Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Butterfly and the Violin ~ Kindle Fire giveaway & Facebook Party on August 7th!


Book 1 of A Hidden Masterpiece series
Hi Readers,
I don't want you to miss out on this wonderful opportunity to learn more about Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin.
You can enter for a chance to win a Kindle Fire, and a copy of The Butterfly and the Violin. Plus — join Kristy LIVE for an Author chat on August 7th!
Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House



Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin. Romantic Times had this to say: "Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . ."
The BEST Day!
Author Kristy Cambron and her debut novel!
Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.
butterflyviolin-400-click

 One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

So grab your copy of  The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

Bookshelf

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

based on the life of Rich Mullins: Ragamuffin, DVD, © 2013, offer of one DVD Giveaway

We are not changed by the expectations of others, but by the love of God. Our Abba Father. Philippians 1:6-8, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
click here for Rich Mullins' music
“I hope that I would leave a legacy of joy. A legacy of real compassion. Because I think there is great joy in real compassion. I don’t think that you can know joy apart from caring deeply about people – caring enough about people that you actually do something.”
   —Rich Mullins, 1994
Based on the life of the late singer-songwriter Rich Mullins, the story is told as a radio interview, from Rich at a young age to his death, according to the remembrances of his family and friends. A real person, not glossed over, Rich talked about pursuing God not religion nor expectations of man. The one question becomes, "Do you believe that I loved you?" The movie portrayal conflicts with the words of his music, highlighting his character flaws. Quotations by Rich Mullins point to examination of where we place our focus ~ on God or man. His joy is not shown, nor a deeper acceptance he received being loved in brokenness. I liked the connection with Brennan Manning in the film, as a mentor with Rich. The lead actor does the singing and Rich's recordings are not used. Good visual clips of Rich interwoven with the credits.

The movie back cover does not contain a rating. There is cursing, smoking, and drinking portrayed in the film. Drama/biography, 137 minutes, co-produced by Rich Mullins' younger brother, Dave Mullins. DVD release date: July 8, 2014. The film seemed overly long in spots. Special features include the making of Ragamuffin, deleted scenes, audio commentary with David Schultz and Dave Mullins, and a message from Dave Mullins.


Parenting Healthy: Ragamuffin the story of Rich Mullins New Release #Review & #Giveaway
***Thank you to Fly-By Promotions for sending me a copy of this movie to review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

One copy of this DVD is being offered as a giveaway. Please leave an e-mail address ...[at]...[dot]com with your comment so the winner may be contacted following the drawing on 7/22/2014.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Revealing by Suzanne Woods Fisher, © 2014

The Inn at Eagle Hill, Book 3


Cover ArtA rainy morning and a proposal. New neighbors are moving in across the road and a new occupant for the Inn at Eagle Hill guest flat is on her way for an extended stay. Innkeeper Rose Schrock has a morning caller; Galen King. He has a question, she surprisingly answers, "Yes."

In this third book of The Inn at Eagle Hill family and neighbors, open communication brings lives together to search truth in ordinary days. Hidden secrets brought forward change and reveal character that stems from the heart. New visitors bring an addition to those living in Stoney Ridge.

What I liked most about this final story is the way selfish and selfless stand out so vividly. There are those who come and go who are only thinking of themselves and what they can gain. Others, trying to find their course and direction, become disillusioned but plod on as they only look to circumstances. The ones who shine are those who take life and expect it head on, rather than ducking, and become better for it.

I liked the growth shown in thought and actions of the characters. Families were modeled by the choices they made, influencing others for either good or bad. Necessary to take a stand for right and continue on. Galen King portrayed this with integrity in his actions as Rose examined her life. Rose has brought a great gifting into the lives of her children as they surrender their "wants" for the better good of their needs and those near them. They are able to make decisions, forgive, and talk over where they are, to take the next step.

What I especially liked about the author's writings is that they were unveiled as they would be in actual living, rather than them popping up to complete the previous two stories. It would be good to read the series in order, but in this final story, catch up is done so effortlessly, you have the background without it being a listing of happenings in prior books. Some loose ends were left unfinished. I hope to see these friends from Stoney Ridge again!

Suzanne Woods Fisher  Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Letters, The Calling, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of an Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is also a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. Learn more at suzannewoodsfisher.com and connect with Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

