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Friday, October 30, 2009

Product Review: Beauté de Maman Stretch Mark Cream ~ Safe and Natural

Beauté de Maman Stretch Mark Cream
Developed by: Michelle Brown, M.D.

Beauté de Maman ~ Comes in 3.5 oz tube
Beauty / Skin Care / Maternity / Cream

Edition Reviewed: Multiple sample size packets - Received courtesy of the wonderful people at Beauté de Maman!

Perfect for : Personal Use, Gift for Expectant Mother

My Thoughts: I can still remember asking those few nagging questions when I went to one of my first doctor visits with my latest pregnancy: Is there anything I can do about stretch marks (yes - I got them with the last pregnancy, so I'm expecting them to get worse this time around), and are lotions safe to use on my belly in an effort to minimize stretch marks?? I remember my doctor laughing and telling me: No, and Yes. You see, her brother-in-law is a dermatologist, and they have discussed stretch marks at length, and while you can't prevent them from happening (they are a genetic gift from our parents... you are either pre-disposed to get them or you aren't), you can minimize their appearance by drinking plenty of water and keeping skin moist using lotions or creams. And yes - she said that lotions are just fine and the baby is NOT going to magically soak up the chemicals through the skin. I had mixed feelings about her answers - I don't think anyone wants stretch marks, but I did feel better knowing I was not going to accidentally harm my baby by spreading chemicals and other ingredients on my tummy in an effort to minimize those pesky stretch marks.

Imagine my excitement at finding a company called Beauté de Maman, where Dr. Michele Brown has used her expertise and teamed with other experts to develop a safe and natural line of products designed to help women throughout their pregnancy.

The people at Beauté de Maman were kind enough to send me some sample packets of the Stretch Mark Cream to try.

I tried the cream for about one week. Prior to using the cream, my tummy was dry and itchy, and my belly button was sore and VERY dry. I noticed a pretty significant change in my skin overnight! After the first day, I noticed that my skin was no longer itchy, and my belly button was not as dry or as sensitive. By the end of the week, the skin on my tummy felt wonderful! Yes, I still have stretch marks, and I imagine they will get a little worse, but while using this cream, I feel pretty confident that the stretch marks will be minimized and will fade more quickly.

Not only did my skin feel better, but I felt good about using the cream as it is made from natural ingredients and herbs. Even better is the fact that the cream is not oily, so you can put it on anytime without worrying that it will ruin your clothing or leave an oily residue on your skin or hands. It also has a very light smell that is hardly noticeable, and while I can't speak for everyone, I always seem to be very sensitive to perfumes and heavy smells while pregnant.

I love Beauté de Maman's Stretch Mark Cream and can't wait to give some of their other products a try.

About: (from the Beauté de Maman website)

Developed byMichele Brown, M.D.Obstetrician

This soothing body cream was specifically developed to aid in the prevention of stretch marks caused by the rapid expansion of skin during pregnancy. Created by an obstetrician, this unique blend of ingredients forms a rich, moisturizing and hydrating cream.

It contains hyaluronic acid and bio-saccharide gum, along with gardenia tahitensis, coconut oil and pea extract, all natural botanical and herbal ingredients which help to preserve the skin's elasticity and suppleness.
Other Products Available:

~Dietary Herbal Supplement for Pregnancy Related Nausea
~Gift box set for pregnant women (Stretch mark cream, Nipple gel, Facial scrub)
~Face and body cream for oily blemished skin
~Facial Scrub for pregnancy
~Combo Pack (Face and Body Cream, Facial Scrub)
~Nipple Gel for Nursing Women
~Stretch Mark Cream for pregnancy stretch marks

About Dr. Michelle Brown: (From the publisher's press release)
Since the beginning of her Obstetrics and Gynecology practice in 1982, Dr. Michele Brown has delivered more than 3,000 babies, making her uniquely qualified to recognize the problems of pregnant women. She has used this experience and her medical training to guide her in the development of Beaute de Maman’s unique health and beauty products; and more importantly, to evaluate their effectiveness.

Dr. Brown has a busy obstetrical practice in Stamford, Connecticut. As a clinical attending, she actively teaches residents from Stamford Hospital and medical students from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

A magna cum laude graduate of Tufts University, she majored in biology and minored in chemistry. She completed her medical training at George Washington University Medical Center and completed her internship and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Dr. Brown is a board-certified member of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a member of the American Medical Association, the Fairfield County Medical Association, Yale Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and the Women’s Medical Association of Fairfield County.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review: Once in a Blue Moon by Eileen Goudge

Once in a Blue Moon
by Eileen Goudge

Vanguard Press (October 2009) ~ 336 pages
Fiction / Family and Friendship

Edition Reviewed: Hardback - Review copy received courtesy of the publisher and One2One Network, many thanks to the author, the publisher and the people at One2One Network for sending me a copy to review!

Perfect for : Personal Use, Book Club (Reading Guide available here)

My Thoughts: If you are in the mood for a nice easy read about friends and family relationships, you should take a closer look at Once in a Blue Moon by Eileen Goudge. This book will touch your heart. It will make you cry, and it will make you smile.

To me, the book was really centered around the ups and downs that life throws you, and the importance of the relationships around us that help us get through touch challenges.

As young girls, Lindsay and Kerrie Ann had a tough life, with a mother who is ultimately arrested for selling drugs. The sisters are separated and sent to different foster home. One ends up with a wonderful family, while the other is moved from family to family, without life giving her any breaks.

Thirty years later, Kerrie Ann shows up in Lindsay's life hoping she can help her get her daughter Bella back from the state. Lindsay has struggles of a different type, over property rights. Even after thirty years, the sisters pull together to help each other, while re-establishing their relationship.

Characters: Throwing in some challenges allows readers to see the characters as human beings, and gives us the ability to relate in some form to what they are going through. There are some wonderful relationships that are developed throughout this book.
Story-Line: It was really easy to get caught up in the lives of the characters I was reading about - the story pulls you along and retains your attention.
Readability: An enjoyable and easy read
Overall: At times you will want to cheer, at others you will want to shed a tear or two, but overall, I think this is a good story of sisters who are torn apart due to circumstances beyond their control, and the events and people who help them come together again.

About the Book: (from the One2One Network newsletter)
Sisters Lindsay and Kerrie Ann have known hardship from an early age. Without guidance from their neglectful mother, their only aid came from an unlikely source, a retired exotic dancer by the name of Miss Honi Love. When the girls’ mother was sent to prison, Miss Honi tried unsuccessfully to save them from being separated and sent into foster care.

Thirty years later, Lindsay is still trying to reconnect with her sister. The owner of a bookstore in the sleepy California seaside town of Blue Moon Bay, she was lucky enough to have been adopted by a loving couple. Unbeknownst to her, Kerrie Ann has suffered a very different life. Bounced from one foster home to the next, she ran away as a teenager before becoming a drug-addicted single mother. Now, newly sober, Kerrie Ann is fighting to regain custody of the little girl who was taken from her.

Neither sister’s expectations are met when they’re finally reunited. But as the two sisters engage in the fiercest battles of their lives, they are at last drawn together despite their differences, restoring belief in the unshakable bond of family.
Excerpt: (From the author's website)

In a moment of terrible clarity, Kerrie Ann took in the squalid scene through the cops’ eyes. She saw her daughter—really saw her—for the first time in weeks: how dirty and unkempt she was and how thin she’d gotten, her ribs sticking out of her narrow brown chest like rungs on a ladder. She saw the stain on the seat of her underpants that had come from not wiping herself properly and have no one to do it for her, the crust of dried food around her mouth. When had she last fed Bella?

