Friday, June 30, 2017

On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson, © 2017

Prince Edward Island Dreams, Book 3

Cover Art

Book 3 is on its way!!! I have received an Advanced Reader Copy from Revell. Thank you! I so enjoyed my introduction to author Liz Johnson in the first two novels ~ The Red Door Inn, Book 1 and the second book, Where Two Hearts Meet.

Sneak peek traveling our way On Love's Gentle Shore ~
arriving July 4, 2017 at your favorite bookseller by Liz Johnson

My Review:
Coming home. Coming back home... not necessary "home." It had been more than a decade since Natalie O'Ryan fled Prince Edward Island to find her true self ~ away from family stigmas. Does glue stick to you when it has only been applied nearby?

Bravery is what I would call it. How could she have agreed to a surprise venue wedding? And her fiancĂ©, Russell Jacobs, thought it would be a welcome home memory. It may be a welcome for Russell, coming to North Rustico and seeing his brother Adam again. Visiting. Natalie can do this; and... leave just as quickly back to "normal" life.

Image result for north rustico pei

This Advanced Reader Copy couldn't get any better with a revised final! Author Liz Johnson brings you back to Rose's Red Door Inn. If you haven't read books 1 and 2 in the series, you have time to gather them before the third book releases in ONE WEEK; July 7, 2017! (Available for pre-order here!)

Get reacquainted with those who have not left the island, while Natalie becomes caught up on the happenings that were every day, now new to her. But some things never change ~ like l*o*v*e.

Justin Kane. Left behind. Just as he has gotten adjusted to life with memories without her popping up.
Her black hair held a touch of gray, and the long braid over her shoulder tickled Natalie's cheek, but she smelled of fresh bread and sunflowers, a life spent equally in the kitchen and the outdoors. Her arms were still strong but gentle, and her embrace stirred more memories––and the emotions that trailed them––than Natalie could identify.
   --On Love's Gentle Shore, 72
Mama Kane. Love surrounding her like the gentle breeze off the water. Natalie will find this is not the only expression of love she will receive that has always been there for her.
"They're all my favorites. That's why I chose them for you."
   --Ibid., 151
Love burst forth before her; not having known deep down its intensity. I melted for her. To know that you are loved without reproach, have already been loved and you never knew the warm enfolding of care so vividly. This is all new for Natalie.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
   --Isaiah 43:19
This story of personal care beyond expectations is so vivid. The author has captured the desire of each living soul to be respected, cherished, and loved for who they are; not rubbed off from where they originated as kept in the mind and emotions of hiding. Alive and alert to see truth expanded, removing false pretense and mimicked reactions. Open to receive all that was available to her: acceptance and loving her just as she was. A community of care by those who expected nothing from her but receiving honestly what they offer ~ themselves.

Removing defenses releases the desired hope for acceptance. The characters have come through a lot to be able to be free, giving grace to the hearer. A wonderful story of peace and wholeness available beginning a whole process of healing of hearts and lives together. Forgiveness and joy erupt!

I liked the humor and taking risks to be known. Great series of exploration and discovery of self and others near to us. So worth letting walls crumble and be replaced with hope and acceptance to begin anew.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
   --Jeremiah 31:3
Meet author Liz Johnson at her website here.
Facebook ~ Twitter Newsletter  ~ Pinterest

***Thank you for inviting me on your launch team for your delightful On Love's Gentle Shore. So healing to live life truly alive. Thank you to the publisher for sending a copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Cover Art   Cover Art 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Women Who Move Mountains: Praying with Confidence, Boldness, and Grace by Sue Detweiler, © 2017

Cover Art

~*Inspiring Women in Their Adventure of Faith*~

My Review:

Studying with the book and resources available, together with a group or with a friend, you will grow as you study God's Word specifically for you.
The odd-numbered chapters explain how to transform your relationship with God and give examples of biblical and modern women who have moved mountains in prayer. The even-numbered chapters show how to apply these prayer principles to your own life as you discover the truth of God’s Word. You may want to write your personal answers to these questions in your own journal or go to website to download bonus journal pages.... Removing barriers between us and God improves our prayer lives. That's what this book will do for you!
Women Who Move Mountains ~ Introduction, 19
Bible Study Hacks You Wish You’d Thought OfI like an in-depth study that is interactive with materials for introspection. I find it beneficial to color code and write in notes to go back to reflect on. Journaling, there will be discoveries of new and different things revealing unsubmitted areas and gaining greater clarity and focus. Scriptures are followed by a question for you. Join in and make it your own. Woman-to-woman, as if we were sitting across the table from one another. These times you wished you had is yours ~ now. Growing in our faith, removing barriers give us opportunities to go forward.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Mark 11:22-26 NLT

"Are you a woman who wants to improve your prayer life? Do you want to overcome obstacles and make them into opportunities? I love how God heals our hurt and helps us to become more like Him. He often does this through prayer.  Become a woman who moves mountains through prayer."
   ~ author Sue Detweiler
read post

Excerpt of Women Who Move Mountains Contents, Introduction, and Chapter 1

Author, Speaker, and Pastor

SUE DETWEILER is a mother of six, author, speaker, radio host, and pastor with over 25 years of experience in leadership, ministry and education. Sue and her husband Wayne have recently relocated to the North Dallas Texas area to plant and pastor Life Bridge Church.

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for this copy of Women Who Move Mountains. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller, © 2017

NavPress, previous edition published 2009

Published by NavPress


My Review:
This will not be a quick study for me, to ponder and apply directly to my heart. There are added Notes in the back referencing chapter content.
Jesus' example teaches us that prayer is about relationship. When he prays, he is not performing a duty; he is getting close to his Father.
   --A Praying Life, 35
Morning and/or evening to gather with Him ~ upon awakening or reflecting on a new day ahead. A reference to praying aloud helps me to become more aware of my need.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.  ~ Psalm 143:8
As I begin journaling, I will see what He has specifically for me; to be able to look back and see progress in yielding.
   Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don't have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you can be doing something "productive." So the act of praying means that you have to rely more on God. (37)
Beginning five minutes; just meeting alone with Him.
   Regardless of how or when you pray, if you give God the space, he will touch your soul. God knows you are exhausted, but at the same time he longs to be part of your life. A feast awaits. (39)
I love this! Prayer and Grace multiplied.
The very thing you were trying to escape––your inability––opens the door to prayer and then grace. (47)
I am looking forward to enJ*O*Ying application of growing deeper in God's Word. I want to know Him more.
When you open a door to God, you find some amazing treasures inside. (49)
I have mentioned parts that stood out to me. I have wanted a consistent time with God beyond touching base throughout the day. I am glad I have become aware of and connecting with this helpful instruction to learn to expand time God has already provided for me to enjoy Him and His presence.

***Thank you to the publisher for sharing this print copy with me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received ~ Yet ~ until I open and obey, entering "a gateway to joy!" :) .***

More than 300,000 copies sold!

This new edition includes an expanded chapter on using the practical “prayer cards”—a hallmark of the teaching found in A Praying Life—and a chapter on the need and use of prayers of lament.

Prayer is so hard that unless circumstances demand it—an illness, or saying grace at a meal—most of us simply do not pray. We prize accomplishments and productivity over time in prayer. Even Christians experience this prayerlessness—a kind of practical unbelief that leaves us marked by fear, anxiety, joylessness, and spiritual lethargy.

Prayer is all about relationship. Based on the popular seminar by the same name, A Praying Life has discipled thousands of Christians to a vibrant prayer life full of joy and power. When Jesus describes the intimacy He seeks with us, He talks about joining us for dinner (Revelation 3:20). A Praying Life feels like having dinner with good friends. It is the way we experience and connect to God. In A Praying Life, author Paul Miller lays out a pattern for living in relationship with God and includes helpful habits and approaches to prayer that enable us to return to a childlike faith.

