Friday, September 27, 2013

Chasing Hope Giveaway



In author Kathryn Cushman’s newest novel, Chasing Hope, Sabrina Rice is a gifted runner and Olympic hopeful who’s had her dreams shattered by a devastating diagnosis. One forfeited scholarship and several years later, she’s focused on building new dreams. Dreams that have nothing to do with running.

Until the day she sees Brandy Philip running across the community college campus, easily outpacing security. Sabrina immediately recognizes world-class speed, and it’s all the more painful that it belongs to a teenage graffiti artist.

When a chance encounter brings the two young women together, Sabrina gets the uncomfortable feeling her life plans are about to be toppled…again. And that God may be asking her to help this troubled but talented girl see her dreams past the starting block.


To celebrate the story, author Katie Cushman and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the CHASING HOPE Giveaway, and your chance to win one of three fabulous prizes connected with the story!

Chasing Hope Grand PrizeGRAND PRIZE:
CHAMPION’S CHOICE PACKAGE
Nike’s motto is: Just Do It, and Sabrina Rice of Chasing Hope lives out this attitude despite tremendous obstacles. But chasing dreams is hard work, and every champion needs fuel for their journey.
To celebrate everyday champions like Sabrina, we’re offering our Grand Prize winner the chance to fuel up, and have some fun as they chase their dreams.
The winner of this package will receive a $200 shopping spree to the Nike Online Store, and a 1-Year subscription to Runner’s World Magazine.


SECOND PRIZE:
Chasing Hope Second PrizeNEW STRIDE PACKAGE
In Chasing Hope, Brandy Philip has world-class talent, but she needs a fresh start, and a little extra help to get her on the right path. Just like Brandy, we all need a boost now and then, especially when it comes to our health and fitness goals!
While we can’t all have a personal trainer like Sabrina to help us meet those goals, our Second Prize winner will receive the next best thing: This prize includes a $175 value Nike + FuelBand accelerometer, which tracks each step taken and calories burned (and tells the time of day), andThe Courage To Start running book, written by popular life coach and former self-proclaimed “couch potato”, John Bingham.

Chasing Hope Third PrizeTHIRD PRIZE:
REST & RECHARGE PACKAGE
In Chasing Hope, Sabrina and Brandy find that even the strongest runners also need time to rest.
Whether you run marathons, a carpool, or just weekly trips to the grocery store, you can always use a little you-time, and a chance to recharge!
Our third prize winner will get that chance with a $50 gift card to Spafinder.com, plus an inside look at the life of Eric Liddell, (Sabrina’s hero and inspiration), through the ‘Complete Surrender’ biography book, and the Chariots of Fire DVD, featuring Ben Cross.


This giveaway starts September 16, 2013 and ends October 3, 2013 @ 11:59 pm (PST). Entry is open to US residents only, age 18 and over. Winners will be selected Friday, October 4, 2013, and announced at KatieCushman.com.
How to Enter:
Go to http://www.katiecushman.com/chasing-hope-giveaway/ and complete the entry box, anytime between September 16 and October 3.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris (Review)



When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common--a tattoo of a magnolia on their shoulders. Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. But it doesn't take long for them to realize that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. As they venture deep into a sinister world of human trafficking, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities--and their hearts. 

"Dangerous Passage "exposes a fully-realized and frightening world where every layer peeled back reveals more challenges ahead. Romantic suspense fans will be hooked from the start by Lisa Harris's first installment of the new Southern Crimes series.


I GIVE THIS BOOK:1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
Dangerous Passage was a really good read, but for a "suspense" book I expect to be in suspense - which I wasn't at all. Seven pages into the story I had a strong hunch what was going on...and I was right! So that made the suspense part of the story not that enjoyable.

What I did enjoy was the interactions between Avery & her daughter and Avery & Jackson. The police officers were great and I loved the bantering between them. Mitch, Avery's partner, was a hilarious character, I loved all the things he would say - so funny! All these things made the story enjoyable and made up for the fact that the suspense aspect wasn't that good.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***

If you found this review helpful, will you please click yes HERE. Thanks!


“Available September 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”



PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Series: Southern Crimes (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Revell (September 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080072190X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800721909
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Available to purchase at Amazon | B&N | CBD

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FIRST Wild Card Tour: A Faith to Die For by Mark Geppert

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:

Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Geppert is president and founder of the South East Asia Prayer Center. He teaches seminars on prayer walking, micro-economic kingdom business principles, and team building to leaders in Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe, as well as throughout the U.S. He is known as a “master communicator” through his work in radio and television. Mark has worked in over 30 countries and has authored four books. Ordained through Elim Fellowship of Rochester, New York, he has served on the staff of several churches in the U.S. and has most recently established and pastored the English-speaking congregation of the Church of Singapore (Bukit Timah).

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“He stood and looked at us. The weapon was hot and heavy in his hand as he lowered the barrel toward us. His face was streaked with sweat and dirt; his eyes were filled with the sights of combat. He stared at me and asked, ‘Are you Mr. Mark?’”

How can you face death squarely with an absolute absence of fear? You can if you have hope. You can if you have traveled from Guatemala to Kiev to Beijing and seen God restoring hope in the midst of hopeless situations. Recounting his action-packed, journey from captivity in Indonesia, to freedom, Mark Geppert reveals the reality of knowing a God who neither fails nor abandons him. Many who have read A Faith to Die For  compare it to an action spy thriller. The big difference is that Mark’s story is true. He believes he lived to tell it not for personal glory, but to encourage others to welcome God’s intimate involvement into their daily lives and watch Him transform the mundane into the miraculous!



