First Wild Card Tour: A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Monday, May 31, 2010

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

A Tailor-Made Bride

Bethany House (June 1, 2010)

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


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

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

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



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

“It’s cerise, Nan.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As you wish.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Does the gentleman not make a fair offer?”

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

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

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

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

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

The needle slipped out of her hand.

“You’re asking me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Forgive my boldness, ma’am.”

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

“Yes, ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So we gonna get the General, J.T.?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Tucker.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Would you help me down, please?”

He grinned up at her. “Sure thing.”

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

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

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

“What made you choose Coventry, Miss Richards?”

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

“I guess you could say it chose me.”

“How so?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although I did not read this book with First Wild Card I did post a review as an influencer for the author earlier this month HERE!

Would you like an Oreo?

As you may know our cat Penny died recently, well the neighbor who we got Penny from just happened to have a litter of kittens who were ready for new homes. While it still seems a little soon to me for a new cat, my little brother quickly became attached to a tiny all black, with just a spot of white under her neck, kitty. Well needless to say my dad said he could take her home so I'm introducing you to Oreo (named by my little brother)! As you can see from the pics she already gets along with our dog Coco.

Click the pics for a better view :-)

"Ohhh this is a soft bed!"

"What? I want to sleep! No more pictures!!"

"Dogs make nice beds but laps are still the best places to reeelaaaax!"

My Review: Spring's Renewal (Seasons of Sugarcreek, Book 2) by Shelley Shepard Gray

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spring's Renewal (Seasons of Sugarcreek, Book 2)
by Shelley Shepard Gray
Copyright 2010
310 pages
ISBN: 9780061852367
Contemporary Fiction

From the
Tim Graber arrives in Sugarcreek to help his aunt and uncle with spring planting. At first, Tim doesn't fit in with his many cousins and their crowded lifestyle. But when he meets Clara Slabaugh, the local school teacher, he understands why the Lord brought him to Sugarcreek. Clara is shy and quiet. Scarred from a fire when she was small, Clara has resigned herself to living alone and caring for her mother, who tells her that no man will ever see past her scars, and that Clara needs to keep teaching in order to make ends meet. Her father passed away years ago, and her mother depends on her. But the scars mean nothing to Tim. He appreciates her quiet nature and her wonderful, loving way with children. Yet Tim has a sweetheart back home in Indiana. As these two hearts struggle to determine their path, tragedy strikes, and every other worry seems insignificant in comparison. Though they now face a life they never imagined, will Tim and Clara have the faith to step out and risk everything for a chance at true love?

My Review:

Surprisingly the Amish fiction that I've read thus far has been really good and this latest release in the genre, by Shelley Shepard Gray is no exception! Last year I kind of became burnt out on Amish fiction because it all seemed the same and started to blur together but I'm glad to say that I'm much happier with the releases that are available this year.

Spring's Renewal continues the Seasons of Sugarcreek series set in present day Sugarcreek, Ohio, the heart of Amish country. While introducing a new main character in the shy and quiet Clara Slabaugh we also learn more about Lilly Allen, the pregnant teen who we were introduced to in Winter's Awakening. For that reason I really enjoyed this book. I love it when a series includes a little bit of each characters story in each book of the series and I love it when there are little "teasers" that hook me and make me unable to wait for the next book!

With a sweet romance centered around secrets, scars, faith and family Spring's Renewal is a great read to be enjoyed by fans of Amish fiction and Christian romance. I will definitely be looking for Autumn's Promise when it releases this August.

My Review of Winter's Awakening (Seasons of Sugarcreek, Book 1)

To learn more about Shelley Shepard Gray and her books visit:

*I received my copy through PaperBackSwap, a book trading site.*

Mustang of the Month!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

If you know anything at all about Jay Leno, the host of The Tonight Show you know he is a "car guy." Well it just so happens that one of his favorite cars also happens to be my favorite, the Ford Mustang! If only he were single and about 25 years younger we'd be a perfect match. Hahaha...kidding!

Check out this video of
Jay Leno's Garage featuring my favorite Mustang, the 2011 5.0 GT!

If you would like to share a pic or video of your favorite car, Mustang or otherwise then please by all means do so! I would love to see it...

