Archive for May, 2009

Susan May Warren’s Sugar Blast Party!

Sugar Blast! Come Party with author Susan May Warren on June 19th

Susan May Warren is hosting a Sugar Blast Party on June 19th!  And YOU can join the fun….

Here’s Susan to tell us all about it…PJ Sugar is a girl who I’ve fallen in love with – and I’m excited that others have too! I wrote PJ for everyone who feels just a little messy, just a little like they can’t quite get it right. (I’m so there!) And who needs to hear that God loves them. Period. Full stop. Hallelujah.

Grab a few of your friends…some sugar cookies (or whatever Sugary goodness you prefer), your favorite beverage and your computer and let’s chat. June 19th from 5-7 PM PST, I’ll be answering your questions, giving you a sneak peak into book 2 in the PJ Sugar collection, letting you test your trivia skills, giving away books and a GINORMOUS Sugar Basket! Also…everyone in attendance will receive a downloadable book plate and discussion questions for Nothing But Trouble for your book club, reading group, or just for yourself!

So grab a few of your friends and come join me on June 19th from 5-7 pm (PST) on Facebook.

My Facebook account name is Susan May Warren

Tour De Force: A Love Story by Elizabeth White

About the Book:

41Iyu5PUaJL._SS500_.jpgGillian Kincade is a soloist with Ballet New York, a sought-after guest artist, and a committed Christian. Though she may be an anomaly in the world of dance, Gilly believes her devotion to God isn’t compromised by following her dreams. Then she meets Jacob Ferrar.

Jacob is the brilliant young artistic director of the Birmingham Ballet Theatre and a born-again Christian. When he offers Gillian the lead in his latest ballet she accepts, knowing it won’t necessarily further her career, but it will touch her soul.

On the chaotic road to opening night, Gilly and Jacob develop a deep professional respect for each other and begin to fall in love. Then their brilliant first performance is destroyed by a terrible accident, and suddenly both must face an uncertain future. Together, they dance the fine line between personal vision and God’s will, listening for the guidance of the Father’s heart.

About the Author:

whitee.jpg Elizabeth White (www.elizabethwhite.net) is the author of

Controlling Interest, Off the Record, Fair Game, Fireworks,

and the Texas Gatekeepers series for Steeple Hill’s

Love Inspired Suspense line.

She lives in Mobile, Alabama.

My thoughts:

I have waiting for Elizabeth White’s new book for months.  First because I love her writing, and secondly because it involves ballet!  I have long been a fan of the ballet, the dancing, the music, and how it all comes together, beautiful.

Tour De Force features a character we have met before if you have read Elizabeth’s book Off the Record.  Laurel’s sister Gilly is the main character.  She is a fun spitfire character with a heart for the Lord.  We also get to meet Jacob, who is a handsome, Godly man who loves his family and the ballet.  We also get to meet some great characters such as Victoria and Dimitri.  The driving force behind this book is the characters.  We get to know each of the characters, where they are in life and where they are in their relationship, or lack thereof, with the Lord.  One of my favorite things about Elizabeth’s books is her development of her characters.  You get to know Gilly and Jacob, their struggles, their triumphs, and their growth.

Tour De Force takes place in Alabama and New York.  It was fun to see the differences in the culture between the two places, it is very distinctively different and Elizabeth does a fabulous job of showing the differences but keeping it realistic.  It was also fun to get to know Gilly and Jacob’s families and how they were important to them.

If you like character driven books full of romance, emotions, stumbles, and triumphs you will love Tour De Force!

Continue reading ‘Tour De Force: A Love Story by Elizabeth White’

A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman

My bloggy Friends…. I am SO excited to share with you today about one of my most favorite Authors, Julie Lessman, and her book A Passion Denied (my most favorite book this year!)

About the Book:

Has she fallen in love with a man who cannot love her back?

Lessman_final Redeemed low res.jpgElizabeth O’Connor has been like the little sister John Brady always wanted, sharing his love of literature and his thirst for God. But in the throes of the reckless Roaring Twenties, Lizzie has grown up. Suddenly she wants more from the man who has been her friend since she was a child. When this shy little bookworm blossoms into a beautiful young woman bent on loving John, she discovers that his past won’t let him return that love. But Lizzie refuses to give up–until his shocking secrets push her away.

Can true love survive the betrayal and deceitful of a painful past . . . or will it be shattered like the fairy-tale dreams of a girl in love?

Brimming with romance, longing, and redemption, A Passion Denied, will quicken your pulse and gladden your heart with a riveting story of the true power of love.

About the Author:

Julie-Lessman-2-1.jpgJulie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law.  A Passion Most Pure is her first novel. (she has also published A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied)

What I thought:

Lizzie O’Connor is infatuated with John Brady.  She knows it is love, but alas he thinks of her as a sister….or does he?

Sigh.  I am going to have to tell y’all right off Julie knows how to tell a story.  As I closed the book with tears streaming down my face I just smiled.  To be honest I have been long waiting for the book.  I have loved Elizabeth from book one, A Passion Most Pure.  She reminds me so much of me!  A believer in true love, fairy tales, and a lover of books.  She is a dreamer.  And with the introduction of John Brady in book two…well I wanted to meet that fellow in real life :)  He is handsome, and hardworking, and just a good guy.

Not only do you get Elizabeth’s story and John’s story in A Passion Denied but you once again get to catch up with the O’Connor clan.  You get to see into the marriages of Faith and Collin, and Charity and Mitch.  And you get to see the family dynamics between the sisters.  And of course we get to learn more about Marcy and Patrick.   One of my favorite things about the Daughter’s of Boston series has been the characters.  All of them!  I am a series kind of girl.  I love getting to know all of the family characters and enjoy getting the glimpses into their lives.  Julie does a fabulous job of weaving together not only the main character’s stories but the back story of the family.  You get a real idea of family dynamics in the Daughter’s of Boston series, you get to see how sibling rivalry can affect relationships, or what happens when there is tension between the parents or you get to see how sometimes marriage problems can lead to intimacy problems.  Nothing is glossed over but it is dealt with, even if it may be painful.  I loved the introduction of a new character, Cluny.  His scenes in the book made me laugh and made me cry.  He represents so many of us, looking and longing for love.  If you cannot tell by now, A Passion Denied is my favorite book this year. :)

In A Passion Denied we get to see how we can let our past destroy us, if we let it.  John Brady has a past that most people would regret.  In fact I cringed at times and my heart hurt thinking of how wounded he was.  Julie does an amazing job of creating tension.  Real life tension.  As I was reading I realized how much I am so like the characters in the book.  I know things in my head but often I don’t transfer them to my heart.  I know God forgives but sometimes I forget to forgive myself.

