Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden, © 2017

Cover Art

My Review:

New York City 1903
Complications from generations back become forefront in the lives of Lucy Drake and her brother Nick. Competing with her Uncle Thomas and her cousin Tom Jr. becomes a full-time job, besides her actual decoding employment with the Associated Press. Will she and Nick be able to stay afloat, securing their rightful inheritance with Drake water valves? Seasoned and applicable knowledge handed down enables Nick to continue building the valves, but to what advantage when they are continually sucked into court to dispute their rights?

The Western Union Building, where Colin and Lucy work.As if that isn't enough, Lucy becomes enwrapped with the London correspondent at Reuters, the British equivalent of AP. Both news agencies are housed in the Manhattan Western Union Telegraph Building a few floors apart. One advantage ~ or possibly disadvantage ~ is that they both are fluent in the signals of the short and long 'dots' and 'dashes' of Morris code. A homing pigeon becomes an ally between them delivering top-secret messages beyond the wire services. Sir Colin Beckwith, whom she honors with the title "Mr." Beckwith, will be at an advantage to form a friendship with her. Both uncertain which news agency will come out on top, they are dedicated to their positions and arrive early ~ early enough that they join together in investigating slow ups and snags beyond their usual messages. The international news agencies may discover their top sources.
Lucy Drake
Lucy Drake
Sir Colin Beckwith
Sir Colin Beckwith

This story will wrap you in as you are eager to discover the wiretaps and outcomes of good versus evil.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Elizabeth Camden's A Dangerous Legacy ~ Chapter 1


New York City

The amount of female attention her brother garnered never failed to amaze Lucy. Even when he was wearing grubby coveralls and carrying a sack of plumber’s tools, girls flocked around Nick as though he were Casanova. Lucy watched from a few yards away as they waited for the streetcar after a long day at work.
   Nick was fiercely intelligent, handsome, and had an easy laugh, but what would those girls do if they knew that anyone who befriended him would be targeted for complete and total ruin? Few people lingered for long once they drew her uncle’s attention. She and Nick had been raised since birth to be on guard against underhanded attacks from Uncle Thomas, but it would take someone with a backbone of steel to stand alongside them once her uncle got wind of it.
   To the outside world, Lucy and her brother looked like normal, hardworking people. Nick was employed by the Municipal Water Authority, and she worked as a telegraph operator for the Associated Press. They didn’t have much of a life outside of their jobs. The lawsuit consumed everything they had, for she and Nick were the only two people left standing to carry on the forty-year battle that had eroded their spirit, finances, and even their safety.
   Lucy cut through the trio of girls flirting with her brother. “Nick, I need to speak with you.”
   His smile broadened when he saw her, and it didn’t go unnoticed by his admirers.
   One of the women sent Lucy a surly glare. “Who’s she?”
   “That’s the girl I’ve adored from the moment I first clapped eyes on her,” Nick said. “Of course, at the time she was a squalling infant and I was only three years old, but sisters can grow on you.”
   The girls pealed with laughter and swatted Nick on the shoulder. He didn’t seem to mind, grinning down at them with a reckless smile that worked like a magnet on women. One of the girls even reached up to tug on a lock of the wild, dark hair he wore far too long.
   “Nick?” Lucy pressed, a little less patient this time. “Can I speak with you? We’ve got a problem.”
   He must have noticed the tension in her voice, because he picked up his tools and followed her a few yards away. “What’s going on?”
   “I got word from Mr. Garzelli that a stranger was spotted poking around his building. I’m worried Uncle Thomas might have sent someone to sabotage the new valves. Mr. Garzelli has cut off water to the building until you can check it out.”
   Nick’s mouth narrowed to a hard line. He’d spent the past two weekends installing pumps and an ingenious set of valves in a Lower East Side tenement building. It meant that two hundred people living on the upper floors could have water pumped up to their apartments for the first time. The valve had been invented by their grandfather. Such an ordinary-looking piece of hardware, but one that was worth millions and had sparked decades of litigation. Not that the people living in the tenement cared about her family’s bitter lawsuit. All they wanted was to stop lugging buckets of water up five flights of stairs every day.
   The stranger sniffing around the tenement building worried Lucy. Their installation of those valves wasn’t technically illegal, but if Uncle Thomas found out about it, he would make them pay. She wouldn’t put it past him to have someone sabotage their work. Mr. Garzelli was probably right to cut off the pumps until Nick could verify it was safe.
   “You want us to go over tonight?” Nick asked. It had been a long day for both of them, and the trip across town would take an hour each way, but they didn’t have much choice.
   “It would be best.”
   He nodded, his expression grim. “I get it, but I’d rather go to Uncle Thomas’s fancy mansion and cut the water to his house. See how he likes it. See how he likes—”
   “Stop,” she said, laying a gentle hand on his sleeve. “Don’t let him rattle you. We’ll handle this, just like we’ve handled everything else over the years. We just need to keep our heads on straight.”
   An hour later, they were in the basement of a tenement in one of the worst sections of the city. Nick lay flat on his back, pointing his fancy new flashlight beneath a complicated system of valves and pumps, looking for signs of sabotage. Lucy sat on an upended bucket, handing over tools as requested and trying not to breathe too deeply. It smelled bad in this part of town, with grimy streets, overcrowded apartments, and very little running water flowing to the hundreds of residential buildings. Each time she visited this section of town, the stench penetrated her hair and clothes, making her wonder how anyone could bear to live here. At least the people lucky enough to live in this building had running water thanks to Nick and her grandfather’s valve. Everything about life for the people who lived here got better, cleaner, and healthier as soon as they had enough pressure to supply water to all eight floors.
   Footsteps sounded on the stairs as Mr. Garzelli joined them. Nick slid out from beneath the valves and rolled into a sitting position.
   “So someone has been sniffing around?” he asked.
   Mr. Garzelli nodded. “He was a skinny guy. Old. Shiftylooking. One shoulder was twisted up almost like a hunchback. It was that weird shoulder that made me remember him. I’ve seen him around a couple of times before. My oldest boy caught him trying to get in through the basement window, and he ran off. And I saw him last weekend when you installed the valves.”
   Nick began putting his tools away. “It was a good idea to call me, but it doesn’t look like there’s been any harm done. You should probably get a better lock on that window, though.”
   “I know you’ve been in some kind of court business over those valves,” Mr. Garzelli said. “You’re not going to get in trouble for this, are you?”
   She and Nick risked awakening a sleeping giant every time they installed her grandfather’s invention in another of Manhattan’s endless tenement buildings, but Nick shrugged and flashed an easygoing smile.
   “I’m more afraid of my baby sister than I am of that lawsuit,” he said.
   “Miss Lucy?” Mr. Garzelli asked incredulously. “I don’t believe it.”
   “You’ve never seen her when I burn dinner.” Nick hefted his sack of tools over his shoulder. “Just don’t blab to anyone about these valves. You can’t exactly hide the fact that you’ve got hot and cold running water throughout the building, but no need to mention my name, right?”
   “Okay, you got it, Nick,” Mr. Garzelli said with a hearty handshake.
   The sun had already set by the time Lucy and Nick returned to Greenwich Village. They lived on the fourth floor of a brownstone walk-up that had once been a prestigious building but had fallen on hard times in recent decades. Much like her own family.
   She twisted the key in the lock to the apartment, stepped inside the darkened interior, and immediately knew something was wrong. Her nose twitched. Cigarette smoke?
   That was odd. No one should have been in the apartment today. Their mother had moved to Boston after their father’s death almost a year ago, and they no longer had money for servants.
   When her eyes adjusted to the dim interior, she scanned the room, looking for anything out of place. Nick’s half-assembled pumping valves lay scattered across the dining table, their mother’s leggy orchids lined the windowsill, and books were crammed into every vacant table space and cubby. Their once-fine furnishings had witnessed several generations of use and no longer had any pretensions of grandeur, but everything had the comfort of a much-loved blanket. Their family had once been happy here.
   “You weren’t home today, were you?” she asked.
   Nick strode inside and tossed his sack of tools onto the sofa with a thud. “Nope. Why?”
   “Don’t you smell cigarette smoke?”
   He paused to sniff the air, then shrugged. “The lady who lives upstairs smokes like a freight train. It’s probably coming through the ventilation pipes.”
   “Are you sure about that?” Nick was a plumber, not an expert on ventilation, but he seemed unconcerned.
   “I’m not that paranoid,” he said as he headed to the kitchen sink to scrub his hands.
   He might not mind the faint acrid scent, but it was worrisome. Everything looked precisely as she’d left it, but her skin still prickled with the hunch that someone had been in their apartment while they were gone.
   She took a deep breath and wished her father were here. He had been the rock on which their family depended, but toward the end of his life, she’d sensed he was losing hope. She’d often caught him standing before the window, staring down at the street below with bleak eyes, as if the demons were finally catching up with him. The week before he died, she’d arrived home from the office early one day and caught him staring at a paper clenched in his hand, his face carrying a sickly pallor. She flew to his side and asked what was wrong, and he startled. That was the first time she saw pure, undiluted fear on her father’s face.
   He had stuffed the paper into a maroon satchel and denied anything was wrong, but she knew he was lying. His hands had been trembling as he locked the satchel in his desk drawer.
   After he died, she went in search of that satchel, but it was nowhere to be found. She and Nick turned the apartment inside out in search of it. They even pried up the floorboards in the kitchen, where they hid the only treasure left to their family. The treasure was still there, but no sign of the satchel. She never did find it, and Lucy couldn’t help but think that it somehow contributed to her father’s death the following week. He’d always had a weak heart, and whatever was in that maroon satchel had petrified him.
   Lucy heated a can of baked beans for their supper. She and Nick alternated kitchen duties, and it was always a simple affair. After ten hours of staffing a telegraph station, she didn’t need anything fancy. All she cared about was easy.
   It didn’t take long to wolf down the meal, and she volunteered to clean up afterward while Nick flopped on their worn sofa and paged through the day’s mail. They both worked long hours, but she spent hers at a desk while Nick performed physically demanding labor deep beneath the city streets as he helped install the massive underground pumps that kept freshwater moving in and out of the city.
   Water flowed from the tap as she rinsed the cooking pot. Even though they lived on the fourth floor, their grandfather’s valves in the building’s basement supplied the perfect amount of water pressure to their apartment. They lived in a clean, respectable building with an excellent supply of water, but only a few miles away, the city teemed with over a million people crammed into tenements without proper plumbing. At least there was one more building in the city that now had running water.
   She flashed a smile of accomplishment Nick’s way and noticed him staring at the floor, his shoulders slumped as he held a letter in his hands.
   “What’s wrong?” she asked, turning off the tap.
   “This is from our lawyer. Uncle Thomas is after us again.”
   She stiffened. “What is he claiming this time?”
   “He’s accusing us of acting in bad faith. They want the judge to throw our case out.”
   “Bad faith” could mean almost anything, but there was only one truly underhanded thing she and Nick had been doing, and it was the sole reason they’d been able to stay ahead of Thomas Drake’s swarm of lawyers all these years.
   She set down the dish towel, holding her breath. “You don’t think he knows, do you?”
   “If he does, we’re done for.”
   Lucy sighed and nodded, wandering to the worn dining table, exhaustion setting in as she plopped into a chair. It was getting hard to keep fighting Uncle Thomas and his family, who lived like European royalty at their mansion in upstate New York. The Saratoga Drakes had been using the fortune from her grandfather’s invention to launch legal salvos at the Manhattan Drakes for decades. Lucy had no proof yet, but she sensed the Saratoga Drakes might have somehow been behind her father’s death. The doctor said it was a heart attack, but Lucy couldn’t be certain.
   Was the lawsuit worth it? Her gaze tracked to the faucet. How easily most people took clean water for granted, but she never did. Neither did Mr. Garzelli or the rest of his two hundred tenants.
   Yes. The lawsuit was worth it, even if it meant she became a spinster and had to fear the scent of cigarette smoke leaking through her apartment’s ventilation system. She had an obligation to her father and grandfather to keep fighting the Saratoga Drakes. Her uncle had a fortune, an army of lawyers, and three rounds of lower court decisions on his side. Most importantly, he had no soul, and that let him fight with the single-minded zeal of a jackal.
   But she and Nick had a weapon the Saratoga Drakes knew nothing about. For two years it had served to keep them one step ahead of her uncle and all his scheming. It was a risky weapon that could land her and Nick in jail, but with luck, it would also finally turn the tide in the Manhattan Drakes’ favor.
Elizabeth Camden, A Dangerous Legacy Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending a print copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional by Michelle Ule, © 2017

