A Lady in the Making by Susan Page Davis ~ Review

A Lady in the Making

My Review: A lovely conclusion to the Prairie Dreams Series.

Millie Evans has decided to leave her old life behind, but then a stagecoach brings her face-to-face with the man that she and her brother had previously tried to swindle. But as she cares for him, and helps him make his way home, she finds herself falling for him. Will David Stone make a lady of Millie yet?

The conclusion of a lovely series, and in my opinion the best! David Stone finally comes face-to-face with those who would do him harm in order to take his inheritance, I'm happy to see this story come to a sweet ending.

This is definitely the kind of series that you may want to read in order so that the full story arc can be fully appreciated. The story was told by 3 main characters, David, Millie, and the villian, Peregrin, and it was nice to see the tale through so many different eyes.

Overall, I found this book very enjoyable, and there was a tinge of suspense to the story as well. I really liked how David and Millie's relationship grew and developed naturally, and didn't feel forced or anything! A lovely conclusion to s series!

I received this ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Please Rank My Review!

Christmas in Apple Ridge: Three-in-One Collection: The Sound of Sleigh Bells, The Christmas Singing, NEW! The Dawn of Christmas
My Review: Three sweet Amish tales, old and new, just in time for  Christmas!

Welcome to Apple Ridge, in this three-in-one novella collection, three couples find love, and learn that often in order to open the door to incoming love, the past must be let go.

Cindy Woodsmall has written three poignant tales that are sure to delight. I had previously read The Christmas Singing, but I was happy to read 2 stories that  I hadn't read before, though I should note that The Sound of Sleigh Bells is also a previously released title.

Ms. Woodsmall does an excellent job of creating engaging characters and telling their tales in a sweet and meaningfull way. The stories are well written and the pacing is great!

Overall, I deeply enjoyed each story, and so did my mother (who isn't an Amish fiction fan at all!) Each of the stories was woven with threads that endeared the characters to me :) A collection that I would definitely recommend to fans of great inspirational reads!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Check out Cindy Woodsmall's Website:  http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/

 Get a sneak peek at this book! http://www.scribd.com/doc/101875405/Christmas-in-Apple-Ridge-by-Cindy-Woodsmall-Chapter-1-Excerpt



No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig ~ Review

No Safe Harbor (Edge of Freedom, #1)

My Review: A winding tale that shows the promise of America to immigrants dreaming of a new future.

Cara Hamilton comes to America in search of her twin brother, Eoghan, who has become embroiled in political conspiracies. Cara soon becomes a target, herself. Who can she trust  in this strange new world?

Ms. Ludwig does an excellent job of bringing America to life through the eyes of a young woman just arrived on it's golden shores. Cara was an excellent heroine who made the best out of the situation she was put in.

I loved how this story kept me guessing and had me puzzling over motives. I don't usually like books that tell the story from the "bad guy's" point of view, but with this novel it fit seamlessly with the story and enriched the plot.

Overall, a well written read that is laced with mystery, with a thrilling climax. I learned so much about a part of history that I wasn't formerly familiar with, Ms. Ludwig did an wonderful job with her detailed research. And now I'm excited to see what will happen next in the series!

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review :)

Starflower Giveaway!

Starflower  (Tales of Goldstone Wood #4)
About the book: When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps the lovely Lady Gleamdren, Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission...and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.
But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?

So how about it? Would you like to win Anne Elisabeth Stengl's newest book?

Find the details and enter to win below.

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Sunshine Award ~ Thanks Kara!

Thank you, Kara for giving me this award! :)

The rules are:
1. Answer the 8 questions the person who awarded you asked
2. Nominate 8 new people (no tag-backs) and notify them on their blog
3. Ask 8 new questions (or reuse the ones you were asked) for your nominees to answer

1. What is your favorite TV show?
That is a tough one! But right now I'm in love with Merlin from BBC. And I'm really looking forward to the return of Downton Abbey! And then there's my old favorites like Dr. Quinn, Wives and Daughters, The Waltons, Road to Avonlea, Christy, & Little Men :)

2. Have you ever read a book based on a friend's recommendation alone? If so, what was it and did you like it?
The OutsidersYes. I read the Outsiders by S.E. Hinton solely on my best friend's recommendation because she was just obcessed with it at the time. And I did like it to some extent, but the language and themes made it something I am not likely to read again.

3. What is your favorite Bible verse?
Oh, that is soooo hard! But probably some of my favorites are from the book of John, I love John 1:1-3, John 14:2,6 :)

4. What is your least favorite food?
Coconut, because I'm allergic...and to me it tastes like sunscreen & an allergy attack.

5. Who is your favorite professional sports team?
Uh... Go team USA!

6. What is your favorite part about blogging?
Through blogging I have met some amazing new friends. And I just love how truly warm and kind everyone is with their encouragement. I also just love reading!

7. What is your favorite Christmas song?
What Child is This.

8. What are five of your all-time favorite books?
Ella EnchantedElla Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin
To Die For by Sandra Byrd
Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
And many more!
And are my questions!

What is your favorite genre to read?

What fictional place would you most like to live?

What is another pastime that you enjoy, besides reading?

What time period would you most like to live during?

What books are you most looking forward to in 2013?

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?

What TV shows do you wish were still on the air?

What is more addictive, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or Pinterest?

The Wonderful People I am Tagging :)

Megan @ http://faerytalesarereal.blogspot.com/

Sarah Elizabeth @ http://www.ohrestlessbird.com/

Amber @ http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/

Rosie @ http://writingsofrosie.blogspot.com/

Dawn Janis @ http://dawnsdreams.blogspot.com/

Marie @ http://www.burtonbookreview.com/

Abbi @ http://writingchristiannovels.blogspot.com/

Cathy @ http://thoughtsonbookss.blogspot.com/

And again, thanks so much Kara!


