Monday, February 23, 2009

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Daniel’s Den

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Brandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, where he graduated from Ben Davis High School and, later, Indiana Central University (now known as The University of Indianapolis). It was during a creative writing course in college that a professor said, "You're a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer." That comment, and the support offered by a good teacher, set Brandt on a course that would eventually lead to the Colton Parker Mystery Series.

A committed Christian, Brandt combined his love for the work of Writers like Chandler and Hammet, with his love for God's word. The result was Colton Parker.

"I wanted Colton to be an 'every man'. A decent guy who tries his best. He is flawed, and makes mistakes. But he learns from them and moves on. And, of course, he gets away with saying and doing things that the rest of us never could."

Brandt comes from a long line of police officers, spanning several generations, and was employed by the FBI before leaving to pursue his education. A former United States Naval Reserve officer, Brandt is a board Certified Podiatrist and past President of the Indiana Podiatric Medical Association. He is a recipient of the association's highest honor, "The Theodore H. Clark Award".

He currently resides in southwestern Indiana with his wife and two sons and is at work on his next novel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736924779
ISBN-13: 978-0736924771

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The dance of the blind.


Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:5

Daniel Borden was a happy man. He was in control of his life and he had all that he needed. He was secure.

That was about to change.

On Tuesday, April 5, Daniel rose an hour before sunup and drank a chocolate-flavored protein drink before dressing in red running shorts, light gray T-shirt, and New Balance running shoes. The shoes were less than a month old, but had already carried him more than a hundred miles. They were comfortable.

After dressing, he stretched by putting one foot against the stairway banister and bending at the waist, bouncing slightly, until the tightness in his leg receded. He then alternated legs and performed the maneuver again.

When his stretching was done, he did a hundred sit-ups followed by a hundred push-ups. Although the intensity of the calisthenics was unusual compared to the number for an average man, Daniel was not particularly muscled. Instead, he had the lean sinewy build of an Olympic gymnast. At thirty-five, he looked ten years younger. And in fact, he felt ten years younger too. He attributed his good health to a disciplined lifestyle.

When his warm up was complete he called for Elvis, the two year old black Lab he had adopted from a local animal shelter. The dog had been lying patiently on the comfortable over-stuffed sofa watching with detached interest as Daniel worked through his morning routine. But now it was time to run and Elvis liked to run.

On hearing his name, the dog leaped off the sofa and trod to his master, waiting patiently as his collar and leash were snapped into place. The leash was a requirement of Bayou Bay's restrictive covenants, one of the many features that attracted Daniel to the highly regulated New Orleans subdivision.

He opened the door. “Let's go, boy.”

They left the house and crossed the short expanse of lawn, beginning their run by heading north, a route they often took and that would return them to the house three miles later. They ran at nearly the same time everyday and were familiar with the predawn rhythms of the neighborhood.

Newspapers were delivered between four and five each morning, the garbage collection occurred on Monday, and the Brightmans, who lived several doors down from Daniel and who tended to rise nearly as early, were usually drinking coffee in front of their open dinning room window by the time Borden and the Lab passed their house. The neighborhood ran with the precision and dependability of a Swiss time piece.

Except this morning.

As they began their run, Daniel noticed a black panel van setting curbside less than two doors away. There was nothing particularly suspicious about the van, but it hadn't been there yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. In fact, in all the months that Daniel had been running through the neighborhood he had never seen the van.

It didn't belong.

He paused to take a second look, when Elvis distracted him by pulling on the leash.

“Okay, okay. Sorry. Geeshsh.”

The morning air was still cool and dew had settled over the lawns giving them an almost aluminum sheen in the waning moonlight.

To the east, over the crest beyond which the city lay, a warm hue was beginning to illuminate the horizon as the sun woke for its ascent. It wouldn't be long before it would break the horizon, painting the sky over The Big Easy in a dazzling array of colors that would impress even the most skilled artist. Then the city would come alive as school children boarded buses, DJs took to the air waves, and rush hour traffic began to form.

But the neighborhood was quiet at this hour, which made for a quiet, peaceful run. Only the pounding of Daniel's feet, his own breathing, and the jingle of Elvis' tags broke the silence. It was a tune with which they had become familiar since Daniel acquired the lab, and it provided him a sense of stability that only the familiar can provide. And Daniel reveled in stability.

His need for the familiar, for the stable, as well as a passion to escape the near poverty conditions he had known as a child, had driven his career choice. As an investment analyst with one of the largest investment houses in the country, he learned that despite the ups and downs of an often volatile market, Wall Street could be relied on to do the one thing it does best--make money. Even in the most difficult of times the market could be depended on to correct itself. And it was the market's natural return to stability that convinced him most investors can control their financial futures if they were willing to make the hard decisions. The market may be unstable at any given moment, but the share holders needn't be. If they were willing to ride out the current travails, history showed they would have an excellent chance of recovery. If they had neither the stomach nor the time to wait for the inevitable market correction, they could sell and reinvest in another, more stable vehicle. True, they may suffer a loss, may even absorb a significant loss, but such were the realities of investing. But the truth underlying the matter is that the investor has the upper hand, even if exercising that option cost them in the short run. Far different than most, who viewed the market as a speculative ride, driven by greed and underwritten by risk, Daniel saw the market as the one place where savvy investors could control their destiny.

And Daniel needed to have control.

The runners approached the first turn in the road. This one would take then to the west, along Worth Street.

Daniel breathed deeply. The air was cool, invigorating, and renewed him in ways that made him feel lighter, as unbound by earthly constraints as the freedom that comes with unchecked flight. It was as though he could leave the earth and return at will.

As dog and master rounded the corner, Elvis began to tug at the leash, a clear sign that it was time to separate the men from the dogs.

“Want to run, huh?” Daniel said.

The dog woofed and pulled harder.

Daniel stepped up the pace, slow at first, but then faster as Elvis maintained his cadence effortlessly.

“Show off.”

Daniel had adopted the dog shortly after moving to New Orleans. Growing up as an only child whose parents moved frequently, more often than not to stay a step ahead of the bill collector, Daniel had often been lonely. Over time, his loneliness led to isolation. He had few friends (none who were particularly close) and was always the last one selected when choosing up sides.

