WIN The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Wednesday, June 30, 2010





ABOUT THIS BOOK
The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse.

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them. It is heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad, and confirms Aimee Bender’s place as “a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Thanks to Doubleday I have two copies of this book to give away. This is open to the U.S. only and NO P.O. boxes. This giveaway will start today, June 30th and I will use a randomizer and pull the winner on July 14th. The winner will have 48 hrs from being contacted to send me their mailing info if they fail to do so I will pull another winner. To enter you must leave your email address. If you do not your entry will be deleted. To receive extra entries you can do the following . . . 1. if you are already follower of this blog say so in your original comment; DO NOT LEAVE AN ADDITONAL COMMENT. 2. If you are a NEW follower leave an additional comment. 3. Tweet about this on twitter, and leave an additional comment with the link. 4. Blog about this giveaway and leave the link. GOOD LUCK!!!!

~Crescent Hill~

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Refuge on Crescent Hill


Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)


by


Melanie Dobson






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of The Black Cloister; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana; and Together for Good.



Prior to launching Dobson Media Group in 1999, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family where she was responsible for the publicity of events, products, films, and TV specials. Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master's degree in communication from Regent University. She has worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for fifteen years including two years as a publicist for The Family Channel.



Melanie and her husband, Jon, met in Colorado Springs in 1997 at Vanguard Church. Jon works in the field of computer animation. Since they've been married, the Dobsons have relocated numerous times including stints in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, Berlin, and Southern California. These days they are enjoying their new home in the Pacific Northwest.



Jon and Melanie have adopted their two daughters —Karly (6) and Kinzel (5). When Melanie isn't writing or entertaining their girls, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, traveling, hiking, line dancing, and reading inspirational fiction.







ABOUT THE BOOK



THE HOMECOMING WASN’T WHAT SHE EXPECTED…


Jobless, homeless, and broke, Camden Bristow decides to visit the grandmother she hasn’t seen in years. But when Camden arrives in Etherton, Ohio, she discovers that her grandmother has passed away, leaving her the 150-year-old mansion on Crescent Hill. The site of her happiest summers as a child, the run-down mansion is now her only refuge.



When Camden finds evidence that she may not be the mansion’s only occupant, memories of Grandma Rosalie’s bedtime stories about secret passageways and runaway slaves fuel her imagination. What really happened at Crescent Hill? Who can she turn to for answers in this town full of strangers? And what motivates the handsome local Alex Yates to offer his help? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camdem uncovers deep family secrets within the mansion’s walls that could change her life─and the entire town─forever.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Refuge on Crescent Hill, go HERE.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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:


The Mailbox

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Marybeth Whalen is the general editor of For the Write Reason and The Reason We Speakas well as co-author of the book Learning to Live Financially Free. She serves as a speaker for the Proverbs 31 Ministry Team and directs a fiction book club, She Reads, through this same outreach. Most importantly, Marybeth is the wife of Curt Whalen and mother to their six children. She is passionate about sharing God with all the women God places in her path. She has been visiting the mailbox for years.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403693
ISBN-13: 978-0781403696

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Sunset Beach, NC

Summer 1985


Campbell held back a teasing smile as he led Lindsey across the warm sand toward the mailbox. Leaning her head on Campbell’s shoulder, her steps slowed. She looked up at him, observing the mischievous curling at the corners of his mouth. “There really is no mailbox, is there?” she said, playfully offended. “If you wanted to get me alone on a deserted stretch of beach, all you had to do was ask.” She elbowed him in the side.


A grin spread across his flawless face. “You caught me.” He threw his hands up in the air in surrender.


“I gotta stop for a sec,” Lindsey said and bent at the waist, stretching the backs of her aching legs. She stood up and put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes at him. “So, have you actually been to the mailbox? Maybe the other kids at the pier were just pulling your leg.”


Campbell nodded his head. “I promise I’ve been there before. It’ll be worth it. You’ll see.” He pressed his forehead to hers and looked intently into her eyes before continuing down the beach.


“If you say so …” she said, following him. He slipped his arm around her bare tanned shoulder and squeezed it, pulling her closer to him. Lindsey looked ahead of them at the vast expanse of raw

coastline. She could make out a jetty of rocks in the distance that jutted into the ocean like a finish line.


As they walked, she looked down at the pairs of footprints they left in the sand. She knew that soon the tide would wash them away, and she realized that just like those footprints, the time she had left

with Campbell would soon vanish. A refrain ran through her mind: Enjoy the time you have left. She planned to remember every moment of this walk so she could replay it later, when she was back at home, without him. Memories would be her most precious commodity. How else would she feel him near her?


“I don’t know how we’re going to make this work,” she said as they walked. “I mean, how are we going to stay close when we’re so far away from each other?”


He pressed his lips into a line and ran a hand through his hair. “We just will,” he said. He exhaled loudly, a punctuation.


“But how?” she asked, wishing she didn’t sound so desperate.


He smiled. “We’ll write. And we’ll call. I’ll pay for the longdistance bills. My parents already said I could.” He paused. “And we’ll count the days until next summer. Your aunt and uncle already said you could come back and stay for most of the summer. And you know your mom will let you.”


“Yeah, she’ll be glad to get rid of me for sure.” She pushed images of home from her mind: the menthol odor of her mother’s cigarettes, their closet-sized apartment with parchment walls you could hear the neighbors through, her mom’s embarrassing “delicates” dangling from the shower rod in the tiny bathroom they shared. She wished that her aunt and uncle didn’t have to leave the beach house after

the summer was over and that she could just stay with them forever.


The beach house had become her favorite place in the world. At the beach house, she felt like a part of a real family with her aunt and uncle and cousins. This summer had been an escape from the reality of her life at home. And it had been a chance to discover true love. But tomorrow, her aunt and uncle would leave for their home and send her back to her mother.


“I don’t want to leave!” she suddenly yelled into the open air, causing a few startled birds to take flight.


Campbell didn’t flinch when she yelled. She bit her lip and closed her eyes as he pulled her to him and hugged her.


“Shhh,” he said. “I don’t want you to leave either.” He cupped her chin with his hand. “If I could reverse time for you, I would. And we would go back and do this whole summer over.”


She nodded and wished for the hundredth time that she could stand on the beach with Campbell forever, listening to the hypnotic sound of his voice, so much deeper and more mature than the boys at school. She thought about the pictures they had taken earlier that day, a last-ditch effort to have something of him to take with her. But it was a pitiful substitute, a cheap counterfeit for the real thing.


Campbell pointed ahead of them. “Come on,” he said and tugged on her hand. “I think I see it.” He grinned like a little boy. They crested the dune and there, without pomp or circumstance,

just as he had promised, stood an ordinary mailbox with gold letters spelling out “Kindred Spirit.”


“I told you it was here!” he said as they waded through the deep sand. “The mailbox has been here a couple of years,” he said, his tone changing to something close to reverence as he laid his hand on top

of it. “No one knows who started it or why, but word has traveled and now people come all the way out here to leave letters for the Kindred Spirit—the mystery person who reads them. People come from all over the world.”


“So does anybody know who gets the letters?” Lindsey asked. She ran her fingers over the gold, peeling letter decals. The bottom half of the n and e were missing.


