Blog Tour: Highland Sanctuary by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Friday, September 30, 2011



If you're a fan of Christian fiction or romances set in the Scottish highlands and read them as often as I do you are always looking for new authors in the genre. Last May I discovered new author Jennifer Hudson Taylor through her sweet inspirational, Highland Blessings (currently free for Kindle download!) and I became an immediate fan. This time she once again takes us back to the Highlands with the second book in the series, Highland Sanctuary. You won't be disappointed and the great thing is you do not need to have read Highland Blessings to get this story!

First things first when it comes to this book--discussing the heroine. Yes, I always make it a point to say whether or not I liked the heroine and hero of the romances that I read pointing out things like character flaws, attitude, and whether or not they're unique. This time I can say that Serena Boyd is one of the most unique and interesting of any Christian fiction character I've "met." Sure, she has the spunk and faith of any romance lead but the fact that she does it all while suffering from the falling sickness (known today as epilepsy) gives the entire story a different twist. You can't help but feel terrified for Serena as she faces an entire village who is demanding she be burned at the stake to purge the demon they believe possesses her. And really what good is a romance without a great hero? Well you won't be disappointed in Gavin Mackenzie (although he's a ginger-haired guy I don't hold that against him). ;-) He holds his own against Iain, the lord of Castle Braigh in the quest for Serena's hand.

Highland Sanctuary is a great story of discovering that one's true home is wherever love is found. There are also some great lessons concerning faith and wolves in sheep's clothing that really make you think. If you're looking for a sweet escape to the lochs and glens of the highlands this book will do the trick!

***** 

Did I mention that Jennifer is hosting an AMAZING giveaway at her blog in celebration of the release of Highland Sanctuary? Yeah. You'll want to check it out because there are some awesome prizes like Amazon Giftcards, Chick-fil-A giftcards and Highland prize packs. GO HERE FOR ALL THE DETAILS!!!

For more blog tour details go HERE.

*Thanks to the author for sending a complimentary PDF of the book for the tour.*

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Review (Christian Fiction): A Most Unsuitable Match by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Most Unsuitable Match
by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Copyright 2011
Bethany House Publishers
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0881-2
Historical Fiction

From the publisher:
Miss Fannie Rousseau is a young woman of privilege traveling west to uncover the truth behind a family secret.

Mr. Samuel Beck is on a mission to atone for past failures that still haunt him.

Their meeting aboard a steamboat to Montana sparks an unlikely attraction. They are opposites in every way... except in how neither one can stop thinking about the other.

Will the end of the journey bring the end of their relationship, or is it just the beginning?


My Review:
~2.5 stars~
This summer has been the year for great historical reads and last summer was a great time to be a reader too. I enjoyed Stephanie Grace Whitson's 2010 release, Sixteen Brides however this book left a lot to be desired. From the back cover copy and all of the reviews I had read I was expecting a lot of drama and a great plot but the first half of the story seemed like it wasn't going anywhere. The setting of the story is definitely interesting and a bit different from the usual western fare of cowboys and dusty trails with its steamboats and roustabouts but from there not much else caught my attention. Halfway through there wasn't more than a hint of romance and I kept waiting and waiting to discover who Fannie's aunt Edith really was! Samuel Reck was very intriguing but since I didn't finish the book I can't say for sure if he was a great hero or not. I'm very sad to say that other than the pretty cover I wasn't a fan of this book. Ms. Whitson is a very talented author but this story just didn't float my boat (no pun intended).

Read my review of SIXTEEN BRIDES

To learn more about the author visit:
Her WEBSITE

*I received my complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my thoughts on the book.*


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More About Me!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If you want to learn a little bit more about me and visit a great site that features Christian Fiction books visit CLASH OF THE TITLES today. Myself along with fellow blogger, Julie Arduini are featured guests today. Leave a comment there if you are so inclined, we'd love to hear from you!


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Clash of the Titles Winner: Delia Latham

Monday, September 26, 2011

Congratulations to Delia Latham for taking the crown in last week's Staff Clash. Two anonymous COTT staffers went into the ring and readers had another hard choice to make. Some said:
  • "This was a cruel choice!! LOL! They were both excellent."
  •  (About Delia's excerpt): "Beautiful words expressing emotion and making the reader want more."
  •  "Intense emotions on both excerpts! Great job!"
  •  "Terrific excerpts!"
  • (About Katie's excerpt): "I need to know Wulf better! I have a feeling he's dreamy."
  • "Awesome clash with two well-written, emotion-packed scenes! Great job, authors!"
Of course, nobody knew at the time that those authors were Delia Latham and Katie McCurdy.
Both are recent additions to the staff. Delia has come on board as a Blog Alliance Correspondent, and Katie is the official Talent Scout. (Looks like COTT scouted some talent when they found these two gems.)
This fun excursion was a great interjection into the usual good times shared at Clash of the Titles. This week sees another fierce challenge with nameless authors nominated by COTT staff. Be sure to head over there and vote now!
And in just 2 weeks, the party begins! Mark your calendars for October 10th and be ready to play for extra prizes all month long as COTT celebrates it's first anniversary. Your vote will determine which of the year's winning authors will receive the ultimate honor: the Laurel Award.
* by Assistant Editor of COTT, Michelle Massaro 

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Review (Young Adult Fiction): There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

There You'll Find Me 
by Jenny B. Jones
Copyright 2011
Thomas Nelson
320 pages
ISBN: 9781595545404
Juvenile Fiction/Religious/General

From the publisher:
Grief brought Finley to Ireland. LOVE WILL LEAD HER HOME.

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will’s travel journal. It’s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she’s been looking for has been with her all along?


My Review:
~4.5 of 5 stars~
Wow. I LOVED THIS BOOK. Every single book I've read by Jenny B. Jones I pretty much read straight through because I couldn't put it down and this was no different. This is really a great story about growing up, dealing with tragedy, and a little bit about mistaken first impressions and young love. Overall this is an amazing YA story that will appeal to all readers, young and old.

Finley Sinclair, who we met earlier this year in Save the Date, has been dealt a blow in her young life that few adults could cope with, the loss of a beloved brother. In There You'll Find Me we journey with Finley as she follows in her brother's footsteps on a summer trip to the Emerald Isle. She has hopes of finding the peace that her late brother wrote about in his travel journal but she discovers so much more about herself, about love and about learning to let go. The issues that Finley confronts are some that most teens and even adults can relate to.

You will laugh out loud, (look out for the hot potatoes!) cry, (I dare you not to when you get to know Mrs. Sweeney) and want to punch something (namely Beatrice) as you follow Finley and Beckett. This book is good, clean fun in parts and deep in others and not the least bit preachy. If you've ever read Jenny's books before you will be pleased and if you haven't read a book by Jenny B. Jones this is definitely a good place to start.

To learn more about the author visit:
HER WEBSITE

*I received my complimentary review copy through the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review.*

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Downton Abbey News!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For a limited time you can watch Downton Abbey, the Emmy award winning Masterpiece Classic series that I absolutely loved completely free on PBS.org! While others are watching series two already we people in the United States have to wait until January (boohoo) but in the meantime if you haven't seen the first series now's your chance to catch up. Also check out the extras about the series on the new PBS Downton Abbey website while you're there including the preview for series two. Doesn't it look amazing? I'm so excited to see what happens next to the Crawley's and the staff at the Abbey.


***********

Season Two Preview

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

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Clash of the Titles Anniversary Announcement!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tourney Banner 2

Happy Anniversary, Clash of the Titles!

It's been almost a year since COTT opened its voting-booth doors and invited everyone in. Over the past twelve months, readers have chosen 25 Clash winners and received 48 free books. And along the way, a family formed. That family consists of the voters, authors, staff, and the 25+ blogs who have banded together in mutual support with COTT.

This is cause for major celebration! So COTT is doing it up to the nines.

Clash of the Titles' first annual Tournament of Champions begins next month! Over the course of four weeks, past winners from the previous year will compete in a series of clashes for the ultimate prize: the Laurel Award. The Laurel, COTT's most prestigious honor, is awarded by public vote to a single author among the year's champions.