Giveaway of Robin Lee Hatcher's Belonging & Betrayal


Today I have a super cool giveaway of not one, but two books! The winner of this giveaway will win both Belonging & Betrayal, the two books in Robin Lee Hatcher's Where the Heart Lives Series.

If you are interested you can check out my review of Belonging or my mother's review of Betrayal . We both really enjoyed the books :)

Here's the blurb for Belonging: In the high desert town of Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho, Felicia Kristoffersen has set out to create a future for herself that is better than her painful past. Alone in the world with only her faith to sustain her, she must prove herself as this tiny community's new school teacher. She cannot, must not, fail. But, there are those who never wanted her there to begin with.

Five years after the death of his wife, local merchant Colin Murphy cares about just one thing: raising his daughter, Charity. Colin wants to give her the educational advantages he never had. The new schoolmarm's inexperience doesn't sit well with him, and if this teacher up and marries like the last one did, Charity's heart will be broken once again.

A woman who hasn't known love. A man who lost the love he had.

In the midst of the wide, sage-covered plains, each is about to discover that life's bitterest circumstances truly can work together for good.

Betrayal (Where The Heart Lives, #2)
And here's the blurb for Betrayal:
It's the turn of the twentieth century and drifter Hugh Brennan is a man well acquainted with betrayal. Hugh finds himself drawn to the attractive widow, Julia, yet when he looks into her eyes, he recognizes the same hurt that haunts him. Julia Grace has little reason to trust men, but she's going to have to trust someone if she's to keep her ranch from the clutches of her dead husband's half-brother. Is it possible God had a hand in bringing Hugh to her door? The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher and the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Betrayal will take you to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two seekers learning to trust God's love no matter the circumstances.

And if you don't win this time don't worry I'll be hosting another giveaway in a few weeks for another set of Betrayal and Belonging!


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Strong and Stubborn by Kelly Eileen Hake ~ Review

Strong and Stubborn (Husbands for Hire #3)

Lucie's Review:

The third in the Husbands for Hire series the mine is being riddled by mysterious explosions and cave ins. Along comes Michael, a carpenter in search of a safe place for his son away from his overbearing in-laws. But Michael isn't looking for love, especially after being roped into a marriage of convenience in the past. But he and Naomi find themselves drawn together amidst the turmoil at the mine, made even worse by Naomi's manipulative sister coming to town. Will they ever be able to make sense of all the chaos?

If you've read the other two books, I'm sure that this is a must-read! I came into the series with this third installment, so it did take me awhile to figure out what was going on. But when I did, I found this to have an engaging plot and plenty going on, with many twists and turns.

What made this book hard for me to read was just how horrible Naomi's sister was, she was a character that readers will probably love to hate. The main characters were strong, and I really liked Michael and Naomi and they both struggled to thrive in the midst of  adversity and people that made their lives miserable.

Overall, a good way to tie up the ends of a series. I think my favorite character was Michael, because he had a calm leadership about him, and a strong faith. There were some pretty humorous situations, that were just the funniest to picture mentally. A great introduction to Kelly Eileen Hake's books.

I received this ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Interview with Pam Funke!

Welcome! I’m so excited to be interviewing you! First, I would love it if you would start by briefly telling us how your writing journey began. Please share with us one fact about you that not many people know. And
feel free to have fun with the question! I am the proud grand-daughter of a pastor and was brought up in the church. I love serving God and living a Christian life. God has blessed me abundantly not only with many creative talents but with wonderful children. I have two adult children, a daughter aged 21 and a son aged 19. Besides reading and writing, I enjoy photography, cooking, painting, drawing, scrap-booking and anything creative actually. 

If you could be best friends with any of the characters in your novel, who would it be? Why? I would probably be best friends with is Katie Farnsworth. Katy is a sweet, elderly Christian woman who would do everything in her power to help someone. She has a heart pleasing to God. She tries to do things that pleases God in everything that she does, but she is quite human and makes mistakes just like everyone else. She is a lot like myself.

What inspired this novel? My inspiration behind it was The Left Behind Series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. While I enjoyed reading their series very much, I don’t believe that they realized that many non-Christians would be reading the series and enjoying it as well. So I decided to write a series that is just as exciting as theirs but I also include Biblical scripture to back up what I have to say so that my readers can check it out for themselves if they so choose.

 What are 3 things you like to do to relax? I enjoy scrapbooking, painting and reading.

What book(s) are you reading, or have read lately? I am currently reading A Christmas Home by Greg Kinkaid; an excellent read by the way.

Operation Dark AngelWhat piece of writing advice have you received that was most helpful to you? Someone once told me to write to my heart's content. I took this to mean that my writing should be influenced by my heart and that I should write not only for the enjoyment of others but mostly for my own enjoyment.

Where can readers connect with you? You can reach me on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Four-Horsemen-Series-Fan-Club/246913845377700), twitter (@4HorsemenSeries) and on my blog (http://thefourhorsemenseries.blogspot.com/).

Thank you so much for giving me the pleasure of an interview with you! And I wish you the very best with your newest release!


Interview with Elizabeth Ludwig + Giveaway!

Today we have a special guest with us, author Elizabeth Ludwig!

Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year honors. This book was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

In 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California earned Four Stars from the Romantic Times. Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool (Barbour Publishing) and Inn Plain Sight (Spyglass Lane), respectively, released in 2011.