“I don’t think so. But that’s part of what draws people here— they come here because this place is private, special.” He looked down at his bare feet, digging his toes into the sand. “So … I wanted to bring you here. So it could be our special place too.” He looked over at her out of the corner of his eye. “I hope you don’t think that’s lame.”


She put her arms around him and looked into his eyes. “Not lame at all,” she said.


As he kissed her, she willed her mind to record it all: the roar of the waves and the cry of the seagulls, the powdery softness of the warm sand under her feet, the briny smell of the ocean mixed with the scent of Campbell’s sun-kissed skin. Later, when she was back at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, she would come right back to this moment. Again and again. Especially when her mother sent her to her room with the paper-thin walls while she entertained her newest boyfriend.


Lindsey opened the mailbox, the hinges creaking as she did. She looked to him, almost for approval. “Look inside,” he invited her.


She saw some loose paper as well as spiral-bound notebooks, the kind she bought at the drugstore for school. The pages were crinkly from the sea air and water. There were pens in the mailbox too, some

with their caps missing.


Campbell pointed. “You should write a letter,” he said. “Take a pen and some paper and just sit down and write what you are feeling.” He shrugged. “It seemed like something you would really get into.”


How well he had come to know her in such a short time. “Okay,” she said. “I love it.” She reached inside and pulled out a purple notebook, flipping it open to read a random page. Someone had written about a wonderful family vacation spent at Sunset and the special time she had spent with her daughter.


She closed the notebook. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She couldn’t imagine her own mother ever wanting to spend time with her, much less being so grateful about it. Reading the notebook made her feel worse, not better. She didn’t need reminding about what she didn’t have waiting for her back home.


Campbell moved in closer. “What is it?” he said, his body lining up perfectly with hers as he pulled her close.


She laid the notebook back inside the mailbox. “I just don’t want to go home,” she said. “I wish my uncle didn’t have to return to his stupid job. How can I go back to … her? She doesn’t want me there any more than I want to be there.” This time she didn’t fight the tears that had been threatening all day.


Campbell pulled her down to sit beside him in the sand and said nothing as she cried, rocking her slightly in his arms.


With her head buried in his shoulder, her words came out muffled. “You are so lucky you live here.”


He nodded. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He said nothing for a while.

“But you have to know that this place won’t be the same for me without you in it.”


She looked up at him, her eyes red from crying. “So you’re saying I’ve ruined it for you?”


He laughed, and she recorded the sound of his laugh in her memory too. “Well, if you want to put it that way, then, yes.”


“Well, that just makes me feel worse!” She laid her head on his shoulder and concentrated on the nearness of him, inhaled the sea scent of his skin and the smell of earth that clung to him from working

outside with his dad.


“Everywhere I go from now on I will have the memory of you with me. Of me and you together. The Island Market, the beach, the arcade, the deck on my house, the pier …” He raised his eyebrows as

he remembered the place where he first kissed her. “And now here. It will always remind me of you.”


“And I am going home to a place without a trace of you in it. I don’t know which is worse, constant reminders or no reminders at all.” She laced her narrow fingers through his.


“So are you glad we met?” She sounded pitiful, but she had to hear his answer.


“I would still have wanted to meet you,” he said. “Even though it’s going to break my heart to watch you go. What we have is worth it.” He kissed her, his hands reaching up to stroke her hair. She heard his words echoing in her mind: worth it, worth it, worth it. She knew that they were young, that they had their whole lives ahead of them, at least that’s what her aunt and uncle had told her. But she also knew

that what she had with Campbell was beyond age.


Campbell stood up and pulled her to her feet, attempting to keep kissing her as he did. She giggled as the pull of gravity parted them. He pointed her toward the mailbox. “Now, go write it all down for the Kindred Spirit. Write everything you feel about us and how unfair it is that we have to be apart.” He squinted his eyes at her. “And I promise not to read over your shoulder.”


She poked him. “You can read it if you want. I have no secrets from you.”


He shook his head. “No, no. This is your deal. Your private world—just between you and the Kindred Spirit. And next year,” he said, smiling down at her, “I promise to bring you back here, and you can write about the amazing summer we’re going to have.”


“And what about the summer after that?” she asked, teasing him.


“That summer too.” He kissed her. “And the next.” He kissed her again. “And the next.” He kissed her again, smiling down at her through his kisses. “Get the point?


“This will be our special place,” he said as they stood together in front of the mailbox.


“Always?” she asked.


“Always,” he said.


Summer 1985


Dear Kindred Spirit,


I have no clue who you are, and yet that doesn’t stop me from writing to you anyway. I hope one day I will discover your identity. I wonder if you are nearby even as I put pen to paper. It’s a little weird to think that I could have passed you on the street this summer and not know you would be reading my

deepest thoughts and feelings. Campbell won’t even read this, though I would let him if he asked me.


As I write, Campbell is down at the water’s edge, throwing shells. He is really good at making the shells skip across the water—I guess that’s proof that this place is his home.


Let me ask you, Kindred Spirit: Do you think it’s silly for me to assume that I have found my soul mate at the age of fifteen? My mom would laugh. She would tell me that the likelihood of anyone finding a soul mate—ever—is zero. She would tell me that I need to not go around giving my heart away like a hopeless romantic. She laughs when I read romance novels or see sappy movies that make me cry. She says that I will learn the truth about love someday.


But, honestly, I feel like I did learn the truth about love this summer. It’s like what they say: It can happen when you least expect it, and it can knock you flat on your back with its power. I didn’t come here expecting to fall in love. The truth is I didn’t want to come here at all. I came here feeling pushed aside and unwanted. I can still remember when my mom said that she had arranged for my aunt and uncle to bring me here, smiling at me like she was doing me some kind of favor when we both knew she just wanted me out of the picture so she could live her life without me cramping her style.


I tried to tell her that I didn’t want to come—who would want to spend their summer with bratty cousins? I was so mad, I didn’t speak to my mom for days. I begged, plotted, and even got my best friend Holly’s parents to say I could stay with them instead. But in the end, as always, my mother ruled, and I got packed off for a summer at the beach. On the car ride down, I sat squished in the backseat beside Bobby and Stephanie. Bobby elbowed me and stuck his tongue out at me the whole way to the beach. When his parents weren’t looking, of course. I stared out the window and pretended to be anywhere but in that car.


But now, I can’t believe how wonderful this summer has turned out. I made some new friends. I read a lot of books and even got to where I could tolerate my little cousins. They became like the younger siblings I never had. Most of all, I met Campbell.


I know what Holly will say. She will say that it was God’s plan. I am working on believing that there is a God and that he has a plan for my life like Holly says. But most of the time it feels like God is not aware I exist. If he was aware of me, you’d think he’d have given me a mom who actually cared about me.


Ugh—I can’t believe I have to leave tomorrow. Now that I have found Campbell, I don’t know what I will do without him. We have promised to write a lot of letters. And we have promised not to date other people.


A word about him asking me not to date other people: This was totally funny to me. Two nights ago we were walking on the beach and he stopped me, pulling me to him and looking at me really seriously. “Please,” he said, “I would really like it if you wouldn’t see other people. Is that crazy for me to ask that of you when we are going to be so far apart?”