For more details on my Mustang of the Month posts go

My Review: She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

She Walks in Beauty
by Siri Mitchell
Copyright 2010
Bethany House Publishers
400 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0433-3
Historical Fiction

From the publisher:

During New York City's Gilded Age...
The game is played amid banquets and balls.
The prize is a lifetime of wealth and privilege.
The rules will test friendships and
the desires of a young woman's heart.
Clara Carter is the social season's brightest star...
but at what cost?

For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

My Review:
She Walks in Beauty follows one reluctant debutante, Clara Carter, through life in New York City and Gilded Age society. The details in this book are stunning and the torture that high society girls and women had to go through to achieve perfection is unbelievable and yet not all that different from what today's women go through. While not forced into 600 bone corsets to make a 22 inch waist into an 18 inch waist, a lot of women today spend thousands on painful cosmetic surgeries and some even die in the pursuit of perfection.

This book has it all, beautiful gowns, crowded ballrooms, and cutthroat mothers and aunts who will do anything to get the attention of "the heir" for their daughters and nieces. If you are interested in romance and the goings on of the upper echelons of Victorian society this book is a terrific read that will keep you turning pages till the wee hours of the morning. I also recommend this to any reader whether or not they read Christian fiction as it is not at all preachy, to be completely honest God is only mentioned a few times in passing.

She Walks in Beauty is being added to my keeper shelf. It is one of the best books I've read this year, Christian fiction or otherwise. I loved it!

"Available now from your favorite bookseller!"

To learn more about Siri visit:

*I received my free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

Awards Day!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'll admit I am TERRIBLE at keeping up with award posts mostly because you guys are sooo generous and you have given me a ton of them! I'm honored. Here are my newest and some of the coolest awards! THANK YOU!

From Heather @ Gofita's Pages:

please note: award was created by Emma Michaels

From Cathy Bryant @ Word Vessel, Casey @ Writing for Christ, Lee @ Butterfly Blessings, Lori @ Some of My Favorite Books, and Wyn @ Wyn is Reading Books

The rules for accepting the award are:

1) Put the logo within my blog or on my post

2) Pass the award onto 12 fellow bloggers

3) Link the nominees within my post

4) Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog

5) Share the love and link to the person whom you received this award from.

Okay so here goes! I am passing the Most Amazing Follower Award to ALL of my followers because I think they ALL are amazing! SO if you don't already have this award please take it and post it on your blogs!

I am passing the Beautiful Blogger Award on to:

Lori @ Some of my Favorite Books

Amber @ Seasons of Humility

Ashley @ After All....Tomorrow is Another Day

Christy @ Southern Sassy Things

Carrie @ In the Hammock

Angie @ Never a Dull Moment

And finally the Sunshine Award goes to:

Hannah @ Project Journal

Casey @ Writing for Christ

Carol @ Carol's Notebook

Suko @ Suko's Notebook

Sara @ Sara's Sweets

Katy @ A Few More Pages

Since I started this post I have gotten a few more awards. However I will include those in a new post later on in June! Also if you have given me one of these awards and I forgot to mention you please let me know so I can include a link to your blog! It's so hard to keep track of all the awards and I would feel awful if I forgot to add you!!! Again, thank you all so much for thinking enough of me to give me these great awards!

A Memorial

Monday, May 24, 2010

My cat Penny has been missing since Thursday and today our neighbor who had just returned from vacation found her in his yard. It looked as if she had been there for a few days. Unfortunately my dad couldn't really look at her to determine how she died because the weather has been warm and rainy and the odor that accompanies decomposition was too strong. We are all heartbroken including Coco who was Penny's BFF. It's also doubly sad because our other cat, Mia disappeared about the same time last year never to be found. We will miss you Penny!

Love is Monumental (A Walk in the Park, Book 2) by Annalisa Daughety

Friday, May 21, 2010

Love is Monumental (A Walk in the Park, Book 2)
by Annalisa Daughety
Copyright 2010
Barbour Books
320 pages
ISBN: 9781602606944

From the publisher:
Discover the Washington Monument along with park ranger Vickie Harris who loves her job. But while life in the District of Columbia is exciting and fun, shy Vickie has resigned herself to the likelihood of being single forever. She’s never been head-over-heels in love. . .not even really been kissed! But when a handsome professor asks the reserved, research-loving ranger for assistance on a project, will Vickie agree? Will she come out of her shell long enough to discover that Love Is Monumental?