The Inn at Eagle Hill series

The Letters   The Calling   The Revealing      

***Thank you to Litfuse Publishing Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for Suzanne Woods Fisher's novel ~ The Revealing. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy this excerpt of Suzanne Woods Fisher's The Revealing ~ Chapter 1
1
This secret life was doing her in.
   At times, Naomi King wondered how in the world she had become so secretive. She used to be the type who would answer any question, talk to anyone about anything. No longer. Maybe years of enduring dreadful migraines that had kept her pinned home so much of the time, waiting for the worst to pass, had made her more reticent and reclusive. Maybe it was because she’d never had a reason to keep a secret of this magnitude. Most likely, it was because she didn’t realize what she was missing until now. It was as if she had come out of the shadows and into the real world.
   And it all had to do with Tobe Schrock.
   Tobe was serving out a sentence at FCI Schuykill in Minersville for withholding evidence about wrongdoings in Schrock Investments, his late father’s investment company, from the Securities Exchange Commission. Minersville was a one-hour- and-thirty-one-minute bus ride from Lancaster, plus another twelve-minute bus ride from Lancaster to Stoney Ridge. Naomi had it timed to the second.
   Except for today, when the bus to Stoney Ridge had run late.
   As she walked down the lane, she unrolled a half-eaten pack of Tums, chewed two tablets, and tried very hard to do nothing but take deep breaths and think about Tobe. It helped a little, but not enough. She found herself nervously twirling the strings of her prayer cap and forced her hands down by her sides. Stubbornly, she wrestled against the anxiety. If Galen were already home and asked where she had been, she wouldn’t lie to him. I will not lie. She had never once lied to him, though she didn’t tell him everything, either.
   So what would she tell him? The band around her chest cinched tighter and her pulse picked up speed. She would say that she had gone visiting a friend on a Sunday afternoon, which was true. And yet it wasn’t. Tobe wasn’t just a friend. He was much, much more than that. But Galen, her dear, intrusive, overprotective brother, could never understand that.
   She heard a horse nicker in the darkness and another one answer back, and panic swooped down and seized her from head to toe.
   She took another Tums and chewed fast. She couldn’t keep this up.
   She couldn’t keep the secret about Tobe much longer. Today he had promised her that the time was coming soon when everything would be out in the open. He said he would be released from prison soon. Any day now.
   But until then? Her hands were trembling and her stomach was churning and her heartbeat thundered. Galen must be home by now. The horses would need to be fed soon.
   Unease tightened in her stomach. She took three more Tums out of the package and chewed them, fast and hard.
   Oh . . . where had she left that bus schedule to Minersville? Where, where, where? If her brother found out she had been to see Tobe Schrock . . . at a federal prison . . . She cringed.
   Naomi and Tobe were an unlikely pair, she knew that. He had been born Amish but spent his growing up years in a Mennonite church and remained unbaptized. Uncertain. Worldly. She was sheltered, overprotected by her brother. Her life was on the horse farm that her brother managed. Her work was to care for their home and be a part of the Amish church, and she loved her life.
   Her brother did not think well of Tobe Schrock. It wasn’t just because of the recent troubles the Schrock family had with their investment company imploding—his disdain went farther back. He considered Tobe to be lazy and selfish, an opinion based on Tobe as a young teen. But Naomi saw past that and found so much more in Tobe. She believed the best about him. There was a fine man in there, a diamond in the rough, and she was desperately, hopelessly in love with that man.
   She took a new pack of Tums out of her dress pocket, chewed two tablets, and swallowed so fast she didn’t even taste the chalky cherry flavor, turned down the wooded driveway of the King farm, and stopped short. There, in front of the house, was her brother Galen. He stood with his arms crossed against his chest, deep in conversation with Bishop Elmo and Deacon Abraham.
~*~
   Lightning split the sky, followed by a great clap of thunder and a torrent of soft raindrops. There was a sweet smell in the air on this gray Monday morning, the mulchy smell of wet earth. Spring was but a promise, but a promise was better than winter.
   Rose Schrock crossed the yard to the henhouse with an empty basket in her arms, hardly aware of the rain that was falling, mindful of all she needed to do before the children returned from school. The guest flat needed to be cleaned, aired out, fresh sheets and towels brought in. She just received a message on the machine in the phone shanty from a woman who wanted to reserve the guest flat for an extended stay. The woman said she needed a quiet place to “reinvent herself”—whatever that meant.
   Rose felt relieved to have someone stay in the guest flat during the off-season. The inn had provided a far more steady stream of guests than she could have imagined, mostly because of the mistaken notion of Eagle Hill as a place where miracles occurred. But the stream of visitors drizzled in December and came to a complete stop in January, February, and March. It was a worry. This was her first year as an innkeeper. She didn’t know if it was normal to expect a seasonal dip or if it meant an inevitable decline, but she did know she counted on that income to help make ends meet for her family.
   Something on the road caught her eye and she stopped for a moment. It was a truck, following a buggy, and it looked as if they were turning into the vacant property across the road. She’d heard that a new Amish family was moving into the district. Vera, her mother-in-law, who rarely left home but knew the business of everyone, said that the recently widowed father was a minister. He had bought the Bent N’ Dent grocery store, looking for a fresh start for his brood, and Rose certainly understood that. A fresh start sounded delightful on days when life’s complications seemed to hold her by the ankles.
   The chickens fussed and clucked as she entered the rickety henhouse. She let them out into the yard and gathered the eggs in the nest boxes, taking care with Harriet, the old hen who refused to leave her nest and pecked with a vengeance. When the basket was full, Rose hurried outside and latched the door behind her. As she turned, she found Galen King, her particular friend and neighbor, waiting for her with an odd look on his face.
   “Rose, there’s something I need to talk to you about.” His voice was both soft and gruff, very, very bass, like rumbling thunder from the next county. She loved the sound of it.
   He paused, shifting from one foot to another as if he had a pebble in his shoe. He coughed, and Rose saw a bead of perspiration trickle down his temple under his black felt hat. She looked at him, wondering if he wasn’t coming down with a fever and thinking that standing here in the rain couldn’t be good for him if he was. “Come inside for a cup of coffee.”
   He glanced toward the house. “Vera’s inside, isn’t she?”
   “Yes. In the kitchen.”
   He cleared his throat and met her eyes at last. “Then, no. I’d rather say what I have to say in private.”
   “Well, could we at least get out of the rain?” She walked over to the porch and spun around to face him, a tad impatient. He followed behind, glancing nervously at the kitchen windows to see if Vera was peering out them. What did Galen have on his mind? It was cold and her feet were wet. She was in no mood for a mystery. “Is something wrong?”
   “No, no, nothing’s wrong. Well, actually, maybe there is. Did something happen to trouble Naomi yesterday?”
   “Nothing that I know of. Why?”
   “Bishop Elmo and Deacon Abraham dropped by yesterday afternoon to ask if I would take on another apprentice, since Jimmy Fisher is busy with the chickens.”
   That didn’t surprise Rose—she knew Galen had more work than he could manage—but she held out a hope that he might wait for Tobe, to apprentice him after his release. Beyond Galen, Rose noticed a porch gutter was clogged with leaves, causing the water to spill over the gutters. The droplets fell to puddles on the ground with uneven plips. She looked at him, not sure what an apprentice had to do with Naomi. It wasn’t typical of Galen to circle around the block before getting to his point. “So . . . about Naomi . . . ,” she urged.
   “Naomi walked up the driveway like she’d seen a ghost, then shot past us and into the house. Acted as twitchy as a cow’s tail at fly time all evening long.”
   Rose shivered in the damp air. “I can ask Bethany if she knows something, though I’m not sure she’d tell me.” She started to move past him.
   He reached out to stop her, his hands on her arms. “But Naomi’s not the reason I stopped by.” He glanced over her shoulder to the kitchen windows. Satisfied Vera wasn’t peering out at them, he looked straight into Rose’s eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “I think it’s time we moved things along.”
   She glanced around the farm and saw all the things that needed moving along—a pasture fence that needed repairing, a barn door that kept falling o` its track, a sagging clothesline that was threatening to fall over in the next big windstorm. She was surprised it had lasted through the winter. In May, they were due to take a turn hosting church at Eagle Hill. The to-do list was endless. Where to start?
   But Galen’s face had such a strange look on it, uncomfortable and shy, not like a man who was creating a to-do list. A blush began to creep up his face. Slowly, his meaning began to dawn on her and she was astounded. “Galen!” she exclaimed. “Are you asking me to marry you?” His eyes flew open wide, and he swallowed hard. “Doesn’t it sound like I am?”
   “Well. Sort of. Maybe. Not quite.” The more she said, the sillier she felt. But at the risk of embarrassing him even further, she knew she’d better make her position clear. She wasn’t ready. Her husband Dean hadn’t been gone two full years and things were still unsettled, unfinished.
   Galen took another deep breath. “Yes. Yes, I am. I am asking you to marry me.” He took her two hands in his. “Rose, there will always be obstacles. I want us to face those things together. I want us to get married. Soon.”
   “I . . . I don’t know what to say.”
   “Just say yes.” To Galen, everything was simple.
   But it wasn’t a simple question. The very thought of getting married was ridiculous. It made no sense. Frankly, their entire relationship made no sense! She was older than Galen by more than a few years. She had a family—two stepchildren, three children, plus a very cranky mother-in-law; he had never married. She was still trying to unravel the mess of her husband’s investment company gone awry. Tobe, Dean’s son, was serving time in jail. Jake Hertzler, a key player in the downfall of the company, charged with all kinds of terrible crimes, hadn’t been found. Getting married was the furthest thing from her mind.
   And why now, on a rainy Monday morning, would Galen blurt out something like asking her to marry him? Why not yesterday, when the sun was shining as they had picnicked up at Blue Lake Pond?
   Yet such an unrehearsed proposal was so like him. Words were few with Galen, but when he did speak, they were impactful. He was a man of action instead of words, purpose rather than intention. So different from her first husband, who could stir up a dust cloud with his fancy way with words.
   Rose remembered the first time she had noticed Galen— truly noticed him. It was a sunny afternoon, sometime after the foggy period when Dean had passed, and Galen had offered to teach her how to drive a buggy. She had been raised Amish but had left the church over a dozen years ago. She hadn’t been near a horse in as many years and it was high time she grew comfortable with them again. As she was climbing into the buggy, the horse pranced sideways at a scurrying mouse, and Rose leaped back with a screech, startled. Immediately Galen stepped forward, taking the bridle, rubbing the mare’s forehead, and the horse soon quieted. But Rose’s reaction must have been so unexpected to Galen that his eyes went wide.
   “I take exception to mice,” she explained, feeling color rise in her cheeks.
   Then Galen broke out in a rich laugh. Never having seen him even smile before, she was unprepared for the impact. The sight was incredible; it completely changed him. She had not known his eyes to sparkle in such a way, his jaw to be so perfect, his throat so tan, his mouth so handsome. It was the first time she saw all that he could be.
   An embarrassed laugh left her throat, then a second, and soon her laughter joined his and she suddenly found herself feeling happy. Happier than she had felt in a long, long time. He had held out both his hands to her to help lift her into the buggy and she felt an unexpected jolt of excitement. As they sat together in the small buggy, she was as close to him as she’d ever been and the thought made her light-headed.
   Each time she saw him after that buggy ride, there was a knife-edgy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Galen was so quiet and composed that she had no idea he felt the same way. It was months later that he admitted he had fallen in love with her.
   With the rain falling behind him, Rose looked at Galen. He had a rugged, capable face. Firm features, determined jawline, placid eyes. She saw the great kindness in his expression, and she saw his wisdom, which was well beyond his years. She saw compassion in those green, green eyes. She saw love there.
   It made no sense to marry now. No sense at all.
   But . . . the thing about love was, once started, it couldn’t easily be stopped. A voice that she was surprised to realize was hers said, “Yes, Galen. I believe I would like to marry you.”
Suzanne Woods Fisher, The Revealing Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2014.

The Revealing by @SuzanneWFisher | Enter to win 1 of 3 iPads and LOTS of books!

In The Revealing, the riveting conclusion to the Inn at Eagle Hill series, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher pulls out all the stops with a fast-paced tale of deception, revelation, and just the right dose of romance.

Suzanne is celebrating by giving away THREE iPads!
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  THREE grand prize winners will receive:
  • An iPad
  • The Inn at Eagle Hill series (The Letters, The Calling, and The Revealing) by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Five second place winners will receive:
  • The Inn at Eagle Hill series (The Letters, The Calling, and The Revealing) by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 20th. All winners will be announced July 21st at Suzanne's blog. AND ... if you're looking for more in the Inn at Eagle Hill series, be sure to pick up the ebook novella, The Rescue, for just $1.99!

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!

Suzanne is also giving away two 10-book mystery prize packs! 

One of the major themes of The Revealing is learning to trust your intuition and instincts. These are God-given qualities that we sometimes are too timid or unsure of to act on. For a chance to win one of the 10-book prize packs, leave a comment on this blog and share about a time when your intuition or instinct saved the day—or a time you ignored it and missed an opportunity. 

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Suzanne's blog on the 21st to see if you won one of the great prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Interview and Giveaway Drawing ~ Somebody Like You Book Tour ~ author Beth K. Vogt

Somebody Like You - Beth K. Vogt

Hi Beth,

Thank you for offering to do an interview showcasing your new novel, Somebody Like You. Not giving out any spoilers, I would like to ask you some questions to acquaint readers with you and your writing style.

The first question I would like to ask is ~ Did you have twins in mind when you wrote your story? What a difficult choice for your antagonist to make with both her vision and memories engaging her heart.
Twins was the first plot element I had in place for Somebody Like You. I’ve always wanted to write a story that had twins in it because I am a twin – I have a fraternal twin sister. I wanted to weave my real-life experience into one of my novels. As I fleshed out the story idea, I thought identical twins presented a challenging romance component. Yes, that’s an understatement.

Have you been thinking about this story for a long time ~ did the ideas come while writing another book?
I was writing the fast draft of another novel and at the same time I was playing the “what if?” game that writers like to play – mulling over ideas for other books. During this time, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference and had the chance to talk with my editors at Howard Books. They asked what I was working on and I talked about both ideas, tossing out the “Can a young widow fall in love with her husband’s reflection” Story Question. Ultimately, they requested that novel.

When is your favorite time to write? Before or after your family time? Now that summer is approaching and school is out, do you take your laptop with you when you go on outings or do you keep notes in a notebook for future writing?
I’ve learned to write in between all the interruptions. My dream is to have hours and hours of time devoted to writing – but that isn’t realistic. I get a couple of hours to write by getting up early in the morning, and then real life happens and I have to ignore the imaginary characters for a while. Right now I’m on deadline, and my family is extremely understanding. My 13-year-old daughter is writing a story with her best friend – how fun is that? – so sometimes she’s sitting on the couch with her computer while I’m sitting across from her with my computer!

Do you have volunteer activities or hobbies you enjoy doing with others?
I am careful what I say yes to – and, not surprisingly, my other activities are writing-related. I mentor other writers because my life has been changed because others took the time to pour their expertise into me. I’m also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community started by best-selling author Susan May Warren. And then I’m the president of the Colorado Springs chapter of ACFW.

I have noticed the similarity in the layout of your fiction covers? Have you had input in the designs? I like that they are easily identified as yours.
I love my book covers – and so appreciate how my publisher has allowed me to have input on them. And yes, I like that there’s a unified look to them: the font title and style, where they position my name – that sort of thing.

