Everyday Tidbits...

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." - William Cullen Bryant

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Bridge of Peace...Review

About the book:
Love alone isn’t enough to overcome the obstacles between a man and a woman.

Lena Kauffman is a young Old Order Amish schoolteacher who has dealt all her life with attention raised by a noticeable birthmark on her cheek. Having learned to move past the stares and whispers, Lena channels her zest for living into her love of teaching. But tensions mount as she is challenged to work with a rebellious young man and deal with several crises at the schoolhouse that threaten her other students. Her lack of submission and the use of ideas that don’t line up with the Old Ways strengthen the school board’s case as they begin to believe that Lena is behind all the trouble.

One member of the school board, Grey Graber, feels trapped by his own stifling circumstances. His wife Elsie has shut him out of her life, and he doesn’t know how long he can continue to live as if nothing is wrong. As the two finally come to a place of working toward a better marriage, tragedy befalls their family.

Lena and Grey have been life-long friends but their relationship begins to crumble amidst unsettling deceptions, propelling each of them to finally face their own secrets. Can they both find a way past their losses and discover the strength to build a new bridge?

I really liked The Hope of Refuge and was anxious for this book, but will admit to being a little disappointed in it.  While I loved Lena and Grey, I felt the whole premise/plot was a bit of a stretch. I had a very hard time believing Dwayne's psychopathic character and how he was able to influence so many people against Lena. I also admit to not understanding Grey's relationship with Elsie and I was very, very annoyed that there were no repercussions/apologies forthcoming from Peter's parents. 

Ada and Deborah return as do Ephraim and Cara who are dealing with Cara's struggles to accept the Amish way of life and abandon her Englischer ways.  Ada and Deborah finally figure out how to make Ada's House a successful business and Deborah begins to find healing after Mahlon's desertion.

The tone of this book is a bit more serious and there are certainly darker elements one does not normally associate with Amish fiction. Cindy Woodsmall has a wonderful way of showing the human side of people, regardless of faith or lifestyle. 

While not as good as The Hope of Refuge, I do look forward to the next one. 

This is the second book in the Ada's house series and it helps if you've read the first one, The Hope of Refuge.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Cindy Woodsmall here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Rhythm of Secrets...Preview

About the book:
Sheila Franklin loves a son she never knew and a husband who doesn't know her. Then a young soldier comes knocking on her door and threatens to expose her deceptive ways.

Sheila Franklin has lived three separate lives. Now a conservative pastor's wife in Chicago, she is skilled at hiding secrets--a talent birthed during childhood romps through the music-filled streets of New Orleans. But when the son she bore at the age eighteen comes back looking for answers and desperate for help, her greatest secret--and greatest regret--is revealed.

Eager to right past wrongs, Sheila's heart floods with memories lyrical jazz music and a worn-out Bible. But when her husband learns her shady history, Sheila is suddenly faced with an impossible decision: embrace the dream--and son--she abandoned against her will or give in to the demands of her safe but stifled life. As she struggles to reclaim both her son and her identity, Sheila soon realizes that God's grace spans both seas and secrets and that He is all she really needs.

About the author:
In 1955, a lovely woman named Ann Qualls gave birth to a feisty and bald infant in the front seat her husband Bucky's Buick. By pure coincidence, Ann claims, their daughter was named Patti Day Qualls, PDQ. The Quallses set up housekeeping in Martin Hall, the boys athletic dormitory at Baylor University, where Patti adopted 200 kinda brothers who taught her magic tricks and set her imagination aflame with wild stories.

This moniker has served Patti well, as she's moved at least ten times, traveled to forty states, and changed occupations with a liberality unusual in native Texans. Though Patti's only been writing since 2005, she thinks her latest profession of capturing stories on paper (or computer files) will stick awhile.

The Still, Small Voice encouraged Patti to write after a brave Irish friend shared memories of betrayal and her decision to forgive. In 2008, An Irishwoman's Tale was published by Kregel Publications. Patti's second novel, What the Bayou Saw, draws on the memories of two young girls who refused to let segregation, a chain link fence, and a brutal rape come between them.

The secrets women keep and why they keep them continue to enliven Patti's gray matter. A third book, The Rhythm of Secrets, will release in January of 2011. Patti's WIP, Reclaiming Lily, documents a tug-of-war between a Harvard-educated doctor and an American pastor and his wife for a precious child and explores adoption issues, China's "One Child" policy, and both Christian and secular views of sacrifice.

Patti also facilitates writing seminars in schools, libraries, and at conferences and has been called to present her testimony, "All the Broken Pieces," at women's retreats. She also leads a Beth Moore Bible study at her beloved Grace Church.

Patti and her husband Alan, an Illinois State faculty member, live in Normal with their handsome son Thomas, who attends Heartland Community College. On sunny evenings, you can catch the three strolling the streets of Normal with their dog Laura, whom they've dubbed a "Worchestershire Terrier" for her "little dab of this breed, a little dab of that breed." Please visit Patti's website for more.

----------------------------------------
Thanks to Amy at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to preview this book.  You can learn more about Patti Lacy here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can find other reviews on the blog tour here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bloggiesta Mini Challenge: Organize your books

I'm not officially doing Bloggiesta this time around.  But,  I liked the mini challenge hosted by Jenn's Bookshelves about organizing your books.

I don't know that I'm super organized. I always schedule reviews that have set dates. I just create a draft post in blogger on the date the review is to be published. When I finish the book, I add the review and it's ready. If a book has an open date, I still schedule the reviews. Ideally, I like one post/review a week day. Sometimes it's less. But,  I don't like doing multiple posts in a day.  I will sometimes have reviews scheduled for weeks out.

I should let people know when I receive books, but I don't.  I do try to let publicists know when reviews are posted.

I always note in the review where I got the book, whether it's mine, the library's or from a publicist/author.  I've gone back through old posts and added that information.

When I first started reviewing and was offered books, I took everything. I quickly figured out that wasn't a realistic thing to do. I read quickly, but it's very easy to get overwhelmed with review books.  I realized very early on that if I had to force myself to read a book, chances are I wasn't going to like it.  Because of that, I've learned that if I think I might not like a book, I don't take it. I don't relish writing negative reviews or doing DNF posts. So, sometimes if I don't like a book or simply cannot finish it, I'll do a preview post with an "about the book" and an "about the author" instead, rather than doing a negative or DNF.  I do, however, believe in being honest and I like knowing when someone doesn't like a book and why.

I have all of my review books in a stack on the end table by my bed.  They stay in one place unless I'm currently reading one of them.  I can tell, at a glance, how many are actual review books.  I also have a category in Goodreads called, "In My Reading Basket" and those are the books I have in my possession that need to be read.

What about you?  Do you have an organizing system?

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Search...Review

About the book:
Fifteen years ago, Lainey O'Toole made a split-second decision. She couldn't have known that her choice would impact so many. Now in her mid-twenties, she is poised to go to culinary school when her car breaks down in Stoney Ridge, the very Amish town in which her long-reaching decision was made, forcing her to face the shadowed past.

