Monday, August 17, 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 Blue Enchantress

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)


M.L. Tyndall, a Christy Award Finalist, and best-selling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series is known for her adventurous historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. She holds a degree in Math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years before testing the waters as a writer. MaryLu currently writes full time and makes her home on the California coast with her husband, six kids, and four cats.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601577
ISBN-13: 978-1602601574


The Blue Enchantress by M.L. Tyndall
Chapter 1

St. Kitts, September 1718

“Gentlemen, what will ye offer for this rare treasure of a lady?” The words crashed over Hope Westcott like bilge water. “Why, she’ll make any of ye a fine wife, a cook, a housemaid”—the man gave a lascivious chuckle—“whate’er ye desire.”

“How ’bout someone to warm me bed at night,” one man bellowed, and a cacophony of chortles gurgled through the air.

Hope slammed her eyes shut against the mob of men who pressed on three sides of the tall wooden platform, shoving one another to get a better peek at her. Something crawled over her foot, and she pried her eyes open, keeping her face lowered. A black spider skittered away. Red scrapes and bruises marred her bare feet. When had she lost her satin shoes—the gold braided ones she’d worn to impress Lord Falkland? She couldn’t recall.

“What d’ye say? How much for this fine young lady?” The man grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back. Pain, like a dozen claws, pierced her skull. “She’s a handsome one, to be sure. And these golden locks.” He attempted to slide his fingers through her matted strands, but before becoming hopelessly entangled in them, he jerked his hand free, wrenching out a clump of her hair. Hope winced. “Have ye seen the likes of them?”

Ribald whistles and groans of agreement spewed over her.

“Two shillings,” one man yelled.

Hope dared to glance across the throng amassing before the auction block. A wild sea of lustful eyes sprayed over her. A band of men dressed in garments stained with dirt and sweat bunched toward the front, yelling out bids. Behind them, other men in velvet waistcoats leaned their heads together, no doubt to discuss the value of this recent offering, while studying her as if she were a breeding mare. Slaves knelt in the dirt along the outskirts of the mob, waiting for their masters. Beyond them, a row of wooden buildings stretched in either direction. Brazen women emerged from a tavern and draped themselves over the railings, watching Hope’s predicament with interest. On the street, ladies in modish gowns averted their eyes as they tugged the men on their arms from the sordid scene.

Hope lowered her head. This can’t be happening. I’m dreaming. I am still on the ship. Just a nightmare. Only a nightmare. Humiliation swept over her with an ever-rising dread as the reality of her situation blasted its way through her mind.

She swallowed hard and tried to drown out the grunts and salacious insults tossed her way by the bartering rabble. Perhaps if she couldn’t hear them, if she couldn’t see them, they would disappear and she would wake up back home, safe in Charles Towne, safe in her bedchamber, safe with her sisters, just like she was before she’d put her trust in a man who betrayed her.

“Egad, man. Two shillings, is it? For this beauty?” The auctioneer spit off to the side. The yellowish glob landed on Hope’s skirt. Her heart felt as though it had liquefied into an equally offensive blob and oozed down beside it.

How did I get here? In her terror, she could not remember. She raised her gaze to the auctioneer. Cold eyes, hard like marbles, met hers, and a sinister grin twisted his lips. He adjusted his tricorn to further shade his chubby face from the burning sun.

“She looks too feeble for any real work,” another man yelled.

The sounds of the crowd dimmed. The men’s fists forged into the air as if pushing through mud. Garbled laughter drained from their yellow-toothed mouths like molasses. Hope’s heart beat slower, and she wished for death.

The gentle lap of waves caressed her ears, their peaceful cadence drawing her away. Tearing her gaze from the nightmarish spectacle, she glanced over her shoulder, past the muscled henchmen who’d escorted her here. Two docks jutted out into a small bay brimming with sparkling turquoise water where several ships rocked back and forth as if shaking their heads at her in pity. Salt and papaya and sun combined in a pleasant aroma that lured her mind away from her present horror.

Her eyes locked upon the glimmering red and gold figurine of Ares at the bow of Lord Falkland’s ship. She blinked back the burning behind her eyes. When she’d boarded it nigh a week past—or was it two weeks—all her hopes and dreams had boarded with her. Somewhere along the way, they had been cast into the depths of the sea. She only wished she had joined them. Although the ship gleamed majestically in the bay, all she had seen of it for weeks had been the four walls of a small cabin below deck.

The roar of the crowd wrenched her mind back to the present and turned her face forward.

“Five shillings.”

“’Tis robbery, and ye know it,” the auctioneer barked. “Where are any of ye clods goin’ t’ find a real lady like this?”