Kerrie Ann saw the Children’s Services logo on the card and felt herself hurtling back in time. The old nightmare playing itself over, this time with her child. Her thoughts returned to Lindsay. She still couldn’t get over the fact that she had a sister. Even weirder was that she had no memory of her. How was it possible for those years to be a blank slate?

Her counselor at the clinic, Mary Josephson, a recovering heroin addict with twenty years of sobriety, suggested she call Legal Aid. Days later she had a court date. But that was only the first step.

Kerrie Anne soon discovered that good intentions weren’t enough. Her resume, which listed only a string of short-term jobs, was hardly an incentive for anyone to hire her. The part-time job at Toys “R” Us was the best she could do until she got her GED and some kind of occupational training. And without full-time work, how could she afford an “appropriate” place to live? Life was a series of dominoes: Knock one down, and the rest followed suit. If she could just get her legs under her . . .

Which was where her sister came in. Lindsay was the only card she had left.
Copyright © 2009 by Eileen Goudge. All rights reserved.

About the Author: (from Amazon)

A native of northern California who now lives in Manhattan, Eileen Goudge is the New York Times bestselling author of 13 novels, 32 young adult novels, numerous short stories and magazine articles and one cookbook. When she isn’t writing, Goudge enjoys baking for friends and neighbors.
If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to your review, please include a link in your comment!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: Norman Rockwell Behind the Camera by Ron Schick

Norman Rockwell Behind the Camera
by Ron Schick
Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (October 22, 2009) ~ 224 pages
Non-Fiction / Art & Photography / Norman Rockwell

Edition Reviewed: Hardback - Review copy received courtesy of Hachette Book Group / Little Brown, many thanks to both the author and the publisher for sending me a copy to review!

Perfect for : Personal Use, Gift, Office Waiting Area, Coffee Table Book

My Thoughts: I don't know about you, but over the years I have had plenty of Norman Rockwell calendars and seen many of his wonderfully touching and detailed pictures. . . and I always assumed he simply had a wonderfully creative spirit, but wondered how he got the ideas and put together his paintings. It NEVER even crossed my mind that he would use photographs to help capture some details that he could later put onto canvas!

The fascinating thing about this book was learning how Norman Rockwell created his paintings by capturing entire scenes or subjects on film, then going on to create his own painting based on those pictures. Even more fascinating is comparing the final paintings to the photographs he used, and being able to see the details he included, as well as those he chose to leave out.

Content: The book goes beyond simply showing readers how Norman Rockwell created his paintings. It also includes a timeline, including important notes from history and some of the events that really impacted Norman's pieces.
Format: Includes a foreword by his grandson John Rockwell, lots of photographs from the Norman Rockwell Museum and archives, and a lot of the finished paintings to compare to the photographs. The book is put together in a time-line type order.
Readability: Very enjoyable both from the aspect of learning about the paintings and viewing the included paintings and photographs.
Overall: A very fun book to look through. It would be a great book to have in an office waiting room, coffee table, gift book, or personal book.

About the Book:
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera is the first book to explore the meticulously composed and richly detailed photographs that Norman Rockwell used to create his famous artworks. Working alongside skilled photographers, Rockwell acted as director, carefully orchestrating models, selecting props, and choosing locations for the photographs--works of art in their own right--that served as the basis of his iconic images. Readers will be surprised to find that many of his most memorable characters-the girl at the mirror, the young couple on prom night, the family on vacation-were friends and neighbors who served as his amateur models. In this groundbreaking book, author and historian Ron Schick delves into the archive of nearly 20,000 photographs housed at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Featuring reproductions of Rockwell's black-and-white photographs and related full-color artworks, along with an incisive narrative and quotes from Rockwell models and family members, this book will intrigue anyone interested in photography, art, and Americana.

After the Prom, pages 184-185, Triple Self-Portrait, page 195

About the Author: (From the publisher's website)

Ron Schick was born in Miami, Florida and grew up in Chicago. After studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he became an editor specializing in photography and the visual arts. Ron worked in art publishing for three decades and has written about photography for national magazines. Today, he is a researcher, designer, independent curator, and museum consultant. With his wife and collaborator, Julia Van Haaften, he coauthored The View from Space: American Astronaut Photography, 1962-1972. He was the first independent researcher to examine every photograph taken on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions and to attribute them to the astronauts who took them. A Smithsonian Institution (SITES) traveling exhibition based on the book toured eighteen national venues.

He lives with his family in New York City.
If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to your review, please include a link in your comment!

Review: Angels by Chuck Fischer

Angels: A Pop-Up Book
by Chuck Fischer
Little, Brown and Company; Pop edition (October 19, 2009) ~ 18 pages
Non-Fiction / Arts and Photography

Edition: Hardback - many thanks to the Chuck Fischer and Hachette Book Group, the publisher for sending me a copy to review!

Perfect for : Personal Use, Hostess Gift, Gift for people who like angels

My Thoughts: Angels by Chuck Fischer is an absolutely beautiful, gift quality book all about angels. He has broken the book into three primary sections about angels: Messengers (those angels who go between the heavens and earth), A Hierarchy of Angels (the different tiers of angelic figures are explained and explored), and Secular Angels (explores other angelic type figures throughout history such as cupids, those in paintings, etc). Each section has a two-page spread full of interesting facts and history, and is followed by pages with intricate pop-up pictures and additional information often shown in mini-books on the different pages.

The thing that sets this book apart from others is that it is full of art and graphics in the form of pop-ups that are absolutely beautiful and very intricate. I know... when you see the words "pop-up book" you automatically think of children's books... or at least I did. Let me clarify here. This is certainly not a children's book. It is geared toward adults who have an appreciation for art and/or angels. I encourage you to share this book with the children in your life, but you should keep it in a safe place and help them look at it as there are so many small pieces and intricate bends to the inner-workings of this book.

I can think of so many great uses for this book: coffee table, gift for people who like art or angels, pure enjoyment, etc. And with the holidays quickly approaching, this would make a great gift!

Content: Informative, interesting and absolutely beautiful
Format: Information is provided on pages, and in mini-books featured on the pop-up pages. The pop-up pictures are a work of art themselves and are engineered by Bruce Foster.
Readability: Enjoyable to both read and view
Overall: A stunning book full of full-color, intricately created pop-up pages designed to thrill people who enjoy angels and art. Great gift book.

From the Back Cover:
Whether you consider angels to be divine messengers, spiritual guides, or the stuff of legend, you will find something to marvel at in Chuck Fischer's beautifully illustrated Angels: A Pop-Up Book. Fischer's original art, inspired by classic images from art history, is crafted into astoundingly intricate three-dimensional pop-ups with fold-outs and moveable parts. Angels brings to life the most captivating stories of these celestial beings, from the angels of the zodiac to Biblical angels to angels in the arts and popular culture. Much like its subject, Angels: A Pop-Up Book inspires awe and wonder and is a unique gift book for all ages.

About the Author: (From the publisher's website)

Chuck Fischer's paintings hang in some of the finest residences in the world. His designs have been reproduced on holiday ornaments and home furnishings, including wallpaper and fabrics in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. He is the author of five previous pop-up books--The White House, Great American Houses and Gardens, Christmas in New York, Christmas Around the World, and the forthcoming In The Beginning. He lives in New York and Florida.
If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to your review, please include a link in your comment!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tuesday Thinger: Tweets on Library Thing

Welcome to another week of Tuesday Thingers! We always love to hear from regular participants as well as new people.

