Friday, January 28, 2011

COTT: Most Gut-Wrenching Scene Winner!

Hot Off The Presses!

A new COTT winner has been revealed!

(Drum roll, please)...........

And the winner is...........

Tina Pinson! Woo Hoo! Yeah! Way to go!

Tina's excerpt from her book In the Manor of the Ghost, beat out her competitor (DeAnna Julie Dodson's In Honor Bound) with a 56% to 44% vote. Such close results tell us ya can't go wrong with either title, but Tina's did indeed "take the cake". Congratulations are in order to the newest Conqueror at Clash of the Titles. Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray!

Tina competed in the category of Most Gut-Wrenching Scene with a heart-twisting look at a woman watching her husband and baby trapped in a burning building:

Jean Marc stood in the upstairs window holding a bundle. Kaitlin knew, with another slice to her soul, the bundle was Simone. Jean Marc, so quiet, protective, so uneasily riled, yelled. Tormented wails for help rose along with tears of anguish and fear as angry flames licked out behind him.

For the full excerpt, click here

A few of our reader/voters' comments:

* This would be my worst nightmare!
* Wonderful writing!
* Both excerpts were really gut wrenching and had me in tears.

So what did she think of her visit to COTT? In her words:

"Thanks for letting me do battle here. Not quite so bloody as other arenas. I was honored to be a warrior on Clash. I loved the excerpt from my opponent."

Like those before her, Tina exhibits the graciousness and sportsmanship that has come to define the COTT family. She fits right in. And that's something she hasn't always known. Growing up Tina was one of five siblings—the only blonde. Though her sisters often joked that she must have been adopted (all in fun), there's no teasing here.

You can read more about Tina in her interview on Clash of the Titles here
About her book:

In the Manor of the Ghost:

It's the 1870's. The Civil War has long since been fought and laid to rest, settlers are still joining the wagon trains and heading west to the New Eden. The land is changing. But those who dwell in Clayborne Manor seem trapped in time.
Trapped amid the whispers of failure and sorrow, whispers of longing and defeat. Kaitlin hears them clearly at night. But who haunts Clayborne Manor? The ghost that restlessly walks the halls in the night? Or the ones that plague the minds and spirits of those residing there? Though not inclined to believe the dead can walk the night laden corridors, Kaitlin can see them clearly in the eyes of her husband Devlin, and hear them in the deafening silence of her son, Derrick.
Does she have the courage to search the past and face the ghosts? Does she have the faith to stay and direct all those who dwell In the Manor of the Ghost to the one who sets the captive free?
Find out more about Tina and her novel at

COTT's next Clash begins Monday with Romantic Moments. Head over there to vote and enter the free book drawing. Get ready to swoon!

Article by Michelle Massaro, COTT Assistant Editor.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CFBA: Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Rhythm of Secrets
Kregel Publications (December 22, 2010)
Patti Lacy


Patti Lacy, Baylor graduate, taught community college humanities until God called her to span seas and secrets in her novels, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw. She has two grown children and a dog named Laura. She and her husband can be seen jog-walking the streets of Normal, Illinois, an amazing place to live for a woman born in a car. For more information, visit Patti's website at, her blog at, and her Facebook daily Artbites.


Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame.

After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions.

Inspired by a true story, The Rhythm of Secrets intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.


“A vibrant journey across time in search of the greatest truth of all: grace.”—Tosca Lee, author of Havah: The Story of Eve and Demon: A Memoir

“No longer a ‘well-kept secret,’ Patti Lacy is a master storyteller who speaks to the soul with a powerful and unique rhythm, weaving a tale so emotionally rich that story and reader become one.”—Julie Lessman, author of The Daughters of Boston series and A Hope Undaunted
“Patti Lacy pens another beautifully written story in The Rhythm of Secrets. I couldn’t put it down!”—Melanie Dobson, award-winning author of The Black Cloister
“The Rhythm of Secrets is a stirring story of faith and endurance that will keep readers turning the page until every last secret is revealed.”—Tina Ann Forkner, author of Ruby Among Us and Rose House

If you would like to read an excerpt of Rhythm of Secrets, go HERE.

Monday, January 24, 2011

CSFF: Dragons of the Valley by Donita Paul

This week, the CSFF Blog tour is featuring Dragons of the Valley by Donita Paul

I am really looking forward to reading this book! I only received it this past Friday and just haven't had the chance to read it yet with grad school taking over right now! I will definitely post a review of this one when I finish.  Many thanks to the publisher and Ms. Paul for providing this review copy to read! :)

In the meantime though, please be sure to visit Ms. Paul's blog and purchase a book of your own to enjoy!

Please also visit the following blogs to see what they have to say! You are sure to find some great comments out there!"> Gillian Adams"> Noah Arsenault"> Amy Bissell"> Red Bissell"> Justin Boyer"> Keanan Brand"> Grace Bridges"> Beckie Burnham"> Keanan Brand"> Morgan L. Busse"> CSFF Blog Tour"> Amy Cruson"> D. G. D. Davidson"> April Erwin"> Amber French"> Andrea Graham"> Katie Hart"> Ryan Heart"> Bruce Hennigan"> Becky Jesse"> Cris Jesse"> Jason Joyner"> Julie"> Carol Keen"> Dawn King"> Emily LaVigne"> Shannon McDermott"> Matt Mikalatos"> Rebecca LuElla Miller"> Joan Nienhuis"> John W. Otte"> Donita K. Paul"> Sarah Sawyer"> Chawna Schroeder"> Tammy Shelnut"> Kathleen Smith"> James Somers"> Fred Warren"> Phyllis Wheeler"> Dave Wilson

CFBA: Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Barbour Publishing, Inc.(January 1, 2011)
Ronie Kendig


Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!!

