Monday, June 30, 2008

Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Hidden

Avon Inspire (May 27, 2008)

by

Shelley Shepard Gray


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hidden is Shelley’s first foray into inspirational fiction. Previously, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelors and masters degrees in education. She now lives in southern Ohio where she writes full time. Shelley is an active member of her church. She serves on committees, volunteers in the church office, and is part of the Telecare ministry, which calls homebound members on a regular basis. Shelley looks forward to the opportunity to write novels that showcase her Christian ideals.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Hidden is a remarkable story about the unlikely love between a modern girl on the run and an Amish boy from the family who shelters her.

When Anna decides it's time to leave her abusive boyfriend, she doesn't know where to turn. Rob is a successful and respected person in her community. He has completely won over her parents with his good looks and prestigious position at a top law firm. Only Anna has seen his dark side. But when Rob hurts Anna yet again, she realizes that she must finally help herself.

Desperate, she runs to the one place she’s always felt completely safe, the Amish Brenneman Bed and Breakfast, where years ago she and her mother once stayed, and where Anna met life-long friend Katie Brenneman. When Anna shows up years later unexpectedly, the family welcomes her in, with few questions asked, and allows her to stay, dressed as the Amish in Plain clothes, and help around the inn.

But Katie’s older brother Henry doesn’t take too kindly to the intrusion. Anna wonders if it’s because he’s already had his heart broken. To Henry’s shame, from the moment he sees Anna, he feels a strong attraction. To cover his infatuation, he tries to ignore her, knowing no good would ever come from keeping an eye on a fancy woman like her. But as he sees that Anna has a good heart and is not the selfish, spoiled woman he imagined her to be, he feels his heart pointing towards her.

Anna comes to realize that she’s found a home and true love in the last place she’d expected. How can she deny the life she left behind? And will her chance for happiness be stolen away by the man who can’t seem to let her go?

If you would like to read the Prologue, go HERE

The book link is: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0061474452

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Calico Canyon

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)

by

Mary Connealy



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MARY CONNEALY is an award-winning author and playwright, married to Ivan a farmer, and the mother of four beautiful daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. They live in Decatur, Nebraska. Mary is a GED Instructor by day and an author by night. And there is always a cape involved in her transformation.

Mary has also written Petticoat Ranch, Golden Days, and her latest, Alaska Brides that will debut in August.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutchs of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

Running from her Abusive foster-father, a man intent on revenge, the prim and perfectly proper Grace Calhoun takes on the job of schoolmarm in Mosqueros, Texas.

As if being a wanted woman isn't bad enough, Grace has her hands full with the five rowdy and rambunctious Reeves boys─tough Texan tormenters who seem intent on making her life miserable. When, in an attempt to escape from the clutches of her pursuer, Grace is forced to marry widower Daniel Reeves, father of the miniature monsters, she thinks things couldn't get any worse. Or could they?

Daniel Reeves, happy in his all-male world, is doing the best he can, raising his five boys─rascals, each and every one. Since his wife's death in childbirth, Daniel has been determined never to risk marriage again.

When God throws Grace and Danielt together─two people who couldn't detest each other more─the trouble is only beginning.

Will this hapless pair find the courage to face life together in the isolated Calico Canyon? Or are their differences too broad a chasm to bridge?

If you would like to read the first chapter go HERE

The book link is: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1597899380

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione by Chuck Black

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione

(Multnomah Books - June 17, 2008)

by

Chuck Black



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chuck Black first wrote Kingdom’s Edge to inspire his children to read the Bible with renewed zeal. This captivating expanded parable led him to write the Old Testament allegories, Kingdom’s Dawn and Kingdom’s Hope. Chuck added three more titles to the series, Kingdom’s Call, Kingdom’s Quest, and Kingdom’s Reign which were released in May of 2007.

Chuck is a former F-16 fighter pilot and currently works as an engineer for a firm designing plastic consumer products. He has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering and served eight years in the United States Air Force. Chuck and his wife Andrea have six children and live in North Dakota.

It is Chuck’s desire to serve the Lord through his work and to inspire people of all ages to study the scriptures in order to discover the hope and love of a truly majestic King and His Son.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

My Review: Chuck Black has a wonderful start to his new series with Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione. It marveously parallels our Spiritual war between Satan and his dominions. The Knights (of God) fight against the Shadows of Darkness. I can't wait to read more of these books!


A dangerous new order threatens the mission of the Knights of Arrethtrae. Only loyalty to the King can bring victory!

As the Knights of the Prince await His triumphant return, they are steadfast in their mission to take His story into the kingdom and recruit as many as are willing. But when a new and dangerous threat is revealed, their mission is jeopardized.

Sir Kendrick and his young charge, the impetuous Sir Duncan, are sent on a mission to discover the identity and origin of a secretive new order known as the Vincero Knights. They travel to the city of Bel Lione where Lord Ra has been enticing young people in the kingdom to join his festivals, after which many choose not to return home. Their families keep quiet for fear of repercussion.

When Sir Duncan disappears while trying to discover the truth of Lord Ra’s castle, Sir Kendrick attempts to find and enlist the help of a mysterious warrior. Time is short for he must save Duncan and call upon the knights of Chessington to join in the battle against the evil Lord Ra.

Journey to Arrethtrae, where these knights of noble heart live and die in loyal service to the King and the Prince. These knights are mighty, for they serve a mighty King. They are...the Knights of Arrethtrae!

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

The book link is: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1601421249

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Hunted by Mike Dellosso


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Hunted

(Realms - June 3, 2008)

by

Mike Dellosso


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted. He was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years and has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets. Mike also has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters.

Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer's Network, and International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.

You can read a great interview with Mike, over here on TitleTrakk

ABOUT THE BOOK:


My Review: Mike Dellosso has written an amazing debut novel! This book is full of thrills, full of supernatural, spiritual warfare! From the start you are drawn into The Hunted. With a man with some strange animal claw, to a boy getting lost, and the search for him, and the search for what did that to him. Grab on to this book and never let go to the end!

A town's deadly secret will drive one man to the edge of his faith...

After learning of the disappearance of his nephew, Joe Saunders returns to his childhood home of Dark Hills to aid in the search effort. When Caleb is found, badly mauled and clinging to life, Joe embarks on a mission to find the beast responsible. But the more Joe delves into the fabric of his old hometown, the more he realizes Dark Hills has a dark secret, shrouded for three generations in a deadly code of silence.

As Joe unravels the truth behind a series of unexplained animal attacks, murder, and corruption at the highest level of law enforcement, he is led to a final showdown where he must entrust his very life into God's hands. Will his young faith be strong ehough to battle the demonic forces of The Hunted.

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

Mike Dellosso could very well be the next Frank Peretti-if you liked The Oath and Monster, you are going to love The Hunted.
--C.J. Darlington, Cofounder and book editor, Titletrakk.com

A spine-tingling tale of hidden secrets, buried hopes, and second chances. A story best read with all the lights on and an extra flashlight--just in case!
--Amy Wallace, author of Ransomed Dreams

Mike Dellosso's pins-and-needles thriller hurtles the reader down a dark and twisted path. I dare you to take this one home!
--Jill Elizabeth Nelson, author of the To Catch a Thief suspense series

With hints of Frank Peretti and Stephen King, The Hunted is a chilling debut."
--Creston Mapes, author of Nobody

A vicious enemy, a family secret, a thirst for revenge, and a need for reconciliation all drive The Hunted from intriguing beginning to thrilling conclusion."
--Kathryn Mackel, author of Vanished

Read this someplace safe as you experience the incredibly descriptive world of The Hunted. And sleep with the lights on.
--Austin Boyd, author of Mars Hill Classified trilogy

The book link is: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1599792966

Mixed Bags by Melody Carlson


It's June 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!


and her book:

Zondervan (May 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her school’s mascot was a Buccaneer...arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a "one man" show.

Visit the Melody's
website to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.

Don't miss the second book in this series:
Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2)

And one of her latest,
A Mile in My Flip-Flops will be featured on FIRST Blog Alliance on July 1st!

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714885
ISBN-13: 978-0310714880

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Desiree,” called Inez as she knocked on the other side of the closed bedroom door. “Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs.”

“The name is DJ.”

“I’m sorry, but your grandmother has instructed me to call you Desiree.”

DJ opened the door and looked down on the short and slightly overweight middle-aged housekeeper. “And I have instructed you to call me DJ.”

Inez’s dark eyes twinkled as she gave her a sly grin. “Yes, but it’s your grandmother who pays my salary, Desiree. I take orders from Mrs. Carter. And she wants to see you downstairs in her office, pronto.”

DJ grabbed her favorite Yankees ball cap and shoved it onto her head, pulling her scraggly looking blonde ponytail through the hole in the back of it.

“You’re wearing that?” asked Inez with a frown. “You know what your grandmother says about?—?-”

“Look,” said DJ. “My grandmother might pay you to take orders from her, but I’m a free agent. Got that?”

Inez chuckled. “I got that. But you’re the one who’ll be getting it before too long, Desiree.”

“DJ,” she growled as she tromped loudly down the curving staircase. Why had she let Dad talk her into living with her grandmother for her last two years of high school? She’d only been here since last spring, late into the school year, but long enough to know that it was nearly unbearable. Boarding school would be better than this. At least she’d have a little privacy there and no one constantly riding her?—?-telling her how to act, walk, look, and think. She wished there were some way, short of running away (which would be totally stupid), out of this uncomfortable arrangement.

“There you are,” said Grandmother when DJ walked into the office. Her grandmother frowned at her ball cap and then pasted what appeared to be a very forced smile onto her collagen-injected lips. “I want you to meet a new resident.” She made a graceful hand movement, motioning to where an attractive and somewhat familiar-looking Latina woman was sitting next to a fashionably dressed girl who seemed to be about DJ’s age, but could probably pass for older. The girl was beautiful. Even with the scowl creasing her forehead, it was obvious that this girl was stunning. Her skin was darker than her mother’s, latte-colored and creamy. Her long black hair curled softly around her face. She had high cheekbones and dramatic eyes.

