Everyday Tidbits...

Fall, where are you? I get teasers of cooler weather, but you haven't arrived yet.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All Diets Work...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
So many of us run around searching (unsuccessfully) for the magic diet pill, gimmick, or claim that will finally help us shed unwanted weight. We fall prey to countless claims (and schemes) that suck our wallets dry, while leaving us more disappointed than ever.

All Diets Work will help you debunk fad-diet claims and peel away the hype and fancy packaging. It will help you identify your own strengths so you can build your personal arsenal of weight-loss tools that truly work for you today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life.

This is one of those books that I wish I had owned while I was in school. It would have saved me many mind numbing hours of nutrition class, listening to a somewhat disgruntled professor drone on at a bunch of students that she felt were beneath her.

This book is full of great nutritional tips, and is a fantastic starter for anybody who has realized that they need to learn more about where their nutrition is coming from, but are overwhelmed by all of the hype and misinformation scattered like potholes on the information superhighway (and how long has it been since you have heard anybody use that phrase?).

Along with great nutritional advice, there are also wonderful tools that you can use to create your own weight loss lifestyle, along with stories from people who have been there and made it happen (which is always my favorite part of this kind of a book, seeing people who have actually taken the advice given, put into action and made lasting changes in their lives).

The only area of this book that I would like to see expanded in future revisions are aspects dealing with the psychology of weight loss. As a doctor who treats people every day, I have never had an obese patient come in and be blown away by the sudden realization that they are fat. Anybody who struggles with their weight knows that they need to make a change, and getting them to a place where they can psychologically make the change is the hardest part of the battle.

I would highly recommend this book. My editor tells me that I have to have a rating system, so I would give this 4/5 stars, which is generally my highest rating anyway. I am such a nit-picking perfectionist that trying to find a book that gets five out of five is practically impossible.

Thanks to Tristi Pinkston and Jen Brewer for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jen Brewer here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews here:

August 22nd: http://www.ldswbr.com
August 24th: http://www.writinginberlin.blogspot.com/
August 25th: http://ldwmagazine.com/
August 26th: http://crane-ium.blogspot.com/
August 29th: http://cmichellejefferies.blogspot.com/
August 30th: http://overbackyardfence.blogspot.com/
August 31st: http://2kidsandtiredbooks.blogspot.com
September 1st: http://www.deanneblackhurst.blogspot.com
September 6th: http://debbiesinkspectations.blogspot.com/
September 9th: http://mariahoagland.blogspot.com
September 12th: http://www.writing4me2.blogspot.com/
September 16th: http://www.rebeccablevinswrites.blogspot.com/

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Read 8/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dawn of the Golden Promise...Review

About the book:
With passion and power, gifted novelist B.J. Hoff ignites the pages in this eagerly awaited fifth book of the Emerald Ballad saga, weaving a spellbinding tale of courageous individuals on both sides of the Atlantic those who left their homeland of Ireland to make a new life in America, and those who remained behind, anchored to the terrible beauty and mystery of the Emerald Isle:

Morgan Fitzgerald, confined to a wheelchair because of an assailant's bullet to his spine. Now he must confront the ultimate challenge to his faith a choice that could cost him everything the woman he loves, his family, even his life.

His wife Finola, facing her own moment of truth the hidden memories and dark secrets of her past that could well destroy her-unless she can find the strength to face them.

Michael Burke, a New York City cop caught in the conflict between his faith and his obsession with bringing Patrick Walsh to justice.

These and other unforgettable characters will captivate your heart and inspire your spirit with their faithfulness, their endurance-their reality.

Wow.  What a fantastic ending to a fabulous series.  I have loved the roller coaster that is the Emerald Ballad series.  As these characters find answers, they also discover strengths previously unknown.  More importantly, as they each recognize the path God has chosen for them, they discover that he will not leave them alone as they travel it.

With drama and sorrow, with faith and hope, and with Christmas miracles, everyone's stories come together at the end. 

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about BJ Hoff here.  You can read the first chapter here. You can purchase your own copy here.

You can see my reviews of the previous four books here:  Song of the Silent Harp, Heart of the Lonely Exile, Land of a Thousand Dreams and Sons of an Ancient Glory.

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Dawn of the Golden Promise...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:

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


In the fifth and concluding volume of her bestselling The Emerald Ballad Series, BJ Hoff brings the exciting Irish-American historical drama to a climax with all the passion and power readers have come to expect from her.

The saga finds Morgan Fitzgerald adapting to life in a wheelchair as a result of an assailant’s bullet to his spine. Meanwhile, his wife, Finola, must face the dark memories and guarded secrets of her past. In New York City, policeman Michael Burke is caught in a conflict between his faith and his determination to bring a dangerous enemy to justice.

This unforgettable series began with the promise of an epic love story and an inspiring journey of faith. The finale delivers on that promise.

About This Series:
BJ Hoff’s Emerald Ballad series was one of the most memorable series published in the 1990s. With combined sales of 300,000 copies, these beloved books found a place in the hearts of BJ’s many fans. Now redesigned and freshly covered the saga is available again to a new generation of readers—and BJ’s many new fans due to her highly successful Amish series, The Riverhaven Years—The Emerald Ballad series will once again find an enthusiastic audience.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)
Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736927964
ISBN-13: 978-0736927963

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Dark Terror



For hope will expire

As the terror draws nigher,

And, with it, the Shame…



James Clarence Mangan (1803–1849)



Near the coast of Portugal

Late June 1850



A little before midnight, Rook Mooney left his card game and went on deck. The starless night sky churned with low-hanging clouds, and although the wind was only beginning to blow up, Mooney knew the storm would be on them within the hour.



He hated sea storms at night, especially the ones that came up all of a sudden. The Atlantic was bad-tempered and unpredictable; she could turn vicious as a wounded witch without warning. Even the most seasoned sailor never took her for granted, and many a callow youth had been turned away from the sea forever by a particularly savage gale.



Had it not been for the brewing storm, Mooney would have been glad for the wind. Lisbon had been sultry, too warm for his liking. He was ready for Ireland’s mild skies.



Hunched over the rail, he stared into the darkness. Although they were another night closer to Ireland, his mood was nearly as black as the sky. He had thought to see Dublin long before now, but instead he had spent three months in a filthy Tangier cell for breaking an innkeeper’s skull.



The darkness deep within him rose up and began to spread. It was her fault. The Innocent. His hands tightened on the rail, his mouth twisting at the memory of her. All these months—more than a year now—and he still couldn’t get her out of his mind. She was like a fire in his brain, boiling in him, tormenting him, driving him half mad.



Nothing had gone right for him since that night at Gemma’s Place. He spent his days with a drumming headache, his nights in a fog of whiskey and fever. His temper was a powder keg, ignited by the smallest spark. Even women were no good for him now. He could scarcely bear the sight of the used, worn-out strumpets who haunted the foreign ports. They all seemed dirty after her. Her, with her ivory skin and golden hair and fine clean scent.



Like some shadowy, infernal sea siren, she seemed to call to him. He was never free of her, could find no peace from her.



