Tag Archives: Christian historical fiction

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book:

Evelyn Wisely has a heart for the orphans of Teaville and works at a local mansion that rescues children out of the town’s red-light district and gives them a place to live. But her desire to help isn’t limited to orphans.
David Kingsman has recently arrived in Teaville from Kansas City to help with one of his father’s companies in town. While he plans on staying only long enough to prove his business merit to his father, he’s shown interest in Evelyn’s work and is intrigued enough by her to lend his support to her cause.
They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David’s dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them?

My Review:

I throughly enjoyed book one of this series and dug into this second book with gusto. It is often that many people might judge this book by it’s title or even the cover and deem it a “romance novel” with disparaging tones, but I would be the first to argue with them.

While there is a story of love between a man and woman, the  main love focus that I saw was the love for the least of these. Orphans, prostitutes, and others that were not deemed acceptable always in this times period that the book is set in, were the focus of the heroine of our story. She is honorable, driven and a strong personality.

This story brings to the forefront, much of the underbelly of polite society, without being graphic or unseemly, but truly will give the readers much to think about and ponder. Who are the ones in our society that we put in this category?

The author is skilled in her writing, interweaving a tale that will pull you in until you are finished. I would encourage you to pick up a copy. I found this book not only interesting, but another learning experience about the moral society of that time.

I received this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

This book is available for purchase. “A Love So True” 

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Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

 

27066853.jpgAbout the book:

One Plucky Female Pharmacist + One High-Society Naval Officer = Romance–and Danger
For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg’s attentions only annoy–even if he “is” her brother’s best friend.
During the darkest days of the war, Arch’s destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves–and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian’s trust and affection?
Sarah Sundin brings World War II to life, offering readers an intense experience they won’t soon forget.

My Review:

What can you say about a book that seems to be the perfect read? I am not sure how I could be more of a fan of Sarah Sundin, but I have to say, I enjoyed every word of this novel.

The quirky characters, the mystery and the underlying trademark of Ms. Sundin’s depth of character dealing with tough topics and flaws.

I loved the touch on PTSD in the early days of WW2. I feel we do not have enough books that talk about characters that struggling with this. Often people imagine someone that is described as “shell shocked” as someone that cannot function beyond sitting and staring. This book met the challenge and showed Arthur as able bodied man that was dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event.

I am so looking forward to reading more of Sarah Sundin’s books as she writes them! They are worth the time. You can purchase a copy right here! It is only $8.64 for a paperback copy right now. Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

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Gift Giving Guide for Readers

Do you have a reader in your life? Or are you the reader and looking for things to buy for yourself?

Here are a few recommended gift ideas for those special people you know and love-

My Top book Picks for gifts:

These are just a few that would be on my list…

(Click on the book title for link)

Kept by Sally Bradley – This book title reminds me of a modern day Redeeming Love. Ms. Bradley carries us through a grittier story of pain and redemption in a beautiful way.

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate– Investigating an old slush pile? What could be more exciting as this story weaves through past and present!

Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall- This whole series is amazing! Just recently available in paperback, this book series is written in first person in such a skilled way that you will forget that it is. I highly recommend.

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz- Set after the Revolutionary War, this book is a sweet story, but also filled with hardships that you would not expect. I loved it!

The Diplomat’s Wife by Pam Jenoff– This is not a Christian read, but a HEA story that warms the hearts of historical fiction fans.

I could go on and on… but my wish list is a mile long!

Here are a few from my wish list that I have not read:

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The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen– Her other books have been incredible.

Isle of Hope by Julie Lessman– I own every one of her books!

Until the Dawn- Elizabeth Camden– I have rarely ever been disappointed with one of her books.

The Five times I met myself by James Rubart – His books are very different than what I usually read, but this one fascinates me.

The Golden Braid– By Melanie Dickerson- It comes in hardcover and is beautiful. I love the cover art and her books are not ones to be missed.

 

Items for Readers- 

From electronic readers to jewelry, there is something here for the reader in your life.

Kindle– Even a diehard hard copy fan like me, has really enjoyed owning a kindle. I love it for traveling! It has made my suitcase a lot lighter, that is for sure. The Kindle Fire’s are cheaper right now, but this one is better for just reading.

Clip-On Book light– This works wonderful for reading in bed or camping with your kindle or book. It is easier to use with a kindle, but works fine with a book too. In a pinch, it works as a flashlight as well.

Mugs-  Readers love to drink coffee, tea or hot chocolate often while reading, or at least I do. Some of these are really cute.

“Kindly Go Away, I am reading” 

“My Courage Always Rises with Every Attempt to Intimidate Me”

Jane Austen Literary Mug 

First Lines of Literature Mug 

Novel Tea– Bags of tea with literature quotes

Pendant Necklace– “So Many Books, so little time”

Alice in Wonderland necklace 

Book Journal- This is great to keep track of your books in. Especially for the readers that don’t use Goodreads.

 

Then we can’t forget about the young adults in your life that love books and audio books. These are a few that have been popular around here:

Audio and Print Books:

Melanie Dickerson’s Fairy Tale retakes...- Do you have a young woman that loves fairy tales? These are available in both print and audio now. They are totally worth it! They will not just appeal to young adults, but also to adult readers.

Michael Vey series- By Richard Paul Evans– If you want your fantasy loving young people to get hooked on a series, start this one. Mine hardly could do anything else once they got through the first one. This is not Christian fiction, but fairly clean, although there is magical powers etc. involved, if you avoid that.

Wayne Thomas Batson’s book series – He has several. Many of them are available on audio, although we are so sad that his latest ones are not.

A Horse for Kate by Miralee Ferrell– This one is not available on audio, but is an easy read. There is a whole series for your horse loving girls and boys.

Chuck Black Series– He has a bunch of different options for both younger and older age groups.

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson– This is another that we wish were on audio. Her books are very popular with young people and is Christian fiction.

I hope this helps with finding books for some of the readers in your life. If you ever are looking for book lists for one reason or another, remember to contact me and I would happy to make one up for you!

 

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A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Book Description: 

Two women, one in the present day and one in 1942, each hope for a brighter future. But they’ll both have to battle through their darkest days to reach it.

Today. With the grand opening of her new gallery and a fairytale wedding months away, Sera James appears to have a charmed life. But in an instant, the prospect of a devastating legal battle surrounding her fiancé threatens to tear her dreams apart. Sera and William rush to marry and are thrust into a world of doubt and fear as they defend charges that could separate them for life.

June 1942. After surviving the Blitz bombings that left many Londoners with shattered lives, Kája Makovsky prayed for the war to end so she could return home to Prague. But despite the horrors of war, the gifted journalist never expected to see a headline screaming the extermination of Jews in work camps. Half-Jewish with her family in danger, Kája has no choice but to risk everything to get her family out of Prague. But with the clutches of evil all around, her escape plan crumbles into deportation, and Kája finds herself in a new reality as the art teacher to the children of Terezin.