Bess Reihl is less than thrilled to be spending the summer at Rose Hill Farm with her large and intimidating grandmother, Bertha. It quickly becomes clear that she is there to work the farm--and work hard. The labor is made slightly more tolerable by the time it affords Bess to spend with the handsome hired hand, Billy Lapp. But he only has eyes for a flirty and curvaceous older girl.

Lainey's and Bess's worlds are about to collide and the secrets that come to light will shock them both.

Beautifully written, The Search is a skillfully woven story that takes readers through unexpected twists and turns on the long country road toward truth. Fans both old and new will find themselves immersed in this heartwarming--and surprising--tale of young love, forgiveness, and coming to grips with the past.

Another terrific story from Suzanne Woods Fisher.  Her characters jump off the page.  Bertha is so unlike your traditional Amish grandmother.  She can be prickly, but she's also a bit sneaky and not above breaking some rules to get her own way.  Lainey is just someone you wish you could know and Bess is a sweetheart.

Lainey spent part of her childhood in Stoney Ridge and when she returns as an adult, she discovers that her past choices have consequences.  As she immerses herself back into the community and decides whether or not to become Amish, she also learns about herself and what she truly wants out of life.

Bess returns to Stoney Ridge at the manipulation of her grandmother, Bertha who wants to see her family reunited. As Bess begins to feel comfortable at Rose Hill Farm, she falls for Billy Lapp who can't see anything beyond a flirty local girl.

As these three lives intertwine and relationships begin to grow, we see a story about strong women and the importance of friendship, family and community.

This was an enthralling, heartwarming and enjoyable story about choices and consequences and love and family.  Easily recommended.

The third book in the Lancaster County Secrets series, this one stands alone just fine.  In fact, all three books are really stand alone novels. 

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  Thanks to Donna Hausler and the Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Suzanne Woods Fisher here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Hope of Refuge...Review

About the book:
Raised in foster care and now a widowed single parent, New Yorker Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and her daughter, Lori, away from the city toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers to mysteries from her past and a fresh start. She quickly discovers that Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, is no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God- "Be me to her"- despite how it threatens his way of life.

Ephraim’s sister Deborah is fearful of the strange Englischer woman causing turmoil for her family, but she keeps focused on the marriage and home she longs to begin with Mahlon Stoltzfus. Her dreams are threatened when Mahlon begins behaving oddly, withdrawing, and causing concern for Deborah and Mahlon’s mother, Ada. Will the run-down house that Ada envisions transforming unite them toward a common purpose-or push Mahlon away forever?

As Ephraim is torn between trying to do what he believes is right and the requirements of his community, he risks losing everything, including a developing friendship with the guarded single mother. And he knows that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake-secrets with the power to tear apart the home Cara is desperately trying to find.

While it took me a bit to like Cara, and I thought Ephraim a little too good to be true, I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  The premise is a bit different than other Amish fiction, but the story is good.   We see a human side of the Amish that is most refreshing.  Cara was a very prickly character, but given her life experiences you can understand it.  She was raised in foster care and believes that she was abandoned by her father.  Her foster care experience was about as stereotypically wrong as you could get.  I found the stalker problem a bit farfetched and it wasn't resolved, which was disappointing.  Still, this is an enthralling story and one that easily captures your attention.

I enjoy reading Amish novels, but I have very little real life understanding of the Amish faith and I can't tell you what is accurate or inaccurate in any novel I read.  I do know that I cannot understand the concept of shunning.  I well know the need for rules and consequences, but to shun someone for any kind of sin or mistake is simply beyond my comprehension and goes against everything in me that says "love thy neighbor" and "when you have done it unto the least of these...".

Also, in many Amish novels the bishops rarely show any compassion. I appreciated that Cindy Woodsmall portrays the bishops differently here.  When the community realizes who Cara is, they rally around her as best they can, even while constrained by the tenets of their faith.  The bishop apologizes for his harsh criticism and treatment of her, even as he explains the reasons and stays true to his faith, and as Cara has begun to let her heart soften she is able to forgive.  It's a wonderful interaction. 

The first in the Ada's House series, I am anxious for more.

You can learn more about Cindy Woodsmall here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Personal copy.

Read 1/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Tapestry of Love...Review

About the book:
A rural idyll: that's what Catherine Parkstone is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cévennes mountains. Divorced and with her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just on holiday, and Catherine finds herself with unexpected battles to fight. French bureaucracy, the mountain weather, the reserve of her neighbours - and most unsettling of all, her own fascination with the intriguing Patrick Castagnol.

The Tapestry of Love is the story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: a portrait of landscape, a community and a fragile way of life. 

Needing a life change, Catherine Parkstone leaves England and moves to a tiny city in France.  Once there, she find the rural, idyllic life she envisioned not only includes French bureaucracy, but friendship and romance.  She misses her children and feels guilty for leaving England when  her mother is suffering from Alzheimer's.  Her newly formed world is shaken a bit when her sister arrives, yet Catherine manages to adapt there as well.  As she meets local people, makes new friends and becomes part of the community, she discovers what she really wants from her life and learns just what part Patrick Castagnol will play in it. 

Reminiscent of Under the Tuscan Sun, this is just one of those books you savor.  You sit on the veranda with a cool drink, or by the fire with a warm one.  This is not a rushing river of story, it's a meandering stream.  You don't read it trying to find the ultimate purpose or plot, you simply read it to enjoy your visit with Catherine.

I so appreciated Catherine's age and stage of life!  She's someone I would love to have as a friend and neighbor.  Rosy Thornton has a beautiful, lyrical way of writing.  This was a charming journey of discovery. 

There is incidental, disappointing use of the F word, as well as incidental, non-marital sex without the details.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Rosy Thornton here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Tapestry Shop...Review

About the book:
The Tapestry Shop is the story of the trouvère, Adam de la Halle, a thirteenth-century poet/musician who entertained in France's royal courts. Adam's secular play, Robin et Marion, led to the birth of the comic opera form and the first penning of the Robin Hood legend.

The book draws the reader into the Middle Ages, where women joined the crusades and students held discourse on the Street of Straw, but the overriding appeal of The Tapestry Shop is Adam's connection to the legend of Robin Hood.

After enduring political exile, Adam returns to the city of his birth to confront the reality of his failed marriage, but first, he must find the hangmen who stole his purse and his dignity.

As protégé of King Louis's nephew, Adam attends the university in Paris. When he meets Catherine, a shopkeeper's daughter, his life takes an unexpected turn.

Catherine is bound to another by a secret she cannot reveal. Her deep religious convictions and guilt for her past bring danger to her and to those she loves. When she decides to join the king's latest crusade, Adam must confront his disdain for what he considers an intolerant Church, based on his knowledge of its treatment of Cathars and Jews.

