Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen, © 2017

Tales From Ivy Hill, Book Two

Cover Art

My Review:

I eagerly await Julie Klassen's novels as a Christmas present to myself! This story continues from Book One, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, which you will enjoy too. This second book may be read as a stand-alone as the days continue at the village.
Miss Rachel Ashford ~ "I'm afraid I don't care much for books."
   --The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, 11.
Oh, how will this progress? How can one hope to gain access to education for a young lady to be accepted into the privileged few of close friendships, a kindred spirit to shelter from being amiss in formalities? To gain reading as the dearest of friends.

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Cottage beauty...Madelief on her country walk sees this beautiful cottage in Lacock Village, Wiltshire, UKSometimes the very things we say we do not like become an open door for us. For Miss Ashford, this may be forthcoming... Her father's will states that his gifting to her of his collection of books may not be sold. Library. Library! With her non-interest, others will benefit. Other women mention they have access to interest books and novels to donate, and excitement is in the air! Think of the variety they will have. I am hoping they have historicals :), my favorites.

It is settled. Books will be moved from the library at Rachel's former home, Thornvale, to the library and the adjoining infrequently used formal drawing room within Ivy Cottage, to form a circulating library for the village of Ivy Hill. No longer will it be necessary to travel the distance to the Salisbury library. A splendid plan, indeed!
I love reading Julie Klassen's novels. She is so descriptive, you are right there walking down the lane with them. Nodding at the next storekeeper you meet, or touching the fabric you may never be able to buy ~ letting the hem and placing trim to cover the fold crease, laying your one pair of gloves to whiten in the sun... The characters are so real, you somehow expect them to turn and speak to you too. Tender, humble friends you are able to trust your truest thought. I like their gentility and modesty, a sweet unassuming spirit. Easy to be around, known for who they are.

コッツウォルズSubsequently, those left behind must decide they truly missed releasing a truer friend. As I am reading, I wonder if a certain gentleman will get back into the good graces of Rachel, or just retain a memory of her kindness and goodness? Or, has Rachel been the one left, remaining only a friend to smile at without, and mementos becoming all she has? Does it become a guessing game of who will release their true thoughts to become inspected beneath a heart daring to be exposed? A look, a touch, to be uncertain of its meaning; a loss that could have been joined to happiness and joy interwoven. Will they both be left hidden in loneliness longing to be discovered as a true friend everlasting?
Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, England
I like several of the secondary characters. Especially, the elderly sexton in charge of digging the graves and maintaining the grounds of the churchyard. But there is more he maintains. Dignity for others with his wise observation that what a person thought, was true to them. What compassion overlooked by many.

As each day turns into the next, Rachel discovering the interchange she receives along with the circulating library becoming an offering to others, her days become full. The gathering of supplies by the workmen building the shelving brings new acquaintances to Ivy Cottage. One is an introduction of a relative of a student at the girls school on the premises that might not have been accomplished in any other way. So interesting how our ordinary days become exactly what the Lord has in mind for us to discover.

Lacock Abbey, WiltshireI like the confidences shared between Jane Bell and Mercy Grove; a trustworthy reminder to keep our heart active with a dear friend knowing it will be kept close and undisturbed. Mercy has others coming to confide in her. I like how she is approachable and cares about others with wisdom.

As you meet the people of Ivy Hill, I am sure you will become as fond of them as I am. I like how new people are added to the story, so casually, yet necessary to the other characters and the value to themselves.

Thank you, Julie Klassen, for this wonderful village and its occupants ~ visiting and choosing to become more than passersby.

Overview of Book Two: A gentlewoman in reduced circumstances, Miss Rachel Ashford lives as a guest in Ivy Cottage. With her meager funds rapidly depleting, she is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. Her friend Jane Bell and the other village women encourage her to open a circulating library with the many books she’s inherited from her father. As villagers donate additional books and Rachel begins sorting through the volumes, she discovers mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but both find more than they bargained for.
Rachel’s hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and finds fulfillment in managing her girls school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what—or whom—has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

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Village Directory

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from The Ladies of Ivy Cottage ~ Chapter One

Jesus did many other things as well. If every
one of them were written down, I suppose
that even the whole world would not have
room for the books that would be written.
—John 21:25 NIV


September 1820
Ivy Hill, Wiltshire, England

Rachel Ashford wanted to throw up her hands. Her private education by governess had not prepared her for this. Standing in the Ivy Cottage schoolroom, she paused in her prepared speech to survey the pupils. Fanny whispered to Mabel, Phoebe played with the end of her plaited hair, young Alice stared out the window, and Sukey read a novel. Only the eldest pupil, Anna, paid attention. And she was the most well-mannered among them and therefore least in need of the lesson. Whenever Mercy taught, the girls sat in perfect posture and seemed to hang on her every word.
   Rachel was tempted to raise her voice but took a deep breath and continued evenly. “Always wear gloves on the street, at church, and other formal occasions, except when eating. Always accept gentlemanly offers of assistance graciously. Never speak in a loud, coarse voice, and—”
   Fanny grunted. “That’s the only voice I’ve got!”
   A few of her classmates giggled.
   “Girls, please try to remember that boisterous laughter is not acceptable in polite company. A lady always speaks and moves with elegance and propriety.”
   “Well, I am not in polite company,” Fanny retorted. “I’m with you lot.”
   Rachel bit the inside of her cheek and persisted, “Vulgarity is unacceptable in any form and must continually be guarded against.”
   “Then don’t venture into the kitchen when Mrs. Timmons is overcharged by the butcher. You’ll hear vulgarities to make you blush, Miss Ashford.”
   Rachel sighed. She was getting nowhere. She picked up The Mirror of the Graces from the desk. “If you will not heed me, then listen to this esteemed author.” She read from the title page. “‘A book of useful advice on female dress, politeness, and manners.’”
   “Oh bother,” Fanny huffed.
   Rachel ignored the groan, turned to a marked passage, and read.
   “‘The present familiarity between the sexes is both shocking to delicacy and to the interest of women. Woman is now treated by men with a freedom that levels her with the commonest and most vulgar objects of their amusement. . . .’”
   The door creaked open, and Rachel turned toward it, expecting to see Mercy.
   Instead, Matilda Grove stood there, eyes alight. Behind her stood Mr. Nicholas Ashford, looking ill at ease.
   Rachel blinked in surprise. “Miss Matilda. The girls and I were just . . . trying . . . to have a lesson on deportment.”
   “So I gathered. That is why I asked Mr. Ashford to come up with me. What better way to instruct on proper behavior between the sexes than with a demonstration. So much more engaging than dry text.”
   “Hear, hear,” Fanny agreed.
   Nicholas Ashford cleared his throat. “I was given to understand that you wanted assistance, Miss Ashford. Otherwise I would never have presumed to interrupt.”
   “I . . . It is kind of you to offer, but I don’t think—”
   “‘Always accept gentlemanly offers of assistance graciously,’” Mabel parroted Rachel’s own words back to her.
   Apparently, she’d been listening after all.
   Rachel’s neck heated. “Very well. That is, if you are sure you don’t mind, Mr. Ashford?”
   “Not at all.”
   Miss Matilda opened the door wider and gestured for him to precede her. The lanky young man entered with his long-legged stride.
   The girls whispered and buzzed in anticipation while Rachel tried in vain to shush them.
   He bowed, a lock of light brown hair falling over his boyish, handsome face. “Good day, Miss Ashford. Ladies.”
   Rachel felt more self-conscious than ever with him there to witness her ineptness.
   “Why do you not act out the proper and improper behavior the book describes?” Matilda suggested. “First, I shall introduce you. For you know, girls, you are not to give your name to just any blade who happens along. One must wait to be introduced by a trusted friend or relation.”
   “Why?” Phoebe asked.
   “To protect yourself from unsavory connections. Or from being corrupted by low company. Let’s see now. I have always loved a little playacting, though as a thespian I am nothing to your dear departed father, Miss Rachel.” Matilda raised a finger. “I know—I shall pretend to be some great personage, like . . . Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice. Wonderful novel. Have you read it?”
   Rachel shook her head.
   “Oh, you should. So diverting and instructive.”
   “I’m afraid I don’t care much for books.”
   Matilda’s mouth stretched into a long O. She sent a significant look toward the students.
   “That is,” Rachel hurried to amend, “I am sure books are quite worthwhile. For learning especially. I read many in my own years in the schoolroom. And my father loved books.”
   Matilda nodded. “Very true. At all events. For now, we shall dispense with rank and introduce you as social equals.” She began in a royal accent, “Miss Ashford, may I present my friend Mr. Ashford. Mr. Ashford, Miss Rachel Ashford.”
   Sukey murmured, “That’s a lot of Ashfords.”
   “How do you do, sir.” Rachel curtsied.
   Nicholas bowed. “Miss Ashford. A pleasure to meet you.”
   “Excellent,” Matilda said. “Now let us progress to how to deal with impertinent males.” She picked up Rachel’s book, skimmed, then read aloud, “‘We no longer see the respectful bow, the look of polite attention, when a gentleman approaches a lady. He runs up to her, he seizes her by the hand, shakes it roughly, asks a few questions, and to show he has no interest in her answers, flies off again before she can make a reply.’” She looked up at Nicholas. “Can you demonstrate this—how not to approach a lady.”
   His mouth parted. “I would never—”
   “I think it will be all right this once, Mr. Ashford. It is for the sake of the girls’ education, after all.” Matilda said it innocently, but Rachel saw the mischievous glint in her eye.
   “Ah. Very well. In that case.”
   Nicholas retreated a few paces, then advanced on Rachel in two long strides, grabbing her hand and shaking it vigorously. “I say, Miss Ashford. What a beautiful day it is. You are in good health, I trust? Well, we must take a turn soon. Good-bye for now.” He turned and strode out the door.
   The girls giggled and applauded. Nicholas stepped back into the room, blushing furiously. He sent Rachel an uncertain look, and she smiled encouragement in return.
   Matilda shook her head in mock disapproval. “Such shocking familiarity! Icy politeness is a well-bred woman’s best weapon in putting vulgar mushrooms in their place.”
   “Mushrooms?” Mabel echoed. “Mr. Ashford, she called you a mushroom!”
   “I’ve been called worse.”
   “Now, let us repeat the scenario. But this time, Miss Rachel, if you will demonstrate the proper response?”
   Again Nicholas Ashford stepped forward and took her hand in both of his. She glanced up at him from beneath her lashes. He was tall—and looking down at her with warm admiration. His fair gaze traced her eyes, her nose, her cheeks. . . .
   When she made no move to rebuke Mr. Ashford, Miss Matty prompted from the book, “‘When any man, who is not privileged by the right of friendship or of kindred, attempts to take her hand, let her withdraw it immediately with an air so declarative of displeasure, that he shall not presume to repeat the offense.’”
   Matilda stopped reading and Rachel felt her expectant look, but she could not bring herself to jerk her hand from his. Not when he had offered to marry her. Not in front of an audience. It seemed so heartless.
   “Is it ever all right to let a man hold your hand?” seventeen-year-old Anna Kingsley whispered hopefully.
   Matilda turned from the uncooperative couple to answer. “Well, yes. But remember, Anna, a touch, a pressure of hands, are the only external signs a woman can give of entertaining a particular regard for someone. She must reserve them only for a man she holds in high esteem.”
   With another glance at the frozen pair, Matilda closed the book and cleared her throat. “Well, girls. What say we end a bit early and go outside for recess. You don’t mind if we cut our lesson short, Miss Rachel? No, she does not. All right, girls. Out we go.”
   Rachel pulled her gaze from Mr. Ashford’s in time to see the amusement glittering in Matilda’s eyes as she shepherded the pupils past her demonstration partner, who still held fast to her hand.
   When the door shut behind the girls, Rachel gave a lame little chuckle and gently tugged her hand from his. “The lesson is over, apparently.”
   He clasped his own hands together. “Do you think it helped?”
   Helped . . . what? she wondered, but replied casually, “Heavens, who knows? More than my poor attempts to teach them at any rate.” She stepped to the desk and tossed her notes into the rubbish bin. “I have no talent for teaching. I must find another way to contribute here. Or find another livelihood.”
   He followed her to the desk. “You need not be anxious about supporting yourself, Miss Ashford. You have not forgotten my offer, I trust?”
   “No. I have not. Thank you.” Rachel swallowed and changed the subject. “Shall we . . . um, walk together, Mr. Ashford? You did mention it was a beautiful day.”
   “Oh. Of course. If you’d like.”
   Did she want to be seen strolling side by side with Nicholas Ashford? She did not want to encourage the inevitable tittle-tattle, but nor was she ready to remain alone with him—and his offer—in private.
   She retrieved her bonnet, then led the way downstairs. There, he opened the front door for her and ushered her through it.
   Which way? Not toward the busybody’s bakery or Brockwell Court, she decided. She gestured in the opposite direction. “Shall we walk this way?”
   He nodded, and at the corner they turned down Ebsbury Road and passed the almshouse.
   She took a deep breath to steel herself. They would soon reach Thornvale. Beautiful, beloved Thornvale. When they reached its gate, she looked at the fine, red-brick house with its dark green door. Oh, the happy years she had spent there with her parents and sister before their troubles started. It was also where her brief courtship with Timothy Brockwell had begun, and then ended all too soon. When her father died, the house went to Nicholas Ashford—his heir and distant cousin. He and his mother lived there now.
   If Rachel married him, she could leave life as an impoverished gentlewoman and return to her former home. Should she? She could not keep him waiting forever.
   His voice penetrated her reverie. “Shall we turn here?”
   “Hm? Oh, yes.”
   Diverting onto the wide High Street, they passed the bank, now closed. A few houses. Fothergill’s Apothecary, its window displaying colorful bottles of patent medicines. The butcher’s with his gruesome slabs of hanging meat and dead fowl, and the greengrocers with crates of produce.
   Nicholas gestured toward Prater’s Universal Stores and Post Office. “Do you mind if we stop here? I have something to post.” He pulled a letter from his pocket.
   Rachel acquiesced but said she would wait for him outside. She avoided smug Mrs. Prater whenever she could. The sour shopkeeper’s wife had once treated her with fawning respect, but that was before her father’s financial ruin.
   While she waited, Rachel glanced toward The Bell next door, wondering if she had time to stop in and greet Jane before Nicholas returned. But at that moment, two people on horseback rode out through the coaching inn archway—Jane Bell and Sir Timothy Brockwell. Rachel’s stomach twisted at the sight.
   They did not notice her, talking companionably as they directed their mounts down the Wishford Road. Both were well dressed— Jane in a striking riding habit of peacock blue. Together, they were the picture of a perfectly paired couple.
   Rachel found herself transported back to her youth. She, Jane, Timothy, and Mercy were all from the area’s leading families. The other three were close in age, but Rachel was a few years behind them. Judged too young to tag along, Rachel had frequently been left behind when the others went off together on some adventure. Especially Jane and Timothy, who had always been far more active and athletic than she or bookish Mercy Grove.
   Standing there on the High Street, Rachel felt twelve years old all over again. That plump awkward adolescent, watching the enviable adults ride away together.
   The shop door opened behind her, and Rachel turned toward it.
   Nicholas followed the direction of her gaze and nodded toward the riders. “Who is that with Sir Timothy?”
   “My friend Jane Bell.”
   As if sensing their scrutiny, Sir Timothy glanced over his shoulder at them but did not smile or wave.
   Nicholas studied her face. “He has never married?”
   She shook her head.
   “I wonder why.”
   So do I, Rachel thought, but she made do with a shrug.
   “Has he ever courted anyone?”
   “Not in years, as far as I know.”
   “But you two are . . . friends?”
   “Family friends, yes. But that doesn’t mean he would confide something of such a personal nature to me.”
   Nicholas turned to watch Sir Timothy again as he and Jane disappeared down the hill. “I gather he is considered quite the eligible bachelor. A desirable catch.”
   “Yes, he would be,” she answered truthfully. “For the right woman.”
   Rachel had once thought that she might be that woman. But that was eight years ago. She took a deep breath. It was long past time to forgive, forget, and move forward.
   She gestured across the street toward Potters Lane. “Shall we continue on together?”
   For a moment Nicholas held her gaze, his eye contact uncomfortably direct. “Yes, I very much hope we shall.”