Bound by a story of hope and the survival of one little girl, both Sera and Kája will fight to protect all they hold dear.

My Review:

When a debut author blows you away with their first book, there is always the fear that the second one will not touch you the same way. The second book in the series, The Sparrow of Terezin did not disappoint this reader. I savored each word, wishing it would last. The music of the story sang to me as I experienced the beauty that I know truly happened in history. While this book is fictional, it was based on enough truth to give you that feeling of awe when you set it down. I was in awe of the brave men and women that lived long ago, ministering to the weak ones and giving their lives to save others.

The heartbreaking stories are woven with happier stories, so you are not taken down by them, but raised up. Ms. Cambron has succeeded in carrying on the tradition. Keep writing! We love it!

This was provided for me for review by NetGalley and BookLook Bloggers. The opinions contained herein are my own.
 

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko
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Book Description: (from the author’s website)

After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

My Review:
If the reason you picked up this book was because of the amazingly beautiful cover, you will not be sorry. Amaryllis has been dealt a lot of hard knocks. Her dreams have seemed to be thwarted at every turn and when she faced with marriage and dealing with society against her will, she tries once again to come up with alternative plans to get her own way. Amaryllis and Nathan are both a hero and heroine that have a lot of baggage. I really enjoyed how Ms. Crandall’s light way of writing weaves spiritual truths throughout this book without anyone feeling like they are being hammered with it, but yet, it is strong. There is no question if this book shows the light of the Lord in it. This has the flavor of a regency romance somewhat between Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre with a modern language twist, with historical facts interwoven about Whidbey Island, Washington and Boston.

I really enjoyed this book! It takes a bit for Amaryllis and Nathan to warm up to you, but once you warm to them as well, you will fall in love.
Look for my review of book #2 on the 7th along with an interview with the author.

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In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Sundin - In Perfect Time

Book Description: (From cover)

Bold, sophisticated, and flirtatious, Army Air Force flight nurse Lt. Kay Jobson collects hearts wherever she flies, leaving men pining in airfields all across Europe. So how can ruggedly handsome C-47 pilot Lt. Roger Cooper be all but immune to her considerable charms? In fact, he seems to do everything he can to avoid her.

Still, as they cross the skies between Italy and southern France, evacuating the wounded and delivering paratroopers and supplies, every beat of their hearts draws them closer to where they don’t want to go. Can they confront the fears and misunderstandings in their pasts?

Sarah Sundin seamlessly weaves together emotion, action, and sweet romance into a tale that transcends time and calls us to believe in the power of love.

My Review:
I can never pick up a Sarah Sundin book without expecting something great! She takes characters that are imperfect, with flaws, and tells a story that almost everyone can relate to. They have pain in their pasts, they make mistakes or don’t believe they are worth more than what they already have to offer. She takes their stories and shows how God believes they are worth more than that.
She works the story, with the history of the time so that you learn a ton of history without realizing it. I have never been disappointed yet with a Sarah Sundin book and I know you will not be either.

I really related with Roger more than Kay, in this book, which is unusual for me, but Ms. Sundin captured the essence of someone that has a lot of talent, but has believed for so long they are not capable of reaching those dreams, that they just gave up.

You will want to read this book if you love historical fiction, and if you don’t love historical fiction, you have to try her books, because you will fall in love!

As far as if you are looking for a historical read for your teen, because Ms. Sundin does address some issues in her books, including the fact that Kay portrays herself as a flirt and “loose”, leads to some less than savory encounters which would need to be discussed with your teen if she reads it. I think it could be a great learning experience, both because of the history, but also in discussing how our parents words really can effect us in our lives. This story addresses a hard topic of how parents need to believe in their children and say encouraging words to build their children up to give them the best advantage in life.

So, in conclusion…don’t wait to buy this book! Head out and buy it now, and pick up her others if you haven’t read them either! I aim to own every book she writes!

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Daisies are Forever by Liz Tolsma

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description

Gisela must hold on to hope and love despite all odds in the midst of a war-torn country.

Gisela Cramer is an American living in eastern Germany with her cousin Ella Reinhardt. When the Red Army invades, they must leave their home to escape to safety in Berlin.

However, Ella is a nurse and refuses to leave, sending her young daughters with Gisela. During their journey, Gisela meets Mitch Edwards, an escaped British POW. She pretends she is his wife in order to preserve his safety among other Germans, especially one wounded German soldier, Kurt, who has suspicions about Mitch’s identity. Kurt also has feelings for Gisela and tries to uncover the truth about her “marriage.”

Their journey to Gisela’s mother in Berlin is riddled with tragedy and hardship, but they strive to keep Ella’s daughters safe so they can reunite with their mother. During the journey Gisela and Mitch begin to develop feelings for one another beyond friendship. They reach Berlin, but their struggles are far from over. Gisela and Mitch must learn to live for the day and find hope in the darkest of circumstances.

In this moving, historically accurate portrayal of WWII Germany, the characters learn that, even with destruction all around them, some things last forever.

My Review:

This tale is wrought with the pain and hardship that is tangible through the pages of the book. The author reaches out to you and makes you taste the fear that Gisela and others faced as they run for their lives and the lives of others around them. I was thrilled to learn at the end, that it was based on facts she had gotten from her grandmother. This book is a WW2 fiction book that you will want to experience, and it is an experience. The romance is very, very light and would be appropriate for a high school read, but it does talk about bombing, violence towards deserters, and other topics that may be distasteful, but done in a way that is factual. I will be looking for this author’s books to purchase and pass along to friends. It is not the easiest read, because the subject matter is the harsh reality of the war, but I found that was what also makes it appealing as a great read!
This book was given to me for review, by Book Sneeze and the opinions contained therein are solely my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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Vanishing Act by Jennifer Allee

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:

Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Veteran authors Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson have combined their considerable skills to create the action-packed historical romance series, Charm & Deceit, for Whitaker House.

Jennifer AlLee is the bestselling author of The Love of His Brother (2007) for Five Star Publishers, and for Abington Press: The Pastor’s Wife (2010), The Mother Road (April 2012), and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (November 2012). She’s also published a number of short stories, devotions and plays. Jennifer is a passionate participant in her church’s drama ministry. She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Visit the author’s website.

Lisa Karon Richardson has led a life of adventure — from serving as a missionary in the Seychelles and Gabon to returning to the U.S. to raise a family—and she imparts her stories with similarly action-packed plot lines. She’s the author of Impressed by Love (2012) for Barbour Publishing’s Colonial Courtships anthology, The Magistrate’s Folly, and Midnight Clear, part of a 2013 holiday anthology, also from Barbour. Lisa lives with her husband and children in Ohio.

 Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Pinkerton detective Carter Forbes returns in Book Two of the Charm & Deceit series. Set in Washington D. C. during the Civil War the action revolves around Juliet Button who does not believe in ghosts! She does believe in supporting her makeshift family of misfits. Having spent years as assistant to her illusionist uncle, Juliet possesses skills to make an audience believe the impossible and launches a career as “Miss Avila,” a medium. She wants nothing to do with agent Forbes who has the power to destroy the life she’s built. But when President Lincoln’s youngest son is kidnapped, and the first lady comes to her for help, she can’t refuse, even if it means facing Forbes, who knows far too much about her already.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Series: Charm & Deceit (Book 2)
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749063
ISBN-13: 978-1603749060

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

May 6, 1862


Washington, D.C.


Juliet palmed the thin stack of note cards on the table and slid them up her sleeve. Her fingers trembled as they always did before a “show.” No matter. They’d be steady when it counted.
Grandmotherly Miss Clara smoothed Juliet’s pale skirts. “You’ve got a new sitter. A young fellow.”
“Do we know anything about him?”
“Artie’s checking now.”
Juliet pressed the heel of her hand against her stomach. The queasiness would pass, too.
“This is all I found. It was in the lining of his hat.” Miss Clara passed her a folded ticket stub for Ford’s Athenaeum and a battered-looking letter with countless creases.
Juliet accepted the offerings and opened the letter. No, not a letter. She raised an eyebrow and looked at Miss Clara. “This is a pass that allows the bearer to move through Union lines.”
Miss Clara glanced up from her examination of a tiny stain on Juliet’s hem and met her eyes.
“So, he’s doing war work?”
“Apparently important work. It’s signed by President Lincoln.”
Miss Clara took the paper from Juliet’s trembling fingers.
Why would anyone carry such a document in a place as obvious as a hatband? Though ostensibly he was in the heart of Union territory and it wouldn’t be required, the pass granted access anywhere. That meant he’d come from beyond Union lines, in rebel territory. But, in rebel territory, who would want such a pass on him? Juliet sat down at the kitchen table. Something about this man felt dangerous. The pass identified him as Carter Forbes. The name meant nothing to her, and yet something niggled at the back of her mind. She should know about him.
Artie clattered down the stairs, his brown hair disheveled as usual, and leaped over the last few steps, landing with a thump. “Nothing.”
“Did you try to cross-reference him?”
Artie tilted his head and scowled in response.
Juliet held up a hand. “I had to ask. It seems that I should know the name.” She rubbed the furrows from between her eyebrows. She hated blind readings; they were so tricky. “Did he say how he learned of my sittings?”
Artie shook his head. “I don’t think so. The Professor never said anything.”
The Professor entered at that moment. “They’re all ready for you.”
“Do you know anything about this Carter Forbes fellow?”
The question seemed to pain the old gentleman, and Juliet winced at her own callousness. The Professor used to draw enormous crowds through the power of his observations about people; but now, his eyesight was shrouded by milky white cataracts, which meant he noticed very little.
“He came to the front door and asked if he could attend today’s sitting. He spoke well, and when I took his hat, I noted it was of fine felt. I asked if he had been referred by one of your clients, and he said no. He didn’t seem to want to offer any further information.”
It wasn’t an unusual reaction. Many new clients were hesitant and wanted her to prove her skills by astonishing them with information about themselves.
Juliet inhaled and held the breath for a long moment before letting it out in a rush. She could do this. She had to do this. If she turned away clients, it wouldn’t be long before she and her makeshift family were turned out of their home. She just couldn’t go back to the vaudeville circuit. Not if she was to have any hope of keeping them all together. One day, she would find a better way to support them. But for now, well, she had no choice.
***
Carter covertly examined his companions around the smooth oak table: a half dozen well-dressed ladies, most of them older than he, all but one of whom were in mourning; and a tall, rickety man with a snowy beard that reached his waist. The individuals in the group appeared to have at least a nodding acquaintance with one another, and they sat in companionable silence as they waited for Miss Avila.
The peaceful hush proved to be too much for a twittery sort of elderly lady to Carter’s right. She wore a full dress of black bombazine that looked far too warm for the summer heat. Her hair was frizzled into the semblance of ringlets that wilted on either side of her cheeks. She leaned closer to him and smiled kindly. “I don’t think I’ve met you before. Is this your first visit to Miss Avila?”
One of the ladies sniffed at this breach of social etiquette, but the others looked interested and friendly, as if the mere fact of their gathering in this room conferred a special kind of privilege.
Squelching the desire to educate them on the certainty they were being duped, Carter pasted on a smile for the lady and nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Is she as impressive as they say?”
“More so, I think.” She beamed at him. “Miss Avila has such a way about her. She’s so mystical and otherworldly. I completely see why the spirits choose to seek her out.”
The bearded gentleman cleared his throat. “She’s not like some as you’ll find—them show-offs with their painted-up faces and tricks. She’s a good little gal, the kind my Emmeline would have taken under her wing. The kind I would have wanted for my boy.” His words choked off, and he blew his nose into a large handkerchief.
Carter wanted to pat him on the shoulder or offer some reassurance, but he couldn’t allow himself the liberty. The fellow was austere and proud in his grief. Any expression of pity would likely inflict further hurt. How could someone take advantage of these poor people?
The door opened, and a slip of a young woman entered. Her dark hair was pinned up in a neat chignon. She wore a simple cotton day dress with stripes of soft white and pale purple, unadorned except for a strip of lace edging the collar and running from the bodice to the belt line. The sleeves were certainly long, and roomy enough to hide all sorts of goodies. But he didn’t see any telltale bulges. He and the other gentleman stood at her entrance.
“I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting.” Her voice was well-modulated and cultured. There was a whiff of foreign climes beneath the excellent English, but Carter couldn’t quite place the accent.
She circled around the table to the only available seat. Carter had engineered matters so that she would be seated right beside him. Miss Avila lightly touched the elderly gentleman’s arm as she passed. “Mr. Greenfield, how are you today?”
If Carter didn’t know better, he would think she was genuinely concerned.
“Thank you for asking, my dear. I am much as usual.”
“You haven’t had bad news from the War Office about Ben, have you?”
Aha. She was fishing for information.
“No, I’ve had no word. Been at least four months since his last letter.” His voice cracked.
Miss Avila reached out and squeezed his hand. “We will pray for his safekeeping. But, in this case, no news is good news. Keep up your faith.”
She approached her seat but stopped in front of Carter. “You must be Mr. Forbes,” she said pleasantly.
“I am.”
“I am Miss Avila.” She smoothed her skirts as she lowered herself delicately into the chair. “Is there someone in particular you are hoping to reach today?”
“I thought you’d be able to tell me that, and all the mysteries of the world besides,” he shot back.
A sharp gasp came from the lady on Carter’s other side. The disapproval in the room radiated toward him in waves.
Miss Avila, however, maintained her calm. “I’m afraid I cannot read your mind. I suppose there are some who may be able to do so, but my gifts do not lie in that direction. If you wish to get the attention of those on the other side, it would be best for me to know whom to ask for.”
“My father, Jonathan Forbes,” Carter blurted out. Immediately, he regretted it. He didn’t want to sully Father’s memory with anything this woman might say about him. But another idea sprang to mind. “And my sister, Emily.” He smiled then, trying not to bare his teeth in the process. Just let her try to get out of this one.
Miss Avila had a knack for giving a person her full attention. When she turned her lovely dark eyes to her manservant and motioned for him to close the curtains, it was as though a lighthouse beacon had moved away from his soul.
As the room darkened, she leaned forward to light the single taper in the middle of the table. The manservant departed through a noticeably squeaky door. The candlelight flickered, casting grotesque shadows on the walls around them.
“We must now join hands.”
It took all of Carter’s self-control to keep from rolling his eyes. Of course, if they held hands, no one would be free to catch whoever might cavort about in the darkness beyond the edge of the candlelight to help the woman create her weird effects.
He took the hand she offered in his and held it tightly, to be certain she could not pull away. She made no attempt to do so. Her small, soft hand rested warmly in his, neither grasping nor trying to break free of his grip. Her eyes drifted closed.
Carter sat rigid, straining every sense to discover her means of trickery. Except for the occasional tiny pop from the candle, there was no sound in the room. The silence allowed the sounds outside to press inward—a city symphony of rumbling carriage wheels, clip-clopping hooves, and shouting street hawkers. Somewhere across the street, a piano played a popular ditty. The world was going on all around them, but, shut away in this dark and silent room, they were set apart.
At last, Miss Avila began to speak. She brought a message from the dead to each of the ladies in turn—words of enduring love, whether from a parent, husband, or child, that made them dab at their eyes with lace hankies. Finally, she asked for Catherine Greenfield.
The old fellow shifted, sitting taller. “Catherine? Catherine, are you there?”
“I’m here, Harlan.” Miss Avila now spoke with a slight Southern accent.
“My Catherine. I’ve longed to hear your voice again.”
“We talked before I left. You promised you wouldn’t grieve like this.”