And the abyss of loneliness was further deepened when, more often than not, his father was passed out on the sofa when Daniel came home from school and his mother was at work trying to earn enough money to keep the family in the same house for a single school year.

On those days, Daniel would go to his room and imagine himself a successful man who others admired and respected. He imagined himself traveling to places he'd never been, and would likely never see.

But on other days, when his father was not unconscious and his mother was home, he would try to earn their attention by initiating conversation or taking the lead in washing the after-dinner dishes. And when their favor didn't come Daniel would go outside to mope, or back to his room, feeling as discarded as the beer cans his father carelessly tossed about.

Daniel wanted a dog. Someone who would be glad to see him when he came home from school and who would lay on his bed at night, eager to hear about the day's events. But the realities of his parents' financial straits denied their son this one extravagance. “Dogs cost money,” his father said. “And if you take a look around you'll see that money ain't something that we have just laying about.”

So Daniel spent most of his time alone, dreaming of the day when he could make enough money to have a dog of his own--and take control of his life. And maybe, even make his parents proud.

Growing up alone, gave Daniel ample time for study.

After high school, he attended Ole' Miss on an academic scholarship and excelled in academic achievement. But his father often chided the boy for not wanting to work with his hands and his mother told him he might be reaching for heights that were beyond his ability. The desire to gain their approval began to wane, though, as he grew into manhood and became increasingly independent. But when his mother suddenly died, all desire to gain his parents approval died with her.

He left for Chicago shortly afterward, leaving his father to bury his grief-- real or genuine--in the same way he had buried everything else.

Later, when Daniel earned his MBA, his father did not attend the graduation ceremony, did not call, did not even send a card. The father son relationship officially ended, long before his father died in an alcoholic stupor three years later.

After graduation, it wasn't long before Daniel secured a position with the Chicago office of Capshaw-Crane and began to focus his efforts on climbing the ladder of success. At times it seemed inevitable that he would miss a step, slip up, and fall back to the disaster of his childhood, landing solidly on a pile of empty beer cans in a house of despair. But like the market, he would make the corrections necessary to maintain balance--even if not perspective.

Elvis woofed.

“Not fast enough, huh?” Daniel ran faster; the Lab kept pace.

Borden's concentration on the things in life that were important, on his career, his health, and his financial stability had clearly paid off.

Growing up, he had been lonely. Now he had Elvis. Growing up, he had been hungry. Now, although he chose not to indulge, he could dine in the finest restaurants in a city known for its unique culinary style. Growing up, he had lived in squalid surroundings, awakened as often by the sound of mice playing in his room as he was by his parents' seemingly never-ending arguments. Now he lived in Bayou Bay one of city's premiere residential areas.

Daniel had taken control. He was secure.

Until he noticed the van, again, parked alongside the street with its engine idling and exhaust spewing from the tail pipe. There was no doubt that this was the same van that had been parked on his street, just a few doors down from his house.

“We've seen that before, haven't we boy?”

Elvis continued to pull on the leash. The van was parked along the same side of the street as which they ran, with its nose pointed westward. It was a black panel van with a single red pinstripe encircling it.

It didn't fit. Didn't belong. And yet, here it was, a mile from where it had been parked just a few minutes before.

“This way, boy,” Daniel said, heading for the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street and away from the idling vehicle.

Elvis followed his master's lead, giving him a confused look, but maintaining the pace that would soon bring them parallel with the van. From his vantage point, Daniel could see that the side windows were covered in an opaque film that eliminated any chance of observing who was inside. But as they came alongside the van, Daniel began to slow, finally coming to a complete stop. Elvis gave his master another confused look.

“What have we got here, boy?” Daniel said, leaning forward, straining to get a better view of the van.

A low growl began to form in the dog's throat. As though he had just discovered the out of place vehicle and the possible threat it posed.

“You too?” Daniel said. “I don't like the-“

“Black Lab,” a voice said.

Daniel spun around to find that Elvis was facing to the right, opposite of where the van was parked.

“They're nice dogs,” the voice said. “I used to have one myself.”

Daniel focused on the shadows to his right. Barely visible, but silhouetted against the yard light behind him, a tall man emerged, dressed in pajamas and a bathrobe. He was carrying a garbage can.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn't mean to startle you.”

Daniel exhaled. “That's okay. It's just that my dog and I never see anyone out at this hour.”

The man set the garbage can down at the curb. “And you wouldn't have this time either, if I could've remembered to do this the night before.” He reached to pat Elvis on the head. “The wife and I are leaving for vacation today and I needed to get this stuff out so it wouldn't pile up. We're going to be gone for a couple of weeks.”

The van pulled away from the curb with only its parking lights on. Daniel made a note of the license plate.

“Do you know them?” Daniel asked.

The man turned to watch as the van disappeared around the corner.

“No, can't say I do. But I wouldn't worry.”

“Why's that?”

He stooped to pat Elvis' head again, before extending a hand. “Hubert Johns.”

“Daniel Borden. And this is Elvis.”

“Elvis, huh? Well, he's sure a beauty. Aren't you boy?” He scratched behind Elvis' ear.

“Why shouldn't I worry?” Daniel asked.

“I'm head of the neighborhood crime watch. If there's anything going on around here, I'm usually the first to know.”

“Are there things going on around here?”

“You mean like burglaries and that sort of thing? No, pretty quiet. And we try to keep it that way.” He nodded to the house across the street. “There are some kids that live there. Teenagers. But they're good kids. A little loud sometimes with their music and all, and their mother lets them keep some pretty late hours, but they've always been polite.” He patted Elvis again. “Most likely the van was some of their friends.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said, feeling a little foolish. “Probably some friends of theirs.”

The man put both hands in the pocket of his robe. “You okay? You sound kind of rattled.”

Daniel laughed. “I'm fine. The van was just sitting there with its engine running. It unnerved me a bit, that's all.”

“I don't remember seeing you at the meetings. Are you a member of the watch?”

Daniel shook his head. “No, I'm afraid not. I tend to keep pretty busy and I don't have-“

“Don't have what? Time?” Hubert chuckled. “I was a cop for thirty years. If they were up to something, I would've noticed it. After thirty years of dealing with every piece of garbage there is, you get to a point where you can smell trouble,” he tapped his nose. “Know what I mean?”

