Thursday, March 28, 2013

Threads of Hope by Christa Allan - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Threads of Hope
Abingdon Press (March 1, 2013)
Christa Allan


A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa is a writer of not your usual Christian Fiction. She weaves stories of unscripted grace and redemption with threads of hope, humor, and heart. Christa is the mother of five adult children, a grandmother of three, and a brand new retired teacher. She and her husband Ken live in New Orleans with their three cats and do their best to dodge hurricanes.

And, since she is not fond of writing about herself in third person, she asked her oldest daughter to contribute. Like her mother, Erin is not at a loss for words…


Passed over for promotion and dumped by her boyfriend, Nina O’Malley is further frustrated when her editor assigns her one of the “soft” stories she despises—covering a gala benefit supporting the AIDS Memorial Quilt. More determined than ever to prove she deserves a promotion to the NY office, Nina decides to write a series featuring a local quilting group raising money for AIDs research. At the event, she runs into her high school nemesis: Greg is a widower and the adoptive father of Jazarah, an HIV positive girl from Ethiopia. Unlike Nina, Greg has faith in a loving God, and he trusts in God’s plan for his life. Greg and Nina grow closer, and as Nina interviews the quilt families, she begins to question the choices she has made and her lack of faith. Nina suddenly finds herself facing two possible dreams, two paths for her life.

My Thoughts:

You know, there are times when I read a book and am left really torn.  Threads of Hope is a book that leaves me…well, torn.  I loved the story itself, but quite frankly, Nina O’Malley just got on my nerves.  Why?  Well, for starters, she reminds me too much of myself at that age. The girl just has all of her priorities in the wrong place and almost misses God’s best for her out of pure stubbornness!  Truly, I spent most of the book really wanting to smack the girl!

But that’s a good thing when it comes to writing.  Christa Allan has created realistic characters that can get into your heart and under your skin.  Nina has many opportunities to serve others, to make a difference in others’ lives through her writing…and what does she do?  Well, I can’t tell you or I’ll ruin the story, but suffice it to say, there are a few nail biting moments toward the end of the story.

That said, there was an element to this story-telling that just about drove me up a wall.  One minute you were reading along…then you suddenly take a hard break with the present and are getting back story on a character.  It happens within the chapter most often (sometimes going from chapter to chapter) and I kept having to stop and think to myself, “What? Where am I? Who is this? How did I get here?”  I found the back story to be interruptive in the way it was presented rather than it blending naturally and almost unnoticed into the story line.  That’s just my personal preference, but in this story, it sort of kept me disconcerted and distracted.

I could launch into a litany about Greg and Elise and some of the other characters that play key roles in Nina’s life, but I’ll let you discover them on your own.  Christ Allen creates strong characters!! That I love!!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!  I hope the story gives you pause to consider life outside your personal comfort zone and challenges you to reach out to others in a selfless way.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Threads of Hope, go HERE.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Cleaning Your Emotions - An Interview with Geri Scazzero

When we quit things that are damaging to our souls, we are freed up to choose other ways of being and relating that are rooted in love and lead to life. When we quit fear of what others think, we choose freedom.         -Geri Scazzero.

Quit being afraid of what others think
Quit lying
Quit dying to the wrong things
Quit denying anger, sadness and fear
Quit blaming
Quit over functioning
Quit faulting thinking
Quit living someone else’s life

For those ready to embark upon an authentic journey to change, The Emotionally Healthy Woman offers an indispensable traveler’s guide. Geri Scazzero combines her own experiences with familiar biblical stories and scripture to provide a spiritual and emotional roadmap, pinpointing alternate routes that are forged by love and leading straight to the life God intended.

(Permission to reprint is granted with acknowledgment to Geri Scazzero, author of The Emotionally Healthy Woman)

Q. What inspired you to write TheEmotionally Healthy Woman?

A. It wasn’t so much a “what” as a “who.” I would never have written the book without my husband, Pete. He’s the writer in our family, and, after I began to articulate the eight “I Quits” that are the basis of the book, he was the one who said I had a book in me. The Emotionally Healthy Woman reflects our effort as a team from beginning to end. It reflects what we both discovered on this missing aspect of spiritual formation. In addition, I have been blessed with a wonderful extended family who has given me a tremendous legacy for which I am eternally grateful. Without that legacy, I never would have had what it takes to quit living a life that was damaging to my soul.

Q. Speaking of quitting, you actually walked into your husband’s office and announced that you were quitting the church that he pastored! That must have taken amazing strength and determination. How did you ever summon the courage to take such a bold and unconventional step?

A. It was certainly no small decision and it didn’t happen overnight. I had been making feeble attempts to get him to pay attention to what was going on with me for years. I wanted him to see how tired I was and how frustrated. Eventually, I reached the bottom and arrived at that place where I was so miserable I didn’t care what anyone else thought of me. I just wanted out. There is an old saying that a person who has nothing left to lose becomes the most powerful person on earth. I had become that person.

Q. The subtitle of your book is Eight Things You Have to Quit to Change Your Life. Could you give us a brief glimpse of what those eight things are?

A. Certainly. Quit being afraid of what others think. Quit lying to yourself and others. Quit dying to the wrong things. Quit denying anger, sadness and fear. Quit blaming. Quit overfunctioning. Quit faulty thinking. And, lastly, quit living someone else’s life. Virginia Satir once observed that most of us live inhuman lives because we try to live by unhuman rules. The purpose of these eight “Quits” is to allow us to drop those unhuman rules and start living by God’s real rules, not the ones we’ve mistakingly assumed He wants us to live, not by, but up to. By quitting these eight practices, we open the door to allow God in so that He can begin doing a mighty work in our lives.

Q. How do can women benefit from The Emotionally Healthy Woman?

A. I know firsthand that when people pick up a book like mine they are doing so because they are looking for solutions. The book is my own personal manifesto and it expresses my particular beliefs and values. In my own life, the list of “I Quits” that I showcase became the catalyst for my own personal solution, bringing me out of illusion and into reality and from inner bondage into freedom. I hope that what I have shared with will spark ways in which God can speak directly to them. And it is my prayer, of course, that God will give all of us the courage to stop living divided lives. Remember, quitting goes hand in hand with choosing, so when we quit those things that are damaging to our lives, we are free to choose other ways that lead to new life. And it is never too late to quit.

