Friday, March 29, 2013

Beyond The Valley by Rita Gerlach

Beyond the Valley (Daughters of the Potomac, # 3)
Beyond The Valley by Rita Gerlach

From Amazon.com
 When Sarah's husband Jamie drowns, her young life if shattered and takes a turn that she never expected. Pregnant and now
widowed, she reaches out to Jamie's family for help but they are unwilling. Instead they devise a plan to have her kidnapped. She is deceived and taken aboard a ship headed for the Chesapeake to be sold as an indentured servant, bound to unspeakable hardship and forced into the same harsh world she left.

Caught in the talons of servitude, she falls in love with a young conscientious doctor, Alex Hutton, who has arrived in Virginia to care for his widowed sister in law and two young nieces. Called back to serve in Washington's army, he promises he will return for her, gain her freedom and wed her. Other plans were made for Sarah when her owner finds himself bankrupt and sells her the first chance he gets. She's taken out into the frontier, captured by Indians, and faces unbearable hardship.

When the mistress of River Run along the Potomac encounters Sarah's plight after she has escaped, Eliza Morgan pities her, and a way is made for Sarah to remain with her and care for Eliza's young daughter, Darcy. Revolution has ignited in America, and together they endure many hardships which bring them together in friendship. But when Sarah learns that Zachary Halston, a local landowner, has seduced Eliza, she is troubled about what to do.

Grateful for Eliza's kindness, Sarah is forever bound to keep silent. She promises Eliza to never reveal the secret that Ilene is Eliza's child, even at the risk of living a life in shame if her master should ever discover the truth upon his return.

Trapped in Eliza and Hayward's troubled lives, Sarah flees River Run. Will she make her way back to Alex and freedom as he searches the wilderness for her? Or will her hopes be crushed at the hands of the man who deceived her long ago in Cornwall when she faced destitution?
My Take: Sarah has always felt that she was less than everyone else.  She was born with one leg shorter than the other so she had a limp.  She met Jamie and he wanted to marry her so she impulsively married at the age of 17.  Six months later she finds herself a widow and she goes to Jamie's family for help.  They are very selfish people and come up with a plan to send Sarah to America.  The rest of the story is very realistic and shows things as they were in that time of history.  Sarah's life is full of ups and downs but through it all you can see God's hand in it all. 
Although this is the third in a trilogy you do not have to read the first two to be able to read this book.  You will want to read the first two though as they are wonderful books in their own right. 
These books will appeal to people who enjoy historical romance with Christian overtones.  Or if you just like a well written book. 

I received a review copy of this book from Pump Up Your Book.  I was not required to write a favorable review.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

First Chapter Peak of Mountain Homecoming by Sandra Robbins

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:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sandra Robbins and her husband live in the small college town in Tennessee where she grew up. They count their four children and five grandchildren as the greatest blessings in their lives. Her published books include stories in historical romance and romantic suspense. When not writing or spending time with her family, Sandra enjoys reading, collecting flow blue china, and playing the piano.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the second book in the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, acclaimed author Sandra Robbins spins a tender tale of God's faithfulness throughout the generations.

Rani Martin, Simon and Anna's only daughter, is a beautiful and spirited young woman living deep in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. She has plenty of ideas about the man she'll marry someday, but none of them could have prepared her for the return of Matthew Jackson.

Matthew left Cades Cove as a child after his father's death. Now he's come back to build a new life for himself, and it's his dearest wish that Rani be a part of that life. But the people of the Cove won't let him forget the sins of his father, and Matthew can't forget the darkness of his own past.

Is there a place for Matthew in the Cove? And can the light of Rani's love overcome his pain?



Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736948864
ISBN-13: 978-0736948869


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Cades Cove, Tennessee
June, 1914

Rani Martin stared through the cabin window at the Smoky
Mountains rising above the valley she loved. Usually the sight of the foggy mists curling around the hills made her happy. But try as she might, she couldn’t find anything to cheer her up today.

There had to be something that would take away the misery gnawing in the pit of her stomach. Poppa always told her she could do anything she set her mind to, but she didn’t know how she could be happy about losing the best friend any girl could ever have.

After today, there would be no reason for her to visit this cabin. Tomorrow Josie Ferguson and her husband, Ted, would load their belongings in their wagon, take their baby, and do what many of their friends and neighbors had already done—move out of Cades Cove. Josie, the one she’d shared secrets with all her life, would be gone, and Rani would be left behind with only memories of her best friend since childhood.

She didn’t understand what any of the folks who’d left the Cove were thinking. How could they leave the most beautiful place on God’s good earth?

It was springtime, the best time of year in the Cove. The winter snow had melted and the mountain laurel was in bloom. It wouldn’t be long before rhododendrons dotted the mountainsides and azaleas reappeared on Gregory’s Bald. This year, however, Josie wouldn’t be with her to share the wonder of the Cove coming back to life after a hard winter.

To Rani the prospect of living anywhere except the mountain valley where she’d been born scared her. She’d had an opportunity to see what existed in the outside world when she spent a year attending school while living with Uncle Charles in Maryville. It had been enough to convince her that life wasn’t nearly as good anywhere else as it was in the Cove. But others didn’t share her thoughts, and they’d left. And now Josie was going too.

With a sigh she turned back to the task she’d abandoned moments ago, helping pack up the kitchen utensils. Her throat constricted as she pulled the cake plate she and her mother had given Josie from the kitchen cupboard. She wrapped her fingers around the pierced handles and stared down at the hand-painted red and yellow roses on the delicate china dish. She’d thought it the most beautiful plate she’d ever seen when she first spied it at the store in Pigeon Forge.

Tears filled her eyes, and she loosened her grip with one hand so she could trace the gold band on the fluted rim. “I can’t believe it’s been three years since your wedding.”