Cover Art   Who Wrote My Utmost for His Highest and How? Part II

My Review:
~* Finding God's Fingerprints in Everyday Life *~
Oswald And Biddy
God's grace in understanding His truth in our lives that our devotion to Him be enriched! This story of pursuing His highest purpose for each life is our relationship with Him. Pointed not to man, but to God be the glory!

Training In Egypt. 1. Part of Zeitoun Camp. 2. A.M.R. on training trek. Halt on Ismalia Canal, on the way to Delta Barrage. 3. Regiment crossing Barrage Bridge over the Nile. Responsibilities assigned as new YMCA secretary near Cairo, Egypt ~ an expedition to the Zuitoun camp brought soldiers under Oswald's spiritual care. Joined by his wife and daughter, and others, they were missionaries amid those far from home delivering what was needed truth and a respite to receive a touch of home ~ and gathered hope.

The YMCA camp became a haven from war as a welcome was given whether or not they listened to Oswald's lectures. An oasis of God's love in the desert.

This biography tells of their beginnings and continuance upon Oswald's death and burial in Eygpt.

As I read this account I think of Elisabeth Elliot and her daughter, Valerie, as they continued in the work the Lord presented before them. Both widows, with a daughter; Biddy's account:
   Biddy believed God had reasons for giving her Kathleen to raise without a father. God also had provided a task: to put Oswald's teachings into writing for the spiritual benefit of others. She believed God would care for her and her child as she performed her ministry.
   --Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional, 154.
Seaming together Oswald Chambers' lectures along with adjoining memories, his wife, Biddy, compiled her handwritten and shorthand notes combining his varied talks to compose the widely-read devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. God's journey individually for readers has been experienced through reflection of these readings. This devotional has not gone out of printing since its inception.
She pieced together a crazy quilt of concepts into a beautiful work of practical spiritual warmth.
   --Ibid., 230.
EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional ~ Prologue and Chapter 1

Faith and Experience (November 13, 1908)
How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear?1
The cathedral loomed as they exited the tube station into a crisp November morning in 1908. Gertrude Hobbs’s blue eyes twinkled at Oswald Chambers from beneath her black straw hat as she took his arm. “You want to show me St. Paul’s?”
   The morning light shadowed his high cheekbones. “Have you been here before, Beloved Disciple Biddy?”
   She loved to hear him use his new nickname for her. “Of course I have.”
   He patted her hand. “There’s something new inside I want to show you.”
   They strolled past the booksellers’ warehouses to the western face of England’s “mother church.” The cathedral sat on the highest spot in London and showcased the city’s tallest spire, pointing to God. Twenty-four broad stone steps brought them to the entrance.
   The morning was a gift; they had so little opportunity to spend time with each other. Their affection had developed during a ten-day voyage to America, a few quick visits in New York City, and many exchanged letters. Biddy had quit her job in New York and returned to England because of his words.
   Finally reunited, they only had the weekend in London. Oswald would leave within days to speak at League of Prayer meetings in Ireland, northern England, and Scotland. They didn’t know when they’d meet again.
   Written words sustained and nourished their hearts, always, but that Friday morning Oswald directed Biddy to an oil painting not far from the glorious dome. She’d read about it in the newspaper. “The sermon in a frame?”
   Holman Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World” depicted Jesus dressed in kingly robes in a dark garden, a lighted lantern in one hand, the other stretched to knock on a humble wooden door without a knob.
   Revelation 3:20 had inspired the painting: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
   Evangelists recognized the painting as a clarion call to show how Jesus awaits invitation into each person’s heart. Oswald indicated the crown of thorns Jesus wore, and they discussed the painting before he explained why he wanted her to see it.
   Oswald needed Biddy to understand that if she married him, their home would be meager, with their lives “going heart and soul into literary and itinerating work for Him. It will be hard and glorious and arduous.”2
   Biddy knew marriage to Oswald would not be a relationship focused on each other. God’s call commanded Oswald’s time and attention. She viewed her role in partnership with him and God as a helpmeet—a woman specifically designed for Oswald’s needs and God’s purposes. Her beloved painted no romantic pictures. Indeed, Oswald cautioned, “I have nothing to offer you but my love and steady lavish service for Him.”3
   Captivated by her faith in God and the man before her, Biddy agreed. Before the Hunt painting, Oswald and Biddy promised to follow God’s lead together and to give their utmost energies to accomplish God’s highest plans.
   But what kind of woman would accept such a challenging proposal?


