Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review: The Fine Art of Insincerity by Angela Hunt

For the last few Sundays, my pastor has been preaching about speaking the truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25). He has emphasized how it is vital that we always speak the truth, no matter what. For our relationships to be healthy and all that God intends for them to be, we must put away all lies, misrepresentations, deceptions, etc.

The Fine Art of Insincerity: A NovelThis book by Angela Hunt "preaches" that message as well. The Fine Art of Insincerity is the story of three sisters who, over the course of three days, are confronted with the lies of their childhood and their marriages.

Here's how the author's website describes it:

"Three Southern sisters with nine marriages between them--and more looming on the horizon--travel to St. Simons Island to empty their late grandmother’s house. Ginger, the eldest, wonders if she’s the only one who hasn’t inherited what their family calls “the Grandma Gene”--the tendency to enjoy the casualness of courtship more than the intimacy of marriage. Could it be that her sisters are fated to serially marry, just like their seven-times wed grandmother, Lillian Irene Harper Winslow Goldstein Carey James Bobrinski Gordon George? It takes a “girls only” weekend, closing up Grandma’s memory-filled beach cottage for the last time, for the sisters to unpack their family baggage, examine their relationship DNA, and discover the true legacy their much-marrying grandmother left behind."

And an excerpt from the book:

(One of the husbands tells his wife) "I'm going to promise you something. You can be honest with me about anything, and I promise to love you through it. Tell me when you're glad, when you're mad, and when you're sad. Say you're annoyed at me; say you're miserable because of something I did. Let me know when I do something wonderful, so I can learn what makes you happy. Tell me anything, but be honest. As long as you are, I'll love you forever."

Honesty. How important it is for a life of integrity and genuine Christian unity. This book makes that clear.

The author reminded me of how I should be living a life of honesty. Also, how destructive it is to try to manipulate others to do what we think they should be doing. We cannot do that and love them at the same time. Love is patient and kind, never seeking its own way (I Cor. 13).

I also like the sayings (from the girls' grandmother) sprinkled thoughout the book. Here is one of my favorites:

"Grandma once told me that you can always tell if a woman is truly in love by the way she looks at her husband. If she smiles at him like a woman pulled over by a traffic cop, that's genuine love."

I really liked this one. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

(I received this book from Glass Road Publications for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

You can go to the publisher's website to read the preface and first chapter of the book.

Author's Biography:

With nearly four million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, including The Tale of Three Trees, Don’t Bet Against Me, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Hunt is one of the most sought-after collaborators in the publishing industry. Her nonfiction book Don’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Angela’s novel The Note was filmed as the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie for 2007 and proved to be the highest rated television movie in the channel’s history. She often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences, and she served as the keynote speaker at the 2008 American Christian Fiction Writers’ national conference. She and her husband make their home in Florida with mastiffs. In 2001, one of her dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest dog in America.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: A Killer Among Us by Lynette Eason

When I was in college, I changed my major twice. But the third one is the one I would love to get a degree in: criminal justice. It is one of the most fascinating subjects to me. I have read many fiction and non-fiction books on crime, criminal psychology, and criminal investigation. I am intrigued by the workings of the human mind and what makes people do what they do, especially when it comes to criminal behavior.

So, I guess that's why one of my favorite fiction writers is Lynette Eason. She knows how to write novels that snag your interest right from the start. And her characters are likeable as well as ones you want to empathize with. I have enjoyed every one I have read.

Killer Among Us, A: A Novel (Women of Justice)A Killer Among Us is no exception. The story of three sisters and their partners (in work and in their personal lives) are interwoven in the series (although you could read one by itself without reading the others, I recommend reading all three). 

This particular book is about Kit Kenyon and her partner, Noah Lambert. Kit is a hostage negotiator, very good at what she does. But when she and Noah become involved in investigating a serial killer, their emotions threaten to get in the way of their duties to their jobs. And as more people become the killer's victims, Kit and Noah find themselves targets as well.

To give you an idea of how Mrs. Eason's books begin, here are the first few paragraphs of A Killer Among Us:

"You don't want to do this." Detective Kit Kenyon stared past the barrel of the gun and fixed her eyes on the man before her.

The forty-four-year-old blinked against the sweat dripping into his hazy green eyes. A thick tongue swept out against dry lips, and his gaze darted from her to the door to his wife, who sat on the floor under the window weeping softly.

Melanie, his twelve-year-old daughter, winced at the harsh hand ensnaring her long brown ponytail and never took her terrified gaze from Kit.

"Virgil?" Kit pushed gently. "Right now, you haven't hurt anyone. In fact, you've cooperated nicely." Except for the part where she'd asked him to end this peacefully.

But they were getting there.

Anyone who has liked the novels of Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, Irene Hannon and Brandilyn Collins will also want to read Lynette Eason's books. They are among the best in Christian romantic suspense.

I give A Killer Among Us 5 out of 5 stars. 

About the author:

Lynette Eason is the author of ten novels, including Too Close to Home, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Lynette and her husband and their two children make their home in South Carolina.

(I received this book from Revell for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Unbridled Hope by Loree Lough

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Unbridled Hope (Book Three in the Lone Star Legends Series)

Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***


Loree Lough is a well-known, beloved Christian romance writer with nearly three million books in circulation. She's released 78 books, including one that's been optioned for a TV movie, 68 short stories, and over 2,500 articles. A tireless advocate of Christian fiction, she's recognized as a leader in the genre and spends time mentoring aspiring writers. She's also a sought-after speaker who encourages audiences with her comedic learned-the-hard-way lessons about writing and life. Loree and her husband Larry have four daughters and seven grandchildren. They split their time between Baltimore and their cabin in the Allegheny Mountains. An avid advocate for endangered species, Loree supports The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania and other worthy causes close to her heart including The Wounded Warriors Project and The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Visit the author's website.


Callie Roberts' life is turned upside down when her parents, older brother, and fiancé are killed in a steamboat boiler explosion that leaves her younger brother deaf. Callie survives with a scar from cheek to chin that serves as a daily haunting reminder of the tragedy for which she's partly to blame. Hoping to put the past behind her, Callie moves to Eagle Pass, Texas, launches a successful business, and meets local rancher Micah Neville who is embroiled in a different kind of family drama. In an attempt to protect his cousin's honor, Micah returns from what he told others was a business trip to San Antonio, with a baby boy in tow. He handles the gossip just fine, especially when Callie volunteers to help -- and manages to capture his heart.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742271
ISBN-13: 978-1603742276


December 1887

On the Brazos River near Sweetwater, Texas

Raw, unrelenting wind whistled across the deck boards, scattering newspapers and rattling the cleats as the steamboat chugged toward its next major stop, Clear Fork. Callie cupped her elbows, wishing she’d thought to grab her shawl. She’d never liked weather like this, for it reminded her too much of the bitter Baltimore winter of ’85 that had nearly killed her mother and had prompted her father’s decision to move the family west. Ever since, Callie had begun every day with a prayer for her mother and ended by asking God to ease the ache of homesickness.

In time, the Lord had answered her first prayer, restoring her mother to robust health. The second He’d granted in the form of a young seminary graduate who’d been hired to entertain guests with the soothing sonatas of Beethoven and Bach. And, just as the sunshine dispels the nippy mists from the river, the music of Seth’s love had turned her longing for Maryland into a dim yet melodious memory.

Tonight, her beloved beau would give his final performance for the tycoons, high rollers, and politicians who gathered nightly in the grand salon. His final because, in twelve short hours, Callie’s father, a chaplain and owner of the Maybelline, would pronounce him and Callie man and wife.

Heart throbbing with hope and excitement, she hurried toward the jackstay, the secret meeting place where Seth had first confessed his love. Her fingers throbbed, too, from sewing fifty-two satin-covered buttons up the back of her full-skirted gown and from attaching a feathered headdress to her long, lacy veil. Callie smiled, knowing the discomfort would vanish the instant she saw Seth smiling at her from the makeshift altar where he would become her husband.

