Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This Quiet Sky: A Novella by Joanne Bischof, © 2014

  A treasure. I do not want to read the back cover, the snippets, the comments about This Quiet Sky ~ I want to experience it all by myself, word for word. Joanne Bischof's words float off the page to my heart as I read with Sarah viewing Tucker for the first time. Two weeks. A new school. Home now in the mountains away from the sea view left far behind. Our steps are indeed ordered by the Lord....

Rocky Knob, Virginia ~ 1885
If you have read the Cadence of Grace series, you will remember the choice to go to Aunt Sarah's house down the lane or up the mountainside to home. Wanting to know more about Aunt Sarah, I now have my chance ~ for This Quiet Sky is her story.

author Joanne Bischof
So many times we may have pondered our beginnings, choices we have made, choice made for us. We begin again, each day anew ~ either living now or letting the past dictate our present and future.

   "Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe, and stronger
than you seem, and smarter than you think."
             -- A. A. Milne
Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

The sky has opened up clear; fresh beginnings. New views. West Virginia Mountains, United States

"You're so focused on being normal that you haven't realized that you're actually not."
   --This Quiet Sky, 49

All his words hit my heart at odd angles, burrowing in, staying.
   --Ibid., 50

   The small creek gurgles beside us and is so clogged with old leaves, that the water is several different shades of glittering gold and orange. Minnows dart about and water bugs skate on top. Tucker watches it with me.
   --Ibid., 51

I like the visual elements of Joanne Bischof's writings. I am there with them. As I continue to read I envelop them. Dreams, aspirations, patience, concern, life... So beautifully written and six tissues later I come out the other side. Thank you to author Joanne Bischof for a story that needed to be told ~ for hearts open to receive. A love beyond mention and a healing of a heart. I look forward to the next story!

This Quiet Sky - a Novella***Thank you to author Joanne Bischof for this story of life and love beyond anything we could ever hope or imagine ~ given to us by God, Himself. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation ~ besides Grace! ~ was received.***

Excerpt and... your own copy! available for you now ~ and here.

The Cadence of Grace Series ~* 
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2013 Christy Award Finalist
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2014 INSPY Award Finalist
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SDCWG Novel of the Year

               

Friday, November 21, 2014

Secrets of Sloane House by Shelley Gray, © 2014

shelleyshepardgray2013
Photo by The New Studio


A Chicago World's Fair Mystery

Cover art

Chicago, Illinois, 1893. The best schools, spacious houses along Michigan Avenue are not always sought by the parents of the debutantes ~ the young men are destined to make a good match to continue the style in which their family is accustomed.

Rosalind Perry has changed her name to Rosalind Pettit as she seeks Sloane House as a favorable employer to search for clues to the disappearance of her sister, Miranda Perry. Miranda had been in their employ and has not been heard from by her family in Wisconsin. Many have ventured to Chicago for employment during the World's Fair Expo. Whom can she trust? The staff are reluctant to speculate or divulge any tales of the former maid and Rosalind is warned not to bring past events up so as to keep their positions.

Secrets of Sloane House delves into the mixing of the staff and the young men of the families ~ friend or foe? Sadness in separation of the "classes." Rooting for hearts that will need mending, or stupidity in selection, you want to protect these girls from wrong choices of servitude.

***Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for sending me a copy of Shelley Gray's Secrets of Sloane House to review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy this excerpt from Secrets of Sloane House ~

