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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Brief Look Back & What Will 2013 Bring?

For my family, I pray it brings healing and restoration. In 2011, we watched two family members battle cancer, as they endured surgery and radiation. One made it and the other did not. We grieved. We coped. And we continue to love and cherish our memories.

Here is a video my daughter made for my father-in-law on Father's Day, 3 months before he passed away. Remembering Winston Taylor. Also, here is a tribute I wrote regarding my father-in-law on his birthday. Giving Thanks for More Time.

At the same time as we were losing Winston, my mother fought a very aggressive breast cancer. She is a survivor! Here is a tribute I wrote to her on Mother's Day! A Tribute to My Teen Mother.

By now, many of you know that in 2012 my daughter began having seizures after being seizure-free and med-free for over ten years. It marked the beginning of many challenges. Additionally, we discovered that our daughter also had Asperger's Syndrome. In October, I wrote a post on how our life changed, November is National Epilepsy Month-How It Affects Our Family. In spite of all the difficulties, I believe the greatest and most stressful challenge for my daughter has been public high school, so I wrote a post on How the Public School System is Failing Our Students.

So, what will 2013 Bring?

First of all, I don't believe in making New Year's Resolutions. I have found that goals with short-term milestones, are much more motivating.

1) Homeschooling - We are fed up with the public education system and will be taking matters into our own hands. Based on our daughter's medical situation and her special needs, we believe we can better provide a safer, happier environment for our daughter to learn. She will be able to learn at her own pace so she can really grasp the material rather than being pushed through a system and barely grasping basic concepts at a rapid pace. We will concentrate on giving her opportunities to apply what she learns to life rather than memorizing facts for a test that will be forgotten as soon as the test is over. She will be given more hands-on projects. We have already picked out her curriculum and planned her courses for the next 3 years to graduation. Right now she is considering being a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. We will see if this changes!

2) Church Youth Group - Now that our daughter is doing much better on her meds, with her migraines, and learning how to cope with her Asperger's issues, we are encouraging her to get involved in a new church youth group. We believe this socialization with peers her age will be better than she had experienced in the public school environment.

3) On Writing - I have two new books releasing. Path of Freedom will release January 2013 and the Forbidden Conquest will release September 2013. It's the first book in the MacGregor Quest series. While these books are releasing, I plan to finish the manuscripts to the last two books in the series and turn them in by the deadlines in 2013.

4) Restoration - Ever since the migraines and seizures began, we have fought the fear of worrying when the next seizure might occur and where and what she might be doing as a risk to her safety. We don't worry every moment of every second, but we do consider things that were never a problem before. For instance, we never worried about her taking the stairs, but if she has a seizure while on the stairs, the injuries could be severe. It's the same around water with swimming and bathing or driving. While adjusting her seizure medications, her neurologist cautioned us about her doing physical exercises, any contact sports, horseback riding, etc. On January 31st, if Celina continues to be seizure-free for six months, she can begin resuming some of these activities.

These are just a few things we are looking forward to in 2013.



Friday, December 21, 2012

Giving 3 Copies Away - Path of Freedom by Jennifer Hudson Taylor


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Path of Freedom by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Path of Freedom

by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Giveaway ends January 08, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wild Card Book Tour - "The Widow's Redeemer" by Philippa Jane Keyworth


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Madison Street Publishing
#Christianfiction, #Christianromance, #Christianregency


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Known to her friends as Pip, Philippa has been writing since she was 12 in every notebook she could find. Although she would love to take full credit for her writing ability, she has to admit her faith in Jesus gives her the inspiration and desire to write. She also has a passion for reading, history, and horse-riding, and these interests have led to a love for Regency romances.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A penniless young widow with an indomitable spirit. A wealthy viscount with an unsavory reputation.

London, 1815: After her husband’s untimely death, Letty Burton comes up from the country with her domineering mother-in-law. Hiding a past she wishes to forget and facing an uncertain future, all she wants is to navigate London Society as a silent companion.

A chance meeting with London’s most eligible bachelor sets in motion a series of events that will bring her quiet life under the unfriendly scrutiny of the ton. With the net of scandal, debts, and rivals closing in, will she let her dark past dictate her life forever? Will she learn to trust again? And most importantly, will she allow herself to love?

