Monday, April 20, 2015

A Lady's Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes, © 2014

A Cliffs of Cornwall Novel

Lady's Honor

England, 1811
A tarnished reputation. A distant home. A forced engagement to a dangerous man. When Elizabeth Trelawny flees London, she has more than one reason to run. And when her carriage, pursued by her would-be fiancé, is caught in a storm, she quickly accepts the help of a dark stranger. Anything to get back to Cornwall.
But Rowan Curnow is not exactly a stranger. He’s not quite a gentleman either. Class disparity once kept him from courting Elizabeth . . . even if it didn’t keep him from kissing her.
The couple elude their pursuers and reach Bastion Point, Elizabeth’s future inheritance and the one place she calls home. But in the very act of spiriting her to safety, Rowan has jeopardized Elizabeth’s inheritance—if her grandfather ever learns she spent the night, however innocently, in the company of a man.
When smugglers unite the pair in a reckless, flirtatious alliance—an alliance that both challenges the social norms Elizabeth has been raised to revere and rattles Rowan’s fledgling faith in God. Elizabeth must choose between the obedience of a child and the desires of a woman: cling to the safety of her home or follow the man she loves.

My Review:
               ~* wayfarers ~ just passing through *~
Image result for cornwall england 1811
Cornish Coastal Path
The speed of the horses in the dark of night did not shelter them from the torrent of the blowing rain soaking in and splattering against them. There would be safety ahead, with a far distance from the hoofbeats and rumble of carriage wheels of the repulsive Romsford and his men. Elizabeth Trelawny, or "Elys," as her "brother Drake's voice" calmed her, rode alongside unhampered.
    If only her family allowed her to do anything for herself, she might know how to make wiser choices.
   --A Lady's Honor, 16
I really like Elizabeth already... I like adventure and fun! Quickly scrambling behind a stack of barrels, sending vermin scurrying, clinging spiderwebs, and odors of spirits; I am hoping she doesn't sneeze. In the darkness of the inn, with flour dust flying, an escape is made out the back door and she is moving swiftly on horseback through the night; not alone, but accompanied by a man who first set eyes upon her ~ are you ready for this! ~ at the LIBRARY. Now then, wouldn't you say he has undeterminable value!

Everything is not as it seems; friend or foe? Heart's deceit or longing?

If you are ready for adventure and wondering who is the culprit, you will love this story along the Cornish coast path and caves at tide time.

What a delightful story ~ here is a snippet of beautiful writings
   "Treasures in life that are worth more than dowries and property and the amount of money deposited in The Funds." He squeezed her hand. "Perhaps you should read those journals. In reading about their lives, perhaps you can work out what was missing. I think you already knew at one time in your life. But no time for reading now. Your grandmama wishes for you to join her in the garden parlor."
   --Ibid., 144
May she realize The~Absolute~Treasure
   She slipped through a side door and into the garden. The fog lay so thickly over the ground she doubted anyone could see her from the house. Water dripped from tree branches and trellises in a rhythmic plop, plop, plop. Her kid slippers made no sound on the gravel path. When she opened the garden door to the cliff, even the sea sounded distant, its roar muted beneath the blanket of water. But she tasted salt spray on her lips and the tang of the water in her nostrils. The cold dampness awakened something deep inside her, a stirring need to run and shout and dive into the flattened waves.
   --Ibid., 155-156
I am eager to read the following book, A Stranger's Secret, as A Cliffs of Cornwall Novel continues...

Recipient of the National Readers Choice Award, Laurie Alice Eakes has nearly two dozen books in print. She is a writing teacher and speaker, and has her master’s degree in creative writing. She also writes articles on writing, including “Writing from the Heart While Writing for the Market” for The ACFW Journal. Visit her website Facebook Twitter

***Thank you to author Laurie Alice Eakes for sending me a copy of her Cliffs of Cornwall novel, A Lady's Honor, to read and review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy an excerpt from A Lady's Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes ~ Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Cornwall, England
April, 1811

