Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason, © 2015

Courage to Dream Series, Book 1

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.
   --Vincent van Gogh

1911, Long Island, New York

James O'Leary welcomes home a son he has accepted as part of the family to the dismay of his son, Adam. Gilbert Whelan has been a great help as a stable hand and now returning from college with a degree in business, James is in hopes that Gilbert can be influential in turning around his holdings, the Irish Meadows horse farm, to carry their family from ruin. With the anti-gambling rulings declining horse-racing, James hopes to continue building great stock for his clients.

Gilbert is grateful to have been sent to college and has dreams of owning his own farm one day to make the Whelan name prosper in place of despair in his father's memory. In return, he agrees to give financial advice and bookkeeping for Mr. O'Leary. There are other plans in the works he is unaware of, plans for his life that are far from his own desires for his future.

Adam O'Leary has so withdrawn from his family, like the prodigal son's brother, he hasn't recognized it has all been his all along. Envy has driven him away.

As an Irish immigrant, James does not want his daughters, Colleen and Brianne, to struggle and plans to orchestrate future sons-in-law from successful families. His daughters have their own plans while competing with each other.

A little outside help enters as James' wife, Kathleen, invites a distant cousin to come and stay with them while he is attending seminary. Rylan Montgomery seems to be just the right addition to bring to light his observations of interworkings of the O'Leary family.

I especially liked the growth in Colleen as she finds those outside of herself are important. She becomes caring and giving, truly out of character for her as her sister Brianne has formerly been used to.

I liked the introduction to this family and look forward to book two in the series when we will learn more about Adam.

Susan Anne Mason
Susan Anne Mason's debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children. She can be found online at her website and on Facebook.

*** Thank you to author Susan Anne Mason and Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of Irish Meadows to review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Summary: “At the renowned Irish Meadows horse farm in New York, 1911, sisters Brianna and Colleen O’Leary struggle to reconcile their own dreams with their father’s plans for the farm and his demanding marriage expectations”—Provided by publisher.

Enjoy this excerpt from Susan Anne Mason's Irish Meadows ~ Chapter 1


MAY 1911

LATE-AFTERNOON SHADOWS chased Gilbert Whelan up the long drive to the O’Leary mansion. The fanciful images seemed to bolster him from behind, giving him the courage to push forward. Even so, his steps slowed as he approached the flagstone path leading up to the house. A wave of homesickness tightened his throat, his suitcase weighing heavy in his hand. Had it really been the better part of three years since he’d crossed the threshold? Gil swallowed the bitter taste of guilt that plagued him and continued to the foot of the wide, welcoming staircase. He set his battered bag on the ground and took in the familiar view—the wraparound porch, the double front door. He’d come here as a child with his widowed mother, who’d hired on as the O’Learys’ housekeeper. Gil still found it difficult to think of the tragic illness that had claimed his mother’s life and led to him being taken in as part of the O’Leary family.
   Belonging . . . yet not belonging.
   Gil ran a hand over the large white column to his left, his touch hesitant, nearly reverent. The red bricks of Irish Meadows had changed little since he’d been gone. If only the same could be said of its inhabitants.
   Gil let his hand fall away with a sigh. If he’d had his way, he wouldn’t have come back at all—for a multitude of complicated reasons. But he owed the O’Learys too much to avoid them any longer. So, he would stay long enough to repay his debt to his guardians, and then he’d move on to start a life of his own.
   Lord, I could really use Your guidance here. Give me the strength to do what needs to be done without hurting anyone in the process.
   Behind the ornate doors, Gil knew the family would be waiting to greet him like a long-lost son returning home. Reluctant to face their exuberant welcomes just yet, Gil turned down the stone path and made his way to the one place he felt most at home—the O’Leary stables. When he rounded the corner of the house and spied the enormous barn, a thrill of anticipation shot through him. How blessed he’d been to work on such a top-notch farm, raising and training the best racehorses on the eastern seaboard. At James O’Leary’s feet, Gil had learned everything he needed to branch out on his own one day soon.
   As he entered the building, Gil breathed in the familiar scent of hay, horse, and manure. He’d missed working with the animals almost as much as he’d missed the O’Learys. Manhattan was an exhilarating city, but Gil far preferred the fresh air, wide skies, and open meadows of Long Island. Especially in the spring when all of nature bloomed anew.
   His gaze skimmed the immaculate mahogany stalls with their engraved brass nameplates for each thoroughbred. His ears tuned to the horses’ quiet nickering, a sound more beautiful than a symphony. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Gil made his way to the one stall he’d be able to find blindfolded. When he raised the latch, Midnight Royalty gave a loud whinny in greeting. In an instant, Gil had his arms around the great black neck, murmuring words of affection for his friend. The horse tossed his head, flicking his nose to send Gil’s cap sailing into the straw.
   Gil laughed out loud. “I’ve missed you too, boy. But I’m home now.” For a while anyway. He stroked his hand along Midnight’s sleek flank. “Looks like they’ve been taking good care of you while I was gone. Your coat’s as shiny as I’ve ever seen it.”
   “I brushed him every day for you.”
   Gil’s hand froze on Midnight’s back, every vertebrae of his spine stiffening.
   Brianna. The one person he’d been trying not to think about, trying not to imagine seeing again for the first time in three years. He swallowed hard, and then turned to find her standing in the open doorway of the stall. His lungs seized, trapping his air, while his heart beat an unsteady rhythm in his chest.
   The sprite of a girl he’d left behind had matured into a beautiful young woman. Clad in a dress of soft green that showed off her slim figure, Brianna stood quietly, hands clasped against her skirts. She wore her reddish-gold curls swept atop her head, leaving a few strands clinging to her slender neck. Wide green eyes watched him as though trying to gauge his reaction.
   “Brianna. It’s good to see you. You look . . . wonderful.” He wiped his hands on his wool pants and moved forward to kiss her cheek. Her delicate scent, a cross between green apples and roses, met his nose.
   A smile lit her features. “Thank you. You look well yourself.”
   He glanced down at his brown tweed vest and linen shirt. “I feel in need of a bath after the dust from the train and the walk here from the station.”
   A slight frown knit her brows together. “You should have called. Daddy would have sent Sam to get you.”
   He gave a sheepish shrug. “I wanted to walk. It felt good to breathe the fresh air after the grime of the city.”
   She stepped into the stall. “I’m glad you’re home, Gil. I . . . we’ve missed you.”
   The already tight space seemed to shrink. Gil managed a brief smile. “I’ve missed all of you, too.” More than you know. “And look at you. You’ve gone and grown up while I was away.” He hoped his voice conveyed a levity he didn’t feel. This mature young woman left him sorely out of his element. Where was the tomboy he’d felt so comfortable with? “Tell me, who’s the lucky man courting you now?”
   “Who says anyone is courting me?”
   He stuffed his hands in his pants pockets. “You’re almost eighteen. About to graduate. I assumed—”
   “Well, you assumed wrong.”
   The pinched lines around her mouth told him the subject was not open for further discussion.
   She turned away to pick up a piece of hay and shred it between her slim fingers. “So how does it feel to be finished with your college courses?” she asked brightly.
   He studied her profile for a moment and decided he’d let her get away with changing the subject. He’d learn all the family news soon enough. “It feels like I’m finally starting my life. Doing something that matters.” He bent to retrieve his hat from the floor and brushed the dirt from the brim.
   She tilted her head. “Getting your degree didn’t matter?”
   “It’s a means to an end, that’s all.”
   “I think going to college would be the most thrilling thing ever. Living in the city surrounded by all the people and excitement.” Her eyes glowed brighter than the stars he’d missed since leaving Irish Meadows.
   He shook his head, chuckling. “Same old, Bree. Always dreaming of adventure. Glad to see some things haven’t changed.”
   A slight flush colored her cheeks. Very attractive cheeks in a very attractive face.
   He turned to run his hands down Midnight’s haunches. “Looks like Sam’s been exercising him regularly.” The head groom, Sam Turnbull, had taught Gil everything he knew about training horses.
   “Of course. Sam always keeps his word.” She stepped closer, trapping Gil between Midnight and the wall, and laid a warm hand on his sleeve.
   Gil went completely still. If he moved his head, his nose would brush tendrils of her hair. His throat became as dry as the dust that coated the floor, the tight enclosure suddenly too much to bear. He slipped around her and pushed the stall door wider. “We’d best be going. I’m sure your mother’s waiting.”
   “All right.” The disappointment in her voice matched the regret that stole the sparkle from her eyes.
   Gil had hoped by now her childhood crush on him would have faded. That had been the main reason he’d stayed away, to give her time to mature and find a more suitable male to become interested in. And he’d vowed that when he returned to Irish Meadows, he would do nothing to encourage her. After all, they were practically family.
   With a last rub of Midnight’s nose, he latched the door behind him. They’d taken a few steps when the sound of a motorcar pulling up to the house echoed through the open stable doors. Brianna stopped dead in the middle of the corridor. She whirled around, eyes huge. “That’s Daddy. I have to go.”
   Instead of heading toward the main doors, she set off at a fast pace toward the back of the barn, the swish of her skirts kicking up a cloud of dust.
   “Wait.” Gil fell into step beside her, eying her dress that was anything but suitable for the barn. “What are you doing down here anyway?”
   She paused to raise slightly vulnerable eyes to his. “I knew you’d come here first. And I wanted to be the one to welcome you home.” A car door slammed, and she jumped. “Please don’t tell Daddy I was here.”

