Thursday, July 31, 2008

Searching For Spice by Megan DiMaria

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his/her book:

Searching for Spice

Tyndale House Publishers (March 5, 2008)


Megan DiMaria has fond memories of childhood trips to the public library where, amid the mural of Gulliver’s Travels and stacks of books, she began a lifelong love of the written word.

Searching for Spice is her debut novel. It was written as a response to a running joke she had with some girlfriends because despite being happily married, women still want romance in their lives. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, will release in October 2008.

Megan is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, HIS Writers, and is assistant director of Words for the Journey Rocky Mountain Region. She received her B.A. degree in Communication from SUNY Plattsburgh. Megan has been a radio and television reporter, freelance writer, editor and marketing professional. She volunteers her talents to her church and local non-profit organizations and speaks to writer’s and women’s groups.

Megan and her husband live in suburban Denver near their adult children. They often travel back to their roots in Long Island, NY to visit family and get their fill of delicious Italian food.

Her next novel, Out of Her Hands, goes on sale October 1, 2008.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 12.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (March 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414318871
ISBN-13: 978-1414318875


Chapter One

Jerry looks at me as if my head has sprouted petunias. “Linda, the half-and-half isn’t cold.”

I regard him through bleary eyes and swallow a yawn. His silhouette appears soft and gauzy, framed by the daylight pouring through the kitchen window, glowing like a Thomas Kinkade painting. I should have given myself an extra dose of eyedrops when I got up this morning. Ever since my LASIK surgery, I’ve applied a thick, Vaseline-like ointment to my dry eyes at night before dropping into bed. “What?”

He’s standing in the middle of the kitchen, the questionable carton of half-and-half in one hand and a mug of steaming coffee in the other. His plaid robe hangs partway open, the belt loosely tied over wrinkled pajamas. A look of perplexity transforms his intelligent features into a caricature of a hapless sad sack. But truly nothing could be further from the truth. My husband is a PhD chemist. So who is this clueless schmo standing before me?

Jerry raises the hand holding the half-and-half. “Warm.”

“Is the refrigerator broken?” I launch from my seat and open the door of our five-year-old GE side-by-side fridge that I just had to have and, by the way, got at a fabulous discount at the scratch-and-dent sale at Sears.

The interior of the appliance is dark, the first clue that something is amiss. And come to think of it, the refrigerator’s typical hum of electrical activity was absent from my morning symphony of appliances that serenades me while the coffee brews and the microwave heats my favorite tall latte mug.

I peer inside. Oh, rats. Condensation coats the exterior of a large jar of dill pickles on the top shelf. I put my hand on a glass casserole dish to confirm my diagnosis. “It’s not working.”

My dear husband is still rooted to the floor. Some people are dependent on that caffeine jolt to get them going in the morning, and he’s their poster boy.

“Pour some half-and-half in your coffee, Jer. It’s probably okay.”

He follows my instructions and takes a seat at the table. “Well, I don’t think I could stomach warm milk with my shredded wheat.”

I open the freezer door and root around until I find the Sara Lee pound cake I was saving for the weekend. This cake would have been so delicious with some fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I console myself with the knowledge that I really don’t need the extra calories; I’m fluffy enough. That’s the loving word the Revere family uses to refer to those dreaded unwanted pounds. As in, “Don’t you love to hug Grandma? She’s so fluffy.”

“This will have to do for breakfast. Can you run down to the basement and get the picnic cooler? Maybe we can salvage some of the frozen meat.”

Jerry takes a deep swig of his legal stimulant and disappears into the basement. While I pour my tea and set the table, I hear him muttering amid the noise of boxes being shifted across the cement floor.

“What’s Dad doing?” Emma stands at the top of the basement stairs, her ear cocked to the sounds coming from below. At fifteen she’s still my little girl on some days, but on others I see the lovely young woman who’s emerging from within.

I fill her in on the morning’s tragedy.

She flips a strand of light brown hair behind her shoulder and saunters to the table. “Whatever.”

Okay, so today I see that snotty teenage brat who’s hijacked my little darling. Obviously she doesn’t feel my pain and is clueless about the cost or inconvenience of a busted refrigerator. Ah, the bliss of youthful ignorance.

Em picks up the knife and slices a piece of cake. “No juice?”

“Help yourself.”

She pushes to her feet, grabs a glass, and opens the freezer to retrieve three measly ice cubes.

Just as Jerry’s emerging from the basement with the dusty cooler, our son, Nick, joins us, wearing a pair of green sweatpants and a faded T-shirt. His eyelids are at half-mast, and he has a bad case of bed head. Emma’s only too happy to give him our news.

I begin to load the picnic cooler with frozen meat and toss the few anorexic ice cubes left in the freezer on top of our chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, ground beef, and frozen vegetables. “Well, this won’t do the trick.” Too bad it’s springtime. Otherwise I could toss my food in the snow.

No one responds to my comment, so I turn to my college-age son. “Nicky, would you please run to the store and get a bag of ice?”

He grimaces, but he’s maturing nicely and agrees to drive the few blocks to the store to run my errand. Emma plops herself down in front of the computer, no doubt relieved for once that she doesn’t have her driver’s license yet.

I paw through our junk drawer in the kitchen for the stack of business cards to find a repairman. Mechanic. Insurance agent. Day spa. Where did that come from? My nerves begin to dance like a cat on hot pavement. I don’t have time for this. “Jer, who should I call?”

My honey squeezes my shoulder. Ah, marital solidarity. He walks toward the desk that sits between the kitchen and family room. “Em, may I use the computer?”

She glares at him but silently gives up her seat. In a moment, Jerry has the telephone number of the Sears repairmen. He passes the scrap of paper to me. “Here ya go.”

Great. So much for marital solidarity.

I dial the number, navigate the menu, and plead my case to the dispatch associate. “Two o’clock? Um, okay. Thanks. Someone will be here to let him in.” I disconnect the call and secure the handset back on the base. “Jer? What’s your schedule today?”

He grunts out a reply with his back toward me while he pours another mug of coffee.


He turns and takes a careful sip of the hot liquid. “Sorry. Faculty meeting. No can do.”

Anxiety builds in my chest. Swell. As usual, I’m the one who has to make the appointment and alter my schedule to accommodate this fiasco.

I’m loading the breakfast plates into the dishwasher when Nick walks in bearing a twenty-pound bag of ice. He opens the back door, then drops the bag onto the brick patio.


He retrieves the bag of crushed ice and beams his killer grin—the one that made my sensibilities melt nearly twenty-six years ago when his father favored me with the same endearing smile at a gas station off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I have to confess it’s as though Jer saw my heart soar toward the heavens in that moment and caught it in his hand. And that’s where it’s been ever since. I had run out of gas, and he was fueling his 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Both Jerry and his cute little red car were about the best thing I’d seen in forever. He offered to drive me and my gallon of gasoline to my stranded car, and the rest of the story, as they say, is history.

The grandfather clock chimes from the living room, reminding me that I’m behind schedule. Being late for work at Dream Photography is a major transgression. My stomach knots to think that not only will I be late, but I’ll have to leave early too. A hive of angry bees bounces off the inside of my skull, clamoring to escape, and a deep sigh drains from the bottom of my lungs.

“Mom?” Nick lays his hand on my shoulder. He is so like his father, bless him. “Chill. It’s only a refrigerator.”

He makes me smile in spite of my poor attitude. “I know. It’s just that I’ll have to leave work early, and—”

“What time is the repairman coming?”

Praise God—we must have done something right to deserve this child. “Two o’clock. Will you be home from school?”

He shakes his head. “Sorry. I need to buy a book for my history class.”

Are you kidding me? My hands ball and land on my hips. “Can’t you buy the book another day?”

“I really need to get going on my term paper. It’s due in three weeks.”

My anxiety level rises again. “Won’t the bookstore be open tomorrow?”

Nick rolls his eyes. “I won’t have time to stand in that line at the bookstore tomorrow.” He pours the ice cubes onto the meat, ending our discussion.

I toss the lid on the cooler and scurry upstairs to get ready for work. So what’s our new family slogan? Every man for himself?


I walk into the organized chaos that is Dream Photography—one of the best-known portrait studios in metro Denver. The ringing telephone provides nerve-jarring background noise for the pandemonium playing itself out.

A well-groomed toddler makes serious work of tossing neatly arranged brochures onto the floor, while his mother wipes baby spit from her infant daughter’s dress. Another client is tapping her foot and checking her wristwatch. Add to that the family being escorted to the lobby to schedule their image presentation—aka sales session—by none other than Luke Vidal, my surly boss.

My tardiness is noted by Luke with a raised eyebrow and a brief tic of his head, one that goes unnoticed by our clients but hits pay dirt in my always-too-willing-to-accept-guilt gut. “Linda, can you schedule an image presentation for the Murrays?”

Sure, Luke would have to enlist me to wait on clients before I get the chance to clock in and get my bearings. That must be my punishment for coming in late. I hurry behind the reception desk and smile at the Murray clan—the ones who think Luke is the greatest thing since the invention of the daguerreotype.

Luke pumps the outstretched hand of Andy Murray. “The shoot went well. I think you’ll love the images.” He gives a peppermint-sweet grin to the rest of the family and struts from the beautifully appointed lobby of his home away from home.

I take care of business and trot to the break room to clock in and catch my breath.

My coworker Traci looks up from a pile of five by sevens. “Hey, girl. Where have you been?”

“Don’t ask.”

She puts down a print of a gorgeous bride and waits for the information she knows I’ll spill. I unburden my tale of woe, and she nods and gives me the expected platitudes.

She smiles her Pepsodent grin and pats me on the back. “Isn’t life grand?”

I really love Traci, but sometimes she can lay it on too thick. She passes me the day’s schedule, then exits the room.

I glance at the list of appointments. Rats. I better get moving. The bees have begun to swarm in my brain again.

After grabbing the necessary client files and slipping into a salesroom, I power up my Mac and access the network. Within moments I’ve loaded my client’s images and have chosen an appropriately sentimental song to accompany the slide show. I turn on the projector and dim the lights. Clients go gaga over our well-designed salesrooms—I mean, image presentation rooms. They look more like an elegant home theater than a place of business.

