Saturday, August 31, 2013

Anne Graham Lotz, ©2013 ~ Wounded by God's People: Discovering How God's Love Heals Our Hearts

I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke of their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.
   --Hosea 11:4

Tucked into Abraham's biography is the story of Hagar, a young Egyptian slave with whom Abraham had a son named Ishmael. Hagar stood out because she was wounded—not physically, but in ways that were as emotionally and spiritually painful as any injury to a body would be. Some wounds were provoked by her own bad behavior, but others were inflicted by those who considered themselves God's people. Anne too has been wounded by God's people. Some wounds have been deeper than others, some have come out of nowhere, and still others have been provoked by her own behavior, but all of the wounds have been deeply painful. They seemed to hurt even more when the wounders wrapped their behavior in a semblance of religion or piety. As Hagar's story unfolds, you will discover that wounded people often become wounders themselves.

While Anne identifies with the wounded, the unpleasant reality is that she also identifies with the wounders, because she has been one, too. She knows from experience that wounding is a cycle that needs to be broken. And by God's grace, it can be. Many have had similar experiences. And perhaps you are among those who have been so deeply hurt that you have confused God's imperfect people with God. Maybe you have even run away from God as a result. Or perhaps you have been a wounder to the extent that you are living in a self-imposed exile, believing you are unworthy to be restored to a warm, loving relationship with God or with God's people. Whatever your hurts may be, Wounded by God's People helps you to begin a healing journey—one that enables you to reclaim the joy of God's presence and all the blessings God has for you. God loves the wounded. And the wounders.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
   --Psalm 147:3
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
   --Philippians 4:19-20
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Anne Graham Lotz brings God's Word into our hearts to heal and show us the direction God has for us, each of us. Years ago, the city I lived in had a gathering once a year called Women's Day Away. We came from far and near to this special day set apart to attend workshops, have tea and coffee with friends, and to listen to the KeyNote Speaker ~ two different times it was Anne Graham Lotz. I have never forgotten sitting in that old church from generation to generation with the warmth of the well-loved smooth wooden pews amid sisters of the heart as we listened together to Anne's experience with her God, our God ~ never failing us, always with us, never setting us apart.

While reading Wounded by God's People: Discovering How God's Love Heals Our Hearts, experiences are shared while the Lord searches hearts to bring to the surface areas He wants to heal.

Anne talks about looking back in a rearview mirror, we cannot see where we are going forward. Unmet expectations, not arriving where we thought we should be ~ destroying our future, and possibly that of our family and loved ones. I think of a wood stove with the damper in the wrong position ~ is the smoke going up the chimney, or into our breathing room, causing us to be choked off?
   But I don't stop with just the decision to forgive. Once I have made the decision to forgive, I move forward by doing something for the person who hurt me. 
   --Wounded by God's People, 200
One poignant example that stood out to me was going beyond forgiveness of words, to actions of the heart ~ sacrificially giving of ourselves to another in as much need of this care as we are.
   But then my decision to forgive needs to be followed with an act of love that's sacrificial in nature.
   --Ibid., 200
I know this is true because I have experienced it. Times specifically come to mind when I chose to listen to God, setting myself apart to free another ~ and I became free. God's Word is true. He comes alongside and does not leave us.
    Although you may not be in exile physically ― you may still be going to church, attending Bible studies, involved in religious activities ― could it be that your spirit is nonetheless in exile because you are stuck in the quicksand of past wounds? Is there a cold vacancy where there used to be a warm vibrancy of love for the things and people of God? Is there a root of bitterness that is strangling your spirit on the inside, threatening to choke off the future God has in store for you?
   --Ibid., 204
Anne is open about where she has been, and others. Whether on purpose or accidentally, there is occasion to wound and be wounded by those we trust and expect to be treated rightly. Through the story of Hagar, Anne reveals Truth from God's heart. A fresh encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ is available to each of us.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
   --Psalm 145:18-19
I have mentioned areas that spoke to me. You will experience with Anne, the Lord's nearness to us. His desire is to heal our hearts and those whose hearts need mending, available through communicating together. We are not alone. Extend a hand and release both hearts to seek Him.

***Thank you to BookSneeze for sending me a copy of Wounded by God's People: Discovering How God's Love Heals Our Hearts by Anne Graham Lotz. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Book 3 ~*Postcards from Misty Harbor Inn series*~ Whispers on the Dock by Evangeline Kelley, ©2013

Sisters Samantha, Caroline, and Gracie have newly opened Misty Harbor Inn for the summer season in Nantucket. There is a warmth of friendship as they become reacquainted beyond their vacation times together. Each with their own giftings that enhance the other, Misty Harbor Inn begins to welcome guests. Trish comes seeking a quiet writing haven to prepare her manuscript. Doris brings a quiet haven of memories as her family lived above the carriage house in her youth. Her remembrances entwine with the sisters' desires to find out more about the Inn and their connection to it.
   Baking has become the fun project and relaxation for Sam as she becomes aware of a baking contest and meets the resident winner. She spends a considerable time perfecting her cobbler until others in the Inn become a little weary of taste-testing.
   Caroline and her fiance George are seeking the perfect home as their fall wedding approaches.
   Gracie's young granddaughter, Evelyn, unexpectedly visits for the summer during illness of younger siblings. Gracie's gifting is hospitality as she is a welcoming shelter for their guests and enjoys tending to the flower garden. Evelyn entertains Max, their resident dog, and enjoys riding a pony for the first time which helps to ease her loneliness being away from her family.
   Misty Harbor Inn enjoys a first summer season. Each sister brings a spark of life that will have you sleuthing with them as mysteries become uncovered.
Three sisters. A charming inn. Hints of mystery and romance. And a gorgeous seaside setting. Escape to Misty Harbor Inn.
As Nantucket reaches the pinnacle of its summer glory, and the Marris sisters welcome guests at Misty Harbor Inn, youngest sister Sam Carter enters her mother's cobbler recipe in the Summerfest baking contest. But she faces a formidable opponent, a past winner who is determined to keep her title even if it means stooping to dirty tactics. Can Sam's newfound faith help her rise above the fray and reach out to this lonely woman? Meanwhile, an elderly guest arrives who knows the inn's history, and the sisters are stunned to learn that their late mother lived there as a child. But she told them she'd never been to Nantucket until her honeymoon! Through the woman's reminiscences and photos, the sisters make an intriguing discovery—not only about the mysterious Hannah Montague, the young woman who disappeared from the house in 1880, but also about their own family history.
   Readers will delight in the inviting Nantucket setting and be enthralled by the adventures of these sisters who reunite to bring their mother's Misty Harbor dreams to life. Purchase a copy:
Pam Andrews
writing team: daughter Pam and mom Barbara
Patti Berg Patti
Photo Credit: LuAnn McBrayer
Camy Tang
About the authors: Evangeline Kelley is the pen name for the writing team of Patti Berg, Pam Hanson & Barbara Andrews, and Camy Tang, the four authors who collaborated to create Postcards from Misty Harbor Inn. Each of them has published novels individually, but this is their first series together.          