The reason I connect with Julie’s books so much is this simple fact, she creates a wonderful world of romance and passion with the powerful message of the goodness and grace of our God.  My Friends this is why I recommend her to so many people.  Well that and she is one of my most favorite people :)

I personally cannot wait for 2010 to get here so we can finally read Katie’s story….she is a spitfire and I am sure her story is going to be a crazy ride!

A GIVEAWAY!!!

So because I love Julie’s books (and her!) I am going to give away one of the books in the Daughter’s of Boston Series.  So if you have not had a chance to start the series, or a chance to finish the series…here is your chance!

Just leave a comment on this post and you will be entered in the giveaway…

and if you Twitter about the contest (with the url to this page) you can get an extra entry…just come back here and comment again with your twitter name and you will have TWO entries!

The giveaway is open until Friday, May 29 at midnight. (giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada)

I will then use random.org to choose a winner and email them the good news :)

Good Luck!

Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren

I am so excited to be a stop today on the Nothing But Trouble Blog tour!

About the book:

Nothing But Trouble.jpg

PJ Sugar Knows 3 things for sure:

  • After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that’s become her life, she needs a fresh start.
  • The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister’s wedding is Boone—her former flame and the reason she left town.
  • Her best friend’s husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota, has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn’t know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she’ll uncover much more than she bargained for—a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe, just maybe, that fresh start she’s been longing for.

It’s not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her hometown, looking for a fresh start. Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend’s husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder–who also happens to be PJ’s former flame–is convinced it’s an open-and-shut case, PJ’s not so sure. She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend’s husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right.

SMW headshot 1.JPG

About Susan:

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.


Read the first chapter!

I have long enjoyed Susan’s books and this one was no exception!  PJ Sugar is a gal that trouble seems to love to follow.  In fact you could say she is a mess.  And how often do we feel like we are a mess!

She ran away from home only to come back years later at the request of her sister.  The dynamics of the characters in Nothing But Trouble are fascinating.  And real.  From the get go I felt like I understood PJ.  She felt like she messed everything up and she could do nothing right.

PJ is possibly my favorite Susan May Warren character because I could relate to her so well.  The feeling of always trying and no one noticing, and in the end feeling abandoned.  How often does that situation speak to our heart.  Nothing But Trouble is a quick read because you will not want to put it down, and for all the seriousness there is a lot of laughter too!  I cannot wait to see what happens to PJ in the next book, Double Trouble, due out in early 2010!

You can see the rest of the tour here!

Getting into some trouble….

Get in Trouble with PJ Sugar on May 15 - come join the fun with author Susan May Warren

Today is Get in Trouble with PJ Sugar day! (umm does this not sound like the most fun ever!)

Today you can purchase a copy of Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren and enter her Sugar Bomb Contest!

You can purchase the book at Amazon, or Christian Book.com, or your local bookstore.

Then go visit Susan May Warren’s Contest Page and you could win a fabulous Spa Basket.

So…go get into some trouble today!

And come back on Thursday May 21st for more info about Nothing But Trouble and my review :)

Murder by Family: The Incredible True Story of a Son’s Treachery and a Father’s Forgiveness by Kent Whitaker

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:

Murder by Family: The Incredible True Story of a Son’s Treachery and a Father’s Forgiveness

Howard Books (May 12, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kent Whitaker was happily married to Tricia for 27 years, until she and their younger son Kevin were murdered in December, 2003. At that point, Kent retired from the construction business and put his energies into restoring his life and working with his remaining son Bart, who was charged and later given the death penalty for arranging the shootings.

This story has been featured on CBS’s crime program 48 Hours Mystery and on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Taping for ABC’s Primetime and Good Morning America has been completed, with airings scheduled for Spring of 2009. In September, 2008, Howard Books (Simon & Schuster) released his book Murder by Family, which tells this amazing (and ultimately uplifting) story of forgiveness, healing and how God works within tragedy to bring about great good. Murder by Family was recently named to the New York Times Best Seller List.

Through a busy schedule of speaking nationally, Kent shares his story of forgiveness and new beginnings to churches, business groups, conferences, and prisons. He also volunteers for nonprofit organizations in the Sugar Land, Texas, area and for River Pointe Community Church.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (May 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439164606
ISBN-13: 978-1439164600

Also available in hardcover:

List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (September 23, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416578137
ISBN-13: 978-1416578130

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The First 200 Minutes

I had always heard that your life flashed before your eyes. But that’s not what happened as I lay on the cold concrete that December night, watching the blood from a gunshot wound cover my white shirt. Instead, I found myself praying for my family. There had been four shots, one for each of us.

I told God that if it were my time, I was ready to die, but I prayed that he would spare my wife and two sons. I called to each of them but got no response except for a few quiet, wet coughs from my wife, Tricia. Although I couldn’t see her from where I had fallen, I knew that it was her because when I had first tried to get up, I saw her blond hair splayed out on the threshold of our home’s front door. Though I had never heard that kind of cough before, I instinctively knew it was the sound of a person trying to clear lungs filling with blood. The silence coming from the dark house was horrible. My God, I thought, he’s shot us all.

Life can change in a moment. Just seconds earlier we had been a happy family of four returning from a surprise dinner celebrating our older son Bart’s anticipated college graduation. He had called that afternoon, telling Tricia that he was through with exams and was coming home for the evening. We had enjoyed a great seafood dinner, including a dessert with “Congratulations!” written with chocolate syrup on the plate’s edge. I snapped a few pictures, and then we took the short drive home. How strange that those would be the last photos we would ever have together.

As we got out of the car, our younger son, Kevin, a sophomore in college, led the way to our front door. He stepped inside, with Tricia right behind him. I heard a huge noise, but I didn’t immediately recognize it as a gunshot. A moment of silence, and then Tricia exclaimed, “Oh, no!” as another shot was fired. I still didn’t understand what was happening. I stepped forward and for the first time saw inside the house. The light from the front porch illuminated a ski-masked figure about eight feet away, standing next to the stairs. I couldn’t see Kevin, though he was lying in the shadows next to where the man was standing, or Tricia, who must have been right by my feet. I just stood there wondering which one of Kevin’s goofball friends was playing a joke on us with the paintball gun.

Suddenly I was slammed in the shoulder with enough force to send me spinning back and to my left. Landing face up on the front porch, I still didn’t grasp what was happening. As I tried to get up, I felt a searing pain in my right arm and realized it was badly broken. A fourth shot rang out as comprehension flooded in. We had been shot. We had all been shot. It struck me that I might be dying.

Then my neighbor Cliff was kneeling over me, comforting me. “Don’t worry, buddy! Help is on the way!”

In the distance I heard sirens as Cliff pulled off his T-shirt and pressed it to my wound. I realized then that no one knew where the shooter was and that Cliff might be in danger. I panicked. “Get out of here! He may still be inside!”

