Monday, May 31, 2010

Mailbox Monday-Late Edition

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page each Monday so that other book lovers and bloggers can see and comment on what's in the mailbox. Thanks Marcia for a great way of posting our new (or new to us) books!!

Have you read a book on my list? Please comment on it. It's possible I will use your comment and link back to you when I post my review of a particular book!

To Review:

She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell
Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller
Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr
Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Final Touch by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins
Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky
A Matter of Character by Robin Hatcher
Predator by Terri Blackstock


To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson
Nursing 2010 Drug Handbook
The Shadow Within by Karen Hancock
The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock
Shadow of Kiriath by Karn Hancock

Giveaway Books I Have Won:

Biking to Work by Rory McMullan (won on GLUE)


Leather and Lace by DiAnn Mills (Paperback Swap)

What's in your box this week?

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Broken by Travis Thrasher-My Review

Many thanks to Karen Ukraine for the Hachette Book Group for providing a copy for review!

Dark, very dark novel about a young woman who is trying to find herself in midst of crisis. Through a weird, disjointed series of events, she finds herself traveling all over the country seeking something she has no idea she needs.

I can't particularly say that I enjoyed this book. I barely made it halfway through and then decided it might get better so I stuck it out. I'm not quite sure that "christian fiction" is an appropriate label for this book, even though it does talk about finding God. I was very bothered to pick up a book labeled as such and find many unsavory words throughout. I found the writing somewhat disjointed. Very short, choppy sentences that didn't seem to go together. Overall, not an enjoyable book for me. Others have enjoyed it though and I encourage you to read their reviews and not pass judgment on mine alone. Read other reviews and get information on the author here

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Catching Up!

To all of my faithful readers:

Hi! How are you? I pray this finds you all well! I apologize for being MIA for awhile. Life always catches me in a tailspin this time of the year with school ending! The past month has been a whirlwind of activities but I have enjoyed most of it!! About 3 weekends ago, I was able to participate in my first ever Relay for Life event. It was amazing! I have collected money for this great event for the past 4 years but this was my first year actually attending the event. It was such an honor spending a night with those who can inspire me!

The next week I was busy with a gospel meeting at church and then our first honor's night of the season for our 9th - 11th graders. Those were both fulfilling activities as well. This past week has been full of our senior honors night and graduation.

I received a distinct honor at our senior honors night. For the past 4 years, our principal has asked the honor graduates to choose a teacher who has made a significant impact on their education. This year, I was honored with my very first Golden Apple. The student who chose to gave it to me is one that I hadn't taught in over 2 years and I had only taught her for one year. I was quite shocked (and still am) that she thought of me! (I would have entered a picture of the two of us at this point but I'm on dial-up and it takes 24+ hours to load pictures here! Hopefully soon I can add it here!) Samantha will go far in life and I wish her well! Graduation was absolutely beautiful and Dana, the Valedictorian, left the graduated with the best words ever..."Don't Worry, Be Happy!".

Now that the kiddos are gone, I have a week to clean up the classroom, submit final grades, and attend a retreat for our Leadership team of which I'm a member. Then the summer begins...more time for reading I hope!! I do have about 3 weeks of classes to attend for various reasons before the next school year starts. I will also be taking my GRE in a few days to hopefully get into graduate school for my Specialist degree (no idea how I got by in my Master's program without having to take the GRE but they didn't require it for admission). If accepted, my program will start in August.

I say all of this to say, thank you for sticking with me when I haven't posted much and please stay tuned for more interaction through the summer. I have some of what looks like some pretty good books to read coming up (I've read 3 just this weekend!) and I hope you will enjoy all that I have to say this summer!

Happy Memorial Day weekend. I pray you will have some time to reflect on the sacrifices made and for those who still fight on a daily basis for the freedoms we enjoy. Have a great summer, read lots of great books, and DON'T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!!! :)

With love to all my readers,


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FIRST: Texas Roads by Cathy Bryant

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:

Texas Roads

WordVessel Press (March 1, 2010)

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


Cathy Bryant is a proud member of FIRST and a country girl at heart. Her debut novel, Texas Roads, was a 2009 finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis competition. A Texas gal by birth, Cathy lives with her husband in a century-old Texas farmhouse, complete with picket fence, flowers, butterflies, and late summer mosquitoes the size of your fist.

Visit the author's book website.
Visit the author's website.
Visit the author's blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: WordVessel Press (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984431101
ISBN-13: 978-0984431106


Chapter One ~ Longing For Home

Dani’s blue Honda Civic lurched and sputtered, drawing her attention to the neon-orange needle on the gas gauge. Empty. A frustrated growl rushed from her throat as she maneuvered onto the tufts of new spring grass at the side of the country road, turned off the ignition, and leaned her head back against the seat, berating herself for her forgetfulness. She’d love to blame this on the fight with her mother, but it wouldn’t explain the hundreds of times she’d made similar mistakes. One more to add to her collection.

She rubbed the dull ache building between her eyes, and stared at her surroundings on this Texas back road. Why did she choose today, of all days, to visit her aunt, a woman she knew only from chatty letters and a brief phone call?


She longed to escape. To disappear, to travel so far away that painful memories became yesterday’s ashes.

A stray tear wandered down her cheek and she banished it with a swipe. Today marked the one-year anniversary of Richard’s death. Death had robbed her—not only of her husband, but of her dream—and stamped her heart’s one desire with angry red letters: REQUEST DENIED. Thanks to the life insurance and the inheritance of her father’s company, a ridiculous sum of money now graced her bank account, but not enough to buy what couldn’t be purchased. A house, yes—but not a home.

Stop wallowing, Dani. She grabbed her cell phone and flipped it opened. No signal. Of course. She climbed from the car to scan the horizon. Nothing but tree-dotted pastures and a few cows. Breathing deep to quell the rush of panic, she closed her eyes and envisioned a sweet grandmother-type driving up to offer a ride. Her eyes fluttered open. Yeah, right. She wasn’t Cinderella. Godmothers didn’t exist. And Prince Charming? The biggest fairy tale of all.

Her marriage was proof.

Waiting to be rescued just squandered precious hours of daylight. She snatched her purse from the passenger seat, slammed the car door, and stamped toward Miller’s Creek. Like a scratched CD, Mother’s hurtful words from the earlier phone conversation replayed in her mind, and none of it made sense. Why did her mother oppose this visit to see Aunt Beth? And what had caused a rift the size of Texas between the two sisters?

A cramp commenced in her toes and inched into her feet. With a frown, she eyed her shoes. Heels weren’t exactly the footwear of choice for hiking country roads. Balancing her discount-store purse in the crook of her arm, she rifled through its contents, searching for the keys as she marched back to the car. A sudden realization forced her into a stilted run, and a strangled sound ripped from her throat. “Please, no!”

The keys dangled from the ignition, teasing her like chocolate candy behind a counter of glass. With a guttural groan, Dani tilted her face toward the cloud-darkened sky. “What do You have against me?”

The isolated countryside responded with silence.

On the continued trek toward Miller’s Creek, the hush enveloped her, the only sound an occasional bird’s song and the rhythmic thud of her heels against the pavement. So peaceful. So unlike the city’s unending drone. The bluebonnets and Indian Blankets of early spring painted the countryside, stretching beyond the barbed-wire fence into open fields, and the breeze tangled her hair. As she breathed in the fresh air, her shoulder muscles unknotted. Then a low rumble pulled her gaze to the clouded sky.

Heavy raindrops pelted Dani’s face and dotted her consignment shop designer jacket. Within minutes she was drenched, the metallic taste of make-up dribbling into her mouth. She kicked at a rock, self-pity seeping through her like the rain through her dry-clean-only suit.

With a shiver she hunched over and pulled the soggy jacket closer in an effort to get warm. Burning pain in her left little toe hinted at the formation of a blister, but she hobbled on, her thoughts on her aunt. Could Aunt Beth provide the sense of family she so desperately needed? She attempted to toss the question from her mind. One thing was for certain. Her drowned-rat-appearance would make a memorable first impression. Just not in a good way.

The faint roar of an engine sounded behind her and intensified. Finally. She turned to see an older model pickup top the hill, and waved her arms in an effort to make herself seen in the rain and approaching nightfall. The beat-up truck slowed to a stop and the window lowered.

Dani tried to swallow, but her throat clamped shut. This was no grandmother. With one finger, a dusty cowboy pushed up his sweat-stained hat, his other arm draped over the steering wheel. “Can I give you a ride, ma’am?”

Dani brushed the drippy hair from her eyes, resisting the urge to correct his grammar. The word was may, not can. “I…uh…r-ran out of gas.”

The cowboy smiled, his teeth white against his dirt-smudged face. “That’s not what I asked.”

With a glance in the direction of her car, Dani’s brain accelerated into high gear. “Actually, if you’d be so kind as to get me some gas—”

A soft chuckle resonated from him, and his eyes twinkled.

She hoisted her chin. How dare he laugh at her.

“Look, ma’am.” His picture-perfect smile disappeared behind the long line of his lips, his voice laced with impatience. “I know you’re concerned about accepting a ride with someone you don’t know. Can’t say I blame you. But by the time I get to town, get gas and get back out here, it’s going to be dark. Then you’ll have plenty of reason to be afraid.”