Voters are expected to turn out in droves to support their favorites and participate in games just for readers. Each week, COTT sponsors—consisting of various authors and staff—will issue fun challenges to readers along with the chance to win gift cards, critique services, a business card design, and more. A dozen sponsors are lined up for the event so far. That's a lot of prizes!

Throughout the month, details and updates on the Tournament of Champions will be shared on the COTT website and featured within the Blog Alliance. To help spread the word, please grab the special Tournament Button (below) to display on your site. Then send a link to your page to: contactcott at gmail dot com to enter the special COTT Shout-About drawing. The drawing will take place during the first week of the Tournament and the winner will receive a Clash of the Titles mug.

Please also consider Tweeting or sharing this article on your Facebook wall.
(it only takes a second--just click the share button.)

Mark your calendars and spread the word. This BYOV (Bring Your Own Vote) party begins on October 10th!








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Review (Christian Fiction): A Lancaster County Christmas by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Lancaster County Christmas
by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Copyright 2011
Revell Books
208 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8007-1995-1
Fiction/Christmas/Contemporary

From the publisher:
Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband, Sol, the Christmas gift they have both longed for--news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big Amish family isn't likely to become a reality. Will those empty chairs at the table ever be filled?

Then a winter storm raging outside blows an impatient young woman and her husband into the Riehl home on Christmas Eve--and into a much slower pace of life.

Both couples are about to find out if they can weather the storm--and if miracles still happen at Christmastime.


My Review:
~4 out of 5 Stars~
The chill in the air signifies that winter isn't far away and the holiday season is almost upon us. If the northernly breezes don't get you in the Christmas mood, A Lancaster County Christmas will. In the tradition of fine Christmas novels everywhere A Lancaster County Christmas is uplifting and celebrates the true spirit of Christmas. Strangers, an Amish family and a young "English" couple, who have nothing in common but heartache come together during a snowstorm just days before Christmas and learn that God's plans may differ from their own.

If you're looking for the perfect read to cozy up under the covers with A Lancaster County Christmas is it. In the way that only Suzanne Woods Fisher can you will escape to the snow-covered countryside with the Riehls and the Fitzpatrick's and cry, discover, and rejoice along with them. Each person's own desires, Mattie's to give her husband another child and Jamie to "fix" her marriage are portrayed realistically and are accompanied with more emotion in 200 pages than in most epic length novels. This is a stand alone novel but if you have read Fisher's previous series, Lancaster County Secrets you will enjoy seeing some familiar faces.

Even if you're not a fan of holiday stories you may want to give this book a chance. I'm not usually one to pick up Christmas books but I really enjoyed this. The book had a more serious tone than most Christmas stories I've read but that's why I liked it so much. Readers of Amish fiction will enjoy this quick read and peek at an Amish Christmas.

“Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

To learn more about the author visit:
WEBSITE
BLOG

*I received my complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my review for the tour.*


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Review (Christian Fiction): To Die For by Sandra Byrd

Friday, September 16, 2011

To Die For
by Sandra Byrd
Copyright 2011
Howard Books
352 pages
ISBN: 9781439183113
Fiction/General

From the publisher:
To Die For, is the story of Meg Wyatt, pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighboring manors in Kent. When Anne's star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne's favor rises and falls, so does Meg's. And though she's pledged her loyalty to Anne no matter what the test, Meg just might lose her greatest love—and her own life—because of it.

Meg's childhood flirtation with a boy on a neighboring estate turns to true love early on. When he is called to follow the Lord and be a priest she turns her back on both the man and his God. Slowly, though, both woo her back through the heady times of the English reformation. In the midst of it, Meg finds her place in history, her own calling to the Lord that she must follow, too, with consequences of her own. Each character in the book is tested to figure out what love really means, and what, in this life, is worth dying for.

Though much of Meg's story is fictionalized, it is drawn from known facts. The Wyatt family and the Boleyn family were neighbors and friends, and perhaps even distant cousins. Meg's brother, Thomas Wyatt, wooed Anne Boleyn and ultimately came very close to the axe blade for it. Two Wyatt sisters attended Anne at her death, and at her death, she gave one of them her jeweled prayer book—Meg.


My Review:
~5 stars~
Every so often a book is written that completely overcomes all expectations you have for a genre. To Die For by Sandra Byrd is that novel. Not only does it bring to the forefront issues of faith but loyalty and the importance of sisterly affection between friends in a way that males you forget you're reading fiction. Fans of Tudor England and the life of Anne Boleyn will love this story regardless if they like Christian fiction or not. Byrd deftly ties in the faith of the characters with the historical goings on of the Church of England in the 16th century.

This isn't the first time that I've read a story of the Boleyn family but it is by far one of the best. To Die For involves Meg Wyatt, Anne's friend from childhood and follows her life and Anne's life as their stars rise at Court and through Anne's demise. The entire story took only a day to get through because I so wanted to know what happened to Meg. We all know how Anne's story ended but between her birth and untimely death there is a lot speculation on who she really was. Ms. Byrd did an excellent job making Anne as a woman relatable, Anne as a friend realistic and Anne as a queen unshakable and Meg a friend in and lady in the truest sense. I think she did both of the ladies justice.

If you want to read story that blends fact and fiction seamlessly, read this. If you want to read a story of the power of friendship, read this. If you want to be thoroughly entertained and strengthen your faith at the same time then by all means read this book! If you don't believe me, as of 9/16/11 every single review on Amazon is 4 stars and above and for good reason.


To learn more about Sandra and her books visit:
Her WEBSITE

*I received my complimentary copy courtesy of the author and publisher in exchange for posting my honest review.*

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More Stuff I Want...

Yeah I really have a serious problem when it comes to Etsy -- I want everything I see! Since my birthday is coming up I'll be honest and say I'm looking to treat myself but there are so many wonderful things that I can't decide!

I may have mentioned before that I love the idea of a purse made from a book but it's hard for me to stomach the thought of someone ripping into a perfectly fine book. I've found a happy medium...a Jane Austen purse from the SmartGirl store!



Don't you love the fact that she keeps the pages and re-covers them so you can still read the story inside? *le sigh*
*****

Speaking of books aren't these Gone with the Wind PJs adorable?


I can just imagine snuggling under the sheets in these with a good book!

*****

And just because I wish it was still summer...


Isn't this the cutest sundress?! Carrie, where do you find all the awesome vintage clothes?

Oy! I'm going to have a very difficult time deciding what to buy!!!!!

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Review (Christian Fiction): The Faith of Ashish by Kay Marshall Strom

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Faith of Ashish
by Kay Marshall Strom
Copyright 2011
Abingdon Press
320 pages
ISBN: 9781426709081
Fiction/Christian/Historical

From the publisher:
“His name is Ashish. His name is Blessing. The boy is my blessing.”

Virat and Latha named their son Ashish, for he is the light and glory of their world. Yet a simple drink of water from the wrong cup changes them forever. Virat, Latha, and Ashish are Untouchables in 1905 India, members of a caste who must never contaminate the world of the other, higher, castes.

When Ashish is in desperate need of a doctor, Virat risks everything to save his son and ventures into the dangerous realm of the high caste. There, the strength of a father’s love, the power of a young British nurse, and the faith of a child change the lives around them.


My Review:
~4 stars~
Going into this book I wasn't sure how I was going to like it. When I pick up fiction I'll admit that I'm a romance junkie so a book set in India focused on the struggles of an Untouchable family and their young son was definitely a change for me but I am very glad that I read it. Right from the first page I knew I was going to be hooked and I knew that it was going to be a thought-provoking read. I'm warning you now you will need tissues within the first few pages.

In a society like ours where everyone is treated equally (or at least supposed to be) it's hard to imagine a caste system where the wrong move by a lower class citizen, something as simple as breathing the same air as an upper caste, could result in death, and it was acceptable. Kay Marshall Strom has brought the pain and suffering of the poor of India in the early 1900s to life in The Faith of Ashish. Ashish is one little boy with a boatload of spirit. He is beaten to within an inch of his life, heals with the help of a kindly British nurse only to go on to serve an abusive young master. His story is also uplifting as he and his family learns that he is, after all a true blessing as his name indicates.