Torn by conflicting ideals, they move toward their destiny, each determined to prevail, but the choices they make bring them both to heights and depths neither could ever imagine.

The Robin Hood story has always fascinated me; how the legend came to be, is it based on a real man or is it simply a tale.  The premise of The Tapestry Shop is that the minstrel Adam de la Halle, a real 13th century musician, wrote the play which became the basis for the Robin Hood legend.

The story is Adam's and his experiences as he endures exile, robbery, a failed marriage, gains an education and falls in love.  Catherine's story is told alongside Adam's:  her arranged marriage to a lecherous man, her life working with tapestry, her desire to join the crusades as well as meeting Adam and falling in love.

Historically, this is a rich, well researched story with beautiful descriptions.  You can smell the markets and hear the rattles of the wagons.  It was easy to feel the drastic comparisons between Adam's time staying in common roadside inns and his time staying in the Count's luxurious home. But for all the lovely descriptions, I wished for more detail about the story.  Especially towards the end of the book when it felt rushed.

Ultimately, I would have preferred less detailed description if it meant more detailed story. 

What also surprised me was that the Robin Hood play was a fairly minor part of the story.  More like an incidental piece that Adam needed to finish, rather than a focused plot point.  Still, this is a fascinating story and one that readers of historical fiction will probably enjoy.

Thanks to Andrea Clift of Carol Fass Publicity & Public Relations, Inc. for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Joyce Elson Moore here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Heart with Joy...Review

About the book:
In Heart With Joy, fifteen-year-old Julian Hale’s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Venice, Florida under the pretense of running her parents’ motel and finishing the novel she has been working on for years. While Julian has always been closer to his mother and wants to go with her, she tells him he has to stay with his father until the end of the school year.

Six weeks after his mother leaves, Julian’s father decides to run a marathon. This surprises Julian because he has never seen his father exercise, but once he agrees to help him train the two develop the sort of close relationship they’ve never had before. Also, with the help of an elderly neighbor, Julian learns that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart. And Julian’s heart leads him to a passion for cooking and a young cashier at the local grocery store. By the end of the novel, Julian is forced to choose between staying with his father and going to live with his mother.

Heart With Joy is an uplifting coming of age novel about cooking and bird watching, about writing and pottery, and about falling in love and the sacrifices we all make. But ultimately, it’s about the importance of following your heart and trusting that it will take you where you need to go.

Julian is a thoughtful, introspective teenage boy and reading Heart with Joy, is like reading his journal.  He's conflicted about his mother leaving and open about missing her.  He loves to cook and is quite the budding gourmet chef and Food Network aficionado.  He likes a girl, but is shy about admitting it and following through.  He enjoys a developing friendship with his elderly neighbor even when his best friend makes fun of him.

What should be a story about teenage angst, is instead a sweet narrative about Julian's experiences growing up.  I loved the relationship Julian and his dad developed.  I do wish there was more closure at the end, but the ending also fit the story.  An engaging read that is easily recommended for teens or adults.

Some readers will be interested to know that there are incidental teenage references about sex.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Steve Cushman here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, January 14, 2011

Life Without Limits...Review

About the book:
Life Without Limits is an inspiring book by an extraordinary man. Born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic overcame his disability to live not just independently but a rich, fulfilling life, becoming a model for anyone seeking true happiness. Now an internationally successful motivational speaker, his central message is that the most important goal for anyone is to find their life’s purpose despite whatever difficulties or seemingly impossible odds stand in their way.

Nick tells the story of his physical disabilities and the emotional battle he endured trying to deal with them as a child, a teen, and a young adult. “For the longest, loneliest time, I wondered if there was anyone on earth like me, and whether there was any purpose to my life other than pain and humiliation.” He shares how his faith in God has been his central source of strength and explains that once he found his own sense of purpose—inspiring others to make their lives and the world better—he found the confidence to build a rewarding and productive life without limits.

Nick offers practical advice for realizing a life of fulfillment and happiness by building trust in others, developing supportive relationships, and gaining strength for the journey. He encourages the reader by showing how he learned to accept what he could not control and focus instead on what he could.

I first became aware of Nick Vujicic when my husband showed me one of Nick's You Tube videos.  I was incredibly moved by Nick's story.  When I learned that Nick was writing a book, I knew I wanted to read it.  I jumped at the chance to review it and I wasn't disappointed.  My 12-year old son is anxiously awaiting his turn at reading the book next!

Nick is very open about his faith in God.  Refreshingly, he's also open about the struggles and doubts he's had over the years because of the life God gave him.  However, Nick has embraced and accepted his life and has used his experiences to reach out and help others.  It's very clear from his writing and his actions that he lives his life trying to serve other people.  The happiness he has found in doing so is palpable and contagious.

He is a very positive person and believes that each one of us has a choice about how we live and react to our circumstances in life. Nick advocates finding your life's purpose and focusing on the things you can control in your life, rather than the things you can't.  His company is called "Attitude Is Altitude" because he believes that there is real power in controlling your own attitude.

Reading Nick's story is like having a comfortable conversation with him.  He's warm and engaging and I can easily and wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve their own life or simply have an inspirational uplift.  I think that the audio version of this book would be even better because Nick is a terrific speaker and I love his Australian accent!

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Nick Vujicic here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars



Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Lady's Slipper...Review

About the book:
1660. King Charles II has returned from exile, but memories of the English Civil War still rankle. There are old scores to settle, and religious differences threaten to overturn a fragile peace. 

When Alice Ibbetson discovers a rare orchid, the Lady’s Slipper, growing in a wood belonging to Richard Wheeler, she is captivated by its beauty— though Wheeler, a Quaker, is determined to keep the flower where God intended it to grow. Knowing that the orchid is the last of its kind, she steals the flower, little dreaming that her seemingly simple act will set off a chain of events that will lead to murder and exile, and change her life forever…

This one sounds so good, and from an historical standpoint it is.  It's a fascinating account of England in the 17th century as it recovers from Oliver Cromwell's parliamentary rule.  The novel also explores the origins and establishment of the Quaker religion.  I thought that using a rare flower as a main plot device was certainly unique and unusual and was one reason I was drawn to the book. The writing is lyrical and the descriptions vivid.

However, the story itself was simply not something that ultimately appealed to me.  I didn't really care for the characters and found myself more annoyed than enthralled.  This isn't a fast read, it's more of an ambitious one that can hamper a reader's enjoyment.  The sex scenes were unexpected, unnecessary and quite vulgar in their descriptions. 

I found the religious aspect fascinating, especially the lengths one character went to in order to become a Quaker and the ease with which another ultimately disregarded his Quaker faith. 

Thanks to Reading Group Gold (Macmillan/St. Martin's Press) for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Deborah Swift here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* *
2/5 Stars

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Caroline's Choice...Review

About the book:
When Caroline leaves her hometown for a fresh start, will she finally find the adventure she longs for—or is she fleeing the very things that matter most?