I race back to the lobby, discover that my 9:30 sale has arrived, and paste a smile on my face. “Heidi, Ken, it’s good to see you again. If you don’t remember, my name’s Linda.”

They greet me, and I escort them to the salesroom, chatting them up to break the ice.

The freshly baked cookies placed on the coffee table make my mouth water and hopefully put our well-heeled clients in the mood to take an emotional journey while gazing at the incredible images produced in our high-end studio.

“Can I get anyone a bottle of water before we begin?”

“Yes, I would love some water.” Heidi claims a seat in one of the overstuffed chairs. She looks toward her husband, who is inspecting the frame on one of the portraits that adorn the walls. “Ken?”

“Oh yes. Please.”

I excuse myself and go to the fridge to get some of our private-label water bottles. From the first moment our customers call to schedule their appointment and until they have their portraits delivered, they’re treated like royalty. Fortunately, most of them deserve such treatment.

Heidi and Ken are clients from way back. They’ve been through everything with us, from the old days of film to the current high-tech, all-digital studio we’ve evolved into.

When I return, I distribute the water and start the viewing program. The swell of sentimental music explodes from the speakers in the ceiling, and images of two adorable little girls move across the big screen. They sit in a wicker swing under a towering oak tree in a field of tall, natural grasses. The lighting illuminates the canopy of green branches above them, while they are perfectly shaded from the bright morning sun. The girls are wearing off-white linen dresses and holding lovely vintage rag dolls. The camera changes perspective, and the girls are in the foreground, framed by the leaves from the branch of a nearby tree. In the next scene they’re sitting at a small, white bistro table enjoying a tea party with a rose-patterned porcelain tea set and a teddy bear for a guest.

The music plays on as the girls pose by an antique baby carriage. They both gaze off into the distance, their expressions a paragon of youthful innocence.

I’m so sick of these types of saccharine images, I could puke. But day after day, they provide the all-natural, nitrate-free bacon I bring home to my family.

Heidi sniffs and reaches for the box of tissues that sits on the table. The last image fades from the screen, and the music stops. Heidi grasps for her husband’s hand. He nods and smiles.

I hand a price list to Ken, and we get down to business.

Heidi appears to suffer heart-wrenching torment as we narrow the number of images down from thirty-nine to fifteen. You’d think I’m dishonoring her cute little daughters by deleting some, but unless you’ve got a huge bank account, you can’t buy them all.

She clutches a hand to her heart, and her husband says, “I love that expression on Olyvia’s face.”

I slip into sales mode. “That image is gorgeous, but look at the subjects. Your girls are beautiful.”

They smile in agreement. We continue to weed through the images to find their favorites. I’m getting dizzy from comparing similar poses and going back and forth while Heidi hems and haws about the merits of each picture.

“Ah, can you pull up number twenty-two?”

I maneuver the program to display an image of the girls sitting at the bistro table.

“And can you compare it to number twenty-four?”

Could this woman say please just once? Would it kill her to treat me with a modicum of respect?

She turns to her husband. “What do you think?”

Poor Ken looks as though he’s pulling himself out of a stupor to respond. “Uh, I don’t like the way Trynity’s hand is curled on the table.”

Heidi stands and moves closer to the screen. “Really? I think that’s cute.”

He sighs. “Okay, keep that one.”

“But Olyvia isn’t looking in the right direction.”

“Heidi, sit down so I can see the screen.”

She flashes him a look that could take the merry out of Christmas. Uh-oh. This isn’t good.

I clear my throat and try to maneuver the sale in the right direction. “What if we take Olyvia’s head from image twenty-five and put it on this image?”

They both study the pictures that I put side by side on the screen.

“And, Ken, didn’t you say you love that expression on Olyvia’s face?”

He jerks in my direction, and I don’t know if he’s pleased that I’m asking for his input or annoyed. “What will this cost?”

Oh, so that’s the way we’re going to be, huh, Ken? “Well, there will be an extra art fee to swap out that head, but if you both love the images and you’re purchasing a wall portrait, it’s well worth the charge.”

“How much?” Ken insists.

Heidi shifts in her seat. “Oh, it will be perfect. We could hang it in the dining room across from the china cabinet.”

That Heidi, she’s my kind of gal. Press on, full steam ahead.

“How much will it cost?”

I wave my hand to minimize the bombshell. “Oh, only about fifty dollars.”

If the room were brighter, I’m sure I’d see steam floating from his ears. “Can you show us what that would look like?”

I don’t know why he’s giving me a hard time. He’s bought images with head swaps from us before. “Sure, this is down and dirty, but it will give you an idea.” My artistry is crude at best, but I do a quick swap. “Of course our imaging artists will make it look 100 percent natural. No one will know this isn’t the original image.”

Ken leans back in his chair, a movement I take for acceptance.

I go in for the close. “Now what size portrait were you thinking of?”

Heidi clasps her hands. “Maybe a sixteen by twenty.”

“Okay. What size is the wall it’s going on?”

She looks confused, as if I’m speaking in Mandarin.

I stand and pick up a twenty-by-twenty-four-inch frame that holds a white piece of foam core. “Let’s look at this size, and tell me what you think.” I step into the middle of the room and center the image on the blank canvas.

They respond with the usual sigh of desire.

“You may even want to see the next size up.” No sense in not trying.

“Okay, let’s see . . .”

Cha-ching. Looks like I’m well on my way to exceeding my weekly goal. By the time they’re ready to leave, I can tell Heidi wants nothing more than to go home and hug her little darlings. For the amount of money I collected from their mom and dad, I want to hug the girls too.

If only the rest of my day goes as well. After the refrigerator crisis, I could use a break.

Monday, July 28, 2008

We have a winner!

The winner of the 'A Passion Most Pure' book giveaway is.........



(and no, it wasn't rigged :P)

I used this random generator, and it picked number 4 which was the fourth comment which was puppetmums!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nan's Journey by Elaine Littau

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his/her book:

Nan's Journey

Tate Publishing & Enterprises (January 2, 2008)


Littau is a life-long resident of Perryton, TX. She met husband, Terry at the Apostolic Faith Bible College in Baxter Springs, Kansas in 1974. They married March 1, 1975 and reside on a small acreage near Perryton where they enjoy spending time with their family and friends. They raised three sons and now have three daughters-in-law and four grandchildren added to their family. They also enjoy visiting with their extended family located in Perryton, Clear Lake, Laverne, and Amarillo.

Author Elaine Littau is a busy woman who by profession is the church secretary for Harvest Time First Assembly of God Church in Perryton. Among other things she has led women’s groups and taught preschool, and was a mentor for the M.O.P.S. (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in her community. She has been active in Toastmasters and enjoys painting, crafts, and playing piano and organ. She was recently appointed to the Campus Education Improvement Committee for Wright Elementary in Perryton. She belongs to Christian Storytellers and Faith Writers writing groups.

“Nan’s Journey” was written over the course of several years. “A salvation message is at the core of the book.” Littau says. “If it weren’t for the Lord, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. I truly enjoy meeting new people.”

Littau is currently working on two other books that are continuations of “Nan’s Journey.” Book signings and speaking engagements are currently set up for venues in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Oregon.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 188 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing & Enterprises (January 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602478325
ISBN-13: 978-1602478329


Chapter One

It was late. The moon had risen and the night symphony was in full force. Crickets chirped at their rivals, the frogs, and dominated the night chorus. Only one sound in the forest was foreign—a whimper from under the ferns. At the base of the largest pine in the woods was a small form crying, moaning, and whimpering. Black hair, matted and dirty, hung in long ropes down the front of the tiny girl. She had been in this spot for hours. At least that is what it felt like to her. Stretching, she cried out in pain. The blood-covered welts burst open to bleed again. Her back was wet with blood, and her dress was torn and useless.

Why had she dared to speak to the woman that she was obliged to call mother in that way? She knew that talking was not allowed from children before chores were finished. The accusations being made by “Ma” were totally false and she could not let Elmer take the blame for something she herself had forgotten to do. She shut her eyes tight against the memory, but it intruded anyway.

She had just gotten up to take the water off the stove to make up dishwater for the supper dishes. Ma had stepped outside the room to turn down her bed and prepare for sleep. When she reappeared in the kitchen, she realized that the wood supply next to the stove was low. Elmer was standing next to the table gathering the plates for washing. “Elmer, where is the wood you were supposed to bring up to the house?” Before he could answer, a hand had slapped him across his face. Getting back onto his feet and standing as tall as a five year old can stand, he looked her in the eye and said, “Ma, I was sick today, ‘member?”

“So, Elmer, you’re going to play up that headache trick again. Nan, didn’t your good for nothing Mama teach you people how to work, or are you just lazy?”

“Our Mama was good! Don’t you say mean things about her!” Nan yelled as her heart raced at the assault against her real Mama’s character.

“What about it, Elmer, are you like your weakling Mama or what?” Elmer’s eyes became very large and filled with tears. He could barely remember his real Mama, but when he did, he remembered soft kisses and sweet singing and a beautiful face. “I’m sorry; I’ll get the wood now.”

“No, Elmer, don’t. I promised you I’d do it today when your head was hurting, but I forgot. I’ll get it after I do these dishes.”

“Listen here, Nan, I’m the boss around here and Elmer will do what I say, when I say, and you will respect me.”

Nan’s eyes widened.

“Don’t look at me like that, little girl.”

Nan held her breath.

“Well, I guess you will be making a trip to the wood shed…with me!” Ma had grabbed her by the arm and jerked her along behind the shed. The strap was hanging there, waiting. Whippings were becoming more and more frequent. After Ma’s husband left, they had taken on a more cruel form. The last whipping was more like a beating. It took days for the marks to scab over and heal. Little Elmer had come in that night and brought some horse medicine from the barn and applied it to the oozing marks.

The next afternoon when the schoolteacher came over, Ma had already formulated a story. “Mrs. Dewey, we missed Nan and Elmer today at school. Are they sick?” Ma lied the first time in her life and said, “Well Miss Sergeant, since Mr. Dewey is going to be gone for another four weeks, I need more help around here to get things done. I’m holding the kids out until he gets back.” Week after week went by, and Mr. Dewey still hadn’t come home. Everyday Ma grew more and more angry. It became more and more impossible to please her. When she began hitting Elmer, it was too much. Nan had to do something— right or wrong; things couldn’t stay the way they were.