She raised a hand to her lips. What he said made sense, but could she trust him?

His mouth curled at the corners. “Coyotes are pretty bad in these parts. Sure wouldn’t want to be out here after dark. Especially alone.”

Coyotes? Dani yanked on the door handle and hoisted herself onto the grimy seat. After one breath in, she wrinkled her nose and sniffed. What was that smell? Eau de Sweat? She swiveled her head toward him and found his gaze trained on her, his face lined with suppressed laughter.

He needn’t be so amused. Dani fidgeted with the seat belt, and held it with one hand to keep it from riding across her nose. “I think someone up there must not like me.”

“What makes you say that?” He stared at her like she was mentally unbalanced and put the truck in gear.

“It’s just been a rough day. Like God has it in for me or something.”

He raised one brow. “I think God must love you a lot, or I wouldn’t have come home this way. Not many people use this road anymore.”

Dani drew in a sharp breath. Did God love her? She gave her wet head a shake, sending droplets of water to the worn seat. Yeah, right. No one could love her. Not even God.

Conversation lapsed as the rain continued its steady stream, thundering against the roof, yet unable to drown out the hum of the truck’s engine. What would’ve happened to her if he hadn’t driven by? The only coyote she’d seen were the ones in science videos at school. A surprising shudder scuttled down her spine, followed by a shiver that rattled her teeth.

The cowboy shifted her direction, his dark eyes focused on her ruined jacket. “You must be cold.”

Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. Were all small-town people as intelligent as him? “What clued you in? My dripping clothes or blue lips?”

He laughed out loud, a hearty sound that made her somehow feel better. “Feeling a little testy, huh?” His eyes sparkled with amusement.

She hung her head, half in shame and partly to conceal the smile that crept onto her face without permission. “Sorry.”

Dani started as he reached toward her, but relaxed when he pulled a brown suede leather jacket from behind the seat. “Here. This ought to warm you up.”

“Thanks.” She gripped the stained coat with two fingers, and examined it for signs of vermin. None she could see. “Looks…uh…nice and cozy.” She snuggled into its warmth and breathed in the light scent of men’s cologne.


Dani closed her eyes, the unwelcome memories and emotions clawing their way through her insides. The feelings still took her by surprise, crawling into her consciousness at unexpected times. Had she not been a good enough wife? Is that why he’d betrayed her?

“By the way, I’m Steve Miller.” The stranger’s silky baritone interrupted her thoughts.

She opened her eyes to find his hand extended toward her. “Dani.” She clasped his hand. Not as rough as she expected for a cowboy.

“You really shouldn’t be on the back roads without enough fuel, you know.” The look he gave her was stern, but kind.

Dani swallowed the sarcastic reply that popped into her head, and instead sent him a pasted-on smile.

His gaze rested on her wedding band. “Your husband not able to come along?”

The irony of his question made her grimace. At least the ring had served its purpose. She shook her head and focused on the passing terrain, some fields completely covered in wildflowers. How many more miles?

He leaned forward and made eye contact. “Been to Miller’s Creek before?”

“Once when I was little, but I don’t remember much about it.”

“It’s a nice place.” His voice held a hint of pride. “Any family there?”

She slid a hand over her wet hair and cleared her throat. Time to change the subject. Let him enjoy the hot seat for a while. “An aunt. What about you? Have you lived in Miller’s Creek long?”

His eyebrow cocked into a furry question mark. “All my life.”

“No surprise there,” she muttered to herself. She glanced at his filthy blue jeans and tattered shirt. It had probably been that long since he’d taken a bath. Immediate guilt rained over her. Ease up, Dani. At least he offered you a ride.

“Excuse the way I look. We had a fence to mend today at the ranch.”

Heat built up steam under her cheeks, and she averted her eyes. Okay, he wasn’t supposed to hear that.

His expression held nothing but friendliness. “I might know your aunt. What’s her name?”

She rubbed fingers against her damp pants. Was it wise to divulge that information?

“Never mind.” Steve held up a hand, a thin layer of black showing beneath his nails. “I know you city folks have to be careful about stuff like that.”

What was it with his ability to read her mind? “City folks? You make it sound like a disease or something.” She hugged her arms to her chest. “Besides, how do you know I’m from the city?”

“’Cause people from around here don’t dress up in such fancy duds.” His dark eyes glinted and her nerves unraveled more.

“True. They wear cowboy hats and drive beat-up trucks.”

His throaty laughter reverberated in the cab. “Guess I had that coming.”

Once again her cheeks fired up. Resting her elbow on the door, Dani leaned her hot face against her fist and wished for a punching bag.

“Which city?”

She stared at the tattered pickup cab ceiling and drew in a breath. “Dallas.” If they didn’t get to Miller’s Creek soon she was going to blow.

“Should-a guessed that.” Steve’s face scrunched up. “How can you stand living in the city with all that noise and traffic?”

“I suppose the same way you live with stinky old cows and a lack of civilization.” Her voice rose in frustration.

Dani wished the blurted-out words back in her mouth. Too late.

She started to apologize, but Steve spoke before she could get a word out. “You in business for yourself, or you work for a corporation?”

Where’d he get that idea? “I’m an elementary school teacher.”

“Really?” His brows notched up and he snickered.

Irritation seeped through the cracks of her frazzled nerves like floodwater penetrating a leaky dam. She twisted her head to glare at him. “Is that so difficult to believe?”

A smirky smile snaked across the cowboy’s face. “Guess not. It’s just that Miller’s Creek teachers don’t dress up like you. They get down on the floor with their kids.”

The dam burst wide open. “Well now it’s my turn to be amazed. I didn’t know small towns like Miller’s Creek had schools.” Dani huffed out the words then yanked her head around to clamp a hand over her mouth. What was wrong with her today?

Broken only by the swish of the windshield wipers and the pit-pat of rain drops, the silence hung between them, thick and sultry. Suffocating. She let out a slow breath and ducked her head to study him from beneath her lashes. Steve faced forward, the dark hair at the nape of his neck curling upward, his stubbled jaw locked. Most of her friends would classify him as handsome, but she wasn’t looking for a man. Not ever again.

He began to whistle, a shrill sound that chafed against her raw nerve endings. She pressed a hand to her temple. How much farther could it be? “Is there a convenience store in Miller’s Creek by any chance?” She tried to infuse her tone with kindness.

His cinnamon eyes turned on her—dry hot winds that withered everything in their path. “Of course. Right next to the community outhouse.”

A nervous giggle escaped before she could stifle it, but Steve’s daggered glare brought it to a quick halt. After a few minutes she peeked at his face, now chiseled from granite. Way to go, Dani. She’d already offended one member of Miller’s Creek, and hadn’t even made it to the city limits.

The rain ceased as they pulled into town, and Dani sat up straighter at the sight of country cottages lining the street. Homey. A little tired, but nothing a fresh coat of paint couldn’t fix. Tree branches arched across the road to create a living canopy. The sun, sandwiched between cloud and earth, changed the leaf-clinging raindrops to diamonds.

And children. Everywhere she looked. They splashed in puddles and chased each other across spring green lawns, their shouts and laughter a symphony of careless joy. So Mayberry RFD.

The hunger for home haunted her, and a familiar ache settled over her heart like ancient dust. “Unbelievable.” Dani whispered the word and relaxed into the seat, then glanced at Steve, his face impassive. She tried to push aside the fear of never finding a home, but it clung to her with razor-sharp talons.

In one deft movement, Steve jerked the pickup into a parking lot and came to a whiplash stop. She avoided eye contact and allowed the sign above the door to capture her interest. B & B Hardware? Dani peered to her right where two lanes of gas pumps stood, and a smile wiggled onto her face. A hardware-store-slash-gas-station. Only in a small town.

She plucked a hundred-dollar bill from her purse and offered it to him. “I appreciate—”

“Keep it.” Steve spat out the words and leaned away, his mouth a taut slash.

Surely he needed the money. His ragged jeans and this rattletrap he drove suggested as much. Dani squeezed her eyebrows together. For whatever reason, he wasn’t about to take the money, so she stuffed the bill back in her wallet, shrugged off the coat and handed it to him.

“Thanks for the ride.” With a release of the door she lowered herself to the ground.

Without looking her direction the cowboy put the truck in reverse, barely allowing her time to shut the door. As he tore out of the parking lot, his rear wheels spewed gravel.

Dani sucked in air and blew it out in a gush. Thank goodness that was over. Now to call Aunt Beth and end this nightmare. She faced the store, her heart pounding like a child on the first day of school.

Dani has had a rough life and it's about to become even more difficult. Lies, secrets, deceit to the uttermost has Dani doubting about life in general. She's a lost soul with only one place left to go...Aunt Beth's. Little does she know that this decision will change her life forever!

I could not imagine having a mother like Dani has. Selfish, vain, controlling to the nth degree, and ungodly. Wow, that describes so many people in the world today! Dani is running away from her mom and the loss of her husband. She's never been around Aunt Beth much but feels comfortable with her and her advice. Is she ready to face the harsh words she's needed to hear all this time? Can she ever find love again? Can she make amends with her mother?