This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series began in July 2010 from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.

This is the second book in the series.


Step into the boots of a former Marine in this heart-pounding adventure in life and love. Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is a Marine trying to find his footing as he battles flashbacks now that he’s back home. Piper Blum is a woman in hiding—from life and the assassins bent on destroying her family. When their hearts collide, more than their lives are at stake. Will Colton find a way to forgive Piper’s lies? Can Piper find a way to rescue her father, trapped in Israel? Is there any way their love, founded on her lies, can survive?

If you would like to read an excerpt of Digitalis, go HERE.
I'm dying to get into this one but haven't had the opportunity to pick it up yet to read. It's the next on my TBR pile!! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

FIRST: Wounded Spirits by April W. Gardner

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:

Vinspire Publishing (November 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to April Gardner for sending me a review copy.***


April W Gardner is a military wife who has practiced the art of homemaking all over the world. She spends her mornings homeschooling her two darling children, and her afternoons inside the minds of her characters. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, traveling the nation in an RV, and learning Italian. April is involved in the music ministry of her church and volunteers in their library. She currently lives in the heart of ancient Creek Country—Middle Georgia.

This is her first novel.

Visit the author's website.


On the frontier, Adela McGirth’s life is simple, rugged, and exactly to her liking. Her greatest concern is whether to marry the settlement’s most eligible young officer. When a distant war among the Natives spills over into a nearby skirmish, life takes a perilous turn. Deep in enemy territory Adela must choose between the man she loves and a baby that has yet to be born; will she be strong enough to wait on God's provision?

A peace-loving yet loyal Creek warrior, Totka is forced to align with the extremist Red Stick faction whose purpose is to eradicate the Whites from Creek soil. In the midst of battle, Totka is assigned to protect those he is expected to hate--and kill. Life was simpler before his enemy became a beautiful face with a quiet strength and dignity he cannot resist.

Having lived a life plagued with death and loss, Zachariah McGirth is a man on a mission - he'll have his revenge or die trying. Blinded by grief, he can't see his way clear of yet another tragedy. Why has God taken everything from him...or has He?

Their lives molded by the course of history, can these Wounded Spirits learn to rely on God's grace during one of the bloodiest conflicts in the South?

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing (November 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981989616
ISBN-13: 978-0981989617


McGirth Plantation, Tensaw Settlement

   June 1813

   Adela shifted her body to allow blood flow to her legs. The mossy ground had long grown hard against her tailbone, and the rough tree trunk dug into her back.

   A refreshing breeze blew through the pines lining the northwestern border of her father’s land. It rustled the needles and created a comforting, familiar whistle.

   A small meadow lay vacant before her. On the opposite side, the evening sun cast the last rays through the treetops. Squinting, she thought, for an instant, she saw the form of a man. No, it was just a bush moving with the current of the wind.

   Surely, she had been waiting nigh on two hours. Her family would be worrying. Just north, civil war raged among the Creeks and threatened to involve the vulnerable Americans in the Tensaw and Bigby settlements. Her parents’ constant fear of danger was well placed.

   Soon Mama would call Adela’s father in from the barn and send one of the servants looking for her. Worry was never good for Mama

   Her attacks were rare these days, but she never knew what might set her to wheezing, then coughing.

   Adela’s stomach twittered and flipped. She stood then rubbed her lower back. “Please, hurry, Phillip. Please,” she murmured, not sure she could stay much longer.

   Unheeding, the sun’s beams continued down the length of the trees then dissolved, leaving only their orange and purple reflection in the sky.

   Not wanting to create undue stress on her parents, she gave up waiting and set out toward home. She lifted her skirt to avoid the prickly blackberry bushes, and berated herself for not having thought to bring a lantern. How foolish of me!

   “Adela…Adela…” Her name rode on the breeze.

   Her heart seized, and then leapt as she recognized the voice. Haste sped her back through the underbrush.

   “Phillip! I waited so long.” She panted.. He enveloped her in his work-hardened arms. Phillip was becoming more intimate with her. She wondered if it was too soon.

   “I knew you’d wait.” Resting his hands on her shoulders, he stepped back where she could see him. “I couldn’t get away any sooner. Dixon had a list as long as my arm of things for me to do before I leave tomorrow. He hovered like a hawk to see I got them done.”

   She pulled his hands from her shoulders and held them between her own instead. “You’re here now, and that’s all that matters.”

   “How will I ever last three months without you?”

   “What kind of nonsense is that? You’ll do just fine. The adventure of your life is just around the corner. I hardly think you’ll be pining for boring old Tensaw. You just see Savannah treats you well while you’re busy getting your commission, Second Lieutenant Phillip Bailey.”

   A stray lock of dark blond hair fell over his eye, and feeling bold, Adela brushed it away. He caught her hand and pulled it to his lips, his coffee brown eyes sparkling in the waning daylight. The warmth of his lips on her fingertips sent tingles of excitement rushing through her, but not without a warning.

   I shouldn’t be encouraging him this way. Not while I’m still so unsure... She dropped her eyes, but he mistook her guilt for something else.

