Archive for June, 2010

Chasing Francis by Ian Cron

I finished this book last month. I have been unable to write about it yet because it had a profound impact on me and I am just not sure how to convey that. I found myself fascinated by the life of St. Francis of Assisi and I found parts of my own heart mirrored in Chase’s journey. The book is well written in a unique way. It is a fictional account with non-fictional elements. The story is simple yet deeply moving. Chase takes a pilgrimage and finds himself on a unique journey following in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi. As Chase’s pilgrimage progresses we get to the heart of any Christian’s journey. Faith. In the end I found myself having realized how much I had learned from Chase and St Francis….and me. If you cannot take time for a pilgrimage all one has to do is take the time to read Chasing Francis.

Chase Falson has lost his faith-and he did it right in front of the congregation at his megachurch. Now the elders want him to take some time away: far away. So Chase crosses the Atlantic to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest, where he encounters the teachings of Francis of Assisi and rediscovers his ancient faith. Follow Chase’s spiritual journey in the footsteps of Francis, and then begin one of your own through the pilgrim’s guide included in this book. Come discover Francis, the first postmodern Christian.

Read a Sample Chapter.

I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff

I found the website Stuff Christians Like early last year after seeing some one link to one of Jon Acuff’s posts. I was hooked. I found Jon to be insightful and hilarious. I also found him to be heart felt and honest. I started following him on twitter and found he is as genuine as he seems.

Meet the author of Stuff Christians Like, Jonathan Acuff.


For the last ten years, Jonathan Acuff has written advertising for clients ranging from the Home Depot to Chick-fil-A. In addition to his many day jobs, he also writes a blog called http://www.stuffchristianslike.net. He and his wife live with their two daughters outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

An Interview with Jon:

On Personal things…
Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.
I grew up in Massachusetts with two younger brothers and a younger sister. My dad is a minister and that’s how I learned about a lot of the things I write about on SCL.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
I like to run when I have time. More than anything, I like to play and hang out with my wife and kids. I have two daughters, ages 6 and 4 and they are awesome.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Flight. Everyone wants to be superman.

What has God been teaching you lately?
Patience. He’s been teaching me about the slow build up of patience and how slowness is not a punishment.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In the 3rd grade I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Where are you headed next?
I’m going to Nashville, Houston and Dallas in the next few weeks.

On Writing…
How did you get involved in writing?
A teacher in the third grade laminated some poems I wrote and I fell in love with it then.

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?
Finishing a piece. Starting is so much easier.

What did you enjoy most about the writing process?
The brainstorming part.

How do you find time to write?
I get up at 5AM before anyone in my family is up.

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Pick a time to write and then do it. Don’t debate whether you will write each day, just write.

On Stuff Christians Like…
Where did you get the idea for the book?
There was a popular site called Stuff White People Like. I feel like it’s weird that we Christians always steal popular secular ideas like making “Got Milk?” say “Got God?” I thought it would be a good idea to discuss that problem by committing that problem.

What are the major themes of the book?
I try to clear the clutter of Christianity away so we can see the beauty of Christ.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
Writing the site gave me lots of things to talk about and write about.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
That they’ll know how fun and full of laughter a life of faith can be.

About the Book:

I LOVED this book. Seriously. I laughed so hard I cried and I cried because he also touched my heart.  I have always enjoyed Jon’s writing style and it translates very well to the book.  I also enjoyed the drawings and other fun things included.  If you enjoy the website and following Jon on twitter you will adore the book!

Sometimes, we fall in love on mission trips even though we know we’ll break up when we get back. Sometimes, you have to shot block a friend’s prayer because she’s asking God to bless an obviously bad dating relationship. Sometimes, you think, “I wish I had a t-shirt that said ‘I direct deposit my tithe’ so people wouldn’t judge me.”

Sometimes, the stuff that comes with faith is funny.

This is that stuff.

Jonathan Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like is your field guide to all things Christian. In it you’ll learn the culinary magic of the crock-pot. Think you’ve got a Metro worship leader-Use Acuff’s checklist. Want to avoid a prayer handholding faux pas? Acuff has you covered.

Like a satirical grenade, Acuff brings us the humor and honesty that galvanized more than a million online readers from more than 200 countries in a new portable version. Welcome to the funny side of faith.

Buy Stuff Christians Like
Visit Jon’s website, Stuff Christians Like
Follow Jon on Twitter
Visit other bloggers participating in the Stuff Christians Like Tour

***Contest***

As noted by popular blogger and author Jonathan Acuff, “sometimes the stuff that comes with faith is funny” . . .
. . . Like surviving church as a single adult.
. . . And knowing how metrosexual your worship leader is.
. . . And how serious, a serious Wednesday can be.

As a part of our social media tour promoting Jonathan’s release of Stuff Christians Like, we’re giving you the opportunity to share your favorite “stuff” Christians like. In 500 words or less, write your own version of Stuff Christians Like and you could be featured on Jonathan’s blog – which reaches over 120,000 readers each month and has been read by 1.4 million people since it began two years ago. Check out http://stuffchristianslike.net for examples and inspiration. Post your entry on your blog and link to it using Mr. Linky on our tour post below. Entires must be received by midnight, CST Friday, July 2. If you post your entry to Facebook or do not have a blog, you can email your submission to info (at) blogtourspot.com.

Link up your Stuff Christians Like post HERE!

Thank You Zondervan for providing a free copy of Stuff Christians Like to me for review.

Claim by Lisa Bergren

**I am so sorry this is late…my darling Grandma passed away this past weekend and I am still trying to catch up.

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:

Claim: A Novel of Colorado (The Homeward Trilogy)

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lisa T. Bergren is a best-selling author who offers a wide array of reading opportunities ranging from children’s books (God Gave Us Love and God Found Us You) and women’s nonfiction (Life on Planet Mom) to suspense-filled intrigue (The Gifted Trilogy) and historical drama. With more than thirty titles among her published works and a deep faith that has weathered dramatic career and personal challenges, Bergren is excited to add the Homeward Trilogy to her resume as she follows God’s direction in her writing career. Bergren lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband Tim (a graphic design artist and musician) and their three children.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143476706X
ISBN-13: 978-1434767066

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1 August 1888

Gunnison, Colorado

“Keep doing that you’ll get yourself killed,” Nic said to the boy. Panting, Nic paused and wiped his forehead of sweat. For an hour now, as he moved sacks of grain from a wagon to a wheelbarrow and into the warehouse, he’d glimpsed the boy daring fate as he ran across the busy street, narrowly escaping horse hooves and wagon wheels.

“Where’s your mother?”

The brown-haired boy paused. “Don’t have a mother.”

“Well then, where’s your father?”

The boy cast him an impish grin and shrugged one shoulder.

“Around.”

“Is he coming back soon?” Nic persisted.

“Soon enough. You won’t tell ’im, will ya?”

“Tell him what?” Nic tossed back with a small smile. “Long as you stop doing whatever you’re not supposed to be doing.”

The boy wandered closer and climbed up to perch on the wagon’s edge, watching Nic with eyes that were as dark as his hair. Nic relaxed a bit, relieved that the kid wasn’t in imminent danger.

Nic hefted a sack onto his shoulder and carried it to the cart. It felt good to be working again. He liked this sort of heavy labor, the feel of muscles straining, the way he had to suck in his breath to heave a sack, then release it with a long whoosh. A full day of this sort of work allowed him to drop off into dreamless sleep—something he hungered for more than anything else these days.

The boy was silent, but Nic could feel him staring, watching his every move like an artist studying a subject he was about to paint. “How’d you get so strong?” the boy said at last.

“Always been pretty strong,” Nic said, pulling the next sack across the wooden planks of the wagon, positioning it. “How’d you get so fast?”