“I know. But I’m just not sure how to get on without you. And now, Ben’s gone off, and…and I’m scared he won’t come back.”
“You must live on, Harlan. Ben’s children need a man about to help keep them in hand. Look to the living, my dear. Look to the living.”
Carter raised an eyebrow. That was not the message he’d expected.
Mr. Greenfield leaned toward the candle, his features taut with anxiety. “Are you telling me Ben is there with you?”
“No, dear.”
“You’re sure?”
“Harlan Greenfield, I think I’d know my own son.”
Tears glistened on the old fellow’s face. “Oh, thank God. Thank God.”
Miss Avila spoke again. “Catherine is gone. Is there an Emily Forbes there who will speak with me?”
Carter searched the woman’s face, but it gave away nothing. She waited patiently as the silence in the room again allowed the outside world to intrude.
At last, she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Forbes; the woman you seek is not on the other side.”
Carter clamped his lips together. She was cunning, he had to hand her that. He had counted on her revealing herself as a fraud by claiming to talk to Emily, who was very much alive and well.
He forced himself to continue the charade. “And my father?”
Once again, Miss Avila appeared to consult with an invisible host.
“He is there but unable to speak to me directly.”
Carter hid a sneer. “He suffered so much during his final illness. I want to make sure he is no longer in pain.”
“There is no illness or suffering in the other world. He says you should not worry about him.” Though she didn’t open her eyes, Miss Avila’s delicate brow furrowed emphatically. “Nor should you be concerned about your disagreement prior to his passing. It was a small matter, and you must not allow it to prey on your mind.”
Carter nearly let go of her hand. How could she possibly know about that?
Miss Avila’s frown deepened, and she shook her head a couple of times. Then her eyes popped open. “They are gone.”  She began to tremble from head to foot and slumped slightly, as if the contact with ghosts had sapped her strength.
She clapped her hands lightly, and the door opened again with another squeal. Carter was nearly convinced that was by design, for all the other appointments in the establishment were in perfect taste. Why would she abide a squeaky door, unless it was a deliberate flaw designed to reinforce the idea that the sitters were entirely alone—that no one else could have entered or exited?
Miss Avila bid her guests farewell, shaking their hands and giving each one a few personal words. She asked about family members and various ills. Took notice of a new bonnet and complimented a handsome necklace. The sitters seemed to brighten under her attention, as if she’d lit a lamp within them.
At last, Carter alone remained with her. He realized afresh how small she was; how her eyes, though dark, were bright and…kind. Once again, she surprised him, and he fumbled for words.
With practiced ease, she stepped in to save him from embarrassment. “Thank you for coming today, Mr. Forbes. I hope you found it enlightening.”
“To be honest, I had hoped for more.”
“Perhaps you are unaware that a sitter’s attitude can affect the ability of the spirits to communicate clearly. Tell me, did one of my clients refer you?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
She cocked her head prettily, waiting for an answer.
Carter decided it wouldn’t hurt to let her stew. He smiled back wolfishly but didn’t elaborate further.
Miss Avila stilled like a rabbit scenting a nearby predator.
***
Juliet didn’t dare move for fear she would give away her agitation. Mr. Forbes was even more than she’d bargained for. A tall man with neatly combed light brown hair and a well-groomed mustache of the same color, he was the sort who might be dismissed if one were fool enough not to notice the intelligence in his gray eyes and the muscular build beneath that stylish coat.
Juliet was no fool. She would not underestimate this man. He wasn’t the type to approach a medium. That meant he’d had a very definite purpose in seeking her out. If that purpose had anything to do with the work that had earned him a pass signed by President Lincoln, she could find her goose cooked.
On the other hand, it could very well have to do with his not-so-dearly-departed sister. As soon as he’d mentioned Emily, Juliet had made the connection. No wonder the name Carter Forbes was so familiar. But did he know of her acquaintance with his sister? At that moment, Juliet remembered something else Emily Forbes had mentioned about her older brother: He was a Pinkerton agent working for the government.
That certainly explained the pass. What it didn’t explain was what he wanted with her.
“I always like to get to know my new clients,” she finally said. “Would you care to join me for tea in the sitting room?”
His smile was thin-lipped. “I’d be delighted.”
Juliet led the way. “Please have a seat. I just need to speak to my housekeeper a moment.”
Once out of sight, she all but ran for the kitchen. Miss Clara and Professor Marvolo were seated at the table.
“All done, dear?” Miss Clara slid a tray of cookies toward her.
“Forbes is a Pinkerton and he wants something. I know it.”
Professor Marvolo turned his clouded gaze toward her. “Describe him.”
Juliet had spent years under the professor’s tutelage. As quickly as she could, she described everything the Pinkerton had said and done, in addition to his appearance. “I had a bad feeling about him from the beginning, so I kept the sitting very simple. No spirit writing. I didn’t want to do anything that he could seize upon.”
“Very wise.” The professor nodded over his fingertips, which he had pressed together as if in prayer. “He’s here on a personal matter.”
“Are you sure? How can you tell?”
“If this were an official investigation, he wouldn’t still be fooling around with tea and verbal sparring. Besides, the Pinkertons are all working for the war effort, in one way or another, and we don’t have a thing to do with that.”
“What should I do?”
“You have to go back in there and talk to him. Find out what he wants. This could be a good thing. Having a Pinkerton on our side might be beneficial.”
Miss Clara patted her arm. “I’ll bring in tea directly.”
Juliet clenched her hands into fists. She could do this. She had to do this. They were counting on her. And while she was not certain they would benefit from having a Pinkerton on their side, it would be a total disaster to have a Pinkerton as an enemy.
She returned to the sitting room. Once again, Mr. Forbes stood as she entered.
“I apologize for the delay. Tea will be brought directly.”
“That sounds good.” He sat as she did. “I’m curious, how long have you had this gift of being able to talk to spirits?”
She smiled. “Anyone can talk to spirits. They are the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us. The real trick is being able to hear them talk back.” She decided to press her luck. “Mr. Forbes, now I must ask you a question.”
“Certainly.”
“Why did you try to make me believe your sister was dead?”
He slid back in his chair. “I think you know the answer.”
“It was a test, then?”
He nodded. “You passed that one with ease.”
Juliet watched him warily. “That one? Was there another test?”
“Oh, yes,” he said smugly. “My father didn’t die of a lingering illness. He was murdered.”
Now Juliet settled back in her seat. “Perhaps you should think over the conversation again. I merely said that there was no illness on the other side, and that he said not to worry about him.”
Artie entered, carrying a tray of tea things.
Alarmed, Juliet sat forward again. She didn’t want him anywhere near this man. “Artie?”
“Miss Clara asked me to bring this to you.” With his back to the agent, he gave her a broad wink.
Juliet refrained from making a face at him.
“And who is this strapping young lad?” Mr. Forbes asked in a too jovial voice.
“This is my son,” Juliet said evenly. “Artie, make your bows.”
Forbes looked from her to Artie and back again.
Juliet answered the unasked question. “He is adopted.”
“I see. It must be difficult, supporting such a large house, as well as a family.”
Juliet felt as if a hand had tightened around her windpipe. “Artie, go on back to the kitchen and help Miss Clara.”  Her eyes warned him not to argue.
When he was gone, Mr. Forbes stood. “Miss Avila, I grow tired of sparring with you. We both know you are a fraud. If I have to, I will send agents by the dozens until someone exposes you. Then I will smear your name in every salon and parlor in the capital. You will never have another client.”
Mouth dry as parchment, Juliet tilted her chin up a notch. “May I know what I have done to earn your enmity?”
“I have a young person I am responsible for, as well. My sister, Emily, whom you introduced to spiritualism.”
Juliet frowned. “Emily sat for me only once, and she was brought by a neighbor.”
“Once was far more than enough. She now believes that she can, in a way, resurrect our parents and keep them close at hand. She’s been taken in by a spurious English nobleman who claims to have powers remarkably similar to your own.”
Juliet knew immediately of whom he spoke. “Lord”  Shelston was gaining quite a following in the area, but he could be cruel and exceptionally greedy, as well, draining his clients of their resources and then discarding them.
“If your worry is with Shelston, why come after me?”
Carter shook his head. “I am not a complete idiot. If I attack her pet directly, Emily will simply consider me too protective. I must tackle this problem at the root.”
“And you believe I am the root of the problem?” She laughed roughly. “Mr. Forbes, my influence is nowhere near as great as you take it to be.”
“Not at all, Miss Avila. I realize your clientele is small, by most standards. But, by shutting down your operation, and those like yours, it lights a fire under Shelston’s feet. He’ll soon find Washington a very inhospitable place.”
Mind awhirl, Juliet sought a way out of this dilemma. “I know Shelston, and I agree with you as to his basic character. I don’t want to see your sister involved with him any more than you do. So, I have a proposal.”
Carter raised a questioning eyebrow, so Juliet rushed on.
“I’ll go with you and tell Emily all I know about him and how he achieves his illusions.”
“And what do you want in return?”
“Your word that you will leave my family and me in peace.”
She could imagine Forbes’s thought process: weighing the pros and cons; deliberating what his sister’s well-being was worth to him; contemplating whether he could live with himself if he let a small fish swim free in order to catch the larger fish he was after.
Finally he held out his hand. “You have a bargain, Miss Avila.”
She grabbed it before he could change his mind and pumped it forcefully. The deal had been struck.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Romance

