Book Quotes

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

~ New Dishes ~

While browsing through Walmart in May, my husband and I came across these dishes that we really liked. Our old ones were all mismatched. Nothing wrong with that. I loved them. They were so colorful, but after so many years of use they were quite chipped. So we took the plunge and bought new ones. I'm pleased with them as they are in my favorite colors and match my kitchen! They also look good with all of my Roosters & Hens decor :) 


I made some Blueberry Muffins (recipe below) from scratch this morning to go along with our freshly ground Eight o'clock coffee. 


I couldn't find a napkin holder so I had to improvise. My son suggested I use my ring but I went one better. I dug out my great grandfather's wedding band! You can't say I didn't get creative with that one ;) Not too bad, huh?! 


For any who might wonder how a wedding band could possibly be large enough to use as a napkin ring...he was 6'6" tall! Great Granddaddy Thaddeus had big hands. 

Gibson Everyday Heritage Park Dinnerware

No tea today but the muffins were good. I could have had tea with them but I much prefer coffee in the morning!


I didn't link up to any Tea posts today since it wasn't china. Maybe I will have time to go scouting around the thrift stores before next week :) I can only hope!


Blueberry Muffins


2 cups all purpose flour (I use bread flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1 or 2 cups of Blueberries (depending on size)


Preheat oven to 400*.


In a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg and oil. Set aside. Sift or stir together all dry ingredients. Add wet to dry, stirring thoroughly. Add blueberries and gently stir. Batter is thick! 


Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray, spoon in batter. Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven, or until muffins are a light golden color on top.


Variations: Instead of blueberries, you can use chocolate chips, nuts, other berries, and flavorings. Be creative! This is a very versatile basic muffin recipe.


Enjoy!


Sincerely wishing everyone a blessed day!



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Introducing debut novelist Keli Gwyn w/Giveaway

Let me just say up front I am so excited to have Keli here! Over the last year I have gotten to know her through her blog and email, and I have to say that she is one of the kindest, most encouraging persons I know.

I think you will thoroughly enjoy getting to know Keli. Her sense of humor is delightfully fun! She's also offering a copy of her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, to one of my readers!



Hi Keli! Thanks so much for being my guest today :) Tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey. 

I’m a native Californian living in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. When I dusted off my dream of being a writer, one held since I was seven, and began my first story forty years later, I knew I wanted to write inspirational historical romance. Inspirational because my faith is important to me. Historical because I’m smitten with the Victorian Era. And romance because I’m a hopelessly romantic mush pot.

Since I could write a book about my writing journey, I’ll challenge myself to share it in one sentence. Here goes: I wrote five stories in two years, took a year off to study craft, rewrote my third book twice, entered it in lots of contests and did well, got requests from final-round judges, received an offer from agent Rachelle Gardner as a result of one, rewrote the story one more time, chewed my nails when it went out on submission, and rejoiced when it sold six weeks later. Phew! I did it. :-)

That is some journey! Sounds like you were one busy woman. 

What do you think makes a good story?

What goes into making a good story? Hmm. Lemme see. OK. Got it, but bear in mind this recipe is for a romance.

  • A likable hero and heroine who aren’t perfect but are “perfect” for one another

  • A plot that forces the couple into close contact and has some fun surprises for the characters and the reader

  • A unique voice that adds a nice flavor to the story

  • A pleasing progression of plot elements and character arcs

  • A sigh-worthy ending for a couple who has overcome the many challenges the author threw at them 

Oh yes, I love a sigh-worthy ending! I just read one this weekend.

Do you have a favorite book? What about it makes it stand out from others?



My favorite work of fiction would be Little Women. I forked over $10 of my allowance money when I was 13 for a hardcover unabridged version. It’s the only book I have from my childhood. I treasure that tear-stained copy. I read it over and over when I was young, dreaming Jo March’s dream of being a published author and hoping like crazy she and Laurie would get together. If I were ever to write fan fiction, I’d make sure that happened—with my apologies to Jo’s sister Amy of course. :-)

I love Little Women! That's one of my favorites. The movie is pretty good too! 

Have you always been such a fitness buff? Can you share some fitness tips to help us readers get in shape?

I was a sedentary person until my osteoporosis diagnosis last November. The goal of arresting or reversing my bone loss lit a fire under me. I joined Curves, where I work out 3x a week. I walk the other days. To my surprise and delight, I enjoy exercising now.

My best get-in-shape tip for readers is to read while walking. When I heard about this form of multi-tasking from a friend not long ago, I gave it a whirl. Walking on a treadmill could work for some, but I walk outdoors on a fairly level walking trail. So far I’ve not stumbled, fallen, or crashed into another walker, although I did get slapped in the face by a low-hanging branch once. I blame that on Karen Witemeyer. I was so into her latest book that I’d lost track of everything around me.

I'm so sorry to hear about that diagnosis. You are such an inspiration to me in the fitness arena. I love keeping track of your Transcontinental trek! You have spurred me on to get out there and walk more daily. And reading while walking is a great idea. I lose track of everything when I read Karen's books too!

What’s the one food item you can’t live without?

If we’re talking a single entrĂ©e, it would be a Taco Bell tostada.

If we’re talking one particular item, it would be bread. My entire family loves bread. Our love affair began when we lived in Germany and got hooked on their heavy, hearty, whole-grained breads. Yummers!

Taco Bell rocks! I agree about bread too. I have switched to Weight Watchers and it's not bad, but I prefer making my own whole wheat!

Be honest and tell us what you’re wearing right now?

I just returned from my Curves workout, so I’m wearing a pair of navy exercise shorts, a gray v-neck t-shirt, and, gulp, no makeup. I’ve already kicked off my cute Nike workout shoes and my socks. And, yes, there is a shower in my future.



Where is your favorite place to write?

At home. I’m a shy writer and can’t write well in public. Not only that, but I speak dialogue out loud as I write it, make faces as I imagine characters’ reactions, and jump out of my chair at times to act out certain gestures. I’m sure I’d get strange looks if I were to write at a coffee house or restaurant.

I laughed out loud at this! That would be a sight to see but so much fun :)

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and just have to get up and write down a thought? If so, do you keep a tablet on your bedside table or go to the computer?

Ideas bombard me all the time, even in my dreams. I jump up and race for the tablet by the phone when I want to capture a particularly good one in the middle of the night. 

Do you talk to your characters? Keep story boards? Pictures?

I talk to my characters all the time. And they talk back to me. I love it when I begin a new story and they really start chatting. That’s when I know I’ve got the new characters down.

I plot using two whiteboards on the wall beside my desk and plenty of sticky notes. I like being able to move scenes around if need be.

The pictures I use are old-fashioned photographs from the Victorian Era, either the wallet-sized carte de visite or the 4x6 inch cabinet card. Both are mounted on cardstock. When possible, I use actual photos found on my antique store searches, but I’ve used images from the Internet as well.

I find it fascinating the process that authors use to write their stories.

What’s in store for you next? Are you working on another book?

I’m working on another inspirational historical romance and have oodles more story ideas in the planning stages.

Yay! I love that genre best!