PRODUCT DETAILS:
  • List Price: $14.99
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603748911
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603748919



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“What Do You Want from Us?”
“What do you want from us? Do you want to convert us all? Do you want us to be your slaves forever? What do you want from us?”
If hatred had a face, it would have been his—turban askew, eyes aflame, mouth spewing the red-hot lava of “jihad jargon.” Only the steel bars of the jailhouse window kept us from being consumed by this molten fury.
It was a terrible day in paradise. The gentle breezes of the Indian Ocean and Malacca Strait could not quench the fire. If he had been free, this Indonesian imam would gladly have done Allah a favor and killed an American Christian. His rage was the result of a lifetime of being forced to serve ExxonMobil executives and sleep in a one-room wooden coop, while they danced the night away in high fashion. His people had waited hand and foot on elite Dutch and Americans while the Javanese government collected the few crumbs falling from Aceh’s tilted table.
Finally, he and the multitude he served had captured three of the oppressors, as well as their Chinese friend. Justice would be served, if only for one torrid afternoon.
USA Today reported that it was a group of missionaries who “ran to the police station for help when faced with the mob.” The Jakarta Post said it was “another unfortunate incident of Muslim/Christian conflict.” While most of the world sat at their breakfast tables, turning the pages of these newspapers while sipping their juice and coffee, a group of people in Aceh, North Sumatra, expressed its indignation at the injustice of what had become an international incident. The events that transpired in March 1999 were just the tip of the iceberg, eventually escalating into larger events that would polarize the world.
We had come to the town that morning in our desire to pray for the Indonesian province of Aceh. A day’s journey north of the provincial border, the little town of Perlak is the last police post before a stretch of highway feared by police and freedom fighters alike—a location of mass graves. This stretch of land is one that military personnel do not dare to travel during the night. It is the place where seeds of rhetoric grow into large armies of youth that are ready to blow themselves up for militant ideologies. It is a recruiting ground for extremists, a place where boys become men before they can shave, and where families send their young sons to fight holy wars against the infidels.
We arrived on a beautiful, calm, peaceful March morning, and looked forward to reaching Banda Aceh, which had some of the best scuba diving in the world, beyond the checkpoint. Our hired driver felt that he could make our journey more comfortable by stopping to have a bite to eat before going on the road again. He parked in a central area, and we agreed to go to the market and then venture on to the police station so we could register and be on our way, within the hour. We decided to pair off in twos so that we could experience the quiet little town with another person and share what we had found with each other.
A secondary school had dismissed for lunch and Friday prayers, and we found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of teenagers who wanted to practice their English. Happy to oblige, we haltingly entered into conversation about the NBA and other American topics that interested the youth. The young people were the same ages as our sons and daughters. It was fun to learn how they lived, what they thought about, what they studied, and what they thought was funny. It was a real joy to be accepted by these young people.
It was not long before they had noticed the books we had in the car, and we gladly gave a few to them. Finding that these books were written in their mother tongue of Acehnese, they became very interested. Soon, we had handed out five hundred books and ninety cassette tapes to the teenagers. It had taken about forty-five minutes to do so, and the parents started to call the young people, warning them not to be late for prayers.
In these villages, the mosque was central to the people’s lives. Although they had the freedom to choose their religion, there was a civic pressure to abide by Muslim traditions. The farther away one lived from the capital, the stronger the civic pressure was. As a result, the children’s delay in reporting directly to the mosque after school was not strictly their parents’ concern; therefore, with apology, the students moved along quickly. They got to the mosque at about the same time we arrived at the police station.
Our driver met us at the station. He had to show the officers his appropriate licenses because he had worked for a company in another state and had registered his vehicle there. The police officers were professionally cordial and more than a bit interested in the books and tapes we had brought along.
None of us read the language or spoke it, and so we seized upon the officials’ offer to translate the message we carried. They found a tape player and started to play our cassettes. We listened together to the Christian message and soon realized that it was the gospel of Luke and the book of the Acts from the Bible. Not illegal in Indonesia, the gospel message did not set off any alarms with the police. They did caution us, however, about the strong Islamic culture in the area and suggested that we use discretion when sharing the material. We assured them that there was no problem, because the young people had already exhausted our supply. After all, we just wanted to pass through this area to the beautiful city several hours ahead.
Then we were invited into the police station so that they could make a record of our papers and call the station to which we were headed, to give them a departure time and an estimated time of arrival. We were shown to a comfortable room in the back left of the police station, where we were offered cool drinks and made comfortable while a clerk recorded our passport and visa information. The Indonesian police were very professional, thorough, and hospitable. Soon, we found out that they were also well-tempered and very loyal to their guests. They made calls to ensure that our travels would be safe. We really enjoyed the good humor of our newfound friends, along with the conversations about basketball, the World Wrestling Federation, and the recent heavyweight title champion.
Then conflict crashed against the windows. “You mother __________! What do you want from us?” Not quite the material from Conversations in English, Tape 3. A thrown bottle accompanied the shout, breaking the window and sending shards of glass throughout the room.
The police quickly pushed us into a hallway for cover and began to reprimand the man at the window. We checked each other for glass and, after finding everyone to be all right, took up a safe place in a cell at the end of the hallway. This would be our shelter for the next five hours, the time it took a very unhappy group of Muslims to vent their hatred, anger, and frustration to their fellow Muslims who protected us (a hapless group that was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time). We were in the midst of a civil war, with roots that ran too deep for any Westerner to fully understand.
In response to our question, “What do they want?” the police officer replied, “You, dead.”
***
“Multitudes” form when reason can no longer be found. They live in tent cities in the Sudan or gather on hillsides in Palestine. Multitudes lend their force of numbers to any cause. They can be built on a common fear or a common need. They gather in the deserts of Arizona for the annual Burning Man Festival, a celebration of hedonism. They gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for many different causes. They gather at Tiananmen Square or Trafalgar Square or any other square that accommodates them. They march for causes related to the environment; globalization; abortion; political positions; academic freedom; funding for the research and treatment of disease, such as HIV/AIDS; and common needs, like food and clothing.
Many of them are harmless. They wait for trains, escape heavy rains, and attend sporting events. They walk through deserts to find water. They sell their possessions and carry few necessities on their backs to flee conflict. They search for their basic needs.
When a multitude forms, leaders ask, “What do they want?”
Of the multitudes of Cherokee Indians, who began to move west from the Appalachian Mountains, the leaders said, “Do not worry; they will never survive the winter.” When multitudes of people were herded onto train cars to be destroyed by fascism, it was said, “They are an inferior race; we are doing the world a favor to eliminate them.” When multitudes of people fled Atlanta in the face of Sherman’s March to the Sea, it was said, “Do not be afraid; the South shall rise again.”
The problem with the multitudes is that they can be directed and affected by a very small group of extremists. Hatred grows in hungry bellies. It spreads its ruinous roots until murder and suicide become viable options to people who are hopelessly bound to the life-sucking system. A multitude, once in motion, is an irrevocable force that meets the government’s immovable hand. Once it swells in the streets and gets a taste of forbidden power, it mutates into a mob that is viewed as a mutiny. Mutiny must be dealt with at all costs, so brothers take up arms against brothers; nations stand against nations. Eventually, people begin to kill each other.
What every mass murderer needs to be successful is a multitude that will follow his or her lead. It makes little difference whether these followers are disciplined and in uniform or undisciplined and blowing themselves up. They are a multitude. They want a slice of the pie; a crumb from the table; the freedom to farm; the right to have a child or to receive an education.
The multitude is not mindless, as some are led to think. It bows down to the one it thinks can give it a better life. It commits to the leader who promises change and reform, because it hopes he or she will be different. It wants to believe that its morsel will become a loaf of bread if it pays the price. And when it begins to appear that it has been used, again, it begins to hope for a better future for its children.
***
Would Aceh Province of North Sumatra, Indonesia, be any better if it were governed by Islamic law? Would the rice grow taller? Would the fish return to the Straits of Malacca in abundance, as they did in times past? Would passages to the Straits be free of pirates? Would the profit of ExxonMobil be shared with every home? This multitude, fueled by the rhetoric of a young man instructed in Arabia and armed by money from a man found in a hole in the earth, believes with all its humble heart that the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”
When faced with the first messenger of this multitude, we were frightened to the core. There had been many other multitudes, in other countries, for other causes, but the heat of this fire, in particular, found fodder in our hearts. We could hear the multitude milling about the station. They threw rocks on the roof and bottles at the walls and windows. They chanted and cursed in English and Indonesian. They broke windows and cried out what they would do to us and to those who protected us.
The euphemistic phrase they used again and again was this: “The situation has escalated.” Across from me in the cell was the “Banker,” a three-time Golden Gloves boxing champion of the State of New York. With a black belt in several martial arts, and being no stranger to violent situations, he simply smiled. “Stay calm; this is a Level 4. The police will wait until they calm down. Stay away from the windows. Be still. Do not worry; the police know what to do.”
I glanced at the “Doctor,” a mild-mannered man who was also a close friend of mine. He smiled back. I am sure he was thinking of the other situations we had been through together. But the veins on his forehead looked like they would burst at any moment.
The Asians were calm, poised. They had lived with jihad for decades and knew how to ride out the storm.
I decided to think through past experiences with multitudes. Taking the Banker’s advice, I sat down to quietly wait it out.


