Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HELP! What kind of pottery is this? ...and a GIVEAWAY!

I just repainted my dining area, and I love it! I'm always eyeing dining sets, and maybe someday I'll have one like this! Isn't it pretty??
But, until I can replace my seen-better-days-before-two-toddlers-with-spaghetti-o's garage sale table and mismatched chairs, I'll just be happy with my paint job facelift!

Now, here's where I need your help! Please!

I really like the border in my dining area, which was put up by the previous owners (I like them, too). ;-)

We have plans to redo/finish my kitchen next year and I'd like to pull out the blue from the pottery. I'd also like to start collecting some of this pottery/stoneware to decorate my kitchen with.


Soo, what is it? It's hard to google something when you're not exactly sure what it's called. So far I've gotten salt-glazed pottery and New England stoneware. But, not all of it has the blue on it (which I like).

And, where can I find it? Although that might be solved once I know what it's called!

For reading this far...and helping me out, I'm so excited to announce another fantastic giveaway from CSN Stores!!

GIVEAWAY ALERT!
Want to WIN IT? One winner will receive a $70 gift certificate, valid at 200+ CSN Stores! To enter, give me a clue about my pottery OR visit CSN Stores and tell me how you'd spend your gift certificate! For additional entries (must do above to qualify for extra entries!),
  • Follow my blog publicly via Google Friend Connect (sidebar) or a feed reader or subscribe by email (must confirm subscription). Comment and let me know! If you're already a follower/subscriber, comment and let me know! (1 entry)
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Enter to WIN a $70 gift certificate to CSN Stores! @creativeSOme Details: http://bit.ly/dyDj20 Ends 10/15 #giveaway #contest RT

Entries that do not fulfill guidelines will be deleted, so read carefully!

Entries accepted until Friday, October 15, 11:59 PM (EST).Winner(s) will be chosen by random.org and winner(s) will be notified by email. Winner(s) must confirm prize email within 48 hours or another winner(s) will be chosen.


Thanks so much for your help!

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**Disclaimer: I wasn't given any compensation for this post, monetary or otherwise. All opinions expressed in said post are mine and/or my family's.**
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In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer

This week, CFBA introduces
In Every Heartbeat



written by Kim Vogel Sawyer
(Bethany House, September 2010)


ABOUT THE BOOK:

As three friends who grew up in the same orphanage head off to college together, they each harbor a cherished dream.

Libby Conley hopes to become a famous journalist. Pete Leidig believes God has called him to study to become a minister. And Bennett Martin plans to pledge a fraternity, find a place to belong, and have as much fun as possible.

But as tensions rise around the world on the brink of World War I, the friends' differing aspirations and opinions begin to divide them, as well. And when Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete's family, will it drive a final wedge between the friends or bond them in ways they never anticipated?

MY THOUGHTS:

Another winner by Kim! As I read In Every Heartbeat (in just one and a half evenings!), I felt like I was watching Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Boys' Town all rolled into one.

Or at least that's how I imagined it all!

Libby had the spunk and passion of Anne Shirley with the beauty of Diana Barry. Several situations reminded me of catty run-ins with Josie Pye (can you tell I've seen AOGG a few times?) ;-) And both Petey and Martin were Boys' Town citizens, from the mayor, to the outcast, to the trouble-making Mickey Rooney.

In Every Heartbeat takes you back to days gone by, but with all the problems and situations we still deal with today, such as anger and forgiveness, selfishness, and fitting it.

In Every Heartbeat also reunites us with a few past characters from Kim's novel, My Heart Remembers. You won't be confused if you haven't read it, but if you have, you'll be pleased to see Maelle and her siblings in the story.

Kim's books remind me of Janette Oke's stories with realistic characters and Biblical advice and spiritual themes woven seamlessly into the plots. If you haven't read one yet...you should!

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book:
In Every Heartbeat

Kim, thank you for another fantastic book to KEEP on my shelf! I appreciate you, through Bethany House and CFBA for sending me a review copy of In Every Heartbeat

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family. Post *may* contain affiliate links. If you click on them and decide to make a purchase, I receive a (very!) small commission. Hey, every little bit helps! So, I thank you! :-).**
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang

Today's FIRST Wild Card author is Maureen Lang and the book:
Whisper on the Wind

Whisper on the Wind
(Tyndale House, August 4, 2010)


MY THOUGHTS:

I loved Maureen's newest book in 'The Great War' series. Whisper on the Wind is set in Belgium during World War I.

To find the man she loves, Isa sneaks back into occupied Belgium after her family fled two years before. Her childhood friend Edward is angered at her foolishness, knowing her presence will put the 'illegal' paper he works with, La Libra Belgique, at great risk.

When Isa is determined to help the underground printing operation, will Edward see that Isa is no longer a child?

Whisper on the Wind has all the right parts to equal a wonderful story - unrequited love, wartime fear, an unlikely friendship, a super suspenseful climax, and a just-right ending (although I would have enjoyed one more chapter! You'll know what I mean if you read the book)!

Although Whisper on the Wind is book two in Maureen's series, it stands alone. I read and enjoyed book one, Look to the East, but must say that I liked Whisper on the Wind much better! It is close enough to WWII in subject and feeling, that if you like that era, you'll love the story of Isa and Edward.

AND FOR YOU, the FIRST chapter:


Maureen LangPart I

September 1916

Scope of War Broadens

Rumania joins Allied Powers with hopes of shortening the war

Germany has declared war in response, claiming Rumania disgracefully broke treaties with Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Allied Powers, at the forefront including France, Britain, and Russia, welcome additional men and arms. They remind the world which country was the first to break a treaty when Germany marched into Belgium in direct defiance of an agreement to respect Belgium’s neutrality should international strife begin.

Fifteen nations are now at war.

La Libre Belgique


Chapter One

“Oh, God,” Isa Lassone whispered, “You’ve seen me this far; don’t let me start doubting now.”

A few cool raindrops fell on her upturned face, blending with the warm tears on her cheeks. Where was her new guide? The one she’d left on the Holland side of the border had said she needed only to crawl through a culvert, then worm her way ten feet to the right, and there he would be.

Crickets chirped, and from behind her she heard water trickle from the foul-smelling culvert through which she’d just crept. Some of the smell clung to her shoes and the bottom of her peasant’s skirt, but it was Belgian dirt, so she wouldn’t complain. The prayer and the contents of her satchel reminded her why she was here, in this Belgian frontier the occupying German army strove to keep empty. For almost two years Isa had plotted, saved, worked, and defied everyone she knew—all to get to this very spot.

Then she heard it—the chirrup she’d been taught to listen for. Her guide had whistled it until Isa could pick out the cadence from any other.

She edged upward to see better, still hidden in the tall grass of the meadow. The scant mist cooled her cheeks, joining the oil and ash she’d been given to camouflage the whiteness of her skin. She must have grown used to its unpleasant odor, coupled with the scent she had picked up in the culvert, because now she could smell only grass. Twigs and dirt clung to her hands and clothes, but she didn’t care. She, Isabelle Lassone, who’d once bedecked the cover of the Ladies’ Home Journal with a group of other young American socialites, now crawled like a snake across a remote, soggy Belgian field. She must reach that sound.

Uneven ground and the things she’d hidden under her cloak and skirt slowed her crawl. Her wrist twisted inside a hole—no doubt the entrance to some creature’s home—and she nearly fell flat before scuttling onward again. Nothing would stop her now, not after all she’d been through to get this far, not after everything she’d given up.

Then her frantic belly dash ended. The tall grass hid everything but the path she left behind, and suddenly she hit something—or rather, someone.

“Say nothing.” She barely heard the words from the broad-shouldered figure. He was dressed as she was, in simple, dark clothing, to escape notice of the few guards left to enforce the job their wire fencing now did along the border. Isa could not see his face. His hair was covered by a cap, and his skin, like hers, had been smeared with ash.