Sadly, the gown would not fit inside her valise. What a pity she wouldn’t be able to save her beautiful dress for the daughters she and Seth might have! She imagined a bright-eyed young woman with her papa’s dark eyes and her mama’s diminutive stature, walking down the center aisle toward her intended in the little church in Eagle Pass, Texas, where Seth’s dream of shepherding a flock of his own would come true, and he would eventually unite his own daughter with her soul mate.

Still, she took comfort in knowing that her hours of hard work had not been in vain. She said a little prayer for the senator’s wife, who’d agreed to pay a handsome sum for the gown and veil—and for Callie’s eternal silence. “Lord, help the poor woman keep secret the fact that her daughter will be married in a used—”

“Talking to yourself again?”

She stifled a tiny squeal. “Jonah Everett Roberts, you frightened me half to death!” How a boy of her brother’s height and weight managed to sneak up on her at least once a day, she’d never know. Raising one eyebrow, she rested a fist on her hip. “Say, what are you doing out here, anyway? Didn’t I hear Papa ask you to sweep out the saloon?”

He frowned. “I’m waiting for the green flash,” he said, taking a bite of an apple.

Not that again, she thought. “Well,” she said on a sigh, “if that’s the cause for the holdup, you’ll never get the job done, because the sun went down more than an hour ago.”

“Humpf. Leave it to little miss stick-in-the-mud to spoil the moment for a boy.”

“Boy, indeed. Papa says when he was sixteen, he worked as hard as any man on the family farm, and that his folks never had to remind him to do his chores.”

Jonah swallowed a mouthful of fruit. “Yeah, and he also says that if I’m patient, I’ll see the green flash, eventually.”

Callie couldn’t count the number of times she’d heard the same assurance. In fact, she’d heard so much about the elusive emerald flare, which was visible only under precise atmospheric conditions as the sun disappeared into the horizon, that she’d wished a time or two for the patience to believe in the phenomenon, herself.

But wishing wouldn’t get her any closer to the jackstay and her darling Seth. “Your tactic might work on Mama and Tim,” she said, giving his shoulder a playful shove, “but I see it for what it is: a ‘clever’ way to shirk your responsibility—”

A thunderous roar set the deck to quaking beneath their feet. Please, Lord, not the boilers! she thought as a second deafening blast threw her and Jonah to the floor. Instinct made her grab his collar and drag him under a heavy table, where she covered their heads with a tablecloth. Shards of glass and splinters of wood rained down as a third explosion rocked the steamer.

Choking smoke closed in around them as flecks of glowing ash floated down like fiery snowflakes. With its shallow keel and inch-thin hull, the Maybelline’s flimsy design assured swift river travel—and guaranteed that it would sink swiftly, too.

If that happened, it would be her fault.

If only she’d stoked the boilers like she was supposed to, instead of handing the job over to Tim! She’d seen the vacant “I don’t understand” stare in her older brother’s eyes enough times to recognize it for what it was, yet she’d ignored it to gain a few minutes more with Seth.

Callie scrambled forward with one objective: to make sure that Tim, her parents, and her beloved Seth had survived.

“Wait!” Jonah hollered.

“You’re safer right here,” she said, meeting his frightened eyes. “I know you’re scared, Jonah. I’m scared, too.” Using a corner of her apron, she dabbed at the blood dribbling from both of his ears. “But you need to stay here, before you’re hurt even worse.” She gave him a little shake. “If the steamer starts taking on water, I want you to make your way to the riverbank. Once you’re there, find the biggest tree and stay put. Do you understand?”

His confused expression mirrored the one that had long seemed frozen to Tim’s face. But their older brother had been slow from the day he was born, unlike Jonah, who could solve arithmetic problems without the aid of slate and chalk. She blamed Jonah’s expression on fear and scrambled to her feet. Why did both her brothers turn to her for comfort and support, when she was younger than both of them?

On the heels of a frustrated sigh, she scooted out from under the table. “Lord, watch over him,” she prayed as she raced along, darting between rivers of blue-orange fire that snaked and coiled across the deck and dodging the witch-finger flames that flared from each cabin window. When a fierce groan sounded from above, she crooked her elbow to protect her eyes and looked up. The breath caught in her throat when she saw the tallest of the three fat smokestacks teeter as it gave way to the gluttonous fire monster gnawing at its wooden moorings.

Callie barely gathered her wits in time to sidestep it. If only she’d thought to gather her skirts, too. The heel of her boot caught on a fold of muslin, slowing her escape by a mere fraction of a second. She was already falling when a grapefruit-sized lump of glowing coal slammed into her right temple.

“Sweet Jesus,” she prayed as dizziness overwhelmed her “Keep…them all…safe.”

For the second time in as many minutes, her prayer was interrupted, as she slipped into the dark unconscious.

Two years later~October 2, 1889

The Lazy N Ranch, Eagle Pass, Texas

The sweet-smelling envelope was addressed to “M. Neville.” At least, that’s what Micah had thought at first glance. But the message inside the envelope didn’t make a lick of sense. So, he studied the addressee a second time, and a third, before realizing that the fanciful M was, instead, a D. Guilt at reading his cousin’s mail was quickly overshadowed by concern at the nature of the message. Dan had already lived two lifetimes’ worth of misery in his twenty-eight years.

Micah shook his head and said a silent prayer for Dan, who’d shouldered a burden of self-blame ever since his twin sister had died tragically at the age of thirteen, even though nobody held him responsible. Guilt and remorse, along with the whiskey used to numb the emotional pain of his loss and the physical torment of a bum leg suffered in a stampede, had managed to turn the once shy, gentle boy into a man hell-bent on self-destruction and prone to angry brawls. About once a year, Dan had summoned the strength to shake his addiction, but, all too soon, self-loathing would lure him back to the bottle. Fourteen months into the latest stint of sobriety, Micah had begun to notice signs that made him fear things were about to take another ugly turn, but then, praise God, Levee O’Reilly had come to town as the new schoolteacher. She’d taught her students reading, writing, and arithmetic, all the while teaching Dan to value his own life.

The two had married, and their relationship seemed solid and strong. But now, something like this? Micah glared at the single sheet of scented ivory paper on which, with a few well-chosen words, the writer had implied a dozen sinister things, any one of which could start the dominos toppling in Dan’s life yet again.

Slumping onto the edge of his bed, Micah read the letter a fourth time. Maybe he’d underestimated his cousin’s ability to stand strong, even in the face of this woman’s spiteful threats. He had a lot more to live for now, though. Maybe this woman wanted to destroy him, once and for all.

Micah would not take that chance. For one thing, Dan had always been his favorite cousin—a statement in itself, since there were dozens in the Neville clan. For another, Dan had protected him more times than Micah could count. As a youngster, he’d been puny and timid and had spoken with a lisp, just the sort of stuff that invited the taunts of the bigger, older boys. But, without fail, Dan would always put a stop to it.

Eventually, Micah’s front teeth had grown together, eliminating the lisp, and his body had grown, too. At six feet three inches, and with two hundred and twenty pounds of raw muscle, Micah’s size alone would have discouraged any bully. But by the time the Neville men had embarked on the trail drive of ’86, Dan’s determination to defend Micah had become so ingrained that he hadn’t thought twice about maneuvering his horse between his cousin and a bevy of gun-blasting rustlers. Dan had laughed off the bullet in his shoulder in exactly the same way he’d laughed off every swollen knuckle, bloodied lip, and black eye endured to protect Micah. “You’ve done me a favor, cousin,” he’d said, gritting his teeth as Cookie dug out the slug, “because certain ladies like a man with scars!”

Had the author of this letter been one of those ladies?

Micah harrumphed. “A female, maybe, but I’d bet my horse she’s no lady.” Scooting closer to the night table, he turned up the lantern and leaned into the golden light to read those ominous closing lines yet again:

…at two o’clock on Friday afternoon, the fifteenth of October, I will be at the train station in San Antonio, Texas. If you choose not to meet me there, I shall have no alternative but to bring this very urgent matter to the attention of the authorities.

Most sincerely yours,

Pauline Eden Devereaux

“Urgent matter”? A dozen possible scenarios flashed in Micah’s brain, none of them good. Under ordinary circumstances, Dan wouldn’t squash a beetle under his boot, but there was nothing ordinary about the way his personality changed once a few pints of whiskey burned in his veins. If he was drinking when he ran into this woman….

