Friday, February 28, 2014

London Dawn by Murray Pura, ©2014

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 (February 1, 2014)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

book title front


Murray PuraMurray Pura earned his Master of Divinity degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and his ThM degree in theology and interdisciplinary studies from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more than 25 years, in addition to his writing, he has pastored churches in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Alberta. Murray’s writings have been shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award, the John Spencer Hill Literary Award, the Paraclete Fiction Award, and Toronto's Kobzar Literary Award. His novels for Harvest House include Face of Heaven, The Wings of Morning, and Ashton Park. Murray pastors and writes in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife, Linda, have a son and a daughter.

Visit the author's website.


In this conclusion to The Danforths of Lancashire, we find Lord Preston and his family gathered in London in the late 1930s for what turns out to be a homecoming.  But looming ahead is the summer and fall of 1940 when the Battle of Britain and the Blitz will occur.


The conclusion of the Danforth's family story spans just over seven years from April of 1934 to the end of November, 1941. The story opens with Catherine and Albrecht and their children shuttling through safe houses until they are out of Germany to safety. Are they in a trap or will they cross the border to safety? Victoria and Ben are in Africa; Robbie and Shannon in Jerusalem; Libby and Terry in Portsmouth and HMS Hood; Kipp and Caroline, and Edward and Charlotte in London. Their involvement in the war is followed as the family moves around. Grandson Billy Sweet, daughter Emma and husband Jeremy's son is a favorite inclusion. A fine tribute to the Danforth family and their closeness.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: The Danforths of Lancashire (Book 3)
Genre: Fiction--Historical
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736958878



April, 1934
Ashton Park

   “There you go! There you go!”
   Lord Preston threw the ball as far as he could. The three Belgian shepherds raced after it, yipping with excitement, and vanished among the tall ash trees. The leaves were fully open after two days of rain followed by two days of sunshine.
   “Top of the morning, m’lord.” Harrison lifted the fedora off his head. “Those three are hard at it.”
   “Good day, Harrison. They need a strong run. I’ve been absent for weeks and I’m not sure old Todd Turpin ever gets the fire out of them. Too many parliamentary sessions tie me down in London. Well, if they catch scent of a hare I shall not see them again in a fortnight.” He put his hands behind his back. “I have renamed them, you know.”
   Harrison shifted his staff from one hand to the other. “I’d heard that.”
   “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. From the American poem.”
   “Very good. How are they responding?”
   “Badly. If at all. But I shall keep it up. Something had to be done to address the baron’s treachery.”
   “Yes, m’lord.”
   “The dogs and I needed a fresh start.”
   “I expect you did.”
   “I saw him, you know, Harrison. On a newsreel from Berlin. Hopping and stomping in a black SS uniform with Herr Hitler and his stooges. Ghastly. I thought I knew the man.”
   “A chance at power changes many a good soul.”
   “Is that what he considers power? I suppose it is power after a fashion. The way a freak windstorm knocks off chimney pots and tears brick walls to pieces and hurls trash bins down an alley—raw force, out of control, of no benefit to man or beast.”
   “Have you heard from Lady Catherine or her husband, the theologian? Are they well?”
   Lord Preston listened a moment to the distant barking of the dogs. “I believe they have caught the scent of something. No ball ever rolled that far.” He began to stride into the ash forest. “No, Harrison. Not a word. You might pray about that, please.”

   Across the English Channel in Germany, Catherine was well aware she was behind in her letter writing. She had finally finished one to her sister Victoria, who was living in Africa with her husband Ben and their two sons. Now she felt guilty she hadn’t sent so much as a note to her mother and father in more than a month. She pulled a fresh sheet of paper toward her and lifted her fountain pen.
Dear Mama and Papa,
You will wonder at my long silence, and you have, I suppose, fretted a good deal over it. I apologize. Life has been a mad rush here in Tubingen. But let me set your minds at rest about your grandchildren—Sean is doing very well indeed at school, and baby Angelika has never been better.
   A soft knocking sounded at the front door.
   Catherine was seated at the dining room table on the ground floor. Albrecht was upstairs chatting with Sean and Angelika while he worked on his university lectures for the next day. She knew she should be the one answering the door, but she hesitated. It was past nine o’clock and dark, and she was not expecting anyone. Clutching her pen, she waited.
   The knocking sounded a second time.   “Are you going to get that?” Her husband’s voice came down the staircase. “Please?”
   “Ja, ja, Albrecht,” she replied. “I was just working on a letter to my parents.”
   She got up and went to the door, continuing to hope the knocking would stop and whoever it was would walk away. Risking Albrecht’s annoyance, she stood facing the door but did not open it. The knocking came a third time—soft but rapid. Certain her husband would call from his office again, she took hold of the door handle.
   “I have it, Albrecht. You needn’t worry.”
   A smell of rain on pavement rushed in as she swung the door back, surprising her. She hadn’t noticed any drops against the windowpanes.
   “Ja?” she asked the figure on the sidewalk.
   The man slipped into the house and shut the door behind him.
   “Was?” exclaimed Catherine. “What are you doing? Get out of here!”
   The man took off his hat.
   “Baron!” She didn’t know what to say next. “Of all people I did not expect to see you!”
   “Where is Albrecht?”
   “The children?”
   “They’re with him. He’s working at his morning lectures.”
   “There will be no morning lectures. The Gestapo will arrive here at two in the morning. You must be well gone by then.”
   Cold air seemed to fill the room, pouring off his trench coat.
   “The Gestapo! Gone where? Where can we go?”
   “My plan is to get you to France or Switzerland. But first we must get you into a hiding place outside of Tubingen. If they don’t find you here they will go to all of your friends’ homes. They will go to the university professors. Comb the city from one end to another. I have a car around back. You have half an hour, and then you must be in it and we must be gone.”
   “We can’t be ready in half an hour. Angelika is only four. There is so much we must prepare.”
   “Half an hour. We cannot take the risk they may come earlier.”
   “This is mad. You can’t come raging in here and demand we load our children into a car with you. Why should we trust you? You betrayed us once.”
   “I saved Albrecht’s life. He would have died in that house with the others.”
   “You’re SS.”
   “It’s just as well I am. Otherwise I would have no idea of the movements of the police. If you don’t trust me, you will die here just as Albrecht would have died in that house with the Brotherhood of the Oak. Last time I used a gun on Albrecht to work my will. If you force my hand I will do so again.” He patted the pocket of his trench coat. “Get your husband. Get your children. Get what you need and get in the car.”
   Catherine started up the staircase, her face whitening. She turned her head. “You can say what you want about the Gestapo. It’s you I don’t trust.”
   “I’m fine with that so long as we drive away from here at ten o’clock.”
   “You could have been followed.”
   “I wasn’t followed.”
   “They could be watching you.”
   “Then we’ll all die together. Will you trust me if that happens?”
   Albrecht stood at the head of the staircase. “What are you doing here?”
   “He says the Gestapo are going to arrest us,” said Catherine.
   “Arrest us? Because of my lectures?”
   The baron looked up at him. “Your lectures. Your protests against the firing of Jewish professors. Your refusal to join the Nazi Party. Most of all, your books. Oh, yes—they know you are the author of those anonymous books and pamphlets popping up all over Germany.”
   “How do they know that?”
   “The SS found the men who do your printing last night. Smashed the presses. Shot them in the street.”
   Albrecht started to say something and stopped.
   “Get what you need, Albrecht.” The baron’s voice was quiet and flat. “Leave what is superfluous. We have twenty-five minutes left.”