“Always been pretty fast,” said the boy, in the same measured tone Nic had used.

Nic smiled again, heaved the sack to his shoulder, hauled it five steps to the cart, and then dropped it.

“This your job?” the boy asked.

“For today,” Nic said.

Nic loaded another sack, and the boy was silent for a moment. “My dad’s looking for help. At our mine.”

“Hmm,” Nic said.

“Needs a partner to help haul rock. He’s been asking around here for days.”

“Miner, huh? I don’t care much for mining.”

“Why not? You could be rich.”

“More miners turn out dead than rich.” He winced inwardly, as a shadow crossed the boy’s face. It’d been a while since he’d been around a kid this age. He was maybe ten or eleven max, all wiry muscle and sinew. Reminded him of a boy he knew in Brazil.

Nic carried the next sack over to the wagon, remembering the heat there, so different from what Colorado’s summer held. Here it was bone dry. He was sweating now, after the morning’s work, but not a lot. In Brazil a man soaked his sheets as he slept.

“Listen, kid,” he said, turning back around to the wagon, intending to apologize for upsetting him. But the boy was gone.

Nic sighed and set to finishing his work. As the sun climbed high in the sky, he paused to take a drink from his canteen and eat a hunk of bread and cheese, watching the busy street at the end of the alleyway. He wondered if he’d see the boy again, back to his antics of racing teams of horses. The child was probably letting off steam, just as Nic had done all his life—he’d been about the child’s age when he’d first starting scrapping with others.

But that was in the past. Not since his voyage aboard the Mirabella had Nic indulged the need, succumbed to the desire to enter a fight. Several times now, he’d had the opportunity—and enough cause—to take another man down. But he had walked away. He knew, deep down he knew, that if he was ever to face his sisters, Odessa and Moira, again, if he was to come to them and admit he was penniless, everything would somehow be all right if he was settled inside. If he could come to a place of peace within, the kind of peace Manuel had known. It was the kind of thing that allowed a man to stand

up straight, shoulders back, the kind of thing that gave a man’s gut peace. Regardless of what he accomplished, or had in the past. Thing was, he hadn’t found that place of comfort inside, and he didn’t want what Manuel tried to sell him—God.

There had to be another way, another path. Something like this work. Hard manual labor. That might be what he needed most.

Nic heard a man calling, his voice a loud whisper, and his eyes narrowed as the man came limping around the corner, obviously in pain, his arm in a sling. “You, there!” he called to Nic. “Seen a boy around? About yea big?” he said, gesturing to about chest height.

“Yeah, he was here,” Nic called back. He set his canteen inside the empty wagon and walked to the end of the alleyway.

“Where’d he go?” the man said. Nic could see the same widow’s peak in the man’s brown hair that the boy had, the same curve of the eyes … the boy’s father, clearly.

“Not sure. One minute he was watching me at work, the next he was gone.”

“That’s my boy, all right.”

“I’ll help you find him.”

The man glanced back at him and then gave him a small smile. He stuck out his good arm and offered his hand. “I’d appreciate that. Name’s Vaughn. Peter Vaughn.”

“Dominic St. Clair,” he replied. “You can call me Nic.”

Peter smiled. His dimples were in the exact same spot as the boy’s. “Sure you can leave your work?”

“I’m nearly done. Let’s find your boy.”

“Go on,” Moira’s sister urged, gazing out the window. “He’s been waiting on you for a good bit now.”

“I don’t know what he sees in me,” Moira said, wrapping the veil around her head and across her shoulder again. It left most of her face visible but covered the burns at her neck, ear, and scalp. Did it cover them enough? She nervously patted it, making sure it was in place.

Odessa stepped away from washing dishes and joined her. “He might wonder what you see in him. Do you know what his story is? He seems wary.” Their eyes met and Odessa backtracked. “Daniel’s a

good man, Moira. I think highly of him. But I’d like to know what has burdened him so. Besides you.” She nudged her sister with her hip.

Moira wiped her hands on the dish towel and glanced out at him as he strode across the lawn with Bryce, Odessa’s husband. He was striking in profile, reminding her of the statues of Greek gods the French favored in their lovely tailored gardens. Far too handsome for her—since the fire, anyway. She shook her head a little.

“Moira.”

Irritated at being caught in thought, Moira looked at Odessa again.

“Trust him, Moira. He’s a good man. I can sense it.”

She nodded, but inwardly she sighed as she turned away and wrapped a scarf around her veiled head and shoulders. A good man. After Reid and Max and Gavin—could she really trust her choice in men? Odessa was fortunate to have fallen for her husband, Bryce, a good man through and through. Moira’s experiences with men had been less than successful. What made Odessa think this one was trustworthy?

But as Daniel ducked his head through the door and inclined it to one side in silent invitation to walk with him, Moira thought about how he had physically saved her more than once. And how his gentle pursuit both bewildered and calmed her. Daniel had done nothing to deserve her suspicions.

She moved over to the door. He glanced at her, and she noticed how his thick lashes made his brown eyes more pronounced. He shuffled his feet as if he were nervous. “You busy?” he asked.

“No.” Moira felt a nervous tension tighten her stomach muscles.

“Can we, uh …” His gaze shifted to Odessa, who quickly returned to her dishes. “Go for a walk?” he finally finished.

Moira smoothed her skirts and said, “I’d like that.” Then, meeting her sister’s surreptitious gaze, she followed him outside. It was a lovely day on the Circle M. The horses pranced in the distance. She could see her brother-in-law riding out with Tabito, the ranch’s foreman.

“So, you wanted to talk,” she ventured.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t want to talk to you, Moira,” he said.

She looked up at him and then, when she saw the ardor in his gaze, she turned with a sigh.

“Don’t look away,” he whispered gently, pulling her to face him. He reached to touch her veil, as if he longed to cradle her cheek instead.

“No, Daniel, don’t,” she said and ran a nervous hand over the cover. He was tall and broad, and she did not feel physically menaced—it was her heart that threatened to pound directly out of her chest. Perhaps she wasn’t ready for this … the intimacies that a courtship brought.

She’d been dreaming about what it would be like to be kissed by him, held by him, but he never made such advances before. Never took the opportunity, leaving her to think that he was repulsed by

her burns, her hair, singed to just a few inches long, her past relationship with Gavin, or her pregnancy—despite what he claimed. Her hand moved to the gentle roundness of her belly, still small yet making itself more and more prominent each day. “I … I’m not even certain why you pursue me at all. Why you consider me worthy. ”

He seemed stunned by her words. “Worthy?” he breathed. He let out a hollow, breathy laugh and then looked to the sky, running a hand through his hair. He shook his head and then slowly brought his brown eyes down to meet hers again. “Moira,” he said, lifting a hand to cradle her cheek and jaw, this time without hesitation. She froze, wondering if he intended to kiss her at last. “I only hesitate because I am afraid,” he whispered.

“Afraid? You think I am not? I come to you scarred in so many ways, when you, you, Daniel, deserve perfection.…”

“No,” he said, shaking his head too. “It is I who carry the scars. You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am. Who I once was. What I’ve done …”

“So tell me,” she pleaded. “Tell me.”

He stared at her a moment longer, as if wondering if she was ready, wondering if she could bear it, and Moira’s heart pounded again. Then, “No. I can’t,” he said with a small shake of his head. He sighed heavily and moved up the hill. “Not yet.”

An hour after they began their search for Everett Vaughn, Peter sat down on the edge of the boardwalk and looked up to the sky. His face was a mask of pain. “That boy was hard to track when I wasn’t hurt.”

“He’ll turn up,” Nic reassured.