Where can you be found on the internet?

You can visit my cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, complete with its parlor, library, study, carriage house, and more. My blog and social media links can be found there as well.

Thank you so much for being here today, Keli! It was fun learning more about you and  your writing.


Book Blurb

An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them? Miles can’t help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business? Miles’s mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora’s daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair?



Leave an encouraging comment or ask Keli a question to be entered to win an autographed copy of A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California. Ends July 6th. US Only (all 50).

Monday, June 25, 2012

WINNER!!!

CONGRATULATIONS...


~ BETH VOGT ~

 You won Chameleon by Jillian Kent!

Thanks to all who came by and participated in the giveaway. Stay tuned tomorrow for Keli Gwyn with an interview & giveaway, and in July I have Lynn Dove with an interview & giveaway! Plus, more book reviews and recommendations are coming from Judy Burgi, Rebecca Maney and myself.

I do apologize to those who have won books recently. I have not forgotten about sending them. I'm still not getting everything done in a timely manner since my daughter's death 6 weeks ago, but I do have them all ready to be mailed! 

Shoot the Wounded by Lynn Dove ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour


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:




 Word Alive Press (November 2, 2009)





***Special thanks to Lynn Dove for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Lynn Dove calls herself a Christ-follower, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a teacher and a writer (in that order). Her debut novel, Shoot the Wounded , written for teens and young adults, was published in November 2009. Shoot the Wounded was a finalist in the 2010 Readers Favorite Book Awards. The second book in the “Wounded Trilogy“, Heal the Wounded was released on Oct. 18, 2010 and it won the Bronze Medal in the Young Adult – Coming of Age category in the 2011 Readers Favorite Book Awards. Love the Wounded, the final book in the trilogy is scheduled for release the summer of 2012.

Lynn’s personal blog, “Journey Thoughts” was the 2011 Winner of a Canadian Christian Writing Award in the blog series category. The Journey Thoughts blog is slightly quirky, sometimes off-beat, and inspirational to all readers. She also has a blog called "Word Salt" that is specifically for author interviews, writer’s tips, and book reviews for those called by God to write, and for those who love to read the Word.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Shoot the Wounded, the first book in the "Wounded Trilogy" written for youth and young adults, addresses how lies and gossip destroy a person’s spirit. It speaks to the heart of relevant themes such as bullying, teen pregnancy and family violence all the while pointing the characters and ultimately the reader, to hope in Jesus Christ.


SHOOT THE WOUNDED is a contemporary Christian novel that deals with relevant social issues such as teen pregnancy and family violence. Set in the small fictional town of Maplewood, in southern Alberta, best friends Leigh and Ronnie find their friendship and faith challenged when Jake, a good looking Christian boy, moves into their neighborhood. Leigh is especially delighted that Jake is paying more attention to her than any other girl at school or church, but what she does not know is that despite his bold declaration of being a follower of Christ, he's carrying a dark secret from his past that has the potential to destroy his integrity and have his friends question the legitimacy of his faith.











Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Word Alive Press (November 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1926676394
ISBN-13: 978-1926676395





AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”





PROVERBS 12:18








“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”





