Debut author Melissa Tagg is Made To Last

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Made to Last
Bethany House Publishers (September 15, 2013)
Melissa Tagg


A Word From The Author:

I’m a former reporter turned author who loves all things funny and romancey. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to my nonprofit day job, I’m also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists.

It all started when my dad, at the ripe old age of sixteen, picked up my mom up for their first date. She was thirteen. Thirteen!* Dad drove a cherry red car up the lane to my grandparents big ol’ green house and honked his horn…whereupon Mom jumped out of the apple tree she’d been waiting in and off they went…fishing. True story. (I’d give more details, but I’m saving it for a novella I plan to entitle Two Leaves. Mom, I really hope you read this.)

Four years of college, a few trips abroad and a stint as a reporter later, that dream is soon to be a reality. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, is now out from Bethany House. Book two, Here to Stay, comes out on May 1, 2014.

In between writing and staring out the window brainstorming, I also work as a grant-writer at one of Iowa’s largest private nonprofits and serve as the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists founded by Susan May Warren.

And I love, love, love talking about finding our purpose and identity in Christ. (And well, okay, food, old movies, boots and scarves, my awesome nephew Ollie, and, fine, Tim Tebow, too.)


Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Made to Last, go HERE.

Great debut! As someone who was married to a home improvement guy, this book was fun, and very on the money. I can see that Melissa will be around for a long time. This debut is just the tip of the iceberg that I see for her. I absolutely love reading debut authors, and Melissa is a great one, I will be looking out for her next read. Highly recommended!

A Christmas Gift for Rose

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Inspired by a true story, A Christmas Gift for Rose is a heartwarming novella of sacrifice and deep love.
Born in the midst of the hardships of The Great Depression, Rose grew up in Berlin, Ohio, in the arms of a loving Amish family. But she is overwhelmed by self-doubt when she learns the truth of her birth. She was born Englisch and abandoned when her family moved West in search of work. Was she meant to be Amish or would she have been better off growing up with her own kind—Englischers? And was her intended’s gift of discovering her birth family given out of love or fear?
Don’t miss award-winning author Tricia Goyer’s first Christmas novella.

Tricia Goyer

{More About Tricia Goyer}

USA Today best-selling author Tricia Goyer is the author of over 35 books, including the three-book Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series and “Lead Your Family Like Jesus,” (co-written with Ken Blanchard). She has written over 500 articles for national publications and blogs for high traffic sites like and She is the host of Living Inspired, a weekly radio show. Tricia and family live in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have six children. You can find out more about Tricia at
Find out more about Tricia at

Welcome to Christmas in September. In true Tricia Goyer style she has written a heart warming Christmas novella, that is guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.

Rose believes she is Amish and when Johnathon goes off to the war to help the Englisch she is devastated and  won't have any thing to do with him when he returns. Yet she finds out just before Thanksgiving that she isn't Amish, her Englisch family couldn't care for her so they put her up for adoption.

This is based on a true story. As someone who is adopted the fact that Rose did not know til she was twenty-one bothered me. I have always known and even have my legal adoption papers since I was a private adoption. Keeping that from a child is just cruel.

Rose's internal struggle with who she is and what she should do is real and very believable. She was completely dependent on her Heavenly Father which was apparent throughout the story.

I highly recommend this book! 

Lowcountry Bombshell

Private Investigator Liz Talbot thinks she’s seen another ghost when she meets Calista McQueen. She’s the spitting image of Marilyn Monroe. Born precisely fifty years after the ill-fated star, Calista’s life has eerily mirrored the late starlet’s—and she fears the looming anniversary of Marilyn’s death will also be hers.

Before Liz can open a case file, Calista’s life coach is executed. Suspicious characters swarm around Calista like mosquitoes on a sultry lowcountry evening: her certifiable mother, a fake aunt, her control-freak psychoanalyst, a private yoga instructor, her peculiar housekeeper, and an obsessed ex-husband. Liz digs in to find a motive for murder, but she’s besieged with distractions. Her ex has marriage and babies on his mind. Her too-sexy partner engages in a campaign of repeat seduction. Mamma needs help with Daddy’s devotion to bad habits. And a gang of wild hogs is running loose on Stella Maris.

With the heat index approaching triple digits, Liz races to uncover a diabolical murder plot in time to save not only Calista’s life, but also her own.

My Thoughts:

This was a true cozy mystery. It was full of fun, and great suspense. The characters where greatly developed.
I mean what would you do if Marilyn Monroe showed up on your doorstep. Liz is quirky and a kick.
This was a great book.

Love's Awakening (The Ballantyne Legacy #2)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The path to true love lies somewhere between two feuding families
 In the spring of 1822, Ellie Ballantyne leaves finishing school and returns to the family home in Pittsburgh only to find that her parents are away on a long journey and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. Determined to stand her ground and find her place in the world, Ellie fills her time by opening a day school for young ladies.