Cliff told me to hold on and ran for home. Moments later a squad car pulled up in front of our house, and then another, and a third. I was aware of more sirens, including the deep foghorn of a fire truck, but they were still far away. With heightened senses I heard muffled footfalls as police ran into and around the house, guns drawn and flashlights flicking illumination into the shadows. After only a minute or two someone called out that the house was clear. By then the whole cul-de-sac that faced our home was full of emergency vehicles. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes since the shootings.

People were everywhere. Neighbors were streaming out of their homes while paramedics swarmed. Two men worked on me, cutting away my leather jacket and shirt, trying to stop the bleeding. I repeatedly asked for information on my family, and finally one of the paramedics quietly said, “Sir, please, let us do our job. You’re in good hands, and lots of good folks are with the rest of your family.”

Then, over all the confusion and noise, as they hurried inside the house, I heard one policeman ask another, “What do you want to do about the DOA?”

My heart froze. Dead On Arrival. I knew that at least one of my family members had died. But which one? And why? Were they all dead?

The sound of a helicopter cut through the night, and I saw the landing lights and then the cherry-red body of Life Flight. Three paramedics raced a gurney down the sidewalk, and one of the police officers told me that they were taking Tricia to the hospital. My heart leaped with joy, because that meant she was still alive. Thank God! But then I realized that this also meant that at least one, and by now perhaps both, of my boys were dead. I began to shake all over and knew I was going into shock. I chattered to the paramedics that I was freezing and that they had better get something to cover me. They replied that as soon as Tricia’s Life Flight took off, the second Life Flight would land for me.

What? Life Flight for me? Was I hurt worse than I realized? Did this mean that both boys were already dead, and there was no need for them to be flown to the medical center?

I really didn’t have time to think about it: with a storm of air and sound, the helicopter took off, and moments later a second one landed. I was put on a gurney, covered with warm sheets and a blanket, and stowed in the back. With the high-pitched scream of jet turbines, we took off and began our eight-minute flight to the Houston Medical Center, part of perhaps the finest network of hospitals in the country. If anyone could keep my family alive, the medical staff there could.

Minute 30—Flashback

As we flew, I caught occasional glimpses of freeways and buildings through the copilot’s floor windows. My mind jumped back six months to my only other helicopter ride. The boys and I were in Colorado, on an adventure to celebrate my fifty-fifth birthday. We spent one day mountain biking and another racing along challenging trails on four-wheel ATVs. But my favorite part of the trip was the two days of intense white-water rafting on the Arkansas River as it snaked through the Royal Gorge. While on the river, we saw a sleek red helicopter crest the gorge 1,100 feet above us, roll into a steep dive, and pull up just before hitting the river. It rocketed fifty feet over us, blasting us with downdraft. All six of us guys in the raft went wild.

The next day we took the ride.

It was like a roller coaster without tracks. Incredible! The boys and I enjoyed it so much that we did it again two days later before coming home; it was one of the most wonderful memories of my life. But as I looked out at the lights of the hospital landing pad, remembering that fantastic trip, I felt as though I were watching the home videos of some other person; there was just no connection. I was numb.

Minute 40—In the Trauma Unit

It only took a moment for the trauma team to whisk me inside, where I was surrounded by doctors and nurses – none of whom would tell me anything about my family. The next thing I knew, my mom and dad were there. Someone from the hospital administration arrived, and when I asked her about my wife and sons, she told me not to worry: my son Bart was being transferred by ambulance and would arrive shortly. He would be treated in this same room, just a few feet from me. That told me everything, as I read between the lines. They were only working on two of us.

I turned to my parents. “Mom, I think there’s a good chance that Tricia and Kevin are dead.” Turning to the woman from administration, I asked, “Isn’t that so?” She looked at me for a long moment, nodded her head, and said that it was.

Bart was wheeled into the room a few moments later. I learned that he had rushed into the dark house and, in an apparent scuffle with the shooter, had been shot in the left arm. He was in shock, reacting to the horror of everything. The trauma team scurried around, cleaning wounds and applying temporary casts, since both of us had broken arms. The bullet had entered my right shoulder and traveled through the arm muscle, striking midhumerus and shattering the bone. Bart’s upper left arm was broken where the bullet had hit. Amid the organized chaos, things began to sink in; God was allowing the truth to come a little at a time.

I felt God’s presence and comfort. On one hand I was beginning to absorb how radically things had changed, while on the other I had a calm assurance that I was not alone and that God would knit whatever happened into his plans for good. Scriptures of comfort came to mind. It was as if God gave me a shot of emotional Novocain. Even though I was becoming more aware of the extent of the tragedy, I trusted God.

Before I knew it, I was being wheeled out of the trauma center and into a corridor. As we passed through the big emergency room doors, I was met by forty or fifty friends. I rolled through a canyon of loved ones. Touched by the grief and worry in their eyes, I began to comfort them. I can’t explain it; the words just came out. My response was unexpected and somewhat out of character.

Later that night, after the nurses had gone, I was finally alone with my thoughts. I lay there trying to wrap my mind around it all—and wasn’t doing a very good job. Piece by piece the reality settled onto my soul.

Minute 180—Reality and Choices

My wife, my lover, my best friend, the one who knew and loved me better than any other, to whom I had been true for twenty-eight years, was dead. My son Kevin, with his incredible Christian faith, his crazy, fun-loving personality, and his passion for sports and the outdoors, would never graduate from college, marry, or give us grandchildren. Bart was down the hall suffering a grief and shock that seemed even more intense than what I was feeling. At fifty-five, I would be facing the last third of my life without most of my family.

For years I have told people that faith is not a feeling but a conscious act of the will. You have to choose to trust and believe, especially when circumstances and your feelings are screaming that you can’t trust God . The Bible says that God can take everything and work it for good for those who love him and are called to his service; well, Tricia and Kevin loved him, and so did I. We were all called to his service, but how could these murders possibly be worked for good? I could imagine no such scenario. And if that verse of the Bible was untrustworthy, what other verses might not apply when I needed them? I might as well throw it all away.

So, here I was, in the middle of a horrific situation in which I had to choose either to go with my feelings and slip into bitterness and despair or to follow my own advice and stand on God’s promises even when they don’t make sense. I wrestled with this for a long time, because I knew that I could go either way and that the consequences of the choice were serious.

Finally, I made the decision to stand on the promises of God. It was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made.

When I resolved to trust God, I felt a peace come over me that had nothing to do with the morphine drip. The next thought popped unexpectedly into my mind: What about the shooter?