Josie Ferguson bit down on her lip and nodded. “Ted’s always said this was his favorite of all our wedding gifts. It reminds him of the molasses cake your mother let him and his sister help make the day George was born.”

“I’ve heard Mama tell that story so many times. But she has one about every baby she’s helped deliver.”

“She’s been a blessing to the women she’s helped birth their babies. Everybody loves Anna Martin.” Josie’s eyes grew wide. “And of course your father too. I don’t think I can ever love another pastor like I do your pa. I’ve listened to him on Sundays ever since I can remember.”

“But you won’t be there anymore.” Rani set the plate down on the table and glanced at the baskets and tubs scattered across the kitchen floor. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils protruded above their sides. The tears she’d been holding back poured down her face, and she covered her eyes with her fingers. “First my brother decides to spend the summer at Uncle Robert’s farm in Strawberry Plains instead of coming home from school, then my cousin Annie gets married and moves to Townsend. Now you’re going too. What will I do with all of you gone? I’m going to feel so alone.”

“No, you won’t.”

Rani dug her fists into her eyes to stop the tears and gritted her teeth. “Why couldn’t Stephen have come home when school was out at Milligan College instead of spending the summer on Uncle Robert’s farm?”

Josie propped her hands on her hips and tilted her head to one side. “You know why.”

“Yeah,” Rani sighed. “He didn’t want to hear Poppa talk to him all summer about following in his footsteps. I don’t know why Poppa can’t see that Stephen doesn’t feel led to preach even though he agreed to that year at Milligan College. He wants to go to medical school. Of course that’s what Mama wants too. I’m glad they don’t have that problem with me. I don’t want to live anywhere but right here in Cades Cove…even if I am going to be alone.”

Josie rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Like I said, you won’t be alone. You’ll have your ma and pa, and Stephen will be here for a visit in July.” Josie wrapped her arms around Rani’s shoulders and hugged her close. “I’m the one who’s going to be alone. I won’t know anybody over at Townsend. You know Ted never has taken to farming, and there’s nothing else for him in the Cove. His new job pays real good. They’re going to furnish us a house too.”

Rani drew back in shock and gaped at Josie. “House? Have you seen what that high and mighty Little River Logging Company calls houses? I went with Poppa to Townsend last month, and I couldn’t believe what the workers were living in. They call them setoff houses because they bring them in on railroad cars and set them off on the hillsides or even right next to the railroad. They’re nothing more than one-room shacks with tar paper roofs. When the lumber company gets through cutting all the trees in one place, they load the houses onto a train and ship them to the next spot for their workers.”

Josie’s lip trembled, and her forehead wrinkled. “I know.” Her voice was almost a whisper. “But what can I do, Rani? Ted is my husband. We have to go where he can find work.”

Rani gazed past Josie to the cradle in the next room. “I can’t stand to think about you living in one of those things, especially now since you have a baby. Can’t you convince Ted to stay in Cades Cove? This is the only life you know.”

Josie pulled the corner of her apron up and wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath. “We’ll be fine. I’ll come back to visit, and you can come to Townsend to see me.”

Rani snorted and shook her head. “No thanks. I have no desire to share a one-room setoff house with you and your husband, not to mention your baby. I can’t believe Ted would be so disloyal to the Cove to go work for a company that’s trying to destroy our mountains.”

“Are you accusing my husband of turning his back on his friends?” Josie’s eyes flared and grew dark with anger.

Rani had seen that look before and realized she’d gone too far. She really needed to follow her mother’s advice and not be so outspoken about the company she thought was using the Smokies as a quick way to make money. Her opinion of Little River Lumber differed from that of many who’d left to work for the logging company. Now she had sounded like she believed Ted to be a traitor to his friends.

She reached out and grasped Josie’s arm. “I’m sorry, Josie. I didn’t mean to criticize Ted. It’s just that I’ve been so upset over what Little River’s doing to our mountains. Colonel Townsend has bought 86,000 acres of forest land all the way from Tuckaleechee to Clingman’s Dome. I don’t care if he does own the company, he’s a foolish man. They’re cutting every tree in their path. If somebody doesn’t stop them, the Smokies will end up as barren hillsides.”

Josie waved her hand in dismissal. “As usual, you’re being overly dramatic. That’s not going to happen. Like I said before, they pay well, and we need the money. End of discussion.”

Rani opened her mouth to respond, but the set of Josie’s jaw told her it would be useless. With a sigh, she picked up the cake plate from the table and handed it to Josie. “I hope you’ll think of me every time you use this.”

Josie took the plate and clasped it in her hands like she held a priceless treasure. For the first time Rani caught a glimpse of fear in Josie’s eyes, and the truth struck her. Josie didn’t want to leave Cades Cove, but she had no choice.

“I will,” Josie whispered. “I wanted this to be the last thing I packed. After all, you’re my best friend.”

Rani burst into tears and threw her arms around Josie. “We’re more than best friends. I think of you as the sister I never had. ”

“Me too.” Josie pulled back and wiped at the corner of her eyes. “But you know we could really be sisters.”

Josie’s words shattered the mood of moments ago and swept all the sadness from Rani’s mind. She took a step backward and wagged her finger in Josie’s direction. “Oh no. Don’t start that again.”

“Why not? George is crazy about you. All he talks about is how he wants to marry you, and you won’t give him any encouragement. If you married him, we’d be family. Sisters-in-law.”

Rani couldn’t believe they were having this conversation again. “I’ve told you at least a hundred times that George is a good friend, but I don’t love him. Even if I did, I don’t think I’d marry him.”

A skeptical expression crossed Josie’s face. “What’s the matter? Isn’t he good looking enough for you?”