“I guess so.”

“You ought to consider joining the neighborhood crime watch. You never know when you might be a victim.”

“I'll sure think about it.”

“You do that.”

Elvis began to tug at the leash. There wasn't a lot of time left to run and Daniel was wasting it.

“Well, it was nice to meet you,” Daniel said. “Sorry that we haven't met before.”

Johns nodded as he looked about the neighborhood. “Too many people keep to themselves. That's never a good thing. Two people working together are always better than one working alone.”

“Right.” Elvis began to pull hard on the leash.

“But I wouldn't worry about that van. Probably just some kids smoking dope or something.” He nodded toward the eastern horizon. “Besides, the sun is coming up now. If it was somebody that was going to do something, they waited too late.”

Daniel watched as the glow that had just started when he left the house, began blossoming into a new day. “Yeah. Probably nothing to worry about.”

My Review - Daniel's Den

Following on the success of his Colton Parker Series, Brandt Dodson has hit another home run with DANIEL’S DEN.
Daniel Borden is a successful stock analyst at the prestigious Capshaw-Crane group. Working hard and playing by the rules of decency, Daniel has made a comfortable living for himself. Stinging from the hurt of a broken engagement, he decides his career is his future and puts all his energies into further himself at Capshaw-Crane. That is until he discovers one of his co-workers has been laundering money, a co-worker that has died in a freak car accident. Reporting what he has discovered to his boss, Daniel feels relieved that his involvement with Mr. Fontaine’s accounts is over – or so he thinks.
Laura Traynor has had enough loss in her life. With the loss of her parents and her husband, she struggles to maintain the Valley Mill, the bed and breakfast she and her husband had worked so hard to renovate. Along with her son, Andy, Laura is barely making ends meet. When Anton Farkas offers to buy her out, she refuses. But she soon finds out that Farkas, and those he works for are not willing to take no for an answer.
When Daniel is framed for Fontaine’s death, he runs, looking for answers regarding the mysterious companies outlined in Fontaine’s portfolio. When his path crosses Laura’s, they soon find themselves on the run from men that want to make them both disappear–for good.
Amidst the terrifying realization that they may never be able to prove their innocence, both Daniel and Laura’s developing feelings for each other surface. Daniel realizes what he had found in Laura and Andy is what has been missing from his life. But has he made this discovery too late?
Brandt Dodson has once again written a book with characters you are instantly attracted to and a plot that keeps you guessing. With crisp writing and fast action, the pages quickly slip through your fingers as you root for Daniel to clear his name. This is my favorite novel from Brandt to date. Where his Colton Parker series only alluded to the possibility of Colton finding romance, DANIEL’S DEN takes the next step and allows the readers to see a true relationship develop between Daniel and Laura. But male readers needn’t fear. The subtlety of their relationship is done without sacrificing the action and intrigue Brandt is known for. Good job, Brandt! You’ve done it again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Gingham Mountain (Lassoed in Texas, Book 3)

Barbour Books (February 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


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


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601410
ISBN-13: 978-1602601413

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Sour Springs, Texas, 1870


Martha had an iron rod where most people had a backbone.

Grant smiled as he pulled his team to a stop in front of the train station in Sour Springs, Texas.

She also had a heart of gold—even if the old bat wouldn’t admit it. She was going to be thrilled to see him and scold him the whole time.

“It’s time to get back on the train.” Martha Norris, ever the disciplinarian, had a voice that could back down a starving Texas wildcat, let alone a bunch of orphaned kids. It carried all the way across the street as Grant jumped from his wagon and trotted toward the depot. He’d almost missed them. He could see the worry on Martha’s face.

Wound up tight from rushing to town, Grant knew he was late. But now that he was here, he relaxed. It took all of his willpower not to laugh at Martha, the old softy.

He hurried toward them. If it had only been Martha he would have laughed, but there was nothing funny about the two children with her. They were leftovers.

A little girl, shivering in the biting cold, her thin shoulders hunched against the wind, turned back toward the train. Martha, her shoulders slumped with sadness at what lay ahead for these children, rested one of her competent hands on the child’s back.

Grant noticed the girl limping. That explained why she hadn’t been adopted. No one wanted a handicapped child. As if limping put a child so far outside of normal she didn’t need love and a home. Controlling the slow burn in his gut, Grant saw the engineer top off the train’s water tank. They’d be pulling out of the station in a matter of minutes.

“Isn’t this the last stop, Mrs. Norris?” A blond-headed boy stood, stony-faced, angry, scared.

“Yes, Charlie, it is.”

His new son’s name was Charlie. Grant picked up his pace.

Martha sighed. “We don’t have any more meetings planned.”

“So, we have to go back to New York?” Charlie, shivering and thin but hardy compared to the girl, scowled as he stood on the snow-covered platform, six feet of wood separating the train from the station house.

Grant had never heard such a defeated question.

The little girl’s chin dropped and her shoulders trembled.

What was he thinking? He heard defeat from unwanted children all the time.

Charlie slipped his threadbare coat off his shoulders even though the wind cut like a knife through Grant’s worn-out buckskin jacket.

Grant’s throat threatened to swell shut with tears as he watched that boy sacrifice the bit of warmth he got from that old coat.

Stepping behind Martha, Charlie wrapped his coat around the girl. She shuddered and practically burrowed into the coat as if it held the heat of a fireplace, even as she shook her head and frowned at Charlie.

“Just take the stupid thing.” Charlie glared at the girl.

After studying him a long moment, the little girl, her eyes wide and sad, kept the coat.

Mrs. Norris stayed his hands. “That’s very generous, Charlie, but you can’t go without a coat.”

“I don’t want it. I’m gonna throw it under the train if she don’t take it.” The boy’s voice was sharp and combative. A bad attitude. That could keep a boy from finding a home.

Grant hurried faster across the frozen ruts of Sour Springs Main Street toward the train platform and almost made it. A tight grip on his arm stopped him. Surprised, he turned and saw that irksome woman who’d been hounding him ever since she’d moved to town. What was her name? Grant’d made of point of not paying attention to her. She usually yammered about having his shirts sewn in her shop.