Zondervan Publishing
January 1, 2013
ISBN: 9780310320012/224 pages/softcover/$14.99

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Full Armor of God by Larry Richards - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Chosen Publishing)

Stand Firm Against the Devil's Schemes
Whether you are aware of it or not, every Christian is locked in a struggle with the spiritual forces of this dark world. If our defenses are weak--or nonexistent--these enemies can, and will, slowly, subtly, lead you away from a life of righteousness. In this tactical guide, bestselling author and trusted theologian Larry Richards offers an ironclad defense plan straight from the Bible. Using Paul's letter to the Ephesians as his infallible guide, Richards reveals how God provides protection from every attack of the enemy--and how you can put on the full armor of God today and every day.
Including practical, hands-on exercises, this is the essential biblical approach to standing your ground against the enemy's ploys.
My Thoughts:

And so, our core “belted” and strengthened by living the truth, the breastplate of righteousness in place, our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, wearing the helmet of salvation and shielded by God’s faithfulness, we can stand against the powers of evil.”  (p. 139)

Larry Richards’ book The Full Armor of God has taught me many things.  Some things I thought I knew, I had learned in a wrong context.  Some things I read sounded a bit far-fetched and made me uncomfortable.  The bottom line, Richards is boldly teaching Biblical truth that most folks skip over or ignore for the simple fact that it is uncomfortable. Who wants to live life armed for battle?  Hopefully, all believers do and will. It won't be easy, but the rewards will be worth the fight!

The reality and truth presented in this book is life-changing.  Yes, some of the exercises at the end of the chapters feel kind of weird or uncomfortable, but they are worth doing just to seek and learn the truth God has for you in His word.  Richards’ book is filled with Scripture! Read it, (the Bible passages) and you will learn what God wants you to know.  Richards encourages his readers to check out God’s Word, live in community with other believers and put on the armor God alone has provided for you to live the life He has planned for you.

I’ll admit to being skeptical about this book.  Now…with my highlighter bled dry, I am no longer skeptical but thirsty to know more about what God’s Word has to say about these important truths.  I don’t want to live my life in ignorance and miss what God has planned for me!

About the Author:
Larry Richards holds a BA in philosophy from the University of Michigan, a ThM in Christian education from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a PhD in religious education and social psychology from Garrett Biblical Seminary and Northwestern University jointly. He has taught in the Wheaton College Graduate School, served as a minister of Christian education, and written over 200 books, including theological works, commentaries, and several specialty and study Bibles. Larry is currently a full-time author and speaker and lives with his wife in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Monday, March 25, 2013

So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley

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:

Thomas Nelson (March 12, 2013)

***Special thanks to Tracy L. Higley for sending me a review copy.***


Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored nine novels, including Garden of Madness and Isle of Shadows. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. See her travel journals and more at


On an island teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

“Meticulously-researched, spellbindingly written with luscious prose and compelling and complex characters.” —Tosca Lee, New York Times best-selling author of Havah: The Story of Eve

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1401686826
ISBN-13: 978-1401686826



I am an old man, and I have seen too much.

Too much of this world to endure any more. Too much of the next to want to linger.

And though I have nearly drowned in the glorious visions of those last days, yet I know not when it shall come, nor how many years I must tread this barren earth before all is made new.

There is a Story, you see. And we are still in the midst of it, ever striving to play our roles, battling on for the freedom of hearts and souls and minds yet enslaved by darkness.

But I have seen a great light. Oh yes, I have seen it. Even now it is breaking through, as it did on that grassy hillside so many cool spring mornings ago, when Moses and Elijah walked among us and my Brother shone with the glory He had been given from the beginning and will rise up to claim again at the end.

You will wonder, perhaps, at my calling Him brother. And yet that is what He was to me. Brother and friend, before Savior, before Lord. In those days when we wandered the land, going up and down from the Holy City, we shared our hearts, our lives, our laughter. Oh, how we laughed, He and I! He had the irrepressible joy of one who sees beyond the brokenness, to the restoration of all.

I loved him. And He loved me.

But I speak of beginnings and of endings, and these are words that have no meaning, for the day of His birth was both the beginning of the Kingdom and the end of tyranny, and that magnificent Day yet to come—it is the end-which-is-a-beginning, and my eyes have seen such glory in that New Jerusalem, my very heart breaks to tell of it.

And yet they come, young and old, to this tiny home in Ephesus that is to be my last dwelling outside that New City, and they beg me to tell the Story again and again.

And I do.

I tell of seals and scrolls, of a dragon and a beast and a Lamb. Of music that makes you weep to hear it and streets that blind the mortal eye. Of a Rider on a White Horse with eyes of blazing fire, whose name is Faithful and True. It is a great Story, and greater still to hear the final consummation of it, for how often we forget that we are living it still.

But I have another tale to tell. A smaller story within the One True Story that began before the creation of this world and is echoed at its end, as all our stories are. It happens here, in this port city of Ephesus but many years ago, when the darkness lay even heavier than it now does upon the people, and their souls cried out for relief from anyone who could give it.

This smaller story does not begin here in Ephesus, however. It begins a day’s sail away, on the sun-kissed shores of the Isle of Rhodes, where the light first began to break upon one woman and one man, even as they walked in darkness . . .

Chapter 1

Rhodes, AD 57

In the glare of the island morning sun, the sea blazed diamond-bright and hard as crystal, erratic flashes spattering light across Daria’s swift departure from the house of her angry employer.

She carried all she owned in one oversized leather pouch, slung over her shoulder. The pouch was not heavy. A few worn tunics and robes, her precious copy of Thucydides. She clutched it to her side and put her other hand to the gold comb pinning the dark waves of her hair, her one remaining luxury.

The bitter and familiar taste of regret chased her from the whitewashed hillside estate, down into the squalid harbor district. Why had she not kept silent?

Along the docks hungry gulls shrieked over fishy finds and work-worn sailors traded shrill insults. The restless slap of the sea against the hulls of boats kept time with the anxious rhythm of her steps against the cracked gray stones of the quay.

She had run once, haunted and guilty to a fresh start in Rhodes. Could she do it again? Find a way to take care of herself, to survive?

“Mistress Daria!”

The voice at her back was young and demanding, the tenor of a girl accustomed to a world arranged to her liking. And yet still precious, still malleable.

“Mistress! Where are you going?”

Daria slowed, eyes closed against the pain, and inhaled. She turned on the sun-warmed dock with a heaviness that pulled at her limbs like a retreating tide.

Corinna’s breath came quick with exertion and the white linen of her morning robe clung to her body. The sweet girl must have run all the way.

“To the School of Adelphos, Corinna. I will seek a position there.”

Corinna closed the distance between them and caught Daria’s hand in her own. Her wide eyes and full lips bespoke innocence. “But you cannot! Surely, Father did not mean what he said—”

Daria squeezed the girl’s eager fingers. “It is time. Besides”—she tipped Corinna’s chin back—“you have learned your lessons so well, perhaps you no longer need the services of a tutor.”

