Book Quotes

“but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”― Jane Austen

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Giveaway & FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ Wolfsbane by Ronie Kendig

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:


Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Nightshade, Discarded Heroes #1, has earned recognition as a finalist in Christian Retailing's 2011 Retailer's Choice Awards as a finalist and with The Christian Manifesto's 2010 Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction. Ronie lives in the Dallas/Ft Worth her family and their pets, Daisy, a Golden Retriever and Helo, the Maltese Menace.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Embark upon a danger-laden mission within the pages of Ronie Kendig’s riveting Wolfsbane. Demolitions expert Danielle Roark thought escaping from a brutal Venezuelan general was a challenge. Now she’s charged with espionage and returned to the jungle where a new nightmare begins. Will Dani survive or become just another political pawn destined to be lost forever? Former Green Beret Canyon Metcalfe is disgusted with the suits on Capitol Hill. Still wrestling with the memories of a mission gone bad, he and Nightshade launch a mission to find Dani. Can Canyon rescue Dani, armed with nothing but raw courage?



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602607842
ISBN-13: 978-1602607842

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The Invitation

Judicial Building, Virginia Beach

Blood dripped into his left eye.

No. Not blood. Sweat. Hands tight against his hips and fists balled, Captain Canyon Metcalfe blinked away the sting. Another salty drop slid down his temple. Eyes ahead, he focused on his reflection in the massive mirror. Between it and him sat an eight-foot table harboring a panel of three Army investigators from Criminal Investigation Command sent for his one-year evaluation. More like interrogation. And he knew they weren’t legit. Nobody got a review once they were out. This wasn’t about legitimacy. This was about them insuring he’d kept his mouth shut.

Canyon watched his reflection as a bead skidded over his forehead and nose. Felt warm and moderately sticky. So much like. . .

It’s not blood. Not blood.

“Captain, do you have anything to add?” Major Hartwicke lifted the inches-thick file in her manicured hands and stared at him.

“You understand, Captain, if you reveal anything about what has happened here, you will face a full court-martial and dishonorable discharge.”

The voice from twenty-one months ago forged his response. “No, sir.”

Behind the one-way mirror a ghost of a shape shifted. Or was that a shadow? No, he was pretty sure he’d seen the human outline. So, there were more eyes monitoring this so-called review. They’re testing me. No surprise. As a matter of fact, he’d expected them to drag him out of bed in the middle of the night, haul him into the woods, and try to beat a confession out of him.

Innocence didn’t matter. Justice didn’t matter.

Only one thing mattered: silence.

Hartwicke pushed her chair back from the table and stood. “Captain, I don’t understand.” She motioned to the two investigators with her. “We’ve told you the CID believes there is enough. . .ambiguity in the charges and proceedings from thirteen March of last year to question the guilty verdict.” She tilted her head. “In fact, this panel believes you may be innocent.”

“You are not innocent in this brutal crime, Captain Metcalfe. No matter your role, you are guilty. As the officer in charge, you bear that responsibility. Do you understand?”

The eyes of the government held no boundaries. They saw everything. Knew everything. One way or another. Always waiting to throw him away for good. Just as they’d done with the villagers.

Her shoes scritched against the cement floor as she stepped nearer. “Why are you doing this?” she whispered. “Why would you throw away your career?”

Throw away his career? Was she kidding? It’d been ripped from his bloodied hands in a colossal mistake twenty-four months ago. Canyon ground his teeth together. Do not look at her; do not respond. She didn’t deserve a response if she thought this was his choice.

A chair squawked, snapping his gaze to the second investigator who moved from behind the table, his gaze locked on Canyon. What did they want from him? He’d kept the dirty little secret. Lived with it. Relived it night after painful night. Living when she died.

Brown eyes cut off his visual escape. “Captain Metcalfe,” Major Rubart said in a low, controlled voice. “I don’t know what they”—he rolled his eyes to the side to indicate the one-way mirror—“told you or what they used against you as a threat in retaliation for talking, but I think you know something.”

Despite his every effort not to, Canyon looked at the mirror.

“You know the truth about that fateful night, don’t you?”

The words yanked his eyes to Rubart’s. Did this officer really want the truth? Or was this another test? What Canyon wouldn’t do to tell, to right the wrong, to relieve the burden. . . But that’s just what they wanted him to do—relieve his mind and prove they were right, that he could be coerced into talking. That he was weak.

He flicked his attention back to the glass and the shadow moving behind it.

“You disappoint me, Captain.” Air swirled cold and unfeeling as Rubart eased away. “Your sister says you’ve not been the same since you returned from that mission.”

“My sister puts her mouth before her brain.” And for that, Canyon would have a long talk with Willow.

“Do you understand what your silence means?” A bitter edge dug into Rubart’s words as he glared at Canyon, who stared through the man.

“What I understand is that you’ve abused a relationship with my impressionable sister to extract information for the military.”

Rubart’s lips tightened. “Your silence means the people of Tres Kruces receive no justice.”

The thick-bladed words sliced through Canyon’s heart.

Quiet tension tightened the air.

“Willow says you’ve wanted to be a Green Beret since you were twelve.”

“Ten.” Canyon bit his tongue on the automatic correction. He wouldn’t do this. Wouldn’t cave under the pressure. He’d endured far worse.

“How can you let them rip it from you? Everything you love and worked for with blood, sweat, and tears?” After several slow, calming breaths, Rubart gave a single nod. “Enough evidence exists to open a full investigation that could reinstate you with full honors, full rank. Just give us one word, one inclination that you’ll work with us, and it’ll be as if you never left.”

Everything in Canyon wanted that back. Wanted the career he’d felt called to, the adrenaline rush of battle, the humanitarian work of helping villages after a tragedy or an insurgency. . .

Screams howled through the fires. He glanced back. Where was she? How had they gotten separated? He spun, searching the debris and crackling embers.

A scream behind him.

He pivoted. Two feminine forms raced into a hut. “No,” he shouted. “Not in—”

BOOM!

His body lifted, flipped as he sailed through the taunting flames and grieving ashes.

“Captain?”

Canyon blinked back to Major Rubart.

“Just give us some indication you’ll help. We’ll mete out the details later. Just don’t let it go at this. You know this is wrong. Don’t let them win.”

Irritation clawed its way up Canyon’s spine, burrowing into his resolve. He saw through the tactic. “Are we done, sir?”

Rubart’s cheek twitched. “You’re going to walk away?”

“In a three-to-one decision, you are hereby discharged. Your actions will be mentioned in limited detail in our final report to the congressional oversight committee. Should you speak openly about this again, you will find yourself in a federal prison for the rest of your life. Do you understand the ruling, Captain Metcalfe?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I cannot express this enough—this favor we are extending you will be revoked completely if you ever again speak of Tres Kruces.”

“Captain?”

He met Rubart’s gaze evenly. “Decision’s been made.”

“You can’t mean that.” Hartwicke’s voice pitched. “Think—”

“Dismissed, Captain,” the third investigator barked from his chair at the table.

Canyon saluted, then pivoted and strode out. He punched open the door. As he stomped across the parking lot, he wrangled himself free of the dress jacket. He jerked open the door of his black Camaro and snatched off the beret. Flung it into the car. Slammed the door shut. Shuffled and kicked the wheel.

Voices behind pushed him into the car. Letting the roar of the engine echo the one in his head, he peeled away from the curb. Screaming tires fueled his fury. He accelerated. First gear. Second. He sped down the streets. Third. Raced out of Fort Story as fast as he could. He shifted into fourth.

They’d stolen everything from him. What did he have now? The last twelve months had been a futile attempt to plaster meaning to the disaster of a thing called life. Can’t serve. What was the point? They had him on an invisible leash. Shame trailed him like the dust on the roads.

