Big Sky Bachelor by Lesley Ann McDaniel – Review & Blog Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Lesley Ann McDaniel for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

LESLEY ANN MCDANIEL is a lifelong lover of words, and theatre. While earning a degree in acting, she fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God’s guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of women’s fiction. She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and of a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Janessa Greene is leaving Thornton Springs

All she’s ever wanted is to attend cooking school in Seattle. But when a big-shot rodeo rider comes to work on her family’s Montana ranch, Janessa’s determined not to let the cowboy distract her from her goal no matter how charming he is.

Micah was a rodeo star, but he’s been trampled by one bull too many. While he’s deciding his next move, he gets sidetracked by a pretty cowgirl who’s headed out of town. Can Micah convince her to take a chance on a cowboy ready to put down roots?

Product Details:

List Price: $4.99

Series: Heartsong Presents (Book 1068)

Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0373486790

ISBN-13: 978-0373486793:

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

Chapter 1

Janessa Greene could have sworn her old hatchback lost a little more oomph with each passing day. As she pulled off the highway and through the Bar-G Ranch gate, she sent up a prayer. No way could she spend money on her car right now—not with all the expenses she had coming up. Both she and her car would have to go the extra mile for just a while longer.

As she gunned down the long stretch toward the house, the sight of twenty or so impatient-looking parents standing outside their horse trailers made her stomach buckle. She checked the clock on the dash and grimaced. Why did they all have to be so prompt on the days when she was running behind?

She clattered to a halt between the house and the barn, then gathered up her work bag and purse. Leaping out of the car, she gave the parents a quick wave. “I’ll only be a sec!”

A grating mixture of grumbles and moans followed her as she ran toward the front porch steps. She winced. Those folks had paid good money to have her teach their kids to ride this summer, and they had every right to expect her to deliver her best. She had tried to get there on time. If only the restaurant would stop being so busy on her class days.

She scurried inside, slowing only to push the door shut and to gather up the mail from the table next to it. Flipping through the stack as she bounded across the foyer, she held her breath. Today had to be the day.

“Argh!” She tossed the pile of pure disappointment onto the bench at the base of the staircase, gripped the bannister, and charged up. It was July already. Shouldn’t she have heard by now?

Reaching the top step in record time, she darted across the hall and into her room. She kicked the door closed, dropped her bags on the bed, and tore off her grease-splattered tee, then grabbed a plaid cotton western shirt from the back of her desk chair. As she yanked it on, a rap on the door gave her a jolt.

“Ness, it’s Courtney.”

Her fingers found the shirt buttons as she searched the floor for a pair of jeans. “I’ll be right out.”

“I can go down and get the kids started if you want.”

“Really?” Relief surged as she retrieved some decently-clean Levis off the window seat. “That would make you my favorite sister-in-law.”

Courtney’s laugh sounded through the door. “I’m your only sister-in-law. Besides, you know I love those kids.”

Janessa breathed a little easier. The parents would feel better seeing Courtney, but she’d still have to hustle.

As she fumbled with her cuff button, her focus fixed on the poster over the desk. A plain chef’s jacket hung on a fancy wire hanger with the words ‘Le Cordon Bleu—L’Art Culinaire’ above, and the logo of the school below.

Leaving her second cuff undone, she tugged at the laces on her white SlipGrips—great for the kitchen but definitely not for the arena—and allowed her thoughts to stray. Le Cordon Bleu had been her dream ever since she’d realized she wanted to be a chef. Not only was it a great school, but they had a location in Seattle, not far from Thornton Springs. She bit her lip and yanked at the second lace. Okay, not too far to drive home for holidays and an occasional weekend, anyway. Montana only seemed like a million miles away from everything truly exciting in the world.

She kicked off the shoes. For as long as she could remember, all she’d wanted was to get out of Thornton Springs. Now that she had finally graduated from high school and worked for a year to save up money, her plans were just about to jell.

Flinging herself onto the bed, she quickly replaced her white Dockers with the jeans. She rolled onto her belly to reach under the bed, pulling out one boot, then a second.

She maneuvered into a sitting position, then yanked on the boots and scanned the immediate vicinity for her belt. Her eyes flicked across the framed photo that sat on her bedside table, momentarily sidetracking her with the familiar combination of comfort and sorrow that always accompanied it. Absentmindedly fingering the ever-present heart-shaped diamond necklace at her throat, she wondered for the zillionth time how different her life would be if her dad was still here. He had her heart, even after being gone for so many years.

Forcing her thoughts back to the task at hand, she plucked up her floral-shammed pillow from the head of the bed and let out a mini-cry of victory. She dove for a large gold buckle that peeked out from under her sloppily-placed duvet, then swung her legs around and clamored to her feet. She quickly looped the belt into her jeans and grabbed a hair band off her bedside table, then dug through the pile of hats on the chair next to the door. She paused, running her hand over her Le Cordon Bleu ball cap. Her mind latched onto the one problem with her plan, the magnitude of which grew with each passing day.

What if the school didn’t accept her?

Shoving away the thought, she snapped up her favorite white cowgirl hat and plunked it onto her head. She just couldn’t let herself think that way. It was only July. There was still plenty of time for her to hear from them. Besides, if she didn’t get in, they’d send a rejection letter. No news didn’t necessarily mean bad news.

She darted back out into the hallway and took the stairs two at a time, awkwardly yanking her hair into a ponytail as she flew.

Making her way across the drive, she saw that Courtney had gotten the class started preparing their horses. A few parents lingered along the outside of the fence, but most of them had left, probably furious at her for cutting short their hour to go get things done.

Rushing into the barn, she grabbed a curry comb off its hook on the wall and greeted her horse. “Hey, Miss Molly.” As she ran the comb quickly across Molly’s back, she mumbled to herself. She’d have to do a better job of grooming her later on.

Tossing down the comb, she took up the brush. “Sorry, baby. You deserve better than this.” Moving around to the horse’s other side, she realized she’d left her second cuff undone. She fumbled with the button as she continued to brush Molly, but since she actually needed both hands to accomplish each task, she succeeded only in scratching her wrist with the bristles.

“Youch!” She jumped back, pulling up her sleeve to examine the scratch.

“Works better if you use the brush on the horse.”

The confident baritone behind her nearly startled her out of her skin. She whipped around to see a guy hoisting a saddle up onto the rack on the wall, glancing over his shoulder and smirking like the feline friend of the recently departed canary.

“What in the…?” Her tone came out a little more venomous than she’d intended, but he looked like a guy who could handle it. She’d been standing there talking to her horse. Why hadn’t he made his presence known?

“Hey, I noticed that mare has some weeds stuck in her mane.” Speaking without even looking at her now, he secured the saddle. “You know, if you don’t have time to groom your horse correctly, you don’t have time to own a horse.”

Her jaw went slack. She’d been riding her whole life. This was her horse and her barn, and this guy—whoever he was—had no right to admonish her. Questions swirled in her brain, and she spit out the first one she could latch onto. “Who are you?”

Chuckling lightly as he finally turned to face her, he radiated an air of belonging that implied she was the outsider here, not him. His lack of a swift answer to her question gave the impression that he thought she should somehow already know who he was—like he was some kind of celebrity or something.

“Well…?” She seethed. Not only had he made her even later by springing up behind her like that, but he had implied that she wasn’t properly caring for her horse. And now he wouldn’t even identify himself.

Flashing a gleaming white smile that dented a dimple in his cheek, he ambled toward her. He pushed up the brim of his well-worn tan Stetson, revealing tousled blond hair and a pair of eyes so clear and blue they conjured an instant image of Flathead Lake on a hot summer day.

She gulped. As much as she hated to admit it, this guy was the best looking thing to hit Thornton Springs since Jeffrey Mark Caulfield came to town to make that movie last year.

“Name’s Micah.” Stepping confidently close to her, he held out a hand. “I started work here this morning.”

Oh. Of course. She’d forgotten all about the new ranch hand her brother Adam had hired.

Twisting her mouth in irritation at his obvious lack of first day self-consciousness, she reached out for a quick shake. “I’m Janessa.” Hoping to convey a lack of interest in further conversation, she returned to brushing Molly. Time was wasting.