My Review:
I have a BA in history but unfortunately none of my professors were Thatcher Torrey's...maybe that was a good thing, one less distraction in class right? Well anyways I love this book and one of the reasons is the hero, who if you haven't guessed, is Thatcher Torrey, a hunky history professor. Did I also mention that the heroine loves history too? She's a park ranger in Washington, DC. These two great characters plus the return of a few who we met in Love is a Battlefield make for a great read, especially for history lovers and single girls like me! I can definitely relate to Vickie and her "pickiness" when it comes to the opposite sex and couldn't help but think, "Been there. Done that."

You already know that I think Thatcher is a sweet hero, if a little bit shy expressing his feelings. The twist towards the end of the book is interesting and I'll admit that I did see it coming but it's not a suspense or a mystery novel so that isn't a big deal. Without spoiling it, I have to say that the end of this story will make you sigh and is the perfect ending for Vickie and for me, as we are both chick flick fanatics (read the book, you'll see what I mean)! Book 3, Love is Grand is releasing this October and I for one can't wait! This series is so good!

To learn more about Annalisa and her books visit:

*I received my free copy from the publisher through a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway*

Coco Made Me Post This...

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

Giveaway Update!

I just thought I would let you all know in advance that next month I will be holding TWO giveaways! Both will be for newly released Christian fiction! Be sure to stop by and if you're not a follower become one so you will receive updates whenever I post the giveaways! Tell your friends too! :-)

Thank you so much everyone for your love and support! You guys make it fun for me to offer great giveaways!

My Review: A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Tailor-Made Bride
by Karen Witemeyer
Copyright 2010
Bethany House Publishers
352 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0755-6
Historical Fiction

From the
When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!

Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with Coventry, Texas's new dressmaker. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothing, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?

When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to uproarious consequences for the whole town--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?

My Review:
Sometimes I'm in the mood for a sweet, gentle romance with a dashing hero and this book, A Tailor-Made Bride fits the bill! Too boot it's a debut novel for author Karen Witemeyer! All I can say is if this book is that good, what's her next one going to be like?

This story, set in the late 19th century, features beautiful seamstress and dressmaker, Hannah Richards and rough, sometimes gruff liveryman, Jericho "J.T." Tucker. If you like a thoroughly modern heroine and a stubborn hero look no further than these two. If you're a fan of "damsel in distress" rescue scenes there are a few of those as well.

While not the most thought provoking book, an important message of seeking God to better understand oneself and beauty is prevalent throughout the story. Remember don't judge a book by its cover! ;-) However when it comes to books this time you can. The cover of A Tailor-Made Bride is beautiful as well as the story on the pages between it!

Available in June from your favorite bookseller!

To learn more about Karen Witemeyer visit:

*I received my free copy from the publisher as an influencer for the author.*

Waiting on Wednesday: Autumn's Promise (Seasons of Sugarcreek, Book 3) by Shelley Shepard Gray

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jill over @
Breaking the Spine hosts a weekly meme that features one book that you can't wait to be released! Be sure to visit Jill's site to see what she and other readers can't wait to get their hands on.

This week my pick is Autumn's Promise, Seasons of Sugarcreek, Book 3 by Shelley Shepard Gray! I don't normally like a lot of Amish fiction but this series is really good so far. Maybe because each book has an English family, the Allens as well as an Amish family, the Grabers and is not solely centered around the Amish. I liked Winter's Awakening, (my review here) Book 1 in the series but Spring's Renewal (review to come) was a lot better and from the Goodreads blurb for Autumn's Promise I can tell it's going to be even better! If you'd like to see for yourself I've included the blurb below! Let me know what you think about this series if you've read it or want to read or what you think about Amish fiction in general!

From Goodreads:
Until Robert Miller met Lilly Allen, his world had been dark. A widower after only two years of marriage, he's been living in a haze, filled with grief. He feels his life is already over-even though he's only twenty-five.

