Clash of the Titles: Guest Lisa Lickel

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

* guest post by COTT Senior Editor, April W Gardner


The lovely Lisa Lickel has stopped by today to talk about her frigid Wisconsin winters, her 1830’s ship’s captain house, and her growing list of published novels. Join us!

Lisa is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she is a multi-published novelist, has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio theater, and edits two magazines: Creative Wisconsin and OtherSheep. She is also the senior editor at Reflections in Hindsight.


Lisa is the author of A Summer in Oakville, co-authored with Shellie Neumeier, Meander Scar, Healing Grace, and The Gold Standard.

Wisconsin. Brrr! What's the coldest weather you've endured?
Lisa: The thermometers read in the negative thirties. The temp has to be at least twenty below, not just wind chill, to call off school. Once it’s minus ten or colder, it doesn’t really feel much different because you still have to bundle up the same.

Negative thirties? It was 24 over the weekend here in Georgia. You should have heard the complaining! LOL I hope you have a warm house. Speaking of which, does your 160 year ship captain's house actually sit on the lake shore? Which of the Great Lakes would that be?
Lisa: Where we live is inland from Lake Michigan about fifteen or so miles from Port Washington. It’s midway-ish between Green Bay and the current state line. The LaCrafts came to Wisconsin in the late 1830s and bought land as soon as the surveys were registered. I’m not sure exactly what they did or where they lived before this house was built in 1853, but I know that afterward he gave up his ship, which I’m guessing was a steamer or clipper with a merchant run between New York where they were from and Port Washington. Abraham Lincoln stopped at Port and speechified once, ya know.

Sounds like Captain LaCraft had a rather long and frigid buggy ride back and forth to his ship! Since you have such long, cold winters it’s a good thing your job doesn’t take you outside the home (much). How did your writing career get kicked off? 
Lisa: I was a church secretary knowing my kids were leaving home for adulthood and my job wouldn’t last forever I took the very expensive Christian Writers Guild apprentice course. I began writing for my tiny little local newspaper, features and government meetings, etc., which was excellent practice for “write tight.” Meanwhile a novel I wrote for the guild’s very first First Novel contest under Jerry Jenkins did pretty well, I wrote a cozy mystery for Barbour and signed with an agent from the guild about the same time, fall of 2007. And so forth.


Ooh, I’ve always wanted to take one of the Christian Writers Guild’s courses. Good for you for taking plunge, despite the cost!
I hear you love to travel. Do you have any funny travel misadventures you're brave enough to share?
Lisa: Okay–my husband likes these travel books called “Moon Guides.” You should look them up – they’re fun. Sometimes a little out of date, as we discovered on one journey when we stopped at what was supposed to be a mineral springs spa in the middle of – wherever we were. The motel had just changed hands and the proud grandfatherly owner showed us around, leading the way down this huge scary hallway with, I KID YOU NOT, stained ceiling tiles drooping with insulation showing, rather actively inhabited cobwebs, just totally gross, to the last two rooms in the place which he had fixed up. Out comes a very happy smiling couple from one of the rooms, exclaiming their delight with the place; he opens the last door with a flourish to a very mildew smelling room, air conditioner running full blast and a bed with an obvious droop. I wondered…well never mind. Hubby felt sorta bad about leaving, but, I mean, really…would you?


You bet I would have left! Nope, no guilt there. And it’s too funny that the other couple were gushing over the place. I wonder if he paid his neighbors to say that? LOL
You've been on staff at Clash of the Titles since its birth. Which aspect the site do you enjoy most?
Lisa: Working with you, of course. (Aw! Thanks, sweetie. And, ditto!) Meeting all the fantastic authors and finding out behind-the-scenes things to do with their work. And what I truly find fascinating is exploring books from all the different angles, such as “Best Romantic Moment,” “Best Back Cover Blurb,” “Most Delectable Hero,” – okay, made that last one up, but…something in the future?

Hey, that’s not a bad idea! Raise your hand if you want to see a Most Delectable Hero clash! 
How many of your books have been published, and which one have you gotten most positive reader feedback on?
Lisa: That’s a nice way to put it, April. As soon as The Map Quilt releases in April, that will make full length novel number five; my first book, MQ’s prequel, is re-releasing later on. I received some nice comments on The Gold Standard, the first book, and I have the most reviews and intriguing public comments on Meander Scar, an unusual romance I did in 2010.


Congratulations on the upcoming releases! Whoo hoo!! Each book an author finishes whether it’s ever published or not is a massive accomplishment. And I LOVED Meander Scar. I think I read it in one sitting, and I’ve never done that before. Ever. 
So tell us about this book you have coming?


The Map Quilt releases in April of this year.
Just how high a price does a family secret command?
Death in rural Wisconsin is only the beginning to new chaos in Robertsville. What do a stolen piece of revolutionary agricultural equipment, a long-buried skeleton in the yard, and an old quilt with secrets have in common? Hart and Judy Wingate, who met in The Gold Standard, are back to solve the mystery of The Map Quilt. Hart’s new battery design could forever change the farm implement industry. But after the death of Hart’s most confrontational colleague in a fire that destroys Hart’s workshop, the battery is missing.
Throw in a guest speaker invited to Judy’s elementary classroom who insists she owns the land under Hart’s chief competitor’s corporate headquarters, and a police chief who’s making eyes at Hart’s widowed mother, it’s no wonder Hart is under a ton of pressure to make sure his adventurous pregnant wife stays safe while trying to preserve his company and his reputation.
It sounds like a lot of fun. You're a talented author, Lisa, and COTT is privileged to call you its own!


Learn more about the talented Lisa Lickel at her site: www.lisalickel.com.



A Tumultuous Tale of Love on the High Seas: Heart's Safe Passage (The Midwives, Book 2) by Laurie Alice Eakes

Monday, February 27, 2012

Heart's Safe Passage (The Midwives, Bk 2)
by Laurie Alice Eakes
Copyright 2012
Revell Publishers
ISBN: 9780800719852
My Thoughts:
I'm a huge fan of pirate tales since reading MaryLu Tyndall's Legacy of the King's Pirates series. Even though that series was drawn to a conclusion a few years ago I still look for and enjoy tales that are set aboard ships. This book in The Midwives series is a fine example of everything I love about high seas romances. At first I was a little underwhelmed by the characters and the plot but as the story unfurled and the unpredictability of the sea and rogue privateers became a factor I couldn't put the book down.

