Monday, May 31, 2010

May Reading Wrap Up

In the month of May I read 21 books. Much better than previous months. I read one nonfiction book, For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. It definitely enlightened me on some of the things men think and why. My absolute favorites are in bold below. Hurricanes in Paradise is going on my top favorites for the year list. My review will be up next week. I read the last book in two great Christian YA series, Love Will Keep Us Together and So Over My Head. Both I highly recommend. I had a good variety of historical, YA, contemporary, women's, classics, mystery/suspense and non fiction. :)

May
104. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
105. Love Will Keep Us Together by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
106. Maggie Rose by Sharlene MacLaren
107. It Had to Be You by Janice Thompson
108. Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
109. A Silent Fury by Lynette Eason
110. Witness to Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
111. More Than Great Riches by Jan Washburn
112. Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl and April Henry
113. This Fine Life by Eva Marie Everson
114. A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher
115. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (NF)
116. Deadly Disclosures by Julie Cave
117. The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman
118. So Over My Head by Jenny B. Jones
119. A Daughter's Legacy by Virgina Smith
120. Evidence of Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
121. Steadfast Soldier by Cheryl Wyatt
122. Cowboy for Keeps by Debra Clopton
123. Nowhere, Carolina by Tamara Leigh
124. Abbie Ann by Sharlene MacLaren
125. Hurricanes in Paradise by Denise Hildreth (Going on favorites for year list too)

Clear Away the Clutter Challenge Wrap Up



Kate at the Neverending Shelf is hosting this challenge:
http://www.theneverendingshelf.com/2010/01/clear-clutter-mini-challenge.html

Your goal is read as many titles as you can and pass along those that you do not absolutely want to keep. The mini challenge begins March 1st and ends May 31st. I am signing up for the level Organizer: Read and clean out 15 titles.

I did not complete this challenge. Achk. I have read a lot of good books in the past three months. I have gotten rid of some but I did not read most of them in this time period. So I say the challenge was not a complete failure because it did get me to doing something about all the books I have that are not absolute keepers. I listed some on PBS and already 9 have been requested from me. :)

Its Monday What Are You Reading? May 31, 2010


What I read last week:
- Steadfast Soldier by Cheryl Wyatt
- Cowboy for Keeps by Debra Clopton
- Nowhere, Carolina by Tamara Leigh
- Abbie Ann by Sharlene MacLaren
What I am currently reading:
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Green Like God by Jonathan Merritt
- I'll Mature When I am Dead by Dave Barry
What I am reading next:
- A Hopeful Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer
- Snow Melts in Spring by Deborah Vogts
- Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts
- A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer
What I reviewed last week:

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/05/matter-of-character-by-robin-lee.html

A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer

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:


A Tailor-Made Bride

Bethany House (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Witemeyer for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Karen Witemeyer holds a master's degree in psychology from Abilene Christian University and is a member of ACFW, RWA, and the Texas Coalition of Authors. She has published fiction in Focus on the Family's children's magazine, and has written several articles for online publications and anthologies. Tailor-Made Bride is her first novel. Karen lives in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764207555
ISBN-13: 978-0764207556

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

San Antonio, Texas—March 1881
“Red? Have you no shame, Auntie Vic? You can’t be buried in a scarlet gown.”

“It’s cerise, Nan.”

Hannah Richards bit back a laugh as Victoria Ashmont effectively put her nephew’s wife in her place with three little words. Trying hard to appear as if she wasn’t listening to her client’s conversation, Hannah pulled the last pin from between her lips and slid it into the hem of the controversial fabric.

“Must you flout convention to the very end?” Nan’s whine heightened to a near screech as she stomped toward the door. A delicate sniff followed by a tiny hiccup foreshadowed the coming of tears. “Sherman and I will be the ones to pay the price. You’ll make us a laughingstock among our friends. But then, you’ve never cared for anyone except yourself, have you?”

Miss Victoria pivoted with impressive speed, the cane she used for balance nearly clobbering Hannah in the head as she spun.

“You may have my nephew wrapped around your little finger, but don’t think you can manipulate me with your theatrics.” Like an angry goddess from the Greek myths, Victoria Ashmont held her chin at a regal angle and pointed her aged hand toward the woman who dared challenge her. Hannah almost expected a lightning bolt to shoot from her finger to disintegrate Nan where she stood.

“You’ve been circling like a vulture since the day Dr. Bowman declared my heart to be failing, taking over the running of my household and plotting how to spend Sherman’s inheritance. Well, you won’t be controlling me, missy. I’ll wear what I choose, when I choose, whether or not you approve. And if your friends have nothing better to do at a funeral than snicker about your great aunt’s attire, perhaps you’d do well to find some companions with a little more depth of character.”

Nan’s affronted gasp echoed through the room like the crack of a mule skinner’s whip.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Miss Victoria called out as her niece yanked open the bedchamber door. “You’ll have my money to console you. I’m sure you’ll recover from any embarrassment I cause in the blink of an eye.”

The door slammed shut, and the resulting bang appeared to knock the starch right out of Miss Victoria. She wobbled, and Hannah lurched to her feet to steady the elderly lady.

“Here, ma’am. Why don’t you rest for a minute?” Hannah gripped her client’s arm and led her to the fainting couch at the foot of the large four-poster bed that dominated the room. “Would you like me to ring for some tea?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, girl. I’m not so infirm that a verbal skirmish leaves me in want of fortification. I just need to catch my breath.”

Hannah nodded, not about to argue. She gathered her sewing box instead, collecting her shears, pins, and needle case from where they lay upon the thick tapestry carpet.

She had sewn for Miss Victoria for the last eighteen months, and it disturbed her to see the woman reduced to tremors and pallor so easily. The eccentric spinster never shied from a fight and always kept her razor-sharp tongue at the ready.

Hannah had felt the lash of that tongue herself on several occasions, but she’d developed a thick skin over the years. A woman making her own way in the world had to toughen up quickly or get squashed. Perhaps that was why she respected Victoria Ashmont enough to brave her scathing comments time after time. The woman had been living life on her own terms for years and had done well for herself in the process. True, she’d had money and the power of the Ashmont name to lend her support, but from all public reports—and a few overheard conversations—it was clear Victoria Ashmont’s fortune had steadily grown during her tenure as head of the family, not dwindled, which was more than many men could say. Hannah liked to think that, given half a chance, she’d be able to duplicate the woman’s success. At least to a modest degree.

“How long have you worked for Mrs. Granbury, Miss Richards?”

Hannah jumped at the barked question and scurried back to Miss Victoria’s side, her sewing box tucked under her arm. “Nearly two years, ma’am.”

“Hmmph.” The woman’s cane rapped three staccato beats against the leg of the couch before she continued. “I nagged that woman for years to hire some girls with gumption. I was pleased when she finally took my advice. Your predecessors failed to last more than a month or two with me. Either I didn’t approve of their workmanship, or they couldn’t stand up to my plain speaking. It’s a dratted nuisance having to explain my preferences over and over to new girls every time I need something made up. I’ve not missed that chore.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hannah’s forehead scrunched. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought Victoria Ashmont might have just paid her a compliment.

“Have you ever thought of opening your own shop?”

Hannah’s gaze flew to her client’s face. Miss Victoria’s slate gray eyes assessed her, probing, drilling into her core, as if she meant to rip the truth from her with or without her consent.

Ducking away from the penetrating stare, Hannah fiddled with the sewing box. “Mrs. Granbury has been good to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to set some of my earnings aside. It will be several years yet, but one day I do hope to set up my own establishment.”

“Good. Now help me get out of this dress.”

Dizzy from the abrupt starts, stops, and turns of the strange conversation, Hannah kept her mouth closed and assisted Miss Victoria. She unfastened the brightly colored silk, careful not to snag the pins on either the delicate material of the gown or on Miss Victoria’s stockings. Once the dress had been safely removed, she set it aside and helped the woman don a loose-fitting wrapper.

“I’m anxious to have these details put in order,” Miss Victoria said as she took a seat at the ladies’ writing desk along the east wall. “I will pay you a bonus if you will stay here and finish the garment for me before you leave. You may use the chair in the corner.” She gestured toward a small upholstered rocker that sat angled toward the desk.

Hannah’s throat constricted. Her mind scrambled for a polite refusal, yet she found no excuse valid enough to withstand Miss Victoria’s scrutiny. Left with no choice, she swallowed her misgivings and forced the appropriate reply past her lips.

“As you wish.”

Masking her disappointment, Hannah set her box of supplies on the floor near the chair Miss Victoria had indicated and turned to fetch the dress.

She disliked sewing in front of clients. Though her tiny boardinghouse room was dim and lacked the comforts afforded in Miss Victoria’s mansion, the solitude saved her from suffering endless questions and suggestions while she worked.

Hannah drew in a deep breath. I might as well make the best of it. No use dwelling on what couldn’t be changed. It was just a hem and few darts to compensate for her client’s recent weight loss. She could finish the task in less than an hour.

Miss Victoria proved gracious. She busied herself with papers of some kind at her desk and didn’t interfere with Hannah’s work. She did keep up a healthy stream of chatter, though.

“You probably think me morbid for finalizing all my funeral details in advance.” Miss Victoria lifted the lid of a small silver case and extracted a pair of eyeglasses. She wedged them onto her nose and began leafing through a stack of documents in a large oak box.

Hannah turned back to her stitching. “Not morbid, ma’am. Just . . . efficient.”

“Hmmph. Truth is, I know I’m dying, and I’d rather go out in a memorable fashion than slip away quietly, never to be thought of again.”

“I’m sure your nephew will remember you.” Hannah glanced up as she twisted the dress to allow her better access to the next section of hem.

“Sherman? Bah! That boy would forget his own name if given half a chance.” Miss Victoria pulled a document out of the box. She set it in front of her, then dragged her inkstand close and unscrewed the cap. “I’ve got half a mind to donate my estate to charity instead of letting it sift through my nephew’s fingers. He and that flighty wife of his will surely do nothing of value with it.” A heavy sigh escaped her. “But they are family, after all, and I suppose I’ll no longer care about how the money is spent after I’m gone.”

Hannah poked her needle up and back through the red silk in rapid succession, focused on making each stitch even and straight. It wasn’t her place to offer advice, but it burned on her tongue nonetheless. Any church or charitable organization in the city could do a great amount of good with even a fraction of the Ashmont estate. Miss Victoria could make several small donations without her nephew ever knowing the difference. Hannah pressed her lips together and continued weaving her needle in and out, keeping her unsolicited opinion to herself.

She was relieved when a soft tapping at the door saved her from having to come up with an appropriate response.

A young maid entered and bobbed a curtsy. “The post has arrived, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Millie.” Miss Victoria accepted the envelope. “You may go.”