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Invention of Sarah Cummings by Olivia Newport (Review)



Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true?
Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions.

I GIVE THIS BOOK:1 star1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
After reading so many bloggers' reviews saying that they didn't like Sarah at all and couldn't connect with her, I was apprehensive about reading this book - though it ended up being completely unnecessary, as I greatly enjoyed this book and actually loved Sarah.

A lot of people may have found Sarah annoying, I agree at times she was very annoying, and hard to like. I thought this added to the story, as I don't think we were supposed to love everything she was doing since she was lying and deceiving so many people by living two lives. And though I personally liked her, I so wish she never would have started with her "invention" but that didn't make her any less likeable, to me.

The description and details in this book, just like the first two books in this series, are fantastic. You can tell the author did a lot of research.

My only complaint, which is minor, is that Sarah never seemed to get any penalties for her wrong doing. I don't think

The Invention of Sarah Cummings was a great read and a wonderful conclusion to this fabulous series. Each book could easily be read by themselves and enjoyed, as each is about a different person. Of course, if you hate for things to be spoiled you may want to read them in order since the characters from the previous books make appearances in each of the following books.

I would recommend The Invention of Sarah Cummings or the Avenue of Dreams series to anyone who loves historical fiction.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***

If you found this review helpful, will you please click yes HERE. Thanks!


“Available September 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”



PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Series: Avenue of Dreams (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Revell (September 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800720407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800720407
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Available to purchase at Amazon | B&N | CBD

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CFBA: Made to Last by Melissa Tagg (Review)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Made to Last
Bethany House Publishers (September 15, 2013)
by
Melissa Tagg



Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?


I GIVE THIS BOOK:

MY THOUGHTS:
Review to come.

A Word From The Author:

I’m a former reporter turned author who loves all things funny and romancey. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to my nonprofit day job, I’m also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists.

It all started when my dad, at the ripe old age of sixteen, picked up my mom up for their first date. She was thirteen. Thirteen!* Dad drove a cherry red car up the lane to my grandparents big ol’ green house and honked his horn…whereupon Mom jumped out of the apple tree she’d been waiting in and off they went…fishing. True story. (I’d give more details, but I’m saving it for a novella I plan to entitle Two Leaves. Mom, I really hope you read this.)

Four years of college, a few trips abroad and a stint as a reporter later, that dream is soon to be a reality. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, is now out from Bethany House. Book two, Here to Stay, comes out on May 1, 2014.

In between writing and staring out the window brainstorming, I also work as a grant-writer at one of Iowa’s largest private nonprofits and serve as the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists founded by Susan May Warren.

