Friday, March 28, 2014

Home at Last by Anita Higman, © 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed this story! Beyond a cherishing relationship, Home at Last brings to the forefront trust in God and His provision for us as we follow Him in our daily lives. Olivia is delightful! Willing to confront her past to free her future, she is open and considerate, a true friend.
Many waters cannot quench love;
     rivers cannot wash it away.
              --Song of Solomon 8:7
Home at Last

Noah Bromfeld has returned home with hopes of making amends with his father. He finds his father is not there, but Olivia Lamington is. Unknown to him, Finney Bromfeld has passed away and left Bromfeld Manor to Olivia, his caregiver for the past twenty years. Noah, presumed dead by his father, has left his entire estate to her.

Olivia, not wanting to retain her inheritance since Noah is the rightful heir, agrees to remain to help Noah fix up the house and the caretaker's stone cottage in the woods on the large estate. Their friendship grows as they share their childhoods memories. Staying at the cottage, Noah checks out the nearby town of Gardenia to determine if there is enough need for a landscaping business he would like to pursue. In the meantime, Olivia has a home at the manor for as long as she chooses. Mops, the manor dog, agrees having her to guard.

Visitors come to the manor and Olivia is so gracious. This has been home to her for so many years and she is welcoming in her kind demeanor. Noah finds her to be open and, in turn, is able to be open with her in communication. Strength for each other, their true selves are able to blossom.

A very good read and you come away with deeper meaning than a quick read. Trust is paramount. One comment I really liked that Olivia voiced to herself was the reminder that God was still in control of their destinies, not the actions of another person. So good and true; a future and a hope.

Photo of Anita HigmanBestselling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has thirty-two books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She's been a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. Please visit her online at her website at anitahigman.com.

***Thank you to author Anita Higman for sending me a copy of Home at Last to read and review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy the first few pages of Chapter 1 ~ Home at Last by Anita Higman