DJ noticed her grandmother smiling her approval on this unhappy-looking girl. But the girl looked oblivious as she fiddled with the gold chain of what looked like an expensive designer bag. Not that DJ was an expert when it came to fashion. The woman stood politely, extending her hand to DJ.

“I’d like to present my granddaughter, Desiree Lane.” Grandmother turned back to DJ now, the approval evaporating from her expression. “Desiree, this is Ms. Perez and her daughter Taylor.”

DJ shook the woman’s hand and mumbled, “Nice to meet you.” But the unfriendly daughter just sat in the leather chair, one long leg elegantly crossed over the other, as she totally ignored everyone in the room.

Grandmother continued speaking to DJ, although DJ suspected this little speech was for Taylor’s mother. “Ms. Perez and I first met when my magazine featured her for her illustrious music career. Her face graced our cover numerous times over the years. Perhaps you’ve heard of Eva Perez.”

The woman smiled. “Or perhaps not,” she said in a voice that was as smooth as honey. “According to my daughter, kids in your age group don’t comprise even a minuscule part of my fan base.”

DJ smiled at the woman now. “Actually, I have heard of you, Ms. Perez. My mom used to play your CDs. She was a serious Latin jazz fan.”

“Was?” She frowned. “I hope her taste in music hasn’t changed. I need all the fans I can get these days.”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree’s mother?—?-my daughter?—?-was killed in a car accident about a year ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

DJ sort of nodded. She never knew how to react when -people said they were sorry about the loss of her mother. It wasn’t as if it were their fault.

“Desiree,” said Grandmother, “Would you mind giving Taylor a tour of the house while I go over some business details with her mother?”

“No problem.”

Grandmother’s recently Botoxed forehead creased ever so slightly, and DJ knew that, once again, she had either said the wrong thing, used bad grammar, or was slumping like a “bag of potatoes.” Nothing she did ever seemed right when it came to her grandmother. “And after the tour, perhaps you could show Taylor to her room.”

“Which room?” asked DJ, feeling concerned. Sure, Taylor might be a perfectly nice person, even if a little snobbish, but DJ was not ready for a roommate just yet.

“The blue room, please. Inez has already taken some of Taylor’s bags up for her. Thank you, Desiree.”

Feeling dismissed as well as disapproved of, DJ led their reluctant new resident out to the foyer. “Well, you’ve probably already seen this.” DJ waved her arm toward the elegant front entrance with its carved double doors and shining marble floor and Persian rug. She motioned toward the ornate oak staircase. “And that’s where the bedrooms are, but we can see that later.” She walked through to the dining room. “This is where we chow down.” She pointed to the swinging doors. “The kitchen’s back there, but the cook, Clara, can be a little witchy about trespassers.” DJ snickered. “Besides, my grandmother does not want her girls to spend much time in the kitchen anyway.”

“Like that’s going to be a problem,” said Taylor, the first words she’d spoken since meeting DJ.

“Huh?” said DJ.

“I don’t imagine anyone is going to be exactly pigging out around here. I mean aren’t we all supposed to become famous models or something?” asked Taylor as she examined a perfectly manicured thumbnail.

DJ frowned. “Well, my grandmother did edit one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world, but I don’t think that means we’re all going to become famous models. I know I’m not.”

Taylor peered curiously at her. “Why not? You’ve got the height, the build, and you’re not half bad looking .?.?. well, other than the fact that you obviously have absolutely no style.” She sort of laughed, but not with genuine humor. “But then you’ve got your grandmother to straighten that out for you.”

DJ just shook her head. “I think my grandmother will give up on me pretty soon. Especially when the others get here. She’ll have girls with more promise to set her sights on.” At least that was what DJ was hoping.

“Has anyone else arrived?”

“Not yet.” DJ continued the tour. “This is the library.” She paused to allow Taylor to look inside the room and then moved on. “And that’s the sunroom, or observatory, as Grandmother calls it.” She laughed. “Hearing her talk about this house sometimes reminds me of playing Clue.”

“What?”

“You know, the murder game, like where Colonel Mustard kills Mrs. Peacock with a wrench in the observatory.”

“Oh, I never played that.”

“Right .?.?.” Then DJ showed Taylor the large living room, the most modern space in the house. Grandmother had put this room together shortly after deciding to take on her crazy venture. Above the fireplace hung a large flat-screen TV, which was connected to a state-of-the-art DVD and sound system. This was encircled by some comfortable pieces of leather furniture, pillows, and throws.

“Not bad,” admitted Taylor.

“Welcome back to the twenty-first century.”

“Do you have wireless here?”

“Yeah. I told Grandmother it was a necessity for school.”

“Good.”

“This house has been in our family for a long time,” said DJ as she led Taylor up the stairs. “But no one has lived here for the past twenty years. My grandmother had it restored after she retired a -couple of years ago.” DJ didn’t add that her grandmother had been forced to retire due to her age (a carefully guarded and mysterious number) or that this new business venture, boarding teen “debutantes,” was to help supplement her retirement income. Those were strict family secrets and, despite DJ’s angst in living here, she did have a sense of family loyalty?—?-at least for the time being. She wasn’t sure if she could control herself indefinitely.

DJ stopped at the second-floor landing. “The bedrooms are on this floor, and the third floor has a ballroom that would be perfect for volleyball, although Grandmother has made it clear that it’s not that kind of ballroom.” She led Taylor down the hall. “My bedroom is here,” she pointed to the closed door. “And yours is right next door.” She opened the door. “The blue room.”

Taylor looked into the pale blue room and shook her head in a dismal way. “And is it true that I have to share this room with a perfect stranger?”

“Well, I don’t know how perfect she’ll be.”

“Funny.” Taylor rolled her eyes as she opened a door to one of the walk-in closets opposite the beds.

“I try.”

“It’s not as big as I expected.”

“It’s bigger than it looks,” said DJ as she walked into the room and then pointed to a small alcove that led to the bathroom.

“Do I get any say in who becomes my roommate?”

“I guess you can take that up with my grandmother.”

Taylor tossed her purse onto the bed closest to the bathroom and then kicked off her metallic-toned sandals. “These shoes might be Marc Jacobs, but they’re killing me.”

“So, you’re really into this?” asked DJ. “The whole fashion thing?”

Taylor sat down on the bed, rubbing a foot. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.”

DJ felt the need to bite her tongue. Taylor was her grandmother’s first official paying customer to arrive and participate in this crazy scheme. Far be it from DJ to rock Grandmother’s boat. At least not just yet.

“Well, thanks for the tour,” said Taylor in a bored voice. Then she went over to where a set of expensive-looking luggage was stacked in a corner. “Don’t the servants around here know how to put things away properly?”

“Properly?” DJ shrugged.

Taylor picked up the top bag and laid it down on the bench at the foot of one of the beds and opened it.

“Don’t you want to go down and tell your mom good-bye?” asked DJ as she moved toward the door.

Taylor laughed in a mean way. “And make her think she’s doing me a favor by dumping me here? Not on your life.”

“Here are some more bags for Miss Mitchell,” said Inez as she lugged two large suitcases into the room, setting them by the door.

“Put them over there,” commanded Taylor, pointing to the bench at the foot of the other bed. “And don’t pile them on top of each other. This happens to be Louis Vuitton, you know.”

DJ saw Inez make a face behind Taylor’s back. But the truth was DJ didn’t blame her. Inez might be a housekeeper, but she didn’t deserve to be treated like a slave. Suddenly, DJ felt guilty for snapping at Inez earlier today. She smiled now, and Inez looked surprised and a little suspicious. Then DJ grabbed the largest bag, hoisted it onto the bench with a loud grunt, and Taylor turned around and gave her a dark scowl.

“Thank you,” she snapped.

“Later,” said DJ as she exited the room with Inez on her heels.

“Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs, Desiree,” announced Inez when they were out on the landing.

“Again?” complained DJ. “What for?”

“Another girl just arrived. Your grandmother wants you to give her a tour too.”

“What am I now?” asked DJ. “The official tour guide?”

“That sounds about right.” Inez gave her a smirk.

DJ wasn’t sure if she could stomach another fashion diva with an attitude problem, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to risk another etiquette lecture from her grandmother either. Once again, she clomped down the stairs and made her appearance in the office, suppressing the urge to bow and say, “At your ser-vice, Madam.”

“Eliza,” gushed Grandmother, “This is my granddaughter, Desiree Lane. And Desiree, I’d like you to meet Eliza Wilton.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Desiree.”

DJ nodded. She could tell by how formal her grandmother was acting that Eliza Wilton must be someone really important?—?-meaning extraordinarily wealthy?—?-even more so than the Mitchells. And that’s when she remembered her grandmother going on about “the Wilton fortune” this morning at breakfast. Of course, that must be Eliza’s family.

“Nice to meet ya, Eliza,” DJ said in a purposely casual tone. This girl was pretty too, but not like Taylor’s dark and dramatic beauty. Eliza was a tall, slender, impeccably dressed, blue-eyed blonde. She wasn’t exactly a Paris Hilton clone?—?-and she didn’t have a little dog as far as DJ could see?—?-but there was a similarity, except that Eliza’s face was a little softer looking, a little sweeter, but then looks could be deceiving.

DJ wondered if the Botox was starting to wear off, as her grandmother studied her with a furrowed brow, probably comparing her to Miss Perfect Eliza. Naturally, DJ would not measure up.

“Eliza is from Louisville,” said Grandmother. “Her parents are presently residing in France, where her father just purchased a vineyard. But Eliza’s grandmother and I are old friends. We went to college together. When she heard about what I was doing up here in Connecticut, she encouraged her daughter to send dear Eliza our way.”

“Lucky Eliza,” said DJ in a droll tone.

Eliza actually giggled. Then Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree will give you a tour of the house,” she said. “And she’ll show you to your room.”

“Which is .?.?.??” asked DJ.

“The rose room.”

