Friday, May 31, 2013

The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Judgment Stone
Thomas Nelson (May 14, 2013)
Robert Liparulo


Former journalist Robert Liparulo is the best-selling author of the thrillers Comes a Horseman, Germ, Deadfall, Deadlock, and The 13th Tribe, as well as The Dreamhouse Kings, an action-adventure series for young adults. He contributed a short story to James Patterson’s Thriller, and an essay about Thomas Perry’s The Butcher’s Boy to Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner. He is currently working on the sequel to The 13th Tribe, as well writing an original screenplay with director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive).

When not writing, Liparulo loves to read, watch (and analyze) movies, scuba dive, swim, hike, and travel. He lives in Monument, Colorado, with his wife Jodi and four children: Melanie, Matthew, Anthony, and Isabella.


What if praying became a curse instead of a blessing?

Former Army Ranger Jagger Baird thought he had his hands full with the Tribe—the band of immortal vigilantes fighting to regain God’s grace by killing those opposed to Him. But that was before he encountered the ruthless group of immortals called the Clan. The Clan is after a prize that would give them unimaginable power—a piece of the Ten Commandments known as the Judgment Stone.

Those who touch the Stone can see into the spiritual world: angelic warriors, treacherous demons, and the blue threads of light that signal the presence of believers in communion with God.

By following the blue beam radiating from those closest to God, the Clan plans to locate His most passionate followers and destroy them.

Jagger quickly realizes his high-tech gadgetry and training are no match for these merciless immortals. But how can he defeat an enemy who hunts believers through their prayers . . . and won’t stop until they’ve annihilated all those close to Him?

In this high-action thriller, best-selling author Robert Liparulo examines the raging battle between good and evil on earth . . . and beyond.

Review by my Oldest Son: (huge fan and got started reading before I did!)

The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo is the second exciting installment of the Immortal Files. This is a story about a group of people that were cursed by God with immortality. In this novel a new group of immortals emerges who call themselves the Clan. The Clan is a group of immortals who are out for revenge against God by killing innocents and those who are close to God. The Clan steals an important artifact that can help them be more successful in their efforts of vengene called the judgment stone.

     Jagger, who was introduced in The 13th Tribe, teams up again with Owen to reclaim the stone and save thousands of lives. Meanwhile the tribe, now led by Nevaeh, is on a new mission to figure out what Beth told Ben and how Ben was forgiven. This story deals a lot with the spiritual warfare that is being waged all around us and explores just how directly involved God is with our lives. Repentance and choosing life is also an important part of the story.

     I’ve been a fan of Liparulo for years because of his fast pace and descriptive action scenes in his works and I thought that this book is as good if not better than any of his other books. Thank you Mr. Robert for yet another good story. I can’t wait for the next one!

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Judgment Stone, go HERE.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Friends Celebrate Release of Autobiographical It's All True,
Which Shares Singer/Songwriter's Journey From Sorrow to Joy
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 21, 2013) - Popular singer/songwriter and worship leader Jeff Slaughter, best known to millions as the composer behind Lifeway's Vacation Bible School's most beloved songs, is celebrating today's release of his first book, It's All True: Walking By Faith in a Funky World. The autobiography, released by Skyhorse Publishing, tells of joys and tragedies in Slaughter's life, including reaching success as a Christian musician, witnessing the tragic death of his young niece and enduring the lengthy battles that both of his parents lost with illness. Slaughter, with co-writer Randy Winton, balances his heartbreak with tales of joy from his childhood growing up along the Mississippi Delta. Music superstar Amy Grant wrote the foreward for the book.

To kick off Street Week, Slaughter gathered with scores of friends and family May 19 to celebrate the latest achievement by the noted singer/songwriter. Slaughter's manager, Amy Fenton, co-hosted the event with Ruthann and Eric Ross, who held the book release party in their historic Franklin, Tenn., home.
"To be surrounded by friends and family, many who are mentioned in the book, was humbling," Slaughter said about the book release event. "Having my book come to fruition is such a blessing to me. Years ago I heard someone say the stories that we share about the miraculous and incredible things the Lord does in our lives are like a fuel that He uses to light revival fires in people's hearts. With It's All True, my prayer has been that people's hearts will be set ablaze with the fires of hope and encouragement as they read these stories so that they will continue to press on."
Among the surprise guests at the book release party was Dixie Ball, Slaughter's mom's first cousin from Jackson, Miss., one of the few remaining living relatives on that side of the family, Slaughter said. "When she walked in, it was like having a piece of my mother there," he said.
Jeff Slaughter and Dixie Ball
Whether it's the grief of watching someone you love deteriorate, or the hilariously awkward retelling of personal family matters, It's All Truereaffirms that it is possible to thrive in a funky world.
It's All True is already garnering praise from Slaughter's colleagues in Christian music and Christian ministry, including his friend, Amy Grant. 
"I love a good story. A good one at the right time can change your life. Reading Jeff's has certainly affected mine," Grant writes in the book's foreward. "There are pivotal moments in all our lives, but rarely has one man's courageous story so gracefully expressed the perseverance, hope—and, yes, faith—we all rely on to get by."
Industry experts estimate more than 46 million people have sung Slaughter's songs throughout the world. The inspiration for some of his most touching and meaningful songs comes from the experiences he recounts in It's All True, including the song entitled "It's All True." From his childhood in Greenwood, Miss., to his world tours through Vacation Bible School, Slaughter's story will speak to those who search for faith, and for the hope that life will lead them beyond their present circumstance.
"We know you'll be touched by Jeff's honesty and humor (and amazing songwriting talent, which can't help but shine through in these pages!)," says Grammy Award-winning artist Michael W. Smith and his wife, Debbie Smith.
It's All True is available at major retailers, including Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and Amazon. For more information about Slaughter and It's All True, visit
Photo caption, top: Skyhorse Publishing is releasing It's All True, the first book from popular singer/songwriter and worship leader Jeff Slaughter, today. (Skyhorse Publishing photo)
Photo caption, bottom: Slaughter, left, enjoys visiting with Dixie Ball, right, the first cousin of Slaughter's deceased mother. Ball traveled to Franklin, Tenn., from Jackson, Miss., to attend Slaughter's release party. (McCain & Co. Public Relations photo)
About Jeff Slaughter:
Jeff Slaughter is a popular recording artist and world-renowned worship leader who has worked with some of the biggest stars in music, including Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Faith Hill, and Amy Grant. He was enlisted by Lifeway—the world's largest provider of Christian resources—to be the sole songwriter for their Vacation Bible School for 16 years, and his songs have impacted millions of children and families. Christian music fans will recognize him as the writer of the No. 1 radio single, "One More Broken Heart," by Point of Grace.
As a solo artist, Slaughter has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia, Canada and Central America.
For more information about Slaughter and It's All True, visit or like him on Facebook ( or Twitter (@jeff_slaughter).
About Randy Winton:
Randy Winton, co-author of It's All True, is also the author of In My Shoes and a youth ministry veteran, following an award-winning career as a sportswriter.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Heartbeat Away by S. Dionne Moore - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Heartbeat Away
Abingdon Press (May 1, 2013)
S. Dionne Moore