His grip on the rail increased. Soon, in only a few days now, they would reach Dublin. He would go back to Gemma’s Place. This time he wouldn’t go so easy on her. This time when he was finished with her, he would put an end to her witchery. He’d snuff out her life…and be free.



All at once rain drenched him. Waves churned up like rolling dunes, pitching the ship as if it were a flimsy child’s toy. Angry and relentless, the gale whipped the deck. Salt from the sea mixed with the rain, burning Mooney’s eyes and stinging his skin as the downpour slashed his face.



He swore into the raging night, anchoring himself to the rail. He felt no terror of the storm, only a feral kind of elation, as if the wildness of the wind had stirred a dark, waiting beast somewhere in the depths of his being.



Drogheda



The small cottage in the field seemed to sway in the wind. Frank Cassidy resisted the urge to duck his head against the thunder that shook the walls and the fierce lightning that streaked outside the window.



After months of following a maze of wrong turns, Cassidy could scarcely believe that he now sat across from the one person who might finally bring his search to an end. It had been a long, frustrating quest, and up until now a futile one. But tonight, in this small, barren cottage outside the old city where Black Cromwell had unleashed his obscene rage, his hopes were rising by the moment.



Friendship had motivated him to undertake the search for Finola Fitzgerald’s past, but nothing more than the unwillingness to disappoint Morgan had kept him going. He owed his old friend a great deal—indeed, he would have done most anything the Fitzgerald had asked of him. But in recent months he had wondered more than once if this entire venture might not end in total defeat. Every road he had taken led only to failure. Every clue he had followed proved worthless.



Until now.



The possibility of finding his answers in Drogheda had first occurred to Cassidy months ago. A Dublin street musician’s vague remark about an unsolved murder in the ancient city—a tragic mystery involving a young girl—had fired his interest and sent him on his way that same week.



According to the musician, a woman named Sally Kelly and her son Peter were likely to have information about the incident. Cassidy had wasted several days in Drogheda trying to locate the pair, only to discover that they had gone north some years past.



He started on to Cavan, eventually traveling as far west as Roscommon, but found no trace, not even a hint, of the Kellys. He started back to Drogheda, discouraged and uncertain about what to do next. To his astonishment, a casual conversation with a tinker on the road revealed that a youth named Peter Kelly had taken up a small tenant farm just outside the old city only weeks before.



Now, sitting across from the lad himself, Cassidy could barely contain his excitement. Even the brief, fragmented story he had managed to glean so far told him that this time he would not leave Drogheda empty-handed.



“If only you could have talked with me mum before she passed on,” Peter Kelly was saying. “She more than likely could have told you all you want to know. There’s so much I can’t remember, don’t you see.”



Kelly was a strapping young man, with shirt sleeves rolled over muscled arms. His face was sunburned and freckled, his rusty hair crisp with tight curls.



“Still, I’d be grateful to hear what you do remember,” Cassidy told him. “Anything at all.”



Dipping one hand into the crock on the table, Kelly retrieved a small potato, still in its jacket, and began to peel it with his thumbnail. Motioning toward the crock, he indicated that Cassidy should help himself.



For a short time they sat in silence, perched on stools at the deal table eating their potatoes. The cottage was old, with but one room and a rough-hewn fireplace. Boxes pegged to the wall held crockery and plates. A straw mattress was draped with a frayed brown blanket. There were no other furnishings.



Peter Kelly had a friendly, honest face and intelligent eyes. “I don’t mind telling you what I recall,” he said, “but I fear it isn’t much. ’ Twas a good seven years ago, or more. I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven at the time, if that.”



“And your mother was employed as cook?” prompted Cassidy.



The youth nodded. “Aye, she had been in service for Mr. Moran since I was but a wee wane. It was just the two of us. Me da had already passed on long before then.”



“Tell me about Moran,” Cassidy prompted. “Was he a wealthy man?”



Kelly took another bite of potato and shrugged. “Not wealthy and not poor,” he said. “He had an apothecary, but he also acted as a physician of sorts. His father before him left the business and the property. The land was fine, but not exceedingly large. There were some small crops and a few trees—and a lake.”



“And Moran himself? What sort of a man was he?”



Again the lad shrugged. “I recall he was an elderly gentleman. All alone, except for the daughter. His wife died in childbirth, I believe. As best I remember, he treated Mum and me fine.” He paused. “Mum said Mr. Moran doted on the daughter.”



“You mentioned the day of the shooting,” Cassidy urged. “I’d be grateful if you’d tell me about it.”



Peter Kelly licked his fingers before reaching for another potato. “I recall it was a warm day. Spring or summer it must have been, for the trees were in leaf and the sun was bright. I was in the woods when I heard all the commotion. I wasn’t supposed to go in the woods at all,” he explained, glancing up, “for Mum was always fearful of the place. But I played there every chance I got, all the same.”



Rubbing his big hands on his trouser legs, he went on. “But didn’t I go flying out of there fast enough when I heard the screaming? Took off as if the devil himself was after me, I did.”



Cassidy leaned forward, his muscles tensed. “What screaming would that have been?”



“Why, it sounded for all the world like a mountain cat in a trap! ’ Twas too far away for me to see, but I could tell the ruckus was coming from near the lake, at the far end of the property. I took off running for the house.”



He glanced at Cassidy, his expression slightly shamefaced. “I was but a lad,” he muttered. “All I could think of was to get away from the terrible screaming without me mum finding out I’d been playing in the woods again. She was a stern woman.”



“So you saw nothing at all?”



The boy shook his head, and Cassidy felt a shroud of familiar disappointment settle over him. Still, he wasn’t about to give up. “And what happened then, lad?”



“Mum hauled me into the kitchen, then went for Mr. Moran. He told us to stay put while he went to investigate.” He paused. “I saw a pistol in his hand, and I remember me mum was shaking something fierce. We heard the shots not long after Mr. Moran left the house with the gun.”



Cassidy’s interest piqued. He leaned forward. “Shots, did you say?”



Kelly nodded. “Mr. Moran was shot and killed that day.” After a moment he added, “Everyone said it was the teacher who murdered him.”



Curbing his impatience, Cassidy knotted his hands. “What teacher, Peter?”



Young Kelly scratched his head. “Why, I can’t recall his name—it’s been so long—but I do remember he was a Frenchman. Mr. Moran was determined his daughter would be educated, you see, and not in no hedge school, either. He hired the Frenchman as a tutor, and to coach her in the voice lessons. She was musical, you know.”



Cassidy’s mind raced. “This teacher—he lived with the family, did he?”



“He did. It seems to me he had a room upstairs in the house.”



“But what reason would he have had to shoot James Moran?”



Peter Kelly met Cassidy’s eyes across the table. “The story went that Mr. Moran must have been trying to save his daughter from the man’s advances, but the Frenchman got the best of him. Mr. Moran was elderly, mind, and would have been no match for the teacher.”



As Cassidy struggled to piece together what Kelly had told him, the youth went on. “I’m afraid I don’t know much else, sir. Only that Mr. Moran died from the shooting, and the daughter disappeared.”