Micah got to his feet and started pacing. He didn’t want to believe that Dan was guilty of any offense. The more likely story, he told himself, was that this Pauline character had gotten wind of how many acres made up the Lazy N Ranch and hoped to weasel a few hundred dollars in exchange for her silence about whatever matter she seemed to believe might interest the authorities. And, since the family never discussed their troubles beyond the closed door of Uncle Matthew’s office, she had no way of knowing how steeply their profits had dropped due to anthrax, weevils, droughts, and storms.

There was only one way to know for sure, and that was to take a trip to San Antonio to meet this femme flimflammer face-to-face. He didn’t know what excuse he’d cook up to put himself there, or how he’d squash her scam, but Micah knew this much: he intended to defend Dan for a change.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Unbridled Hope by Loree Lough

Unbridled Hope by Loree Lough is a "feel good" kind of book full of inspiring characters as well as real life struggles. I would like to read the first two books of the series. However, I don't think it was detrimental to read this one alone, even though it is the third in the series.

The title and cover of the book are misleading, because it has nothing to do with horses, as I thought when I first saw it. And some of the passages are stilted and confusing. But I still enjoyed it, especially the parts about baby Reid, who captures all the hearts of Eagle Pass, the town in Texas that is the setting of the novel.

I am glad to be reading more Christian fiction lately because I have been encouraged by a lot of the wholesome living and clean dialogue that is contained in most of them. Yes, a few have been "preachy", but I think this one found that middle ground between didactic and offensive. 

I recommend Unbridled Hope to readers who like Christian romance. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Feature Book: The Curse of Captain LaFoote by Eddie Jones (and a giveaway!)

Book Summary:
The Curse of Captain LaFoote: A Caribbean Chronicles Novel Awash in Buried Treasure, Pirates and Dead Men's Bones (The Caribbean Chronicles)RICKY BRADSHAW has never sailed the Caribbean Sea, searched for buried treasure or battled pirates on the deck of a Spanish Galleon. He’s never fallen through the floor of Davy Jones’ locker or watched an old fisherman morph into a porpoise. All Ricky knows is his lonely life with his widowed mom in a tiny apartment overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. But all that changes on a snowy Christmas Eve when Ricky’s apartment building burns down and he suffers a seizure, falling into the chilly waters. Suddenly Ricky finds himself thrust into a world where there is surprising beauty on every island, danger around every corner and great honor and glory ahead of him—if only Ricky can summon the courage to survive the curse of Captain LaFoote.
Author Bio:

EDDIE JONES has authored four non-fiction books, one young adult novel, and written over a hundred articles that have appeared in over 20 different publications. He is co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries and a contributing writer for,, Common Ground Christian News, The Ocracoke Observer, and Living Aboard Magazine. He’s a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers Conference and a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Boating Writers International. Eddie sails, surfs and writes in North Carolina. For more information see:


Author Interview:

Tell us about The Curse of Captain LaFoote.

EDDIE: When my boys were young, I'd tell pirate stores on the bow of our sailboat. The lead character was Captain Stinky Foot. Captain Stinky Foot was named after my youngest son. If you've ever spent any time on a boat in August with a crew of unwashed young males then this needs no further explanation. I've always been fascinated by the stories of boys snatched away from London and Bristol and forced to serve before the mast. Seems to me life at sea was more fun than peeling potatoes. And more dangerous.

So The Curse of Captain LaFoote is a pirate tale awash in buried treasure, romance and dead men's bones. The truth is, this book and the ones that follow in the Caribbean Chronicle series are love stories. For Ricky Bradshaw, the hero of the book, the story is a quest to find his father, soul mate, and purpose in life.

What is your lead’s wound?

EDDIE: A friend suggested that I let my lead have epilepsy. She said when she has an episode she sort of zones out—like daydreaming except she can’t stop it. She also said she knows when it’s about to happen. That she smells something like burning wires. So I gave Ricky epilepsy and finished the story.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized the book had a larger purpose. I met another woman at a writer’s conference whose son has epilepsy. During the conference, her son suffered a seizure — the first one he’d ever had without his mother present. The look on her face that morning convinced me that Ricky Bradshaw could be a champion for those suffering from epilepsy.

It’s not cancer or heart disease but over three million Americans live with epilepsy. If the sale of this book can raise awareness, then the book has done its job. For each book sold, the publisher and I will donate “a few pieces of eight” — half a sandy dollar — to the foundation’s Heroes Among Us program. Our goal is to raise ten thousand dollars in honor of Ricky Bradshaw.

What is the spiritual message in your book?

EDDIE: That courage costs. Near the end of the book Ricky has the chance to go back to his old life. We get to do the same thing, go back to our old way of doing things. But Christ says there is a cost for doing the right thing. Ricky faces that choice.

What takeaway value do you hope readers receive after reading this novel?

EDDIE: There are a lot of other deep and important themes explored in the book too. Things like what the poop deck is and why cruise ships no longer use them, the secrets inside Davy Jones' locker, and why you shouldn't walk downwind of a pirate who's just eaten turtle soup.

Seriously, my goal in writing this book was to spur the imagination of young readers. Boys especially. I wanted to create within them a desire to read and set sail for a life of adventure, wherever that journey may take them. Even now I can see Ricky standing on the sugar-white sands of that island just south of Hispaniola. I am that boy. And so are a lot of other boys.

Grand Prize Giveaway

All you need for a PIRATE PARY!

8 invitations
8 - 9" party plates
8 - 9-oz. cups
16 luncheon napkins
16 pc. blue cutlery set
1 red plastic table cover
2 rolls of streamers, 1 blue and 1 red
12 each of blue and red balloons
2 pkgs. of confetti, 1 blue and 1 orange
4 yds. deluxe creepy cloth
12 pirate swords with eye patch
72 pirate tattoos
8 dessert plates
16 beverage napkins
8 treasure chest-shaped filled treat boxes
1 10 ft. pennant
12 child-size pirate hats
1 photo door banner
1 piñata and toy & candy asst.

Just leave a comment along with your name and email address for a chance to win!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a meme from Should Be Reading, where we answer three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? and What do you think you'll read next? If you want to participate, answer the three questions, then put your link on the Should Be Reading Blog in the comment section. Happy reading!

                    Killer Among Us, A: A Novel (Women of Justice)               The Curse of Captain LaFoote: A Caribbean Chronicles Novel Awash in Buried Treasure, Pirates and Dead Men's Bones (The Caribbean Chronicles)               Unbridled Hope (Lone Star Legends V3)

What I am currently reading: A Killer Among Us by Lynette Eason - I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but Lynette Eason is one of my (many!) favorite fiction authors. This one is just as good as the others I have read (Although I think I already know "whodunit"). I will be reviewing it in a few days.
What I recently finished reading: The Curse of Captain LaFoote by Eddie Jones This book is written for young adults, but I thought I might enjoy it. I guess it was okay, but I kept wishing it was over so I could pick up something else. A little too juvenile for me. Review to come.
What I'll probably read next: Unbridled Hope by Loree Lough - Another book I received to review. I'm not sure if I've read anything by this author before, although I have heard of her. Sounds pretty good. We'll see. Review on May 27th.

So, what have you been reading? Please leave a comment.

Monday, May 23, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: False Witness by Randy Singer

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

False Witness

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned 10 legal thrillers, including his award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.

Visit the author's website.


Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife's life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor's church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they're on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

An adrenaline-laced thrill ride, this retelling of one of Randy Singer's most critically acclaimed novels takes readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and the legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414335695
ISBN-13: 978-1414335698



THE LONGEST THREE DAYS of Clark Shealy’s life began with an expired registration sticker.

That was Clark’s first clue, the reason he followed the jet-black Cadillac Escalade ESV yesterday. The reason he phoned his wife, his partner in both marriage and crime . . . well, not really crime but certainly the dark edge of legality. They were the Bonnie and Clyde of bounty hunters, of repo artists, of anything requiring sham credentials and bold-faced lies. Jessica’s quick search of DMV records, which led to a phone call to the title holder, a Los Angeles credit union, confirmed what Clark had already guessed. The owner wasn’t making payments. The credit union wanted to repo the vehicle but couldn’t find it. They were willing to pay.