I realized that God was offering me the ability to forgive, if I wanted to take advantage of it. Did I really want to forgive this guy? I know the Bible says we are to forgive those who hurt us. I know God tells us that vengeance is his, if he chooses dispense it. I have even heard secular health professionals say that forgiveness is the most important thing people can do to heal themselves. But did I really want to forgive, even if God was offering a supernatural ability to do so?

In an instant the answer sprang full-grown into my mind. My heart told me that I wanted whoever was responsible to come to Christ and repent of this awful act. At that moment I felt myself completely forgiving him. This forgiveness astounded me, because earlier I had experienced feelings of incredible sadness and intense anger and the desire to kill the person responsible with my own hands. Little did I realize just how important my decision to forgive would be in the coming months.

I have had a hundred people tell me that they think I’m nuts—that I should hate the shooter and cry out for vengeance. Perhaps I am crazy, but I believe that in those early moments God worked supernaturally, allowing me to forgive completely and immediately, because he had plans for me, and those plans required that I have the forgiveness problem settled once and for all.

For the next two days, as Bart and I waited in our rooms for surgery, we had a nearly unprecedented number of visitors. People were always lined up in the halls waiting to see us; they came and went day and night. In fact, the crowding was so severe that the hospital converted a double room on our floor into a hospitality suite stocked with fruit baskets, cookies, coffee, soft drinks, sofas, and chairs. The hospital showed a lot of class, but I think crowd control was also an important factor.

The next day I had my first visit from Detective Marshal Slot and his partner Billy Baugh from the Sugar Land Police Department. They questioned me extensively about what had happened, and I cooperated, telling them I would do everything I could to help them find out who was responsible for this murderous attack.

The detectives returned a day later to tell me they had learned that Bart was not about to graduate from college after all. In fact, he was not even enrolled in school. I was shocked at the news and horrified at the realization that, if this were true, this knowledge coupled with some mistakes Bart had made years earlier might distract the police from searching for the real killer and lead them to look at Bart as a possible suspect. Marshal told me that they were looking at every possibility, which confirmed my fears.

After they left I fumbled my way into a wheelchair and rolled down to Bart’s room, where I found him asleep, as he seemed to be whenever I came to visit. It was as if he had crawled into a hole, trying to escape this nightmare. I asked his girlfriend (who had camped out at the hospital since the first morning) for a few minutes alone with my son.

“Bart, what were you thinking? You weren’t even in school? How could you lie to us about graduation?”

Bart seemed to forcibly pull himself out of some private hell as he sat up in his bed. The curtains were closed, and the room was dark. Gloom pervaded the atmosphere, with those areas just outside the edge of my vision in deepest shadow. At the time the thought did little more than register in my subconscious, but I would later recall this oppressive darkness and do much thinking about it. For now, my thoughts were focused on Bart. A momentary flicker of strange emotions danced in his eyes; he seemed to careen between grief, shame, regret, and fear.

“Dad, I’m so sorry! I didn’t want to tell you because I knew how much you and Mom were looking forward to my graduation. I just figured I could work it out and take the classes next semester, and nobody would know.”

“Nobody would know!” I was furious. “How would we not know? How would they let you graduate? How did you get into this mess in the first place?”

“Things were crazy at work all summer. Some guys quit, everybody was working long hours, and with school starting, I just didn’t have enough time. I’m so sorry! I decided to help at work and make up school in the spring.”

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Thanks to this ‘little’ lie about graduation, the police think you’re a suspect! In fact, right now you seem to be their only suspect. You weren’t in school, you told everyone you were graduating, and they think you arranged to have us killed to cover it up. Can you see how stupid that was? Your lie has done the impossible—it has made Tricia and Kevin’s deaths even worse because now the police think you were involved! Do you have any idea how bad this is?”

Years ago, on a bike ride, I saw a hawk fly right over me, so close I could almost touch it. Clutched within its talons was a field mouse, still alive. I saw the bird swoop up to its nest, bringing breakfast to her young; it would be impossible to forget the look of resignation and terror in the mouse’s eyes as he passed over me. For a moment I saw the same look in Bart’s eyes, but it was gone almost instantly, replaced with resolve.

“Dad, that’s nuts! I didn’t have anything to do with the shootings! I’m sorry about the lie, it just happened. I didn’t mean to lie to you and Mom—I was just afraid of what you would say, and I didn’t want to disappoint you. This will be okay.”

“I don’t know. I’m so mad now, I could spit! I’ve told you before: you cannot ever allow yourself to start lying again! Look at the consequences of this one! If you hadn’t told the lie about graduation, they would be looking elsewhere and might find the real killer before the trail gets cold. Now they’re wasting time on you, and who knows how long they’ll keep at it!”

After a while I calmed down, and I told him I loved him and that the police would soon realize nothing tied him to the shootings. I went back to my room, still angry, disappointed, and depressed. What would happen next?

As the days passed, two things happened: First, the investigation centered more and more on Bart as the mastermind of a plot to kill the rest of the family, assuming that his motives were greed and to cover up for failures at school. Second, I came to realize that perhaps my life had been spared for a reason. God must have something important for me to do, because I could see no logical explanation for my still being alive. The bullet hit me well away from my right lung, and nearly six inches from my heart. The gunman couldn’t have been that bad a shot. Not at that close range.

It occurred to me that perhaps my purpose was to be God’s agent of guidance and instruction for Bart. If he was innocent, I would be the anchor he relied on as he weathered the storms of suspicion; I wouldn’t let him go through that horror alone. If he was guilty, I would be in a unique position to model God’s unconditional forgiveness and love. I might be the person God would use to soften Bart’s heart. And since I already had forgiven whoever was responsible, if Bart was guilty, he would be covered in a pure forgiveness, granted before I ever thought it might apply to my son. Either way, until I knew more, I would be nonjudgmental and supportive. While I couldn’t gloss over anything or minimize the consequences of any wrongs Bart might have committed, I still needed to show him that God forgives and that there is always hope.

Maybe I’m crazy. But I took comfort in knowing that I was doing what God wanted me to do. I like reading that line in the Bible about the wisdom of God being foolishness to man. Maybe a nut was exactly whom God intended to use.

The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard

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 House in Grosvenor Square

Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Linore Rose Burkard is the creator of Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the English Regency (ca. 1800-1830). With a unique blend of Christian faith, romance, and well-researched details of the period, Linore’s stories will make you laugh and sigh, keeping you glued to the page to the very last word. The House in Grosvenor Square continues the Regency Series which began with the wildly popular Before the Season Ends. Once again readers are invited to experience a romantic age, where timeless lessons apply to modern life, and happy endings are possible for everyone! Linore grew up in NYC, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children. A longtime fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Linore delights in bringing Regency England to life for today’s reader.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925651
ISBN-13: 978-0736925655

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Mayfair, London

1813

Inexplicable. There was no other word for Mr. Mornay’s behaviour to her that morning, and Ariana Forsythe could think of naught else unless it changed. Soon.

