Deborah Raney in “After All”

About After All
After All Cover

Susan Marlowe lost her husband and four other firefighters when the homeless shelter she started burned to the ground eighteen months ago. And she’s finally beginning to heal. That is until she learns a secret David took with him to the grave. For the sake of their sons, can Susan forgive the unforgivable?

Peter Brennan carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. As Hanover Falls’ fire chief, he was responsible for the brave firefighters who lost their lives that awful November night. Can he ever shake the feeling that he should have somehow prevented the tragedy? As he tries to rebuild the team at Clemens County’s Station 2, it seems he might find comfort in the arms of the woman he least expected.

Touching, romantic and suspenseful,After All has it all. A love triangle, a mysterious chain of events, and real characters only Deborah Raney can bring to life.


I didn’t read the first two books in this series, but I defiantly enjoyed this one. Susan Marlowe runs a homeless shelter, and after a horrible fire that takes the shelter, along with her husband and several other firefighters with it, she is left with the job of rebuilding another shelter for the homeless, along with building another life for herself, alone. It took 18 months to have the new shelter ready for more homeless, and the help of her husband’s co-worker, Peter Brennan. Peter didn’t really care for Susan because of her demands for the firefighters help, and at the same time, he couldn’t help but be drawn by her. And he also thought about the rumors he had heard around the firehouse about Susan’s husband before he died in the horrible fire. Could they really be true? Could he Susan’s husband have been cheating on her before his death?

I think I need to go back and read the first two books in this series to enjoy the full story. I can’t believe I haven’t heard about Deborah Raney before, but I will definitely be looking for her books in the future. In After All, Deborah creates characters that are sure to draw you into their story from the beginning. I love the secrets and suspense mingled with a little intriguing romance to help keep the pages turning.

I highly recommend After all for a really good read. And I encourage you to look up the first two books in the Hanover Falls series and read them first. I love series, and there is nothing better than to have a full 3 book series to look forward to reading.

A big Thank You to Glass Road Publicity Group for giving this book for me to read and review. I was not expected or required to provide a positive review. The opinions in this review are mine only.

Deborah Raney is the award- winning author of numerous novels, includingA Nest of Sparrows and the RITA award-winningBeneath a Southern Sky and its sequel,After the Rains.Deborah’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was the inspiration for World Wide Picture’s highly acclaimed film of the same title, which in December 2004 aired on prime time network TV for the second time. Deb’s novella, Playing by Heart, was a National Readers Choice Award winner and a 2004 Christy Award finalist. Her novel with Howard/Simon & Schuster, Yesterday’s Embers, appeared on the ECPA Christian fiction bestseller list. Known for her sensitive portrayal of family struggles and relationships, Deb has also written nonfiction books and articles and often speaks at women’s retreats and writers’ conferences around the country. She and her husband, illustrator/author Ken Raney, have four children and make their home in Kansas. Learn more at

LitFuse Tour….Wish You Were Here by Beth Vogt…plus iPad2 Giveaway!

Wish You Were Here

 Beth K. Vogt

Book Blurb
Allison Denman is supposed to get married in five days, but everything is all wrong. The huge wedding. The frothy dress. And the groom. Still, kissing the groom’s brother in an unguarded moment is decidedly not the right thing to do. How could she have made such a mistake? It seems Allison’s life is nothing but mistakes at this point. And pulling a “Runaway Bride” complete with stealing, er, borrowing her best friend’s car doesn’t seem to solve her problems. Can Allison find her way out of this mess? Maybe she just needs to stop orchestrating everything. Allison prefers being the one in control, and giving it up is not going to be easy. But to find her way again, she will have to believe that God has a plan for her and find the strength to let Him lead.


Wish You Were Here by Beth K. Vogt

Wow, what a wonderful debut novel. Allison and Seth have been dating for six years, and their big wedding day is finally getting close. And everyone is happy. Right? Well that’s the way it seemed until Seth ask his brother Daniel to go by Allison’s apartment to pick up boxes she’d packed and bring to Seth’s house. Only Allison hadn’t packed the boxes, and Daniel took it as his duty as best man to stay and help pack them. With an added Chinese dinner to boot. All is well until Daniel goes to give Allison a quick friendly goodnight peck on the cheek, a peck that ended up in a kiss that neither of them never forgot. And well, as for the rest, you really need to read this wonderful debut book by Beth Vogt.

I can see now that Beth Vogt is going to be another awesome author on my favorites list! With her intriguing first novel, we can only imagine what is in store for us with her second book. Can I say I am hoping it is more of Allison and Daniel and the gang?

I thoroughly enjoyed this romance that was much more than a romance. With a chance to follow Allison as she strived to figure out just what she really wanted in live, and if she did indeed make the right choice, or the choice that would ruin her forever.

I loved Daniel and Allison’s characters, and was cheering them on from the beginning. Seth was a really good guy, in his own way, but his control to have everything his way, and wanting life just perfect was just too much for anyone. Beth Vogt did a wonderful job in creating these characters and bringing them to life through the pages of this book. I feel in love with the book in the very beginning. The only thing about it is, I wish she had given Allison and Daniel more time at the end. Made it a little more intriguing and I don’t know, maybe interesting? It is all good, don’t get me wrong, but the ending was just missing a little something.

That said, if you like contemporary fiction, this is a must for you to read. You will certainly not be disappointed!

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher Howard Books through LitFuse Publicity Group. I want to thank Amy for making sure I rec’d this book, even though the publisher didn’t send it in time for the tour. The opinions in this review are mine only.

About Beth:


Beth K. Vogt provides her readers with a happily ever after woven through with humor, reality, and God’s lavish grace. She’s a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor-or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Beth has discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us. Beth earned a journalism degree from San Jose State University and met her husband Rob when he knocked her down at a karate studio. They’ve been married for 31 years. They have four children, ranging in ages from 28, 25, 23 and – thanks to a funny thing happening on their way to the empty nest-a 10-year-old. The Vogt Team, which now includes a “daughter-in-love” and “son-in-love,” enjoys hiking and camping in Colorado. Read more about Beth at her
Link to buy the book:
Continue with the blog tour by visiting the other blogs….



Wish You Were Here iPad2 Giveaway!

Enter Today – 5/15-6/4!

Beth Vogt Wish You Were Here iPad2 Giveaway

Win an iPad2 from @BethVogt!

Celebrate with Beth by entering her Wish You Were Here Giveaway!

One “happy” winner will receive:
  • A brand new iPad with Wi-Fi (The must-have, do-everything gadget!)
  • Wish You Were Here by Beth Vogt (Swoon worthy.)
  • $15 iTunes Gift Card (Music, books, apps, & more.)

Hurry, the giveaway ends on 6/4/12. The winner will be announced 6/6/12 on Beth’s website!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Beth’s giveaway
on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

First WildCard Tours presents Lisa Troyer and her CD “A Place to Belong”

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 artist is:
Lisa Troyer
and the cd:
A Place to Belong
℗ 2012 LifeWay Worship

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


Radio personality, recording artist, speaker and author Lisa Troyer finds herself heart-deep in ministries that are changing lives forever. Her incredibly successful Circle of Friends women’s ministry, formed over a decade ago, is growing in all directions. With ministry and songwriting partner Dawn Yoder, Lisa and her Circle of Friends offer women’s conferences, leadership training, counseling services, worship music, life skills classes and marriage/family resources. No matter the outlet or the venue, Lisa uses her gift of encouragement, her influence and her resources to open doors for women everywhere to discover their significance and belonging through Christ.
Visit the author’s website.


Every woman needs acceptance, love and a place to belong. That’s the underlying theme of the new music CD, A Place to Belong (Lifeway Worship), from singer/songwriter Lisa Troyer, president of Circle of Friends Ministries. Refreshingly authentic and dynamic, the companion worship CD to Troyer’s recently released book, A Place to Belong: Out of Our Comfort Zone and into God’s Adventure (Barbour Publishing), tenderly draws women into a place of true freedom and belonging in the very heart of God.

To order go HERE.

Product Details:

$7.92 or $0.99 per song

Genres: Christian & Gospel, Music

Released: Mar 23, 2012

℗ 2012 LifeWay Worship


CFBA features “Spring Hope” by Martha Rogers

This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingSpring Hope( Realms (May 15, 2012)byMartha RogersABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martha Rogers is a freelance author of both fiction and non-fiction and a speaker. Her stories and articles have appeared in a number of compilations and magazines. Her first fiction novella was released in 2007.

Her experiences as a public school teacher, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, First Place leader, Mom and Grandmother give Martha a unique field of ministry.

Martha is am alumni of CLASS and is available to speak at Women’s Retreats, conferences, and luncheons on topics of interest to women of all ages.

As an author, she is available to speak at writing conferences and workshops on a variety of topics of interest to writers.


Can runaway Libby Cantrell finally get a new start?

Libby Cantrell’s life has gone from bad to worse since her mother’s death. After working in a brothel to support her abusive father, she sees no hope for her future until one cold winter night when she finds the courage to escape.

When she collapses in Portersfield, Texas, exhausted, ill, and hungry, Sheriff Cory Muldoon finds her and takes her to the doctor. Against Cory’s better judgment, Seth and Erin Winston take her in and offer her a job as a nanny for their young son. As a minister, Seth sees it as his duty to take care of her. As a deputy, Cory needs to know the truth about her even as he is attracted to the waif of a young woman.

As Cory’s feelings for her grow and winter becomes spring, will he be able to accept her as she is now and truly forget and forgive her sordid past?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Spring Hope, go HERE.

A Love Forbidden by Kathleen Morgan


A Love Forbidden

Heart of the Rockies Series- #2

By Kathleen Morgan

Revell Publishers


Kathleen Morgan explores themes of mercy, fidelity to one’s beliefs, and compassion for those different from oneself in this sweeping Western saga.  Set amongst the wilds of the Colorado Rockies in 1879, this is a tale of a forbidden love and a faith tested in the midst of intolerance and the harsh realities of life on the untamed frontier.

Moved by the desire for adventure and a yearning to help the Ute Indians, twenty-year-old Shiloh Wainright impulsively accepts a teaching position at the White River Indian Agency in northwestern Colorado. The new job, however, isn’t what she imagined it would be, and Shiloh soon finds herself caught in the cross fire between the Utes, their unyielding Indian Agent, and the unrealistic demands of the US government. Her unexpected encounter with Jesse Blackwater, an embittered half-breed Ute and childhood friend, only complicates matters as they battle their growing feelings for each other amidst the spiraling tensions threatening to explode into a catastrophic Indian uprising.

Kathleen Morgan is the award-winning author of many novels, including those in the bestselling Brides of Culdee Creek series. She lives in Colorado.