A stream of perspiration raced down Hope’s back as if seeking escape. But there was no escape. She was about to be sold as a slave, a harlot to one of these cruel and prurient taskmasters. A fate worse than death. A fate her sister had fought hard to keep her from. A fate Hope had brought upon herself. Numbness crept over her even as her eyes filled with tears. Oh God. This can’t be happening.

She gazed upward at the blue sky dusted with thick clouds, hoping for some deliverance, some sign that God had not abandoned her.

The men continued to haggle, their voices booming louder and louder, grating over her like the howls of demons.

Her head felt like it had detached from her body and was floating up to join the clouds. Palm trees danced in the light breeze coming off the bay. Their tall trunks and fronds formed an oscillating blur of green and brown. The buildings, the mob, and the whole heinous scene joined the growing mass and began twirling around Hope. Her legs turned to jelly, and she toppled to the platform.

“Get up!” A sharp crack stung her cheek. Two hands like rough rope clamped over her arms and dragged her to her feet. Pain lanced through her right foot where a splinter had found a home. Holding a hand to her stinging face, Hope sobbed.

The henchman released her with a grunt of disgust.

“I told ye she won’t last a week,” one burly man shouted.

“She ain’t good for nothing but to look at.”

Planting a strained grin upon his lips, the auctioneer swatted her rear end. “Aye, but she’s much more stout than she appears, gentlemen.”

Horrified and no longer caring about the repercussions, Hope slapped the man’s face. He raised his fist, and she cowered. The crowd roared its mirth.

“One pound, then,” a tall man sporting a white wig called out. “I could use me a pretty wench.” Withdrawing a handkerchief, he dabbed at the perspiration on his forehead.

Wench. Slave. Hope shook her head, trying to force herself to accept what her mind kept trying to deny. A sudden surge of courage, based on naught but her instinct to survive, stiffened her spine. She thrust out her chin and faced the auctioneer. “I beg your pardon, sir. There’s been a mistake. I am no slave.”

“Indeed?” He cocked one brow and gave her a patronizing smirk.

Hope searched the horde for a sympathetic face—just one. “My name is Miss Hope Westcott,” she shouted. “My father is Admiral Henry Westcott. I live in Charles Towne with my two sisters.”

“And I’m King George,” a farmer howled, slapping his knee.

“My father will pay handsomely for my safe return.” Hope scanned the leering faces. Not one. Not one look of sympathy or belief or kindness. Fear crawled up her throat. She stomped her foot, sending a shard of pain up her leg. “You must believe me,” she sobbed. “I don’t belong here.”

Ignoring the laughter, Hope spotted a purple plume fluttering in the breeze atop a gold-trimmed hat in the distance. “Arthur!” She darted for the stairs but two hands grabbed her from behind and held her in place. “Don’t leave me! Lord Falkland!” She struggled in her captor’s grasp. His grip tightened, sending a throbbing ache across her back.

Swerving about, Lord Falkland tapped his cane into the dirt and tipped the brim of his hat up, but the distance between them forbade Hope a vision of his expression.

“Tell them who I am, Arthur. Please save me!”

He leaned toward the woman beside him and said something, then coughed into his hand. What is he doing? The man who once professed an undying love for Hope, the man who promised to marry her, to love her forever, the man who bore the responsibility for her being here in the first place. How could he stand there and do nothing while she met such a hideous fate?

The elegant lady beside him turned her nose up at Hope, then, threading her arm through Lord Falkland’s, she wheeled him around and pulled him down the road.

Hope watched him leave, and with each step of his cordovan boots, her heart and her very soul sank deeper into the wood of the auction block beneath her feet.

Nothing made any sense. Had the world gone completely mad?

“Two pounds,” a corpulent man in the back roared.

A memory flashed through Hope’s mind as she gazed across the band of men. A vision of African slaves, women and children, being auctioned off in Charles Towne. How many times had she passed by, ignoring them, uncaring, unconcerned by the proceedings?

Was this God’s way of repaying her for her selfishness, her lack of charity?

“Five pounds.”

Disappointed curses rumbled among the men at the front, who had obviously reached their limit of coin.

The auctioneer’s mouth spread wide, greed dripping from its corners. “Five pounds, gentlemen. Do I hear six for this lovely lady?”

A blast of hot air rolled over Hope, stealing her breath. Human sweat, fish, and horse manure filled her nose and saturated her skin. The unforgiving sun beat a hot hammer atop her head until she felt she would ignite into a burning torch at any moment. Indeed, she prayed she would. Better to be reduced to a pile of ashes than endure what the future held for her.

“Six pounds,” a short man with a round belly and stiff brown wig yelled from the back of the mob in a tone that indicated he knew what he was doing and had no intention of losing his prize. Decked in the a fine damask waistcoat, silk breeches, and a gold-chained pocket watch, which he kept snapping open and shut, he exuded wealth and power from his pores.