As he rounded a corner, a light glinted—yellow. Speed up or slow down?

Slow down? I don’t think so.

Canyon slammed into fifth and pressed the accelerator. The Camaro lunged toward the intersection. A blur of red swept over his sunroof as he sailed through and cleared it.

Ahead, a sign beckoned him to First Landing State Park. The beach. Something inside him leapt.

Sirens wailed.

He glanced in the rearview mirror and growled. Banged the steering wheel. One more violation and he’d lose his license. Two seconds of fantasy had him on his bike screaming off into the sunset.

Yeah. Right. A high-speed chase. Wouldn’t his mother love that? She’d give him that disappointed look, and in it, he’d read the hidden message—“what would your father have said?”

Dad.

His foot hit the brake. He eased the gears down and brought the car to a stop along the pylons that led to the beach. Less than a mile out, blue waters twinkled at him.

He eyed the mirror as a state trooper pulled in behind him. Lights awhirl, the car sat like a sand spider ready to strike.

Canyon roughed a hand over his face. This was it. Career gone. License gone. He gave his all for his country, and all of it had been systematically disassembled in the last two years.

Hands on the steering wheel, he let the call of the Gulf tease his senses. He should’ve taken a swim instead of unleashing his anger on the road. He was a medic. He knew better than to endanger lives. How stupid could he get?

What was taking so long?

He glanced back to the mirror, only. . .nothing.

Huh? Canyon looked over his shoulder. Where. . .?

An engine roared to the left. A Black Chrysler 300M slid past him with a white-haired old man inside.

But where was the cop? Again, he double-checked his six.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

With more care and attention this time, he pulled back onto the road and drove to the ocean. He parked and stared at the caress of the waters against the sand that lured him out of the Camaro and to the warm sand. Rolling up his sleeves, he made his way down the beach.

On a stone retaining wall he stood and watched a couple of surfers ride a wave. Canyon squatted. Hands fisted against his forehead he struggled through Rubart’s promise—they’d give him his career back if he ratted out the very people who’d made the nightmare go away.

He wanted to. Wanted to set the record straight. Knew they’d done wrong, but blowing this thing open meant they’d pin every drop of blood and blame on his shoulders. He’d go down in a blaze of disgrace. It was bad enough he’d had to tell his mom he was put out of the military for “medical” reasons. She didn’t buy it. She was smarter. But she didn’t press him.

Maybe. . .maybe he should let the panel dig into the tsunami-sized disaster and find the truth.

But he couldn’t. They’d promised to make his life a living hell.

That happened anyway. Everything that felt right and just died. Just like her.

Canyon closed his eyes against the pull of memories and allowed his mind to drift. To everything he felt for her. To all the things he’d done wrong, could’ve done better.

I’m sorry.

Lot of good that did. She died.

He hopped off the wall and strolled to where the waters stroked the sand. He let out a long breath and ran a hand over the back of his longer-than-normal hair. He’d tried to leave the tragedy behind. Move on. But who could move on after something like that? Even the government was scared of Tres Kruces. Nice PR disaster with the whole world as witnesses.

Canyon drew out the small vial. Shouldn’t do this. The back pain was gone. The heart pain permanent. He popped two pills into his mouth and swallowed.

His hand closed around the Emerson in his pocket. Canyon drew it out and eyed the gleaming metal. He’d used it to cut her tethers the first night his team had come up on the backwater village. Flipping the blade to the ground, he tamped down the fireball in his gut. He saved her that night only to end up killing her thirteen months later.

She was gone. His career was gone. The government had a shackle around his neck. What was there to live for?

He retrieved it and swiped the sand from the blade on his rolled cuffs. The silver glinted against his forearm. He pressed the metal against his flesh. Wouldn’t be the first attempt. Maybe he’d succeed this time. Drew it along his arm—

“Never did understand how they stand up on a piece of wood.”

Canyon jerked at the deep voice. He returned his Emerson to his pocket and eyed the old man a few feet away. Looked like the same man from the 300 earlier. What was he saying? Something about wood. . .?

Canyon followed the man’s gaze to the water, the surfers. Ah. Surfboards. “They’re not wood.”

“Really?”

“Polyurethane and fiberglass or cloth. Depends on the board.” He might be off-kilter, but he wasn’t stupid. The man had a military cut and bearing. “What’s your game?”

A slow smile quirked the face lined with age. White hair rustled under the tease of a salty breeze. “Recycling soldiers.”

Why wouldn’t they leave him alone? Believe he’d keep his trap shut when he said he’d keep his trap shut? “Sorry, I don’t have anything to say.”

“Yes, that was quite apparent.”

Hesitation stopped Canyon from trudging back to his car. This man had been at his evaluation? Where. . .? “You were behind the mirror.”

“While you said little, your actions said much more, Captain Metcalfe.”

A knot formed in his gut. “In case you missed the point, I’m no longer a captain. Go back to your leeches and tell them I’m done.”

“Is your career worth cutting your wrists, Captain?”

The knot tightened. “My career was everything,” he ground out. “It’s who I am.” He swallowed. “Was.”

“Yes.” The man smiled. “You wanted to finish what your father started.”

A blaze scorched his chest. “Who are you? What do you know about my father?” Who did this guy think he was?

“Major Owen Metcalfe lost his life trying to free his spec-ops team from a POW camp during Vietnam.”

Canyon jerked his attention back to the water. Focused on the undulating waves. The way they rolled in, rolled out. Just like breathing. In. . .out. . . “How. . .how do you know about my father?” The only reason Canyon knew was because the government tried to use it against him in his trial.

Slowly, the man turned toward him, his smile growing.

Only then did Canyon recognize him. “General Lambert.” He took a step back. “I didn’t. . . You’re out of uniform.”

“Yes, thank goodness. I’ve put on a few pounds since they issued the last uniform.” Lambert laughed and pointed. “Walk with me, Captain.”

What possessed Canyon to indulge him, he didn’t know. But he found himself walking the quiet beach, curious that the general would seek him out. Was it yet another trap?

“So that you will understand me, I have read the full file on Tres Kruces.”

Of course. He’d fallen right into the general’s trap, hadn’t he? “This conversation is over.” He pivoted and started back to his car.

“If my memory serves me correctly, the vote was three to one.”

Canyon hesitated. Cursed himself for hesitating. Just walk away. That’s what they’d done to him.

“What would you say the value of that single dissenter is worth?”

“Nothing. I still lost my career, everything.”

“What if that dissenter held the power to change everything? What would you say it was worth then?”

Eyeballing the man, Canyon tried to think past his drumming pulse. “My life.”

Lambert grinned. Nodded. “Good. . .good.”

Good? How could he say that? What use was a dissenter now anyway? But that unflappable grin and knowing eyes—this man knew something.

“You.” Canyon stumbled back as if hit by a squall. “It was you. You were the dissenter.” He slid a hand over his head and neck. “General, I— It has to stay buried. Or I go down hard and fast. I’m not playing with this fire.”

Hands in his pockets, Lambert smiled up at him. “I am not here in any official capacity related to the U.S. government.”

Dare he hope that this nightmare was over?

“How do you like working as a physical therapist?”

Canyon shrugged. “Not bad. It’s work. I help people.” He hated it.

“That’s what’s important to you, helping people, is it not?” When Canyon shrugged again, Lambert continued. “Thought so. I have a proposition for you, Captain. One that will get you back in your game.”

Wariness crowded out hope. “What game is that?”

“The one you do best. The one that allows you to serve your country, use the medic skills crucial to saving lives, and be part of a winning team.”

“They benched me, said I was done, no more or they’d—”

“What do you say?”

