Penny Wise

July 22nd, 2014

Penny Wise

338

By Neta & Dave Jackson

Penny Wise introduces us to yet another family in “the neighborhood”—the Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those “good things” feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something’s gotta change!

The third in the Windy City Neighbors series, Penny Wise is a contemporary peek at an urban family wrestling with the spiritual and practical challenges of real life. The series employs the innovating storytelling technique of “parallel novels,” each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters’ lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another. Welcome to Beecham Street—a typical, isolated American neighborhood that is beginning to come out of its shell . . . for better or worse.

ISLAND BREEZES

It took me awhile to really get into this book – like about twenty chapters. Even though I got off to a slow start, I really got caught up in it.

I think I was so into the Souled Out Sisters series that I just needed time to change gears. I was glad to see the Bentleys again.

Now I can hardly wait for Pound Foolish, the next book in the Windy City Neighbors series. I’m going to have to go back and read the first two books in this series. I’m liking these neighbors. Thank you Neta and Dave for so many good books.

***A special thank you to litfuse for providing a review copy.***

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Dave and Neta Jackson are award-winning authors living in the Chicago area where their parallel novels from the Yada Yada House of Hope and Harry Bentley series are set. As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books.

Death Takes a Ride

July 22nd, 2014

Death Takes a Ride

9780800721602

By Lorena McCourtney

It’s official. This case is above her pay grade–and Cate’s in over her head.

Cate Kinkaid arrives at H&B Vintage Auto Restorations to give a friend a ride. But, as usual, trouble finds Cate even there–this time in the form of one dead man, one wounded man, and what appears to be a pretty obvious case of self-defense.

Despite having been merely an unfortunate bystander, Cate finds herself sucked into the case. And the deeper she gets, the more she begins to suspect that the shooting in the H&B office may not have been as cut-and-dried as it appeared.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lorena McCourtney takes you on wild ride in this clever cozy mystery that will keep you guessing.

ISLAND BREEZES

I love assistant PI Cate Kinkaid and the way she falls into mysteries and dead bodies. You just never know what’s going to happen when Cate gets involved.

And, of course, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen between Cate and her boyfriend Mitch. Or what’s going to happen between Clancy, the dog Mitch gets stuck babysitting, and Octavia, the cat that owns Cate. Fur does fly.

Cate’s current caper both starts and ends with murder and mayhem with a lot of interesting stuff in between. It also looks as if the boyfriend is going to dump her. Cate just wonders when and how it’s going to happen.

This is a great stand alone read, but you’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you read Dying to Read and Dolled Up to Die first.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in The Cate Kinkaid Files. I hope you have many more planned, Ms McCourtney. Thank you for this series.

***A special thank you to Lanette Haskins for providing a review copy.***

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Lorena McCourtney is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of dozens of novels, including Invisible (which won a Daphne du Maurier Award from Romance Writers of America), Dying to Read, and Dolled Up to Die. She resides in Oregon. Learn more at www.lorenamccourtney.com.

Heart of Mercy

July 18th, 2014

Heart of Mercy

By Sharlene MacLaren

Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age and was only 16 when her father was killed in a brawl sparked by a feud with the Connors family that spans several generations. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, Mercy is devastated, but finds comfort in caring for their two sons, who survived thanks to a heroic rescue by Sam Connors, blacksmith in the small town of Paris, Tennessee. Yet the judge is determined to grant custody only if Mercy is married. Mercy loves the boys as her own, and she’ll go to any lengths to keep them—but what if that means marrying the son of the man who killed her father? Set in the 1880’s, Heart of Mercy is the first book in MacLaren’s new Tennessee Dreams series.

ISLAND BREEZES

It started as a pleasant evening and ended in heartbreak. Mercy takes in the young orphaned sons of her best friends, but has to fight to keep them since the judge has decided they need to have a married couple as their guardians.

Sam is a man still living with his mother, who is constantly whining and trying to manipulate him. He has to escape, but isn’t sure how to go about it.

The judge finally agrees to give Mercy thirty days to find a husband if she wants to keep the boys. She’s desperate enough to advertise for a husband. Sam is desperate enough to answer that ad.