Judging by the title you might expect this book to be simply about Ashish and his journey to God but it's not. It's mostly about life, hardships and finding hope where there doesn't seem to be any. This is not an easy story to read but Ms. Strom definitely seems to know her stuff and I learned a lot that I didn't know about 20th century India. If you're interested in missions or other culture's religious views this is definitely a book to read.

To learn more about the author visit:
WEBSITE

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

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Winner of All These Things I've Done...

Thank you all so much for entering my giveaway of All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin. The lucky winner as chosen by random.org is...

Megan D.

Megan has 48 hours to respond to the email I sent or another winner will be selected. Thanks to Tara @ Zeitghost Media for the giveaway.

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FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour + My Review: Hailee (Montana Skies, Book 3) by Penny Zeller

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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:

Whitaker House (September 6, 2011)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Penny Zeller is an author, wife, mother of two, and inspirational speaker. She’s known for her down-to-earth prose and creativity in conveying spiritual truths with clarity and humor. On her blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” (www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com) she addresses a variety of concerns families experience day-to-day across America. Penny has loved to write since the second grade, but it was in 2000 that she dedicated her writing skills to God and made a commitment to use her talents to inspire others. She recently released the Montana Skies Series for Whitaker House: McKenzie, Kaydie, and the lastest, Hailee. Other titles include: Hollyhocks (Booklocker 2003); Wyoming Treasures (Medallion Books 2005); and 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference (2008 Beacon Hill). Penny leads a Bible study and women’s prayer group, co-organized “Sisters in Christ Community Girls Night Out,” and regularly volunteers at her daughters’ school. In her spare time she enjoys canoeing, gardening, and playing volleyball with family and friends.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For years, orphan Hailee Annigan roamed the streets of Cincinnati, stealing food to keep her two younger brothers fed. She landed in a home for delinquents where, by the grace of God she received an education. Now 19, Hailee excitedly anticipates her new role as school teacher in a small Montana town, but she’s still plagued by her past and fears never seeing her brothers again. In Montana she meets and is instantly attracted to Rev. Maxwell Nathaniel Adams, Jr., pastor of the local church, who is likewise drawn to her. Rev. Adams is from a wealthy, well-connected Boston family whose plans for him did not include seminary, let alone moving to rugged Montana and falling in love with a former street urchin. Their former worlds collide as the unlikely pair attempt to forge a future together.





Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 6, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742182
ISBN-13: 978-1603742184

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

July 1893

Cincinnati, Ohio

Hailee Annigan removed the discolored sheet of paper from the community board in the train depot. Time and weather had faded the poster, so the message was barely readable, but she had memorized the words:

Looking for Philip and Reuben Annigan.

If you have any information, kindly respond to:

Hailee Annigan
c/o Dot Pangbourn’s Boardinghouse
West Eberlee Street, Cincinnati, Ohio

She crumpled the paper in her hand and stuffed it into her purse. In its place, she posted the notice she’d written that morning, then stepped back to make sure it would be conspicuous to people passing by or preparing to board a train.

Looking for Philip and Reuben Annigan.

If you have any information, kindly respond to:
Hailee Annigan
c/o Pine Haven School
Pine Haven, Montana

For the past several years, she had replaced the posting every month, two times in order to alter the address where she could be located if someone knew of her brothers’ whereabouts.

Hailee swallowed hard to hold back her tears. She didn’t want to leave Cincinnati and diminish her chances of ever finding her younger brothers. However, she knew that a change in location would do her heart good, and that she was following God’s prompting to fulfill the dream she’d had in her heart since she was a young girl.

Tomorrow, Hailee would begin her journey of nearly two thousand miles to a place she’d never been, where she had accepted a job as the schoolteacher. Yes, such a drastic change would help her to leave the past behind and start life anew.

She turned and trudged the short distance from the train depot to Austin Street. Her feet ached from all the walking she’d done in the past few hours, replacing each of the seven postings in varied locations around the city. Now, she had one more place to visit—one more person to see—before leaving Ohio.

Hailee sat on the wooden bench and waited for the horse-drawn hansom cab to round the corner during one of its many scheduled stops. Hoping she had read the schedule for the cab correctly, she counted the money in her coin purse. She’d ridden in a hansom only a handful of times due to the cost, but today was an exception. Today, she would travel to a distant part of the city to say a final good-bye to an important part of her life. She needed to put a period at the end of the sentence that had affected her more than anything else in her nineteen years.

Within minutes, Hailee spied the carriage. She rose to her feet as the hansom cab slowed to a stop.

A short, husky man with a mustache that was black, peppered with gray, and that curled up in swirly loops at the ends stepped down from the back of the carriage. He removed his top hat and greeted her with a bow. “Good afternoon, ma’am. Ambrose Peters at your service. Where may I take you today?”

“Hello, Mr. Peters. Would you please take me to The Sanctuary of Promise?” Hailee smiled at the driver.

“My! A ways away, is it not?” said Ambrose. “But, yes, I can take you there.” He extended a white-gloved hand and helped Hailee into the cab. “If you need anything, anything at all, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I can hear you through the open window in the roof.”

Hailee nodded and glanced up at the small window with a hinged cover that was open. As she settled into her seat, Ambrose prepared to close the door. “Are you comfortable?” he asked.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Very well, then. We shall be on our way.” He bowed again, placed his hat back on his head, and closed the door. Moments later, they lurched forward with the clatter of horses’ hooves.

“Are you from Cincinnati, miss?” Ambrose asked sometime later.

“Yes, I’ve lived here all my life,” Hailee replied. She appreciated the driver’s small talk. It took her mind off of the nervousness she felt.

“As have I,” said Ambrose. “Do you have family here?”

Hailee wasn’t sure how to answer that question. Were her brothers still in Cincinnati? Or, had they traveled far from this city, which held so many memories? “My parents have gone to be with the Lord, but I do have two brothers,” she finally answered.

“I’m sorry to hear about your parents, miss.” Ambrose paused. “It sure is a lovely time of year, isn’t it, with the flowers blooming and the trees with all their leaves? I have to admit, I enjoy every season, but winter gets a mite cold at times driving the cab.”

Hailee smiled and nodded. She could only imagine how a cold Cincinnati winter might affect cab drivers. She wondered about the winters in Montana. Were they similar to those she had experienced her entire life in Ohio? Would she still love summer the best of all the seasons once she was settled in her new home? She watched in silence as they passed by the tall buildings, some dating back to the turn of the century, and dozens of other buggies traversing the crowded avenue. Would Pine Haven match the hustle and bustle of Cincinnati? Would it have streets lined with storefronts offering a wide variety of goods? Somehow, she doubted it. From what she had heard, Montana was rugged and wild, Pine Haven nothing like a big city. A change will do you good, Hailee, she reminded herself. Even if that change is a drastic one.

“We’re almost there,” Ambrose announced. “It’s been a while since I’ve traveled out this way. I’d forgotten how beautiful this road looks, lined with trees as it is.”

“It is beautiful,” Hailee agreed. The buildings became fewer and farther apart, while the buckeye trees grew more numerous. They folded out their branches as if to welcome Hailee to the place she would never forget, a place where God had molded her into the type of woman He desired her to become.

In the circular driveway in front of The Sanctuary of Promise, the cab slowed to a stop. The door opened, and Ambrose peered in. “Here we are, miss.” He held out an arm to assist her out of the cab. “When shall I return for you?”

“In about an hour, if it’s convenient. Thank you, Ambrose.” Hailee climbed out, then handed him her hard-earned money for the fare.

“See you shortly, miss.”

