Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ten Million Reasons by Heather Gray ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour & Review

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:

Astraea Press (July 25, 2013)

***Special thanks to Opal Campbell for sending me a review copy.***


Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing. Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell. Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

Visit the author's website.


Money talks, and the way she spends hers tells him all he needs to know…

Richard needs to find a woman he can trust, and he needs to find her fast. He doesn’t have time to waste on getting to know people, which means dating and interviewing are out of the question. So how can he get past that initial mask of good behavior to learn what people are really like? Easy! Give them ten million dollars and watch to see what they do with it.

Genevieve is a free-lance journalist who talks to herself, constantly forgets to put appointments on her calendar and can’t go anywhere without being asked to take a survey. Why on earth is Richard interested in her? She doesn’t know it yet, but he has ten million reasons…

Product Details:

List Price: $1.99

Ebook: 123 pages

Publisher: Astraea Press (July 25, 2013)

Language: English


My Thoughts 

It's been a few weeks since I read this contemporary novella and to be honest, I forgot about the tour with my surgery and recovery going on. I remember the book being a light read with lots of humorous, if not unrealistic, situations. It also has some poignant moments between Genevieve and her nephew, Max, that I thought showed a deep love for one another and were portrayed beautifully. I look forward to reading more from Heather Gray. 


Chapter One

How do I always let myself get sucked into these things? Genevieve Mason sat at her own little private booth in a large room with at least a dozen other people. The clock on the wall ticked loudly, reminding her this was not where she was supposed to be. For some reason she’d never understood, Genevieve had difficulty saying no to surveyors. She invariably felt sorry for the ones who had to stand out in the walkway of the mall trying to entice complete strangers into their offices to take the silly things. While she didn’t generally mind completing a survey, she simply didn't have the time today. Yet, here I am. Taking a survey. When will I ever get a backbone about these things?

A tall, model-thin woman, with straight blonde hair and professionally done eyebrows, clapped her hands twice. “Alright ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming in today. I am going to explain what you need to do, and then I will answer any questions you have. The project should only take about an hour of your time, and you will each be compensated with a twenty-five dollar mall gift card. You can use your gift card at any retailer, including the food court.” The woman, who would doubtless look less severe if her eyebrows weren’t quite so brutally perfect, paused briefly before launching into what sounded like a well-rehearsed speech by a drill sergeant.

I wonder what she pays to get her eyebrows done. Surveying must be more lucrative than I thought.

“Today you will receive a windfall.” People gasped in surprise, but Genevieve wasn’t biting. She’d been through too many of these to get pulled in with a line like that. “You will be given a hypothetical amount of ten million dollars,” the woman continued, speaking over the disappointed sighs of some of Genevieve’s comrades-in-arms, “to spend any way you wish.”

Tapping her foot loudly, the woman who Genevieve had begun to think of as Model-Talker stared around the room until everyone was quiet. Then, continuing her speech, she said, “There is a computer screen in front of you with two columns. In the left column, you will give a description of how you are spending your money. On the right of the screen, you will enter the amount you wish to spend. You will see a tally at the bottom. The tally is keeping track of how much you have spent. When you get to ten million dollars, stop and raise your hand. I, or one of my assistants, will submit your entry and see that you receive your gift card.”

Arms raised all around the room as people began to have questions. Model-Talker held up her hand to halt people’s inquiries and added, “Let me give you a couple of guidelines first. Then I will answer your questions. Your survey will be assigned a coded number. When you are done, you will complete a form with your name and contact information in case we have questions at a later date. Your name will never appear on your survey. The information you enter will not be shared with any other companies and will only be reviewed by one other individual in addition to myself.”

Genevieve wondered how efficiently their survey data could be processed if only two people would see it. Reining her wandering thoughts in, she listened to the rest of Model-Talker’s speech. Talk faster! Some of us need to get somewhere.

“The items you wish to spend your money on have to be items you can purchase in a single day. You cannot spend any of your pretend money on buying a house, for example, because the paperwork and closing for a house take several days. While you can invest money in the stock market or a CD, you cannot open a trust fund because the legalities of opening a trust generally take more than a single day.” Three quarters of the hands in the room went down.

“Any questions?” Model-Talker’s chilly, businesslike voice and expression shamed the remaining people into putting their hands down.

For crying out loud, lady! It’s not as if you’re going to get the plague by answering a question. Genevieve stifled her laughter. She didn’t want to cause Model-Talker’s gaze to zero in on her.

“Alright, everyone. You have one hour to complete the exercise. Begin.”

Genevieve began typing away on her keyboard, entering totals, as she thought about all the ways she could spend the money. Ten million dollars... She wasn't ever likely to have that kind of money, but it was sort of fun to think about.

Within five minutes, a short woman, muscular and dressed like a construction worker, raised her hand to indicate she was done. Genevieve wouldn’t have noticed except that Model-Talker tsked as the woman left the room. Once some of the other people saw how quickly it could be done, they began finishing hastily, too.

