Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd, © 2017

Daughters of Hampshire Series, Book 3
A lady in disguise 9781476717937 hr
My Review:
I thoroughly enjoy reading Sandra Byrd's historical fiction novels! In this story the protagonist will be solving a mystery close to her heart ~ what is behind the death of her father and... henceforth uncovering circumstances revealing a hidden life?

England ~ early-spring 1883
Miss Gillian Young and her attendant stand graveside at the burial of her Papa at the chapel in the village near Winton next to her Mamma with none in attendance beyond the vicar. Andrew Young had been an Inspector with the Metropolitan Police Chelsea division. Upon the late night arrival at Cheyne Gardens in Chelsea at her townhouse, they find there has been a break-in ~ and the interloper is still there rummaging through their house and goods. Questions loom as Gillian sets out on an adventure of her own to tie up the loose ends. Where it will carry her is unknown to find truth of dubious activities that has escaped all of them.
Image result for theatre royal drury lane london
Theatre Royal Drury Lane ~ London
Image result for theatre royal drury lane london As the newly appointed principal costume designer for the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and individual seamstress of designer gowns for a titled lady of merit for the April-to-mid-August Season, Gillian has access within the theatre and society. Her mother had been an actress here in past golden days. She aspires to deem clues to solve the mysterious happenings before the officials and those wanting secret substances to remain hidden.
   I took a deep breath and forced my mind to recall the joy of seeing my latest creations on that stage. What a pleasure that had been!
   --A Lady in Disguise, 32.
In her search for seamstresses to assist with her theatrical wardrobe for the upcoming show, Gillian knows just where to begin her search: The Theatrical Mission.
Like herbs in a pestle, life steadily ground out the essence of those who did not have access to comforts.
   --Ibid., 62.
Her mother had spoken of the Cause in notes Gillian uncovered and instead of rejecting them, she indeed cared to include those no longer needed in pantomimes because of their advancing ages beyond being "cute."
Bits, Pieces & Slices of Life: Enters Lord Lockwood whom Gillian had gazed on horseback afar at the graveyard. He soon came to deliver a hamper from his mother with tea and delicacies. As heiress of Winton Park, her mother's childhood home, he offered to assemble a list of attentions needed for the large country home and estate.

Upon returning to London to her work obligations, he stated he too was frequently in attendance to his investments and other concerns. A perfect opportunity for arrival it seems.

Gillian first saw Thomas Lockwood's image again in her sketches that seemed to surface unbidden in her drawings.
Until his carriage arrives at their London townhouse with a messenger requesting if he might call and bring his mother in attendance? Thus, begins an informal acquisition of the needs of Winton, and an open door to friendship.

Warnings come to not interfere with the past and her visit to King Street where her father met his untimely death.

As you likely will know, Gillian is not one to be set aside. Sandra Byrd is a tremendous author with detailed characters, which I love, and a firm story surrounding a past and a future. A hope attained!
Isn't this awesomely beautiful!!!?
You may read this book as a stand-alone, but you will love books 1 and 2 in the series too!!

The publisher shares the first 46 pages here ~ you will not want the intrigue to stop... March 21, 2017, release day!!

Sandra Byrd
Photograph © Studio B Portraits

Award-winning and bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published four dozen books in the fiction and nonfiction markets, including Mist of Midnight, Bride of a Distant Isle (A Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick), and her most recent, A Lady in Disguise. For nearly two decades, Sandra has shared her secrets with the many writers she edits, mentors, and coaches. She lives in the Seattle, Washington area.
Books 1, 2, and 3 ~ Daughters of Hampshire Series by author Sandra Byrd
I was provided a copy of A Lady in Disguise by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
March 21-29, 2017
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin, © 2017

Waves of Freedom series, Book 3

Cover Art
Even if you take side trips or spin around or veer off the path, the compass stays true. You can always find your way.
   --When Tides Turn, 195.
July 30, 1942 - August 28, 1943
A change in lives, unimaginable what one year would bring.
Print of old US Navy Poster  Recruiting Women by BloominLuvly, $9.95  Tess Beaumont enlists in the newly formed WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) yet finds she must go through an arduous interview system before being selected or rejected. Wanting to be seen as useful and not projected as another pretty face, Tess wants to merit service to her country. Substance. Purposeful.

