Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The King's Legacy by Jim Stovall & My Review

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The King’s Legacy

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Jim Stovall is a national champion Olympic weightlifter, former president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought after author and platform speaker. Jim was honored as the International Humanitarian of the Year, joining previous recepients Mother Teresa and Nancy Reagan. He is the author of the best-selling book The Ultimate Gift, now a major motion picture.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765938
ISBN-13: 978-1434765932

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Once upon a time, there was an enchanted kingdom in a land far, far away. The kingdom was ruled by a benevolent and much-loved king. He had led his people through many difficult times, and they had finally reached a golden age of peace, prosperity, and happiness.


The king summoned all of his wise men together and said, “Now that our land is enjoying a season of prosperity and peace, I wish to leave a permanent legacy of my reign as your ruler.”


The king went on to tell his wise men that he would like their best thoughts and ideas as to what he could do to create a fitting tribute to all the people of the kingdom and his reign as their leader. Each of the wise men left the Throne Room determined to come up with the best idea to present to the king, as they all knew that the king’s chosen action would be remembered for generations.


On the appointed day and hour, the wise men reconvened in the Throne Room.


The king said, “I want to hear your suggestions one at a time, so that I might determine what would be a fitting legacy for me to leave in honor of my reign as king.”


The first wise man approached the steps leading to the throne, bowed with dignity, and began. “Your Highness, since the beginning of recorded history, great rulers have left magnificent feats of architecture as tributes to their greatness. One need only look to the east and think of the great pyramids that have stood for generations and will remain throughout time, paying homage to the pharaohs.”


The wise man bowed again and backed away from the throne.


The king fell silent and was lost in deep thought, then said, “I am pleased with your suggestion as it has much merit. Indeed, a great edifice could stand for thousands of years to proclaim the greatness of our people and my reign as their king.”


The second wise man approached the throne and bowed reverently. He said, “Oh, great King, if I may humbly suggest that a gold coin be designed and minted bearing your image and in your honor. This coin could be distributed throughout the kingdom and, carried along the trade routes as if by friendly winds, it would literally be distributed around the world signifying your power and majesty.”


The king nodded and smiled. He seemed pleased with this suggestion also. He then beckoned the next wise man to approach. The wise man dutifully bowed and said, “Your highness, may I suggest that a monument of heretofore unknown proportion be erected in your image. Great reflecting pools and immense gardens would surround the statue. People would travel from the four corners of the earth to marvel at its splendor and pay respect and tribute to your greatness.”


The king smiled and stated, “Each of these suggestions has been well thought-out and presented. Before I go to deliberate my final decision, are there any other suggestions?”


After a long pause, the eldest wise man stepped forward. The king smiled and said, “My great and wise advisor, you have been with me from the beginning of my reign to this day, and you have always served me well. What say you in this matter?”


The elderly wise man replied quietly, “Your highness, may I suggest that each of my colleagues has proposed a fitting tribute to your greatness in the traditional sense; however, great buildings, gold coins, and monuments serve as tributes to other rulers from other days. May I humbly offer my suggestion? Something altogether different?”


The king nodded in assent.


“The one thing that could pay tribute to your greatness for thousands of years to come would be the proclamation of the Wisdom of the Ages. This would be an opportunity for you, oh great one, to communicate the greatest secret of the known world to benefit all humanity.


“Buildings and coins and statues will all pass away, but the Wisdom of the Ages would last forever. This would, indeed, be a fitting tribute to the king I humbly serve.”


The king fell into deep thought. Finally, he told all of his servants and the wise men to leave him so that he might choose the tribute most fitting to his reign as their king.

My Review:
I haven't quite finished this yet, but
it appears to be a book packed full of wisdom. However, at times it seems quite dry and is a little hard to get into and get through.
I'm looking forward to finishing it and finding out what the outcome is.





Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke & My Review

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


You Make Me Feel Like Dancing: A Novel (Va Va Va Boom Series)

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Allison Bottke spent 17 years as a professional fund-raiser before her personal journey prompted her to create the best-selling God Allows U-Turns anthologies. Now a popular speaker and author of hip-lit fiction as well as nonfiction, Allison was one of the first plus-size models with the Wilhelmina agency. Today, she has created a place where fun, fashion, food, family, and faith merge to empower and inspire boomer women all around the world. That place is her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799492
ISBN-13: 978-1434799494

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Susan Anderson yawned and mumbled an incoherent complaint. She tried to focus heavy-lidded eyes on the glowing chartreuse numbers of the digital clock. Six a.m. She rolled onto her side and picked up the ringing cell phone, wishing she’d shut it off the night before. This was her day off, the one day in seven she could stay ensconced in her luxurious bed, wrapped in Egyptian cotton like a mummy princess. The one day in seven she could snuggle with her hubby when he came home from working the night shift.


“I’m-sorry-to-wake-you-up-but-it’s-an-emergency-and-you’re-the-only-one-who-can-help-something-horrible-has-happened-to-Tina.”


“Slow down, Karen,” Susan whispered hoarsely. “I understand you haven’t been to sleep yet, but I’m still waking up, okay? Now, start from the top. Who’s Tina?”


Stretching like a limber feline, Susan propped her pillow against the headboard and slowly sat up, her eyebrows knitting together as she listened. Her eyes opened more fully as she listened to Karen’s amazing tale.


“… that’s the whole story. I’m afraid she’s going to do something drastic. Please, you have to help her. I know you don’t work Mondays, but you’re the only one I know who might be able to do something.”


Susan leaned her head back and yawned again as she considered.


“Susan? Susan, are you there?”


“Still here. Sorry. Okay. I need coffee and a bagel, but you can tell her to meet me at the salon at seven.”


“Seriously? Fantastic! You’re a lifesaver!”


Susan hung up the phone, rolled onto her stomach, and buried her face in her pillow. Part of her wanted to go back to sleep. But the rest of her loved a challenge—and this was truly a challenge. Although dull moments were few in her world, so were new ventures these days—at least ventures of the dramatic magnitude Karen had just described.


She pulled back the covers and eased up on the edge of the bed. Absentmindedly tucking a strand of ash-blond hair behind her ear, she considered her options for another minute or two before reaching for the phone.


“She works hard for the money, so hard.…”


“Stop singing, Loretta—please. It’s too early for Donna Summer, even for you. I hate caller ID.”


“Heretic—bite your tongue! It’s never too early for Donna. And you should love caller ID. It’s the only reason I always answer your calls.”


Susan laughed. More than a dependable employee, Loretta Wells was a good friend and a sister in faith. She was also the reason Susan could take Mondays off. Loretta was more than capable of handling things without the boss. In fact, she’d been Susan’s right hand for almost twenty years.


Every Monday morning before opening the salon at seven thirty, Loretta had coffee at the Starbucks just off Tropicana Boulevard. Susan knew she could depend on her to rise to this challenge, cut her Starbucks run short, and get things ready for Tina before she arrived.


Susan explained what little she knew about what she’d dubbed as Tina’s Tragic Trauma. “You don’t mind coming in early?” she asked.


“Are you kidding? Sounds utterly fascinating. Don’t worry about me—what about you? I don’t think I’ve seen you on a Monday in more than a decade. Think you can function?”


“Very funny. I’ll be just fine. See you in forty five.”


She flipped the phone shut, grabbed a notepad and pen from the bedside table, and scribbled a note to leave downstairs for Michael on her way out. Her husband wouldn’t get home until eight, about the time she was usually getting ready for work. He wouldn’t be happy with her for taking off like this on their one day together, but what could she do? This young woman needed her.


She recalled the most recent argument she’d had with Michael about this very subject.


“You’re a hairdresser for crying out loud—not George!” he had shouted into the phone last week when she called him from the salon at 2:30 a.m.


George was their neighbor, a psychologist who was on call for police emergencies twenty-four/seven.


“You wouldn’t say that, Michael, if you had seen her. The creep used a butcher knife to cut off her hair. I couldn’t say no. Michael, you should have seen …”


“What if he had showed up at the shop? What then? He might be outside waiting for you right now. Maybe I should come over and follow you home …”


“No, Michael, I’m fine. I’m sure he’s not waiting for me. He doesn’t have a beef with me.”


Susan didn’t tell him she had worried about the same thing when the girl showed up, referred by a friend who ran a shelter for battered women.


“I’m sorry I called,” she said with a sigh. What she had really wanted to share was her excitement at being able to pray with a young woman who was openly searching for an answer to the unexplainable emptiness in her heart.


“Me too,” Michael grumbled. “Now, get out of there and go home. I’ll stay on the phone while you lock up.”


That had been several days ago, and they had yet to talk about the situation again. She wasn’t exactly eager to bring it up—not with the way Michael had been acting lately. His sixtieth birthday loomed on the horizon, and Susan was quite certain he was having a delayed midlife crisis. She was hard-pressed to feel sympathetic. She was turning fifty in April, and she wasn’t snapping at everyone about every little thing.


Susan didn’t start thinking about Tina’s Tragic Trauma again until she was in the shower. What if she couldn’t help her? Lord, I’m almost embarrassed to bring this to you. I mean, I know it’s just hair. But what if Karen isn’t overdramatizing the situation? Surely someone wouldn’t commit suicide over a bad hair day, would she? Please help me help Tina. Amen.


Hurrying to get dressed, she pulled her thick hair back in a ponytail and wrapped a vintage Chanel scarf around her crown as a headband. She brushed her teeth, stroked on moisturizer, and applied her makeup in record time even though she’d been tempted to go without it, since her goal was to return home in a couple of hours and jump back into bed.


