The MacGregor Legacy - For Love or Loyalty

1760 Scotland - To atone for her father's evil, Lauren Campbell agrees to help Malcolm MacGregor. By the time she realizes she's the bargaining price to free Malcolm's mother from indentured servitude, it's too late.

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A List of Fruits & Vegetables in their Harvest Season

I'm working on updating a manuscript set in the northwest wilderness of Independence, Missouri in 1845. The book begins in May, and as I was about to write my character eating an apple, it occurred to me that apples might not have been ripe for the picking at that time. My characters are traveling by covered wagon so it isn't as if they can go down into the cellar and pick out a jar of canned apples they might have preserved in the fall. Yes--apples are harvested in the fall!

For this reason, I thought I'd provide a brief outline for when various fruits and  vegetables are harvested and in what season. That way you and I can bookmark this page for future reference. Keep in mind it may vary a bit from region to region, as well as various types of a particular fruit as there are many kinds of apples. If you are being specific or need more details, you may need to do more research.  

Note, some argue that a tomato is not a vegetable, but a fruit. I don't really care. I'm listing it as a vegetable. I'm southern and in my opinion it isn't sweet enough to be a fruit. Also, a lengthy scientific explanation won't budge me on this.


Various Fruits

Apples  July-Oct

Blueberries  Aug-Sept

Cherries  June-July

Grapes  Aug-Oct

Melons  Aug-Sept

Peaches  July-Sept

Pears  Aug-Oct

Plums  Aug-Sept

Pumpkins  Sept-Oct

Rasberries  July-Oct

Strawberries  May/June



Various Vegetables

Beans  July-Sept

Broccoli  July-Nov 

Cabbage  July-Nov

Carrots  Aug-Nov

Cucumbers  July-Sept

Corn  July-Oct

Eggplant  July-Oct

Lettuce  June-Oct

Onions  July-Oct

Peppers  July-Oct

Potatoes  July-Oct

Radishes  May-Oct 

Spinach  May-June, Sept-Oct 

Squash  July-Oct

Tomatoes  July-Oct


In the Spirit of Autumn

Just for fun, I've decided to change the banner header of my blog to reflect the autumn. It's a photo I took in the North Carolina mountains last year during my birthday weekend from the view of our log cabin. In December I'll upload a fun Christmas image. 

In January, my blog will go back to reflecting its original banner header.

Hope you enjoy a bit of change around here!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Gift of Pleasing Others

How many of you have wanted to please a loved one? I'm sure you can thing of occasions when you wanted to please your spouse, children, or parents. Ever planned a special party for someone and bubbled with anticipation at how pleased and happy that person would be? Ever wanted to please God and feared you were failing? I believe Jesus wanted to please God, too.

"Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him." (Matthew 17:5)

God made sure Jesus knew how pleased He was with Him. Sometimes giving the gift of pleasing others isn't necessarily what you do for someone else, but by simply rewarding others with letting them know how pleased you are with them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wild Card Book Tour - "Highland Blessings" by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Abingdon Press (May 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Hudson Taylor for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is the author of historical and contemporary Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. Her fiction has won awards in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, will be released May 2010. Other works have appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Everton’s Genealogical Publishers, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, genealogy, and reading. She resides with her husband and daughter in the Charlotte area of NC.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (May 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426702264
ISBN-13: 978-1426702266

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue 
Scotland 1463

Cedric MacPhearson knew he was going to die, but he glanced up at the low clouds brewing into a storm and raised a fist, determined he would last until one of his sons found him. The survival of his clan depended upon it. And as ornery and stubborn as he had been all his life, no one would believe he had agreed to a peaceful settlement with the MacKenzies if he died, least of all his sons.

Beads of sweat broke along his brow as he struggled to remain conscious, mentally listing every black deed he had ever committed and then muttering a whispered prayer for each one. As the MacPhearson chieftain, Cedric’s word had been the unquestioned law. He had always thought himself a fair man with a firm ruling hand. Now as he prepared to meet his Maker, he wasn’t so sure. It was imperative that he complete one last goodwill before he closed his eyes forever.

The restless wind twirled faster, rustling scattered leaves around him. The cool air was a comfort, giving him a feeling of being lifted high and floating away as the pain in his chest faded to numbness. Lightning flashed silently, highlighting a lone rider approaching at top speed.

Rumbling thunder echoed in Cedric’s ears, drowning out the sound of a winded destrier pulled short and his son’s voice calling to him. Cedric’s head was gently lifted into the lad’s lap and tenderly cradled in youthful hands, strong with promise. Bryce, his middle son, peered down at him with intelligent, gray eyes full of concern.

“Da! What happened to ye?” He reached over and carefully lifted Cedric’s bloody tunic. Moisture gathered in his eyes at the sight of the large sword wound slightly below Cedric’s heart. “Likely, the villain got yer lungs.” His voice sounded like a man, but it shook with desperation. He looked deeply into Cedric’s eyes with painful certainty. “Who did this to ye?”

“A MacKenzie warrior struck me down. I came from signing the peace settlement with Birk MacKenzie, so I wasn’t expecting an attack.”

“I’ll kill the MacKenzie responsible!”

Cedric could hear the anger in his son’s voice and knew a century-old vengeance
coursed through his veins. Pride swelled in Cedric’s battered chest, and he was pleased that he hadn’t missed this opportunity to give his final command and say good-bye. He clutched his son’s shirt in his fist.

“Listen, lad. Birk MacKenzie didn’t order this. Even now he doesn’t know.”

The effort to speak quickly drained his energy and made his chest feel heavy. What blood had not drained from his body began to fill his lungs, and breathing became increasingly difficult. With a concentrated effort he motioned to his pocket and took a labored breath.

“Get paper.” His hoarse whisper brought blood to his mouth.

***


Bryce shuddered. Knowing time was of the essence, he frantically searched his father’s clothes and found a piece of paper. He unfolded it and scanned the signed documents.

Denial was on the tip of his tongue, when he looked at his father with defeat.
“Pro-mise . . . ye’ll . . . make E-van . . . hon-or . . . my word.”

A flicker of apprehension pierced him. He was uncomfortable making a promise of a life-long commitment for his elder brother, and even more afraid to spend these precious moments arguing with his dying father.

With the last of his strength, Cedric grabbed his wrist. “Pro-mise!” More blood spewed from his lips as the clouds opened with rain. Lightning struck and thunder roared.