Discovering Divine Designs


Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God’s appointed order.1

The fog would gather quietly in the moist winter night above London’s Thames River. Born of cold air, the murky cloudiness would deepen and thicken as it moved over the water toward land. It would then crawl up the riverbanks north and south and cloak feeble gas streetlamps struggling to push back the dark.
   As dawn broke and the sun rose, the fog and coal smoke mixture— first called “smog” in 1905—would turn yellowish brown with a smoky, acidic smell. For young and old people suffering from inflamed lungs or fragile hearts, the sooty particulates swelled air passages and gripped chests.
   One such winter’s day in 1895, the smog wisped through the massive Royal Arsenal walls ten miles east of Big Ben on the Thames. It drifted by the Royal Army barracks and slipped along Woolwich’s narrow streets to a townhouse set behind a flower garden: #4 Bowater Crescent.
   The smog’s microscopic particles slid under the door and found twelve-year-old Gertrude Annie Hobbs. Her lungs seized into airsucking spasms.
   She struggled to climb the stairs to the bedroom she shared with her sixteen-year-old sister, Dais. Her congested chest weighed heavy, and she could not catch her breath even when she lay down. Weariness plagued her, and schoolwork, even the literature she loved, blurred into bewilderment. Gert closed her aching eyes to rest, yet her mind raced.
   At first her mother thought Gert must have caught the type of cold virus most people endured in a Victorian England of sodden handkerchiefs and close rooms. In an era before antibiotics and asthma inhalers, effective treatments were limited. Emily Hobbs plumped up her daughter’s pillows, steamed the room with a boiling kettle, and prayed.
   Henry Hobbs returned from the gas works that evening and stared at his youngest child, her wan features a mirror of his exhaustion. Her rattled breathing and dark-circled eyes troubled him. The son of a master baker, Henry had seen many men laboring to breathe flour-choked air in the bakery kitchen. His own father gasped for breath a mile away in his home on Powis Street.2
   They called the doctor. Tapping on Gert’s chest and listening, he diagnosed bronchitis, a viral inflammation of the lungs now known to be exacerbated by air pollution.
   Physicians in the 1890s prescribed opium or morphine for bronchitis, along with an expectorant to clear the lungs. Emily fed her child wintergreen drops to soothe the searing coughs. She pushed her lips into a reassuring smile as she listened to Gert’s wheezing and watched the girl’s red-cheeked attempts to take a deep breath.
   Eleven thousand people in greater London died of bronchitis in 1895.3
   But not Gertrude Annie Hobbs.
   The smog eased in the spring when household chimneys belched less smoke. Migrating birds returned, flowers pushed through the warm soil, and Gert’s lungs cleared. She returned to school behind in her studies. Nineteenth-century teachers emphasized rote memory work, which made it harder to keep up outside of class, but in her quest to be perfect, Gert tried.

   The blue-eyed girl with wavy dark hair who had languished during the winter months blossomed in the summer as she played tennis with Dais and their mother. She resumed piano lessons, cavorted with the family dog, and rode her bicycle in nearby Woolwich Commons. The family sang hymns around the piano in the evenings. They read aloud and laughed together. The tension eased from Henry’s shoulders and Emily set aside her fears.
   A cheerful woman, Emily Hobbs combined her fondness for entertaining and playing tennis by hosting frequent tennis parties. Emily handled the cooking and baking while employing a live-in teenage servant to help with the rough work. Like her daughters, she cherished books and, thankfully for all, Woolwich boasted several lending libraries. While deeply in love with her hardworking husband, Emily delighted in her three clever children: Edith Mary (called Dais—short for Daisy), born in 1879, Herbert (called Bert), born in 1881, and Gertrude (called Gert), born in 1883.
   The Hobbs children grew up during the final two decades of Queen Victoria’s reign. Bowater Crescent rang with cadences from the nearby barracks and the hoofbeats of military and civilian mounts headed south to Woolwich Common. Soldiers attached to the Royal Regiment of Artillery frequented the neighborhood as they marched to the Royal Arsenal.
   The 150-acre Royal Arsenal stretched for a mile along the Thames waterfront. Tons of coal smoke poured from its lofty smokestacks as thousands of employees manufactured armaments and performed weapons research. Not long after Gert’s birth, an explosion at the arsenal sent rockets flying up to two miles away.
   Woolwich residents ignored such dangers. The town’s fortunes rose and fell with the Royal Arsenal, which provided the necessary income—whether at the arsenal or in related industries—for the seventy-five thousand people living in the area.
   And yet the arsenal’s industrial smoke mingled with the deep fog each fall and winter. When this smog enveloped the town in 1896, Gert’s lungs clamped down again. Feeling as if iron boots weighted her chest, she returned to bed. Fever took hold, her airways narrowed, and Emily ran for the kettle.
   Gert spent her time reading—Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories were favorites—and trying to keep up with her studies. She recovered in the 1897 spring, but her bronchitis roared back again in the fall.
   Concerns for Gert’s health intensified in October 1897 when Henry’s father died from asthenia—exhaustion compounded by respiratory issues.4 Emily and Henry watched their daughter carefully. She might outgrow the bronchitis, but it often led to pneumonia. With Gert’s weakened lungs, tuberculosis could set in—always a concern in the nineteenth century. In 1900, 407 people died of either bronchitis or tuberculosis in Woolwich.
   Despite her efforts, Gert fell too far behind in school. Her parents removed her for good in early 1898. She was fourteen.
   Girls of Gert’s social class generally finished school at sixteen, often to prepare for marriage. Gert, however, preferred to follow Dais’s example. The close-knit sisters wanted to marry someday, but for the immediate future they aimed for success in the working world.
   Dais took to heart her mother’s fears of financial ruin and pondered her father’s faltering health and long working hours. When she neared graduation, Dais applied herself to the skills necessary for office work—the most acceptable alternative to teaching for women on the cusp of the twentieth century.
   At five feet, five inches, a tall woman for the time, Dais stood ramrod straight with narrow, sloping shoulders and a tightly corseted waist. With straight dark brows above blue eyes, she wore her curly brown hair knotted on top of her head. Precise and efficient, loving and generous, Dais doted on her mother and encouraged her sister’s dreams.5
   With the same height and bright blue eyes as Dais, Gert had a rounder face and dark hair that often escaped its hairpins into tendrils. She never showed her teeth in photos and her trim figure resembled her sister’s, though she was not as tightly corseted.6
   As the miserable 1897–98 winter slipped into spring and Gert’s breathing eased, her restless mind, denied school, sought another outlet. Gert wanted to help the family, a desire made imperative by her fifty-year-old father’s failing health. Her family history— particularly on the maternal side—underscored the reason for concern.