She quickly straightened up the bathroom for Michael, knowing he would take a shower as soon as he got home. When she finished, she sat down at her laptop and sent a quick e-mail to her online chat group. Then she checked herself one last time in the hall mirror and headed out the door.



From: Susan Anderson (boomerbabesusan@boomerbabesrock.com)

Sent: Monday, January 9, 6:43 a.m.

To: Patricia Davies; Mary Johnson; Lisa Taylor; Linda Jones; Sharon Wilson

Subject: You will NEVER believe this … story to follow


Good morning fellow boomer babes!


I’m off to work early … seems we have a Hair Emergency. I’ll fill you in when I know more. Can’t believe it’s only week two of the new year. Things haven’t slowed down at the shop … we’ve been operating full tilt since before Thanksgiving. Guess I shouldn’t complain … business is good. Hope everyone is healthy and happy.


Suze



Looking around the casino on his way out that morning brought Michael Anderson a bittersweet feeling. He liked his job, and every day yielded a new challenge. Yet, after thirty-five years, he was beginning to consider early retirement. The past night had been another busy one, and he was tired from walking the length of the property countless times as one mechanical problem after another surfaced. The Silver Spur was one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas, and time was beginning to take its toll.


Of course, mechanical problems were easier to deal with than the inevitable people problems his wife seemed to encounter on a daily basis. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like for Susan, standing in one area, doing the same thing day in and day out. It must drive her crazy. It drove him crazy sometimes, just hearing about it.


“I love it, Michael, really I do,” she often told him. And he knew she was proud of her unique beauty salon, Disco Diva. But she had to be as tired of the daily grind as he was. They’d both been at it for so many years.


He couldn’t wait to get home and tell her his news—and this was the day to tell it. Monday was their only full day to spend together. Oh, sure, he saw her throughout the week, but not for long. Most days they were like the proverbial ships passing each other. He came home from the night shift just before she left in the morning, and she woke him when she returned from the salon in time for him to shower, get dressed, eat, and take off for work.


For years, though, they had enjoyed their evening meal together—Susan’s dinner and his breakfast. It was a solid ritual. And there was always something to talk about. Communication wasn’t a problem in their relationship. Having time to communicate was the problem. He’d once computed the time they’d actually spent together in the almost twenty-five years they’d been married; it was far less than the years implied.


And recently, it seemed, things were getting worse. More often than not during the past few months, Susan was already gone when he came home in the morning. And instead of waking him in person in the evening, she had taken to setting the alarm clock for him before she left for the salon.


This was all very unusual for her. He suspected she might be going through early menopause—not that he was an expert on such things. But she was certainly acting strangely these days. She spent more time at the salon than ever and seemed on edge a lot of the time.


That was another reason he’d decided to unveil his surprise a little early. It was time to free her from the growing responsibilities that were clearly taking away her joy.


Time for him to make their longtime dream come true.


My Review:
I really enjoyed this! The descriptions seemed a little over-stated at times, but that was very rare. I loved finding out a bit more about the 70's, and how there was a much darker side to it than I had really thought about. However, it pointed out the highlights of the 70's as well. It also made a real point of the importance of communication in relationships. It was lots of fun to read, and I think it would be a good read for people from many age groups.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World by Tom Davis & My Review

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Tom Davis is the accomplished author of Red Letters and Fields of the Fatherless. He also serves as a trainer in leadership development. He holds a Business and Pastoral Ministry degree from Dallas Baptist University and a Master’s Degree in Theology from The Criswell College. He is the president of Children’s HopeChest (www.hopechest.org), a Christian-based child advocacy organization helping orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa. Tom and his wife, Emily, have five children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589191021
ISBN-13: 978-1589191020

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa, 1998


Ten years ago I was a dead man.


It all began when Lou, my broker from Alpha Agency, said, “Stuart, how would you feel about heading to The Congo? Time is putting together a crew and needs a hot photographer.”


He asked; I went. That’s how I got paid then. It’s how I get paid now.


My job was to cover a breaking story on a rebel uprising that would soon turn into genocide. Unfortunately, neither Lou nor any of us were privy to that valuable information at the time. We should have seen it coming. The frightening tribal patterns resembled the bloodbath between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. We knew what happened there had spilled over to the DRC – but we ignored it.


Our job was to focus on the story of the moment, whatever we might find. But this was more than a search for journalistic truth. It was an opportunity to win a round of a most dangerous game – the chase for a prize-winning picture.



The plane landed in the capital city of Kinshasa. A man in combat fatigues stood near a large black government car. He was flanked by six armed guards toting fully automatic rifles.


“That must be the mayor and his six closest comrades,” I said to our writer, Mike, as I swung my heavy neon orange bag over my shoulder. “Welcome to a world where you are not in control.” This was Mike’s first international assignment. I swear his knees buckled.


Our team consisted of me; Mike, shipped in from Holland (a lower executive from Time who was looking for a thrill and trying to escape his adulterous wife for a few weeks); and Tommy, the Grip, whose job it was to carry our gear.


“Welcome to the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am Mayor Mobutu.” We introduced ourselves, exchanging the traditional French niceties.


“Bonjour Monsieur.”


“I must go and attend to some urgent matters, but there is a car waiting for you. These guards will take you out to Rutshuru, North Kivu.”


He pointed to a Land Cruiser near the airport building. The mayor’s face carried the scars of a rough life. His right cheek looked as if someone tried to carve a “Z” into it. His left eye was slightly lazy, giving you the feeling he was looking over your shoulder, even when you were face to face.


He turned to me. “You know how dangerous it is here. You are taking your life into your own hands, and we will not be responsible. We keep telling reporters this, but you never listen!” He started to walk away, but turned one more time and wagged his finger at each one us as if we were children. “Pay attention to what these guards tell you, and do not put yourself in the middle of conflict.”


Nobody ever won a Pulitzer by standing at arms length.


“Thank you for welcoming us, sir, and for your words,” I said. “We will keep them in mind.” The guards nodded for us to follow, and we made a solemn line into the Land Cruiser.


It was the rainy season, and on cue an afternoon storm whipped and lashed across the landscape like an angry mob. As we drove in silence, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. We arrived at the village that would serve as our headquarters. Amid the familiar routines of a small community that seemed oblivious to the dangers surrounding them, people who were displaced by violence congregated in huddles hoping for safety.


I snapped off pictures of the scene. Once the children noticed my camera, school was over. They surrounded me like ants on a Popsicle. I had come prepared. I handed out candy as fast as I could, then got back to the business of capturing images of this unsettling normalcy.


The sun hid behind the trees, and darkness enveloped the thatched huts and makeshift refugee camp, swallowing them whole. Our armed guards escorted us into a separate compound meant to keep us safe from any danger lurking in the nearby jungles.


We took a seat on concrete blocks to enjoy a traditional African meal of corn and beans and we laughed about the monkeys we had seen on the road hurling bananas at our Land Cruiser. It was funnier than it ought to have been.


And then it happened.


The crisp pop of bullets battered our eardrums. The sounds ripped through the jungle night and into the village. Then the screams began. Screams that boiled the blood inside my ears.


I dropped, crawled on my belly to the window and slid up along the front wall, craning my neck so I could see outside. A guard across the room mirrored my actions at another window. Everyone else was flat against the ground. As I peered through the rusty barred window, flashes of light pounded bright fists against the sky, the road, and the trees.


Buildings exploded with fire and a woman cried out in terror. Shadows flickered, black phantoms haunting the night. I made out five or six soldiers beating a woman with their boots and the butts of their guns.


She quit screaming, quit moving, and then they ripped the clothes from her broken body. They began raping her. She came to and started to scream again, pleading for help, and they hit her until her screams choked on her blood.


She couldn’t have been more than sixteen.


I turned my head.


The horror of this night was no act of God. No earthquake or tsunami. This was the act of men. Evil men. Demons in the guise of men.


The uncertainty of what might happen next hovered at the edge of an inhaled breath.


The armed guards screamed for us to lay prostrate on the dirt floor as bullets flew through the walls and widows, scattering plaster and glass. I wiped away salty sweat burning my eyes. But the sweat was thicker than it should have been. I tasted it.


Blood.


Fear strangled the air. Shallow breaths and rapid heartbeats echoed throughout the tiny room. I thought about my last conversation with Whitney.


My last conversation.


Was it my last?


Mike’s hand slid up next to me. His whisper turned my head. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, man.”


Mike shoved his glasses back onto his oversized, pock-marked nose. “This happened to one of my closest friends in Northern Uganda. The rebel militia mutilated everyone and everything in sight. No one made it out alive. No one. These monsters believe in a kind of Old Testament extermination of anything that moves.”


“Thanks for the encouraging words.”


“I always knew I’d die young.”


He reached in his pocked and pulled out a string of wooden rosary beads.


“These were my mother’s.”


“I’m not Catholic.”


“Neither was I. Until now....”


“Shut up!” one of the guards hissed.


Rivers of sweat baptized our faces, our necks, our chests.


Death, real and suffocating, pressed in, driven by the wailing of dying babies, the yelps of slaughtered animals, the screams women being beaten and raped.


My heart raced in rapid-fire panic.


I peered through a hole between a cinder block and a broken windowsill. Rebel troops swarmed like locusts, devouring every living thing in their path.


Mike elbowed me in the thigh. “Remember that story about an African militia group that raped a bunch of Americans? Men, women, children – they weren’t choosy.”