I was like, “Are you kidding? No one asks me out. No one at my school even looks at me twice!” At school I am known for being quiet and studious—a brain, not a girl to call for a good time. Holly says that men will discover my beauty later in life. But until this summer I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t admit that no one notices me at school because, obviously, he believes I am sought after. And I knew enough to let him believe it. So I very coyly answered back, “Only if you promise me the same thing.”


And he smiled in that lazy way of his and said, “How could I even look at another girl when I’ve got the best one in the world?”


And so now you see why I just can’t bear the thought of leaving him. But the clock is ticking. When I get home, I swear I will cry myself to sleep every night and write letters to Campbell every day. The only thing I have to look forward to is hanging out with Holly again. Thank goodness for Holly, the one constant in my life. In math class we learned that a constant is something that has one value all the time and it never changes.

That’s what Holly is for me: my best friend, no matter what.


I wonder if Campbell will be a constant in my life. I guess it’s too soon to tell, but I do hope so. I’m already counting down the days until I can come back and be with Campbell. Because this summer—I don’t care how lame it sounds—I found my purpose. And that purpose is loving Campbell with all my

heart. Always.


Until next summer,

Lindsey

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.




My Review: This was a great debut novel. Had the feel of Nicholas Sparks, and also reminded me of the movie The Lake House. I really enjoyed this one. I highly recommend it! Put it on your summer must read!

~Secrets~

Monday, June 28, 2010

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Simple Secrets
Barbour Books (June 1, 2010)


by


Nancy Mehl






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband Norman and her son, Danny. She’s authored nine books and is currently at work on her newest series for Barbour Publishing.



All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “It’s a part of me and of everything I think or do. God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan especially for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”



CREATING FICTION FULL OF FAITH, HOPE AND HEART…



Nancy Mehl is a mystery writer who loves to set her novels in her home state of Kansas. Her three-in-one book, COZY IN KANSAS, contains the first three Ivy Towers’s mysteries: IN THE DEAD OF WINTER, BYE BYE BERTIE, and FOR WHOM THE WEDDING BELL TOLLS which was nominated for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award in mystery.



She and her husband attend Believer’s Tabernacle in Wichita.





ABOUT THE BOOK



Graphic designer Gracie Temple wants it all: the big city lifestyle and a successful job in advertising. And it looks like her life is on the right track when she takes a job at a struggling, midsize firm in Wichita.



But Gracie Temple's uncle left her a house in a rural Mennonite community. She soon learns he secluded himself for years to protect a secret about her own father. Now it's up to Gracie to decide if she'll keep the secret or if she can afford to expose it.



Sam Goodrich loves his fruit farm in Harmony, Kansas. But when he meets city-girl Gracie, he begins to wonder if he could leave it behind for a woman who makes him feel things he's never felt before.



When someone tries to keep Gracie from discovering the truth behind the town's collection of secrets, will Sam and Gracie cling to their faith to help them decide what's most important...before it's too late?



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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Break Reading Challenge

I am doing this reading challenge that is put on by Karin you can join it by going to this link


http://summerbreakreadingchallenge.blogspot.com/

I deleted my earlier post because I wanted a permanent one that would stay up all summer long. I will be adding to it later as I just received 8 books in the mail today! YIPPPEE!!
Here is my list again
Here is my list

The Sister Wife

Nightshade

Nobodies Album

Dark in the City of Light

Chasing Lilacs

Touching the Clouds

Priceless

Love Finds You In Victory Heights

When Doctor's Kill

Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book

In A Heartbeat

Simple Secrets

Tomorrow We Die

The Secrets of Newberry

Boyfriends, Burritos, and An Ocean of Trouble

The Girl Next Door

April and Oliver

Hurricanes In Paradise

A Love of Her Own Reviewed




She has everything her heart desires . . . except the one thing money can't buy

Still cautious after a broken engagement, April McBride fully intends to guard her heart when she travels to Lewistown, Montana, to attend her brother's wedding. One look around the small mining town convinces April that doing so won't be difficult--just a bunch of dusty shops, bad service, and ill-bred cowboys. But a run-in with horse trainer Wes Owen opens up vast possibilities for frustration, embarrassment, friendship, and . . . love?

Can April and Wes see past their differences to envision a future together? Or are they destined to live the rest of their lives alone?

Book three in the Heart of the West series, A Love of Her Own is an adventurous, spark-filled ride through love in turn-of-the-century Montana.

My Review: A fun read! April is a spitfire that you will really enjoy. She arrives in Billings with her jeans on and a cowboy hat so everyone thinks she's a man. She has no idea how to do chores, she is spoiled, and oh so not wanting to do what a young girl should. This is a great read and I highly recommend it! I haven't read the other books in the series so I do recommend that you read them in order.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

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:


Victory Song

Three Paths Publishing; 1st edition (May 7, 2007)

***Special thanks to Ruth Doner O'Neil for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Jeri Doner was an active member of the North-South-Skirmish-Association for over twenty years. This sparked her interest in the 149th NYVI of the Civil War. She is the mother of four children and has seven grandchildren. She was an avid seamstress often making reproduction gowns and uniforms from the Civil War time period. Her love of writing and history led to the novel Victory Song.


Visit the publisher's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Three Paths Publishing; 1st edition (May 7, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0978933737
ISBN-13: 978-0978933739

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


It was not a good time to be leaving that was certain. His mother said so often enough. She never missed a chance to remind him of the harvest, that it was a monumental task at best. It would be almost too much for one aging farmer and a sixteen-year-old boy. He half listened. There was always too much work, and that was not going to change. He knew his father was not getting any younger, and his brother, Peter, was not doing well in school. He knew that his mother’s work had increased since his big sister, Lydia, had married and moved to her husband’s home.

Andy had always been the bright one, the strong one, and the reliable one. He was tired of it. He had listened eagerly to the army recruiters, and read all the patriotic articles in the newspapers. They had promised much in the way of adventure, glory, and victory. They had called for the people to sacrifice for the good of the country. While the war might seem remote and irrelevant to the rest of the Richardson family, it was very real to Andy. He wanted a part in it. He had heard all the colorful words until they circled continually in his mind. Adventure. Glory. Victory. Sacrifice. He admitted only to himself that the most prominent and appealing word of all was none of those. It was the word that had become the theme of his existence, his prayer and constant desire. Escape.

He did not feel guilty about leaving the milking chores on this last day of boyhood. His father did not approve of his enlisting in the army, but he had given permission for him to have this time for himself. If they could get by without him tomorrow, they could just as easily begin managing today, the old man had said. It was his stern way of expressing that, though he disapproved, he was trying to understand.

Andy wandered along the windbreak at the edge of a field, enjoying for the last time the peacefulness of the land, which had been his lifelong home. He let the slope of the ground carry him down toward the brook where the cattle were watered. Many a summer day had been spent fishing in that stream. Through a tangle of brush, he located the well-worn path, which led to the swimming hole. A stout rope was still suspended from an overhanging branch. It had been the most important thing in his world the year he and his best friend, Eddie, had hung it there. The water was still now, for Eddie had moved away to distant Auburn, and Andy had grown up. Not many splashes were heard in the old swimming hole these days. This summer of 1862 had been an uncommonly dry one, and the water level was low.

