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Friday, March 29, 2013

Threads of Hope by Christa Allan

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Threads of Hope
Abingdon Press (March 1, 2013)
by
Christa Allan


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa is a writer of not your usual Christian Fiction. She weaves stories of unscripted grace and redemption with threads of hope, humor, and heart. Christa is the mother of five adult children, a grandmother of three, and a brand new retired teacher. She and her husband Ken live in New Orleans with their three cats and do their best to dodge hurricanes.

And, since she is not fond of writing about herself in third person, she asked her oldest daughter to contribute. Like her mother, Erin is not at a loss for words…

My Thoughts on This Book:
What a fantastic read. I've come to love each and every book in the Quilts of Love series and this one is no exception. You will find romance and a wonderful story knit around a memorial quilt. I learned a lot about the foundation that helps with the AIDS quilt. Not only are you getting a great fiction read, you are also learning something new. I love how the characters all seemed to mesh together nicely. I did find the story go a little slow at the beginning acting more like a 300+ page book which it's only a little more than 200 pages. So with that, the story felt a bit rushed at the very end trying to tie up everything. I didn't feel it took away from the storyline. I guess I wished there was more to read because I didn't want to put it down.. A great read. Don't miss it!


ABOUT THE BOOK


Passed over for promotion and dumped by her boyfriend, Nina O’Malley is further frustrated when her editor assigns her one of the “soft” stories she despises—covering a gala benefit supporting the AIDS Memorial Quilt. More determined than ever to prove she deserves a promotion to the NY office, Nina decides to write a series featuring a local quilting group raising money for AIDs research. At the event, she runs into her high school nemesis: Greg is a widower and the adoptive father of Jazarah, an HIV positive girl from Ethiopia. Unlike Nina, Greg has faith in a loving God, and he trusts in God’s plan for his life. Greg and Nina grow closer, and as Nina interviews the quilt families, she begins to question the choices she has made and her lack of faith. Nina suddenly finds herself facing two possible dreams, two paths for her life.


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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mountain Homecoming by Sandra Robbins

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 (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sandra Robbins and her husband live in the small college town in Tennessee where she grew up. They count their four children and five grandchildren as the greatest blessings in their lives. Her published books include stories in historical romance and romantic suspense. When not writing or spending time with her family, Sandra enjoys reading, collecting flow blue china, and playing the piano.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the second book in the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, acclaimed author Sandra Robbins spins a tender tale of God's faithfulness throughout the generations.

Rani Martin, Simon and Anna's only daughter, is a beautiful and spirited young woman living deep in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. She has plenty of ideas about the man she'll marry someday, but none of them could have prepared her for the return of Matthew Jackson.

Matthew left Cades Cove as a child after his father's death. Now he's come back to build a new life for himself, and it's his dearest wish that Rani be a part of that life. But the people of the Cove won't let him forget the sins of his father, and Matthew can't forget the darkness of his own past.

Is there a place for Matthew in the Cove? And can the light of Rani's love overcome his pain?





Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736948864
ISBN-13: 978-0736948869

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Cades Cove, Tennessee

June, 1914



Rani Martin stared through the cabin window at the Smoky

Mountains rising above the valley she loved. Usually the sight of the foggy mists curling around the hills made her happy. But try as she might, she couldn’t find anything to cheer her up today.



There had to be something that would take away the misery gnawing in the pit of her stomach. Poppa always told her she could do anything she set her mind to, but she didn’t know how she could be happy about losing the best friend any girl could ever have.



After today, there would be no reason for her to visit this cabin. Tomorrow Josie Ferguson and her husband, Ted, would load their belongings in their wagon, take their baby, and do what many of their friends and neighbors had already done—move out of Cades Cove. Josie, the one she’d shared secrets with all her life, would be gone, and Rani would be left behind with only memories of her best friend since childhood.



She didn’t understand what any of the folks who’d left the Cove were thinking. How could they leave the most beautiful place on God’s good earth?



It was springtime, the best time of year in the Cove. The winter snow had melted and the mountain laurel was in bloom. It wouldn’t be long before rhododendrons dotted the mountainsides and azaleas reappeared on Gregory’s Bald. This year, however, Josie wouldn’t be with her to share the wonder of the Cove coming back to life after a hard winter.



To Rani the prospect of living anywhere except the mountain valley where she’d been born scared her. She’d had an opportunity to see what existed in the outside world when she spent a year attending school while living with Uncle Charles in Maryville. It had been enough to convince her that life wasn’t nearly as good anywhere else as it was in the Cove. But others didn’t share her thoughts, and they’d left. And now Josie was going too.



With a sigh she turned back to the task she’d abandoned moments ago, helping pack up the kitchen utensils. Her throat constricted as she pulled the cake plate she and her mother had given Josie from the kitchen cupboard. She wrapped her fingers around the pierced handles and stared down at the hand-painted red and yellow roses on the delicate china dish. She’d thought it the most beautiful plate she’d ever seen when she first spied it at the store in Pigeon Forge.



Tears filled her eyes, and she loosened her grip with one hand so she could trace the gold band on the fluted rim. “I can’t believe it’s been three years since your wedding.”



Josie Ferguson bit down on her lip and nodded. “Ted’s always said this was his favorite of all our wedding gifts. It reminds him of the molasses cake your mother let him and his sister help make the day George was born.”



“I’ve heard Mama tell that story so many times. But she has one about every baby she’s helped deliver.”



“She’s been a blessing to the women she’s helped birth their babies. Everybody loves Anna Martin.” Josie’s eyes grew wide. “And of course your father too. I don’t think I can ever love another pastor like I do your pa. I’ve listened to him on Sundays ever since I can remember.”



“But you won’t be there anymore.” Rani set the plate down on the table and glanced at the baskets and tubs scattered across the kitchen floor. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils protruded above their sides. The tears she’d been holding back poured down her face, and she covered her eyes with her fingers. “First my brother decides to spend the summer at Uncle Robert’s farm in Strawberry Plains instead of coming home from school, then my cousin Annie gets married and moves to Townsend. Now you’re going too. What will I do with all of you gone? I’m going to feel so alone.”



“No, you won’t.”



Rani dug her fists into her eyes to stop the tears and gritted her teeth. “Why couldn’t Stephen have come home when school was out at Milligan College instead of spending the summer on Uncle Robert’s farm?”



Josie propped her hands on her hips and tilted her head to one side. “You know why.”



“Yeah,” Rani sighed. “He didn’t want to hear Poppa talk to him all summer about following in his footsteps. I don’t know why Poppa can’t see that Stephen doesn’t feel led to preach even though he agreed to that year at Milligan College. He wants to go to medical school. Of course that’s what Mama wants too. I’m glad they don’t have that problem with me. I don’t want to live anywhere but right here in Cades Cove…even if I am going to be alone.”



Josie rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Like I said, you won’t be alone. You’ll have your ma and pa, and Stephen will be here for a visit in July.” Josie wrapped her arms around Rani’s shoulders and hugged her close. “I’m the one who’s going to be alone. I won’t know anybody over at Townsend. You know Ted never has taken to farming, and there’s nothing else for him in the Cove. His new job pays real good. They’re going to furnish us a house too.”



Rani drew back in shock and gaped at Josie. “House? Have you seen what that high and mighty Little River Logging Company calls houses? I went with Poppa to Townsend last month, and I couldn’t believe what the workers were living in. They call them setoff houses because they bring them in on railroad cars and set them off on the hillsides or even right next to the railroad. They’re nothing more than one-room shacks with tar paper roofs. When the lumber company gets through cutting all the trees in one place, they load the houses onto a train and ship them to the next spot for their workers.”



Josie’s lip trembled, and her forehead wrinkled. “I know.” Her voice was almost a whisper. “But what can I do, Rani? Ted is my husband. We have to go where he can find work.”