“You have to be quiet,” whispered a guard. He got to one knee, steadying his gun. “Now shut up or I’ll kill you myself.”


A rebel commander yelled something just outside the door. Another shot, and the guard who had just spoken fell dead right on top of me. His blood flowed over my neck and right arm staining my band of brothers ring crimson. The screaming intensified, people ran, yelled, and died.


I scooted against the wall, huddled next to Mike as shots continued to shriek overhead. Plaster exploded and covered us. We tried to make ourselves invisible, curling into the fetal position, wrapping our arms over our heads.


A bullet whined by my ear, missing by centimeters. I crawled face down to the other side of the room, trying to get out of the line of fire.


Then, sudden, deafening silence.


Nobody moved for what seemed like hours. My thoughts milled with the ants of fear, waiting as the silence thickened, punctuated by a moan or a sob. We waited and waited, wondering when it would be safe to stand, wondering if it would ever be safe.


Finally, I gazed out the window, my eyes searching for rebel soldiers in the yellow-orange gloom of smoke. No figures or movement.


“I’m going out,” I whispered to Mike.


He didn’t respond


“Hey, listen. Let’s go man.”


I elbowed him in the ribs.


“Mike!” I grabbed his jacket to turn him toward me. There was a pinpoint crimson stain on the front of his light blue shirt. His eyes stared through me.


I was paralyzed for a moment, not knowing what to do. Then I pulled my camera out of my bag. I picked up Mike’s gear and slung it around my neck.


Outside, the air burned of flesh. Some shadows moved in the distance, but the streets were barren. A few jerking and twitching heaps lined the road and quivered beside the buildings.


Oh, God. Oh, God.


I walked toward the flames. Everything was silent except for a sour ringing in my ears. Something compelled me to enter the destruction, to get closer.


Severed body parts lay before me in a display of such horror I began to heave. A young, pregnant mother crumpled over, lying dead next to a burning haystack. She barely looked human. One leg lay at a right angle, an arm hung loosely from her shoulder, held there by a single, stringy tendon. Her stomach had been sliced wide open, the worm-like contents spilled in front of her, still moving.


There was nothing I could do to help her. Nothing.


I lifted the camera to my left eye. Snap. Snap. Snap. The lens clicked open and closed.


I stepped closer to capture the look on her face. Steam rose from her insides. More pictures. Through the blood and mucus by her midsection I made out a face, a tiny face with eyes closed.


Voices rose over the roofs. Something was happening at the end of the village. Without thought, I raced through the corpses and debris toward the commotion.


The rebel troops had gathered the bodies of all the men they had slain. They were stacking them together in the shape of a pyramid.


As each body was thrown on top of the others, the rebels jeered, spit on the dead, and drank from a whiskey bottle, relishing in their triumph. They shot their guns into the air. Fire flashed around the perimeter. It was a scene from hell.


A man climbed on the roof above the bodies, unzipped his pants and urinated all over the dead. The men slapped each other on the back and laughed.


Another rebel poured some liquid over the bodies.


I adjusted the camera settings and snapped a series of shots as fast as my fingers could click. The fire ignited, a pyramid pyre, and I continued to shoot. I snapped pictures of the dead - men I had seen earlier that day caring for their families - as their faces melted like candle wax. I snapped pictures of the rebels’ ugly glee. And I felt like retching again.


I turned and walked, faster and faster, until I was running.


Each step I took pounded the question: Why? Why? Why?


I raced to the edge of the compound and saw Tommy hanging out the window of our car, frantically motioning me to come. We sped off, the remaining guard driving like a bat out of hell, for it was indeed hell we were escaping. As I turn to look out the back window, I saw Mike’s body crumpled in the seat behind me. Like a rotted rubber band, something inside me snapped. My whole body shook. Sobs came without tears. I only could muster one coherent thought: If we get out of here alive, at least we can send Mike back to his family.


Back to his cheating wife.


My Review:
I couldn't put it down. It compelled me to keep reading. It was so intense. The pain and suffering was like nothing I could ever imagine and yet I'm sure that I didn't even get a fraction of the picture.
It was so convicting, challenging, and heart-breaking. I know it's a novel, but it felt like it was real as I was reading, and I'm sure that somewhere in the world it IS unfortunately real.
Their faith was so deep.
Adanna was amazing. Her strength was phenomenal. It really challenged me and made me think about how many kids there are out there that go through the same things, but nobody knows about it. Nobody helps them.
It's really well-written. It's descriptive, but not in a crude way. It gives you a glimpse of what life is like for the people in third world countries.




Friday, June 12, 2009

The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love by Angela Elwell Hunt & My Review

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love

Tyndale House Publishers (April 2, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Christy Award winner Angela Hunt writes books for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected. With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of The Tale of Three Trees, The Note (which became a Hallmark holiday film), and more than 100 other titles. Angela has won gold and silver medals from ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year Award and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from a major readers’ magazine.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (April 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414332955
ISBN-13: 978-1414332956



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


With one elbow propped on her desk, Peyton MacGruder chewed on the edge of a fingernail and glared at the clock on the wall. On days like this, when she was twenty minutes away from her deadline and far from finished with her column, she could swear that the minute hand swept over the clock face at double speed.

She transferred her gaze to the computer monitor and fluttered her fingers over the keyboard. Some days the magic worked and the words flowed. Other days she might as well be typing gibberish.

She skimmed the half-completed column on her screen and tried to focus her thoughts. Last week a reader had written that she was afraid to trust a brother-in-law who had stolen from her in the past. Peyton had answered that forgiveness was important, but experience could not be ignored. And when it came to matters of the heart, caution should always trump passion. Dozens of readers had e-mailed, filling her in-box with responses, most of them supportive.

Now she was working on a recap that included reader comments, but everything she’d written so far looked like extended self-congratulation. She needed a corroborating opinion . . . and any column could be improved with an appropriate quote, couldn’t it? She reached for her dictionary of popular quotations, scanned the index, and jabbed her finger at an appropriate entry. Smiling with satisfaction, she propped her reading glasses on the end of her nose and worked the quote into her piece:

And so, dear readers, when it comes to dealing with relationships, perhaps we should keep the words of Eumenides in mind. That venerable sage once wrote, “There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls. There is advantage in the wisdom won from pain.”

Perhaps a happy heart is, at its core, a cautious heart.

There. She leaned back and clicked the word count tool. Seven hundred words—not bad. The dragon lady shouldn’t have to cut any of this column.

After a quick proofread, Peyton clicked Send and addressed the file to Nora Chilton, senior features editor. Another click and away it went.

She turned as something slapped the surface of her desk. Mandi Hillridge, an overenthusiastic intern from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, stood in the aisle, her arms filled with folders. Peyton picked up the envelope Mandi had tossed her way and studied the return address. “Am I supposed to know this Eve Miller?”

Mandi shifted her burden from one arm to the other. “I doubt it. I think she’s a reader.”

Peyton ran her fingertip across the ragged edge. “Why has this letter been opened?”

“Because Phil Brinker didn’t check the address before he tore into it. Our stellar mailroom staff mistakenly delivered it to him while he was in New York working on that story about the media covering the media. He just got back and told me to bring it to you.” Mandi stepped closer, her eyes gleaming. “You want me to go fuss at the guys in the mailroom? One of them’s kinda cute.”

Peyton glanced over the short walls of the reporters’ cubicles and saw Nora stepping out of the elevator. “No.” She propped both elbows up on her desk. “I want you to get me two Tylenol. Extra strength.”

“You have a headache?”

“Not yet.”

Mandi turned in time to see Nora approaching, a folded newspaper in hand. Even from her desk Peyton recognized the distinctive banner that contained her byline and staff photo. Had Nora come down to complain about a column that had already run? She wouldn’t, unless one of the higher-ups sent her to confront Peyton about some obscure point.

“About that headache—” Mandi lowered her voice—“I’ll bring the bottle.”

The young woman hurried away as Nora approached Peyton’s desk. The editor waved the paper before Peyton’s anxious gaze and nodded. “By the way, about this column last week? You were absolutely right.”

“That’s a nice change.” Peyton managed a smile. “About what?”

“Passion. It should always be tempered with caution. Especially when it comes to affairs of the heart.”

Peyton straightened in her chair, not certain why the editor had felt compelled to personally deliver this bit of elaboration. “You speaking from conviction or firsthand experience?”

Nora managed a coy smile. “None of your business. Anyway, you’ve been doing really good work lately. I had my doubts at first, but you’ve grown into the job.”

“You came all the way down here to pat me on the back?”

“Actually, I came down here to tell you that in addition to writing the Heart Healer, I’m going to need you to handle a feature or two for the Lifestyles section. We got the call last night; Marlo Evans had a baby boy, so she’ll be out on maternity leave for the next several weeks.”

Peyton dropped her head to her hand and groaned. “Why not use freelancers?”

“Because I don’t have the patience or the finances to deal with neophytes. The budget cuts have made it necessary for all of us to pick up the slack now and then. Besides—” her mouth curved in a wry smile—“you’re fast and you’re good at researching. A feature or two shouldn’t be a problem for you.”

“But I’m swamped with—” Peyton swallowed the rest of her complaint as sports editor King Danville moved into her line of vision. A warm feeling settled in the pit of her stomach and brought a smile to her lips. Would she ever stop feeling all gushy and girly whenever King approached her desk?

King glanced at the features editor before returning Peyton’s smile. “Hello, Nora.”