She looked at him challengingly, where he sat across from her in his expensive, plush black coach. Faultlessly handsome, Phillip Mornay was dressed stylishly in a twin-tailed frock coat, buff pantaloons and polished black boots. His beautifully tied cravat puffed lightly out from an embroidered white waistcoat, and his dark hair and famously handsome features were framed by a top hat. Everything he wore looked new, his clothing always did; and yet he might have worn it a dozen times, so comfortable did he appear in his attire.

But he had barely looked at Ariana for more than a fleeting second since he had come for her

this morning, and it was beginning to grate on her nerves. She had to think of something to say.

“Tomorrow is the day I shall see the full of your house, is it not?” She had been in Mr. Mornay’s house in Grosvenor Square before, but this time she and Aunt Bentley were to get a tour, top to bottom, so she would feel more at home after the wedding. She and Mr. Mornay were betrothed to be married in two weeks.

The dark eyes flicked at her, and she felt a fleeting twinge of satisfaction.

“It is.”

She wanted to hold his attention, and began a smile, but he looked away, abruptly. What could be wrong? Mr. Mornay often studied her when they were together; she was so used to finding the dark-eyed warm gaze upon her, in fact, that she felt somewhat abandoned to be deprived of it, now. Had she done something to displease him? When he usually attended to her so deeply as though he could read into her soul?

They were on their way to the London Orphan Society, in Mr. Mornay’s upholstered coach-and-four, with its fashionable high-steppers and liveried footmen on back, to attend a special service at the Society’s Chapel. A lady was giving a dramatic reading from Scripture; a most celebrated dramatic reading. Ariana and Mr. Mornay had received invitations for the event, with encouragement to invite anyone of their acquaintance. Thus, there were also four other occupants in the carriage this morning, and seating was snug.

On either side of Ariana was a relation. Her younger sister, Beatrice, just turned twelve, was to her left, and her aunt and chaperon for the season, Mrs. Agatha Bentley, sat on her right. The ladies faced the gentlemen sitting across from them; first, Mr. Peter O’Brien, a future cleric, at Beatrice’s particular request; then Ariana’s future husband, Mr. Mornay, silent and unapproachable, and finally, the agreeable Mr. Pellham, her aunt’s betrothed. (She and her aunt were betrothed at the same time. A most fortuitous turn of events; Ariana ought to have been in raptures of joy.) But unless Mr. Mornay’s demeanour changed, Ariana could not enjoy herself. His inattentiveness was such a contrast to his usual behaviour that it was impossible for her to ignore it, or shrug it off as mere ill humour.

It seemed ironic now that when all had been uncertain about the wedding, (when Ariana had held out against her desire to marry Mr. Mornay because she would only marry a man who could share her spiritual life in God,) that up to then, his love and affection were painfully clear. And now, after Mr. Mornay had undergone a stark change in his religion; that is, when he came to believe in a personal, loving God, and the betrothal was settled, suddenly he was behaving as though he wished it were not.

Sitting across from her, he should have been engaging her with his usual intent gaze, smiling slightly at her remarks when she amused him or spoke to others; instead, he sat staring out the window (a thing he never did) and appeared to be morosely preoccupied in his own thoughts. It pricked against her nerves. She would bring him out of this brown study if it took all her ingenuity!

And then he suddenly turned and spoke: “Did I mention I shall be occupied for the rest of the day? After leaving you at your house, following the morning’s service?”

Her large, tan eyes sparkled into bluish-green as they tended to do whenever her feelings were stirred. “No, sir; you mentioned nothing to me.” She gave him a look laden with perplexity, which he responded to only with a brief, “Haven’t I? Well, I’ve done, now.”

Oh, dear. He is utterly not himself! Or has he taken a disgust of me?

The carriage fell silent. Mr. Mornay had thick, dark hair which tapered to the tip of his collar; short, dark sideburns, and handsome, strong-boned features. His eyes were deep, dark, and expressive, and his manner of dress, the height of manly perfection. Though he would not deign to discuss good style, he had a faultless sense of it, and many an aspiring buck or beau modeled their choice of attire after his. Like Ariana, his neatness appeared effortless. And he was universally approved of in the best houses, (save for those of the staunchest Whigs, who had still not forgiven Prinny or his pals, of which Mr. Mornay was one, for abandoning them for the Tories).

Even Ariana, who had little patience for matters of dress, found herself in awe of his presence at times. All told, he was an imposing character; a man one did not ignore or take lightly. Ariana was not happy with his tone of address, nor that she would not be seeing him after the morning service, but while she decided whether to make an answer to him, Beatrice broke the silence instead. “Achoo!” The twelve-year-old folded her handkerchief and looked about apologetically.

Beatrice had only recently joined Ariana in London, and both girls were staying at Mrs. Bentley’s town house in Hanover Square.

Mrs. Bentley gave her younger niece a severe look, which Ariana did not fail to notice. Their aunt was a wealthy widow with a good soul at heart, but the lady was too prepared, Ariana felt, to make the worst of anything or anyone who posed a threat to her plans, her schedule, or her expectations.

Alarmed at the hint of an ague in her niece, Mrs. Bentley’s delicately lined face wrinkled in disapproval while she pulled her gloves more tightly onto her hands.

“How long have you had that nasty sneeze?” she asked. “Do you have an ague?”

“No, no, I assure you!” And yet, the young girl had to stop even now, quickly covering her mouth and nose with her handkerchief to allow a second “Achoo!” to escape.

“Bless you,” said Mr. O’Brien, bringing a blinking smile to Beatrice’s young face.

“Humph!” murmured Mrs. Bentley, deciding immediately to send the girl at the soonest convenience back to Chesterton and her family. She would not allow Ariana to contract a cold. Not with the wedding this close. Goodness knew, Mrs. Bentley had seen enough threats to this marriage—a coup d’etat, to be sure—and desired that nothing further could imperil the thing. With the ceremony so close, she was finally beginning to relax. The marriage was certain to take place. But she couldn’t help remembering it hadn’t always been that way. No, indeed! Why, since the day Mr. Mornay had asked for her niece, there had been one vexation after another, each more threatening than the last, each liable to ruin the man’s hopes—and her own, for she wanted nothing more than to see the couple wed.

Her own niece, after all, fresh from the country, had unwittingly captured the heart of London’s most famous bachelor—Mr. Phillip Mornay, known in Town as the Paragon. He was called the Paragon because he possessed three of the highest virtues of the English upper class: sartorial elegance, figure, and (most importantly) a fabulous fortune. Besides the family seat in Middlesex with a large tenantry and the house in Grosvenor Square, he owned small holdings and properties throughout the British Empire, all of which added to his income. His match to the debutante Miss Forsythe—a beauty in her own right, and rumoured to be an heiress, (a thing which Mrs. Bentley had fostered by putting up enough blunt for Ariana’s Season that no one thought to credit her for doing so) was famous. Not since the Regent himself wed Caroline of Brunswick had there been such a general anticipation of a marriage (though one might rightly call the prince’s an infamous match, she reflected!).

