Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Two Destinies" by Elizabeth Musser

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Two Destinies
David C. Cook (September 1, 2012)
Elizabeth Musser


Elizabeth Musser, author of acclaimed novels such as The Swan House, grew up in Georgia, but now lives in Lyon, France, where she and her husband serve as missionaries with International Teams. Look for Two Testaments, her sequel to Two Crosses, in stores now, and Two Destinies, the third book in the trilogy, set for release in Fall 2012.

A word from Elizabeth:
Recent exciting news is that, finally, the whole trilogy is going to be published in 2012. Many readers have written to me throughout the years to encourage me to keep pursuing getting Two Destinies into print. In a fun twist of fate (really the Lord's perfect timing), David C. Cook (who originally published Two Testaments) has offered me a contract for all three novels. The Secrets of the Cross Trilogy will be published in June 2012 (Two Crosses and Two Testaments) and in September, 2012, Two Destinies will be in the bookstores for the first time!


Now 1994, France faces unrest and rising poverty while neighbor
Algeria is in the midst of a blood civil war. Risléne Namani, a French
woman born to Algerian parents, converts to Christianity and falls in
love with Eric Hoffmann, a Christian, committing the unpardonable
sin in the eyes of her Muslim family. Eric must find a way to rescue
her—from a forced marriage in Algeria, or even death.

A powerful, relevant tale of social struggle, heartache, cultural conflict,
and faith put to the ultimate test.

If you would like to read the first chapter excerpt of Two Destinies, go HERE.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Soul's Gate" by Jim Rubart - Book Review




This book releases Nov 6, 2012 by Thomas Nelson publishers.

Reece stood and faced the group. “Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality we live in 99 percent of our days. The Bible is about a world of demons and angels and great evil and even greater glory. A world the prophets saw; the world Enoch, and Elijah, and Paul, and John the apostle all saw. A world that is all around us in every moment if we would have eyes to see and ears to hear.”
What if you could travel inside another person’s soul? To battle for them. To be part of Jesus healing their deepest wounds.
Thirty years ago that’s exactly what Reece Roth did. Until tragedy shattered his life and ripped away his destiny.
Now God has drawn Reece out of the shadows to fulfill a prophecy spoken over him three decades ago. A prophecy about four warriors with the potential to change the world . . . if Reece will face his deepest regret and train them. 
They gather at a secluded and mysterious ranch deep in the mountains of Colorado, where they will learn to see the spiritual world around them with stunning clarity. And how to step into the supernatural as powerfully as anyone in the Bible did.
The four have a destiny to battle for a freedom even Reece doesn’t fully fathom. But they have an enemy hell-bent on destroying them as and he'll stop at nothing to keep them from their quest for true freedom and the coming battle of souls.

      Do not read this book lightly. It has amazing spiritual depth to it and if you allow your eyes to be opened as you read, this book can change your life. The characters are richly written and they are each on a path to find themselves and to find healing from their pasts. We follow them through this as they are trained in finding out how to help bring healing to others and in the process experience healing themselves. Discovering various ways and stages that they need to go through to discover God's plans for their lives is just part of what happens. We also see the past opened up, follow 4 different characters, Brandon, Dana, Marcus and Reece, and experience the questions as they do and feel the answers as they come. I read this in the car on a trip and I kept reading parts aloud as we drove along because I couldn't keep it to myself. I had to be careful not to give too much away, but sections of this book are so amazing that they had to be spoken. I truly hope that this book gets read, discussed and passed around - alot! It has the potential to be the next "The Shack" just because it should get people talking to each other about the things of God, the things of the Spirit and the things He wants to do in our lives if we will let Him. This book is in my top 10 of the year and I am not even close to being done reading this year, I just guarantee that there are not enough books in the world to knock this one out of that list. Thank you Jim Rubart.

"Unending Devotion" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Unending Devotion
Bethany House Publishers (September 1, 2012)
Jody Hedlund

     Jody Hedlund has quickly become an author that I want to read when she releases a new book. The Preacher's Bride was amazing, The Doctor's Lady was incredible and now she comes out with Unending Devotion that swept me away. Swept me away to 1883 and the logging camps where corruption and debauchery reigned supreme. In the midst of everything that was wrong - in walks Lily - looking for her sister who she believes is in one of the camps working for some undesireables. She wants to save her sister and start a new life. But the first challenge is finding her and the second one is keeping herself above everything around her... including the intriguing young logger that keeps saving her... Connell. But when it comes right down to it, there is no one more important to her than her sister, and any other lost girls she can save along the way. The question becomes, can she save herself in the middle of everything going on?
     Jody's style of writing is incredible and I plan on continuing to follow her writing, wherever it happens to take me.


Jody has written novels for the last 20 years (with a hiatus when her children were young). After many years of writing and honing her skills, she finally garnered national attention with her double final in the Genesis Contest, a fiction-writing contest for unpublished writers through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).