This week's Thinger topic is another great topic from Caite, over at A Lovely Shore Breeze, who told me about a cool feature under author pages. Library Thing now has a Link box on the right hand side of Author pages where authors and LT users can add/update links. . . including Twitter! And the neat thing about Twitter?? If you add it, they will post it. . . What do I mean?? Looky here:

:) While Caite had seen Twitter updates on one or more authors she looked at, the few I looked at didn't have any, but I KNOW Jane Porter updates her Twitter, so I decided to find out how to add the Twitter/link function for an author.

1. Find the author you are looking for.
2. Go to the link box on the right hand side
3. Click the Add link
4. It will give you this box:

5. Enter the http:// address
6. Give it a title
7. Choose the type of link. . . in this case Twitter
8. Hit the Save button
9. Hit the F5 key on your keyboard to refresh your page and you will see the author's three latest tweets! How neat is that????

So, I was going through my long list of people I'm following and decided that there MUST be an easier way to find the authors I am following! I did a quick Google search for "authors on twitter" and the first link it came back with was a post on Mashable with over 100 authors and some basic information, including their Twitter links. I quickly found a few I could add just to test out this neat new feature, and sure enough - it felt great to see those Tweets show up on the author's LT page. :)

Questions: Have you checked out any of the links/tweets on some of the author pages for the books in your bookshelves? Have you added any links/twitter information yourself? And as always, feel free to email me or post any suggestions for future Tuesday Thingers!

My Answer: Prior to Caite telling me about this feature, I had no idea that LT had the ability to show Tweets from author's accounts. I think that is so neat.

As I got a tad frustrated trying to find a few of my favorite authors Tweets on Library Thing, I did take the opportunity to add a few links myself, and will certainly keep this in mind as I run across other authors who Tweet. . . or have a blog, official site, etc.

Many huge thanks Caite!!

Looking forward to reading everyone's answers!!

~ Wendi

If you are new to Tuesday Thingers: Welcome! The meme was originally created as a way to network with other bloggers and to learn about Library Thing! I'd like to encourage you to join us. If you don't know what Library Thing is - you are in a great place to learn about new things, and if you are an old pro, stick around and share your wealth of information! Visit Library Thing here. To join in, copy the picture and question into your post and link back here so people can read other responses. Make sure you leave a comment here with a link to your post so we can stop by! If you don't have a blog, feel free to leave a comment here!

Teaser Tuesday: The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini

TEASER TUESDAYS : hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading ~

Teaser :

"Very funny," Lou growled at Darcy.

Darcy leaned across the table toward Lou. "You are her best friend. Don't you want her to be happy?"

"I suppose you think she'll be happy with you?"

~ page 220 “The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy" by Sara Angelini **This teaser was taken from the ARC version, so the final version may be slightly different.

About the Book (from Amazon):

A sexy, bold adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that re-paints favorite characters in twenty-first century colors

Judge Fitzwilliam Darcy, a legal expert on both sides of the Atlantic, is ready to hang up his black robe and return to the life of a country gentleman—until he meets Elizabeth Bennet, a fresh-faced attorney with a hectic schedule and no time for the sexy but haughty judge.

Tempers and sparks fly in Judge Darcy's courtroom— and outside, in a series of chance encounters that give each of them pause—as the two match wits and try to fight their overwhelming attraction. When they meet up in England at an international law conference, they embark on a hot, heavy affair. Back in the States, though, ethical considerations intrude, and each is subjected to a torturous period of soul-searching before they can find their way back to each other...
I always look forward to reading everyone's teasers! ~ Wendi

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Many thanks to Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren for hosting Mailbox Monday every week!

It is so much fun to see what everyone is getting in the mail.

Thanks for taking the time to visit ~ I just love hearing from you! Please let me know if you have read any of these books - I'd love to hear how you liked them!! :)

Here are the books that came into my house last week:

The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live: An Insider’s Guide to Creating the Sports Experience of a Lifetime by Robert Tuchman ~ Non-Fiction / Sports / Sporting Events and Travel ~ Received courtesy of the author and publisher for an upcoming book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion Nov. 2nd

Do you consider yourself a sports fanatic? How many of the world's biggest and best sporting events have you actually been to? With more than a decade's worth of sports travel industry experience, Robert Tuchman literally spends his year at the world's greatest sporting venues on their biggest days. From Amen Corner at the Augusta National Golf Club to the famed Twin Spires at Churchill Downs to the rickety bleachers of Harlem's Rucker Park, Tuchman knows the sports event landscape like no other.

Founder of the global leader in sports event travel, TSE Sports & Entertainment, Robert Tuchman has now compiled the list of 100 sporting events that every sports fan must attend in his or her lifetime. Tuchman also maps out your travel and ticket options, recommends the best hotels, details restaurants and nightlife and relays tips guaranteed to make each trip a success. The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live is a comprehensive list and travel guide replete with insider knowledge and expert advice, leaving no stone unturned.

The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live is the definitive resource that you will refer to again and again year after year. There is always a top 100 sporting event on the horizon, and it's never too soon to plan the pilgrimage.
Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Kogan ~ Fiction ~ Received courtesy of the publisher via Shelf Awareness

From Amazon: When a deep-rooted memory suddenly surfaces, Elizabeth Burns becomes obsessed with the long-ago disappearance of her childhood friend April Cassidy. Driven to investigate, Elizabeth discovers a thirty-five-year-old newspaper article revealing the details that had been hidden from her as a child: April's mother, Adele, drove with her two young daughters deep into the woods where she killed first them and then herself.

Elizabeth, now a mother herself, tracks down everyone—Adele Cassidy's neighbor, her psychiatrist, her sister—who might give her the insight necessary to understand how a mother could commit such a monstrous crime.

Elizabeth's investigation leads her back to herself: her compromised marriage, her demanding children, her increasing self-doubt, her desire for more out of her own life, and finally to a fearsome reckoning with what it means to be a mother and wife.
The Bride Backfire (Prairie Promises, #2) by Kelly Eileen Hake ~ Fiction / Christian / Romance ~ Received courtesy of the publisher for an upcoming WildCard Tour Nov. 6th

From Amazon: Come on down for a real family feud in this witty romance, the second novel in Kelly Eileen Hake's Prairie Promises series. In the Nebraskan Territory of 1857, the longstanding feud between their two families makes Opal Speck desperate to save the life of the Grogan who once pulled her from a burning building. Will her big white lie-that Adam is the father of her unborn child-land in enemy territory for the rest of her life? Find out how Adam and Opal deal with the repercussions of their shotgun wedding in The Bride Backfire!
Chocolate A Love Story: 65 Chocolate Dessert Recipes From Max Brenner's Private Collection by Max Brenner ~ Non-Fiction / Cooking / Baking / Chocolate ~ Received courtesy of the publisher for review

With gigantic vats of churning chocolate, desserts like their famous chocolate pizza, and 12 varieties of hot chocolate served in custom mugs, Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man has turned their line of hip, colorful themed restaurants into an international sensation.. Chocolate: A Love Story is a vibrant new cookbook that includes 65 original recipes narrated in the quirky, captivating voice of Max Brenner, the restaurant's visionary founder and "bald man." Bold original illustrations inspired by Art Deco poster graphics, full-color photographs, easy-to-follow, delicious recipes, and a serving of Max's unique vision for spreading "chocolate culture" around the world make this book a must for every chocolate lover.
How to Roast A Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking by Michael Psilakis ~ Non-Fiction / Cooking / Greek ~ Received from the publisher for review