A combination of mystery, romance, and drama I highly recommend this quick read. I read it on a rainy Saturday morning and escaped to the Roads of Texas for the a great ride! Looking forward to the next book in this great series!

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FIRST: A Tailor Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer

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:

A Tailor-Made Bride

Bethany House (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Witemeyer for sending me a review copy.***


Karen Witemeyer holds a master's degree in psychology from Abilene Christian University and is a member of ACFW, RWA, and the Texas Coalition of Authors. She has published fiction in Focus on the Family's children's magazine, and has written several articles for online publications and anthologies. Tailor-Made Bride is her first novel. Karen lives in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764207555
ISBN-13: 978-0764207556



San Antonio, Texas—March 1881
“Red? Have you no shame, Auntie Vic? You can’t be buried in a scarlet gown.”

“It’s cerise, Nan.”

Hannah Richards bit back a laugh as Victoria Ashmont effectively put her nephew’s wife in her place with three little words. Trying hard to appear as if she wasn’t listening to her client’s conversation, Hannah pulled the last pin from between her lips and slid it into the hem of the controversial fabric.

“Must you flout convention to the very end?” Nan’s whine heightened to a near screech as she stomped toward the door. A delicate sniff followed by a tiny hiccup foreshadowed the coming of tears. “Sherman and I will be the ones to pay the price. You’ll make us a laughingstock among our friends. But then, you’ve never cared for anyone except yourself, have you?”

Miss Victoria pivoted with impressive speed, the cane she used for balance nearly clobbering Hannah in the head as she spun.

“You may have my nephew wrapped around your little finger, but don’t think you can manipulate me with your theatrics.” Like an angry goddess from the Greek myths, Victoria Ashmont held her chin at a regal angle and pointed her aged hand toward the woman who dared challenge her. Hannah almost expected a lightning bolt to shoot from her finger to disintegrate Nan where she stood.

“You’ve been circling like a vulture since the day Dr. Bowman declared my heart to be failing, taking over the running of my household and plotting how to spend Sherman’s inheritance. Well, you won’t be controlling me, missy. I’ll wear what I choose, when I choose, whether or not you approve. And if your friends have nothing better to do at a funeral than snicker about your great aunt’s attire, perhaps you’d do well to find some companions with a little more depth of character.”

Nan’s affronted gasp echoed through the room like the crack of a mule skinner’s whip.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Miss Victoria called out as her niece yanked open the bedchamber door. “You’ll have my money to console you. I’m sure you’ll recover from any embarrassment I cause in the blink of an eye.”

The door slammed shut, and the resulting bang appeared to knock the starch right out of Miss Victoria. She wobbled, and Hannah lurched to her feet to steady the elderly lady.

“Here, ma’am. Why don’t you rest for a minute?” Hannah gripped her client’s arm and led her to the fainting couch at the foot of the large four-poster bed that dominated the room. “Would you like me to ring for some tea?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, girl. I’m not so infirm that a verbal skirmish leaves me in want of fortification. I just need to catch my breath.”

Hannah nodded, not about to argue. She gathered her sewing box instead, collecting her shears, pins, and needle case from where they lay upon the thick tapestry carpet.

She had sewn for Miss Victoria for the last eighteen months, and it disturbed her to see the woman reduced to tremors and pallor so easily. The eccentric spinster never shied from a fight and always kept her razor-sharp tongue at the ready.

Hannah had felt the lash of that tongue herself on several occasions, but she’d developed a thick skin over the years. A woman making her own way in the world had to toughen up quickly or get squashed. Perhaps that was why she respected Victoria Ashmont enough to brave her scathing comments time after time. The woman had been living life on her own terms for years and had done well for herself in the process. True, she’d had money and the power of the Ashmont name to lend her support, but from all public reports—and a few overheard conversations—it was clear Victoria Ashmont’s fortune had steadily grown during her tenure as head of the family, not dwindled, which was more than many men could say. Hannah liked to think that, given half a chance, she’d be able to duplicate the woman’s success. At least to a modest degree.

“How long have you worked for Mrs. Granbury, Miss Richards?”

Hannah jumped at the barked question and scurried back to Miss Victoria’s side, her sewing box tucked under her arm. “Nearly two years, ma’am.”

“Hmmph.” The woman’s cane rapped three staccato beats against the leg of the couch before she continued. “I nagged that woman for years to hire some girls with gumption. I was pleased when she finally took my advice. Your predecessors failed to last more than a month or two with me. Either I didn’t approve of their workmanship, or they couldn’t stand up to my plain speaking. It’s a dratted nuisance having to explain my preferences over and over to new girls every time I need something made up. I’ve not missed that chore.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hannah’s forehead scrunched. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought Victoria Ashmont might have just paid her a compliment.

“Have you ever thought of opening your own shop?”

Hannah’s gaze flew to her client’s face. Miss Victoria’s slate gray eyes assessed her, probing, drilling into her core, as if she meant to rip the truth from her with or without her consent.

Ducking away from the penetrating stare, Hannah fiddled with the sewing box. “Mrs. Granbury has been good to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to set some of my earnings aside. It will be several years yet, but one day I do hope to set up my own establishment.”

“Good. Now help me get out of this dress.”

Dizzy from the abrupt starts, stops, and turns of the strange conversation, Hannah kept her mouth closed and assisted Miss Victoria. She unfastened the brightly colored silk, careful not to snag the pins on either the delicate material of the gown or on Miss Victoria’s stockings. Once the dress had been safely removed, she set it aside and helped the woman don a loose-fitting wrapper.

“I’m anxious to have these details put in order,” Miss Victoria said as she took a seat at the ladies’ writing desk along the east wall. “I will pay you a bonus if you will stay here and finish the garment for me before you leave. You may use the chair in the corner.” She gestured toward a small upholstered rocker that sat angled toward the desk.

Hannah’s throat constricted. Her mind scrambled for a polite refusal, yet she found no excuse valid enough to withstand Miss Victoria’s scrutiny. Left with no choice, she swallowed her misgivings and forced the appropriate reply past her lips.

“As you wish.”

Masking her disappointment, Hannah set her box of supplies on the floor near the chair Miss Victoria had indicated and turned to fetch the dress.

She disliked sewing in front of clients. Though her tiny boardinghouse room was dim and lacked the comforts afforded in Miss Victoria’s mansion, the solitude saved her from suffering endless questions and suggestions while she worked.

Hannah drew in a deep breath. I might as well make the best of it. No use dwelling on what couldn’t be changed. It was just a hem and few darts to compensate for her client’s recent weight loss. She could finish the task in less than an hour.

Miss Victoria proved gracious. She busied herself with papers of some kind at her desk and didn’t interfere with Hannah’s work. She did keep up a healthy stream of chatter, though.

“You probably think me morbid for finalizing all my funeral details in advance.” Miss Victoria lifted the lid of a small silver case and extracted a pair of eyeglasses. She wedged them onto her nose and began leafing through a stack of documents in a large oak box.

Hannah turned back to her stitching. “Not morbid, ma’am. Just . . . efficient.”

“Hmmph. Truth is, I know I’m dying, and I’d rather go out in a memorable fashion than slip away quietly, never to be thought of again.”

“I’m sure your nephew will remember you.” Hannah glanced up as she twisted the dress to allow her better access to the next section of hem.

“Sherman? Bah! That boy would forget his own name if given half a chance.” Miss Victoria pulled a document out of the box. She set it in front of her, then dragged her inkstand close and unscrewed the cap. “I’ve got half a mind to donate my estate to charity instead of letting it sift through my nephew’s fingers. He and that flighty wife of his will surely do nothing of value with it.” A heavy sigh escaped her. “But they are family, after all, and I suppose I’ll no longer care about how the money is spent after I’m gone.”

Hannah poked her needle up and back through the red silk in rapid succession, focused on making each stitch even and straight. It wasn’t her place to offer advice, but it burned on her tongue nonetheless. Any church or charitable organization in the city could do a great amount of good with even a fraction of the Ashmont estate. Miss Victoria could make several small donations without her nephew ever knowing the difference. Hannah pressed her lips together and continued weaving her needle in and out, keeping her unsolicited opinion to herself.

She was relieved when a soft tapping at the door saved her from having to come up with an appropriate response.

A young maid entered and bobbed a curtsy. “The post has arrived, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Millie.” Miss Victoria accepted the envelope. “You may go.”

The sound of paper ripping echoed in the quiet room as Miss Victoria slid her letter opener through the upper edge of the flap.

“Well, I must give the gentleman credit for persistence,” the older woman murmured. “This is the third letter he’s sent in two months.”

Hannah turned the dress again and bent her head a little closer to her task, hoping to escape Miss Victoria’s notice. It was not to be. The older woman’s voice only grew louder and more pointed as she continued.

“He wants to buy one of my railroad properties.”

Hannah made the mistake of looking up. Miss Victoria’s eyes, magnified by the lenses she wore, demanded a response. Yet how did a working-class seamstress participate in a conversation of a personal nature with one so above her station? She didn’t want to offend by appearing uninterested. However, showing too keen an interest might come across as presumptuous. Hannah floundered to find a suitably innocuous response and finally settled on, “Oh?”