   Raised by Woolwich master baker Samuel Hobbs and his wife, Mary Whiteman Hobbs, Henry was the oldest of three sons. The whole family worked in the bakery (Mary behind the counter), but Henry did not want to be a baker.
   Emily Amelia Gardner, meanwhile, grew up in Gravesend, the youngest of six children of master baker George Gardner and his wife, Ann Whiteman Gardner. Ann Gardner was Mary Hobbs’s sister, making Henry and Emily first cousins.
   The Gardner household once employed servants but, by Emily’s birth, an embezzling business partner had destroyed the family’s standard of living. George Gardner’s 1866 death scattered his family into poverty and forced Emily to move in with a widowed cousin’s family in London. At age sixteen, she became little more than a servant.7
   By the 1871 census, twenty-one-year-old Henry worked as a clerk in a Greenwich church. It’s not clear when Henry and Emily first fell in love, but their parents did not approve of their proposed marriage, possibly because they were cousins. Kathleen Chambers later surmised the families disliked the disparity in their social situations, which, combined with Emily’s longing for financial security, may have been the catalyst for Henry’s ambition and hard work.
   By the time of his 1875 elopement with Emily, Henry worked as an auctioneer. Shortly thereafter, he took a position as a commercial clerk—a midlevel accountant—to provide Emily with the lifestyle she craved.8 As Henry advanced in the Woolwich gas works, they moved from rented rooms to a leased townhouse on Bowater Crescent, cementing their advancement into the middle class of Queen Victoria’s day. Emily settled into her happy life.
   But Henry Hobbs died suddenly on June 18, 1898, three weeks before Gert’s fifteenth birthday. His death certificate listed the cause as “cerebral atrophy and exhaustion,” the equivalent of a stroke in modern medicine.
   Her husband’s death devastated Emily Hobbs. She lost her emotional, financial, and personal support in one cruel blow, far too reminiscent of her father’s catastrophic death.
   Henry had rescued her from “poor relation” status with their marriage, and Emily cherished their life. While he left a comfortable estate, the 2015 equivalent of $220,000, the inheritance would require careful management to sustain the family—particularly Emily—for the rest of her life. And Emily did not have the training for such a task.9
   Dais stepped into the financial gap and went to work as a clerk in a money-order office of the British postal service. Bert found a clerking position at the Woolwich gas works. The family released their servant and took in a boarder. The women shared cooking, cleaning, and laundry chores.
   Gert finally outgrew her bronchitis, though she sustained permanent hearing loss in her left ear. Determined to contribute to the family finances as well, she signed up for a Pittman Shorthand correspondence course. Times were changing. The Royal Arsenal had hired its first four female typists in 1895 (out of some fourteen thousand workers), and accomplished female stenographers could find employment in the business community.10
   Gert quickly mastered the basic components of shorthand: hooked dashes and curved marks differentiated by their width and placement on a line. Similar to learning a foreign language, the more she practiced, the less she needed to “interpret” the sounds into symbols on the page. Her fingers soon automatically responded and penciled shorthand into a notebook.
   Dais and Emily helped her practice. Using a yellow Dixon pencil, Gert placed the sharpened lead on the left-hand side of the paper and, listening carefully, wrote in a fluid motion whatever Dais or Emily read aloud. Once Gert “took down” the passage, she read it back to check for accuracy. Her ability to decipher her notes without error demonstrated her mastery of the skill. Gert always strived for perfection in everything she did; she sensed a path to future success with stenography.
   An 1895 article in the Manchester City News noted salaries would double if a woman possessed two skills, as “the rates of pay testify to the desirability of making typewriting and shorthand go hand in hand . . . it is essential that girls who desire to become typists should be well up in English composition—spelling and correct punctuation being indispensable. They must be businesslike, neat, attentive, accurate, and loyal to their employers.”11
   And so, as soon as she mastered shorthand, Gert turned her nimble, piano-playing fingers to a boxy black typewriter and learned how to touch type. Her goal? She wanted to be the first female secretary to the prime minister of England.
   Once confident in her abilities, Gert applied for a job at the Woolwich Royal Arsenal. Hired as a typist, the diligent Gert got along well with her employer and colleagues, especially another typist her age named Marian Leman.

   With her children gainfully employed, Emily managed the household and dealt with her grief. Their boarder, Reverend Charles Hutchinson, may have encouraged her faith and membership in a local Baptist church.
   Emily spent her free time reading and studying the Bible, praying, and having friends in for tea. Her faith grew even as the family’s financial circumstances changed. At some point after 1901, Reverend Hutchinson left Woolwich, Bert moved out, and the women had to seek a smaller home.
   They relocated to #38 Shooter’s Hill Gardens on Westmount Road, a few miles south in Eltham. Built of brick on the flanks of Shooter’s Hill (the highest elevation in Kent, with views to London), the new two-story row house boasted a small garden facing the wide street. They could walk to the shops on nearby High Street and to local parks.12
   Dressed in fashionable white shirtwaists and dark skirts with straw hats perched on their heads, Dais and Gert would catch public transportation to their Woolwich jobs each morning. Despite being in their early twenties, neither woman had marriage prospects on the horizon.
   Emily Hobbs transferred her Woolwich church membership to the newly formed Eltham Park Baptist Church down the street. Her daughters joined her, and the three women participated in the ministries and services held at the simple hall.13
   Eltham Park Baptist Church’s first pastor preached his first sermon on Easter Sunday, 1904. The Reverend Arthur C. Chambers had come to the fledgling congregation from a nearby Baptist church. Under his pastoral leadership, membership quickly grew to 140 worshiping in the service and 150 attending Sunday school.
   Emily’s warmth and hospitable nature overflowed to church members. Sunday afternoon tea provided opportunities for further fellowship and their cozy home soon filled with new friends. Gert’s spiritual life remained private; she never spoke of giving her heart to Christ or professed any sort of testimony. Yet, throughout her life, anything that caught her interest received full exploration. She studied the Bible and memorized the psalms. After her many disappointments, the loss of her father and the dissolution of their home, the psalms brought comfort.
   Dais remained equally silent about her faith. The two sisters applied for church membership at Eltham Park Baptist Church within the year. They were baptized together by immersion at the October 29, 1905, evening service. Gert was twenty-two, Dais twenty-six.14 Their overjoyed mother wrote her “darling girls” a letter commemorating the event:
My heart is too full for me to say all I should like to you both, it is full of joy at the step you are taking today, a step that will brighten and influence all your life. May that dear Savior. . . . Be very near to you and may you realize the strength of the promises. . . . It makes me so happy to see you both working for the Master.
   In the letter, Emily also referenced her disappointment that Bert showed no interest in God. She urged her daughters to pray for him. Her final words were those of a doting mother:
God bless you darlings for all your loving thoughtful care for me, bless you in all your undertakings, ever guide, guard, comfort and strengthen you, and give you much joy in His service. So prays your very loving Mother.15
   Emily couldn’t have suspected her prescience the day she penned her letter. Gert’s first step into service to God became a lifelong walk in obedience and sacrifice.
   Shortly after the happy baptism, Reverend Arthur Chambers’s youngest brother came to Eltham to lead a weeklong mission during the Christmas holidays. With a budding reputation as a galvanizing and learned lecturer for the interdenominational League of Prayer, Oswald Chambers spoke nightly on how to be yielded to the Holy Spirit.
   The six-foot-tall man who addressed the congregation that December was in his early thirties. Angular and lanky with deep-set blue eyes and brown hair swept from a receding hairline, Oswald Chambers relished opportunities to talk about Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God himself.
   Genial, with a playful sense of humor, and gifted with words, he talked quickly and with an intensity that captured his listeners’ attention. Oswald lectured extemporaneously, without notes. His only goal: “To have honorable mention in somebody’s life in introducing them to God.”16
   All three well-read Hobbs women appreciated the depth of his teaching. For Gert, his sermons provided opportunities to practice her stenography skills; she listened and learned better when her hands were engaged.
   Emily naturally invited the visiting preacher to the house for tea, no doubt thinking such a godly man must be in want of a good wife.
   And with such invitations to tea continuing from Emily, Oswald Chambers visited the family whenever he filled in for Arthur. An articulate guest full of stories and a lover of literature and God, not to mention music, hymns, and dogs, Oswald felt at ease in the Hobbs home.
   He was not, however, seeking a wife.

   The seventh of eight children born to devout parents in 1874, Oswald spent his early childhood in Scotland and northern England. The family moved to London in 1890. As a teenager, he accompanied his father, Reverend Clarence Chambers, to hear Reverend Charles Spurgeon preach at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle. Oswald gave his life to God that night.
   Notably talented in music and art, Oswald played the organ, trained at London’s Royal College of Art, and returned to Scotland in 1895 to study art at the University of Edinburgh.
   He also pondered theology and visited local churches to hear the accomplished preachers then occupying Edinburgh’s pulpits. He saw himself as a bridge between intellectuals and God. Oswald anticipated his love for literature, music, and art, along with his devotion to the gospel, would surely touch a chord in the lives of sensitive artists.
   Jobs and income, however, did not materialize. Eventually Oswald came to the reluctant conclusion God might be calling him to the ministry. Despite feeling far from God at the time, he enrolled at Dunoon Bible College near Glasgow in 1897, where Reverend Duncan MacGregor, founder of the small college, mentored him.
   God finally breached Oswald’s dark spiritual period during a 1901 meeting of the local League of Prayer, where he claimed the gift of the Holy Spirit as a result of Luke 11:13: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
   As part of the Holiness Movement then sweeping the British Isles and America, the League of Prayer focused on an individual’s personal salvation and how to apply God’s moral law to behavior. Oswald appreciated the League’s focus on prayer, church revival, and the spread of biblical knowledge—which corresponded to God’s emphasis in his own life.
   The League, which operated one hundred centers around the British Isles (including thirty in London alone),17 sponsored more than thirteen thousand services in 1897. It also published a monthly magazine, Tongues of Fire (later retitled Spiritual Life), for which Oswald occasionally wrote. League of Prayer founder Reader Harris recognized and encouraged Oswald as a promising speaker and teacher. Shortly after meeting the Hobbs family in late 1905, Oswald became a volunteer circuit lecturer with the League.
   He received no salary and lodged with League of Prayer members in the towns where he spoke. Offerings and personal gifts covered his train fares. The lack of a salary didn’t bother Oswald—he believed God would provide for all his needs and had ample experience of him doing so.
   Oswald soon became friends with Japanese evangelist Juji Nakada. He traveled to America with Nakada in November 1906 to teach a course at God’s Bible School, which was affiliated with the Holiness Movement, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
   Afterward, the two journeyed to Japan, where Oswald examined international evangelism and missionary work. He resumed speaking for the League of Prayer when he returned to England in late 1907. (Upon his return, Oswald pulled a coin from his pocket to show his brother and pointed out he had traveled around the world on a mere shilling!)
   As the years went by, Oswald concentrated his thoughts on God rather than on seeking a wife. A teenage romance had brought joy and anguish, leaving him reluctant to invite a woman into his nomadic ministry life. Oswald served God better unencumbered. He didn’t have the income to support a wife, much less a home.
   Loved by dogs, children, old ladies, and members of the League of Prayer, Oswald was welcomed everywhere by Christians who wanted to advance the kingdom of God. His relationships remained cordial with no suggestion of anything beyond good fellowship.
   And so his friendship with the Hobbs women proceeded amiably for two and a half years—until one day, when Emily Hobbs wrote him a letter.
Michelle Ule, Mrs. Oswald Chambers Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