Rani’s mouth gaped open at the ridiculous suggestion. “Oh, Josie, you know I would never think that. The truth is George is the youngest child in his family, and he’s spoiled rotten. If he doesn’t get his way, he sulks for days. I wouldn’t want a husband that I have to coddle and give in to all the time.”

Josie dropped her gaze to the cake plate she held and wrapped a burlap sack around it before she tucked it in the side of one of the baskets. “I have to admit you’re right. As a matter of fact, Ted told me George had an awful argument with his pa the other night. It seems he’s upset because he’s going to be left behind in the Cove after we leave.”

Rani held up her hands in exasperation. “You see what I mean. George can only see what he wants. He doesn’t realize what a great opportunity he has to work with his father on one of the best farms in the Cove.”

“But, Rani, you know he’s in love with you. That ought to be enough to make him a good husband.”

“Maybe it would be for somebody else, but not for me. I’m just eighteen years old. I have plenty of time to think about getting married. When I do, it’s going to be because I love a man so much my heart aches when I’m away from him.”

Josie turned to Rani and propped her hands on her hips. “Yeah, you’ve always had those romantic ideas. I think it must come from all those stories about how hard it was for your pa to get your mother to marry him.” She leaned closer to Rani. “Well, for those of us who don’t have a great love like that happen in our lives, we have to settle for the next best thing. It’s not like there’s a lot of men to choose from in the Cove. Being married to George is better than ending up an old maid.”

Rani flinched at Josie’s words. She remembered how Josie had cried four years ago when Charlie Simmons left the Cove, bound for California. At the time she’d thought it was because he was Ted’s friend. Now she wasn’t so sure. “Is that what you did, Josie? You settled for the next best thing?”

Josie’s face drained of color, and she put her hand to her throat. “Rani, I didn’t mean…”

“What’s goin’ on in here?”

At the sound of her husband’s voice at the back door Josie’s body stiffened, and she glanced over her shoulder. Rani’s heart lurched at the lack of expression on Josie’s face. She might very well have been looking at a stranger who’d come to her door instead of her husband. “I need to check on the baby,” she said, and hurried from the kitchen.

Ted Ferguson frowned and gazed after his wife as she hurried into the next room. His eyes darkened, and the look in his eyes told Rani he longed for something he would never have from Josie. After a moment he took a deep breath and smiled at her. “You two havin’ another one of your friendly arguments?”

Rani forced a laugh from her throat and wiped her eyes. “No argument. We’re just a little emotional over the two of you leaving the Cove. It seems all my friends are taking off for different places. My family may be the only one left before long.”

Ted shook his head. “Naw, you won’t be. They’ll have to drag my pa out of the Cove to get him to leave. He says he intends to be buried at the church he’s gone to all his life.”

“That’s what my pa says too.” Rani picked up the empty basket sitting on the table. “I left you some fried chicken and a fresh loaf of bread that Mama sent. She thought you might get hungry on your way to Townsend tomorrow.”

“She always thinks about other folks. Tell her I’m mighty obliged, and I hope I see her soon.”

“I will.”

Ted followed Rani into the next room where Josie was holding her son. No one spoke for a moment, then Josie swallowed and handed the baby to Ted. “Take care of Jimmy a minute while I walk Rani out.”

As Rani stepped onto the front porch, she glanced down at her dog lying next to the door. She snapped her fingers, and he jumped to his feet. He shook his shaggy body, wagged his tail, and awaited her command. It was so easy to communicate with animals. Give them love, feed them well, and reward them for good behavior, and they’d do anything you asked. Too bad people weren’t like that.

Josie had a husband who did all that for her, but today Rani had discovered the secret Josie had kept so well hidden—she would never be able to return Ted’s love. Rani didn’t want to end up like that.

With a sigh, she reached down and stroked her dog’s head. “Good boy, Scout. You did what I said. Now let’s go home.”

With Scout at her heels, she and Josie walked to the road that ran in front of the cabin. As they neared the edge of the yard, Rani turned to Josie. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you too. We’re leaving early in the morning. So I guess I won’t see you again. I hope you will come visit me in Townsend. We’ll make room.”

Rani nodded. “We’ll see. You take care of yourself. And Ted and little Jimmy too.”

Josie smiled, but Rani could see the tears she was fighting to control. “Goodbye, Rani.”

Rani started to speak, but the words froze in her throat. She pressed her lips together and hugged her friend before she turned and started the long walk home. Scout trotted along beside her, and she didn’t look back. She wanted to, but she didn’t think she could stand the sight of Josie watching her walk away.

She glanced down at the dog and smiled. “Well, Scout, it’s a two-mile walk home. Do you think you can make it?”

The dog stared up at her and yelped a reply without breaking his stride.

“I think I can too.”

She didn’t mind walking. It had always been her way of getting around the Cove, and it gave her time to think. Today she had a lot to mull over. Her discovery about Josie’s feelings that she had settled for the next best thing still bothered her. She’d never imagined that Josie might have been in love with someone else.

Now that she thought back to four years ago, she remembered Josie seeming happy all summer. At the time, all she would say was that she’d had her first kiss and was in love. Rani thought it had to be Ted because he had been in love with Josie for years. But it must have been Charlie Simmons, and things hadn’t worked out. And soon after Charlie’s departure from the Cove, Josie had agreed to marry Ted after putting him off for so long.

Today she had learned the truth. Josie had settled for something—someone—she didn’t want. How could she have done that? She must have thought she was doing the right thing, but she’d been wrong. And she was wrong about something else. Being an old maid wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to a woman. To Rani’s way of thinking, being married to someone you didn’t love was far worse.

She squared her shoulders, clenched her fists at her side, and looked down at Scout. “I promise you, Scout, I will never settle for second best, even if it means I never get married.”