PROVERBS 15:4





CHAPTER 1

Leigh stared at the wild, varied assortment of flowers: marigolds, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, lilies, and roses. All of Ronnie’s favourite flowers spread out in a wild assortment of mixed bouquets all across the front of the church sanctuary. It may have been an attempt by someone to cheerily try to camouflage the cherry wood casket, but it was a bleak attempt at best. The church’s stained glass windows reflected beams of rainbow light through the flowers’ petals that further served to enhance the already impressive array of colour, but eyes were constantly drawn to the coffin more so than the flowers surrounding it. Ronnie would have liked the flowers, may even appreciated the deep, polished beauty of the casket’s wood, Leigh thought to herself, but not so the mournful groans of the old church organ played with sad conviction by Ronnie’s aged Aunt Edna.
The sanctuary was filled with family and friends, some openly weeping, others talking barely above a whisper. Hanging in the air was a feeling of sombre solemnity that dared not be interrupted by small talk. Leigh heard a giggle from somewhere in the back and, contrasted with the muted tones, her anger bristled against whoever had the audacity to think this occasion funny. She felt her mother touch her hand, and looked up to see her mother’s soft brown eyes damp with unshed tears.
Mom hurts for me, not Ronnie, Leigh thought. She doesn’t completely understand, but that doesn’t matter. I’m glad she’s here. Leigh squeezed her mother’s hand gratefully. Seated next to her mother was her father, stoic and protective in his blue business suit. Leigh wouldn’t even try to guess what he was thinking. He sat with his eyes focused ahead, his jaw firmly set and the little vein in his temple pulsing as it always did when he appeared upset.
Leigh had tried to approach her father and put into perspective the past actions of her best friend, Ronnie, but her father wouldn’t listen.  “Don’t make excuses for her, Leigh. The past is past,” he said. “She had a future. How could this have happened?” He had shaken his head and fumed behind his dark eyes and expression all night. He couldn’t possibly understand why Ronnie had done the things she did. She didn’t even understand it all and Ronnie was… had… been her best friend!
There sat Ronnie’s parents at the front of the church. Mr. Webber’s hand hung limply over his wife’s shoulders and Mrs. Webber was weeping, her head bowed in prayer and misery. Ronnie’s two younger brothers were huddled together beside their dad, both quiet and subdued.  And there sat Jake with his parents. He looked over at Leigh and smiled weakly at her. He was trying to get her attention, trying to make up for all the weeks they had been silent to one another. Leigh quickly looked away. She couldn’t bear to see his face. After all, he was partly to blame for this.
Her attention was drawn to the pulpit where the youth pastor, Scott Robinson, now stood. A young man in his late twenties, tall and handsome, with a heart for the young people in his congregation, he had been asked by the family to lead the service. Never in his experience had he spoken at a funeral before. He was nervous, especially under these tragic circumstances with the death of one so young, and a member of his youth group. He wanted the words he said to comfort, to focus attention not on the tragedy, but on God, Who was supposedly in control of all things, even in the midst of sorrow and heartache. Scott cleared his throat nervously and spoke to the people gathered.
“‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…’” Scott led the congregation, reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm,“‘…surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’”
Scott cleared his throat nervously a second time. “We are here to remember and celebrate the life that was Veronica Marie Webber.  Ronnie, as she was known to all her friends and family, grew up in this community. She came to know the Lord at a youth rally when she was twelve and was an active member of our youth group. She served in our children’s ministries and was on the volleyball team at school. She loved music, swimming, camping, and she loved all of you here in this room.” He paused. Leigh squirmed uncomfortably in her chair.
The youth pastor faced the congregation and saw the faces of pain and grief on the family members. They had been through so much this past week—actually, these past several months. Asking God for courage to speak boldly, he sighed and continued. He glanced through the crowd of mourners and his eyes settled on Leigh’s face. He was well aware that the two girls had been close for years. Looking directly at her, he spoke with conviction.
“I know Veronica… Ronnie, loved all of you. She had a zest, a love of life that knew no boundaries. She made mistakes, true, but that did not negate the fact that she knew her friends and family supported her, encouraged her, and believed in her. Perhaps that is why we all ask ourselves today how it is we may have failed her at a time when she needed us the most. There are so many whys. God never promised that every question we asked would be answered. Some of us may even feel angry with God for allowing this to have happened…” He saw a slight nod of affirmation from Leigh, but continued, “Psalm 91 says that he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Ronnie is resting with God now…” And his voice broke with emotion.
Leigh did not hear more. She was aware of Scott referring back to different passages of scripture as he eulogized her friend. One of Ronnie’s uncles, a cousin, and one of the church’s deacons followed, sharing little snippets of stories they remembered of Ronnie’s childhood and teen years. Leigh didn’t recall the words, nor did she much care what was said. Only immediately following the service when Jake tried to stop her in the church foyer to give her a hug did she react with venom.
“Don’t, Jake!” she hissed. He stepped back in surprise. “You can’t make me feel better. You did this to her! I don’t want anything to do with you, ever!” With that, Leigh pushed away from him, leaving him bewildered and hurt.
*****
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Cindy said the next day.
Leigh’s group of friends had circled around her at school. Short, with chestnut-coloured hair, Cindy was the pragmatic one. She tried to find reason to all things. She tried to find a solution when none existed.  She also tried to rely on herself for all the answers. Tina was the crier.  Stout, with long hay-coloured hair, overly-sensitive, Tina was emotional to a fault. She wept in happiness and in despair. Auburn-haired, with dark hazel eyes and a creamy flawless complexion, Janelle was unforgiving. She held grudges the longest, and spent days in moodiness.  Of all of Leigh’s friends, Leigh wondered why she even associated with Janelle. Some days Janelle was so unlikeble. Corey was the clown. Tall, gangly, with short, bleached-blonde streaks in her already lightened blonde hair, Corey tried to make light of everything. Sometimes it was therapeutic to have her as comic relief; sometimes she chose comedy inappropriately to relieve the tension. Today was such a day.
“Well, at least now I don’t have to pay Ronnie the twenty bucks I owed her.” Corey said without thinking.
“What?” The other girls reacted with disbelief.
“How could you say that?” Tina wailed and slapped Corey soundly on her arm. “You are heartless!”
Leigh walked away in disgust.
The remaining crowded around Corey, reprimanding her viciously for her insensitivity. Leigh knew it would do no good. Some kids would continue to say and do things over the next several weeks that would be totally inappropriate. Leigh knew that many of her friends couldn’t express grief, some honestly didn’t care, and others would just choose to forget or move on with life in an effort to pretend it had never happened. Leigh wasn’t sure which category she would eventually fall into. At present, she just felt angry and numb. She despised the fact that rumours were running rampant, everyone speculating, trying to piece together the puzzle on their own to determine what exactly had happened to Ronnie. Truth was not part of the equation, it seemed, just sensationalism and gossip. It made Leigh even angrier.
What bothered Leigh more than anything else was the feeling of unconnectedness with her friends, her family, her church, and God. She couldn’t remember a time when she had felt so alone. No one, not one person, seemed to understand the torment she was going through. She knew that she should pray, she knew she could journal her thoughts, and maybe feel a sense of release doing that, but there was such weariness in the idea. She couldn’t face it right now. Then, of course, there was Jake. How could she love him and hate him at the same time? She fumbled with the lock on her locker. The numbers blurred before her and her books tumbled with a loud splat on the floor at her feet. She cursed and immediately looked up with guilt. Swearing was considered inappropriate in her church circles.
“Crap!” she raged. I can’t even act like a normal human being! I want to swear! I want to yell and scream and kick in this… She stopped herself from using an expletive about her locker. That wasn’t the answer, either. She couldn’t just drop sixteen years of upbringing and forego all that she had been taught just to satisfy a need to vent her anger. There had to be a better way.
Janelle handed her a math book she had dropped, and bent to pick up the remaining books at Leigh’s feet.
“Corey is an idiot,” she calmly stated. “Don’t let her bug you.”
“I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” Leigh confided. She leaned wearily against the locker and gratefully allowed Janelle to retrieve all the books. “I’m not sure about anything anymore. I was so angry with Ronnie. I was yelling at her for getting herself in trouble. I wasn’t her friend; I didn’t do anything that showed to her that I was her best friend. I let her down.” Janelle put an arm around Leigh. “I had no idea that Ronnie was so messed up. I was mad at her. I don’t even know why I was mad at her. I mean, the only person she was hurting was herself, yet I was mad at her because somehow or another knowing she had messed up was hurting me!”
Janelle walked with Leigh to their homeroom. “Too bad Ronnie didn’t listen to you months ago. Seems to me, this is all her doing. You have nothing to feel guilty about.”
Leigh did not feel encouraged in any way as she entered the class.  The seat up front that would have been Ronnie’s was so obviously vacant that she had to choke back a sob as she passed it. The whole day passed like a great heaviness was weighing on her. If someone had asked her what the teachers had said or what homework assignments were due, she wouldn’t have been able to respond. She sat on the bus alone, ever mindful of the seat across the aisle, Ronnie’s seat… vacant…just like the one in homeroom, and in English class, and the chair in Science right next to hers. This was supposed to have been the year for new beginnings and to put all their past mistakes behind them.
“Ronnie, how could you do this to me?” Leigh dropped her head into her hands and wept.



Copyright © 2009 Lynn Dove 


 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without prior permission from the publisher. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Friend or Foe?! ~ Rural Thursday

My son was mowing and just had to come and get me so I could snap a picture of this big guy. 


He was at least 4 1/2 ft long. 
No lie!


But as I am always complaining about my camera, you can't really see him all that well. 
Plus the clover/grass is pretty thick.


But you get the idea. I do believe he is a friend and not a foe, as he is either a Black Rat Snake or a Racer. 
I'm leaning to Racer as he was fast! 


Nice looking fella'

Images are mine. Please don't take them without asking. Not that anyone would want them. I'm just sayin'. 

I'm linked with Rural Thursday.






Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Annie's Truth by Beth Shriver ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

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 (May 15, 2012)


***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Beth Shriver received a degree in social work and psychology from the University of Nebraska. She worked as a caseworker for Boulder County Department of Social Services before starting a family. Beth and her husband of twenty years and her two children live in Texas after moving from their first home in Colorado. She freelances for the local papers in her area and writes columns, devotionals for magazines, and novels in a variety of genres in both fiction and nonfiction. 

Visit the author's website.

 
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Annie Bieler sets out on a journey of the spirit when she discovers she was adopted after being found as an abandoned newborn. Her father is strongly against her decision to go as it could mean Meidung, or excommunication from the community and even her family. But Annie knows she must find “the path that has her heart.” Her search also takes her away from John, the young man who is courting her.


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 161638607X

ISBN-13: 978-1616386078
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The dinner Bell rang just as one of the milk cows slapped Annie’s kapp with its tail. Now she was late for the evening meal. She pulled the black kapp off her head. When Maggie swatted Annie, the pins were knocked loose. She wiped off the dirt and cow manure then hastily twisted up her hair into a bun and pulled the kapp over her mess of hair.