Lieutenant Dan Avery and Tess find they are assigned to the same Boston location. Dan is the older brother of Tess' roommate, Lillian. Tess previously was interested in their brother Jim, so she is unsure how Dan views her. She will definitely make sure he knows she is not a flirt!
Appreciation was far better than adoration, a heady feeling.
   --Ibid., 243.
Dan has long felt as the appointed care for his siblings, demanding lookout and no frill off-duty activities. It has carried over into his adult life and mission to be knowledgeable in the latest antisubmarine warfare research. So good, that his commander wants to retain him in the study while Dan wants to put the information to use aboard the carriers at sea.

I liked how Tess and Dan communicated through drawings ~ his straight drafted lines and her added flair in color. Could this transfer over to their lives?

There is deep historical research from war diaries and recounting of actual happenings. Infiltration of information is guarded and known to be leaked to the opposition from someone within their gatherings. It sets doubts in whom to trust and speak around in their normal daily activities, on the job or socially.

This is the second series I have read by this author and find them to be very thorough and informative of earlier days in our country and allies during World War II. The novels in Waves of Freedom may be read as stand-alones but you will want to become acquainted with the Avery family and their friends. This third novel continues on the following day of book two.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from When Tides Turn ~ Chapter 1


Boston, Massachusetts
Thursday, July 30, 1942

A touch of kindness and enthusiasm could transform a person’s spirit, and Quintessa Beaumont delighted in participating in the process.
   “This is lovely on you, Mrs. Finnegan.” Quintessa lined a box with tissue paper on the counter at Filene’s.
 Her customer giggled and tucked a gray curl behind her ear. “Listen to me. I sound like a schoolgirl. All because of a blouse.”
   “Not just any blouse. The perfect blouse for you.” Quintessa laid the floral fabric in neat folds in the box. At first, Mrs. Finnegan had struck her as drab and tired and dowdy. Shame on her for thinking that way—so shallow. But as Quintessa had assisted the older lady in her search, she’d sensed a sweet dreaminess. Mrs. Finnegan deserved a blouse that reflected who she was inside, something to make her happy and confident. Quintessa had found it.
   She settled the lid on the box and handed it to Mrs. Finnegan. “Thank you for your purchase. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
   “The pleasure was mine. You certainly have a gift, Miss Beaumont.” Mrs. Finnegan strolled down the aisle with a new bounce in her step.
   Quintessa returned to the sales floor and straightened racks of summer blouses, which needed to be sold to make room for autumn merchandise.
   Filene’s fifth floor boasted fashionable women’s apparel, designed to meet the War Production Board’s standards to limit use of fabric. For the past ten months, Quintessa had rotated among Filene’s various shops, learning the business and the wares. When her year in training was complete, she could finally put her business degree to use in the offices.
   A few ladies browsed the racks. With so many women working now due to the war, business was slow on weekday mornings.
   A figure in white caught her eye—a naval officer with a familiar determined gait. Quintessa’s heart lurched. Dan Avery? What was her roommate’s oldest brother doing here?
   She smoothed her blonde curls but stopped herself. Why bother? The man was already married—to the United States Navy.
   Although his stride didn’t waver, he gazed from side to side like a lost child, frowning and squinting. Then he spotted Quintessa, and the frown and squint disappeared.
   He was looking for her. Another lurch, with a tingle this time, but Quintessa shoved it aside. She tilted her head. “Lieutenant Daniel Avery. Whatever brings you to Filene’s better blouses?”
   “My mom’s birthday.” Dan rubbed the back of his neck and eyed the clothing racks as if they were a fleet of enemy vessels. “I tried to bribe Lillian to do my shopping for me, but she refused. Some sister. Told me you’d help me find something.”
   Quintessa loved her roommate’s forthright nature. “Does the bribe apply to me too?”
   He didn’t smile. He rarely did, and she didn’t think she’d ever heard him laugh, but his dark eyes twinkled. A no-nonsense man, but not humorless. “I imagine Filene’s disapproves of employees taking bribes.”
   “I’ll settle for the commission.” Shifting her thoughts to her former Sunday school teacher, Quintessa contemplated the summer blouses. “Let’s see. Your mother is about Lillian’s size and coloring.”
   “Plumper and grayer.”
   No wonder the man was still a bachelor. “We would never say that here at Filene’s. She’s more mature.”
   “I’d hope so. Raising the seven of us, she’s earned her gray.”
   Quintessa smiled and flipped through the blouses. Mrs. Avery handled the business end of her husband’s boatyard, and she was neither frilly nor frumpy.