Rani gazed past Josie to the cradle in the next room. “I can’t stand to think about you living in one of those things, especially now since you have a baby. Can’t you convince Ted to stay in Cades Cove? This is the only life you know.”



Josie pulled the corner of her apron up and wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath. “We’ll be fine. I’ll come back to visit, and you can come to Townsend to see me.”



Rani snorted and shook her head. “No thanks. I have no desire to share a one-room setoff house with you and your husband, not to mention your baby. I can’t believe Ted would be so disloyal to the Cove to go work for a company that’s trying to destroy our mountains.”



“Are you accusing my husband of turning his back on his friends?” Josie’s eyes flared and grew dark with anger.



Rani had seen that look before and realized she’d gone too far. She really needed to follow her mother’s advice and not be so outspoken about the company she thought was using the Smokies as a quick way to make money. Her opinion of Little River Lumber differed from that of many who’d left to work for the logging company. Now she had sounded like she believed Ted to be a traitor to his friends.



She reached out and grasped Josie’s arm. “I’m sorry, Josie. I didn’t mean to criticize Ted. It’s just that I’ve been so upset over what Little River’s doing to our mountains. Colonel Townsend has bought 86,000 acres of forest land all the way from Tuckaleechee to Clingman’s Dome. I don’t care if he does own the company, he’s a foolish man. They’re cutting every tree in their path. If somebody doesn’t stop them, the Smokies will end up as barren hillsides.”



Josie waved her hand in dismissal. “As usual, you’re being overly dramatic. That’s not going to happen. Like I said before, they pay well, and we need the money. End of discussion.”



Rani opened her mouth to respond, but the set of Josie’s jaw told her it would be useless. With a sigh, she picked up the cake plate from the table and handed it to Josie. “I hope you’ll think of me every time you use this.”



Josie took the plate and clasped it in her hands like she held a priceless treasure. For the first time Rani caught a glimpse of fear in Josie’s eyes, and the truth struck her. Josie didn’t want to leave Cades Cove, but she had no choice.



“I will,” Josie whispered. “I wanted this to be the last thing I packed. After all, you’re my best friend.”



Rani burst into tears and threw her arms around Josie. “We’re more than best friends. I think of you as the sister I never had. ”



“Me too.” Josie pulled back and wiped at the corner of her eyes. “But you know we could really be sisters.”



Josie’s words shattered the mood of moments ago and swept all the sadness from Rani’s mind. She took a step backward and wagged her finger in Josie’s direction. “Oh no. Don’t start that again.”



“Why not? George is crazy about you. All he talks about is how he wants to marry you, and you won’t give him any encouragement. If you married him, we’d be family. Sisters-in-law.”



Rani couldn’t believe they were having this conversation again. “I’ve told you at least a hundred times that George is a good friend, but I don’t love him. Even if I did, I don’t think I’d marry him.”



A skeptical expression crossed Josie’s face. “What’s the matter? Isn’t he good looking enough for you?”



Rani’s mouth gaped open at the ridiculous suggestion. “Oh, Josie, you know I would never think that. The truth is George is the youngest child in his family, and he’s spoiled rotten. If he doesn’t get his way, he sulks for days. I wouldn’t want a husband that I have to coddle and give in to all the time.”



Josie dropped her gaze to the cake plate she held and wrapped a burlap sack around it before she tucked it in the side of one of the baskets. “I have to admit you’re right. As a matter of fact, Ted told me George had an awful argument with his pa the other night. It seems he’s upset because he’s going to be left behind in the Cove after we leave.”



Rani held up her hands in exasperation. “You see what I mean. George can only see what he wants. He doesn’t realize what a great opportunity he has to work with his father on one of the best farms in the Cove.”



“But, Rani, you know he’s in love with you. That ought to be enough to make him a good husband.”



“Maybe it would be for somebody else, but not for me. I’m just eighteen years old. I have plenty of time to think about getting married. When I do, it’s going to be because I love a man so much my heart aches when I’m away from him.”



Josie turned to Rani and propped her hands on her hips. “Yeah, you’ve always had those romantic ideas. I think it must come from all those stories about how hard it was for your pa to get your mother to marry him.” She leaned closer to Rani. “Well, for those of us who don’t have a great love like that happen in our lives, we have to settle for the next best thing. It’s not like there’s a lot of men to choose from in the Cove. Being married to George is better than ending up an old maid.”



Rani flinched at Josie’s words. She remembered how Josie had cried four years ago when Charlie Simmons left the Cove, bound for California. At the time she’d thought it was because he was Ted’s friend. Now she wasn’t so sure. “Is that what you did, Josie? You settled for the next best thing?”



Josie’s face drained of color, and she put her hand to her throat. “Rani, I didn’t mean…”



“What’s goin’ on in here?”



At the sound of her husband’s voice at the back door Josie’s body stiffened, and she glanced over her shoulder. Rani’s heart lurched at the lack of expression on Josie’s face. She might very well have been looking at a stranger who’d come to her door instead of her husband. “I need to check on the baby,” she said, and hurried from the kitchen.



Ted Ferguson frowned and gazed after his wife as she hurried into the next room. His eyes darkened, and the look in his eyes told Rani he longed for something he would never have from Josie. After a moment he took a deep breath and smiled at her. “You two havin’ another one of your friendly arguments?”



Rani forced a laugh from her throat and wiped her eyes. “No argument. We’re just a little emotional over the two of you leaving the Cove. It seems all my friends are taking off for different places. My family may be the only one left before long.”



Ted shook his head. “Naw, you won’t be. They’ll have to drag my pa out of the Cove to get him to leave. He says he intends to be buried at the church he’s gone to all his life.”



“That’s what my pa says too.” Rani picked up the empty basket sitting on the table. “I left you some fried chicken and a fresh loaf of bread that Mama sent. She thought you might get hungry on your way to Townsend tomorrow.”



“She always thinks about other folks. Tell her I’m mighty obliged, and I hope I see her soon.”



“I will.”



Ted followed Rani into the next room where Josie was holding her son. No one spoke for a moment, then Josie swallowed and handed the baby to Ted. “Take care of Jimmy a minute while I walk Rani out.”



As Rani stepped onto the front porch, she glanced down at her dog lying next to the door. She snapped her fingers, and he jumped to his feet. He shook his shaggy body, wagged his tail, and awaited her command. It was so easy to communicate with animals. Give them love, feed them well, and reward them for good behavior, and they’d do anything you asked. Too bad people weren’t like that.



Josie had a husband who did all that for her, but today Rani had discovered the secret Josie had kept so well hidden—she would never be able to return Ted’s love. Rani didn’t want to end up like that.



With a sigh, she reached down and stroked her dog’s head. “Good boy, Scout. You did what I said. Now let’s go home.”



With Scout at her heels, she and Josie walked to the road that ran in front of the cabin. As they neared the edge of the yard, Rani turned to Josie. “I’m going to miss you.”



“I’m going to miss you too. We’re leaving early in the morning. So I guess I won’t see you again. I hope you will come visit me in Townsend. We’ll make room.”



Rani nodded. “We’ll see. You take care of yourself. And Ted and little Jimmy too.”



Josie smiled, but Rani could see the tears she was fighting to control. “Goodbye, Rani.”



Rani started to speak, but the words froze in her throat. She pressed her lips together and hugged her friend before she turned and started the long walk home. Scout trotted along beside her, and she didn’t look back. She wanted to, but she didn’t think she could stand the sight of Josie watching her walk away.



She glanced down at the dog and smiled. “Well, Scout, it’s a two-mile walk home. Do you think you can make it?”



The dog stared up at her and yelped a reply without breaking his stride.



“I think I can too.”