Her first published book, The Preacher’s Bride (2010 Bethany House Publishers), became a best seller and has won multiple awards.

Her second book, The Doctor’s Lady, released in September of 2011, and her third book, Unending Devotion, is out now. She’s currently busy researching and writing another book!

Jody has been married for twenty years to her college sweetheart. Jody has five children ranging in ages from 15 to 6, with a set of twin daughters in the mix to make things more lively.


High-Stakes Drama Meets High-Tension Romance

In 1883 Michigan, Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her to Harrison and into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father.

Posing during the day as a photographer's assistant, Lily can't understand why any God-fearing citizen would allow evil to persist and why men like Connell McCormick turn a blind eye to the crime rampant in the town. But Connell is boss-man of three of his father's lumber camps in the area, and like most of the other men, he's interested in clearing the pine and earning a profit. He figures as long as he's living an upright life, that's what matters.

Lily challenges everything he thought he knew, and together they work not only to save her sister but to put an end to the corruption that's dominated Harrison for so long.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Unending Devotion, go HERE.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"A Heartbeat Away" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Heartbeat Away
David C. Cook (September 1, 2012)
Harry Kraus

    Harry Kraus writes medical suspense in a way that speaks of authority and knowledge but doesn't leave you feeling like he is your superior. This storyline is intriguing and well developed with a heroine that keeps you guessing. Based on this book I actually went out and got a couple of Harry's other books to read when I get the chance. Harry joins a short list of other medical mystery/suspense writers that I really enjoy - Candace Calvert and Richard Mabry. Excellent!


A Word from Harry:

I started writing my first novel during my last year of surgery training at UK. I was a chief resident, and started writing Stainless Steal Hearts in a call room at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Lexington. It was a crazy time to write! I had a very demanding schedule, often spending days and nights in the hospital. I had two sons at that time, and I recognized the wisdom in my wife's urging: "Now doesn't seem the right time for this dream."

My experience as a writer is far from typical. Having received my formal training in biology and chemistry and medicine, my only preparation for a writing career was a love for reading. The longest thing I'd written before my first novel was a term paper in undergraduate school. My first novel was accepted by Crossway Books and published in 1994, and it wasn't until after I had FOUR published novels that I even opened a book of instruction about the craft of writing fiction. This is not what I recommend to others! Yes, I was successful, but I was bending the "rules" without knowing it. I had a natural talent for plotting, but I realize my initial success may have stunted my growth as a writer. I'd have made faster progress if I'd have gone to the fiction teachers sooner.

I have three sons: Joel, Evan, and Samuel. Look closely in all of my books and you'll see them there. My lovely wife, Kris, provides the basic composition for all those beautiful, athletic, dedicated women in my novels.


When a brilliant surgeon undergoes a heart transplant, her life transforms as she begins experiencing memories of a murder she never witnessed.

The residents worship her. Nurses step out of her way. Her colleagues respect and sometimes even fear her. But surgeon Tori Taylor never expected to end up on this side of the operating table.

Now she has a new heart. This life that was formerly controlled and predictable is now chaotic. Dr. Taylor had famously protected herself from love or commitment, but her walls are beginning to crumble.

And strangest of all, memories surface that will take her on a journey out of the operating room and into a murder investigation.

Where there once was a heart of stone, there is a heart of flesh. And there is no going back.

If you'd like to read the first chapter excerpt of A Heartbeat Away, go HERE.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"The Reunion" Book Review

Forty years ago, Aaron Miller saved the lives of three men on the Vietnam battlefield---only to come home and lose everything. Now he's a handyman in a trailer park who fixes everybody else's problems but is unable to heal the deep wounds that haunt him. Has the Redeemer given up on him, too?

There are people in this world we pass right by without giving a second thought. They are almost invisible. Yet some of them have amazing stories to tell, if we'd only take the time to listen . . . Aaron Miller was an old, worn-out Vietnam vet, a handyman in a trailer park. Forty years prior, he saved the lives of three young men in the field only to come home from the war and lose everything. But God is a master at finding and redeeming the lost things of life. Aaron is about to be found. And the one who finds him just might find the love of his life as well. Expert storyteller Dan Walsh pens a new tale filled with the things his fans have come to love--forgiveness, redemption, love, and that certain bittersweet quality that few authors ever truly master. Fans old and new will find themselves drawn into this latest story about how God cares for everyone.

Author Bio

Dan Walsh is the award-winning author of The Unfinished Gift, The Homecoming, The Deepest Waters, Remembering Christmas, and The Discovery. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel.
Dan Walsh is the Christian Nicholas Sparks. He has such a gift for developing his characters and breathing life into them. In this particular book we follow quite a few different people that we know are woven together before they know they are woven together. Aaron is a Vietnam Vet who had a rough time when he returned home and now he has finally gotten his life together, but living in a storage shed at a trailer park isn't exactly what he had planned on. Dave is a journalist, writing a book about Vietnam Vets and still recovering from his failed marriage. John is a Vietnam Vet who is looking for the man who saved his life back in Vietnam. Karen is bitter about the dad that walked out on her years ago and the fiance that followed suit 4 years ago.

