Monday, October 16, 2017

Everywhere You Go There's a Zacchaeus Up a Tree: Small-Town Faith and Words of Wisdom by Roger Campbell, © 2017



Join in these favorite snippets published in Roger Campbell's newspaper column.

Small towns with front porches. Twilight strollings and visits to reminisce the happenings of the day.
Image result for front porch gathering

Image result for front porch gatheringI have enjoyed the encouragement and thought following the reading of these gathered selections. I would suggest they not be read one after the other, but treated as a devotional to be thought upon during the day. Very applicable to several circumstances of life; a need to be thoughtful of another, a listener, a lifter of the head.

Scripture is brought into daily living as remembrances are given from emails he received that sparked a reflective response with a good kernel for each of us to plant and watch grow in our lives. Starting a good day ~ not grumbling, but thankful.
   It has long been my practice to heed the counsel of another godly man given many years ago: "As you start your day, speak to God before speaking to anyone else. Listen for His voice before engaging in human conversation. Read His Word before reading anything else."
  --Everywhere You Go There's a Zacchaeus Up a Tree, 40.
I love this title! There may be someone searching for Jesus, out of sight in their view requiring a higher perch ~ to get above our earthly endeavors to reach what only He can give us ~ peace, love, One-on-one. Roger Campbell has relayed meeting Him places and times we may not be aware of beyond the noise. Early morning birds singing! Greeting the day as He watches over us.

I look forward to continuing to read each offering of uplifting hope as the days come anew. I will enjoy this little book with wisdom and comfort provided pointing us to the One who loves us with an everlasting love. What an honor for his family to have them compiled for generations to come.

***Thank you to Kregel Publications for sending a copy of Roger Campbell's stories. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***





Sunday, October 15, 2017

An Amish Christmas Love ~ Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Kelly Irvin, and Ruth Reid, © 2017

Winter Kisses by Beth Wiseman

Image result for windmill barn winter amishYou are going to love these characters! Feisty mammi who goes to the library to check out people on the Internet; her widowed daughter-in-law who finds love again; and her granddaughter who discovers first love. All wrapped up in Christmas and our Love born among men. How grateful I am.

Wayne was easily my favorite character. He went beyond himself to care for another and have Truth exposed. And this is only Novella number one! A treasure to behold. This story alone shouts, "Christmas gift."







The Christmas Cat by Amy Clipston

Image result for yellow barn catCome and meet a golden-orange cat with a golden heart. Nudged anew, Emma finds love in an unsuspected place with a Christmas Eve visit.

I especially like her "now and then" inspired memories refreshed by the gathering of young friends; so important to mingle together to restore life and hope. Each generation is warmed by the value of each other in experiencing and remembrance!

Image result for yellow barn cat winter






Katie Ann became my favorite character with her gentle caring ways and regard for her brother.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  --Romans 15:13
A Christmastime to remember of new beginnings.





Snow Angels by Kelly Irvin

Bee County, South Texas

Image result for windmill barn winter amish
Forget the former things;
Do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
  --Isaiah 43:18-19
Back to Bee County! Have you meet these families from Kelly's previous writings? I have enJ*O*Yed "watching" the children grow up.

My husband talks to the TV; I am talking out loud to a character warning him. Referee decision? lol

A beautiful story of redemption and being rescued by Truth. My favorite character was Molly, determining to be still and leave the decision with the Lord to lead. Releasing another to Him became more important than words that muddle and confuse with no substance. I hope there is a continuance to this story in the future.


Home for Christmas by Ruth Reid

Image result for windmill barn winter amishAn unfamiliar area, walking into the wrong house, Ellie and her prized dog, Lulu, are met by the neighbor and his young daughter ~ with awe, at least by Allison, and uncertainty in the eye of her father, Ezra. Directed to her original destination, Ellie has a few mishaps that eventually get straightened out. She finds that she isn't as self-reliant as she would like to think. While Ellie has labeled Ezra as decidedly a "cat person," Lulu has chosen Allison as the perfect playmate.

A beautiful story of coming home; home to family values, and a love left to find exactly where you left it. Over the years that Ellie and her mom had been gone, her Aenti Bonnie kept a Prayer Journal that included Ellie; a heritage left just for her.

The warmth of love brings more than security, but a lifetime to discover. I really enjoyed this story and it rounds up these Novellas very satisfactory! I liked the communication and openness exposing the heart's intent. To be known as you are. So in this Novella ~ I would point to all of the characters. Favorites each one!


***Thank you to author Kelly Irvin for sending me a copy of this wonderful selection of novellas! This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

author Beth Wiseman
author Amy Clipston
author Kelly Irvin
Image result for ruth reid
author Ruth Reid
          

Monday, October 9, 2017

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter, © 2017

The Hawthorne House Series, Book 4

Cover Art

My Review:

Sudbury Hall
Sudbury Hall
While their friendship goes way back to school days, Ryland and Griffith, young dukes, grow to manhood. Still confidants and advisors, they seek each other in decision-making. One is not so certain, as Griffith plans a methodical way to win a wife.

English Regency Gown Costume Sewing Pattern
Miss Frederica St. Claire and her New Season country cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge
Regency-Women Set 22 | Richard Jenkins PhotographyMissing her Northumberland home and family, Isabella longs to return to a green countryside and fresh air. She suddenly was transported to London with her Uncle Percy and Cousin Freddie with little time to consider. Go or stay. Her uncle offers to finance her family's failing farm and provide schooling for her brother. How can she refuse? Her part? To influence young men to aid a bill in the House of Lords that her uncle has been promoting for years. Simple enough. Dancing with them at stylish balls, they will come on the at-home day and be met aforehand by Uncle and persuaded to become familiar with the need for their vote.

Regency-Men Set 2 | Richard Jenkins Photography
Griffith, Duke of Riverton

Plane Trees in Berkeley Square, London
Plane Trees in Berkeley Square ~ London
One thing going for the Duke of Riverton is strolling with the cousins amid greenery, a definite plus for time with them. The one he has chosen has other interests, leaving the cousin who definitely doesn't want to include Griffith in the trail of men she is bringing for her uncle to concur with. I liked Frederica's urgent need for a rest, resulting in the continued walk with Isabella.

A scavenger hunt during the weekend gala planned by his mother, Griffith finds a treasure of his own. Tenacity brings him to several interesting developments as he tries to find out why he is being spurned in his attempts to courtship. I liked the concurrence of the ladies in Griffith's family in encouraging him in his selection.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Kristi Ann Hunter's An Inconvenient Beauty ~ Prologue & Chapter 1

To the Sovereign of all,
who has a better plan for our lives
than we could ever imagine.
Proverbs 3:5–6


Prologue

Eton College, Berkshire, England, 1797

The line between boy and man was never murkier than when a father died too soon, leaving his son to walk through the foibles of youth while shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood.
   Though a part of Griffith, Duke of Riverton, knew that having to show his ripped paper to his housemaster wasn’t the worst thing that could ever happen, the eleven-year-old part of him seethed in anger. He fingered the tear in the top of his paper that meant the master teacher found his work inadequate. The head of his house was going to be angry.
   Not as angry as Griffith was, though.
   It would be better if he knew where to direct his anger. While some of it was definitely reserved for the group of upper boys who ruthlessly attacked Griffith and his friend Ryland, Duke of Marshington, there was a good bit directed at himself as well. Because of the ceaseless taunting, the snide mutterings of “As you wish, Your Grace” that rang in his ears until he heard it in his sleep, and the teachers’ delight in being able to discipline such high-ranking boys, Griffith was coming to despise the title he’d been raised to love and respect. Unlike Ryland, who had been all too pleased to obtain the title, since it meant his grandfather couldn’t torture him anymore, Griffith had adored his father and would have been more than happy not to be the duke.
   He’d have given anything to be able to ask his father what he should do now, because what he wanted was revenge. The anger at the older boys, the teachers, and himself coursed through him, burning right through his normal, logical reasoning until all he wanted to do was prove that—despite his tender years—he was no one to be crossed, that he wasn’t a boy but a young man to be reckoned with.
   The paper in his hand crumpled further as his fingers curled into a tight fist. He’d had very little time to work on his paper this week, given the several hours a day he’d had to help the groundskeeper as punishment for an escapade in the headmaster’s office. An escapade that he’d had no part in but the headmaster had been convinced he and Ryland had done.
   Rearranging all the furniture was a fairly harmless prank, but the older boys had also riffled through the files, making changes to Ryland’s and Griffith’s marks, to make it look like they’d done it. Headmaster Heath hadn’t been pleased. Griffith’s hands were raw and his muscles hurt from the hours spent shoveling bat guano into the flower beds as fertilizer as well as from the additional household chores he’d been given.
   Ryland was waiting outside the house, his arms crossed over his thin chest. Griffith towered over him, having grown enough in the past year to require having his trousers retailored twice and ordering new coats and shirts made. Another second-year boy nodded at them as he scurried into the house, not wanting to be seen with them and thereby become a target of the older boys.
   “Did you find out who invaded the headmaster’s office?” Griffith shoved his already crumpled paper into his satchel.
   Ryland nodded, lips pressed together. “The fifth years.”
   Griffith nodded at the building behind Ryland. “From our house?”
   “No. They were King’s Scholars.”
   “I guess that takes care of your plan, then.” Secretly, Griffith was relieved. As much as his anger was driving him toward revenge, the idea Ryland had come up with while they shoveled manure yesterday made Griffith more than a little nervous. Sneaking into the upper boys’ room in one of the houses in town was one thing, but the King’s Scholars house was on campus.
   “I say we do it.” Deep creases formed in Ryland’s forehead, causing a shadow to fall across his grey eyes. “If I hear ‘As you wish, Your Grace’ one more time, I’m liable to do something that will actually get me sent down from school.”
   Griffith was inclined to agree. Though violence hadn’t been part of his life, even he was feeling the urge to hit something. The urge frightened him as much as the idea of sneaking into the King’s Scholars’ boardinghouse at night.
   “I’m doing it. Tonight.” Ryland lifted an eyebrow. “Are you with me?”
   Was he? He was fairly sure that his father wouldn’t approve. But his father had left him to figure things out on his own. And if Ryland did what he planned, Griffith was going to be blamed for it whether he was involved or not. Was it better to be falsely guilty or truly guilty? Either way he’d suffer the consequences. “I’m in.”
   Thankfully, the trembling in his body didn’t reveal itself in his voice. He stuffed his hand down into his satchel and felt around for his paper, tracing his fingers along the edge until he could feel the tear in the top. It was his third in as many weeks. He’d come to school to learn, and that obviously wasn’t happening. No matter what he did, his life was at the mercy of the older boys, determined to have their own against a pair of young dukes while they could. Renewed anger rushed through him, trampling over his misgivings. He’d hold on to his paper until tomorrow. He might need the motivation tonight.