They're probably dumping it all into a savings account or the stock market. Why wasn't I born with that kind of cavalier attitude?

She, however, wanted to give careful thought to her expenditures. In order for the results to have any value, she needed to answer honestly. Although, at the rate the other people are leaving, I'd say the data compiled from today will be good and skewed.

Despite her best efforts to ignore it, the repeated ker-thunk of the door opening and closing demanded her attention. They obviously haven't heard the honesty-in-testing lecture enough times. As she watched the next couple of people leave the room, something struck her.

They’re all women. There’s not a single man in this room. Maybe it’s a study into the female psyche. She was sure she’d heard Model-Talker say “ladies and gentlemen.”

Thinking about the lunch date waiting for her, Genevieve swiftly typed in her remaining entries and watched the tally at the bottom of the screen climb. When she got to nine million five hundred thousand dollars she sighed. Who’d have thought I’d have so much trouble spending money? What can I lavish half a million dollars on? Finally struck with inspiration, she entered her final imaginary expenditure and raised her hand. She completed the paperwork and left the room, casting one last pitying glance at the three remaining women who continued to studiously peck at their keyboards.


Genevieve sprinted the last twenty yards or so to the food court hoping her date hadn’t left. She clipped a stranger in the side with her shoulder, yelled an, “I’m sorry!” over her shoulder, and continued on her path. Zipping around the corner, she found herself confronted with an overcrowded food court, people spilling over everywhere she looked. How am I supposed to find him?

“Aunt Gen, over here!” Genevieve turned her head this way and that until she saw her nephew waving his hands wildly over his head in a far back corner of the food court.

Relief coursed through her. Thank goodness! She'd been worried he would think she’d stood him up. Poor guy had enough trouble in his life. He didn’t need another reason to be disappointed in those he loved.

“I’m late, aren’t I?” she asked, the sound of her words shaped by her winded voice.

Max laughed at her. “Aunt Gen, you’re always late.”

“Will you ever forgive me?”

“Buy me lunch, and I’ll think about it,” her fifteen-year-old nephew said with a twinkle in his golden brown eyes.

Sliding two twenties across the table to her nephew, Genevieve said, “You know what I like. Get whatever you want. You deserve it for braving the masses to order.” As her nephew jumped over the handrail behind their table and began maneuvering his way in and out of the different lines, Genevieve sat back and closed her eyes.

Thank you for keeping Max here until I arrived. It was a small but heartfelt prayer.

She opened her eyes, looked around at the crowd and caught a glimpse of herself in the large mirror along the back wall of the food court. Why do they insist on using mirrors to make it look like there's more seating – and more people – than there actually is? She didn't care to spy on other people while they ate and instead studied her own reflection. Genevieve scrutinized her large green eyes and fair complexion. She had curly hair that her family insisted on calling red even though she always wrote auburn whenever she had to enter the color on a form. It was shoulder-length but tended to stand out away from her head rather than lying down gracefully. I certainly don't need any of that shampoo advertised to add body! In a family of Irish-Italian descent, she was the only one that actually looked Irish. Everyone else had been born with the requisite bronzed skin and black hair of their Italian heritage.

She sought out Max in the mirror. He stood in line waiting for the slow progression of customers to move him forward so he could place his order. Max looked more like her father, his grandfather, with each passing year. He's too handsome for his own good. It won't be long before he realizes how much the girls notice him. Max spent much of his time seeking approval from his family; enough in fact, that he hadn't yet detected the way the fairer sex was always trying to get his attention. If he has seen it, he certainly hasn't let on about it.

Genevieve’s sister had divorced three years ago. Max had been twelve at the time, his sister Jenny fourteen. Jenny had fared better in the divorce. She saw her dad a couple times each month, and he doted on her, buying her all the pretty things she wanted. That was his way of making up for his absence, and she was okay with that. Sadly, Max had been much more wounded. He hadn’t wanted the latest toys and gadgets. Instead, he had wanted time, and his dad hadn't been willing — or perhaps able – to supply it. At an age when he was growing from boy to man, he'd essentially lost the one person who was supposed to be most qualified to help him understand what it meant to be a man.

Maureen, Genevieve’s sister, had done her best, but the divorce had forced her to change jobs in order to support her kids. Instead of working part-time and being home in the afternoons, she now worked fifty or more hours each week and hardly saw her kids at all. Genevieve had always been close to her nieces and nephews, but after the divorce, she went out of her way to try to spend time with Jenny and Max. She and Max did lunch at the mall every other week. She and Jenny got mani-pedis together. It seemed like the least she could do. It sure beats spending good money to get my eyebrows tortured when I can do that at home free of charge!

“You know, Aunt Gen, you’ve never once been on time to lunch.” Max was still laughing at her as he set the food down.

Snagging one of his egg rolls and putting it on her own plate, she said, “What makes you say such a mean thing to your dear old auntie?”