There is no other word than tumultuous to describe this book. The relationship between Phoebe and Rafe (best pirate/privateer name ever) was so realistic. The arguments and the genuine anger didn't evolve smoothly into an easygoing relationship once they got to know each other but it was something of a constant battle not unlike a relationship today.

The secondary character's were fun too. Belinda, Phoebe's sister-in-law was so annoying and well...spoiled...that I almost wanted to skip the parts where she opened her mouth. I suppose that unlikable characters make the story though, don't they? Mel, Rafe's daughter is just so adorable and her canine friend, Fi will melt your heart. I hope Mel gets her own story, she deserves to grow up and get a happy ending! This book really had a great message of persistence and learning to forgive oneself so that, along with the good plot make this a book I can recommend to anyone who loves Christian fiction!

~3.5 stars (for a slow start)~

Favorite line from the book: "Even at that moment, when more than a yard of deck separated them, she experienced a tugging to rise and step forward, as though he were the North Pole and she the compass needle." (page 91)

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



About the book:
One woman takes the treacherous journey toward redemption . . . and love.

All Phoebe Lee wants out of life is to practice midwifery in Loudon County, Virginia. But when she refuses to accompany her pregnant sister-in-law to help save her husband from an English prison during the War of 1812, Phoebe finds herself pressed aboard a British privateer.

Captain Rafe Docherty promises to get Phoebe's brother-in-law out of prison in exchange for information Rafe needs to exact revenge on the man who destroyed his family. As he realizes his attraction to Phoebe, she determines to get ashore before her patient goes into labor--and before her own heart is in danger. But an enemy in their midst threatens to end their plans--and their very lives.

To learn more about the author visit HER WEBSITE

“Available February 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”


Clash of the Titles: Almost Kiss Winner

Thursday, February 23, 2012

*guest post by Raquel Byrnes



The Almost Kiss clash has been a whirlwind of romance, breathless moments, and possibilities! Your responses to the excerpts were amazing. Both books were great examples of riveting Christian Fiction available out there, but there can be only one winner and I am happy to announce that book is...
A Thyme for Love by Pamela S. Meyers!
Pamela's winning Almost Kiss excerpt was full of sparks and surprises. 

Here's a small snippet of the great scene:


...Marc tipped my chin up with his index finger. “April, you’re sweating.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed my forehead. I had nowhere to look but into his eyes and, once there, I couldn’t pull my gaze away. Good thing I didn’t want to. His eyes went to my mouth and he leaned closer. I lifted my chin in anticipation. So much for the boss’s orders... 

He brought his mouth closer, and the tiny elevator started to spin. Then everything went black.

If you missed it, drop by Clash of the Titles to take a peek at One Breathless Moment...

We received positive reader response for this spunky romance.

"Great tension! I was riveted to every word!"
"Love the anticipation and butterflies in the almost kiss scene..."
"The setting was marvelous, the tension leaped off the pages."

A Thyme for Love is a wonderful example of the awesome Christian fiction available. 

This week, an exciting new Unpublished Novel Clash begins. It's hosted by our very own April Gardner! Make sure you come by for another chance to vote and WIN a free book!



Waiting on Wednesday: Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra Bricker

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


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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.

Eeep! I do so love weddings but what true romantic doesn't, right? I'm super excited to read Sandra Bricker's latest "Emma Rae" book and I'll bet after you read the blurb you will be too! Check it out below and tell me what you think!

Always the Designer Never the Bride
by Sandra D. Bricker
Copyright 2012
Abingdon Press
ISBN: 9781426732232


About the book:
It’s taken Audrey Regan years to establish herself as a wedding dress designer, and to date she’s been roped into creating dresses for nine of her girlfriends. Request #10 follows her vow to “Just say no!” and comes from her very best friend. She can hardly turn Carly down!

Audrey arrives in Atlanta early to perform all of her maid-of-honor duties along with final fittings for a one-of-a-kind dress. But Carly’s wedding is nothing short of an event, complete with Prince Charming, and the festivities make Audrey question whether there’s a prince of her own anywhere in her future.

Enter the groom’s brother and best man. Shaggy-haired, tattooed bad boy J.R. Hunt couldn’t be any more different from Prince Charming if he rode in on a Harley Davidson. Oh, wait. He actually did ride in on a Harley!


******

Happy Reading!!!!


Who Knew? Newspapers and Romance: Words Spoken True by Ann H. Gabhart

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Words Spoken True
by Ann H. Gabhart
Copyright 2012
Revell Books
ISBN: 9780800720452
My Thoughts:
Just a few years ago I discovered Ann Gabhart through her Shaker series set in Harmony Hill. I loved the complexities of a "simple" life that were presented throughout the series and enjoyed the sweet romance and faith elements that were presented. In Words Spoken True Ms. Gabhart has taken a completely different yet equally enthralling path.

Take a worldly newspaperman and a talented writer/typesetter who work for rival newspapers and throw them together in the midst of a growing Louisville where the influx of Irish Catholic immigrants has caused anything but peace. Throw in a serial killer and toe-curling romance and you have one awesome read that is worth stopping the presses for.

I loved every bit of it from Adriane, who just wanted to write a great story to Blake the arrogant editor who just jumps off the page, Duff the newsboy, and even the ol' flea bitten dog that hangs out on the back stoop. If you're a sucker for romance this book has it in spades. Words Spoken True ranks up there with Courting Morrow Little or A Hope Undaunted for those who love the sparks! ;-)

~ 4.5 out of 5 stars~

*I received my complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest opinion/review of the book. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.*

About the Book:
Adriane Darcy was practically raised in her father's newspaper offices. With ink in her veins, she can't imagine life without the clatter of the press and the push to be first to write the news that matters. Their Tribune is the leading paper in Louisville in 1855.

When Blake Garrett, a brash young editor from the North with a controversial new style of reporting, takes over a competing newspaper, the battle for readers gets fierce. After Adriane and Blake meet at a benefit, their surprising mutual attraction is hard to ignore. Still, Blake is the enemy, and Adriane is engaged to the son of a powerful businessman who holds the keys to the Tribune's future. Blake will stop at almost nothing to get the story--and the girl.