Peter nodded and lifted his gaze to the street.

“What happened to you?” Nic said gently, sitting down beside the man. His eyes scanned the crowds for the boy even as he waited for Peter’s response.

“Cave-in, at my mine. That’s why I’m here. Looking for a good man to partner with me. I’m onto a nice vein, but I’m livin’ proof that a man’s a fool to mine alone.” He looked at Nic and waited until he met his gaze. “You lookin’ for work?” He cocked his head to the side. “I’m offering a handsome deal. Fifty fifty.”

Nic let a small smile tug at the corners of his mouth. He glanced at the man, who had to be about his own age. There was an easy way about him that drew Nic, despite the pain evident in the lines of his face. “That is a handsome offer.” He cocked his own head. “But I don’t see you doing half the work, laid up like you are.”

“No, not quite. But I’ve already put a lot of work into it in the past three years, and I’m still good for about a quarter of the labor. To say nothing of the fact that my name’s on the claim.”

Nic paused, thinking about it, feeling drawn to help this man, but then shook his head. “I’m not very fond of small dark spaces.”

“So … make it bigger. Light a lamp.”

Nic shook his head, more firmly this time. “No. I’d rather find another line of work.”

Just then he spotted the boy, running the street again. “There he is,” Nic said, nodding outward. The boy’s father followed his gaze and with a grimace, rose to his feet. As they watched, the boy ran under a wagon that had temporarily pulled to a stop. Then he jumped up on the back of another, riding it for about twenty feet until he was passing by them. His face was a mask of elation.

“Everett! Ev! Come on over here!”

Everett’s eyes widened in surprise. He jumped down and ran over to them, causing a man on horseback to pull back hard on his reins and swear.

“Sorry, friend,” Peter said, raising his good arm up to the rider. The horseman shook his head and then rode on.

Peter grabbed his son’s arm and, limping, hauled him over to the boardwalk. “I’ve told you to stay out of the street.”

“So did I,” Nic said, meeting the boy’s gaze. The child flushed red and glanced away.

“We’d best be on our way,” Peter said. “Thanks for helpin’ me find my boy.” He reached out a hand and Nic rose to shake it. Peter paused. “It’s not often a man has a chance at entering a claim agreement once a miner has found a vein that is guaranteed to pay.”

Nic hesitated as he dropped Peter’s hand. “I’ve narrowly escaped with my life on more than one occasion, friend. I’m aiming to look up my sisters, but not from a casket.”

Peter lifted his chin, but his eyes betrayed his weariness and disappointment. What would it mean for him? For his boy, not to find a willing partner? Would they have to give up the mine just as they were finally on the edge of success? And what of the boy’s mother? His unkempt, too-small clothes told him Everett had been without a mother for some time.

He hesitated again, feeling a pang of compassion for them both. “Should I change my mind … where would I find you?”

A glimmer of hope entered Peter’s eyes. “A couple miles out of St. Elmo. Just ask around for the Vaughn claim up in the Gulch and someone’ll point you in our direction.” He reached out a hand. “I’d be much obliged, Nic. And I’m not half bad at cookin’ either. I’d keep you in grub. Give it some thought. But don’t be too put out if you get there, and I’ve found someone else.”

“Understood,” Nic said with a smile. “Safe journey.”

“And to you.” He turned away, tugging at his boy’s shoulder, but the child looked back at Nic, all big pleading eyes.

Hurriedly, Nic walked away in the opposite direction. He fought the desire to turn and call out to them. Wasn’t he looking for work? Something that would allow him to ride on to Bryce and Odessa’s ranch without his tail tucked between his legs? The man had said the mine was sure to pay.… I’m onto a nice vein.…

Was that a miner’s optimism or the truth?

Not yet?” Moira sputtered, following him. She frowned in confusion. He had been coaxing her forward, outward, steadily healing her with his kind attentions these last two months. But now it was as if they were at some strange impasse. What was he talking about? What had happened to him?

She hurried forward and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop and turn again to face her. Her veil clung to her face in the early evening breeze. “Daniel.”

He slowly lifted his dark eyes to meet hers.

“This is about me, isn’t it?” she asked. “You attempt to spare my feelings but find me repulsive. I can hardly fault you, but—”

“No,” he said, with another hollow laugh. “Contrary to what you believe, Moira St. Clair, not everything boils down to you. You are braver than you think and more beautiful than you dare to believe. I believe we’re destined to be together.”

Moira held her breath. Then what—

“No,” he went on. “This is about something I need to resolve. Something that needs to be done, or at least settled in my mind, my heart, before I can properly court you.”

“What? What is it, Daniel?” she tried once more.

He only looked at her helplessly, mouth half open, but mute.

She crossed her arms and turned her back to him, staring out across the pristine valley, the land of the Circle M. It hurt her that he felt he couldn’t confide in her as she had with him. She stiffened when he laid his big hands on her shoulders. “I don’t need to be rescued, Daniel,” she said in a monotone. “God has seen me to this place, this time. He’ll see me through to the next … with or without you.”

“You don’t understand.”

“No. I don’t. We’ve been courting all summer, whether you realize it or not. And now you say that there is something else that needs to be resolved? You assume much, Daniel Adams. You think that I’ll wait forever?” She let out a scoffing laugh. “It’s clear you do not fear that any other man might pursue me. Not that I blame you …” She turned partly away and stared into the distance. “Please. Don’t let this linger on. I cannot bear it. Not if you do not intend to claim me as your own.”

He was silent for a long minute. Oh, that he would but turn her and meet her lips at last …

But he didn’t. “We both have a lot to think through, pray through, Moira,” he said quietly.

“Yes, well, let me know when that is accomplished,” she said over her shoulder, walking away as fast as she could, lest he see the tears that were already rolling down her cheeks.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Claim by Lisa Bergren. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Ransome’s Crossing by Kaye Dacus

Another wonderful book by Kaye Dacus.  I was not sure about her historicals after reading her other series, The Brides of Bonneterre, was such fun.  I loved that she chose older characters, in their 30’s at times, instead of sticking with the young 20’s as some books tend to do.  Kaye Dacus does the historical genre well and I look forward to the 3rd book in the series.

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:

Ransome’s Crossing (The Ransome Trilogy)

Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kaye Dacus, author of Ransome’s Honor has a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a minor in history, and a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. Her love of the Regency era started with Jane Austen. Her passion for literature and for history come together to shape her creative, well-researched, and engaging writing.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736927549
ISBN-13: 978-0736927543

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Portsmouth, England
August 17, 1814

Ned Cochrane, first lieutenant, HMS Alexandra, stepped out of the jolly boat onto the stone dock and glanced around at the early morning bustle of the dockyard crew. Only nine days remained to fill the crew roster and fit out the ship with the supplies needed for the first leg of a transatlantic voyage. With yesterday lost in celebrating Captain—no, Commodore Ransome’s wedding—and since the commodore’s attention would be necessarily split between distractions on land and his duties to his ship, Ned would shoulder the burden of preparing the ship and crew.

“Sir, look out! Lieutenant Cochrane!”

Ned spun—and fell back just in time to save himself from being swept off the quay by a net full of barrels swinging at the end of a crane. His hat wasn’t so fortunate.

The cargo swayed menacingly overhead. Ned scrambled backward, out of harm’s way. Once clear, he leapt to his feet. “You, there! Watch what you’re about. Secure that crane,” he yelled at the negligent dock crew.

“Are you all right, sir?”

The voice—an odd timbre in the chorus of tenor, baritone, and bass tones usually heard in the dockyard—matched the one which had called the warning. He turned.

A young man, not really more than a boy in a worn, ill-fitting midshipman’s uniform, stood holding Ned’s dripping hat. Sure enough, the lad’s right sleeve was wet to the shoulder.