“How much?” Clark asked Jessica.

“It’s not worth it,” she replied. “That’s not why you’re there.”
“Sure, honey. But just for grins, how much are we passing up?”
Jessica murmured something.

“You’re breaking up,” Clark said.

“They’d pay a third of Blue Book.”

“Which is?”

“About forty-eight four,” Jessica said softly.

“Love you, babe,” Clark replied, doing the math. Sixteen thousand dollars!
He ended the call. She called back. He hit Ignore.

Sixteen thousand dollars! Sure, it wasn’t the main reason he had come to Vegas. But a little bonus couldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the vehicle came equipped with the latest in theft protection devices, an electronically coded key supplied to the owner. The engine transmitted an electronic message that had to match the code programmed into the key, or the car wouldn’t turn over.

Clark learned this the hard way during the dead hours of the desert night, at about two thirty. He had broken into the Cadillac, disabled the standard alarm system, removed the cover of the steering column, and hot-wired the vehicle. But without the right key, the car wouldn’t start. Clark knew immediately that he had triggered a remote alarm. Using his hacksaw, he quickly sawed deep into the steering column, disabling the vehicle, and then sprinted down the drive and across the road


He heard a stream of cursing from the front steps of a nearby condo followed by the blast of a gun. To Clark’s trained ears, it sounded like a .350 Magnum, though he didn’t stay around long enough to confirm the make, model, and ATF serial number.


Six hours later, Clark came back.

He bluffed his way past the security guard at the entrance of the gated community and drove his borrowed tow truck into the elegant brick parking lot rimmed by manicured hedges. He parked sideways, immediately behind the Cadillac. These condos, some of Vegas’s finest, probably went for more than a million bucks each.

The Caddy fit right in, screaming elegance and privilege—custom twenty-inch rims, beautiful leather interior, enough leg room for the Lakers’ starting five, digital readouts on the dash, and an onboard computer that allowed its owner to customize all power functions in the vehicle. The surround-sound system, of course, could rattle the windows on a car three blocks away. Cadillac had pimped this ride out fresh from the factory, making it the vehicle of choice for men like Mortavius Johnson, men who lived on the west side of Vegas and supplied “escorts” for the city’s biggest gamblers.

Clark speed-dialed 1 before he stepped out of the tow truck.
“This is stupid, Clark.”

“Good morning to you, too. Are you ready?”

“All right. Let’s do it.” He slid the still-connected phone into a pocket of his coveralls. They were noticeably short, pulling at the crotch. He had bought the outfit on the spot from a mechanic at North Vegas Auto, the same garage where he borrowed the tow truck from the owner, a friend who had helped Clark in some prior repo schemes. A hundred and fifty bucks for the coveralls, complete with oil and grease stains. Clark had ripped off the name tag and rolled up the sleeves. It felt like junior high all over again, growing so fast the clothes couldn’t keep up with the boy.

He popped open the hood of the wrecker, smeared his fingers on some blackened oil grime, and rubbed a little grease on his forearms, with a dab to his face. He closed the hood and walked confidently to the front door of the condo, checking the paper in his hand as if looking for an address. He rang the bell.

Silence. . . . He rang it again.

Eventually, he heard heavy footsteps inside and then the clicking of a lock before the door slowly opened. Mortavius Johnson, looking like he had barely survived a rough night, filled the doorway. Clark was tall and slender—six-three, about one-ninety. But Mortavius was tall and bulky—a brooding presence who dwarfed Clark. He wore jeans and no shirt, exposing rock-solid pecs but also a good-size gut. He didn’t have a gun.
Clark glanced down at his paper while Mortavius surveyed him with bloodshot eyes.

“Are you Mortavius Johnson?”

“You call for a tow?”

Mortavius’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. The big man glanced at the pocket of Clark’s coveralls—no insignia—then around him at the tow truck. Clark had quickly spray-painted over the logo and wondered if Mortavius could tell.

Clark held his breath and considered his options. If the big man caught on, Clark would have to surprise Mortavius, Pearl Harbor–style, with a knee to the groin or a fist to the solar plexus. Even those blows would probably just stun the big man momentarily. Clark would sprint like a bandit to the tow truck, hoping Mortavius’s gun was more than arm’s length away. Clark might be able to outrun Mortavius, but not the man’s bullet.

“I left a message last night with the Cadillac dealer,” Mortavius said.
The Cadillac dealer. Clark was hoping for something a little more specific. “And the Cadillac dealer called me,” Clark said, loudly enough to be heard on the cell phone in his pocket. “You think they’ve got their own tow trucks at that place? It’s not like Caddies break down very often. If everybody could afford a Caddie, I’d go out of business.”
Clark smiled. Mortavius did not.

“What company you with?” he asked.

“Highway Auto Service,” Clark responded, louder still. He pulled out the cell phone, surreptitiously hit the End button with a thumb, then held it out to Mortavius. “You want to call my office? Speed dial 1.”
Mortavius frowned. He still looked groggy. “I’ll get the keys,” he said.
He disappeared from the doorway, and Clark let out a breath. He speed-dialed Jessica again and put the phone back in his pocket. He glanced over his shoulder, then did a double take.

Give me a break!

Another tow truck was pulling past the security guard and heading toward Mortavius’s condo. Things were getting a little dicey.

“I left some papers in the truck you’ll need to sign,” Clark called into the condo. But as soon as the words left Clark’s mouth, Mortavius reappeared in the doorway, keys in hand.

Unfortunately, he glanced past Clark, and his eyes locked on the other tow truck. A glint of understanding sparked, followed by a flash of anger. “Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

“I told you . . . the Cadillac place.”

“The Cadillac place,” Mortavius repeated sarcastically. “What Cadillac place?”

“Don’t remember. The name’s on the papers in my truck.”
Mortavius took a menacing step forward, and Clark felt the fear crawl up his neck. His fake sheriff’s ID was in the tow truck along with his gun. He was running out of options.

“Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

Clark stiffened, ready to dodge the big man’s blows. In that instant, Clark thought about the dental work the last incident like this had required. Jessica would shoot him—it wasn’t in the budget.
A hand shot out, and Clark ducked. He lunged forward and brought his knee up with all his might. But the other man was quick, and the knee hit rock-solid thigh, not groin. Clark felt himself being jerked by his collar into the foyer, the way a dog might be yanked inside by an angry owner. Before he could land a blow, Clark was up against the wall, Mortavius in his face, a knife poised against Clark’s stomach.

Where did that come from?

Mortavius kicked the door shut. “Talk fast, con man,” he hissed. “Intruders break into my home, I slice ’em up in self-defense.”
“I’m a deputy sheriff for Orange County, California,” Clark gasped. He tried to sound official, hoping that even Mortavius might think twice before killing a law enforcement officer. “In off hours, I repo vehicles.” He felt the point of the knife pressing against his gut, just below his navel, the perfect spot to start a vivisection.
“But you can keep yours,” Clark continued, talking fast. “I’m only authorized to repo if there’s no breach of the peace. Looks like this situation might not qualify.”

Mortavius inched closer. He shifted his grip from Clark’s collar to his neck, pinning Clark against the wall. “You try to gank my ride at night, then show up the next morning to tow it?”

“Something like that,” Clark admitted. The words came out whispered for lack of air.

“That takes guts,” Mortavius responded. A look that might have passed for admiration flashed across the dark eyes. “But no brains.”
“I’ve got a deal,” Clark whispered, frantic now for breath. His world was starting to cave in, stars and pyrotechnics clouding his vision.
The doorbell rang.

“Let’s hear it,” Mortavius said quietly, relaxing his stranglehold just enough so Clark could breathe.

“They’re paying me six Gs for the car,” Clark explained rapidly. He was thinking just clearly enough to fudge the numbers. “They know where you are now because I called them yesterday. Even if you kill me—” saying the words made Clark shudder a little, especially since Mortavius didn’t flinch—“they’re going to find the car. You let me tow it today and get it fixed. I’ll wire four thousand bucks into your bank account before I leave the Cadillac place. I make two thousand, and you’ve got four thousand for a down payment on your next set of wheels.”
The doorbell rang again, and Mortavius furrowed his brow. “Five Gs,” he said, scowling.