Childhood was a thing of the past, Andy told himself. Only one day separated him from manhood and a life of his own. In the morning he was leaving for Syracuse to be mustered into the 149th New York Infantry Regiment, and the farm boy life would be over. For now he could afford to stop resenting the confines of the farm, the dullness of life here, and the everlasting chores. He could simply meander about enjoying his surroundings.

There were things to enjoy here. September in central New York was a brightly busy time. The heat of summer was, for the most part, past. Though there was still an occasional hot day or two, the air more often than not held a chill that warned of winter’s inevitable approach. The southwest breeze blew about industrious honeybees as they salvaged the last useful specks from brilliant goldenrod blossoms. Gray squirrels that had been summer-sleek were now fall-fluffy, romping with their abundance of hickory nuts and black walnuts. The stately maples had not yet reached their peak of color, but lacy sumac fairly blazed from every neglected hedgerow and patch of wasteland. Fruit trees were heavy with spring promises kept. Pale Queen-Anne’s lace and blue chicory cushioned the fall of ripening apples, pears, and plums. The hills lay in gentle folds, no longer green, but gold and brown awaiting the scythe.

Andy had circled back toward the house, and could see a horse saddled and hitched to the fence in the side yard. He felt a sudden excitement upon recognizing it as his Aunt Jen’s. She was one of the few people he would miss. As he neared the door, he mentally braced himself, anticipating that because of Aunt Jen’s presence he was about to walk into a roomful of tension.



“He’s leaving, Callie, and there’s nothing more to be done about it. You’ll have to face the fact.” The voice was raspy with age, edged with impatience.

Callie Richardson looked up from the pot of apple butter she had been stirring, and eyed her sister-in-law across the steamy summer kitchen. “I’m trying to make the most of this, Jen, and I don’t need you to tell me what I already know. I just can’t feel the way you do about it. I think he’s making a big mistake.”

“Don’t you read the papers, girl?” Jen asked. “There’s a war going on in this country. The worst kind of a war. Tearing the country apart. And your son is going for a soldier in Mr. Lincoln’s army. Can’t you be proud of him?”

“I am. In my own way. But he’s needed here at home. He never gave that a thought when he signed up.”

“Pete is sixteen. It’s time he did his share around here. Andy did at that age.”

“Pete is not Andy,” the mother replied. “He needs more time with his school work. He tries his best, but he can’t keep up like Andy did.”

“That’s not Andy’s fault,” Jen pointed out. “He’d be leaving home one of these days, no matter what. If it weren’t for the war it would be for something else. You know I’m right, Callie.”

Callie’s brow was moist, and so were her eyes. She wiped her face on her apron. “I know, Jen. But you really can’t understand. He’s not your son.”

“He’s my brother’s. And since I never had a family of my own, he’s as close to being mine as anyone can be. It’s not a secret Andy was always my favorite. I’ll miss him something awful, but I’d never try to keep him from going. He’s nineteen. He’s not a child.”

Callie decided the apple butter had cooked long enough, and lifted the heavy kettle from the stove. She moved to the wooden table in the middle of the room and set it down a little harder than necessary. “I suppose I wouldn’t mind so much if he just wasn’t going with that Henry Birch. That boy worries me.”

“Oh, they’ll be all right!” Jen tried to assure her. “I thought you liked Mrs. Birch. Don’t they go to your church?”

“They did years ago. They’ve been to all different churches since then. Never satisfied. I don’t see Henry’s mother any more. But hear plenty about him. He’s a wild one. I don’t like Andy with him.”

“It’s time you started trusting Andy. He’s a grown man, and your job of raising him is over. You’ve given him a proper Christian upbringing, and that’s all you can do. Besides, I hear that Captain Townsend that was recruiting in Elbridge was some kind of a preacher in civilian life. He was a chaplain in the cavalry before he resigned to raise a company for the Fourth Onondagas. That’s whose company they’ll be in, isn’t it?”

“Yes…that gives me some comfort,” Callie admitted. “But I still worry that he’ll turn out like that good-for-nothing Henry.”

“Or like me?” Jen asked.

Callie let the exasperation show on her face. Something was wrong here. She was a Godly woman, but it was Jen’s total honesty that made her the most uncomfortable. It was hard enough making polite conversation after all the differences they had suffered over the years. She did not know how to respond to this. Jen was the undisputed black sheep of the Richardson family, having rejected the strict moral standards of the rest of the clan. She was a painfully honest woman, and occasionally used some colorful language to tell her relatives what she thought of the way they pressured their children to conform. She was a true non-conformist, dressing as she pleased, coming and going bareheaded in the streets at all hours. She commonly hung laundry out on Sunday, read scandalous novels, and it was said she used alcohol to relieve a chronic cough. Callie wondered once or twice if the cough could have been the result of the use of tobacco, but that seemed rather outrageous, even for Jen. It was true she found it easy to disapprove of the old woman, and the more she gave voice to her disapproval, the more Andy seemed to admire his aunt. Perhaps he would turn out like her, a religious agnostic and a social outcast. There was nothing wrong with wanting more for him than that.

Before Callie had a chance to think of anything to say, the front door banged and loud footsteps came through the house toward the summer kitchen.

“What’s cooking?” Andy’s voice called. “It smells great in here!”

Both mother and aunt turned toward the doorway as he entered. His gray-green eyes blinked as he tried to hurry the adjustment from outdoor sunlight to the dimness of the room.

“Aunt Jen! Glad you came over,” he said, looking with satisfaction at the old woman sitting near the table. “I figured on coming over to your place tonight to say good-bye.”

“You’re a fine one!” Jen scolded playfully. “I come visiting and you’re off someplace!”

“I just went for a walk in the woods and down by the old swimming hole. Wanted to see it once more before I leave. Water sure is low this year.” Having discovered the apple butter, he cut a generous slice of bread from a loaf on the sideboard and sat down on the edge of the table to dip it into the steaming kettle.

“Get out of there!” Callie chided, swatting him on the thigh with a dishtowel to remove him from the table. “You know better than that!”

“How come you’re making this stuff when it’s so hot out?” He asked with his mouth full. “Apples ‘ll keep till cold weather.”

“Because it’s your favorite, and what I made last year is all gone,” the mother replied.

“Mom, you didn’t have to do that.” He tried to sound grateful, but suspected that she was too busy or too tired to notice.

“When you were gone so long I thought you walked into Canton to good-bye to somebody,” she said.

“I said all my farewells Sunday,” he told her. “And it’s Memphis, not Canton.”

It seemed he was forever correcting her about that. The nearest village was always called Canton, short for Canal Town, and that word best described the little settlement. A year ago, for some obscure reason, the name had been changed to Memphis. Andy had no trouble recalling the new name, and thought his parents should have been able to keep it in mind, too coming as it did from the Bible. He would never understand how older people could bring to mind lengthy passages from their favorite book, quoting chapter and verse without error, and not recall that they were members of the First Baptist Church of Memphis, not Canton. The inconsistency baffled him; if that was a characteristic of old age, he hoped never to reach it.

The door banged again, and a familiar voice called, “Mom, we’re finally here. Where do you want the pies?”

“I’ll take care of them,” Andy offered, bounding into the dining room where his sister Lydia was unpacking her contribution to dinner.

“Not a chance, little brother,” she said. “Somebody else might like a taste.”

