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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.


Renee (BlacknGoldGirlsBookSpot) said...

Hi Wendi! I'm happy to read that you enjoyed this book as much as I did! The whole series is really great so far, I don't know about you but I can't wait for book 3!

xoxo~ renee

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I just read another review of this book but the blogger wasn't as positive about the book as you were. That's what's so great about book reviews. We get different views on the same book. Enjoyed reading your review!

Alice said...

I'm interested in this one!

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