Whispers on the prairie by Vickie McDonough

My Review:
Sarah Marshall is unsure of where her life is headed. She loves working with the children at the orphanage, but really is hesitate about giving in to the many proposals her suitor is handing out very freely.

When her uncle throws another twist into it, but decided to take her invalid aunt out West, she feels she cannot allow her aunt to go alone and agrees to go with them as far as Santa Fe.

Tragedy strikes, rendering everyone’s plans useless and Sarah finds herself conflicted and confused about many things, but most of all, love.

Will she meet true love on this trip or will she settle for the practical option?

I was very busy and had to read this book over a matter of time, but the story line kept drawing me back into it. Sarah’s predicament seems so uncommon or hard to fathom for us now in the age of independence, but this book gives you eyes into the past. The frustrations a woman would feel, the many male eyes she would have to face, just being a single and available young woman were incredible.

Ms. McDonough does a job of weaving a light, somewhat romantic tale that is light on the romance, in a good way, that will pull you in and make you want to know more. This book left me looking forward to reading her next book! -Martha

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:

Whitaker House (June 17, 2013)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of twenty-six books and novellas. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, she served as treasurer of the organization for three years and also was treasurer for her local chapter. Vickie lives with her husband, Robert, in Oklahoma. They have four grown sons and one daughter-in-law, and are grandparents to a precocious seven-year-old girl. When she isn’t writing, Vickie enjoys reading, shopping for antiques, watching movies, and traveling. Pioneer Promises Book Two, Call of the Prairie, is set for release in January 2014.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The last thing Sarah Marshall wanted was to leave Chicago and travel the dusty Santa Fe Trail, but when her uncle demands she help her feeble aunt, she can’t refuse. Her aunt had taken Sarah in after her parents died. She becomes stranded at the Harper Stage Stop in Kansas, one of the first stops on Santa Fe Trail, and her presence causes a stir. Ethan Harper’s well-ordered life is thrown into turmoil with his two brothers and every unmarried male in the county lining up to woo Miss Sarah whom Ethan views as an uppity city girl.  Is it because she’s the wrong woman for his brother—or the right one for himself?