What is your favorite part of your story? Did it sneak up on you, or did you plan it in advance of writing?
I love when my story surprises me. For Somebody Like You, there were scenes that flowed from my own life, my own heart, out onto the page. Some were written with tears, some I laughed a little as the words filled the page . . . I do plot all of my stories in detail, but always find that there’s always a surprising scene or two that shows up and becomes a favorite. My endings? Those always change from what I first imagine. Always.

Is there a question(s) you would like to explore that you haven't been asked in your book tour interviews?
I truly believe a book doesn’t become complete until it is in the hands of readers. And I love to connect with my readers. I try to do that through my author newsletter and my blog and my author Facebook page with questions and contests and giveaways. I’d love to know how readers like to connect with authors . . . what’s their favorite way to get to know authors? And is there something they’d like to know about Somebody Like You or writing?

One further question (or two!) ~ Do your antagonists take off with you typing to keep up, and are you surprised where they take you? Is there one who wants to speak out and keeps at you?
I love when my characters surprise me, taking over the story and doing something I hadn’t planned on happening. That occurred several times in Somebody Like You – well, in each of my books – and I just sit back and let it happen. My characters end up knowing the story better than I do!

Thank you, Beth, for stopping by Lane Hill House today.
~*~ 
Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt  Beth has graciously offered one copy of her novel Somebody Like You to a resident within the U.S. ~ Comment below answering one of Beth's questions and leave your e-mail address ...[at]...[dot]com to contact the winner of this drawing on July 16, 2014.
Author Beth Vogt  Beth's questions ~
I’d love to know how readers like to connect with authors . . . what’s their favorite way to get to know authors? And is there something they’d like to know about Somebody Like You or writing?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rival Hearts by Tara Randel, © 2014 ~ a Quilts of Love story

http://www.abingdonpress.com/images/products/9781426773464.jpg

Walking into the publishing company on a normal day of work, Molly Henderson and Ben Weaver find it is anything but a normal day. Their boss calls them into his office to announce a new magazine, American Legend. Both of them will be competing for the spot of editor-in-chief ~ however, there will be a different plan on accomplishing that goal. They will switch places for their current magazines for one month.

Their magazines? Quilter's Heart and Outdoor Adventures. Ben will join a quilting group and Molly will take a first-time group of teens on kayak outings. Completely out of their comfort and knowledge, they began their quest.

I liked the change that came to each of them as they set out to learn these new skills and what the stretching did for their lives personally.

Nora, in the quilting group, was my favorite. She was a listener and asked questions that brought them each to discover new things about themselves.

Rival Hearts is well-written and draws out the intent of the heart. Molly and Ben have sheltered their true selves from becoming bruised. I liked the development of their backgrounds being exposed to find acceptance and enrichment beyond what they ever would have tried on their own. Relationships are built and others renewed. The story flows very well as they find their place and the true longings of their hearts. Overcoming obstacles, they are strengthened and both are winners beyond the competition of their intended goal.

Tara Randel is an author of novels focusing on family values, laughter, mystery and romance. Her novels include Lasting Love, Melody of Love and This Time Love. A member of ACFW, Tara is also the lead author of the new Annie's Mysteries series. Tara lives in New Port Richey, Florida. Visit Tara at tararandel.com.

 

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for the invitation to be part of the blog tour for Tara Randel's novel ~ Rival Hearts and to Abingdon Press for sending me this Quilts of Love story for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy an excerpt from Tara Randel's Rival Hearts ~

Chapter 1 - Excerpt
Molly Henderson forced herself to remain still, even though every fiber in her being wanted to scoot to the end of the chair and rattle off at least twenty questions that came to mind. “A challenge?”
   Her boss, imposing as he sat in his leather chair behind an enormous mahogany desk, steepled fingers under his chin. Self-satisfaction curved his lips. “Let’s call it a little in-house competition between you and Ben. The winner will be editor-in-chief of my new magazine, American Legend.”
   Pushing her glasses higher on her nose, Molly’s gaze darted to Ben Weaver, the man who had just gone from colleague to competitor. His veiled expression showed no emotion. Was he as surprised as she? Of all the topics this meeting could have entailed, informing them of a competition hadn’t been one of them.
   She’d been surprised by the impromptu call to the boss’s office. Equally surprised when she found Ben waiting to attend the same meeting. What a way to start her Wednesday morning.
   “My plan is unusual, I know. Both of you are qualified for the position and would do an excellent job.” He shrugged. “I decided to put my own spin on the promotion process.”
   Putting his own spin on things had made Blake Masterson a very successful publisher. His unorthodox style of management set him apart in the publishing world, but somehow it worked for him. Mid-fifties, self-made and very popular in the Tampa Bay area for his publicity stunts. The stunts captivated the public, but always brought notice to charitable organizations and needs in the community. The man had a savvy mind and knew how to use it to keep his company in the limelight.
   “As you know, Master’s Publishing is ready to expand with a new magazine. I need people focused for the long haul to get the magazine up and running and to handle day-to-day operations afterward. You have both proven valuable in your current editorial roles and I want to see where this challenge will take you.”
   Molly bit back a sigh. She’d been with Master’s Publishing for eight years now, four as senior editor and writer for Quilter’s Heart Magazine. She loved working for the company, but steered clear of Mr. Masterson’s publicity stunts. She had seniority; her longevity alone should give her first shot at the position. But a competition involving her? Honestly, she’d never been very good at any endeavor outside her comfort zone, which consisted of working behind the scenes or immersing herself in a quilting project. Given the determined look on her boss’s face, his grand plan would definitely be uncomfortable for her.
   But not for her soon-to-be rival.
   She sneaked another peek at Ben. Tall, built, tan, and extremely masculine. Not to mention the most soulful brown eyes she’d ever seen. Yes, the man was handsome. But his ego? Another story all together.
   They’d rubbed each other the wrong way since the first day he stormed into Master’s Publishing six months ago to take over as senior editor and head writer of Outdoor Adventures Magazine. He’d smiled his confident smile and acted like he owned the place. He assured Mr. Masterson his former freelance writing and television experience would increase circulation of his magazine and far outsell all the other magazines published by Master’s, including “the little quilting magazine,” as he referred to Molly’s magazine. He made friends with all the staff, frequently took over meetings, and whenever she tried to make suggestions, he smiled down at her, not taking her seriously. She never let on how much he bugged her, but, boy, did he bug her. And now a competition? Ben would relish any out-of-the-box trial thrown his way. This was so unfair.
   “I’ve been very impressed with both of you. Our sales have increased due to both your efforts and we’ve already made a presence with our digital editions.
   “Ben, before you took on Outdoor Adventures, I was ready to pull the brand, but the articles are entertaining and well-written. The results have increased the circulation and advertising revenue. Of course, your past foray into the cable television show Extreme Survivors helped ramp up circulation. After watching you on TV, I jumped at the chance to lure you onboard. Nothing like having a mini-celebrity on staff.”
   Yes, Molly knew that part, since everyone in the office talked about him.
   Mr. Masterson grinned, as if Ben’s fame would benefit him. “I allowed you to fulfill your prior commitments when you first took the job, but since the traveling has wound down, we’re happy to have you in the office full-time.”
   Some people, Molly thought.
   “I have to give credit to Charlie,” Ben said as he leaned back in his chair. “He kept the magazine going while I finished up my schedule.”
   “Always good to have a competent assistant, especially one who knows what readers want. Since you’ve shown your dedication, I thought you might want a shot at the new position.”
   “Yes sir, I would,” he said, his smile dazzling.
   “Good. Good.” Mr. Masterson turned to Molly.
   “Molly, you’ve been here since you started as an intern. When you came up with the idea for a quilting magazine, I have to say I wasn’t convinced the market could sustain it. But you kept after me and proved me wrong. Who knew crafts were so popular? You’ve built a readership and the numbers keep growing, but you haven’t quite gotten to the place where readers connect you with Master’s Publishing.
   “Your monthly Dear Reader column is great but it’s time to take your relationship with your readers to the next level. I know you’re working on a special project to connect with readers, but let’s up the ante. Get them behind you.”
   Which Ben, with his high profile in the extreme sports world, had already done in just six months.
   “Even though both magazines are regional, as editors, I’m sure you’d like to work on a bigger project like American Legend. You both have a knack for finding in-depth human-interest stories to touch your particular readers. Just the type of content I want for my new magazine. Stories featuring ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their lives—not expecting accolades—just doing what comes naturally. I want stories of daring-do, faith-based stories, tearjerkers whenever possible. You’ll be given a chance to shine as an editor as well as moving up in the company.”
   Rumors had infiltrated the office for weeks now that Mr. Masterson had something in the works. Speculation about the new magazine ran the gamut from parenting advice, to the auto industry, even a new comic book division. With Mr. Masterson’s love for giving back to the community, American Legend was a perfect choice for his reputation. And while Molly appreciated the idea, she still had questions.
   “Could you be more specific?” she asked, still unsure about her part in this latest development. “About the challenge?”
   With pen and paper in hand to jot down notes perhaps affecting her future with the publisher. She waited patiently. She loved being an editor, loved her magazine. But a promotion? Who wouldn’t jump at the chance?
   “Out of all our inventory of magazines, both of yours are the most popular. Top sellers, actually. And polar opposites. So I thought, why not have my two top editors switch places? Molly, you belong to a quilting group, right? The one you’ve mentioned in your column?”
   “Right.”
   Mr. Masterson turned to Ben. “You will join Molly’s quilting group. Let’s find out if those outdoor skills of yours translate into sewing and producing a well-made finished product.”
   “Quilting?” Ben raised a questioning eyebrow.
   Oh, her friends would love this. Her boss had no idea of the dynamics in an all-female gathering. Ben might be used to his rough and tumble world, where strength and experience with Mother Nature gave him the upper hand in the wilderness. Spending an hour with suburban moms who talked about love, life, kids, what to make for dinner, and what their husbands were in trouble for, might send him screaming into the sunset. She’d seen the caged look on many faces of men forced to spend too much together time in a room with chatty women. Ben didn’t know it yet, but he’d just signed up for an adventure very few men could withstand and survive to tell the tale.
   “Right now you’re working on the next issue of Outdoor Adventures which features . . .” Mr. Masterson glanced down at his notes. “Kayaking?”
   “Yes.”
   “Perfect. Molly—”
   Please, please, please, not sports. No physical activities. Anything but the outdoors. Her pulse rate elevated and she held her breath while she braced herself.
   “—we’ll get you hooked up with a local kayaking event. Since Ben already has some activities lined up for the next issue, here’s a perfect opportunity to show me what you’re made of.”
   “Kayaking?” Molly croaked, echoing Ben’s earlier response to his challenge.
   “Afterward, we’ll showcase your individual journeys in your magazines.” Mr. Masterson shot them a teasing wink. “I do love publicity. And friendly competition.”
   Molly gripped her pen. Friendly? More like a battle of the sexes if you asked her. One she doubted Ben would make easy. He took on a challenge the way an explorer took on the jungle, divide and conquer. No way could she kayak a few feet from shore, let alone with some major activity cooked up by Ben. She doubted she could get in the thing without tipping over.
   “You’ll each have four weeks to complete your tasks. At the end of the month, I’ll review your progress and name the new editor-in-chief. Any questions?”
   Ben spoke up first. “Yes, sir. Where will my new office be located?”
   “Your office?” Molly sputtered.
   He smiled at her. “Yes. My office.”
   “Don’t you mean my new office space?” she countered.
   Mr. Masterson stood. “Both of you follow me.”
   He led them down the hallway from his office. All the offices on this floor were for upper management, while one story down housed the other departments, including her office and Ben’s. Once they reached their destination, Masterson stood to the side as he opened the door with a grand flourish. Ben, his eyes bright with success, motioned for Molly to enter ahead of him. The more confident he appeared, the more steamed she became. No way would she let him win.
   The vacant office had more square feet than both Molly and Ben’s current offices combined. Wide windows overlooked downtown Tampa, offering a glimpse of the vast city spread out before them. Bright sunlight glinted off Tampa Bay, where boats zig-zagged across clear azure water. From a closer view, eleven stories below, cars moving in a steady stream of traffic alongside a city park dotted with benches located under palm trees and plenty of grassy area before ending at the banks of the Hillsborough River.
   Standing before the windows, Molly savored the sunshine and forced herself to calm down. Her inside office had no windows while Ben had managed to procure an outer office with one window. What she wouldn’t give for this spectacular view every day.
   Ben might be Mr. Masterson’s bright, shining star, but Molly had grown tired of working her tail off with little reward. As much as she loved Quilter’s Heart, lately she’d been antsy. Ready for a change. A challenge would shake up her life, hopefully in a good way. And the best outcome? To beat out Ben for the job.
   She turned just in time to see Ben place his briefcase on the empty desk, remove a clear plastic cube with a baseball inside, and set it on the smooth surface. His gaze met hers, telling her with no words necessary he’d marked the place as his. She bit back a retort because their boss hovered in the doorway, but she vowed to make him eat those unspoken words.
   “Before you two plan your individual battle strategies, I suggest you return to your desks and figure out the logistics of the challenge.” Mr. Masterson motioned for them to exit the office. “I’ll stay in the loop to see how you’re both progressing. I may want to tweak things a bit as the competition heats up.”
   Bad enough she had to compete, but knowing Mr. Masterson might throw in a game changer somewhere along the line? Great. Just great.
   Being dismissed, Molly walked on shaky legs, allowing Ben to precede her. He couldn’t know how her boss’ grand scheme, or Ben’s confidence in assuming he’d won the challenge before it had started, rattled her. Never had she imagined she’d have to prove herself in such an unusual way. She’d been a loyal employee for years. Had doubled the circulation of her magazine in her time as editor. Shouldn’t her work ethic have merit in her boss’s decision?
   She joined Ben by the elevator, tugging the lapels of her jacket over her blouse. Her mind ran in so many different directions, she couldn’t focus on any one thought. She glanced up to watch the progress of the elevator as numbers lit up above the door, trying to ignore the hunky man who now worked against her. Ben hadn’t said much after the question in Mr. Masterson’s office and the silence grated on her sensitive nerves. Finally, he turned her way.
   “Do you have anything planned right now?”
   “Just heading back to my office.”
   “Mind if I tag along? We can discuss the challenge details.”
   Details. Right. If only she could ignore him like she wanted to. Suspicious, she asked, “Why my office?”
   He chuckled. “Either will do. I thought you might be more comfortable hammering out the details on your own turf.”
   Oh, sure. Now he decides to be accommodating, unlike his confident assumption he’d be moving into the upstairs office. “Fine.”
   The elevator doors parted and Ben nodded for her to board first. He entered, pressed the button for their floor and the doors slid shut, followed by a jerk of movement.
   Molly stared at her fuzzy reflection in the metal doors. Why did these things always feel so small? And why did Ben have to stand so close? His shoulder brushed hers, but she held her ground. No way would she shy away from him.
   Instead, she tapped her foot to the canned music playing some oldie but goodie.
   “Something wrong?” he asked.
   “No. Just enjoying the music.”
   “You’re off beat.”
   She stopped. Stood stiffly. “Guess we all can’t be good at everything.”
(Continued...)