~*~
   Sneaking around the grounds of Eton at midnight was wrong.
   Then again, so was making someone’s life miserable just because you could. If he tried really hard, Griffith could convince himself that teaching these older boys a lesson now would make them better men in the future. Wasn’t that what a duke was supposed to do? Lead the elite of England to be better?
   Tension tightened his shoulders as he slipped into the darkened building behind Ryland. It was strange being on campus when everything was dark and quiet. It added to the sense of unreality. Was he really, finally, going to do something about his school difficulties? Ryland and Griffith had found each other early on, their mutual disdain for life at Eton bonding them quickly. Their first year had been horrible, with one of them still grieving the loss of his father and the other trying desperately to live down the reputation of his grandfather. Griffith had been able to convince Ryland and himself that things would be better if they just got through the first year.
   But they weren’t.
   If anything, things were worse. Now that there wasn’t a sanctioned way to make Griffith and Ryland do their bidding, the older boys were resorting to new and worse means of persecution.
   After tonight, they’d think twice. Or at the very least, they’d stop saying “As you wish.”
   “You have the paint?” Ryland whispered.
   Griffith silently held up the can of red paint he’d bought in town. Ryland nodded and slid two brushes from his pocket. His other hand reached for the latch on the door of the fifth-year boys’ dormitory.
   Sweat coated Griffith’s palms, making him clutch the paint tighter so he wouldn’t drop it. His chest felt like it was churning like the waters of the River Thames during a storm. Were they really going to do this? Somehow it didn’t seem right to slip in and face his enemies while they slept. But what else could they do? He couldn’t stand it if the year continued on the way it had started. And what would happen next year?
   “Keep it simple,” Ryland said in a toneless whisper. Griffith wasn’t even sure he’d heard it so much as sensed what was being said by the shape of Ryland’s lips.
   “Simple,” Griffith whispered back. He winced at the sound of his voice and decided to nod at Ryland instead.
   Ryland nodded back. “We get in, paint As you wish, Your Grace on the backs of their shirts, and get out.”
   A small grin touched Griffith’s lips. They’d think about the dukes every time they got dressed for the rest of the term, unless they wanted to explain to their parents why they needed new shirts.
   It would be a reminder that he and Ryland had managed to sneak into their presence and could have done something much worse.
   There was a certain biblical tone to the prank that appealed to Griffith and made him feel a bit like David facing down Saul, even if it was probably more like taking on Goliath.
   “Remember—backs of the shirts,” Ryland whispered. “We don’t want them to violate dress code.”
   At Griffith’s nod, Ryland eased the door open, pressing it tightly to the hinges so nothing squeaked.
   They crept in, taking care not to make a noise in the silent room.
   Griffith frowned. The room was too silent. He couldn’t even hear the boys breathing in their sleep.
   The room was empty.
   “Where are they?” Ryland whispered.
   As if Griffith could possibly know the answer. “Should we do it anyway?”
   Ryland nodded and the boys made short work of marking the shirts, a task made much easier by the fact that they only had to be quiet enough to avoid waking the boys in the other rooms.
   As they eased back out of the dormitory, Ryland’s grin glowed in the moonlight. “Let’s find them.”
   Griffith frowned. “Why?”
   “Because whatever they’re doing is against school rules, and we can use it to convince them to leave us alone.”
   “What we’re doing is against school rules.” Griffith rolled his eyes at his friend, wondering, not for the first time, if they would’ve gotten along with each other if they didn’t have a title in common.
   “Then, we don’t let them see us.” Ryland pulled Griffith after him, running from shadow to shadow in search of the upper boys.
   It didn’t take long to find them, huddled on the far side of the chapel, away from the dormitory, passing two bottles of pilfered liquor among them. Another two bottles lay on the ground, already emptied of their amber-colored contents. Two of the boys tried to stand up and promptly fell down on each other.
   “Are they drunk?” Griffith whispered.
   Ryland grinned. “Three sheets blown clear away by the wind, I’d guess.”
   The boys were talking among themselves, occasionally forgetting that they should probably be quiet.
   “Come on.” Ryland pulled Griffith around the corner.
   “What? Why?”
   “Because you’re bigger. You don’t have to say anything. I’ll hide behind you and do all the talking.”
   And then Ryland was pushing Griffith into the group. Careful to stay in the deeper shadows in order to hide his face, Griffith staggered and Ryland spoke from behind him, slurring his words like he was one of the drunken group. Griffith’s heart pounded from fear but also a bit of excitement. He was the same size as some of these boys, despite the difference in age, and to walk among them unnoticed was a thrill.
   “Care for a drink?” one boy slurred. “Toasting the fall of one of the young dukes.”
   Another boy laughed until he hiccupped. “Saw him slip in the manure pile this morning.”
   All the boys laughed.
   Griffith angled his head until he could see Ryland’s shadow behind him. Griffith hadn’t fallen—that meant Ryland had. His determination to have his revenge tonight made a little more sense.
   “Where’d you get the liquor?” Ryland asked.
   One boy staggered to his feet, looking proud and unstable. “Headmaster’s office. Imagine how mad he’s going to be that those two upstarts broke in again.”
   “How much better if he praised us while condemning them?” Ryland cackled and stabbed Griffith in the ribs, making him jerk his arms like a puppet. “We should do something no one would expect.”
   “He’ll send us up!” one boy nearly shouted.
   “Or make us prefects,” another said.
   “This way!” Ryland said, lifting Griffith’s arm into the air. “He’ll remember us forever!”
   The boys cheered until Ryland was forced to shush them through his muffled laughter. How could he be laughing at a time like this? Griffith was fairly certain his heart was about to explode and leave him in pieces all over the chapel wall.
   “Lead them this way,” Ryland whispered in Griffith’s ear.
   Griffith didn’t know what he was doing, but none of the boys seemed to notice when Ryland slid out from behind him and gestured for Griffith to follow him. Soon Griffith was leading his pack of drunk upper boys to the garden shed, where Ryland and Griffith had been reporting for punishment for the past week.
   The smell of the large pile of bat guano hit Griffith as they approached and he thought surely it would be strong enough to knock some sense into the crazy band behind him.
   But it didn’t.
   Ryland nudged Griffith forward, directing the boys where he wanted them to go. Soon all of the boys were grabbing buckets of bat guano and staggering down to the field below the main college.
   “What are you doing?” Griffith hissed as they led the brigade away from the garden shed with their buckets in hand. Occasionally Ryland gave out a slurred shhh and they’d talk a little softer.
   “This will be even better than the shirts,” he whispered.
   They returned to the field below the chapel, and the boys spread out with their buckets. In the chaos, Ryland came out of hiding, directing the boys where to spread their bucket contents and convincing them how proud the headmaster was going to be, how much he wanted a very special garden in the middle of the field. Griffith slid farther and farther back until he was pressed against the chapel wall, the cool stone rough against his fingers.
   If he hadn’t been confident in his friendship with Ryland, Griffith would have been terrified by the abilities he was seeing. There was no question who was orchestrating the entire thing, but when it was all over, Griffith and Ryland would honestly be able to say they hadn’t spread a bit of guano.
   One boy got sick. Another passed out, thankfully landing with his head outside of the spread manure.
   It baffled Griffith, how the same boys who had been so cruel to them in the daylight were following Ryland’s orders with the enthusiasm of puppies. Occasionally Ryland would press a bottle into a hand, and the boy would take another swallow of liquor.
   Ryland finally stood to the side, arms crossed and a sly grin on his face.
   “We need to go. They’ll check our beds soon,” Griffith whispered in Ryland’s ear.
   “Yeah,” he whispered back and then called the boys—the ones who were still standing anyway—into a circle. “We don’t want those pesky dukes to get credit for this, do we?”
   The resounding “No!” was loud enough to make Griffith cringe and consider running for his house in town.
   “Right,” Ryland continued, seemingly fearless about any chance of getting caught. “So we need to sleep right there on the edge of the field so that in the morning everyone knows who gets the credit.”
   The boys enthusiastically piled over each other and found spots on the grass.
   While the boys were settling in, Ryland grabbed an openmouthed Griffith and hauled him back up the hill. From the top Griffith looked down at the field. The letters were crude and uneven, but it clearly spelled As you wish. When they realized what they had been tricked into doing, combined with what he and Ryland had done to the shirts, those boys were going to be fighting mad.
   Ryland and Griffith left the campus and crept through the streets of the darkened town until they got back to their house. They slipped through the doorway and pressed themselves against the wall as the head boy made his rounds. When he didn’t raise an alarm, they knew the bundles of blankets and pillows they’d left in their beds had done the trick.
   Griffith slid into bed, surrounded by silence that seemed to press onto his chest until he wondered if he were somehow drowning without water. He’d never done anything like this before, and with the thrill came more than a bit of guilt. Now that the anger no longer coursed through his system, his father’s voice rang clearly through his head. This wasn’t how he or God would have wanted Griffith to handle the situation. Harmless pranks were one thing, but those boys were going to get into a heap of trouble.
   Of course, his father wasn’t there. God had left Griffith on his own to figure out how to be a man, a duke, and he was trying to do it right. But was this really the best he could do?