Oswald Chambers
author Michelle Ule
Oswald Chambers 1874-1917
Biddy Chambers 1884-1966

***Thank you to author Michelle Ule for this biographical account forming this book, and to Baker Books Bloggers for supplying a copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport, © 2017

Two Contemporary Stories
Celebrate the Hope of Christmas

My Review:
   She had learned long ago that the oddest things provoked deeply buried memories.
   --Colors of Christmas, 11
Image result for gold ornaments christmas treeSounds, smells, sights ~ an occurrence that jolts a long-hidden part so tangible you could reach out and touch it. Changes. But... an exciting place to be ~ for such a time as this. How our lives mesh with another when we barely realize the true impact we have made to encourage and bring a change to their life. Astrid has moved from her home to assisted living and discovers a sweetness she might have missed if her life had gone on "as usual."

Image result for gold ornaments christmas treeThis is a story of how a shared life can make a difference. Sharing from a lifetime of love chosen in place of despair and uncertainty to courage and fortitude. Astrid brings joy to this Christmas from the depth of her many days.
The value of keepsakes is the memory in them.
The hope of the world.
The hope of the despairing.
The hope of all who seek God's abundant life.
   --Ibid., 164
You won't want to miss this story of God's great Love brought to earth in His Own Son.

Christmas in Gold
This book has two Christmas novellas, “Christmas in Gold” and “Christmas in Blue.” The first one is rooted in the story of a real person, Astrid, an older woman I met at the gym. I first heard her story at a Culvers restaurant and scribbled notes on a pile of brown napkins. Despite tragedies and setbacks, she is one of the most faith-filled and hope-filled people you could ever meet. It brought me joy to bring her story to life in “Christmas in Gold,” with fictional framing. A few days ago I took copies to people at the gym who know the real Astrid and are eager to learn more of her story through my book. ~ author Olivia Newport (Credit)
No one with a musical bent ever regretted learning the piano, especially someone who did not yet know he would grow up to be a composer.
   --Ibid., 170
The J*O*Y we find in the future from the small things that become important later on...

Angela Carter finds that her repetition may just be the very thing that encourages another when they find they need it most. A memory interwoven that sparks and jolts today when it is least expected.

Teaching young students, she hopes to instill in them the melody of her heart ~ music floating on a breeze when it becomes so much a part of you that you are unaware when you come to the end of the composition.

A Christmas to Remember
Image result for blonde goldendoodle
~* the thrill was in the escape *~

Angela inherited Blitzen a half year past; her friend Carole's trusty companion ~ when he chose to stay in his supposed boundaries. Now Carole was gone. How would they survive a Christmas without her? A dear friend, exuberantly heading Spruce Valley's traditional Christmas celebration. How could Angela know that a tardy arrival at a committee meeting for this year's celebration would invade her envisioned silent Christmas? The least thing we expect could be just what was needed.

A surprise visitor becomes an essential part of Spruce Valley's Christmas preparation. I liked how suspicion is turned to J*O*Y. A Christmas not soon forgotten.
Image result for blue garland

Christmas in Blue
“Christmas in Blue” was inspired by “blue Christmas,” an observance on the longest day of the year that recognizes that Christmas is not easy for every one, especially for people who have known loss in the preceding year. A man at the gym, who took one of my books because of Astrid’s story, said he just wants to get through Christmas and get it over with. I was able to tell him that “Christmas in Blue” was written for people who feel that way. I hope when he reads it, he’ll find new hope in the season. ~ author Olivia Newport (Credit)

Author Olivia Newport on
author Olivia Newport
*** I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.***

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Sea Beneath Us by Cathy Slusser, © 2017

The Sea Beneath Us

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
   Isaiah 49:16

The Sea Beneath Us ~ Based upon the lives of her grandmother and great-grandmother, author Cathy Slusser weaves a tale of immigration, women’s rights, and foreign policy—real and relevant to today’s world, and as compelling as it is enchanting.

~*novels that portray real people enduring hardship, facing fear, and seeking joy*~
author Cathy Slusser

Henrietta (Etta) and her sister, Eugenia Louise (Lou), begin their travels as young children with their family from Canada to America, the first of their many moves.
   What do I want to do with my life? I really like working in the bookstore, but I always thought I would marry and have a family. Isn't that what young women are supposed to do? I know one thing. I will not marry a dreamer.
   --The Sea Beneath Us, 15
I am astounded at the change in Etta as she changes direction and pursues life head-on. She has not been the overly ambitious woman one would think to become business-minded. But... we are not in her shoes, nor do we know the true intent of her heart. Truly mourning? Has her head been turned by being a dreamer, herself? How many "fresh starts" will she begin?
Image result for the isle of pines cuba
This is a very vivid accounting from life itself! I am drawn forward ~ so surprised by Etta's actions finally taken. Her sister Lou is the heroine of this story in my eyes, as she appears to be in the background but very much so the keeper of them all. It is true, the turn of our lives and how we choose to respond or react shape us ~ and reflect on those near. Florence will stand out too, with her siblings and their outcomes experienced differently. I loved her story. So beautiful.

Cathy Slusser is a thorough author with the reader arriving right beside her in her reflections. How interesting it would be to talk with her and discover current generational similarities. The love of reading and family highlighted, knit tightly together.

About the Book 

Name of book: The Sea Beneath Us
Author: Cathy Slusser
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Release Date: June 20, 2017

Etta just wants a home, a safe haven for her family; her daughter Florence wants to make a positive difference in the world. After suffering tragic loss, Etta walls off her heart. Florence opens hers to love again. Though they do not understand each other, both understand the struggle with cultural expectations of the day for women. They also grapple with personal insecurity and faith. Set in the early twentieth century, the stories of Etta and Florence intertwine as each seeks fulfillment. Follow them from Midwest America to the state of New York; from the Isle of Pines, a tropical spot off the coast of Cuba, to the heart of American power, Washington, DC.

Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author 

Cathy Slusser is a second generation Floridian who grew up in St. Petersburg, but spent holidays and vacations with her grandparents who lived in Manatee County. She moved to Terra Ceia Island in northwest Manatee County in 1979. Cathy fell in love with history upon reading Eugenia Price novels in Middle School. When she traveled to St. Simons Island, Georgia and saw the places those characters lived, she knew that the subject of history could be alive and exciting. Ever since that time, she has made it her goal to share that message with others.
   She has a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Furman University and a Master’s Degree in History from the University of South Florida. She has worked for the Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court’s Office since 1984 and is Chief Historian. In this role, she supervises five historical sites, the Manatee Village Historical Park, the Manatee County Historical Records Library, and the Florida Maritime Museum, the Palmetto Historical Park, and the Manatee County Agricultural Museum. Cathy has two grown sons, Rob and Tim, a fabulous daughter-in-law, Miranda, and a daughter of the heart, Christina. She has been married to her husband, Glen, a third generation Floridian since 1981. She enjoys dog training, sewing and writing. Cathy is passionate about preserving Manatee County’s past and telling its stories to residents and visitors of all ages.