“FASTER. FASTER.” ELIZABETH TRELAWNY LEANED FORWARD on the edge of the carriage seat as though the angle of her body could bring the impossible out of the coach and four—more speed. “This pace will never do.”
   “It will g-get us all killed.” Her middle-aged companion, Miss Pross, stammered one more protest to the breakneck pace Elizabeth demanded of her coachman. “It’s d-dark out.”
   Indeed it was—too dark. The three-quarter moon Elizabeth counted on to guide her escape floated somewhere above a layer of black cloud rolling in from the English Channel and threatening rain at any moment.
   Rain would be her undoing, making narrow, winding roads too slick for speed.
   “But the marquess is right behind us.” He had been since he caught up with them at an inn outside Plymouth. Only the freshness of Elizabeth’s horses and the fatigue of the marquess’s, coupled with her coachman’s quick thinking, had gotten them way ahead of Elizabeth’s would-be fiancé. With the size of Romsford’s entourage and the ability to send men across Cornwall on horseback or to sail along the coast in a fishing boat, Elizabeth’s slight advantage wouldn’t last for long.
   “I must reach Bastion Point before he blocks our way in all directions.”
   Bastion Point, perched on the cliffs along the north coast of Cornwall and still twenty miles away, had represented safety for Trelawnys for the past one hundred and fifty years. Elizabeth Trelawny was one more generation seeking shelter behind its gray stone walls.
   “But this p-pace isn’t dece—ooph.”
   Brakes squealed. The carriage slewed sideways and jarred to a halt.
   “No.” Elizabeth shot up and rapped on the hatch. “Do not stop. Coachman—”
   Shouts and the sound of galloping hooves surrounded the vehicle. A shot roared like thunder for the approaching storm. A man yelled. Another one laughed.
   “Highwaymen,” Miss Pross cried.
   “Romsford.” Elizabeth nearly sank to her knees. If only she knew something more than the liturgical recitations she performed with the congregation at St. George’s Hanover Square every Sunday morning.
   “At least we’ve stopped.” Miss Pross sounded calm, her usual self-possessed person of governess turned companion. “You will see that the marquess will not harm you. His intentions are completely honorable.”
   “Then why does he seem incapable of listening when I say no?” Elizabeth knocked on the hatch again. “Coachman, stop this nonsense and get moving.”
   The hatch remained closed, the coachman silent, others unnaturally quiet, the hiss of their whispering voices not much louder than the sea a hundred yards away. Those murmurs rose and fell close to the carriage door, but not close enough for more than a word or two to penetrate the enameled panels as though the wind snatched a fragment of conversation here and there to throw it against the window.
   “. . . boat . . .”
   “. . . never do . . .”
   “. . . circle around . . .”
   Her heart beating hard enough to break through to her stomach, Elizabeth pressed her face to the glass. Despite her eyes adjusting to the darkness inside the carriage, she could see little beyond the window, as though a curtain had been drawn across the outside of the pane.
   Yet the subdued argument continued, and this time she heard her name. Her name. No highwayman would have her Christian name.
   She grasped the handle. “I’m going out there.”
   “You cannot.” Miss Pross grasped Elizabeth’s shoulder. “They could be—”
   The carriage door burst open. Strong hands grasped Elizabeth by the waist and swung her from the coach. A scream rose in her throat, but she choked it back. Souvenez qui vous etes, she recited the family motto in her head. Remember who you are.
   Trelawnys didn’t scream; they fought.
   She kicked the shin of the man who held her. Pain shot through her toes in their kid slippers. She sucked in her breath. The man merely laughed as he slung her over his shoulder and started carrying her away from her carriage.
   Miss Pross was screaming as she scrambled out behind them. She carried no family motto demanding a certain type of behavior. “You let my lady go, you brute, you beast.” She ran after them, brandishing her umbrella.
   The man ignored her and instead picked up his pace, striding forward as though Elizabeth weighed no more than her velvet cloak.
   That same velvet cloak imprisoned her arms so she couldn’t beat on his back, twisted around her knees so she couldn’t jab him in the middle. Her hood tumbled over her face, smothering her and muffling the sobs pressing at her lips.
   I’ll not cry. I’ll not cry. I. Will. Not—
   Tears burned in her eyes. She struggled in the man’s hold, trying to loosen it.
   He held on to her more tightly. “Stop it, Elys, you’re safe now.”
   She went limp over the man’s shoulder. Only four people in the world called her by her Cornish name. Grandpapa, Grandmama, Conan, her childhood friend, and—
   “Drake?” Her soft exclamation of her brother’s name became lost in Miss Pross’s shout of protest.
   “I’ll not go back to the carriage without my lady. You cannot make me.”
   Apparently they could. A door slammed and the protests grew muffled. A whip cracked. With a crunch of wheels on roadbed and the flicker of swaying carriage lamps, the coach began to move.
   The man holding Elizabeth, the brother she hadn’t seen in six years, set her atop a horse. “Grab the reins,” he commanded in an undertone, a gentle voice just above a murmur. “You can still ride astride?”
   “Yes, of course, but where—”
   “Later.” He released her.