Two days later
Ashton Park

   Tavy received a telegram at the door and took it to Lord and Lady Preston, who were having tea in the library.
   “Where is it from, William?” Lady Preston asked her husband. “Africa?”
   “No, it’s not from Africa. It’s from Germany.”
   “What is it? Is it Catherine? Is everything all right?”
   “The telegram is not from Catherine. It’s from the baron.”
   “The baron! Why on earth would he write us? He knows how we feel about him!”
   As Lord Preston was reading the telegram to his wife in England, small pieces of chocolate were being handed to Sean and Angelika in a cold, dark cellar in Germany.
   “Happy birthday, my son,” whispered Albrecht. “I had this in my briefcase. You are eleven today. Blessings.”
   Sean took the chocolate but didn’t eat it. “Thank you, Father.”
   Mimicking the mood and actions of her big brother, Angelika clutched her square of chocolate but didn’t smile or put it in her mouth.
   “Go ahead,” urged Albrecht. “It’s Swiss.”
   “You said we were going there.” Sean spoke without emotion. “How long will it take?”
   “We will stay at this house today. Tonight we will move again. And the night after that. Never longer than a day in each house. But each house brings us closer to the Swiss border.”
   “So we are going to the chalet in Pura?”
   “And both of you are staying with us?”
   Albrecht put his arm around Catherine. “Your mother and I will be with you. Wherever we go, we go as a family.”
   “Are you sure?”
   “I am.”
   “What if the police find us?”
   “The baron has very good friends. They will not betray us.”
   “It’s because of your writing, isn’t it, Papa?” Again, no tone of accusation, just a question that was a statement of fact.
   “Sean, it is because the Nazis are what they are.”
   Sean put the chocolate in a pocket in his shirt. “I will eat it once we’ve crossed the border.”
   “Very well.”
   “Me too.” Angelika placed hers in a small red leather purse she carried with her everywhere.
   “Make sure it doesn’t melt,” said Catherine. “You wouldn’t want it to melt in a shirt pocket or purse, would you? Such a waste. And such a mess.” Sean finally smiled a very small smile. “I’ll be careful.”
   “We’ll all be careful.” Albrecht put a hand on Sean’s shoulder. “Now each of us must take a nap. We didn’t get a great deal of sleep last night, and tonight will be no different.”
   “How many nights will it be, Father?” asked Sean. “Ten or twelve?”
   “I don’t know. That sounds right, but we’re still a good ways from the border.”
   “But Switzerland is not that far.”
   Albrecht nodded. “No, not so far from Tubingen. But we must move slowly and carefully because the SS and Gestapo will be hunting us. They’re aware we have a home in Switzerland. The border crossings will be closely watched.”
   “What if we can’t get into Switzerland?”
   “We’re just as near to France as we are to Switzerland. If we cannot get to the chalet safely we will cross over into Alsace-Lorraine and make our way to the English Channel.”
   Catherine smiled. “Then you will see all your cousins, Sean. And Grandmother and Grandfather Danforth too.”
   “I would like that.” Sean’s eyes were large in the darkness of the cellar. “But I will miss Grandfather Hartmann. And Grandmother Hartmann as well.”
   “Of course you will.” Catherine smoothed back her son’s hair from his forehead. “But the Nazis will not be in power forever. The German people will come to their senses and reject them. That will be the time to see Grandmother and Grandfather Hartmann again.”
   “How soon?” asked Angelika.
   “A year. Or two. No more.”
   “I’ll be a big girl then.”
   “Ja. But not so big Grandfather and Grandmother Hartmann can’t fuss over you and give you dolls and baskets of sweets.”
   A smile, bright in the gloom, darted onto Angelika’s face.
   “Now we need to nap.” Albrecht handed each of them a woolen blanket. “Night is not far off.”
   “I’m hungry,” Angelika said.
   “There will be food when you wake up,” promised Catherine, wrapping the blanket around the little girl’s shoulders. “Or you can eat your chocolate now.”
   “I’m saving it for a special day.”
   “All right, you save it for a special day. Meanwhile, after you have had your nap, there will be a bowl of noodle soup for you.”
   “Are you sure?”
   “Very sure. The lady of the house told me so herself.”