The sound of paper ripping echoed in the quiet room as Miss Victoria slid her letter opener through the upper edge of the flap.

“Well, I must give the gentleman credit for persistence,” the older woman murmured. “This is the third letter he’s sent in two months.”

Hannah turned the dress again and bent her head a little closer to her task, hoping to escape Miss Victoria’s notice. It was not to be. The older woman’s voice only grew louder and more pointed as she continued.

“He wants to buy one of my railroad properties.”

Hannah made the mistake of looking up. Miss Victoria’s eyes, magnified by the lenses she wore, demanded a response. Yet how did a working-class seamstress participate in a conversation of a personal nature with one so above her station? She didn’t want to offend by appearing uninterested. However, showing too keen an interest might come across as presumptuous. Hannah floundered to find a suitably innocuous response and finally settled on, “Oh?”

It seemed to be enough, and Miss Victoria turned back to her correspondence as she continued her ramblings.

“When the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway out of Galveston started up construction again last year, I invested in a handful of properties along the proposed route, in towns that were already established. I’ve made a tidy profit on most, but for some reason, I find myself reluctant to part with this one.”

An expectant pause hung in the air. Keeping her eyes on her work, Hannah voiced the first thought that came to mind.

“Does the gentleman not make a fair offer?”

“No, Mr. Tucker proposes a respectable price.” Miss Victoria tapped the handle of the letter opener against the desktop in a rhythmic pattern, then seemed to become aware of what she was doing and set it aside. “Perhaps I am reticent because I do not know the man personally. He is in good standing with the bank in Coventry and by all accounts is respected in the community, yet in the past I’ve made my decision to sell after meeting with the buyer in person. Unfortunately, my health precludes that now.”

“Coventry?” Hannah seized upon the less personal topic. “I’m not familiar with that town.”

“That’s because it’s about two hundred miles north of here—and it is quite small. The surveyors tell me it’s in a pretty little spot along the North Bosque River. I had hoped to visit, but it looks as if I won’t be afforded that opportunity.”

Hannah tied off her thread and snipped the tail. She reached for her spool and unwound another long section, thankful that the discussion had finally moved in a more neutral direction. She clipped the end of the thread and held the needle up to gauge the position of the eye.

“What do you think, Miss Richards? Should I sell it to him?”

The needle slipped out of her hand.

“You’re asking me?”

“Is there another Miss Richards in the room? Of course I’m asking you.” She clicked her tongue in disappointment. “Goodness, girl. I’ve always thought you to be an intelligent sort. Have I been wrong all this time?”

That rankled. Hannah sat a little straighter and lifted her chin. “No, ma’am.”

“Good.” Miss Victoria slapped her palm against the desk. “Now, tell me what you think.”

If the woman was determined to have her speak her mind, Hannah would oblige. This was the last project she’d ever sew for the woman anyway. It couldn’t hurt. The only problem was, she’d worked so hard not to form an opinion during this exchange, that now that she was asked for one, she had none to give. Trying not to let the silence rush her into saying something that would indeed prove her lacking in intellect, she scrambled to gather her thoughts while she searched for the dropped needle.

“It seems to me,” she said, uncovering the needle along with a speck of insight, “you need to decide if you would rather have the property go to a man you know only by reputation or to the nephew you know through experience.” Hannah lifted her gaze to meet Miss Victoria’s and held firm, not allowing the woman’s critical stare to cow her. “Which scenario gives you the greatest likelihood of leaving behind the legacy you desire?”

Victoria Ashmont considered her for several moments, her eyes piercing Hannah and bringing to mind the staring contests the school boys used to challenge her to when she was still in braids. The memory triggered her competitive nature, and a stubborn determination to win rose within her.

At last, Miss Victoria nodded and turned away. “Thank you, Miss Richards. I think I have my answer.”

Exultation flashed through her for a brief second at her victory, but self-recrimination soon followed. This wasn’t a schoolyard game. It was an aging woman’s search to create meaning in her death.

“Forgive my boldness, ma’am.”

Her client turned back and wagged a bony finger at Hannah. “Boldness is exactly what you need to run your own business, girl. Boldness, skill, and a lot of hard work. When you get that shop of yours, hardships are sure to find their way to your doorstep. Confidence is the only way to combat them—confidence in yourself and in the God who equips you to overcome. Never forget that.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Feeling chastised and oddly encouraged at the same time, Hannah threaded her needle and returned to work. The scratching of pen against paper replaced the chatter of Miss Victoria’s voice as the woman gave her full attention to the documents spread across her desk. Time passed swiftly, and soon the alterations were complete.

After trying the gown on a second time to assure a proper fit and examining every seam for quality and durability, as was her custom, Victoria Ashmont ushered Hannah down to the front hall.

“My man will see you home, Miss Richards.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Hannah collected her bonnet from the butler and tied the ribbons beneath her chin.

“I will settle my account with Mrs. Granbury by the end of the week, but here is the bonus I promised you.” She held out a plain white envelope.

Hannah accepted it and placed it carefully in her reticule. She dipped her head and made a quick curtsy. “Thank you. I have enjoyed the privilege of working for you, ma’am, and I pray that your health improves so that I might do so again.”

A strange light came into Miss Victoria’s eyes, a secretive gleam, as if she could see into the future. “You have better things to do than make outlandish red dresses for old women, Miss Richards. Don’t waste your energy worrying over my health. I’ll go when it’s my time and not a moment before.”

Hannah smiled as she stepped out the door, sure that not even the angels could drag Miss Victoria away until she was ready to go. Yet underneath the woman’s tough exterior beat a kind heart. Although Hannah didn’t fully understand how kind until she arrived home and opened her bonus envelope.

Instead of the two or three greenbacks she had assumed were tucked inside, she found a gift that stole her breath and her balance. She slumped against the boardinghouse wall and slid down its blue-papered length into a trembling heap on the floor. She blinked several times, but the writing on the paper didn’t change, only blurred as tears welled and distorted her vision.

She held in her hand the deed to her new dress shop in Coventry, Texas.




Chapter One

Coventry, Texas—September 1881
“J.T.! J.T.! I got a customer for ya.” Tom Packard lumbered down the street with his distinctive uneven gait, waving his arm in the air.

Jericho “J.T.” Tucker stepped out of the livery’s office with a sigh and waited for his right-hand man to jog past the blacksmith and bootmaker shops. He’d lost count of how many times he’d reminded Tom not to yell out his business for everyone to hear, but social niceties tended to slip the boy’s notice when he got excited.

It wasn’t his fault, though. At eighteen, Tom had the body of a man, but his mind hadn’t developed quite as far. He couldn’t read a lick and could barely pen his own name, but he had a gentle way with horses, so J.T. let him hang around the stable and paid him to help out with the chores. In gratitude, the boy did everything in his power to prove himself worthy, including trying to drum up clientele from among the railroad passengers who unloaded at the station a mile south of town. After weeks without so much as a nibble, it seemed the kid had finally managed to hook himself a fish.

J.T. leaned a shoulder against the doorframe and slid a toothpick out of his shirt pocket. He clamped the wooden sliver between his teeth and kept his face void of expression save for a single raised brow as Tom stumbled to a halt in front of him. The kid grasped his knees and gulped air for a moment, then unfolded to his full height, which was nearly as tall as his employer. His cheeks, flushed from his exertions, darkened further when he met J.T.’s eye.

“I done forgot about the yelling again, huh? Sorry.” Tom slumped, his chin bending toward his chest.

J.T. gripped the kid’s shoulder, straightened him up, and slapped him on the back. “You’ll remember next time. Now, what’s this about a customer?”

Tom brightened in an instant. “I gots us a good one. She’s right purty and has more boxes and gewgaws than I ever did see. I ’spect there’s enough to fill up the General.”

“The General, huh?” J.T. rubbed his jaw and used the motion to cover his grin.

Tom had names for all the wagons. Fancy Pants was the fringed surrey J.T. kept on hand for family outings or courting couples; the buggy’s name was Doc after the man who rented it out most frequently; the buckboard was just plain Buck; and his freight wagon was affectionately dubbed The General. The kid’s monikers inspired a heap of good-natured ribbing amongst the men who gathered at the livery to swap stories and escape their womenfolk, but over time the names stuck. Just last week, Alistair Smythe plopped down a silver dollar and demanded he be allowed to take Fancy Pants out for a drive. Hearing the pretentious bank clerk use Tom’s nickname for the surrey left the fellas guffawing for days.

J.T. thrust the memory from his mind and crossed his arms over his chest, using his tongue to shift the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “The buckboard is easier to get to. I reckon it’d do the job just as well.”

“I dunno.” Tom mimicked J.T.’s posture, crossing his own arms and leaning against the livery wall. “She said her stuff was mighty heavy and she’d pay extra to have it unloaded at her shop.”

“Shop?” J.T.’s good humor shriveled. His arms fell to his sides as his gaze slid past Tom to the vacant building across the street. The only unoccupied shop in Coventry stood adjacent to Louisa James’s laundry—the shop he’d tried, and failed, to purchase. J.T.’s jaw clenched so tight the toothpick started to splinter. Forcing himself to relax, he straightened away from the doorpost.

“I think she’s a dressmaker,” Tom said. “There were a bunch of them dummies with no heads or arms with her on the platform. Looked right peculiar, them all standin’ around her like they’s gonna start a quiltin’ bee or something.” The kid chuckled at his own joke, but J.T. didn’t join in his amusement.

A dressmaker? A woman who made her living by exploiting the vanity of her customers? That’s who was moving into his shop?

A sick sensation oozed like molasses through his gut as memories clawed over the wall he’d erected to keep them contained.

“So we gonna get the General, J.T.?”

Tom’s question jerked him back to the present and allowed him to stuff the unpleasant thoughts back down where they belonged. He loosened his fingers from the fist he didn’t remember making and adjusted his hat to sit lower on his forehead, covering his eyes. It wouldn’t do for the kid to see the anger that surely lurked there. He’d probably go and make some fool assumption that he’d done something wrong. Or worse, he’d ask questions J.T. didn’t want to answer.

He cleared his throat and clasped the kid’s shoulder. “If you think we need the freight wagon, then we’ll get the freight wagon. Why don’t you harness up the grays then come help me wrangle the General?”

“Yes, sir!” Tom bounded off to the corral to gather the horses, his chest so inflated with pride J.T. was amazed he could see where he was going.

Ducking back inside the livery, J.T. closed up his office and strode past the stalls to the oversized double doors that opened his wagon shed up to the street. He grasped the handle of the first and rolled it backward, using his body weight as leverage. As his muscles strained against the heavy wooden door, his mind struggled to control his rising frustration.

He’d finally accepted the fact that the owner of the shop across the street refused to sell to him. J.T. believed in Providence, that the Lord would direct his steps. He didn’t like it, but he’d worked his way to peace with the decision. Until a few minutes ago. The idea that God would allow it to go to a dressmaker really stuck in his craw.