“Pleasure to meet you, Janessa.” After a long moment of studying her the way you would an auction horse you were considering bidding on, he dipped the brim of his hat and strode out of the barn.

Her hand slowed on Molly’s back as she furtively witnessed his exit. She gave herself a mental shake. What was the matter with her? Standing there gawking like a schoolgirl when she needed to get to her class.

Irritation swelled in her gut. Just what she didn’t need, another pointless distraction from what really mattered—making the money to escape Thornton Springs and get her life off the ground.

As she hurried over to fetch her tack, her gaze again drifted to the doorway, but he had moved out of view. Guys. That was one thing she just couldn’t waste time thinking about right now.

She clicked her tongue. Of course, not thinking about them would be a whole lot easier if God didn’t make some of them so all-fired nice to look at.

 
 


My Review:

Janessa Greene only wanted one thing–to go to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. Ever since she was a young girl and used to cook for her daddy it had been her greatest desire. When her daddy passed away her desire became stronger, whether for her daddy or for her she had lost site of. She was determined to see it happen but when Micah Brody showed up she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted anymore and there inlayed the problem. Micah showed up as a ranch hand her brother Adam hired to work on the Bar-G but she soon discovers there’s more to Micah than meets the eye. It’s soon all over Thorton Springs that he is THE Micah Brody–national rodeo champion. When Janessa gets roped into competing in the team roping competition by Micah, it’s not long before he ropes her heart as well.

Micah Brody was tired of the limelight, tired of bull riding, tired of the meaningless relationships, and tired of his hostile relationship with his dad. After a serious injury while competing, Micah decided he wanted a change and Thorton Springs seemed like a good place to start. Hiring on at the Bar-G was the first step in a normal life but as soon as he though he had found “normal” he met Janessa Greene. Janessa’s family owned the ranch and from the moment he met her he knew she was different. It doesn’t take long for Micah to learn that Janessa has plans that don’t include Thorton Springs or him. Her dream is in Seattle and she is determined to see it through. While Micah is fighting the demons from his past, Janessa is struggling with her dreams for the future. Will they both realize what they could have in the present is what is the most important?

At just 192 pages this is a quick read but it packs a big punch. It’s a story of hopes, dream and, most importantly, faith. Micah went from a broken relationship with God to a fulfilling one. He turned to God to heal his own heart and his relationship with his dad and, in a sense, the story of the prodigal son was woven throughout the pages. Janessa had her own struggles. She was working so hard to get into culinary school that she lost sight of what was important. Her eyes were soon opened and the result was a heart warming story that will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eyes. I loved the storyline and the characters and I was saddened to see the book end. This book is part of a series but it can definitely be read as a stand alone. I thoroughly enjoyed Micah’s and Janessa’s and I do recommend it. Whether you like short stories or long novels, you’re bound to be entertained.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine alone and mine alone and I received no monetary compensation.

My Rating:

Click to Tweet: Getting Old Blue up and running was just one way to Janessa’s heart.”

Q & A: I ask the question… you supply the answer. 🙂

Micah fought a hard battle with his father to the point of running away from the life he knew so he could live the life he wanted. Have you ever felt pressured by someone close to you to follow a path you don’t feel in your heart is right for you? Leave a comment below and share your story.

Gunpowder Tea | Enter to win a Kindle Fire & RSVP for “Tea with Margaret” on 11/7

null
Cover Rating:

Series: The Brides of the Last Chance Ranch, Book 3
Date Published: October 8, 2013
Pages: 335
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Author: Margaret Brownley
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Romance
ASIN: B00C5QA7S2
Book Source: I received this book for free from the Publisher for my honest review.

Blurb:

In a case that could change her career, Miranda uncovers a love that will change her life.

When Miranda Hunt sees the classified ad for an heiress to the legendary Last Chance Ranch, she knows assuming the identity of Annie Beckman is the perfect cover. As one of the finest agents for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Miranda has been tasked with apprehending the Phantom – an elusive and notorious train robber thought to be hiding on the sprawling ranch.

But she isn’t the only one there with something to hide. Wells Fargo detective Jeremy Taggert is working the scene undercover as well. And although their true identities are a secret, it is impossible for Jeremy and Miranda to hide the spark that flares between them.

But neither is about to let romance interfere with such a huge case. Besides, Miranda hasn’t removed Jeremy from her list of suspects yet. The closer they come to uncovering the identity of the Phantom, the more dangerous he gets – and no one on the ranch is safe.

But neither are their hearts – the longer Miranda and Jeremy spend working together, the harder it becomes to keep their feelings in check. Their careers – and their lives – depend on solving this case. Love will have to wait.

You can purchase it Here:
Deeper Shopping  *  Barnes & Noble  *  Amazon  *  BAM  *  CBD





Author Bio:

Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this–except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter at the time. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, “Maybe God’s calling you to write fiction.”

So that’s what Margaret did. She’s now a New York Times bestselling author and a Romance Writers of America RITA finalist with more than 25 novels to her credit. Her first non-fiction book “Grieving God’s Way: the Lasting Path to Hope and Healing” has won much critical acclaim. She is currently working on the third book in her “Brides of Last Chance Ranch series.”

Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.

You can find Margaret Here:
Website  *  Twitter  *  Facebook  *  Goodreads



My Review:

Pinkerton Operative, Miranda Hunt, needed an important assignment. One that would prove she is as good as any man on the job. When her boss sends her to Cactus Patch to The Last Chance Ranch to track down the Phantom, a local robber that is terrorizing the area, Miranda is determined to get her man. Once and for all this will give her the respect as an Operative she has always craved. Ranch owner, Eleanor Walker, is looking for a female heiress to take over her ranch but there is one condition. The woman wanting the position has to sign a contract stating she will never marry. So Miranda goes undercover as Eleanor’s new potential heiress, Annie Beckman. When the new ranch hand Branch comes on the scene, Miranda sees him as a suspect but she also doesn’t know how to handle the new feelings he awakens in her. She has always been content with the lonely life of being an Operative but after being in Branch’s arms she isn’t sure she can ever be content with that life again. When his true identity as Jeremy Taggert, a Wells Fargo Detective, is brought to light Miranda must deal with the issues of her past in order to move toward her future. Can her love for Jeremy and her love for her job come together or will her love of one push her away from the other?

Jeremy Taggert had semi retired from his job as a Wells Fargo Detective but when his best friend is killed by the Phantom, Jeremy is determined to bring him to justice. Working undercover as a ranch hand at The Last a Chance Ranch gives him access to several suspects. It also puts him in close proximity to Annie Beckman and Jeremy soon realizes it’s a dangerous position to be in. He might find the Phantom but, in the process, he might also lose his heart. When Annie finds out that Jeremy is the detective involved in the case that resulted in her father’s death she wants nothing more to do with him. Can Jeremy break through her defenses and win her heart or will he continue on with the lonely life of a detective?

This being the third book in The Brides of The Last Chance Ranch series, I was waiting anxiously to read this book. I was in no way disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the characters I had come to love so much. Mrs. Walker’s sharp tongue and tough exterior hides the warm, caring person within. I like her toughness, strength and gumption. I love Ruckus’ pension to always point others to God when the chips are down. I also love Miranda’s determination and the fact that she kept a GTF (God The Father) file where she wrote down all of her questions and concerns that only God could answer. I also loved the quirky little quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I found myself chuckling at them quite often. The characters were lovable and the story was thoroughly enjoyable. A blend of romance, western culture and a dab of suspense all in one. Margaret Brownley is one of my favorite authors because she never disappoints. I highly recommend this book, this entire series, to fans of historical western romaces.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine alone and mine alone and I received no monetary compensation.

My Rating:



Click to Tweet: Their chemistry is as explosive as the Gunpowder Tea she drinks.

Q & A: I ask the question… you supply the answer. 🙂


One of Eleanor’s stipulations to becoming the new heiress of The Last Chance Ranch was to sign a contract stating they would NEVER marry. What about you? Could you ever sign that type of contract? What are your thoughts on such a stipulation? Do you think it’s ludicrous or fair? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.


Giveaway & Facebook Party!



Margaret Brownley‘s latest release, Gunpowder Tea, is receiving high praise, and she’s celebrating with a Kindle Fire giveaway and a “Tea with Margaret” Facebook party!

gunpowder-rafflecopter

  One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 7th. Winner will be announced at the “Tea with Margaret” Facebook Author Chat Party on the 7th. Connect with Margaret and friends for an evening of book chat, prizes, and get an exclusive look at Margaret’s next book!