Bryce bent forward, hating the entrapment of death he saw in his father’s eyes, and cradled his father to him. “Da, don’t die!” Tears blended with the downpour of rain. Cedric’s cold fingers squeezed. Out of desperation Bryce yelled over the storm. “I promise! I promise!”

He couldn’t bear the thought of his father dying without granting his last request.
Cedric released his wrist, and Bryce knew he was gone. Tears were difficult to shed. He couldn’t ever remember a time in his childhood when he allowed one to slip from his eye.

Now, alone in the storm, a lad of ten and four, Bryce grieved for his loss and a promise he prayed he could keep.

Chapter One
April 1473

Akira MacKenzie willed her knees not to fail her. She watched Gregor Matheson’s blond head disappear through the astonished crowd that slowly parted for him. He would have made her a perfect husband, but now he deserted her, placing her safety in jeopardy once again.

She swallowed the rising lump in her throat and straightened her shoulders. Akira clasped her hands in front of her and turned to face the expectant gazes of her Scottish clan. Hushed murmurs flowed through the crowd until one by one their voices faded into the restless wind.

“`Twill be no wedding this day.” She allowed her strong voice to echo over her kinsmen. The earth vibrated, and thunder rumbled in the distance. Akira paused, but naught seemed amiss. Green hills and hidden valleys lay undisturbed, draped with wildflowers and tall grass that rippled in the gentle breeze. Strands of golden-red hair lifted from her shoulder and brushed against her face. She whisked a wayward lock from her eyes.

She turned to Father Mike for encouragement. He stood in a brown robe gathered with a rope cord tied at the waist around his thin frame. Holding a small book in the crook of his arm, he shook his graying head. His aging face held laugh lines around the corners of his eyes and mouth, but today his wrinkles were pulled into a sad frown. His soft brown eyes settled upon her with understanding. Akira wanted to run weeping into his arms, but she held herself still.
More thunder rumbled and grew closer.

“’Tis the MacPhearsons!” A lone woman cried in alarm, pointing past where Akira stood on the grassy knoll.

Panic slashed through her clansmen, and they scattered to find shelter behind her father’s
castle gates. Unarmed MacKenzies sought their weapons before the riders reached them. Expecting a wedding celebration, few were prepared for battle.

Akira turned. The thunder she had heard was an army of warriors descending upon them. A savage barbarian riding a fierce gray stallion charged toward her, his army in quick pursuit. Together, the lead warrior and stallion embodied power. He led them as befit a king, but when his gaze fixed on Akira, her blood ran cold.

The MacPhearson chief wanted his bride. Akira hated her fear of him as it took root and gripped her insides.

“Lord, give me strength,” she murmured.

She would not run. No, she would stand and wait for him. If it was peace he wanted, then peace she would give him. She’d be calm, meet his gaze, and remind him of the letter her father received six months ago from the MacPhearson chief saying he would not honor the betrothal their parents had pledged years ago when she and Evan MacPhearson were children. Accepting it as the insult it was, Akira’s father granted his permission for her to wed a man of her choice. She had chosen Gregor Matheson, but now she realized even that had been a mistake.

Her brother Gavin broke through the madness and grabbed Akira’s arm, propelling her toward the castle gates. The sound of horses’ hooves pounding into the earth grew louder. One gray stallion ruptured forth, his rider targeting her. Knowing Gavin held no weapon to defend them, she fretted for his life and tried to wrench herself free.

“Run, Gavin! Run!” she yelled above the chaos.

Gavin wouldn’t leave her. He struggled to pull her along, but her heavy satin gown caught under her feet, nearly tripping her. While most wedding gowns of her clanswomen were of varying colors, Akira had wanted to look like a white dove. The front was simple, but elegant, with no beads or trim. The long sleeves widened at the wrists and the skirt portion draped over her figure like a long tapestry.

“Hurry, lass!” he urged as the material ripped.

The stallion’s labored breathing almost pulsed down her back. Her skin crawled with tiny prickles. The dark rider would soon overtake them. Jerking free of Gavin’s hold, she again urged her brother to safety.

“Leave me, Gavin.” Tears of despair threatened to snap her control. “I’ll not have ye die at the hand of a MacPhearson because of me.”

“Nay. Never!” Gavin protested.

The MacPhearson warrior bent, and his heavy fist slammed against Gavin’s jaw. Her brother landed several feet back. Iron fingers gripped her waist. The MacPhearson tightened his hold across her middle as he pulled her backward and up onto the horse. Akira screamed and kicked, lashing out blindly against him. He fought her with one hand while he guided his charger forward. The reins almost tumbled from his hand, and he lunged to grab them. His hard elbow rammed her cheek in the process.

“Don’t fight me, lass,” he roared. “Or else the blood of innocent men will be upon yer head!”
His words cut into her like a blade, and she ceased her struggles as he threw her over his lap and across the racing animal’s back. Akira believed him. A MacPhearson could have no compassion in a heart as black as death.

“How dare ye, MacPhearson!” Akira’s father bellowed behind them. She stole a glance through her tumbling hair. He ran after them with a fist raised in mid-air. He roared another promise of revenge before bending over his knees to catch his breath. Her father shook his graying head in disbelief.

“I love ye, Da,” she whispered, committing his image to memory.

The forest swallowed them, and for hours the MacPhearsons kept their fast pace. Akira tried to calm her heaving stomach, but it continued to twirl as she lay over his lap. The ride would have been much more tolerable had she been able to sit on her backside. Instead, her stomach suffered from the jarring of the stallion’s movements. The nausea finally overtook her, and she vomited.

They stopped. Left with no other recourse, she tried to wipe her mouth with her hand.

The warrior ripped off part of his plaid hanging over his tunic that reached down to his knees like a long shirt and belted at the waist. He wet it with water from his flask and offered it to her. His plaid of red and gray colors fell forward, and he shoved it back over his shoulder. Since the MacPhearsons lived in a different region, their plaids were made by a different weaver from the MacKenzies. Akira’s clan often wore plaids of blue and green.

She lifted her gaze to his menacing glare. Akira trembled in spite of her silent resolve not to fear him, for he looked as if he wanted to beat her, and she felt certain it wasn’t beneath him.
He leaned forward, thrusting the material in her face. “Take it and clean yerself,” he demanded, as if the sight of her disgusted him.

Grimacing, she looked down at his leg covered with her sickness. Her cheeks grew warm. He deserved what he had gotten for throwing her on his stallion and hauling her off like a prize he had won.