   As bidden, she caught up the reins with one hand, then tried to smooth her skirts over her legs as far as possible with the other. Darkness, if not the fabric of her narrow skirt, preserved her modesty. As though allowing anyone to see her stocking-clad ankles mattered when Drake had not failed her after all but come to her rescue in the spectacular way she expected of her daredevil elder brother.
   She nearly laughed aloud.
   “Let’s ride.” Drake rode up beside her on another horse. “I’ve got a lead rope. You just stay in the saddle. We’re going to go fast to beat this rain.”
   He clicked his tongue at his mount, and both horses sprang into action, heading west toward the narrow track that led over the spine of Cornwall to Bastian Point. Elizabeth held on with hands and knees, bent low over the horse’s neck, her hair flying loose of the last of its pins. Behind them, the rumble of the carriage and other horses faded away to the east, back toward Falmouth. Romsford would catch up with Miss Pross, not Elizabeth.
   As long as his men hadn’t managed to ride cross-country or take a boat and get ahead of her.
   She was free, flying through the night toward Bastion Point, toward home at last.
   Except they continued west instead of taking the road—such as it was—north. Elizabeth smelled the sea on the rising wind before she heard the crash of waves against the rocky shore to her left instead of the quiet of the moorland at night.
   Nearly breathless, she tried to rein in. But Drake with the lead rope kept her mount going, galloping despite the darkness, despite the danger.
   “Wait.” She shouted above hoofbeats and surf. “This is wrong.”
   “No!” Drake’s shout sailed back to her on the wind. “This is best.”
   He must know what he was doing. He knew Cornwall better than she, having never left it save for his illegal forays to France for silk and tea. He knew more than she of why she should not allow their parents to force her to marry the Marquess of Romsford. After all it was Drake who had written to warn her against the nobleman even before his lordship’s behavior made his repulsiveness quite, quite clear to her.
   She shuddered, sick at the memory, and concentrated on maintaining her seat atop the galloping horse. She would be sore in the morning, but what matter as long as she suffered in her old room under her grandparents’ care?
   Laughter bubbled to her lips again, worry fleeing on the Channel gales.
   “Home. Home. Home,” she called out.
   Lightning forked across the obsidian sky. Her mount shied, then skidded to a halt just as the sky opened with a torrent of rain.
   “All right?” Drake dropped back beside her.
   “Yes.” Her legs ached from the unfamiliar position of gripping the horse with her knees, but it had saved her from sliding to the ground.
   Drake squeezed her arm. “Good girl. We’re almost there.”
   “Almost where?”
   He either did not hear or chose not to answer her. No matter. He’d suggested that he help her get home safely, escape the man their parents insisted she marry after her three—to her parents anyhow—unsuccessful seasons. They didn’t believe the rumors about the Marquess of Romsford. They saw his title and his ten thousand pounds of income a year income. Elizabeth saw the look in his one good eye when it fell upon her. A patch covered his other eye. A quantity of scent failed to cover up less pleasant odors on his person. His title and money didn’t stop him from attempting liberties no gentleman should take.
   She would endure a hundred miles in the driving rain to get away from him.
   She endured perhaps one, although it felt like a hundred with rain soaking through her cloak, sarcenet pelisse, and gown to pebble her skin with gooseflesh. She couldn’t feel her cold fingers inside her leather gloves. Presumably she still clutched the reins. She couldn’t tell until after Drake finally slowed them and led her mount into a cobbled yard, the horses’ shoes ringing on the stones. He dismounted to help her down.
   “Let go.” He tugged the reins from her frozen hands. “We’ll be inside in a moment.”
   “Inside w-what?”
   She sounded like Miss Pross with her chattering teeth.
   “The inn. Or what used to be an inn. No one comes here anymore except a few locals on Saturday nights. But there’s an old innkeeper here. He’ll give us shelter until the rain stops and we can take a boat around Land’s End to the Point.”
   “A fire?”
   Drake lifted her to the ground. “I expect so, but wait beneath the eaves until I am sure none of Romsford’s men have gotten ahead of us and sheltered here first.”
   Elizabeth started forward toward the dark bulk of the inn that couldn’t boast more than a common room and one or two rooms to let for wayfarers not wanting to stay in Falmouth five miles behind. Perhaps a fisherman or two.
   Above the roar of the rain and wind, the sea’s deep boom crashed against the rocky shore a hard stone’s throw away. The inn lay silent and dark. She hesitated beneath the eaves. They afforded little cover from wind and rain. Drake had said to wait there. But surely she would be all right to step over the threshold. If she was wrong and someone was inside, she could dash into the night again, hide . . . somewhere.
   She groped for the dagger she kept in her pocket. Drake had given it to her when she left for London at fifteen. A lady couldn’t be too careful.
   She lifted the handle and nudged open the door, then poised on the threshold. She’d never walked into an inn alone in her life. No matter that this one appeared deserted, a hollow blackness reeking of spilled ale and vinegar. Twenty-one years of training told her entering a common room on her own just would not do. Yet her hands, toes, lips, and chin had gone numb. She smelled no smoke to suggest the innkeeper was present and had built a fire. But at the same time, a roof, walls, and air warmer than what blew off the sea beckoned. And Drake would join her in a moment.
