Archive for the 'book reviews' Category

Remembering You by Tricia Goyer

I am fascinated by the World War II era.  So when the opportunity came up to review Tricia Goyer’s latest release…I was all in.  Why?  Because Mrs Goyer has done a lot of research into her books and the World War II era and has befriended many veterans as she learned about the hardships and beauty of that time.  If you follow her on twitter you know the heart she has for her veteran friends :)
Remembering You is both moving and heart-wrenching.  While fiction it also contains elements that really happened.  To me this added so much to the book.  Yes, the characters were fiction but the places and some of the events were not.
Ava, Dennis, Jack, and Paul are all delightful yet flawed.  Each holds a secret that is haunting them and breaking them.  Remembering You deals with forgiveness on many levels.  His forgiveness, others forgiveness, and forgiving ourselves.  Something we all deal with.
Tricia Goyer created four characters that come alive in the pages of the book and there were several times the pain of the characters brought tears to my eyes.  I will admit I at one point I was very frustrated with Ava.  The more I read the more frustrated I got with her…until I realized the reason I was frustrated is because well….I have done the same things she has.  Believed the lies over His Truth.
My favorite part of the book was definitely the scenes were Jack and Paul talk about their experiences during the war.  It was painful to read yet they brought out the beauty of what God can do.  Knowing Mrs Goyer had worked painstakingly to research and know about this time in history made it even more powerful.
Remembering You explores the many types of love.  As someone who has lost all of her grandparents this book was bittersweet in many ways.  Reading of the relationships of a granddaughter and her grandpa and a grandson and his grandpa.  It made me long for the days my memory holds.  In many ways this book is a love story.  The love of family , the love of country, and the love of that special someone.  The sacrifices all require and the beauty that comes from it.
Remembering You was a book I could not put down and read it in less than two days.  The characters are memorable.  Their pain touching and their joy moving.  It’s a fiction book that reaches in and touches a small part of your heart.  There are not many fiction books like that …. so definitely take a chance and read Remembering You by Tricia Goyer.
About the book:
35-year-old Ava Andrews’ dream job is interrupted by an unusual request–fulfill her 84-year-old grandfather’s last wish by joining him on a battle site tour of Europe. Ava is sure her boss will refuse her request. But, instead, he gives her a directive of his own–to videotape the tour and send it back as mini-segments for the show she produces.
As if juggling these two things isn’t hard enough, Ava is soon surprised again … twice. First, Ava and Grandpa Jack arrive in Europe, only to discover the tour is cancelled. Unwilling to let down her grandfather or her boss, Ava and Grandpa Jack head out on their own. Then, while they’re on their way, the pair soon meet up with Paul, her grandpa’s best friend, and his grandson Dennis. The same Dennis who just happens to be Ava’s first love.
Before she knows it, Ava and Dennis are swept down memory lane as they visit the sites that are discussed in the history books. And even though Ava’s videotaping old soldiers, she can see their youth, their hopes and fears, and their pride in their eyes. Soon Ava learns the trip isn’t just for them … it’s for her too–especially for her heart.
Read an excerpt, watch a video and find out more here. http://www.triciagoyer.com/contemporaryfiction.html#RememberingYou
About Tricia:
Tricia Goyer is the author of thirty books including Songbird Under a German MoonThe Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. On Tricia’s weekly radio show, Living Inspired, she shares stories of inspiration and encouragement. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.
For more about Tricia and her other books visit www.triciagoyer.com
Special thanks to Litfuse Publicity for providing me with a complimentary copy of Remembering You.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman

If you have been around this book bloggy long you know I am a Julie Lessman fan.  :)  I have adored her writing from her first book and also am blessed enough to now call her friend.  So it should be no surprise that I wait anxiously each time her new book comes out.  A Heart Revealed was no exception.  What I did not expect was for this book to become my favorite.  I have long adored Brady and Lizzie’s book, A Passion Denied but now the story of Sean and Emma has moved into favorite position.

I have always liked Emma in the other books but to finally get a glimpse into her life and her heart was a treat.  I found myself understand her choices and her emotions.  Her heart was just beautiful even though she carried around so many scars.  Emma is truly a relatable character for many women.

Sean.  Whew.  That man…. I found myself wishing for one of him ;)  (Mr. Darcy and Gilbert Blythe better watch out!)  The heart he had for his family and those in his life is unique and a refreshing look at a male character.

The love story is sweet and will have you rooting for Sean and Emma even while your heart is breaking.  Julie throws in a few incredible twists that leave you sitting with your mouth wide open and wondering how in the world is this going to end?

The beat of my heart is the beauty of redemption.  I find it to be the most beautiful of things and through out A Heart Revealed that is the theme of Emma’s life.  Of Sean’s life.  Of the O’Connor’s.  The story from that aspect is absolutely beautiful.

