Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tea Shop Folly by Carrie Fancett Pagels, © 2016

 Teacup Courtship Novella

Image result for teacup collection
Instead of mistaken identity, what if you mistook a home for a business when you see exactly what you are looking for, including the proprietor, all-in-one? That happened for Theodore Reynolds.

And... I get to meet the Christy cousins! But back to Theo's adventure. He is on the right street following directions he was given, there are teacups of all assortments for a perfect gift for his mother... and his favored English tea, then, as he's been told. All is not as it seems to appear.
Image result for blue ridge mountains kentucky 1895Lillian Smith leaves the Blue Ridge Mountains of Kentucky to travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, unexpectedly in 1895. A usual day of rising in the morning brings news that her namesake has died and she is to come and claim her inheritance.

Can you imagine going so far away? Lilly is a brave young woman setting off on a journey farther north than even her lumberjack cousins. On her venture to buy warm clothes, she is helped with the stuck door at the mercantile by a gentleman coming to pick up medicine. Theo enters her life.
UP Michigan

This is such a fun story as you become acquainted with them as they interact with each other. Especially when her cousin Garrett Christy comes to take teacups and saucers back to his wife's tea shop at Mackinac Island. His little goading has an effectual beginning of awareness.

I look forward to further stories of Lilly's family.

***Thank you author Carrie Fancett Pagels for including me in the book tour for Tea Shop Folly and sending a copy for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Guide Me Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer, © 2016

Map of the Historic Route of Mammoth Cave
the only natural opening to Mammoth Cave (site)

Automobile vacationers brought comparison to the families near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky in the early 1900s. Summer visitors had a style of dress, speech, and money to leisurely stay, so different from the local culture.

A young college student, Devlin Bale, comes to map the cave. His schooling has prepared him for measuring, but... he has never been in a cave before.

My favorite character was Tolly Sandford, a third generation guide. Very central to the story, Tolly was so level-headed, the other characters would be wise to heed his advice.

Rebekah Hardin comes to work at the cave to earn money to pay a debt she perceives she owes. Because of Tolly's knowledge of her family's sorrow, he hires her although at the time only males are guides. Her next sister, Cissy, also begins a summer job as an assistant to a tourist photographer who can't tame his unruly burro without her. Cissy has far-reaching dreams, hoping to take herself far away to experience the world beyond Appalachia.

The contrast between those who take the opportunity to exploit and those who have been cared for and lovingly guided by their families is wide. The Hardin family has modeled this strength in a life submitted to God.

The interesting portrayal of Mammoth Cave is educational and the interaction between characters in their daily lives very active. I enjoyed this story and liked how it was written from the aspect of individual outlook.

Image result for mammoth cave national park history

Enjoy this excerpt from Kim Vogel Sawyer's Guide Me Home ~ Chapter 1

                                          For thou art my lamp, O LORD:
                                          and the LORD will lighten my darkness.
                                                            2 SAMUEL 22:29