“You were worried I’d think you’d blown me off. I could see it on your face when you came round the corner.”

Genevieve shrugged. “Okay, so I was worried. Sue me.”

“You’ve never stood me up. Until you do, I’ll always believe you’re coming.”

Warmth moved through her middle, but it had an icy edge to it. Genevieve was both touched by Max’s words and saddened that he’d had enough experience with his parents in the past few years to know what it felt like to be stood up. His dad wasn’t the only one who hadn’t always been there for his son. There had been more than one sporting event in recent years where she'd been Max’s entire cheering squad. She always saved a seat for her sister, but the seat was rarely ever filled. Max deserved better, but as Maureen often pointed out to her, Genevieve didn’t know how hard it was to be a single mom working to support two teenagers.

Max and Genevieve ate lunch, swapped funny stories from their week, and discussed schedules for the upcoming month. He had decided to try out for the cross-country team.

“I don’t stand a chance, but I want to try.”

“Why? Running is so boring.”

“You run.”

“Yeah, but only because it’s slightly less monotonous than sitting at the computer when I have writer’s block.”

“The practices are long, and they’re in the afternoons when Mom’s usually working, so this will give me something to do. I get bored killing time at home so much. It’s dull there now that Jenny got a job and is gone all the time.”

“How does she like her job?” Genevieve asked, with interest.

“I don’t know about the job, but she sure does like the money,” Max answered, waggling his eyebrows comically.

Ah, to be a teenager with the simple worries of acne medication and a pretty dress. Then Genevieve corrected herself. And divorce. Don’t forget that simple worry.

“So why were you late today?” Max asked.

“You’d never believe me if I told you,” she answered.

“Try me.”

Rolling her eyes, Genevieve answered, “I got sucked into another survey.”

Max almost spit chow mein at her as he laughed. “You have got to be kidding me! Can you even walk through the mall without taking a survey?”

Trying not to laugh, Genevieve crumbled a napkin to throw at her nephew. “I got a gift card out of this one.” Then, slapping the palm of her hand against her forehead, she said, “I should have used it to pay for lunch! What was I thinking?”

“You can use it next time.”

“Do you honestly think I’m going to remember that?” Her voice was filled with dry humor.

“No worries,” he said. “I’ll remind you.”

“What would I do without you, Max?”

“You’d be lost without me, Aunt Gen, and you know it.”

The two cleared their table, and then Genevieve linked her arm through Max’s as they began weaving their way through the crowd to head toward the front of the mall. “You know, Max, I think you might be right. I would be lost. Who else would know to buy himself an extra eggroll just so I could snag it?”

When they got to her car, Genevieve entered Max’s cross-country tryout into her phone’s calendar and told him, “I can’t promise, but I’ll do my best to be there.”

“It’s okay if you can’t make it.” His voice was rock solid. “I know it’s in the middle of the day.” Max, whose every emotion generally came out in the way he spoke, only sounded this steady when he was trying to mask something.

He doesn't want me to know he's disappointed.

“No, it’s not that,” Genevieve said. “You know how bad I am with dates. I need to double-check my desk calendar at home and make sure I don’t have something written down there that I forgot to put in my phone.” Staring at the device in her hand as if the calendar in it would magically give her an answer, she finally shook her head and said to Max. “I’ll text you the morning of to let you know for sure one way or the other, okay?”

Max nodded and said again, “No worries,” as he climbed into her car.

It was a beautiful day in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They drove with their windows down and, since Max was in control of the radio, their music blaring.

Genevieve dropped him off at home. Jenny was still at work, so she didn’t pop in to say “hi”. Instead, she headed back to her own home to try and get some work done.

She was bumping up against deadlines for articles with three different magazines. That’ll teach me to stay up all night reading a book! Releasing a deep sigh, Genevieve admitted to herself that she’d been putting off the articles because they’d all sounded so boring. I have got to start getting pickier about the assignments I accept. What’s the point of freelancing if I can’t stand any of the work I do? I'm not sure this even counts as freelancing anymore.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Random 5 Friday

*Boredom sets in and I play with my camera. 
This is a bad shot but shows a little of our TV preference.

1. Obviously we are Science Fiction fans, especially Stargate. 
We own all the seasons of SG1 and Atlantis.  

2. Right now, we are watching Star Trek Enterprise on Netflix. 
We're on Season 4, the last one, which is quite a dilemma.  

3. If it's a Sunday, we are watching football. Carolina football, of course. 
Oh, and they crushed Tampa Bay last night, on Thursday Night football!

4. While our boys enjoy watching Psych because it is relatively juvenile, 
my husband and I have just started watching Bones.  For the most part, we like it. 
A few eye rolls but the show has quite a bit of humor, which we enjoy, especially Hodgins.

