The MacGregor Legacy - From Scotland to the Carolinas

(Book 1 - For Love or Loyalty) (Book 2 - For Love or Country) (Book 3 - For Love or Liberty)

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.

Awakened Redemption (Inspirational Regency)

1815 England - A story that pierces the heart and captures the Regency era.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

CFBA Blog Tour - "Follow the Heart" by Kaye Dacus

#christianfiction, #christianromance, #historicalchristianfiction

The
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

Follow the Heart

B&H Books
by
Kaye Dacus


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters! Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing, Harvest House Publishers, and B&H Publishing. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a full-time academic advisor and part-time college composition instructor for Bethel University. 

Kaye Dacus (KAY DAY-cuss) is an author and educator who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there. She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is an academic advisor and English Composition instructor for Bethel University. 



ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Set during the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition of 1851, Follow the Heart is a “sitting-room romance” with the feel of a Regency-era novel but the fashions and technological advances of the mid-Victorian age. 

Kate and Christopher Dearing’s lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother’s brother in England with one edict: marry money. 

At twenty-seven years old, Kate has the stigma of being passed over by eligible men many times—and that was before she had no dowry. Christopher would like nothing better than to make his own way in the world; and with a law degree and expertise in the burgeoning railroad industry, he was primed to do just that—in America. 

Though their uncle tries to ensure Kate and Christopher find matrimonial prospects only among the highest echelon of British society, their attentions stray to a gardener and a governess. 

While Christopher has options that would enable him to lay his affections where he chooses, he cannot let the burden of their family’s finances crush his sister. Trying to push her feelings for the handsome—but not wealthy— gardener aside, Kate’s prospects brighten when a wealthy viscount shows interest in her. But is marrying for the financial security of her family the right thing to do, when her heart is telling her she’s making a mistake? 

Mandates . . . money . . . matrimony. Who will follow the heart? 

If you would like to read the first chapter of >Follow the Heart, go HERE 


Monday, May 20, 2013

God's Faithful Promises - Provision

Now that we have studied our adoption into the heavenly kingdom and God as our spiritual Father, let's look at the promises of His provision by breaking down the following verses. 

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7-9)

God is saying several things in the above verses: 
1) He will provide food as mentioned in the examples of bread and fish. He points out that if we as sinners know how to provide good food/gifts to our children, He as the Sovereign Creator knows how to provide even better. He will not tease or trick us by providing something that is the opposite like a stone or snake. 

2) We need to ask Him for His provision. Three times the word "ask" is used. He will give good gifts to those who ask Him. Speak it out in a request. Don't just think it in your mind or want it with your heart. He wants you to use your words just like we tell our little ones to use their words. He wants to build a relationship with us and to have communion with us. Thus, is the reason so many Christians say grace/blessing before they eat and thank Him for what He has provided. 

3) His gifts go beyond provision for food. These verses only use food in the examples, but the word "gifts" is used twice. Gifts can encompass more than food for the body. Food is something we MUST have in order to live. It's a NEED. But a gift is something we don't always need. The only condition that is mentioned is to ask for it. We ask because we are His children. He gives because He is our Father. 

From the beginning God has provided for all mankind and He uses the natural creation of the earth to do so. This doesn't mean that we might not have to hunt it, grow and harvest it, or cook and prepare it, but our food has been provided. He gave us dominion over the earth and the ability to prepare it. This ability is also His gifts to us, even though we may think of it as work. 

"And God said, 'See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.'" (Genesis 1:29)

God doesn't want us to worry about our provision and needs. His provision goes beyond food, clothing and shelter. He considers us to be of great value. The verses below bring this into context. YOU are valuable to God. In fact, He says, "do not worry." This could be considered a commandment. 

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26)

Granted, our clothing may not be the most expensive, high-end, brand named items, because those details are not important to Him, and He doesn't want those things to be important to us. Therefore, He may provide though a good paying job, a spouse, parents, through the generosity of others, but He will provide. 

To those who have more than they need, they are commanded to give to the poor in clothing and food. If you see or know someone who is without these basic needs and do nothing, you are not walking in obedience to the Lord. He does not command you to buy them alcohol, drugs, or things they don't need. He is telling you to provide them food and clothing--the basics. 

When homeless people come up to me and ask for money, I don't give them any. Since I don't know them, I don't know how well they will manage the money and resist other temptations of addition. Instead, I offer to buy them a meal since it is usually outside a nearby store or a restaurant and all I have to do is go in, buy them a meal. (Never offer them a ride and risk your safety.) If they are truly hungry, they won't turn down the food. If all they want is money for their booze and drugs, they will turn down your offer of food. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 they refuse my offer of food, but sometimes individuals will be grateful for any morsel I can offer them. It is for these grateful ones that I keep offering when the opportunity arises. 

"He answered and said to them, 'He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.'" (Luke 3:11)

God provides another kind of provision--the desires of your heart. What are the desires of your heart? Most likely, these desires go beyond basic food, clothing and shelter. Many of us have dreams and goals that we want for loved ones, for ourselves and to accomplish in life. These are often the unspoken desires of our hearts. Below is what God says about them. 

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LordAnd He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LordTrust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." (Psalm 37:3-5)

According to the verse above, God will provide the desires of our heart, but there are the conditions that we must 1) Trust Him 2) Do good 3) Dwell in our place 4) Concentrate on His faithfulness 5) Delight ourselves in Him.

It tells us to trust Him twice, so this is important. We feed and concentrate on His faithfulness so that we can trust Him. This means we will need to keep reading scriptures on His faithfulness. Meditate on the good things He has done for us and the prayers He has answered before. Listen to the testimony of others to build your faith and trust in Him. 