In any case, it was too wonderful a happenstance to let such a thing as a young chit like Beatrice put a damper on it with an ague. If Ariana were to fall ill, the marriage would still take place, of course; but why imperil the older girl? Why give her the least excuse to raise an objection? (Ariana was far too liable to raise objections—that had been the trouble from the beginning!) What if she were to wish for a postponement? Mrs. Bentley’s nerves couldn’t stand for it.

No, with the assurance that Ariana was finally settled upon her fiancé, there was nought to hinder the event—and she, Mrs. Bentley, would do everything in her power to see that it remained that way. Casting her eyes upon her niece, she had to acknowledge a twinge of satisfaction (for not the first time) at how the girl wore the expensive clothing she herself had bought her– like a queen. Ariana was dressed in the same modish style as her aunt, not because she could afford it or had the slightest interest in cutting a wave, but for the reasons that Mrs. Bentley could, and did.

She was decidedly happy to have been so generous with the girl, for it had helped, she was certain, to catch the eye of Mornay, and indeed, of the ton. Was not her niece toasted at every evening supper she attended? Had not the Regent himself approved of her? True, Ariana did have to endure the occasional jest from Mornay’s circle of aristocratic wags on account of her well-known piety, but even these men were gentler to her than was their usual habit concerning women.

And now she, Mrs. Bentley, had been enjoying her most successful Season since her own come out, decades earlier. Routs, card parties, soirees—the sort of things she adored, were crowding her calendar as the chaperon of Miss Forsythe, and she was going to marry Randolph– it was indeed an annus mirabilis! Just then a sudden nasty odour pulled her from her thoughts.

“Oh, dear,” she murmured, turning to the Paragon. “Where is this Orphan Society? We are getting into neighborhoods that I cannot like.” The dignified streets of Mayfair were behind them, and now they were in roads that were muddy and crowded with carts and working-class people. Child vagabonds could be seen huddling in doorways. Pedestrians stopped what they were doing to watch the shiny black coach with its high-steppers, and try to get a glimpse of the dignitaries who must be inside such a vehicle.

Ariana sat back. She had seen enough of the poor and indigent in London to know that compassion alone was worthless as far as helping anyone went. Further, she had no wish to seem pitying or condescending. The poor were entitled to dignity like anyone else. She had welcomed today’s invitation precisely because of her wish to help London’s less fortunate citizens. (This had been a desire of her heart since coming to London earlier in the year. Her world had become a disheartening juxtaposition of unbelievable wealth against a backdrop of the ever-present poor.)

Looking across at her suitor, she suddenly wondered if it would jar with his disposition to become a philanthropist? Certainly it was expected of the wealthy, wasn’t it? Even in her little town of Chesterton, it was the wealthiest families, those with the huge estates, who held the Annual Balls, the Harvest Home, the Christmas Hall festivities. Mr. Mornay was part of this wealthy class. She hoped it would fall to her to organize charitable events as his wife.

“Ariana!” She was torn from her thoughts by her aunt’s strident tone. “Did you say which street the Orphanage is on?”

“The Society is on Folgate Street, Spitalfields. Just north of Spitalfields Market,” replied Mr. Mornay, in her stead. Ariana was looking at him, and he met her eyes, adding, “I own a property on the street, you know.”

“Do you?” She was greatly surprised. It was not a fashionable part of the city. “A house?” she asked, trying to prolong the conversation. Finally he was at least giving her his attention.

“A tenement.”

Mrs. Bentley’s curiosity got the best of her. “You own property there?”

He gave a rueful smile. “Won it in a wager, I’m afraid. My man of business sees to letting it and so forth. I’ve never laid eyes on it, actually, though I’ve been meaning to give it a look.”

Mrs. Bentley fished an expensive, lace-edged handkerchief from her reticule, and held it now over her mouth and nose, as if the mere fact of passing through the neighborhood might result in being exposed to noxious vapours.

Mr. Pellham took her other hand and patted it soothingly.

Beatrice, all eyes, extended her own hand out towards Mr. O’Brien. “Would you like to take my hand, Mr. O’Brien?” she asked. His eyes opened rather wide, but before he could say anything, Mrs. Bentley chided, “Hush!” and, reaching across Ariana, landed a harmless “slap” to the girl’s outstretched hand with her handkerchief. Why did youngsters have to do the most foolish things imaginable? Wasn’t it enough that she had had to steer Ariana clear of the future cleric? Now would she have to do the same for her younger niece when she came of age?

Mr. Peter O’Brien, meanwhile, smiled shortly at the girl to be kind, but he was much more concerned, despite his best efforts, with her elder sister. He could never become quite inured to the striking figure Miss Forsythe presented, and he smoothed his coat lapels and adjusted his cravat. He’d been taking as many glances at Ariana as he could safely do while trying to conceal his admiration of her—he had lost her to Mornay, there was no way around it. But it was a difficult pill to swallow, and he still got choked up by it on occasion.

Mr. O’Brien had entertained hopes of forming a betrothal with Ariana himself. He was not wealthy, and he was Irish—both of which were not in his favour, particularly with the standards that Miss Forsythe’s aunt seemed to demand from any would-be suitor of her niece’s. He was mildly ill-at-ease, therefore, despite his being firmly included on Beatrice’s account. (The girl had taken an instant partiality to him, insisting on his company as often as possible.) He could not rid himself of his still strong admiration for her elder sister, however, and that, coupled with a touch of pique—he’d had such hopes of her—moved him to join her company whenever possible. Miss Forsythe had been too, too friendly for him to think she felt nothing more than mere friendship for him!

But it wasn’t becoming in a man of faith to nurse a grudge– his calling was in the Church, which, even if he had not been a third son, he would have chosen in any case as he had strong religious leanings—and he had no wish to rub salt in a wound—but he could not resist the chance to be in her company. So he tried to avoid looking at her, having no wish to make a jackanape of himself, but it was difficult indeed, with such proximity to her sweet, radiant beauty.

Furthermore, it was decidedly unusual for him to be welcomed into the presence of the Paragon, a man he felt more than a little antipathy towards. To be seated beside him now struck him as extraordinary, and he was mute with a mixture of caution, jealousy, and surprise. He had always scoffed at the man’s reputation for excellent taste, but seated next to him, he could not deny a feeling of reluctant admiration. Mr. Mornay’s clothing made a stark contrast to Mr. O’Brien’s less costly attire, and the man’s dark double-breasted tailcoat with tapered sleeves made his own frock coat, though sturdy, appear plain, indeed.