***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for Book 3 of the Postcards from Misty Harbor Inn series and sending me a copy of Whispers on the Dock. This review is written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

~*Misty Harbor Inn Giveaway from Guidepost Books!*~

Book three in the Postcards from Misty Harbor Inn series, Whispers on the Dock (Guideposts Books) is now availableCome back to Nantucket and be enthralled by the final installment of the cozy intrigue of Misty Harbor Inn.

Enter to win the entire set of Postcards from Misty Harbor Inn.
Three winners will receive:
  • Seaside Summer, Sunflower Summer and Whispers on the Dock by Evangeline Kelley
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 31st. All winners will be announced September 2nd at the Litfuse blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit the Litfuse blog on the 2nd to see if you won one set! (Or better yet, subscribe to our blog (via the box in the top right sidebar) and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Message on the Quilt ~*The Quilt Chronicles*~ by Stephanie Grace Whitson, ©2013

The Message On The Quilt
Book 3 in The Quilt Chronicles ~ Return to historic Nebraska for the stunning conclusion to The Quilt Chronicles. When Emilie Rhodes convinces her newspaper editor father to assign her to interview the speakers at the 1890 Chautauqua series, she meets and falls in love with “The Man of Many Voices.” But Noah Shaw’s professional life is only one reason he’s in Nebraska. Noah is on a quest to find answers. . .but will a treasured quilt bear a message of brokenness—or hope and healing?

1890 Beatrice (Be-a-trice), Nebraska. Crossing the Big Blue River bridge, Emilie Rhodes and her three cousins go to the Chautauqua grounds to practice their music for the opening events on the Tabernacle stage. The four girls are going to rent their own tent this year rather than stay in their mothers' cottages. High adventure. It begins as Emily screams upon discovery of a seasonal cottage resident.
   When the stranger rumbled that things were "all right," Emilie backpedaled away from him, nearly tripping off the edge of the porch. He reached out to catch her lest she fall. She waved him off and pointed at the open door. "S-s-snake."
   The stranger stepped to the doorway and peered in. "It's just a bull snake."
   --The Message on the Quilt, 52
Emilie and Mr. Noah Shaw meet.

Noah Shaw has come as an orator at the summer Chautauqua gathering. He also is wanting to find out about the stories embroidered in the quilt his mother had given him.

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
---Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!
--William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Emilie Rhodes' father is Editor in Chief of the Beatrice Daily Dispatch newspaper. She is wanting to be acknowledged for her own writings.

I really cared about the story of this summer of discovery, especially Noah's. The supportive characters were really enjoyable and the activities that took place on these summer days. It was like traveling with the families and the community as they experienced the Chautauqua assembly, and by those coming by rail. Each book in this trilogy may be read as a stand-alone. I liked the involvement in each other's lives in these stories.

Stephanie Grace Whitson, bestselling author and two-time Christy finalist, pursues a full-time writing and speaking career from her home studio in southeast Nebraska. Her husband and blended family, her church, quilting, and Kitty--her motorcycle--all rank high on her list of "favorite things."

My reviews:
Book 1
Book 2

Don't miss Stephanie's quilting book!

***Thank you to author Stephanie Grace Whitson for her series The Quilt Chronicles, and to Barbour Publishing for sending me a copy of the third book to read and review. No further compensation was received. I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend each one.***

Stephanie, this third novel touched me personally. The Message on the Quilt took me down memory lane as I remembered a dear friend I met at work as a young woman. An elegant, delightful family, they received me and my small children into their home anytime. Their father was a geologist. They always will be memorable to me, especially because of the respect given. Once when the grandmother was visiting, she sewed a summer top and bloomer set for my daughter just by glancing at her size. After moving away, we exchanged letters. In later years, my husband and I drove to see her at a conference she was attending, and visited her while she was caring for her mother. As it turned out, she passed away before her mother. They were very giving and caring and have always stood out to me. I honor the memory.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Whispers from the Shadows by Roseanna M. White, ©2013

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Roseanna M. White is the author of several novels, as well as the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, and the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing.

Visit the author's website.


When Gwyneth Fairchild flees London to save her life, she ends up under the care of Thaddeus Lane in Baltimore. Though their hearts turn to each other, Gwyn and Thad are on opposite sides of the War of 1812. What is God’s plan for them when the war is over?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Culper Ring Series (Book 2)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736951016
ISBN-13: 978-0736951012


Ye were sometimes darkness, but
now are ye light in the Lord:
walk as children of light...
See then that ye walk circumspectly,
not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
--Ephesians 5:8, 15-16

Spring, 1814. Gwyneth Fairchild hastily leaves her home in England to venture across the ocean to America with the accompaniment of Mr. and Mrs. Wesley. She is overcome with turmoil within and without as the passage continues, and seems not to cease as she arrives at the Lanes where her father has dispatched her.

Captain Thaddeus Lane, unknown to Gwyneth, is unaware of their impending arrival. His parents are moving into his home as she and the Wesleys arrive. His sister, Philly, his friend, Arnaud with his son, Jack, age four, are frequently present within the lively home. She is welcomed by Thad or Captain, as he wishes her to call him, and his family. His parents remember her from visits when she was a little girl, the age of Jack. Thad visited her family's home some fifteen years earlier and vaguely remembers her. The household settles into a somewhat normal routine; except for her insomnia and anguished thoughts that keep her from fully participating.

Her one gifting so vital to her now is her drawings. Her artistic ability that does not lie and clears her mind much like words on a page written in a journal to express herself. One color she uses brought my childhood favorite crayola to mind: burnt sienna. How I loved the richness of it for tree trunks and accents. This faint scribbling of it, does not do it justice. It is a firm solid color that comes alive!