And I love, love, love talking about finding our purpose and identity in Christ. (And well, okay, food, old movies, boots and scarves, my awesome nephew Ollie, and, fine, Tim Tebow, too.)


If you'd like to read the first chapter of Made to Last, go HERE.

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Waiting on Wednesday (September 25, 2013)


Hosted by Breaking the Spine
"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Ruth, Mother of Kings by Diana Wallis Taylor


The story of Ruth has captivated Christian believers for centuries, not least of all because she is one of only two women with books of the Bible named after them. Now, Diana Wallis Taylor animates this cherished part of the Old Testament, with its unforgettable cast of characters. Experience Ruth's elation as a young bride and her grief at finding herself a widow far before her time. Witness the unspeakable relief of Naomi upon hearing her daughter-in-law promise never to leave her. And celebrate with Boaz when, after years as a widower, he discovers love again, with a woman he first found gleaning in his field. The story of this remarkable woman to whom Jesus Christ traced His lineage comes to life in the pages of this dramatic retelling.

Why I want to read this:
The book of Ruth is one of my favorite passages of scripture, so this book sounds really intriguing to me.

Ruth, Mother of Kings will be available October 1st 2013 from Whitaker House.


Blogaholic Designs”=

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

CFBA: Raw Edge by Sandra D. Bricker (Review)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Raw Edge
Abingdon Press (September 17, 2013)
by
Sandra D. Bricker



Grayson McDonough has no use for teal ribbons, 5k runs, or ovarian cancer support groups now that his beautiful wife Jenna is gone. But their nine-year-old daughter Sadie seems to need the connection. When Annabelle Curtis, the beautiful cancer survivor organizing the memory quilt project for the Ovacome support group, begins to bring out the silly and fun side of his precious daughter again, Gray must set aside his own grief to support the healing of Sadie’s young heart. But is there hope for Gray’s heart too along the way?


I GIVE THIS BOOK:
1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
Raw Edges is a sweet story. I was able to read this book in one day with ease and it was very enjoyable.

The chemistry between Annabelle and Grayson was great! I also loved how they both included Sadie in the things they did.

Raw Edges is a book I recommend.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***


If you would like to read the first chapter of Raw Edge, go HERE.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.


The Big 5-OH! was released by Abingdon Press in the Spring of 2010, and the novel was very well-received, garnering a couple of nibbles from Hollywood.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press in September 2010. With its phenomenal reviews, the novel spawned a series of three more books based on the popular cast of characters at The Tanglewood Inn, a wedding destination hotel in historic Roswell, Georgia. The series cemented Sandie's spot in publishing as a flagship author of Laugh-Out-Loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"


Watch the book trailer:
 



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Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Promise (The Restoration Series #2) by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley (Review)




For the last five months, Tom Anderson has been without a job, a fact he's been hiding from his wife Jean--and everyone else. He leaves each morning, pretending nothing has changed, and spends his disheartening day rotating through two coffee shops and the library, using their wi-fi to search for a job on the internet. The stress of keeping this secret is beginning to put serious strain on his marriage and it looks like the legacy that began with his father is still at work, slowly destroying the bond between Tom and Jean. Can their mutual trust--and love--be restored?

Combining the literary talents of Dan Walsh and the relationship expertise of Gary Smalley, The Restoration Series pulls back the curtain of a family that has laid their foundation on shifting sand, but is slowly rediscovering genuine love and the power of forgiveness.


I GIVE THIS BOOK:1 star1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
The Promise, just like The Dance (the first book in The Restoration Series), immediately drew me into the story and didn't let up until I reached the end. I love when this happens!

In The Promise the story centers on Tom & Jean, Jim & Marilyn's son and daughter-in-law, but it also focuses on the mending relationship of Jim & Marilyn. I loved seeing how the changes Jim made have helped his relationship with his wife. I also loved how this book showed that it's still not an overnight thing, but something they both have to constantly work on to keep their marriage harmonious. This made the story so realistic and made me love the characters even more.

Tom, unfortunately, is the spitting image of his father before he made his changes and this made me feel so badly for Jean and everything she had to endure. Immediately when the story begins we learn that Tom has been keeping a pretty big secret from Jean for 5 whole months! This one secret has led to him telling multiple lies and deceptions to his wife, which is never a good idea.

The Promise is a deeply touching story and a must read, I can hardly wait to read book 3. I think it would be a great book for father to read as the story heavily deals with the relationship between a father and son.

I heartily recommend this book, but would recommend that it be read after reading The Dance as this is a series that is best read in order to fulling appreciate everything.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***

If you found this review helpful, will you please click yes HERE. Thanks!

“Available September 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”


PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Series: The Restoration Series (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Revell (September 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800721497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800721497
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Available to purchase at Amazon | B&N | CBD


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Dan Walsh is the award-winning author of several books, including The Discovery and The Reunion. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. For more information about Walsh and his books, visit his website at www.DanWalshBooks.com and follow him on Twitter at @DanWalshAuthor.

Gary Smalleyis one of the country’s best known authors and speakers on family relationships. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of more than 60 books. He has spent over 40 years learning, teaching and counseling, speaking to over 2 million people in live conferences. Smalley has appeared on national television programs such as OprahLarry King LiveExtra and TODAY, as well as numerous national radio programs. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 48 years and live in Branson, Missouri. They have three children, all in full time ministry to families, couples and orphans, and they enjoy their wonderful relationships with their ten grandchildren.




VIDEO of DAN WALSH & GARY SMALLEY DISCUSSING THE DANCE, BOOK 1 in the RESTORATION SERIES.


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Friday, September 20, 2013

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Beyond These Hills by Sandra Robbins

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:

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In the romantic conclusion to the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, Sandra Robbins tells a story of love and loss. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Laurel Jackson fears she’ll have to say goodbye to the only home she’s ever known. Can she find the strength to leave?