Paul E. MillerPaul E. Miller is executive director of seeJesus, a global discipling mission that develops interactive Bible studies. A Praying Life Study and Seminar, which form the basis for the book A Praying Life, is the second curriculum released by seeJesus. The first curriculum, The Person of Jesus Study, is the foundation for Paul's book Love Walked Among Us (NavPress), written for both Christians and non-Christians. Paul's latest book and study,  A Loving Life, looks at the biblical story of Ruth. In addition to writing, Paul also teaches seminars that train people to lead studies with friends and neighbors. Paul and his wife, Jill, have six children, numerous grandchildren, and plenty of animals. They live near Philadelphia.
   As a global discipling mission, seeJesus offers a variety of products and services to support your spiritual growth and your own discipling efforts. To learn more, visit, follow Paul on Twitter (@_PaulEMiller), like seeJesus on, or e-mail

Sunday, June 18, 2017

An Amish Summer: Four Novellas by Shelley Shepard Gray, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Irvin, © 2017

These four stories are so fun! You will want to get a copy to read and you may discover new authors; definitely a new thread of adventure!
Amish youngsters:
In the first story, what would you suggest to a young man who met two sisters at a gathering, but while addressing the name on the envelope and in the salutation ... he was envisioning the one he thought was receiving his letters, and instead was "pouring out his heart" to the other sister? Oh, my. Setting up a time and place to meet in person will be a surprise to reckon with!
Shelley Shepard Gray's ~ A Reunion in Pinecraft
The Amish in Adams County, OH

Amy Clipston follows with her story, Summer Storms. How can the actions of one have such far reaching tentacles that close off and smother the plans held dear by others? You may discover that there might be a reason seen that hampers and smolders an undercurrent. Integrity opens the way to understanding, as Jesse Zook seeks to help his friend Tobias's family on their farm during his absence. Our actions do affect those around us ~ for good to reach hearts!

Image result for geneva state park ohioLakeside Love by Kathleen Fuller reveals one sister feeling she has lived in the shadow of her younger sister. Could her suspicion and hurt hide a personality wanting to come alive? To have a shadow there must be a light! The sisters find surprising outlooks when they finally speak their hearts to each other. I liked how their family was inclusive of others.

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Welcome back to Bee County, Texas. Reading Kelly Irvin's previous series, you will want to catch up on the happenings in this small community. Who will be most surprised by One Sweet Kiss?

You are known by the company you keep. How far can you go to be believed? As Jacob King endeavors to help his friend, will his assistance continue to be misunderstood?
I'm turning Amish (not really though); this young man is good looking!:

There is a glossary of Pennsylvania Dutch words in the front and Discussion Questions after each novella. Fun to read alone or sharing with your book club. I liked all of these stories and would be difficult to pick just one as a favorite! The theme is near with discovery of each other in a new way. Communication is key to the development of the stories. Words left to the imagination fester when not revealed and exposed to truth. These authors have strongly portrayed love in its greatest form ~ another before yourself will harvest rich J*O*Ys. For the seeker and the sought, love blossoms when a friend takes the risk to be truthful rather than sparing feelings that are only a cover up emotion. Blessings in disguise bring happiness to all when following in the Lord's path. Titles of other novels and novellas by the authors are listed so you can continue on reading their stories you are sure to enjoy.

***Thank you authors and to BookLook Bloggers for supplying a copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Shelley Shepard Gray
Amy Clipston
Kathy Fuller
Kelly Irvin

Thursday, June 15, 2017

None So Blind by Chautona Havig, © 2013

None so blind FB Banner copy

Book title: None So Blind
Author: Chautona Havig
Release date: September 29, 2013
Genre: Contemporary


My Review

This is a book about grace ~ to the hearer, the observer, and internally for each. Entering a home you do not recognize, having a husband and your children you do not know ~ gathering pieces only by what you are told. Having no relational "database" to draw from, you do not have a beginning or an end before today. How long have you been gone? Returning to your family when you look the same on the outside but are unaware of a time before.

I liked how the author portrayed each character's thoughts and actions. Some secondary characters giving information that was not beneficial and how the main characters threaded through those entanglements by searching and replacing with truth. The reactions of the children showed an underlying foundation they had of trust and security; to approach uncertainty while remaining steadfast in daily activity.

Loss of memory is real. Whether blocked by trauma suddenly or over time closing off association that cannot be remembered. This story is a gathering of change to move forward. Determination and relearning steps brought Daniella Weeks to a life with openings and not deterioration in a gradual decline.

Viewpoints of those to let in or selectively remove was a big denominator in this story. Those who came alongside to encourage brought great depth.

True love is an act of the will––a conscious decision
to do what is best for the other person
instead of ourselves.
   ~ Billy Graham

About the Book

Dani and Ella Weeks–two women who share one thing in common. The same life, the same family, and the same body.

When Dani wakes with no knowledge of who or where she is–no memories of her life at all–David and Dani Weeks discover that “til death do us part” takes on an entirely unexpected meaning. Practically speaking, Dani died. But she didn’t.

What’s a gal to do?

In a desperate attempt to separate the old life from the new, Dani insists on a new name, a twist of her old one–Ella.

Ella’s doctors can’t explain what happened. Her children can’t understand why she doesn’t know them. David, her husband, finds himself torn between admiration for the “new” version of his wife and missing the woman he’s known for over fifteen years.

Will Ella ever regain her memory? Why does their pastor suspect it’s one great hoax?

About the Author

media-headshot-sm  Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert with her husband and five of her nine children.  Through her novels, she hopes to encourage Christians in their walk with Jesus.

Guest post from Chautona Havig

“Who are you, again?”

“I’m Joe’s, daughter. Vyonie.” My sister pointed to me. “This is Chautona.”

For some odd reason, the niece she spent the least amount of time with, Aunt Doris remembered—somewhat. But she didn’t remember Vyonie from what I could tell. She smiled at me, that amazing, sweet smile I’d never forget. She asked how I was. I always thought that Mrs. Sanderson—mother of John, Alicia, and Carl on the TV show, Little House on the Prairie—looked and sounded like Aunt Doris. Of course, that memory of me didn’t last. A minute or two later, she gave me a big smile and asked if she knew me.

It gave me a picture of what it must have been like for my character, Ella Weeks—to wake up every day with these children there—children who knew her, but she didn’t remember. The hurt she caused every time she had to struggle to admit she didn’t know something she probably should—again. So, I thought I’d ask her to tell us about it.

Ella: People often assume that the worst part of losing my memory are the memories that disappeared, too. But it’s not. As much as I’d love to remember my wedding day, my daughter’s first steps, my son’s first words, or that moment I realized I was pregnant with my third, those are blessings that I don’t think about often. No, what hurts most is seeing the pain in my children’s eyes when they need me to remember something and I can’t. For me, not remembering their first day of kindergarten is an inconvenience. For them, it’s a further reminder that if they didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t know them. That without them pushing themselves into my life, I wouldn’t care about them any more than any other human in my path. I do now, of course, but not at first. I hate that they heard David say once, “…she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t trust me. She doesn’t know our children. She tries, but she could walk out of our lives tomorrow and never miss us.”

Living so close to it every day, I missed those little bits of pain that I inflicted without meaning to, but when I went with our Bible study to a nursing home and visited with the residents, then I saw it. Women with tears running down their cheeks as loved ones patted their hands and tried to comfort. I heard one man offer to find a woman’s father. She squeezed him close and whispered, “It’s okay, Daddy. I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The man promised to try to find her father in the meantime.

Those people there—most of them didn’t realize they didn’t remember someone important. They didn’t struggle to remember this or that. Their dementia had gotten bad enough that their lives had gone from constant frustration to, by comparison, blissful oblivion.

And their families withered with each forgotten face, name, moment.

That’s what my “episode” did for my family. It caused them pain that just resurfaced every time something new happened. Pain that I didn’t know I inflicted. And since that visit, I have a greater compassion and awareness of just how amazing and powerful memories are.