   Brianna O’Leary slipped through the back door of her family’s home and down a small corridor to the kitchen. It was the only way to reach the back staircase without running the risk of bumping into either of her parents. Leaning against the doorframe to get her bearings, she closed her eyes and released a frustrated breath.
   For weeks she’d daydreamed about Gil’s homecoming— imagined what it would be like to see him again, to have her best friend back. Yet the reality of their reunion had not lived up to her expectations. Their connection—once so strong and unbreakable—now seemed as fleeting as the afternoon sun that filtered through the barn. Gil had acted awkward and halting around her, as though he felt uncomfortable with her nearness. How would they ever return to their former closeness if he kept an invisible wall around him?
   Brianna squared her shoulders in firm resolve. What she needed was a different approach, a new plan to gain Gil’s confidence, as well as his help in changing Daddy’s mind about her future.
   But first she had to reach the shelter of her room. Daddy wouldn’t like it if he found out she’d waylaid Gil in the barn. Her father had made it plain he would no longer tolerate her hanging around the stables, and now she only rode her beloved Sophie when he wasn’t around to scold her.
   Brianna peered around the corner into the busy kitchen. Mrs. Harrison barked orders to the scullery maids, who scurried to do her bidding. Steam whistled from the large pots on the stove. The enticing aroma of freshly baked bread made Brianna’s stomach grumble. With dinner preparations in full swing, she hoped she’d be able to slip by the cook unnoticed.
   When Mrs. Harrison turned to stir a pot on the stove, Brianna lifted her skirts and tiptoed across the tiled floor.
   “Is there something I can help you with, Miss Brianna?” The woman threw an amused glance over her shoulder.
   Brianna froze in the middle of the room, then forced an innocent smile. “Mama was wondering how long until dinner.”
   The plump cook wiped a bead of sweat from beneath her white cap, then fisted a hand on her hip. “You don’t fool me for a minute, missy. You’ve been down to the barn to see Master Gilbert, and now you’re sneaking back in.”
   “How did you—”
   “I’ve known you since you were a babe. You never could hide anything from me.”
   Brianna’s cheeks heated. “I had to see Gil”—before Colleen gets her claws into him—“before everyone starts fussing over him.”
   Mrs. Harrison chuckled. “I’ve missed that boy almost as much as you have.” She winked at her. “Go on and freshen up. Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes.”
   “Thank you.” Brianna let out a relieved breath and dashed from the kitchen to the back staircase.
   Once safely in her room, Brianna locked the door and plopped down on her quilted bed, the iron frame squeaking under her. She reached beneath the mattress and pulled out her journal to read the words she’d penned that very morning.
   Goal for the summer: Enlist Gil’s help in persuading Daddy to let me go to college in the fall.
   She sighed and snapped the book shut. Not oV to a promising start. She supposed she couldn’t expect her relationship with Gil to remain the same as it had been before he went away. In fact, she didn’t want it to. Her silly schoolgirl crush was a thing of the past, the passing fancy of an immature fifteen-year-old. Her focus now was on getting an education and seeing more of the world outside Irish Meadows. Romance could play no part in her life for the foreseeable future.
   The only thing she wanted from Gil was his assistance with her father. To that end, she would make renewing her friendship with Gil her top priority.
   After checking her appearance in the mirror, Brianna descended the grand central staircase to the entry hall below. Her hand slid over the polished mahogany rail as she moved, her ear attuned to the sounds of her family below. She paused for a moment before entering the formal parlor, relishing her siblings’ giggles and the snatches of conversation drifting into the hall. She could picture her father sitting in his usual armchair, nose in his newspaper, her mother perched on the edge of the brocade settee. Adam would be standing at the French doors, looking out over the back gardens, and Colleen would be seated beside Mama, trying to ignore the antics of the two youngest O’Learys, Connor and Deirdre.
   Taking a deep breath, Brianna entered the elegant room. Her eyes automatically scanned the room for Gil. Ignoring the dip of her heart when she didn’t see him, she bolstered her flagging smile and continued forward.
   Her mother glanced up from her book. “There you are, Bree. We thought you’d fallen asleep in your room.”
   “Has Gil not arrived yet?” she asked in what she hoped was a casual tone as she moved toward the marble fireplace.
   “Mrs. Johnston said he got here earlier, but of course he went to see the horses first.” Mama laughed and shook her head. “I swear that boy loves those animals more than his family.”
   “He is not family.” Adam’s voice seethed with bitterness.
   Brianna gave an inward sigh. She’d hoped her older brother would have gotten over his resentment of Gil by now, but apparently it had as strong a hold on him as ever.
   Daddy snapped the paper closed. “Gilbert has been raised in this house as one of us. I will not tolerate any animosity toward him.”
   “Of course you won’t.” Scowling, Adam turned back toward the window.
   Seconds later, the clatter of footsteps broke the tense silence in the room. Gil burst through the parlor door, straightening the sleeves of his jacket, which he’d apparently donned in a hurry before dashing down the stairs.
   He broke into a wide grin. “Hello, everyone.”
   Brianna stood oV to the side as the whole O’Leary clan fawned over him, welcoming him home. Mama hugged and kissed him, then dabbed a handkerchief to her eyes. Daddy shook his hand and clapped him hard on the back, beaming, while Deirdre and Connor clamored for Gil’s attention.
   Brianna remained in the background, content to drink in the sight of him. His black hair still waved over his forehead in unruly curls despite his attempt to tame them. His eyes, under the dark sweep of his brow, were still the same intense blue that used to jolt her heart like a bolt of electricity. The only change was the breadth of his shoulders and chest, visible beneath the tweed suit jacket. He’d filled out while he was away, looking more man than boy now.
   Her pulse quickened. Had he noticed similar changes in her appearance? That she was no longer the tomboy who’d followed him around the barn and the horse track every day? She frowned and pushed away the errant thought. What did that matter since she was only interested in Gil’s friendship?
   He stepped toward her, and Brianna froze. Would he give away the fact that she’d been in the stables?
   “Bree, it’s good to see you again.” He bent to kiss her cheek as if he hadn’t already greeted her earlier.
   His amused wink allowed her to relax, confident he wouldn’t reveal her secret. She smiled and played along. “And you, as well.”
   Gil looked past her, his smile freezing in place. “Hello, Adam.”
   Adam came forward with obvious reluctance to give Gil a quick handshake before stepping back. Brianna stiffened as Colleen sashayed over, the swish of her silk skirts drawing every eye. Glorious auburn hair accentuated her older sister’s flawless skin and vivid blue-violet eyes. Beside her, Brianna’s freckled skin, nondescript red-gold hair, and slim silhouette always went unnoticed.
   Colleen leaned in to give Gil a lingering hug. “Welcome home, Gilbert,” she purred, her cheek pressed to his.
   A fierce stab of jealousy ripped through Brianna’s midsection. Colleen had worn a low-cut gown that highlighted her assets. With half the county’s eligible men vying for her attention, did she have to capture Gil’s, too?
   As the family moved down the hall into the dining room, Brianna squeezed her hands into fists at her side, determined to keep her feelings in check. Yet an underlying fear rose up to choke her. She’d worried that when Gil came back, he’d become enamored of her sister and totally forget Brianna existed. Gil was her friend. They’d shared a bond that had excluded everyone else, even her beautiful sister. Secretly, Brianna had reveled in the knowledge that Gil had never shown any interest in Colleen. But would all that change now that Colleen had blossomed into a voluptuous woman?
   Her jealousy, Brianna told herself, had nothing to do with wanting Gil for herself. She was only looking out for Gil’s best interest. The fact that Colleen could beguile any man quicker than a spider could snare a fly made Brianna all the more uneasy. She’d have to do something before Gil became the next unsuspecting victim of one of her sister’s cold-hearted schemes.
   “Gilbert, my boy, it’s great to have you home.” Her father helped Mama into her seat, and then motioned Gil to take the chair next to his at the head of the table.
   Gil smiled. “It’s good to be back, sir. I can’t wait to get out and work with the horses tomorrow.”
   Her father frowned. “I thought you’d start on the books first. I’m eager to put that business degree of yours to good use.”
   The lines around Gil’s mouth tightened.
   Mama clucked her tongue. “James, let the boy have a few days to rest before you besiege him with bookwork.” Her gentle chiding brought a rush of color to Daddy’s face. “I’m sure Gil longs to give Midnight a good workout. Besides, he deserves a bit of a holiday. He’s worked every summer and never had any sort of vacation.” With a flick of her wrist, Mama opened her napkin and laid it across her lap.
   Gil shot her a grateful look. “I could use a few days to unwind.”
   His gaze swung the length of the table, catching Brianna’s stare. Those vivid blue eyes she’d missed for so long seemed to look right through her. It used to be that Gil could tell her every thought, every feeling, without her having to say a word.
   The servants’ door opened, breaking their connection, and the kitchen maids filed in with the covered dishes, placing them on the sideboard with a flourish.
   “We’re having your favorite tonight, Gil,” Deirdre said in a loud whisper across the table. “Mama said we could have my favorite tomorrow.” Her seven-year-old cheeks glowed with the good health of outdoors and innocence.
   “Thank you, Dee-Dee. I’ll admit I’ve been looking forward to Mrs. Harrison’s roast pork for weeks now. My mouth watered at the very thought of it.” Gil gave the girl a bold wink, making her giggle.
   “And we’re having chocolate cake for dessert.”
   “Only if you eat all your main course, young lady.” Mama’s attempt at sternness fell short with her light laugh. “And that goes for you, too, Connor O’Leary. No scraping the peas into your pocket to dispose of later.”
   Eleven-year-old Connor gave their mother an impish grin. “For chocolate cake, I’ll even eat extra peas.”
   Idle chitchat flowed easily while her family ate the scrumptious meal Mrs. Harrison had prepared especially for Gil. Once the chocolate cake had been sliced and served, along with more glasses of milk, tea, and coffee, Brianna started to relax. So far things had fallen back into a familiar rhythm—almost as though Gil had never left.
   “Before I forget, I have some news to share.” Her mother stirred her tea, the silver spoon tinkling in the dainty china cup. “I received a letter today from my cousin Beatrice in Ireland. You remember her, James. The one whose son is in the seminary.”
   Her father patted his mustache with a linen napkin. “Yes, of course. Studying in Boston, isn’t he?”
   “Yes. But he’s coming here to Long Island as part of his internship. He’ll be assisting at St. Rita’s.”
   “Well, well. What a small world. We’ll have to have him over for dinner.”
   Mama laid down her spoon and cleared her throat. “Actually, that’s why Beatrice is writing. She wondered if we could put him up for a while. The rectory is undergoing renovations at the moment, and they have no place for him.”
   Daddy’s eyebrows drew together. “I don’t know, Kathleen. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with a priest under our roof. Bad enough on Sunday morning.”
   Brianna tensed at her father’s disapproving tone.
   “He’s not a priest yet. And we could put him up on the third floor so Gil won’t feel so isolated.”
   Silence hung in the air, broken only by the scrape of forks against plates as Connor and Deirdre polished off every last crumb of cake.
   “He’s family, James. And we have plenty of space.” Mama’s tone became pleading.
   Brianna hid a smile behind her napkin, knowing her father could never refuse her mother when she used that tone.
   “The connection is distant at best. Isn’t Beatrice your third cousin or some such thing?”
   “Family is still family.”
   He gave Mama a look that would have withered most of his business associates, but Mama only smiled serenely, waiting.
   At last, Daddy shook his head in apparent defeat. “Fine—as long as he doesn’t expect me to attend daily church services.”
   Her mother clasped her hands together and beamed. “I’ll send a telegram tomorrow and let him know.”
   Across the table, Brianna caught Colleen rolling her eyes. Her sister had little tolerance for anything religious. Only the wrath of their mother made her comply with their weekly church attendance.
   Basking in her small victory, Mama leaned back against the plush dining chair, her teacup in hand. “So, Gilbert, tell us about your young lady. How is the grand romance progressing?”
   The air tangled in Brianna’s lungs. She knew Gil had been seeing a girl in Manhattan, but she had assumed since she hadn’t heard anything lately, they had parted ways.
   Gil cleared his throat. “I’m afraid my . . . association with Miss Haskell has come to an end.”
   Mama’s cup clattered to the saucer. “Oh, Gil. I’m sorry. I’d hoped that we might expect a wedding announcement in the near future.”
   Gil’s attention shifted to his plate, color staining his neck.
   “Isn’t her father the professor you worked for at Columbia? The one you spent every holiday with?”
   Brianna stopped stirring her tea at the hurt in her mother’s voice. How many times had Mama railed against the man who had hired Gil as his assistant, keeping Gil too busy to come home, even for holidays? And Brianna had agreed whole heartedly. Other than the first Christmas after he left, Gil had not been back once to Irish Meadows.
   Lines bracketed Gil’s mouth. “One and the same. However, I fear Professor Haskell holds a grudge because of the termination of my relationship with Laura. He, too, hoped for a betrothal.”
   A minute of silence passed while everyone appeared to digest this latest news.
   Then her father clapped Gil on the shoulder, looking decidedly relieved. “Not to worry, my boy. There are plenty of available young ladies in the area. As a matter of fact, I have one in mind for you myself.”
   The tension in Brianna’s shoulders cinched the nerve at the base of her neck. “Really, Daddy. I’m sure Gil doesn’t need you to find women for him.” The words erupted from her mouth before the thought had fully formed in her head. A streak of fire heated her neck and cheeks.
   Her father scowled at her. “That is no concern of yours, missy.” He turned to Gil, pushing his chair back as he spoke. “Let’s adjourn to the study. I have several important matters to discuss with you.”
   Gil’s soft look of sympathy as he passed Brianna’s chair did nothing to lessen the sting of her father’s words. With Daddy’s usual dismissive attitude, she was once again relegated to the background of her father’s existence.
Susan Anne Mason, Irish Meadows Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2015.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E. Ladd, © 2015