Keeping low, the guide scurried ahead, and Isa had all she could do to follow. Sweat seeped from pores suffocated beneath her clothes. She ignored rocks that poked her hands and knees, spiky grass slapping her face, dirt kicked up into her eyes by the toe of her guide’s boot.

He stopped without warning and her face nearly hit his sole.

In the darkness she could not see far ahead, but she realized they’d come to a fence of barbed wire. A moment ago she had been sweating, but now she shivered. The electric fences she’d been warned about . . . where bodies were sometimes trapped, left for the vultures and as a grim warning to those like her.

Her guide raised a hand to silence whatever words she might have uttered. Then he reached for something—a canvas—hidden in the grass, pulling it away from what lay beneath. Isa could barely make out the round shape of a motor tire. He took a cloth from under his shirt and slipped it beneath the fence where the ground dipped. With deft quickness, he hoisted the wire up with the tire, only rubber touching the fencing. Then he motioned for her to go through.

Isa hesitated. Not long ago she would have thought anyone crazy for telling tales of the things she’d found herself doing lately, things she’d nearly convinced her brother, Charles, she was capable of handling despite his urgent warnings.

She took the precious satchel from her back and tossed it through the opening, then followed with ease, even padded as she was with more secret goods beneath her rough clothing. Her guide’s touch startled her. Looking back, she saw him hold the bottom of her soiled cotton skirt so it would touch nothing but rubber. Then he passed through too. He strapped the tire and its canvas to his back while she slipped her satchel in place.

Clouds that had barely sprinkled earlier suddenly released a steady rainfall. Isa’s heart soared heavenward even as countless droplets fell to earth. She’d made it! Surely it would’ve been impossible to pass those electrified wires in this sort of rain, but God had held it off. It was just one more blessing, one more confirmation that she’d done the right thing, no matter what Charles and everyone else thought.

Soon her guide stopped again and pulled the tire from his back, stuffing it deep within the cover of a bush. Then he continued, still pulling himself along like a frog with two broken legs. Isa followed even as the journey went on farther and took longer than she’d expected.

She hadn’t realized she would have to crawl through half of Belgium to get to the nearest village. Tension and fatigue soon stiffened her limbs, adding weight to the packets she carried.

She heard no sound other than her own uneven breathing. She should welcome the silence—surely it was better than the sound of marching, booted feet or a motorcar rumbling over the terrain. Despite the triumph she’d felt just moments ago, her fear returned. They hid with good reason. Somewhere out there German soldiers carried guns they wouldn’t hesitate to use against two people caught on the border, where citizens were verboten.

“Let me have your satchel,” her guide whispered over his shoulder.

Isa pulled it from her back, keeping her eye on it all the while. He flipped it open. She knew what he would find: a single change of clothes, a purse with exactly fifty francs inside, a small loaf of bread—dark bread, the kind she was told they made on this side of the blockades—plus her small New Testament and a diary. And her flute. Most especially, her flute.

“What is this book?” His voice was hushed, raspy.

“A Bible.”

“No, the other one. What is it?”

“It’s mine.”

“What is it doing in this satchel?”

“I—I wanted to bring it.”

“What have you written in here?”

Instantly flushed with embarrassment, she was glad that he couldn’t see her face any better than she could see his under the cover of darkness. No one would ever read the words written in that diary, not even the person to whom she’d written each and every one. Well, perhaps one day he might, if they grew old together. If he let her grow old at his side.

“It’s personal.”

He thrust it toward her. “Get rid of it.”

“I will not!”

“Then I will.” He bolted from belly to knees, hurling the little book far beyond reach. It was gone in the night, splashing into a body of water that no doubt fed into the culvert she knew too well.

Isa rose to her knees, the object of her gaze vanished in the blackness. The pages that securely held each intimate thought, each dream, each hope for her future—gone. Every page a visit with the man she loved, now forever lost.

“How dare you! You had no right.”

The guide ignored her as he resumed the scuttle forward.

Fury pushed Isa now. That diary had meant more to her than this dark figure could know. When at last he stopped and stood beneath the low branches of a forest to scrape the wild heath off his clothes, Isa circled to confront him.

At that moment the clouds parted enough to allow a bit of moonlight to illuminate them. And there he was, in glorious detail—older, somehow, and thinner, but the black brows, the perfectly straight nose, the square jaw, and the eyes that with a single look could toss aside every sensible thought she might have. The very man about whom—and to whom—that diary had been written.

Her heart skipped wildly, rage abandoned. “Edward!”

All he offered was confused scrutiny, a glance taking her in from head to foot. She took off her hat and her blonde hair tumbled to her shoulders. In the dim light he might not be able to see the blue of her eyes, but surely he saw her familiar smile, the shape of her face, and the welcome that sprang from the deepest part of her.

The look on his face changed from confusion to recognition. Then astonishment.

“Isa?”

She threw herself toward him, and he received her as she dreamed he might one day, with his strong arms enveloping her, his face smiling a welcome. His eyes, if only she could see them better in the darkness, must be warm and happy. She longed for him to kiss her and raised her face, but there the dream ended. He pushed her away to arm’s length.

If there had been any warmth in his eyes a moment ago, it was gone now, replaced by something not nearly as pleasant.

“What are you doing here? I thought it was a fool’s mission to bring somebody in. A girl, no less. And it’s you, of all people!”

She offered a smile. “Well, hello to you too, Edward. After more than two years I’d expected you to be happy to see me. A guide was supposed to take me to you; no one told me it would be you.”

“We’ll retrace right now, young lady.” He took one of her hands and moved away so easily that he must have believed she would follow.

“I’m not going anywhere, except home. If you knew what I’ve been through to get here, you wouldn’t even suggest such an absurd notion.”

“Absurd? Let me give you the definition of the word, Isa. Absurd is smuggling someone into a country occupied by the German army, into a starving prison camp. Do you know how many people have been killed here? Is the rest of the world so fooled by the Germans that you don’t even know?”

“Edward, I’m sure no one on the outside knows everything that’s going on, except maybe Charles. He was in France, caught behind the lines. And now he’s working with the British, not far from where you were born. In Folkestone.”

“Your brother? Working? Now there’s a new concept. He should have talked you out of coming here.”

Isa wouldn’t admit just how hard Charles had tried. “I found my guide through him. Mr. Gourard—”

“Gourard! He was here—he was with us the day my father was shot.”

“Oh, Edward.” She leaned into him. “He told me your father was killed.” Tears filled her eyes, an apparently endless supply since she’d been told the news. “I’m so sorry.”

He pushed her away, but not before she saw his brows dip as if to hide the pain in his eyes. “Look, we can’t stand here and argue. The rain was working with us to keep the sentries away, but if we have to go through that fence when it’s this wet, we’d better go now before it gets worse. We’ve got to keep moving.”

“I’m not going back.” If he knew her at all, he would recognize the tone that always came with getting her way.

He stood still a long moment, looking one direction, then the other, finally stooping to pick up her satchel—now lighter with the absence of one small diary—and heading back to the grassland.

She grabbed his arm. “No, Edward! I won’t go. I—I’ll do anything to stay. I’ve been through too much to give up now.”

He turned on her then, with a look on his face she’d never seen before—and his was a face she’d studied, memorized, dreamed of, since she was seven and he twelve. That the war had aged him was obvious, and yet he was still Edward.

He dropped the satchel to clutch both of her arms. “Do you think I’ll let you walk into a death camp? That’s what Belgium is, even your precious Brussels. Go back home, Isa. Your parents got you out. Before all this. Why would you be foolish enough to come back?”

“I came because of you—you and your family. And because this is my home.”