Like in Julie’s past books I cried and I literally laughed out loud several times.  (There is a kitchen scene that I re-read a few times and laughed until tears came because it was so funny and so real!)

As always you get to glimpse into the lives of the whole O’Connor clan and catch up with your favorite characters.

At 512 pages A Heart Revealed is one of those stories you get to completely imerse yourself in and just enjoy reconnecting with the characters and learning about Emma and Sean.  As always I closed the book with a sigh.

About the book:

Her heart is tied to a youthful vow . . . but can true love set it free?

Ten years ago, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston, running for her life. Her emotional wounds have finally faded, and her life is now full of purpose and free from the pain of her past. But when she falls for her friend Charity’s handsome and charming brother, Sean O’Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. Could Sean and Emma ever have a future together? Or is Emma doomed to live out the rest of her life denying the only true love she’s ever known?

Filled with intense passion and longing, deception and revelation, A Heart Revealed will hold you in its grip until the very last page.

BUY the BOOK!!

“Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

AND!

FREE DOWNLOAD of A Hope Undaunted, book 1 in the Winds of Change series!!  Visit  CBD.comAmazon.comBarnes&Noble.com and Sony e-reader!! You do NOT need a Kindle, Nook or e-reader to download it — you can download e-books on ANYTHING, including PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, Cloud Readers, Androids, Blackberrys and Windows Phone 7, you name it!

 

(I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.)

A Confident Heart by Renee Swope

 

I first heard about Ms Swope’s book when a friend sent me a link for her email series called the doubt diet.  My curiosity was peeked and I did a little research.  The next day an email appeared in my inbox offering the chance to review the book.  I knew then God definitely wanted me to read it.

Doubt is a constant in my life and I knew what Ms Swope would have to say would pierce my heart.  Fear is definitely how I have lived my life.  Mrs Swope explores many of the areas where fear is prevalent for women.  Her approach is one of friendship in many ways.  While reading the book it was as if I had told her how I felt and she offered her words as a friend would.  It is not an easy book to read if you struggle with doubt and fear because the lies you have believed for so long seem to scream at you as you read.  The authors reminders of how much God loves you and the life you can have are full of hope and promise.

If you struggle with doubt and fear A Confident Heart is a great book that will encourage your heart.  Mrs Swope openly shares her own personal experiences and you will feel a kindredness with her.  Her writing is gentle and loving.  You see not only her experiences and triumphs on the pages…you see your own too.  The questions really help you explore things further in your heart and the chart of promises is a great reminder.  I will be recommending this book to friends!

About the book:

Step out of the shadows of self-doubt to live with a confident heart
Ever feel like you’re not good enough, smart enough, or valuable enough? Renee Swope understands. Even with a great family, a successful career, and a thriving ministry, she still struggled with self-doubt. Sharing her own personal story, Renee shows you how to rely on the power of God’s promises to find the security you need and the confidence you long for!

  • Exchange fear-filled thinking with faith-filled believing
  • Fail forward when life or sin sets you back
  • Embrace your God-given purpose, passion, and personality
  • See beyond who you are to who you are becoming in Christ

Powerful Scripture-based prayers are at the end of each chapter, along with Bible study questions and a chart with thirty-one promises to replace our most common self-doubts. Foreword by Lysa TerKeurst.

 

Buy the book.

“Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Special thanks to Revell for providing me with a copy of The Confident Heart in exchange for my honest review.

The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz.

The Colonel’s Lady is Laura Frantz’s third novel.  The setting is the late 1700’s Kentucky where not only is there a war going on but tension is also high among the Native Americans and the people moving into their land and territory.

The Colonel’s Lady has many themes: hope, forgiveness, honor, and love.   Not only do you get a sweet romance but a mystery too.  You meet many characters, all unique, and some with secrets.  Roxanna and Cass are flawed just like you and me and you will find yourself rooting for them…not only as a couple but as they both overcome the past so they can embrace their future.

Several things make Laura Frantz one of my few must read Christian authors.

One is the fact that with a Laura Frantz book you get a true historical read.  You can tell Ms Frantz’s has taken the time to research the time period and her beloved Kentucky.  I found myself wanting to see the area for myself because of her descriptions.

Secondly I find I enjoy about the author’s books is the fact that she creates unique characters.  Roxanna and Cass are unforgettable because of their unique stories…and their story together.   The secondary characters in the book are lovable and at times I found myself wishing for more on them too.  To me wanting to know more about the secondary characters as much as the main ones means the author has created an all encompassing story that will have you engrossed in the book and when you are not reading it..pondering what is coming next.

And lastly Ms Frantz’s writing style is beautifully descriptive and enjoyable.  Reading one of her stories you are able to truly get lost in her descriptions and the lives of her characters.  When you turn the last page you are surprised it is over because you have been swept away to another place for the last 416 pages.