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Summary: "Born into two different classes, James and Camille shouldn't even know each other. But when the pursuit of a missing ruby brings them together, much more than a mere acquaintance is ignited. The daughter of a curiosity shop owner, Camille would never be considered a lady. Nor does she want to be. With a fiery personality, she dreams of adventures far beyond the walls of her family's modest business. But when her father thrusts a mysterious box into her hands and disappears, her whole world -- dreams and all -- shifts. James is an apothecary, tending to the health needs of the town of Bentworth. His father, a well-known explorer and collector, is quite wealthy from the spoils of his adventures until one risky gamble and a stolen gem leave him on the edge of ruin. Seeking his father's approval, James picks up the hunt for the stolen ruby, leading him to the door of Camille's curiosity shop. With both of their lives in danger as the ruby remains at large, James squires Camille away to the Bentworth School, believing that would be the last place her pursuers would look for her. They both find their hearts and dreams heading in a new direction, but before they are free to embrace their future they must solve the mystery looming around them. The more they uncover, however, the harder it becomes to know whom to trust. And they begin to realize that recovering the ruby may require a great sacrifice: their newfound love and maybe even their lives."-- Provided by publisher.

A treasures of Surrey novel; book 1 ~ England, 1812
What an amazing story ~ not so much because of the intertwining of greed, but of lives developing into relationship beyond stations in life. Their hearts matter and definitely what you believe matters. Jonathan Gilchrist finds this out as his aspirations are challenged. He is an apothecary and is attempting to keep a contagious disease from spreading throughout the school and into the village. On top of that, his father sends him on a venture to a trusted confident, or so it is thought.
   The tears blurred everything before her into a misty mess of browns and grays. She peered through them at a group of young girls playing by a back stoop and then a cluster of women chatting with baskets over their arms and mopcaps on their heads.
   Slowly reality dawned.
   After a lifetime of living in one place, surrounded by the same people, she should have somewhere to go.
   But there was no one for her to turn to.
   Like it or not, her life was defined by the hours spent in the shop, her social connections limited to her patrons and the occasional merchant.
   --The Curiosity Keeper, 94-95
Camille Iverness has lived above the curiosity shop since her mother deserted them years before. But not all is as it seems. One's perspective can be shifted by unsuspected events from those believed least likely to expose them. Such strong character brought about by daily serving, Camille does the next thing, setting out to do good. Within the framework of an institution likely not known for change, she is given an opportunity to bring her skills and assertiveness to aid those in her care. Before her classes fully begin, she is reassigned to a greater task bringing relief beyond what she even knew she was capable of assisting.
   The exclusion of his remaining son was glaring. "And Mr. Jonathan Gilchrist? Is he interested in such things?
   "Bah." The father's expression had hardened at the mention of his younger son. He straightened his chair. "Jonathan has never shown interest in anything much beyond his bottles and jars and life in the village. Hard to believe he's my son, what with how different he is."
   --Ibid., 157
As Camille and Jonathan's lives intersect, hidden art comes to the surface as they examine who they truly are and what is value beyond price. Their very lives and future do not depend on what is sought but on what is kept alive by hope. Intriguing how they find this out and... the mystery of the exploring.
   She did not know what had compelled her to speak so openly. But there was something about him that made her want to share her heart. To tell him everything.
   --Ibid., 265
This story weaves between those in search of the ruby and the intent of their heart, and extricating yourself from the expectations and demands placed on this lost "jewel." The intricate ending brings to the surface true life in its purest form beneath the unpolished surface.

Sarah Ladd's stories are rich in detail and unassuming in outcome. You can't be sure it is going to end like you think, or desire it so. For those who have read her previous books, you will be delighted to venture again with her characters. For new readers, you are in for a treat! Excellent intrigue and interaction, the thread of mastery is woven throughout. Point A to Point B is not simple and has twists and turns between suspense. You'll be glad you trod the open road with them.

Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever. Facebook: SarahLaddAuthor Twitter: @SarahLaddAuthor

***Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for this review copy of Sarah E. Ladd's The Curiosity Keeper. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Heart's Promise by Colleen Coble, © 2015

Journey of the Heart series

Part 5 of 6 in the Journey of the Heart series ~ 
Will the promise Emmie makes to her friend mean the end to her dreams of a future with Isaac? Find out in book five, A Heart’s Promise, of my A Journey of the Heart series. Emmie Croftner let Isaac Liddle go to avoid telling him about her past. But Isaac remains determined to win Emmie’s heart and hand. Can she live happily without Isaac?
   --author Colleen Coble

My review:
This six-part novella series is a reissue of the Wyoming series, earlier works by Colleen Coble ~ Where Leads the Heart and continuing Plains of Promise, to be enjoyed by new readers and renewed by those who read them when they were first published almost a decade ago. The story continues as Emmie Croftner has just found out she is with child. Deceived by Monroe, his true wife arrived after his funeral. Emmie is now at Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming Territory with her good friends, the Campbells.

