Saturday, September 24, 2016

Love's Faithful Promise by Susan Anne Mason, © 2016

Courage to Dream series, Book 3

Love's Faithful Promise

The younger O'Leary children have grown up!

Deirdre O'Leary has completed nurses training and now is in medical studies at Boston University. Upon receiving a telegram that her mother has had a stroke leaving paralysis, she is on a train to New York. A month earlier she had been working at the same hospital in Manhattan. Now Mama is in a silent room.

Deirdre's father requests, with her medical understanding, that she travel to Canada to talk to a young doctor about coming to Irish Meadows to apply his experience with physical therapy to his wife's stricken limbs. Aiding injured soldiers in his practice on staff at the Toronto Military Hospital and personally attending his young daughter's delicate health following tuberculosis two years earlier, have been his immediate focus. With his wife, Priscilla, dying from the same disease, Dr. Matthew Clayborne is not prone to leave to manage a single patient in Long Island. A turn in young Phoebe's health demands that along with Phoebe's nanny, Miss Shearing, they begin their journey ~ for a month.

Horse Farm.Fresh air at Irish Meadows has begun to do wonders in strengthening Phoebe's body and outlook. So different from the confines of the city, she has gotten some color to her cheeks... and laughter so long ago heard.

The stable brings a few surprises as new employee "Jo/Joe" stands in for her newly hired brother ~ who is working in his father's place after an injury prevents him from beginning his new position! What a web is woven for Connor O'Leary to sift through.

As the seasons turn from one to another in the normal progression, hearts are turned from an expectation of just carrying on.
For I will restore health unto thee, and
I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the
Lord. Jeremiah 30:17
Merry Christmas
Summer winds bend to turning of leaves, to the bare limbs of winter. Within, limbs are being restored through exercise and Mrs. O'Leary is adding to the healing of a heart in Dr. Clayborne. A mother's touch to add a restoration to ungleaned memories left in the shade of days gone by.

The ending of this series brings the beginning of hope to those unfettered by disillusions never intended.

Enjoy this excerpt from Susan Anne Mason's Love's Faithful Promise ~ Chapter 1


September 1922
New York City

Deirdre O’Leary strode down the wide corridor on the second floor of Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, her stomach quivering with each step.
   How many times had she walked these halls? Hundreds? Thousands?
   Eagerly as a nursing student, and later with confident efficiency as a practicing nurse.
   But never with such dread.
   Barely a month had passed since she’d quit her position here, and now she was back for the worst possible reason.
   In the pocket of her linen jacket, Deirdre’s fingers closed around the slip of paper she’d read dozens of times on the train from Boston. Her father’s telegram.
   Your mother had stroke. Come quickly.
   As a nurse, Deirdre knew all too well the dangers and the complications that could arise. The odds were high that Mama would suffer a second and possibly fatal stroke. As soon as Deirdre had read her father’s message, she’d left her medical studies at Boston University and boarded the next train for New York.
   Now the heels of her shoes tapped a staccato rhythm that echoed off the sterile hospital walls. The familiar scents of antiseptic and pine cleanser brought her a small measure of assurance, reminding her of the healing that took place within these walls. She’d witnessed many miraculous recoveries during her time here as a nurse.
   She would expect no less for her mother.
   Deirdre passed the waiting room, surprised to see none of her brothers or sisters inside. She’d expected them all to be keeping vigil here. She slowed her pace as she came to the room number she’d been given and laid a hand on the doorframe while she paused to control her rapid breathing. For her family’s sake, she must appear calm and in control.
   No matter how badly her heart was shattering.
   She stepped through the doorway, and an unnatural hush met her ears. Right away her gaze flew to the metal bed that dominated the room. Her mother lay still beneath the bleached­ white sheets. Beside the bed, her father sat hunched over the rail.
   Deirdre’s lower lip quivered. Mama looked so weak, just as she had when they’d almost lost her to typhoid fever. Deirdre and her brother Connor had also contracted the disease and had bounced back quickly, but not Mama. The illness had taken its toll, sap­ ping much of her mother’s vitality. The same panic Deirdre had felt back then returned to create a vise grip around her lungs.
   She released a shaky breath and moved farther into the room. Against the far wall, her oldest sister, Colleen, sat with her head back, eyes closed. At least Daddy wasn’t alone.