Gwyneth's mother's brother, her uncle Gates, and her betrothed, Sir Arthur Hart, are seeking her whereabouts. The turmoil of war and its uncertainties do not always bring out the best in people.

You will want to check out these other writings in this series!

Books in the Culper Ring Series
Book 1 ~ Ring of Secrets ~ March 1, 2013
Fairchild's Lady (free e-novella) June 1, 2013
Book 2 ~ Whispers from the Shadows ~ August 1, 2013
A Hero's Promise ~ (free e-novella)
Book 3 ~ Circle of Spies ~ April 1, 2014

Ring of Secrets Free Novella Whispers from the Shadows


London, England
April 1814

The servants hefting her trunks onto the carriage might as well have been loading her coffin. Gwyneth Fairchild pulled her pelisse close and gazed across Hanover Square with a sick feeling in her stomach. Surely she would awaken from this nightmare and walk down to the breakfast room to find Papa smiling at her. He would speak and say something that actually made sense.
   Not like yesterday.
   She shut her eyes against the image of all that was familiar, all that she might never see again. What if the Scribe went down? Was attacked by a renegade French ship or those dreadful American pirates? What if, assuming she made it to Annapolis, they killed her the moment she stepped ashore?
   Annapolis. Had Papa not looked so sorrowful, so determined when he said that word yesterday, she would have thought he had gone mad.
   His hand settled on her shoulder now, warm and large. Those hands had steadied her all her life. Capable, that was what General Isaac Fairchild had always been. Capable and steady and so very noble. All that was worthy of love and respect. So surely she could trust him now when logic and reason said she couldn’t.
   “I know it makes little sense to you, dear heart.” He touched her chin, a silent bid for her to look at him. She found his eyes gleaming with moisture he would never shed. Not when anyone could see him, though she had heard his heartrending sobs when Mama died last fall. “I wish there were another way, but there is not.”
   Another way for what? He hadn’t said, wouldn’t say. Gwyneth drew in a tremulous breath and tried to stand tall and proud, the way Mama had taught her, the way Papa himself had instilled. To convey with her posture that she was the great-granddaughter of a duke, the granddaughter of two earls, the daughter of a general.
   A daughter sent into exile for no apparent reason. Separated from all those she loved, the only people left in the world who mattered. “Papa—”
   “I know.” He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I do. But I cannot entrust you to anyone but the Lanes.”
   A light mist descended, heavier than fog but too tame to be called rain. At this moment, a thunderstorm would have better matched her confusion. “Please tell me what is happening. Why must you entrust me to anyone? And if you must, why not Aunt Poole or Aunt Gates?”
   His jaw moved for a moment but no words came. Nay, he simply looked past her, his eyes searching for something unseen. Then he sighed. “The Lanes will welcome you and take care of you, Gwyn. I will follow as quickly as I can. A month at the outside. No more.”
   Exactly what he said yesterday too. He would give no explanation as to why he was sending her to a nation with whom they were at war, across the Atlantic to a family she had met only once, when she was but a tot.
   “Papa, your words hint at danger, but what could threaten me here more than the sea and its pirates? The French, the Americans?”
   “The French ought to pose no threat now that we’ve subdued them.” He reached inside his coat of blazing red and pulled out an envelope. “In all likelihood your ship will reach harbor safely, but if by chance you do encounter American privateers, offer them this.”
   She frowned as she took the envelope. It was too thin to contain anything but a single sheet of paper. “What—”
   “Trust me. ’Twill suffice.” Chatter from the house grew louder, and Papa looked away again, to the nearing housekeeper and gardener. “There are the Wesleys. Time to go.”
   A million arguments sprang to her tongue. She didn’t want to leave. Not her home, not him, not all she held dear. Not her first Season, the one that had been put off because of Mama’s illness last year. Not her friends.
   And what about Sir Arthur? She hadn’t even spoken to him to tell him she was leaving, hadn’t dared send a note. “Papa, Sir Arthur…”
   “It isn’t to be, Gwyn, not now. Perhaps when this has passed, when it is safe for you to return.”
   Tears burned, begging to be set loose, but she clenched her teeth and blinked. How had it come to this? Promise had finally shone its light again. Shopping with Aunt Gates had made it feel as though Mama were with her still. Making the rounds with her friends had finally distracted her from the loss. Getting vouchers for Almack’s, and then Sir Arthur’s court—she had, at long last, looked forward to the future.
   “Please don’t cry, dear heart.” Papa thumbed away a wily tear that escaped her blockade and kissed her forehead again. “Up with you, now. You must be at the docks soon.”
   Instead, she surged forward and wrapped her arms around him. “I don’t want to leave you, Papa. I can’t. Don’t make me go. Or come with me.”
   He held her close. “Would that I could. Would that I didn’t have to bid goodbye, yet again, to the one who matters most.” He gave her another squeeze, another kiss, and then he set her back. His eyes were rimmed with red. “I love you, Gwyneth. Go with God.”
   He let her go and pivoted on his heel, all but charging back into the house. She almost wished she could resent him, but how could she, seeing his struggle? Whatever his reasons, they must be valid.
   And whatever his reasons, they must be dire. A shiver coursed up her spine and made the mist seem colder. Isaac Fairchild was a respected general, a man loved by all. A man of considerable sway in London and beyond. If there were something frightening enough that he must send her away, was planning on leaving himself—
   And for America, no less. Would he be going there to take command of troops? Possibly. Though why would he be secretive about it? But then, there was much about Papa’s work he could not discuss. Secrets, always secrets.
   “All’s secure, Miss Fairchild,” the driver called down from the bench.
   She slipped the envelope into her reticule and took a step toward the Wesleys. They, at least, would provide familiar faces for the journey. They would be an anchor on the foreign seas.
   Quick hoofbeats snagged her attention. “Miss Fairchild!”
   Her eyes went wide when she saw the dashing figure astride the horse. Sir Arthur reined to a halt beside the carriage and leaped down, fervor ablaze in his eyes.
   “Miss Fairchild.” He gripped her hands as he searched her face with his gaze. He had the loveliest brown eyes, so warm and beckoning, the perfect fit to his straight nose and sculpted mouth. “Is it true, then? Broffield just told me that Miss Gregory said you were leaving Town.”
   “I…” He was holding her hands. Sir Arthur Hart, Knight of the Order of Saint Patrick, presumed heir to a viscountcy, the most sought-after bachelor in England, grasped her fingers as if he never intended to let go. The mass of confusion inside twisted. “Yes, it is true. My father…”
   He eased closer, his gaze so compelling she feared she might drown in it. “Something to do with military business, then? You will return soon?”
   “I don’t know. I don’t think Papa knows.”