“Need some help?” John Yoder’s dark eyes smiled at her.

She jumped at the sight of him looking down at her with a

grin. “Nee, I can finish up.”

Her mamm would scold her for her tardiness and her unruly hair, so she quickly grabbed two containers of milk, clutching them to her chest. When she turned around, John was removing the cups from the Guernsey’s udders.

“Danke. The boys must have missed a couple.” The cover of one of the containers lifted, causing milk to spill out onto her black dress. Annie wiped her hand on her white apron. Frustration bubbled up and burst out in an irritated groan.

“Now what?” John opened the barn door and shut it behind them.

Annie pointed to the milk stain and slowed her walk so he could catch up. Her mamm wouldn’t be as upset with her if she saw Annie with John.

“I spilled on myself, my hair’s a mess, and I’m late.” She jug- gled the containers to keep them in place as she walked.

John’s smile never left, just tipped to the side while she listed her worries. “You’re never late.”

“You will be too if you keep talking to me.” The milk sloshed
3
Beth Shriver
around in the containers as she adjusted them again. “Taking the long way home?”

“Jah, thought I’d come by to say hallo.” He took one from her then reached for the other.

She turned slightly so he couldn’t reach the second bottle. “I’ve got this one.”

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged as his grin widened.

They walked together toward their houses, which were down the path from one another, divided by a dozen trees. John was three the day Annie was born and had been a part of her life more than her own brothers were at times. His brown hair brushed his collar as he walked with her, holding back to keep in step with Annie.

“Aren’t you late to help with cooking?” He nodded toward her white clapboard house. A birdfeeder was hung at the far end of the porch, which had a peaked black roof, and daisies filled her mamm’s flower garden in front of the house. Mamm created a colorful greeting of flora for every season.

She shook her head. “Nee, Eli’s helping the Lapps, so I’m helping the boys with milking. What were you doing, cutting tobacco?”

He nodded. “Nice day for it too. The sun was bright, but there was a breeze that kept us cool.” He lifted his strong, handsome face toward the sunshine and took in a deep breath.

He was just trying to irritate her, so she ignored his jab. John knew she preferred being outdoors and that she would trade places with him in an instant. When the time was right she would help with the tobacco harvesting and, along with many others, would then prepare the meal after the task was done.

“It looked warm outside to me.” She took the milk from him and kept walking. The last of the warm summer days were coming to an end, and soon it would be time for fall harvesting.

They reached the trail that led to John’s home on the far side

of a stand of tall oak trees. “Not as hot as in the kitchen.” He
4
Annie’s Truth

snapped his suspenders and turned onto the trail leading away from her.

“John Yoder . . . ” was all she could say this close to her daed’s ears. She watched him continue on down the roughed-out dirt lane thinking of what she would have said if she could. Her gaze took in the many acres of barley, corn, and oat crops and then moved to the Virginia mountainside beyond, where the promise of fall peeked out between the sea of green.

Annie walked up the wooden stairs and into the kitchen. The room was simple and white, uncluttered. A long table and chairs took over the middle of the large room, and rag rugs of blue and emerald added color and softness. For a unique moment it was silent.

“Annie?” Her mamm’s voice made  her worry again  about being late, with a soiled dress and unkempt hair.

Her tall, slender mamm stopped picking up the biscuits from a baking pan and placed both hands on the counter. She let out a breath when Annie came into the kitchen. “Ach, good, you brought the milk.” Mamm’s tired gaze fell on Annie.

“I was talking with John.” She opened the cooler door and placed the milk on the shelf.

Her mamm’s smile told Annie she wasn’t late after all, so she continued. “He said it was a good day for baling.”

Hanna and her brother strolled in, and he grabbed a biscuit, creating a distraction that allowed Annie time to twist her hair up and curl it into a tight bun. A tap from their mamm’s hand made her son drop the biscuit back into the basket with the rest. “I’m so hungry.” Thomas’s dark freckles on his pudgy face con- trasted to his light hair and skin, so unlike Annie’s olive-colored

complexion, which was more like their daed’s.

She tousled his hair. “You are always the first one to dinner

and the last one to leave.”

“I’m a growing child. Right, Mamm?” Thomas took the basket of biscuits to the table and set them next to his plate.

“That you are. Now go sit down and wait  for the  others.”
5
Beth Shriver
Mamm placed a handful of biscuits in the breadbox and brushed her hands off on her white apron.

While they waited for the others to wash up, she addressed

Annie. “John walked you out this morning and walked you home?” “Like he has most every day of my life.” Annie’s voice almost

reached the edge into sarcasm, but she smiled to make light of it. Didn’t her mamm know that her obvious nudging turned Annie away from John, not toward him?

Hanna had been quiet, listening, and walked over to Annie. “Should we ask Mamm if we can look in our chests in the attic?” Annie peered over Hanna’s shoulder at Mamm. “Jah, but let’s

wait until after supper.”

Her mamm’s brow lifted just as the buzz of her family coming into the room sidetracked her attention from Annie and Hanna. The younger ones were restless with hunger, and the older sib- lings talked amongst themselves. Frieda, Hanna, Augustus, Eli, Thomas, and Samuel all sat in the same chairs they were always in, and Annie took her assigned seat with the rest.

Her daed sat at the head of the table and waited with watchful eyes until everyone was quiet. When Amos folded his hands, all followed suit, and they all said silent grace.

Geef ons heden ons dagelijks brood. Give us this day our daily bread. Amen. Annie thought the words then kept her eyes closed until she heard movement from the others.

Amos passed the food to his right until it made a full circle back to him.

“We’ve almost finished with the Lapps’s tobacco field,” Annie’s oldest brother, Eli, informed Amos. He and Hanna had Mamm’s silky blond hair and blue eyes, but Hanna didn’t have her disposition.

Amos nodded and lifted a bite of chicken to his mouth.

Eli leaned toward Amos. “I can then tend to our barley day after tomorrow.”

Amos spoke without looking at his son. “You will work the

Lapps’s land until they say you are finished. Not before.”
6
Annie’s Truth

The gleam in Eli’s dark eyes faded as he took up his fork. “Jah, Daed.”

Mamm spoke then. “It’s an honor you are able to help them while their daed recovers.” She shifted her attention to her hus- band. “Have you heard how Ephraim is healing?”

Amos continued to eat as he spoke to her mamm. “His back is mending. It’s his worrisome wife that keeps him laid up.”

“Ach, I’d probably do the same if it were you.” Mamm waited a moment until Daed’s mouth lifted into a half smile.

He gave the table a smack to stop Frieda from tempting Thomas with another biscuit. “The boy can help himself without your teasing him.”

She set their hands in her lap. “Jah, Daed.”

He nodded for them to eat again. Conversation was uncommon during meals, so Annie let her mind wander. Harvest season was approaching, and the excitement of upcoming weddings was on everyone’s mind. Although the courtship was to be kept quiet, most knew which couples would most likely be married in the coming months.