It seemed to be enough, and Miss Victoria turned back to her correspondence as she continued her ramblings.

“When the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway out of Galveston started up construction again last year, I invested in a handful of properties along the proposed route, in towns that were already established. I’ve made a tidy profit on most, but for some reason, I find myself reluctant to part with this one.”

An expectant pause hung in the air. Keeping her eyes on her work, Hannah voiced the first thought that came to mind.

“Does the gentleman not make a fair offer?”

“No, Mr. Tucker proposes a respectable price.” Miss Victoria tapped the handle of the letter opener against the desktop in a rhythmic pattern, then seemed to become aware of what she was doing and set it aside. “Perhaps I am reticent because I do not know the man personally. He is in good standing with the bank in Coventry and by all accounts is respected in the community, yet in the past I’ve made my decision to sell after meeting with the buyer in person. Unfortunately, my health precludes that now.”

“Coventry?” Hannah seized upon the less personal topic. “I’m not familiar with that town.”

“That’s because it’s about two hundred miles north of here—and it is quite small. The surveyors tell me it’s in a pretty little spot along the North Bosque River. I had hoped to visit, but it looks as if I won’t be afforded that opportunity.”

Hannah tied off her thread and snipped the tail. She reached for her spool and unwound another long section, thankful that the discussion had finally moved in a more neutral direction. She clipped the end of the thread and held the needle up to gauge the position of the eye.

“What do you think, Miss Richards? Should I sell it to him?”

The needle slipped out of her hand.

“You’re asking me?”

“Is there another Miss Richards in the room? Of course I’m asking you.” She clicked her tongue in disappointment. “Goodness, girl. I’ve always thought you to be an intelligent sort. Have I been wrong all this time?”

That rankled. Hannah sat a little straighter and lifted her chin. “No, ma’am.”

“Good.” Miss Victoria slapped her palm against the desk. “Now, tell me what you think.”

If the woman was determined to have her speak her mind, Hannah would oblige. This was the last project she’d ever sew for the woman anyway. It couldn’t hurt. The only problem was, she’d worked so hard not to form an opinion during this exchange, that now that she was asked for one, she had none to give. Trying not to let the silence rush her into saying something that would indeed prove her lacking in intellect, she scrambled to gather her thoughts while she searched for the dropped needle.

“It seems to me,” she said, uncovering the needle along with a speck of insight, “you need to decide if you would rather have the property go to a man you know only by reputation or to the nephew you know through experience.” Hannah lifted her gaze to meet Miss Victoria’s and held firm, not allowing the woman’s critical stare to cow her. “Which scenario gives you the greatest likelihood of leaving behind the legacy you desire?”

Victoria Ashmont considered her for several moments, her eyes piercing Hannah and bringing to mind the staring contests the school boys used to challenge her to when she was still in braids. The memory triggered her competitive nature, and a stubborn determination to win rose within her.

At last, Miss Victoria nodded and turned away. “Thank you, Miss Richards. I think I have my answer.”

Exultation flashed through her for a brief second at her victory, but self-recrimination soon followed. This wasn’t a schoolyard game. It was an aging woman’s search to create meaning in her death.

“Forgive my boldness, ma’am.”

Her client turned back and wagged a bony finger at Hannah. “Boldness is exactly what you need to run your own business, girl. Boldness, skill, and a lot of hard work. When you get that shop of yours, hardships are sure to find their way to your doorstep. Confidence is the only way to combat them—confidence in yourself and in the God who equips you to overcome. Never forget that.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Feeling chastised and oddly encouraged at the same time, Hannah threaded her needle and returned to work. The scratching of pen against paper replaced the chatter of Miss Victoria’s voice as the woman gave her full attention to the documents spread across her desk. Time passed swiftly, and soon the alterations were complete.

After trying the gown on a second time to assure a proper fit and examining every seam for quality and durability, as was her custom, Victoria Ashmont ushered Hannah down to the front hall.

“My man will see you home, Miss Richards.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Hannah collected her bonnet from the butler and tied the ribbons beneath her chin.

“I will settle my account with Mrs. Granbury by the end of the week, but here is the bonus I promised you.” She held out a plain white envelope.

Hannah accepted it and placed it carefully in her reticule. She dipped her head and made a quick curtsy. “Thank you. I have enjoyed the privilege of working for you, ma’am, and I pray that your health improves so that I might do so again.”

A strange light came into Miss Victoria’s eyes, a secretive gleam, as if she could see into the future. “You have better things to do than make outlandish red dresses for old women, Miss Richards. Don’t waste your energy worrying over my health. I’ll go when it’s my time and not a moment before.”

Hannah smiled as she stepped out the door, sure that not even the angels could drag Miss Victoria away until she was ready to go. Yet underneath the woman’s tough exterior beat a kind heart. Although Hannah didn’t fully understand how kind until she arrived home and opened her bonus envelope.

Instead of the two or three greenbacks she had assumed were tucked inside, she found a gift that stole her breath and her balance. She slumped against the boardinghouse wall and slid down its blue-papered length into a trembling heap on the floor. She blinked several times, but the writing on the paper didn’t change, only blurred as tears welled and distorted her vision.

She held in her hand the deed to her new dress shop in Coventry, Texas.

Chapter One

Coventry, Texas—September 1881
“J.T.! J.T.! I got a customer for ya.” Tom Packard lumbered down the street with his distinctive uneven gait, waving his arm in the air.

Jericho “J.T.” Tucker stepped out of the livery’s office with a sigh and waited for his right-hand man to jog past the blacksmith and bootmaker shops. He’d lost count of how many times he’d reminded Tom not to yell out his business for everyone to hear, but social niceties tended to slip the boy’s notice when he got excited.

It wasn’t his fault, though. At eighteen, Tom had the body of a man, but his mind hadn’t developed quite as far. He couldn’t read a lick and could barely pen his own name, but he had a gentle way with horses, so J.T. let him hang around the stable and paid him to help out with the chores. In gratitude, the boy did everything in his power to prove himself worthy, including trying to drum up clientele from among the railroad passengers who unloaded at the station a mile south of town. After weeks without so much as a nibble, it seemed the kid had finally managed to hook himself a fish.

J.T. leaned a shoulder against the doorframe and slid a toothpick out of his shirt pocket. He clamped the wooden sliver between his teeth and kept his face void of expression save for a single raised brow as Tom stumbled to a halt in front of him. The kid grasped his knees and gulped air for a moment, then unfolded to his full height, which was nearly as tall as his employer. His cheeks, flushed from his exertions, darkened further when he met J.T.’s eye.

“I done forgot about the yelling again, huh? Sorry.” Tom slumped, his chin bending toward his chest.

J.T. gripped the kid’s shoulder, straightened him up, and slapped him on the back. “You’ll remember next time. Now, what’s this about a customer?”

Tom brightened in an instant. “I gots us a good one. She’s right purty and has more boxes and gewgaws than I ever did see. I ’spect there’s enough to fill up the General.”

“The General, huh?” J.T. rubbed his jaw and used the motion to cover his grin.

Tom had names for all the wagons. Fancy Pants was the fringed surrey J.T. kept on hand for family outings or courting couples; the buggy’s name was Doc after the man who rented it out most frequently; the buckboard was just plain Buck; and his freight wagon was affectionately dubbed The General. The kid’s monikers inspired a heap of good-natured ribbing amongst the men who gathered at the livery to swap stories and escape their womenfolk, but over time the names stuck. Just last week, Alistair Smythe plopped down a silver dollar and demanded he be allowed to take Fancy Pants out for a drive. Hearing the pretentious bank clerk use Tom’s nickname for the surrey left the fellas guffawing for days.

J.T. thrust the memory from his mind and crossed his arms over his chest, using his tongue to shift the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “The buckboard is easier to get to. I reckon it’d do the job just as well.”

“I dunno.” Tom mimicked J.T.’s posture, crossing his own arms and leaning against the livery wall. “She said her stuff was mighty heavy and she’d pay extra to have it unloaded at her shop.”

“Shop?” J.T.’s good humor shriveled. His arms fell to his sides as his gaze slid past Tom to the vacant building across the street. The only unoccupied shop in Coventry stood adjacent to Louisa James’s laundry—the shop he’d tried, and failed, to purchase. J.T.’s jaw clenched so tight the toothpick started to splinter. Forcing himself to relax, he straightened away from the doorpost.

“I think she’s a dressmaker,” Tom said. “There were a bunch of them dummies with no heads or arms with her on the platform. Looked right peculiar, them all standin’ around her like they’s gonna start a quiltin’ bee or something.” The kid chuckled at his own joke, but J.T. didn’t join in his amusement.

A dressmaker? A woman who made her living by exploiting the vanity of her customers? That’s who was moving into his shop?

A sick sensation oozed like molasses through his gut as memories clawed over the wall he’d erected to keep them contained.

“So we gonna get the General, J.T.?”

Tom’s question jerked him back to the present and allowed him to stuff the unpleasant thoughts back down where they belonged. He loosened his fingers from the fist he didn’t remember making and adjusted his hat to sit lower on his forehead, covering his eyes. It wouldn’t do for the kid to see the anger that surely lurked there. He’d probably go and make some fool assumption that he’d done something wrong. Or worse, he’d ask questions J.T. didn’t want to answer.