The coolness of the earth had settled into Nan’s bones. She stood silently for a minute and carefully crept up to the farmhouse. As she opened the door, she saw that Elmer was in the pallet at the foot of the stove next to her bedroll. Ma was asleep in her room. The door held open with a rock. Slowly she began peeling off the dress and the dried blood stuck to it. She reached for the old shirt she normally wore over her wounds and under her dress. She had washed it today. It had bloodstains on it, but it would keep her from ruining another dress. She retrieved the old work dress that she wore when chores were messier than usual; it was the only one left. She put it on swiftly and shook Elmer awake with her hand over his mouth. “Baby, we must leave. Do you understand? Stay quiet and I will get some stuff to take with us.”

She found large old handkerchief and began looking for food supplies. There was one sourdough biscuit and about a cup of cold brown beans. She located her tin cup and another rag. She would probably need that. Three matches were in the cup on the stove. She would just take two. Suddenly she heard a sound from Ma’s room. A scampering sound… just a rat. Ma turned over. Her breathing became deep and regular. For once Nan wished that Ma snored. She tied the handkerchief in a knot over the meager food supplies, grabbed their bedrolls, and slowly opened the door.

“Come on, Elmer. Can you carry this food? I’ll get your bedding. That’s a good boy. We must hurry!”

The cold air bit at their faces, but they walked bravely on.

“Elmer, we must go tonight so we can get as far away as we can before Ma wakes up and sees that we are gone.”

For the next half hour the pair walked in silence through the familiar woods past the graves on the hill. In one, a mother dearly loved, in another, an infant who had died the same day as his mother, and the third, a father that only Nan had memory of. Elmer was only two years old when Pa died in the logging accident. Nan snapped out of her reverie and urged Elmer on. Molasses, Pa’s good old workhorse, stood in the pasture. He skidded the logs Pa cut with his axe. His legs hadn’t healed quite right, but Mama hadn’t let Mr. Dewey kill him because he was all she had left of the husband of her youth. Molasses was a faithful friend to Nan and Elmer. He stood there and waited for them to mount him.

“Molasses, take us to…” Nan realized then that they had nowhere to go. Mrs. Dewey had said that they were ungrateful little imps who didn’t realize she and Mr. Dewey were taking care of them out of kindness, and they could easily be put into an orphanage. Nan didn’t know anything about orphanages except what Mrs. Dewey…uh, Ma had told her. “Molasses, just take us out of here.”

My review:
This was a good book. I thought the writing style was a little rough, but the plot line was really good. I could feel Nan's pain, and her confusion. I ended up liking Mrs. Dewey as well, which was a surprise.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Falcon and The Sparrow by M.L. Tyndall

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his/her book:

The Falcon and the Sparrow

Barbour Publishing, Inc (August 1, 2008)


MaryLu spent her early years in South Florida where she fell in love with the ocean and the warm tropical climate. After moving to California with her husband, she graduated from college and worked as a software engineer for 15 years. Currently, MaryLu writes full time and resides in California with her husband and 6 children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602600120
ISBN-13: 978-1602600126


Chapter One

Dover, England, March 1803

Dominique Celine Dawson stepped off the teetering plank of the ship and sought the comfort of solid land beneath her feet, knowing that as she did so, she instantly became a traitor to England. Thanking the purser, she released his hand with a forced smile.

He tipped his hat and handed her the small embroidered valise containing all her worldly possessions. “Looks like rain,” he called back over his shoulder as he headed up the gangway.

Black clouds swirled above her, stealing all light from the midmorning sun. A gust of wind clawed at her bonnet. Passengers and sailors unloading cargo collided with her from all directions. She stepped aside, testing her wobbly legs. Although she’d just boarded the ship from Calais, France, to Dover that morning, her legs quivered nearly as much as her heart. She hated sailing. What an embarrassment she must have been to her father, an admiral in the British Royal Navy.

A man dressed in a top hat and wool cape bumped into her and nearly knocked her to the ground.

Stumbling, Dominique clamped her sweaty fingers around her valise, feeling as though it was her heart they squeezed. Did the man know? Did he know what she had been sent here to do?

He shot her an annoyed glance over his shoulder. “Beggin’ your pardon, miss,” he muttered before trotting off, lady on his arm and children in tow.

Blowing out a sigh, Dominique tried to still her frantic breathing. She must focus. She must remain calm. She had committed no crime—yet.

She scanned the bustling port of Dover. Waves of people flowed through the streets, reminding her of the tumultuous sea she had just crossed. Ladies in silk bonnets clung to gentlemen in long-tailed waistcoats and breeches. Beggars, merchants, and tradesmen hustled to and fro as if they didn’t have a minute to lose. Dark-haired Chinamen hauled two-wheeled carts behind them, loaded with passengers or goods. Carriages and horses clomped over the cobblestone streets. The air filled with a thousand voices, shouts and screams and curses and idle chatter accompanied by the incessant tolling of bells and the rhythmic lap of the sea against the docks.

The stench of fish and human sweat stung Dominique’s nose, and she coughed and took a step forward, searching for the carriage that surely must have been sent to convey her to London and to
the Randal estate. But amidst the dizzying crowd, no empty convey-
ance sat waiting; no pair of eyes met hers—at least none belonging to a coachman sent to retrieve her. Other eyes flung their slithering gazes her way, however, like snakes preying on a tiny ship mouse. A lady traveling alone was not a sight often seen.

Lightning split the dark sky in two, and thunder shook it with an ominous boom. For four years she had longed to return to England, the place of her birth, the place filled with many happy childhood memories, but now that she was here, she felt more lost and frightened than ever. Her fears did not completely stem from the fact that she had never traveled alone before, nor been a governess before—although both of those things would have been enough to send her heart into a frenzy. The true reason she’d returned to her homeland frightened her the most.

Rain misted over her, and she brushed aside the damp curls that framed her face, wondering what to do next. Oh Lord, I feel so alone, so frightened. Where are You? She looked up, hoping for an answer, but the bloated clouds exploded in a torrent of rain that pummeled her face and her hopes along with it. Dashing through the crowd, she ducked beneath the porch of a fish market, covering her nose with a handkerchief against the putrid smell.

People crowded in beside her, an old woman pushing an apple cart, a merchantman with a nose the size of a doorknob, and several seaman, one of whom glared at Dominique from beneath bushy brows and hooded lids. He leaned against a post, inserted a black wad into his mouth, and began chewing, never taking his gaze from her. Ignoring him, Dominique glanced through the sheet of rain pouring off the overhang at the muted shapes moving to and fro. Globs of mud splashed from the puddle at her feet onto her muslin gown. She had wanted to make a good impression on Admiral Randal. What was he to think of his new governess when she arrived covered in filth?

Lightning flashed. The seaman sidled up beside her, pushing the old woman out of the way. “Looking for someone, miss?”

Dominique avoided the man’s eyes as thunder shook the tiny building. “No, merci,” she said, instantly cringing at her use of French.

“Mercy?” He jumped back in disgust. “You ain’t no frog, is you?” The man belched. He stared at her as if he would shoot her right there, depending on her answer.

Terror renewed the queasiness in her stomach. “Of course not.”

“You sound like one.” He leaned toward her, squinting his dark eyes in a foreboding challenge.

“You are mistaken, sir.” Dominique held a hand against his advance. “Now if you please.” She brushed past him and plunged into the rain. Better to suffer the deluge than the man’s verbal assault. The French were not welcome here, not since the Revolution and the ensuing hostilities caused by Napoleon’s rise to power. Granted, last year Britain had signed a peace treaty with France, but no one believed it would last.

Dominique jostled her way through those brave souls not intimidated by the rain and scanned the swarm of carriages vying for position along the cobblestone street. If she did not find a ride to London soon, her life would be in danger from the miscreants who slunk around the port. Hunger rumbled in her stomach as her nerves coiled into knots. Lord, I need You.

To her right, she spotted the bright red wheels of a mail coach that had Royal Mail: London to Dover painted on the back panel. Shielding her eyes from the rain, she glanced up at the coachman perched atop the vehicle, water cascading off his tall black hat. “Do you have room for a passenger to London, monsie—sir?”

He gave her a quizzical look then shook his head. “I’m full.”

“I’m willing to pay.” Dominique shuffled through her valise and pulled out a small purse.

The man allowed his gaze to wander freely over her sodden gown. “And what is it ya might be willing to pay?”

She squinted against the rain pooling in her lashes and swallowed. Perhaps a coach would be no safer than the port, after all. “Four guineas,” she replied in a voice much fainter than she intended.

The man spat off to the side. “It’ll cost you five.”

Dominique fingered the coins in her purse. That would leave her only ten shillings, all that remained of what her cousin had given her for the trip, and all that remained of the grand Dawson fortune, so quickly divided among relatives after her parents’ death. But what choice did she have? She counted the coins, handed them to the coachman, then waited for him to assist her into the carriage, but he merely pocketed the money and gestured behind him. Lifting her skirts, heavy with rain, she clambered around packages and parcels and took a seat beside a window, hugging her valise. She shivered and tightened her frock around her neck, fighting the urge to jump off the carriage, dart back to the ship, and sail right back to France.

She couldn’t.

Several minutes later, a young couple with a baby climbed in, shaking the rain from their coats. After quick introductions, they squeezed into the seat beside Dominique.

Through the tiny window, the coachman stared at them and frowned, forming a pock on his lower chin. He muttered under his breath before turning and snapping the reins that sent the mail coach careening down the slick street.

The next four hours only added to Dominique’s nightmare. Though exhausted from traveling half the night, rest was forbidden her by the constant jostling and jerking of the carriage over every small bump and hole in the road and the interminable screaming of the infant in the arms of the poor woman next to her. She thanked God, however, that it appeared the roads had been newly paved or the trip might have taken twice as long. As it was, each hour passed at a snail’s pace and only sufficed to increase both her anxiety and her fear.