In 1779, when genteel Virginia spinster Roxanna Rowan arrives at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, she finds that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna is forced to take her father’s place as scrivener. Before long, it’s clear that the colonel himself is attracted to her. But she soon realizes the colonel has grave secrets of his own–some of which have to do with her father’s sudden death. Can she ever truly love him?

Readers will be enchanted by this powerful story of love, faith, and forgiveness from reader favorite Laura Frantz. Her solid research and deft writing immerse readers in the world of the early frontier while her realistic characters become intimate friends.

Buy the Book.

**Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

***I was provided a copy of The Colonel’s Lady from the publisher.  However, the views and opinions expressed are my own.

My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren

My Foolish Heart is a lovely visit back to the town of Deep Haven.  I really enjoyed that Susan May Warren tackled some tough subjects in this novel.  Both main characters, Isadora and Caleb carry some heavy and very real baggage and have to explore themselves before they can truly see the beauty of each other.  Mrs. Warren deals with some tough but hard issues that so many can relate too in some way.   The romance is lovely and believable.  She always creates characters that stay with you even after you finish the book (as any character should do!  Good books never end I have been told and if the character stays with you…the book never ends.)   Isadora and Caleb are messy but find that all things become new in Christ.  The wonderful truth of redemption.  Even though the book deals with some deep things it is a wonderful read that will leave you sighing at the end….per usual with Mrs Warren’s books.  (Add in the secondary story line and this book is just icing!)

While not my most favorite (I still cannot get over my adoration of the Mission :: Russia series!) this is another wonderful book by the always delightful Susan May Warren.

About the Book:

Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.

Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?

Read an excerpt here: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/novels/contemporary-romance/

Win a Romantic Night on the Town from Miss Foolish Heart!

Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart!

Read what the reviewers
are saying here.

To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who’s never had a date, Susan has
put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner
will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!

The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

* A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)

* A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel

* The entire Deep Haven series

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on
June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart
Party on Facebook
! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat
about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away
tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don’t miss the
fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS! 


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

A Family For Faith by Missy Tippens

I had the lovely pleasure of having lunch with Missy and a few other authors a few years ago and was charmed by Missy.  She is a delight and I loved hearing about her writing life.  If you haven’t guess writers have long fascinated me.

A Family for Faith is Missy’s fourth book for the Love Inspired line and it might be my favorite of Missy’s books.  I found the whole premise fascinating and not done in Christian fiction before (that I can remember).  When I read the authors note at the end of the book and found out how the idea came about I enjoyed the premise ever more!  The characters were real and very relatable and as I read the book Faith really grew special to me because I saw a lot of some of my actions in her.  I also found myself really connecting with Gabe and his inability to move forward. I also really enjoyed the secondary characters and found myself wishing I could go visit the little town and meet these quirky folks!  I of course always love a book set in my home state ;)  The book deals with some hard issues and yet there are some enjoyable lighthearted fun moments too.   The faith element of the book is there but not overdone and is not distracting from the wonderful story Missy created.

For me this is another great book from Missy and I look forward to her next….as always!

About the book:

When Faith Hagin sees widower cop Gabe Reynolds every day in her coffee shop, she can’t help but feel for the struggling single dad. She’s raised a teenager of her own—and sadly, knows what not to do. But thanks to his matchmaking preteen daughter, Chelsea, the whole town’s praying for Gabe to find a wife! Even though Faith thinks she’s content being just friends, spending time with him and Chelsea starts to feel like a fresh start at having a family. And their love may be the answer to everyone’s prayers.

Buy the BOOK!

Visit Missy’s website!

Connect with Missy on her facebook page!

Special thank you to Missy for my copy of A Family For Faith!

Dirty Girls Come Clean by Crystal Renaud

I have been blessed to know Crystal for several years.  I stumbled upon her blog and then followed her on twitter (way back in the day!)  and was blessed enough to be in a lifegroup online (LGO) with her and several other amazing people.  We started sharing our testimony’s and Crystal’s was beautiful. Even more was that her heart was to help other women who were bound by pornography.  It has been a privilege to watch God work in amazing ways and for this book to become a reality.

Crystal has a passion for helping other women where she was.  Dirty Girls Come Clean is a powerful tool.  Using the acryomn SCARS Crystal shares how God can work in our lives to heal this addiction.  Not only is Crystal’s information spot on, as a counselor I found it very useful to make me think and dig deeper with my clients.  At the end of each chapter Crystal offers a Becoming Clean section where steps are introduced to help you on your journey.  That is what this book is.  A journey toward healing.

In Dirty Girls Come Clean we not only get a very informative book we also get the added bonus of beautiful stories of redemption through the testimonies shared.