   Jane Bell inhaled a deep breath of fragrant autumn air—apples and blackberries, hay and oats drying in the sunshine. The green leaves of chestnut trees and underbrush were beginning to mellow and yellow, which made the colors of the remaining flowers and ripening fruit seem more vibrant. Riding past, she noticed a goldfinch feeding on burst pods of thistle seed, and in the distance, workers harvested a field of oats.
   She and Timothy talked sparingly as they cantered along Wishford Road. Dressed in the new riding habit she’d given in and purchased, Jane felt prettier than she had in a long while. Sir Timothy was well turned out as always in a cutaway coat, leather breeches, and Hessian boots.
   When they slowed their mounts to a walk, he looked over at her. “Is that a new habit?”
   “Yes, it is.”
   “I like it. You looked like a bedraggled sparrow in that old brown one.”
   She mock gasped. “Thank you very little, sir! You are most ungallant.”
   Inwardly she was pleased that he felt free to tease her. It made her feel closer to him—to the Timothy of old, her childhood friend.
   He smiled. “I am glad we can ride together now and then. I missed it.”
   “Me too. Who did you ride with all those years we . . . didn’t?”
   “On my own mostly. Occasionally with the farm manager to look over the fields, or sometimes with Richard, though he comes home less and less.”
   Jane had not seen his brother in years. “But no friends?”
   He shook his head. “If you think about it, there is a dearth of men my age around Ivy Hill.”
   “I never really considered it. I had Mercy and Rachel, but you had few friends close by.”
   “I didn’t need more friends.” He sent her a sidelong glance. “I had you.”
   Their gazes met and held, and Jane felt a poignant ache beneath her breastbone.
   He lightened the moment with a wry grin. “Oh, don’t feel sorry for me. Horace Bingley wasn’t too far away, but I saw more than enough of him at school.”
   “Feel sorry for the lord of the manor?” Jane teased. “Hardly.” Although she did, a little. His life, his family, his responsibilities were not always easy.
   He looked down, then asked, “Did you and Mr. Bell ride together? I never saw you, if you did.”
   She looked at him in surprise. He almost never asked about John.
   “No. My father sold Hermione while I was away on our wedding trip, and John was always too busy with the inn.”
   “Then I am glad you have Athena now. She suits you.”
   Jane stroked the mare’s sleek neck. “Yes. I am grateful to have her.”
   She thought of Gabriel Locke, who had given her Athena. His ruggedly handsome face shimmered in her memory, along with the feel of his strong, callused hands holding hers.
   Timothy’s gaze swept over her again. “It is good to see you out of mourning, Jane. Are you . . . over the worst of your grief?”
   She considered that. “I am, yes.” At least where John is concerned.
   “Will you ever marry again, do you think?”
   Jane coughed at the question.
   “Dust,” she mouthed, but knew he wasn’t fooled. She swallowed and said, “I don’t know. Maybe. In time.”
   He winced. “Tell me truthfully, Jane. Did you marry Mr. Bell because you wanted to or because I disappointed you?”
   Jane drew in a sharp breath and stopped her horse. Timothy had never broached the subject so directly before.
   He reined in close by. “Had I not hesitated. Had I not—”
   “Fallen in love with someone else?” she supplied.
   Again he winced, but he neither confirmed nor denied it.
   He didn’t need to. At Rachel Ashford’s coming-out ball, Timothy had looked at her with a powerful admiration beyond anything Jane had ever noticed directed at herself. He’d begun treating Rachel with formal deference, almost like a stranger—an intriguing, beautiful stranger. It had stung at the time. Jane knew Timothy had felt himself honor bound to her, so he had hesitated to act on that attraction. But Jane had not wanted him to marry her for duty’s sake. For simple loyalty or the expectations of others. What woman would? Perhaps if John Bell had not pursued her with such singular determination, she might not have noticed the warm devotion missing from Timothy’s eyes.
   “I cannot deny that turn of events influenced my willingness to be courted by John.” Jane looked at him. “Timothy, why did you never marry? I had wed someone else. You were free to marry as you liked.”
   “Free? Ha. You know why I did not marry.”
   She saw the anguish in his eyes, and her heart went out to him. He referred to more than his obligation to her, she guessed. His family had high expectations.
   She said gently, “You know how much you mean to me, Timothy, don’t you? And how grateful I am that our friendship is on better footing again?”
   “I value our friendship as well, Jane. That is why I need to ask. You are not waiting for . . . anything more from me, are you? I know how presumptuous that sounds, but God help me, I don’t want to disappoint you again.”
   Jane took a deep breath. “You did disappoint me—I can’t deny it. But that was a long time ago. You have every right to marry someone else.” She reached over and squeezed his hand. “Truly. I want you to be happy.”
   “Thank you. I am glad we agree. I wanted to be certain before I . . . do anything else.”
   They rode on. Jane hoped Timothy had not waited too long to act now that Nicholas Ashford was on the scene. Or was he thinking of someone besides Rachel?
   With that in mind, she added, “However, I hope you will marry for love, not family duty.”
   He frowned. “I don’t know that I can separate the two. It has been ingrained into me since I was a child: Marry the right person for the family’s sake, and love and happiness will come in time.”
   “Like our own parents did?”
   “Yes. Mine barely knew each other.”
   “Were they happy, do you think?”
   “Daily evidence to the contrary, Mother claims they were. She was devastated when he died.”
   Jane nodded. “I am sure she was. And you were too, no doubt. I’m sorry I was not there for you. Again, I am glad our friendship is on better terms now.”
   “Me too.” He smiled at her, but it was a sad smile. A smile of farewell.
   Would she have been happier if she had pretended not to notice his feelings for Rachel, rebuffed John Bell, and married Timothy anyway?
   Jane shook off such futile second-guessing. Timothy was master of Brockwell Court and must have an heir to leave it to, which was beyond Jane’s abilities.
   They stopped to let the horses drink from a clear stream. Jane inhaled deeply, then exhaled the final lingering remnants of what might have been. With a determined smile, she said, “Now, let’s not spoil our ride with any more gloomy talk. I have to return to The Bell shortly to greet the one o’clock stage.”
   He nodded. “I agree. Shall we . . . race back?”
   Her smile became genuine. “With pleasure.”
   As they galloped home, once again that question went through her mind: Would she have been happier if she had married Timothy? If she had forgone marriage to an innkeeper, the death of that innkeeper, and taking his place at The Bell?
   No . . . she realized, oddly startled at the revelation, and at the peace that flowed over her as she pondered it. She would not give up where she was today, and who she was today, to go back in time and marry Sir Timothy Brockwell.
Julie Klassen, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending this copy of Book Two in this series. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage is available in paperback, hardcover, e-book, and audio from your local bookstore or from online retailers.