A wild, irregular cadence pounded in his chest. “I’m ready to get off the bench.”




My Review
Let me say up front this is not going to be my typical review. I've thought long and hard about how to describe this book without giving anything away and without overusing certain adjectives. That being said, when I read the last word of this book I took a deep breath and said “WOW!” I was grinning from ear to ear. Wolfsbane is the BEST book yet in the Discarded Heroes Series.

Tension mounts from page one... no, from paragraph one...no, from the first word and it is a non-stop roller coaster ride until the last. There were moments when the tension was so palpable I found myself putting my hand up to my neck in fear of what would happen next.

Seriously, if you even remotely like military thrillers then you will like this book. You don't have to read the first two although I highly recommend starting with the first book and progressing through the characters lives and experiences. Each one builds on the other and you really get to know these Discarded Heroes.

Ronie Kendig shows masterful articulation in bringing to light the horrors of war and the healing that can take place through surrender to Christ in all things! She shows us that He is our redeemer, even amidst the worst nightmares in life, and reaches down to where we are, cradling us in His arms, lifting us out of the pit of hell, and delivering us free from bondage!

I have an extra review copy to giveaway to one commenter. US ONLY!!! You MUST be a follower or subscriber of THIS blog (not my personal one) or your entry doesn't count. Ends August 8th.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review ~ The Miracle of Rain by Sherry Rossman



The Miracle of Rain is a delightful little book for young children who may be frightened of thunderstorms. This will reassure them that God has purpose for rain, thunder and lightening. Visually appealing illustrations with a cute raccoon and other animals show the benefits of rain to our Earth.

Christian Review of Books provided a free copy in exchange for my review. I was under no obligation to make it a positive one. No other compensation was received.

Friday Funnies









(all images from Google Images. no infringement intended, just laughter)

:)

Giveaway & Review ~ Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper



There's plenty of intrigue going on in Seaside and I was pleasantly surprised at who the bad guy turned out to be. There was more than one, but one was not so obvious. There are a lot of issues talked about in this novel ranging from alcoholism, to drug dealing, to polygamy, to abuse, to grief in the loss of loved ones, and heartache over spiritually lost friends & family. Sound depressing? NOT SO!!! The author shows us, through characters that are believers and followers of Christ, how He uses each situation in our lives to mature us in the faith, teach us mercy & grace toward others, and most of all love. We gain strength of heart & character when we turn to Him in all things.

Ms. Roper does a nice job of keeping the pace moving along between Carrie & Greg, the main characters, as well as some quite interesting secondary characters who are heavy into texting and twittering. One reviewer stated they didn't think it was an accurate portrayal of those who tweet & text but I disagree. Everywhere I go people are texting, even when they're in the checkout line or driving! There's plenty of evidence on YouTube that recording what's happening in public is very popular. Even the more grotesque side of life. Thankfully, the characters in the novel were actually helpful with their tweets & texts.

I liked how the cult group was handled and exposed. The author certainly explained the allure of this type of thing and the difficulty in getting out, if you manage it at all. Courage and tenacity are needed!

I had no trouble visualizing the sand & sea, the ornery teenager and her boyfriend, or the regulars at Carrie's Diner. Small town life pleasantly depicted! I highly recommend this to any mystery lover.

Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity for sending me a review copy. Here's the link for the FIRST Wild Card Tour where you can read more about the author and the first chapter of the book!   Shadows on the Sand: A Seaside Mystery

Please leave a comment for an opportunity to win my review copy. US Only!!! Ends August 6th.

PLEASE RANK MY REVIEW. THIS HELPS ME GET QUALITY BOOKS FOR FUTURE REVIEWS :)


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ Perfect You by Holly Skelton

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:

Perfect You

Tate Publishing (May 10, 2011)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Holly Skelton has had a colorful and diverse work history, from engineering to wedding planning, all in an effort to explore her different talents and personality traits. After having children, she was inspired to write a tale explaining to kids how unique and special they are, blessed with their own talents and gifts. Holly is passionate about spreading her message to all children that they are made for a purpose! She lives in Plymouth Michigan with her husband Bryndon and three young daughters and feels she has finally found God’s calling for her as an author.

Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Perfect You is a story for parents to share with their children to encourage them to discover their talents so that they can live a life of purpose and happiness. In this letter from God, children will discover that He has blessed them with gifts and talents that make them totally unique and able to serve the world in a very special way. Could the gift of bravery make you a police officer or firefighter, or could your compassion help you to be a great doctor or teacher? The possibilities are endless!

Product Details:

List Price: $8.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Perfect Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (May 10, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1617399183
ISBN-13: 978-1617399183

AND NOW...THE FIRST THREE PAGES (Click on images to view larger picture):







Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Funnies

Facebook statuses are sometimes over the top but this one had me laughing! Just had to share it for this week's post.

A real woman always keeps her house clean and organized, the laundry basket is always empty. She's always well dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully in all situations and all circumstances. She has more than enough patience to take care of her family, always has a smile on her lips, and a kind word for everyone. Post this as your status if you, too, have just realized that you might be a man.


FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ God Gave Us You by Lisa Bergren

My Review

Gentle and heartwarming! I loved the illustrations, especially the daddy bear listening to the baby bear in mommy bear's tummy while the "doctor" bear listens to the heartbeat with a stethoscope. Just precious!

This is an adorable way to show a child how excited you are when expecting a baby, especially the child you are reading the story to.



Simply put...it's sweet and any child would be blessed to spend time wrapped in mommy or daddy's arms while being read this charming book!

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:

 

God Gave Us You (Board Book)

WaterBrook Press; 1st edition (September 19, 2000

***Special thanks to Laura Tucker, WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity, for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling author of eight novels, three novellas, and two gift books, with more than a half-million books in print. God Gave Us You is her first children’s book. As an editor during the week and a writer on weekends, she makes her very-messy-but-cozy home in Colorado with her husband, Tim, and their daughters, Olivia and Emma.

Visit the author's website.

 
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

Laura J. Bryant attended the Maryland Institute of Art, where she received a strong foundation in drawing, painting, and print-making. Illustrating children’s books has provided her with both a rewarding and creative career. Laura’s clients have included Simon & Schuster, McGraw Hill, and Stech-Vaughn publishers, among others. She currently lives among the tidal rivers on the eastern shore of Maryland with her loving husband and curiously cantankerous cat!

Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Filled with playful, winsome illustrations by an artist who specializes in polar bear images, this four-color, read-to-me picture book will build children’s self-esteem through the tale of a mama bear who reassuringly explains where her cub came from and affirms Mama and Papa’s great love for her.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Reading level: Baby-Preschool
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; 1st edition (September 19, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1578563232
ASIN: B002PJ4LHM

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


To Liv, Emma, and Jack—
Words cannot express how glad
we are that God gave us you.
—L.T.B. 



To Ron and Shirley—
Who have an endless supply of love and generosity.
—L.J.B.




“Good night, sweet child,” Mama said as she tucked Little Cub in.

But Little Cub wasn’t quite ready to go to sleep.

“Mama, where did I come from?” she asked.


“From God,” her mother answered. “Your papa and I were alone, and we wanted
a baby.”

“And you got me?” Little Cub asked, her voice muffled by the covers.

“Yes, my special child. God gave us you.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper

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:

 

Shadows on the Sand: A Seaside Mystery

Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)

***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Gayle Roper, a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, is the multi-award-winning, best-selling author of Fatal Deduction and more than forty other books. She teaches and leads mentoring clinics at writers’ conferences across the country. Gayle lives in eastern Pennsylvania.

Visit the author's website.