It wasn’t as if he wanted the shop for selfish reasons. He saw it as a chance to help out a widow and her orphans. Isn’t that what the Bible defined as “pure religion”? What could be nobler than that? Louisa James supported three kids with her laundry business and barely eked out an existence. The building she worked in was crumbling around her ears even though the majority of her income went to pay the rent. He’d planned to buy the adjacent shop and rent it to her at half the price she was currently paying in exchange for storing some of his tack in the large back room.

J.T. squinted against the afternoon sunlight that streamed into the dim stable and strode to the opposite side of the entrance, his indignation growing with every step. Ignoring the handle, he slammed his shoulder into the second door and ground his teeth as he dug his boots into the packed dirt floor, forcing the wood to yield to his will.

How could a bunch of fripperies and ruffles do more to serve the community than a new roof for a family in need? Most of the women in and around Coventry sewed their own clothes, and those that didn’t bought ready-made duds through the dry-goods store or mail order. Sensible clothes, durable clothes, not fashion-plate items that stroked their vanity or elicited covetous desires in their hearts for things they couldn’t afford. A dressmaker had no place in Coventry.

This can’t be God’s will. The world and its schemers had brought her to town, not God.

Horse hooves thudded and harness jangled as Tom led the grays toward the front of the livery.

J.T. blew out a breath and rubbed a hand along his jaw. No matter what had brought her to Coventry, the dressmaker was still a woman, and his father had drummed into him the truth that all women were to be treated with courtesy and respect. So he’d smile and doff his hat and make polite conversation. Shoot, he’d even lug her heavy junk around for her and unload all her falderal. But once she was out of his wagon, he’d have nothing more to do with her.

———

Hannah sat atop one of her five trunks, waiting for young Tom to return. Most of the other passengers had left the depot already, making their way on foot or in wagons with family members who'd come to meet them. Hannah wasn’t about to let her belongings out of her sight, though—or trust them to a porter she didn’t know. So she waited.

Thanks to Victoria Ashmont’s generosity, she’d been able to use the money she’d saved for a shop to buy fabric and supplies. Not knowing what would be available in the small town of Coventry, she brought everything she needed with her. Including her prized possession—a Singer Improved Family Model 15 treadle machine with five-drawer walnut cabinet and extension leaf. The monster weighed nearly as much as the locomotive that brought her here, but it was a thing of beauty, and she intended to make certain it arrived at the shop without incident.

Her toes tapped against the wooden platform. Only a mile of dusty road stood between her and her dream. Yet the final minutes of waiting felt longer than the hours, even years, that preceded them. Could she really run her own business, or would Miss Ashmont’s belief in her prove misplaced? A tingle of apprehension tiptoed over Hannah’s spine. What if the women of Coventry had no need of a dressmaker? What if they didn’t like her designs? What if . . .

Hannah surged to her feet and began to pace. Miss Ashmont had directed her to be bold. Bold and self-confident. Oh, and confident in God. Hannah paused. Her gaze slid to the bushy hills rising around her like ocean swells. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” The psalm seeped into her soul, bringing a measure of assurance with it. God had led her here. He would provide.

She resumed her pacing, anticipation building as fear receded. On her sixth lap around her mound of luggage, the creak of wagon wheels brought her to a halt.

A conveyance drew near, and Hannah’s pulse vaulted into a new pace. Young Tom wasn’t driving. Another man with a worn brown felt hat pulled low over his eyes sat on the bench. It must be that J.T. person Tom had rambled on about. Well, it didn’t matter who was driving, as long as he had the strength to maneuver her sewing machine without dropping it.

A figure in the back of the wagon waved a cheerful greeting, and the movement caught Hannah’s eye. She waved back, glad to see Tom had returned as well. Two men working together would have a much easier time of it.

The liveryman pulled the horses to a halt and set the brake. Masculine grace exuded from him as he climbed down and made his way to the platform. His long stride projected confidence, a vivid contrast to Tom’s childish gamboling behind him. Judging by the breadth of his shoulders and the way the blue cotton of his shirt stretched across the expanse of his chest and arms, this man would have no trouble moving her sewing cabinet.

Tom dashed ahead of the newcomer and swiped the gray slouch hat from his head. Tufts of his dark blond hair stuck out at odd angles, but his eyes sparkled with warmth. “I got the General, ma’am. We’ll get you fixed up in a jiffy.” Not wasting a minute, he slapped his hat back on and moved past her.

Hannah’s gaze roamed to the man waiting a few steps away. He didn’t look much like a general. No military uniform. Instead he sported scuffed boots and denims that were wearing thin at the knees. The tip of a toothpick protruded from his lips, wiggling a little as he gnawed on it. Perhaps General was a nickname of sorts. He hadn’t spoken a word, yet there was something about his carriage and posture that gave him an air of authority.

She straightened her shoulders in response and closed the distance between them. Still giddy about starting up her shop, she couldn’t resist the urge to tease the stoic man who held himself apart.

“Thank you for assisting me today, General.” She smiled up at him as she drew near, finally able to see more than just his jaw. He had lovely amber eyes, although they were a bit cold. “Should I salute or something?”

His right brow arced upward. Then a tiny twitch at the corner of his mouth told her he’d caught on.

“I’m afraid I’m a civilian through and through, ma’am.” He tilted his head in the direction of the wagon. “That’s the General. Tom likes to name things.”

Hannah gave a little laugh. “I see. Well, I’m glad to have you both lending me a hand. I’m Hannah Richards.”

The man tweaked the brim of his hat. “J.T. Tucker.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Tucker.”

He dipped his chin in a small nod. Not a very demonstrative fellow. Nor very talkative.

“Lay those things down, Tom,” he called out as he stepped away. “We don’t want them to tip over the side if we hit a rut.”

“Oh. Wait just a minute, please.” There was no telling what foul things had been carted around in that wagon bed before today. It didn’t matter so much for her trunks and sewing cabinet, but the linen covering her mannequins would be easily soiled.

“I have an old quilt that I wrapped around them in the railroad freight car. Let me fetch it.”

Hannah sensed more than heard Mr. Tucker’s sigh as she hurried to collect the quilt from the trunk she had been sitting on. Well, he could sigh all he liked. Her display dummies were going to be covered. She had one chance to make a first impression on the ladies of Coventry, and she vowed it would be a pristine one.

Making a point not to look at the liveryman as she scurried by, Hannah clutched the quilt to her chest and headed for the wagon. She draped it over the side, then climbed the spokes and hopped into the back, just as she had done as a child. Then she laid out the quilt along the back wall and gently piled the six dummies horizontally atop it, alternating the placement of the tripod pedestals to allow them to fit together in a more compact fashion. As she flipped the remaining fabric of the quilt over the pile, a loud thud sounded from behind, and the wagon jostled her. She gasped and teetered to the side. Glancing over her shoulder, she caught sight of Mr. Tucker as he shoved the first of her trunks into the wagon bed, its iron bottom scraping against the wooden floor.

The man could have warned her of his presence instead of scaring the wits out of her like that. But taking him to task would only make her look like a shrew, so she ignored him. When Tom arrived with the second trunk, she was ready. After he set it down, she moved to the end of the wagon.

“Would you help me down, please?”

He grinned up at her. “Sure thing.”

Hannah set her hands on his shoulders as he clasped her waist and lifted her down. A tiny voice of regret chided her for not asking the favor of the rugged Mr. Tucker, but she squelched it. Tom was a safer choice. Besides, his affable manner put her at ease—unlike his companion, who from one minute to the next alternated between sparking her interest and her ire.

She bit back her admonishments to take care as the men hefted her sewing machine. Thankfully, they managed to accomplish the task without her guidance. With the large cabinet secured in the wagon bed, it didn’t take long for them to load the rest of her belongings. Once they finished, Tom handed her up to the bench seat, then scrambled into the back, leaving her alone with Mr. Tucker.

A cool autumn breeze caressed her cheeks and tugged lightly on her bonnet as the wagon rolled forward. She smoothed her skirts, not sure what to say to the reticent man beside her. However, he surprised her by starting the conversation on his own.

“What made you choose Coventry, Miss Richards?”

She twisted on the seat to look at him, but his eyes remained focused on the road.

“I guess you could say it chose me.”

“How so?”

“It was really a most extraordinary sequence of events. I do not doubt that the Lord’s Providence brought me here.”

That got a reaction. His chin swiveled toward her, and beneath his hat, his intense gaze speared her for a handful of seconds before he blinked and turned away.

She swallowed the moisture that had accumulated under her tongue as he stared at her, then continued.

“Two years ago, I was hired by Mrs. Granbury of San Antonio to sew for her most particular clientele. One of these clients was an elderly spinster with a reputation for being impossible to work with. Well, I needed the job too badly to allow her to scare me away and was too stubborn to let her get the best of me, so I stuck it out and eventually the two of us found a way to coexist and even respect each other.

“Before she died, she called me in to make a final gown for her, and we fell to talking about her legacy. She had invested in several railroad properties, and had only one left that had not sold. In an act of generosity that I still find hard to believe, she gave me the deed as a gift, knowing that I had always dreamed of opening my own shop.”

“What kept her from selling it before then?” His deep voice rumbled with something more pointed than simple curiosity.

A prickle of unease wiggled down Hannah’s neck, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint the cause.

“She told me that she preferred to meet the buyers in person, to assess their character before selling off her properties. Unfortunately, her health had begun to decline, and she was unable to travel. There had been a gentleman of good reputation from this area who made an offer several times. A Mr. Tuck…”

A hard lump of dread formed in the back of Hannah’s throat.

“Oh dear. Don’t tell me you’re that Mr. Tucker?”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Sunday Salon May 30, 2010

The Sunday Salon.com

* The weekend has flown by. I cannot believe it is Sunday Night. I've had the blahs this week. My sinuses and the icky weather combined have not helped. I am off all next week though. I kinda would rather be at work even though I have a ton of books to read. I don't want to get out of routine.

* Speaking of books. My TBR is overwhelming and I added three books to it this weekend. I have a lot of pending review books that I need to get done so that will be the primary focus for next week. My Mom has a pool so I will be over there some too. :)

* Tomorrow we will be going to a lake and having a barbecue to celebrate Memorial day. I need to go to dig out my swim suits. I think they are somewhere in my closet?

* I hope all my US readers have a great Memorial Day and everyone has a great week. Thank you to our troops past, present, and future.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher (Review)

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Matter Of Character

Zondervan (May 25, 2010)

by

Robin Lee Hatcher



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon


ABOUT THE BOOK

It's 1918, and Daphne McKinley, heiress to a small fortune, has found contentment in the town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho. But Daphne has a secret.