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full-time. Three of her books, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and has been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards and ACFW’s Carol Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more information and a full list of her books, visit or her author page on

Tales From Ivy Hill, Book One: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

The lifeblood of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner—and learns that a large loan is due in three months’ time. Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Thora has been struggling to find where she belongs. But as she and Jane work together, Thora’s wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them—and her future—with different eyes. Can Jane save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, wedding, child and outdoor
Mr. and Mrs. Klassen
Image result for ivy cottage england  Book Three, The Bride of Ivy Green, releases December 2018.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Across the Blue by Carrie Turansky, © 2018

WaterBrook Multnomah releases Across the Blue, a novel by Carrie Turansky ~ February 20, 2018! Available for pre-order at your favorite bookseller.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

Brodsworth Hall and Gardens (Doncaster, England): Top Tips Before You Go - TripAdvisor
He wanted to bridge the gap between old money and new, and close the distance between himself and those who had inherited rank, titles, and respected family names.
   --Across the Blue, 2.
Isabella Grayson
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Isabella's father, Charles Grayson, has goals that might not include his daughter's ambitions. James Drake's unceremonious landing in the fields of the Broadlands estate provides an advance meeting. His goals include her father's aim to achieve recognition. 

James Drake, the hero of Across the BlueImage result for xi aviation
Where would aviation be today without these first pioneers of air travel?

A story of hope and struggle, Bella and James find they are companionable in a remarkable way: he to tour his beloved dreams while her path is formed in documenting his feats for posterity. An imperiled adventure of trust comes forth in a mechanical skill; testing the thrust exerted by a propeller against wind and atmospheric conditions. I found it interesting they observed birds to make adjustments to their design.

Professor Thaddeus Pierpont Steed is a close defender, friend, and mentor to James. So important to care and give guidance to allow another to advance in character and learning. Relying strongly on God's goodness and provision, James releases a barrier of adversity and uncertainty. Doing what is right far out merits any tangible reward.

While exploring technical limits at which a flying machine may be safely operated, will love become aware to conquer fear and expectations to enfold what the past cannot contain? Bringing in a brand new era for generations to come, Across the Blue holds promise for hearts to embrace.

allthingseurope:  “White Cliffs of Dover, UK (by G B)  ”  The REAL white cliffs of Dover!! Not the photos of Beachy Head, which is in an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT COUNTY, I keep seeing labelled as ‘the cliffs of Dover’ Sorry for the shouting. It isn’t YOUR...
The White Cliffs of Dover
Set in Edwardian England and ideal for readers who enjoy Julie Klassen novels, this romance about an English aviation pioneer and the girl who falls in love with him is filled with adventure and faith.
Isabella Grayson, the eldest daughter of a wealthy, English newspaper magnate, longs to become a journalist, but her parents don't approve. They want her to marry well and help them gain a higher standing in society. After she writes an anonymous letter to the editor that impresses her father, her parents reluctantly agree she can write a series of articles about aviation and the race to fly across the English Channel, but only if she promises to accept a marriage proposal within the year. When James Drake, an aspiring aviator, crashes his flying machine at the Grayson's new estate, Bella is intrigued. James is determined to be the first to fly across the Channel and win the prize Mr. Grayson's newspaper is offering. He hopes it will help him secure a government contract to build airplanes and redeem a terrible family secret. James wants to win Bella's heart, but his background and lack of social standing make it unlikely her parents would approve. If he fails to achieve his dream, how will he win the love and respect he is seeking? Will Bella's faith and support help him find the strength and courage he needs when unexpected events turn their world upside down?

***Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books for sending an uncorrected proof copy of Across the Blue. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Across the Blue

Friday, December 29, 2017

Daily Wisdom for Women 2018 Devotional Collection compiled by Barbour Staff, © 2017

I was very blessed when an author brought this book to my attention and then at a later time I was to receive a copy! Two years ago I bought a similar devotional for a gift for a friend and later bought a copy for myself. I so enjoyed that devotional, that I am looking forward to this 2018 collection.

In the back is a list of Contributors, a Scripture Index, and a Bible Reading Plan ~ Read Thru the Bible in a Year. Here is an overview of the content for the coming year:

Jesus first tells you, His follower, to "Come to Me" (Matthew 11:28 NKJV). Later He says, "Abide in Me" (John 15:4 NKJV). Yet you may think you must have your behavior fixed (read your Bible, go to church every Sunday, pray, have the perfect attitude, family, and relationships--spiritually and otherwise) before you can come to and deeply abide in Jesus. But the truth is, when you yield yourself up totally to Him, when you stop trying to live right by your own efforts, His power will come through you, allowing you to become a picture––an extension––of who He is, which will affect not only your life but the lives of those around you.
   To aid you in coming to, abiding in, and going deeper into God's Word, the Daily Wisdom for Women 2018 Devotional Collection contains readings about living a life abiding in Christ (see John 15:1-12), being rooted as a branch in the Vine, having your identity seated in the eternal instead of the temporal, and doing so with the help of the Holy Spirit––the life-giving sap between the Vine (Christ) and the branch (you).
   Every devotion corresponds to a particular day's reading based on Barbour's "Read Thru the Bible in a Year" plan found at the back of this book. As you read each day's devotion and focus verse, allow them to pull you into Christ's presence. Then pray around them, and walk on making God's Word a part of your daily abiding life.

I will include the first day ~

New Year's Day                                                                              Monday, January 1
Delight in His Word

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the
ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the
seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Psalm 1:1-2 KJV

"That week between Christmas and New Year's Day is always so exciting for me," Meredith said to her friend, Jan, as she poured herself a second cup of coffee. "I wake up on New Year's Day with so much anticipation for the coming year."
   "Really?" Jan asked, "Do you feel that way every year?"
   "Yes." Meredith smiled. "And I especially love how, as I start fresh with my Bible reading plan each year, I discover how the Word of God speaks something new to me. I have notes in my Bible from years past, but lots of times, I see something new and different."
   "Wow, you read your Bible every day? I don't," Jan admitted, "though I know I should."
   "Well, there are days I miss. When it happens too often, I start to feel detached. I need that connection with God every day. That time really empowers me and gives me a sense of His presence. I know I've come to know Him––and myself––better through reading His Word."
Lord, I make a fresh commitment to truly abide in Your Word this year.
Help me read, discover, delight, and live in Your truth.

I hope you will join me in the study of God's Word in 2018. I wanted to share this devotional with you. May we both develop a desire to put His Word in our heart to grow closer to Him and each other.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller, © 2017

Amish Letters series, Book 2

                    ~* in the heart of Ohio Amish country *~

Gorgeous Maine Coon Birch Creek ~
I like how mail for Leanna Chupp is left in the mailbox for her to discover for herself. The hidden art of self-expression! Leanna lives in the smaller dawdi haus behind the main house she and her brother, Jalon, had grown up in on the now expanded farm. She shares her Maine Coon cat, Blue, with her nephew's affection. The opening has her on her way home from work ~ upon her roller blades!

Leanna is content with her life the way it is. Her job, her home life, and her friend, Ivy Yoder, fill her days with expectation. Things are about to change to ruffle her space in Birch Creek. Roman Raber is returning home.

Roman never thought he would return, but on the bidding of a letter left for him at the passing of his dear grandmother, Roman must respond to her last wishes for him. How long can it take to complete her request?

Daniel Raber isn't the easiest person to be around; others might concur. Has hurt crept in so deep to foul his ways? The intent of a miserable heart misleads a promise of surrender. Could it really be possible to forgive and relinquish pain?

New hopes arise as families come together to polish each other by allowing a trust to enter.

I especially liked this story! Relinquished hearts turn from hiding. Excellent writing of heart desires exposed to self as well.

kathy pci 2105
Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including the Hearts of Middlefield novels, the Middlefield Family novels, the Amish of Birch Creek series, and the Amish Letters series as well as a middle-grade Amish series, the Mysteries of Middlefield. Visit her online, Twitter: @TheKatJam, Facebook: Kathleen Fuller.

Thomas Nelson

***Thank you to author Kathleen Fuller and to Fiction Guild for a copy of The Promise of a Letter. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Words from the Heart ~ Book 3 in the Amish Letters series,
Ivy's story, releases February 13, 2018.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Devotions for the Hungry Heart: Chasing Jesus Six Days from Sunday by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, © 2018

Devotions for the Hungry Heart

Look what's arrived at the Lane Hill House mailbox!! All ready for your 2018 devotional too! Shellie Rushing Tomlinson's "Devotions for the Hungry Heart."

Don't miss out on day one! Ready for delivery now at your favorite bookseller!