A rising star in the food world, Michael Psilakis is co-owner of a growing empire of modern Mediterranean restaurants, and one of the most exciting young chefs in America today. In How to Roast a Lamb, the self-taught chef offers recipes from his restaurants and his home in this, his much-anticipated first cookbook.
Ten chapters provide colorful and heartfelt personal essays that lead into thematically related recipes. Gorgeous color photography accompanies many of the recipes throughout.
Psilakis's cooking utilizes the fresh, naturally healthful ingredients of the Mediterranean augmented by techniques that define New American cuisine. Home cooks who have gravitated toward Italian cookbooks for the simple, user-friendly dishes, satisfying flavors, and comfortable, family-oriented meals, will welcome Psilakis's approach to Greek food, which is similarly healthful, affordable, and satisfying to share any night of the week.
Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale ~ Fiction / Romance / Historical ~ Received courtesy of the publisher for review in Feb

From the publisher: Lessons in French is a sweet tale of a reconnected childhood love, separated for years because of society and family expectations. Everyone loves a sweeping love story—complete with a shy wallflower learning what’s she capable of because of the devilishly dashing and fiendishly French Duc de Monceaux, still pining away for her after all those years apart…
Miracles: A 52-Week Devotional by Karen Kingsbury ~ Non-Fiction / Christian Living / Devotional ~ Received courtesy of the publisher for review

From Amazon: MIRACLES draws from five of Karen's most popular books, delivering readers a fresh word from God for each week. Each devotion is an excerpt from one of Karen's Miracle books, selected for the uplifting and strengthening message it offers.

No Limits No Boundaries: Praying Dynamic Change into Your Life, Family, & Finances by Tiz Huch ~ Non-Fiction / Christian Living / General ~ Received courtesy of the publisher for an upcoming WildCard Tour Dec. 7th

From the publisher: Tiz Huch teaches readers how to pray without boundaries, with the goal of developing a more intimate relationship with God and deeper understanding of His generous and loving nature. She shares Scriptural references and personal experiences that support her premise that trading one's limited time and abilities, for God's unlimited power results in a revitalized life.
Sins of the Flesh by Caridad Piñeiro ~ Fiction / Paranormal Romance ~ Received courtesy of the publisher for an upcoming Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour Nov 19th

Caterina Shaw's days are numbered. Her only chance for survival is a highly experimental gene treatment-a risk she willingly takes. But now Caterina barely recognizes herself. She has new, terrifying powers, an exotic, arresting body-and she's been accused of a savage murder, sending her on the run.

Mick Carrera is a mercenary and an expert at capturing elusive, clever prey. Yet the woman he's hunting down is far from the vicious killer he's been told to expect: Caterina is wounded, vulnerable, and a startling mystery of medical science. Even more, she's a beautiful woman whose innocent sensuality tempts Mick to show her exactly how thrilling pleasure can be. The heat that builds between them is irresistible, but surrendering to it could kill them both . . . for a dangerous group is plotting its next move using Caterina as its deadly pawn.
There's More to Life than Making a Living: Mastering Six Key Essentials on the Way to a Life of Significance by Jack C. McDowell with Phil Needham ~ Non-Fiction / Christian Living ~ Received courtesy of the publisher for review

From Amazon: A significant life has positive meaning and value beyond individual success. It means contributing to the lives of others and showing compassion. In this book, Jack McDowell shares the six keys to a life of significance: Find your calling, learn from your experiences, acquire habits that build character, discover the joy of generosity, build relationships for life, and don't retire. Each chapter contains specific actions that will help readers master the six essentials. These steps are the harvest of Jack's own experiences and they are, he says, "the gifts of a providential God to this seeker after a life with deeper and more lasting meaning."Giving is man's God-ordained purpose. This book will provide encouragement and resources for the journey to a more significant life. It is a personal invitation to discover that there is far more to life than just making a living.
To Desire a Devil (Legend of the Four Soldiers, #4) by Elizabeth Hoyt ~ Fiction / Historical Romance ~ Courtesy of the publisher for review

Reynaud St. Aubyn has spent the last seven years in hellish captivity. Now half mad with fever he bursts into his ancestral home and demands his due. Can this wild-looking man truly be the last earl's heir, thought murdered by Indians years ago?

Beatrice Corning, the niece of the present earl, is a proper English miss. But she has a secret: No real man has ever excited her more than the handsome youth in the portrait in her uncle's home. Suddenly, that very man is here, in the flesh-and luring her into his bed.

Only Beatrice can see past Reynaud's savagery to the noble man inside. For his part, Reynaud is drawn to this lovely lady, even as he is suspicious of her loyalty to her uncle. But can Beatrice's love tame a man who will stop at nothing to regain his title-even if it means sacrificing her innocence?
What was in your mailbox last week??

If you would like to participate in Mailbox Monday, head over to The Printed Page and grab the logo. Make sure to visit other blogs hosting Mailbox Monday and comment/leave your link!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review and Tour: The Jewel of His Heart by Maggie Brendan

The Jewel of His Heart (Hearts of the West, Book 2)
by Maggie Brendan
Revell (October 1, 2009) ~ 333 pages
Fiction / Historical / Inspirational Romance

Edition Reviewed: Paperback ~ Courtesy of the publisher for a blog review tour

Perfect for : Personal reading, book club read

My Thoughts: The Jewel of His Heart (Hearts of the West, Book 2) by Maggie Brendan was a jewel of an inspirational historical fiction/romance set in a small town full of ranchers and miners in 1896 Montana. Readers will meet Josh McBride, his trusted sheepdog Shebe, and his friend and assistant Andy. On the opposite side of the story, readers will also meet Juliana Brady, her best friend Marion, and a host of other characters you will enjoy both loving and disliking. . . all who contribute wonderfully to the overall storyline.

Josh has cut his ties with his overbearing and sometimes ruthless rancher father in Colorado and moved to Montana, where he has been a shepherd for the past three years. He is working on growing his sheep herd (currently 3,000 sheep I think), building his home, and obtaining security that a modest income will provide. . . he is also ready for a companion in the form of a wife!

Juliana's father left her and her mother in Montana eight years ago to strike it rich mining for gold, and while he remembered to support them for the first few months, he disappeared completely after that, and both Juliana and her mother have been doing miner's laundry and cleaning in order to scrape by in their rented cabin. Shortly after the book starts, Juliana's mother dies, leaving her all alone. Her best friend Marion and Marion's father take her under their protection at the hotel they own until she can determine what she wants to do with her future. Not wanting to be dependant on anyone, and vowing never to marry a miner, Juliana determines that she must earn a living, and when she sees a "Help Wanted" sign in the window of the local newspaper, she finds both work that interests her and a new friend.

Juliana and Josh have come to each other's attention, and begin to further their friendship/acquaintance. At the same time, multiple other suitors appear to show an interest in courting Juliana in the form of the very nice town Doctor, and Wes, a rather rough man lacking any manners what-so-ever.

Josh finds some beautiful sky blue Yogo sapphires on his land, which remind him of Juliana's beautiful eyes, and he begins to learn what he would need to do to open a mine, thinking he would both mine and maintain his sheep herd, but gain monetary security faster. When he finds out that Juliana will not marry a miner, he must face choosing between his growing affection for Juliana and going after the sapphires he believes can be found on his land.

Add to that a few twists and turns, and readers are in for a fast-moving and entertaining book. This was another page turner that I couldn't put down. I also loved the gentle and inspirational reminders of faith, which were affirming, but not overpowering at all.

Characters: Wonderfully written and interesting
Story-Line: Fascinating and full of historic facts about the Yogo sapphires and early mining in Montana
Readability: Easy and enjoyable
Overall: Another great inspirational fiction/romance book!

Revell Book Tour for The Jewel of His Heart:
Breakthrough Author Captures Romance and Rugged Adventure
Big Sky Country holds two treasures: rare jewels and Juliana's love.
Which will he choose?