It was a joke they shared, her calling him a little brother, for she said it looking up into his face as she had been doing for years. Not all Richardsons were tall; when it came to height, Lydia favored Callie, but Andy had inherited all his father’s considerable size and more. While many youngsters experienced a winter of illness sometime during their growing years resulting in a slowed growth rate, Andy had always enjoyed excellent health and an unimpaired appetite for the abundance of good food with which the family had always been blessed. Besides his long, muscular arms and legs, he received from his father a distinctive face, which was easily recognizable in the locality as belonging to a Richardson. The forehead was broad and high, the nose a bit longer than most would consider becoming. The cheekbones were prominent and deeply tanned from exposure to sun and wind. The mouth was the most distinctive feature of all, and the one Andy liked the least. It had a tendency to turn down at the corners, producing a look of immovable sternness on his father’s face. On Aunt Jen the look was one of impudence. On Lydia it was just plain pouty. Andy, when he thought of it, smiled a lot in hopes that the effort would make him look less like the rest of the family.

Callie came in from the summer kitchen to greet her only daughter. The oldest of the three children, Lydia had married the son of a neighboring farmer less than a year ago. She was still much in evidence about the homestead, and especially on important occasions like today.

“Where’s Don?” Callie asked, referring to Lydia’s husband.

“He went down to the barn to meet Daddy and Pete,” the girl explained. “I hope they finish milking soon. I’m starved. Too bad SOME people don’t see fit to help with the chores any more.” With that she nudged Andy in the ribs.

“Before you barged in I was trying to have a nice visit with Aunt Jen.” He said.

Lydia made a face at the mention of the aunt, but dutifully went to the doorway and called, “Hello, Aunt Jen. I hope you’re staying for supper.”

The old woman got to her feet and replied, “No, I got my own food at home. Just came over to see Andy before he goes off tomorrow. Now if you’ll walk me out to my horse, boy, I’ll be on my way and out from under foot.”

They all politely tried to convince her to stay, but she would not be persuaded. Callie and Lydia did not seem overly disappointed when she insisted upon leaving, but Andy was reluctant to walk out into the yard with her.

“I hoped I’d get to see you in your uniform,” Aunt Jen said when they were outside and the commotion left behind.

“We have to go to Syracuse to get all our stuff issued. I don’t know how quick the government can supply us. You’ll have to come to the camp at the fairgrounds to see us in uniform.”

“I ain’t traipsing all the way to Syracuse!” Aunt Jen informed him. “You send me a picture.”

“I’ll try. But I won’t be gone forever. I’ll be over to see you when I get back, and that’s a promise.”

She did not respond except to shake her head sadly. “It won’t be the same here with you gone.”

Andy nodded. “I can’t say I’ll miss everything here, but I sure will miss you, Aunt Jen.”

They had been close, and he thought he knew her as well as anyone alive, but he was surprised when she did something uncharacteristic. She stretched to hug and kiss him. When he lifted her onto her horse she did something else he did not expect. She wept.

“Aunt Jen, I only enlisted for three years. And if we get the Rebels licked before then, I can come back earlier. Please don’t act as if it’s the end of everything.”

She wiped her eyes and cleared her throat as if to speak, but said nothing. She had the unladylike habit of riding astride, and had designed her skirts to accommodate the man’s saddle she used. Once sure of her seat, she slapped the horse on the withers and cantered off down the road.

Andy watched for a while after the dust settled. After a few moments he looked out across the field to see his father, Pete, and Don leaving the barn. They were weary, but walked quickly toward the house, for supper would soon be ready. Andy thought of the same thing, but waited for them to catch up to him so that they could all enter together.

The sun was beginning to fade when he turned back to the old house. It was painted barn red, and looked dark in the shadows. It sat on a hillside, protected from the ferocity of the north wind, its front yard sloping down toward the road, which ran south of it. Light spilled from the kitchen window, along with mingled smells of roasting beef, fresh bread, and the apple butter. Behind the house the kitchen garden looked well used, offering the last of its beans and squash. The corn stalks were brown and dry, holding one another erect against the autumn winds. His eyes followed the road until it twisted out of sight among surrounding maples. It was edged by a split rail fence he had built with his father. Beyond that lay a field newly cultivated this year. Wrestling the stubborn sumac out of the ground had been an ordeal he would not soon forget. He came up to the house and pumped some fresh water up from the well he had helped to dig and keep clean. It was good water, and had proved sufficient for their needs. He took a last look around the place and sighed. While his parents took pride in the home and saw in it a testimony to achievement, Andy saw only backbreaking work—work that would never be done. It was not the sort of life he wanted for himself, and he was excited to think that his escape was only a day in the future.

Ali Week 5 - In Iceland and a Bachelor update

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Well, Kasey freaked out over the double date with Justin - showed Ali the tattoo and was sent home, literally LEFT on the top of a mountain while Justin and Ali left. It was clear that he was to nutty to be there. I still have NO idea what is up with his garbled talking. He never explained it.



Kirk and Ali had a wonderful 1 on 1 date! He opened up to her about a huge part of his life. She really likes him and he is becoming a quick favorite!

The previews for next week don't look promising and it is my guess that Frank really lets her down which is what I kind of suspected all a long.




For those of you who watched Prince Lorezo's season you may recognize lil miss Erica here. She is now on a show on VH1 called CUT OFF! It is for pampered Princesses whose family members are tired of their spending habits and have cut off their financial support and sent them to a life coach for re-learning. Well little miss Erica is still the lil trouble maker she was on the Bachelor.


And of course we all knew this couple wouldn't make it down the aisle! Yes, Jake and Vienna are no more! Aren't we all just heartbroken!

Well there is your weekly update on all things Bachelorette / Bachelor!

~Lilacs~ By CFBA's own Carla Stewart

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Chasing Lilacs
FaithWords (June 17, 2010)
by


Carla Stewart






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She believed in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She's a country girl living now in a mid-sized city with her engineering husband who just happens to be her best friend and biggest fan.She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren.



FROM CARLA:



I grew up in the Texas Panhandle with two younger sisters and loving parents. Small town school. Great neighbors. Today, those small-town, fundamental things resonate within me -- the twang in people's voices, the art of being neighborly and just being a decent human being.



Growing up, I preferred the company of books over TV and playing outdoors. I imagined myself in many different careers, but given my down-to-earth raising, I settled on nursing. I didn't faint at the sight of blood and did well in science, so it seemed a natural choice.



I worked as a registered nurse off and on through the years, but primarily I stayed home with my four rambunctious boys and dreamed of the day when I could write the novels I loved to read. When our youngest son was in high school, I quit my job as a nursing instructor and settled in to pen my first novel. It's been quite a journey. One I wouldn't trade for anything.



I'm committed to writing the stories of my heart and am truly thankful to Jesus, my Savior, for allowing me this freedom. May all the glory be His.



Chasing Lilacs is her first book!





ABOUT THE BOOK



It is the summer of 1958, and life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for twelve-year-old Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother's "nerve" problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.



When her mother commits suicide and a not-so-favorite aunt arrives, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there's the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.



Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.