Finally, they arrived at the outskirts of the great city capped in a shroud of black from a thousand coal chimneys—a soot that not even the hard rain could clear. After the driver dropped off the couple and their vociferous child on the east side of town, Dominique had to haggle further for him to take her all the way to Hart Street, to which he reluctantly agreed only after Dominique offered him another three precious shillings.

The sights and sounds of London drifted past her window like visions from a time long ago. She had spent several summers here as a child, but through the veil of fear and loneliness, she hardly recognized it. Buildings made from crumbling brick and knotted timber barely held up levels of apartments stacked on top of them. Hovels and shacks lined the dreary alleyways that squeezed between residences and shops in an endless maze. Despite the rain, dwarfs and acrobatic monkeys entertained people passing by, hoping for a coin tossed their way. As the coach rounded one corner, a lavishly dressed man with a booming voice stood in an open booth, proclaiming that his tonic cured every ache and pain known to man.

The stench of horse manure and human waste filled the streets, rising from puddles where both had been deposited for the soil men to clean up at night.

Dominique pressed a hand to her nose and glanced out the other side of the carriage, where the four pointed spires of the Tower of London thrust into the angry sky. Though kings had resided in the castlelike structure, many other people had been imprisoned and tortured within its walls. She trembled at the thought as they proceeded down Thames Street, where she soon saw the massive London Bridge spanning the breadth of the murky river.

Her thoughts veered to Marcel, her only brother—young, impetuous Marcel. Dominique had cared for him after their mother died last year of the fever, and she had never felt equal to the task. Marcel favored their father with his high ideals and visions of heroism, while Dominique was more like their mother, quiet and shy. Marcel needed strong male guidance, not the gentle counsel of an overprotective sister.

So of course Dominique had been thrilled when a distant cousin sought them out and offered to take them both under his care. Monsieur Lucien held the position of ministère de l’intérieur under Napoleon’s rule—a highly respectable and powerful man who would be a good influence on Marcel.

Or so she had thought.

The carriage lurched to the right, away from the stench of the river. Soon the cottages and shabby tenements gave way to grand two- and three-level homes circled by iron fences.

Dominique hugged her valise to her chest, hoping to gain some comfort from holding on to something—anything—but her nerves stiffened even more as she neared her destination. After making several more turns, the coach stopped before a stately white building. With a scowl, the driver poked his open hand through the window, and Dominique handed him her coins, not understanding the man’s foul humor. Did he treat all his patrons this way, or had she failed to conceal the bit of French in her accent?

Climbing from the carriage, she held her bag against her chest and tried to sidestep a puddle the size of a small lake. Without warning, the driver cracked the reins and the carriage jerked forward, spraying Dominique with mud.

Horrified, she watched as the driver sped down the street. He did that on purpose. She’d never been treated with such disrespect in her life. But then, she’d always traveled with her mother, the beautiful Marguerite Jean Denoix, daughter of Edouard, vicomte de Gimois, or her father, Stuart Dawson, a respected admiral in the Royal Navy. Without them by her side, who was she? Naught but an orphan without a penny to her name.

Rain battered her as she stared up at the massive white house, but she no longer cared. Her bonnet draped over her hair like a wet fish, her coiffure had melted into a tangle of saturated strands, and her gown, littered with mud, clung to her like a heavy shroud. She deserved it, she supposed, for what she had come to do.

She wondered if Admiral Randal was anything like his house—cold, imposing, and rigid. Four stories high, it towered above most houses on the street. Two massive white columns stood like sentinels holding up the awning while guarding the front door.
The admiral sat on the Admiralty Board of His Majesty’s Navy, making him a powerful man privy to valuable information such as the size, location, and plans of the British fleet. Would he be anything like her dear father?

Dominique skirted the stairs that led down to the kitchen. Her knees began to quake as she continued toward the front door. The blood rushed from her head. The world began to spin around her. Squeezing her eyes shut, she swallowed. No, she had to do this. For you, Marcel. You’re all I have left in the world.

She opened her eyes and took another step, feeling as though she walked into a grand mausoleum where dead men’s bones lay ensconced behind cold marble.

She halted. Not too late to turn around—not too late to run. But Marcel’s innocent young face, contorted in fear, burned in her memory. And her cousin Lucien’s lanky frame standing beside him, a stranglehold on the boy’s collar. “If you prefer your brother’s head to be attached to his body, you will do as I request.”

A cold fist clamped over Dominique’s heart. She could not lose her brother. She continued up the steps though every muscle, every nerve protested. Why me, Lord? Who am I to perform such a task?

Ducking under the cover of the imposing porch, Dominique raised her hand to knock upon the ornately carved wooden door, knowing that after she did, she could not turn back.

Once she stepped over the threshold of this house, she would no longer be Dominique Dawson, the loyal daughter of a British admiral.

She would be a French spy.

My review:
This was a well written book. I really enjoyed it! I love historical novels, and this was no exception. I loved Dominique and Chase. They were very sweet, engaging characters.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Watcher In the Woods by Robert Liparulo

It's May 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

and his book:

Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)


Robert Liparulo is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Here are some of his titles:

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Comes a Horseman



Product Details

List Price: $14.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595544968
ISBN-13: 978-1595544964



At twelve years old, David King was too young to die. At least he thought so.

But try telling that to the people shooting at him.

He had no idea where he was. When he had stepped through the portal, smoke immediately blinded him. An explosion had thrown rocks and who-knew-what into his face. It shook the floor and knocked him off his feet. Now he was on his hands and knees on a hardwood floor. Glass and splinters dug into his palms. Somewhere, all kinds of guns were firing. Bullets zinged overhead, thunking into walls—bits of flying plaster stung his cheeks.

Okay, so he wasn’t sure the bullets were meant for him. The guns seemed both near and far. But in the end, if he were hit, did it matter whether the shooters meant to get him or he’d had the dumb luck to stumble into the middle of a firefight? He’d be just as dead.

The smoke cleared a bit. Sunlight poured in from a school-bus-sized hole in the ceiling. Not just the ceiling—David could see attic rafters and the jagged and burning edges of the roof. Way above was a blue sky, soft white clouds.

He was in a bedroom. A dresser lay on the floor. In front of him was a bed. He gripped the mattress and pushed himself up.

A wall exploded into a shower of plaster, rocks, and dust. He flew back. Air burst from his lungs, and he crumpled again to the floor. He gulped for breath, but nothing came. The stench of fire—burning wood and rock, something dank and putrid—swirled into his nostrils on the thick, gray smoke. The taste of cement coated his tongue. Finally, oxygen reached his lungs, and he pulled it in with loud gasps, like a swimmer saved from drowning. He coughed out the smoke and dust. He stood, finding his balance, clearing his head, wavering until he reached out to steady himself.

A hole in the floor appeared to be trying to eat the bed. It was listing like a sinking ship, the far corner up in the air, the corner nearest David canted down into the hole. Flames had found the blankets and were spreading fast.

Outside, machine-gun fire erupted.

David jumped.

He stumbled toward an outside wall. It had crumbled, forming a rough V-shaped hole from where the ceiling used to be nearly to the floor. Bent rebar jutted out of the plaster every few feet.

More gunfire, another explosion. The floor shook.

Beyond the walls of the bedroom, the rumble of an engine and a rhythmic, metallic click-click-click-click-click tightened his stomach. He recognized the sound from a dozen war movies: a tank. It was rolling closer, getting louder.

He reached the wall and dropped to his knees. He peered out onto the dirt and cobblestone streets of a small village. Every house and building was at least partially destroyed, ravaged by bombs and bullets. The streets were littered with chunks of wall, roof tiles, even furniture that had spilled out through the ruptured buildings.

David’s eyes fell on an object in the street. His panting breath froze in his throat. He slapped his palm over his mouth, either to stifle a scream or to keep himself from throwing up. It was a body, mutilated almost beyond recognition. It lay on its back, screaming up to heaven. Male or female, adult or child, David didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. That it was human and damaged was enough to crush his heart. His eyes shot away from the sight, only to spot another body. This one was not as broken, but was no less horrible. It was a young woman. She was lying on her stomach, head turned with an expression of surprised disbelief and pointing her lifeless eyes directly at David.

He spun around and sat on the floor. He pushed his knuckles into each eye socket, squeegeeing out the wetness. He swallowed, willing his nausea to pass.

His older brother, Xander, said that he had puked when he first saw a dead body. That had been only two days ago—in the Colosseum. David didn’t know where the portal he had stepped through had taken him. Certainly not to a gladiator fight in Rome.

He squinted toward the other side of the room, toward the shadowy corner where he had stepped into . . . wherever this was . . . whenever it was. Nothing there now. No portal. No passage home. Just a wall.

He heard rifle shots and a scream.

Click-click-click-click-click . . . the tank was still approaching.

What had he done? He thought he could be a hero, and now he was about to get shot or blown up or . . . something that amounted to the same thing: Dead.

Dad had been right. They weren’t ready. They should have made a plan.


David rose into a crouch and turned toward the crumbled wall.

I’m here now, he thought. I gotta know what I’m dealing with, right? Okay then. I can do this.

He popped up from his hiding place to look out onto the street. Down the road to his right, the tank was coming into town over a bridge. Bullets sparked against its steel skin. Soldiers huddled behind it, keeping close as it moved forward. In turn, they would scurry out to the side, fire a rifle or machine gun, and step back quickly. Their targets were to David’s left, which meant he was smack between them.


At that moment, he’d have given anything to redo the past hour. He closed his eyes. Had it really only been an hour? An hour to go from his front porch to here?

In this house, stranger things had happened. . . .

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter! Plus, with this tour, you can win a copy of Julie's book! Leave a comment saying you wish to be in the drawing for the book, and I'll pick a winner on July 28.

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

A Passion Most Pure
Revell (January 1, 2008)


Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. Her first book in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Most Pure, was released January 2008, to be followed by the second in September 2008, A Passion Redeemed, and the third in May 2009, A Passion Denied (working title).

You can visit Julie at her Web site.

Product Details

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Revell (January 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800732111
ISBN-13: 978-0800732110


“To the man who pleases him,

God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness,

but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to

hand it over to the one who pleases God.