S. Dionne Moore started writing in 2006. Her first book, Murder on the Ol’ Bunions, was contracted for publication by Barbour Publishing in 2008. In 2009 she moved on to writing historical romances as an outlet for her passion for history. In 2010 her second cozy mystery, Polly Dent Loses Grip, was a 2010 Carol Award finalist and she was also named a Barbour Publishing 2010 Favorite New Author. In 2011 her first historical romance, Promise of Tomorrow, was nominated a 2011 Carol Award finalist.

Born and raised in Manassas, Virginia, Moore moved to Greencastle, PA in 1993, then to Mercersburg in 2009. Moore enjoys life in the historically rich Cumberland Valley where traffic jams are a thing of the past and there are only two stoplights in the whole town.

For more information, visit her Website at
Follow her on Twitter: @sdionnemoore


When a band of runaway slaves brings Union-loyal Beth Bumgartner a wounded Confederate soldier named Joe, it is the catalyst that pushes her to defy her pacifist parents and become a nurse during the Battle of Antietam.

Her mother's mysterious goodbye gift is filled with quilt blocks that bring comfort to Beth during the hard days and lonely nights, but as she sews each block, she realizes there is a hidden message of faith within the pattern that encourages and sustains her. Reunited with Joe, Beth learns his secret and puts the quilt's message to its greatest test—but can betrayal be forgiven?

My Thoughts:
That’s why she gave you the quilt.  So you could see beyond the hard times.”  (p 95)

Times couldn’t be any harder for Beth Bumgartner! Truly, her circumstances were very brutal. Beth was staying with her grandmother's home, nursing wounded soldiers, and the Civil War came to their doorstep and swept through their front door.  Her world became filled with the moans and cries of agony of wounded soldiers.  Beth was wounded inside long before the war demolished the physical world she lived in.  She must heal while she tends the wounded and dying. Before any healing can take place, she must seek the heart -healing only God can provide – yet she has pushed Him away. God doesn’t hear or answer her prayers.

The soldier that occupies most of her time and effort – initially – is Joe. He is seeking the brother he went into the war to protect. Wounded and dying himself, it seems he will never discover the answers he is desperate to find.  He never expected to be part of someone else’s healing
Wow! Talk about being on the front lines of the Civil War!  Dionne Moore takes you there in her novel A Heartbeat Away!! The noise, the terror, the filth every detail is brought to vivid life.  She also brings to life a set of characters that  bear some inner wounds of their own – the separation from family, the unknown whereabouts or conditions of their loved ones.  Moore has created some very strong and resilient characters who bear up in pretty amazing ways.

Throughout the story, Beth pieces together a quilt that her mother sent to her while she was nursing soldiers in her grandmother’s home.  There is a message tenderly woven into each stitch of that quilt, and Moore weaves her story together with the masterful touch of an accomplished seamstress. It is a purposeful and beautiful story and displays the mercy and grace of God in the most nightmarish circumstances imaginable.

Truly, we can and must trust God no matter the battle that wages around us. It’s not easy.  It’s not pain free. It is purposeful and beautiful, just like Beth’s quilt. Don’t miss this story!  It will challenge and change your heart!

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Heartbeat Away, go HERE.

Watch the video:
AHeartbeatAway - Medium from S. Dionne Moore on Vimeo.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Never Forget.  Thank you for your sacrifice.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt - REVIEWED

About the Novel: 

What does a girl do when life doesn’t go according to her plan? At thirty-six, Kendall Haynes has seen some of her dreams come true. She’s a family physician helping kids with severe allergies and asthma achieve more fulfilling lives—a childhood struggle she knows all too well. But are Kendall’s dreams of having it all—a career, a husband, children—nothing more than a childhood fantasy? God says He knows the plans He has for her—why can’t Kendall figure them out and be content with her life?
Griffin Walker prefers flying solo—both as an Air Force pilot and in his personal life. But a wrong choice and health problems pulled him out of the cockpit. His attempts to get out of “flying a desk” are complicated by his parents’ death—making Griffin the reluctant guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother, Ian. How did his life get so off course? Can he get his life back on track…or has there been a divine plan all along?
Catch a Falling Star reminds readers that romance isn’t just for twenty-somethings and that sometimes letting go of your “wish I may, wish I might” dreams is the only way to embrace everything God has waiting for you.
My Thoughts:
Was Kendall going to ever have it all?  Or was her future going to be more of the same – work and friends, and learning to accept that it was enough?”

Kendall Haynes is a successful physician and she has a great group of friends. (her family is okay, but they seem to have their own agenda)  At thirty-six, Kendall knows the phrase “always the brides maid never the bride” a bit too well!  She is celebrating yet another friend's engagement (as well as learning that her sister is planning to be married) when an unlikely event in the restaurant sets her life up to intersect with a very unusual pair of brothers.

Griffin Walker is walking through his own set of life questions.  Becoming his brother’s guardian in the wake of his parents tragic death, coupled with health issues, has Griffin in a very uncomfortable place in life.  When he encounters Kendall’s straightforward approach,  he’s not real sure what to do with it – be annoyed or intrigued.

The plot revolves around these two very different characters, but there are a host of other characters facing their own unique challenges.  From engagements to adoptive parenting to sibling rivalry and parental control issues, Beth Vogt covers some universal questions about relationships on every level – in light of God's plan within all of it.  Being a good friend, a sister, and a daughter are only part of Kendall’s life.  She longs for a relationship of her own. Will she ever find a way to balance her life as a physician with her longing to have a family of her own?