So grab your copy of Gunpowder Tea and join Margaret on the evening of November 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on 11/7!

Review: A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

null
Cover Rating:

Series: Unexpected Brides Series, Book 1
Date Published: October 1, 2013
Pages: 336
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Author: Melissa Jagears
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Romance
ISBN-10: 0764211684
ISBN-13: 978-0764211683
Book Source: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for my honest review.

Blurb:

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won’t humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again–not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She’s the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and it’s just not possible she’s there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she’s determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

You can purchase it Here:
Deeper Shopping  *  Barnes & Noble  *  Amazon  *  BAM  *  CBD





Author Bio:

Melissa Jagears, an ESL teacher by trade, is a stay-at-home mother on a tiny Kansas farm with a fixer-upper house. She’s a member of ACFW and CROWN fiction marketing, and her passion is to help Christian believers mature in their faith and judge rightly. “A Bride for Keeps” is her first novel.

You can find Melissa Here:
Website  *  Twitter  *  Facebook  *  
Goodreads  *  Pinterest







My Review:

Everett Cline had been jilted enough to wound any man’s pride. After his best friend’s sister-in-law left him for another man he decided to try his luck with mail-order brides only to be jilted by three more women. With a bruised ego, as well as a bruised heart, Everett refused to go that route again. Even though he longed for the companionship of a good woman he would no longer be fodder for town gossip. But when his best friend’s wife, Rachel, ordered a bride without his knowledge he found himself enamored with the beautiful Julia Lockwood. Even though he would like nothing better than to have her by his side he knows he must guard his heart. What if she leaves him like the others? Surely this time would break his heart but can he love her completely and, at the same time, live with a marriage of convenience?

Julia Lockwood fled from Boston for two reasons, to get away from her father’s scheming ambitions and to put distance between herself and a horrible nightmare. Why else would she agree to be a mail-order bride? All Julia had were her looks, or so she had been told, so what man would want her for anything more? Everett was a kind man but Julia felt she had to prove her worth. She worked as hard as any man but she was afraid that when Everett found out about her past he would no longer want her. How could he love her if he knew? Her past also kept her from accepting the love of her Heavenly Father. Could Everett help her come to understand her own self-worth, not only in her eyes, but in his eyes and the eyes of God as well? Can she come to love her husband despite her fears? Will God heal her heart and give her the love she never dreamed she would have?

Let me start by saying I absolutely loved this book. This is the first book I have read by Melissa Jagears but I am already looking forward to the next one (hmmm maybe one about William?). The plot is one that is always a pleasing read to me. Both Everett and Julia had feelings for each other but kept them to themselves which made for some great tension. Julia’s feelings surfaced more toward the end but there were little hints earlier on that she didn’t seem to recognize as the beginnings of love. Although this type of plot isn’t new it sure had some new angles that enriched the story. I won’t give away any significant parts (no spoilers here) but it also dealt with an issue that is rarely addressed in historical fiction and I loved that. I loved Everett’s heart too. It was as big and wide as the land he lived on and the way he loved Julia through her fears and doubts only endeared him to me more. If you love historical fiction and great story lines you will absolutely love A Bride for Keeps. I highly and irrevocably recommend it!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine and mine alone and I received no monetary compensation.

My Rating:





~Excerpt~


A Bride For Keeps Chapter 1 KANSAS SPRING 1876 Everett Cline loosened his grip on the mercantile’s doorknob and let the door shut behind him. Kathleen Hampden waddled straight toward him, the white feathers in her hat dancing like bluestem grass in the late March breeze. In the three years she’d been married to the store’s owner instead of him, couldn’t she have bought a new hat? He hadn’t talked to her alone since the day she arrived in Salt Flatts with those identifying white feathers he’d been told to expect, but he hadn’t anticipated her being married to Carl before she stepped o# the train. Why hadn’t she thrown her hat out a passenger car window and pretended she’d never been his mail-order bride? “Afternoon, ma’am. Is your husband around?” He glanced behind the long glossy counter cluttered with candy jars and sundry items and saw that the door to the empty back room stood ajar. The two overflowing shelves that cut the store into thirds kept him from being able to see into every corner. The fabric table was a jumbled mess, and 9 a few potatoes lay on the floor in the corner, escaped from their bin. Were they the only ones in the store? Mrs. Hampden stopped three feet from him, the tang of the wood polish on her rag warring with the leather and tobacco smells permeating the room. She was such a tiny thing, even large with child. Perhaps it was a good thing she had married Carl. If she worked outside as Everett did every day, the wind would have blown her away sooner or later. “Mr. Hampden’s away on business, otherwise he’d have rushed out at the bell. Especially since it’s you.” Her cheeks pinked. Carl needn’t worry about him. Stealing someone’s mailorder bride was di#erent from stealing someone’s wife. Everett fidgeted. “He has no reason to be concerned.” “I know.” She rubbed her swollen stomach. “But he’s still worried your good looks might make me wish I’d chosen differently.” The skin under his collar grew warm, and he pulled at the strangling fabric. He might be a decent-looking sort of man, but a lot of good that did him. “I hope you have better luck today than you did with me, and you know . . . the others.” She bit her lip. “I’m sure this time it will be for keeps.” He swallowed hard and eyed her. What was she talking about? Surely another rumor about him ordering a bride again wasn’t circulating. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.” “It’s all right. Rachel told me.” Her voice was hushed, as if someone might hear. He leaned down and whispered back. “Told you what?” “About the lady coming on the afternoon train. She said you’d need prayer.” Rachel. 10 He ran his tongue along his teeth and nodded absently. Surely his best friend’s wife wasn’t pulling another one of her matchmaking schemes. She’d tried to set him up with every girl in the county since the day her sister, Patricia, had left him for someone else. When matchmaking failed, she’d pushed him into mail-order bride advertisements. If she’d gone and ordered another one for him, by golly— “I hope I haven’t upset you.” Mrs. Hampden’s concerned tone reminded him of her presence. “I haven’t told anyone since . . . well, you know how they are.” Yes, the townsfolk. Everett clenched his teeth. Every unescorted woman who stepped o# the train was asked if she belonged to Everett Cline. When she answered negatively, some young man in the gathered crowd would drop to his knee and propose. He stared at the saddle soap on the shelf beside him. What had he come in here for? “I wish you luck.” Mrs. Hampden’s eyes looked dewy. Everett squashed the felt brim of his hat in his clammy hands. Third time’s a charm hadn’t worked for him, and he’d never heard anything like the fourth’s a keeper. There wouldn’t be a fourth time for him. Well, fifth, if he added being jilted by Patricia so long ago. Was there a saying akin to five failures prove a fool? He was a hairsbreadth away from confirming himself a dunce. “You have nothing to wish me luck for.” “Oh, Everett, surely this time it will work.” “Really, Mrs. Hampden, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “I can understand why you don’t want to say anything, but I’m the last person in Salt Flatts who would tease you.” He’d let her believe whatever she wanted, because nothing 11 would happen. “Thanks just the same.” He smashed his hat back on and hightailed it out the door, down the steps, and toward the weathered wagon belonging to his neighbors. Was this why Rachel insisted they needed him in town even though any train porter could have helped her husband load the shipment she was waiting on? He wouldn’t believe it. She wouldn’t do that. “Come on now, Everett,” she’d said. “You can’t avoid town forever. Surely you have supplies to get.” He reached into his pocket, clasped his scribbled list, and stopped in the middle of the road. Rachel wouldn’t have gone so far as to invite another woman to Salt Flatts to marry him without even telling him. Would she? A horse sidestepped beside him, the boot of its rider grazing his arm. “Hey, watch what you’re doing.” The cowboy glared down at him, the stench of bovine overpowering the scent of the cheap cigar wiggling between his lips. Everett turned and scurried across the dusty road and onto the boardwalk. He glanced at his list. Should he return to the mercantile and face Kathleen again or confront Rachel? Neither would be pleasant. “Got me a letter to send, Everett?” Jedidiah Langston stepped out of the false-front post o$ce and stood next to his son, eighteen-year-old Axel, who perched on a stool, absently whittling a stick. A smirk twitched the corners of the younger man’s mouth. Everett’s hand itched to swipe the boy’s lips clean o# his face, but he shook his head instead. He hadn’t personally posted something for over a year—always sent his mail in with the Stantons—but it seemed as if Rachel had decided to mail some correspondence for him. “Surely you’re hankerin’ for another bride by now. Helga’s 12 been Mrs. Parker for plumb near a year. Seems to me it’s about time you up and tried again.” Axel chuckled at his father’s joke, and Everett scowled at the mention of his third—and absolutely last—mail-order bride. He crammed the shopping list back into his pocket. “No letter, gentlemen.” “Axel needs a wife about as bad as I need him o# of my porch.” Jedidiah glared at his lazy son, who only rolled his eyes. “Maybe your next one can marry him.” Axel sliced the tip of his pointy stick. “Only if he orders a stunner this time.” Any woman dumb enough to marry that boy would have to work to support them both. Everett tipped his hat. “Good day, gentlemen.” He’d been Axel’s age eighteen years ago, but he’d at least had some gumption, a promising future, and an adoring girl on his arm. Yet he was still single. A mail-order bride was probably the boy’s only hope, though Everett doubted he’d ever try for one. Axel’s ma had once been a mail-order bride, and when her marriage plans hadn’t worked out, she’d wooed Jedidiah over real fast. Mrs. Langston was hardly ever seen in town, and Jedidiah never talked about her but in disdain. Axel’s parents’ animosity toward each other didn’t help the boy’s disposition—as prickly as a cocklebur and as useful as one too. Everett marched over to the train platform and scanned the crowd. Rachel was nowhere in sight, but her husband, Dex, reclined on his wagon’s bench seat, hat pulled over his face. His soft snores jostled the brim resting on his nose. He couldn’t know his wife had hatched another scheme. That joker wouldn’t have been able to keep a straight face when 13 Rachel insisted they needed help. And he’d be too antsy to tease the daylights out of Everett now to be sleeping. Perhaps Mrs. Hampden had made a mistake and assumed too much. The town loved to conspire, and though Dex was a joker, the Stantons wouldn’t plot against him like that. No, Mrs. Hampden had to be mistaken. Everett stopped at the depot’s window and perused the station’s chalkboard schedule. Thirty minutes until the train arrived. The bunch of wild flowers he’d picked before leaving home lay piled in his wagon bed. He snatched them and headed for the cemetery. “Everett!” a voice called out, and he turned to see Carl Hampden hotfooting it from the livery straight toward him. The tilt of his head and the look in his eyes reminded Everett of a charging bull. He stopped and tensed, half expecting the man to reach for a sidearm. “Carl?” “Where are you going with those?” He pointed to the flowers. Everett released his stranglehold on the prairie bouquet and kept his lips from twitching up into a smile. He stood but ten feet from the mercantile entrance. “They’re not for your wife, if that’s what you’re worried about.” “Who are they for, then?” Carl backed up, but the heat hadn’t left his gaze. “I don’t exactly believe that’s your business.” Carl leaned closer. He’d evidently had garlic for lunch. What did it really matter if Carl knew? “They’re for Adelaide Gooding.” “Who?” Carl cocked an eyebrow. Everett sighed. “My first bride.” “Ah, I see . . . I guess.” Carl relaxed. “Well, carry on.” 14 As if he needed the man’s permission. He snatched Carl’s sleeve and dug out his list. “Would you gather these items for me? I’ll return within an hour.” Carl folded the note and tipped his hat. Everett strolled through town, keeping the jonquils tucked by his side. Why did he keep taking her flowers anyway? He looked at the sad, flaccid mess in his hands. Because no one else would—and that was his fault. He stepped through the gap in the waist-high stone wall, marched straight up to Adelaide’s grave, and laid the flowers at her feet. “I’m afraid they’re wilted, but they’re better than what you have.” Which was nothing. He lowered himself to the ground and stared at her headstone. He hadn’t even known what birth date to engrave for his first mail-order bride, but he’d done his best. Even wrote an epitaph: Longawaited and Missed. Everett glanced around to make certain no one else was near. “Have you heard any talk about me lately? Seems Mrs. Hampden thinks I’m crazy enough to try marrying up again.” He grabbed a twig and scratched at the dirt. “I wish you’d held on for a few more hours. At least so I could have told you that I . . .” He tossed his stick. Had he loved her? He would have. But he no longer had any stir of feelings for this woman he’d never met. Closing his eyes, he conjured up the one image he had of Adelaide. Wrapped in a rough woolen blanket, her face white as clouds, hair dark as a raven’s wing, and her mouth, crooked and still as a fence post. The fever had stolen her breath and his hope. The low hum of metal wheels against iron track rumbled from far of. With the toe of his boot, he shoved a stray jonquil back into his jumbled pile. “Maybe if I’d lived along 15 the Mississippi, I’d have had better luck ordering brides by steamboat.” He snorted, and a gray-green pigeon above him fussed. “So you don’t think so?” A whistle sounded. “Rachel’s always wanted a pianoforte. Please let it be a piano.” But she’d asked Mrs. Hampden for prayer . . . and surely nothing she could order would be so heavy she’d beseech God’s assistance. The tremor of the approaching train pulsed through the soles of his feet. What if there was another woman on that train coming for him? He clenched his trembling fingers. Patricia had jilted him. Then Adelaide arrived dead, Kathleen disembarked married to the shopkeeper, and Helga left him for another man with a better farm within a week of arriving. He couldn’t begin to imagine what a fourth mail-order bride might do. But he wouldn’t allow another bride to make a fool of him again. ************** She’d made a mistake. A huge, irrevocable mistake. Julia Lockwood stared out the train’s window, watching the flat Kansas land sail behind her, mile after mile. Nothing but waving grasses, clumps of trees, and a few outcroppings of rocks. The vacant prairie lands wouldn’t conceal the past she ran from, and the man awaiting her wouldn’t make it better—only worse. What had possessed her to believe this was a good idea? She set her bag aside to stand. “Young lady, you are making me queasy with your ups and