At age twenty-six, Caroline Frankston is certain life is passing her by in the town of Barton Creek. Her feelings for Matthew Haynes appear unrequited, so she decides the time has come for her to move to the big city for a fresh start.

Once in Oklahoma City, Caroline is fascinated by the many opportunities there and begins moving on with her life. As time passes, Matt realizes his true feelings for her and plans to tell her on her next trip home. When Caroline goes missing after her train is in an accident, Matt sets out in search of her, wondering if any chance of spending his life with Caroline has disappeared.

Book four in the Winds Across the Prairie series brings you back to the town of Barton Creek, providing a glimpse into everyday life at a time when Oklahoma was drawing homesteaders to its territory before the days of statehood.

Caroline Frankston was always the dutiful daughter and faithful girl.  The reliable one in the background.  But, tired of waiting for Matt to realize how he feels, and tired of following her mothers orders, Caroline finally takes control of her own life and leaves Barton Creek.  She finds a good job, shares a home with roommates and gets a taste of life on her own.  But, as she finds her way and learns who she is, Caroline also begins to realize what things are truly important to her.

Back home in Barton Creek, her mother Charlotte, the proud and prickly wife of Barton Creek's mayor, also begins to discover that she doesn't like the woman she has become, but she has no idea how to change.  Matt finally realizes he's a stupid fool and wonders if it's too late for him and Caroline.

This is a fantastic end to the Winds Across the Prairie series.  I'm so sorry to see it end as I have so enjoyed getting to know these characters.  While I didn't love the first book, Becoming Lucy I'm so glad I gave the rest of the series a chance.  It's been a delightful adventure.  The series wraps up satisfyingly well and I was pleased to see Charlotte's story included here.  This is a book and a series I can easily recommend.  I have loaned out my copies several times over to friends.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Strang Book Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Martha Rogers here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Caroline's Choice...Wildcard!

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Realms (January 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor whose first book in the Winds Across the Prairie series, Becoming Lucy, became an immediate best seller. Morning for Dove (May 2010) is the second book in this series, with Finding Becky (book 3) releasing Fall 2010. Rogers lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (January 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381930
ISBN-13: 978-1616381936

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Oklahoma Territory, September 1907


Caroline Frankston’s hands clinched into fists, her breath coming in short spurts. Through the parlor window, she watched life go on in a normal, orderly fashion, but here in

this room her world lay fragmented like shards of broken glass. Each piece cut into her soul, causing pain that she no longer wanted to bear. The bleeding had to stop. “If I don’t leave this town, I’ll never get married.” Caroline Frankston spun around to face her mother. “Barton Creek has no men who interest me, so I would like to move to Oklahoma

City and start a new life there.”


Her mother’s blue eyes flashed with anger. “You’ll do no such thing. You haveresponsibilities here.”


Caroline’s jaw tightened. Mother’s demands only caused more determination. “What responsibilities? Going to luncheons and meetings with you and sitting around listening to you decide what people should do?”


The rigid set of Mother’s mouth warned Caroline to be careful with her next words. Now was the time to stand firm and not back down. “I know you want what’s best for me, and

right now a move seems to be it.”


Mother remained silent, a vein in her neck throbbing in response to the tension in her jaw. A mixture of anger and disbelief sparked from her eyes. She stood tall, with her back

ramrod straight. Mother wouldn’t back down.


Envy for her brother’s freedom gnawed at Caroline. Being male, Rob could pick and choose what he wanted to do, and he’d proved it with his law office and his marriage to Becky last year despite Mother’s disapproval.


Without waiting for a response, Caroline headed for the door, but not without one last comment. “I’m sorry. I’ll be twenty-seven soon, and if I don’t do something now, I never

will. I don’t want to be stuck here as spinster with time on her hands and no purpose in life.”


She darted from the room and up the stairs before her mother could react and spew forth a torrent of words to thwart Caroline’s plan. Recently a college friend had written to her of the job openings at the new Carnegie library in Oklahoma City and invited her to come live with her in her town house with another roommate. Caroline had just told her mother she wanted to apply for the job and move to the city. This evening she would break the news to her father.


Standing in front of the mirror on her bureau, Caroline picked up a stylish blue hat and pinned it on her upswept hair. Although she did love the hat, it had been chosen by her mother, as had most of the clothes in Caroline’s wardrobe. In Oklahoma City she could set her own standards and not be dictated to by her mother.


Some of Mother’s ideas and beliefs about fashions and social protocol left Caroline with the feeling that no one could measure up to what the mayor’s wife expected, not even her

own daughter. Being the daughter of the mayor had its advantages, but now they hindered her and kept her from pursuing other avenues of interest.


She gathered up her reticule. Time had come for a visit with her sister-in-law to seek her advice. After all, Becky had once pursued a newspaper career without thought of marriage. She could tell Caroline what it was like to be a single, working-woman on her own.


But deep in her heart the real reason she wanted to see Becky lay hidden. Maybe Becky would have some insight into why her brother, Matt, had been so distant the past year. Of course Mother was delighted with that turn of events, but Caroline was deeply hurt and at a loss as to how to reach out to her old friend.


She glanced around the room that had been hers since her family’s arrival in Barton Creek seventeen years ago. She’d miss it, but the idea of being on her own filled her with excitement. She raced down the stairs and headed for the front door to avoid another confrontation with her mother. When her voice called out from the parlor, Caroline pretended not to hear and closed the door behind her.


She walked toward town, her feet disturbing the fallen leaves and making them swirl about her feet. Late September should bring cooler air to match the changing of the colors in the trees, but not this year. Caroline wished she’d worn a lighter weight shirtwaist and a less heavy skirt, but Mother had insisted on storing all summer clothes away for the fall season. At the next corner she turned onto Main Street, thankful she lived such a short distance from town.


A few more motorcars dotted the streets, which were now completely bricked. As mayor, her father planned to replace the boardwalks where people now strolled in front of business establishments with real sidewalks. She walked past the post office, the jail, and several other stores and shops before reaching the newspaper offices.


The odor of printer’s ink greeted her nose as Caroline stepped through the doorway of the Barton Creek newspaper building. The bell over the door jangled and caused everyone but Becky to look up to see who had come in. The staff on the paper had certainly grown since Mr. Lansdowne made the paper available seven days a week. Becky sat at her desk behind the railing separating the office space from the entryway, staring at whatever was in the typewriter before her.


One of the young men jumped up from his chair. “How can I help you, Miss Frankston?” Caroline smiled and nodded toward Becky. “I’m here to see Mrs. Frankston.”


Becky glanced up then. “Oh, my, I was so engrossed in my story that I didn’t hear the bell.” She strode over to the gate in the railing. “What brings you here today?”


“I wanted to talk with you if you have time, but I can see you’re busy, so I’ll come back later.”


Becky pushed through the gate. “No, no, it’s fine. I think I’m in need of a break about now.” She turned to the young woman across the room. “Amy, would you tell Mr. Lansdowne I’m taking a break and will be back shortly? I’ll stop at the bakery and bring back pastries. He’ll like that.”