Set against the volatile backdrop of political and civil unrest in 1850s Louisville, this exciting story of love and loyalty will hold you in its grip until the very last page.

Read an excerpt HERE

To learn more about the author visit her WEBSITE

“Available February 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Litfuse Blog Tour + My Review: Sweeter Than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliott

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sweeter Than Birdsong
by Rosslyn Elliott
Copyright 2012
Thomas Nelson Publishers
ISBN: 9781595547866
My Thoughts:
With last year's debut from author Rosslyn Elliott I immediately fell in love. Her ability to tell a tale with a great setting, complex characters, and vivid; raw emotion was superb. With the continuation of The Saddler's Legacy we meet the next generation of Hanbys and are once again thrust into a world of controversy and divided loyalties right on the cusp of a war that would divide a nation. Hold on to your hat, it's a dramatic story with twists you won't see coming!

Kate Winter's is an exceedingly shy lady with an extraordinary soul and heart for music. Fellow student at Otterbein College, Ben Hanby also has a heart for music and longs to draw beauty Kate out of her shell. On a trip to Cincinnati with friends Kate's life takes an unexpected turn when she learns the secret of the Hanby family and the key to unlocking her voice to reach all.

Fraught with emotion and a dash of adventure Sweeter Than Birdsong, though more traditional in the sense of setting and time period than Fairer Than Morning, is an interesting look into the lives of those who lived under the Fugitive Slave laws. Anyone who has an interest in history and the workings of the Underground Railroad and the tragedies of slavery will enjoy this splendid read. Sweeter Than Birdsong is a great sophomore novel from the pen of Rosslyn Elliott. I can't wait to see where she takes the Hanby family next.

~4 out of 5 stars~

CLICK HERE TO READ WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BOOK


About the book:
In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, Kate Winter’s dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she’ll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance—and use it to mask her flight.

Ben Hanby, Otterbein College’s musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing—and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.

A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage—and her voice—if she is to sing a new song for their future.

CLICK HERE TO READ AN EXCERPT

*I received my complimentary copy of the book from the publicist in exchange for posting my honest opinion/review for this tour.*

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

Giveaway Details:
In this second in the award-winning Saddler's Legacy series, Rosslyn Elliott has written a stirring novel of hope and faith inspired by real historical people and events. With Ben Hanby, a genius composer, Kate Winter, one of the first female college graduates in America, and John Parker, an ex-slave who risked his life time and again to help fugitive slaves, Sweeter than Birdsong is full of real heroes to inspire us. "I hope readers will find a renewed sense of strength in their own lives," says Elliott, "knowing that change is possible, and our efforts matter. I want them to remember these unique, brave people in history who left us a shining example of what it means to live out one's beliefs with passion and commitment."

So to celebrate the music in all of us, Rosslyn and Thomas Nelson are hosting this "sweet giveaway".



One fortunate winner will receive:

  • A Brand new iPod Nano (Winner's choice of color!)
  • Fairer than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott
  • Sweeter than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliott
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on February 28th. Winner will be announced at Sweeter than Birdsong Author Chat Facebook Party on 2/28. Rosslyn will be chatting with guests, sharing a sneak peek of the next book in the series, hosting a trivia contest, and more! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, season 1 of DowntownAbbey, and a book club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club AND a LIVE Author Chat for your group with Rosslyn.)

So grab your copy of Sweeter than Birdsong and join Rosslyn and friends on the evening of the 28th for an evening of fun.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 28th!


*********************************************
Happy Reading!


FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour + Review: Warring Spirits by April W. Gardner

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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:


Vinspire Publishing, LLC (November 30, 2011)

***Special thanks to April Gardner for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


April W Gardner has been a military brat, missionary's kid, and military spouse. After 21 years in various countries overseas, she happily resides in Georgia with her USAF husband and two sweet kiddos. In her free time, April enjoys reading, music, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.





Librarian, reviewer, and avid reader, April adores anything books. She writes a regular column for the joint blog, Reflections in Hindsight, and is the founder and senior editor of the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She is the author of the historical romance series, Creek Country Saga and the children's adventure series, the Channel Islands Resistance.



Visit the author's website.




SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


In 1816 Georgia, escaped slaves control the land just beyond the American border in Las Floridas. Lost somewhere between white and black worlds, Milly follows hope to the only place that can offer her refuge—the place Georgians are calling Negro Fort. The first, sweet taste of freedom convinces Milly that surrender is not an option. Death would be more welcome.



Major Phillip Bailey has orders to subdue the uprising and return the runaways to their masters. Forced to fight alongside Creek warriors—the same who etched the scars into his mind and flesh—Phillip primes himself for battle.  But inside, a war already rages—return for the woman he thought lost to him or concede her to the enemy she loves; follow orders or follow his heart.






Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 286 pages

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC (November 30, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 098341985X

ISBN-13: 978-0983419853



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Warring Spirits
April Gardner
Vinspire Inspirations
A Division of Vinspire Publishing
Ladson, South Carolina




Warring Spirits
Copyright ©2011 April Gardner 
Cover illustration copyright © 2011 Elaina Lee/For the Muse Designs
Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval
system-except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a
review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Web without
permission in writing from the publisher. For information,
please contact Vinspire Publishing, LLC, P.O. Box 1165, Ladson, SC 29456-1165.
All characters in this work are purely fictional and have no existence
outside the imagination of the author and have no relation
whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not
even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the
author, and all incidents are pure invention. 
ISBN: 978-0-9834198-5-3
PUBLISHED BY VINSPIRE INSPIRATIONS, A DIVISION OF
VINSPIRE PUBLISHING, LLC