But when one of her students turns out to be an incorrigible young member of the Turlock family, Ellie knows she must walk a fine line. Slaveholders and whiskey magnates, the Turlocks are envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly entangled with the rival clan--particularly the handsome Jack Turlock--she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future. Will she betray her family and side with the enemy?

Masterful storyteller Laura Frantz continues to unfold the stirring saga of the Ballantyne family in this majestic tale of love and loyalty. This is the Ballantyne Legacy.

“Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

About Laura
 Laura Frantz is the author of several books, including The Colonel's Lady and Love's Reckoning. A two-time Carol Award and INSPY Award finalist and a recent Christy Award finalist, she currently lives in the misty woods of Washington with her husband and two sons.

 You can learn more about her at her website

My Thoughts:

I have been a fan of Laura's since she wrote The Frontiersman's Daughter. When I read Love's Reckoning I fell in love with the Ballantyne's and couldn't wait for Love's Awakening to be released. In this second book, much like the first book pulls your right in and holds you until you turn the last page.  Ellie and Jack are the main focus of this book. Ellie is the youngest daughter of Silas and Eden Ballantyne. Jack is a Turlock, a family who are slaveholders, and make whiskey. The Ballantyne's are abolitionists and are saving slaves, helping them get to freedom. Ellie has returned home and begins a day school to keep her busy. Chloe, Jack's younger sister asks Ellie to teach her, but her real reason is to play matchmaker with Jack and Ellie.

Laura pens with such emotion that you are right there with the characters, and they linger even after you close the book. Are we who we are born into or can we change, is the big question in this beautiful novel, of love and forgiveness. Just because we are born into a family doesn't mean who they are and what they do is something we have to follow. As with Jack. His family may be drinkers, and believe in having slaves, but does that mean he is just like them. 
Makes me think of my wonderful husband, Mark. He was born into a family where his dad was a drinker, and committed adultery on his mom. He is nothing like his dad! He chose to be a faithful man, hates alcohol with a passion, and God is his compass. It is all in our choices.

This is a perfect book for Fall. Grab a blanket, and your favorite hot beverage and sit down for a wonderful read.
Highly recommended!

Raw Edges . . . Sandra D. Bricker

Monday, September 23, 2013

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Raw Edge
Abingdon Press (September 17, 2013)
Sandra D. Bricker


For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The Big 5-OH! was released by Abingdon Press in the Spring of 2010, and the novel was very well-received, garnering a couple of nibbles from Hollywood.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press in September 2010. With its phenomenal reviews, the novel spawned a series of three more books based on the popular cast of characters at The Tanglewood Inn, a wedding destination hotel in historic Roswell, Georgia. The series cemented Sandie's spot in publishing as a flagship author of Laugh-Out-Loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"


Grayson McDonough has no use for teal ribbons, 5k runs, or ovarian cancer support groups now that his beautiful wife Jenna is gone. But their nine-year-old daughter Sadie seems to need the connection. When Annabelle Curtis, the beautiful cancer survivor organizing the memory quilt project for the Ovacome support group, begins to bring out the silly and fun side of his precious daughter again, Gray must set aside his own grief to support the healing of Sadie’s young heart. But is there hope for Gray’s heart too along the way?

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

Watch the book trailer:

My Thoughts: I had the privilege to be on Sandra's launch team, and was able to read this book before it was released. Sandra is a Ovarian cancer survivor, so this storyline is very personal to her. I am amazed at her ability to write something so dear to her heart and have laugh out loud moments in the book. This is an absolutely beautiful book of a little girl, Sadie, and her father, Grayson, dealing with the death of her mother and wife Jenna. Jenna died of Ovarian Cancer, but left behind a journal for Sadie to help her deal with the loss and to learn more about her dad, he reads it to her every night. They receive an invitation to Ovacome, a group for those who are dealing with Ovarian Cancer in one way or another. Sadie is excited to go to the Ovacome group, her dad Gray not so much, but Sadie is so excited he gives in and they go. Once there they find out that the group is going to be making a tribute quilt using pieces of clothing from the person, and then auction it off. At the meeting Gray meets Annabelle who is single, an Ovarian Cancer survivor and works at the local aquarium. Sadie and her hit it off. They both have very unruly and curly hair, and since they are both non-quilters they work together to make the tribute quilt. In this touching book, Sandra Bricker, shows us how a tragedy can be made into a triumph and that even after a death of a mother and wife, there is hope. I loved Sadie, she was absolutely adorable. Her dad Gray is not bad either, and Ms. Essie is a character and a half. I highly recommend this book!

Survivor Blood VS Water

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Well the 27th Season of Survivor: Blood Vs Water started last night. I can't believe that this show has been going on for 27 seasons. I remember watching the first one, and then when I lived in Virginia Beach, we ran into Rudy Boesch at the Navy Exchange. He was so kind, and talked to anyone, he didn't allow his "fame" from Survivor to go to his head.

Last night was quite different than any season. The family members were separated and on each tribe someone was voted out right after they stepped on the beach. Laura, Rupert's wife, and Candice Cody were voted off to Redemption Island.  Both Rupert and John had the chance to take their wives place and go to Redemption Island in their place. Rupert did, John and Candice decided she was a better choice than him. 
However, he felt horrible for not going in her place.