Hope’s stomach twisted into a vicious knot, and she clutched her throat to keep from heaving whatever shred of moisture remained in her empty stomach.

The auctioneer gaped at her, obviously shocked she could command such a price. Rumblings overtook the crowd as the short man pushed his way through to claim his prize. The closer he came, the faster Hope’s chest heaved and the lighter her head became. Blood pounded in her ears, drowning out the groans of the mob. No, God. No.

“Do I hear seven?” the auctioneer bellowed. “She’s young and will breed you some fine sons.”

“Just what I’ll be needing.” The man halted at the platform, glanced over the crowd for any possible competitors, then took the stairs to Hope’s right. He halted beside her too close for propriety’s sake and assailed her with the stench of lard and tobacco. A long purple scar crossed his bloated, red face as his eyes grazed over her like a stallion on a breeding mare. Hope shuddered and gasped for a breath of air. Her palms broke out in a sweat, and she rubbed them on her already moist gown.

The auctioneer threw a hand to his hip and gazed over the crowd.

The man squeezed her arms, and Hope snapped from his grasp and took a step back, abhorred at his audacity. He chuckled. “Not much muscle on her, but she’s got pluck.”

He belched, placed his watch back into the fob pocket of his breeches, and removed a leather pouch from his belt. “Six pounds it is.”

The silver tip of a sword hung at his side. If Hope were quick about it, perhaps she could grab it and, with some luck, fight her way out of here. She clenched her teeth. Who was she trying to fool? Where was her pirate sister when she needed her? Surely Faith would know exactly what to do. Yet what did it matter? Hope would rather die trying to escape than become this loathsome man’s slave.

As the man counted out the coins into the auctioneer’s greedy hands, Hope reached for the sword.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Review - The Blue Entrantress

THE BLUE ENTRANTRESS, sequel to THE RED SIREN by MaryLu Tyndall does not disappoint, nor do the Westcott sisters. When we begin THE BLUE ENTRANTRESS, we find Hope Westcott on the auction block in St. Kitts. How did she find herself there, you ask? Unfortunately, Hope has always had problems making good choices. And when she decides to run after the man she loves, she gets the surprise of her life. When it seems she is destined to be sold as an indentured slave, Captain Nathaniel Mason, a man who knows her from Charles Towne, comes to her rescue. But the price he pays is steep. His ship for her freedom.

Hope is both amazed and grateful that Nathaniel – a man she wouldn’t give the time of day to in Charles Towne – would sacrifice so much on her behalf. But when Nathaniel finds out it was of Hope’s own doing that she found herself in her harrowing predicament, he’s angered that he lost so much for a woman who cares so little about anyone but herself. But Hope’s harrowing experiences don’t end there.

Surviving hurricanes, shipwreck, fever, and pirates, Hope finds herself drawn to Nathaniel. But when she so easily gives her attention to another, Nathaniel decides she will never change her ways, and tries to ignore his growing feelings for her.

I could not put THE BLUE ENTRANTRESS down. As with the rest of MaryLu’s books, she captivates you with lively characters, rich scenery, and explosive action. Her storytelling techniques are among the best in Christian fiction. My only regret . . . having to wait until Spring for THE RAVEN SAINT.

Review - Sweetwater Run by Jan Watson

SWEETWATER RUN by Jan Watson had good and not so good moments. While I enjoyed the character of Ace, and the dangerous relationship between Darcy and Henry Thomas, I found Cara to be uninteresting and lackluster. I feel Jan Watson would have done better to have the focus of the book be on Darcy, than on Cara who pines for a husband carted off after being falsely accused. Even the injustice Cara’s husband faced with the trumped up charge of stealing was at the hand of Henry Thomas, a more interesting character. I would have put the book down on several occasions if not for the obligation I felt in finishing it and reviewing it as promised. Though the last third of the book kept my interest with multiple scenes of action, I’m afraid it might be too little or too late for some readers. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. And though I really wanted to like the story and the characters Jan created, it didn’t hold my interest like I had hoped it would.

Thursday, August 06, 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:

Sweetwater Run

Tyndale House Publishers (July 6, 2009)


Jan Watson is the award-winning author of the 2004 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. She received the award for Troublesome Creek, her first novel in a three-book historical series, and the prize included a publishing contract with Tyndale House. Tyndale also published the sequels, Willow Springs and Torrent Falls. A retired registered nurse of 25 years, Jan lives in Kentucky. She has three grown sons and a daughter-in-law.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (July 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414323859
ISBN-13: 978-1414323855


March had come in like a lion, and the lamb was nowhere to be found though the month was nearly over. Clouds the color of tarnished silver hung low over the eastern Kentucky mountains, spitting hard grains of snow. Cara Wilson Whitt stood on the porch wrapped in a knit mantle, disbelieving the scene in the yard. Six men gestured and talked in loud voices, the chief one being her husband. Dimm was not a talker. He never wasted words, but now he raised his voice standing his ground.