   “That’s what I love about you, Adela. You’re all innocence and piety.”

   He cradled the back of her neck with his hand, and her insides fluttered in a dangerous way. She knew she should move away, but she felt drawn to him, like a mouse to a trap.

   Adela cleared her throat, “You speak of love when we’ve only been courting a month. And, I might add, quite unofficially.” His deep affection seemed premature.

   “Maybe, but I’ve known I’d marry you from the day we met.”

   She’d known him since she was just a girl. A grown woman now,ow had she not noticed he cared? She opened her mouth to ask, but he placed a finger on her lips.

   “Are you sure you won’t come with me? It’s not too late. We can marry tomorrow, first thing and—”

   “Marry? Tomorrow?You know I can’t. You haven’t spoken to my father about courting me, much less marriage. And there’s Ellie…did you forget? You know how she adores you.”

   Phillip gave her a placating smile. “She might hurt for a while, but she’ll see reason. She’s not foolish, simply a bit of a romantic…albeit misplaced.”

   Adela chuckled. “Elizabeth, romantic? Determined, more likely. She decided years ago to love you, and it would take a direct message from God to persuade her otherwise.” She propped her hands on her hips, barely noticing the first chirps of the crickets. “Did you know she just rejected an offer of marriage from Mr. Pierce?”

   “The schoolteacher and Ellie? Married?”

   “Well, he would have liked as much.”

   Phillip tipped his square chin and laughed outright.

   The sound brought a smile to Adela’s face, but she chided him nonetheless. “Come now, it was a perfectly decent offer.”

   Phillip wiped his eyes. “But the man is twice her age, and desperate to be married. Have you seen his cabin? Chaos!”

   Adela dismissed his objections with a wave of her hand. “All that aside, I am not prepared to be at odds with my sister. So, she must not find out about us…for the time being, anyway. We’ll address the issue when you return.”

   “She has to find out eventually. Why not now?”Phillip crossed his arms and gave her the back of her shoulder. He’d never been one for patience and at the moment, he reminded Adela of a spoiled child denied a piece of pie.  She chuckled.

   “What are you laughing about?”

   “Just now, you reminded me of Mrs. Haverty’s youngest.”

   His eyes darkened as he took a step closer. His stiff form towered above her. “You’re comparing me to that little monster?”

   Adela sobered at the intensity of his gaze. “It was a silly thought. Please forgive me.”

   He studied her in silence.

   Warning bells clanged in her mind. Just as another apology formed on her tongue, he let out a puff of air and relaxed his stance. “I just want to take care of you, Adela. I want to build a home for you and provide for you, give you beautiful things and walk with you through town on my arm. Let me talk to your father tonight.”

   He could be quite persuasive.Still, she refused to allow him to push her into something for which she wasn’t fully prepared.

   She gave a tentative shake of the head. True to form, her hesitance produced a huff of frustration. “If not now, then when? When will that dear sister of yours ever take the news well?”

   “Why would I tell her something I’m uncertain of myself?”

   He scowled then spoke as if she hadn’t mentioned her ambiguity. “You need to know the moment my feet touch Tensaw soil in August I plan on asking your father for permission to court you properly.” He grasped her chin in his hand and pressed a hard kiss to her lips. “So, you’d best prepare her.”

   She took a step back and smoothed out her skirt.,. “Aren’t you the bold one tonight, Mr. Bailey.”

   He merely grinned and removed the bear claw pendant that always hung around his neck. “Wear this to remember me by,” he said, holding it out.

   “Phillip, it was your grandfathers! I can’t. It’s too important to you.”

   “Of course you can. You’re to be my wife. It means what’s mine is yours. I love you, Adela McGirth, and there’s no one else I’d give it to.” His voice rang with longing as he ran his eyes over the length of her, pausing in all the wrong places.

   She resisted the urge to cross her arms over her chest. At least the dark of the night covered the blush on her cheeks. Never had a man appreciated her body the way Phillip did, and never had one assumed so much. “You’re being a bit presumptuous. Aren’t you?”

   “Not at all. I’m a man who knows what he wants and doesn’t stop until he gets it.” Playfulness tinged in his tone, but Adela heard the truth behind his words. “Take the pendant. If it helps, see it as a gift from a friend. Not as a token of betrothal.”

   Seen in such a way, what could it hurt?

   She slipped it about her neck then gasped as he pulled her into a fierce kiss. His moist lips moved confidently against hers. Warm hands stroked her back and almost melted her resolve to remain chaste.

   “I love you,” he murmured against her mouth.

   She knew he wanted a similar reply, but she couldn’t give it. The words caught in her throat, as if uncertainty itself held them from escaping.

   She split apart from his searching mouth and sought retreat. “Please, be careful in Savannah,” she managed. “I have to go.”  She dropped her arms and ran for home, the claw thumping against her chest.

* * *

   Adela climbed the ladder to the loft careful not to wake her sisters. She hung her dress on a peg and slipped into her nightgown. Phillip’s bear claw thudded against her. She clutched it through her gown as panic seized her. Had she hid it from Mama? So intent on getting home, she hadn’t thought of it until now.

   Her shoulders dropped when she realized Mama would have questioned her about it if she’d seen.

   The wooden timbers of the bed squeaked as Adela climbed in next to Lillian. They had always shared a bed. Even when given the option of each having their own in their more spacious, newly built house, they had both refused, preferring the warmth and closeness the other afforded.