“Forty-five hundred,” Clark countered, “I’ve got a wife and—”
Ughh . . . Clark felt the wind flee his lungs as Mortavius slammed him against the wall. Pain shot from the back of his skull where it bounced off the drywall, probably leaving a dent.

“Five,” Mortavius snarled.

Clark nodded quickly.

The big man released Clark, answered the door, and chased away the other tow truck driver, explaining that there had been a mistake. As Mortavius and Clark finished negotiating deal points, Clark had another brilliant idea.

“Have you got any friends who aren’t making their payments?” he asked. “I could cut them in on the same type of deal. Say . . . fifty-fifty on the repo reward—they could use their cuts as down payments to trade up.”

“Get out of here before I hurt you,” Mortavius said.


Clark glanced at his watch as he left the parking lot. He had less than two hours to return the tow truck and make it to the plastic surgeon’s office. He speed-dialed Jessica.

“Highway Auto Service,” she responded.

“It didn’t work,” Clark said. “I got busted.”
“You okay?”

He loved hearing the concern in her voice. He hesitated a second, then, “Not a scratch on me.”

“I told you it was a dumb idea,” Jessica said, though she sounded more relieved than upset. “You never listen. Clark Shealy knows it all.”
And he wasn’t listening now. Instead, he was doing the math again in his head. Sixteen thousand, minus Mortavius’s cut and the repair bill, would leave about ten. He thought about the logistics of making the wire transfers into accounts that Jessica wouldn’t know about.
Pulling a con on pimps like Mortavius was one thing. Getting one by Jessica was quite another.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: False Witness by Randy Singer

WOW! I'm not sure how I've missed Randy Singer up until now, but now that I've read this book, I'm definitely going to read the rest of his novels.

False Witness was packed with energy, suspense, and even some humor, something I didn't expect in a book like this, but done very well. I was quickly caught up into the story and didn't want to stop.

It was as though I was watching the TV show 24 all over again as I read this story, although it was even better, because the author is a Christian and the book is cleaner than 24. But there were some elements, such as torture, chase scenes, etc., that were like the show. In fact, I could envision the book's characters on the TV screen as I was reading. If you like suspense, you will love this book.

I was impressed when I read the following in the author's bio on the back cover of the book:

"(Randy) is donating all royalties from the sale of False Witness to the Dalit Freedom Network, which works to provide Dalit children a first-class education and free them from the bondage of human trafficking. For more infomation, visit"

This struck a chord with me, since I have become extremely interested in the subject of human slavery in the last few years. Just last week, I attended a program at one of our local churches where the speakers told us about what we can do to help stop this travesty. I will be looking into this further.

Great book that I had a hard time putting down! I give False Witness 5 out of 5 stars!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: A Heart Divided by Kathleen Morgan

Heart Divided, A: A Novel (Heart of the Rockies)A Heart Divided by Kathleen Morgan
Series: Heart of the Rockies 1

ISBN: 978-0-8007-1884-8
Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback

Publication date: May 11, 2011
Publisher: Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Description from the publisher:

When fate brings them together, they must choose between family ties and love.

The Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, heir of the Wainwright holdings, Sarah realizes things have gone too far.

As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery--they just might be falling in love. Can they betray their families to see where this attraction leads? Or will their families betray them?

Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains in 1878 comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.

I have to admit, I did like this book. It seems that there was enough of a developed plot to keep my interest, even though it is a "prairie novel". I especially liked the character Nick, who is the "glue" that holds the family together and keeps them from making many stupid mistakes. He is a Christian man who remains joyful through a variety of difficult trials, yet is a believable character who actually reminds me of some people I know, people who have encouraged me in my walk with God. Here's just one small exerpt from the book that exempliflies the kind of man Nick is:

"Sarah's just not the sort of person to turn her back on those she loves, no matter how badly they've sinned (Nick said)." His mouth quirked. "Kind of like God's unending love for his errant children."

A great reminder! We all should have a person or persons like Nick in our lives.

If you like a good romance (and a little suspense), you would like this book.

I give A Heart Divided 4 out of 5 stars.

“Available May 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

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

(I received this book from Revell for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Great NEW Book For Father's Day (AND A GIVEAWAY!)

(Read to the end to see how you can enter for a chance to receive a copy of this book!)

Project Dad: The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide for Becoming a Great FatherProject Dad is a humorous and practical guide book written by a dad to other dads. Todd Cartmell’s warm and engaging style will have fathers laughing from the first few pages, and gives doable hands-on advice for becoming a better dad.  This book will make an excellent Father’s Day gift!

What makes a great dad? Well, I think a dad should be kind and forgiving, always letting their children know he loves them, no matter what. And he should spend lots of time with them, teaching them the right way to live. This book will help all fathers accomplish these things. It would make a great gift for Father's Day!

Dr. Todd Cartmell received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He completed his postdoctoral training at Wright State University and the Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Cartmell works exclusively with children, adolescents, and families and specializes in the treatment of oppositional behavior, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other childhood and adolescent disorders. 

The author of several books, including Project Dad, Respectful Kids, and Keep the Siblings-Lose the Rivalry, Dr. Cartmell is a popular workshop speaker and regularly speaks on parenting issues throughout the country. Currently practicing in Wheaton, Illinois, Dr. Cartmell and his wife, Lora, have two sons.


Now, for the GIVEAWAY! Would you like to win a copy of this new book? All you have to do is tell me what you think makes a great dad (or a special memory you have of your own father) and add your name and email to the comment section (your entry must include all three of these things to qualify for the free book). I will choose a winner on June 4th, so don't wait to enter!

“Available April 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Secrets of the Heart by Jillian Kent

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Secrets of the Heart

Realms (May 3, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***


Jillian has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers for several years. She has also been a member of Romance Writers of America for 20 years and a member of The Beau Monde, Kiss of Death, and Faith, Hope, and Love specialty chapters of RWA. With a master’s degree in social work, Jillian is employed as a counselor for nursing students, which reflects within the pages of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, which won the 2009 Inspiration for Writers contest, previously finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, the Noble Theme, and Faith, Hope, and Love’s Touched by Love contests.

Visit the author's website.


Madeline Whittington, daughter of the deceased Earl of Richfield, emerges from English society’s prescribed period of mourning in the winter of 1817. Madeline believes that she no longer belongs in a world of gossip and gowns after experiencing multiple losses. When she rescues a runaway from Ashcroft Insane Asylum, her life will be forever changed as she discovers the dark secrets within the asylum walls.
Because of his elder brother’s unexpected death, Devlin Greyson becomes Earl of Ravensmoore and struggles between two worlds: one of affluence and privilege and one of poverty and disease. Torn between his desire to become a doctor and the numerous responsibilities of his title, he wrestles with God’s calling for his future. Will he be able to honor this God-given gift and win the woman he falls in love with in a society that does not value gentlemen who work? And will Lady Madeline be able to honor her father’s memory when she is attracted to the man she holds responsible for her father’s death?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161638185X
ISBN-13: 978-1616381851



Yorkshire, England, 1817
Who’s there?” Lady Madeline Whittington reined her horse in and listened. She looked into the dense, wooded edge of the forest of Richfield, her family home. “Did you hear something, Shakespeare?” She petted her gelding’s neck. The horse’s ears pricked forward. She studied the fading sun. Darkness would close in soon. It would be unwise to tarry over long. The forest edges, thick with bare brambles now, would become heavy with foliage in the next few months. If she was fortunate, the blackberries would return. Last year’s winter had been harsh, and she’d had to go without that succulent treat. A shadow flitted from within, causing a branch to tremble. “Come out.” Madeline hardened her voice. “Come out at once.”

Papa had taught her to be firm and bold when encountering the unknown, but also cautious. She reached for the revolver in her pocket wishing she hadn’t sent Donavan, their groomsman, on ahead. But she’d desperately wanted to ride alone for a few short minutes.