I also have a greater appreciation for those beautiful words in Isaiah when the Lord promised… “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”

You see, there’s a lifetime of the sins that Jesus died for buried somewhere in my brain—or, at least at one time there was. I know that those sins were in there, because the ones I committed yesterday are there today. The ones I’ve already confessed and been forgiven for—I beat myself up for the next morning. A week later. A month. But the Lord has wiped them clean. I just keep smearing them back out there again as if to say, “But You don’t get how BAD I was.” Yeah. The arrogance, right? Because an almighty, holy God can’t possibly understand how sinful a sinner that He had to DIE to save from those sins… is. The arrogance? That’s an understatement.

But all those years before that horrible morning… gone. Maybe I stole something. I don’t know. It was forgiven, wiped clean, and then wiped from my memory. I can’t rehash it with the Lord over and over. I can’t drag it back up like a wife who won’t let her husband forget the one time he forgot her birthday. I can’t use it as a whip to beat myself up with. And I think there’s something beautiful in that.

Do I wish I could stop hurting my family with my blank past? Of course. But am I also grateful for a living picture of the fresh start the Lord gives His people at salvation? Definitely. I hope I never take it for granted again.
***Thank you, author Chautona Havig for having a print copy sent to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Summer Reading Giveaway

Blog Stops

June 15Genesis 5020
June 15Lane Hill House
June 16The Scribbler
June 17Back Porch Reads
June 18Carpe Diem
June 19Quiet Quilter
June 20Mommynificent
June 22Pursuing Stacie
June 22Remembrancy
June 23Pause for Tales
June 24Bigreadersite
June 25Lots of Helpers
June 26A Reader's Brain
June 27God1meover
June 28Just Jo'Anne
June 28Henry Happens

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears, © 2017

Teaville Moral Society, Book 2

Cover Art

My Review:

David Kingsman has a lot of surprises in store for himself when his father has sent him to Teaville to revive the new company they have taken over; especially, when in a matter of minutes he lost half his office employees.

A. K. Glass will be an interesting canning jar factory when all is said and done. I am thinking they should include a lunchroom with David's expanding sensitivity to food ~ he can smell fried chicken cooking a long way off.

Evelyn Wisely is going about her daily journeys when David keeps popping up ~ first he follows her, which was to his good as he found the main street to locate a hotel for his rest. But... he seems to also find people who know her as they both show up at Nicholas Lowe's home at lunch time. Lydia, Nicholas' wife and dear friend of Evelyn, tells her Mr. Kingsman was invited.
"Nicholas met with him earlier about some lumber deal and sent him here for lunch. He's evidently new in town and was wondering where to get something good to eat."
   A Love So True, 38.
Oh, goodness, what a reputation I am giving David by my remarks ~ but they just stood out to me ~ "A way to a man's heart is through his stomach," is an old saying; likely, from this 1908 time period!

streetcars 1910 in "Teaville":
I really liked this story as the characters find they can stand without hindrance. Growth comes as they take chances reaching out beyond being told by someone else what was for their best. As they rely on the Lord and take their matters to prayer, they find open doors so unexpected. A risk worth taking to leave the past behind and gain the future.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from A Love So True ~ Chapter 1