   Her father looked up, the pinched lines in his forehead easing as he spotted her. “Dee. Thank heaven you’re here.”
   He rose to embrace her. The fragility in his blue eyes, a direct contrast to his strapping build, tore at Deirdre’s composure.
   She kissed his cheek. “How is she, Daddy?”
   “Stable for now. It’s been more than twenty-­four hours with no further episodes, which the doctor says is an encouraging sign.”
   “He’s right.” She lifted the chart from the end of the metal bed frame and scanned the notations. The word paralysis jumped off the page in several spots. She pressed her lips together. “Has the doctor said what treatment he recommends?”
   Daddy’s features hardened. He moved closer, his voice barely audible. “We’ll discuss that later. For now, your mother needs to regain her strength.”
   Across the room, Colleen roused from her slumber, stretching her arms over her head. “Dee! Thank goodness.” She pushed up from the chair, and Deirdre’s gaze fused to her swollen ab­domen. Another Montgomery baby on the way? How had she missed that piece of news?
   Colleen grabbed Deirdre in a vigorous hug. “Now that you’re here, we’ll all feel better. If anyone can help Mama, it’s our resident nurse.” She pulled back. “Or should I say doctor-in­-training?” Despite her obvious fatigue, a twinkle shone in her sister’s violet-­blue eyes.
   “I’ll do my best, no matter what title you give me.” Deirdre smiled. “You look wonderful. Why didn’t you tell me I’m going to be an aunt again?”
   Colleen rested a hand on her belly. “With the size of our brood, I figured it must be boring by now.”
   “Nonsense. It makes what you do all the more amazing. Running the orphanage with Rylan, adopting two children, having two of your own, plus another on the way . . .” She tilted her head to one side. “You make medical school look easy. Besides, babies are never boring. Are they, Daddy?”
   “Not my grandbabies.” He gave a weak attempt at a smile, his gaze straying to the bed as though he was worried Mama wouldn’t be able to enjoy the anticipated addition to the family.
   “Where is everyone?” Deirdre asked. “I expected the waiting room to be bursting with O’Learys.”
   Daddy resumed his place by the bed. “The others have been here and left. We’re setting up a schedule so your mother is never alone.”
   A shiver of alarm wound its way along Deirdre’s spine.
   Colleen laid a hand on Daddy’s shoulder. “Speaking of which, I need to get home before the children are out of school.” She kissed his cheek and embraced Deirdre once more. “We’ll talk soon.”
   As soon as Colleen left, Deirdre faced her father. “Have the doctors said if Mama’s out of danger yet?”
   He rose and motioned to the hallway. His tall frame seemed to eat up the space in the corridor. “The doctors won’t say much. Only that her condition hasn’t worsened.”
   Deirdre bit her lip. “Did they give any hope for recovering the use of her limbs?”
   A nerve twitched in Daddy’s jaw, a sure sign he was upset. He shook his head. “They say there’s nothing they can do. Told me to prepare for permanent paralysis.”
   “But surely there’s some type of therapy—”
   Daddy made way for an orderly to pass with a mop and bucket. “I have people looking into the best facilities in the country.”
   Deirdre’s throat seized, forcing her to swallow before she spoke. “Surely you’re not thinking of putting Mama in a facility?” Her desperate whisper echoed in the hall.
   “Of course not. I plan to bring in a specialist.”
   “Thank goodness.” Her shoulder muscles went lax with relief. For a moment, she’d worried her father had taken leave of his senses.
   Daddy draped an arm around her, and they started back toward Mama’s room. “Actually, your Uncle Victor has a doctor in mind. One who’s making remarkable advances with injured limbs up in Toronto. He’s going to speak to him and get back to me. In the meantime”—he turned to face her—“I need to know. Will you come home to look after your mother?” His expression became apologetic. “Brianna and Colleen have of­fered, but they both have young families. And you’re the most qualified.” A hint of pride sounded in his voice.
   Deirdre paused to savor his words. He’d been far from thrilled when she’d first told him of her desire to become a nurse. And even less so once she’d decided to study medicine.
   Visions of the campus at Boston’s medical school flashed through her mind. After only a few weeks in attendance, she’d barely gotten used to her classes. Her professors had assured her they understood why she had to leave, but how long would they hold her spot when so many students clamored to get in?
   Brighter, more promising students than she.
   Her thoughts turned to Jeffrey and how much she’d already sacrificed to pursue this career path.
   Yet one look at the pleading in her father’s eyes and every trace of doubt vanished. “Of course, Daddy. There’s nowhere else I’d be.”
   She only prayed that delaying her studies, even for a short while, wouldn’t permanently derail her dream of becoming a pediatrician.