A series of dime novels loosely based on local lore and featuring a nefarious villain known as Rawhide Rick has enjoyed modest popularity among readers. Nobody in Bethlehem Springs knows the man behind the stories ... except Daphne.

When newspaperman Joshua Crawford comes to town searching for the man who sullied the good name of his grandfather, Daphne finds herself at a crossroads, reassessing the power of her words, re-thinking how best to honor her gifts, and reconsidering what she wants out of life.

Robin is conducting a contest for the new book. Join in the fun HERE.

If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of A Matter Of Character, go HERE.

My Review:

This is the third book in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs book. It is a great Christian historical fiction novel. All three were good but I think this one is my favorite. Well written it flows well and held my attention from page one. The other characters from the previous two stories are a part of this one too. Daphne is the main character for this one though. I enjoyed seeing what happened to the other characters in the background. Anyway Daphne writes dime novels which have a bad reputation, so she has an alias nobody knows about except her publisher. Then Joshua comes to town and sparks fly. I loved seeing there relationship develop and the situations they get into. Highly Recommended. :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Broken by Travis Thrasher

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Broken


FaithWords (May 25, 2010)


by


Travis Thrasher






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



It was during third grade after a teacher encouraged him in his writing and as he read through The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis that Travis decided he wanted to be a writer. The dream never left him, and allowed him to fulfill that dream of writing fulltime in 2007.



Travis Thrasher is the author of numerous works of fiction, including his most personal and perhaps his deepest work, Sky Blue, that was published in summer of 2007. This year he has to novels published, Out of the Devil’s Mouth, and a supernatural thriller, Isolation.



Travis is married to Sharon and they are the proud parents of Kylie, born in November, 2006, and Hailey, a Shih-Tzu that looks like an Ewok. They live in suburban Chicago.



Stop by and visit Travis at his Blog where you can sign up to follow him on Facebook and Twitter!



ABOUT THE BOOK



Laila had it all--love, family, wealth, and faith. But when her faith crumbles, her world falls apart and Laila finds herself living an empty, dangerous life as a call girl in Chicago.



When she is threatened, Laila shoots and kills a client in self-defense, sending herself into a spiral of guilt and emptiness. Six months later, she is trying to move on, but she's haunted by the past. She hasn't told anyone about the man she killed, and she's still estranged from her family.



When she is approached by a stranger who says he knows what she did, Laila has no choice but to run. But the stranger stays close behind, and Laila begins having visions of the man she killed. Little does she know she's being hounded by something not of this world, something that knows her deepest, darkest secret.

Scared and wandering, will Laila regain her trust in God to protect her from these demons? Or will her plea for salvation come too late?





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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand? May 25, 2010







This is a monthly meme hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.

http://www.5minutesforbooks.com/

I like using pictures because it really is worth a thousand words in this instance. I am feeling very overwhelmed as you can see by the amount of books in the pictures. I did not even picture the library books I have out now. Thank God I am off work all next week. The first picture is all the Love Inspired/Mystery books on my TBR. The second is my upcoming review books and a few of my other TBR. I also have a few shelves of TBR. They are books I bought and have not read and from paperbackswap. So little time so many potential great books. I am looking forward to reading a few more classics coming up also. I hope everyone has a great reading month. :)

Frenzy by Robert Liparulo

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Frenzy


Thomas Nelson (May 18, 2010)


by


Robert Liparulo






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Robert Liparulo is a former journalist, with over a thousand articles and multiple writing awards to his name. His first novel, Comes a Horseman, released to critical acclaim. Each of his subsequent thrillers—Germ, Deadfall, and Deadlock—secured his place as one of today’s most popular and daring thriller writers.



He is known for investing deep research and chillingly accurate predictions of near-future scenarios into his stories. In fact, his thorough, journalistic approach to research has resulted in his becoming an expert on the various topics he explores in his fiction, and he has appeared on such media outlets as CNN and ABC Radio.



Liparulo’s visual style of writing has caught the eye of Hollywood producers. Currently, three of his novels for adults are in various stages of development for the big screen: the film rights to Comes A Horseman. were purchased by the producer of Tom Clancy’s movies; and Liparulo is penning the screenplays for GERM and Deadfall for two top producers. He is also working with the director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Holes) on a political thriller. Novelist Michael Palmer calls Deadfall “a brilliantly crafted thriller.” March 31st marked the publication of Deadfall’s follow-up, Deadlock, which novelist Gayle Lynds calls, “best of high-octane suspense.”



Liparulo’s bestselling young adult series, Dreamhouse Kings, debuted in 2008 with House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods. Book three, Gatekeepers, released in January 2009, and number four, Timescape, in July 2009, and number five, Whirlwind in December 2009. The series has garnered praise from readers, both young and old, as well as attracting famous fans who themselves know the genre inside and out. Of the series, Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine says, “I loved wandering around in these books. With a house of so many great, haunting stories, why would you ever want to go outside?”



With the next two Dreamhouse books “in the can,” he is currently working on his next thriller, which for the first time injects supernatural elements into his brand of gun-blazing storytelling. The story is so compelling, two Hollywood studios are already in talks to acquire it—despite its publication date being more than a year away. After that comes a trilogy of novels, based on his acclaimed short story, which appeared in James Patterson’s Thriller anthology. New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry calls Liparulo’s writing “Inventive, suspenseful, and highly entertaining . . . Robert Liparulo is a storyteller, pure and simple.” He lives with his family in Colorado.



Visit Robert Liparulo's Facebook Fan page: http://www.facebook.com/LiparuloFans







ABOUT THE BOOK



Their destiny is to fix history. Their dream is to get home.



When you live in a house that's really a gateway between past and present, you have to be ready for anything. It's a painful fact the Kings have faced since moving to Pinedale eight days ago. Desperately trying to rescue their mother from an unknown time and place, brothers Xander and David have lunged headlong into the chaos of history's greatest--and most volatile--events. But their goal has continually escaped their grasp.



And worse: Finding Mom is only a small part of what they must do, thanks to the barbaric Taksidian. His ruthless quest to sieze their house and its power from them has put not only the family, but all of mankind, in grave danger.



Somehow, the key to it all hinges on Uncle Jesse's words to the boys: "Fixing time is what our family was made to do." But how can they fix a world that has been turned updisde down--much less ever find their way home?



At long last, the secrets of the house and the King family are revealed in the stunning conclusion to this epic series.



If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of Frenzy, go HERE.



Sign up for the Frenzy Newsletter HERE.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Its Monday What Are You Reading? May 24, 2010


What I read last week:
- The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman
- So Over My Head by Jenny B. Jones (Awesome!)
- A Daughter's Legacy by Virgina Smith
- Evidence of Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
What I am currently reading:
- Steadfast Solider by Cheryl Wyatt
- Green Like God by Jonathan Merritt
- Broken by Travis Thrasher
What I am reading next:
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Abbie Ann by Sharlene MacLauren
- Deceit by Brandilyn Collins
- Cowboy for Keeps by Debra Clopton
Reviews Posted last week:

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/05/this-fine-life-by-eva-marie-everson.html

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2010/05/deadly-disclosure-by-julie-cave-review.html

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Sunday Salon May 23, 2010

The Sunday Salon.com

* I had an okay weekend. I have been in a reading slump lately. I go to work come home hop on the computer and watch TV most of the night. Sometimes I read a few pages. That has to stop and will stop.

* I read four books so far this weekend. I want to start reading more during the week instead of cramming it in on the weekends. We'll see. My new old job at work is starting to get more settled so maybe that will help.

* I have yet to start the laundry so that will be next on my list for tonight. I went to Wal Mart and Kroger after eating dinner at Mimi's tonight so I have four new Love Inspired books to read. Two of which I can't wait to read I am so excited. We had a good dinner. Oven pork chops, cheesy potatoes, steamed broccoli, corn on the cob, and fresh tomatoes were on the menu. Yum!

* Next week I will be off work for a week. Technically only four days of PTO because that Monday is Memorial Day. No beach trip but I have plenty to do at home. I want to clean the house, read lots of books, spend time with family, and hang out at my Mom's pool.

* So this week I have a lot to look forward too for next week. I hope everyone has a great week and find lots of reading time. :)

Rooms by James L. Rubart

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:


Rooms

B&H Books; Original edition (April 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn of B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



James L. Rubart is a professional marketer whose Jr2 Marketing company clientele has included ABC, AT&T/Cingular, and Clear Channel Radio. He is also a professional speaker, writes recurring columns for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and Christian Women Online, and is on the board of the Northwest Christian Writers Association.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books; Original edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805448888
ISBN-13: 978-0805448887

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Micah Taylor tapped an edge of the cryptic letter against his palm as he stared out the massive windows of his corner office overlooking Puget Sound.

Why would a great uncle he'd never known build a home for him? Oregon coast. Cannon Beach. Right on the ocean; at least that's what the letter claimed. Probably some joke his VP's cooked up, inspired by the picture he'd hung in the conference room a few months ago of Ecola State Park. Great kid memories from that slice of paradise. Was it only fifteen years ago? Felt longer.

Micah smiled. This was exactly the kind of prank his team might try to pull off. No one would ever accuse RimSoft's culture of being stoic.

But if the letter was real—

"Time to go boss."

Shannon stood in the doorway, eyes bright behind her Versace glasses, short-cropped salt and pepper hair outlining her china doll face. She'd been Micah’s administrative assistant for three years. Smart and not easily intimidated, what bubbled in her five-foot-four frame made her one of the strongest links in his company's chain.

“I hate being called boss.”

“Yes, I know.” She pulled her glasses down and gave him her pirate look over the top of them.

Micah laughed and glanced once more at the letter announcing his inheritance.

He grabbed his notebook and wagged his finger at Shannon as they walked out of his office. “You shouldn’t call someone boss when you’re almost old enough to be their m—"

"—much older sister.”

“Right,” Micah said as they fell into step and marched down the halls of RimSoft.

Friday morning. He loved Fridays; not just because they launched the weekend like a blast of summer morning sun, but because of his weekly team meeting. The creativity his team pumped out astounded him. He might not get hired at his own company if he applied. If employing people better than yourself were an Olympic event Micah would be swimming in gold.

As they turned the final corner on the way to the conference room, Kelli Kay, one of Micah’s more talented programmers, approached. “Want to hear something really cool?” Her red curls bounced like a slinky.

“Absolutely.” Micah kept walking—now backward—his Nike’s scuffing lightly on the teal carpet. Single mom until four months ago, Kelli put herself through computer school, while working forty hours a week and taking care of her ten-year-old kid. Never complained about fifty hour weeks. Never complained about sixty hour weeks.

“My kid won that art contest I told you about last week; he’s headed to LA this summer to compete in the national—"

“You serious? Listen, if he places, let’s fly him, and you, and that new husband of yours to New York to see the MET. I'll bring Julie and we'll all go check out the art with him and time it so we catch a Mariner’s Yankees game.”