The group of characters in this story are realistic and well-developed.  Vogt tosses in a healthy dose of unexpected twists and turns within the plot, so you may be surprised how all of this works out!  I was!  I hope you enjoy getting to know this group and learn that God’s plans for our life always exceeds our human expectations!

About the Author:
Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice), though she said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four, though she said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Her contemporary romance novel, Wish You Were Here, debuted in May 2012 (Howard Books), and Catch a Falling Star releases May 2013. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When A Secret Kills by Lynette Eason - REVIEWED!!

About the Book:
She's come home to put a killer behind bars. 
But the killer plans to put her six feet under.

Investigative reporter Jillian Carter knows it's time to put the past to rest. She's tired of looking over her shoulder, letting a killer go free. She's no longer the scared kid who changed her name and disappeared. Now, no matter what the cost, Jillian must do what she is trained to do-find the truth and expose it. And the truth is that Senator Frank Hoffman committed murder ten years ago-and Jillian watched it happen.

Didn't she?

Get ready for the spine-tingling, nail-biting conclusion to this explosive series.

My Thoughts:

At that point, I dropped it and decided to pray about it…..I wonder if you’re my answer.” (p. 156)

There are a lot of different prayers wining their way heavenward in this story!  As fast as the words are being uttered circumstances are changing even faster!  I haven’t been on a thrill ride like Lynette Eason’s When A Secret Kills in a while!! What a blast!  Well, it was a blast for me as a reader – not so much for the characters in the story! Have mercy! They barely make it from one chapter to the next!

You see, Jillian Carter has returned to “the scene of the crime” as it were.  She and her friends have been running from a deadly secret for almost ten years, and she wants to see justice served.  Yes, there is a price to be paid for that truth coming to light, and Jillian just hopes she doesn’t have to pay with her life.

Not only does she have to face the truth behind the crime she witnessed in the first book of the Deadly Secrets series, she must also face the consequence of a deeply personal secret that she has hidden.  Again, she realizes that there will be consequence for her action, and she has no guarantee that things will go well for her or those she loves.

There is a LOT as stake in this novel! There are deeply personal and frightening truths that must be faced by a myriad of characters.  Your heart aches with both fear and longing as the story unfolds, and many times practically pounds out of your chest! This is an excellent suspense novel in every sense of the word!! I can’t recommend this series highly enough!

About the Author:
Lynette Eason is the author of several romantic suspense novels, including Too Close to Home,Don't Look BackA Killer Among Us, and When the Smoke Clears. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist - Reveiwed

About the Book:

As a follow up to her two bestselling books,Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines, author and blogger Shauna Niequist returns with the perfect read for those who love food and value the community and connection of family and friends around the table. Bread & Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread & Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table. It’s about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two. With wonderful recipes included, from Bacon-Wrapped Dates to Mango Chicken Curry to Blueberry Crisp, readers will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life in Bread & Wine.
My Thoughts:

But it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance.  You’ll miss the richest moments in life – the sacred moments when you feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love – if you’re not too scared or too ashamed to open the door.  I know it’s scary, but throw open the door anyway, even though someone might see you in your terribly ugly half-zip.”  ( p. 109)

Shauna Niequist’s books feel like sitting down for a visit with a close friend.  She is transparent in a way that draws you into her heart – and challenges you to draw closer to God.  Even though she may be sharing a painful experience with you, she still shows the feelings deep within her heart in such an honest way that your heart responds with the same thoughtful honesty.  That means that sometimes it might not feel comfortable, but in the end you have one of those “ah-ha!” moments that makes it all worthwhile!

This particular book contains some recipes that will knock your socks off! I REALLY want to be invited to Shauna’s house for dinner sometime!  That is just icing on the cake in this case!! A tasty bonus! Again, I am left satisfied and well fed – spiritually and emotionally!  LOVE THIS!!
About the Author:
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines,Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine.
Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.
She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac.
Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.

Monday, May 20, 2013

How Do You Kill 11 Million People? By Andy Adrews - REVEIWED

About the Book: (Thomas Nelson Publisher)

How Do You Kill  11 Million People?
Or, to be precise, 11,283,000 people.
Andy Andrews believes that good answers come only from asking the right questions. Through the powerful, provocative question, “How do you kill eleven million people?”—the number of people killed by the Nazi German regime between 1933 and 1945—he explores a number of other questions relevant to our lives today:
  • Does it matter that millions of ordinary citizens have checked out of participating in the decisions that shape the future of our country? 
  • Which is more dangerous: politicians with ill intent, or the too-trusting population that allows such people to lead them? 
  • How are we supposed to tell the difference between the “good guys" and the “bad guys”?
  • How does the answer to this question affect not only our country but our families, our faith, and our values?
  • What happens to a society in which truth is absent?
Andrews issues a wake-up call: become informed, passionate citizens who demand honesty and integrity from our leaders, or suffer the consequences of our own ignorance and apathy. Furthermore, we can no longer measure a leader’s worth by the yardsticks provided by the left or the right. Instead, we must use an unchanging standard: the pure, unvarnished truth.
My Thoughts:

Question:  “Do you have a political agenda?”

Andrews answers:  “Of course.  And I sure hope you have one too.  Here’s mine:  I want America’s present and future readership to embrace and live up to America’s core principles as written by our Founding Fathers and set forth in our constitution.”

AMEN!!! And AMEN!!

I’m a little late to the release party of this book (over a year late) but that really doesn’t matter.  What matters is the truth and conviction contained within this tiny volume.  The truth is that America is committing political suicide.  Our people have believed the lies told by career politicians for far too long!! It is time our country comes back to its founding principles, wakes up and fights for our future!!

Read this book.  It will change your life!! It will open your eyes! It is a call for Americas people to protect the freedom that has made our country great!!  WAKE UP!!! 