   Although the two were completely opposite one another in every way, they held a special bond. Maybe it was Adela’s quiet dependence on God which supported the more flighty Lillian, or maybe it was Lillian’s carefree spirit which drew Adela to her sister’s side. Perhaps, it was the need for an ally against Ellie’s domineering onslaughts.

   Regardless, with just a year separating them, she and Lillian understood each other, thrived on their friendship.

   Lillian turned over to face her. “Where have you been?” she whispered, her anger barely concealed. “I’ve been worried sick. We all have.”

   “Shh! You’ll wake Ellie.” Adela glanced at Elizabeth but their older sister’s breath remained deep and even.

   “Well?” Lillian hissed.

   “In the woods.”

   “In the woods? That’s all you’re going to say? I hope Mama believed you more than I do.”

   The fearful look on Mama’s face and the way she’d clung to Adela when she’d walked through the door flashed across her mind. She tasted guilt and couldn’t swallow. “Me too. But I didn’t lie, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

   Lillian practically snorted. “That would be something I would do. No, silence would be more your style.” She thumped Adela on the shoulder. “Am I not getting any more details, like where you got that—that—whatever it is hanging around your neck?”

   Adela grasped the pendant. “You saw it?”

   “Of course. When you got undressed, and if you don’t want anyone else to find out about it, you should be more careful. So, out with it. What have you got there?”

   “It’s nothing. I shouldn’t have accepted it.”

   “Nothing? I saw the way you were holding it,” she rasped.

   “Shh! That’s not what I—” Would Lillian understand? “Oh, never mind.”

   “Well, give me all the details. Who is he?”

   “How did you know it was from a man?”

   “Adela, Adela, ever so naive and oblivious. You and I don’t think the same at all. So, tell me already.”

   “If I tell you, you have to promise to keep it to yourself! At least for a while. Promise?”

   “Fine, I promise…just tell me.”

   Adela took a deep breath, and said his name on less than a whisper.

   “What? No! It’s—it’s not as if he has no reason to love you, but you? Lover of all things peaceable and non-confrontational, I never imagined you to be so audacious as to set your bonnet for Ellie’s man!”

   “Shh! See why it’s a secret? No one would understand. Besides, he’s not Ellie’s man. And I’m not even sure I feel anything for him.”

   “You’ve got to be half mad. You do realize Elizabeth will practically disown you?”

   Adela lost the battle against her tears..

   “Come on. Don’t cry. I exaggerated. It won’t be so bad. She’ll forgive you…eventually. She’s never really had a claim to him and will see it in time. But you have to tell her. You can’t keep it from her forever, and if she finds out from someone else, it’ll be worse.”

   “Lilly, I’ve tried a dozen times to tell her, but I just can’t.”

   Adela moaned and Lillian put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

   “It’ll humiliate her, if it doesn’t kill her first,” Adela said. “I should have put an end to it before he left, especially since I’m not sure I even love him. But he’s so…”

   “Handsome? Daring? Everything a woman could want in a man?”

   Adela sighed and fiddled with the claw strung about her neck. “Yes, he’s all that, but there’s something missing…or maybe it’s what he has too much of. A bit too brash, maybe? Too self-confident? He angers easily, and I don’t see much of the Lord in his life.”

   “Is that what’s bothering you? Do yourself a favor and stop focusing on his faults. We all have them.” She propped herself up on an elbow then paused. After a moment of silence, soft snoring from the other side of the room confirmed Ellie still slept.

   Moonlight from the small window washed Lillian’s face in its glow. Their Mama’s full Spanish blood showed itself most in Lillian. Even in the dim light, she was beautiful. “It’s simple,” she said. “You tell Ellie. She’s hurt. When Phillip proposes, you accept, and in time, Ellie recovers.”

   Lillian tugged the pendant from Adela’s grasp. “This was his grandfather’s. I take it Phillip loves you.”

   “He claims he does.”

   “And you saw him tonight to tell him goodbye?”

   Adela bobbed her head.

   “Your secret is safe with me, but my advice is sooner is always better than later.”

   “I know. I know. I’m such a coward.”

   “Hardly.” Lillian patted her hand.

   It felt awkward to be the one consoled. The tables were usually turned.


   “I didn’t plan for it to happen and now…I’m risking Ellie disowning me for a man.”

   “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard yet. Ellie isn’t that scary. Now why don’t you get some sleep, and we’ll talk about how to handle it tomorrow. I assume there will be a wedding when he returns. You can’t prepare for a home of your own and still keep it a secret. We’ll think of something.”

   “Thanks, Lilly. Love you,” she said with a peck to her sister’s cheek.

   Lillian flipped over,. Much later, her mind exhausted, she relaxed and followed her sister in sleep.

* * *

   Kossati Village, Upper Creek Nation

   The cabin door creaked as it opened. Nokos stepped inside careful not to wake the children. He left the door ajar allowing the moonlight to guide his steps. Its soft glow illuminated his little ones piled like counting sticks on the bearskin mat. Four sets of arms and legs were sprawled in every direction.

   He brushed a kiss onto each warm forehead. The youngest stirred, flipped to his back, and wiped drool from his cheek.

   He had missed them, but the reason for his early return lay in the bed on the far side of the room.

   Having removed his weapons, he stretched his aching muscles and crept into bed next to his wife.

   Just before leaving on his hunting trip one week earlier, he had revealed to Singing Grass his intentions to join the warring party. She wasn’t pleased.