“Nothing injured but my pride.” Ned took his hat and studied the midshipman. The boy’s tall, round hat concealed most of his dark hair, but…Ned squinted against the bright glare of the sun off the water and surrounding gray stone. “Do I know you, lad?”

The boy touched the brim of the shabby hat. “Charles Lott, sir. We spoke last week. You said there might be a place for me aboard your ship.”

“Ah, yes.” Ned now recalled meeting the midshipman, who’d answered Ned’s questions when the boy had first approached him about a position aboard Alexandra last week, even the question Ned had missed the first time he’d stood for his lieutenancy examination. “I’m sorry, but we have filled the positions on Alexandra.”

Shocked disappointment filled the boy’s elfin face.

“However, I have recommended you to the captain of Audacious.” Ned struggled to keep the smile from his face.

“Audacious? Captain Yates, then?”

Ned sighed. He liked Commodore Ransome’s friend extraordinarily and had looked forward to the fun to be had on Jamaica station with two such commanders. “Alas, I am afraid to say Captain Yates has resigned his commission. Captain Parker is taking command of Audacious.” Ned glanced around the quay. “There is his first officer. Come, I shall introduce you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Midshipman Lott straightened the white collar and cuffs of his too-large coat.

Ned caught his counterpart’s attention and met him near the steps to the upper rampart. He made the introduction and stood back as the first lieutenant of Audacious, Montgomery Howe, put a series of questions to the lad. Lott answered each quickly and with near textbook precision.

“Well done, Mr. Lott. You are ordered to present yourself day after tomorrow to begin your official duties.”

The boy’s face paled. “Sir, may I have until next Thursday?”

“The day before we sail?” Howe crossed his arms and glared at Ned and then at Lott.

Ned ground his teeth at the boy’s impertinence, which was casting him—Ned—in a bad light. He’d recommended the lad, after all.

“Yes, sir. I am aware it is an inconvenience, but my mother is a widow, and I must see that she is settled—that our business affairs are settled—before I could leave on such a long journey.”

“And it will take a sennight?” Ned asked.

“We live in the north part of the country, sir. ’Tis a three days’ journey by post, sir.” Lott spoke to the cobblestones below his feet.

Aye, well should he be ashamed to make such a request…though many years ago, a newly made captain had let a newly made lieutenant have four days to see to his own widowed mother and sister.

Apparently, from the expression that flickered across Howe’s face, he had also received a similar mercy some time earlier in his career. “Very well, then. You are to present yourself to me on deck of Audacious no later than seven bells in the morning watch Thursday next. If you are late, your spot will be given to someone else. Understand?”

“Aye, sir!” Lott touched the brim of his hat again. “Thank you, sir.”

“Dismissed—oh, and Mr. Lott?”

The boy, a few paces away already, halted and turned, at attention again. “Aye, sir?”

“Make yourself more presentable by next week if you can. You can find plenty of secondhand uniforms available in the shops in much better condition than yours. And get a haircut. I do not allow midshipmen to tuck their hair under their collars.”

Lott’s hand flew to the back of his neck, eyes wide. “Aye, aye, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

Ned moved to stand beside Howe as the boy ran down the quay. “Sorry for the inconvenience, Monty, but I have a feeling that boy will do well by you.”

“I’ve never heard a lad recite the answers so perfectly. He’s slight. Says he’s fifteen? Can’t be more than thirteen or fourteen.”

“Some boys don’t mature as quickly as others. You should remember that quite well.” Ned bumped his shoulder against his former berth mate’s.

Howe shoved him back. “Just because you gained height and a deeper voice before I did doesn’t mean you matured faster, Ned. In fact, you could probably learn manners in decorum and respect from little Charlie Lott.”

Ned guffawed and bade his friend farewell. He wasn’t certain if he could learn anything from the young midshipman, but he would certainly look out for him and do whatever he could to promote the boy’s interest. He had the feeling Charles Lott would make a good officer some day.

Charlotte Ransome dived behind a large shrub and held her breath. Footsteps crunched on the gravel garden path, coming toward her closer and closer.

Had he seen her?

Keep walking. Please, Lord, let him keep walking.

When he reached her shrub, Charlotte squeezed her eyes shut, fearful of blinking. If the gardener had seen and recognized her, he would report her to the Yateses, who would in turn report her to her mother and brother—and all would be lost.

A gust of wind rustled the verdure around her. Her heart thundered against her ribs, and she feared she might be sick.

But the gardener did not stop. Long after his footsteps faded, Charlotte kept to her hiding place. Quiet descended until only the noise of the streets and alleys beyond the garden walls filtered in around the enclosure behind the enormous townhouse.

Peeking around the shrub, she found the path clear once again.

Sneaking into the garden through the servants’ entrance in the rear had proven risky but successful. She hadn’t been sure she’d avoid being spotted by any of the servants, busy with their early morning duties, but Providence appeared to be with her.

She cautiously made her way across the garden to the back of the house. She peeked through the window of Collin Yates’s study and, finding it empty, slipped inside, relieved no one had discovered that she’d left it unlocked when she sneaked out of the house near dawn. She stuck her head out into the hallway, and, hearing no movement, made her way upstairs as quietly as she could. She paused on the landing and looked around the corner, down the hallway on which all of the bedrooms opened. No stirrings, no sounds. Heart pounding wildly and trying to keep her feet from touching the floor, she made her way along the thick carpet to the bedroom at the end of the hall and slipped inside, pushing the door closed with a soft click.

Movement across the room caught her eye. Turning to face the intruder, she found herself looking at a bedraggled boy in an oversized coat and britches, a tall, round hat jammed on his head almost down to his eyes.

She laughed, and the bedraggled midshipman in the mirror did likewise. Yes, her disguise was convincing enough to startle even herself. With a sigh she unbuttoned the coat and pulled it off, dropping it to the floor. When Lieutenant Cochrane had looked at her with recognition in his gray eyes, she was certain her entire plan would crash like a ship against a rocky shore. She sent up a quick prayer of thanks that he hadn’t connected her appearance as Charles Lott with her true identity.

Sinking into the chair at the dressing table, she yanked off the hat and pulled her long thick hair out from under the high collar of the uniform coat. She’d tried pinning it flat to her head, but the cumbersome length of it—past her waist when unbound—created too much bulk for even the oversized hat to conceal.

The small porcelain clock on the mantel chimed once. Half-past eight. Panic once again rising, Charlotte peeled out of the uniform—picked up for mere pennies the first time she’d been able to sneak away from her mother’s and Mrs. Yates’s chaperonage a few days ago—stuffed it in the bottom of her trunk, threw her sleeping gown over her head, and jumped into the bed, still trying to find the sleeves with her hands as the bedroom door swung quietly open.

At the thump of the water pitcher on the commode, Charlotte sat up as if awakened by the sound.

Her maid curtsied. “Good morning, miss. I brought you fresh water for washing.”

“Thank you.” Charlotte grabbed her dressing gown from the end of the bed and shrugged into it, and then she stepped behind the screen in the corner. The scent of lilacs drifted up from the warm water as she poured it into the porcelain basin in the top of the exquisite dark-wood cabinet.

After running most of the way back from the dockyard, the wet cloth felt good against her skin, especially on her neck and back where her thick braid had been pressed against her by her uniform coat.

With the maid’s assistance, she soon stood before the mirror where Midshipman Charles Lott had been reflected less than an hour ago, now looking upon a fashionable young lady. Fear that she wouldn’t be able to pull off her plan swirled in her stomach, but she pushed it aside.

“The irons are ready, miss.”