When Dave is given a mission to find the man who won the Medal of Honor all those years ago, stories start to wind together. This is a moving story of the unsung, rejected heroes of Vietnam. Those that fight for a losing cause, that faced humiliation and rejection upon their return and lived with the terror of that war year after year ever since. A topic that doesn't get approached enough and Dan Walsh does an amazing job with this story. A modern day story with historical undertones - very good!

*****THE DEEPEST WATERS is actually my favorite Dan Walsh book - I recommend it highly!

For the for the next week, starting today and running till next Monday, September 17th, Dan Walsh is celebrating the release of his new novel, The Reunion, with a 10-book giveaway contest! Five winners will each receive a signed copy of The Reunion, as well as his third novel, The Deepest Waters. (He’s including this book because it was named a finalist for an ACFW Carol Award for book-of-the-year). Click on the link below to see how easily you can enter the contest!

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Proof" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Kregel Publications (June 1, 2012)
Jordyn Redwood

      This is a pretty strong debut from a new author, Jordyn Redwood. I was impressed with the originality of the story line in a medical suspense. Sometimes medical books can get over your head but this one didn't even though there is a lot of talk of DNA, genetics and a couple things I don't want to give away. Jordyn kept it understandable and engaging. On top of that she gives us some very interesting characters to connect with. Lily and Dana are best friends and medical professionals. Kadin is an OB/GYN that works with them and would like a relationship with Lily but she isn't a Christian. Nathan enters the story as a detective who gets wrapped up with them through a case that Lily stumbles into and then is shoved head long into.  There is a serial rapist on the loose that the police haven't informed the public about and things are going to get much worse before they can possibly get better. 

     I was very engaged in this story from the beginning. I also couldn't predict exactly what would happen or why they couldn't pin the rapist for his crimes... normally I can by part way into the book. It was nice to be reading a suspense that was really suspenseful for me - looking forward to more from Jordyn Redwood! 


Jordyn Redwood has served patients and their families for nearly twenty years and currently works as a pediatric ER nurse. As a self-professed medical nerd and trauma junkie, she was drawn to the controlled chaotic environments of critical care and emergency nursing. Her love of teaching developed early and she was among the youngest CPR instructors for the American Red Cross at the age of seventeen. Since then, she has continued to teach advanced resuscitation classes to participants ranging from first responders to MD’s.

Her discovery that she also had a fondness for answering medical questions for authors led to the creation of Redwood’s Medical Edge at This blog is devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction.

Jordyn lives in Colorado with her husband, two daughters, and one crazy hound dog. In her spare time she also enjoys reading her favorite authors, quilting, and cross-stitching.


Dr. Lilly Reeves is a young, accomplished ER physician with her whole life ahead of her. But that life instantly changes when she becomes the fifth victim of a serial rapist. Believing it's the only way to recover her reputation and secure peace for herself, Lilly sets out to find--and punish--her assailant. Sporting a mysterious tattoo and unusually colored eyes, the rapist should be easy to identify. He even leaves what police would consider solid evidence. But when Lilly believes she has found him, DNA testing clears him as a suspect. How can she prove he is guilty, if science says he is not?

“Jordyn Redwood makes quite a splash with her debut novel. PROOF is a hard-edged mix of medical thriller and crime chiller that grabs you on the first page and doesn’t let go until the end. This one will keep you up way past your bedtime.”
—Rick Acker, best-selling author of When the Devil Whistles

“From the very first chapter, the first page even, Jordyn Redwood pulls the reader into a story that won’t let go. PROOF is proof enough for me that Jordyn is the real deal: an author who knows how to weave a tight story, write descriptive, authentic prose, and deal with some pretty hefty issues. I’m a fan!”
—Mike Dellosso, author of Frantic and Rearview (a 7 Hours story)

“Debut novelist Jordyn Redwood has used her experience as an ER and ICU nurse to craft a blend of medical thriller and police procedural with twists and turns to keep fans of either genre turning pages.”
—Richard L. Mabry, MD, author of Lethal Remedy and the Prescription for Trouble series

“A rollercoaster of a story. Jordyn Redwood’s PROOF has everything you could want in a thriller—believable characters, a villain who makes your skin crawl, a touch of humor, and a twisting plot—all bound by fascinating medical and scientific details. What a fabulous debut!”
—Sarah Sundin, award-winning author of the Wings of Glory series

“Jordyn Redwood may be new on the scene, but she writes like a seasoned pro. PROOF is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time with well-drawn characters including a villain I despised and a hero and heroine I rooted for. I thought I would just take a peek at the first chapter and finish the story later. I thought wrong. I read late into the night, lost sleep, and put off my own writing to finish this book. I’m eagerly awaiting Jordyn’s second book and will be first in line to purchase it the day it releases.”
—Lynnette Eason, best-selling author of The Women of Justice series