Coming in 2012 is Elizabeth’s newest historical series from Bethany House Publishers. No Safe Harbor, the first book in the Edge of Freedom Series, will release in October, with two more books following in 2013 and 2014.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoyed a wide readership in its first full year, with more than 17,000 visitors in 2011. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more about her work, visit her at www.elizabethludwig.com.

Welcome! I’m so excited to be interviewing you! First, I would love it if you would start by briefly telling us how your writing journey began.

Believe it or not, I started writing in elementary school. I had a fifth grade teacher who really got into the creative writing stuff, and encouraged us to love it, too. I also LOVED to read, so I guess she thought it was a natural progression for me to also write. So when she learned of a contest for young authors, she pushed me to enter.

I told myself I was going to hate it, but as I got into the story, I found I really liked coming up with my own characters. I did spend most of my time daydreaming about books, after all. I guess that was the spark I needed, because I never forget what it was like to write and began seeking publication in 2001.

Where the Truth Lies (Massachusetts Mayhem Series #1) (Heartsong Presents Mysteries #16)Well, I wish I could say success came immediately, right after I submitted my first manuscript. The truth is, I wrote for five years before I sold my first book, and I completed six full manuscripts, none of which will probably ever see the light of day.

I sold my seventh book to Barbour Publishing in 2006 (though the book did not actually release until 2008). It’s a mystery called Where the Truth Lies. I co-authored it and two sequels, Died in the Wool (which is a Carol Award Finalist this year) and Inn Plain Sight, with Janelle Mowery.

Please share with us one fact about you that not many people know. And feel free to have fun with the question!

This is a fun one! I guess it would have to be that I love playing with computers. In fact, my kids call me a computer geek wannabe! I’m not good enough with techie stuff to actually do anything fancy…just good enough to get in trouble.

Which fictional literary character most inspired/inspires you?

Oh my goodness…I know this answer is going to baffle most people but…I have to say the character who most inspires me is Annabel Tippens.

Annabel is a little girl “with short blond hair and very good manners” (taken from the book description on Amazon.com/No Flying in the House by Betty Brock). She seems quite ordinary, except that she’s also half fairy—and instead of parents, she has a two-inch high dog named Gloria.

Well, you can imagine that for a kid who loved to read, this book was extraordinary. I read it over and over again, and dreamed of the day I would learn to fly. Later, I came to realize that what captured my imagination was not so much the story of a half-fairy princess, but of a little girl struggling to find herself. The sacrifices that Annabel Tippens makes challenged me to acknowledge what was real and important—love, faith, and family.

What inspired you to choose the setting for your novel?

My newest release, No Safe Harbor, is set in and around New York City, especially Ellis Island. For those of you not familiar with its history, over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954. Many of those immigrants were Irish, so when I decided to write a book about an Irish girl searching for her brother in America, it seemed the natural choice.

If you could be best friends with any of the characters in your novel, who would it be? Why?

Goodness…I love them all, but if I had to narrow it down, I guess I would have to say Cara. She’s the perfect definition of a true friend—honest, loyal, and caring, and she would do anything for those that she loves. Want to know a secret? I fashioned this character after my four beautiful, loving sisters. J

What inspired this novel?

Family members on both my side and my husband’s emigrated from Europe in the early 1900’s. Some of my ancestors were from Spain. My husband’s ancestors were from Holland, Ireland, and Germany. These brave men and women who risked everything in search of a better life were the inspiration for this story. I hope I’ve done them proud!

What are 3 things you like to do to relax?

Died in the Wool (Hometown Mysteries)First, I love to read. Even as a kid, I spent hours curled up with a book. My sisters never understood the fascination. One of my younger sisters (whom I affectionately call Magon Dragon—she knows what that means) used to hide my books just to get me outside to play!

Apart from reading, I love to ski. My family and I look forward to going to Colorado every Spring Break. Last year, we took twelve newbies with us and taught them all how to ski. Okay…so we taught them how to avoid killing themselves. Still, by the end of the week, they could all get off the lift, and they all could stop at the bottom of the mountain before they crashed into the chalet.
And lastly, I’m a sports nut, so everyone knows…don’t bother me when the Steelers are playing. Go Pitt!

What book(s) are you reading, or have read lately?

I just finished reading Stephanie Landsem’s debut novel, The Well (Howard Books, 2013) for endorsement. It’s a wonderful book about the woman at the well who is written about in the scriptures (John 4). Actually, it’s not only about the woman…it’s also about her family and how they are impacted by her sin…and by her meeting with Jesus.
Sorry folks, it doesn’t release until next year, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

What piece of writing advice have you received that was most helpful to you?

Don’t stop learning, and never, ever give up!

Where can readers connect with you?

Love Finds You in Calico, CaliforniaI’ve actually made quite a home for myself out in cyber space. Readers can find me at:
Website: www.elizabethludwig.com

Blog: www.theborrowedbook.blogspot.com.

I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.ludwig.33?ref=tn_tnmn and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/theborrowedbook.

Stop on by! I’d love to have you visit.

Thank you so much for giving me the pleasure of an interview with you!
And I wish you the very best with your newest release!

The pleasure is all mine, Faye. Thank you so much for having me!

No Safe Harbor (Edge of Freedom, #1)About Ms. Ludwig's new book No Safe Harbor:

The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

We've got a copy of No Safe Harbor up for grabs just in time for Christmas!


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Sagebrush Knights by Erica Vetsch ~ Review

Sagebrush Knights

Lucie's Review: A wonderful western novella collection, set in the wonderful state of Wyoming!

The Gerhard Sisters journey to Wyoming as mail-order in hopes of finding a place to start over, and a chance at love?

