestinian smuggler, was an act of total lunacy.

Harry Bennett wouldn't have had it any other way.

Clustered on hilltops to the north of the old city rose the UN buildings, the university, and a huddle of government high-rises built with international relief funding. Other hills were dominated by Jewish settlements. These were rimmed by fences and wire and watchtowers that gleamed in the descending light. The rest of Hebron was just your basic war zone.

Sunset painted Hebron the color of old rust. The city held the tightly sullen feel of a pot that had boiled for centuries. Even the newer structures looked run-down. Most walls were pockmarked with bullet holes and decorated with generations of graffiti. Harry saw kids everywhere. They bore such tight expressions they resembled old people in miniature. Looking into their eyes made Harry's chest hurt.

The streets were calm, the traffic light. Which was good, because it allowed them to make it to the city center early. It was also bad, because the Israel Defense Forces soldiers had nothing better to do than watch Hassan's truck. Two IDF soldiers manning a reinforced guard station tracked the pickup with a fifty-caliber machine gun.

Hassan said, "This idea is not so good, maybe."

Harry nodded slowly. He smelled it too, the biting funk of cordite not yet lit. But he would trust his driver. "You say go, we go."

Hassan's gaze flitted over to Harry. "You pay?"

"The deal's the same. You get the other five hundred when we're done."

Hassan wiped his face with a corner of his checkered head-kerchief. "We stay."

Harry halfway wished the man's nerve would fail and he would turn his rattling truck around. "Better to come in twice than not go home at all."

"You know danger?"


"I think maybe more than some. I think you see much action."

"That was then and this is now," Harry replied. "You're my man on the ground here. I'm relying on your eyes and ears. I can't tell what's real and what's just your normal garden-variety funk."

Hassan skirted a pothole large enough to swallow the neighboring Israeli tank. "Say again, please."

"Let's assume for a second that you and I can do business together."

Hassan pointed at Harry's shirt pocket holding the five bills—the rest of his fee. "This is not business?"

"I'd call it a first step. Say your man shows up like you promised. Say he's got the goods and the buy goes well. What happens next?"

"If the first buy goes well, you trust me for more."

"Right. But I need someone who can sniff out traps and see through walls. There's so much danger around here, my senses are on overload."

The man actually smiled. "Welcome to Hebron."

"I didn't go to all this trouble for just one item, no matter how fine this guy's treasure might be. I need you to tell me if we're safe or if we should pull out and return another time."

Hassan did not speak again until he parked the truck and led Harry into a cafÉ on Hebron's main square. "What you like?"

"You mean, other than getting out of here with my skin intact? A mint tea would go down well."

Hassan placed the order and settled into the rickety chair across from Harry. "There are many Americans like you?"

"I'm one of a kind."

"Yes. I think you speak truth." Hassan rose to his feet. "Drink your tea. I go ask what is happening."

All Harry could do was sit there and watch the only man he knew in Hebron just walk away. From his spot by the bullet-ridden wall, isolated among the patrons at other tables who carefully did not look his way, Harry felt as though he had a bull's-eye painted on his forehead. Even the kid who brought his tea and plate of unleavened bread looked scared. Harry stirred in a spoonful of gray, unrefined sugar and lifted the tulip-shaped glass by its rim. All he could taste was the flavor of death.

AFTER SUNSET, THE HEBRON AIR cooled at a grudging pace. Harry watched as the city square filled with people and traffic and shadows. The cafÉ became crowded with people who avoided looking Harry's way. Across the plaza, the Tomb of the Patriarchs shone pearl white. Beside the cave complex stood the Mosque of Abraham, a mammoth structure dating back seven hundred years.

The caves had been bought by the patriarch Abraham for four hundred coins, such an astronomical sum that the previous owner had offered to throw in the entire valley. But Abraham had insisted upon overpaying so that his rightful ownership would never be questioned. He had wanted the caves as his family's burial site because supposedly they were also where Adam and Eve had been laid to rest. Besides Abraham himself, the caves also held the remains of his wife, Sarah, along with Rebecca, Isaac, and Jacob.

The guy who made his way toward Harry's table resembled an Arab version of the Pillsbury Doughboy. The man waddled as he walked. His legs splayed slightly from the knees down. His round face was topped by flattened greasy curls that glistened in the rancid lights of the cafÉ. He walked up, slumped into the chair across the table from Harry, and demanded, "You have money?"

Harry kept his gaze on the square and the crawling traffic. "Where's Hassan?"

"Hassan is not my business. He is your business. You must answer my question. You have money?"

Harry was about to let the guy have it when he spotted Hassan returning across the plaza. When he reached the cafÉ's perimeter, Hassan seated himself at an empty table, facing outward toward the plaza, placing himself between Harry and any incoming threat. Harry relaxed slightly. It was always a pleasure doing business with a pro.

Harry said, "Let's take this from the top. I'm—"

"I know who you are. Harry Bennett seeks treasure all over the world. You see? We meet because I check you out."