   In a flash of lightning through a window, she caught a glimpse of tables and chairs, black humps rising from the dark chasm of the floor. Nothing moved save for a piece of paper skittering off one of those tables and into a distant corner. Beyond the deserted chamber, most likely where the kitchen lay, a streak of light shone from beneath a door.
   Fire. Hot water. A cup of tea.
   Elizabeth started forward, her kid slippers a mere whisper on the dusty floorboards, her sodden skirt clinging to her legs. And then she stopped. She must appear disreputable, worse than something the cat would think to drag in, with her hair tumbling down her back as though she’d been swimming in the sea, and her clothes clinging to her in a most unsuitable fashion. Even if one or more of Romsford’s men hadn’t managed to get ahead of her and seek her in the first shelter the bleak coast offered . . .
   She finger combed her hair away from her face and twisted it into a knot at the base of her neck, where her hood held it in place. She could do nothing about her sodden clothing.
   Whether the enemy or an innkeeper, his wife, or his maiden aunt sat behind the door with the promising light, she couldn’t walk in there alone. The mahogany color of her hair and ice-blue eyes would give her away as a Trelawny. By morning her reputation would be in tatters. She must, at the least, be accompanied by her brother. Drake’s behavior wasn’t always the most respectable, but he was beloved in the county. If he told the innkeeper to remain silent about her presence, then the innkeeper would remain silent about her presence.
   Romsford’s men wouldn’t remain silent if it would serve their master’s purpose. The marquess was determined enough to wed the last female in London whose parents were desperate enough to be rid of their obstinate and unpopular daughter to accept his offer. Especially after that unfashionable daughter had been caught kissing a dance partner in one of the ballroom bowers. A stupid, schoolgirl stunt to play, but she had been so weary of society—and hoping to be returned to Cornwall once and for all—that a stupid action seemed the right course to take.
   She’d been hoisted in her own petard, giving her parents reason to marry her off as soon as possible.
   Of late, she’d made too many mistakes. She didn’t need to risk making one more.
   She remained where she was in the middle of the floor, motionless, listening. The wind was shifting, carrying the spring storm west to the Atlantic. Waves still slammed against the shore. Storm and surf blotted out all other sounds from outside or in, and Drake reappeared beside her with no more warning than the absence of cold air from the still-open door as it clicked shut.
   “You should have waited outside as I told you to.” Though he spoke in the undertone that suggested he didn’t want anyone to hear him more than a yard or two away, an edge of anger tinged his voice. “This innkeeper has always been a friend to . . . a Trelawny, but one never knows when someone with the marquess’s rank comes along.”
   “I know. I was thinking Romsford or his men could have come by sea and gotten ahead of me.” She held out her hand, still shaking from the cold and perhaps more, needing reassurance. “He couldn’t have, could he?”
   “I’d like to say no.” He took her hand and tucked it into the crook of his elbow. “I haven’t seen any sign of another boat or horses present, but we’ll proceed with caution. Shall we?” He led the way across the common room, his booted feet making less sound than her slippers and dragging gown.
   At the inner door, he released her and raised his hand to his neck. When he brought his fingers in front of him again, light flashed off the blade of a knife.
   Elizabeth raised her own knife and stepped back.
   “One can’t be too careful.” His teeth flashed in the faint light, and then he lifted the door latch with his free hand.
   Light flared from a single candle guttering on a deal table in the center of the kitchen. Cold air swirling around them suggested an open door beyond the stacks of barrels lining the walls and forming a divider against one end of the room. Despite the candle, the room appeared deserted.
   “Where’s the innkeeper?” Elizabeth asked.
   “I don’t know. I thought he would be in here by a fire.” He glided away from her, moving through the shadows cast by the flickering tallow dip on the table. “I’ll secure this back door and then build a fire.”
   Teeth clenched against their chattering, Elizabeth huddled by the door to the common room, her dagger drawn, her gaze fixed on her brother.
   He prowled around the periphery of the room, looking behind the stores too plentiful for an inn with little business, a clear sign of a man in league with smugglers. He moved with grace and stealth for such a big man. And a man he was now, not the youth of nineteen she’d left in Cornwall. He’d grown brawnier, seemed a bit taller. And he apparently cared little for the fashion of shorter hair; his own fell in loose waves around his ears and collar. Such pretty dark hair for a man to possess.
   Too pretty. Too dark.
   He glided out of the shadows behind a stack of barrels. The candlelight fell full on his face for the first time, and Elizabeth pressed a hand to her lips to stifle a scream, her heart battering against her ribs like the sea beating at the rocky shore outside. She managed to choke out, “You’re not my brother.”
Laurie Alice Eakes, A Lady's Honor Zondervan, © 2014.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Heart's Obsession by Colleen Coble, © 2015