 “That’s it, Fred. One more repetition and you can stop for today.” Matthew Clayborne guided the soldier’s shriveled leg to a forty-­five­-degree angle and counted as Fred held the position for a full minute.
   Sweat poured from the man’s brow. He grunted when his leg finally dropped. “If you’re trying to kill me, Doc, it’s working.”
   Doubts crept in as Matthew unstrapped the iron weight and removed it from Fred’s shin. Had he pushed the man too hard for his second round of therapy this week?
   Fred grinned, easing the lines of pain etched into his fore ­ head. “Relax, Doc. I’m joking.” He grabbed the crutch leaning against the wall next to him, pulled himself up, and hobbled over to his wheelchair. “Despite the pain, it actually felt good. Like the exercises are working.”
   A wave of relief rushed through Matthew’s chest. “Glad to hear it. With continued hard work, you should be out of that chair in six months or less.” Matthew turned to make a notation on the man’s file.
   Fred’s story was much the same as most of Matthew’s patients. Young and fit before he became injured in the war. Sent home a cripple.
   As Matthew almost was.
   Fred maneuvered his chair across the room. “See you next week, Doc. Unless a pretty girl makes me a better offer.” He chuckled while retrieving his hat from a low bookcase near the door.
   Rubbing the thigh of his own bad leg, Matthew marveled at Fred’s ability to keep such a cheerful attitude. At least Matthew could walk, albeit with a slight limp.
   “What’s this about a pretty girl?” Marjorie, Fred’s wife, ap­peared in the open doorway, holding a small boy’s hand.
   Fred’s whole face changed, and the ravages of the pain he’d endured gave way to a laugh. “I’m talking about you, of course, honey. You’re the only pretty girl in my life.”
   Marjorie’s simulated scowl changed to a blinding smile that radiated her obvious affection for her husband. “Good answer, Mr. Knox.” She bent to kiss him.
   Matthew turned away, unable to squash a flare of envy. Even if Fred never walked again, Matthew doubted it would affect Marjorie’s devotion. Did the man know how lucky he was? Unwelcome images of Priscilla wisped across Matthew’s mind. He would never forget her look of disgust upon seeing the ugly scar that traversed the length of his upper leg when he’d returned from overseas.
   Fred’s son, Harry, gave a loud whoop, snapping Matthew from his brooding. The child hopped onto Fred’s lap and flung his arms around his neck. “Daddy, can we go to the candy store now?” His exuberance pulsed through the room like a current of electricity.
   “That all depends, young man. Have you been good for your mama while you waited?” Fred regarded the boy who squirmed on his lap.
   “Mostly good. Mama only had to call me ‘Harrison’ once.”
   Fred’s lips twitched. “Well, I suppose that deserves some licorice and gumdrops. Don’t you agree, Mama?” He winked at his wife.
   Marjorie laughed. “As long as I get some as well.”
   The lad leapt up and raced across the room. Matthew contemplated the boy with bemused admiration, trying to imagine his frail Phoebe with so much unbridled energy.
   Marjorie turned to Matthew. “How did Fred do today, Dr. Clayborne?” The note of hope in her voice was unmistakable.
   Matthew gave a brief nod. “He’s doing very well. If he con­tinues to make progress, he might be out of that chair by late spring.” There, he’d given himself—and Fred—more time than expected.
   If Marjorie was at all dismayed by the length of time the therapy would entail, she hid it well. “I want to thank you again, Doctor, for everything you’re doing. When I think of the years Fred wasted because no one was willing to work with him . . .” She bit her lip and broke off. “I thank God every day that we found you.”
   At the sheen of emotion filming her blue eyes, Matthew took a step back, fearing she might try to hug him. “Your husband is doing the work. He deserves your praise, not me.”
   She laid a hand on her husband’s shoulder and smiled. “You both deserve credit. Good­bye, Doctor.”
   As soon as the young family left him in blessed solitude, a band of tension eased, allowing Matthew to breathe normally again. He moved to the counter and jotted a few more notes regarding the next therapy session. When he finished, he drew his watch from his vest pocket. Ten minutes until his next patient arrived. Unfortunately, Mr. Worthington was not nearly as receptive to treatment as Fred Knox.
   A quick knock sounded on the door. Matthew looked up to see the medical director, Dr. Victor Fullman, enter the room. Victor had been his boss ever since Matthew had joined the staff of the Toronto Military Hospital almost four years ago.
   “Good day, Matthew. Might I have a word with you?”
   Matthew worked to keep the surprise from his features. It was highly unusual for Victor to come down to the therapy room. Normally, he would send word for Matthew to come to his office. “Of course, Victor. Is anything wrong?”
   The big man crossed the floor. “I have a request I wanted to run by you as soon as possible.”
   From the hesitant look on Victor’s face, Matthew imagined he was not going to like it. He removed his reading glasses and set them carefully on the counter. “What type of request?”
   “I had a call from a good friend in New York.” Victor crossed his arms over his barrel of a chest. “His wife has suffered a stroke and is paralyzed down one side of her body.”
   “That’s unfortunate. I’m sorry.” Matthew rose from the stool he was sitting on.
   “The neurologist at Bellevue doesn’t offer much hope for recovering the use of her limbs. James, however, is a stubborn Irishman and refuses to accept the prognosis.” Victor smiled, creating fine wrinkles around his eyes.
   Matthew waited, still not understanding what this had to do with him.
   Victor straightened. “I’d like you to take on Mrs. O’Leary as a private patient. Consider it a personal favor to me.”
   Matthew frowned, the word private ringing all sorts of alarm bells. “Is Mr. O’Leary having his wife transferred here?”
   Victor regarded him steadily. “No. I want you to go to him. He lives on a large estate on Long Island, and there’d be—”
   “Absolutely not.” Matthew stalked to the small rectangular window high on the wall that looked out at street level. He stared at the feet walking past on the sidewalk, his heart pumping unevenly in his chest. How could Victor suggest such a thing? He knew how much helping the soldiers meant to Matthew. The slightest delay in their therapy could set their progress back by weeks, even months. “I can’t abandon my patients here.”
   “Dr. Marlboro can fill in until you return.”
   Matthew whirled. “Dr. Marlboro has no idea of the type of work I’m doing with these men.”
   Victor didn’t blink. “You could fill him in before you leave.”
   Matthew opened his mouth, prepared to list all the reasons why that would be impossible. At the steely look in Victor’s eyes, he stopped. No use wasting his breath on explanations when his boss would simply counter every one. “It’s out of the question, Victor. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to prepare for my next patient.”
   “Did you not mention just last week that the need for your services is dwindling? That you’re considering a new direction for your practice? This could be your chance to test your tech­niques on someone paralyzed by a stroke.”
   It was true. The number of his patients had lessened. Most had reached the maximum benefit possible, while several still relied on their sessions to keep their muscles from atrophying. For Matthew’s practice to remain vital, he would have to ex­pand his clientele. Yet the thought of such a drastic change, of possibly having to move to another facility, made him shudder.
   “I’m sorry, Victor. Perhaps if she were to come here, I would consider it, but I simply cannot leave the city right now.” Not with Phoebe in such a fragile state. Perspiration gathered under Matthew’s collar while he held Victor’s stare.
   At last, Victor inclined his head. “I understand this is a big decision. Especially given your personal circumstances. But I’m asking you to think it over. James O’Leary is like a brother to me. If I can do something to help him, I have to try.”
   Once the door closed, Matthew expelled a long breath. This was one battle his mentor wouldn’t win. No matter how indebted he was to the man, Matthew would never leave Toronto, never leave Phoebe, to cater to one rich, entitled woman.
   His daughter and his fellow soldiers needed him far too much for that.
Susan Anne Mason, Love's Faithful Promise Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2016.