      Chapter 1 

      Phillip knew it was a dream. He told himself again, though it did little good. The children’s shrieks grew louder. The flaming pickets roared with new life, as though fueled by his denial of their existence.
      His legs churned, but he couldn’t free his mind of the constant nightmare. At least this time, he reasoned, he wasn’t awake. Small blessings.
      And then, he saw her.
      Adela.
      Arms dangling at her sides and skirt undulating in the waves of heat, she stood across the compound. Her lips were motionless, but her voice echoed through his mind. “Phillip.”
      He rushed toward the vision, and she reached for him. “Phillip, love, you must wake up.”
      With a cry, he bolted upright.
      The silhouette of a woman hovered over him. He stared at her, unblinking, afraid to move and frighten her away.
      Sweat poured down his chest—sweat as real as the shadow seemed.
      “That’s better,” she whispered. “You’ll be alright.”
      He disagreed, but if he spoke, he might shatter her. He’d done it before.
      Her loose hair swayed as she moved so near, he should feel her heat.
      Taking in the comfort of her presence, he held his breath until his lungs burned with need. Refusing to be contained any longer, air exploded from his mouth. The sound ripped through the cabin, and in one blink, Adela vanished.
      A moan built in Phillip’s throat, and he buried his head in his trembling palms. When his fingers collided with the jagged flesh on his face, he recalled again why Adela was no more to him than a mocking shadow, a figment of his deluded, half-crazed mind.
      She had turned him down.
      Familiar nausea haunted his gut. With a growl, he threw his damp pillow across the room. The sound of splintering glass sent him scrambling for the musket by his bed. He had the unsteady barrel aimed toward the source before he realized he’d been the cause of the commotion.
      He dropped the weapon and backed away from it as though it were a copperhead. Blood pounded in his throat. He swallowed hard, terrified of his own mind.
      It had been nearly two years. One more night of this and he would prove the gossip correct. He would go mad.
      There had to be a better way.
      “Help me.” His voice shivered, and for once, he was thankful to be alone. “Sweet Jesus, show me a better way.” 
***
      Sitting as poised as possible in the bouncing buckboard, Milly rearranged her skirt then tugged her bonnet over her ears. Another rut in the road sent her stomach flying.
      “You look fine, Miss Milly.” Isum transferred the reins to one hand then wiped a palm against his dingy, knee-length trousers. A sideways glance topped his crooked smile. “As fine as any white lady in stole clothes.”
      Milly squirmed inside her stuffy petticoats. “Borrowed clothes, and don’t call me that. Milly will do.”
      “No, miss. It won’t. Best make a habit of it now, before we’re needin’ it.”
      “I hate admitting when you’re right.”
      Isum chuckled, but Milly pressed her lips and snatched a peek over her shoulder.
      “We’ll hear somebody comin’ before we see ‘em.” Isum’s voice remained steady, his demeanor casual, and his shoulders relaxed. His death-grip on the reigns told another story.
      Three years ago, he had been as short and wiry as a plucked cotton bush. Now, his muscular, mahogany frame left little room to spare on the wagon seat. According to plantation gossip, the field girls took to nervous giggles whenever he came around. The master had perked up as well and taken to accepting bids.
      There was only one thing Master Landcastle needed more than strong field workers. Cash.
      The moment whispers in the big house revealed that Isum had been sold and would leave by dawn, Milly took action. There was no way she would let them take the only true friend she had, so ignoring the consequences, she loaded the buggy with vegetables. And one lady’s day gown.
      As was their weekly custom, she and Isum set off toward town. Only this time, instead of stopping at the market, they went straight through.
      Six miles of red, Georgia clay stretched behind them. Seventeen more before they ran into Spanish Florida. Sixty beyond that, Negro Fort, and safety.
      It had been done many times before. It could be done again. But in broad daylight?
      Escape stories ran through Milly’s twenty-four years of memory. Had there been a single one where a slave had taken to the road while the sun was at its highest? She shook her head.
      But I have an advantageso long as I’m not recognized.
      The July sun beat down on her with mocking strength. She pressed a palm across the back of her stinging neck.
      Isum reached to the floorboard then passed her the borrowed parasol. “You’ll be burnin’ if you don’t.”
      Since he first came to the plantation as a skinny tyke five years her younger, Isum had been her responsibility. She had cared for him as meticulously as she did her own flesh. About the time his gaze tilted downward in order to look her in the eye, they swapped roles, and his protectiveness had grown in proportion to his towering height.
      She frowned, opened the frilly contraption, and settled it against her shoulder. Immediately, her neck cooled. It did nothing for the bile rising in her throat.
      Gripping the side of the bench, she failed to tamp down the regret that swelled within her.
      The timing was wrong. They would be caught, and he would be sold. She dare not consider her own fate.
      They should turn back. It wasn’t too late.
      She swiveled and squinted at the road behind them. What options did she have? Mr. Grayson’s features, twisting with his customary, terrifying rage, flashed before her mind’s eye. It’s too late. We can’t turn around.
      They should be moving faster.
      Isum pulled on the reins.
      “Why are you slowing?” Milly sat forward, resisting the urge to yank the whip from its holder and spur the mare to a gallop.
      He swiped the floppy hat from his head and mopped his brow with his sleeve. “We ain’t alone. Best we not seem in too much of a hurry.” He indicated with his hat then settled it back in place before taking up a deliberate, relaxed posture.
      A horseman topped the next slope.
      “Oh God, help us.”
      “What you worried about, Miss Milly? You’s armed with the most beautiful smile this side of the Chattahoochee. Ain’t no gentleman gonna see past it to doubt your word.”
      But what if he wasn’t a gentleman? Milly forced a wobbly smile then swept her hand under her bonnet, securing any strays.
      Within minutes, Isum pulled the buggy to a halt as the gentleman came alongside them. The creaking brake nearly sent Milly scrambling for the trees lining the road. Instead, she angled the parasol to shield her face, presumably, from the sun.
      “Good afternoon.” The man’s unfamiliar voice released her pent-up breath.
      Easing back the shade, she peered through the lace edging. Long seconds passed before Isum shifted beside her and nudged her back.
      Milly lowered the parasol and forced her gaze to the stranger’s eyes. She found them friendly and unsuspecting. “Good afternoon to you, sir.” Tucking her trembling hands into the folds of the closed parasol, she tried for that beautiful smile but feared she fell short of Isum’s expectations.