Cassidy looked at him. “Disappeared?”



“She was never seen after that day,” said Kelly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Mum went looking for her after she found Mr. Moran dead, but there wasn’t a trace of her, not a trace. Nothing but her tin whistle, which they found lying near the lake. No, they never found her nor the Frenchman.” He drew in a long breath, adding, “Mum always said she didn’t believe they tried any too hard, either.”



Cassidy frowned. “Why would she think that?”



Peter Kelly twisted his mouth. “The police didn’t care all that much, don’t you see. The Morans weren’t important enough for them to bother with, Mum said. They didn’t know where to look, so they simply pretended to search.”



Cassidy drummed his finger on the table. “Could the girl simply have run off with the Frenchman, do you think?”



The other shook his head forcefully. “No, sir, I’m certain it was nothing of the sort. Mum was convinced the Frenchman had done something terrible to the lass, and that was why Mr. Moran went after him. But Mr. Moran, he was that frail; a younger man would outmatch him easy enough, she said. Mum was convinced until the day she died that the Frenchman murdered Mr. Moran and then ran off.”



Cassidy rubbed his chin. “But that doesn’t account for the girl,” he said, thinking aloud. “What of her?”



“It pained me mum to think so, but she always believed the Frenchman took the lass with him.”



“Abducted her, d’you mean?”



Peter nodded. “Aye, and perhaps murdered her as well.” He seemed to reminisce for a moment. “Mum never liked that Frenchman, you see. Not a bit. He gave himself airs, she said, and had a devious eye.”



Cassidy’s every instinct proclaimed that at last he had found what he was searching for, but he had been thwarted too many times not to be cautious. Getting to his feet, he untied the pouch at his waist and withdrew the small portrait Morgan had sent him some months past.



He unfolded it, then handed it to Peter Kelly. “Would this be the girl?” he asked, his pulse pounding like the thunder outside. “Would the Moran lass resemble this portrait today, do you think?”



As Kelly studied the portrait, his eyes widened. “Why, ’tis her,” he said, nodding slowly. “Sure, ’tis Miss Finola herself.”



Cassidy stared at him. “Finola?” he said, his voice cracking. “That was her name—Finola?    ”



“It was indeed,” the lad said. “And didn’t it suit her well, at that? Tall and lovely, she was, and several years older than myself. Wee lad that I was, I thought her an enchanted creature. A princess…with golden hair.”



A wave of exhilaration swept over Cassidy. He had all he could do not to shout. According to Morgan, the one thing Finola Fitzgerald had seemed to remember about her past was her given name.



“You’re quite sure, lad?” he said, his voice none too steady. “It’s been many a year since you last saw the lass, after all.”



Kelly nodded, still studying the portrait. “ ’ Tis her. Sure, and she’s a woman grown, but a face is not easily forgotten, no matter the years.”



“Now that is the truth,” agreed Cassidy, smiling at the boy.



“Is she found then, sir, after all this time?” Kelly asked, returning the portrait to Cassidy.



Still smiling, Cassidy stared at the portrait. “Aye, lad,” he said after a moment, his voice hoarse with excitement. “She is found. She is safe, and a married woman now.”



“Ah…thanks be to God!” said Peter Kelly.



“Indeed,” Cassidy echoed. “Thanks be to God.”



Nelson Hall, Dublin



For the second time in a week, Finola’s screams pierced the late night silence of the bedroom. Instantly awake, Morgan reached for her, then stopped. He had learned not to touch her until she was fully awake and had recognized him.



“Finola?” Leaning over her, he repeated her name softly. “Finola, ’tis Morgan. You’re dreaming, macushla. You are safe. Safe with me.”



Her body was rigid, her arms crossed in front of her face as if to ward off an attack. She thrashed, moaning and sobbing, her eyes still closed.



Outside, thunder rumbled in the distance and the lightning flared halfheartedly, then strengthened. As if sensing the approaching storm, Finola gave a startled cry.



Morgan continued to soothe her with his voice, speaking softly in the Irish. It was all he could do not to gather her in his arms. But when the nightmare had first begun, months ago, he had made the mistake of trying to rouse her from it. She had gone after him like a wild thing, pummeling him with her fists, scraping his face with her nails as she fought him off.



Whatever went on in that dark, secret place of the dream must be an encounter of such dread, such horror, as to temporarily seize her sanity. The Finola trapped in that nightmare world was not in the least like the gentle, soft-voiced Finola he knew as his wife. In the throes of the dream she was a woman bound, terrorized by something too hideous to be endured.



No matter how he ached to rescue her, he could do nothing…nothing but wait.

In the netherworld of the dream, Finola stood in a dark and windswept cavern.



Seized by terror, she cupped her hands over her ears to shut out the howling of the wind.



The wind. She knew it was coming for her, could hear the angry, thunderous roar, feel the trembling of the ground beneath her feet as the storm raced toward her.



Faster now…a fury of a wind, gathering speed as it came, raging and swooping down upon her like a terrible bird of prey, gathering momentum as it hurled toward her…closing in, seizing her.



Black and fierce, it seemed alive as it dragged her closer…closer into its eye, as if trying to swallow her whole. As she struggled to break free, she heard in the farthest recesses of the darkness a strange, indefinable sound, a sound of sorrow, as if all the trees in the universe were sighing their grief.



She tried to run but was held captive by the force of the wind. It pounded her, squeezing the breath from her, dragging her into a darkness so dense it filled her eyes, her mouth, her lungs…oh, dear Jesus, it was crushing her…crushing her to nothing—



Finola sat straight up in bed, as if propelled by some raw force of terror. She gasped, as always, fighting for her breath.



Soaked in perspiration, Finola stared at Morgan, her gaze filled with horror.



Still he did not touch her. “You are safe, Finola aroon. ’      Twas only a bad dream. You are here with me.”



She put a hand to her throat and opened her mouth as if to speak, but made no sound. Finally…finally, she made a small whimper, like that of a frightened animal sprung free from a trap.



At last Morgan saw a glint of recognition. Finola moaned, then sagged into his waiting arms.



Stroking her hair, Morgan held her, crooning to her as he would a frightened child. “There’s nothing to harm you, my treasure. Nothing at all.”



“Hold me…hold me…”



Tightening his arms about her still more, he began to rock her gently back and forth. “Shhh, now, macushla…everything is well. You are safe.”



He felt her shudder against him, and he went on, lulling her with his voice, stroking her hair until at last he felt her grow still. “Was it the same as before?” he asked.



Her head nodded against his chest.



He knew it might be hours before she would be able to sleep again. So great was the dream’s terror that she dreaded closing her eyes afterward. Sometimes she lay awake until dawn.



Her description of the nightmare never failed to chill Morgan. It had begun not long after their first physical union. Although he could scarcely bring himself to face the possibility, he could not help but wonder if their intimacy, though postponed, might not somehow be responsible.



At the outer fringes of his mind lurked a growing dread that by marrying her and taking her into his bed, he had somehow invoked the nightmare. He prayed it was not so, but if it continued, he would eventually have to admit his fear to Finola. They would have to speak of it.