Professional historian, Cathy Slusser, brings history to life in her three novels about three early pioneer women in Manatee County, Florida; the history of Terra Ceia Island’s first settler family, the Atzeroths, published as a trilogy called From A Heavenly LandLink

From a Heavenly Land: Eliza’s Story  From a Heavenly Land: Julia’s Story From a Heavenly Land: Caroline’s Story

Guest Post from Cathy Slusser 

Writing a book about my grandmother, Florence Louise Tichenor Pace was not on my “to do” list. I am one of those people who loves “to do” lists. I enjoy the satisfaction of crossing completed items off my list so much that I add things that I have already done to the list just so I can cross them off! But, I never thought to write a book about my own ancestors.
   When I finished the From A Heavenly Land trilogy, a lot of people asked me what was next. I had some ideas, but before I could put fingers to keyboard, I felt compelled to write this story. Maybe it was because every time I look into a mirror, I see my grandmother’s eyes looking back at me. I look very much like her, as does my mother, Emily Pace Bayless. I imagined Grandma saying, “You write about extraordinary women. What about me? When are you going to put my story on paper?”
   I could have argued that she had already done an excellent job of that, having left us her handwritten autobiography in a spiral notebook. Once at a historical meeting, participants were asked to bring a memento that we treasured. I brought that notebook. In it, I learned about my grandmother’s tenacity, her creativity and her love of God.
   Those characteristics were nothing new to me, having known my grandmother until her death at age 97 in 1992. Grandma was an intimate part of my life. During my childhood, she and Granddaddy travelled once a week to our house where they greeted my sister and me upon our return from school. She made many of the clothes my sister and I wore, including Nehru jackets and pants which were all the rage at the time. She did not like the “loud” colors, but made them anyway because she loved us. I still have a wrap around skirt that she made me in high school.
   We spent many holidays and weekend trips with her and Granddaddy at their retirement home on Ware’s Creek in Bradenton and shared a love of books. I knew that I could read all weekend without being told to get up and do something productive. Reading was productive in her eyes. She often gave us books as gifts, but most of the time, we found potato chip crumbs inside, evidence that she read them before passing them along.
   One of the stories that most characterizes my grandmother is her involvement with our local health department. She sewed baby layettes that included clothing, blankets and diapers and donated them to the health department for distribution to the poor. She embellished the pastel colored flannel outfits with embroidery saying, “Every baby, no matter what their circumstances should have a pretty, new outfit to come home from the hospital.”
   A second story involves me. When I was in girl scouts, I started an embroidered sampler in order to earn my sewing badge. My grandmother taught me the stitches, but it was clear that I was not interested in the work, nor that I would finish it in time to earn my badge. While she finished it for me, she left one flower incomplete as a message that I had not done my part. It is signed FP and CB with both our initials.
   My grandmother was a remarkable woman who made a strong impact on me and everyone who knew her. Just recently, I talked to someone who remembered Grandma and told me a story about her even though she has been dead 25 years.
   The story she never told us and left out of her autobiography are the details about her relationship with her mother, Henrietta Emily. I sensed some conflict between the two women and wanted to know why. I don’t know for sure that my version of the story is accurate, but it is a good theory.

***Thank you to Celebrate Lit for inviting me to be part of the book tour for Cathy Slusser's The Sea Beneath Us. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Blog Stops

Simple Harvest ReadsDecember 2
Inklings and notionsDecember 3
Mary HakeDecember 3
Lane Hill HouseDecember 4
All 4 and about booksDecember 5
A Greater Yes December 7
Texas Book-aholicDecember 8
Janices book reviewsDecember 10
Carpe DiemDecember 11
A Baker's PerspectiveDecember 12
Pause for TalesDecember 13
Pursuing StacieDecember 14
BigreadersiteDecember 15
The Power of WordsDecember 15



To celebrate her tour, Cathy is giving away a grand prize
of a special quilt handmade by Cathy!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post
before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano, © 2017

Apart From the Crowd series, Book 2

Jen Turano's fun characters meet each other and explore from there ~ uncomplicated?

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader is the caregiver companion attendant for a well-regarded society matron, Mrs. Davenport, traveling for aging fun-and-adventure. Mrs. D's travels take her down quirky paths that Gertrude is quick to try to remedy. Taking much on herself and her reputation, she has had some narrow escapes of detection. Who said this was going to be easy? Not withstanding being aboard the Cornelia, a yacht of  her friend, shipping magnate Mr. Harrison Sinclair. Introductions: Harrison is a close friend of Mr. Asher Rutherford, fiancĂ© of Gertrude's dear friend, Miss Permilia Griswold. Harrison regards Gertrude quite fondly:
   The mere thought of Gertrude had his lips curving into a smile.
   She was a lady he found to be undeniably delightful. Unlike many ladies he'd recently become acquainted with, Gertrude was a very sensible sort, possessed of a wonderful sense of humor and ability to accept peculiarities life sent her way with a smile on her lovely face.
   --Out of the Ordinary, 38
His observations certainly fit her in her companion juncture with Mrs. Davenport. As Gertrude attempts to cover the tracks left behind by said Mrs. D, she gets into a tumble herself with accusations of mistrust.

Jen Turano's characters are self-sufficient, unassuming, and innocent in what they determine to be not unusual in themselves. What will be interesting to discover is Mrs. Davenport's foibles and what stands behind their awakening ~ "a minor weakness or failing of character; slight flaw or defect: an all-too-human foible." That is, that most people are able to keep under wraps.

Permilia discovers the answer to Harrison's wardrobe query and is sure to enlighten Asher as to his friend's reason. The interaction between characters is laughable and touching. Great insight to forming endearing relationships that last. As an industrialist, Harrison's own social skills are lacking in the demure phrasing to ladies he deemed in need of his assistance. He hasn't had a problem (well, an occasional annoyance, one would say) with his three sisters in conversing. A quandary to him, indeed.
   Quite truthfully, he was contemplating the idea of remaining mute for the rest of the night because every time he did open his mouth, one lady or another took exception to all the words he allowed to escape.
   --Ibid., 77
I like him because of his unpretentiousness.

I enjoyed the gathering of characters from the first novel, especially the Huxley sisters. They have a way about them that is endearing, even when they try to be explicit about their ability to take care of themselves. This second book may be read as a stand-alone novel, but... you won't want to miss out on the first ones in the series ~ the prequel, At Your Request, and book 1, Behind the Scenes.

Image result for 1883 gilded age yachtIn his contentment, Asher, now engaged, offers to share Lord Byron's poetic works with Harrison and his assistance in finding a true companion to keep him well put together. Harrison is insistent he is already content. What will he do now that his friends are closely watching out for him? I laugh at Asher's steady supply as a merchant ~ "Harrison, I'm the owner of a department store. I'm expected to have random items at my disposal."

Jen Turano's stories are always fun and adventurous! Their conversations are captivating and you, too, will "be where you are" at the entrance into their days.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Jen Turano's Out of the Ordinary ~ Chapter 1