   “Dear Miss Fairchild. Gwyneth.” His fingers tightened around hers, much like the band around her chest. Never before had he spoken her given name. Hearing it in his rich tenor, spoken with such affection, made her fear her tears would overcome her after all. “Why must you go with him? Can you not stay here with your aunt?”
   Her attempt at swallowing got stuck in her throat. “I am all Papa has now since my mother passed away, and he is loath to be separated.” True, so true. Why, then, was he sending her an ocean away to a hostile land?
   “But surely there is a way to convince him. What if…” He paused and then swallowed before using their joined hands to pull her closer. “What if you were betrothed?”
   Her heart quickened inside her, beating a desperate tattoo against her ribs. Would that change anything? Could it? “I…don’t know.”
   “Gwyneth.” Oh, he made her name into music. The breeze toyed with his honey-colored hair under the brim of his hat, making her itch to touch the curls. “My darling, I have such a love and admiration for you. If you would feel inclined toward accepting my hand, I will speak with your father this very moment.”
   At first all she could think was He proposed! Then she drew in a quick breath and nodded with too much enthusiasm. “Of course I am inclined if he agrees. Only…” She drew away when he moved closer still, recalling Papa’s discomposure mere minutes before. “Let me speak with him first, as he was out of countenance.”
   “Certainly. Yes. Anything.” He laughed and raised her hands to kiss her knuckles. As if surprised she had said yes. “I will take a turn through your garden to try to calm myself.”
   “Perfect.” If only she could be sure Papa would agree. If only she could be sure that, if not, Sir Arthur would wait for her. She pulled away, but he snagged her hand again.
   “Gwyneth. Darling.” He smiled, so bright and handsome it made her doubt trouble could exist. “I will make you very happy.”
   A smile stole onto her lips. It melted away again in a moment, but he had turned toward the garden by then.
   Mrs. Wesley snagged her attention with a shooing motion toward the door. “You had better hurry, love. If the general does not change his mind, we must hasten on our way.”
   Gwyneth flew through the mist up the steps to the door and back into the house. For a moment she paused to breathe in home, but she hadn’t time to savor it. If her mission went well, she needn’t say goodbye to it at all.
   Please, Lord. Please let him relent.
   She sped down the hallway and around the corner toward Papa’s study. He always ended up there, either busy at work or staring at the picture of Mama she’d painted for him. A professional portrait hung in the drawing room, but he said she had done the better job. Praise which always made her heart expand.
   The study door was before her by the time she realized voices spilled out. Two of them—though when had anyone else arrived? Surely no servant would dare speak over Papa like this.
   “Isaac, listen to yourself!”
   Gwyneth froze a step from the door. It was open a crack, letting her look in, though only the corner of the desk was visible, and just behind it, where Papa stood. But she recognized Uncle Gates’s voice.
   “‘Isaac’ now, is it?” Papa’s laugh sounded dry. “Odd how you only remember our familial ties when we disagree. Otherwise it is always my rank to which you appeal.”
   A loud bang made Gwyneth jump. Uncle’s fist connecting with wood, perhaps? “Blast it, Fairchild, it’s your rank you are abusing!”
   “No! ’Tis my rank I honor. Someone, Gates, must do what is right. Someone must stand for justice rather than—”
   “Hang all that noble rot.” A nasty curse spilled from Uncle Gates’s lips as glass shattered. Gwyneth recoiled, staring in horror at the sliver of room. What keepsake had he destroyed? The vase Mama had chosen two years ago? The small porcelain figure Gwyneth had given Papa for his birthday when she was fifteen? Something precious, for only the most special pieces gained a place of honor on Papa’s shelves.
   And why? Why would Mama’s own brother do such a thing?
   He sent something else toppling. “You are undermining years of careful work! The Home Office—”
   “The Home Office, you say?” Papa leaned forward onto his desk, a look of deathly calm upon his face. “Nay. The Home Office has decent men in it yet. A few, at least, though you are not one of them. This evil must be stopped, Gates. You must be stopped.”
   There came a shuffling sound, one Gwyneth couldn’t comprehend but which made Papa snap upright. Made him lift his hands, palms out, and make a placating motion. “Gates—”
   “I am through reasoning with you, Fairchild. Tell me where they are. Now.
   One of Papa’s hands lowered toward his desk drawer, but another shuffle made him pause. “I am only—”
   “You think me so great a fool? I already removed that, dear brother.” More curses exploded from Uncle Gates. Closer now, as though he were rounding the desk, just out of her view. “Tell me where they are!”
   Papa’s sharp inhalation was clearly audible. “Gone.”
   “Gone? Gone? What do you mean, gone?
   “Just that. Out of my hands and on their way to those who can put a stop to this before you destroy two nations in the name of avarice.”
   A cry tore through the room, guttural and animalistic. Light flashed on something metallic as her uncle charged into view, the gleaming length held before him. Still, she had no idea what he wielded until she saw the silver stained red.
   She pressed her hands to her mouth to hold back the scream, hold back the horror, but it didn’t help. Uncle still hissed words of hatred. Papa still staggered back, away from the blade. Then he crumpled and fell.
   Gates followed him down, muttering, “You couldn’t have, not yet. You must have it.” His hands shoved into Papa’s jacket and searched.
   Papa, fight back! But he didn’t. He gasped, seemed to struggle for a moment, and then went lax. No. No, no, no, no, no!
   Did she bleed too? She must. She couldn’t move, couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t be. Not anymore.
   When Papa’s head lolled to the side, he blinked and his gaze focused on her. There was life yet in those familiar depths, but it flickered. Sputtered. “Gwyneth.”
   She didn’t hear it. She just saw the movement of his lips. But her uncle, tossing Papa’s case of calling cards into the wall, snarled. “Now you worry about your darling daughter? Oh, have no fear, Fairchild. Dear Uncle Gates will take care of our precious girl.”
   Bile burned her throat.
   Papa blinked again as he tried to pull in a breath that choked him. Again his gaze sharpened, caught hers. This time when his lips moved, he made no sound whatsoever. Run!
   Then it was gone, all the light in his eyes. Extinguished like a flame left before an open window.
   And she ran. She turned on silent slippers and fled back around the corner and down the hall. Out the doors and straight into the waiting carriage.
   “Gwyneth? Miss Fairchild?”
   All she noted of the voice was that it wasn’t Uncle Gates’s. Nothing else mattered. Seeing that the Wesleys were already seated, their eyes now wide, Gwyneth pulled the door shut herself. “Go!”
   An eternal second later, the driver’s “Yah!” reached her ears, and the carriage jolted forward.
   When she closed her eyes, all she could see was darkness yawning before her.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Trouble in Store by Carol Cox, ©2013