The newbies gave a good fight at the immunity challenge, however, they were schooled by the veterans, and ended up going to tribal council.

Gervase is playing with his niece Marissa and because of his behavior after they won the immunity challenge the tribe voted Marissa off and she is at Redemption Island with Rupert, and Candice. It should be noted that had it not been for Tyson, Gervase would be drowning in the ocean right now. So, his over zealous excitement for his tribe's win, was stupid, and put his niece who can't be much older than eighteen in jeopardy.

 Surprising to me, Monica's husband, was a Florida Gator, and I'm not sure that I really like him. He is bossy, and thinks he is all that and a good glass of wine. I will give him a chance, but I'm not too excited about him at this point.



Over all it was a good start to the new season. I think it would've been fun to have Colby Donaldson and his family member. C'mon ladies you know you agree!

 Looking forward to a great season!!!


ROW 80 Final Check In

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finally got a chance to get some writing done today, 375 words. It was a good thing too, my poor character had been in the shower for a very long time.
I am loving what is transpiring with these characters. Should be interesting to see what happens from here.

Preview: Born of Persuasion

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Born of Persuasion
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 1, 2013)
Jessica Dotta


Born in the wrong century–except for the fact that she really likes epidurals and washing machines–Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.

She resides lives in the greater Nashville area—where she imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London. She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding school, and then she goes home to write and work on PR. Jessica has tried to cast her dachshund as their butler–but the dog insists it’s a Time Lord and their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why the dog won’t cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you can’t win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to emulate.


The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

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

The Invention of Sarah Cummings (Avenue of Dreams Trilogy #3)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true?
Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions.

About Olivia Newport

I’ve been married for over thirty years and have two twenty-something kids. We live in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where the day lilies in my back yard grow as tall as I am. (No short jokes, please.)
Not every piece of my life is pretty, though. Some days I want to throw out whole chunks. But I am living each day looking for the grace of God to me, in me, and through me. Having your companionship along the way will help uncover a lot of great stories.
Thanks for stopping by my site, where conversations and adventures begin with a click. I hope we’ll run into each other often.

My Thoughts:

Olivia makes Sarah a character you want to care about. Her parents have died and she became an orphan living in the St. Andrews Orphanage, she then becomes a parlor maid with Banning family as a very talented seamstress. What she does with clothes is amazing, which reminded me of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.

Because of her status, she has not had any friends or a social life. On her day off she walks into a store and meets Lillie, someone way above her status. Sarah is dressed in a dress she has created that grabs Lillie's attention, and she is determined to have Sarah buy this hat.
When Lillie asks Sarah's name, she spits out Serena Cuthbert, she has no idea why she said that name. This begins the Invention of Sarah.

Lucy and Charlotte make their appearance in this final installment of this series and it is always fun to have returning characters.

This was a fun book that kept me up late reading.  I recommend it!

*Available September 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.*

Late Check In

After Wednesday, we hit snag, after snag, after snag with our home, and I lived on the phone. The building is going fine, in fact it's just about done. However, the loan officer has not done her job and we seem to be back peddling with stuff that was suppose to be done months ago. So, my brain is not functioning on all cylinders and writing was just not a possibility.
Hoping we can get all this stuff on track and I can get back to my writing.

Days of Noah

Friday, September 13, 2013

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:

Next Step Books (August 13, 2013)

***Special thanks to Keely Leake for sending me a review copy.***


VIRGINIA SMITH, or Ginny to her friends, is an avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction. She writes stories in a variety of styles, from lighthearted romance to breath-snatching suspense. Her books have been finalists for ACFW’s Carol Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, the Maggie Awards, and the National Reader’s Choice Awards. Two of her novels have been honored with Holt Medallion Awards of Merit—A Daughter’s Legacy in 2011 and Dangerous Impostor in 2013.

When she isn’t writing, Ginny enjoys the extremes of nature—riding her motorcycle, snow skiing, and scuba diving. She and her husband, Ted, divide their times between their homes in Utah and Kentucky.

Learn more about Ginny and her books at and on facebook at


The daughter of a pagan priestess believes Noah’s prophecy…especially when she discovers the horrifying secret behind her city’s primary export.

Belief in the One God is dangerous in Cainlan, a technologically advanced city founded on the worship of the god Cain. But when Eliana meets the son of a religious fanatic she is drawn to Shem’s caring manner and deep faith. She believes his assertion that the One God will wipe the earth clean of the corruption that fills it, especially when she discovers a terrifying secret known only to those high in the government’s ruling council.