Evelyn surprises her perspective husband by not telling him that she has a son from her previous marriage, but he might just have a secret of his own.
Jane has always struggled with being, in her own personal opinion, the plainest of the sisters. Harrison, her husband-to-be, is working hard to make a go of his ranch, and prove to his father that he can make it on his own. Will he take the time to notice the woman, who may be able to make his dream a reality?
Gwendolyn arrives to find that her supposed perspective husband is dead, but marrying her wasn't what the deceased had in mind...he was hoping she'd marry someone else!
Emmeline meets her husband while his house is going up in flames! But that isn't the first surprise that awaits Emmeline...

I loved how in this collection of novellas all of the stories were occurring simultaneously, and so all of the sisters didn't know what was going on with their siblings.
Each of the stories was engaging, and I loved each of the stories and the sisters, the characters were all well developed and I loved how resourceful each of the sisters were. I loved the uniqueness of each of the sisters' situations, that had touches of humor to them and I loved the fun side characters!

Overall, I loved this novella collection! Sagebrush Knights had all of my favorite things in it, cowboys, Wyoming, and mail-order brides, add that to stellar character developement, wonderful plotlines, and terrific storytelling, and that pretty much sums up how much there was that I loved about this book :) And one of the things that I thought that Ms. Vetsch handled amazingly well was how each of the stories fit into the length of the story, the characters used the time that they had together well, I loved watching their relationships grow. A novella collection, that just might be my new favorite!

I received this ebook from Netgalley in return for an honest review. Thank you!


Oliver Twist from Focus on the Family Radio Theatre ~ Review

My Review: An excellent production of one of Dicken's best known tales!

Oliver is a poor orphan, who falls on misfortune, but brings light to every situation. Will Oliver ever find a family to call his own?

A full cast brings the world of Oliver Twist to life in a evocative radio drama! Focus on the Family has a way of bringing out the heart of the story in a way that no other production has done thus far.

The full cast does a terrific job of bring the characters to life, along with the realistic sound effects. This is the kind of tale production that can be enjoyed by the whole family, though I will briefly mention that as this was Oliver Twist there were brief drinking references and violence. I would probably recommend this one for ages 8 & Up.

Overall, this was a thrilling experience that kept me up late listening because I wanted to hear the outcome. I will certainly be listening to this drama many times over in the years to come, because it was such a well-done rendering of this well known tale. I would highly recommend this excellent production of Oliver Twist! (It would make a terrific gift!)

I received this product from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


Submerged by Dani Pettrey ~ Review

Submerged (Alaskan Courage, #1)

My Review: A wonderful new voice in Christian Romantic Suspense!

Bailey Craig comes back to her hometown upon the death of her aunt, but Bailey comes back to a past and a reputation that she has tried for so long to put behind her.
Cole Mckenna is an expert in deep sea recoveries, but when Bailey comes back to town, he can't help but remember the past and wish that he had been more of a friend to her.
But with a murderer on the loose Cole and Bailey must work together and find the criminal, before time runs out.

Wow! I will certainly be looking forward to reading many more books from Ms. Pettrey in the future! Submerged, had everything a good romantic suspense needs, great plot, great characters, and a unique setting.

I absolutely fell in love with the majestic Alaska, small-town setting. Bailey Craig was a believable main character, with a past she'd like to forget. I liked how she wasn't perfect, and while her mistakes might have been more obvious than is typical, I could relate to how to how she was trying to change and move past who she used to be. In a way I think that in some small way pretty much everyone will be able to connect with her, in that way.  In this book I liked how Ms. Pettrey took the time to develop the characters, and even though I'm not a huge suspense reader, the characters kept me interested.

Overall, Submerged is a credit to the Christian Romantic Suspense genre, with memorable characters, and a thrilling plot. A terrific read!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

Spring Meadow Sanctuary by Lynnette Bonner ~ FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour & Review

Spring Meadow Sanctuary

Lucie's Review:

School teacher Sharyah Jordan is shock to say the least when Cade, man that she loved in the past shows up in her school to kidnap her. Cade and Sharyah discover a diamond conspiracy that threatens their small community.
Will Shar and Cade find love amidst the drama around them?

Though the fourth in a series, Spring Meadow Sanctuary stands well on it's own, though I can totally see where I would have known the side characters better if I had read the previous books.

There was plenty of action and lots of twists and turns to the story. I guess the only thing that I didn't like was knowing the bad guys plans, so it was sometimes hard to read when our heroes walked into a trap.

Overall, a terrific western tale with great characters and lots of action, and a wonderful climax. Another thing is that this book tied up the endings from the previous books as well, which is something that could be much more enjoyable to someone who has read the previous books. But a great read nontheless!

I received this ebook from the author through First Wild Card in return for an honest review. Thanks!

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:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***


Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.

Visit the author's website.


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.
Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.77
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480156949
ISBN-13: 978-1480156944


Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.

Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.

She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.

The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.

For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.

Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.

A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.

Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.

Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.

All her life she’d wanted only one thing.

Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.

Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.

Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.

She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”

Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!

Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.

Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.

“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.

“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”

“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”

“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”

“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.

Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?

She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.

Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”

The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.

A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.


Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.

The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.

He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.

“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.

“Whiskey. Make it a double.”

The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.

Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.

The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.

Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”

Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”

Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.

Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”

Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.

Good. He had the man’s attention.

“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”

Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”

The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.

Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.

Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.

One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”

No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.

Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”

Judd cleared his throat loudly.

Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”

Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.

Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”

"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”

Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.

The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.

Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.

They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.

Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.

Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.

Lord I hope we were right on that count.

He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”

Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”

Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”

“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.

Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”

Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”

Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.

Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”

Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”

Judd glowered at him.

Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.

Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”

Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”

Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.

Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.

“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.

Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.

Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.” He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.

“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”

Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.

The report was a little loud, but about right.

Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.

Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.

Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”

Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.

Rocky’s eyes narrowed.

“Four… three…”

“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.