Nora’s chin dipped in a stiff nod. “Kingston.”

Like a flower seeking the sun, Peyton shifted to face the man who had recently brought new joy to her life. “I was just telling Nora that these days I don’t have time to keep up with my column and write a weekly feature, no matter how occasional it is.”

Nora glanced from Peyton to King and then arched a brow. “Perhaps if you temper your newfound passion, you’ll find the time.”

King grinned as the editor smiled and moved toward the elevator; then he pulled a white bottle from his jacket pocket and shook it. Peyton placed the familiar rattle within seconds: Extra Strength Tylenol, as requested.

“Ran into Mandi in the coffee room,” King explained. “She said you were going to need these.”

“She was right.” Peyton sighed. “Nora seems to think I can sit down and whip up a decent feature while I’m outlining my next column. I don’t know where she got the idea that I’m some kind of writing machine.”

“Maybe from the fact that you write so fast you make the rest of us look like we’re moving backward.”

Peyton shook her head, unwilling to accept praise she didn’t deserve. She knew the truth—she could turn an assignment around quickly because outside the newspaper office she had no life. While other writers struggled to work amid the pressures of family schedules, children’s homework, school events, sporting activities, and the needs of a spouse, Peyton only had to take care of herself and her two cats.

At least that’s the way things were before King and Christine came into her life. The situation was a little different now, and she was feeling the pressure.

“I’m not that fast,” she insisted. “And I’m not that versatile.”

“Then don’t cave so quickly, MacGruder. Just because Nora’s your boss doesn’t mean you have to let her push you around.”

“I was ready to push back until she played the guilt card. When she mentioned the budget cuts, I realized how lucky I am to even be employed. How can I not agree to write whatever she wants?”

“That’s what I like about you—you’re a solid team player.”

“I’m a pushover.”

King smiled and stepped to the side of Peyton’s desk. “In that case, I’d better prescribe two of these—” he held up the bottle of pain relievers—“or one of these.” Before Peyton could point out that they were surrounded by coworkers in cubicles, he bent and pressed a kiss to her lips. She closed her eyes, ready to forget about an audience of staff reporters, clerks, and copy editors, but the kiss didn’t last.

She looked up at him, unsatisfied.

“Do any good?” he asked.

“Not sure. Try again. Maybe increase the dosage.”

He bent, his lips warming hers with more passion this time. When he finally pulled away, Peyton exhaled a long sigh of happiness . . . and the writers around her erupted into applause.

Peyton grinned as her cheeks warmed. “They approve.”

“I don’t give a fig about them. What did you think?”

“Um . . . better.”

“Only better? Well, you know what they say about practice making perfect . . .”

As the other reporters hooted and King leaned in for yet another kiss, Peyton pressed her palm against the center of his chest. “You know, it’s this kind of temptation that led to Marlo Evans’s maternity leave. And in turn, to my impending headache. So maybe we should get back to work.”

With a roguish grin, King straightened and stepped away from her chair. “Yes, ma’am.”

“But after work—” Peyton squinted at him—“would you want to go for a jog with me and Christine? We wanted to run the paths down by the shoreline.”

King shook his head. “Enticing offer, but I’ve got to run out to the university after I finish up today. David needs to talk to me about something. He says it’s important.”

Peyton nodded, once again reminded that their relationship was not as simple as it would have been if they’d met in their twenties. She had Christine to consider, and King had David. Both children, hers and his, were nearly grown, and both had been forced to deal with the aftermath of their parents’ unwise decisions.

“MacGruder.” King’s voice, warm and insistent, drew her from her thoughts. “Maybe I’ll stop by your place later.”

“I’d like that.” Peyton offered him a forgiving smile. “I’ll be waiting.”

King took two steps toward his office, then halted. “Hey—” he turned, propping his arms on the cubicle wall—“I found an interesting e-mail in my in-box this morning. A friend in New York said my name recently came up in a board meeting at the Times.”

Peyton felt a frigid finger touch the base of her spine. “The New York Times?”

He chuckled. “Hard to imagine, huh? Moving from the Middleborough Times to the Gray Lady?”

“Your name came up in a board meeting? What does that mean, exactly?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’ll keep you posted.”

As he walked away, exchanging gibes with other writers as he passed their desks, Peyton felt fear blow down the back of her neck. Any other journalist would be salivating at the thought of writing for the Times, but King never seemed to get ahead of himself. Contentment was one of his primary virtues, and Peyton hadn’t realized how much she’d been counting on his ability to remain satisfied with the status quo.

What would she do if she lost him?

The thought struck like a blow to the chest, stealing her breath. Until recently, she had managed to keep herself detached from complicated personal relationships. But then the tragedy of a horrific plane crash taught her about the brevity of life and the importance of connection. Now she was desperate to understand two precious people, but understanding took time, and time was something she no longer possessed in abundance.

She forced herself to take a deep breath and steady her pulse. No one was abandoning her; the world had not shifted on its axis. Her imagination was simply working overtime, a tendency that nearly always resulted in needless worry and borrowed trouble.

With her gift for imagining disaster, maybe she should have been a novelist.

When she swiveled toward her computer, determined to set her fears aside and tackle her e-mail, her gaze fell again on the envelope from Eve Miller. The postmark was five days in the past, so by now the woman’s comments were old news. And in an electronic society, old news was dead news.

Peyton tossed the envelope into a bin filled with unopened letters and turned her attention to her in-box.

***

Peyton slid behind the wheel of her car, tossed her purse into the empty passenger seat, and fumbled with the buckle of her seat belt. When she was certain the car’s computer wouldn’t scold her for forgetting some vital procedure, she turned the ignition switch and waited for the automatic seat to slide forward, tilt, rise, and whatever else it did to adjust to her frame.

King had talked her into buying this vehicle last weekend, insisting that her old car was only a few miles away from imploding. “Ninety-eight thousand miles?” he exclaimed after glimpsing her odometer. “Good grief, MacGruder, are you going for some kind of endurance record?”

She had to admit the new vehicle was nice, but its myriad bells and whistles bewildered her. She hadn’t taken the time to read the manual, and she barely managed to sit through the salesman’s demonstration. “I don’t have time to fuss with fancy gadgets,” she told the desperate young man who had greeted her and King at the auto dealership. “So just point me toward something safe and inexpensive. Something I won’t have to give up chocolate to afford.”

Like a village matchmaker, the salesman grinned and fixed her up with this sleek blue machine, which he kept calling a crossover—a cross between a sedan and an SUV. She had a feeling the vehicle was too big to be economical or politically correct, but since an entire row of similar vehicles waited behind a fence at the dealership, the manager was probably eager to move his inventory. Regardless, the car earned good crash ratings, it used less gasoline than a tank, and it had the one accessory she couldn’t live without: a CD player.

Before putting the car in gear, Peyton punched the button of the stereo system and relaxed when the professional reader’s voice poured through the surround sound speakers. She’d bought this audiobook about mothers and daughters shortly after telling Christine the truth about their relationship—yes, they were reporter and reader, but they were also biological mother and daughter. Eighteen years and difficult circumstances had kept them apart, but a series of newspaper columns had brought them back together.

Now Peyton wanted nothing more than to be the mother she would have been if tragedy hadn’t intervened. A heaven-sent miracle had restored the child she’d been forced to surrender for adoption, and Peyton didn’t want to forfeit this second chance to love. And parent. And occasionally nag.

She and Christine were still in the midst of that awkward getting-to-know-you phase, but Peyton felt they’d made great strides in their relationship. They tried to talk every day, even if only briefly, and though Christine still lived in the house she’d inherited from her adoptive parents, she felt free enough to drop into Peyton’s home unannounced, as any daughter naturally would.

Still, Christine rarely called Peyton “Mom.” When necessary, she called Peyton by name . . . or she didn’t call her anything at all.

“By late adolescence,” a confident voice intoned as Peyton put the car in gear and backed out of the parking space, “most daughters can be placed in one of three categories—distant, dissatisfied, or dependent. Do any of these words remind you of the young woman in your life?”

Peyton shook her head and shifted into drive. The author needed a fourth category for Christine—maybe delightful. They were still in the honeymoon phase, each of them unbearably grateful to have found the other. They might have disagreements later—in fact, they probably would—but for now Peyton was thrilled to be able to know and love the young woman who had never been far from her thoughts and prayers.

“Outstanding mothers devote most of their time to their children, instilling healthy values into daughters who will become outstanding mothers themselves,” the reader continued, “but unsuitable mothers abandon and abuse.”

Peyton winced at the author’s use of the word abandon.

“Bottom line, if you provide your child with what she needs—clothing, shelter, food, affection—you, concerned mother, are off the hook if your daughter makes unwise decisions. After you have taught your child right from wrong, your daughter has the freedom to choose . . . right or wrong. Do not blame yourself if she chooses to learn life’s lessons through negative experiences.”

Peyton frowned as she pulled out of the parking lot and into traffic. Over the years, she’d covered dozens of stories involving teenage delinquents—wayward boys who got mixed up with guns and drugs, runaway girls who ended up on the street or in the hospital because they went looking for love in all the wrong faces. Behind every sad teenager’s story, Peyton found a distraught mother who couldn’t seem to understand how her child ended up in such a deplorable state.

She hated to admit it, but every time she interviewed one of those mothers, she’d walked away feeling resentful and slightly smug, convinced that she would have managed better if only given a chance. But now that she was being given an opportunity to mother a teen, she had no idea what she was supposed to do.