Romance readers have taken to the soft, romantic style of Maggie Brendan in her runaway-hit debut novel No Place for a Lady. Now, the second book in the series releases with great anticipation, taking readers back to the Big Sky Country of the American frontier—and the life and love that awaits.

The second book in the Heart of the West series, The Jewel of His Heart is set in 1890s Montana. It is here that Juliana calls home when she meets Josh McBride, a handsome, gentle sheepherder. When he discovers a rare kind of sapphire on his property and considers striking out on his own path in the world, he is forced to decide what’s most important to him: the world’s riches or the eternal value of love in a woman whose eyes rival the rarest of gems.

For fans of Lori Wick and Kim Vogel Sawyer, Maggie Brendan’s beautifully woven story captures the rugged, adventurous life on the American frontier—and the quest for love by the pioneers who live there.

“Maggie Brendan is adept at weaving a sweet love story…
Within these pages indeed lies a jewel.”
—Tamera Alexander, bestselling author

“With its tender love story and vivid imagery of a time gone by, Maggie Brendan’s gentle style of prairie romance is reminiscent of Janette Oke”
—Julie Lessman, author of the Daughters of Boston series

Maggie Brendan is a member of American Christian Writers and the American Fiction Writers Association. She is the author of No Place for a Lady and lives in Georgia.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.
For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.
From the Back Cover:
Their future is as wide open as the Montana sky

Juliana Brady is alone in an 1890s Montana mining town, with few prospects for making a living. But she is determined not to be dependent on the charity of others.

Josh McBride is trying to scrape up a living from his sheep herd while he builds his ranch. But when he discovers some rare stones on his property, he's tempted by the prospect of fast money.

When their paths cross, Juliana and Josh must make a choice--the world's riches and promises, or the eternal value of love.
Excerpt from the Publisher's site:

Utica, Montana, 1896

I need a wife.

Josh McBride rode down a grassy slope to the sparkling creek, allowing his horse, Pete, a drink while surveying with a keen eye the parcel of land he’d purchased three years before.

It’s pretty here—the best spot on God’s good earth.

But that didn’t keep him from feeling lonely.

He was enjoying the beautiful Montana mountains this February morning, and the satisfaction of pursuing his own dream and place in the world instead of his father’s. On these solitary morning rides, he treasured the peace and privacy with his Creator, feeling His presence.

He took his bandana from his neck and dipped it into the cold stream to wipe his face. The creek narrowed at this juncture to not much more than a trickle, or Josh might have missed the handful of small blue pebbles that had collected there. Reaching into the icy water, he scooped the pebbles up for a closer look. The sunlight reflected off the translucent blue pebbles, their hue unlike anything Josh had ever seen. Instinctively he knew these were not just blue pebbles or ordinary stones, but what he didn’t know was how they would ultimately change his life forever.

Josh slipped the handful of blue stones into his leather vest pocket and mounted his horse. He headed back to the grassy rise overlooking the valley, pausing to gaze with pride at his sizable herd of sheep. Suddenly Josh’s white and amber dog, Shebe, ran up to gaze at him lovingly, her tongue lolling from the side of her mouth.

“Hey, girl. Looking for me?”

Shebe’s short bark was her answer, and Josh laughed. “We’ve sure been through some lonely times, haven’t we, girl?”

“Boss!” Josh’s young sheepherder, Andy, waved his hat at Josh and pushed his horse up the grassy ridge.

Josh called back a greeting and nudged Pete’s flanks with his boot heel. He’d left his spurs behind when he rode off his father’s cattle ranch. Besides, he and Pete understood each other perfectly. Josh sometimes thought Pete and Shebe understood him better than anyone else, and his affection for his horse and sheepdog ran deep. But still, he wanted a wife. A dog and a horse could not take the place of a companion to fill the lonely space in his heart.

“What’s going on, Andy?” Josh reined Pete in next to Andy’s horse.

“There’s a grub-line rider down at the camp. Said he was passing this way from Lewistown. Think he said his name was Charlie.”

“Does he want to join up, or is he just looking for a place to light for a few days?”

“I’m not sure, Boss. Reckon you’d better talk to him yourself. He’s a bit different, and carrying some strange-looking canvas case with him.” Andy folded his arms across his saddle horn, waiting for his boss’s direction.

“All right, Andy. I’ll follow you back to camp. You have the coffee hot?”

“Don’t I always?” he said matter-of-factly.

They ambled along in silence. The worn leather saddle, with Josh’s .44 Winchester rifle packed across the front, creaked under his shifting weight. Except for an occasional snort from their horses, it was a calm, still day. A lone eagle soared above the timberline, sending out its shrill call into the bright morning skies. Shebe as not far behind her beloved master.

As they entered the small clearing where the sheep wagon was parked by a bubbling creek, a handsome wrangler rose from a stump, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He wore a floppy hat pushed back at the crown, exposing a shock of long blond bangs that fell across his forehead. He sported a red sash around his neck.

“Howdy.” He quickly threw the cigarette down, ground it out under his heel, and walked toward them.

“Hi yourself. What can I do for you? Our camp is quite a ways out for strangers.” Josh dismounted, and Andy followed, taking the horses’ reins. Josh was careful when strangers appeared, never knowing who to trust when someone dropped by unexpectedly.

The stranger stuck out his hand. “I’m Charlie Russell. Live over in Great Falls, just passing through. I saw your camp and thought a good cup of hot coffee would be mighty nice.” His smile was warm and friendly, and he had a sparkle in his eyes.

Josh shook his hand. “My name’s Josh McBride. I own the sheep, and Andy here is my sheepherder. Where ya headed?”

“I was over in Lewistown, and now I’m heading home. Crossed the Judith River and saw smoke from your campfire.”

“Sit down, Charlie. Andy, how ’bout a cup of java?”

Josh felt an instant liking for Charlie. He was apparently friendly, and good-looking too. Bet he has a way with the women. He could’ve talked Crystal into taking off to Montana, had he known her. Josh was startled by the turn his thoughts had taken. It had been some time since he had given Crystal any thought. He knew she was happy and that Luke adored her. Josh had finally come to terms with that.

Charlie sipped from the chipped enameled cup Andy had given him. “I may have to sketch you with that friendly dog you have there, Josh. What’s her name?”

Josh scratched Shebe’s head lovingly as she sat on her haunches next to her master, keeping a keen eye on Charlie. “I call her Shebe. She’s my best friend, right, girl?” Shebe barked in agreement.

Charlie yanked open the black box he was carrying and pulled out a sketch pad and a box of pencil crayons. Josh started to move away. “No, just sit right there with Shebe. We can just talk, and you can tell me about yourself.” He flipped open his pad to a clean sheet and outlined Josh and his dog.

“Not much to tell. I’m a sheepherder by way of Colorado, where my daddy is a cattle baron. I wanted to spread my wings and experience something different. Started out with a small herd of sheep that Andy mostly tends now. I’ve started bulding a cabin, and I hope to make it a real home soon. What about you?”

Charlie seemed eager to talk. “I’m an artist of sorts. Hung up my spurs in ’92 after wrangling since I was sixteen. I used to be a horse wrangler with some of the best outfits around. I once worked at Judith River Basin as the night hawk. From time to time, I drew scenes of wrangling, calf branding, and cattle drives. I guess you could say I’m a self-taught artist. Once people actually wanted to buy my paintings, well, I decided to hang up my spurs and pursue my dream.”

“Self-taught? Well, there has to be talent involved. I could no more teach myself to paint than design a ship that would hold up at sea.” Josh fidgeted, shifting to a more comfortable position.