This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.

He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”

Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”

Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.

Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”

Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.

Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”

Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.

Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.

A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.

Razed by Paula Wiseman ~ FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour & Review

My Review: Snapshots of a father and son's relationship after a death in the family.

After reading Ms. Wiseman's hard-hitting emotional drama, Contingency I knew that Razed wouldn't be an easy ride. The characters were full, and fleshed out, with a real rawness to them that brought them to life, flaws and all. Razed is told in a different kind of way than I was expecting with what I called snaphots into Mark and Doug's lives and moments when things changed, even subtly. Making it easier for this story to be told over a much longer course of time than is usually typical.

This novel had a great emotional depth to it, and a very realistic quality to it, that at times made it hard to read because it felt so real and painful.

Overall, Paula Wiseman has written another miles deep read, with a poignant message. A wonderfully satisfying read.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

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:

Mindstir Media (July 12, 2012)

***Special thanks to Paula Wiseman for sending me a review copy.***


After working several years as research chemist, Paula Wiseman was blessed with the opportunity to stay home with her children and follow the writer’s path. Her bestselling Covenant of Trust Series, including Contingency, Indemnity and Precedent was recognized by Indie Excellence Awards, a Readers Favorite Gold, and Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and featured on Lifetime Television. When she isn’t working on new projects, Paula blogs on matters of life and faith at www.paulawiseman.com.

Visit the author's website.


Doug Bolling lost his wife of twenty years just as their stormy marriage was beginning to thrive, and he bitterly blames God. He tries to reconnect with his son, but it seems Mark is only interested if the relationship comes wrapped in religion. Mark claims he's just following God when he moves his family, including Doug's grandsons, further away, first to pastor, then to attend seminary. With frustrated resignation, Doug turns his attention to building a new life and a new home for himself and interior designer, Cassandra Grayson. The conflict erupts as Mark is preparing to leave for the mission field in Kenya. He delivers an ultimatum, cutting off all contact between his kids and their grandfather. God may have ripped away his wife and his son, but Doug draws the line at his grandchildren. Mark's attempt to force him to choose between the woman he loves and the grandkids he adores, drives Doug to one fateful desperate act, even if it means destroying his relationship with his son.

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 390 pages
Publisher: Mindstir Media (July 12, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985365099
ISBN-13: 978-0985365097



Thursday, July 29

Doug Bolling clutched the small bag of cookies in his left hand. His right hand rested on the door handle to his wife’s hospital room. No matter how many times he’d done this, it never got any easier.

He took a deep breath, pushed the door open slowly, and stepped inside. Images flickering across the screen of the muted television gave the room its only light. Judy’s eyes fluttered open as he got closer, and she gave him her best smile. “Hey, Babe,” he whispered, and leaned down to kiss her, wishing her cheeks were still full with the almost babyish roundness they used to have.

“You just missed the doctor.” She pulled at the bedrails and managed to prop herself up.

“There was a line at Schnuck’s.” He held the bag up for her to see.

“What’d you bring?” She stretched her arm forward, revealing her narrow wrists. Would she have enough strength to hold the bag?

“Those cookies. The white chocolate and macadamia nut ones.”

“Bless your heart.”

She labored to open the bag, and he fought the urge to do it for her.

She inhaled deeply. “They smell wonderful. I can’t wait to have one.”

“Why can’t you have one now?”

“I’m not hungry yet. I’d rather be hungry.”

“You want me to set them on the table?”

“No, I want them close.” She held out her hand, and he cradled it in his. “Almost as close as I want you.”

“So what’d the doctor say?”

Her smiled faded and she hesitated. Not good. “He’s sending me home, Doug.”

Home. Not “home” home. Home to die. “There’s not anything—?”

She shook her head. “He suggested some, uh, some hospice care providers.”

“How, how much—” He swallowed and tried again. “How much time?”

Her gentle smile returned. “He’s too slippery to give me anything definite. Christmas is probably, I mean, Christmas was his best-case estimate. He said I should think in terms of weeks . . . not months. I’m sorry.”

The grief in her eyes tore at him most of all. “Don’t be sorry.”

“I hate for you to have to go through this.”

“Me? Don’t worry about me. I’m a tough guy.”

“The toughest,” she said, and he felt the slightest squeeze. “I have a request.” She raised her eyes to his. “I want to be the one to tell Mark.”

He nodded. She’d do it better than he would anyway. He hooked his boot around the leg of the bedside chair and dragged it closer without ever letting go of her hand. Home. Hospice. Christmas. They knew it was close. But hearing it, having a doctor pronounce that . . .”Are you afraid?” He hoped she’d say yes, because he was terrified.

“No. I don’t have any pain, really.”

“I mean to die.” He regretted the words as soon as he heard himself say them. He shifted in the chair. “I shouldn’t have said that,” he mumbled.

“It won’t be as frightening if we talk about it.”

Which meant she knew he was terrified, so she would pretend she was, too. “But you’re not scared.”

“You remember when you asked me to marry you?”

“Like it was yesterday. I think it was just yesterday.”

“Seems like it. My parents were so worried. All they could see was this punk who barely graduated high school.”

“They still see that.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand again. “They never heard you say that you’d take care of me, and that you’d never, ever leave me.” She twisted and pulled herself up a little straighter. “I know this makes no sense to you, but God’s made those same promises to me, so I’m not afraid. I trusted you. I trust Him.”

He dropped his head and hoped she couldn’t see his jaw clench in the low light. The God she trusted was a fairy tale, a happy story to help her sleep better at night. A real God, a good God wouldn’t kill a wife and mother in the prime of her life.

“I see that line of discussion is a dead end.”

He smiled at the spark of attitude. “I’m glad your, uh, your faith helps you.”