      The man studied her, never once glancing at Isum.
      A cold sweat broke out on her upper lip. Like venom, fear coursed through her, poisoning her confidence. Her gaze slipped to the dirt where it belonged.
      “You’re a might far from civilization. It’s not exactly safe out here, even with a strapping young buck such as yours.”
      Milly’s line of sight skittered to the man’s chest, then, weighted by years of training, fell back to the ground. “I plan to trade with Creek in the next village. I hear they’ll give anything for a little food.”
      “So they will, poor devils.” The man laughed, making Milly’s skin crawl. He sidled his horse close to the buggy, and the smell of his cologne wafted down. “I appreciate a woman with a tender heart.”
      “If you don’t mind, we best be moving along. I wouldn’t want to be caught out after dark.”
      The man’s silence lured Milly’s hesitant gaze. A smile crept up his face. “There they are, those pretty brown eyes.” He tipped his hat, bowing slightly at the waist. “It would be my pleasure to escort you, miss.”
      “No.” The discourteous refusal popped out of its own volition. “Thank you, but that’s not necessary. We’re accustomed to the road.”
      Eyes darkening, the gentleman reined his horse around, pointing its nose toward the road behind them. “As you wish. Good day.”
      Milly nodded but doubted he noticed. “Let’s move, Isum,” she whispered, anxious to leave the man’s dust behind.
      A brisk mile later, Milly’s gloved hand still clutched the parasol in her lap. Tears burned her eyes at the thought of what might have happened. She blinked them away to find Isum grinning from ear to ear.
      “We done it. We fooled that dandy.”
      A strangled chuckle escaped her. “Yes. I supposed we did. He never suspected a thing.” Milly laughed, full and long. It unwound the knotted cord in her gut, and suddenly, the road opened before them and filled with possibilities.
      Possibilities of a future. With Isum? He had offered as much, and she hadn’t exactly rejected him. Neither had she accepted. She found it difficult to move past the years of near-mothering to feel something more toward him. And yet, she couldn’t imagine another man on earth who would willingly wed her. And from all indications, he was more than willing.
      Taking in a deep, cleansing breath, she turned and found his steady brown eyes on her. All joviality had fled. “Isum? What is it?”
      “For half a minute, I thought I was gonna have to kill me a white man, the way he was lookin’ at you. Like you’s a Sunday pastry.”
      It was always the same with men. Many women longed for beauty, but for Milly, it was the key to her shackles. Perhaps today would commence the end of her nightmares. Even if it did, it certainly wouldn’t erase what had already been done to her. She tucked her chin against the nagging shame.
      Isum grunted and slapped the reins across the mare’s rump. “Ain’t nothin’ you can help.”
      At the sound of thundering hooves, she felt the blood drain from her face. A glance behind them revealed four riders closing in fast.
      She gripped Isum’s arm, words lodging in her throat.
      Jaw clenched, he focused on the horse as he pulled them to a stop. Running was futile. With quivering resignation, she removed her gloves and folded them neatly, just as the mistress had taught her. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Isum, to see hope shattered across his face.
      “It ain’t ova,” he mumbled, as Master Landcastle’s men surrounded them.
      Milly coughed in the horses’ dust, and probed her mind for a reasonable excuse.
      “I thought you were smarter than this, Milly.” Grayson, the overseer, laid one hand across his legs, loosely aiming a pistol in their direction. “A shame what’ll become of you now.” His false sympathy grated on her ears.
      Two of the others dismounted and dragged Isum from his seat. He struggled against their attempt to shackle him and was rewarded with a swift kick to the gut.
      Milly jumped from the buggy and scrambled to the side of Grayson’s horse. Her nails dug into the leather of his riding boot. “Please, it was my fault. I didn’t tell him I planned to run.”
      He guffawed and kicked her hand away. “He doesn’t answer to you, girl. And he’ll pay for his own foolishness. Just as you will.” He jerked the pistol. “You’re riding with me.”
      The thought of being pressed against the man for seven miles of rough roads sent Milly back a step. He lunged forward, grappling for the fabric at the front of her gown, but he missed and scratched her neck instead.
      She barely registered the burn.
      His nostrils flared. “Get over here.”
      Milly shied away from his curses then risked a glance over her shoulder.
      The other three struggled against a willful Isum. “Hold him down,” one bellowed.
      “I’m tryin’!” Metal clinked and rattled as Isum kicked, sending the shackles skidding across the road.
      One of the men swore and went after them.
      Too late, Milly noticed Grayson’s hand as he swiped for her again. She swayed back and away, but he compensated, stretching farther away from his horse. Fisting her blouse, he yanked her toward himself.
      With a cry, Milly locked her knees, sending her lower half sliding under the horse’s belly. She clung to Grayson’s arm, her weight tugging him down with her.
      “Let me loose.” His breath puffed hot in her ear.
      The horse skittered, its hooves striking the ground so close she felt the vibration through the dirt. It bolted away from them, sending Grayson tumbling from his perch.
      Just in time, Milly flipped to the side, avoiding his descending bulk.
      He landed beside her with a grunt, his pistol coming to rest inches from her hand.
      “Merciful, Lord,” she whispered through dusty lips.
      “Grab it!” Isum screamed. Two held him belly-down, while the third locked one cuff on his ankle. His eyes bore into her, begging her to take action.
       Grayson’s gaze darted to the pistol the instant her fingers wrapped around the handle. Before he could pull himself to a sitting position, she had the barrel pointed at his head. “Make them stop.” Her voice trembled in time with her hands.
      He snorted. “You wouldn’t kill me.”
      No, she wouldn’t, but she could cripple him. In a way he’d never hurt another woman again. Without a word, she redirected her aim.
      Steady. Keep it steady. She scooted back, further of his reach. “You heard me.”
      Grayson glared at her, his jaw working circles.
      From the corner of her eye, she noted the stillness that had settled on the opposite side of the road. Isum flailed once more and managed to dislodge himself from under his captors.
      “Unshackle him,” Milly called, her eyes never leaving Grayson’s.
      “I’ll find you, and you know it.” His voice was gritty with hate.
      “Maybe. But not today.”
      “Grayson, what do you want us to do?”
      “Let him go.”
      The manacles clinked to the ground.