Corinna pulled away, dark eyes flashing and voice raised. “You do not believe that, mistress. It is you who says there is always more to learn.”

They drew the attention of several young dockworkers hauling cargo from ship to shore. Daria stared them down until they turned away, then circled the girl’s shoulders, pulled her close, and put her lips to Corinna’s ear. “Yes, you must never stop learning, dear girl. But it must be someone else who teaches you—”

“But why? What did you say to anger Father so greatly?”

Only what she thought was right. What must be said. A few strong phrases meant to rescue Corinna from a future under the thumb of a husband who would surely abuse her.

Daria smiled, fighting the sadness welling in her chest, and continued her trudge along the dock toward the school. “I am afraid discretion is one of the things I have not yet learned, Corinna. Your father is a proud man. He will not brook a mere servant giving him direction in the running of his household.”

Corinna stopped abruptly at the water’s edge, her pretty face turned to a scowl. “You are no mere servant! You are the most learned tutor I have ever had!”

Daria laughed and looked over the sea as she walked, at the skiffs and sails tied to iron cleats along the stone, easy transportation to the massive barges that floated in the blue harbor, awaiting trade. Papyrus and wool from Egypt, green jade and aromatic spices from far eastern shores, nuts and fruits and oils from Arabia. Her eyes strayed beyond the ships, followed northward along the rocky Anatolian coast to cities unknown, riddles to be unraveled, secrets and knowledge to be unlocked. More to learn, always. And somewhere perhaps, the key to redeeming the past.

They approached and skirted the strange symbol of the isle of Rhodes, the toppled Helios that once stood so proud and aloof along the harbor and now lay humbled, its bronze shell speckled to an aged green, reflecting the impenetrable turquoise sky. The massive statue had lain at the quay for gulls to peck and children to climb for nearly three hundred years since the quake brought it down. Daria found it disturbing.

“May I still visit you at the school, Mistress Daria?”

She smiled. “One challenge at a time. First I must convince Adelphos that he should hire me.”

Corinna’s tiny sandals scurried to keep pace. “Why would he not?”

“It is not easy to be an educated woman in a man’s world of philosophy and rhetoric. There are few men who appreciate such a woman.”

“How could anyone not appreciate someone as good, as brave, as you?”

The child gave her too much credit. She was neither good, nor brave. She would not be here in Rhodes if she were. Though she was trying. The gods knew, she had been trying.

Corinna lifted her chin with a frown in the direction of the school. “I shall simply explain to Adelphos how very valuable you are.”

And how outspoken? Interfering? But perhaps the girl could help in some way.

“Will you demonstrate some of what I have taught you, Corinna?”

The girl’s eyes lit up. “Just wait, mistress. I shall amaze and delight that crusty old Adelphos.”

Daria studied the impetuous girl and bit her lip. But it was a chance she must take.

The School of Adelphos lay at the end of the docks, its modest door deceptive. Daria paused outside, her hand skimming the rough wood, and inhaled determination in the sharp tang of salt and fish on the breeze. Who would believe that such distinguished men as the poet Apollonius and Attalus the astronomer had studied and written and debated behind this door? Sea trade had kept Rhodes prosperous for centuries, but in the two hundred years under Roman control, the Greek island had grown only more beautiful, a stronghold of learning, of arts and sciences and philosophy.

Inside its most famous school, she blinked twice and waited for her sun-blind eyes to adjust.

“Daria!” Adelphos emerged from the shadows of the antechamber with a cool smile and tilt of his head. Tall and broad-shouldered, he was several years her senior, with the confident ease of an athlete, a man aware of his own attractiveness.

She returned the smile and straightened her back. “Adelphos. Looking well, I am pleased to see.”

He ran a gaze down the length of her, taking in her thin white tunic and the pale blue mantle that was the best of her lot. “As are you.”

“I have come to make you an offer.”

At this, his eyebrows and the corner of his mouth lifted in amusement and he gave a glance to Corinna, still at the door. “Shouldn’t we send your young charge home first?”

She ignored the innuendo. “My employ as Corinna’s tutor will soon come to an end, and I desire to find a place here, in your school. As a teacher.” She swallowed against the nervous clutch of her throat.

Again the lifted eyebrows, but Adelphos said nothing, only strolled into the lofty main hall of the school, a cavernous marble room already scattered with scholars and philosophers, hushed with the echoes of great minds.

She gritted her teeth against the condescension and beckoned Corinna to follow, with a warning glance to keep the girl quiet, but the child’s sudden intake of breath at the fluted columns and curvilinear architraves snapped unwanted attention in their direction, the frowns of men annoyed by disruptive women.

Adelphos disappeared into the alcove that housed the school’s precious stock of scrolls—scrolls Daria had often perused at her leisure and his generosity.

Daria spoke to his back. “Do you doubt my abilities—”

“What I doubt, my lady, is a rich man’s willingness to pay a woman to teach his sons.”

Daria waved a hand. “Bah! What difference does it make? I can do a man’s work just as well. And if they learn, they learn!” But a cold fear knotted in her belly.

Adelphos traced his fingertips over the countless nooks of scrolls, as if he could find the one he sought simply by touching its ragged edge. “And you, Daria? Do you want to live a man’s life as well as do a man’s work? What woman does not long for love and family and hearth?”

Her throat tightened at his words, too close to the secrets of her heart. Yes, she longed for those comforts. For a love that would accept her abilities, complement rather than suppress. But for now, for now she had no one and she must assure her own welfare.

She coughed to clear the dryness of her throat and stepped beside him, examined the great works of philosophy and literature, their tan Egyptian papyri wrapped in brown twine, sealed in waxy red.

Adelphos reached past her to a nook above her head, and his muscled arm brushed her shoulder.

The touch was intentional, clearly. Manipulative. Even so, his nearness left her breathless and her usual sharp-tongued wit failed. When she spoke, it was a harsh whisper, too raw with emotion, though the words emerged falsely casual. “And why should I not have both?”

At this, Adelphos huffed, a derisive little laugh, and turned to lean his back against the shelves and unroll the scroll he had retrieved.

“A woman of ambition. Does such a breed truly exist?” His gaze darted to hers. “But what am I saying? You have already wedded a husband, have you not?”

Daria pulled a scroll from its recess and pretended to study it.

“You are interested in the work of Pythagoras? That one is newly arrived from Samos.”

Daria shrugged. “I find his work repetitive. What new has he added to Euclid’s previous efforts?”

“Indeed.” Adelphos pulled the scroll from her hands and replaced it in its nook. “But you have not answered my question.”