 
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Carrie Carter’s small café in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals … although Carrie only has eyes for Greg Barnes. He’s recovering from a vicious crime that three years ago took the lives of his wife and children—and from the year he tried to drink his reality away. While her heart does a happy Snoopy dance at the sight of him, he never seems to notice her, to Carrie’s chagrin.

When Carrie’s dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, leaving only cryptic clues in her Sudoku book, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries … and into her life. But when Carrie’s own painful past becomes all too present, her carefully constructed world begins to sink.

Will the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420846
ISBN-13: 978-1601420848

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

So Bill punched him in the nose, Carrie!” Andi Mueller swung an arm to demonstrate and nearly clipped me. “He was wonderful!” 

I leaned back and held up a hand for protection. “Easy, kiddo.” I smiled at the girl and her enthusiasm.

Andi giggled like the smitten sixteen-year-old she was. “Sorry.”

“Mmm.” I rested my elbows on the pink marble counter that ran along one wall of Carrie's Café, located two blocks from the boardwalk in the center of Seaside, New Jersey. I was the Carrie of the café's name, and Andi was one of my servers, in fact, my only server at the moment. She'd been with me almost two months now, taking up the slack when the summer kids left to go back to college or on to real jobs.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “On Saturday night Bill, who is your true soul mate, punched Jase, our Jase, for paying too much attention to you at a party.” I didn't think my voice was too wry, but soul mates at sixteen made me both cynical and scared, teen hormones being what they were.

Andi just grinned with delight of the even-mentioning-his-name-givesme-the-vapors kind and nodded as she sat on a stool at the counter. “Isn't it romantic?”

I was hearing this tale today, Monday, because now that the season was over, Carrie's was closed on Sundays. My staff and I had earned our day of rest over a very busy and marginally profitable summer. We might be able to stay open for another year if nothing awful happened, like the roof leaking or the dishwasher breaking.

Listening to Andi made me feel ancient. I was only thirty-three, but had I ever been as young as she? Given the trauma of my growing-up years, I probably hadn't. I was glad that whatever her history, and there was a history, she could giggle.

“How do you expect to continue working with Jase after this encounter?” I was very interested in her answer. Jase was one of three part-time dishwashers at the café. All three were students at the local community college and set their schedules around classes. Jase worked Tuesdays and Saturdays from six in the morning until three, and the last thing I wanted was contention in the kitchen between Andi and him.

Andi looked confused. “Why should I have trouble with Jase? I didn't punch him. Besides he's an old--” She cut herself off.

I wanted to pursue her half-thought, but the door of the café opened, and Greg Barnes walked in, all scruffy good looks and shadowed eyes. His black hair was mussed as if he hadn't combed it, and he had a two-day stubble. He should have looked grubby, but somehow he didn't. He looked wonderful.

All thoughts of Bill and Jase fled as my heart did the little stuttery Snoopy dance it always did at the sight of Greg. Before he could read anything in my face, assuming he noticed me as someone other than the person who fed him, I looked down at the basket of fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon-swirl muffins I was arranging.

Andi glanced from me to him and, much too quick and clever, smiled with a knowing look. I held my breath. She wasn't long on tact, and the last thing I wanted was for her to make some leading remark. I felt I could breathe again when all she did was wink at me. Safe for the moment, at least.

Greg came to the counter and slid onto his favorite stool, empty now that the receding flood of summer tourists left it high and dry this third week in October, a vinyl-covered Ararat postdeluge.

“The usual?” I asked, my voice oh-so-casual.

He gave a nod, barely glancing my way, and opened his copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Press of Atlantic City waited. I turned to place his order, but there was no need. Lindsay, my sister, partner, and the café's baker, had been listening to Andi's story through the serving window. She waved her acknowledgment before I said a word. She passed the order to Ricky, our short-order cook, who had stayed with us longer than I expected, long enough that he had become almost as much of an asset to Carrie's as Lindsay was.

My sister gave me a sly smile, then called, “Hi, Greg.”

He looked up from his paper and gave Lindsay a very nice smile, far nicer than he ever gave me.

“The sticky buns are all gone,” he said in mild accusation, nodding toward the glass case where we kept Lindsay's masterpieces.

She grinned. “Sorry. You've got to get here earlier.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Or you could make more.”

“I'll take the suggestion under advisement,” she said agreeably.

“Haven't you heard the adage about making your customers happy?”

“Yeah. So?”

He laughed and turned a page in the paper. I brought him a glass of OJ and a cup of my special blend.

“How're you doing?” I asked, just as I did every morning.

He gave me a vague smile. “Fine.” Just as he said every morning.

But he wasn't. Oh, he was better than, say, a year ago, definitely better than two years ago, but he wasn't well. Even three years after the tragedy that had altered his life, he was far from his self-proclaimed fine. If you looked closely--as I did--you could see the strain never completely left his eyes, and the purple stains under them were too deep and dark, a sure sign that a good night's sleep was still little more than a vague memory for him.

But he was sober. More than two years and counting.

“Keep talking, Andi,” Lindsay said as Ricky beat Greg's eggs and inserted his wheat bread in the toaster. “This is better than reality TV. It's really real.” She walked out of the kitchen into the café proper. “Bill bopped Jase,” she prompted.

“Our Jase,” I clarified.

Greg looked up. “Your dishwasher?”

I nodded.

“Hmm.” And he went back to his paper.

“And Jase went down for the count.” Andi's chest swelled with pride at her beloved's prowess.

I flinched. “Don't you think knocking a guy out for talking to you is a bit much?”

Andi thought for almost half a second, then shook her head. “It wasn't for just Saturday. He knows Jase and I work together, and he was staking his claim.”

I'd seen Jase and Andi talking in the kitchen, but there never seemed to be any romantic overtones. “Jase is a nice guy and a good worker. I don't want to lose him because of your boyfriend.”

“He is, and I don't want him to go either,” Andi agreed. “I like talking to him.”

“Me too.” Lindsay rested an elbow on the counter and propped her chin in her palm. “I think he's sad.”

“What do you mean, sad?” But I'd sensed he was weighed down with something too.

“He's funny and open most of the time,” Lindsay said, “but sometimes when no one's talking to him, I see this look of sorrow on his face.”

I nodded. “All the more reason to hate that he got punched.”

“Yeah.” Lindsay got a dreamy look in her dark brown eyes. “But there's something about a guy defending you, even if what he's defending you from isn't really a threat.” She sighed.

“Lindsay!” I was appalled. “Get a grip.” Though if Greg ever wanted to defend me, I was pretty sure I wouldn't mind. Of course, that presupposed he'd notice I was in trouble. I glanced at him bent over his paper. Not likely to happen. I bit back a sigh.

“Tell me, Andi. Does Bill plan to punch out any male who talks to you?”

“Come on, Carrie,” Andi said. “Don't be mad at Bill. You know how guys can be when they've had a few beers.”

I did know how guys could be, beers or no beers. “What were you doing at a party where there was drinking?”

She became all prim and prissy. “I did not drink.”

“I should hope not, but you shouldn't have been there.” Good grief. I was sounding more and more like her mother--or how her mother would have sounded if she weren't missing in action somewhere. Part of that history I didn't know.

“Order up,” Ricky announced as he walked to the pass-through. “The food is never better than when I plate it.”

You'd have thought he was Emeril or Wolfgang Puck or one of Paula Deen's sons, not a stopgap cook who couldn't find any other job after graduating from college with a psychology degree and who stayed around because he had a crush on the baker.

I grabbed Greg's scrambled eggs and wheat toast and served them. He accepted them with a nod and a grunt.

“So what happened to Jase?” I asked Andi. I found myself hoping Bill had bruised a knuckle or two in his violence, though I was pretty sure it meant I was a terrible person too. I didn't wish for a broken hand or anything that extreme, just something to remind him that punching wasn't the way to handle a perceived rival.