Charlotte sat at the dressing table, sipped the coffee which had been delivered while she dressed, and reviewed her plans for the next eight days as the maid twisted and twirled and pinned her hair.

Anticipation, anxiety, and excitement danced within her veins. In just over a week, she would leave Portsmouth on a grand adventure. A grand adventure that would culminate in arriving in Jamaica, being reunited with Henry Winchester, and marrying him.

“Your new rank suits you, Commodore Ransome.”

William met Julia’s green eyes in the mirror’s reflection. Sitting in the middle of the bed in her white sleeping gown, her coppery hair cascading in riotous curls around her shoulders and back, she looked as young as when he’d made the gut-wrenching decision to walk away from her twelve years ago.

Now she was his wife. His knees quaked at the thought.

He returned to the examination of his new uniform coat, delivered from the tailor just this morning. “I am indebted to your father for arranging the promotion. There are many officers more deserving. All will say I received special favor because I am now his son-in-law.”

“As you should know by now,” Julia said, climbing off the bed and crossing to her dressing table, “my father does nothing unless he thinks it best for the Royal Navy.” Drawing her hairbrush through her fountain of hair, she ambled across the colorful carpet toward him. “He secured your promotion before he knew of our engagement, so that did not have any bearing on his decision.” She pulled the mass of her hair over her left shoulder and continued pulling the soft bristles of the brush through it. “And when have you ever worried about rumors going around about your being favored by my father?” A mischievous grin quirked the corners of her full lips. “Isn’t worrying about rumors and gossip what got us here in the first place?”

The fact she’d forgiven him, that she could now joke about the past, both thrilled and humbled him. He did not deserve her.

She set the brush down and came to stand behind him, looking around him at the reflection. She ran her hand along his sleeve to the braid-laden cuff. His arm tingled in reaction. He did not want to respond to her like this—every time she spoke, moved, breathed, he lost track of everything but her. He had to conquer it; otherwise, her presence aboard ship would be detrimental to his command.

A knock on the door roused both of them. The maid Lady Dalrymple had assigned to Julia entered on Julia’s entreaty.

“I will leave you.” William inclined his head and made for the door, and then he stopped as soon as he reached it. He turned and smiled at her. “Do not be long.”

“I will join you for breakfast shortly.”

He stood in the hallway a few moments after the door closed, separating him from Julia for the first time since their wedding yesterday morning. Pleasure and regret battled within him. Marrying Julia Witherington had, in less than twenty-four hours, brought him more joy than he could ever have dreamed or deserved. Yet when he thought of his duty, of his commitment to the Royal Navy, to king and country, he couldn’t help but fear he’d made his life more difficult by marrying at such a time.

The east wing of the manor house at Brampton Park, home to Lady Dalrymple, rang with emptiness. While William appreciated the privacy afforded them by the dowager viscountess’s invitation to stay in the unused section for their wedding night—with hints she would like them to stay even longer—the grandeur of it made his skin crawl, and he could not wait until he could deposit Julia at her father’s house and return to his ship.

After two wrong turns, he managed to find the small breakfast room, unused for nearly a century according to Lady Dalrymple, since the new wing and the much larger dining room had been completed.

The small room, paneled with dark wood, set him somewhat more at ease. By ignoring the narrow, tall windows, he could almost imagine himself aboard a ship in this room.

He paced, waiting for Julia, pondering how he could recover his good sense around her. When she entered the room a little while later—queenly in a purple dress, her hair the only crown she would ever need—he realized the only way he would be able to regain control of his mind would be to limit his contact with her.

Trying not to watch her serve eggs, sausage, and toast onto her plate, nor admire the curve of her neck above the lace set into the neck of her gown, William piled food onto his own plate, held Julia’s chair for her, and then took his place at the head of the small table.

“I must return to my ship today.”

Julia stirred sugar into her coffee. “Of course. I knew you would need to spend your days preparing Alexandra for the voyage.”

He cleared his throat of the bite of egg that wished to lodge there. “What I mean is that I must return to reside aboard my ship.”

Julia’s spoon clanked against her cup. Her face paled, and the light which had danced in her eyes all morning vanished.

William’s innards clenched. Perhaps he should have eased into the idea instead of blurting it out. He blamed it on her. He could not think clearly in her presence.

“Have…have you received word from your crew that there is trouble?” Her voice quavered.

“No. It is nothing like that.” Unable to stop himself, he reached across the corner of the table and took her hand in his. “My duty is to my ship, to my crew. I am needed there. Here, my attentions and loyalty are divided.”

For a brief moment, Julia’s chin quivered. But she pressed her lips together and drew in a deep breath. “I understand. And I have no desire to draw you away from your duties. I have already created too much inconvenience and upheaval in your life. I do not wish to generate more. However, I have promised Lady Dalrymple we would join her tonight for her dinner and card party as her honored guests. If we were to abdicate from her hospitality today, how would that reflect on her?”

Though well masked, the pain in Julia’s expression made William want to retract his words, to promise her he would stay here with her the remainder of the time they had in England. Any other woman would have been offended by his blundering, unreasonable demand. Julia apologized for inconveniencing him.

He raised her hand and kissed the back of it. “Aye. We will stay one more night.” Then, giving in to impulse, he leaned over, cupped that quivering chin, and claimed her lips in a searing kiss. “And I will not have you thinking yourself an inconvenience to me.”

His action resulted in the desired effect—the spark rekindled in her green eyes. She ran her finger along his jaw. “You lie too well, Commodore Ransome.”

“You start off our marriage ill, Mrs. Ransome, if you believe I would ever lie to you.” He squeezed her hand and then tucked in to his breakfast.

“Conceal the hard truth, then,” she said, cocking her head and sending the spiral curls at her temples dancing, “for the last few days have not been a convenience to you.”

“An upheaval, certainly.” He feigned a close interest in the piece of sausage speared on his fork. “However, any inconvenience I have suffered has been more than adequately recompensed not just by gaining a wife, but by finally receiving the complete approbation of my admiral.”

Julia’s gasp preceded a gale of laughter.

A surge of contentment washed away the morning’s anxieties. Perhaps being married would not interfere with his duty to the navy as severely as he’d feared.

Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James

I am so excited about this book.  It is two books down on my TBR pile.  I must say not only does the synopsis interest me in the book but I find the cover fabulous too.

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:

Love on a Dime

Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Katie Bond of Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cara Lynn James is a debut writer who has received numerous contest awards from Romance Writers of America chapters and the American Christian Fiction Writers. She resides in northwest Florida with her husband Jim. They have two grown children, Justin and Alicia; a grandson, Damian; and Papillion named Sparky.
Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1595546790

ISBN-13: 978-1595546791

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

P rolo g u e

N e w Y o r k C i t y , M ay 1 8 9 3

Jack slowed his pace, his courage once more waning at

the sight of the Westbrook home across the way. Anxiety

twisted his stomach in a knot. But in the dusky light,

Lilly’s glow of confidence reignited his own flame. She

understood her parents far better than he did. Since she believed her father

would agree to the marriage, why should he hesitate?

Arm-in-arm they strolled across the road. Among the row of

fine brick townhouses facing them, the Westbrook house stood

three stories tall like all the rest, with long, paned windows overlooking

Washington Park.

Mr. Ames, the ancient butler, opened the front door. Jack and

Lilly entered the dimly lit foyer.

“Where is my father this evening?” Lilly asked the butler.

“In the back parlor, miss.”

“Shall I go with you, Jack?”

“No,” he whispered, squeezing her hand, “I’d rather do this

on my own. Say a prayer all will go well.”

Jack strode toward the parlor, determined to plead his case.

Every nerve ending in his body fired with life—and more than

a few with apprehension. He’d calm himself and then ask Mr.