His grip loosened, then tightened again. He brought his face close, and Isa’s pulse pounded at her temples. But there was no romance in his eyes. They were so crazed she couldn’t look away if she wanted to.

“Isa,” he said, low, “I’m asking you to go back.”

Her heart sped. “Only if you come out with me,” she whispered. Then, because that seemed to reveal too much and yet not enough, she added, “After we get your mother and Jonah.”

He dropped his hands and turned away, facing the grassland instead of the trees.

She could tell him what she had hidden inside her flute; surely that would change his mind about the wisdom of her actions. But something held her back. If she gave it to him now, he might simply accept the flute but return her to the border anyway. No, she wouldn’t reveal her secret. Not yet.




Isa picked up her satchel and started walking—deeper into Belgium, away from the grassland, into the wood that no doubt served a nearby village. Beneath her skirt and blouse, the other goods she carried tightened her clothes so she could barely breathe, but she didn’t stop. She didn’t even look back.

Before long she heard Edward’s footfall behind her. At first they did not speak, and Isa didn’t care. Her journey had ended the moment she saw his face. This was where she’d longed to be. She’d prayed her way across the Atlantic, escaped the wrath of her brother and all those he worked with. Days of persuasion led to downright begging, until she’d tried going around them and contacted Brand Whitlock, the American ambassador to Belgium, to arrange her passage home to Brussels.

But her begging had accomplished nothing.

Yet her journey had not ended there, thanks to the whispered advice of a clerk who worked in Folkestone with her brother. When Charles went off on an errand, another man approached her and spoke the name of a guide who started Isa on the final leg of her journey to Edward’s side.

“We’re coming to the village road,” Edward said flatly. “I was told your papers would give your name as Anna Feldson from Brussels, which match mine as John Feldson. We are cousins, and I am bringing you home from visiting our sick grandmother in Turnhout. There is a German sentry on the other side of this village, and we’ll no doubt be stopped. There won’t be anyone on the street at this hour, which is a good thing because even the locals won’t trust us. Nobody likes strangers anymore, especially this close to the border. So if we do see anybody, keep to yourself and don’t say a word.”

She nodded. A few minutes later the trees parted and she saw shadows of buildings ahead. The rain had let up to a drizzle again, and the moon peeked out to give them a bit of light. She wasn’t soaked through but knew a wind would send a chill, especially now that the anxiety of crawling through the underbrush was behind them.

Edward stopped. “I’m only going to ask once more, Isa, and then I’ll not ask again.” Now he turned to look directly into her eyes. “We have enough darkness left to make it safely. Let me take you back to the border.”

“I can’t,” she whispered. When the crease between his eyes deepened, she said, “This is where I belong, Edward. It must be where God wants me, or I never would have succeeded.”

“God.” He nearly snorted the word before he turned from her and started walking again toward the village.

“Yes!” She hurried to catch up. “If I told you all the ways He’s protected me so I could get this far, you wouldn’t doubt me.”

Edward turned on her. “I refuse to hear it, Isa. God’s not in Belgium anymore; you’ll find that out for yourself soon enough.”

His words stung. God had used Edward to show her His love to begin with, and she knew He wasn’t about to let Edward go. Had Edward let go of God, then? When? And why, when he must need God more than ever if things here were harder than she had imagined?

They walked through the quiet village without incident, the soft leather soles of their wet shoes soundless on the cobbles. The village was so like many others of Belgium: a few small homes made of familiar brick, a stone church with its tall bell tower, and a windmill to grind grain into flour. So different from the frame homes or sprawling businesses Isa had left behind in New York, but so dear that she wanted to smile as deeply as Edward frowned.

At the other end of the narrow village street, there was indeed a German officer stationed on the road. Isa’s heart thudded so loudly in her ears she wondered if she would be able to hear over it, or if the soldier would hear it too.

But he said nothing, not a word, at least not to her. He looked at them, looked at their papers, then asked Edward in rather bad French why they were traveling so early in the morning, having come so far from Turnhout already.

Edward replied that the steam tram was unreliable but that they hoped to reach the next village in time to catch it anyway.

The soldier waved them through.

“That was easier than I expected,” Isa whispered once they were well away.

“Don’t underestimate other soldiers based on that one. A suspicious one with a rifle can do as he pleases.”

But Isa was too relieved to be gloomy. “Amazing how I can still understand you through your clenched jaw, Edward.”

Edward didn’t look at her. “We have to be in Geel in less than an hour if we expect to make the tram.”

They made their way in silence, under sporadic drizzle and meagerly emerging sunlight. When at last they came to the next town, it was quiet until they reached the tram station, where soldiers outnumbered civilians. So many soldiers did what the rain couldn’t: dampened Isa’s spirits.

She had a fair understanding of German, but she could barely keep up. Not that she needed to; the soldiers ignored her, speaking of mundane things to one another, hardly worthy of interest. She prayed it would stay that way, that she and Edward would be invisible to each and every armed soldier.

A commotion erupted from the front of the platform. German commands, a snicker here and there. Silence from the civilians.

A man not much older than Edward was forced at gunpoint to open the packet he carried, to remove his coat and hat, even his shoes. A soldier patted him from shoulder to ankle.

Isa could barely watch and wanted more than anything to turn away. To run away. She told herself to look elsewhere, to allow the victim that much dignity, but was transfixed by the sight of such a personal invasion. Her throat tightened so that she couldn’t swallow, could barely breathe. She couldn’t possibly withstand such a search, and not just for modesty’s sake. “Edward . . .”

“Keep your eyes down and don’t say a word.”

“But—”

“Quiet.”

A tram entered the station and the man was allowed to board, everyone else soon following. Edward nudged Isa and they took seats.

The secret goods beneath Isa’s cloak and clothing clung to her skin, as if each sheet, each letter were as eager as she not to be noticed. She feared the slightest move would sound a rustle. Carefully, slowly, she stuffed her satchel beneath the seat, wanting to take comfort that it had escaped notice. If her flute was looked at with any scrutiny . . . She couldn’t bear to think of it.

The vehicle rumbled along far slower than the pace of Isa’s heartbeat. She wanted the luxury of looking out at the land she loved, the fields and the villages, the rooftops and steeples, the mills and the farms, but her stomach didn’t allow her eyes to enjoy any of it. At each stop a few soldiers departed, but new ones joined them. She tried not to study what went on, at least not conspicuously, but longed to learn how the soldiers chose which civilians to search. It appeared entirely random. More men were searched, but women weren’t spared. One holding a baby was made to unswathe her child, who screamed and squirmed when jostled from its secure hold.

Isa did as Edward told her, kept quiet, eyes cast downward or upon the passing landscape that under any other circumstances would have been like a gift from the finest art palette. One hour, then two. After the third she could stand it no longer. Surely they were near their destination? But she had no idea how far Louvain might be at the rate they were going with so many stops and searches. No doubt they could travel more safely by foot without losing much time.

Six times she nearly spoke, to urge Edward to take her out of this tram. Six times she held back. But one more search and she could resist her impulses no more.

“I—I must get off the tram, Edward. I’m sick.”

“Sick?”

“Yes, I must get away from—” She wanted to say away from the soldiers but dared not in case any of them spoke French and overheard. “I must get away from this awful tram. The stop and go is making me ill.”

“Another hour. Surely you can last?”

She shook her head even as from the edge of her vision she saw a soldier looking her way. How do you not look guilty when you’re completely, utterly, culpable?

Isa stood as the tram came to a slow stop at the next intersection. She kept her back to the soldiers, jumping to the ground just as soon as it was safe to do so. Then, without waiting for Edward, she walked forward as if she knew exactly where she was going.