Good Spring, Kentucky
Mid-April 1907

Rebekah Hardin

Rebekah awakened to birdsong, the most perfect way in the world to start a new day. She smiled as she stretched, rolled over, and poked her feet from beneath the soft, old patchwork quilt that always made her think of Jacob’s coat of many colors.
   On the other side of the bed, Cissy stirred and groaned. “Aw, Bek, can’tcha ever lay still ’til Mama hollers? You always wake everybody up before we’re ready. An’ it’s Saturday. Don’t even gotta get up for school.”
   The rustle of dried corn shucks and murmurs carried from the other two beds crowded in the drafty room, proving she—or maybe Cissy—had disturbed her youngest sisters, too. Rebekah sent an apologetic look across their bleary-eyed faces, although with the shutters latched up tight, she doubted they would recognize her remorse in the still-deep shadows.
   “Shh,” she crooned. “Drop on back to sleep.” She sat still as a mouse until all six tousled heads returned to the pillows and six pairs of eyes slid shut. Then she tiptoed across the unstained pine floorboards through thin ribbons of light sneaking between cracks where chinking had crumbled. The planked door’s rusty hinges squeaked, earning another low growl from Cissy, but Rebekah ignored the complaint. Cissy was always grumpy in the morning.
   She crossed the threshold into the main room of her family’s century-old cabin and settled the door in its frame. Mama, never one to laze in the morning, was already at the fireplace, stirring last night’s coals to life.
   Rebekah aimed a hopeful smile at her mother. “Morning, Mama.”
   She didn’t look up. “Fetch me some wood.”
   Rebekah stifled a sigh. “Yes’m.” Mama’s morning crankiness was harder to bear than Cissy’s. Rebekah lifted the crossbar to the back door and stepped off the flat rock serving as a stoop onto the dewy grass. She left the door standing wide to let the sweet spring breeze fill the house. Now that winter was past, maybe Mama’s spirits would lift. Rebekah missed her mother’s smile and the musical, girlish giggle that invited everyone to join in.
   She paused at the edge of the stoop, shivering in her nightgown. But not because of the chill morning air.
   “Close that door. You’ll let flies in.”
   It was too early for flies and Rebekah knew it. But she closed the door anyway. Mama must not be ready yet to cast off her winter doldrums. Rebekah turned her pleading gaze to the pink sky visible above the towering trees.
   Please, God, bring Mama her joy again soon.
   As always, talking to the One who’d created all the beauty coming to life in the forest around her family’s simple cabin restored Rebekah’s happy mood. She hop-skipped across the cool, damp grass on bare feet to the woodshed tucked at the edge of the clustered pine and aspen trees. When she emerged only minutes later, the pink sky had faded to a blue as pale as a robin’s egg. Mama would wake the children soon. She’d better hurry with the firewood.
   She balanced the armload of wood against her chest and stepped onto the stoop. The dry, weathered bark bit into her flesh through the thin fabric of her nightgown. Eager to dump the wood into the box beside their stone fireplace, she carefully extended one hand toward the pull string. But before she tugged, a voice from inside the cabin froze her in place.
   “Nell, I’m worn out with you. This mopin’ has gotta stop.”
   Chills exploded across Rebekah’s scalp and traveled down her spine. Never had she heard Daddy speak so harshly to Mama. Daddy was the kindest, most patient person she knew. She stood quivering, afraid to enter the room lest he bark sharp words at her for interrupting.
   “Don’t you think I want to stop, Festus?” Mama’s words choked out. “I’m weary of feelin’ sad inside. I tell myself every day it’s plumb foolish to pine so over our boy. Four babies I’ve buried in them woods behind our house. Each of ’em left a gnawin’ ache inside o’ me, but I overcame it ’cause they nary took a breath nor tasted life, just went straight to Jesus’s arms. I could bear them goin’ away from me ’cause the Lord giveth an’ He taketh, an’ He knows best. But Andy . . .”
   Her mother’s anguished, strangled sob tore a ragged hole in Rebekah’s soul. Sympathetic tears flooded her eyes, making the grain in the wood door blur.
   “I suckled that boy at my breast. I watched him grow. For fifteen years he was ours, Festus, makin’ us laugh an’ makin’ us worry an’ lettin’ us dream o’ the man he’d be someday. ’Twas two years ago today we buried all our dreams for him when we put his body in the ground.”
   Mama’s voice became muffled, and Rebekah knew Daddy had pulled her against his shoulder the way he always did when one of his gals needed comfort. Even so, she made out every one of her mother’s pain-filled words.
   “If he had a decent headstone—somethin’ carved with his name an’ the dates of his time here on earth—then maybe I could put him to rest. But only a wood cross? Two sticks bound with twine? It’ll rot and fall away an’ nobody’ll know a boy named Andy once tormented his sisters an’ brought his mama bouquets of star chickweed an’ claimed he’d be just like his daddy when he grew up. I want him to have more, Festus. He needs more.”   “I’d give him more if I could, darlin’.” Daddy sounded old. Defeated. “Soon as I scrape up twenty- six dollars that don’t need spent on somethin’ else — ”
   Rebekah groaned. They’d never have twenty- six dollars at one time that didn’t need spending elsewhere.
   “—I’ll go to Bowlin’ Green an’ get him a fine marker with his name, the record of every day he lived, an’ even a verse carved in pretty writin’.”
   “A . . . a verse? Can I choose it?” Mama sounded so hopeful Rebekah found herself holding her breath in anticipation of Daddy’s answer.
   “Any verse you want, Nell. I promise.”
   Rebekah’s bare toes ached from the cold seeping from the stone beneath her feet. Her arms ached with the weight of the logs. But mostly her heart ached for the loss her mama couldn’t overcome. She closed her eyes against the deep sting of remorse. Oh, dear God, I didn’t mean it. If it’s true that You giveth and taketh, like Mama said, You could’ve given Andy life that day. She gulped, sending an accusatory look skyward. Why’d You take him away from Mama? You should’ve taken me instead.
   The door snapped open, and Daddy nearly plowed straight into her. He stopped short, his brows low and mouth set in a tight line. “Gal, what’re you doin’? Get in here an’ bring your mama that firewood. The house has a chill.”
   Rebekah had a chill, too, caused by Daddy’s frosty treatment. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”
   He stepped aside long enough to let her pass. Then he stormed out, leaving the door open behind him. Rebekah didn’t need to watch to know he was heading to the woods. To the little clearing where a twig fence encircled the graves of those in her family who’d gone before—Granny and Granddad Hardin, Uncle Fenway, Uncle Birch, Aunt Sal, all the babies who left Mama’s body already empty of life. And Andy.
   Agony writhed through her middle. The babes never lived. Granny and Granddad and her aunt and uncles enjoyed good, long lives. But Andy? He had no place inside that fence under the cold ground.
   “Gimme some good kindlin’ pieces.” Mama swiped her eyes with her faded calico apron and held her hand toward Rebekah. “These coals’re about to die clean away.”
   Rebekah dropped the full load into the firebox, then picked out the two skinniest chunks. Mama laid them in an X over the blinking coals and, on her hands and knees, gently blew until a tiny lick of flame rose up and tickled the underside of one log. Within minutes a dozen tongues danced around the logs, growing into a blaze. Mama layered in more wood, one piece at a time. Soon the fire snapped and writhed. Rebekah watched, mesmerized by the warmth and light emerging from a glowing coal, a pair of sticks, and Mama’s breath.
   Mama sat back on her heels, sighed, and gave Rebekah a weary look. “Get the younguns up. All o’ you get dressed. Breakfast’ll be on soon enough, an’ then we can set to the chores. Heap to be done now that spring time’s arrivin’.”
   Rebekah had lost her appetite for their customary cornmeal mush flavored with the molasses Daddy rendered every winter, but she hurried to the room she shared with her sisters and did as her mother bade.
   Their dresses from yesterday lay at the foot of their beds, waiting another day’s wearing. Rebekah dressed quickly and then said, “C’mere, Little Nellie.” The littlest Hardin scooted off the bed and scuffed across the floor, still yawning. She stood complacently and allowed Rebekah to manipulate her limbs as if she were a large rag doll.
   Twelve-year-old Della scrambled into her blue-checked dress, topped it with a feed-sack apron still bearing a faded round stamp advertising Superior Egg Pellets, and offered to help five-year-old Trudy with her buttons. Trudy poked out her tummy and linked her hands behind her back, giving Della easy access.
   Cissy reached over and grabbed Della’s wrist. “She’s never gonna learn to dress herself if you keep doin’ it for her. Heavens to Betsy, she’ll be startin’ school next term. You gonna write her name on the papers an’ do her cipherin’ for her, too?”
   Trudy’s lower lip puckered. Plump tears quivered on her thick lashes.
   Rebekah glanced up from tying the strings on Little Nellie’s apron. “Leave them be, Cissy.”
   Cissy huffed, but she flounced to the other side of the bed and tossed a mint-green dress over her tattered pantaloons. Della shot Rebekah a thank-you smile and continued fastening the buttons on Trudy’s well-patched frock. Eleven-year-old Jessie and eight-year-old Tabitha began squabbling over their lone hairbrush, and Rebekah ended the disagreement by taking it for her own use. Both girls fussed until Cissy snapped at them to stop or she’d bang their heads together. They scurried to the far side of the room, away from her. Rebekah ran the brush through her long, thick hair, chuckling to herself.
   The morning routine was familiar, comfortable despite the frenzied bustling of seven people in a small space. She’d had the chance to leave last year when Calvin Adwell asked her to marry up with him. She almost said yes, too, because at twenty years old she was fast gaining old-maid status among the folks of Good Spring. Even among her family, if Cissy was considered a reliable source. After thinking it over, though, she’d said no. Not because she disliked Cal. He was a nice enough fellow, handsome enough to not make her squirm. But if she was going to spend her life with somebody, she wanted more than nice enough and handsome enough. She wanted what she’d always seen between her mama and daddy—sparks that never needed somebody puffing at them to make them flare up again, sparks that didn’t die even when hardships came along.
   “Ain’t you done brushin’ yet, Bek?” Cissy’s fretful voice cut into Rebekah’s reflections. “Gimme that thing or none of us are gettin’ outta here anytime soon.”
   Rebekah handed her sister the hairbrush. She gathered her heavy hair into her hands and twisted the strands into one thick braid. As usual, it ended off center and fell across her left shoulder. She tied the end with a piece of string and then aimed a stern frown on the oldest of her younger sisters. “Cissy, I’m gonna help Mama put breakfast on the table. Get everybody’s hair braided, then hurry on out. Don’t leave us waiting on you. It’s chore day.” Cissy was prone to drift away in daydreams, but Mama wasn’t up to Cissy’s thoughtlessness today—not the way she was hurting over Andy.
   “I know, I know.” Cissy glared at her image in the cracked mirror hanging from a nail in the wall and smacked the brush through her tangled lengths. “Just once, though, couldn’t we do somethin’ fun on a Saturday instead o’ doin’ chores? Couldn’t we hitch up the mule an’ drive over to Sutherland Pass, maybe choose some fabric for a new dress or ribbons for our hair?”
   Trudy crowded near, looking up at Cissy with shining eyes. “Or striped candy sticks.”
   “Candy,” Little Nellie echoed, wonder blooming on her cherubic face. “An’ gumdrops!” Tabitha added. The trio of little girls licked their lips as if tasting the sweet treats.
   “Yeah.” Cissy turned her glare on Rebekah. “We didn’t even get candy in our Christmas stockings this year. Just nuts an’ some ol’ wrinkly apples.” She thrust the hairbrush into Della’s hands. “Just once couldn’t we have somethin’ special?”
   Rebekah pinched a strand of Cissy’s hair, which was two shades lighter than that of the other Hardin sisters, between her fingers and gave a gentle tug. “Special costs money, Cissy. Extra money is rare. Daddy and Mama would love to treat us to something special, but times being what they are, they can’t. So we have to be patient and understanding.”
   Cissy jerked free. She folded her arms over her chest and pursed her full lips into a pout. “Ain’t fair, Bek. Why can’t we be like them families that go to the hotel an’ pay to climb down inside Mammoth Cave?”
   Rebekah cringed. How could Cissy forget the pain that cave had caused their family? She started to command her sister to never mention Mammoth Cave again, but Cissy hurried on.
   “Those folks seem to have money to do whatever they please.” She slapped at a patch sewn to the skirt of her faded dress. “You wouldn’t see none o’ the girls from those families wearin’ worn-out hand-me-downs an’ tyin’ their braids with old shoelaces.”
   Her tawny-brown eyes pensive, Tabitha caught Rebekah’s hand and swung it. “You reckon those girls do chores all day on Saturday, Bek?”
   Cissy was planting seeds of rebellion in the little girls’ heads. Rebekah needed to snatch them out before they took root. “Chores are part of everybody’s life, Tabby. Otherwise nothing would get done.”
   Cissy snorted. “Betcha they all have maids an’ such to do their work.” She tossed her thick ponytail over her shoulder. “I’m tellin’ you right now, I ain’t gonna spend my life pickin’ hornworms off tobacco leaves. I’m gonna have money—lots of it. An’ I’m gonna wear store-bought dresses an’ let my maid scrub the floor an’ cook my meals.”
   The younger girls gazed at Cissy in open-mouthed fascination. Rebekah stepped between them and Cissy and snapped out a snide question. “And just where are you planning to get all this money, Miss High-and-Mighty?”
   A wicked gleam entered Cissy’s eyes. “There’s ways. But I ain’t gonna tell you what they are.” She flounced out of the room.
   Jessie put her fists on her hips and cocked her head. “What’s she talkin’ about, Bek?”
   Rebekah shook her head at the eleven-year-old. “Never you mind. Cissy’s always full of ideas that don’t come to much.” She sent a frown across the assembly of freckled faces. “Tabitha, why haven’t you put on an apron? Get one from the trunk. Trudy, come here and I’ll braid your hair. Della, put that brush to use on Little Nellie’s tangled mess. If we don’t get to the table soon, Mama’s gonna throw our breakfast out the back door to the chickens.”
   To her relief, her sisters obeyed without argument. While she plaited Trudy’s fine, soft hair, she pondered Cissy’s declaration, “There’s ways.” Rebekah had found one way—selling the mushrooms that sprouted at the mouth of the cave on their property to the cook at the Mammoth Cave Hotel. He paid her five cents a pound for the white mushrooms. Daddy was always happy to drop the coins into the old coffee tin that held their savings, no matter how paltry the amount. Maybe there were other ways she could bring home money from some of the rich guests who stayed at the cave’s hotel and paid to tour the cave’s dozens of tunnels.
   The bedroom door burst open. Cissy scowled into the room. “You gals comin’ or not? Mama’s about to have a conniption fit.”
   Rebekah waved her arms the way a mother hen flapped her wings and herded her little sisters out the door. “Come on now, let’s go.”
   Daddy, wearing familiar striped overalls and a homespun blue cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled above his elbows, already waited in the chair at the head of their Granddaddy-built plank table. Cissy, Della, and Jessie clambered onto the bench on his left, and Rebekah slid in with Little Nellie, Trudy, and Tabitha on Daddy’s right. Mama thumped the kettle, its bottom blackened from hanging over the fire, onto the table and then sagged into the remaining chair. Everyone joined hands and Daddy asked a blessing on the meal.
   At Daddy’s “amen,” Mama jammed a wooden spoon into the kettle. “Hand me your bowls. It’s comin’ up on eight o’clock already. Mornin’ll be gone before we know.”
   While Rebekah ate, a plan formulated in her head. After breakfast she’d take Daddy aside and ask him about talking to the cave owner about some sort of job beyond selling mushrooms. Her heart gave a hopeful flutter. If she snagged a job—a decent, good- paying job—she could maybe buy the headstone Mama wanted so badly for Andy. Then maybe, just maybe, their smiling, humming, ever-peaceful mama would come back to them.
Kim Vogel Sawyer, Guide Me Home WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House  LLC, New York, © 2016.