“I wish it helped you.”

“It does. When I see you optimistic and brave and—” He had to look away again. If he didn’t shut up, he’d lose it in front of her. “So where’s that doctor? I need to get you out of here.”


For Mark Bolling, three-thirty was the best part of the day, and his favorite thing about working for Bolling Developers. He didn’t hate construction work exactly, even though he missed the air conditioning at his grandfather’s car dealership. His dad was rarely on-site and the guys were okay to work with. He liked being able to see progress when he left every day.

His mother smiled with quiet approval any time he mentioned working for his dad. That was the main reason he was doing it. Plus, it was her idea. Right after she got sick last summer, she suggested—no, insisted—he ask his dad for a job. His father said, “So help me, if you pull an attitude and embarrass me, you’ll wish you were shoveling horse barns for a living. Am I clear?”


“You need work boots. Pack your own lunch and be ready to leave by six-thirty in the morning.”

That was his orientation talk.

The first two days she was in the hospital this time around, it looked like this was her last trip, but she rallied once more. He planned to grab a quick shower then spend the evening there with her.

His father’s truck was in the driveway. That meant his parents were home—both of them. They’d sent her home. Great!

The stillness in the house sucked that optimism right out of him. He walked as carefully and quietly as his clunky, steel-toed boots would allow, checking the living room and the kitchen. Outside? He peeked out the back door and saw his dad fussing with the charcoal grill.

Charcoal. The guy was a million-dollar-a-year homebuilder, but he was too cheap for a gas grill. Not only that, they still lived in the same three-bedroom place he built the first year Bolling Developers was in business, and he still drove the pick-up truck he bought that year.

Mark slipped off his boots and left them by the back door, then he took the stairs two at a time, doubly anxious to talk to his mother. He heard the television. Hopefully that meant she was awake. He knocked gently as he pushed the door open. “Mom?”

“Mark? Is it that late already?” Her voice was soft, but her eyes shone. She reached for the remote and clicked off the television set. “Come and sit with me and tell me about your day.”

“I’d rather hear about yours.” He eased himself down onto the edge of the bed.

“Oh, it was about what I expected.” She tugged at the sleeve of her warm-up jacket, pulling it toward her wrist. The sicker she got, the more athletic her preferred attire became. She thought the bulky clothes hid things better. She was mistaken.

Her eyes fluttered, hardly daring to rest on his. “I shouldn’t have to go back.”

“No more treatments?” he asked, knowing exactly what that meant.

She shook her head. “The doctor said . . . well . . . his primary concern from here on out . . . is that I’m comfortable.”

Here on out. The death sentence. The air in the room thickened until it was like trying to breathe syrup. Hot, smothering syrup.

She put a hand on his knee and winked with an impish grin. “I can have all the morphine I want.”

He had to smile at her. “How did . . . ?” Mark swallowed hard and wiped his eyes. “How’s Dad?”

Her smile faded. “That’s what hurts me. Watching him.” She smoothed the comforter. “He’s so lost. He needs you more than he will ever admit, more than he understands even.”

His father didn’t need anyone, least of all him. “Excuse my cynicism.”

She took his hand and spoke with urgency. “I want you to remember this when I—” She shook her head gently. “Your dad, he carries everything inside, and he’s going to need someone he can vent to. Someone who can take it.”

“You mean someone to yell at?”

“Yell at, yell to. It’s all the same to him.”

“Then I’ve been there for him for years.”

“I’m not explaining this right,” she said. “There’s much more to your dad than the blustering guy in the hardhat. Give him a chance. Be patient and he’ll come around. Promise me you will.”

“Have you given him this speech?” he asked, carefully avoiding the promise.

“Not yet. He’s on my schedule.” She smiled. “If only I could have a few more years with him.” She blinked away her own tears. “He just needs someone who will love him.”

She wanted, expected, him to be the one—a worshipful son to take the place of the smitten wife. He was in so much trouble.


Doug sat at the kitchen table sorting through the latest stack of bills. Doctor, doctor, hospital, ambulance, radiology. What a mess. He wrote check after check, stuffed them in the envelopes, and dropped the keep this portion in the box at his feet. He didn’t have time for this. He should be in there with Judy. Christmas. Christmas was only five months away. He couldn’t be ready in five months.

If she didn’t eat any more than she did today, he didn’t see how she could last that long. She used to have this metabolism most people would give anything to have. She could eat whatever she wanted, and still keep a cheerleader’s figure. He teased her about out-eating him.

She was never what anyone would call beautiful. Judy was cute. Petite and youthful, she never seemed to age. She’d never let herself get old, she said. Terminal cancer took care of that for her.

Mark strode into the kitchen and pulled a glass from the cabinet. “She’s asleep.” The teenager got a two-liter bottle from the refrigerator and it hissed loudly when he twisted off the cap. “You want a Coke or something?”

“No.” Doug laid down his pen and pushed his chair back from the table. He’d dreaded this conversation all day, especially the part where he’d ask the center of the universe to relinquish his position. “Listen, I think you need to sit out this semester coming up.”

“Why?” Mark gulped the Coke, then set the glass on the counter, clinking it against the sink.

“Really? I have to explain this to you? Your mother is dying, Mark. It’ll be a miracle if she lives past Christmas. Don’t you think you belong here with her instead of some frat house somewhere?”

“I’m not even gonna respond to that.”

Doug had seen the same condescending sneer on Judy’s face more times than he cared to remember.

“Mom specifically said not to drop out of school. She told me to go on with my life.”

“I bet she did,” Doug muttered.

“Fine! You want me to stay home? I’ll stay.”

“Oh no. I’m not taking the blame for bullying you into dropping out of college.”