“Lass, don’t make me repeat myself.” His lack of patience was quite evident in his tone, but even more so as he shoved the damp material in her face.

Akira snatched it out of his hand and glared back, momentarily forgetting her danger.
“Ye blunderin’ fool, ’tis yer own fault it happened. Ye got no more than ye deserved.”

He leaned forward, his nose barely an inch from hers, and she leaned back as far as she dared without toppling off his stallion. His dark gray eyes turned black, and a vein pulsed rapidly in his neck as he stared down at her.

Once again her temper and boldness had gotten the better of her. Lord, help bridle me tongue, she silently prayed. Deciding she had pushed him far enough, Akira gripped his leg while she stroked the damp cloth over his skin in hopes of diverting his attention from her angry outburst. He flinched at her touch. She dropped his leg with a questioning gaze.
“I told ye to clean yerself, not me.”

“I’m not quite as messy.” She turned back to her task.

He lifted her from the stallion and dropped her on her unsteady feet. It took her a moment to recover. When she did, she found herself staring at her captor’s chest. Tall for a woman, Akira wasn’t used to a man’s height equaling her own, but this MacPhearson was a giant. His massive shoulders blocked the sun’s rays, filtering through the trees.

He bound her hands with a leather strap, pulling the knot secure against the flesh around the fine bone of her wrists. She noticed his skin was a shade or two darker than hers.

Akira stole the moment to study his profile. Shoulder-length hair the color of potted soil framed an authoritative, square face. His gray eyes were sharp and purposeful as he tended to his task. Up close he appeared more handsome than barbaric. His bronze face bore a recent shave.
The bridge of his nose smoothed over his face to striking, high cheekbones. He radiated confidence, but she sensed a stubborn streak hid behind his determined expression.

As he towered over her, she felt a rare fear and trembled. His hands gentled, and his voice softened.

“I’m sorry I was so rough with ye. I didn’t mean for my elbow to hit yer cheek.” He pulled the leather tighter, making her wince. “I apologize for this inconvenience, but I must see to it that ye canna escape.”

He stepped back, rubbing his chin in thoughtful concentration as if contemplating what to do with her. “Ye’re no ordinary woman.” He crossed his arms and circled Akira, observing her. She could feel the heat of his blazing gaze travel the length of her. “Any other woman would have fled.” He paused in front of her and looked into her eyes. “`Twas as if ye were determined to stand yer ground and wait for me until that man encouraged ye to run.” He raised a black eyebrow. “Why?”

“They’re my family and clansmen. If ye were coming to claim yer bride, then I was the one ye wanted, not them.”

“So ye’re a courageous lass. Willing to sacrifice yerself for their lives. Is that the way of it then?” He spoke in a firm, yet gentle tone. He touched her swelling cheek with the back of his knuckles. Akira flinched from the uncharacteristic gesture. He dropped his hand.

“Regardless of what ye think, I’m not in the habit of mistreating women.” He looked at her intently, his eyes almost willing her to believe him.

She stared over his shoulder at the dark forest, refusing to relieve him of his guilt—if he was human enough to feel any. “My brother did naught to ye. Why did ye hit him?”

“Yer brother would have interfered and caused a massacre of yer people. I had no wish for that to happen, so I took the only option I had. I took care of him before he could strike me and my men retaliate on my behalf.”

Akira stepped back in disbelief. She craned her neck to see into his dark gray eyes. “’Twas not the only option. He could still be unconscious this verra moment.”

He sighed, crossing his arms over his chest as if she were trying his patience. “I assure ye, lass, yer brother will be fine. I didn’t hit him hard.”

She leaned up on her tiptoes. “Then my eyes must have been deceiving me, for ye
knocked him plumb out.”

“Aye, that I did.” He grinned with pride as white, even teeth flashed in contrast to his dark profile. “But the blow will not cause any lasting effects, I assure ye.”

“There’s not a guilty bone in yer body.” A lock of golden-red curls fell forward covering her right eye. She reached up with her bound hands and tossed her long tresses over her shoulder. “Ye had no right to take me from my family.”

“Believe as ye wish.” He shrugged. “I may have taken ye against yer will, but I never commit harm unless I’m forced.” He placed a finger under her chin and tilted her face.

Her mind whirled in a daze. Akira purposely closed her heart to any generosity he might bestow upon her. “Gavin gave ye no reason to hit him. I hope I do naught to force yer mistreatment of me before ye return me to my family.” The sarcasm in her voice overshadowed her fear.

A sudden frown perplexed his otherwise perfect face, and she sensed a change in his demeanor. In one fluid motion, he lifted her upon his stallion. This time she was properly seated as he mounted up behind her. He urged the beast beneath them forward, signaled to his men, and they were again on their way. Akira had nearly forgotten that others were present to witness their exchange.

Under the circumstances, he set a much slower pace than she would have anticipated, knowing the MacKenzies could be following close behind. They traveled a good distance in silence.

After a long while had passed, he bent toward her ear. “I’m sorry.”

His warm breath floated over the skin at her nape, and she fought the urge to shudder. His apology stunned her speechless. Warriors did not apologize, least of all to bound prisoners or to women.

“Whether ye believe me or not, I do not mistreat women. And the blow to yer cheek wouldn’t have happened if ye hadn’t put up such a struggle.”

Akira remained silent. How was she supposed to have responded while being kidnapped away from her family and all that she held dear? She had no idea what to expect. All she knew was that she depended upon the Lord to give her sufficient grace to get through whatever she would be forced to endure at their hands.

“I see ye’ve naught else to say.” Disappointment carried in his voice.

She arched an eyebrow. He expected friendly conversation while he carted her halfway across the country against her will and kept her in bonds? “What would ye have me say?” She turned sideways in the saddle. “I can only wonder at what ye plan to do with me. Should I beg for mercy in hopes ye’ll spare my life? Or should I wait ’til ye’ve no more use for me?” She straightened away from him.

He chuckled. “I appreciate the ideas.”

“Why not take me home now before my da comes after me and more blood is shed?”

He tensed as if her words had struck some deep chord within him. “Believe me, lass, more bloodshed is not my intention. I took ye because I had to and that’s the end of it.”