June 4, 1883

Slipping through the crowd gathered on the upper deck of a most extravagant yacht, Miss Gertrude Cadwalader drew in a breath and adopted an air of what she hoped would be taken for nonchalance. Her greatest desire was that no one would realize she was anything but completely composed, even though something was horribly, horribly amiss.
   Mrs. Davenport, the lady Gertrude was paid to be a companion to, had, regrettably, gone missing.
   It wasn’t that Gertrude was concerned her employer had fallen overboard, or that she’d suffered some manner of terrible accident. Circumstances such as those would have been much easier to handle than the reality Gertrude was facing—that reality being the unfortunate business of Mrs. Davenport having the propensity to go missing on a far too frequent basis.
   On this evening, Mrs. Davenport had not been seen for over an hour. During that hour, Gertrude was all but convinced her employer had been pursuing activities that would be considered suspicious in nature by everyone except members of the criminal set.
   Unable to help but shudder over that idea, Gertrude quickened her pace and reached a flight of narrow steps that led below-deck. Glancing over her shoulder, relief trickled through her when she realized all the guests who’d been invited to celebrate the recent engagement of Miss Permilia Griswold to Mr. Asher Rutherford were sufficiently occupied and not paying her the least little mind.
   Keeping a firm grip on the railing because the unusually large bustle attached to her behind made traveling down stairs tricky, Gertrude reached the lower deck and took a second to peruse her surroundings.
   To her left, she discovered a great many closed doors, a rather daunting sight, and when she looked to the right, she was less than reassured when she discovered just as many closed doors in that direction.
   Knowing there was nothing left to do except get on with the disturbing matter at hand, especially since the longer she lingered, the more mischief Mrs. Davenport could get into, Gertrude headed down the companionway to her right, stopping at the first door she encountered.
   After she edged the door open, she found a delightful stateroom on the other side, paneled in gleaming wood. Set in the very middle of the room was a four-poster bed, complete with a canopy draped in blue silk. The bed was sitting high enough from the floor to where a person could very well slip underneath it if that person were trying to avoid detection.
   Marching her way across the room, Gertrude stopped directly beside the bed and leaned over, stopping mid-lean when one of the wires used to create the monstrosity on her behind took that moment to jab through the delicate material of her petticoats and drawers. Wincing, Gertrude straightened even as she longed to rub a bottom that was now sore but impossible to reach past a bustle that seemed to be coming undone.
   Deciding it would not benefit her to bend over again since she really had no liking for wires jabbing her, she cleared her throat and lowered her voice to the merest whisper.
   “Mrs. Davenport, are you under there?”
   When only silence met her ears, Gertrude debated bending over again, but when the thought sprang to mind that there was a very good chance her bustle would only disintegrate further, jabbing her numerous times in the process, she abandoned that particular debate.
   “Since I seem to be suffering some ill effects from a bustle you assured me had been crafted in a most expert manner, which, sadly, I’m learning was not exactly the case, I fear I’m beginning to lose all sense of a pleasant attitude,” she began in a voice slightly louder than a whisper this time. “Because of that, and because I’m certain you, Mrs. Davenport, won’t want my enjoyment in this lovely evening to be ruined because of an ill humor, I’m going to suggest if you are under the bed, you show yourself immediately. You must know that no good can possibly come from skulking around Mr. Harrison Sinclair’s yacht.”
   When Mrs. Davenport did not come crawling out from underneath the bed, Gertrude made for the door, stopping a second later when she noticed a smaller door, one that might very well lead to a wardrobe. Knowing her employer had a great liking for wardrobes, and the space they provided a person when one wanted to go unobserved, Gertrude changed directions and strode across the room again, taking hold of the latch attached to the smaller door and giving it a pull.
   She did not discover Mrs. Davenport lurking on the other side. Instead, she found a room she’d been told was called a “head” instead of a retiring room, one that came complete with a marble sink with gilded taps.
   Unable to stop herself since her curiosity was now getting the better of her, she turned one of the taps, which immediately sent a stream of clear water spouting out of it.
   Not wanting the fresh water to go to waste, she splashed some on her face, which had become heated during her searching endeavors, washed her hands, then stilled when she thought she heard footsteps in the companionway.
   Turning off the tap, she reached for the fluffy towel that was hanging from a gilded hook, patted her face and hands dry, returned the towel to the hook, uncertain that was proper but not knowing what else to do with it, and then moved as stealthily as she could out of the head and through the stateroom. Opening the door ever so carefully, she stuck her head out and peered down the companionway.
   At first, she thought she must have been imagining the footsteps, until she glimpsed the merest hint of a shadow disappearing around a corner. Hoping the shadow belonged to none other than the errant Mrs. Davenport, Gertrude hurried after it, coming to an abrupt halt when she rounded the corner and found herself facing two doors, one of which had been left slightly ajar.
   “I’ve found you now.” Pushing open that door, she discovered herself in a room that was devoid of Mrs. Davenport, but filled to the brim with leather-bound books, the scent of the leather reminding Gertrude of the library her father used to own, back in the days before he’d lost the family fortune and . . .
   Shaking herself from thoughts she certainly hadn’t expected to spring to mind, especially since she couldn’t afford to become distracted, Gertrude headed farther into what turned out to be the yacht’s library. She made short shrift of looking behind two chairs with tufted cushions upholstered in a navy and white fabric, disappointment stealing through her when she didn’t uncover Mrs. Davenport crouched behind either chair.
   Tapping a finger against her chin, she considered a small fainting couch that was positioned directly underneath a painting that, if she wasn’t mistaken, might have been painted by Bouguereau. What such a painting was doing onboard a yacht, she couldn’t say, but since Mrs. Davenport was often drawn to objects of an expensive nature, the small space located between the wall and the back of the couch certainly deserved further investigation. Moving to stand before the couch, Gertrude placed a knee on top of the cushion, peered over the back of the couch, and found absolutely nothing there.
   Since there was little sense lingering in a room where her employer was obviously not, Gertrude began to straighten, but to her dismay, her bustle took that moment to shift, making her side-heavy. Before she could do more than let out a squeak, she wobbled to the left, the bustle shifted again, and before she knew it, the weight of it pulled her straight against the fainting couch. She was left reclining in an awkward and less than graceful pose between the high back of the couch and the cushioned seat.
   When what felt like every wire that had been used to fashion the bustle—a bustle that was actually a sawed-in-half birdcage—began jabbing her in far too many places, Gertrude tried to push herself into an upright position. That decision turned out to be a grave error in judgment when she heard the fabric of her gown rip right before she became completely immobile.
   Realizing that the wires of her bustle were keeping her firmly attached to the fainting couch, Gertrude knew she had no choice but to call for help. Before she could do so, though, footsteps sounded directly outside the library door.
   Turning her head, the only part of her body she seemed capable of turning, she blinked and then blinked again when a lovely young lady dressed in a delightful gown of yellow tulle stepped into the room, paused, and then sent a frown Gertrude’s way.
   “I say, Miss Cadwalader, are you quite all right? I could have sworn I just heard a bit of a ruckus, but . . .” She waved a hand Gertrude’s way. “There you are, completely at your leisure, although now that I think about it, you being at your leisure is somewhat odd. When I took note of you leaving the upper deck, I thought for certain you must be searching out a retiring room to fix your hair, since it is, as I’m certain you’re aware, looking downright frightful at the moment.”
   For the briefest of seconds, Gertrude could only stare at the young lady known as Miss Clementine Flowerdew—a member of the fashionable set and a lady Gertrude rarely conversed with, and certainly wasn’t looking forward to conversing with at this inopportune time.
   That Miss Flowerdew was looking very well indeed, there could be no question. Strands of jewels were woven into the young lady’s perfectly styled flaxen hair, the style of that hair drawing attention to the graceful curve of her white neck. Encircled around that neck were additional jewels, set in numerous strands that ended in a glitter of diamonds nestled directly in the very center of Miss Flowerdew’s charms.
   A flicker of what felt exactly like envy took Gertrude by surprise, brought on, no doubt, by the thought that any charms she might possess were tucked away beneath a gown that was made of yards and yards of hideous green fabric.
   Even though she wasn’t a lady who held an overt interest in fashion, which made her the ideal companion for a woman who considered herself a designer but had no true talent for design, she did occasionally wish Mrs. Davenport would refrain from using her as a subject to try out her more outlandish creations. Refraining from that behavior would have allowed Gertrude to attend the engagement event that very evening without wearing a curiously designed bustle, one that was now responsible for keeping her a prisoner on the fainting couch.
   The idea for that bustle had come about when Mrs. Davenport had overheard a conversation between Gertrude and her very good friend Miss Permilia Griswold. Permilia was the guest of honor this evening and a woman with a keen eye for fashion. As such, she was always up to date on the trends fashions were expected to take. Those trends were now suggesting that bustles were to expand in size by numerous inches. Evidently wanting to embrace the idea that bustles were to become larger than ever, Mrs. Davenport had set about creating the largest bustle anyone had probably ever seen, resorting to using a real birdcage to obtain the size she’d decided she needed.