   Civil War had raged in the Creek Nation since the 1811 Grand Council. For over a year, he had publically remained neutral, along with Red Eagle.

   Now, he found himself forced to choose sides. With the purpose of protecting their nation and keeping its traditions pure, the Red Sticks were executing those displaying American sympathies.

   If the Long Knives were not stopped, the Muscogee would eventually be lead to starvation or worse…slavery. According to the Red Sticks, every American sympathizer must die.

   Most in Kossati knew Nokos was partial to the Americans. Yes, their droves of cattle encroached on Creek land, and no, the farmers did not ask permission to run their iron plows through Creek soil. All that aside, he had found it difficult to justify fighting them.

   They were powerful and well studied in war. Singing Grass was right…the Red Sticks would eventually be slaughtered.

   But unless he pledged his allegiance to the Red Stick cause and soon, he would find himself taken unawares by a band of warriors.

   Nokos let out his breath in a gust and sank onto the bearskin pallet.

   Singing Grass stretched an arm across his chest, and propped her small pointed chin on his shoulder. “You are home early.” With familiar affection, she traced the lines and circles tattooed on his neck and awakened a hunger within him.

   He sought her lips and kissed her deeply. “I did not mean to wake you. How are you feeling?”

   “Hungry—all the time.” She hammered his chest with her forefinger. “You left the hunt early to ask me if I am well?”

   “It’s no matter. There was no game to hunt.” He tried to keep the frustration from his voice. No need to worry her.

   “Nothing? You caught nothing?”

   “Three rabbits and a squirrel, as if I were just a boy. No one else had done any better when I left. I doubt one more day would have mattered much.” He pulled her closer. “I would rather be home with you than listening to their talk of war, death, and starv—” He cut his words short.

   “You do not have to hide things from me. I’m pregnant--not blind and deaf. I know what is happening.”

   “We’ll be fine.”

   “You’re joining the Red Sticks. I hardly think it is fine. They will kill themselves in vain. Must you?”

   “Yes, I must.” Should he reveal to her Gray Hawk’s warning to be quick in choosing sides? That his name had been whispered among those whose loyalty was in question?

   “The prophets are insane! Surely you have not succumbed to their antics?”

   “Of course not. I’m no fool.”

   The sighting of a star with a fiery tail traveling across the sky a month after Tecumseh’s departure had frenzied the Creeks. It was the “sign”, they said. It was the “arm of fire” Tecumseh had claimed would prove his prophecies were from the Great Spirit. A strongly superstitious people, the sighting had driven the Creeks into the Red Stick faction by the thousands.

   True to his word, Tecumseh had left several prophets to train the Creeks to lead their people in the war dances. In most every village, the rhythms and tunes became familiar. With devotion, men and women believed the tales told by new prophets.

   “Look what madness has overcome our people,” Singing Grass said. “They are being led to the slaughter! We shame ourselves, and our children will pay. Pushmatahaw is a wise chief. He was right to force Tecumseh from his nation. Because he did, the Choctaw were spared this insanity. If only our chiefs had done the same…”

   “Lower your voice,” Nokos cautioned. “Do you want the children to repeat what you say? We’re already at risk. Careless words could be our destruction.”

   She sat up, and her single braid slipped from her shoulder and landed on his chest with a soft thud. “What do you mean we are already at risk?”

   “My past will not be forgiven. I must clearly oppose the Americans.”

   “And what of your past? Will you pretend it does not exist? Will you spit in the faces of those who love you?”

   “Red Eagle has joined the war party,” Nokos said, preferring to ignore her difficult questions.

   “You should go to Big Warrior, join his White ranks in Tuckabatchee. I hear all who desire peace with the Americans are flocking to his protection.”

   “I agree with Big Warrior, but sooner or later, Tuckabatchee will be under siege and his White warriors will be forced to surrender to the Red Sticks. I either submit now or later.” Nokos shook his head. “No. No, I will do as I vowed and follow Red Eagle. He is a clever warrior, and will lead us well.”

   The moment Nokos heard the half-Scottish, half-Creek chief had joined the Red Sticks, he knew what he must do. “If Red Eagle, as influential and powerful as he is, has been forced at the threat of his family’s life to join the Red Sticks, how will I avoid it?”

   With his gaze, he caressed the mother of his children. She was so vulnerable. And the little ones. Who would protect them when he went away? If he died? At least now, he would not have to fear his own people turning against them. Most found it much easier to wish their enemy’s demise…not so with Nokos.

   She brought his attention back to her by running her warm hand down his cheek. “Wipe the worry from your face, husband,” she said, resolve in her voice. She sniffed once then swallowed. “All will be well. Do what you must.” She dropped next to him and clung to his chest, her hair tickling the underside of his chin.

   He hadn’t realized how much her approval meant to him until he obtained it. Resting a hand on the slight bulge of her belly, he prayed to whatever god would listen that this dear woman be spared the sufferings and hardships which were the sisters of war.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

CFBA: Angel Harp by Michael Phillips

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Angel Harp
FaithWords (January 26, 2011)
Michael Phillips


Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland.   


Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Angel Harp, go HERE

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FIRST: Havah by Tosca Lee

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; 2 edition (August 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, Trade Book Marketing, B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tosca Lee is author of the critically acclaimed and extensively-awarded novels Demon: A Memoir and Havah: The Story of Eve. A sought-after speaker and former Mrs. Nebraska, she continues to work for local charities and as a senior consultant for a global consulting firm. Tosca holds a degree in English and International Relations from Smith College and also studied at Oxford University. She enjoys travel, cooking, history, and theology, and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: B&H Books; 2 edition (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433668793
ISBN-13: 978-1433668791


A whisper in my ear: Wake!

Blue. A sea awash with nothing but a drifting bit of down, flotsam on an invisible current. I closed my eyes. Light illuminated the thin tissues of my eyelids.

   A bird trilled. Near my ear: the percussive buzz of an insect. Overhead, tree boughs stirred in the warming air.

   I lay on a soft bed of herbs and grass that tickled my cheek, my shoulders, and the arch of my foot, whispering sibilant secrets up to the trees.

   From here I felt the thrum of the sap in the stem—the pulsing veins of the vine, the beat of my heart in harmony with hundreds more around me, the movement of the earth a thousand miles beneath.

   I sighed as one returning to sleep, to retreat to the place I had been before, the realm of silence and bliss—wherever that is.


   I opened my eyes again upon the milling blue, saw it spliced by the flight of a bird, chevron in the sky.

   This time, the voice came not to my ear, but directly to my stirring mind: Wake!

   There was amusement in it.

   I knew nothing of where or what I was, did not understand the polyphony around me or the wide expanse like a blue eternity before me.

   But I woke and knew I was alive.

   A rustle, a groan practically in my ear. I twitched at a stir-ring against my hip. A moment later, a touch drifted across a belly I did not yet know I owned, soft as a leaf skittering along the ground.

   A face obscured my vision. I screamed. Not with fear—I had no acquaintance with fear—nor with startlement because I had been aware of the presence already, but because it was the only statement that came to lips as artless as mine.

   The face disappeared and returned, blinking into my own, the blue above captured in twin pools. Then, like a gush of water from a rock, gladness thrilled my heart. But its source was not me.

   At last! It came, unspoken—a different source than the voice before—and then the words thrust jubilantly to the sky: “At last!”

   He was up on legs like the trunks of sturdy saplings, beating at the earth with his feet. He thumped his chest and shouted to the sun and clapped his hands. “At last!” He cried, his laughter like warm clay between the toes. He shook his shoulders and stomped the grass, slapping his chest as he shouted again and again. Though I did not understand the utterance, I knew its meaning at once: joy and exultation at something longed for suddenly found.

   I tried to mimic his sound; it came out as a squawk and then a panting laugh. Overhead, a lark chattered an extravagant address. I squeaked a shrill reply. The face lowered to mine and the man’s arms wrapped, wombtight, around me.

   “Flesh of my flesh,” he whispered, his breath warm against my ear. His fingers drifted from my hair to my body, roaming like the goat on the hills of the sacred mount. I sighed, expelling the last remnants of that first air from my lungs—the last of the breath in them not drawn by me alone.

   He was high cheeked, this adam, his lower lip dipping down like a folded leaf that drops sweet water to thirsty mouths. His brow was a hawk, soaring above the high cliffs, his eyes blue lusters beneath the fan of his lashes. But it was his mouth that I always came back to, where my eyes liked best to fasten after taking in the shock of those eyes. Shadow ran along his jaw, like obsidian dust clinging to the curve of it, drawing my eye to the plush flesh of his lips, again, again, again.

   He touched my face and traced my mouth. I bit his finger. He gathered my hands and studied them, turning them over and back. He smelled my hair and lingered at my neck and gazed curiously at the rest of me. When he was finished, he began all over again, tasting my cheek and the salt of my neck, tracing the instep of my foot with a fingertip.

   Finally, he gathered me up, and my vision tilted to involve an altogether new realm: the earth and my brown legs upon it. I clutched at him. I seemed a giant, towering above the earth—a giant as tall as he. My first steps stuttered across the ground as the deer in the hour of its birth, but then I pushed his hands away. My legs, coltish and lean, found their vigor as he urged me, walking far too fast, to keep up. He made for the orchard, and I bolted after him with a surge of strength and another of my squawking sounds. Then we were running—through grasses and over fledgling sloes, the dark wool of my hair flying behind me.

   We raced across the valley floor and my new world blurred around me: hyssop and poppy, anemone, narcissus, and lily. Roses grew on the foothills amid the caper and myrtle.

   A flash beside me: the long-bodied great cat. I slowed, distracted by her fluidity, the smooth curve of her head as she tilted it to my outstretched hand. I fell to the ground, twining my arms around her, fingers sliding along her coat. Her tongue was rough—unlike the adam’s—and she rumbled as she rolled against me.

   Far ahead, the adam called. Overhead, a hawk circled for a closer look. The fallow deer at a nearby stream lifted her head.

   The adam called again, wordlessly, longing and exuberant. I got up and began to run, the lioness at my heels. I was fast—nearly as fast as she. Exhilaration rose from my lungs in quick pants in laughter. Then, with a burst, she was beyond me.

   She was gone by the time the adam caught me up in his arms. His hands stroked my back, my hips, my shoulder. I marveled at his skin. How smooth, how very warm it was.

   “You are magnificent,” he said, burying his face against my neck. “Ah, Isha—woman, taken from man!”

   I said nothing; although I understood his meaning, I did not know his words. I knew with certainty and no notion of conceit, though, that he was right.

At the river he showed me how he cupped his hands to drink and then cupped them again for me. I lowered my head and drank as a carp peered baldy from the shallows up at me.