She walked a block, well out of sight from the disappearing tram. There she stood . . . not amid one of the lovely villages, with their ancient way of life so quaintly preserved and appreciated. Instead, she found herself at the end of a row of destruction. Crumbling homes, demolished shops. Burned ruins of a town she once knew. Aerschot, where she’d dined and laughed and dreamed of walking the street with Edward’s hand in hers.

A moment later Edward’s shadow joined hers. “Are you positively mad?”

“We’re in Aerschot?” she asked, barely hearing his question.

“Obviously. And several hours’ walk from Brussels. Do you know how ridiculous that was? We don’t need any complications, Isa.”

She faced him. “Your contact didn’t tell you what I’d be carrying, did he?”

Suspicion took the place of the anger on his face. “What?”

“Well,” she began slowly, “I would try to show you, but among other things, I’m afraid I’d never get everything back in place.”

He let out what she could only call a disgusted sigh as he ran a hand through his dark hair—hair that seemed thinner and yet sprang instantly back into place, symmetrical waves that framed his forehead, covered his ears. He needed a haircut, but she found she liked the way he looked too much to think of changing anything, even the length of his hair.

“Isa, Isa,” he said, shaking his head all the while. “I should make you take out every scrap and burn it right here and now. Do you know what could have happened if you’d been searched on that tram?”

“Which is why we’re no longer on it.”

“You might have warned me!”

“I tried!”

He paced away, then turned to stand nearly nose-to-nose with her again. Not exactly the stance she’d dreamed of when she’d imagined him at such close proximity, but it sent her pulse racing anyway.

“You could have been shot. Do you know that? Shot.”

She nodded. “They warned me.”

His brows rose and his mouth dropped open. “Then why did you agree to the risk?”

“Gourard told me there are no newspapers, no information at all about what the rest of the world is doing to try to save Belgium and end this war. How have you lived so long without knowing what’s going on? I have the best portions of a couple of recent newspapers. And I have letters, too. Letters from soldiers. Don’t their families deserve to know they’re all right?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think. Gourard shouldn’t have taken your life so lightly or trusted such things to a young, naive child.”

“Child! I’m perfectly capable of deciding what risks I will or won’t take. I’m the one to decide what I will or won’t do for Belgium.”

“It was bad enough for you to come back, but to bring contraband—it’s beyond foolish.”

“Edward, don’t be angry with me. I’ll deliver the letters and then be done with it if you like, if it’s too dangerous for us. But I won’t abandon what I brought with me.”

“I don’t care about the risk for me. I’ve done so many things the Germans could shoot me for that one more thing doesn’t matter. It’s you. Maybe the Germans wouldn’t shoot you—being just a girl—but who knows?”

“I’m not—” . . . just a girl. But she didn’t bother with the words. She doubted they’d convince him.

She looked away, embarrassed. All she could think of when she agreed to smuggle the letters was how desperately she had wanted news of him and how other families cut off from their loved ones must be desperate too. She couldn’t have refused to take a chance with the letters and lived with herself. “I agreed to take the risk for the same reasons you’ve taken so many. Your mother and father didn’t teach values only to you and Jonah, you know.”

He emitted something between a moan and a laugh, then took her arm. “We’re going somewhere for you to take out the letters. And the newspaper clips.”

“But, Edward—”

He looked at her then, and she could see he was not to be argued with. “I’ll carry them in my cloak. It won’t be the first time.”




Monster Armored Cars Used by British in Charge on the Somme

Called “tanks” by those who’ve seen them, Allied soldiers themselves refer to these huge traveling fort machines as “Willies.” Driven like motorcars but able to scale barbed wire, leap trenches, knock down houses, and snap off tree limbs, they are a formidable weapon indeed and will no doubt play an important role in the defeat of the Germans.

La Libre Belgique

Thank you to Maureen, through Tyndale and FIRST, for sending me a copy of Whisper on the Wind to read and review!

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family. Post *may* contain affiliate links.**
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Friday, September 17, 2010

More Than Words by Judith Miller

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Journey to the charming villages of the Amana Colonies, 1885

Gretchen Kohler is an Amana storekeeper's daughter with a secret passion for writing. But artistic pursuits are frowned upon in her conservative Amana village, so she confines her poems and stories to her journals, letting only close friends read them.

When a young reporter comes into her store, she believes she's found a kindred spirit. She shares a few of her stories with him--only to have her trust betrayed in the worst of ways, resulting in trouble for her entire community.

The scandal is made even worse by the fact that gypsies have camped nearby and seem to be preying upon the Amanans' compassionate, pacifist nature. Will Gretchen lose her job, her reputation, and the love of her childhood beau all because of one bad decision?

Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her novels, two of which have placed in the CBA top ten lists. In addition to her writing, Judy is a certified legal assistant. Judy makes her home in Topeka, Kansas.

MY THOUGHTS:

More Than Words, Judith's second book in her Daughters of Amana series, is a stand-alone book, for which I was glad!

Both books are written in the first person - not a problem. But, book 1, Somewhere to Belong, alternates between two main characters, and I couldn't keep the I's straight! I was always flipping back and forth to see which 'I' was writing which chapter.

Well, More Than Words is NOT that confusing! The story is told from only one girl's point of view, much to my thinker's relief!

Oma's antics made me giggle, and yet I felt much sympathy towards her caretakers! The gypsies were certainly unusual, which gave the story an interesting take.

The members of the Amana community are NOT Amish, but if you like the flow and feel of the Amish genre, you will enjoy Judith's newest series.

I have read almost all of Judith's books, those she has solely written and those co-authored with Tracie Peterson. Judith's books are always well-written, researched, and enjoyable, and Gretchen's story in More Than Words is no exception.

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book:

More than Words
Bethany House; Original edition (September 1, 2010)

by

Judith Miller

Chapter 1

April 1885
Homestead Village
Amana Colonies, Iowa

"Come down from that tree, Oma!" I'd done my best to sound firm. Taking a sideways step, I shaded my eyes to gain a better view among the bloom-laden branches of the apple tree.

My grandmother peered down at me with a devilish grin, her leather-clad feet wedged into a crook of the tree. "Nein, Gretchen! I'm going to get an apple." She pointed a gnarled finger toward a spindly branch bearing a few spring blossoms.

"Don't go any further, Oma. There aren't any apples, and that branch won't hold you."

Ignoring me, she grabbed another limb and hiked her right leg toward a scrawny branch that would surely crack under her weight. The old woman's addled brain might be willing to make the climb, but her aged and fragile body was going to end up on the ground.

After steadying the ladder that Oma had placed against the tree trunk, I lifted my skirt and stepped onto the bottom rung. "Just wait until Stefan gets home!" I issued the muttered warning from between clenched teeth and cautiously began my climb. No matter how often I scolded my brother, Stefan never put anything away. He'd used the ladder to retrieve a ball from the roof yesterday afternoon, and instead of putting it back into the shed, he'd left it sitting outdoors. Out where it created an alluring diversion for Oma, who had somehow managed to drag it across the yard and balance it against the apple tree.

A low-hanging branch snagged my finely knit black cap, and Oma chuckled as she watched my attempts to disentangle the head covering. After finally grabbing the cap and giving it a one-handed shove onto my head, I glanced upward but quickly averted my eyes. "Oma! Put your leg down. I can see your undergarments."

She leaned forward and peeked down, as if she intended to check the truth of my statement. Her body listed sideways, and one foot slipped from the branch. A snowstorm of flowering blossoms showered down on me.

"Hold on, Oma! I'm coming up to help you."

"Don't bring the blackbird," she shrieked. "It will eat the apples."

My frustration mounted as Oma continued the childlike behavior. For all of my life, my mother's mother had lived with us, and we shared a special bond. But when these bouts of dementia took hold, there was no dealing with her. "There are no blackbirds and there are no apples, Oma." I took another step up the ladder and reached for a thick branch. The rough bark dug into my palm as I tightened my hold. If I inched a little closer, I could

grab hold of her leg.