Quilts of Love | RIVAL HEARTS – Summer Coleman Camping Kit Giveaway!

Don’t miss this month’s Quilts of Love book, Rival Hearts, by Tara Randel. Who doesn't like a friendly competition, every now and then? You'll be sure to love this fun tale of unexpected competition between two people forced out of their comfort zone.

Celebrate June's release by entering to win a summer camping kit (grill, tent, and camp chairs) from Quilts of Love.
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One winner will receive:
  • A Coleman grill, tent, and camp chairs
  • A Promise in Pieces by Emily Wierenga
  • A Stitch and a Prayer by Eva Gibson
  • Rival Hearts by Tara Randel
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 13. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog.

Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson, © 2014 ~*an Ellis Island novel*~

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.~Jeremiah 6:16 NIV


Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson is a thoughtfully written story of needs all generations have ~ to be accepted and protected, to be loved and cherished, and to find our way home.
And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
    --Isaiah 45:3 KJV
Annie Gallagher has been rescued from a life of bondage and sent to America from Ireland, coming through Ellis Island. She becomes a housekeeper at Hawkins House, a boardinghouse for women in Lower Manhattan. Along with her memories, Annie brings handwritten tales her father wrote out for her when he was ill before passing, of the stories he told her as a little girl.

One of my favorite characters throughout was the postman, Stephen Adams. He has a good heart and is kind to the families on his mail route. One thing that surprised me was the post office was more like a messenger transit service, delivering mail more than once a day should parcels or letters come later in the day, rather than collecting and delivering it the next day. When Stephen would come to the Hawkins House, he especially hoped Annie Gallagher would answer his ring at the door. He is unsure of his acceptances by young lasses and it is comical to find what his approach is. He finds out Annie does like his neighbor's sugary dough delights he brings to her. Hoping to find Annie at the Irish dances, he instead comes away with Irish tunes he whistles as he approaches the boardinghouse.

Annie Gallagher longs for the days of storytelling by her da. Independent, to take care of herself, she wants to share these stories with other girls and boys. She is dismayed when she finds Stephen is interested too ~ in her, or solely in her da's stories? Guarded, Annie puts a line around her heart, as she determines direction she is to take in having her da's stories published for reading by others. Stephen lives above a publishing office, which doesn't help matters of the heart to distinguish Stephen's intent in a finder's fee or caring for her protection in their printings.
Interesting as you read Annie's Stories, you may pick up on characteristics of Mr. Baum's Oz roles within; Dorothy, Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Lion. Leaving oppression behind and realizing forgiveness; being released from bondage frees enabling the present and future to be lived beyond the past circumstances in life that no longer then can have a hold against God's intention for us.

As mysteries unfold for a new boarder and a parcel she receives, Stephen tries to track it down since it involves the United States Post Office Department and his mail route deliveries to the Lower Manhattan neighborhood. The Hawkins House has many visitors intent on discovering the whereabouts of the package too.

I liked how everyone in the house worked together despite their differences. They come to rely on each other and respect and trust develops. I am looking forward to the next novel by Cindy Thomson.

Cindy Thomson
***Thank you to author Cindy Thomson for inviting me to be a part of the release team for her novel Annie's Stories, and for having the review print copy of Annie's Stories sent to me from Tyndale House. Book 2 in her Ellis Island novels, following Grace's Pictures, I am fond of these especially because my ancestors came through Ellis Island. Come along as these immigrants settle in America in her stories, visiting some of the characters from Book 1. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
Picture
Author Cindy Thomson

No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people
of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other
country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.
    L. FRANK BAUM, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ

Enjoy Chapter 1 in this excerpt of Cindy Thomson's Annie's Stories ~

1

LATE AUGUST, 1901

SOMETIMES THE SMALLEST THINGS ignited memories Annie Gallagher would sooner forget. This time all it took was a glimpse of a half-finished tapestry Mrs. Hawkins had left on her parlor chair: Home Sweet Home. Annie pressed her palm against her heart, trying to shut out the realization that she was far from home—and not just because she now lived in America.
   In a few days it would be her birthday, but she wanted to forget. Birthdays held no significance when your parents had gone to heaven.
   For most of her life Annie had traveled with her father, a seanchaĆ­, a storyteller from the old Irish tradition. She had learned the age-old stories of the great warrior Cuchulain and the tragic tale of a cruel stepmother in “The Children of Lir.” She learned of kings and monks and lords and wild beasts. But when night came and he tucked her into whatever straw cot they had borrowed for the night, he told her tales that were just for her—Annie’s stories, he called them. Now that her father was gone, those stories were all she had, her only connection to a place, intangible as it might have been, that she called home.
   She held on to them, brought them out from time to time to remind her she’d once lived in someone’s heart. Without that, she feared she might plunge again into darkness.
   Annie approached the breakfront cabinet gracing the wall opposite a substantial parlor window that looked out to the street. She opened the door, revealing her special lap desk. Suddenly her father’s voice lived again in her mind.
   “Look here, Annie lass,” her da called one day from his mat by Uncle Neil’s hearth. Neil O’Shannon was her mother’s brother, and he hadn’t wanted Annie and her father in his home, but her father—who was just as dismayed to be there but had found no other open hearth in that sparsely populated countryside—had been too ill to move on.
   Annie had just come inside from gathering seaweed on the shore. She set her reed basket on the table and came closer. Da held a box of some sort.
   “See here. ’Tis a writing desk—pens and even paper inside.” He opened the box and showed her how the top folded into a writing surface.
   “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Annie rubbed her hand across the inlaid design on the edges. Swirls, flowers—so beautiful.
   “I should write down your tales for you.”
   “Which ones, Da?” She examined the ink pot. Full.
   “Why, Annie’s stories, darlin’. Those that are yours. I won’t be here forever to tell them to you.”    She shook her head. “Don’t talk like that, Da. And don’t you know, I won’t be forgetting them.”    “Don’t suppose you will. But I’ll write them just the same. I’ll add some drawings. You’d like that, so.”
   She had not thought he’d done it, not until after he’d passed on and Father Weldon helped her find those pages, those precious hand-scribed stories, the day he’d rescued her from that evil Magdalene Laundry, a prison-like place for young girls who had committed no crime except being homeless and unwanted.
   She sat down on the piano stool in Mrs. Hawkins’s parlor as the memories flooded her mind like a swarm of midsummer gnats. She heard Father Weldon’s voice. “Hold on to the good memories. The Magdalene Laundry you were in does not speak for the church, child. There are those who are compassionate, even within its walls, but they allow fear to overshadow what’s right. I implore you to focus on the good now, the good you have seen among my parishioners. And know that God will provide,” he had said.
   Perhaps Father Weldon had been right about the laundry. The church wasn’t evil. Sister Catherine and a couple of the other nuns seemed to care. But Annie was sure God had not been in that laundry. God couldn’t be bothered, she’d realized.
   “Don’t give Neil O’Shannon a second thought, child,” Father Weldon had told her, his eyes soft. “Your father was a remarkable man. You have your memories now, don’t you?”
   Painful memories she could not forget. Not so far.
   Her sorrow had begun on a day in January in the year nineteen hundred, the day they’d buried her father.
   “A wanderer is only at home in the hearts of those who love him.”
   Annie had heard her father say this, and now that he was gone, Annie had no place in the world. She had been born of a great love between two people separated by hatred, as tragic a tale as Romeo and Juliet.
   She had heard the story from her father many times. Annie’s parents had fallen in love, but the O’Shannons did not want their daughter to marry a Protestant, especially a seanchaĆ­. But they’d done it anyway, run off to Dublin, where an Anglican minister married them. A month later, while her father and mother traveled on the road to Limerick, Annie’s mother’s family tracked her down, locked Annie’s father in a cowshed, and then stole her mother away. After some time, her father found her mother, but tragically she died in childbirth, and from then on, it had only been Annie and her father.
   Now, just Annie.
   “Marty Gallagher was a magnificent storyteller,” the priest had said to those gathered in the churchyard. “Not only could he recite entire Shakespearean plays by memory, but he told his own tales as well. Many of you gathered here were privileged to be entertained by him.”
   A man she didn’t know—but was told was Mr. Barrows from Dublin—had approached her after prayers were said. “My deepest sympathies, Miss Gallagher.”
   She thanked him, but his condolences seemed to slide right by. There was nothing anyone could have said to make that better.
   “The entire world will mourn his passing.” He extended his black umbrella over his dipped head and backed away.
   People say all kinds of odd things when someone dies. Paying respects at a funeral was fine and good for that man, whoever he had been. He’d gone back to Dublin and carried on. But Annie? She was only twenty years of age, and her life spread out before her now like a long, lonely highway spilling into distant hills beyond where the eye can see.
   It was what had happened after the funeral that had led to her imprisonment in that unspeakable place.
   She rose now, shut the door to the breakfront, and wiped it down, though she’d noted no dust. Glancing out the front window at the pedestrians populating Lower Manhattan’s sidewalks, she observed men carrying large black satchels. Businessmen. Not a seanchaĆ­ in the lot, she supposed. If she ever married, it would be to someone who appreciated the power of a story.
   Sighing, Annie brushed her feather duster along the windowsill and the glass globes of the oil lamps. How she’d come to be the housekeeper at Hawkins House was by chance, a stroke of incredible luck, to be sure. Father Weldon had sent her there.
   “I will arrange for a woman named Agnes Hawkins to take you in. She and her charity supporters are opening a home for girls in New York, and she needs a housekeeper to help her get started.”
   “Why would you do this for me, Father?”
   This man, a British priest in the west of Ireland, was such an oddity. Even Da in his storytelling could not have created such an unlikely rescuer.
   “I had great admiration for your father, Annie. He was a fine man, God rest his soul. Being a storyteller, he wandered, going from place to place to do his work. In a small way I’m like he was. I am in a foreign land. My sister, the woman who will take you in, is as well. But God directs our paths. We don’t always end up in the places we’d imagined. I’m to see you get away from here safely and begin life anew with hope.”
   Annie knew as well as winter follows autumn that God had not directed her. If he had, he never would have allowed her to end up in that horrible laundry. Without her father, without God, Annie was adrift on a dark, choppy sea. She’d hoped living in America at Hawkins House would lead her out of the nefarious hole she’d been plunged into since her father died, and it had been a fortuitous beginning. Mrs. Hawkins was nice, and Annie truly was grateful to her. But her father had said home is where the people who love you are, the people who truly want you. He had not said home was where people were just nice to you.
   Annie had been fortunate to come here, indeed. However, everyone knew luck ran out. There were many chapters of Annie’s life yet to be written. No one in Ireland had believed Annie capable of directing her own destiny. But now? Now she needed to make her own way without Da . . . and without even God’s help.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Four Weddings and a Kiss: A Western Bride Collection © 2014 by Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton, and Margaret Brownley

Four Weddings and a Kiss
In 1885 five western preachers sit around a campfire talking about unlikely couples they've seen God bring together.
Brownley, Hatcher, Connealy, Clopton :
Prologue Spitfire Sweetheart ~*~ By Mary Connealy A Love Letter to the Editor ~*~ By Robin Lee Hatcher A Cowboy for Katie ~*~ By Debra Clopton Courting Trouble ~*~ By Margaret Brownley Epilogue

Author Mary Connealy is married to a Nebraska rancher. She has shared real life adventures of calving in the snow as her Cowboy braves the elements to save his herd. Bottle-feeding new calves, housing them in the basement upon arrival in a blizzard; Mary knows of what she speaks.

Saurita, New Mexico, 1879. In her novella, Spitfire Sweetheart, neighbor Maizy MacGregor is warned to stay off of Rylan Carstens' land among his Angus cattle. He is trying to protect her. She is venturing to her favorite rocky ledge just across the river dividing their properties. After all, she has been coming to her special place long before he bought the bordering spread. All of a sudden, in her solitude, she hears gunshots ~ mighty close, and... aimed just above her head! Goodness. What measures he uses to keep trespassers off his land.

Amid all the clamor, as he is saving her from a grizzly!, he falls and hits his head. Additionally with a broken leg, he requires care and Maizy's pa sends her over during the day ~ with the stipulation she will wear a dress and practice being a proper lady. Join them as they both decide whether wearing a dress is the sum of who she is. A romantically funny tale of outward appearance or the heart.