But not yet. Not tonight. Tonight he would simply hold her until she no longer trembled, until she no longer clung to him as if he alone could banish the horror.

Unwilling to forsake the comforting warmth of Morgan’s embrace, Finola lay, unmoving. Gradually she felt her own pulse slow to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat. “I’m sorry I woke you,” she whispered.



He silenced her with a finger on her lips. “There is nothing to be sorry for. Hush, now, and let me hold you.”



Something was coming. Something dark. Something cold and dark and sinister…



Thunder boomed like distant cannon, and Finola shivered. Wrapped safely in Morgan’s arms, she struggled to resist the dark weight of foreboding that threatened to smother her.



It was always like this after the nightmare, as if the black wind in the dream still hovered oppressively near, waiting to overtake her after she was fully awake. Sometimes hours passed before she could completely banish the nightmare’s terror.



Were it not for the safe wall of Morgan’s presence to soothe and shield her, she thought she might go mad in the aftermath of the horror. But always he was there, his sturdy arms and quiet voice her stronghold of protection. Her haven.



“Better now, macushla   ?” he murmured against her hair.



Finola nodded, and he gently eased her back against the pillows, settling her snugly beside him, her head on his shoulder.



“Try to sleep,” he said, brushing a kiss over the top of her head. “Nothing will hurt you this night. Nothing will ever hurt you again, I promise you.”



Finola closed her eyes and forced herself to lie still. She knew Morgan would not allow himself to sleep until she did, so after a few moments she pretended to drift off; in a short while, she heard his breathing grow even and shallow.



After he fell asleep, she lay staring at the window, trying not to jump when lightning streaked and sliced the night. She hugged her arms to herself as the thunder groaned. In the shelter of Morgan’s embrace, it was almost possible to believe that he was right, that nothing would hurt her ever again. She knew that with the first light of the morning, the nightmare would seem far distant, almost as if it had never happened.



But just as surely, she knew night would come again, and with the night would come the dream, with its dark wind and evil hidden somewhere deep within.



After a long time, Finola began to doze. But just as she sank toward the edge of unconsciousness, the wind shrieked. Like the sudden convulsion of a wren’s wings, panic shook her and she jolted awake.



Feeling irrationally exposed and vulnerable, she listened to the storm play out its fury. Thunder hammered with such force that the great house seemed to shudder and groan, while the wind went howling as if demanding entrance.



Again she closed her eyes, this time to pray.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How Do People Find My Blog, part 5?

 It's been 8 months since my last installment of How Do People Find My Blog. Sometimes, it's quite interesting, and even a bit confusing! So, sit back and laugh at some of the searches that have brought people to 2 Kids and Tired Books.

tired two yrs after 2nd kid... Honey, I'm tired and it's been 10 years since my second and last kid!

she has thick lips to be popular fiction...Um, ok?  Whatever you say...

kids facts about dinosaurs...My 10 year old is the expert.  I seriously believe that there is no dinosaur that he doesn't know about.

naked kid movies...You are sick and twisted and need help.

have 2 kids tired...Me too.  Me too!

girls of insanity workout naked...If you say so.  I'm more comfortable working out while wearing clothes. If I work out...

tiredbook...Ok. Whatever?

spilling kids...Did you have them in a cup or a bowl?  OR did you mean to write  "spoiling kids "? Can't help you with either one. Sorry!

recommend the particular sadness of lemon cake for kids?...Heck, I don't even recommend it for adults.

outlander book sex scenes...There are a lot of sex scenes in Outlander.  Too many for my taste.

examples of ways nuclear energy change form... I have no idea.  My husband would know. I should ask him.  

Mr. Tucket Book Report...You'd better be reading the book yourself and writing your own book report, thank you very much.  Anything else is plagiarism.  Got it, you slacker?

+slash tires +charlotte -nascar -sale..."...it's Nascar, who gives a damn?"  (Two points for the person who can tell me where that quote comes from.)

sample of a summary for Essay for Mr. Tucket...Ok, seriously.  What is it with you people and Mr. Tucket?  Read the book yourself. 

how to put a smile on her face... You really want to know?  Do the dishes, vacuum the floor, fold and put away the laundry. Pour her a big glass of something cold and let her put her feet up for the whole afternoon, undisturbed, with a book.  Then, order take-out, and clean up afterwards.  Then let her have a bubble bath, undisturbed, for as long as she wants.  Then, let her go to sleep, undisturbed.  She'll have a smile on her face the next morning, and if you've done it right, you'll have one on yours that next evening.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Recently Discovered...

I stumbled into some new book blogs this week and just had to share.  One of my favorite joys is discovering new books and new book blogs.

Booktalk & More
Flashlight Commentary
Rhapsody in Books
Sugarpeach
SusieBookworm

What are your recently discovered finds?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Amish Values for Your Family...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
For readers who long for strong families that know how to truly enjoy life together, there is much to learn from the Amish. Values like community, forgiveness, simple living, obedience, and more can be your family legacy--without selling your car, changing your wardrobe, or moving out to farm country.

In Amish Values for Your Family, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher shows how you can adopt the wisdom of the Amish when it comes to family matters. In this inspiring and practical book readers will find charming true stories interlaced with solid, biblical advice about parenting, marriage, and all aspects of family life. As readers get an intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of real Amish families, they will learn to prioritize what's truly important, simplify decision-making, slow down as a family, safeguard time together, and let go when the time comes.

That the Amish people have strong families is well known.  Why they have them is what fascinates so many people.  Here, Suzanne Woods Fisher shares the secrets of Amish family life.  Through Amish proverbs, personal stories and anecdotes, Suzanne shows us that everyone of us can incorporate Amish values in our own lives.

As I read this little gem of a book, I thought that much of living life really is so simple.  We tend to make it complicated.  So much of the Amish way of life can be boiled down into one word:  kindness.  They are kind to each other, they care about each other, whether it be family, neighbor or even stranger.  There is respect in these families and in their communities.  I think a little more kindness would go a long way in making our own homes and communities happier and more successful.

This is a book that I will read again and I will have a highlighter and pen with me so I can mark passages and jot down my thoughts.  It's one of the best parenting books I think I've ever read.

Thanks to Amy at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Suzanne Woods Fisher here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 8/11

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

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GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate the release of Amish Values for Your Family, Suzanne has teamed up her publisher Revell Books to giveaway a Kindle, and with Bill Coleman (the amazing photographer used on Suzanne’s book covers) to give away a signed Bill Coleman original.


One Grand Prize winner will receive an Amish Values Prize Package (valued at over $200) and includes:

* A brand new KINDLE
* A Signed Bill Coleman original
* Amish Values for Your Family (for KINDLE)

Click on one of the icons to enter. Winner will be announced on 9/2 at Suzanne’s blog. Be sure to stop by the blogs on Suzanne’s blog tour – many have copies of Amish Values for Your Family to give away.