June 5, 1934
The Parliament buildings, Westminster, London

   “What’s bothering you? We must do our part to get things ready for the rally.”
   “I’m well aware of that, Buchanan.” Edward glanced at the traffic moving up and down in front of the Parliament buildings. “I’ll be ready.”
   “The rally at Olympia is in two days, Danforth. We intend to set London on its ear. Fill the Grand Hall. The British Union of Fascists is at its peak.”
   “I said I’d be ready.”
   Buchanan tapped the silver head of his cane against his leg. “It’s the matter of your sister, isn’t it? Lady Catherine? I thought the embassy was sorting that out.”
   “The embassy has no idea where Catherine and her family are. They simply vanished without a trace.”
   “Mightn’t they have fled? Sir Oswald asked you to write that Hartmann fellow and get him to stop penning those anti-Nazi books and pamphlets. They were infuriating fascists in Spain and Italy and England as well as Germany and Austria.”
   “I wrote him. He never responded.” Edward looked up at the sky as drops of rain fell on the sidewalk. “They could have been abducted and shot.”
   “Yes, well, there’s that.” Buchanan opened a black umbrella. “You’re not getting cold feet about the rally, are you? Sir Oswald counts on you creating quite a stir with your appearance. And your announcement.”
   “I don’t have cold feet, Buchanan. But it will be a shock to my father and mother when their son stands on a platform with the leader of the British fascists. Not to mention I’ll be drummed out of the Conservative Party. I’d like to spare them all that with Catherine missing.”
   “They’ll bear up. Especially once you’re a success. You have everything to gain by going public with your fascist beliefs. Yes, you’ll have to sit as an independent. But in the next election we’ll take a majority of the seats. The Daily Mirror and Daily Mail are on our side, and we have well over 50,000 supporters now. Remember how easily Herr Hitler got in and took over.”
   “He was appointed chancellor. He never got in by popular vote. I wish we could appoint Sir Oswald like that, but that’s not the way a British democracy runs.”
   “Well, we’ll change all that, won’t we? You always chafed at the slow and awkward movements of democracy, didn’t you? Look at Hitler. See what a strong man in power can get done and done swiftly? Why, Berlin has the Olympics in thirty-six, doesn’t it? All sorts of buildings are being erected at an absolutely feverish pace. You really must pop over to Berlin with the lot of us next time and see for yourself. That’s what we want for the British Empire.”
   Edward nodded. “I believe a strong man at the top would be for the best.” He continued to look out over the traffic, avoiding eye contact with Buchanan. “But look here, what about the danger of a riot? What are we prepared to do about those hecklers who follow Sir Oswald about from speech to speech? All the Jews and Communists? It’s enough I have to drive penny nails into my mother and father’s coffins while they’re grieving over Catherine and the grandchildren. Can’t we put on a class affair? At least give my parents something to take comfort in?”
   “You’re worrying far too much for your own good, Danforth. Get home to your wife and have a glass of port. Have two. This will be a major rally, comparable to the finest rally in Berlin. Music, flags, marching, chants—it will be a spectacle. A lot of Jews and Reds are not going to spoil that for us, believe me. We’ve recruited hundreds more Blackshirts. They’ll be stationed strategically throughout the Grand Hall and outside on the grounds as well. One look at them and our enemies will shrink away. Your parents will open up the morning paper and read about a well-run show. A nationalist show with a good deal of pride in Britain and Britain’s future.”
   Buchanan lifted his umbrella sharply, and a black cab pulled over in front of them. “There you are, Danforth. Enough chitchat. We don’t want too many to take notice of us. Home to your beautiful wife and that glass of port. We’ll see you at Olympia on Thursday.”
   “Right.” Edward entered the back of the cab after the driver came out and opened the door. “Thank you for dropping by Parliament to have a word with me, Buchanan. I hope everything will come off according to plan.”
   “It will. Remain calm.”
   “I stand to lose a great deal,” said Edward.
   Buchanan didn’t respond until after the cab had sped away. “Indeed you do, Danforth.”

   “Good evening, my dear.” Edward came up behind his wife as she was brushing her long black hair and kissed her on the cheek. “Where are Owen and Colm?”
   She smiled and turned around, slipping her arms about his neck. “At Jeremy and Emma’s with their cousins. The rectory has quite the biggest yard this part of London.”
   Edward kissed her again, this time on the mouth. “Better than the postage stamp of a yard we have here, in other words.”
   “Don’t be upset. Kipp and Caroline’s townhouse has a smaller yard than ours, and your father’s new townhouse is certainly not Ashton Park, is it?”
   Edward tossed his top hat on a sofa and lit a cigarette. “I’m not upset. Just sorry they don’t have the property to run around in I had when I was a child.”
   “Summer is just around the corner. Then they can play at Dover Sky all they like.”
   Edward sank down on the sofa next to his hat. “Dad’s planning on renovations this summer, Char. I don’t think the house can be occupied.”
   She sat on the sofa with him, moving his hat onto a small table. “Well, Ashton Park is splendid enough, don’t you think? They’ll have even more room to run about.”
   “So long as they stay away from the sea cliff.”
   “Oh, heavens, Edward, what’s gotten into you today? You’re fretting like a mother hen. That’s my job, isn’t it?” She moved so that she was able to get in behind him and began to rub his shoulders and neck. “You’re tight as a drum.”
   He blew out a lungful of smoke and said nothing.
   “Is there a big speech coming up? Some piece of legislation you need to introduce? A bill to vote on? Is that what has you wound up like a grandfather clock?”
   “I expect.”
   “When is this coming to pass?”
   “Well, then, Friday evening we should take the boys for a boat ride on the Thames. You know how Owen loves anything to do with ships. Gets it from you, I imagine, his naval officer father.”
   “The war was a long time ago.”
   “It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. You served king and country, and he’s very proud of you. So is Colm. We all are.”
   “King and country, eh?” He drew in on his cigarette. “My patriotism hasn’t done much for me, has it?”
   “What do you mean?” She stopped rubbing his neck a moment and rested her chin on his shoulder. “You’re an MP and you’re on the ladder of success in the Conservative Party.”
   “Am I? If I were ignored any more than I am by the Party I’d be as much a pariah as Churchill.”
   “Oh, my goodness, you’re quite a long ways off from anything like that.” She took his jaw in her fingers. “I thought you liked Winston. You got along famously when your father had him up to Ashton Park at Christmas.”
   “I admire his fight. And his national pride. But I don’t wish to be banished to the wilderness anytime soon and join him in solitary confinement.”
   “You’re Lord Preston’s son. No one’s going to do that.”
   “Not yet.”
   “What do you mean, not yet? Not ever.” She kissed him lightly on the lips. “You really have got yourself tied up in knots. I shall have to unravel them.”
   He stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray. “How will Charlotte Squire do that, I wonder?”
   “Oh, I have a tried and true Lancashire method.”
   “Which is?”
   “Me. Just me.”
   She kissed him with a strength and passion that pushed him back farther and farther into the sofa. Her blue eyes glittering, she paused and looked down at his face.
   “How’s that?” she asked.
   “It’ll do for a start.”
   “Will it?”
   She placed both hands on his shoulders and kissed him much longer and with even more vigor. A tear slipped from the corner of his eye, and she drew back.
   “Whatever’s the matter? Have I hurt you somehow?”
   “I want you to be proud of me. I want you and the boys to be proud of me.”
   “My goodness, Edward, we are proud of you, I’ve told you that. You’re a fine husband and a brilliant father. No one could ask for more.”
   “I dread the day you’re disappointed with me. I dread it like the grave.”
   “Edward. Stop it. That’s never going to happen. I adore you. Owen and Colm adore you.” She put her arms tightly around his back and hugged him to herself. “What’s gone wrong, love? What’s put a knife in your heart? You could never do anything that would turn the boys or me against you. It’s impossible.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sadie's Secret by Kathleen Y'Barbo, ©2014

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 (February 1, 2014)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

book title front
Kathleen Y'Barbo

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of fifty novels with almost two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad and nominations including a Career Achievement Award, Reader’s Choice Awards, Romantic Times Book of the Year, and several Romantic Times Top Picks. A proud military wife and tenth-generation Texan, she now cheers on her beloved Aggies from north of the Red River. Find out more at the author's website.