5. On occasion, my all male household (well, except for me) indulges my feminine side 
and watches my Jane Austen favorites, Emma and Pride & Prejudice, 
and of course North & South (Elizabeth Gaskell's book adaptation) with me. 
Rock on, Mr. Thornton!

What are your favorite TV shows/movies?   

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Random 5 Friday

 * Cast is off, boot is on. Still no weight bearing. PT starts Tuesday.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Life is better with friends. 

Yes. Yes it is.

With the birds on their way south for the winter, 
my feeder hasn't been a popular place lately. 
This image was taken while the weather was still warm. 
I miss all the activity of my bird friends and seeing so 
many pretty colors flitting around outside the window. 
Over the winter, we will still have cardinals, though. 
I look forward to capturing their brilliance, 
hopefully (!!!) against the snow. 

* * *

A friend loves at all times...
Proverbs 17:17a

* * *

What kind of birds do you have in the winter?

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Rurality Blog Hop #37

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I prefer Thumper's wise words above to "Bite your tongue." 
My sister says the latter is akin to having a bloody nub 
and that just sounds gross. 

Either way, the lesson is be careful with our words, 
watch what we say, or like the Bible says in Proverbs 16:24, 
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, 
sweetness to the soul and health to the body."

Yesterday was a bad day so I'm reminding myself that 
today is a new day; a day for apologies
a day for forgiveness, 
a day for right words.

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Tuesday Muse

Sunday, October 20, 2013

{Sunday} Scripture & a Snapshot


~ Psalm 23 ~

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Tea, anyone?

Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable 
than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. 
~Henry James,The Portrait of a Lady, 1880

* * *

In the most recent Tea Cup/Mug Exchange hosted by 
Stephanie from The Enchanting Rose
I received some yummy goodness from Debbie Harris, 
who just happens to be the mother of our delightful Stephanie!

These lovely gifts came in a beautiful matching box (pictured below).

I adore this cup and saucer with sweet roses, trimmed in a delicate gold. 
The saucer has a little scallop to the edge that makes it ripple with beauty!

Can I just say that I ♥♥♥ Raspberry Jam?!
Oh yeah. My favorite.

I made an English Muffin to go with my tea but before I made it out the door 
for the photo shoot I just had to taste it with the jam... picture with the muffin because it was THAT good!

This Vail Breakfast Tea is excellent with a tiny bit of sugar and cream! 
I am going to be on the lookout for some loose leaf tea 
so I can use this adorable heart shaped tea infuser.
Isn't it cute?!

Also included was a jam spoon, recipe card with a recipe for the 
Best Ever Biscuits, a flower shaped cookie cutter and a booklet on Tea!
I haven't made the biscuits yet but I plan on trying 
them when I can stay on my feet longer. 
And the cookie cutter is going to make the cutest sugar cookies!

The picture doesn't do this tea cup justice!
I ♥ it!!!

Thank you, Debbie, for my lovely gift! It is perfect for me :)

And thank you, Stephanie, for putting all of this together. 
You are a blessing and a sweetheart!

* * *

Hop on over to see all the participants and gifts exchanged.

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Warning Signs by Katy Lee ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour & Review

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:

Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Katy Lee for sending me a review copy.***


As an Inspirational Romantic Suspense author, Katy Lee writes higher-purpose stories in high-speed worlds. Through her writing, ministries, and teaching, she dedicates her life to sharing tales of love, from the greatest love story ever told to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love. Katy and her husband are born New Englanders, but have been known to travel at the drop of a hat along with their three children. But is where you can find Katy anytime.



When a drug-smuggling ring rocks a small coastal town, the DEA sends Agent Owen Matthews to shut it down. A single father with a deaf son, Owen senses that the town's number one suspect—the high school's new principal—doesn't fit the profile. Miriam Hunter hoped to shrug off the stigma of her hearing impairment when she returned to Stepping Stones, Maine. But her recurring nightmares dredge up old memories that could prove her innocence—and uncover the truth behind a decades-old murder. Yet Owen's help may not be enough when someone decides to keep Miriam silenced—permanently.

Product Details:

List Price: $5.99

Series: Love Inspired Suspense

Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0373445598

ISBN-13: 978-0373445592


Drug Enforcement Agent Owen Matthews gripped the wheel of his rented sports boat as he coasted through the North Atlantic at barely half-throttle. The Maine island town of Stepping Stones urged Owen to rush forward to the safety of its shores, but his newly acquired phobia of boats wouldn’t let him speed up even one knot. At this rate the sun would be gone before he arrived at his next assignment.

“What we do for friends,” Owen mumbled through clenched teeth, thinking about his old academy roommate, and the island’s sheriff, Wesley Grant. Even though Wes chose small-town law enforcement and Owen took the federal route with the DEA down to the Mexican border, the two of them kept in touch.

Wes had called, needing Owen’s undercover expertise to take down a recent marijuana problem at Stepping Stones High School. No job was too dangerous or too far for Owen when it came to extinguishing the distribution of illegal mind-altering substances. Even if the job brought him back to these Maine waters where he vowed never to go again.