She didn’t mind walking. It had always been her way of getting around the Cove, and it gave her time to think. Today she had a lot to mull over. Her discovery about Josie’s feelings that she had settled for the next best thing still bothered her. She’d never imagined that Josie might have been in love with someone else.



Now that she thought back to four years ago, she remembered Josie seeming happy all summer. At the time, all she would say was that she’d had her first kiss and was in love. Rani thought it had to be Ted because he had been in love with Josie for years. But it must have been Charlie Simmons, and things hadn’t worked out. And soon after Charlie’s departure from the Cove, Josie had agreed to marry Ted after putting him off for so long.



Today she had learned the truth. Josie had settled for something—someone—she didn’t want. How could she have done that? She must have thought she was doing the right thing, but she’d been wrong. And she was wrong about something else. Being an old maid wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to a woman. To Rani’s way of thinking, being married to someone you didn’t love was far worse.



She squared her shoulders, clenched her fists at her side, and looked down at Scout. “I promise you, Scout, I will never settle for second best, even if it means I never get married.”















From the moment he rode into Cades Cove a peace like he hadn’t experienced in years came over Matthew Jackson. He pulled his horse to a stop and breathed in the sweet scent of mountain laurel drifting on the air. It smelled like home. He was back where his heart had remained.



Had it really been twenty years since he left the Cove? He closed his eyes and tried to recall every memory of the days following the death of his drunkard father. Even now the thought of the life he, his mother, and his little brother had endured made the old anger he’d tried to bury resurface. With his father drunk most of the time, survival had been hard. But his mother had seen to it that there was always food on the table. Then their lives had taken a turn for the worse when a tavern brawl had ended with his father lying dead of a gunshot wound.



Matthew had been almost ten years old at the time, but overnight he became the man of the family. He’d turned to a newcomer in the Cove, Anna Prentiss. Of course she was Anna Martin now. But to him she’d always be the angel who’d found a place for his family to live and had seen they were taken care of.



He even remembered the last words he’d spoken to her the day they left the Cove. She stood beside the wagon loaded with his family’s few belongings, and he’d said, “I’ll be back here someday.” And now, thanks to the money he’d saved working for the Little River Company, he had returned with the deed to his old homestead in his pocket.



But would the people of the Cove welcome the return of Luke Jackson’s son? His father had been a troublemaker and a bully, not to mention an abuser of his wife and children. The sturdy mountain folks didn’t have time for a man who didn’t take care of his family. As his mother used to say, people have long memories, and he was sure they could recall every one of his father’s misdeeds. Now he was about to see if those memories had labeled him a ne’er-do-well like his father.



He could count on one hand the folks who would welcome him back. Simon and Anna Martin. Granny Lawson. They were the ones who made his childhood bearable, and he could hardly wait to see them. But first things first. He had to go to the place where he was born and fulfill a promise he’d made to his dying mother fifteen years ago.



He’d leaned close to her frail, fever-ridden body to catch her last words spoken in that familiar mountain twang: “When you git back to the Cove, see if    ’n my mountain laurel bush is still there, the one yore pa planted for me when we was first married.”



After all the heartache his father had put her through, she still held to the memory of the early days of her marriage when she’d been so happy. Even now the thought of how her eyes had sparkled for a moment, reliving a happier time, made him feel as if a hammer had crushed his heart. His mother and little Eli, his brother. Gone too soon.



He cleared his throat and swiped at his eyes. No need to think about those things now. This was homecoming day, but it was different from what he’d dreamed about when he was a boy. He’d come back alone.



Straightening in the saddle, he spurred the horse forward and concentrated on the road twisting through the valley he loved. All around him were the sights and sounds he’d longed for, but he focused on getting home and seeing the place he’d left twenty years ago.



When he pulled the horse to a halt at what had once been the cabin where he’d lived, his heart dropped to the pit of his stomach. It was worse than he’d expected. The skeleton of a cabin sat near the tulip poplar tree he’d climbed as a boy—bigger now than he remembered. The house’s roof had long ago succumbed to the forces of nature and had caved in. A few timbers marked the spot where it had once been. Weeds grew across what had once been a yard.



Even in its best days the cabin hadn’t been much, but it could have been if his father had concentrated on making a life for his family instead of spending his time in a drunken stupor. The old hatred welled up in his heart, and he whispered the plea he’d prayed every day since he could remember. “God, don’t let me be like him. Make me a better man.”



The promise he’d made his mother flashed into his mind, and he climbed down from the horse and tied the reins to a sapling. Taking a deep breath to slow his racing heart, he headed around the side of the house. Had the mountain laurel plant survived the years?



His gaze drifted to his feet, and a warning flickered in his head. The weeds along what used to be a path had been trampled. Someone else had passed this way not long ago.



With hesitant steps, he inched forward. The knee-high weeds swished against his legs. He caught sight of his mother’s plant that now towered higher than his head, and he stopped in amazement. It wasn’t the bloom-covered bush that made his breath catch in his throat. It was a young woman who appeared unaware of his presence. With her arms outstretched and her face turned up to the sun, she whirled in circles in front of the mountain laurel bush while saying something in a language he didn’t understand.



Her bare feet hammered the hardened earth around the plant in a pounding rhythm. Pink blooms from the mountain laurel bush ringed the top of her head and several more protruded from the mass of black hair that reached below her shoulders.



She moved with the grace and elegance of a queen, and he thought he had never seen anyone more beautiful. He tried to speak, to alert her she wasn’t alone, but he felt as if he had come under her spell and had been forbidden to move.



Suddenly the air crackled with frantic barking, and a dog emerged from the other side of the bush. His hackles raised, he positioned himself between Matthew and the girl. She jerked to a stop and stared at him, wide-eyed. The dog snarled and inched forward.



Her dark eyes narrowed, and with one snap of her fingers she quieted the dog. She didn’t move, and her arched eyebrow told him his company wasn’t welcomed. “Stay back, mister, or I’ll sic my dog on you.”



He glanced down at the dog, whose body still bristled as if he was ready to attack. “I don’t mean you any harm, miss.”



“Then why did you sneak up on me?”



He shook his head. “I didn’t. I stopped when I heard your voice. What were you saying?”



“Just some words I learned from a Cherokee woman.” She frowned and glanced past him. “Are you alone?”



“I am. I just rode into the Cove from Townsend.”



Her body stiffened, and her lips curled into a sneer. “Townsend? Are you with the Little River Company?”



“I have been.”



“It figures.” She spit the words at him as if they were distasteful. “We get a lot of Little River workers checking out the Cove. You people are always searching for another stand of timber to cut down, aren’t you?” She bent down, grabbed her discarded shoes, and slipped them on her feet. Then with her arms rigid at her sides and her fists clenched, she took a step toward him. “Well, you can go back and tell your bosses we don’t sell our land and our trees to outsiders who want to clear cut their way through the Smokies.”



The defiant look in her eyes shot daggers at him, and they felt as if they poked deep holes in his heart. This girl’s words echoed the fierce pride shared by all the Cove residents for this valley, his valley, the place he called home. He wanted to tell her he agreed with her, that all he wanted was to live again among the people he remembered. Instead, other words emerged from his lips. “I worked for their railroad, not the logging company.”



She shook her head, and one of the blooms tumbled to the ground. Her eyes widened, and she glanced up as if she’d forgotten she wore a crown of flowers. A flush covered her cheeks, and she yanked the blossoms from her thick hair. “They’re the same to me. Maybe you didn’t cut our trees, but you carried them away.”



Matthew swallowed hard. There was something so familiar about this girl. Her brown eyes, dark complexion, and the high cheekbones reminded him of someone. It wasn’t possible he could have met her before. She probably hadn’t even been born when he had left the Cove. But still, there was something. He took a step closer, and the dog growled. With a smile he stopped and held up his hands. “I’m not coming closer.”