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***Thank you author Susan Anne Mason for a review copy through Bethany House Publishers of the third book in her Courage to Dream series surrounding Irish Meadows! This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Irish Meadows  A Worthy Heart  Love's Faithful Promise

Monday, September 19, 2016

This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick, © 2016

Tabitha Moffat Brown traveled west from St. Charles, Missouri in 1846 to the new Oregon Territory. Fearing her son and daughter’s families would leave her behind, she funded her own wagon, convinced her 78 year old brother-in-law to go with her and hired a driver. She was 66 years old. Her story of survival while on an ill-fated cutoff into Oregon is legend in Oregon’s history.--author Jane Kirkpatrick
Cover Art
Virgilia had so little time to herself she wasn't sure she knew how to be frivolous, but she liked the idea of trying to find something that mattered that she could take. She'd be sure to take the pewter icing knife. Surely she'd be able to bake cakes.
   --This Road We Traveled, 66.
Going West from your Missouri home, how would you manage? Would you have a particular keepsake that is a part of you? As the deciding goes on, what would be left behind? A memory, a hope, a love not known?

Opening up the new country, Orus Brown returned to Missouri to encourage others to join the settlement he is now part of in Oregon. Engaging others in St. Charles to follow the wide open spaces of 640 acres granted ~ all those with exception of his mother, Tabitha (Tabby) Moffat Brown. What would be behind his refusal to take her along?

1846,  St. Charles, Missouri
Not to be detoured into sameness, Tabby goes to see her son, Manthano, as the youngest and separated part of her family a hundred miles away. Part of the deciding factor to travel to Oregon, she finds Orus has already been there to talk with him. The decision is hers to make now.Image result for the applegate trail

Eight months later, Oregon
Arriving finally at their destination, determined and agreeable to settle, Tabby begins anew the venture of her life. Where is she to choose to go? To nearer Salem, with her daughter Pherne and her family, or continuing on to the settlement of her son Orus? The arduous journey has brought changes and growth.

Enjoy this excerpt from Jane Kirkpatrick's novel, This Road We Traveled ~


November 1846
Southern Oregon Trail

It was a land of timber, challenge, and trepidation, forcing struggles beyond any she had known, and she’d known many in her sixty-six years. But Tabitha Moffat Brown decided at that moment with wind and snow as companions in this dread that she would not let the last entry in her memoir read “Cold. Starving. Separated.” Instead she inhaled, patted her horse’s neck. The snow was as cold as a Vermont lake and threatening to cover them nearly as deep while she decided. She’d come this far, lived this long, surely this wasn’t the end God intended.
   Get John back up on his horse. If she couldn’t, they’d both perish.
   The elderly man in his threadbare coat and faded vest sank to his knees. At least he hadn’t wandered off when he’d slid from his horse. His white hair lay wet and coiled at his neck beneath a rain-drenched hat. His shoulder bones stuck out like a scarecrow’s, sticks from lack of food and lost hope.
   “You can’t stop, John. Not now. Not yet.” Wind whistled through the pines and her teeth chattered. “Captain!” She needed to sound harsh, but she nearly cried, his name stuck in the back of her throat. This good man, who these many months on the trail had become more than a brother-in-law, he had to live. He couldn’t die, not here, not now. “Captain! Get up. Save your ship.”
   He looked up at her, eyes filled with recognition and resignation. “Go, Tabby. Save yourself.”
   “Where would I go without you, John Brown? Fiddlesticks. You’re the captain. You can’t go down with your ship. I won’t allow it.”
   “Ship?” His eyes took on a glaze. “But the barn is so warm. Can’t you smell the hay?”
   Barn? Hay? Trees as high as heaven marked her view, shrubs thick and slowing as a nightmare clogged their path, and all she smelled was wet forest duff, starving horseflesh, and for the first time in her life that she could remember, fear.
   Getting upset with him wouldn’t help. She wished she had her walking stick to poke at him. Her hands ached from cold despite her leather gloves. She could still feel the reins. That was good. What a pair they were: he, old and bent and hallucinating; she, old and lame and bordering on defeat. Her steadfast question, what do I control here, came upon her like an unspoken prayer. Love and do good. She must get him warm or he’d die.
   With her skinny knees, she pushed her horse closer to where John slouched, all hope gone from him. Snow collected on his shoulders like moth-eaten epaulets. “John. Listen to me. Grab your cane. Pull yourself up. We’ll make camp. Over there, by that tree fall.” She pointed. “Come on now. Do it for the children. Do it for me.”
   “Where are the children?” He stared up at her. “They’re here?”
   She would have to slide off her horse and lead him to shelter herself. And if she failed, if her feet gave out, if she couldn’t bring him back from this tragic place with warmth and water and, yes, love, they’d both die and earn their wings in Oregon country. It was not what Tabitha Moffat Brown had in mind. And what she planned for, she could make happen. She always had . . . until now.