***Thank you author Kim Vogel Sawyer for inviting me to be part of the book tour for Guide Me Home and for sending me a review copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears, © 2016

A Teaville Moral Society novel, Book 1

Isn't this cover beautiful? But... don't let it fool you. This girl has spunk!

This is the best of the best! Began reading A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears before bed and took it with me to read a fEw chapters ~ I woke up at 10:50 :D and beginning the 21st chapter. Everyone would have an eyeopener to "You've done it unto Me" ~ a wake-up call.
Teaville, Kansas 1905
How could it be that I wake up this morning and my whole world changes! I am sent off with the mission to collect money for two sewing machines to make quicker work of quilts being made by the Teaville Moral Society ladies. Me, Lydia King, setting off to find Nicholas Lowe the oft talked about rich man in our humble town.

I am expected to give to the highfaluting, nose-in-the-air do-gooders? I think not! I give to her and the whole town will be knocking at my door. ~ Nicholas Lowe

Lydia is an avid book reader. To her advantage, Mr. Lowe happens to have quite a few. As she continues to return to his office to request funding, he loans books to her. I liked how her interests opened up doors of conversation as she goes with him to supply needs directly, rather than his giving her money for her cause. She learned that building relationship brought a greater opportunity to bring change in lives. Stepping out into the unknown brings greater freedom than she had experienced.

A character I appreciated was the pastor's wife who quit peripherals of what was expected of her, to gain a greater depth. Realizing and pursuing her need for a closer relationship with God rather than motives of what people would think.

Nicholas finds changes in his outlook, the more he spends time with Lydia. Trust factors have kept him by himself in his endeavors. He finds that living for the present is much more rewarding than making up for the past.

This story views how others are seen; as an onlooker or in some way extending a hand to help another climb out of an imprisonment they cannot escape on their own.

Image result for melissa jagearsImage result for melissa jagears

***Thank you to author Melissa Jagears and to Bethany House for sending me a review copy for the August 2016 Fiction Blogger Review! This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

To Follow Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino, © 2016 #ToFollowHerHeart by Rebecca DeMarino #TheSoutholdChronicles:
The Southold Chronicles Series, Book 3

Duty and love ~ only one has the power to make Patience Terry’s life complete in a world of high seas, tall ships, daring journeys, and yearning hearts. 

A world of High Seas and Tall Ships, Daring Journeys and Yearning Hearts

Southold, Long Island, 1664
Book 3 can be read as a stand-alone if you haven't met the characters in the previous two books; those you will want to read for the closeness experienced in their lives, so evident here. I especially liked how their daily lives emerged from their love and care of each other within their common good. Mary and Lizzie are strong sisters who are bonded with Patience Terry, a main character in this story. They are a good example of doing the next thing... leading with the welfare of all as their families work together supportive of others, whether it be the bakeshop filled with the warm aroma of baked tarts and apple butter, or the hat shop while sorting beads offered by their close friend, Heather Flower.

The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was heavily populated at the lower part known as Manhattan. With a surrender of the settlement to the English, we now know this island as part of New York on the East River. I really like the stories of the old and the new together ~ an expansion of history into today.

I like how this author has formed this series around the real lives of her heritage. What fun to incorporate them into a story with heartache and triumph in the new land. It would be hard to leave what you know, yet bring it with you in how you do things. Developing a nation came from interaction in a community dependent upon each other in skills and, most importantly, attitude.

Driven by aiding the country, for some, displaced their home life with their families. Trained to be at ready to serve, their loved ones were left behind until they returned home, if at all. Reading this story I first thought of the rebuilding of the walls where they each restored where they lived, over against their house; baker, merchant, refiner. Daily life and at the ready. Each generation into the next. As Mary's children helped, as a daily what they did, they were taught, able at a young age to come alongside.
   Patience nodded. "The faith of a mustard seed. That's what it is. You both make me so grateful for friends like you. Mary, you know you will have a full house come Wednesday. Every woman in the town shows up when the men are gone."
   "I know, but 'tis a good thing. I remember all those years it was you and Lizzie and Winnie. I wanted to give assistance to ladies who found it difficult to cope––we were all in this wild, raw land together..."
   --To Follow Her Heart, 71
The story is conversational, so you come to know their hearts and feelings. Some faced and dealt with responsibilities differently ~ avoidance, jumping in, yet a desire emerged encouraging each other forward the best they knew. The forming of a country continues each day.

To Follow Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino  #TheSoutholdChronicles #ToFollowHerHeart:

EnJOY this excerpt from Book 3 in The Southold Chronicles ~ To Follow Her Heart, Chapter 1


July 16, 1664
Southold, Long Island

“Did you hear me?”
   Patience Terry stood silent, her mind awhirl. Had she not guarded her heart against this day? Against this pain that ripped through her like a thunderbolt? She looked into Mary Horton’s teary hazel-blue eyes. The Swallow had shipwrecked off the coast of Barbados, tattered and abandoned. No survivors. Captain Jeremy Horton and his crew lost at sea. Some bodies recovered, but no survivors.
   Her mouth opened, but no words came out. Her lungs ached, so bereft were they of any air, she of any hope. As her legs gave way, she fell to the pillowed bench in front of the hat display and buried her face in the folds of her blue silk skirt. Her shoulders heaved with each silent sob.
   Her friend knelt and drew her into her arms. “That’s good, dear. Cry. Let the tears fall.”
   Patience could no longer hold back as torrents of tears soaked Mary’s shoulder. Her friend’s gentle hands patted her back to comfort, but her temples pulsed with each new thought. Would she never be able to look up and see Jeremy’s form framed in the doorway again? Or could he lie hurt somewhere? She’d begged him at his last visit to give up the sailing, to make a home here in Southold. One she dreamt would include her.
   “What if he’s not dead? What if he needs me?” She’d always prayed he would come to know he needed her in his life, but Lord, this was not how she’d envisioned it.
   “You mustn’t think like that. The ship has sunk. There was such a storm. And if survivors were able to make land at all, they would have landed on the shores of Barbados. Nathaniel Sylvester brought the news himself. He’s just returned from his meetings there. ’Tis such a shock to know both of Barney’s brothers are gone. It was so difficult when Thomas died. And now Jeremy. He was more than a friend to me, he was a dear brother.” Mary’s voice trailed as Patience’s sobs began anew.
   The door blew open as hurricane-strength wind and summer rain swept in with Lizzie Fanning’s arrival, nearly lifting one of her own hat creations from her silvery curls. Mary’s older sister and Patience’s business partner, Lizzie looked in control as she slid the burgundy wool from her head, gave it a good shake, and settled it on a hat stand. “Mary told me on her way over here. I’m so sorry.” She enveloped her friend in a hug, her own tears trickling from violet eyes. She looked up at Mary. “I came immediately after I got my loaves out of the oven. Zeke is on his way to your house.”
   Patience did not try to hide her pain as tears escaped in rivulets down her cheeks. She’d never told them in so many words of her love for Jeremy, but the two sisters had pulled her into their family long ago, and matters of the heart were understood rather than spoken.
   Her sobs subsided into soft hiccups, and she drew in a breath. “What now?” was all she could whisper.
   Mary reached out to smooth Patience’s locks. “Barnabas said he would talk to Reverend Youngs about a service for Jeremy. We should have a dinner.” She looked at her sister.
   Lizzie nodded. “He shall not be forgotten.”
   Patience shook her head. “We don’t know that he’s dead, though. Why would he not listen to me when I begged him to stop sailing? To stay here? Why could he not see that this would happen?”
   “He was doing what he loved.” Mary didn’t look Patience in the eye as she uttered the sentence.
   “You don’t believe your own words. Why do people always say such things? It does not help. I just want him back. Happy or not, I want him here.”
   Mary blinked. “I know, I know. We all loved him. But I know for you ’tis especially difficult. He loved you. I know he did.” She pulled a fresh handkerchief from her apron pocket and mopped Patience’s cheeks.
   “I treasured the time we spent together. But it wasn’t enough, was it? Why could he not love me enough to stay by my side and be my husband?” She took the embroidered cloth from Mary and delicately blew her nose, then turned to Lizzie. “I cannot work with you today. I’m sorry. I should like to spend the day by myself.” She looked from one to the other. “I love you both dearly, but I need time alone.”
   Lizzie wrapped her arms around Patience’s shoulders. “Of course. But allow us to bring you a crock of soup or some tea and biscuits. You must eat.” She turned to Mary. “Could you help her upstairs?”
   “Of course. Come, Patience.” Mary led her to the staircase. “Let me build you a small fire while you change into a robe. It shall bring some comfort to the room.”