Product Details:
List Price: $8.76
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (June 17, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603748415
ISBN-13: 978-1603748414

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

March 1870
Chicago
The toddler’s whimpers rose to an ear-splitting scream as the little girl pushed against the chest of the woman holding her captive.
“Here, let me have her, Abigail.” Sarah Marshall reached for Mary, and her friend handed over the fussy child. The girl persisted in her cries, so Sarah crooned to her, swaying in time to a waltz playing in her mind as she rubbed circles on the toddler’s back.
“I don’t see how you can have such patience with her. That obstinate child cries more than all the others in this orphanage combined.” Abigail bent down and reached for a handsome three-year-old boy, who came rushing toward her with a big smile that showed his dimples. “Personally,” Abigail raised her voice over Mary’s ruckus, “I prefer the quiet ones.”
Sarah smiled. “I prefer the needy ones.” She leaned her cheek against Mary’s head. “All is well, little one. All is well.” 
After a few more minutes, the wails finally subsided, and the girl began to relax. She sniffled, her whole body shaking as she finally fell into an exhausted sleep.
“Poor little one.” Sarah’s heart nearly broke for the child, recently orphaned by the death of her mother. At least, at such a young age, she stood a chance to adapt more easily than Sarah had when her parents died. Though the accident that claimed their lives had happened over a decade ago, she still missed her father’s big smile and her mother’s comforting arms.
“You’ll make a good mother one day.” Mrs. Rayburn leaned against the door frame, looking tired. “Are you sure you don’t want to move in here?”
Sarah smiled. “If my aunt was in better health, you know I would take you up on your offer. And I do hope to be a mother someday. If I’m good, as you say, it will be only because I learned from the best.”
Mrs. Rayburn swiped her hand in the air, but Sarah could tell the comment pleased her. If not for the generous care of the well-to-do widow, the six orphaned children who resided under her roof would most likely still be out on the cold Chicago streets, begging for scraps to eat, working for some cruel taskmaster—or worse.
Abigail glided to the center of the bedroom that had been converted into a nursery, holding Tommy on her hip, and pretended to dance with him. “Sarah may take a giant step in the direction of motherhood this very night.”
“Abigail!” Heat marched across Sarah’s cheeks as she thought of Walt and how he’d hinted at proposing—again—at her birthday dinner tonight. “I don’t want that news getting out.”
“Why not?” Abigail spun the boy in a circle, eliciting a giggle. “You aren’t going to turn the poor fellow down again, are you?”
Sarah glared at her best friend, wishing she would learn when to hush. She hoisted Mary higher on her chest and carried her to the adjoining bedroom. Stopping beside Mary’s bed, she rocked the girl from side to side to make sure she was asleep. Though she would never admit it to Abigail, the toddler’s wails did grate on her nerves from time to time, especially when she hadn’t slept well the night before. Holding her breath, she lowered Mary into her bed and then pulled the small quilt over her.
Sarah kept her hand ready to pat Mary’s back, should she stir. Thankfully, she didn’t. Straightening, Sarah checked on the two napping babies. She then tiptoed across the big room to adjust the blanket covering Ian, the six-month-old whose father had deposited him on Mrs. Rayburn’s doorstep last fall. The poor man had lost his wife and couldn’t care for an infant. Sarah’s heart ached for each one of the youngsters. She knew how hard life could be without parents. Still, she counted herself among the lucky ones—she’d been taken in by family, though she hadn’t lived in a house as fine as Mrs. Rayburn’s mansion.
Bending, Sarah filled her apron skirt with rag dolls, balls, and other toys, then deposited them in the toy basket as the mantel clock in the parlor chimed two o’clock. She tiptoed out of the nursery and back into the playroom.
“Time for you girls to head home.” Mrs. Rayburn crossed the room and clapped her hands. “Tommy, would you like to hear a story?”
The three-year-old lunged into the older woman’s arms. She hugged him and then set him down. “My, but you’re getting heavy.”
“Too much porridge, I imagine.” Grinning, Sarah turned to Abigail. “Are you leaving now, too?”
“Yes, Papa is sending his driver for me. See you tomorrow, Mrs. Rayburn.” Abigail waved good-bye as she walked from the room. She stopped in the doorway and faced Sarah. “Do you want a ride to your uncle’s shop?”
“Thank you, but I’ll walk.”
Tommy ran out of the nursery, lifted his little hand, and waved. Mrs. Rayburn followed him into the upstairs parlor and took hold of his hand. “I don’t know how I’d manage without you girls and your friends who volunteer in the evenings. I fear I’m getting too old to manage so many young children.”
Mrs. Rayburn had said the same thing for the past two years, and yet she hadn’t turned Mary away when a neighbor had brought her last week. Still, Sarah couldn’t help wondering if the day would come when the kind woman would feel it necessary to close her door to the orphans. What would happen to them then?
She and Abigail donned their cloaks and left the warmth of the cozy home behind as they stepped out into the blustery chill of March. The gusty wind off Lake Michigan whipped at Sarah’s skirts, and the gloomy sky released a light drizzle. Abigail’s driver stepped out from under the shelter of a nearby tree and opened the door of her carriage.
“Are you sure you won’t let us give you a ride? It’s a miserable day to be out.”
“Thank you, but I’ll be fine. I’m headed home, anyway, and that’s the opposite direction for you.”
“So, you’re not clerking for your uncle this afternoon?” Abigail accepted her driver’s hand and climbed into the buggy. “How did you get out of doing that?” She sat, leaning toward Sarah, her eyebrows lifted.
“I’m going home to help Aunt Emma get things ready for my birthday dinner.” Sarah turned so the wind was at her back and wrapped her fist around the edges of her cloak to hold it closed. “You’re still coming tonight?”
Abigail nodded, grinning. “I wouldn’t miss seeing Walt propose again. I don’t know why you don’t just accept. Your uncle will probably throw you out one of these days, and then where will you be?” She motioned to her driver, who closed the door and scurried up to his seat.
Sarah walked quickly toward State Street. She hadn’t missed how Abigail had poked her with her barbed comment about her uncle casting her out. That very possibility had been in the back of her mind. Uncle Harvey had barely tolerated her presence all these years. He’d never wanted children and wasn’t happy when his wife’s only sister died, leaving behind a daughter. It was a miracle the stingy man had agreed to let her live with them in the first place.
She blew out a sigh of relief at the sight of the horse-drawn trolley, just a block away. Hurrying to the middle of the street, she waited until it drew near, then grabbed the rail and stepped aboard. The sides of the carriage blocked the wind, to a degree, but the chilly air still seeped inside, bringing with it the aromas of baking bread and roasting meat.