It sounds like a good thing all around except for the feud between their families. It’s a real Hatfield and McCoy type feud. The problem is no one quite knows why it’s still going on after all these years.

Are these two willing to go through all the grief that will be heaped on them from both sides? It will take some real determination to put themselves in that position.

Thank you, Ms MacLaren. I’m looking forward to more Tennessee Dreams.

***A special thank you to Cathy Hickling for providing a review copy.***

Award winning romance author, Sharlene MacLaren has released 13 novels since embarking on a writing career in 2007. After a career teaching second grade “Shar” says she asked God for a new mission “that would bring her as great a sense of purpose” as she’d felt teaching and raising her children. She tried her hand at inspirational romance, releasing Through Every Storm to critical and popular acclaim in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. She quickly became the top selling fiction author for Whitaker House, has accumulated multiple awards, and endeared herself to readers who can’t get enough of her long, luscious and often quirky tales – both historical and contemporary. Her novels include the contemporary romances Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; and three historical series including Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma); The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann) and River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret).

Now a peak at the first chapter.

1890
Paris, Tennessee
“Fire!”
The single word had the power to force a body to drop
his knees and call out to his Maker for leniency. But most took time for
neither, instead racing to the scene of terror with the bucket they kept stored
close to the door, and joining the contingent of citizens determined to battle
the flames of death and destruction. Such was the case tonight when, washing
the dinner dishes in the kitchen sink, Mercy Evans heard the dreaded screams
coming from all directions, even began to smell the sickening fumes of blazing
timber seeping through her open windows. She ran through her house and burst
through the screen door onto the front porch.
“Where’s the fire?” she shouted at the people running
up Wood Street carrying buckets of water.
Without so much as a glance at her, one man hollered
on the run, “Looks to be the Watson place over on Caldwell.”
Her heart thudded to a shattering halt. God, no! “Surely, you don’t mean Herb
and Millie Watson!”
Mercy Evans and Millie Watson, formerly Gifford, had
been fast friends at school and had stuck together like glue in the dimmest of
circumstances, as well as the sweetest. Millie had walked with Mercy through
the loss of both her parents, and Mercy had watched Millie fall wildly in love
with Herb Watson in the twelfth grade. She’d been the maid of honor in their
wedding the following summer.
But her voice was lost to the footsteps thundering
past. Whirling on her heel, she ran back inside, hurried to extinguish all but
one kerosene lamp, snatched her wrap from its hook by the door, and darted back
outside and up the rutted street toward her best friends’ home, dodging horses
and a stampede of citizens. “Lord, please don’t let it be,” she pleaded aloud.
“Oh, God, keep them safe. Jesus, Jesus….” But her cries vanished in the
scramble of bodies crowding her off the street as several made the turn onto
Caldwell in their quest to reach the flaming house, which already looked beyond
saving.
Tongues of fire shot like dragons’ breath out windows
and up through a hole in the roof. Like hungry serpents, flames lapped up the
sides of the house, eating walls and shattering panes, while men heaved their
pathetic little buckets of water at the volcanic monster.
“Back off, everybody. Step back!” ordered Sheriff
Phil Marshall. He and a couple of deputies on horseback spread their arms wide
at the crowd, trying to push them to safety.
Ignoring his orders, Mercy pressed through the
gathering mob until the heat so overwhelmed her that she had no choice but to
stop. Besides, a giant arm reached out and stopped her progress. She shook it
off. “Where are they?” she gasped, breathless. “Where’s the family?”
The sheriff moved his bald head from side to side,
his sad, defeated eyes telling the story. “Don’t know, Miss Evans. No one’s
seen ’em yet. We been scourin’ the crowd”—he gave another shake of the
head—“and it don’t appear anybody got out of that inferno.”
“That can’t be.” A sob caught at the back of her