   “How about this?” Quintessa held up a tailored cream blouse with a brown yoke and short brown sleeves. An embroidered green vine with delicate yellow flowers softened the border between cream and brown.
   “I’ll take it.”
   “Let’s see what else we have.”
   “Why?” Dan gestured to the blouse. “Is it her size?”
   “Do you think she’ll like it?”
   “Well, yes, but—”
   “I’ll take it.”
   The man certainly knew his mind. One of many things she found attractive about him. “All right then.”
   Quintessa took the blouse to the cash register and rang up the purchase. “How are things at the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit?”
   One dark eyebrow lifted, and he pulled out his wallet. “We’re making progress, but personally, I want to get back out to sea.”
   “That’s where the excitement is.”
   “And the real work. We finally have convoys along the East Coast, and we’ve pretty much driven the U-boats away. But they’re back to their old hunting grounds in the North Atlantic, and they’re wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The battle’s constantly changing, and we have to stay on top of it.”
   Quintessa focused on making change. Concentration was always difficult when Dan Avery spoke about the war or ships or the Navy. Passion lit the strong lines of his face and animated his firm mouth. If only he’d remove his white officer’s cap and run his hand through his wavy black hair. The wildness of it.
   She puffed out a breath. “Here’s your change. Let me wrap that for you.”
   “Very well.” He slipped the coins in the pocket of his white trousers and glanced at his wristwatch.
   Quintessa gritted her teeth as she pleated the tissue paper inside the box. What was wrong with her? She’d always been drawn to men who showered her with starry-eyed adoration. Now she was drawn to a man who looked right through her as if she had nothing of substance to stop his gaze.
   Shame shriveled up her insides. How could she blame him? He had to know she’d come to Boston to throw herself at his younger brother, Jim—who turned out to be in love with her best friend, Mary Stirling. Dan had also been in Boston when Quintessa was dating Clifford White—who turned out to be married. Surely Dan saw her as a silly, selfish woman with poor judgment.
   He’d be right.
   She worked up a smile and presented him with the wrapped package. “Here you go. Thank you for your purchase.”
   “Thank you for your help. Mom will love it.” He tipped his cap to her and strode away.
   Just as well. She needed to set her head on straight before she started another romance. The past year had turned her topsy-turvy.
   Miss Doyle arrived to relieve Quintessa for her lunch break, but Quintessa headed up to the offices on the seventh floor instead. Her former boss, Mr. Garrett, had retired last week, and she’d only briefly met his replacement, Mr. Young.
   First she slipped into the restroom, powdered her nose, freshened her lipstick, and straightened her chic golden-brown suit jacket. She smiled at her reflection. Feminine, but smart and professional. Perfect for this meeting.
   The business offices buzzed with a tantalizing sense of purpose. Mr. Young’s office door stood open, and she lightly rapped on the doorjamb.
   Her boss raised his salt-and-pepper head, grinned at her, and stood to shake her hand. “Miss Beaumont, isn’t it? Yes, yes. I don’t have the final sales figures for July, but you’re in line to be one of the top salesgirls again. A true asset to Filene’s.”
   An excellent start. “Thank you, Mr. Young.”
   He crossed his arms over his charcoal gray suit. “What can I do for you?”
   “I wanted to speak with you about the next step in my training program.”
   “Training?” He narrowed one eye. “You’re the last person who needs sales training.”
   A sick feeling settled in her belly. Hadn’t Mr. Garrett told Mr. Young why she was here? “Mr. Garrett hired me to work here in the business offices, but—”
   “You’re a secretary?”
   Quintessa maintained her professional smile. “No, sir. I have a bachelor’s degree in business. Mr. Garrett wanted to give me a year of sales experience before starting here. He felt it was important for his assistant—”
   “Assistant?” Mr. Young winced as if he had a toothache. “That might have been Mr. Garrett’s plan, but I just hired a man. These offices are no place for a young lady.”
   “Unless she’s a secretary.”
   “I’m glad you understand.” His face brightened. “Besides, you’re excellent at sales. Why would we waste your talents on boring old numbers and paperwork? And why would we hide that pretty face behind office doors?”
   A pretty face. That’s all she was.
   “Now, off you go.” Mr. Young guided her out his office door. “That’s a good girl. Go make Filene’s proud.”
   Quintessa trudged down the hallway. She’d come to Boston for nothing. She’d worked for her degree for nothing. Lord, what’s the reason for all this? What do you want me to do?
   Patriotic posters by the elevator reminded employees to put part of their paychecks into war bonds. The nation was at war, and everyone was working together. Her roommates Mary Stirling and Yvette Lafontaine worked at the Boston Navy Yard, where American warships were built and repaired. Her other roommate, Lillian Avery, worked as a pharmacist, freeing men to fight.
   But Quintessa Beaumont was only good for selling blouses.