"Go away! You're bringing the blackbird with you."

She climbed higher into the tree, and I gasped in fear. Now I couldn't even reach her foot. "There are no birds in the tree, Oma. I've frightened them all away. Come back down to me."

She peered over her shoulder. A flash of terror shone in her dark eyes. Her once-gentle lips twisted in a menacing jagged line. The look would have held a stranger at bay, but I wasn't a stranger, and I wouldn't be deterred.

"There's a blackbird on your head," she cried. "Get it away! Shoo it off before it eats my apples."

Utter defeat shot through me. Would I ever learn to deal with Oma's episodes? If I didn't get her out of the tree within the next few minutes, my father might discover the dilemma. That thought alone propelled me back into action. I yanked the hat from my head. "The blackbird flew away. See, Oma? Look at me!"

Lips curved in a toothy grin, she leaned forward, peered around my shoulder, and cooed, "Pretty boy, come and get me."

"Oma! Please come ..." I lifted my foot to mount the next rung but was stopped short when two strong hands encircled my waist. I grabbed hold of the ladder and glanced over my shoulder. "Conrad." I exhaled my friend's name along with a silent hallelujah.

"Come down, Gretchen. I'll get her." His hands remained clasped around my waist while I descended to the ground. With one sympathetic gaze, I was enveloped in comfort. He touched a finger to my trembling lips, and warmth spiraled up my spine. "You should have come for me when you first discovered her."

"I know, but I thought she'd listen to me."

He tilted his head toward the ladder. "Did she drag this from the shed by herself?"

"Stefan," I said.

He nodded his understanding. "He's a boy. In a few years he will begin to remember what you tell him."

I thought it would take more than a few years before Stefan remembered anything other than how to have fun, but I didn't say so. "I don't know who creates more problems, Oma or Stefan. Neither one of them will listen to me."

With a chuckle he mounted the ladder and waved to my grandmother. "I've come to rescue you, Sister Helga. Let me help you out of the tree."

I stood below and prayed this wouldn't take long. For a brief moment Oma eyed Conrad with curious suspicion—a strange occurrence, for she usually fancied him her beau when in a delusional state of mind. I immediately feared the worst.

Finally she pointed to a far branch. "First an apple I must pick."

Conrad wagged his finger and shook his head. "Nein. It is too early in the year for apples, Sister Helga, but I promise I will pick you a large red apple come September."

"Ja?" She gave him a toothy grin that creased her aged skin into a thousand wrinkles. "Then I will come down to you, pretty boy."

With skirt and petticoat askew and slowed by an occasional snag to her black stockings, Oma shimmied and slid down the tree until Conrad held her in a firm grasp. He maintained his hold until the old woman's feet were firmly planted on the ground. She turned to face him and jabbed her finger in a tap-tap-tap rhythm on one of his shirt buttons. "Permission from the elders you must have before you marry me."

If Oma's outburst had caused Conrad any unease, his feelings remained well hidden. I couldn't say the same for myself. Heat climbed up my neck in a thousand fingers and splayed across my cheeks. How could Oma recall a marriage requirement of our faith, yet fail to remember that old women don't climb trees or that apples aren't ready for harvest until fall? Those thoughts, along with Oma's behavior, caused my head to ache.

"Thank you for your help, Conrad." I hoped he wouldn't notice my embarrassment. "I apologize for Oma's words."

With the tip of his fingers, he lifted my chin. "What is this with apologies? We have known each other for twenty-two years. We look after each other, ja?" He took a step closer and leaned forward. "I know this is hard for you, Gretchen." His eyebrows dipped low over cobalt blue eyes.

I bobbed my head. "I don't know what I'd do without you." I forced a grin. "But we haven't really known each other for twenty-

two years. I think you can only count from the time we reached the age of four. Before that, I remember nothing."

He chuckled. "From now on I will just say I have known you all my life."

Conrad thought he understood my daily plight: the rigors of trying to keep my work completed at the store while attempting to hide Oma's behavior from my father, and striving to keep Stefan on the proper path to manhood. I didn't want to dash Conrad's belief, but he could only partly understand. He wasn't there day and night to see my struggles.

The right side of his mouth lifted in a half grin. "And you don't have to worry about what to do without me, because I will always be here to help. I'm not going anywhere."

Before I could respond, Oma clutched Conrad's arm in a viselike grip and tugged. "Come on, pretty boy. Come and sit with me."

He winked at me before returning his attention to my grandmother. "I have a better idea. Why don't you come and sit with me in the barbershop, Sister Helga?"

Shaking my head, I mouthed that he didn't need to take charge of Oma.

"It's the least I can do. You need some time alone to complete the ledgers at the store without worry." He shifted his weight and waved me toward the general store. "And if your work is all done, you can write in your journal. You're always taking care of others. Let me look after you some of the time."

Lifting a bony finger, Oma tucked a wisp of white hair behind one ear. Her black cap remained twisted in a loose knot at the back of her head, but I made no attempt to fix it. If she discovered any black fabric in her hair, she'd probably think the imaginary blackbird had built a nest atop her head. Conrad tucked Oma's hand into the crook of his arm, and she smiled up at him as they strolled toward the barbershop. Conrad glanced over his shoulder and waved. "I'll bring her back before time for the noonday meal."

I stared after the two of them for a moment. Oma continued to cling to Conrad's arm. She chattered to him as though she hadn't talked to him in years. And in her muddled thoughts, perhaps she hadn't. Nowadays, my grandmother often confused Conrad with her deceased husband. I found the idea quite odd, because the two men looked nothing alike. At least not according to my memories of Opa. My grandfather had died when I was only nine, but I remember him as short, stoop-shouldered, and bald. A stark contrast to Conrad's tall, broad-shouldered build and crop of thick blond hair. But who could know what went on in my grandmother's mind? Certainly not me, and I'd tired of any attempts to figure out when these strange episodes would occur.

The soles of my shoes clacked on the wooden sidewalk that bordered the storefronts of Homestead. A train whistled in the distance, and I instinctively turned toward the station and picked up my pace. If Father returned from the depot and discovered the store unattended, he'd be unhappy with me. Worse yet, I'd need to give a reason for my absence. I didn't want to lie, yet I didn't want to give him any additional reason to discuss the insane asylum in Mount Pleasant. I'd promised Mother on her deathbed that I wouldn't permit him to send Oma to that place, but with these incidents occurring more frequently, it was becoming difficult to defend my position.

I hurried through the front door, scanned the area, and exhaled a whoosh of relief.

"Ah, Gretchen, there you are."

I swiveled around. My shoulders relaxed when I caught sight of my good friend Sister Mina behind a counter stacked with folded ends of calicos and woolens. I lifted up on tiptoe and met her blue-eyed gaze. "I told Stefan not to stack those pieces so high, but does he listen?"

"Ach! He is a boy. I'm surprised he listens to you at all."

Mina circled around the display, and I stepped forward to encircle her shoulder. I gave her a quick squeeze and pecked her cheek with a fleeting kiss before releasing my hold. "It's always good to see you, Mina. We need to find time to visit more often. I miss our talks."

She patted my hand. "I miss you, as well, but it seems there is always something that keeps us busy. It's better in winter, when we can get together and quilt with the other women. In spring and summer, the hours are filled to the brim."

"True. And when Stefan doesn't do as he's told, it takes even more of my time."

Mina chuckled. "Boys don't listen to older sisters. I should know. I have four brothers, and not one would listen to me when they were Stefan's age." She wiggled loose several pieces of the dark calico and unfolded one of them. With a shake of her head, she refolded it. "Not enough for even an apron."