Most importantly this book is not just for those women who struggle.  It is a fantastic tool for any women.  This is happening much more than we think and I know we all have friends who may be secretly struggling.  It is good information for all of us to know.

This book is hopefully the first step of many unveiling secrets we keep as Christians…especially those of us who are women.  We are all sinners in need of Grace…and we need to stop hiding behind our lies we are okay and life is perfect.  Crystal takes a giant step here and we all should follow.

Dirty Girls Come Clean is an inspirational book that reminds us our God is still a Healer and He still works in amazing ways if we just let Him.  I highly recommend every single person in the church read it and have their eyes opened…

 

About the book:

Pornography is not just a man’s issue.  Twenty-five percent of Christian women are addicted to pornography and sadly, 70% of these women will never confide in someone about their problems.

Recently there has been an explosion of ministries, churches, and individuals battling pornography’s destructive and tragic effects.  Porn is highly addictive and requires plenty of tools to break its strangling hold.  However, these ministries and tools are more accessible to men than women.  Women turn to pornography for different reasons than men but once adicted feel the same alienation and shame.  Women desperately need a place of confession, accountability, and healing separate from men.

In Dirty Come Clean, Crystal Renaud, founder of Dirty Girls Ministries and AACC certified counselor – whose own addiction started at age 10 – provides steps to recovery uniquely tailored for the female addict.  Beginning with surrender, moving to confession, embracing accountability, owning responsibility, to finally sharing with others, the reader will be taken on a journey that can guide her from a state of woundedness to one of healing.

 

Visit Dirty Girls Ministries.

Crystal Renaud on Twitter.

Dirty Girls Ministries on Facebook.

BUY THE BOOK!

A Billion Reasons Why by Kristen Billerbeck

This was my first time reading a book by Kristen Billerbeck. I found the premise interesting and the book was quite funny at certain points. The writing was quirky and different from a usual Christian romance. The faith element is light and not overwhelming.  I did find the revisting of an old issue to be bothersome and wanted it to be cleared up faster than it was….and the ending felt rushed after the slow going of the rest of the book but I did enjoy the book and will probably read a Kristen Billerbeck novel again in the future.

I am attaching the FIRST information so you can check out the first chapter yourself!

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

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

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

A Billion Reasons Why

Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kristin Billerbeck was born in California to an Italian father and a strong Norwegian/German mother. Her mother tried to teach her to do things right, how to cook, clean, sew, and budget accordingly—all the things a proper girl should know in order to be a contributing member of society. Yet Billerbeck said she “failed miserably,” although her grandmother must still hold some hope since she gave her a cookie gun for her 40th birthday.

Billerbeck has authored more than 30 novels, including the Ashley Stockingdale series and the Spa Girls series. She is a leader in the Chick Lit movement, a Christy Award finalist, and a two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award. She has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in northern California.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

There are a billion reasons Kate should marry her current boyfriend.

Will she trade them all to be madly in love?

Katie McKenna leads a perfect life. Or so she thinks. She has a fulfilling job, a cute apartment, and a wedding to plan with her soon-to-be fiance, Dexter.

She can think of a billion reasons why she should marry Dexter…but nowhere on that list is love.

And then in walks Luc DeForges, her bold, breathtaking ex-boyfriend. Only now he’s a millionaire. And he wants her to go home to New Orleans to sing for her childhood friend’s wedding. As his date.

But Katie made up her mind about Luc eight years ago, when she fled their hometown after a very public breakup. Yet there’s a magnetism between them she can’t deny.

Katie thought her predictable relationship with Dexter would be the bedrock of a lasting, Christian marriage. But what if there’s more? What if God’s desire for her is a heart full of life? And what if that’s what Luc has offered all along?

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595547916
ISBN-13: 978-1595547910

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

A Fine Romance

Katie McKenna had dreamed of this moment at least a thousand times. Luc would walk back into her life filled with remorse. He’d be wearing jeans, a worn T-shirt, and humility. He’d be dripping with humility.

That should have been her first clue that such a scenario had no bearing on reality.

“Katie,” a voice said.

The sound sent a surge of adrenaline through her frame. She’d forgotten the power and the warmth of his baritone. A quick glance around her classroom assured her that she must be imagining things. Everything was in order: the posters of colorful curriculum, the daily schedule of activities printed on the whiteboard, and, of course, the children. All six of them were mentally disabled, most of them on the severe side of the autism spectrum, but three had added handicaps that required sturdy, head-stabilizing wheelchairs. The bulk of the chairs overwhelmed the room and blocked much of the happy yellow walls and part of the large rainbow mural the kids had helped to paint. The room, with its cluttered order, comforted her and reminded her of all she’d accomplished. There was no need to think about the past. That was a waste of time and energy.