Of course, thought DJ as she led Eliza from the office. Next to her grandmother’s suite, the rose room was probably the best room in the house. Naturally, someone as important as Eliza would be entitled to that. Not that DJ had wanted it. And perhaps her grandmother had actually offered it to her last month. DJ couldn’t remember. But she had never been a flowery sort of girl, and she knew the rose wallpaper in there would’ve been giving her a serious migraine by now. Besides she liked her sunny yellow bedroom and, in her opinion, it had the best view in the house. On a clear day, you could actually glimpse a sliver of the Atlantic Ocean from her small bathroom window.

DJ started to do a repeat of her earlier tour, even using the same lines, until she realized that Eliza was actually interested.

“How old is this house?”

“Just over a hundred years,” DJ told her. “It was built in 1891.”

“It has a nice feel to it.”

DJ considered this. “Yeah, I kinda thought that too, after I got used to it. To be honest, it seemed pretty big to me at first. But then you’re probably used to big houses.”

“I suppose. Not that I’m particularly fond of mansions.”

“Why aren’t you with your parents?” asked DJ. “In France?”

“They’re concerned about things like politics and security,” said Eliza as they exited the library. “In fact, they almost refused to let me come here.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I think they felt I was safer in boarding school. If our grandmothers hadn’t been such good friends, I’m sure they never would’ve agreed.”

“So, you’re happy to be here?” DJ studied Eliza’s expression.

“Sure, aren’t you?”

DJ frowned. “I don’t know .?.?. I guess.”

“I think it’ll be fun to go to a real high school, to just live like a normal girl, with other normal girls.”

DJ tried not to look too shocked. “You think this is normal?”

Eliza laughed. “I guess I don’t really know what normal is, but it’s more normal that what I’m used to.”

“But what about the whole fashion thing?” asked DJ. “I mean you must know about my grandmother’s plans to turn us all into little debutantes. Are you into all that?”

“That’s nothing new. Remember, I’m from the south. My family is obsessed with turning me into a lady. That was one of the other reasons my parents agreed to this. I think they see the Carter House as some sort of finishing school.”

Or some sort of reformatory school, thought DJ. Although she didn’t say it out loud. Not yet, anyway.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trion Rising by Robert Elmer


It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:



and his book:


Trion Rising

Zondervan (May 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Meet Robert

For as long as I can remember I've always loved writing. When I was in grade school, I created a family newspaper, wrote essays for fun. In high school, I took every writing class available. My parents, both from Denmark, passed along to me a love of language and books. Writing naturally came from that kind of environment.

I graduated from Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, California, then received my BA in Communications from Simpson College, San Francisco. I completed journalism classes from U.C. Berkeley extension, and a post-graduate program in Elementary Education at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.

Then what? Right out of college I was a freelance writer, a public relations/admissions director and an assistant pastor. I also worked as a reporter and an editor for community newspapers, then as a copy writer for Baron & Company, a full-service marketing communications firm in Bellingham, Washington.

I now work full time writing and speaking, and my wife Ronda works as a receptionist at a pediatric dental center. We live and attend church in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and are the parents of three terrific young adults (one married).

I'm on the editorial board of the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, and also serve as a mentor for young writers. Find out more about the Guild and their great mentoring programs for all ages by clicking here.

When I'm not writing I enjoy sailing, working on vintage boats, traveling and spending time with my family.

Click on the Interviews link here (or above) for more Q&A information.

For a list of my published books, start here.

Visit him at his website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714214
ISBN-13: 978-0310714217

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

I thought you said you knew how to fly this thing!”
       
 “I did. I do. Trust me.”

Easy for him to say. Oriannon could only grip her stiff bucket seat with both hands and count down the final seconds of her young life. She cringed at the buzz of a high-pitched warning.

“On present course, nine seconds to impact,” came the metallic warning voice. “Eight seconds . . .”

Ori wondered how she had let Margus Leek talk her into sneaking aboard the little two-seat interplanetary pod. It was fast, but built for speed and certainly not comfort. If she stretched her arms even a little she would elbow the pilot.

“Relax, Orion.” Margus Leek yanked the joystick to starboard, and their pod brushed by the antenna of a rather large telecommunications satellite. “I grew up flying these little things.”

“Tell me why I don’t feel any better.” Oriannon tried not to scream as they buzzed by another piece of space debris — an old fuel tank — leaving it spinning in their wake. “And my name isn’t — ”

“I know, I know. Sorry. You don’t have to tell me. It’s Or-i-ANN-on.” When he smiled, she could almost see his eyes twinkling through his scratched sun visor. “Oriannon, Oriannon. Don’t know how I can forget a VIP passenger like the esteemed and honorable Oriannon Hightower of the Nyssa clan.”

“It’s just Oriannon, okay?” she told him. “Forget all the other names.”

He laughed as they dipped below an orbiting solar collector, close enough to read the warning label on the underside. She closed her eyes and wondered what it would be like to grow up without all the baggage that came with being an elder’s daughter. If her father wasn’t an elite member of Corista’s ruling Assembly — 

But the impact buzzer sounded again, and she snapped her eyes back open.

“Whatever you say, Just Oriannon.” Margus smiled again. “And don’t worry. I’m watching where we’re going.”

Could have fooled me, Ori thought.

Now Margus readjusted his nav-system by passing his index finger across a colored grid screen and tapping in several coordinates from memory. The move doubled their speed and set them on a direct course to Regev, the largest of their world’s three suns. Anything not strapped down, including Ori’s lunch sack, crashed into the back of the small cargo area behind their seats.

“So how about a tour of the Trion?” asked Margus, sounding like a tour guide.

As they picked up even more speed, Ori frowned and twisted the family ring on her finger — the ring with the tiny, brilliant blue corundum stone set in the distinct diamond shape of Saius. As the second largest but most intense of their suns, the real Saius now filled her eyesight even more than it had back on the planet’s surface.

Unfortunately, she could also smell overheating deflectors, like burning rubber. Did he really have to jerk them around so much? This time the impact alarm insisted they veer away from a restricted zone.

“Immediately!” screeched the buzzer voice.

“What’s that all about?” asked Oriannon. Margus silenced it with a tap to the flashing amber screen.

“No problem, Your Highness,” he told her just before they flew straight into a blinding white light and every alarm in the pod went off at once.

“Margus!” Oriannon held a forearm to her face, but that did not help her as they tumbled out of control in a maelstrom of warning lights and screeching alarms. So this was how her life would end? She broke out in a sweat and gagged at the nose-burning smell of fried electronics.

“Do something!” Oriannon cried. She coughed and held on as the inside of the pod warmed to sizzling. In the blinding light she couldn’t even make out Margus sitting next to her.

“Just a sec,” mumbled Margus. And as quickly as the light had overpowered them, it suddenly blinked out, leaving them spinning slowly, silently, and in the dark. A lone alarm buzzed once then died to a pitiful whimper.

“Are you going to tell me what just happened?” Ori slowly lowered her arm and blinked her eyes, but the horrible flash of light and heat still echoed in her eyesight. It would take several moments to get used to normal space light once more. Margus shook his head and tapped at the control panel in front of him, as if he were trying to wake it back up. A few of the dials flickered, but not all.

“Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” He looked around and behind them. “I think we got caught between two of those big solar reflectors, and — ”

“And what?”

“And, uh, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t stay back there.” He jerked his thumb and tapped the instrument panel once more. “Looks like it cooked us a little.”

A little? Ori swallowed hard, wishing she could just stop this ride and get out right there.

“Look, Margus,” she finally whispered, choking back the bitterness that curled her tongue. “I don’t know what we’re doing here, and my dad’s really going to be upset with us when we land. If we land. We’ve got to turn around right now.”

“That’s the one thing we can’t do.” Margus was sweating under his silver flight helmet visor too. “We can’t go back that way. Better just enjoy the view. There’s the Trion, see?”

The Trion — which meant “three lights” in the ancient Coristan tongue — was made up of three suns. Regev, a red giant, never blinked as it cast a perpetual rosy glow over the brightside of Corista. This rosy glow was offset by the white-blue of Saius, a much brighter and more intense flame. Between the two suns, the Brightside of Corista never saw darkness. Heliaan — the smallest, distant yellow sun some -people missed — stayed in the background. Together the three suns joined to create the flickering violet hue of the pretty Coristan sky, though it had turned darker the higher they climbed.

But right now Oriannon wasn’t impressed. She peered up through the clear plexi bubble over their heads, the only barrier between them and the cold vacuum of space and the searing light of one of those space mirrors.

“You sure we can’t just go back?” she asked, shaking off her jitters.

“I’ll get us back, Your Highness.” By this time he’d removed a panel and was yanking out circuits. “Just have to override a -couple systems, and we’ll be good to go. My dad showed me how to do this once.”

“While you were up here?”

He paused a moment before answering.

“Uh, no. Back in his shop. But it should work.”

So he wrestled with the controls as they bounced from one space mirror to the next, ducking behind them to avoid being fried all over again. Margus touched one wire to another, showering sparks in his lap but firing the ship’s thrusters as they glided — the long way — between the orbits of their home world and eleven other distant moons, all circling the big planet.

“I never knew there were this many of these mirror things up here.” Ori braced for the next deflector bump.

“Must be hundreds of them,” Margus said as he nodded. “I just don’t get what they’re for. There’s something strange about all this.”

Strange wasn’t quite the right word. But all Oriannon could do was look out the window as they dodged the curved mirrors, each one many times bigger than their little pod. She couldn’t pretend to care about the stunning view Margus had promised before they took off on this horrible ride. But if she cared to look, Oriannon would have seen the lush green landscape of Corista below, bathed in the trebly bright light of their three suns.

In fact, if she had cared to, she could recite every detail of the landscape. Sometimes her eidich’s memory came in handy, if she could just put aside all the mental baggage that crowded her brain with bits and details, faces and names, trivia and conversations that would never go away.

The Plains of Izula reminded her of a quilt her grandmother Merta had once showed her, decorated by patchwork fields of grain and orchards of every colored fruit a person could imagine: trees loaded with golden aplon, deep purple pluq, and her favorite, the lip-puckering orange simquats. And when she finally looked down, she couldn’t help catching her breath at the forest green, myrtle green, emerald green, fern and sea green, lime green, moss green, deep cobalt green, viridian-that-matched-her-eyes green, olive, and everything-in-between green. Here it stretched all the way to the horizon, which wasn’t far in this tiny, well-watered garden planet, Corista.