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the romantic conclusion to the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, Sandra Robbins tells a story of love and loss. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Laurel Jackson fears she’ll have to say goodbye to the only home she’s ever known. Can she find the strength to leave?


MY THOUGHTS:
Review to come.






Product Details:

  • List Price: $13.99
  • Series: Smoky Mountain Dreams (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0736948880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0736948883



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Cades Cove, Tennessee

June, 1935

  The needle on the pickup truck’s speedometer eased to thirty miles an hour. Laurel Jackson bit back a smile and glanced at her father. With his right hand on the steering wheel and his left elbow hanging out the open window, he reminded her of a little boy absorbed in the wonder of a new toy.

The wind ruffled his dark, silver-streaked hair, and a smile pulled at the corner of his mouth as the truck bounced along. His eyes held a faraway look that told her he was enjoying every minute of the drive along the new road that twisted through Cades Cove.

If truth be told, though, the truck with its dented fenders wasn’t all that new. He’d bought it a few months ago from Warren Hubbard, who’d cleaned out a few ditches in Cades Cove trying to bring the little Ford to a stop. Rumor had it he kept yelling Whoa! instead of pressing the brake. The good-natured ribbing of his neighbors had finally convinced Mr. Hubbard that he had no business behind the wheel of a truck.

Laurel’s father didn’t have that problem. He took to driving like their old hound dog Buster took to trailing a raccoon. Neither gave up until they’d finished what they’d started. Mama often said she didn’t know which one’s stubborn ways vexed her more—Poppa’s or Buster’s. Of course her eyes always twinkled when she said it.

The truck was another matter entirely. Mama saw no earthly reason why they needed that contraption on their farm when they had a perfectly good wagon and buggy. To her, it was another reminder of how life in Cades Cove was changing. Laurel could imagine what her mother would say if she could see Poppa now as the speed-
ometer inched up to thirty-five. Land’s sakes, Matthew. If you don’t keep both hands on the wheel, you’re gonna end up killing us all.

But Mama wasn’t with them today to tell Poppa they weren’t in a race, and he was taking advantage of her absence to test the limits of the truck. At this rate they’d make it to Gatlinburg earlier than expected. When she was a little girl, the ride in their wagon over to the mountain village that had become a favorite of tourists had seemed to take forever. Now, it took them less than half the time to get there.

She glanced at her father again and arched an eyebrow. “You’d better be glad Mama stayed home.”

Her father chuckled. “Do you think she’d say I was driving too fast?”

Laurel tilted her head to one side and tried to narrow her eyes into a thoughtful pose. “I’m sure she wouldn’t hesitate to let you know exactly how she felt.”

A big smile creased her father’s face, and he nodded. “You’re right about that. Your mother may run a successful business from a valley in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, but she’d just as soon pass up all the modern conveniences the money she makes could provide her. Sometimes I think she’d be happier if we were still living in that one-room cabin we had when we first married.”

Laurel laughed and nodded. “I know. But I imagine she’ll be just as happy today to have us out of the way. She can unload her latest pottery from the kiln and get the lodge cleaned and ready for the tourists we have coming Monday.”

Her father’s right hand loosened on the steering wheel, and his left one pulled the brim of his hat lower on his forehead. “It looks like business is going to be good this year. We already have reservations for most of the summer, and our guests sure do like to take home some of her pieces from Mountain Laurel Pottery.”

Laurel frowned. There would be guests this summer, but what about next year and the year after that? A hot breeze blew through the open window, and she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket. She mopped at the perspiration on her forehead before she swiveled in her seat to face her father. “Having the lodge and the pottery business is kind of like a mixed blessing, isn’t it?”

He frowned but didn’t take his eyes off the road. “How do you mean?”

Laurel’s gaze swept over the mountains that ringed the valley where she’d lived all her life. Her love for the mist-covered hills in the distance swelled up in her, and she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. “Well, I was just thinking that we get paid well by the folks who stay at our lodge while they fish and hike the mountain trails, and Mama makes a lot of money selling them her pottery. But is the money worth what we’ve lost?” She clasped her hands in her lap. “I miss the quiet life we had in the Cove when I was a little girl.”

Her father’s forehead wrinkled. “So do I, darling, but you’re all grown up now, and those days are long gone. Change has been happening for a long time, but our way of life officially ended twelve years ago with the plan for the Smokies to become a national park. Now most of the mountain land’s been bought up by the government, and there’s a park superintendent in place over at Gatlinburg. I guess we have to accept the fact that the park is a reality.”

A tremor ran through Laurel’s body. She clutched her fists tighter until her fingernails cut into her palms. “No matter what we’re doing or talking about, it always comes back to one question, doesn’t it?”

Her father glanced at her. “What’s that?”

“How long can we keep the government from taking our land?”

“Well, they don’t have it yet.” The lines in her father’s face deepened, and the muscle in his jaw twitched. “At the moment, all the land that borders our farm has been bought and is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There aren’t many of us holding on in the Cove, but we’re not giving up without a fight. I have a meeting with our lawyer in Gatlinburg today to see how our court case is going. You can get your mama’s pottery delivered to Mr. Bryan’s store, can’t you?”

 “I didn’t know you had a meeting with the lawyer. Don’t worry about the pottery. Willie and I can take care of that.”

A smile cracked her father’s moments-ago stony features at the mention of her younger brother, who was riding in the truck’s bed. “You make sure that boy helps you. He has a habit of disappearing every time I have a job for him. I sure wish he’d grow up and start taking on some responsibility around the farm.”

Laurel laughed. “Willie’s only twelve, Poppa. When he’s as old as Charlie or me, he’ll settle down.”

Her father shook his head. “I don’t know about that. He’s always gonna be your mother’s baby.”

Before she could respond, the truck hit a bump in the road and a yell from behind pierced her ears. Laughing, she turned and looked through the back window. Willie’s face stared back at her. “Do it again, Pa,” he yelled. “That was fun.”