“Hold still, I’ll be done here pretty quick.”

Charlie’s eyes twinkled, and he laughed as he deftly sketched an image that was beginning to emerge as Josh’s face, showing him playfully touching Shebe’s head as she lay curled at his feet. “Shucks, everything can be learned. I grew up in Missouri and left at sixteen to live out my childhood fantasy, but if it hadn’t been for my good friend Hoover, I wouldn’t have learned or experienced the ways of frontier life or being a cowboy. He took me under his wing and taught me the ropes.” Charlie grinned at them. “Hey! That’s funny. He did teach me how to rope.” He chortled. “I did a little sheepherding myself for Pike Miller’s sheep ranch near Judith Basin, but I didn’t stick with it, and he was glad to see me go. But Hoover taught me a lot.”

Andy, who was stirring up cornmeal batter, strolled back to where Charlie was adding the finishing touch to his sketch of Josh. “That name sounds familiar . . . Hoover.” He walked behind Charlie and looked over his shoulder at the drawing. “Well, I’ll be doggoned. That looks just like you, Josh.” Andy just shook his head in awe. “I never knew an artist.”

“I’m pleased you like it, Andy. Can’t say I’m really making much money at it yet.” Charlie dipped his brush into red pigment and mixed it with the black paint. “Hoover’s a mountain man. He did a little gold mining too, but never struck it big. I lived with him at his cabin at Pig Eye Basin. His latchstring was always out. I think he really loved people, along with his habit of drinking. Hmm, I could use a drink myself.”

“I don’t drink.” Josh cleared his throat. “So, you won’t find one in my camp.”

“No matter. I’m about done here. As I was saying, Hoover discovered sapphires near Utica, and I think he’s formed a partnership to mine there with some investors.”

“Wish I could find gold or somethin’ somewhere,” Andy said, pouring himself some coffee. “You staying for grub?”

“Is that an invite?”

Josh nodded, rising stiffly to peer at the picture Charlie had drawn. “Pretty good picture. Guess we owe you some beans and johnnycakes. You’re welcome to stay.”

“That’s mighty kind of you, and I think I will.” Charlie held out the picture toward Josh. “Here, you can have this.”

“No thanks, Charlie. I have nowhere to put it right now. Keep it for your portfolio. Maybe you’ll be famous someday.” Josh lifted the lid on the pot of beans, and the savory smell wafted out into the chilly morning air. “The beans are close to being done. Andy, flip us some of your johnnycakes to go along with this.”

Charlie stuffed the sketch and art supplies back in his canvas case. “Sounds good to me. Is there anything I can help with?”

“Nope,” Andy said. “There’s some oats over in that there barrel if you want to give your horse a nibble.”

“Thanks. I’ll do that.”

Josh watched Charlie as he proceeded to pour oats in a bucket for his horse. He was an affable cowpoke, easy to talk to. Josh couldn’t help but wonder what kind of skills he had as a cowboy but thought Charlie was at least a pretty decent artist.

The rest of the workday brought nothing unusual. Josh pulled a bleating lamb from a thicket, and it began frantically looking for its mother. Charlie tagged along. He talked the entire time, as if finding the whole realm of sheepherding interesting.

The sun was just beginning to slip behind the purple mountains of Tollgate Hill when Josh and Charlie tethered their horses. Josh removed Pete’s saddle while Charlie gave the horses fresh water to drink.

“Mmm, I’m about to starve to death,” Charlie said when they entered the campsite.

“Good thing, ’cause I’m just about to dish up the food.” Andy flipped johnnycakes on the open fire with a flick of his wrist.

“Andy, you’ve turned out to be a good cook.” Josh smiled at Andy.

“I’m hungry myself. Hope there’s some coffee to go with it.”

“Matter of fact, I just made some fresh.”

Josh looked at the young man bent over the fire. Andy made him smile inwardly with his eagerness to please. He was a runaway from a father who was meaner than a snake. Josh was glad he had hired him—Andy was worth his weight in gold. Josh had never had a younger brother, only his sister, April, and that was another thing altogether.

Later, Charlie wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Pardner, that was some fine eating I wasn’t expecting out here tonight. Thank you, Andy.”

“It’s my secret ingredient.”

“And what might that be?” Charlie laughed.

“If I told you, Charlie, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.”

Josh chuckled at the two of them. It was getting dark now. He poked the fire, sending orange sparks upward and lighting the faces of Charlie and Andy. He suddenly remembered the blue stones tucked away in his vest pocket. He took another swig of his coffee, set his tin cup down, and pulled out the blue pebbles. As he held them in his palm near the firelight, they twinkled like distant stars.

Andy and Charlie stopped talking when they saw the pebbles in the firelight. Andy let out a soft whistle. “Hey, whatcha got there, Josh?”

“I’m not sure. Found these today in the creek bed when I stopped to let Pete drink. I just remembered.” Josh was fascinated with the cornflower blue of the stones as his fingers pushed them around in his palm.

“If you find more, you may be able to build that home quicker than you think,” Charlie said. “Remember my friend Hoover I told you about?” Josh nodded. “Well, these look like the blue stones he found last year at Yogo Creek. You ought to take those to Lewistown next time you’re up that way and have ’em looked at. Could be you’re holding your future in the palm of your hand, Josh.”

Josh stared at the stones, then tucked them back into his inside vest pocket. He would definitely get them examined by an assayer. He would love to be able to build that house sooner rather than later.

When he’d left Colorado, he had not been on good terms with his father. Jim McBride had told him that if he left the ranch, he would cut Josh out of the will. His father was a mighty powerful and wealthy cattleman. He used his influence to get what he wanted, when he wanted it. Besides, Josh had told his father he’d wanted to do something different and be responsible for his own welfare. Tempers flared and an argument ensued. Then, when the woman he was really interested in married another man, Josh decided it was time to leave instead of mooning over her and seeing her with someone else.

Crystal. He paused over the image in his mind. The pain was gone after three years, and he decided it must have been God’s will for him. Another plan. Another life. Funny, when he thought about it. His sister, April, had been engaged to the man Crystal eventually married. What a strange turn of events.

He’d struggled in the last three years to make ends meet, and now he was beginning to reap the benefits. He wasn’t wealthy like his father by any stretch of the imagination, but the way the price of wool was rising, he’d soon be able to show his father he could make it on his own.

Maggie Brendan, The Jewel of His Heart: A Novel, Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission.

About the Author: (from the publisher's site)
Maggie Brendan is a member of American Christian Writers and the American Fiction Writers Association. She is the author of No Place for a Lady and The Jewel of His Heart and lives in Georgia.
Available October 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review and Tour: Emmy's Equal by Marcia Gruver (Excerpt Included)

Emmy's Equal (Texas Fortunes, Book 3)by Marcia Gruver
Barbour Books (October 9, 2009) ~ 320 pages
Fiction / Christian / Romance

Edition Reviewed: Paperback ~ Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy in coordination with this WildCard Tour!

Perfect for : Personal reading, book club read (discussion questions available online)

My Thoughts: Emmy's Equal is the third book in the Texas Fortunes series by Marcia Gruver. I have read the first book and enjoyed it. I somehow missed the second book, but neither is a requirement to have read in order to enjoy this book (although you will have better insight into a few of the characters and events).

Emmy's adventure starts in Humble Texas, August of 1906. My attention was caught from the first paragraphs, as Emmy is desperately trying to keep herself out of trouble with her mother, after trying to retrieve a keepsake of her mother's that she accidentally dropped down a murky hole/well. From this point on, the book kept my attention and I had trouble putting it down to get anything else done.