* * *
   After a day like today, Quintessa needed this. She opened the door to Robillard’s Bakery and inhaled the scents of bread and pastry and hospitality.
   “Bonsoir, ma petite Quintessa.” Madame Celeste Robillard raised a plump hand in greeting.
   “Bonsoir, Madame Robillard.”
   “I will be with you in a minute,” the bakery owner said in French, Quintessa’s father’s native tongue.
   “Merci.” Her French roommate, Yvette, had introduced her to Robillard’s, a gathering place for Boston’s French ex-patriates and refugees.
   With sugar on ration, Robillard’s carried fewer pastries and more breads, but today a row of éclairs called from the glass display case. Why not? If she were fat, Mr. Young might want to hide her in the business offices.
   Maybe she’d buy two éclairs. Or three.
   Guilt zinged through her. No, she’d buy four, one for each roommate. How could she forget her friends? After all, she planned to indulge in their sympathy this evening. Didn’t they deserve compensation in pastry form?
   “Oh, ma petite. You are sad.” Madame Robillard’s brown eyes crinkled.
   Quintessa waved her hand in airy dismissal. “Nothing an éclair can’t fix.”
   “Oui.” Madame Robillard opened a pink pasteboard box.
   “Four, si’l vous plait.”
   “You are so kind. Such a good friend.”
   That’s what everyone thought.
   Madame Robillard stopped and studied Quintessa. Wiry curls in brown and gray framed her face, escapees from the loose bun at the nape of her neck.
   Quintessa propped up her smile.
   “Come, come.” Madame Robillard abandoned the éclairs, shoved open the half-door in the counter, grabbed Quintessa’s arm, and guided her to the back wall. “Paris is the cure for sadness.”
   Quintessa had to smile at the Philippe Beaumont lithograph of the Pont Neuf, from Papa’s youth in Paris, before he’d come to America in 1910 and had fallen in love with Mama. His early work sparkled with color and light, influenced by the Postimpressionists.
   Madame Robillard squeezed Quintessa’s arm. “You are sad because of Yvette, non?”
   “Yvette?” Quintessa blinked at the tiny woman. “Why? Is something wrong?”
   “Have you not noticed? She is not herself. At our meetings, what she says is tuned down.”
   “Toned down?”
   “Oui. I am glad she is not so hotheaded, but I worry. It is not like her.”
   Quintessa had never attended one of the meetings with Yvette’s French friends, but Yvette was always one to speak her mind. “Maybe she’s preoccupied with Henri.”
   “Henri Dubois? Non.” Madame Robillard fluttered her hand in front of her chest. “They are like brother and sister.”
   “Not anymore. Last week she told me they’ve fallen in love.”
   “Non, it cannot be. A woman in love is happy, not suspicious, always looking over her shoulder. Yvette is jumpy. Like a little flea.”
   Come to think of it, last night while cooking dinner, Yvette had jumped when the egg timer dinged. Quintessa patted Madame Robillard’s hand. “I’m sure she’s fine. Aren’t we all blessed to have another mother watching over us?”
   “You are too kind.” The baker pressed her hand to her chest. “You young people are far from home with no one to look after you. And here I am, far from my Paris and my sons and my grandchildren. We must be family for each other. And now I must get to work.”
   Quintessa followed her back to the counter. An evening newspaper lay in an untidy mess on an empty table, so Quintessa picked it up.
   The headlines made her shudder. Eight German saboteurs had landed in the US by U-boat in June and were under trial for their lives, with the verdict expected any day. And the Nazi army was advancing in the Soviet Union, unstoppable.
   Awful, awful. She folded the paper to hide the madness
  . “Navy making WAVES.” She stood still and read the article. That morning, President Franklin Roosevelt had signed a bill establishing Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, the women’s branch of the US Naval Reserve.
   Back in May, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps had been formed, and magazines showcased young ladies in olive drab uniforms. Now young ladies would parade in navy blue.
   Purposeful women contributing to the war effort, selflessly serving the nation.
   “Ma petite? Are you all right?”
   “Yes.” Quintessa’s vision cleared. “I know what I’m going to do.”
Sarah Sundin, When Tides Turn Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