Based on the biblical story of Ruth, The Widow’s Redeemer is a Regency romance depicting the pain of past hurts, the grace needed to overcome them, and the beautiful gift of redemption.





Product Details:
List Price: $13.95
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Madison Street Publishing (October 12, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0983671931
ISBN-13: 978-0983671930



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Confucius



“I don’t understand your meaning, sir.” A little crinkle appeared between Letty’s brows. She folded and unfolded her stitchery, her hands becoming more agitated with every second that passed.

She cast the sewing onto a small side table and began teasing the frayed cuffs of her muslin day dress before standing abruptly. Leaving the doctor behind, she walked over to the small window set deeply into the farmhouse wall. Silence followed. She stared at the rugged slabs of stone that made up the thick wall and kept the winter winds at bay.

The beginning of the week had brought her husband back from the gaming hells of London. He had been sickening from exposure to rain and cold on his journey home and had fallen from his horse. Could life be so ready to change? Were the cards being dealt as she stood here?

The physician was packing up instruments into his old leather bag. There was the clink of draft bottles as they slotted into place, the creak of un-oiled leather, and the click of a stiff clasp.

Letty swung back round to face the retreating doctor. “But surely there is something more that may be done?”

His small white head shook in a well-acted sadness. Perhaps he had given this news a dozen times, perhaps he had given it a hundred times over. His headshake was so perfected and his eyes so full of sympathy. It was a slow and definite last retreat.

“It is merely a matter of nursing him until his time comes.” He paused, wetting his bottom lip before taking a long breath. “Has he drawn up a will?”

Letty’s thoughts scattered everywhere at once. She had not thought about a will. Even the mention of one but two days ago would have seemed unwarranted, almost absurd. Yet here John lay, with waxy skin and red-rimmed eyes, the smell of fever on him. The scent was curious; body odors were mingling with the wood smoke and damp, producing a rank and stale smell.

A will, was that what the doctor had said? John had been in charge of business matters, and he would not have had the forethought to write a will at seven and twenty, or at least not the care.

“I am not sure.” She reached a hand up, unconsciously checking her hair. These were not things she had expected to confront in her second year of marriage.

“I suggest you summon your lawyer as soon as possible. It is hard to estimate how much time your husband has left.”

She nodded dumbly, blinking quickly in a last, vain attempt to understand the enormity of what was happening. A sad smile marked his lips, as though that settled the business. With no more to be done, he took up his case and descended the tight spiral staircase.

Letty followed behind, grappling with the feeling of shock but still aware of her obligation to see the doctor out. In front of the house, the small boy who looked after the farm’s horses, waited with the doctor’s animal. Letty watched the physician mount the small Dartmoor pony. The animal shook his head in impatience for his hay and stable and was only happy once his hooves were falling in a steady beat. John’s wife waited at the door until the creature disappeared from sight.

For a moment she stood silently, contemplating the sentence which had just this evening been hung over her life. The gathering gloom descended upon her still figure, leaving her a lonesome silhouette in the evening farmyard. Dew settled unbidden upon the landscape, the droplets disturbed a little by a sea breeze. The sky was dark—hues of blue, gray, red, and purple all slowly merging into one as night formed above her. In a far off pasture the soft moo of a cow could be heard. The familiar sound brought her back to the problems at hand. She shook off the desire to sleep and, turning on her wooden heel, walked hastily inside.

The moonlight was firmly in control of the rugged landscape outside the window when she finally drifted off. The large winged armchair in her husband’s room had become her home in the past week, ever since he had been taken ill. The heavy woolen blanket, which was now draped across her unconscious frame, had become the roof over her head.

The farmhands had brought John back after finding him unhorsed and drenched on one of the farm tracks. After all, a drunk man was no horseman. Letty had not heard from him while he had been in Town and even his return had been a surprise.

A small fire, which had been lit early in the evening, was glowing sluggishly in the grate. The scent of it had gradually penetrated everything in the room. Objects surrounding the bed were cast in an unusual light. Several rapidly drawn up letters scattered a small desk in the corner of the room, the little amount of wax on each one looking like a small arachnid in the dim light. A bowl of tepid water reflected a little of the firelight, giving the depths an eerie, luminescent appeal. A rag hung over the side of the basin, like a lone shipwreck survivor crawling to safety.