The characters are lovable and each have a personality that is well-developed and perfectly in harmony with this quirky, fun, inspirational adventure in Southern Texas! Emmy has recently come to believe in God, and she struggles to stay on the right path and keep herself out of trouble. She is not on the best of terms with her father, and she comes to find out that she will be traveling with her parents to the Twisted-R ranch to visit one of her father's old friends and his family.

While there, Emmy meets Cuddy, the rancher's son, and his friend and ranch foreman Diego, their families and various other friends and workers. I can honestly say that there wasn't one main character that I didn't like, and I actually found each one endearing in their own quirky ways.

A few things I really valued were the sense of family I got while reading this book. Not only does Emmy become closer with her own family, but the sense of family amongst the rest of other characters is equally as great. Additionally, the characters are more realistic: they are not perfect or preachy, but rather, have opportunities to learn from their mistakes and help each other when needed.

I absolutely enjoyed reading this book and highly encourage you to scroll down and read the first chapter that has been provided as part of the First WildCard Tour!

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)
***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

Marcia Gruver lives with her husband in Huffman, Texas, and has published various articles, poems, and devotionals. Her novel, Love Never Fails (renamed Chasing Charity), won third place in the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest. Marcia is a member of ACFW, Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW), and The Writers View.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602077
ISBN-13: 978-1602602076


Humble, Texas, August, 1906

The stagnant well appeared bottomless, as dank and murky as a grave. Emmy rested her arms on the cold, jagged stones and leaned to peer into the abyss. Mama’s embroidered lace hankie, shimmering in the meager light, hung from an outcropping of rock about four feet down. Narrowing her eyes, she peered at the spot of white that stood out from the surrounding darkness and heaved a sigh, stirring the fetid air below and raising a noxious odor that took her breath.

She pushed up her sleeves and blasted a droopy blonde ringlet from her eyes with a frustrated puff of air. There was no help for it—at the risk of certain death, she had to retrieve that handkerchief.

A figure loomed, drawing alongside her with a grunt.

She jumped, and her heart shot past her throat. Chest pounding, she wasted a glare on the dark profile, noticing for the first time a scatter of lines around his eyes and tiny gray curlicues in his sideburns.

“Nash! I nearly leapt over the side.” She swatted his arm. “I’ve asked you to stop sneaking up on me. I’ve a good mind to fit you with a cowbell.”

A chuckle rumbled from his chest, as deep as the chasm. “I didn’t go to scare you, Miss Emmy.” He bent his lanky body so far she feared he’d tumble headfirst into the never-ending shaft. “Say, what we looking for inside this hole?”

“We’re not looking for anything. I’ve already found it.” Emmy clutched his shirtsleeve and pulled him away. “Go fetch me a lantern, and be quick about it.” She tucked her chin in the direction of the palomino pony languishing under a nearby oak, nibbling at the circle of high grass around the trunk. “Take Trouble. He’ll be quicker than walking.”

Nash frowned and rubbed the knuckles of one hand along his temple, as if an ache had sprung up there. “What you need a lantern for, with the sun up and shining the past five hours? There’s plenty of light to see.”

She braced herself and pointed. “Not down there.”

Nash’s sleepy eyes flew open. His startled gaze bounced along her finger to the circular wall of weathered stones. “Down there?” He took a cautious step back. “What’s in this sour old pit that might concern you?”

Emmy swallowed hard. She could trust Nash with anything but dreaded his reaction all the same. “It’s. . .one of mama’s hankies.” She squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head.

His shoulders eased, and he ambled over to gaze inside. “Is that all?”

If only it were. Emmy risked a peek at him. “You don’t understand.”

He winced as if she’d spoken a bad omen. “Uh, uh. Not from her good batch? Them she’s always cackling about?”

Emmy cringed and nodded.

The delicate, lacy linens held an uncommon depth of meaning for Emmy’s mama. Hand embroidered in Germany by her grandmother then brought to the Americas and placed in Mama’s hope chest, they represented heart, hearth, and homeland to Magdalena Dane. In equal measure, they represented distress, discontent, and discord to her only daughter, because the bothersome bits of cloth seemed determined to cause Emmy grief.

Nash’s stunned expression hardened into an accusing glare. “Why, Miss Emmy? Why you done brought about such misery? You ain’t s’posed to touch ’em, and you know it.” His graying brows fluttered up and down, like two moths bent on escape. “There’s scarce few left, and your mama blames you for them what’s missing.”

She moaned and flapped her hands. “I didn’t mean to take the silly thing. It was warm when I rode out this morning. I knew I’d likely sweat, so I snagged a hankie from the clothesline. I never looked at it until a few minutes ago. That’s how this terrible mishap came about. I held it up as I rode, staring in disbelief. Trouble was galloping across the yard when the wind caught it and. . .” She motioned behind her. “The willful rag drifted down the well before I could stop the horse and chase after it.”

Emmy lowered her eyes then peered up at him through her lashes. “None of this is my fault, Nash. Papa should’ve covered this smelly cistern months ago, and those wretched handkerchiefs have a mind of their own.”

The hint of a smile played around Nash’s lips. “If so, they harbor a mighty poor opinion of you.”

She wrinkled her nose at him.

Wagging his head, he rested the back of his hand on his side. “In all my years of working for your family, of all the fits I’ve seen your mama pitch, the worst have been over the loss of them fancy scraps of cloth.” He shuddered. “Miss Emmy, I’d be mighty grateful if you’d wait and break the news to her after I leave for the day. She gon’ be powerful upset.”

Emmy held up and wiggled a finger. “On the contrary. I won’t be upsetting Mama.”

“How you figure that?”

“Because there’s no need to tell her.”

Nash propped his elbow in one hand and rubbed his chin with the other. “Missy, I thought you was done telling lies and scheming. Don’t forget you’re a saint of God now.”

A saint of God. Yes, she was, through no fault of her own. Like Elijah’s fiery chariot, God had swirled into Emmy’s life in a weak moment and delivered her from herself. Not that she minded His day-to-day presence. In fact, she rather enjoyed the peace He brought. It was during times of temptation when she found the constant stirring in her heart to do the right thing a bit of a bother. Yet no wonder, really. In the past, she’d had precious little practice in doing the right thing.

She blinked up at Nash. “I have no plans to lie, and I won’t need to scheme. We’re simply going to return great-grandmother’s hankie to Mama’s clothesline, washed, rinsed, and fresh as a newborn calf.”

Nash stared then shook his head. “No ma’am. You jus’ forget about what we gon’ do. Question is how are you gon’ pull it off?”

“I’ll show you.” She shooed him with her hands. “Run fetch that lantern like I asked and leave the rest to me.”

Still shaking his head, Nash mounted Trouble and laid in his heels. The horse bolted the short distance across the yard to the well-kept shed tucked behind Emmy’s two-story house. With a furtive glance toward the porch, Nash eased the door open and slipped inside.

While she waited, Emmy watched a rowdy band of crows swarm Nash’s cornfield. The black bandits bickered and pecked for position before settling in for a meal, oblivious to the mop-headed stick Nash had dressed in a ragged shirt and floppy hat and then shoved in the ground. She dared not call his attention to the culprits or he’d bluster after them, shouting and waving his arms like a demented windmill, leaving her to cope alone with her pressing dilemma.

She jerked her gaze from the birds when Nash rode up and slid off Trouble to the ground, a lighted lantern in his hand.

Handing over the light with a flourish, he lowered one brow and pinned her with a squinty look. “Here’s what you asked for. Jus’ be sure to leave me plumb out of the story when you go explaining yourself to your mama.”

He turned to go, but Emmy caught hold of his shirttail. “Not so fast. I’m not done with you.”