“Really?” Kelli half-jogged to keep up with Micah.

“Absolutely. RimSoft's already made $2 million off that little anti-virus program you developed last year. You're amazing," Micah said.

He turned and picked up his pace. Shannon picked up hers too, her white Adidas running shoes helping in the effort. He couldn't believe this was the same women who showed up her first day wearing three-inch heals and a business suit straight out of Uptight Dresses for Corporate America. Micah told her to get rid of the heels and put on whatever she loved wearing and felt comfortable in.

“You could actually stop when you talk to people," Shannon said.

Micah laughed. "We have a meeting. You know, the company? Work to do. Software programs to develop. Lots of sales. Happy stockholders. Make money. All that stuff.” He brushed past a lush, broad leafed Dracaena plan and walked faster.

“They just want more time with you, to know you like them."

“I like everyone. But, to be sure, let's get out an e-mail that says ‘From Micah Taylor. To you. I like you. I really, really like you.’ ” He turned, pushed open the conference room door and held it for Shannon. He returned her glare with an impish grin.

The conference room was small but comfortable. No vaulted ceiling, no massive table, just two light tan leather couches and six overstuffed espresso brown chairs all circling the center of the room. RimSoft's version of Camelot. The room wasn't designed for ego, it was crafted for efficiency.

The couches held two people each. On one couch sat Micah's head of legal with his jet-black hair and John Lennon glasses. Next to him slumped his VP of mergers and acquisitions; thirty-one years old but looked fifty with his premature gray hair. On the other couch perched his VP of marketing, looking more every day like a young Oprah. Next to her sat his Chief Financial officer. Two of Micah's software development VP's sat in the chairs.

Shannon sat in a chair, Micah paced in front of his.

On a table in the center of the room sat a steaming pot filling the air with the aroma of Starbuck's coffee. Clumped next to it were mugs from Disneyland, the University of Washington Huskies, and cups with RimSoft's logo on them.

Good. All the pieces were in place. Time to check out the condition of the chess board.

“All right,” Micah said, a slice above his normal volume. “Let's roll. Where are we at with the i2-Rock alliance?”

“Done," his mergers VP said.

"We love their hardware; they still love our software, right?"

"Madly."

“Excellent, great work.” Micah focused on Oprah's twin. “Is the ad layout done for Wired?"

"Yep."

"Last one you did was a home run into the rafters so let’s keep the hits coming.” He turned to his right. “Beta testing on version four is done, right?”

“Finished Wednesday.”

“Very nice work, I can’t believe you already have it almost bug free.” Micah looked at the head of his legal team. “You’ve finished the docs for the merger with Reeda?”

“Not quite." The man glanced up at Micah. "We’re almost there.”

Micah whipped his pen around on his yellow note pad like a poor man's Picasso. “This is a sketch of underwear. But not just ordinary underwear, its asbestos underwear. You need a pair.”

“Why?” asked the head of legal.

“Well, you said your team would be done on Tuesday. It’s now Friday. So since it isn’t done, your team falls into the category of ‘liar, liar, pants on fire.’ I would think the asbestos underwear would help squelch the flames a bit.”

The head of legal flushed and mumbled, “We’ll get it done by the end of the day.”

“You’re excellent at law but this is the third time you’ve delayed us this quarter. Unacceptable.”

One of his team cleared their throat. The rest glued their eyes to the agenda.

"Deep breath everyone. Relax. Let's move on," Micah said.

A half-hour later Micah glanced at each member of his team. “Thank you. For two things. First, for being good enough at what you do that this company could no doubt survive without me. Second, for not being so good there’s no room left for my input.” He smiled, grabbed his notebook, and strode toward the door.

Too harsh in there on Mr. Always-Late-Legal? Probably. But why couldn't the guy just do his job on time? Did Micah have to do every job at RimSoft? If there was time he would. He doubted any of them believed his 'good enough that the company could run without me' speech. RimSoft couldn't. Always picking up the broken pieces was part of running a company. But it exhausted him. There had to be a way to get free of it. Trusting other people to come through? Wouldn't happen in this lifetime.

Shannon stepped into the hallway just ahead of him and clipped toward her desk like an Olympic speed walker.

In two bounds Micah, caught up to her. “Hey, slow down.”

She walked faster and didn’t respond.

“You’ve got that ‘Micah was a jerk’ look again.”

“Hmm.” She looked up at him with a thin lipped smile.

They walked seven paces in silence. “That’s not who I really am."

“Oh?”

Four more paces.

“You’re right, I was a royal jerk in there,” he whispered. His face grew warm as he fingered the scar on his left palm. “It’s just … some realities about life have stuck with me whether I wanted them to or not.”

“So you weren’t this way from birth?”

He hoped the tiny shake of his head was imperceptible. “Only since I was eight.”

"Zero! Zilch! Nada! That's what you'll always be, kid!"

The rest of the scene—the blood, the abandonment—tried to surface but Micah

slammed the vault to his heart shut and the memory faded.

By the time he arrived at his office, his breathing had steadied and his focus shifted to the letter from his great uncle sitting on his teak desk. Micah picked it up. The yellowed paper was probably white once, though the fluid cursive writing looked as crisp as if it had been scrawled yesterday.

The envelope it came in had been sealed with wax, the outline of a lion’s head distinct in the dark-blue paraffin. Micah settled into his black leather chair and stared at the name above the return address on the envelope. Archie Taylor. Definitely strange.

Archie was his great uncle whom he knew less than a paragraph about. He’d been dead since the early ‘90s, and Micah had never met him. He knew Archie had made quite a bit of money and hadn’t married, but the rest had always been a mystery. Until Micah’s late teens, he hadn’t known Archie existed. When he asked, his dad would only say Archie was a strange man. A man to stay away from. He opened the letter and wondered once more if what it promised was real.


September 27, 1989


Dear Micah,

You are likely shocked to have received this letter as we never had the opportunity to know each other. The reason for the letter will surprise you more.

I have asked a friend to mail it when you turn thirty-five or when you acquire enough financial resources that you no longer need to labor. Consequently, if you are reading this letter before reaching your 35th birthday you have already made a significant amount of money, which is sometimes a beneficial occurrence at a young age, but usually is not.

If my instructions have been carried out, a home was built during the past five months on the Oregon coast, four miles south of Cannon Beach. I designed it for you.

My great desire is that you enjoy the house, and if the builder followed my directives I believe you will. It will certainly—if you'll forgive the cliché—upset your apple cart if you allow it. The home is all you.

Your great uncle,

Archie.


P.S. There should be a key enclosed with this letter as well as a card with the address.


Micah reread the last line and frowned. 'The home is all you?' Typo. Must mean all yours.

Intriguing. One of his fave places in another life. If there was a home on the northern Oregon coast with his name on it, it was an adventure worth checking out. Soon. Micah read the letter for the third time that morning. Definitely soon.

***

A noise in the hall made him look up. Julie. Perfect business partner. Recent romantic partner. Tenacious tennis partner.

Her shoulder-length blond hair bounced as she pranced through the door of his office, crisp beige suit complementing her gleaming pearly whites.

“Hey!" Micah rose from his desk and opened his arms.

When she reached him, she ruffled his dark brown hair and kissed him softly.

The faint scent of Safari floated up to him. She never wore too much, almost not enough. Julie. Powerful yet could be tender. Driven and radiant. Nice to have her back.

“How was the trip?” he asked.

“We’re richer. But glad it’s over.” Julie slid out of her blazer, flicked a piece of lint off the lapel, and laid the coat across the back of Micah’s milk chocolate brown chair and patted it once. “I did find the perfect SLR digital camera to add to my collection. You’ll model for me, please? Your baby-blue eyes are worth taking up seventy or eighty megs on my laptop."

When they’d started RimSoft five years ago he never imagined they’d strike such a rich vein in the software gold rush. Of course he’d never imagined their long-term platonic relationship budding into romance either.

Micah sat down and stared at Archie's letter.

“You with me here?" Julie said, leaning against Micah's desk.

"Huh?"

“I asked about Monday's board meeting and I think waiting five seconds for a response is long enough." She laughed.

“Sorry, didn't hear you. Brain freeze. I got a bizarre letter from a long lost relative. In fact this weekend I might go—“

Julie pressed two fingers against his lips. “We cannot allow those thoughts to escape.”

“What thoughts?”

“Of nixing our Whistler trip this weekend. You and me and snow and spring skiing and fireplaces and old, old bottles of cabernet. Ring any bells?”

“Hmm.” He grinned sheepishly.

“You better have a really, really good reason if you're canceling.” She straightened the collar of his olive-green polo shirt.

"Apparently I’ve inherited a house right on the ocean, just south of Cannon Beach."

"Cannon Beach?" A scowl flashed across her face.

"What?" Micah said.

"Nothing. Let me see something." Julie leaned over him as her red fingernails danced over his keyboard until a sampling of Cannon Beach homes for sale flashed on screen. "Take a look at these prices." She tapped on his monitor. "You're little gift could be worth $3 million plus. Throw a sign on it, make some quick cash."

"It's probably just a shack. Or maybe the letter's a hoax."

"Where did this mystery shack come from?"

He picked up the letter and bounced it up and down on his palm. "My great-uncle, whom I never met, had it built for me."

"You never met him and he gives you a house at Cannon Beach?"

"Weird huh?" Micah opened his palms. "So, this weekend, want to come check it out with me?"

Julies shoulders sagged. "Instead of Whistler?"

"You're right." He ran his finger over the surface of the letter. "Let's go skiing."

"Wow. You're really curious aren't you?"

Julie didn’t wait for an answer. A few seconds later Google Earth splashed onto Micah's monitor.

"Address?" Julie said.

Micah read it to her off the letter. A few seconds later they gazed at a patch of dirt overlooking the ocean.

"Not even a shack," Julie said.

"Maybe, maybe not." Micah punched a few keys. "Look. That satellite image is seven months old. Archie's letter says the home was built by somebody during the past five months." Micah gaze stayed riveted on his screen. "There could be—"

"How 'bout I make you a deal so you can go to the beach, Mr. Break-My-Heart.”

Hey, it’s not that important for—“

“No, no, stay with me here. If you switch out our weekend at Whistler for a week in the Alps, we have a deal.”

“So you'll come with me this weekend?"

"No."

"What?"

Julie sighed and looked out the window. " The ocean and I don't get along."

"Interesting. Another fascinating secret about my fascinating partner is revealed." Micah leaned back with his hands behind his head. "This is a story I need to know."