Andi waved her hand vaguely. “Bill and a buddy carried Jase to his car. They only dropped him once.”

I imagined the thunk of poor Jase's head hitting the ground and flinched in sympathy. No such thought bothered Andi. She was too busy being thrilled by Bill, who rode in like her shining knight, laying waste to the enemy with knuckles instead of the more traditional lance.

“How much older than you is Bill?” Lindsay asked.

Good question, Linds.

Andi studied the cuticle of her index finger. “He's nineteen.”

Lindsay and I exchanged a glance. Those three years from sixteen to nineteen were huge.

I couldn't keep quiet. “So he shouldn't have been drinking at this party either.”

Andi slid off her stool. If looks killed, Lindsay'd be sprinkling my ashes in the ocean tomorrow morning.

“What does Clooney think of you and Bill?” Lindsay asked. Clooney was Andi's great-uncle, and she lived with him.

Andi cleared her throat. “We don't talk about Bill.”

“Does he know about Bill?” Lindsay's concern was obvious.

Andi stared through long bangs that hung over her hazel eyes. The silky hair sometimes caught in her lashes in a way that made me blink but didn't seem to bother her. “Of course Clooney knows. Do you think I'd keep a secret from him?”

“I didn't think you would.” Lindsay smiled. “I'm glad to know I was right.”

So was I. Sixteen could go in so many different directions, and I'd hate for this pixie to make wrong choices--or more wrong choices.

“Is he going to college?” I asked. “Bill?”

“He was, but not now.” Her fingernail became even more absorbing. “He dropped out of Rutgers at the end of his freshman year.”

Uh-oh. Dropped out or failed out? “Does he plan to go back? Try again?”

She shrugged. “He doesn't know. Right now he's happy just being. And going to parties. And taking me.” By the time she was finished, she was bouncing at the excitement of it all, her strawberry blond ponytail leaping about her shoulders.

Greg looked up from his newspaper. “So this guy took you, a very underage girl, to a party where there was lots of drinking?”

Andi looked at him, eyes wide, acting as if he'd missed the whole point of her story. “Don't worry about me, Mr. Barnes. Or any of you.” She included Lindsay and me with a nod of her head. “I can handle any problems that might develop at a party. Believe me, I've dealt with far worse.”

I was intrigued. I'd stared down plenty of problems in my time too, and I wondered how her stare downs compared to mine.

She grinned and waved a hand as if she were wiping away her momentary seriousness. “But I'd rather talk about how great Bill is.”

“So how great is he?” Lindsay asked. “Tell me all.” At twenty-seven, she was an incurable romantic. I wasn't sure how this had come to pass, since she had every reason to be as cynical as I, but there you are.

I frowned at her. “Stop encouraging the girl.”

Lindsay just grinned.

I looked at Andi's happy face and had to smile too. “So what's this wonderful guy doing if he's not in school?” Besides being and partying.

“Uh, you mean like a job or something?”

“Yeah.” Lindsay and I exchanged another glance. Greg looked up again at Andi's reluctant tone.

“Well, he was a lifeguard over the summer. He's got this fabulous tan, and it makes him so handsome.”

Soul mate stuff if I ever heard it. I half expected her to swoon like a nineteenth-century Southern belle with her stays laced too tightly. “What about now? Postseason?”

“And he was the quarterback on the high school football team two years ago when they won the state championship.”

“Very impressive. What about now?”

“He was named Most Valuable Player.”

“Even more impressive. What about now?”

She began making sure the little stacks of sugar and sweetener packets in the holders on the counter were straight. “Right now he's just trying to figure it all out.”

Being. Figuring. And punching guys out while he thought. “You mean he's trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up?”

She glared at me. In her mind he was grown up. She turned her back with a little sniff and went to clean off a dirty table.

Lindsay swallowed a laugh. “Your sarcastic streak is showing, Carrie.”

Mr. Perkins, another regular at Carrie's Café and at eighty in better health than the rest of us put together, rapped his cup on the pink marble counter. He'd been sitting for several minutes with his eyes wide behind his glasses as he listened to Andi.

“No daughter of mine that age would ever have gone to a party where there was drinking,” he said. “It's just flat out wrong.”

Since I agreed, I didn't mention that he was a lifelong bachelor and had no daughters.

He rapped his cup again.

“Refill?” I asked, not because I didn't know the answer but because the old man liked to think he was calling the shots.

He nodded. “Regular too. None of that wimpy decaf. I got to keep my blood flowing, keep it pumping.”

I smiled with affection as I topped off his cup. He gave the same line every day. “Mr. Perkins, you have more energy than people half your age.”

He pointed his dripping spoon at me. “And don't you forget it.”

“Watch it,” I said in a mock scold. “You're getting coffee all over my counter.”

“And a fine counter it is.” He patted the pink-veined marble slab. It was way too classy and way too pricey for a place like the café. “Did I ever tell you that I remember when it was the registration counter at Seaside's Grand Hotel? And let me tell you, it was a grand hotel in every sense of the word. People used to come from as far as Pittsburgh, even the president of U.S. Steel. Too bad it burned down. The hotel, not U.S. Steel.”

“Too bad,” I agreed. And yes, he'd told us the story many times.

“It was in 1943,” he said with a faraway look in his eyes. “I was thirteen.” He blinked back to the present. “It was during World War II, you know, and people said it was sabotage. Not that I ever believed that. I mean, why would the Germans burn down a resort hotel? But I'll tell you, my father, who was an air-raid warden, about had a seizure.”

“I bet he was convinced that the flames, visible for miles up and down the coast, would bring the German subs patrolling offshore right up on our beaches,” Lindsay said with a straight face. “They might have attacked us.”

I glared at her as she repeated word for word Mr. Perkins's line from the story. She winked unrepentantly.

Mr. Perkins nodded, delighted she was listening. “People kept their curtains drawn at night, and even the boardwalk was blacked out for the duration, the lights all covered except for the tiniest slit on the land side, so the flames from the fire seemed extra bright. All that wood, you know. Voom! ” He threw his hands up in the air.

Lindsay and I shook our heads at the imagined devastation, and I thought I saw Greg's lips twitch. He'd heard the story almost as many times as we had.

Mr. Perkins stirred his coffee. “After the war some investor bought the property.”

“I bet all that remained of the Grand was the little corner where the pink marble registration counter sat.” Lindsay pointed where I leaned. “That counter.”

Again she spoke his line with a straight face, and this time Greg definitely bit back a grin.

Mr. Perkins added another pink packet to his coffee. “That's right. The buyer decided to open a restaurant around the counter and build a smaller, more practical hotel on the rest of the property.”

Even that hotel was gone now, replaced many years ago by private homes rented each summer to pay the exorbitant taxes on resort property.

I walked to Greg with my coffeepot. “Refill?”

He slid his mug in my direction, eyes never leaving his paper.

Be still my heart.

2

The café door opened again, and Clooney sauntered in. In my opinion Clooney sauntered through life, doing as little as possible and appearing content that way. I, on the other hand, was a bona fide overachiever, always trying to prove myself, though I wasn't sure to whom. If Clooney weren't so charming, I'd have disliked him on principle. As it was, I liked him a lot.

Today he wore a Phillies cap, one celebrating the 2008 World Series victory. His gray ponytail was pulled through the back of the cap and hung to his shoulder blades.

“You work too hard, Carrie,” he told me frequently. “You'll give yourself indigestion or reflux or a heart attack or something. You need to take time off.”

“If I didn't want to pay the rent or have insurance or eat, I'd do that very thing,” I always countered.

“What you need is a rich husband.” And he'd grin.

“A solution to which I'm not averse. There just seems to be a shortage of candidates in Seaside.”