Olivia Lamington wriggled the key into the lock of the manor's heavy front door, but it didn't fit quite right—just as her own irregular life had never slipped easily into this world. Especially now. It had been three months since Finney's passing, though her heart still felt the weight of her employer's absence. What a turn of events it had been for her—imagine—an orphan becoming heiress to a castle. She'd embraced the manor as her home, as Finney had requested, but sometimes it still felt as though she were playing house.
   The hinges of the door groaned and echoed through the entry hall, making Olivia wither. Although Bromfeld Manor was filled with antiques, tapestries and paintings, it was empty of Finney's scents and sounds. His joy. After twenty years in Finney's employment, how would she live her life now? Was God still smiling down on her?
   Not wanting to go inside just yet, she turned back toward the live oaks. The canopy of leaves shimmered, looking like lacework against the afternoon sun, and the branches stretched across the lane as if straining to embrace each other. The breeze tickled her cheeks, making her eyelids flutter shut. The smell of Carolina jasmine filled the air. Oh, how Finney loved springtime in the country, especially his little corner of the world in Southeast Texas. So vivacious and expectant, he would always say.
   The sun dipped behind the clouds, darkening the landscape. The shadows reminded her once again how alone she was.
   Music, far away and sweetly melancholy, came in on the breeze. In the distance a stranger, who looked about her own age—perhaps somewhere near forty—plodded toward the manor, playing a harmonica. She recognized the folk song, "Danny Boy." With each grinding step his shoes stirred up puffs of clay-colored dust. Had the man's car broken down, or was he homeless? The moment the man noticed Olivia, he stopped as if she were a skittish bird he might frighten off.
   He was right. She backed away into the house and locked the dead bolt. The man was a stranger, after all, and with the staff recently dismissed, she was truly alone.
   Olivia hurried to one of the front windows, pulled the drape back and studied the man. A stray dog she'd befriended over the months—one she'd named Mops—latched on to his pant leg, snarling and generally causing him grief. The stranger didn't seem to mind the tug-of-war, but he did look weary in a thousand other ways—as though he was on the last journey of his life.
   Believing that the stranger would ring the bell, Olivia scurried into the sunroom so she wouldn't be tempted to answer the door. She found a book on the shelf—The Man Who Would Be King—and opened it to the first page. A pressed flower fluttered out of the novel and onto the floor, one she'd forgotten about. But then pressing wildflowers into books and hoping they would fall out later to delight a reader was her "thing." Or as Rudyard Kipling might have said, "a trifling custom." It was so much a part of her that many of the Bromfeld Manor books held hidden blossoms. She picked up the translucent bluebonnet and set it on the table.
   Just as she expected, the doorbell rang. She sat still. Olivia, you will not answer that door. She tried to concentrate on the first line of the novella, but it was no use. She ended up going over and over the same words, waiting for the bell again. When it rang, Olivia jumped. Then the goofy thing ding-donged five more times. Who did the man think he was?
   Olivia waited, holding her breath. Finally, there was quiet again. He must have given up. But a moment later when she turned toward the west end of the room, the stranger stood by the windows, staring at her through the glass.
   Olivia's book made a flying leap before slapping back down onto the wood floor. She let out a shriek so bone rattling that it frightened the stranger, making him stumble backward. He let out an equally impressive yelp as the big-thorned rosebushes devoured him.
   Was he a thief? A murderer? Maybe he'd heard of Finney's death and somehow knew she was alone. God help me! What could she do? Call the local sheriff? But there was no time. And Finney had never kept guns on the premises. If she had a gun she'd probably just shoot her foot off with the silly thing, anyway.
   Glancing at each of the sunroom windows, she noticed one of them had been left open. Olivia ran to the spot and, with quaking hands, slammed the window shut, locked it and backed away until she hit the wall. Finding a broom behind the door, she grabbed it and held it in front of her as a weapon.
   No sound came from the man and no thrashing about in the bushes. Had he been knocked out, or was he playing dead like a sly fox?
   After another second or two, muffled words erupted from the rosebushes. "I am Finney Bromfeld's son, Noah," he hollered.
   Olivia's mind tore into a dozen questions at once. He couldn't be Finney's son; Finney's son was dead.
   The stranger tried to get his footing as he clambered out of the bushes. When he finally straightened, he held out a pink rose like a repentant schoolboy. "So, do you believe me?" He spoke loudly to be heard through the glass.
   "I don't know what to think. You don't look anything like Finney." The man had long brown hair, light olive skin and a boring kind of nose. Nothing at all like Finney, who'd had blond hair, a schnozzle with angles and skin as pink as a newborn mole.
   "That's because I resemble my mother," he said.
   "Why don't I believe you?" Olivia stepped forward, still aiming the broom at him. "By the way, you scared the woozoos out of me, peeping in the window like that." She sharpened her tone, making it as unpleasant as a paper cut—a nasty one.
   "Woozoos? That's a good one." He didn't even bother to squelch his laugh. "Actually, I wasn't peeping. I was about to open a window so I could climb in." Then the man stuck the rose into the lapel of his jacket and gave it a pat. "And you were the one guilty of gawking out at me from the front window."
   Humph. That wasn't the same thing, but to say the obvious seemed ridiculous.
   At least the barbed bushes, which had been planted near the windows to discourage thieves, had done their job. His hands and face were scratched up, and his T-shirt and jacket were dirtied. A trickle of blood drizzled down the man's cheek from a small wound on his temple. Olivia's heart softened toward him—but only a mouse's portion. "Before I even think about letting you in…tell me something unique about your family, something only Finney's son might know."
   "All right." The man scrubbed his stubble-covered chin. "When I was seventeen my mother was…" He frowned and shook his head as if he'd changed his mind about telling her.
   "Was what?" "My mother was struck by lightning." He crossed his arms. "So, will that do?"
   "Maybe." Finney had talked about the incident some years ago. Olivia gave up the idea that the man was a thief and motioned toward the front of the house. "Okay, I will let you in but not through the window. Please go around to the front door."
   Mops trotted up to the man and growled with more gumption this time.
   Hmm. Could have used you a few moments ago.
   The man tapped on the glass. "Could you please call off your dog?"
   Olivia hesitated, since maybe Mops sensed a danger she wasn't aware of.
   Then, with the shameless audacity of a burglar, the man lifted one of the windows and stepped inside the sunroom. "Ever since I was five that lock has never worked right." He stood inside now, dusting off his clothes. "Weren't you tired of shouting through the glass? I was." He looked at her broom and raised his hands as if he were being held up by a loaded gun. Then he grinned.
   It was a good smile as smiles go—a fine specimen—but she still wanted to slap it right off his face and maybe leave a stinging red imprint on his cheek to remind him not to go around frightening women.
   He cocked his head. "You're not going to scream again, are you?"
   "I don't think so."
   "Or sweep me to death?" He gestured toward the broom—the one she still gripped as if her hands were welded to the handle.
   Olivia slowly lowered her weapon and then dropped it cold, letting it make a spiteful clatter on the wood floor. She tried not to stare at him, but she gave up and stared anyway. His wild locks were pulled back in a ponytail. My, my, my. She'd never personally met a man with long hair before. Kind of sixties. Noah wasn't terribly handsome, not short or tall, heavy or thin, but he was appealing with his dark eyes darting about, taking in the whole world at once. The man was a dreamer type—one could see that in a moment—but even with all his swashbuckling Johnny Depp air there was a tortured look about him.
   And the man had no sense of personal space, since he came up to her and edged a bit too close. "Technically speaking, you're the stranger in my house."
   Confused, Olivia backed away. The scent of him—weeds and wet dog—lingered in her nose. Not the best combo.
   "I'm Noah, but I guess I said that back there in the shrubs."
   "You did."
   "By the way, you have a blight on your roses, and they're in desperate need of pruning. If you're not careful, they're going to forget how to bloom."
   "They just need a bit of love." Like a kite coming down to earth, Olivia reeled herself back in. "You're bleeding." She pointed to his cheek.
   "My father's roses were always unforgiving…as were so many other things about this home." Noah pulled a handkerchief from an inner pocket and dabbed at his face.
   "I'm Olivia Lamington. Like the little coconut-covered sponge cakes in Australia."
   "I've been to Australia, and since I have a great fondness for those little coconut-covered treats, I won't be able to get you out of my head."
   What did that mean? Was he making fun of her? She hardly knew. Except for some church functions and shopping in town, her social interactions had been limited. Olivia wiped her sweaty palms on her clothes, wishing she'd worn something besides a shapeless gray housedress. Something, that was, less Jane Eyreish for a change. She thought about shaking his hand but then changed her mind. "I was hired as an assistant and, well, sort of a nurse to your father."

   "Sort of a nurse?" Noah released a chuckle. He knew he was being belligerent, but the moment was too much fun to let go of.
   Olivia raised her chin a mite. "Some years ago Finney got a letter saying that you were dead." She smacked her hands together in a squirming knot.
   "Dead? So I died? Well, that explains so much." He laughed. "Good to know."
   "You laugh like your father."
   "Oh? Is that right?"
   The woman went into a quiet stare again. She didn't appear to be easy with banter. Her fingers now worked the pockets on her dress like little animals working at the locks on their cages.
   Noah made himself at home, milling around the room. "Do you mind if I ask who sent the letter that pronounced me dead?"
   "I'm sorry. I don't know."
   Noah narrowed his eyes. "Whoever it was…was right." He stuffed his fists into the pockets of his jeans. "I guess I have been dead for years."
   Olivia looked puzzled, as if she wanted to smile but couldn't quite get the muscles to obey.
   Noah picked up a brass compass off a table and turned it around in his hand. "This was a gift from my father on my tenth birthday. He told me to be careful, or it would break. I treasured it. I really did. Never even used it, for fear it would be damaged. Even kept the outside polished. But it stopped working one day. I never did know what went wrong with it."
   He tossed it in the air and then caught it in the palm of his hand. "I didn't take the compass with me. Too many memories attached to it…and not the kind you press into a scrapbook." Noah set the compass down, knowing he'd need to stop stalling and ask about seeing his father. "I'm here to talk to my father. I want to speak to him right now…even if he doesn't want to see me."
   Her face went as ashen as her dress, which had to be the least flattering outfit he'd ever seen on a woman. And what was the meaning of that red ribbon around her wrist?
   "Are you okay?" Noah reached out to her and cupped her elbow, thinking she might pass out.
   "I'm fine. But Finney isn't fine. He's…" Olivia pushed her long hair away from her face and then held that pose as if she wasn't sure what to do next.
   "Please tell me, what's wrong?"
   "Your father has gone."
   "Gone where?"
   Olivia grabbed her waist. Her delicate, elfinlike features wrinkled. "Your father has gone to heaven."
   "He's dead?"
   "Yes."
   Lord, help me. I've come too late. "When did he die?"
   "Three months ago."
   Noah stepped backward and then collapsed onto a wicker chair. He'd been a fool to wait. Considering his father's advancing years, he should have known that the window of reconciliation would not stay open forever. Noah lowered his head and let his fingers claw into his scalp.
   Olivia walked over to him and knelt beside him. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have just said it so bluntly. I'm not very good at—"
   "What did my father die of?" Noah looked at her.
Love Inspired Books ISBN-13: 978-0-373-48687-8 HOME AT LAST © 2013 by Anita Higman