Annie’s mind went to John, the one she knew her parents, as well as his, would expect her to be with. Although she had feel- ings for him, she wished her spouse would not be chosen for her. It had changed her relationship with him just knowing what their expectations were. He had been her best friend, but she now kept him at bay, hoping for more time before the pressure became too great and they were forced to marry.

She put the palm of her hand to her forehead, resting there with thoughts of who else she could possibly be with from their community. Names went through her mind, but not one appealed to her in the same way John did.

Hanna nudged Annie as everyone began to clear the table. Annie’s mind rushed back to the present. She knew why Hanna wanted her attention. She was thinking about the upcoming nup- tials too. Their wedding chests gave them promise for their own

special day.
7
Beth Shriver
“Let’s ask Mamm.” Hanna’s eyes shone with excitement. Annie felt a lift in her spirits at the thought of having the privi- lege to rummage through their special treasures. She looked at her mamm laughing at her brother’s story of his britches getting caught on the Lapps’s fence. Her smile faded when he showed her the hole the wire made, which she would be mending that evening.

“You ask her,” Annie urged.

Hanna was the closest to Annie’s age and her confidante, as she was Hanna’s. “After dinner.” Hanna got up from her chair to help.

Frieda started the hand pump as the others gathered the dishes and put away the extra food. Once the dishes were cleaned and dried, Hanna and Annie  went to  their mamm, who stacked plates in the cupboard as the girls walked over to her.

“What do you want to ask me?” Mamm continued with the dishes until the last plate was put away.

Hanna and Annie looked at one another. Annie furrowed her brows to make Hanna talk.

“We’d like to see our hope chests.”

“It’s a long while from any weddings being published.” Mamm placed a hand on the counter and studied them. “Okay, then. But after your lessons are done.”

Hanna grabbed Annie’s hand, and they walked quickly from the kitchen. “Jah, Mamm,” they said in unison. Annie hadn’t looked through her chest since she’d given up the doll her mamm had made for her. Since it was her first, Annie had chosen to store it after receiving another from her aunt.

Hanna urged Annie to stop doing homework after she com- pleted hers, but Annie wouldn’t go until she’d finished her story. Finally the girls ran up the wooden stairs to the attic. Hanna grabbed the metal doorknob and pushed on the door to open it. The door creaked in the darkness, and Annie held the kerosene lamp up to examine the room before entering. It looked exactly

the same as the last time she’d been there.
8
Annie’s Truth

A chest of drawers held baby clothes, and beside it stood a cabinet full of documents and paperwork Daed kept but never seemed to use. Special dresses and a bonnet hung on the far side of the room alongside a box of old toys her daed and Eli had made.

The girls spotted the chests lined up next to one another, where they would remain until their owners were married. Amos had made each of his girls one in which to keep their sentimental belongings.  One  day,  when  they  had  their  own homes,  they would have a memory of their daed and the things they held dear during their childhood.

Annie ran to the last one. Amos had lined them up according to age, so Hanna’s was right next to Annie’s. “You first,” Annie told Hanna.

“Nee, you.” Hanna moved closer to Annie and watched her lift the heavy wooden lid. “I can’t wait.” Hanna went to her chest and opened it as well. “Ach, I’d forgotten.” Hanna reached for the doll Mamm had made for her.

Annie grabbed hers, and they examined them together, just alike and equally worn. “I loved this doll! I had forgotten how much I played with it when I was a child.” The black bonnet was torn around the back, and the hay stuffing peeked out the back of the doll’s dress.

“Mine is tattered as well. I’m glad we put them away when we did, or there would be nothing left of them.” Hanna glanced at Annie’s doll.

Annie placed the doll in her lap and pulled out her wedding quilt, the one of many colors. Hanna’s was a box design, and Annie’s was circles within circles, resembling the circle of life. She ran her hand across the beautifully stitched material and admired her mamm’s handiwork. When she looked up, Hanna was doing the same.

Their eyes met. “Hold yours up so I can see.” Hanna’s voice was soft and breathy. “It’s beautiful, Annie. You’re lucky to be

closer to marrying than me.”
9
Beth Shriver
Annie tilted her head and turned the quilt to face her. “I don’t feel ready.”

Hanna’s brows drew together in question. “Why? You’ve always known you’ll be with John. And he is a handsome one.” She grinned. “I’ll take him off your hands.”

Annie tried to force a smile. “Why has everyone chosen my spouse for me?”

Hanna put her quilt back into the chest. “Don’t let your mind wander. Just be happy with the way things are.”

Annie fell silent, in thought. “Questioning is how we find the

truth.”

“The truth has already been found.” Hanna reached for her family Bible as she spoke.

Annie nodded, humbled, and looked for her special Bible. She moved a carved toy Eli had made for her and a book her mamm had given to her. Finally, at the very bottom, she found a Bible the minister gave her. As she opened it up, she skimmed through the flimsy pages. She went to the very front of the book and smiled when she saw how she had written her name as a young girl. The letters were varied sizes and uneven.

Her mamm’s and daed’s names were both written under hers, their dates of birth, and a list of her brothers and sisters under that. Births and other dates of additional relatives proceeded on to the next page, including the dates of their marriages. Annie flipped back to the first page and noticed the day of her birth was missing. Only the year was written; the day did not precede it, only the month.

“Hanna, come look.” Annie handed her the Bible and searched her sister’s face for some sign that she knew the reason for the omission. Annie thought back to the days her family recognized her birthday—one in particular.

Birthdays were often celebrated after church service on Sundays when everyone was already together and they wouldn’t take time away from daily chores during the week. This being

tradition, Annie didn’t think much of the exact date of her birth.
10
Annie’s Truth

Thoughts of self were discouraged. Everyone was treated equally so as to prevent pride.

On Annie’s thirteenth birthday she had been surprised by her family and friends with a party. A cake with thirteen candles was brought out, and gifts were given. Her brother had made her a handmade wooden box, and her sister, a picture of flowers. Other useful gifts such as nonperishable food and fancy soaps made by her aunt in the shape of animals piled up on the picnic table next to a half-eaten cake.

The best gift was from John. He had taken an orange crate and decorated it with his wood-burning tools. It was filled with small, flat wooden figures of every significant person in her life. The time and care he had put into the gift had touched Annie. She treated the present with such care she had thought it wise to store it in her hope chest. Now Annie wished she had enjoyed the box more.

She searched for it now and found the pieces scattered throughout the bottom of the chest. She picked up the wooden figures one by one, examined them, and put them in the box. Although they all looked alike, as no graven images were per- mitted,  she used  her imagination  to pick out each person. Frieda, Hanna, Augustus, Eli, Thomas, and Samuel were all accounted for, then Mamm and her daed, her mammi and dawdi—grandparents—then John and her. All of the boy fig- ures looked the same as well except for their height, facial hair, and a hat her dawdi always wore.

She’d envision John’s figure to be the exception. He had a thick head of black hair and always wore it a bit longer than he should. He could always get away with such things due to his charismatic personality. That was something not encouraged, so not often seen in their community.

Annie ran a finger along the small wooden likeness of John and wondered if she shouldn’t dismiss him so readily. As a friend she adored him, but the thought of marrying him annoyed her.