And there! In the Highlands, not far from the boundary between light and dark, was Seramine, perched like a jewel in the jade crown. Seramine, the capital city, her city. Were they finally getting closer? Even at this height she could imagine how the bright windows of grand whitewashed palaces and halls seemed to catch blue and red rays of sun, winking back at her. Did they know she was up here watching?

Once more, they bumped off the back side of another orbiting mirror, sending them spinning into the clear. Oriannon instinctively gripped the handle next to her seat, ready for anything.

“Sorry.” Margus pointed ahead. “But see? I think we’re all clear now.”

“Wonderful.” Maybe she didn’t sound as enthused as he would have liked. “I’m still thinking about what my dad’s going to say.”

“I thought you said he was always too worried about Assembly stuff to pay much attention to you. Is he really going to worry about one little borrowed pod?”

“You don’t know my dad. And the pod — are you sure you can land this thing now?”

She adjusted the headset of her comm and went back to peering out through the hard-shell bubble — just before a new screech of warning alarms pierced the tiny cockpit.

“So it needs a little maintenance.” Margus shrugged and replaced a circuit panel, bringing back the lights while spewing a plume of smoke at her feet. Oriannon could only hold her hands over her head and close her eyes. She hoped it would all just go away, and soon.

But once more the pod jolted and lurched to the side. And as Margus grappled with the controls, they once more spun out of control, falling like a delicate cerulean flower petal through the edge of the atmosphere. Even without looking she could feel the heat radiating from the bubble above their heads, but this time the fabric of her silver coveralls kicked in with coolant that flowed through its built-in blue tubing. If they were going to die in this little pod, at least they would die comfortably.

“I think,” she moaned, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

“You might want to hold off on that a few minutes, Your Highness.” Besides that infuriating grin of his, he could also sound infuriatingly cocky. Maybe that’s why she liked him, though she’d never admit it. After a few minutes the shuttle spun a final time, then rocked from side to side like a hammock, before the scream of wind around the cockpit told Oriannon they’d dropped back down into Corista’s violet atmosphere.

“Forty-eight thousand klicks,” announced Margus, as they swooped ever lower, leaning dangerously to the side. And now he could have almost passed for a Coristan shuttle pilot, instead of a fifteen-year-old impostor who had hijacked the little pod for a silly joyride. “Forty . . . no, wait.”

He tapped on a dial with the palm of his hand. That dial wasn’t working, either.

“Margus — ”

“No worries.” Didn’t he ever worry about anything? “We don’t really need that thing. It’s just for show.”

“I don’t believe you, but listen — ”

He looked over at her with his eyebrows arched, waiting for her to finish.

“Thanks.” She finally got the word out.

“What, for getting you into trouble or for almost killing you?”

“No.” She shook her head. “For not giving up.”

He shrugged. “No wor — ”

“Don’t say it.” She interrupted him. But it didn’t matter now as they finally slipped into a landing pattern, a lineup of incoming shuttles and pods — each separated by only a few meters and held in place by point-to-point tractor beams. Oriannon wished she could slump just a little lower in her seat so the pilot in the larger shuttle behind them wouldn’t recognize her. But she could hear every word that now crackled over the comm line, which seemed to work.

“You’re out of order, Bravo One-Nine,” came the voice over the comm. That would be the guy in the shuttle. And it sounded just like someone complaining that Margus cut into the lunch line at school.

“Sorry,” Margus responded through his own headset. “We’ve got mechanical problems. Need to touch down right away.”

“Stand by,” came the voice again, and a moment later the shadow of the much-larger ship hovered over them, and they felt the lurch of a grappling pad pulling them up.

“Hey, ah . . .” Margus got back on the comm line. “We don’t really need a tow.”

We could have used one a long time ago, thought Oriannon.

“Relax,” the voice told them. “We’ll have you back to port in just a minute.”

Or ten. Either way, Oriannon held her breath until landing thrusters screamed and she felt a comforting thump as they finally landed, upside-down, in the midst of Spaceport Corista. While the engines wound down, a beehive of workers in blue coveralls bustled around the ships, attaching power cables and fluid exchangers, rolling up with floating lev-carts full of tools.

“So how do we get out of here without anybody seeing us?” she wondered aloud, raising her voice to be heard over the scream of still more engines.

“Too late for that.” Margus hit the canopy control so it lifted clear with a whoosh of air. “Follow my lead.”

“That’s what got us into trouble in the first place,” Ori mumbled, but she climbed out after Margus, and they hopped down to the tarmac. Her knees buckled for a moment as she readjusted to the planet’s light gravity.

“Coming?” Margus already had a step or two on her as they hustled past dozens of parked shuttles, pods, and cargo ships. They nearly made it to the hangar exit when one of the workers caught up with them.

“You! We didn’t get your flight plan download.” A tall Coristan with typical olive-colored skin and typical sunshades tapped his clipboard. “In fact, looks like you were flying through a restricted area, and I don’t even have an original flight plan for your unit. It’s still in the maintenance pool.”

“I know.” Margus had to crane his neck to look up at the worker. He inched toward the exit as they spoke. “We just had it out to test the systems.”

“You know that’s not how we do things. But, hey — ” The worker crossed his arms and looked them over a little more closely. “Aren’t you Supervisor Leek’s kid?”

By this time Oriannon was ready to melt through a crack in the concrete floor.

“Uh . . .” Margus had to be looking for a way out too. “We were on assignment from the Assembly.”

Oh, Margus, she thought, anything but that.

And sure enough, the worker threw his head back and laughed, long and hard.

“Nice try.” He finally stopped laughing long enough to notice Oriannon, and it probably didn’t do any good that she tried to look away. “You’ll come with me to the office, and we’ll . . .”

His voice trailed off, and he stared at Oriannon’s hand. Her ring, actually.

“Like I was saying . . .” Margus tried to explain once more, but this time the wide-eyed worker waved him off.

“I didn’t realize,” he muttered, backing up a step. “Sorry to bother you. You know the way out?”

Margus looked at the guy with an expression that said Huh? But Oriannon knew exactly what had just happened. She answered for the both of them.

“We know the way. Thanks.” And she didn’t waste any more time chatting. But a quick glance up at the corner of the huge hangar area told her what she was afraid of: A small, grapefruit-sized security probe hovered like an eye in the sky, its red light telling her that it had not missed a thing. In fact, the small silver sphere had probably recorded every word of their conversation with the maintenance guy.

“That was cool!” whispered Margus as the double doors slid open for them. “What did you do, some kind of mind control?”

She fingered the ring. “Something like that.”

Only problem was, she knew that what had spooked the hangar worker wasn’t going to impress her father.

And the trouble, she told herself, hasn’t even begun.

Friday, June 13, 2008

House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods by Robert Liparulo


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing a double pair

House of Dark Shadows

and
Watcher In The Woods

(Books 1 and 2 in the Dreamhouse Kings Series)

Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)

by

Robert Liparulo


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Robert's first novel painted a scenario so frighteningly real that six Hollywood producers were bidding on movie rights before the novel was completed. His acclaimed debut novel, Comes A Horseman, is being made into a major motion picture by producer Mace Neufeld and his short story "Kill Zone" was featured in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson.

Bob has sold the film rights to his second book, GERM. And he is writing the screenplay for a yet-to-be-written political thriller, which sold to Phoenix Pictures, for Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian) to direct!

And his third book Deadfall. debuted to rave reviews!

MY REVIEW: Robert Liparulo has delivered two amazing thrillers for teens as well as adults! From the first page he draws you into the action. This book, House of Dark Shadows, is somewhat reminiscent of House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. There is a house, with secrets, with rooms that suck you in and don't want to let you go. Will this family figure out how to beat the spooky workings of the house, or will they be trapped forever, unknown to anyone but themselves where they have gone? Book two, Watcher in the Woods, picks up immediately where book 1 left off. Mom is missing and they have to find her. The action never stops, they go from one adventure to another. And when the thrills get to be too much, they can go to the clearing in the forest, it does strange things, and will make you feel happier again, for awhile at least, to get a break. Hang on, these books will draw you into the action and make you feel like you are right there with Xander, David, Toria, Dad and Mom. Don't let go or you will miss these amazing books, House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods by Robert Liparulo.

ABOUT THE BOOKS:

House of Dark Shadows
(Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Dream house...or bad dream?
When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

Watcher In The Woods
(Dreamhouse Kings Book 2)


It's not just the house that's keeping secrets.
Pretending everything's all right is harder than it sounds. But the Kings know that even if they told the truth about the bizarre things happening in their house, no one would believe them. They're hyper-focused on rescuing their lost family member before anyone finds out what's going on.

But when a stranger shows up to take their house, their options start dwindling fast. Why would he be so interested in a run-down old place? And what secret is he hiding--just as he hides the scars that crisscross his body?

The mystery gets stranger with each passing day. Will the Kings be able to find a way to harness the house's secrets and discover who is watching their every move before another gets snatched into an unknown world?

The Dreamhouse Kings Series has three contests that you will not want to miss...Dream the Scene, a weekly "Thanks For Reading Trivia contest, and the Dreamhouse Kings Street Team contest. There are also free bookplates that you can request, and a chapter of each book that you can download!

You can get all those goodies HERE.

The book links are: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1595544941http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1595544968

Never Ceese by Sue Dent


It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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



This Friday the 13th -- A vampire . . . a werewolf . . . can two who were wronged make it right? By their Faith!

There is a chance that their curses can actually be lifted if they can find the strength within to resist their selfish natures and act selflessly toward another. Will they succeed? This is a same basic choice that we all have to make every day..."Can two who were wronged make it right? One selfless act--by their faith."
A vampire and a werewolf, one determined to, once again, be able to say God's name and speak of holy things without it hurting her, and gain her rightful place in Heaven that she once had chosen, and had taken away from her. The other, not so sure he wants to change anymore, he doesn't care to speak of God, he seems to be more settled into his life. Can she help him find the faith he once had? A spiritual fantasy designed to spark the imagination, to speak to the heart as well as entertain.