Letty was awakened by nightmares only half an hour after she fell asleep. Too many worries consumed her mind which, until settled, would prevent her from further rest. Soon, realizing the cold had frozen her aching joints, she rose to dab her husband’s brow. He made no indication of consciousness. Pausing a moment, she watched the knitting and un-knitting of his feverous brow before turning and making her way to the desk. She shuffled the letters that lay there into some kind of order and gingerly placed another log on the fire.

“Lettice?”

She spun on her heel at the sound of the rasping voice. Small feet bore her swiftly from the fireplace to John’s side. She knelt on the wooden floor to better look into his weary eyes. He was groggy, his eyes roving about the room, though Letty could see lucidness as they settled upon her.

“Yes, John? How do you feel?” She dunked the cloth in the basin and made to wipe his beaded brow.

“No, no more of that. You have made me cold enough.” He turned his head from her.

She nodded slightly, placing the rag back into the basin.

“Why has this come upon me?” he cried out suddenly. “I am in such pain!” He writhed on the bed and upset the soiled bed linens.

“How can I make you more comfortable? Your pillows, do you wish to sit up?”

“That’s the last thing I want to do, Lettice. My back, it aches terribly.” He paused. So little strength was left to him; it was an exertion even to speak a single sentence--especially a sentence filled with anger. “My mother was right. We should never have left Town. None of this would have come upon us.”

Her eyes dropped to the disordered bedcovers. “We would never have met.”

He made no response and turned his head away once again. Letty could not stand the feeling of ineptness. She stood up, pausing by the chair, and then made her way to the fire. There was an old loaf of bread left on a cutting board by its side. She was hungry; it was early morning, a long time since she had had her frugal dinner. She started sawing off a piece to toast over the fire.

“Will you not ask if your sick husband wants something to eat?”

“Do you?”

“No, but you could at least act the caring wife.”

Letty did not answer. It was best she refrained while John was in this mood. Then, with a sobering feeling, she realized that perhaps there would not be many more of his moods to bear.

“The doctor said…well, he said the fever is not abating. He was worried. You are weakening rather than strengthening.”

“And so I expect he thinks I should call the lawyer.” John coughed, a wracking sound that clawed at his lungs and rattled his core.

“He did mention it, yes.” She did not mean it as an attack, but John took it to be one.

“So quick to make me sign over my fortune. I have been ill but a week.” The well-known scowl lines of his face deepened in a sneer.

“John?” She turned to face him. Despite their differences, to tell a man he was dying could never be an easy thing. How could she approach it? How could she say it?

As it was, she would not have to bear the discomfort of speaking it. He had turned his head away again, and he would not turn it back now. He had read it in her anxious eyes all too clearly. Death was inevitable to all men and to him it would come sooner than to most.

She stayed by his bed, quiet, trying hard to clear her mind of all the thoughts that clamored for attention. It was still dark beyond the walls of the house, dark like her mind which was filled with a hundred worries. She would go on through the night worrying, waiting by his side and watching his pain.

Dawn came slowly. She rose from the chair she had been waiting in and walked round the bed to face him. As her gaze fell on his face, the cockerel crowed. His eyes were cold, distant, and lifeless. His body was pale and hard, the worries of a lifetime written in the lines of his harsh, heavy face. She left him there. She did not close his eyes but walked through the cold house in search of her shawl so that she could go to the village and fetch the funeral men. The lawyer never came and neither did her tears.

John’s body was made ready for burial, and the farm’s tenants were duly informed. Letty would be the only one following the coffin to the graveyard on that bleak walk. No friends came; even family, it appeared, were unable to attend. Letty wondered that John’s mother did not come to bury her son, to see the last trace of his earthly self disappear into the ground. It would not be until later that she would receive a letter explaining that, upon hearing of her son’s death, the mother had locked herself in her room and was refusing to eat or come out. To lose a husband had been the first trial for that mother to overcome, but now a son also within two years was more than she could bear. So Letty was left to walk behind her husband’s coffin alone.

The last of the rich brown earth was tossed carelessly by the gravedigger. The soil sprayed across the grave that contained a body that was once a man. Feeling a cold northerly breeze spring up, Letty clasped the material of her thin pelisse closer. She looked around the deserted graveyard, sighed quietly, and then turned to make the lonely walk home.