      Isum pushed up and trotted to her side, lip bleeding and jaw swollen, but looking better than such a struggle should afford. “I got this here.” He took the weapon from her. “Think you can get the buggy into them trees?”
      She nodded. If required to get them out of there, she could sprout wings and fly.
      The sun had barely moved by the time Isum had all four men bound, gagged, and lashed to the wagon, which Milly had taken as far into the undergrowth as she could.
      While he secured the men’s bonds, Milly changed back into her comfortable, plain brown frock then scattered all the horses but two. Leading one to Isum, she smiled. On horseback, they could cut through the forest and make better time. At least until the ground grew too swampy.
      He gave her a boost then adjusted the stirrups with a swiftness that spoke of a lifetime in the master’s stables. Giving her foot a pat, he winked. “Now who’s the mastah of himself?”
      She fingered the bonnet’s ribbon tied beneath her chin and shook her head. “It’s a bit soon to be so confident. We have a long trail ahead of us.”
      Mounted, Isum directed his horse alongside hers. With a quick yank, he loosened her bonnet’s ribbons. “You don’t need that no more. From here on, we’ll be exactly like the Almighty created us to be.”
      One hand pressed to the top of her bonnet, Milly leaned out of his reach.
      He clucked his tongue. “Your feet can run, but your heart, it gotta stop chasin’ after lies. It’s time you be who you’s meant to be.”
      Who I’m meant to be? “And what exactly am I?”
      “A child of the King. And my girl. Nothin’ else mattuh.”
      Milly snorted, as he took her mare by the bridle. “We ain’t leavin’ ‘til you know it.”
      “I know it.”
      “Then take it off.”
      She fingered the edge of her bonnet, while Grayson’s gaze gouged her back. She was more terrified to remove it than to turn the mare toward Florida. Heart running wild, she lifted the bonnet until a breeze tickled the hair on her forehead.
      With a smile born of unending patience, Isum released her horse.
      She set the cap in her lap and ran a hand over the braid worked in a circle around her head, its coarse, frizzy texture accusing her of her tainted heritage.
      Her line of sight traveled to Grayson. From where he sat tied to the wagon wheel, the hatred emanating from his eyes scorched Milly’s weak resolve.
      “I can’t.” With a jerk to the reins, she twisted the horse’s bit out of Isum’s reach. Gripping the saddle with her thighs, she settled the bonnet back in place. A swift kick of her heel set the mare on the backwoods trail to Spanish Florida.
      Isum might be doomed every day to face their reality, but Milly had been blessed with the option to hide.
      What slave in her right mind would choose otherwise?
      ***
      For the third time in an hour, Major Phillip Bailey checked that his musket was properly primed and loaded. The Apalachicola River wound along on his right, and Creek warriors fanned out on the left. He was trapped. It had only been two years since many of these same warriors had surrendered to General Jackson at the conclusion of the Red Stick War.
      The sight of them now, wild in their feathers, piercings, and tattoos, set the hairs on the back of his neck on end. For every one of the hundred and sixteen, blue-coated regulars on the march to Prospect Bluff, there were two—supposedly ally—Creek warriors who slogged across the boggy ground next to him.
      The odds were far from comforting. Sweat pasted his silk neck-stock to his throat.
      He scanned the surrounding pines for any sign of danger, whether from runaway slaves or friendly Creeks turned hostile. Downriver a ways and set back into the forest, the outline of a dwelling took shape. Like the many other slave-owned shacks they’d come across, the place appeared abandoned, but that didn’t mean the owners weren’t lurking in the shadows, waiting to ambush them.
      Silent as ghosts, a group of warriors split off and swarmed the farmstead. Within minutes, they rejoined Phillip’s column empty-handed.
      If what was said about the runaway’s leader proved true, Chief Garcon wouldn’t allow Phillip and his men to waltz into the area without a dandy of a fight. It was no secret the Americans intended to neutralize the fort on Prospect Bluff, the stronghold they called Negro Fort. Its name alone struck fear in the hearts of southern Georgians.
      General Jackson had jumped at Spain’s approval of his crossing the Spanish-American border to defuse the tension and reclaim American property—the slaves. With its swamps, alligators, and prowling Seminoles, Las Floridas was wild country. Toss in three hundred armed and desperate runaways, and the place became hell on earth.
      Phillip had been the first to volunteer to invade that hell. Alligators and runaways, he could handle. Creek warriors were a different matter altogether. Running into them on the southerly trail had been a surprise to both parties. It just so happened that, this time, Creek and American objectives ran parallel. Or so the Indians said…
      Without warning, a regular stepped out from behind a tree blocking Phillip’s path. His rifle arm jerked. “In the name of all that’s holy, Corporal Higgins, get back in line.” Phillip spoke from between clenched teeth.
      “Yes, sir. Just taking care of business, sir.”
      Phillip noted a smirk on the nearest warrior. He scowled back.
      The natives might see him and his men as a bunch of untrained idiots, but Phillip knew better. When not attacked on the sly and when properly prepared, there was no equal to Phillip’s army anywhere in the Americas. Hadn’t they proved it two years earlier by crippling the Creek Confederacy? 
      He passed Higgins’ scrawny frame as he busily fastened his broadfalls. “Didn’t mean to scare you, sir.” A poorly contained leer plucked at the man’s freckled cheeks.
      Phillip opened his mouth to refute the charge and put the private in his place, but the gravelly voice of Sergeant Garrigus beat him to it. “Idiot. You can’t rattle the major. He’s got nerves of iron.”
      “Is that right?”
      “After what he’s seen? You bet.”
      Garrigus’s praise sounded sincere enough, but Phillip knew the truth and prayed every day no one else would discover it. “Enough chatter back there. Keep your mouths shut and your eyes peeled.” He cast a sideways glance at longtime friend and surgeon, Captain Marcus Buck.
      Marcus returned it with a faint smile that raised his flawless cheeks. Eyes, nose, mouth—each feature lined up perfectly. He might be a favorite with the ladies, if he took his nose out of medical books long enough to notice.
      Involuntarily, Phillip’s jaw twitched, tugging the taut skin around his scar.
      “Where’s Enoch?” Marcus’s gaze skimmed the area.
      “Are you enjoying the quiet too?” Phillip subdued a grin and jerked his head toward the end of the loosely formed column. “I put him to work keeping Cook company.”
      “Indians making him nervous?”
      “Him and me both.” It wasn’t the only thing Phillip and his young slave had in common.