CHAPTER 1

Chicago, August 1893

As circumspectly as she could, Rosalind Perry smoothed her dark gray skirts before meeting the wide, assessing gaze of Douglass Sloane, the twenty-four-year-old son and heir of the Sloane estate.
   "And who might you be?" he asked.
   "Rosalind, sir."
   "I haven't seen you here before, have I?" His dark eyes scanned her form, her face.
   "No, sir. I'm new." A prickling ran up the length of her spine. Why was he watching her so closely? Had she done something wrong that she wasn't aware of?
   Below them, down the stairs, the steady ticking of a mahogany grandfather clock floated upward, echoing the quick beating of her heart. The surrounding walls, with the rose trellis wallpaper and great array of samplers and portraits, seemed to close around her.
   As if he had nowhere else to go, Douglass leaned a shoulder against the wall. The movement nudged the corner of a frame displaying the likeness of one of his dead relatives, showing a patch of dark wallpaper underneath. Rosalind did her best to stand still, though her hands longed to fidget. These questions were out of the ordinary. Never had the other members of his family conversed with her. Never had she expected it.
   Cook had warned her that all four Sloanes were particular about the servants remembering their station in the formidable home. Hired help who spoke too much, didn't follow directives, or proved slovenly were soon replaced. Rosalind didn't doubt that to be true.
   As she stood as still as a statue, Douglass Sloane continued to examine her as if she were one of the World Fair's new inventions.
   "So ... Rosalind." A dimple appeared. "Shakespeare, yes?"
   She nodded. The name was from the play As You Like It. Her mother was a great fan of all things literary. Her children's names had been a reflection of that. And perhaps to show the world that she was more than merely a farmer's wife.
   Clarifying her mother's reasons for naming her Rosalind, however, seemed unnecessary. Too personal.
   Not asked.
   His arms crossed. The white linen of his shirt shone against the dark woodwork behind him. "And where might you be from?"
   "Wisconsin, sir." A small dairy farm near Milwaukee, to be specific.
   "Ah, Wisconsin. That veritable utopia to our west." Skimming her features again, he almost smiled. "And now here you are. In Chicago. Dusting."
   "Yes." Her shoulders began to relax. Obviously, this member of the household meant her no harm. He was just curious about the newest housemaid on staff.
   Perhaps that made sense. During the three weeks she'd worked in the home, the master's son had been on a buying trip with his father to New York City. She heard they'd returned just two days ago—and the downstairs talk was filled with gossip about his escapades.
   Rumor had it that Douglass had spent every waking hour in city pubs and gaming halls. Anywhere he liked, actually. With a name like Sloane, a man could do what he liked whenever he chose.
   "Really, Douglass," Veronica Sloane called out as she entered the hall on the arm of an extremely handsome man. "Leave the girl alone. If you cause her to tarry, she won't get all her work done." Somewhat mockingly, she raised a finely curved eyebrow. "And then what will we do?"
   "I'm doing nothing out of the ordinary." He dared to wink, and his gaze gripped Rosalind again. "Merely getting acquainted. As I've done many times before," he added, almost as an afterthought.
   With those words, alarms sounded in Rosalind's head again. Perhaps it was only her imagination, but she was certain his statement was laced with another meaning.
   "There's little to get acquainted with," his sister said as she and her companion joined Douglass, their bodies effectively circling Rosalind. Her voice was sharp. "She's a servant, Douglass. Not a debutante."
   Rosalind clutched her dust rag more tightly. Yes, in their world she was only a servant. But in her heart, she knew she was more than that. She was a child of God. In his eyes, she counted as much as anyone.
   As much as her sister, Miranda, had ... before she'd gone missing.
   Douglass stepped forward, bringing with him the faint scent of scotch. "Tell me, Rosalind, are you liking our home?"
   His voice had turned silky. Rosalind's mouth turned dry. The question felt loaded, but she wasn't sure what the expected answer was. Her heartbeat quickened.
   Oh, why had she been dusting in this spot at this moment?
   Staring at her intently, Veronica once again raised a brow. "Do you? Are you happy?" Her voice lowered. "Content?"
   Content? "I ... I—"
   "Rosalind, Miss Sloane is right, you'd best get your chores done," the handsome stranger interrupted. "Why don't you run along now?"
   His voice was so commanding, so direct, that she took a step back. Then stopped just as abruptly. She wasn't supposed to leave until she'd been dismissed.
   Douglass turned to the man and frowned. "Armstrong, are you now giving orders to the servants in my home?"
   "Not at all. I'm merely repeating what Veronica said. She is right. This maid surely has a great many things to do other than stand here with us."
   Rosalind noticed a slight softening around the corners of Veronica's lips. "Reid, you actually listened to me."
   Mr. Armstrong smiled at Veronica, and his voice became warmer. "Of course I listened. I always listen." There was no such warmth in his eyes when he turned back to Rosalind, however. His gaze was cool and almost piercing. "Miss, you had best go about your business. Now."
   Staring at him, Rosalind stepped back. Her body was trembling so much that she feared it would be commented upon, giving them yet another opportunity to taunt her.
   But when neither Douglass nor Veronica protested, only chuckled softly, she pivoted on her heel and scurried down the hall.
   Brittle feminine laughter followed her steps. "Oh, Reid, I do think I'll keep you close to me all day. You're beyond amusing. Besides, it's nice having someone nearby who heeds what I say."
   "Some might have a problem with your heavy-handed ways, though," Douglass added, his voice carrying a thread of malice. "The way you shooed away our new girl was a bit of a surprise. It almost seemed as if you were worried about her welfare."
   "Perhaps I am concerned about her. You do have quite the reputation, you know, Sloane," their guest retorted. "If we're not careful, you'll charm the girl, break her heart, and next thing you know? Why, she'll be leaving. Then who would dust your furniture?"
   The laughter continued as Rosalind turned a corner. But just as she was hurrying down a half flight of stairs, she faintly heard Veronica's reply. "Don't be silly, Reid. Servants can be replaced. Always."
   A jolt of fear shot up Rosalind's spine. Was that what had happened to her sister? Had she been dismissed for neglecting her chores and then promptly forgotten?
   Or had she been snatched up from the city's busy streets and simply vanished?
   Quickly, Rosalind turned right, then left. She struggled to recall where she was. The house was so vast, such a jumbled maze of curious rooms and narrow, winding halls, that she was continually getting lost. One wrong turn could lead to her flying down a corridor where she had no business being.
   Which, of course, could lead to her coming into contact with members of the family.
   As she stopped and rested a palm on a wall covered in rich scarlet and burnished gold paisley wallpaper, she let her mind drift, remembering how Miranda had written that she, too, had gotten lost in the mansion more than a time or two. Of course, she'd also confided that some of the people in the house frightened her.
   Remembering that the letters had stopped coming before she'd revealed who had frightened her—and how—Rosalind closed her eyes and tried to fend off a new wash of pain.
   Oh, Miranda! Where are you?
   Her sister, older by only eleven months, was the twenty-one-year-old beauty of the family. Blessed with thick, curly auburn hair, set off by bright blue eyes, she was striking. Rosalind's mahogany hair and faded blue eyes had always paled in comparison.
   As did her personality. Miranda was the more headstrong, the one who was the most self-reliant. Rosalind? Ever the follower.
   Over the years, Miranda's strong personality had always gotten her what she wanted. So much so that Rosalind had often wished she had even a small portion of her sister's determination.
   When things had gone from bad to worse at their farm, Miranda had up and left, leaving behind a note saying that she'd gone to Chicago to find work and she'd send money home as soon as she could.
   But Rosalind knew financial concerns weren't the only reason Miranda had ventured east. No, she'd always been plagued by the need to push limits and boundaries. Even the wide open fields of their farm had seemed far too confining for a woman of her light and exuberance.
   Soon after she left, Miranda wrote that she'd gotten a position as a maid in a grand house. More letters arrived over the next two months, each one with a bit of money.
   But then they heard nothing.
   With a heavy heart, Rosalind was beginning to fear that her earnest prayers for her sister had not only been unanswered, but had also been in vain.
   Either Miranda had decided to move on and forget about them all ... or something dire had happened to her.
   Sometimes, in the dark of night, Rosalind admitted that she wasn't sure which scenario would be easier to bear.