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Heart's Rebellion by Ruth Axtell, © 2014

Cover Art
There is therefore now no condemnation to
them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk
not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Romans 8:1
April 1815 ~ Regency England

A girl after my own heart, Miss Jessamine Barry tells her friend, Miss Megan Phillips, she would like to step into Hatchard's ~
   When they reached Piccadilly, she said, "I should like to stop in at Hatchard's and see the latest books. We shan't have time to be looking for street addresses if we are to shop."
   --A Heart's Rebellion (35)
I am glad they have enjoyed breakfast and their leisurely walk through the park. I would like to come along to the bookshop too.



Jessamine, disheartened by the marriage of Megan's brother Rees (if disheartened is even an appropriate level of the heart's demise) has come to London at the beckoning of her godmother, Lady Beasinger. "Lady Bess" has hopes of Jessamine's heart being filled during this London season.

Jessamine, discouraged by news of Rees bringing his wife to London, with child, determines to change from the guarded person she is to reflect the impromptu appearance of a woman at one of the society dinners. In doing so, will she truly lose herself?

HomeJessamine finds there is more than catalogued watercolors of exotic plantings. Her outing to London expresses further desires and hopes, however misguided to her true aim of being loved in return. Crushed by a hurt spirit, she delves into a world unknown to her. But the depth of her foundation of Truth sets her apart, if not in actions, in heart.

I love the depth of author Ruth Axtell's stories as she explores the aim of the human heart to be accepted and loved for who we are. Truly the path set before us is guided by His love for us. As Jessamine explores her feelings, she finds true depth of feeling grounded in the love and acceptance she has grown up with by her parents. May we be so grounded that we are able to instill in others their true worth. God's love is sure and true, beyond anything we might try to replace it with until we come to the realization of His unending love for us. Nothing we can do or say will send Him away from us as we uncover the acceptance already given to us. Offered freely, awareness comes to Jessamine. I appreciated the freedom she had to talk to her parents about her time away. Self-doubt is replaced by faith and His amazing grace as she comes to value herself above speculation. A story well-written and open to discovery. The conversations flowed and were well expressed with clarity. Support of others so valid, as they grow together in friendship and acceptance. I look forward to further writings by this author. 


Ruth Axtell is the author of many novels, including Moonlight Masquerade and Wild Rose, one of Booklist's Top Ten in Christian Fiction. Currently a resident of Downeast Maine, Axtell has lived in the Canary Islands, Miami, and the Netherlands. Learn more at ruthaxtell.com.

***Thank you to Revell Reads Blog Tour for sending me a copy of Ruth Axtell's A Heart's Rebellion to read and review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy an excerpt of Chapter 1 ~ A Heart's Rebellion by Ruth Axtell