Here’s a peek at Mary’s Story: 
Spitfire Sweetheart 
CHAPTER ONE

Saurita, New Mexico, 1879

MAIZY MACGREGOR LEANED HER HEAD BACK AGAINST the rocks, accidentally knocking her Stetson off. She grabbed it as it fell, then tossed it aside in disgust. She had on men’s clothes–the hat, britches, shirt, boots, even a six-gun she wore on her hip. It had never bothered her before Rylan Carstens.
   She wiped her eyes. It was sure enough bothering her now.
   The water roared beside her, cascading down in a rush. She came here when she needed to be alone. And she really needed that now.
   Tossing aside her buckskin gloves, she pulled her red handkerchief out of her hip pocket—no lace kerchief tucked up her sleeve for Maizy—and wiped her eyes again, then blew her nose in a completely unladylike way.
   How had she let herself get this upset? And over a man, of all things.
   Over the neighbor who she’d long ago accepted would never see her as anything but a child, and an unattractive, annoying child at that.
   She was used to it, and she ignored it mostly, but today it stung. He’d found her walking among his Angus cattle.
   Maizy looked to her left and watched the sleek black herd spread out along the downhill slope. Usually she didn't go near them. Instead, she’d just slipped into this spot. She’d been using it for a getaway since childhood. But this morning, not for the first time, she’d walked among his herd. They were gentle cattle, not a horn on a single one of them. They weren’t tame enough to touch—they gave way if she got too close. But they didn’t run for the hills one day, then attack the next like longhorns tended to do.
   She’d heard they were gentle, even the bulls. And she was savvy about cattle. She knew how to judge their tempers and stay clear of them when necessary. Her eyes rested on one especially young calf that might have been born just today, long after cows usually threw their calves.
   Maizy knew better than to go near a new mama, no matter how easygoing she’d been before her calf was born.
   She’d told Rylan all that and tried to make him see she was in no danger. He’d thrown her off his land anyway and even followed her home to complain to Pa, like she was a misbehaving child. He’d forbidden her to trespass ever again.
   But the minute she could get away, she came here, to her special place. The river was the border between his property and her pa’s, and it was true she was, right this minute, on the trespassing side. She barely had a toe over the line, and she was completely safe from his placid, fat cattle, so surely he wouldn’t complain about that.
   She took a little pleasure in defying him. And it was a harmless defiance, especially if he didn’t know she was here.
   Her horse was tied well across the river, on MacGregor land, cropping grass. She couldn’t see the brown-and-white pinto from here and neither could her neighbor.
   Hoping to get control of her hurt, she let herself soak in the peace of stone and water and air, loving the way this rocky ledge cut off the world. She couldn’t hear anything other than the rushing water. Her spot was curved into the rocks, and she could only see straight ahead and to the left. Water cascaded down from the mountain peaks on the right. Her almost-cave hid her from behind and overhead.
   She was in her own world, alone with her thoughts.
   Then a gunshot cut through the air, and she sat up straight and banged her head.
   Looking for the source of that gun, she turned and saw him.
   Rylan Carstens.
   And he was coming straight for her, galloping on his big chestnut stallion. Even at this distance she could tell he was looking right at her. How had he known she was in here?
   Another gunshot echoed from his Winchester.
   Rylan bent low over his horse, coming as fast as he could on the rocky ground that rose to this bluff along the river. Was he trying to kill her? If so, he was doing a poor job of it. The bullets were missing, going way over her head. But even on her worst day, she'd never done anything to make the man killing mad.
   And Maizy knew, even though Rylan seemed like a mighty cranky man, that he wasn't the type to shoot a young woman, especially not for just being annoying.
   He fired again and again, working the levered handle on his Winchester, and she finally realized he was firing warning shots. But warning who—about what?
   She scrambled out of the little overhang and took a few running steps to make sure he saw her and wouldn't fire in her direction.
   That's when she heard the growl ... and the bellow.
   Spinning around, she looked up. On the ledge that formed the roof of her little cave, standing on its hind legs, was the biggest grizzly she'd ever seen.
   Movement to her side forced her to look, though it was madness to turn away. The huge Angus bull that lorded over this part of Carstens's herd pawed the ground, and like all bulls, guarded his herd fiercely. There were only two things between that huge bear and that angry bull.
   The shining black calf, born out of season, still wobbly.
   And Maizy.
   The bull might be threatening the bear, but the bear only had eyes for Maizy. The rest of the cow herd, save the frantic mama, turned and stampeded away.
   The bull charged.
   The bear dropped to all fours and crouched to attack.
   Pound for pound there was no meaner animal on the face of the earth than a grizzly. Maizy had a Colt in her holster, but a bullet wasn't enough to bring one of these huge beasts down. Maybe a perfect shot right into the heart or brain would do it ... but mostly ... getting shot just made 'em mad.
   The bear's beady, bloodshot eyes were riveted on Maizy.
   The bull bellowed and turned the grizzly's attention.
   Maizy saw her chance and ran.
   A shout and another blast of gunfire sent Maizy running straight down the grassy slope for Rylan. Her eyes locked with his and she saw horror. She thought he'd seen her, but she could tell he'd been out here riding herd and seen the grizzly.
   A thud from behind told her the bear was off the ledge. Another growl seemed to blow hot breath on the back of Maizy's neck. Or maybe that was just the hair on the back of her neck standing up in pure terror.
   The bull charged, putting itself between the bear and the calf, then stopped to paw the earth with its front feet.
   Rylan fired again and again.
   Sprinting to get out of the middle, Maizy heard the thundering hooves ahead, the scratching claws of the grizzly right behind, and the deep-throated threats from the bull.
   The calf bawled piteously. The anxious mama cow rushed to her baby and began leading it away as fast as its unsteady legs would carry it.
   Judging from the growling behind her, Maizy knew the grizzly was more interested in her than a belligerent Angus.
   Running, hoping the bear would give up, she raced straight for Rylan.
   She saw his eyes take in the danger, then go to his bull, then come back to her. He kept firing and racing forward.
   Sprinting flat out, her boots thumped out a desperate beat.
   He jammed his rifle back into its scabbard on the saddle and drew his six-gun. He couldn't shoot the bear—Maizy was right in the way—but he kept up the gunfire, probably hoping he'd scare the grizzly into breaking off the attack.
   It wasn't working worth a hoot.
   "Maizy," Rylan shouted as they closed the gap, "grab my hand."
   He kicked his foot out of one stirrup to give Maizy a place to land. He holstered his pistol and took a firm hold of his pommel. Their eyes locked. He nodded at her. She tightened her jaw in grim determination and nodded back.
   His hand extended. She slapped her hand into his and he caught her. The grip slid. He clamped onto her wrist with the other hand, leaving the horse without a hand on the reins. He swung her up and she aimed to end up behind him. In the rush, she didn't get a good swing, and Rylan made a desperate heave to keep her from falling to the ground. She landed facedown in front of him, her belly right on the pommel of his saddle. She was glad to be wearing britches.
   Rylan pulled hard to bring his horse to a stop, and he unloaded his gun on the bear. The horse tried to rear and tossed its head in fear. The iron bit jingled as the horse fought Rylan's control.
   Maizy turned to her left to watch the bear wheel to face the bull. The bull must've thought better of fighting now that his herd was out of the way. He turned and ran.
   The bullets were little more than stinging wasps to the bear and only served to turn its attention back to Rylan.
   The powerful red horse pivoted, and on its first stride leapt into a full gallop.
   Grizzly bears, huge as they were, were mighty fast. Maizy knew that from growing up in the mountains of New Mexico and meeting up with a few, though never this close. But their speed was short-lived—or so she'd heard.
   She sure as shootin' hoped that proved to be true. If the horse could outrun the monster for a few yards, they'd make it.
   Maizy, head down, clung to Rylan's right leg. The pommel cut into her gut, and her own legs dangled off the other side. She wanted to search for that empty stirrup but was mindful not to jar Rylan or distract him from getting the most out of his thoroughbred.
   Those thundering front hooves kicked up nearly to Maizy's face. She lifted her head enough to peek around Rylan's boot and saw the bear gaining on them. Its jaws gaped open. It closed in on the horse even with the stallion going at full speed.
   "Hang on." Rylan kicked his horse and the valiant chestnut, already wild with fear, dug deep and found more speed. The bear lunged forward and a huge paw, claws bared, took a swipe and snagged the horse's tail. That swipe broke the bear's charge.
   Finally they were stretching out the distance between them as the bear slowed. It dropped to a trot, then a walk, then stood up on two legs, front paws extended in the air, and sent them on their way with an ugly chain of growling threats.
   Maizy's belly was being stabbed good and hard. She hadn't paid it much mind until now. The horse was safely away, and Maizy saw the grizzly turn and jog back the way it'd come. "It's stopped," Maizy shouted.
   "Hang on!" Rylan's ordered shout brought Maizy's head around, and she saw that the ground was broken ahead. This was Rylan's land, but Maizy had lived here all her life. She knew this was a bad stretch, littered with boulders and cut by water running off the mountain to the river.
   The horse was running away, terrorized. Rylan was easing the horse up, but they weren't going slow enough to navigate the dangerous patch. No horse racing full speed could hope to get through it unharmed.
   The horse tossed its head and fought the reins, but finally began to respond. Maizy recognized the expert handling of the reins as Rylan tried to gain control of the panicked horse.
   They reached the first line of scattered rocks.
   Rylan picked his moment and yelled, "Whoa!"
   He pulled back hard and the horse skidded until it nearly sat down on its haunches. As they came to a stop, the horse neighed and reared, straight up, higher and higher. Maizy felt the stallion going over backward.
   Rylan shoved her so she fell off feetfirst and he dove to the other side. Maizy rolled over and over, afraid of where the horse might land, until she came up hard against a massive stone. She whirled to see Rylan being dragged, one foot stuck in the stirrup. Leaping to her feet, Maizy drew her gun to shoot the horse that had saved their lives, just as Rylan fell free and rolled hard against a boulder.
   Maizy heard the crack as Rylan's head struck stone.
   She raced on shaking legs to where he lay flat on his back. Out cold. His face white as ash.
   Maizy crawled to his side, terrified that he was dead. His chest rose and fell steadily. He was alive! Looking around, she saw that his horse was nowhere in sight. A lump was already rising on his forehead, and seconds later she saw blood soaking through his tattered pants. Drawing her knife, she slit the leg of his britches. His knee was bleeding and his leg already showed some swelling.
   It had to be broken.
   Maizy looked around. She was miles from anywhere. His horse was long gone. Rylan was too heavy to lift.
   A wild cry far overhead drew her eyes up to a soaring eagle. The isolation of this place tightened like a vise around her throat.
   Praying frantically for wisdom, she remembered her pinto on the far side of the river. There was a ford. She could get the mare here ... if the grizzly hadn't scared her into breaking her reins and racing for home.
   Maizy would have to go for the horse. Besides that grizzly, there were rattlesnakes. Buzzards might scent blood, with Rylan unconscious—Maizy shuddered to think of that. There were even wolves and cougars in the area. To get the mare, Maizy would have to leave Rylan utterly defenseless.
   She looked at his handsome face. He'd risked his life to save her. He'd abandoned a bull that cost a fortune and used every ounce of his strength to get her to safety.
   And now she needed to do as much for him. And to do that, she had to leave him lying here.
   No alternative came to her, so she jumped to her feet and ran.
* * *
Maizy hurried to her mare in double time. She had worked with her pa plenty, and she knew how to treat a beat-up cowboy, although she'd never seen one quite this beaten before.
   When she got back to his side, Rylan lay still as death. His leg was almost certainly broken. Should she cut the boot off? The swelling had gotten so bad she was afraid he had no circulation, yet how much damage might she do removing the boot? Praying for wisdom beyond what she possessed, she decided to leave it, at least for now.
   She'd been thinking the whole time she fetched her horse. Now she tethered her horse and rushed toward the nearest slope, covered with quaking aspens.
   Feeling the minutes tick by and knowing that boot was strangling Rylan's leg, she hacked down slender saplings with her sturdy, razor-sharp knife and returned to make a travois. Pa had taught her the way of it years before.
   She used the lasso on her pommel to weave a triangular net between two trees. Once she was satisfied it would hold, she moved the contraption so the ends of the young trees were on either side of his head. Then, with a remaining stretch of rope, she tied a loop under Rylan's arms, hooked him to her horse, and hoping he stayed unconscious, she pulled Rylan up the length of the travois with aching slowness. He was slim but tall with broad shoulders, made of solid muscle that made him heavy. It took some finagling to get him in place, but finally he lay fully on top of the makeshift travois.
   Then she lifted each side of the front ends of the travois and used a pigging string to hitch the ends to her stirrups.
   As she lashed the second aspen pole in place, Rylan groaned.
   Maizy rushed to his side.
   His blue eyes flickered open, but he stared through her, still dazed. She rested one hand on his shoulder.
   "Lie very still. I'm taking you home."
   "Maizy." Rylan spoke that one word, then passed out again.
   Because she was praying so hard when she felt a twist of fear about his leg, she decided it was God putting the notion in her head. She'd get the boot off while Rylan was unconscious.
   She slit the tough leather to the ankle until it was loose enough to be safe. She left it on to act as a splint. She swung astride her pinto and clucked to the well-trained horse. They set out slowly, crossing the boulder-strewn ground, trying to avoid bumps. Maizy turned on her saddle and watched Rylan nearly every second, only glancing ahead to check the terrain.
   He never stirred.
   Rylan had come to Pa's house several times in the year since he moved in. There were no other ranches for miles and even their places were far apart. He'd never been friendly—to her. Though she had caught him looking at her a few times when he'd come by.
   Except for those occasional looks, she'd always had the impression he was avoiding her. And the fact that he was so attractive pinched hard.
   She'd done her best to ignore him, but she'd taken a liking to his herd of shining black Angus cattle. In fact she liked them a whole lot more than him.
   When he'd followed her home earlier that day and told her pa the bulls were dangerous, Rylan had looked at her in the eyes for the first time, forbidding Maizy from riding on his land. He'd also said a few words about a woman dressing in britches and running around the country alone. Said it was dangerous. But Maizy had worked hard alongside her pa on the ranch since she could sit a saddle. She could take care of herself.
   She was tough, but the handsome cowboy made her doubt herself. She liked not wearing dresses and fussing with her hair. She could cook well enough and she did chores in the house. But they rarely went to town since they lived over an hour away. When they did, she wore a dress, but she grumbled the whole time.
(Continues...)
Excerpted from Four Weddings and a Kiss by Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, Debra Clopton. Copyright © 2014 Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton, and Margaret Brownley. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. 
Robin Lee Hatcher
Robin Lee Hatcher has penned another winner in her Love Letter to the Editor novella.