Sadie Callum is a master of disguise. Undercover agent William Jefferson Tucker is not looking for marriage—pretend or otherwise—but he needs the cover of a wife to clear his name and solve the art forgery case that has eluded him for years. But what will happen to his heart?


Beginning this story reminds me of the Prince and the Pauper. I want to holler, "Fingerprint him!" for we all know they are like snowflakes, distinctly different from one another. While wondering if fingerprinting was used during the time period of this story or if the court's declaration of "guilty" was only used, I came across this article:

Around 1870, French anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon devised a system to measure and record the dimensions of certain bony parts of the body. These measurements were reduced to a formula which, theoretically, would apply only to one person and would not change during his/her adult life.
    The Bertillon System was generally accepted for thirty years. But the system never recovered from the events of 1903, when a man named Will West was sentenced to the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. It was discovered there was already a prisoner at the penitentiary at the time, whose Bertillon measurements were nearly the same, and his name was William West.
    Upon investigation, there were indeed two men who looked exactly alike. Their names were William and Will West. Their Bertillon measurements were close enough to identify them as the same person. However, a fingerprint comparison quickly and correctly identified them as two different people. (Per prison records publicized years later, the West men were apparently identical twin brothers and each had a record of correspondence with the same immediate family relatives.) --
I want to help William Jefferson Tucker before meeting Sadie Callum. I am glad she is coming to the rescue! Interesting how she gets beyond all the excessive formality and routine required before official action can be taken. I am quickly turning pages as the adventure continues.

This is really a good book. It is fast-paced and you are looking for ambush around every corner with them. The conversation flows easily and as Sadie and Jefferson seem to go their own directions, you want them to meet up again and work together.

My favorite genre is Historical Fiction and I love detail. This story is a hit in both directions, keeping me guessing what is going to happen next. The visual descriptions are so vivid you are right along with them, seeing what they see. One part I did figure out, which was a delight as a reader as the story unfolded. Really good Discussion Questions in the back will have you doing some thought of your own. Also included is the background research for the story, which is interesting.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: The Secret Lives of Will Tucker (Book 3)
Genre: Fiction--Romance
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736952152
ISBN-13: 978-0736952156