“I love a great medical thriller and I’m glad to add another author to my list. Jordyn Redwood writes like the medical insider she is. A gripping tale laced with realism, sleep-robbing excitement, and something every reader loves: hope.”
—Harry Kraus, MD, best-selling author of The Six-Liter Club

PROOF by Jordyn Redwood is a gripping medical thriller written with vivid detail from an author who knows her subject firsthand. A serial rapist is at large in the town—in the hospital, even? Can Lilly trust anyone? Even her closest friend? And just when you think you can relax, the stakes get even higher.”
—Donna Fletcher Crow, author of The Monastery Murders

“Jordyn Redwood’s debut novel is a page-turner with an ingenious premise and solid Christian values. A satisfying read.”
—Frank J. Edwards, Medical Director, Delphi Emergency Physicians,
author of the medical thriller Final Mercy

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"To Write A Wrong" 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, 2012)

***Special thanks to Shannon Kozee of B&H Fiction for sending me a review copy.***

      One of my favorite genres is mystery/suspense. Always has been. But it can be tricky finding authors that are really masters of mystery/suspense. I prefer an author that can give me enough info that I can follow what the main characters are going through and make guesses along with them and try to figure things out for myself. I like giving myself a little pat on the back if I figure out the right bad guy before it is announced in the book or if I can predict a twist or turn coming up. What I don't like is when the author assumes I am not very bright and they think they have to take me by the hand and lead me through the storyline like I can't figure it out myself. Robin Caroll has firmly established herself as one of the really good suspense writers that can plant clues but not slap me in the face with the info. She builds her characters so well that I want to help them figure out what's going on instead of rooting for the bad guy to take them out and put me out of my misery. 
      In this particular book, a reporter, Riley takes on a supposedly "innocent man's" case as she tries to bring public awareness to the injustice his family is experiencing. She is dealing with her own injustice as the man that killed her parents in a drunk driving accident is up for parole. Mix in some issues with leading man, Hayden - the police commissioner with an unruly younger sister - and what you end up with is a book that will keep you up at night as you race to finish it and a deep part of yourself that will close the book when you finish and make you want to run out and find an innocent person to champion. I can't wait to see what Robin has in store next!


Robin Caroll has authored twelve previous books including the Holt Medallion Award of Merit winner, Deliver Us From Evil. She gives back to the writing community by serving as Conference Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. A proud southerner, Robin lives with her husband, three daughters, and two precious grandsons in Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.


In Angola State Penitentiary, a man is serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. Riley Baxter is an eager reporter desperate for a story to make a name for herself. When she stumbles upon the daughter of the incarcerated man, Riley sees a little too much of herself in the teen, and vows to help prove her father’s innocence.

At the same time, Hayden Simpson has his hands full with keeping his little sister in line, worrying about his job as Police Commissioner, and dealing with his past emotional baggage. The last thing he needs is someone blowing the lid off his emotional bucket. But when Riley Baxter storms into his life, struggling to understand why God would let bad things happen to good people, Hayden has no choice but to follow his heart.

Now, Riley and Hayden must work together to uncover the truth of the past . . . before someone shuts Riley up for good.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: B&H Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433672138
ISBN-13: 9781433672132


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Love's Reckoning Book Review

  •   MY REVIEW:  If a book has the name Laura Frantz on it then it moves to the top of my reading pile. I have enjoyed every book she has written and while this book is definitely a little different, it is wonderful. There are characters to love and hate as we follow the lives of Eden, Silas, Elspeth and Liege. There are twists and turns and lives lost and loved. I really enjoyed this sweeping saga and am already looking forward to book #2. I hesitate to say much about this book because I honestly don't want to spoil anything for anyone. I will say this - it is staying on my shelf for a re-read in the future!

Product Description

On a bitter December day in 1785, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of master blacksmith Liege Lee in York, Pennsylvania. Just months from becoming a master blacksmith himself, Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship and move west. But Liege soon discovers that Silas is a prodigious worker and craftsman and endeavors to keep him in Lancaster. Silas becomes interested in both of Liege's daughters, the gentle and faith-filled Eden and the clever and high-spirited Elspeth. When he chooses one, will the other's jealousy destroy their love?
 Available September 2012  at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Story by Steven James Book Review

Our Journey of Heartache and Grace from Eden to Evermore
Steven James

Stories are an integral part of the human condition, the way we have passed on history and information and inspiration for millenia. Using the power of imagery and the drama of narrative, bestselling author and professional storyteller Steven James leads readers through a journey into the greatest story ever told. From creation to Christ's birth, from his first miracle to eternity and everything in between, readers will see familiar scenes from the Bible like they never have before. These stories, retold as only Steven James can, will wake readers spiritually, re-inspire their faith journey, and jolt them into action.

Now repackaged, this well-received book is poised for renewed impact in the lives of believers.