"No, you don't. That story has no admittance stamped on it in blood red letters."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Fine Life by Eva Marie Everson (Review)





It is the summer of 1959 and Mariette Puttnam has just graduated from boarding school. When she returns to her privileged life at home, she isn't sure where life will take her. More schooling? A job? Marriage? Nothing feels right. How could she know that she would find the answer waiting for her in the narrow stairwell of her father's apparel factory, exactly between the third and fourth floors?

In this unique and tender romance, popular author Eva Marie Everson takes you on a journey through the heart of a young woman bound for the unknown. Discover the joys of new love, the perseverance of deep friendship, and the gift of forgiveness that comes from a truly fine life.



Excerpt:
This is not the story of my(Mariatte) life. This is the story of my husband’s
life, or at the very least how the story of his life affected
mine and all those he touched just by his being near
them or with them. Thayne was like that, you see. Just by
being, he touched lives. He was infectious, upbeat, passionate,
determined. Next to the flame of his existence I was a
spark looking to ignite, a matchstick never quite making it
to the striker. But, in time, the same fever that burned within
him burned within me.



My Review:
Can I call this a historical Christian fiction novel even though it is set in the 1960s? Anyway it is a really good book sorta a coming of age story and a romance too. The plot and characters are well developed and interesting. I liked the progression of Mariette's character especially over the few years the book covers.
One of the main themes throughout the book is what is a fine life and how to get it. The descriptions are great and it is like actually being there in that time period. The front book cover is gorgeous too. Highly Recommended.






About the author:

Eva Marie Everson is a successful speaker, a popular radio personality, and the award-winning author of Things Left Unspoken. She is coauthor of the Potluck Club series and the Potluck Catering Club series. She lives in Florida.



Available May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.



Thank you Donna at Revell for my review copy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Deadly Disclosure by Julie Cave (Review)

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Deadly Disclosure
New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (February 15, 2010)
by


Julie Cave






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Julie first heard a creation science speaker at her church when she was just 15, igniting her interest in creation science and sparking an enthusiasm for defending the Bible’s account of creation. She has obtained a degree in health science, and is currently completing a degree in law. Julie is married with one daughter and lives on the east coast of Australia.



ABOUT THE BOOK



A Suspense-filled mystery which answers an ominous question: How far will some go to silence an influential Christian voice?



Thomas Whitfield, proud Secretary of the Smithsonian and its extensive scientific influence, has disappeared from his office with foul play suspected. Dinah Harris, an FBI agent struggling with alcohol and depression, is seeking answers amidst the fallout of her own personal issues.



Whitfield's body is eventually found, and other people connected to him begin dying as well, ultimately exposing a broader conspiracy connected to Whitfield's recent conversion to Christ and promotion of a biblical worldview in an academic world of financial gain hostile to this concept.



Will Dinah be able to experience the redemptive power of Christ before it's too late? Or will the ominous danger stalking her investigation claim another victim?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Deadly Disclosure, go HERE.



Watch the Video Book Trailer:



My Review:

Overall this was a good Christian mystery/suspense novel. I will warn you it is very preachy. I agree with most of it but at times it detracted from the plot. One of the main debates running through the book with the characters is creationism versus evolution. It did have an interesting plot and the two lines were one the investigation of the murder and two the personal life of Special Agent Dinah Harris. I liked Dinah Harris and felt sorry for the bad things that had happened in her life that lead her to this point. This is the first book in a trilogy based on her and I look forward to reading more of her story in the second book. Recommended.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Its Monday What Are You Reading? May 17, 2010

This is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at
http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/


What I read last week:
- More Than Great Riches by Jan Washburn
- Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl and April Henry
- This Fine Life by Eva Marie Everson
- A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher
- For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
- Deadly Disclosures by Julie Cave

What I am currently reading:
- Broken by Travis Thrasher
- Green Like God by Jonathan Merritt

What I am reading next:
- Deceit by Brandilyn Collins
- Abbie Ann by Sharlene MacLauren
- Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
- Hurricanes in Paradise by Denise Hildreth
- Seeds of Summer by Deborah Voigt

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Sunday Salon May 16, 2010

The Sunday Salon.com



* I am currently trying to motivate myself to start the laundry and I wanted to bake some muffins tonight. I bought a pecan pie mix at a flea market I am eager to try out.

* I have read three books so far this weekend and I hope to finish two more. I am way behind where I was last year and my goal is 300 books this year. I am on 117. Yikes. I will do a recap tomorrow.

* I have a vacation at work coming up the first week in June. We were supposed to go to the beach but my Mom has to take a big test that next week and has to study. I hope to finish a lot of books and they put the pool up this weekend in their backyard so I will hang out there some too.

* I am watching a special on TV right now about ice cream and it is driving me crazy. I love it.

* Lots of TV show season finales coming soon and I am actually happy because maybe I will get more reading done. I only watch In Plain Sight, The Closer, Drop Dead Diva and sometimes Army Wives in the summer.

* Off to read. I hope everyone has a great week and finds lots of time for reading.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Code Blue by Richard L. Mabry, MD

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:


Code Blue (Prescription for Trouble)

Abingdon Press (April 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Susan Salley of Abingdon Press for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


After his retirement from a distinguished career as a physician and medical educator, Richard turned his talents to non-medical writing. Code Blue is his debut novel, the first of the Prescription For Trouble series, featuring medical suspense. Richard and his wife, Kay, make their home in North Texas, where he continues his struggles to master golf and be the world’s most perfect grandfather.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426702361
ISBN-13: 978-1426702365

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The black SUV barreled out of nowhere, its oversized tires straddling the centerline. Cathy jerked the steering wheel to the right and jammed the brake pedal to the floor. Her little Toyota rocked as though flicked by a giant hand before it spun off the narrow country road and hurtled toward the ditch and the peach orchard beyond it.

For a moment Cathy felt the fearful thrill of weightlessness. Then the world turned upside down, and everything went into freeze-frame slow motion.

The floating sensation ended with a jolt. The screech of ripping metal swallowed Cathy’s scream. The deploying airbag struck her face like a fist. The pressure of the shoulder harness took her breath away. The lap belt pressed into her abdomen, and she tasted bile and acid. As her head cleared, she found herself hanging head-down, swaying slightly as the car rocked to a standstill. In the silence that followed, her pulse hammered in her ears like distant, rhythmic thunder.

Cathy realized she was holding her breath. She let out a shuddering sigh, inhaled, and immediately choked on the dust that hung thick in the air. She released her death-grip on the steering wheel and tried to lift her arms. It hurt—it hurt a lot—but they seemed to work. She tilted her head and felt something warm trickle down her face. She tried to wipe it away, but not before a red haze clouded her vision.

She felt a burning sensation, first in her nostrils, then in the back of her throat. Gasoline! Cathy recalled all the crash victims she’d seen in the emergency room—victims who’d survived a car accident only to be engulfed in flames afterward. She had to get out of the car. Now. Her fingers probed for the seatbelt buckle. She found it and pressed the release button. Slowly. Be careful. Don’t fall out of the seat and make matters worse. The belt gave way, and she eased her weight onto her shoulders. She bit her lip from the pain, rolled onto her side, and looked around.

How could she escape? She tried the front doors. Jammed—both of them. She’d been driving with her window partially open, enjoying the brisk autumn air and the parade of orange and yellow trees rolling by in the Texas landscape. There was no way she could wriggle through that small opening. Cathy drew back both feet and kicked hard at the exposed glass. Nothing. She kicked harder. On the third try, the window gave way.

Where was her purse? Never mind. No time. She had to get out. Cathy inched her way through the window, flinching as tiny shards of glass stung her palms and knees. Once free from the car, she lay back on the grass and looked around at what remained of the orchard, blessing the trees that had sacrificed themselves to cushion her car’s landing.

She rose unsteadily to her feet. It seemed as though every bone in her body cried out at the effort. The moment she stood upright the world faded into a gray haze. She slumped to the ground and took a few deep breaths. Her head hurt, her eyes burned, her throat seemed to be closing up. The smell of gasoline cut through her lethargy. She had to get further away from the car. How could she do that, when she couldn’t even stand without passing out?

Cathy saw a peach sapling a few feet away, a tiny survivor amid the ruins. She crawled to the tree, grabbed it, and walked her hands up the trunk until she was almost upright. She clung there, drained by the exertion, until the world stopped spinning.

Something dripped into her eyes and the world turned red. Cathy risked turning loose with one hand and wiped it across her face. Her vision cleared a bit. She regarded the crimson stain on her palm. Good thing she was no stranger to the sight of blood.

Now she was upright, but could she walk? Maybe, if she could stand the pain. She wasn’t sure she could make it more than a step or two, though. A stout limb lying in the debris at her feet caught her eye. It was about four feet long, two inches thick—just the right size. Cathy eased her way down to a crouch, using the sapling for support. She grabbed the limb and, holding it like a staff, managed to stand up. She rested for a moment, then inched her way along the bottom of the ditch, away from the car. When she could no longer smell gasoline and when her aching limbs would carry her no farther, she leaned on her improvised crutch to rest.

Cathy stared at the road above her. The embankment sloped upward in a gentle rise of about six feet. Ordinarily, climbing it would be child’s play for her. But right now she felt like a baby—weak, uncoordinated, and fearful.

Maybe if she rested for a moment on that big rock. She hobbled to it and lowered herself, wincing with each movement. There was no way she could get comfortable—even breathing was painful—but she needed time to think.

Had the SUV really tried to run her off the road? She wanted to believe it was simply an accident, that someone had lost control of his vehicle. Just like she’d wanted to believe that the problems she’d had since she came back home were nothing more than a run of bad luck. Now she had to accept the possibility that someone was making an effort to drive her out of town.

She’d never thought much about the name of her hometown: Dainger, Texas. She vaguely recalled it was named for some settler, long ago forgotten. Now she was thinking the name seemed significant. Danger. Had the problems she’d left behind in Dallas followed her? Or did the roots lie here in Dainger? Possibly. After all, small towns have long memories. Of course, there could be another explanation. . . . No, she couldn’t accept that. Not yet.

Cathy turned to survey the wreckage of her poor little car. She saw wheels silhouetted against the sky, heard the ticking of the cooling motor. Then she picked up new sounds: the roar of a car’s engine, followed by the screech of tires and the chatter of gravel. It could be someone stopping to help. On the other hand, it could be the driver of the SUV coming back to finish the job. She thought of hiding. But where? How?

She watched a white pickup skid to a stop on the shoulder of the road above the wreckage. A car door slammed. A man’s voice called, “Is anyone down there? Are you hurt?”

No chance to get away now. She’d have to take her chances and pray that he was really here to help. Pray? That was a laugh. Cathy had prayed before, prayed hard, all without effect. Why should she expect anything different this time?

“Is someone there? Are you hurt?”

How should she react? Answer or stay quiet? Neither choice seemed good. She tried to clear the dust from her throat, but when she opened her mouth to yell, she could only manage a strangled whisper. “Yes.”