This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

– Ecclesiastes 2:26

Chapter One

Boston, Massachusetts, Late Summer, 1916

Sisters are overrated, she decided. Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it. Faith O’Connor stood on tiptoe behind the side porch, squinting through her mother’s prized lilac bush. The sound of summer locusts vibrated in her ears as she gasped, inches from where her sister, Charity, stood in the arms of––

“Collin, someone might hear us,” Charity whispered.

“Not if we don’t talk.” Collin’s index finger stroked the cleft of her sister’s chin.

Faith’s body went numb. The locusts crescendoed to a frenzy in her brain. She wanted to sink into the fresh-mown lawn, but her feet rooted to the ground as firmly as the bush that hid her from view.

Three years had done nothing to diminish his effect on her. He was grinning, studying her sister through heavy lids, obviously relaxed as he leaned against the wall of their wraparound porch. His serge morning coat was draped casually over the railing. The rolled sleeves of his starched, white shirt displayed muscled arms snug around Charity’s waist. Faith knew all too well his clear, gray eyes held a maddening twinkle, and she heard the low rumble of his laughter when he pulled her sister close.

“Collin, nooooo …” Charity’s voice seemed to ripple with pleasure as her finger traced a suspender cinched to his striped trousers.

“Charity, yes,” he whispered, closing his eyes as he bent to kiss her.

Faith stopped breathing while his lips wandered the nape of her sister’s neck.

Charity attempted a token struggle before appearing to melt against his broad chest. She closed her eyes and lifted her mouth to his, her head dropping back with the ease of oiled hinges.

Faith rolled her eyes.

Without warning, Collin straightened. A strand from his slicked-back hair tumbled across his forehead while he held her sister at arm’s length. His expression was stern, but there was mischief in his eyes. "You know, Charity, your ploy doesn’t work.” His brows lifted in playful reprimand, making him appear far older than his twenty-one years. He adjusted the wide, pleated collar of her pink gabardine blouse. “You are a beautiful girl, Charity O’Connor. And I’m quite sure your doe-eyed teasing is most effective with the schoolboys that buzz around.” His fingers gently tugged at a strand of her honey-colored hair before tucking it behind her ear. “But not with me.” He lifted her chin to look up at him. The corners of his lips twitched. “I suggest you save your protest for them and this for me …"

His dimples deepened when his lips eased into that dangerous smile that always made Faith go weak in the knees. In one fluid turn, he backed her sister against the wall, hands firm on her shoulders as his mouth took hers. Then, in a flutter of Faith’s heart, he released her.

On cue, Charity produced a perfect pout, stamping her foot so hard it caused her black hobble skirt to flair at her ankles. Collin laughed out loud. He kissed her on the nose, grabbed his coat and started down the steps.

"Collin McGuire, you are so arrogant!" Charity whispered, her voice hissing as if through clenched teeth.

"And you, Charity O'Connor, are so vain––a perfect match, wouldn't you say?" He headed for the gate, whistling. Charity stormed inside and slammed the door. Collin chuckled and strolled toward the sidewalk.

Faith crept to the lilac hedge at the front of the house and peeked through its foliage. A stray ball from a rowdy game of kickball rolled into the street. Collin darted after it just as a black Model T puttered by, blaring its horn. He jumped from its path, palming the ball with one hand. In a blink of an eye, he was swarmed by little boys, their laughter pealing through the air as Collin wrestled with one after another.

All at once he turned and loped to a massive oak where tiny, towheaded Theodore Schmidt sat propped against the gnarled tree, crutches by his side. Raucous cheers pierced the air when Collin tossed his coat on the ground and bent to carefully hoist Theo astride his broad shoulders. The little boy squealed with delight. A grin split Collin’s handsome face. He gripped Theo’s frail legs against his chest and sauntered toward home plate. Scrubbing his palms on Theo’s faded, brown knickers, Collin dug his heels in the dirt and positioned himself. The pitcher grinned and rolled the ball. The air was thick with silence. Even the locusts seemed to hush as the ball wheeled in slow motion. Faith held her breath.

Collin’s first kick sailed the ball five houses away. Champion and child went flying, the back tail of Theo’s white shirt flapping in the breeze as Collin rounded the bases. They crossed home plate to a roar of cheers and whistles and all colors of beanies fluttering in the air like confetti. Theo’s scrawny arms flapped about, his tiny face as flushed as Collin’s when the two finally huffed to a stop.

Faith exhaled. Everybody’s hero, then and now.

Collin set the child back against the tree. He squatted to speak to him briefly before tousling his hair. Rising, he snatched his coat from the ground and slung it over his shoulder. The boys groaned and begged for more, but Collin only waved and continued down the street, finally disappearing from view.

Faith pressed a shaky palm to her stomach. She closed her eyes and leaned against the

porch trellis. A perfectly wonderful Saturday gone to the dogs! All she had wanted when she slipped out the back door was to escape to her favorite hideaway in the park. To write poetry and prayers to her heart’s content in the warm, September sun. But no! Once again, her sister had managed to strike, foiling her plans for a blissful afternoon of writing and reverie. Her eyes popped open and she kicked at a hickory nut, sending it pinging off her mother’s copper watering can.

It was bad enough Charity attracted the attention of every male within a ten-mile radius. Did she also have to be the younger sister? It was nothing short of humiliating! Faith plunked her hands on her hips and looked up. “Really, Lord, she’s sixteen to my eighteen and fends off men like a mare swishing flies. Was that really necessary?” She waved her hand, palm up, toward the infamous porch. “And now this? Now him?”

Faith jerked her blanket from the ground and slapped it over her shoulder. Retrieving her journal and prayer book, she thrashed through the bushes. She glanced at the side porch, leering at the very spot he held her sister only moments before. The impact hit and tears pricked her eyes. She swatted at something caught in her hair. A twig with a heart-shaped leaf plummeted to the ground, in perfect synchronization with her mood.

Her sister had it all––beauty, beaus and now the affections of Collin McGuire. Where was the justice? In Faith’s world of daydreams, he had been hers first, smitten on the very day Margaret Mary O’Leary had shoved her against the schoolyard fence. Helplessly she had hung, the crippled runt of the fifth-grade class, pinned by bulbous arms for the crime of refusing to turn over her mother’s fresh-baked pumpkin bread.

“Drop her, Margaret Mary,” the young Collin had said with authority.

The pudgy hands released their grip. “Cripple!” Margaret Mary’s hateful slur had hissed in Faith’s ears as she plopped to the ground, the steel braces on her thin legs clanking as she fell. The girl’s sneer dissolved into a smile when she gazed up at Collin, her ample cheeks puffing into small, pink balloons. “Sorry!” she said in a shy voice. With a duck of her head, she wobbled off, leaving Faith in a heap. Bits of bread, now dusted with dirt, clumped through Faith’s fingers as she stared up in awe. It had been the first time she ever laid eyes on him. Never again would her little-girl heart beat the same. He was tall and languid with an easy smile—Robin Hood, defending the weak.

“D’she hurt you?” he had asked, extending his arm.

The gentleness in his eyes stilled her. Shaking her head, she opened her hand to reveal a mangled piece of bread. Without thinking, she tried to blow off the dirt, misting it with saliva. “I don’t suppose you want some?”

The grin would be branded in her brain forever.

“That’s okay, Little Bit,” he said with a sparkle in his eye, “I’ll just help myself to some of Margaret Mary’s.”

Her mind jolted back to the present. Faith blinked at the lonely porch and sniffed. Jutting her chin in the air, she flipped a russet strand of hair from her eyes. “I refuse to entertain notions of Collin McGuire,” she vowed. Her lips pressed into a tight line. It’s just a crying shame Mother hadn’t found them first!

As if shocked at her thought, the sun crept behind a billow of clouds, washing her in cool shadows. She crossed her arms and glowered at the sky. “Yes, I know, I’m supposed to be taking every thought captive. But it’s not all that easy, you know.”

A curl from her half-hearted chignon fluttered into her face. She reached to yank the comb from her hair, shaking her head until the wild mane tumbled down her back. Hiking her brown gingham skirt to her knees, she ignored the curious stares of children and raced down Donovan Street.

She was almost oblivious to the faint limp in her stride, the only mark of her childhood bout with polio. Some of the children still laughed at the halting way she walked and ran, but Faith didn’t care. If anything, it only made her chin lift higher and her smile brighter. That slight hitch in her gait––that precious, wonderful gimp––was daily proof she had escaped paralysis or worse. She needed no reminding that countless children had perished in the Massachusetts polio epidemic of 1907, her own twin sister among them. She shuddered at the memory while her pace slowed. God had heard the prayers of her parents––or at least half. She alone had survived. And more than survived––she’d never need braces again.

Masking her somber mood with a smile, she waved and called to neighbors, flitting by the perfectly groomed three-decker homes that so typified the Southie neighborhood of Boston. She hurried beneath a canopy of trees where mothers chatted and toddlers played peek-a-boo around their petticoats. A tiny terrier yipped and danced in circles, coaxing a grin to her lips, while little girls played hopscotch on cobblestone streets dappled with sunlight.

In the tranquil scene, Faith saw no hint of impending troubles, no telltale evidence of “The Great War” raging in a far-off land across the sea. But the qualms of concern were there all the same. Insidious, filtering into their lives like a patchy gloom descending at will––in hushed conversations over back fences or in distracted stares and wrinkled brows. The question was always the same: Would America go to war? One by one, the neutrality of European countries toppled like dominoes. Romania, who had entered the war with the Allies, was quickly overrun by German forces. Now, within mere days, Italy had declared war on Germany as well, sucked into the vortex of hate. Would America be next to enter World War I? Faith shivered at the thought and then gasped when she nearly collided with a freckled boy darting out of Hammond’s confectionary.

“Sorry, miss,” he muttered, clutching a box of Cracker Jacks against plaid knickers.

“No, it’s my fault.” She rumpled his hair. He smiled shyly, breaking through her somber mood. Flashing a gap-toothed grin, he flew off to join his friends. Faith laughed and rounded the corner, sprinting into O’Reilly Park. She breathed in the clean, crisp air thick with the scent of honeysuckle. Exhaling, she felt the tension drift from her body.