throat and choked her next words. “They were at my place earlier. I made
supper.”
“Sorry, miss.”
“Someone’s comin’ out!” A man’s ear-splitting shout
rose above the crowd.
Dense smoke enveloped a large figure
emerging—staggering rather like a drunkard—from the open door and onto the
porch, his arms full with two wriggling bundles wrapped in blankets and
screaming in terror. Mercy sucked in a cavernous breath and held it till
weakness overtook her and she forced herself to let it out. Could it be? Had
little John Roy and Joseph survived the fire thanks to this man?
“Who is it?” someone asked.
All stood in rapt silence as he passed through the
cloud of smoke. “Looks to be Sam Connors, the blacksmith,” said the sheriff,
scratching his head and stepping forward.
“Sure ’nough is,” someone confirmed.
Mercy stared in wonder as the man, looking dazed and
almost ethereal, strode down the steps, then wavered and stumbled before
falling flat on his face in a heap of dust and bringing the howling bundles
with him.
Excited chatter erupted as Mercy and several others
ran to their aid. Mercy yanked the blankets off the boys and heaved a sigh of
relief to find them both alert and apparently unharmed, albeit still screeching
louder than a couple of banshees. Through their avalanche of tears, they
recognized her, and they hurled themselves into her arms, knocking her
backward, so that she wound up on her back perpendicular to Mr. Connors, with
both of the boys lying prone across her body. In all the chaos, she felt a hand
grasp her arm and help her up to a sitting position.
“Come on, Miz. You bes’ git yo’self an’ them
chillin’s out of the way o’ them flames fo’ you all gets burned.” She had the
presence of mind to look up at Solomon Turner, a former slave now in the employ
of Mrs. Iris Brockwell, a prominent Paris citizen who’d donated a good deal of
money to the hospital fund.
Mercy took the man’s callused hand and allowed him to
help her to a standing state. By the lines etched in his face from years of
hard work in the sweltering sun, Mercy figured he had to be in his seventies,
yet he lifted her with no apparent effort. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.”
Five-year-old John Roy stretched his arms upward,
pleading with wet eyes to be held, while Joseph, six, took a fistful of her
skirt and clung with all his might. “Come,” she said, hoisting John Roy up into
her arms. “We best do as Mr. Turner says, honey. Follow me.”
“But…Mama and Papa….” Joseph turned and gave his
perishing house a long perusal, tears still spilling down his face. John Roy
buried his wrenching sobs in Mercy’s shoulder, and it was all she could do to
keep from bolting into the house herself to search for Herb and Millie, even
though she knew she’d never come out alive. If the fire and smoke didn’t kill
her, the heat would. Besides, before her eyes, the flames had devoured the very
sides of the house, leaving a skeletal frame with a staircase only somewhat
intact and a freestanding brick fireplace looking like a graveyard monument.
Her heart throbbed in her chest and thundered in her ears, and she wanted to
scream, but the ever-thickening smoke and acrid fumes burned to the bottom of
her lungs.
With her free hand, she hugged Joseph close to her.
“I know, sweetheart, and I’m so, so sorry.” Her words drowned in her own sobs as
the truth slammed against her. Millie and Herb, her most loyal friends. Gone.
Sheriff Marshall and his deputies ordered the crowd
to move away from the blazing house, so she forced herself to obey, dragging a
reluctant Joseph with her. At the same time, she observed three men carrying a
yet unconscious Sam Connors across the street to a grassy patch of ground.
Several others gathered around, trying to decide what sort of care he needed.
Of course, he required medical attention, but Mercy felt too weak and dizzy to
tend to him. Best to let the men put him on a cart and drive him over to Doc
Trumble’s. Besides, she highly doubted he’d welcome her help. He was a Connors,
after all, and she an Evans—two families who had been fighting since as far
back as anyone could remember.
She’d heard only bits and pieces of how the feud had
started, with a dispute between Cornelius Evans, Mercy’s grandfather, and
Eustace Connors over property lines and livestock grazing in the early 1830s.
There had been numerous thefts of horses and cattle, and incidents of barn
burnings, committed by both families, until a judge had stepped in and defined
the property lines—in favor of Eustace Connors. Mercy’s grandfather had gotten