* * *

Letty’s mind was absent. Her body, however, was seated in a large leather armchair, the springs of which were becoming rather too obtrusive, while the stuffing was half there and half missing. The chair was in a tiny room at the back of a building that constituted the solicitors’ offices. The rambling structure was situated in the village, a little set back from the other buildings, and was condemned by many to be in a worse state of repair than the infamous blacksmith’s. This was partly due to the age and personality of the main law-working occupants, but it was also because their clientele possessed a low standing and, therefore, a deficient income.

Despite the building’s exterior and the general tattiness of the objects within, it was a tidy little office. Nothing seemed out of place and, unlike most solicitors’ desks, paperwork was not scattered across it. Letty was alone in the room for a long while. The faint mutterings and voices, muffled by the wall, floated in to her. The noises all washed over her, and she did not pay them much attention. How could she be interested in the chit-chat of persons she had never met when her future was being located, shuffled, and glanced over?

The man who would be the bearer of all news concerning her future eventually opened the door. He paused on the threshold. Letty could hear his steady breathing though she did not look round. Her head remained perfectly still, her eyes forward, and she had a politeness about her carriage. She clasped her hands loosely in her lap, ready for whatever would be thrown into them. She may not have had a governess who had taught her fine languages or clever mathematics but, thanks to her parson scholar of a father, she was no fool. That pause upon the threshold was one small thing which warned her of what was to come.

Why would a solicitor pause on the threshold, run a handkerchief over the perspiration that had suddenly beaded on his brow, give four brisk sniffs, and then straighten his plain cravat before facing his client? The answer was plain and it was simple. It whispered itself into Letty’s mind. It said: fear.

She smiled faintly as the solicitor took his seat. He was a short, wiry old man and rather outmatched by the much too large wooden desk. He managed a small, polite smile before he placed the papers he had been carrying carefully out before him. With all of them equally spaced and perfectly straight, he cleared his throat and began.

“Now, Mrs. Burton, ah, here we are, ah, yes. Now I have drawn up and put together all the estate’s values and assets including the farm and the house.” He refrained from using the term “your house”, and that was when she began to realize her true predicament. “I have then compared them to repayments needing to be made, yes, um, now….” He readjusted his wire-rimmed spectacles while the small tuft of white hair in the center of his head quivered. “Yes, ah….”

Letty’s heart was tugged a little by the awkward situation this man had been placed in. She rested a tentative hand on the desk but took care to distance it from the solicitor’s own hands. She captured his gaze with her frank brown eyes. “Mr. Glenville, I am led to believe that sometimes husbands have little to leave to their wives due to unfortunate business circumstances leading up to a sudden death. I understand that this cannot be helped.” She kept her eyes on his, speaking far more with them than with her mouth.

“Yes, yes, of course. So glad you understand, Mrs. Burton. It can cause such upset, you see, when the value of the estate and assets comparative to various debts is read out. That is why—well, never mind that.” He reshuffled the papers then took them up again and read on in a calm, precise voice. When he had finished, Letty remained poised for a few moments longer, allowing the information to take its rightful place in her mind. She had been completely unaware of the debts and the precarious position John had been in before he died.

“I see,” she said finally, with far more firmness than Mr. Glenville had expected. “And now tell me truthfully: can the assets fulfill the repayments in their entirety with anything left over?” Her eyes fell back into focus as she spoke, containing a hardness that had not been there before.

“Well, Mrs. Burton, this is where it gets rather more complex. You see, your husband’s affairs had fallen into, well, how shall I say? Difficult times. Therefore, through my calculations of his estate and the debts he accrued from purchases, as well as the debts from ah…several respectable establishments in London.”

Letty’s neck could not help but tense at the reference to her husband’s regular appearance at some of London’s most fashionable gaming hells. It had not been unusual for him to be away from Cornwall for weeks at a time while he entertained himself in London. She remembered the look of disgust and the lack of farewell as he journeyed away from their house each time he went to the metropolis. How could he, a bred gentlemen, stand to be in the country with little or no entertainment? Coupled with this was the severe lack of society that had attended him ever since his marriage to Letty. So severe were the consequences of his disadvantageous marriage that to spend only moments in his wife’s presence was too much for him to bear.