Two huge brown eyes in a tear-streaked and muddy face peered between parted branches held back by long slim fingers. Blood trickled from scratches on the girl’s arms and hands.
“Who are you? Why did you not answer me?”

The eyes grew wider.
Madeline’s heart softened along with her voice.

“It’s safe. I won’t hurt you.” She tore a hunk of bread from a leather pouch strapped across her shoulder. “Are you hungry?” She offered a large portion. Crumbs fell.

The girl took a step toward her and bit her lower lip. Bruises colored the young woman’s wrists and ankles, her only covering a torn chemise and ill-fitting shoes with no laces.

“What’s your name? Can you understand me?”

Brown Eyes held out a hand.
“You are hungry. Of course you are. Come closer. I’m going to toss the bread to you. Is that all right?”

The pitiful creature nodded and held out both hands.

She understands me. Madeline aimed and carefully threw the bread.

The silent stranger caught it and stuffed the bounty into her mouth so fast that Madeline feared the girl might choke.

“Will you come with me?” Madeline held out her hand. “You may ride with me.”
Brown Eyes stepped back.
“Don’t go. It’s dangerous. You cannot stay here. I won’t hurt you.”

The girl looked into the woods at the lowering sun and then at Madeline’s outstretched hand. Brown Eyes stepped backward. One step. Two steps.

“Wait.” Madeline unbuttoned her cape. “Take this. It’s far too cold with only a chemise to cover you. You’ll freeze to death.” She threw the long, fur-lined wrap to Brown Eyes.

The girl gathered the offering and backed into the forest, keeping her eyes locked on Madeline’s until she turned and ran.

“No! Wait. Please wait.” Madeline searched for a way through the thicket. Not finding any, she pushed her mount farther north until she found an entry. How could she help this girl without scaring her out of her wits? She found the girl’s path. Darkness chased them.

“Where are you?” Madeline shouted. “It’s too dangerous.”

Shakespeare’s ears pricked forward, and she caught the sound of scurrying ahead and then spotted Brown Eyes. Low-hanging branches attacked Madeline, clawing her with their long-reaching arms as she herded the girl toward a nearby hunting cabin. Minutes

later they broke through the trees and entered a clearing where the outline of a small cabin was silhouetted against the fast-approaching night sky.
Pulling her mount to a stop, Madeline kicked her booted foot out of the stirrup and narrowly avoided catching her skirt on the pommel as she slid to the ground.
“I won’t hurt you,” Madeline called. The girl hesitated and then ran again. Gathering up her skirt, Madeline chased after the girl, grabbing for the cape that trailed behind. She easily caught the girl, who fell to the ground in a heap and rolled into a ball with the cape wrapped around her.

Madeline knelt beside her and spoke gently. “Please don’t run. I’m not going to take the cape from you. It’s yours. A gift.”

Brown Eyes panted with fear.
“It’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help.” Madeline patted the girl’s shoulder.

She flinched.
“I’m sorry you are afraid. I want you to stay here. See the cabin? You can stay here.”
The girl peeked out from behind the cape, her ragged breathing easing from the chase through the woods. She looked at the cabin and then at Madeline.

“I know you’ve suffered something horrid. Come. You’ll be safe here. Trust me.” Madeline stood and offered a hand up.

Brown Eyes took her hand and followed her into the cabin.

Each one sees what he carries in his heart.

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you ever made a mistake?” Madeline settled into her saddle, avoiding her friend’s probing gaze. Anxiety rippled through her as she stroked the neck of her large bay gelding while they waited for the hunting horn to sound.
“Not to my recollection.” Lady Gilling gathered her reins. “I’m quite good at avoiding them.”
“I shouldn’t have come.” Madeline’s gloved hands trembled. “I hate hunting.” She’d tried to avoid the ride today. She wanted to visit her brown-eyed fugitive, and she’d been unable to take food to the girl this morning because of the hunt. Mother had insisted she rejoin society this morning, and she’d enlisted her best friend Hally, Lady Gilling, to be certain that she rode today.

“You used to love the hunt.” Hally circled her dappled gray mare around Madeline’s horse, inspecting Madeline as though she were about to enter the ballroom instead of the final hunt of the season.

Madeline shook her head. “You’re wrong. I love riding, not hunting.”

“Perhaps. However, at one and twenty, you are far too young to give up on this world. And even though I’m only two years your elder, I’ve had my sorrows too, and I have found ways to battle the pain. You must do the same.”
“I’m sorry, Hally.” The heat of shame spiraled into her cheeks despite the sting of the cold, early spring air. She thought of her brother and sister who had died during the past two years and of Papa who had joined them last year. What could be worse—losing

siblings and a parent or a beloved husband, as Hally had only two years ago?
Madeline’s horse pranced in rhythm to her rising anxiety. “Easy, Shakespeare. Easy, boy.” She tried to focus on the gathering outside Lord Selby’s manor house where horses and riders crowded together in a flurry of anticipation. She took a deep breath to rein

in her frustration and hoped her mount would settle down along with her. “Hally, you pick the most difficult of times to discuss such personal issues.”
Hally edged her mount next to Madeline’s horse. “I do this because you have been in hiding ever since your father died. If you refuse to mix in polite society, they will refuse you.”

“Have I become a ghost?” Mist floated over the fetlocks on her horse, a dreamlike ground covering that made it seem like they waited in the clouds. “Do you not see me?” She wanted to slip away from this show of rejoining society. She wanted to check on the girl. She wanted to leave. “Does society not see me here today?”

“For the first time in a year at the hunt.” Hally reached over and pushed back the netted veil that covered Madeline’s face, tucking the material into her hat. “There, that’s much better. Now everyone can see you.”
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” She reached up to pull the veil back into place, but Hally stopped her.

“Your mother worries, Maddie. Since your father died, you have refused to mingle, you have refused to travel, and until today you have refused to ride with the hunt. Your father would have scolded you for such behavior.”
Madeline’s chin trembled. “That was cruel. I enjoyed the hunt because Papa loved it when I rode with him. He’s gone now. I don’t have to hunt to ride.”
Hally lowered her voice. “I’m sorry. I know you miss him, but society’s prescribed period of mourning is quite enough. I’ve always believed six months far too long, and here you are six months after that. You need not suffer further isolation.” She leaned closer and whispered. “For heaven’s sake, Maddie, your mother is out of mourning.”

“I’m afraid she thinks of allowing Lord Vale to court her.” There, she’d said it aloud. “May God forgive her. She dishonors Papa’s memory.”
“So that is what worries you. Your mother is interested in a man.”

“He’s not just a man, Hally. He’s Lord Vale, and there’s much speculation about his actions and investments. Yet here I am, pretending all is well.” Madeline lifted her chin and watched her breath dissipate like puffs of smoke on the wind.

“Pretending is a fine art.” Hally smiled. “Everyone must pretend to some extent, dear, or life would be far too complicated.”

“I wonder where life will lead now. Mother isn’t thinking clearly and allows Vale too much time with her at Richfield. I no longer know where I belong, but certainly not in this world of gossip and gowns.”

“We will discuss your fears later, my dear. But for now, your mention of gowns is a subject that warrants further consideration. I think it is time we turn our thoughts toward lighter matters, and talk of fashion will do nicely.”
“Fashion?” Madeline scrunched up her nose. “Please tell me you jest.”

“Fashion is always important.” Hally tilted her head in thoughtful study. “Your black wool riding habit does nothing to draw attention. Green would set your hazel eyes ablaze or, at the very least, a lush russet to show off the highlights in your hair.”

“Why does this matter so much to you?” For the first time that day, Madeline studied her friend in turn. A dark lavender velvet riding habit enhanced her figure. The fabric against the gray of her horse together with the soft early morning light provided Hally with an air of regal confidence, confidence Madeline envied. She was already looking forward to the end of this event.
“Because you are my friend, and melancholia does not become you.”

“Nonsense. I used that emotion up long ago.”

“So you say.” Hally scanned the area. “The chill has bestowed you with blushing cheeks, a most charming quality that will endear you to the male population. There are some very eligible and very handsome gentlemen here today. I shall be most pleased to make an introduction.”