“Yes, indeed!” She bid him farewell as he climbed back onto the cab and picked up the reins. Then, she turned around and surveyed the mammoth building before her. The brick structure had four stories and two wings, the third- and fourth-floor windows of which were covered with curtains, and a covered porch held up by four faded white pillars. The building was surrounded by a well-manicured lawn, and Hailee spied the familiar tiered birdbath under an oak tree. To the left of the tree was the fenced-in garden where she had learned much about farming.

Looking back at the building, Hailee could see the heads of students inside the first floor windows, and she recalled the many hours she’d spent in its classrooms. A little girl turned her head and peered out at her with a look of curiosity.

Hailee smiled at her and urged her feet to move toward the front door. Had there really been a time when she’d spent almost every waking moment in this looming fortress of a building? It felt as if she’d stepped back in time; while everything around her had changed in the past two years, and while dozens of children from entirely different backgrounds had lived within its walls and played on its grounds, The Sanctuary of Promise had undergone no observable alterations, at least on its exterior.

On the porch now, Hailee sucked in her breath and turned the doorknob. As she stepped inside the vast entryway, a mix of emotions stirred within her.

“I’ll be right with you,” a woman called from an adjacent room.

Hailee recognized the voice and smiled. “Ella?”

“Hailee Annigan, is that you?” Ella Fanshaw rushed through the door toward Hailee and wrapped her arms around the much younger woman. “It’s been the better of three months since we last saw each other. How have you been?”

“I’ve been well, thank you.”

“Please, come into the dining area,” Ella invited her.

Hailee followed her and sat down at the long, worn wooden table—quite possibly for the last time in her life, she realized—where she had once taken every meal. Gazing around the room, she recalled the first day she’d entered The Sanctuary of Promise, at fourteen years of age….

***

“I don’t belong here!” Hailee shouted at Officer Ulmer, who had taken her inside the large, frightening building.

“The judge ordered for you to come to The Sanctuary of Promise, so that is where you’ll stay,” Officer Ulmer said firmly. “Had you not done what you did, you wouldn’t have found yourself in this predicament.” He paused and shook his head. “Just about every child I remand to The Sanctuary of Promise makes the same claim about not belonging here. When will you street children come to learn that crime doesn’t pay? It never has and never will.”

“But I don’t belong here!” Hailee stamped her feet.

“If you don’t belong here, then why do you have a reputation for thievery among the storefront owners in East Cincinnati?”

“A reputation?”

“Yes, a reputation. There’s nary a storekeeper who hasn’t fallen victim to your thieving ways and lying tongue.”

Hailee ignored the officer’s insinuations. Yes, she had stolen; yes, she had lied; and, yes, she had deceived. What of it? It had been out of necessity that she had done such things. Had she not needed to provide for her younger brothers, she wouldn’t have dreamed of lying, stealing, and deceiving.

“You don’t understand. I need to be with my brothers!” Without forethought, Hailee pushed past the man, rushed out the door, and raced across the vast lawn. Spurred on by the rhythmic thumping of her heart within her chest, she ran with all her might, willing her eyes to adjust to the darkness of night so that she could make out her path.

“You come back here, young lady!”

Hailee stole a glance over her shoulder and saw Officer Ulmer running after her, but the thickset man was no match for her speed. “Stop that girl!” he yelled as the gap between them continued to widen. “Stop her!”

As Hailee rounded the corner of East Seventh Street and Holmes, a strong hand grabbed her arm and stopped her in mid-stride. “Not so fast,” the officer said sternly.

“Let me go!” Hailee wailed as she tried to wriggle out of the officer’s grasp.

“Not this time,” he said. “Another runaway?”

Hailee looked around. Officer Ulmer was stumbling toward them, gasping for breath.

“Yes,” he managed, still panting. “Ten years ago, I could have caught her”—he expelled a loud breath—“but my best years of chasing street urchins are behind me.”

The other officer chuckled. “That’s true of a lot of us, Quincy.”

“That’s why I requested this post, delivering wayward juveniles to The Sanctuary of Promise,” Officer Ulmer continued. “It’s supposed to be easier and less eventful. But then, spitfires like this Hailee Annigan come along and make my job almost impossible.” He breathed in and out, in and out. “Still, children like Hailee give me reason to pray even harder. Yes, I lift every lost child I meet to my Father’s throne, asking Him to take care of their needs, and—”

Out of desperation, Hailee leaned forward and bit the officer who held her on the arm. Yelling in pain, he immediately released his grip. Hailee stepped back and was ready to run, but Officer Ulmer grabbed her arms and held her fast. “She really doesn’t think she belongs in The Sanctuary of Promise, Officer Edwards,” he said.

“Humph. Do any of them?” Officer Edwards scowled and rubbed his arm where Hailee had bitten him.

She glanced around, hoping for another way to escape her captors. She would not give in and be taken to The Sanctuary of Promise. Sure, it was a big brick mansion, but it was just a fancy jail. Besides, she had her brothers to care for. Why couldn’t these officers see that?

“You don’t understand,” she whined. “My brother Philip, he has to walk with a crutch.” She pasted a sad look on her face in hopes of eliciting their pity. One thing she had learned on the streets was how to manipulate others through emotional appeals.

“Right. And I’m the president of the United States,” Officer Ulmer said with a chuckle. “Let’s get moving.” He started walking and pulled her along.

“I’m telling the truth,” Hailee insisted, trying to keep her voice low and her tone mournful.

“Are you aware of the alternative of going to The Sanctuary of Promise?” Officer Ulmer asked.

“What?” Hailee demanded.

“You would be put in jail.”

“The Sanctuary of Promise is a jail—just a fancy one,” she retorted. “Nothing good ever comes from being in a place like that.”

“I think you’ll find The Sanctuary of Promise quite different from the jail where you were held until the judge heard your case.”

“I don’t want to be in any jail. I want to be free!” Hailee gritted her teeth and tried to pull her arms out of Officer Ulmer’s grasp, but Officer Edwards held fast to her shoulder as he walked alongside. She was no match for two grown men.

“You know, most kids at The Sanctuary are released after about a year and a half,” mused Officer Ulmer. “With the little shenanigan you just pulled, you’re likely to spend more time there, though.”

“I won’t stay there,” Hailee insisted. “I’ll just escape. I have to. My brothers are depending on me. Who’ll make them dinner? Who’ll tell little Philip the story about baby Moses in the basket?”

“I’m sure someone will see to it that they’re taken care of,” Officer Edwards muttered. “If they even exist.”

“You don’t believe that I have brothers?” Hailee was shocked at what she was hearing. Why would she make that up?

“You couldn’t imagine the stories we hear,” Officer Ulmer chuckled. “Do you think you’re the first wayward juvenile to insist she has younger siblings to care for? And we’ve heard the brother-with-a-crutch story one too many times.”

“But it’s the truth! One of Philip’s feet is turned the wrong way. He was born like that. And it makes it hard for him to walk, so he has to use a crutch.”

“And just how old is this Philip?” Officer Ulmer asked as they entered The Sanctuary of Promise grounds.

“He’s only six.”

“What about your other brother? I’m sure he can care for him just fine,” Officer Edwards said dryly.

“Reuben?” Hailee was getting angry. “Reuben can’t care for him—not like I can. He’s only twelve. And, sometimes, Reuben is…well…grouchy.”

“And where do these brothers live?” asked Officer Ulmer.

“Over on Gardner St—wait, why?”

“Gardner Street?” asked Officer Ulmer.

“No, not Gardner Street,” Hailee said. “I meant to say Garrison Avenue.”

“Either way, we’ll find them,” said Officer Edwards. “Again, assuming they exist.”

“Why doesn’t anybody believe me?” Hailee demanded.

“With the crimes you’ve committed and the lies you’ve told, it is a bit difficult to believe you,” Officer Ulmer reasoned. He reached out with his free hand and opened the front door of The Sanctuary. “Good evening Miss Torenz,” he said as they stepped inside and were greeted by a young woman. “We’ve got one who insists on escaping.”

“Don’t worry, she won’t be escaping,” the woman assured him. “Please bring her upstairs to the Yellow Flower Room.”