But, wait there's more! Suzanne is running a Bill Coleman caption contest during the month of August on her blog. Title one of Bill’s gorgeous photos for a chance to win a print from Bill’s Amish Photo site and/or a copy of Amish Values for Your Family.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just My Type...Review and Giveaway

A hugely entertaining and revealing guide to the history of type that asks, What does your favorite font say about you?

Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product we buy. But where do fonts come from, and why do we need so many? Who is responsible for the staid practicality of Times New Roman, the cool anonymity of Arial, or the irritating levity of Comic Sans (and the movement to ban it)?

Typefaces are now 560 years old, but we barely knew their names until about twenty years ago when the pull-down font menus on our first computers made us all the gods of type. Beginning in the early days of Gutenberg and ending with the most adventurous digital fonts, Simon Garfield explores the rich history and subtle powers of type. He goes on to investigate a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seeming ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and exactly why the all-type cover of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus was so effective. It also examines why the "T" in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters and how Gotham helped Barack Obama into the White House. A must-have book for the design conscious, Just My Type's cheeky irreverence will also charm everyone who loved Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Schott's Original Miscellany.

I've always been fascinated by fonts.  I worked at a national laboratory for 15 years in an administrative capacity.  I created, prepared and edited many papers and presentations.  I also watched in horror as scientists presented PowerPoint presentations filled with every kind of graphic and font imaginable.  (PowerPoint itself is a topic for another book!)  I currently edit the proceedings for an annual scientific conference.  Each year, I receive papers and presentations which were given at this conference.  I assemble, format, edit and prepare this proceedings for publication and I am still amazed at the font choices made by educated men and women as they present their scientific findings and opinions.

I always knew that there was history behind every font, but I had no idea to the extent that some fonts were loved or despised.  Fonts just show up in your computer software, you can download them from multiple places online.  Some fonts are instantly recognizable, even without seeing the actual person, place or product that font represents.  How many of us actually take the time to ponder or think about them?

Simon Garfield has written a fascinating book about the rich history of fonts and printing.  We all have our favorite fonts and in Just My Type Simon shares why certain fonts appeal.  Informative as well as a bit sardonic (I love the Brits), it's a book that can be read in order of chapters, or piecemeal.  An occasional chapter gets bogged down a bit with historical facts, but others are full of cheeky humor.  One cool thing is that the fonts mentioned are printed in the appropriate font type. 

It's easy to see why a book like this would appeal to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Simon Garfield here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, August 15th:  Melody & Words
Tuesday, August 16th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Wednesday, August 17th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, August 18th:  Books Like Breathing
Monday, August 22nd:  A Home Between Pages
Tuesday, August 23rd:  Steph and Tony Investigate
Wednesday, August 24th:  1330V
Thursday, August 25th:  2 Kids and Tired
Friday, August 26th:  Amused by Books
Monday, August 29th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, August 31st:  Simply Stacie
Thursday, September 1st:  BookNAround
Tuesday, September 6th:  Bibliosue
Wednesday, September 7th:  Man of La Book
Thursday, September 8th:  My Book Retreat
Monday, September 12th:  Lit and Life
Wednesday, September 14th:  In the Pages

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GIVEAWAY:

Because I liked Just My Type, thanks to the publisher, I'm offering a giveaway. It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so your email address will suffice.

However:
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

If you choose to become a follower or tell me you already are, you can gain an additional entry too.

If you wanted to blog or tweet about it, that's great too, and you'd get an extra entry for that.

Just fill out the form.  A comment would be nice too, but isn't required!

U.S. or Canada addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

This giveaway is now closed.

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Read 8/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars



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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Becoming Marie Antoinette...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.

Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike.

Marie Antoinette has always fascinated me.  I was fortunate years ago, to visit Versailles and it was amazing.  The lavish excesses were simply beyond my understanding, but the castle and its grounds were gorgeous.

This story begins with young Austrian archduchess, Maria Antonia as a child.  As was often the case among European royalty, her purpose in life was simply to be a political pawn and marry a king.  When her mother arranges a marriage with the young dauphin of France, she must undergo a tremendous makeover that included 18th century braces and learning how to walk properly in ridiculous skirts.  Then as a young teenager, she is shipped to France and married to an equally young dauphin, Louis Auguste.

Much to her chagrin, Antoinette's life was very open: she had a public marriage and the court's knowledge of her new husband's inability to consummate their marriage.  The dauphin had no desire to be King of France and the novel ends shortly after Louis XVI's ascension to the throne of France.  As it's part of a trilogy, I can't wait for the next installment!

The royal court of France was a hostile, contentious place.  More emphasis was placed on the rules of court than actual political issues themselves.  Life was about who you knew and who you had in your favor.  The young royals were used and manipulated by those who ranked above them, even their own family members.  As Antoinette began to exert her own personality and influence, it was not well received.

Juliet Grey has done her research well and the result is an enthralling, fictionalized account about the Queen of France.  She has captured the essence of the young queen and even though you know the end result of Marie Antoinette's saga, the novel is engrossing.  Narrated in first person through Marie Antoinette's voice, this is a captivating story and one I can easily recommend. 

First in a trilogy, I look forward to the remaining books.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Juliet Grey here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews on the book tour here.

Monday, August 1st:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, August 3rd:  Well Read Wife
Thursday, August 4th:  Broken Teepee
Monday, August 8th:  Coffee and a Book Chick
Tuesday, August 9th:  The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, August 10th:  A Library of My Own
Thursday, August 11th:  Stiletto Storytime
Monday, August 15th:  In the Hammock
Tuesday, August 16th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, August 17th:  Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, August 18th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, August 22nd:  The Broke and the Bookish
Tuesday, August 23rd:  Stephanie’s Written Word
Wednesday, August 24th:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Monday, August 29th:  Book Reviews by Molly
Wednesday, August 31st:  So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

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GIVEAWAY:
Because I liked Becoming Marie Antoinette, thanks to the publisher, I'm offering a giveaway. It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so your email address will suffice.

However:
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

If you choose to become a follower or tell me you already are, you can gain an additional entry too.

If you wanted to blog or tweet about it, that's great too, and you'd get an extra entry for that.

Just fill out the form.  A comment would be nice too, but isn't required!

U.S. or Canada addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

This giveaway is now closed.

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 Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars



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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to Love an American Man...Review

About the book:
An endearing and unforgettable memoir of love, self-discovery, and enduring, old-fashioned values.

Kristine Gasbarre made a New York career of dating driven, inaccessible men. When she realizes her love life will never result in happiness if she continues on the same path, she makes a big decision—relocating to Italy to discover her roots and find out what defines her adoring grandpa. But upon receiving the news of his sudden passing, she is lured away.

With nowhere left to go, Krissy returns to her small hometown for the first time in a decade to help care for her grandmother—a refined, private matriarch suffering from early dementia along with the loss of her husband. In her reluctant agreement to share the nearly lost love stories and transformative lessons from her rich sixty-year marriage, Krissy’s grandma becomes the one offering comfort as she coaches her granddaughter through the fear of loving. Grandma’s unapologetic femininity and secret giving spirit opens Krissy’s eyes about relationships, teaching her the single most important requisite for loving a man: first a woman has to learn the power of her own inner beauty.