Part One

Tabby’s Plan

St. Charles, Missouri

Tabitha Moffat Brown read the words aloud to Sarelia Lucia to see if she’d captured the rhythm and flow. “Feet or wings: well, feet, of course. As a practical matter we’re born with limbs, so they have a decided advantage over the wistfulness of wings. Oh, we’ll get our wings one day, but not on this earth, though I’ve met a few people who I often wondered about their spirit’s ability to rise higher than the rest of us in their goodness, your grandfather being one of those, dear Sarelia. Feet hold us up, help us see the world from a vantage point that keeps us from becoming self- centered—one of my many challenges, that self-centered portion. I guess the holding up too. I’ve had to use a cane or walking stick since I was a girl.”
   “How did that happen, Gramo?” The nine-year-old child with the distinctive square jaw put the question to her.
   “I’ll tell you about the occasion that brought that cane into my life and of the biggest challenges of my days . . . but not in this section. I know that walking stick is a part of my feet, it seems, evidence that I was not born with wings.” She winked at her granddaughter.
   “When will you get to the good parts, where you tell of the greatest challenge of your life, Gramo? That’s what I want to hear.”
   “I think this is a good start, don’t you?”
   “Well . . .”
   “Just you wait.”
   Tabitha dipped her goose quill pen into the ink, then pierced the air with her weapon while she considered what to write next.
   “Write the trouble stories down, Gramo. So I have them to read when I’m growed up.”
   “When you’re grown up.”
   “Yes, then. And I’ll write my stories for you.” A smile that lifted to her dark eyes followed. “I want to know when trouble found you and how you got out of it. That’ll help me when I get into trouble.”
   “Will it? You won’t get into scrapes, will you?” Tabby grinned. “We’ll both sit and write for a bit.” The child agreed and followed her grandmother’s directions for paper and quill.
   The writing down of things, the goings-on of affairs in this year of 1845, kept Tabby’s mind occupied while she waited for the second half of her life to begin. Tabby’s boys deplored studious exploits, which had always bothered her, so she wanted to nurture this grandchild—and all children’s interest in writing, reading, and arithmetic. So far, the remembering of days gone by had served another function: a way of organizing what her life was really about. She was of an age for such reflection, or so she’d been told.
   Whenever her son Orus Brown returned from Oregon to their conclave in Missouri, she expected real ruminations about them all going west—or not. Perhaps in her pondering she’d discover whether she should go or stay, and more, why she was here on this earth at all, traveling roads from Connecticut southwest to Missouri and maybe all the way to the Pacific. Wasn’t wondering what purpose one had walking those roads of living a worthy pursuit? And there it was again: walking those roads. For her it always was a question of feet or wings.
   Sarelia had gone home long ago, but Tabby had kept writing. Daylight soon washed out the lamplight in her St. Charles, Missouri, home, and she paused to stare across the landscape of scrub oak and butternut. Once they’d lived in the country, but now the former capital of Missouri spread out along the river, and Tabby’s home edged both city and country. A fox trip-tripped across the yard. Still, Tabby scratched away, stopping only when she needed to add water to the powder to make more ink. She’d have to replace the pen soon, too, but she had a good supply of those. Orus, her firstborn, saw to that, making her several dozen before he left for Oregon almost two years ago now. He was a good son. She prayed for his welfare and wondered anew at Lavina’s stamina managing all their children while they waited. Well, so was Manthano a good son, though he’d let himself be whisked away by that woman he fell in love with and rarely came to visit. Still, he was a week’s ride away. Children. She shook her head in wistfulness. Pherne, on the other hand, lived just down a path. And it was Pherne, her one and only daughter, who also urged her to write her autobiography. “Your personal story, Mama. How you and Papa met, where you lived, even the wisdom you garnered.”
   Wisdom. She relied on memory to tell her story and memory proved a fickle thing. She supposed her daughter wanted her to write so she wouldn’t get into her daughter’s business. That happened with older folks sometimes when they lacked passions of their own. She wanted her daughter to know how much being with her and the children filled her days. Maybe not to let her know that despite her daughter’s stalwart efforts, she was lonely at times, muttering around in her cabin by herself, talking to Beatrice, her pet chicken, who followed her like a shadow. She was committed to not being a burden on her children. Oh, she helped a bit by teaching her grandchildren, but one couldn’t teach children all day long. Of course lessons commenced daily long, but the actual sitting on chairs, pens and ink in hand, minds and books open, that was education at its finest but couldn’t fill the day. The structure, the weaving of teacher and student so both discovered new things, that was the passion of her life, wasn’t it?
   Still, she was intrigued by the idea of recalling and writing down ordinary events that had helped define her. Could memory bring back the scent of Dear Clark’s hair tonic or the feel of the tweed vest he wore, or the sight of his blue eyes that sparkled when he teased and preached? She’d last seen those eyes in life twenty-eight years ago. She had thought she couldn’t go on a day without him, but she’d done it nearly thirty years. What had first attracted her to the man? And how did she end up from a life in Stonington, Connecticut, begun in 1780, to a widow in Maryland, looking after her children and her own mother, and then on to Missouri in 1824 and still there in winter 1845? Was this where she’d die?
   “‘A life that is worth writing at all, is worth writing minutely and truthfully.’ Longfellow.” She penned it in her memoir. This was a truth, but perhaps a little embellishment now and then wouldn’t hurt either. A story should be interesting after all.