Owens quashed away the sickening memory. He’d let the guilt return later, but for now he had a job to do. He steered his focus back to the few facts Wes gave him about the case, specifically on how the drugs appeared about six months ago, soon after two new residents moved to Stepping Stones.

Wes was a good cop, but he probably didn’t want to believe a fellow islander could ever bring such harm down on one of his own. Since Owen grew up on the mainland and not with these people, he could offer a more unbiased investigation of all the inhabitants, new and old.

Plus, Owen knew firsthand how the ones closest to us had the power to destroy us—he knew this not because he’d been on the receiving end, but because of the people he’d destroyed. His past offenses convinced him that every islander was capable and a suspect—including the owner of the fishing boat coming at him.

At first, the vessel bobbed alongside a huge rock and lighthouse up ahead, but when it shot off like a bullet, Owen questioned its hurry. Was its retreat an innocent maneuver or had Owen intruded on an illegal happening of some kind?

He kept his undercover status in mind and prepared to make all neighborly with the captain of the…. He strained to read the name of the fishing boat scrawled on its hull.

The Rita Ann.

A harmless enough name. Although typically, a drug trafficker wouldn’t be advertising its wares on its exterior for the world to see. Owen observed more of the rusty, white fishing boat with its tall, lit masthead. A rule follower, it would seem with his adequate safety equipment. But, if one was carrying illegal cargo, it would be in their best interest to keep their light bulbs in working order. Why risk the chance of being pulled over?

Owen searched the dark pilothouse windows for the captain, but only the reflection of the setting sun glinted back at him. He sped up a little to close in, waving his hand high, and slowed to an idle to wait for the lone figure at the wheel to wave back.

Instead, the Rita Ann increased its speed and changed its course—directly on him.

Stunned, Owen’s hand slipped off the gear shift. This couldn’t be happening. Not again. The sun was setting, but he could still be seen. The last time it had been pitch dark. This didn’t make sense.

Snap out of it, Matthews! He ordered himself to reengage, but his stiff hands might as well have been petrified wood. He had to move, but visions of a past splintering boat flying sky-high immobilized his reflexes. Six years of time dissolved into this moment as he relived his first crash.

No, he denied for history to repeat itself. Move! Now!

A surge of adrenaline pushed him to hit the reverse. He blasted back out of the Rita Ann’s path. The fishing boat jetted past him without an acknowledgment.

Owen questioned if the driver had seen him or not. How could he not, though? He watched The Rita Ann chug out to sea. Owen forced his hand to turn the wheel to follow. He would flag it down to find out, but first, he would need to speed up to catch it.

Duty called and Owen’s previous driving-with-caution vaulted to the wind as he kicked up his speed a notch, then another and another. The front bow parted the rolling waves into a frothy wake as he set his sights on the Rita Ann. His attention drilled straight ahead, until a gray object flew past him on his starboard side. Immediately another followed. Owen’s head whipped from side to side in confusion.

They were flat rocks, smaller, less visible than the large one with the lighthouse. The sight of the solid, unmovable masses caused him to slam back the throttle, jolting the craft to a rumbling crawl.

The Rita Ann raced on ahead without him.

It wasn’t the fact that he let her go that choked him, but rather the fact that he could have had a disastrous collision if he had been a few scant feet more to his left.

At least no one was in the boat with me this time. Owen blew out a breath of angry expletives about his stupidity. I have no business being out on these waters. Not even for a job.

With tighter fists than before, he gripped the steering wheel again. In an anxious cold-sweat, Owen drifted with the tiniest bit of gas sent to the engine. In such a slow motion, he realized more and more of these rocks protruded up from the ocean floor around him, leading up to the island of Stepping Stones.

The island apparently got its name from these rocks. The lighthouse itself was built on the largest of them while the others dotted a sporadic path. A beautiful scene for a painting, but in reality, these rocks posed a deadly threat to boats cruising their way up the coast of New England. How the ferry could dock here was beyond him. Maybe that’s why it only came in once a week. Too risky with these formidable pieces of stone that required a wide berth.

Owen made his way back to the rock with the lighthouse. As he approached, something red and gold caught his attention. His rubberneck told him it was a woman.

She lay motionless on the rock, the only part of her moving was a strand of her hair fluttering on the sea breeze. His mind reeled with concern. Was she injured?

Owen swung his gaze back at the departing Rita Ann. Perhaps the woman was hurt by the same hands that piloted the boat. That would explain the hasty departure. Had someone on the Rita Ann dumped her here? Thrown her overboard? Owen’s stomach twisted at the thought. Time was critical if that was the case.

He steadied his gaze on her, but from his vantage point all he could make out was her shock of long, red hair glinting with gold in the sun’s rays. The tresses fanned out against the rock like the rays themselves. He leaned over the steering wheel as if that would get him closer, faster.