I have really mixed feelings about this book and how to write the review..  The synopsis and premise for this memoir sounded enthralling and I was anxious to read it, imagining a rich story of maternal family relationships.  Instead, it was shallow and self-serving.

After starting it, I had to force myself to pick it up, as it was very easy to set aside and forget about it.

While this is a memoir, I really didn't like Krissy.  I didn't care about her.  Her time in Italy was almost written as an afterthought and burdened with her obsession over a man.  Her romances and the men in her life were shallow, not inspiring, with her neediness overshadowing everything. I'm a happily married 40 something woman.  Perhaps, if I was single and unmarried, I could have related to Krissy and her romantic frustrations more, but I honestly don't think so, because I was a happy, content and single 29 year old woman when I finally met and married my husband.

As Krissy recounted her grandfather's death, I cried, as it brought back so much of when my father died.  I could relate to Krissy's loss and pain.  I have no doubts that her grandfather was an important figure in her life and I appreciated the relationship she had with her grandmother and her desire to be like her. From her grandma, Krissy learns to appreciate herself and the qualities that make a woman who she is.  That was the best part about the book and its most redeeming feature: Krissy's relationship with her grandmother. 

While not a book I related to, it is one that will resonate with others, and you can see more positive reviews from some of the blogs listed below.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kristine Gasbarre here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, August 16th: nomadreader
Wednesday, August 17th: Rundpinne
Thursday, August 18th: Life In Review
Monday, August 22nd: BookNAround
Tuesday, August 23rd: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Wednesday, August 24th: Library of Clean Reads
Thursday, August 25th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Monday, August 29th: Crazy for Books
Tuesday, August 30th: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, August 31st: Books Like Breathing
Thursday, September 1st: Peeking Between the Pages

Read 8/11

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blue Skies Tomorrow...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
In a time of peril, can they find the courage to confront their fears and embrace a love that lasts?

When her husband becomes a casualty of the war in the Pacific, Helen Carlisle throws herself into volunteering for the war effort to conceal her feelings. But keeping up appearances as the grieving widow of a hometown hero is taking its toll. Soon something is going to give.

Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit. His stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life--and a convenient excuse to ignore his deepest fear. When the beautiful Helen catches his eye and captures his heart, he is determined to win her hand.

But when Ray and Helen are called upon to step out in faith and put their reputations and their lives on the line, can they meet the challenges that face them? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

Filled with drama, daring, and all the romance of the WWII era, Blue Skies Tomorrow is the captivating final book in the popular Wings of Glory series.

When her husband is killed during the war, Helen Carlisle struggles with appearing to be the grieving widow, all while keeping the harrowing secrets about her husband and her marriage.  With controlling in-laws and an out of control toddler, she is torn between duty to a dead man and finding a new life and new love for herself.

Ray has his own fears and demons to conquer and must fly a combat tour in England and leave Helen behind, unsure of their future.

While this installment is about Ray, all three of the Novak brothers play a significant role. We see the conclusions to Allie and Walt's and Jack and Ruth's stories.  With the drama moving between California, England and Germany, this is an exciting, enthralling novel.  Historically it's well researched and the flying/combat scenes are tense and exciting.

One of my favorite things about this series is its Northern California setting.  I grew up in a city about 30 miles south of Antioch, California.  I am familiar with many of the local landmarks in the area and I especially loved the reference to Mt. Diablo!

I have loved the Wings of Glory series and I anxiously awaited the third and final book. I was thrilled to find that Blue Skies Tomorrow did not disappoint me. This is an exciting conclusion to the trilogy and I look forward to more from Sarah Sundin.

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna from Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Sarah Sundin here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

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GIVEAWAY:
Because I liked Blue Skies Tomorrow so much, I'm offering a giveaway. It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so your email address will suffice.

However:
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

If you choose to become a follower or tell me you already are, you can gain an additional entry too.

If you wanted to blog or tweet about it, that's great too, and you'd get an extra entry for that.

Just fill out the form.  A comment would be nice too, but isn't required!

U.S. addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

This giveaway is now closed.

----------------------------------------

Read 7/11

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


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Friday, August 19, 2011

Ransome's Quest...Review

About the book:
This fast-paced, engaging end to the Ransome Trilogy follows a tale of love and danger on the Caribbean Sea in the early 1800s.

Captain William Ransome is searching for his sister, Charlotte, who has been captured by Salvadore, the infamous 'Robin Hood of the West Indies.' When word comes that his wife, Julia, has been kidnapped by the evil pirate, Shaw, Captain Ransome and his crew frantically search the horizon for the two women he loves. After Charlotte is found, she emerges with revelations about Salvadore's true identity and his willingness to help search for Julia. It's news that sends shockwaves through the family.

Will Captain Ransome trust Salvadore to help rescue his beloved wife? And what other secrets have been buried like long lost treasure in these waters? Romance, intrigue, and swashbuckling leaps of faith create a wonderfully heroic close to this beloved series.

Picking up where Ransome's Crossing left off, Charlotte Ransome and her sister-in-law have been kidnapped by pirates.  The men who love them, Captain Ned Cochrane and Commodore William Ransome must search the Caribbean.  Along the way they fight battles, uncover secrets and find more than one missing person.

Charlotte and Julia's personalities are just as strong here, as they are in the first two books.  Charlotte cannot resist adventure and her penchant for finding it hasn't waned.  A delightful, entertaining story and a fitting end to an entertaining trilogy.

Click here to read reviews for Ransome's Honor and Ransome's Crossing.  Technically this book could stand alone, but it's really best if you've read the first two for the back story and history.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Kaye Dacus here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Ransome's Quest...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:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kaye Dacus, author of Ransome’s Honor has a BA in English, with a minor in history, and an MA in writing popular fiction. Her love of the Regency era started with Jane Austen. Her passion for literature and for history come together to shape her creative, well-researched, and engaging writing.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:





This engaging end to the Ransome Trilogy is a fast-paced tale of love, faith, and danger on the Caribbean Sea in the early 1800s. Captain William Ransome frantically searches for his kidnapped wife and sister. But who will rescue them when buried secrets emerge and challenge everything they believe?






Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736927557
ISBN-13: 978-0736927550

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





It is too dangerous.”

William Ransome snapped his cutlass into its scabbard and turned to face his wife. “The longer I delay, the farther away they take Charlotte.”

Dread froze his lungs, his stomach, his heart. Charlotte. His sister. Taken. “If anything happens to her…”

Julia wrapped her arms around her abdomen and leaned against one of the heavy posts at the end of the bed. “Why the message to my father? What has he to do with Charlotte?”

William double-checked the load of his pistol and tucked it under his belt. “Your father has publicly vowed—more than once—to rid the Caribbean of pirates and privateers for good. Charlotte was likely a target of opportunity, not purpose.”

“But if the man’s argument is with my father, it should have been me taken, not Charlotte.”