Her eyes stopped on her aides, Carrie and Selena. The two women, so boisterous in personality, were usually animated. But at the moment they stood huddled in the corner behind Austin’s wheelchair.

Carrie, the heavyset one in the Ed Hardy T-shirt, motioned at her.

“What?” Katie pulled at her white shirt with the delicate pink flowers embroidered along the hem and surveyed the stains. “I know, I’m a mess. But did you see how wonderfully the kids did on their art projects? It was worth it. Never thought of the oil on the dough staining. Next time I’ll wear an apron.”

Selena and Carrie looked as though there was something more they wanted.

“Maddie, you’re a born artist.” Katie smiled at the little girl sitting behind a mound of colorful clay. Then to the aides: “What is the matter with you two?”

Selena, a slight Latina woman, shook her head and pointed toward the door.

Katie rotated toward the front of the classroom and caught her breath. Luc, so tall and gorgeous, completely out of place in his fine European suit and a wristwatch probably worth more than her annual salary, stood in the doorway. He wore a fedora, his trademark since college, but hardly one he needed to stand out in a crowd.

As she stared across the space between them, suddenly the classroom she took such pride in appeared shabby and soiled. When she inhaled, it reeked of sour milk and baby food. Her muddled brain searched for words.

“Luc?” She blinked several times, as if his film-star good looks might evaporate into the annals of her mind. “What are you doing here?”

“Didn’t you get my brother’s wedding invitation?” he asked coolly, as if they’d only seen each other yesterday.

“I did. I sent my regrets.”

“That’s what I’m doing here. You can’t miss Ryan’s wedding. I thought the problem might be money.”

She watched as his blue eyes came to rest on her stained shirt. Instinctively she crossed her arms in front of her.

“I came to invite you to go back with me next week, on my plane.”

“Ah.” She nodded and waited for something intelligible to come out of her mouth. “It’s not money.”

“Come home with me, Katie.” He reached out his arms, and she moved to the countertop and shuffled some papers together.

If he touches me, I don’t stand a chance. She knew Luc well enough to know if he’d made the trip to her classroom, he didn’t intend to leave without what he came for. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.” She stacked the same papers again.

“Give me one reason.”

She faced him. “I could give you a billion reasons.”

Luc’s chiseled features didn’t wear humility well. The cross-shaped scar beneath his cheekbone added to his severity. If he weren’t so dreaded handsome, he’d make a good spy in a Bond movie. His looks belied his soft Uptown New Orleans upbringing, the kind filled with celebrations and warm family events with backyard tennis and long days in the swimming pool.

He pushed through the swiveled half door that separated them and strode toward her.

“That gate is there for a reason. The classroom is for teachers and students only.”

Luc opened his hand and beckoned to her, and despite herself, she took it. Her heart pounded in her throat, and its roar was so thunderous it blocked her thoughts. He pulled her into a clutch, then pushed her away with all the grace of Astaire. “Will you dance with me?” he asked.

He began to hum a Cole Porter tune clumsily in her ear, and instinctively she followed his lead until everything around them disappeared and they were alone in their personal ballroom. For a moment she dropped her head back and giggled from her stomach; a laugh so genuine and pure, it seemed completely foreign—as if it came from a place within that was no longer a part of her. Then the dance halted suddenly, and his cheek was against hers. She took in the roughness of his face, and the thought flitted through her mind that she could die a happy woman in those arms.

The sound of applause woke her from her reverie.

“You two are amazing!” Carrie said.

The children all murmured their approval, some with screams of delight and others with loud banging.

Luc’s hand clutched her own in the small space between them, and she laughed again.

“Not me,” Luc said. “I have the grace of a bull. It’s Katie. She’s like Ginger Rogers. She makes anybody she dances with look good.” He appealed to the two aides. “Which is why I’m here. She must go to my brother’s wedding with me.”

“I didn’t even know you danced, Katie,” Selena said. “Why don’t you ever come dancing with us on Friday nights?”

“What? Katie dances like a dream. She and my brother were partners onstage in college. They were like a mist, the way they moved together. It’s like her feet don’t touch the ground.”

“That was a long time ago.” She pulled away from him and showed him her shirt. “I’m a mess. I hope I didn’t ruin your suit.”

“It would be worth it,” Luc growled.

“Katie, where’d you learn to dance like that?” Carrie asked.

“Too many old movies, I suppose.” She shrugged.

“You could be on Dancing with the Stars with moves like that.”

“Except I’m not a star or a dancer, but other than that, I guess—” She giggled again. It kept bubbling out of her, and for one blissful moment she remembered what it felt like to be the old Katie McKenna. Not the current version, staid schoolmarm and church soloist in Northern California, but the Katie people in New Orleans knew, the one who danced and sang.