CHAPTER 2

"Mrs. Sloane just changed the numbers for dinner. Now we're going to have twenty people instead of ten," Cook announced grumpily when Rosalind arrived in the perpetually steamy kitchens for a bite of lunch. "That means not a one of you is going to be taking a break anytime soon. I need you, Rosalind, to run to the market and pick up another batch of squash for the soup."
   Still feeling off-kilter after her run-in with Douglass and Veronica, Rosalind blinked. "Do you mean the farmer's market?"
   Mrs. Martha Russell—"Cook" to everyone in the house—folded her arms over an ample bosom and glared. "None other."
   Rosalind's heart dipped. She barely knew her way around the two blocks surrounding the mansion. Chicago streets were crowded and winding, difficult to traverse in the best of circumstances.
   Now, with the World's Fair in full swing and thousands of visitors swarming along the sidewalks, it was near impossible to navigate the streets with any expediency. She feared that there was a very good chance she'd become lost and ruin Cook's schedule.
   But that was the least of her worries. Never a moment passed when she wasn't completely aware of the dangers that lurked in the city and that, somehow, her sister had vanished in them.
   "I'm sorry, ma'am. But I'm not sure if I'm the right—"
   Cook cut her off with a stern expression brewing in her toffee-colored eyes. "I can't be sparin' no one else. I need that squash." Pulling away the bowl Rosalind had just picked up, she snapped, "You've got no time to eat! Go now."
   Only Cook's reputation of being all bark and no bite prevented Rosalind from shaking in her shoes. "Yes, ma'am. Um, where is the market?"
   With exaggerated patience, Cook said, "Take a grip car and be quick about it. When you get there, look for Tom. He's the head grocer, and Sloane House has an account with him."
   "Tom," she repeated.
   "He's youngish. Has a red beard, and he knows all about Mrs. Sloane's wants and particulars. He'll help you find what you need."
   It sounded as if finding Tom might not be too much of a problem, but she dreaded taking the grip car. The only time she'd been on it alone she'd worried she'd miss her stop, get off too early—or worse, too late—far from the neighborhood she was just starting to become accustomed to.
   Traveling in the large city was excruciatingly nerve-racking and scary. Especially after Miranda had mentioned time and time again in her letters how dangerous the streets were. Just the descriptions alone made Rosalind wish for eyes in the back of her head. Yes, there were multiple dangers on the streets of Chicago, and a woman alone was always at risk.
   But perhaps there were dangers most anywhere? Once again, she found her mind drifting back to Douglass and his piercing gaze ...
   A pair of saucepans clanged together. "Rosalind, what more do you need for me to say? Go on with ya, now."
   "Yes, ma'am. I mean, yes, I'm off to the market right now."
   Now that she was getting her way, Cook's voice gentled. "Take some coins from housekeeping just in case you don't be seein' Tom. Go on, now. There's a good girl."
   Nanci, her one good friend in the house, smiled sweetly at Rosalind as their paths crossed in the doorway. "You can do it. It'll be just like the time we took the trolley to the park. Just take it again, but head south, toward the market. If you get lost, ask for help. Most people in Chicago are honest folk. Most will help you."
   Most. That one word made all the difference between comfort and wariness. Not everyone was honest. Or helpful. Some, it seemed, were much worse.
   Once again, Rosalind recalled Miranda's letters. She'd written stories of women coming to the fair and getting pulled into brothels, never to be heard from again.
   Like a newsboy calling out the day's headlines, Cook's voice rang down the hall. "Don't you be comin' back without my squash, Rosalind. You do, and I'll have you be the one to tell the missus herself why her dinner party will be ruined, and you know what will be happenin' then!"
   She'd be let go, that was what would be happening.
   Rosalind didn't doubt Cook's threat in the slightest. From her first day, she realized the whole staff lived in fear of the mercurial moods of the family. Mrs. Sloane could be at once exceptionally benevolent and malicious. Stories abounded of servants being fired for the slightest offense while others were paid while recuperating from the influenza.
   Removing her apron and hanging it in the servants' closet, Rosalind grabbed four coins from the cook's top desk drawer, then, at last, darted out the back door.
   "Lord, please help me find my courage," she whispered. "Please help me become strong and not such a ninny. I need to keep my wits about me to find my sister. Please help me become more confident and more hopeful too. Help me be more like the girl I was back home."
   Back home, she'd hardly ever worried about her safety. Back home, she'd known everyone and had felt secure, not only in her surroundings, but in the knowledge that she mattered. To the townspeople nearest to their farm. To her family. To the Lord.
   Stepping out onto the broad cavalcade of Michigan Avenue, Rosalind was immediately swept into the crowd of people hurrying among the drays, carriages, and curricles. She was sure her starched gray blouse and skirts were about to be hopelessly stained.
   Then she knocked into the side of a lad no more than twelve.
   "Watch it," he muttered with a fierce scowl. He was a messenger boy, distinguishable as such by his hat, sturdy satchel, and single-minded expression.
   "Sorry." Suddenly, with a burst of steam, the trolley squealed to a halt in front of her. Though she'd only traveled on the crowded conveyance twice before, she knew she had to push her way on and hold on tightly. Within seconds, the trolley car moved forward, pushing its way through the cacophony of carriages and people filling the street.
   Noise filtered by the congestion rang in her ears. Rosalind gripped the leather strap more tightly. Looking around, she sought a friendly face. Directly across from her stood a woman, most likely a typist, given her black skirt and crisp white shirtwaist. "Pardon me, have you ever gone to the market? I mean, to the farmer's market," she clarified. "You know, for vegetables?"
   "I have," the woman said with a regal nod. Long black feathers circling the brim of her hat fluttered with the motion.
   "Am I going in the right direction?"
   If the lady heard, she didn't deign to give a reply. Flummoxed, Rosalind resigned herself that she'd have to wait and see.
   "Exit the next stop, miss," an older man in multiple layers of brown tweed and tan muttered from her other side. "Exit and walk toward the west. Can't miss it."
   A young woman dressed in a plain dress flashed a reassuring smile.  "He's right, lamb. You'll see the stalls before you've walked too far. You'll smell them too. Nothing smells better than the market in the afternoon."
   Rosalind took their advice with a grateful smile. "Thank you."
   "Have a care, now," the working girl warned. "The streets can be a challenge for one who's not familiar with them."
   Rosalind nodded but said nothing more. The girl's warning told her nothing she didn't already know. And nothing her sister hadn't already found out.
(Continues...)
Shelley Gray, Secrets of Sloane House Zondervan, © 2014.


Book 2 in The Chicago World's Fair Mysteries Series, Deception at Sable Hill, releases in the Spring of 2015.

Cover art

Monday, November 17, 2014

When Mercy Rains by Kim Vogel Sawyer, © 2014

The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, Book 1


Remember not the
sins of my youth,
nor my transgressions:
according to thy mercy
remember thou me for
thy goodness’ sake,
O Lord.

Psalm 25:7, KJV

Suzanne Zimmerman is called back home to care for her mother who was injured in a haying accident. Are they calling for her because she is convenient, or because they want to be restored as a family? Deep hurts have kept them apart. With young children, the other siblings are needing a break. With Suzanne's nursing experience she is qualified.

A surprise to the family is Suzanne's daughter, Alexa, they are unaware is coming with her to their Kansas farm. Far from their home in Indiana, Suzanne is taking a leave of absence from her job. Alexa is eager to know her extended family.