“Good.” She sniffed and snapped her fingers again. “Let’s go, Scout. It’s time we got home.”



He didn’t move as she strode past him, her head held high and her dog at her side. He turned and watched her disappear around the side of what had once been his home. Her straight back and determined stride reminded him of the spirited mountain women he’d known. They attacked the harsh life in the Cove and planted the seed of unyielding loyalty to the land in their children. Just like his mother had done with him.



Someone had instilled that same devotion in this girl. He hoped he’d get to meet the person who had done that, for he had just encountered the fierce mountain pride that had ruled his life. And it thrived in the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Survivor by DiAnn Mills

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Survivor
Zondervan (March 5, 2013)
by
DiAnn Mills

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops.

DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diannmills


ABOUT THE BOOK

Kariss meets Dr. Amy Garrett, who survived a brutal childhood attack in which the assailant was never found. Now Dr. Garrett wants her story written in a novel. Kariss wishes she could seek the advice of Special Agent Tigo Harris, but she broke off the relationship a few months prior and seeing him again would be too painful. She interviews Amy and conducts her own research, stepping unaware into a viper's pit of danger. Tigo misses Kariss and wants her back, but he understands why she broke off their relationship. Instead, he concentrates on solving a car bombing and bringing the killer to justice. As Kariss's new story attracts an onslaught of danger that she never expected, can Tigo save the woman he loves and find who wants her dead for writing about an unsolved cold-case?


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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Unglued Devotional by Lysa Terkeurst

 photo 9780310320326.jpg
 
About This Book:
 
Based on the bestselling Unglued, this companion book provides 60 devotions to encourage readers in making wise choices in the midst of raw emotions.
 
My Thoughts on this Book:
 
First off I want to mention that I do not own the book that goes with this nor have I read it before getting this devotional. I encourage you though to pick up the companion book and read it and then use the devotional. It does appear though that this could be read alone as I have done. I do plan to pick up the "Unglued" book to read it here soon.
 
This is a wonderful devotional that helps women that have experiences that have set us up to come 'unglued' with life, such as disappointments, people criticizing or irritations to name a few. This devotional includes a daily opening scripture, a thought for the day, a devotion and then a closing prayer. I felt this book will help in breaking the cycle of coming 'unglued' and to allow God to break this cycle and allow peace and joy in your life. Well written and worth a peak..

Check out more about this book or to purchase it at the Zondervan website HERE or pick it up wherever paperback books are sold.
 
About the Author:
 
Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of 15 books, and encourages nearly 500,000 women worldwide through a daily online devotional. Her remarkable life story has captured audiences across America, including appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.
 
I have received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given.

The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck Book Review

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About This Book

Unlikely romance is sometimes just an inconvenient marriage away

Charlotte Beck may be entering adulthood, but she can’t seem to keep to her stubborn, independent spirit from bucking social protocol. Fed up with her behavior, Charlotte’s father Daniel pressures her to settle into a nice marriage despite knowing she is set on going to college. Then Daniel sees Charlotte with the handsome but annoying English astronomer Alex Hambly, and everything changes.

Though Alex and Charlotte can barely stand one another, Daniel offers them a deal they can’t refuse: if they agree to marry, he will save Alex’s family from financial ruin and grant Charlotte the freedom to go to college. Reluctantly the couple agrees, but in private they plot to annul the marriage as soon as possible.

But when Alex’s feelings change and he refuses to dissolve their contract, will Charlotte find a way out of her vows? Or will she discover that maybe this marriage isn’t so inconvenient after all?
 
My Thoughts on This Book:
 
What a fantastic read. The characters were full of spunk which kept me laughing throughout the book. Charlotte knows what she wants in life at a young age. To work alongside her father after attending the University to get her degree in Mathematics. She did not plan to marry, but her father had something else in mind for her. Alex, a Viscount from England finds himself in a tough bind. His family is losing money and doesn't know how to stop the sinking ship of debt until Charlotte's father gives him a way out. Reading their banter back and forth makes this book a must read. A romance that they never saw coming..I was smiling throughout the story and was sad to see it end.. Positively the best pick me up book in awhile..

About the Author:

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple RITA and Carol Award nominee of over forty novels with more than one million copies of her books in print in the United States and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified family law paralegal, she was recently nominated for a Career Achievement Award by Romantic Times magazine. Kathleen has four grown children, seven bonus children, and her very own hero in combat boots. To find out more about Kathleen Y'Barbo and her books or to connect with her through social media, visit her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.

I received this e-book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given.
 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Catherine's Pursuit by Lena Nelson Dooley

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Catherine's Pursuit
Realms (February 5, 2013)
by
Lena Nelson Dooley


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 675,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers http://www.acfw.com/ and president of the local chapter, DFW Ready Writers. She’s also a member of Christian Authors Network, CROWN Fiction Marketing, and Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.

Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren, and great grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and spending time with friends. Travel is always on her horizon. Cruising, Galveston, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Mexico. One day it will be Hawaii and Australia, but probably not the same year. Helping other authors become published really floats her boat, with fifteen signing their first book contract after her mentoring. Three of her books have been awarded the Carol Award silver pins from American Christian Fiction Writers and she has received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award at their national conference. The high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially people whose lives have been changed by her books. And she loves chocolate, especially dark chocolate.


My Thoughts on this Book:
Long awaited ending to this wonderful series.. Triplets, separated at birth. Two adopted, one raised by their biological father. Catherine finds out at her 18th birthday that she has two other sisters. Not just sisters, but identical sisters. After finding out this news, she leaves to find them. Beautifully written. Couldn't put it down until the end!!! Don't miss reading Books 1-2 in this series to find out about the other two sisters and their lives before this book.. A must read for sure!!


ABOUT THE BOOK

When Angus McKenna was forced to give two of his daughters to families in the wagon train, he promised he'd never try to contact them. Catherine made no such pledge. But when she sets out to find her sisters, she doesn't go alone. Angus sends Collin with her. Will they discover the two women---and love?


If you would like to read the first chapter of Catherine's Pursuit, go HERE.




I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given.

First Race of 2013

Ran my first race of 2013 on Saturday. St Patty's Day 5K Dash. This was my very first race back in 2010 when I started running for the first time EVER. This is my 3rd time running it. It has a special place in my heart with it being my first ever race.

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Here I am before the race began!
 
It was a very cold 22 degrees that morning. I kind of made the mistake of staying in the warm car until a couple minutes before the race started.. I won't do that again. About 2/10th of a mile down the road I had a tough time breathing in the cold air.. I should of known not to do that but oh well.. I definitely learned my lesson... I'm happy though that I didn't give up and just suffered through it until my body got used to it!


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Here I am w/ hubby behind me (he already finished and came back for me to cheer me on) as I come around to the home stretch
 
I've been running for the past three weeks solely outside to train for this race. Running on the treadmill messes me up as it helps me out and I needed to work my running w/out assistance.. I wanted to run this 5K without stopping. I knew I could run at least 2 miles w/out stopping as that's what I've been doing while training for this.

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Kids were standing there armed each with a camera snapping photos as I worked towards the finish line
 
I had issues at the 2 mile mark like all the other runs I've had lately where my foot's gone numb. I still can't find the reason causing this (thinking it's my shorter stride) but I had a huge relief when I came up to the last part of the race and it was downhill. I was able to open up my stride wide and fast and my foot came back to life. Because of that I was able to put full motion into the last section and hauled it to the finish line.


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Almost there with a smile on my face!
 