There was the sheriff, a lawyer, the two accusers—Anvil and Walker Wheeler—her brother-in-law, Ace, and Dimm. And, oh yes, the cause of all the commotion: Pancake the mule.

Cara wondered for the thousandth time how it had come to this. How was it that Dimmert was in danger of losing his freedom for stealing his own mule? Ace had cautioned Dimmert about tangling with the Wheelers—perhaps his mule had wandered onto Wheeler property and they commandeered it, more or less. But Dimm knew his mule didn’t stray. His animals were so well fed and pampered they had no reason to look for greener pasture. It ate at Dimm and he took to spying on the Wheelers. One day he saw Walker Wheeler take a club to Pancake when he balked at the traces, and he determined to get his animal back. It was either that or shoot Walker, and Dimm had never been given to violence.

When Dimmert relieved Anvil Wheeler of the mule, he didn’t even have to get the winter-withered apple from his pocket to lure Pancake from his pen; the mule was that glad to see him. Of course the Wheelers tracked the mule’s prints to Dimmert’s barn and turned the case over to the sheriff.

Cara paced, her feet drumming on the wooden porch floor. She wanted to be out there. Dimmert would listen to her. But she kept her place like a good wife should. “Don’t say nothing,” she wanted to shout to Dimmert but didn’t. “A mule ain’t worth going to jail over,” she would have cried out if a woman’s words counted in a yard full of men. Dimmert didn’t have much in the way of worldly possessions, but he had his pride. She knew better than to mess with that.

Ace sprinted to the porch. “We need that picture you had took, Cara, the one of you and Dimm with Pancake in the middle. Can you fetch it while I go down to the cellar for an apple?”

Sometime last year a traveling photographer had come by the place to make a picture of Dimmert and Cara. Dimm, of course, wanted Pancake in the picture. It was a nice portrait of Dimm in starched overalls and Cara in her Sunday dress with her hair swirled on top of her head—and Pancake’s long bony head hanging between their shoulders. Dimm and Cara were staring straight ahead, sober as a preacher at a brush arbor meeting; not a smile creased either countenance. But Pancake was a different story. His smile was big and horsey, showing lots of strong, square teeth and so lopsided it made you grin to look at it.

Cara could hardly bring herself to leave the porch. She didn’t want to tear her eyes off Dimm.

“I’ll go get it,” Dance, Ace’s wife, who kept watch with her, offered. “Where do you keep it, Cara?”

“It’s in the Bible in the corner cupboard,” Cara said.

Dance opened the door, and a welcome drift of warmth sailed out along with the excited voices of Dance and Ace’s children, who’d been sent in out of the cold. “You kids hush up,” she heard Dance say before she came back out.

Lickety-split, Ace was back at the scene. The sheriff took the picture and the apple. He studied the likeness for a bit, then held it up beside the face of the mule.

“Can’t they tell that’s Dimm’s mule?” she asked Dance. “Dimm don’t lie.”

“Lookee,” Dance replied. “There’s a brand on that critter’s rump.”

“Pancake doesn’t have a brand.”

“Exactly,” Dance said. “That Walker Wheeler’s gone and put his mark on Dimm’s mule.”

A cold wind railed around the side of the porch. Cara’s skirts billowed. She anchored them between her knees.

The sheriff handed the apple to Dimm, who held it just in front of Pancake’s long nose and did everything but stand on his head, but Pancake would not crack a grin or open his mouth for his favorite treat. The stubborn mule just stared balefully at Walker Wheeler, who was doing all the smiling today. Cara watched as Dimm laid his face alongside Pancake’s in his sweet, forgiving way.

Finally the sheriff gave it up. “Anvil, are you sure this here’s your mule?”

“Sure as I’m sure Walker is my son,” Anvil answered.

Walker guffawed, picking up the apple Dimmert had pitched to the ground and taking a big, crunching bite.

“What if Mr. Whitt just gives back this mule?” the sheriff asked. “I hate to take a man to jail over a simple misunderstanding.”

“I’d settle for that,” Anvil said. “That and an apology to Walker. Dimmert saying this mule’s his stock is the same as calling my son a liar.” He turned to Walker. “You don’t lie, do you, boy?”

Walker took another big, slurping bite. “No, Daddy, I surely don’t. I bought this here animal off old Clary Lumpkin two days before she died.”

“Then that’s that,” Anvil said.