Still fighting to be released, Hailee kicked and wriggled as the officers dragged her up the stairs. Miss Torenz opened a door, and the officers shoved Hailee inside and quickly shut the door.

“Let me out!” she shouted, beating on the door with her fists. She had to get out of here—her brothers’ lives depended on it! No doubt, little Philip was hungry right now. It was bad enough that she’d spent last night in jail and left Philip and Reuben all alone. But two nights in a row? Hailee cringed at the thought.

“It’ll do you no good to pound on the door,” said Miss Torenz through the door, her voice firm. “We’ll bring you some breakfast in the morning.”

“No, wait! You can’t leave me here!” Hailee resumed pounding on the door. After a while, her fists sore, she turned to assess her whereabouts. A tiny window on the far wall allowed a minute amount of moonlight into the room. With the exception of a bed with a faded quilt, the closet-sized room was empty. Hailee squinted. Was the wallpaper yellow with large sunflowers? It was difficult to tell in the dim light, but she supposed it was, which would account for the name of the room.

One last time, Hailee pounded on the door and screamed until her throat hurt. Finally, she gave up, turned, and leaned back against the door. She slid down into a seated position, buried her face in her hands, and began to sob. While she’d never been one to give up, no matter how harsh the circumstances life had dealt to her, this was the exception. She was trapped, and there was nothing she could do about it….

***

“Hailee?” Ella asked.

“I’m sorry, Ella. I was just remembering my first day here.”

“I wasn’t here that night, but I recall hearing that you put up the fight of the century,” Ella said, laughing.

“It seems so long ago now, almost a different lifetime.”

Ella sighed. “It was only five years ago, but you were so different then. I could tell when I first met you that you were frightened and feeling alone. And so thin and malnourished…. My heart broke for you.”

“I will forever be indebted to you for all you’ve done for me,” Hailee said.

Ella smiled. “I prayed that very morning for God to send me someone I could encourage. I didn’t realize that He would make good on my prayer right away by sending me someone the same day! And a challenge, too—that’s what you were, Hailee Annigan. A challenge.”

Hailee had thanked the Lord many times for Ella. In the years since she’d left The Sanctuary, she had maintained contact with her former teacher, although their visits had not been as frequent as she would have wished due to the busy lives of both of them. However, Hailee had treasured the times when Ella had met her at the boardinghouse where she lived. They would have tea and catch up on the happenings in their lives, and, many times, Dot Pangbourn, the boardinghouse proprietress, would join them.

Sitting across from Ella, Hailee realized how much the past five years had altered her friend. Her auburn hair was beginning to gray, her lovely face had gained a few more wrinkles, and, behind her thick glasses, her eyes looked more tired than ever. Hailee knew she was responsible for some of those wrinkles, and that she and others like her had been sources of the weariness her dear friend’s face showed. “I am deeply sorry about having been a challenge,” she said.

Ella smiled. “Oh, pooh. That’s in the past. What matters now is what you do with the second chance the Lord has given you.” She paused. “Would you care for a cup of tea?”

“I would love a cup of tea, thank you.”

Ella stood up and left the room, then returned a few moments later with two steaming teacups. She set one down at each of their places and then took her seat again. “So, tell me, Hailee, what is new in your life?”

“Well, I actually came here to tell you that I am moving…to Montana. I’ve been hired as the new schoolteacher in Pine Haven.”

“Pine Haven? That’s wonderful! From the moment you told me of your intent to apply, I had no doubt that you would get the position. I clearly remember the day you showed me the newspaper advertisement.” Ella took a sip of tea. “However, I must say…Montana? That’s pretty far west!”

“It is quite far from here,” Hailee conceded. “At first, I was hesitant because of my brothers. What if Philip or Reuben finally sees one of my postings? It will take weeks for me to receive word, and then there is the matter of the travel time. But you know my dream of becoming a teacher, and Pine Haven was the only place where the incoming teacher was not expected to have several years of experience.”

“If your brothers see one of your notices, they will contact you, wherever you are,” Ella assured her with a pat on her arm. “This will be an adventure, and you are smart to take advantage of it.”

“I have prayed about it so much, Ella. I prayed that God would open a door for me to be a teacher, and He did.”

“He’s had a plan for your life all along.”

“Even when I was causing so much trouble here?”

“Even then.” Ella smiled. “Now, besides the good news of your teaching position, what brings you to The Sanctuary?”

“To see you,” said Hailee. “I couldn’t very well go without saying good-bye, and I’m leaving tomorrow. I will arrive in Pine Haven on July twenty-seventh, with plenty of time to get settled before school starts.”

“My, things are happening fast.”

“They certainly are.” Hailee bit her lip. “I also felt that I needed to see this place one last time.”

“Not much has changed since you lived here, Hailee, although many lives have been changed—for the better, I might add.”

“God has used you in wonderful ways to touch the lives of so many children. I can only pray that He will use me in the same way with my students.”

“I know He will.” Ella paused, looking pensive. “Do you remember the first Bible verse I asked you to look up?”

“Of course!” Hailee had all but forgotten that there had been a time when she was not familiar with the Scriptures. Ella had opened God’s Word to her, and the first verse she’d learned had become one of her favorites. “Jeremiah twenty-nine, verse eleven,” Hailee began, and Ella’s voice joined with hers as the two women recited together: “‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.’”

“Hailee, do you finally understand that God has always known the plans and thoughts He has toward you?” Ella said. “He hasn’t changed. The Lord has been laying the foundation for those thoughts and plans, and, now, they are coming to fruition.”

“Thank you.” Hailee squeezed the hand of the woman who had become a second mother to her. “I’m just a little nervous about going all the way to Montana.”

“I can see that. Just remember that there is no place you can go where the Lord is not there with you. Lift your eyes to Him, Hailee, and He’ll be your comforter.”

Hailee nodded. Ever since she’d come to know the Lord, He’d never turned His back on her.

“I’m sure Dot will be sorry to see you go.”

“I will miss her so. She’s been so kind to me, almost like a grandmother.” Hailee paused. “And, more than anyone, Ella, I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too, Hailee. But you have prayed about this decision, and I do believe it is the Lord’s calling for your life. Besides, I’m only a train ride away.”

“A long train ride.”

“Nonetheless, we will correspond regularly, which shall be a source of encouragement to both of us.”

“I promise to write if you will,” said Hailee.

“It’s a promise,” Ella agreed.

“Well, we’ve talked enough about me. Please, Ella, tell me how you have been.”

“Oh, I’ve been well.” Ella paused, her eyes suddenly glowing. “I do have a tidbit of information you might find amusing, if not exciting.”

“Do tell!”

“Do you remember Officer Ulmer?”

Hailee feigned a grimace. “How could I forget him?”

“Well, he has asked me to marry him.”

Hailee almost choked on her tea. “I beg your pardon?”

“It’s true. He has been courting me for the past several months, and it happened rather quickly—”

“Officer Ulmer, the man who brought me here?”

“The one and the same.”

“I don’t believe it!” Hailee immediately regretted her words, for Ella looked stricken. “Oh, do forgive me, Ella. Congratulations are in order!” She reached out and clasped her friend’s hand. “I am happy for you.”

“I know you saw only the authoritative side of him, Hailee, but Officer Ulmer—Quincy, rather—is a kind, gentle, and godly man. He’s loving, thoughtful, and….” Ella blushed. “Handsome.”

“You’re right, Ella. I knew him only as a policeman, and we didn’t meet under the best circumstances. He treats you well, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he does. He’s exactly the type of husband I have been praying for all along. You see, I thought I was much too old to get married, but the Lord had other plans. He placed Quincy in front of me all these years, and we’ve been good friends for so long. It was just recently that we both began to see each other as something much more than a friend.” Ella giggled shyly. “It took us many years, but we finally realized our love for each other. I couldn’t be happier, Hailee.”

“And I am happy for you. Have you selected a wedding date?”

“Sometime this fall. And, although I don’t like to wish time away, autumn can’t come soon enough!”

“I only wish I could be here for the happy event.” For a moment, Hailee considered staying in Cincinnati, if only to see one of her dearest friends get married.