It tells us to dwell in the land. To dwell means to wait. He says "He shall bring it to pass", which means a period of time will need to pass. It isn't going to be something that happens right away. We will have to WAIT for it. This means it could take YEARS. 

And finally, delight ourselves in Him while we wait. What kind of attitude will we have during this time? The length of time that must pass may depend on our attitude while we wait. During this time, God will seek to build a deeper relationship with us, teach us, build patience and character in us, and continue to mold  and use us for His glory. 

Even if we are waiting, the promise is still ours to hold onto. 

If you missed the first two posts on God's Faith Promises, below are the links:

Three Kinds of Promises from God
Nothing Can Separate Us From God's Love
Spiritual Salvation
~ Our Spiritual Adoption

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wild Card Book Tour - "Ring of Secrets" by Roseanna M. White


Today's Wild Card author is:


Harvest House Publishers
#christianfiction, #historicalchristianfiction, #christianromance


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Roseanna M. White grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, the beauty of which inspired her to begin writing as soon as she learned to pair subjects with verbs. She spent her middle and high school days penning novels in class, and her love of books took her to a school renowned for them. After graduating from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, she and her husband moved back to the Maryland side of the same mountains they equate with home.

Roseanna is the author of two biblical novels, A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia, both from WhiteFire Publishing (www.WhiteFire-Publishing.com), and Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, a historical romance, with Summerside Press. She is the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing, and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, HEWN Marketing, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Winter Reeves is an aristocrat…and a Patriot. Bennet Lane is a Yale professor on temporary assignment in New York…to find General Washington’s spy among the elite.


This exciting romantic spy novel from Roseanna M. White combines fascinating cloak-and-dagger secrets with a tale of love and intrigue during the Revolutionary War.

Winter Reeves is an aristocratic Patriot forced to hide her heart amid the Loyalists of the City of New York. She has learned to keep her ears open so she can pass information on British movements to Robbie Townsend, her childhood friend, and his spy ring. If she's caught, if she's hung for espionage...well, she won't be. Robbie has taught her the tools of the trade: the wonders of invisible ink, drop locations and, most importantly, a good cover.

Bennet Lane returns to New York from his Yale professorship with one goal: to find General Washington's spy hidden among the ranks of the elite. Searching for a wife was supposed to be nothing more than a convenient cover story for his mission, but when he meets Winter, with her too-intelligent eyes in her too-blank face, he finds a mystery that can't be ignored.

Both believers...and both committed to a separate cause. Will their faith in God lead them to a shared destiny or lives lived apart?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736950990
ISBN-13: 978-0736950992:


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


City of New York, November 1779

Let innocence be your mask.

Winter Reeves swished her ivory lace fan and gave Colonel Fairchild the same practiced smile she always did. She squelched the response that wanted to escape, forbade her eyes from so much as flashing. Perhaps her gaze wandered, but he would only think her bored.

He thought her very easily bored.

“A stroke of luck, do you not agree, my dear?”

Despite the racing of her heart at the pearl of information he had just let slip, she made her nod a half-second later than it ought to have been. As if she were inattentive, paying no heed to his endless prattle. Why, after all, would she care about such a boring matter as paper? In his eyes—in the eyes of everyone here—she was naught but the pretty, brainless granddaughter of the Hamptons.

Let your beauty hide your heart.

Winter’s gaze snagged on Robbie’s, though she looked past him quickly. A successful business owner and newspaperman for the Royal Gazette, Robert Townsend was deemed acceptable company on a day-to-day basis, but Grandmother had higher hopes for her. At social occasions, she was not permitted to speak to him.

She didn’t have to speak to him. A mere glance showed her his waistcoat tonight bore seven silver buttons. Seven—that meant he had slid a note into the bottom, middle drawer of the chest in the drawing room.

Feigning a yawn partially hidden behind her fan, Winter blinked. Slowly.

Colonel Fairchild interrupted his monologue with drawn brows. “Forgive me, my dear. You must be in need of refreshment by now. Allow me to fetch you a cup of spiced tea.”

“That would be lovely, thank you.” Winter injected her tone with relief and made her smile sheepish. “I shall just slip out for a moment while you get it, Colonel.”

Fairchild bowed, though he kept his head erect. No doubt to stop his new powdered wig, more heavily curled than his old one, from slipping.

Winter dipped a short curtsy and headed for the ballroom’s exit, her palms damp.

“Winnie!”

She forced pleasure into her face as she turned toward her grandmother. “Yes, ma’am? Can I get you anything?”

Grandmother narrowed her ice blue eyes. “Where are you going? The ball has barely started, and there is someone I want you to meet.”

Winter lowered her gaze. “I will only be a moment, Grandmother. I must attend to a personal need.”

The matron lifted her chin. No one would doubt Phillippa Hampton was the queen of this particular event. Her hair was an extravagant tower of whitened curls, ribbons, and gems. Her gown was a creation so exquisite, King George himself would have envied the craftsmanship.

Her glare could shrivel a thriving oak tree. “Return posthaste. Mr. Lane is awaiting an introduction.”

Let your enemies count you a friend.

She pasted on an obedient, docile smile. “I will be quick.”

“I should think so, knowing who awaits your return.” The snap of Grandmother’s fan of Spanish lace all but forced Winter’s eyes to the right.

As if Mr. Lane were different from any other guest here. As if he were anything but another haughty, arrogant Loyalist. As if he were...

She drew in a sharp breath when her gaze collided with the stranger’s. He stood beside her grandfather, his eyes locked on her. ’Twas nothing unusual, given the gilding her grandmother poured upon her. But the way he looked at her, the eyes that did the looking...