At that moment Beatrice unhelpfully exclaimed, “Your coach is ever so pretty, Mr. Mornay! It is far more comfortable than my father’s!” She fingered the dark burgundy velvet of her seat. “I wish my mother and father could see it!”

“Hush!” Ariana said, not without affection.

“Do you not fancy the coach? I could ride in it for days!” she exclaimed, wide-eyed.

“Of course I fancy it, only it doesn’t signify.”

“Is your carriage as agreeable as this one, Mr. O’Brien?” the girl asked, making him shudder inwardly. He thought of the single family equipage he used when taking his mama and sisters about Town. Compared to Mornay’s gleaming, springed and upholstered vehicle, his was shabby, indeed.

“No,” he answered, trying to smile with the word.

Just then everyone’s attention was diverted as they pulled up outside a large Palladian style building fenced in by black iron gates. The London Orphan Society was a stately institution. Mr. Pellham exclaimed, “Undoubtedly the work of Mr. Nash, wouldn’t you say, Mornay?”

Mr. Mornay, observing the building as best he could from the interior of the coach, nodded his head. “Very likely.” All was quiet and neat on the outside. A gateman opened the way for them, and the coach moved ahead into a circular drive which brought them round to the front entrance.

******

Stepping into the building, Mrs.Bentley raised her ankle-length pelisse as though it might drag on the tiled floor, while Ariana straightened her dark-blue French-style canezou. It had a deep flounce along the shoulders and neck-line and around the empire waist. Beneath a bonnet which sported two round puffs of pale, gathered fabric at the top, little ringlets of blond hair were just visible around her face—owing to her having endured a night with curling papers beneath her cap—and she was bright with youthful beauty this morning, as most days. She happily accepted Mr. Mornay’s arm, still searching his countenance for a clue to his feelings, but he maintained a stony disregard of her. If not for his past effusive reassurances of love, she might have been exceedingly disconcerted. But she refused to believe anything of moment was behind his distant manner, and she tucked her arm into his with the added touch of her other hand, placing it upon his coat sleeve with feeling.

The little group followed a lady by name of Mrs. Gullweather, who was the headmistress, and two female servants down a long, wide stone hall which ended at the chapel. A man-servant led them to seats in a front row. Ariana was impressed with the massive interior and its circular ceiling and long, stained-glass windows, beautiful against the light of morning outside. The benches around and behind them were full of children of all ages, who emitted only a low murmur from their ranks.

She sat down cognizant of the pleasure of being next to Mr. Mornay. She glanced at him now, but he continued to study the area ahead, where Mrs. Gullweather was preparing to speak. She felt as though he was somewhere else today, far distant from the proceedings, from her. But she turned her attention to the front of the room, just as he had. She would think no more on it for now.

“Before we begin,” Mrs. Gullweather said, with a smile, “We have arranged for the children to entertain you. We do try to educate them profitably. Most of our graduates, when they leave us, go on to lead productive lives in society. We have had dozens of young people go off to be missionaries in foreign lands, and furnished a good many governesses, cooks, and housemaids for people of quality,” she said, speaking to the guests, who, in addition to Ariana and her party, took up the first two rows of seats across the chapel. “Many of our young gentlemen, it must be added, who do not choose the mission field, go on to find apprenticeships, or serve as footmen or grooms in the best households.”

With a wave of her hand, she added, “These are the same children who are brought to us destitute, and with nothing but poverty, death, or a life of crime facing them. It is only by the generous help of our patrons,” she smiled benignly towards them, “that we are able to effect such changes for society. And now—the children.”

The sight of the young orphans erased all other concerns from Ariana’s heart. How glad she was to have come, today! She so wanted to make a difference somehow for children like these! God knew each by name and loved every one of them. The children sang an old hymn, “Ye Holy Angels, Bright,” and by its end, Ariana was thoroughly satisfied that the London Orphan Society was a worthy cause, indeed.

When the dramatic actress, Mrs. Tiernan, finally stood before them, silent, even grave of countenance, a hush fell over the audience, including its youngest members. Her gown was of the classical Roman style, more like gowns that were in vogue a decade ago (as Ariana knew from her mama’s old fashion catalogues). Expecting her to begin, the audience waited. But she kept her eyes fixed on a spot overhead, towards a window.

When she continued to stare like a statue at that fixed point against the opposite wall, people began to look at it, too. Was it supposed to mean something?

Then, just when everyone despaired of her ever doing anything other than staring at the window, she turned and faced the assembly. This time she stared down the main aisle, as though she were in a trance. Then, suddenly, with a dramatic flourish of her arm, she cried, “Hear the Word of the Lord!” Her voice rang out loud and piercing as it cut into the silence.

Then, in a quieter tone, “A dramatic reading from the Book of Revelations, Chapter One, verses ten through twenty.” She slowly moved her gaze to take in the onlookers. Her eyes were calm and yet seemed to blaze from within, settling to flicker momentarily upon Ariana and her companions.

Again the hush grew deep with anticipation. Mrs. Tiernan dropped suddenly to her knees, her arms raised high, and then turned her head as if listening. In a clear tone which carried an authoritative quality, she began in earnest.

“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit. And I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” She added measured movements of her arms and even her body, so that she made a captivating sight.

“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me; And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands….”

…“His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace! ”

“…And his voice,” she lifted her head to listen, “was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” She made a motion as if taking a sword from its sheath, and then, magically, a small leather book was in her hand! How had she done it? Ariana didn’t know. But there it was, a concrete allusion to the “double-edged sword” being the word of God.

And then the book was gone, vanished, like it had never been there. The audience gasped, and she continued, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance…”

When the reading was ended, Mrs. Tiernan froze, statue-like, except that her head was bowed. In a minute, people began to applaud, led by Mr. O’Brien, which would have been rather amazing except that he had the impetus of knowing the presentation had ended for he alone had been following along out of his little leather Bible. Mrs. Tiernan remained with her head bowed as the clapping slowly grew stronger. Finally, when the applause ceased, the lady bowed low once more, so that everyone had to clap again, and then she said, “Thank you! Thank you!” and swept out of sight, leaving from a hidden exit behind the pulpit.

Soon the guests were led to a small breakfast room, where a light repast was waiting. While they ate, they shared thoughts on what they’d seen.

“I daresay she cast a spell on us,” chuckled Mr. Pellham, tugging on his moustache thoughtfully. Mrs. Bentley added, “Rather a bit of a trickster, I should think. Making that little book appear and disappear as if by magic. And in a chapel!”

Mr. O’Brien cleared his throat. He hated to disagree with anyone who was socially superior to him, but he had to correct what he saw as near-blasphemous thinking.