1
APRIL 1815

“If this is what a London season is, I’d say it’s a silly waste of time.” Jessamine Barry folded her arms in front of her, frowning at the hordes of people milling past her in the Grecian-style drawing room, their edges slightly blurred since she was forbidden to wear her spectacles in society.
   “It is rather difficult to speak to anyone in this situation,” admitted her closest friend, Megan Phillips.
   If it weren’t for Megan, Jessamine would know not a soul in this mass of glistening, gleaming faces. Her handkerchief was already limp from patting it against her forehead and neck. “All this trouble to dress one’s finest just to be ignored. I don’t know how long I shall be able to stand it.”
   Megan turned worried eyes toward her. “Don’t say that. You know it’s such an opportunity we’ve been given by your godmother. I’m sure things will soon improve.” Megan craned her neck above the crowd. “Where did she go? I haven’t seen her since we arrived.”
   “In the card room, I would say,” Jessamine said dryly. The picture Lady Bess had painted Jessamine’s father of a London season was far from the reality. If her father could see her now, he’d utter a Scripture verse on man’s vanity; her mother would lament the cost of her gowns and all the other furbelows to accompany them.
   Jessamine flicked open her fan, eyeing the ivory brisĂ© sticks as she remembered how dearly it had cost, and stirred some of the warm air against her face.
   “Look at that gentleman there.” She snapped the fan closed and pointed it toward a young man whose florid jaws bulged over his neck cloth. “He looks close to asphyxiating any moment from his own cravat. How can men be so ridiculous?”
   Megan swallowed a giggle behind her own fan. “Careful, he’ll hear you.”
   “How anyone can hear anyone in this babble is beyond me, yet they all go on as if anyone cares what they say.” She narrowed her eyes at the ladies and gentlemen making a slow progression past her, bringing them into sharper focus. As far as she could make out, a rout was merely a place to see and be seen. No one seemed to be listening to anyone, yet their mouths kept moving, their smiles pasted on their faces like painted dolls.
   She shuddered at the amount of rouge she observed on women’s faces both young and old. What went on in London! And the gentlemen were worse, dressed like popinjays with more jewelry flashing from them than the women.
   “Perhaps if we smile at some of the young ladies our age, we’ll be able to meet them.”
   “My lips hurt from all the smiling I’ve done since arriving in London,” Jessamine muttered. “I refuse to do so any longer, since it hasn’t done us a bit of good.” To illustrate her point, she scowled at a lady sporting an emerald-green turban with three pink ostrich plumes thrusting themselves against her male companion’s upswept curls, curls so full of pomade they reflected the light from the chandeliers hanging above them.
   “I know you’re not in the best frame of mind, but things will get better, I’m sure. Things just . . . take time.”
   Jessamine’s lips tightened in displeasure at Megan’s reminder. How she wished on occasion Megan weren’t her closest friend. It would have made things easier. To be constantly reminded—but no, she would not think about him! He was as good as dead to her.
   She felt like one of those families that had exorcised a wayward son from their midst, the father banning the mere mention of the loved one’s name in his hearing.
   It would be humorous if it still didn’t hurt so much—and weren’t nigh on impossible to avoid hearing her beloved’s name, since he was Megan’s brother. Thank goodness he was no longer in England.
   This should have been the happiest time of her life, yet she was miserable. A year and a half ago she would scarce have imagined herself among the fashionable world in a London drawing room, enjoying a season. Indeed, she’d never wanted a London season, even when Mama and Papa had broached the subject. At eighteen she’d pooh-poohed such a notion as frivolous. What need had she to parade around London drawing rooms, advertising herself to eligible young bachelors, when her heart was faithfully committed to a man far superior to any simpering dandy?
   How little she’d imagined that a few months shy of one-and-twenty, she’d leap at her godmother’s invitation to London, proving herself no better than any young miss hanging out for a husband.
   The tears that were never far threatened to cloud the vision of the glittering array of ladies and gentlemen parading before her.
   A year and a half ago, she’d envisioned herself betrothed by now, perhaps even married, to the finest, handsomest—no! The streak of rebellion and bitterness—a streak new and foreign to her which had invaded her nature when she’d heard of Rees’s marriage and poisoned everything around her—reasserted itself.
   The man in question—Rees Phillips—was not the finest, handsomest, noblest gentleman. He was the lowest, most despicable, shabbiest cad she’d ever known! He had no right to be happy when he had made her so miserable.
   “Your frown could crack marble.”
   Jessamine jumped at the low masculine tone. Turning, she glared to see if the gentleman standing beside her had indeed had the temerity to address her.
   Glaring in this case entailed craning her neck upward if she didn’t want to waste the effort on a bleached white shirt front and pristine cravat.
   “Are you speaking to me, sir?”
   Amused blue eyes stared down into hers. They might have been attractive if the pale forehead hadn’t been topped by a mop of light red hair—that shade that could not be described as anything but orange.
   The gentleman’s slim lips quirked upward. “You recognized the description of yourself?”
   Jessamine drew herself up. How dare he mock her! “Excuse me, sir, we have not been introduced.” With that set down, she turned away, her chin in the air, and took Megan by the arm.
   Before she could move, he stepped in front of her and bowed. “I beg your pardon.”
   He turned and left her open-mouthed.
   She fumed, watching him move with ease across the crowded drawing room.