Nash covered his ears and reeled away. “Don’t tell me no mo’. I ain’t seen nothing, and I ain’t heard nothing. If anybody needs me, I’ll be feeding the chickens.”

Emmy aimed a haughty laugh at his back. “It’s too late for that. You’re in up to your hat, and it’s no less punishment than you deserve for sneaking about all the time.”

Nash dug in his heels and stood facing the grove of loblolly pine at the edge of the yard, his body stiff as a post.

Repentant, she softened her voice to a plea. “I’m sorry, Nash. I had no call to utter such a thing. It’s just. . .I can’t do this without you.”

Arms dangling at his sides, he tipped his head toward the sky and whispered something, a prayer no doubt, before turning to face her. “What you want me to do?”

She peppered him with grateful kisses then grabbed his hand. “Come over here.” Hauling him to the gaping cavity, she lowered the lamp. “See? There it is.”

They gazed at the only bright spot in the oppressive gloom, their ability to see inside the shaft made no better by the frail circle of yellow light.

Nash shrugged and drew back from the side. “Too far down. May as well wave it goodbye then go fess up to what you done.”

Emmy gripped his arm. “Nonsense. We can get it out of there.”

“How, short of fishing it out with a cane pole? And I got no hooks.” He scratched his head. “I reckon I could take my hammer and pound a bend in a nail.”

She shook her head. “Too risky. If the hankie slips off it’ll settle to the bottom, and that’ll be the end of it.” She drew a determined breath. “I have a better idea.”

Nash’s eyebrows rose on his forehead, reaching new heights, even for him. “What sort of idea? Harebrained or foolhardy? Them’s the only two kinds you have.”

She swallowed hard and fingered the wooden bucket sitting on the wall. “I’m going to straddle this, and you’ll lower me down to fetch it.”

The shaggy brows bested their last mark. “You cain’t mean it, Miss Emmy.”

“I do so.”

“Then your idea is both harebrained and foolhardy. You must be plain tetched up under them pretty white locks. S’pose that rope snaps in two?”

“Oh, pooh.” She patted the heavy hemp coiled around the crank. “This rope is thick and sound.” She pointed over her shoulder at the horse. “You could lower Trouble down that well.”

He nodded. “Yes’m. That’s exactly what I’d be doing.” He jerked off his weathered hat and dashed it against his leg. “Don’t ask me to put you in that kind of danger. No, missy. I won’t do it. Not for nothing in this wide world.”

Touched, Emmy smiled at the man who’d been like a father to her over the years, far more of a parent than her own papa, who didn’t stay home often enough to have much practice at the role. She took Nash’s hand and squeezed it. “I won’t be in any danger. As long as you’re holding the handle, I know I’ll be safe.” She peered up into his sulky brown eyes. “You know if you don’t help me I’ll just find a way to do it myself. I have to get that hankie.”

He gaped at her. “The silly thing ain’t worth dying for, is it? Your mama has fussed at you before, and you lived to tell the tale. Why is this time so all-fired special?”

She squared around to face him. “I can’t have her angry about anything just now. I’m planning to ask permission to go to St. Louis when Mama travels with Aunt Bertha to South Texas. It’ll be hard enough to convince her as it is. If she gets in a snit, my plan is doomed.”

“Why they going off so far?”

“It’s Aunt Bertha’s idea. Now that she has money, she’s determined to go into the cattle business. She’s bent on learning all she can. Papa knows a very successful rancher down south who’s willing to teach her everything he knows.”

“Cain’t you jus’ stay home?”

“They’ll be gone for a month or better. Mama refuses to leave me here alone for that long, and I’d much prefer going to see Charity.”

Nash smiled and nodded. “ ’Specially with her jus’ done birthing the little one.”

Emmy beamed. “Exactly. I can help Charity bring him home.”

A thrill coursed through her at the thought of seeing Charity and Buddy’s new baby boy. Emmy and Charity were as close as twin sisters, best friends like their mamas had always been. Emmy’s mama and Aunt Bertha had grown up together in Jefferson before moving to Humble.

Last year, a handsome young oilman came to town and found oil on Aunt Bertha’s land. Charity wound up married to him and soon left for St. Louis to meet his parents. When Buddy found out she was expecting, he kept her in the city so she’d be close to good medical care.

Not a day had passed that Emmy didn’t think of Charity and long to see her. She was coming home next month, bringing little Thad to meet the family.

Nash narrowed his eyes. “You ain’t jus’ trying to sneak off to St. Louis to see that oilman friend of Mistah Buddy’s, are you? Don’t think I didn’t see you making eyes at him the whole time that preacher was trying to marry off Miss Charity.”

Emmy whirled. “Who? Mr. Ritter?” She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Jerry Ritter was just a passing fancy.”

Nash raised a cynical brow.

“Oh, pooh, Nash! You stop that!” She fiddled the row of tiny buttons on her sleeve. “Besides. . .Aunt Bertha claims Mr. Ritter was recently betrothed to a childhood sweetheart.” She flicked off an insect from the cuff of her blouse and dashed away her humiliation with the same resolve. “Therefore, my desire to be in St. Louis has nothing to do with him. I just need to see Charity. If I get into any more trouble, Mama’s bound to haul me with them to that dreadful desert town instead. If she does, I’ll just dry up along with it and perish. I mean it!”

Grinding the toe of his oversized boot in the dirt, Nash sighed and shifted his weight. “I don’t know, Miss Emmy. . .”

Emmy stifled a grin. She had him. “I’ll be just fine. I promise. Now help me climb up.”

Still mumbling his objections, he offered an elbow to Emmy so she could pull up and sit on the uneven stones. Unfastening the buttoned flap on her split skirt, she swung her legs over and settled on the side, trying hard not to look past her boots. “Turn your head while I sit astride the pail. It won’t look so dainty in this outfit.”

Nash gazed toward the field, obviously too distracted to notice the raiding crows.

Still clinging to his arm, Emmy held her breath and pulled the dangling rope closer, guiding it between her legs. “All right, I’m ready. Lean your weight into the handle. I’m about to push off.”

Nash shifted his gaze to the sky. “Oh, sweet Jesus. Please protect this chil’.”

Holding her breath, she scooted from the edge, squealing when her body spun and dipped about a foot. “Nash! Have you got it?”

“I’ve got it. Stop squirming now. You heavier than you look.”

Emmy forced herself to still, more afraid than she’d expected to be. She felt more than saw the yawning gulf, a great gaping mouth poised to swallow her whole. “Hand me the lantern and then you can lower me. But go slowly, for heaven’s sake.”

She breathed a prayer as she spiraled past the opening and descended. Glancing up, she bit her lip and watched the rope unwind from the wobbly reel, outlined by a circle of light. Misguided but determined white roots that had pushed through cracks in the mortar groped at her, snagging her hem and sleeves. Crisscrossed nets of taught, silky threads offered whispers of resistance before giving way and sticking to the exposed parts of her legs. Emmy held the soft glow of the lamp closer to the side, shuddering when eight-legged bodies skittered in every direction. She gritted her teeth, suppressing a shriek and the urge to order Nash to haul her out of the wide-awake nightmare.

You can do this. Just a little more and you’ll be there. Three more turns and you’ll have Mama’s hankie in your hands. This will all be worth it then.

Exhaling her relief, she drew even with the jutting rock that had caught the precious heirloom. Holding the lantern out of the way, she swayed her body until the motion brought her closer to the wall.

She snatched at the white spot. Instead of soft linen, she felt thick, sticky padding. In place of the crush of a napkin gathered in her palm, there was the unmistakable writhing of something alive.

~ Wendi
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