Cover ArtFired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he’s not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas mess up all he’s worked for. He’s determined to get Melanie married off as soon as possible, and luckily there are plenty of single men in town quite interested in taking her off his hands.
   The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn’t want her to marry up with any of them. He’s drawn to Melanie more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store unexpectedly offer positive results.
   But someone doesn’t want the store to succeed, and what used to be just threatening words has escalated into deliberate destruction and lurkers in the night. When a body shows up on the mercantile steps–and the man obviously didn’t die from natural causes–things really get dangerous. Can Melanie and Caleb’s business–and romance–survive the trouble that’s about to come their way?

My Review:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
   --Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
Marietta, Ohio
April 1885
   Melanie clamped her lips together, knowing full well that her opinion wasn't really being solicited. She made a mental head count, trying to keep her consternation from showing on her face. The Templetons had two children, and the Martins three, meaning she would be riding herd on seven youngsters instead of only two.
   --Trouble in Store, 9
What would you do if you were to watch seven rambunctious children out on the lawn during an outdoor party for hopes of candidacy votes? Not in their play clothes, mind you, but their best finery? Before we begin it is obvious who is going to get blamed for the turmoil that is sure to follow ~ in and out of the dining tables? Well, actually stopped short of the tables... thrown from the pony.
   Clarence's lips trembled as he met his father's stony glare, and he spoke in a piteous tone. "Miss Ross told me I could."
   --Ibid., 17
Melanie Ross sees the end from the beginning. Packing her trunk she comes across letters.
   "I've kept everything he left behind . . . . I'll keep it safe, should you choose to come out and claim it."
   --Ibid., 25
Signed by her deceased cousin's partner in the Ross-Nelson Mercantile in Arizona, Melanie has a way of escape.
   Levi flinched."I was just lining up my soldiers."
   Caleb ran his finger around the edge of his collar. "But why on . . . ? Why there?"
   Levi pointed at Melanie. "She told me to."
   --Ibid., 182
Not again. Poor Miss Ross!

Soon music is in her heart.
“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him
securely on high, because he has known My name.
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
“With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

   --Psalm 91:14-16 NASB
So important in Melanie's life. I really enjoyed this book and it had turns and twists I didn't expect. It had me holding my breath too for her actual escape. There was a sub-character I was suspicious of and despite clues, I didn't select the right culprit. Our protagonists sided with me. A very visual story. I was glad I wasn't along for part of it! Excellent writing.

***Thank you to author Carol Cox for sending me a copy of Trouble in Store. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received. Her Pinkerton story you will enjoy is Love in Disguise.*** 

Chapters One and Two

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Governess of Highland Hall, a novel by Carrie Turansky, ©2013

a woman teacher employed in a private household to teach and train the children

Worlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help?

Book 1 of the Edwardian Brides Series, releases October 15, paperback and eBook. Available for pre-order now.
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
ISBN 10: 1601424965
ISBN 13: 9781601424969
Buy Now!
Two worlds . . . one calling. In 1911 Julia travels from the exotic land of India to Highland Hall, a magnificent English country estate. Will she follow her heart and stay on as governess for Sir William Ramsey, or will she return to her mission work and the life she left behind in India?

Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey.

Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith.

While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were
to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.
   --Song of Solomon 8:7
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
   --Matthew 5:8
October 1911, England
The last time Julia Foster saw Highland Hall was when she attended a charity bazaar twelve years ago before her family traveled to the mission station in India.  Returning to England because of her father's illness, it was imperative that Julia make a good impression during her interview as she was needed to care for her parents' support.

Julia is hired as governess and is given instructions for her first day.
   "The nursery and school room are across the hall." She motioned toward a door on the right. "The children's maid is helping them dress and prepare for the day. The family and staff gather for Scripture reading and prayer in the great hall at nine o'clock. You'll be introduced to everyone at that time. Then you'll return with the children to the nursery for breakfast and lessons."
   --The Governess of Highland Hall, 21
Baronet William Ramsey is guardian of his teenage cousins, Katherine and Penelope, of whom Julia will have influence for the young ladies as part of her position. As certain as Katherine is that she does not need a governess, she may find out differently. Penelope looks to her elder sister for direction.
   He clasped his hands behind his back again, looking grim. "It's certainly not the way we've always done things at Highland."
   --Ibid., 89
The butler and housekeeper have been used to being in charge of Highland Hall's internal household running. Now with William's sister being coached to be groomed as mistress of the estate, the newness of the staff having to give account for their expenditures assures them it has to be that new governess ruffling things up. She, indeed, is what everyone needs!

Julia's kindness and encouragement in learning is causing the children to bloom. Changes are apparent as they become happier and picking on each other out of boredom decreases. She is forthright with William to spend more time with his children. Life is coming to the estate.

993354_10151763649586967_1872496112_nCarrie TuranskyAuthor Carrie Turansky ~
Here is an interesting article by Carrie Turansky on choosing the setting for her novel, The Governess of Highland Hall. She includes a sneak peek at the first chapter too.

***Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah blogging for Books for sending me an Advance Reading Copy. This review is written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Friday, August 9, 2013

Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman, ©2013

The cover on Winter in Full Bloom is absolutely the most beautiful cover I have ever seen. To add to that, if you move it under a light, you can see the snow falling ~ if you have a little of Irish wonder, that is!

Here is the very first page of Chapter 1! Wait until you turn it to the next, and the next, ....