“Grant, it’s so nice to see you.”

It took all his considerable patience to not jerk free. Shirt Lady was unusually tall, slender, and no one could deny she was pretty, but she had a grip like a mule skinner, and Grant was afraid he’d have a fight on his hands to get his arm back.

Grant touched the brim of his battered Stetson with his free hand. “Howdy, Miss. I’m afraid I’m in a hurry today.”

A movement caught his eye, and he turned to look at his wagon across the street. Through the whipping wind he could see little, but Grant was sure someone had come alongside his wagon. He wished it were true so he could palm this persistent pest off on an unsuspecting neighbor.

Shirt Lady’s grip tightened until it almost hurt through his coat. She leaned close, far closer than was proper to Grant’s way of thinking.

“Why don’t you come over to my place and warm yourself before you head back to the ranch. I’ve made pie, and it’s a lonely kind of day.” She fluttered her lashes until Grant worried she’d gotten dirt in her eye. He considered sending her to Doc Morgan for medical care.

The train chugged and reminded Grant he was almost out of time. “Can’t stop now, Miss.” What was her name? How many times had she spoken to him? A dozen if it was three. “There are some orphans left on the platform, and they need a home. I’ve got to see to ’em.”

Something flashed in her eyes for a second before she controlled it. He knew that look. She didn’t like orphans. Well, then what was she doing talking to him? He came with a passel of ’em. Grant shook himself free.

“We’ll talk another time then.”

Sorely afraid they would, Grant tugged on his hat brim again and ran. His boots echoed on the depot stairs. He reached the top step just as Martha turned to the sound of his clomping. She was listening for him even when she shouldn’t be.

Grant couldn’t stand the sight of the boy’s thin shoulders covered only by the coarse fabric of his dirty, brown shirt. He pulled his gloves off, noticing as he did that the tips of his fingers showed through holes in all ten fingers.

“I’ll take ’em, Martha.” How was he supposed to live with himself if he didn’t? Grant’s spurs clinked as he came forward. He realized in his dash to get to town he’d worn his spurs even though he brought the buckboard. Filthy from working the cattle all morning, most of his hair had fallen loose from the thong he used to tie it back. More than likely he smelled like his horse. A razor hadn’t touched his face since last Sunday morning.

Never one to spend money on himself when his young’uns had needs—or might at any time—his coat hung in tatters, and his woolen union suit showed through a rip in his knee.

Martha ran her eyes up and down him and shook her head, suppressing a smile. “Grant, you look a fright.”

A slender young woman rose to her feet from where she sat at the depot. Her movements drew Grant’s eyes away from the forlorn children. From the look of the snow piling up on the young woman’s head, she’d been sitting here in the cold ever since the train had pulled in, which would have been the better part of an hour ago. She must have expected someone to meet her, but no one had.

When she stepped toward him, Grant spared her a longer glance because she was a pretty little thing, even though her dark brown hair hung in bedraggled strings from beneath her black bonnet and twisted into tangled curls around her chin. Her face was so dirty the blue of her eyes shined almost like the heart of a flame in a sooty lantern.

Grant stared at her for a moment. He recognized something in her eyes. If she’d been a child and looked at him with those eyes, he’d have taken her home and raised her.

Then the children drew his attention away from the tired, young lady.

Martha Norris shook her head. “You can’t handle any more, Grant. We’ll find someone, I promise. I won’t quit until I do.”

“I know that’s the honest truth.” Grant knew Martha had to protest; good sense dictated it. But she’d hand the young’uns over. “And God bless you for it. But this is the end of the line for the orphan train. You can’t do anything until you get back to New York. I’m not going to let these children take that ride.”

“Actually, Libby joined us after we’d left New York. It was a little irregular, but it’s obvious the child needs a home.” Martha kept looking at him shaking her head.

“Irregular how?” He tucked his tattered gloves behind his belt buckle.

“She stowed away.” Martha glanced at Libby. “It was the strangest thing. I never go back to the baggage car, but one of the children tore a hole in his pants. My sewing kit is always in the satchel I carry with me. I was sure I had it, but it was nowhere to be found. So I knew I’d most likely left it with my baggage. I went back to fetch it so I could mend the seam and found her hiding in amongst the trunks.”

Grant was reaching for the buttons on his coat, but he froze. “Are you sure she isn’t running away from home?” His stomach twisted when he thought of a couple of his children who had run off over the years. He’d been in a panic until he’d found them. “She might have parents somewhere, worried to death about her.”

“She had a note in her pocket explaining everything. I feel certain she’s an orphan. And I don’t know how long she was back there. She could have been riding with us across several states. I sent telegraphs to every station immediately, and I’m planning on leaving a note at each stop on my way back, but I hold out no hope that a family is searching for her.” Martha sighed as if she wanted to fall asleep on her feet.

Grant realized it wasn’t just the children who had a long ride ahead of them. One corner of Grant’s lips turned up. “Quit looking at me like that, Martha, or I’ll be thinking I have to adopt you so you don’t have to face the trip.”

Martha, fifty if she was a day, laughed. “I ought to take you up on that. You need someone to come out there and take your ranch in hand. Without a wife, who’s going to cook for all these children?”

“You’ve been out. You know how we run things. Everybody chips in.” The snow was getting heavier, and the wind blew a large helping of it down Grant’s neck. Grant ignored the cold in the manner of men who fought the elements for their living and won. He went back to unbuttoning his coat, then shrugged it off and dropped it on the boy’s shoulders. It hung most of the way to the ground.

Charlie tried to give the coat back. “I don’t want your coat, mister.”

Taking a long look at Charlie’s defiant expression, Grant fairly growled. “Keep it.”

Charlie held his gaze for a moment before he looked away. “Thank you.”

Grant gave his Stetson a quick tug to salute the boy’s manners. Snow sprang into the air as the brim of his hat snapped down and up. He watched it be swept up and around by the whipping wind then filter down around his face, becoming part of the blizzard that was getting stronger and meaner every moment.

Martha nodded. “If they limited the number of children one man could take, you’d be over it for sure.”