“But ma’am,” he managed to say, “it was only for effect; to heighten the power of her presentation, which, I thought, in all honesty, to be quite…quite good.”

“I thought it was wonderful!” put in Beatrice, loyally—and loudly. “Did you not think so, Ariana?”

Ariana smiled. “I was impressed.” She glanced at Mr. Mornay and felt a fresh concern when, instead of finding the warm eyes and gentle smile she loved, was met with a blank expression. It was an expression she recognized as being his “tolerant” look; he was merely enduring the proceedings, she realized. But he turned to the faces around the table and added, “It was interesting, and,” he chose his word, “Worthwhile.”

While they continued eating, Mrs. Gullweather approached their table with a little bald man who wore spectacles and carried a small, bound leather book in which he was jotting information.

“I hope you have enjoyed our little entertainment,” she began, after thanking them for coming.

“And now we must rely upon your patience and goodness a little longer, while we beg you to consider making our orphanage a grateful recipient of the generosity that so distinguishes your class among men.” Ariana wished devoutly that she had the means to be as generous as possible, but knew that within her reticule lay a single crown. It was the last of her money.

Mr. Mornay, meanwhile, had no wish to listen to any flummery, and spoke to the man with the book. “Are you recording donations?” The man looked up, startled to be addressed, but quickly replied, “I am, sir!”

He rounded the table to where Ariana and Mr. Mornay were sitting, across from one another. He waited, pencil poised and ready to enter an amount in his account book. Meanwhile Mrs. Bentley offered the woman a few guineas, which she accepted gratefully. Mr. Pellham followed with a bank note of an unknown sum. Beatrice solemnly gave sixpence, and Mr. O’Brien just a little above that, as this unfortunate time of the month always found him in low water .

Mr. Mornay, meanwhile, had turned to Ariana. “I should like you to propose the amount.” It was an embarrassing moment, as the topic of money was considered ungenteel. One did not discuss it, as important as it was. She blushed.

“I dare not think of it.”

With surprise, he asked, leaning in towards her for privacy, “Do you not wish to support the place?”

“Oh, I do, of course. I mean to give my last crown…”

“I’ve no doubt. But tell me the amount you should like to give if you had the means. Only name it, and it is done.”

She eyed him uncertainly. Suddenly his distance-keeping seemed to have fled, and he was himself again. And he loved her. He was asking her to make a financial decision for the two of them!Many a woman would have been astounded at it. Perhaps Ariana was astounded at it, for she could only reply, “I think perhaps that you ought to–”

“No, it must be you. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, and I am certain you will be more generous than I.”

“But that is what I fear!” She hissed in a whisper. “What if I name a sum that is too high?”

He smiled, and she instantly smiled back. “Name it.”

“Oh, dear! Very well,” she said, bringing her two hands together in thought; but she was enormously pleased to have received that smile. It was the first she’d seen him wear all morning. “Would…twenty-five pounds per annum be appropriate?”

He said nothing but turned to the recorder. “Send the bill to my house,” and he went on to give the information necessary while the appreciative clerk scribbled in his book.

Ariana watched, with a spurt of elation. A heady delight. A feeling of unexpected….power. She found herself staring at Mr. Mornay as if realizing his great wealth for the first time.

“Stop looking at me like that. ‘Tis only money.”

Only money! She knew of widows who lived on little more than what she had just been able to procure for the orphanage. With a few words, she had made a difference for the children. It was a marvelous new feeling, heady and intoxicating. Of course it was Phillip’s money, not her own, but hadn’t her aunt told her numerous times that all he had would soon be hers? That Mr. Mornay had offered her everything that was his? Any amount of pin money she wanted? She had never paid the least attention to the thought of sharing in Phillip’s wealth, but suddenly it presented a world of possibilities to her.

She barely noticed the rest of the proceedings, the thank yous and goodbyes. Only the parade of orphans, waiting to wave and cheer them off as they pulled away in the coach brought her fully alert to her surroundings. She looked at each child in a new way. What if she could afford to give them all a new article of clothing every year? Or new shoes? What if she and Phillip were to –to—start their own Society? There were still hundreds and hundreds of hungry, cold children on the streets. More orphans than this one asylum could house. As the carriage exited the iron gates of the grounds, Ariana was lost in a world of new thoughts and ideas. It seemed as if she’d been waiting all her life to have such thoughts. She’d never had the means to have them, before.

As Mrs. Phillip Mornay she would have the means.

As Mrs. Phillip Mornay she could do much good.

Her eyes wandered to her silent, handsome future husband. Studying him, she felt a strong wave of love. She recalled wrapping her arms around his neck, and the wonderful feel of his arms firmly about her. The night of their betrothal he had taken her into his coach and put her upon his lap and they’d kissed.

He was listening to Beatrice’s absent chatter just then or she would have bestowed upon him a most adoring smile. As she studied the handsome face, strong nose and chin; the rich, neat attire, her heart swelled with love and pride—but also a slight discomposure. She was appreciating his circumstances in a way she had never done. Was it wrong? Was it selfish? To be happy that she would be married to a rich man? But she thought of all the charities she could support, the good works she could do, and her qualms dissipated. Mr. Mornay had been only too happy to let her name the sum for the Orphanage. Surely he would always be that way, wouldn’t he?

During the drive home, she dreamed of the future benefactress to the poor which she would become. The usually deflating scenes of needy children on the streets did not affect her as usual.

“Soon, soon, my dear children,” she thought, “Mrs. Mornay will come to your aide!” At that moment her beloved turned his gaze upon her and her inner musings came to an abrupt halt.

Once again, there was nothing of warmth in his eyes, nothing of the affection she usually found in them. Would the future Mrs. Mornay be a benefactress to the poor?

Or was he having a sudden change of heart? Did he wish to—to cry off from the wedding? Had he allowed her to name the sum for the Orphanage to lessen the blow of his change of heart? Her thoughts of helping the poor paled in light of this disturbing notion. Was he re-thinking their wedding plans? Why else the coldness of his manner, the absence of meaning in his looks to her? She would need to find a way to speak with him, privately. Perhaps his distracted behaviour had nothing to do with her at all. She frowned. If it did not, there was something else on his mind that was troublesome. In either case, she must seek to help.

Somehow she had to speak to him alone, and soon. Something was most definitely wrong.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the Extended Regency in England (circa 1800 – 1830). Ms. Burkard’s novels include Before the Season Ends and The House on Grosvenor Square (coming April, 2009). Her stories blend Christian faith and romance with well-researched details from the Regency period. Experience a romantic age, where timeless lessons still apply to modern life. And, enjoy a romance that reminds you happy endings are possible for everyone.

For more information, visit: www.LinoreRoseBurkard.com


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