May 10, 1889
Louisiana State Penitentiary
Angola, Louisiana

Detective William Jefferson Tucker of the Criminal Investigations Division, London Metropolitan Police, stepped across the threshold of the sewer pit known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola with one purpose in mind. To see his brother, also named William.
   William John Tucker.
   His twin. His polar opposite.
   With his first order of business being an explanation of exactly what John had done this time, he turned toward Major Samuel James’s office. When in doubt, go to the top, that was his motto. And Major James was the top dog around here.
   “Hold on there,” someone called. Jefferson turned to see a uniformed guard coming toward him, one hand on his holster and the other pointing in his direction.
   “Just paying a visit to the warden,” he said with all the charm his mother had taught him. “Nothing to get upset about.”
   “We’ll just see about that,” the guard said as he nodded toward the other end of the dimly lit hall. “Just come on back here and sign in, and then we will see if the warden’s interested in visiting today.”
   Shaking his head, Jefferson tried not to show amusement at the man’s pompous behavior. While he had seen the other side of a jail cell on many occasions, it had always been in the position of arresting officer and not prison guard. To spend day after day in this place would cause anyone to own an ill temper.
   When the papers were produced, Jefferson signed them. “Anything else you need?” he asked as politely as he could manage.
   “Any kind of proof you are who you say you are would be appreciated,” he said in a tone that just barely toed the line between polite and sarcastic.
   “And I will be needing your weapon.”
   Routine procedure in prisons, and yet Jefferson hated it. Reluctantly, he removed his revolver and handed it to the guard.
   “That all you got?” He gave Jefferson a sweeping look. “Nothing else you can hurt anybody with?”
   “Just a folding knife.”
   “Hand that over too.”
     Jefferson offered up his knife and then reached for his identification, carefully selecting the papers that would not give away his current undercover role in London. Placing what he had on the rough slab of wood that served as a desk between them, he stood back and waited while the guard examined the documents.
   “And what brings you here?” The guard took in an exaggerated breath and then pretended to cough. “Sure can’t be the fresh air and sunshine.”
   Jefferson played along, pretending to find the gag amusing. “I am here to see my brother.”
   “Your brother?” The guard clutched the papers as he looked up at Jefferson. “And just who would your brother be?”
   “John Tucker.”
   “John Tucker,” the guard echoed as he opened an oversized leather book that sent a cloud of dust into the already rancid air.
   The odd idea that this process was beginning to feel very much like checking into a hotel occurred. Jefferson decided he would keep that thought to himself.
   “Don’t see any John…”
   “William John,” he amended, irritated not for the first time that his father had insisted on giving both his sons the same first name and then calling them by their middle name.
   The guard’s grimy finger paused below a line of scribbling. “Tucker. Well, here we go. William J. Tucker.” He looked up at Jefferson, his face now unreadable. “Wait here.”
   Without another word of explanation, he hurried off down the hall, Jefferson’s credentials still clutched in his hand. A door shut somewhere off in the distance and then opened again.
   “Initial for your property here,” he said when he returned.
   Jefferson noted the date and the items he had just surrendered and then placed his initials on the line beside them to indicate agreement.
   “All right. Come with me, Mr. Tucker,” the guard said, not quite making eye contact.
   Detective Tucker, he almost said. Instead, Jefferson kept silent. Better not to make enemies of anyone in this place. “Yes, of course.” He followed the guard past the warden’s office and around the corner, stopping at an unmarked door.
   “Right in there,” the guard said as he used a key from his vest pocket to open the door.
   The room was dark, but a lamp in the passageway sent a weak shaft of light across what appeared to be a table and a bench. “I would be much obliged if you would turn on a light in here,” Jefferson said, the last of his patience with the ridiculous situation disappearing fast.
   “Just go on in and a light will come on.”
   He was about to protest when the guard shoved him inside and turned the lock.
   “Open this door!” Jefferson demanded. “This is not funny. I demand to see either my brother or the warden immediately.”
   “You just wait right there, Tucker. You will see the warden for sure.”
   Jefferson felt along the edge of the wall, his fingers sliding across a combination of dirt and slime held together by something so foul smelling he refused to contemplate its source. A moment later he found the bench and managed to sit.
   Outside the door footsteps approached and then halted. He heard voices arguing, their words indistinguishable through the thick walls.
   Finally, the door opened and a man whose attire told Jefferson he might be the warden stepped inside. The guard shadowed Major James, as did another underling of some sort.
   “Look,” Jefferson said, “all I wanted was to see my brother. Is this how you treat all your visitors, Major?”
   “The major isn’t here today, but I am the man in charge. You can call me Butler. Won’t need any name other than that. And as to your question, no. This is the way we treat those who belong inside a cell.”
   “Inside a cell? What are you talking about?”
   Butler thumped Jefferson’s credentials with his free hand. “These here papers say you are Jefferson Tucker. Is that correct?”
   He gave the man a curt nod. “It is.”
   “So what you’re saying is that you are indeed the man whose name you have given to the guard?”
   “Yes,” he said, this time with far less respect.
   “And that you have a brother currently incarcerated in our fine facility.” When Jefferson nodded, he continued. “And what is that inmate’s name?”
   “His name is John Tucker,” Jefferson snapped as he sensed a shakedown of some sort in the offing. It was time to tell them who he really was. “William John Tucker. Look, I know how these things work, and I am not someone you can play around with. I have credentials that prove I am a detective with the London Metropolitan Police.”
   The man’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure I would believe that. You certainly don’t sound like no foreigner, so I suggest you change your tune and own up to the truth.”
   “Here’s the truth for you. Either let me see my brother or the warden, or you can give me the reason why.”
   Butler chuckled. “Oh, we will do better than that.” He nodded to the two men, who approached Jefferson. Though he tried to resist, they slapped handcuffs on him. “We are going to put you in his cell.”
   “What are you doing?” he demanded as the two men jerked him out into the passageway.
   “Taking you to where you belong, Jefferson Tucker,” said the guard who was still in possession of his revolver and the folding knife.
   “I do not belong in a cell!” Jefferson protested even as he was being dragged through the doors into a cellblock that smelled worse than it looked. And that was saying something.
   Instantly a deafening noise began as prisoners shouted and banged whatever they could grab against the iron cell bars. The guard took out his pistol and fired one shot.
   Silence quickly reigned.
   Up ahead a door swung open. “Looky here, Tucker,” the other guard sneered. “Your room is ready. Welcome home.”
   “Wait,” the man in charge said. “Let’s let these boys say their howdys first.”
   A prisoner stepped out of the cell. He was dressed in clothing so dirty that Jefferson could not discern a color or what kept it from shredding into rags. Legs shackled, the prisoner shuffled toward them. And then Jefferson knew him.
   “John? Is that you?”
   His brother heaved himself against Jefferson. Though the smell caused Jefferson’s eyes to water, he stood his ground as John held him tight.
   “What have you done, John?” he said to the man who, under different circumstances, would be nearly a mirror image of him.
   “Just what I had to,” was John’s quiet reply. “I hope someday you will forgive me, Jeff, but I wasn’t built for a place like this.”
   “Neither of us were. And rest assured Mother has no idea her boy’s in trouble. It would kill her if she knew.”
   “She always did see the good in me,” John said.
   “She still does.”
   “Even though she never could see to give me Father’s gold pocket watch when I asked for it first.” John looked down at Jefferson’s vest. “I see you’re wearing it now.”
   He glanced over at the man calling the shots. It took Butler only a moment to reach down and rip the watch from Jefferson’s pocket.
   “Neither of you’ll get it now.”
   “The major will hear about this,” Jefferson said, earning him a punch in the gut that took his breath away.
   The warden’s underling fixed John with a glare that shut him up quick. “All right, Will Tucker,” he said to Jefferson. “Are you verifying that this man is your brother, John Tucker? And that he is your twin?”
   “I am,” Jefferson said through the pain in his gut as he took in the sight of his always well-groomed brother with streaks of dirt on his face, his hair coated with grease and, from the look of this place, thick with lice.
   “Well, I believe that is proof enough for me.” Butler tapped John on the shoulder. “You were right in saying you were not Will Tucker, John. On behalf of the state of Louisiana, I hereby declare you to be a free man.”
   John grinned like a fool and then nudged the bully. “Does that mean I get the watch that is rightfully mine?”
   “Don’t press your luck, son. Just get yourself out of here while I am still in a mood to let you. Major James might insist on a trial to settle the facts, and you know how long those things take.”
   “I know when I’ve been bested, so you can keep the watch.” John shuffled off behind the guards without so much as a backward glance.
   A moment later, the cell door clanged shut behind Detective Jefferson Tucker of the London Metropolitan Police, leaving him once again in the middle of a mess his brother had created.

Miss Merriweather’s Marriage – Free Companion Novella to The Secret Lives of Will Tucker Series Buy this Book
Miss Merriweather's Marriage by Author Kathleen Y'Barbo Flora's Wish by Kathleen Y'Barbo Millie's Treasure by Kathleen Y'Barbo Sadie's Secret by Author Kathleen Y'Barbo
The Secret Lives of Will Tucker Series: Flora's Wish, Book 1; Millie's Treasure, Book 2; Sadie's Secret, Book 3

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The A-Z of C.S. Lewis: An encyclopedia of his life, thought and writings by Colin Duriez, ©2013

   The A-Z of C.S. Lewis has been written to help an exploration and discovery (or rediscovery!) of his world. The rich variety of Lewis's writings is part of an integrated whole. He combined reasoning and imagination in a unified and bright vision of reality -- and of the God he discovered, whom he came to see as the giver of reality.
   --author Colin Duriez

A very nice hardcover copy, this book will be enjoyed by those who have read C.S. Lewis's works, or wish to further explore what he has written. In alphabetical listings, peers, locations and characters within his writings are explained and in which volume they are mentioned. This is a listing, not a narrative, in encyclopedic form. For instance, here is a sampling. The asterisks refer to a listing under the name starred.