Today's Wild Card author is:




and her book:



Never Ceese

Journey Stone Creations (February 1, 2006)
(Autographed copies can be ordered through www.thewriterscafepress.com/)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sue Dent hails from Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi College in 1983. Since graduating she’s sold computers, taught computer classes and has worked as a Technical Specialist IV for the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources.

Her first book Never Ceese was published in May of 2006. It has since been short-listed for a Bram Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

This past March Sue was an invited guest of Nicholas Grabowsky to the World Horror Convention in Toronto Canada. Never Ceese was also at Comic-Con 2007 in San Diego and represented by Head Press Publishing.

Of her writing, which continues to successfully cross both Secular and Christian boundaries, Sue says, “Well, somebody had to do it. Might as well be me.”

Her much anticipated sequel Forever Richard is due out in 2008 published by The Writers’ CafĂ© Press. As always, watch www.NeverCeese.com/ and www.ForeverRichard.com/ for updates.

Visit her at her website.


Product Details

List Price: $17.99
Hardcover: 300 pages
Publisher: Journey Stone Creations (February 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599580179
ISBN-13: 978-1599580173

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PROLOGUE

She was finally alone, all alone. Merideth had taken all six children with him, and she wouldn’t see them again until much later, after the church service Merideth was leading ended. The weathered, horse-drawn wagon had never looked so full, and for a brief moment, Julia wanted to go along, too. Holding back tears as they pulled away wasn’t easy. Yet when she could no longer hear the wagon wheels creaking along, or the steady plod of their mare pulling it, she regrouped. They would be back soon enough, and until then, she should enjoy this free time. After all, Merideth had planned this time alone for her. Julia wouldn’t spoil it by being sad.

She would work in the garden. No, she would sit in her garden, and absolutely no one would bother her. But first, she must tidy up. Yes, she thought. I will tidy up, then relax.

She started in the small kitchen, but only had to spend a little time there. Her two daughters had cleaned it before they left. She moved on. Instinctively, she kept looking for a child to come darting out, a daughter or a son, calling to her for one thing or another. She paused, fought back another tear. Even when they weren’t there, they were. She went along, picked up a shirt and scolded the child who had left it, though the child was nowhere around to be affected by her words. This time Julia laughed, realized how ridiculous she sounded. I’ve been a mother far too long! But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Julia didn’t look at all like someone’s mother. After six children, she still looked very much like an older sister. She and Merideth married young and had gotten started early. She hadn’t had time to think about growing old and, consequently, it didn’t seem she had. Her face was smooth, not one line or blemish, and only seemed to attract more attention than when she was younger. Men took notice, but she wanted none but Meri. He doted on her, took care of her and loved her like no other could.

Meri was a fine catch in his own right: a man of God, strong and humble, captivating and caring. She smiled knowingly, then carried the shirt she had collected from the floor back to where it belonged, all while thinking of the one person she could never get enough of.

In the small room where the boys slept, she placed the shirt on the bed closest to the door. But just as she began turning around to leave, a shadow overtook hers, a much larger one.

“Who’s there?” she said, rattled. “What do you want?” But she got no answer.

She turned slowly, and stifled her scream. The man was much too close, blocking her way out of the room.

She would go. She would run. He would never catch her. “If . . . AWRIf you’re here to see Mer— my husband . . . he’s just out back. I’ll go and get him.”

But he grabbed her arm tight when she tried to get by.

“Husband not here. Children not here. Julia all alone. Julia woman of Go—” He stopped, placed the palm of his free hand against his forehead, as though trying to force some unimaginable pain away. After a moment, he spoke again. “Want Julia and husband to leave.”

Why was he talking like that? What was wrong with him and how did he know her name? The questions came to her at once. She didn’t care about the answers though; she just wanted to leave. She pulled again. “Please, let me go.”

But he didn’t. Instead, he led her outside, took her into the woods that thickened just past the garden, and handed her off to another man whose grip was just as firm.

“No words,” the first man said. “No kill.”

A feeling of dread overcame her as she watched the first man leave, then turned to face the one who now held her. She’d seen his lustful smile before. When Meri couldn’t accompany her on her errands in town, she got those looks sometimes. They always made her feel awkward, uneasy. But not terrified, as she was now.

The remainder of that time was a blur as Julia forced herself not to think about what the man was doing as he forced himself on her. Finally it was over, and he left.

Julia felt sick, rolled over onto her side and took deep breaths. A twig snapped behind her. She started, managed to get to her feet but froze in fear. Why won’t they just leave me alone?

The first man was back, moved toward her cowering form and spoke. “Julia not forget this day. Julia never forget. Tell husband to go. Only evil will stand here.”

What happened next, Julia was sure no one would ever believe. Right before her eyes, the man turned into a wolf. The wolf came at her, tore his claws at her right side.

She managed to get to a tree and hid behind it, certain the wolf would come after her and kill her. She waited, eyes screwed shut, but nothing happened. Long moments passed, and she finally opened her eyes to see that the wolf was once again the man.

“Leave,” he grunted at her.

Holding her bleeding side with her hands, she pushed through the pain and ran—stumbling, falling to her knees more than once—but eventually making it back to the house. The door was still open, she noticed, and, with what energy she had left, she stumbled inside, bolted the door and collapsed. When she was able, she tore at her already-ripped blouse to make long strips. Using them as bandages, she dressed the wound.

As she worked, the room became steadily darker; the sun was setting, her family would be home soon. She did what she could to pull herself together for their sakes. They couldn’t know. No one could know. No one could ever, ever know!

When her family returned, they found her sitting in the tiny parlor, sewing.

She fumbled through the next few days. When emotion overwhelmed her, she simply went to her room. One morning her oldest son questioned her. She told him it was nothing, but his face told her he didn’t believe her. She knew he’d go to his father, but no longer cared.

* * *AWR

AWRThe garden was where Julia went often to seek solace, and she was there when Merideth found her that afternoon, sitting and staring vacantly at her favorite rosebush, the one he gave her on her birthday: the one she nurtured like her seventh child.

In May of 1785, Merideth answered the call of God to go to Llandyfan, Wales. He took Bibles, medicines, his wife and small son. To the Baptists, who had established themselves in this new territory, Merideth was a Godsend. To the evil that had taken root all around, he was an adversary. Merideth won many souls over. For him and his family, it was a new beginning, something they were looking forward to. But now, his dear wife was troubled, and that troubled him mightily.

“And what thought has you staring so intently?” Merideth asked, his kind voice offset by his worry.

Julia broke herself from her trance, shook her head. “Nothing, Meri.” She tried but failed to smile.

Merideth took a few steps closer, sat on his heels next to where she’d settled on a small wooden bench, one he’d made for her so she could sit while tending to her roses. “Our oldest son has come to me with concerns about his mother. I have been far too busy, I should have seen. You haven’t been yourself, and I do so miss that. What is troubling you?”

She wanted to tell him but her words caught in her throat. The memory of that horrid day was still too fresh. All at once she felt the man’s hands on her again, could hear him breathing close to her ear, smell the earth as he pinned her to the ground. She stared at Merideth, tried to push the memories away, but they couldn’t be stopped. Tears threatened.

Merideth, seeing this, attempted to pull her toward him with gentle hands. But all Julia could see was the man in the woods. “No,” she said, and flung her hands in front of her.

His alarm grew. “Julia, please, I just— If I have done something, please tell me.”

She was staring at the ground when she spoke. “It is not you, it is me. I . . . I have shamed you.”

“Shamed me?” he sputtered. “What are you saying? You could never shame me.”

She took a wavering breath. “Two days ago, there was a man. When you took the children with you. He-He came into the house while I was alone— I tried to run, Meri, but he grabbed me and took me to the woods . . . to where another man waited and—”

“Julia,” Merideth said, his breath going out of him, and then again, “Julia.”

He took her by her shoulders this time, and Julia froze. After a second, though, she realized this was Meri, her Meri, and not some terrible memory. Seconds later, she relaxed, allowed him to hold her close, drew from his strength.

“I can’t believe you kept this from me,” he said, his voice catching. “I can’t believe you— that you didn’t say something sooner. Right away.”

“I . . . I didn’t want to upset the children.”

In awe, Merideth held her at arms’ length. “The children? Julia, what about you? What did you think would happen if you kept this inside?”

“I also didn’t want to lose you. I couldn’t bear it.”

“As if I would ever consider leaving you!”

A tiny wave of relief washed over her.

“You are my life, Julia. My world.” He pulled her close again. “We’ll get through this. God will help us.”

“There’s more, Meri,” Julia said, pushing herself farther away on the bench. “The man . . . the first man, he-he came back after the other man had . . . had—”

Merideth put a finger to her lips before she could finish. “None of it matters.”

“But it’s not what you think.” She wanted to get the words out before fear overwhelmed her. “The first man, he . . . he talked about your mission, about the work you do.” The words rushed out now. “He said we should leave this place and never come back. Said there was no room for good here, that evil prevailed. He then said . . .” she took a deep breath, “if we didn’t leave, he would come back for the children and—”

She couldn’t finish, and he wouldn’t make her. Neither did he hesitate to respond. “Then we shall move—as soon as possible. We will leave this place.”

“But Meri, this is where you felt the Lord leading you! You have sacrificed so much, worked so hard—it would be like giving up.” She was remembering the stir he’d caused when he started baptizing. Immersion in water wasn’t something familiar to anyone in the area then.

“The Lord will understand,” he said without compromise. “I must protect you . . . our children.”

“But you have done so much good here. If only I could have gotten away—”

“Listen to me, Julia! This was not your fault. It was a terrible thing that happened to you, but we will get through it.”

“But Meri . . . I fear . . . I fear I am with child. His child.”

Meri’s eyes widened, but held none of the censure Julia had dreaded. “You really believe you are with child?” he said, wiping a wayward tear from her face. “His child?”

She could only nod.

“But it has only been two days, how can you—? The midwife was certain you could bear no more. We have tried, and—”

At last, her eyes met his. “I know how it must sound, and I don’t want to believe it either. But I’ve had six. I . . . I know how it feels. All six times, I felt like I do now.”