From the moment he rode into Cades Cove a peace like he hadn’t experienced in years came over Matthew Jackson. He pulled his horse to a stop and breathed in the sweet scent of mountain laurel drifting on the air. It smelled like home. He was back where his heart had remained.

Had it really been twenty years since he left the Cove? He closed his eyes and tried to recall every memory of the days following the death of his drunkard father. Even now the thought of the life he, his mother, and his little brother had endured made the old anger he’d tried to bury resurface. With his father drunk most of the time, survival had been hard. But his mother had seen to it that there was always food on the table. Then their lives had taken a turn for the worse when a tavern brawl had ended with his father lying dead of a gunshot wound.

Matthew had been almost ten years old at the time, but overnight he became the man of the family. He’d turned to a newcomer in the Cove, Anna Prentiss. Of course she was Anna Martin now. But to him she’d always be the angel who’d found a place for his family to live and had seen they were taken care of.

He even remembered the last words he’d spoken to her the day they left the Cove. She stood beside the wagon loaded with his family’s few belongings, and he’d said, “I’ll be back here someday.” And now, thanks to the money he’d saved working for the Little River Company, he had returned with the deed to his old homestead in his pocket.

But would the people of the Cove welcome the return of Luke Jackson’s son? His father had been a troublemaker and a bully, not to mention an abuser of his wife and children. The sturdy mountain folks didn’t have time for a man who didn’t take care of his family. As his mother used to say, people have long memories, and he was sure they could recall every one of his father’s misdeeds. Now he was about to see if those memories had labeled him a ne’er-do-well like his father.

He could count on one hand the folks who would welcome him back. Simon and Anna Martin. Granny Lawson. They were the ones who made his childhood bearable, and he could hardly wait to see them. But first things first. He had to go to the place where he was born and fulfill a promise he’d made to his dying mother fifteen years ago.

He’d leaned close to her frail, fever-ridden body to catch her last words spoken in that familiar mountain twang: “When you git back to the Cove, see if    ’n my mountain laurel bush is still there, the one yore pa planted for me when we was first married.”

After all the heartache his father had put her through, she still held to the memory of the early days of her marriage when she’d been so happy. Even now the thought of how her eyes had sparkled for a moment, reliving a happier time, made him feel as if a hammer had crushed his heart. His mother and little Eli, his brother. Gone too soon.

He cleared his throat and swiped at his eyes. No need to think about those things now. This was homecoming day, but it was different from what he’d dreamed about when he was a boy. He’d come back alone.

Straightening in the saddle, he spurred the horse forward and concentrated on the road twisting through the valley he loved. All around him were the sights and sounds he’d longed for, but he focused on getting home and seeing the place he’d left twenty years ago.

When he pulled the horse to a halt at what had once been the cabin where he’d lived, his heart dropped to the pit of his stomach. It was worse than he’d expected. The skeleton of a cabin sat near the tulip poplar tree he’d climbed as a boy—bigger now than he remembered. The house’s roof had long ago succumbed to the forces of nature and had caved in. A few timbers marked the spot where it had once been. Weeds grew across what had once been a yard.

Even in its best days the cabin hadn’t been much, but it could have been if his father had concentrated on making a life for his family instead of spending his time in a drunken stupor. The old hatred welled up in his heart, and he whispered the plea he’d prayed every day since he could remember. “God, don’t let me be like him. Make me a better man.”

The promise he’d made his mother flashed into his mind, and he climbed down from the horse and tied the reins to a sapling. Taking a deep breath to slow his racing heart, he headed around the side of the house. Had the mountain laurel plant survived the years?

His gaze drifted to his feet, and a warning flickered in his head. The weeds along what used to be a path had been trampled. Someone else had passed this way not long ago.

With hesitant steps, he inched forward. The knee-high weeds swished against his legs. He caught sight of his mother’s plant that now towered higher than his head, and he stopped in amazement. It wasn’t the bloom-covered bush that made his breath catch in his throat. It was a young woman who appeared unaware of his presence. With her arms outstretched and her face turned up to the sun, she whirled in circles in front of the mountain laurel bush while saying something in a language he didn’t understand.

Her bare feet hammered the hardened earth around the plant in a pounding rhythm. Pink blooms from the mountain laurel bush ringed the top of her head and several more protruded from the mass of black hair that reached below her shoulders.

She moved with the grace and elegance of a queen, and he thought he had never seen anyone more beautiful. He tried to speak, to alert her she wasn’t alone, but he felt as if he had come under her spell and had been forbidden to move.

Suddenly the air crackled with frantic barking, and a dog emerged from the other side of the bush. His hackles raised, he positioned himself between Matthew and the girl. She jerked to a stop and stared at him, wide-eyed. The dog snarled and inched forward.

Her dark eyes narrowed, and with one snap of her fingers she quieted the dog. She didn’t move, and her arched eyebrow told him his company wasn’t welcomed. “Stay back, mister, or I’ll sic my dog on you.”

He glanced down at the dog, whose body still bristled as if he was ready to attack. “I don’t mean you any harm, miss.”

“Then why did you sneak up on me?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t. I stopped when I heard your voice. What were you saying?”

“Just some words I learned from a Cherokee woman.” She frowned and glanced past him. “Are you alone?”

“I am. I just rode into the Cove from Townsend.”

Her body stiffened, and her lips curled into a sneer. “Townsend? Are you with the Little River Company?”

“I have been.”

“It figures.” She spit the words at him as if they were distasteful. “We get a lot of Little River workers checking out the Cove. You people are always searching for another stand of timber to cut down, aren’t you?” She bent down, grabbed her discarded shoes, and slipped them on her feet. Then with her arms rigid at her sides and her fists clenched, she took a step toward him. “Well, you can go back and tell your bosses we don’t sell our land and our trees to outsiders who want to clear cut their way through the Smokies.”