~*~
   Griffith slept in fits and bursts, and when a yell ripped through the house the next morning, he felt as if he’d spent those few hours wrestling with his sheets instead of sleeping in them.
   Shouts and curses could be heard up and down the street as boys spilled from their houses to run to Eton’s fields. Two first-year King’s Scholars were running from house to house, calling sentences that didn’t make any sense but letting everyone know something incredible had happened the night before. Griffith rode the excited wave of students, trying not to look guilty, praying he wouldn’t be sick.
   There was already a crowd when Griffith, Ryland, and the rest of the boys from their house arrived at the field. Utter chaos reigned as the boys held their heads and tried to defend themselves against something they weren’t completely sure they even remembered. Ryland and Griffith were mentioned, with two boys swearing Ryland had convinced them to do it.
   So the headmaster checked their shoes.
   Griffith nearly swallowed his tongue as the man told him to lift one foot and then the other. He’d been working with the guano all week, but never in his own shoes. No one wanted the stuff tracked into the dormitories. He couldn’t remember if he’d stepped in any of it last night.
   Lifting his feet didn’t faze Ryland, though. He managed to look somewhat resigned and a bit offended as his shoes were checked.
   They were both clear, and the headmaster proceeded to lay into the boys with promises of beatings and punishments.
   And he hadn’t even seen the liquor bottles yet.
   One lay on the edge of the field, seemingly unnoticed by anyone but Griffith.
   The aftermath of his evening escapades boiled around him, with the older boys getting hauled off, holding their heads and throwing accusatory looks at Ryland and Griffith. Unease clenched Griffith’s middle, making him glad that he had yet to eat breakfast.
   If he’d taken more time to think about it, would he have followed Ryland’s lead? Griffith knew that, had the boys last night not been drunk, they wouldn’t have followed Griffith anywhere.
   As much as he hoped the boys would now leave them alone, he wished there’d been another way. Surely they could have found a better way.
   “I don’t get it,” Griffith whispered to Ryland as the boys were herded back toward their rooms to dress. “Why’d you make them do that?”
   “That’s guano.”
   “I know.”
   “Fertilizer.” Ryland grinned. “Fertilizer that soaked into the grass all night. Fertilizer that they’re never going to be able to clean up completely.”
   He chuckled as he threw a hand on top of Griffith’s shoulder. “That field will read As you wish until those boys graduate. And they’re the ones who put it there.”
   Griffith threw one last look over his shoulder. The older boys were still looking around with confusion and in pain. One held his head in his hands and looked one step away from crying. Boys that were supposed to be the best England had to offer, brought low by liquor and a quick-thinking, crafty lad.
   As Griffith topped the hill, he made a vow to himself. His father had been the perfect duke, and Griffith had a lot to live up to. If he was learning anything this morning, it was that letting his anger drive him didn’t leave him confident and satisfied in the morning. He made a vow—to himself, to God, and to his late father—that he would never put himself in such a vulnerable position again. Never would someone or something else take away his control of his own actions.
   He took one last look at the crudely written words on the field. As you wish. For the past year and a half it had been a slur, a derogatory term designed to get under his skin. But now it would be his strength. He would be in control. Always.