Killdeer, Wyoming, 1879. Molly Everton's father owns the local newspaper. A college graduate and right~hand~woman, she is bypassed as the new editor, her father says because she is too outspoken and he needs unbiased input with his advertisers. The new editor of the Sentinel is arriving this afternoon? Unknown that he is coming into a set aside dream, Molly sets out to displace Jack Ludgrove before he gets a good start. Not to be hindered, Jack sets out to place Molly in clear view and matters of the heart. 

Here’s a peek at Robin’s Story:
A Love Letter to the Editor  ~ A Novella from FOUR WEDDINGS AND A KISS

Dear Editor:
      Do you think there are men in this world who
can value a well-educated woman with a mind of her
own and the courage to speak it? Is it possible for a
man and a woman to have an equal partnership in
marriage, seeing each other as God intended them to
be? After thirty-five years on this earth, I have begun
to doubt it.
                                              Sincerely,
                                              Wishful in Wyoming

CHAPTER ONE

Killdeer, Wyoming, August 1879

MOLLY EVERTON FLUNG OPEN THE DOOR TO HER FATHER'S office in the Killdeer Sentinel, not caring that it hit the wall with a loud crack. "Is it true, Father?"
   Roland Everton looked up from the papers on his desk. "Is what true?"
   "You know good and well what I mean. Have you hired someone else as editor of the paper?"
   Her father removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. A familiar delaying tactic. She'd seen it many times in her thirty-five years.
   Molly closed the door and then stepped closer to his desk, trying to check her temper. "It isn't fair. You know it isn't fair."
   "My dear, you should know by now that many things in life are not fair. Far from it."
   "Why did you send me to college if you didn't want me to put the knowledge I gained to good use? I have all of the qualifications needed to serve as the paper's editor. I have worked beside you. I know what needs done."
   Her father released a sigh. "Oh, Molly. Speaking your mind freely has its consequences. We must do business with the merchants here in town. We can't afford to offend them or their wives. I need someone in charge of the paper who understands the delicate balance required."
   Molly's anger evaporated, leaving behind a desire to weep.
   "Sit down, Molly."
   She obeyed.
   "I was wrong not to tell you sooner," her father said, his voice gentle. "I suppose it was this precise scene I was hoping to avoid. It seems all I did was delay it a little."
   Molly stared at her hands, clasped tightly in her lap. "What is his name?"
   "The new editor? Jack Ludgrove."
   "Where is he from?"
   "Iowa."
   "And when does he arrive?"
   Her father didn't answer at once.
   Molly lifted her gaze to meet his.
   "This afternoon. I expect him on today's stagecoach."
   She sat a little straighter. "He'll be here today?"
   "Yes."
   There was no hope then. No hope of changing her father's mind. No hope of helping him see that this was her turn, her right.
   "Molly––"
   "No. Don't say anything more, Father. Not now." She rose to her feet. "You have made your decision." She moved to the door and opened it, slowly this time. "I will see you at supper." She left her father's office and moved toward the front door of the newspaper, holding her head high.
   She stopped on the boardwalk and looked to her right, down Main Street toward the Wells, Fargo office. The stagecoach from Green River usually came through Killdeer at about four o'clock in the afternoon. That was a good two hours from now.
   Molly turned in the opposite direction and walked toward home. She nodded to a couple of women she passed on the boardwalk outside of the mercantile. She waved at Reverend Lynch, standing at the top of the church steps at the corner of Main and Elm.
   Offend the advertisers, her father had said. Whom had she offended? It wasn't fair of Father to say that without giving her any specifics.
   Fair. There was that word again. And her father was right about life not being fair. Especially for a woman. Especially for a woman who valued independence and learning above men and marriage.
   Not that she had any objection to the institution of marriage itself. There were numerous examples of good marriages right here in her own town. Her parents, for one. But few men seemed to want a wife with the courage to speak her mind openly. At least, no men she'd met. Even her father preferred that she keep most of her opinions to herself.
   When she'd turned thirty-five earlier this year, she'd accepted that she was––and would remain––an old maid. Being unmarried wasn't the worst fate in the world. But she did want to be useful. She would like to feel as if the work she did was valued by others.
   What would she do when her father sold the newspaper? Something he'd begun to talk about more and more often. Would a new owner employ a woman reporter? Or a female editor? Her father wouldn't even make her the editor. Why would someone else?
   But if she was already the editor when her father chose to sell the Sentinel, that might make a difference to the new owner. If she could prove herself capable. More than capable, invaluable. If she could do that, then she might be able to stay on.
   Only Mr. Ludgrove stood in her way.
   She stopped walking. Mr. Ludgrove might not like living in Killdeer. He might not stay. And if he didn't…
   I'll make him want to leave. A smile played across her lips. It can't be that hard to make him want to go back to where he came from.
   "True hope is swift and flies with swallow's wings," she whispered, quoting Shakespeare. "Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings."
   Feeling a great deal better than she had moments before, Molly hurried on toward home.
###
 Jack Ludgrove stepped down from the coach. After moving aside for two other passengers to disembark, he stopped and looked down the main street of Killdeer, Wyoming.
   By George! Wyoming Territory! He was here at last.
   Ever since he was a boy, Jack had longed for adventures in the West. Stories of fur trappers. Tales of the Oregon Trail. Accounts of the California gold rush. They'd all fueled his childhood imagination.
   He might have come west right out of college, if not for four bloody years of civil war. He'd joined the Union Army at the age of twenty-one, soon after the hostilities began. He fought for his country and survived unscathed to the bitter end. But those years exacted a heavy toll on his family. His two brothers died in the conflict. Then his father seemed to give out from the grief. Jack was needed to stay in Iowa to care for him, so that was what he did. But his heart had never stopped yearning for the West of his dreams, and with his father's passing had come his freedom.
   Jack Ludgrove, managing editor of the Killdeer Sentinel, Killdeer, Wyoming. Sounded good to him.
   He took up his bags that had been removed from the rear of the coach, then started walking.
   Killdeer was laid out in a square on the high desert land. Beyond it to the north rose the rugged Rocky Mountains. As soon as he owned a horse and had the time, he meant to ride up closer to those mountains and do some exploring.
   Roland Everton, the owner and publisher of the Sentinel, had written in his letter that their offices were in the center of town on Main Street. It couldn't be hard to find. Killdeer was not exactly a thriving metropolis. However, it looked exactly as Jack had hoped it would. Whitewashed buildings. False storefronts. At least one church. A large livery stables. Wide, dusty streets. Horses hitched to posts. Cowboys in wide-brimmed hats standing in the shade.
   He could smell the adventure.
   At his age, he supposed he shouldn't find it all as exciting as he did. By thirtynine, most men were settled. Job. Home. Wife. Children. Most men knew what their future looked like. The same as their pasts.
   Jack saw the newspaper then. Killdeer Sentinel was painted across the large plate glass window. The name was also on a sign up high on the storefront. He crossed the street and opened the front door. Newspaper smells greeted him.
   A man appeared from the back of the building. He had a bad leg and leaned heavily on the cane in his left hand as he approached. "Mr. Ludgrove?"
   Jack nodded. "Yes, sir."
   "Welcome to Killdeer. I'm Mr. Everton."
   "Pleased to meet you, sir."
   They shook hands.
   Roland Everton motioned toward a door off to the right. "Let's go into my office." He moved in that direction. "I apologize for not meeting the stage, but as you can see, walking is a bit difficult for me. Especially the constant on and off of the boardwalks."
   "Don't give it a thought. I liked getting a look at the town."
   The publisher's office was small––and made smaller by the books and stacks of paper and newsprint on every available surface. Roland Everton went around to sit in his own chair. Jack took the one opposite him.
   "Mr. Ludgrove, I have arranged for a room for you at Mrs. Simpson's boardinghouse. It's clean and reasonably priced, and I'm told she is a very fine cook."
   "Sounds good. I imagine I'll spend much of my time at the newspaper, so I don't need anything fancy."
   "I thought you should have a few days to get your bearings. You can begin work here on Monday."
  "That's very generous of you, sir, but I am willing to begin at once if I am needed."
   Roland waved away the comment. "Not necessary, Mr. Ludgrove. Monday will be soon enough."
   Jack nodded.
   "As I'm sure I told you in my letters, the running of the Sentinel has been mostly a family affair these past ten years. My daughter, Molly, writes a regular column, and she usually chooses what letters to the editor are published, depending upon topic and what space is available. She's a capable reporter as well."
   Oh, great. Jack hadn't known about the daughter. That was the last thing he needed to deal with. Nepotism in the newspaper business seldom served the best interests of the readership. That must be as true for a small town's weekly as it was for a city's daily.
   "And, of course," Roland continued, "I have served as the managing editor from the beginning. Hank Morrison is our typesetter. He's fast and efficient. You will see that for yourself."
   Jack nodded, thinking it best not to say much about the staff until he'd met them. He would judge their qualifications by his own standards.
   Roland got to his feet. "If you'll come with me, I will take you to the boardinghouse. Though my wife is expecting you to be our guest for supper your first night in Killdeer."
   "I wouldn't want to put her out, Mr. Everton." Jack stood.
   "Nonsense. She would never forgive me if we didn't show you the proper hospitality. First impressions are important, and we want your impression of Killdeer to be a positive one. Now come along."