The defiant look in her eyes shot daggers at him, and they felt as if they poked deep holes in his heart. This girl’s words echoed the fierce pride shared by all the Cove residents for this valley, his valley, the place he called home. He wanted to tell her he agreed with her, that all he wanted was to live again among the people he remembered. Instead, other words emerged from his lips. “I worked for their railroad, not the logging company.”

She shook her head, and one of the blooms tumbled to the ground. Her eyes widened, and she glanced up as if she’d forgotten she wore a crown of flowers. A flush covered her cheeks, and she yanked the blossoms from her thick hair. “They’re the same to me. Maybe you didn’t cut our trees, but you carried them away.”

Matthew swallowed hard. There was something so familiar about this girl. Her brown eyes, dark complexion, and the high cheekbones reminded him of someone. It wasn’t possible he could have met her before. She probably hadn’t even been born when he had left the Cove. But still, there was something. He took a step closer, and the dog growled. With a smile he stopped and held up his hands. “I’m not coming closer.”

“Good.” She sniffed and snapped her fingers again. “Let’s go, Scout. It’s time we got home.”

He didn’t move as she strode past him, her head held high and her dog at her side. He turned and watched her disappear around the side of what had once been his home. Her straight back and determined stride reminded him of the spirited mountain women he’d known. They attacked the harsh life in the Cove and planted the seed of unyielding loyalty to the land in their children. Just like his mother had done with him.

Someone had instilled that same devotion in this girl. He hoped he’d get to meet the person who had done that, for he had just encountered the fierce mountain pride that had ruled his life. And it thrived in the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Monday what Are You Reading?


3
It's Monday What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney.  It is the place where we chare what we have been reading past present and future.  Check out what others are reading you may just find your next great read. 

Last Week on the blog

I decided to join in

The Spring Reading Thing

 Book Review of

My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book by Lois Rock

Book Review of




















Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings

Book Trailer of
Forsaken Dreams (Escape to Paradise, #1)
 Forsaken Dreams by MaryLu Tyndall

Audio Book review of

Three Good Things: A Novel
Three Good Things by Wendy Francis
Narrated by Madeleine Maby

On the Blog this Week

First Chapter Peak of
So Shines the Night
So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley

First Chapter Peak of
Mountain Homecoming
Mountain Homecoming by Sandra Robbins

Book Review of 


Beyond the Valley (Daughters of the Potomac, # 3)
Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach

Hopefully an Audio Review of
Espresso Shot (Coffeehouse Mystery, #7)
Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle


Current Reads are listed in the Sidebar

Coming Up


Goodnight, Brian
Goodnight, Brian by Steven Manchester


Unrivaled
Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell


When Jesus Wept
When Jesus Wept by Bodie and Brock Thoene


What's on Your reading Horizon?

First Chapter Peak of So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley

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:

Thomas Nelson (March 12, 2013)

***Special thanks to Tracy L. Higley for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored nine novels, including Garden of Madness and Isle of Shadows. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. See her travel journals and more at TracyHigley.com


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


On an island teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

“Meticulously-researched, spellbindingly written with luscious prose and compelling and complex characters.” —Tosca Lee, New York Times best-selling author of Havah: The Story of Eve



Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1401686826
ISBN-13: 978-1401686826



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue



I am an old man, and I have seen too much.

Too much of this world to endure any more. Too much of the next to want to linger.

And though I have nearly drowned in the glorious visions of those last days, yet I know not when it shall come, nor how many years I must tread this barren earth before all is made new.

There is a Story, you see. And we are still in the midst of it, ever striving to play our roles, battling on for the freedom of hearts and souls and minds yet enslaved by darkness.

But I have seen a great light. Oh yes, I have seen it. Even now it is breaking through, as it did on that grassy hillside so many cool spring mornings ago, when Moses and Elijah walked among us and my Brother shone with the glory He had been given from the beginning and will rise up to claim again at the end.

You will wonder, perhaps, at my calling Him brother. And yet that is what He was to me. Brother and friend, before Savior, before Lord. In those days when we wandered the land, going up and down from the Holy City, we shared our hearts, our lives, our laughter. Oh, how we laughed, He and I! He had the irrepressible joy of one who sees beyond the brokenness, to the restoration of all.

I loved him. And He loved me.

But I speak of beginnings and of endings, and these are words that have no meaning, for the day of His birth was both the beginning of the Kingdom and the end of tyranny, and that magnificent Day yet to come—it is the end-which-is-a-beginning, and my eyes have seen such glory in that New Jerusalem, my very heart breaks to tell of it.

And yet they come, young and old, to this tiny home in Ephesus that is to be my last dwelling outside that New City, and they beg me to tell the Story again and again.

And I do.

I tell of seals and scrolls, of a dragon and a beast and a Lamb. Of music that makes you weep to hear it and streets that blind the mortal eye. Of a Rider on a White Horse with eyes of blazing fire, whose name is Faithful and True. It is a great Story, and greater still to hear the final consummation of it, for how often we forget that we are living it still.

But I have another tale to tell. A smaller story within the One True Story that began before the creation of this world and is echoed at its end, as all our stories are. It happens here, in this port city of Ephesus but many years ago, when the darkness lay even heavier than it now does upon the people, and their souls cried out for relief from anyone who could give it.

This smaller story does not begin here in Ephesus, however. It begins a day’s sail away, on the sun-kissed shores of the Isle of Rhodes, where the light first began to break upon one woman and one man, even as they walked in darkness . . .



Chapter 1



Rhodes, AD 57



In the glare of the island morning sun, the sea blazed diamond-bright and hard as crystal, erratic flashes spattering light across Daria’s swift departure from the house of her angry employer.