A long pause later, Meri said, “Then we will have another child—another AWRblessing.”

The words sounded harsh to Julia. No, they sounded foolish. How could this child ever be a blessing? “Not like this, Meri,” she said, more tears breaking free. “Not like this.”

“It will be fine, Julia. You’ll see. We will call it a miracle. The children will be overjoyed. No one will know the truth but us . . . and we will never tell.”

“You could love this child?” she said, not believing.

“As if it were my own. I love you, Julia and if this child is yours, then it is mine and it always will be.”

“Meri . . . there is one other thing.” Because of the bizarre nature of what she was about to say, she didn’t wait for him to ask. “Before the man left— the first man, the one who led me into the woods, he . . . he turned into a wolf.”

For the first time, she saw disbelief pass over his face—and something else.

“Perhaps you were just overwhelmed by what happened,” he said. “Delirious. It-It must have been horrible.”

Julia eased up her blouse, carefully removed the strips of cloth she kept over her wounds and revealed what was beneath. The marks were deep and still looked fresh. “He told me . . . before he changed . . . you might need proof.”

Her tears returned, but Merideth could only stare glassy-eyed. He had seen marks such as these before. A young boy and two men from his last mission. All three had died after being attacked by a wolf. All three bore marks identical to the ones his wife was showing him now. And all three had given him a message before they breathed their last breath. They had told him to leave and never come back.

“Did he bite you?” he asked awkwardly. “When he was the wolf, I mean.”

Julie shook her head. “No. Just left these scratches.” She had a hard time figuring out why he asked something so odd. “Is there a reason why you need to know that? Would-Would it make matters worse?”

“Just different,” Merideth said, and reached out to help her ease her shirt back down. “Now, let’s go have those scratches looked at.”

* * *AWR

As he left with her, the two responsible looked on from behind thick bushes. One was a man, the other . . . not quite. He’d been cursed centuries ago, his soul held captive by his own evil. He had cursed many, and would therefore remain cursed forever.

“All right,” the one beside him said. “I did what you asked. Yet I still don’t understand why you couldn’t have done it yourself.” He gave the same leering smile that had so frightened Julia. “You might have enjoyed it. I rather did.”

The man listening wasn’t bothered by the comment. His curse lessened his desire to indulge in the act the other man referred to, even made it difficult. Even if he had been able to, there was no way for him to do what the other man had done. The act, yes, but his seed wouldn’t yield any offspring. He had tried many times before without success.

“Just seems odd to me you wouldn’t want her for yourself.”

The man gave a distant nod, but said nothing. He had other ways of getting pleasure. Spreading his curse was one of those. But since this interfering minister had come to live in the town, pleasure was hard to come by. It wasn’t easy to get close to people who forever had a prayer on their lips or a cross around their neck.

He had to get rid of the minister . . . make an example of him so others wouldn’t feel inclined to take up his cause. This was his territory. He was here first, and the minister was in the way.

“So when do I get the money you promised?” his companion said. “I need to be on my way.” He gave a furtive grin. “Or maybe I’ll just visit Julia again.”

He put a hand to the talkative man’s throat and squeezed. “Julia with child. No touch Julia!”

“Why would you care?” the man croaked. “It’s not your child, but mine.”

The accusation was true, to a point. Yet the scratches he’d left for the minister to see were potent enough to affect the child. Perhaps it would develop keen hearing or an enhanced sense of smell. He’d heard of a similar attack, which yielded a boy-child who could pick up a scent as quick as any dog. When the child was old enough, weaned from its mother’s breast, the attacker, the one who’d done the scratching, took the child from his parents. In the same way, Julia’s child would be his child. When the time was right.

Gasping sounds brought his attention back to the one at the end of his arm, and he loosened his grip slightly.

“All right,” the man sputtered. “I won’t touch her. Just give me my money and I’ll be on my way.”

He might have screamed if he’d known what was coming, but he was dead the second the canine-like fangs pierced the large vein in his neck. He never felt his mutilated body being dragged, then dropped near the spot where Julia’s attack occurred.

* * *AWR

The gravedigger stood knee-deep in what he’d already dug out and shoveled a little longer, his task not far from done. The man’s remains lay, covered, a few feet away.

There were no mourners.

Merideth was there to read last rites at the request of another who’d had other obligations, and Julia had come along with him. She often did when she could arrange to be away from the children. And Merideth had said the one they were burying had no family, no friends anyone knew of, and this bothered her. Julia believed everyone deserved a proper burial, so she stood by the grave of someone she didn’t know, face veiled and head bowed, to pay her respects.

The gravedigger worked a little longer, then climbed out, plunged his shovel into the fresh pile of dirt and stepped far back, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead. “Whenever you’re ready, Minister.”

Merideth nodded, clutched his Bible, and knelt beside the body. When the gravedigger bowed his head, Julia raised hers, and when Merideth lifted the shroud covering the man’s face, as he typically did to begin the service, Julia gasped, “It’s him!”

Stunned, Merideth looked back toward Julia, turned slightly to the gravedigger. When it was clear the man hadn’t heard her, he turned back to Julia. “You’re sure?” he whispered.

She brought a shaky hand to her mouth and nodded. Merideth got up and went to his wife, pulled her close, noting her rapid breathing.

“I’m taking you home,” he said, lifting her up to carry her back to their horse-drawn wagon.

The gravedigger was paying attention now, and looked confused. “But what about your duty?” he called after them.

Merideth’s words were hard. “You shall have to find the Devil himself to bury that one.”

A week after, Merideth and his family loaded their possessions and moved on.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Bride So Fair by Carol Cox



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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


My review: This is a great book, built around the Chicago World Fair. Emily works at the Children's Building, and Stephen, a Columbian Guard brings in a child that lost his mother. We find out the boy, Adam's, mother is murdered, and Stephen and Emily have to figure out what to do with the boy. At first Emily takes him home so he doesn't have to be put in an orphanage. As Emily and Stephen are having a budding romance, they must help solve a murder and take care of an orphaned child. This book is full of mystery, suspense and romance.


Today's Wild Card author is:




and her book:



A Bride so Fair


Barbour Publishing, Inc. (April 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

CAROL COX is a native of Arizona, whose time is devoted to being a pastor's wife, mom to her grown son, and a home-school teacher to her daughter, church pianist, and youth worker. She loves anything that she can do with her family: reading, traveling, historical studies, and outdoor excursions. She is also open to new pursuits on her own, including genealogy research, crafts, and the local historical society. She plans to write more historical inspirational romance, in which her goals are to encourage Christian readers with entertaining and uplifting stories and to pique the interests of non-Christians who might read her novels.

Other Novels by Carol:

Fair Game, Ticket to Tomorrow, Land of Promise, Golden Gate Gazette-Love and Suspense Make Headlines in Historic San Francisco


Visit her at her website.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
After growing up in an orphanage, Emily Ralston loves being around children and thoroughly enjoys her job at the Children’s Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. As the receptionist she helps check in the children and ensures they are safe and well cared for while their parents view the fair. She could not have known what God had in store for her…

When Columbian Guard, Stephen Bridger, drops off a three-year-old named Adam as a lost child, her life irrevocably changed. While the sparks of attraction are undeniable, Emily tries her best to ignore them as she and her best friend, Lucy, scheme to keep Adam safe and happy, far away from the orphanages they both know too well.

Soon Stephen learns about Adam’s mother while both the mystery and his relationship with Emily deepens. As they learn bits of truth, danger and deception now threaten to undermine their growing relationship. Why is a young woman murdered while surrounded by thousands of fairgoers? What secrets could a sweet, abandoned little boy possibly hold? Can Emily and Stephen solve the deadly mystery before time runs out?
Themes in the Book: Emily and Stephen’s unique love story offers a fresh and inspirational lesson of trust and betrayal, faith and doubt, the meaning of family and God’s unending goodness.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

SEPTEMBER 1893


Stop, thief!”  The commanding bellow cut through the pleas-ant chatter of the crowds strolling the grounds of the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Emily Ralston shielded her eyes against the noonday sun and scanned the gaily dressed fairgoers on Government Plaza, trying to spot the source of the commotion.

A lanky youth burst through a cluster of women and children on the far side of the plaza, scattering them like tenpins. Shrill exclamations followed him as he bolted past the ladies to the middle of the open area, where he slowed and glanced quickly from one end of its broad expanse to the other.

A stocky man in shirtsleeves charged through the same group, evoking more outraged squawks. He stopped short, gasping like a winded horse while he scanned the crowd.

“Hey, you!” he bellowed and started off in hot pursuit of the boy. In his haste, he collided with a young matron holding a small girl in her arms, nearly toppling them to the ground. The man halted long enough to steady the pair, although the infuriated look he cast in the boy’s direction showed his longing to continue the chase.

At the man’s angry shout, the fleeing youth looked over his shoulder and picked up speed. Emily saw him snap his hand to one side and watched a paper container arc through the air and disappear behind a potted palm.

Emily recognized the signs of someone doing something he shouldn’t. She balanced on the balls of her feet, poised for action. She could never keep up with the long-legged adolescent if she tried to follow him across the fairgrounds, but there was more than one way to foil a troublemaker.

The boy changed course and pounded across the pavement in her direction. Emily smiled. She waited until the last instant before he reached the spot where she stood then stepped into his path.

“Stop right there!” she demanded.

The boy’s eyes flared wide when he saw her blocking his escape. His feet scrambled for purchase as he veered abruptly to the right. Just as he passed, Emily darted forward and nabbed him by the ear.

“Ow!” The lad looked down at Emily with an astonished expression. “Leggo my ear!” He made as if to wrench himself out of her grasp, but a quick twist of her wrist brought him to his knees.

Emily allowed herself a brief moment of smugness. It wasn’t the first time she had been victorious against an opponent larger than herself. Growing up at the Collier Children’s Home had given her plenty of time to learn how to equalize a difference in size.

The stocky man raced up to them, puffing like a steam engine. “Thank you, miss,” he gasped. “That was quite a catch.”

Taking command of Emily’s captive, he seized the boy by his upper arm and jerked him to his feet. “Where are the goods you stole, you young guttersnipe?”