Shellie has even added in a dozen recipes; a snippet in case you missed her cookbook, "Hungry Is a Mighty Fine Sauce." This is available for purchase too! So, run right down and pick up both of them ~ or from your easy chair, order online, if you don't have a local bookstore. Either way, you will have shared readings and enJ*O*Yment before you.

He satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry
with good things.
Psalm 107:9

Begin your new year with Shellie's new storytelling devotional. You can read straight through for each new day (there is a ribbon bookmark to keep your place), or jump around and hope you don't miss one! In the back are Scripture references and page to go to read a corresponding sharing. This little hardcover book will be handy to have nearby.

Here are a couple posts so you get an idea of what's inside!



A Hungry Heart Is Celebrating

I see hearts all around me. I've seen them in big puffy, white clouds, and I've seen them in the knots of old oak trees. I've seen them drawn into the scales of a fish and outlined on the back of an insect. I can trace this fascination to the earliest days of writing a book called Heart Wide Open, and I've never gotten over it, and I'm okay with that. I hope I never do.
   I once mentioned this heart thing to my oldest grandson. He was six at the time. We were walking across a parking lot holding hands when I pulled him to a stop and showed him a heart formed from the mortar of the pavement at our feet. "God shows me those," I told Grant. "He knows I like to see them, so He shows them to me. It's like a little note from heaven right in the middle of the day. When I see it, I think about how much God loves us, and I have a little party in my own heart."
   My next trip to Houston to see the "Grand Boys of Texas" featured a sweet surprise. I learned that Grant Thomas had become a heart seeker in his own right. And he was good at it! Grant showed me all kinds of hearts around his house, and his mommy said he'd been showing her hearts all around Humble. Of course, the hearts have been there all the time. Grant is just now seeing them because he's just now looking for them and expecting to find them.
   While I am unapologetically guilty when it comes to over-sharing grandchildren stories, I offer this tale to share a deeper truth I've discovered about pursuing God. If we walk in this world demanding special visions or revelations from God that He might prove His existence to us, we seldom find the evidence of God we're after. However, if we abandon such egocentric demands and focus instead on looking for God and celebrating Him in our unspectacular everyday lives, we find that He is all around us and He has been here all the time.
"[God] made from one man every nation
of mankind ... that they would seek God, if perhaps
they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is
not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and
move and exist, as even some of your own poets
have said, 'For we also are His children.'"
ACTS 17:26–28


A Hungry Heart Is Surrendered

We have a lovely lakeside walking trail here in my hometown. I particularly enjoy walking it in the late evenings, as the natural light of day is closing and the ornamental streetlamps begin to glow. Not long ago, I was walking along this path when the message of a small sign posted beside the trail arrested my thoughts, WALK AT YOUR OWN RISK.
   I knew the purpose behind the sign was to ward off potential personal injury claims, but as the caution began looping in my mind, my thoughts turned to their application for our Christian walk.
   I took a picture of the sign that day to remind myself, and anyone else who chooses to listen, that to follow Christ is not merely to risk our lives; it is to lose them. So I've been thinking: perhaps we should add a similar caution to our church signs. Something like, "FOLLOW JESUS AT YOUR OWN RISK. DETAILS INSIDE." You might say, "But Shellie, that kind of message isn't exactly a big draw." I would agree, at least not to those interested in adding Jesus to their lives instead of surrendering all they are to all He is.
   On the other hand, those who truly laid down their lives at the foot of the cross would actually find them! And that means our churches wouldn't be full of people saddle sore from riding the fence and road weary from wondering why their Christian experience falls so short of what the church has advertised, when walking through life with Jesus Christ is anything but boring.
   When we die daily to walk with the God-man, we soon discover that His presence is worth every single step. How's that for a sign worth posting?
"Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it;
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

As you can tell, I enJ*O*Y anything Shellie. I listen to her hour Monday radio program, where she sometimes has a studio guest, and during the second segment she invites an author to share their book over an on-air phone call. I was introduced to Shellie through her book and study, Heart Wide Open, that our Thursday morning Bible study did together.

Shellie shares real and loves the Lord. Join in this 20-week Devotions for the Hungry Heart. You will be glad you did! Fill up the longing He has placed there for more of Him. Jesus fills the longing heart. Let's get started!

I'm excited about coming alongside you and sharing six traits that I've discovered over the years that stir my appetite for a God-sized feast. ~ Shellie

***Thank you, Shellie, for your sharings! This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller, © 2017

Amish Letters series, Book 1

                     ~* in the heart of Ohio Amish country *~

A mistaken address begins correspondence between Jalon Chupp and Phoebe Bontrager, so far unknown to each other ~ that is, until Phoebe returns his letter, explaining it came to the wrong address. Or did it? Phoebe continues to answer Jalon's letters until they are unsure who actually began their pen pal journey. Their letters become frequent, though short, and they learn fun things about each other's lives and an exercise in sharing self they would not likely do in person ~ such as their fears and hopes. I am wondering how Phoebe's mail is not intercepted as she lives with an older family member. When an envelope comes addressed to you stops time in your daily life, to have a bright exchange for a moment of refreshment.

Jalon, too, comes to expect Phoebe's letters. Wanting to know her face-to-face, he takes a challenge to go to meet her. A knock at the door brings revealed life to the forefront.

I like how these characters learn to look to God for their completeness. Against all odds, they are determined to respect the path opened before them.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  ~ Jeremiah 29:11

His ways are best. I am glad that Truth is discovered, examined, and found by them!

kathy pci 2105Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including the Hearts of Middlefield novels, the Middlefield Family novels, the Amish of Birch Creek series, and the Amish Letters series as well as a middle-grade Amish series, the Mysteries of Middlefield. Visit her online, Twitter: @TheKatJam, Facebook: Kathleen Fuller.

***Thank you to author Kathleen Fuller and to Fiction Guild for a copy of Written in Love. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Thomas Nelson

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas, © 2017

Cover Art

My Review:

Judd Markley had a different day than planned; never hoped for by any man. But, at least he was safe for now. The bowels of the earth had released him again for another day. Miners expected to be confronted with the unexpected, not knowing what a day would bring. Underground was just that way ~ uncertain and unaffected by disturbance ~ it just kept to itself unless attacked by a pickax and chose to revolt. Cutting away the earth for treasures ~ needed for warmth and care of families in the Appalachia mountain pathways. Maybe there would be a new way now, away from West Virginia and the pain of loss.

Myrtle Beach 1954  Photo cred - Jack Thompson
Myrtle Beach 1954 Photo credit - Jack Thompson

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ~ 1954
Image result for 1948 buick roadmaster
Judd Markley
I've gotten a job loading pine logs for a lumber plantation and find it alright work. Hot and sticky, but above ground, anyway. Sand is different from the rocky soil I have known back home. I met the boss's daughter, Larkin, the day I got the job. She's young, carefree, and loves her convertible. Oh, to have no sad memories to hold me back. How did I ever get here ~ to an expected place of warmth and restoration? Again, nothing calm and certain to shelter me...

Myrtle Beach, SC, Ocean Front Pavilion 1954 Postcard
Myrtle Beach, SC, Ocean Front Pavilion 1954 Postcard
Image result for the Pavilion 1954 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Larkin Heyward
This is all I have ever known. I want to go to help those who need to have my help ~ like those in need of learning in the Appalachian mountains I have read about in a magazine recently. I volunteer at our local hospital. Maybe Daddy will let me go off to school to be a nurse. I love going to the Pavilion to dance in the evenings. My girlfriends go with me and we enjoy burgers and fries and the lively music. A new man has hired on. Maybe I can learn from him about the people he is from. He talks differently than me.
~* Judd managed because of his skills and keeping confidences. Because of who he was, he would fit anywhere it seems.
~* Larkin didn't fare as well, except for Granny Jane's grace in teaching her to use a cookstove. I have hopes for her.

I enjoyed reading how these families adjusted to changes. Both the acceptance and wariness when someone new comes to an area they aren't born to or know.
Image result for hurricane 1954 myrtle beach south carolina

In the Dark of the Mine, In the Face of Rising Water,
In the Shadows of the Hills, Faith Will See Them Through
Judd Markley knows he can never set foot underground again. The mine collapse that nearly killed him and claimed his brother's life means leaving West Virginia forever. Although that hard Appalachian world is all he knows, he puts it behind him and heads for the open sky of the thriving town of 1954 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
   Larkin Heyward's life in the beach town is uncomplicated, mostly volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more and being more––maybe moving to the hills and hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she's never even met someone who's lived there––until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father's timber company.
Image result for hurricane 1954 myrtle beach south carolina   Drawn together in the wake of a hurricane that changes Myrtle Beach forever, Judd's and Larkin's dreams pull them in divergent directions. It will take a significant sacrifice to keep them together––or maybe, it will take a miracle.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas ~ Chapter 1

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
                                                                                                Jonah 2:6 NIV


Bethel, West Virginia
April 1954

Judd wanted to take a deep breath more than anything. But the weight on his chest, combined with the dust-laden air, made it impossible. He closed his eyes and opened them again, finding it made no difference. Either he was blind or the cave-in had erased any hint of light. He coughed and spit.
   Darkness pressed against him almost as hard as the silence. There should have been the hum of machinery, the clink of pickaxes against coal, men’s voices. He moved his hands and felt relief at the sensation of ten fingers brushing against rough stone. He couldn’t move much, but at least he knew he was alive.
   Continuing to take stock, he found he couldn’t move anything below his waist. That must be the weight of the rock and maybe some timbers. Surely his legs and feet were still there. And nothing hurt too terrible—that was good. He shifted his head and realized there was a boot pressed against his cheek. It scared him so bad he cussed. Then he felt awful—that might be Harry’s foot. Not Joe’s, though—he’d been working that other, narrower seam. He hoped Harry and Joe had time to start out toward the entrance.
   Judd found he could breathe a little easier—the dust must have settled. He wished he could reach up and wipe the grit from his lips. He spit again and tried to settle his mind to wait. He’d never been afraid of tight spaces, and maybe it was good he couldn’t see to know how bad his situation was. And yet . . . the darkness had become a tangible thing. He could almost feel it brushing across his skin. Fear welled in him, and he gritted his teeth against it. There was nothing he could do, no one he could call out to. He guessed Ma would tell him to pray, but he was a man of action and it wasn’t like God would reach down into the bowels of the earth and pluck him out. He exhaled through pursed lips just to hear the sound of air moving and maybe, just maybe, there were words buried in that breath.
   After what seemed like an eternity, Judd heard a sound. Or thought he did. It might just be his ears wanting to hear something. A few minutes later, he heard a voice for sure and certain and saw a chink of light. His very being quivered, the sudden burst of hope almost more than he could bear. It took at least another hour before the men got to him, their lanterns flashing against the debris and hurting his light-starved eyes.
   “Don’t move, Judd, we’ve gotta get this beam off before we can dig you out.”
   “Ain’t goin’ nowhere,” he said.
   Martin Burr grunted as he shifted some more rock. “Reckon you ain’t.”
   Finally, Judd felt the weight on his chest ease. He took a good breath and thought maybe he did hurt some. He saw Martin’s grim face. The older man flinched and told Judd to brace himself. Pain seared his very soul, and Judd didn’t know anything more.