Though destined to escape her destiny, Eliana’s life has been preordained. Not even Shem’s God can rescue her from the fate for which she was born – becoming the next high priestess to Cain.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.49
Paperback: 374 pages
Publisher: Next Step Books (August 13, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1937671119
ISBN-13: 978-1937671112


A Note from Virginia Smith

The book of Genesis doesn’t have much to say about the society in which Noah and his family lived. What a delight to an author with a vivid imagination, because the framework for stories set during that time period is wide open. All we are told is that in Noah’s day mankind had become evil and corrupt. Many have assumed the culture to be primitive–but what if that assumption is wrong? What if civilization had progressed to the point of cultivating technology? What if Noah’s society had developed some of the alarming elements of our own society?

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

(Matthew 24:37)

Part One

City of the God

Chapter 1

Behind a well-bloodied altar, the high priestess stood ramrod straight, a razor-sharp blade poised above her head. Eliana matched the rigid posture, her gaze riveted on the glistening knife gripped in her mother’s hands. A lamb lay bleating in terror on the altar, held in place by two blue-robed priestesses. Knots formed in Eliana’s stomach, and she averted her gaze from the struggling animal. Gathered in the courtyard before the open-air dais, the mesmerized crowd drew an audible breath, anticipating the moment of the knife’s descent.
From her position on the rear of the dais, deep beneath the shade of the golden canopy, Eliana watched her mother’s slender back, taut cords of muscle plainly visible beneath the filmy white gown. Her gaze shifted to the opposite side of the platform where another dark-haired priestess waited. The woman’s hand rested gently, almost lovingly, on the shoulder of a child. The last of the morning’s sacrifices stood motionless, watching the ritual through drug-laden eyes.
The crowd roared approval as the knife fell, and Eliana’s stomach lurched. By sheer force of will she remained outwardly passive, though her throat convulsed with the effort of keeping her breakfast in place. Why did the blood still disturb her so? Sacrifices had been part of her daily routine for years, since she ascended from the temple’s nursery to dwell in the upper halls. High Priestess Liadan made no secret of the fact that she despised this weakness in her daughter, and that Eliana must master her squeamishness. She had no choice. For in only a few years, Eliana would be called to take her mother’s place at the altar.
A movement among the masses caught her eye. A man dressed in farmer’s trousers and a loose-fitting shirt turned away to push through the crowd. Before the people closed in and hid him from view, he looked once more toward the dais where the high priestess stood. Even from the distance, his distaste at the spectacle showed clearly on his face. He shook his head sadly before disappearing into the crowd.
As the attendant priestesses removed the lamb’s carcass, Eliana’s gaze traveled once again to the opposite end of the dais. All hair had been shaved from the child’s head, making the gender impossible to determine. A white linen robe hung loosely from thin shoulders, and as Eliana watched, the priestess gently nudged the child toward the stairs leading to the altar. For one moment, dark, dull eyes locked onto Eliana’s in an unfocused stare.
With the speed of a lion attacking its prey, repugnance struck her like a physical assault. Burning acid surged into her throat, and her knees threatened to buckle. She shrank against the heavy gold curtain behind her. One urgent thought pummeled her brain: escape, before she vomited. If forced to watch one more sacrifice this morning, she would shame herself, her mother, and worst of all, the mighty god, Cain.
Though she would certainly be called to task later, Eliana slipped behind the curtain into the temple, and ran.