But Ella knew her so well that she read her thoughts. “Now, Hailee, you must go. I know how you have searched for a permanent teaching position for some time now. I also know how humbly you have asked God to use your gift of teaching. I believe He has answered that prayer. Had He wanted you to teach in Cincinnati, the opportunity would have arisen.”

“You’re right, Ella. Still, I shall miss you so.”

“And I shall miss you.”

“I suppose I should go,” Hailee said. She stood to her feet and gave Ella a warm hug.

“Take care, dear one. Write and let me know that you have arrived safely.”

“I will.”

“And don’t worry. You’ll do fine in Montana.”

“Good-bye, then.”

“No, never good-bye,” said Ella. “As my grandmother Fanshaw was fond of saying, ‘It’s never “Good-bye” but instead, “So long.”’”

“So long, then, Ella.”

Hailee hoped that Ella’s conviction about her doing fine in Montana would prove true. She took one last look around the room. With the adventure that lay before her, she might never get another chance to see the place that had housed so much of her past.


My Review:
Fans of sweet Christian romances will love this last installment in the Montana Skies series by Penny Zeller. Throughout the entire series we've been treated with a great setting, fascinating characters and strong Scripture based themes. Hailee's story is no different.

With nothing but her education from a Cincinnati reform school Hailee heads West with the hope of starting fresh as a school teacher for the children of Pine Haven, Montana, little does she know that she will find love and so much more. The handsome pastor from a well-to-do background couldn't possibly love a poor, orphan school teacher...or could he? Hailee is a sweet, likable heroine you can't help but cheer for and Nate is a handsome and understanding, befitting of a pastor and hero.

With a talent reminiscent of Janette Oke Zeller weaves a story centered around God's forgiveness set in a ranching town that is sure to please all fans of the genre. While the story gets bogged down a bit in the middle it quickly moves along after the arrival of Nate's parents. As a fan of the previous books in the series I am very pleased with this conclusion but I want to know what happens next with Reuben, I see potential for a great romance in there somewhere!

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Review (Christian Fiction): Deeply Devoted (Blue Willow Brides, Book 1) by Maggie Brendan

Deeply Devoted (Blue Willow Brides, Book 1)
by Maggie Brendan
Copyright 2011
Revell Books
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3462-6
Historical Romance

From the publisher:
She is staking her future on a man she's never met. Can she learn to love him?

When Catharine Olsen leaves Holland for Wyoming as a mail-order bride, she brings some extra baggage with her: two sisters, her mother's set of Blue Willow china, and a tragic past. As she steps off the train, Peter Andersen is glad to see that she is everything her letters showed her to be. But he is a bit perturbed by her unexpected companions. How will he support them all? And what other secrets might Catharine be keeping from him?

Filled with sweet romance and vivid characters, Deeply Devoted highlights a clash of cultures as a highborn European and a simple wheat farmer learn to love one another and trust God with the past--and the future.


My Review:
~5 stars~
This spring I read a beautiful mail-order bride story by Catherine Richmond (Spring for Susannah) and I was blown away and figured it would be a long time before I read another on par with it. This fall Maggie Brendan has once again proven that mail-order bride stories can be fresh and exciting. It just goes to show that even if you think there can't possibly be anything that hasn't been written before in a romance the right person with the right kind of talent may come along and blow that thought out of the water. Ms. Brendan is definitely one of those talents.

Catharine Olsen leaves the tragedy of her past behind her as she sails to America to meet her husband Peter Andersen little does he know that Catharine brings more baggage than just her mother's Blue Willow china. Both want their relationship to work but Peter's nosey mother, Clara will go to any length to prove that Catharine has ulterior motives when it comes to marriage. Secrets kept and a drought and pestilence threat could prove to be the straw that breaks their tenuous romance in two.

From the first page I was captivated. I loved seeing a real romance develop between two people who first fell in love through letters. It seems in most mail-order bride tales the love story unfolds gradually and by the end they're married (predictable) but not so with this book. Ms. Brendan does not shy away from issues like love and intimacy. Everything is tastefully done and not offensive in any way and the story just gets better and better.

The secondary characters are equally as impressive as the main characters. Catharine's little sisters, the nearly grown Greta and the precocious Anna definitely cause their fair share of problems but they support their eldest sibling as any sister would. I'm really looking forward to reading more of Anna and Greta in this series. It will be especially interesting to see what happens between Greta and her beau (who I don't like very much). Don't even get me started on Clara Andersen, oy vey that woman most definitely fits the meddling mother-in-law mold, however she does gain your sympathy by the conclusion of the book.

As far as romance goes Deeply Devoted is one of my favorites this year. If I hadn't already promised this book to someone else it would be going on my keeper shelf. Maggie Brendan has definitely outdone herself with this book, it is by far my favorite of hers to date. If you only read a few romances this year make sure Deeply Devoted is one of them.


To learn more about the author visit
HER WEBSITE

*Thanks to the author and publisher for my review copy*

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Clash of the Titles Champion: Sarah Sundin's A Memory Between Us

Monday, September 12, 2011

The other day my daughter orally lamented a previous conversation. “I always think of my best come-backs too late.” I know how she feels, although I’m probably on the other end of the spectrum—I often wish I hadn’t said X or Y once the conversation is done. At least in writing we can carefully craft our words, which should make it easier, right? Not necessarily. Writing effective, authentic, snappy dialogue is a skill that must be honed. And yet, when done well, it plunges the reader deep into the story and provides vivid characterization.
This last week two authors threw their “chatty-keyboards” into the Clash of the Titles' ring and although both excerpts were phenomenal, Sarah Sundin, author of A Memory Between Us, wowed readers with her printed banter.
Here’s a snippet of her COTT competing excerpt:
Jack made out Ruth’s shapely figure coming down Northgate Street. She couldn’t afford the new olive drab uniforms some of the nurses wore, but she sure looked smart in the dark blue jacket and medium blue skirt.
Jack stepped back around the corner. He unzipped his lightweight leather flight jacket, made sure his shirt collar was open, and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his olive drab trousers. Had to look casual.
He let Ruth pass, then fell in behind her. “‘One misty moisty morning.’”
Ruth looked over her shoulder and smiled.
“‘When cloudy was the weather, I chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather. He began to compliment and I began to grin. How do you do? And how do you do? And how do you do again?’”
Amusement crinkled her eyes. “It’s afternoon.”
“Yeah, but it’s misty and moisty. Life in England has taught me what that means.”
“No misty moisty mornings in California?”
“In January, not August.” Jack proceeded down the flagstone sidewalk. “And look, you chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather.”
***
Gotta love that phrase, “Misty, moisty morning,” an example of great dialogue and fun alliteration!
The story it came from is about a determined soldier on a mission to win a woman’s heart:
Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge--until he meets army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth's heart a top-priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she also is determined not to give her heart to any man.
As the danger and tension of World War II rise to a fever pitch, Jack and Ruth will need each other more than ever. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?
From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.
Romance, tough, rugged men, and rich history make this novel a must read!
Want to nibble on a few more COTT winning excerpts and win great prizes in the process? Make sure to join us for the ultimate literary challenge where COTT winners go head to head in our Tournament of Champions on October 10th to November 4th! What better way to launch the Holiday season than with a stash of great books won in our tournament give-away?
*Jennifer Slattery writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, Afictionado, the Christian Pulse, and is the marketing manager of the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She also co-hosts (with five other authors) the Facebook faith community, Living by Grace, a modern-day “meet at the well” experience where believers around the globe can unite, fellowship, and be refreshed. Visit her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud to find out more about her, her writing, and the ministries she writes for.
And make sure to hop on over to Clash of the Titles to help determine our next literary champion!


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It's Christmas in September!

To celebrate the release of her first Christmas book, Suzanne Woods Fisher has teamed up with her publisher, Revell, to bring you the "Christmas in September" iPad Giveaway! The winner will be announced on 9/27 at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party! Details below. Tell your friends and join in the fun (9/7-9/27).