“I am a widow, yes.”

“A widow with no sons. No dowry.” He glanced at Corinna, clutching the doorway. “And no employment. Is there anything more desperate?”

Daria lifted her chin and met his gaze. “It seems you are in an enviable position, then, Adelphos. You have found a skilled teacher, available for a bargain.”

Adelphos circled to Corinna, an appreciative gaze lingering on her youth and beauty. “And this is your prize specimen? The pupil of whom I have heard such wonders?”

The girl straightened and faced Adelphos with a confidence borne of knowledge. “Shall I demonstrate the superior skill Mistress Daria has given me with languages?”

Daria silently cheered and blessed the girl. “Corinna has been working hard to master the tongues of Rome’s far-flung empire.”

Adelphos’s brow creased and he opened his lips as if to speak, then sealed them and nodded once. No doubt he wanted to ask what use there might be for a girl who could speak anything but common Greek. As Daria herself was such a girl, the implicit question struck a nerve. She turned a shoulder to Adelphos and nodded encouragement to Corinna. “Let us hear Herodotus in the Classical first, then.”

The girl grinned, then gushed a passage of Herodotus in the proud language of her Greek forebears, the language of literature and poetry, before Alexander had rampaged the world and equalized them all with his common koine.

“And now in Latin, Corinna.”

The girl repeated the passage, this time in the tongue of the Romans, the new conquerors.

Adelphos tilted his head to study the girl, then spoke to her in Latin. “Anyone can memorize a famous passage in a foreign tongue. Few can converse in it.”

Corinna’s eyelashes fluttered and she glanced at her hands, twisted at her waist. When she answered, it was not in Latin, but in Persian. “Fewer still can converse in multiple languages at once, my lord.”

Adelphos chuckled, then glanced at Daria. “She does you proud, lady.”

A glow of pride, almost motherly, warmed Daria’s chest. “Indeed.”

Corinna reached out and gripped Adelphos’s arm, bare beneath his gleaming white tunic. “Oh, it is all Mistress Daria’s fine teaching, I assure you, my lord. I wish to be an independent woman such as she someday. There is nothing she cannot do.”

“Corinna.” Daria smiled at the girl but gave a tiny shake of her head.

Corinna withdrew her hand and lowered her eyes once more. “I have told my father this, but he does not understand—”

“Her father has been most pleased with her progress.” Daria tried to draw Adelphos’s attention. “He saw a superior mind there from an early age and was eager to see it developed.”

He waved a hand in the air. “I have seen enough. You may go.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Wings of Glass
Tyndale House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
Gina Holmes


Gina Holmes began her career in 1998, penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded the influential literary blog, Novel Journey now called Novel Rocket and she is also the founder of Inspire The Fire.

Her debut, Crossing Oceans, was a Christy and Gold Medallion finalist and winner of the Carol Award, INSPY, and RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice, as well as being a CBA, ECPA, Amazon and PW Religion bestseller. Her sophomore novel, Dry as Rain, was also named a Christy finalist. Her upcoming novel, Wings of Glass will releases this month. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose.


From the bestselling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heart-rending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of womanhood, Penny is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign-town, Penny’s happily ever after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to grow her own.

My Thoughts:

You’ve been given a lot in this life you haven’t deserved, Penny.” (p.365)

It is absolutely impossible to imagine the truth contained within this single sentence.  After you have read Penny Carlson’s story, you will have just a glimpse of that truth.  Only if you have walked some miles in her shoes will you be able to understand the depth and breadth of these words, and only when you have learned the “…privilege of having no one to lean on but God,” (p.37) will you cling to that truth as if life depended on it.  And realize that indeed it does.

Gina Holmes’ Wings of Glass is a very important, albeit difficult book to read.  Penny and Trent Carlson’s relationship is one of abuse – both emotional and physical – and it isn’t until an accident changes the dynamics of their marriage that Penny is given the freedom to reach out to others for the help she so desperately needs.  She is also given the gift of a son that further strengthens her ability and resolve to choose life and faith rather than cling to a deadly relationship.

At one point in the story, the author has Fatima tell Penny that; “You cannot grab hold of tomorrows when you hold the past with both hands.” (cannot find the page number, sorry) Penny has lived with abuse for so long that she is not able to believe that her future can indeed be different from her past.  Callie Mae and Fatima enter her life at a very critical point, and God uses their presence to lead her to the truth  that ultimately allows her to break free and save both she and her son.

This story is both difficult and hopeful.  It covers tender territory in the hearts and minds of its characters, and will have a powerful effect on everyone brave enough to read the novel.  I cannot begin to imagine the eternal impact this story will have on countless lives.  I am so thankful to know and love this author!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Wings of Glass, go HERE.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scent of Lilacs by Ann H. Gabhart - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Revell Publishing)

After the summer of 1964, life for Jocie Brooke will never be the same.
Life-changing events rarely happen in quiet Hollyhill, Kentucky, and when they do, they are few and far between. But for young Jocie Brooke and her family, they happen all at once during the humid summer of 1964. Though on the surface things are just fine, it seems like everyone in Jocie’s life has something they’re not saying, something they’re hiding from her-and from themselves. As Jocie digs into her family’s past, she stirs up a whirlwind of discoveries. Will she find the answers everyone so desperately needs? Or will her questions lead to truths better left hidden?
Combining unforgettable characters, true-to-life struggles, and the perfect dose of humor and nostalgia, this riveting story from bestselling author Ann Gabhart explores the very essence of new life and love.
“Gabhart’s compelling characterization serves up a juicy slice of life in a small town where little is as it seems. Jocie’s conversational voice and quirky sense of humor are a delight.”-RT Book Reviews
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several novels, including Angel Sister, Words Spoken True, The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Find out more at
My Thoughts:

“’With God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26.  But that’s the key, child.  Only with God.  Only with God.  We have to put our trust in Him.”  (p. 203)  Aunt Love

But nobody is all good or all bad.  Just remember that.”  (p. 259)  Dad

She no longer wanted to know the truth.  And that scared her most of all.” (p.333)  Joicie

Okay, readers.  Get a box of tissue out and prepare for your heart to be changed!  The transformation will take place as you walk alongside Jocie Brooke and her family in the Summer of 1964.  Truly, Ann Gabhart has written one of the most poignant coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read!  I laughed, I cried (and cried some more), and just thoroughly enjoyed time in Hollyhill, Kentucky! 

All of the characters in this story are true-to-life and folks you will feel comfortable spending time with.  As a matter of fact, you will come to love them in a very real way.  The struggles they face are timeless and will resonate in your heart like the thunder that rolls across the county toward the end of the story. They face personal storms in their hearts and souls, and each must face the fears that lie beneath the storm that springs from that fear. It’s not easy.  Not always pretty.  But the truth that you will embrace by the time you reach the final page….very worth the journey!