But his friendship with Lilly changes everything. For the first time since he can remember, he finds new reasons to wake up each day. Soon, he knows he's falling in love with Lilly. However, he also knows a marriage between the two of them can never happen. Lilly Allen is only eighteen. She had become pregnant out of wedlock. And, she's an Englisher. He, of course, is Amish.

Lilly also feels a strong attraction to Robert. She admires his quiet strength and dependability. She's also in awe of his devotion to his wife's memory. Lilly knows she could never measure up to his perfect Amish wife. She also comes to realize that no matter how much she might love a person, she can't change who she is. She loves Robert-not the Amish faith. No matter how much she loves him.she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to give up her independence and reliance on the modern world in order to say vows.

Coming from different worlds, does their love stand a chance?

Available August 2010 from Harper Collins Publishers!

American Idol!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

American Idol has been tough for me to watch this year. Usually I have about half a dozen people that I like so I don't get bored hearing them sing, this year it's different and there's only one person I REALLY like and that's Lee DeWyze so thank goodness he's lasted so long! But it's easy to see (and hear) why he has! If you haven't watched tonight's episode you need to right now! His versions of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" and "Hallelujah" written by Leonard Cohen were IN-CRED-I-BLE! That raspy voice of his gets my every time!!!!!!!!! *Sigh*

Do you have any favorites this season? If so why? Are they still on the show? I'd love to read your thoughts on American Idol!

My Review: Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Sixteen Brides
by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Copyright 2010
Bethany House Publishers
350 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0513-2
Historical Fiction

From the publisher:
In 1872, sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community." Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledgling community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival!
Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.

My Review:
Mail order bride stories are definitely some of my favorite, I got this book thinking it was going to be about just that, mail-order brides however it really wasn't. That does not take away from the story in any way and it turned out to be a terrific read.

Throughout the first half of the book I was introduced to so many characters it was hard to keep them all straight but once I got to "meet" them all and they started to make a life for themselves in Plum Grove, Nebraska, it was an interesting read. While I didn't get to know each character as much as I would have if there had only been one or two main characters in the book, I still had a connection with each of them, which to me is important for enjoying a story. Each character had something pretty much anyone can relate to, be it feeling unconfident in one's appearance, dealing with loss, trust issues etc.

If you are a lover of romance like me you will like this book, especially since each of the "brides" has some kind of romantic entanglement or relationship. I appreciated that this book featured ladies with independent spirits as well. I think it really took a lot for ladies to leave their homes and their pasts behind to start afresh in an environment that was unpredictable and harsh yet with a real beauty.

This was my first experience reading a novel by Stephanie Whitson but it will not be my last!

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House Publishers!

To learn more about Stephanie and her books visit:

*I received my free review copy from Jim @ Bethany House Book Reviewers in exchange for my honest review.*

My Review: This Fine Life by Eva Marie Everson

Monday, May 17, 2010

This Fine Life
by Eva Marie Everson
Copyright 2010
Revell Publishers
352 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3274-5
Contemporary Fiction

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

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

My Review:
I have been waiting for a book set in the late 50s/early 60s for a long time and this did not disappoint. It was also my first book by Eva Marie Everson and I'm really hoping she writes another book around this time period because there just doesn't seem to be very many.

This Fine Life features well to do Mariette Puttnam who just so happens to fall in love with a young man who works for her father. The ensuing story follows Marietta as she journeys through life as a young teen to a married woman and all of the tragedy and sorrow as well as triumphs and joys that she must face. Also we get a taste of Southern living and small town life where everyone knows everything about each other before it happens.

I liked this story a lot and even though some parts were a little hard to believe the sweet romance and Mariette's growth spiritually and emotionally are well worth reading. Although the cover suggest a Leave it to Beaver type book, it's not. Life isn't always happy and carefree for the characters.

If you're a fan of sweet inspirational books you will probably like this book! This Fine Life is a really enjoyable book!

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

To learn more about Eva visit:

*I received my free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*


Sunday, May 16, 2010

The name chosen by as the winner of my six book giveaway is...

The winner has 48 hours to respond to my email or another name will be drawn.