Akira wisely remained silent. The man seemed to contradict even his own character. He didn’t want her to believe him a barbarian, yet he had ridden onto MacKenzie land with warriors and carted her off against her will, thrown across his lap like a sack of potatoes. Then he bound her wrists with a leather strap and tried to convince her that he was a caring gentleman with good manners. There could only be one explanation. The man was daft.

* * *


They rode well into the night. Bryce’s heavily muscled arms shielded her from branches and other brush in their path. They came to a clearing and Bryce halted. “We’ll camp here for the night. There’s a small brook beyond those trees.” He gestured to the right. He called two men over. “Backtrack and station yerselves to keep watch. I want to know of the first sign of a MacKenzie.”

Before she could object, large hands circled her waist and lifted her down. “Follow me.” He turned on his heel, leaving her with no choice but to do as directed. He led her into the dark woods, and she wanted nothing more than to turn and run the other way. Twigs cracked beneath the weight of their footsteps. An owl hooted in the distance. A small animal shifted and darted through the leaves. She wondered if it was a rabbit. Crickets sang around them. Akira rubbed her arms in discomfort and crouched close to his back to avoid the leaves and limbs he shoved aside.

They reached the brook, and he motioned for her to kneel beside him. She bent and watched him remove more of his plaid. He dipped it into the water and brought it against her face.
She jerked at the cold contact. What was this about?

“I merely want to bathe yer face.”

She leaned back. “Nay!”

His hands fell to his sides, still holding his wet plaid in one hand. “I can see the swelling and darkness just below yer eye, even in the moonlight.”

As if brought on by his words, the skin under her left eye tightened and grew numb. Her fingers inched to her cheek as she stared at him. He was stern with his men and they rushed to do his bidding. A man did not earn that kind of respect and power with a gentle nature. They feared him, and they wanted his approval. She could see it in their faces when they looked at him. Admiration shone in their expression.

“Ye’ve no reason to fear me, unless ye plan to make it so,” he interrupted her thoughts. “I’ll treat ye with all the respect owed and due a lady, but heed my warning: Don’t anger me by trying to escape. There is naught I despise worse than distrust and betrayal.”

Akira stood to her full height, prepared to challenge him. “As yer prisoner I owe ye no trust or loyalty.”

He rose beside her. “Consider yerself warned. ’Twould ease yer fear of me.”

He lowered his voice, and she sensed his tone carried great meaning.

“I’m not afraid. I simply wish ye not to touch me.” She hoped her tone carried the contempt she felt.

“As ye wish.” He stepped closer, pointing a finger in her face. “But I warn ye. Ye’ll remain bound, for I’ll not give ye the opportunity to flee. If ye eat, I shall feed ye. If ye
wash, I shall help ye. Ye belong to my brother, and I trust no one else save Balloch.”

Akira stood still, stunned. He was not the MacPhearson clan chief? She belonged to his brother? “Yer not Evan MacPhearson?”

“I am Bryce MacPhearson, the middle son.” He grinned. “I see ye’ve managed to remember the name of the man ye should have been saying yer vows to when I found ye, instead of that oaf ye were about to commit yerself to.”

He started to turn from her, but she gripped his arm. “Gregor is not an oaf. Though that is the best I can describe of ye.” She felt almost breathless. “What lies do ye speak? Evan MacPhearson sent my father a letter saying he had no intention of wedding me.”

“I speak no lies. The letter was a mistake.” He turned his full attention toward Akira and placed his hands on his hips, towering over her. “And as to a better description of me, do ye really lack that much imagination, lass? If this Gregor deserves such defense, then where was the brave groom when I found ye?”

Akira hated the truth of his words. Shivers ran up her spine, and she consciously tried to shake them off, but his last question brought her blood to a boil. Her thoughts turned to the humiliating scene. Warmth crept up her neck and into her face.

“Perhaps he was a wee bit late?” he taunted.

She refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing how much his words hurt. “Maybe he knew how miserable I could make his life, which would be my full intention if yer brother were to succeed in wedding me.”

His lips twisted into a sardonic grin. “As laird, Evan is only performing his duties by wedding ye. Marriages of convenience occur every day. I doubt he plans to spend enough time with ye to allow ye to wreak havoc in his life.”

“I haven’t agreed to wed Evan. And ye know naught of Gregor to throw insults in his absence.” She hated the fact that she felt forced to take up for Gregor. He did not deserve her loyalty any more than the MacPhearsons.

“I know enough.” His gray eyes grew darker and his voice a bit louder.

“What do ye know of him?”

“Enough.”

“If I must hear these accusations against him, then tell me.”

He reached for her, and not knowing his intention, she flinched. His palm rested on the side of her face, surprisingly as gentle as a breeze. “I know he is a complete fool to give ye up.” His voice broke to a husky whisper.

Akira blinked, wondering if she had heard him correctly. “Then I suppose yer brother would be an even greater fool, because me da received Evan’s letter releasing me from the betrothal agreement just six months past.”

Bryce’s expression didn’t change. “He is the fool of all fools.” He turned and walked away.

Akira followed him.

“Did he send ye for me?” She wanted to know if she was an unwelcome necessity in Evan’s life.

“Ye’ll know soon enough.”

Akira caught up with him and tugged on his arm. She needed answers. “Why didn’t he
take me?”

He shook off her arm. “Ye’ll sleep close by me.”

“I think not.” She turned from him and stomped off in the other direction, only to realize she still desired to know more about Evan MacPhearson. “Why did he not come for me himself?”

Bryce turned from her, rubbing his palm against his forehead. He walked past his men and pulled his furs from his stallion and threw them at her feet. “Here, sleep on those. ’Tis enough to cover ye.”

“My da will come for me.”

“I expect he will.” Bryce walked over to a tree, sat, leaned against the trunk and folded his arms over his knees.

“Ye plan to sleep that way?”

“Aye.” He let his head drop against the hard bark.

“Ye look uncomfortable.” She frowned in his direction. “But, I care not.” She assured him. “I’ll be home with me family in the comfort of me own bed soon.”

Akira brushed aside a few twigs and spread out her furs as best she could with her hands still bound. Then she crawled on top of the furs and brought one end over her. The chill had not bothered her as yet, but the night air promised dropping temperatures. The day had been warm for April and the first time it had not rained in days. It was a good omen for her wedding day—or so she had thought. An image of Gregor appeared in her mind, and sadness closed around her heart. The pain of his rejection hurt more than she cared to think on. She stifled a sob that nearly escaped her throat.