But did that feeling come because of him, or was it her?
11
Beth Shriver
Hanna’s sigh brought Annie back to the moment. Hanna looked from her Bible to Annie’s. “That’s odd, isn’t it?”

Annie turned a crisp page and stared at the words again. “I

wonder if Mamm simply didn’t remember to fill in the day.”

Hanna frowned. “It’s not like Mamm to forget to do anything like this.”

Annie didn’t want to believe that Mamm forgot, and Hanna was right in that their mamm never left anything undone, espe- cially when it came to her children. “I’m sure there’s a reason.”

“The only thing left to do is ask.” Hanna closed the Bible and handed it to Annie.

Annie took the black book, its pages edged with light gold. “Don’t you want to?” Hanna grasped her hands together and

set them on her knees.

“Jah, I do.” Annie stroked the top of the golden pages with her

finger. “And then I don’t.”

Hanna grunted. “Well, that’s silly.”

Annie stopped and took the Bible in both hands. “But I have a strange feeling.” Annie squeezed the Good Book. “Maybe it’s better if I don’t know.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

~ My favorite cup for tea ~

Everyone has a favorite cup, right?

Whether it be a dainty china tea cup,

Trash to Treasure


a hearty ceramic mug, 

*Microsoft Images


a family heirloom,

Teacups & Scrapbooking


or one that just fits your personality, 

Rooster ♥ Teacup Tuesday


you know you have one. 

Admit it. 

I do. 


Isn't she a beauty?


All I know about her history is that she's from England.


But my mom bought this cup long years ago. I don't remember it not being in her cabinet. This is the one I always used when I visited her home. It brings to mind early mornings and late nights spent in conversation on my mom's porch, or curled up in the living room, talking and enjoying a hot cup coffee or tea, depending on the time of day.
 Catching up on life and all its joys & sorrows. 
So today, I share not a spectacularly fragile piece of china, but a precious piece that evokes memories of my mom. 
I wish she was here to sit with once again!
It's only used for tea now, as that cocky rooster cup above is my go to for coffee. 
Yes, pun intended ;)

What kind of cup is your favorite to use? Dainty, hearty, or just plain fun?

Thanks for coming by! 
Have a great day in the Lord!


 I'm linked to



and




Images are mine. Please don't take them without asking. Not that anyone would want them. I'm just sayin'. 
*denotes a Microsoft Image 







Monday, June 18, 2012

Chameleon by Jillian Kent ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

My Review
I'm about halfway through this book. So far, I am HOOKED! I love everything about it. The pacing is quick and hasn't lagged. The characters are smart, witty and fun. There's some intrigue happening that's rather fascinating in a kind of disturbing way. Just perfect for the Regency Era! I see the romance coming and he's going to be so heroic!
I highly recommend this book! I did not want to put the book down but sleep called. Going to pick it back up as soon as this is posted. As a die hard Regency Era fan, I can't wait for Jillian's next 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:



Realms (May 15, 2012)


***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jillian Kent has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers for several years. She has also been a member of Romance Writers of America for 20 years and a member of The Beau Monde, Kiss of Death, and Faith, Hope, and Love specialty chapters of RWA. With a master’s degree in social work, Jillian is employed as a counselor for nursing students, which reflects within the pages of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, which won the 2009 Inspiration for Writers contest and was a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier; the Noble Theme; and Faith, Hope, and Love’s Touched by Love contests.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Lady Victoria Grayson has always considered herself a keen observer of human behavior, but when she finds herself involved in a sinister plot targeting the lords of Parliament she is forced to question how much anyone can really know about another human being.




Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616384964

ISBN-13: 978-1616384968

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character.

-HENRY DAVID THOREAULondon, 29 March 1818

ST. JAMES PARK loomed in front of them, shrouded in a heavy mist that created difficulty for horse and driver as the coach and four maneuvered its way into the park.

Inside the vehicle Victoria leaned toward the window, straining to see the outline of trees. "Such a disappointment," she sighed. "This is not what I expected my very first morning in London. I'd so hoped to see more on the ride through the park, something exciting to tell Devlin when we get to his home."

"Don't despair, my lady." Nora, her maid, pulled a heavy shawl tighter about her shoulders. "'Tis sure to be the same mist that abounds in Yorkshire. This nuisance will lift eventually. It always does."

Victoria patted the sleek head of her dog. "Even Lazarus grows bored." She marveled at her best friend, a behemoth of a mastiff, as he lowered his bulk to the floor of the coach with a loud groan and laid his head across her slipper-covered feet, creating a comfortable warmth. He'd been with her for years, and she couldn't leave him behind. The poor dear would cry himself to sleep every night.
Victoria allowed the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and Nora’s penchant for humming songs to lull her into a light sleep. Nora’s humming had comforted her all those years she’d been sick at Ravensmoore. While everyone else lived their busy lives out around her, she’d done little but survive, taking comfort in the small things that brought her joy.

A sudden crash caused the coach door to vibrate. Victoria screamed and bolted upright as Lazarus pressed his nose and giant paws against the carriage window. A low growl rumbled in his throat.

She grabbed the dog by the collar. Heart pounding, she turned to

Nora. “What was that?”

“Highwaymen!” Nora’s hand crept to her neck, and fear filled her eyes.

The coachman drew the horses to a halt and opened the top hatch. “I fear I may have run someone down, my lady, but in this fog I can’t tell.”

“We must find out at once. Someone may be hurt.” Victoria threw open the door, and Lazarus bounded into the mist. “Lazarus! Find!” She called after him, but he was already well on his way. She stepped from the coach, nearly tripping in her haste.

“Wait, my lady,” Nora cried. “’Tis not safe. Come back!”

The driver’s voice echoed through the mist. “You’ll lose your way, my lady. Stop where you are.”

But the warning wasn’t necessary. Victoria could hear Lazarus snuffling the ground someplace nearby. She bit her lip and told her- self to be brave, even as her heart slammed against her chest.

At the same time Lazarus let out a warning bark, the mist shifted. Victoria’s hand clamped over her mouth.

A man lay on his side only a few feet in front of her.

She shouted back to the coach. “I’ve found him! I need help.” She dropped to her knees and touched his shoulder. He didn’t move.
2
She touched his arm and gently shook it. “Sir, are you conscious? Are you injured?” But before she could investigate further, strong arms lifted her and turned her away from the sight. She assumed it was Mr. Smythe, the carriage driver.

“This is not something a lady should see,” the man said.

But as he turned her from the body, she caught a glimpse of the man’s head. She gasped. There was just enough light to see streaks of blood upon one deathly pale cheek.

“We hit him,” she cried. “The coach—” She lifted her head expecting to see the kind eyes of Mr. Smythe and met the warm, brilliant, gray eyes of a stranger. “Who . . . who are you? Who is he? Did we kill him?” She buried her face in her rescuer’s shoulder to rid her mind of the sight.

“It does not appear so, my lady,” he said, his voice low and comforting.

He deposited her inside the coach. Before she could speak, Lazarus bounded in next to her, rocking the vehicle precariously. She patted his head to calm him, and when she looked up at the man again, she saw only icy gray eyes and a rigid jaw line.