Please stop back often, you never know when I might post a new giveaway! ;-)

Terrific Website!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Okay I should have probably posted this on Monday or something for all you ladies who may be stressing at work but I think this site can be enjoyed ANY day of the week ;-)

Hot Guys Reading Books

First Wild Card Blog Tour + My Review: Morning for Dove (Winds Across the Prairie, Book 2) by Martha Rogers

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Morning for Dove

Realms (May 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva Publicity Coordinator, Book Group Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor with experience writing both fiction and nonfiction including Not on the Menu, a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Rogers has a master’s degree in education and has worked as a secondary teacher and an instructor of English composition. She lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 297 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799847
ISBN-13: 978-1599799841


Oklahoma Territory, June 1897

Today was not a good day for a wedding. It was Lucinda Bishop’s wedding day, and he wasn’t the groom. The sun may be shining outside, but Luke Anderson’s insides rolled

and tumbled like the dark clouds before a storm. His feelings should have been under control by now, and they had been up until this moment. Now Lucy’s image rolled through his mind like pictures on a stereo-optic machine.

He shook his head and snatched off his tie. Anger filled his heart. His eyes closed tightly, and he prayed for God to take away his negative feelings. All thoughts of Lucinda must be put away as part of his past and not his future. Calm swept through him as he felt the Lord’s peace take over. Still, he’d rather do anything else, like stay behind and keep the store open. Pa didn’t worry about the business he’d be losing by closing down for the day because most of the townsfolk would be at the church. Luke shrugged his arms into the sleeves of his jacket. He hated having to wear a suit in this heat. With his tie

now securely back in place, Luke headed downstairs to meet his parents.

His mother tilted her head and looked him over from head to foot. “I must say you do look especially handsome today.” She nodded her approval and turned for the door.

Luke tugged at his collar and forced himself to smile. She must have thought he’d come down in his work clothes.

His sister beamed at him. “You are handsome, even if you are my brother.”

Luke shook his head and followed her outside. “You look very pretty yourself, Alice.”

She looked up at him and furrowed her brow. “Thank you, I think.”

Luke relaxed at his sister’s comments. He usually ridiculed or teased her, but she did look pretty today with her blonde curls dancing on her shoulders. At sixteen, she had the notice of a few boys in her class at school.

The tightness in his chest loosened. He’d get through this day.

Since the church was only a few blocks down the street, they would walk, but his younger brother, Will, ran ahead. When they reached the churchyard, wagons, surreys, and horses filled the area. Pa had been right. People from all over were here, paying tribute to the niece of one of the most powerful ranchers in the area, Mr. Haynes.

He followed the rest of his family into the church and down to a pew. The sanctuary filled quickly, and the music began. Instead of paying attention, Luke tugged once again at the demon collar and tie and wished for relief from the early summer heat. The organ swelled with a melody, and everyone stood. Dove, Lucy’s best friend, walked down the aisle followed by the bride.

Never had Lucy looked more beautiful. Mrs. Weems, the dressmaker, had made many trips to the store for the ribbons and laces that adorned the dress and slight train now trailing behind it. The white satin enhanced Lucy’s dark hair and fair face, and her eyes sparkled with the love she had for Jake.

Luke had to admit deep in his heart that she’d never been his. Even when he courted her, her heart had belonged to Jake. Luke should have known he’d never make her forget that cowboy.

Then his gaze fell on Dove, and his throat tightened. Although he’d known her for years, he’d never seen her as any more than the part-Cherokee daughter of Sam Morris. Now

her bronzed complexion and dark eyes glowed with a beauty that stunned him. He had looked right through her when they had been at the box social last spring and on other social occasions. At those events, she’d been with someone else, and he’d seen only Lucinda. Dove was quiet and didn’t say much when around others their age, and he had spoken directly to her only a few times at church. Today he saw her with new eyes.

When Lucy reached the altar on the arm of her uncle Ben, Luke sat down, as did the congregation. Ignoring the words of the minister, he stared at Dove. How could he not have noticed her before?

Luke glanced to his left and right. Pa had been right when he said most of Barton Creek would attend the wedding. Even Chester Fowler had come. He’d been less than friendly with Ben Haynes and Sam Morris the few times Luke had seen them together. Something about the man bothered Luke, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

From the corner of his eye he noticed Bobby Frankston staring to the side of the altar. Luke followed the boy’s gaze to find Becky Haynes at the other end. She stood with Dove beside Lucy as an attendant. Her attention had been drawn to Bobby, and a faint bloom reddened her cheeks. That blush didn’t come from the heat. Luke chuckled to himself. It looked to him like another boy had fallen in love.