I sat on a 747, trying to talk myself out of a panic attack.
   The jet still sat on the tarmac, but already I could imagine—in electrifying detail—the fiery crash and then the watery pull into the briny depths of the Pacific Ocean. Lord, have mercy. What had I been thinking?
   Fool that I was, I'd left the sanctuary of my own home, which was safe, and hygienically clean, I might add, to board this death trap. Too late now. I'd taken a leave of absence from work, stopped the mail, given all my indoor plants to my neighbor, and said a dozen goodbyes to my daughter, Julie. The trip was set in stone—the igneous kind that the geologists liked to talk about at work.
   While I sat there sweating, my mind got out its magnifying glass to examine my inner motives. All in all, the journey had a grab bag full of miseries attached to it. For me, getting on the plane proved that my empty nest had driven me over the edge like the biblical herd of pigs. Since my Julie had left the house, was I trying to find a person to fill that void . . . that vacant place at the table . . . the perpetual silence of the house and the clocks, ticking away the rest of my tedious life? Probably. And yet finding my sister in Australia would be no less than wonderful, whether Julie was at home or not.
   I looked out the small plane window at the heavens with my anxious puppy dog eyes and could almost hear the Almighty chuckling. Yes, I know, God. I must keep You entertained.

cover: winter in full bloom

I really like how the back story is written, telling the passenger across the aisle on the long airplane crossing to Melbourne. A seasoned traveler, young Jenny replaces the jitters of flight for Lily Winter by listening to the remembering and experience of the telling.
St. Paul's Cathedral ~ Melbourne

Lily gets settled in her hotel and immediately goes to St. Paul's Cathedral; the only clue she has to locate her sister. As she is pondering in the park, perchance another "Texan" arrives.

Here are quotes I dearly loved:
   He gazed  over the gardens. "Soon the park will be in full bloom. You'll see colors that even artists have trouble re-creating on their canvas."
   "You know, every winter it's hard to imagine how it will be . . . all those tightly closed buds just waiting for a little spring. And a bit of love and attention."
   --Winter in Full Bloom, 39
   ...He stared up at the sky as if there were some revelation written there. "Just look at those clouds off to the west . . . a wash of Prussian blue near the horizon. It's the color of deep twilight or . . . the color of a storm brewing."
   --Ibid., 40
   ..."So, what's in the case?"
   He touched the container with affection. "The Great Highland Bagpipe. It's broken at the moment. Some things aren't easy to mend, but when they're precious enough, it's worth the effort." Marcus smiled.
   --Ibid., 41
   ...Marcus would be an interesting book to read if you didn't mind starting from the back.
   --Ibid., 42
Aren't those just sooo good! Marcus keeps up his repertoire and I pause on them aside from the story. Deep reflections on beautiful phrases ~ Rhetoric. a group of spoken words that the mind focuses on momentarily as a meaningful unit and is preceded and followed by pauses. I wonder if Lily will pause on them? I like her comment above. Pensive.

Hmmm... Marcus mentions he attends services at St. Paul's and does some volunteer work for them ~ which would put him there at irregular hours too. But... sleuthville ~ IF he knew of Lily's sister, who happens to be her identical twin from description given her, wouldn't he have called her "Camille"?

I am sure you will want to find out too how this emerges. Will she go back to Texas empty-hearted or... is Melbourne her new city?

Anita Higman
Bonus: Remember all of their words come from Anita Higman!

River North FictionIn Chicago there is an area called River North. This area is just north of the Loop, west of Michigan Avenue and south of Chicago Avenue. The Chicago River runs through it.  Like this river that runs through these well-known busy areas of the city, River North Fiction brings to our readers rivers of refreshment, encouragement and hope through the power of story. ***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a copy of Winter in Full Bloom. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Song of Solomon 2:11–12
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.

Anita Higman’s “Winter in Full Bloom” Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Party! {8/29}

Anita Higman's latest novel, Winter in Full Bloom, has just released. She's teamed up with her publisher, River North Fiction, for a fun giveaway and a Facebook Author Chat Party on August 29th.

  One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HD
  • Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 28th.Winner will be announced August 29th at the Winter in Full Bloom Author Chat Party on Facebook. During the party Anita will be hosting a book chat, talking about family, announcing the winner of the Kindle Fire, and giving away a ton of books, gift certificates, and more. Oh, and she'll also be giving party goers an exclusive look at her next book.

So grab your copy of Winter in Full Bloom and join Anita on the evening of August 29th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)


In Golden Splendor ~ An Heirs of Ireland novel by Michael K. Reynolds, ©2013

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

B&H Books; Reprint edition (July 15, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


Michael K. Reynolds is the writer and producer of Emmy and Telly Award-winning film campaigns and has more than two decades of experience in fiction, journalism, copywriting, and documentary production. He owns Global Studio, a marketing agency, and is also an active leader in church and business, speaking in both ministry and corporate settings. Michael lives with his wife and three children in Reno, Nevada.

Visit the author's website.


Irish immigrant Seamus Hanley is a lost soul, haunted by his
past as a U.S. Army deserter and living alone in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in 1849. But after witnessing a deadly stage coach crash, he finds purpose in the scattered wreckage -- a letter with a picture of a beautiful and captivating woman named Ashlyn living in San Francisco at the height of the Gold Rush. Moved by her written plea for help, he abandons all and sets out on an epic journey across the wild and picturesque American frontier. While being pursued by those who want to hang him, Seamus encounters fascinating characters including a young Pauite Indian who makes the ultimate sacrifice in helping Seamus to cross the snowy Yosemite Valley.

Battered but changed for the better, Seamus reaches San Francisco on Christmas Eve as the city burns in the tragic fire of 1849. But there is little time for rest, as an even greater, more harrowing adventure involving Ashlyn is about to begin.


September 1849. Seamus Hanley intercepts a letter of urgency with the request of help needed to find her father in the gold fields of California. The young lady has sent her photo and the request to her childhood friend and she hopes "her intended." She has not heard from Captain Barlow in months and is in dire straits to find her pa being quite alone with no one to seek him. San Francisco seaport is a ways from the Southern Rocky Mountain Range as Seamus sets forth.

  It reminded him of that day when he and Clare clung on to the railing of their ship as it pushed off the shores of the harbor in Cork and watched as the Emerald Isle slipped down the horizon. He always experienced such a sense of loss in good-byes.
--In Golden Splendor, 17

October 1849. Seamus' sister Clare Hanley Royce is having breakfast in her Manhattan, New York, home. The New York Daily mention of gold in California and the Irishmen among them, become the morning topic. Within hearing range of her younger brother, Davin, he ventures down to the docks to watch crews load the ships with his friend Nelson, found in his usual place on a nearby bench. Both see a group of swaying fellows being led to the Tarentino. Certain that they are going to be given a tour, they join within the group and go aboard. Down below in the ship's hold, the cups are flowing; Davin and Nelson join their hands in the midst of the other cups. Before they know it, they are afloat.
While Davin is on his surging journey, his elder brother Seamus is now on the Oregon Trail with Winn and Trip, travelers across the plains. Suddenly in their wake, is a herd of mighty buffalo charging across in a thundering herd.
That would be a little unnerving.