   Lancelot Marfleet strode away, seeking to put as much distance as possible between himself and the two young ladies he’d been listening to.
   Eavesdropping, his mother would say.
   He wouldn’t have stooped to such behavior, much less spoken his thoughts aloud—he recoiled inwardly at his indecorous behavior—if he hadn’t been so bored.
   He’d been dragged to the rout by his elder brother, who had soon disappeared, leaving Lancelot to stand like a wallflower beside the profusion of potted greenery.
   The young lady whose words had caught Lancelot’s attention had moved to stand so close to him, it had been impossible not to overhear her complaints—remarks he heartily agreed with.
   His mother would doubtless soon know of this latest social blunder from one of the dowagers who’d been standing near him. He could hear her aggrieved tone. “You’ve been too long among the heathen. In England a gentleman does not address a young lady he has not been introduced to.”
   He’d thought by now he’d mastered his fault of speaking first and thinking later, but clearly he had a ways to go and was not ready for a London drawing room.
   It wasn’t the heathen of India among whom he’d spent the last two years who’d taught him to speak out of turn. If anything, he’d learned to listen and observe, hampered as he was by not speaking the language.
   Speaking of observing, he dug into his coat pocket and drew out a pair of round, thin-rimmed, black metal spectacles. If he’d been fashionable, he’d have used only a quizzing glass, but he found the one-eyed look ridiculous and ineffective.
   But now he needed to search for his hostess to rectify matters with the young miss before word of his ill manners reached his mother.
   His eyes scanned the room, everything once more in sharp focus from the feathers atop ladies’ headdresses to the fobs dangling from men’s watch chains. His mother had forbidden him to wear the spectacles in public, but he was getting weary of nodding and smiling like a witless fool until the person drew near enough to be recognized.
   Before searching for Lady Abernathy, he sought the young lady whom he’d insulted. It didn’t take him long to spot the black-haired girl. He could feel his cheeks going ruddy as he identified her. The drawback of being a redhead—every emotion showed immediately on his cheeks.
   The young miss continued talking with her companion. The two appeared typical of all young ladies making their coming-out. They were dressed similarly in white muslin gowns, only their colored ribbons setting them apart.
   She had a pretty, though dissatisfied, face. Slim, pert nose, decided little chin, smooth pale skin with rosy lips and cheeks, the latter more likely due to the stuffiness of the room than to a healthy glow.
   As she faced forward again, he shifted his gaze away, searching for his hostess. Not seeing her, he headed to the card room.
   After two years traveling from Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal, living in a variety of primitive conditions, he’d acquired a certain self-possession, but a few weeks in London drawing rooms had him feeling as awkward and ungainly as he had in his youth, trailing behind his elder brother. Harold, who was only three years his senior, delighted in ragging Lancelot over his clumsiness at sports and awkwardness with the fairer sex.
   Pushing aside those memories with the same single-mindedness he used to push through the crowded drawing room, Lancelot arrived at the saloon filled with card tables.
   He located his hostess, a tall, stately woman walking among the green baize tables and stopping to chat with the card players.
   When he approached Lady Abernathy, she held out her hands to him. “Marfleet! How delightful to see you among us. I haven’t had a chance to properly welcome you back. Your mother wrote that you were terribly ill and recuperating in Hampshire.” His hostess’s pale brow furrowed briefly as she scanned his face. “I must say you look in fine fettle now.” She clucked her tongue. “We Europeans are not meant for those ferocious climes overseas, so I hope you are home for good.”
   “I’m much better now, thank you, ma’am.”
   She looked around the room. “What do you think of my little gathering?”
   “You certainly draw a lot of people to your evenings.”
   She laughed. “I like to think so.” She patted his hand. “Now, what may I do for you, dear?” Her light-blue eyes looked shrewdly into his. “Your mother has made it no secret that she and your father wish you to settle down. I’m surprised to see no bevy of young ladies on your arm.”
   His cheeks warmed, but she had given him the opening he needed. “Well, it’s precisely to beg an introduction that I come to you.”
   Her finely plucked eyebrows rose a fraction. “Oho, which of our young ladies has caught your interest? I shall present her to you forthwith.”
   He cleared his throat. “There are two young ladies in your drawing room. I’m not familiar with them, so I thought perhaps . . . ?” He left the request dangling, his heart thumping.
   He had no need to say more. She tucked her hand in his arm and began to steer him back the way he’d come. “Show me. I am all curiosity.”
   When they stood in the doorway of the drawing room, he said, “Over there, straight in front of us, the two brunettes in the white gowns.”
   “Yes, I see them. They are new in town. I am not acquainted with them personally. Lady Beasinger brought them. She is sponsoring their season.” Lady Abernathy turned to him, her eyes serious. “They have nothing to speak of. One is a vicar’s daughter from some little village, I forget which Lady Beasinger mentioned; the other a merchant’s daughter.” Her fine lips thinned. “With little dowry since he died bankrupt.” She gave him an appraising look. “Are you still interested in an introduction?”
   A vicar’s daughter? His interest rose as he wondered which of the two. “Yes, very much so.”
   She straightened her shoulders as if resigned. “Ah, love is blind to those practical matters a parent thinks about.”
   He said nothing, his gaze on the young lady he’d offended.
   “Very well, since you remain silent, let us hence.”
   On their way, she caught her butler’s attention and whispered something to him. He replied and she nodded. “Ah yes, I remember now. Miss Jessamine Barry and Miss Megan Phillips,” she said to herself as if to memorize the names.
   The first name caught Lancelot’s attention. Jessamine. Gelsemium sempervirens, yellow jasmine. Would it be the one he’d spoken to, with her dark curls set off so appropriately by yellow ribbons?
   It took a few moments to navigate across the room, but finally they stood in front of the two young ladies, who looked wide-eyed at them, their glances shifting from him to Lady Abernathy. Finally, the one Lancelot had not spoken to smiled. The other remained serious.
   “My dear Miss Barry, Miss Phillips”—Lady Abernathy nodded to each in turn—“Mr. Lancelot Marfleet begs an introduction.” As their gazes fixed on him, she addressed him. “May I present Miss Jessamine Barry.” With a flourish of her hand toward the young lady in yellow ribbons, she paused before proceeding to the other young lady. “And Miss Megan Phillips.”
   They each curtsied as Lancelot bowed.
   “Well, I shall leave you to become acquainted. Pity we have no dancing this evening,” his hostess murmured as she departed.
   “Thank you, my lady,” he said to her retreating back.
   Feeling as awkward as at his first dancing lesson, he turned to the two young ladies. Now what? He didn’t even remember why he’d wanted an introduction.
   Ah yes, so his mother would have nothing to reproach him with on the morrow. “I . . . beg your pardon for addressing you so rudely a few moments ago,” he said to Miss Barry as she stared back at him.
   She had green eyes, he noticed, fringed by black lashes. Her dark hair caught the light from the chandeliers and reflected like the polished gaboon ebony cut and shipped from West Africa and made into chess pieces and piano keys for Europeans.
   She only tipped her head in acknowledgment.
   Fiddling with his watch chain, he found nothing more to say. He’d always found small talk excruciatingly difficult. Flippancy came more easily to him, as evidenced by his first remarks to her, which had led him to this awkward situation.
   He cleared his throat. “Lady Abernathy said you are lately come to town?”
   She nodded.
   As if embarrassed by her companion’s reticence, the other young lady volunteered, “Yes, sir, we’ve been in London but a fortnight.”
   She was a pretty girl, her countenance friendly. Although of similar build and coloring as Miss Barry, the likeness ended there. Her chin was squarer, her nose straighter, her eyes gray, her hair dark brown.
   “You have been in town about the same amount of time as I. I haven’t seen you, though, until this evening,” he said in stilted tones.
   “That is not strange,” Miss Phillips replied with a little laugh. “We spent our first week sightseeing with a guidebook and know scarce anyone in London so have attended few parties.”
   His lips quirked upward, feeling a little more at ease by her friendly candor. He chanced a glance at Miss Frosty, as he was beginning to call her. Instead of smiling, she was looking fixedly at her companion as if trying to transmit a message without words. Surely, she couldn’t object to Miss Phillips’s attempt to make conversation?
   “Where do you hail from?” This time he addressed Miss Barry directly to see if she would deign to speak to him.
   “Alston Green,” she murmured, barely moving her lips.
   “In Horsham,” Miss Phillips added helpfully.
   “Ah yes, West Sussex. Pretty country round about there. My family is from a little west of there, in Hampshire.”
   Miss Phillips nodded, then with a glance at Miss Barry, volunteered, “Jessamine—Miss Barry—was born and bred there, but I moved there with my mother and brother almost fifteen years ago. My mother is originally from the village.”
   Miss Barry’s compressed lips and flared nostrils confirmed her displeasure at her friend’s offering of information.
   “But we’ve been the best of friends ever since. I can hardly remember a time I didn’t know Jessamine—Miss Barry—so feel as if I’m originally from the village.”
   He nodded. “Where did you live beforehand?”
   A shadow crossed Miss Phillips’s pretty gray eyes. “Bristol.”
   He raised his eyebrows. “That must have been a change for you from the city to a village.”
   “Yes, though meeting Miss Barry, who is our nearest neighbor, made all the difference.” Her expression sobered. “My father was a merchant in Bristol, until he passed away.”
   “I’m sorry.” He remembered Lady Abernathy’s words. Miss Phillips’s father had died bankrupt. Bristol, a city dependent on its seafaring trade, had been hard hit from so many years of the blockade with France.
   “It was a difficult time for my mother, brother, and I. Of course, I was but a child so do not remember it so well as they. It happened many years ago.”
   “Still, the loss of one’s father must be a terrible blow.” He was grateful he still had both of his parents even when they didn’t always see eye to eye on his way of life. Thankfully, being the younger son put him under no undo obligation to conform to their manner of life—until lately.
   “Do you live in London?” Miss Phillips asked him in friendly inquiry.
   His nervousness disappeared. It wasn’t hard to feel at ease with Miss Phillips. She had a generous smile that bordered on the saucy but didn’t cross over into flirtatious. “No, my parents have a place in town—on Grafton Street—so I have spent a fair amount of time here, though not lately.” He cleared his throat again, reluctant to over any more about himself, afraid he’d appear to be boasting. “I’ve been in India the last two years.”
   That got Miss Barry’s attention, but it was Miss Phillips who expressed her curiosity. “India? What took you there, the East India Company?”
   “I went out with the Church Missionary Society.” He looked down, experiencing the familiar hesitancy at explaining. “I’m a vicar and felt called to go as a missionary.” He raised his gaze as he finished, curious to gauge Miss Barry’s reaction. Experience had taught him he’d either face disbelief or embarrassed silence.
   His words appeared to have neither effect. Miss Barry’s green eyes narrowed as if she were assessing him. Miss Phillips’s eyes shone. “A missionary, how exciting! You must tell us about your time there.”
   He shrugged, feeling ill at ease again. “It was not an easy task,” he said slowly, finding it hard to encapsulate his experience in a few sentences, which was all people usually wanted to hear.
   In an effort to turn the topic, he addressed Miss Barry, remembering her words of dissatisfaction. “You are enjoying your season thus far?”
   “It is certainly different from what we’re used to in Alston Green,” she answered in a careful tone.
   “We attended assemblies there and in neighboring Billingshurst, but they were nothing like these parties,” added Miss Phillips when Miss Barry said nothing more. “It is a bit difficult to fully appreciate these great houses when one is a stranger in town.”
   He nodded, his sympathy engaged. Even when one had grown up among the “ten thousand,” the parties of the ton were intimidating. “I daresay. Your patroness is—”
   “Lady Beasinger,” Miss Phillips finished for him. “She’s Miss Barry’s godmother. It was very sweet of her to include me in her invitation to Miss Barry.”
   Lancelot nodded. “Yes, my mother knows her. She seems a kindly person. She’s a bit on in years, though, and perhaps is not acquainted with the younger set.”
   Miss Phillips nodded eagerly. “That’s precisely so. She goes out very little in society these days except to a few card parties among her small circle.” She indicated the crowd around them. “This is our first evening at a real society event. Unfortunately, she left us here for the card room and thinks just by standing around, young gentlemen will come flocking to us.” Her cheeks dimpled again. “But it seems to have worked.”
   He couldn’t help chuckling, but he saw that Miss Barry didn’t share the joke.
   Before he could think of some appropriate rejoinder, Miss Barry spoke to him directly. “If you will excuse us, Mr. Marfleet, I believe I see someone we must greet.”
   He swiveled around.
   “Oh? Who?” Miss Phillips asked.
   Miss Barry gave her companion a sharp look.
   Realizing Miss Barry was only trying to get rid of him, he stepped back. He had probably outstayed his welcome in any case. “I shall not keep you. It was a pleasure meeting you both.”
   Miss Phillips looked disappointed but said nothing to contradict her friend. She held out her hand. “It was a pleasure indeed. I hope we see you again.”
   He bowed over her hand and then turned to Miss Barry. But she neither offered her hand nor smiled. “I look forward to it,” he murmured, moving out of their way.
   He observed them crossing the room, delayed several times by the throng. Miss Barry was in the lead, her hand upon her friend’s arm as if she were towing her along.
   Only when they reached the doorway did he realize he was still wearing his spectacles. His face heated up and he swallowed, imagining the sport Harold would have if he were with him.
   Sir Lancelot, you managed to converse for a quarter of an hour with not one but two pretty ladies, and you ruined it all with those spectacles.
   Then he’d throw back his blond head and roar with laughter.
   Hang it all! What did Lancelot care what Miss Barry and Miss Phillips thought of his appearance? It was worth it to see them both clearly. And clearly, Miss Barry didn’t care if she ever saw him again.
   Miss Phillips hadn’t seemed to notice his spectacles at all.
   Remembering his brother, Lancelot decided it was time to hunt for him.
   After searching all the public rooms in the elegant town house, he realized Harold had left, probably as soon as he’d deposited him here. No doubt to some gaming den.