When the ceremony ended, the couple left the church and headed to the hotel where the Haynes had planned a lavish celebration for their niece.

When Luke joined the other guests there, tables laden with thin slices of beef, chicken, and ham, along with a variety of breads, vegetables, and fruit, filled one end of the room and beckoned to him. After filling his plate, he moved to the side of the room and bit into a piece of chicken. At least the food tasted good.

His gaze swept around the room. The hotel dining hall had been cleared of almost all its tables, and people milled about talking with one another and balancing plates of food.

In his perusal of the room, his gaze came to rest on Dove Morris. The pale yellow dress she wore emphasized her dark hair and almost black eyes. He’d never seen such a flawless

complexion on anyone besides Lucy. But where Lucy’s was fair, Dove’s reflected the heritage of her Indian blood. As she chatted with a guest, a smile lit up her face. At that moment she turned in Luke’s direction, her eyes locking with his and widening as though surprised to see him. A sharp tingle skittered through his heart. Before he could catch his breath, she turned back to the woman beside her. The tightness in his chest lessened, but

he still stared at her even though she no longer looked at him.

Twice now something had coursed through his veins as he observed her. An explanation for those feelings eluded him because nothing like that had happened with Lucy when he was with her. Whatever this feeling happened to be, one thing was certain—he had to speak to Dove. Still, after what happened with Lucy, he would take his time and not rush into a relationship so quickly this time.

He made his way in her direction, not allowing his eyes to lose contact with her face. When he stood by her side, her head barely reached his shoulder. He had never truly paid any attention to how tiny and petite she was, even when he’d seen her in the store and at church. A sudden urge to stand taller and make a good impression overcame him.

Finally he caught her eye. “Miss Morris, what a pleasure to see you this afternoon,” he said.

Her lips quivered then broke into a smile. “Luke Anderson. It’s a pleasure to see you too. Wasn’t the wedding lovely?”

“Yes, it was.” But not as lovely as the girl standing before him. “Would you like some refreshment?”

“I would like that; thank you.” Her soft voice melted his resolve. He had to know more about this beautiful young woman. How her beauty had escaped his notice was something

he didn’t understand. He straightened his shoulders and grasped her hand to tuck it over his arm. She’d certainly grown up while he had been so smitten with Lucy Bishop.

The warmth of Luke’s arm beneath Dove’s hand sent a shiver through her body despite the heat. He was the last person she expected to pay attention to her today. As long as she had known him and wanted his admiration, he had spoken only a few words directly to her. His noticing her today sent currents of excitement through her as well as questions about why he chose this day to show any interest in her.

He offered her a cup of punch, and the sunlight streaming through the windows glistened on the crystal in her hand, turning it into shimmering sparkles. In fact, everything about

the day had become brighter. She sipped from her cup then smiled at Luke. “This is very good.” Her face warmed. Not a

very exciting topic of conversation.

Luke raised his cup to his mouth and swallowed. “Yes, it is.” He glanced around the room. “Would you save a dance for me, Miss Morris?”

Words first stuck in Dove’s throat and then came forth in a squeak. “Yes, I will.” Her face grew even warmer. She would like nothing more than to be whirling across the dance floor with Luke’s arms about her, and he would probably be her only partner except for Martin, who had asked earlier.

At that moment the young man in question stepped up. “Don’t forget you promised me a dance today, Miss Morris.”

“Of course I won’t forget.” Two young men seeking her companionship today was twice as many as she had even imagined. Because of her Cherokee heritage, she never expected young men to take much notice of her or spend time with her. Today would be a more lovely day than she had believed it would be.

Martin glanced at Luke. “Miss Morris, if you’ll excuse us, I must speak to Luke alone.”

Dove nodded as the two young men made their way across the room. With both being so tall, she had no trouble seeing them as they stopped by the door. Once their gaze turned

toward her, and she averted her eyes. Her cheeks once again burned at the thought they could be discussing her. Luke was the one she wanted by her side, and she prayed he wouldn’t back out of his request.