Praise for Kathleen Morgan’s A Heart Divided – #1 in the Heart of the Rockies Series:


4 Stars

“Morgan launches a new series, Heart of the Rockies, written with charm, wit and characters to be cherished. The characters are strong, able to solve problems with a open mind and heart, and have some giggles along the way.”—RT Reviews


“Believable characters and an attention to detail make this series debut from the author of the “Brides of Culdee Creek” series a sure bet for fans of Lori Wick.”—Library Journal


“A Heart Divided reflects Kathleen’s talent for penning complex characters, historical detail and an engaging romance.”—Rel Mollet





When Shiloh Wainright accepts a teaching position at the White River Indian Agency in northwestern Colorado, she never dreamed of catching up with her old childhood best friend Jesse Blackwater. Though she is thrilled to see him again, and see that he is doing well after his abrupt leave almost ten years ago from her families ranch. Could their friendship rekindle now that they were back together, and now that they were nine years older than before?


Trouble is, Shiloh is from a white family and Jesse is half-breed. Half white and half Ute Indian. Which means any attraction they might have toward each other cannot happen. A relationship between the two of them would be unheard of and forbidden.


Kathleen Morgan writes a heartwarming and at the same time heart wrenching story about two people from completely different cultures, two completely different worlds represented here. As we follow Jesse and Shiloh’s story, Kathleen takes us on a journey like no other we’ve been on. The differences between the Ute and white man’s life is nothing to be compared. And with a dad like Jesse’s, being abusive and hating both Jesse and is mother, Jesse could only find acceptance with his mother’s people, the Ute.


Shiloh wasn’t the only one so drawn to Jesse, he was just so adorable! And the hurt he had always suffered, and still was suffering was heartbreaking to read about. It was a hurt that not even Shiloh could help him with. And Shiloh had her own hurt and heartache over what happened to Jesse years ago when he left the ranch.


I had a difficult time getting into this story, but it was because of the information on the Ute Indians, and the background for the story. It was just kind of boring for me. But it then the story took off and I found myself not wanting to put the book down. I was so heartbroken for Jesse that I wanted to make sure everything turn out for him ok. The story is sometimes not so easy to read, I found myself reading, but not taking it in at times because of the nature of the scenes with the Indians trying to defend what they had. Wonderful writing of the author in the vivid details of the Ute’s way of life. And I appreciate the author describing God’s way of salvation so plain and clear, and for showing that only God can break through those barriers and change lives.


I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting a really good read, and especially those who enjoy historical fiction. And if you enjoy a good old Indian story, this one is for you as well!


I received this book from the publisher Revell to read and review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 55


Welcome to Litfuse Tour featuring Andrew Klavan and Crazy Dangerous Plus Awesome GiveAway


About the book:
“You probably want to hear about Jennifer and the demons and how I played chicken with a freight train and-oh yeah-the weird murder . . . you’re definitely going to want to hear about that.”
Sam Hopkins is a good kid who has fallen in with a bad crowd. Hanging around with car thieves and thugs, Sam knows it’s only a matter of time before he makes one bad decision too many and gets into real trouble.
But one day, Sam sees them harassing an eccentric schoolmate of his named Jennifer. When Sam finds the courage to face the bullies down, he loses a bad set of friends and acquires a very strange new one.
Because Jennifer is not just eccentric. To Sam, she seems downright crazy. She has terrifying hallucinations involving demons and the devil and death. And here’s the really crazy part: Sam is beginning to suspect that these visions may actually be prophecies–prophecies of something terrible that’s going to happen very soon. Unless he can stop it.
With no one to believe him, with no one to help him, Sam is now all alone in a race against time. Finding the truth before disaster strikes is going to be both crazy and very, very dangerous.


Crazy Dangerous  by Andrew Klavan

I’ve always heard that preacher’s kids are the worst. That is when it comes to being wild. Is this what happened to Sam? He was a pretty good kid, didn’t really give his parents a lot of problems and heartaches,that is until he started hanging around with the wrong kind of people. People that like to get into trouble, and that led Sam into getting into trouble. Jennifer was more like wild and crazy, and her mental problems only caused more problems for her.

Wow when I read some of the reviews, I wondered, is that book really that good, and then I found out. The answer is Yes, and Yes again! Even though it is primarily for the young audience, anyone and everyone can read this book, and will love it! For suspense/thriller fans, this is one you don’t want to miss. And I appreciate the Biblical principles brought out so well throughout the book bringing to light the love and trust, and the feeling of being accepted that we see in the pages of this book.

Though Sam and Jennifer are two entirely different characters, they really grow on you, and by the end of the story, their characters will be so real and loveable that you will feel like you’ve known them for years!

A copy of this book was provided by LitFuse for me to read and review. I was not expected or required to write a positive review. The opinions here in this review are mine only.


About Andrew:


Andrew Klavan was hailed by Stephen King as “the most original novelist of crime and suspense since Cornell Woolrich.” He is the recipient of two Edgar Awards and the author of such bestsellers as True Crime and Don’t Say a Word.  His books and screenplays have been turned into films directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Michael Douglas, Ed Burns, Michael Caine among others.  Hometown: Santa Barbara, California Books Sold to Date: over 1.5 million



Celebrate with Andrew Klavan by entering his Crazy
giveaway and connecting with him during the Author Chat Party on

One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A $100 Visa Cash Card
  • A copy of Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan for YOU and
    5 of your Friends!

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at
noon on May 28th. Winner will be announced at the “Crazy
Dangerous” Author Chat Facebook Party on 5/29
. Andrew will be hosting an Author Chat, testing your survival trivia skills, giving away books and gift certificates to
iTunes and! Don’t miss a second of the “danger”!

Grab your copy of Crazy Dangerous and connect with Andrew on the evening of
5/29/12 for an author chat and lots of giveaways.

Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via TwitterDon’t miss a moment of the fun. RSVP
and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see
you on the 24th!

PUYB Presents Donna Fletcher Crow and A Darkly Hidden Truth

A Darkly Hidden Truth

Donna Fletcher Crow, author of the clerical mystery, A Darkly Hidden Truth


Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 38 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

Her newest release is A Darkly Hidden Truth, book 2 in her clerical mystery series The Monastery Murders. She also writes the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. To read more about these books and to see book videos for A Darkly Hidden Truth and for A Very Private Grave, Monastery Murders 1,  as well as pictures from Donna’s garden and research trips go to:

Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Official Tour Page


Felicity can’t possibly help Father Antony find the valuable missing icon. She’s off to become a nun. Then her impossible mother turns up unexpectedly. And a good friend turns up murdered…

Breathtaking chase scenes, mystical worship services, dashes through remote waterlogged landscapes keep the pages turning. Felicity learns the wisdom of holy women from today and ages past and Antony explores the arcane rites of the Knights Hospitaller. But what good will any of that do them if Felicity can’t save Antony’s life?



My Thoughts on this Book!

I didn’t read the first book in this series but that was ok, the author gives enough background that this can be easily read as a stand alone. This one start with Felicity wanting to become a nun, but this was like an impulsive decision, so she was talked into checking out the convents to see what she really thought about it. Felicity is a fun, happy person, not being afraid of changes in her life, and she didn’t mind taking a dare either. Like in the beginning when she dressed as a boy to go check out the new murder so her fathers paper would have first dabs at it. Her character just makes the book fun and interesting to read. I kept reading because I really wanted to find out what would happen to her. Felicity’s journey though this book was so full of adventure you will not want to put it down!

This was my first book by the author. With her inventing creative, interesting and likeable  characters, and with the unique history of the churches, along with the mystery and suspence, she writes a wonderful historical story that will stay with you for a while. I don’t like giving too much away, but you will love the story of Felicity and her adventurous journey.

I received this book free from Kregel Publishing. I was not required or expected to write a positive review. The opinions here are my own.


CFBA and Darrel Nelson presents …..The Anniversary Waltz

This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingThe Anniversary WaltzRealms (May 15, 2012)byDarrel NelsonABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Word from the author:

I am a schoolteacher by profession and have taught school for (thir—ahem!) years. I grew up in Raymond, Alberta, and attended the University of Lethbridge after graduating from high school and serving a two-year mission to Japan. During university, I met and married Marsha Smith, and we are the parents of four children, which has grown to include their spouses and our ten grandchildren.

I have always loved to write. I started writing stories before I was old enough to realize I was writing stories. It seemed a natural thing to pick up a pencil and paper and create a world simply by using words—worlds of adventure in steaming jungles (Tarzan was an early influence on me) or realms of adventure in outer space (Buck Rogers). But as I have grown older, I have discovered that the real inspiration for me is exploring the theme of love and how it can make such a difference in the world.

I’ve had an article published in Lethbridge Magazine and have written several dramatic plays, two of which won provincial recognition and were showcased at a drama festival. I won the CJOC radio songwriting contest two years running, and have had one of my songs receive international airplay. I have written four novels intended for the juvenile market. They are unpublished as yet, but I read them annually to my fourth grade students and my students tell me they love them, the darlings.


At their sixtieth anniversary party, Adam Carlson asks his wife, Elizabeth, for their customary waltz. After the dance they gather the family and share their story—a story of love and courage overcoming adversity and thriving in the face of overwhelming odds.

It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. At a town festival he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.

When Adam and Elizabeth share a waltz in a deserted pavilion one evening, their feelings begin to grow and they embark on a journey, and a dance, that will last a lifetime.

If you’d like to read the first chapter excerpt of The Anniversary Waltz, go HERE.


****Will read and review the book when it arrives……Sounds like a wonderful one!

CFBA Presents Annie’s Truth…by Beth Shriver

This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingAnnie’s TruthRealms (May 15, 2012)byBeth ShriverABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Childhood memories of her grandfather’s ranch came alive as Beth wrote her first Amish story. Her parents grew up in the country, so she understands pastoral life and respects those who make a living off the land. She frequents a nearby Amish community just south of Fort-Worth for an occasional church service or brunch with the bishop and his wife. And on the way home she stops at the community store to get some plum jam!

In 2003 Beth began writing her first book. A couple of years later it was published and she has been writing ever since. Beth received a degree in social work from the University of Nebraska and was a case worker before starting a family. Beth followed her passion and has written in a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction.


After learning the truth about who she really is, can this prodigal daughter be accepted back into the safety and security of home?

Annie Beiler seems to have it all—a loving family in a tight-knit Amish community and the affections of an attractive and respected young man. But when she learns that she was adopted after being found as an abandoned newborn, she sets out on a journey to find out who she is.

Her father is strongly against her decision to leave, as it could mean Meidung, or excommunication from the community and even her family. But Annie knows she must find “the path that has her heart.”