Her father frowned, grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, and leaned over to call out the window. “Be still, Willie, before you fall out and land on your head.”

Willie stood up, grabbed the side of the open window, and leaned around the truck door to peer into the cab. “Won’t this thing go any faster?”

Her father’s foot eased up, and he frowned. “We’re going fast enough. Sit down, Willie.”

The wind whipped Willie’s dark hair in his eyes. He was grinning. “Jacob’s pa has a truck that’ll go fifty on a smooth stretch,” he yelled. “See what ours will do.”

The veins in her father’s neck stood out, and the speedometer needle dropped to twenty. “If you don’t sit down and stay put, I’m gonna stop and make you sit up here between your sister and me.”

“I’m just saying you ought to open this thing up and see what she’ll do.”

The muscle in her father’s jaw twitched again, and Laurel put her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. How many times had she seen her no-nonsense father and her fun-loving brother locked in a battle of wills? Her father took a deep breath and shook his head.

“Willie, for the last time…”

Willie leaned closer to the window, glanced at Laurel, and winked. “Okay. I’ll sit, but I still think we could go a little faster. Jacob’s gonna get to Gatlinburg way before we do.”

The truck slowed to a crawl. “Willie…”

A big grin covered Willie’s mouth. “Okay, okay. I’m just trying to help. I know Mr. Bryan is waitin’ for these crates of Mama’s pottery. I’d hate to get there after he’d closed the store.”

“He’s not going to close the store. Now for the last time, do as I say.”

“Okay, okay. I’m sittin’.”

Willie pushed away from the window and slid down into the bed of the truck. Her father straightened in the seat and shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that boy. He’s gonna put me in my grave before I’m ready.”

Laurel laughed, leaned over, and kissed her father’s cheek. “How many times have I heard you say that? I think you love sparring with him. He reminds you of Mama.”

For the first time today, a deep laugh rumbled in her father’s throat. “That it does. That woman has kept me on my toes for twenty years now.” He glanced over his shoulder through the back glass toward Willie, who now sat hunkered down in the bed of the truck. “But I doubt if I’ll make it with that boy. He tests my patience every day.”

Laurel smiled as she reached up and retied the bow at the end of the long braid that hung over her shoulder and down the front of her dress. “I doubt that will happen. You have more patience than anybody I know. There aren’t many in our valley who’ve been able to stand up to the government and keep them from taking their land. Just you and Grandpa Martin and a few more. Everybody else has given up and sold out.”

There it was again. The ever-present shadow that hung over their lives. Cove residents were selling out and leaving. How long could they hang on?

“Seems like we’re losing all our friends, doesn’t it?” Her father shook his head and pointed straight ahead. “Like Pete and Laura Ferguson. We’re almost to their farm. I think I’ll stop for a minute. I promised Pete I’d keep an eye on the place after they moved, and I haven’t gotten over here in a few weeks.”

Ever since Laurel could remember there had been a bond between her father and the older Pete Ferguson. Each had always been there to lend a hand to the other, but now the Fergusons were gone. Their land sold to the United States government and their farm officially a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

She glanced at her father’s face, and she almost gasped aloud at the sorrow she saw. The court case he and Grandpa Martin had waged over the past year had taken its toll on him. He was only a few months away from turning fifty years old, and Grandpa would soon be sixty-five. They didn’t need the worry they’d lived under for the last twelve years. Why couldn’t the government just give up and allow them to remain on their farms in the mountain valley that had been their family’s home for generations? That was her prayer every night, but so far God hadn’t seen fit to answer.

Her father steered the truck onto the dirt path that ran to the Ferguson cabin. The wildflowers Mrs. Ferguson had always loved waved in the breeze beside the road as they rounded the corner and pulled to a stop in the yard.

Laurel’s eyes grew wide, and she stared, unbelieving, through the windshield to the spot where the Ferguson cabin had stood as long as she could remember. Her father groaned and climbed from the truck. For a moment he stood beside the vehicle’s open door, his hand resting on the handle. He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what he saw. Then he closed the door and took a few steps forward.

Laurel reached for the leather bag that sat on the floorboard near her feet, unsnapped the top flap, and pulled out her Brownie box camera before jumping from the truck. She hurried to stand beside her father, who stood transfixed as he stared straight ahead. Willie, his face pale, climbed from the back of the truck and stopped next to their father. No one spoke for a moment.

Willie pulled his gaze away and stared up at their father. “Where’s the house, Pa?”

Their father took a deep breath. “I guess the park service tore it down, son.”

A sob caught in Laurel’s throat as they stared at the barren spot of land that had once been the site of a cabin, barn, and all the outbuildings needed to keep a farm productive. “But why would they do that, Poppa?”

Her father took a deep breath. “Because this land is now a part of the park, and they want it to return to its wild state.”

Willie inched closer to their father. “Are they gonna tear our house down too?”

Her father’s eyes darkened. “Not if I can help it.” He let his gaze wander over the place he had known so well before he took a deep breath and turned back to the truck. “Let’s get out of here. I shouldn’t have stopped today.”

Laurel raised the camera and stared down into the viewfinder. “Let me get a picture of this before we go.”

Her father gritted his teeth. “Take as many as you want. Somebody’s got to record the death of a community.”

None of them spoke as she snapped picture after picture of the empty spot that gave no hint a family had once been devoted to this piece of land. After she’d finished, the three of them returned to the truck and climbed in. When her father turned the truck and headed back to the road, Laurel glanced over her shoulder at the spot where the house had stood. She had always looked forward to visiting this home, but she didn’t know if she would be able to return. Too many of her friends were gone, scattered to the winds in different directions. The holdouts who still remained in the Cove lived each day with the threat that they too would soon be forced from the only homes they’d ever known. If her family had to leave, they would be like all the rest. They would go wherever they could find a home, and the ties forged by generations in the close society of their remote mountain valley would vanish forever.