Westbrook for Lilly’s hand in a respectful tone, solicitous, but

not fawning. He’d restrain his usual brash attitude and hope Mr.

Westbrook would consent to a marriage most would deem unsuitable.

If he weighed the odds of success, he wouldn’t even try.

Jack inhaled a steadying breath and increased his pace down

the narrow hallway leading to the back of the house. Gas sconces

threw a pale light along the Persian runner that muffled his footsteps

to a soft shuffle. The house lay silent except for the noise of

a sledge hammer beating against his chest.

Lord, I need a large dose of Your strength. Don’t allow me to cower.

I’ve never been a quitter and I don’t want to start now.

He hadn’t asked God for much in the past, but this was too

important to rely on his own untested powers.

Jack paused before he came to the door of the back parlor,

straightened his bow tie, and squared his shoulders. Voices stopped

him before he moved forward. He recognized Mrs. Westbrook’s

high, girlish tone. He’d wait for a lull in the conversation, excuse

his entry, and then ask to speak to Mr. Westbrook. Jack waited for

several minutes before he heard his name.

“Thomas, I noticed Jackson Grail seems especially fond of

Lilly. You don’t suppose he wants to marry her, do you?”

Jack winced at the worry in her voice. With his back to the

wall he stepped closer to the parlor.

Mr. Westbrook chuckled. “No, my dear, he’s George ’s friend,

not Lilly’s. She ’s hardly more than a child.”

“For goodness’ sake. Lilly’s nineteen, certainly old enough to

catch the eye of a young man.”

“All right, she ’s not my little girl anymore. But ready for marriage?

No, Nessie, I don’t believe so. She has lots of time to choose

a mate. There ’s no rush.”

“Hmm. I wouldn’t want her to delay too long. I’ve given considerable

thought to her future.”

“I’m sure you have,” Mr. Westbrook murmured. Jack pictured

his wry smile.

“Well, it’s my duty as her mother to guide her. Oliver Cross

or Pelham Mills come to mind as possible suitors. Maybe Harlan

Santerre. He’s such a polite young man and his mother and I have

been friends since childhood. Yes, he’s most definitely my first

choice.”

Jack let out the breath he’d been holding, knowing he should

break away, cease his eavesdropping—

“They’re all acceptable to me. But what about young Grail?

You say he might be interested in her. He’s got a good head on his

shoulders.”

“But no money in his pocket. Need I say more?”

Jack frowned and tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry.

Mr. Westbrook sighed. “No, my dear. You’re absolutely right.

He’s not suitable, though I do like him.”

“I do as well. And now he’s as finely educated as our own

George. But he would have to strike it rich quickly in order to court

Lilly,” Mrs. Westbrook added. “And that’s highly unlikely.”

“Nearly impossible, I’m afraid. So I hope you’re wrong and

young Grail hasn’t set his heart on Lilly.” Her father sighed. “He’s

an intelligent boy. I’m sure he’d know better. Especially when she

has an ambitious mama anxious to make her the perfect match.”

Mrs. Westbrook laughed. “Thomas, do stop your teasing.”

Jack bumped his shoulder against the curlicues of a large gilt

picture frame. Turning to give it a hard shove, he stopped himself.

He wouldn’t let his temper get the better of him. Leaving the oil

painting crooked, he stumbled down the patterned runner, away

from the awful voices. When he came to the foyer he dropped into

a rosewood chair and ignored the curious stare from Mr. Ames.

Jack buried his head in his hands and tried to gather his wits

before he had to face Lilly. But the Westbrooks’ conversation

resounded through his mind. Poor. Unsuitable. Why had he ever

thought they’d accept him as a son-in-law? His love for Lilly had

banished all reason. He’d lived in a fog of hope these last several

months, but now it cleared.

At the sound of light footsteps he looked up. “What did Papa

say?” Lilly asked, grasping his hands.

He glanced at her without speaking and then saw his own

anguish reflected in her eyes. He so wished his answer could bring

her joy. She gently pulled him into the dimly lit sitting room. The

sheers and heavy velvet curtains blocked all but the final rays of

daylight from seeping through the windows overlooking the park.

They faced each other in front of the unlit marble fireplace, his arms

tight around her slim waist, her hands lightly touching his vest.

“Tell me,” she said in a rasping voice, barely audible.

“I never had the chance to ask, Lilly. When I got to the back

parlor your parents were already discussing appropriate husbands.

And my name wasn’t on the list.”

“That’s because they don’t know we love each other. Papa

has never refused me anything. It might take some persuasion, but

you can do it. We can approach him together.”

Lovely, pampered Lilly, who owned her father’s heart—

except when it came to marriage partners. And marriage among

the rich was certainly a business transaction. Their kind never

married Jack’s kind. He’d gone to St. Luke ’s and Yale with the

wealthy, but as a scholarship student, he didn’t belong to their set

no matter how hard he tried to fit in. Maybe he would’ve accepted

the impenetrable barrier if Lilly hadn’t swept into his life.

He gazed at her, drinking in her passion, memorizing her

large, expressive eyes and flawless skin, her tall, slender form and

thick brown hair framing her face.

Her eyes blazed like blue fire. “Come. We ’ll speak to Papa.

Right now.”

Jack caught her wrists. “No, I can’t. I’m so sorry. He won’t change

his mind. It’s pointless to even ask.” Save me the humiliation.

Her strangled cry pierced his heart. “You won’t even try? We

love each other. Isn’t that worth fighting for?” Lilly’s voice rose

with disbelief.

How could he explain he couldn’t abide her father’s rejection?

He refused to hear again that he wasn’t good enough to court

Lilly—once was enough. And he didn’t want her to elope with

him without her parents’ approval. Jack groaned. As much as he

adored Lilly, he wasn’t acceptable to the family. The daughter of

a prosperous banker, Lilly couldn’t marry a man without a family

fortune.

“We can marry without their consent. You’ll find a good job.

I know you will. Don’t you see, Jack, we don’t need my parents’

permission.”

“But I want their respect.” And he’d never gain their esteem

by stealing their daughter away. He turned from her, running a

hand through his hair. He ’d been fooling himself. How could

he provide for Lilly, care for her in a manner in which she was

accustomed? What could he promise her? A one room apartment

in a dingy part of town while he made his way in the world,

if he ever made it at all. How long before his beautiful, young

and idealistic bride would realize she ’d sacrificed too much for

an improbable dream? He ’d harm her if he stole her from her

family.

He glanced at her and could see in her face the stubborn, naïve

hope that lingered there. But he understood reality as she never

would. He ’d let his love blossom before he should have.

Jack slowly moved away, steeling himself for the hurt yet

to come. “Your parents are right. I’m in no position to marry. I

should never have proposed, because I have nothing to offer.”

Lilly rushed to him and flung her arms around his neck, tears

spilling down her cheeks. “What about our love? Why do you

need more than that?”

“Lilly, we can’t exist on dreams. I have to earn a living. And I

can’t support you on a clerk’s salary. You’d miss your old life.”

Her lovely, soft features hardened. “You must think my love

is too weak to withstand hardship. It’s strong enough to survive

anything. Why do you doubt me so?”

Jack shook his head. “I doubt myself, not you.” What if her

confidence in his abilities weren’t warranted? What if he never

rose above petty clerk, despite his fancy education? A girl from a

society family, proud and successful for generations, could never

be content washing laundry, cooking meals, and scrubbing floors

on her hands and knees. She ’d grow bitter and resentful.

“I can adapt to less. I don’t care about a beautiful home. I only

want you,” she said, her voice rising with frustration.

He wouldn’t argue about the effects of poverty and how it

wore on a person. She wouldn’t understand. “If we came from

the same background, I wouldn’t hesitate to speak to your father.