“Hey, Clooney,” Andi called from booth four, where she was clearing. She gave him a little finger wave. Clooney might be her great-uncle, but try as I might, I couldn't get her to call him Uncle Clooney. Just “Clooney” sounded disrespectful to me, but he didn't seem to mind.

“Hey, darlin'.” Clooney walked over to Andi and gave her a hug. Then he came to the counter and slid onto the stool next to Greg. He did not take off his cap, something that drove me crazy. I've developed this manners thing, probably because my childhood was so devoid of anything resembling pattern or politeness. I know people thought me prissy and old-fashioned, but I am what I am, a poor man's Miss Manners.

Clooney pointed at a muffin, and I placed one on a dish for him. He broke off a chunk, then glanced back at Andi. “She tell you about that fool Bill?”

I grinned at his disgruntled expression. “She did.”

“What is it with girl children?” he demanded. “I swear she's texted the news around the world.”

“She thinks it's a compliment--her knight defending her.”

Clooney and Greg snorted at the same time.

“Slaying a dragon who's threatening the life of the fair damsel's one thing,” Greg said, actually looking at me. “Decking a kid for saying hi to a pretty girl is another.”

“Your past life as a cop is showing,” I teased.

He shrugged as he turned another page of the paper. “Old habits die hard.”

The door opened again, and in strutted the object of our conversation. I knew it had to be him because, aside from the fact that he looked like a very tanned football player, he and Andi gazed at each other with love-struck goofy grins. I thought I heard Lindsay sigh.

Andi hurried toward the kitchen with an armful of dirty dishes from booth four. She squeaked in delight as Bill swatted her on the rump as she passed. Clooney stiffened at this unseemly familiarity with his baby. Mr. Perkins tsk-tsked his disapproval.

“Can I have breakfast now?” Andi asked when she reappeared empty- handed.

The wait staff usually ate around ten thirty at a back booth, and it was ten fifteen. We were in the off-season weekday lull between breakfast and lunch, and the three men on their stools were the only customers present. I nodded.

Bill looked toward the kitchen. He appeared overwhelmed at the prospect of food, unable to make a selection. He draped an arm over Andi's shoulder as he considered the possibilities, and she snuggled against him. Clooney's frown intensified.

Bill was a big guy, and it was clear by the way he carried himself that he still thought of himself as the big man on campus in spite of the fact that he was now campusless and unemployed. As I studied him, I wondered if high school football would end up being the high point of his life. How sad that would be. Clooney drifted through life by choice. I hoped Bill wouldn't drift for lack of a better plan or enough ability to achieve.

Careful, Carrie. I was being hard on this kid. Nineteen and undecided wasn't that unusual. Just because at his age I'd already been on my own for three years, responsible for Lindsay, who was six years my junior…

Bill gave Clooney, who was watching him with a rather sour look, a sharp elbow in the upper arm and asked, one guy to another, “What do you suggest, Clooney? What's really good here?”

Clooney's relaxed slouch disappeared. I saw the long-ago medal-winning soldier of his Vietnam days. “You will call me 'sir' until I give you permission to call me by name. Do you understand, boy?”

Bill blinked. So did I. Everyone in Seaside, no matter their age, called him Clooney.

“Stop that, Clooney!” Andi was appalled at her uncle's tone of voice.

“Play nice,” I said softly as I realized for the first time that I didn't know whether Clooney was his first name or last. I made a mental note to ask Greg. As a former Seaside cop, he might know. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, darlin'.” Clooney gave Andi an easy smile. He gave Bill a hard stare. “Right, Bill?”

Bill blinked again. “Y-yes, sir.”

Andi took her beloved's hand and dragged him toward the back booth. “Ignore my uncle. He's having a bad day.” She glared over her shoulder at Clooney, who grinned back at her.

“She's got spunk, that one,” he said with pride.

“How'd she end up living with you?” I'd been longing to ask ever since Clooney showed up with Andi just before Labor Day and asked me to give her a job. I did, and I guess I thought that gave me the right to ask my question.

Clooney disagreed because he said, “I think I'll have one of your amazing Belgian waffles with a side of sausage.”

“I'm on it.” Lindsay headed back to the kitchen before I said a word. “Got it, Ricky?”

“Got it.” Ricky tested the waffle iron with a flick of water. He smiled as the water jumped and evaporated. He was a handsome kid with dark Latino looks of the smoldering kind, a young Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately for him, his smoldering looks appeared to have no effect on Linds.

Another victim of unrequited love.

Andi came to the counter and placed an order for Bill and herself. I blinked. We could have served the whole dining room on less.

Mr. Perkins eyed me. “Are you going to make him pay for all that? You should, you know.”

True, but I shook my head. “Job perk. He's cheaper than providing health benefits and not nearly as frustrating.”

“So say you.” Clooney settled to his waffle and sausage.

I watched the parade of laden plates emerge from the kitchen and make their way to the back booth, making me reconsider the “cheaper” bit. Andi took her seat and stared at Bill as if he could do no wrong in spite of the fact that he leaned on the table like he couldn't support his own weight. Didn't anyone ever tell the kid that his noneating hand was supposed to rest in his lap, not circle his plate as if protecting it from famished marauders or little girls with ponytails?

“Look at him,” Clooney said. “He's what? Six-two and over two hundred pounds? Jase Peoples is about five-eight and one-forty if he's wearing everything in his closet.”

“Let's forget about Jase, shall we?” Andi's voice was sharp as she came to the counter and reached for more muffins. “The subject is closed.”

I grabbed her wrist. “No more muffins. We need them for paying customers. If Bill's still hungry, he can have toast.”

“Or he could pay.” To Mr. Perkins a good idea was worth repeating.

Andi laughed at the absurdity of such a thought.

Ricky had left his stove and was leaning on the pass-through beside Lindsay. “Four slices coming up for Billingsley.”

“Billingsley?” I looked at the big guy as he downed the last of his four-egg ham-and-cheese omelet. With a name like that, it was a good thing he was big enough to protect himself.

“Billingsley Morton Lindemuth III,” Ricky said.

“I should never have told you.” Andi clearly felt betrayed.

“But you did. And you got to love it.” Laughing, Ricky turned to make toast.

“He hates it,” Andi said.

I wasn't surprised.

Greg drew in a breath like you do when something terrible happens. We all turned to stare at him.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

He was looking at the front page of The Press of Atlantic City. “Jase Peoples.”

“What?” I demanded.

Clooney grabbed the paper and followed Greg's pointing finger.

I could see the picture and the headline above it: “Have You Seen This Man?”


 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WINNER!!!


Congratulations goes to Judy!!! 


You won Come Dance at My Wedding!

WINNER!!!

Congratulations Shirley Strait!!! You won a copy of The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck :)

I've  sent an email notification.

FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ Summer Dream ~ Book Review & Giveaway

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:


Summer Dream

Realms (June 7, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This is a new series by Martha Rogers.

“Summer Dream is a sweet, heartfelt, and well-written story about faith in action and a love that never fails. I can't wait to read the rest of this series.”—Andrea Boeshaar, author of Unexpected Love and Undaunted Faith

A Heart in Need of Redemption. An Unlikely Love. And a God Who Can Bring Them Together.

As the daughter of a small-town minister in Connecticut, Rachel Winston fears that the only way she’ll ever find a husband is to visit her aunt in Boston for the social season. But when Nathan Reed arrives in town, she can’t help but wonder if he could be the one.

Although attracted to Rachel, Nathan has no desire to become involved with a Christian after experiences with his own family. What’s more, until he resolves his anger with God and his family, he has no chance of courting her.