   Mary padded down the stairs. She sniffed. A savory scent filled the house. “That smells good. Patience is sleeping now. I should go home to see how Barney is faring. He and Jeremy were so close—I fear he is taking this very hard. Will you be all right?”
   Lizzie stirred the simmering soup, then tasted the broth. “I have enough work here to keep me busy while she rests. I need to take stock of my supplies. When Heather Flower came last, she brought two large bags of beads.” She nodded toward the shelves Ben had built for her.
   Mary stood on tiptoe and peered into one of the bags. “Beautiful. She is amazing, and she’s never forgotten to come back and visit.” Heather Flower was the daughter of the Montaukett sachem—a princess to the English—and had almost married Mary’s son Ben. In a strange turn of events, she instead married a Dutch lieutenant from New Amsterdam. But she remained loyal to her English friends, too, and Dirk had kept his promise to bring her back often.
   Mary took her cape from the peg and slipped into it. “Very well, then. I’m off. Thank you for staying with Patience.”
   “She will be all right. There’s much to keep me busy in the hat shop. Tell Barnabas I am so sorry.”
   “I shall.” She opened the door to the wind whipping outside and hurried down the lane, pulling her hood close against the slanted rain. She paused at the parsonage and cemetery on the left and thought once more of poor Jeremy before she crossed over to her home.
   In the foyer, she brushed the raindrops from her cape and hung it near the hearth. It was still early and the house quiet. Barney would be in the back kitchen, having his devotions and stirring up the fire—perhaps putting the first loaves in the oven.
   She mounted the stairs and stood quietly as she watched her daughters. Hannah, her firstborn daughter and quite the little mother, brushed and braided Mercy’s hair. At four years old, Mercy was the youngest of their nine children and loved the attention her siblings bestowed. Mary smiled as Sarah, eleven, smoothed and aired out the bedclothes, while young Mary—her namesake—helped Abbey’s daughter, Misha, change the wash water in the basins.
   Abbey was like a daughter to Mary. The eldest child of Winnie, a Corchaug woman, and Mary’s dear friend, she’d come to live with the Hortons when she was fourteen. She helped Mary in birthing and raising her children, and learned to read and write and bake in an English kitchen.
   Mary came down the stairs and moved toward the back of the large house. The lively voices of her sons carried down the hall from the kitchen. It was amazing to her that her youngest boys, Caleb, Joshua, and Jonathan, were grown men. Well, Jonathan was almost a man. At sixteen he was also the tallest of the Horton men, save Jeremy. Her brow wrinkled at the reminder that her brother-in-law was gone.
   As she drew close, she heard Barney telling them the tale of Mary and Jeremy working together to bring his blue slate over from England with the epitaph he’d written engraved on the slab. They’d heard the story hundreds of times, had they not? Yet each time they thrilled at the tale, and today the story was particularly poignant.
   Mary entered the kitchen and slid in next to Barney at the table. She squeezed his hand. “I’m thinking we need to get a stone for Jeremy. It won’t be a blue slate, but do you think we could get a piece of marble? Something nice so he shall not be forgotten?”
   “Aye. I don’t know if we can come by marble easily. We might be able to find a nice slab of granite. The reverend is preparing a sermon in his memory, and if we had a church dinner between services, then we could set the stone in the cemetery and have a prayer service afterward.”
   Caleb stood up and fetched a platter of ginger cakes, offering his mother one before setting them on the old oak table. “Are you sure Uncle Jeremy died? Is it not strange to have a funeral for someone when you don’t know where they are?”
   Tears sprang to Mary’s eyes. “Patience said the same thing.”
   “He died a watery death, I fear. The service will be for your uncle, but even more for those he left behind. We who loved him.” Barnabas ran his fingers through his thick, white hair. He was every bit as dashing as he’d been the day Mary had met him at the Webbs’ store so many years ago in Mowsley, England.
   Jeremy was nine years younger than Barnabas. The image of her brother-in-law leading her around his ship the day they left England played in her mind. He’d been so young and exuberant and full of life. The last time she’d seen him, he hadn’t changed a whit. Not a gray hair on his head, his tanned skin emphasizing the green of his eyes, the burnished gold of his hair, the scent of the sea that clung to his clothes. “He was too young to die.” She set the uneaten ginger cake on the table and tipped her face into Barney’s shoulder.
   “I know, my sweet. But God knows the plans He has for each of us.” His eyelids sagged, and he leaned his forehead against hers. “Jeremy included. We must put our faith in that knowledge. Would you like to accompany me out to see John Corey? He might have a suitable stone. He came back from Gloucester last year with several.”
   She pulled back. “Yes, if we take the wagon and Stargazer.”
   “Of course.” He gave a nod to Joshua, who promptly departed to the barn.
   Half an hour later, Mary watched Joshua lead Stargazer around to the front of the house with the wagon. She wanted the best for Jeremy. He’d done so much for her and Barney.