    This book is a new twist on an old tale. A retelling / interpretation of the greatest story ever told, mixed with some of Steven James' own poetry. I found it inspiring and original, I just had trouble separating it in my head from the Steven James that I love from the fictional Patrick Bowers series. This is a total departure and I just love the suspense he writes so well that I had trouble adjusting. Very different. Love the new cover!

  Available August 2012  at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

"House of Mercy" Book Review

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson (August 7, 2012)

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

Erin Healy has a very interesting book on her hands in her latest release, "House of Mercy". I'm not quite sure what to think of it to be honest. It is considered suspense but I almost think spec fiction might be a better category for it. It is very out there, not in a bad way or a good way, just a very unique way. My first impression is that I had a hard time putting it down once I started. The characters were engaging, especially Beth, and I really started feeling what she was going through. The bad are bad, and the confused are in the middle. I cringed along the way as bad decisions were made and consequences happened. I think the reason I say that I'm not sure what to think is that I didn't find the ending very satisfying and I am huge on endings. Interesting premise, strong characters, lots of twists - not sure about the ending.


Erin Healy is an award-winning fiction editor who has worked with talented novelists such as James Scott Bell, Melody Carlson, Colleen Coble, Brandilyn Collins, Traci DePree, L. B. Graham, Rene Gutteridge, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Robin Lee Hatcher, Denise Hildreth, Denise Hunter, Randy Ingermanson, Jane Kirkpatrick, Bryan Litfin, Frank Peretti, Lisa Samson, Randy Singer, Robert Whitlow, and many others.

She began working with Ted Dekker in 2002 and edited twelve of his heart-pounding stories before their collaboration on Kiss, the first novel to seat her on "the other side of the desk."

Erin is the owner of WordWright Editorial Services, a consulting firm specializing in fiction book development. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Academy of Christian Editors. She lives with her family in Colorado.

Visit the author's website.


Beth has a gift of healing-which is why she wants to become a vet and help her family run their fifth-generation cattle ranch. Her father's dream of helping men in trouble and giving them a second chance is her dream too. But it only takes one foolish decision for Beth to destroy it all.

Beth scrambles to redeem her mistake, pleading with God for help, even as a mystery complicates her life. But the repercussions grow more unbearable-a lawsuit, a death, a divided family, and the looming loss of everything she cares about. Beth's only hope is to find the grandfather she never knew and beg for his help. Confused, grieving, but determined to make amends, she embarks on a horseback journey across the mountains, guided by a wild, unpredictable wolf who may or may not be real.

Set in the stunningly rugged terrain of Southern Colorado, House of Mercy follows Beth through the valley of the shadow of death into the unfathomable miracles of God's goodness and mercy.

Genre: Christian Fiction | Suspense

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 284 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Language: English

ISBN-10: 140168551X

ISBN-13: 9781401685515


Chapter 1

It wasn’t every day that an old saddle could improve a
horse’s life.

That was what Beth Borzoi was thinking as she stood in the
dusty tack room that smelled like her favorite pair of leather boots. In the
back corner where the splintering-wood walls met, she tugged the faded leather
saddle off the bottommost rung of the heavy-duty rack, where it had sat, unused
and forgotten, for years.

Her little brother, Danny, would have said she was stealing
the saddle. He might have called her a kleptomaniac. That was too strong a
word, but Danny was fifteen and liked to throw bold words around, cocky-like,
show-off rodeo ropes aimed at snagging people. She loved that about him. It was
a cute phase. Even so, she had formed a mental argument against the characterization
of her- self as a thief, in case she needed to use it, because Danny was too
young to understand the true meaning of even stronger words like sacrifice or
situational ethics.

After all, she was working in secret, in the hidden folds of
a summer night, so that both she and the saddle could leave the Blazing B
unnoticed. In the wrong light, it might look like a theft.

The truth was, it was not her saddle to give away. It was
Jacob’s saddle, though in the fifteen years Jacob had lived at the ranch, she had
never seen him use it. The bigger truth was that this saddle abandoned to
tarnish and sawdust could be put to better use. The fenders were plated with
silver, pure metal that could be melted down and converted into money to save a
horse from suffering. Decorative silver bordered the round skirt and framed the
rear housing. The precious metal had been hammered to conform to the gentle
rise of the cantle in the back and the swell in the front. The lovely round
conchos were studded with turquoise. Hand-tooled impressions of wild mountain f
lowers covered the leather everywhere that silver didn’t.

In its day, it must have been a fine show saddle. And if
Jacob valued that at all, he wouldn’t have stored it like this.

Under the naked-bulb beams of the tack room, Beth’s body
cast a shadow over the pretty piece as she hefted it. She blew the dirt and
dander off the horn, swiped off the cracked seat with the flat of her hand,
then turned away her head and sneezed. Colorado’s dry climate had not been kind
to the leather.

She wasn’t stealing. She was saving an animal’s life.