Author photo: © Marci Seither

***Thank you to author Sarah Sundin for requesting her novel be sent to me from the publisher. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Anchor in the Storm When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin, coming from Revell, March 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Murder is No Accident by A. H. Gabhart, © 2017

The Hidden Springs Mysteries, Book 3

Cover Art

“The little town that time forgot but murder didn’t.”

Miss Fonda's Victorian House in Hidden Springs
   After Miss Fonda had to go to the Gentle Care Home, Maggie’s mother did say Maggie could come feed Miss Fonda’s calico cat, Miss Marble, who lived out in the garden shed. But the cat excuse wouldn’t help if Maggie got caught inside the house. She’d be in trouble.
   --Murder is No Accident, 7.
   Image result for cat quotes
Miss Marble
Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane is well taken care of supplied with sandwiches and coffee as he makes his rounds in Hidden Springs with Sheriff Potter away on vacation. Be sure to read the author's behind-the-scenes writings in her January 2017 blog posts here. Two new businesses have been added, a tea & bookshop, and an antique store. Both are newcomers and in hope of rising interest in this quaint little town of older residents, all settled for prospective tourist Main Street visitors.

There is quite a difference in Deputy Keane in his quiet care of the town, and Lester Stucker who liked to keep his patrol car dome lights flashing and siren going throughout town. That is an alert to Hank Leland, the newspaper editor, to be scribbling in his notebook and camera ready.

I really like the young teen character, Maggie Greene, who helps her mom clean a couple times a month at the Chandler mansion, dusting and tidying up the vacant home of elderly Miss Fonda who is needing closer care at Mrs. Gibson's house now with her loss of memory. Well partial loss, anyway; she remembers bits and pieces of the past, especially about her beloved home. Remembering how much she loved writing in her journal, sharing verbal stories with Maggie, she would want her quiet hidden space to be Maggie's too...

Anthony Blake and Maggie become better acquainted while at a church youth group fishing outing. She is fifteen and not allowed to date yet. Maggie is amazed that a senior would like her and begin talking to her at school. She takes care of her little brother after school until her parents are home. I like how Anthony checks on them. He is a good friend to have.

Deputy Keane has a returning visitor, placing concentration on his job vision at the forefront. Likely, there may be some who would like to predict what others "will do and should say."

The past becomes unexpectedly revealed. Today has enough troubles of its own. What an opener! Visiting Hidden Springs, it will not be an ordinary day.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Murder is No Accident ~ Chapter 1