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

WIN THE SECRETS OF NEWBERRY

Monday, June 21, 2010



For Ivory Bones Arcineaux and Julian Bynote, life in 1950s New Orleans couldn't be sweeter. Friends since they met in an illegal gambling house in Newberry, Louisiana, they have their pick of all the fine women, good food, and hot nights they can handle. They seem to have it made-especially Julian who begins to make a new life for himself after meeting the beautiful, classy Magnolia Garbo at a social. But both men are about to find out that letting the good times roll can be deadly when a simple robbery goes wrong and Julian witnesses Bones murdering a man in cold blood. The victim was a white city councilman with all the right connections-and if the two are discovered, it will mean the end to everything they've built together. With the New Orleans police hot on their trail, Julian must decide whether rolling in the fast lane is worth losing his freedom and his life.

Thanks to Hachette publishing I have 2 copies of this book to give away. The rules are the same, in case you're new or need reminding here they are. The same rules apply here they are in case you are new or you have forgotten. NO P.O. boxes and this is open to U.S. and Canada Residents. To enter you must leave your email address. If you do not your entry will be deleted. To receive extra entries you can do the following . . . 1. if you are already follower of this blog say so in your original comment; DO NOT LEAVE AN ADDITONAL COMMENT. 2. If you are a NEW follower leave an additional comment. 3. Tweet about this on twitter, and leave an additional comment with the link. 4. Blog about this giveaway and leave the link. This giveaway will start today, Monday, June 21st and I will use a randomizer and pull the winners on Monday, July 5th. The winners will have 48 hrs to email me their address after I notify them of their win. GOOD LUCK!
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:


Healer: A Novel (The Brides of Alba Series)

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



With an estimated one million books in print, Linda Windsor is an award-winning author of fifteen mainstream historical novels and one contemporary romance. She has also written another thirteen books for CBA publishers, including nine romantic comedies, laced with suspense, and a Celtic Irish trilogy for Multnomah entitled the Fires of Gleannmara series. A former professional musician, Linda speaks often (and sometimes sings) for writing and/or faith seminars. She makes her home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and prays for courage and strength to meet the needs of today's readers with page-turning stories that entertain, teach, and inspire.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764788
ISBN-13: 978-1434764782

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Glenarden, Manau Gododdin, Britain


Although cold enough to frost one’s breath, the day was as fair as the general mood of the gathering at the keep of Glenarden. The only clouds were those breaking away, fat with snow from the shrouded mountains—and the ever-present one upon the face of the bent old man who stood on the rampart of the gate tower. No longer able to ride much distance, Tarlach O’Byrne watched the procession form beyond.


Clansmen and kin, farmers and craftsmen—all turned out for the annual hunt, but they were more excited over the festivities that awaited their return. In the yard about the keep, gleemen in outlandish

costumes practiced entertaining antics, delighting the children and teasing the kitchen servant or warrior who happened to pass too near. Great pits had been fired. On the spits over them were enough succulent shanks of venison, boar, and beef to feed the multitude of O’Byrnes and the guests from tribes in the kingdom under the old king’s protection.


Below the ramparts, Ronan O’Byrne adjusted the woolen folds of his brat over his shoulders. Woven with the silver, black, and scarlet threads of the clan, it would keep the prince warm on this brisk day. A fine dappled gray snorted in eagerness as Ronan took his reins in hand and started toward the gate. Beyond, the people he would govern upon his father’s death waited.


The youngest of the O’Byrne brothers rode through them, unable to contain his excitement any longer. “By father’s aching bones, Ronan, what matters of great import keep you now?”


Were the pest any other but his youngest brother, Ronan might have scowled, deepening the scar that marked the indent of his cheek—the physical reminder of this travesty that began years ago. Alyn was the pride and joy of Glenarden, and Ronan was no exception to those who admired and loved the precocious youth.


“Only a raid on the mill by our neighbors,” Ronan answered his youngest sibling.


His somber gaze belayed the lightness in his voice. The thieves had made off with Glenarden’s reserve grain stores and the miller’s quern. Ronan had already sent a replacement hand mill to the mistress. But now that the harvest was over and the excess had been sold, replacing the reserves would be harder. It galled Ronan to buy back his own produce at a higher price than he’d received from merchants in Carmelide. This was the hard lot he faced—this farce, or hunting down the scoundrels and taking back what was rightfully his.


Every year on the anniversary of the Gowrys slaughter, Tarlach insisted that the O’Byrne clan search the hills high and low for Llas and Joanna’s heir. But instead of going off on a madman’s goose chase after his imagined enemy—a mountain nymph who was rumored to shape-shift into a wolf at will—the O’Byrnes manpower spent their time ransacking and burning one of the Gowrys mountain settlements in retribution, for they were undoubtedly the culprits. It was the only reasoning the Gowrys thieves understood—burn their ramshackle hovels and take some of their meager stock in payment.


Even so, taking such actions only stalled their mischief for a little while. Then it was the same thing all over again. As it was, Ronan had sent trackers out to mark their escape route, lest the wrong camp be destroyed.


“Can I ride after them on the morrow with you?” Alyn’s deep blue eyes, inherited from their Pictish mother, were alight with the idea of fighting and possible bloodshed—only because he’d never tasted it firsthand. “After the Witch’s End?”


Disgust pulling at his mouth, Ronan mounted the broad and sturdy steed he’d acquired at last spring’s fair. Witch’s End. That’s what Tarlach O’Byrne had dubbed the celebration of the massacre that had made him an invalid and driven him to the brink of insanity. In the old chief ’s demented thought, he’d brought justice to those who had betrayed him and stopped an enchantress forever. Sometimes, as on this particular day, it pushed him beyond reason, for it was a reminder that there was one thing left undone. The heiress of Gowrys still lived to threaten Glenarden … at least in his mind.


“The mill raid is no different from any other raid and will be handled as such,” Ronan answered.


“So I can go?”


“Nay, return to your studies at the university.” The hunt for a nonexistent witch was one thing, but Gowrys were skilled fighters. “’Twould suit a Gowrys naught better than to send a son of Tarlach

earthways with an arrow through your sixteen-year-old heart.”


“So you and Caden will go after the brigands.”


Alyn’s dejection rivaled that of Tarlach’s, except the youth’s would be gone with the next change of the wind. The older O’Byrne’s would not leave until his last breath faded in the air.


Ronan opened his mouth to assuage the lad when a downpour of water, icy as a northern fjord, struck him, soaking him through. “Herth’s fire!” Startled, his gray gelding danced sideways, knocking into the door of the open gate. “Ho, Ballach,” Ronan soothed the beast. “Easy laddie.”


“Take that, you bandy-legged fodere!” a shrill voice sounded from above.


“Crom’s breath, Kella, look what you’ve done,” Alyn blustered, struggling to control his own spooked steed. “Called my brother a bandy-legged deceiver and soaked him through.”


Wiping his hair away from his brow, Ronan spotted the cherub faced perpetrator of the mischief peering over the battlement, eyes spitting fire. Lacking the ripeness of womanhood, Kella’s overall appearance was unremarkable, but she surely lived up to her name with that indomitable warrior spirit, bundled in the innocence of youth. It was an innocence Ronan had never known. The daughter of Glenarden’s champion, Kella O’Toole was like a breath of fresh air. For that Ronan could forgive her more impetuous moments.


“And for what, Milady Kella, do I deserve the title of a bandylegged fool, much less this chilling shower?”