The latch on the barn door released Beth to the midnight air
with a click like a stolen kiss. The saddle weighed about thirty-five pounds,
which was easy to manage when snatching it off a rack and tossing it onto a
horse’s back. But it would feel much heavier by the time she reached her
destination. She’d parked her truck a ways off where the rumbling old clunker
wouldn’t raise questions or family members sleeping in the nearby ranch house.
She’d left her dog at the foot of Danny’s bed with clear orders to stay. She
hoped the animal would mind.

Energized, she crossed the horses’ yard. A few of them
nickered greetings at her, including Hastings, who nuzzled her empty pockets
for treats. The horses never slept in the barn’s stalls unless they were sick.
Even in winter they stayed in the pasture, preferring the outdoor lean-to

The Blazing B, a 6,500-acre working cattle ranch, lay to the
northwest of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The region was called a valley because
this portion of the state was a Rocky Mountain ham- mock that swung between the
San Juans to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east. But at more than
seven thousand feet, it was no low-lying flatland. It was, in fact, the highest
alpine valley in the world. And it was the only place in the world that Beth
ever wanted to live. Having graduated from the local community college with
honors and saved enough additional money for her continuing education, she
planned to leave in the fall to begin her first year of veterinary school. She
would be gone as long as it took to earn her license, but her long-term plan
was to return as a more valuable person. Her skills would save the family
thousands of dollars every year, freeing up funds for their most important
task—providing a home and a hard day’s work to discarded men who needed the
peace the Blazing B had to offer.

On this late May night, a light breeze stirred the alfalfa
growing in the pasturelands while the cattle grazed miles away. The herds
always spent their summers on public lands in the mountains while their winter
feed grew in the valley. They were watched over by a pool rider, a hired man
who was a bit like a cow’s version of a shepherd. He stayed with them through
the summer and would bring them home in the fall.

With the winter calving and spring branding a distant
memory, the streams and irrigation wells amply supplied by good mountain
runoff, and the healthy alfalfa fields thickening with a June cutting in mind,
the mood at the Blazing B was peaceful.

When Beth was a quarter mile beyond the barn, a bobbing
light drew her attention to the west side of the pasture, where ancient cottonwood
trees formed a barrier against seasonal winds and snows. She paused, her eyes
searching the darkness beyond this path that she could walk blindfolded. The
light rippled over cottonwood trunks, casting shadows that were
indistinguishable from the real thing.

A man was muttering in a low voice, jabbing his light around
as if it were a stick. She couldn’t make out his words. Then the yellow beam
stilled low to the ground, and she heard a metallic thrust, the scraping ring
of a shovel’s blade being jammed into the dirt.

Beth worried. It had to be Wally, but what was he doing out
at this hour, and at this place? The bunkhouse was two miles away, and the men
had curfews, not to mention strict rules about their access to horses and

She left the path and approached the trees without a
misstep. The moonlight was enough to guide her over the uneven terrain.


The cutting of the shovel ceased. “Who wants to know?” “It’s

“Beth who?”

“Beth Borzoi. Abel’s daughter. I’m the one who rides
Hastings.” “Well, sure! Right, right. Beth. I’m sorry you have to keep telling
me. You’re awfully nice about it.”

The light that Wally had set on the ground rose and pointed
itself at her, as if to confirm her claims, then dropped to the saddle resting
against her thighs. Wally had been at the ranch for three years, since a stroke
left his body unaffected but struck his brain with a short-term memory
disorder. It was called anterograde amnesia, a forgetfulness of experiences but
not skills. He could work hard but couldn’t hold a job because he was always
forgetting where and when he was supposed to show up. Here at the ranch he
didn’t have to worry about those details. He had psychologists and strategies
to guide him through his days, a community of brothers who reminded him of
everything he really needed to know. Well, most things. He had been on more
than one occasion the butt of hurtful pranks orchestrated by the men who shared
the bunkhouse with him. It was both a curse and a blessing that he was able to
forget such incidents so easily.

Beth was the only Beth at the Blazing B, and the only female
resident besides her mother, but these facts regularly eluded Wally. He never
forgot her father, though, and he knew the names of all the horses, so this was
how Beth had learned to keep putting herself back into the context of his life.

“You’re working hard,” she said. “You know it’s after
eleven.” “Looking for my lockbox. I saw him take it. I followed him here just
an hour ago, but now it’s gone.”

Sometimes it was money that had gone missing. Sometimes it
was a glove or a photograph, or a piece of cake from her mother’s dinner table
that was already in his belly. All the schedules and organizational systems in
the world were not enough to help Wally with this bizarre side effect of his
disorder: whenever a piece of his mind went missing, he would search for it by
digging. Dr. Roy Davis, Wally’s psychiatrist, had curtailed much of Wally’s
compulsive need to overturn the earth by having him perform many of the Blazing
B’s endless irrigation tasks. Even so, the ten square miles of ranch were
riddled with the chinks of Wally’s efforts to find what he had lost.

“That must be really frustrating,” she said. “I hate it when
I lose my stuff.”