With the engine of his boat chugging, he hoped she would hear him approach and lift her head or wave a hand, but she didn’t. Not even when his boat sidled up to the rock and lapped idly in the waves.

“Miss?” he called out over the rattling engine. “Miss, do you need help?”

No answer. No movement, either

Owen cleared his throat and tried again, louder. When that turned out the same, the words ‘deathly still’ crossed his mind. Apprehension niggled at the back of his neck. He rubbed it away with the horrid thought and called out again. “Miss?” he yelled forcefully, but couldn’t deny the waver of uncertainty in his voice.

He hadn’t seen someone this still since his wife, Rebecca, lay in the sand, paramedics going through the motions of saving her only because he begged them not to stop. Owen’s throat filled with a golf-sized blockage. He shot a jittery gaze toward the island, willing someone else to come help this woman.

The docks in miniature glimmered in the sunlight, waiting for his boat to find its place beside them for the night. Oh, how he wanted to do just that. To allow someone else better qualified to help her. He was good at chasing bad guys, not rescuing women. But not one person came into his view. Not one fisherman. Not one loitering teenager. No one at all stood on the pier for him to wave at for assistance.

Owen cut the engine. It has to be me. He dropped his shoulders as he dropped anchor.

He thought about radioing for help, maybe the woman was just in a deep sleep. Just in case she was hurt, though, Owen grabbed the life-saving equipment stored in the rear stern under the padded seats. He yanked open the compartment to find a first-aid kit and blanket, along with life vests. He scooped up the blanket and kit and went portside, reaching out to grab at the crusty barnacle-covered stone.

Swells rocked the woman in and out of his view. With every rise and sway of his boat he caught sight of her one-piece, red and blue bathing suit. He thought it was a mishmash of flowers or something, but didn’t concentrate enough on it to be sure. His full attention was given to the state of the woman’s wellness. In a quick scan, his eyes followed from her bathing suit down her long, muscular limbs of milky white to a set of small feet sprawled motionless.

“I’m coming, okay?” he assured her loudly as he threw his load up on the rock and hoisted his body to follow. Please be sleeping, he thought but said, “Don’t move. You may have a neck injury.” Like Rebecca when she was thrown.

The woman didn’t move. Not even to acknowledge his presence. He watched for any sign of a twinge or breathing as he scraped along the sharp barnacles. Pain sliced through his palms and bared forearms. He used the discomfort to propel him up and forward, but glad for the protection of his denim jeans. Lying flat, he came face-to-face with the still, delicate features of the woman. Long, light lashes rested on pale, freckled cheeks. He hesitated to touch her. Would he find her asleep? Dead? Had his rescue not come in time?

“Miss, can you hear me? Are you hurt? Do you need help?”


His hand reached for the curve of her neck and gently felt for her pulse on skin, icy cold. She moaned and her heart’s life-beating sound brought Owen a mix of relief and elation. She may be hurt, but at least she was alive. Thank you, L-Lord, Owen’s reflexive prayer of thanksgiving had him wiping an old bitter aftertaste from his salty lips.

“God had nothing to do with saving this girl,” he muttered. “God’s not here. I’m here.”

His blunder stumped him for a moment before he launched into the rescue. Owen reached for the scratchy, wool blanket behind him and stretched it over her arms and chest to warm her. Instantly, her eyes flashed wide and another short sound deep in her throat escaped her pale lips. A moan of pain? he wondered. A quick jerk of her head triggered him to brace her just in case.

“Miss?” He gripped both sides of her face and peered into stark, gray eyes, as gray as the stone she lay on. Fear shone up at him. “Don’t move. You could have a spinal injury. Can you tell me if you hurt anywhere?”

She struggled beneath the blanket, arms fumbling and pushing with a strength that caught him off guard. Owen pressed her arms down and shushed her. He couldn’t safely move her to the boat like this.

She moaned again, more forceful, louder. It didn’t sound like a moan of pain now, but rather anger. She was mad at him? For helping her? She shoved harder at the blanket between them. Her lips parted for the loudest most forceful sound yet. It sounded like the word off without the pronunciations of the f’s. It took him a second before her word hit him like a left hook to his gut.

Owen jumped away from the muffled sounds he would recognize anywhere. They were the same kind of sounds his son made when he tried to speak—ever since he lost his hearing the night he’d nearly drowned in the crash.

This woman wasn’t injured at all. She didn’t answer him because, like his son, she was deaf.


Miriam Hunter fumbled under the attack of a strong-armed man. The scare tactics to be rid of her had turned physical. Ever since she arrived here, the islanders had made it known she wasn’t wanted. First, the nasty notes and emails, then the late night crank calls, and now this…this assault.

How dare this guy sneak up on her out in this secluded place? At the one place she could fully get away from their angry stares. As though it was her fault drugs had come to their precious island.