Grant controlled a shudder of cold as he pulled on his gloves. “Well, thank heavens there’s no limit. The oldest boy and the two older girls are just a year or so away from being out on their own. One of them’s even got a beau. I really need three more to take their places, but I’ll settle for two.”

Martha looked from one exhausted, filthy child to the other then looked back at Grant. “The ride back would be terribly hard on them.”

Grant crouched down in front of the children, sorry for the clink of his spurs which had a harsh sound and might frighten the little girl. Hoping his smile softened his grizzled appearance enough to keep the little girl from running scared, he said, “Well, what kind of man would I be if I stood by watching while something was terribly hard on you two? How’d you like to come out and live on my ranch? I’ve got other kids there, and you’ll fit right in to our family.”

“They’re not going to fit, Grant,” Martha pointed out through chattering teeth. “Your house is overflowing now.”

Grant had to admit she was right. “What difference does it make if we’re a little crowded, Martha? We’ll find room.”

The engineer swung out on the top step of the nearest car, hanging onto a handle in the open door of the huffing locomotive. “All aboard!”

The little girl looked fearfully between the train and Grant.

Looking at the way the little girl clung to Martha’s hand, Grant knew she didn’t want to go off with a strange man almost as much as she didn’t want to get back on that train.

“I’ll go with you.” The little boy narrowed his eyes as he moved to stand like a cranky guardian angel beside the girl.

Grant saw no hesitation in the scowling little boy, only concern for the girl. No fear. No second thoughts. He didn’t even look tired compared to the girl and Martha. He had intelligent blue eyes with the slyness a lot of orphans had. Not every child he’d adopted had made the adjustment without trouble. A lot of them took all of Grant’s prayers and patience. Grant smiled to himself. He had an unlimited supply of prayers, and the prayers helped him hang onto the patience.

Grant shivered under the lash of the blowing snow.

The boy shrugged out of the coat. “Take your coat back. The cold don’t bother me none.”

Grant stood upright and gently tugged the huge garment back around the boy’s neck and began buttoning it. “The cold don’t bother me none, neither. You’ll make a good cowboy, son. We learn to keep going no matter what the weather.” He wished he had another coat because the girl still looked miserable. Truth be told, he wouldn’t have minded one for himself.

Martha leaned close to Grant’s ear on the side away from the children. “Grant, you need to know that Libby hasn’t spoken a word since we found her. There was a note in her pocket that said she’s mute. She’s got a limp, too. It looks to me like she had a badly broken ankle some years ago that didn’t heal right. I’ll understand if you—”

Grant pulled away from Martha’s whispers as his eyebrows slammed together. Martha fell silent and gave him a faintly alarmed look. He tried to calm down before he spoke, matching her whisper. “You’re not going to insult me by suggesting I’d leave a child behind because she has a few problems, are you?”

Martha studied him then her expression relaxed. Once more she whispered, “No Grant. But you did need to be told. The only reason I know her name is because it was on the note. Libby pulled it out of her coat pocket as if she’d done it a thousand times, so chances are this isn’t a new problem, which probably means it’s permanent.”

Grant nodded his head with one taut jerk. “Obliged for the information then. Sorry I got testy.” Grant did his best to make it sound sincere, but it hurt, cut him right to the quick, for Martha to say such a thing to him after all these years.

“No, I’m sorry I doubted you.” Martha rested one hand on his upper arm. “I shouldn’t have, not even for a second.”

Martha eased back and spoke normally again. “We think Libby’s around six.” She swung Libby’s little hand back and forth, giving the girl an encouraging smile.

All Grant’s temper melted away as he looked at the child. “Hello, Libby.” Crouching back down to the little girl’s eye level, he gave the shivering tyke all of his attention.

Too tiny for six and too thin for any age, she had long dark hair caught in a single bedraggled braid and blue eyes awash in fear and wishes. Her nose and cheeks were chapped and red. Her lips trembled. Grant hoped it was from the cold and not from looking at the nasty man who wanted to take her away.

“I think you’ll like living on my ranch. I’ve got the biggest backyard to play in you ever saw. Why, the Rocking C has a mountain rising right up out of the back door. You can collect eggs from the chickens. I’ve got some other kids and they’ll be your brothers and sisters, and we’ve got horses you can ride.”

Libby’s eyes widened with interest, but she never spoke. Well, he’d had ’em shy before.

“I can see you’ll like that. I’ll start giving you riding lessons as soon as the snow lets up.” Grant ran his hand over his grizzled face. “I should have shaved and made myself more presentable for you young’uns. I reckon I’m a scary sight. But the cattle were acting up this morning. There’s a storm coming, and it makes ’em skittish. By the time I could get away, I was afraid I’d miss the train.”

Grant took Libby’s little hand, careful not to move suddenly and frighten her, and rubbed her fingers on his whiskery face.

She snatched her hand away, but she grinned.

The smile transformed Libby’s face. She had eyes that had seen too much and square shoulders that had borne a lifetime of trouble. Grant vowed to himself that he’d devote himself to making her smile.

“I’ll shave it off before I give you your first good night kiss.”

The smile faded, and Libby looked at him with such longing Grant’s heart turned over with a father’s love for his new daughter. She’d gotten to him even faster than they usually did.

Martha reached past Libby to rest her hand on the boy’s shoulder. “And Charlie is eleven.”

Grant pivoted a bit on his toes and looked at Charlie again. A good-looking boy, but so skinny he looked like he’d blow over in a hard wind. Grant could fix that. The boy had flyaway blond hair that needed a wash and a trim. It was the hostility in his eyes that explained why he hadn’t found a home. Grant had seen that look before many times, including in a mirror.

As if he spoke to another man, Grant said, “Charlie, welcome to the family.”

Charlie shrugged as if being adopted meant nothing to him. “Are we supposed to call you pa?”

“That’d be just fine.” Grant looked back at the little girl. “Does that suit you, Libby?”

Libby didn’t take her lonesome eyes off Grant, but she pressed herself against Martha’s leg as if she wanted to disappear into Martha’s long wool coat.

The engineer shouted, “All aboard!” The train whistle sounded. A blast of steam shot across the platform a few feet ahead of them.