Andrew Brady set his empty glass on the soda fountain counter and crossed his arms on its slick white surface. The young man who’d served him faced him behind the counter and smiled. “Can I get you somethin’ else, mister?”

Andrew shook his head. “No thanks. That cold drink helped to cool me down some. I didn’t expect it to be so hot in Gatlinburg. I thought it would be cooler here in the mountains.”

The young man grinned and reached up to scratch under the white hat he wore. “Most folks think that, but our days can be a bit warm in the summertime.” He glanced at several customers at the other end of the counter and, apparently satisfied they didn’t need any help at the moment, turned his attention back to Andrew. “Where you from?”

Andrew smiled. “Virginia. Up near Washington.”

The young man smiled and extended his hand. “Welcome to Gatlinburg. My name is Wayne Johnson. My uncle owns this drugstore, and I work for him.”

Andrew grasped his hand and shook it. “Andrew Brady.”

“How long you been here, Andrew?”

“I arrived Thursday.”

Wayne picked up a cloth and began to wipe the counter. He glanced up at Andrew. “You enjoying your vacation?”

Andrew shook his head. “I’m not in Gatlinburg on vacation. I’m here on business.”

Wayne shrugged. “I figured you for a tourist. Guess I was wrong. They come from all over now that the park’s opening up. I hear that we had about forty thousand people visit Gatlinburg last year. That’s a far cry from what it was like when I was a boy. We were just a wide spot in a dirt road back in those days. But I expect it’s only gonna get better.”

Andrew glanced around the drugstore with its well-stocked shelves and the soda fountain against the side wall. “It looks like this business is doing okay.” He shook his head and chuckled. “I don’t know what I expected, but I wouldn’t have thought there’d be so many shops here. Mountain crafts are for sale everywhere, and the whole town is lit up with electric lights. It looks like the park has put this town on the map.”

Wayne propped his hands on the counter and smiled. “I guess folks in the outside world thought we were just a bunch of ignorant hillbillies up here, but we been doing fine all these years. We’ve even had electricity since back in the twenties when Mr. Elijah Reagan harnessed the power on the Roaring Fork for his furniture factory. He supplied to everybody else too, but now they say we’re gonna have cheap electricity when TVA gets all their dams built.”

Andrew nodded. “I guess it’s a new day for the people in the mountains.”

“It sure is, and we’re enjoying every bit of it.” He picked up Andrew’s dirty glass and held it up. “You sure you don’t want a refill?”

Andrew shook his head. “No, I’d better be going. I have some things to do before I head out to Cades Cove tomorrow.”

Wayne cocked an eyebrow. “Only one reason I can think why you might be going out there. You must be joining up at the Civilian Conservation Corps.”

Andrew pulled some coins from his pocket to pay for his soda and laid them on the counter. “No, I’m not with the CCC. Just intend to visit with them a while.”

Wayne shrugged. “There’re a lot of CCC camps all over the mountains, and those boys are doing a good job. You can see part of it when you drive into the Cove. They built the new road there. It sure makes gettin’ in and out of there easier than it did in years past. I reckon Roosevelt did a good thing when he put that program in his New Deal.”

“Yeah, it’s giving a lot of young men a chance for employment.” Andrew smiled, picked up the hat that rested on the stool beside him, and set it on his head. “Thanks for the soda.”

Wayne studied Andrew for a moment. “You never did tell me exactly what your job is. What brought you to Gatlinburg from Washington?”

“I work with the Park Service. I’m here on a special assignment.”

Wayne’s eyes narrowed, and his gaze raked Andrew. “Special assignment, huh? Sounds important, and you look mighty young.”

Andrew’s face grew warm, and his pulse quickened. Even a soda jerk could figure out that a guy who looked like he’d barely been out of college for a year couldn’t have gotten this job on his own. But with his father being a United States congressman and a supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it hadn’t been hard for his father to arrange this appointment.

The worst part for him, though, had been his father’s command that Andrew had better not embarrass him on the job. He swallowed the nausea rising in his throat and tried to smile.

“I guess I’m just lucky they thought I was qualified.”

“Well, congratulations. Come in for another soda the next time you’re in town.”

“That I will.” Andrew turned and headed for the exit.

When he stepped outside the drugstore, he stopped and stared at the newly paved road that wound through the town. Before long that stretch of highway would wind and climb its way up the mountainsides all the way to Newfound Gap that divided the states of   Tennessee and North Carolina. He’d heard that spot mentioned several times as the ideal location for the dedication of the park, but the event was still some years away. His assignment here would be one of the factors that determined when it would take place.

Andrew took a deep breath of fresh mountain air and turned in the direction where he’d parked his car. Several tourists brushed past him, but it was the approach of a young man and woman who caught his attention. Obviously honeymooners, if the glow of happiness on their faces was any indication. Ignoring everybody they passed, they stared into each other’s eyes and smiled as if they had a secret no one else knew.

Andrew shook his head in sympathy as they walked past him and wondered how long it would take them to face up to the reality of what being married really meant. He’d seen how his friends had changed after marriage when they had to start worrying about taking care of a family. He’d decided a long time ago it wasn’t for him. He had too many things he wanted to do in life, and getting married ranked way below the bottom of his list. Convincing his father of the decision, though, was another matter. The congressman had already picked out the woman for his son’s wife. “The perfect choice,” his father often said, “to be by your side as you rise in politics.”

Andrew sighed and shook his head. Sometimes there was no reasoning with his father. He wished he could make him…

His gaze drifted across the street, and the frown on his face dissolved at the sight of a young woman standing at the back of a pickup truck. Her fisted hands rested on her hips, and she glared at the back of a young boy running down the street.

“Willie,” she yelled. “Come back here. We’re not through unloading yet.”

The boy scampered away without looking over his shoulder. She shook her head and stamped her foot. Irritation radiated from her stiff body, and his skin warmed as if she’d touched him.