The rain picked up, and she was glad she’d decided not to walk home. She stared out the window at the Chicago city streets, teeming with horses and buggies, fancy carriages, freight wagons, and even a man pulling a handcart. Busy people bustled up and down the boardwalks. She loved this town and hoped never to have to leave it.
If she married Walt, most likely she wouldn’t. Yet she struggled with the notion of being his wife. He was a good friend, yes, and she’d hate to disappoint him. Still, shouldn’t a woman have stronger feelings than friendship for the man she married?
Her uncle would be beside himself if she turned Walt down again. Maybe she should just say yes this time. At least then she’d be assured of having a home of her own—and of freeing herself from the heavy sense of owing her uncle. One would think the hours she’d spent doing chores in his home and clerking at his watch repair shop would be sufficient to cover any debt she owed, but she could never do enough to please Uncle Harvey. Still, she was grateful to have lived in his home these last twelve years. She should be satisfied and not wish for more.
And yet she did. She longed to marry a man who made her laugh like her papa had, one whose broad shoulders were strong enough to protect her. But she hadn’t yet met that man. Maybe she never would. Maybe she needed to give up on wishing and just be satisfied with Walt.
*****
Sarah sat back and rested her hands in her lap, smiling in satisfaction with the meal. She stole a glance at the sideboard loaded with food she’d helped her aunt and the cook prepare—roast leg of mutton and currant jelly, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, fried parsnips, and glazed carrots. Just the thought of it all made her stomach ache, and they had not even served dessert yet.
Walt wagged a finger at the servant standing at attention.
The servant hurried to the table from his post in the corner of the room. “Sir?”
“Bring me some more of those parsnips.”
Sarah winced at his commanding tone, then looked to the head of the table. Uncle Harvey was seated next to a stranger—Mr. Gibbons—who’d appeared at the door just before they’d sat down to dinner. The two were having a private discussion, but Sarah had overheard enough to know it was about the benefits of living on the western frontier. She couldn’t imagine what anyone found interesting about the untamed prairie, with its wild Indians and abundance of dust.
At the other end of the table, Lizzie Monahan and Betty Phillips engaged her aunt in a lively chat about the latest styles in fashion, while Abigail sat infatuated with Howard Shibley, Walt’s best friend, who babbled on about a recent report that the population of Chicago had reached 300,000. Sarah nearly rolled her eyes.
“What was that look for?” Walt dabbed his lips with his napkin.
Sarah leaned closer to him, so not to be heard. “If Howard has any hope of winning Abigail’s heart, he should find a more interesting topic of conversation.”
“I doubt romance has even entered his mind.”
“Obviously.” Sarah shook her head.
Walt rested his chin in his palm and caught her gaze, his hazel eyes gleaming. His ash-blond hair had been slicked down and combed back from his forehead. “Speaking of romance, are you ever going to agree to marry me?”
She sucked in a sharp breath and glanced around the table once more. Nobody cast an odd look her way, so she assumed that no one had overheard the oh-so-unromantic proposal. She had pretty much made up her mind to say yes, but his casual manner of asking made her want to shake her head. Schooling her features and straightening her posture, she replied. “I don’t know.”
Walt blinked, obviously taken aback. Seconds later, he scowled, then glanced across the room and motioned to the servant again. The man rushed to his side. “I seem to be out of parsnips again.”
Why couldn’t Walt have just kept quiet? She liked him well enough, but his frequent proposals were producing the opposite of their intended effect; they made her more inclined to avoid him than marry him. She snuck a glance at Abigail, still trying so hard to get Howard to notice her, while the man, clearly oblivious, just kept spouting his knowledge.
Sarah peeked at Walt again. He wasn’t particularly handsome, but he wasn’t ugly, either. He would be a good provider, being the sole heir to his father’s shoe factory, but she had a feeling that life with him would be just as boring as their evenings together. She wanted to marry—to finally be free from her uncle’s overpowering presence and stern glare—but she wanted a man who thought she was the only woman in the world for him. Yes, Walt seemed to feel that way, but something held her back. Was there something wrong with her?
An hour later, she stood at the door to see Walt on his way. Everyone else had already gone.
Walt hung his head and twisted his hat in his hands. “I…uh, won’t ask you again.” He lifted his gaze to hers, pain evident in his eyes.
She’d hurt him, and that was the last thing she’d wanted to do.
“I’m twenty-nine, Sarah. I’m ready to marry and start a family. I need to know if there’s any hope that you’ll say yes one day.”
“And I just turned nineteen—today.”
He closed his eyes and exhaled a heavy sigh. “All right. I’ll give you a few more months to make up your mind.”
Sarah bristled. What if she still didn’t have an answer? “And then?”
He stared at her with a serious, no-nonsense expression she’d never seen before. “And then I’ll be forced to look elsewhere. I mean to be married before I turn thirty.” He slapped his hat on his head and stepped out into the blustery evening wind.
She watched him jog down the steps with more purpose than usual. He wanted to get away from her, and that was just fine, as far as she was concerned. She shut the door. Some birthday party that had been.
The sound of raised voices drew her to the parlor. Her aunt and uncle rarely argued, mainly because Aunt Emma’s chronic illness made her too weary to fuss over trifles.
“Harvey, please. You can’t be serious about this.”
Sarah held her breath, all manner of ideas racing through her mind.
“You might as well come in here, Sarah. I know you’re out there.”
She jumped at her uncle’s stern command and was tempted to slither away, but her curiosity forced her to do as bidden. “I was just saying good night to Walt,” she explained as she entered the room.
“Sit down. I have something to tell you.”
Aunt Emma didn’t look up from the sofa but anxiously wrung her hands.
Sarah sat next to her and laid a steadying hand over her aunt’s.
Her uncle paced in front of the fireplace, where a cozy blaze heated the front half of the room. Still, a shiver clawed its way down Sarah’s spine. Whatever news she was about to hear, it wouldn’t be good, from the looks of it.
Uncle Harvey stopped in front of the hearth, rested one hand atop the mantel, and stared into the flames. “You met Gibbons tonight.” He straightened and stared at her, an unreadable expression in his brown eyes. “He’s a wagon master. Been leading wagon trains down the Santa Fe Trail for the past twenty years.”
Sarah’s thoughts whirled. Again she wondered about her uncle’s interest in such a rugged man as Mr. Gibbons. He hadn’t even worn proper attire for a dinner party.
“Oh, dear. Oh, dear.” Aunt Emma fanned her face. “I fear I’m not feeling well.”
Sarah’s uncle narrowed his gaze at his wife. “You may be dismissed as soon as I’m done.”