To make matters worse, her time of greatest influence would be limited. After the plane crash in which her father died, Christine had taken time off to grieve, but soon she’d go back to school and get busy with her studies. She’d probably meet a young man on campus and want to settle down. Then she’d center her world on her husband and her children, and she’d expect Peyton to focus on being a doting grandmother, not a mom. So this precious opportunity to parent her daughter would be relatively short-lived.

Peyton pulled up to the red light at an intersection and snapped off the CD player. The bookstores were loaded with books about how to parent newborns, toddlers, middle schoolers, and teens, but no one had much advice for brand-new parents of young adults.

No one even seemed to be able to answer Peyton’s most basic question: at eighteen, which did Christine need most: an authority figure or a friend?


Copyright ©2009 by Angela Hunt. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.




My Review:
I'm only partway through this, but I'm enjoying it so far. It seems like a good book, and I can't wait to finish it :) I would really like to watch 'The Note' & The 'Note II' as movies to see whether I prefer it in book format or movie format.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman & My Review

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


A Passion Denied

Revell (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Julie Lessman is a new author who has garnered much 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. She is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Revell (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800732138
ISBN-13: 978-0800732134

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“O Lord my God, how great you are!

You are robed with honor and with majesty …

You make the clouds your chariots; you ride upon the wings of the wind.

The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants.”

– Psalm 104:1-4


A PASSION DENIED


Chapter One


Boston, Massachusetts, Spring 1922

Oh, to be a calculating woman! Elizabeth O’Connor sighed. She dodged her way down the bustling sidewalk of Boston’s thriving business district, wishing she were more like her sister, Charity. She chewed on her lip. Regrettably, she wasn’t, a definite character flaw at the moment. And one that would have to change.

She sidestepped a rickety wood wagon heaped high with the Boston Herald, hot off the presses. The freckle-faced boy hauling it muttered an apology before disappearing into a sea of pin-striped suits, short skirts and bobbed hair. On his heels, a young mother ambled along, cooing to a wide-eyed baby in a stroller. The baby’s soft chuckle floated by, and the sound buoyed Elizabeth’s spirits. Spring in the city! Despite the whiff of gasoline and tobacco drifting in the unseasonably warm breeze, she was ready for the promise of love in the air. Her heart fluttered. And maybe, just maybe, a little spring fever would do the trick!

She pressed her nose to the window of McGuire & Brady Printing Company and peered inside. John Morrison Brady was bent over a press, his lean, muscled body poised for battle with a screwdriver in his hand. Her chin hardened, and her smiled faded. That man suffered from a terminal illness that would be the death of their relationship: friendship. Elizabeth straightened her shoulders. And the worst kind of friendship at that—the big-brother kind.

She touched a hand to the wavy shingle haircut her friend Millie had talked her into. “It’s all the rage, Lizzzzzie Lou,” Millie had insisted, the sound of Lizzie’s name buzzing on her tongue like the hum of a busy beehive. A self-proclaimed modern woman, Millie had convinced Elizabeth “Beth” O’Connor to change her name to Lizzie over a year ago—to add excitement to her life, she’d said. And now, in the throes of radical 1920s fashion, Lizzie’s best friend had also convinced her that the chestnut tresses trailing her back simply had to go. The result was a short, fashionable bob, newly shorn just yesterday. Softly waved, it fell to just below her ear, showing off her heart-shaped face and slender neck to good advantage. Or so Millie had said. She squinted at her reflection in the window. She did look older, more sophisticated, she supposed. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. And it certainly seemed as if she had turned a few more heads at the bookstore where she worked. She opened the door, spurred on by the tinkling bell overhead, and took a deep breath. Now to turn the right one …

Her brother-in-law, Collin, looked up from his desk where he tallied invoices for printing jobs just completed. A slow grin spread across his handsome face before he let out a low whistle, causing a pleasant wash of heat to seep into her cheeks. “Sweet saints above, Lizzie, is that really you? What are you trying to do? Break a few hearts?”

Her gaze flicked to the back room where Brady lay on a flat wooden dolly beneath their Bullock web-fed press. She studied his long legs sprawled and splattered with ink, then looked back at Collin with a shaky smile. “Nope, only one. But I suspect it’s forged in steel.”

Collin chuckled and glanced over his shoulder, stretching his arms overhead. “Yep, I’d say so, but I admire your tenacity. You might say you’re the little sister he never had. But I suspect that pretty new hairdo and stylish outfit could go a long way in changing his mind.”

She grinned and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, Collin. One can only hope.” She tugged on her lavender, low-waisted dress, then smoothed out its scalloped layers with sweaty palms. “And pray, I suppose, since it is Brady we’re dealing with here.”

Collin stood and draped an arm around her shoulders. He lowered his voice and gave her a squeeze. “He’ll wake up one of these days, Lizzie. I just hope it’s not too late. You’re too pretty to be waiting around. And he’s a slow one, you know.”

She sighed and leaned against him, staring at Brady with longing in her eyes. “Now there’s a news flash for you.”

Collin laughed and gave her a gentle prod toward the back room. “Show him no mercy, Lizzie.”

She nodded and made her way to the rear of the shop, her pulse tripping faster than the tap-tap-tapping of Brady’s trusty screwdriver. She stopped at the foot of the press and sucked in a deep swallow of air. “I have a notion, John Brady, that whenever you want to get away from the world, you disappear under that silly machine.”

A deep-throated chuckle floated up between the rotors of the press. He rolled out, flat on his back. The smile froze on his face. “Beth? What’d ya do to your hair?”

Heat flooded her cheeks. “I had it bobbed. Do you like it?”

He sat up and rubbed his jaw with the side of his hand, screwdriver angled as if he were playing a violin. “Yeah … it’s pretty, I guess. In a newfangled sort of way.”

She twirled around to give him the full effect, her smile brimming with hope. “Well, I am a modern woman, in case you haven’t noticed.”

He lumbered to his feet. His tall frame unfolded to eliminate everything else in her view. He squinted and scrunched his nose, causing smudges of ink to wrinkle across his tanned cheek. “Mmmm … makes you look old.”

“I am old, Brady, a fact you refuse to acknowledge. Almost eighteen, remember?”

He chuckled. “Seventeen, Beth, and I’ll give you the half.” He turned and ambled to the sink to wash his hands. His husky laugh lingered in the air. She stared at the work shirt spanning his back and barely noticed the ink stains for the broad shoulders and hard muscles cording his arms. He dried his hands on a towel and turned to lean against the counter. The corners of his mouth flickered as if a grin wanted to break free. “You’ll always be a little girl to me, little buddy, especially with those roses in your cheeks and wide eyes. I suspect I’ll feel that way when you’re long gone and married, Beth, with a houseful of little girls all your own. That’s just the way it is with big brothers.”

She notched her powdered chin in the air. “You’re not my brother, John Brady, and no amount of touting will make it so.” She propped hands to her waist and gave him a ruby red pout. “And I’m not a little girl. I’m a woman … with feelings—”

“Beth, we’ve been over this before.” He slacked a hip and ran a calloused hand over his face. His brown eyes softened with compassion. “I see you as my little sister, nothing more. These ‘feelings’ you think you have for me—”

“Know I have for you, Brady! I know it, even if you don’t.” Her chest rose and fell with indignation.

He groaned. “All right, these feelings you know you have for me … I’ve known you since you were thirteen, Elizabeth, and I’ve been a mentor in your faith since fourteen. It’s natural for you to think you have feelings—”

She stomped her foot. “Know, Brady, I know! And if you weren’t so socially inept and totally blind—”

He rose to his full six-foot-three height, making her five-foot-seven seem almost petite. The chiseled line of his jaw hardened with the motion. “Come on, Beth, totally blind?” His gaze flicked into the next room as if he were worried Collin was listening.

Tears threatened and she wanted to bolt, but she fought it off. This was too important. Fueled by frustration long dormant, she slapped her leather clutch onto the table and strode forward. She jabbed a finger into his hard-muscled chest. “Yes, blind, you baboon! And don’t be looking to see what Collin thinks, because he knows it too. Honestly, Brady, as far as the Bible, you’re head and shoulders above anyone I know. But when it comes to seeing what God may have for you right in front of your ink-stained nose, you don’t have a clue.” She dropped a trembling hand to her quivering stomach. Oh, my, where had that come from?

He stood, mouth gaping. A spray of red mottled his neck. “Beth, what’s gotten into you?”

She faltered back, shocked at the thoughts and feelings whirling in her brain. With a rush of adrenalin, she crossed her arms and stared him down, energized by her newfound anger. “You’ve gotten into me, John Brady, and I want to know straight out why you refuse to acknowledge me as a woman? Am I not pretty enough? Smart enough? Mature enough?”

The ruddiness in his neck traveled to his ears. He took a commanding stride toward her and latched a hand on her arm. With a firm grip, he pushed her into a chair at the table and squatted beside her. “Beth, stop this! I’m close to thirty, which is way too old for you. You’re young and beautiful and smart, and more mature than most girls … women … I’ve met. You’re going to make some lucky man a wonderful wife.”

She stared at his handsome face, the contrast of gentle eyes and hard-sculpted features making her heart bleed. Wisps of cinnamon-colored hair curled up at the back of his neck, softening the hard line of his jaw, which was already shadowed by afternoon growth. She swallowed hard, the taste of dread pasty in her throat. “Just not you,” she whispered.