When Maggie Greene heard a noise in the big old house below her, she sucked in her breath to listen. She couldn’t get caught up in the tower room at Miss Fonda’s house. That would not be good. It didn’t matter that Miss Fonda had told Maggie she could come here whenever she wanted. The old lady’s face had lit up when she remembered being fifteen like Maggie and hiding out here to write in her diary.
   The tower room was the perfect place to write. But Maggie’s mother wouldn’t think Maggie had any business anywhere inside the house unless they were cleaning it for Miss Fonda. So Maggie kept her visits to the tower room a secret.
   After Miss Fonda had to go to the Gentle Care Home, Maggie’s mother did say Maggie could come feed Miss Fonda’s calico cat, Miss Marble, who lived out in the garden shed. But the cat excuse wouldn’t help if Maggie got caught inside the house. She’d be in trouble.
   The thing was not to get caught. So she stayed very still and listened for what she’d heard. Or thought she heard. No sounds now. Old houses could creak and groan for no reason.
   Maggie crept over to the window and felt better when the circular drive down below was empty. She rubbed a spot clean on the glass with a corner of her sweater. No telling how long since these windows had been washed. The years of grime didn’t let in much of the October sunshine.
   She shivered and pulled her sweater tighter around her. But it wasn’t a feeling-cold shiver. More that kind of shiver that made old-timey people like Miss Fonda say somebody must have walked over their grave.
   As Maggie started to turn away from the window, a car did pull into the driveway. She took a step back, but she could still see the red-and-white sign shaped like a house on the car’s door. She knew who drove that car. Geraldine Harper.
    Everybody in Hidden Springs knew the realtor. They said she could talk a bulldog into selling his doghouse. Maggie had heard her sales pitch back when her parents had hoped to move out of the trailer park and buy a house. That was before Maggie’s father lost his job. Since then, there wasn’t any talk about new houses, just worries about paying the lot rent in the trailer park.
   That didn’t keep Mrs. Harper from calling about this or that perfect house. Calls that nearly always led to arguments between Maggie’s parents. A couple of weeks ago the woman stopped by the trailer where Maggie’s father told her in no uncertain terms to stop bothering them about houses. Mrs. Harper gave him back as good as she got and then kicked their little dog when he sidled up to her, his tail wagging friendly as anything.
   She’d probably kick Miss Marble too if she spotted the cat, but maybe the cat would stay hidden. Like Maggie. If Mrs. Harper caught Maggie in Miss Fonda’s house, things were going to be bad. Really bad. Surely Mrs. Harper wouldn’t climb up to the tower room. She had on a skirt and shoes with a little heel. A woman had to dress for success, she’d told Maggie’s class last year on career day. But she definitely wasn’t dressed for climbing the rickety ladder up to the tower room.
   All Maggie had to do was stay quiet. Very quiet. And hope the woman left soon. She needed to be home before her mother came in from her job at the Fast Serve. The “doing homework at the library” excuse didn’t work past closing time.
   The woman pulled her briefcase and purse out of the car and headed toward the front steps. She must have a key. Maggie couldn’t believe Miss Fonda wanted to sell her house. She loved this house. She was always begging to go home whenever Maggie went to visit her.
   Maggie couldn’t see Mrs. Harper after she stepped up on the porch. She couldn’t hear her either. The tower room was a long way from the front door.
   But what about the back door? That was how Maggie had come in. If Mrs. Harper found it unlocked, she might blame Maggie’s mother. Say she was careless. They might fire her mother.
   Maggie’s heart was already beating too hard before she heard somebody coming up the steps to the third floor. Too soon for Mrs. Harper. She would just be coming in the front hall where the grand staircase rose up to the second floor. But somebody was in the hall below. A board creaked. The one in front of the room that had the trap door to the tower. Maggie always stepped over it, but whoever was there now didn’t.
   Mrs. Harper must have heard the board creak too. Her voice came up the stairway. “Hello?”
   Nobody answered. Certainly not Maggie. And not whoever had just stepped on the squeaky floorboard. Maggie wasn’t sure she could have answered if she’d wanted to. Her throat was too tight.
   The door opened in the room below Maggie and something crashed to the floor. Probably the lamp on that table beside the door. It sounded like a bomb going off in the silent house.
   “Who’s there?” Mrs. Harper’s feet pounded on the steps.
   Maggie desperately hoped whoever it was wouldn’t decide to hide in the tower room. Her heart banged against her ribs, and she put a hand over her mouth to keep her breathing from sounding so loud.
   Relief rushed through her when the door creaked open and the floorboard squeaked again. Where earlier the steps had sounded furtive, now they were hurried. Mrs. Harper’s heels clattered on the wooden stairs up to the third floor. Those steps were narrow and steep, nothing like the sweeping, broad staircase from the first to the second floor.
   Maggie slipped over to the trapdoor into the tower and eased it up a few inches. She couldn’t see anything, but maybe she could hear what was happening.
   “What are you doing here?” Mrs. Harper’s voice was strident.