As Annie’s search brings her into the fast-paced world of modern life, she is confronted with all of the temptations she was warned of. Can she make her way back to the order and security of her family? Or will she remain an outsider—torn between her two worlds?

If you would like to read an excerpt from the first chapter of Annie’s Truth, go HERE.


******I will read and review this book when It arrives!! Can’t wait to read a new author and one of my favorite genre’s…Amish fiction!

The Vengeance Squad by Sidney Frost

 The Vengeance Squad  by Sidney Frost

Book Blurb

She smiled at me even though I knew she must be in extreme pain. “Thank you for loving me,” she said. I was the one who should be thanking her for loving me. I couldn’t think about that right now. There was too much blood. I had to help her. “Tell me how to fix this.” She coughed and cleared her throat. “Your love has fulfilled me.” “No, please,” I said, “don’t talk like that. You’re in shock. That’s all. We’ll get help soon.” “Chris,” Sarah said. “You have to let me go. I love…” She sank into my arms as her life left her body. “No! Please, God, no.” When Chris McCowan’s fiancée, 24-year-old Sarah Eason, is killed during a bizarre robbery near Austin, Texas, an unlikely trio teams up to find those responsible for her death. The trio, Chris, a 31-year-old computer science professor, Percy “Tex” Thompson, a 40-year-old wheelchair bound ex-con student of Chris’, and 65-year-old head librarian Liz Siedo, pool their talents to find the criminals after local law enforcement agencies have given up. Chris wants an eye for an eye even if it means giving up God and the church where he and Sarah were to be married. He sets out to learn the tricks of the trade from his ex-con student, all while continuing to teach and coming to terms with his grief. Angela, who claims to be an FBI agent, joins the Vengeance Squad to help the three find the killers. Sidney W. Frost is a former computer science professor, ex-marine, and author of Where Love Once Lived, a prize winning inspirational novel.

My Thoughts on the Book

Chris McCowan watches his fiancé die after being shot while checking out a helicopter crash site. Chris decides he is taking Vengeance into his own hands and strikes out to find Sara’s killer. If Sara has to die, her killer doesn’t deserve to live.


Chris finds help from a handicap ex-con and ex-marine living in a wheelchair, a granny-type librarian and Chris, thus called “The Vengeance Squad.” With a mission to accomplish, these three start off on a journey that will change their lives forever.


Wow, author Sidney Frost gives us an action-packed, fast-pace thriller that will keep you on the end of your seats and your nose in the pages until the very last word. The cast of characters are real and believable and play their roles well as the story comes alive in front of our eyes. There are many twists and turns in this really great story that will keep you turning those pages until the very last one.


The one main thing I appreciate about this book is the way the author uses the characters to show how God can work in our lives when we give him the chance. Even though it is not always easy to let go and let God have His way in our lives, He knows what is best. And I felt that Sidney Frost so wonderfully teaches us that in this book.

I thoroughly enjoyed “The Vengeance Squad” and look forward to more books by this author.


If you like thrillers, well this is a must for you! I really can’t say enough about how well written and how awesome this story is, so just go grab a copy of see what you think! I don’t think you will be disappointed at all!


The author, Sidney Frost provided a copy of this book for me to read and review. I was not required or expected to write a positive review. The opinions in this review are mine only.





About the Author

Sidney W. Frost is a Stephen Leader, a Stephen Minister, and a member of his church choir at First United Methodist Church in Georgetown, Texas. He has served on the session at a Presbyterian church, and has been on the vestry at Episcopal churches.
While singing with the Austin Lyric Opera Chorus, he was in 42 productions. He and his wife, Celeste, sing with the San Gabriel Chorale and have been in several Berkshire Festivals.
He is an Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College where he teaches computer courses. He received the adjunct teaching excellence award in 2005.
While attending the University of Texas in the 1960’s he worked part-time at the Austin Public Library driving a bookmobile after completing service in the U.S. Marines.
He is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Writers League of Texas, and the San Gabriel Writers’ League.
He has a Master of Science degree from the University of Houston and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Long Beach.
Awards for Where Love Once Lived include First Place — 2007 SouthWest Writers Contest in the Inspirational/Spiritual Category, First Place — 2007 Writers’ League of Texas Novel Manuscript Contest, Romance Category, Third Place — Fourteenth Annual Lone Star Writing Competition, Northwest Houston Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, Inspirational Romance Category and Finalist — 2006 Yosemite Writers Contest Novel Category.

Dale Cramer’s The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer’s

Book Blurb

Bandit troubles intensify as Caleb Bender’s family tries to settle into their new life in 1920s Paradise Valley. When El Pantera kidnaps Rachel and leaves her brother, Aaron, for dead, Jake Weaver and the Mexican native Domingo pursue the bandit leader to his mountain stronghold in a hopeless rescue attempt. Jake and Domingo manage to escape with Rachel, with the bandits hot on their trail. In a desperate attempt to avoid recapture, Domingo puts himself squarely in harm’s way, giving Jake and Rachel time to get away. This is not the quiet life Caleb Bender envisioned when he led his family out of Ohio. What is a father to make of his daughter’s obvious affection for a man outside the fold? And how will a pacifist Amishman like Caleb respond to the events that threaten his family and their way of life?

The first chapter of The Captive Heart, can be read HERE


My Review

Wow, Dale Cramer gives a different twist on Amish fiction in this series. In this second book of the series, more Ohio Amish join Caleb and his family at the newly Amish community in Mexico. As the Amish ways are, they all helped each other out in building houses and barns, and fields to plant food and ways of making money.


The one thing that is different for me with Amish fiction is the dangers this community of Amish people faced because of the new area they were in. They had to deal with bandits that didn’t think twice about pulling a gun on any of them. And this was especially difficult because of the Amish ways of not fighting back. Mexican friend Domingo, who had been helping Caleb since being in Mexico was a tremendous help since he knows the people of the area and their ways, but these Amish still faces difficulty, hurt, heartbreak and loss.


I highly recommend this book for Amish fiction lovers, as well as those liking Christian fiction, or just a good ole read. You will not be disappointed in this book, or this series by Dale Cramer


A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House for me to read and review. The opinions in this review are mine only, and my honest opinion.

Purchase this book at Barnes and Noble


About the Author

Dale Cramer spent his formative years traveling the world as an Army brat, then settled in Georgia at the age of fifteen when his father retired.

After high school he became an electrician, a job that took him to places as diverse as power plants, stadia, airports, high-rise office buildings and a hard-rock mining operation.

Twenty-five years of experiences in the trades provided him with the wealth of characters, stories and insights that populate his novels.

When he married his childhood friend, Pam, in 1975 he had no way of knowing they would not have children until fifteen years later.

In his early forties, when Dale left his job to become a stay-at-home dad, he suddenly found himself with time on his hands, so he pursued a lifelong dream and taught himself to write.

Using an online writer’s forum as a training ground, he wrote his first short stories in 1996. As his writing skills improved he turned to novels, publishing his first book, Sutter’s Cross, in 2003.

Since then, Dale has published four more novels and garnered a measure of critical acclaim with two Christy Awards, a listing among Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2004 and numerous other Best lists. Dale and his wife Pam live in Georgia with their two sons.

Trauma Plan by Candace Calvert….from Tyndale House

List Price: 12.99
ISBN: 978-1-4143-6111-6
Trim Size: 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Binding: Softcover
Release: May 2012

Book Blurb



–>Sidelined by injuries from a vicious assault, chaplain Riley Hale is determined to return to her former duties as an ER nurse. But how can she show she’s competent when the hospital won’t let her attempt even simple tasks? Determined to prove herself, Riley volunteers at a controversial urban free clinic despite her fears about the maverick doctor in charge.
Dr. Jack Travis defends his clinic like he’s commander of the Alamo. He’ll fight the community’s efforts to shut its doors, even if he must use Riley Hale’s influential family name to make it happen.
As Riley strives to regain her skills, Jack finds that she shares his compassion—and stirs his lonely heart. Riley senses that beneath Jack’s rough exterior is a man she can believe in. But when clinic protests escalate and questions surface about his past, Jack goes into battle mode and Riley wonders if it’s dangerous to trust him with her heart.



Trauma Plan  by Candace Calvert

Awww finally another Candace Calvert book! I’ve been waiting on this since set informed her readers the story was in the making, and let me tell you it is well worth the wait! I love Trauma Plan, as well as all of Candace’s other books! Yes I am a Candace fan!

Hospital Chaplin Riley Hale needs to be back in ER at her old nursing job. That’s what she loves to do. But because of an earlier assault, her Doctors haven’t released her to do that job again, and her fellows workers are not sure she is competent enough just yet.

And then there is Dr. Jack Travis. Or could we say drill sergeant Jack? Dr. Travis worked as an ER Dr. and also ran a clinic for those who couldn’t afford high hospital bills. Since the run-down clinic was near a high and mighty sub-division, Jack was constantly being harassed by the rich folks from the wealthy community. This, and other things in Jacks past life cause such deep anger and bitterness in Jack that his fellow workers found him very difficult to be around.

And it seemed that Jack especially had it in for Riley, one thing he really didn’t care for her job as Chaplin at the hospital. He felt it was a total waist of time. Then why did he offer to let her help at the clinic? And Riley working at the clinic throws she and Jack together more. Could there be an attraction between them? Well I for one would like it, but then we will have to wait and see!

There is so much going on in this story that you will not want to put this book down once you start reading it. And with so much going on, we see Candace Calvert’s expert writing ability in full force, because she does a wonderful amazing job of pulling all of the characters and situations together to pen an unforgettable medical drama. And to read all about it, I highly recommend that you go grab a copy of “Trauma Plan” to read and enjoy for yourself.

And I save the best ‘til last. If for no other reason, read the book to meet Bandy and Hobo. Of all the characters in all of the many books I have read, Bandy and Hobo are the most special, heartwarming characters yet! And don’t read spoilers about them, it will ruin it for you!

Tyndale House Publishers provided a copy of this book for me to read and review. I was not expected or required to write a positive review. The opinions in this review are mine only.


PUYB Virtual Tours “Seeds” by David Ankrah

Welcome to PUYB Virtual Tour




david ankrahDavid Ankrah is a quiet individual with a background in media, finance and all things creative, full of ideas and compassion for those around him.

He lives in London with family and likes nothing better than to help people and put smiles on faces.

The inspiration for this book came out of wanting to see an end to some of the hardships we face in modern times with a simple story that everyone can enjoy and in particular for adults to read to children all over the world so that they can share the ideas that come to them as they read about the inhabitants of that wonderful place called Zoniye.