Along with writing, Debra Clopton helps her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church of Leon County, Texas.

Attributes to draw from for her A Cowboy for Katie novella?

Debra Clopton Midway, Texas, 1871. Katie Pearl's pa was killed in a tornado that passed through three weeks earlier, leaving her on her own. Coming to town for supplies, she sees a cowboy set his saddle down and easy to tell that he had been walking a few days.

Treb Rayburn has arrived in town, sans horse, and needs a job to buy another one to continue his travels, or so he thinks. Entering Crandon's General Store, Katie overhears Treb asking the proprietor where he might find work. Given another ranch name, Katie tells him she will hire him to help rebuild her house recently lost in a tornado. She will include a horse? That's too good to be true... it usually is... ~*~ happenstance isn't always happenstance. 

Here’s a peek at Debra’s Story:
A Cowboy for Katie
CHAPTER ONE

SHE MIGHT BE AS CRAZY AS THEY SAID BUT KATIE Pearl had learned that most men were light between the ears. She wondered which one of them she was gonna have to shoot today.
   It wasn’t as if she wanted to, but if they came snoopin' around , she was willin’ to oblige them.
   “There ain’t no sense pretending you like this, Katie Pearl, no sense at all,” Katie told herself. From her perch on the wagon seat she could see the dusty buildings of town. And as Myrtle May pulled the wagon round the bend in the road Katie’s insides tensed up.
   “You’re a good horse, Myrtle May. Yes you are.” She was glad to have the comfort of her old horse with her as the fire in the pit of her stomach informed her trouble was near.
   Town was trouble and there was no getting around it.
   Most folks in town crossed the street and walked on the other side these days when they saw her. At least if they were smart they did.
   Especially if it was any of them sodbusters who’d recently come callin’ for her hand in marriage. “No siree, Katie Pearl,” she spoke aloud again, her words reassuring to her. “Them sorry no goods have seen your fingers itchin’ on the pearl handles of your Colt and some seen the end of the barrel pointing at them too.” It was true, fools. “You don’t take kindly to none of the hogwash they’ve been trying to sell you.”
   Sighing long and hard she shook her head. “No, I don’t. Ain’t that so, Myrtle May?”
   Myrtle didn’t answer, which didn’t surprise Katie. Her horse was a little on the quiet side. And that was okay. Katie didn’t mind the quiet—though she sure missed conversations with her pa.
   She just plain missed her pa. It was just her now. And though things were fuzzy in her head since the tornado, she was making it. If only she didn’t have to go to town for supplies.
   She tugged her pa’s hat low over her eyes and gritted her jaw down tight.
   “You can do this, Katie Pearl. Yes you can,” she assured herself, then mumbled, “Long as you don’t have to shoot somebody you’ll be just fine.”
(Continues...)
Debra and Margaret

Margaret Brownley brings love and laughter in the Old West alive. Happily married to her real-life hero, Margaret and her husband live in Southern California. Her novella Courting Trouble, brings an interesting defense case to Brock Daniels, Esq. that appears open-and-shut case ... at first glance.

Lone Pine, Colorado, 1882. Brock Daniels has his work cut out for him. Newly ensconced in his two-room office in Lone Pine, the Rocky Mountains is far from his big-city Pennsylvania moorings. Asked to work on a highly publicized case will advance additional talking about his "sticking his nose in." The Lone Pine Herald paper would attest to that.

decedents:
Billy-Joe Davenport, former saddle-shop owner/miner
Harry, former school teacher
Geoffrey Morris, former ?

The Black Widow trial began ~ held in the saloon since there was no courthouse in Lone Pine's jurisdiction. The accused? Grace Davenport, former wife ~ at separate times ~ of  Billy-Joe, Harry, and Geoffrey; three husbands and their untimely deaths.

Certain of her innocence, Grace's young son Jesse brings forth a testimony. It's the little things that matter; the inconspicuous, incidentals of life brought into the open.

Here’s a peek at Margaret’s Story:
Courting Trouble
CHAPTER ONE

Lone Pine, Colorado, 1882

BROCK DANIELS SCOWLED AT THE LEGAL BRIEF HE'D BEEN studying for more than an hour. Obstreperous conduct? It took thirty-two pages to list a complaint that added up to little more than one shop owner calling another a name generally reserved for crooked politicians and stubborn mules.
   Hardly a week went by that a similar freewheeling lawsuit didn’t cross his desk. No wonder Lone Pine was on litigation overload. They sure didn’t do things here in Colorado like they did back in Philadelphia.
   Tossing the brief down, he reached for his fountain pen. No sooner had he dipped the nib in the ink well and started to write than a slight sound made him lift his gaze. A boy about eleven or twelve stood in front of his desk, staring at him with big rounded eyes.
   It wasn’t the first time someone had sneaked up on him while he was working at his desk. The two-room office had been his for six months, and he still hadn’t gotten around to attaching a bell to the front door.
   Brock stuck the pen in its holder and reached into his vest pocket for his watch. The gold case opened with a flip of his thumb. It was nearly ten p.m. Too late for someone so young to be roaming the streets. He snapped the watch shut.
   “May I help you?”
   Instead of answering, the lad placed four coins on the desk with such care that the money had to have been hard earned. The coins added up to fifty-six cents.
   “I want to hire you,” the boy said.
   There wasn’t enough money there to hire a mule, but the boy’s youth demanded special consideration.
   Brock slid his watch back into his pocket. “What’s your name, son?”
   “Jesse Morris.”
   Brock was pretty sure he’d not seen the boy before. Certainly he’d never seen a more sorrowful pair of trousers. Innocent of anything resembling the original fabric, they were patched so thoroughly that they resembled shingles on a roof. The child’s shirt didn’t fare much better. The thin cotton was more suited to hot summer days than cool spring nights.
   “What kind of trouble you in?”
   “No trouble,” Jesse said. “It’s my ma.”
   Brock’s eyebrows shot up. “Your ma’s in trouble?”
   Jessed nodded. “She’s in jail.”
   Far as Brock knew, the only woman in jail was the one they called the Black Widow. From what little he’d heard, it sounded like an open-and-shut murder case. What he hadn’t known was that she had a son. More’s the pity.
   The boy twisted his porkpie hat in his hands. Reddish brown hair reached his shoulders and curled around his neck and ears. “The sheriff said she killed her husband and that ain’t true.”
   Husband, not father. Brock pinched his forehead. It was late and he was tired.
   “I’m sure the judge has appointed your mother’s legal counsel.”
   The boy nodded. “Her lawyer’s name is Mr. Spencer.”
   David Spencer was one of three lawyers in town. Far as Brock knew, the man had no formal education in law. But neither did the others, which explained why the Lone Pine legal system was such a mess and, in some cases, a joke. The closest any of them had been to “passing the bar,” which consisted of a simple oral exam, was to walk past a saloon.
   “If your mother has a lawyer, why do you want to hire me?”
   Jesse set his hat on the corner of the desk and pulled a piece of paper from his trouser pocket. With as much care as he’d afforded the coins, he unfolded it and straightened out the creases.
   “Mr. Spencer loses most of his cases,” he said. He placed the paper on the desk and pointed to the names carefully printed beneath a hand-drawn gallows. “Those are the men he let hang last year.”
(Continues...)

I enjoyed the "...and a Kiss" story begun in the Prologue and melding the stories together in the Epilogue. A fun grouping of stories by these four authors! Their first compilation together was their novellas in A Bride for all Seasons: The Mail Order Bride Collection.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for this novella collection ~*~ Four Weddings and a Kiss: A Western Bride Collection by authors Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton, Mary Connealy, and Robin Lee Hatcher. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A KISS – Win an iPad Mini & rip-roarin’ Facebook Party!

Four best-­selling romance novelists bring tales of feisty heroines, stubborn heroes, and unlikely love in the Wild West in Four Weddings and a Kiss. Don't miss the latest from the Western Brides Collection from Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, and Debra Clopton.

The authors are celebrating with a "Sweet on Love" iPad Mini Giveaway and rip-roarin' Facebook party.
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  One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A Bride for All Seasons and Four Weddings and a Kiss 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 8th. Winner will be announced at the Four Weddings and a Kiss Facebook Author Chat Party. Connect with Western Brides Collection authors Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, and Debra Clopton for an evening of fun book chat, western-themed trivia, and prizes. The authors will also be answering audience questions and giving an exclusive look at the next book in the collection!

So grab your copy of Four Weddings and a Kiss and join the authors on the evening of July 8th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 8th!