   Jessamine bit back her annoyance as she pushed herself in front of a bejeweled lady, ignoring the lady’s exclamation as she accidently trod on her satin slippers.
   “Impertinent chit,” the lady said to her escort. “I vow, Lady Abernathy is allowing all sorts of nobodies at her routs these days. Probably a mushroom’s daughter by the looks of her.”
   “Did you hear that?” Megan whispered.
   Jessamine nodded abruptly, keeping her pace up. All she wanted was to exit this room with its odious people. Never had she felt so out of place. “Some people, even in London’s best homes, have no manners,” she said shortly.
   “Why are you in such a hurry?” Megan asked when they were halfway across the room.
   “I wanted to get away from that impertinent gentleman.”
   Megan stared at her. “Mr. Marfleet? I thought he was quite charming.”
   “Charming? With all that red hair and—and spectacles?”
   Megan’s gray eyes twinkled. “Spectacles?”
   Jessamine felt herself blush to the roots of her hair, thinking of the pair she carried in the leather case in her reticule. “But no one wears them in public like that, not to a rout!”
   “I thought it showed a refreshing honesty. He’s a vicar and a missionary. He probably doesn’t care about his appearance.”
   “Yes, a vicar.”
   “What’s wrong with being a vicar? Your father is one.”
   Jessamine shuddered. “I’m not interested in meeting a vicar.” Nor in giving her heart to anyone else.
   “But to think he’s been to India. I wonder who his family is,” Megan mused, “if they have a house in town and in Hampshire.”
   Jessamine concentrated on maneuvering past a dawdling couple in front of them before she replied. “He can be the Duke of Marlborough’s son for all I care. His hair is unruly, he has a bran-faced complexion, and he sports his spectacles at a rout!” A vicar was the last man she would look at. Not after having lived life by the rules and having it turn to ashes. With her words, she reached the doorway and grabbed the jamb as if arriving at a finish line.
   Megan looked around. “I thought you wanted to greet someone?”
   Jessamine blushed again, looking away, ashamed of having told a fib to her friend. “It was just an excuse to get away from Mr. Marfleet.”
   Megan’s eyes widened. It was no wonder. Jessamine had never told such a fib. But those days were over. Being good got one nowhere.
   “I’m sorry,” Megan said. “I didn’t realize you were uncomfortable with him. I was so relieved to be talking to someone closer to our age.”
   “He looked closer to Rees’s age—” she blurted out then stopped, realizing she was the one who had brought up Megan’s brother this time.
   Megan laid a hand on her arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. He just seems so different from Rees. I didn’t think he resembled him at all.”
   He didn’t. Mr. Marfleet was nowhere near as handsome as Rees Phillips with his dark looks and gray eyes, so like his sister Megan, but in a tall, masculine form. Try as she would to blot out the hurt, it still lay behind her heart like a smoldering acid and turned her every thought acrimonious.
   “I found him old,” she said abruptly, turning away from Megan. “How long do you think Lady Bess will be?”
   “A few hours if we’re fortunate.”
   Jessamine’s lips turned downward. “Too bad she has nowhere else to visit tonight.”
   “It would only mean hopping in and out of a hackney in the rain to do the same thing we’re doing now.”
   The night loomed before them. Jessamine’s shoulders slumped as she admitted defeat in the face of her friend’s realistic assessment. “I wish we could play cards.”
   “It wouldn’t matter. Young ladies are not expected to sit like dowagers at the card table here in London the way we do back home.”
   “Instead we are supposed to be standing like storks, to be seen by eligible bachelors who happen by.” She pasted a false smile on her face and batted her eyelashes.
   Only to have her glance land squarely on that odious redhead and find him observing her across the room. She flushed, realizing her falsehood had been discovered.
   Once again, she took Megan by the elbow. “Come along, let’s find Lady Bess and pray she’s on a losing streak.”