He cleared his throat and clasped the kid’s shoulder. “If you think we need the freight wagon, then we’ll get the freight wagon. Why don’t you harness up the grays then come help me wrangle the General?”

“Yes, sir!” Tom bounded off to the corral to gather the horses, his chest so inflated with pride J.T. was amazed he could see where he was going.

Ducking back inside the livery, J.T. closed up his office and strode past the stalls to the oversized double doors that opened his wagon shed up to the street. He grasped the handle of the first and rolled it backward, using his body weight as leverage. As his muscles strained against the heavy wooden door, his mind struggled to control his rising frustration.

He’d finally accepted the fact that the owner of the shop across the street refused to sell to him. J.T. believed in Providence, that the Lord would direct his steps. He didn’t like it, but he’d worked his way to peace with the decision. Until a few minutes ago. The idea that God would allow it to go to a dressmaker really stuck in his craw.

It wasn’t as if he wanted the shop for selfish reasons. He saw it as a chance to help out a widow and her orphans. Isn’t that what the Bible defined as “pure religion”? What could be nobler than that? Louisa James supported three kids with her laundry business and barely eked out an existence. The building she worked in was crumbling around her ears even though the majority of her income went to pay the rent. He’d planned to buy the adjacent shop and rent it to her at half the price she was currently paying in exchange for storing some of his tack in the large back room.

J.T. squinted against the afternoon sunlight that streamed into the dim stable and strode to the opposite side of the entrance, his indignation growing with every step. Ignoring the handle, he slammed his shoulder into the second door and ground his teeth as he dug his boots into the packed dirt floor, forcing the wood to yield to his will.

How could a bunch of fripperies and ruffles do more to serve the community than a new roof for a family in need? Most of the women in and around Coventry sewed their own clothes, and those that didn’t bought ready-made duds through the dry-goods store or mail order. Sensible clothes, durable clothes, not fashion-plate items that stroked their vanity or elicited covetous desires in their hearts for things they couldn’t afford. A dressmaker had no place in Coventry.

This can’t be God’s will. The world and its schemers had brought her to town, not God.

Horse hooves thudded and harness jangled as Tom led the grays toward the front of the livery.

J.T. blew out a breath and rubbed a hand along his jaw. No matter what had brought her to Coventry, the dressmaker was still a woman, and his father had drummed into him the truth that all women were to be treated with courtesy and respect. So he’d smile and doff his hat and make polite conversation. Shoot, he’d even lug her heavy junk around for her and unload all her falderal. But once she was out of his wagon, he’d have nothing more to do with her.


Hannah sat atop one of her five trunks, waiting for young Tom to return. Most of the other passengers had left the depot already, making their way on foot or in wagons with family members who'd come to meet them. Hannah wasn’t about to let her belongings out of her sight, though—or trust them to a porter she didn’t know. So she waited.

Thanks to Victoria Ashmont’s generosity, she’d been able to use the money she’d saved for a shop to buy fabric and supplies. Not knowing what would be available in the small town of Coventry, she brought everything she needed with her. Including her prized possession—a Singer Improved Family Model 15 treadle machine with five-drawer walnut cabinet and extension leaf. The monster weighed nearly as much as the locomotive that brought her here, but it was a thing of beauty, and she intended to make certain it arrived at the shop without incident.

Her toes tapped against the wooden platform. Only a mile of dusty road stood between her and her dream. Yet the final minutes of waiting felt longer than the hours, even years, that preceded them. Could she really run her own business, or would Miss Ashmont’s belief in her prove misplaced? A tingle of apprehension tiptoed over Hannah’s spine. What if the women of Coventry had no need of a dressmaker? What if they didn’t like her designs? What if . . .

Hannah surged to her feet and began to pace. Miss Ashmont had directed her to be bold. Bold and self-confident. Oh, and confident in God. Hannah paused. Her gaze slid to the bushy hills rising around her like ocean swells. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” The psalm seeped into her soul, bringing a measure of assurance with it. God had led her here. He would provide.

She resumed her pacing, anticipation building as fear receded. On her sixth lap around her mound of luggage, the creak of wagon wheels brought her to a halt.

A conveyance drew near, and Hannah’s pulse vaulted into a new pace. Young Tom wasn’t driving. Another man with a worn brown felt hat pulled low over his eyes sat on the bench. It must be that J.T. person Tom had rambled on about. Well, it didn’t matter who was driving, as long as he had the strength to maneuver her sewing machine without dropping it.

A figure in the back of the wagon waved a cheerful greeting, and the movement caught Hannah’s eye. She waved back, glad to see Tom had returned as well. Two men working together would have a much easier time of it.

The liveryman pulled the horses to a halt and set the brake. Masculine grace exuded from him as he climbed down and made his way to the platform. His long stride projected confidence, a vivid contrast to Tom’s childish gamboling behind him. Judging by the breadth of his shoulders and the way the blue cotton of his shirt stretched across the expanse of his chest and arms, this man would have no trouble moving her sewing cabinet.

Tom dashed ahead of the newcomer and swiped the gray slouch hat from his head. Tufts of his dark blond hair stuck out at odd angles, but his eyes sparkled with warmth. “I got the General, ma’am. We’ll get you fixed up in a jiffy.” Not wasting a minute, he slapped his hat back on and moved past her.

Hannah’s gaze roamed to the man waiting a few steps away. He didn’t look much like a general. No military uniform. Instead he sported scuffed boots and denims that were wearing thin at the knees. The tip of a toothpick protruded from his lips, wiggling a little as he gnawed on it. Perhaps General was a nickname of sorts. He hadn’t spoken a word, yet there was something about his carriage and posture that gave him an air of authority.

She straightened her shoulders in response and closed the distance between them. Still giddy about starting up her shop, she couldn’t resist the urge to tease the stoic man who held himself apart.

“Thank you for assisting me today, General.” She smiled up at him as she drew near, finally able to see more than just his jaw. He had lovely amber eyes, although they were a bit cold. “Should I salute or something?”

His right brow arced upward. Then a tiny twitch at the corner of his mouth told her he’d caught on.

“I’m afraid I’m a civilian through and through, ma’am.” He tilted his head in the direction of the wagon. “That’s the General. Tom likes to name things.”

Hannah gave a little laugh. “I see. Well, I’m glad to have you both lending me a hand. I’m Hannah Richards.”

The man tweaked the brim of his hat. “J.T. Tucker.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Tucker.”

He dipped his chin in a small nod. Not a very demonstrative fellow. Nor very talkative.

“Lay those things down, Tom,” he called out as he stepped away. “We don’t want them to tip over the side if we hit a rut.”

“Oh. Wait just a minute, please.” There was no telling what foul things had been carted around in that wagon bed before today. It didn’t matter so much for her trunks and sewing cabinet, but the linen covering her mannequins would be easily soiled.

“I have an old quilt that I wrapped around them in the railroad freight car. Let me fetch it.”

Hannah sensed more than heard Mr. Tucker’s sigh as she hurried to collect the quilt from the trunk she had been sitting on. Well, he could sigh all he liked. Her display dummies were going to be covered. She had one chance to make a first impression on the ladies of Coventry, and she vowed it would be a pristine one.

Making a point not to look at the liveryman as she scurried by, Hannah clutched the quilt to her chest and headed for the wagon. She draped it over the side, then climbed the spokes and hopped into the back, just as she had done as a child. Then she laid out the quilt along the back wall and gently piled the six dummies horizontally atop it, alternating the placement of the tripod pedestals to allow them to fit together in a more compact fashion. As she flipped the remaining fabric of the quilt over the pile, a loud thud sounded from behind, and the wagon jostled her. She gasped and teetered to the side. Glancing over her shoulder, she caught sight of Mr. Tucker as he shoved the first of her trunks into the wagon bed, its iron bottom scraping against the wooden floor.

The man could have warned her of his presence instead of scaring the wits out of her like that. But taking him to task would only make her look like a shrew, so she ignored him. When Tom arrived with the second trunk, she was ready. After he set it down, she moved to the end of the wagon.

“Would you help me down, please?”

He grinned up at her. “Sure thing.”

Hannah set her hands on his shoulders as he clasped her waist and lifted her down. A tiny voice of regret chided her for not asking the favor of the rugged Mr. Tucker, but she squelched it. Tom was a safer choice. Besides, his affable manner put her at ease—unlike his companion, who from one minute to the next alternated between sparking her interest and her ire.

She bit back her admonishments to take care as the men hefted her sewing machine. Thankfully, they managed to accomplish the task without her guidance. With the large cabinet secured in the wagon bed, it didn’t take long for them to load the rest of her belongings. Once they finished, Tom handed her up to the bench seat, then scrambled into the back, leaving her alone with Mr. Tucker.

A cool autumn breeze caressed her cheeks and tugged lightly on her bonnet as the wagon rolled forward. She smoothed her skirts, not sure what to say to the reticent man beside her. However, he surprised her by starting the conversation on his own.

“What made you choose Coventry, Miss Richards?”

She twisted on the seat to look at him, but his eyes remained focused on the road.

“I guess you could say it chose me.”