Luc interrupted her thoughts. “She’s being modest. She learned those moves from Ginger and Fred themselves, just by watching them over and over again. This was before YouTube, so she was dedicated.”

Katie shrugged. “I was a weird kid. Only child, you know?” But inside she swelled with pride that Luc remembered her devotion to a craft so woefully out-of-date and useless. “Anyway, I don’t have much use for swing dancing or forties torch songs now. Luc, meet Carrie and Selena. Carrie and Selena, Luc.”

“I don’t have any ‘use’ for salsa dancing,” Selena said. “I do it because it’s part of who I am.”

“Tell her she has to come with me, ladies. My brother is having a 1940s-themed wedding in New Orleans. He’d be crushed if Katie didn’t come, and I’ll look like a hopeless clod without her to dance with.”

Katie watched the two aides. She saw the way Luc’s powerful presence intoxicated them. Were they really naive enough to believe that Luc DeForges could ever appear like a clod, in any circumstance or setting? Luc, with his skilled charm and roguish good looks, made one believe whatever he wanted one to believe. The two women were putty in his hands.

“Katie, you have to go to this wedding!” Selena stepped toward her. “I can’t believe you can dance like that and never told us. You’d let this opportunity slip by? For what?” She looked around the room and frowned. “This place?”

The cacophony of pounding and low groans rose audibly, as if in agreement.

“This may be just a classroom to you, but to me, it’s the hope and future of these kids. I used to dance. I used to sing. It paid my way through college. Now I’m a teacher.”

“You can’t be a teacher and a dancer?” Selena pressed. “It’s like walking and chewing gum. You can do both. The question is, why don’t you?”

“Maybe I should bring more music and dancing into the classroom. Look how the kids are joining in the noise of our voices, not bothered by it. I have to think about ways we could make the most of this.”

But she hadn’t succeeded in changing the subject; everyone’s attention stayed focused on her.

“You should dance for the kids, Katie. You possess all the grace of an artist’s muse. Who knows how you might encourage them?”

Katie laughed. “That’s laying it on a bit thick, Luc, even for you. I do believe if there was a snake in that basket over there, it would be rising to the charmer’s voice at this very minute.”

Luc’s very presence brought her into another time. Maybe it was the fedora or the classic cut of his suit, but it ran deeper than how he looked. He possessed a sense of virility and take-no-prisoners attitude that couldn’t be further from his blue-blood upbringing. He made her, in a word, feel safe . . . but there was nothing safe about Luc and there never had been. She straightened and walked over to her open folder to check her schedule for the day.

Tapping a pencil on the binder, she focused on getting the day back on track. The students were involved in free playtime at the moment. While they were all situated in a circle, they played individually, their own favorite tasks in front of them.

“Carrie, would you get Austin and Maddie ready for lunch?”

“I’ll do it,” Selena said. “And, Katie . . . you really should go to the wedding.”

“I can’t go to the wedding because it’s right in the middle of summer school.”

“You could get a substitute,” Carrie said. “What would you be gone for, a week at most? Jenna could probably fill in. She took the summer off this year.”

“Thanks for the suggestions, ladies,” Katie said through clenched teeth. “But I’ve already told the groom I can’t attend the wedding for professional reasons.”

The women laughed. “I’m sorry, what reasons?” Carrie asked, raising a bedpan to imply that anyone could do Katie’s job.

It was no use. The two women were thoroughly under Luc’s spell, and who could blame them?

“Maybe we should talk privately,” Luc said. He clasped her wrist and led her to the glass doors at the front of the classroom. “It’s beautiful out here. The way you’re nestled in the hills, you’d never know there’s a city nearby.”

She nodded. “That’s Crystal Springs Reservoir on the other side of the freeway. It’s protected property, the drinking water for this entire area, so it’s stayed pristine.”

“I’m not going back to New Orleans without you,” he said.

Apparently the small talk had ended.

“My mother would have a fit if I brought one of the women I’d take to a Hollywood event to a family wedding.”

Katie felt a twinge of jealousy, then a stab of anger for her own weakness. Of course he dated beautiful women. He was a billionaire. A billionaire who looked like Luc DeForges! Granted, he was actually a multimillionaire, but it had been a long-standing joke between the two of them. Did it matter, once you made your first ten million, how much came after that? He may as well be called a gazillionaire. His finances were too foreign for her to contemplate.

“And who you date is my problem, how?”

“If my date tries to swing dance and kicks one of my mother’s friends in the teeth, I’ll be disinherited.”

“So what, would that make you the fifth richest man in the United States, instead of the fourth?”

“Katie, how many times do I have to explain to you I’m nowhere near those kinds of numbers?” He grinned. “Yet.” He touched his finger to her nose lightly. “My fate is much worse than losing status if you don’t come. My mother might set me up to ensure I have a proper date. A chorus line of Southern belles. And I guarantee you at least one will have the proverbial glass slipper and think her idea is so utterly unique, I’ll succumb to the fantasy.”