Breath burning in her lungs, Eliana catapulted through a side door that led from the temple into a secluded corner of the public gardens. Bright sunlight assaulted her eyes after the dim lighting of the temple corridors. She stopped on the cobbled walkway to recover her breath, inhaling deep draughts of rose-scented air to clear the stench of sacrificial blood from her nostrils. In the distance she heard the roar of a hundred exhilarated voices and knew the final sacrifice of the morning had been performed. An image rose unbidden in her mind: sightless eyes, dark and dull, stared skyward as the child’s life dripped into the high priestess’s chalice to appease the hungry god.
Huge gulps of cool morning air tasted sweet against the bitter bile that again threatened to choke her.
No! She pressed fists against her eyes. Think of something else.
“Alms, lady?”
Startled, she opened her eyes to see a filthy urchin before her. He must have been hiding behind the hedge that lined the cobbled path. Beggars were unusual in the secluded cluster of shops and taverns that surrounded the temple gardens. In the unlikely event one decided to try his luck inside the ornamental iron gates separating the private marketplace from the press of Cainlan’s city streets, dozens of uniformed guardsman were normally on hand to point out his error. This child had somehow escaped notice. The bones in his wrist protruded beneath thin, dirt-encrusted skin as he thrust his palm toward her, gazing up with liquid brown eyes.
Eyes that flickered with life.
Eliana reached for the bag that hung at her side when she shopped. Then she remembered. She hadn’t needed a bag for the morning sacrifice. It was back in her rooms in the temple’s resident hall.
“I’m sorry. I’ve nothing to give.”
Disbelief flashed across the child’s features. His gaze dropped to take in her silk gown, followed by a smirk of disgust. He spat, barely missing her embroidered slippers, and ran off. She watched as he ducked under the cover of a thick, flowering bush.
At least he was alive to run away.
When the urchin was out of sight, Eliana hesitated. Duty demanded that she return to the temple. Girta would be waiting in her rooms with something cool and calming to drink. But this morning the thick stone walls of the only home she’d ever known threatened to press the breath right out of her body.
With a guilty backward glance, Eliana turned away from the temple and hurried down the walkway, her silken gown whispering around her feet. The gardens lay inside the high hedge to her right. At the center a statue of Cain towered above the greenery, his back to the temple dedicated to his service. Sometimes that ever-watchful presence comforted her, but in recent days, with her official entry into the priesthood drawing nearer, the god’s regard presented a menacing force that haunted her dreams. She kept her head turned away.
At the far end of the stone and wood shops that comprised the market square rose the imposing building that housed the Cabinet of Energy. She avoided looking in that direction as well. The smooth, polished walls, so different from the rough hewn stone of the temple, stirred feelings of disquiet deep in her stomach. The sun’s rays reflected off glass panels, blinding her and hiding the actions of those who worked within doing … what? The workings of Cainlan’s government were largely a mystery, at least to a fledgling priestess. Each morning men and women filed inside clutching satchels and moving with quick, hurried steps that gave the impression of important activities awaiting them inside the shining walls. At the end of the day, those same men and women filed out carrying the same satchels. At night the energy-powered lights lining the roof cast a harsh glow into the sky and blotted out the twinkling stars. In daylight, the building stood as a gleaming symbol of progress, staring defiance across the gardens toward the ancient temple and the statue of the god the temple served.
When the building was erected ten years before, Liadan’s voice had snapped with irritation whenever it was mentioned. But in recent years the High Priestess’s attitude had undergone a change. Though Eliana still heard the occasional grumble about ‘that monstrosity’ blocking her view of the city that sprawled to the south, her mother had ceased grumbling about the government. The reason, Eliana suspected, had little to do with politics and everything to do with Captor, the handsome governor whose first official project after his appointment was to champion the building project.
Eliana jumped when a loud blast from a horn signaled the end of the sacrifice ceremony. Within moments the walkway filled with people intent on their own errands. Shopkeepers threw open their shutters and attempted to coax customers through their doorways with promises of bargains and temple-blessed wares. Eliana allowed herself to be swept along toward the far end of the market square, where she turned into the relative peace of a narrow alleyway.
The scent of freshly baked bread carried from the corner bakery, so like the kitchen near the temple nursery. She missed those peaceful years, when she’d been too young to attract her mother’s attention beyond the obligatory monthly visits to the high priestess’s chambers.
A movement ahead caught her eye. The pet shop owner wrestled a heavy iron cage through the doorway of his store. Inside, a colorful bird squawked in protest at the rough handling. Another man emerged from the shop in the owner’s wake, his quiet voice easily heard in the narrow confines of the alley.
“I’m quite sure my father would be interested in a pair, if you could manage to find a female.”
At a glimpse of his profile, her breath caught in her throat. He was the man she had seen in the crowd, the farmer who had turned away before the end of the sacrificial ritual.
The shop owner placed the cage near the window and faced his customer, hands on his hips. “Your father has quite a collection by now, I’d say.”
A warm laugh rumbled toward her. “That he does, but none like this.”
Collection? Was the stranger’s father a bird handler, then? A pair of women entered the alley, chatting with one another as they headed toward the fabric shop at the far end. Curious, Eliana crept closer to the men, her eyes averted but her ears tuned to their conversation.
“My supplier can find a female, but they’re expensive. They come all the way from Enoch, and the roads are dangerous these days.” The shop owner shook his head. “I’ll need payment in advance.”
A shadow fell across Eliana, accompanied by the stench of rotten breath. She whirled and lifted her eyes to a face much closer than she liked. A man, tall and broad-shouldered, towered over her. His companion, whose clothes bore evidence of much wear and little washing, stepped behind her to successfully box her in. Narrowed eyes glinted down at her as cracked lips parted in a grin.
Alarm plunged into her belly.
“What do we have here? A lady in fancy clothes.”
He fingered the gold-embroidered silk of her gown where it draped across her collarbone, and Eliana drew breath to voice an outraged protest. His rough hand brushed against her breast. Her words died unspoken while icy fear froze the blood in her veins. She shrank away, but the man behind her formed an immovable barrier. Twisting sideways, she pressed her back against the stone wall. Why had she run off without a cloak to cover her gown? She might as well have strung gold coins from her ears and invited thieves to take them. Hadn’t Girta warned her over and over? She cast about frantically for a means of escape, but could not tear her gaze from the menacing grin blocking her view. Could she outrun them, make a dash for the alley entrance?