But we didn’t.”

“But you will. I know it. I’ll wait until you feel ready to marry

me. There’s no hurry. I’m patient. I can wait forever.” She pleaded

with beautiful eyes glistening with tears.

“No, please don’t wait for me.” Jack’s voice cracked like ice.

He wanted her to wait, but he couldn’t ruin her chances of

making a suitable, maybe even a happy marriage. The odds of

succeeding in the business world without connections were small.

If and when he’d proven himself, he’d return and hope she ’d still

want him. And forgive him. But he couldn’t ask her to wait.

He blotted her tears with his handkerchief, but they kept

streaming down her face. Her slender shoulders heaved with soft

sobs. He kissed her again gently and then retreated to his bedroom

before he was tempted to crush her in his arms and beg her to

elope. He’d planned to stay for the week as George ’s guest, but

now he needed to leave quickly.

Within ten minutes he was gone.

Jack’s heart slammed against his ribs. The past two weeks had

been a misery. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. Go back, go back!

his mind and heart screamed. You’ve made a terrible mistake!

His stomach roiling, Jack fought to keep a dignified pace and

not run all the way to Washington Square. At last, he stood before

the Westbrook home and tapped the front door knocker against

the heavy wood.

He’d explain he couldn’t manage without her and his infernal

pride had blocked his common sense and their tender love. Would

she accept his apology? They’d work something out. He didn’t

know how exactly, but they would. He knew their union was sanctioned,

indeed designed, by God.

Mr. Ames pulled the heavy door open. “May I help you, sir?”

“Yes. Is Miss Westbrook at home?”

The hunched-over butler shook his head. “They’ve all gone

abroad. They sailed yesterday.”

Jack’s cautious optimism collapsed in a heap of despair. “And

when will they return?”

“Next spring.”

Next spring. Jack groaned. “G-Good day,” he mumbled, turning

from the door.

I’m too late. I’ve lost her.
On e

N e w p o rt , R h o d e I s l a n d — J u ly 1 8 9 9

Six years later

With a deep sigh of satisfaction, Lilly Westbrook

whipped the last page of her manuscript out of

the Underwood typewriter. Carefully she shredded

the carbon and threw the messy strips into the wastebasket. No

meddlesome

maid could possibly reconstruct her work and tattle

to Mama.

For a moment, a wave of sadness overshadowed the pleasure

she felt at finishing another story. How she longed to share her

secret with her mother, but as much as Lilly hated deception, she

knew Mama would never understand. Mama was proud of her for

dabbling in poetry, but this?

No. It was best to stay behind closed doors to write her dime

novels.

Lilly shuddered to think of the disgrace she ’d bring upon herself

and, even worse, upon her family, if her secret was revealed.

The very notion of social ostracism weakened her knees and left

her legs wobbly. A twinge of guilt pinched her conscience as it

often did when she considered her concealment. Yet why look for

trouble when her work was progressing so well?
Lilly scrubbed her hands until all evidence of the carbon paper

and inky ribbon disappeared into the washbasin near her bed, then

covered the typewriter Mama had given her as a birthday gift a

few years before. Mama thought a typing machine unnecessary

for a poet, but she wasn’t one to begrudge her children anything

within reason.

Lilly withdrew a letter from her skirt pocket and smiled as she

re-read the last lines.

My dear Lilly,

I want to again express my thanks for all you’ve contributed to

the Christian Settlement House of New York. We so value the time

and effort you have devoted to assisting our young ladies with their

sundry life skills and English fluency. Your exceptional generosity

and financial support have enabled us to continue our work in accordance

with the Lord’s purposes.

Sincerely,

Phoebe Diller, Director

Miss Diller’s kind words sent a rush of warmth to Lilly’s heart

and strengthened her resolve to continue writing. For without the

profits from her novels, she couldn’t afford to donate more than

a few dollars to her favorite charity. How could she possibly quit

writing when her romance novels provided so many blessings to

others?

Lilly locked the final chapter in the rolltop desk by the bay

window and hid the key beneath the lining of her keepsake box.

Time for a well-deserved walk by the sea. She removed her reading

spectacles and placed her straw hat decorated with bright

poppies squarely on top of her upswept hair. After a last furtive

glance toward the desk, she left her bedroom to the morning sunshine

that splashed across the shiny oak floor and floral carpet.
All the way down the staircase she congratulated herself for

typing “The End” of her story, though it was only a few days

before deadline. That was much too close for comfort. She sighed.

Too many social events had disrupted her normal writing routine

this summer. But she had no choice but to force a smile and

attend the functions, even though most of them bored her to

distraction.

She wouldn’t think of that now. At least she’d finished the manuscript

before the deadline and for that she’d treat herself to a few

minutes out of her room. With a light heart, she strolled through

the deserted foyer, past Mr. Ames, the butler, and out the front

door. A beautiful day greeted her with its sun-blessed smile.

As she crossed the veranda, her sister-in-law Irene Westbrook,

seated at the end of the porch, peered over a small, familiar book.

The lurid cover of Lilly’s latest novel, Dorothea’s Dilemma,

popped out in garish color. Lilly stopped short and pressed her

palm over her gyrating heart.

“Oh my,” she murmured. She’d never expected to see one of

her novels in her own home, let alone in the hands of her brother’s

wife.

Irene smoothed her halo of silky blonde curls caught up in a

loose pompadour. She laid the slim paperback on her lap, her eyes

gleaming with curiosity. “Why hello, Lilly. Where have you been

on this beautiful afternoon? Cooped up in your bedroom again?

My goodness, what do you do in there all day?”

“Sometimes I enjoy a few hours of solitude.” Lilly’s nerves

seized control of her voice and it rose like the screech of a seagull.

“I’m sorry I interrupted your reading.” Heat crept into her skin as

Irene watched her, face aglow with interest.

“Do sit down, Lilly.”

She slipped into a wicker chair opposite Irene. A gust of

salty air, typical of Newport’s summer weather, blew in from the

Atlantic and brushed its cool breath across her cheeks. She prayed

it would fade the red splotches that came so easily when embarrassment

struck.

Irene cocked her head. “Is something wrong? You look positively

ill.”

“No, I’m fine.” Though every fiber of her body continued to

quiver, Lilly steadied her breathing. She folded her hands in the

lap of her charcoal-gray skirt and willed them not to shake.

“You aren’t shocked by my novel, are you?” Irene smirked.

“Of course not.” Lilly squirmed around on the soft chintz

cushion and avoided Irene ’s skeptical stare. “Why should I be

shocked?”

Irene leaned forward. “Some people claim dime novels are

trash, and from your reaction I thought you might be one of those

faultfinders. Of course they’re wrong. These books are filled with

adventure and I love adventure.” She rolled the last word around

her tongue like a stream of honey.

Irene, the niece of Quentin Kirby, one of San Francisco’s

silver kings, fancied herself an adventuress, but Lilly inwardly

disagreed. Irene merely appreciated fun and frivolity more than

most. That hardly made her a woman like the heroines of Lilly’s

books. “I’m so sorry, Irene. I didn’t mean to criticize your choice

of books. I just wondered where you obtained your copy.”

“I discovered it in the kitchen while I was searching for a

blueberry tart.” Irene grinned as if Lilly ought to admire her

cleverness.

“One of the scullery maids must have left it there.”

“You took it without asking permission?” Lilly could scarcely

believe Irene had wandered downstairs to the basement kitchen,

the domain of servants who strongly disapproved of visitors,

even the family.

“Why yes. Well no, not exactly. I borrowed it. As soon as I finish

reading, I’ll give it back. Of course.”