“Wow! What a terrible life you must lead.” She pulled a Keds slide from her foot and emptied sand out of her shoe. A few grains landed on Luc’s shiny black loafer. “To think, with courtship skills like that, that any woman wouldn’t be swept off her feet—it’s unfathomable.” She patted his arm. “I wish you luck, Luc. I’m sure your mother will have some very nice choices for you, so go enjoy yourself. Perk up, there’re billions

more to be made when you get back.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Katie.”

e was right, but she didn’t trust herself around him. She’d taken leave of her senses too many times in that weakened state. Since moving to California, she’d made it her goal to live life logically and for the Lord. She hadn’t fallen victim to her emotions since leaving New Orleans, and she’d invested too much to give into them now.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I only meant that I’m sure there are other nice girls willing to go home and pretend for your mother. I’ve already done that, only you forgot to tell me we were pretending. Remember?”

He flinched. “Below the belt.”

A pencil fell from behind her ear, and she stooped to pick it up, careful not to meet his glance as she rose. “I’m sorry, but I’m busy here. Maybe we could catch up another time? I’d like that and won’t be so sidetracked.” She looked across the room toward Austin, an angelic but severely autistic child in a wheelchair. He pounded against his tray. “The kids are getting hungry. It’s lunchtime.” She pointed to the schedule.

Luc scooped a hand under her chin and forced her to look at him. “Where else am I going to find a gorgeous redhead who knows who Glenn Miller is?”

“Don’t, Luc. Don’t charm me. It’s beneath you. Buy one of your bubble-headed blondes a box of dye and send her to iTunes to do research. Problem solved.”

He didn’t let go. “Ryan wants you to sing at the wedding, Katie. He sent me personally to make sure you’d be there and sing ‘Someone to Watch Over Me.’ I’m not a man who quits because something’s difficult.”

“Anyone worth her salt on Bourbon Street can sing that. Excuse me—”

“Katie-bug.”

“Luc, I asked you kindly. Don’t. I’m not one of your sophisticated girls who knows how to play games. I’m not going to the wedding. That part of my life is over.”

“That part of your life? What about that part of you? Where is she?”

She ignored his question. “I cannot be the only woman you know capable of being your date. You’re not familiar with anyone else who isn’t an actress-slash-waitress?” She cupped his hand in her own and allowed herself to experience the surge of energy. “I have to go.” She dropped his hands and pushed back through the half door. “I’m sure you have a meeting to get to. Am I right?”

“It’s true,” he admitted. “I had business in San Francisco today, a merger. We bought a small chain of health food stores to expand the brand. But I was planning the trip to see you anyway and ask you personally.”

“Uh-huh.”

“We’ll be doing specialty outlets in smaller locations where real estate prices are too high for a full grocery outlet. Having the natural concept already in these locations makes my job that much easier.”

“To take over the free world with organics, you mean?”

That made him smile, and she warmed at the sparkle in his eye. When Luc was in his element, there was nothing like it. His excitement was contagious and spread like a classroom virus, infecting those around him with a false sense of security. She inhaled deeply and reminded herself that the man sold inspiration by the pound. His power over her was universal. It did not make her special.

“Name your price,” he said. “I’m here to end this rift between us, whatever it is, and I’ll do the time. Tell me what it is you want.”

“There is no price, Luc. I don’t want anything from you. I’m not going to Ryan’s wedding. My life is here.”

“Day and night . . . night and day,” he crooned and then his voice was beside her ear. “One last swing dance at my brother’s wedding. One last song and I’ll leave you alone. I promise.”

She crossed the room to the sink against the far wall, but she felt him follow. She hated how he could make every nerve in her body come to life, while he seemingly felt nothing in return. She closed her eyes and searched for inner strength. He didn’t want me. Not in a way that mattered. He wanted her when it suited him to have her at his side.

“Even if I were able to get the time off work, Luc, it wouldn’t be right to go to your brother’s wedding as your date. I’m about to get engaged.”

“Engaged?” He stepped away.

She squeezed hand sanitizer onto her hands and rubbed thoroughly.

“I’ll give a call to your fiancé and let him know the benefits.” He pulled a small leather pad of paper from his coat pocket. “I’ll arrange everything. You get a free trip home, I get a Christian date my mother is proud to know, and then your life goes back to normal. Everyone’s happy.” He took off his fedora as though to plead his case in true gentlemanly fashion. “My mother is still very proud to have led you from

your . . .” He choked back a word. “From your previous life and to Jesus.”