"There are some larger pieces over on the other side." I circled around and directed her to one of the far stacks. "I think you might find a piece or two large enough for an apron or even a waist among these." Always eager to keep the deductions from her account to a minimum, Mina would be happy if she could find a fabric remnant that would serve her purpose. "Do you want dark blue or black?" I yanked at a piece of cloth near the bottom of the pile. "Or maybe brown?" I held the piece aloft.

Mina hitched one shoulder. "I care little about the color so long as there is enough to make a new waist. All of mine are beginning to show wear. Never fails. They all wear out at the same time." She looked toward the door that led to our living quarters.

When my parents had first been assigned to operate the store, we'd lived in one of the houses down the street. But then my mother became ill, and my father asked to have a portion of the store converted into living quarters. The elders had first expressed concern over the idea but eventually agreed when Father assured them he would find a way to maintain the same amount of inventory. And he had. By adding some additional shelving, keeping only samples of some merchandise on the shelves and stocking the additional inventory in the large warehouse located behind the store, he'd been successful. The change meant he spent more time in the warehouse, and I was expected to take over more of the store duties. But having our living quarters within the store had proved more of a blessing than a hardship during my mother's illness. And now, with Oma experiencing bouts of dementia, I was even more thankful for the arrangement.

"Sister Helga is taking a nap?"

Mina's question pulled me back to the present. "Nein. Oma is over at the barbershop with Conrad."

Mina arched her brows. "Again? That Conrad is gut to help with her, ja? Not like your Vater, who has no patience."

"Vater helps when he can, but he has to be out in the warehouse most of the time." I pointed at the side window. "Oma climbed into the apple tree. Conrad helped me get her down."

"It's a wonder she didn't break a bone, but is gut your Vater wasn't here when it happened. For sure he would start talking about Mount Pleasant again. I am thankful your dear Mutter isn't here to see how he behaves." She snapped a piece of fabric in the air and placed it across the table. "This looks like it will do. These end pieces are still less costly than the ones on the bolt?" She glanced toward the myriad bolts of fabric that stood at attention on the nearby shelves.

"Ja, of course. Why would you think otherwise?"

Mina looked about the room. "The last time I was in here, your Vater said he was going to tell the elders it made no sense to sell the end pieces for less. I told him he should leave well enough alone, but who can say about your Vater? Ever since your Mutter died, he's been as changeable as the weather." She patted my shoulder. "You are a gut and patient daughter."

I couldn't disagree with Mina's assessment of my father, but I knew I wasn't as good or as patient as my friend thought. Father's moods had been unpredictable for more than two years, ever since Mother had taken ill. And I'd found it increasingly difficult to gauge his reactions and behavior. "He's said nothing to me about changing any prices. Until he does, we will both agree that the end pieces are less expensive."

"As they should be." Mina's curt tone didn't surprise me. It was simply her way. Few women in the Amana villages were as outspoken as Mina. Other women might murmur among themselves or privately state an opinion to their husbands, but Mina spoke her mind no matter who was present. Some of the men thought her a bit brash—my father among them. But whatever her tone of voice, I loved Mina. Even though she was twenty years older than I, she was my best friend. She was the one who had sat at my ailing mother's bedside during her final days on this earth. She was the one who had offered me solace, comfort, and a shoulder to cry on. And she was the one who had given me my very first journal.

There were so many times I longed to be like Mina—to say my feelings out loud. But I knew better. Instead, I wrote in my journal. Though I'd filled the pages of that very first journal long ago, it remained a secret between the two of us. Mina never told me how or where she purchased the journals, but each Christmas she gave me a new one. "I know there are those who think writing for pleasure is a waste of time, but you're a girl who needs to write your heart. I can see it in your eyes," she'd told me that very first Christmas. Ever since then I dreamed of writing beautiful poems or stories that would capture the hearts of readers. I had always loved reading the Psalms in the Bible. Not that I fancied my writing ability akin to David's, but I did find pleasure expressing my thoughts on paper and hoped that one day others might enjoy my writing. I wasn't sure how that could ever happen. Still, I continued to write.

"You going to list this on my ledger sheet, or are you expecting me to do it myself?"

Once again Mina's voice yanked me back to the present. "Just that one piece? You don't need anything else?"

"That's all." She trailed her fingers across the wide array of lace and trims that were displayed to advantage. "Sometimes I think your father keeps more goods on hand to sell to outsiders than he does for those of us who live here."

"Something you need that cannot be found on my shelves, Mina?" I heard the irritation in my father's voice before I saw him enter the store. He closed the distance in a long determined stride and came to a halt beside me.

Mina didn't back down from his hard stare. "Since you ask, I think you could give over more space to dark calicos and woolens, the ones worn by our people."

My father's gaze settled on the small piece of fabric Mina had selected. "The outsiders come here and buy more in one day than you have purchased in the last ten years." He poked at the small piece of cloth. "More of these tiny scraps I should have on my shelves? Is that what you think?"

Mina squared her shoulders. "Is the store for the people who live here or for the visitors who come to stare at us as though we are some curiosity?"

"The store is here for both, but if you are unhappy with how it is being run, maybe you should speak to the Bruderrat."

"I have no desire to speak to the elders, but that doesn't change what I think about the goods you stock."

"Ach! Nothing changes what you think, Mina. I have plenty of goods in the warehouse—you need only tell me what you need." He sent a dismissive wave in her direction. "You are as hardheaded as ... as ..."

"As a man?" Mina said. Without waiting for my father's reply, she picked up the piece of cloth and marched out the door.

"That woman, she is not a good example for the other women in this town. Her behavior you should not follow." My father peered at the ledger book. "The accounts are finished?"

"Not yet, but I'll have them completed before this evening."

His jaw twitched. "What is it you were doing while I was at the train station?"

I didn't dare tell him I'd spent my time trying to get Oma out of the apple tree. And one look at the ledgers would tell him that Mina had been my only customer.

"That Mina, she complains about the store and keeps you from doing your ledgers. That one, she talks too much."

Though I briefly considered telling my father he was wrong about Mina, I knew she wouldn't mind if I didn't come to her defense. She'd much rather I protect Oma.

A special thank you to Judy, through Bethany House and CFBA, for allowing me to read and review More Than Words!

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family. Post *may* contain affiliate links. If you click on them and decide to make a purchase, I receive a (very!) small commission. Hey, every little bit helps! So, I thank you! :-).**
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Totally Random - BEST BUY gift card GIVEAWAY!

Ah, yes. Totally random.

Best Buy has nothing to do with recipes or reading. ;-)

But, I received a $15 Best Buy gift card in the mail (long story), and I'd rather give it away than spend it!

Crazy, I know.
So, what are we waiting for?!

GIVEAWAY ALERT!
Want to WIN IT? One winner will receive a $15 gift card to Best Buy.

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Enter to WIN a $15 Best Buy Gift Card! @creativeSOme Details: http://bit.ly/c35kXV Ends 10/8 #giveaway #contest

Entries that do not fulfill guidelines will be deleted, so read carefully! Entries accepted until Friday, October 8, 11:59 PM (EST).Winner(s) will be chosen by random.org and winner(s) will be notified by email. Winner(s) must confirm prize email within 48 hours or another winner(s) will be chosen.

Recommend: YES
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**Disclaimer: I was not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family. Post *may* contain affiliate links. If you click on them and decide to make a purchase, I receive a (very!) small commission. Hey, every little bit helps! So, I thank you! :-).**
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Heart of the Lonely Exile by BJ Hoff

Today's FIRST Wild Card author is BJ Hoff and the book:

Heart of the Lonely Exile
(book two in the Emerald Ballad series)

To see why I didn't review Heart of the Lonely Exile, click HERE.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.

ABOUT THE BOOK:




AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book:

Friends Old and New

Youth must with time decay…
Beauty must fade away…
Castles are sacked in war…
Chieftains are scattered far…
Truth is a fixed star….