“I didn’t lose it. A gray wolf ran off with it. I had it
safe in a secret spot, and he dug it up and carried off the box in his teeth.
Hauled it all the way up here and reburied it. Now tell me, what’s a wolf gonna
do with my legal tender? Buy himself a turkey leg down at the supermarket?”

Wally must have kept a little cash in his box. She could
under- stand his frustration. But this claim stirred up disquiet at the back of
her mind. Dr. Roy would need to know if Wally was seeing things. First off,
gray wolves were hardly ever spotted in Colorado. They’d been run out of the
state before World War II by poachers and hos- tile ranchers, and their return
in recent years was little more than a rumor. Wally might have seen a coyote.
But for another thing, no wild animal dug up a man’s buried treasure and
relocated it. Except maybe a raccoon.

A raccoon trying to run off with a heavy lockbox might actually
be entertaining.

“Tell you what, Wally. If he’s buried it here we’ll have a
better chance of finding it in the morning. When the sun comes up, I’ll help
you. But they’ll be missing you at the bunkhouse about now. Let me take you
back so no one gets upset when they see you’re gone.” Jacob or Dr. Roy would do
bunk checks at midnight.

“Upset? No one can be as upset as I am right now.” He thrust
the shovel into the soft dirt at his feet. “I saw the dog do it. I tracked him
all the way here, like he thought I wouldn’t see him under this full moon. Fool
dog—but who’d believe me? It’s like a freaky fairy tale, isn’t it? Well, I’d
have put that box in a local vault if I didn’t have to keep so many stinkin’
Web addresses and passwords and account numbers and security questions at my
fingertips.” He withdrew a small notebook from his hip pocket and waved the
pages around. It was one of the things he used to keep track of details. “Maybe
I’ll have to rethink that.”

Beth’s hands had become sweaty and a little cramped under
the saddle’s weight. She used her right knee to balance the saddle and fix her
grip. The soft leather suddenly felt like heavy gold bricks out of someone
else’s bank vault.

“Well, let’s go,” she said. “I’ve got my truck right on down
the lane.”

“What do you have there?” Wally returned the notebook to his
pocket, hefted the shovel, and picked his way out of the under- brush, finding
his way by flashlight.

“An old saddle. It’s been in the tack room for years.” She
expected Wally to forget the saddle just as quickly as he would for- get this
night’s adventure and her promise to help him dig in the morning.

He lifted one of the fenders and stroked the silver with his
thumb. “Pretty thing. Probably worth something. Not as much as that box is
worth to me, though.”

“We’ll find it,” Beth said.

“You bet we will.” Wally fell into step beside her. “Thanks
for the ride back, Beth. You’re a good girl. You got your daddy in you.”

With Jacob’s old saddle resting on a blanket in the bed of
her rusty white pickup, Beth followed an access road from the horse pasture by
her own home down into the heart of the Blazing B.

The property’s second ranch house was located more strategically
to the cattle operation, and so it was known to all as the Hub. The Hub was a
practical bachelor pad. Outside, the branding pens and calving sheds and
squeeze chutes and cattle trucks filled up a dusty clearing around the house.
Inside, the carpets and old leather furniture, even when clean, smelled like
men who believed that a hard day’s work followed by a dead sleep—in any
location—was far more gratifying than a hot shower. The house was steeped in
the scent stains of sweat and hay, horses and manure, tanned leather and
barbecue smoke. The men who slept here lived like the bachelors they were. If
their daily labors weren’t enough to impress a woman, the cowboys couldn’t be
bothered with her.

Dr. Roy Davis, known affectionately by all as Dr. Roy, was a
lifelong friend of Beth’s father. Years ago, after the death of Roy’s wife,
Abel and Roy merged their professional passions of ranching and psychiatry and
expanded the Blazing B’s purpose. It became an outreach to functional but
wounded men like Wally who needed a home and a job. Dr. Roy brought his teenage
son, Jacob, along. Now thirty-one, Jacob had never found reason to leave,
except for the years he’d spent away at college earning multiple degrees in agriculture
and animal management. Jacob had been the Blazing B’s general operations
manager for more than five years.

Jacob and his father shared the Hub with Pastor Eric, who
was a divorced minister, and Emory, a therapist who was once a gang leader.
These men were the Borzois’ four full-time employees.

The other men who lived at the Blazing B were called “associates.”
They occupied the bunkhouse, some for a few weeks and some for years. At
present there were six, including Wally.

When Beth stopped her truck in front of the Hub’s porch,
Wally slipped off the seat of her cab, closed the rusty door, and went directly
around back to the bunkhouse. She pulled away and had reached the end of the
drive when a rut jarred the truck and rattled the shovel he’d left in the truck

In spite of her hurry to take Jacob’s saddle to the people
who needed it, she put the truck in park, jumped out, and jogged the tool up to
the house. The porch light lit the squeaky wood steps, and she took them two at
a time. Jacob would see the tool in the morning when he came out to start up
his own truck and head out to what- ever project was on the schedule. She’d
phone him to make sure.