“How so?”

“It was really a most extraordinary sequence of events. I do not doubt that the Lord’s Providence brought me here.”

That got a reaction. His chin swiveled toward her, and beneath his hat, his intense gaze speared her for a handful of seconds before he blinked and turned away.

She swallowed the moisture that had accumulated under her tongue as he stared at her, then continued.

“Two years ago, I was hired by Mrs. Granbury of San Antonio to sew for her most particular clientele. One of these clients was an elderly spinster with a reputation for being impossible to work with. Well, I needed the job too badly to allow her to scare me away and was too stubborn to let her get the best of me, so I stuck it out and eventually the two of us found a way to coexist and even respect each other.

“Before she died, she called me in to make a final gown for her, and we fell to talking about her legacy. She had invested in several railroad properties, and had only one left that had not sold. In an act of generosity that I still find hard to believe, she gave me the deed as a gift, knowing that I had always dreamed of opening my own shop.”

“What kept her from selling it before then?” His deep voice rumbled with something more pointed than simple curiosity.

A prickle of unease wiggled down Hannah’s neck, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint the cause.

“She told me that she preferred to meet the buyers in person, to assess their character before selling off her properties. Unfortunately, her health had begun to decline, and she was unable to travel. There had been a gentleman of good reputation from this area who made an offer several times. A Mr. Tuck…”

A hard lump of dread formed in the back of Hannah’s throat.

“Oh dear. Don’t tell me you’re that Mr. Tucker?”

Poor Hannah's troubles have just begun when she meets Mr. Tucker! If this first chapter grabbed you, I promise you won't be disappointed with this book!

The more Christian Historical Fiction I read, the more I wished I lived "back in the day". The attire was so much more modest, the men (and women too!) had more respect for the women in their lives, and people seemed so much more Godly. I'm sure that doesn't apply to all people back in those times, just as it doesn't apply to everyone in today's society either. Life, while it seemed so hard back then, just seems easier than it would be today.

I love how the author used names with great meanings. Hannah has always been a beautiful name and the Hannah in the Bible is nothing but. that Ms. Witemeyer chose this name for the male protagonist!! It is so rightfully fitting for him! I do believe that my favorite character is Ezra. You just have to read the book to find out why!! It's obvious that the author placed a huge biblical value on the names in this book!

This is a great book for all aged readers. I do believe that the younger women will appreciate this book and hopefully learn a few lessons from within just as the more seasoned women can reflect on things in their lives. I highly recommend this for all and will pass this book recommendation on to the magazine that I am becoming a regular book reviewer for!

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

It's hard for me to believe that this is Jill Williamson's first novel! Any child needing a great book to read this summer should pick up this tale about Achan, Vrell, and others! I found myself lost in this world of knights, squires, and peasants immediately. Ms. Williamson weaves a tale of these young people in a way that would attract any lover of sci-fi, magic, or royalty! When asked by my students what this book compares to, I had to answer a mixture between Harry Potter (Vrell is very Hermione-like in my opinion) and The Chronicles of Narnia series. This book is classified as christian science fiction and one would not find any inappropriate words or scenes included. Readers may be discouraged by the length of this book (490 pages) but rest assured, it is jam packed with action! I became frustrated when I couldn't read for long periods of time due to school and family issues these past couple of weeks. Had I been free to read, I would have finished this one in 2 days or less.

I just received the next book, By Darkness Fled, in the mail yesterday and I'm trying to get it worked into my reading schedule asap!! It's not one that I can wait til the end of summer to read!

CFBA: A Matter of Character by Robin Hatcher

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Matter Of Character

Zondervan (May 25, 2010)


Robin Lee Hatcher


Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon


It's 1918, and Daphne McKinley, heiress to a small fortune, has found contentment in the town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho. But Daphne has a secret.

A series of dime novels loosely based on local lore and featuring a nefarious villain known as Rawhide Rick has enjoyed modest popularity among readers. Nobody in Bethlehem Springs knows the man behind the stories ... except Daphne.

When newspaperman Joshua Crawford comes to town searching for the man who sullied the good name of his grandfather, Daphne finds herself at a crossroads, reassessing the power of her words, re-thinking how best to honor her gifts, and reconsidering what she wants out of life.

Robin is conducting a contest for the new book. Join in the fun HERE.

If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of A Matter Of Character, go HERE.

Come and visit with those posting for this tour:

Abi at lighter side
Andie at Radiant Light
Andrea at The Laughs Will Go On
April at Projecting A
Bonnie at Bonnie Writes
Brittanie at A Book Lover
Camy at Camy's Loft
Carly at Carlybird's Home
Casey at Writing For Christ
CeeCee at Book Splurge
Cheryl at Writing Remnants
Christy at Christy's Book Blog
Dave at The Plot Thickens
Dave at Novel Spotlight
Deanna at Deannna's Corner
Deborah at books, movies and chinese food
Deborah at Country At Heart
Deborah at Comfort Joy Designs
Debra at Soul Reflections
Delia at Gatorskunkz And Mudcats
Gina at Upon Reflection
Heidi at Reviews And Reflections
Janis at The Nearsighted Bookworm
Janna at Cornhusker Academy
Jason at Spoiled For The Ordinary
Jendi at Jendi's Journal
Jenn at One House Schoolroom Reviews
Jennifer at Musings on This, That, & The Other Thing
Jennifer at So Many Books…So Little Time
Jenny at Come Meet AusJenny
Jill at Christian Work At Home Moms
Julie at My Own Little Corner of The World
Kara at Ramblings-n-Writings
Kay at Views & Reviews by K
Kelly at A Disciple's Steps
Kim at Window To My World
Krista at Welcome To Married Life
Linda at Mocha With Linda
Linda at Reading For His Glory
Lori at Noggin Bits
Lynn at Ladybug Chronicles
Margaret at Creative Madness
Mark at Thoughts Of A Sojourner
Michelle at Edgy Inspirational Author
Michelle at Raising Little Women
Molly at Book Reviews
Myra at Writer at Random
Pam at A Writer's Journey
Pam at Pam's Private Reflections
Pam at Daysong Reflections
Pepper at Faith And Fiction On Fire
Becky at Becky's Book Reviews
Rel at Relz Reviewz
Rulan at Fiction Showcase
Ryan at loves to read
Sabrina at Hijinks From The Heartland
Sally at Book Critiques
Susan at New Every Morning
Takiela at Beauty 4 Ashes
Tara at Tara's View On Books
Vanessa at Ramblings of A Texas Housewife
Nessie at Illuminating Fiction
Melissa at Books R Us

CFBA: Broken by Travis Thrasher

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


FaithWords (May 25, 2010)


Travis Thrasher


It was during third grade after a teacher encouraged him in his writing and as he read through The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis that Travis decided he wanted to be a writer. The dream never left him, and allowed him to fulfill that dream of writing fulltime in 2007.

Travis Thrasher is the author of numerous works of fiction, including his most personal and perhaps his deepest work, Sky Blue, that was published in summer of 2007. This year he has to novels published, Out of the Devil’s Mouth, and a supernatural thriller, Isolation.

Travis is married to Sharon and they are the proud parents of Kylie, born in November, 2006, and Hailey, a Shih-Tzu that looks like an Ewok. They live in suburban Chicago.

Stop by and visit Travis at his Blog where you can sign up to follow him on Facebook and Twitter!


Laila had it all--love, family, wealth, and faith. But when her faith crumbles, her world falls apart and Laila finds herself living an empty, dangerous life as a call girl in Chicago.

When she is threatened, Laila shoots and kills a client in self-defense, sending herself into a spiral of guilt and emptiness. Six months later, she is trying to move on, but she's haunted by the past. She hasn't told anyone about the man she killed, and she's still estranged from her family.

When she is approached by a stranger who says he knows what she did, Laila has no choice but to run. But the stranger stays close behind, and Laila begins having visions of the man she killed. Little does she know she's being hounded by something not of this world, something that knows her deepest, darkest secret.

Scared and wandering, will Laila regain her trust in God to protect her from these demons? Or will her plea for salvation come too late?