   The other person must not have found a place to hide. Whoever it was mumbled something, but Maggie couldn’t make out any words.
   “Stealing is more like it.” Mrs. Harper sounded angry. “I’ll not let you get away with it.”
   Maggie did hear the other person then. Panicked sounding. Maybe a woman’s voice. Maybe not. “I can explain.”
   “You can explain it to the sheriff.”
   Mrs. Harper didn’t wait. Her heels clicked purposely on the floorboards as she moved away. The other person rushed after her.
   A shriek. Thumps. The whole upstairs seemed to shake as the bumps kept on. Then it was quiet. Too quiet.
   Maggie lowered the trapdoor and scooted away from it. She waited. Down below, a door opened and shut. Not on the third floor. On the first floor. Somebody leaving the house. Maggie counted to one hundred slowly. Once. Twice. Everything was quiet. Maggie peeked out the window. Mrs. Harper’s car sat in the same place in the driveway.
   What if the woman was hurt? She might have fallen. Something had made all that noise. Maggie couldn’t just stay hidden and not help her. It didn’t matter whether she liked Mrs. Harper or not.
   She took a deep breath and squeezed her hands into fists to keep her fingers from trembling.
   You’re fifteen, Maggie. Stop acting like a scared three-year-old.
   The trapdoor creaked when she lifted it. Maggie froze for a few seconds, but nobody shouted. She put her foot on the first rung of the ladder, but then climbed back into the tower room to hide the notebook full of her stories. She’d never worried about that before, but nobody had ever come into the house while she was there until today.
   She spotted a crack between the wallboards and stuck the notebook in it. When she turned it loose, it sank out of sight. Well hidden. With a big breath for courage, she climbed down into the room. She stood still. All she could hear was her own breathing.
   With her foot, she scooted aside the broken lamp and went out into the hallway. She made sure to step over the squeaky board.
   The silence pounded against her ears. She’d never been afraid in the house, even though people said it was haunted. People had died there. Miss Fonda told her that, but that didn’t mean they were hanging around now. Maggie didn’t believe in ghosts. She really didn’t, but right that moment, she was having trouble being absolutely sure.
   “Mrs. Harper, are you all right?” Her voice, not much more than a whisper, sounded loud in Maggie’s ears. She shouldn’t have said anything. If Mrs. Harper had followed the other person outside, Maggie might sneak out of the house without being seen.
   A little hope took wing inside her as she reached the top of the stairs. Hope that sank as fast as it rose.
   Mrs. Harper was on her back at the bottom of the steps. She wasn’t moving. At all. Maggie grabbed the railing and half stumbled, half slid down to stoop by the woman.
   “Mrs. Harper?” Again her voice was barely audible, but that didn’t matter. The woman stared up at Maggie with fixed eyes.
   Maggie had never seen a dead person out of a casket. She wanted to scream but that wouldn’t help. Nothing was going to help.
   She should tell somebody, but how? She didn’t have a cell phone. Not with her family struggling to buy groceries. Maybe the other person did. The one who had chased after Mrs. Harper to keep her from calling the sheriff.
   But that person must have walked past Mrs. Harper and on out the door without doing anything. Maybe worried like Maggie about getting in trouble. Afraid like Maggie.
  Maggie stood up. It wasn’t like she could do anything for Mrs. Harper. The woman was dead. A shiver shook through Maggie, and she rubbed her hands up and down her arms. She could leave and nobody would be the wiser.
   A chill followed her down the stairs. Her feet got heavier with every step. Whether she got in trouble or not, she couldn’t leave without telling somebody. When Maggie spotted the white cell phone in an outside pocket of Mrs. Harper’s handbag at the bottom of the stairs, it seemed the perfect answer. She didn’t even have to unzip anything. She gingerly picked it up and punched in 911. The beeps sounded deafening in the silent house.
   “What’s your emergency?”
   The woman’s voice made Maggie jump. She must have hit the speaker button. She didn’t want to say anything. She thought they just came when you dialed 911.
   The woman on the other end of the line repeated her question. “Respond if you can.”
   Maggie held the phone close to her mouth. “She can’t. She’s dead.”
   “Who’s speaking? What’s your location?” The woman sounded matter-of-fact, as though she heard about people being dead every day.
   Maggie didn’t answer. Instead she clicked the call off so she couldn’t hear the questions. She started to put the phone down, but then she remembered those police shows on television. She pulled her sweater sleeve down to hold the phone while she wiped it off on her shirt. Her fingerprints were all over the house, but nobody would be suspicious of that since she helped her mother clean there. The 911 voice didn’t have to know who Maggie was.
  Maggie propped the phone against Mrs. Harper’s purse. The police surely had ways of tracking cell phones, so they could find Mrs. Harper easy enough. But Maggie didn’t want them to find her too.
   She slipped through the house and outside. Her hands shook so much that she had to try three times to get the key in the slot to lock the back door.
   When she turned away from the house and looked around, she didn’t see anybody. Not even Miss Marble. She ran across the yard and ducked through the opening in the shrubs. She didn’t think about whether anybody saw her.
A. H. Gabhart, Murder is No Accident Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