“Of course, Rebecca. Have a nice visit.” The young clerk returned to the business on her desk.


Caroline admired Becky’s attire. She wore the plainest of skirts and shirtwaists but made them come alive with fashion even though the signs of her coming motherhood were evident. Caroline would have been called a “Plain Jane” if she wore the same. Something about her sister-in-law gave life to whatever she touched or wore, one trait Caroline sorely envied.


Becky linked arms with Caroline. “Now, let’s head to Peterson’s for tea and cookies.”


When they stepped out onto the boardwalk, Becky breathed deeply. “Isn’t it a beautiful day? Although it’s too warm for me, I love this time of year.”


“I like it too,” Caroline responded, although at the moment all she could sense was the stench of horse droppings and the fine layer of dust and dirt over everything. She glanced at the woman beside her. “So, you’re still going by Rebecca at the office?”


“Yes. That’s my byline on all my articles, so they all call me Rebecca.” Besides reporting on town events, Becky wrote a column for women in the Barton Creek Chronicle each week to inform them of the opportunities and advantages of voting for their government leaders.


Caroline laughed. “But you’ll always be Becky to the rest of us.”


Becky returned the laugh, but hers had a musical quality that had earned the friendship of most of the people here in her hometown. “I don’t mind it at all now. Rob convinced me I could be both, and he was right.” She glanced up toward the windows of her husband’s law offices.


At least Becky and Rob had rediscovered the love they’d had for each other as youths, and now they were as happy as any married couple Caroline had seen. Mother hadn’t been too pleased with her son marrying a Haynes, and even now that Ben Haynes headed one of the wealthiest ranches in the area, her attitude hadn’t changed, especially since Becky chose to continue her job at the newspaper after learning a child was on the way. To Mother, Becky would always be a cowgirl.


When they had entered the bakery and ordered their tea and pastry, Caroline chose a table away from the window so they would have more privacy.


“So what is it that you want to talk with me about?” Becky unwrapped her pastry and pinched off a small piece.


Caroline stirred her tea and grinned. “I’m moving to Oklahoma City. My roommate at college, Madeline Barrows, has invited me to come live with her, and I have a good chance at a job at a library there.”


Becky dropped her pastry, spreading crumbs in its wake. She grabbed a napkin and wiped the bits off the table. “You’re doing what? Leaving Barton Creek? But what does your family say?”


“Mother is completely against it, and by now she’s probably let Father know, and I don’t know what he’ll say. It really doesn’t matter because my mind is made up.”


“But what about Matt? Have you told him?”


Caroline dipped her head and concentrated on stirring her tea. “You know how much I care about Matt, but over the last few years his interest in me has dimmed. He’s barely spoken to me since we ate together at the July Fourth celebration. I don’t know what else to do.”


Becky leaned forward. “I can’t tell you much since I don’t see him very often anymore. He’s been quiet and withdrawn the Sundays we go out to the ranch for the family dinner. When we were younger, we enjoyed doing lots of things together, but that changed when I came home from college. And since I’ve married Rob, he’s been much less open with me.”


They sat in silence for a moment. Caroline’s heart ached with the image of Matt sitting astride his great stallion and riding across the range. She bit her lip and leaned toward Becky. “I–I can’t bear the thought of being a spinster, and there’s no one here in Barton Creek except Matt I would consider as a husband. More opportunities to meet young men are available in the city. Many of my college friends stayed in the city, and I’ve been writing to several of them, and with Madeline’s invita tion, the time seems right. Although I care for Matt, I can’t wait for him forever.”


Becky blinked and shook her head. “I used to think my brother was working hard to establish himself before he took on the responsibilities of a wife and a family. But now that the ranch is doing so well, I don’t understand is why he hasn’t been more willing to call on you. I remember how you two were always together for every social event that came along before you went off to school. I guess I always thought you’d be his wife when he finally made up his mind it was time to marry.”


“That’s just it. I did too, but I’ve waited a long time for him to make up his mind.” And they had been the longest years of her life. Now the time had come to look to the future and her life ahead before it passed her by completely. She turned to Becky and sat up straighter. “Now, tell me everything you know about going out on your own as a working woman!”


Matt removed his hat and wiped sweat from his brow with a bandanna. Fall may have been the season, but the air definitely spoke of summer. Late September usually brought cooler temperatures, but not this year. He stuffed the kerchief in his pocket and jammed the hat back on his head. Time to round up a few more strays.


He waved to Hank and headed toward the west pasture. The ranch hand rode up to join him. “You think some of the herd made their way out to Dawson land?”


“Yeah, they’ve done it before. Good thing those fences are around the oil rigs.” Ever since the wells started producing, the noise of the pumps attracted whatever livestock meandered that way. He usually found around half a dozen or so head lined up at the fence staring at the work going on.


Hank tilted his hat back on his head. “I know that parcel of land wasn’t any good for farming and such, but rigs sure are ugly despite the oil they’re pumping.”


“That’s what worried Pa the most, but since it’s away from everything and can’t be seen from the house, he decided it was better to go ahead with Geoff’s recommendations. So far that’s been a good decision.” Geoff Kensington had kept his word, and Barstow’s Oil did everything Pa had requested. The first money from the oil deposits had surprised even Pa and Sam Morris. The two had put the money into a trust for the future after sending the original landowner his share.


“Your pa is a good businessman. I’ve admired him for many years. Remember how he took me in along with Jake and treated us like part of the family?”


“Yes, that’s the way Pa was and still is.” Matt loved his father even more for his treatment of other folks. If he hadn’t believed in Jake, the young man would never have become a Christian and found out that the killing he’d been involved with in Texas was ruled self-defense. That cowboy might still be running from the law instead marrying Lucy and owning his own ranch.


Hank slowed his horse. “You know, I’ve been thinking. I’m not getting any younger, and the idea of settling down with a wife has its appeal. That young woman, Amy, who works with Becky agreed to let me be her escort for the church singing next week. You ought to ask Miss Caroline to it.”


Matt cast a sideways glance at his partner. “You’re a lucky man. Amy Garson is a pretty young woman.”


Hank laughed and shook his head. “Matt Haynes, you’re stalling me. What about Miss Caroline?”


Matt didn’t respond, but his mind filled with the image of Caroline Frankston. He did love her at one time, but she had chosen a life far different from his. Just as he was about to ask her to be his wife, she’d announced she was going off to college. He remembered the day like it was yesterday. She’d been so excited when she showed him the brochures with all the information. She planned to major in fine arts and languages. Those were two things he knew nothing about.


“Matt, you hafta talk to her and let her know how you feel. I seen your eyes when we’re in town and she’s around. You can’t look nowhere else.”


“She’s busy with her own life. Attending luncheons and meetings with her ma and doing all those things on committees and such. She has no time for me or for life on a ranch.” Besides, the more he thought about it, the more he realized one Haynes married to a Frankston was almost one too many. Becky could handle the mayor’s wife, but the idea of Charlotte Frankston as a mother-in-law didn’t appeal to him at all. And if Caroline

really cared, she wouldn’t have run off to college when she did.