The timer said 39:33 which is REALLY hard for me to believe. This was not chip timed so the timer is off from the starting mark as I wasn't in front when the gun went off. My clicker I wear while I run said 37:13 which I believe more than the timer they had. With me running it non stop with a 3.1 mile race the 37:13 makes more sense. The last race which was a solid 3 miles was 35:11 and that was run non stop last April for the Icebreaker and last yr when I ran this exact race it was 38:08 and I did stop a couple times..
 
My next race will be the Icebreaker. The entire family will be running it. There is a 1, 3 and 5 mile race to choose from. The boys will be running the 1 mile race.. I was thinking the 5 miler for me but my daughter wants me to run the 3 with her? We will see. I have a bit of time to think about it as the race isn't until the 28th of April..
 
I'm working on running a half marathon in September. 13.1 miles..... Tried for it last yr but my heart, and mind wasn't in it as the Summer went on so I decided to take a break from running all together. I was up to 9 mile runs at that time.. I am very eager to run my first 1/2 marathon so we will see how it goes through the months as it gets closer!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Swept Away by Mary Connealy

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Swept Away
Bethany House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
by
Mary Connealy


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Christy Award Finalist, a Carol Award Finalist and an IRCC Award finalist.

The Lassoed in Texas Series, Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. Petticoat Ranch was a Carol Award Finalist. Calico Canyon was a Christy Award Finalist and a Carol Award Finalist. These three books are now contained in one large volume called Lassoed in Texas Trilogy.

The Montana Marriages Series, Montana Rose, The Husband Tree and Wildflower Bride. Montana Rose was a Carol Award Finalist.

Cowboy Christmas—the 2010 Carol Award for Best Long Historical Romance, and an Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Finalist.

The Sophie's Daughters series. Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats, Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

She is also the author of; Black Hills Blessing a 3-in-1 collection of sweet contemporary romances, Nosy in Nebraska, a 3-in-1 collection of cozy romantic mysteries and she's one of the three authors contributing to Alaska Brides with her Carol Award Winning historical romance Golden Days.

My Thoughts on this Book:
Grabbed me from page one. I loved her last series and couldn't wait to pick this one up. Set in Texas, Ruthie finds herself without her family in the arms of a stranger named Luke. A good looking one but one with heartache ahead. As he deals with getting his land back from thieves will his heart soften to the pretty little red head or will revenge eat at him instead?. Loved it..


ABOUT THE BOOK

When a cowboy focused on revenge encounters a woman determined to distract him, there's going to be trouble in Texas!

Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn't terribly upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they've ever done is work her to the bone. Alive but disoriented, she's rescued by Luke Stone...so unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Luke is on a mission to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men currently on the property won't let it go without a fight. Luke plans to meet up with friends who will help him take back the land, and since he can't just leave Ruthy in the middle of nowhere, she's going to have to go with him.

But the more time Luke spends around the hardworking young woman, the more he finds himself thinking of things besides revenge. Will Ruthy convince him to give up his destructive path and be swept away by love?

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

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of this book. No other compensation was given.



Monday, March 11, 2013

Things Right Now...

Well, it's been a very busy time at our house since mid January. We started our remodel then and chaos has been here ever since. We've got a LOT done but still have a LOT to do.. I have a lot of pictures to show but will post those hopefully this week. I just felt like adding an update on what we are doing right now.
 
First off, I can't believe we are in Week 27 in our schooling.. Just 8 more weeks until Summer Break. This Mama is very happy about that one.. We plan on taking a week off for Spring Break here in a couple weeks and during that time I'll be painting our kitchen cabinets.. Fun times.. oh ya!!
 
My daughter is graduating on May 18th. I am throwing her a big party so the prepping has begun on that. I feel sometimes like I'm planning a wedding but it's all good. Right now just trying to find a place to host it since I don't want everyone traipsing through our house. I started looking into decorations and such so we are moving along nicely..
 
The remodel is going well too.. Back in late January we started the kitchen/dining room remodel. What we've done so far is:
 
KITCHEN:
  • Wallpapered entire kitchen
  • Put up wainscoting and chair moulding
  • Painted entire kitchen
  • Put in new wood flooring and floor moulding
  • Put up crown moulding
  • Painted all moulding and sealed them all
  • Put in new light fixture above kitchen sink
  • Ordered new light fixtures for kitchen to replace our florescent lights (will arrive Thursday)
  • Put in new light switch covers and plug covers
  • Made a Roman Shade for kitchen window
  • Replaced trim around window and added new windowsill
  • Painted window trim and seal
 
STILL TO DO:
 
  • Replace counter tops
  • Paint all the cabinets and replace hardware
  • Install new light fixtures when they arrive
  • Scrape popcorn out of the skylight area and paint
  • Replace skylight (we will be doing this, this Summer)
 
DINING ROOM:
 
  • Wainscoting on bottom half of walls
  • Put up chair moulding, painted it all and sealed it
  • Painted wainscoting and upper portion of walls
  • Added new crown moulding, sealed it all
  • Replaced all the trim around our 3 windows
  • Replaced windowsills in all 3 windows
  • Painted all window frames
  • Made 3 Roman Shades for all 3 windows
  • Put in wood floors
  • New baseboard trim and painted
  • Replaced all door moulding to bedrooms and laundry room entrances that are adjacent to room
 
STILL TO DO:
 
  • Install new light fixture over kitchen table (already purchased)
  • Hang picture collage on wall ( purchased new frames)
 
So that is what we've done so far and what we have to do to finish up Phase One of our remodel.
When this is all said and done we still have three bathrooms and our laundry room to remodel. I may put this next phase off until after my daughter's graduation. Her prom and graduation are coming up here soon and need to spend some time getting this all planned and organized. I am making all her announcements by hand so need to get started on that..
 
Outside of home remodel and graduations, I signed up for my first race of 2013. It's this Saturday.. A 5K. This is the first ever race I ran back in 2011. It has some sentimental value to me now. This will be my 3rd time running it. It's called the St. Patty's Day Dash.. I've been working hard getting myself back up to running 3 milers. I ran a 2 miler a couple days ago without stopping. I'm still having issues with my foot going numb. I've tried all the techniques out there but still having issues. It might be that my stride is causing it so I need to work on it. It happens between 1.5 and 2 miles.. It's a mystery to me thus far.. I would LOVE to run this race w/out stopping. I know I can get up to 2.5 miles so we will see if I can swing the whole 3.2 and pray I don't have issues with my foot. That's what is causing me to stop because it allows blood back to my foot.. It's frustrating to say the least....
 
My middle child will be turning 14 on Thursday.. DS13.. I just can't believe how fast they are growing up. We weren't going to have any fancy parties this year to keep things simple because of the remodel etc which he is totally ok with. The good news is I have family coming from out of state to visit this weekend so we are waiting until Friday to celebrate. I'm making him a guitar cake. I pray it turns out.. He is learning how to play the guitar and loves it so far so I hope he will like the cake I'm making him. It's a surprise!!!
 
Well, that's it for now. I will post pictures of our home progress here soon...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Return of Cassandra Todd by Darrel Nelson

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About This Book:
 
If the girl whose friends bullied you in high school turned up years later asking for your help, would you give it? Darrel Nelson explores that scenario in his second novel, The Return of Cassandra Todd. Addressing themes of bullying and spousal abuse, Nelson's latest work tells a story that could be from today's headlines.
Turner Caldwell works at a local motel as a handyman while attending college full-time. On his way to class one day, he is shocked to see Cassandra Todd and her young son in town. The sight of her brings back powerful memories of being bullied in high school-she was the popular head cheerleader and he the target of her friends' mean-spirited pranks.
 
My Thoughts on This Book:
 
Powerful storyline that kept me on the edge of my seat from cover to cover. The author has a way with words that allows you to draw yourself into the story which keeps you engaged page to page. You will not be disappointed reading this book. This is the second book I've read by this author and couldn't wait to read this one because I loved his first book. I'm putting him on my list of must read authors for the future! Bravo!
 