Ann GabhartA. H. Gabhart is the author of Murder at the Courthouse and Murder Comes by Mail. As Ann H. Gabhart, she is the bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home, and several popular Shaker novels such as The Outsider, The Believer, and The Innocent. Ann grew up in a small rural town in Kentucky much like Hidden Springs. She and her husband still live on a farm near that same Kentucky town.
Revell Reads

***Thank you, Revell Reads Fiction for a copy of the third book in The Hidden Springs Mysteries. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Two Bits, the cat in Book 1
Grimalkin, the cat in Book 2

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner, © 2017

The Trans-Atlantic Crossing of European War Brides on the Luxury Liner RMS Queen Mary

"Here's a link to a video of war bride, June Allen, who I became friends with in the research and writing of this book. You will love her..." ~ author Susan Meissner

After watching this video, Queen Mary ~ War Brides (June Allen), I was excited to be able to read Susan Meissner's A Bridge Across the Ocean!

I really liked the intro of the ladies we would be traveling with, their back story, before they got on the ship. This gave me a feel for their thoughts and reasoning for their actions when they got together. Amazing, actually, as I was unaware the brides were sent on ships to meet their husbands in America. Somehow, I thought they came together as a couple, as anyone would travel. Mistaken! I came to care for each one individually, to root for them, before they boarded the ship and the adventure before them.
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RMS Queen Mary
This is a composite of brides aboard the vessel and not one, individually ~ it is not June Allen's story specifically, but rather a compilation of women during this time; their trials and separation from what they knew, hopeful to advance to a happier, freer personhood.

Can you imagine being cast together, unsure of whom to trust, would they set you aside?
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Lady Liberty, a gift from France
"There is always a place somewhere in the world where the sun is shining."
   --A Bridge Across the Ocean, 208.
Traveling from England's shores in the 1940s to the New York harbor, a five-day crossing journey surrounds the ocean liner. Arriving in America, the rescuer of the tired, hungry, longing for a new beginning; the war brides are eager to be reunited with their husbands after a longer separation.

Activity on the crossing is brought to the forefront as seventy years later a young wife delves to answer questions for a former classmate, and finds herself seeking answers.
The author has included habitation by ghosts aboard the RMS Queen Mary throughout the story.

Susan Meissner
About the Author ~ Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of A Bridge Across the Ocean, Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, and Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, among other novels.

A Penguin For Every Reader.
***Thank you to Berkley for sending me a copy of this novel. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Laura Story - Open Hands CD, © 2017

“The more I grow as a worship leader, the more I am learning that worship isn’t just the words I sing, but the very posture of my heart,” shares Story. “True worship is more than adoration; it’s coming before a faithful, trustworthy Father with open hands. It’s saying, ‘God, I want to surrender my life to You. I want You to take it all. Whatever comes, let me not respond with clenched fists as if I know best. With open hands, my life is Yours. The joy. The sorrow. The most broken things. I surrender to You. This is my act of worship.'” ~Laura Story

Open Hands CD
Sharing a Giveaway ~ Comment below with your email[at]location[dot]com US and Canada responses only for this CD giveaway offer to be sent from Propeller /FlyByPromotions ~ March 19, 2017, deadline to respond.
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Contents of Music CD by Laura Story ~*Open Hands*~

Death Was Arrested
Open Hands
You Came Running
Give You Faith
For the Love of My King
Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)
Every Word You Breathe
Grace Abounds

The title track—already a chart-topper prior to the album’s release—features guest vocals from Third Day’s Mac Powell, a fellow Atlanta-native and Story’s longtime friend. “You Came Running” borrows imagery from the biblical narrative of the Prodigal Son. In true Story fashion, several selections (“Awake My Soul (1000 Tongues),” “For The Love of My King”) reimagine timeless hymns, which she refreshes with an original chorus.
GRAMMY® award winning artist, speaker, songwriter, author and worship leader Laura Story
but her greatest joy is being a wife to Martin and the mother to Ben, Griffin and Josie.

Grace arrives. Music to experience, reflecting on what is given us in surrender to the One who Knows us best, Who loves us best. You will enJ*O*Y this gathering!

Giveaway to residents of the US and Canada. Recipient of Open Hands CD giveaway will be drawn on March 20, 2017.

“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 a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.