Journey of the Heart series

A Heart's Obsession 2 
Part 2 of 6 in the Journey of the Heart series ~ 
I've made some massive changes to them, and I hope you enjoy these new, updated stories. This installment begins to show what Sarah faces in winning Rand back again.
   --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 Sarah Montgomery travels through the American West with her brother, Jacob, and his wife, and their younger brother, Joel, to Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

Thinking her constant friend, Lieutenant Rand Campbell, will be so pleased to see her, Sarah finds she is mistaken as he has moved on without her. As the tribal chiefs near the fort have asked to have their children schooled, Sarah is requested to teach them English and reading and writing. She makes friends with two of the older teenagers, Morning Song and Ah-ho-appa.

Change enters into the lives of Morning Song, daughter of White Raven, and a Sioux chief's daughter, Ah-ho-appa; and those at the fort, Jessica and her mother, Letty, and Amelia. Being introduced to new characters, brings them into the story as we continue to learn of the new life before Sarah at Fort Laramie.

Trouble comes when Ben Croftner arrives and causes havoc. Will there be retaliation in the midst of winter, removing peace between the fort and the Indian encampment? (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 ~
Book Three
 ~ A Heart's Danger: May 11 - 31, 2015 ~
Book Four
 ~ A Heart's Betrayal: June 10 - 30, 2015 ~
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 Two, A Heart's Obsession 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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Creole Princess by Beth White, © 2015

Gulf Coast Chronicles series, Book 2
American Gulf Coast, Revolutionary War 1775-1783

   ...A way of looking in his eyes and finding the man he wanted to be.
      --The Creole Princess, 105
Such beautiful prose!!

The Creole Princess divides lines of color, accent, or caste designed to inhibit and separate those so beloved from each other. A story of acceptance and seeing with eyes of reality, surrounded by changing directions, as a stormy day turned to the bright inkling of sunshine reveals what really is. Obscured but for a moment against tempest of control among the shoreline, hidden from view, or supposed so. Don Rafael Maria Gonzales de Rippardá has come to gather information, but instead, has found his own heart in tune with the waves and flowering scents amid the tall buildings overlooking the harboring ships unloading what has survived the plunder at sea. Who does he stand for, and who is behind the privateering? Could it be innocent fishing boats or those interacting political views, in hopes of commanding the vessels to prevent free trade supplies getting into the ports?

The least Don Rafael expected was to be swept up in the humanity of this little fishing village in the form of a young woman, Lyse Lanier. Totally knocked off kilter, his own timing is off as he ventures to see her once more. This is not at all what he expected, an innocence so guided in the middle of war and disparity within a family.

Lyse is refreshing. A hard worker helping her family, she has a sweet spirit and freedom to love those deemed both above and beneath her in society, for she sees them as they are. A peacemaker at peace.

Thinking him a scoundrel in the beginning, I have come to admire him. Rafael Gonzales has endeared himself amid chaos of generations of misunderstandings and pride. Presenting respect and gratitude, his upbringing is honoring.

This is a story all can learn by, coming away with an appreciation of the character and giving hearts so needed in any generation. I like the openness in which Lyse and Rafa are able to talk together. They part not knowing if they will see each other again. You want the best for each of them during the uncertainty of unsettled times.

Beth White
Photo Credit: © Wendy Wilson Photography

Beth White's day job is teaching music at an inner-city high school in historic Mobile, Alabama. A native Mississippian, she is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and grandmother of one--so far. Her hobbies include playing flute and pennywhistle and painting, but her real passion is writing historical romance with a Southern drawl. Her novels have won the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, the RT Book Club Reviewers Choice Award, and the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award. Visit Beth's website.
The Pelican Bride 
Gulf Coast Chronicles series, Book 1 ~ The Pelican Bride
Gulf Coast Chronicles series, Book 3 ~ The Duchess of Navy Cove releases Spring 2016 

***Thank you to Revell Reads Fiction for inviting me on this blog tour for Book 2 in the Gulf Coast Chronicles and sending me a copy of The Creole Princess by Beth White. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy this excerpt from part of Chapter 1 of Beth White's The Creole Princess ~