Tentacles of panic snaked through her. “I don’t believe that is required today.” Nor any other day. The thought of an introduction to a gentleman terrified her. She’d witnessed Mother’s agony when she’d lost her children and then her beloved husband. Why allow the heart such vulnerability to begin with? “Really, Hally. Do you never grow weary of your matchmaking schemes? Do you not find such things awkward?”

“My James was a rare man. I’ll never stop missing him . . . and the children we might have enjoyed. I want you to experience that kind of love, Maddie.”
Sorrow shadowed Hally’s blue-green eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so selfish.” The last thing she had wanted to do was cause more heartache.
Hally waved a dismissive hand. “It’s all about love, dearest. Don’t forget that.”
“But love is—”
“Necessary. Not awkward. You must accept that. You missed your London season four years ago. I know many at this event. As a respectable widow I can be a great help.”
Madeline didn’t argue. “I appreciate your concern.” She hoped to get through the hunt and the social gathering unscathed by men and their unwanted advances. The gathering after the hunt could prove to be difficult. Many men would drink, and some would drink too much, making themselves perfectly obnoxious. “Perhaps we can just ride today and think on these matters another time.”
“Forgive me, dear. I’m overzealous when it comes to you. I will not speak of opportunities again this day. But I pray you’ll think about what you are doing, think about your future, think about your life. If you continue to hide yourself away, you will not be accepted by polite society. And since your mother is ready to begin living again, should you not as well?”
The budding tree branches swayed gently in the early morning breeze and, bending toward her, seemed to hesitate on the wind, awaiting her reply. “I am in no mood to meet anyone.”

“We’ll speak of your moods later.” Hally smiled. “Let’s enjoy the present.”
Bright streaks of sunlight burst through the cloudy, late March sky. Madeline contemplated her friend’s advice. “You’re right. It’s a beautiful morning. Time to imagine the future. As for now, I’m just not certain how to proceed.”
Hally reached across her mare and patted Madeline’s hand. “I’ll be happy to show you the way.”
Lord Selby’s raucous laughter roared through the crowd as he muscled his way through with his horse. Another rider crashed into her while trying to get out of Selby’s way, causing Madeline’s mount to lurch sideways into Hally, nearly unseating each of them.

Madeline’s breath caught, but she quickly tightened her reins and gained control.
“Easy, Shakespeare. It’s all right, boy.” She stroked the gelding’s neck to calm him and looked to see if the other rider had recovered his balance.
A pair of green eyes, wide with concern, locked on her. The beginning of a smile dimpled the man’s cheeks. A strong chin, straight nose, and clean-shaven face provided him with the good looks of a gentleman in a Van Dyck portrait. She felt the heat of a sudden blush and, not trusting her voice, held her tongue.
Apology etched his handsome face. “I beg your forgiveness.” He arched a single black brow. “Are either of you hurt?”

Madeline sucked in a deep breath to calm her nerves and brushed her skirt free of imaginary grime. “I am unscathed, sir,” she assured him, pulling her gaze away. “Lady Gilling?”

“No injuries here.” She pushed her purple plumed hat back into place.

Madeline turned back to him. The sudden urge to chuckle surprised her, but instead of laughing, she molded herself into a woman of politeness and poise. “It appears that we have survived the excitement.”

“I’m afraid Lord Selby is already in his cups this fine morning.” The charming stranger maneuvered his mount closer and lowered his voice. “Hippocrates here found Selby’s bellowing objectionable.” His smile radiated genuine warmth. “I must concur with his animal instinct.”

The blare of the hunting horn filled the air. The fine gentleman tipped his hat and disappeared into the crush of riders. A twinge of disappointment tugged at Madeline’s heart.

“Are you certain you are unharmed?” Hally asked as they trotted their horses out of the gate. “You look a bit pale.”

“I can’t help but think I’ve seen that man somewhere before.

Does he look familiar to you?” Madeline searched for him as they rode out.

“No. I don’t believe so. Could it be that you just met a gentleman of importance with no introduction from me at all?”

“Strange. I can’t recall where, but I’m almost certain.”

“The hounds are on the move,” Hally said. “We must discuss your newly made acquaintance later. We’re off!”

The baying hounds drowned out the possibility of further discussion. A glimmer of anticipation lightened Madeline’s heart. The challenge of the ride distracted her from other concerns and strengthened her spirit. Perhaps I have been a bit melancholy of late.

Her worries lessened with each stride of her horse and with each obstacle cleared, but flashes of the past whirred by her as swiftly as the hunting field. The horses in front of her threw clumps of dirt into the air as they pounded across the countryside in pursuit of a fox she hoped would evade them.
A pheasant burst from its nest. Startled, Shakespeare faltered as he launched toward the next stone wall. Madeline leaned far forward and gave him extra rein in an attempt to help him clear the barrier, but she knew immediately he was off stride.
The crack of rear hooves against the top of the wall thundered through her heart. Shakespeare stumbled and went down on his knees, tossing her over his head. Madeline landed with a jarring thud on her left side. She struggled to get up, but racking pain paralyzed any attempt at movement.

“Maddie!” Hally dismounted, ran to Madeline, and knelt at her side.

She rolled onto her back and groaned. A fine mess. “Shakespeare? Is he hurt?”
“Are you all right?” Hally clutched Madeline’s hand in her own. “Maddie?”
She lay still, trying to assess the damage. “I believe I may have broken my arm.” Tears stung her eyes. “Where’s Shakespeare?” She prayed he bore no serious injuries.
A shadow fell over Madeline. “I’ve already looked at him. He’s shaken, temporarily lame, but on his feet. He will be taken to Selby’s stables to begin the healing process. Unlike your horse, young lady, I suggest you not move.”
The gentleman had returned. And here she lay, flat on her back, her riding skirt disheveled, an indelicate position, indeed. She did not need a man now, especially this very interesting man.

She squeezed Hally’s hand. “I’m not presentable,” she whispered.

“This is hardly the time to be concerned about one’s appearance,” Hally whispered back, smoothing Madeline’s skirt down toward her ankles, a gesture that reminded Madeline of her maid making the bed. She’d have laughed if she weren’t completely mortified and on the verge of fainting. Her arm felt like glass under pressure, about to shatter.

“You took quite a tumble.” He dropped to his knees. “May I be of assistance?”
Madeline tried to sit up again, determined not to appear weak.She prided herself on her independence and strength, but her body rebelled and collapsed as if she were a marionette whose strings had suddenly been severed. “Who are you, sir?”
“I’m Devlin Grayson of Ravensmoore. Where does it hurt?”

“My arm.” Madeline gingerly cradled her left arm and tried to blink back the tears. “You’re Lord Ravensmoore?”

He nodded.
She felt suddenly vulnerable, looking into this stranger’s intense gaze. “I couldn’t prevent it.”

“Lie still, please.”
“Everything happened so fast. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the hunt field,” Madeline said, embarrassed. “Poor Shakespeare. I hope he’s not hurt. I’m such a fool.”

“You are no fool. This could happen to anyone. And your horse appears to be recovering from the shock. A fine horse. And you have given him a fine name.”
She gazed up into his caring green eyes. “Thank you.”

“May I ask your name before I examine you? That is, if I have your permission?”
She found it difficult to concentrate. “Lady Madeline Whittington.” Her head throbbed. “Examine me? Are you a doctor? No, that wouldn’t be right, would it? Not if you’re Ravensmoore.”

“I will be soon.”
Fleeting thoughts of Papa suffering in the hospital filled her mind with fear and anger. The doctors had not helped him. He had died under their care. The slightest of remembrances bubbled to the surface of her thoughts. She turned her face away from him and looked at Hally.

“Lady Madeline,” Hally pleaded, glancing across at Ravensmoore. “He is offering you his medical skills.”

Madeline turned back and looked him in the eye, trying to catch the elusive memory. Where had she seen him before? “Something is not right.” The memories, one after another, tumbled into her consciousness and revealed themselves as they broke through her defenses and exploded into the present. “I remember you.”
“Remember me?” He paused and studied her, searching her face for details, some recollection of the past.