You can visit David at his website,


If you would like to help children understand some of the benefits of using money wisely from an early age then this is a story that will inspire them…
Without actually mentioning the word money until after the story ends, this story is designed to show them some of the choices they have in life when it comes to looking after not only their money, but their friends and family.
In fact, you should find that this story has parallels in your life whether you are 6 or 60
So find out what happens to Palooko and Greecho as they go through life and one mysterious day an event takes place that would change their lives forever…
A wonderful place to live…
And that is where our story begins…

seedsIf you would like to help children understand some of the benefits of using money wisely from an early age then this is a story that will inspire them…

Without actually mentioning the word money until after the story ends, this story is designed to show them some of the choices they have in life when it comes to looking after not only their money, but their friends and family.

In fact, you should find that this story has parallels in your life whether you are 6 or 60

So find out what happens to Palooko and Greecho as they go through life and one mysterious day an event takes place that would change their lives forever…


A wonderful place to live…

And that is where our story begins…



“Seeds” is a story with a valuable lesson to both children and adults. Palooko and Greecho were both given some seeds, and what they did with them would change their life forever. Both Palooko and Greecho made different choices in what they did with their seeds, and in this, they learned a very valuable lesson in how to make the right choices, how to invest, save money and use the money when you need it the most.


I thoroughly enjoyed this fun and interesting story, as well as the lessons it taught me! I highly recommend that you grab a copy of this book to read for yourself. I am sure you will learn something new and interesting that will help you. And if you are not a good reader, then there are no worries here because this is a very thin, short book that takes only a few minutes of your time.


This book was provided by the author through Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tours. I was not required or expected to write a positive review. The opinions in this review are mine only.

Book Launch…Lisa Lickle….The Map Quilt


Tuesday, May 22


if purchased on

Tuesday, May 22




Map Quilt


The Map Quilt


Lisa Lickel



Just how high a price does a family secret command?


Death in rural Wisconsin is only the beginning to new chaos in Robertsville. What do a stolen piece of revolutionary agricultural equipment, a long-buried skeleton in the yard, and an old quilt with secrets have in common?


Hart and Judy Wingate, who met in The Gold Standard, are back to solve the mystery of The Map Quilt. Hart’s new battery design could forever change the farm implement industry. But after the death of Hart’s most confrontational colleague in a fire that destroys Hart’s workshop, the battery is missing.


Throw in a guest speaker invited to Judy’s elementary classroom who insists she owns the land under Hart’s chief competitor’s corporate headquarters, and a police chief who’s making eyes at Hart’s widowed mother, it’s no wonder Hart is under a ton of pressure to make sure his adventurous pregnant wife stays safe while trying to preserve his company and his reputation.

Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman A Revell Blog Tour

A life-changing journey begins with a single step

After Paul Stutzman lost his wife to breast cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart–the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life–and can change yours as well.


When Paul Stutzman’s wife passed away from breast cancer, even though life had to go on, it didn’t help the feelings of grief, hurt, being abandoned by God, and missing his wife Mary. After a year, Paul decided to quit his job and restaurant manager and hike

away his grief on the Appalachian Trail. I love the Appalachian Mountains, and having visited quite a bit, I can see why the author chose this setting as his place of healing. And of course there were the questions, did he do the right thing in stepping down from his job, what would his family think, would he make it to the end, and what would happen in-between? But Paul did endure the entire four and one half month, 2,176 mile trip through fourteen states. And at the end, Paul had almost five months of memories that would change his life forever. Those memories are recorded in his book, “Hiking Through.

Wow, if you are hurting because of anything in your life, this book will be a great resource to help with your healing. Having lost several family members to cancer, and several more that suffered breast cancer, I can identify with the difficult feelings the author has endured. Suffering through these illnesses and losses change your life forever. Paul Stutzman did something not many people do, and that is go to the extremes to find help and healing in his situation. I admire and respect the author for seeking this help, and also writing about it to help others deal with their hurt and loss.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book to read and enjoy. And if you have suffered loss, or if you know someone who has, this is especially an awesome book for you to have. And the Appalachian Trail setting is wonderful, peaceful and calm, and just the right setting for something such as this. 

I rec’d a copy of this book to read and review from Revell Publishers. I was not required or expected to write a positive review. The opinions in this review are mine only.

“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”


Paul Stutzman is a former restaurant manager who left his career after his wife’s death from breast cancer. He hiked the Appalachian Trail in search of peace, healing, and freedom. His passion and mission is to share what he learned on that remarkable journey. Paul grew up in the Mennonite church. When he is not hiking or on a cross-country bike ride he makes his home in Berlin, Ohio.

Revell Publisers Blog Tour….In Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport

She has a secret to keep. But will she give her heart away?

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago’s rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work and squeeze herself into the mold of the well-dressed wife who spends most of her time and money redecorating.

When she meets Will, an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World’s Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family’s expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Get swept away into the lavish world of Chicago’s high society as Olivia Newport brings to life an age of glitz and grandeur, stark social contrasts, and one woman who dares to cross class lines for what she believes.


“Hats off to Olivia Newport and the debut novel The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. The characters are compelling, and Chicago’s history comes alive on each page. Readers will feel like they’ve been transported back to 1892.”–Andrea Boeshaar, author of Seasons of Redemption series

“Lucy Banning is my kind of heroine, pushing against the strictures of her times of the 1890s. Her love and caring wraps around your heart as it does those who need her and even to those who wish her harm. A fine read from this first-time author.”–Lauraine Snelling, author of the Red River of the North series and The Wild West Wind series

“Newport brings to life historical Chicago with fascinating insight into the wealthy families of Prairie Avenue, portraying the heart-wrenching disparity in the lifestyles of the elite and working class. She gives us a worthy heroine who struggles to break free of the constraints of her time and offers grace to those less fortunate. The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is a beautiful and sweet romance that will touch readers’ hearts.”–Jody Hedlund, award-winning author of The Preacher’s Bride and The Doctor’s Lady

“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

My Thoughts on this book!

In Pursuit of Lucy Banning  by Olivia Newport

Lucy Banning isn’t just your typical rich girl, she’d rather spend her money and time on those not having as much as her family does. She enjoys spending time at the orphanage helping children who have no homes.

But that’s not what her future husband wants from her, the husband that both Daniel and Lucy’s mothers planned from the time they were very young. Only Lucy didn’t want to get married. She was secretly taking art classes, and as the story moves on, she has other secrets just because she doesn’t like the way her family, or the other rich families in their circle operated.

Then Lucy meets Will, a friend of her brother Leo’s. There is just something different about Will. He respects the fact that Lucy is engaged to be married, but he’s not sure she wants to be married. And Will figures out that something isn’t right with Lucy. She has a secret of some kind, and he’d just bet that housekeeper Charlotte knew what that secret was too.

I think I like Lucy so much because she doesn’t flaunt her money like most young ladies in her position, or like her own mother. She looks at their large houses and thinks about how many orphans would be able to live in them. She thinks about the food they eat, and the money that’s spent and wonders how many of the orphans can benefit from it instead. I just like what Lucy wanted to do to help.

I also enjoyed the information on the worlds fair that the author so richly incorporated into this book. It was fun reading about the anticipation of the fair coming to town, and all that it involved.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s just a nice, good, clean book for anyone to read and enjoy. I encourage you to grab a copy to read and enjoy for yourself.

A copy of this book was provided by Revell publishers for me to read and review. I was not required or expected to write a positive review. The opinions in this review are mine only.


Olivia Newport‘s novels twist through time to discover where faith and passions meet. Her husband and two twenty-something children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where day lilies grow as tall as she is.


First Wild Card Tours….Everybody’s Daughter by Michael John Sullivan

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:
Michael John Sullivan
and the book:
Everybody’s Daughter
Fiction Std (May 16, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Michael John Sullivan graduated from St. John’s University with a communications degree and a promising future in the field of journalism after working for the official school paper the previous two years. Six months later, he found himself washing his hair in a toilet at the same university as he prepared for a job interview. He was homeless at the age of 23 after first watching his mother ─ his protector in a dysfunctional family ─ die from cancer. A year later his father asked him to leave. Riding a New York City subway train at night, his only companion was a green plastic bag of belongings. During these bleak days he began writing his most reflective and emotional childhood and adult memories now featured in two of his novels.

On a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve that year, Sullivan intentionally hid under a pew in the back of a church to stay warm for the night. After the doors were locked, he lay near a makeshift manger, writing and talking to the baby Jesus. It was a cathartic experience, one that would continue to resonate with him years later. He was eventually rescued by an aunt and uncle. After spending much of the past two decades raising their daughters while working at home, Sullivan returned to his notes in 2007 and began writing Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness. It was published by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint in April 2010. The Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreak as one of the year’s best in Christian fiction for 2010.

He recently finished the sequel, Everybody’s Daughter, featuring more memories from his young adult life, including the day he walked to Forest Park as he contemplated taking his own life. Only the strains of a song prevented him from doing the unthinkable. Sullivan lives with his family in New York. He is a nominated board member for the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless.

Visit the author’s website.



Wow this is one amazing story. I now need to read the first book in this series for the beginning of the story. When I saw the question “What if you had a chance to ask a loved one for forgiveness, after they died? I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel.

Michael Sullivan created a story with amazing characters that would sure find a special place in the hearts of readers. The author combines First Century setting and Biblical fiction, meeting Jesus and many early Bible characters with introducing his modern day family and pens an intriguing and fascinating story that will suspense, thrills and twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages until the very end. The author’s vivid descriptions of each scene brings the story alive before your eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing read from a new author for me. I will sure be looking for more books from Michael John Sullivan. I encourage you to grab a copy of “Everybody’s Daughter” to read and enjoy for yourself.

This book was provided by B&B Media for me to read and review. I was not expected or required to write a positive review. The opinions in this review are mine only.




What if you had a chance to ask a loved one for forgiveness – after they died? What would you say?

Would you give up your own lifetime of happiness for someone else?

Michael Stewart confronts these questions as he travels back in time through a mysterious tunnel in an old church when the Romans ruled with brutal violence and Jesus preached his peaceful message.

His teenage daughter Elizabeth soon follows Michael, but is surprised to discover that her father is nowhere to be found. Little does she know that Michael has returned safely to the present, leaving her to battle a vicious Roman soldier.

Separated by centuries, Michael is trapped to fight his own battles in the present day. Elizabeth’s disappearance, and the discovery of her blood in his car ignites a rush of judgment as the FBI focuses on him as a person of interest. Michael’s only hope for saving his daughter rests in the hands of his best friend – a local pastor with secrets of his own – and a mysterious old journal containing tales of miracles within the walls of the old church itself.