As though he heard her thought, the man raised a meaty arm and planted his hand against the stone beside her, entrapping her in a cage of sweaty flesh.
The second man lifted a fat finger to point at her face. “Hey, I know her. She was up by the altar.”
The first man’s grin deepened. “A priestess, eh?” He put his other hand on the wall beside her head and leaned closer. “I’ve heard some of them priestesses can be mighty friendly to a working man when they’re asked real nice.”
The man’s hand dropped to her shoulder and slid down her arm. A trail of fire seared her skin where his fingers touched, and a fierce trembling in her knees threatened to drop her to the cobbled ground. She had to get away, to run to the safety of the temple, and of Girta’s arms.
“I—” Her voice failed her. She gulped and tried again. “I must get back. I’m…I’m expected.”
The second man’s low chuckle resonated in her ears. “What’s the hurry? We’ve got a nice place out in the city where—”
“Pardon my intrusion.”
Eliana jerked her gaze to the man who suddenly appeared behind her captors. The farmer who’d been bargaining for the colorful bird. Anger erupted on the faces of the ruffians as they turned toward him, shoulder-to-shoulder. Their backs formed a wall of muscle and flesh in front of Eliana.
Courtesy and steel blended in the farmer’s soft voice. “I’m concluding my business here, and then I can accompany the lady back to the temple.”
The backs of her captors swelled until they seemed to double in size. “Mind your business. This lady don’t need no dirt digger to take her anywhere.”
The farmer’s soft voice did not change. “I think she does.”
As one, they took a menacing step toward him. With a quick sideways movement, Eliana slid out of their reach. Without a backward glance, she dashed blindly down the alley. Half a breath later she realized her mistake. She should have run the other way, toward the alley’s entrance and the safety of the wide-open gardens where the marketplace guards would see her. There was no place to go in this direction except into one of the shops in this tiny alley. She skidded to a halt behind the dubious protection of the metal birdcage, just as the animal keeper emerged from the open doorway of his shop. In one hand he carried a short but sturdy club, which he slapped rhythmically into the palm of the other as he stalked toward the place where the farmer stood his ground before the pair of brutes.
“Here now, we’ll have none of this. Be on your way.”
The larger of the thugs glanced toward Eliana, clearly considering whether or not she was worth pursuing. She huddled behind the cage, fear coursing down her spine. Though the farmer stood half a head taller, they both possessed arms nearly the width of Eliana’s waist, and were decades younger than the shopkeeper. If they decided to fight, could she scream loud enough to attract the attention of the temple guards? Were there any guards near enough to come to their aid?
The first ruffian turned his head and spat. “Let’s go.” Apparently he didn’t mind the odds of two men against one petite woman, but didn’t relish the idea of pairing off against other men.
His companion hesitated, and then joined him. Eliana’s rescuers did not move until the thugs had left the alley.
When her would-be attackers were out of sight, she sagged against the shop’s doorway, eyes closed, and willed her heartbeat to slow. Footsteps approached.
“Are you hurt, lady?”
She shook her head and looked up into the kind gray eyes of the farmer. “I’m fine, thanks to you.” She slid her gaze to include the shopkeeper. “Thanks to you both.”
The man slapped his club once more into his palm. “I’ll have a word with the guards, I will. We don’t need their kind in here. The temple marketplace should be safe for priestesses.” He peered at her. “Seen you here before, I have. You won’t warn your friends not to come?”
Eliana’s smile trembled nearly as much as her knees. She saw no need to correct his assumption that she was a priestess. “I’ll tell everyone I know of your bravery and how you rescued me from…” She shuddered, unable to contemplate exactly what she’d been rescued from at the hands of those crude men. Something terrible, for certain.
He jerked a satisfied nod. “That’s alright, then.”
The farmer smiled, tiny lines deepening around his kind eyes. He was tall and trim with muscular arms evident beneath a loose-fitting shirt the color of mature wheat. A plain strip of leather at the base of his neck secured dark hair sprinkled lightly with silver.
She looked toward the alley’s entrance. “Thank you again. I should go.” The thought of leaving the safety these men provided set her pulse racing once again. Were the two ruffians out of sight, waiting for her to leave her rescuers’ company?
The man followed her gaze. “If you’re returning to the temple, I’ll go with you.”
Relief flooded her. She didn’t trust her voice, but accepted his offer with a nod.
He turned to the animal keeper and gestured toward the cage. “About that bird. I’ll need to check with my father concerning the expense.”
“My supplier leaves in six days. I don’t know when he’ll make another trip.”
The farmer dipped his forehead. “Then I will return in five.”
The shop owner waved a hand in dismissal, and with a final smile in her direction, disappeared into his shop. When he was out of sight, the handsome stranger watched the bird smooth the colorful feathers that covered its wing, an unreadable expression on his face. Wistful, maybe? Or merely secretive?
His expression cleared, and he gestured toward the market square’s main walkway. “Shall we?”
Eliana fell in step beside him. His arms swung at his sides with an easy grace as he walked. She had to hurry to keep up with his long-legged gait.
“I heard you mention that your father is a bird collector.” Her mouth snapped shut on the last word. She’d just given herself away as an eavesdropper.
He seemed not to notice. “Not really, though he is keenly interested in animals of all kinds, especially those from distant lands.”
“Is he a breeder, then?”
“Not exactly.” For one moment, his lips twitched with a secret. “My father is a simple farmer, as are I and my two brothers. He’s also something of a carpenter.” He pulled up short as they approached the end of the alley, and turned to face her. “I’ve not introduced myself. Forgive me. I am Shem de Noah, eldest son of Noah and Midian.”
He executed a formal half-bow and gave her an expectant look.
Eliana tore her gaze from his face. How should she identify herself, her parentage? Hadn’t Girta warned her more than once against telling anyone who she was? She avoided his eyes. The crowd on the marketplace walkways had dwindled to a handful of shoppers who hurried past. The two men she feared were not in sight. Maybe she should forgo the introduction and make a hasty exit.
One look into his warm gray eyes and her desire to part this man’s company dissolved. Her father’s name was a common one. Perhaps Shem wouldn’t make the connection to the famous man who was, after all, a complete stranger to her.