He would be off, of course, entertaining himself in some hell or another, chasing days of past glory in the far-gone seasons. He met his friends, the ones she was never permitted to see, the ones in front of whom she could only prove an embarrassment. She had often wondered what those friends had heard of her. If it were spoken from John’s lips then it would not be praise. There had been a few times when his words had stung more than his hand upon her—not many, but a few.

“Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Glenville. Could you please repeat what you just said?” Letty’s back straightened and her mind returned from that far off place.

“Have no fear, Mrs. Burton.” Mr. Glenville smiled slightly. He liked Lettice Burton, even if she had married above her station. She seemed a sweet girl and yet, as he saw her sitting there, he reflected that she was much changed from the girl he had seen on her wedding day. She no longer looked an innocent, fresh-faced child; she was a woman now, at least about the eyes. There was a sort of wisdom there, a lack of that childlike naivety she had once borne. “I understand this is a difficult time. Losing a spouse is a terrible thing, especially at so young an age.”

Letty bowed her head in assent but behind the eyes that Mr. Glenville had deemed wise, there was no grieving heart. Was that wrong? Letty felt pangs of guilt and yet, as she raised her head again and felt the slight bruising at the back of her neck, the guilt bled away.

“What I was beginning to explain was the financial plan for Highfield. In order to cover the debts owed, I am afraid that the only way is to sell the house and the farm along with it.”

Letty, after several days of widowhood, felt the first tears pricking her eyes. The guilt came back, but it was overcome with sadness. She thought with fondness—and bitterness—of the home she had shared with John, and for a moment could not bear the thought of its inevitable loss.

“I understand, Mr. Glenville. I give you all the authority to see to the matter. I shall prepare the house and farm for a new owner and take my leave of the tenants.”

“Madam, I know this is outside of my authority, but I just wish to inquire—have you anywhere to go? I would not go about selling this property for you if you have no safety.”

Letty smiled at him, his kindness a surprise yet fitting with his winsome face. “It is quite all right, Mr. Glenville. I am sure that my family will take me in.” She said it with a certainty she was far from feeling. “In the meantime, the debts must be paid. Please sell Highfield, and before other debts are settled, take your own wages out of the sum. I do not wish to see you underpaid.”

Mr. Glenville looked down at the desk, shuffling papers in a brisk fashion. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and fluffed it about his nose. He was trying his hardest to smile his thanks without seeming impertinent. When he looked up, he saw a large smile brightening Letty’s mouth and it instantly put him at his ease. The smile remained, covering the anxiety inhabiting her mind and protecting her from further sentiment or questions. She rose to exit.

Mr. Glenville came out from behind his desk and made to take her hand. The sudden movement caused Letty to shrink back instinctively, her arms moving to protect her body. Mr. Glenville’s owl-like eyebrows rose and crinkled in confusion. Letty, her wide eyes taking in what she had just done unconsciously and the harmless gesture of the man which she had misread, dropped her hands to her sides in embarrassment.

“Thank you, Mr. Glenville,” she said, trying to speak as though nothing unusual had just occurred. “You have been exceedingly helpful. If you could send me a missive here and there, to update me on the sale’s progress and debt repayments, I would greatly appreciate it.” She made no move to give him her hand.

The small man, willing to ignore the strange episode, bowed deeply before straightening again. Something flashed in his eyes, but Letty missed the look of admiration he bestowed upon her. She was already crossing the threshold, planning in her mind what needed to be done next.

***

Letty had barely eaten a thing at lunch, and now, as she was walking to the farm tenants’ houses, a feeling of weakness came over her. She would not be eating until the leave-taking was done, however long it took. The sky was overcast though it was not likely to rain. Letty observed the sun-whitened clouds that threw everything into an oddly naked light.

The dirt track, which she had walked down so many times to oversee the farm work while John was away, was slightly damp thanks to last night’s rain. Her black widow’s garb had been bought at the cheapest price, so if a little mud spattered the hemline she did not much care. She was too used to walking in the country to be bothered about hemlines and complexion.

Her small figure went in and out of the few cottages on the farm. She bade farewell to the many families, the familiar smell of animals and earth in her nose. She was touched by the few words of condolences that were uttered, even if the tenants cared little for the loss of John. She saw their many concerned eyes and knew their feelings were for her.