Just because the marijuana showed up after she arrived didn’t mean she brought it with her. The bag of marijuana found in her office had been placed there by one of the very townspeople who wanted her gone—perhaps even by this guy leaning over her.

Angrily, Miriam heaved at the heavy material scratching her skin. She didn’t have to think twice as to why he covered her with it. He might as well have sealed her lips with duct tape. She strained against him to free her hands—her voice. He wouldn’t understand a word she signed, but it would make her feel better to put him in his place. She wouldn’t sit here and allow him to silence her. She pushed at him again, but his strength wouldn’t relent.

Who was this guy? Miriam didn’t recognize him as a parent. He seemed too young to have a child in high school. Thirty-two, tops. His dark cropped hair screamed short, clean-cut military, not shaggy, salt-drenched fisherman.

But the eyes….

She stilled to study the rich black currant irises inches from her face. Sharp and assessing eyes, not accusing and vindictive. She thought they held a message of caring, but before she could decipher clearly, all emotion dipped behind their onyx surface like the secrets of the drink, safely hidden beneath murky depths.

His tensed lips moved, too close for her to read. Then as much as she abhorred talking, Miriam broke her vow and opened her mouth to tell him to get off.

The look on his cleanly shaven face abruptly changed from determination to…shock? Her deafness surprised him? If he didn’t know she was deaf then he wasn’t from Stepping Stones. He was a stranger—and she was alone on a rock in the ocean with him.

Every self-defense move Miriam learned in college jumped to attention in her head. She tried to recall if there was a maneuver for when someone had you pinned under a blanket. Never did she think those tactics would be used, but perhaps this was the moment God prepared her for through all those classes. Stay with me, Father, she signed her prayer of petition in her head because her hands were still secured under the blanket. Give me strength and the knowledge to break away. She mindfully pulled out the scripture tucked in her heart for times of darkness.

Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Miriam used the words from Isaiah 41to hurl all her strength at the man again. This time, he jolted back as though she’d burned him. Without waiting another second, she sat up, flung off the blanket, and scooted back.

He fell onto his haunches, hands raised up in surrender, but her flight reflex still had her retreating farther away until she reached the edge of the rock. Her heart raced, pounding adrenaline through her head and body. Even being deaf, she could hear it coursing through her.

He hadn’t moved from his place but spoke again. Miriam studied his lips as her breathing steadied. He said something about kelp. She shook her head in confusion and a bit of annoyance. People always thought deaf people could read lips. She supposed she could read them half the time, but that left a lot of room for confusion, which is why she usually traveled with her interpreter—except in the afternoon when she swam out to the lighthouse to be alone. Never did she think she would need Nick way out here.

The stranger’s tall, lean frame bent to pick up a box labeled with the symbol of a red cross. He held it up to her and clarity came swiftly.

He hadn’t said kelp. He’d said help. He thought she needed help.

But why? What gave him the idea in the first place?

Miriam searched the island and knew it to be about 500 yards away. Not a huge distance for a former competitive open-water swimmer like herself. But this man wouldn’t know she swam out to the lighthouse for exercise each day. He probably thought only a stranded and injured person would be this far from land.

Miriam supposed she could try to speak aloud to explain, but a long time ago, she vowed only to use her voice when absolutely necessary. And giving this stranger her personal information wasn’t necessary.

In fact, the only thing necessary was to get off this rock quickly. Miriam didn’t believe she faced any danger from him anymore, but she also wasn’t inclined to be friendly.

She cagily followed his movements to the other side of the rock where his boat anchored.

He gestured with his hand for her to climb in, pointing toward the island.

Before thinking, she naturally lifted her hands to sign. After the first few signs, stating she would swim back, she stopped and waved her hands to say forget it. He wouldn’t understand anyway. She stood on her edge, still keeping him in her sight while preparing to dive in. But before her feet left the ground, Miriam gazed back at him one last time, and froze.

His hand pointed to his chest, then rose to the side of his temple. She watched his index finger slowly point up toward the sky. “I understand,” he signed.

She nearly stumbled off the rock. He knew her language? Would he say more? She waited, hating herself because deep down she hoped he would. How quickly she willingly trusted this man just because he understood her.

For so long, though, she’d been a foreigner in this world that was supposed to be her home, desperately seeking companionship. Now she stood face-to-face with the one thing she sought after. Forever on the lookout for someone like her, or someone who understood her. Or at least wanted to try.

Poor Nick earned his pay, and then some. But there were only so many current events and primetime television shows to talk about with one person.

Begrudgingly, Miriam knew her traitorous face was lit in anticipation of finding a friend, but even so, she tried her hardest to be nonchalant about the situation. Tentatively, she raised her hands and swirled her fingers in circles. “You sign?” she asked in her language.

His eyes darkened to those murky depths again. He gave one negative shake to his head and averted his gaze past her shoulder.

He didn’t sign.