She carried all she owned in one oversized leather pouch, slung over her shoulder. The pouch was not heavy. A few worn tunics and robes, her precious copy of Thucydides. She clutched it to her side and put her other hand to the gold comb pinning the dark waves of her hair, her one remaining luxury.

The bitter and familiar taste of regret chased her from the whitewashed hillside estate, down into the squalid harbor district. Why had she not kept silent?

Along the docks hungry gulls shrieked over fishy finds and work-worn sailors traded shrill insults. The restless slap of the sea against the hulls of boats kept time with the anxious rhythm of her steps against the cracked gray stones of the quay.

She had run once, haunted and guilty to a fresh start in Rhodes. Could she do it again? Find a way to take care of herself, to survive?

“Mistress Daria!”

The voice at her back was young and demanding, the tenor of a girl accustomed to a world arranged to her liking. And yet still precious, still malleable.

“Mistress! Where are you going?”

Daria slowed, eyes closed against the pain, and inhaled. She turned on the sun-warmed dock with a heaviness that pulled at her limbs like a retreating tide.

Corinna’s breath came quick with exertion and the white linen of her morning robe clung to her body. The sweet girl must have run all the way.

“To the School of Adelphos, Corinna. I will seek a position there.”

Corinna closed the distance between them and caught Daria’s hand in her own. Her wide eyes and full lips bespoke innocence. “But you cannot! Surely, Father did not mean what he said—”

Daria squeezed the girl’s eager fingers. “It is time. Besides”—she tipped Corinna’s chin back—“you have learned your lessons so well, perhaps you no longer need the services of a tutor.”

Corinna pulled away, dark eyes flashing and voice raised. “You do not believe that, mistress. It is you who says there is always more to learn.”

They drew the attention of several young dockworkers hauling cargo from ship to shore. Daria stared them down until they turned away, then circled the girl’s shoulders, pulled her close, and put her lips to Corinna’s ear. “Yes, you must never stop learning, dear girl. But it must be someone else who teaches you—”

“But why? What did you say to anger Father so greatly?”

Only what she thought was right. What must be said. A few strong phrases meant to rescue Corinna from a future under the thumb of a husband who would surely abuse her.

Daria smiled, fighting the sadness welling in her chest, and continued her trudge along the dock toward the school. “I am afraid discretion is one of the things I have not yet learned, Corinna. Your father is a proud man. He will not brook a mere servant giving him direction in the running of his household.”

Corinna stopped abruptly at the water’s edge, her pretty face turned to a scowl. “You are no mere servant! You are the most learned tutor I have ever had!”

Daria laughed and looked over the sea as she walked, at the skiffs and sails tied to iron cleats along the stone, easy transportation to the massive barges that floated in the blue harbor, awaiting trade. Papyrus and wool from Egypt, green jade and aromatic spices from far eastern shores, nuts and fruits and oils from Arabia. Her eyes strayed beyond the ships, followed northward along the rocky Anatolian coast to cities unknown, riddles to be unraveled, secrets and knowledge to be unlocked. More to learn, always. And somewhere perhaps, the key to redeeming the past.

They approached and skirted the strange symbol of the isle of Rhodes, the toppled Helios that once stood so proud and aloof along the harbor and now lay humbled, its bronze shell speckled to an aged green, reflecting the impenetrable turquoise sky. The massive statue had lain at the quay for gulls to peck and children to climb for nearly three hundred years since the quake brought it down. Daria found it disturbing.

“May I still visit you at the school, Mistress Daria?”

She smiled. “One challenge at a time. First I must convince Adelphos that he should hire me.”

Corinna’s tiny sandals scurried to keep pace. “Why would he not?”

“It is not easy to be an educated woman in a man’s world of philosophy and rhetoric. There are few men who appreciate such a woman.”

“How could anyone not appreciate someone as good, as brave, as you?”

The child gave her too much credit. She was neither good, nor brave. She would not be here in Rhodes if she were. Though she was trying. The gods knew, she had been trying.

Corinna lifted her chin with a frown in the direction of the school. “I shall simply explain to Adelphos how very valuable you are.”

And how outspoken? Interfering? But perhaps the girl could help in some way.

“Will you demonstrate some of what I have taught you, Corinna?”

The girl’s eyes lit up. “Just wait, mistress. I shall amaze and delight that crusty old Adelphos.”

Daria studied the impetuous girl and bit her lip. But it was a chance she must take.

The School of Adelphos lay at the end of the docks, its modest door deceptive. Daria paused outside, her hand skimming the rough wood, and inhaled determination in the sharp tang of salt and fish on the breeze. Who would believe that such distinguished men as the poet Apollonius and Attalus the astronomer had studied and written and debated behind this door? Sea trade had kept Rhodes prosperous for centuries, but in the two hundred years under Roman control, the Greek island had grown only more beautiful, a stronghold of learning, of arts and sciences and philosophy.

Inside its most famous school, she blinked twice and waited for her sun-blind eyes to adjust.

“Daria!” Adelphos emerged from the shadows of the antechamber with a cool smile and tilt of his head. Tall and broad-shouldered, he was several years her senior, with the confident ease of an athlete, a man aware of his own attractiveness.

She returned the smile and straightened her back. “Adelphos. Looking well, I am pleased to see.”

He ran a gaze down the length of her, taking in her thin white tunic and the pale blue mantle that was the best of her lot. “As are you.”

“I have come to make you an offer.”

At this, his eyebrows and the corner of his mouth lifted in amusement and he gave a glance to Corinna, still at the door. “Shouldn’t we send your young charge home first?”

She ignored the innuendo. “My employ as Corinna’s tutor will soon come to an end, and I desire to find a place here, in your school. As a teacher.” She swallowed against the nervous clutch of her throat.

Again the lifted eyebrows, but Adelphos said nothing, only strolled into the lofty main hall of the school, a cavernous marble room already scattered with scholars and philosophers, hushed with the echoes of great minds.