She was tipping the handle into the corner where the porch
rail met the siding when the Hub’s front door opened and Jacob leaned out.
“Past your bedtime, isn’t it?” he said,
but he was smiling at

her. Over the years they had settled into a comfortable
big-brother- little-sister relationship, though Beth had never fully outgrown
her adolescent crush on him.

“Found Wally digging up by the barn,” she said.

Surprise pulled his dark brows together. “Now? Where is he?”
“Back in bed, I guess. He said he followed a wolf up to our place. You might
want Dr. Roy to look into that. Your dad should know if Wally’s . . . seeing

Jacob nodded as he stepped out the door and leaned against
the house. He crossed his arms. “Coyote maybe?”

“Try suggesting that to him. And when was the last time we
had a coyote down here? It’s been ages—not since Danny gave up his chicken

“I’ll mention that to Dad. It’s probably nothing. What had
you out at the barn at this hour? Horses okay?”

“Fine.” Beth’s eyes swiveled down to her truck, to Jacob’s
saddle, both well beyond reach of the porch light. She tried to recall all her
justifications for taking the saddle, but in that moment all she could think
was that she should get his permission to do it. She’d known this man more than
half her life. He was kind. He was wise. He’d say yes. He’d want her to take

But she said, “I’m headed out to the Kandinskys’ place.
They’ve got a horse who injured his eye, and it’s pretty bad. They let it go
too long, you know, hoping it would correct itself, maybe wouldn’t need a big
vet bill.”

“The Kandinskys have their own vet on the premises. Who
called you out?”

“It’s not one of their horses, actually. It’s Phil’s.
Remember him?” “Your friend from high school?”

“He’s been working there a year or so. They let him keep the
horse on the property. One of the perks.”

“But he can’t use their vet?”

Beth looked at her feet. “Phil’s family can’t afford their
vet. You know how that goes. We couldn’t afford him. His family doesn’t even
have pets, you know. They run a grocery store. The horse is his little sister’s
project. A 4H thing.”

“Well, tell Phil I said he called the right gal for the

“I don’t know, Jacob. It sounds really bad. These eye
things— the horse might need surgery.”

She found it unusually difficult to look at him, though she
was sure he was studying her with a suspicious stare by now. But she couldn’t
look at the truck either. Her eyes couldn’t find an object to rest on.

“All you can do is all you can do, Beth. That’ll be as true
after you’re licensed as it is now.”

“But I want to do miracles,” she said.

He chuckled at that, though she hadn’t been joking. “Don’t
we all.” He uncrossed his arms and put his hand on the doorknob, preparing to
go back inside. “I heard some big-shot Thoroughbred breeder is boarding some of
his studs there,” Jacob said. “Some friend of theirs passing through.”

“I heard that too.”

“Maybe that’ll be Phil’s miracle this time—an unexpected
guest, someone with the right know-how or the right resources who will come to
his horse’s rescue.”

“Angels unaware,” Beth said. “Something like that. Night,

Beth didn’t want him to go just yet. “Night.”

She lingered at the door while it closed, hoping he might
intuit what she didn’t have the courage to say.

When he didn’t, she committed to her original plan. She
descended the steps in a quiet rush, wanting to whisk the saddle away before he
could object to what he didn’t know. She wanted to be the one who did the good
works, who made the incredible rescue. She couldn’t help herself. It was her
father’s blood running through her heart.

On the driveway, her smooth-soled boots skimmed the dirt,
whispering back to her truck.

“It’s not your right to do it,” Jacob said. Beth gasped and
whirled at the sound of his voice, unexpected and loud and straight into her
ear, as if he’d been standing on her shoulder. “It’s not your gift to give.”

But the ranch house door was shut tight under the cone of
the porch light, and the bright window revealed nothing inside but heavy
furniture and cluttered tabletops. At the back of the house, a different door
closed heavily. Jacob was headed out to the bunk- house to check on Wally

Beth let her captured breath leave her lungs. She looked
around for an explanation, because she didn’t want to accept that the words
might have been uttered by a guilty conscience.

At the base of the porch steps, crouching in such darkness
that its black center sank into its surroundings, was the form of an unusually
large dog. Erect ears, broad head, slender body. A wolf. She had passed that
spot so closely seconds ago that she could have reached out and stroked its

She took one step backward. Of course, her mind was dreaming
this up because Wally had suggested a wolf to her. If he hadn’t, she might have
said the silhouette had the outline of a snowman. An inverted snowman guarding
the house from her lies. In May.

Beth stared at it for several seconds, oddly unable to
recall the landscape where she’d spent her entire life. She was distressed not
to be able to say from this distance and angle whether that was a shrub planted
there, or a fence post, or an old piece of equipment that hadn’t made it back
into the supply shed. When the shape of its edges seemed to shift and shudder without
actually moving at all, she decided that her eyes were being tricked by the

Convincing herself of this was almost as easy as justifying
her saddle theft.

She turned away from the house and hurried onward, looking back
only once.