To them she was the kindly parson’s daughter who came and asked after each and every one of them, never forgetting a name. Yes, they would be sorry to see her go, yet the promise of a new master who might not be as tyrannical as the last was something that gave them hope. Why had the gentleman come from Town to a small piece of Cornwall in the first place? It was a piece of the country scorned by the modish, and clearly it had been scorned by him as well.

Letty knew of the many questions that her union with John had raised. They had been worlds apart in station and they would never have married had it not been for one indiscretion. That one incident, which had been so easily misread, was the reason she had been married for two years to a man who did not love her. If only John had not led her into a compromising situation because of his own desires; if only she had not so easily mistaken his lust for love. He had been a man whom she had thought she loved, and it had taken time for that naivety to fade after their hasty marriage. She had slowly realized his resentment of her, and it was a resentment that had in two years grown savage.

Yet, as she spoke to each tenant she felt a slight loss, a slight sense of pain at the parting she was making from the place that had been her home, no matter the circumstances. She remembered that she needed to write a letter to her parents asking their shelter. Would they be able to take her back into their parsonage? Somehow, it seemed impossible to go back to her childhood home--that place where her father had once tutored John, where they had met, where the unfortunate incident had happened which forced them to marry.

Too much had happened to her, had been inflicted upon her, for her to return to that place where she had once been so innocent. She felt as though the innocence she had worn in her youth had become polluted. She could not return to live the life of someone she would never be again. As the last tenant closed the door behind her, she turned towards her home, and as she walked back in the twilight, she knew that tonight, at least, it was too late to think upon the future.

***

The following morning brought a letter from Theodora Burton, Letty’s sister-in-law, who resided in Truro. The small, pretty hand, familiar to Letty, brought a little smile to the young widow’s lips. What had her relative been up to now?



Dearest Lettice,       17 October 1815



How are you? I am so sad to hear of John’s passing away. It was such a dreadful shock! I actually said to Mrs. Grockel, my housekeeper, how sudden it was. I even dropped my paintbrush when I read the letter you sent me about it. (I was in the midst of decorating a small cabinet and now it is totally ruined as I dropped a black paintbrush right in the middle. I have no idea what to do about it. Mrs. Grockel said to paint it one color again. I told her if she wished to spend hours repainting the pattern she is welcome to it!)

Anyway, I am getting quite beside the point! Mr. Burton—well, David to you, I suppose, since you are family—has become quite ill, and as I thought you may be in need of some company and so shall I, I am inviting you to come and stay with us a while. Would you like to? Please say yes, for if I only have Mrs. Grockel to speak to I may fall ill myself, though I do not wish to exaggerate, of course.

I hope everything is well with you, dear sister, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

I send my love, your dearest sister-in-law,

Theodora Burton



Letty folded the letter and laid it in her lap. She turned to gaze out of the parlor window onto green fields that heaved up and fell away outside. Her thumb stroked the thick paper; perhaps it would be good to visit Theo. It had been a long time since she had seen her and it would be a way to save her parents any expense. Her father had been graced with a decent parish, but that did not mean money had ever been plentiful. The thought of her father only brought her mind back to John. If only money had not been so scarce when she had been young! Her father would not have had to take on gentlemen to tutor. She would never have met John, and they would never have married in a desperate attempt to avert the scandal.

She suddenly shook herself. What was she doing? Self-pity would help nothing. The past was set in stone and ultimately unchangeable. She must think of the future. If she could not change past actions, she could at least try to survive the present. She reprimanded herself and then, flicking the long plait of hair she had been fiddling with back over her shoulder, she rose clasping the letter. She sat in John’s old chair at the large wooden desk, the high back overshadowing her, and took out a sheet of paper. Once the letter to Theo was finished, sealed, and sent, Letty went about packing the few dresses she owned into a bandbox. She saw to the business of the farm, and finally coming back to Highfield, she began saying goodbye to her home.

***

And so the farm, the house, and all the possessions therein were left to the debt collectors. Letty took her final leave with only a small trunk and a portmanteau to her widowed name. She removed to her sister-in-law’s house in Truro. While Theodora’s husband remained sick, Letty would be the young wife’s comforter and companion.