   When he woke, Judd’s first thought was that he was still trapped in the mine. But the astringent smell and the squeak of a nurse’s shoes in the hall let him know he was in a hospital. He glanced to his right and saw a curtain drawn across a window. The room was barely lit—must be nighttime. To his left, he could see the shape of another man in another bed. He hoped it was Joe.
   Judd took that deep breath he’d been wanting back in the mine and moaned. He’d broken some ribs, sure as shootin’. Once the pain eased, he began to inventory his condition. Both hands worked fine. He reached up to rub the sleep from his eyes and found his right shoulder to be stiff but workable. He felt along his torso until he came to the bandages around his rib cage. Next he wiggled his toes—the left foot seemed fine, but his right leg appeared to be suspended some way—immobile. He was afraid to move around much, tender as his ribs were, but at least all his limbs were attached. That was something.
   Footsteps approached, and a nurse stepped inside the room.
   “Mr. Markley. You’re awake.”
   “Yes, ma’am. And I’m powerful thirsty.”
   “I’m not surprised—you’ve been here most of three days now.” She slipped over to the side of the bed and held a cup with a straw to his lips. The water slipped over his tongue like the first drink after a day spent in the hayfield. He guessed maybe he hadn’t died after all.
   “How are you feeling?”
   “With my hands.” Judd grinned and felt his dry lips crack. He licked them. “Guess I feel pretty good for a dead man.”
   The nurse smiled. “You’re actually quite lucky, Mr. Markley. The doctors thought they’d have to take off that leg, but it looks like you’ll get to keep it a little longer.”
   Judd tried to feel lucky, but found it beyond him at the moment. A sound came from the other bed, and he looked over to see Harry leaning over the bed rail.
   “Well if you ain’t a sight for sore eyes. I was afeared we lost you.”
   “Not this time around,” Judd said. “You must not be hurt too bad, sitting up there all lively like that.”
   Harry gave the nurse an appreciative look. “These gals would just about make a dead man sit up and take notice.”
   The nurse made a harrumphing sound but didn’t seem displeased. “I’m going to leave you boys to catch up. Breakfast will be around shortly.”
   Harry swung his legs over the side of his bed and squinted at Judd. “You’re lucky to be alive, son. I was farther out than you and just got knocked around a little, but I thought you was a goner for sure.”
   “What about Joe?”
   Harry blinked once. “Aww, they patched him up and sent him home. He’ll be back at it afore the week’s out.”
   “Say, whose foot was pressed up against my face then? If it wasn’t you, then who the heck was it?”
   Harry ducked his head. “Judd. That was your foot. That’s how come your leg’s all wrapped up like that. You’ve got enough steel in there to shoe a couple of horses.”
   Judd reached down and realized the heavy cast came clear up to his waist. “Am I gonna walk again?”
   “Don’t see why not. Seems like they wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble to give you a dead weight to drag around.”
   Judd rolled his head against the pillow, remembering the rough scrape of the boot against his cheek. His boot. He was beginning to feel pain all over—in his rib cage, his hips, his back. Seemed like everything but the hair on his head was starting to hurt.
   “Son, you don’t look so good. I’m gonna get that nurse back in here.”
   Judd thought to accuse his friend of calling the nurse back so he could get another look at her, but he didn’t have the grit to make a joke. He nodded and closed his eyes, grateful that even then, light filtered through his eyelids.

   The nurse must’ve given him something to make him sleep. When Judd woke the second time, the first thing he realized was that he felt about half-starved. ’Course, he also felt like he’d been in a tussle with a freight train and lost, but he decided to focus on hungry. You couldn’t eat if you were dead, and in the dark of the mine he’d thought he might be dead for longer than he liked to remember.
   He pried his eyes open and found Harry sitting beside his bed, staring at him. There was also a tray on a table with a bowl of something that might’ve been hot once.
   “That stuff fit to eat?” he asked.
   Harry swallowed convulsively and pushed the bowl toward him. “I et mine and it didn’t do me no harm. You need help spooning it up?”
   Judd braced himself and pushed up a notch, grimacing as pain shot through him in so many places he couldn’t narrow it down to say what hurt. “If I do, I’ll ask that good-looking nurse.”
   He reached for the spoon and tasted some kind of bean soup. It was barely warm, but he swallowed it down and wished for a piece of corn bread and maybe a glass of cool buttermilk. His throat still felt raw and parched from the coal dust. Harry sat and watched like a hound dog hoping for a crumb.
   “Harry, I appreciate your concern, but you’re crowding me a mite. You want some soup?”
   Harry ducked his head and shifted in his chair. “I’ve got something to tell ya. I been waiting for you to wake up and eat—wanted you to get what rest you could.”
   Judd swallowed and left his spoon, which was getting downright heavy, in the half-empty bowl. “Spit her out, then.”
   “It’s Joe. I lied about him being alright.” Harry fisted his hands on his knees. “Them nurses said you needed time to heal afore I told you, but I don’t hold with lying and it’s been weighing on me.” He lifted his head to meet Judd’s eyes. “Joe didn’t make it. Looks like he died straight out—got hit in the head and probably didn’t know nothing about it.” Harry’s Adam’s apple bobbed and he lowered his eyes again. “I know you was real close to your brother, I couldn’t see keeping it from you.”
   Judd felt like the weight of the mountain was centered on his chest once again. He fought for air as surely as he had in the dark of the mine. Not Joe. Not his baby brother who’d always had dreams enough for both of them. He should have died; he should have found Joe and taken his place. He closed his eyes and focused on the pain in his ribs, his leg, his head—anything but the pain in his heart.
Sarah Loudin Thomas, The Sound of Rain Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017.

Sarah Loudin Thomas
Photo Credit: © Kristen Delliveniri
Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fundraiser for a children's ministry and has written for Mountain Homes Southern Style and Now & Then magazines, as well as The Asheville Citizen-Times. She is the author of Miracle in a Dry Season, Until the Harvest, and A Tapestry of Secrets. She holds a BA in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband reside in Asheville, North Carolina. She can be found online at her website.

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending this copy of The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden, © 2017

Cover Art

My Review:

New York City 1903
Complications from generations back become forefront in the lives of Lucy Drake and her brother Nick. Competing with her Uncle Thomas and her cousin Tom Jr. becomes a full-time job, besides her actual decoding employment with the Associated Press. Will she and Nick be able to stay afloat, securing their rightful inheritance with Drake water valves? Seasoned and applicable knowledge handed down enables Nick to continue building the valves, but to what advantage when they are continually sucked into court to dispute their rights?

The Western Union Building, where Colin and Lucy work.As if that isn't enough, Lucy becomes enwrapped with the London correspondent at Reuters, the British equivalent of AP. Both news agencies are housed in the Manhattan Western Union Telegraph Building a few floors apart. One advantage ~ or possibly disadvantage ~ is that they both are fluent in the signals of the short and long 'dots' and 'dashes' of Morris code. A homing pigeon becomes an ally between them delivering top-secret messages beyond the wire services. Sir Colin Beckwith, whom she honors with the title "Mr." Beckwith, will be at an advantage to form a friendship with her. Both uncertain which news agency will come out on top, they are dedicated to their positions and arrive early ~ early enough that they join together in investigating slow ups and snags beyond their usual messages. The international news agencies may discover their top sources.
Lucy Drake
Lucy Drake
Sir Colin Beckwith
Sir Colin Beckwith

This story will wrap you in as you are eager to discover the wiretaps and outcomes of good versus evil.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Elizabeth Camden's A Dangerous Legacy ~ Chapter 1