About the Author:
Hailed by a New York Times writer as a 'modern-day Will Rogers who has quietly become one of the most influential people in America,' Andy Andrews is an internationally known speaker and novelist whose combined works have sold millions of copies worldwide. He has been received at the White House and has spoken at the request of four different United States presidents.
Andrews'best-selling book, The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, is an international sensation, remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for four and a half months and being translated into nearly twenty languages. Featured on ABC's Good Morning America as a book-of-the-month selection, The Traveler's Gift is the stunning story of one man's search for meaning and success in life by traveling back into time and conversing with seven historic individuals. Its message of hope, faith, and perseverance is transforming thousands of lives worldwide every day, spawning a teen version, The Young Traveler's Gift; The Traveler's Gift Journal; a home study audio program, Timeless Wisdom from the Traveler; and life-study curriculum's in high schools, mental-health organizations, and prisons nationwide.

Read other Reviews of Andy's Books HERE and HERE

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Artist's Daughter by Alexandra Kuykendall - Reviewed

About the Book : (from Revell)

It takes a lifetime to know what-and who-defines you.
When Alexandra Kuykendall became a mother, she knew she had to go back to the beginning. To that hot July afternoon in Barcelona when she met her father for the first time. The only daughter of a single, world-traveling mother and an absent artist father, Alexandra embarks on a soul-searching trip into the past to make sense of the layers of her life-both the memories she experienced and the ones she wished for.

The Artist's Daughter will take you on a journey of discovery through childhood, marriage, and motherhood. Through short vignettes full of both wonder and heartache, Alexandra seeks answers to three life-defining questions: Am I lovable? Am I loved? Am I loving? If you long to better understand the path your life has taken, where it is heading, and who is guiding you, this revealing and refreshing story will push you toward those answers as it changes your heart.

My Thoughts:

The ‘do what only you can do’ was not only about cutting things out of my life, it was also about stepping up when it was time.”  (p. 215)

I was found before I realized how lost I was.”  (p. 235)

Alexandra Kuykendall tells her own story with grace and poignant transparency.  Told in vignettes of memory from childhood into her present adulthood, she shares a longing that echoes deeply within all of us – a longing to be loved and cherished because …because we are treasured as the unique creation we are in life.  Alexandra learns as she grows into adulthood that the longing can only be filled completely by our Creator.  No matter what our circumstances are and no matter what hardships we face and relationships we must navigate – no one or no thing can fulfill us as completely and profoundly as the knowledge that we are loved and cherished by our Creator.

Understanding that truth transforms our lives like nothing else.  Alexandra  must traverse many trials in her life before this truth is fully formed in her heart.  I was drawn to her from the first pages, and by the time I reached the end of her story, I felt like I was enjoying a visit with a dear friend.  She is like a lot of moms and wives I have known over the years, and I have had friends who shared with me like Alexandra shared life with her friends.  I understood the overwhelming emotions, the desperate , “God change me. Change my heart” prayers that provide an open door through which God’s transforming power flows.  I feel like I am a kindred spirit with Alexandra.

I have been blessed by her life and her obedience to God to share her story.  I hope that you too will choose to receive the blessing of sharing the story of her journey.

About the Author:
Alexandra Kuykendall lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Derek and their four daughters. She is on staff at MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers) where she is a regular contributor and consulting editor to various publications and a frequent speaker for the organization. While she spends most days buckling and unbuckling car seats and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma, she manages to snatch minutes here and there to write about the quest for purpose in it all

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Couponing for the Rest of Us by Kasey Knight Trenum - Reviewed

About the Book: (from Baker Publishing)
Shop savvy, save money, and still have a life!
Kasey Knight Trenum knows what it's like firsthand. When her family's finances were in a tailspin, she gritted her teeth and gave in to the need to save. In Couponing for the Rest of Us she shows you how she learned to save hundreds of dollars every month and offers time-saving tips and tricks you can easily implement in your busy life. You'll discover

· where to find coupons for what your family eats
· how to reinvent your shopping strategy
· how to make grocery shopping less stressful-even fun!
· and much more

If you want to save money and time, this book is a gold mine.

"Prepare to be surprised by how easy it really is to slash your grocery budget by 50 to 70 percent consistently, week after week! Kasey takes you from start to finish using her uniquely simple strategies. You'll go step-by-step, from collecting coupons to getting organized to understanding store policies and secrets for how to maximize your savings-just like a pro!"-Mary Hunt, personal finance expert and founder of Debt-Proof Living, author of 7 Money Rules for Life

My Thoughts:

First of all, what I thought I knew about couponing was not enough! Kasey Trenum has removed the mystery behind grocery shopping whether you have a coupon in your hand or not! She explains the sale cycles common to all grocery stores.  She explains the simple concept of buying according to your needs – long term.  Not stock-piling, but understanding the sale cycles in a way that allows you to never pay full price again.  Add coupons and the savings grow exponentially! They grow enough until you not only meet the needs of your family but are able to share your abundance with others!

This is not extreme it is based on Scripture. It’s simple, common sense. Once we get past our on fear and lack of knowledge – the couponing can begin! This is a tool to help folks dig out of financial need and a tool that will allow you to share with others who need to be blessed and whose lives can be changed by learning these principles.

I am still learning the basics, but I am very thankful this book has been placed in my life.  This comes to me at a time that I need to learn this.  Really need to learn this! I cannot begin to recommend this book highly enough! These are real people. This is a real, practical and useful idea.  Lives have been forever changed by applying these principles.  FANTASTIC!!

About the Author:  Kasey Knight Trenum hosts Time 2 $ave / Time 2 Give, a frugal and couponing blog (, and conducts Time 2 $ave workshops frequently. Her weekly column can be read in Scripps newspapers nationwide, her work has been featured in Parademagazine and All You magazine, and she has been interviewed on HNL's Making It in America and NPR's All Things Considered. She has a personal passion for seeing women, men, and families find financial freedom, be empowered to improve their lives, and become purposeful givers. She and her husband and children live in Tennessee.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story by Dee Henderson - REVIEWED!

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Jennifer: An O’Malley Love Story
Bethany House Publishers (May 1, 2013)
Dee Henderson


Dee Henderson is the bestselling, award-winning author of 15 previous novels, including the acclaimed O'MALLEY series and UNCOMMON HEROES series. These days, most authors are out there energetically promoting their books in print and broadcast and via social media—wherever they can get attention. But Dee Henderson keeps a low profile. She avoids telephone interviews because of hearing problems, declined to provide a current photo, and will say only that she lives in Illinois.


It's a summer of change for Jennifer O'Malley. The busy physician has a pediatrics practice in Dallas, and meeting Tom Peterson, and falling in love, is adding a rich layer to her life. She's sorting out how to introduce him to her family--she's the youngest of seven--and thinking about marriage.