***


A muffled sound brought Bryce’s head up. He studied Akira’s feminine form under the moonlight. Her hair sprawled over her arms like silver ribbon. She sighed uncomfortably and shuffled around, restless.

The vision of her face, swollen and blue, made him squirm with regret. He had not meant to hurt her, and he despised his carelessness.

“Blunderin’ idiot!” he muttered under his breath.

“Are ye troubled?” The hope in her voice almost made him chuckle as she rolled over on her side and sat up on her elbow. The furs slipped from her shoulder. Akira’s silhouetted form shivered against the cool air settling in around them. Bryce looked away and shifted again to ease his discomfort.

“Nay.” He dropped his chin on his folded arms.

She continued to stare at him a moment longer before she lay back down to rest.

He let his head fall back against the bark of the tree and looked up at the outline of the branches and leaves above. Footsteps and twigs broke. Balloch plopped down beside him.
“The lady’s a beauty, is she not?” Balloch whispered.

“Aye, she is at that. In a few days she’ll hate me when she learns the truth.” For some reason, that realization bothered him. What should he care of her hatred for him? He wasn’t the one destined to wed her, but it bothered him nonetheless. As she prayed aloud for her family, her safety, and a swift return home, guilt plagued him.

When she prayed that God would soften his heart, Bryce could stand no more. He turned to Balloch. “Keep an eye on her. I’ll be back.”

In one fluid motion he stood and walked away from camp. Safely out of hearing, Bryce looked up at the clear bright stars.

“Lord, Vicar Forbes says to honor yer mother and yer father. I’m only trying to do so.” He sighed heavily, wondering if God would hear him after what he had done today. “I really do want peace between our clans. I’m tired of all the bloodshed. Show me how to keep my promise without causing another war.”

No answer came from the Almighty. Bryce dropped his head in shame. While he had never been an overly religious man, he had no desire to anger his Maker. Had he gone too far this time?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Protect Your Time

Over the past two weeks I've had to make the difficult decision to reduce my time on a few writing email loops. While I didn't spend a whole lot of time on these loops, I still received digests of all the emails in my inbox and felt obligated to read through them. Too often I was tempted to respond to a few posts, taking time away from my writing, researching, and online promotion. 

I deleted my membership on four loops, went no-mail on one, and joined a new one that is geared toward the location and time period of my next three novels. Last month, I pulled out of my critique group and switched to beta test readers. You could say I'm going through a transitional season--one that is very necessary--especially with the upcoming holidays around the corner. 

What changes have you made to protect your time? What changes have you contemplated?





Monday, October 25, 2010

Advantages of Text to Speech

I'm hoping for a new Kindle this Christmas. While I'm one of those traditional book lovers who enjoys the smell of a fresh printed book and holding it in my hand, the new text to speech feature on the Kindle is luring me. 

Over a year ago I began having eye problems due to a condition I developed in my eyes from wearing contacts for so many years and not getting enough oxygen to the cornea. To make matters worse I suffer from severe allergies and dry eyes. Too much time on the computer strains my eyes, and since I'm required to be on it for my day job, a text to speech feature on the Kindle would greatly benefit me when I want to read for pleasure. I'd be able to listen to books while driving to and from work and possibly read more books than currently. 

If you have a Kindle and you've used the text to speech feature, will you let me know how you like it? Does it pause between sentences or state the punctuation? Can you set the speed and voice to your personal preferences? I'd love to hear opinions!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Beauty of Caithness, Scotland

When I decided to write Highland Sanctuary, I wanted a setting that wasn't as well known in Scotland. I had heard and read many novels set in Galloway, Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. When I discovered Caithness, while researching historic castles, I found my ideal setting. 

Caithness, is a now a county in the far northern tip of Scotland, nestled against the sea. Formerly part of the shire of Inverness, it gained independence in 1455 when the Earl of Caithness gained a grant of of the justiciary or sheriffdom. 

It's beautiful--and different from the rest of the country. For instance, the land is open and flat, lacking trees and forest, known as moorland and covered in peat moss. A few hills are scattered about, but not the kind of mountains often associated in photos of the highlands. Caithness contains plenty of lochs and bog areas. 

In Highland Sanctuary, I created the fictional town of Braighwick and the wee Village of Braigh. This gave me the freedom to create the people and layout of the town, as needed for the purposes of my story. Braigh Castle was based on the ruins of Brough Castle. 

While my characters spoke the same English with a slight Scottish brogue as in my debut novel, Highland Blessings, it's worth noting the language variations in historic Caithness. The area was first inhabited by the Picts, whose language is unknown. By 800 AD the Norse occupied Caithness, and later the Gaelic speakers colonized the area from Scandinavia before the English arrived. Therefore, variations of Norse, Gaelic and English was spoken in different areas of Caithness. 

Another important development in Caithness that affected my story in Highland Sanctuary, was the established religion. By 1477, when my novel takes place, The Church of Scotland, a Catholic denomination, was well established in Caithness and throughout the country. Civil administration parishes were the same as the Church. The Cathedral in my novel is also a product of my imagination after I read about the history of Dornoch Cathedral and Halkirk Highland. The Scottish Reformation of 1560 introduced Protestant theology and in 1689 established the Presbyterian form of church government. 

About Photo
The photo is looking north toward Halkirk in which my characters ride through at one point in Highland Sanctuary.

Souces:
Wildcaithness.org

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CFBA Blog Tour - "In Every Heartbeat" by Kim Vogel Sawyer

The

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

In Every Heartbeat
Bethany House (September 1, 2010)

by
Kim Vogel Sawyer


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of 15 novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won awards in the ACFW Book of the Year, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:


As three friends who grew up in the same orphanage head off to college together, they each harbor a cherished dream.

Libby Conley hopes to become a famous journalist. Pete Leidig believes God has called him to become a minister, while Bennett Martin plans to pledge a fraternity, find a place to belong, and have as much fun as possible.

But as tensions rise around the world on the brink of WWW I, the friends' differing aspirations and opinions begin to divide them. When Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete's family, will it drive a final wedge between the friends or bond them in ways they never anticipated?

If you would like to read the first chapter of In Every Heartbeat, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Challenge of Saving

If you're anything like me, saving and being consistent at it, is a challenge. I have good intentions, I start saving, and then I find excuses. Like most people, I've endured a layoff that threw us into financial instability. Then I helped my husband start a new business with very little planning and preparation. Need I say more about this experience?