About the Author:
 
Darrel Nelson recently retired after thirty-seven years as a schoolteacher so he could devote himself to writing full-time. He now spends his time writing novels, articles, plays, and music and soaking up time with his ten grandchildren. Nelson has bachelor's degrees in English and education from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada where he lives with his wife Marsha.
 
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

7 Day Detox Tea- Wrap Up

I finished the detox tea a few days ago. Been busy with our remodel and didn't get a chance to post here about it. It looks like I lost 2 lbs this week. I may have lost a little more but things of the female nature has made it a little harder to judge at the moment so we will see..
 
Ultimately, I would recommend this detox tea because it really got me back into drinking water regularly throughout the day. 100 ounces is a lot of water and now that I'm back to drinking my normal 64 oz it seems like I'm not really drinking a lot.. Feels kind of funny actually..
 
If you are interested in trying the detox tea it's easy to make..
 
100 oz of water
2 TBS lemon water
1TBS of Cranberry Juice
1 Tea bag of Dandelion Root Tea (Steep for at least 15 min)
 
That's it. Drink it for 7 days.. 100 oz a day.. Even though it looks like only 2 lbs came off, I'm happy with that. My goal wasn't really weightloss for this but to get me into a healthy habit of drinking more water each day and this really did help. It also helped me get off my butt and get to the gym or outside running. I worked out everyday while drinking the detox tea.. I'm happy that I'm now more active then I've been since my trip to Arizona back in October. It just feels so great to be moving again..

The Icecutter's Daughter by Tracie Peterson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Icecutter’s Daughter
Bethany House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
by
Tracie Peterson


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 85 novels.

She received her first book contract in November, 1992 and saw A Place To Belong published in February 1993 with Barbour Publishings' Heartsong Presents. She wrote exclusively with Heartsong for the next two years, receiving their readership's vote for Favorite Author of the Year for three years in a row.

In December, 1995 she signed a contract with Bethany House Publishers to co-write a series with author Judith Pella. Tracie now writes exclusively for Bethany House Publishers.

She teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research.

Tracie was awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for 2007 Inspirational Fiction and her books have won numerous awards for favorite books in a variety of contests.

Making her home in Montana, this Kansas native enjoys spending time with family--especially her three grandchildren--Rainy, Fox and Max. She's active in her church as the Director of Women's Ministries, coordinates a yearly writer's retreat for published authors, and travels, as time permits, to research her books.


ABOUT THE BOOK

As the lone female in a houseful of men, Merrill Krause dedicates her life to caring for her family and their business, as her dying mother asked. Besides, it suits her; she's never felt like she fits what most people expect in a girl--she'd rather work with her father's horses and assist with the ice harvest. And though she's been mostly content up to this point, a part of her wonders if there will ever be anyone who will notice her amid the bevy of brothers determined to protect her from any possible suitors.

When Rurik Jorgenson arrives in their small Minnesota town to join his uncle's carpentry business, he soon crosses paths with Merrill. But unlike other men, who are often frightened away by her older brothers, Rurik isn't intimidated by them or by Merrill's strength and lack of femininity. The attraction between them begins to build...until Rurik's former fiance shows up with wild claims that bring serious consequences to Rurik.

Can Rurik and Merrill learn to trust God--and each other--when scandal threatens their newfound love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Icecutter’s Daughter, go HERE.

Friday, March 1, 2013

7 Day Detox Tea- Days 4-5

I didn't get around to posting yesterday. Was a bit tired from the days events. I was able to get almost all the water down yesterday.. Probably minus about 8oz. I just had to cut myself off at a certain time because I didn't want to be getting up all night to go you know where.. But overall, I drank most of it.
 
Today has been a little harder as I went grocery shopping today. I took one 20oz cup with me and drank that while I was out but when I got home I put the food away and was able to grab another 24 oz of it and take it to the gym with me. I wish I filled up two water bottles because my workout could of used it. Now I'm trying to finish it up tonight. I should have it all done here really shortly.
 
Good news though.. I've lost 2lbs so far. Again, not sure if it's the water or a combination of that, my eating plan and my exercise plan.. so please keep that in mind..
 
I did workout yesterday. Ran 4.83 miles and burned 500 calories
Today I worked out at the gym by running 3 miles on the treadmill and 40 min of weight training burning 517 calories..
 
I really am enjoying the taste of the water. I may continue to drink it, just not as much of a quantity as I am now in the future.. We'll see what the weekend brings. Sunday is my last day so we will see the results then.. 

Surrendered Love by Laura V. Hilton

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:
Whitaker House (April 1, 2013)

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amish romance writer Laura V. Hilton, of Horseshoe Bend, AR is a pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mother of five, homeschooler, breast cancer survivor and avid blogger. Her passion has long been the mission of Christian fiction, initially as a reviewer, but in the past two years as the author of four successful novels including The Amish of Seymour series (Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another) and Healing Love, first of The Amish of Webster County. Her books have sold thousands of copies and garnered kudos from reviewers and readers alike with A Harvest of Hearts receiving the 2012 Laurel Award.

Visit the author's website.


My Thoughts on this Book:
I couldn't wait to read the next book in this series. This book can easily be read without reading the first one but I wouldn't ask you to miss the great storyline of Book 1 though.. This one follows Janna who lives with her family and works part time as a personal shopper for her Amish community. She's had a crush on Hiram for many years but he left the Amish community to become a police officer. He's not shunned so when he comes back into her life the sparks fly, but will his outside world affect Janna? Can they make this work or is it impossible? Great read. Couldn't put it down until the very end!

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Janna Kauffman enjoys her job as a personal shopper for the homebound in her Amish community. But when Janna’s niece, Meghan, comes to live with her family—part of a plan by Janna’s sister to rid her daughter of her rebellious ways—Janna spends less time shopping and more time explaining Meghan’s erratic behavior to local police officer Hiram “Troy” Troyer, who was raised Amish but left the faith after a fatal accident that killed his brother and also a brother of Janna’s. Frequent interactions draw Janna and Troy together, rekindling an attraction they first experienced in their youth. What will become of their relationship? And will headstrong Meghan ever tame her ways?



Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (April 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603745076
ISBN-13: 978-1603745079


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The police officer sorting though the Gala apples reminded Janna Kauffman of Hiram Troyer, but this Englischer couldn’t be her teenage crush. With a sigh, she focused again on the display in front of her. Cabbage. She picked up a head. Homemade coleslaw would go well with the hamburgers and baked beans she had planned for supper. As she set the cabbage in her cart, she couldn’t help stealing another peek at the good-looking officer. Dark blond hair, cut in a fancy hairstyle; trim build…ach, she shouldn’t be noticing such things about an Englischer.



Janna looked away, but not before he glanced back at her. She did a double take. She thought his eyes were blue, like Hiram’s, but she couldn’t be sure; he turned around and walked away. Probably headed for the doughnuts. She smiled and turned her attention to her shopping list.



10 bags carrots (5 lbs. ea.)



When she placed the carrots in her cart, the hair on the back of her neck stood up with a tingling sensation, as if someone were watching her. She turned and caught the policeman’s glance just before it slid away. A thrill shot through her to think that an Englischer might be attracted to her, an Amish woman, but she stifled it. His interest was a moot point. Of course, he might have just been curious about why she’d loaded her cart with so many carrots.



He disappeared around a corner and down an aisle. She picked up her list again.



10 oranges (Emma Brunstettler)



Emma believed that an orange a day kept all sickness away. And it seemed to work for her. Janna selected ten ripe ones and loaded them into Emma’s mesh bag. The hair on the back of her neck rose again, as did her pulse. Her breath hitched.



She wouldn’t look. Instead, she lowered the bag of oranges into the cart. Somehow she missed, though. They tumbled out and went rolling across the floor.