She mimicked Shem’s bow. “I am Eliana de Ashbel.” She left off the traditional identification of her maternal parent. There was, after all, only one Liadan. The name was recognized the world over.
His features did not change as he nodded. “I thought so. You’re the primogenitor, the heiress to the high priestess. I saw you on the dais this morning, behind your mother.”
A quick breath hissed as it entered her lungs. She hadn’t needed to identify her mother. Of course he would recognize the name of the former governor of Cainlan, and make the connection. She’d been foolish to think otherwise. Girta would be beyond furious that she had revealed her identity to a stranger after promising faithfully never to do so.
“I—I shouldn't have stayed so long.” She edged sideways, toward the temple. “Thank you for helping me.”
“Why are you frightened?” Shem’s outstretched hand hovered in the air between them. “You have nothing to fear from me. I promised to see you safely home, and I will keep my word.”
The entreaty in his voice stopped her. Unlike the two who had frightened her in the alley, no hidden intentions lurked in Shem’s face. He would not harm her. She relented and allowed him to walk beside her.
In silence they traveled the wide path toward the temple. A pair of uniformed guardsmen appeared on the walkway in front of them, their faces lighting with recognition when they caught sight of her. One straightened, his shoulders back in an almost-salute, but the other merely dipped his head in a silent greeting as they passed. Eliana did not acknowledge them, but Shem returned the gesture with a pleasant nod of his own.
When the side entryway through which Eliana had escaped earlier came into view, Shem’s step slowed.
“Can you stay a moment and talk?” He gestured toward an empty bench near the tall hedge that bordered the temple gardens. “I’ve some time before I meet my friend.”
Eliana glanced at the position of the sun. She really should return to her rooms. Yet something about this man intrigued her. What harm was there in a moment or two’s delay?
“Girta won’t raise the alarm quite this soon.” She crossed the cobbled path and perched on the iron seat.
Shem joined her. “I never expected to see the primogenitor alone in the marketplace. With a flock of protective priestesses or temple guards in tow, perhaps, but not alone.”
“No one knows I'm here.” Their immediate surroundings were vacant, with no one to overhear her confession. “I slipped away just before the end of the morning ceremony.” She almost added, as you did.
“And is Girta a priestess, then?”
“Oh no, she's my nursemaid. Or—” She fought a blush, embarrassed to have him think she still needed nursing. “—she was my nursemaid, from the day I was born. Now she’s my maid, but she still treats me like I crawled out of the cradle yesterday. She worries that someone will try to steal me away.”
The moment the words were spoken, an ugly realization struck her. Apparently Girta’s fears were not unfounded. That is exactly what nearly happened.
Shem nodded, his expression solemn. “The heir to the high priestess of Cain could command a high price in some quarters. That aside, the city is full of unscrupulous men who would take advantage of a beautiful young woman, no matter what her position may be. You should be more cautious.”
Eliana hid her delight in his compliment by brushing a piece of dried grass from the hem of her silky gown. Did he find her beautiful? When she’d regained her composure, she settled against the back of the bench. In the distance, from the direction of the temple stables, the clang of metal played a rhythmic accompaniment to the low murmur of barely audible shoppers’ voices. “Tell me of your father’s farm. Is it near the city?”
“No, we live to the west of here.”
The temple rested on the northern edge of Cainlan, with the city sprawling outward from its protected gates on three sides. The window of Eliana’s room looked westward upon the city’s narrow streets, crowded with dwellings and packed with people and animals. No farmland lay beyond the city’s edge in that direction, only a barren ribbon of land, and beyond that, a deep canopy of green. “Your farm is in the forest?”
“Just beyond, a half-day’s journey by wagon.”
“Wagon?” She gave a small laugh. “Not many people travel by wagon these days.”
Secrets appeared again in the smoky eyes. “No doubt we’re a little backward by modern standards. My father isn’t fond of landriders, or the energy that runs them.”
Eliana looked away, embarrassed. Perhaps Shem’s family was poor, and couldn’t afford a rider, or the energy cartridges to power it.
She searched for a topic to distract him from her ill-mannered comment. “Tell me of your home. I’ve never seen a real farm, only the lands that surround Cainlan. Girta tells me they’re not proper farms, like the ones where her people used to live in the south.”
Shem extended his long legs and folded his arms behind his head as he described his home. He spoke of working the fields and harvesting produce, of his love for animals, and his favorite exotic birds. He possessed a passion for feathered creatures that surpassed his father’s. Enthralled, she listened as he detailed the ways to care for captive birds, of their strict dietary requirements and the importance of providing an atmosphere free from stress.
Long before Eliana tired of listening, a piercing signal blasted from the Cabinet of Energy building to mark the hour.
He straightened abruptly. “I am late. I’ve delayed you much longer than I realized.”
Disappointment sank through her, but Girta must have noticed her absence by now, and begun to worry. Even worse, what if the high priestess had summoned her daughter to reprimand her for leaving the morning ceremony early, and no one knew where to find her?
That thought sent Eliana scrambling to her feet. “I've enjoyed meeting you, Shem de Noah. Perhaps we can talk again sometime.”
He shaded his eyes with a hand as he stood. “I hope so. Sometimes my wife comes to the city with me, and I think she would enjoy talking with you as well.”
His wife? She struggled to school her features against a wash of disappointment. The term told her much. Followers of the One God joined in marriage for life instead of forming normal marital alliances. For some reason, she found his admission that he practiced this old-fashioned custom oddly embarrassing. “Of course. I’d… like to meet her.”
The proper thing to say, though untrue.
He ducked his head in an invitation to force her to look up, into his face. Smiling gray eyes peered deeply into hers. “I hope we meet again, Eliana. I will add you to my daily prayers, and ask the One God to watch over you.”
Blood surged through her veins to roar in her ears. What daring, to mention the One God to the daughter of the high priestess of Cain. Was this man a fanatic, then?
With a final sideways grin, as though fully aware of the lapse he’d just committed, his fingers touched his forehead and he strode away.
Eliana cracked the door wide enough to slip through. Just before she pulled the heavy iron latch closed, she glanced at his retreating back. Amazing that she, the primogenitor, would meet a follower of the One God in the very shadow of the temple dedicated to the service of Cain.
Now she knew two who practiced that outdated religion.
I requested this book in e-format and the copy I received I couldn't read, when I asked for a new copy I never heard back.