Thrilling and suspenseful, Everybody’s Daughter takes readers on a miraculous journey of their own, where salvation can be found in acts of sacrifice and hope remains forever eternal through the passage of a tunnel.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.95

Paperback: 328 pages

Publisher: Fiction Std (May 16, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1936558440

ISBN-13: 978-1936558445


Chapter One
Jingling the silver coins between his fingers that he had retrieved so many centuries ago, Michael Stewart again thought about what he should do with the blood money. He leaned on his broom, transfixed in his holy land memories, only to be startled by an intruder.
“Hey, Judas. Pastor Dennis told me to bring this down here,” the young man said, stomping down the stairs. “Where do you want me to put this?”
“In the corner is fine.” He pointed to the area and continued sweeping the church’s basement floor.
The teenager set down a candle snuffer and tugged on Michael’s Boston Red Sox jacket’s sleeve. “Don’t work too hard, Judas.” He ran up the stairs, repeating Judas’ name and laughing. The sound broke the majestic quiet of the church.
Michael never took offense when his fellow Yankee fans teased him, accusing him of being a traitor.
If they only realized he knew Judas. Personally.
He relaxed, allowing the slight pain in his forearm to ease, and slipped his hand again inside the pocket of his worn jeans. He never left home without the ancient relics, touching them periodically, forcing himself to believe that the week he and his daughter Elizabeth lived in first-century Jerusalem wasn’t a dream.
It was real. It did happen.
On days when his financial responsibilities overwhelmed him, as insurmountable bills piled up on a weekly basis, he had been tempted to ask an antique expert about their value.
No. I could never sell them, no matter how much they could be worth. I’ll burn in hell.
He realized he would perhaps have to explain how he had come to own these unholy souvenirs some day.
“But who would believe me?” he whispered. “They’ll think I’m crazy.”
He heard footsteps upstairs. “Well, well, surprise, surprise,” called a voice from above. “Look who’s down there, again.”
Michael went to the stairway and glanced up at his daughter. “How did you know I was here?”
“I’m psychic.”
Michael smiled. “So what does my future say?”
She laughed. “I saw your car parked in front.”
“Wait a minute. Aren’t you supposed to be at your self defense class?”
“That was yesterday. I’m almost done with it. I can push around the biggest guys. But now I’m rocking with the history club. They want you to come in and discuss your coins.”
“You can’t be serious?” He stared at her in disbelief. “Not only will they not believe me, but they’ll think my elevator is not going up to the right floor. Did you tell them where they came from?”
She didn’t respond.
Michael walked up the stairs into the church, gave his daughter a hug and kissed her forehead. “Did you show them the coins I gave you?”
“You look good today, Dad.”
“Uh-huh.” Wonder what she’s angling for?
He sat in the first pew and gazed at the musical equipment behind the podium, gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight. Thoughts of finding another opportunity to travel to the Holy Land occupied his mind as he absorbed the peaceful beauty.
Elizabeth nudged his shoulder, shaking him out of his trance. “I didn’t show anybody the coins you gave me. They’ll think I’m crazy too.”
He slid over to give her room. “So, what do you need from me today?”
“Nothing,” she said. “It’s so quiet.” She looked around. “I haven’t been here in a while.”
“I’ve noticed.”
“I think one church nut in the family is enough,” she said.
He gave her a surprised look. “Excuse me?”
“Just kidding. Why are you spending so much time in all the churches in town? Even a Temple.”
He didn’t answer right away, needing a few seconds to think.
“I truly believe Jesus doesn’t care whether I pray in a Catholic or a Protestant church, or even a Temple or the ice cream shop or a toy store or…”
“Okay, okay, I get the picture,” she said.
He touched her hand. “I saw God in Leah as much as any person I know. She showed us so much love. Real love.” He let out a sigh. “Going back to that time and witnessing what we did, well, it changed my life.”
He rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes for a few seconds.
“And losing your aunt also changed the way I think.”
“Yeah, I know.” She nodded slowly. “I miss Aunt Sammie too. It changed the way I look at things.”
For several minutes they sat in silence. Michael found the stillness of the church rejuvenating.
His daughter nudged his shoulder again. “So what’s bothering you? That whole Jerusalem trip was incredible. But you’re still sad.” She chewed her bottom lip. “I know the real reason why you’re here.”
“Oh, you do?”
“Yup. I do indeed,” she said with the grin of a typical fourteen-year-old. “I know everything.” She injected an air of pompous self-importance in her tone, but couldn’t keep a straight face. The giggle that followed told Michael she was having a good time ribbing him.
She fiddled with a strand of neon pink hair, twisting it into a small bow. “I’m glad we get along better since that trip.” She put her hand on his arm. “I’m kind of worried about you. You want to talk about it?”
Michael refused to grab the bait she dangled. “I’m waiting for the service to start.”
She clicked her tongue. “There’s no service today.”
“I enjoy being here. Dennis is one of my best friends now. He’s different from the others.”
“Oh, yeah, he is different.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, he’s kind of old to look the way he does.”
“What’s he supposed to look like?”
“Like a pastor.” She faced him and touched her ear. “That earring he wears, his long hair, and the loud rock music he plays on his iPod. It’s just weird. And the motorcycle.”
Michael touched his ear. “I’m thinking about getting one.”
“Yuck. You’re old too.” She crossed her arms. “No way do I want my old man to wear one.”
“I’m not old and I’m thinking a gold sparkly one would be nice,” he continued, nodding.
“That’s not gonna happen.” She sighed. “Let’s talk about something else, so I can get that gross image of you out of my head. How often do you think about her?”
He twisted nervously, his leg pinned hard against the side of the pew. “Who are you talking about?”
“Leah. Who else?”
He hesitated for a fraction. “I think about her often.”
She leaned her head against his shoulder. “I’m sure she’s doing okay.”
“We didn’t see her get away from that Roman soldier.” He shifted in his seat to ease his anxiety. “I’m worried that I left her behind to defend herself against that maniac. I should have gone back.” He looked upward, avoiding her gaze. “That’s why I come here so often.”
She pressed her hand around his arm. “Yeah, I get it.”
“I should have gone back once I knew you were fine.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened and she let out a gasp. “I wouldn’t have let you go alone. I love her too.”
“I know.” He glanced at her sideways and noticed another pink streak near her temple. Was that there this morning?
“We also didn’t know if that soldier was coming back after us in the tunnel,” Elizabeth said.
“I still should have turned around and made sure.”
She squeezed his arm tighter. “You’re still in love with her, huh?”
He grimaced, uncomfortable with the direction their conversation had taken and remained silent.
“Dad,” she said. “Answer me. Are you still in love with her?”
He kept staring straight ahead. “I guess.”
“You don’t sound sure.”
He cleared his throat. “Don’t get me wrong. I still miss your mom. I’ll always love your mom. I sometimes wonder if I should have let go of her a long time ago.” He lowered his voice and changed the direction of the conversation. “I also wonder if we should have waited until Jesus rose from the dead. I think about that a lot. But it would have been a big risk. I certainly wasn’t going to put your life in danger any more than I had to.”
Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know if there’s life after death, or whether someone can really rise from the dead like Lazarus or Jesus. But I do know what I saw. And I’m so happy to be home.”
Michael smiled.
“What?” she asked.
His heart swelled with pride. “You said you don’t know. But you really do.” He ruffled her hair. “By the way, I had to clean up part of your room.”
She shot him an angry glare. “What were you doing in my room?”
“You left your lights on. Again. I don’t have a money tree in the yard. Our electric bill was obscene last month.”
“You didn’t have to clean it up though.”
“No choice. I had to create a path to get to the lamps.” He nudged her. “Just the ones that were still on.”
She covered her ears with her hands and said through gritted teeth, “You’re going to make me crazy.”
“You’ll be even more crazy living in a dark house when they cut off our electric bill because I can’t afford it.”
An elderly man and woman entered the church, tip-toeing up the aisle, putting a temporary halt to their bickering. He whispered, “By the way, who’s this Matt fella?”
“Someone I met at school.” She shrugged. “How do you know about him?”
“Never mind how I know. Is he a boyfriend?”
He tilted his head heavenward. “No.”
“No what?”
“No. He will not be your boyfriend.”
“Why?” Her tone was loud and contemptuous.
He put two fingers against his lips. “Lower your voice.” He noticed the old man turning his head, obviously angling for a better position to hear their conversation as the lady gave Michael a disapproving glance.
“I don’t care if they hear what we say,” she said, raising her voice. “Why can’t I see Matt?”
He shushed his daughter again, wagging a finger at her. “I don’t like him.”
“You’ve never met him.”
“I don’t have to.”
“Ugh. I like him. He’s a great guy.”
“You’re too young.”
“I’m old enough to get married during Jesus’ time.”
“That was then. Different times, different rules. This is now. My rules.”
The elderly man was practically hanging over the pew to catch every word. Michael figured it was probably the most entertainment he had enjoyed in a long time.
“Let’s discuss this at home,” Michael said, trying to put an end to the conversation.
“I want to date him.”
Michael stood and gave an emphatic response. “Absolutely not.”
“Sit down. They’re looking at us again.”
“I don’t care.”
“Oh, now you don’t care?”
He waved to the elderly couple and sat.
“At least meet Matt,” she pleaded.
He looked at her adamant expression and saw how much this meant to her. “Okay,” he said, trying not to sound defeated. “I’ll meet him.”
She smiled. “When?”
“At least give me some time to adjust to the idea.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“Too soon,” he said. “How old is he?”
“Older than me.”
“How much older?”
“He’s a junior.”
He looked upward, concentrating on the church’s beautifully hand-painted ceiling. “Oh, Vicki, look at what your daughter is doing to me.” Taking a deep breath, he remembered something he’d been meaning to ask her. “Who gave you the chain with the locket?”
“Where did you find it? Did you go in my drawer?”
“You know I’d never do that. It was on top of your dresser.”
She huffed out loud. “A friend gave it to me.”
“Friend as in this Matt guy?”
She stared straight ahead, shifting in her seat. “It’s not a big deal at all.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay.” He winced, afraid to hear the answer to his next question. “Does this Matt guy drive?”
He put his hand under her chin, lifting her head. “Does he?”
“Yes. He drives.”
“Do not get into the car with him.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I can’t lose you. I won’t lose you.”
“Can you at least meet him?”
“Okay, tomorrow then, right?”
“I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” He shook a finger at her. “And no dating until I meet him.”
“That’s not fair,” she said, raising her voice again and piercing the sacred silence.
He nodded toward the elderly couple. “Shhh.”
“They’re old. They can’t hear us.”
“Have you ever heard of hearing aids?”
She frowned. “We’re getting off track. What about Matt?”
“What about him?”
“Ugh. Can I bring him over?”
“You won’t meet him. I know you. I know the game you’re playing.”
“I’ll meet him when I want to meet him and not a minute sooner,” he said in a stern tone.