An arm slipped around Dove’s shoulders. Turning to find Clara Haynes beside her, she beamed at the elderly lady everyone called Aunt Clara. “Oh, didn’t Lucy look lovely?”

“She certainly did, and Mellie and Mrs. Weems did a wonderful job with the dress, but you look just as beautiful.”

The compliment unnerved her because no one but Ma or Pa had ever called her beautiful before. “Thank you.” Her hand trembled, and she had to set her punch cup down. “It’s been a wonderful day for a wedding, and so many are here to honor Lucy and Jake.” Anything to change the topic.

The ploy didn’t work with Aunt Clara, who leaned close and whispered, “Next thing is to find a suitable young man for you, and that may be sooner than we think.”

Dove blinked. The elderly woman meant well, but no young man in town wanted to court a half-breed girl. Men like her father were few and far between. With his prominence and

wealth, he had paid no attention to what others thought when he chose his Cherokee bride. He’d said more than once that a man should be judged on his treatment of others, his honesty, and his reliability, not on his race or skin color. If only Luke could see her that way.

Aunt Clara squeezed Dove’s arm then patted it. “I believe it’s time to get some life into this party.” She headed toward the newly married couple.

Dove wished she were more adventuresome like Lucy, who had left her native Boston to come west to live with the Haynes family. Everything here was new and strange to Lucy, but she adapted, even shortening her name from Lucinda to Lucy. Dove sighed, wishing for some changes in her own life.

At that moment, Luke returned, and her hopes rose in anticipation. Perhaps those changes could begin in a friendship with Luke.

As Bea Anderson stared across the crowded room, she nudged her husband. “Carl, look over there. Luke’s talking with Dove Morris.”

Carl nodded in their direction. “She looks very pretty today.”

“She does, but that still doesn’t mean I like his talking with her.” Indeed her son could do much better than the half-breed Morris girl. As pretty as she may be, she wasn’t the kind Luke should even think of courting.

“Now, Bea, they’re just having a polite conversation.”

Polite conversation or not, this would not go any further if she had any say in the matter. All her childhood memories of Indian raids and attacks could not be erased by a few years of peace with one tribe. The horrors she’d seen were forever etched in her memory, and the very sight of Dove and her mother or her brothers sent them all flooding into her soul again. No matter that everyone else recognized the girl’s mother as Emily Morris—she’d always be White Feather to Bea.

She had tried to be civil, but always the images that couldn’t be forgiven lurked in the background. They were as much a part of her being as every thought or emotion she ever had.

Now she simply avoided the Morris family as much as possible and let Carl take care of their needs when they came into the store. She had chosen to keep her distance and ignore them. Even though most of the town knew her story and would understand her feelings toward the Morris family, Bea didn’t want to say something that might embarrass the Andersons in front of strangers who might be in the store. That wouldn’t be good for business.

Carl placed his arm around her and hugged her close. “Bea, Luke is a grown young man. He’s all ready to take over the store when the time comes. He’s smart, and he’s a good son. You have to let him make his own decisions and choose his own life.”

Bea swallowed hard. Knowing and letting it happen were two different things. She wished Luke had been the one to marry the Bishop girl today, but Lucy chose Jake, a cowboy turned rancher who had joined the ranks of men like Ben Haynes and

Sam Morris.

Carl patted her arm. “See, Martin Fleming is drawing Dove’s attention now. We don’t have to worry about Luke. He’ll make the right decision.”

“I should hope so. He knows our history, and any Indian, especially a half-breed girl like Dove, would never fit into our family.”

My Review:
I wasn't that impressed with the first book in this series, Becoming Lucy but I was willing to give this book a chance since it featured my favorite character from Book 1, Dove Morris. While this book was better than Becoming Lucy I thought it lagged in the middle and I didn't really become attached to any of the characters especially Bea Anderson, Luke Anderson's angry and bitter mother and almost didn't care what happened to her by the end of the book. However I did like that there was a little more action in this book such as a few altercations, a fire which involved a last minute rescue (including a litter of kittens) and a family reunion that was over 25 years in the works. Over all this book would strictly be recommended for readers of Christian fiction as it may come off as a bit preachy but if you enjoyed Becoming Lucy I think you will like Morning for Dove even more.

Read my review of Becoming Lucy HERE.