Southeast Kansas
September 1908

If David Kingsman had any chance of making his father proud, this next decision could be it. Of course, Father was just as likely to disown him for it, but if David’s projections were correct, it would be worth it. Hopefully.
   Closing the last ledger, David looked across the room at the factory manager of A. K. Glass. Mr. Burns stood by the window, stroking his gray beard while staring out over the industrial part of town, as he’d done the whole time David had pored over the factory’s books.
   The fact that the manager had done nothing for several hours was as telling as the numbers in these ledgers.
   Mr. Burns should be glad Father wasn’t the one here right now. Though he wouldn’t like him either once he heard his decision.
   “Mr. Burns.” David released a breath and pushed himself out of the chair. “After today’s examination, I’m afraid I need to let you go.”
   The man blinked but didn’t move.
   “I understand you’ll need time to gather your things.” He gestured toward the man’s desk before striding to the door and entering the front office, where several men handled the glass factory’s paperwork. The stacks of papers on their desks were but a draft away from fluttering to the floor already littered with boxes, crinkled papers, and glass jars. He tapped his hand on the empty desk closest to Mr. Burns’s door. “Does anyone know where Mr. Carlisle is?”
   The three other employees in the office looked up and shook their heads.
   “Men,” Mr. Burns’s voice boomed from behind him, “I’d suggest you find a job elsewhere before it’s too late. After only one day’s assessment, the owner’s son here thinks we aren’t doing our best. If he’ll fire me, he’ll fire you.”
   David held up his hand. “That’s not true. Workers who earn their pay will not be fired.” He turned to glare at Mr. Burns. “I suggest you leave peaceably.”
   Mr. Carlisle’s tall, thin frame sneaked in through the outer doorway, his thin mustache twitching. “I heard Liberty Glass is hiring.”
   “Better to work under someone who cares about the people in this town rather than some outsider.” Mr. Burns shuffled through the crowded office, holding his box high above his paunch. “Come, George. I’ll put in a good word for you.” He gestured with his head for Carlisle to follow, then stomped out the door.
   The three men behind their desks glanced between Mr. Carlisle and the outsider who’d dared to fire their boss.
   David took his time to look all four men in the eyes. “I can’t promise anything, but my intention is not to fire anyone who’s competent. If you’ve been hardworking and—”
   “Well, my uncle did the best he could with this place, and if that wasn’t enough . . .” Mr. Carlisle shuffled through the mess toward his desk. “I’ll pack my things.”
   His uncle? No, no, no. He needed Mr. Carlisle! “Now wait. I know how difficult it can be to work with family, the pressure to remain loyal no matter what. But I’m willing to raise your salary since I need to make this place ready . . . er, I mean . . . start to . . .” Argh. What could he say that wouldn’t offend but would convince him to stay? especially since he wasn’t sure how long Mr. Carlisle could keep the position. “I’d appreciate your help in turning this place into what my father and I have envisioned.”
   The man dumped the contents of a filing box onto the floor and snatched the lone photograph off his desk. Before packing it, he stopped to give David a smug look. “Good luck doing that without me.” He opened a drawer and retrieved a sweater and a tin box.
   “Is Liberty really hiring?” The youngest of the three remaining men ruffled his red hair.
   David clamped his jaw to keep from begging the man to stay. His father would have immediately handed the kid a box for uttering such a disloyal question.
   But why would these men feel loyal to Kingsman & Son? Father had only visited once after he’d received the deed from the former proprietor, who’d signed it over to clear a debt. He’d then left the place to run on its own, expecting the same diligence from his Teaville manager as those who ran his holdings in Kansas City.
   As soon as these workers found out Kingsman & Son planned to sell this place, what reason would they have to be loyal?
   David refused to let his body posture slump an inch. “You’re free to go, of course, but I won’t rehire you.”
   “We’ll put in a good word for you.” Mr. Carlisle waved a beckoning hand toward the redhead.
   The two other men stared down at their desks. The one to David’s right pulled an invoice toward him, focusing on it as if fascinated.
   The younger man stood and shrugged. “It’s closer to home anyway. I resign.”
   David gave the redhead a curt nod and tried not to fist his hands while he and Carlisle finished clearing their desks of personal items.
   How would he fix this place up quickly without the secretary he’d been counting on to know the ins and outs of the company?
   Uncle and nephew. How he wished that information had come to light earlier.
   After the two men exited, David turned to the remaining two employees. “Continue on, I’ll be asking for your help shortly.”
   They both gave him a nod before he returned to Mr. Burns’s office. Shutting the door quietly, he wilted onto one of the office chair’s cushioned arms.
   Good thing Father had already banished him to Teaville, for it seemed he’d be here awhile. He stared at the papers and ledgers piled on the desk, then looked at the clock. Three fifteen.
   As if his stomach could read time, it rumbled, reminding him how he’d skipped his lunch hour while agonizing over the right decision.
   Which now seemed to have been the wrong one.
   He grabbed the jacket he’d left draped over a chair and shrugged it on. Working on an empty stomach was foolhardy, but he really couldn’t blame this fiasco on hunger.
   “I’ll return, gentlemen.” He strode through the office and out onto the metal balcony that overlooked the main floor of the factory, where men sorted, boxed, and hauled all the various iterations of A. K. Glass canning jars. Thankfully the furnaces were clear across the building and the heat was only mildly stifling here.
   His hard soles clanged as he descended the narrow metal staircase, like the pinging of a hammer pounding nails into the coffin where his business prowess now lay.
   Outside, the early-autumn air was almost as muggy as inside the factory, but at least the sun was shining. He closed his eyes against its bright rays.
   Lord, I need help. In more ways than one.
   Thankfully the same God who made that very sun rise knew his predicament. He could take comfort in that, if nothing else. The scent of something fried wafted on the slight breeze, so he took a left turn at the end of the building and attempted to follow his nose. He glanced around at the industrial area surrounding his factory—bland brick-walled alleys, rutted roads, and tall build - ings. Why hadn’t he asked the men where he could get something good to eat?
   As he passed by another massive factory, the sight of a street a block ahead crowded with buildings better suited for small busi- nesses made him rub his hands together, especially since the fried smell was stronger now. He passed an abandoned building on his way to the shops and squinted to make out the well-painted wooden signs hanging from the storefronts up ahead. Where was the smell of food coming from?
   He slowed as he finally reached the sidewalk.
   The Dutch Tulip, the California, the Pink Lady, the Charlatan.
   The faint sound of a piano playing and subdued laughter somewhere down the street gave him pause. He looked into the nearest two windows. Saloons or inns, maybe, both dark at the moment. He really should’ve asked the man who’d picked him up from the train to tell him about the area, but David had been so focused on accomplishing Father’s request, he’d paid little attention to his surroundings.
   He had never stepped foot in the seedy areas back home. Should he just go back to work?
   A young man walked out of a nearby building and tipped his cowboy hat. He’d exited from someplace called the Hawk and eagle Soda Fountain.
   The youth looked respectable enough, so David returned the nod and pulled out his pocket watch. What harm would it do to grab a plate of food and take it to the factory? He needed to return in time to ask someone to recommend a few boardinghouses or hotels lest he end up somewhere less than savory tonight.
   He crossed the fairly empty brick street and headed toward the soda fountain. even if the delicious smell was coming from somewhere else, he should at least find something edible here.
   As he stepped onto the sidewalk, a tall, dark-headed woman emerged from the alleyway. The pale blue of her simple, high-necked dress was not the vibrant color he’d expect of a woman who frequented the bad areas of town. Perhaps he wasn’t where he thought he was after all.
   She turned into the Hawk and eagle before he did. Should be a decent place, then.
   Inside, a few men sat at smoky tables surrounding the square counter in the middle of the large room.
   The woman was halfway across the floor. She wasn’t calling attention to herself with a seductive sashay or suggestive glances, so he headed for the counter.
   A flash of brilliant red caught his eye. A female at a back corner table was wearing the exact kind of dress he would have expected in a brothel. The woman’s painted lips curved as he met her eyes, and she ran a hand across her bodice, tempting him to look at the skin her dress failed to cover.
   This sort of woman made the lady in blue stick out like a sore thumb.
   He glanced back at the lady he’d followed in, who was ascending the stairs of a balcony lined with several doors. Why had she come in such a place?
   She strode across the balcony without a glance toward the players groaning about losing a hand of poker or the woman in the red silk sitting on a man’s lap.
   Though average in looks, the woman in blue’s uncommon height, if nothing else, should have caught people’s attention—yet a quick glance around told him no one seemed to notice the out-of-place woman except him.
   She stopped at the second door on the balcony and knocked. What could she possibly be doing up there? Was he wrong? Would upstanding people rent rooms in a place where this woman in red worked?
   When the upstairs door opened, the tall woman said something with a smile and then disappeared into the room.
   He rubbed his eyes and glanced around the main floor. Not a single man was looking in her direction with a puzzled expression—or one of baser interest.
   Should he do something? What? She certainly didn’t appear to be in danger. But could he go about his business not knowing how she fared?
   “You wantin’ something?”
   The man at the counter had finished drying a glass and stood staring at him with an uplifted eyebrow.
   David looked around and saw no food. “Um . . . what sodas do you have?”
   The man picked up another glass. “Ginger ale and club.”
   “That’s it?”
   “If you want fancy, try the soda fountain on Main Street. Frilly flavors like cola, cherry, and lemon-lime there.”
   David waited for a few seconds, but the man didn’t ask him if he wanted something harder to drink, though maybe he was just being cautious with the newcomer since alcohol was illegal in Kansas.
   “Club soda, then.”
   In a matter of minutes, the woman in blue backed out of the room and headed downstairs. A young man who’d been busily shucking peanut shells between sips of what appeared to be whis- key seemed to notice her for the first time. The red-freckled youth looked her over with a shy smile and quickly abandoned his seat and headed for the bottom stair. If he meant for the silly tilt of his brows and his puffed-up chest to convey confidence, he failed by combining it with a nervous swagger.
   Without so much as a how-do-you-do, the lad cut off her path and took hold of her left arm. “I’ve heard there’s nothing in this world like being held in the arms of an angel, and I’d like to find out for myself.”
   She backed away, giving him a patronizing glare. “You should go home, young man.”
   The boy’s lips curled into a snarl as she tugged against his grip. David left his soda and hurried forward.
   “Let her go,” the man behind the counter hollered. “She ain’t one of my girls.”
   The youth glared at the soda jerk, and the woman took the opportunity to pull away. She gave the man behind the counter a nod before heading out.
   David stopped, but she didn’t even acknowledge him as she blew past.
   The freckled miscreant huffed as if he were ten and his momma had told him he couldn’t bring frogs into the house, then slogged off to his seat. The two groups of men at the corner tables hadn’t stopped jabbering. The red silk woman had disappeared.
   David looked back at the soda jerk or bartender—whatever he truly was—but the man had resumed polishing the rows of empty glasses on his counter.
   A woman was almost assaulted and he goes back to cleaning?
   David turned to follow the lady out.
   “Hey!” the bartender hollered. “You didn’t pay for your drink.”
   David dug a coin from his pocket and tossed it onto the counter, then rushed outside. To his left, the tall brunette was walking east, seemingly farther into what had to be this town’s red-light district.
   Had she no idea where she was either?
   He sped up and then kept pace far enough behind not to draw attention, but close enough to sprint to her if needed. A sudden flurry of black flew out of the alley. A muddy-haired kid ran straight for her.
   David’s feet flew just as quickly as the young one’s. A pickpocket hadn’t been the fate he’d expected to save her from, but he wouldn’t let her be mugged if he could stop it.
   The boy slammed into her and wrapped his arms around her legs, throwing the woman off balance.
   One of her arms twirled for a second to save herself from a fall, and then she laughed.
   David pulled up short. Laughed? He couldn’t help but wrinkle his brow.
   What kind of decent woman came into a red-light district with a smile for a prostitute and a laugh for an urchin?
   She leaned over to embrace the boy, dirty clothes and all, then ruffled his matted hair.
   After getting a tweak to the nose and a reply of some sort, the boy dashed off so fast the brunette’s attempt to pat his back failed.
   Perhaps this woman didn’t need an escort after all . . . and yet, that made her all the more intriguing.
   She shoved one hand into a side pocket and whirled around, her eyes narrowed, her chin tilted in question. “Is there a reason you’re following me, sir?”
   Was there anything about this woman that wouldn’t surprise him? He’d expected a big-boned woman like her, who was likely a smidgen taller than he, to have a deep, husky voice, and yet it was as soft as an angel’s, even with challenge coloring her tone.
   He glanced at the stiff arm disappearing into her skirt. At least she wasn’t completely unprepared for the bad section of town. Hopefully she had something more substantial than a jackknife in her hand.
   “No need to worry about me.” He walked forward slowly, his palms out. “You, on the other hand . . . I mean, it looks as if you’re doing just fine, but the people who frequent areas like this . . . Well, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to make sure you get out of here safely and meet up with someone you know.”
   Her hand didn’t leave her pocket. “You do realize I saw you in the saloon.”
   “You mean the Hawk and eagle Soda Fountain?”
   She snorted.
   All right, so that wasn’t the sound he would have expected from an angel.
   “Not a soul believes that’s a soda fountain.” She rolled her eyes, and yet her smile was more amused than anything. “You might think me less than bright for visiting this part of town, but I assure you, I’m not that stupid.”
   He pulled at his tie, feeling a little less than bright himself, since it had taken him a while to figure out this was indeed the bad part of town. “I only went in because you did. I was looking for something to eat.”
   He threw her the grin that made most women duck their heads and flutter their eyelashes—didn’t work on her, apparently. “Regardless, would you mind terribly if I escort you home? Considering where you are, I doubt many men will stop to ask you who you are before they make assumptions.”
   She straightened and threw back her shoulders. “Your escort is not necessary. I’m fine, thank you, and good day.” She turned and strode away.
   She was obviously not fine, but she sure was interesting.
   He waited until she was farther ahead this time before following. In just a few blocks, she turned onto a much busier street with plenty of well-dressed ladies strolling among the passersby before she disappeared behind a shiny new streetcar. The green monster of a contraption rumbled down its tracks, heedless of horse or human and the rare automobile.
   David’s stomach cramped, but thankfully the woman had led him into a section of town he wouldn’t have to worry about being seen in. At the hotel across the street, a couple—framed by a large picture window—ate what looked to be a gigantic slice of meringue pie.
   After one last glance toward where the mystery woman had vanished, he made his way across the street for lunch. Too bad Father’s glass factory would keep him busy until it was sold and he could return to Kansas City. Trying to figure out what the woman in blue was about would have been a great way to entertain himself during his banishment.
   But he couldn’t work every hour of the day. Maybe he could find a way to run into her again.
Melissa Jagears, A Love So True Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