Chapter 1

London, England, March 1815

While the limits of human ability prevented Griffith, Duke of Riverton, from being everything to everyone who depended on him for their livelihoods, he’d always assumed there was no limit to what he would do for his family.
   His mother’s current request was more than stretching those limits. “No.”
   “Miss Watters is a very particular friend of Lady Cressida. And as I am married to her father I feel obliged to ensure Cressida’s ball is a success in every way.” Griffith’s mother, Lady Blackstone, arched a brow in her son’s direction as he turned from his perusal of the crowd filling the ballroom. The former duchess may have voluntarily lowered her rank to countess when she remarried a few years earlier, but she had never released her position as matriarch of her family, despite the fact that they’d all reached adulthood.
   It was a position Griffith respected. Not only did the Word of God command that he do so, but he’d seen what his mother had gone through to raise her four children, including teaching her ten-year-old son how to manage a dukedom. That respect did not, however, extend to breaking one of his personal social rules.
   He looked away from his mother to note the girl in question—a plain young woman hovering near a doorway, her dress an unfortunate color that was remarkably similar to the ballroom wallpaper. Given her supposedly close relationship with tonight’s hostess, one would have thought the near-professional wallflower would have known to avoid that particular shade of rose. “If there is a true need for a member of our family to rescue Miss Watters from the wall—a position which I’m sure you know she takes up at every social gathering—there are other male members you can appeal to.”
   Mother’s lips pressed together into a thin line. “They are married.”
   Griffith slowly lifted his own eyebrow in a perfect imitation of his mother’s earlier expression. “I had no idea the institution affected a man’s ability to dance. No matter. Up to now they’ve shown remarkable resistance to whatever marriage-related malady might inhibit a man’s dancing talents. I’m sure they can hold it off for another night.”
   His mother said nothing, though he could tell from the crinkles forming at the corner of her eye that she wanted to laugh. Almost as much as she wanted him to dance with Miss Watters. As he only danced with women he considered family, her laughter was the only desire he was inclined to grant. One more sardonic remark from him should send her over the edge.
   “It is a comfort to know, however, that public scrutiny of my lack of dancing finesse will diminish once I’ve married. Until then I shall endeavor to plant myself among the married men on the rare occasion that I join a dancing formation with a sister or cousin. Perhaps then we shall all be equally bumblesome.”
   A brief snicker sputtered between Mother’s lips. Her rare break in decorum was like a trophy to the one who’d done everything in his power to make his mother smile again after the death of his father. As always, though, she quickly contained the outward signs of her mirth. “Bumblesome?”
   Griffith shrugged his shoulders. Their massive width, when combined with his considerable height, was one of the main reasons he didn’t perform at his best on a crowded dance floor. He was simply too large to maneuver through the steps with much grace, and bumblesome seemed the most accurate description of how he felt on the dance floor.
   She sighed. “Very well, I shall ask your brother. Despite his marriage last year, he is still popular enough to draw notice.”
   “And accomplished enough for the lady to actually enjoy her dance. If she is only to get one turn around the floor, let it be a good one.”
   Cool daggers shot from his mother’s blue eyes as she glided off to find Griffith’s younger brother, Trent. He could have told Mother that she was going in the wrong direction, but as his primary objective was to remove her from his side, he kept his silence. By his count, he had to stay in the ballroom for two more dances before his absence wouldn’t draw comment. Over the years he’d perfected the art of being seen enough that everyone knew he’d attended but not so much that he was drawn into any interactions he’d rather avoid.
   Such as dancing with a female who might even remotely be considered a marriage possibility.
   “You can’t avoid it forever, you know.”
   Griffith glanced to his left to find his good friend Ryland, Duke of Marshington. Their friendship had started at Eton, holding fast through years of change and upheaval. Now that the man had married Griffith’s sister Miranda, they were family as well. “You do.”
   Ryland grinned, the slash of white teeth standing out against his darker-than-was-fashionable skin. “I’m married.”
   With a tilt of his head, Griffith acknowledged the implications of Ryland’s true statement. “And where is my sister?”
   The grin widened. “Dancing.”
   Griffith swung his gaze to the rows of couples weaving in and out of formation on the dance floor. He could easily see over the surrounding heads, though sometimes his sister’s shorter stature still made her difficult to find. Within moments he’d located the familiar blond curls of the elder of his younger sisters. At that moment she was happily spinning around on the arm of Colin McCrae, Griffith’s other brother-in-law. His youngest sister, Georgina, stood next to them, waiting for her turn in the dance.
   It was still a surprise to see the sisters voluntarily sharing space. The friendliness had only come about in the two years since they’d married their respective husbands. Those marriages had taken a great load off of Griffith’s mind. In truth, now that Trent had also settled happily into an initially awkward marriage, there wasn’t anyone left for Griffith to guide and watch over. There hadn’t been for many months now, but Griffith had put off acknowledging the fact.
   “You really should consider taking a turn or two yourself, you know.” Ryland rocked forward on his toes and clasped his hands behind his back. Given that the man was a former spy and a master at blending in, the falsely innocent posture was obviously intentional.
   Griffith knew better than to take the bait. “I shall ask Miranda for the next set.”
   “She’ll turn you down.”
   Two years of marriage had obviously not made the man an expert on his wife. Miranda would never deny her big brother. “She never has before.”
   “She wasn’t limiting her exertions before.”
   The two men fell silent as Griffith considered the implications of Ryland’s statement. Happiness and worry warred within Griffith. It was difficult for him to remember that Miranda was not his to protect anymore. “I suppose congratulations are in order.”
   “Indeed they are.” Ryland nodded, one side of his mouth kicked up in a smirk. “We’ve a dukedom to provide an heir for, after all.” Grey eyes cut from the dancers to pin Griffith to the wall behind him. “You have one as well.”
   Griffith didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t know if it was the fact that his childhood had been cut so short or the fear of having something so vulnerable dependent on him, but the idea of children frightened Griffith like nothing else. It was, however, part of his duty, and Griffith took his duty very seriously. His younger brother would certainly breathe easier when it was ensured that the title and holdings wouldn’t pass to him. Griffith had never understood Trent’s aversion to the title, except, of course, for the fact that Griffith would have to be dead in order for Trent to inherit.
   That was a fairly decent reason not to want the title.
   He looked to Ryland. “I’ve a plan.”
   “You always do.” The last strains of the dance faded into the chatter of the ball’s attendees, and the couples dispersed while new ones took their places. By unspoken agreement the men waited for the music to drift back over the crowd before speaking again.
   Ryland inspected his fingernails. “Dare I ask what this great marriage plan consists of?”
   “Getting married.” Griffith had been formulating a plan for years. When he’d first hit London after graduating from Oxford, he’d marveled at the games society played. The scheming marriage-minded mothers and the calculating influence-craving fathers made a powerful counterforce to the desperate dowry-hungry sons and the fun-loving, attachment-avoiding bachelors. Somewhere in the middle, the debutantes drifted—each with their own level of mercenariness, but all with the same goal in mind. Griffith hadn’t wanted to deal with any of them.
   Still didn’t want to deal with them.
   His reprieve was fast disappearing, though, because Ryland had a point. Griffith needed an heir, and for that he needed a wife.
   “Do you intend to follow the family tradition?”
   Surprise at the question broke Griffith’s normally controlled countenance. “Of course.”
   All of Griffith’s family, for as long as anyone could remember, had built their marriages on a strong foundation of love. His own parents had been possibly the most notorious of the lot. Just because Griffith was approaching marriage in a logical manner did not mean he had no plans to involve love in the equation.
   The skeptical smile on Ryland’s face brought an extra stiffness to Griffith’s back. His plan was going to work. Watching his mother and siblings find love over the past three years had only assured him that his plan was a viable one, and he couldn’t resist the urge to rub it in Ryland’s face, given the other man’s chaotic journey to happiness. “Before my mother tried to steer me in an unsuitable direction tonight, I was narrowing down the candidates.”
   Ryland coughed. “Candidates? And I can’t imagine your mother suggesting you socialize with anyone unsuitable.”
   “My idea of suitable and hers do not always align.”
   “Particularly since you’ve never seen fit to share your idea.” Ryland straightened his shoulders and settled in to observe the room. He was tall, but still a good two or three inches shorter than Griffith, and possessed the ability to look like something other than a hulking mountain with legs. That didn’t mean he couldn’t be intimidating if he wanted to. His face hardened from easy humor into serious concentration. “Your target is in this room, I assume, for you to have been contemplating a campaign.”
   Griffith resisted the childish urge to roll his eyes toward the ceiling. “Target? Really, Ryland. We’re not stepping outside for pistols.”
   “You called them candidates. I’m simply upgrading your status from prize to be won to the pursuer in control. Now, be quiet. I’m analyzing.”
   Griffith waited. He leaned his shoulder against the wall behind him and crossed one foot over the other. Sweat trickled down his neck into his cravat. He hated ballrooms. They were always too crowded and too hot for a man of his size and stature to retain any sort of comfort. Normally he positioned himself near the terrace doors or an open window, but the unseasonably cold weather had prompted tonight’s host to close everything up tight. Right then Griffith would have welcomed a chilly breeze. Waiting for Ryland to make his guess wasn’t doing anything to relieve his tension.
   Minutes passed. Another song began and ended. Was Ryland still analyzing, or was he simply torturing Griffith now?
   “You want someone from the edge of the dance floor.”
   Griffith had to admire the confidence of the man’s statement. Despite the accuracy of the remark, Griffith wasn’t willing to give in that easily. “You had a one-in-four chance of selecting the correct group of ladies. And as it is by far the largest of the groups, I’m hardly impressed.”
   When the two men had attended their first balls right after graduating from Eton, they’d divided the unmarried women into four groups. The corner held the spinsters, while the walls included those whose social standing or lack of popularity kept them outside the action. The dance floor was for the most popular of women—Diamonds of the First Water, the Incomparables, the ones on whom everyone doted and who never seemed to be without a partner or two clamoring for the next dance. The edge of the dance floor, though, held most of the women. The women who danced sometimes but not always. They were popular enough but hardly fodder for the social pages.
   Ryland cast a glance over his shoulder. “Anyone else in here—your own family included—would assume you wanted someone from the dance floor. You could certainly land one, if you wished. Even the lovely Lady Alethea.”
   He could probably land anyone in this room, even if they were nearly betrothed. Young, single dukes weren’t exactly plentiful in England. Griffith had to concede Ryland’s point, however, and inclined his head to indicate his friend should continue his guess.
   It was easy to spot the woman he’d mentioned. Lady Alethea was skipping her way through the dance with a wide smile on her face and strings of jewels in her dark hair.
   It was also easy to see why most people, his family included, would assume he wanted someone like her. Everyone thought her the most sought-after woman among the marriage-minded aristocracy. Griffith’s interests lay beyond the benefits of a beautiful wife, though.
   Ryland tilted his head and looked slowly around the ballroom, murmuring to himself. “She’s too attractive. Draws too much notice. Good family, but maybe a few too many of them. You don’t want them asking you for favors.”
   Griffith forced himself not to fidget. It was remarkable how quickly Ryland was walking the lines of Griffith’s reasoning.
   “She’s too new to London. You probably spent all of last year debating the merits of various ladies.”
   “Not all of it,” Griffith grumbled. “I had to watch over the disastrous beginnings of Trent’s marriage, after all.” Fortunately, that had all worked out and Trent was now fully in love with his wife, but it had taken up a good bit of Griffith’s attention last Season.
   Fewer than five more minutes went by before Ryland turned around and crossed his arms. “You’re not going to fall in love with her.”
   Griffith raised an eyebrow and lowered his head until he was glaring down his nose at Ryland. The superior look that had sent more than one man into a cold sweat didn’t even make Ryland blink. “How do you know?”
   “The same way I know whom you’ve chosen. I get the logic—really, I do—but she’s not what you need.”
   The noise of the crowd ebbed and swelled around them as Griffith narrowed his eyes at the other duke. “You’re bluffing,” he finally said. “You want me to say the woman I’ve settled on because you don’t know who it is.”
   “Oh, I know. But mark my words—she’s not the woman for you. You don’t need someone as boring as you think you are. And trust me, old friend, she will bore you.”
   Miranda chose that moment to come bounding to her husband’s side, wide smile and flushed cheeks indicating how much she’d enjoyed her set of dances.
   Griffith nodded to his sister, marveling, as he often did, that the same shade of blond hair and green eyes that he saw in the mirror each morning looked so different in a feminine face. “I hear congratulations are in order.”
   She frowned at her husband. “This is a terrible time for you to suddenly become incapable of keeping a secret.”
   “Revealing my potential heir was a strategic move, I assure you.” Ryland took his wife’s hand and looped it through his elbow, pulling her closer against his side.
   Her smile returned. “Oh, really?”
   Griffith wanted to groan, but that would have given Miranda too much satisfaction. A man of eight and twenty should not feel the need to squirm when his little sister stared at him, even if her expression held the intensity of every headmaster he’d ever had, combined.
   “Pray tell, then, who were we discussing when I arrived?” Miranda bounced on her toes in anticipation.
   It didn’t matter now whether Ryland pulled the right name out of the crowd. Whomever he mentioned would become Miranda’s new best friend as she did everything in her power to help him marry the woman she thought he wanted. There would be no stopping her.
   Ryland grinned as he joined Miranda in staring Griffith’s direction. “Miss Frederica St. Claire.”
Kristi Ann Hunter, An Inconvenient Beauty Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.


author Kristi Ann Hunter
***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for a copy of this fourth and final book in the Hawthorne House series. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

~* Hawthorne House *~
A Lady of Esteem ~ eNovella
A Noble Masquerade ~ Book 1
An Elegant Fa├žade ~ Book 2
An Uncommon Courtship ~ Book 3


Saturday, September 30, 2017

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart, © 2017

Gabhart TheseHealingHills lores



Fran
Photo Courtesy of Frontier Nursing University Archives.