      Moisture sucked into his boot as he stepped into another pocket of muck. Swamp water soaked his half-gaiters and spattered his dirty white breeches. He shook his foot, longing for a pair of clean, dry stockings. An arduous, two-day trek behind them, Camp Crawford might have been nothing more than tents and pickets, but right now, it seemed pretty near to heaven.
      An Indian, head shaved on the sides, loped from the front of the line toward Phillip. His black hair, collected into a long tail, flipped through the air behind him. His face was a solemn, purposeful mask, and he clutched a tomahawk, as if ready for battle.
      A drumbeat sounded from nearby. Or was that the blood pounding Phillip’s eardrum?
      He strengthened his stance and gripped the musket barrel, ready at any instant to swing it into position. Sweat dripped into his eye, but he refused to blink and miss even one of this warrior’s breaths.
      The Indians had caught him unawares before. Never again.
      As the man neared, the path cleared before him. Ahead, a commotion scattered the column.
      This was it. The moment Phillip had been anticipating. One swing of this warrior’s blade would be the signal for the rest to attack. By sundown, every last American scalp would dangle from a pole.
      Unless Phillip did something to stop it.
      The drum increased its tempo. In his mind, he was back at Fort Mims, the fires licking at his heels. The world narrowed to the warrior streaking toward him. Phillip had known better than to trust these savages, but Colonel Clinch hadn’t listened.
      Phillip should give some sort of call to battle, but his brain went numb. Breath ragged, he raised his weapon to his shoulder and pointed the muzzle at the warrior’s chest. His stiff collar dug into the base of his head and his sweaty finger trembled against the cool trigger as he waited for the red man to raise his tomahawk.
      Instead, ten paces away, he came to a halt, his brown eyes boring into Phillip. The warrior lowered his weapon and slipped it into a loop on his waistband. Arms limp, his lean body visibly relaxed as he stood before Phillip.
      Except for the drum in his ear, silence surrounded them,
      Why didn’t he attack? Indians never surrendered. Surely, it was a trick.
      “Major?”
      Phillip blinked, then allowed his gaze to flick to the side.
      Marcus laid a hand on Phillip’s arm, and he flinched.
      “Easy, now,” Marcus sounded as though he were calming a terrified child instead of addressing a superior officer. His voice rose barely above a whisper. “The men are watching. There’s no call for this. Not this time.”
      A massive vulture soared above them, pulling Phillip’s focus back to the man before him. As much as Phillip searched, he found not a hint of malice in the warrior’s steady gaze.
      He dropped the tip of his musket and sensed two dozen warriors lowering their bows in response.
      As realization of his error took hold, heat crawled up Phillip’s neck, burning his scar. He focused on the black ostrich plume trembling in the air above Marcus’ bicorned hat as he turned to the warrior.
        “It’s nothing personal, you see. Major Bailey fought at Mim’s place. Next time you’re careless enough to run up on him that way, I’ll let him have at you,” Marcus stated with a half-grin.
      The Indian stared at Phillip, long and probing, until his eyes softened and mystified Phillip with their sudden depth.
      “No, best stop me, Captain Buck. No sense creating more work for yourself.” Phillip’s attempt at humor fell flat. He cleared his throat and turned to the Indian. “You have a message for me?”
      The warrior nodded. “A white man. We found there.” He gestured toward a sandbar in the middle of the river.
      Phillip’s pulse slowed. He swallowed and willed his voice not to tremble. “One of ours?”
      “A seaman. Wounded here.” He tapped his shoulder.
      “One of Sailing Master Loomis’ men?” Marcus asked, his voice rising with disbelief.
      Phillip resumed walking at a quick pace. “My thoughts exactly, although it was my understanding that no vessel from the naval convoy was to enter the river until we’d arrived.”
      “They weren’t,” Marcus confirmed.
      The warrior took up a limping step beside them. “There is more,” he said, halting Phillip in his tracks. “Two dead. This side of river.”
      “Sailors, as well?” Phillip asked, hoping the dead were runaways.
      “Perhaps. Their white bodies lie naked.”
      Marcus hissed a curse, while Corporal Higgins’ face lit with anticipation. “We gonna see action?”
      “Never mind that,” Phillip said. “Did you hear the Indian’s report?”
      “Yes, sir. I heard.”
      Phillip pointed two fingers downriver. “Take it to Colonel Clinch, on the double.” At the sound of Higgins’ scurrying footfalls, Phillip turned to Marcus. “Surgeon, you’re with me.”
      A silent crowd gathered ahead—around the wounded sailor, Phillip surmised. “Clear out,” he called as he shouldered his way through the throng. “Give the man space to breathe.”
      Marcus followed, bumping into Phillip’s back when he stopped short. His breath caught in his lungs. Scalped and brutally stabbed, two stripped men lay in a puddle of blood, their features frozen in twists of agony.
      Soldiers shifted, allowing the doctor room to press his fingers to each neck. He stood, retrieved a kerchief from his pocket, and wiped his hands, staining the cloth red. “Give me someone I can help, for heaven’s sake.”
      As Marcus stepped over the bodies, a tremble began deep inside Phillip. The quiver grew, moving into his stomach with a painful shudder. “We camp here. Private Davidson, inform Major Collins. Garrigus, set up a perimeter.” He tore his eyes from the grisly scene, stepped back, and then turned to Marcus. “Captain Buck, see to the wounded sailor, wherever he is. I’ll find you shortly. I’m going to look for tracks before we lose daylight.”
      Night was falling fast and with it, his composure. The skirts of his coatee slapped the backs of his legs as he quick-stepped toward the shelter of the woods.
      He pressed his lips tight and willed his stomach to cease its rebellion. Eyes riveted to a massive cypress twenty yards in, he forced certain images from his mind. Images of Fort Mims, of the dead and dying, of the corpses he had trampled in his fight for life.
      Satisfied the cypress hid him, he rested his hands on his knees. His head swam, and the world tipped. Closing his eyes, he focused on keeping his breath even and his army rations where they belonged.
      At last, he regained a measure of control—enough to be presentable to his men.
      These memories should not hold such power over him. And yet, they did. With more ferocity each passing month.
      Furious at himself, he ripped the bicorn from his head and hurled it into the shadows.
      A soft cry followed, emanating from the darkness beyond.
      Every muscle in Phillip’s body froze, as he strained to pierce the obscurity of dusk. He saw nothing, heard nothing—besides voices carrying from the riverbed. Had he imagined the sound? If he had, the fact wouldn’t astound him. Not anymore.
      The cry had possessed a human quality. Would he go so far as to say feminine? His mind replayed the sound. Yes, he would. Had there been a female with the sailors? Phillip knew of no situation where that might be permitted.