“Dimmert?” the sheriff said.

Now it was Dimm’s turn to clamp his mouth shut like Pancake had done. Only his eyes did not stare balefully but instead shot sparks at Walker Wheeler.

“Come on, Dimm,” Ace pleaded. “It ain’t worth going to jail over.”

Dimm let loose a veritable torrent the one time he should have kept quiet. “This here’s my mule, Walker Wheeler. I know it and you know it! And you know you’re a bald-faced liar!”

A deaf owl could have heard the collective intake of breath at Dimm’s misguided speech. “I ain’t giving Pancake over.” Dimm stood his ground. “It will be a cold day in Satan’s shoes before I apologize to the sorry likes of you.”

“Well,” Anvil Wheeler said, “I gave you a chance. Walker, get the mule.”

Walker stood glued to his spot.

Quicker than a rabbit’s kick, Dimmert’s fist shot out and sucker punched Walker Wheeler. Bits of apple flew out of Walker’s surprised mouth as he toppled backward to the ground. Surely as caught off guard as Walker, the sheriff rushed at Dimm and wrestled his arms behind his back.

Dimmert gave no protest, however, but stood meekly with his wrists crossed behind his back.

Mumbling and fumbling, the sheriff trussed his hands. “That was plain ignorant, boy.”

Walker wasn’t hurt other than his pride, but he couldn’t resist throwing a taunt. “You’ll pay for that, you horse’s behind.”

“I’ll pay for more than that if you ever take a club to one of my animals again, Walker Wheeler,” Dimm said. “You see if I don’t.”

Next thing Cara knew, the Wheelers were leading Pancake away.

Ace ran back. “Come tell Dimmert good-bye,” he said to Cara.

“Good-bye?” she said. “I can’t tell my husband good-bye.”

Ace made to lead her off the porch.

She pushed his hand away. “Walker Wheeler stole the mule first,” she yelled and saw the sheriff look her way. “Dimmert did nothing wrong!”

“Cara,” Ace soothed, “don’t be making a scene. That lawyer, Henry Thomas, says he’ll get Dimmert out of the pokey pronto. All we’ll need to do is pay a fine. He says it’s just a formality.”

Tiny black spots shimmered in Cara’s vision. Her knees buckled. “Mercy, I feel like I’m going to faint.” She was glad now for her brother-in-law’s supporting arm.

“You can do this,” he said. “Come on. Dimmert needs to see you strong.”

Dance gave her a nudge. “Go on with Ace. You’ll be glad you done it later.”

“I’m so sorry, Cara-mine,” Dimmert said, his words so soft only Cara could hear. “I never aimed to leave you all alone.”

Cara wanted to lean into him. She wanted to let his strength absorb her weakness, but instead she drew herself up. “You’re not to worry for one minute. We’ll get this all sorted out.”

“Come on now, Whitt,” the sheriff said. “It’s time to get going.” Pellets of snow gathered in the crease of the sheriff’s black felt hat. His eyes met Cara’s. They were not unkind. “Mrs. Whitt, you can come to visit.”

Soon Dimmert was sitting on a pack horse behind the sheriff’s big bay mare. He didn’t look back as the horse was led away. Cara was grateful for that.


Three weeks later Cara tossed and turned the whole night long. The bed was big and lonesome what with Dimmert gone. Midnight found her on the porch of their small but sturdy cabin, staring out into the darkness like she could conjure up her husband if she gave concerted effort. It might not be so bad if she owned a rocking chair. Rocking soothed an unquiet mind. But she didn’t have a rocker, so her thoughts roiled like sour milk in a churn, and there wasn’t much comfort in the idea of visiting Dimm in jail.

She wouldn’t be so lonesome now if she wasn’t so isolated. What had possessed her to let Dimm drag her from their spacious three-room house on Troublesome Creek up here halfway to nowhere? Ah, but Cara already knew the answer to that. Dimmert Whitt was the sweetest man she ever laid eyes on. Plus, he had an interesting face, not really handsome but arresting, like you could study it all day and never get the least bit tired. And that gingery hair—the color of spice cake fresh from the oven—Cara was a sucker for that hair.

Still unable to sleep, she decided she was thirsty and got up for a drink. The screen door squeaked as she opened it and went to the water bucket on the wash shelf.

Taking a dipper of well water from the granite bucket, she drank it before giving in to a yawn, and then her feet traced the familiar path to bed. After a quick prayer for Dimm’s safety, she held his feather pillow close, like she would have held him if he were here.

The morning would be better. Morning’s first light always filled her with promise; seemed anything was possible then, even Dimm’s salvation. Thanks to her friend Miz Copper, she had radish and lettuce seed to set out in her spring garden. Nothing made a body feel better than a hoe in hand and fertile soil underfoot. Dimm was right about that part. This side of the mountain couldn’t be beat for growing things. Pulling the cotton quilt over her shoulders, she turned, seeking comfort.