He was only passably handsome, if one examined his nose, his mouth, his jaw. Strong features, and sandy hair he hadn’t bothered to powder or cover in a wig. Pleasant, not exceptional. But those eyes—they seemed to pierce right through her facade, down to the heart she’d been forbidden to have.

Penetrating. Stirring. Tugging.

No. She couldn’t afford to let a man turn her head, and she certainly couldn’t let one see her heart. No matter that a single gaze from him made her yearn for someone who might understand her.

God of my end, help me to focus upon Your will for me. Winter tore her gaze free and curtsied to her grandmother. “I shall be glad to meet him in a moment, ma’am.”

Perhaps some other enterprising young lady would have laid claim to him by the time she returned. Eyes like that were far too dangerous.

Grandmother kept her a moment more. “You have heard of the recent fortune of the Manhattan Lanes, I presume.”

If one could call it fortune when one’s uncle’s son died and one’s father returned to England to learn to manage the family estates. Which Grandmother certainly did, being ever loyal to the Crown—no matter how hard the heel of His Majesty’s army crushed the city.

Winter nodded.

Her grandmother pursed her lips. “Go, child. But hurry back before Mrs. Parks snatches him and forces him to dance with Theodosia.”

To God’s ear. Somehow she suspected Mr. Lane’s gaze wouldn’t unnerve Dosia at all. Her friend had no secrets to be discovered.

Winter made her escape from the ballroom. Guests filled the hallway too, and they would be in and out of all the main rooms in her grandparents’ first floor. She followed a bewigged couple into the drawing room and traced a path along the chamber’s edge until she came to the polished maple of the high chest of drawers.

The bottom, center drawer was open a bit. Not so much as to be noticeable to anyone not looking, but enough that Winter could catch her sleeve on the knob as she walked by and make a show of looking irritated before freeing it.

She folded the slip of paper she’d recovered into her fan, shut the drawer with a scowl, and then headed out of the room, inspecting her sleeve as if the lace had torn.

No one stopped her as she darted up the stairs and headed for her bedchamber. That didn’t keep a relieved breath from seeping out as she threw the bolt on the door.

Winter strode to the banked fire and stirred it enough to light a taper. She set the candle upon a table and pulled the slip of paper out. The message written upon it made her smile.

My dearest lady, flame of my heart,

How you make my day burn bright!

With the smallest turn of your reddest lips,

You are all that is beauty and light...

Winter snorted a laugh and checked the right top corner of the page. An “H” marked it. The real message, then, would appear with the application of heat.

Hands steady, Winter held the page close, then closer to the flame. Closer still until the smell of scorching paper filled her nostrils, until a faint sizzle reached her ears. Until the invisible ink filling the space between the lines of terrible poetry turned a golden brown.

Eleven o’clock tonight. The tulip tree behind the stable.

Eleven. She pulled the paper away from the flame and squinted to read the darkened face of the mantel clock. One hour more. Time enough to appease Grandmother, to bat her lashes and act the part of witless society lady for Mr. Lane. Then she could slip outside. She hoped Robbie would be there to meet her, and she could tell him what Fairchild had said. Though there remained the possibility that he had simply left another message for her.

This one could bring her trouble enough. If her grandparents saw it, they would place her under lock and key to keep her from eloping as Mother had.

Or worse, if Grandfather had meant the threat that still made her shiver. And she had no reason to doubt his sincerity, given the hatred he had never tried to hide from her.

Time nipped at the back of her throat, each tick of the clock telling her to hurry downstairs. But first she tossed the page into the fire. As the flames licked over the wisp of paper and then smoldered into glowing ash, Winter held her spot, watching the last ember die out. In her mind’s eye, she saw another letter, another fire.

Why had she burned it? Why? The last word she had from her father, the last thing her mother had given her before she passed away.

A cloud must have raced over the moon, for deeper shadows cloaked her room. Winter spun for the door. Best to lock away the memories of Oyster Bay, of life before the war. Best to remember who she was now. Best to push down the longing to go back, even for one day, to the life she once knew.

That life was gone. She had come to terms with that.

Better a life among enemies than a noose around her neck.

§

Bennet Lane buried his terror in a glass of cordial and silently recited some Latin to calm his nerves. How had he ended up once more in a ballroom lit with crystal chandeliers, surrounded by batting lashes and swishing fans?

George jabbed him with an elbow—not exactly subtly—and smirked. “You look like I felt when expected to recite the opening of Hippolytus.”

“Give me Euripides above this any day.” Ben forced a smile and stiff bow when a set of well-dressed young women glided by, simpering looks partially hidden by their fans.

His friend’s chuckle held no sympathy. “You garner admiring gazes from them all.”

“Because they all know my father just became the heir to considerable property. But the moment I try to talk to any of them... Women are baffling, George. Baffling. They complain if you treat them as pets but grow bored if you treat them as equals.”

Placing his empty glass on the tray of a passing servant, George snorted. “Your idea of an ‘equal’ is a fellow from Yale. They are lost and bored with your constant references to Latin and Greek, but that does not mean they have no brains at all. Well, most of them.”

Ben grunted a laugh and sent his gaze over the gathering. Young ladies abounded, all in imported silk and lace. Some had beauty to their faces that couldn’t be hidden by the mountain of curls atop their heads; others relied on the fuss to bolster what nature had withheld.

“I have spent too many years in Connecticut, with its boycotts and homespun. All this luxury is confounding.” He took another sip of his drink and let his gaze linger upon a young lady with pink powdered hair. She was pretty, but when they had been introduced, it had taken only a stuttered sentence from him for her eyes to glaze over. Perhaps she would be amenable to a suit, but he’d rather find a woman to court with whom he could have a full conversation every now and again.