Oh, how she loved this neighborhood! This was home, her haven, her own little place of belonging. She loved everything about it, from the dirty-faced urchins lost in their games of stickball, to the revelry of neighborhood pubs whose music floated on the night breeze into the wee hours of the morning. This was the soul of Irish Boston, this south end of the city, a glorious piece of St. Patrick's Isle in the very heart of America. And to Faith, not unlike a large Irish family––brash, bustling and brimming with life.

Out of breath, she choked to a stop at a wall of overgrown forsythia bushes that sheltered her from view. Emptying her arms, she snapped the blanket in the air and positioned it perfectly, smoothing the wrinkles before tossing her journal and prayer book to the edge. She kicked off her shoes and flopped belly down, popping a pencil between her teeth. Thoughts of Collin McGuire suddenly blinked in her brain like a dozen fireflies on a summer night. Her teeth sank into the soft wood of the pencil. She tasted lead and spit.

No! I don’t want to think of him. Not anymore. And especially not with her. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed the fluttering pages of her prayer book, conspicuous as it lay open at the edge of the blanket. Her chest heaved a sigh. “I’ve gone and done it again, haven’t I?” She glanced up, her lips quirking into a shaky smile. “People always seem so taken with my green eyes, but I don’t suppose ‘green with envy’ is too appealing, is it? I’ll get this right, I promise. In the meantime, please forgive me?” She breathed in deeply, taking air like a parched person gulping cool water. Her final prayer drifted out on a quiet sigh. “And yes, Lord, please bless my sister.”

She reached for her journal and flipped it open, staring hard at a page she’d penned months ago. Her vision suddenly blurred and she blinked, a tear plunking on the paper. Collin. She traced his name with her finger. It swam before her in a pool of ink.

Dreams. Silly, adolescent dreams, that’s all they were. She had no patience for dreamers. Not anymore. After years of pining over something she could never have, she chose to embrace the cold comfort of reality instead. No more daydreams of his smile, no more journal entries with his name, no more prayers for the impossible. She would not allow it.

She flipped the page over and closed her eyes, but it only produced a flood of memories. Memories of a gangly high school freshman, notebook in hand and heat in her cheeks, trembling on the threshold of the St. Mary’s Gazette. She could still see him looking up from the table, pencil in hand and another wedged behind his ear. He had stared, assessing her over a stack of books.

“Uh, Mm … Mrs. Mallory said … well, I … I m-mean she said that I was to be on the p-paper so I—”

Recognition dawned. His eyes softened and crinkled at the corners just a smitch before that slow smile eased across his lips. “Little Bit! So, you’re the young Emily Dickinson Mrs. Mallory’s been going on about. Well, I am impressed—we’ve never had a freshman on the staff before. Mrs. Mallory told me to take you under my wing.” He pushed pencil and paper across the table and grinned. “Better take notes.”

And, oh … she had! In the year they’d been friends, she’d taken note of that perilous smile whenever he was teasing or the fire in his eyes when somebody missed a deadline. She adored that obstinate strand of dark hair that tumbled over his forehead when he argued a point. And she loved the way his voice turned thick at the mere mention of his father. His love for his father had been fierce. He’d often spoken of the day they would finally work side by side in his father’s tiny printing business. McGuire & Son––just the sound of the words had caused Collin to tear up.

The death of his father a week before graduation had been a shock. Collin never showed up to claim his diploma. Someone said he’d found a job at the steel mill on the east side of town. Occasionally rumors would surface. About how much he’d changed. How wild he’d become. The endless string of hearts he always managed to break. Almost as if his passion and kindness had calcified. Hard and cold, like the steel he forged by day.

Faith dropped back on the blanket, her body still. She squeezed her eyes shut. Despite the warmth of the sun, her day was completely and utterly overcast. How dare her sister be so familiar with the likes of Collin McGuire? How dare he be so forward with her, in broad daylight, and right under their mother's nose? Faith was disgusted, angry and embarrassed, all at the same time. And never more jealous in all her life.


With coat slung over his shoulder and a stride in his step, Collin whistled his way to the corner of Baker and Brae. Slowing, he turned onto his street, keenly aware his whistling had faded. The bounce in his gait slowed to sludge as he neared the ramshackle flat he shared with his mother. At the base of the steps, he glanced up, his stomach muscles tensing as they usually did when he came home.

Home. The very word had become an obscenity. This house hadn’t been a home since his father’s last breath over three years ago. She’d made certain of that. Collin sighed, mounting the steep, cracked steps littered with flowering weeds. Sidestepping scattered pieces from a child’s erector set, his eyes flitted to his mother’s window. The crooked, yellowed shade was still down. Good. Maybe he could slip in and out.

He turned the knob quietly and eased himself into the front room, holding his breath as he closed the door. The click of the lock reverberated in his ears.

“It’s a real shame you don’t bother to dress that nicely for the good Lord.”

Collin spun around, his heart pounding. He forced a smile to his lips. “Mother! I thought you might be in bed with one of your headaches. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I’m sure you didn’t.” Katherine McGuire stood in the doorway of her bedroom with arms folded across her chest, a faded blue dressing gown wrapped tightly around her regal frame. Her lips pressed into a thin line, as if a smile would violate the cool anger emanating from her steel-gray eyes.

When his mother did smile at him, an uncommon thing in itself, it was easy to see why his father had fallen hopelessly in love with her. At forty-one, she was still a striking woman. Rich, dark hair with a hint of gray only served to heighten the impact of the penetrating eyes now focused on him. Before she had married his father, she had been a belle of society. The air of refinement bred in her was evident as she stood straight and tall. She lifted her chin to assess him through disapproving eyes.

“She’s too good for the likes of you, you know.”

He stared back at her, a tic jerking in his cheek. Every muscle and sinew were poised to strike. He clamped his jaw, biting back the bitter retort that weighted his tongue. No, he would not allow her to win. Ever. He tossed his coat on the hook by the door and turned, a stiff smile on his face. “She doesn’t care, Mother. She’s in love.”

“Her father will. It’s not likely he’ll want a pauper courting his daughter.”

Collin shook his head and laughed, the sound of it hollow. He avoided her eyes as he headed to his room at the back of the flat. “I won’t be a pauper forever,” he called over his shoulder. “I’ve got plans.”

“So did your father. And you saw where they took him.”

Collin stopped, his back rigid and his eyes stinging with pent-up fury. He clenched and unclenched his fists. How had a man as good and kind as his father allowed her to control him? His mouth hardened. It didn’t matter. She would never control him. Not in his emotions, nor in his life. He exhaled slowly, continuing down the shadowy hall. “Have a good day, Mother,” he said. And closing his bedroom door behind him, he shut her out with a quiet click of the lock.


“But, Mother, it’s not fair! Why can’t Faith do it?” Charity demanded, wielding a stalk of celery in one hand and a paring knife in the other.

Marcy O’Connor didn’t have to look up from the cake she was frosting to know she had a fight on her hands. Usually she enjoyed this time of day, when the coolness of evening settled in and her children huddled in the warmth of the kitchen near the wood-burning stove. Tonight, five-year-old Katie sat Indian-style, force-feeding her bear from an imaginary teacup while her brother, Steven, a mature eight years old, practiced writing vocabulary words on a slate. On the rug in front of the fire sprawled twelve-year-old Elizabeth, a faraway look in her eyes as she lost herself in a favorite book. Marcy set the finished cake aside and reached for the warm milk and yeast. She poured it into a bowl of flour and began rolling up the sleeves of her blouse.

"I don't understand why Faith can't do it. She doesn't have anything else to do." Charity turned back to the sink to assault the celery with the knife.

"But, Mother, you know I'm reading to Mrs. Gerson Saturday evening or I’d be happy to stay with the children." Faith's tone sounded cautious as she appeared to devote full attention to chopping carrots for the stew. In unison, both girls looked up at their mother.

Marcy couldn't remember when she had felt so tired. Her eyes burned with fatigue as she kneaded the dough for the bread she was preparing. With the back of her hand, she pushed at a wisp of hair, a stray from the chignon twisted at the nape of her neck, feeling every bit of her forty years. She eyed her daughters with a tenuous smile, her mind flitting to a time when she’d been as young. A girl with golden hair and summer-blue eyes who’d won the heart of Patrick Brendan O'Connor and become his “Irish rose.” Marcy sighed. Well, tonight, the “rose” was pale, wilted, and definitely not up to a thorny confrontation between her two daughters.

She paused, her hands crusted with dough. "Tell me, Charity, why is it so important you’re free on this Saturday night, in particular?" Marcy didn’t miss the slight blush that crept into Charity's cheeks, nor the look on Faith’s face as she stopped to watch her sister’s response, cutlery poised mid-air.

"Well, there's a dance social at St. Agatha's. I was hoping to go, that's all."

Marcy resumed kneading the dough with considerably more vigor than before. “And with whom will you be going, may I ask?"

"Well … there's a group of us, you see …"

"Mmmm. Would a certain Collin McGuire be among them?" Marcy's fingers were flying.

Charity’s blush was full hue, blotching her face with a lovely shade of rose. "Well, yes … I think so … perhaps … of course, I'm not definitely sure …"

A thin cloud of flour escaped into the air as Marcy slapped the dough from her hands. "Charity, we've been over this before. Neither your father nor I are comfortable with you seeing that McGuire boy. He's too old."

"But he's only three years older than Faith,” Charity pleaded.

"Yes, and that's too old for you. And too old for your sister when it comes to the likes of him. Absolutely not. Your father will never allow it."

"But why, Mother? Mrs. McGuire is a good woman—"

"Yes, she's a good woman, who, I'm afraid, has let her son get the best of her. Ever since his father died, that boy has been nothing but trouble. He's fast, Charity, out for himself and willing to hurt anyone in the bargain. You can't possibly see or understand that now because you're only sixteen. But mark my words, your father and I are saving you a lot of heartbreak."

Marcy dabbed her forehead with the side of her sleeve while Faith scooped up carrots and plopped them into the boiling cauldron of stew. The kitchen was heating up, both from the fire of the stove and Charity’s seething glare.