downs, to-and-fros.” The buxom woman across from her swished a fan violently. “Please, for once sit still.” Julia hesitated, hovering above her seat. Her nerves wouldn’t obey the woman’s pinched-mouthed decree. “I’m sorry. When I return, I’ll try not to get up again.” The woman huffed. “Yes, do.” 16 Holding in her split pannier overskirt, she swayed easily through the center aisle of the railroad car. A few days of travel had made her an expert at walking in a moving train. She grabbed a strap hanging from the ceiling to make room for a young frizzy-haired girl to pass. The porter at the front of the car straightened. “May I do something for you, miss?” “Nothing, Henry. Unless you can make this car go faster . . . or slower.” She bit her lip. “How much longer until Salt Flatts?” “Not too long. Just a hop and a skip. We’ll be there before you know it.” His smile stretched across his face, slicing his dark skin with a glimmering white. “I reckon you’ll be just fine, miss.” Just fine? When she’d agreed to marry a man with whom she’d never even exchanged a single letter? No. Not fine. The thought of being close to any man again made her stomach churn. “But one thing I’d be doing is stop playing with that there brooch. You’re going to be wearing off its shine.” She released her mother’s portrait clipped to her collar, her fingers red from rubbing the gold filigree frame. “Perhaps I am a bit nervous.” “I suspect you don’t have to be anxious for nothing.” If only that were true. But there was nothing to be done now. She couldn’t very well jump off the train. Oh, why hadn’t she gotten off at the last stop? Stiffy, she returned to her seat. The large woman across from her glared from behind that ever-swishing fan and sighed. Her husband leaned forward. “You worried about meeting someone?” Julia nodded, wishing her whole life didn’t depend on a 17 man she’d never met. Why had she handed some stranger a hold over her? She wanted to see Rachel Stanton, the woman she’d corresponded with for the past few months, but she should have come simply to visit Rachel. Instead, she’d panicked and promised her life away in matrimony when Rachel had mentioned her husband’s friend would be interested in a mail-order bride. Would Rachel and Dex Stanton o#er their hospitality if she didn’t follow through with marrying Everett Cline? The sourness in her stomach crept toward her throat. “A fella, I suppose?” Feeling color invade her cheeks, she shrugged. “Stop worrying. No fella’d be sorry to see a girl like you step off this train.” No. No lonely fellow would. That was part of the problem. Maybe she should have worn her day dress instead of her best silk. Henry walked the aisle, touching headrests as he passed. “Next stop, Salt Flatts.” Her heart doubled its rhythm. A friend awaited her . . . but so did a man. Last chance. Stay in the seat or meet her potential husband? He’d want an intimacy from her she wasn’t ready to give anytime soon. She wrapped her arms about her waist and suppressed a moan. What choice did she have? ************** The locomotive’s gleaming chimney loomed. Its acrid smoke rolled over the prairie land surrounding Salt Flatts, marring the gray-blue sky. Everett paced on the crowded train platform, wondering if Rachel had indeed set him up. He scanned the crowd. No sign of her yet. Surely she’d be waiting for the woman she intended to foist upon him if there were 18 one. He blew out a breath and ambled toward the Stantons’ wagon. He’d know soon enough. The train’s whistle scattered the birds pecking in the grass next to the tracks, and the hissing iron monster slowed. Rachel scurried across the road and up the plank ramp. Her three-yearold, Emma, bounced on her hip and waved wildly at the train. The pullman’s door opened, and Everett stared at the line of silhouettes behind the passenger car windows. Several men disembarked before a skinny woman stepped onto the rough wooden platform, her curly orange-red hair trailing across her blemished face. Rachel looked straight at the tall girl, and Everett tensed, but Rachel didn’t hail her. The young woman scurried to a waiting wagon and embraced an elderly man. Everett rubbed at the tension in his neck. More men poured out of the passenger car, and finally the porter exited and sauntered toward the depot. Everett released his pent-up breath and chuckled at himself. He’d allowed Mrs. Hampden’s foolish notions to mess with his head. “There you are.” John, Rachel’s youngest boy, rushed toward him. “Are you ready for the surprise?” A surprise for John or a surprise for him? His breath grew shallow, and he squatted to the boy’s eye level. “Do you know what it is?” John shook his dark head. “No. Ma won’t tell me. Would you ask her?” “You’re too impatient. We’ll find out soon enough.” He rubbed the boy’s head and forced himself not to walk straight toward Rachel and ask. If John was anxious, then the surprise had to be for the family, not him. Rachel wouldn’t have hinted to the children about a scheme to match him up with a stranger. 19 “There she is.” Rachel’s call ended in a high feminine squeal. She handed Emma to Dex and darted into the crowd. Dex threw him a glance before covering up a grin with his free hand. Too much amused twinkling danced in his best friend’s eyes. He’d been hoodwinked. Everett slowly pivoted toward the train. A petite, fashionably dressed lady wrestled an oversized valise through the pullman’s door and climbed cautiously down the stairs. Her ivory skirt was extraordinarily full in the back. A red sash cinched her waist, enhancing its tininess. She fingered a brooch at her neck and brushed at the veil whipping against her forehead in the wind. Dark wavy hair fell from under her straw hat, framing her perfect lips and tiny nose. He had never seen a more beautiful woman. Not even Patricia, the prettiest gal who’d ever set foot in Saline County, could compare. The woman gestured toward Rachel with a wad of papers in her hand and a question in her shoulder shrug. Rachel’s hands flung out, and she swallowed the woman in an embrace. Though one was dressed in worn homespun calico and the other in ru%es of shimmering sti# fabric, they started chattering like long-lost sisters. He pushed down the jolt that traveled up from his toes. This stunning friend of Rachel’s would never need to become a mail-order bride. She was not here for him. ************** Julia pulled away from Rachel’s third warm hug, which couldn’t calm the storm of emotions swirling within her chest. Though she rejoiced to hold this dear friend in her arms for the first time, she couldn’t help looking around the crowd 20 for him. Her heart thudded at the base of her throat. “I can hardly believe I’m here.” If she hadn’t seen Rachel waiting on the platform, almost bouncing with anticipation, she would have slouched in the leather passenger seat, dug out the last of her money, and rode the tracks a little farther. “Me neither.” Rachel hugged her again. “I never realized how much I missed having a bosom friend until I started writing you. We’ll take you home and talk all night and meet the neighbors and . . .” Rachel’s banter was infectious, but her friendliness didn’t stifle the need to know what her future husband expected. “Won’t Everett want to, uh, start things right away?” A few hundred feet away a white steeple loomed over rows of buildings, making her feel faint. She tried to imagine riding straight to the church and marrying, but she just couldn’t do it. “Do you know what he has planned?” Julia gripped Rachel’s arm, anchoring herself from rushing back to the train. “About Everett . . . I’d not bring up the marriage plans until he does, and he’ll probably give you plenty of time.” Rachel rubbed her lip and averted her gaze. What was she keeping from her? “My advice is to act as if you’ve come to court rather than run him to the altar.” “Who’s your friend, Mrs. Stanton?” The sound of undisguised male interest caused a shiver to run across Julia’s back. She wet her lips and turned toward a group of young men, the one in front a tall, scrawny thing with blond whiskers and very pink lips. He looked down at her with an amused glint in his blue eyes. Was this Everett? He was younger than she had imagined and not entirely unpleasant to look at, but his body appeared fragile for a farmer, and the flash in his eye matched his unsettling roguish tone. “You wouldn’t happen to be here for Everett Cline?” 21 What an awkward way to greet her. “I, um . . . yes. And are you he?” Rachel crossed in front of her with hands jammed on her hips. “Now, you all go on and get.” The young man’s face changed from amusement to bewilderment. “Don’t tell me she really is here for Everett.” The four young men behind him snickered. “None of your business, Axel. If you please, find somewhere else to be.” Rachel pointed toward the depot, but the group had fallen dumb and stiff. Axel cocked his head. “Then she is?” Rachel didn’t answer, and he let out an impressed hu#. Was there something so appalling about Everett that Axel couldn’t believe a woman would marry him? Maybe that’s why he needed a mail-order bride. But surely Rachel wouldn’t have matched her with a dreadful man. Rachel stared at Axel as if he were only knee-high instead of towering over them both. Julia rubbed her arms, suddenly cold and hot at the same time. Every eye in the small group of men focused on her. Men had ogled her before, but this was ridiculous. “Excuse me, gentlemen.” A man taller than Axel pushed through the group, a girl with fluffy blond ringlets hooked on his arm. “You heard my wife—find somewhere else to be. I’m sure you have better things to do than detain our guest.” The men behind Axel poked each other, talking under their breath. Everett’s name was the only word she caught. Was he here? Why hadn’t he shown himself? Axel smiled wide. “I hadn’t any faith in you, Everett, but you pulled through. She’s a beauty.” Julia stepped to the other side of Rachel and tried to see to whom Axel was speaking. Oh, why did she have to be so short? 22 Axel tipped his hat toward her. “I look forward to getting to know you better . . . Miss . . . ?” She gave a tiny nod. “Lockwood, and I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted.” “Of course you will.” Dex patted the boy’s shoulder dismissively and then turned to her. “It’s nice to meet you at last, Miss Lockwood. I’m Dex.” “At last?” The incredulous murmur of a deep male voice sounded behind Dex. Julia looked straight up at Rachel’s husband. The top of her hat didn’t even reach the bottom of his chest pocket. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Stanton.” “Call me Dex. And I’m assuming you’re rather interested in the gentleman behind me.” She thought her cheeks had been hot a minute ago. “The finest neighbor any man could have.” A tall shadow of a man walked toward her, but it was no stranger who lifted his hat. Theodore. No. It couldn’t be. All heat drained from her face and pooled on the platform at her feet. The ensuing shock of cold stopped her breath. He’d said he’d find her no matter how far she ran, but she hadn’t believed him. She pressed her hand against her heart, galloping in vain against her chest. “Pleased to meet you, Miss Lockwood. I’m Everett Cline.” She blinked hard at him and reached for Rachel to keep herself from falling, from running. He frowned. “Is everything all right?” His voice was wrong and his hair parted on the left and the front tooth didn’t overlap. She worked to wet her mouth enough to speak. “Mr. . . . Mr. Cline?” “I believe so.” His tickled smirk released the breath stuck 23 in her lungs. The set of his jaw was similar, but not when he smiled. Not Theodore. She released her vise grip on Rachel, who looked at her as if she’d lost her wits. Like Theodore, Everett had beautiful dark blond wavy hair, a prominent brow, and laugh lines around the eyes. He was certainly handsome—just like the man her father had chosen for her to wed. How could she marry someone whose appearance reminded her of a man she never wanted to lay eyes on again? 24 Melissa Jagears, A Bride for Keeps Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2013. Used by permission.