George narrowed his gaze upon Ben’s hair, tied back but otherwise unadorned. “You had better get accustomed to fashion again quickly, old boy. Gentlemen of Hampton’s ilk expect you to dress appropriately when you come to their houses. Even I know that, and I would never have been invited if not for your request.”

“Hmm.” He hated powdered wigs—itchy and hot. But he would do what he must. Ben scanned the room again, looking for the angel in pale blue and gold he had seen leaving a quarter-hour earlier. Hampton’s granddaughter, and hence the highest-bred young lady here. With her on his arm, he could secure invitations to all the elite’s functions. His family’s heritage gave him the proper pedigree for them, but he had been too long away from New York to know from where the invitations would come.

Access was crucial. Somewhere in this ballroom, or another as exclusive, a spy might lurk. Someone undermining the British cause, feeding information to the rebel army that they could only have learned from high-ranking associations. Either an elite themselves, or one of the bottom-feeders who catered to them.

He would find that someone, eventually. He must. And he was prepared to do whatever was necessary to achieve it.

Even if that “whatever” meant attaching himself to one of these terrifying, lace-bedecked creatures.

His expression must have shifted to betray his panic. George laughed. “If they befuddle you so, why are you determined to make a match?”

Ben shook himself and grinned. “It is like chemistry, George. You know well that combining certain elements might explode in your face, but you cannot resist pouring them together on the chance they will create something spectacular.”

“’Tis talk like that which sends them running.” George clapped a hand to Ben’s shoulder and nodded toward the corner. “Now, look at that one—Miss Parks. She bears a striking resemblance to our old friend Charlie Mason, does she not?”

“Parks.” Ben frowned. “Are they not cousins to the Masons?”

“Probably. Hence the resemblance, I suppose. Irrelevant. My point is, you could always carry on a conversation with Charlie, who lacked your excellent education, without confusing him. Do the same with Dosia. Talk of the weather, of the latest news, of anything not straight from your laboratory at Yale. Pretend she is Charlie.”

Ben folded his arms over his chest and nodded decisively. “Charlie in a dress.” An excellent plan.

“Right,” George said on another snort of laughter. “Or, if you can wrest her from Colonel Fairchild, you might set your sights on Miss Reeves. She hasn’t a spare thought in her head anyway, so she is well used to giving an absent nod of assent. Well, from what I have seen. I’ve never been introduced, mind you.”

Bennet’s gaze followed George’s gesture toward the doorway, filled by the vision of beauty herself. Hampton’s granddaughter—Miss Reeves, apparently.

Empty headed? That dug a furrow into his brow. When he had caught her gaze a bit ago, she had struck him as many things, but thoughtless was not one of them. Hers were not eyes that covered an idle mind.

Were they? He was not the type to be so blinded by beauty as to attribute to a lovely face nonexistent qualities, was he?

Well, time would tell. Hampton was even now striding toward Bennet, undoubtedly to make the promised introduction since his ward had returned. Which Georger apparently took as his cue to leave with a mumble about another drink.

Miss Reeves held her place in the doorway for a moment more, looking out at the ballroom as if taking stock of everyone there. A princess surveying her kingdom? Perhaps. Certainly she put all the other young women to shame, from the details of her gown to the powdered tower of hair, to her face, exquisite in its detail.

His pulse hammered. She was too beautiful for him. His tongue would twist into knots if he dared to open his mouth in her company. She would dismiss him in a moment, as every other girl did. He’d do better to find a more approachable lady to court, one common enough that she wouldn’t actually distract him from his true motive for returning to New York.

Miss Reeves turned her head to her left and then moved toward Mrs. Hampton. Her every step was a dance, each gesture the epitome of grace.

Ben would be lucky to secure a minuet with her, much less any other sign of favor. And because he was not so superficial as to think a pretty face was all one needed, he certainly wouldn’t mourn the loss of what would never be.

She kept her gaze down as Mrs. Hampton ushered her forward. Seemingly demure, but there was something else in the tension of her neck. Something that spoke of anxiety, perhaps conflict.

Interesting.

Hampton stopped at Ben’s side and nodded at the approaching ladies. “My granddaughter has returned.”

“Excellent, sir.” He should have stayed home tonight. Settled in with a text. Montesquieu, perhaps. Montesquieu would be a fine companion for this blustery November night, far better than this present company—George excluded.

Hampton glared at the women when they arrived. “There you are.”

Miss Reeves curtsied, her gaze on her grandfather now, though his granite face didn’t soften in the slightest. “I trust you are enjoying your birthday celebration, Grandfather?”

“Quite.” He looked as though enjoying wasn’t a word in his vocabulary. “Allow me to introduce Mr. Bennet Lane, of the Manhattan Lanes. Mr. Lane, my granddaughter and ward, Miss Winter Reeves.”

She didn’t look at him, though she turned her face his way. When he held out a hand, she settled her fingers on his so lightly as to barely touch him at all.

Still, awareness coursed through him. She was even lovelier up close than from afar. A narrow bridge of a nose, lips of a perfect rose, brows that bespoke hair the color of his favorite mahogany chair—if one could see beneath the powder coating each lock, anyway.

He bowed over her hand. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Reeves.” Ah, not so much as a stutter. He would do his debate professor proud.

She drew in a breath too short, too sharp. And finally she lifted her eyes to his.

They were green. Deep as an emerald and not just in color. So many thoughts, so many needs seemed to swirl within those jewel-like irises for one fraction of a second—then it was as if a door slammed shut and they were only eyes. Pretty, empty eyes.