   That size was directly responsible for the yards and yards of fabric Gertrude was wearing, since Mrs. Davenport had longed to create what she called a waterfall effect that would cascade gracefully from Gertrude’s backside. While Mrs. Davenport claimed the green color was her inspiration for creating that waterfall, something to do with rushing water, Gertrude had the sneaking suspicion her employer had used the green because it was the only color available that came with so many yards of fabric to the bolt, the availability of that bolt a direct result of no one with any sense of style wanting to be garbed in such an awful color.
   Sadly, there was no disputing the idea that the gown Gertrude was wearing did not show to advantage next to Miss Flowerdew’s frothy creation of yellow tulle, which left . . .
   “Oh dear, I do hope I haven’t hurt your feelings with the frightful hair remark, Miss Cadwalader. I did so want to get off on the right foot with you. Clearly, though, since you’ve yet to respond to my statement, you weren’t aware that there’s something gravely amiss with whatever that is you currently have fashioned on your head.”
   Raising a hand, Gertrude patted the right side of her head and then patted the left. “Everything seems to be in order” was all she could think to say.
   Miss Flowerdew walked closer, shaking her perfectly coiffed head in a rather sad sort of way. “You look as if you’ve attached two golden baker buns to either side of your head—a look that is neither fashionable nor appealing.”
   “Mrs. Davenport told me she was told by a society matron who just returned from Europe that this particular style was all the rage this season.”
   Miss Flowerdew bit her lip. “Perhaps that style may be wellregarded in some obscure European country, one that’s far, far away, but I didn’t witness a single lady wearing that look when I was over in Paris a few weeks back.”
   Taking a second to rub at a kink in her neck that was becoming more knotted by the minute, Gertrude released a sigh. “And that right there, Miss Flowerdew, is why one should never trust a lady of a certain age who is looking far too innocently back at you, while she’s styling your hair in what you believe is a questionable manner, but she insists is not.”
   “I beg your pardon?”
   Gertrude stopped rubbing her neck and waved Miss Flowerdew’s comment aside. “It’s of little consequence, simply a touch of pondering about finding myself in somewhat peculiar circumstances at times. However, now is hardly the time for me to descend into a state of self-reflection. May I assume you’re searching for a retiring room and that is why you were following me? As you can see, there’s not a retiring room here in the library. I do know that you can find a well-appointed one on the aft deck, right behind the sitting salon, where people are currently taking their leisure to get out of the stiff ocean breeze.”
   To Gertrude’s surprise, Miss Flowerdew gave a delicate shrug of her shoulders before she smiled, walked across the room, then made quite the production of lowering herself into a chair, smoothing out the folds of her skirt before she lifted her head. “I didn’t follow you because I was searching out a retiring room, Miss Cadwalader. I followed you because I’d like to speak with you privately.” She nodded to the chair adjacent to her. “It would be easier to enjoy our conversation, though, if you’d join me over here.”
   Gertrude took the briefest of seconds to contemplate her current dilemma.
   Miss Flowerdew, being of the fashionable set, was a woman who would probably not understand how it had come to be that Gertrude was currently wearing a birdcage on her bottom. But if she didn’t explain her unusual situation to Miss Flowerdew, she’d continue being stuck. That could lead to someone stumbling upon Mrs. Davenport and whatever it was Mrs. Davenport was up to, which could very well turn disastrous for her employer.
   The sense of loyalty she held for Mrs. Davenport, a woman who was undoubtedly odd, yet provided Gertrude with a more than generous wage, had her lifting her chin.
   “As curious as this is going to sound, Miss Flowerdew,” she began, “I’m afraid that it’s impossible for me to join you since I’ve gotten myself into a tricky situation, one that I can’t seem to correct by myself.”
   Miss Flowerdew leaned forward, pursed her lips, then, curiously enough, smiled. “You need a favor from me?”
   “I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a favor, more on the lines of a smidgen of assistance.”
   If anything, Miss Flowerdew’s smile brightened. “Assistance that would leave you in my debt?”
   A trace of unease began tickling the back of Gertrude’s neck, mixing with the knot that was still there. Summoning up a smile of her own, she nodded toward the door. “Upon further reflection, I truly don’t want to put you out, nor do I want you to miss any of the festivities currently taking place topside. If you’d simply be so kind as to tell Miss Permilia Griswold that I could use her assistance when you return to the top deck, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
   “Appreciate it enough to where you’d be willing to agree to do me a little favor?”
   “You’re very tenacious with this idea about me owing you a favor, aren’t you?”
   Instead of replying, Miss Flowerdew rose to her feet and moved closer, her gaze traveling over Gertrude with eyes that were far too sharp for Gertrude’s liking.
   “You’ve landed yourself in a pickle, haven’t you?”
   “I don’t know if I’d go so far as to claim I’m in a pickle.”
   “You’re obviously stuck to the couch, which certainly constitutes being in a pickle.”
   “I suppose it does,” Gertrude admitted.
   “How fortuitous,” Miss Flowerdew chirped before she began pacing back and forth in front of Gertrude, seemingly sizing up the situation. Stopping, she arched a delicate brow Gertrude’s way. “How did it happen?”
   “I lost my balance trying to get a . . . ah . . . closer look at the painting hanging above this very couch. Then, to add insult to injury, my bustle broke, evidently from the force of my fall, and pieces of it pierced the couch. I don’t want to move because I’m afraid I’ll ruin the upholstery if I do.”
   Tapping a toe against the floor, Miss Flowerdew looked from Gertrude to the painting hanging behind the couch, then back to Gertrude again right as her eyes widened. “Forgive me, Miss Cadwalader, but I must tell you that your current situation seems to be more ominous than curious. Why, the only reasonable explanation that springs to my mind to explain why you would have needed to peruse that painting so closely is that you’re a thief but got foiled in your attempt to steal that painting by gravity.”
   “Good heavens, Miss Flowerdew, get ahold of yourself. That’s a completely ridiculous conclusion, especially since it would be next to impossible for anyone to make off undetected with a painting of that size.”
   “So you were considering the matter.”
   Gertrude’s brows drew together. “No, I wasn’t, I was . . . oh, never mind. Allow me to simply say that I’m not a thief, nor was I attempting a heist on Mr. Sinclair’s yacht.”
   Ignoring everything she’d just said, Miss Flowerdew began pacing again, stopping a few seconds later to look Gertrude’s prone form up and down. “Do you have so much fabric making up your skirt because that’s where you stash your ill-gotten gains?”
   “Of course not, especially since, again, I don’t spend my time as a thief but only as a companion to Mrs. Davenport. If you must know, she’s responsible for the gown I’m wearing, and she used extra yards of fabric because of the questionable bustle she designed for me.”
   Miss Flowerdew released a sniff. “A ridiculous explanation if I ever heard one.”
   “It may be ridiculous, but it’s true. And, it’s also an explanation I’ll be able to prove once I get unstuck from this couch. I’ll then be able to show you the bustle in question, and then you’ll be extending me an apology, one I richly deserve since you’ve now taken to questioning my integrity.”
   Turning her back on Gertrude, Miss Flowerdew walked across the room and retook her seat. Considering Gertrude with narrowed eyes, she finally gave a short jerk of her head. “Very well, let me see this so-called questionable bustle.” “I can’t very well show it to you since, if you’ve forgotten, I’m stuck. You’ll have to assist me with getting unstuck first, and then I can prove my innocence.”
   Miss Flowerdew suddenly smiled. “Which brings us directly back to the beginning of our conversation, one that, if you’ve forgotten, dealt with you being in my debt. I’m perfectly willing to assist you, however, it will come with a cost—that cost being your agreement to assist me in the foreseeable future with a little matter that’s very dear to me.” Her smile turned smug. “Since the question has arisen regarding your reason for being on the couch in the first place, a question that I’m sure you’re going to want to keep hush-hush, I suggest you agree to my terms.”
   “That sounds a little like blackmail.”
   Miss Flowerdew tapped a gloved finger against her chin. “It does at that, doesn’t it?”
   “I’m not one to give in to demands, Miss Flowerdew, especially since I’ve done absolutely nothing to warrant a blackmail demand in the first place.”
   Wrinkling her nose, Miss Flowerdew settled back into the chair. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re far too cheeky to fit the expectations of a wallflower?”
   “Has anyone ever told you that there’s not actually a society known as the wallflowers—it’s simply a derogatory name for a group of lovely young ladies who aren’t considered as fashionable as society wants them to be?”
   Miss Flowerdew completely neglected to respond to that, choosing to beam another bright smile Gertrude’s way instead. “My goodness but we do seem to have gotten distracted from the business at hand. And since we are missing out on the festivities that are occurring above board, allow me to redirect our conversation to the important matter I need to broach with you.”
   Sitting forward in the chair, Miss Flowerdew suddenly looked far too earnest. “I’d like you to personally introduce me to the oh-so-delicious Mr. Harrison Sinclair, and then I want your promise that you’ll do whatever is in your power to convince him to offer me a proposal of the matrimonial type.”
Jen Turano, Out of the Ordinary Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017.


Jen Turano is the author of nine books and two novellas. She is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. Jen is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Enjoy visiting her website.

***Thank you to Celebrate Lit and Bethany House for providing a copy of Jen Turano's Out of the Ordinary. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***