Irene tapped the big, red letters spelling out the author’s name

across the cover. “Fannie Cole. She’s a splendid writer, the very

best. Have you ever read any of her books? I devour them like

chocolate.”

Lilly’s heart lurched. “Naturally I’ve heard of her. I believe

her stories are rather popular.”

“They’re enthralling.”

At the sound of the front door squeaking open, Lilly looked

away with relief.

Mama bustled onto the veranda, a frown knitting her eyebrows.

“What’s that about Fannie Cole? She’s quite infamous, I

hear.” Glancing from Lilly to Irene, Mama’s eyelashes fluttered, a

sure sign of agitation. “Oh, I see you have one of her books . . .”

Lilly knew her mother couldn’t let this breach of propriety

pass without comment. On the other hand, the kind and ever

tactful Vanessa Westbrook would hate to offend her new daughter-in-

law.

“Mama, Fannie Cole writes harmless fiction. You needn’t

worry.” Lilly smiled her assurance, hoping she’d veer off to

another topic.

Her mother sunk into a wicker chair beside Irene. “Perhaps,

my dear, but you must admit, there are so many more uplifting

novels.” She patted Irene ’s arm, which was robed in a cream silk

blouse that matched the lace of her skirt. “Lillian is a poet, you

know. Her work is delightful. You must read it. I’ll go fetch you

a copy.”

Lilly cringed. “No, Mama. I wrote those poems years ago. She

wouldn’t be interested in the meanderings of an eighteen-yearold

ninny. It’s sentimental tripe.”

“Nonsense, my dear. You’ve always been much too critical of

yourself.”

“Nevertheless, I’m sure Irene would prefer Fannie Cole.”

Who wouldn’t? Lilly thought. Still, she appreciated her mother’s

enthusiasm for her meager literary efforts.

Irene tossed her a wide, grateful smile. “There, that’s settled.”

Mama’s round, girlish face tightened with distaste. “I wish

you wouldn’t read dime novels because . . .” She looked toward

Lilly for support.

“Really, Mama.” Lilly softened her voice, not meaning to

scold. “While some of the dime novels are sensational, others are

written to help working girls avoid the pitfalls of city life. They’re

moralistic tales that encourage virtue. Nothing to be ashamed of

reading.” Or writing.

“Exactly.” Irene beamed. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Of course, I read for the story, not the moral lesson, but I’m sure

it’s beneficial for those who enjoy a good sermon.”

Lilly suppressed a sigh of resignation. “No doubt Miss Cole

hopes and prays her words touch the hearts of her readers and

bring them closer to the Lord.” Lilly looked at Mama and Irene,

hoping they’d somehow understand her purpose and approve.

But both looked puzzled over her words.

Irene ’s gaze narrowed. “An odd way to spread the gospel,

don’t you think?”

“Not at all. The Lord is more creative than we are.” Lilly

bristled and then glanced away when she found her mother and

sister-in-law still staring at her.

She’d spoken up much more forcefully than she intended.

With a sinking heart, Lilly realized Mama would never accept her

viewpoint; it flew in the face of beliefs and opinions ingrained

since childhood.

Irene picked up a sheet of paper resting on a small table between

two pots of ferns and waved it like a flag on the Fourth of July. Lilly

immediately recognized Talk of the Town, a gossip rag published

by that scandalmonger, Colonel MacIntyre, the bane of Newport

society. He shot fear into the hearts of all upstanding people and

others who weren’t quite so virtuous. Lilly swallowed hard.

Mama gasped. Her pale skin whitened. “Oh my dear, that’s

hardly appropriate for a respectable home.”

Irene shrugged. “Perhaps not. But if you don’t mind my saying

so, it’s great fun to read. I’m learning the crème de la crème

of Newport are up to all kinds of mischief.” She laughed with

pleasure.

“Listen to this.” Irene leaned forward. “One hears that Miss

Fannie Cole, author of wildly popular dime novels, has taken up residence

at one of the ocean villas for the season. The talk about town

claims this writer of sensational—some might even say salacious—

stories, belongs to the New York and Newport aristocracy. Which of our

fine debutantes or matrons writes under the nom de plume, Fannie Cole?

Speculation runs rampant. Would the talented but mysterious author of

Dorothea’s Dilemma, Hearts in Tune, and several other delectable

novels please come forward and identify herself for her public?”

Lilly’s throat closed. She clamped her hands down on her lap,

but they shook like a hummingbird’s wings. Had a maid or a footman

stumbled across her secret and sold the information? Colonel

Rufus MacIntyre of Talk of the Town paid handsomely for gossip.

No one was safe from his long, grasping tentacles, including some

of the most prominent people in society.

“The colonel has mentioned Miss Cole in his column for the

last two weeks, so I expect we’ll hear more about her during the

summer.” Irene grinned as she studied the sheet. “I wonder who

she is. I’d love to meet her.”

Mama’s mouth puckered into a small circle. “Undoubtedly

someone from the wrong side of the tracks. No one we’d know.”

She punctuated her words with a firm nod.

Irene persisted. “You must have an idea, Lilly. You seem to

know everything that’s going on in society.”

Lilly turned away, sure that a red stain had again spilled across

her pale skin. Her sister-in-law was right. She did listen to all the

tittle-tattle, but she prided herself on her discretion. The foibles

of her set provided grist for her novels, not for spreading rumors

and innuendo.

“You give me far too much credit, Irene.” She hated to dodge

questions to keep from lying, but what was her option short of

confessing? She twisted the cameo at the neck of her tailored

shirtwaist.

Mama wagged her finger. “Mark my words. By the end of

the summer someone will discover Fannie Cole’s true name and

announce it to the entire town. Oh, my. What humiliation she ’ll

bring upon her family. They’ll be mortified.”

“How delicious,” Irene murmured.

Lilly groaned inwardly. Her subterfuge gnawed at her conscience,

worsening day by day, but she couldn’t turn back the

clock and reconsider her decision to write in secret.

She rose. “Will you excuse me? I need to take my walk now.”

With her head held high and as much poise as she could muster,

Lilly descended the veranda’s shallow steps. She strode across

the wide, sloping lawn that surrounded Summerhill, the old

twenty-two-room mansion the Westbrooks rented for the season.

Once she reached the giant rocks that separated the grounds

from the ocean, she picked her way over to a smooth boulder that

doubled for a bench. As she ’d done every day since her arrival

three weeks ago, Lilly settled onto its cold surface. Instead of

watching the breakers pound against the coast and absorb the majesty

of nature ’s rhythm, she rested her head in her hands and let

the breeze brush against her face.

What would happen if her beau, Harlan Santerre, discovered

that she and Fannie Cole were the same person? The wealthy railroad

heir, a guest of the family for the eight weeks of summer,

miraculously seemed ripe to propose. Her mother kept reminding

her how grateful she should be that such a solid, upstanding man

as Harlan Santerre had shown interest in a twenty-five-year-old

spinster with no grand fortune and no great beauty. Mama and the

entire family would be humiliated if her writing became public

knowledge and Harlan turned his attention elsewhere.

Yet the Holy Ghost had urged her to compose her simple stories,

and as she wrote, her melancholy gradually faded. Her enthusiasm

never waned thanks to the joy she received from doing the Lord’s

work.

Why would He allow someone to ruin her and end the good

deeds she accomplished? He should smite her enemies instead. All

her life she ’d trusted the Lord to guide her and protect her, but

never had she needed His help more than now. But would He continue

to shield her?

Trembling, Lilly tossed a stone into the roiling surf and

watched it sink into the foamy white waves. What if the surge

of curiosity aroused by Colonel MacIntyre didn’t fade away and

everything she held dear was threatened?


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