Click to Tweet: Could God use unconventional ways to bring two hearts together?

Q & A: I ask the question… you supply the answer. 🙂


Everett and Julia were brought together in a very unconventional way. Mail-order brides were very common in 1876 but such a drastic step is no longer practiced. Would you consider being a mail-order bride? Let me know by leaving a comment below. 🙂

Where Hope Starts by Angela D. Meyer – Book Promo

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

CrossRiver Media Group (August 9, 2013)
***Special thanks to Angela Meyer for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Angela D. Meyer lives in Omaha, NE with her husband of 22 years. They have two children whom they homeschool – recently graduating their son. She has taught childrens’ Bible classes for over 35 years. She loves God, her family, the ocean, good stories, connecting with friends, taking pictures, quiet evenings and a good laugh. Someday she wants to ride in a hot air balloon and vacation by the sea. Where Hope Starts is Angela’s debut novel.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

From New York City to the suburbs of Kansas City, a marriage struggles through the fallout of secrets and addictions.

Eight years after saying I do, Barry raises his hand against Karen and she discovers his addiction to pornography bringing their marriage to the edge of destruction.

Karen returns to her childhood home near Kansas City, MO to think through her options, but discovers her first love ready to pick up where they left off so many years ago.

Still in New York City, Barry attempts to fix the mess he has made of his life and his marriage. His choices take him on a downward spiral that leads to brokenness and the possible loss of his freedom.

Will they find their way back to each other or will they walk away from the future God has for them?

Product Details:
List Price: $17.99
Paperback: 292 pages
Publisher: CrossRiver Media Group (August 9, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1936501155
ISBN-13: 978-1936501151

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Come home.

Karen Marino choked back a cry as she stared at the words scribbled on the front of the envelope. She slid her fingernail under the flap and gaped at the plane ticket nestled inside a letter. Why now? She gritted her teeth. Heat flushed from her neck to the top of her head as she remembered the look of disgust on her father’s face.

The clash of pans in the restaurant kitchen startled her back to the present. “What the…?”

She glanced at her watch. Almost eleven. She slid the ticket and letter back inside the envelope and tucked it into her purse. She took a deep breath before stepping out of her office.

“Steve, how does the schedule look?” Karen hired him straight out of culinary school. His lack of experience paled next to his talent, and within a year his specialties had drawn in customers from all over New York City’s five boroughs, earning the restaurant a five-star reputation.

“Perfect, my love.” He crossed his arms and smiled. “Now, when are you going to marry me?”

She laughed. “Your mother would be disappointed. I have more red hair than Irish blood.” She enjoyed the attention her hair brought in The City, where she no longer stood out like an apple on an orange tree.

“My ma would love you anyway.” Steve placed his hand over his heart.

She shook her head and waved him back to work, then strode through the kitchen inspecting the line cooks as they prepped for the noon rush. “Be sure and clean up as you go….No, not that dish. Use the glass one. And keep a towel nearby.…How long have you worked here?…Don’t wipe your hands on your apron.”

She stopped. “Jimmy,” she yelled above the din of the kitchen. Her voice carried to the break room where the young man sauntered out with a donut in one hand and a coffee cup in the other.

“Yeah?”

She glared at him. “What’s with all these dirty pots and pans?”

The guy shrugged. “Had somewhere to be last night, so I saved them.”

“Get rid of that donut now and finish your job in the next half hour, or you’re fired, no matter who your cousin is.”

He threw the donut and coffee in the trash can and plodded off to his station.

“Karen.”

“What!”

“You okay?” Her assistant manager, Cathy, raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to snap.” Karen took a deep breath. “Is the dining room ready?”

“No problems there. But…” Cathy glanced over her shoulder. “Barry’s at the bar.”

“Not with the new owner coming in.” Karen clenched her fists. If she talked to her husband now she would lose her cool. “Did you tell him I was busy?”

“Yes. But, he’s got that look.”

Karen rolled her eyes. That meant another of Barry’s money-making ideas. Ideas didn’t pay the rent. “I better go talk to him.”

Barry grinned as she approached and she paused at the sight of his dark wavy hair and strong jaw line. If life were a photo, he would take her breath away. But once you added sound and action, that fantasy vanished.

She bit her lip. A part of her longed for what they used to have. How does a man change so much? He used to lead people. Now he controlled them, like the other night. Karen shuddered, then closed the gap between them. “We’re about to open. You need to go. We can talk tonight.”

“Like all those other times? Please.” He leaned against the bar.

“I said, we’ll talk.”

Barry slid off the bar stool. Although he stood only a few inches taller than her five foot seven frame and didn’t work out enough to have an impressive build, he carried himself with a bravado that demanded attention. “We’ll talk now. You’ll like this idea. It’s a chance to get in on the ground floor of a start-up company.”

Karen caught a whiff of liquor on his breath. “A little early to be drinking, don’t you think?”

“Don’t change the subject.” He banged his fist on the bar.

She jumped. His eyes grew dark. She backed away, her eyes frozen on his hands. “You need to leave. Now.”

“Why?” Barry’s voice grew louder.

“So I won’t lose my job.” The new owner was a powerful man. Barry could blow it for her.

“Miss Indispensable? Lose her job?” His empty laugh bounced around the deserted room.

“Please.” Karen reigned in her hostility.

“I will do as I please.” He took a step toward her.

“If you hope to get your hands on my money, try honey not vinegar.” She crossed her arms and stared at him.

“What are you talking about?”

“This approach will not get you what you want.”

He looked behind her and backed away. “Yeah, maybe we should talk tonight.”

Karen wrinkled her brow. What’s got into him now? She turned. The new owner walked toward her. He reminded her of Danny Devito. Short, stout, and balding. Add a bit of swagger to his walk and you would have her new boss. She groaned. Glancing Barry’s direction she saw him leave through the kitchen. I hope he didn’t just cost me my job.

She turned to face the man. She mustered a smile and extended her hand. “Karen Marino. You must be Mr. Simon.”

The man stared at her. “You’re fired.” He smiled like a kid who just lifted a trinket from the store and got away with it.

“You can’t do that.” Her throat closed up. Breathe.

“I own this place, I can and will clean house as I see fit.”

His reputation was well earned. She forced herself to unclench her hands. “I built this restaurant into what it is today.”

“There’s no place in any of my restaurants for what I just witnessed. Home stays at home.”

“You’d get rid of me for one incident?”

“It’s not just one incident.”

She bit her tongue and glared at the man. Who talked?

“Leave now. Come back and clear out your desk after lunch.”

“Fine, I don’t need you or your restaurant. I have my reputation.” She regretted the words as soon as she said them.

“When I’m done, you won’t have a reputation.”

She turned and fled to her office. A man that powerful didn’t make idle threats. She grabbed her purse, squared her shoulders, and marched through the kitchen. She would not be shamed out of here. She did nothing wrong.

Her assistant manager barked orders at the staff. The new owner smiled while he watched. So Cathy betrayed me. An old pain grabbed at Karen’s heart. Why do people turn on me?

Letting the door slam on her way out, she rushed into the flow of human traffic. The wall of buildings hid the breadth of the sky and pressed in around her. Exhaust fumes mingled with the aroma of pizza from a nearby kiosk. She jumped when a taxi blared its horn. Two people shoved each other to get in, arguing over appointments. She picked up her pace, needing to escape the surroundings that for the last fifteen years had made her feel so alive. An image of the family orchard in Missouri filled her heart.

Her past caught up to her present and the old emotions, released from their prison, pinballed around inside her. She ducked into a nearby alley and leaned against the wall. Pressing her hands against the wall, she took several calming breaths against the tears welling up in her chest. She needed to think, not cry.

She pressed her fingertips against her eyes. I don’t want to go back to the apartment yet, and I don’t have an office anymore. Where can I go? She fought the desire to throw things and stomp her feet. She would not lose control.