I love these novels by Michael K. Reynolds! So moving and entertaining. Featuring gripping suspense, memorable characters and breathtaking settings. Michael K. Reynolds is a fantastic historical fiction author. You don't want to miss this trilogy ~ An Heirs of Ireland series ~ adventure, historical, romantic suspense. Book One: Flight of the Earls, January 2013; Book Two: In Golden Splendor, July 2013; Songs of the Shenandoah, January 2014. Wonderful in-depth writing, you will feel the breeze on your face. ~ Half-Irish Kathleen

Product Details:
List Price: $11.16
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: B&H Books; Reprint edition (July 15, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433678209
ISBN-13: 978-1433678202


Chapter 1

Wilderness of the Southern Rocky
Mountain Range
September 1849

    His sunken face windburned and forested by an icicle-encrusted mustache and beard, Seamus Hanley exhaled a steamy billow through his cracked lips into the frosty mountain air. Then the Irishman held his breath and lowered his rusted Brown Bess musket, his hands numbed by the frigidness breaching his torn and frayed bearskin gauntlets.
    The pain of hunger in his stomach had long subsided, and now only the trembling of his grip and weariness of his soul impressed upon him the urgency of this unpleasant task.
    He closed one of his lake-blue eyes, the last remnant of the promise of his youth, and sighted the muzzle of the weapon at the unsuspecting, rummaging elk.
    Even at a distance, the ribs of the great beast showed through its patchy and scarred chestnut fur. Through the barrel’s eye, Seamus tracked the young bull as it limped its way over to an aspen tree. The elk raised its head, crowned in mockery by horns uneven and fractured.
    Did it catch his scent?
    Then the animal relaxed, bared its teeth, and tugged on a low-lying branch, releasing a powdery mist of fresh snowfall and uncovering autumnal leaves of maroon, amber, and burnt orange. Brilliant watercolor splashes on a white canvas.
    In the deadly stillness of a finger poised on a trigger, Seamus shared a kinship of loneliness and futility with his prey, whose ear flapped and jaw bulged as it chewed.
    This wasn’t the way it should be. For both were trailing the herd at this time of season.
    This was when both mountain men and wildlife should be well fattened by summer’s gracious hands. For the fall offered only last provisions, the final stones in the fortress. Because, like shadows in the distant horizon, the bitter enemies of winter were approaching.
    Seamus tried to steady his focus as the wind shrilled. “It’s me or you, my friend.”
The frizzen was closed, the powder set, and his very last musket ball was loaded. This would be his only shot.
    For it had been another disappointing trade season amidst the dwindling market of beaver, otter, and marmot pelts. The fashion shifts in faraway places like New York and Europe were flushing out trappers like Seamus throughout the Western out-lands of this sprouting nation.
    But he expected as much. Seamus’s past was rife with disappointing harvests.
    With a pang of regret, his numb finger squeezed ever so gently and spark and flame breached the touchhole, igniting the gunpowder and sending a lead ball, laced with hope and desperation, through the icy air. Sounds, though dampened by the snow, ricocheted through the woods.
    The creature leapt into the air, thighs and legs flailing in a moment of frenzy. Then it gathered itself, turned, and bobbed its white tail up through the embankment into the sheltering embrace of the frozen forest.
    A flash here. A speck of brown again. Then it was gone.
    And Seamus was alone. Completely alone.
    Seamus lumbered over to a tree stump mushroomed by snow, and with the back of his glove he gave it a firm sweep to dust it clean before sitting down on the iced, jagged surface.
    “Arrgh!” He flung his musket in the air, watching it spiral before being enveloped into a bank of snow. Then he lowered his face into his moist, fur-covered hands and sobbed.
    No one would see him cry. No one ever did. Here, in the high country, emotions were shielded by solitude.
    Though just two years had passed, it seemed forever ago when he chose self-exile. When he tried to hide from the memories.
    Seamus could barely recall the laughter of his youth and his passion for whimsy. Growing up in the green-rich fields of Ireland, he would feast off the sparkle of cheer that echoed through the farmlands of his people back home.
    But that was many tragedies ago. Now that all looked like someone else’s life.
    He dwelled in the blackness of despair for a while, but eventually the chilling lashes of the winds pried him from the depths of his misery. Survival still lorded over the emptiness.
    Seamus retrieved his musket from its snowy grave. It was useless without ammunition, but he couldn’t part with one of his only friends.
    With slumping shoulders, he headed home. Home. His misshapen cabin in the hollow of the woods. Despite his best efforts to acclimate to the wilderness, he was still merely trespassing. And where was home when your spirit wandered?
    Yet there was a more pressing question. Would he even make it back to the cabin? The moment the hobbled elk escaped, it became Seamus who was hunted. He had risked the chase and strayed far. Now his hunger grew fangs and eyed its prey.
    The weariness. The throbbing of his temples.
    Every step mattered.
    Seamus popped the top of his canteen, lifted it, and poured water down his dry, aching throat. Then he surveyed this unfamiliar terrain.
    He rarely traversed this patch of backcountry and for good reason. Civilization had encroached following the opening of a United States Army outpost not far away. It intersected with the Oregon Trail, the main pathway for travelers to the West, who of late were drawn in droves to the resonating whispers of gold in California.
    The army fort was tasked to free the flow of commerce from the growing hindrance of the Indian population. Seamus had no quarrels with the brown-skinned natives of this territory. In fact, he coveted their ability to thrive in this cruel environment, which had buckled him to his knees.
    But he was terrified of the American soldiers.
    At the thought, he reached up to the scar on his left cheek, hidden beneath his scraggly facial hair. The image haunted of that branding iron growing in size as it was
pressed down on him, the burning flesh both his punishment and permanent mark as an Irish defector in Polk’s war, the battle against the Mexicans.
    He bristled at the word defector. People confused it too easily with deserter. Seamus had fought bravely in the war and never wavered amidst firestorms, death screams, and the lead- filled chaos. Even when, like many of his countrymen, he chose to change allegiances and fight for the other side.
    Suddenly, the whinnying of horses pulled him out of his trance. Seamus bent down behind a bush and strained his eyes high above in the direction of the repeating and frantic neighing sounds.
    Of course. Fools Pass.