   Lizzie busied herself with work in the kitchen and the hat shop, only stopping when Barnabas and Mary brought their girls over, along with two barrels of dried apples from the orchard. The harvest the year before had been a bumper crop, and Lizzie loved that she could still make apple butter and pies throughout the summer, especially on a stormy day such as this.
   Barnabas rolled in the last barrel and heaved it up right. “The wind out there is fierce. We might be in for a real storm, a hurricane.” His shoulders drooped. “How is Patience?”
   “She has not stirred, poor dear. I think the news has drained her.”
   “’Tis good she sleeps. She needs to build strength to get through the coming days.”
   After Barnabas and Mary left in search of a stone for Jeremy, Lizzie set the older girls to simmer the dried apple slices in cider while she and Abbey let little Mercy help them mix flour and lard for pippin tarts.
   Patience woke but remained in her chamber, refusing the trays of tea and soup Lizzie brought to her.
   As the tarts baked, the rest of the apples went into the large copper pot over the fire, and Abbey helped the girls take turns stirring them with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves using a large wooden paddle. The apples simmered down to a dark golden sauce. The storm blew outside, and the sweet smell of fall scented the house. The girls worked together to ladle the thick apple butter into crocks, and when they were done, Abbey and Hannah scrubbed the kitchen.
   The stairs creaked as Lizzie climbed up to Patience’s room once again, a tray arranged with sage tea and warm pippin tarts in her hands. “Here now, Patience. This should be just what you need.”
   Patience looked up, her blue eyes puffy but dry. “You may leave it, Lizzie. Thank you.”
   “I’ll set it here.” She carefully lowered the tray onto the table before she sat on the edge of the feather bed. “Would you feel better if you came down to the kitchen? Mary’s girls are here.”
   Her voice faltered with regret. “No, I shall stay here. Tell them Auntie Patience is not feeling well.”
   Lizzie pressed her arms around Patience in a gentle hug, then rose. She looked back at her friend as she quietly closed the door.
   Darkness came early due to the storm, and Lizzie lit candles in the kitchen below. The wind abated, but a gentle patter of rain on the shingled roof added coziness to the house while the girls waited for Mary and Barnabas to return with the wagon.
   For the tenth time that day, Lizzie wandered into the hat shop and fussed with her displays, turning a hat on a stand one way and then moving it back to its original spot. She checked her inventory for the third time. Nothing had changed. She picked up one of the bags of beads Heather Flower had brought her and several of the glass vials Jeremy kept her and Doctor Smith supplied with and took them to the kitchen. “We can sort these beads, if you girls don’t mind.”
   They chattered as they admired the different shapes and colors, and Hannah told the younger girls what she remembered of Heather Flower and Dirk’s wedding. Lizzie’s curls bounced as she shook her head. What turns life could take.
   “Uncle Jeremy was here when they got married,” she heard Hannah say. “He officiated because he was a ship captain.”
   Lizzie smiled. “Yes, he was. And such a good man.”
   They heard the clop of Stargazer’s hoofs, and Lizzie went to open the door for Mary and Barnabas. They came in shaking the wetness from their cloaks and went to warm themselves in the kitchen.
   Lizzie loaded several baskets with tarts and crocks of apple butter. “I’ll bring more to you on the morrow, Mary, but these you can put in the bakeshop first thing in the morning.”
   “Oh my, they look delicious!” She gazed around the table at her daughters. “You have all been busy today.”
   Their faces lit up as Mary and Lizzie gushed over the girls’ abilities in the kitchen. But it caused Lizzie to recall Mary’s youthful attempts at the womanly arts of hearth and home. Lizzie had been patient as she attempted to teach her, but it was Barnabas who truly brought out the domestic side of Mary. Memories of growing up in Mowsley rushed in. What a shock it had been to learn that Jeremy planned a voyage to the New World and intended to take Mary and Barnabas with him.
   Lizzie turned to her nieces. “Get your cloaks, girls, and help us carry these out to the wagon.”
   Mary helped Mercy lift her hood over her hair. “We found a beautiful stone for Jeremy. Mr. Corey says he can carve a proper epitaph on it. Barney is going to write it.” Her eyes became moist as she spoke, and she leaned into her husband’s arms. “We’ll wait for the service for Jeremy until the headstone is ready.”
   “Yes, of course,” Barnabas murmured.
   As he opened the door, Patience came down the staircase and paused just before the landing. “Mary? I thought I heard you.”
   Mary rushed to her. “I didn’t want to disturb you. Are you all right?”
   Patience’s straight blond hair hung loose about her shoulders, and she pulled it around to the side, twisting it like rope. “Yes. I think. Did I hear you say you bought a stone for Jeremy?”
   “Yes, dear. Reverend Youngs will say a sermon for him on Sunday, and then we’ll gather in the cemetery in a few weeks when the stone is ready and have a small remembrance service.”
   Lizzie could sense the tension, like the prickle on one’s skin just before a lightning strike.
   “How can you do that? You don’t know he’s dead!” The words pounced from Patience, and everyone stood silent, mouths agape.
   Mary bit her lip, and Barnabas stepped up to wrap his arm about her shoulder. “Patience, we all grieve. Prithee, do not make this more difficult. We must bring some closure to Jeremy’s life. We owe him that, do we not?”
   She lowered herself to a stairstep and buried her face in her robe. Lizzie rushed to join Mary and the two pulled Patience into their arms.
   “Oh, dearest. We all feel the same way you do. Truly we do.” Mary looked at her sister. “Right, Lizzie?” She pressed her cheek to Patience’s. “But the water has given up nothing but a bit of wreckage and some of the bodies. Most of the crew is simply swallowed by the sea, and we must face that with courage.”
   Barnabas gathered the girls by the door, picking up Mercy as she began to whimper.
   Lizzie drew Patience closer. “I shall take her back to her room, Mary. You go with Barnabas and the girls. I’ll stay here tonight and come to you on the morrow. Patience needs time. Let me take care of her.”
   Mary’s eyes glistened as she left them and followed her family out the door.
   Lizzie put her arm around Patience in a gentle hug and led her up the stairs. She tucked her friend under a thick quilt. The room was already dark, with not a candle lit. Lizzie sank into a chair near the bed, and in a moment she drifted into fitful dreams.


 Patience lay awake, fingering the edge of her quilt. Her eyes were wide, as if they were propped open by her lashes, stiff with dried tears. Sleep would not come. Nor did she want it to. She needed to think of a way to find Jeremy. He couldn’t be dead. She would know it if he were. And even if she could not be certain, she would not give up on him. No, never. She could not.
Rebecca DeMarino, To Follow Her Heart Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2016.

Rebecca DeMarino is a historical romance author and lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, The Southold Historical Society, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Rebecca is the author of A Place in His Heart, To Capture Her Heart, and To Follow Her Heart, all part of The Southold Chronicles series. Learn more at This series is based on the lives of her ninth great-grandparents, Mary Langton and Barnabas Horton.

Rebecca DeMarino***Thank you to Revell Reads for sending me a review copy for the August 2016 fiction review tour for Rebecca DeMarino's To Follow Her Heart. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Cover Art   Cover Art

Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Elegant Façade by Kristi Ann Hunter, © 2016

Hawthorne House series, Book 2

Cover Art

If you have read the author's previous stories ~ eNovella A Lady of Esteem, introducing you to her full length novel, A Noble Masquerade, you will have already met younger sister Georgina trotting behind her sister, Miranda. Perhaps you haven't liked her too much. Now she has a chance to redeem herself ~ maybe ~ as she speaks for herself in book 2, An Elegant Façade. Could it be her story may not match what others see ~ when she has something hidden from view ~ except her close maid and confidante?

You may also be aware, or unaware ~ of Colin McCrae. He is a friend of Ryland, Duke of Marshington. There are business adventures and secret meetings going on and a continuation of a little spying it seems. What a fun game for Colin ~ that is until he comes across Lady Georgina Hawthorne at the masquerade opening of her debut to society. She has her "dance card" hoping for a well-planned Regency Season. With Colin volleying in the middle, there are a few snippets of "honest" conversation, should either of them pick up on it.

Learning to trust and get beyond the plan to be herself, Georgina may find her sister Miranda has never been an obstacle, but rather a true friend.
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14
The unraveling of true self and direction change courses of lives. What is hidden will be known from the rendering of the heart. From all of the speculation between men and women, known to be known is the best find of all.

Painting by Charles Haigh-Wood
I always anticipate with them, who will come calling? Having to make small talk and a line forming at the door. Previously giving a signal that you would like to be called upon, and you wait for them to have gotten the clue and arrive on visiting day. Do they know and use the fan language? The Regency era gave way to misinterpretation without being forthright. Colin and Georgina don't seem to have a problem being heard if... they listen.