Something brushed against her elbow and she jerked away. A pungent odor assaulted her nose as a man in a tattered jacket stepped closer.

“Some money for food?” He reached out his hands.

She pushed the man away and tucked her purse close to her body as she stumbled out of the alley and hurried away. Her thoughts latched onto her husband and the impossibility of the situation. Lost in a daze she walked several blocks before her stomach growled, reminding her of the time. She paused and looked around. Carnegie Deli looked like a good choice. Crossing the street, she stood in line for her turn, anxious for the line to move, yet longing for a slower pace.

Pressure built up in her right eye and tension grew between her shoulders. She dug through her purse for some pain reliever and popped two in her mouth.

“Next.”

She looked up at the man behind the counter. “Uh, I’m not sure, what—”

“I’ll take a Woody Allen and a coffee.” A construction worker shouldered his way past Karen, slapping some bills on the counter.

Karen glared at him, then raised her voice above the next person trying to steal her place in line. “Give me a Woody Allen, too.”

Within minutes her order sat next to the construction worker’s sandwich. She grabbed her plate and cup of coffee, and turned to find a seat in the crowded dining room. From across the room, she saw two women get up from their table. She rushed to grab one of the empty chair.

She settled in to her seat and thought of the first time she came here. She was on a blind date, and he wanted to share his favorite place to eat. Crowded elbow to elbow with strangers at the shared table, it was not exactly romantic, but the food was delicious and plentiful. Her sandwich was piled so high with meat she ate for several days off of the leftovers.

Now, the deli gave her the anonymity she needed.

Cradling the coffee mug in her hands, she allowed the heat to calm her nerves. The day had not gone the way she planned. Lately, not much had. She rubbed her temples then scooted her plate forward to make room for her note pad. Avoiding the glares of her table mates, she pulled out a pen and began to list her options.

Find a job. In this economy? Right.

Barry find a job. She laughed.

Dip into her savings. She ripped the paper off the pad and wadded it up. Not again. That money was for the future.

Her head pounded as she fought back the tears. Barry’s scheme might be all they had. Maybe not.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the letter. Karen remembered how special it felt to be a daughter of Charles and Annibel Hannigan. They were well respected in the community and at church, and then everything changed.

What’s so important that they want me to come home now? She laid the ticket aside and unfolded the letter.

Dear Karen,

Please come home. Your mother is dying and she needs to see you. She needs to know you understand. You need to hear what she has to say.

We are both sorry for the past and ask your forgiveness. I’ve enclosed a plane ticket. Change the date to what works best.

Love, Dad

Her hands trembled as she held the letter. Mom’s dying?

She laid the letter down and leaned her head onto her hands. She lost their favor with no explanation, and now they offered it to her again on a silver platter. It felt fake. What had she done to lose their favor in the first place? She wiped at tears she couldn’t stop. Did they think an apology could make up for everything?

“Hey lady, if you’re done, why don’t you move on. There’s folks waiting for a seat.”

Looking the bus boy directly in the eye, she reached for her sandwich and took a bite. He waved at her in dismissal and went back to work.

She glanced out the window as a mother bent down to look her child in the eye. She pointed at a large bulldozer across the street. The little boy smiled, looked back at her and nodded. They hugged. She grabbed his hand and continued walking.

She and her mother used to have a relationship like that. Carrying on like they were the only two people in the world. She looked away. Maybe going home wasn’t a viable option either.

She bit her lip. Am I supposed to just forgive them? How could they ask that of her? She hit the table with her fist and the coffee mug jumped, spilling onto the letter.

“Hey, watch it!” The man next to her grabbed his paper and picked it up ahead of the offending liquid.

“Sorry.” She grabbed some napkins and sopped up the mess. Blowing out a hard breath and tapping her fingers on the table, she checked her phone for the time before dialing her best friend.

Megan and Robert Fletcher reserved a table every Tuesday night at the restaurant Karen managed. Over time she became friends with Megan despite her penchant for religion. She always listened and gave good feedback.

And she’s the only person I trust.

Karen wouldn’t get the same attentive ear once Megan and Robert had their baby. The call went straight to voice mail, so she left a message. Megan must be at the women’s shelter she managed.

Karen picked up the letter and airline ticket and stuffed them in her purse. A walk might help her think better. Catching the waitress’ attention, she asked for a to-go bag.

Back on the street, her mind quickly turned to what her lack of employment meant for her life. Stay in New York and try to find another job without a reference. Give Barry’s scheme a chance. Or go home.

She cringed at all of those options. Like it or not, she had to consider them or maybe…her steps faltered as she did some quick mental calculations.

It would be risky and Barry wouldn’t like it, but she didn’t care. She quickened her step. She needed to stop by the bank.

Heirs of Rebellion (Morrison Family Secrets Book 1) by Vanessa Miller – Book Promo

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Vanessa Miller is a best-selling author, playwright, and motivational speaker. Her romance series include Forsaken, Rain and Storm, and with Whitaker House, the Second Chance at Love series: A Promise of Forever Love, Yesterday’s Promise, and A Love for Tomorrow. Her books, which often depict lost characters in need of redemption, have received countless favorable reviews and numerous awards. Vanessa holds a degree in organizational communication from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. She is a dedicated Christian and a devoted mother serves in her church as an ordained exhorter.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Heirs of Rebellion contains the first two of five stories chronicling the dramatic lives of Joel Morrison and his adult children. “The Blessed One” kicks off the saga in the Bahamas where Joel has gathered the family to go over changes to his will, but a turn of events sends shock waves through the Morrison family, altering Joel’s plans. “The Wild One,” revolves around daughter Dee Dee Morrison-Milner, a film star living life in the fast lane who adopts an African child — only because she believes it will benefit her career. When a series of events leads to her adopted daughter’s kidnapping, Dee Dee turns to her estranged husband in hopes of finding the child whose kind nature has captured her heart.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Morrison Family Secrets (Book 1)
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749489
ISBN-13: 978-1603749480

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Mr. Morrison, I really need to discuss something with you before you leave today.”

Eric’s assistant, Karen, had come into his office just as he was leaning over his desk, putting some files in his briefcase, so he could head home. He straightened up, revealing his full six-foot-two, 178-pound physique. He straightened his buttercream-colored tie and looked at his watch. It was 7:30 pm. He’d promised Linda that he would be home by six. Well, he’d already broken that promise, so he might as well handle this business. He sat back down. “What can I do for you, Karen?”

“I would just like to state for the record,” Karen began as she handed him a stack of bills, “I had no clue that this much money was being spent since you put Mark in charge of marketing for your campaign.”

It was the Corporate America motto: “Cover yourself and blame the other guy.” In truth, Karen’s responsibilities included reviewing the finances of his campaign and letting him know if his contributions were insufficient to cover his spending. He flipped through the bills, and then, with a frustrated sigh, laid the stack on his desk. “Why are all these bills past due?”

Karen plopped down in the chair in front of his desk and let out a long sigh. “We haven’t received as much in contributions as I originally projected. The election is nine months away, and with nothing significant happening, we haven’t given the donors a reason to part with their money.”

Here he was, mayor of Cincinnati, fully intending to make the White House his home within the next decade, and he didn’t even have enough money to run for Governor of Ohio? What did that say about his chances at the presidency? Was he dead in the water before his presidential campaign even marinated in the delegates’ minds? Eric refused to believe that. His father had always told him that God was looking out for him and wanted to see him prosper.

Being the eldest child, Eric had always been called upon to solve problems, starting with his own siblings. If he heard someone say, “Give it back; I had it first,” Eric would suggest something along the lines of, “Why don’t you play with the truck first, Isaiah, and then, in a little while, you can let Shawn see it, okay?” or, “Look, Dee Dee, there’s a prettier doll on your bed. Why don’t you let Elaine have this old doll, so you can play with the prettier one?”

Problem solving was in his genes. So, before his pity party got started, Eric decided to search for a solution. He grabbed his calculator and began adding up his debts. He turned to Karen. “It looks like we owe almost five million for various items, including my radio and television ads. How much money do we have right now?”

Karen glanced at the spreadsheet in her hand. “We have about two million in liquid assets.”