   We entered the water. I gasped as it tickled the backs of my knees and hot hairs under my arms, swirling about my waist as though around a staunch rock as our toes skimmed a multitude of pebbles. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders.

   “All of this: water.” He grunted a little bit as he swam toward the middle of the river where it widened into a broad swath across the valley floor. “Here—the current.”

   “Water.” I understood, in the moment I spoke it, the element in all its forms—from the lake fed by the river to the high springs that flow from the abyss of the mount. I felt the pull of it as though it had a gravity all its own, as though it could sweep me out to the cold depths of the lake and lull me by the tides of the moon.

   From the river I could see the high walls of our cradle: the great southern mount rising to heaven and, to the north, the foothills that became the long spine of a range that arched toward the great lake to the west.

   I knew even then that this was a place set apart from the unseen lands to the north, the alluvial plain to the south, the great waters to the east and far to the west.

   It was set apart solely because we dwelt in it.

   But we were not alone. I could see them after a time, even as we left the river and lay upon its banks. I saw them in sidelong glances when I looked at something else: a sunspot caught in the eye, a ripple in the air, a shock of light where there should be only shadow. And so I knew there were other beings, too.

   The adam, who studied me, said nothing. We did not know their names.

The first voice I heard urging me to wake had not been the man’s. Now I felt the presence of it near me, closer than the air, than even the adam’s arms around me.

   I returned the man’s strange amazement, taken by his smooth, dark skin, the narrowness of his hips, his strange sex. He was warmer than I, as though he had absorbed the heat of the sun, and I laid my cheek against his flat breasts and listened to the changeling beat of his heart. My limbs, so fresh to me, grew heavy. As languor overtook me, I retreated from the sight of my lovely, alien world.

   Perhaps in closing my eyes, I would return to the place I had been before.

   For the first time since waking, I hoped not.

   I slept to the familiar thrum of his heart as insects made sounds like sleepy twitches through the waning day.

   When I woke, his cheek was resting against the top of my head. Emotion streamed from his heart, though his lips were silent.


   I am the treasure mined from the rock, the gem prized from the mount.

   He stirred only when I did and released me with great reluctance. By then the sun had moved along the length of our valley. My stomach murmured.

   He led me to the orchard and fed me the firm flesh of plums, biting carefully around the pits and feeding the pieces to me until juice ran down our chins and bees came to sample it. He kissed my fingers and hands and laid his cheek against my palms.

   That evening we lay in a bower of hyssop and rushes—a bower, I realized, that he must have made on a day before this one.

   A day before I existed.

   We observed together the changing sky as it cooled gold and russet and purple, finally anointing the clay earth red.

   Taken from me. Flesh of my flesh. At last. I heard the timbre of his voice in my head in my last waking moment. Marvel and wonder were upon his lips as he kissed my closing eyes.

   I knew then he would do anything for me.

That night I dreamed of blackness. Black, greater than the depths of the river or the great abyss beneath the lake.

   From within that nothingness came a voice that was not a voice, that was neither sound nor word but volition and command and genesis. And from the voice, a word that was no word but the language of power and fruition.

   There! A mote spark—a light first so small as the tip of a pine needle. It exploded past the periphery of my dreaming vision, obliterating the dark. The heavens were vast in an instant, stretching without cease to the edges of eternity.

   I careened past new bodies that tugged me in every direction; even the tiniest particles possessed their own gravity. From each of them came the same concert, that symphony of energy and light.

   I came to stand upon the earth. It was a great welter of water, the surface of it ablaze with the refracted light of heavens upon heavens. It shook my every fiber, like a string that is plucked and allowed to resonate forever.

   I was galvanized, made anew, thrumming that inaugural sound: the yawning of eternity.

   Amidst it all came the unmistakable command:


I am still awaiting my copy to provide you a review! :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

CFBA and Review: Someone to Blame by C.S. Lakin

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Someone To Blame
Zondervan (September 21, 2010)
C. S. Lakin


C. S. Lakin is a novelist and professional copyeditor and writing coach. She is currently working on her eleventh novel, a contemporary family saga drawn from the biblical story of Jacob. Someone to Blame(Zondervan), an intense relational drama and winner of the 2009 First Novel contest, released in October 2010, and she is also the author of the allegorical adult fantasy series The Gates of Heaven, featuring The Wolf of Tebron and the upcoming release The Map Across Time (March 2011). She is currently completing her tenth novel and developing a dog memoir of epic proportion.


In the wake of heartrending family tragedies, Matt and Irene Moore move with their fourteen-year-old daughter, Casey, to a small town. Their goal is to get far away from the daily reminders that leave each of them raw and guilt-ridden. Their hope is to find redemption, repair, and renewal. Instead, the threads that hold them together unravel even more.

Breakers, a small community perched on the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest, is draped with cold isolation that seems to mirror the hearts. As they settle into their new life, old grief settles with them. Matt is always on edge and easily angered, Irene is sad and pensive, and Casey is confused and defiant. They've once more set the stage for calamity. Into this mix comes Billy Thurber, a young drifter with his own conflicts, whose life unexpectedly entangles with the Moores'.

His arrival in Breakers parallels a rash of hateful and senseless crimes, and soon the whole town -- eager for someone to blame -- goes after Thurber with murderous intent. Out of this dangerous chaos, however, the Moores find unexpected grace and healing in a most unlikely way.   