"What's your name?"

"Wadi Haddad."

"Wadi, like the word for oasis?"

"Yes, is same." He wore a rumpled linen jacket, its armpits wet and darkened with sweat. He reached in a pocket and came up with a pack of filterless Gitanes. "You want?"

"Never learned to use them, thanks."

Wadi Haddad lit the cigarette with a gold lighter. The stench of black tobacco encircled the table. "I have much interesting items. Very nice."

"I didn't come to Hebron for nice, Mr. Haddad. I came for exceptional. You understand that word?"

"Exceptional is also very expensive."

"One of a kind," Harry went on. "Unique. Extremely old. And I have always been partial to gold."

Wadi Haddad revealed a lizard's tongue, far too narrow for his globular face. It flitted in and out several times, tasting the air. "How much money you have?"

"Not a cent with me."

"Then I also have nothing. Business is finished." But Wadi Haddad did not move.

"Here's how it's going to work," said Harry. "You show me the item. I photograph it."

"No. Photographs absolutely not to happen."

"I show the photographs to my clients. If they like, they transfer the money to an escrow account at the Bank of Jordan in Amman. You understand, escrow?"

"I know."

"Good. Then you bring the item to Jerusalem and we make the exchange."

"Not Jerusalem. Too much police everyplace."

"Okay, Mr. Haddad. Where would you prefer?"


"Too small. I like bright lights, big city."

"Then Amman."

Which had been Harry's choice all along. Even so, he pretended to give that some thought. "Okay, Amman. Hotel Inter-Continental. You got an account at the Bank of Jordan?"

"I make one happen."

"Then we're ready to roll. All we need is the merchandise."

"No photographs."

"Then no business. Sorry, Charlie."

"My name is Wadi."

"Whatever. I don't shoot, I don't buy."

"Photographs cost you a thousand dollars."

Suddenly Harry was very tired of this two-step. "Fine. But I take the thousand from the final purchase price. And don't even think of arguing."

Wadi Haddad did not rise so much as bounce from the seat. "Okay, we go. Not your man." He nodded toward Hassan. "Just you."

"Be right with you." Harry walked to Hassan's table and squatted down beside the man's chair. "You find anything?"

"Hebron is one tense city. People very worried."

"Yeah, I caught that too." Harry liked how the guy never stopped searching the shadows. "Where'd you see action, Hassan?"

"Nowhere. I see nothing, I do nothing. In the West Bank there is only IDF and terrorists."

"Wadi's taking me to check out the merchandise. He says I've got to do this alone. You think maybe you could watch my back?"

"Is good." Hassan held to a catlike stillness. "I see something, I whistle. I can whistle very loud."

Harry rose to his feet, patted the guy's shoulder, and said, "You just earned yourself another five bills."

WADI HADDAD MOVED SURPRISINGLY FAST on his splayed legs. He led Harry deep into the old city. The West Bank crisis was etched into every Hebron street, every bullet-ridden wall, every building topped by an IDF bunker. The streets were either dimly lit or not at all. But walking behind the wheezing Haddad, Harry had no trouble picking his way through the rubble. Behind him, the mosque and the cave complex shone like beacons. And up ahead loomed the wall.

The barrier separating the Jewish sector from Hebron's old city was thirty feet high and topped with razor wire. Searchlights from the guard towers and nearby IDF bunkers serrated the night. The wall gleamed like a massive concrete lantern.

Somewhere in the distance a truck backfired. Wadi Haddad froze. A searchlight illuminated the man's trembling jowls. Harry said, "You're not from here."

"My mother's family only. I live sometimes Damascus, sometimes Aqaba."

Aqaba was Jordan's portal to the Red Sea, a haven for tourists and smugglers' dhows. "Must be nice."

Wadi Haddad started off once more, Harry following close. But when Haddad entered a dark, narrow alley, Harry dug in his heels. "Hold up there."

"What's the matter, treasure man?"

The buildings to either side reached across to form a crumbling arch. The windows fronting the street were both barred and dark. The alley was black. Harry had spent a lifetime avoiding alleys like this. Then he saw a cigarette tip gleam. "That your buddy down there?"

"Is guard, yes. In Hebron, many guards."

"Ask him to step out where I can see him."

Wadi didn't like it, but he did as Harry said. The man emerged and flipped on a flashlight. In the dim rays reflected from the walls, Harry could see a face like a parrot, with too-narrow features sliding back from a truly enormous nose. The man's eyes were set very close together and gleamed with the erratic light of an easy killer.

"Ask him to light up that alley for us."

The man smirked at Harry's nerves but did not wait for Wadi's translation. The flashlight showed an empty lane that ended about eighty feet back with double metal doors. "What's behind the doors, Wadi?"

"Where we go. My mother's cousin's house."

Harry motioned to the man holding the light. "Lead on, friend."

The guard spoke for the first time. "You have guns?"

Harry lifted his shirt and turned around. "Make business, not war. That's my motto."