As though reading his mind, Hank offered his opinion. “It’s that Mrs. Frankston, isn’t it? She is rather formidable, but if you married Caroline and brought her out here to the ranch, you wouldn’t have to deal with her mother that much.”


Matt narrowed his eyes and worked his mouth. It wasn’t anybody’s business what he thought of Mrs. Frankston. He may be considered a coward for not facing up to her, but it was his decision to make.


“Matt, I think you’re missing out on what life has for you if you let one woman ruin your feelings for another. If you really love Caroline, her mother wouldn’t make any difference.”


“That’s easy for you to say. Have you forgotten how Mrs. Frankston treated Ma and Aunt Clara when everyone thought Jake was a murderer? Then look at how she hurt Emily Morris and Dove. That woman is rude and has no respect for anyone not of her own standing, but she’s not the only reason, and it’s best to keep your opinion to yourself.”


“I understand, and I do remember those days, but I also remember Mrs. Anderson and how her heart changed. She was as mean as Mrs. Frankston toward Mrs. Morris and Dove until that prairie fire almost destroyed us all.”


“True, but I don’t see anything like that in the future to change Mrs. Frankston.” Matt flicked his reins and spurred his horse. “Let’s go hunt for strays. That’s why we’re out here.”


His love life was nobody else’s business but his. And as much as he was attracted to Caroline, he didn’t care to saddle himself for the rest of his life with a cantankerous mother-in-law like Charlotte Frankston.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Love on Assignment...DNF...Review

About the book:
While Charlotte is focusing on uncovering sordid information on columnist Daniel Wilmot, her heart leads her into uncharted territory.

During the summer of 1900 Charlotte Hale, a native Newporter and secretary for the Rhode Island Reporter, accepts an undercover assignment as a temporary governess to Daniel Wilmont’s children in order to secretly gather evidence against him. As he helps her rediscover God, Charlotte learns that Daniel is an honorable man. They unexpectedly fall in love despite their different backgrounds and social positions. Charlotte soon realizes she must defend Daniel against the forces set against him—a willful student with a romantic crush and the newspaper editor determined to destroy his reputation.

I just hit the jackpot, recently, on books that I couldn't finish.  I guess it's bound to happen occasionally.

I liked the first book in the Ladies of Summerhill series, Love on a Dime.  It was light, but entertaining and I really liked the character of Lilly.  Because of that, when I was offered Love on Assignment for review, I took it, thinking I'd enjoy the story just as much as the first one. I didn't.  I couldn't even finish it.

The whole premise for the story just didn't sit well with me and it was so completely predictable that there was no enjoyment in reading it.  Many stories are predictable, but can still captivate a reader's interest. Here, however, Charlotte wasn't very likeable and I found myself not even caring about her or wanting her to redeem herself.  This one wasn't light, it was shallow.  I wanted to like it, but finally just had to set it aside.  Fans of Cara Lynn James will no doubt love it.  Because I liked Love on a Dime so much, I do look forward to the next one in this series, hoping it will be more like the first and not the second.

This is part of a series, but stands alone just fine.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Cara Lynn James here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other tour stops and more positive reviews here.

Read 1/11

*
1/5 Stars

Monday, January 10, 2011

Threads West...DNF...Review

About the book:
The romance of America, her people, her spirit, and the West. The ongoing story of us. This first book and namesake of the six-novel series is being compared by reviewers and authors to Lonesome Dove and Centennial. The tale bursts with the adventure, romance and promise of historical America and the West. 

The epic saga of Threads West begins in 1855 with the first of four richly-textured, complex generations of unforgettable characters. The separate lives of these driven men and independent women are drawn to a common destiny that beckons seductively from the wild and remote flanks of the American West. They are swept into the dangerous currents of the far-distant frontier by the mysterious rivers of fate, the power of the land and the American spirit. 

Their turbulent journeys are heartbreaking quests intertwined with romance and adversity, passions and pathos, despair and triumph. This is not only their story. It is our story. It is Threads West, An American Saga.

I love a good, epic saga. I enjoy those series' that span generations.  What I don't like are an abundance of sex scenes, especially those that include rape.  That the book opens with a scene which is the aftermath of an adulterous, intimate encounter, should have been a fair warning to me.  However, I skimmed through it as the story intrigued me and I decided to read on.  This book obviously sets up the rest of the series and introduces those characters whose stories will intersect, intertwine and unfold together.  They come from all countries and all walks of life.

This series has the potential to be a fascinating look at western immigration and it will appeal to many, especially those who like Larry McMurtry and John Jakes. The writing is lyrical and beautifully descriptive. It's just not a book I can finish.  I'm no prude and I have no problem skipping over a sex scene or two in a book, but there are too many here for me, especially when all are premarital, adulterous or involve multiple rape encounters.

I was disappointed, but those love epic westerns and who don't mind sex scenes will enjoy it.

Thanks to Rebecca Brown at The Cadence Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Reid Lance Rosenthal here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/11

*
1/5 Stars


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Unexpected Love...Review

About the book:
Nurse Lorenna Fields is drawn to a blind patient searching for his past. But as his memories return, will there be a place for her in his future?

Lorenna Fields has always taken her job at Chicago's Mercy Hospital seriously, determined never to become personally involved with her patients. But when a mysterious man with eyes like onyx is admitted after a shipwreck on Lake Michigan, she develops a connection with him that she can’t deny.

Slowly her patient regains consciousness, but to Renna’s dismay he has lost both his sight and his memory. Dubbed "Mr. Blackeyes" by her, the two build a strong, trusting friendship as they search for clues to his past. But part of her dreads the day of his recovery, convinced that his memories will take him away from her and his regained sight will reveal a secret about herself that Renna has been trying hard to hide.

Renna is a fantastic character.  Strong willed, capable and beautiful, she is burdened by the very noticeable birthmark on her face.  Believing that no man will love her because of it, she dedicates her life to nursing.  "Mr. Blackeyes" is the blind amnesiac she falls in love with.  As he regains his sight, Renna's fear is that her face will turn him away.

"Mr. Blackeyes" is the rogue turned believer, who wishes to change his ways as he remembers and regrets his past actions.  Can he convince Renna that his love is real and that she is the woman he wants by his side.

There was a teaser for this book at the end of Uncertain Heart  which made me anxious for its release.   I was so curious about Captain Sinclair and what happened to him and I wasn't disappointed.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and read it in an evening.

This is the third book in the Seasons of Redemption series by Andrea Boeshaar.  While it can stand alone, it's a far richer story if you've read the first two books.  A terrific story and one that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Thanks to Anita Silva at Strang Communications and First Wildcard for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Andrea Boeshaar here.  You can read the first chapter here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 12/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


Unexpected Love...Wildcard!