so agitated over the matter that his heart had given out. Mercy’s grandmother,
Margaret, had blamed the Connors family, fueling the feud by passing her hatred
for the entire clan on to her own children, and so the next generation had
carried the grudge, mostly forgetting its origins but not the bad blood. The animosity
had reached a peak six years ago, when Ernest Connors had killed Oscar
Evans—Mercy’s father.
“That man’s a angel,” Joseph mumbled into her skirts.
“What, honey?”
“John Roy was wailin’ real loud, ’cause he saw
somethin’ orange comin’ from upstairs, so he got in bed with me, and after a
while that angel man comed in and took us out of ar’ bed.”
She set John Roy on the ground, then got down on her
knees to meet Joseph’s eyes straight on. His were still red, his cheeks
blotchy. She thought very carefully about her next words. “Where were your
parents?”
Joseph sniffed. “They tucked us in and went upstairs
to their bedroom. John Roy an’ me talked a long time about scary monsters an’
stuff, but then, after a while, he went to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I got up
t’ get a drink o’ water, and that’s when I heard a noise upstairs. I looked
around the corner, and I seed a big round ball o’ orange up there, and smoke
comin’ out of it, and I thought it was a dragon come to eat us up. I runned
back and jumped in bed with Joseph and tol’ him a mean monster was comin’ t’
get us, and I started cryin’ real loud.”
John Roy picked up the story from there. “And so we
waited and waited for the monster to come after us, but instead the angel saved
us. I think Mama and Papa is prolly still sleepin’. Do you think they waked up
yet?”
Mercy’s throat burned as powerfully as if she’d
swallowed a tablespoonful of acid. Her own eyes begged to cut loose a river of
tears, but she warded them off with a shake of her head while gathering both
boys tightly to her. “No, darlings, I don’t believe they woke up in bed. I
believe with all my heart they awoke in heaven and are right now asking Jesus
to keep you safe.”
“And so Jesus tol’ that angel to come in the house
and get us?” Joseph pointed a shaky finger at Sam Connors. The big fellow lay
motionless on his back, with several men bent over him, calling his name and
fanning his face.
Mercy smiled. “He’s not an angel, my sweet, but
that’s not to say that God didn’t have something to do with sending him in to
rescue you.”
“Is he gonna die, like Mama and Papa?” John Roy asked
between frantic sobs.
“Oh, honey, I don’t know.”
She overheard Lyle Phelps suggest they take him over
to Doc Trumble’s house, but then Harold Crew said he’d spotted the doctor about
an hour ago, driving out to the DeLass farm to deliver baby number seven.
A few sets of eyes glanced around until they landed
on Mercy. She knew what folks were thinking. She worked for Doc Trumble, she
had more medical training and experience than the average person, and her house
was closest to the scene. But their gazes also indicated they understood the
awkwardness of the situation, considering the ongoing feud between the two
families. Although the idea of caring for him didn’t appeal, she’d taken an
oath to always do her best to preserve life. Besides, the Lord commanded her to
love her neighbor as herself, making it a sin to walk away from someone in
need, regardless of his family name.
She dropped her shoulders, even as the boys snuggled
close. “Put him on a cart and take him to my place,” she stated.
As if relieved that his care would fall to someone
other than themselves, several men hurried to pick him up and carried him to
Harold Crew’s nearby buggy.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
The sheriff stepped forward and made a quick study of
each boy. “You can stay out at my sister’s farm. She won’t mind adding a couple
o’ more young’uns to her brood.”
Joseph burst into loud howls upon the sheriff’s
announcement. Mercy hugged him and John Roy possessively. “Their parents were
my closest friends, Sheriff Marshall. I’d like to assume their care.”
He frowned and scratched the back of his head. “Don’t
know as that’s the best solution, you bein’ unwed an’ all.”
“That should have no bearing whatever on where they
go. Their parents were my closest friends. They’re coming home with me.” She
took both boys by the hands, turned, and led them back down Caldwell Street,
away from the still-smoldering house and the sheriff’s disapproving gaze.
Overhead, black smoke filled the skies, obliterating any hope of the night’s
first stars or the crescent moon making an appearance.