Shades of Mercy

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Shades of Mercy
River North; New Edition edition (September 1, 2013)
Anita Lustrea
Caryn Rivendara


Authentic. That’s the word heard over and over when women describe Anita Lustrea. She is a popular speaker at women’s conferences and retreats, and an amazing communicator as co-host of the award winning Midday Connection radio broadcast. Her deep desire is to communicate freedom to women and help them nurture and care for their soul. Anita is the co-author of “Come to Our Table: A Midday Connection Cookbook” and “Daily Seeds from Women Who Walk in Faith”, a Devotional for women. Her first solo venture as an author releases in November, 2010, “What Women Tell Me: finding freedom from the secrets we keep.” Anita and her husband, Mike Murphy, a pastor, along with her teenage son John live in the Chicago suburbs. When she’s not traveling or speaking, you can find her reading and drinking a venti hot tea at her local Starbucks.


Caryn is a sought-after writer and speaker. She’s the author of four books—Shades of Mercy: A Maine Chronicle (River North, September 2013), Known & Loved: 52 Devotions from the Psalms (Revell, April 2013), Grumble Hallelujah (Tyndale House, September 2011), and Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. (WaterBrook Press, March 2009)–and a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics as well as columnist for Re:Frame Media’s ThinkChristian blog. She has written dozens of magazine article. Her work has appeared in such publications as Christianity Today, Relevant, FamilyLife, and Engineering and Mining Journal (you read that right). Caryn leads workshops and speaks at conferences and church groups across the country. She’s also a regular guest on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection with Anita Lustrea and Melinda Schmidt and has been featured on such radio shows as The John and Kathy Show, Changing Worldviews/WOMANTalk with Sharon Hughes, I Thought She Said with Faith Daly, The Paul Edwards Program with Paul Edwards, and Talk from the Heart with Rich Buhler, among many others. Caryn also appeared on The Harvest Show. Caryn earned a B.A. in English from Calvin College and attended the University of Chicago’s publishing program. She lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Rafael, her three kids, a rescued pit bull terrier, two hermit crabs, and several tank fulls of who-knows-what-kind-of fish. Caryn and her family are members of Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church in Elmhurst, Illinois, where Caryn recently joined the worship staff.

It's 1954 and the world-even the far Northwoods of Maine-is about to change. But that change can't happen soon enough for fourteen-year-old Mercy Millar. Long tired of being the "son" her father never had, Mercy's ready for the world to embrace her as the young woman she is-as well as embrace the forbidden love she feels. When childhood playmates grow up and fall in love, the whole community celebrates. But in the case of Mercy and Mick, there would be no celebration. Instead their relationship must stay hidden. Good girls do not date young men from the Maliseet tribe. At least, not in Watsonville, Maine. When racial tensions escalate and Mick is thrown in jail under suspicion of murder, Mercy nearly loses all hope-in love, in her father, and in God himself.

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

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