Ann Gabhart – BRAVO!!!  This is truly an most excellent story!!  I hope I will spend more time among the residents of Hollyhill, Kentucky!

About the Author:
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several novels, including Angel SisterWords Spoken TrueThe OutsiderThe BelieverThe SeekerThe Blessed, and The Gifted. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Find out more at

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Catherine's Pursuit by Lena Nelson Dooley

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Catherine's Pursuit
Realms (February 5, 2013)
Lena Nelson Dooley

I did not request this book, and therefore can offer no review, but wanted to share this with readers, because looking at it hindsight, I think I would have enjoyed it!  


Award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 675,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and president of the local chapter, DFW Ready Writers. She’s also a member of Christian Authors Network, CROWN Fiction Marketing, and Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.

Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren, and great grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and spending time with friends. Travel is always on her horizon. Cruising, Galveston, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Mexico. One day it will be Hawaii and Australia, but probably not the same year. Helping other authors become published really floats her boat, with fifteen signing their first book contract after her mentoring. Three of her books have been awarded the Carol Award silver pins from American Christian Fiction Writers and she has received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award at their national conference. The high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially people whose lives have been changed by her books. And she loves chocolate, especially dark chocolate.


When Angus McKenna was forced to give two of his daughters to families in the wagon train, he promised he'd never try to contact them. Catherine made no such pledge. But when she sets out to find her sisters, she doesn't go alone. Angus sends Collin with her. Will they discover the two women---and love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Catherine's Pursuit, go HERE.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Laughter is Sacred Space by Ted Swartz - Reviewed

About the Book: (from Herald Press)

Ted Swartz and his Ted & Company TheaterWorks team are known for blending Bible stories with comedy and poignancy, and pushing the envelope on issues of faith and social justice. But who is Ted Swartz?

Follow along in this engaging memoir as Swartz finds his way as a middle child in an eastern Pennsylvania traditional Mennonite home to his early work in the family butcher shop. Journey with Ted through the decision of uprooting his young family to attend seminary and then embracing life as a writer and actor. Get a glimpse into the friendship that led to the formation of the popular acting duo Ted & Lee.

This uniquely honest backstage tour of an artist's life and mind combines side-splitting reminiscences, heart-rending accounts of loss, and touching stories of restored faith and love. Swartz's engaging humor blends with his own stories of triumph and tragedy, and helps readers understand their own sense of place and how they're shaped by those around them.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes the best kind of God-work happens when you don’t know what you’re doing.” (p. 35)

The best God moments – when we are not aware of what we are doing.”  (p.232)

I don’t think it is coincidence that Ted Swartz states this fact at the beginning and the end of his memoir. He is a Mennonite man who became an actor by trade.  Unusual and interesting, don’t you think?  I do! I wanted to know how his faith embraced his talent as an actor.  His journey is fascinating to say the least. Both times he makes the observation that God was moving behind the scenes he was grieving the most significant loss in his entire life.  I daresay that Ted Swartz life has gained a depth and meaning that he never expected through this loss.  His journey out of that loss is pretty amazing.

I laughed and cried as I read this book.  Swartz is indeed very funny, and he takes some very normal life events and makes them extremely entertaining!  His life has not been one long, hilarious series of events.  Swartz is transparent about the painful and difficult moments of his life as well.  He is honest about where he struggles with faith, family and friends. He is someone I could relate to. Now, I feel like I could sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with him any day and would feel very glad to be in his company.

I’d never heard of Ted Swartz before I read his book, and now, I don’t think I’ll forget him. I am happy to recommend this book to readers everywhere.

About the Author:
Ted Swartz is a playwright and actor who has been mucking around in the worlds of the sacred and profane for more than 20 years. Ted fell in love with acting and theater on his way to a traditional pastorate in the Mennonite church, a denomination not usually thought of as a hotbed of theatrical opportunities.
Coupling theater and seminary education, Ted became a theologian of a different sort. He discovered that at the intersection of humor and biblical story we often find new or different under¬standings of scripture.
Ted's love of acting, comedy, and collaboration with creative partner Lee Eshleman took him to performances in 45 states in the U.S., Canada, as well as shows in Kenya and Japan. Ted & Lee became known for a quirky and gently askew view of life, building a loyal following.
Despite the tragic loss of Lee to suicide in 2007, Ted continued the search for the intersection of comedy and faith, grief and loss, deepening that exploration.
He is the creator or co-creator of over a dozen plays, and continues to perform and write across the U.S. and abroad. Born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Ted is a 1989 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and 1992 grad of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
Ted now lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Along with writing and acting, his loves include his wife, Sue; three sons, Eliot, Ian, and Derek; daughters-in-law, Katrina, Hannah, and Chelsea; and newest addition, granddaughter Mona Quinn.
He and Sue are members of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Chance by Karen Kingsbury - REVIEWED

About the Book (from Howard Books)
The day before a teenage Ellie moved from Georgia to California, she and her best friend Nolan sat beneath the Spanish moss of an ancient oak tree where they wrote letters to each other and buried them in a rusty old metal box. The plan was to return eleven years later, dig the box up, and read the letters. But now, as that date approaches, much has changed. Ellie has abandoned the faith she grew up with, her days consumed with loving her little girl and trying to make ends meet. Sometimes she watches TV to catch a glimpse of her old friend Nolan, now an NBA star, whose faith is known by the entire nation. But few know that Nolan’s own personal tragedies have fueled both his faith and athletic drive. Despite his success, Nolan is isolated and lonely, plagued by a void in his heart that has remained since that night beneath the old oak tree with Ellie. For both Ellie and Nolan, the coming date is more than just a childhood promise. It’s the chance to make sense of it all—the chance to find out if it’s ever too late to find love again.
Karen Kingsbury weaves a moving tale of heart-wrenching loss, the power of faith, and the wounds that only a forever kind of love can heal. She delves deeply into a theme that resonates within us all: Hope lives for those willing to take a chance.

My Thoughts:

He wouldn’t fight against the one true God, the One who held both his father and his precious Ellie.  He would serve Him all the days of this life, no matter what.”  (p. 74)

The commitment Nolan makes at this point in the story comes on the heels of some pretty tragic and heartbreaking circumstances. Yet it is this commitment to God that makes all of the difference in Nolan’s life.  It is a commitment that all believers face at some point in their lives, and it is the only thing that carries us through the trials that come to each of us.