 

Love Comes Home

July 15th, 2014

Love Comes Home

9780800721855

By Ann H. Gabhart

When the flush of victory fades, there remains a winding road to an uncertain future.

World War II is finally over and the people of Rosey Corner are joyfully welcoming the boys home. The Merritt sisters in particular are looking toward the future. Kate is eager to start a family and live out her dream of happily ever after with Jay. Evangeline craves a beautiful house and encourages Mike to pastor a big-town church. Victoria wants what can never be. And Lorena is growing up and wondering more and more about her birth family.

Each sister must learn to hold her plans with a loose hand, trusting that God will guide and strengthen them as they share the joys and sorrows of life in their little corner of the world.

Award-winning and bestselling author Ann Gabhart invites you back to Rosey Corner for a heartfelt story that closes the distance between the things that were and things that can yet be.

ISLAND BREEZES

WWII kept their men away much too long. Now the sisters are waiting for the men to come home. Rosey Corner will be seeing both sorrow and joy.

The war changes people and places. Those who were fortunate enough to come home still have to deal with nightmares and lots of adjustments. So, too, the wives have to adjust to leaving the workplace and settling in as wives and mothers.

Then there are widows and fatherless children who face being alone.

How I’ve enjoyed going back to Rosey Corner and see life continuing on there. I will miss these sisters, Fern, Aunt Hattie, Graham and the gang.

This was a bittersweet book. I enjoyed it, but am sad that it’s the last Rosey Corner book. It’s a great stand alone read, but you’ll get much more out of it if you read Angel Sister and Small Town Girl first.

You’re going to need that box of tissues – maybe even the entire box before you’re through reading.

Thank you, Ms Gabhart, for your enjoyable books that take me traveling. I’ve fallen in love with all of Hollyhill, and now Rosey Corner. Where are you taking me next?

***A special thank you to Lanette Haskins for providing a review copy.***

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Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Words Spoken True, as well as several Shaker novels–The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted–and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.

Jackal

July 10th, 2014

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!

Jackal

100;150;8dc007765b12c0b091789bddb38daef77f9167c7

By Heather Gray

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn’t so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he’s inherited? His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?

ISLAND BREEZES

Did the spy come in from the cold? He certainly tried, but determined relatives found him. By doing so, they put both Mr. Rupert and themselves in danger.

This book has it all and you won’t want to put it down. There’s mystery, death defying chases, lots of cloak and dagger. And, yes, there’s romance, even though Mr. Rupert wanted nothing to do with the girls when they first showed up on his employer’s doorstep.

Thank you, Ms Gray, for another great book. I’ll be looking forward to your next one.

***A special thank you to Heather Gray for providing a review copy.***

You can read the first chapter here.

Prologue

1810

A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter’s scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England’s hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He’d done as ordered, and they’d believed him, but had it been his choice, he’d have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he’d begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he’d been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he’d done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.

****

A change in the carriage’s soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They’d ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he’d felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They’d been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he’d worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver’s seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival should he jump now, at the carriage’s current speed.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he’d assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He’d not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent’s countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal’s already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. “At whose hand am I to die this day?”

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. “Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter.”

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

“Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die.”

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.

Chapter One

December 27, 1816
Neither you nor your secrets are safe. You must go into hiding.

Rupert rubbed his eyes and stared at the numbers in the ledger. It had been years, but the words still haunted him, sneaking up into his subconscious and demanding his attention at the most inconvenient times.

He had no desire to return to his previous career, but the staid life of a steward at a mostly abandoned estate did get dull after a while. No craving for life-and-death situations burned through his veins as it once had, but nonetheless, he did sometimes yearn for a bit more excitement than his current situation offered. Somewhere along the way, the highlight of his week had become lunch with the vicar.

Closing the ledger, Rupert rubbed his eyes again. Perhaps a walk was in order. Some brisk Northumberland air ought to be just the thing to clear the cobwebs away and brighten his outlook. Picking up his cane, Rupert headed for the study’s door.

As he stepped out into the foyer, he glanced around. There was no evergreen or holly adorning the banister. No ivy to mark the doorways, and no mistletoe placed with the greatest of stratagem. With only himself and a small staff in residence, there had again been no reason to decorate for Christmas. That day, and Boxing Day too, had passed with little fanfare at Castle Felton.