"Nobody comes here by accident."



My Review:

Absolutely a T*E*N.

Loved this story. Not a bedtime story because it will beckon to keep you awake reading!

Reading real slow so you don't run out of pages and then... there you are to the last sentence.

I loved this story and its star, Nurse Howard, or is it Woody's older brother returned from the war? They both are necessary to learn about themselves. Francine Howard thought she was running from, not realizing she was running to. To find her true heart's desire ~ the people of Appalachia, and the mountain air, and... her first dog, Sarge.

I loved how she discovered true importance; others ~ worthy of who she was becoming. All of the secondary characters become family! I hope many more adventures are honed in these healing hills.

***Thank you to author Ann H. Gabhart, and to the publisher for sending a print copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation beyond J*O*Y was received.***

Enjoy this excerpt from Ann H. Gabhart's These Healing Hills ~ Chapter 1

1

May 15,1945

Francine Howard stepped off the bus into another world. She should have been prepared. She’d studied the Frontier Nursing information until she almost knew it by heart. That should have given her a glimpse into this place.
   Hyden was in the Appalachian Mountains, but it was still Kentucky. While she lived in Cincinnati, she had spent many summer weeks on her Grandma Howard’s farm in northern Kentucky. But somehow the train from Lexington to Hazard and then the bus from Hazard to here had transported her away from everything she thought she knew about Kentucky and dumped her out in a place that looked as foreign to her as the moon.
   But wasn’t that what she wanted? To be in a new place long before Seth Miller brought his English bride home from the war. That might not be long. The war in Europe was over. Now, with all the firepower of the Allies focused on the Pacific, surely an end to the terrible war was in sight.
   When the news flashed through the country last week that Germany had surrendered, Francine celebrated along with everybody else. How could she not be happy to think about the boys coming home, even if Seth’s last letter had changed everything? Seth might finally be on the way home, but not to her.
   The news of his betrayal hadn’t taken long to circulate through Francine’s neighborhood. Not from Francine. Seth’s little sister took care of spreading the news. Alice had shown everybody the picture Seth sent home of him with his arm around this English woman. She’d even shown Francine.
   “I know you and Seth used to date when you were in high school, but he didn’t give you a ring or anything, did he?” Alice must have seen the stricken look on Francine’s face, because she pulled the picture back quickly and shoved it in her pocketbook.
   “No, no ring.” Francine managed to push a smile out on her face and salvage a little pride.
   Alice fingered the clasp on her purse. “You want to see the picture again? I jerked it away pretty fast.”
   “I saw it. She’s very pretty.”
   She’d seen enough to know that. The woman had barely come up to Seth’s shoulder. Petite with curly blonde hair and a dimpled smile. Nothing at all like Francine with her plain brown hair and hazel eyes. Just looking at the woman’s picture had made her feel tall and gawky. In heels, Francine was nearly as tall as Seth.
   Built strong, Grandma Howard used to say. Her grandmother told Francine she was pretty enough, but a person didn’t want to be only for pretty like a crystal bowl set on a shelf folks were afraid to use. Better to be a useful vessel ready to be filled with the work the Lord intended for her. Back in her neighborhood, Francine had felt like a cracked bowl somebody had pitched aside.
   People sent pitying looks her way. Poor Francine Howard. Going to end up just like Miss Ruby at church, who cried every Mother’s Day. No husband. No children. No chances.
   But where one door closed, another opened. If not a door, a window somewhere. Another thing Grandma Howard used to say. The Lord had opened a way for Francine to escape the pity trailing after her back home. The Frontier Nursing Service. She had a nursing degree and she could ride a horse. She needed an adventure to forget her bruised heart.
   An adventure. That was what the woman had offered when she came to the hospital last November to recruit nurses to train as midwives at the Frontier Nursing Service in Leslie County, Kentucky. The need was great. The people in the Appalachian Mountains didn’t have ready access to doctors the way they did in Cincinnati.
   At the time, Francine imagined it might be thrilling to ride a horse up into the hills to deliver babies in cabins, but she gave it little consideration. Seth would be home from the war, and she planned to have her own babies after they got married. Babies she might already have if not for the war or if she hadn’t let her mother talk her out of marrying Seth before he went overseas. Then everything might be different.
   Everything was different now as she stood in front of the drugstore, where the bus driver told her she needed to get off. She had no idea what to do next. The people on the street were giving her the eye but staying well away, as though her foreignness might be catching. She squared her shoulders and clutched her small suitcase in front of her, the larger bag on the walkway beside her. She tried a smile, but it bounced back to her like a rock off a stone wall. Somebody was supposed to meet her, but nobody stepped forward to greet her.
   She blinked to clear her eyes that were suddenly too watery. Francine wasn’t one to dissolve into tears when things went wrong. She hadn’t even cried when she read Seth’s letter. What good would tears do? Prayers were better. But right at that moment, Francine didn’t know whether to pray for someone to show up from the Frontier Nursing Service or for a train ticket back to Cincinnati.
   “She must be one of those brought-in women.”
   The man was behind her, but she didn’t need to see him to know he was talking about her. She was a stranger. Somebody who didn’t belong. At least not yet.
   First things first. If nobody was there to get her, she’d find her own way to the hospital. All she needed was somebody to point the way.
   A man came out of the drugstore straight toward her. “You must be one of Mrs. Breckinridge’s nurses.”
   “I’m here to go to the midwifery school.” Francine smiled at the tall, slender man. “Somebody was supposed to meet me.”
   He didn’t exactly smile back, but he didn’t look unfriendly. “Been a lot of rain. The river’s rolling. Probably kept them from making it to see to you. Do you know how to get to the hospital?”
   Francine looked around. “Is it down the street a ways?”
   “It’s a ways, all right. Up there.” He pointed toward the mountain looming over the town.
   Francine peered toward where he was pointing. High above them was a building on the side of the mountain.
   “There’s a road, but since you’re walking, the path up the mountain is shorter.” The man gave her a dubious look. “You think you can make it?”
   Francine stared at what appeared to be steps chiseled in the side of the mountain. “I’m sure I can.” She tried to sound more confident than she felt.
   “The path is plain as day. Don’t hardly see how you could stray off’n it. But tell you what. Jeb over there is headed that way. He can take you on up.”
   The man he indicated with a nod of his head was the last person Francine would have considered following anywhere. In spite of the warm spring day, he wore a coat spilling cotton batting from several rips. A felt hat perched on top of a tangled mass of graying hair, and his beard didn’t appear to have been trimmed for months. Maybe years. With a shotgun drooping from the crook of his arm, the man appeared anxious to be on his way and not at all happy to be saddled with a brought-in woman.
   But what other choice did she have? She leaned over to pick up her other bag, but the man from the drugstore put his hand on it first.
   “Don’t bother with that. Somebody will bring it up to you later.”
   She left it, wondering if she’d ever lay eyes on it again as she fell in behind the man named Jeb. Back home, daylight would have a couple more hours, but here shadows were deepening as the sun slid out of sight behind one of the hills that towered around the town. Jeb gave her a hard look, then turned and started away without a word. Francine slung her purse strap over her shoulder, clutched her small suitcase, and hurried after him.
   She had to be insane to follow this strange man away from town. He could be leading her to some godforsaken place to do no telling what to get rid of this interloper slowing him down. Not that he set a slower pace for her. She had to step double-quick to keep up. Nor did he offer to take her suitcase or even look back to see if she was still behind him. He didn’t have to look back. He could surely hear her panting. Where were those horses the Frontier Nursing brochure promised?
   When the path leveled out for a few paces, Francine caught up to the man whose pace didn’t change whether the way was steep or level. She could at least try to be friendly. “My name is Francine Howard.”
   She wasn’t certain, but she thought he might have grunted. She was certain he did not so much as glance back over his shoulder at her and that, in spite of the path taking a sharp upward turn, he began moving faster. His foot scooted on the trail and dislodged a rock that bounced down toward Francine. She tried to jump out the way, but she wasn’t quick enough.
   The rock landed on her toe. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. Mashed toes practically required a good yell. She set down her suitcase and rubbed her toe through her shoe. Her fingers were numb from clutching her suitcase handle and she could see nothing but trees. No wonder they called this place Thousandstick Mountain. This many trees had to make a lot of sticks.
   She’d been totally mistaken thinking her visits to her grandmother’s farm would prepare her for Leslie County. Everything wasn’t straight uphill there. A person could walk those rolling hills without losing her breath. Trees didn’t close in on you and make you wonder if you’d ever see sunshine again.
   She gave up on her throbbing toe and massaged her fingers. She started to call for the man to wait, but she kept her mouth closed. The path was plain, and while the shadows were lengthening, it wasn’t dark. How far could it be? People obviously traveled this way all the time, and the man’s footprints were plain as day on the muddy pathway.
   The Lord had pointed her to the Frontier Nursing Service. He wasn’t going to abandon her on this mountain. Francine ignored the little niggling voice in the back of her mind that said the Lord had given her a guide. Her task was keeping up.
   Too late for that now. The man was gone. Francine rotated her shoulders and picked up her suitcase. Time to carry on. Find her place on this mountain.
   She started climbing again, slower now as she looked around. Thick green bushes pushed into the path with buds promising beauty. Rhododendron. She couldn’t wait to see them burst into bloom. Delicate white flowers near the path tempted her to step into the trees for a better look, but the thought of snakes stopped her. Snakebit and alone on this mountain might not lead to a happy outcome.
   At first, the man’s footprints were easy to follow, but then the way got steeper and nothing but rocks. No sign of the man ahead of her. Worse, the path split in two directions. Even worse, the shadows were getting darker. It could be she should have run to keep up with silent Jeb after all.
   Even standing on her tiptoes, she couldn’t see the hospital up ahead as the trees and bushes crowded in on the path here. Both traces went up, so that was no help. She had no idea how high this mountain was. She might be climbing all night. But no, she’d seen the hospital from town. It couldn’t be much farther.
   Francine set her case down again and chocked it with her foot to keep it from sliding away from her. The word steep was taking on new meaning.
   With her eyes wide open, she whispered, “Dear Lord, I know you haven’t left me alone here on this mountain. So can you point the way?”
   She stood silent then. She didn’t want to miss a second answer if the Lord took pity on her after she’d foolishly trusted too much in her own abilities instead of scrambling after her mountain man guide.
   Just when she was ready to give up on divine intervention and pick a path, she heard whistling. Not a bird, but a man. And the sound was coming closer. The Lord was sending her someone to point the way. Certainly not Jeb coming back for her. She couldn’t imagine that stone-faced man whistling the merry tune coming to her ears.
   “Hello,” she called. She didn’t want the whistler to pass her by without seeing her.
   The whistling abruptly stopped. Francine called again. This time an echoing hello came back to her, and a gangly boy, maybe fourteen or fifteen, scrambled into view down the path to her left. His overalls were too short, showing a span of leg above well-worn shoes, but the best thing about him were his blue eyes that looked as friendly as a summer sky.
   He skidded to a stop and stared down at her. “You lost?”
   “A bit,” Francine admitted. “Could you point me the way to the Hyden Hospital?”
   “I reckon you’re one of Mrs. Breckinridge’s brought-in nurses.” He gave her a curious look. “Do you catch babies?”
   “I’m here to train to be a midwife.” Francine smiled at the idea of catching babies. “At the hospital. Is it much farther?”
   “Not all that far, but night might catch you. You best follow me.”
   He came on down to her and started up the other path. “Weren’t nobody down there in town to show you the way?”
   “I was supposed to follow somebody named Jeb, but I didn’t keep up.”
   The boy laughed. “That Jeb. And I reckon he never said word one. Jeb, he ain’t much of a talker. Not like me. My brother used to tell me I jabbered as much as a jaybird that had been sipping out of a moonshine still. At least that’s what he said before he went off to fight the Germans. That’s been nigh on four years now, but I’m still a talker.”
   “I was very happy to hear you whistling a few minutes ago.” Francine picked up her bag and followed the boy. “My name is Francine Howard. Do you have a name other than Jaybird?”
   “Jaybird might be better than what folks call me. Woody. Woody Locke. Sort of sounds funny when you say it, but my pa was Woodrow. Woodrow Locke, that’s a fine name. One I reckon I can take on after I get a little older.” His voice softened, turned somber. “Now that Pa passed on last year.”
   “Oh, I’m sorry.” Francine felt an answering wave of sympathy. Her own father had died two years ago.
   “Ma says the Lord calls people home when he’s ready for them, and we shouldn’t look askance at the Lord’s doing.” The boy looked over his shoulder at her. “I get in trouble all the time asking too much about everything. Pa, he used to say I had a curious mind, but Ma gets worn out by my wonderings.”
   “That’s how you learn things.” Francine couldn’t keep from panting a little as she climbed behind Woody.
   The boy noticed. He looked stricken as he turned back to her. “Give me that case. My ma would slap me silly if she saw me letting you lug that thing and me with two free hands.”
   “Thank you.” Francine handed it to him. “But maybe you should just tell me the way now. You need to go on home before night falls so your mother won’t worry.”
   “Ma don’t worry none about me. She sent me up here to get some medicine for Sadie. That’s my little sister and she’s been punying around. The nurse over our way said she needed some ear drops she had run out of in her medicine bag. So I came on to fetch them. Sadie being the youngest and all, Ma babies her some. We all do. She ain’t but four, nigh on five.”
   “But it will be dark soon.”
   “Dark don’t fret me. I can find my way light or night. But Ma knowed I’d probably find a spot in town to spend the night ’fore I head on up the mountain come morning. Get me out of chores.” He grinned at Francine and turned back up the path. “I oughta be shamed about that with Ma having to do them, but I laid in wood for her this morn and she milks the cow most every night herself anyhow. She’ll have a list of chores a mile long to make up for me being late home, but she wouldn’t want me not to help one of you nurses. No sir. I’d get in way more trouble if I didn’t see that you made it to where you’re going.”
   “You don’t have any other brothers at home?” Walking uphill after him was easier without carrying the suitcase, but it didn’t seem to slow Woody down at all.
   “Nope. It’s just me and Sadie now. Ruthie, she went north to work in one of the airplane factories and Becca got married and moved over to a mining camp in Harlan County. Ben, he’s the oldest. He joined up with the army after Pearl Harbor. I been telling Ma I’m nigh old enough to go fight the Germans and the Japs too, but Ma don’t like hearing that. Says she’s busy enough praying that the Lord ain’t ready for Ben to go home with Pa.” He looked back at Francine again. “Ben’s the one what says I jabber like a jaybird. Guess you can see why now.”
   “I always liked jaybirds.” That made Woody laugh. “Where is your brother? In Europe or the Pacific?”
   “Europe last we heard. We get letters now and again, but places where he might be are all cut out of them. He’s a medic. Ma’s right proud that he ain’t just over there shooting people, but that he’s doing some healing too.”
   “That does sound good. I’ll add my prayers to your mother’s for his safety and that he’ll get home soon.”
   “That’s neighborly of you. I’ll tell my ma.”
   They stepped out of the trees to see the hospital on the side of the mountain. Not that big, but sturdy. Substantial and a little surprising. A road circled right up to its door. To the side was another building connected by a covered walkway. That must be where she’d be living for the next few months.
   She’d loved working with the mothers and babies back in Cincinnati. And odd as it was here on this mountain with the long-legged boy beside her, she was looking forward to learning how to catch those babies, as he had said.
   New life. And not just for the babies, but for her too. A new life in a new place. A window of opportunity for her to climb through. If only she could stop looking back at the door she had dreamed of walking through with Seth.
   After she thanked the boy, she watched him disappear back down the hillside. Then she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and walked straight toward the hospital doors.
Ann H. Gabhart, These Healing Hills Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