Ellie’s life also takes some tragic and unexpected turns at the very outset of this story.  The friendship she shares with Nolan is one much more significant that either of them ever imagine.  Yet Ellie doesn’t share his faith, and she takes a much more difficult path.  Her choices are indirectly affected by the poor choices of her parents. 

Each character in Karen Kingsbury’s novel, The Chance, tells a poignant, sometimes heartbreaking, story of families that suffer the consequences of their misguided choices for a period of several years.  I think that’s what I appreciated most about her story, because she realistically takes the readers through a natural progression of events.  The redemption that does come to these characters isn’t all nice and neat, but it is a true picture of the grace afforded to all sinners.  Yes, sin has consequences, but grace and mercy can redeem the vilest sinner.  Christ alone finds us where we are, and what we interpret as Chance is most often the hand of God answering the prayers of His children.

I am happy to recommend The Chance to readers!

About the Author:
#1 New York Times bestselling novelist Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational storyteller, with more than 20 million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen books have topped bestseller charts and many of her novels are under development as major motion pictures. Karen lives in Tennessee with her husband Don and their five sons, three of whom are adopted from Haiti. Their actress daughter Kelsey is married to Christian recording artist Kyle Kupecky.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Strand of Deception: A Justice Seekers Novel by Robin Caroll - Reveiwed

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:

B&H Books (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Laurel Teague for sending me a review copy.***


Robin Caroll has authored twelve previous books including the Holt Medallion Award of Merit winner, Deliver Us From Evil. She gives back to the writing community by serving as Conference Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty-plus years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else?

Visit the author's website.


When Gina Ford, the daughter of a prominent Tennessee politician, goes missing from the University of Memphis a week after another girl was murdered on the same campus, police call in the FBI. Nick Hagar, married to his job as Special Agent in Charge, is assigned to the case, and when Gina’s body is found, her father demands justice.

Maddie Baxter is the forensic expert running DNA tests from the crime scene. When they come back without a match, Nick asks her to do a familial DNA run that yields a shocking result: the prime suspect is Adam Alexander, the very same guy who broke Maddie’s heart when she was in college.

But do scientific advancements tell the whole story? Strand of Deception offers romance, suspense, and a lively debate about the impact of DNA testing, for better or worse, on the United States justice system.

My Thoughts:

Science was the one steady…the one constant.  It couldn’t be manipulated.   Not when she broke it down to the barest and the DNA strands were the foundation of life.”  (p.259)

Maddie Baxter is a scientist, and an officer of the law, and she thrives on the validity of Science providing the solid evidence she needs to put those who break the law and break apart lives behind bars.  Maddie also depends on the security her job provides that allows her to hide behind its importance and avoid the sometimes heartrending intricacies of relationship.  She is so busy interacting with Science she has isolated herself from others.

Thankfully, the Lord has surrounded Maddie with friends and family who care about her, and who won’t leave her alone behind her armor of Science.  God also brings Special Agent Nick Hagar into her life on a wave of evidence from the murder scene of a prominent senator’s daughter.  As Maddie dives deep into the evidence she discovers that the DNA she has come to trust so completely reveals a disturbing connection to her past.  Where does she go from here?

This novel combines a suspenseful murder case with personal, sometimes romantic, interaction between a host of characters that fans of Robin Caroll’s Justice Seekers series have been eagerly awaiting.  And Caroll does not disappoint.  She weaves her story among the lives of many familiar characters and brings her readers to a satisfying but realistic conclusion to the series.  Legal justice has come to depend on the validity of scientific evidence, but the humans behind the evidence are still flawed and mistakes still occur. At some point, we all must bow our hearts in faith to the Creator of the science.  It’s not an easy journey. But that moment, when it comes, changes everything.  

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433672146
ISBN-13: 978-1433672149



The stack of photographs slipped to the floor, splaying across the wood planks like wildflowers over a grassy meadow. Her hands trembled as tears flowed down her cheeks.

This wasn’t real. This couldn’t be happening.

Yet the pictures proved otherwise. This was real, very real.

Her knees weakened. She slumped into the leather chair behind the desk. Even the familiar whoosh couldn’t comfort her now. The proof of his betrayal assaulted her. On the floor. On the desk. In her hand.

Photographs of him in another woman’s arms. How could he do this to them, his family?

To her? Surely he knew this would destroy them, but he cheated anyway. She didn’t understand. Did they mean so little to him?

Her heart ached in a way she never thought possible. Like someone shredded her insides. Another sob escaped her clenched lips. It bounced off the walls and rattled her ears. She never imagined betrayal like this would hurt so badly. So deeply.

She held her head in her hands, her elbows digging into the unyielding wood of the desk. Her lungs fought to push air in and out. Her legs wouldn’t stop quaking.

The morning sun beat past the curtains and flooded the loft with light. How dare such a symbol of joy invade when her entire life had just been destroyed?

Swallowing against a dry mouth, she bit her bottom lip and stared at the photographs. All of a sudden, she felt physically ill. This would destroy not only their family, but his career. His future. Was that why the pictures were taken?

Her heart slammed against her ribs as another thought raced through her mind . . . Why were the pictures here? Everything in her didn’t want to believe what stared her right in the face. But there was no other explanation. The photos were here . . . for what? Money?

A favor?


Bile burned the back of her throat. This was all wrong. Everything.

Her mind struggled to comprehend. She’d let him into the family. Trusted him. Thought she loved him and he loved her. Apparently, she was wrong.

Dead wrong.

The pictures mocked her from all sides. This was her fault. She didn’t have a choice now—she’d have to confront him and hear his excuse, not that she’d believe any lie he told. She’d destroy the photographs, all of them, and demand the negatives. Then she’d shut him out of their lives forever, even though it would kill her.

Her legs barely supported the weight of her decision as she ran for the bathroom.

Chapter One

“Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred
that will stand adversity.”
 - Elvis Presley

Two Weeks Ago

“We call Ms. Madeline Baxter to the stand.” Maddie wiped her hands on her skirt and stood. She’d testified at various trials over the years, but never one like this. Only a handful of people sat in the stuffy courtroom, the heat turned too high. She took the oath to tell the truth amid little fanfare before taking her seat in the witness stand.

She glanced over the few people sitting on the very hard, very uncomfortable pews. The judge had closed the hearing to the media, but the hounds waited just outside the oversized doors of the Shelby County Courthouse. Those allowed inside were legal figures, police, family members, and of course, the defendant.

“Ms. Baxter, will you please state your name and occupation for the court record?”

She leaned forward to the microphone. “Madeline Baxter. I’m a forensic scientist specializing in serology and DNA.”

“And you are currently employed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, correct?”

Maddie licked her lips. “In the Forensic Services Division, yes.”