I read this part of the story without stopping. I am looking forward to the conclusion in part 6, coming next month.

late-October 1866
Distrustful of any intentions, Emmie turns away from Rand Campbell's friend, Lieutenant Isaac Liddle. She is certain if there were more unmarried women at the post, his attentions would wane. For sure, if he knew the truth about her. With the arrival of their commanding officer and his daughter, an overheard conversation could bring a disturbance for Emmie, beyond what she'd ever expect.

Emmie makes a good friend with Maggie O'Donnell, an Irish lass and her younger sister, Mary. Wise she is to strike up this friendship. An earlier friend separated from Sarah is reunited with her. Hope is left in the balance as this story nears an end. (to be continued in next month's issue...)

Collen Coble's Blog

These are the six serial parts published in short installments at regular intervals, as a novel appearing in successive issues of a magazine. The blog tour dates are:

Book One
 ~ A Heart's Disguise: March 10 - 31, 2015 ~ review content
Book Two
 ~ A Heart's Obsession: April 10 - 30, 2015 ~ review content
Book Three
 ~ A Heart's Danger: May 11 - 31, 2015 ~ review content
Book Four
 ~ A Heart's Betrayal: June 10 - 30, 2015 ~ review content
Book Five
 ~ A Heart's Promise: July 10 - 31, 2015 ~
Book Six
 ~ A Heart's Home: August 10 - 31, 2015 ~

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to join the blog tours for the Journey of the Heart series by Colleen Coble, and to Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending me a copy of Book Five, A Heart's Promise for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

A Heart's Disguise, Colleen Coble
Book 1
A Heart's Obsession, Colleen Coble
Book 2
A Heart's Danger, Colleen Coble
Book 3
A Heart’s Betrayal, Colleen Coble
Book 4
A Heart's Promise, Colleen Coble
Book 5
Image result for a heart's home by colleen coble
Book 6
~*Take it to the Beach with Colleen Coble’s ‘A Heart’s Promise’ and Tote Giveaway*~

Will the promise Emmie makes to her friend mean the end to her dreams of a future with Isaac? Find out in book five, A Heart's Promise, of Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series. Emmie Croftner let Isaac Liddle go to avoid telling him about her past. But Isaac remains determined to win Emmie’s heart and hand. Can she live happily without Isaac?

Take a day off and head to the beach with a new giveaway from Colleen: five books (books one–five in Colleen's A Journey of the Heart series) and a beach bag to tote your new books in!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Heart's Promise
  • A Lands' End beach tote
  • A copy of A Heart's Betrayal
  • A copy of A Heart's Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart's Obsession
  • A copy of A Heart's Danger
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 31st. Winner will be announced August 3rd on Colleen's website.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen, © 2015

revised and updated, includes Bible Study

"You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us."

Redefining Hands
Available in the Potter's hands to be made into a new vessel ~ not the one I think I need nor the picture of the life I thought I was supposed to have. Join this beautiful journey with God. I like this quote:
"God was writing a story for my life I never would have written."
   --Anything, 145
What if we got beyond ourselves, to the very heart of God to be all of who He created us to be? His alone; His love encompassing us! Not our "shoulda, coulda, woulda, oughta" but His "Rest in Me, I have it covered?"

Jennie shares, gathering insight, overcoming doubts, really doing what He asks us ~ for our good and for His plan, changing us, sharing Him, beyond learning about Him ~ to know Him.

Jennie talks about what was further after she and her husband, Zac, prayed "anything," surrendering to God, letting Him change them, for every day of their lives. Yielding everything. Daily abandon, preferring others to yourself. Jennie speaks of letting the person who just drove up have the parking space ~ laying our "rights" down? To pursue reconciliation quickly rather than letting it fester ~ and cause us to go inward instead of loving and being a peacemaker?
"I wanted time for the other things God was leading us toward. And somehow in all the little deaths, in seeing more of God, I was watching my soul untangle."
   --Ibid., 105
One interesting thing is, words on a page will speak differently to each reader for we are not cookie cutters in the same shape or place. I feel this writing reflects Psalm 139 and 23 ~ we are so loved, and He delights in guiding us.

The added Eight-Week Study Guide in the back begins reading a section of chapters, Scripture and reflection questions; and if you have done any of her other studies in a group setting, the Conversation Cards are so revealing to our heart. Part 1: Everything Keeping Us From Anything; Part 2: Praying Anything; Part 3: Living Anything; with reference Notes.

Jennie Allen is a passionate leader following God's call on her life to catalyze this generation to live what they believe. She is the author of Restless and the Bible studies Stuck and Chase, and is the founder and visionary of IF: Gathering. Jennie is married to her best friend, Zac, and they have been blessed with four children.

***Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending me a copy of Jennie Allen's Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Convenient Bride Collection, © 2015 ~ review of Mona Hodgson's Keeper of My Heart

KEEPER OF MY HEART is one of nine novellas in The Convenient Brides Collection. Join shootist, Neelie "Shott", as she meets up with The Boone's Lick Wagon Train Company just west of Fort Kearney, Nebraska.

Keeper of My Heart and 8 other novellas, available July 1! A blog post.

As you are running away, could you actually be running to the life meant especially for you?
Keeper Dunes Graphic

Fort Kearney, May 1866
Sharpshooter Neelie Shott starts out with a bang, but soon hightails it out of town with the hopes of catching up with the caravan of wagons heading West. From the sound of it, they can't be too far ahead; what with her quick steed and their slow turning wheels, two weeks past will be no distance for her.

Adventure lies ahead with Neelie's hopes of further lining her own pockets, with amazing skills with her cross-draw six-shooters while riding atop her galloping mustang, Whistle.

Setting out from Saint Charles, Missouri, in the spring of 1866, The Boone's Lick Wagon Train Company has passed Fort Kearney in South Nebraska, an important post on the Oregon Trail. Widower Ian Kamden and his five motherless children journey on after the death on the trail of his wife, Rhoda. So many dreams set aside.

A surprise was in store for Neelie when she reached the wagon train. Having read the previous stories, I was surprised too!

I love how Neelie's life is turning out ~ all of the things she thought were not accessible for her ~ love, recognition, a caring heart, nurturing, fulfillment.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. --Psalm 63:1 NASB
Anna sees her. How lovely to be seen beyond what we see of ourselves! Davonna sees her. To be accepted and stood up for just exactly as you are ~ for right now, and then change begins! Ian sees her. No need to hide anymore. Come as you are, to be cherished.

I am looking forward to further adventures West with The Boone's Lick Wagon Train Company.

***Thank you to author Mona Hodgson for sending me a print copy of The Convenient Bride Collection. I am reviewing her story, Keeper of My Heart. I have so enjoyed the previous stories of The Boone's Lick Wagon Train Company. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Prairie Song, the first book in the Hearts Seeking Home Series, chronicles the overland journey of the westbound Boone’s Lick Wagon Train Company; a sequel to The Quilted Heart Novellas.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund, © 2015

Beacons of Hope Series, Book Two

Hearts Made Whole"As you get ready to head out on your vacation or to a weekend getaway, I hope that one of the books you'll pack to read is my newest release, Hearts Made Wholethe second book in my new lighthouse series, Beacons of Hope. If you didn't read the first book, Love Unexpected, don't worry! While the books have some overlapping characters and themes, they can definitely stand alone."
   As with the first book in the series, Hearts Made Whole is set at a real Michigan lighthouse, Windmill Point Lighthouse. Windmill Point Lighthouse once existed on Lake St. Clair on the rural outskirts of Detroit. It was a strategic beacon that helped ships cross from Lake Huron over into Lake Erie as those ships transported raw goods from the Northwest states to eastern cities and seaports.
JuneNLWindmill 2   The lighthouse is named after the old ruins of a windmill where early frontiersmen brought their grain for grinding. Today, all traces of the original windmill and lighthouse are long gone. If you visit Grosse Pointe in the Detroit area, all that remains is a small conical structure with a white flashing light.
   --author Jody Hedlund 

My Review:
The Great Lakes lighthouses of Michigan are the settings for Jody Hedlund's Beacons of Hope Series. In book 2, Hearts Made Whole, it is 1865 and Caroline Taylor is acting lighthouse keeper after the drowning of her father ~ that is, until the lighthouse inspector, who needs a "y" added to his last name, determines it is now time to get rid of her and her younger siblings. Mr. Finick has come to tell her to vacate as he has replaced her with a man who served two years earlier at Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Upon the new hiree's arrival, Caroline is in for quite a shock and wallops him ~ until they both realize the misunderstanding. He has arrived early before her tenure is up. Ryan Chambers moves into the boathouse as a refuge and an isolation.
   He released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and finished ascending. He didn't know much about lighthouses, but he knew enough to understand that the light at the center of the room was a small sixth-order lens, the smallest light designed for lighthouses. He'd expected a larger lens for a station located in such a strategic position, one that handled the heavy commerce of boats traveling around the horseshoe of Michigan from Chicago to Detroit and on to Buffalo.
   --Hearts Made Whole, 76
Fortunately, Ryan allows them to stay as he is in need of training. I liked the descriptions of the lighthouse keeper's work. Caroline's younger twin brothers, Harry and Hugh, need rescuing more than once. Their sister, Sarah, is bedridden. She is entertained by sister Tessa, who is quite a rascal, herself. You can't help but become endeared to this family and the help they are to Ryan as he overcomes obstacles from war remaining to hold him down. Caroline's friend, Esther Deluth, pops in to be a rescuer to Caroline's cause. The nearest neighbor is recluse Monsieur Poupard. Mysterious happenings cause Caroline to become watchful for her family.