She's falling in love with Jesus too, and knows God is good. But that faith is about to be tested in a way she didn't expect, and the results will soon transform her entire family.

My Thoughts:

I have been a fan of the O’Malley series for YEARS!! Now, I get to know the members of the family in an entirely new way and I am lovin’ it!!  Jennifer is the youngest and I love the way she has to balance her life with the ever present knowledge of the love that surrounds her life.  Yet she still doesn’t have someone special in her life and she hasn’t accepted the love of her Savior either.  This took my mind and heart in an entirely new direction!  Loved her journey! Loved the relationships in her life – the way she loves others, especially her patients!! 

This book will make you run to the nearest bookstore and search out Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series! It’s been a while since I’ve read them, and I totally think that I will have to put them back into my reading lineup SOON!! This may be a small book, but it is PACKED with story!! Don’t miss this!! Seriously!! It is so wonderful to get to know Jennifer.  Dee Henderson can create truly unforgettable characters!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Jennifer: An O’Malley Love Story, go to HERE.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Double or Nothing by Meg Mims

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:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 20, 2013)

***Special thanks to Meg Mims for sending me a review copy.***


Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and  was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western. Double or Nothing is the sequel. Meg has also written two contemporary romances, The Key to Love and Santa Paws -- which reached the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list.

Visit the author's website.


A mysterious explosion. A man framed for murder. A strong woman determined to prove his innocence.

October, 1869: Lily Granville, heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory but his success fails to impress her guardian. An explosion in San Francisco, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of consequences. When Ace is framed for murder before their wedding night, Lily must find proof to save him from a hangman’s noose. Will she become a widow before a true wife?

Product Details:
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 20, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1483901629
ISBN-13: 978-1483901626


‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful… forgive,

and ye shall be forgiven.’ Luke 6:36-37

Chapter One

1869, California

I jumped at a screeching whistle. Men swarmed over the distant slope like bees over a wax honeycomb in a mad scramble. “Good heavens. What is that about?”

Uncle Harrison pulled me out of harm’s way. “Just watch. They’re almost ready to begin the hydraulic mining,” he said and pulled his hat down to avoid the hot sun. “You’ll see. This is far better than panning for gold in a creek bed.”

“I can already see how destructive it is, given the run-off,” I said, eyeing the rivulets of dried mud that marked each treeless incline. “I’ve read about how the farmers can’t irrigate their fields and orchards due to the gravel and silt filling the rivers—”

Water suddenly gushed from two hydraulic nozzles in a wide, powerful stream. The men’s bulging arm muscles strained their shirts, their faces purple with the effort to control the water. I turned my gaze to the ravaged earth. Mud washed down into the wooden sluices, where other men worked at various points to spray quicksilver along the wide stretch. Others worked at a frantic pace to keep the earthy silt moving.

An older man with a grizzled goatee and worn overalls held out a canteen. “Have a sip while you’re waiting, miss,” he said. “A body gets mighty thirsty out here.”

“Thank you so much.”

I sipped the cold, refreshing ginger-flavored liquid that eased my parched throat. Dirt from the canteen streaked my gloves. Not that it mattered. At least the spatters of fresh mud wouldn’t show much on my black mourning costume and riding boots. Two days of rain earlier in the week had not helped.

The kind man offered the canteen to Uncle Harrison, who brushed it aside with a curt shake of his head. Steaming, I bit back an apology. The man had already headed back to his position near the sluices.

Bored of watching the ongoing work, I wandered over to several horses that stood patient in the sun and patted their noses. A tooled leather saddle sat atop one gelding’s glossy brown hide, and the silver-studded bridle looked just as rich. The horse gave a low whicker in greeting. If only I’d pocketed a few carrots or sugar lumps from breakfast.

“You’re a beauty. I wish I could ride you for a bit.”

The gelding’s ears dipped forward. One of the men left the knot of others in a huff. His dusty open coat swung around him as he stalked, spurs jingling, and closed the distance. He passed by me with a mere tip of his wide-brimmed hat and untied the reins. The horse pawed a bit while the man mounted, jittery, sensing his foul mood. I noted his scowl. Was he upset that I’d dared touch his property? A scruffy beard and thick black mustache hid his mouth. He rode off, keeping the gelding’s gait easy, down the gully toward the Early Bird’s entrance.

“Who was that?” I asked a miner.

The worker wiped sweat from his forehead with a sleeve. “Senor Alvarez? He’s got a burr under his blanket as usual. Pay him no mind, miss.”

I rubbed the remaining horse’s flank and glanced around the mining site. My uncle continued to chat with the foreman close to the shack near the head of the sluices. Another section of the wooden troughs was raised from the ground further north at a different bank of earth. My curiosity increased. I walked to the sluice and stared down at the filth in the bottom. No glints of gold flecked the bits of rock and slag. I had no idea what quicksilver looked like either. This whole business seemed crazy, although Uncle Harrison disagreed.

In the distance, pines smudged the lower half of the Sierra’s tiny white-capped peaks. To the west, gray clouds threatened the pale blue sky. No doubt rain would soak everything again by morning. My uncle had mentioned how winter was wetter here than back home in Chicago, or even St. Louis. I hadn’t known what to expect for autumn in California. Now that it was close to October, the stands of golden aspen on a ridge high above sported various shades of green, gold and hues of orange.

Homesickness overwhelmed me. I longed to see the brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow oaks, the thick forest of elms and birches behind my father’s house in Evanston. To ride along the shoreline of Lake Michigan’s navy waters, and watch the snow falling fast on a chilly winter’s day. I wouldn’t even mind listening to Adele Mason’s endless chatter about the latest dinner parties she attended with her many beaus.

It seemed like an eternity since I’d crossed two thousand miles of prairie and mountains on the Union and Central Pacific railroad. Donner Lake had resembled a sapphire jewel nestled among pristine snow fields. Perhaps it was frozen already.

I shivered, remembering the darkness of Summit Tunnel. It also brought back the delicious memory of feeling safe, nestled in Ace’s strong arms. Feeling the sudden shock when his tongue sought my own…

“Miss? It’s dangerous standin’ that close to the sluice. Over yonder is best.”