The defense attorney shuffled through pages on the legal pad he held. “Can you tell us a little about your professional back- ground and qualifications, Ms. Baxter?”

Standard questions, but for the first time in her career, she felt like she was in the hot seat. “I hold a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, as well as one in forensic science from the University of Tennessee. I graduated magna cum laude ten years ago and have been working for the TBI ever since. As such, I am a commissioned law-enforcement officer.”

“Would you be described as an expert in your field, Ms. Baxter?”

They always asked the same question, just worded in various ways. Getting it on the record. “Yes.”

“And the lab where you conduct your tests . . . is it accredited?”

“The TBI forensic lab is accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.”

“Good.” The lawyer paused for effect, Maddie was sure, returning to the table where the defendant sat, back straight and shoulders squared. “Now, Ms. Baxter, I’d like to direct you to a recent DNA test you conducted at the request of my office, regarding the defendant, Mr. Mark Hubble.”

And here we go. Maddie licked her lips again. “Yes.” “You recall performing this test?”


“Can you give the court a brief overview for the record?”

“Our lab was supplied a saliva sample taken nine years ago from a crime scene involving a sexual assault. The sample was well preserved. I initially made tests, presumptive tests, for the presence of blood, which is orthotolidine. I utilized hydrogen peroxide as the tests reagents. I conducted testing for acid phosphatase, testing for P30 protein and for amylase, which is an enzyme found in saliva in high concentrations.”

“Go on.” The attorney nodded, as if he understood every- thing she said. He didn’t. Most people didn’t. All they wanted to know was what she would testify to next.

“We were also supplied, by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, a saliva sample of the defendant.”

“And you ran these same tests on that sample?”

“I did.”

The lawyer paced slowly in front of the courtroom, paused, then moved beside her. “And you compared the two results?”


“And what was your conclusion?”

Maddie sat up straighter. “That Mr. Hubble is excluded as a match for the saliva sample.”

The attorney smiled as he faced her. “So, in your expert opinion, Ms. Baxter, the tests you ran on the samples concluded the samples were from a different person, right?”

She nodded, then remembered she was in court. “Yes.”

“Are you positive?”
“Yes. Science doesn’t lie.”

The defense attorney smiled broadly. “Thank you, Ms. Baxter.” He grinned at the judge. “I have no further questions, Your Honor.”

The judge glanced at the opposing table. The prosecutor jumped to his feet. “We have no questions, Your Honor.”

“You may step down.” The judge excused her.

She marched from the witness stand, catching the defendant’s stare as she did. His eyes were dark, lifeless as he stared through her. A chill settled over her as she rushed past him.

The victim had stood in court, faced the man, and testified that Mark Hubble had sexually assaulted her. He’d been found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years. He’d served six already when his appellant lawyer discovered the saliva sample sitting in evidence and the order for DNA testing came through.

Looking at him now, Maddie’s stomach knotted. He gave her the creeps, but DNA didn’t lie. She had run the tests twice and gone over the results multiple times, twice with the head of the crime lab. The samples weren’t from the same person—she was 100 percent positive of that fact. She stood behind the science over eyewitness testimony. How had the victim identified the wrong man?

Within moments, the judge had overturned the conviction and set Mr. Mark Hubble free with the court’s humble apology. Right . . . Maddie could see the defense attorney’s eyes shining with visions of dollar signs as he would prepare a civil suit for wrongful incarceration and try to get rich off sensationalizing this case. The media would grab hold of the details like pit bulls, locking their jaws on the story and not letting loose until the next big one surfaced.

Maddie shoved open the courtroom door and ducked behind the marshal as he held up his hands to ward off the vultures waiting in the hall. Flashes snapped.

She rushed down the hall, trying to ignore the reporters tailing her. Turning, she let the music soothe her as it had for years. “If you’re looking for trouble—”

“Ms. Baxter, is it true Hubble’s DNA wasn’t a match to the saliva sample?” Yes. She kept walking at a fast clip. Daa-da-da- da-da.

“Is it possible your lab contaminated the samples?” No. “You came to the right place.”

Gritting her teeth to stop the retort on the tip of her tongue, Maddie stomped toward the exit. While most of the media stayed behind at the courtroom to hound Mark Hubble, a few industrious reporters dogged her heels.

“Ms. Baxter, a statement, please?”

No way. Daa-da-da-da-da.

“How do you feel about your results freeing a man?”

If only the man didn’t give her the creeps . . . if only she could believe he was innocent.

“What would you say to Mark Hubble’s victim right now?” Maddie stumbled at the last question. How did she feel toward the victim? The woman had to have mistakenly identified Hubble, right? But how would she feel when she heard the news that Hubble was free?

Dear God, please be with that poor woman. Wrap her in Your arms and comfort her in the way only You can.

Maddie regained her footing and broke free out the doors. She paused, gulping in the cool February air. The midday sun shot through the sky but didn’t offer much heat against the breeze. She rushed down the stairs to the street corner, then turned back to the courthouse.

Her sword at her side, the statue of Lady Justice with her blindfold permanently in place stared back at Maddie. The marble she was carved from as cold as Maddie’s heart.

Science didn’t lie.

Present Day, Friday

“Sir, is it possible your daughter might have stayed the night at a friend’s and just overslept today?” Special Agent in Charge Nick Hagar peered into the man’s face, gauging even the slightest nuance for possible deception.

“No, it’s not.” The man’s stance tightened, his Adam’s apple bobbing.

Nick sighed. Missing children were the worst cases—parents distraught, scared, and rightly so, no matter the child’s age. The enormous emotional toll on parents when they didn’t know what happened to their child . . . he knew all too well what that looked like. Memphis kept her secrets—always had, always would.

“Gina is well aware of the immediate consequences if she misses a check-in.” Les Ford’s public expression usually hid well his fifty-nine years. Today, every year weighted the lines of his ebony face. His tensed shoulders seemed out of place against the smooth lines in the formal living room. “Especially in light of that girl last week.”

“I understand that, sir, and I mean no disrespect. I must ask these hard questions to find your daughter. If there’s even a remote chance she’s merely out of touch . . .”

Despite her father’s prominent position, Gina Ford was a college student. One who could’ve stayed at a party and crashed with a friend. Or stayed somewhere she didn’t want her father to know about. Several other reasons she was just out of touch. So far, nothing indicated she’d been taken hostage to manipulate her father or she was a victim of foul play. Nick made brief eye contact with Darren, motioning him over to the couch.

The distraught father ran a trembling hand over the top of his head. The ends of his closely cropped black hair were tipped with white. “I apologize, Agent Hagar.” He let out a long, slow breath. “Call it a gut feeling or father’s intuition, whatever, but my daughter’s in trouble.”