"It's because of Faith, isn't it?" Charity demanded, slamming her fist on the table.

"Charity Katherine O'Connor!" Marcy whirled around, her tone scathing.

"It's true! You don't want me entertaining beaus because poor, little Faith sits home like a bump on a log and couldn't get a suitor if she advertised in The Boston Herald!"

Faith’s mouth gaped open and color seeped from her face. Her knuckles clenched white on the carrot she stabbed in the air. "I could have more beaus, too, if I flirted like one of the cheap girls at Brannigan’s!”

"Faith Mary O'Connor!” Marcy’s tone suggested sacrilege, her fingers twitching in the dough. The kitchen was deathly quiet except for the rolling boil of the stew. Katie began to whine, and Elizabeth bundled her in her arms, calming her with a gentle shush.

Charity leaned forward. Her lips curled in contempt. "You couldn't get beaus if you lined ‘em up and paid ‘em!"

"At least I wouldn't pay them with favors on the side porch …"

Marcy flinched as if slapped. "What?” she breathed. She turned toward Faith whose hand flew to her mouth in a gasp at the shock of her own words. Charity’s face was as white as the flour on Marcy’s hands. “With whom?” Marcy whispered.

“Collin McGuire,” Faith said, her voice barely audible.

It might as well have been an explosion. Marcy gasped. “Is this true, Charity? Look at me! Is this true?"

Charity's watery gaze met her mother's and she nodded, tears trickling her cheeks.

Marcy barely moved a muscle. "Faith, take the children upstairs."

Faith was silent as she picked Katie up to carry her from the room. Elizabeth followed with Steven behind. Charity was sobbing. Without a word, Marcy walked to the sink to wash the dough from her hands, then returned to her daughter's side, wrapping her arms around her. At her touch, Charity crumpled into her embrace like a wounded child. Marcy stroked her hair, waiting for the sobs to subside. When they did, she lifted Charity's quivering chin and looked in the eyes of the daughter-child who so wanted to be a woman.

"Charity, I love you. But that love charges me with responsibility for your well-being and happiness. I know you can’t understand this now, nor do you want to, but you must trust us. Collin McGuire is not the boy for you. He’s trouble, Charity. Behind that rakish smile and Irish charm is a young man whose only thought is for himself. I've seen you smile and flirt with a number of young lads, and I suppose with most young men, that's innocent enough. But not with him. It's stoking a fire that could seriously burn you. Now tell me what happened on the porch."

Charity sniffed, wiped her nose with her sleeve and straightened her shoulders. "He … he wants me to go to the social and he … Mother, it was only a kiss!"

"Yes, and I'm only your mother. Charity, I love you very much, but you’ll not be going to the social this Saturday nor anywhere else for the next month. You will come straight home after school each day and complete your studies. And you will have the chore of doing the supper dishes for four weeks." Marcy's tone softened. "But only because I love you."

Charity’s eyes glinted as she spun on her heel and headed for the door. "I could certainly do with a little less love, Mother," she hissed.

Marcy couldn't help but smile to herself. She had been sixteen once.


The door flew open and a blast of cool air surged in. Faith braced herself. Charity stood, wild-eyed, hands fisted at her sides. “I hate you!” she screamed. She slammed the door hard and leaned against it, her chest heaving from the effort. "I will never forgive you for what you did. You are a wicked, evil person, and I hope you die an old maid!" She lunged and knocked Faith flat on the bed, yanking a fistful of hair.

“Ow!” Faith hollered, pain unleashing her fury. She kneed Charity in the stomach and

rolled her over, pinning her to the bed. "Stop it, Charity––I mean it! I never meant to tell Mother anything, and you know it. But you were so mean and hateful, it just popped out.” Her breath came in ragged gasps. “Look, I don't want to fight with you."

Charity scowled. "Fine way to prove it. I still don't know if I'm going to forgive you. You've gone and ruined everything with Collin. It’s going to be twice as difficult to see him now." She tugged her arms free and pushed her away.

In slow motion, Faith sat on the bed, incredulous her sister would even entertain the thought of defying their mother. "But you're not supposed to. Not now, not ever––that's the whole point Mother's been making. Don't you understand that?"

"Yes, I understand that," Charity mimicked. "My head knows it, but I’m afraid my heart’s having a bit of a problem." She stood up from the bed and smiled. "But you don’t quite get it either, do you, Faith? I love him. It's as simple as that. Mother may forbid me from seeing him, but she can't forbid me from loving him." Charity posed in the mirror, then hugged herself and whirled around, her golden hair spinning about her like a fallen halo.

Faith’s jaw dropped. "You can't love him! You’re sixteen, and he’s twenty-one. You don't even know him!"

"Oh, yes, I do,” she breathed, “and he’s wonderful!” She gave Faith a sly smile. “You know the studying I've been doing at the library? Well, I've been studying all right––my favorite subject in the whole world."

Faith’s facial muscles slacked into shock, prompting a peal of laughter from her sister. Charity plopped on the bed and grabbed her hand. "Oh, Faith, he's amazing! He's funny and bright, and all I know is I'm happier than I've ever been.”

"You didn't look so happy on the porch this afternoon." Faith snatched her hand away.

A flicker of annoyance flashed on Charity's face and then disappeared into a sheepish grin. "Yes, I know, he can be maddening at times. It’s part of his charm, I suppose. But I can handle him." Charity stood and reached for the hairbrush. She began stroking her hair in a trancelike motion.

"You didn't appear to be the one doing the handling …"

The brushing stopped. Slowly Charity turned, all smiles diminished. "I know what I'm doing, and I'll thank you to stay out of it. I love him. That's all there is to it." Charity tossed the brush on the bed and turned to leave, but not before bestowing one final smile. "I trust you, Faith. We’re sisters. And sisters love each other, right?"

Faith gritted her teeth. The Bible she read to Mrs. Gerson every Saturday night claimed "love never fails." She certainly hoped not.

My review:
I haven't received this book yet, but I'm really interested in reading it! I'll be sure to post my review when I receive it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

Beyond the Night

Multnomah Books (June 17, 2008)


Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of six books, including her latest novel, Beyond the Night, which combines a love story with a surprise ending twist to create a new type of novel that she hopes will impact readers at their deepest levels. Marlo’s other books include Veil of Fire, a novel about finding hope in the fires of life, Empty Womb, Aching Heart- Hope and Help for Those Struggling with Infertility, and Cry Freedom.

She’s had over 600 articles published in various Christian magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman, Decision, Moody Magazine, and Discipleship Journal. She has contributed to Dr. Dobson’s Night Light Devotional for Couples, Tyndale’s Book of Devotions for Kids #3, and Discipleship Journal’s 101 Small Group Ideas. She is a speaker and a regular columnist for Power for Living.

Marlo is also a California native, a small business owner, and a graduate of Stanford University (with a B.S. in Chemistry!). In addition, she has recently earned her Masters in Theology, with an emphasis in Biblical Studies, from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Marlo lives with her husband and four young daughters in a log home in Central California.

When she’s not changing diapers, doing laundry, or writing books, Marlo loves Starbucks white mochas, reading the New Testament in Greek, and speaking to groups about finding the deep places of God in the disappointments of life.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (June 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420161
ISBN-13: 978-1601420169


Chapter One

Darkness rose from somewhere within her. Blackness, like a great, choking wave. Immersing her, drowning her, until she couldn’t breathe under the weight of it. It flooded her mind, spilled down her back, and submerged her limbs in icy heaviness. She fought against it…and failed. Deeper. Darker. Until her world was nothing but a black river, crashing in currents of pain.

Help me… The words squeezed from her, unspoken yet real. They became a silent cry, like mist above the water, shimmering, then gone. Did anyone hear? Did anyone know? Was there someone listening out there beyond the darkness? Help me. Don’t leave me alone. Please…

Time wavered. Stillness breathed. In. Out.

Then a voice dipped into the blackness. A single word, spoken from a world beyond her own. It came like a slender ribbon of light, rippling over the waves. “Maddie…”

I’m here.


One word. And in it, hope.

I am not alone.

The water receded. A little.

“Wake up. I’ve come to take you home.” The blackness shivered, broke, then settled into a familiar gray. Her breath came again, steady and comforting.

“Can you hear me, Maddie?” The voice caressed her, embraced her in its gentle warmth.

I hear you. The answer formed in her mind but refused to be spoken. Stay with me.

“Come to me. Remember.”

I can’t. Silence. Dreaded, awful silence.
Please… Don’t leave me… You promised…

The dreariness of the hospital room pressed into Paul’s consciousness more heavily than the Monterey fog pressed outside the window. Damp. Gray. Cold and unwelcoming. A moment, a lifetime, before he had laughed and loved, hoped and dreamed. But all that had tunneled into this one image—a flickering fluorescent light, the reek of antiseptic, and the woman he loved in the bed before him. His vision blurred.


The word fell and was lost in the buzz of the light, in the steady beep of the EKG machine. For so long he had sat here, with doctors and nurses going in and out, taking her blood pressure, scribbling on charts. He’d almost lost track of them all, as the day faded to twilight. As shifts changed. As visiting hours dwindled. But no one would ask him to leave. Not tonight. Because Maddie was doing much worse than anyone let on.

It was going to be a long night. And there was no way he was going to leave her.

So he sat here, watching the liquid drip incessantly through clear tubes, watching Maddie’s chest rising, falling. And the fog blotting out all hint of the California sky. So long, yet nothing changed.

Outside the room a gurney squeaked, an intercom rumbled, footsteps hurried past and faded. Outside, the world went on. But here, in this tiny room, life teetered on the edge of darkness.

How had it come to this? To a hospital bed, a frayed chair, and an ocean of silence between them? All the years. All his love. All the memories of a lifetime past. All captured in this one woman, pale, shriveled, so different from the vital, lively girl who shared his heart. She lay there with her eyes closed, her breath ragged, her lashes dark against sunken cheeks. A single lock of hair, damp and dull, curled over her forehead. Tubes lined her cheeks, her arms, trailed over her chest. Rising. Falling. Breath rasping from lips once red, now the color of ash.

Why did it have to be like this?


Did he speak aloud? No one heard. Did she? Could she?