I liked this story and the uncertainty of what was going to happen, as it drew the family together. Be ready for a few surprises you may not see coming.

Jody HedlundJody Hedlund is the bestselling author of nine novels, including “Captured By Love,” “Rebellious Heart,” and “A Noble Groom,” winner of the 2014 Carol Award and INSPYs Award. She received a bachelor’s from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.
   Find out more about Jody at her website.

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a review copy of Jody Hedlund's second book in the Beacons of Hope Series, Hearts Made Whole. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

prequel ~ $0.00 for Kindle
Beacons of Hope Series #1

Old Fashioned Novelization / Rene Gutteridge; and Devotional ~ Old Fashioned Way / Ginger Kolbaba, © 2014

Old Fashioned is a work of fiction. Where real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales appear, they are used fictitiously. All other elements of the novel are drawn from the authors’ imagination.
Old Fashioned Novelization by Rene Gutteridge; based on the screenplay by Rik Swartzwelder.
Turning his back on his reckless lifestyle, former frat boy Clay Walsh has settled down to run an antique shop in a small Midwestern college town . . . and to pursue lofty and outdated theories on love and romance. But when Amber Hewson, a free-spirited woman with a restless soul, rents the apartment above his shop, Clay can't help being attracted to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life. Amber also finds herself surprisingly drawn to Clay, but his ideas about relationships are unusual to say the least, and they bring to light her own deep wounds and fears about love.
author Rene Gutteridge

My Review ~ Old Fashioned Novelization:
Heartwarming. I watched the film first and reading the script novelization leaves a tilt of the head and a visual of each step on the stairs so vivid. Very enjoyable. Thinking how often Rene must have watched the movie to get each nuance beyond reading the script. Excellent.
[Note from author Rene Gutteridge: 3 hours ago thanks for the review!! And fun fact: I never saw the movie until after the book was totally done! I just used the script!]

I liked the theme of the movie and the many quotes so worthwhile.
"I know how weird it sounds . . . but a lot of the boundaries that used to be common, that we've thrown away, were there to protect us. We don't have to go around using each other, hurting each other. It doesn't have to be that way."
   --Clay, Old Fashioned, 58
You will enjoy getting to know the main characters, Amber Hewson and Clay Walsh. By what they learn from each other, others around them from Clay's college days surface with a dichotomy that is overridden by truth.

I am wooed by Clay's antique shop. To find the past and present together, restoring what was to what is. A memory to be enjoyed once again. Lives being renewed to what they can be. A rocking chair keepsake restored to its beauty for a man who says:
   "Possessions don't mean much outside of who they belong to and what they meant to that person. This here rocking chair always stood in our family as a representation of what we were capable of overcoming."
   --Ibid., 65
So many interesting people along the way. Especially Clay's Aunt Zella. People so purposeful in our life. A reaffirming, a redirecting by one who loves us so. Honoring God is always win-win. Come along as Clay and Amber find a better way to express their hearts with trust building transparent and alive.

Enjoy an excerpt of Old Fashioned Novelization by Rene Gutteridge; based on the screenplay by Rik Swartzwelder ~ Chapter 1


HIS DAY STARTED OUT quiet and ordinary, the way he liked and assured himself of. The morning light of early autumn rose in the east and filtered through the old, cracked windows of the antique shop, carrying with it smells of dust and wood shavings and varnish.
   Every morning for nine years, before the sun fully slipped from its covers, Clay had unlocked the old shop. The store was tidy and presentable, like a perfectly tailored suit, showcasing the uniqueness of all the antiques. Everything, as it always did, had its place.
   This morning he stood in the midst of them, carefully surveying the room and inventorying what he might need to acquire this week. Some items he found at estate sales. Others, the more unique pieces, George brought his way. Most needed, at the very least, a good buffing; typically they needed much more. They came to him as trash. But with hard work—tried-and-true elbow grease—there was rarely anything that couldn’t be restored. There was no magic in it, but sometimes when he was finished, it felt otherworldly. A piece would arrive at his doorstep hopeless and pathetic and leave him one day treasured and beautiful.
   Wax did wonders. So did sandpaper. And paint.
   But the truth was, not everything could be fixed.
   It was this early part of the morning that he loved so much, before the busyness of the day began. At the back part of the shop, through the swinging doors, was his little slice of heaven, where the smell of sawdust stirred in him a delight he’d never been able to fully explain to another soul.
   Clay set his keys and coffee mug aside, keeping the front lights off because Mrs. Hartnett had a bad habit of dropping by before the crack of dawn if she saw a light on. He knelt beside the small rocker he’d been working on the last several days. An elderly man had dropped it off, hardly saying a word, paying for it in advance even though Clay insisted he didn’t need to do that.
   “What’s your story?” he murmured, his fingers gliding over the now-smooth wood. The chair was a hard-bitten thing when it came in, chipped and cracked and neglected, smelling vaguely of smoke. Whenever he worked on an old piece of furniture—or anything else, for that matter—he found his mind wandering to possibilities of where it once came from and how it had gotten to where it was now. Most pieces had spent dark days in attics and basements and back rooms that never heard footsteps. Somewhere in their lives, they’d served a good purpose. The lucky ones stayed in the house but sat invisibly in a corner or by a couch, an annoying place to have to dust, a thorn in the side of someone who wished it could be thrown away, except for the guilt attached because it belonged to a great-grandmother who’d spent her very last pennies to acquire it, or some such story.
   Yesterday he’d cut and whittled the rocker’s new back pieces and today he would stain them. Clay grabbed the sandpaper and walked to the table saw where the slats waited, lined up like soldiers. As he ran the sandpaper across the wood, he could practically hear the creak of the rocker and the laughter of delighted children in another century.
   He sighed, rolled up his sleeves, and sanded more quickly. Sometimes he thought he’d been born in the wrong century. There was hardly a kid today who would care about sitting in a rocker on the edge of a porch and watching a spring storm blow in. The world that he once thrived in had become a noisy, clangoring, messy place. But here, in the shop, with sawdust spilling through shafts of dusty light, he found his peace.
   The sandpaper soon needed replacing, so he went to the corner of the room where he kept his supplies and reached for a new package. Then he snapped his wrist back at the sudden and sharp pain in his hand. It hurt like a snake had bitten him. Blood dripped steadily from the top of his hand and he cupped his other hand beneath, trying to catch the droplets.
   Clay searched the corner, trying to figure out what had snagged him.
   There, on the old wooden gate he’d found in an abandoned field: barbed wire. The back side of the gate was wrapped in it when he’d found it, and he hadn’t had time to cut it off yet. He looked at the wound as he walked to the sink. It was bleeding so fast that it was actually seeping through his fingers, dripping on the floor.
   What a mess.
   He ran it under the water. It was more of a puncture wound but mightier than it looked. The blood poured, mixing with the water. And it didn’t want to stop, even for the phone.
   The shrill ring cut through the still air, coming from the rotary phone he had mounted on the wall next to the sink. Keeping his wounded hand under running water, he answered it.
   “Old Fashioned Antiques.”
   “It’s me.”
   “Lisa. Hi. I’m kind of—”
   “I know, I know. Busy. As you always are. Why don’t you answer your cell? Do you even carry it with you? Don’t you text? People need to get ahold of you sometimes, you know. What if it’s an emergency? What about that kind aunt of yours?”
   “She finds me through the postal service.”
   “Anyway, I need to drop off the stuff for the thing.”
   “Are you going to be there this morning? Silly question. Where else would you be?”
   “The hospital.”
   “I might be. You never know. Maybe I got tangled in some vicious barbed wire. I might be bleeding out even as we speak, and here you are completely oblivious.”
   Lisa sighed. She never got his humor. “I’m being serious. Can I bring it by?”
   In the background, Clay could hear Lisa’s daughter, Cosie, screaming at the top of her lungs. “She okay?”
   “She’s throwing a fit.”
   “So she’s in time-out?”
   “You know we don’t believe in punishment.”
   “I know. I just keep thinking you’ll change your mind about that.”
   “So I’m coming by later, okay? And remember, this is a total surprise. Not a single word to David about it.”
   “I’ll make you a deal: I won’t tell David if I don’t have to come to the party.”
   “Clay, he would be crushed.”
   “You know I’m just there to boost your numbers, fill in the empty space.”
   “True. But you’re still coming. And not a word. I’ll see you later.”
   She hung up and Clay raised his hand toward the light. It had finally stopped bleeding. He put a Band-Aid on and started mopping up the blood droplets all over the floor.
   It was a lesson every person learned one time or another in their lives—never cross paths with barbed wire.
“Look at that, would you? Look at it!” Amber let go of the steering wheel with both hands and put her knee underneath to keep it steady. She gestured, glancing at Mr. Joe. “Nobody gets this. I realize that. I do. But see how the road winds, and then off it goes, through the trees? You don’t really know what’s around the bend, see?”
   Amber put her hands back on the steering wheel, then gave Mr. Joe a quick scratch behind the ears. She’d temporarily let him out of his carrier, though he tended to get carsick if left out too long. “You’re unimpressed, as usual. But there’s something beautiful about roads. They’re so full of possibilities. . . . Of course, you can always die in a horrific crash, too. But mostly, it’s just about going somewhere. Anywhere. It’s about what’s around that bend, Mr. Joe. What’s there?”
   Amber’s Jeep whizzed around the curve, clearing the trees as the road straightened. Her windows were down, the wind tearing through her hair so fiercely that it was going to take a good hour to comb it out, but she didn’t care. She turned the music up. “Lovely Day” was on the radio, and she nudged her cat like he might sing along with her.
   Then she saw it. “Whoa.” She slowed and craned her neck out the window for a better view. “Mr. Joe, look at that!” Large stone buildings seemed to rise right out of the earth, sprawled across several acres. White concrete sidewalks disappeared into rolling hills and hazy light illuminated the branches of all the trees, like a scene out of some kind of fairy tale. The entrance read Bolivar University, but it looked like medieval England.
   She leaned toward Mr. Joe and gave him a wink. “Apparently we’ve stumbled across Camelot. I told you I knew what I was doing when we hung a left back there.”
   Mr. Joe meowed in agreement.
   As she drove on, Amber squeezed the fingers on her right hand. Her wrist was starting to throb, probably due to the cast more than the injury. It should’ve healed up fine by now. On the top of the cast was Misty’s name, scrawled in red with little hearts.
   She focused her attention back on the road. She couldn’t spend emotional energy missing those friends left behind. But as she passed Camelot, she had to admit, it was always hard not to glance in the rearview mirror.
   Still, she had to be resolved to press forward, find whatever was around the bend. She kissed Misty’s name and left it at that.
   This was beautiful country, and having spent much of her life on the road, she knew it when she saw it. Amber gazed at the trees. Some of the leaves were starting to turn that fiery-red color she loved so much. Soon, a cool wind would sift through them, lifting them into the air and then cradling them to the ground.
   Ahead, a sign said, “Welcome to Tuscarawas County.” How did you even pronounce that?
   The speed limit indicated she should be going much slower, so she let off the gas. The last thing she needed was a ticket, and small college towns were notorious for planting police officers everywhere. It was probably how they made half their annual budget. Past the university by only a mile was the beginning of the town attached to it. It looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. She was probably somewhere near Amish country too. She’d have to look at her map at some point, but her best guess was she was in eastern Ohio.
   “Charming little place . . . like old-Coca-Cola-sign charming.”
   The car lurched and lurched again, throwing Mr. Joe off-balance. His ears flattened. Then the engine sputtered and gurgled. Amber smiled but kept driving.
   She made it through the town square, going less than twenty-five miles an hour, in ten minutes. A small gas station ahead had a flat, yellow carport extending over only two gas pumps. It looked like it had been built sometime in the 1950s and seemed to be the last stop before the road stretched ahead and turned out of sight.
   She deliberately drove on by, her gas light glowing yellow.
   Then the engine died. With the momentum she had left, she pulled to the side of the road and let go of the steering wheel. The gas station was a five-minute walk behind her, no more.
   Mr. Joe was purring again, wrapping his body around the empty glass jar he shared the seat with. Amber took the keys out of the ignition and relaxed into her seat just a bit. The temperature was so perfect. It reminded her of Monterey in April. The sky, bright and blue, was totally cloudless.
   “What do you think, Mr. Joe? Home?”
   The cat blinked slowly like he was fighting a nap. Amber got out and looked around. The trees were still lush and dense, so she couldn’t see far.
   At the back of her Jeep, she opened the hatch, careful not to let everything spill onto the ground. Boxes of clothes, gently packed dishes, bins full of photographs. And on top of it all sat a huge bulletin board, the colorful pushpins she’d bought somewhere in Michigan still stuck into the cork. It amazed her that her whole life could fit into the trunk of a car. She grabbed her purse from under her travel bag, found her red plastic gas can, and closed the hatch.
   Through the open passenger window, she picked up Mr. Joe and put him in his carrier. “All right. You know what to do. Don’t be afraid to bare your fangs if you need to. Try not to look so sweet, okay? That’s not going to keep anyone away.”
   As she walked toward the gas station, Amber tried to take it all in. She didn’t see any stoplights. She liked towns that were more partial to stop signs. The buildings had character but also had an air of vacancy to them. Over the tree line, puffs of factory smoke rose like ascending, transparent jellyfish. Toward the east and across a small field was an area that looked a little more developed, with some houses and restaurants, as best she could tell.
   At the gas station’s convenience store, a bell announced her arrival. It smelled like coffee and motor oil with vague hints of diesel. The man behind the counter wore a stained blue mechanic’s jumpsuit with a patch that read Larry. He smiled pleasantly, setting down his newspaper. “What can I do you for, young lady?”
   Amber put a five-dollar bill on the table. “Just need some gas.”
   “Five dollars ain’t gonna get you very far,” he said. “There ain’t another town—gas station either, for that matter—for sixty-seven miles.”
   “I’m staying here for the moment.”
   Larry grinned. “Is that so? Well, welcome. We got a great catfish place—serves it up all you can eat—just around the corner there.”
   “Sounds fantastic. I’m looking to rent a small apartment.”
   Larry pointed to a stack of newspapers by the door. “That’s our little publication round here. It’s got a section for renters.”
   “Thank you.” Amber grabbed the paper and walked outside to fill her gas can.
   When she returned to her car, Mr. Joe’s face was pressed up against the wires of his cage, his unblinking eyes staring her down for leaving him behind. She popped the gas tank open and stuck the gas can’s nozzle in. Then she spread the newspaper across the hood of her car.
   She had two criteria—cheap and furnished. “All right, boy. We’re gonna go see if we’ve got a place to sleep tonight.”