When Nathan is caught in a devastating blizzard and lies near death in the Winston home, Rachel and her mother give him a lesson in love and forgiveness that leads him back to his home in the South. Will he make peace with his family and return before Rachel chooses a path that takes her away from him?



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616383607
ISBN-13: 978-1616383602

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Briar Ridge, Connecticut, February 5, 1888

Why did Papa have to be so stubborn? Rachel Winston stared at the gray clouds outside her window and fought the urge to stomp her foot like a spoiled child. However, young women of twenty years must behave as befitting their age, as Mama so often reminded her. Perhaps she should have shown the letter to her mother first. Too late for that now; Papa would tell Mama as soon as he had the opportunity.

The back door closed with a thud, and Rachel shuddered. Papa had left for the church. His departing meant she needed to finish dressing or she’d be late, and then Papa would be even more upset with her. It wouldn’t do for the preacher’s family to be late for the services.

The paper in her pocket crackled when she moved toward the bed to retrieve her boots. Rachel fingered the crumpled edges of Aunt Mabel’s letter. There was no need to read it again, for she knew the words by heart. Her aunt’s invitation to come to Boston for an extended visit had arrived at a most inopportune time with the winter weather in the northern states at its worst. Even so, she shared the letter with Papa, hoping he might be agreeable to the visit.

A metallic taste soured her mouth, and she swallowed hard in an attempt to squelch it. Papa argued that the unpredictable weather of February made travel from Connecticut to Boston dangerous. If only one of the many Boston trains came to Briar Ridge. Aunt Mabel meant well, but her timing left something to be desired. Papa didn’t even want her going to Hartford or Manchester to board a train. It took over three hours by horseback to make the journey to Hartford—longer in bad weather.

She grasped the wrinkled letter in her hand and pulled it from its resting place. “Oh, Auntie, why did you wait until now to invite me for a visit?” she said to the letter, as if Aunt Mabel could hear her. “Last spring when I graduated from the academy would have been perfect, but you had to travel abroad.” A deep sigh filled her, then escaped in a long breath and a slump of her shoulders.

Aunt Mabel believed that a young woman should go to finishing school before she thought of marriage and had offered to pay for Rachel’s tuition. Papa had frowned on the idea, but her mother finally prevailed. For that, Rachel was most grateful, and she wouldn’t have traded those years at the academy for marriage to anyone. But now that she was twenty, she found that the pool of eligible bachelors in her area was slim to nonexistent.

Going to Boston would have provided the opportunity to meet more young men.

Rachel sat on the bed to ease off her slippers and bent over for the winter boots thatwould protect her feet from the slush. The frozen ground outdoors called for them, but they were not the choice she would have liked to wear to church this morning. Rachel shoved her feet down into the sturdy boots designed for warmth, not attractive appearance.

Of the eligible young men in Briar Ridge, only one came to mind, but then Daniel Monroe didn’t count. His sister had been Rachel’s best friend since Papa came to be pastor of the Briar Ridge church nearly seventeen years ago. Daniel treated her more like his sister anyway. Two years older, and just starting out as a lawyer, he was far more knowledgeable than she, and keeping up a conversation with him took more effort than she deemed it to be worth. Rachel had finished at the seminary with good marks, but Daniel’s conversation interests leaned more toward science and new inventions like electricity and the telephone than things of interest to her.
Rachel’s anger subsided as she pulled on the laces of her boots. As she reflected on her father, she remembered that he loved her and wanted only the best for her. He had promised that when spring came, he’d talk to her about the trip. Until then she would be the obedient daughter he wanted her to be and dream of the trip ahead. The Lord would give her patience, even though that was not one of her virtues.

She smoothed her skirt down over her hips and picked up the letter to place it on the table beside her bed. A response to Aunt Mabel would go out with tomorrow’s mail to express her regrets in not being able to accept the invitation. Papa would probably write to her as well, but Rachel wanted her aunt to know how much she appreciated the invitation.

If Seth were here now, he could give her good counsel. He’d always been the one she’d turned to when things didn’t go well with Mama and Papa. She loved her older brother and missed him, but he’d be home from the seminary in May, and she could talk with him then. Since he studied to be a minister like Papa, he’d most likely leave Briar Ridge if his ministry took him elsewhere after his graduation.

She’d met a few young men while at school, but the strict rules and regulations set forth at Bainbridge Academy for Young Women in Hartford had given her few opportunities to develop a relationship. Not that she would have considered any of them, but she would have appreciated the chance.
Mama called to her, and Rachel hurried to the front hall. She noted the firm set of Mama’s jaw and braced for the scolding that would be in order. “I’m sorry to take so long, Mama.” She grabbed her cloak from its hook.
“You know how your father hates for us to be late to church. It is unseemly for the minister’s family to be the last to arrive.” Mama turned and walked outside, her back ramrod straight.

Rachel breathed a sigh of relief. No time for a scolding now. She set a dark blue bonnet firmly over her hair and fastened the ties. She followed her mother out to the carriage, where the rest of the family waited. As usual, Papa had gone on ahead to open the church and stoke the two stoves to provide heat on this cold winter morning. Rachel climbed up beside her sister, Miriam, and reached for the blanket.

“What delayed you, Rachel? There’s no excuse for not being ready with everyone else.” Mama settled in her seat beside Noah, who had taken over his brother’s responsibilities until his own departure for college next fall.
“Time slipped away from me.” No need to tell her everything now. Rachel tucked a blanket around her legs and glanced at Miriam beside her. Miriam’s eyebrows lifted in question, but Rachel shook her head.

Micah piped up from the front seat. “Did you make Papa angry?”

“Micah! Of course not.” Rachel glanced at her brother Noah and noted the smirk on his face. She frowned to let him know she didn’t approve.
His gaze slid to her now. “Oh, then why did he stomp through the kitchen and ride off without a word to anybody?”

Mama clucked her tongue. “Now, children, it’s the Sabbath. Papa was late and in a hurry to get to the church.” But the look in Mama’s eyes promised she’d speak to Rachel about it later, especially after Mama learned the real reason for the tardiness.

Even though his decision disappointed her, Papa simply wanted to protect her from danger. She should be grateful for his love and concern, not angry because he said no. The promise of a trip to Boston when the weather improved would have to be enough to get her through the remainder of winter.

A recent snowfall still covered the frozen ground. Most of it in the streets had melted into a hodgepodge of brown and black slush caused by carriages and buggies winding their way toward the church. Rachel breathed deeply of the clean, fresh air that seemed to accompany snow in winter and rain in the spring.
If not for the inconveniences caused by ice and snow, she would love this time of year, even when the leafless branches of the trees cracked and creaked with a coating of ice. She gazed toward the gray skies that promised more snow before the day ended. If it would wait until later in the day, she might manage a visit with her best friend Abigail this afternoon.
However, a warm house, a cup of hot tea flavored with mint from Mama’s herb garden, and a good book might entice her to stay home on this cold, winter afternoon. Tomorrow would bring the chores of keeping the woodpile stocked and the laundry cleaned. She enjoyed the winter months, although this year she wished them to hurry by.

Miriam snuggled closer. Rachel smiled at her sister, who had recently turned thirteen. “I see you’re wearing your Christmas dress today. Is there a special occasion?”
Miriam’s cheeks turned a darker shade of red. “Um, not exactly.”

“Then what is it . . . exactly?”
Miriam tilted her head to one side and peered up at Rachel. She whispered, “Jimmy Turner.”
So her little sister had begun to notice boys. “Well now, I think he’s a handsome lad. Has he shown an interest in you?”

Miriam nodded and giggled. Rachel wrapped an arm around her sister as the buggy slowed to enter the churchyard. She stepped down onto the snow-covered ground muddied by all the wagons crossing over it. Now she was thankful for the thick stockings and shoes she wore to protect her toes. She then reached up for Micah while Miriam raced ahead.