Ann H. Gabhart
Photo Credit: © Memories by Chris
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--as well as Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, Love Comes Home, Words Spoken True, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at her website.



Monday, September 25, 2017

Liar's Winter: An Appalachian Novel by Cindy K. Sproles, © 2017


An incredibly beautiful story woven in the truth of revealed overcoming love.

1893 East Tennessee ~
Lochiel Ogle has been hidden away from Love, unaware of the touch of life that will enfold her and expose beauty.
my most favorite.  Sunset in the Smoky Mountains

Climb the mountains of Appalachia and view the sunrises and sunsets high above the valley glens beneath. The movement in this story will bring you along, sad to leave them behind at the end. The author brought me to tears with her touching words of vision and hope displayed, lovingly given and honored bringing joy to the bearers.

I would love to read a sequel to this story!

The secondary characters have been robbed as well. Gerald Ogle hoped to revive his mother by his gift, but her life dwindles and so does his dream of restoring what has been lost. A disparity of hearts torn with anger brings this family to ruin.

Choice. Bitterness or forgiveness shaping a life affects those distant or near. Lives interwoven bring release or bondage by their presence. Walton Grubbs has never given up hope of restoring what is his. As he travels the hillsides, he becomes beloved by those he meets and is trusted. This has a lot of bearing on the story as being associated with him brings you into places that would not be opened to you without his proven character.

Gorgeous Smoky Mountains near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Step out on the porch early in the foggy morning. So vividly written, I enjoyed the characters who displayed remarkable insight into receiving another. The assurance of God's presence in their midst enables them to move ahead to remarkable outcomes of mercy and grace.



***Thank you, Kregel Publications, for inviting me on this book tour for Cindy K. Sproles' novel, Liar's Winter, and sending me a copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

author Cindy K. Sproles





Friday, September 22, 2017

Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson, © 2017



Releases October 24, 2017

My Review:

We are loved by God. So deeply.
Mark Batterson, in his book, "Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God," will remind you just how much!