Lyse Lanier danced on bare feet along the Water Street wharf with her crab bucket bumping against her leg, face lifted to a welcome early-morning breeze off the bay. The end of a long, hot summer had brought the usual stifling humidity, warm brackish waters, and rising threat of fall storms. Still, she was glad to be outdoors, free to poke about among the shrimpers docked alongside the merchant ships, fishing boats, and ferries. She was sixteen and a woman now, no longer confined to the classroom. In fact, it might be time to put up her hair, lengthen her skirts, maybe think about practicing some of the ladylike skills other girls her age found so important.
   Lifting herself to the balls of her feet, she imagined herself in a spangled gown, walking the parapet of a gilded castle, high-heeled slippers pinching her toes, corset so tight she could barely breathe. Head high, back straight, my girl. The duke may ask you to dance tonight.
   The sunbaked odors of salt and fish and oil became the smoke of a hundred tallow candles and expensive perfumes wafting from the silken clothing of her ball guests. Landing chains creaked against boats. Ship hulls sawed against their piers. The music of the wharf was an orchestra that flowed through her as she turned, head tipped back to follow a bank of clouds shifting across the hot summer sky.
   Swaying, she closed her eyes and envisioned a young man pushing through the crowd with aristocratic authority. A clean-lined French face with serious eyes and . . . and a sword like Grandpére’s—
   “Hey, girl, I want a place to spend the night. Help a sailor out!”
   The rough voice dissolved her daydream like waves on a sand castle, and she whirled to scan the crowded waterfront to find its source. Market day had brought merchant ships from Havana, Pensacola, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and ports beyond. Men of all ages, color, and social strata abounded, but few women. Few ladies, anyway, for the eastern edge of the city was home to sailors, slaves, shopkeepers, and travelers. And women of easy virtue.
   Her gaze lit upon a swarthy, bearded creature leering at her over a pile of canvas near the closest pier. Dressed in sailor’s garb of ragged sailcloth, with oily curls straggling from beneath a dirty knit cap, he was a signally unprepossessing sight.
   “Try Burelle’s,” she said. Pray God the quiver in her voice didn’t betray her fear.
   “He’s not as pretty as you.”
   She laughed and kept walking.
   Simon had warned her this morning to take their young stepmother along. But Justine was due to deliver her fourth child any day and waddled like a cow. “I can take care of myself,” Lyse told Simon, reaching inside her bodice for the scabbard sewn into her shift. She’d jerked her little knife free to wave it under her brother’s disapproving nose, then tucked it away again before he could grab it.
   Now, she hoped she could take care of herself.
   The odor of old sweat and fish came up fast from behind. An iron grip caught her upper arm, jerking her around to face him. “Think you’re too good for the likes o’ me, little girl? I fancy a little café au lait of a mornin’.”
   She stared into the sailor’s twitchy eyes. “Matter of fact, little man—” the wicked point of her knife snicked beneath his chin— “I think you got me mixed up with somebody else. I’m the town barber, specializing in the extra-close shave.” Dropping the bucket, she braced to jab upward.
   “Permiso, señorita,” came a deep voice behind her.
   She jerked out of the grip of the sailor, barely noticing that he took the opportunity to melt away among the crowd, and turned to look up into a pair of sleepy brown eyes set in a good-looking olive-skinned face.
   “What do you want?” She’d been looking forward to drawing a little blood, thus proving to Simon that she could protect herself.
   “Eh, pardon.” The young man’s French was just as lazy as his Spanish. “Do you not speak Spanish?”
   She switched to English. “You can apologize in any language you choose—just mind your own business.” One by one, she flicked the knife under the three ornate silver buttons adorning his waistcoat and smiled as they bounced onto the boardwalk.
   “Lud, what a destructive little mite it is,” he said in English, watching the buttons roll into a crack and disappear. “Ah, well, saves me the trouble of doing them up from now on.” He gave her a lopsided grin.
   “Perhaps you’d like me to cut the rest of it off you,” she said, “since dressing is such a—Hey! Give me that!”
   He held her knife close to his Castilian nose and examined its beautiful carved ivory handle. “Oh, I shall. In a moment.” He tested the blade against the pad of his thumb, frowning when a thin pink line of blood welled. “My dear,” he said faintly, watching his blood drip onto the boardwalk, “perhaps you could direct me to a doctor. I seem to have injured myself with your little skiver.”
   “Do not faint!” she gasped, looking around for help. “You’re too big for me to carry! And give me my knife!”
   “Very well, if you promise not to perpetrate further damage to my wardrobe.” Sliding his arm around her shoulders, he slyly tucked the knife into its scabbard—how did he know where it had come from?—and sagged against her. “Would you be so good as to direct me to Master Burelle’s establishment? I believe he is holding a room for me.”
   “Make up your mind. Do you want the doctor or the inn?”
   “I want to sit down. Anywhere will do.” He closed his eyes, giving her the opportunity to admire eyelashes that would have been the envy of any debutante.
   Lyse, however, refused to admire anything about him. Whoever he was. “All right, you big baby. Come along.” Grunting under his solid weight, she wheeled him toward Royal Street. “There’s a barbershop and surgery across the street from the inn.”
   “Mademoiselle is too kind . . .” The young man had switched back to French, perhaps sensing it was her native language, but his deep voice maintained its languid, sibilant Spanish cadence. “I regret that we have not been properly introduced. I am Don Rafael Maria Gonzales de Rippardá, merchant of New Orleans, at your service.”
   “I would say, rather, that it is I at your service.” She looked up at him and caught a mischievous dimple creasing one lean cheek. “Oh, you are such a faker!” She dipped out from under his arm. “What a fuss for such a little bit of blood.”
   He gave her a wounded look. “Mademoiselle, it is not so! Every drop of one’s blood is infinitely precious!”
   “How do you know I am mademoiselle and not madame? Hm? You are very forward, for a stranger to our city.”
   “Are you indeed madame? Your poor husband must be obliged to beat you daily. Only see the damage you have inflicted.” He held open his mangled waistcoat. “One wonders why anyone would come back, after such a welcome.”
   “You are welcome—to go away and never come back!”
   He blinked at her sadly. “Are you really not going to tell me your name?”
   She regarded him tight-lipped for a moment, arguing with herself. He was too lazy to be dangerous, despite his height and the clever way he had relieved her of her knife. And he had frightened away the nasty sailor. Also he smelled very good, faintly of sandalwood. “I am Mademoiselle Lyse Lanier. Of Bay Minette,” she added, surprising even herself. “I’m not usually rude, and I thank you for sending away that—that miscreant.”