Dysfunctional at best, one sister harbors regrets and ill will. I am looking forward to a yielding on her heart, receiving freedom to live exposing her pain. The one left behind.... Under the facade of perfection and judging, cracks appear finally able to receive the balm necessary for healing.
Restoration and forgiveness indeed are needed as hidden truth comes to the surface. This is a wonderful story of mending and love coming alive in long bruised and hampered lives. Alexa is the bright spot as she gives all, bringing this family to the light of His grace. God's mercy and truth free them to live anew.
Summer Kitchen Inside
The transformation that comes into their lives gives them a second chance. An excellent story of a way out of destruction leaving disintegration behind. Deterioration of heart and soul is nipped as they begin to rejoice in the change honest sharing and love bring. Restoring not just themselves, but the community around them brought in to reclaim harmony leaving severed relationships an open door for a future.



sneak-peak_1852Enjoy this excerpt from When Mercy Rains by Kim Vogel Sawyer ~

 Prologue

Suzanne
Spring 1994

The hiss of approaching tires on wet pavement broke the tense silence between the mother and daughter seated on the bus-stop bench. Suzy flicked a look at Mother and dared a timorous comment. “Here it comes.” Now that her leave-taking was upon her, would her mother’s disapproving demeanor soften?
   The lines of Mother’s mouth remained etched in a stern line, the furrows between her brows forming a V so deep it might never depart. Suzy hunched into her wool coat—a coat far too cloying for the damp May dawn but also too bulky to fit in her small cardboard suitcase. She’d be gone well into the winter months, and Mother insisted she’d need it so she should wear it. And she always did what her mother said.
   Well, almost always. Who knew one foolish mistake could hold such far-reaching consequences? I’m so sorry, God.
   The bus groaned to a stop at the curb, and Mother curled her hand around Suzy’s elbow, forcing her to rise. Although Mother’s grip was hard, impersonal, Suzy welcomed it. Her ordinarily demonstrative mother hadn’t touched her even once in the past two weeks, as if fearful Suzy’s stains would rub off. So she pressed her elbow against her rib cage, needing to feel the pressure of Mother’s work-roughened fingers against her flesh. But the coat proved too thick a barrier. Suzy blinked rapidly.
   “Get your case.”
   The moment Suzy caught the handle of the old suitcase, Mother propelled her through the gray drizzle toward the bus. The slap of the soles of their matching black oxfords sent up dirty droplets from the rain-soaked sidewalk, peppering their tan hosiery. The dark spots reminded Suzy of the dark blotch now and forever on her soul. She pushed the thought aside and looked into the opening created by the unfolding of the bus door.
   The driver glanced from Mother to Suzy, seeming to focus on their white mesh caps and dangling ribbons—Mother’s black, Suzy’s white. Accustomed to curious looks from those outside her Mennonite faith, Suzy didn’t wince beneath the man’s puzzled scowl, but she battled the desire to melt into the damp concrete when Mother spoke in a strident tone.
   “I am Abigail Zimmerman, and this is my daughter. She is traveling one-way to Indianapolis.”
   One-way… Suzy swallowed hard.
   Mother gave her elbow a little shake. “Show him the ticket, Suzanne.”
   Suzanne. Not Suzy as she’d been tenderly called her entire life. She gulped again and drew the rumpled ticket from her pocket.
   The driver eased himself from the seat and plucked the rectangle of paper from Suzy’s icy fingers. He stared at it for a moment and then bobbed his head and waved a hand in invitation. “Come on aboard. Long drive ahead of you.”
   Suzy gritted her teeth to hold back a cry of agony. He didn’t realize how long. She turned to Mother, silently praying the mother who had dried her tears and bandaged her childhood scuffs would reappear, would read the fear in her eyes and offer a hug. A kind word. A hint of forgiveness.
   Mother leaned close, and Suzy’s heart leaped with hope. “The people at the…in Indianapolis know what to do. You do what they say.” Mother’s harsh whisper raised a slight cloud of condensation around her face, softening the fierce furrows of anger etched at her eyes and mouth.
   “I will.” Questions Suzy had fearfully held inside pressed for release. What had Mother and Dad told Clete, Shelley, and little Sandra? Did the fellowship know she was leaving? Would she be allowed to call home?
   “Afterward you can come to Arborville again. It will be as though this never happened.” Mother took a step back, shoving her balled fists into the pockets of her lightweight trench coat.
   Tears flooded Suzy’s eyes, distorting her vision. The suitcase encumbered one arm, but she lifted the other, her fingers reaching fleetingly toward her mother. “Mother, I—”
   “At least you will be able to bless your cousin Andrew and his wife. God will redeem your sin. Now go, Suzanne.” Mother jerked her chin toward the rumbling bus. “Go and put this unpleasantness behind us.”
   Behind us… Suzy’s shame had spilled over and tainted her entire family. She bowed her head, the weight of her burden too much to bear.
   “I will see you afterward.”
   Mother’s words sealed Suzy’s fate. With a heavy heart, she climbed the stairs, the unwieldy suitcase and her trembling limbs making her clumsy. She trudged down the narrow, dim aisle past snoozing passengers to the very last bench and slid in. Hugging the suitcase to her aching chest—to her womb, which bore the evidence of her shame—she hung her head and toyed with the plastic handle of the suitcase rather than clearing a spot on the steam-clouded window to see if Mother might wave good-bye.
   The bus lurched forward, jolting Suzy in the seat. She closed her eyes tight as a wave of nausea rolled over her. Her thoughts screamed, Wait! Let me off ! She didn’t want to go so far away. She needed her mother. She would miss her father and sisters and brother.
   And Paul.
   Her mother’s final comment echoed in her mind. “I will see you afterward.” After Suzy delivered this child and handed it to others to raise. The ache in her chest heightened until she could barely draw a breath. She leaned her forehead against the cool glass and allowed the long-held tears to slip quietly down her cheeks. She would leave her home in Kansas, and she would count the days until she could put this nightmare behind her and go back to being Mother and Dad’s Suzy again.