She gritted her teeth against the condescension and beckoned Corinna to follow, with a warning glance to keep the girl quiet, but the child’s sudden intake of breath at the fluted columns and curvilinear architraves snapped unwanted attention in their direction, the frowns of men annoyed by disruptive women.

Adelphos disappeared into the alcove that housed the school’s precious stock of scrolls—scrolls Daria had often perused at her leisure and his generosity.

Daria spoke to his back. “Do you doubt my abilities—”

“What I doubt, my lady, is a rich man’s willingness to pay a woman to teach his sons.”

Daria waved a hand. “Bah! What difference does it make? I can do a man’s work just as well. And if they learn, they learn!” But a cold fear knotted in her belly.

Adelphos traced his fingertips over the countless nooks of scrolls, as if he could find the one he sought simply by touching its ragged edge. “And you, Daria? Do you want to live a man’s life as well as do a man’s work? What woman does not long for love and family and hearth?”

Her throat tightened at his words, too close to the secrets of her heart. Yes, she longed for those comforts. For a love that would accept her abilities, complement rather than suppress. But for now, for now she had no one and she must assure her own welfare.

She coughed to clear the dryness of her throat and stepped beside him, examined the great works of philosophy and literature, their tan Egyptian papyri wrapped in brown twine, sealed in waxy red.

Adelphos reached past her to a nook above her head, and his muscled arm brushed her shoulder.

The touch was intentional, clearly. Manipulative. Even so, his nearness left her breathless and her usual sharp-tongued wit failed. When she spoke, it was a harsh whisper, too raw with emotion, though the words emerged falsely casual. “And why should I not have both?”

At this, Adelphos huffed, a derisive little laugh, and turned to lean his back against the shelves and unroll the scroll he had retrieved.

“A woman of ambition. Does such a breed truly exist?” His gaze darted to hers. “But what am I saying? You have already wedded a husband, have you not?”

Daria pulled a scroll from its recess and pretended to study it.

“You are interested in the work of Pythagoras? That one is newly arrived from Samos.”

Daria shrugged. “I find his work repetitive. What new has he added to Euclid’s previous efforts?”

“Indeed.” Adelphos pulled the scroll from her hands and replaced it in its nook. “But you have not answered my question.”

“I am a widow, yes.”

“A widow with no sons. No dowry.” He glanced at Corinna, clutching the doorway. “And no employment. Is there anything more desperate?”

Daria lifted her chin and met his gaze. “It seems you are in an enviable position, then, Adelphos. You have found a skilled teacher, available for a bargain.”

Adelphos circled to Corinna, an appreciative gaze lingering on her youth and beauty. “And this is your prize specimen? The pupil of whom I have heard such wonders?”

The girl straightened and faced Adelphos with a confidence borne of knowledge. “Shall I demonstrate the superior skill Mistress Daria has given me with languages?”

Daria silently cheered and blessed the girl. “Corinna has been working hard to master the tongues of Rome’s far-flung empire.”

Adelphos’s brow creased and he opened his lips as if to speak, then sealed them and nodded once. No doubt he wanted to ask what use there might be for a girl who could speak anything but common Greek. As Daria herself was such a girl, the implicit question struck a nerve. She turned a shoulder to Adelphos and nodded encouragement to Corinna. “Let us hear Herodotus in the Classical first, then.”

The girl grinned, then gushed a passage of Herodotus in the proud language of her Greek forebears, the language of literature and poetry, before Alexander had rampaged the world and equalized them all with his common koine.

“And now in Latin, Corinna.”

The girl repeated the passage, this time in the tongue of the Romans, the new conquerors.

Adelphos tilted his head to study the girl, then spoke to her in Latin. “Anyone can memorize a famous passage in a foreign tongue. Few can converse in it.”

Corinna’s eyelashes fluttered and she glanced at her hands, twisted at her waist. When she answered, it was not in Latin, but in Persian. “Fewer still can converse in multiple languages at once, my lord.”

Adelphos chuckled, then glanced at Daria. “She does you proud, lady.”

A glow of pride, almost motherly, warmed Daria’s chest. “Indeed.”

Corinna reached out and gripped Adelphos’s arm, bare beneath his gleaming white tunic. “Oh, it is all Mistress Daria’s fine teaching, I assure you, my lord. I wish to be an independent woman such as she someday. There is nothing she cannot do.”

“Corinna.” Daria smiled at the girl but gave a tiny shake of her head.

Corinna withdrew her hand and lowered her eyes once more. “I have told my father this, but he does not understand—”

“Her father has been most pleased with her progress.” Daria tried to draw Adelphos’s attention. “He saw a superior mind there from an early age and was eager to see it developed.”

He waved a hand in the air. “I have seen enough. You may go.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Audio Book Review of Three Good Things by Wendy Francis Read by Madeleine Maby

Three Good Things: A Novel

Three Good Things: A Novel

 

Publisher's Summary

Sisterhood, motherhood, marriage, baking, and books - these are a few of the things that make this delightful novel a recipe for getting through the tough stuff of life.
Filled with love, humor, and the scent of delectable puff pastry, Three Good Things tells the tale of two sisters who find their bond invaluable as they navigate marriage, heartache, poor grammar, and the surprising challenges that ultimately become the most fulfilling blessings.
Ellen McClarety, a recent divorcĂ©e, has opened a new bake shop in her small Midwestern town, hoping to turn her life around, but the past still haunts her - sometimes by showing up on her doorstep. Her younger sister, Lanie, is a successful divorce attorney with a baby at home. But Lanie is beginning to feel that her perfect life is not as perfect as it seems. Both women long for the guidance of their mother, who died years ago, but left them with a wonderful piece of advice: “At the end of every day, you can always think of three good things that happened.”
Wearing her big Midwestern heart proudly on her sleeve, Wendy Francis tells a story destined to be shared.