New York City

The amount of female attention her brother garnered never failed to amaze Lucy. Even when he was wearing grubby coveralls and carrying a sack of plumber’s tools, girls flocked around Nick as though he were Casanova. Lucy watched from a few yards away as they waited for the streetcar after a long day at work.
   Nick was fiercely intelligent, handsome, and had an easy laugh, but what would those girls do if they knew that anyone who befriended him would be targeted for complete and total ruin? Few people lingered for long once they drew her uncle’s attention. She and Nick had been raised since birth to be on guard against underhanded attacks from Uncle Thomas, but it would take someone with a backbone of steel to stand alongside them once her uncle got wind of it.
   To the outside world, Lucy and her brother looked like normal, hardworking people. Nick was employed by the Municipal Water Authority, and she worked as a telegraph operator for the Associated Press. They didn’t have much of a life outside of their jobs. The lawsuit consumed everything they had, for she and Nick were the only two people left standing to carry on the forty-year battle that had eroded their spirit, finances, and even their safety.
   Lucy cut through the trio of girls flirting with her brother. “Nick, I need to speak with you.”
   His smile broadened when he saw her, and it didn’t go unnoticed by his admirers.
   One of the women sent Lucy a surly glare. “Who’s she?”
   “That’s the girl I’ve adored from the moment I first clapped eyes on her,” Nick said. “Of course, at the time she was a squalling infant and I was only three years old, but sisters can grow on you.”
   The girls pealed with laughter and swatted Nick on the shoulder. He didn’t seem to mind, grinning down at them with a reckless smile that worked like a magnet on women. One of the girls even reached up to tug on a lock of the wild, dark hair he wore far too long.
   “Nick?” Lucy pressed, a little less patient this time. “Can I speak with you? We’ve got a problem.”
   He must have noticed the tension in her voice, because he picked up his tools and followed her a few yards away. “What’s going on?”
   “I got word from Mr. Garzelli that a stranger was spotted poking around his building. I’m worried Uncle Thomas might have sent someone to sabotage the new valves. Mr. Garzelli has cut off water to the building until you can check it out.”
   Nick’s mouth narrowed to a hard line. He’d spent the past two weekends installing pumps and an ingenious set of valves in a Lower East Side tenement building. It meant that two hundred people living on the upper floors could have water pumped up to their apartments for the first time. The valve had been invented by their grandfather. Such an ordinary-looking piece of hardware, but one that was worth millions and had sparked decades of litigation. Not that the people living in the tenement cared about her family’s bitter lawsuit. All they wanted was to stop lugging buckets of water up five flights of stairs every day.
   The stranger sniffing around the tenement building worried Lucy. Their installation of those valves wasn’t technically illegal, but if Uncle Thomas found out about it, he would make them pay. She wouldn’t put it past him to have someone sabotage their work. Mr. Garzelli was probably right to cut off the pumps until Nick could verify it was safe.
   “You want us to go over tonight?” Nick asked. It had been a long day for both of them, and the trip across town would take an hour each way, but they didn’t have much choice.
   “It would be best.”
   He nodded, his expression grim. “I get it, but I’d rather go to Uncle Thomas’s fancy mansion and cut the water to his house. See how he likes it. See how he likes—”
   “Stop,” she said, laying a gentle hand on his sleeve. “Don’t let him rattle you. We’ll handle this, just like we’ve handled everything else over the years. We just need to keep our heads on straight.”
   An hour later, they were in the basement of a tenement in one of the worst sections of the city. Nick lay flat on his back, pointing his fancy new flashlight beneath a complicated system of valves and pumps, looking for signs of sabotage. Lucy sat on an upended bucket, handing over tools as requested and trying not to breathe too deeply. It smelled bad in this part of town, with grimy streets, overcrowded apartments, and very little running water flowing to the hundreds of residential buildings. Each time she visited this section of town, the stench penetrated her hair and clothes, making her wonder how anyone could bear to live here. At least the people lucky enough to live in this building had running water thanks to Nick and her grandfather’s valve. Everything about life for the people who lived here got better, cleaner, and healthier as soon as they had enough pressure to supply water to all eight floors.
   Footsteps sounded on the stairs as Mr. Garzelli joined them. Nick slid out from beneath the valves and rolled into a sitting position.
   “So someone has been sniffing around?” he asked.
   Mr. Garzelli nodded. “He was a skinny guy. Old. Shiftylooking. One shoulder was twisted up almost like a hunchback. It was that weird shoulder that made me remember him. I’ve seen him around a couple of times before. My oldest boy caught him trying to get in through the basement window, and he ran off. And I saw him last weekend when you installed the valves.”
   Nick began putting his tools away. “It was a good idea to call me, but it doesn’t look like there’s been any harm done. You should probably get a better lock on that window, though.”
   “I know you’ve been in some kind of court business over those valves,” Mr. Garzelli said. “You’re not going to get in trouble for this, are you?”
   She and Nick risked awakening a sleeping giant every time they installed her grandfather’s invention in another of Manhattan’s endless tenement buildings, but Nick shrugged and flashed an easygoing smile.
   “I’m more afraid of my baby sister than I am of that lawsuit,” he said.
   “Miss Lucy?” Mr. Garzelli asked incredulously. “I don’t believe it.”
   “You’ve never seen her when I burn dinner.” Nick hefted his sack of tools over his shoulder. “Just don’t blab to anyone about these valves. You can’t exactly hide the fact that you’ve got hot and cold running water throughout the building, but no need to mention my name, right?”
   “Okay, you got it, Nick,” Mr. Garzelli said with a hearty handshake.
   The sun had already set by the time Lucy and Nick returned to Greenwich Village. They lived on the fourth floor of a brownstone walk-up that had once been a prestigious building but had fallen on hard times in recent decades. Much like her own family.
   She twisted the key in the lock to the apartment, stepped inside the darkened interior, and immediately knew something was wrong. Her nose twitched. Cigarette smoke?
   That was odd. No one should have been in the apartment today. Their mother had moved to Boston after their father’s death almost a year ago, and they no longer had money for servants.
   When her eyes adjusted to the dim interior, she scanned the room, looking for anything out of place. Nick’s half-assembled pumping valves lay scattered across the dining table, their mother’s leggy orchids lined the windowsill, and books were crammed into every vacant table space and cubby. Their once-fine furnishings had witnessed several generations of use and no longer had any pretensions of grandeur, but everything had the comfort of a much-loved blanket. Their family had once been happy here.
   “You weren’t home today, were you?” she asked.
   Nick strode inside and tossed his sack of tools onto the sofa with a thud. “Nope. Why?”
   “Don’t you smell cigarette smoke?”
   He paused to sniff the air, then shrugged. “The lady who lives upstairs smokes like a freight train. It’s probably coming through the ventilation pipes.”
   “Are you sure about that?” Nick was a plumber, not an expert on ventilation, but he seemed unconcerned.
   “I’m not that paranoid,” he said as he headed to the kitchen sink to scrub his hands.
   He might not mind the faint acrid scent, but it was worrisome. Everything looked precisely as she’d left it, but her skin still prickled with the hunch that someone had been in their apartment while they were gone.
   She took a deep breath and wished her father were here. He had been the rock on which their family depended, but toward the end of his life, she’d sensed he was losing hope. She’d often caught him standing before the window, staring down at the street below with bleak eyes, as if the demons were finally catching up with him. The week before he died, she’d arrived home from the office early one day and caught him staring at a paper clenched in his hand, his face carrying a sickly pallor. She flew to his side and asked what was wrong, and he startled. That was the first time she saw pure, undiluted fear on her father’s face.
   He had stuffed the paper into a maroon satchel and denied anything was wrong, but she knew he was lying. His hands had been trembling as he locked the satchel in his desk drawer.
   After he died, she went in search of that satchel, but it was nowhere to be found. She and Nick turned the apartment inside out in search of it. They even pried up the floorboards in the kitchen, where they hid the only treasure left to their family. The treasure was still there, but no sign of the satchel. She never did find it, and Lucy couldn’t help but think that it somehow contributed to her father’s death the following week. He’d always had a weak heart, and whatever was in that maroon satchel had petrified him.
   Lucy heated a can of baked beans for their supper. She and Nick alternated kitchen duties, and it was always a simple affair. After ten hours of staffing a telegraph station, she didn’t need anything fancy. All she cared about was easy.
   It didn’t take long to wolf down the meal, and she volunteered to clean up afterward while Nick flopped on their worn sofa and paged through the day’s mail. They both worked long hours, but she spent hers at a desk while Nick performed physically demanding labor deep beneath the city streets as he helped install the massive underground pumps that kept freshwater moving in and out of the city.
   Water flowed from the tap as she rinsed the cooking pot. Even though they lived on the fourth floor, their grandfather’s valves in the building’s basement supplied the perfect amount of water pressure to their apartment. They lived in a clean, respectable building with an excellent supply of water, but only a few miles away, the city teemed with over a million people crammed into tenements without proper plumbing. At least there was one more building in the city that now had running water.
   She flashed a smile of accomplishment Nick’s way and noticed him staring at the floor, his shoulders slumped as he held a letter in his hands.
   “What’s wrong?” she asked, turning off the tap.
   “This is from our lawyer. Uncle Thomas is after us again.”
   She stiffened. “What is he claiming this time?”
   “He’s accusing us of acting in bad faith. They want the judge to throw our case out.”
   “Bad faith” could mean almost anything, but there was only one truly underhanded thing she and Nick had been doing, and it was the sole reason they’d been able to stay ahead of Thomas Drake’s swarm of lawyers all these years.
   She set down the dish towel, holding her breath. “You don’t think he knows, do you?”
   “If he does, we’re done for.”
   Lucy sighed and nodded, wandering to the worn dining table, exhaustion setting in as she plopped into a chair. It was getting hard to keep fighting Uncle Thomas and his family, who lived like European royalty at their mansion in upstate New York. The Saratoga Drakes had been using the fortune from her grandfather’s invention to launch legal salvos at the Manhattan Drakes for decades. Lucy had no proof yet, but she sensed the Saratoga Drakes might have somehow been behind her father’s death. The doctor said it was a heart attack, but Lucy couldn’t be certain.
   Was the lawsuit worth it? Her gaze tracked to the faucet. How easily most people took clean water for granted, but she never did. Neither did Mr. Garzelli or the rest of his two hundred tenants.
   Yes. The lawsuit was worth it, even if it meant she became a spinster and had to fear the scent of cigarette smoke leaking through her apartment’s ventilation system. She had an obligation to her father and grandfather to keep fighting the Saratoga Drakes. Her uncle had a fortune, an army of lawyers, and three rounds of lower court decisions on his side. Most importantly, he had no soul, and that let him fight with the single-minded zeal of a jackal.
   But she and Nick had a weapon the Saratoga Drakes knew nothing about. For two years it had served to keep them one step ahead of her uncle and all his scheming. It was a risky weapon that could land her and Nick in jail, but with luck, it would also finally turn the tide in the Manhattan Drakes’ favor.
Elizabeth Camden, A Dangerous Legacy Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending a print copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional by Michelle Ule, © 2017

Cover Art   Who Wrote My Utmost for His Highest and How? Part II

My Review:
~* Finding God's Fingerprints in Everyday Life *~
Oswald And Biddy
God's grace in understanding His truth in our lives that our devotion to Him be enriched! This story of pursuing His highest purpose for each life is our relationship with Him. Pointed not to man, but to God be the glory!

Training In Egypt. 1. Part of Zeitoun Camp. 2. A.M.R. on training trek. Halt on Ismalia Canal, on the way to Delta Barrage. 3. Regiment crossing Barrage Bridge over the Nile. Responsibilities assigned as new YMCA secretary near Cairo, Egypt ~ an expedition to the Zuitoun camp brought soldiers under Oswald's spiritual care. Joined by his wife and daughter, and others, they were missionaries amid those far from home delivering what was needed truth and a respite to receive a touch of home ~ and gathered hope.

The YMCA camp became a haven from war as a welcome was given whether or not they listened to Oswald's lectures. An oasis of God's love in the desert.

This biography tells of their beginnings and continuance upon Oswald's death and burial in Eygpt.