She studied those eyes momentarily and heard Nora say, “You poor dear. What is it that you saw?”

“Not the sight any young woman should witness, miss,” the stranger said. “But I believe I prevented her from viewing the worst of the man’s injuries.” He hesitated, then added, “This was no fault of the driver. Take care of this young woman. I’ll get help for the gentleman. Carlton House is nearby.”

“Nonsense,” Victoria whispered. “Use the coach. Our driver will take you.”

He nodded and bowed. “You’re very kind.”

She wondered if it had been her imagination or if his eyes fre- quently switched from an icy gray coolness to a warm molten gray
3
in only moments.. She wondered what this meeting might have been like under different circumstances.

“Be still,” Nora said. “You’ve had a shock.”

She heard the stranger and Mr. Smythe lifting the injured man to the driver’s seat. “God have mercy,” the driver said.

“I’ll show you to Carlton House through this heavy fog. He can get the help he needs there. Who am I indebted to?”

“I’m taking Lady Victoria Grayson and her maid to the lady’s brother.”

“And that would be?” “Lord Ravensmoore, sir.”

They approached Carlton House a few minutes later. Victoria clutched the edge of the seat, attempting to recover from what had happened and what she’d witnessed. As if he understood, Lazarus licked her hand. The coach came to a halt.

The fog still lay heavy on the ground. Victoria could barely make out the two figures moving toward the door and into the palace. But even as their images faded, her thoughts returned to the stranger who’d lifted her away from the bleeding man and carried her back to the coach. The stranger with strong arms and fascinating gray eyes.

Victoria found her strength as the fog lifted and patches of sun- light appeared through the trees, dappling the ground with their shadows. London came alive. Though her curiosity remained keen, she turned her thoughts to her brother and kept her mind on the joy it would be to see him again. He’d only been absent from their home at Ravensmoore for two months, but it seemed far longer.

She stared in unabashed awe at the sea of activity that sur- rounded them as their coach merged with others, making its way through the muddy, rutted streets. The crowded sidewalks teemed with people of all classes. Women in brilliant gowns of color swirled
4
past street urchins and beggars, meshing into an ever-shifting tap- estry of humanity.

She’d stepped into a world bigger than York, a world she’d only dreamed about. Victoria leaned back against the banquette and sighed. “Now that I can see it properly, London is magnificent.”

“I think it best if you have your brother examine you when we arrive, my lady Victoria. You know how he worries. You know how I worry. ’Tis a blessing to have a brother who is both a lord and physician.”

Victoria turned away from the window and assessed her maid. “I am no longer an invalid, Nora, and well you know it.” She lifted her chin a notch. “I’m stronger than either you or my brother realize.” Nora met her gaze, her brow furrowed with worry. Victoria lifted her hand to dismiss the words of warning she knew were sure to come. But Nora, having been her constant companion the past eleven years and knowing her so well, caught Victoria’s hand.

“Child, you’re pale and weary from our travels and that horrid incident in the park. ’Tis a good thing we’ve made this journey, but I think your brother will agree with me that you need to rest.”

“I’ve been resting my entire life. It’s time to live and catch up on the adventures that God has in store for me. How many times did you read Jeremiah twenty-nine, eleven to me throughout the years? Did you not believe those words yourself?”

Nora nodded, keeping her lips firmly pressed together in an obvious effort to curb her tongue. A difficult feat, Victoria under- stood and appreciated.

As if sensing the tension and hoping to break up an ensuing argument, Lazarus nuzzled and nudged Victoria’s attention away from her maid and back toward the window to watch a group of young boys chasing each other down the street. He barked and strained against the coach door. Victoria couldn’t move him from his place of entertainment if she’d tried.
5
“Such a window hound you are, Lazarus.” Victoria rubbed her hand over his big, sleek head, ruffling his ears. “If you wanted my attention, you would more readily share your window.” She smiled and turned her gaze toward the window on the opposite side. Men and women hawked their wares and called to them in hopes of making a profit. “You can do no wrong in my eyes, Lazarus. If you hadn’t been with us earlier, that poor man might still be lying in the park.” She tried to shake off the sense of dread that seeped through her pores. She refused to allow the upset of the morning to ruin her reunion with her brother.

“I’m sorry, Nora.” She studied the dark-haired, blue-eyed woman who was eleven years her senior. Nora had always seemed more of an aunt to her than a maid and companion.

“You’re forgiven.” A smile quirked the corners of her mouth. “You really are too pretty to continue caring for me much longer.

Why is it you haven’t yet married?”

Now Nora chose to gaze out the window to escape further inquiry. “I will when the time and the suitor are right.”

Victoria ended that line of questioning, and they rode in com- panionable silence the rest of the way, each lost in thought.

The busy streets gave way to quieter and more prestigious ave- nues as they made their way to Grosvenor Square and her brother’s London townhome. The quality of the air improved as they moved farther from the central streets and into the areas of the upper crust. The coach slowed and then pulled to a halt in front of number three, Devlin’s home.

“I cannot wait another moment.” Grabbing the handle of the coach door, Victoria stepped out onto the curb. Lazarus bounded out after her and onto the street.

“Good heavens! It’s a bear,” an elderly woman said, clinging to her husband.

Victoria smothered a grin. “He’s quite harmless.”
6
The couple hurried away from the dog.

Nora bolted from the coach and grabbed Lazarus by the collar, holding him fast as he strained to make chase.

“Thank you, Nora. Just in time.”

Victoria gathered her blue velvet traveling skirts and ran up the five steps to the entrance. She reached for the gilded knocker, hesi- tated, and then, after adjusting her gloves, started to grab the handle instead. But the door opened before her hand reached it.

Devlin’s butler appeared. A smile lit his face when he saw Victoria. “Lady Victoria,” he said, and then executed a most noble bow. When he straightened, his pleasure at seeing her was still apparent. “Welcome to London.”

“Henry!” Victoria said. “It is good to see you. Do you mind taking Lazarus? He adores you almost as much as I do.”

“For you I would take Lazarus on a walk to the ends of the earth,”

he said with cheerful amiability.

“Who is it that you are taking for a walk, Henry?” Devlin appeared in the doorway, tall and handsome with that brotherly smile of his and assessing green-eyed gaze. “Ah, there she is. My favorite imp. What took you so long? I expected you yesterday.” He held out his arms. “Are you well?”

“I believe so. We stopped at a nearby inn last evening. The rain made travel a bit difficult.” Victoria burrowed deep into her brother’s warm, comforting embrace. “I’ve missed you, Dev,” she whispered into his chest and squeezed him tight. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“And I, you.” Devlin held her at arm’s length. “It’s good to see you. Now, come in and tell me all about your journey and how my wife is doing at home without me.” He looked up at Nora. “Has she behaved herself on this trip, Nora?”

Her companion grinned. “Nothing out of the ordinary for Lady

Victoria, yer lordship.”
7
“That speaks volumes.” Devlin gently pinched his sister’s cheek. “Henry, I believe Nora would love to hear about town.”

“Of course, yer lordship. Welcome to London, Nora. Would you care to accompany me? And allow me to take Lazarus off your hands.”