Guilt flooded my heart. Nodding to the man, I twisted around and glanced in the direction he indicated. My uncle remained at the shack. “Will they ever stop talking business?”

“Doubt it.” The miner was the same one who’d offered me water earlier. He carried a roll of canvas slung over a shoulder. Shrugging, he swiped his muddy goatee and cheek against his burden’s nubby surface. “Reckon they’ll yammer on for a while more.”

“Thank you. I’ll be careful.”

“Sure thing, miss.”

He passed by and handed the canvas to a pair of men. They unrolled it and laid the fabric inside the wooden sluice. I walked across the shifting ground, trying to avoid the worst of the mud’s damp patches. One claimed my uncle’s shoe when we arrived that morning. I fought hard not to laugh aloud, watching Uncle Harrison hop about on one foot, so comical with his blustery red face. At last a worker retrieved his shoe, mud up to his elbow, half his face coated as well. My uncle had not thanked the man for the rescue, either.

On higher ground, two workers held long snaking hoses that spurted water at the high bank. Two others sprayed quicksilver over the sluice. It didn’t look like anything but dirty water. I sighed. This entire trip had been a waste of time. Uncle Harrison resented the questions I’d peppered the foreman with and ignored my opinions on how the operation damaged the countryside. Why had he suggested I tag along in the first place?

I should have stayed back in Sacramento. My sketchbook drawings needed work. I had yet to finish anything I’d glimpsed during the journey on the train. Etta had brought all my watercolor supplies from Evanston, and most of my books too.

But I didn’t want to read or paint. A deep melancholy robbed me of energy. Nightmares haunted my sleep, of the deep ravine and the lizard I’d caught, of the sandy slope I climbed on Mt. Diablo, desperate to escape my father’s killer. Of being trapped, with no way out, and facing death, and of seeing that shocked surprise… and hearing the gunshot.

Self-defense, as Ace claimed. My uncle and the sheriff agreed.

Poor Ace. He’d felt bad afterward, forced into a cowardly deed. I had never shot anything except a badger with Father’s Navy revolver. Missed, too. But I’d tried to protect my darling pet lizard’s clutch of eggs in the garden back home. The thought of shooting a human being turned my stomach. I suppose stabbing someone wasn’t any less of a sin. Heavy guilt weighed on me. Had it been self-defense? I shuddered at the memory.
As Mother used to say, it was ‘water under the bridge.’ Nothing I might say or do now would change the past. But I’d rather avoid making such a horrible choice again.
Instead I trudged toward the shack. The foreman held a large piece of blueprint paper between his hands while my uncle pointed at various sections. Two other men argued with them, their heated words carrying over the whooshing of hoses and creaks and jolts of skeleton wagons over the rutted ground. Most of their argument was peppered with technical jargon that didn’t make any sense. Even Chinese sounded more familiar.

“We haven’t made enough headway,” said a man in a tailored suit, whose gold watch chain glinted in the sun. “I say we dig out the ridge all the way.”

“You take that ridge down any more than we have and we’ll never get equipment to the furthest point of the claim, over here,” my uncle said and prodded the map. “That was Alvarez’s advice. He knows this land better than you, Williamson.”

“I agree, it’s too dangerous,” the foreman said.

 “I’m the engineer! Are you implying I don’t know my business?”

“I’m saying it’s stupid to undermine that ridge. You’re being a stubborn coot.”

“You’re a fine one to call me stubborn—”

Good heavens. I reversed direction and headed back toward the sluice. They were sure to argue for another few hours. I wanted to ride that horse, even if it meant hiking my skirts to my knees and baring my ankles. The poor animal looked like it a good run, or at least a trot over the rough ground. I had to do something productive or I’d go mad.

Steering around the same boggy patch of mud, I cut close to the sluice. A blood-curdling yell halted everyone. I whirled to see the entire bank of earth, a huge avalanche of mud, rocks and two large trees root-first, rushing straight for me. Someone grabbed me by the waist from behind. I found myself sprawling head-first in the wooden trough. Other men shouted. The mine whistle screeched in my ears, so loud my head throbbed.

Spitting mud and gravel, I struggled to my knees. The tidal wave of mud and rocks hit the trough, rocking me backwards, and then pushed it off its moorings. I screamed when the miner was swept off his feet. Reaching out, I grabbed for his hand—he lost his grip and vanished. A large boulder slammed into the trough and almost tipped me off my perch. I fought to keep my grip on the wooden edge. At last the massive mudslide halted.

Somehow I found myself staring up at a huge tree trunk that hovered over my head. The thing teetered in the wind. Terrified it would crush me, I held my breath. Several workers waded waist deep into the mud and threaded ropes over the tree’s boughs. Two dozen men scampered from all directions, pulling and tugging, until the huge trunk slid backwards a few inches.

“Hold still, miss! We’ll get you to safety quick as a wink.”

“There’s a man buried somewhere! Please try to save him first!”

The crew, grunting and panting, lugged the tree out of harm’s way. Two other men lifted me off the wooden sluice’s remnants. The younger one carried me up the slope toward the shack and set me on my feet. I sagged like a limp rag doll into Uncle Harrison’s arms. White-faced with shock, he stripped off my gloves and chafed my hands.

“Are you all right, Lily? Say something!”

“That worker was buried alive. He saved my life—”

“Hush. They’ll find him.”

Together we watched the workers dig and scrabble with bare hands at the massive runoff. Horrified, my body shaking, I prayed hard that they’d find him before it was too late. My uncle pushed me onto a camp stool. Once he thrust a clean handkerchief into my hands, he forced a drink down my throat from his silver flask. The brandy burned its way to my stomach. I almost retched, but it calmed my jangled nerves. Uncle Harrison wiped my face and neck before he departed. Shivering, wet and muddy, I glanced down at the cotton cloth in my hand. Brown grime stained it along with streaks of pale pink. Blood.

I mopped my neck again, aware now of the stinging pain below my earlobe, and scraped away tiny bits of gravel. My uncle had left his flask. I tipped it against a clean spot on the handkerchief and dabbed my flesh. That burned as well.

A worker pushed me back onto the stool when I stood. “Better rest, miss. You look ready to faint, and we ain’t got any clean clothes for you.”

“Have they found that poor man yet?”

“They will. One way or another,” he said, his tone mournful. “This ain’t the first accident we’ve had at the Early Bird.”