   His beard reached lower than his throat. Orus, Tabby’s oldest son, came to her cabin first. At least she assumed he had, as none of his children nor Pherne’s had rushed through the trees to tell her that he’d already been to Lavina’s or Virgil and Pherne’s place. It was midmorning, and her bleeding hearts drooped in the August heat.
   “I’m alive, Mother.” He removed his hat, and for a moment Tabby saw her deceased husband’s face pressed onto this younger version, the same height, nearly six feet tall, and the same dark hair, tender eyes.
   “So you are, praise God.” She searched his brown eyes for the sparkle she remembered, reached to touch his cheek, saw above his scruffy beard a red-raised scar. “And the worse for wear, I’d say.”
   “I’ll tell of all that later. I’m glad to see you among the living as well.”
   “Come in. Don’t stand there shy.”
   He laughed and entered, bending through her door. “Shyness is not something usually attached to my name.”
   “And how did you find Oregon? Let me fix you tea. Have you had breakfast?”
   “No time. And remarkable. Lush and verdant. The kind of place to lure a man’s soul and keep him bound forever. No to breakfast. I’ve much to do.”
   “So we’ll be heading west then?”
   For an instant his bright eyes flickered and he looked beyond her before he said, “Yes. I expect so.” He kissed her on her hair doily then, patted her back, and said he’d help her harness the buggy so she could join him at Lavina’s. “I’m anxious to spend time with my wife and children. Gather with us today.”
   “I can do the harnessing myself. No tea?”
   “Had some already. Just wanted the invite to come from me.”
   “An invite?”
   He nodded, put his floppy hat back on. “At our place. I’ve stories to tell.”
   “I imagine you do. Off with you, then. I’ll tend Beatrice and harness my Joey.”
   “That chicken hasn’t found the stew pot yet?”
   “Hush! She’ll hear you.” She pushed at him. “Take Lavina in your arms and thank her for the amazing job she’s done while you gallivanted around new country. I’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving that you’re back safely.”
   “See you in a few hours then.”
   “Oh, I’ll arrive before that. What do you take me for, an old woman?” Beatrice clucked. “Keep your opinions to yourself.”
   Orus laughed, picked his mother up in a bear hug, and set her down. “It’s good to see you, Marm. I thought of you often.” He held her eyes, started to speak. Instead he sped out the door, mounting his horse in one fluid movement, reminding her of his small-boy behavior of rarely sitting still, always in motion. Wonder where his pack string is? She scooped up Beatrice, buried her nose in her neck feathers, inhaling the scent that always brought comfort.
   But what was that wariness she’d witnessed in her son’s eyes when she suggested that they’d all head west? She guessed she’d find out soon enough.
Jane Kirkpatrick, This Road We Traveled Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2016.
Image result for prairie schooner oregon trail

Jane Kirkpatrick takes us on a perilous factor of choices made by real people and their outcomes by stories passed on through faith and diligence. Part of the story I am saying, "No, don't go that way!" Have you been cautioned and chose your own way? We learn from the past, to go forward.

I always learn so much from her stories. Perseverance,  triumphs and failures, the drive to go ahead, mending of ways, a truth revealed. A time past applicable to today. For there is nothing new under the sun. Overcoming obstacles, encouraging others, an unexplored land, a dream. It is interesting that in the research other figures from previous stories written have met each other ~ crossing paths happened upon unsuspectingly until sought out.

Author Jane Kirkpatrick and her husband, Jerry, live in Central Oregon. Learn more at her website.

***Thank you to Revell Reads for inviting me to be part of the book tour for Jane Kirkpatrick's This Road We Traveled and for sending a review copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Saffire by Sigmund Brouwer, © 2016

This is a work of fiction. Apart from well-known people, events, and locales that figure into the narrative, all names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination and are used fictitiously.  --The publisher.

a historical mystery

I so enjoyed Thief of Glory written by this author, that I looked forward to reading this novel, Saffire. He writes with truisms ~ a self-evident, obvious truth. Truth evident in the ruins.

the east-west passage between two oceans 1909
Sigmund Brouwer
Photo © Reba Baskett
A simple helping someone becomes the focus of his character, James Holt. Drawn in simply to help ~ turns his life around beyond what he could have ever imagined his life would become.

The Panama Canal Mystery
"The Panama Canal Mystery"
I like how Sigmund Brouwer writes like he is divulging a secret to you as if you are sitting in a room of people silently and he has chosen you to share his confidences with. You are privy to information only shared by his antagonist in strictest confidence. Along with the three men in the closed room, chapter six will reveal an outline of intent that will change everything known. You look up and everyone else continues to expand their day, walking about, talking, so unaware of what is actually happening. For it is actual and the room closes back in as you listen.

You have one question in the back of your mind. Will Saffire still be hanging around waiting for James Holt's exit? For there is contact, lest the title be obscure ~ which you are certain it will not be. Saffire with no p and no h but just as brilliant and standing out without a word.
"Your secret is safe with me. I have no one to tell and I'll be gone tomorrow."
   --Saffire, 147.
Everyone came with the same intent ~ to fill their coffers. Everyone hoped to leave different than they came; possibly not within their own realm of expectation.

I liked the historical descriptions throughout ~ educational, along with the intrigue of the story.

***Thank you, Blogging for Books, for sending me a copy of Sigmund Brouwer's Saffire to review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

                     Honoring and Promoting Excellence in Christian Fiction
2015 Book of the Year: Christy Awards
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Loyal Heart by Shelley Shepard Gray, © 2016

Lone Star Hero's Love Story, Book 1

27840589Image result for reconstruction pictures after civil war

Historical fiction is my very favorite genre. I appreciate the research the authors do to place their characters within the happenings/events of the time period. So much more than we might have learned in school. This story is centered in two locations; an officer prisoner of war camp in Ohio and two years later at the Texas home of the widow of a perished officer. The story gives an insight into both locations as a backstory.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Miranda Markham: I have lost so much in my life ~ my husband to the turbulence of war, my reputation to rumors, my solitude becoming a prison of sorts, especially with my best friend, Mercy Jackson, turning her back on me. Nowhere to turn, so little to look forward to ~ a dim day indeed.