Melissa Jagears Meet author Melissa Jagears as she shares her writings of this second novel in her Teaville Moral Society series.

What was the hardest part of your book to write?

The hardest part was coming up with a story! For two reasons:

One, the only character I could use for a heroine from A Heart Most Certain was Evelyn Wisely. But since I’d written A Heart Most Certain before I’d thought about making it a part of a series, Evelyn was my ‘perfect’ character. I’d set her up to be like a woman I know who is just the sweetest, nicest person I have ever met. She’s always looking out for others, quiet, has a servant’s heart, and seems content with her life. So, well, when you have a character with no worries and no apparent flaws, it’s hard to imagine up difficulties that would make a compelling story.

Two, Nicholas Lowe, the hero from A Heart Most Certain, is a very principled, wealthy man. So any complications I gave my characters that involved money didn’t work because they could just ask Nicholas! I now know not to start a series with a kind, wealthy character!

Did you do anything differently with this book?

I have my hero and heroine from the previous book more involved than I normally do in subsequent books. I still make sure my books are stand-alone reads, but I just loved Nicholas and Lydia too much to push them into a cameo role.

What stands out about your hero and heroine? Do they have any special traits?

As I mentioned earlier, Evelyn is just one of the sweetest women you’d ever meet . . . except if you’re a guy who shows a romantic interest. She doesn’t handle that all too well. And David, not only is he a gentleman, but his eyes! I modeled them after Paul Newman’s beautiful blues—be still my heart!!

Are you nervous about anything about this book’s release?

I’m nervous about spoilers! I almost always try for a big plot twist, but this one is my biggest I think. So far none of my readers have guessed ahead of time, and they’ve all told me how surprised they were, and yet it made perfect sense. So I’m worried for readers who read reviews because a spoiler would make it a little less fun. But it’s also one of those plot twists that makes for fun rereading because you pick up on all the nuances you missed the first time around. I love rereading for that very reason.
Carol Award-winning author Melissa Jagears is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian historical romance into the wee hours of the night. She's the author of the Unexpected Brides series, the Teaville Moral Society series, and Love by the Letter, a free prequel ebook novella. You can learn more about Melissa, her books, and where she hangs out online at her website.
Cover Art
A Heart Most Certain ~ Book 1, Teaville Moral Society Series
***Thank you, author Melissa Jagears, and Bethany House Publishers for sending a print copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Book 3, Teaville Moral Society ~ A Chance at Forever releases March 6, 2018!

Friday, June 2, 2017

To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden, © 2017

My Review:

Going on with your life after looking for a letter that never came from the one you will always love. Surely he would change his mind after the first letter declaring their relationship was over. Six years of trying to forget yet wondering why you have been left behind, civilian nurse Jenny Bennett continues on the night shift at the Presidio Army base hospital in San Francisco, California. Having honor and achievement in helping injured men readjust to civilian life differently than when they left home, her life is going along smoothly ~ until the day she thought she recognized the voice from her heart. Ryan Gallagher, whom she had met those years ago in the same ward she now attended. But wait. There is a child with him. How could it be her Ryan, the one who won her heart?
Image result for army base hospital san francisco 1898

Naval Lt. Ryan Gallagher is back from assignment and unable to say where he has been. In the meantime, as the rest of his troop had gone to the Philippines those years ago, he is still spoken of in the ward as a deserter. Valor set aside, he must continue on silently. Can he reclaim his life?

And his daughter ~ little Lily Gallagher is defining a determined will to learn a second language that will benefit her in her future womanhood. So thankful for the times something you think is a small little thing as you do it, actually benefits in the future and prepares you for what is ahead. Strenuous to learn to read and write the language beyond speaking, Lily masters skills set before her.

 A child draws closeness in Ryan and a humbled heart to those around her.

To melt a hardened heart... Jenny wondered how deeply the thaw would need be. Forgive abandonment and being set aside?
When a reluctant spy falls in love with an army nurse,
they can’t imagine the web of intrigue and adventure
heading their way. ~ author Elizabeth Camden
In this story, the characters each have need to explore their defiance and cause. Loneliness on Ryan's part, missing Jenny? Or, overcome with remembrance of a youth that was snuffed out before time allowed. Secondary characters are supportive and agreeable to find a solution that is amiable to all. For in any life, those surrounding them are affected too by change that has or needs to be made to free them to live a life full of grace and forgiveness. Coming alongside to trust will be a journey ~ desired or not. To be freed from a past that strangles any hope for today if not left to continue forward. Determined, it takes more than one to accomplish a freedom available and tangible in a Love offered freely.
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30
"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes."  Jeremiah 31:25
Enjoy this excerpt from To the Farthest Shores ~ Prologue and Chapter 1