Recollections taken of people in different settings and time periods, the faithfulness of God shines through. ~ For any generation... Be refreshed in the interweaving of the Truth of Scripture throughout, you too will be reminded of such moments in your own life. He is there, constant and never leaving us for a moment.

Notes in the back of the book footnote the references. These twenty pages are full! One I liked is where to find the "1827. demamah," reference page to read further. demamah = whisper

This is a book to read by yourself, rather than someone else telling you about it! An exploration of who you are created by Who He Is. Discerning God's promptings and stepping out, trusting Him, is told in first-person by the author in his own life. Divine appointments and divine timing. Living a Spirit-led life.

You will want to go back and reread, underline and mark up your book! So... if you'd planned to share it, get another copy for a friend. This will be a good nudge to begin; open your Bible and study His Word for you!

***Thank you to WaterBrookMultnomah for inviting me to be part of this book tour for Mark Batterson's Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God and for sending an advanced uncorrected proof copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

EnJ*O*Y this Sneak Peek from WaterBrookMultnomah


Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. One church with eight campuses, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations. The vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill.
Mark is the author of The Circle Maker, and, among others, Chase the Lion; If; Wild Goose Chase; and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. He has a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children. Learn more at his website.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer, © 2017



My Review:

This story is different from previous writings by this author. It centers around an event kept hidden from earlier times in 1943 Arkansas, still affecting responses in a family now in the present contemporary time. When an unsolved mystery is revealed, hope arises of resolving family conflict spreading throughout the pages to mend their relationship. I forge forward in their journey, hoping this will be so! Nothing sadder than to lose those closest to you ~ a gifting actually to cherish.

Meddling did not seem to fit in, as three generations are unable to form an alliance between themselves without taking two sides against one. The daughter has been feeling the granddaughter got more attention from the mother than she herself had received while growing up. In fact such a dismal comparison, she thought she saw why she was so determined to leave home earlier than planned by either of them. The past not reckoned with, dissolved any hope for a relationship beyond what had been experienced previously....

Meghan DeFord looked so forward to spending time in Nevada with her beloved grandmother, Hazel Blackwell DeFord. Many happy memories of earlier stays seemed just what was needed to rest and heal physically from traffic accident injuries. Surprisingly, her emotionally absent mother, Diane DeFord, appears out of nowhere it seemed, encouraging plans to stay a spell as she brings not one but four dogs with her. Meghan quickly finds a referee is needed as one or the other seems to find barbs to spread into conversations. Reverting to past actions, the whirlwind seems to shatter a welcomed relief Meghan had envisioned.

I am reminded of a quote by Elisabeth Elliot Gren that certainly applied to this scenario:
"Then I heard a tape which said it was a lie of the enemy to believe that some event that had happened would prevent something else from ever happening. As if a mistake you or someone else made would forever prevent God's will for your life."
   --Quest for Love, 240
As I read on, I see an inkling of an exposure of light and truth seeping in from those around them. Darkness cannot remain when exposed to God's love infiltrating a cycle of negative repetition; habits that have enfolded hearts unable to see a way of escape. Slow changes begin, as the sadness and despondency of the past are unveiled. Secrets revealed and talked about, help them to see the possibility of the past not dominating the future and present of their lives.

This is a strong story of hope speaking into their lives as they begin to hear and dislodge the hold of the past. The characters reflect on their individual memories as growing trust and confidence surface.

EnJ*O*Y this recent interview with the author ~ her story behind the story

Here is an excerpt from Kim Vogel Sawyer's Bringing Maggie Home ~ Chapter 1

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick:
but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
                       —Proverbs 13:12, kjv