“There you go—good as new,” Clay said, rocking the chair back and forth. “Well, maybe not as good, but look, you’ve been through a lot. I’ve given you a pretty good face-lift. Let’s face it: you’re never going to be twenty again. But ninety is the new forty.”
   Clay stepped back. The varnish would need twenty-four hours to dry, but it looked really nice. He checked his watch. Ten minutes until time to open. He sighed, sipped his coffee, and drew stick figures in the sawdust with a scrap piece of wood.
   Sometimes he attributed it to caffeine jitters, but other times he knew it was nothing of the sort. There was a restlessness scratching him from the inside. Not even a quiet workday in the back of the shop cured it. He worked hard to be content, happy even, where he was in this world, making a simple living and being a simple man. It was, however, the slightest tickle of discontentment that edged him into unwanted thoughts about the state of his life.
   The quiet of the shop that usually tamped the needling hum of his thoughts was suddenly undone by . . . blaring music? That was nothing new in this town but unusual near the town square. The college kids were more likely to go down the strip, where the bars and restaurants were. At night. Clay checked his watch again. It wasn’t even 9 a.m. Who would be blaring their music at this hour?
   The bass rattled the more delicate items sitting around the shop. The little figurines that usually stood perfectly still, frozen in their poses, looked to be dancing ever so slightly.
   Then, as if it had been blown away by a breeze, the music stopped.
   Clay lifted the rocker, carefully placing his hand underneath it to avoid the new varnish. He wanted to put a few screws in the bottom to make sure it was secure, but he could do that at the front of the store, where he needed to be during store hours.
   He was headed for the front counter when he saw her. She didn’t notice him at first. She was browsing, her fingers delicately brushing over a lamp, a frame, and then a pile of old books. Her attention moved to the hand-crank phonograph that he’d estimated to be over ninety years old. She stood for a moment looking at its detail, and he stood for a moment noticing hers—curly brown hair, a little wild, like she’d just blown in with a tumbleweed. Bright, playful eyes. Beside the phonograph, in a square, woven basket, he kept two dozen 45 rpm EPs, sometimes more if he hit a good garage sale. Her fingers walked the tops of them, flipping them one by one, before she slipped one out of its black cover and gently guided it onto the turntable, then gave it a crank or two. It came to life, warbling and slow at first, but then a light and pretty piano solo began to play. Dave Brubeck, easy to spot for his unusual time signatures.
   Without warning, she turned toward him. For a reason he couldn’t explain, Clay raised the rocking chair up a bit.
   The woman smiled. “You look like you’re in prison.”
   He blinked. Then realized he was looking at her through the slats in the back of the rocker. He quickly lowered it. Why was she staring at him? Her big brown eyes searched him like he was some interesting antique. He felt like an antique, so it was fitting.
   “I like your little store,” she said. “Old Fashioned. Cute.”
   She gave him one more long, concentrated look as though something entertaining might happen, then continued to explore the shop.
   “Can I help you with anything?”
   And then he heard the scream. So familiar, yet it always made him cringe and clench his teeth. Two seconds later, the door flew open and the pint-size tornado blew in, her arms whirling, her face wild with excitement.
   A second after that, Lisa came charging after her, carrying something plastic under her arm and a great deal of exhilaration on her face.
   The screaming stopped as Cosie leeched herself onto Clay’s leg. She looked up at him and grinned, scrunching up her nose. “Hi.”
   He patted her head. “Hi, Cosie.”
   “You gotta see this!” Lisa said.
   Clay sighed. That sentence was almost always followed by something that he not only didn’t have to see but usually didn’t want to see either.
   Lisa set the plastic thing down in the center of the shop.
   It was a training toilet. Pink and white. Shaped like a castle. Some princess character on the side looked inflamed with an enthusiasm that was apparently supposed to encourage peeing on ancient structures.
   Clay knew from experience that once Lisa set her mind to something, there was no use fighting it. He gave the woman standing in the store a sheepish grin and an apologetic shrug. Weirdly, she seemed unaffected and totally interested in what was about to happen. Maybe Clay was missing the extraordinary part of this moment.
   Surely not.
   Lisa had now squatted on the floor and was beckoning Cosie over with gestures big enough to get an elephant’s attention. Her voice rose three octaves, a technique supposed to induce compliant behavior in a two-year-old.
   “Come on, Cosie. Go tee-tee.” She tapped the potty with her other hand.
   But as usual, Cosie stared at her, completely disinterested in the event.
   “Do it for Mommy. Go tee-tee. Go tee-tee.”
   Clay glanced down at Cosie. She wasn’t budging. For some odd reason, it made him smile inside. He kind of liked that she balked at the unusual way her parents were raising her and instead preferred the status quo of peeing in private.
   Lisa’s voice was rising by the second. Her eyes were growing large. Real large. Large enough that if there weren’t a potty and an antique shop involved, one might think she was about to be killed in some horrific manner.
   “Cosie! Go tee-tee!”
   Apparently Cosie was also going deaf.
   Then movement. Cosie took one step, setting off the strobe lights in her tennis shoes. If Clay watched them too long, he got a headache.
   Another step. Clay swore he saw tears in Lisa’s eyes. Lisa clapped precisely twice and nodded. Another step. Then another. Cosie stood over the potty now, gazing into the plastic hole. A smile slight enough to be mistaken for a gas bubble caused Lisa to beam like a searchlight.
   Then Cosie lifted her leg, and for a second Clay thought she might be going the way of the dog. But instead she kicked the potty. And kicked again. The castle tumbled across the wood floor. Now the small smile had broken into a full-fledged grin. And Lisa’s had dropped off her face.
   She rose and gasped. “Cosie! No!”
   Clay couldn’t resist. He walked over to Lisa and put his arm around her. “I am so proud.”
   She shrugged his hand off, clearly wrecked. Her whole life’s worth at this moment hinged on whether her kid could use a castle potty in public. Clay wasn’t about to say it, but the fact that the kid had enough sense not to go in the middle of an antique shop made him think Cosie was going to do just fine in life.
   Cosie finally noticed the woman who’d come in, recognizing her as unfamiliar. She gave the potty one more nudge with the side of her shoe, clasped her hands behind her back, and grinned at the lady.
   Lisa grabbed the toilet with a huff, acknowledging for the first time that there was someone other than Clay in the shop. “Who are you?” she asked.
   “I live in the apartment upstairs.”
   Clay’s mouth dropped open. “Wha . . . ?”
   Lisa glanced at Clay, gave him that same old look: You never tell me anything. Clay scratched his head, equally perplexed. Cosie ran to him and he picked her up. She mindlessly combed the back of his hair with her fingers, like always, as they all three looked at the woman.
   Lisa was gesturing that he should explain himself, but he wasn’t sure what to say. Nobody lived up there. He would know. He was the landlord.
   “Just needed to get the key,” the woman said. There was a childlike quality to her, a mischievous twinkle to her eye that reminded him of Cosie. She looked to be about thirty, but he was never good with ages.
   Clay cleared his throat. “The key?”
   She only smiled, gave Cosie a wink, and walked out of the shop. Clay hurried after her, handing Cosie to Lisa.
   “What’s going on?” Lisa said, a hand on her hip, but Clay just went out the door, trying to figure it out himself.
   The woman stood on the sidewalk outside. She took something out of the bag over her shoulder. A pen. Then she held out her hand and he saw the cast on it.
   “Sign, please.”
   “Um . . .” Clay’s face suddenly started itching—a sure sign he’d landed out of his comfort zone. He scratched it lightly, hoping it would go away. She just stood there with her arm out. And she was smiling at him. Blinking with those awestruck eyes.
   So he signed. There seemed to be plenty of space. He glanced at her Jeep and found a cat perched on the passenger window, watching him closely, its tail twitching with sharp disapproval.
   When he looked back, she was studying her cast. “Clay what?”
   “Walsh,” he said. “Clay Walsh. . . . You have a cat?”
   She held out her hand to shake. It was awkward with the cast, but they managed. He gestured to it. “What happened?”
   “Amber Hewson.” And then, without another word but still with that engaging smile, she got her cat from the car, tucked it under her arm, and walked toward the stairway that led up to the apartment.
   Clay stayed where he was, trying to get his bearings, blinking in the sunlight, realizing that the loud music earlier had come from her car. He watched her climb each stair, wanting to look away but not able to. He swallowed. Not enough spit. Then too much. And why was he blinking so much? He stuffed his hands in his pockets because that’s what he did when he didn’t know what to do with them.
   Amber was at the top now, staring down at him. “The key?”
   “Oh. Yeah. Of course.” Clay pulled his key ring out of his pocket. And then he started up the stairs, trying to twist the apartment key off the little circle, trying to get her brown eyes out of his head.
Rene Gutteridge; based on the screenplay by Rik Swartzwelder, Old Fashioned Old is New, LLC, © 2014.