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

Come and visit with those posting for this tour:

Amy at My Life
Andie at Radiant Light
April at Projecting A
Bonnie at Bonnie Writes
Brandilyn at Forensics and Faith
Brittanie at A Book Lover
Carla at Carla's Writing Café
CeeCee at Book Splurge
Cheryl at Writing Remnants
Christy at Christy's Book Blog
Dave at The Plot Thickens
Dave at Novel Spotlight
Dawn at Book Junkie Confessions
Debra at Soul Reflections
Delia at Gatorskunkz And Mudcats
E.J at Sword and Pen
Georgiana at Georgiana D
Gina at Upon Reflection
Gretchen at Back Cover Reviews
Janis at The Nearsighted Bookworm
Jason at Spoiled For The Ordinary
Jeanette at Mommy Blessings in Small Bundles
Jenn at One House Schoolroom Reviews
Jennifer at Quiverfull Family Blog
Jennifer at My Buckling Bookshelf
Jill at Christian Work At Home Moms
Julie at My Own Little Corner of The World
Kate at A Simple Walk
Kathleen at Heart 2 Heart
Kelly at A Disciple's Steps
Kelly at Scrambled Dregs
Kim at Window To My World
Kristi at Stamped With Grace
Lori at Noggin Bits
Lynetta at Open Book
Lynn at Ladybug Chronicles
Margaret at Creative Madness
Marjorie at The Writer's Tool
Mark at Thoughts Of A Sojourner
Michelle at Just A Minute
Michelle at Raising Little Women
Molly at Book Reviews
Nicole at Into The Fire
Pam at Pam's Private Reflections
Pam at Daysong Reflections
Rel at Relz Reviewz
Rulan at Fiction Showcase
Sean at Bookmark Cafe
Stacy at Vader's Mom
Takiela at Beauty 4 Ashes
Tara at Tara's View On Books
Tina at Tina's Book Reviews
Vanessa at Ramblings of A Texas Housewife
Nessie at Illuminating Fiction

Saturday, May 22, 2010

CFBA: Predator by Terri Blackstock

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Zondervan (May 25, 2010)


Terri Blackstock


Terri Blackstock’s books have sold six million copies worldwide. Her suspense novels often debut at number one on the Christian fiction best-seller lists, and True Light, published last year, was number one of all Christian books—fiction and non-fiction. Blackstock has had twenty-five years of success as a novelist.

In 1994 Blackstock was writing for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening drew her into the Christian market. Since that time, she’s written over thirty Christian titles, in addition to the thirty-two she had in the secular market. Her most recent books are the four in her acclaimed Restoration Series, which includes Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn’s Light. She is also known for her popular Newpointe 911 and Cape Refuge Series.

In addition to her suspense novels, she has written a number of novels in the women’s fiction genre, including Covenant Child, which was chosen as one of the first Women of Faith novels, and her Seasons Series written with Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye.

Blackstock has won the Retailer’s Choice Award and has appeared on national television programs such as The 700 Club, Home Life, and At Home Live with Chuck and Jenny. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country and the subject of countless articles. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.


The murder of Krista Carmichael's fourteen-year-old sister by an online predator has shaken her faith and made her question God's justice and protection. Desperate to find the killer, she creates an online persona to bait the predator. But when the stalker turns his sights on her, will Krista be able to control the outcome?

Ryan Adkins started the social network GrapeVyne in his college dorm and has grown it into a billion-dollar corporation. But he never expected it to become a stalking ground for online Predators. One of them lives in his town and has killed two girls and attacked a third. When Ryan meets Krista, the murders become more than a news story to him, and everything is on the line.

Joining forces, he and Krista set out to stop the killer. But when hunters pursue a hunter, the tables can easily turn. Only God can protect them now.

Enter the Terri Blackstock iPad CONTEST:

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

Watch the book trailer video!

Come and visit with those posting for this tour:

Adam at Meaningful Suspense
Amy at My Life
Andie at Radiant Light
April at Projecting A
Bonnie at Bonnie Writes
Camy at Camy's Loft
Cara at the law, books, and life
Carla at Carla's Writing Café
Carol at Blogging With Carol
Casey at Writing For Christ
CeeCee at Book Splurge
Cheryl at Writing Remnants
Christy at Southern Sassy Things
Dave at The Plot Thickens
Dave at Novel Spotlight
Deanna at Deannna's Corner
Debra at Soul Reflections
Delia at Gatorskunkz And Mudcats
E.J at Sword and Pen
Ernie at Writing: My Adventures In Words
Georgiana at Georgiana D
Gina at Portrait Of A Writer
Gretchen at Back Cover Reviews
Heidi at Reviews And Reflections
Janis at The Nearsighted Bookworm
Janna at Cornhusker Academy
Jeanette at Mommy Blessings in Small Bundles
Jendi at Jendi's Journal
Jennfer at Scraps and Snippets
Jill at Christian Work At Home Moms
Jill at Artistic Blogger
Julie at My Own Little Corner of The World
Kara at Ramblings-n-Writings
Kate at A Simple Walk
Kathleen at Heart 2 Heart
Kelly at A Disciple's Steps
Kim at Window To My World
Kristi at Stamped With Grace
Allie at A Little Bit Of Sunlight
Linda at Mocha With Linda
Linda at Reading For His Glory
Loren at The Heart Of A BookWorm
Lori at Noggin Bits
Lori at Lori's Book Reviews
Lynetta at Open Book
Lynn at Ladybug Chronicles
Margaret at Creative Madness
Marjorie at The Writer's Tool
Mark at Thoughts Of A Sojourner
Melissa at Books R Us
Michelle at Raising Little Women
Molly at Book Reviews
Myra at Writer at Random
Nora at Finding Hope Through Christian Fiction
Pam at A Writer's Journey
Pam at Pam's Private Reflections
Pam at Daysong Reflections
Rel at Relz Reviewz
Rulan at Fiction Showcase
Ryan at loves to read
Sabrina at Hijinks From The Heartland
Sally at Welcome To Sally
Sean at Bookmark Cafe
Susan at New Every Morning
Takiela at Beauty 4 Ashes
Tara at Tara's View On Books
Tracy at Pix-N-Pens
Vanessa at Ramblings of A Texas Housewife
Nessie at Illuminating Fiction

FIRST: Rooms by James L Rubart

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


B&H Books; Original edition (April 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn of B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


James L. Rubart is a professional marketer whose Jr2 Marketing company clientele has included ABC, AT&T/Cingular, and Clear Channel Radio. He is also a professional speaker, writes recurring columns for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and Christian Women Online, and is on the board of the Northwest Christian Writers Association.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books; Original edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805448888
ISBN-13: 978-0805448887


Micah Taylor tapped an edge of the cryptic letter against his palm as he stared out the massive windows of his corner office overlooking Puget Sound.

Why would a great uncle he'd never known build a home for him? Oregon coast. Cannon Beach. Right on the ocean; at least that's what the letter claimed. Probably some joke his VP's cooked up, inspired by the picture he'd hung in the conference room a few months ago of Ecola State Park. Great kid memories from that slice of paradise. Was it only fifteen years ago? Felt longer.

Micah smiled. This was exactly the kind of prank his team might try to pull off. No one would ever accuse RimSoft's culture of being stoic.

But if the letter was real—

"Time to go boss."

Shannon stood in the doorway, eyes bright behind her Versace glasses, short-cropped salt and pepper hair outlining her china doll face. She'd been Micah’s administrative assistant for three years. Smart and not easily intimidated, what bubbled in her five-foot-four frame made her one of the strongest links in his company's chain.

“I hate being called boss.”

“Yes, I know.” She pulled her glasses down and gave him her pirate look over the top of them.

Micah laughed and glanced once more at the letter announcing his inheritance.

He grabbed his notebook and wagged his finger at Shannon as they walked out of his office. “You shouldn’t call someone boss when you’re almost old enough to be their m—"

"—much older sister.”

“Right,” Micah said as they fell into step and marched down the halls of RimSoft.

Friday morning. He loved Fridays; not just because they launched the weekend like a blast of summer morning sun, but because of his weekly team meeting. The creativity his team pumped out astounded him. He might not get hired at his own company if he applied. If employing people better than yourself were an Olympic event Micah would be swimming in gold.

As they turned the final corner on the way to the conference room, Kelli Kay, one of Micah’s more talented programmers, approached. “Want to hear something really cool?” Her red curls bounced like a slinky.

“Absolutely.” Micah kept walking—now backward—his Nike’s scuffing lightly on the teal carpet. Single mom until four months ago, Kelli put herself through computer school, while working forty hours a week and taking care of her ten-year-old kid. Never complained about fifty hour weeks. Never complained about sixty hour weeks.

“My kid won that art contest I told you about last week; he’s headed to LA this summer to compete in the national—"

“You serious? Listen, if he places, let’s fly him, and you, and that new husband of yours to New York to see the MET. I'll bring Julie and we'll all go check out the art with him and time it so we catch a Mariner’s Yankees game.”

“Really?” Kelli half-jogged to keep up with Micah.

“Absolutely. RimSoft's already made $2 million off that little anti-virus program you developed last year. You're amazing," Micah said.

He turned and picked up his pace. Shannon picked up hers too, her white Adidas running shoes helping in the effort. He couldn't believe this was the same women who showed up her first day wearing three-inch heals and a business suit straight out of Uptight Dresses for Corporate America. Micah told her to get rid of the heels and put on whatever she loved wearing and felt comfortable in.

“You could actually stop when you talk to people," Shannon said.

Micah laughed. "We have a meeting. You know, the company? Work to do. Software programs to develop. Lots of sales. Happy stockholders. Make money. All that stuff.” He brushed past a lush, broad leafed Dracaena plan and walked faster.

“They just want more time with you, to know you like them."

“I like everyone. But, to be sure, let's get out an e-mail that says ‘From Micah Taylor. To you. I like you. I really, really like you.’ ” He turned, pushed open the conference room door and held it for Shannon. He returned her glare with an impish grin.

The conference room was small but comfortable. No vaulted ceiling, no massive table, just two light tan leather couches and six overstuffed espresso brown chairs all circling the center of the room. RimSoft's version of Camelot. The room wasn't designed for ego, it was crafted for efficiency.