Mortified, I clenched a fist. “How many others have been hurt? Or killed?”

“I better not say.”

He stalked toward the crowd, who continued to clear rocks and a second tree trunk from the muddy runoff. I heard a shout. Five men jumped to assist a sixth who called for help. They lifted a prone figure between them. My heart quailed at the sight of a huge splinter of wood protruding from the man’s blood-soaked shirt. I turned away, tears blurring my vision. I could have suffered the same fate if not for his courage.

The poor soul. He’d been so kind, offering a drink of ginger water, even warning me away from the sluice. He’d given his life to save mine. How could something like this happen? And he had not been the only victim to this destructive mining practice.

Numb, I staggered to my feet and hunted down the foreman. “What was the man’s name, the one who died? Please tell me. Does he have any family?”

“Hank Matthews.” The worker swiped mud from his bearded cheek. “Wife and three kids from what little I know.”

I marched off to find my uncle, ignoring the itching from my stiff clothing. He was busy consulting with the engineer and three other men, supervisors no doubt, given their clean clothes. Uncle Harrison turned to me at last.

“We must send money to Mr. Matthews’ family,” I said, “for the funeral, and to care for his wife and children—”

“We will discuss the matter later.”

“I insist that we support his family! It’s the least we can do. He saved my life, you must see that—ow.” He’d snared my arm and pulled me aside, his voice lowering.

“We cannot support every family of all the men who’ve suffered accidents,” Uncle Harrison said. “They knew the risks. They chose to work at the Early Bird.”


“Enough, Lily. I said we’ll discuss it later.”

He marched me back over the rough terrain to the small camp. Someone brought a real chair and placed it inside the “store,” a crude canvas tent shelter. Two wooden barrels covered with a plank served as a counter. Fifty pound burlap bags of flour, coffee beans, sugar, salt and dried navy beans covered the shelves, along with tins of pepper and saleratus. Another man brought a wooden bucket of clean water. I washed my face, hands and neck, weeping in silence over Hank Matthews’ death. He’d died in a horrible fashion. How many others had suffered similar fates or life-threatening injuries?

At last my uncle arrived to fetch me. I stood, exhausted, still filthy and depressed. “I’d like to find out where Mrs. Matthews lives—”

“That’s not important now. This landslide will set back production for a few weeks,” he said, “but that can’t be helped. Forget what happened, Lily.”

“I cannot forget what happened! I won’t forget.”

Uncle Harrison shrugged. “Suit yourself. It’s time to return home.”

Furious, I followed him toward the coach we’d hired in Folsom earlier that morning. My stiff skirts and jacket rustled with every move. I refused his help and climbed inside on my own. For the past month, my uncle refused to listen to reports in the newspapers about farmers who complained how their orchards and soil were ruined by silt and gravel from the hydraulic mining runoff. The Early Bird was only one of over a hundred or more sites in the high hills surrounding Sacramento. Now I’d seen the truth of the destruction first hand. Somehow I had to get through to Uncle Harrison. To him, this tragedy meant nothing.

I had to take matters into my own hands.


Etta flung the door wide. “Miss! What in the world happened—”

“A bath, please, as fast as you can prepare it.”

I pushed past her into the house. The ride to Folsom had been bad enough, along with the short trip to the railhead at Roseville. Uncle Harrison gave in when I rejected his offer to find a hotel and have my dress sponged. I’d borne the scrutiny of several late night passengers on the train to Sacramento with wounded pride, and in extreme discomfort. My skin crawled, my muscles ached to the point of agony. I wanted to scream with impatience.

Once upstairs in my bedroom, I stripped every bit of clothing off with a weary sigh and tied a wrapper around my waist. My whole head itched, as if plastered in place. I pulled several hairpins out and dislodged a hunk of dried mud. Ugh.

Etta knocked. “I’ve heated water. Let me have your clothes, miss.”

“There’s no use salvaging them.”

“Now, Miss Lily. Your uncle explained everything, and it’s not your fault what happened.” She bent to gather the filthy clothes. “I’ll get you something to eat.”

“Hot tea, with milk and sugar, thank you. I’m exhausted. I need to sleep.”

“You received a letter, miss. I left it on the dressing table.”

“I’ll read it tomorrow.”

Etta held out a small bowl with creamed paste. “Your favorite type—lavender, honey and a bit of oatmeal. Cover your face and hands with that, and I’ll mix some fresh beeswax with rose hips and almond oil when you’re done.”

I sank into the hot bath water in the screened alcove. Once I scrubbed all over, Etta washed my hair and brought fresh water to rinse all the dirt out. She poured a mixture of rose-scented mineral oil and massaged it into my curls. The room’s cold air sent shivers up my spine. I slipped into my nightdress, slathered my face and hands with cream and crawled into bed. It seemed the minute my head hit the feather pillow, I woke to tugging on my scalp. Etta sat beside me, comb in hand. Mid-morning sunlight streamed into the room.

“I’m sorry, Miss Lily. I couldn’t see all the tangles in your hair last night,” she said. “You’ll never grow it long again if I have to cut snarls out.”

Flexing my sore limbs, ignoring the pain, I yawned wide. “I don’t care—” Yawning again, I hunched down while she tugged and pulled. “Go ahead and cut it short.”

“That’s silly. Your future husband wouldn’t appreciate that.”

“I will never have a husband.”

“Didn’t Mr. Mason marry that young lady you met on the train?”

“Yes, Kate Kimball.” I hadn’t been surprised at that news when the telegram from San Francisco arrived last week. “She’s better suited to be his wife than I ever was.”

“That doesn’t mean you won’t find a suitable young man to marry.”

I didn’t bother to answer. Etta clucked to herself and left the room. I rolled onto my back, yawning again, too tired to rise. Disappointment lingered inside me when I recalled Kate and Charles’ news. They hadn’t asked me to witness their vows or invited me to a small celebration. Not that I’d expected them to host a lavish wedding. But I had lost the chance to share in their happiness. Perhaps they assumed I wouldn’t leave Sacramento, being in mourning for Father. They were wrong. Wearing black wouldn’t have stopped me. Friendship and loyalty meant far more than the customs of the day.

California wasn’t as exciting as I’d expected. I hadn’t made friends in the neighborhood. Most women here were either elderly or married with children, none my age. Uncle Harrison often missed meals, and only returned home to sleep. Thank goodness Etta had arrived from Evanston to keep me company.