The widow remembered with such clarity the day on which she left: the crisp morning air that pinched at her cheeks before she stepped up into the carriage; the sweet smell of earth that was laced with traces of briny sea air; the wind that flung her long hair back and forth, loosing it from the contraptions imprisoning it; the sky that was thick shades of iron gray and layers of towering clouds building above; the heath and shrub covered landscape in all its unruly beauty she knew so well—all was left to the elements behind her. The animals were hidden away in warm homes together, the only farewell being the natural blow of westerly winds.

The harshly sprung carriage afforded a small view of the country which she loved through a murky pane of glass. This view she engraved in her mind’s eye. She would keep it for a time when she needed to know there was a place like heaven, a paradise somewhere.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Word of Inspiration: We Live By Faith

“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

This must have been a confusing time for Joseph. How many of us actually pay attention to our dreams? Some of us dismiss our dreams when they don't make sense. What if Joseph had done this? Usually this passage is used to teach about the miracle of Jesus' birth, but today I want to concentrate on the faith that Joseph had to act on without understanding the purpose behind what had happened. He probably wondered, how could the Holy Spirit mate with Mary? But he chose not to have her stoned as most men would have done in that time. He chose to take her as his wife and continue on the path of their betrothal in spite of the circumstances. This doesn't mean he didn't have moments of doubt, feelings of betrayal, and times when he questioned his sanity. Other men probably taunted him, tried to convince him to put her away, and snubbed him--and cast those hurtful looks that people give when they judge you.

Today, many parents are faced with the reality that their precious, innocent child has been taken from them in such a violent way after the school massacre in CT. Much of the nation is still reeling in shock and asking why. Others will be saying extra prayers and taking deeper breaths as they drop their children off at school and watch them catch the school bus. We don't have a choice. We must keep living. Parents who lost a child in the massacre have other children they must live for and offer them hope in the midst of their grief. Just like Joseph, these parents and the rest of us must keep going, even though we don't understand. 

Our trust and sense of security in our fellow man has been violated--once again--betrayed. We know these things can always happen, but we live with the hope that they won't. Our faith has been wounded and will need to heal with each new day. Time is a great healer, but God is an even better healer. But rather than turn to Him to bind our wounds, many will blame Him, questioning why He didn't stop this from happening. I have an answer that you may accept or reject. The choice is yours. 

God gave us the greatest gift of all--His love. With His love comes many other gifts that He will not take back from us now that He has given it. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). One of those gifts is free-will. Every man and woman on this earth has been given the free-will to do good or evil. Now that we live in the New Testament, God works through the hearts of men and women. I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33). This is that inner ability to know right from wrong. 

We will never know all the things that God might have done to try and stop this. He may have tried to speak to Nancy Lanza's conscience not to buy those guns or teach Adam how to shoot them, but she didn't listen. And we will never know. He may have tried to encourage Adam to think positive thoughts through teachers, mentors, and counselors. We may never know. He may have tried to reach Adam through ministries, programs, therapies, or medications. He may have allowed certain circumstances to warn others that something wasn't right through Adam's behavior, but it was ignored, neglected or excuses could have been made. Again, we may never know. 

God did not do this, nor did He allow this. He is grieving with us and comforting those who will allow Him to comfort them. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wild Card Book Tour - "Spring Meadow Sanctuary" by Lynnette Bonner


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.
Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.




Product Details:
List Price: $14.77
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480156949
ISBN-13: 978-1480156944




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.

Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.

She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.

The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.

For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.

Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.

A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.

Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.

Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.

All her life she’d wanted only one thing.

Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.

Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.

Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.

She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”

Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!

Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.

Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.

“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.

“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”

“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”

“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”

“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.

Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?

She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.

Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”

The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.

A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.

UV



Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.

The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.

He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.

“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.

“Whiskey. Make it a double.”

The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.

Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.

The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.

Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”

Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”

Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.

Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”

Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.

Good. He had the man’s attention.

“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”

Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”

The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.

Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.

Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.

One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”

No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.

Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”

Judd cleared his throat loudly.

Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”

Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.

Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”

"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”

Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.

The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.

Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.

They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.

Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.

Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.

Lord I hope we were right on that count.

He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”

Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”

Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”

“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.

Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”

Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”

Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.

Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”

Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”

Judd glowered at him.

Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.

Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”

Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”

Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.

Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.

“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.

Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.

Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.”  He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.

“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”

Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.

The report was a little loud, but about right.

Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.

Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.

Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”

Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.

Rocky’s eyes narrowed.

“Four… three…”

“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.

This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.

He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”

Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”

Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.

Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”

Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.

Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”

Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.

Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.

A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.