As I read this account I think of Elisabeth Elliot and her daughter, Valerie, as they continued in the work the Lord presented before them. Both widows, with a daughter; Biddy's account:
   Biddy believed God had reasons for giving her Kathleen to raise without a father. God also had provided a task: to put Oswald's teachings into writing for the spiritual benefit of others. She believed God would care for her and her child as she performed her ministry.
   --Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional, 154.
Seaming together Oswald Chambers' lectures along with adjoining memories, his wife, Biddy, compiled her handwritten and shorthand notes combining his varied talks to compose the widely-read devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. God's journey individually for readers has been experienced through reflection of these readings. This devotional has not gone out of printing since its inception.
She pieced together a crazy quilt of concepts into a beautiful work of practical spiritual warmth.
   --Ibid., 230.
EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional ~ Prologue and Chapter 1

Faith and Experience (November 13, 1908)
How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear?1
The cathedral loomed as they exited the tube station into a crisp November morning in 1908. Gertrude Hobbs’s blue eyes twinkled at Oswald Chambers from beneath her black straw hat as she took his arm. “You want to show me St. Paul’s?”
   The morning light shadowed his high cheekbones. “Have you been here before, Beloved Disciple Biddy?”
   She loved to hear him use his new nickname for her. “Of course I have.”
   He patted her hand. “There’s something new inside I want to show you.”
   They strolled past the booksellers’ warehouses to the western face of England’s “mother church.” The cathedral sat on the highest spot in London and showcased the city’s tallest spire, pointing to God. Twenty-four broad stone steps brought them to the entrance.
   The morning was a gift; they had so little opportunity to spend time with each other. Their affection had developed during a ten-day voyage to America, a few quick visits in New York City, and many exchanged letters. Biddy had quit her job in New York and returned to England because of his words.
   Finally reunited, they only had the weekend in London. Oswald would leave within days to speak at League of Prayer meetings in Ireland, northern England, and Scotland. They didn’t know when they’d meet again.
   Written words sustained and nourished their hearts, always, but that Friday morning Oswald directed Biddy to an oil painting not far from the glorious dome. She’d read about it in the newspaper. “The sermon in a frame?”
   Holman Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World” depicted Jesus dressed in kingly robes in a dark garden, a lighted lantern in one hand, the other stretched to knock on a humble wooden door without a knob.
   Revelation 3:20 had inspired the painting: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
   Evangelists recognized the painting as a clarion call to show how Jesus awaits invitation into each person’s heart. Oswald indicated the crown of thorns Jesus wore, and they discussed the painting before he explained why he wanted her to see it.
   Oswald needed Biddy to understand that if she married him, their home would be meager, with their lives “going heart and soul into literary and itinerating work for Him. It will be hard and glorious and arduous.”2
   Biddy knew marriage to Oswald would not be a relationship focused on each other. God’s call commanded Oswald’s time and attention. She viewed her role in partnership with him and God as a helpmeet—a woman specifically designed for Oswald’s needs and God’s purposes. Her beloved painted no romantic pictures. Indeed, Oswald cautioned, “I have nothing to offer you but my love and steady lavish service for Him.”3
   Captivated by her faith in God and the man before her, Biddy agreed. Before the Hunt painting, Oswald and Biddy promised to follow God’s lead together and to give their utmost energies to accomplish God’s highest plans.
   But what kind of woman would accept such a challenging proposal?


Discovering Divine Designs


Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God’s appointed order.1

The fog would gather quietly in the moist winter night above London’s Thames River. Born of cold air, the murky cloudiness would deepen and thicken as it moved over the water toward land. It would then crawl up the riverbanks north and south and cloak feeble gas streetlamps struggling to push back the dark.
   As dawn broke and the sun rose, the fog and coal smoke mixture— first called “smog” in 1905—would turn yellowish brown with a smoky, acidic smell. For young and old people suffering from inflamed lungs or fragile hearts, the sooty particulates swelled air passages and gripped chests.
   One such winter’s day in 1895, the smog wisped through the massive Royal Arsenal walls ten miles east of Big Ben on the Thames. It drifted by the Royal Army barracks and slipped along Woolwich’s narrow streets to a townhouse set behind a flower garden: #4 Bowater Crescent.
   The smog’s microscopic particles slid under the door and found twelve-year-old Gertrude Annie Hobbs. Her lungs seized into airsucking spasms.
   She struggled to climb the stairs to the bedroom she shared with her sixteen-year-old sister, Dais. Her congested chest weighed heavy, and she could not catch her breath even when she lay down. Weariness plagued her, and schoolwork, even the literature she loved, blurred into bewilderment. Gert closed her aching eyes to rest, yet her mind raced.
   At first her mother thought Gert must have caught the type of cold virus most people endured in a Victorian England of sodden handkerchiefs and close rooms. In an era before antibiotics and asthma inhalers, effective treatments were limited. Emily Hobbs plumped up her daughter’s pillows, steamed the room with a boiling kettle, and prayed.
   Henry Hobbs returned from the gas works that evening and stared at his youngest child, her wan features a mirror of his exhaustion. Her rattled breathing and dark-circled eyes troubled him. The son of a master baker, Henry had seen many men laboring to breathe flour-choked air in the bakery kitchen. His own father gasped for breath a mile away in his home on Powis Street.2
   They called the doctor. Tapping on Gert’s chest and listening, he diagnosed bronchitis, a viral inflammation of the lungs now known to be exacerbated by air pollution.
   Physicians in the 1890s prescribed opium or morphine for bronchitis, along with an expectorant to clear the lungs. Emily fed her child wintergreen drops to soothe the searing coughs. She pushed her lips into a reassuring smile as she listened to Gert’s wheezing and watched the girl’s red-cheeked attempts to take a deep breath.
   Eleven thousand people in greater London died of bronchitis in 1895.3
   But not Gertrude Annie Hobbs.
   The smog eased in the spring when household chimneys belched less smoke. Migrating birds returned, flowers pushed through the warm soil, and Gert’s lungs cleared. She returned to school behind in her studies. Nineteenth-century teachers emphasized rote memory work, which made it harder to keep up outside of class, but in her quest to be perfect, Gert tried.

   The blue-eyed girl with wavy dark hair who had languished during the winter months blossomed in the summer as she played tennis with Dais and their mother. She resumed piano lessons, cavorted with the family dog, and rode her bicycle in nearby Woolwich Commons. The family sang hymns around the piano in the evenings. They read aloud and laughed together. The tension eased from Henry’s shoulders and Emily set aside her fears.
   A cheerful woman, Emily Hobbs combined her fondness for entertaining and playing tennis by hosting frequent tennis parties. Emily handled the cooking and baking while employing a live-in teenage servant to help with the rough work. Like her daughters, she cherished books and, thankfully for all, Woolwich boasted several lending libraries. While deeply in love with her hardworking husband, Emily delighted in her three clever children: Edith Mary (called Dais—short for Daisy), born in 1879, Herbert (called Bert), born in 1881, and Gertrude (called Gert), born in 1883.
   The Hobbs children grew up during the final two decades of Queen Victoria’s reign. Bowater Crescent rang with cadences from the nearby barracks and the hoofbeats of military and civilian mounts headed south to Woolwich Common. Soldiers attached to the Royal Regiment of Artillery frequented the neighborhood as they marched to the Royal Arsenal.
   The 150-acre Royal Arsenal stretched for a mile along the Thames waterfront. Tons of coal smoke poured from its lofty smokestacks as thousands of employees manufactured armaments and performed weapons research. Not long after Gert’s birth, an explosion at the arsenal sent rockets flying up to two miles away.
   Woolwich residents ignored such dangers. The town’s fortunes rose and fell with the Royal Arsenal, which provided the necessary income—whether at the arsenal or in related industries—for the seventy-five thousand people living in the area.
   And yet the arsenal’s industrial smoke mingled with the deep fog each fall and winter. When this smog enveloped the town in 1896, Gert’s lungs clamped down again. Feeling as if iron boots weighted her chest, she returned to bed. Fever took hold, her airways narrowed, and Emily ran for the kettle.
   Gert spent her time reading—Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories were favorites—and trying to keep up with her studies. She recovered in the 1897 spring, but her bronchitis roared back again in the fall.
   Concerns for Gert’s health intensified in October 1897 when Henry’s father died from asthenia—exhaustion compounded by respiratory issues.4 Emily and Henry watched their daughter carefully. She might outgrow the bronchitis, but it often led to pneumonia. With Gert’s weakened lungs, tuberculosis could set in—always a concern in the nineteenth century. In 1900, 407 people died of either bronchitis or tuberculosis in Woolwich.
   Despite her efforts, Gert fell too far behind in school. Her parents removed her for good in early 1898. She was fourteen.
   Girls of Gert’s social class generally finished school at sixteen, often to prepare for marriage. Gert, however, preferred to follow Dais’s example. The close-knit sisters wanted to marry someday, but for the immediate future they aimed for success in the working world.
   Dais took to heart her mother’s fears of financial ruin and pondered her father’s faltering health and long working hours. When she neared graduation, Dais applied herself to the skills necessary for office work—the most acceptable alternative to teaching for women on the cusp of the twentieth century.
   At five feet, five inches, a tall woman for the time, Dais stood ramrod straight with narrow, sloping shoulders and a tightly corseted waist. With straight dark brows above blue eyes, she wore her curly brown hair knotted on top of her head. Precise and efficient, loving and generous, Dais doted on her mother and encouraged her sister’s dreams.5
   With the same height and bright blue eyes as Dais, Gert had a rounder face and dark hair that often escaped its hairpins into tendrils. She never showed her teeth in photos and her trim figure resembled her sister’s, though she was not as tightly corseted.6
   As the miserable 1897–98 winter slipped into spring and Gert’s breathing eased, her restless mind, denied school, sought another outlet. Gert wanted to help the family, a desire made imperative by her fifty-year-old father’s failing health. Her family history— particularly on the maternal side—underscored the reason for concern.