U.S. Army Base at the Presidio
San Francisco, 1898

Jenny Bennett woke as pebbles clattered against her window. She sat bolt upright, trying to get her bearings. As a hospital nurse, she was often called upon in the middle of the night, but always by a knock on her door.
   Even as she scrambled from beneath the bedsheets, another spray of pebbles hit the glass. She dashed to the window, wincing at the cold tile on her bare feet. Standing by the lamppost below was the distinctive figure of Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher, his sandy blond hair glinting in the circle of gaslight. Ryan was the most straight-laced man she knew, hardly the type to be flinging pebbles against her window in the dead of night.
   She tugged up the window sash. “What’s going on?”
   “Can you come down?” Ryan called up in a hoarse whisper, trying to avoid waking others in the building. Over two hundred people slept in this army barracks, but only a handful were women. As a civilian nurse, she was fortunate the army let her lodge here. Otherwise she’d have to make the long cable car journey from the city each day.
   “I’ll be right down.”
   April in San Francisco was chilly, so she shrugged into a coat and tugged on a pair of boots. She finger-combed her straight black hair, trying to pull it into some semblance of order before running down to meet Ryan. They’d only known each other for three months, but she’d been in love with him for two.
   A glance at the clock revealed it was three in the morning. What on earth was Ryan up to at such an hour? She hastened down the steps, out the door, and straight into the shelter of Ryan’s waiting arms. She smiled as he lifted her from the ground, holding on tight as he twirled her around.
   “I almost didn’t recognize you in those civilian clothes,” she said once her feet were on solid ground. “Are you alright?”
   “I’m fine,” he assured her, drawing back to gaze into her face. He seemed unusually somber—sad, even. He was usually in such good spirits, and his mood worried her. “Let’s go somewhere private,” he whispered.
   The Presidio sprawled over three square miles on the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula. Most of it was wilderness, but the western side contained an army base, the hospital, and training facilities. The army used only a fraction of the land. The rest of it was blanketed with towering pines, eucalyptus groves, and sycamore trees, making the Presidio feel like a primeval wilderness. The forest also provided plenty of seclusion from the chaos on base.
   Normally the Presidio housed less than a thousand people, but since President McKinley declared war against Spain, the base had been mobilizing for conflict. Troops from across the nation streamed into the Presidio, preparing to sail for the Spanish colonies in the Far East. Thousands of pup tents were scattered like mushrooms across the lawns and parade fields to shelter the newly arrived soldiers.
   Jenny followed Ryan on a meandering path through the tents, still confused by his strange behavior. Was he ill again? It had been three months since the USS Baltimore hobbled into port with half its crew suffering from typhoid. Ryan had been among the stricken, his case bad enough to hospitalize him for two weeks. He finally recovered but was still rail-thin.
   During his stay in the hospital, Ryan had been consistently polite, managing a weak smile of gratitude each time she tended him. His warm brown eyes always softened the instant she came into view, and he was the kindest man she’d ever met. He read the Bible before breakfast and murmured a prayer of thanks before each meal.
   She’d started calling him Galahad, partly because it was similar to his last name, but mostly because it was how he seemed to her. She secretly gave lots of her patients nicknames: Bossy Man, the Weeper, the Nice Texan, the Rude Texan . . . but from the moment she met Ryan Gallagher, she thought of him as Galahad.
   She couldn’t imagine why he’d come to see her at such an unseemly hour. He wasn’t in uniform either, which was out of character. The Presidio was an army base, but since the declaration of war, the navy had anchored their fleets in the harbor and their officers had moved into Presidio quarters. Ryan had been one of those naval officers, looking wickedly handsome in his crisp, white dress uniform. It wouldn’t be long before the ships set sail for the Philippines, and already she ached at the thought of Ryan going to some tropical jungle to fight a war no one understood.
   It got darker as they moved into the cool sycamore forest, a carpet of damp leaves cushioning her footsteps and giving off a loamy scent. She startled at a sudden cascade of birdcall, odd at this time of night. She glanced at Ryan with a question in her eyes.
   “Night herons,” he whispered. “They forage in the hours before dawn, always in groups. They’re very social creatures. We must have surprised them.”
   Ryan knew everything about animal and marine life. It was one of the things she found so attractive about him. Jenny had spent her entire life in the city, but Ryan courted her with walks along the seashore that rimmed the Presidio. During those walks he taught her to see the world with new eyes. He would hunker down on the beach to show her the underside of a starfish. He told her about red rock crabs and how they acted like stewards of the estuary by keeping the bottom of the bay clean. Ryan could explain the difference between a fungus and an alga. Sometimes they simply walked in silence, but even then she felt like singing and laughing at the same time. Ryan touched a part of her soul she hadn’t even known existed. It had been easy to ignore the war during those golden afternoons, but it was suddenly all too real.
   Ryan pulled her a few feet off the path behind a tree and drew her into an embrace. “I’ve come to say good-bye,” he said, and it felt like she’d been punched in the stomach. None of the ships were leaving until next month, and Ryan wasn’t well enough to be sent into combat yet. This didn’t make sense.
   She pulled back to peer into his face. “Where are you going ?”
   “I can’t tell you. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, but I couldn’t leave without saying good-bye.”
   She was speechless. They’d just found each other, and now he was leaving ahead of all the other troops? It seemed impossible for a man as gentle as Ryan Gallagher to be going to war. He belonged in a college classroom or a church pulpit, not a battlefield. They had already begun planning a life together. They were going to buy a saltbox cottage on one of the bluffs north of the city, a place where they could bask in the purity of the sunlight and clean ocean breezes.
   “Will you write?” she managed to ask.
   “I’ll try.”
   That seemed odd, too. Above all, the military took extraordinary measures to ensure mail was delivered to and from their soldiers. It was one of the few things they could offer to make remote postings more bearable. Writing should be an easy thing to promise, but Jenny knew Ryan wouldn’t lie to her.
   She grasped his forearms as she tried to memorize each feature of his handsome face. She didn’t even have a photograph of him. “Why are they sending you out so early? None of the other men are leaving until next month. I don’t want them sending you off when you’re still twenty pounds underweight and could suffer a relapse.”
   He smiled gently. “Jenny, I’m fine.”
   “You’re letting the navy take advantage of you.” Ryan was so instinctively generous that he let people exploit his good nature. She didn’t know what she’d done to deserve a man as gallant as Ryan Gallagher. She was a girl from the wrong side of San Francisco, and he was a hero straight out of a storybook.
   “I can’t say anything more, but I don’t want you worrying about me, alright? I’m going to be okay. I might even be home before Christmas.”
   His words were meant to be comforting, but they had the opposite effect. Didn’t people always underestimate the enemy? Ever since Congress had declared war, soldiers had boasted it would take only a few weeks to trounce the Spanish, but Jenny wasn’t so sure.
   “Ryan, it’s Spain,” she said, ashamed of the tremble in her voice. “Spain has been one of the greatest naval empires for centuries. How can you say it won’t be dangerous? Even crossing the ocean to the Philippines is dangerous.”
   “I haven’t said I’m going to the Philippines.”
   Jenny made no answer, but everyone knew the war would be fought in the Philippines, where Spanish soldiers had been entrenched for three hundred years. Even before the formal declaration of war, the navy began funneling men, munitions, and ships into the San Francisco harbor for the grand expedition that would leave next month. Jenny never would have met Ryan except for this war, but she dreaded the thought of his leaving.
   “I’m still worried about you,” she said. “Something about this doesn’t seem right.”
   He touched her cheek, his face radiating warm sympathy. “I don’t want you worrying over me. As I came to see you, I spotted a shooting star. Did you know it’s a sign of good luck?” He drew her into his embrace again, holding her tightly. “Don’t tell anyone I was here tonight,” he whispered into her ear. “It’s not something that can get leaked.”
   “Of course.” Civilian employees were warned to keep quiet about all troop movements and activities on the base. It seemed impossible to believe the Spanish would have planted spies among them, but she would keep quiet. Suddenly the war felt very real, and she didn’t want it to. She wanted to go on meeting Ryan on the quadrangle, having picnics on the cliff overlooking the bay, and fooling herself into believing their magical interlude would never end. How long would it be before he held her like this again? It seemed so unfair. To have finally found someone, only to have him torn away so quickly.
   “Before I go, I want you to know how much I love you,” he whispered against her cheek, and her heart squeezed. He withdrew a few inches to gaze down into her face. “As soon as I get back, we’ll get married and start the rest of our life together. I wish I’d had a chance to buy a ring, but everything is happening much faster than I thought.”
   This might be the most wonderful and heartbreaking moment of her entire life. Her heart threatened to split wide open. “That sounds really good,” she managed to say.
   He fumbled in his pocket, then pressed a heavy gold watch into her hands, the metal still warm from the heat of his body. “At least take my father’s watch. Something to remember me by.”
   “No, Ryan, it’s too much.” She tried to give it back, but his hands were firm as they closed around hers.
   “Keep it safe for me,” he said. “I’ll be back someday with a wedding ring, and then we can trade, okay?”
   “I can do that,” she whispered.
   “I wish things didn’t have to be this way, but it’s time for me to go. You won’t see me again until this is all over.”
   “I’ll be waiting for you,” she said. “I don’t care how long you’re gone, I’ll wait forever.”
   For some reason, her declaration seemed to make him sad. A shadow passed over his face as he pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently in the moonlight.
   “Good-bye, Jenny. I’ll never forget you. No matter where I go, your heart and spirit will be with me always.”