A muscle flinched in his cheek. He smothered her hands between his large, calloused ones. “Beth, I love you, you know that—”

She looked away, unable to bear the empathy in his eyes. “But you’re not attracted to me—”

As soft as a child’s kiss, he lifted her chin with his finger, urging her eyes to his. “Of course I’m attracted to you—your gentle spirit, your thirst for God, your innocence—it draws me to want to protect you and care for you—as a friend and a brother.”

Brother. The sound of that hateful word stiffened her spine. She jerked her hand free and angled her chin. “But not as a woman, is that it, Brady? Someone you can take in your arms and kiss and make love to?”

Blood gorged his cheeks as he stood up. A rare hint of anger sparked in his eyes, and satisfaction flooded her soul. So he wasn’t pure stone. Good! At least she could arouse his temper, if nothing else.

“So help me, Beth, if you spent a fraction of the time reading the Bible as you do those silly romance novels, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”

She jumped up with tears stinging her eyes. “And if you took your nose out of your Bible long enough to see that God has a plan for your life other than smearing yourself with ink, you might see that you are the problem.” With a gasping sob, she snatched her purse from the table and rammed it hard against his chest, pushing him out of the way. She turned toward the door.

He stumbled back, then grabbed her arm. “Beth, wait! We need to pray about this …”

She flung his hand away. Humiliation and anger broiled her cheeks. “No, you pray about it. It seems to be the only thing you know how to do. And while you’re at it, pray that he heals that stupid streak inside of you … and in me, too, for loving you like I do.” She bolted for the door, ignoring Collin’s gaping stare.

“Beth—” Pain echoed in Brady’s voice.

She whirled around, hand fisted on the knob. “And one more prayer, Brady, if you don’t mind. Pray that I hate you, will you? Shouldn’t be too hard, I don’t think. You make it so easy.”


The door slammed closed, rattling the glass.

Brady blinked at Collin. “What just happened?”

Collin let out a low whistle and arched a brow. “Don’t look now, ol’buddy, but I think you’re back in the Great War. What’d ya say to set her off like that? I’ve never seen Lizzie lose her temper before.”

Brady exhaled and dropped into his desk chair. He mauled his face with his hand. “Beth. Her name is Beth, Collin, and I didn’t say anything I haven’t said before.”

“She’s been Lizzie for over a year, Brady. It’s what her friends call her and her family most of the time. You’re the only holdout—in more ways than one.”

Brady glanced up, his eyes burning with fatigue. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means she’s not thirteen anymore; she’s a grown woman. You’re the only one who still treats her like a kid.”

“Don’t start with this, please,” Brady groaned, “I’m way too tired.”

Collin sighed and shuffled to the rack over the door to snatch his keys. “So is Lizzie. Tired of being in love with someone who treats her like a little sister. She wants more. How long are you going to ignore it?”

Brady dropped his head in his hand to shield his eyes. “I haven’t ignored it. I’ve been praying it would go away.”

“Burying your head in the sand—or in your prayers—won’t work, ol’ buddy. You taught me that.”

The truth congealed in Brady’s stomach along with the cold oatmeal he’d eaten for lunch. “I know,” he whispered.

Collin stared for a moment, then wandered over to Brady’s desk. He sat down on an old proof sheet and crossed his arms. “Look, I’ve tried not to butt in where Lizzie is concerned, but it’s kind of hard right now. And to be honest with you, I’m worried.”

“You don’t need to worry about Beth.”

Collin sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s not Beth I’m talking about.”

“Well, don’t worry about me, either, because first thing Monday, I’m going to sit her down and explain once and for all why we can’t be more than friends.”

Collin’s gaze narrowed. “And why is that, exactly? Because you’re not attracted to her?”

Heat blistered Brady’s cheeks.

Collin stared, then broke into a grin. “You are, aren’t you?”

“Knock it off, Collin.”

Collin chuckled. “No, Brady, I won’t ‘knock it off.’ Everybody in this family knows how Lizzie feels about you, but nobody really knows how you feel about her. Until now.”

Brady jumped up and headed to the back room, heat stinging his neck. “I’m going home.”

“You’re in love with my sister-in-law, aren’t you?” Collin hopped up and followed. “Why don’t you just admit it?”

Brady spun around. “I love Beth, but not in that way.”

Collin hesitated and his smile faded. He cocked his head. “I know you won’t lie, Brady, so I’m asking you one more time. Are you attracted to Lizzie?”

“I don’t have to answer that.”

“No, but I’m asking as a friend—to both you and Lizzie. Are you?”

Brady stared, his heart pounding in his chest like the rotors of the Bullock pounding against paper. His voice was barely a whisper. “Yes.”

“I knew it! That’s great news. So, what’s the problem?”

“Because I can’t love her that way.”

Collin frowned. “Why not? I don’t understand. You’re a man and she’s a woman—”

“No!” Brady shocked himself with the vehemence in his tone. “She’s like a sister to me. I could never … would never … think of Beth that way.”

Collin blinked. “Calm down, ol’ buddy. Lizzie is not your sister no matter how much you see it that way. I can’t help but think there’s more to this, John, something you’re not telling me. What is it? Why are you holding back?”

Nausea curdled in Brady’s stomach. He fought back a shudder. “Nothing, Collin. Nothing I care to go into.”

Collin stared long and hard. He finally sighed and jingled the keys in his pocket. “Okay, I’ll leave it be. For now. But I can’t leave Lizzie be. She’s in love with you, my friend, and if you don’t intend to return that love, then you better do something about it. Now.”

Brady braced a hand against the door frame while fear added to the mix in his gut. “I know.”

“That means cutting her loose, Brady. No more Bible study or private prayer time or lunchtime chats. Every minute you spend with that girl is only leading her on.”

Brady closed his eyes. “Yeah.”

Collin gripped an arm around Brady’s shoulder. “I love you, John. You’re the brother I never had and the best friend I’ve ever known. It tears me up when I think you’re not happy. I know how much Lizzie means to you. And I’m here, if you need me.”

“I know. I appreciate that.”

Collin cuffed him on the shoulder and headed for the door. “See you tomorrow.”

Brady looked up. “Collin?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t tell Faith … or anyone … how I feel about Beth, okay?”

Collin stared, his lips poised as if to argue. He released a weighty sigh. “Okay, old buddy, not a word. Have a good night.”

Brady nodded, then swallowed hard. Yeah, as if that were possible.

***

Strangers were gawking, but she didn’t care. She bolted down the crowded sidewalk like a madwoman, tears streaming her cheeks and her chest heaving with hurt. Curious gazes followed as she tore down Henry Street where the farmer’s market was in full sway. She barely noticed the milling patrons who swarmed wooden stands heaped high with oranges and lemons freshly plucked and shipped from Florida groves. Stern-eyed ladies rifled through leaf lettuce while apron-clad vendors hovered and hawked their wares. Lizzie ignored them all, racing past and almost tumbling as she hurdled a crate of potatoes in her path.

“Miss, are you okay …”

Lizzie heard the concern in the shopkeeper’s voice, but she dare not acknowledge his kindness. It would surely unleash the broken sob that lodged in her throat. Right now all she wanted to do was to crawl into a dark corner of St. Stephen’s Church and cry. She sniffed. That and spit into John Brady’s eye. She flew up the church’s marble steps and tugged at the heavy oak doors.

The hallowed darkness inside strained her eyes as she adjusted to its dim light. She scanned the pews to make sure she was alone. With a shuddering heave, she made her way to the right alcove at the front and sank into her favorite row in the back corner. She set her clutch purse aside and lay down on her back, stretched out like she used to when she was a child, in search of her own little world where she could read and dream and pray. Recess in grade school had always been filled with giggles and games of red rover and girls flirting with boys who didn’t know they existed. But at times, when the pull of a favorite book or a longing for romance would strike, she would steal away, unbeknownst to the nuns. It was here, in this shadowed church, lit only by the soft glow of flickering candles and sunlight shafting through stained-glass windows, that she would finally connect with God.

She’d lie on the polished wood bench and look up, squinting to imagine that Jesus was lying down too, on a bench in the balcony across the way, ready to chat. At times, she could almost see his white gown through the marble balustrade as he listened to her. She always felt close to him there, amidst the lingering scent of incense and lemon oil. As if they were best friends. And they were. Their brief encounters always filled her with peace, often providing a much-needed balm to her young soul.

With a weary sigh, she lay down in the darkened pew and closed her eyes, allowing her thoughts to stray to Brady as they so often did. In her daydreams, she found herself comparing him to heroes she idolized in her favorite books. Her lips curved into a sad smile. Without question, John Brady was her Mr. Darcy, possessing all the exasperating prejudice of Jane Austin’s hero in Pride & Prejudice. At least when it came to her, she thought with a twist of her lips—too blinded by his own stubborn perceptions to see what everyone else so clearly saw—that his “little buddy” was destined to be his very own “Lizzy.”

She stared now, lost in a faraway look that blurred the flame of the sanctuary light as it glittered in its scarlet holder. “Why, God? Why can’t he love me? I know he cares—I can see it in his eyes and feel it in his touch. And I love him too—you know I do. But he gives me nothing.”

She peeked up at the balcony. “He’s a man after your own heart, God, which has me wondering if you’re as stubborn as he. I surely hope so, because I’m going to need help in matching wits with him. And if you don’t mind my saying so, when it comes to stubborn, this man is one of your finest creations. But if we belong together—loving each other while loving you—then you’ve got to open his eyes to the truth. And if I’ve missed it all these years and not heard your still, quiet voice, then please … please … set me free from his hold.”