Ruth Axtell, A Heart's Rebellion; Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2014. Used by permission.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare, ©2014

Quilts of Love series ~ every quilt has a story

Frankie Chasing Bear and her ten-year-old son, Harold, have left their Lakota home in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. It is 1951 and they are relocating to Los Angeles following the death of her husband, but make it as far as Phoenix in her old truck. Frankie begins a Lakota Star quilt to teach her son the Lakota ways by the story in the quilt. Wanting to finish up her high school diploma, Frankie and Harold attend the Phoenix Indian School together. That is until some trouble comes along and they are both asked to leave. Harold wants to go back to Pine Ridge.

Nick Parker is a Federal Agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and has just transferred from Nebraska to Arizona. Nick is half-Lakota and half-white. He is sent to talk to the Navajo people to thin their sheep herds to preserve the government forests. He and Frankie meet as she and her son are at the gas station getting water for her overheated truck.

Window Rock In needing a source of income, Frankie is directed to two quilters and she joins them at their shop. The Navajo Reservation with its tribal headquarters in Window Rock, Arizona, holds a Fair every year. Frankie and her two friends take quilts there to sell. While at the weekend Navajo Fair, Harold makes friends with Blackfeet boys his age from Montana who include him in their ball games ~ as quarterback! Excited to have friends, Harold stays close to them.

A Sky without Stars tells the story of a crash of cultures. I admire Frankie as she comes up against obstacles and continues on striving for betterment and living each day to the fullest. She loves her son and struggles with letting go. He is convinced she is trying to baby him, and Frankie wants to keep him close and away from harm. A growing time for each of them, Frankie looks to the wisdom of her grandmother in seeking her next step. She could not understand how her grandmother could be Lakota and a Christian. As Nick and Frankie become friends, he continues to want to help her in any way he can. As a single mother in a new environment, she tries to do it on her own. Assurance comes as both of them find God has been with them in their struggles. A growing story of hope, forgiveness, and acceptance of grace and mercy extended. Finding the love of the Lakota Star, star of Bethlehem.
 
http://www.abingdonpress.com/images/products/9781426752797.jpg

Author Linda S. Clare ~ a bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars ~



***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for this Quilts of Love story ~ A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Quilts of Love | A SKY WITHOUT STARS by Linda S. Clare – Kindle HDX Giveaway & “Spring Fling” Facebook Party!

Don't miss this month's Quilts of Love book, A Star Without Stars, by Linda S. Clare. Linda is celebrating the release with a Kindle HDX giveaway and joining her fellow Quilts of Love authors, Barbara Cameron and Joyce Magnin, for a Facebook "Spring Fling" party on April 1st.
qol-skywithoutstars-400-click

  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
  • A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare
  • Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 1st. Winner will be announced at the "Spring Fling" Facebook Party on April 1st. RSVP today and connect with the authors from the Quilts of Love series, Barbara Cameron, Linda S. Clare, and Joyce Magnin, for an evening of book chat, quilt trivia, prizes, and an exclusive look at the next Quilts of Love book!

So grab your copies of Scraps of EvidenceA Sky Without Stars, and Maybelle in Stitches and join Barbara, Linda, and Joyce on the evening of April 1st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the books, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on April 1st!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd, ©2013

Whispers on the Moors series (Book 2)
Patience Creighton has devoted her life to running her father's boarding school. But when the enigmatic master of the estate appears at her door, battered and unconscious, the young headmistress suddenly finds her livelihood—and her heart—in the hands of one dangerously handsome gentleman.

Darbury, England, February 1816

A predawn visitor identified as William Sterling, master of Eastmore Hall, is found in the Rosemere stable with cuts and bruises and his horse in the courtyard. Brought in through the kitchen to be tended, he bolts quickly to continue on to his estate. Rosemere School for Young Ladies is on land that is part of his estate. Headmistress Patience Creighton tends to his wounds and "opens his heart."