    It was daunting enough for wagons to climb this section of the main trail during the warm and dry months. But trying to scale it during wintertime only validated its name.
    The horses sounded again, this time blending with the curses of a man and the cracking of a whip. From Seamus’s vantage point far below, he could see a wagon drawn by two steeds straining to make it up the crest of the hill. Its driver beseeched the creatures with a mad flailing of his arm whilst they slid and grappled for traction.
    The two great horses managed to find a steadiness in their hoofing and the wagon straightened and lunged forward with the wooden wheels digging into the deep snow. The vehicle moved closer to the crest of the peak.
    Then there was a hideous splintering of wood. One of the horses reared and broke free from its bindings causing the other to stumble. In the matter of a moment, the still-yoked horse, the carriage, and its horrified teamster started to slide back down the slope, angling toward the trail’s edge that dropped hundreds of feet below.
    Slowly. Excruciating to watch.
    First one wheel cleared the edge. Then another. And all was lost.
    The driver leapt from his bench, but much too late. The full momentum of the wagon and its cargo ripped violently against the futile efforts of the horse to regain its footing. The helpless creature was yanked through the air as if it were weightless. Its neck flexed unnaturally backward.
    Then launching downward, in one flight of wagon, wooden shards, scattering luggage, and flapping limbs of man and beast, the behemoth plunged in fury to depths below amidst hideous songs of anguish rising above the wind’s mournful cries.
    Seamus shielded his eyes from the horrific imagery. But his ears weren’t spared the tortuous screeching. He loathed to hear the conclusion of violence, the anticipated clash of rock and timber, metal and flesh.
    Instead, there was a muffled thud.
    Was it possible they survived?
    Energy surged through his flesh and he dropped his musket and ran with abandon, boots sinking through fresh powder and legs tripping over fallen pine boughs and sunken boulders.
    After bloodying his face and arms through dashes between patches of trees, he arrived with his lungs ablaze at the scene of the carriage accident.
    The collision with the ground had been softened by a deep snowdrift, and as a result, the wreckage was relatively intact. But the driver hadn’t survived the fall. His body was bent grotesquely in a rose-colored embankment.
    There too lay the horse, still trained to the wagon. Amazingly, the poor creature still showed signs of life, though it was reduced to a dim wheezing, and tiny flumes rose in the coolness from the flutter of its bleeding nostrils.
    Seamus curled up beside the fallen beast and stroked its head. “Shhh . . . dear fellow.” He sat beside it in an honoring silence until the last flicker extinguished in its eyes.
    He then pushed to his feet and walked over to the mangled body of the driver dressed in a soldier’s uniform and young enough to still be in the daily prayers of a heartbroken mother.
    As he looked upon the dead boy, he was struck by the emptiness of the wide-open orbs gazing into the murky skies. Seamus’s thoughts jarred to crimson-drenched fields, haunting memories of explosions, the flashing lights, the whirring of can- non shot hurled through the air against crumbling stone walls, battle equipment, flesh and bones.
    How could he had ever fired at another human being? Back then they were faceless uniforms, just flags flapping in the winds of war. Yet this soldier lying below him could have been his brother. Maybe even the brother he lost.
    Oh! Why bring back those haunting visions of his youth? Would they ever go away? Would he torment himself in even crueler ways than did his father?
    Seamus looked around for anything that could serve as a shovel, and the best he could find was a wooden panel he ripped off of the carriage. He used it to drag snow over the body. It was a crude burial at best, but it would at least keep the corpse from being dragged away by scavenging predators for a day or so before the weather warmed again.
    Perhaps he just couldn’t bear to see the boy’s face any longer.
    He then explored the wagon, which had landed on its side and was twisted and embedded deep in the snowbank. Seamus reached down and pulled on the door, which tore from its bro- ken hinges, and he tossed it out of his way. He climbed down inside, discovered several canvas sacks, and threw them up and out of the carriage’s womb.
    Getting out was a much more difficult proposition. Whatever parts of the cabin he tried to pull himself up with shattered to the touch, and the walls of snow around him threatened to col- lapse. He feared being crushed and suffocating.
    After much exertion he managed to claw his way out, and when he was back on his feet, his muscles writhed and his breathing wheezed. Dizziness swept over him and he had to close his eyes to regain his balance.
    There would be little time now. His stomach clenched. He must return home.
    Could there be food?
    He propped up the first of the bags and hesitated for a moment before unfastening the slender rope binding it shut.
    Was this right to do? Wouldn’t this make him a robber of graves?
    Ridiculous! He was starving.
    He removed his leather gauntlets and worked the knot with determination. Then it was freed and when he opened the mouth of the bag his spirit sank.
    Then the next bag. It was the same.
    Another. Uniforms. He flung the sack down, and the clothing scattered, blue against the white.
    The heavy bag? Please. If there is a God above, then have mercy on me.
    Cans! But there would be no way to open them out here.
    He untied the last bag, which proved to be the most stubborn. Finally it was freed and, once again, it was mail. But this one also had parcel boxes. He reached in to pull one out and several letters scattered in the wind.
    Seamus stared at the box and shook it. Looking up, he saw the sun dipping below the crowns of the trees. He couldn’t squander any more daylight.
    He returned the package in the sack and gathered the letters from the ground. As he did, one letter caught his eye. In addition to an address on it was written PLEASE OPEN IMMEDIATELY. He stared at it for a moment and went to fling it but paused and examined it again.
    Not understanding why he was compelled to do so, he tucked the envelope in an inner pocket of his doeskin jacket. Then he lifted the bag of canned goods and slung it over his shoulder. Too heavy. He would have to do something.
    Yet he couldn’t fully embrace the thought of throwing away some of its contents. How much would he regret leaving any of these cans behind? The indecision was amplified by the pounding of his head and a surge of nausea.
    Something drew him out of this. A movement in the trees behind him, a rustling of leaves.
    He spun, now alert, and gazed through foliage beginning to be shrouded by dusk.
    Silence. Even the wind had stilled. Only his breathing remained.
    Then. It happened again. The snapping of branches.
    Something or someone was approaching.