If you would like to read the first chapter of Someone To Blame, go HERE.
This book is brilliant, amazing, and written by a pure genius! The reader is taken on an adventure with Moore family as they try to escape a tragic past and start over. There are many twists and turns throughout this book that will keep the reader entwined into this story. It's hard to put it down and I have added C.S. Lakin to my list of favorite authors! For some,a tissue will be required. Expect this book to stick with you!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Child Called It by David Pelzer

A Child Called A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a highly disturbing book. I find it hard to believe that someone could be this cruel! It's a true story the point that is is documented as one of the worst cases in California child abuse history. I admire the author for coming forward with his story.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 13, 2011

CFBA Review: Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Bethany House (August 1, 2010)
Cathy Marie Hake


Known for surfing across the kitchen on a dropped dill pickle slice, waterskiing on sea anemone spit, and using Right Guard® as hair spray; she considers herself living proof that God does, indeed, possess a healthy sense of humor.

Cathy loves classical music, romantic getaways with her husband, and Diet Pepsi Free®. "I need chocolate to survive, love my friends, and enjoy a deep personal relationship with the Lord. Although an extrovert, I'm very conservative on a personal level."

In her writing, Cathy attempts to capture a unique glimpse of life and how a man and woman can overcome obstacles when motivated by love. In her inspirational pieces she enjoys the freedom of showing how Christ can enrich a loving couple's relationship.

Cathy Marie Hake is a registered nurse who worked for many years in an oncology unit before shifting her focus to perinatal care. The author of over twenty novels, she lives with her husband and two children in Anaheim, California.


Todd Valmer should have known better. A farmer who's been through several disasters, he travels to Virginia to fetch his widowed mother to cook and help him around his Texas farm...or that was the plan until she keels over on the train and they get kicked off.

Maggie Rose barters for a living and also makes soaps, lotions, and perfumes with a special rose recipe passed down from mother to daughter for generations. She hasn't wanted to marry...until that handsome Texan shows up.

Her heart skips a beat, and when he proposes, a hasty marriage follows. What ensues, however, is a clash of culture and a battle of wills--and it's clear they both mistook instant attraction and infatuation for love. As their marriage loses its sparkle and fills with disillusionment, Todd and Maggie must determine what is worth fighting for. He dreams of a farm. Maggie wants to fulfill the family tradition with her rose perfumes.

Todd's mother, however, has entirely different plans for her son that do not include Maggie. In light of their hasty marriage and mistaken dreams, is there any hope of recapturing their love and building a future together?

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

I just finished this delightful read a few minutes ago. It took me a couple of chapters to "get into it" but once the story started going, I found it enjoyable. I have never known the love of a mother-in-law (mine passed away before I met hubby) but I have heard many wonderful things about her from many people. I've never heard anyone speak a negative word against her! On the other hand, I do have a father-in-law who lives with my husband and I. I thought he was bad until I read this book! LOL

How Maggie tolerated putting up with I'll never know...except that she loves God and Todd. She's a much stronger woman than I could ever be!! Maggie is very headstrong though and her uncles taught her well. Her roses are her life and when she moves to Texas to be with Todd and Helga, she takes her roses with her. They cause her some problems, but also help with other things in life. Could this marriage result in serendipity (the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way---The New Oxford American Dictionary)? 

I love that this book portrayed a strong willed woman against her mother-in-law! Maggie also marries a man whom she hardly knows. She loves him because that's just what a wife does. I do not think he loves her on their wedding day or for many more days though. How hard a life that makes for Maggie!! Todd is also not the most supportive when it comes to the way his mother treats his wife! Doubly hard for Maggie!! She doesn't give up though and perseveres. Will Todd ever see the worth of his wife? Can he love his wife and mother?

Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Courting Miss AmselCourting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't. (pg. 181) true are those words?! It's sayings such as these that have drawn me to this book and new-to-me-author Kim Vogel Sawyer

Miss Edythe Amsel moves away from her family to take a teaching position in the small town of Walnut Hill. Like all first year teachers, Miss Amsel puts her heart and soul into teaching these young minds. She does not anticipate having to deal with the scrutiny of what she is teaching however! Miss Amsel teaches about longitude, latitude, bugs, etc while the townsfolk are disappointed in her methods. Do they not realize that this education they are receiving could help with their own farms?? As a teacher, I was bothered by the attitude and lack of education of the townsfolk who were berating her. The townsfolk are not her only issues though. There's lil William who just won't behave, her sister Missy, and then the single men vying for her attention!

Miss Amsel is here to teach, not to marry so she sets the menfolk straight pretty fast. As soon as the men find out she's not one to have a relationship with God, they begin to see her a bit differently. Will she find God and a man in Walnut Hill?

I identified with Edythe on many levels in this book but my heart went out to William. I doubt that I would have had the patience that Edythe exhibited when it came to William but there was something about him that drew me to him. In some ways I felt sorry for him but in others I wanted to fling him over my knee and give him "what for". The author didn't give a lot of background on his family so I just speculated that his family life wasn't what it could have been and that he just needed some attention. I do believe that Edythe accomplished her point in this story.

View all my reviews

FIRST: Caroline's Choice by Martha Rogers

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

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


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

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

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


Oklahoma Territory, September 1907 

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

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

City and start a new life there.” 

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

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

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

right now a move seems to be it.” 

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

ramrod straight. Mother wouldn’t back down. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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