The strain was gone from her posture, and the turn of her lips looked half bored. “Likewise, Mr. Lane.”

He let her fingers go but couldn’t convince himself to look away from her perfect countenance. Not so much as a twitch revealed any thought at all, but he knew well he hadn’t imagined it.

Winter Reeves was more than the face she showed this crowded ballroom. Why did she feel she must hide it? And what, exactly, was it that she hid? Puzzling.

One corner of his mouth tugged up. Ben loved nothing so much as a puzzle. “Mr. Hampton, may I have the honor of dancing with your granddaughter when the next set begins?”

Hampton glowered. “She would be delighted.” Another word that seemed foreign to his frowning mouth.

Mrs. Hampton, however, beamed. As for Miss Reeves...if he weren’t mistaken, that look of ennui upon her face was designed specifically to put him off.

Well, they would see about that. Any philosopher, be he political or scientific or abstract, knew that sometimes one must revise one’s stated mission. His may have to become twofold.

Find the Patriot spy in New York.

And unravel the mystery that was Winter Reeves.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Wild Card Book Tour: "Madeline's Protector by Vanessa Riley


#christianfiction, #christianromance, #ChristianRegency

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

White Rose Publishing


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Regency and Victorian eras have always been a magnetizing draw for Vanessa Riley. Even as she worked to complete her doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, she made time for renaissance fairs and any novel or cinematographic work depicting these genteel societies of old. Perhaps, the attraction arises from the kinship she feels with the period being brought up in the restrictive Southern Bible Belt with its stringent definitions of decent behavior and life expectations. Perhaps the common dominator to this appeal is her own thirty day Christian courtship or even the arranged marriages of her uncles; each is emblematic of the nuptials of those earlier times.

A technology muse like Dr. Vanessa Riley is probably not the immediate choice to write about haute ton English society set in the 1800′s. With her most recent published work being “Reducing Deformation by Phase Manipulation,” the common visceral reaction is that Providence has given another mule a voice to tell His story. Nevertheless, this mule uses her determined spirit and dogmatic tenacity to master the subject and to discover the hidden nuances of a character making him believable, her human and both ready to be used of God.

Vanessa holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a masters in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. She also earned BS and MS in mechanical engineering from Penn State University. She has been a radio anchorwoman and church announcer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writers of America.

Today, Vanessa juggles mothering a eight year old, her seventeenth wedding anniversary, engineering, writing and speaking at women’s events. She is known for her humorous delivery of poignant truths. Vanessa is currently, editor in chief of an online social network, www.busymama.net.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

If all the young men of England leapt off a cliff, Madeline St. James wouldn’t care. Then she’d have peace. Her nightmares of courtship would end, and she’d cozy up with a Psalm in her aunt’s quiet sculpture garden.

Yet, a chance meeting and a bullet wound change everything, and Madeline must trust the Good Shepherd has led her to the altar to marry a dashing stranger, Lord Devonshire.

Death and pain are no strangers to Justain Delveaux, Lord Devonshire, and he vows his dutiful bride will be kept safe and in her place. Though this compromised marriage is in-name-only, his wife and her unwavering faith both intrigue and allure him. Perchance when he thwarts his brother’s killer, Justain will tempt the unpredictable Madeline with the comfort of his arms.

But can Madeline and the stubborn earl forge a true bond before the next disaster strikes?




Product Details:
List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 354 pages
Publisher: White Rose Publishing (April 19, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611162262
ISBN-13: 978-1611162264


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Shropshire, England, Iron Country, August 5, 1821
"Stop, thief!" Madeline St. James grabbed the coarse sleeve of the man who stole her guineas, but he shook free and dashed away.
"Give those back, this instant." Mouth open, pulse racing, she stopped her pursuit. A scream bubbled in the pit of her stomach, but she pursed her lips. A St. James never made a public scene or conceded defeat.
The thief reached the other side of the vacant courtyard, well ahead of a wagon rumbling up the cobblestone lane. He shot her a toothless grin and traipsed to the main building of Tilford Coaching Inn.
The dray and its lumbering horse team swerved closer, but if she waited one more second, the thief would escape her view. Another man would've taken advantage of her. Not again.
Picking up her weighty skirts, she sprinted onto the slick rocks of the road. The silver hem of her long carriage dress slapped at the mud. Better to be dirty than a victim. Cupping her palm to her eyes, she scanned for the thief.
The man bounded up the stone entree. He'd vanish like her driver, amongst the sea of gaming travellers.
She lengthened her stride to intercept him.
One high step too many, her boot heel caught in the sagging silk, tripping her. The air pushed from her lungs as she fell flat. The soggy earth saturated her layers to the shift and petticoat. Her injured elbow stung anew.

Wheels squealed. Hooves clomped the cobbles. Soon the horses would be on top of her, stomping and kicking.
A couple of tugs and yanks couldn't fish her boot free. No escape this time. Abba Fatherforgive. She turned her head and braced for the onslaught.
A band of iron gripped her stomach and hauled her from the muck. She went limp, sprawled against the hard chest of a rescuer. He pulled her off the lane and under one of the overhanging galleries of the inn.
Wind slapped her cheek as the horses swept past. No one held the reins. The wagon swung wide, crashed into the inn's main building, and flipped to the ground. Ejected barrels hit the whitewashed wall and sprayed foamy liquid.
Madeline's breath came in heaves, and she clutched the titan arm sheltering her. No fainting. No need to lose more dignity.
One of the draught horses loosed from its tether and galloped to the emerald pines scalloping the surrounding hills. The other roan remained with the wreck, lifting its crooked leg. Poor lame creature.
An old man rushed out of the inn and cut at the horse's strap. "Bring my gun. This one needs to be put down."
With an awkward hold on her middle, her rescuer spun her, perhaps to keep her from seeing the cruelty. He needn't be concerned.
The past two weeks had numbed her to violence. Yet, God kept her as He did again today. "Thank you,