   She was treated to the full impact of Rafael Gonzales’s flashing white teeth and sparkling dark eyes as he swept off his tricorn, making its extravagant red plume quiver. He bowed deeply at the waist, twice, a ludicrous exaggeration considering her ragged and barefoot state.
   “You are utterly forgiven, beautiful mademoiselle, señorita, miss—and what an enchanting name for an enchanting young lady! If all the women of Mobile are so gracious as you, I am doomed to enslavement! Perhaps I should, like Perseus viewing the Sirens, go about blindfolded in order to maintain my sanity.”
   She laughed and took his arm, tugging him in the direction of Burelle’s. “Then you would certainly be in trouble, you ridiculous man! Odysseus is the hero you’re thinking of—and he had his sailors plug their ears and tie him to the mast, for it was the Sirens’ song and not their beauty that was so dangerous.”
   He waved a languid hand. “One of those moldy Greek fellows is so much like the other, I can never keep them straight. But I assure you, if you begin to sing to me, I shall run away in terror.”
   Lyse had never had a conversation like this with another human being, ever. He spoke with the musical syntax of the classical heroes in her grandfather’s library. She waited for Rafael Gonzales to inquire how a tattered Creole girl came to know the difference between Perseus and Odysseus.
   But he continued to saunter alongside her, whistling something that sounded like “Down among the Dead Men,” until she finally said reluctantly, “I can’t sing.”
   “That is of no moment. I can sing well enough for both of us.” And, to her astonishment, he burst into a sweet tenor rendition of “De Colores.”
   The street was crowded, and people were turning to smile and stare as they passed. Lyse clutched his arm. “Stop! This is not New Orleans. People do not sing on the street.”
   He broke off a liquid melisma to give her one of his sleepy stares. “Do they not? How very inconvenient. Next time I shall bring my guitar.”
   “We do not play the guitar in the street either.” She couldn’t help giggling. In front of the inn she halted. It was the largest building outside the fort, a two-story with a broad front gallery graced with several large rocking chairs and a swing. “Here is the inn. Would you like to sit down before claiming your room? I can go inside and get someone to bring you a tankard of ale.”
   “You are very kind, mademoiselle, but if I could trouble you for one more favor, I should like you to deliver a message to Major Redmond for me.”
   “Major Redmond?” What business could Daisy’s gruff father have with this lazy, musical young Spaniard?
   “Do you know him?” Gonzales’s black brows came together. “I have not stopped at the wrong fort again, have I?”
   She laughed. “His daughter is my dearest friend. What would you have me tell him?”
   Gonzales smiled, clearly relieved to be in the correct port. “I have brought a hundred pounds of sugar from Havana, being off-loaded even as we speak. And I would like to entertain him for dinner this evening, if he is free.”
   Lyse nodded. “I will tell him.” She privately doubted the busy major would be interested in leaving the fort to share a meal with a young merchant who couldn’t be bothered to deliver his own invitations. But she hadn’t seen Daisy for several days, and she was now provided with an excuse to visit. She backed toward the street. “Are you sure you don’t want me to find a servant to help you in?”
   “No. I thank you.” He flapped open the beautiful red brocade waistcoat, sadly lacking in buttons, to display his trim middle. He reminded her strongly of a preening cardinal. “As you see, I am quite restored. No need to worry after all.” Propping one hand on his sword hilt, with the other he caught her fingers and carried them to his smiling lips. “Adieu, mademoiselle. Adios, señorita. Goodbye, milady. We shall meet again, I vow.”
   Lyse dipped a curtsey, recovered her hand, and hurried to the street before she could betray the odd flutter in her stomach at the touch of that warm mouth upon her skin.
   Jackanapes, she thought as she hurried toward the fort. How Daisy would laugh when she told her about this absurd young Spaniard.
   Daisy was not amused. “And why were you at the waterfront by yourself? You know Simon has forbidden it!” She set aside her embroidery and rose, her blue eyes worried. “You could have at least taken along one of your little brothers.”
   Lyse snapped her fingers. “That for Simon’s pronouncements! He is neither my father nor my master.” But she couldn’t help smiling at her friend’s idea of protection. “And what possible good would a five-year-old be if I were attacked by brigands?”
   “He could run for help!”
   “Pooh.” Lyse reached around Daisy to pick up her needlework. She studied the tiny stitches in awe. “I don’t know how you keep from going blind. Justine’s is nowhere near this fine.”
   Daisy was not to be distracted. “You are fortunate this Spaniard came along to frighten away the sailor. I will make Papa reward him handsomely.”
   “He is quite handsome enough already.” Lyse grinned as Daisy rolled her eyes. “Don Rafael doesn’t need money. He just wants to talk to your papa, which is the least I can do in return for his . . . chivalry.”
   “He sounds like a proper fop. Did he really faint at the sight of his own blood?” Daisy drew her lacy shawl from the back of her chair and led the way to the front door.
   Incurably honest, Lyse shook her head. “He was only looking for an excuse to put his arm around me.” A laugh bubbled up. “I think you’ll like him, Daisy. At least he smelled good!”
   “Which is more than I can say for your brother,” Daisy said with a rueful laugh. “He always smells like fish.”
   Lyse smiled as she went down the gallery steps. “He would say that is the smell of bread and butter. He’d better bring in a good catch today, or we’re all going hungry. I sold out of everything we had by midday—which is why I went down to the docks to begin with.” Shading her eyes against the glaring sun, she paused at the bottom of the steps to look up at the looming main gate of the fort. “Is your papa on duty?”
   “Yes, he’ll be in his office in the administration building. He told me to have supper ready by seven, as he’s bringing a couple of junior officers with him.” Daisy gave a ladylike snort. “He keeps hoping to take my interest away from Simon.”
   “A French Creole fisherman will never be good enough for you, Daisy. Especially one who is the grandson of a slave.” Lyse said it without self-pity. It went without saying that many of the British military and civilian population of Mobile disapproved of the deep friendship between Major Redmond's daughter and Simon Lanier had developed into quite a scandal.
Beth White, The Creole Princess Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2015. Used by permission.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Promise Keeper by Lisa Norato, © 2015