Bennett, J.A.W. (1911-1981)  A New Zealander, Inkling*, and colleague of Lewis's at Magdalen College, Oxford* University, from 1947. In 1964 he took on Lewis's post as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. His inaugural lecture was devoted to the subject of Lewis and entitled "The Humane Medievalist" (1965). (46)

Stormness Head  A distinctive peak in Narnia's* southern mountains in The Horse and His Boy*. Clouds assembling around the peak signify bad weather, hence the peak's name. The main pass into Narnia from Archenland* runs through Stormness Gap nearby. (289)

Strawberry  The horse of London cabby*, Frank*, in The Magician's Nephew*, who is turned into a talking and flying horse by Aslan* and renamed Fledge*. (289)

wardrobe  A wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe*, made out of a tree that grew from a magic apple brought from Narnia* by Digory Kirke*. It stands in an empty room in his rambling country house. The wardrobe provides a portal into Narnia. Lewis was inspired by wardrobes in stories of two authors he admired, George MacDonald* and E. Nesbit*. In Phantastes*, Anodos enters a mysterious wardrobe in a spare chamber; from there he is transported into Fairy Land, where he is inflicted with a baleful shadow he cannot lose. In E. Nesbit's* short story "The Aunt and Amabel", Amabel finds her way into a magical world through a "Bigwardrobeinaspareroom". (333-334)

I enjoyed the mention of the Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy), giving an overview of their positions in the Narnia stories. Lewis discovered that a story concerning several children of varied characters and ages would grip the attention of a young reader far more than a tale involving simply one character. With children from the same family, the likelihood of spats and angry clashes would increase. (238)

Also included is a bibliography of C.S. Lewis: Writings of C.S. Lewis; Posthumous writings and collections; Select list of books about C.S. Lewis.

Colin Duriez was for many years a commissioning editor at Inter-Varsity Press UK. He has subsequently appeared as a commentator on DVDs of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, and BBC television's The Worlds of Fantasy. He is also the author of The Inklings Handbook (with the late David Porter), J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Story of Their Friendship, and Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, and has contributed to definitive reference works relating to Tolkien such as The Tolkien Encyclopedia (Routledge). Learn more about Colin at:

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be part of the book tour for The A-Z of C.S. Lewis and for having a review copy sent to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Jenny's Choice by Patrick E. Craig, ©2014

Apple Creek Dreams Series, Book 3

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 (February 1, 2014)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

book title front

Patrick E. Craig

Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. After ministering for a number of years in music and worship to a circuit of small churches, he is now concentrating on writing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction books. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in northern California and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.


In the concluding novel to the Apple Creek Dreams series, Jonathan and Jenny Hershberger are happily settled in Paradise, Pennsylvania on the farm Jenny inherited from her grandfather. But when a tragic accident takes Jonathan’s life, Jenny and her young daughter, Rachel, return home to Apple Creek, Ohio to live with her adoptive parents, Reuben and Jerusha Springer. 

As Jenny works through her grief and despair, she discovers she has a gift for writing. A handsome young publisher discovers her work and, after the publication of her first book, Jenny is on the verge of worldly success and possible romance.  

But when a conflict arises with the elders of her church, Jenny must ask herself how far she’s willing to go to pursue her dreams. 

A touching story of devotion and triumph over adversity.


Home to Apple Creek. How I long to see Mama and Papa. It is not for a visit this time. Rachel and I are going to stay, for how long only Gott knows. I am told my beloved Jonathan has died while attending to his parents a long way from here. He was to be gone a week. How my heart is saddened, and little Rachel? We cannot stay at the farm. Every memory, every corner, Jonathan. My heart aches and we will return to Apple Creek. For a time. Dear Gott. Our story was just beginning.

I was so anticipating planting season and Jenny going to Paradise to grandfather's farm. So much promise. So much love. How can it be that now the end of the beginning has happened? So much in store for their lives. Or as we imagine it will be. That is why it is so important to have our lives right with God. Life on earth is so uncertain. Unexpected happenings. A love that is eternal is promised to us. Come and join Jenny and Rachel as they return to Apple Creek and the new life that buds before them. Grief turned to remembrance of a love well lived. Ein Geschenk vom Gott... a gift from God.
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
            Psalm 30:11-12
I cannot share the ending with you but that Jenny stays true to God and the love He has put in her heart to stay.

Product Details:
Retail Price: $13.99
Series: Apple Creek Dreams Series (Book 3)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736951091
ISBN-13: 978-0736951098