From “Aileen Aroon” GERALD GRIFFIN (1803–1840)

New York City
August 1847

It was a fine summer evening in the city, the kind of sweet, soft evening that made the young delight in their youth and the elderly content with their lot.

On this evening Daniel Kavanagh and Tierney Burke were indulging in one of their favorite pastimes—stuffing themselves with pastries from Krueger’s bakery as they lounged against the glass front of the building. As usual, Tierney was buying. Daniel as yet had no job and no money. But Tierney, with a week’s pay in his pocket from his job at the hotel and a month’s wages due from his part-time job at Patrick Walsh’s estate, declared he felt rotten with money and eager to enjoy it.

It had been a good day, Daniel decided as he polished off his last sugar kucken. His mother was visiting, as she did every other Saturday, delivered as always by one of the Farmington carriages. Every Saturday without fail, a carriage either brought her to the Burkes’, or came to collect Daniel for a visit at the Farmington mansion uptown, where his mother worked.

In truth, Daniel thought he preferred the Saturdays he spent at the Farmingtons’, for then he could visit with his friend, Evan Whittaker, and the Fitzgerald children, as well as his mother. He enjoyed his temporary living arrangement with Uncle Mike and Tierney, but often he found himself missing the daily contact with his mother and the Fitzgeralds—especially Katie.

The thought of Katie brought a smile to his face and a sting of worry to his mind. Katie was both his friend and his sweetheart; they would marry when they were of age—that had been decided long ago.

So committed to their future plans was he that Daniel paid little heed to Tierney’s relentless teasing about his “lassie.” The fact was that Katie Fitzgerald had been his girl from the time they were wee wanes back in the village, and he did not mind who knew it. But Katie had ever been frail, and the famine and the long, horrific ship crossing had taken a fierce toll on her.

Daniel could not help but fret about her health. He would have thought the good, plentiful food and proper medical attention she was receiving at the Farmingtons’ would be enough to have her feeling fit by now. Instead, she scarcely seemed improved at all.

Still, as his mother had reminded him just today, three months was not really so long a time—not with all the troubles Katie had been through. “You must be patient, Daniel John,” she had cautioned him. “You must be patient and faithful with your prayers.”

He was trying to be both, but it was hard, all the same, not to worry.

Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Daniel turned his attention to Pearl Street. Although darkness was gathering, most of the neighborhood seemed to be in no hurry to return to their cramped living quarters. The sultry August atmosphere carried the sounds of children playing, mothers scolding, dogs barking, and men arguing. Most of the voices were thick with Irish brogue, although German and an occasional stream of Italian could also be heard.

Almost as thick as the cacophony of immigrant voices were the odors that mingled on the night air. The ever-present stench of piled-up garbage in the streets had grown worse with the recent warm temperatures; the fumes from sewage and animal droppings were more noxious than ever.

Still, there was no spoiling the pleasure of such a fine evening. Besides, Daniel was growing accustomed to the aroma of New York. Indeed, the smell rarely bothered him at all these days; it was negligible compared to the stench of Ireland’s rotten potato fields and the countless dead bodies lying alongside the country’s roads.

“So, then,” Tierney said, downing a nut kipfel in one bite before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, “will they tie the knot soon, do you think? Your mum and my da?”

It was a question Tierney seemed bent on asking at least once a week, a question that continued to make Daniel feel awkward—almost as if his mother were somehow under an obligation to marry Uncle Mike. More and more Tierney’s prodding put Daniel on guard, made him feel the need to defend his mother—never mind that he secretly harbored the same question.

“I don’t suppose it’s for either of us to guess,” he muttered in reply. “Sure, and Mother does care a great deal for Uncle Mike.”

Tierney gave a curt, doubtful nod, turning the full intensity of his unnerving ice-blue stare on Daniel. “If that’s so,” he said, “then why is she still holding out?”

Daniel bristled. “It’s not that she’s holding out,” he protested. “She just needs more time, don’t you see? They haven’t seen each other for more than seventeen years, after all! She can hardly be expected to jump into marriage right away!”

Tierney regarded him with a speculative look, then shrugged. “You’re right, of course,” he said cheerfully, shoving his hands into his pockets. As if no friction whatever had occurred between them, he tilted a quick grin at Daniel. “I expect I’m just impatient because I’m wanting to see them wed.”

Not for the first time, Daniel found himself disarmed by his quicksilver friend. The older boy had a way of making abrasive, outrageous remarks, then quickly backing off, as if sensing he had caused Daniel discomfort.

Tierney had an incredible energy about him, a tension that sometimes made it seem that any instant he might leap from the ground and take off flying. He was impatient and blunt, decisive and headstrong. Yet he had an obvious streak of kindness, even gentleness, that could appear at the most unexpected moments.

Living with him was akin to keeping company with a hurricane. Wild and impetuous one moment, eager and conciliatory the next, he was entirely unpredictable—and a great deal more fun than any boy Daniel had ever known.

He liked Tierney immensely. In truth, he wished his mother would marry Uncle Mike so they could be a real family.

“If they do get married,” Tierney was saying, watching Daniel with a teasing grin, “you and I will be brothers. How do you feel about that, Danny-boy?”

Daniel rolled his eyes, but couldn’t stop a smile of pleasure. “Sure, and won’t I be the lucky lad, then?”

Tierney wiggled his dark brows. “Sure, and won’t you at that?” he shot back, perfectly mimicking Daniel’s brogue.


Avoiding Michael’s eyes, Nora stared at the flickering candle in the middle of the kitchen table.

The silence in the room, while not entirely strained, was awkward, to say the least. Nora had sensed Michael’s impatience early in their visit. She thought she understood it; certainly, she could not fault the man for wanting more of a commitment than she’d been able to grant him thus far.

On the other hand, she didn’t know how she could have handled things between them any differently. From the day of their reunion—Nora’s first day in New York City—she had done her best to be entirely honest with Michael. She had told him then—and on other occasions since—that she cared for him deeply but could not marry him for a time, if ever.

In the weeks and months that followed her arrival in New York, Nora’s life had changed radically. All that she had once held dear, everything familiar, had been mercilessly torn away from her. She had lost her home and her entire family except for Daniel John. Yet much had been given to her as well.

God had been good—and faithful. Daniel John had a home with Michael and Tierney, and she and the orphaned Fitzgerald children were safe and snug in the Farmington mansion with Lewis Farmington and his daughter, Sara—people who must be, Nora was certain, the kindest human beings God ever created.

Aye, she had fine lodgings—even a job—and she had friends, good friends: Michael, Evan Whittaker, Sara and Lewis Farmington, and Ginger, the Farmingtons’ delightful housekeeper. There was more food on her plate than she could eat, and a fire to warm her bones for the coming winter. Had any other penniless widow-woman ever been so blessed?

Yet when it came to Michael, something deep within her warned her to wait, to go slowly. There were times when she wanted nothing more than to run to the shelter of the man’s brawny arms and accept the security he seemed so set on offering—the security of a friendship that dated back to their childhood, the security of marriage and a home of her own. But in the next instant she would find herself drawing back, shying away from the idea of Michael as the solution to her problems.

She needed time, perhaps a great deal of time. Of that much, at least, she was certain. Time to heal, time to seek direction for her life. God’s direction.

And time to forget Morgan Fitzgerald…

“The Farmingtons seem more than pleased with your work for them,” Michael said, breaking the silence and jarring Nora back to her surroundings. “They cannot say enough good things about you.”

Struggling to put aside her nagging melancholy, Nora smiled and made a weak dismissing motion with her hand. “Sure, they are only being kind,” she said. “ ’Tis little enough they allow me to do. I suppose they still think me ill, but in truth I’m feeling much stronger.”