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Realms (January 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


In addition to writing, Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at conferences such as: Write-To-Publish American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Oregon Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and many other writers’ conferences. Andrea is also co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on the advisory board and was also CEO of the ACFW.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (January 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381922
ISBN-13: 978-1616381929

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chicago, Illinois, September 4, 1866


Do you think he’ll live, Dr. Hamilton?” The gray-haired man with bushy whiskers pondered the question for several moments, chewing on his thick lips as he weighed his reply. “Yes, I think he will,” he finally said. “Of course, he’s not out of the woods yet, but it seems he’s coming around.”


Lorenna Fields breathed a sigh of relief. It had been two whole days with nary a sign of life from this half-drowned man, but finally—finally—he showed signs of improvement.


“You’ve done a good job with this patient, Nurse Fields.” The physician drew himself up to his full height, which barely met Renna’s five feet six inches. “I don’t think he’d be alive today if you hadn’t given him such extraordinary care.”


“Thank you, Dr. Hamilton, but it was the Lord who spared this man and the Lord who gave me the strength and skill to nurse him.” The old physician snorted in disgust. “Yes, well, it might have had something to do with the fact that you’ve got a brain in your

head, Nurse Fields, and the fact that you used it too, I might add!”


Renna smiled inwardly. Dr. Hamilton always disliked it when she gave God the credit for any medical advancement, especially the miracles. Yet Renna’s intelligence and experience weren’t typical of women her age, and she determined to use them to God’s glory.


The patient moaned, his head moving from side to side.


“Easy now, Mr. Blackeyes.” Renna placed a hand on the man’s muscular shoulder. “It’s all right.” She picked up the fever rag from out of the cold water, wrung it once, and set it on the patient’s burning brow.


Dr. Hamilton snorted again, only this time in amusement. “Mr. Blackeyes? How in the world did you come by that name, Nurse Fields?”


She blushed but replied in all honesty. “It’s his eyes, Doctor. They’re as black as pitch and as shiny as polished stones. And since we don’t know his true identity, I’ve named him Mr. Blackeyes.”


“I see.” Dr. Hamilton could barely contain his laughter.


“Well, I had to call him something now, didn’t I?” She wrung the fever cloth more tightly.


“Ah, yes, I suppose you did.” Dr. Hamilton gathered his instruments and put them into his black leather medical bag. “Well, carry on, Nurse Fields.” He sounded tired. “If your patient’s fever doesn’t break by morning, send for me at once. However, I think

it will, especially since we got some medicine and chicken broth into him tonight.”


Renna nodded while the old man waved over his shoulder as he left the hospital ward.


Returning her attention to her patient, Renna saw that he slept for the moment. His blue-black hair, which had just a slight wave to it, shone beneath the dampness of the fever. The stifling late summer heat of the room threatened to bring his temperature even higher.


Wiping a sleeve across her own beaded brow, Renna continued to sponge down her patient. Poor Mr. Blackeyes had been found floating in Lake Michigan after a terrible storm the past Sunday. The crew of the passing ship that found him had thought he was dead at first. But they pulled him aboard anyway. The ship’s doctor immediately examined him and detected a heartbeat, so he cared for him until the ship docked in Chicago’s harbor. As soon as the sailors could manage it, Mr. Blackeyes was deposited at Mercy Hospital and admitted to the second floor and into Renna’s care. Now, two days later, he finally showed some improvement.


Pulling the fever rag from the round porcelain bowl filled with cool water, Renna replaced it carefully across Mr. Blackeyes’s forehead. She could tell this man was different from the usual “unknowns” that the hospital acquired. His dark features somehow implied sophistication, even through several days’ growth of beard. And his powerful broad shoulders and muscular arms indicated the strength of a man accustomed to lifting or hoisting. And he was handsome, all right. A lady’s man, no doubt.


“But who are you, Mr. Blackeyes?” Renna murmured, gazing down at him.


As if in reply, the man groaned.


Renna settled him once more and then slowly stood. She forced her mind to dwell on her other patients as she made her rounds through the sick ward, a large room with whitewashed walls and a polished marble floor. Eight beds, four on each side, were neatly lined in rows, leaving a wide area in the center of the ward.


Moving from bed to bed, Renna checked each patient, thankful that this ward wasn’t full: only Mr. Anderson, suffering from a farming accident in which he lost his left arm; Mr. Taylor, who had had pneumonia but had recovered and would soon be released;

and, finally, young John Webster, who had been accidentally shot in the chest by his brother. It appeared the wounded young man wouldn’t live through the night, and his family had gathered around him, his mother weeping.


Taking pity on the Webster family, Renna set up several wooden screens to allow them some privacy. Then she checked on John. She could see death settling in. She was somewhat accustomed to the sight, as she’d trained in a Union military hospital in Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War. Still, watching a life slip away never got easier. But in this case Renna took heart that the Websters were people with a strong faith. Young John would soon go home to be with his Savior.


“Can I get anything for you, Mrs. Webster?” Renna asked the boy’s mother now.


A tall, very capable-looking woman, she shook her head. Several brunette curls tumbled from their bun.


Renna asked the same thing of the boy’s brother and father, but both declined.


“I didn’t mean ter shoot ’im, Ma!” the brother declared. He suddenly began to sob.


“Aw, I know ya didn’t mean it, son,” Mrs. Webster replied through her own tears. “It was an accident. That anyone can see!”


“Tell it to Jesus, boy.” His father’s eyes were red, his jaw grizzled. “Give the matter to Christ, just like we done gave John over to Him.”


Renna’s heart was with the family, but she suddenly felt like an intruder. The Websters needed their privacy. Stepping back, she gave them each a sympathetic smile before moving away.


Walking to the other side of the room now, Renna sat down on the edge of Mr. Blackeyes’s bed and sponged him down again. Afterward, she checked his head wound—nearly a three-inch gash above his left ear. It had needed to be sutured, and Dr. Hamilton

had seen to that when Mr. Blackeyes was first admitted. “Unknown Male” was the name on his chart. Most “unknowns” didn’t survive, so Renna was heartened that Mr. Blackeyes’s prognosis seemed promising.


Now if only his fever would break. If only he’d regain consciousness and pneumonia wouldn’t set in.


Momentarily closing her eyes, Renna prayed for God’s healing of this man. She had been praying earnestly for the last week. Why she felt so burdened for him, she couldn’t say, but she was.


Suddenly an abrupt command broke her thoughts. “Nurse Fields? Nurse Fields, you may go. I’m on duty now.”


Renna glanced at the doorway where Nurse Rutledge, the night nurse who was also her supervisor, stood. A large woman with beady, dark eyes, she had a no-nonsense way about her. That same stern disposition kept her lips in a perpetual frown.


“As usual, your charts are in order.”


Was that a hint of a smile? Renna guessed not.


“You’re excused.”


Renna replied with a nod. She didn’t dislike the night supervisor, although she wasn’t fond of the woman’s overbearing manner. Still, Nurse Rutledge was in charge. “Thank you, ma’am. I’ll just finish up here, and then I’ll be on my way.”