Providence/ but please…spare the roan."
"You're welcome, but it's Devonshire, Lord Devonshire." The low voice kissed her ear, heated the pulsing vein along her throat.
How could this man sound calm? They both could've died.
He flung open the door to an onyx carriage and eased her onto the floorboards. "Are you injured, miss?"
"No." She rubbed her arms and gazed at her rescuer. He was very tall, enough to make her feel dainty even at her Amazon height. With broad shoulders and a solid chin, she couldn't have sculpted a more perfect hero. "The horse, sir? Can you help it?"
"Stay put. This mere mortal will see what can be done." He grabbed his top hat from the seat and marched away. His elegant form, straight posture, disappeared into the growing crowd.
It didn't matter she sat on the floor, chilled in her clothes, imposing demands of a stranger. Even against this errant horse, Death shouldn't win. She'd seen its victories too often, with Mama's passing seven years ago and Cousin Thomas dying this past spring.
She squeezed her throbbing elbow. Falling aggravated the sprain.
A quick shake of her foot didn't release her trapped kid boot but tore the lace trim on her gown, Mama's carriage dress. A lump formed in Madeline's throat. She missed Mama so much.
A few choice words shouted from the crowd and a round of loud snickers interrupted her woolgathering.
Lord Devonshire returned and rubbed the scruff of his neck. "It cost three guineas, but your nag will be kept by the innkeeper's daughter."

"I'll repay you, sir. My abigail has my reticule." She swallowed gall. The thief took most of her money, but surely three coins were left.
He waved his hand. "I'd rather not be a paid fool." Leaning along the door, he stared at her with irises bluer than a summer day.
What could Lord Devonshire learn from her disheveled appearance? She didn't mind his gaze. Since travelling to Shropshire, grey ash painted the clouds, no doubt from the ore foundries. No sunny skies like Hampshire.
"Now to be of true assistance." He reached under her hem, gripped above her ankle, and freed her boot from the tangle of silk. The warmth arising from his gloved hands seared her thin stockings. "Not broken." He released her foot to dangle through the entrance.
Shocking and bold. Though dressed as a gentleman in buff buckskins and an azure tailcoat, this definitely wasn't someone with whom to be alone.
Her wits returned, and she bounced out of the carriage. "I'll get your payment."
"Wait." Deep and commanding like Father's voice, his words stopped her. "I saw you trip trailing the miner."
She pivoted and clasped her hands across her ruined pelisse. Mud covered the delicate puce rosettes embroidered on the bodice.
"You were very brave to run after him."
"Bacon-brained would be a more apt description." A raindrop splashed her forehead. Her bonnet must have fallen in the commotion. She wiped her brow. The cold balm of mud smoothed against her skin. Her heart sunk, and she wrenched off her soiled gloves. If her cheeks weren't already scarlet, they should be.

He shortened the distance between them, a smile tugging at his full lips. "In mining country, the strikes have set everyone on edge. Some resort to crime. There's a would-be highwayman on every corner. You must take care around Tilford."
A fortnight ago, his concern might've warmed her, but not now.
"Father of Heav'n!" Mrs. Elsie Wilkins, Madeline's abigail, ran to her.
"Y' weren't to leave the livery." The good woman wrapped her stubby arms about Madeline's hips. "Too much for m' heart."
In vain, Madeline pushed at Mrs. Wilkins's indigo redingote to keep it from soiling, but no force could stop the woman's bear-like embrace.
Madeline's trampled bonnet peeked from the motherly woman's reticule. Dredged in dirt, the hat's ostrich plume lay crooked. Even in haste, her abigail took care of Madeline.
With another clench, Mrs. Wilkins finally let go. "Y' face?" She yanked from her pocket a crimson cloth and scrubbed Madeline's chin.
Madeline clasped her friend's wrist. "Dear, hand me my scarf. I'll do it."
Mrs. Wilkins shook her head and kept swatting the mud. She didn't want to come on this adventure, but how could Madeline be without her strongest ally? It must be the Irish blood bubbling in the abigail's veins, making her so loyal.
"First a broken wheel, now this." Mrs. Wilkins added a spit shine to Madeline's cheek then pivoted to Lord Devonshire. "The stable boys said ye saved her. Bless ye."
"I…I saw the lass fall in the path of the wagon. I

am the Earl of Devonshire. Very glad to be of assistance." An unreadable expression set on his countenance as he flicked a rain droplet from his sleeve. "Are there others in your party?"
"There's me--Mrs. Wilkins--and my lady, Miss Madeline St. James." She stretched on tiptoes and picked at Madeline's unraveling chignon, reseating pins and tucking tresses. "And m' lady's driver, but he disappeared, the no good lout."
Great. Mrs. Wilkins just confirmed they were alone. Now he'd be obliged to help. Indebted to a man. Could this day get any worse?
The earl rubbed his jaw. His gaze seemed locked on the colourful scarf.
Another drip from the overcast skies splattered and curled into the sable-brown hair peeking beneath Lord Devonshire's brim. He was too fine looking, too virile to be trusted. Step-mother's nephew, the handsome Mr. Kent, imparted that lesson before Madeline left home.
"Mrs. Wilkins, hand me my coins. I need to repay his lordship."
"No, miss. 'Tis my duty to escort you to your destination."
Madeline shook her head. "'Unnecessary."
"Cheshire. Please take us there." Mrs. Wilkins dabbed at her coat. "Like a divine appointm'nt, the earl being here."
"I can't speak for divinity, but you might say I've been waiting on a sign." He slipped the cloth from Mrs. Wilkins and waved it like a flag. "Someone brave to show me the way."
"I suppose we have no choice." Madeline snatched it from him with trembling fingers. She may be bacon