Miriam did her best to express a lack of caring with a blasé shrug even though disappointment washed over her like a cold wave. Then her mind stumped on the man’s answer to her question. If he wasn’t able to sign, then how did he understand her enough to answer her?

Unless, he did understand her, and didn’t want to talk to her.

Fine…whatever, she dismissed him with a wave of her hand and lifted off the rock in one clean arc. If that was the way he wanted to be, then he was no friend she wanted.

Miriam sliced through the cold water with precision, letting it cool off her temper, amazed her anger could still boil over so easily. She thought God had helped her with that unwanted emotion a long time ago, but sometimes her anger reared its ugly head and reminded her she still had some things to contend with.

Another day, she told herself…again. She wondered if there ever was a good time to reopen old wounds. She thought not, but especially not right now.

She was in the midst of a troubling drug investigation. She had a drug supplier to find. Making friends and digging into her past were at the bottom of her list.

In fact, her past was one thing better left buried. Nothing good could come out of unearthing those dreams—or rather nightmares. Miriam trembled and it had nothing to do with the frigid northern waters she swam in.

The unnatural bulging eyes of those old nightmares stared at her from behind her closed eyelids; a large hand and a flash of something gold blinded her. Images as real today as they were at ten years old. She pushed through her strokes as she pushed the childhood terrors down into the dark abyss.

Mother always said they were a figment of a childish imagination. Except children weren’t supposed to be imagining such horrifying things.

No, I can’t go there. She swam faster, pushed harder. Her hands sliced through the water, jetting her forward. Miriam had a feeling if she continued to delve deeper into that nightmare, she would never emerge. Not even the dark-haired rescuer she left in her wake would be able to save her from the dangers of that watery grave.

My Thoughts

Warning Signs is an attention grabber from the beginning. It's a small package packed with action, suspense and romance that's pretty good. I can honestly say that Miriam's past made me feel horrible for her and angry at the person(s) who had hurt her as a child. Seeing her faith played out and practiced daily was quite amazing and believable. Owen's past is guilt-ridden, which makes his present difficult. I enjoyed seeing the two of them interact. There is a lot of angst in this book as well as joy. If you like a quick and easy suspenseful read, you'll enjoy Warning Signs.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

~ Autumn Sunset ~

From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised!
Psalm 113:3

You sure don't have to live in a rural area to enjoy the sunset 
but I love the view from our front porch. 
This was on Tuesday evening, Oct 15th.

Where do you watch the sunset?


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Rurality Blog Hop #36

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tuesday Muse

Believe it or not, this bee was only about 1/2" long. He was enjoying some sunbathing last week out on our deck. I zoomed in with my camera, tucked in my elbows, held my breath and snapped the photo. Not too shabby if I say so myself. I couldn't resist playing around with the processing in Picmonkey and created the cool image on the right by changing the color balance. 

I'm loving all the autumn colors on everyone's blogs and in some of the new headers. I made one last week and was quite pleased with it. Won't be long and we'll be thinking about Christmas! 
How many of you are early shoppers? Last minute?

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Tuesday Muse

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review ~ Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden

Bethany House, 2013

Fine historical fiction!

In high school, I disliked History class but if I had a teacher who could tell a story like Ms. Camden, I’m sure I would have excelled. Into the Whirlwind takes us through the horror of the Great Chicago Fire and the months afterward. From page one the stage is set, the cast is ready and the heat is on.

Mollie Knox is a character who has resilience, determination and a huge capacity to love. These traits are echoed throughout the story and shown in eloquent detail. From her business dealings to her personal tragedy, she is a woman to be admired.

Zack Kazmarek is another fantastic male character. Really, I don’t know how the author does it. From the first scene to the last, he captured my heart. The strange thing is, I can’t “see” him. Even after the intricate description of his features, his looks elude me. It’s his heart I envision. His compassion, his spirit, his all-encompassing love for his family and for Mollie is what speaks to me.

The scene of the fire was vivid and brilliant. I could feel the heat, the embers, the overwhelming fear while Mollie and Zack ran in and out, weaving through the streets while walls of flames blazed in the night. I felt the chill of the water as they took refuge and the sorrow as they watched their beloved city burn. My heart cried for the people who experienced that awful night all those decades ago. They must have felt hopeless and in total despair. But they rose from the destruction and rebuilt, just like Molly did in the book, to be better than before.

I loved this book. It was difficult to put down for long. There are many wonderful characters and moments that take place in this beauty from ashes story, it is impossible for me to cover all of them. Into the Whirlwind is a perfect combination of drama and romance with a delicate spiritual thread. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a Christian influence.

Bethany House provided a copy for review purposes only. I am under no obligation to write a positive review, only my opinion of the book.

When you use the product widget below to purchase, 
I make a small commission on the sale of the book.

Read an excerpt...

And I couldn't resist this picture...

Even my kitty was captivated by it!!!

Have you read any books by Elizabeth Camden? 
If not, who is your favorite historical fiction author?