Enjoy this excerpt from Kristi Ann Hunter's An Elegant Façade ~



There was something fascinating about the rhythm of writing, at least when someone else was doing it. Dip the quill, write a line, dip the quill, write a line. The quiet scritch of quill against paper broke the silence of the night, accompanied only by Lady Georgina Hawthorne’s steady breathing ruffling the yellow curls on the head of the doll clutched against her chest.
   She hugged her doll tighter and leaned her head against the doorframe. Mother probably knew she was there. Mother always knew everything that happened in the house, including the fact that Georgina often slipped away from the nursery after Nanny was asleep.
   There was nothing nefarious about her midnight wanderings. It was simply that the only time her mother wasn’t surrounded by people was in the evening when she sat at her desk, encircled by books, papers, and flickering candlelight.
   She was beautiful, peaceful, and everything Georgina wanted to be when she grew up. One day she would be a lady with her own desk and quill, writing important letters deep into the night. Of course, first she had to master holding chalk and writing the letter A. It wasn’t at all the same as holding a watercolor brush. Nanny assured her that it was only a matter of time before Georgina would be writing as smoothly as her mother and sister. Everyone had some difficulty in the beginning.
   “You’ll be able to see better if you sit in the chair.” Mother turned her head and smiled at Georgina, beckoning her forward.
   Georgina’s bare feet made little noise on the cold wooden floor as she crept closer to the desk, the paint-splattered doll held snuggly under her arm. She clambered into the blue upholstered chair beside the desk and peeked over the edge, eyes glued to the writing rhythm her mother had already returned to.
   “What are you doing?”
   Mother stopped and set the quill aside before blowing lightly across the page filled with even lines of black scrawl. “I am writing a letter to your aunt. She wrote me this morning about a particularly fine foal, and I am telling her of the new fan you painted yesterday.”
   Georgina glanced at the paper but couldn’t see how all of that black ink could tell Aunt Elizabeth about the green fan covered in purple and gold flowers. “Why?”
   Mother laughed and leaned over to kiss Georgina on the head. “Because, my dear, a lady always responds promptly to correspondence. Especially when it is from family. It is one way for a lady to show her esteem for the other person. As to why I’m telling her about your fan, it is because it is such a splendid effort for a girl only five years old.”
   “Oh.” Georgina thought about the many times she’d seen her mother sit at this desk, dipping her quill and writing for what seemed like hours. “You know a lot of people.”
   Mother smiled as she folded the letter, being careful to smooth the edges evenly. “When one is a duchess, my dear, it seems that everyone wants your opinion about something. Some I hold in higher esteem than others and enjoy trading letters with them, but a lady must always be polite, even in correspondence.”
   Georgina looked across the desk at the neat pile of papers that had already been folded in a similar manner. To the left of the folded letters sat a large leather-bound book. “Who is getting that one, Mother? You must regard that person most highly.”
   A laugh bounced around the room as Mother slid the book onto the empty desk in front of her, but the laugh was sad. “These are the estate accounts.”
   Georgina tucked her doll under her chin, the scraggly yellow hair sticking up and making her cheek itch. “Did you write about my fan in there too?”
   “No, dear.” This time Mother’s laugh was light and joyful, and she reached over to pull Georgina into her lap.
   With one arm wrapped around her young daughter, Mother flipped back the cover of the book, revealing more dancing black lines as well as boxes with numbers.
   “That’s nine.” Georgina proudly pointed to a number on the right side of the page.
   “Yes, it is. That is how much we paid young Charles to load all the coal bins this week.” Mother ran her finger from the number to a word on the left side of the page. “See? I put his name here along with what I paid him for.”
   Georgina frowned. “But Timothy filled my coal bin last week. Doesn’t he still work for us?”
   “Yes, but you see Charles has a sick sister, or was it his brother?” Mother frowned and reached for another leather-bound book from the shelf by the desk. The cover was light brown leather, but the edges and spine had darkened, leaving the book with a well-used appearance. She laid it on the desk and flipped through the pages covered with neat, handwritten lines. After turning several pages, Mother ran a finger along the last line written halfway down the page. “Ah, yes, sister. His sister is ill, and his mother is having a difficult time both taking her dolls to the market and taking care of young Clara. So we hired Charles to help them out for a while.”
   Georgina’s eyes widened. “You learned about that from a book? Is it a magic book? Nanny read me a story with magic boots in it, but a magic book would be much more exciting.”
   “No, darling, the book isn’t magic, but it is my little secret. One day when you are running your own household and helping your husband oversee tenants and such, you will need a book like this.” Mother slid the book over so Georgina could see better. “Whenever I learn something about one of our people I write it in here. A lady should always know what is going on in her home. If she falters, the entire family will suffer. That is why I write everything down.”
   “Everything?” Georgina ran her fingers down one page, covered edge to edge with writing.
   Mother nodded. “Everything. Every tenant, servant, friend, and peddler. That way your brother . . .” She cleared her throat. “When your brother comes home from school, his people will feel like he still knows them, that he cares, that he is ready to be the duke.”
   “And one day I’ll have a book like this.”
   Mother nodded. “I would recommend that, yes.”
   Georgina patted the still-opened estate book. “And I’ll have one of these too?”
   Mother’s eyes grew wet as she wrapped her arm a little tighter around Georgina’s shoulders. “God willing, you will never have to do estate accounts. Your father—”
   Her voice cracked and it took a few moments for Mother to start speaking again. “Your father always took care of these. One day your brother will take them over from me, but until he finishes school it is up to me to keep things running smoothly. There is a smaller book for the household accounts. I’ll teach you about those one day.”
   Georgina looked up into her mother’s blue eyes, still glistening from earlier emotion but strong and steady as they looked at her youngest child. “I want to be a duchess just like you when I grow up, Mother.”
   With a wide smile, Mother hugged Georgina to her chest. “There aren’t that many dukes around, so you might have to settle for an earl. But don’t you worry. When you keep your own secret book, everyone will think you the most attentive of ladies. You shall be the envy of the aristocracy. Now, where is Nanny? Did she fall asleep reading to you again?”
   Georgina nodded. “Poor little Margery only has one shoe, but Tommy has two and he got to go to London. Margery didn’t and she’s very sad, but at least the man who took Tommy to London gave Margery two shoes to console herself with.”
   Mother smiled. “At least you will be able to tell her where you left off when she picks the book up tomorrow. Speaking of shoes, you seem to have left yours behind. Let me finish here and I’ll walk you back upstairs.”
   Georgina waited as Mother sealed the last letter with a dollop of wax and extinguished the candles. In the glow of the remaining lantern, the study looked magical, like something from the stories Nanny fell asleep reading every night. All it needed was a fairy doll like the ones Charles’ mother made and sold at the street fairs. One day Georgina would have a study of her own and she would be just like her mother.
   Only her study would have fairies.

Chapter 1


Perfection, even the fabricated appearance of it, was a nearly impossible feat. Lady Georgina Hawthorne should know. She’d spent the past three years carefully preparing and planning, determined to make her debut Season perfect or, at the very least, convince everyone else it was.
   Exuding anything less than complete excellence could lead someone to the truth: that she wasn’t just imperfect—she was elementally flawed.
   If the sparkling creation nestled in the tissue paper before her was a sign of things to come, her hard work was about to reap handsome rewards. The custom-designed mask was everything she’d hoped it would be.
   “It looks even prettier than I imagined.” Harriette, Georgina’s lady’s maid and companion, released the reverent whisper as she extended a hand to brush the cluster of feathers bursting from the top left edge of the mask. “You are remarkable.”
   Georgina smiled, unable to resist the urge to touch the mask herself. While acknowledgment of the craftsman who constructed the mask should certainly be made, Georgina felt comfortable taking some of the credit for herself. She had given the man very detailed drawings of exactly what she wanted.
   “If everything else follows the plan this well, I’ll be married and settled by the end of the Season.” With a sigh, Georgina slid the lid onto the box, blocking the delicate creation from view. As much as she would enjoy looking at the mask for the next three days, she couldn’t risk marring the white silk or bright white feathers before the ball. “Has the dress arrived?”
   “It came this morning.” Harriette took the box containing the mask and disappeared into Georgina’s dressing room. Moments later she reappeared with a large bundle of white in her arms. “It’s quite splendid as well.”
   Georgina fought past her initial excitement over the dress to look at it with a critical eye. If anything needed to be changed they needed to do it now. The ball was only three days away. Even though it was a masked event, it would be Georgina’s societal debut. It needed to be more than simply perfect. It had to be exceptional.
   It would take a fairly spectacular appearance to make everyone forget what a fool she’d made of herself chasing the Marquis of Raebourne last year before she’d even been officially out of the schoolroom. That was what happened when she let emotion cause her to stray from her plan. The marquis would have suited her needs perfectly, but his absurd interest in a woman of little significance put her prime marital target out of reach.
   Even so, she should never have allowed the ensuing panic to convince her to share family gossip with Lady Helena Bell. She should have known Lady Helena wouldn’t be able to use the information to successfully break the couple’s attachment. It had all been horribly embarrassing, but Georgina had learned a very important lesson: No one else could be counted on to carry out any part of her plans.
   This year she would rely only on herself. She looked at her maid, inspecting the skirt for loose threads. And Harriette. Dependable, loyal Harriette could always be relied upon. In fact, Georgina would be lost without her. “Your brother is due to start school soon, isn’t he?”
   The maid looked up from the dress, plain brown eyes narrowing in her commonly rounded face. She straightened herself the full length of her average height and scolded Georgina with a voice laced with an extraordinary amount of intelligence and tenacity. “You’ve already taken care of it. I won’t take anymore of your pin money.”
   Georgina tried to hide her smile as her friend gave a decisive nod and turned back to the dress.
   Though no one else in London would likely believe it, the two were friends. No one on earth knew Georgina as well as Harriette did. Without the other woman’s friendship as a child, Georgina would never have been able to keep her shortcomings hidden from her perfect, noble family. As it was, they all thought her a hopelessly spoiled brat, a condition she tried to use in her favor as often as possible. “I could tell Griffith to give you a higher wage. He wouldn’t doubt me. Probably thinks you deserve one.”
   Harriette draped the dress over the bed and crossed the room to grasp Georgina’s hands. “Don’t fret. I’ve been with you since you were seven. I’m not going anywhere.”
   It was hard to believe that Harriette was only two years older than Georgina’s eighteen years. Sometimes she seemed too settled and mature for one so young.
   Georgina pulled her lip between her teeth. “This is going to work, isn’t it?”
   “Stop that.” Harriette shook a finger at Georgina. “You’ll make your lips all cracked and wrinkly if you bite them.”
   Georgina smoothed a finger along her bottom lip.
   The maid nodded before continuing. “Of course it’s going to work. We’ve been through Debrett’s Peerage three times since last Season, making a list of all the options. We know every unmarried man who fits your requirements. One will come up to snuff. Four of them are even dukes.”
   “I can hardly marry my brother, so we can consider there to be only three.” Georgina held the masquerade dress up to herself and spun around the room, enjoying the novelty of the Elizabethan-styled gown. “Spindlewood is most likely going to be escorting his granddaughter around this Season, though he’s been out of mourning long enough to consider remarrying.”
   “You don’t consider him too old?” Harriette’s eyes widened as she sank into the chair at Georgina’s dressing table.
   “I do, as a matter of fact. Were he to die, I would be a very young dowager with no firm ties to the next duke. There’s not nearly enough power in that position.” Georgina slipped her feet into her slippers and did a final inspection in the mirror. “It’s too bad that his grandson is so young. He’s not even out of school yet.”
   Harriette tilted her head to the side. “You could wait for him. He’s sure to enter society within the year.”
   As if Georgina could afford to wait an entire year in the hopes that the duke’s grandson would prove as socially proficient as the rest of the family.
   Georgina shook her head before carrying the dress into the dressing room for storage. Harriette’s light footsteps followed her.
   “What I need, Harriette, is for the Duke of Marshington to make a reappearance, seeking the most advantageous bride for his reentry into society. That would set me up for life . I might actually believe God was looking out for me if that were to happen.” Which meant she had little to no hope of it happening. She was certain God was up there somewhere, but she was just as certain that He’d tossed her aside long ago.
   “There’s still one other duke, a marquis, and two earls on your list, though I do wish you would reconsider removing the Earl of Ashcombe. Your sister—”
   “My sister should have married him when she had the chance.” Georgina checked the reticule she’d had made for the upcoming ball, ensuring it was packed with everything from a spare pair of slippers to a needle and thread for urgent dress repairs. Nothing could be allowed to ruin her night. “Ashcombe is popular, wealthy, and conscious of the importance of reputation. He stays on the list.”
   Harriette said nothing as she laid a white velvet cloak on the shelf beside the white ball gown.
   A pang of guilt nudged the back of Georgina’s thoughts. Ashcombe had courted her sister during her first Season, but Miranda was embarking on her fourth turn through the ballrooms this year. She’d had plenty of chances to win the man’s hand. Now it was Georgina’s turn.
   The fact that she thought the man a supreme bore placed him a bit lower on her list, but she’d rather be bored than ruined.
   Not for the first time, Georgina wished Miranda had gotten married last year. The threat of Miranda’s impending spinsterhood might make Georgina’s quest to be the Season’s Incomparable a little more difficult. Association carried its own form of guilt, after all.
   She pressed her hand to her chest, as if she could reach through and force the nerves into submission.
   “Everything is ready, my lady.” Harriette fluffed the skirt on the dress until the white-on-white embroidery was shown to perfection.
   Georgina’s heart calmed as she looked over the ensemble she would wear as she took her first turn in society as an adult. It was the epitome of everything she’d been working to build. Entering on the arm of her brother, the powerful Duke of Riverton, would seal her as one the most popular girls of the evening.
   The masquerade was going to be the best event of her life.