As Cara drifted off to sleep, she thought of Copper Pelfrey and how good she was to come all the way from Troublesome to bring plants and seeds from her garden. When Cara had first spied the Pelfreys yon side of the creek, she got so excited she dropped her favorite yellowware bowl and broke it all to flinders. Now what would she mix her gritty bread in? Quick like, she’d tucked up her hair and hung her apron on the peg behind the door. She reckoned it’d been three weeks since she’d spoken to another soul—except for Ace Shelton, who came by once in a while to see if she needed any little thing.

Miz Copper brought more than lettuce and radishes. She brought marigold and zinnia seed for planting in May and a little poke of money for Dimmert’s lawyer. Copper’s husband John made himself scarce. He said he needed to patch that hole he saw in the barn roof while she and Copper visited. But Cara knew he was sparing her embarrassment. He knew she’d be mortified to take money from anyone but his wife—and that was hard enough.

“How are you, Cara?” Miz Copper asked after she settled at Cara’s table with a cup of fresh-brewed sassafras tea.

“Good,” Cara said, but she couldn’t meet Miz Copper’s eyes.

Miz Copper laid her hand upon Cara’s own and said again, “How are you?”

Tears pooled in Cara’s eyes. Miz Copper had always been discerning and kind—ever so kind. “It’s hard,” she replied. “I’ve never been alone a minute in my life, and now alone is all I am.”

“Oh, honey,” Miz Copper said. “You could come stay with us.”

“Dimm would want me here.”

“Yes,” Miz Copper agreed, “I expect he would.”

Cara squeezed her eyes shut. The least little bit of sympathy and she was near tears again. “Do you remember the brave girl I used to be? Remember when my mama had the twins and I was the one helping?”

Miz Copper moved her chair close. She put her arms around Cara, and Cara leaned her head on her friend’s shoulder. “I sure do. I never met a braver girl than you were that night.”

Cara felt her tears wet Miz Copper’s shoulder. “I don’t know what happened to that girl. Now every little thing spooks me.”

“Part of that is your being alone. I remember when I first came back to the farm after Lilly’s father died. I felt so overwhelmed and weary at times, I cried just like you’re doing now.”

“What did you do? How did you stand it?” Cara asked, straightening up so she could see Miz Copper’s face.

“I turned to the Lord,” Miz Copper said. “You’ll see; God won’t put more on you than you can bear if you will turn to Him in your sorrow and your fear.”

Cara nodded. She knew Miz Copper spoke the truth, but she didn’t know for sure if God would listen to one such as herself, one being such a stranger at God’s door.

Time passed easily as they chatted, even laughed a little, remembering good times. You couldn’t be around Miz Copper without smiling.

Miz Copper’s daughter, Lilly Gray, came in from the porch. “Mama,” she said, “Daddy John says he’s almost finished with the roof.”

“Lilly Gray, you are as pretty as a picture,” Cara said.

The girl leaned against her mother’s knees and laid her head against her mother’s shoulder. She looked up at Cara from underneath long black eyelashes. Her finely arched eyebrows, heart-shaped face, and porcelain skin reminded Cara of a china doll. Shyly she said, “Thank you, Miz Cara.”

“Show Cara the locket Daddy John gave you for your eighth birthday.”

“Oh, that’s real pretty.” Cara admired the intricate scrollwork on the small gold locket.

“It opens,” Lilly said, coming to Cara. She fiddled with the jewelry and clicked the latch. “It’s got pictures of my two daddies. See?” She held the open locket out. “My one daddy Simon and my now daddy John. Daddy Simon is in heaven with Jesus.”

Cara met Miz Copper’s eyes over the top of Lilly’s head. Miz Copper gave a little shrug. Cara felt embarrassed to be complaining about being alone. The story of what happened to Miz Copper’s first husband was widely known. He was thrown from a horse and mortally wounded, leaving her a widow with a baby. Miz Copper brought Lilly to the mountains and set up housekeeping on her own. Cara would do well to follow her example.

Cara felt like crying for herself as well as Miz Copper. She felt like crying for all the pain in the world. Instead she changed the subject. “Where’s your little brother today?”

Lilly snapped her locket closed. “Oh, he’s home with Miss Remy.” She sidled closer to Cara. “Do you want to know a secret?”

“I purely love a good secret,” Cara replied.

Lilly Gray cupped her hand around Cara’s ear and whispered, “We’re going to have another baby.”

Mr. John appeared in the doorway. “Hey, girls, we’d best get started if you want to call on Fairy Mae.”