Chapter 1

Suzanne
Twenty Years Later

Suzanne Zimmerman balanced a clipboard against her hip and recorded the milliliters of antibiotic-infused solution administered via Mr. Birney’s IV, then she checked the box next to “pain medicine dispensed” and confirmed the time on her wristwatch before writing it down. Her clerical duties complete, she slid the clipboard into its plastic pocket on the wall and moved to the side of the tall, railed bed.
   The blinds were drawn against the night, and only one small fluorescent bulb glowed from a panel above the bed, but the dim beam of light was sufficient. To her relief, Mr. Birney’s face had lost its ashen appearance and his breathing was much less labored than when he’d been admitted three days ago.
   As she looked down at him, his eyes fluttered open. His gaze drifted around the room, confusion marring his brow, but then he fixed his faded gray eyes on her face, and his expression cleared.
   She touched the man’s wrinkled hand. “I’m sorry. Did I disturb you, Mr. Birney?”
   “Call me Ed. ‘Mr. Birney’ makes me feel like some old man.”
   Suzanne swallowed a smile. According to his file, Mr. Birney had turned eighty-two a month ago. He spoke in a crusty tone, but she admired his spunk. And she was thankful for it. He’d need spunk to recover from his bout of pneumonia. “Ed then. Are you comfortable?”
   “As comfortable as I can be in this crazy contraption. Hard as a rock and folding me in half like a pretzel. A bed like this belongs in a medieval torture chamber.”
   Reflecting upon the proverb about laughter being good medicine, Suzanne teased, “Well now, you guessed our secret. We purchase our beds from Torture Chamber Supply Company. After all, if you’re too comfortable, you won’t want to get well and go home.”
   Mr. Birney gave a brief snort of laughter that ended in a cough. He shook his head, the lines of his jowls shifting with the motion. “Torture Chamber Supply Company. That’s a good one.” His eyebrows beetled, real concern chasing away the glint of humor. “About goin’ home…I’ll be doing that, won’t I?”
   Compassion filled Suzanne. She looked directly into Mr. Birney’s watery eyes and spoke with great confidence. “You’ll be going home. No need to worry.”
   He heaved a rattling sigh, then set his jaw in a stubborn jut. “Wasn’t worried. Just wondering. Somebody’s gotta keep the bird feeders filled, you know.”
   “That’s true.” Suzanne was glad he had a reason to keep living. So many of the elderly patients who came to Mennonite Manor Hospital and Recovery Home had no motivation to get better. Attitude played a significant role in recuperation, and she suspected Ed Birney would be back in his little home feeding the birds very soon given his plucky attitude.
   Apparently reassured, Mr. Birney closed his eyes. Suzanne remained beside his bed for a few more minutes, watching the rise and fall of his chest, then sent up a quick prayer for his full recovery before stepping into the quiet hallway.
   In less than half an hour, the day-shift workers would begin to arrive and the hospital corridors would buzz with activity, but night shift was quieter, peaceful. She’d worked the graveyard shift for so many years now, she had no trouble catching her sleep during the daytime hours and couldn’t imagine any other schedule.
   She rounded the corner to the nurses’ station, the rubber soles of her white lace-up shoes squeaking on the freshly waxed tile. A familiar head of short black waves showed over the edge of the tall counter, and Suzanne gave a little skip to speed her steps. “Linda! You’re back!” As she stepped behind the counter, the hospital’s longtime bookkeeper rose and held her arms open. Suzanne wrapped her friend’s bulky form in a hug.
   “’Course I am.” Linda banged her thick palm against Suzanne’s shoulder several times before pulling loose. “Counted down the days ’til my vacation was finally over and I could head on back here. Whole time I was gone I worried the place would fall apart without me, but look at this—the walls’re still standing and nobody seems the worse for wear.” She balled her fists on her hips and pasted a fierce scowl on her face. “But these files are a mess and nobody bothered to refill the candy dish. How’m I s’posed to get anything done if I haven’t got any black cats to chew on?”
   Suzanne laughed. “You and your licorice cats. I’ll stop by Sarah’s Sweet Treats on my way home this morning and pick up a bag for you.” Surely Linda’s purchases of licorice cats had kept the little candy shop open over the years.
   “And that’s why you’re my favorite.” Linda released a deep, throaty chuckle. She dropped back into the wheeled chair and began organizing the manila files scattered across the long desk.
   Suzanne leaned against the edge of the counter and watched Linda work. “Did you enjoy your vacation? I bet the Caribbean islands were beautiful.” Every year, Linda and her husband visited an exotic location for her retreat from work. On more than one occasion they’d invited Suzanne to join them, but the cost was always beyond her means. Even so, she wouldn’t trade the years of raising her daughter for a hundred Caribbean cruises.
   “Beautiful and hot.” Linda fanned herself with both palms, pretending to pant. “I told Tom next year we’re going to Alaska. Polar bears instead of palm trees. Wanna come?”
   A vacation with Linda and her teddy bear of a husband would be pure delight. She loved both of them—they’d become her surrogate parents over the years. But she shook her head in gentle refusal.
   Linda snorted and returned to her file sorting. “Girl, you’ve got enough vacation time saved up to take off for six months.”
   “Seven,” Suzanne corrected with a smile.
   Linda rolled her eyes. “But do you go anywhere? Huh-uh. Work, mothering, church, work, mothering, church… That’s your whole life.” She gave Suzanne’s elbow a light smack. “You need to do something fun. Live a little. The Bible says, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’”
   Suzanne burst out laughing. “The Bible says that?”
   “So maybe the good Lord Almighty didn’t say it, but it’s good advice all the same.” Linda’s round black face pursed into a worried frown. “You know I’m proud of you, Suzanne. Heavenly days, you beat all the odds, having that baby when you were hardly more than a baby yourself and then getting your nurse training without a family to support you. You raised Alexa right, and you made something of yourself. When I volunteer down at the crisis pregnancy center, I hold you up as an example of what those scared girls can be if they put their minds to it.”
   Suzanne lowered her head, both pleased and embarrassed. With God’s help and the loving support of friends like Linda, she’d managed to carve a decent life for Alexa and herself. Even so, the stigma of once having been an unwed teenage mother still lingered. A part of her resisted accepting Linda’s praise.
   Linda went on in her husky voice. “But that girl of yours is old enough to fend for herself now. Why not take some time off ? Do something for yourself for a change?” She leaned close, her dark eyes fervent. “You’ve earned it, Suzanne.”
   The mutter of voices and patter of footsteps signaled the arrival of day-shift workers. Suzanne bent forward and deposited a kiss on Linda’s plump cheek. “I’ll think about it,” she said, then turned to greet the incoming nurse.
   She updated the day nurse on medications prescribed to patients during the night, listened to one worker’s complaint about the hospital’s failure to change to computers in lieu of the old record-and-file system, and reminded her—as she’d done dozens of times before—of the small, mission-minded organization’s limited budget, completed and initialed her reports, and then finally headed to the bank of lockers for her coat and purse.
   As she pushed her arms into her trench coat, Linda’s suggestion to take some time off whispered through her mind. She’d promised to think about it, but thinking was all she’d do. She wouldn’t take time away from the hospital. Here she was needed. Respected. And busy, leaving her no time to reflect on the past or how things might have been.
   She slipped her purse strap over her shoulder and stepped out into the cool dawn. Beneath a rose-colored sky, she crossed the street to the small, graveled parking lot used by hospital employees and planned her morning. Breakfast with Alexa, a quick jaunt to Sarah’s Sweet Treats for a half pound—well, maybe a pound—of licorice cats, then pajamas and bed.
   She slammed the door on her late-model sedan, sealing away Linda’s suggestion. Her friend meant well, bless her loving heart, but Suzanne was satisfied with her life of work, mothering, and church. God had gifted her beyond all deserving. She had no desire for anything more.
~*~