brained but not helpless or a plaything.
"There's always a choice. Like should I chase a scoundrel or let you freeze?"
She stilled her shaking palms.
He stepped near, removed his tailcoat, and draped it onto her shoulders. With his thick thumbs, he flipped the collar's revers to cradle her neck. His touch was gentle. "This should stop your shivers. I'll have my Mason get blankets."
Hugging herself beneath the weighty wool, Madeline gaped at Lord Devonshire. "Sir, we haven't agreed."
"The drizzle will get worse." He rotated to Mrs. Wilkins. "The young lady was just in my Berlin. Perhaps the visit was too short to attest to its comfort."
Trimmed in gold, the carriage could overshadow her father's. Either the earl possessed great wealth or liked the appearance of it. In her experience, both conditions made men pompous or cruel. She rubbed her elbow again.
Mrs. Wilkins curtsied. "My lord, we've two trunks in the stables with our brok'n carriage."
The earl nodded, opened the door to his Berlin, and then plodded the long lane toward the livery of the coaching inn. Was it confidence or arrogance squaring his shoulders?
He didn't pivot to check on them, not once. Arrogance.
"Come along, Lady Maddie. Don't get stubborn. Remember your plan."
Madeline raised her chin, grasped Mrs. Wilkins's forearm, and lumbered toward Lord Devonshire's carriage. "Another obstacle to peace."
Her friend's cheeks glowed. "The beginning of

peace, child. It's the beginning."
If only Mrs. Wilkins could be right. The unease in Madeline's spirit disagreed.
****
The temptation to look back almost overtook Justain Delveaux, the Earl of Devonshire. He strode faster to the livery. The girl had been spooked. If he seemed anxious, she'd run.
A fire of independence burned in her jade eyes. He'd have to placate Miss St. James and win her trust. Then she'd lead him to the killer.
At the entry of the hay-filled livery, his driver brushed Athena, Justain's filly. "Sir, are you ready to give up? The informant isn't going to show."
Justain stroked Athena's thick ebony coat, a shade lighter than Miss St. James's raven locks. "He didn't. She did. Look behind me. Are ladies entering my Berlin?"
Mason squinted. "Yes."
"The young one possesses the red cloth signal. She's the informant."
Furrowing his brows, Mason shrugged. "You and your jokes, sir."
"I'm serious. We're taking them to Cheshire, probably a clandestine meeting. Never thought to look for a woman. Well, not for an informant. The lass will lead me to lynch--"
"Must you wax poetic?" Mason chortled. "Genteel women shouldn't be left here/ but…"
"Just say it."
"We need to leave, sir. Something's afoot." Mason wiped water from the brim of his tricorn. "The miners

say a blood vengeance rides tonight."
"We'll leave soon, with my new acquaintances." Why was Mason hedging his words? Since Justain was knee-high, the man never held his tongue.
Rain fell in buckets. Justain moved under the stable's roof.
Mason and Athena followed. He searched his blue-black flap coat and retrieved his treasured silver flask and Justain's bottle of tincture. "The filly's cut is sealed."
"Superb, but no more of this." Justain pocketed the tincture. "Put away your spirits and say your peace."
"This chase won't bring Lord Richard back." His driver's voice grated like a rebuke from the old man, Justain's father. "You've other things to contend."
Justain concentrated on the steady rhythm of the shower. It blocked the memory of Richard's last breath and Justain's mounting guilt. He was to blame for Richard dying. Nothing took precedence over avenging his brother.
"Send blankets to my guests. Have the stable grooms load Miss St. James's trunks." He trudged toward the Berlin. This couldn't be a fool's errand. He hated being a fool.
****
Madeline forced a smile at Lord Devonshire as he leapt into the Berlin. He sat in the opposing seat, tossed his sodden top hat and gloves onto the floorboards, then pushed wet hair from his face. The rain poured hard minutes after she and Mrs. Wilkins entered his carriage, and it hadn't lessened.
Seeing him soaked eased her slight agitation at him.

"Thank ye, for savin' m' mistress." Mrs. Wilkins snuggled into the corner of his carriage, her greying red curls rested upon the creamy silk lining the walls. "Ye gen'rous to escort us to Cheshire." She yawned then winked at Madeline. "So noble and so handsome."
Heat crept up Madeline's neck. She didn't need to be reminded of his looks or his bravery. "We are grateful."
"Be at ease. It's not often I play the hero these days." His sable-brown mop shadowed a lean nose and tanned cheeks. "The escapade gave me needed exercise."
At least, he remained humoured. Gratitude should weigh on her spirit, but was his deed happenstance or had he followed her? Miles and miles from Hampshire, and the feeling of being chased refused to quit.
A servant stuck his head inside the carriage. Rain drizzled down his uniform causing the braiding on his mantle to droop. "To Cheshire, my lord?"
Twisting a signet ring, Lord Devonshire glanced toward Madeline and Mrs. Wilkins and then turned to the opening. "Yes, Mason, I haven't changed my mind. My guests have gone to great lengths to find me. I shan't forsake them."
What? Why did the earl think she sought him? What tales men must feed each other.
"Yes, my lord." The frowning servant nodded and shut the heavy door.
Madeline smoothed her bodice, trying to calm the tickle in her stomach. Father told her every kindness held a price. She'd paid enough for trusting Mr. Kent. The pain from his blows to her side persisted.