Libby jumped and let out a little squeak of surprise. Grant noted that the little girl’s voice worked, so most likely she didn’t talk for reasons of her own, not because of an injury. He wondered if she’d seen something so terrible she couldn’t bear to speak of it.

The boy reached his hand out for Libby. “We’ve been together for a long time, Libby. We can go together to the ranch. I’ll take care of you.”

Libby looked at Charlie as if he were a knight in shining armor. After some hesitation, she released her death grip on Martha and caught Charlie’s hand with both of hers.

“Did I hear you correctly?” A sharp voice asked from over Grant’s shoulder. “Are you allowing this man to adopt these children?”

Startled, Grant stood, turned, and bumped against a soft, cranky woman. He almost knocked her onto her backside—the lady who’d been waiting at the depot. He grabbed her or she’d have fallen on the slippery wood. Grant steadied her, warm and alive in his hands.


My Review - Gingham Mountain

GINGHAM MOUNTAIN is the third book in the Lassoed in Texas series by Mary Connealy. In GINGHAM MOUNTAIN we follow Hannah Cartwright, an orphan herself, who mothers Libby, an orphan she has cared for and protected. Stowing away on an orphan train, she is shocked when she and Libby get to the end of the line in Sour Springs, Texas and finds out a bachelor rancher has adopted Libby. When she finds out Grant is known for adopting orphans, she is sure he is abusing this children and only using them for laborers on his ranch. She decides to stay on in Sour Springs, masquerading as the new school teacher in order to keep an eye on Libby and prove Grant is up to no good.
Grant, a man with no last name, knows firsthand about the life of a discarded child. Growing up most of his life as an orphan, he vows to help give a home to any child that he can. He is unnerved by the constant interference by Hannah Cartwright, the new school teacher. Knowing she thinks of him as a taskmaster to his adopted children, he tries to put her interference out of his mind. But somehow, he can’t quite ignore the lovely woman who is determined to prove him to be a fiend.
GINGHAM MOUNTAIN is a fun read, much like CALICO CANYON and PETTICOAT RANCH, though I did think the portrayal of Grace, Hannah’s older sister did her no justice. If you hadn’t read CALICO RANCH previously, you would’ve thought by her actions in GINGHAM MOUNTAIN that Grace was a crazy woman who cared nothing for her husband and family. The side story of the seamstress after Grant for his land was an interesting twist but somehow unnecessary. Overall an easy read with colorful characters.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


This Side of Heaven

Center Street (January 6, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America's #1 inspirational novelist. She's written more than thirty novels, ten of which have hit #1 on bestseller lists, and her Center Street novel Just Beyond the Clouds hit #13 on the New York Times bestseller list. There are nearly seven million copies of her award-winning books in print, including more than two million copies sold last year alone. She lives in Washington state with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Center Street (January 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599956780
ISBN-13: 978-1599956787

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




My Review - This Side of Heaven

THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN by Karen Kingsbury reminds me of some of her early works, in that it isn’t a novel with a storybook ending. Josh Warren, is a young man– that through choices of his own and a few bad breaks –finds himself alone, overweight, working as a tow trucker driver, and a disappointment in the eyes of his parents. Life isn’t exactly turning out the way he wanted, but he’s hopeful that he can turn things around. Suffering from excruciating pain caused when a drunk driver hits him on the job, Josh awaits the insurance settlement that’s going to get him back on track. But more than the money, it’s the determination Josh has to find Savannah– the daughter he fathered on a weekend fling –so he can be the daddy she deserves. Nate and Annie Warren struggle with the life their son is leading. They refuse to believe that Savannah is Josh’s daughter, and even more disappointed that he put himself in such an immoral position. Unable to work because of his accident, Annie fears he’s addicted to OxyContin and doing nothing to get his life together. Soon, everything changes for Nate, Annie, and their daughter, Lindsay. To late, they learn that their son, in his own simple way was a good friend to his handicapped and elderly neighbors, and helps one of his online friends find Christ. Feeling as if she didn’t know her son at all, Annie delves into Josh’s life to find the son she ignored.Without spoiling the story, I will just say that THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN was shocking, leaving me angry at times and in tears others. As you read the beginning chapters, you map out in your mind where the story is going to go, only to have it take an enormous left turn. As I read with frustration the next several chapters, the story pulled me back in and allowed me to have some solace in the ending. The only negative I would have to offer is the timeline for the severing of parental rights and adoption. My son and daughter have lived this story. And even though the mother was proven to be incompetent, it took a year for the courts to finally severe her rights and allow my kids to move into the adoption process – which will take another year. Other than that, THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN, though bittersweet, is a great example of the tragedies of life, and though Christian’s aren’t exempt from these heartbreaks, we are able to feel the love and mercy God offers us in these times of heartache.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


John's Quest (Maryland Wedding Series #1)

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Currently she resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.

Don't miss the second book in the Maryland Wedding Series, Milk Money!

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

Mass Market Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602600066
ISBN-13: 978-1602600065

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The loud banging at Monica Crawford’s front door awakened her. Forcing herself out of bed, she glanced at the clock and saw it was two in the morning.

“I’m coming!”

She ran to the door. Looking through the peephole, Monica saw her little sister Gina smiling at her.

Her heart pounded as she opened the door, gripping the knob. “What are you doing here?” Playing an internal game of tug-of-war, she wondered if she should hug her sister or slam the door in her face. Humid heat rushed into the air-conditioned living room. She stared at Gina, still awaiting her response.

“It’s nice to see you too, sister.” Gina pursed her full, red-painted lips and motioned at the child standing beside her. “Go on in, Scotty.”

Gina had brought her seven-year-old son with her. Dark shades hid his sightless eyes. “Aunt Monica!” he called.

Monica released a small cry as she dropped to her knees and embraced him. “I’m here, Scotty.” Tears slid down her cheeks as she hugged the child. Since Gina had cut herself off from immediate family for the last two years, Monica had wondered when she would see Scotty again. “You remember me?” Her heart continued to pound as she stared at her nephew. His light, coffee-colored skin glowed.

“Yeah, I remember you. When mom said I was going to live here, I wanted to come so we could go to the beach in Ocean City.”