“You bully me into everything else.”

“And Mommy always rescues you, doesn’t she?”

“Again, I’m not going to respond. You’re just ranting at me, and I’ve learned not to try to reason with you when you’re like this.”

“I’m unreasonable?”

“Right now, yes.”

Doug jerked himself out of the chair and stood inches away from his son. The boy, the man now, straightened himself until he stood half a head taller than Doug, with a look of annoyed indifference he inherited directly from Judy’s father.

Then Doug stopped himself. He waved his hand and stepped back. Mark couldn’t understand, and he didn’t have the strength or the words to explain it.

“Go ahead and say it, Dad.”

This time it wasn’t a challenge. Mark was inviting him, the way Judy did. Maybe the long talks with his mother were paying off. Maybe he was listening.

“Just . . . you better pray to that God of yours that you never have to stand by and watch your wife . . . watch her go through something like this.”

“He’s your God, too.”

“I have no God.”

“That’s your problem.”


Tuesday, August 3

“What do you think you’re doing?” Doug leaned against the kitchen doorframe, his arms crossed against his chest as he watched his wife rummage through the kitchen cabinets.

“Making your dinner.” Judy hugged a skillet close to her body.

“You have no business—” He gently took the skillet from her hand and set it on the counter.

She huffed like an angry teenager. “Will you please, please, let me do as much as I can for as long as I can?”

“But you shouldn’t be wasting your energy—”

“It’s not wasting it if I’m doing what I enjoy.”

“You enjoy making my dinner? Since when?”

She pulled the skillet toward the stovetop. “All right, all right. There have been times when making dinner was not my favorite thing.”

“Like the first nineteen years of our marriage,” Doug teased.

“Get out the spaghetti, smart aleck.”

“That’s more like it.” He handed her the box of pasta and watched her brown the ground beef. He wasn’t joking, though. She had begrudged everything she did for him until she got sick.

“You know, this reminds me of the time we were at Disney World and Mickey or Goofy or somebody sat down beside Mark and begged for his spaghetti.” She smiled as she stirred. “He wouldn’t walk close to the characters any more after that. Do you remember?”


“Oh, sure you do. Mark was about . . . five . . .”

“Judy, I wasn’t there. You and your parents took Mark. I couldn’t get away.”

“Or wouldn’t.”

“That’s not fair.”

She sighed with a heavy sadness. “Why did we treat each other that way for so long?”

“We were young. We didn’t know what we were doing.”

“I was selfish, Doug.” She struggled to pull a heavy pot from the cabinet, so he steadied it for her. “I married you because it infuriated my father.” She slid the pot into the sink and turned the water on. “You deserved a woman who loved you for you.”

“I have one.”

“But I’m not gonna be around to finish the job.” She turned off the faucet and held out a hand. He slipped in beside her and put an arm around her waist. She was so thin now. “Can you forgive me?”

“For what?”

“For being such a horrible wife.”

“That’s crazy.” He dropped his hand and stepped away. “You were, I mean, are, you are a perfect wife.”

“Now who’s crazy.” She arched an eyebrow at him, and he smiled. “I know better.”

“At least we had the last couple of years when things were good. Some people don’t have that.”

“It has been good, hasn’t it?”

He nodded and lifted the pot from the sink, then set it on the stove for her. “I think we both learned what was really important.”

“I learned what love was. I couldn’t give you what I didn’t have.”

Doug braced himself. He recognized the set-up for another Christianity commercial from her.

She wrinkled her brow at him. “All right. I won’t say anything else.”

“No, say it. I don’t want to leave anything unsaid between us.”

She faced him and spoke with urgency. “You’re a good man, Doug. You’ve made your own way. You work hard, and you have great integrity. I love all those things about you.”

He smiled, trying to diffuse the heaviness in the moment. “Tell me more.”

“Those things aren’t going to be good enough. The only thing, the only thing that scares me is an eternity without you. Mark finally came around, and I pray every day you will, too . . . and I pray I’ll get to see it.”

He saw the tears in her eyes, and guilt washed over him. Why couldn’t he simply say he believed whatever she wanted him to, make her happy, let her have peace these last few months?

Because he couldn’t lie to her.

“Babe, here’s how it looks to me. God . . . I don’t trust Him. He could fix all this and He won’t. He’s holding out.”

“But He’s not like that!”

“Not to you.”

“Let me find somebody who can explain things better than I can—”

“I don’t want to talk about it with somebody else. I only talk about it with you because—”

“Because I’m dying. You’re patronizing me.”

“I’m not patronizing you. I’m trying to be supportive.” He sighed deeply at the hurt in her eyes. “Just save your religion talk for Mark.”

“You hate that, too.”

“I don’t. ” He turned his back to her, paced away, and took a deep breath. If she saw his eyes, she’d know he was lying.

“You resent every minute I spend with him.”

It was a soft declaration, not an accusation, but she still knew how to cut into his very soul. He faced her again. “Can we compromise on this?”

“Can we?” The light in her eyes faded, and her hair seemed to gray before his eyes. She’d spent all her energy on him.

“Talk about your religion, your faith. Tell me all about it, but I don’t want to hear how much I need it. No hard sells, no sob stories, nothing.”

“And you won’t give Mark a hard time?”

“Mark and I will be fine.”


Wednesday, September 22

Mark met his father at the top of the stairs outside his mother’s room, and to his utter surprise, his dad held out a hand. Mark shook it as grieving fear took hold of him. “Is she . . . ?”

“They said it was a matter of days now.” His father glanced back toward the door. “She’s on a lot of medication. She’s kind of in and out.”

Mark nodded. “You tell her I was coming?”