The announcement of her engagement seemed to have had little effect on Luc, and Katie felt as if her heart shattered all over again. “My previous life was you. She was proud to lead me away from her son’s life.” She leaned on the countertop, trying to remember why she’d come to the kitchen area.

“You know what I meant.”

“I wasn’t exactly a streetwalker, Luc. I was a late-night bar singer in the Central District, and the only one who ever led my reputation into question was you. So I’m failing to see the mutual benefit here. Your mother. Your date. And I get a free trip to a place I worked my tail off to get out of.”

She struggled with a giant jar of applesauce, which Luc took from her and opened easily. He passed the jar back to her and let his fingers brush hers.

“My mother would be out of her head to see you. And the entire town could see what they lost when they let their prettiest belle go. Come help me remind them. Don’t you want to show them that you’re thriving? That you didn’t curl up and die after that awful night?”

“I really don’t need to prove anything, Luc.” She pulled her apron, with its child-size handprints in primary colors, over her head. “I’m not your fallback, and I really don’t care if people continue to see me that way. They don’t know me.”

“Which you? The one who lives a colorless existence and calls it holy? Or the one who danced on air and inspired an entire theater troupe to rediscover swing and raise money for a new stage?” Luc bent down, took her out at the knees, and hoisted her up over his shoulder.

“What are you doing? Do you think you’re Tarzan? Put me down.” She pounded on his back, and she could hear the chaos he’d created in the classroom. “These kids need structure. What do you think you’re doing? I demand you put me down!”

Peculiar Treasures :: A Biblical Who’s Who by Frederick Buechner

When Amy talked about her Frederick Buechner week she gave us the chance to read The Eyes of the Heart and if we wanted to choose to read another book and review it.  So I went in search of one of his over 30 books one in particular caught my eye.  Peculiar Treasures.  I remembered the verse and found myself to be intrigued as to how he would handle this books.

I started the book during a long wait at the Doctor’s office.  I soon realized this was quite a different book and I would be laughing out loud at certain points.

He begins his introduction to Abraham this way….

If a schlemiel is a person who goes through life spilling soup on people and a schlemoozle is the one who keeps getting spilled on, then Abraham is a schlemoozle. – Frederick Buechner, Peculiar Treasures page 3.

Peculiar Treasures is a unique look at many of the Bible’s most familiar characters (and some not so familiar).  I came away from the book with a new appreciation for those characters and for the Word.  I was reminded again that the Bible is full or regular and ordinary people and a beyond extraordinary God.  Buechner breaks down the characters stories into simple everyday terms using contemporary language and scenes. (His little blurb on Adam is quite interesting….and calling Boaz long in the tooth cracked me up!)

Peculiar Treasures is a fun and unique trip through the Who’s Who of the Word….but just a warning if you are overly religious and take life too seriously….this is not the book for you.

For those who love a good laugh and want to be reminded that the Bible is full of regular people just like you whose lives are transformed by an amazing God… Peculiar Treasures is a read you would enjoy.

The Eyes of the Heart by Frederick Buechner

When Amy, of My Friend Amy, mentioned she was going to host a Frederick Buechner week I was intrigued.  I remember hearing his name during my college years by a professor.  So I took some time to do a little research and found that he is considered to be widely known as a contemporary Christian author.  As a fan of books I was agast that I knew nothing of him….and decided to take Amy up on her offer to read his memoir The Eyes of the Heart.

Oh. My.

Mr. Buechner has a beautiful way with words.  He has a uniquely different way of expressing himself that I found refreshing.  I immediately developed an author crush on him when he refered to his library as the Magic Kingdom.  A man after my own heart ;)

The Magic Kingdom is my haven and sanctuary, the place where I do my work, the place of my dreams and of my dreaming.  I originally named it the Magic Kingdom as a kind of joke- part Disneyland, part the Land of Oz- but by now it has become simply its name.” – Frederick Buechner, The Eyes of the Heart page 1.

From page 1 I was captivated by the Magic Kingdom and in the pages following I was captivated by the author.  The way he describes memories of his past… of things done and said you are drawn into his story in a uniquely beautiful way.

I have tried to write a post for two days expressing how profound his love of books, God, and those in his life touched my heart.  To be honest I don’t think I can put it into words.

The book is a memoir of vibrant love….

It made me thankful for those I am surrounded by…my family, my friends.  It has me viewing the characters of my life a little differently…and profoundly grateful He has cast them alongside me.

I love when a book challenges you and helps you see life a little differently.  The Eyes of the Heart did that for me.

I understand the title of the book now… Mr. Buechner invited us into an intimate glimpse of his heart….which contained the things he loved most….the people in his life…and the books he surrounded himself with.

Now that is something I can understand.

Tomorrow I am going to review Frederick Buechner’s book, Peculiar Treasures :: A Biblical Who’s Who.  And just let me tell you… it was a treat ;)


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