Lilly skipped out to meet her daddy. “Can I hold the reins this time?”

“Sure as shootin’,” Mr. John said. “We’ll wait in the buggy, Copper.”

Miz Copper drained her tea, then pushed her chair back and withdrew a leather sack from her skirt pocket. “Ace was good enough to come by and tell John how much Dimm’s fine is, Cara.”

“I’ll pay you back every cent,” Cara said, embarrassed but grateful.

“No need,” Miz Copper said while tying her bonnet strings under her chin. “John said he owed that to Dimm for helping clear land last fall. Count it out before you pay the fine. I believe there’s enough extra to tide you over.” She hugged Cara hard. “I’m praying for Dimm and for you, dear heart.”

“Thank you,” Cara said, her voice husky with unshed tears. “I’m real happy about your new baby.”

Miz Copper patted her still-flat stomach and laughed. “I expect little John William will be right peeved when this one comes. He’s used to being the center of attention.”

“Good thing you’ve got Remy Riddle to help out,” Cara said.

“My goodness, yes. She has been an answer to prayer.” She held Cara’s face between her hands. “Now you take care of yourself.”

“You too,” Cara said, holding the screen door wide. “You take care of yourself too.”

Now Cara pounded her pillow and laid her head in the indentation. She was trying to be strong since that visit. She was trying to follow Miz Copper’s model; she really was. Daytime wasn’t so bad, but nights were pure torture.

Her mind stirred up again, dragging out worn trunks of worry like a widow in an attic of memory. She threw the cover aside, her feet hitting the floor. Where had she hidden that money last? First she’d put it in the sugar bowl; it was empty anyway. But that seemed too obvious, so she’d moved it to the top of the corner cupboard. When that didn’t satisfy, she pried up the end of a loose floorboard in front of the fireplace and stuck it down there. But what if a mouse took a liking to that little leather sack? Silvery moonlight spilled in through a high window and lit that place in the floor like a spotlight. If a robber came in, he’d make a beeline there.

“Ouch!” Cara sucked her palm. Why hadn’t she noticed that nail in the floorboard before? Now she’d more than likely get lockjaw from the rust. She’d be all alone, jaw tight as the lid on a pickle jar, unable to take in a teaspoon of water to slack her raging fever. Just the thought made her thirsty. Might as well draw some fresh water. But what to do with the poke of cash money? For now she’d stick it in her pillow slip. It’d be safe there unless the robber was sleepy.

The mantel clock chimed twelve thirty. At this rate she’d still be awake when Ace came for her in the morning. He was carrying her to the county seat. Dimmert had finally been granted visitors. Cara was beginning to think she would never see him again. It would be the first time she’d visited a person in jail. She wondered how it would be to have bars between her and Dimm. Would she get to touch him? run her hand over his dear face? Probably not. There were surely lots of rules to follow at the lockup. She didn’t want to break a one.

New green grass tickled her feet as she walked barefoot to the well. She relished the mild spring night. The lamb had finally banished the lion. Hand over hand, Cara pulled the wooden bucket up the pitch-dark shaft until she placed it teetering on the rock ledge. Holding the bucket steady, she dipped palmful after palmful of cold water to her lips until she’d had her fill.

Weariness seeped into her long bones with a dull ache and made the thin bones of her fingers and toes twang like fiddle strings. But still her bed did not call. She gathered her gown around her, sat on the single step to the well house, and leaned her head against the doorframe. Sleep found her there, deep and dreamless as the well. She didn’t wake until the rooster crowed.

“Did ye bring me some shoes?” Cara asked later that morning when Ace rolled up in the buggy.

“Dance sent her extra pair,” he said.

“Thank ye. These are sure nice.” Cara was so thankful. The soles of her shoes had separated and flapped like an old man’s gums when she walked about. Looking the many-buttoned boots over, she asked, “Do ye reckon I’ve got time to throw a little polish on these?”

“Don’t take long at it. Dimmert’s lawyer’s supposed to meet us at the jailhouse.”

Cara hurried inside and rummaged around for the tin of black polish and a rag. In seconds the shoes had sheen on the toes. It was a little more effort to get them on. Her hose kept bunching up at the heels and pulling at the toes. The boots were at least half an inch too short. Dance was about her size except for her feet. Frustrated, Cara tore off her stockings and flung them aside. She’d have to chance a blister. Try as she might with the button hook, Cara couldn’t get the ones around her ankles to fasten. She shrugged and gave up. What did it matter as long as she was shod to go to town? Her skirts would hide her ankles anyway. After pulling her go-to-town gloves from the bottom drawer of the chiffonier, she was ready.

The buggy jounced along, tilting to the driver’s side on the narrow roadbed. Cara kept sliding into Ace.