She closed her eyes and settled in once again, her focus intent on the prayer at hand. All at once the heavy oak door squealed open, emitting a shaft of light that filtered in from the vestibule. The sound of hurried footsteps echoed through the cavernous building and then stopped. A broken sob pierced the darkness. Lizzie’s eyes popped open. She stiffened in the pew. What in the world?

Pitiful heaves rose to the rafters as Lizzie sat and scanned the dark church. Nothing … except the painful sound of someone’s grief. With a tightening in her chest, Lizzie rose and followed the sound of the weeping. Her eyes widened as she discovered its source in the very last pew. “Ellie? Is that you? Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”

A sprite of a girl lay collapsed in the pew, her ragged overalls torn and tattered. Wisps of carrot-red hair escaped from stubby braids, lending a halo effect that reminded Lizzie of a fuzzy spider monkey. Her slight shoulders shuddered with every heartbreaking heave, but at the sound of Lizzie’s voice, she jolted upright. She blinked in shock, enormous hazel eyes glossy with tears.

“Lizzie! I-I thought I was a-alone.” She sniffed and swiped at her nose with the sleeve of her blouse. With a lift of her chin, she squinted up, forcing a million tiny freckles to scrunch in a frown. “And nothing’s wrong.”

Lizzie folded her arms and arched a brow. “It’s a sin to lie, Eleanor Walsh, and well you know it. And in a church, no less.”

The faintest hint of a smile flickered at the edges of the girl’s mouth. “So I’ll duck in the confessional on the way out. Betcha God will barely notice.”

“He notices everything, Ellie, especially when one of his favorite little girls is making such a ruckus in his house.” Lizzie nudged her over and sat down. “What’s wrong?”

“Aw, Lizzie, you wouldn’t understand.”

“Mmm … maybe. Maybe not. But you won’t know till you tell me, now will you?”

Ellie glanced up, her face skewed in thought. She took a deep breath and settled back against the pew, expelling a long, heavy sigh. “I beat up Brian Kincaid.”

Lizzie leaned forward in shock. “What? That big, hulking boy from the 7th grade? Sweet Mother of Job, how? Why?”

“Because he’s a snot-nosed bully, that’s why. So I walloped him.”

“Good heavens, Ellie, he’s a foot taller than you!”

A grin parted the nine-year-old’s lips, revealing a flash of teeth. “Not anymore. I thrashed him down to size just like I do my brothers when they fire me up. That’ll teach him to call me names.”

“Lizzie bit back a smile. “What kind of names?”

She jutted her lip and folded her arms, squinting hard at the pew in front of her. “Calls me an ‘it.’ Says I’m not a girl.” She looked away, but not before Lizzie caught the quiver of her chin. “A freak of nature.” Her voice wavered the slightest bit before it hardened. “Ellie Smellie, the circus sideshow.”

Hot wetness sprang to Lizzie’s eyes and fury burned in her throat. She grabbed Ellie in a ferocious hug. “Bald-faced lies, all of it! You’re a beautiful girl, Eleanor Walsh. And Brian Kincaid is nothing but a bully who is appropriately named—lyin’ Brian.”

Ellie pulled away, clearly avoiding Lizzie’s eyes for the tears in her own. She sniffed several times. “No, Lizzie, he’s right. I’ll never be a girl—at least not a pretty one like you.” Her small frame shivered as she looked away. “Ain’t nobody to teach me since ma up and died—” Her voice cracked before she continued. “And even if there was, Pop barely makes enough to feed me and the boys. He sure can’t buy me no fancy dresses.”

Lizzie’s heart squeezed in her chest as she studied the frail little girl whose mother died three years prior, giving birth to her fifth son. Since then, Ellie had become one of the Southie neighborhoods scrappiest tomboys, weathering her fair share of cruel teasing and fights. Lizzie chewed on her lip in deep thought. “Ellie, my sister Katie is a few years older than you, and I’ll just bet we can come up with some clothes that don’t fit her anymore if you don’t mind hand-me-downs.”

Ellie flicked the strap of her threadbare overalls. “Mind hand-me-downs? Gosh, Lizzie, I’d be naked as a jaybird if it wasn’t for my older brothers.” Her jaw leveled up a full inch. “But I don’t aim to take no charity.”

“No, not charity. I was thinking more along the lines of earning it. Do you like to read?”

“Nope. Got no money for books either.”

Lizzie smiled. “You don’t need money for these books. I’m talking about helping me—at Bookends, the bookstore where I work. You know, story time on Saturdays?”

One pale strawberry brow angled high. “Ain’t that for kids?”

“Yes, but I could use your help with setting up and cleaning up.” Lizzie’s eyes narrowed as she gave Ellie a tight-lipped smile. “And there are one or two little troublemakers who I bet you could keep in line with a withering glance.”

A grin sprouted on Ellie’s face. “Boys, I hope—they’re my specialty. With a houseful of brothers, I’m real good with boy troublemakers.”

Lizzie stood to her feet with a chuckle. “Are there any other kind?”

“Nope. Least not for me.” She squinted up. “I’ll bet you never have trouble with boys, do ya, Lizzie, pretty as you are?”

Brady’s handsome face invaded her thoughts. Her jaw stiffened. “Don’t be too sure, Ellie. Boys can be troublemakers at any age, trust me.”

Ellie rose to her feet and shoved her hands deep in her pockets. “Yeah, especially brothers.” She cocked her head and gave Lizzie a curious look. “You got a brother that gives you trouble, Lizzie?”

Brother. The very word grated on Lizzie’s nerves. She wrapped an arm around Ellie’s shoulder. “Yeah, I do, Ellie, but I have every intention of taking care of it. Just like I’m going to teach you to take care of bullies like Brian Kincaid.”

Ellie looked up. “How?”

“Well, for starters, if you’ll work story time with me for the next four Saturdays, I will pay you back by taking you home to try on all of Katie’s hand-me-downs. And then, if you want, I can cut your hair and show you how to fix it. What do you say?”

“Gosh, Lizzie, that would be swell!” She paused, her smile suddenly fading.

Lizzie’s brows dipped. “What?”

“Well, what if it doesn’t work? I mean, what if everybody still thinks I’m an ‘it’?”

“They won’t, trust me.”

A glimmer of wetness shone in Ellie’s eyes. “But what if I’m too much like a boy to ever learn to be a girl?”

Lizzie bent and gently cupped Ellie’s face in her hands. “You’ll learn, Ellie, because this is too important. And when something is that important, you do whatever it takes.”

A smile trembled on Ellie’s lips as she threw her arms around Lizzie’s waist. “Gosh, Lizzie, you sound just like my momma before she …” She pulled away and straightened her shoulders, then swiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I gotta go, but I’ll see you on Saturday, okay?”

Lizzie blinked to clear the moisture from her own eyes. “Saturday, ten o’clock. Don’t be late or I’ll send Lyin’ Brian to hunt you down.”

Ellie nodded and grinned before bolting out the door, once again leaving the sanctuary in a state of peaceful calm. With a heavy sigh, Lizzie made her way back to her pew and lay down. With no effort at all, her thoughts returned to Brady.

Whatever it takes.

At the thought of her advice to Ellie, a smiled flitted on her lips. She lay there a while longer to drink in his peace and his strength, and then sat up and squared her shoulders, finally rising to her feet. She smoothed out her skirt and lifted her chin. Resolve kindled in her bones. An air of stubbornness settled in, shivering her spine like the cool air currents that whistled through the domed ceiling of the drafty church. “Okay, God, I plan to take my own advice and do whatever it takes. Mr. John Brady is no longer dealing with ‘his little sister.’ He’s dealing with a woman in love.” Lizzie plucked her clutch purse from the pew and marched to the door with renewed purpose. “It’s said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,’” she mused. “Ha!” Her lips clamped into a tight line. “Just wait till he sees a woman ignored.”

***

Brady buried his fists in his pockets and hung his head, barreling toward his apartment on Rumpole Street with one driving purpose: to be alone. His thoughts couldn’t be farther away from the pretty spring evening in his bustling Southie neighborhood than if he were safely locked behind his apartment door. Any other night, he would have enjoyed taking his time, stopping to chat with a neighbor or easily coerced into a game of stickball with a rowdy group of kids. He would have enjoyed the faint haze of green in the trees as new buds burgeoned forth, washing the landscape with a soft watercolor effect. But for once, the rich scent of freshly hewn mulch as neighbors readied their gardens, and the shrieks of children at play and birds in song, failed to coax a smile to his lips.

No, not tonight. Tonight his thoughts were elsewhere. Mired in a place where the innocent laughter of children and the peace of a wholesome neighborhood were as foreign as an ice storm on a balmy spring day. Brady shivered inside in spite of the 60-degree temperatures. He quickened his pace when he neared his three-story brick brownstone. Flanked by graceful federal pillars and forsythia heavy with yellow blooms, it welcomed him home, tonight more than usual. He hurried up steps lined with crocus and littered with the occasional pressed-steel toy truck and cap-gun cannon. He sucked in a deep breath and grasped the steel knob of the glass-paned door with rigid purpose, seeking nothing but solitude.

“Hi ya, Brady, what’s your hurry?”

Brady hunched his shoulders and moaned inwardly. He turned slowly, a poor attempt at a smile on his lips. “Hi ya, Cluny. Enjoying the weather?”