“Okay, let’s back up. I know you’ve already told the police everything, but I’m going to ask you to tell me so I have all the details.” Nick sat forward on the high-back chair, taking in every movement, nuance, and gesture Les Ford made. “This is Agent Timmons, who’ll be taking notes for our investigation.”

Nodding at Darren, Ford flexed, then relaxed his fingers dangling in front of him. “Last night, Gina had study group and didn’t plan to get home until after midnight.”

“Do you know the names of those in her study group?” Darren asked, pen poised over his notebook.

“Rebecca Dragon, Cynthia Mantle, Lisa Trainer, and Rachel Boxer. But Rachel wasn’t feeling well last night so she called to tell them she wouldn’t be able to join them.” Gina’s father shot Darren a look that indicated he knew everything about his daughter’s life. Or thought he did. He turned his piercing black eyes to Nick. “The group usually meets every Thursday evening in the McWherter Library from eight until eleven, then they go out for pizza at Garibaldi’s.”

Darren scribbled while Ford continued. “Last night, Gina returned to her room early. She told me she didn’t feel like pizza and had some stuff to do before her workout in the morning. So she planned on going to bed as soon as we hung up. That was at eleven fifteen last night. I haven’t heard from her since.” His voice cracked.

Nick waited, understanding the father needed a moment to recompose. Nick cleared his throat. “What time did you realize she was out of contact?”

“Ten thirty this morning. She always calls when she arrives at the university’s fitness center, and we walk half an hour on the treadmill together every weekday.”

Nick glanced at his watch—closer to one than noon. The silent ticking of every second falling off the clock skidded down his spine. “And when she didn’t call?”

“I called her cell. It went straight to voice mail. I called her room. No answer. I went to her apartment. She wasn’t there, but I saw evidence that she’d slept there last night.”

“You have a key to your daughter’s place?” Darren asked.

Ford shot him a look full of disdain. “I’m her father. Of course I have a key to her apartment.” He pushed to his feet and dug out a key ring from his front pocket. His hands trembled as he pulled a single key off the ring and passed it to Nick. “Here’s her key. Her car wasn’t there.”

This was feeling less and less like a kidnapping and more and more like . . . what? Nick swallowed the sigh and stood, staring out the expansive window overlooking a private garden. “And your wife? Is it safe to assume she has no idea where your daughter could be?”

“Mrs. Ford hasn’t heard from Gina. Of course, she is extremely upset at the moment. I ordered her to take a sedative to calm her nerves and to lie down for a bit.” He gave a slight shrug. “She had a minor medical procedure performed a few days ago and needs her rest.”

Oh, yeah, Nick understood all right. He’d seen video clips of Jennifer Ford on the news recently, leaving the dermatologist’s office. Rumors floated around that she’d had some lightening done. Without intent, his gaze settled on the framed photos adorning the marble mantle. Jennifer’s skin looked like smooth mocha as she smiled at the camera.

Nick stopped at the photograph of Gina. “May I?” He pointed at the frame and raised a single brow to Ford.

“Certainly.” Ford nodded. “That was taken a few months ago.”

The girl was beautiful, there was no doubt about that. Her skin was even lighter than her mother’s, her chocolate eyes wide, but not as wide as her smile showing off perfectly straight and white teeth. There was a freshness to her face . . . a reflection of genuine passion for life. Nick’s chest tightened at the mere word—passion. How long had it been since he’d felt passionate about much of anything?

He shook off his thoughts and directed his attention to Gina’s father. “Did she mention what stuff she needed to do this morning before her workout?”

Ford shook his head. “I assumed it had to do with schoolwork.”

Nick sat back on the chair. “We’ll get her schedule later. Right now, tell me about Gina. What are her interests? Hobbies? Special people in her life?”

Ford’s eyes glistened as his voice warbled uncharacteristically.

“Gina is kind and loving, a wonderful daughter and person.” He cleared his throat, staring off into space. “She loves the ballet and art. Takes after her mother that way.” A gentle smile was affixed on his face and he swallowed hard. For a moment, Nick forgot who the man was and saw only a scared father.

The Tennessee afternoon sun settled over the garden just on the other side of the wall. Various flowers extended and poised toward the warmth of the rays against the February chill. A gust shoved against stems, swaying them.

“Gina is an excellent student. Takes pride in her work. All of her professors tout how much they enjoy her being in their class.”

Which could just be lip service to an important man, who happens to sit on the University of Memphis’s board.

“She’s active in various community-volunteer positions, mainly through my office. My assistant can give you a list of them.”

Nick nodded. “What about the people she spends the most time with?”

“Gina’s best friend is Cynthia Mantle. They’ve been close since high school. They were on the dance squad together back then.”

They’re also in the same study group. Nick would definitely speak with Ms. Mantle.

Darren tapped against the notebook. “What about a boyfriend?”

The senator frowned. “Gina understands it’s not prudent to become serious with anyone while she’s so young.”

Surely Ford didn’t believe his daughter didn’t date.

“She has, however, begun seeing a young man. A David Tiddle.”

Nick leaned forward again. “I mean no disrespect, sir, but I’m sure you’ve had him checked out, so I’d like to see your report, if I might.”

Ford stared down his nose. “She’s not serious about him. He’s only been to the house a couple of times for dinner.” He shrugged. “Seems like a nice enough young man.”

And Nick would just bet Ford had a nice, fat dossier on Tiddle. “Sir, I’m not judging you or your family, but anything you can provide will help us to find your daughter.”

Ford stood and moved to the desk in the corner of the room. He opened a drawer and withdrew a thin manila envelope he passed to Nick. “That’s all the initial query gathered. I haven’t authorized more digging. Hadn’t planned on it unless Gina felt like the relationship was turning exclusive.”

Nick slipped the file under his arm and stood. “Thank you. One last thing . . . can you think of anyone who would want to harm your daughter?”

“Considering my position? I have many enemies, Agent.” “Anybody in particular recently?”

“Let me get you a list of those on our current threat-watch.”

Interesting they had to keep a current list. Nick paused at the door while Ford returned to the desk. Nick turned to Darren.

“I’m going to question Ms. Mantle. You check out the other members of the study group. And pull Gina’s phone records.”

Darren nodded as Ford returned and passed a piece of paper to Darren.

Nick moved to the hallway and addressed the senator. “Is there anything else you can think of? Even if it’s remote and seems unimportant at the moment?”

Ford’s fear flickered across his face. “Please, find my daughter.”

Chest tightening, Nick nodded. “I’ll do my best, Senator.”