“You were at the Guardian Gate when we took my father to the hospital.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “You killed him.”

Ravensmoore paled. “What do you mean?”

“Lady Madeline! What an unkind thing to say.” Hally looked at Ravensmoore. “She must have hit her head. Maddie, have you lost all reason?”

“My father, Lord Richfield, bled to death because of your ineptness.” A ripple of pain burst up her arm.

“Lady Madeline—of Richfield?” he asked, turning a shade paler. “Your father? I . . . I do remember. I’m very sorry.”

Hally gently touched Madeline’s cheek and wiped away a tear. “He is only trying to help you.”
“I don’t want his help.”
“I assure you, madam, I am not a murderer. I am most sympathetic to your loss. I promise to be gentle.”

“A fine promise,” she scoffed. “But I have no confidence in your abilities, sir. It is regrettable, but it is the truth.”

He pressed on. “The bone might be broken.”

“I do not need your attention,” Madeline snapped. “It’s most unnecessary.”
A pulse throbbed at his temple. “You don’t understand.” He recovered his composure. “If you refuse to let me examine you, then I must insist on escorting you to Lord Selby’s home where you can rest.”

Madeline groaned in frustration. “I refuse to return to that man’s home. He’s drunk.” The two of them outnumbered her. “I want to go home.” She allowed them to assist her to a sitting position.

“She accepts your kind offer, sir,” Hally put in.

“Lean against me, Lady Madeline, until we see if you can stand,” Ravensmoore said.
“I appear to have little choice.”

Ravensmoore put his arm around her waist and gently guided her to her feet. The strength of his body proved to be an unexpected comfort.

“That’s it. Keep your left arm pressed against your side,” he instructed.
The last thing she wanted to do was lean against this man who dredged up bitter memories of Papa’s death. “I’m fine, really,” she lied, in hope of escaping him. Her body betrayed her in a sudden burst of pain that forced her to stiffen. She repressed a moan and

fought to keep her balance. Emotions from the past and present collided in a haze of confusion.
Madeline pushed away from him. “Lady Gilling will assist me.” She held her hand out and stumbled. Ravensmoore caught her.

“And you will pull your friend to the ground with you.”

How could she have considered this man attractive? The thought made no sense now that she had put the pieces together. Yet, he seemed kind, not at all how she remembered him, wearing that horrible blood-spattered apron. Her father’s blood. She squeezed her eyes shut trying to ward off the image. “I don’t want your help,” she said through clenched teeth. “I can ride by myself.”

“You’re not strong enough. I’ll take you home.” Ravensmoore skillfully lifted her in his arms, careful to keep her injured arm protected. “You’ll ride with me.”
Madeline sat in front of Ravensmoore for the ride home. She tried not to lean against his chest for support but found the effort impossible. She’d never been so close to a man, his breath kissing her cheek. She straightened and had to smother a moan of agony when pain radiated through her arm.
When the high stone walls of Richfield came into view Madeline sighed in relief, grateful to be close to home. The great manor house spread before them, the additional wings on either side providing a sense of comfort and safety. A maze of hedges to the left of them and the soon-to-be-blooming gardens magnified the opulence of Richfield. To the right of the edifice stood stables and paddocks for the horses and housing for those who tended them.
Madeline swallowed hard. She’d just returned home with the man who’d killed her father, the man she held responsible for her father’s death. Betrayal weighed heavy on her heart, for this is where Papa had loved and raised his family.
Madeline longed to be in her bed as they drew near the entrance. She vowed to escape from this horrid day and to her room as fast as she could manage.
“Are you ready?” Ravensmoore asked.

Startled from her pain-filled thoughts she said, “Yes.” But that was a lie. Madeline’s head throbbed simultaneously with the beating of her pulse. She fought for control and blinked back tears when the three of them reached the steps leading into the arched entrance. She nearly crumpled when Ravensmoore dismounted, and she clung desperately to the pommel of the saddle. He reached for her. “It’s all right. I’ll help you.”
“There is no need to coddle me, sir. I assure you, once again, that I am perfectly able.”
“Excellent! Then this should not be too difficult for you.”

Madeline fell into his arms, light-headed and shaky. She wobbled when her feet touched the ground. He held her, keeping her safe.

“Allow me to carry you, Lady Madeline.”

Pain sliced through her arm from the jolting ride. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs, sir. I can walk.” She took two steps and swayed precariously.
“I think not.” Ignoring her protests, Ravensmoore scooped her into his arms again. His warmth and scent—spice, leather, and sweat—mingled together in a balm for her pain.

Her mother, Grace, the Countess of Richfield, ran down the steps to meet them. “Madeline, you’re hurt!” Her mother placed a hand on Madeline’s cheek. “What happened?”
Madeline bit her lip, trying not to reveal the depth of her pain. “It’s nothing, Mother. I took a spill off Shakespeare.” She would not be the cause of further anguish. Mother’s grief over the past two years had been more than many tolerated during a lifetime.

“She’ll be fine, Countess,” Hally said. “We’ve brought a doctor with us.”
“A doctor? Thank God. Follow me, sir.”

Now, beyond caring, she laid her head on his shoulder. Once again his breath whispered past her cheek as he took the stairs and delivered her safely into the embrace of her home.

“Phineas, bring some willow bark tea,” Grace instructed the butler. “Bring her into the sitting room, sir.” The countess continued her directions while fussing over Madeline. “The settee will do nicely. That’s it, gently.”
Ravensmoore’s hand lingered a moment on hers as Madeline sank gratefully into the plush green velvet cushions. Surely the man would leave her in peace now.
Her mother pushed back the gold damask draperies, and muted light filled the room. A fire burned in the hearth, and Madeline shivered, perhaps from the lack of the body warmth she had shared with her rescuer on the ride home.
The butler returned with a pot of tea. He poured the hot liquid into a rose-patterned cup and cautiously handed it to her. “There you are, Lady Madeline.”
“Thank you, Phineas.” Steam rose from the cup. Madeline watched her mother. “Please don’t worry so. It’s not serious.”

Ravensmoore knelt beside her. “I recommend you take a swallow of that tea as soon as you can.”
“Sir, your services are no longer needed. And I will drink my tea when I am good and ready, thank you very much.” Madeline spoke more curtly than she’d intended, but she longed to be alone.

“Drink the tea, young lady,” Mother ordered. “The willow bark will help you relax and ease your pain. And you will permit the doctor to examine you. Do not argue with me on this matter.”

“But Mother, you don’t understand. He—”

She touched her daughter’s hand and their eyes met. “I understand enough.” She turned to Ravensmoore. “What can we do, sir?”

“Allow her to rest a few moments. Then remove her riding jacket so I may examine her arm. Is there a place where I might wash up?

I must have left my gloves on the field, and I don’t want to cause further distress by smudging a lady’s clothing.”

“Of course. Phineas will show you the way.”

As soon as he’d left the room, Madeline looked at her mother. “Let me explain. You must know that he”—she pointed in the direction he’d just gone with cup in hand—“was the physician-in training who allowed Papa to bleed to death in York.”

“I didn’t recognize him.” A veil of sadness shrouded her mother’s eyes. “I didn’t think to see any of them again.” Even the worry lines that creased her mother’s brow could not diminish the sculpted features of a woman who resembled a Greek goddess, though she seemed utterly unaware of her beauty. The name Grace suited her.

“He’s not a doctor . . . yet.”

Grace plucked a pair of shears from a nearby sewing basket. “You have made that perfectly clear. Now, allow Lady Gilling and me to cut away your jacket. You might have broken your arm, and there’s no point in causing you any more pain.”
“You still want him to examine me?”

“Of course. I must think of your welfare. The past is the past.”

“He may be able to help you. It will take a servant a long time to ride into town, locate a physician, and return with him. Let this doctor help you.”
Madeline looked from one to the other, then handed Hally the teacup. “Do be careful.”
“Of course we’ll be careful, dear.” Grace cut away the jacket in moments.

“Oh, Maddie. I’m so sorry this happened.” Hally handed her the teacup again. “It’s entirely my fault.”

“That is not true.” Madeline finished the tea. “Don’t be silly.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I am quite dizzy.”