Straightening his shoulders, he took a step toward the door. Mrs. Pembroke’s voice, however, stalled him. “Mr. Rupert, Mr. Rupert! A carriage approaches. Were the duke and duchess due for a visit? Wouldn’t they have sent word?”

Mrs. Pembroke tended to be the excitable sort, but she’d never before invented guests or fabricated carriages. Rupert moved further into the front hall and prepared to open the door for their visitors. He spied the horse-drawn transport through a window, and dread dropped into his stomach like a white-hot stone.

He recognized the crest on its door, and it in no way belonged to the duke.

Opening Castle Felton’s front door, Rupert observed the scene before him. A woman spilled out of the carriage. No, not a woman. A girl. She couldn’t be more than fourteen or fifteen. Then another girl, this one with a four-inch height advantage. An even taller girl joined the first two. Rather than gawk at the castle the way the first two were, this one pivoted back and held out a hand. With her assistance, another person materialized. This one was most definitely not a girl. She was so old Rupert stared with momentary wonder. Was it possible for an individual to survive mummification? Could skin be that dry and sunken on a living thing?

After the old woman was steady on her feet, the girl who had helped her circled around as though to confront the castle. She walked toward the steps, glanced up, and her eyes met Rupert’s. Recognition flickered at the edge of his thoughts, followed by the realization that he was grossly mistaken to have classified her as a girl when she’d emerged from the carriage. He never forgot a face, but this one… this face had looked vastly different when he’d last seen it. It had been at a funeral, and she’d been much younger, not to mention in shock. While he remembered her, he didn’t expect the same in return.

“Hello, kind sir.” Her voice was melodic and genteel. “We are seeking a man by the name of Rupert. Perchance, could you assist us? We were told he lives here.”

“What do you want with him?” He knew he sounded pompous, but the quicker these ladies climbed back into the carriage and went on their merry way, the better it would be for all of them.

“We seek refuge. We have been traveling for several days.”

“This is not a cathedral. You will find no refuge here. It’s time you moved on.”

Plunking her fisted hands onto her hips, the spirited beauty demanded, “You’re him, aren’t you? You’re Rupert. You can’t turn us away, you know.”

“I am under no obligation to house visitors at Castle Felton.” Her eyes burned in response, and he could almost hear his flesh sizzling from the heated onslaught of her gaze.

“This is our home. We live here now. With you.” Turning to the other women in her party, she said, “Go ahead. Everyone go in and find your rooms.” Then she spun to the driver, either completely in charge or putting on a show of bravado for Rupert’s sake. “Get a footman to help you with the trunks.” The entire entourage snapped to attention and began scurrying to do as they’d been commanded.

“Enough!” Rupert’s bark froze everyone where they stood. One sister was partway up the stairs. Another had one foot on the bottom step and one still on the ground. The mummified woman had begun the laborious process of moving her skeletal being with the aid of a rosewood cane.

The oldest of the non-mummified women stared at him. “You can’t turn us away. You’re our guardian now, and we have nowhere else to go.”

Glancing from her to the younger girls, he felt his resolve weakening. Hadn’t he moments ago been melancholy about how uneventful his life had become? He gave a brisk nod. “You may stay the night so you can explain to me whatever plight has brought you here.”

He saw triumph flare to life in her eyes.

“But you must leave on the morrow.”

Her triumph faded, and the bleak barren landscape of hopelessness took up residence in its place. It pained him to be the one to snuff out the joy that had momentarily softened her features. There was no help for it, though.

They had to leave Castle Felton, and the sooner the better.

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Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order Man, Just Dessert, and Redemption. She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen. But that’s not all! Interested in contemporary Christian romance? Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order! She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her. And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who’s a coffee addict. Some things just can’t be helped.

You can find Heather online at heathergraywriting.com.

The Revealing

July 8th, 2014

The Revealing

9780800720957

By Suzanne Woods Fisher

Love does extraordinary things to people . . .

In a single, impulsive act, Naomi King chooses to follow her heart into unfamiliar territory, jeopardizing all that she holds dear. If anyone finds out what she’s up to, she’s in for trouble. But when it comes to Tobe Schrock, Naomi believes it’s worth it.