The look of alarm slid off the boy’s face, to be replaced by a cocky grin. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course not,” the man mocked. “Why were you running, if you hadn’t just stolen a package of Cracker Jacks right off the counter of my stand?”

Emily felt her jaw go slack. Cracker Jacks? She had risked her own safety for nothing more than a container of the new popcorn, peanuts, and molasses confection?

Looking more confident by the second, the boy shook his head. “I was just walking along, and you started shouting and chasing me.” He shrugged. “I thought you must be crazy. No one could blame me for running when someone so much bigger than me was on my tail.”

His captor looked at Emily with a glint of humor shining in his eyes. “It doesn’t look to me like it takes all that much in the way of size to get you under control.” His grin faded, and he gave the boy a shake. “Now where are the Cracker Jacks you stole?”

The boy shrugged again. “I’m telling you, you’ve got the wrong person.”

Emily broke into the exchange. “Then what was that I saw you throw away?”

The youth paled, and the vendor turned his attention back to Emily. “You saw him throw something?”

“Behind that potted palm over there.” Emily walked briskly toward the plant and reached behind it, retrieving a paper package that rattled when she shook it. She returned to the waiting pair and held out the parcel. “Is this what you’re looking for?”

The man took it with a grateful smile. “Thank you, miss. I’ll be obliged if you’ll stay around until I summon one of the Columbian Guards so you can tell him what you saw.”

Emily shook her head. “I’m sorry. I work at the Children’s Building here on the fairgrounds, and my lunch break is nearly over.” From deep within the massive Manufactures Building, she heard the clock in its alabaster tower chime the three-quarter hour. If she wanted to keep her job, she’d better get back to work and look sharp about it.

The man’s face fell. “If you don’t, it will be my word against his. I left my nephew watching my stand so I could catch this young rascal, and who knows what kind of mess he’ll have made of things by the time I get back? The least you can do is help me out.”

Emily wavered. Her supervisor took a decidedly dim view of tardiness, but the smug expression on the boy’s face decided her. “All right, but only for a moment.”

It took far longer than that for the guard to finish taking
her statement. With the thanks of the vendor ringing in her ears, she set off once more toward the Children’s Building. In the distance, she heard a clock chiming the hour.

“Oh no.” She glanced from side to side, taking note of the throngs of people dotting the broad walkways. None of them seemed to be paying a bit of attention to her. Taking heart from this, Emily hiked up the hem of her skirt, planted her hand on top of her hat to keep it from blowing off, and sprinted headlong across the plaza, paying scant attention to the gleaming white buildings as she raced over the bridges spanning the lagoon to the Wooded Island and then to the far shore. From there, a quick dash put her at the front of the Children’s Building.

She slumped against the outer door with one palm pressed against her heaving chest. When she managed to catch her breath, she pushed the arched door open and stepped inside. If she could assume her seat behind the reception desk before—

“Your lunch hour ended precisely three minutes ago.”

Emily skidded to a halt and turned to face the gaunt woman standing against the opposite wall. “I’m sorry, Miss Strickland. I—”

“If you plan to continue working here, Miss Ralston, I would suggest you make it a point to be punctual.” Her supervisor’s cold stare left no doubt about her disapproval.

“Of course, ma’am.” Emily ordered her knees to quit shaking and tried her best to appear composed as she hung her straw boater on the hat rack and walked toward her desk. Lucy Welch, her blue eyes shining with sympathy, rose from the heavy wooden chair to let Emily take her seat.

Emily cast a grateful look at her friend; then she turned to bestow a wobbly smile upon the woman and boy who stood waiting in front of her desk. “How may I help you?”

“Could we finish here, please?” The young matron tapped her foot and looked daggers at Emily. “I would much rather be outside viewing the fair instead of waiting for you all to sort yourselves out. I’m not certain I want to leave Alexander here if this is any indication of the competency of your staff.”

At the edge of her vision, Emily saw Miss Strickland’s rigid posture grow even more erect. She fumbled with the heavy black book that lay open on her desk. “I apologize for the delay. I wouldn’t have been late, except—”

“Excuses are unacceptable.” Miss Strickland’s harsh voice broke in. “I don’t tolerate tardiness for any reason.”

Emily clamped her lips shut to hold back the explanation she longed to give. She ought to have known better than to tarry long enough to give the Columbian Guard her version of what had transpired, but she couldn’t find it within herself to let that boy get away with stealing the vendor’s merchandise.

She looked up at the boy’s mother and forced a smile. “If you’ll just give me some information, I’ll check Alexander in and you can be on your way.” She entered his name and his mother’s in the ledger then pinned a numbered tag to the boy’s back and handed his mother a claim check bearing the same number. “Please keep this in a safe place. You’ll need it when you come back to pick up your son. Miss Welch will take Alexander to the gymnasium. I’m sure he’ll enjoy that.”

She beckoned to Lucy, who had been hovering in the back-ground, then turned back to the boy’s mother. “Enjoy your time on the grounds. He will be well cared for.”

Looking somewhat mollified, the woman slipped the ticket into her reticule and turned to leave. Just before she reached the door, it swung open. A man in the uniform of the Columbian Guards smiled and held it open for her; then he stepped inside. His glance wavered between Miss Strickland and Emily before he approached the reception desk.

She stared up at him, panicking at the thought that her attempt to do the right thing was going to cause her even more difficulty. “I already told the other guard everything I know.”

Miss Strickland raised her eyebrows and moved toward the desk with a firm stride. “Bad enough to be tardy. What other trouble have you gotten yourself into?”

“It’s no trouble of this young lady’s making.” The guard stepped to one side, and Emily realized a small boy encased in a heavy woolen coat stood behind him. The tall guard lifted the toddler into his arms and smoothed the boy’s tousled blond hair. A smile lifted the corners of his dark mustache when the boy sniffled and snuggled against his shoulder.

Then he turned the smile on Emily, and she felt as if a giant vacuum had sucked all the air out of the room. She stared open-mouthed until Miss Strickland prodded her between her shoulder blades. Emily sat bolt upright and felt her face flame. “How may I help you?”

Before the guard could respond, Miss Strickland leaned toward Emily and looked her straight in the eye. “I expect a high degree of professionalism from you, Miss Ralston. Your attitude reflects on the entire staff of the Children’s Building. Please keep that in mind.” Her heels clacked against the floor as she crossed the open court that occupied the center of the building and disappeared down one of the side corridors.

Emily drew her first easy breath since the larcenous boy had crossed her path. She knew perfectly well what she had to do, and she could do it much better without her supervisor looking over her shoulder. She nodded a greeting at a couple who entered with two small children in tow then turned back to the waiting guard.

“I’m sorry for the interruption. What can I do for you?”

The dark-haired guard hiked the child higher on his shoulder. “This little fellow seems to have lost his family.”

Emily took a closer look at the little boy, noting the tear streaks on his cheeks. He couldn’t be more than three years old. She felt her heart go out to him. Standing to put herself on a level with the child, she adopted a cheerful tone. “We have lots of things for you to do until we find your parents. Would you like to stay here while this nice man tries to find them?”

The youngster buried his face in the guard’s neck and shook his head. “I want Mama.”

Emily swallowed hard. She reached up to rub his back with a gentle touch. “What’s your name?”

The boy sniffled again then raised his head and looked at her. “Adam.”

“All right, Adam.” At least he was old enough to tell her that much. Emily turned toward the desk and pulled the ledger over to her. “I’ll write your name down here in this book, and then a friend of mine will come to take you to a room with lots of toys. You can play with them until your mama comes for you. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

Adam rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. Emily could see his lower lip quiver.

She dipped the pen in the inkwell and wrote “Adam” on the next blank line. She hesitated a moment with the pen poised in the air. “Do you know your last name?”

Adam shook his head.

“Do you know your mama’s real name?”

He gave the same response.

The guard drew nearer and said in a low voice, “Some people found him over by the north bandstand. When the performance was over, everybody walked away but this little guy.”

The father who had just entered with his family stepped forward. “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but overhear. I thought I recognized the boy. My family stopped to hear the performance at the bandstand, too. We saw his mother leave. I thought at the time it was awfully peculiar for her to go away and let such a young child stay there on his own.”

The guard turned an intense gaze on the man. “You saw her leave?”

“That’s right. In a hurry, too. She was practically running.”

“Could you give me a description?” The guard set Adam down beside Emily, and the two men moved a few feet away.

Emily checked the couple’s children in, half her attention on the task at hand, the other half focused on the story the father told while the guard made notes in a little notebook he pulled from his pocket.

“She was a nice-looking woman,” the man said. “Blond hair, dark blue dress.”

“With a gored skirt and a lovely shirred bodice,” his wife put in. “Very up-to-date. Her hat was trimmed with matching silk ribbon and ostrich feathers.”

Her husband chuckled. “Trust a woman to notice all the details of fashion.”

Emily handed two claim checks to the children’s mother and rang the small brass bell on her desk to summon Lucy.

Lucy appeared a moment later and gave all three children a bright smile. “Are you ready to come with me?” She bent to take Adam’s hand, but Emily motioned her away.

“Just those two for now,” she said. “Come back in a few minutes, and I’ll explain.”

The couple took their leave of their children. “We’ll be back when your mother has worn me out seeing all the exhibits she’s interested in,” their father joked.

When the door closed behind them, the guard walked over and knelt beside Adam. “I’ll go out and look for your mother now. You can stay here with Miss. . .” He looked up at Emily.

“Ralston,” she supplied.

“Miss Ralston.” He gave her another one of those smiles that made her stomach do flip-flops. “She’ll make sure the people here take good care of you.”

The little boy’s chin wobbled, but he turned to Emily and placed his hand in hers. “Hello, Miss Rost—Ralt—”

Emily smiled down at him. “Why don’t you call me Miss Emily?”

Adam nodded, his expression solemn. “Miss Em’ly,” he re-peated. His quick acceptance sent a rush of maternal feelings through her.

“Why don’t we take off your coat?” she suggested. “It’s lovely weather today, and I think you’ll feel much better without it. I’ll make sure we keep it safe so you don’t lose it, all right?”