My take:This  was an ok book as far as I was concerned.  I liked the closeness of Ellen and Lanie even though they had quite a bit of an age difference.  I see this closeness between my  two daughters.  I liked that the author told the story from three different points of view the two sisters and Lanie's husband.  I was a bit frustrated at Ellen's wishy washy ness when it came to her exhusband and I thought at her age she would have more of a grasp of what was good for her and what wasn't.  I thought that her relationship with Henry  was cute and that Henry was a great guy.  There were several unanswered questions at the end and I found her ex husbands confession at the end a bit unbelievable.  Seems like alot of drama happens in small towns.  I liked the way each chapter opened with a quote from a book that was appropriate to the character the chapter was about.
I thought that the narrator did a good job.  Not really anything remarkable but a good job.

I was sent a review download from Simon and Schuster Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Book Trailer of Foresaken Dreams by Mary Lu Tyndall

Friday, March 22, 2013

Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings



About Love in the Balance

Handsome Cowboy or Debonair Tycoon.
How's a Girl to Choose?
Molly Lovelace dreams of a life without cares in Lockhart, Texas. She also dreams of handsome wrangler Bailey Garner, her ardent but inconsistent beau. The problem is, with Bailey's poor prospects, she just can't fit the two dreams together.
Then mysterious stranger Edward Pierrepont sweeps into town-and her life-and for the first time Molly wonders if she's met the man who can give her everything. But he won't be in Lockhart long and while it certainly seems like he talks about their glorious future together, she can't quite get Bailey out of her mind.
What's a girl to do with all these decisions when love is in the balance? 
Link to buy the book: http://ow.ly/iTdiA          
Meet Regina:  
  
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City with her husband and four children. 
Find out more about Regina at 
 My Take: I really liked Regina's novel Sixty Acres and a Bride.  This book is set in the same local with some of the same characters but definitely not a continuation of that story.  I was very frustrated with Molly Lovelace one of the main characters.  She was always looking at men as potential husbands and their monetary status was usually a main catalyst for whether they were a good candidate or not.  She got this honestly as that is what her parents told her she was to be doing while she was working in town.  Unfortunately for her her heart already belonged to Bailey the other main character who didn't have good prospects money wise.  The whole story is about how they both make decisions to make sure that Molly is provided for in the style that they think she should be and how these decisions are not always the best.  It was a good story but I didn't like Molly to much from the very beginning.  I will have to say I enjoyed Sixty Acres better but I still liked this book.  I would recommend it if you like Western Romances.  You do not have to have read the first book to enjoy this one. 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion from Litfuse. 


Enter Today - 3/18- 4/3! Love in the Balance Kindle Fire Giveaway

My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book by Lois Rock Illustrated by Alex Ayliffe


My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book by Lois Rock
Illustrated by Alex Ayliffe

My Take:  This is a very cute little Book that can be used to teach children the real meaning of Easter.  Each page is divided into two sections.  The top part of the page tells the Easter Story and the bottom part is an activity that goes along with the portion of the story.  The Stickers are part of both of these aspects.  The pictures are very colorful and they held my granddaughters attention while we were doing the book.  This would make a perfect addition to an Easter Basket or a great activity for a pre Easter activity.  
I received a review copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Spring Reading Thing

I have been in a bit of a reading slump lately.  So I thought I would join in on this reading challenge to maybe motivate me to get back into the swing of things.  If you would like to join in you can do so here.  The challenge runs from today March 20th through June 20th.  There are prizes so if you want to be considered for them sign up by the 24th.  See sign up page for details. 

Here is my list which will change I am sure over the next few months.

1. Finish

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen #16)Finished 4/3/13

2. 

Iscariot

3.Done

Espresso Shot (Coffeehouse Mystery, #7)
I finished this.

4. Could Not finish.  Didn't Like
Path Of The Assassin (Scot Harvath, #2)

5.
The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty

6.
The Chance: A Novel

7.


Fever

8.


Threads of Grace

9.
Beyond the Valley (Daughters of the Potomac, # 3)

 10.
Invisible: A Novel

11.
It's Just You and Me, Lord: Prayers for a Woman's Life

12.
Stress Test

13.
Angelguard

14.
An Unholy Communion

That is a pretty good start for now.  I will adding and subtracting as the need arise.   2-8 are audio books and the rest are physical books. 1. is on my kindle and I have many other books on my kindle that I need to make time for. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Monday what Are You Reading?

3
It's Monday What Are You Reading?  is hosted by Sheila over at Bookjourney.  It is a great way to share what you have been reading, are currently reading and plan to read.  Head over and check out what others are reading.  You just might find your next favorite book.

Last Week on the Blog

Review of
 Heart in Hand (Stitches in Time, #3) 
Heart in Hand by Barbara Cameron

 Book Review of


















Grave Consequences by Lisa T. Bergren

Book Review of
 

















Swept Away by Mary Connealy


First Chapter Peak of

Strands of Deception by Robin Caroll

Audio Book Review of
And Then You Dye (A Needlecraft Mystery, #16)
And Then You Dye by Monica Ferris
Narrated by Susan Boyce

Book Trailer of
The Silence of Winter: Part 2
The Silence of Winter by Wanda Brunstetter


This Week on the blog


Love in the Balance
Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings



My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book
My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book by Lois Rock


Three Good Things: A Novel
Three Good Things by Wendy Francis


Current Reads are listed in Side Bar

Coming Up 

 
Unrivaled
Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell


So Shines the Night
So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley


Mountain Homecoming
Mountain Homecoming by Sandra Robbins

 What's on Your Reading Horizon?