      Unwilling to believe he was hearing voices in his head, he set out in the direction his chapeau bra had landed. Musket going before him, he proceeded with carefully placed steps and peered into the ever-darkening forest beyond. This could be a trap, but it was worth the risk if it squelched the notion he was indeed mentally disordered.
      Ears finely tuned, he crept toward his cap which lay before a scanty shrub.
      The bush shook violently. Phillip jerked his musket up then back down as a woman sprang from concealment.
      Her skirt snagged, abruptly halting her flight. As her hands battled to extricate the fabric, she lifted her bonneted head, exposing large, fearful eyes and a face which glowed pale in the waning daylight.
      Unless the encroaching night was playing tricks on him, this woman was white. Not the midnight skin of a runaway or the smooth olive of a Spaniard, but white. Nearly as white as Phillip.
      He settled the butt of his musket at his feet. “Ma’am? What are you doing out here?”
      Her struggle grew more desperate until the sound of ripping preceded her tumble. Mostly hidden by palmettos, she scooted backward on the ground.
      Still many yards distant, Phillip reached a hand to her, unable to imagine why she might be afraid of him. “I won’t hurt—”
      A black man, large as a bear, darted from behind a thick pine to Phillip’s right. His sprint carried him across Phillip’s path and directly toward the woman.
        “No! Get away.” Her words came out a garbled croak.
      “Halt!” Phillip flipped the weapon back into position and aimed it at the slave’s chest.
      Unfazed, he kept moving and would have intercepted the woman except for the stone she hurled. It thudded off his shoulder and stopped him dead in his tracks.
      He swiveled to face Phillip, who had shortened the distance between them, his eye never leaving the musket’s sites. “One more step, and before the night's out, I’ll bury you where you stand.”
      The man’s shoulders rose and fell with each rapid breath, but his stony face showed no fear. “Then you bettah do it. Otherwise, it’ll be you what's buried. See, I plan to make it to that fort, and losin’ my life to do it is no mattuh to me.”
      Phillip’s brother, Dixon, had often said that a man who didn’t value his own life made the most dangerous of enemies. This one wouldn’t live long enough to become that. Phillip leveled his musket’s barrel at the big man’s heart.
      In response, he took a single step forward.
      “Don’t shoot!” The woman stumbled forward, placing herself between the runaway and the iron-tipped muzzle.
      Reflexively, he skipped to the side to maintain his aim on the man. “Step away, ma’am. Don’t want you hurt.” What was she thinking?
      She mirrored his movements, keeping herself between them. “No one needs to get hurt.”
      “Move away from him, and let me handle this.”
      She faced Phillip, her large brown eyes pleading. “Let him go. Please.”
      “Woman, are you crazy?” The black man voiced Phillip’s own thoughts.
      She was either insane or suffering from over-exposure.
      Weapon still trained on the runaway, Phillip took a quick step forward and flailed at her, trying to grab her by the arm.
      She skittered to the side, and he swiped nothing but air.
      “Get out of the way,” he snapped. Not one of his men would have dared defy his command, yet this woman stood her ground.
      She backed further away from him and dangerously close to the black man. “He didn’t run a hundred miles just to be shot down defenseless in the woods a day away from the only chance at freedom he’ll ever have.” Her voice shook, but her rigid back told Phillip she wouldn’t give in any time soon.
      With his mind concocting a way to move the woman and save both their necks, Phillip was only half-listening. “What are you talking about?”
      Although shadows fell across her face, Phillip didn’t miss the softening of her eyes or the quiver of her lips. Her passion for this slave’s freedom furrowed Phillip’s brow.
      “If you were fighting for your life, wouldn’t you want a fair shot at it?” she asked.
      Like a Red Stick’s arrow, her soft-spoken question pierced him, immobilizing his thoughts to anything beyond one image—his brother’s doom-stricken features and the blood-thirsty warriors that swarmed him.
      “Yes,” he rasped.
      Surprise widened her eyes and parted her lips—a lovely image to return to after his disturbing trip to the past.
      For one instant, Phillip would have done anything she asked. He lowered his musket and stretched a hand toward her, but before he could even shift his stance, the slave lurched forward.
      He encased the woman in his arms, lifting her and covering the lower half of her face with a massive hand. “Hush, now, or you’ll call ‘em all down on us.” Her startled cry preceded the man’s swift backward steps. He hurled a steely glare at Phillip. “You ain’t seen nothin’. Ain’t talked to nobody. You hear, soldier?” The ferocity in his voice chilled Phillip’s blood.
      One quick twist of the man’s hand was all it would take to snap the woman’s neck. Berating himself, Phillip released the barrel of his weapon and let it drop to the ground with a soft thud then splayed his hands in front of him. “No need to hurt her. Let her go, and I’ll never breathe a word I saw you. You can go right—”
      The slave flipped the woman’s legs into the air and caught them under his arm in the same instant that he took flight.
      Three seconds into Phillip's pursuit, common sense won out, and he came to a quick stop. If he were going into the wilds after an unpredictable giant, he had better have a squad backing him.
      Within moments, the only evidence left of the woman’s presence was the dread constricting Phillip’s chest that no one would believe she’d even been there.



My Thoughts:
Once again April Gardner has written an intriguing and thought-provoking story on love and war on the American frontiers. Set in the South during the early 19th century, Warring Spirits continues the saga of Adela, Totka, Phillip and introduces us to Milly a light-skinned slave who has escaped a cruel master with the help of friend and fellow slave, Isum. Where Wounded Spirits centered on Adela's tenuous relationship with Phillip and Totka this book focuses on Phillip and life as a soldier on the dangerous borders of America. However both stories are gripping tales of unconventional love that really make you think. At first I will admit to not being sure if Phillip was at all likable with some of his actions towards Milly. As I thought more about it I realized that if this were a real relationship between a white man and a slave some of the same emotions and doubts that went through Phillip's head probably would have been quite realistic -- wondering how other's would think, whether or not they could get legally married and whether or not it was worth it etc. Overall the story was very exciting and interesting and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone but only if you have read Wounded Spirits because otherwise you may be completely lost.