Aunt Emma gave him a meek nod, keeping her head down.
Uncle Harvey cleared his throat, drawing Sarah’s gaze again. “The truth of the matter is that my brother has written me from Kansas City to inform me that he’s moving his family to the New Mexico Territory, by way of the Santa Fe Trail.”
“New Mexico?” Sarah pressed her lips closed, knowing her uncle wouldn’t appreciate her outburst. She sidled a glance at her aunt. Why was she so distraught? Turning her attention back to her uncle, she voiced the question that wouldn’t go away. “Why would your brother want to move to such an uncivilized place?”
Uncle Harvey’s nostrils flared, and Aunt Emma uttered a pitiful moan.
“Because there is great opportunity there,” her uncle insisted. “Bob says that one day, the New Mexico Territory will become a state. He has been to Santa Fe and plans to return to open a mercantile there.”
Sarah blinked as she absorbed the information. The truth finally dawned, and she gasped, staring wide-eyed at her uncle. “Surely, you don’t mean to go there, too.”
He lifted his chin, revealing his wrinkled, white neck from its hiding place beneath his beard. “I most certainly do. Chicago has dozens of watchmakers. According to Bob, Santa Fe doesn’t have a single one. I plan to set up shop next to his store. We’ll build a door between the two, so that we can assist each other when things get busy.”
Sarah could see her well-ordered life spiraling out of control. She’d already lost her parents. How could she stand to lose Aunt Emma, too? Sarah stood and started pacing the room. “You already have as much business as you can handle. And how could you expect Aunt Emma to endure such a difficult trip?”
“I’ve talked to the doctor, and he says the warmer climate will be much better for her. Lydia will be there to take care of her if she falls ill.”
Falls ill? Didn’t he realize his wife was nearly always unwell? She’d been sickly ever since she’d survived a bout of scarlet fever a year before Sarah had come to live with them. The sickness had left her frail and had robbed her of her hearing in her right ear.
Sarah doubted Aunt Emma could survive such a rugged journey. “Won’t you reconsider, Uncle?”
He shook his head. “My mind is made up.”
“And what about me?” Could she stay in this big house alone? He’d always expected her to pay her own way, and she could hardly afford a place as nice as this two-story brownstone.
He shrugged. “I expect you to marry Walt, and then you’ll be his responsibility. I’ve already sold the house, so you can’t stay here.”
Her aunt gasped and stood. “How could you do such a thing without consulting me?”
Sarah’s heart ached for her aunt. How could Uncle Harvey be so insensitive?
“Now, Emma. It’s my place to make such decisions. You’ll see once we arrive in Santa Fe that this move was for the best.”
Emma screeched a heart-wrenching sob and ran from the room, her dark green silk dress swishing loudly.
Sarah had never once stood up to her intimidating uncle before. This time, concern for her aunt stiffened her spine, and she turned on him. “How could you be so selfish? Such a trip will probably kill Aunt Emma! Is that what you want?”
His nostrils flared. “She is no concern of yours.” He walked to the dark window and stared out through the panes. “I never wanted you to come here, you know. I never wanted children. They’re nothing but a nuisance. I will concede that you’ve been good for Emma, but she needs to learn to get along without you.” He turned back to her, his eyes narrowed. “Marry Walt. He’s a decent fellow.”
She’d always known her uncle hadn’t wanted her, but hearing the words spoken out loud pained her as badly as if she’d been stabbed in the heart. Out of respect for her aunt, she didn’t lash out at him as she wanted to. “I’m not ready to marry yet.” Uncle Harvey may have housed her all these years, but that didn’t give him the right to force her to wed a man she didn’t love. “I…I can find a boardinghouse to stay in.”
He smirked. “And how do you intend to pay for it?”
A wave of panic washed over her. She had a few coins her aunt had given her—nowhere near enough to live on, even for a short time. “I’ll find another job. Since I’ve worked for you for so long, I’ve honed my office skills and have plenty of experience.”
“Hmpf. What employer would hire a female clerk when he can so easily find a man to do the task?”
Sarah dropped back onto the sofa, realizing the truth of his statement. What would she do? Where would she live? How could she manage without her aunt’s loving guidance? The last time she’d felt as empty and confused as she did now was when she’d learned that her parents had died.
Quick footsteps sounded outside the room, and Sarah and her uncle both looked to the door. Her aunt had returned, her eyes damp, her face red and splotchy. With a trembling hand, she held a handkerchief below her nose. Sarah longed to embrace her aunt, but she would wait until her uncle left them alone.
“I see it’s too late to change your mind,” she said, her voice quavering. “You’ve wounded me deeply, Harvey. I hope you know that.”
He started toward her, his expression softening, and took her hands. “Haven’t I always taken care of you, darling? Have you ever lacked for anything?”
Her aunt didn’t respond, but Sarah could tell by her expression that she didn’t share her husband’s perspective. Steeling her gaze, Emma stared up at him with rare determination in her eyes. “I won’t go without Sarah.”
“What?” Sarah and her uncle exclaimed at once.
“I won’t go unless she goes, too.” Emma hiked her chin.
Sarah didn’t know what to say. This was the first time she had seen Aunt Emma stand up to her husband, and she couldn’t bear to tell her that her efforts were wasted. But the last thing Sarah cared to do was leave Chicago and travel on a wagon train to Santa Fe.
Even marriage to Walt would be preferable to that.

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Grace’s Pictures by Cindy Thomson

Grace’s Pictures

By Cindy Thomson

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

 

From Back Cover:

Grace McCaffery hopes that the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise that the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.

 

My Review:

I started this book after reading a very sad book, and found while this one was not much happier, it gives a great picture into the life of Irish in the early 1900’s. The author says in the back of the book, she tweaked a few historical details to write the story, the story seemed fairly accurate.

Grace seemed very naive, ignorant almost, but I believe that was from her past experiences in Ireland. She mistrusts even those that are kind to her and try to help her. Her fascination with cameras and picture taking just seems to get her into more and more messes, but also attracts the attention of a handsome young police officer. I found that the story moved slowly at times, but was sweet in the story of Grace learning that she needed to let go of some of her fear. I hope that later she grew to appreciate even what her stepfather did to help save her from the workhouse.

I had never read any books by this author before, but it was a great book, and one that I would recommend to any lover of historical fiction.

I received this book for review from Tyndale Blog Network, the opinions contained in it are my own.

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