Oh and be sure to follow the blog tour here - many of the bloggers have copies of the book to giveaway! 







Suzanne and Revell will be presenting one merry winner with a Christmas Prize Pack (valued at over $600):



  • A Brand New iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of A Lancaster County Christmas


To enter, click one of the icons below. But, hurry the giveaway ends on 9/26.



But, wait! There's more! The winner will be announced at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party on 9/27 at Suzanne's author page. During the party she'll be revealing something *BIG* - you won't want to miss it. She'll also be hosting a book chat, trivia contest and giving away a few early Christmas presents! Hope to see you there.





Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

*************************************

Good luck!

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Book Birthday Party Winners!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thank you all so much for making this past week so enjoyable! I love my birthday and I'm so glad I was able to share it with my author friends and you readers! Thank you again!!!

Using random.org here are the winners who were drawn from each day's giveaway entries...

Day One: The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz
Winner: Melanie D. (frequentreader...)

Day Two: Book of Choice by Julie Lessman
Winner: Melissa D. (bookcrazy...)

Day Three: Love Finds You on Christmas Morning by Trish Perry
Winner: Amy A. (blstef1...)

Day Four: Deeply Devoted by Maggie Brendan + signed bookplate
Winner: Rebecca F. aka RivkaBelle

Day Five: A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas
Winner: Kim A (bearstitch...)

Final Day: Deadly Pursuit and A Lancaster County Christmas
Winner: Jeannie 

**Winners have been emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be selected.**

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Book Birthday Party Finale

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All good things must come to an end or so they say. Although this is the last day of my Book Birthday Party that doesn't mean that there isn't more fun to be had at this blog. If you're an old follower or a brand new one I hope you stop by again. Don't be a stranger.

To all of the authors I've met, thank you for giving of your time and sharing about your new "babies." I'm very excited to read all of your books as I'm sure are the readers who stopped by this week. Since this was such a hit I've very seriously thinking about hosting a Book Birthday Party again for a future month so any authors who might be interested give me a yell.

To thank everyone for making this week such a blast I'm offering my own September book giveaway--Irene Hannon's Deadly Pursuit AND Suzanne Woods Fisher's A Lancaster County Christmas to one lucky winner! To be entered all you need to do is fill out the form, no comment required although I'd appreciate it if you would say thank you to the authors who were guests this week.


Deadly Pursuit (Guardians of Justice, Book 2)
From Revell:
Social worker Alison Taylor has a passion for protecting children. But now it seems she needs protecting. When her tormentor's attentions take a violent turn, she calls in reinforcements--her police-detective brother, Cole, and his new partner, ex-Navy SEAL Mitch Morgan. As her relentless stalker turns up the heat and the danger intensifies, Mitch takes a personal interest in the case. Because protecting Alison has become more than a job; his future depends on keeping her safe.

Filled with nail-biting suspense and heart-melting romance, Deadly Pursuit is Irene Hannon's storytelling at its very best.



A Lancaster County Christmas by Suzanne Woods Fisher
From Revell:
Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband, Sol, the Christmas gift they have both longed for--news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big Amish family isn't likely to become a reality. Will those empty chairs at the table ever be filled?

Then a winter storm raging outside blows an impatient young woman and her husband into the Riehl home on Christmas Eve--and into a much slower pace of life.

Both couples are about to find out if they can weather the storm--and if miracles still happen at Christmastime.


Giveaway Rules:
~Open to US residents ages 13 and up.
~Void where prohibited.
~Open for entries until Sept. 11, 2011, @12:01am.
~Winner drawn at random and notified by email and announced on this blog.



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Book Birthday Party, Day Five: Author Erica Vetsch

Friday, September 9, 2011

I'm sorry to say that this is the final day of guest posts but it's not the end of the party! Come back tomorrow for my very own post and giveaway. I don't like to think about packing away leftovers so be sure and devour every word of this interview with first timer to Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot, Erica Vetsch. It's been fun getting to know all these great authors and their books. Be sure and stop by everyone's sites and blogs if you want to know more about them.

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Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started writing for those who don’t know.

I’m a native Kansan transplanted to Minnesota. I’m a wife and mom of two teens, the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, and a history museum addict. I’ve always loved reading and spinning stories in my head, and I finally started putting those stories down on paper. Writing historical fiction allows me to combine my two favorite passions, history and fiction.


I’ve noticed that Barbour has a ton of books releasing soon in trade paper with titles similar to yours. Is your book one of the first in a line similar to Summerside’s Love Finds You series?

Yes, Barbour is launching a new series of book to compliment their Romancing America 3-in-1 line. The new line features historical and contemporary romances that are location-specific. The historical titles will all have the word Bride in the title, and the contemporary stories will all have the word Wedding in the title. I was privileged to be placed, along with Kim O’Brien, in one of the two launch slots. Kim’s title is A Wedding Blunder in the Black Hills.


Since this is a birthday party I’ve been asking everyone what their character would bring to the party. What would Addie bring?

Addie would bring her Scovill camera. She would take portraits of everyone there to commemorate the occasion.


If you could invite anyone to party with you at your book birthday or your own birthday who would it be and why?

I have a current fascination with Winston Churchill. I would love to invite Winston to a party, then buttonhole him into telling stories. He had a fascinating turn of phrase and a sharp, pithy way of getting to the heart of any matter. And a quick sense of humor.

Anything that you want to add about your book or anything you want to add in closing! Maybe an excerpt?


Thank you so much for having me here at the Birthday Bash. It’s been my pleasure. Here’s an excerpt from A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas.


Copyright 2011
Erica Vetsch


Uncle Carl had taught her that the customer should be accommodated no matter what, but surely there were limitations. Addie Reid pressed her fingertips against her temple. “You want to do what?”

“I want my picture made with my horse.”

“Sir, this isn’t a livery stable. I do serious portraiture.”

The cowboy—so prototypical of the breed as to be comical with his wide hat, sunburned face, and bat-wing chaps—waved a scrap of newsprint in her face. “Read this here ad. It says ‘Come to Reid’s Photography to get your portrait taken with your trail pards and best friends.’ This is your ad, ain’t it? You are Reid’s Photography?”

A small pang twisted Addie’s heart. She was now. What if I can’t do this alone?
“Well?”

“Yes, that’s my advertisement, and this is Reid’s Photography.”

“Good. Then I want my picture made with my trail pard and best friend. I’ve got good, cash money. Trail boss paid us off an hour ago. I got spiffed up down at the barbershop and headed right here.”

“But sir, a horse? The advertisement is intended for humans.”

“That horse”—he pointed through the open door to a dusty animal dozing in the sun on Front Street—“is the best friend and trail pard I’ve ever had. He’s smart and gentle and has forgotten more about cow work than I’ll ever know.”

Which was either an accolade for the horse or an insult to the cowboy. She blew out a breath. “I can’t haul the camera out into the street.” Though she wouldn’t risk moving the Chevalier for a simple portrait, perhaps she could use her smaller Scovill. Though the print would be smaller, too.

“I don’t want no outside picture. I want it taken in the studio with one of those fancy backdrops. And I want the picture to be about this big”—he held up his hands about a foot apart—“so it will look good in a frame on the wall.”

That ruled out the Scovill. A print that size would need the bigger camera. Her mind trotted back to what he’d said, and her jaw dropped. “You intend to bring a horse inside?” Jamming her hands on her hips, she shook her head. “No. Impossible. I’ll take your picture, and it will be a good one, but the animal stays outside.”

He tugged the corner of his enormous moustache. “I reckoned as much. No gumption. Should’ve known better than to come to a woman photographer. A man would understand. Guess I’ll go over to Donaldson’s. He offered to do it for me, but I wanted to give you a try at it first, since you’re new in town and all. He said you’d be too timid.”

Stung, Addie straightened. “Wait. Don’t go.” Donaldson’s Photography three blocks down would be her biggest competitor, and Heber Donaldson had been the most vocal about the new photography shop on Front Street stealing his customers. “We can work something out.” But it would have to be worth her while. She hesitated then quoted him a price.