But it all comes crashing down when a young woman arrives at the Inn at Eagle Hill with an unexpected delivery for Tobe. Add a guest at the inn with a curious talent and a genealogist who is more interested in modern-day Schrocks than in old family trees, and evidence starts to mount that points to something sinister at work. Or someone.

In this riveting conclusion to The Inn at Eagle Hill series, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher pulls out all the stops with a fast-paced tale of deception, revelation, and romance.

ISLAND BREEZES

Quiet, sweet Naomi King has secrets. If her brother every finds out, she’s not sure what he would do. And speaking of her brother Galen. Is he or is he not going to get up the nerve to ask their neighbor, Rose, to marry him.

Then there’s Brooke who comes to the Inn at Eagle Hill. She’s an art restorer who went beyond her professional duties. Now she’s here to hide out and find a new life path.

But Brooke isn’t the only stranger in town. The sisters have a mysterious distant relative staying with them. Bethany goes to the sister’s house several times a week to try to dig them out of their clutter, but is unable to clean the visitor’s room as it’s always locked and he’s always gone.

Unfortunately for Brooke, she gets mixed up with this stranger. Unfortunately for Mim, Brooke discovers she’s Mrs. Miracle. Everyone’s secrets are unraveling, but will it be for the good?

This is a good stand alone read, but you will appreciate it more if you read the first two books in this series before you read this one.

Thank you, Ms Woods Fisher. I’ve really enjoyed the stories about the Inn. I’m going to miss the visitors there.

***A special thank you to Lanette Haskins for providing a review copy.***

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Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Letters, The Calling, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace, and an Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is also a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. Learn more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and connect with Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

A Mother’s Secret

July 6th, 2014

A Mother’s Secret

9780310335818-e1393621679384

By Amy Clipston

Book two in the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series.

Carolyn Lapp dreams of marrying for love. But will the errors of her past destroy this dream forever?

Carolyn Lapp longs to have a traditional Amish family. But she lives on her brother’s farm with her parents and her 15-year old son, Benjamin. Carolyn has never revealed the identity of Benjamin’s father and lives daily with the guilt and shame of her youthful indiscretion. Her brother simply will not forgive her.

His answer is to arrange a practical marriage for Carolyn to Saul, a widower with a little girl. But Carolyn isn’t convinced that Saul really loves her and believes he is simply looking for someone to help raise his daughter.

When Benjamin causes trouble at a local horse auction, horse breeder Joshua Glick decides that he must be taught a lesson. Carolyn and Joshua are unmistakably drawn to each other, but Joshua mistakenly assumes that Benjamin is Carolyn’s brother. Carolyn fears that if he discovers the truth, her past will destroy their budding romance.

After years of shame and loneliness, Carolyn suddenly has two men vying for her attention. But which of them will give her the family-and the unconditional love-she’s longed for?

ISLAND BREEZES

It started out being an unintentional secret, but left too long it caused problems.

Carolyn Lapp’s father wants to marry her off to a widower with a young daughter, but Carolyn wants to wait and marry for a love like her parents have. She is beginning to think she’s found the right man, but she’s afraid to tell him her secret – a secret which most everyone already knew.

What if someone else tells him before she gets up the courage? Will she hit the jackpot of love or end up alone?

Thank you, Ms Clipson for a story with a twist.

Although this is the second book in The Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series, it’s definitely a stand alone read. I’m looking forward to the next book of the series. I haven’t read the first book yet, so I haven’t figured out where the Grand Hotel comes into play.

***A special thank you to litfuse for providing a review copy.***

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Amy Clipston holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, and two sons and four spoiled rotten cats.

Rival Hearts

July 4th, 2014

166

Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The Quilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women’s fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories.

Rival Hearts

rival-hearts

By Tara Randel

They both want the promotion. But will they find out that it is worth the cost?

Molly Henderson and Ben Weaver have been rival magazine writers for the same publishing group for years. When both come up for the same promotion, they find themselves in an unexpected competition to win the spot. Molly, editor of Quilter’s Heart, and Ben, editor of Outdoor Adventures, must switch roles, each working for the other for one month, then submit an article at the end of their quests.