The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance ~ by Ginger Kolbaba; based on the screenplay by Rik Swartzwelder. Official companion to the novelization/film.

Contrary to popular opinion, being "old fashioned" doesn't mean you're dull or unromantic. In fact, a true old-fashioned relationship can be more exciting and romantic than anything you've ever experienced! So what does it mean to do things The Old Fashioned Way? Sure, it means opening doors, holding out chairs and taking things slow. But a true old-fashioned romance goes much deeper than that. Inspired by the motion picture OLD FASHIONED, this book shows how to reclaim the lost art of romance by introducing romantic love as God intended it—for all of us. Regardless of past experiences, where you've been, or where you are now, you can find and create a love that will last a lifetime.
Image result for ginger kolbaba
author Ginger Kolbaba
The goal, the noble end, is the same for all of us: moving closer to God, closer to how we're called to live. The goal of this book is to inspire and create a hope and longing for us to be our best selves, regardless of how fractured we are.
   ...Ultimately, this book is about grace—what we offer and what we can receive. The old fashioned way starts with how we treat others—before we even begin with romance.
   --Ginger Kolbaba, introduction The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance, xiv

My Review ~ Devotional, The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance:
Expressing beyond the film, this conversational forty-day journey interacts with hearing the stories and reflection questions and journaling.

My husband and I have been married thirty-one years; he still opens my car door. Years ago he told me, "If you want a gentleman, you will need to allow me to be one." And he is. I was drawn to him by how he treated other people. He is still the kind and caring man he ever was. He loves the Lord and prays over our family for immediate needs, and during his quiet time every morning. He is a gift. Just a couple days ago, our youngest daughter sent me a message ~ "How did we get so blessed to get a man like him in our lives?"

I liked in the movie how Clay and Amber asked questions to learn about each other. In Appendix B there are conversation starters. Appendix A shares getting started ~ to becoming a strong potential mate; supportive guidelines, choosing in advance.  As our pastor says, "What you believe matters." Turn a fictionalized story into joy for your life. And freedom.

Enjoy an excerpt of The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance by Ginger Kolbaba; based on the screenplay by Rik Swartzwelder ~ Days 1, 2, and 3


what’s right about
today’s dating scene

CLAY: I don’t believe our job is the looking, it’s the becoming. Once we are the
right person . . . when we’re ready . . .
AMBER: But if you don’t ever date, how will you know?

MY FRIEND TODD HAS BEEN MARRIED FIVE YEARS. He and his wife have built a strong relationship that has carried them through job loss and several other challenges. They’ve started a family, and whenever I talk with him or hear updates on him from other friends, the news is always good. He’s happy. He’s satisfied. He’s still deeply in love.
   Todd and his wife met through an online dating service.
   Wait, an online dating service? How is that old fashioned?
   After Todd spent years searching for the right woman, going on numerous dates—some he initiated, others initiated for him through the infamous blind-date system—he felt more and more discouraged at his prospects.
   “Nothing felt right,” he says. “I wasn’t dating anyone, was scarred by past hurt, and felt pretty lonely. I began wrestling with why it seemed that every woman I met was not a right fit—it was always a dance of square pegs and round holes. Maybe, I thought, the selective matching of online dating would present not just a wider pool—but prescreened compatibility.”1
   That it did. And after a month of talking over the computer and phone and learning more about each other’s character, likes, dislikes, temperaments, and personalities, Todd and his now-wife decided to meet each other. They had a good foundation to start building a relationship on. And the rest, as they say, is history.
   Technology, the improvement of life, and our contemporary dating scene have a lot of great things going on. Some Internet dating sites—such as eHarmony—have hit upon an important aspect of building the basics of relationships. Rather than focusing on physical attributes and sexual chemistry as the main determinants of relational worthiness, these sites center on personality and character, understanding that marriage needs more than physical attraction to make it last.
   Modern dating also allows people to focus on building friendships. I know many couples who date in group settings, for instance, in order to allow their trusted friends and family to help them see their potential beloved in a more objective light. Singles groups, church groups, and hobby groups allow for interaction and connection in a (hopefully!) nonthreatening way.
   To be sure, nothing is perfect in the world of dating, so you may have tried these options and found them lacking.
   Where Todd and his wife got it right was in not idealizing romance. The good thing that many online dating services have going for them is that they push their users to address things that may never get out in the open in a dating relationship: who the other person really is—not the facade he or she is presenting, the issues that are important, deal makers and breakers. Dating websites and similar opportunities allow the user to bring these issues to the forefront so that prospective dates can get a quicker understanding of what makes a person tick—issues that may not come out in a relationship until further down the road or even never at all—until meeting the divorce attorney after a marriage has gone sour.
   I am not implying that today’s dating scene or Internet dating sites or church singles groups are holy ground, nor am I suggesting that you sign up for an online dating service. I just wanted you to know that even though I’m advocating the old fashioned way, today’s dating scene has some old fashioned similarities that are worth considering and affirming: namely, getting to know the other person beyond appearance and physical chemistry.
If you live a life guided by wisdom, you won’t limp or
stumble as you run.
   • List some of the good aspects of today’s dating ideas and methods. Then explain why you think they are good. For instance, if you list personality compatibility profiles, offer reasons for needing to know about someone’s personality before you get too involved in a relationship or why the other person needs to know about your personality.
   • Think about what you can offer another person. What are your strengths, not just in a romantic way, but in a lifelong- partner way? What are some weaknesses that you need to work on? Write those out, and then discuss them with God.