The older woman came up alongside her. “The first rule in nursing is, do not get emotionally attached to your patients. You know that.”


Renna rinsed the fever rag once more and draped it across Mr. Blackeyes’s forehead. “I’m not getting emotionally attached.” Renna felt her conscience prick. “I’m just . . . well, I’m burdened for this man. In the spiritual sense.”


“Humph! Call it what you will, Nurse Fields, but I happen to think you’re much too emotional and far too sensitive. It’s a wonder you’ve lasted in nursing this long. Why, I heard from the other nurses on duty today that you were crying with the Webster

family over their boy.” She sniffed in what seemed like disgust. “A nurse must never let her emotions get in the way of her duty, Nurse Fields.”


“Yes, ma’am.” Renna endured the rebuke. She’d heard it many times before.


Nurse Rutledge squared her wide shoulders. “Now, may I suggest that you leave your burden right here in this hospital bed and go home and get some rest? You’re due back here at six a.m., and I’ll expect you promptly!”


Renna nodded. Then, with a backward glance at Mr. Blackeyes, she left the sick ward. She gathered her things and made her way to the hospital’s main entrance. Outside, she paused and breathed deeply. The air was thick and humid, but it was free from the chloroform and antiseptics that she’d smelled all day.


She spied a hired hackney, and within minutes, Renna rode the mile to the home she shared with her parents. She was the oldest child in the family, but at the age of thirty, Renna was what society termed “a spinster.” Her two younger sisters were married and

producing children galore, and her one younger brother and his wife were now expecting their first baby.


Renna loved all her nieces and nephews. They filled her empty arms when she wasn’t nursing, and Jesus filled her heart. Time and time again, however, Renna was asked by a young niece or nephew, “Why didn’t you ever get married, Auntie Renna?” And

her reply was always, “I never fell in love.”


But the truth of the matter was no man would have her—even if she had fallen in love. The large purplish birthmark on the left side of her face deterred every eligible bachelor. The unsightly thing came down her otherwise flawless cheek to the side of her

nose and then around down to her jaw, like an ugly purple horseshoe branded into her face. One would think she’d be accustomed to the gawks, stares, and pitying glances sent her way at social functions, but they unnerved her. All dressed up and looking her

prettiest, Renna still felt marred and uncomely under the scrutiny of her peers—especially when she was in the company of eligible men to whom she was supposed to be attractive and charming. Renna never felt she was either of those.


Nursing, however, was different. In the hospital Renna felt confident of her abilities. Moreover, her patients were usually too sick or in too much pain to be concerned with her ugly birthmark.


Rather, they just wanted her care and sensitivity, and that’s what Renna thought she did best . . . in spite of what Nurse Rutledge said about her being too emotional and too sensitive. God in all His grace had given Renna a wondrous work in nursing, and it pleased her to be used in that way. What more could she want? And yet lately—lately Renna desired something more. Was it a sin to feel discontented after so many happy years of nursing?


The carriage stopped in front of Renna’s house. She climbed out, paid the driver, and then turned to open the little white gate of the matching picket fence around the front yard. A slight breeze blew, and Renna thought it felt marvelous after her sweltering day on the second floor of the hospital.


“Well, there you are, dear.” Her mother, Johanna Fields, stood with a pair of shears in her hand. She had obviously been pruning the flowers that graced the edge of the wide front porch. “You’re late tonight, Renna.” She studied her daughter. “Mr. Blackeyes? Is he . . . ?”


“He’s still alive.” She stepped toward her mother. “Dr. Hamilton thinks he may even live, except he has an awful fever now. We’re hoping it breaks by morning and thatpneumonia doesn’t set in.”


“Oh, dear . . . ” Mum shook her head sadly. “Well, we’ll keep praying, won’t we?”


Renna gave a nod before Mum hooked arms and led her into the house.


“I’ve made a light dinner tonight, Renna. Help yourself.”


“I appreciate it, but I’m too tired to eat.”


“But you need some nourishment.” Mum fixed a plate of cold beef, sliced tomatoes, and a crusty roll. “Here, sit down at the table.”


Renna allowed her mother to help her into the chair. After one bite she realized how ravenous she was and cleaned the plate. Minutes later her sister Elizabeth walked in with her twin daughters, Mary and Helena. Delight spread through Renna as the girls toddled into the kitchen.


“Hello, darlings.” She gave each a hug before smiling up at her younger sister.


“Renna, you look exhausted.” Elizabeth shook her head vehemently, causing strands of her light brown hair to escape their pinning. “You’ll be old before your time.”


“And what would you have me do? Sit around the house all day, twiddling my thumbs?” Seeing her sister’s injured expression, she softened her voice. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”


Elizabeth smiled. “All’s forgiven.”


Renna struggled to her feet. Her entire body ached from her long shift. “I’ll have to visit another time. I’m going up to bed.”


After bidding everyone a good night, Renna climbed the steps leading to the second floor. In her small bedroom she poured water from the large pitcher on her bureau into the chamber basin and then washed away the day’s heat. She pulled her cool, cotton nightgown over her head then took her Bible off the nightstand and continued her reading in John chapter 9. Renna realized as she read that physical ailments allowed God to show His glory, and she marveled as she read about the blind man who by simple faith and obedience regained his sight.


She bowed her head. Oh, Lord, that You might heal Mr. Black-eyes. That You might show Your power to those who don’t believe by healing him. Renna paused to remember her other patients then. And please rain down Your peace that passeth all understanding on the Websters tonight.


Despite the fact her eyelids threatened to close, Renna finished her Bible reading. She turned down the lamp as a breeze ruffled the curtains. Somehow Renna knew that John Webster would not be in her sick ward tomorrow morning. Nor would his family be there. Somehow Renna knew that John was with the Savior already.


But Mr. Blackeyes . . . why, he might not be a believer. It pained Renna to think of him spending an eternity apart from God.


Please heal him, Lord, she prayed as she crawled into bed. She allowed her eyes to finally shut, and the darkly handsome stranger who lay fighting for his life was the last person on Renna’s thoughts as she drifted off to sleep.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Wrap-Up

As near as I can tell, I read and reviewed 163 books in 2010.  Of those, 11 were DNF.  163 doesn't seem like very many, but it's just over 3 books per week, so I guess it is quite an accomplishment.

Some of my absolute favorites:


Petra: City of Stone
A Season of Miracles


In a Heartbeat
Uncovered


The Mailbox
Courting Morrow Little


She Walks in Beauty
Lipstick in Afghanistan

Some not so favorites:


Lydia's Charm
For Time and Eternity


Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Heidegger's Glasses



The Mermaid's Pendant 
Winter Bloom


True Disappointments:


Masquerade
The Help

Thanks for stopping by this past year.  Thanks for your comments and suggestions.  Here's to a fantastic 2011 and lots of good book discoveries!