The alarm clock’s buzz roused Suzanne from a sound sleep. She slapped it silent, then rolled over and stretched like a lazy cat. After tossing back the covers and slipping her feet to the floor in one smooth movement, she sat on the edge of the mattress for a few seconds and allowed herself to awaken by increments. Yawned. Rubbed her eyes. Yawned again.
   Finally awake, she padded to the window and rolled up the blinds. Late afternoon sunlight poured into the room, making her blink, but she welcomed the splash of brightness. During the winter months she often awakened to a black sky, making her feel as though the sun never shone. But now spring had arrived with its longer days and warmer evenings. Before long she and Alexa would be able to sit on their tiny balcony in the evenings, sip tea, and chat while watching the sun set over Franklin. One of their favorite activities. They’d always been content with little pleasures.
   The clatter of silverware found its way past her closed door. Alexa was setting the table, so apparently supper would be ready soon. Knowing how her daughter disliked letting a meal grow cold, Suzanne quickly showered then dressed in a work uniform—flowered scrub top over a long straight skirt, anklets, and her comfortable oxfords. She brushed out her damp hair, braided it into a single plait, and then twisted it into a bun on the back of her head. After running a soapy cloth over her face and brushing her teeth, she made her bed and then headed to the kitchen.
   Alexa looked up from chopping a red pepper into thin slices and smiled. “You’re just in time to turn the chicken breasts on the grill.”
   Suzanne raised her eyebrows. “You started the grill? Kind of early, isn’t it?” They’d only turned the calendar to April three days ago.
   Alexa shrugged, sending her long ponytail over her shoulder. The silky tresses, as richly brown as a mink’s fur, fell straight and sheeny down her slender back. “The sun warmed up the balcony, and I couldn’t resist having our first cookout.” She bobbed her chin toward the sliding doors at the far end of their small combination sitting and dining room. “Better go turn ’em before they scorch.”
   Suzanne grabbed the two-pronged fork from the end of the counter and stepped onto the balcony. The aroma that rose when she lifted the grill’s cover made her stomach roll over in eagerness. She poked the thickest chicken breast with the fork, and clear juices ran out to sizzle on the hot grid. She stuck her head inside and announced, “They’re done.”
   Alexa bustled over with a plate, and Suzanne transferred the chicken from the grill, then turned off the burner and closed the gauge on the propane tank. She entered the apartment just as Alexa carried the bowl of salad to the round table tucked in their tiny dining alcove.
   “I hope you don’t mind just having chicken and a salad.” Alexa lifted a pitcher of tea from the middle of the table and poured it over ice cubes in two jelly jar glasses. “A light supper will leave room for what comes later.” She waggled her eyebrows teasingly.
   Suzanne slipped into her chair, smiling. She’d gotten spoiled over the past years since Alexa had taken on the responsibility of cooking. Her daughter was especially adept at creating delectable desserts. Fortunately all of her hallway walking at the hospital worked off the extra calories. “What did you concoct this time?”
   “A triple-layer torte with both chocolate and strawberry fillings.”
   Suzanne nearly groaned. “Oh, that sounds rich. Where did you find the recipe?”
   Alexa offered another glib shrug and plopped into her chair. Suzanne would never cease to be amazed at how Alexa could move so quickly and still appear graceful. “I sort of made it up. If it turns out, you can take the leftovers to work and share.”
   Suzanne had no doubt she’d be sharing with her coworkers. She held her hand toward Alexa, and her daughter took hold. They bowed their heads in unison, and Suzanne offered a short prayer of thanks for the meal. Alexa used a pair of plastic tongs to serve the salad—a combination of colorful chopped vegetables, walnuts, and dried cranberries that was almost too pretty to eat.
   Suzanne lifted her knife and fork and cut into the tender chicken breast. At the first bite, she murmured, “Mm…how did you season this?”
   Alexa swallowed a bite and took a sip of tea before answering. “I brushed them with olive oil, then sprinkled on dried parsley, basil, a little seasoned salt, and some garlic pepper. I was afraid the garlic pepper might be overboard, but it doesn’t taste bad at all.”
   “It tastes great.” Suzanne stabbed up another bite.
   “I used the same seasonings and olive oil for the salad dressing but added some fresh-squeezed orange juice and a little bit of sugar.”
   “Sweetheart, everything is wonderful, as always.” Suzanne gave Alexa’s wrist a squeeze, pride filling her. “You’re going to make a wonderful homemaker for a lucky man one day.”
  A wistful expression crossed Alexa’s youthful face. “Well, you keep praying for my husband-to-be, Mom, and I’ll keep my eyes open. So far he’s stayed pretty well hidden.”
   Suzanne forced a light chuckle, but inwardly she cringed. If she’d raised Alexa in the Old Order sect, she’d probably already be published to marry. At nineteen, she was considered old enough to be a wife and mother. Although Suzanne prayed daily for a loving, God-honoring husband and faith-filled home for her daughter, she didn’t mind waiting another year or two for Alexa to find the man God had planned for her. She liked having her close. As Alexa had grown older, she’d become more than a daughter—she’d become Suzanne’s best friend. Would they be as close if—
   She chased away her inner reflections by asking about Alexa’s work. Alexa shared a few cute anecdotes about the children who came through the line at the elementary school where she helped prepare and serve lunch each day, then Suzanne told her about Mr. Birney and asked her to pray for his full recovery— as he’d said, someone needed to fill the bird feeders. Their supper hour passed quickly, and when they’d finished, Alexa carried their empty plates to the sink, then removed the torte from the refrigerator.
   As Alexa sliced into the towering dessert, she said, “Oh, Mom, I almost forgot. You got a letter today. From Arborville.”
   “Really?” Letters were rare, usually arriving around Christmastime, the time of year when families were expected to contact one another.
   “I put it on top of the daily newspaper.” She shook her head, pursing her lips in a what-is-this-world-coming-to expression. “Read the article on page three about the abandoned baby a kitchen worker found in the Dumpster behind a restaurant. I can’t believe someone would just leave a newborn in the trash that way…”
   Suzanne experienced an inner jolt of reaction to Alexa’s dismayed comment, but she didn’t respond. She knew all too well how children were tossed aside by unfeeling or desperate parents. As she crossed to the far side of the room and picked up the long envelope, she offered a prayer for God to provide a loving home for the little foundling. Every child deserved to be loved and nurtured by caring parents.
   Then she turned her attention to the envelope, and her hands trembled. The return address said Cletus Zimmerman in scrawling penmanship. Clete had never written before. Letters always came from Mother.
   “Cletus is your brother, right?” Alexa slid a sliver of cake onto a dessert plate and licked a smudge of icing from her thumb.
   Suzanne nodded woodenly.
   Alexa snickered. “He should be a doctor with handwriting like that. What does he say?”
   “I don’t know. I haven’t opened it yet.”
   “Well, don’t just hold it. Open it, goofy.” Alexa’s teasing grin did little to calm Suzanne’s rattled nerves.
   Suzanne managed a weak smile. She peeled back the flap and removed two sheets of yellow notepad paper. Clete’s messy scrawl covered the front and back sides of both pages. Mother’s letters, which were meant to encompass a year’s worth of news, never filled more than one sheet of paper. Comparatively speaking, Clete had written a book.
   Alexa touched Suzanne’s arm. She jumped in surprise, unaware Alexa had left the kitchen. A soft smile curved her daughter’s lips. “Mom, sit down and read your letter. I’ll put the cake back in the fridge, and we’ll have it when you’re done, okay?”
   Suzanne cupped Alexa’s smooth cheek in a silent thank-you. Then she sank onto the couch cushion, flicked on the table lamp, and angled Clete’s letter toward the light. She read slowly, frowning at times as she struggled to make sense of her brother’s sloppy handwriting, but eventually she reached the end. By the time she’d finished, her desire to sample Alexa’s triple-layer torte had fled. She wouldn’t be able to swallow a bite.
Kim Vogel Sawyer, When Mercy Rains WaterBrook Press, © 2014.

***Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books for sending me a complimentary copy of Kim Vogel Sawyer's novel When Mercy Rains for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

When Grace Sings by VOGEL SAWYER, KIM When Grace Sings, The Zimmerman Trilogy, Book 2
releases March 17, 2015

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson, © 2014



Definitely not a ~*plain*~ house cat...

Garrison Brown has been called upon to distribute his recently deceased Grandmother's s~i~x cats to deserving households who will love them as their own in the manner in which they are accustomed.  Added to the mix is the fact that Garrison is allergic to felines. This should be easy, shouldn't it? Not so, as he endeavors to mix and match perfectly according to the list left behind for their appointing.
   "Seems she thought of everything." Garrison felt slightly overwhelmed. Was he really about to become the keeper of the cats?
   --The Christmas Cat, 31
What a wise woman, Garrison's Grandma was in making her will ~ providing for others and introducing Garrison to settled people in her neighborhood. Returning from overseas, Garrison is in need of friends who will support him and care for his Grandma's interests. Three selections and three to go ~ at least, he hopes all of them will get the right new home before he begins his new job and moves on. There is one he is becoming partial to ~*~ and... he doesn't especially care for cats with his allergies. One stipulation is two home visits spread out to make sure the cats are adjusting nicely. That also keeps Garrison around a little longer.

Come and visit as Garrison finds that not everything is as it seems. A very fun story that will be enjoyed by all ages. Wait upon dreams that are able to come true. Merry Christmas one and all!

Cover Art
Melody Carlson
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, the Life at Kingston High series, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. She is the winner of a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. Melody and her husband live in Oregon. For more information about Melody visit her website here.

***Thank you to Revell Reads for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for Melody Carlson's The Christmas Cat and for sending me a review copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Where Treetops Glisten by *Cara Putman*Sarah Sundin*Tricia Goyer*, © 2014

Three Stories of Heartwarming Courage and Christmas Romance During World War II

~*Cookie Recipes in the Back!*~

Prologue ~ Sarah Sundin ~ Winter Wonderland
December, 1941. Louise Turner is up in the night anyway. Why not begin Christmas decorating? Helping herself to an early Christmas cheering, Louise stands on a chair to place lights and greenery ~ until her grandson, Pete, catches her. Reminiscing of wars, rationing, and now this generation's part, our story begins.


Cara Putman ~ White Christmas
Lovely snowy scene of country style porch in the winter with porch swing
December, 1942. Readying candy canes and puzzles for the children spending Christmas in the hospital brings more than expected. Abigail Turner, making candy above Glatz's soda fountain and confections store, and Jackson Lucas cutting out toy kits at the puzzle factory merge their talents. A Christmas that will be unforgotten.

Jackson rescues Abigail as she is attempting to cross the street to catch the approaching bus by her college campus for her shift at Glatz Candies. Jackson is on his way to his boardinghouse after his factory shift. Noticing he is troubled about something, Abigail mentions it but he "is fine." Dropping a small book from her bag, she hurries off the bus. Jackson retrieves it and sees that it is her calendar with the time noted at Glatz's. Returning her much needed schedule, Abigail invites him to her family's home for dinner and consult with her attorney father upon seeing Jackson reading a legal document.

I liked this warm story and the Turner family as they welcome Jackson and seek to help him solve the dilemma surrounding his mother and sisters at their family farm. He has come to the city to earn money to support them after the death of their father.

My favorite character is Abigail's Grandma, outspoken in her wise observations. In 1942 Lafayette, Indiana, this Christmas is missing siblings, Pete, training as a fighter pilot, and Merry, finishing up nursing school in Florida.



Sarah Sundin ~ I'll Be Home for Christmas
Image 
December, 1943. Pete Turner is home on leave, returning to a new post in January. This couldn't be the little girl he had teased? Grace Kessler and her little girl, Linda ~ Linnie ~, fulfill a longing in his heart. But... can Grace believe her brother's friend, Pete, could turn into a charming, lovely dream? Learning to trust has become very deep for Grace. Will it all be taken away in a moment... again? While on leave, Pete entertains Linnie, taking her to fun places and getting her wiggles out at the river all before settling down for homework. Grace's job goes smoother knowing Linnie is cared for so lovingly. Invited for Christmas Eve gift opening, the Turners bring ~*Home*~ to them. That is, until Pete speaks of his return in January to fly crafts again ~ she was so sure she understood he would have a desk job. With this love placed in her heart by God, will she ultimately be able to trust in His care, not allowing fear and anger to rule? Walking alongside each other, His love overfills to spill out on others from the God-sized hole in us only He can fill. Giving, receiving so much more in return.