     A Sea Heroes of Duxbury novel
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
   --John 1:5 NIV
Duxbury, Massachusetts, 1825
Early morning brings Iris Moon to the shoreline. The mist closes in as the vapors rise from the waters. Crossing to Clark's Island in her small skiff, Moonbeam, she is delivering a Christmas basket to the solitary lighthouse keeper from the Ladies Charitable Sewing Society of Duxbury. But... she has something else entirely in mind. She has looked across the bay to the lights each morning from the roof platform of their home. Now she has a devised plan in place to take a closer look, hoping to see the secluded light keeper face-to-face.

Image result for seagull

This man was a stranger, and yet not a stranger.
   --The Promise Keeper, 60

The wiles of one so young, and yet not young, Iris Moon reflects on this odd fleeting thought penetrating her heart. How has she known this caretaker of Pilgrim Light in the past? No one will say. Yet those piercing eyes, known only to her, penetrate the darkness and enlighten her gaze. Gently, solidly, and yet so distant. A promise of distant past kept hidden only from her?
His name ~
It touched her heart in a way her mind could not begin to comprehend.
   --Ibid., 61

I long to hear the story unfold as well as Iris, wanting to know this man who calls her "little sea urchin," and solidly unperceived by her, sees her ...with beauty and a courageous heart.

Reading this story I am reminded of David Copperfield and Johnny Tremain, in the quaintness of it. The lighthouse keeper stands out in his humility and servitude. From his youth at sea with Captain Moon, his strength and stability has grown; trustworthy, he is an honor to all surrounding Duxbury. He is submitted to the One who holds his heart. Courageous.
Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
   --Psalm 112:4
A full story of grace and overcoming beyond what could have been imagined. I like the relationship between Iris and her father, a comfort between them. Their dearly beloved housekeeper, Hetty, is a delightful caregiver herself. Acceptance and chivalry avail as the story unfolds. I enormously enjoyed reading The Promise Keeper. With impending adventures close at hand, it was hard to stop turning to the next page! Nearing the last dozen pages, I hated for it to end. Thank you Lisa Norato for an engaging and delightful story so well-written. I look forward to the next mystery and suspenseful Sea Heroes of Duxbury novel.

Lisa Norato  Image result for prize of my heart  Image result for prize of my heart 

***Thank you to author Lisa Norato for sending me a copy of her novel, The Promise Keeper, for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***