One

Mid-July 1943
Cumpton, Arkansas
Hazel Mae Blackwell

Hazel set a porcelain cup and saucer on the overturned apple crate in front of her little sister. “Madam, would you like cream and sugar in your tea?”
   Maggie nodded, making her Shirley Temple curls bounce. Her hair—what Daddy called flaxen—shimmered under the noonday sun, almost as yellow as the roses painted on the cup.
   Jealousy sparked in Hazel’s heart. Why couldn’t she have inherited Mama’s sunshiny-yellow hair and sky-blue eyes the way Maggie had instead of Daddy’s dirt-brown hair and eyes?
   “What do you say?” Hazel asked the question as tartly as Mama.
   “Yes, pwease.”
   “Pluh-ease,” Hazel said.
   “Pwuh-ease.”
   Hazel sighed. Maggie was just-turned-three, as Daddy often reminded Hazel when she got impatient with her sister. Sometimes she wished Mama hadn’t waited so long after Hazel to have another baby. Wouldn’t it be fine if almost seven years didn’t stretch between them? Mama and Daddy were always telling her she was lucky to have a sister, and Hazel loved Maggie. Of course she did. But sometimes . . .
   “Pwease, Hayzoo Mae?”
   She lifted the lid on the doll-sized sugar bowl and spooned out pretend sugar. Then she pretended to pour cream. No matter how much Hazel begged, Mama never let her waste real sugar and cream for her tea parties. She used the spoon to stir the air in Maggie’s cup. “There you are.”
   Maggie’s apple cheeks dimpled with her smile. “Fank you.” She picked up the cup between her fingers and carried it to her rosy lips.
   “I hope it isn’t too hot.”
   Maggie made noisy drinking sounds. Her blue eyes rounded and she pursed her lips. “Ooooh, it is hot! I bu’n my tongue!”
   Hazel stifled a chuckle. Playing make-believe with her doll had never been this fun. Maybe she should have let Maggie use her special tea set before. But she’d waited until her sister passed her third birthday, the same age Hazel had been when she received the set for Christmas from Memaw and Pappaw Blackwell. She hadn’t trusted Maggie’s baby fingers not to break one of the fragile cups or plates.
   She picked up her own cup and held it close to her mouth. “Blow on it.” She puffed breaths into her cup, smiling when Maggie imitated her.
   With the sun warming their heads, they sipped and smiled at each other and helped their dollies eat pretend cookies from the serving plate centered on the crate. Hazel’s imagination painted their surroundings from a dusty yard to the fancy city restaurant she’d seen in a magazine. With linen-draped tables instead of a handkerchief-covered crate. With ladies wearing silk instead of homespun. So easy to see in her imagination. She even pretended her hair was shiny yellow curls trailing down her back instead of wind-tossed, dirt-brown, pin-straight locks lopped at shoulder level.
   She picked up the plate and offered it to Maggie. “Would you like the last cookie?”
   Maggie reached out her pudgy hand.
   The screen door squeaked open and Mama stepped onto the porch. “Hazel Mae? Maggie?”
   Maggie rolled sideways to push herself to her feet, and her bottom bumped the crate. The teacups and serving pieces wobbled. Gasping, Hazel dropped the plate to steady the table, and the plate landed on the sugar bowl. Both the plate and the lid to the sugar bowl snapped in two.
   The lovely daydream shattered. “Oh, Maggie, look what you did!” Hazel snatched up the halves of the once-pretty plate with its circle of painted yellow roses and green leaves and hugged them. Surely her heart was broken in half, too. “Why can’t you be careful? I should never have let you touch it.”
   Tears swam in Maggie’s blue eyes, and her lower lip quivered. Mama hurried across the yard, her bare feet stirring dust. Maggie buried her face in Mama’s apron skirt.
   Mama scowled at Hazel. “For shame, yelling at your sister. It was an accident.”
   Hazel stared at Mama’s hand on Maggie’s head, the fingers petting, sweet and soothing. Why didn’t Mama soothe Hazel? She’d suffered the loss. “But she broke the serving plate. And the sugar bowl lid.”
   “You dropped the plate, Hazel Mae. You broke the pieces.”
   But she wouldn’t have dropped the plate if she hadn’t been trying to keep the crate from falling over. She said so, too, even though Daddy would probably say she was talking back.
   Mama’s scowl deepened. “Arguing won’t fix things.” Then a hint of sympathy crept into her eyes. She set Maggie aside and held out her hands. “Give it to me. If there’s a clean break, I can glue it together.”
   Hazel swallowed the words hovering on her lips—It won’t be the same—and reluctantly transferred the halves to Mama’s keeping. She gave her the pieces of the sugar bowl lid, too.
   Mama slipped all the pieces into her apron pockets. “Put your toys away and then come to the kitchen. I have a job for you to do.” She returned to the house.
   Her jaw clenched so tight her teeth ached, Hazel transferred the fragile tea set to the brittle grass. She turned the crate right-side up, settled her doll with its stuffed cloth body in the bottom, then began arranging the teapot, cups, saucers, and plates around the doll. Maggie bent over and reached for a cup.
   Hazel pushed her sister’s hand aside. “Don’t.”
   “I hewp?”
   “No. Let me do it.”
   “’Kay.” Maggie picked up her doll, the one Daddy ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalog for her last birthday, and wrapped her arms around it. She rocked side to side, making her pink muslin skirt sway. “We pway again tomorrow, Hayzoo Mae?”
   Not with the tea set. Not ever with the tea set. “We’ll see.”
   She lifted the crate and carried it inside, Maggie trailing her. She ordered her sister to the kitchen, then trotted upstairs and tucked the crate in her closet, way back in the dark corner where Maggie was afraid to go. With the tea set safe, she clattered down the enclosed staircase to the kitchen.
   Mama was waiting with the egg basket. She smiled as she gave it to Hazel. “Go to the blackberry thicket and pick as many ripe berries as the basket will hold. Don’t dally now. I want to bake a cobbler for our supper.”
   Hazel’s mouth watered. A cobbler used lots of sugar. It was a treat. Especially blackberry cobbler since Mama usually turned the dark berries into jam. “Is company comin’?” She hoped not. If they had to share the cobbler, they’d get only one small portion each.
   Mama’s eyebrows rose. “Don’t you remember? It’s Daddy’s birthday.”
   She ducked her head. She had forgotten. She’d need to hurry so there’d be time to draw Daddy a card to give him at suppertime. She looped the basket over her arm and headed for the door.
   “Take your sister with you.”
   Hazel spun around. “Oh, Mama, please don’t make me. She’ll slow me down.”
   Mama’s lips set in a stern frown. “I have things to do, too, and I need her out from underfoot. Take her.” She pushed both girls out the back door. “Hurry now.”
   How could she hurry with Maggie along? Her sister’s short legs would wear out halfway to the patch. But arguing would waste time, and she could almost taste that blackberry cobbler already. So she ordered Maggie to tuck the ever-present doll under one arm, grabbed her sister’s free hand, and took off at a brisk pace, giving little jerks now and then to keep Maggie going.
   A wagon rattled up the road from the west, and a big shiny touring car came from the east. The girls clambered onto the rough edge where the ground sloped sharply upward. Hazel kept her arm around Maggie, tapping her toe impatiently at the delay. The wagon went on by, but the car slowed to a stop, and Mrs. Burton, the lady who ran the orphans’ home on the west side of town, stuck her head out the open window.
   “Good morning, girls.” She pinned her warm smile on Maggie. The little girl always earned a smile from folks—she was so little, as pretty as a china doll, so likable. And Hazel couldn’t decide if that made her proud or jealous.
   “’Morning,” Hazel said.
   “’Mo’ning,” Maggie echoed.
   “Where are you two off to with that basket?”
   Hazel wished she’d hurry on. They needed to get to the thicket. “Gonna pick blackberries. Mama’s makin’ a cobbler.”
   The woman sighed. “I’m sorry I can’t give you a ride. Thicket’s in the wrong direction for me. But you two have fun. Don’t stick your fingers, you hear?” She gave a little wave and then the car growled on.
   Hazel led Maggie to the center of the road again, where wheels had carved two smooth ruts. She squinted ahead, thinking. About a half mile up the road, a path carved by deer led directly to the blackberry brambles, but there was a shorter route. It was rougher and harder to get through, but the quicker she picked the berries, the quicker she could go home and get started on her card for Daddy. She wanted to spend lots of time on it and make it extra nice so he wouldn’t know she’d forgotten his special day.
   “C’mon, Maggie. This way.”
   Her little sister beamed up at her, her face all sweaty and curls drooping. She looked so cute, Hazel caught herself smiling back. They left the dirt road and climbed a slight rise, ducking beneath low-hanging tree branches and pushing between bushes. Maggie panted, her little face red, but she didn’t complain, even when branches pulled her hair ribbon askew.
   “We’re almost there.” Hazel lifted a snarl of branches and gestured Maggie through the opening. Hugging her doll against her chest, Maggie squeezed past Hazel. Hazel moved behind her and let the branches slap back into place. Without warning, Maggie stopped.
   Hazel sidestepped to keep from trampling her sister. “What’re you doing?”
   Maggie pointed silently to a chunk of displaced earth. Her face puckered with questions.
   Even though they needed to hurry, Hazel couldn’t resist crouching down and lifting the piece of ground held together by grass roots. Underneath, in a smooth hollowed spot, four little bunnies curled together in a ball. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Lookee, Maggie—baby rabbits.”
   Maggie’s face lit, and Hazel sensed a squeal coming on.
   “Shhh.” She touched a finger to her own lips and shook her head. “Don’t scare ’em. Let ’em sleep.”
   Wonder in her blue eyes, Maggie knelt next to Hazel. “I pet ’em?”
   “Nope.”
   “I wanna pet ’em, Hayzoo Mae.”
   Hazel gave Maggie the explanation Daddy had given her the first time she found a bunny burrow. “If you touch ’em, the mama won’t come back. They’ll die without their mama. You don’t want the bunnies to die, do you?”
   Her little sister shook her head so hard her sweaty curls bounced.
   “Then we gotta leave ’em alone.” She lowered the chunk of earth over the baby bunnies and rose. “C’mon.” She grabbed Maggie’s hand and moved on.
   Maggie trotted alongside, stumbling now and then because she kept her face angled toward the spot where the rabbits slept. At the blackberry thicket, Hazel settled Maggie in a patch of shade with her doll and shook her finger at her. “You stay put.” While her sister played with her doll, contentedly jabbering, Hazel picked berries as fast as she could. Her fingertips turned purple and she got stuck more times than she could count, but she ignored the pricks and kept picking, glancing into the basket now and then to judge her progress.
   The basket was a little over half full when Maggie’s happy chatter changed to a shriek. Hazel jerked, the basket rocking on her arm. She sucked in a breath and turned to scold, but the words died on her lips when she spotted a black snake, nearly five feet long, slithering through the grass only a few feet from where Maggie was sitting.
   Hazel dropped the basket and leaped in front of her sister. The snake changed course, but now it headed in the direction of the rabbit burrow. She couldn’t let that awful snake eat the bunnies for lunch! She pushed Maggie closer to the bushes where blackberries from the basket dotted the thick grass. “Start puttin’ the berries back in the basket. I’ll be right back.” She snatched up a dead tree branch and darted after the snake, whacking the ground as she went.
   The snake eased one way and then another, but it persisted in moving toward the burrow. Hazel skirted slightly ahead of it and waved the branch. It paused for a moment, its tongue flicking in and out and its bright eyes seeming to stare directly at her. She smacked the grass hard. “Get outta here, you dumb snake! You go on!”
   The snake lowered its head and slithered away from her. She chased after it, yelling and swatting, until she was certain she’d frightened it into the woods. She swiped her brow and blew out a breath of relief. The bunnies were safe. She tossed the stick aside and hurried back to the thicket. Triumphant, she burst through the bushes.
   “I did it, Maggie! I scared it off!” She stopped short. Maggie’s doll lay in the grass near the overturned basket, but her sister wasn’t there. She sent a frowning look right and left. “Maggie?”
   Hazel inched forward, searching the area with her gaze. Squashed berries littered the area, proof that her sister had trampled through them. Had Maggie decided to play hide-and-seek? She singsonged, “Ma-a-aggie, where a-a-are you?” She listened for a telltale giggle. Only the whisper of wind replied. She didn’t have time for games. She balled her hands on her hips. “Margaret Rose Blackwell, I’m not playin’. You better come out right now if you know what’s good for you!”
   A pair of bluebirds swooped from a scraggly oak, but Maggie didn’t step out from the bushes. A chill wiggled down Hazel’s spine despite the heat making her flesh sticky. “C’mon, Maggie, this isn’t funny.” She turned a slow circle, repeatedly calling her sister’s name. Maggie still didn’t answer. The stillness unnerved her. No squirrels chattering, no birds singing, not even a rabbit nibbling at the tender grass under the trees.
   Worry churning in her gut, she searched the thicket. Then the surrounding area. Her heart gave a leap when she found Maggie’s limp hair ribbon caught on a shoulder-high tree branch. She jerked it free and stared at it. Maggie had gone at least a hundred feet from the thicket. How had she wandered so far in such a short time?
   Hazel shoved the ribbon into her pocket and cupped her hands around her mouth. “Maggie, wherever you are, you better stop right now an’ let me catch up or you’re gonna be in big trouble!” She waited several seconds, waiting, listening. More silence.
   She hugged herself, battling tears. Why didn’t Maggie answer? Maybe she’d curled up somewhere, like a bunny, and fallen asleep. She began hunting again, moving slow, peeking into bushes and under the thick branches of pine trees.
   Minutes slipped by with no sign of her sister, and Hazel’s fear grew so intense a bitter taste flooded her mouth. She broke into a run. She zigzagged through the woods, forming a rough circle around the blackberry bramble, always calling. Sometimes she cajoled, sometimes she threatened. Sometimes she choked back sobs and other times angry growls. She searched and called until her throat was too dry to make a sound and her leg muscles quivered.
   She stopped, leaning forward and resting her hands on her knees. Her breath heaved. Her chest ached. Sweat dribbled down her face and mixed with her tears. Daddy and Mama would be so disappointed in her for losing Maggie in the woods, but she’d have to face them. She needed help. Sucking in a big breath, she gathered her bearings and then took off toward home.

Image result for blackberry picking

http://images.randomhouse.com/author/162648Kim Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, best-selling author with more than one million books in print, in seven different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades, including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband, Don, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope and redemption. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

***Thank you, author Kim Vogel Sawyer, and WaterBrook for sending a print pre-copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***