   Months went by with no news from Ryan. Each day Jenny held her breath as she approached the post office on the base. Other people received plenty of letters from the soldiers sent overseas, but Jenny’s box was always empty. She checked the casualty lists daily, saying a prayer of relief each time she failed to spot Ryan’s name.
   The war didn’t last long. By September it was all over and soldiers began returning home, but there was still no news from Ryan. As Christmas came and went, she feared he’d been killed and somehow his name was not recorded on the casualty lists. What if he’d been captured and trapped in some foreign land where he didn’t know the language? He could have suffered a relapse of typhoid or some other tropical disease. Ryan had no family and no one to sound the alarm that he’d gone missing.
   It was impossible to sit by and do nothing, so she wrote to Washington to inquire about a sailor who seemed to have vanished. She wrote to the Secretary of the War Department and the captain of the USS Baltimore. She wrote to Admiral Dewey himself. It came to nothing, all of them claiming Ryan was deployed and in good health, but she could not believe it when months went by without a single letter from him.
   It took over a year for the first and only letter she would ever receive from Ryan to arrive at the Presidio. Jenny stared at it with disbelieving eyes, but it was short and to the point.
Dear Jenny,
   I fear I was too optimistic about our future prospects. I have been offered an important opportunity with the navy and have accepted the commission. I will not be returning to California, but I wish you the very best with whatever your future holds.    I am deeply sorry for any false expectations I may have created during my convalescence at the Presidio.
                                                                            Lt. Ryan Gallagher

Six Years Later
Summer 1904

Jenny stepped outside the hospital, gazing at the sunrise just beginning to light the horizon. While sunrise signaled the beginning of the day for most people, for Jenny it meant bedtime.
   Civilian nurses had been reassigned to overnight work after the war ended, and returning soldiers took the desirable day shifts. Working through the night was a struggle, but it was her only option if she wanted to continue working at the Presidio’s hospital.
   It was still chilly, and she drew her heavy woolen cloak tighter. Normally at this time she returned to her quarters, drew the shades, and slept until noon.
   Not today. Her stomach clenched as she anticipated her meeting with Captain Soames, the medical director for the hospital at the Presidio. Once a battlefield doctor, Captain Soames had been working at a desk since the Spanish-American War ended only eight months after it began. He was a humorless, hard-bitten man who had little patience for the civilian employees at the base, but he was the only person who could grant the favor Jenny so desperately needed.
   He wouldn’t be in his office yet, so she made a quick trip to the barracks where civilian nurses lodged on the top floor. Her room was compact, tidy, and spotless. It ought to be, given that she swept it daily and wiped the windows, the mirror, and the hardware with a mild vinegar solution twice a week.
   After scrubbing her face and hands, she changed her collar for a fresh one. All the nurses wore blue cotton dresses beneath a white apron and topped with a starched collar the army supplied to them each week. Jenny paid extra to have a freshly starched collar daily. Cleanliness was important to her, and any time she locked horns with Captain Soames, she wanted to look flawless. She shook her ebony hair free of its pins, brushed it to a high shine, and then coiled it back into an elegant twist. Pinning the folded nurse’s cap into place was the last detail before heading to the captain’s office.
   He didn’t seemed pleased to see her, even less so when she explained what she wanted, but she pressed on without letting him shake her composure.
   “Skeeter Jones is a bright boy, but unless he has surgery on his eyes, he will be practically blind within a few years,” she explained.
   “And you want the army to pay for it.”   Skeeter was a twelve-year-old orphan who earned less than a dollar a day selling newspapers, so yes, Jenny needed to find some - one willing to pay for it.
   “Dr. Samuelson tells me that symblepharon surgery is a routine procedure that requires less than an hour in the operating room. I’d be willing to pay any costs associated with medication. . . .”
   She let the sentence dangle. Her finances were already stretched dangerously thin since what happened last month, but Skeeter needed this operation. A defect in his system was causing the folds of his eyelids to become anchored to his eyeball, making it hard to see. A simple incision done by a skilled surgeon would change the entire course of Skeeter’s life, but it had to be done now, before he grew much older. Operating rooms at the hospital sat vacant most of the day, and it would cost the army very little to perform this operation.
   “Find some other benefactor to pay for it,” Captain Soames said. “If it becomes known that the army is treating charity cases, we’ll have lines stretching to the Embarcadero and complaints about favoritism.”
   “Or it might improve our reputation with the city.”
   “Find a way to pay for it, Nurse Bennett. Then maybe I’ll hear your request.”
   “How am I to pay for it when you pay me scarcely half what you pay the male attendants?”
   The captain heard the veiled accusation in her tone. “The night nurses get paid less because you do little more than babysit sleeping patients. Of course we aren’t going to pay you the same salary as the staff during the day. If you don’t like your job here, then quit. If you aren’t earning what you need, then quit. If you don’t like the way I run the hospital, then quit. Is that clear, Nurse Bennett?”
   She met Captain Soames’s glower with her chin held high. “Quite clear. The army must be proud their officers can express themselves so forcefully and without resorting to bothersome courtesy.”
   Captain Soames let out a bark of gruff laughter. He’d had a grudging respect for her since the time he saw her tackle a soldier trying to steal morphine from a supply cabinet. While most nurses hailed from respectable families, Jenny grew up along San Francisco’s waterfront and wasn’t intimidated by unruly soldiers. Although she liked to pretend it didn’t exist, a streetwise toughness from her youth still lurked just beneath her prim, starched uniform.
   Captain Soames threw down his pencil and looked at her in frustration. “Why don’t you just get married like a normal woman? Then you won’t have to work six days a week and still scrounge for money to do a kid a favor.”
   Jenny tried not to blanch even though she’d heard the question plenty of times over the years. She’d fallen in love once, and it had been a disaster. The most humiliating thing was that even after receiving Ryan Gallagher’s terse letter, she couldn’t shake free of his memory. Something about it didn’t seem right. Maybe it was just her reluctance to face the truth, but she feared something very bad had happened to Ryan and he was trying to shield her from it.
   She had clung to that foolish hope for years, even pressuring her friend at the payroll office for information on his whereabouts. All Vivian had been able to tell her was that Ryan’s address had been kept confidential for his entire career in the military, but she later learned he had resigned from the navy early last year. His official forwarding address was now in a tiny fishing village near San Diego.
   Jenny could no longer delude herself. As a civilian, Ryan was completely free to contact her if he wished. San Diego was only a day’s travel by train, and still she heard nothing from him.
   “I have no plans for marriage at this time,” she told Captain Soames. There had been no one else for her since Ryan, and too many men had let her down over the years.
   Only Simon was different. She and Simon both knew what it was to be homeless and hungry. Since the day he took her under his wing when she was a nine-year-old street urchin, they had always looked out for each other.
   The gritty world of San Francisco looked askance at a middle-aged man befriending a pretty young girl, so she’d taken to referring to Simon as her father from the very beginning. For all intents and purposes, Simon Bennett was her father, the only father she’d ever known. She even took his last name because “Bennett” sounded solid and respectable. He fed her when she was hungry, made sure she went to school every day, and consoled her when kids in the neighborhood taunted her because they knew where she came from. During the boom years, it was Simon who paid for her to attend nursing school.
   The boom years were long over, and now Simon needed help. Last month his jewelry shop had been robbed. Thieves kicked in the plate glass window at the front of his shop and walked away with all the jewelry, including Simon’s beloved assortment of pearls.
   Simon had been collecting and selling pearls his entire life, but the theft left him broke. He didn’t even have the money to replace the window and had to nail boards over the opening. Simon’s landlord had warned he would be evicted if he couldn’t replace the window within the week.
   With no other options, Jenny had sold the watch Ryan gave her to buy the plate glass window. Guilt had tugged at her conscience when she laid the watch on the pawn shop counter. It had belonged to Ryan’s father, a man who worked as a missionary in the Far East. Both of Ryan’s parents had died before she met him, and she felt disloyal selling one of the few keepsakes he had from them.
   She hardened her heart. If Ryan cared about his father’s watch, he could have asked her for it. She owed Ryan Gallagher nothing and Simon everything.
   The sale of Ryan’s watch brought enough to install a new window, but it wasn’t going to save Simon’s shop. Jenny had been funneling all her spare money to help him restock the store, and it meant she had nothing left to help a boy who was quickly going blind.
   She needed to play her ace card. When Captain Soames was first appointed to the Presidio, she’d read everything she could find about him. The details of their childhoods were different, but she and Captain Soames both shared the same hardscrabble core, and she knew exactly what it would take to persuade him.
   “Your family emigrated from Ireland when you were a baby,” she said. “You were one of nine children who grew up in the toughest ghetto of New York City. You didn’t have a pair of shoes until you were eight years old. No one ever handed you anything. You joined the army at sixteen and your life got even tougher, but the army gave you the only thing you ever asked for. A chance. You labored, sweat, fought, and bled to get where you are . . . but you weren’t blind, Captain Soames. You never would have had a fighting chance in this world if you had been blind.”
   Captain Soames glared at her, and she glared right back. This fight was too important to lose. She waited, counting her heartbeats while he shifted in his chair.
   “Go tell Dr. Samuelson to put the boy’s surgery on the schedule.”
   It felt like the sun rose inside her, radiant with light, heat, and hope. She didn’t let a trace of it show on her face as she nodded.
   “Thank you, sir.”