Can girly-girl Molly survive the outdoor adventures that Ben has planned? Can Ben navigate the perils of the social dynamics of quilting events without destroying a valuable quilt in one short month? More importantly, in this he-said, she-said situation, will Molly and Ben give in to their attraction and fall in love, no matter who wins?

ISLAND BREEZES

What a devilish plan Mr. Masterson cooked up to help him decide who to promote. Ben and Molly must switch places and work on the other’s magazine. Hunky, athletic Ben gets stuck learning to quilt with a bunch of ladies. Molly, an indoor kind of gal who quilts, has to learn to kayak and take on a group of teens during a kayak outing.

It would be hilarious if their very jobs didn’t depend on it. Not only were the two competing, but also beginning to fall for each other. That is, until the sabotage began.

This job promotion has become all-consuming and the outcome very unpredictable as the deadline nears. Someone’s going to lose and be hurt. I thought the logical ending would be to have Ben and Molly end up as co-editors. Nope, didn’t happen that way.

Thank you, Ms Randel, for this delightful Quilts of Love novel. I hope to read more novels by this fellow Floridian.

***A special thank you to litfuse for providing a review copy.***

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Tara Randel is the author of five romance novels including Lasting Love, Melody of Love, and This Time Love. A member of ACFW, Tara is also the lead author of the new Annie’s Mysteries series (see AnniesMysteries.com). Tara lives in New Port Richey, Florida.

We Have Declared!

July 4th, 2014

First posted July 4th, 2008.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

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Four Weddings and a Kiss

July 3rd, 2014

Four Weddings and a Kiss

Four-Weddings-e1396668455390

By Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton, Mary Connealy Robin Lee Hatcher

When she causes an accident, injuring neighbor Rylan Carstens, she becomes his unlikely caregiver. Rylan has never noticed how pretty his infuriating neighbor is, and he never expected to fall in love.

Love Letter to the Editor by Robin Lee Hatcher

Molly Everton is the outspoken daughter of the town newspaper’s owner. When her father brings in an outsider to be editor, she tries to drive him out of town. But Jack Ludgrove is not intimidated. He’s resolved to change Molly’s mind about him—as an editor and as a man.

A Cowboy for Katie by Debra Clopton

Katie Pearl is uninterested in men and love. But she needs help on her ranch and hires Treb Rayburn, a wandering cowboy looking to make a buck. Will Treb change Katie’s mind?

Courting Trouble by Margaret Brownley

Grace Davenport is either the unluckiest woman alive—or a killer. When her third husband is found dead, Grace is arrested. Attorney Brock Daniels isn’t interested in the case—until he meets Grace. Only a miracle will prove her innocence, but the joining of two lonely hearts may be their saving grace.

ISLAND BREEZES

Four novellas, four authors and four weddings. So where on earth does the kiss come in?

Reverend Miller had just spent a week at a successful revival meeting. That was the good part. The bad part was that he had just broken up with his lady friend because she didn’t fit into the mold of a proper preacher’s wife. While sitting around the campfire that last night, four older preachers decided to tell him about happy marriages between unlikely couples. Each of the four novellas is a story told by these preachers.

It was a long night, but Reverend Miller was just happy to be going home the next morning. He had no inkling of the surprise that waited there for him.

These four ladies are fine authors and I enjoy reading all of them, both individually and collectively. I’m looking forward to their next venture.

***A special thank you to litfuse for providing a review copy.***

BrideSeasons-230

Margaret Brownley is a NEW YORK TIMES best-selling author and has penned more than thirty novels. Her books have won numerous awards and has written for a TV soap opera. @margaretbrownley

Robin Lee Hatcher is a Christy and RITA award-winning author. She is the author of over seventy novels and her work often appear on bestseller lists. @robinleehatcher

Mary Connealy is an award-winning author of romantic comedy with cowboys. Mary and her Nebraska rancher husband have four grown daughters and two spectacular grandchildren. @MaryConnealy

Debra Clopton is an award winning author of sweet, heartfelt, western romance that face life with a smile. With over 2 million books in print, Debra’s first book-to-movie aired on ABC Family and starred LeAnn Rimes. @debraclopton