I stretched, working out the soreness in my shoulders, back and limbs. Boredom had driven me to visit the mine yesterday. Now boredom struck again, harder than ever. Kate would be cooking breakfast for her new husband right now. To think a few months ago, Charles had wanted me to marry him and fund his mission trip to China. I snatched up the letter that Etta  brought last night and slit the envelope with a hairpin. Kate’s scrawled handwriting covered every inch of the paper, both sides. Father had often written letters to Mother during the War like this, the inked words smeared a little, and difficult to decipher.

Padding barefoot over the rug, I curled up on the window seat. Thick gray fog shrouded the city streets below, and a scent of mildewing leaves invaded the room. A horse-drawn milk wagon clopped over the cobblestones and halted, its outline faint. The driver scurried toward the porch with a wire rack of bottles. He walked back with the empties and vanished. At last I turned my attention to Kate’s letter.

Dearest Lily, I hope you are well…we are so happy, even though we haven’t a penny to our name. At first we had to accept the kindness of strangers, staying two days here and another elsewhere. But our ministry has grown here in San Francisco. We hope to build a permanent church in Rock Canyon. The poor come to us, and bring whatever they can to share a meal every Wednesday and Sunday. That’s when Charles preaches the Word. He is winning souls to the Lord’s work every day…

Charles? Preaching, when he never had the courage to speak to Father back in Evanston! Had he changed that much? To think I might have slept on the floor in a stranger’s house next to a husband—but no. My inheritance would have guaranteed a hotel room, a house, and passage to wherever Charles wanted to serve as a missionary. But that door had closed. I was thankful, too, because Kate proved a better choice for him.

She’d made no mention of Ace Diamond. What was he doing now?

I let out a long breath. He’d taken the three thousand dollars my uncle had given him and vanished. Had he forgotten me? Gone back east on the railroad to buy a ranch somewhere? I had no idea. I’d been curious enough to send Etta when she first arrived in Sacramento, inquiring at every hotel, steamer and ticket clerk for the Central Pacific. She failed to learn anything about the young Texan. That hurt far more than I expected.

Our last conversation in the Vallejo hotel hallway was clear in my memory. Ace’s fury, the gleam in his odd mismatched eyes—one blue, one blue-green—matched his determination to win me. But my uncle’s insults had been too much to bear.

Ever since, I’d engaged in daily shouting matches with Uncle Harrison over acting as my  guardian. He proved to be a dictator of my clothing and behavior, disregarded my opinion on the Early Bird mine or about social events, parties and dinners he insisted I attend. My resentment grew over being treated like a child. I cherished independence from a young age, since my parents had fostered that. Father had indulged me further after Mother’s death. Uncle Harrison wasn’t aware of that, however, and his iron-fisted control irritated me.

I sighed aloud and stretched once more. My black skirt and jacket were ruined after the trip to the Early Bird. I’d have to order new mourning attire or else give up my intention to observe the custom. Father would no doubt laugh if he stood here. He’d shake a finger and remind me about his wish to dandle a grandchild on his knee.

The only way to fulfill that was to marry. One man had sparked my interest, yet he was gone. I yearned to hear Ace’s drawl, see his face and that boyish grin again. I missed him. We’d spent so much time together on the train, and several pleasant hours on Mt. Diablo waiting for my uncle’s return with the sheriff. My heart quickened at the memory of sharing his hot kisses. And I hadn’t protested when his warm hands roamed my neck and shoulders. Or the sly way he’d tugged a few buttons free on my shirtwaist to kiss my bare skin. Along the curve of my bosom above my corset cover, and then…

Etta’s loud rap at the door scared me witless. She carried in a tray with a silver urn, cups and saucers plus a covered dish. “So you found the letter from San Francisco?”

“Yes. From Kate.”

“There’s another this morning. I hope you’re hungry. You missed dinner last night. Captain Granville told me about that poor man yesterday, who saved your life.”

“He did?” Surprised, I glanced up at Etta. She looked wary.

“He’s not keen on sending them any money like you suggested, miss.”

“I don’t understand. He was always generous in the past—”

“To you, maybe, because you’re family.”

I let out another long breath. As if a little money would help that family anyway. No amount could substitute for a man’s life. My resentment increased. I rubbed my forehead and temples, wishing my headache away. The delicious scent of coffee and bacon wafted over me.

“Where’s this other letter?”

Etta poured two cups of coffee and handed me one. “I didn’t recognize the handwriting on the envelope.” She drew it from her apron pocket.

I studied the spidery writing and then used the same hairpin to open the thin envelope. “Hmm. Mrs. Wycliffe says she wrote every word that Aunt Sylvia dictated. It’s postmarked from Sacramento, but I thought she was in a San Francisco hospital.”

“Could be your uncle brought her here to recover.” Etta perched on a chair. “What does it say, miss? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Of course not.”

I crunched a rasher of bacon, ate the still warm eggs and then wiped my hands on a linen napkin. What did Aunt Sylvia want? She’d warned Uncle Harrison about Ace being a gambler. She’d cursed me, Ace, Uncle Harrison, and every one of the men who rescued her from the ravine that day at Mt. Diablo—worse than a miner—while they carried her on a makeshift litter to the buckboard wagon. Aunt Sylvia hadn’t stopped cursing on the journey back to Vallejo. She deserved every bit of such rough treatment for what I’d suffered at her hands.

After I flattened the letter, I started reading aloud. “‘The doctors say I have little time to live.’ That’s doubtful, I bet. ‘Gangrene has taken one leg, and another infection is spreading fast. Come and visit before it is too late. We have much to discuss.’”

“Gangrene is bad, Miss Lily. My father suffered terrible from that before he died. They cut off his leg that summer, but it spread past that point. Maybe you ought to go.”

“What could we possibly have to talk about? She hates me.”

“True enough,” Etta said bitterly, “but she is family. Remember that.”

“Father never wanted me to speak her name.”

“The colonel’s gone to his reward, miss, and is resting in peace. Along with your mother, God rest her soul.”

I didn’t reply to that, scanning the rest of the letter to myself. The words on the page blurred—words that cut me deep. Words my aunt knew would summon me to her deathbed. My mother’s favorite Scripture verse from Luke, and one word stood out.