Kella gaped in dismay, speechless, as she took in Ronan’s drenched state. But not for long. “Faith, ’twasn’t meant for you, sir, but for Alyn! ’Tis the likes of him that finds the company of a scullery maid more delicious than mine.”


Ronan cast an amused glance at his youngest brother, who had now turned as scarlet as the banners fluttering overhead.


“Ho, lad, what foolrede have ye been about?” Caden O’Byrne shouted from the midst of the mounted assembly in wait beyond the gate. Fair as the sun with a fiery temperament to match, the second of Tarlach’s sons gave the indignant maid on the rampart a devilish wink.


“’Tis no one’s business but my own,” Alyn protested. “And certainly not that of a demented child.”


“Child, is it?”


Ronan swerved his horse out of range as Kella slung the empty bucket at Alyn. Her aim was hindered by the other girls close at her elbows, and the missile struck the ground an arm’s length away from its intended target.


“I’ll have you know I’m a full thirteen years.”


“Then appeal to me a few years hence when, and if, your Godgiven sense returns,” the youngest O’Byrne replied.


Ronan moved to the cover of the gatehouse and removed his drenched brat. Fortunately, the cloak had caught and shed the main of the attack. Already one of the servants approached with the plain blue one he wore about his business on the estate. Irritating as the mishap was, his lips quirked with humor as his aide helped him don the dry brat. It wasn’t as princely as the O’Byrne colors, but it was more suited to Ronan’s personal taste.


It was no secret that Egan O’Toole’s daughter was smitten with Alyn. With brown hair spun with threads of gold and snapping eyes almost the same incredible shade, she would indeed blossom into a beauty someday. Meanwhile, the champion of Glenarden would do well to pray for maturity to temper Kella’s bellicose manner, so that his daughter might win, rather than frighten, suitors.


Then there was Alyn, who hadn’t sense enough to see a prize in the making. Ronan shook his head. His brother was too involved in living the existence of the carefree youth Ronan had been robbed of the night of the Gowrys bloodfest.


“So, are you now high and dry, Brother?” Caden O’Byrne called to Ronan with impatience.


Ronan’s eyes narrowed. Always coveting what wasn’t his, Caden would like nothing better than to lead the hunt without Ronan. Would God that Ronan could hand over Glenarden and all its responsibilities. But Caden was too rash, a man driven more by passion than thought.


“Have a heart, Beloved,” a golden-haired beauty called down to him from the flock of twittering ladies on the rampart. Caden’s new bride spared Ronan a glance. “Ronan’s had much travail this morning already with the news of the Gowrys raid.”


“Had he as fair and gentle a wife as I, I daresay his humor would be much improved.” Ever the king of hearts, Caden signaled his horse to bow in Lady Rhianon’s direction and blew his wife a kiss.


“No doubt it would, Brother,” Ronan replied.


There was little merit in pointing out that the ambitious Lady Rhianon had first set her sights on him. No loss to Ronan, she seemed to make his more frivolous brother a happy man. The couple enjoyed the same revelry in dance and entertainment, not to mention the bower. Too often, its four walls failed to contain the merriment of their love play. Neither seemed to care that they were the talk of the keep. If anything, they gloried in the gossip and fed it all the more.


Battling down an annoying twinge of envy, Ronan made certain his cloak was fast, then swung up into the saddle again. Alyn’s problems were easier to consider, not to mention more amusing. “Is your wench disarmed, Alyn?” Ronan shouted in jest as he left the cover of the gate once again.


Beyond Lady Kella’s tempestuous reach for the moment, Alyn gave him a grudging nod.


Ronan brought his horse alongside his siblings, facing the gatehouse of the outer walls, where Tarlach O’Byrne would address the gathering. Like Alyn’s, Caden’s countenance was one of eagerness and excitement. How Ronan envied them both for their childhood. He longed to get away from the bitterness that festered within the walls of Glenarden. His had been an apprenticeship to a haunted madness.


Tarlach straightened as much as his gnarled and creaking joints would allow. “Remember the prophecy, shons of mine,” he charged them. He raised his withered left arm as high as it would go. It had never regained its former power since the night he’d tried to attack Lady Joanna of Gowrys. Nor had his speech recovered. He slurred his words from time to time, more so in fatigue.


“The Gowrys sheed shall divide your mighty house … shall divide your mighty housh and bring a peace beyond itch ken.”


Ronan knew the words by heart. They were as indelibly etched in his memory as the bloody travesty he’d witnessed through a six-yearold’s eyes. The quote was close, but whether Tarlach’s failing mind or his guilt was accountable for leaving out “peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul,” only God knew. If He cared … or even existed.


“Search every hill, every glen, every tree and shrub. Find the she-wolf and bring back her skin to hang as a trophy in the hall, and her heart to be devoured by the dogs. Take no nun-day repast. The future of Glenarden depends on the Gowrys whelp’s death.”


At the rousing cry of “O’Byrne!” rising from his fellow huntsmen and kin, Ronan turned the dapple gray with the group and cantered to the front, his rightful place as prince and heir. He didn’t believe the girl child had survived these last twenty years, much less that she’d turned into a she-wolf because of her mother’s sins. Nor did he wallow in hatred like his father.


A shudder ran through him, colder than the water that had drenched him earlier. Ronan looked to the west again, where thick clouds drifted away from the uplands. May he never become so obsessed with a female that his body and soul should waste away from within due to the gnawing of bitterness and fear. Superstitious fear.


On both sides of the winding, rutted road ahead lay rolling fields. Winter’s breath was turning the last vestiges of harvest color to browns and grays. Low, round huts of wattle and daub, limed white and domed with honey-dark thatching, were scattered here and there. Gray smoke circled toward the sky from their peaks. Fat milk cows and chickens made themselves at home, searching for food. Beyond lay the river, teeming with fish enough for all.


Glenarden’s prosperity was enough to satisfy Ronan. Nothing less would do for his clan. The tuath was already his in every manner save the last breath of Tarlach O’Byrne … though Ronan was in no hurry for that. Despite his troublesome tempers, Tarlach had been as good a father as he knew how, breaking the fosterage custom to rear his firstborn son under his own eye. A hard teacher, he’d been, yet fair—equal with praise as with criticism.