   This was one the ugliest places he’d ever been in his life.
   Colin McCrae glanced over his shoulder at the rickety stairs he’d carefully picked his way up. They looked even worse from the top than they had from the bottom, which meant he’d be holding his breath when it came time to travel back down them.
   Assuming he lived that long. Calling on his friend Ryland without warning wasn’t the safest thing to do. Spies for the Crown tended to be a little wary of things like that. Fortunately, the man was inclined to look first and shoot second, a politeness that could probably be attributed to the fact that the man was also the Duke of Marshington. He may have dropped out of society for the past nine years, but he’d had eighteen years before that to learn gentlemanly behavior.
   The passage at the top of the stairs looked as if someone had at least considered doing some maintenance in the past decade. In truth, it wasn’t the worst place Colin had visited Ryland in the five years they’d known each other, but it was close.
   He took care to keep his greatcoat away from some of the grimier-looking shadows. Just because Ryland chose to eschew the finer things in life to pursue English justice didn’t mean Colin had to.
   After three strong knocks on the grey wooden door, Colin stepped back, positioning himself so that whoever cracked open the door would be able to see him.
   The door opened enough to reveal the face and shoulder of Jeffreys. The man was Ryland’s valet, though his duties included far more clandestine activities than simply shining the duke’s shoes. This was probably the only set of rooms in the entire building that could boast a manservant of any kind.
   Colin grinned at the thin man. “Please don’t shoot me, Jeffreys. I’m quite fond of this coat.”
   Jeffreys laughed as he opened the door wider and allowed Colin in. Sure enough, Jeffreys had been hiding a pistol behind his back as he answered the door.
   Another, deeper, laugh came from the next room, and Colin followed it to find Ryland sprawled in a chair that could be called upholstered if one was feeling charitable. There were a series of threads covering whatever remained of the chair’s cushioning.
   Ryland waved an arm toward the only other chair in the room, a plain wooden chair that looked old but sturdy. “What brings you by?”
   Colin sat, crossed his booted feet at the ankles, and placed his hat in his lap. “Other than the joy of welcoming you back to Town, you mean?”
   A single dark eyebrow lifted in an expression of condescension, the aristocratic arrogance of the duke showing through, despite the fact that Ryland looked considerably more like a dockside worker. “I haven’t officially returned.”
   “And I’m not officially here.” Ryland worked for the War Office. Colin didn’t. At least not in any capacity that any one would recognize as official. He had been known, on occasion, to use his business contacts and observation skills to assist them in one project or another. Though he made sure to say no often enough to keep the War Office from taking advantage, he never turned down a request from Ryland.
   It was the developments from just such a request that had brought him to this decrepit building.
   Ryland sat up a little straighter. “You have news?”
   Colin nodded. Ryland had recently disguised himself as a valet on the Duke of Riverton’s estate. As the two were old school friends, Riverton was, of course, in on the plan and had agreed to engage in false correspondence in order to trap the group of Napoleonic spies operating on the estate. Colin’s contribution had been business letters about a doomed mining venture.
   The decoy information, originally intended to be little more than fluff to fill out the fake correspondence, was actually being used. As only the people selling secrets to France had access to that information, the interest in the mine was certainly suspect.
   While Colin filled Ryland in on the details, Jeffreys went about his business, moving quietly around the room.
   A glaze of deep thought covered Ryland’s grey eyes. Colin settled into his wooden chair as best he could, knowing the other man could contemplate the ramifications of Colin’s news for five minutes or five hours, and he would expect Colin to be there when he was done.
   “All the more reason to come out of hiding, Your Grace.” Jeffreys hauled a small trunk from under the bed and began folding clothes into it.
   Colin sat up a bit, mild curiosity replaced with genuine surprise. Was Ryland truly planning to come out of hiding? It would be a good time for it, with the social Season prepared to start within the week.
   Instead of berating the other man for interrupting his thought process, Ryland turned his intense gaze to the valet. Clearly there was a hidden meaning to Jeffreys’ proclamation. “And have you also planned where I shall make my debut?”
   Only years of practice at remaining outwardly calm kept Colin in his seat. Ryland was not only returning to London but to society as well? Was this a new project? A new case that required he come out of hiding? Or was he truly following through on his intentions to stop spying?
   Jeffreys extracted a small white card from his pocket and flipped it across the bed. Ryland snatched it out of midair, crumpling the corner a bit.
   Colin strained to get a look at the card. It looked like an invitation. Who would have sent Ryland an invitation? Half of London thought he was dead.
   “She’s going to be there?” Ryland ran a thumb along the edge of the card.
   Jeffreys nodded. “The servants have been speaking constantly of the various costumes their lords and ladies have procured. That invitation was meant for your aunt. Price said it was a shame she never received it.”
   Ryland looked over the card and grinned. Grinned. The jaded, world-weary spy grinned.
   Colin rose and leaned over Ryland’s shoulder, his thoughts ticking through everything that had been said or done since he arrived. The invitation was for a masquerade ball, but that fact paled as the importance of Jeffreys’ statement became evident. There was a girl involved, and by the look on Ryland’s face, she wasn’t related to his work.
   And since it was personal, Ryland wasn’t about to volunteer information. Colin turned instead to the valet. “There’s a she?”
   “What is her costume going to be?” Ryland tapped the invitation against his palm, probably hoping he could learn what he wanted without letting Colin ask any questions of his own. Which made Colin all the more determined to know who the she was.
   Jeffreys continued packing as he spoke. “We aren’t sure, though we know it’s blue. She and her sister and mother were all seen at the modiste ordering dresses for that event. The sister was quite excited. The mother was less so.”
   “Not surprising.” Ryland’s face turned thoughtful once more. He seemed to have forgotten Colin was in the room. “Masquerades are not known for keeping the faint blush of youth in a young lady’s cheeks. I wonder at Lady Blackstone letting that be Lady Georgina’s first society appearance.”
   Colin had never met the Ladies Hawthorne or their recently remarried mother, Lady Blackstone, but he had done business with their eldest brother, the Duke of Riverton—whose estate Ryland had recently been spying on in the guise of the duke’s valet.
   This was going to end badly.
   Colin coughed. “Lady Georgina Hawthorne?”
   Even though Colin hadn’t met the young lady, he’d certainly heard of her. And what he’d heard would have made her the last lady he’d have expected Ryland to become interested in.
   “The hostess, Lady Yensworth, is a particular friend of Lady Blackstone’s—otherwise I’m sure they would be skipping the event.” Jeffreys pulled a pair of ruined-looking boots from the bottom of the closet. “Are we keeping these?”
   Ryland raised a brow. “Why wouldn’t we?”
   “Your Grace.” The valet tilted his head to the side.
   Ryland’s brows drew together. “What?”
   “Only reminding you that you are a duke. I don’t know a whole lot about the aristocracy, but I know they don’t wear boots that look like this.”
   Normally Colin would have settled into the corner, content to gather as much information as possible from a personal conversation taking place in his presence. But this time he could not afford to misunderstand what was happening. It was simply too unbelievable.
   He stood and grabbed Ryland’s shoulder, unable to keep the shock from his face. “You’ve intentions to court Lady Georgina Hawthorne?”
   Colin couldn’t picture it. Ryland was a gentleman to the core, but he’d lived too long in the shadows for all of his edges to stay refined. He’d rip a delicate society flower to shreds.
   “What? No.” Ryland shifted in his seat, looking as uncomfortable as Colin had ever seen.
   Colin turned an inquiring look to Jeffreys. Something was disturbing the normally unflappable duke, and being the good friend that he was, Colin couldn’t wait to hold it over the other man’s head.
   Jeffreys frowned at the old boots. “The older sister, sir.”
   “Ah.” Colin relaxed considerably and grinned. He hadn’t heard as much about Lady Miranda, but he’d heard enough to know she’d be a much better fit for a man who’d spent the past nine years hiding in the shadows. Any woman willing to turn down multiple offers of marriage had to possess a considerable amount of courage. Something that could be necessary if danger decided to follow Ryland home.
   Ryland glared at Jeffreys as the valet strode about the room gathering items. “Why are you telling Mr. McCrae my secrets, Jeffreys? Isn’t your loyalty supposed to be to me?”
   “Of course, Your Grace. That’s why I didn’t tell Mr. McCrae that you’ve been brooding over the young lady since you left your position at her house several months ago.” Jeffreys threw the dilapidated boots into the trunk. “Only the least discreet of valets would reveal that you’ve actually paced the floor as you’ve contemplated what you’d do when she returned to London.”
   Colin laughed so hard he fell back into his chair, holding his right hand to his side. Ryland had left Riverton’s house before Christmas, after sending the band of treasonists fleeing to hide in the large city. Spring was now nudging at London’s edges. The idea that he’d been pining for a woman that long was entertaining indeed.
   Ryland turned his glare from the valet to send a calculating look at Colin. “I don’t suppose you received an invitation to this dance?”
   Colin swallowed his laughter and nodded. He should have known he wouldn’t escape being pulled into whatever scheme Ryland and his valet had concocted. In all honesty, if it included watching Ryland dangle on a hook, Colin didn’t want to miss it. “I have. I hadn’t intended to go, but if you’re going to be there, I’ll have to change my plans. The ton won’t know what to do with such an interesting piece of gossip.”
   Ryland tapped the card into his palm. “I think a masquerade will do nicely. I can ease her into the idea of my being in Town without her recognizing me.”
   A groan trapped itself in Colin’s throat. Lady Miranda had already met Ryland, only not in the form of a duke. She knew Ryland as her brother’s valet, the role he’d played while he investigated the French spies in Hertfordshire. Obviously the woman had made a considerable impression on Ryland, and it was possible he’d made an impression on her as well, despite his posing as a servant. No amount of esteem was going to make a woman happy that she’d been deceived for months, though.
   And there was no easing someone into a revelation of that magnitude.
   Not to mention the fact that Ryland was still, as far as Colin knew, actively seeking the Napoleonic spy who had gotten away. “What about the case?”   The other man shrugged. “Every lead but one is stone-cold. Another agent of the War Office can follow Lambert as easily as I can.”
   Colin looked at Jeffreys, who shook his head, silently agreeing with Colin that there was nothing to be done to change Ryland’s mind. Clearly, the duke wasn’t thinking straight.
   Ryland’s life was about to get very complicated. And Colin planned to be right in the middle of it.
   After all, watching Ryland muddle his way through such a revelation was going to be too much fun to miss.
Kristi Ann Hunter, An Elegant Façade Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2016.