The Departure

November 1978

JENNY HERSHBERGER WALKED SLOWLY INTO the room and surveyed the piles of boxes waiting to be moved out to the wagon. Her eyes turned to a heap of clothing spread across the bed. With a weary sigh she brushed back an errant curl that had escaped from her kappe. Each item she looked at seemed to have a mouth clamoring for her attention, each with a story to tell or a memory to unveil.
   This will be the hard part.
   She went to the pine dresser—the first big project Jonathan had undertaken after Grandfather Borntraeger began to teach him woodworking. The detailing was coarse and the lines of the piece a bit awkward, but she had loved it from the moment Jonathan moved it into their room. She remembered him standing proudly beside it as she ran her hands over the top and opened each drawer as though it were a treasure trove. She loved the smell of the linseed oil he had rubbed into the wood, and when she had spread a lace piece over the top and placed her things there, it had become a symbol of all that Jonathan had left behind from his old life and all that he had become to be with her.
   Now she picked up one of the objects on the top of the dresser, a small box. A sharp, almost physical pain touched her heart as she opened the lid. Inside were several folded pieces of paper. She took one out, slowly spread it open on the dresser, and began to read.
My precious Jenny,
   It’s the end of another long day here in Paradise. I’ve been in the fields since daybreak with Grandfather Borntraeger. As soon as the thaw came and the soil started to warm, we began preparing the ground for spring planting. This is the hardest work I’ve ever done, yet at the same time it is the most fulfilling. Your grandfather is a kind man, but he’s very strict and doesn’t put up with any complaining or questioning of his methods.
   Since I’m so new to this, he must teach me as we work. I feel like a little boy all over again, but he’s very patient with me even when I make mistakes.
   I’m beginning to comprehend so many things, especially about God and His Son, Jesus. The Bible is a wonderful book. Did you know that God made the first man out of dirt? I wonder if that’s why I feel so at home on the land. When I’m out in the fields with Grandfather Borntraeger, walking behind the plow, I feel as though my life finally means something, as if this is the most natural and real way I could ever be. As I work, I remember the words of a song I heard the Amish men singing when I first came to Apple Creek.
   Let him who has laid his hand on the plow not look back! Press on to the goal! Press on to Jesus Christ! The one who gains Christ will rise with Him from the dead on the youngest day.
   That’s who I want to be—the one who lays his hand to the plow and doesn’t look back!
   Jenny didn’t finish reading, but folded the letter and placed it back in the box. Tears formed in her eyes as she stood alone in the room, lost in her sorrow.
   A quiet little voice spoke from the doorway. Jenny turned to the young girl who stood there. She was small, with dark hair and deep, sea-blue eyes.
   She has his eyes—she’s so much like him.
   Jenny went to the girl and stooped down as she took the little one in her arms and lifted her into a hug. The girl softly touched Jenny’s face.
   “Why are you crying, Mama?” she asked.
   “It’s nothing, my Rachel,” Jenny answered. “I was only reading your papa’s letters, the ones he wrote to me before we were courting, when he lived here with your great-grandfather and learned the Amish ways. He wrote to me every day of the two years we were apart. I kept the most special letters in this box so I could read them now and again and let du lieber Gott remind me how much He blessed me by sending me your papa.”
   “Is Papa happy in heaven?” Rachel asked.
   “Oh, yes, my dearest; Papa is very, very happy with Jesus and all the angels.”
   “Why do we have to move to another house, Mama? I like our house. What if Papa decides to come back from heaven and he can’t find us? Won’t he be sad?”
   Jenny sat on the bed and set Rachel down beside her. “Papa won’t come back from heaven, darling. Heaven is so wunderbar that once you’ve gone there, you don’t ever want to come back. And we wouldn’t want to call him back to this world once he’s been with Jesus. He will wait for us there, and one day we will join him and be with him again.
   “In the meantime, we’re sad that he’s gone…very sad. We must move because it’s very hard for your mama to live here without Papa. There are so many things that make me remember him, and my heart breaks again each time I see them. I need to go back to my old home and be with my mama and papa so they can help me not to feel this way. And they will help you to be happy again. Your grossdaadi can’t wait for you to come, and Mama, my mama, has prepared a special room just for you. You will love being with them. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here soon, and it will be comforting to be in Apple Creek with our family and friends for the holidays.”
   “Oh, yes, Mama, I love Grossmudder and Grossdaadi. It will be nice to see them. But won’t we ever come back to Paradise?”
   “Only der vollkluge Gott knows the answer to that question, my darling. Now, do you have all your things packed up like I asked you?”
   “Mostly, Mama. Can you help me with the rest?” Rachel asked.
   “Yes, dearest. I’ll be there in a bit, when I finish here. Run ahead.”
   Rachel bounced off the bed and ran from the room. Jenny smiled as she watched her go.
   She has her papa’s eyes and my bounce!
   Jenny sighed again as Jonathan crowded back into her thoughts. She stood up, grabbed an empty box, and quickly put the letter box and the rest of the items from the dresser top into it. Then she folded up the lace piece, placed it on top of her other belongings, and closed the box. She set it with the others, piled the clothing on a chair by the door, and then pulled the quilt and the linens from the bed. She folded them and put them into the last remaining empty box. She surveyed the stack of boxes and then went to the closet and took out her suitcase. Carefully she packed her clothing in it and snapped the latches shut. The click of the latches echoed in the room like tiny gunshots. Finished.
   She took a deep breath.
   There, I’m done. That wasn’t so bad. Cousin Borntraeger can carry all this out for me and take it to the storage place. Mama said to just bring our clothes for now.
   She heard boots on the front porch, and her heart leapt. Then just as quickly, reality dashed her hopes. Another deep sigh. How many times had she heard Jonathan coming up the front stoop and walking across the porch to the door? It was always such a comforting sound at the end of the day. But now…
   There was a knock and then a voice calling. “Jenny? Are you ready, then?”
   “I’m here, Cousin, in the bedroom. Can you help me with these boxes?”
   Lem Borntraeger walked down the hall and into the room. He glanced around at the emptiness and pulled his black hat from his head.
   “Jenny, are you sure this is what you want? We all want you to stay. I know it won’t be the same without Jonathan, but you have family here.”
   Jenny looked at her tall cousin. He had been one of the blessings God bestowed on Jenny and Jonathan when they had come to Paradise ten years before. He had taken her into his heart from the first day they met, and after she and Jonathan married, he became their good friend and helper. She reached over and patted his arm.
   “I have to go home, Lem. I need to be with my mama and papa. You will run the farm, and it will prosper in your care. For me, there are too many memories. Sometimes my remembrances of Jonathan and our days here feel like cobwebs that stick to me and hold me fast. They keep me from going on with my life. And I need to go on now or I’ll die inside.”
   “Will you ever come back?” Lem asked.
   “Right now I would say no,” Jenny answered. “But who knows the road ahead? We may come back someday when I can be in this house without weeping every time I turn around.” Jenny managed a weak smile.“I need to go, Lem.”
   “All right then,” Lem said. “I understand.”
   He stood for a moment with his hat in his hands. “Jonathan was a good man, and he was my friend. I will miss him deeply.” Then Lem put his hat back on and smiled. “It’s enough. Now let me load these boxes.”
   Jenny watched him as he picked up two boxes and went out. She took one last look at the room and then turned to go.
   She stopped and turned, thinking she had heard Jonathan’s voice. But it was only the echoes of unspoken longings that filled her aching heart. She went one last time to the bed and touched it softly.
   “Jonathan, oh, Jonathan. You are my true love. There will never be anyone like you for me. Thank you, my dearest, for loving me so deeply. Thank you for being a good man, a wonderful husband, and a loving father to Rachel. May Gott be with you on your journey.”
   Jenny stood silent for a moment and then picked up her suitcase, turned, and left the room. She went into Rachel’s room, gathered up the few remaining things that were still unpacked, and laid them in her daughter’s suitcase. Then she took Rachel’s hand, and together they walked down the hall, through the empty front room, and out onto the porch. A buggy waited for them in the driveway. She boosted Rachel up as Lem put the suitcases in the back, and then she climbed in. She nodded to the driver, who clicked his tongue and set the horse in motion.
   The buggy rolled slowly down the driveway. Jenny looked straight ahead. She would not look back. But then just as the horse turned onto the main road, her resolve crumbled, and she turned. The blue two-story house stood in the middle of the harvested fields. As she looked she could see Jonathan behind the plow, waving to her as the rich soil turned and broke beneath the sharp blade. She could see his smile and his blue eyes. She could feel his strong arms around her as they stood together on the porch, looking out over the land—their land—in awe of the blessings of God. She put her face into her hands and silently began to weep. The clopping hooves beat out a slow and mournful cadence—“He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone.”