Footsteps crunched on the gravel shoulder above her, and an urgent voice shouted, “Is someone down there? Do you need help?”

“Yes,” she croaked a bit stronger.

“I’m coming down,” he said. “Hang on.”

A head peered over the edge of the embankment, but pulled back before she could get more than a glimpse of him.

In a few seconds, he scrambled down the embankment, skidding in the red clay before he could dig in the heels of his cowboy boots. At the bottom he looked around until he spotted her. He half-ran the last few feet to where she stood swaying on her makeshift crutch.

“Here, let me help you. Can you walk?”

Blood trickled into her eyes again, and even after she wiped it away, it was like looking through crimson gauze. Cathy could make out the man’s outline but not his features. He sounded harmless enough. But she supposed even mass murderers could sound harmless.

She gripped her makeshift staff harder; it might work as a weapon. “I don’t think anything’s broken.” Her voice cracked, and she coughed. “I’m just stunned. If you help me, I think I can move okay.”

He leaned down and Cathy put her left arm on his shoulder. He encircled her waist with his right arm, supporting her so her feet barely touched the ground as they shuffled toward the slope. At the bottom, he turned and swept her into his arms. The move took her by surprise, and she gasped. She felt him stagger a bit on the climb, but in a moment they made it to the top.

Her rescuer freed one hand and thumbed the latch on the passenger side door of his pickup. He turned to bump the door open with his hip, then deposited her gently onto the seat. “Rest there. I’ll call 911.”

Cathy leaned back and tried to calm down. His voice sounded familiar. Was he one of her patients? She swiped the back of her hand across her eyes, but the image remained cloudy.

The man pulled a flip-phone from his pocket and punched in three digits. “There’s been a one-car accident.”

She listened as he described the accident location in detail—a mile south of the Freeman farm, just before the Sandy Creek Bridge. This wasn’t some passer-by. He knew the area.

“I need an ambulance, a fire truck, and someone from the sheriff’s office. Oh, and send a flatbed wrecker. The car looks like it’s totaled.”

“I don’t need an ambulance,” Cathy protested.

He held up a hand and shushed her, something she hadn’t encountered since third grade. “Yes, she seems okay, but I still think they need to hurry.”

Cathy heard a few answering squawks from the phone before the man spoke again. “It’s Will Kennedy. Yes, thanks.”

Will Kennedy? If she hadn’t been sitting down, Cathy might have fallen over. She scrubbed at her eyes and squinted. Will? Yes, it was Will. Now even the shape of his body looked familiar: lean and muscular, just the way he’d been—. No. Don’t go there.

Will ended his call and leaned in through the open pickup door. “They’ll be here in a minute. Hang on.”

He took a clean handkerchief from the hip pocket of his pressed jeans and gently cleaned her face. The white cotton rapidly turned red, and Cathy realized that the blood had not only clouded her vision. It had masked her features.

“Will, don’t you recognize me?”

He stopped, looked at her, and frowned. “Cathy?”

“Yes.” There were so many things to say. She drew in a ragged breath. “Thanks. I appreciate your stopping.”

He gave her the wry grin she remembered so well, and her heart did a flip-flop. “I’d heard you were back in town, and I wondered when you’d get around to talking to me. I just didn’t know it would be like this.” He paused. “And forget about telling me not to have them send an ambulance. I don’t care if you are a doctor now, Cathy Sewell. I won’t turn you loose until another medic checks you.”

Cathy opened her mouth to speak, but Will’s cell phone rang. He answered it and walked away as he talked, while she sat and wondered what would have happened if they’d never turned each other loose in the first place.

* * *

As the ambulance sped toward Summers County General Hospital, Cathy wondered what kind of reception she would get there. Who would be on duty? Would they acknowledge her as a colleague, even though she hadn’t been given privileges yet? When her thoughts turned to recent events, she forced herself to shut down the synapses and put her mind into neutral.

The ambulance rocked to a halt outside the emergency room doors. Despite Cathy’s protestations, the emergency medical technicians kept her strapped securely on the stretcher while they offloaded it. Inside the ER, Cathy finally convinced her guardians to let her transfer to a wheelchair held by a waiting orderly.

“Thanks so much, guys. I’ll be fine. Really.”

At the admitting desk, the clerk looked up from her computer and frowned.

“Cathy?” She flushed. “I . . . I mean, Dr. Sewell?”

“It’s okay, Judy. I was Cathy through twelve years of school. No reason to change.” Cathy looked around. “Who’s the ER doctor on duty?”

“Dr. Patel. He just called in Dr. Bell to see a patient. Dr. Patel thought it might be a possible appendix.” She lowered her voice. “Dr. Bell took one look and made the diagnosis of stomach flu. I couldn’t see the need to call in another doctor for a consultation, but Dr. Patel is so afraid he’ll make a wrong diagnosis.” She pursed her lips as she realized her mistake of complaining about one doctor to another.

“Just be sure Dr. Patel doesn’t hear you say that.” Cathy tried to take the sting out of the words with a wink, but the blood dried around her eyes made it impossible. “Can you call him? I’ve been threatened with dire punishment if I don’t get checked out.”

Judy reached for the phone.

“Don’t bother, Judy. I’ll take care of Dr. Sewell myself.”

Cathy eased her head around to see Marcus Bell standing behind her. He wore khakis and a chocolate-brown golf shirt, covered by an immaculate white coat with his name embroidered over the pocket.

This was a trade Cathy would gladly make—finicky Dr. Patel for superdoc Marcus Bell. In the three years he’d been here, Marcus had built a reputation as an excellent clinician. He was also undoubtedly the best-looking doctor in town.

“Let’s get you into Treatment Room One,” Marcus steered Cathy’s wheelchair away from the desk. “Judy, you can bring me the paperwork when you have it ready. Please ask Marianne to step in and help me for a minute. And page Jerry for me, would you? Thanks.”

Cathy had been in treatment rooms like this many times in several hospitals. Now she noticed how different everything looked when viewed from this perspective. As if the accident and the adrenaline rush that followed hadn’t made her shaky enough, sitting there in a wheelchair emphasized her feeling of helplessness. “I feel so silly,” she said. “Usually I’m on the other end of all this.”

“Well, today you’re not.” Marcus gestured toward the nurse who stood in the doorway. “Let’s get you into a gown. Then we’ll check the extent of the damages.”

Marcus stepped discreetly from the room.

“I’m Marianne,” the nurse said. Then, as though reading Cathy’s mind, she added, “I know it’s hard for a doctor to be a patient. But try to relax. We’ll take good care of you.”

Marianne helped Cathy out of her clothes and into a hospital gown. If Cathy had felt vulnerable before this, the added factor of being in a garment that had so many openings closed only by drawstrings tripled the feeling. The nurse eased Cathy onto the examining table, covered her with a clean sheet, and called Marcus back into the room.

“Now, Cathy, the first thing I want to do is have a closer look at that cut on your head.” Marcus slipped on a pair of latex gloves and probed the wound.

Cathy flinched. “How does it look?”

“Not too bad. One laceration about three or four centimeters long in the frontal area. Not too deep. The bleeding’s almost stopped now. We’ll get some skull films, then I’ll suture it.” He wound a soft gauze bandage around her head and taped it.

Marcus flipped off his gloves and picked up the clipboard that Cathy knew held the beginnings of her chart. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

At first, Cathy laid out the details of the accident and her injuries in terse clinical language, as though presenting a case to an attending physician at Grand Rounds. She did fine until she realized how close she’d come to being killed, apparently by someone who meant to do just that. There were a couple of strangled hiccups, then a few muffled sobs, before the calm physician turned into a blubbering girl. “I’m . . . I’m sorry.” She reached for a tissue from the box Marcus held out.

“No problem. If you weren’t upset by all that, you wouldn’t be normal.” Marcus took an ophthalmoscope from the wall rack and shined its light into her eyes. “How’s your vision?”

“Still a little fuzzy—some halos around lights. I figured it was from the blood running into my eyes.”

He put down the instrument and rummaged in the drug cabinet. “Let’s wash out your eyes. I don’t want you to get a chemical keratitis from the powder on the air bag. I’ll give you some eye drops, but if your vision gets worse or doesn’t clear in a day or so, I want you to see an ophthalmologist.”

“Oh, right.” The fact that she hadn’t thought of that underscored to Cathy how shaken she still was.

“Now, let’s see what else might be injured.” Marcus took her left wrist and gently probed with his fingers. Apparently satisfied, he proceeded up along the bones of the arm. His touch was gentle, yet firm, and Cathy found it somehow reassuring. “We’ll need some X-rays. I want you to help me figure out the right parts.”

“I can’t help you much. I’m hurting pretty much everywhere,” Cathy said. “But, I haven’t felt any bones grating. I think I’m just banged up.”

Marcus turned his attention to her right arm. He paused in his prodding long enough to touch her chin and raise her head until their eyes met. “You’re like all of us. You think that because you’re a doctor you can’t be hurt or sick.”

“That’s not true. I don’t— Ow!” His hand on the point of her right shoulder sent a flash of pain along her collarbone.

“That’s more like it. We’ll get an X-ray of that shoulder and your clavicle. Seatbelt injuries do that sometimes. Now see if you can finish telling me what happened.”

This time she got through the story without tearing up, although Marcus’s efforts to find something broken or dislocated brought forth a number of additional flinches and exclamations.

“I really do think I’m fine except for some bruises,” she concluded.

“Really?”

“Okay, I’m also scared. And a little bit mad.”

A tinny voice over the intercom interrupted her. “Dr. Bell, is Marianne still in there?”

“I’m here,” the nurse replied.

“Can you help us out? There’s a pedi patient in Treatment Room Two with suspected meningitis. They’re about to do a spinal tap.”

“Go ahead,” Marcus said. “We can take it from here.”

No sooner had the nurse closed the door than there was a firm tap on it.

“Jerry?” Marcus called.

“Yes, sir.”

“Come in.”

The door creaked open, and Cathy turned. The pain that coursed through her neck made her regret the decision. A man in starched, immaculate whites strode into the room and stopped at an easy parade rest. A smattering of gray at the temples softened the red in his buzz-cut hair.

Marcus did the honors. “Dr. Sewell, this is Jerry O’Neal. Jerry retired after twenty years as a Marine corpsman, and he’s now the senior radiology technician at Summers County General. He probably knows as much medicine as you and I put together, but he’s too polite to let it show.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Doctor,” Jerry said.

Marcus handed the clipboard chart to Jerry. “Dr. Sewell’s been in an auto accident. She has a scalp laceration I’ll need to suture, but first, would you get a skull series, films of the right shoulder and clavicle?” He thought a bit. “Right knee. Right lower leg. While we’re at it, better do a C-spine too.”