I know what it's like to have to hold off on paying one bill to be able to pay another that might be more important. How many times did we make the bad decision to go into the retirement fund to take care of some serious expenses that were eating at our nerves? Too many. 

The idea of making do with less--on purpose--by choice--seems crazy! 

Especially when we have to survive today. Tomorrow will take care of itself, but does it? 

Look at all the poor seniors who used to live busy productive lives who are completely dependent upon the government for their welfare and their healthcare. Social Security isn't a retirement plan and too many seniors are living on it as if it is. If they didn't get to take their dream trips while they were young, they aren't likely to go now. Many of them can barely survive month to month even while living in a home that is paid for. 


The collapse of the housing market and the loss of so many jobs have shattered dreams of owning a home. Many are having to start over with foreclosures and bankruptcies on their financial credit reports. Some are in their 20's, more are in their 30's, but most are in their 40's and 50's. By the time they wait 10 years for their credit report to clear, they will be looking at retirement. 


Is it too late for them?


In the Book of Job, he had lost everything, his health, family and wealth. This is what happened: "And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before." (Job 42:10)


Indeed, it is never too late for those of us who belong to God! We may have to change our living style, our habits, our way of thinking, and step out in faith, but if we are willing to try and invest in our savings. God can multiply it by tenfold--a hundredfold. He gave Job twice as much as he had before. But--yes, there is a but--Job had to be faithful to God and not give up. Don't ever give up! It's never too late! Also, it says Job prayed for his friends. If you have friends who are giving unwise advice, making bad decisions--don't judge them, pray for them.


We all have to start somewhere. It will be hard for someone with no job to save. You have to first keep believing for the restoration of a job. For those of us who are working, we need to set up an amount that is automatically deducted from our checking accounts or from our automatic deposits to a savings account. If you don't see it, sometimes it is easier to part with and to live without. For me, setting up an automatic deposit to savings took care of that inconsistent behavior I had--and my excuses.


Make this commitment to God, yourself, and your future. Too many Americans are living on borrowed credit and not saving enough. Then when things happen--a job loss, a serious illness, an accident, an economic collapse--they aren't prepared to survive the lean years without some serious repercussions. If you are already saving, consider bumping up your savings--even if it is only by $5 or $10. 


Let's put our faith into action and step out together! What are your thoughts on The Challenge of Saving?

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Writers Seeking Mentors

From time to time, I receive requests from new writers seeking a mentor on their road to publication. It's true the journey to publication can be long and hard. For me, it was a 14-year process. A little bit of help along the way is so valuable. There are many unspoken rules in the industry that long-time writers know that new writers may not. The only way to discover these tidbits of information is to put in your time on the writing loops, submitting and gaining responses to your work, entering contests, joining writing groups that provide workshops and interaction with other writers. Another short-cut would be to find a mentor to guide you.

I've never mentored a new writer. It isn't because I don't want to, but because I still work a full-time job outside the home. The only way I can get my own novels written is to do so at night and on the weekends. Now that I have deadlines and promotion requirements, I have even less time than I did before publication. 

As a result, I offer my blog as a mentoring resource to other new writers. Let's interact here. I welcome your questions. Most of the time, if you have a question, someone else is lurking and would like to also know the answer. So don't be shy. Every question is valuable and will provide insight to others. Feel free to let me know if there are topics you would like me to blog about. In the meantime, here is a link to all my Writing Tips on this blog.

Also, if you are looking for a mentor and you're having trouble finding one, don't be discouraged. It isn't the end of the world. I never had a writing mentor and many of my published friends never had one either. Let God be the one to guide you. He's the best writing mentor of all.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

UK Readers of "Highland Blessings"

For those of you who live in the UK, I've added a Paypal option on my website/blog for UK residents who would like to purchase a signed copy of "Highland Blessings". I've set a flat postage rate, which may need to be adjusted if some areas in the UK vary too significantly. Currently, I've only set the option to purchase one book, but if you would like to buy multiple copies as gifts for Christmas or other events, please contact me at jt4novels@yahoo.com, and I will try to get you a postage rate on the weight of multiple books. 

 

Thank you for choosing Highland Blessings

 

The sequel, Highland Sanctuary, will release a year from now. It tells Gavin MacKenzie's story. 

 

If you are in the area, I'll be signing copies of Highland Blessings at the Carolina Renaissance Faire today and tomorrow. Come out in enjoy the fun!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

End of Historical Trivia

Due to some upcoming changes in my schedule and a lack of participation, I'm going to end the historical trivia game on my blog. My agent called with some great news yesterday, and I hope to announce it soon. I'll be cutting back on my activity on writing loops and in other areas to get more research and writing accomplished. Stay tuned for more news!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CFBA Blog Tour - "Love's First Bloom" by Delia Parr

The

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Love's First Bloom

Bethany House; Original edition (September 1, 2010)

by
Delia Parr



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Delia Parr, pen name for Mary Lechleidner, is the author of 10 historical novels and the winner of several awards, including the Laurel Wreath Award for Historical Romance and the Aspen Gold Award for Best Inspirational Book. She is a full-time high school teacher who spends her summer vacations writing and kayaking. The mother of three grown children, she lives in Collingswood, New Jersey.




 
ABOUT THE BOOK:


Ruth Livingstone's life changes drastically the day her father puts a young child in her arms and sends her to a small village in New Jersey under an assumed name. There, Ruth pretends to be a widow and quietly secludes herself until her father is acquitted of a crime.

But with the emergence of the penny press, the imagination of the reading public is stirred, and her father's trial stands center stage. Asher Tripp is the brash newspaperman who determines that this case is the event he can use to redeem himself as a journalist.

Ruth finds solace tending a garden along the banks of the Toms River--a place where she can find a measure of peace in the midst of the sorrow that continues to build. It is also here that Asher Tripp finds a temporary residence, all in an attempt to discover if the lovely creature known as Widow Malloy is truly Ruth Livingstone, the woman every newspaper has been looking for.

Love begins to slowly bloom...but is the affection they share strong enough to withstand the secrets that separate them?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love's First Bloom, go HERE.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wild Card Book Tour - "Surrender the Heart" by MaryLu Tyndall

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Barbour Books (August 1, 2010)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M.L. Tyndall, a Christy Award Finalist, and best-selling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series is known for her adventurous historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. She holds a degree in Math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years before testing the waters as a writer. MaryLu currently writes full time and makes her home on the California coast with her husband, six kids, and four cats. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ. For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website or her blog.