“All right. All right. I can wait.”
Surprised, Michael made a pretense of checking her forehead for a temperature. “You feeling okay?”
“Very funny.” She smiled. “I know you have a lot on your mind, working so hard, trying to pay the bills. You deserve a break.” She leaned her head on his shoulder. “How about I cook us a nice dinner tonight?”
He moved away. “You’re too obvious.”
She backed away and formed an angelic look like she always did when she tried to look innocent. “Obvious? Why, I don’t know what you mean, Father.”
He shook his head and chuckled. “What do you want now, Elizabeth Ellen Stewart?”
She smiled sweetly. “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to go to the concert.”
“What concert?”
“The one in New York City.”
“Where in New York City?”
“Madison Square Garden.”
“Who’s performing there?”
“Lady Gaga.”
“Lady Gaga? Why would you waste your money on her? Wait until Springsteen tours again.”
“I don’t think so.” She shook her head. “Hasn’t he retired? Anyway, I don’t want to see an old dude on stage.”
“Hey, Bruce is not old.”
“Will you let me go to the concert? All my friends are going.”
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for several minutes though it seemed like hours. Michael broke the quiet of the now unholy atmosphere. “No.”
“No concert.”
“Two reasons. Number one. You’re too young to go into the city with friends. Number two. You’re too young.”
She rolled her eyes. “What happened to the dad who came back from Jerusalem? That dad was way more easy going.”
“I’ve changed again. I’m a complex person.”
“Would you rather have me dating a seventeen-year-old or going to a concert with my girlfriends?”
“Neither. Oh, and he’s seventeen? Now the truth comes out.”
“I don’t care.”
Michael bobbed his head, gesturing to the old man and woman listening. “She wants to go see that Lady Goo Goo person in the city.”
The couple half smiled then looked away and whispered to each other as they fiddled with their ear pieces.
Elizabeth took the bait. “Don’t you think my dad should let me go? I’m old enough to get married.”
“You are not.”
“It’s in the Bible.”
Michael waved to the couple and faced Elizabeth. “Enough. Leave them alone.”
“What about the Lady Gaga concert?”
Michael didn’t answer. The old man and woman got up, and walked slowly out of the church, taking quick, nervous glances as they went by.
Michael stood. “C’mon. I’ll get you an ice cream sundae, whatever toppings you want.”
Elizabeth yanked on his jacket, pulling him back down. “I’m not a little kid anymore where you can pacify me with ice cream when we’re arguing.”
“Stop using that word.”
“The offer for ice cream is still on the table. Concert is closed for discussion. End of story.”
“I don’t want ice cream,” she said, folding her arms. “Told you, I’m past that now.”
“You’re sounding like an ice cream snob now.” He jostled her, trying to lighten the mood. “Let’s go. I promise it’ll be a quick trip.”
She looked uncomfortable. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to go there anymore.”
“Why? You always enjoyed going there with me before.” He tried to stand up again but Elizabeth pulled him down harder. “Hey, take it easy on the jacket. It’s a gift from Susan.”
“I saw Linda with a man the other day.”
“She was holding his hand and they kissed.”
Michael was quiet for a moment. “Oh.” He stood, banging his knee against the pew. “Ouch,” he said, trying to make a joke of it. “Look at that? Hurt twice in less than a minute. I guess I’m striking out in a couple of centuries. At least I’m consistent.”
He climbed over Elizabeth, tripping over the kneeler as he reached the aisle and headed toward the basement door.
“Dad, give it up.”
Michael stopped. “I need a minute, okay?”
“I know where you’re going,” she said. “The tunnel’s not open.”
“I have to finish cleaning the basement.”
“There isn’t a speck of dust left down there.”
He put both hands over his ears, not looking back at her. “You would be surprised how much dirt I find down there.”
Michael felt his daughter watching his every move as he veered toward the stairwell. He looked back and saw her shaking her head as she dropped her backpack on the pew and got up to follow him.
He rested his forehead against the door.
She stood beside him. “You’re going to go down there and nothing will happen. Just like the other hundred times.”
“I have to try one more time. Okay, kiddo?”
“If we had stayed in Jerusalem, we’d never have been safe.”
He put his hand on her shoulder and brushed the pink lock of hair from her eyes. For a moment he thought about grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting it off. “I know. But I’d feel responsible if Leah was hurt or had to live a life with that evil Roman. I know we made the right choice to come back. But I wish I’d gone back to be sure about her safety. I’m convinced of that now.”
She smiled. “By the way, where is your pastor buddy?”
“He’s never here on Friday afternoons. Takes off after lunch. Weird.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Probably goes joy riding on his Harley.”
“Maybe I’ll get one of those hogs.”
“Oh please, don’t.”
“Can you see me zipping along with the wind whipping through my hair? A lady holding onto me riding in the back. Baby, we were born to run…”
She ignored him. “Where does he go?”
“No idea.” He shrugged. “He never says and I never ask.”
“Huh, you sure you guys are BFFs?” They walked back to the pew and Elizabeth picked up her bag.
He shook his head and turned his back on the basement door. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
“I don’t need a ride. I’m going to catch a movie.”
“What are you going to do for dinner?”
“Pizza. Going to head over to Gino’s. RoRo’s working there tonight.”
They walked down the front steps to the sidewalk. “I guess you’ll need money.”
She held out her hand and smiled. “Twenty sounds about right.”
Michael took a deep breath, sighed, and pulled a bill from his wallet.
“You could make it easy on yourself and let me have your credit card.”
He ignored her. “Be home by nine and keep your cell phone on.”
“Relax. It’s not like I’m going to get stuck in Jerusalem or anything.”
“Very funny. What about your bike?”
“RoRo’s dad will give me a ride home. He can fit it in the back of the car.”
“Well, call me if you need a ride, okay? And don’t get in the car with anyone besides her dad.”
She gave a faint smile and Michael watched as she rode away. Once she was out of sight he unlocked the car and got in. The glove compartment door was open again. He saw his cell phone was still inside. He slammed the door three times before the lock finally caught. Got to get that fixed, he thought for the hundredth time. But it was never a high priority on his to-do list.
His stomach felt queasy as a sharp pain stabbed his right side. He wondered how he was going to spend his evening. I’ve done this routine a few times.
As he pulled into the driveway, he gazed up at the darkening sky. The stars twinkled more brightly than he had ever remembered. Rolling down his window, he whispered softly over the gentle breeze, “Which star are you under tonight, Leah?”
* * *
After a less than satisfying bowl of Cheerios for dinner, Michael was restless and still hungry. Despite his better judgment, he downed two boiled hot dogs, further agitating his upset stomach. He carried the salty taste in his mouth while walking aimlessly up and down the stairs several times, occasionally clicking on the television to channel surf for a glimpse of hockey and basketball scores. He sat on his chair and perched his laptop on his knees. Just as he started an email, he heard the sound of a car door slamming near his house.
Curious, he got up to see who itwas. He opened the blind to the front window. “Great. Here comes hell in heels.”
He watched as his sister headed toward his front door. He stared in shock. What happened to her? Michael rubbed his eyes in disbelief, squinting to be sure. She carried an extra thirty pounds or so on her once stick-like figure. An oversized man’s sweatshirt and loose jeans were clearly an attempt to hide her extra weight. Her blond hair, usually neatly kept, now looked straggly, and the dark roots were visible under the porch light’s glare. Age looked like it had not only crept up on Connie but trampled all over her. Her wrinkles had wrinkles, which were usually hidden under a ton of makeup.
His sister had been a thorn in his side since they were kids. She was a control freak in the worst sense, always plotting for ways to hurl verbal shots to get under his skin.
He took his time walking down the stairs. “I need this like I need a hole in the head,” he muttered.
Opening the front door, he tried to sound enthusiastic but couldn’t control himself. “Ah, the last person I want to see on a Friday night. I’m kind of busy.”
She looked at him through the screen door. “Oh, my little brother is doing something on a Friday night? Armageddon must be just around the corner then.”
Michael cringed as he held the door for her. He could tell it was going to be a long night. “What do you want?”
She swept past him and into the kitchen. “I need something to drink. I’m thirsty.”
He followed behind her and watched as she stared at the dishes piled in the sink and the cluttered countertop. She snickered and his stomach turned. He was acutely aware now of the pot on the stove, with its one remaining hot dog.
She laughed, pointing to the pot. “I see the gourmet cook is hard at work again. Bet you’re waiting for the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous to give you a call for a feature, huh?”
“That show is off the air.”
“So, apparently, is your life. How does my niece live in such a pig hole?”
“We like to think of it as a mud hole, and we love it.”
“Are you working?”
“Yeah, really? Where?” She reached into a cabinet for a glass and opened the refrigerator. “Oh, dear, Lord. Look at this mess. Old Chinese food, milk that’s expired. A cucumber? My poor niece.”
He grabbed the milk container away from her. “This is fine.” He put it back and closed the door.
She put her hands on her hips, her lips slanted in cockiness. “So where are you working?”
“At the church.”
“You? In a church? Hell hath frozen over.” She passed him and headed back to the living room. “I heard you talking to someone when I was at the door. Is someone here, or are you talking to yourself these days?” She danced a few odd steps around the room. “Are you finally dating? It’s about time. Where is she? Why haven’t I met her?” She laughed in the way that always grated on his nerves. “Are you embarrassed? Is she hideous or something? Does she look like one of the Teletubbies?”
I need a drink. “Would you like a glass of wine?”
She sat in his favorite recliner and pushed the footrest up. “Wow, my little brother is asking me if I want to have a drink with him. My goodness, life is certainly getting better for me.”
“Do you want a glass or not?” he asked, raising his voice as he headed back into the kitchen.
“I’d better take your offer since it probably won’t happen again.”
He reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of white wine. He grabbed a couple of glasses and a corkscrew from the cabinet. He soothed his anxiety with a deep breath before returning to the living room. “Why am I blessed with your visit?”
“Blessed? Since when are you so holy?”
“Why are you here?”
“Do I have to have a reason?”
He plunged the corkscrew in and twisted. “You never stop by.”
“You never invite me.”
“And you really wonder why I don’t?” He pulled the cork out harder than he’d intended. “So, what gives?”
“Maybe I wanted to see how my little brother’s doing.”
“I’m fine. Nothing for you to worry about.”
“I am worried.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “When’s the last time you were with a woman? Don’t tell me you still haven’t been with anyone since Vicki?”
He dropped onto the couch, pulled the coffee table closer, and poured them each a glass of wine. “It’s none of your business.”
She scoffed. “It is my business.” She gestured toward the wine bottle. “Keep pouring.”
He filled the glass nearly to the top and handed it to her. “No, it isn’t.”
She took a long sip. “Are you going to tell me or not? Or do you spend your nights drinking yourself into oblivion?” She took another sip and placed her feet on the ground as if to make an important point. “Like Dad.”