Fourteen-year-old Cluny McGee grinned, a spray of wild freckles lost in a layer of dirt on his delicate face. The cuffs of his pants were several inches too short, and his ill-fitted shirt strained at the buttons despite a spindly chest. He slapped a strand of white-blond thatch out of his twinkling blue eyes. “Yeah, gives me spring fever for all the pretty girls.”

Brady forced a grimace into a smile. “This time of year will do that. Well, enjoy.” He yanked the door open, desperate to escape to the haven of his home.

“Wait! You goin’ to the gym tonight? I thought maybe we could box a match or two.” Cluny flexed his muscles. “Gotta shape up for the ladies, you know.”

Brady hesitated. He glanced at Cluny, not missing the hopefulness in his eyes. He managed a smile. “Too tired, Cluny. How ‘bout tomorrow?”

The boy grinned, exposing a smile that could melt stone. “Sure thing, Brady. Same time as usual?”

Brady nodded and waved, exhaling as the door closed behind him. He mounted the steps with trepidation, hoping to make it to the next landing as quietly as possible. This was one night he needed to be alone, to fall on his knees before God and seek his peace.

A door squealed open. So much for peace.

“Brady, you’re home!”

He stopped on the steps and smiled at his eleven-year-old neighbor. “Esther, why aren’t you outside with your friends?”

She giggled and ducked her head, then flipped a long, thick braid the color of molasses over her shoulder. “Because I baked cookies. Your favorite kind—gingerbread. Wait here.”

She darted off, leaving the door ajar, then returned with a plate of cookies, still warm. The delicious smell filled the tiny foyer, evoking noises from his stomach. She giggled and held them up. Her proud look warmed his heart. He tweaked her braid and smiled, then hoisted the cookies with one hand. “You’re going to spoil me, Esther Mullen. What’s the occasion this time?”

“For lending me the books, of course. I’m almost finished with the last one.”

He tucked the cookies under one arm and cocked a hip. “Which was your favorite?”

She scrunched her nose in thought. “Jane Eyre, I think, although I love Pride & Prejudice too. I’m almost done. Do you have anymore?”

“Tons. You just knock on my door whenever you need a new batch, okay?”

She smiled shyly. “Thanks, Brady.”

He chucked a finger under her chin. “And thanks for the cookies, Ess. You’re going to make a wonderful wife the way you bake like you do.”

A sweet haze of pink dotted her cheeks, and she nodded. “Good night, Brady.”

“G’night, Esther.”

The door closed and Brady sighed. Forgive me, Lord, for being so grumpy. And thank you for small blessings like Esther and Cluny.

He trudged the last few steps to his door and fished the key from his pocket. He caught a whiff of gingerbread and smiled, unlocking the door and prodding it closed with his shoe. He put the plate of cookies on the table and sampled one as he made his way to the kitchen cupboard. He reached for a glass, then opened the icebox to pull out the milk. He poured it and frowned, suddenly remembering the scene with Beth. His gut curdled like the two-week-old milk in the glass. Brady sighed and leaned against the counter.

Why, Lord? She was the only good and decent thing in his life. His love for her was deep and genuine and, yes—through the grace of God—pure. He wanted to protect her and nurture her and always be there for her. Why did he have to give her up?

Brady poured the sour milk into the sink and rinsed it out. He absently washed the glass as he struggled with his thoughts. He traipsed to the sofa and collapsed, dropping his head back and closing his eyes.

He knew why.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

A bitter smile twisted his lips. If only he could forget as easily as God. Remove his own shame as far as the east is from the west. Instead, it burned inside him like an eternal fire, singeing any hope of beauty and innocence. Any hope of Beth.

Brady hunched on the couch and put his head in his hands. “Help me, Lord. I’m sick with grief over what I have to do. I love Beth more than my own life. Help me to give her up, to let her go. Give me the grace to do it. To see it through. I pray that you will help her understand. And bring a godly man who will love her like she deserves to be loved.”

A heaviness settled on him like the cloying heat of his tiny apartment. He rose and crossed to the window to lift the sash and let in what little breeze he could. He inhaled the fresh evening air, heartened by the scented promise of rain. He grasped his leather Bible from the mahogany desk and settled back into the couch. He began to read and felt the gentle wind of God blowing through his mind with every anointed word.

As always, peace flooded his soul. He exhaled. Thank you, God. His eyes lifted to roam his tiny apartment, grateful for the oasis it offered. Though sparse in d├ęcor, it exuded a definite masculine air that made him feel comfortable. Heavy but simple wood pieces were arranged in a practical manner. His antique mahogany desk, a gift from his Aunt Amelia in New York, was laden with books wedged between brass bookends from his father. On its polished surface, there was just enough room for a simple wood and brass lamp in the shape of a sailing vessel. His eyes scanned across the dark burgundy sofa on which he sat, moving on to admire the framed prints of ships hung on the walls throughout the room. Their nautical feel always seemed to soothe him. He closed his eyes and pictured the blue of the ocean as he sailed across it in his mind. Sailing, free and easy as a bird, the wind in his face. Not moored to a past … nor a future.

Brady expelled a breath and opened his eyes to the imposing chestnut bookcase across the room. He had made it himself. Its shelves were lined with the rich hues of literature that helped to sate the inevitable loneliness that surfaced from time to time.

He suddenly thought of Beth and her love of reading, and his earlier malaise returned with a vengeance. He stared at his collection of leather-bound books. Her hands had touched every volume on his shelves, cradled them in her lap, fingered each page with care. He had bought them all for her, to satisfy her craving for literature.

He laid his hand on the worn pages of his Bible and closed his eyes, remembering his arrival in Boston almost fours years ago. He hadn’t known a soul but Collin, but the O’Connors had quickly drawn him into the warmth and security of their family. He had fallen in love with all of them, completely in awe of the closeness they shared, a reaction only heightened by his own bleak childhood. Beth had been thirteen then, almost fourteen, a shy and fragile little girl with soft violet eyes and a gentle nature. She had taken to him at once, enamored with his own love of literature and God. Seeking him out, making him feel special.

Brady dropped his head back against the couch. She was the little sister he’d longed for. The one feminine touch in his life that would never become corrupt. All he had wanted was to protect her, nurture her, love her in the purest sense of the word. It was never meant to be more.

Not for her. And certainly not for him.

With a heavy expulsion of air, he closed his eyes, as if by doing so, he could shut out the feelings that had begun to surface over the last few months. When had the seeds of attraction been sown? At what precise moment had the tilt of her smile begun to trigger his pulse? Fear tightened his stomach. When had she ceased being a little girl? He opened his eyes with new resolve and cemented his lips into a hard line. It didn’t matter. He was her friend and mentor, a devoted big brother who wanted nothing but the best for her.

And he was definitely not it.

An urgent knock at the door shook him from his thoughts, and he lunged to his feet. He opened it to the sound of weeping. His neighbor across the hall stood on his threshold, her face streaked with tears. Strands of brown hair fluttered free from a disheveled bun as she stared up at him, her dark eyes pleading. “Oh, Brady, you’re home! Can you help me, please?”

Brady’s gut tightened. “Pete again?”

She nodded and clutched her arms around her middle, her body shuddering.

“Ei-leen! Where the devil are ya?” Pete’s slurred tone rumbled from the bowels of the dark apartment, bringing with it a whiff of stale whiskey.

Brady stared at the bruise on her cheek and rested a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you—”

She shook her head, then wiped her face with her sleeve. “No, I just got home. All he had time for was one quick whack across my face. I thank God you’re here to stop him, Brady. You always seem to have a way with Pete when he gets like this.”

Brady pulled her into his apartment. “I’ll talk to him, Eileen, but I want you to stay here. I thought he’d given up the bottle. What set him off this time?”

“Ei … leen! So, help me …”

She shivered. “He was home before me, so I’m guessing he lost his job again. Oh, Brady, I’m so scared! What are we going to do?”

Brady wrapped an arm around her shoulder and led her to his kitchen. He gave her a quick squeeze. “Same thing as always, Eileen, we pray. God always turns it around, doesn’t he?”

She shook her head and sniffed.

“There’s coffee in my cupboard. Make a pot, will you? Double strength. I’ll go in and talk to Pete, and you bring it in when it’s ready, okay?”

She nodded and then threw her arms around Brady’s middle. Her voice broke. “Oh, Brady, you’re a gift from God, ye are! Sometimes I think you’re an angel instead of a man.”

Heat scalded the back of his neck. He patted her shoulder. “No, Eileen, I’m just a man who’s found the grace of God.” He steered her toward the cupboard, then headed for the door. He turned and gave her a reassuring smile. “Prayer and coffee, in that order, okay?”

A smile trembled on her lips and she nodded. He closed the door behind him.

“Ei … leen! I’m gonna blister you …”

Brady strode into Eileen and Pete’s apartment and drew in a deep breath for the task ahead. An angel instead of a man. His lips quirked into a sour smile. That would certainly be nice. Especially at a moment like this. His jaw tightened. As if he could qualify.

Angels didn’t have his past.


My Review:
I love Julie's 'The Daughters of Boston' series! I enjoyed this one more than 'A Passion Redeemed', but I think it's probably on the same par as 'A Passion Most Pure'. I love that Julie continues to follow Charity & Faith's stories as well.
Beth/Lizzie is a good mixture of her sister's personalities, but is her own person at the same time. She's human and makes plenty of mistakes, but she also really wants to do God's will.
I can't wait to read the next book!
I would recommend this to older, mature teens as it is fairly edgy :)