Visit the author's website.
Visit the author's blog.


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601658
ISBN-13: 978-1602601659

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

June 18, 1812, Baltimore, Maryland


“I would rather boil in oil than marry Noah Brenin.” Marianne tossed the silver brooch onto her vanity.

“Hold your breath and stay still.” Rose said from behind her. “Besides, it is only an engagement party, not a wedding.”

“But it is one more step to that horrid destination.” Marianne sucked in her breath as Rose threaded the laces through the eyelets on her stays. “Why must women wear these contraptions?”

“To look our best for the gentlemen in our lives.” Cassandra appeared on Marianne’s left, a lacy petticoat flung over one arm. With shimmering auburn hair and eyes the color of emeralds, Cassandra had no trouble looking her best for anyone.

Marianne huffed. “I have no care what any gentleman thinks of my appearance.”

“Which is why you are still unmarried at five and twenty.”

“Then what is your excuse at three and twenty?” Marianne arched a brow, to which Cassandra responded with a shrug. “I have not yet met a man worthy of me.” She grinned.

“Where on earth is your chambermaid?” Rose grunted as she squeezed Marianne’s rounded figure into the stays and tied the final lace tight. “Shouldn’t she be doing this?”

“I dismissed her.” Marianne waved a hand through the air. “I prefer to dress myself.” She hoped they didn’t hear the slight quaver in her voice. If only they knew that her mother had been forced to let the entire staff go and the ones here today were hired just for her betrothal party.

“There.” Rose finished her work and stepped back as Marianne took the petticoat from Cassandra and slipped it over her head.

“Truth is, I do not wish to marry—ever.” Marianne squared her shoulders as Cassandra slid behind her and latched the petticoat hooks.

Rose put her hands on her waist. “Noah Brenin is a fine man and a good catch.”

Marianne gazed at her friend and couldn’t help but smile at the motherly reprimand burning in her crystal blue eyes. Tall and slender, with honey blond hair, Rose turned many a head in Baltimore. Just like Cassandra.

But not like Marianne.

“He is a boor.”

“Why so low an opinion of him? Haven’t you and he been friends since childhood?” Rose cocked her head and gave Marianne a look of censure.

“I wouldn’t call it friendship, more like forced acquaintance. And my knowledge of him is precisely why I know him for the churlish clod he is.”

Gathering a cream-colored silk-embroidered gown from Marianne’s bed, Rose and Cassandra tossed it over her head and assisted her as she wiggled into it. She adjusted the ruffled lace bordering her neckline and circling her puffy sleeves. Cassandra handed her a jeweled belt which Marianne strapped around her high waist and buckled in front. She pressed down the folds of her gown, admiring the pink lace trailing down the front and trimming the hemline. After slipping on her white satin slippers, Marianne moved to the full length looking glass and paused to eye her reflection.

Plain. Despite the shimmering, glamorous dress, plain was the first word that came to her mind. Perhaps because that was how she had always been described. Brown hair, brown eyes, average height, a bit plump. Nothing remarkable, nothing to catch an eye.

Simply plain.

Which was precisely why, when the other girls her age were being courted, Marianne had preferred to spend her time caring for her ailing mother and younger sister, particularly after their father died. No whirlwind romances, no soirees, no grand adventures lit up the horizon for her. She had resigned herself to lead an ordinary life. An ordinary life for an ordinary girl.

“Come now, it won’t be so bad.” Rose brushed a lock of hair from Marianne’s forehead and then straightened one of the curls dangling about her neck. “You look as though you were attending your own funeral.”

“I dare say I feel as though I am.” Tired of staring into the mirror with the hope her reflection would transform into that of a beautiful woman, Marianne turned aside, picked up her silk gloves from the vanity and sauntered toward the window.

“I, for one, cannot wait to get married,” Rose said. “To the right man of course. He must be a good, honest, god-fearing man. A man who stays home, not a seaman. And he must be agreeable in all respects.”

“What about handsome?” Cassandra asked, and Marianne turned to see a blush creep up Rose’s neck.

“Well, yes, I suppose I would not be opposed to that.” Her blue eyes twinkled.

Facing the window, Marianne slid the white gloves onto her hands and tugged them up her arms. Shouts echoed from the street below, accompanied by the clip clop of horse hooves and the grating of carriage wheels. She brushed aside the curtain to see people running to and fro darting between carriages. A warm breeze, heavy with moisture and the smells of the sea, stirred the curtains. A bell rang in the distance, drawing Marianne’s attention to the maze of ship’s masts thrusting into the blue sky like iron bars of a prison. A prison that could not constrain the ravenous blue waters from feeding upon the innocent—an innocent like her father.

Rose and Cassandra joined her at the window as more shouts blasted in with the wind. “What is all the commotion about?” Cassandra pushed back the other side of the curtains.

“There have been rumors that President Madison will soon declare war on Britain,” Marianne said.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that.” Rose peered over Marianne’s shoulder. “War is such horrid business.”

“But necessary if the British insist on stealing our men from land and sea and impressing them into their Navy.” Marianne felt her ire rising. “Not to mention how they rouse the Indians to attack us on the frontier.”

“They want their colonies back, I suppose.” Afternoon sunlight set Cassandra’s red hair aflame in ribbons of liquid fire. “England never was good at losing.”

“Well they can’t have them.” Marianne’s voice rose with a determination she felt building within. Though she’d been born after the Revolution, she had heard the stories of oppression and tyranny enforced upon them by a nation across the seas whose king thought he had the right to dictate laws and taxes without giving the people a voice. But no more. “We won our freedom from them. We are a nation now. A new nation that represents liberty to the entire world.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Cassandra nodded with a smile. “Perhaps you should run for mayor?”

“A woman in public office?” Marianne chuckled. “That will never happen.”

The door creaked open, and Marianne turned to see her mother and younger sister slip inside.

Lizzie’s eyes widened and she rushed toward Marianne. “You look so beautiful, Marianne!”

Kneeling, Marianne embraced her sister. She held her tight and took a big whiff of the lavender soap with which their mother always scrubbed the little girl. “Thank you, Lizzie. I can always count on you for a compliment.”

“Now, Lizzie, don’t wrinkle your sister’s dress.” Marianne’s mother sank into one of the chairs by the fireplace and winced. The slight reminder of her mother’s pain caused Marianne’s heart to shrink. She squeezed her little sister again—the one beacon of joy in their house these past three years since Father died—and kissed her on the cheek. “You look very beautiful too.”