Robert Truax: The Civil War has ended and regathering hope for many lost. I was with Phillip Markham near the end of his life. He loved his wife Miranda so ~ regaling her virtues to us, her kindness, her concern for others. The five of us made a pact together that we would uphold those left behind after the war. It is requested that I be the one to go to see about Miranda Markham, Phillip's widow. Their home in Galveston, Texas, known as the Iron Rail, is now a boardinghouse, a shelter to those in need of a resting place.

Winter, 1867 ~ A warring at home continues as hostility and contention nurture mistrust along the Strand in Galveston, Texas, crowding out faith and rebuilding. There is some repetition within the story as different characters are told what is happening. The house staff is concerned as the ups and downs in moods of their employer are seen. Mrs. Markham has a lot to consider as she is taunted when she goes out in public as if she doesn't exist. Being alone without just cause and being labeled from opinion causes her to use caution in whom to trust. Reaching out to the law enforcement initially does not get a positive response. A woman alone making choices and apparently without funding beyond her own means and decisions. Instead of coming alongside, the town seems divisive without a spokesperson willing to seek truth in place of hearsay.

author Shelley Shepard Gray

***Thank you to Fiction Guild for sending a review copy to me of Shelley Shepard Gray's first book in her new series, A Lone Star Hero's Love Story. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck, © 2016

The Acknowledgments! I absolutely loved the Acknowledgments. This author's heart extends past her story in reference to those who helped her along the way. Research in unexpected places.

The joining of two generations; three actually. The far past bringing a dream in a little girl's heart; the present, standing on what she believed, knowing assuredly what sparked within, not being detoured by what her own mother's heart held at the time. For we do stand with our own path before us.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 ~
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Two women separated by decades. Both set out to help others find their dreams when their own have crumbled.
   It's the early 1930s, but Cora Scott is walking in stride as a career woman after having inherited her great aunt's wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, where brides come from as far away as Birmingham to experience her famed bridal treatment. Meanwhile, Cora is counting down the days until her own true love returns from the river to make her his bride. But days turn into months and months to years. All the while, Birch Good continues to woo Cora and try to show her that while he is solid and dependable, he can sweep her off her feet.
   More than eighty years later, former Air Force Captain Haley Morgan has returned home to Heart's Bend after finishing her commitment to military service. After the devastating death of her best friend, Tammy, and discovering the truth about the man she loved, Haley is searching for her place in life.
When Haley decides to reopen the romantic but abandoned wedding shop where she and Tammy played and dreamed as children, she begins a journey of courage, mystery, and love.
   As Cora’s and Haley's stories intertwine through time in the shadow of the beloved wedding shop, they both discover the power of their own dreams and the magic of everyday love.

vintage bride ...:

A dream come true. A little girl envisioning her knight in shining armor coming to whisk her off into the sunset to a land full of promise and lack of gray skies, at least weathered together as she becomes a young woman and continues on her path. Joining together into a oneness drawn separate from recognizing a beau in sight as she leans to the Lord in understanding and hope. Discouragement comes when she tries to start down the path alone ~ all heeding set apart, "I can do it myself."

The parallel of the Depression era and the nowaday shop owner brings this story alive. Each generation is the same in having to decide each day in the accumulation of their life. Written between two women's lives, this story engages both so well. I especially liked the 1930s part of the story highlighting the current age like a continuance. The two women would have been good friends!

I liked how others came around to help. There was no disparity in motive, each being open to what their heart held. I loved this story! So heartfelt by each of them in believing in what they were doing while fulfilling dreams for others as well as themselves, unknowingly. The author's backstory and Pinterest photos weave into this story. A place to gather; mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and cousins. A generational burst of love and care for each other.

This story is true for today. Friends being a special part of continuing life together. Encouragement and coming alongside; not isolated from each other, but retaining memories and futures alive with hope and acceptance. Shoring up, building together in strength. Upholding dreams that live on, healing that can come to open hearts. Tenderness bursting forth into newness available to change those near and forthcoming ~ a lifetime of continuance! Live your story.


***Rachel Hauck, thank you for authoring this beautiful story; and to BookLook Bloggers for inviting me along, sending me a review copy of The Wedding Shop. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron, © 2016

The Greatest Show on EarthTM
Ringmaster_FINAL cover_Nov 11
   "Good afternoon, Mable. I'm John."
      --The Ringmaster's Wife, 46.
An unexpected day.
Image result for ringling bros circus train

My favorite characters, Colin Keary and Rosamund Easling, were so upheld by Mable Ringling that they were able to realize their worth ~ to themselves and to others. Has there been someone in your life who could see who you could become and encouraged you along the way? Observant, caring, real, available... to love you as you were to become who you are. One taking the time to notice.
Colin ~
   "You could never fit in, Rose. You were made to stand out."
     --Ibid., 123.
Image result for the greatest show on earth TM
Rosamund ~
It seemed he noticed everyone and everything around him, placing equal value on all.
  --Ibid., 146.
Written so fluidly, you will forget you are reading a book, moving right alongside them. This is an entrancing story of hope and vivid longing not to be denied to go forward. I like how the backstory is given throughout. A young woman venturing to the World's Fair Columbian Exposition in the city of Chicago with her dreams. A solitary young Irish lad gains more than he left behind. An English Rose bareback rider with her horse, Ingénue, enter an unknown Big Top. Overcoming obstacles spread before them, their lives speak aloud amid the greatest show on earth.

All Aboard!

Enjoy this excerpt from Kristy Cambron's The Ringmaster's Wife


The Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.
 ––Psalm 146:8


We only see what we want to see—in people, in love, and in life.
   What we see is a choice, as is what we offer the world in return. And it’s only behind the costumes and the masks that we can be who we truly are.