The cowboy grinned. “That sounds fine to me. Donaldson was almost twice that. Don’t you worry. My old Mudslinger’s gentle as a spring breeze, and he’ll stand quiet.” He removed his hat and smoothed his hair. “You got a back door or something? I can lead him in that way.”

“No, he can’t come in through the back. That door’s blocked off.” She eyed the paisley-scattered rug in her reception room. “I suppose you’ll have to lead him through here.” This was ridiculous. Why was she even contemplating such a crazy idea?

Money. Pure and simple. She needed customers and couldn’t afford to turn one away.
The cowpoke jammed his hat back on. “I’ll fetch him in.” He hustled outside as if afraid she might change her mind.

Which she should do. A horse in the studio?

Old Mudslinger’s hooves clomped on the boardwalk and through the doorway, muffled on the carpet. She winced to think of horseshoe-shaped marks on the pretty red and blue rug but shrugged. Worry about the bank manager. Worry about convincing him to let you assume the mortgage. And while you’re at it, maybe you should worry about how you’re going to get this beast to hold still long enough for the exposure.

“This way.” She hurried into the studio ahead of the horse and cowboy. The animal brought with him a whiff of sweaty hair and barnyard, hay and leather. Lovely. “Don’t let him near the camera.” In the center of the long room, her pride and joy, a glossy new Chevalier, stood on a tripod, the black drape hanging nearly to the floor. She crossed to a bench along one wall and pulled her order book towards her. Snagging a pencil from a jar, she held it poised above the page. “Can I have your name, please?”

“Call me Cracker. Everybody does.”

“Very well, Mr. Cracker.” She wrote the name and the date.

He guffawed. “Not mister. Just Cracker. It’s a nickname I picked up because I love those little oyster crackers like they serve over at the Dakota House. Can’t get enough of those tiny things. I been called Cracker for about as long as I can remember.”
Cracker and Mudslinger. Fran was not going to believe this.
“Cracker, I’ve three backgrounds you can choose from, but I would suggest the landscape.” She crossed the studio and tugged on the rope that raised the canvas curtain painted to look like a drawing-room and lowered the heavy drape painted to look like rolling hills.

“Say, that’s dandy.” Cracker rested his arm across his saddle.

Mudslinger stood still, one hind leg tucked up a bit, his ears drooping. Perhaps getting him to stand still wouldn’t be a problem. Might be more challenging to make him look alive.

Addie wrestled a plaster pedestal and a wicker chair out of the way and quickly folded a fringed piano scarf and tucked it away on a shelf. “Just what did you have in mind for a pose?”

Cracker rubbed his chin. “I want you to get all of us in the picture. Head to tail and hat to hooves. And could you make sure you get my rifle in the picture, too?” He patted the gunstock sticking out of a scabbard on his saddle. “This picture’s for my mama back in Uvalde.”

Why a picture intended for his mother would need to be bristling with guns, Addie didn’t know, but once again Uncle Carl’s voice in her ear reminded that above all else, she must try to accommodate the customer.

“Lead him around here then, so the rifle is on the side facing the camera. Are you going to be astride?” She stepped back as Mudslinger’s haunches came around. If the man wanted to be in the saddle, she’d have to move the camera back, which would reduce some of the detail. . . Her mind slipped into working mode, and she began to consider the lighting and the exposure time, the focal point, and how to achieve depth of field.

“Naw, I’ll just stand beside him.” Cracker looped the reins over the saddle horn and placed his hand on the pommel. He lifted his chin, shoved his hat back so it wouldn’t shade his face, and stared off into the distance. “Like this. Like we’re standing on a hill looking over a herd and dreaming of home.”

Addie hid a smile. Cowboys might like to be thought of as firebrands and fearsome, but most were just boys with romantic notions and fierce pride. “That will be fine. You wait here while I prepare a plate. It won’t take me a minute.”

She ducked into the darkroom at the back of the building, struck a match to light the lantern, and lowered the red glass covering. Rosy light bathed the room, the workbench, the trays, and the rows of bottles and chemicals necessary to her job. She closed the door, shutting out all sunlight, and reached for a large glass slide to begin the process. Uncorking bottles and preparing the wet-plate washes, she shook her head again. A horse in her studio. If word got out, she might have a stampede of equine customers. Would that make the bank manager more amenable to her taking over the mortgage?

Just thinking of the meeting with the bank manager this afternoon made her hands shake. In her haste, she splashed a bit of silver-nitrate on her cuff and wrist. Grrr. Grabbing the ammonia bottle and a rag, she dabbed at her skin. If she didn’t get it off now, it would turn blackish-blue and take ages to wear off. Twisting her lips, she scowled at the once-white cuff now blotched.
She took precious moments to roll up her sleeves like she should’ve done right away and donned her work apron to cover her straight, blue skirt. She wouldn’t have time to go back to her boardinghouse to change before meeting the bank manager, so now, in spite of the warm day, she’d have to don the matching jacket to cover the stain on her sleeve.

Finally, she had a prepared plate in the lightproof box. Entering the studio once more, she noted that neither cowboy nor horse had stirred. “I’ll just get this into the camera. You’ll both have to stand completely still until the plate has been exposed for the proper length of time. If you move even a little, the picture will come out blurred.” She removed the lens cover and ducked under the drape to peer through the camera. She emerged, backed the camera up about a foot, and sighted again. Perfect. After replacing the lens cap, the black drape stifled all light. Operating by feel, she slipped the glass plate into the back of the camera and closed everything up.

When she emerged from beneath the cloth, she took a moment to tighten the combs keeping her upswept hair from teasing her face and studied Cracker. She approached him for some final adjustments. “Put one foot a bit in front of the other and let your left arm hang loose. You’ll look more natural that way.” She smoothed his collar and tilted his hat a bit more. The sunshine from the skylight overhead should provide enough illumination that she wouldn’t need any flash powder. Just as well. The pop and glare of a flash might startle even the dozy Mudslinger into bolting.

“Make sure you get my pistol and knife in the shot.” Cracker patted his gun belt.

“Of course.” This was for his mother, after all. “Now relax, but hold completely still until I give you the word.” She stepped back, surveyed the tableau, trying to see things through the camera lens in her mind, to see the finished product and predict if it would please the customer.

Gently, she unscrewed the lens cap. “Hold it.” She counted off the seconds, added two more because the horse and saddle were so dark, then replaced the cap. “There. You’re done.”

Cracker relaxed a fraction then grinned. “Great. When will it be ready?”

“You can pick it up tomorrow, but you’ll have to pay for it today.” Uncle Carl always required payment from a cowboy before developing the picture, and she intended to follow his example. If she waited until Cracker came to pick up the photo tomorrow, chances are his money would’ve disappeared, siphoned off in one of the saloons or gambling halls. What took the average cowboy three months to earn on the trail up from Texas could be gone in a matter of hours in a cow town like Abilene or Dodge City, Kansas.

Cracker dug into his pocket and produced a wad of bills. He peeled off a couple, grinned at her, and added a third. “There you go, lady. A little something extra for you. And I’m going to tell everybody I know to come here to get their picture made.”

He grabbed Mudslinger’s reins and tugged. The animal roused, shuffled his feet, and ambled toward the door. When he came abreast of her camera, he paused.
Addie let out a shriek.

Cracker yanked on the reins, but it was too late. “Whoops. I sure am sorry about that. He ain’t exactly housebroke, you know.”

~Available to purchase from Amazon and other booksellers.~
~Read my review of Bride HERE.
~ Visit Erica's website...there are a TON of books listed that you will want to read!

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Giveaway: Enter to win a signed copy of A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas, by Erica Vetsch!

~To be entered simply fill out the form below. YOU MUST DO THIS OR YOU WON'T BE ENTERED! US Residents only, ages 13 and up. Void where prohibited. Closes for entries 9/11/11 @12:01 AM

~For 2 extra entries leave a comment about your favorite hobby (mine is reading but I bet you might have guessed that) or say hi to Erica!



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