Apple Creek Dreams Series

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler, ©2014

Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
The Secrets of Happy Families

Seeing what works in business and families are compiled by the author and included in this book. Time together, being a part, communicating, encouraging, commitment, appreciating, connecting socially. Coming together as a family cements heritage that draws us together. One family we know has one night set aside that is for only family; the other days can include friends and family gatherings together. One anticipated night alone together to play games, having a special meal to honor the favorite of one ~ chili with sour cream and grated cheese sounds mighty good to me. Celebrate positive moments.

“I think you are a wonderful Mother.” Memories are a wonderful thing. A suggestion in this book is having a weekly family meeting at the same time and day. I did this with my children when I was a young mom. We started out with a continue the story, which they loved; making up a story as you go along and the next person adds to it... "And then...." We would talk about what was the best thing about our family that week and what we needed help with. You could say anything you wanted. Asking my young son, “What do you think?” - his answer above.

Other growth points are children setting goals that involve them, learning decision-making; family mealtime and the importance of shared voice ~ sharing our own history and that of our families ~ remember when...; writing gratitude journals. To eat together for breakfast as family mealtime, eating earlier after school before going for activities; having a self-directed morning checklist the children check off and are responsible for ~ making their lunch, having everything they need in their backpack, readying themselves for school. Training responsibility rather than doing for them. Having a snack time at night, bringing family together.

What does our family stand for? ~ core values; faith, family, specific traditions we do every year; ...grateful, forgiving, optimistic, and polite. (60) Teaching managing money; debt and savings. Intimacy, five love-languages, grandparenting, vacations. Conflict-solving; talking now, and not about it for all of your life. Sharing in difficult conversations; building a happier home. Creating inviting living areas in your home.

Also in the book, The Happy Families Toolkit with some tips and ideas to get your family organized and sharing, and improve your togetherness; narrate your family's history, and a discussion guide. For more tips, watch Bruce's TED Talk on Happy Families at

Highlights were outlining the toolkit in the back to give suggestions on beginning ideas in this book, and especially having family time, one-on-one and together with chores and playing games. Giving continuity, beyond being individual, part of a family, connectedness.

Bruce Feiler
Bruce Feiler writes a column in contemporary families for the New York Times and is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including "The Council of Dads." He is the host of several series on PBS, a popular lecturer, and a frequent commentator on radio and television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and twin daughters. Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to review Bruce Feiler's The Secrets of Happy Families. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Smitten Book Club by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter, ©2014

Coble, Billerbeck, Hunter, Hunt Love by the Book ~*Colleen Coble
Shelved Under Romance ~*Kristin Billerbeck
A New Chapter ~*Diann Hunt
Happily Ever After ~*Denise Hunter

Heather DeMeritt, Abby Gray, Lia Burton, and Molly Moore meet their friends at Lookaway Village Books, enjoying Natalie Smitten's Mountain Perks coffee sipped around a warm fire. There is more in store for these ladies in Smitten than they could imagine outside of their book club evening.

An old leather-covered book is donated to the Smitten library book sale. Enclosed inside is a letter alluding to a treasure within. The title? "The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship."

The four stories join their daily lives and how they applied the Gentlewoman's Guide. One quote I like from the chapter headings ~*Once smitten, a suitor will understand what the ardent girl has always known: love is the most precious of all treasures.*~ My very favorite was the story of a little girl who used sign language and then spoke the most important words of all. All four stories wove into each other perfectly. These authors are so close, each story overlaps the other as if written by one! I look forward to reading the other two books, Smitten and Secretly Smitten.
Includes Reading Group Guide

As I love reading historical fiction, I find it interesting that we all don't take the same thing from a story we read. Historical fiction to me might have a little mystery woven in. To another, their mystery might be in a specific time period. And romantics? Two destined to meet in that exact time after going through adventures to meet each other again. The Fireside Book Club member readers also experience their book in the same way ~ different from their preferred angle of telling.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for Smitten Book Club and to Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

"Consider that your beau is like a coveted novel whose compelling first lines you’ve just begun to read.” —A Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship
At a rummage sale, Heather, a member of the Fireside Book Club, discovers a turn-of-the-century romantic advice book written by a once-famous Smitten, Vermont, resident. When she shares the precious volume with her friends in the club, they find clues about a hidden treasure rumored to be buried in their tiny town.
   As Heather, Abby, Lia, and Molly take turns reading the book, each projects onto it her own literary tastes. Heather sees it as a mystery. Abby discovers delicious dashes of Jane Austen. Lia sees in it the idealism of a bygone day. And Molly just wishes they'd made the book into a movie!
   One by one, each of the women finds romantic love—often in spite of the historic book’s advice. And in searching for the legendary gold, the friends discover the best kind of treasure. The kind that brings hope and healing to each of their hearts.
About the Authors

RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including “Tidewater Inn,” and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.

Twitter: @colleencoble
Connect with Colleen on Facebook here.  

Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include “A Billion Reasons Why” and “What a Girl Wants.”

Twitter: @KristinBeck
Connect with Kristin on Facebook here.

Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including “A Cowboy’s Touch” and “Sweetwater Gap.” She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana.

Twitter: @deniseahunter
Connect with Denise on Facebook here.
Diann Hunt was a writer of romantic comedy and humorous women’s fiction. She lost her courageous battle with cancer last fall. A Hallmark Channel adaptation of her novel “For Better or For Worse” will air fall 2014.

Find out more about Coble, Billerbeck, Hunter, Hunt at

Celebrate your book club in this new year with this brand new novel written by real life best friends for best friends! #SmittenBookClub

The Smitten gals are back with their newest release, Smitten Book Club! Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, and Denise Hunter are celebrating with a Kindle Fire giveaway, a Facebook party on February 20, and a nationwide book-club brunch on March 22.

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Smitten books (Smitten, Secretly Smitten, Smitten Book Club)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 20th. Winner will be announced at the Smitten Book Club Facebook Author Chat Party on February 20th. Connect with Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter, and Kristin Billerbeck for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! The Smitten gals will also be taking questions from the audience, giving away books and gift certificates, and sharing news about their upcoming nationwide Smitten Book Club brunch on March 22nd. (Sign up to host today!)

So grab your copy of Smitten Book Club and join Colleen, Denise, Kristin, and friends on the evening of February 20th 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!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 20th!

Sign up to host a Smitten Book Club Brunch on March 22nd!
Smitten Book Club Brunch Coble, Hunter, Billerbeck, Hunt