Paul leaned forward. He reached toward her. If he could just take her hand, pull her back from the dark place where she’d gone. But he couldn’t touch her. Not yet. She was too fragile, her life hanging by too thin a cord. “Wake up. I’ve come to take you home.”

But Maddie didn’t stir.

“Can you hear me, Maddie?”

Was that a sigh? Did her finger twitch? A shiver ran through him.

“Come to me.” It’s time. Come out of the darkness. Remember. He waited. A second. An eternity. Almost. Almost he had reached her. A pen clicked. Shoes squeaked.

Paul straightened.

A nurse in hospital blue hurried to the far side of the bed. “Blood pressure check.”

Paul stood and moved away from the chair. “Not again.”

The nurse pursed her lips and didn’t answer. She just checked the levels of clear liquid dripping in the tubes, tapped the band around Maddie’s arm, then glared in his direction.

Paul sighed.

The nurse stabbed her pen at him. Her forehead bunched. Paul jumped to the side. “Oh. Oops.” He had been standing in front of the EKG machine.

“Blood pressure’s good.” With brisk efficiency, the nurse reversed her pen and wrote something on her clipboard. Then she turned and paused. For a brief instant, her hand brushed Maddie’s. Her voice softened, as if she knew, understood, how hard this night would be.

“Hang in there. Won’t be long now.”

The words twisted through Paul’s mind.

She clicked her pen again, shook her head, and rushed from the room.

Paul stared at the place where the nurse’s fingers had touched Maddie’s hand, so white against sheets that were whiter still. And her skin so thin that it seemed translucent. Delicate, frail. Yet, the freckle just below her left thumb was still there, reminding him that some things don’t change. Some things are forever.

Warmth flowed through Paul. Perhaps, just once, he could kiss that freckle again. He’d done that, for the first time, years ago. Her hands were strong then, young and tan. But the freckle was still the same. He smiled. The kiss had been a joke, really. A prank done in passing. Yet he remembered it still. A simple gesture that changed everything. At least
it had for him.

“Do you remember?” He spoke, knowing she couldn’t hear him, knowing she was still too far away to understand.

“It rained that morning, before the sun came out.”

Only the steady beep of the EKG answered him.

His voice lowered. “Come, Maddie, remember with me. Remember the day I fell in love.”

Palo Alto, 1973

Paul smashed his racquet against the small blue ball. The ball thwacked into the front wall and zoomed toward the back corner. Maddie raced left, her racquet extended. She slowed, pulled back, and swung.

Paul squatted, ready.

Air swooshed through the strings as Maddie’s racquet missed the ball by a good three inches.

Paul relaxed.

Maddie’s shoulder slammed against the wall. The ball dribbled into the corner.

“You all right?” He wiped his brow with his wristband. “That last chem exam gotten to you or something?”

“What do you know about exams?”

He grinned. “Not much anymore, thankfully. It’s been a couple

Maddie grimaced. “Well, maybe if I had some fancy research job in a big pharmaceutical company I could joke about exams too.” Paul bounced the ball with his left hand. “I’m telling you, money’s in research these days.”

She rolled her eyes. “Blah blah. I think I’ll stick to being a doctor…someday.”

Paul chuckled. “I’ll mix ’em, you fix ’em.”

It was an old joke. And not a very good one. “Just serve, would you?”

“You sure you’re ready?” He bounced the ball again.


“Here goes.” He slammed his racquet into the ball. It hit the front wall and whizzed toward her. She swung. And missed. Again.

“Your game.” Maddie twirled her racquet, then let it dangle from her wrist. “What’s that? Four games now?” She scowled.

Five. Paul shrugged. “Who’s counting?”

She put her hands on her hips. “You are. And don’t pretend you’re not.”

Paul grinned, then sauntered over and picked up the racquetball. He popped it onto his racquet, making it dance there with small, precise bounces. “You wanna go again?” He tossed her the ball.

She let it drop. “I already owe you a pizza, a movie, popcorn, and a Coke. At this rate, I’m going to go broke.”

“Normally, I’d say it’s just bad luck. But…”

Maddie glared at him. “Go ahead, say it.”

“Well, you gotta admit your game’s off today.” His voice turned to a whisper. “Really off. Can’t blame that on a summer class.”


“So, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. It’s like the ball just vanishes before I hit it.”

Paul reached over and tousled her hair. He loved doing that. Her loose, short curls stood straight up when he did it just right. “Didn’t I tell you? That’s a new trick of mine.”

Maddie chuckled and punched him in the shoulder. “Come on, let’s quit while I’m behind.”

“Way behind.”

“Stop rubbing it in.”

Paul slung his arm around her shoulder and turned her toward the glass wall behind them. A blonde in red hot pants crossed on the other side of the glass. The blonde was so different from Maddie. Where the girl was tall and slender, Maddie was, well, medium. Five and a half feet tall, not slim, not stocky. Somewhere in between. Athletic and built for racquetball. Usually, anyway. Just not today.

He paused. “She’s new.”

“You mean you haven’t asked her out yet? Looks like I’m not the only one whose game is off today.”

Paul scooped the racquetball off the floor with his racquet. “The day is still young, my friend.”

Maddie shook her head. “What happened with the girl behind the soda counter?”

Paul opened the court’s door for Maddie and stood back as she slipped out in front of him. “I think she found me too suave and debonair.”

“Oh, yes, you’re very swave.” She purposefully mispronounced the word.

“All she did was giggle and talk about the Bee Gees. It was like she was fourteen.” He pulled out a towel from his gym bag and wiped the back of his neck.

“She’s nineteen. And everyone knows she’s a huge Bee Gees fan.”

“Well, you could have saved me a bundle on dinner if you’d told me before. I count on you for these things, you know.”

Maddie slipped her racquet into its case and dug around in her bag.

“Poor baby. I thought you said all girls eat is salad anyway. How expensive could that be?”

“Speaking of food, I’ll take my pizza first, then the movie. The new 007 is out.”

Maddie groaned. “Not another Bond flick.”

“When you win, you can choose. Tonight it’s…Bond, James Bond.” Paul faked an English accent.

“Bond is supposed to be Scottish.”

“Not any…Moore.”

Maddie cringed at his joke.

“You aren’t still crying about their replacing Sean Connery, are you?”

“It’s not a replacement, it’s a downgrade.”

“We’ll see.”

“Your date is leaving.”


“The blonde.”

Paul glanced over to the blonde. She was sipping pink liquid through a straw and moving toward the back door. He stretched out his arms and cracked his knuckles. “Okay, watch the master work.” Maddie sighed and rolled her eyes.

Paul strolled over to the blonde. She was pretty, he supposed. But a little thin. And her eyes didn’t sparkle. She looked, well, bored. And boring. He could turn around now and forget it. He wanted to, but Maddie was watching. So he straightened his shoulders and sauntered up to the girl. Three minutes later, he walked back to Maddie. “Friday at seven. Easy as that.”

“Hope she’s a salad eater.”

“She is. I asked.”

Maddie laughed. “I don’t know how you do it. Next time, get a date for me, will you? I haven’t been out in six months.” Paul ran his fingers through his hair. “You find the guy.”

“Okay, how about him?” Maddie shot a glance at a man heading toward the weight room.

“Nah, too short.”

“That one?” She pointed to a guy at the check-in counter.

“Too old.”

“Over there?”

“Too muscular.”


“Clearly he’s obsessed with his body. You don’t want that, do you?”

“Well, how about—?”

“No. No. No.” Paul jabbed his finger toward the remaining men in the room. “No one here’s good enough for you.” He cleared his throat, fighting to hide the strange dryness in his voice. “Besides, with that wicked backhand of yours, you’d scare off all these namby-pambies anyway.” Maddie raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, my backhand sure was scary today, wasn’t it?”

“Admit it, you just wanted to see old Moore-baby.”

“You be good, or next time I’m going to find the most syrupy-sweet romance playing, and I’m going to win.”

“You hate those movies.”

“Yep. But not as much as you do.” Maddie grinned and batted her eyes at him.

Paul threw his hand towel at her. She reached for it midair but missed.

“I give up. My place, one hour. You’re driving.” She grabbed her bag and started toward the door.

“I’ll order ahead. Pepperoni.”

“Good.” She paused at the door and glanced back at him. “I’m starved.”

Paul slung his bag over his shoulder. “I thought girls only ate salad.” Maddie pulled open the door and flung a final comment over her shoulder. “How dare you call me a girl.” She marched outside. Paul laughed as she disappeared from sight. He stooped over and picked up the hand towel. He frowned at it, then stuffed it into his bag. Something glinted at him from the floor. Maddie’s keys. He grabbed them and trotted toward the door.

Maddie stood outside her car with one hand digging through her bag. The summer sunlight glinted off her russet hair, making it look on fire. Or maybe it was just her mood. Even from a distance of a hundred feet, Paul could see her muttering to herself. He snuck up behind her and dangled the keys in front of her nose. “Missing something?” She snatched them from his hand. “I seem to be missing everything today. First the ball, then the towel, and now this. Everything just disappears right before my eyes.”

Paul spread out his arms. “Everything but me.”

“What luck, huh?”

He smiled at the dry humor in her voice.

She shook her head and attempted to insert the key into the keyhole.

It slipped to the side instead.

He plucked the keys from her hand and slid the right one into the hole. “Good thing I’m driving tonight.” He opened the door, took her hand, and helped her in. “Your ride, m’lady.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Would hate for you to miss the seat.” He grinned, lifted her hand to his lips, then kissed it. Right on that little freckle. For a moment, neither moved. The shock of something strange and new flowed through him. Their eyes met. And he noticed in hers deep golden flecks against the brown, flecks that he had never seen before. He dropped her hand.

And there it was. An ordinary moment in what would be a lifetime of ordinary moments. A moment that nonetheless touched the edge of eternity.

Maddie quirked her lips into a smile and looked away. “Suave. Very suave. And I’m not even blond.”

My review:
Beyond the Night was a very good book. I found it really hard to put down. I could really feel Maddie's pain, and Paul's frustration. The ending however, really threw me off. I felt like I was just left going "What?"
All in all, though, a very good book.