William could not disagree with her. Nor could he agree, as the very idea of Julia’s being taken by pirates nearly ripped his heart from his chest. “I should have put her on that ship in Barbados returning to England. If I had followed my conscience”—instead of listening to Julia’s and Charlotte’s emotional arguments—“she would have been well out of harm’s way by now.”

They both startled at a knock on the door.

“Come.”

The door opened at his command, revealing Jeremiah. “The horses are ready, Commodore.”

“Very good.” William took up his case and hat and moved toward the door.

Julia stepped in front of him, expression imploring. “Please, William, wait until dawn. The roads are treacherous enough in the full light of day. At night…and you do not know where you are going. What good will it do Charlotte if you become lost or…or something else happens to you or the horse? Or what if the pirates have laid a trap and done this to lure you from the safety of the house?”

A mirthless laugh expanded in his throat, but he stifled it. Safety of the house? Was the house safe when the brigands had snatched Charlotte from the porch almost directly outside this very room?

“I am sending Asher with him, Miss Julia,” Jeremiah said. “He knows the roads ’twixt here and Kingston better than anyone I know.”

William tore his gaze away from Julia’s anxious face. “Jeremiah, I am depending on you to protect Mrs. Ransome and ensure no harm comes to her while I am away.”

“I will protect her with my life, sir.”

He stepped around Julia and handed his bag and hat to Jeremiah. “Thank you. I shall join you in a moment.”

As he hoped, Jeremiah understood the dismissal. He gave a slight bow and left the room, closing the door behind him.

William took Julia by the shoulders and directed her to the chaise positioned at the end of their bed. He had to apply more pressure than he liked to make her sit. “You are to stay at Tierra Dulce. You will keep an escort with you at all times. I want armed guards posted near the house.”

She nodded, never blinking or breaking eye contact. “Yes, William.”

“If you hear any word from Charlotte or receive”—his voice caught in his throat—“a ransom demand from the pirate, you will send a messenger to Fort Charles. They will get word to me.”

“Yes, William.”

Heart tearing asunder at the necessity of leaving Julia behind, he bent over and pressed his forehead to hers. “Pray for Charlotte.”

Julia’s hands slid around behind his neck, her fingers twining in his hair. She angled her head and kissed him. “I promise. I will pray for you also, my love.”

He kissed her again and then tore himself away from her embrace. “I must go. I promise I will return—and I will bring Charlotte with me.”

Determined to not look back, he made for the door. He opened it and then hesitated. Without turning around, he said the words he needed to say, just in case they were the last he ever said to his wife. “I love you.”

“I love you, William.” Though softly spoken, her words acted as the command that loosed him from his mooring. He stepped through the door and closed it, leaving her on the other side.

Ned Cochrane paced the drive below the porch steps when William exited the house. He barely spared his former first officer a glance. Intellectually, he knew Ned had done his best, having been taken by surprise and set upon by several men. However, in his heart, he wanted to rail at the younger man for failing to protect Charlotte.

Though a horse was his least favorite mode of transportation, William easily swung himself up into the saddle. Once he was settled—and Ned appeared to be also—William nodded at Asher to lead the way.

Darkness enveloped them. Behind, the light from the house acted as a siren’s call, beckoning him to turn, to look, to regret his decision to leave in the dead of night and wish he had taken Julia’s advice and waited until dawn.

His neck ached from the effort of keeping his face forward instead of giving in to temptation and taking one last look at the house, hoping to catch a final glimpse of Julia.

He focused on the bumpy motion of the animal underneath him. He must leave all thoughts of—all worries about—Julia behind, just as he now left her home behind. Jeremiah had known Julia most of her life. He had been as much of a substitute father for Julia as her father, Admiral Witherington, had been for William.

No, he could not worry about Julia and her safety. Rescuing Charlotte must be his only focus, his only thought.

The monotonous rhythm of the horses’ hooves, at a walk over the dark, deeply rutted dirt roads, along with the necessity of keeping his eyes trained on the light shirt stretched across Asher’s broad back, lulled William into a stupor.

Ahead lay his ship. The thought of boarding Alexandra and getting under sail chipped away at his anxiety. As soon as he was on the water, as soon as he stood on the quarterdeck and issued the command to weigh anchor, he would be that much closer to finding Charlotte and bringing her home.

The road widened, and Ned pulled up beside him.

“You are certain the man did not identify himself?”

“No, sir. He did not give his name. He only said her safety depended on the mercy of a pirate.” Ned’s voice came across flat and hoarse.

“What were you doing out on the porch, alone with her in the dark?” Even as William asked this, he reminded himself Ned was not at fault. But if Charlotte had been inside, perhaps…

“I followed them—Miss Ransome and Winchester—when they went for their walk. I did not trust Mrs. Ransome’s steward to behave honorably.” He paused. “I need not have worried. Char—Miss Ransome handled the situation admirably and dispatched Winchester, and their engagement, with aplomb.”

“Winchester was with you when she was taken? Why did you not tell me this before?”

“No, sir. Miss Ransome dismissed him. He had been gone for…several minutes.”

Could Winchester be involved? Dread sank like a cannonball in William’s gut. Julia already suspected the steward of embezzling money from the plantation. And William had left her there with that man—

“I asked her to marry me.”

If Winchester were involved, and this was a ploy to get William away from Tierra—he yanked the reins. The horse voiced its protest and jerked and swerved, nearly unseating William. “I beg your pardon?”

“After Charlotte broke her engagement with Winchester, we talked about our mutual regard. I proposed marriage to her, and she accepted.” Ned’s words barely rose above the sounds of the horses’ hooves on the hard-packed earth.

From a sinking ship into shark-infested waters. Could Charlotte not have waited even a full day after breaking one engagement before forming another—again, without her family’s knowledge? “And if I refuse my permission?"

“Then we shall wait. We’ll wait until you think I am worthy to marry her, sir.”

Worthy to marry her. William did not have to think hard to remember standing before Julia’s father twelve years ago and saying the same words. Sir Edward had graciously given him—a poor, threadbare lieutenant with no prospects and nothing to recommend him as husband or son-in-law—a father’s blessing for William and Julia to marry based on nothing other than their love for each other. William had been the one to deem himself unworthy of her affections, and he had almost lost her forever.

“We shall discuss this after we return Charlotte home.”

“I pray that will be soon, sir.”

“So do I, Ned. So do I.”

Charlotte awoke with a gasp. Wooden planks formed the low ceiling above her. A canvas hammock conformed to her body and swung with the heave and haw of the ocean beneath the ship.

A ship?

Not possible. They had made port, hadn’t they?

She stared at the underside of the deck above, trying to clear the haziness from her brain. Yes. They had made port. Left Alexandra and ridden in carriage across those horrible, rutted roads to Tierra Dulce, Julia’s sugar plantation. The low, sprawling white house with the deep porch that wrapped all the way around and the white draperies billowing through the open windows.

The porch. She blinked rapidly. The porch. At night. In the dark. Henry Winchester and…and Ned.

She bolted upright and then flung her torso over the side of the hammock as her stomach heaved.