"Lord Devonshire, we haven't departed. Pray help us hire a post chaise to ferry my abigail and me to my aunt?"
"No. I will see this through." He cleared his throat. "I look forward to our conversation."
Though the earl's countenance appeared pleasant with his lips curling, he fidgeted his wilted cravat. Dried, the neckcloth might've held a little height in a fashionable sense. Was he one of those pompous dandies? Her scarlet handkerchief did hold his interest.
No. If he were, the earl would've let Madeline die than risk wrinkles to his clothes. The parade of fortune hunters Step-mother marched through Avington Manor surely would've made no effort. The shrewish woman probably hoped the flock of peacocks supping at their home could convince Madeline to accept her nephew for a mate, a lesser of evils.
The carriage lurched forward. Lord Devonshire reclined as if he posed for a portrait. His steady gaze set upon her.
Did he want his jacket returned? Did her slipping bonnet offend him? She righted it and smoothed its bent feather. "May I at least reimburse the livery expenses for my carriage?"
"Keep your precious gold coins. 'Tis my honour to serve you, Miss St. James." He grinned. Smooth white teeth peeked. "The opportunity to pull a headstrong beauty from harm's way is something I relish."
"Would you let a thief abscond with your coins?"
His smile dissolved. "No. I protect what is mine, and I'll avenge what is stolen."
Few had the patience for her opinions. She rolled one of the silver buttons of his jacket along her thumb.
"Praise be unto Prov…" Mrs. Wilkins snorted a harsh noise, her chin bobbling in the throes of sleep. With a fold and a tuck, Madeline secured the dear woman's blanket then tugged a book from the abigail's reticule.

"You two are my first guests in this new coach." The earl's tone was low.
He needn't be concerned about awakening Mrs. Wilkins. After this harrowing day, wild elephants couldn't rouse her.
Slumping near the window, Madeline glanced at the retreating landscape, the evergreens reflecting in the puddles. She'd enjoy nature now, before they crossed the Severn Gorge. Seeing the bottomless chasm would rattle her frayed nerves. The last time, ten years ago, she took this route with her parents and had curled next to Mama and hid within the folds of her shawl. Abba Father, please allow each of my steps to be surefooted. Tell Mama I miss her.
Lord Devonshire inched closer. Though the carriage rocked with each clip-clop of the horse team, he didn't sway. His tall frame sat erect like a sleek marble sculpture. "Is there anything I can do to make you comfortable?"
Mrs. Wilkins's bonnet fell onto her lap, her snores bleating to an embarrassing high pitch. The symphony of snoots quieted, but not before one protracted trumpet.
"No, sir." Madeline's cheeks warmed. Explaining her hasty exodus from Avington would lower his opinion of her, not that she needed his good opinion.
Egad. Step-mother was right. Madeline did over think things. She yanked her bookmark, flipped a few pages, and tried to lose herself in the passage.
He rapped the book and lowered it. "You'll ruin your sight, reading all the way to Cheshire. At our next stop, I'll have a lantern set down, unless I can capture your interest."

Another opportunist. Yes, he'd saved her from being trampled, but he was still a man. Did they do anything but seek their own pleasures? Like Mr. Kent.
Kent's sibilant whispers turned to yells ringing in her ear. He threatened to kill her for refusing his proposal. What type of life would she have if she'd eloped with a man of such vile temperament? She shuddered. Shoving her novel in Kent's eye darkened it and helped her escape.
"Miss St. James? Are you well?"
"Yes." She glanced at her wet hero. "You must be cold. I should return this." She lifted the tailcoat an inch and an ache rippled along her elbow. She clenched her teeth and let the jacket fall back to her shoulders.
"Just damp." He whipped his sleeves, rustling ivory buttons. "You seem to favour your right arm. Did I injure you in our last embrace?"
"No…no/ my lord." Her breath hitched, and she sniffed an odour similar to fresh dye. It reeked. She huddled deeper in the tailcoat and swathed her nostrils. The mild fragrance of sandalwood lingered in Lord Devonshire's jacket. Peace reined in every storm, and this one smelled of safety, like her father's robes.
The earl shifted his boots hard onto the floor. "Some say confession is good for the soul. Do tell. Why were you at Tilford--a gaming den, no less?"
Madeline wobbled on the tufted cushion. "My carriage broke down. One usually has no choice where this happens."
"And your driver's missing? Such a fanciful story.

I love a quality Banbury." He folded his arms like a solicitor in the midst of an inquiry. "Are you running from or to someone?"
"To my aunt in Cheshire, Lady Cecil Glaston. She's to tour Italy with me." Well, it would be the plan once Madeline convinced the art patroness. Madeline intended to sculpt such a stirring picture, Aunt would be anxious to see Michelangelo's David and abandon holding a matchmaking season. After Mr. Kent's betrayal, Madeline wasn't ready to belong to any man.
"I think you are running from someone whose wrath you fear. Don't lose courage. So much trouble is wrought from silence." For one second, the earl's sky-blue pools seemed to ripple with hurt before he blinked them clear. "We mustn't allow this."
She squinted at Lord Devonshire. Could he know she'd kept quiet about Mr. Kent?
"Help me, Miss St. James, my brave lass?"
Madeline's heart responded to the plea, thundering within her ribs, but could she be of aid without inviting Kent's revenge?
Lord Devonshire reached for her hand. "Tell me your secret. My dear, you can trust me."


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.


Madeline's Protector

COPYRIGHT 2012 by Vanessa Riley


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Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated are taken from the King James translation, public domain.


Cover Art by Nicola Martinez


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Publishing History First White Rose Edition, 2013 Print Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-226-4 Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-225-7

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