“Klutz.” A woman carrying a plastic basket stepped over the fallen fruit and hurried away.



As Janna bent to pick up the first of the escaped oranges, she noticed a pair of legs wearing blue pants approaching. It might be a store manager, coming to yell at her. Hopefully not. Worse, it might be the police officer. Had he witnessed her clumsy humiliation? She didn’t know which she dreaded more. She risked a glimpse as he crouched and started gathering up the oranges. The police officer. He grinned as he reached out to hand them to her. She tried to keep her burning face averted as she stretched out a quivering hand to accept the fruit and then stuffed each piece back inside the bag.



His smile would have made her weak in the knees, if she weren’t already squatting. Even so, she put one hand on the floor to keep her balance.



He stood, picked up his few grocery items from the edge of a display, and turned to go.



She found her voice. “Danki.”



He glanced back at her and winked, causing her heart rate to accelerate even more. “Careful with those oranges. They’ll get you every time.” He strode toward the checkout lines. She smiled when she noticed the box of doughnuts and canister of coffee he had tucked under one elbow. In his other hand was a bag of apples.



Janna gripped the bag of oranges in one hand and slowly stood, watching him as he moved through the checkout line, even as she gave herself a silent yet stern lecture for ogling him the whole time.



An hour later, she pushed the cart, piled full with her bagged purchases, outside and across the parking lot to her buggy, her thoughts still on the handsome police officer.



She started sorting through the bags, searching for the Yoder family’s groceries to load first, since their home was the last stop she would make along her delivery route.



“Janna Kauffman?” An Englisch man’s voice shattered her concentration.



Janna’s heart stuttered. Was it him? She stopped rifling through the plastic bags in her cart and looked up. A policeman approached, but he wasn’t the one from the store. This man had dark hair, and sunglasses covered his eyes. Her heart crash-landed somewhere in the vicinity of her toes.



“I’m Officer Pete O’Dell.”



Janna summoned a smile. “Is there a problem, Officer?”



He didn’t grin back. His lips didn’t even twitch. She stiffened, trying to prepare herself for the bad news she felt sure she was about to hear. She searched her mind for possibilities. She knew she hadn’t double parked, and dropping oranges wasn’t against the law. Ach, maybe there’d been an accident.



Just then, the passenger door of the police cruiser parked behind him opened. Her rush of thoughts stopped as the blond officer from the store climbed out and approached her, sliding his sunglasses down from the top of his head to cover his eyes.



Her face heated again in shame for having stared at him in the store. He looked at her buggy, and the stacks of coolers labeled with the full names of Amish men. “Where’d you get all these?” He opened up the lid of a red cooler labeled “Elam Troyer”—the father of her childhood crush. That seemed like a slap in the face. The cooler would be empty, except for an ice pack.



Janna sucked in a breath. The officers probably thought she’d stolen the coolers. “It isn’t what you think.” She waved a hand toward her cart, still piled with plastic bags. “I do their grocery shopping.” Embarrassed at being caught in yet another humiliating situation by the cute cop, she pulled her shopping list out of her pocket and shoved it toward him.



He took it and began scanning it.



Officer O’Dell shifted his weight. “Are you the guardian of a Meghan Forrest?”



Renewed panic filled Janna. She pushed down her fears and nodded. “She’s my niece.”



“Has she contacted you today?”



“No, but she can’t; she’s in school.” At least, that’s where she was supposed to be. But if he was asking, then maybe it was Meghan who was about to receive bad news. “Is it her mom?” She froze, dreading the answer. If anything had happened to her sister Sharon, she didn’t know what she’d do.



“Your niece was just picked up for shoplifting,” said Officer O’Dell, matter-of-factly. “We need you, as her guardian, to come to the police station.”



“Excuse me?” Janna shook her head. This couldn’t be happening. “I think you must have the wrong person. Megan is still in class.” She glanced at the position of the sun, then looked for a watch. She found one, conveniently located on the arm of the handsome officer. Almost noon.



The other officer still studied her shopping list, not contributing anything to the conversation.



“Well, apparently she decided to skip school today. Will you come with us to the station, Ms. Kauffman?” Officer O’Dell’s question sounded more like an order, as if she had no choice.



A knot formed in her stomach. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” But she stood there, staring at the plastic bags in the cart. Plastic bags full of perishables. She needed to deliver the food first. Or sort it, at the very least, load it into the coolers, and pray that it would still be cool enough after she’d handled the situation with Meghan. Otherwise, she’d have to pay out of her own pocket to replace the spoiled food. Besides, late or incomplete orders wouldn’t help her business any. And here, she’d been marveling at how well her day had been going.



“Now would be a good time, Ms. Kauffman.” Officer O’Dell grabbed a plastic bag from her cart and tossed it into the buggy.



Janna reached for the bag and pulled it back out. “I’ll be there as soon as I can,” she said again. Maybe he hadn’t heard her the first time. “I have to get these bags sorted and put the food in the coolers so it won’t spoil.”



“Go on, O’Dell. I’ll help her.” The blond policeman handed her back her list. He ran his fingertip over Elam Troyer’s name written in black permanent marker, then turned is dark sunglasses in her direction. “What can I do?”



Officer O’Dell scowled and strode back to his cruiser.



Janna swallowed. She wasn’t Meghan’s parent—just one of her temporary guardians, until Sharon felt ready to welcome Meghan back home. She sighed. Since the police probably wouldn’t ask a parent to fly in, she would have to deal with it. Unless Daed could do it. For a second, her hopes flared. Then died. Nein, Daed and Mamm were in Springfield, visiting someone in the hospital. Their driver wouldn’t bring them home again until this evening. She was it.



“I don’t know if you can help,” Janna said. “I need to pack the items on my list in the proper coolers. I tried to keep the orders separate in the store, but the bagger sort of packed them into the cart at random, so I still need to figure out who gets what.” Normally, she was better organized, but this time, the police officer had taken her rational capacities prisoner.



“Then, you tell me which cooler it goes into and I’ll put it in.”



She watched his eyebrows rise above his dark glasses. He really did seem familiar…



“So, why do you do their grocery shopping?” He tapped his fingertips on the lid of Elam Troyer’s red cooler.



She shrugged and decided to answer generally. The Troyers’ reasons were personal and certainly none of his concern. “Oh, various reasons. Some are too sick or old or physically unable; some are mamms with newborns at home. Others are widowers with no interest in shopping.” She looked through the contents of one bag, consulted her list, then handed it to the officer. “This goes to Elam Troyer.”



A muscle flickered in his jaw. She wondered if the name meant something to him.



But it was probably her overactive imagination.



***



He should be shot for neglecting his parents like he did. Hiram Troyer, better known as Troy, removed his hand from the top of the cooler, lifted the lid, and lowered the plastic bag inside. He’d run by their house on the way home and check on them. If they were paying someone else to do their grocery shopping, then something must have happened.



He held up another bag. “Same family?”



She nodded distractedly as she sorted through another bag.



He dropped it in the cooler, keeping his gaze on her. Janna Kauffman. I’d figured she would have gotten married by now. She always stood out at the singings and frolics, back when—. No point going there. That was a lifetime ago. Still, when he’d seen her eyes for the first time in years, it had felt like an earthquake, rocking his heart and rearranging his mind. The aftershocks still rumbled through him.



But his thoughts were no longer scrambled; they were crystal clear—and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He just didn’t know how he was going to do it.



Janna handed him several more bags. “These are the last of Elam Troyer’s.”