   The words echoed in Rosamund’s mind in a tangle of memories collected over the past three years. She waited at the performers’ entrance at the back of the enormous Big Top, trying to ease the racing of her heart before show time.
   Waves of riotous applause ebbed and flowed with the breathtaking thrills of the trapeze act. It was a “straw house” tonight—sold out, the bleacher seats packed and the overflow of children lining the edges of the rings on piles of laid-out straw. Rosamund could hear the children now through the call of horns and pops of confetti bursts, squealing in delight at the antics of the clowns. It wouldn’t be long now—the ringmaster’s signal for the horse troop to march in was just moments away.
   A breeze caught Rosamund’s attention, perfuming the air around her with the richness of caramel, mixed with the salty scent of popcorn and sweet apples from a wagonette nearby. It was a welcome contrast to the usual smell of animals and churned-up earth in their field lot. All the familiar sounds and smells, the excitement that hung on the air before a performance . . . they reminded her how the three-ring canvas castle had become her home.
   The other bareback riders had ushered the troop of show horses from the ring stock tent; they were out in front now, waiting to burst into the ring.
   The horses whinnied, and Ingénue, Rosamund’s black Arabian lady, broke into a soft song along with them. The horse stomped her hooves, her happy jitters stirred up by the flash of lights and the lyrical cadence of the band that signaled performance time.
   Rosamund stood off to the side, alone—once the glittering star of the show, but now a performer bringing up the rear of the troop in yesterday’s sequins and satin. It was no longer her face splashed about on the circus posters plastering the cities and towns they visited. She wondered if the crowd would still cheer for the bareback rider with the trademark blush of English roses pinned in her hair.
   Was she just an afterthought now? Someone forgotten. Perhaps never really known. Would they notice the pair of them, she riding in on her magnificent black madam horse, performing tricks from memory to enchant the crowd?
   “Rosamund—here you are.”
   Colin Keary’s Irish brogue was light, familiar, his tone of voice soft and laced with feeling.
   She tilted her chin to the sound but kept her body squared to the direction of the audience. “We’ve had word then?” She held her breath.
   “Yes. I’d read the telegram aloud, but I think you already know what it says.”
   Rosamund squeezed her eyelids tight and waited.
   “She passed away early this morning.”
   It must have been tearing Colin apart on the inside. But how like him to want to tell her himself, despite the pain it would cause them both.
   The Big Top rustled in the wind like tissue paper in front of a fan, as if it, too, chose to recoil from the painful news. The crowd erupted in applause just then, marveling at some grand feat of daring from the flyers, oblivious to the fact that anyone’s lives had changed outside the tent. The summer breeze continued stirring tiny bits of sawdust about the field, brushing the side of her face like grains of sand on the wind.
   Rosamund drew in a deep breath, readying her nerve to perform. “Ingénue and I have a show to give,” she said, and ran a hand down the silk of her horse’s mane.
   “Even if it kills you.”
   She shook her head, countering. “Never. The ring is home to us. We’ll not fear it.”
   “Even now?”
   “Especially now.”
   Rosamund felt the light touch of his fingertips against the rows of sequins at her shoulder, and drew in a deep breath as she notched her chin a touch higher.
   “We can’t let them down now, can we?” she whispered, closing her eyes and pressing her forehead against the side of Ingénue’s head.
   “Rose . . .”
   Only Colin called her that—a soft Irish lilt of an endearment that he’d whispered so sweetly once upon a time. She brushed the thought away, like a cobweb caught in the wind. It would do no good to live in yesterdays. Not when everything had changed.
   “Listen to me.” He breezed around the front of her, tilted her face to him with a butterfly’s touch of his fingertips to her cheek. “You know if she were still here, she’d tell us that this life is a gift, Rose. It’s given and it’s taken away in a blink. It’s madness to go out and perform now.”
   “You can’t protect me,” she whispered, easing his hand back. “Or fix me.”
   “It’s not your call this time. I’m your boss, Rose, and I won’t let you go in.”
   “The show is in my blood, Colin. Please don’t ask me to be less than who I am.”
   He paused, as if absorbing her words and choosing his own that much more carefully. Or boldly. She couldn’t be sure.
   “It won’t bring her back.”
   Rosamund felt her chin quiver. “I know that. But are you saying it for me or for you?”
   They stood in agonizing silence. Her heart beating wild. Wondering if his was doing the same unrestrained somersaulting in his chest.
   Their circus world toiled beyond, the tent bursting to life with the vibrancy of the band playing “Roses of Picardy,” a jaunty version of the song that had always signaled her entrance.
   “It’s time to go,” she thought aloud. “Colin, I . . .” She swallowed hard, fighting against the mental image of him standing just outside, looking on from the shadows while she performed under the bright lights.
   She flipped up on Ingénue’s back as she’d done countless times before.
   “I can’t be a caged bird with a broken wing.” She wiped at tears that had gathered in secret but now threatened to tumble down her cheeks. “I know now I’d never survive that kind of love,” she whispered. “And neither would you.”
   The band played their cue, and Rosamund nudged Ingénue forward with a gentle squeeze of her ankles to both sides of the horse’s body. And forward they trotted, leaving the breath of wind toiling behind as they went in to give their last performance.
   “Just as Mable said . . .” She straightened her shoulders and raised her head to the elation of the crowd. “They’ll only see what we want them to.”
Image result for the greatest show on earth TM

***Thank you to author Kristy Cambron and to Fiction Guild for sending me a review copy for the book tour of The Ringmaster's Wife. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***