His father could cover these bills without even blinking an eye. But Eric hadn’t asked his father for anything since he’d graduated from college. Sure, he gladly accepted the $50,000 his father sent through his accountant to each of his children every year. His father had also bought him and his siblings their first homes. Everyone but Elaine, that is; she was still too busy saving the world to plant roots anywhere. But Eric hadn’t asked his father for anything else since he’d bought the house for Linda and him. When their daughter was born, Eric sold that house and used the proceeds to buy the 6,000-square-foot home they now shared. He wanted to be his own man and make his father proud of his accomplishments. The last thing Eric wanted to do as he neared forty was to beg his father for money. Besides, his father knew that it took money to run for public office; and if he wasn’t offering, Eric wasn’t asking.

“Okay, then,” Eric finally said. “Call all of our creditors and offer them a third of what we owe, and then tell them we will pay the rest over the next three months.” Eric had no clue where the money would come from to pay the remaining balances. But in the political arena, you never knew—a scandal could develop surrounding his opponent, prompting more voters to want to oust the incumbent and perhaps even pledge money to Eric’s campaign. He hoped he wouldn’t have to hire investigators to dig up dirt on Governor McDaniel, but he wasn’t opposed to it if the need arose.

He finished his meeting and left the office. Linda was going to kill him. This was the third night this week that he’d arrived home after eight o’clock. She didn’t understand how much public service meant to him, how much joy he received from setting policies in place that would help communities for generations to come. Being in public service allowed him to use the peacemaking finesse and problem-solving skills he’d developed as a child. But Linda was always complaining that he was more dedicated to the City of Cincinnati than to his own family.

Eric didn’t understand his wife. She had everything a woman could want, and yet she was still unhappy. He had bought her a nice home, and she had a hefty clothing allowance. Yes, he was often late, but at least he came home to his wife every night. Not every woman could say that. But Eric Morrison, the next governor of the great state of Ohio, didn’t cheat on his wife. Mention the name Bill Clinton to any politician—enough said. No, sir. Eric wasn’t trying to build a legacy just to have it torn down by infidelity. His father had taught him that. Joel Morrison used to tell his sons every chance he got: A man’s name is only as good as his wife says it is.

Eric had met Linda after college, while he was serving as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Linda’s father was a colonel in the army, so she’d grown up as an army brat.

Now she’s just a brat, Eric thought as he pulled into the driveway. She was never satisfied, no matter what he did for her. And if she didn’t get her way, she fell apart.

He walked into the house, took off his hat and coat, and put them in the closet. “I’m home,” he yelled.

No one answered back. He looked at his watch and walked out of the foyer in search of his wife. He found her asleep in the living room, stretched out on their beige sofa with a half-empty bottle of scotch by her side. Eric rolled his eyes and turned to walk away. Then he noticed a letter typed on his father’s stationery, sitting on the coffee table. He crossed the room and sat down on the edge of the couch next to his wife, catching a whiff of her alcohol-laden breath as she snored.

Shaking his head, he picked up the letter and read.

Son,

I hope all is going well for you and your family. It has been way too long since I broke bread with you and your lovely wife. Just thinking about how much I miss my grandchildren brings tears to my eyes. So, I’ve decided to invite you all to our vacation home in the Bahamas for a week of fun and family.

I know you’ll need time to get things in order at your office, so I’ve scheduled the vacation for the end of the month. How about it? Can you bring your family to the Bahamas on March 25? I really hope you will be there, because I will be going over some changes to my will.

Love, your father,

Joel

Eric held his breath and leaned back on the sofa. What changes could his father be making to his will? As far back as he could remember, his father had said they would split his fortune five ways when he died. Had something changed?

***

“What did you say to me?” Dee Dee Morrison-Milner glared across the table at her Bible-toting husband. Actually, she preferred thinking of him as her soon-to-be ex-husband.

“I said I love you, Dee Dee. Please, let’s just go home and talk this over,” Drake Milner pleaded, his dark brown eyes filled with liquid sadness.

Dee Dee didn’t care. She rolled her eyes and turned to face her lawyer, who was seated on her left. She ran her fingers through her fifteen-hundred-dollar weave. “William, can you please tell Drake how much alimony he will receive from me when this is all over?”

While Dee Dee’s attorney flipped through his files, Drake said, “What if I don’t want alimony? What if I just want you?”

Drake’s attorney, Mark Winters, elbowed him and spoke up. “Actually, my client has given up a great deal for this three-year marriage. Alimony is the least Mrs. Milner can do.”

“Don’t call me that.” Dee Dee scowled. “I am Dee Dee Morrison. I insist that you refer to me in that manner during these proceedings.” Actually, her name was Dee Dee Morrison-Wilcox-Johnson-Sooner-Milner, but Dee Dee didn’t want to think about all her failed marriages. She’d rather just be Morrison again and start over. The only reason she’d even entered into marital mistake number four was because her father had thought Drake was a great catch. According to Joel Morrison, Mr. Drake Milner was one in a million. Well, her daddy didn’t have to live with Drake. He wasn’t around when Drake opened his Bible and dared to read it to her. He wasn’t dragged to Sunday morning worship service when all he wanted to do was sleep in. Dee Dee had been through all that madness when she’d lived with her father. That’s why she’d thought she could handle a clone of Joel Morrison. But she’d had enough.

“What did I do that was so wrong, Dee Dee?” Drake protested. “I didn’t cheat on you, didn’t abuse you. I honored the vows that I made to you.”

Dee Dee turned to William. “Can you please tell him how much I’m willing to give him in alimony?”

William cleared his throat and announced, “Ms. Morrison is willing to give you fifty thousand a year for the next three years.”

Mark laughed. “How generous you are, Mrs. Milner, but it’s going to take much more than Daddy’s annual allowance to help my client retain his standard of living.”

Glaring across the table at Drake again, Dee Dee said, “Did you tell him all my business?”

“The bottom line is this,” Mark began. “My client gave up his career to move to LA and become your houseboy.”

“I never told him he couldn’t work,” Dee Dee insisted.

“Oh, really? Is that why you got him fired from the last two jobs he acquired since moving here?” Mark asked.

Dee Dee harrumphed. “That’s a lie. Drake didn’t like any of those jobs. He wanted to travel with me. I did him a favor by calling his employers. If anything, he should be thanking me, rather than trying to extort more money.” She stood up and extended her manicured index finger in Drake’s direction. “You’re getting out of my house today. Do you hear me? Your days of freeloading are over.” She turned and stormed out of her attorney’s office, jumped in her red Ferrari 575M Maranello, and sped off. She had no time to waste. She intended to put Drake out of her ten-million-dollar Bel Air mansion that day. She lived thirty minutes away from her lawyer’s office. Nonetheless, in less than twenty minutes, she was punching in the access code to her gated home. She parked her car in front of the house and ran inside.

Dee Dee stood in the foyer for a moment with her back against the door. She detested the stale white walls, the white marble floor, and the circular staircase. It was all too calm and drab for her taste. She still didn’t understand why she had purchased this house. Maybe she had been on some kind of calm-and-drab kick the year she’d married Drake, but she was way over it now.

She went upstairs to Drake’s room, gathered a handful of his shoes and clothes, then opened his bedroom window and threw the stuff out onto the well-manicured lawn. On her third trip to the window, she saw her assistant, Marcia, coming up the walkway.

As Dee Dee dumped Drake’s underclothes on the lawn, Marcia waved some envelopes in the air with no acknowledgment of the garments. “I have your mail.”

“Just leave it on the table in the foyer. I’m busy right now.”

Marcia pulled one of the envelopes out of the stack. “This one is from your father.”

Dee Dee was tempted to continue with her work, but her daddy was a peculiar kind of man. You never knew when he might just add an extra check to one of his letters. And she could use some extra money right now. God only knew how much it was going to cost her to get rid of Drake, since he was telling everyone it was her fault he didn’t have a job.

She went downstairs, took the letter from Marcia, and opened it. As she read it, her world fell apart. Daddy’s changing his will? Was her father disinheriting her because of her four failed marriages? Could the old man really give away her birthright just because she didn’t measure up to his high standards? Dee Dee didn’t really know if this was bad news for her or not, but she knew one thing for sure. There was no way that she could go to the Bahamas without Drake. Not when her share of six hundred million was at stake.