Why should she be sick? She hadn’t experienced a moment of seasickness on the crossing from England to Jamaica. She climbed out of the hammock, skirt and petticoats hindering her progress until she hoisted them above her knees, and made for the small table with a glass and pitcher.

Wan light from the stern windows sparkled through the glass, revealing a residue of white powder in the bottom of it. She set the glass back on the stand. Last night the pirate had made her drink from the glass, and then everything had gone hazy. But before that…

She buried her face in her hands. Being torn away from Ned. She prayed they had not killed him. She’d heard no gunshot, but as their raid had been one of stealth, they would more likely have used a blade to end Ned’s life.

A sob ripped at her throat, but she forced it to stay contained. She would not give the pirates the satisfaction of seeing her upset. And she must, and would, find a means of escape.

Thirst got the better of her, and she lifted the china pitcher of water and rinsed her mouth before drinking deeply the brackish liquid. She then turned and surveyed the cabin. Obviously the pirate captain’s quarters. Though smaller than Ned’s aboard Audacious, which was in turn smaller than William’s aboard Alexandra, the room was neatly kept, with serviceable furnishings, whitewashed walls and ceiling, and plain floors. Nothing to exhibit the extravagance or wealth she’d expected to see in a pirate’s private lair.

The desk. Perhaps something there would tell her more about her captor. She crossed to it, rather surprised by the empty work surface. No stacks of the papers or books like the ones resting on William’s or Ned’s worktables. Her fingers itched to open the drawer under the desktop and the small doors and drawers along the high back of it, but Mama had taught her better than that.

Two miniatures hanging above the desk caught her eye. One showed a woman, probably a few years older than Charlotte, with dark hair and angular features. Too plain to be called pretty, but not ugly either. The green backdrop of the second painting contrasted vividly with the reddish-brown hair of a pretty girl and matched her vibrant green eyes.

Mahogany hair and green eyes—just like Julia. Why would a pirate have a portrait of Julia hanging in his cabin? But, she corrected herself, the painting was of a girl no older than thirteen or fourteen. Surely the resemblance to Julia was merely coincidental.

“She was lovely, was she not?”

Charlotte gasped and whirled. A dark-haired man dressed in a blue coat that resembled a commodore’s or admiral’s—complete with prodigious amounts of gold braid about the cuffs, collar, and lapels—stood in the doorway of the cabin.

He tossed a bicorne hat—also similar to a navy officer’s—onto the oblong table in the middle of the cabin, clasped his hands behind his back, and sauntered toward her, his eyes on the portrait.

“What do you want with me?”

“I am sorry for the manner of your coming here, Miss…?” He cocked one eyebrow at her.

“Ransome. Charlotte Ransome. My brother is Commodore William Ransome. He will hunt you down. And when he finds you—"

“When he finds me,” the pirate said, sighing, “I am certain the encounter shall be quite violent and bloody. Is that what you were going to say?”

Charlotte ground her teeth together. The man stood there, serene as a vicar on the Sabbath, acting as if they stood in a drawing room in Liverpool discussing the weather. “What do you want with me?”

“With you? Nothing.” He flicked an invisible speck of dust from the oval frame. “My business is with her.”

“With her?” Charlotte nodded toward the painting. “Is that…?”

“Julia Witherington—or Julia Ransome, as I have lately learned. Empress of the Tierra Dulce sugar empire.”

The strange lilt in his voice when he said Julia’s name sent a chill down Charlotte’s spine. “Yes, she is married. To my brother.”

“The famous Commodore Ransome.” The pirate turned and ambled toward the dining table. “His reputation precedes him.”

Worry riddled Charlotte at the pirate’s lack of worry over the thought of William’s hunting him down and blowing him and his crew out of the water. After Charlotte escaped, naturally.

“You were not part of my plan, little Charlotte Ransome.” He turned, leaned against the edge of the table, and crossed his arms. The coat pulled across his broad chest and muscular shoulders. A lock of dark hair fell over his forehead, softening the way his heavy black brows hooded his eyes. His nose had been aquiline once, but now it sported a bump about halfway down from whence the rest of the appendage angled slightly to his left. A scar stretched across his forehead and down into his left eyebrow. On first sight he could have passed for Spanish, but his accent marked him as an Englishman.

If he weren’t a no-good, dastardly, cowardly, kidnapping pirate, she might consider him handsome.

“Did you kill him?” The question squeezed past her throat unbidden.

“Him?”

“Ned—Captain Cochrane. The man with me on the porch.” She schooled her emotions as best she could, pretending the man standing before her was none other than Kent, her nemesis during her days aboard Audacious as a midshipman.

“If he is dead, it is through no work of me or my men. We do not kill for sport, only for defense.”

“Ha!” The mirthless laugh popped out before she could stop it. “Morality from a pirate? Someone who spends his life pillaging and thieving and destroying and killing and…and…” Heat flooded her face.

“And?” The pirate stood and stalked toward her, an odd gleam in his dark eyes. “And ravishing young women? Is that what you were going to say?”

Charlotte backed away, right into the edge of the desk. She gripped it hard. “N-no.”

The pirate leaned over her, hands on either side of her atop the desk, trapping her. “Do not try to lie to me, little Charlotte Ransome. You have no talent for it.”

Stays digging into her waist, she bent as far back as she could. “Yes, then. Ravishing.” Not that he would get a chance to ravish her. A fork. A penknife. Anything with a sharp edge or point. Once she had something like that in her possession, she would be able to defend herself against him.

Up close, the pirate’s brown eyes held chips of gold and green. A hint of dark whiskers lay just beneath the skin of his jaw and above his upper lip.

He blinked when someone knocked on the door but didn’t move. “Come!”

“Captain, Lau and Declan are back.”

“Very good. I shall meet with them in the wheelhouse momentarily to hear their report. Dismissed.”

Charlotte wanted to cry out to stop the other man from leaving, but she knew she deluded herself. She was no safer with any man on this ship than with their captain.

Would Ned still want her—even be able to look at her—after the pirates were finished with her?

“What’s this?” The pirate reached up and touched Charlotte’s cheek. “Tears?”

She shook her head, more to dislodge his hand than in denial.

With another sigh he straightened and then handed her a handkerchief. “Calm yourself, Miss Ransome. I have no intention of ravishing you. Nor of allowing anyone else to ravish you. While you are aboard my ship, you are under my protection.”

He crossed to the table and retrieved his hat. “You, however, must stay to this cabin at all times. Though my men know my rules of conduct, a few of them might give in to the temptation of their baser desires should they see you about on deck.”

Charlotte leaned heavily against the desk. The handkerchief in her hand was of the finest lawn, embroidered white-on-white with a Greek-key design around the edge. She frowned at the bit of cloth. Why would a pirate carry something so delicate?

He settled the bicorne on his dark head, points fore-and-aft, the same way the officers of the Royal Navy wore theirs.

“Who are you?”

He touched the fore tip of the hat and then flourished a bow. “I am called El Salvador, and you are aboard my ship, Vengeance. Welcome to my home, Miss Ransome.”