At twenty-five, now a "spinster," Patience has no thought of a life beyond caring for the girls at their boarding school. Her father has passed away, her brother has moved away, and her mother's sorrow has burrowed her away.

Following a fire to the school ground's stable, Patience's brother returns with a couple surprises of his own and plans for changes to the school.

Through bad choices and narrow escapes, William has debt and little else to offer to his land holdings and tenants. Thought to be the elusive master of Eastmore Hall, he finds he needs more than idleness and separateness from others. He thoughtfully brings the animals from Rosemere to his stable after the fire. This contact with the school brings him closer ~ to himself and those he has begun to meet, opening up his life.

I liked how William was able to stand for right at the end instead of fear of retribution. Wise choices brought him around and were beneficial to all. There was steady growth in the characters as they began to trust and not selfishly look to themselves for the answers. By opening up communication and speaking truthfully, they removed any misgivings they might have had about one another.

With the uncertainty of the school structuring before her, I was glad Patience was able to not "go with the flow." Even unknowing the outcome of her actions, Patience stood for what she needed to do for herself rather than expectations of others making her decisions.

I look forward to her next novel in this Regency era period. Sarah Ladd is a strong author with insight into her characters.

The Headmistress of Rosemere is on the ECPA Christian Fiction Bestsellers list for March 2014!! christianbookexpo.com/bestseller/fiction.php?id=0314 And you won't want to miss Book 1 in the series, The Heiress of Winterwood, featured in Amazon’s Gold Box Deal today. Start several great new series, just $1.99 per title: amzn.to/1kGjseY #TNZFictionGoldBox, on sale as an eBook today.

Book 3 in the Whispers on the Moors series, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, releases in the Fall of 2014.
SEL HEADSHOT FOR ABOUT SARAH PAGE
Author Sarah E. Ladd

Visit author Sarah Ladd's Cold Winter interview. novelcrossing.com/news/sarah-ladd-cold-19403

 

***Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for sending me a copy of The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd to read and review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig, ©2014

Edge of Freedom Series, Book 3



   Her fingers tingling with excitement, Tillie counted the last of the coins from a worn leather pouch she kept hidden beneath a floorboard under her bed. Combined with the money she and Braedon had saved before crossing over to America, and what she'd netted from selling her jewelry and a string of pearls left her by her grandmother, she had just about enough.
   Grabbing the pouch from the bottom, she gave it one last shake, just in case any more coins lay tucked inside its folds. Instead, a slender gold ring fell out and rolled onto the floor with a thump. Braedon's ring.
   As she'd done often in the past, Tillie lifted the ring to examine it more closely. Though the metal was worn with age, two clasped hands were clearly visible--one larger and obviously masculine, the other smaller and more delicate. Female. Twisting slightly, Tillie dislodged the two clasped hands, spreading the ring so it became two distinct bands, and beneath them a third band upon which a glittering ruby shaped like a heart lay hidden. The sight never failed to rob her of her breath. Where Braedon had come by the ring or how much it was worth, she didn't know, but it belonged to him, and she'd vowed never to part with it.
   --Tide and Tempest, 13-14

Tillie McGrath is desiring to buy a six-roomed farmhouse advertised in the window at the land office. Just the home to begin an orphanage. Realizing vacancies left from Breda, Deidre, Cara, and now Ana leaving the boardinghouse, empty rooms have left Mrs. Matheson low on funds. Tillie sets aside her plans so as not to cause an additional vacancy. Tillie designs hats for Mrs. Ferguson at her millinery shop. Successfully replicating society magazine styles from memory, she has brought added business to the shop and is given an overseeing position and raise in her wages. Along with serving with the nuns at the shelter for the evening meals, Tillie has settled in since her arrival to New York from Ireland two years earlier. Thankful to the captain of the Caitriona Marie for setting her in this good lodging in the city, amid her sorrow in the death of her fiancé, Braedon McKillop, aboard his ship in the crossing.

Captain Keondric Morgan has returned to New York hearing a deathbed confession on the ship revealing that passenger Braedon's death wasn't an accidental illness but planned and carried out slowly. With the intent of going to see Tillie to let her know of the truth he has newly learned, he is unable to deliver his message but instead asks to return her to Ireland to her family via his ship. She declines. Upon repairs needing to be accomplished before returning to his next voyage, he and his first mate and brother, Cass, rent rooms at the boardinghouse. Not only helping Mrs. Matheson, they both become further interested in spending time with Tillie with their nearness.

The further motive is to keep Tillie safe. While discussing repairs and the time it will take, the brothers talk about Tillie and a crew member is listening on the other side of the door. Sabotage from a trusted mate who has connections with The Celt?

Brilliant writing with in-depth detail!

Fully developed, Tide and Tempest reveals the heart of those trying to save Ireland's freedom from England, those trying to profit from it, and those trying to stay alive! Author Elizabeth Ludwig has brought this story full around concluding the Edge of Freedom series. I especially liked the relationship between the two brothers and Tillie. So respectful and friendship building, the three will be able to be friends for a long time. Very satisfactory ending for all three of them as their future lies before them. I was watching a couple of the characters, wondering if they were friend or foe? I trusted one and was uncertain of the other ~ they turned out to be reversed from what I thought they would be! A surprise to me was The Celt being an acquaintance in Ireland with an unsuspected character.

I liked this book!



Adventure abounds in this final novel as the Edge of Freedom series concludes. Tide and Tempest may be read as a standalone but you will want to become further acquainted with those in the earlier Book 1, No Safe Harbor and Book 2, Dark Road Home.

                                   Edge of Freedom Series
 
Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author and an accomplished speaker and teacher. She is the author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, books 1 and 2 in this series, and Love Finds You in Calico, California; each earned four stars from RT Book Reviews. She owns and edits the popular literary blog The Borrowed Book. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in Orange, Texas. Learn more at elizabethludwig.net.
And the LORD answered me: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time
  --Habakkuk 2:2-3a

***Thank you to author Elizabeth Ludwig for sending a print copy of Tide and Tempest to me to review in this blog tour. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***