“Yes, sir,” Jerry said. “Is that all?”

Marcus looked back at Cathy. “If you catch her rubbing anything else, shoot it. Call me when you’ve got the films ready.”

Cathy half- expected Jerry to salute Marcus. Instead, he nodded silently before helping her off the exam table and into a wheelchair.

“Don’t worry, Dr. Sewell. You’re in good hands.”

She tried to relax and take Jerry at his word. “Why haven’t I seen you around before this?”

Jerry fiddled with some dials. “I work weekdays as a trouble-shooter for an X-ray equipment company in Dallas. I’m only here on weekends. It fills the empty hours.”

That’s why I was taking a drive on Saturday afternoon. Filling the empty hours. That started a chain of thought Cathy didn’t want to pursue. Instead, she concentrated on getting through the next few minutes.

The X-rays took less time and caused less discomfort than Cathy expected. She could see why Marcus thought so highly of Jerry. Soon she was back in the treatment room, lying on the examination table. Jerry put up two of the X-rays on the wall view box and stacked the others neatly on the metal table beneath it.

“I’ll get Dr. Bell now. Will you be okay here for a minute?”

Cathy assured Jerry that she was fine, although she finally realized how many bumps and bruises she’d accumulated in the crash. Every movement seemed to make something else hurt.

When she thought about what came next, her anxiety kicked into high gear. Would Marcus have to shave her scalp before placing the stitches? She recalled her own experiences suturing scalp lacerations in the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room. Maybe it was a woman thing, but she’d felt sorry for those patients, walking out with a shaved spot on their head, a bald patch that was sometimes the size of a drink coaster. She hated the prospect of facing her patients on Monday in that condition. Truthfully, she even hated the prospect of looking at herself in the mirror. She was thinking about wigs when Marcus reentered the room.

“Let’s see what we’ve got.” He stepped to the view box and ran through the X-rays. “Skull series looks fine. . . . Neck is good. . . . Shoulder looks okay. . . .The clavicle isn’t fractured. . . . You are one lucky woman. Looks like all I have to do is suture that scalp laceration.”

Cathy was surprised when Marcus didn’t call for help, but rather assembled the necessary instruments and equipment himself. When he slipped his gloves on, she closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. The fact that she’d been on the other end of this procedure hundreds of times just made her dread it more.

Marcus’s touch was gentle as he cleaned the wound. Soon she felt the sting of a local anesthetic injection. After that, there was nothing except an occasional tug as he sutured.

Cathy processed what she’d just felt. “You didn’t shave my scalp.”

“Now why would I want to mar that natural beauty of yours? I didn’t paint the wound orange with Betadine, either. I used a clear antiseptic to prep the area and KY jelly to plaster the hair down out of my way. The sutures are clear nylon that won’t be noticeable in your blonde hair. When I’m finished, I’ll paint some collodion over the wound to protect it. In the morning, clean the area with a damp cloth, brush your hair over it, and no one will know the difference.”

Cathy couldn’t believe what she’d heard. “Natural beauty?” This was certainly at odds with what she’d been told about Marcus Bell. Since the death of his wife, Marcus apparently wanted nothing to do with women. Rumor had it he’d turned aside the advances of most of the single women in Dainger. Was he flirting with her now? Or was this simply his bedside manner?

Marcus snapped off his gloves and tossed them in the bucket at the end of the table. “See me in a week to remove the stitches—unless you want to stand on a box and look down on the top of your own head to remove them yourself.”

“Okay, I get it. I’ll stop being my own doctor,” she said.

“How about something for the pain?”

“I think I’ll be okay.”

“Tetanus shot?”

“I’m current.”

“Then how about dinner with me next Thursday?”

Once more, Cathy felt her head spin, but this time it had nothing to do with tumbling. about in a runaway auto.

* * *

Cathy had always dreaded Monday mornings, but none so much as this one. Today it was time to show her face to the world.

She took one last look in the mirror. Cathy had figured that her fair complexion would make her bruises show up like tire tracks on fresh snow, but the judicious application of some Covermark had done its job well. The redness she’d noticed in her eyes two days ago had responded well to the eye drops Marcus prescribed. And, true to his prediction, she’d been able to style her hair so that the blonde strands almost hid the stitches in her scalp. A little more lipstick and blusher than usual, drawing attention to her face instead of her hair, and maybe she could fake her way through the day.

No matter how successful she’d been in covering the outward signs of the accident, it was still impossible for her to move without aches and pains. She popped a couple of Extra Strength Tylenol, washed them down with the remnants of her second cup of coffee, and headed out the door to face another week. If the medication kicked in soon, maybe Jane wouldn’t notice that Cathy moved like an old woman. Maybe Jane hadn’t heard the news about the accident. Yeah, and maybe the President would call today and invite Cathy to dinner at the White House.

Cathy tried to sneak in the back door, but Jane’s hearing was awfully good for a woman her age. She met Cathy at the door to her office, clucking like a mother hen and shaking her head. “Dr. Sewell, what happened to you?”

What a break it had been for her when Jane—a trim, silver-haired grandmother with a sassy twinkle in her eye—answered her ad for a combination office nurse and secretary. She’d helped Cathy set up the office, given her advice on business, and provided a sympathetic ear on more occasions than she could count.

Cathy recognized Jane’s question as rhetorical. Having grown up in Dainger, Cathy knew how quickly news spread in her hometown. She’d bet that Jane had known about the accident before Cathy had cleared the emergency room doors on Saturday. By now, probably everyone in town knew.

“I was out for a ride in the country. I needed to relax and clear my mind. Then someone ran me off the road out near Big Sandy Creek. My car went out of control, flipped, and took out a row of Seth Johnson’s peach trees.” Cathy winced as she dropped her purse into the bottom drawer of her desk. “Dr. Bell sutured a laceration on my scalp.”

“Any other injuries? Do we need to cancel today’s patients?”

Cathy shook her head, aggravating a headache that the Tylenol had only dulled. “Other than the fact that I feel like I’ve just finished a week of two-a-day practices with the Dallas Cowboys, I’m okay.”

“It’s good that you have a nice light schedule today. You can take it easy.”

Cathy frowned. A “nice light schedule” for a doctor just getting started as a family practitioner wasn’t exactly the stuff she dreamed about. She needed patients. The money from the bank loan was about gone, and her income stream was anything but impressive. But, she’d do the best she could. Anything had to beat living in Dallas, knowing she might run into Robert.

Speak of the devil. Cathy actually shuddered when she saw the return address on the envelope sitting in the middle of her desk: Robert Edward Newell, M.D.

She clamped her jaws shut, snatched up a brass letter opener, and ripped open the envelope. Inside were two newspaper clippings and a few words scribbled on a piece of white notepad with an ad for a hypertension drug at the top of the page. The first clipping announced the engagement of Miss Laura Lynn Hunt, daughter of Dr. Earl and Mrs. Betty Hunt, to Dr. Robert Edward Newell. The second featured a photo of Laura Lynn and Robert, she in a high couture evening gown, he in a perfectly fitting tux, arriving at the Terpsichorean Ball. The note was brief and to the point: “See what you’ve missed?” No signature. Just a reminder, one that made her grit her teeth until her jaws ached. Leave it to Robert to rub salt in her wounds.

She forced herself to sit quietly and breathe deeply, until the knot in her throat loosened. Then she wadded the clippings and note into a tight ball, which she consigned to the wastebasket with as much force as she could muster.

No use rethinking the past. Time to get on with her life. “Jane,” she called. “May I have the charts for today’s patients? I want to go over them.”

Jane returned and deposited a pitifully small stack of thin charts on Cathy’s desk. The look in Jane’s eyes said it all. Sorry there aren’t more. Sorry you’re hurting. Sorry.

Cathy picked up the top chart but didn’t open it. “Do you think I made a mistake coming here to practice?”

Jane eased into one of the patient chairs across the desk from Cathy. “Why would you ask that?”

“I applied at three banks before I got a loan. When I mention to other doctors that I’m taking new patients, they get this embarrassed look and mumble something about keeping that in mind, but they never make any referrals. Several of my patients tell me they’ve heard stories around town that make them wonder about my capabilities. And my privileges at the hospital have been stuck in committee for over a month now.” Cathy pointed to the stitches in her scalp. “Now the situation seems to be escalating.”

“You mean the accident on Saturday?”

“It was no accident. I’m convinced that someone ran me off the road and intended to kill me.”

“Did you report it?” Jane asked.

“Yes, but fat lot of good it did. If Will Kennedy hadn’t insisted, I think the deputy who came out to investigate the accident would have written the whole thing off as careless driving on my part.” Cathy grimaced. “Of course, he may do that anyway.”

“What was Will Kennedy doing there?”

“He came along right after the wreck. When I couldn’t manage under my own power, Will carried me up the embankment. Then he insisted I go to the emergency room, and when they were loading me into the ambulance he slipped his card into my hand and whispered, ‘Please call me. I want to make sure you’re okay.’” Cathy pulled a business card from the pocket of her skirt, smoothed the wrinkles from it, and put it under the corner of her blotter.

“Did you phone him?”

Cathy shook her head. “I started to, but I couldn’t. I’m not ready to get close to any man. Not Will Kennedy. Not Marcus Bell. Not Robert Newell.” She took in a deep breath through her nose and let it out through pursed lips. “Especially not Robert Newell.”

“Who is—?”

Before Jane could finish, Cathy spun around in her chair and pulled a book at random from the shelf behind her. “Not now. Please. I need to look up something before I see my first patient.” She paged through the book, but none of the words registered.

Jane’s voice from behind her made Cathy close the book. “Dr. Sewell, you asked me a question. Let me answer it before I go. I don’t know if someone’s really making an effort to run you off. I’ve heard some of those rumors. They’re always anonymous, like ‘Somebody told me that Dr. Sewell’s not a good doctor.’ Or ‘I heard Dr. Sewell came back to Dainger because she couldn’t make it in Dallas.’ You have to ignore the gossip and rumors. They’re part of living here.”

Cathy swiveled back to face Jane. “I thought it would be easier to get my practice started in my hometown.”

“It might be, except that people here will compare you to your daddy, who was the best surgeon Dainger ever saw. In that situation a young, female doctor will come up short, no matter how qualified she is.”

Cathy tossed the book on her desk and held her hands up, palms forward. “If someone wants to get rid of me, they’re close to succeeding. I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”

“You’re a fighter, and I’m right here with you. Just stick with it.” Jane turned and walked toward the doorway.

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

Jane stopped and faced Cathy once more. “Have you been out to visit your folks?”

“It won’t do any good. There’s nothing for me there. I don’t have anything to say.”

Jane shook her head. “Sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Sometimes you simply have to make the effort and go. It’s the only way you’ll ever put all that behind you.”