As if some unknown force had suddenly inhabited his body, he eased off the sidewalk and moved across the street until he stood next to her. “Excuse me, ma’am. Is there anything I can do to help?”

She whirled toward him, and the long braid of black hair hanging over her right shoulder thumped against her chest. Sultry dark eyes shaded by long lashes stared up at him, and a small gasp escaped her lips. “Oh, you startled me.”

His chest constricted, and he inhaled to relieve the tightness. His gaze drifted to the long braid that reached nearly to her waist. He had a momentary desire to reach out and touch it. With a shake of his head, he curled his fingers into his palms and cleared his throat.

“I’m sorry. I heard you calling out to that boy, and I thought maybe I could help.”

Only then did her shoulders relax, and she smiled. Relief surged through his body, and his legs trembled. What was happening to him? A few minutes ago he was mentally reaffirming his commitment to bachelorhood, and now his mind wondered why he’d ever had such a ridiculous thought. All he could do was stare at the beautiful creature facing him.

She glanced in the direction the boy had disappeared and sighed. “That was my brother. He was supposed to help me move these crates into the store, but he ran off to find his friend.” She smiled again and held out her hand. “My name is Laurel.”

His hand engulfed hers, and a wobbly smile pulled at his lips. “I’m Andrew. I’d be glad to take these inside for you, Laurel.”

“Oh, no. If you could just get one end, I’ll hold the other.”

He studied the containers for a moment before he shook his head. “I think I can manage. If you’ll just open the door, I’ll have them inside in no time.”

She hesitated as if trying to decide, then nodded. “Okay. But be careful. These crates are filled with pottery. My mother will have a fit if one piece gets broken.”

He took a deep breath, leaned over the tailgate of the truck, and grabbed the largest crate with Mountain Laurel Pottery stamped on the top. Hoisting the container in his hands, he headed toward the store and the front door that she held open.

As they entered the building, a tall man with a pencil stuck behind his ear hurried from the back of the room. “Afternoon, Laurel. I wondered when you were going to get here.”

She smiled, and Andrew’s heart thumped harder. “We didn’t leave home as early as we’d planned.” Her smile changed to a scowl. “Willie was supposed to help me, but he ran off.” And just as quickly, her expression changed again to a dazzling smile. “Andrew was good enough to help me get the crates in.”

Mr. Bryan helped Andrew ease the crate to the floor and glanced up at him. “Any more in the truck?”

Andrew nodded. “One more, but it’s smaller. I don’t need any help getting it inside.”

“Then I’ll leave you two. I’m unboxing some supplies in the back.” Mr. Bryan turned to Laurel. “If anybody comes in, holler at me, Laurel.”

“I will.”

A need to distance himself from this woman who had his heart turning somersaults swept over Andrew, and he hurried out the door. Within minutes he was back with the second container, but he almost dropped it at the sight of Laurel kneeling on the floor beside the first one. She opened the top, reached inside, and pulled out one of the most beautiful clay pots he’d ever laid eyes on. Swirls of orange and black streaked the smoky surface of the piece. She held it up to the light, and her eyes sparkled as she turned it slowly in her hands and inspected it.

He set the second crate down and swallowed. “Did you make it?”

She laughed and shook her head. The braid swayed again, and he stood transfixed. “No, my mother is the potter. I help her sometimes, but I didn’t inherit her gift. This is one of her pit-fired pieces.”

She set the pot down and pulled another one out. She smiled and rubbed her hand over the surface. Her touch on the pottery sent a warm rush through his veins.

“Exquisite.” The word escaped his mouth before he realized it.

She cocked her head to one side and bit her lip. “Exquisite?” she murmured. She glanced up at him, and her long eyelashes fluttered. “I’ve searched for the right word for a long time to describe my mother’s work. I think you’ve just given it to me. They are exquisite.”

He swallowed and backed away. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

She shook her head. “No, thank you. You’ve been a great help.”

“I’m glad I could be of service.” He searched his mind for something else to say, something to prolong his time with her, but his mind was blank. He took a deep breath. “I need to go. It was nice meeting you, Laurel.”

She smiled. “You too, Andrew. Goodbye, and thanks again.”

“Goodbye.” He slowly backed toward the door.

Outside in the fresh air he took a deep breath and pulled his hat off. He raked his sleeve across his perspiring brow and shook his head. What had just happened? He’d felt like he was back in high school and trying to impress the most popular girl in his class.

He closed his eyes for a moment, and the image of her holding the pottery in her hands returned. He clamped his teeth down on his bottom lip and shook his head. She’d misunderstood. It wasn’t the pottery he was describing when the word had slipped from his mouth.

Exquisite? The word didn’t do her justice.

And she had a beautiful name too. Laurel. He straightened, and his eyes widened. He hadn’t even asked her last name.

He whirled to go back inside the store but stopped before he had taken two steps. His father’s face and the words he’d spoken when Andrew left home flashed in his mind. Remember who you are and why you’re there. Don’t do anything foolish. People in Washington are watching. He exhaled and rubbed his hand across his eyes.

For a moment inside the store he’d been distracted. He was the son of Congressman Richard Brady, and his father had big plans for his only living son.

He glanced once more at the pickup truck that still sat in front of the store and pictured how Laurel had looked standing there. When he’d grasped her hand, he’d had the strange feeling that he’d known her all his life. How could a mountain girl he’d just met have such a strange effect on him?

He pulled his hat on, whirled, and strode in the opposite direction. Halfway down the block he stopped, turned slowly, and wrinkled his brow as he stared back at the truck. The words painted on the containers flashed in his mind, and he smiled.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find out her last name. For now he would just call her Mountain Laurel. His skin warmed at the thought. A perfect name for a beautiful mountain girl.

He jammed his hands in his pockets and whistled a jaunty tune as he sauntered down the street.
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