"He can search you?"

"Sure thing." Harry gestured at the doors. "Inside."

• • •

THE DOORS RATTLED IN ALARM as the guard pushed them open. Wadi called out and, on hearing no response, stepped into a neglected courtyard with Harry close behind. The dusty compound appeared empty. A pair of plastic chairs sprawled by a rusty outdoor table, their upended legs jutting like broken teeth. From inside the house a dog barked. In the distance Harry both heard and felt the grinding tremor of an IDF tank on road patrol.

Wadi led Harry to a flat-roofed side building of unfinished concrete blocks and opened a door with flaking paint. The interior was an astonishment. The front room was a well-appointed display chamber about twelve feet square. Two walls were stuccoed a light peach. A third wall was covered by a frieze of mythical birds carved from what Harry suspected was olive wood. The fourth wall held a narrow steel door with a central combination lock.

"Looks like I found the guy I've been looking for," Harry said.

Wadi held out his hand. "Thousand dollars."

Harry was about to insist he see the item first, then decided there was no reason to get off on the wrong sandal.

Wadi counted in the Arab fashion, folding the bills over and peeling the oily edges with his thumb and forefinger. He slipped the money into his pocket and motioned with his chin to the guard.

The steel door swung open on greased hinges. The guard stepped inside and emerged with a black velvet stand shaped like a woman's neck. What was draped on the stand took Harry's breath away.

The concept of women's ornamentation was as old as civilization itself. The earliest forms were fashioned as temple offerings and were considered to have magical properties. Many ancient cultures revered such jewelry for its talismanic power either to ward off evil or bring good health and prosperity.

In the very earliest days of Christianity, new believers drawn from Hellenistic temple cults often brought with them such ideas about the powers of jewelry. The necklace dated from the second century AD. The chain was a series of gold tubes, each stamped with a Christian design. It ended in an emerald the size of Harry's thumb. The gemstone had been sanded flat and carved with the Chi-Rho symbol.

Without asking, Wadi handed Harry a pair of white gloves and a jeweler's loupe. Closer inspection only confirmed Harry's first impression. This was a museum-quality piece.

The problem was, Harry could not identify it as a fake. Which was troubling, because Harry knew for a fact the item was not genuine.

Harry Bennett had nothing against a little smuggling. He would certainly not have helped anyone track down another treasure dog.

Counterfeiters, though, were a different breed of lice.

After nearly three years of roiling conflict, the Israeli Antiquities Authority had basically lost control of smuggling in the West Bank. In the past, the IAA had nabbed about ninety thieves each year for pilfering tombs, ruined cities, palaces, and forts. Since the latest political troubles began, however, arrests had slumped to almost nothing. The IAA knew without question that the worst culprits were getting away. The international arts market was being flooded with ancient Hebrew treasure. What was more, a growing number of these items were bogus. Extremely well crafted, their workmanship often able to fool museum directors and other supposed experts, but phony just the same.

The Israeli government had needed somebody with Harry Bennett's credentials, known throughout the world as a dedicated treasure dog. Somebody capable of infiltrating the system and identifying the source of the fake artifacts.

Only when Harry looked up did he realize he had been holding his breath. He handed the loupe and gloves back to Wadi and unsnapped the case of his pocket camera. "Okay if I shoot a few?"

Wadi smirked as he pulled the cigarettes from his pocket. The man knew a buyer's lust when he saw it. "Sure, sure, many as you like. You want tea?"

DICKERING OVER PRICE TOOK UNTIL well after midnight. Even so, when Harry stepped through the compound's steel door, the city remained noisily alive. Such was the manner of every Middle Eastern city Harry had ever visited, and it was one of the reasons why he relished the Arab world. These lands were full of pirates and their love of dark hours.

Wadi Haddad wore his sourest done-in-by-the-deal frown. "You give me no profit. My daughters starve."

Harry clamped down on his first thought, which was that this guy definitely hadn't missed a lot of meals. "Phone you in four days, right?"

"Four, maybe five. These days the border is very tight."

"Then maybe you ought to bring out the other items you're holding here for sale."

"You buy more?"

"If they're as fine as what you just showed me, sure, I think I can find buyers."

"Not same price," Wadi complained. "Too much hard bargain."

Harry was about to say what he thought of Wadi's poor-boy tactic when, from the distance, he heard a shrill whistle pierce the night.

The guard stood at the alley's mouth, searching in all directions. Wadi remained intent upon business, sucking on his cigarette and grumbling through the smoke as he walked past where Harry stood tense and rooted to the dusty earth. "Next time your price plus thirty percent. You pay or I go find—"

Harry leaned forward and gripped Wadi's shoulder and pulled him back. He slammed Wadi onto the alley wall, placing himself between the trader and the road. Wadi's breath whooshed out in a fetid cloud. His eyes registered surprise and rising protest. But Harry kept him pinned where he was.

Then the world of Hebron roared in rage and flames.

© 2010 T. Davis Bunn

For more information please visit