The little girl clutched her skirt and twirled around. “Do you really think so?” She drew her lips into a pout. “But when can I wear a dress like yours?”

“Come now, Lizzie,” Mother said. “You are only six. When you are a grown woman like Marianne, you may wear more elaborate gowns.” She gestured toward Rose and Cassandra. “Ladies, would you take Lizzie downstairs for a moment? I need a word with Marianne.”

“Of course, Mrs. Denton.” Rose took Lizzie’s hand. “Come along little one.”

Cassandra followed after them and closed the door.

Marianne sat in the chair beside her mother and gently grasped her hands. She flinched at how cold and moist they were. “How are you feeling, Mama?”

“Very well today, dear.” She looked down as if hiding something..

But Marianne didn’t need to look in her mother’s eyes to know she was lying. The sprinkles of perspiration on her forehead, the paleness of her skin, and the tightening of her lips when the pains hit spoke more clearly than any words.

Marianne squeezed her mother’s hands. “The medicaments are not working?”

“They will work. It takes time.” Her mother attempted a smile. “But let us not talk of that now. I have something more important to discuss with you.” She released a heavy sigh then lifted her gaze to Marianne’s. Though illness had stolen the glimmer from her eyes, it could not hide the sweet kindness of her soul. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

The truth of her words sliced through Marianne. She stared at the floral pattern woven into the carpet. “You know I do.”

“It isn’t fair of me to ask this of you.” Her mother’s voice rang with conviction and deep sorrow.

“You didn’t ask, Mama. I want to do this.” A truth followed by a lie. Marianne hoped the good canceled out the bad.

“Come now. You cannot fool me.” Mama said. “I know this is not the match you would choose.”

Releasing her mother’s hands, Marianne rose from the chair and sauntered toward the window. The rustle of her gown crackled through the air with conviction. “In truth, I would choose no match.” She turned and forced a smile. “So if I must marry, why not this man?”

Her mother gazed at her with such love and sorrow that Marianne felt her heart would burst. Once considered the most beautiful woman in Baltimore, Jane Denton, now withered away with the sickness that robbed her of her glow and luster and stole the fat from her bones, leaving her but a frail skeleton of what she once had been. The physicians had no idea what ailed her save that without the medicaments they administered, she would die a quicker and more painful death.

Tearing her gaze from the tragic vision, Marianne glanced out the window where it seemed as though the approaching evening only heightened the citizens’ agitation. “Marrying Noah Brenin will save us. It will save you.”

“But what of saving you?” Her mother’s sweet plea caressed Marianne’s ears, but she forced down the spark of hope that dared to rise at her mother’s question. There was no room for hope now, only necessity.

“You know if we continue as is, all that is left of our fortune will be spent in one year on your medicaments. Then what will we do? Without my dowry, no man will look my way, since that and our good name is all that has caught this particular fish upon the hook.” And without a husband to unlock her inheritance, her father had ensured that the seven thousand dollars would remain as far from her reach as if she did not own it at all.

“Perhaps you will meet another man—someone you love?” Her mother said.

“Mama, I am five and twenty.” Marianne turned and waved her hands over herself. “And plain to look at.” She gave a bitter laugh. “Do you see suitors lining up at our door?”

“You are too beautiful for words, dearest.” Her mother’s eyes beamed in adoration. “You just don’t know it yet.”

Shrugging off her mother’s compliment as the obligation of a parent, Marianne stiffened her back before she attempted to rekindle an argument long since put to death. “We could take what’s left of our money and fund a privateer, Mama.” Marianne glanced out the window at a mob that had formed down the street. “War is certain and our fledgling navy will need all the help it can get.”

Her mother’s nervous huff drew Marianne’s gaze. “It is far too much of a gamble. And gambling destroys lives”—a glaze covered her mother’s eyes as she stared into the room—“and families.”

Marianne grimaced. “I am not like Papa. I have heard these privateers can make a fortune while helping to defend our country.”

A breeze stirred a curled wisp of her mother’s hair as she gazed at Marianne with concern.

Marianne twisted the ring on her finger. “Down at the docks, merchantmen are already outfitted their ships as privateers. The call for investors goes out daily.” If only she could convince her mother, not only would Marianne not have to marry that clod, Noah, but she could do something to help this great nation of hers.

Her mother’s boney hands perched in her lap began to tremble. “We could lose everything. And what of Lizzie? I could not bare it.”

Shame drummed upon Marianne’s hopes. She had upset her mother when the doctor strictly instructed her to keep her calm.

“Perhaps a trade of some sort?” Mama offered. “I hear that Mrs. Pickersgill makes a decent living sewing ensigns.”

A blast of warm wind stirred the gauzy curtains and cooled the perspiration forming on Marianne’s neck. “Mama you know I have no skills. I’m not like other ladies. The last gown I attempted to sew fell apart. My cooking would drive the hardiest frontiersman back to the woods, and the pianoforte runs when it sees me coming.”

Mother chuckled. “You exaggerate, dearest.”

But Marianne could tell by the look in her mother’s eyes that despite the humorous delivery, her words rang true. Though a governess in her younger years and her mother in her later years had strived to teach Marianne the skills every proper lady should acquire, she had found them nothing but tedious. She possessed no useful skills, no talents. As her father had so often declared before his death. In essence, Marianne had nothing to offer. If her mother would not agree to fund a privateer, Marianne would have to accept her fate in marriage.

“I’m an old woman and will die soon anyway,” Mama said with a sigh. “But I must ensure you and Lizzie are cared for.”

Gathering her skirts, Marianne dashed toward her mother and knelt at her feet. “You must never say such a thing.”

“Do not soil your beautiful gown.” Her mother smiled and wiped a tear from Marianne’s cheek. “Perhaps we should simply trust God with my health and let His will prevail.”

Marianne laid her head on her mother’s lap like she used to do as a child. She had trusted her father, she had trusted God.

And they had both let her down—her and her mother.

Trust no longer came so easily. “I will not let you die, Mother. I cannot.” Her eyes burned with tears. “As long as I have my inheritance and a man who is willing to marry me, I promise you will be well cared for. And Lizzie too. That is all that matters, now.” Marianne lifted her gaze to her mother’s, feeling strength surge through her.

“And mark my words, Mama. Nothing will stand in my way. Especially not Noah Brenin.”