Kristi Ann Hunter Kristi Ann Hunter lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.
Find her online at her website.

Literary Awards
RITA Award by Romance Writers of America for Best Inspirational Romance & finalist for First Book (2016), Christy Award Nominee for First Novel (2016), INSPY Nominee for Debut Fiction (2016)

A Lady of Esteem
  A Lady of Esteem is an e-only prequel novella that gives an exciting introduction to Kristi Ann Hunter's new Regency romance series about the aristocratic Hawthorne family. Included is an extended excerpt of Kristi's debut full-length novel, A Noble Masquerade.

A Noble Masquerade
  An entrance into the Hawthorne family estate and daughter, Lady Miranda Hawthorne, a noble woman indeed. There is more going on in this house than onlookers would observe. Meet Trent Hawthorne, Miranda Hawthorne, and Ryland, Duke of Marshington.

***Thank you to Bethany House for sending a review copy of Kristi Ann Hunter's An Elegant Façade, Book 2 in the Hawthorne House series. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

An Uncommon Courtship (Hawthorne House): Kristi Ann Hunter: 9780764218262: Books:   January 23, 2017 ~ release of Book 3 in the Hawthorne House series

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

An Amish Harvest ~ Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller & Vannetta Chapman, © 2016

                    An Amish Harvest

                An Amish Harvest releases today!

Image result for old philadelphia pike lancaster pa

Along with these four novellas, you will enjoy recipes from their meals for cooler autumn gatherings!

Thank you to author Amy Clipston for sending me a review copy of An Amish Harvest. I will be reviewing her story, "Love and Buggy Rides."

Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania
I enjoy returning to daily lives of previous characters. Janie Lantz and newcomer Jonathan Stoltzfus both are working at Lancaster Souvenirs and Buggy Rides. Jonathan is visiting his grandparents. With growing attraction, Janie's parents are concerned about the longevity of Jonathan's stay... and mending of their daughter's heart. A strength of character and doing right are important in learning to trust and forgive. I like the conversation and sorting out of everyday decisions.

Amy Clipston
author Amy Clipston
Reading novellas give the opportunity to be introduced to authors you may not have read previously.

***This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall, © 2015

The Everstone Chronicles ~ Book Three

to hide away as someone else and find yourself...

Each of The Everstone Chronicles is so richly written exploring the personhood of each of the siblings. From the same family, but yet so different as their personalities emerge. The cast of characters embodies life as they come together in their daily activities. I like how they are supportive of each other; well mostly. One character that stood out to me in The Captive Imposter was the mother of the resort's manager, Dexter Blakeley. She put a different spin on the story by either being ignored when she had an outburst or coddled to calm her down. A reflection on what trying to control your children into adulthood looks like doesn't exactly appear endearing.

Here is a section I truly loved! So true...
   The scratching sound on my door that had awakened me resumed, followed by a tiny purr. Still wearing only my nightgown, I opened the door just a crack. A kitten with gray and black stripes butted its head against the door, pushing it open enough to slip inside. Once my furry guest had been admitted, I closed the door quickly, hoping no one had seen or heard me do so.
   The kitten jumped up on the bed and curled into a ball amid my messy covers. It appeared Mrs. McGuire had given me the room belonging to this cat.
   --The Captive Imposter, 105
Elle skirts around every day "getting to know you" questions; Dexter tries to keep all the plates spinning as he manages Everston, cares for his sister and mother, his staff and guests, and the gnawing attraction to Elle. Sworn not to fall in love after the severing relationship his brother had, his giving nature has a difficult time separating his intent with who he is.

Traveling at dusk:
traveling at dusk
I have read all three of these novels and each time... "This is my favorite." (Well, I still hold on to book one and Amaryllis, fondly.) I liked how this story began with Elle and Dexter meeting in the same stagecoach on the way to Everston. Mrs. Granton has subtle and not so subtle ways of hoping romance blossoms as she watches for opportunities to urge them toward each other.

Written in first person past tense, I found this story to be very open as you come to know the thoughts and feelings of the character(s). I highly recommend Dawn Crandall's writings. I enjoyed watching the drawing of the Lord in lives and how He was received. Dr. Jay Crawford, although pursuing his missions calling, did not seem to have the tenderness of heart as others who sought the Lord in their daily life. He seemed more guarded and functionary as he entered, revealing a need to check motives and intents, picked up on by others in proximity?

God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. ~ 1 Samuel 16:7b

Dawn Crandall @dawnwritesfirst website

***Thank you to author Dawn Crandall and to Whitaker House for sending a review copy of The Captive Imposter to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
The Captive Imposter is a finalist in
the 2016 RWA Colorado Award of
Excellence Contest!

Released as eBooks, Dawn Crandall's stories are now available in print! Love this photo of Dawn with her three Everstone Family covers and a continuing stand-alone, The Cautious Maiden, releases in October 2016!
Release Day is October 4, 2016!