Like Jim? What a sucker punch. “Knock it off.”
“Grumpy, just like the old man. And you’re living your life in that drunken illusion. How’s the writing going? Are you working for the New York Times yet? Did you win that Pulitzer?” She slapped her hand to her forehead in mock realization. “Oh, right, right. You’re a novelist now. One of those self-published people who can’t find a real publisher because your work is misunderstood. Shouldn’t you be a bestselling novelist by now? Oh, right, I forgot, it takes time,” she said, mocking the words he’d said a long time ago. “So, how many copies of the great American novel have you sold? Two? Three?”
Michael hadn’t talked much about his book nor had he shared the contents of the story with any member of his family. Apparently, word about the publication of his novel had made its way around his large group of relatives.
“Yup, you’re just like Dad.” She drained the last bit of her wine.
“You never change, do you?” He shook his head in disgust. “You come to my house, uninvited. And you sit here, drink my wine, and goad me.”
“Well, excuse me,” she said, drawing out the word. “Sorry for caring about you.”
“You call this caring?” He waved his finger at her. “I call it hateful.”
“Hateful? Oh, please. Come and join me in this great crap hole of life.”
She grabbed the bottle and filled her glass half way. They were both silent as he watched her take a long swallow.
“Look,” she said, her expression softening. “I really am concerned about you. This is how I show it.”
“Worry about yourself. I can handle my own life.”
He topped off her glass. Maybe she’ll shut up and snooze if I ply her with more wine. Yeah, a silent Connie.
She raised her over-plucked eyebrows as he refilled his own glass. “Drinking a lot there?”
“I’m not going anywhere tonight.”
“Maybe you should. You can’t find a woman while you’re sitting in your chair drinking wine on a Friday night.”
Can’t she stop her needling for five minutes? “Get off it.”
“Oh, did I touch a nerve?”
“I had a good woman in Vicki. I had a good woman in Leah . . .”
She slammed the footrest down. “Hold on. Who is Leah?”
He recoiled. He had never told his sister about his trip to Jerusalem, knowing she’d be on the phone to the nut house in a New York minute to turn him in. He struggled to come up with an answer. “She lives far away.”
“Far away? Where? California? Europe?” She laughed, sounding like her younger self when she taunted him. “Is Leah your drinking buddy?”
“She’s out of my life. Subject closed.”
“Yeah, right. Does she even exist? Or is this one of your fantasies?” She shook her head, twisting her mouth in a mean sneer. “Geez. Even Dad doesn’t make up this kind of junk.”
He held the bottle up. “Why don’t you stick this up…” He caught himself and stopped. She’s getting to me again. Michael stood and walked back into the kitchen.
“Why are you running away?” she called out. “I’m just curious about this Leah woman.”
“You’d never understand,” he shot back.
“Come back in here. I promise I’ll listen. I’ll understand. Tell me about Leah.”
Michael placed his glass down on the counter. She’s like Lucy to my Charlie Brown, always pulling the football away right before I can kick it.
He took a long sip of his wine, hoping it would erase the last ten minutes of their conversation and headed back to the living room. He sat and looked into his glass.
Connie threw back more wine as she settled herself comfortably in the recliner, crossing her legs. “C’mon. I promise I won’t tease you. Who’s Leah?”
Michael hesitated, downed more wine for courage, and chose his words carefully. “You’re not going to be a jerk about it?”
“I swear.” She put her hand over her heart.
He blew out a loud breath. “Leah is someone I met a few months back. Elizabeth and I took a short trip, we got into some trouble and she helped us out.”
“Hold on.” Connie leaned forward. “Trouble? Are you broke again?”
“I’m not broke.” He scowled. “It had nothing to do with money. She kept us safe.”
“Safe from what?” She looked concerned. “And since when did you start traveling?”
Michael sighed. “It’s hard to explain. We were in a different town.”
“Where? Here on Long Island?”
“Not even close,” he replied.
“Were you drinking before I came over? You’re not making any sense. I think the wine’s making you delusional.”
“It has nothing to do with the wine. I’m telling you the truth. We were in a different town and Leah helped us.”
“Well, then, where is she?”
“I don’t know. I can’t get in touch with her even if I wanted to.”
He rubbed his forehead. And I desperately want to know if she’s okay.
“Didn’t you get her phone number?” she asked and Michael laughed. “What’s so funny?”
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Well, where does she live?”
Michael waited for the football to be pulled away. He emptied the remaining wine in his glass. “Jerusalem.”
Connie’s eyebrows shot up. “Get out of here. When did you find the time and money to fly over there?”
“We didn’t fly.” He let out a loud sigh.
“You’re drunk.”
“Maybe I am, but I was there and I know what I saw and who I met.” He dug into his pocket and fingered the coins. Should I?
She laughed and sipped her wine, choking a few times. Michael stared. Connie continued. “Great fantasy you’ve got going there. This is better than the movies. So, did you take a boat to Jerusalem or did you drive?”
Okay, this is where I stop. “Actually, we rode our bikes.”
“Now you’re being a jerk.”
“It’s called payback.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. After finishing her wine, Connie asked, “Were you serious about this woman?”
“It doesn’t matter. She’s gone.” He leaned back on the couch, rubbing the space between his brows. “I didn’t expect you to believe me.”
“Then why did you tell me?”
“Probably because I hoped that someday my older sister would be a friend.”
“Now you know how I feel when you’re around.”
“Then why did you ask me to come in for a drink? Why do you still talk to me if I’m such a pain?”
He opened a drawer in the side table, dusted off an old Bible and waved it at her. “Because I remember a time when we were partners in crime.”
Nauseous from drinking too much wine, eating Cheerios, and the hot dogs, he retreated to the bathroom, still clutching the Bible. He splashed cold water on his face, sat at the edge of the tub, smoothed the cover and closed his eyes.
He replayed a memory when he and Connie were kids and with vivid recollection remembered one time when they had each other’s back.
The memory was so vibrant, he could still hear his father’s deep voice, booming, “Connie. Michael. Get down here now!”
Connie ran from her room to the hallway, almost colliding with Michael. “We’re in trouble,” she whispered.
He shrugged. She ran down the stairs.
“Hi, Daddy. I’m here,” she said, standing at attention.
Michael took his time entering the room. He stood close to his sister and cowered.
Their father reached up and tugged Michael hard on his arm, his face only a few inches away. Jim’s eyes were bloodshot and his short sideburns were streaked with gray. The air around him was heavy with the smell of whiskey.
“What was the gospel about today?” Jim demanded.
Michael glanced at Connie.
Her expression mirrored his feelings.
His father tightened his grip.
“Ouch.” Michael rubbed the sore spot and Jim squeezed harder.
“Go to the basement,” Jim yelled. “And don’t come back up until you can tell me what you learned in church today.”
Jim let go of Michael’s arm and he followed his sister down the basement stairs, upset that he’d have to miss the football game on TV.
They headed toward the back room behind the boiler. “What do we do now?” he asked.
Connie fell to her knees, her short black hair bouncing as she peered into the crawl space behind the boiler. “No problem.”
“What are you doing?”
“Hold on, give me a sec.”
She reached in with her hand. “Got it.” She pulled out a small, dusty, pocket handbook.
“What else you got in there?” he asked.
He shrugged. “Whatever.”
Connie hopped up, wiping the dirt from the cover. She flipped through several pages. “Here, look. What’s today’s date again? Yeah, this is it.” Her cheeks were flushed with excitement.
Michael read the page and understood. “Nice.”
For the next few minutes, they sat and read the gospel from that Sunday together.
Michael looked at his sister, surprised they’d been communicating without tearing each other apart.
“Are you ready to go upstairs?” she asked, after quizzing him a few times.
He nodded with enthusiasm. “I know it now. It’s about Thomas doubting Jesus was alive and he wanted to touch his wounds. It’s gross but I guess that’s what Dad wants, right?”
“Yeah, right.” She dropped her hands down so he could slap a low five. He walloped her hand hard. “Hey, that hurt,” she yelled.
Loud, heavy footsteps crossed the floor above their heads. “What’s going on down there?” Jim called down.
“Nothing,” Connie said. “We’re ready to talk to you.”
“Then get up here.”
They ran up the steps, eager to share their newfound information. Standing before their father, they lifted their heads high with pride as Connie started the story and Michael finished it. They both stood in front of their father, grinning.
Jim stopped rocking back and forth in the recliner, and strained to see, like he did when he was suspicious. “Next week I’ll ask you again,” he said. “And you better know it the first time. No more trips to the basement.” He picked up his paper off the floor and held it front of his face.
“Can we go?” Michael asked with trepidation.
Jim’s eyes peeked over the paper. “Go.”
As they scurried back up the stairs, Michael leaned over and whispered, “That was a great idea. I really liked teaming up with you.”
“Yeah.” Connie smiled back. “Me, too.”
* * *
“Hey, did you fall in the toilet?” Connie’s voice brought Michael back to the present.
He opened his eyes, stood and splashed more cold water on his face, toweled himself off, heaved a deep breath, and returned to the living room.
“What were you doing in there?” she asked. “Did you fall asleep? Did you fall in the toilet?”
“Wasn’t sleeping. Just deep in thought.”
“I know I don’t visit a lot, but I can tell I’m not really welcome here.”
“It’s because sometimes you can be a pain in the backside,” he said. “But I hang on to the good stuff we used to do together.”
She put her glass down and wiped the corner of her eyes.
“Oh, no,” he said, surprised. “What’s wrong? I thought I said something nice.”
Tears ran down her face faster than she could dry them. “You don’t understand. My life is a mess. I’m lonely and scared.” She fumbled with her purse. “I’m sure that makes you happy. Right?”
“Of course it doesn’t make me happy. Why would you think that?”
“I’m a loser. My husband left me, I’m eating cupcakes and cookies for breakfast, I don’t even feel like putting on makeup anymore and I’m spending Friday night drinking with my little brother.”
“Gee, thanks.”
“Oh, shut up, you know what I mean.”
He burrowed through his pockets and handed her a tissue.
She took it and dabbed her eyes. “Thanks.”
They sat in awkward silence until Michael felt she had composed herself. “I’m expecting Elizabeth home soon.”
“Oh, great,” she said. “I can’t let my niece see what a loser I am.”
“Stop. You’re not a loser. Elizabeth doesn’t think that either.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You think I don’t appreciate the times you helped me with her when she was young? The times you took her to the movies when I had to work. She told me how you spoiled her with candy and popcorn at the movies. She still remembers how you both laughed when you spilled a big bag all over the seat. She’ll always have those wonderful memories, and she brags about how fun and cool her Aunt Connie is.”
A peaceful understanding of silence fell between them. “Let me call you a cab. You’re in no condition to drive and I won’t let you anyway. You know how I am about that.”
She nodded and her body shook. “I miss Sammie so much.”
“I miss her too.”
She stood. “Look at me. I’m a mess.”
He walked over and hugged her. “I’m not much better.”
“Did Dad call?”
“Yes. Did he call you?”
“You’ve got to be kidding. Why? Is the old man dying?”
“That’s not funny.”
“Is he dying?”
“Now’s not the time to talk about this. I’m sure he’ll talk to you soon.”

Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Haggard Guest Post

Thwarted Queen Synopsis


Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.

The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War – during which England loses all of her possessions in France – and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.


Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Haggard


Book Excerpt


Richard urged his palfrey into a gallop so that he could catch up with Gloucester, riding east to the city. What is he going to do now, thought Richard, following Gloucester along the Strand towards Saint Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as they got to the churchyard, Gloucester vaulted off his horse, threw his reins to a groom, and mounted the steps of Saint Paul’s Cross.

Richard followed.

The Londoners were enjoying themselves in the spring sunshine, it being that time of day after the main meal when people come out to pay visits, shop, and enjoy a fine afternoon stroll. In one corner of Saint Paul’s churchyard, a number of well-dressed citizens fingered the leather covers and the crisp pages of those new-fangled printed books. There were goldsmiths and silversmiths. There was a woman selling spring flowers. There was even a horse merchant, whose restless charges stamped their feet, tossed their heads, and added a pungent odor to the scene.

Just outside the door of the church stood a group of London merchants. The soft leather of their boots and gloves displayed their wealth, as did the exotic and colorful material of their robes, their jewel-encrusted collars, and the many rings on their fingers. They were outdone only by their wives, who wore as many necklaces, rings, and brooches as possible crammed onto their costumes. Richard bowed to one beldame passing by. She had so much cloth in her headdress, her husband must belong to the clothier’s guild.

As Gloucester arrived at Saint Paul’s Cross, the people immediately began to gather, separating Richard from his mentor. “Good Duke Humphrey!” they shouted. “‘Tis Good Duke Humphrey!”

Gloucester bowed.  A tapster from a nearby alehouse ran up to hand him a mug of ale.

He looks years younger, thought Richard, glancing at his friend basking in the approval of the crowd. How ironic that it is the people of England who respect him, not his aristocratic peers.

The crowd gathered around Saint Paul’s Cross, buzzing with excited anticipation as the horses neighed.

“I wonder what he’s got to say,” said the bookseller.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the flower seller. “Most of them fancy people never bother with the likes of us.”

“Duke Humphrey, he’s good,” said the horse merchant. “He talks to us. Tells us what’s going on.”

“He’s become a champion of good governance,” said a well-dressed gentleman.

Duke Humphrey held up a hand, and the crowd fell silent.

“My friends, I have come here today to tell you about a piece of treachery. Nay, I can scarce believe it myself, and if any of you had told me this, I would think I had had a bad hangover from the night before.”

Some youngsters in the crowd erupted into laughter. Their elders grew watchful and silent.

Richard accepted a tankard of beer and stood by Gloucester. He looked at the faces tilted up before him. They don’t seem overawed, he thought, sipping his beer. This country is not like France, where the common people grovel before the aristocrats. These people seem to know that their voices count for something.

Gloucester raised his hand again. “Would you believe it, but in return for Margaret of Anjou, the Earl of Suffolk negotiated a marriage settlement in which we give away Maine and Anjou to the French.”

The crowd recoiled. “No!” they shouted.

Richard grew uneasy.

“Yes, good people. Yes: I am sorry to tell you so, but there it is.”

“What does this mean for trade, sir?” asked a man, a fashionably dressed woman on his arm.

“You lose the revenues from the counties of Maine and Anjou,” replied Duke Humphrey. “You lose revenues from wine.”

“Is our wine trade going to dry up?” asked one merchant with a red nose.

“Not unless we lose Bordeaux. So far, we are just talking about Maine and Anjou.”

The crowd responded with a harsh bark of laughter.

“But I can tell you,” continued Gloucester, “that the loss of Maine and Anjou means the loss of goodly fruit.”

“No more pears!” exclaimed a young girl with golden hair hanging out from an upstairs window. “But that’s my favorite fruit.” Her high voice sailed over the noise of the crowd.

“No more Anjou pears, madam,” said Gloucester sweeping her a low bow.

“Jacinda, do not shout out of the window. It is not ladylike.” A woman with an elaborate horned headdress appeared and gently pulled the child away. “Please accept my apologies, my lord Duke,” she called down. “She is very free.”

“Do not worry, madam,” said Gloucester bowing again with a flourish. “You have a charming daughter.”

Applause and cheers greeted this remark.

“What about the landowners of Maine and Anjou, my lord?” asked a merchant dressed in fine crimson silk, rubies winking from the collar around his neck. “What about their lands and holdings?”

“A good question.” Gloucester held up his hand to still the whispers and murmurings of the crowd. “They will be obliged to give up their lands. They will be forced to come home with nothing and start afresh.”

The crowd erupted into boos and murmurs, which grew louder. Richard looked at his friend.

“I see you look puzzled, good people,” remarked Gloucester, as the restless crowd grew silent. “Let me spell out the terms of the Treaty of Tours by which our king gained a wife. By this treaty, we give up Maine and Anjou. In return, we get exactly—nothing. That’s right. Nothing. The queen did not even bring a dowry with her. Can you believe it? Can you believe that Suffolk would be so stupid, so asinine, so treacherous, as to throw away something that we gained in a fair fight for nothing in return?”


Their roar threw Richard backward. He moved closer to Gloucester. “They’re getting upset,” he hissed.

Gloucester ignored him. “And all for a queen worth not ten marks,” he remarked, holding up his tankard of ale. “I feel personally betrayed.”

“We are betrayed!” roared the crowd. “A queen worth not ten marks!” They turned and hurried down Ludgate Hill in the direction of Westminster, shouting as they went.

“What are they going to do?” asked Richard.

Gloucester chuckled. “They are going to Westminster Palace, to shout insults at the queen.”



I have been writing fiction for seven years, completing two historical novels and beginning two more. I started writing novels by accident, because I had a class assignment to fulfill. But once I’d started, I couldn’t stop.

I write historical novels because I’ve loved reading them all my life. When I was a child, I would lie on my bed reading Jean Plaidy’s novels about the Tudors, or Georgette Heyer’s novels about Regency England.  In reading these novels, I was struck by how different the lives of women were in the past from the way they are today.

My professional life has been multifarious and challenging. I have a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Maryland, and have done research in cognition and perception. I’ve also been a violinist, a science writer, and a medical writer. I bring to my novels these varied experiences, as well as an old-fashioned sensibility and respect fo


CFBA Tours Presents Chameleon by Jillian Kent

This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingChameleonRealms (May 15, 2012)byJillian KentABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jillian Kent is a busy writer and the alter ego of Jill Nutter, a full-time counselor.

Jill spent the first semester of her senior year of college at Oxford studying British Literature, where she fell in love with England. During this season, she came to appreciate the written word, the rich imagery of romantic poetry like The Highwayman, and historical novels of many types, including Jane Austen and all things Regency.

Jill received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bethany College in West Virginia, and her Masters Degree in Social Work from WVU, and she brings her fascination with different cultures and societies into her writing.

Jill has always been a romantic at heart, so readers will find a good dose of romance woven through each of her novels. Jill, her husband Randy, and children Katie and Meghan are animal lovers. They currently own two dogs, Boo-Boo and Bandit and a menagerie of cats, Lucky, Yuma, Snow, and Holden. Critters of all assortments make their appearance in her stories.


How much can you really know about someone?

Lady Victoria Grayson has always considered herself a keen observer of human behavior. After battling a chronic childhood illness that kept her homebound for years, she journeys to London determined to have the adventure of a lifetime.

Jaded by his wartime profession as a spy, Lord Witt understands, more than most, that everyone is not always who they pretend to be. He meets Victoria after the Regent requests an investigation into the activities of her physician brother, Lord Ravensmoore.

Witt and Victoria become increasingly entangled in a plot targeting the lords of Parliament. Victoria is forced to question how well she knows those close to her while challenging Witt’s cynical nature and doubts about God. Together they must confront their pasts in order to solve a mystery that could devastate their future.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Chameleon, go HERE.

CFBA Tour for My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingMy Stubborn Heart• Bethany House Publishers; Original edition (May 1, 2012)


Becky Wade is a graduate of Baylor University. As a newlywed, she lived for three years in a home overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, as well as in Australia, before returning to the States. A mom of three young children, Becky and her family now live in Dallas, Texas.

A Sensational CBA Debut in Contemporary Romance!

This summer author Becky Wade makes her CBA debut with a fun — and funny — contemporary romance. Amidst the light-hearted banter and laugh-out-loud moments is a compelling spiritual journey of one woman’s choice to listen to God and wait on him. Filled with humor and authentic romance, My Stubborn Heart is shaping up to be the hit of the summer.

Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When Kate’s grandmother asks Kate to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance.

Yet, she discovers a different kind of project upon meeting the man hired to renovate the house. ;Matt Jarreau is attractive and clearly wounded — hiding from people, from God, and from his past. Kate can’t help but set her stubborn heart on bringing him out of the dark and back into the light… whether he likes it or not.


This is a wonderful and enjoyable Contempory fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. Becky Wade pens a story with characters that are so real and loveable that you will want them as your own family! I love Kate and her determination to make Matt talk to her. And Matt was just more adorable each time he tried to brush Kate off. And Matt had to let Kate’s witty attitude rub off on him, even though he tried hard not too, she really didn’t give him a choice in the matter.  I especially enjoyed seeing Matt’s stubborn attitude in not wanting to talk to Kate while painting her room. That scene as well as others was very comical!

Becky Wade deals with a lot of issues her, including lonely and bitterness. These things are very difficult to overcome, and I appreciate the way Becky merges real life with living that life trusting God. As I say with about all of the Christian fiction I write, even though it’s fiction, the principles are real, and can be used in real life situations.

I highly recommend this book to anyone liking fiction. You will not be disappointed in what you will find between the covers of this book!

This book was provided by CFBA for me to read and review. The opinions in this review are mine only.



If you would like to read the first chapter of My Stubborn Heart, go HERE.

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