“I can believe that,” Michael said, studying her with open approval. “You’re looking more fit each day. I think you might have even gained a bit at last.”

Surprised, Nora glanced down at her figure. She did feel stronger physically, stronger than she had for months. “Indeed. Perhaps with all this fine American food, I’ll grow as round as Pumpkin Emmie,” she said, trying to ease the tension between them with reference to daft Emmie Fahey, one of the terrors of their youth.

“You’ve a ways to go, there,” Michael said, meeting her smile. “But you are looking more yourself, lass, and that’s the truth.”

Unnerved by the way he was scrutinizing her, Nora glanced away. “Our sons are becoming good friends, it seems.”

Michael, too, seemed relieved to move to safer ground. “Aye, they are,” he answered eagerly. “And I couldn’t be happier for it. Your Daniel is a fine boy—a good influence on that rascal of mine.”

“Oh, Michael,” Nora protested, “I think you’re far too hard on Tierney! He doesn’t seem nearly the rogue you paint him to be.”

With a sigh, Michael rose from the table to put the kettle on for more tea. “I’m the first to admit Tierney’s not a bad boy. Nevertheless, he can be a handful. And unpredictable—” He shook his head as he started for the stove. “Why, I don’t know what to expect from the lad one minute to the next, and that’s the truth.”

“It’s not an easy age for him, Michael. Don’t you remember how it was, being more grown-up than child, yet not quite either?”

Nora could have answered her own question. Michael had never seemed anything but a man grown, had never appeared to know the meaning of childishness or uncertainty, at least not in the time she had known him.

Returning with the kettle, he offered Nora more tea. When she declined, he proceeded to pour himself a fresh cup. “What I remember most about being a boy,” he said with just the ghost of a smile, “was trying to keep you and our lad, Morgan, out of the soup.”

Nora glanced quickly away. “Aye, you were like a brother to the both of us,” she said quietly.

“It wasn’t a brother I wanted to be to you, Nora,” he said pointedly, pausing with the kettle suspended above his cup. “That was your choice, not mine.”

“Michael—”

He looked at her, setting the kettle down between them. “Is it still Morgan, then?” A muscle at the side of his mouth tightened. “Is he the reason you cannot bring yourself to marry me?”

“No! No, Michael, it is not Morgan! I’ve tried to explain all this before. I thought you understood…”

His gaze on her didn’t waver. “Nora, I have tried. But I’m not blind, lass. I see the way things are.”

Nora looked away, but she could still feel his eyes on her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that Morgan Fitzgerald still occupies a large space in your heart—perhaps so great a space there will never be room for another.”

“Michael—”

He waved away her protest, saying nothing. Instead, he went to stand at the window, his back to her. He stood there for a long time in silence. At last, he drew in a deep sigh and said quietly, “We’d be good together, I think. We could build a fine life, a good home—watch our boys grow to manhood.” Stopping he turned to face her. “Perhaps we could even have more children…”

He let his words drift away, unfinished. As he stood there, his gaze fixed on her face, the frustration that had hardened his expression earlier faded, giving way to a rare tenderness. The grim lines about his mouth seemed to disappear, and his eyes took on a gentle smile.

“We go back a long way, you and I,” he said softly. “And our boys—why, they’re well on their way to being brothers already. Ah, it could work for us, Nora! You must see that.” Shoving his hands down deep into his pockets, he stood watching her. “I know I cannot offer you much in the way of material things just yet, but we’d have enough, enough for us all. And things will improve, I can promise you that. I have prospects on the force—”

“Oh, Michael, you know none of that matters to me!”

With three broad strides he closed the distance between them. Bracing both hands palms down on the tabletop, he brought his face close to hers, his eyes burning. “What, then, Nora? What does matter? Tell me, lass, for I’ll do whatever I can to make this work for us. I swear I will! Tell me what I can do to convince you to marry me.”

Nora remembered he had asked her that same question once before, when he was still a young man preparing to go to America. He had done his best then, too, to convince her to be his wife.

That had been seventeen years ago. Seventeen years, and her answer was still not what he wanted to hear.

“Michael, you know you have ever been…special…to me.”

He said nothing, simply went on searching her eyes, his large, blunt hands now clenched to fists atop the table.

“I do care for you…” She did. She was not immune to Michael’s appeal, his almost arrogant handsomeness, the strength that seemed to pulse from him. But more than that, and far deeper, were the memories that bound them, the friendship that even today anchored their affection for each other. She could not bring herself to hurt him, but neither could she lie to him!

Suddenly, he stunned her by grasping both her hands in his and pulling her up from the chair to face him. Holding her hands firmly, he drew her to him. “And I care for you, Nora,” he said, his voice gruff. With one hand he lifted her chin, forcing her to meet his relentless gaze. “I have always cared for you, lass, and that’s the truth.”

Trembling, Nora held her breath as he bent to press his lips to hers. Irrationally, she almost wished Michael’s kiss would blind her with love for him, send stars shooting through her. Instead, she felt only the gentle warmth, the same sweet, sad affection she had felt for him all those years so long ago when he had kissed her goodbye, regret brimming in his eyes, before sailing for America.

He knew. He said nothing, but she felt his knowing as she stood there, miserable beneath those dark, searching eyes that seemed to probe her very soul. Gradually he freed her from his embrace, setting her gently away from him with a sad smile.

“You have been through a great sorrow,” he said huskily. “And I am asking too much of you, too soon. I’m sorry, lass. Perhaps it’s just that I’m anxious for you to realize that when you’re ready, I will be here. I will wait.”

“Oh, Michael, please—don’t…”

He put a finger to her lips to silence her. “Enough sober talk for tonight. Why don’t we have us a stroll? We’ll go and find the lads and see what they’re up to.”

Relieved, Nora nodded, managing a smile. “Aye, I’d like that.”

Michael smiled, too, watching her with infinite tenderness. Framing her face between his calloused hands, he brushed his lips over her forehead. “Remember that I am still your friend, Nora Ellen. No matter what happens—or does not happen—between us, I will always be your friend.”

Nora could have wept for gratitude at his understanding, his gentleness. “Thank you, Michael,” she whispered. “Thank you for being the man you are. And thank you,” she added fervently, “for being my friend.”

Thank you to BJ, Karri from Harvest House, and FIRST for allowing me to participate in the tour for Heart of the Lonely Exile!

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family. Post *may* contain affiliate links. If you click on them and decide to make a purchase, I receive a (very!) small commission. Hey, every little bit helps! So, I thank you! :-).**
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

When I'm feeling like ooey-gooey warm chocolate, but I don't have anything in the house that quite fits the bill, enter my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, stained and wrinkled page 140!

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake always comes to the rescue!
I've been making this Hot Fudge Sundae Cake for years. And before that, I remember my mom making it many, many times.

Made with ingredients that I always have in the pantry,the Hot Fudge Sundae Cake can fulfill my chocolate longing in about an hour!

A quick and fudgy cake that is perfect for these cooler days!

HOT FUDGE SUNDAE CAKE

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa (when I feel super chocolate-needy, I add an extra tablespoon!) ;-)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1-3/4 cups very hot water

Ice cream, whipped cream, or cool whip, if desired.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, and salt in ungreased square 9x9x2 baking dish. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with fork until smooth. Stir in nuts. Spread evenly in pan.

In a small bowl combine brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa. Sprinkle over batter. Pour hot water over batter.

Bake 40 minutes or until top is dry.

Spoon warm cake into dessert dishes. Spoon sauce from pan onto each serving. Top with ice cream or cool whip, if desired.

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family. Post *may* contain affiliate links. If you click on them and decide to make a purchase, I receive a (very!) small commission. Hey, every little bit helps! So, I thank you! :-)**
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