   Raised by Woolwich master baker Samuel Hobbs and his wife, Mary Whiteman Hobbs, Henry was the oldest of three sons. The whole family worked in the bakery (Mary behind the counter), but Henry did not want to be a baker.
   Emily Amelia Gardner, meanwhile, grew up in Gravesend, the youngest of six children of master baker George Gardner and his wife, Ann Whiteman Gardner. Ann Gardner was Mary Hobbs’s sister, making Henry and Emily first cousins.
   The Gardner household once employed servants but, by Emily’s birth, an embezzling business partner had destroyed the family’s standard of living. George Gardner’s 1866 death scattered his family into poverty and forced Emily to move in with a widowed cousin’s family in London. At age sixteen, she became little more than a servant.7
   By the 1871 census, twenty-one-year-old Henry worked as a clerk in a Greenwich church. It’s not clear when Henry and Emily first fell in love, but their parents did not approve of their proposed marriage, possibly because they were cousins. Kathleen Chambers later surmised the families disliked the disparity in their social situations, which, combined with Emily’s longing for financial security, may have been the catalyst for Henry’s ambition and hard work.
   By the time of his 1875 elopement with Emily, Henry worked as an auctioneer. Shortly thereafter, he took a position as a commercial clerk—a midlevel accountant—to provide Emily with the lifestyle she craved.8 As Henry advanced in the Woolwich gas works, they moved from rented rooms to a leased townhouse on Bowater Crescent, cementing their advancement into the middle class of Queen Victoria’s day. Emily settled into her happy life.
   But Henry Hobbs died suddenly on June 18, 1898, three weeks before Gert’s fifteenth birthday. His death certificate listed the cause as “cerebral atrophy and exhaustion,” the equivalent of a stroke in modern medicine.
   Her husband’s death devastated Emily Hobbs. She lost her emotional, financial, and personal support in one cruel blow, far too reminiscent of her father’s catastrophic death.
   Henry had rescued her from “poor relation” status with their marriage, and Emily cherished their life. While he left a comfortable estate, the 2015 equivalent of $220,000, the inheritance would require careful management to sustain the family—particularly Emily—for the rest of her life. And Emily did not have the training for such a task.9
   Dais stepped into the financial gap and went to work as a clerk in a money-order office of the British postal service. Bert found a clerking position at the Woolwich gas works. The family released their servant and took in a boarder. The women shared cooking, cleaning, and laundry chores.
   Gert finally outgrew her bronchitis, though she sustained permanent hearing loss in her left ear. Determined to contribute to the family finances as well, she signed up for a Pittman Shorthand correspondence course. Times were changing. The Royal Arsenal had hired its first four female typists in 1895 (out of some fourteen thousand workers), and accomplished female stenographers could find employment in the business community.10
   Gert quickly mastered the basic components of shorthand: hooked dashes and curved marks differentiated by their width and placement on a line. Similar to learning a foreign language, the more she practiced, the less she needed to “interpret” the sounds into symbols on the page. Her fingers soon automatically responded and penciled shorthand into a notebook.
   Dais and Emily helped her practice. Using a yellow Dixon pencil, Gert placed the sharpened lead on the left-hand side of the paper and, listening carefully, wrote in a fluid motion whatever Dais or Emily read aloud. Once Gert “took down” the passage, she read it back to check for accuracy. Her ability to decipher her notes without error demonstrated her mastery of the skill. Gert always strived for perfection in everything she did; she sensed a path to future success with stenography.
   An 1895 article in the Manchester City News noted salaries would double if a woman possessed two skills, as “the rates of pay testify to the desirability of making typewriting and shorthand go hand in hand . . . it is essential that girls who desire to become typists should be well up in English composition—spelling and correct punctuation being indispensable. They must be businesslike, neat, attentive, accurate, and loyal to their employers.”11
   And so, as soon as she mastered shorthand, Gert turned her nimble, piano-playing fingers to a boxy black typewriter and learned how to touch type. Her goal? She wanted to be the first female secretary to the prime minister of England.
   Once confident in her abilities, Gert applied for a job at the Woolwich Royal Arsenal. Hired as a typist, the diligent Gert got along well with her employer and colleagues, especially another typist her age named Marian Leman.

   With her children gainfully employed, Emily managed the household and dealt with her grief. Their boarder, Reverend Charles Hutchinson, may have encouraged her faith and membership in a local Baptist church.
   Emily spent her free time reading and studying the Bible, praying, and having friends in for tea. Her faith grew even as the family’s financial circumstances changed. At some point after 1901, Reverend Hutchinson left Woolwich, Bert moved out, and the women had to seek a smaller home.
   They relocated to #38 Shooter’s Hill Gardens on Westmount Road, a few miles south in Eltham. Built of brick on the flanks of Shooter’s Hill (the highest elevation in Kent, with views to London), the new two-story row house boasted a small garden facing the wide street. They could walk to the shops on nearby High Street and to local parks.12
   Dressed in fashionable white shirtwaists and dark skirts with straw hats perched on their heads, Dais and Gert would catch public transportation to their Woolwich jobs each morning. Despite being in their early twenties, neither woman had marriage prospects on the horizon.
   Emily Hobbs transferred her Woolwich church membership to the newly formed Eltham Park Baptist Church down the street. Her daughters joined her, and the three women participated in the ministries and services held at the simple hall.13
   Eltham Park Baptist Church’s first pastor preached his first sermon on Easter Sunday, 1904. The Reverend Arthur C. Chambers had come to the fledgling congregation from a nearby Baptist church. Under his pastoral leadership, membership quickly grew to 140 worshiping in the service and 150 attending Sunday school.
   Emily’s warmth and hospitable nature overflowed to church members. Sunday afternoon tea provided opportunities for further fellowship and their cozy home soon filled with new friends. Gert’s spiritual life remained private; she never spoke of giving her heart to Christ or professed any sort of testimony. Yet, throughout her life, anything that caught her interest received full exploration. She studied the Bible and memorized the psalms. After her many disappointments, the loss of her father and the dissolution of their home, the psalms brought comfort.
   Dais remained equally silent about her faith. The two sisters applied for church membership at Eltham Park Baptist Church within the year. They were baptized together by immersion at the October 29, 1905, evening service. Gert was twenty-two, Dais twenty-six.14 Their overjoyed mother wrote her “darling girls” a letter commemorating the event:
My heart is too full for me to say all I should like to you both, it is full of joy at the step you are taking today, a step that will brighten and influence all your life. May that dear Savior. . . . Be very near to you and may you realize the strength of the promises. . . . It makes me so happy to see you both working for the Master.
   In the letter, Emily also referenced her disappointment that Bert showed no interest in God. She urged her daughters to pray for him. Her final words were those of a doting mother:
God bless you darlings for all your loving thoughtful care for me, bless you in all your undertakings, ever guide, guard, comfort and strengthen you, and give you much joy in His service. So prays your very loving Mother.15
   Emily couldn’t have suspected her prescience the day she penned her letter. Gert’s first step into service to God became a lifelong walk in obedience and sacrifice.
   Shortly after the happy baptism, Reverend Arthur Chambers’s youngest brother came to Eltham to lead a weeklong mission during the Christmas holidays. With a budding reputation as a galvanizing and learned lecturer for the interdenominational League of Prayer, Oswald Chambers spoke nightly on how to be yielded to the Holy Spirit.
   The six-foot-tall man who addressed the congregation that December was in his early thirties. Angular and lanky with deep-set blue eyes and brown hair swept from a receding hairline, Oswald Chambers relished opportunities to talk about Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God himself.
   Genial, with a playful sense of humor, and gifted with words, he talked quickly and with an intensity that captured his listeners’ attention. Oswald lectured extemporaneously, without notes. His only goal: “To have honorable mention in somebody’s life in introducing them to God.”16
   All three well-read Hobbs women appreciated the depth of his teaching. For Gert, his sermons provided opportunities to practice her stenography skills; she listened and learned better when her hands were engaged.
   Emily naturally invited the visiting preacher to the house for tea, no doubt thinking such a godly man must be in want of a good wife.
   And with such invitations to tea continuing from Emily, Oswald Chambers visited the family whenever he filled in for Arthur. An articulate guest full of stories and a lover of literature and God, not to mention music, hymns, and dogs, Oswald felt at ease in the Hobbs home.
   He was not, however, seeking a wife.

   The seventh of eight children born to devout parents in 1874, Oswald spent his early childhood in Scotland and northern England. The family moved to London in 1890. As a teenager, he accompanied his father, Reverend Clarence Chambers, to hear Reverend Charles Spurgeon preach at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle. Oswald gave his life to God that night.
   Notably talented in music and art, Oswald played the organ, trained at London’s Royal College of Art, and returned to Scotland in 1895 to study art at the University of Edinburgh.
   He also pondered theology and visited local churches to hear the accomplished preachers then occupying Edinburgh’s pulpits. He saw himself as a bridge between intellectuals and God. Oswald anticipated his love for literature, music, and art, along with his devotion to the gospel, would surely touch a chord in the lives of sensitive artists.
   Jobs and income, however, did not materialize. Eventually Oswald came to the reluctant conclusion God might be calling him to the ministry. Despite feeling far from God at the time, he enrolled at Dunoon Bible College near Glasgow in 1897, where Reverend Duncan MacGregor, founder of the small college, mentored him.
   God finally breached Oswald’s dark spiritual period during a 1901 meeting of the local League of Prayer, where he claimed the gift of the Holy Spirit as a result of Luke 11:13: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
   As part of the Holiness Movement then sweeping the British Isles and America, the League of Prayer focused on an individual’s personal salvation and how to apply God’s moral law to behavior. Oswald appreciated the League’s focus on prayer, church revival, and the spread of biblical knowledge—which corresponded to God’s emphasis in his own life.
   The League, which operated one hundred centers around the British Isles (including thirty in London alone),17 sponsored more than thirteen thousand services in 1897. It also published a monthly magazine, Tongues of Fire (later retitled Spiritual Life), for which Oswald occasionally wrote. League of Prayer founder Reader Harris recognized and encouraged Oswald as a promising speaker and teacher. Shortly after meeting the Hobbs family in late 1905, Oswald became a volunteer circuit lecturer with the League.
   He received no salary and lodged with League of Prayer members in the towns where he spoke. Offerings and personal gifts covered his train fares. The lack of a salary didn’t bother Oswald—he believed God would provide for all his needs and had ample experience of him doing so.
   Oswald soon became friends with Japanese evangelist Juji Nakada. He traveled to America with Nakada in November 1906 to teach a course at God’s Bible School, which was affiliated with the Holiness Movement, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
   Afterward, the two journeyed to Japan, where Oswald examined international evangelism and missionary work. He resumed speaking for the League of Prayer when he returned to England in late 1907. (Upon his return, Oswald pulled a coin from his pocket to show his brother and pointed out he had traveled around the world on a mere shilling!)
   As the years went by, Oswald concentrated his thoughts on God rather than on seeking a wife. A teenage romance had brought joy and anguish, leaving him reluctant to invite a woman into his nomadic ministry life. Oswald served God better unencumbered. He didn’t have the income to support a wife, much less a home.
   Loved by dogs, children, old ladies, and members of the League of Prayer, Oswald was welcomed everywhere by Christians who wanted to advance the kingdom of God. His relationships remained cordial with no suggestion of anything beyond good fellowship.
   And so his friendship with the Hobbs women proceeded amiably for two and a half years—until one day, when Emily Hobbs wrote him a letter.
Michelle Ule, Mrs. Oswald Chambers Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

Oswald Chambers
author Michelle Ule
Oswald Chambers 1874-1917
Biddy Chambers 1884-1966

***Thank you to author Michelle Ule for this biographical account forming this book, and to Baker Books Bloggers for supplying a copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***