The couches held two people each. On one couch sat Micah's head of legal with his jet-black hair and John Lennon glasses. Next to him slumped his VP of mergers and acquisitions; thirty-one years old but looked fifty with his premature gray hair. On the other couch perched his VP of marketing, looking more every day like a young Oprah. Next to her sat his Chief Financial officer. Two of Micah's software development VP's sat in the chairs.

Shannon sat in a chair, Micah paced in front of his.

On a table in the center of the room sat a steaming pot filling the air with the aroma of Starbuck's coffee. Clumped next to it were mugs from Disneyland, the University of Washington Huskies, and cups with RimSoft's logo on them.

Good. All the pieces were in place. Time to check out the condition of the chess board.

“All right,” Micah said, a slice above his normal volume. “Let's roll. Where are we at with the i2-Rock alliance?”

“Done," his mergers VP said.

"We love their hardware; they still love our software, right?"


“Excellent, great work.” Micah focused on Oprah's twin. “Is the ad layout done for Wired?"


"Last one you did was a home run into the rafters so let’s keep the hits coming.” He turned to his right. “Beta testing on version four is done, right?”

“Finished Wednesday.”

“Very nice work, I can’t believe you already have it almost bug free.” Micah looked at the head of his legal team. “You’ve finished the docs for the merger with Reeda?”

“Not quite." The man glanced up at Micah. "We’re almost there.”

Micah whipped his pen around on his yellow note pad like a poor man's Picasso. “This is a sketch of underwear. But not just ordinary underwear, its asbestos underwear. You need a pair.”

“Why?” asked the head of legal.

“Well, you said your team would be done on Tuesday. It’s now Friday. So since it isn’t done, your team falls into the category of ‘liar, liar, pants on fire.’ I would think the asbestos underwear would help squelch the flames a bit.”

The head of legal flushed and mumbled, “We’ll get it done by the end of the day.”

“You’re excellent at law but this is the third time you’ve delayed us this quarter. Unacceptable.”

One of his team cleared their throat. The rest glued their eyes to the agenda.

"Deep breath everyone. Relax. Let's move on," Micah said.

A half-hour later Micah glanced at each member of his team. “Thank you. For two things. First, for being good enough at what you do that this company could no doubt survive without me. Second, for not being so good there’s no room left for my input.” He smiled, grabbed his notebook, and strode toward the door.

Too harsh in there on Mr. Always-Late-Legal? Probably. But why couldn't the guy just do his job on time? Did Micah have to do every job at RimSoft? If there was time he would. He doubted any of them believed his 'good enough that the company could run without me' speech. RimSoft couldn't. Always picking up the broken pieces was part of running a company. But it exhausted him. There had to be a way to get free of it. Trusting other people to come through? Wouldn't happen in this lifetime.

Shannon stepped into the hallway just ahead of him and clipped toward her desk like an Olympic speed walker.

In two bounds Micah, caught up to her. “Hey, slow down.”

She walked faster and didn’t respond.

“You’ve got that ‘Micah was a jerk’ look again.”

“Hmm.” She looked up at him with a thin lipped smile.

They walked seven paces in silence. “That’s not who I really am."


Four more paces.

“You’re right, I was a royal jerk in there,” he whispered. His face grew warm as he fingered the scar on his left palm. “It’s just … some realities about life have stuck with me whether I wanted them to or not.”

“So you weren’t this way from birth?”

He hoped the tiny shake of his head was imperceptible. “Only since I was eight.”

"Zero! Zilch! Nada! That's what you'll always be, kid!"

The rest of the scene—the blood, the abandonment—tried to surface but Micah

slammed the vault to his heart shut and the memory faded.

By the time he arrived at his office, his breathing had steadied and his focus shifted to the letter from his great uncle sitting on his teak desk. Micah picked it up. The yellowed paper was probably white once, though the fluid cursive writing looked as crisp as if it had been scrawled yesterday.

The envelope it came in had been sealed with wax, the outline of a lion’s head distinct in the dark-blue paraffin. Micah settled into his black leather chair and stared at the name above the return address on the envelope. Archie Taylor. Definitely strange.

Archie was his great uncle whom he knew less than a paragraph about. He’d been dead since the early ‘90s, and Micah had never met him. He knew Archie had made quite a bit of money and hadn’t married, but the rest had always been a mystery. Until Micah’s late teens, he hadn’t known Archie existed. When he asked, his dad would only say Archie was a strange man. A man to stay away from. He opened the letter and wondered once more if what it promised was real.

September 27, 1989

Dear Micah,

You are likely shocked to have received this letter as we never had the opportunity to know each other. The reason for the letter will surprise you more.

I have asked a friend to mail it when you turn thirty-five or when you acquire enough financial resources that you no longer need to labor. Consequently, if you are reading this letter before reaching your 35th birthday you have already made a significant amount of money, which is sometimes a beneficial occurrence at a young age, but usually is not.

If my instructions have been carried out, a home was built during the past five months on the Oregon coast, four miles south of Cannon Beach. I designed it for you.

My great desire is that you enjoy the house, and if the builder followed my directives I believe you will. It will certainly—if you'll forgive the cliché—upset your apple cart if you allow it. The home is all you.

Your great uncle,


P.S. There should be a key enclosed with this letter as well as a card with the address.

Micah reread the last line and frowned. 'The home is all you?' Typo. Must mean all yours.

Intriguing. One of his fave places in another life. If there was a home on the northern Oregon coast with his name on it, it was an adventure worth checking out. Soon. Micah read the letter for the third time that morning. Definitely soon.


A noise in the hall made him look up. Julie. Perfect business partner. Recent romantic partner. Tenacious tennis partner.

Her shoulder-length blond hair bounced as she pranced through the door of his office, crisp beige suit complementing her gleaming pearly whites.

“Hey!" Micah rose from his desk and opened his arms.

When she reached him, she ruffled his dark brown hair and kissed him softly.

The faint scent of Safari floated up to him. She never wore too much, almost not enough. Julie. Powerful yet could be tender. Driven and radiant. Nice to have her back.

“How was the trip?” he asked.

“We’re richer. But glad it’s over.” Julie slid out of her blazer, flicked a piece of lint off the lapel, and laid the coat across the back of Micah’s milk chocolate brown chair and patted it once. “I did find the perfect SLR digital camera to add to my collection. You’ll model for me, please? Your baby-blue eyes are worth taking up seventy or eighty megs on my laptop."

When they’d started RimSoft five years ago he never imagined they’d strike such a rich vein in the software gold rush. Of course he’d never imagined their long-term platonic relationship budding into romance either.

Micah sat down and stared at Archie's letter.

“You with me here?" Julie said, leaning against Micah's desk.


“I asked about Monday's board meeting and I think waiting five seconds for a response is long enough." She laughed.

“Sorry, didn't hear you. Brain freeze. I got a bizarre letter from a long lost relative. In fact this weekend I might go—“

Julie pressed two fingers against his lips. “We cannot allow those thoughts to escape.”

“What thoughts?”

“Of nixing our Whistler trip this weekend. You and me and snow and spring skiing and fireplaces and old, old bottles of cabernet. Ring any bells?”

“Hmm.” He grinned sheepishly.

“You better have a really, really good reason if you're canceling.” She straightened the collar of his olive-green polo shirt.

"Apparently I’ve inherited a house right on the ocean, just south of Cannon Beach."

"Cannon Beach?" A scowl flashed across her face.

"What?" Micah said.

"Nothing. Let me see something." Julie leaned over him as her red fingernails danced over his keyboard until a sampling of Cannon Beach homes for sale flashed on screen. "Take a look at these prices." She tapped on his monitor. "You're little gift could be worth $3 million plus. Throw a sign on it, make some quick cash."

"It's probably just a shack. Or maybe the letter's a hoax."

"Where did this mystery shack come from?"

He picked up the letter and bounced it up and down on his palm. "My great-uncle, whom I never met, had it built for me."

"You never met him and he gives you a house at Cannon Beach?"

"Weird huh?" Micah opened his palms. "So, this weekend, want to come check it out with me?"

Julies shoulders sagged. "Instead of Whistler?"

"You're right." He ran his finger over the surface of the letter. "Let's go skiing."

"Wow. You're really curious aren't you?"

Julie didn’t wait for an answer. A few seconds later Google Earth splashed onto Micah's monitor.

"Address?" Julie said.

Micah read it to her off the letter. A few seconds later they gazed at a patch of dirt overlooking the ocean.

"Not even a shack," Julie said.

"Maybe, maybe not." Micah punched a few keys. "Look. That satellite image is seven months old. Archie's letter says the home was built by somebody during the past five months." Micah gaze stayed riveted on his screen. "There could be—"

"How 'bout I make you a deal so you can go to the beach, Mr. Break-My-Heart.”

Hey, it’s not that important for—“

“No, no, stay with me here. If you switch out our weekend at Whistler for a week in the Alps, we have a deal.”

“So you'll come with me this weekend?"



Julie sighed and looked out the window. " The ocean and I don't get along."

"Interesting. Another fascinating secret about my fascinating partner is revealed." Micah leaned back with his hands behind his head. "This is a story I need to know."

"No, you don't. That story has no admittance stamped on it in blood red letters."