Shocked, Monica stared at Gina who was rummaging through her purse. Gina pulled out a cigarette and lighter. Seconds later she was puffing away, gazing into the living room. “You got an ashtray?”

Monica silently prayed, hoping she wouldn’t lose her temper. “Gina, you know I don’t allow smoking in this house.”

Gina shrugged. After a bit of coaxing, she dropped the cigarette on the top step and ground it beneath the heel of her shoe. “I need to talk to you about something.”

Scotty entered the house and wandered through the room, ignoring the adults as he touched objects with his fingers. After Monica fed Scotty a snack and let him fall asleep in the guest bedroom, she confronted Gina.

“Where have you been for the last two years?”

Gina strutted around the living room in her tight jeans, her high heels making small imprints in the plush carpet. “I’ve been around. I was mad because Mom and Dad tried to get custody of Scotty, tried to take me to court and say I was an unfit mother.”

Groaning, Monica plopped onto the couch, holding her head in her hands. “That’s why you haven’t been speaking to me or Mom and Dad for two years?” When Gina sat beside her, Monica took her sister’s chin into her hand and looked into her eyes. “You know you were wrong. Mom and Dad tried to find you. They were worried about Scotty.”

Jerking away, Gina placed a few inches between herself and Monica. “They might have cared about Scotty, but they didn’t care about me.” Gina swore under her breath and rummaged in her purse. Removing a mint, she popped it into her mouth.

“They were worried about you and Scotty,” Monica explained. “You were living with that terrible man. He didn’t work, and he was high on drugs. We didn’t want anything to happen to the two of you.”

Gina’s lips curled into a bitter smirk. “Humph. Me and Scotty are just fine.” She glanced up the stairs. “You saw him. Does he look neglected to you?”

She continued to stare at Gina, still not believing she was here to visit in the middle of the night. “What do you want? What did Scotty mean when he said he was coming here to live?”

Gina frowned as she toyed with the strap of her purse. “I want you to keep Scotty for me. Will you?”

Monica jerked back. “What? Why can’t you take care of your own son? Did that crackhead you were living with finally go off the deep end?”

Gina shook her head. “No, we’re not even together anymore. It’s just that. . .” She paused, staring at the crystal vase of red roses adorning the coffee table. “I’m getting married.”

Monica’s heart skipped a beat. “Married?”

Gina nodded, her long minibraids moving with the motion of her head. “Yeah, his name is Randy, and he’s outside now, waiting for me in the car.”

Monica raised her eyebrows, suddenly suspicious. “Why didn’t you bring him inside? Are you ashamed of him?”

Gina shook her head. “No. But we’re in a hurry tonight, and I didn’t want to waste time with formalities.”

“You still haven’t told me why you can’t keep Scotty. Does your fiancĂ© have a problem with having a blind child in his house?”

Gina scowled as she clutched her purse, her dark eyes darting around the room. “No, that’s not it at all.”

“Uh-huh, whatever you say.” She could always sense when Gina was lying. Her body language said it all.

“Really, it’s not Scotty’s blindness that bothers Randy. It’s just that—he’s a trapeze artist in the National African-American Circus and they’re traveling around constantly.” Her dark eyes lit up as she talked about her fiancĂ©. “This year they’ll be going international. Can you imagine me traveling around the globe with Randy? We’ll be going to Paris, London, Rome—all those fancy European places!” She grabbed Monica’s arm. “We’d love to take Scotty, but we can’t afford to hire a tutor for him to travel with us.”

“You’re going to marry some man and travel with a circus?!” Monica shook her head, wondering when her sister would grow up. At twenty-seven, she acted as if she were still a teenager. Since Monica was ten years older, she’d always been the responsible sibling, making sure Gina behaved herself.

Gina grabbed Monica’s shoulder. “But I’m in love with him!” Her eyes slid over Monica as if assessing her. “You’ve never been in love? I think it’s odd that you’re thirty-seven and you never got married.”

Monica closed her eyes for a brief second as thoughts of her single life filled her mind. Since her breakup with her serious boyfriend two years ago, she’d accepted that God wanted her to remain single, and she spent her free time at church in various ministries. She filled her time praising God and serving Him, and she had no regrets for the life she led. But whenever one of the church sisters announced an engagement, she couldn’t stop the pang of envy that sliced through her.

Forcing the thoughts from her mind, she focused on Gina again. “This discussion is not about me. It’s about you. You can’t abandon Scotty. He loves you.”

Gina turned away, as if ashamed of her actions. “I know he does, and I love him, too. But I really want things to work out with Randy, and it won’t work with Scotty on the road with us. He needs special education since he’s blind.”

Her heart immediately went out to Scotty. She touched Gina’s shoulder. “Scotty knows you’re getting married?”

Gina nodded. “I didn’t tell him how long I would be gone, but I told him I’d call and visit. Please do this for me.” Her sister touched her arm, and her dark eyes pleaded with her. She opened her purse and gave Monica some papers. “I’ve already had the power of attorney papers signed and notarized so that you can take care of him.” She pressed the papers into Monica’s hand.

“How long will you be gone?” asked Monica.

“The power of attorney lasts for six months. Hopefully by then me and Randy will be more settled. I’m hoping after the world tour he’ll leave the circus and find a regular job.”
Monica frowned, still clutching the legal documents.

“Please do this for me, Monica,” she pleaded again.

She reluctantly nodded. If she didn’t take care of Scotty, she didn’t know who would.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Rose Conspiracy

Harvest House Publishers (January 15, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Craig Parshall is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, and the author of six legal–suspense novels: the five books in the Chambers of Justice series, and the stand–alone Trial by Ordeal. He speaks nationally on legal and Christian worldview issues and is a magazine columnist. He has coauthored five books with his wife, Janet, including the historical novels Crown of Fire and Captives and Kings.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736915141
ISBN-13: 978-0736915144

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The driver behind the steering wheel was sweating like a hunter in the dripping heat of the jungle.

But this was a very different kind of jungle.