The little boy pushed her hands away. “I can get down by myself.”

Rachel couldn’t resist the temptation to laugh. At seven, her younger brother expressed his independence and insisted on doing things for himself. He jumped with his feet square in a pile of snow and looked first at his feet then up to Rachel. She shook her head and grabbed his hand to go inside the building. How that little boy loved the snow. He’d be out in it all day if Mama would let him.

When she entered the foyer with Micah, she spotted Miriam already sitting in their pew with Jimmy Turner in the row behind her. Rachel hastened to sit down beside her sister. Miriam stared straight ahead but twisted her hands together in her lap.

When had Miriam grown up? Even now she showed signs of the beauty she would one day be. Thick, dark lashes framed her brown eyes, and her cheeks held a natural pink glow. Papa would really have to keep an eye out for his younger daughter.
Rachel glanced around the assembly room and once again admired the beauty of the old church built not long after the turn of the century. Instead of the quarry stone and masonry of the churches in Boston and even New Haven, Briar Ridge’s church walls were of white clapboard with large stained-glass windows along the sides. On bright days, sunlight streamed through them to create patterns of color across the congregation.

Brass light fixtures hung from the high vaulted ceilings, and the flames from the gaslights danced in the breeze as the back doors opened to admit worshippers. As much as she loved her church here in Briar Ridge, she remembered the electric lights she’d enjoyed in Hartford, one of the first cities to have its own generating plant. How long before electricity would become as widespread in Briar Ridge as it was in the larger cities? Probably awhile since Briar Ridge wasn’t known for its progress.
When the family first came to town, Rachel had been three years old, so this was the only home and church she could remember before leaving for school. Familiar faces met her everywhere she gazed. A nod and smile greeted each one as she searched for her friend Abigail and the Monroe family.
Unexpectedly a new face came into view a few rows back. A young man with the most incredible brown eyes stared back at her. Rachel’s breath caught in her throat, and the heat rose in her cheeks.

She felt her mother’s hand on her arm. “Turn around, Rachel. It’s not polite to stare.”
With her heart threatening to jump right out of her chest, Rachel tore her gaze away from the stranger seated with the Monroe family. Papa entered from the side door and stepped up to the pulpit. The service began with singing, but Rachel could barely make a sound. Everything in her wanted to turn and gaze again at the mysterious person with the Monroe family, but that behavior would be unseemly for the daughter of the minister.

However, her thoughts refused to obey and skipped to their own rhythm. Rachel decided that whoever he was, he must be a friend of Daniel’s because Abigail had never mentioned any man of interest in her own life. In a town like Briar Ridge, everyone knew everyone’s business. She hadn’t heard any talk of a guest from Daniel or her other friends yesterday.
A prickling sensation crept along her neck as though someone watched her. She blinked her eyes and willed herself to look at Papa and concentrate on his message. However, her mind filled with images of the young man. Who was this stranger who had come to Briar Ridge?

Nathan Reed contemplated the dark curls peeking from beneath the blue bonnet. When she had turned and their eyes met, his heart leaped. He had never expected to see such a beauty in a town like Briar Ridge. His friend Daniel’s sister was attractive, but nothing like this raven-haired girl with blue eyes.
When she turned her head back toward the front, he stared at her back as if to will her to turn his way again. When she didn’t, he turned his sights to gaze around the church, so much like others he’d once attended. He wouldn’t be here this morning except out of politeness for the Monroe family. He’d arrived later than intended last evening and welcomed Mrs. Monroe’s offer to stay the night with them. The least he could do was attend the service today.

Nathan had no use for church or things of God. He believed God existed, but only for people who needed something or someone to lean on. God had forsaken the Reed family years ago, and Nathan had done quite well without any help these four years away from home.

He shook off thoughts of the past and concentrated once more on the blue bonnet several rows ahead. Perhaps Daniel would introduce him. She would be a nice diversion from the business he must attend to while in town. He blocked the words of the minister from his mind and concentrated on the girl’s back.
The little boy seated next to the young woman seemed restless, so she lifted him onto her lap. The child couldn’t be her son. She didn’t look old enough. Then the older woman next to them reached for the boy and settled him in her arms. In a few minutes the boy’s head nodded in sleep.
Nathan resisted the urge to pull his watch from his pocket and check the time. Surely the service would end soon. Potbellied stoves in the front and back of the church provided warmth, and the additional heat of so many bodies caused him to wish he had shed his coat. He fought the urge to nod off himself. Oh, to be like the young lad in his mother’s arms.
Finally the congregation rose, and the organ played the final hymn. It was none too soon for Nathan, for he had grown more uncomfortable by the minute. Long sermons only added to his distaste for affairs of the church. The singing ended and people began their exit, but he kept his eye on the girl in blue until the crowd blocked her from view.

He stayed behind the Monroe family, who stopped to greet the minister. Mrs. Monroe turned to Nathan. “Reverend Winston, this is Nathan Reed, our houseguest from Hartford this week and a friend of Daniel’s.”

The minister smiled in greeting and shook Nathan’s hand. “It’s very nice to have you in our services today, Mr. Reed. I hope you enjoy your stay in Briar Ridge and that we’ll see more of you.”

“Thank you, sir. I look forward to my visit here.” But the minister wouldn’t be seeing any more of him unless they possibly met in town.

When they reached the Monroe carriage, Nathan turned and spotted the girl coming down the steps. He watched as Daniel waved to the young woman and she waved back. Abigail ran to greet her, and the girls hurried over to where Nathan stood with Daniel. Abigail tucked her hand in the girl’s elbow.
“Nathan, this is my best friend, Rachel Winston. Rachel, this is Daniel’s former roommate in college, Nathan Reed.”

Rachel Winston? Nathan’s hopes dashed against the slushy ground on which he stood. Could she be the preacher’s daughter? He didn’t mind a young woman being Christian, but he drew the line at keeping company with one so close to the ministry.
When her blue eyes gazed into his, a spark of interest flamed, and it took him a few seconds before remembering his manners. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Winston.”
Her cheeks flushed red, and she glanced away slightly but still smiled. “Thank you. I’m pleased to meet you too, Mr. Reed. Perhaps we’ll see each other again if you’re in town long.”

Rachel’s smile sent a warmth into his heart that caused him to swallow hard. Although the length of his stay was uncertain, his desire to see the lovely Miss Winston again might just override his pledge to avoid anything or anyone with ties to the church.




My Review:

Summer Dream is the first book by Martha Rogers that I've read and I can say it won't be the last! This is one of the sweetest and gentlest love stories, full of wonderful characters and delightful friendships.

Rachel Winston is a young woman to be admired and to aspire to be like. She has a deep love for her family and faith, as well as a maturity beyond her years. I imagine that was not unusual during the 1800's as responsibilities on children were greater than today. In Rachel we see a determination to do what is right based on deep-seated convictions. She knows in her heart she should not be attracted to Nathan, but we see God work, and we see her praying diligently for his spiritual well being.

With Nathan, the prodigal son was brought to mind. Martha shows how God works to bring someone back into the fold and restore them to right relationship not only with God but with their family, as well. I liked Nathan and shed a few tears near the end when he goes to see his mother.

Martha did an excellent job with characterization. I felt as if I had gained some new friends and I was reminded NOT to give up on someone but to continue in prayer for them because I never know how God is working, whom He is using, or when I will see fruit. I hope we get to see some of the minor characters starring in their own stories!

I am happily passing my copy on to one commenter. Leave a comment telling me how you follow my blog ~ either through Google or RSS. Drawing will be on July 23rd. **Update: This is US Only...sorry y'all.