Trisha Goyer ~ Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

December, 1944, Field Hospital, the Netherlands. Meredith ~Merry~ Turner
Sometimes where one's from isn't as important as understanding one's heart...
   She hummed "White Christmas," imagining Bing Crosby's rich baritone. From the way the patient glared at her, she knew this soldier was also German, but one would never know by looking at him. With their bloody, torn uniforms cast aside, the men appeared the same. They bled the same. They needed the same care. Yet it was the deceit of the heart that made the difference. Where one placed his allegiance.
   --Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, 241, 243
Meredith knew of deceit. David. Returning to his home country, taking her heart with him ~ betraying her and her country. How could someone she thought she knew so well leave her without a word? His memory traveled with her from nurses training in Miami Beach to her first postings with her troop in France, Belgium, and now the field hospital in the Netherlands. Soon, she had heard, they would be leaving for Germany. So close to the lines, hoping they will stay during Christmas with memories of home on her birthday. Especially, with letters from her brother, Pete, and her sister, Abigail, arriving with visions of  Daddy, and Grandma and Mama singing and scurrying in the kitchen. Cookies smells wafting through the air! A surprise comes to her as the hospital setting becomes Christmas with a tree, special piano music to sing by, and remembrances just for Merry. Home in the heart and forgiveness as truth brings joy to last beyond Christmas.


Epilogue ~ Cara Putman ~ Let It Snow, Let It Snow
Christmas Day, 1945. Louise Turner awaits the soon return of her granddaughter, Merry, as the long war on both fronts has truly ended. Today, her grandchildren Pete and Abigail and their families would be coming for dinner. What joy to be at their parents' home all together for this blessed day. The doorbell rings and... Merry is home, bringing a celebration, indeed.
But... this isn't the end. It a glorious beginning and continuance of love and life amid those at home!


Beautiful stories are shared of the Turner family during turbulent times. Key was their correspondence with their loved ones overseas, with news from home. Strength develops as they trust God and seek Him in their daily cares.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for Where Treetops Glisten by Cara Putnam, Sarah Sundin, and Tricia Goyer. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall, © 2014

The Everstone Chronicles ~ Book Two

21490844

“God loves you, Meredyth, and wants to use your abilities to bless others as well as yourself. Even if you don't feel useful, you can be.”
    ― Dawn Crandall, The Bound Heart

Only Christ can rectify our past; we cannot ~ no matter how strenuously we might try. Circumvented by unforgotten events, we chide ourselves, never able to get out from underneath it on our own. Visualizing how we think it should turn out, our future is not entirely our own to decide. When others are involved, they too have free will to choose their own outcome ~ rather certain or retrospective in hidden thought.

Meredyth is longing to find fulfillment, her purpose, as she awaits her long-sought future unfolding.
The Everstone Chronicles
Dawn Crandall is an author to watch. I love her stories!
I began reading this second installment yesterday morning, interspersed until the wee hours. It was difficult to leave Meredyth in her quandary.

What an intriguing family the Everstones are. Some not so close, but yet when it comes down to it, they are very much aligned together. Meredyth Summercourt's family has a summer cottage on Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor, Maine. Sailing from Boston every summer to cooler weather, families shared the summer months up and down the beach. Nearby, growing up, were Meredyth and her three older brothers, Lawry Hampton and his younger sister, Ainsley, and three Everstone brothers and their younger sister, Estella.

Determined to wait for one Everstone brother to return from years exploring Europe, Meredyth's story unfolds. Her heart is bound to him to right a wrong. I am waiting for her to find that is not who her alliance is to be with. Her struggles surface when she finds Lawry has interests that include her. Young Wynn Rosselet is rescued from a bully on the streets. Wynn is very vital in the story, as Meredyth begins to see what love looks like. Calling her an endearing "Mere'dy" is just the melody of her beginning to open her heart to hope.

Each chapter heading is followed by a quote that encloses the content perfectly. So rich in pursuit and received for who she is, Meredyth is lovingly drawn to forgiveness and freedom far greater than the self-loathing and unworthiness she has lived with for many years.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity...   --Jeremiah 29:11-14a
Love and acceptance available to reach out and have, to be alive and live. Safety in the one who waits for her. Written in first person from Meredyth's point of view, she seeks amid struggles to find where she rightfully belongs. Well-written, with the lives of those around her, the ending offers forgiveness and release looking to the welfare of others.
~*~

Dawn CrandallDawn Crandall writes long inspirational historical romantic suspense. She has a BA in Christian Education from Taylor University and lives in northeast Indiana with her ever-supportive husband, her three cats [Lilly, Pumpkin and Clover] and their newest addition, a little baby boy.

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***Thank you to author Dawn Crandall and Whitaker House for this copy of Book Two in The Everstone Chronicles ~ The Bound Heart. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Every Tear a Memory by Myra Johnson, © 2014

Till We Meet Again series, Book 3


France, 1919. Joanna Trapp is on her way home to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to help her brother Jack care for their teen sister, Lily, following World War I. Joanna served as a "Hello Girls" telephone operator during the war. She will be distancing from more than the Army Signal Corps, but a buried sweetheart.
WWI Hello Girls
US Army Signal Corps telephone operators or "Hello Girls," Tours, France, WWI.

Hot Springs, Arkansas. Thomas Ballard is manager of the prestigious Arlington Hotel and is in need of a switchboard operator for the late night shift. Joanna fits the bill! She will be home earlier in the day to follow up with her younger sister. Lily isn't thrilled to now have two older siblings trying to direct her life.
Constructed in 1893, the second Arlington Hotel contained 300 rooms.
Joanna has lasting memories and is glad to have this diversion at work. Thomas has a sorrow of his own ~ his brother, Gilbert, was injured in the war; the war Thomas wasn't medically able to be a part of. Regrets beyond his control.

"She is surprised by the attention from successful hotel manager Thomas Ballard, whose practical nature starkly contrasts her own spontaneous spirit." This quote sums up their awkward unplanned attraction to each other. Those returning to civilian life and those at home both have adjustments. This is such a good story! I liked how their every day unfolded. It would make a good movie script. Letting go of grief and moving on, having someone to truly love you and care as Lily finds as her sister shares with her. A keeper! Excellent writing.

Award-­winning novelist Myra Johnson examines life in post-­WWI America in her inspirational historical romance series Till We Meet Again published by Abingdon Press Fiction. The stories set in 1919 in the bustling Southern resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, explore the lives of three couples and their families, all of whom have been deeply affected by the events of World War I.

Fiction: Historical
When the Clouds Roll By
Myra Johnson
                                                        Abingdon Press

***Thank you to author Myra Johnson for sending me an Advance Reader Copy of her October 2014 release, Every Tear a Memory, Book 3 in her Till We Meet Again series. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***