It was five minutes before midnight, and the car was cruising along the marble-and-monument-studded streets of the Capitol Hill district of Washington DC. The driver was tugging at a collar edge. Drops of perspiration trickled down back and torso, even with the air conditioning on. Maybe it was the freakish heat wave that had hit the city, causing brownouts and power failures across the city. Maybe it was something else…the nasty assignment that had to be taken care of. When the trigger was pulled, and it was all over, the long-missing pages of John Wilkes Booth’s personal diary would then be in the grip of someone else’s hand.

Yet the driver knew what was actually at stake that night. And it really wasn’t about the Booth diary. Or even the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at the hand of a Confederate radical. The note that was about to be seized contained a message with ramifications far beyond any of that.

Sweltering temperatures had suffocated Washington with a relentless haze of humidity that week. Even though it was only June, temperatures were in the low hundreds during the day and in the nineties at night.

The only thing cool to the touch was the white marble of the statues and monuments. The driver steered past the Lincoln Monument and then slowed the car slightly. As usual, interior lights illuminated the massive likeness of Abraham Lincoln in his great marble chair. Once past the monument, the car picked up speed, entered Constitution Avenue, and started heading toward the National Mall. The destination was the Castle, the nineteenth-century red-brick building full of turrets and spires where the administrative headquarters of the Smithsonian Institution were housed.

The driver parked the car a block away and walked quickly to the side entrance of the Castle—then, reaching the door, quickly tapped a code into the security panel. The lock clicked open.

Upstairs, the lights were still on in the office of Horace Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was working late.

But the object of his work that night was not business as usual.

Only moments before, Langley had opened his safe and pulled out a metal case containing a folder enclosed within a plastic zip bag. Now he was studying the contents—eighteen pages from the diary of John Wilkes Booth. They had been missing for nearly one hundred and fifty years. Their disappearance had occurred suspiciously, about the same time as the federal investigation into the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was taking place. Booth’s diary had been taken when the assassin was captured and killed. But at the time at least one witness swore that eighteen pages had been removed from it.

That was the point at which those pages seemed to have vanished forever.

Then, a century and a half later, the granddaughter and sole heir of a farmer in central Virginia went rummaging through her grandfather’s attic after his death and happened upon some boxes of old letters and papers. But one sheaf of papers looked different. While much of the writing on them was faded and undecipherable to the layman’s eye, a reference to Abraham Lincoln was visible. In his will, the farmer had given everything to his granddaughter—except the papers. Those, he said, must go to the Smithsonian Institution.

After some wrangling with lawyers, the eighteen pages were transferred to the Smithsonian. Horace Langley had succeeded in keeping the discovery from being leaked to the press, even though he was thoroughly convinced that the pages belonged to the Booth diary.

That June evening, as Langley studied the pages in his office, he knew that some eight hours hence, a council of epigraphers and historians were scheduled to convene and, for the first time, to study the Booth diary entries in that same office.

But he had to get the first look.

He had a pair of white gloves on as he studied the brittle pages, yellowed from age. A pad of paper lay on the desk in front of him, next to his pen. There was a glass of water off to the side.

Langley then began to slowly, painstakingly, write down something on the notepad.

Just a few lines of writing.

He paused to study carefully what he had written.

Then he heard something. He looked up, half-expecting a late-night visitor. “I wasn’t sure I would see you,” was all Horace Langley had a chance to say.

The individual who had entered through the side door below was now standing in front of Langley holding a handgun with a silencer—and proceeded to fire two clean shots directly into the left upper quadrant of Langley’s chest.

The Secretary started to grope upward with his arm, trying to touch the injured area of his chest, but failing. He fell backward into his chair, slumped, and then fell to the floor, where he collapsed on his back, surrounded by an expanding pool of blood.

The shooter stepped over to the desk, picked up the Booth diary pages, placed them back in the plastic zip bag, and put that into a larger bag. The killer snatched the pad of paper, ripped off the top page that had Langley’s writing on it and then another page for good measure, and put them also into the bag. Then the killer placed the pad of paper back on the desk with a clean page exposed as Langley lay dying on the floor, making a final gurgling, gasping sound. Before leaving the room, the shooter paused only for a moment at Langley’s desk, gazing down at the empty drinking glass that was resting there.

Then, exiting quickly through the same side door below where entrance had been made a few minutes before, Langley’s killer made a perfect getaway.

The security guards didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until twenty-five minutes later, when one of them was making the rounds and stopped to check in on the Secretary. He caught sight of Horace Langley’s feet protruding past the edge of the desk. And the feet in Langley’s dress shoes were absolutely still.

As still as the marble and bronze statues of the famous men that were frozen in time, scattered as monuments across Washington, and that were illuminated by the halogen street lights that buzzed overhead in the suffocating heat of the night.

My Review: The Rose Conspiracy

THE ROSE CONSPIRACY by Craig Parshsall is a calculated story of intrigue and suspense, with a historical spin that fascinates.


When the head of the Smithsonian Institute is murdered–while study missing pages from the famed John Wilkes Booth diary– a conspiracy is expected. Vinnie Archmont, a free-spirited and beautiful artist is implicated, and soon retains brilliant law professor J.D. Blackstone to prove her innocence. Convinced that Vinnie is being set up, J.D. embarks on a journey of discovery that points to the mystical and secretive practices of the Freemasons, a wealthy Lord in England, and possible corruption within the Washington, D.C. police force. With a sentence of death hanging over Vinnie’s head, and a growing attraction to the eccentric artist, J.D. leaves no stone unturned in her defense. Soon, J.D. finds not only his career at stake, but his life as well.


THE ROSE CONSPIRACY was a fascinating read. Its historical content dealing with the Freemasons made for a thought provoking novel that challenged your own thinking. Though romance is hinted at, it is never fully developed making this an exceptional novel for men who don’t like fiction that gets bogged down with personal relationships. I, myself, would have liked to see these storylines more prominent, but this did not dampen my interest in the book. The secondary characters in Professor Lamb–J.D.’s uncle, and Julia–J.D.’s law partner humanizes J.D. when he could’ve otherwise be seen as a one dimensional lawyer with a single pursuit in life. Though a Christian novel, the only person with a true faith in God is looked at as a daft enthusiast with unrealistic beliefs. Only when J.D. is willing to face the guilt from his past does he open himself up to the possible belief of eternal life.