“You are the arm I lost, lad,” Tarlach told him again and again, especially when the drink had its way with him. “The hope and strength of Glenarden.”


~~~~~


Ronan humored the old man as much as followed his orders. At midday, instead of stopping as usual for the nun repast, he paused for neither rest nor food for his men. They ate on the move—the fresh bread and cheese in the sacks provided by the keep’s kitchen. The higher into the hills they went, the sharper the wind whipped through the narrow pass leading to the upper lakelands. Ronan was thankful that the former stronghold of the Gowrys wasn’t much farther.


“Faith, ’tis colder than witches’ milk,” Caden swore from the ranks behind Ronan.


“Witches’ milk?” the naive Alyn protested. “What would you know of such things?”


“A good deal more than a pup not yet dry behind the ears. ’Tis a fine drink on a hot summer day.”


“Or for the fever,” Egan O’Toole chimed in.


His poorly disguised snicker raised suspicion in the youth. “They play me false, don’t they, Ronan?”


“Aye, ask our elder brother, lad,” Caden remarked in a dry voice. “He has no sense of humor.”


Somber, Ronan turned in his saddle. “I have one, Brother, but my duties do not afford me much use of it. As for your question, lad,” he said to their younger brother, who rode next to Caden, “there’s no such thing as witches, so there can be no witches’ milk.”


“What about the Lady Joanna?” Alyn asked. “She was a witch.”


“Think, lad,” Ronan replied. “If she’d truly possessed magic, would she or her kin have died? It was love and jealousy that addled Father.”


“But love is magic, little brother,” Caden put in. “Make no mistake.”


“’Tis also loud enough to set tongues wagging all over the keep,” Alyn piped up. He grinned at the round of raucous laughter that rippled around them at Caden’s expense.


But Caden showed no shame. “That’s the rejoicing, lad.” He turned to the others. “Methinks our Lady Kella has little to fret over as yet.” With a loud laugh, he clapped their red-faced little brother on the back.


Rather than allow the banter to prick or lift an already sore humor, Ronan focused on the first few flakes of snow already whirling in and about the pass ahead of them and the nightmare that already had begun. Twenty years before, this very pass had been just as cold and inhospitable. With possible flurries blowing up, Ronan had no inclination to prolong the outing.


The crannog, or stockaded peninsula, was now little more than a pile of rubble rising out of the lake water’s edge. Cradled by overgrown fields and thick forest on three quarters of its periphery, the

lake itself was as gray as the winter sky. On the fourth was the jut of land upon which Llas of Gowrys had restored an ancient broch, bracing it against the rise of the steep crag at its back. With no regard for what had been, yellow spots of gorse had taken root here and there in the tumble of blackened stone.


Ronan could still smell the blaze, hear the shrieks of the dying.Ignoring the curdling in the pit of his stomach, a remnant of the fear and horror a six-year-old dared not show, Ronan dispersed the group. “Egan, you and Alyn take your men and search north of the lake. Caden, take the others and search the south. When I sound the horn, everyone should make haste back here. The sooner we return to warm hearths and full noggins of ale, the better.”


“I want to go with you,” Alyn declared, sidling his brown pony next to Ronan’s gray.


“I intend to stay here in the cover of yon ledge and build a fire,” Ronan informed him, “but you are welcome to join me.”


“I think not.”


Alyn’s expression of disdain almost made Ronan laugh.


“What if a raiding party of Gowrys happens upon you?” Caden spoke up. A rare concern knit his bushy golden brows.


“Then I shall invite them to the fire for a draught of witch’s milk.”


Caden laughed out loud. His square-jawed face, bristling with the golden shadow of his great mane of hair, was handsome by even a man’s standard. “I misjudged you, Brother. I stand corrected on the account of humor but would still hold that you act too old for your twenty-six years.”


“The Gowrys aren’t given to visiting the place where they were so soundly trounced … and I’m no more than a horn’s blow from help, should my sword not suffice,” Ronan pointed out.


He had no taste for this nonsense. What he craved most at the moment was the peace that followed after the others rode off, whooping and beating their shields lest the spirits of the slain accost them.

The hush of the falling snow and the still testimony of the ruins were at least a welcome change from the ribald and oft querulous babble of the hall. Time alone, without demand, was to be savored, even in this ungodly cold and desolate place. All he had to do was keep the memories at bay.


A movement from just above a hawthorn thicket near the base of the cliff caught Ronan’s eye, raising the hackles on the back of his neck. With feigned nonchalance, he brushed away the snow accumulating on his leather-clad thigh and scanned the gray slope of rock as it donned the thickening winter white veil. Nothing.


At least, he’d thought he’d seen something. A flash of white, with a tail—mayhaps a large dog. Beneath him, the gelding shivered. With a whinny, he sidestepped, tossing his black mane as if to confirm that he sensed danger as well. A wolf?


Drawing his sword in one hand, Ronan brought the horse under control with a steadying tone. “Easy, Ballach, easy.”


The speckled horse quieted, his muscles as tense as Ronan’s clenched jaw. The scene before him was still, like that of a tapestry. At his gentle nudge, the horse started around shore toward the high stone cliff. Dog, wolf, or man, Ronan was certain the steel of his blade was all the protection he’d need.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Healer by Linda Windsor. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.


~Maid~

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Maid to Match
Bethany House (June 1, 2010)


by
Deeanne Gist






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



After a short career in elementary education, Deeanne Gist retired to raise her four children. Over the course of the next fifteen years, she ran a home accessory and antique business, became a member of the press, wrote freelance journalism for national publications such as People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel, and acted as CFO for her husband’s small engineering firm--all from the comforts of home.



Squeezed betwixt-and-between all this, she read romance novels by the truckload and even wrote a couple of her own. While those unpublished manuscripts rested on the shelf, she founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products that would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility and provide character building activities.



After a few short months of running her publishing company, Gist quickly discovered being a "corporate executive" was not where her gifts and talents lie. In answer to Gist’s fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publish the next generation of her system, thus freeing Gist to return to her writing.



Eight months later, she sold A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers. Since that debut, her very original, very fun romances have rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere. Add to this two consecutive Christy Awards, two RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.



Her 2010 books, Beguiled and Maid To Match are now available for order.



Gist lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-seven years and their two border collies. They have four grown children. Visit her blog to find out the most up-to-the-minute news about Dee.







ABOUT THE BOOK



Falling in love could cost her everything.



From the day she arrived at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled, by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in proper servant etiquette, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid, After all, the one rule of the house is no romance below stairs.



But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangles in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs, their aspirations...their hearts.



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





Join this SPECIAL GETAWAY (Click on the Button):










I don't know that I can add anything to this, other than to say if you are a fan of Dee or historicals this is a must read!

Scars and Stilettos ~Review~ AND Giveaway

Saturday, June 19, 2010






Fear of being abandoned keeps 19-year-old Harmony Dust trapped in an abusive relationship. Tens of thousands of dollars in debt and struggling to get by, someone tells her how much money she can make as an exotic dancer. For the next 3 years, Harmony lives a double life as Monique, a dancer in a strip club.

"Scars and Stilettos" is Harmony's stark, honest, & ultimately hopeful story of how God found her in that dark, noisy place & led her back out. She has since completed an MA in Social Welfare & now leads Treasures, an organization helping women in the sex trade discover their true worth & value. For more information about Harmony or her book please visit her website: http://www.scarsandstilettos.com/.

My Review: This is one of the most painful and beautiful books you could ever read. Within it's pages is the story of Harmony and her story of how God found her in one of the most horrible places on the Las Vegas strip as a exotic dancer and turned her life around. Once again we see how our Lord and Savior takes something ugly and disgusting and makes it beautiful. This story of Harmony is one of the best I have read this year and I will never forget it. I highly recommend it and I give it a Lighthouse and shine a light on it for pointing a path to God. And . . . I have an extra copy of this book that I am going to giveaway. This is open to US residents only. This giveaway will start today, Saturday June 19, and I will pull the winner on Saturday, July 3rd. To enter you must leave your email address. If you do not your entry will be deleted. To receive extra entries you can do the following . . . 1. if you are already follower of this blog say so in your original comment; DO NOT LEAVE AN ADDITONAL COMMENT. 2. If you are a NEW follower leave an additional comment. 3. Tweet about this on twitter, and leave an additional comment with the link. 4. Blog about this giveaway and leave the link. GOOD LUCK!!!!
 
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