He was glad his sunglasses hid his eyes as his gaze slid down her curvy body beneath the usual cape dress, hers lavender. She was still as attractive as ever, with light brown hair and hazel eyes. She’d skipped the black bonnet the women usually wore over their prayer kapps when they went out—but he’d seen other women do that, especially as the days got warmer. And they’d been reaching 80 degrees almost daily for almost a week now. Eighty-two, he thought he read on the digital sign in front of the bank. He could have been mistaken, though, because gazing into Janna’s eyes left him reeling. He looked away.



He’d left Meghan locked up in custody in the otherwise empty police station. He slid his glance back to Janna, then away. “Hurry and finish.”



Okay, that was a bit abrupt, but he needed to get back to the station before the manager of the store Meghan had allegedly robbed showed up to give a statement. She’d been running the cash register and needed to find someone to cover for her.



Troy glanced in the direction of the police station. Maybe O’Dell had gone straight back there. Troy had told him he’d talk to Janna, but, as usual, O’Dell hadn’t listened. Probably because a hint of action beat the dispatcher job O’Dell was supposed to be doing today.



Come down to it, Troy needed to do his job, instead of standing there staring at this woman. He needed to get away from Janna and the feelings she awakened in him.



***



Years of striving to be the model bishop’s daughter, and here she was, on her way to the police station. At least she wasn’t the one in trouble. She hoped shoplifting wasn’t punishable with jail time. Sharon would never forgive her if Meghan ended up with a sentence to serve. Maybe she could talk the nice blond policeman into going easy on her niece. And somehow keep the news from her older sister.



As Janna maneuvered her buggy into the parking lot of the police station, she began to regret the samples of meat and cheese she’d succumbed to while shopping. They weighed heavy in her stomach.



She climbed out of the buggy, tied the reins to a telephone pole, and went inside the station, wishing again that she didn’t have to handle this. Wishing the problem would just disappear. If only the blond policeman had waited for her. But he’d disappeared before she could talk her horse, Tulip, into leaving the grocery store parking lot.



Officer O’Dell sat at the reception desk with his feet propped up in front of him, a full mug of coffee in one hand, what appeared to be a McDonald’s burger in the other. The room smelled like fresh-brewed coffee. A glance around showed an almost full pot on a file cabinet.



“Ms. Kauffman,” he said around a mouthful of food. “Go on in.” He pointed abruptly over his shoulder at a partially closed door.



Janna inclined her head to acknowledge his directions and then stepped over to the door. She knocked once, then pushed it open.



The blond officer sat behind a big desk, talking on the phone. King of the office, apparently. He cast a quick glance in her direction but made no visible acknowledgment of her presence. He was handsome, but instead of the friendliness she’d seen earlier, now his expression was stern. She probably didn’t know him. Maybe she’d just seen him around town a time or two.



Meghan sat hunched over in a far chair. She didn’t look over at all. Not gut.



A woman wearing tight black pants and a low-cut hot pink stood against the wall on the other side of the desk. She, too, kept her eyes down, as she played with the bangles on her wrist.



Janna inhaled as deeply as she could, given the knot in her stomach. She pressed a hand to her abdomen, hoping to keep her snacks down.



The officer finally set the phone in its cradle and looked up at Janna. His blue-eyed gaze pierced her. He was good-looking but scary—not someone she’d want to tangle with on a dark dirt road. Or even in a brightly lit office.



He nodded at the empty chair facing his desk. “Please, have a seat.”



She thought she’d rather stand, like the woman with the bangle bracelets. Position herself right there by the garbage can, in case her food decided not to stay put. But obediently, she dropped compliantly into the chair. Again she glanced over at Meghan, who studied the floor as if fascinated by the pattern in the linoleum tiles.



Janna cleared her throat. “I’m sure this is just a simple misunderstanding.”



The officer slid a card holding a pair of earrings across the desk. They were dangly and sparkly. Definitely something Meghan would wear. “We found these in your niece’s possession.” His voice was stern. “Would you like to see the surveillance video?”



Not really.



He went ahead and pushed a button of the remote control on his desk. On the monitor behind him, a rather grainy picture appeared of Meghan and someone Janna didn’t know. She must have gotten away, or maybe they’d put her in another room. Despite the poor quality of the film, it was clear enough to see both girls slip some merchandise into their pockets.



He pushed another button, and the screen went blank. His cold eyes speared Janna again before he shifted his gaze to Meghan. “Shoplifting is a serious crime, and it usually lands you in jail for up to a few months. But, since this is your first offense, we’re willing to work with you.” He gestured to the woman with the bracelets. “Ms. Taft, the store manager, has said she won’t press charges if you agree to six weeks of community service. I just talked to the DA to make sure this was agreeable. He said you could begin Monday after school. You’ll report to the county courthouse. And you will not enter that store again. If you do, the management won’t hesitate to report you for trespassing.”



Janna nodded. “I’m sure it won’t happen again.” I hope. She glanced at Meghan to look for any indication that she felt the same way, but her niece’s face was impassive.



He tapped the card holding the earrings. “The DA also expects you to pay for the merchandise you stole. Three times the retail value.”



Janna glanced at Meghan. “How much did they cost?”



“Forty-nine ninety-five,” said the woman standing there. Her tone was less than friendly.



Janna couldn’t hold back her gasp. “And you want her to pay three times that much?” Acid burned in the back of her throat. She stood and moved to the trashcan.



“Take a seat, Ms. Kauffman.” This officer meant business. She wondered what had become of the kind gentleman who’d help her gather her fallen orange and later load her buggy with groceries. This man looked the same, but his attitude and bearing were completely different.



Janna cast him a frantic look, then lost the contents of her stomach—and what was left of her pride.



Ms. Taft gagged.



“Eww, Aunt Janna. Gross!”



At least Meghan had generated a reply.



Blinking back tears, Janna wiped her mouth with her sleeve.



The officer stood, opened a miniature refrigerator, and produced a bottle of water. Her throat burned.



“Thank you.” She reached to accept the water from him.



When their hands touched, fire shot through her fingertips, and she glanced quickly at him. His blue eyes widened as they met hers, but his expression remained sympathetic. Maybe he was friendly after all, and not so scary. She set the garbage can outside the door and then approached his desk again.



“Now. Back to business.” The officer’s voice hardened, and he sat down, all traces of kindness gone. “As I was saying….” He repeated himself, with enough force to make Janna’s stomach churn again. No matter the punishment Daed would kum up with for Meghan, it couldn’t be harsh enough for forcing Janna through this torture.



Something the policeman said must have penetrated Meghan’s indifference. She flung a wad of cash on the desk. Her hands didn’t even shake.



Janna stared in disbelief at the bills. Sharon sent Meghan a monthly allowance, but with the way Meghan spent money, Janna hadn’t thought she’d have any money left.



The manager reached for the stack and flipped through it. Apparently satisfied with the amount, she slid it into her pocket. “Thank you, Officer,” she almost purred. Then, she turned to Janna and hissed, “If that thieving brat ever sets foot in my store again, you can be sure I’ll have her arrested.” She flipped her hair, spun on her heel, and stomped out of the office.



“Thank you for coming in, Ms. Kauffman.” The uniformed man rose to his feet. “You can go now. I’ll escort your niece back to school.”



Janna didn’t even try to force a smile. “Thank you, sir.” She turned to Meghan. “I expect you to kum straight home after school. We are going to have a talk.”



“What. Ever.” Meghan punctuated the words with a sneer. “You aren’t my mom.”



Her comment struck like a fist, knocking the air from Janna’s lungs. No, she wasn’t Meghan’s mom. But she had once been her favorite aunt. They’d been more like sisters, really, since they were only five years apart.



Janna glanced at the police officer on her way out. In light of the humiliation she had just suffered, she decided that if she never saw him again, it would be way too soon.



She also decided that, whatever Sharon’s reasons for sending Meghan to Seymour to live with her Amish relatives, they weren’t gut enough.



I received an advanced reader copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given.