He shook his head. “She didn’t want me to call you. Afraid your schoolwork would suffer.”

As if he had anything more important to do.

“I’m gonna grab her a glass of water and throw a load of her things in the laundry. Did you get the mail on your way in?”

“It’s on the table.”

“Thanks.” His dad stepped around him and headed down the stairs.



“We’ll get through this.”

His father shook his head and shuffled into the kitchen.

Mark pushed the bedroom door open, and his breath caught when he saw his mother, ashen-faced and motionless, propped up against a pillow. “Mom?”

“Mark? It’s not Friday, is it?”

“No, it’s Wednesday.”

“Your dad doesn’t listen.” She managed a smile.

“I’m glad he called me.”

She reached for his hand. “Your dad, he reads my Bible to me. I wish you could hear him.” Her eyelids drooped until they were only half open. “It’s the most beautiful thing. Mark.” She let out a dreamy sigh. “Would you let him read at your wedding?”

“My wedding?”

“You’re still dating the preacher’s daughter, aren’t you?”

“Well, yeah.”

“You love her?”

“I do.”

“See, you’re already practiced up on the ‘I do.’” She smiled again and rolled her eyes to look at him. “Don’t wait, Mark. Don’t wait until you’re older . . . or you’re more settled . . . or you have more money. There are no guarantees.”

“Mom, it’s a little—”

She managed another smile. “Your dad doesn’t know about her, does he?”

“It’s not like I’m trying to keep it a secret. It just never seemed like the right time to bring it up.”

“Practice then. Tell me about her. Tell me what you love about her.” She settled back against her pillow, her eyes drooping shut again.

“Um, well . . . She’s, uh, she’s pretty, of course, and smart. She listens to me.”

His mother nodded slightly. “Mmmm. You need that. Men need that. They need someone who believes in them . . . then they can do anything.”

“Did you believe in Dad?”

“Not like I should have. Look what’s he’s accomplished in spite of it. What if I’d been what he needed? What could he have done?” She reached for his hand and squeezed it gently. Her fingers were soft and cool. “With, uh, tell me her name again.”

“Julie. Julie Hammell.”

“With Julie behind you, there’ll be no stopping you. I wish I could have met her. I’m sure she’s wonderful.”

Mark smiled and nodded. “She is.” Julie Hammell was his ticket to respectability, acceptance, and purpose, and it didn’t hurt that she was crazy about him. “Does Dad know you want him to read?”

“He promised me today.”

“You pick out the passage?”

“First John, chapter four. Where it talks about love, God’s love for us. He read it today.” She sighed and closed her eyes. “‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.’ It was beautiful. He has a beautiful voice . . . and he read it slow so he didn’t stumble.”

“Are you getting tired? I should let you rest.”

“No, stay. I have one for you too.”

“Something to read at my wedding?”

“No, a promise. I want you to make me a promise.” She squeezed his hand weakly again. “Promise me you won’t give up on him. Promise you’ll make sure your dad becomes a believer.”

“Mom, I can’t. He has to make that decision.”

“You have to tell him. You have to. It’s like in Ezekiel. You’re the watchman. If you don’t tell him . . . if he dies in his sins, Mark, we’re accountable. Maybe not responsible, but . . . Please tell me you won’t let that happen. I have nightmares—”

“I won’t, Mom. I’ll take care of it.” How could he not promise?

She relaxed against her pillow, apparently exhausted, and guilt closed off his throat. He couldn’t make his dad become a believer. He’d just lied to his mother on her deathbed.

“Talk to me,” she said without opening her eyes. “I love hearing you. I’m listening.”

Mark talked about his classes, his homework, the drive home, whatever he could think of, but the promise hung in the back of his mind. I’ll take care of it. How?

The more he talked, the more each word came with a keen awareness of every breath she took. If she passed without his father there at her side . . . God help them all.


Friday, September 24

Doug rubbed his eyes and shifted in his chair. In the pale early morning light he squinted, trying to make sure Judy was still breathing. Finally, he reached his hand to her chest. It rose and fell in a slow, shallow rhythm. That reassurance was costly. Now he was afraid to pull his hand away for fear he’d miss the last one.

Ellen and Russell Carson had passed the night with him here, hovering over their only daughter. Of course they belonged here, had a right and a need to be here, but Doug hated it. When Ellen slipped out to get a quick shower, at least Russ left to make coffee, giving Doug these precious few moments alone with Judy.

“You’ve never answered anything I’ve ever asked,” he whispered. “But . . . I’ll do . . . anything. Or take me instead . . . Just . . . Don’t . . . You can fix this. I read those stories to her, I know what You can do . . . I need her. Take anything else of mine . . . Just not—”

Judy drew in two quick breaths and opened her eyes. “Doug?”

“I’m right here.” He slipped his hand around hers. “Right here.”

“I love you.” She labored to draw the corners of her mouth into a smile. “Mark . . . ?”

“He’s down the hall. He’ll be right here.”

“Were Mom and Dad . . . ?”

He nodded. “Your mom’s down in our bathroom getting a shower and your dad’s making a pot of coffee. They’ve been here the whole time.”

She closed her eyes. “You need . . . that.”

“Need what? Coffee?” he asked, daring to tease her in this moment.

She blinked slowly in place of a smile. “I heard . . . you pray.”

He felt himself flush with the shame of desperation. “I don’t think it did any good.”

“I pray . . . for you . . . and Mark. You need . . .”

You, he wanted to say. I need you, Judy.

“You need someone . . . someone who deserves to have you.” She squeezed his hand. “You . . . I love you. We will meet again. I have that peace.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I can let go. You’ll . . .” Her hand relaxed, and everything inside Doug Bolling died.