Adam hesitated then allowed her to pull the heavy coat off. Emily bit her lip at the sight of the sailor suit he wore, with its middy blouse and knee pants. This child was just too precious for words!

While she tried to make Adam more comfortable, the guard left to go search for the child’s parents. A moment later, Lucy hurried back into the reception area. “What was it you couldn’t tell me before?”

“You’ll have to wait a little longer,” Emily told her. “Adam, this is Miss Lucy. She’ll take you to those toys I told you about.”

The little boy studied Lucy then reached out to take the hand she extended and toddled off beside her.

Free of responsibility for the moment, Emily propped her elbow on the desk and rested her cheek on her palm. She stared at the front door, lost in thought.

“He is a handsome fellow, isn’t he?” Lucy’s voice came from right behind her.

Startled out of her reverie, Emily jerked upright and banged her elbow on the edge of the desk. She yelped and glared at Lucy.

“Sorry.” Lucy’s unrepentant grin belied the sincerity of her apology. “I didn’t mean to make you jump. . .that much, at least.” Her grin faded. “And I truly am sorry about what happened with Miss Strickland. I tried to cover for you when I saw you were late, but she came in and caught me at it.” She wrinkled her nose. “I should have known it wouldn’t work.”

Emily sighed. “It’s all right. It was my fault for not being back on time. I knew Miss Strickland wouldn’t be happy about it, but she positively glared at me!” She rubbed her sore elbow and winced. “I hope she doesn’t fire me. I don’t want to lose the first job I ever had.”

“First paying job, you mean. You’ve been a hard worker ever since I’ve known you. And don’t worry about Miss Strickland. Did you know she has already gone through six receptionists in the four months the fair has been going on? I got that from Ruthie Lawson in the Day Nursery.” She looked over her shoulder and lowered her voice. “And they weren’t all fired by Miss Strickland, either. Some of them got so fed up with her demanding ways that they up and left. People just don’t do that on a whim, as hard as jobs are to find these days.”

“But that’s my point. People are hungry for jobs right now. She knows she doesn’t have to keep me here.”

Lucy snorted. “Listen to me. While you’re sitting here checking children in and out of the building all day, I have a chance to talk to the other employees. You are the best receptionist they’ve had yet. Everyone says so.”

Emily hoped her friend was right. The thought of losing her job was always an underlying fear. With the silver crash, masses of people were unemployed, making it harder than ever to find work. But even if jobs were as plentiful as the sand on the shores of Lake Michigan, she would hate to leave the Children’s Building. Providing a safe, nurturing place for children to play and learn while their parents saw the fair was a task she could embrace with her whole being, and taking part in such a worthwhile endeavor filled her with immense satisfaction.

She had to admit that Lucy was usually right in her assessment of any gossip she managed to overhear. Maybe she could relax. . . just a little, anyway.

Something pulled on her sleeve, and she realized Lucy was shaking her arm.

Emily blinked. “Did you say something?”

“Back in dreamland again?” Her friend sighed then took on the air of a patient teacher. “I said you never answered my question about the guard. Don’t you think he’s handsome?”

Emily reached for a stack of papers. “I suppose so. I didn’t really notice.”

Lucy snorted again. “Of course you didn’t.” She moved toward the back of the building. “Call me when you need me.”

The front door swung open again, and Emily whirled around, wondering if the guard had accomplished his mission so quickly. Her heart sank when she saw the slender man who stood before her dressed in a double-breasted serge jacket and flannel trousers.

“And how is my favorite receptionist today?”

Emily pressed her lips together and didn’t answer. She watched as Raymond Willard Simmons III crossed the floor with a swagger that reminded her of a strutting peacock.

What would it take to make him quit stopping by? Emily dreaded his unannounced visits almost as much as she dreaded arousing Miss Strickland’s ire. If only she could tell him to leave her alone! But Raymond’s father was one of the fair administrators, and upsetting Mr. Simmons would upset Miss Strickland. That was something Emily did not intend to do by choice.

She tried to arrange her features in a pleasant expression while Raymond pulled a paper bag from behind his back like a magician producing a dove from his hat.

“Something to satisfy your sweet tooth.” He set the bag on Emily’s desk with a flourish. When she made no move toward the gift, he opened the bag and withdrew a caramel, holding it out for her inspection. “From one of the finest candy makers in Chicago. I hope that when you enjoy them, you’ll think of me.”

Emily kept her smile in place, though what she would really enjoy doing was telling him never to darken the door of the Children’s Building again. “Thank you, Mr. Simmons.”

His broad smile drooped. “I thought we agreed we knew each other well enough to use our Christian names. Aren’t you going to call me Ray? That’s what my family calls me. . . and my closest friends.” He said the last few words in an intimate whisper that was probably intended to make her heart melt. She ground her teeth instead.

“It really wouldn’t be proper.” Emily put all the primness she could muster into the statement.

Raymond moved closer and rested his elbows on the desk, putting his face on a level with hers. “Perhaps that’s true here at the fairgrounds, where my father and I are seen as leaders. But away from the workplace, I see no reason to maintain such formality.” He moved his hand toward hers. Emily immediately began straightening the papers on her desk.

Raymond didn’t appear to notice the slight. “What about going to dinner with me tonight? It’s time you got away from the fairgrounds and that dreary boardinghouse and saw something of Chicago. We could eat at the Palmer House—”

“Without a chaperone? That would hardly sit well with your family, would it? What would they think if word got back to them that you had been seen in public with a young lady they’ve never met?”

Raymond’s face fell, and Emily knew she had scored a hit. His position as a member of one of Chicago’s leading families meant everything to him, and he would do nothing to bring about his parents’ disapproval or to risk their social standing.

Three couples entered and formed a line behind Raymond. Emily lifted her chin and tried to look as businesslike as possible. “I really must get back to work, Mr. Simmons.”

Raymond straightened and gave her a sour look. He opened his mouth as if to say more but settled for a nod and exited, leaving Emily free to enter names and distribute claim checks.

Alone once again, Emily tapped a stack of papers against the desk to square their edges then set them neatly in the upper left-hand corner of her desk. Spotting the bag of caramels Raymond had left, she set it in her bottom desk drawer, out of sight. She didn’t want Miss Strickland to find things in less than perfect order.

While she continued to straighten her work area, her mind turned back to the little boy the guard had brought in. There was nothing unusual about one of the Columbian Guards bringing a lost child to the Children’s Building—it had happened several times already in the two weeks she’d worked there. But something about that little tyke tugged at her heartstrings.

If she could feel such a connection toward a child she had just met, his mother must be frantic. Emily paused in the act of scooping up an armload of file folders. A frown tightened her forehead. Why would anyone go off and leave a child that age alone? And to leave in such a hurry, practically running, the man who witnessed it had said.

She pulled open the file drawer and slid the folders into their places. A woman running through the crowded fairgrounds would be unusual enough to draw notice from any number of people.

Emily wrinkled her nose. She had probably drawn a fair amount of notice herself with her undignified dash across the plaza earlier.
Q&A with Carol Cox, author of A Bride So Fair

Q. Where did you get the idea to write A Bride So Fair?
A. Several years ago, I came across a brief article that mentioned the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893, calling it a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. And my response was, “If it was such a big deal, how come I’ve never even heard about it?” So I looked it up online and was overwhelmed at the wealth of information I found. I had no idea how many of the things we take for granted today were introduced at that fair—things like the Ferris wheel, Cracker Jacks, Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum, and the concept of the Midway. Familiar names from our history books were among the 27 million people who visited the fair. Thomas Edison, Scott Joplin, Frederick Douglass, Jane Addams, and Susan B. Anthony were all there. It was a moment in which our nation felt itself on the brink of major change, and the more I learned about the fair, the more excited I became. I knew I had to set a story there, and that initial idea turned into a three-book series, A Fair to Remember. A Bride So Fair is the final title, and it was hard to say goodbye to the setting and characters I’ve come to love.
Q. How much research is involved in writing a solid historical fiction novel like this one?
A. I was so fascinated by what I learned about the fair that I continued researching for two years before the first book in the series was even contracted. As I mentioned above, I found a tremendous amount of information online, including photos of the fairgrounds and its buildings. I was able to purchase several books printed during that time period that gave detailed descriptions of exhibits as well as the reactions of people who visited the fair. That was invaluable in getting insight into how it affected people of that day. I studied maps of the grounds and floor plans of several of the buildings until I felt like I could navigate them as easily as I can get around my home town.

All of that helped in getting my facts straight, but I needed to add sensory details to make the setting come alive. What would my hero and heroine experience on the shore of Lake Michigan? What would they see, hear, smell? How would it feel to walk across the vast fairgrounds or stroll along the edge of the lagoon? I made a trip to Chicago, where I spent a day at Jackson Park, the site of the exposition. All but one of the buildings are long gone, but simply being there and soaking up the setting added a myriad of details for me to draw on when writing the story. At that point, I could look at my research photos and feel like I could step into the scene and describe it as though I’d actually been there.
Q. What inspires you the most as a writer?

A. It’s always interesting to hear what sparks ideas for other writers. For some, it springs from a character; for others, the catalyst is an issue they’re passionate about. With me, the setting often comes before either the characters or the plot. A particular place will catch my imagination and I’ll wonder what kind of people might have been there and what would have happened to them. I love the challenge of bringing a setting to life so it becomes something a reader can experience rather than just read about.

Q. You’ve written quite a few novels already, do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

A. Read in a wide variety of genres to discover which holds the most appeal for you. Your writing will show far more depth and passion if you're working in a genre you love.

Be patient. Prepare to learn and gear yourself mentally for a marathon, not a sprint. The learning process takes time.

Study the craft of writing. There are excellent books available, covering everything from basic grammar to character development to plot and structure and much more. A number of organizations exist today that offer teaching, encouragement, and support to both aspiring and experienced writers. And writers conferences are held all around the country. Attending conferences is a wonderful way to build on your knowledge as well as getting to know others who share your passion for writing.

Develop a teachable attitude. The more I write, the more I realize how much more there still is to learn. There is always the joy of growing, of improving my skills, of learning to be a “workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (from 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)