“Did Miz Pelfrey bring you the money?” he asked.

“I’ve got it right here,” she replied, patting the bottom of her linen carryall. Carefully, she’d counted out the fine this morning, put the leftover folding money in a small drawstring purse, and pinned it inside the carryall. “Do you reckon they’ll let Dimm out today?”

“I don’t hardly see why not. That lawyer said all we need to do is pay the fine.” Ace looked like a lawyer himself in his shiny black suit. “After all, it was his own mule he stole.”

“Dimmert’s a fool about his animals,” Cara said.

“That fellow who accused Dimm would steal the dimes off a dead man’s eyes,” Ace said. “I would have done the same thing Dimmert did.”

Cara clung to the side of the buggy. Her teeth rattled when they hit a deep hole. “He could have gone about it in a different way, though.”

“That’s water under the bridge now.”

Tears under the bridge, Cara thought. Enough tears to make a river.


The jailhouse was situated on a side street, right beside the sheriff’s office. Ace held the door as Cara entered a room furnished with a rolltop desk, a straight chair, and a coatrack. A man with a star on his chest that proclaimed Deputy sat slouched in the chair. One hand rested on his holstered gun. With a brown hat set low over his eyes, he seemed to be sleeping.

Ace caught Cara’s elbow and ushered her back outside. He closed the door softly. “We don’t want to catch him unawares,” Ace said, then made a show of loud talk and letting the door bang shut before he got it open.

“Help you folks?” the deputy asked, sitting ramrod straight and taking off his hat.

Ace stepped forward. “We’re here to see Dimmert Whitt. This here’s his wife, and I’m his preacher.”

“Visits on Saturday mornings only,” the deputy said.

Cara couldn’t hide her dismay—to be so close and not see Dimm. She covered her mouth with her gloved hand as tears pooled in her eyes.

The deputy jangled a large brass ring holding many keys. “I reckon it won’t hurt to make an exception.” He stood and looked kindly at Cara. “Now if we was full, I’d have to turn you away, you understand.”

“Yes, sir,” Ace replied, his hat in his hands.

“Thank ye, sir,” Cara said.

“Turn your pockets inside out,” the deputy instructed, “and, ma’am, you can hang your sack on the coatrack there.”

A key turned in a large black lock and a door swung open. “There’s only the two cells,” the deputy said. “Whitt’s in the last one.”

Cara felt her heart break at the pitiful sight of Dimm clutching a set of steel bars as if he’d fall to the floor without their support. She stood back a ways, not sure how close she was allowed to be.

Ace pressed his hand to the middle of her back, urging her forward. With a nod he indicated the deputy standing with his back to them in the open doorway. “Take advantage of small favors,” Ace whispered in her ear.

She leaned toward Dimmert and kissed his cheek through the open bars. “Dimmert, are they treating you well?”

“It’s tolerable,” he answered.

“Ace brought me to see your lawyer,” Cara said. “We aim to get you out of here.”

Dimm eyed his brother-in-law. “You plan on preaching a sermon whilst you’ve got a captive audience?”

“Figured looking as good as a lawyer wouldn’t hurt your case none,” Ace said.

The two men bantered while Cara looked around. The cell was small, probably twelve by twelve, with walls of mortared stone. It had four bunks hooked to the walls by chains and one open but barred window which Dimm could see out of if he stood on tiptoe. That window gave her great comfort.

There was one other man in the cell rolled up in a khaki-colored Army blanket on one of the lower bunks.

Dimmert saw her looking. “That there’s Big Boy Randall,” he said.

“You’re joshing.” Ace stepped in for a closer look.

“One and the same,” Dimm said.

Cara was aggravated with them—acting like it was a source of pride to be locked up with such a notorious figure as Big Boy Randall.

As if he read her thoughts, Big Boy Randall opened one eye and touched the tips of two fingers to the side of his forehead, saluting her with the small gesture.

Her heart hammered with a trill of fear. Ace and Dimm were still jawing and didn’t take notice. She swallowed and turned away from Big Boy’s staring eye.

“Henry Thomas was supposed to meet us here,” Ace said.

“I ain’t seen him but once the whole time I been in this hoosegow,” Dimmert replied.

“We’ll go down to the office then,” Ace said. “I’ll be just outside, Cara.”

Dimmert fixed her with a look of such longing she thought she couldn’t stand it. “Cara-mine,” he said, “do you miss me still?”

“Only every second of every hour of every day.” She would have kissed his cheek again except for Big Boy Randall’s presence on the bunk behind.

“It’s time, missus,” the jailer said.

“We’ll be back for you, Dimmert,” Cara promised.

Check out other great Christian fiction at

Review for Sweetwater Run to follow shortly.