   Jenny usually met Vivian Perez for lunch at one o’clock each afternoon. There weren’t many female employees at the Presidio, and Jenny and Vivian quickly bonded amidst the thousands of male soldiers stationed at the West Coast’s foremost military base.
   Instead of eating at the noisy mess hall, they took their lunch to a table outside on the quadrangle.
   Jenny twirled a tin drinking cup between her palms. “The surgery for Skeeter’s eyes will be in two weeks,” she told Vivian. “I’m going to ask Simon to let the boy move in with him after the surgery, because the orphanage won’t have the staffing to tend to him. Of course, I can only hope Simon won’t be evicted before then.”
   She sighed as she unwrapped her chicken sandwich on a flaky croissant roll. She didn’t have much appetite but needed her strength. Opening her sandwich, she ate the chicken from the middle and left the croissant untouched.
   “What about Simon finding some kind of paid work?” Vivian asked as she tucked into her own sandwich.
   It would be the easiest solution to their problem. Getting Simon a respectable job somewhere would be practical, efficient, and logical. Sadly, none of those adjectives could be applied to Simon Bennett.
   “I would have better luck rerouting the path of the sun than getting Simon to behave logically,” she said, unable to keep the trace of fondness from her voice. It was the erratic income Simon earned during her childhood that inspired Jenny to go into nursing. Nursing was a practical skill that would always be needed. People got sick in times of plenty and when the bottom dropped out of the economy. Hospitals could be depended on to pay their wages on time, and she appreciated the steady income.
   She leaned her elbows on the table and let the breeze caress her face. She liked this spot because it carried the scent from a nearby patch of eucalyptus shrubs. It was a clean smell. Fresh and crisp. Sometimes she snipped a few twigs to take to her room.
   “I wonder what that girl is doing?” Vivian asked, and Jenny followed her friend’s gaze.
   A few yards away, a little girl in a white smock tugged at a heavy stone bordering the rose garden. She couldn’t have been more than three or four years old, and the rock was almost as big as she was. This didn’t stop the girl from giving it her all, tugging with her weight.
   The child seemed to be alone. Jenny doubted the girl could budge that rock, but it was best to be safe. She rose and approached the child, whose straight black hair had slipped free of its hair clips to obscure her face.
   “Are you all alone out here?” Jenny asked.
   The girl straightened. She was a beautiful child with distinctively Asian features. There were plenty of Chinese people in San Francisco, but Jenny rarely saw them at the Presidio.
   “Papa told me to play here,” the girl said in a lightly accented voice. Jenny wondered if Papa knew his daughter was wallowing in garden mulch while wearing a clean white frock.
   “Come join us at the table until your father gets back,” Jenny prompted, and the girl obediently followed the few steps to the table beneath the cottonwood tree. “Are you hungry? Would you like a bit of croissant?”
   The girl looked confused as she studied the croissant. “Bread?” she asked.
   “Yes, it’s bread.”
   “Yes please, ma’am.” The child swiped at her hair, and a barrette slipped even further, barely hanging on to her silky black strands.
   “Come, let me fix your hair,” Jenny said. “Your papa won’t like it if you lose those pretty seed pearl barrettes.”
   There was quite an industry in mechanically grinding oyster shells to make seed pearls, so they weren’t terribly expensive, but Simon would have a heart attack if he saw a child carelessly lose a pair of seed pearl hairpins while playing in the dirt. The child let Jenny finger-comb her hair, but it was a challenge to get the clips securely anchored in the slippery strands.
   Her name was Lily, and once she began chattering, it was impossible to stop her. Lily told them she had two pet cats at home, one of which killed a jellyfish and brought it into their house, which made her papa laugh so hard he had tears on his face. Her papa owned an entire beach, and he had a fancy uniform that sometimes he wore and sometimes he didn’t.
   “Lily?” A man’s voice called from base headquarters on the other side of the quad.
   “Papa!” Lily hopped off the bench and went tearing across the quadrangle toward a tall man in a crisp, white naval uniform.
   Jenny stared, not trusting her eyes. “Ryan?” she whispered.
   He was too far away to tell, but the man reminded her of Ryan Gallagher. Maybe it was just the navy uniform, when almost everyone else at the Presidio was in the army, but he looked so similar to Ryan it awakened a rush of bittersweet longing.
   Without conscious thought she stood and started walking toward him. She’d only gone a few steps when the child reached him. The naval officer squatted down to scoop her up, tossing the girl into the air with a hearty laugh.
   She knew that laugh, a golden tenor that came straight from the heart. It was him. It had to be. While she stood mute and motionless, the little girl looked over her father’s shoulder and waved good-bye. The man followed his daughter’s gaze and glanced back at Jenny.
   He froze as if spellbound. There was no doubt.
   Ryan Gallagher was back.
   Before she could take another step, Ryan hoisted Lily higher into his arms, turned the other way, and set off toward the officers’ quarters without a backward glance.
   “Jenny?” Vivian asked. “What’s going on?”
   It took a while to find her breath. “That man reminds me of someone I once knew.”
   “Ryan Gallagher?” During her brief courtship, Jenny had breathlessly relayed all the details of her whirlwind romance to her friend. It had been painful and embarrassing when she had to tell Vivian that Ryan changed his mind and they wouldn’t be getting married after all.
   She didn’t want to reopen that painful chapter and shook her head.
   “He’s nobody,” she said simply.
Elizabeth Camden, To the Farthest Shores Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission

Elizabeth Camden
I write historical novels blending romance, adventure, and a hint of inspiration.
When not writing, I am a research librarian at a great college in Florida.
~ author Elizabeth Camden

***Thank you, Bethany House Publishers for a print copy of To the Farthest Shores. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
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