God, I’ve gone in so many different directions, trying to find the right person I can share my life with. I’m often discouraged and frustrated because no one seems to fit or truly connect with me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way.
   Help me to see beyond the typical dating scene and look to the type of person who can grow my character and love me for who I am, and whom I can love as you love. But most of all, keep me attuned to your desires for whom I should allow into my life in a deeper, more committed way.


what’s right about
yesteryear’s dating scene

I know how weird it sounds . . . but a lot of the boundaries that used to be
common, that we’ve thrown away, were there to protect us. We don’t have to go
around using each other, hurting each other. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I REMEMBER WHEN I FOUND OUT my friend Amanda (not her real name) was moving in with her boyfriend of two months—a man who had a string of ex-girlfriends (with whom he had also fathered children). In fact, he was still living with his most recent ex-girlfriend and their baby and was now dating my friend.
   “Amanda, why would you do that?” I asked. “He’s still involved with his ex!”
   “Well, not really,” she told me matter-of-factly. “He’s still living there, but that’s it.”
   She informed me that they were moving in together because it would be cheaper, plus it would help them know better if they were compatible enough to get married.
   I pulled out every reason I could think of for them not to move their relationship in the direction they were headed. I told her that statistically speaking, couples who live together before they marry are more likely to get divorced and to experience domestic violence, and they actually experience less satisfaction in their marriages than if they wait to live together until after they marry.1 I told her that as Christians we are called to live differently—counterculturally—from what the world says is acceptable, that God’s boundaries were put in place for healthy, good reasons.
   Her response: “I don’t set myself up for failure.”
   Life in the “good old days” seems passé and prudish. Our culture tells us that if we love someone, we should be able to be with that person immediately and experience all the benefits of married life without actually being married. Our culture continues to try to eliminate sexual behavior from discussions of morality.
   To a crowd of civil-rights activists in the black American community, comedian Bill Cosby recently said, “No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being [a] father.”2
     Although Cosby’s comments drew criticism, he makes a good point. Yesteryear’s way of dating and commitment in relationships may have been more difficult, but it was ultimately set up to protect us from undue harm and shame. It kept our consciences and actions in check. Part of being old fashioned is having a realistic view of sin, the world, and human nature. To be sure, the church throughout the years has in many ways overcompensated on the shame part, but being truly old fashioned is a balance of understanding sin and forgiveness, shame and grace.
   Abolishing shame completely signifies how much we’ve lost the moral compass that God designed for us and that society, for so long, held us accountable to.
   Instead, today men who try to act chivalrous are often accused of being sexist. We talk about “friends with benefits” as though we can separate the physical actions from the emotional, spiritual, and psychological consequences. Old cultural norms and assumptions are not necessarily true: men and women are now both “players.” And without beating up too much on Hollywood or pop culture, many would acknowledge that we send a confusing message to ourselves and to the rest of the world.
   Going back to the traditions of our past isn’t a bad thing! Although they are counter to what our culture (and even some churches now, sadly) says is “normal,” they also safeguard our hearts, minds, and bodies from regret and hurt. These traditions keep us pure (an old fashioned word!) and protected for the person who will ultimately become our spouse.
   But you may be thinking, Well, I’ve blown it. I’m not “pure.” The beauty of this ideal is that through forgiveness, God can clean up your past and make you pure again. Purity really isn’t just a one- time cleansing and then you’re done; it is ongoing. And thankfully, God offers us a better way to live and relate to others—and with that comes a clear conscience and, ultimately, peace.
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think
about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the
Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.
So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads
to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads
to life and peace.
—ROMANS 8:5-6
   • What are some things current cultural attitudes would believe are old fashioned in relationships? Do you believe those things are old fashioned? Why or why not?
   • If you’ve struggled with living out old fashioned ideals, has it been because of pressure from others? Some other reason? How were you swayed?

The apostle Paul offers one of the best yeses in the Bible. Read Romans 8:5-6 (today’s Scripture verse) and consider: Is this true in your life? Think about the times in your life and your relationships when you said yes to God’s Spirit leading you. Did that decision give you peace? Write about those times as reminders of the power and importance of saying yes to the right things.
   Now think about the times in your life and your relationships when you went your own way, pressured someone to cave in, or caved in yourself to the pressure of others around you. How did those decisions make you feel? Did they provide peace, or regret and angst? Write about those times as reminders of the importance of staying true to God’s call for morality on your life.


but the old fashioned way
is so old fashioned

There are no knights in shining armor, but you think you’re Cinderella,
don’t you?
IN OLD FASHIONED THE CHARACTER LUCKY CHUCKY is a radio shock jock who doesn’t agree with pursuing an old fashioned way of life. He believes that life is meant to be enjoyed without bounds. He sees the hypocritical nature of people who say one thing and act differently. He observes that those in the church often seem as lost and confused on this stuff as “the world” is, that chivalry is dead, monogamy is outdated, and abstinence is for, well, no one. If you feel it, do it. Don’t allow the emotional or spiritual side to get tangled up in the mess. Relationships are first and foremost about chemistry, he believes. Or simply personal pleasure.
   Apart from any spiritual or religious boundaries, let’s be honest: what Lucky Chucky believes makes sense. The physical side of romance feels good. Why not enjoy it without the strings of commitment and responsibility? Besides, as the cliché goes, everyone else is doing it.
   But when we throw out the sacred traditions of the past, we lose something in the process. “You can tell a lot about a society by who it chooses to celebrate,” a TV reporter says in Woody Allen’s film Celebrity. I think the reporter is right. The traditions of the past encouraged us to love and respect our neighbors, to offer kindness and service to others in need. We once praised Neil Armstrong, police officers, and Mother Teresa. Now we can’t get our fill of Jersey Shore, TMZ, and Glamour magazine.
   Aside from his cynical view of love and relationships, there’s some truth in what Lucky Chucky says. It isn’t pleasant, but his assessment of a lot of things is dead on. He sees the superficiality of contemporary love for what it is and doesn’t pretend that it’s anything other than what it is on the surface. He says, “Women are just like men; everyone wants it both ways.” In other words, a woman might want the rebel, the “bad boy,” but she also wants someone who is faithful. We might be drawn to someone for all the wrong reasons, so we shouldn’t act brokenhearted when that person behaves as we might expect him or her (this goes both ways) to behave.
   This is true even in church. I see young, quiet, sincere guys who are trying desperately to live authentic, God-honoring lives and beautiful, young, Christian girls who say that’s what they want. But then the girls pursue someone who has more charisma and maybe has been blessed with more social skills but may or may not be pursuing God with his whole heart. Obviously, I’m oversimplifying here, but imagine the Christian guy who’s trying to live a godly life, but at church all the girls are talking about how awesome Channing Tatum (or fill in the blank with some hunky movie star) is. Every time I’m in a situation where I hear that, it breaks my heart. The women aren’t saying that Channing Tatum (or celeb of the month) is awesome because he’s pursuing God in his life. They’re saying he’s awesome because he’s got a great body and he’s handsome and charismatic. And that’s it. It has nothing to do with his values, his level of integrity, or anything that matters at all.
   Part of the reason old fashioned values can seem so old fashioned to us is that we’ve bought into the world’s way of viewing relationships. What we say we want and what we actually want are often different things, and so we become confused as to what it means to follow God in our romantic relationships.
   As we consider pursuing the old fashioned way, may the blatant honesty of Lucky Chucky remind us of the truth of who we are and who we don’t have to be.
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves,
you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy,
kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
   • Read back over some of Lucky Chucky’s attitudes I mentioned. Do any of those ring true in your actions, thoughts, or relationships?
   • If they are true, why do you think that is? What do you think needs to happen in order to change that thought pattern or behavior?

God, I don’t like the things that Lucky Chucky and people like him recognize and say. But some of those things are true about me. Point those things out to me when I’m tempted to go that way. Give me wisdom and discernment to see that attitude or behavior and then give me the strength to walk away from it and toward attitudes and behaviors that please you and honor those around me.

Ginger Kolbaba; based on the screenplay by Rik Swartzwelder, The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance Old is New, LLC, © 2014.

Review link of movie DVD ~*Old Fashioned*~ romantic feature film

Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts) and Clay Walsh (Rik Swartzwelder) discuss their developing relationship on the steps to her apartment during a scene from "Old Fashioned." Swartzwelder, a native of New Philadelphia, wrote, directed and portrayed the lead male role in the movie filmed in Tuscarawas County.

a nice prize package for one of

 Lane Hill House's readers

Package Surprise! Propeller / FlyBy Promotions is offering all three products ~ DVD, novelization, and devotional, to one commenter here at Lane Hill House.

Leave your email[at]address[dot]com for winner notification with your comment below. Winner will be selected by ~*in the ballcap shuffle*~ on July 8, 2015.

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