“Bless you for that, Henry. He wears me down too quickly.” “Come along, Lazarus.” He accepted the leash from Nora and

quickly fastened it to the dog’s collar.

Nora nodded. “It will help me find my balance again after a long, bumpy, and perilous ride in the coach. I’ll catch you up with all that’s happened back at Ravensmoore.”

Devlin started to enter the house with Victoria and then turned back to Henry. “And Henry,” he called, “don’t forget to feed the beast before you return him to Victoria.”

“Feed him, sir? And just who should be the sacrifice? Lazarus has a shine to his eyes, and I’m thinking it is for me.”

“Get creative, man. Start with Cook.”

“Now, there’s a right smart answer,” Henry said and laughed. “Mrs. Miller will faint dead away.”

Devlin grinned, a wicked glint in his green eyes. “If Cook has the nerve to faint, let Lazarus nibble at her.”

“Devlin!” Victoria feigned horror. “What an outlandish thing to say.” She covered a grin. “That would bring her around faster than smelling salts.”

She turned to watch Lazarus leading Henry and Nora down the street. Her thoughts fled to what might be happening at Carlton House. A shudder crept up her spine. She decided to wait to tell Devlin of her experience in the park. Guilt niggled, but she just wasn’t ready to divulge that bit of information. After all, her freedom was at stake. One thought of her in danger, and Devlin would ship her back to York before she got settled in. No doubt
8
Nora would reveal all if she didn’t stop her maid when she returned from the walk.

“Are you cold?” Devlin asked, assessing her carefully. “Come in. You must be exhausted.”

“Not really. The ride was but a couple of hours.” “No adventures during your journey, Snoop?”

She loved his pet name for her. She was more than a bit curious about everything life had to offer, and Devlin used her nickname more often than her given name. “Adventures? What could possibly happen on a two-hour ride into town?” She swallowed hard, hoping her expression didn’t give her away. She would tell him when the time was right.

“Knowing you, just about anything.”

“I promise to give you a full report.” Eventually. And as she stepped into her brother’s townhome, she wondered how she could discover more about her gray-eyed stranger and the bloodied man he’d taken to Carlton House.

Jonathon Denning, Lord Witt, nearly collided with the guard on duty while carrying Lord Stone into Carlton House.

“Send for the regent and his physician immediately,” he ordered. “There’s been an accident. I need a place where Lord Stone can be treated, and privacy is a must. Not a word of this leaves your lips. Do you understand?”

The guard nodded and headed toward one of the pages standing nearby. “You heard Lord Witt. Be off with you, and hurry, Thomas.”

Witt watched as the page fled down a long corridor.

“Follow me, Lord Witt. We’ll take him upstairs to the guest lodg- ings. Allow me to carry him.”

“I can manage,” Witt muttered. “Go, man. Lead the way, and make sure you choose a room that is not easily found.”
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The guard wasted no time, and after climbing to the second floor, Witt lay Stone on a four-poster bed surrounded by green drapes. Out of breath, Witt collapsed into a chair, mentally taking stock of all that had happened in the period of a mere half hour.

The guard paled when he saw the severity of Lord Stone’s wounds. “Not a word. Remember that, or I’ll have your post. Now draw those drapes and leave. Send a decanter of brandy. I need a drink.

Better yet, send two.”

Witt sat in a chair near the bed and tried to think about what to do next, as the regent was sure to ask his opinion. He’d been a valued spy during the war, and the regent frequently asked his advice. He sat forward and rested his head in his hands. He’d simply gone out for an early morning walk before Parliament, heard the coach approaching, and scrambled to get out of the way before he was run down.

The muffled sounds of an obviously disturbed dog had fired him to action. He ran a short distance through the mist and then had come upon a well-dressed lady, her massive dog, and Lord Stone. One look at the huge dog had almost caused him to retreat, but he couldn’t leave a young woman to deal with what he’d seen of Stone’s face.

The driver had said the woman was Ravensmoore’s sister. Ironic, since he’d been keeping an eye on the “Lord Doctor” at Prinny’s request.

Prinny, as the regent was known amongst the ton, didn’t know if he liked the idea of one of his lords working as a physician. A nobleman working a trade drew suspicion. What was the point? Although Ravensmoore’s reputation had been spotless when he’d come into his title, it was anticipated that he would leave the study of medicine to manage his estate. Instead he’d pursued this obses- sion that he referred to as a calling and allowed his man of affairs
10
to run his estate when he was forced to be absent. Prinny wanted to know if there was more to it or if Ravensmoore was simply eccentric.

He heard the unhappy growling of the regent and his doctor as they neared the suite of rooms. Witt steeled himself.

“What in the name of all that is reasonable has caused this incon- venience?” roared Prinny when he burst through the outer sitting room. He was still steaming as he entered the bedroom with his physician in tow.

Witt stood. “Your Royal Highness.” He bowed. “Lord Stone has been attacked. I found him in the park. He needs your physician’s immediate attention.”

The overstuffed physician huffed. “I’ll decide what necessitates immediate attention, Lord Witt.”

“Then I suggest you make the determination.” Witt nodded toward the bed. The physician hesitated.

The regent said, “Get on with it. I’m busy today. For the love of good food, Parliament reconvenes this afternoon.”

The physician huffed again and went to the bed, grabbing the drapes and pulling them back. “Great heavens. What’s happened to the man?” He opened the black bag he carried with him. “I’ll need a nursemaid.”

Prinny then stepped closer to evaluate Stone’s condition himself. He sucked in a breath. “The poor devil! Get on with it, doctor. Do everything you can to save him.” The regent, visibly shaken, looked at Witt. “Tell me everything. What happened? We must find out who did this to Stone.”

“Your Majesty.” The physician turned from the bed with a bloody missive in his shaking hand. “I found this pinned to his waistcoat. A warning.”

“Who dares?” He snatched the paper away and read it. “Lord

Witt, today’s session of Parliament must be canceled.” Witt arched a brow.
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Prinny handed him the blood-stained parchment.

Witt read the note aloud. “‘You have been found guilty of con- spiring with sinful men for sinful purposes. I will now handle the situation as I see fit. Stone is only the first. Repent, you lords of par- liament.’ And it’s signed, ‘Lord Talon.’”

“Curse this Lord Talon.” Prinny looked to Witt for direction. “We must decide the best course of action, and soon. No one has dared attack a member of Parliament since Bellingham assassinated our prime minister, and that was six years ago.”

Ravensmoore came to mind, but Witt faltered for just a moment. No doubt the man was the best there was, and his skills badly needed. But his sister had only just arrived in London, and this sit- uation could put her and her brother in danger. An edge of uneasi- ness rippled down his back.

“Witt,” the regent said. “What is your recommendation?”

Witt took charge. “We must proceed with caution. Tell no one about the note. Not yet. And don’t say anything to anyone about the signature of this Lord Talon. I suggest we ask Lord Ravensmoore to join us immediately. Having a physician who is a peer can prove most helpful.”

The regent paced and mumbled to himself, seemingly in a struggle to make a decision. Finally he said, “Send for him.”
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