Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Breath of DawnThe Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE BREATH OF DAWN had me holding my breath.

Quinn Reilly has lived off the grid ever since her testimony put a shyster in jail. But now he’s out, and looking at making her pay for ruining his con.  A loner, she’s kept to herself and can easy take-off whenever she needs to.  But, when she meets the Spencer family–particularly Morgan Spencer–she finds herself wanting to stick around. 

Morgan Spencer, a successful business guru, has spent the last two years functioning on autopilot.  After the death of his wife, he moved to his brother’s ranch, along with his infant daughter, his only goal . . . to keep breathing.  When he meets Quinn, something triggers inside him.  When he realizes she has her own ghosts, he decides they can help each other out with a simple business proposition.  A union that soon evolves to much more than business.

Just as Quinn and Morgan begin to figure out life, Quinn’s ghost comes back to haunt her.  Her first extinct is to run, but if she runs, she loses everything.

I loved THE BREATH OF DAWN.  Quinn and Morgan were great characters, along with Rick, Noelle, and RaeAnne.  Markhem was a true creep and Hannah was completely pitiful.  Though I would’ve liked more information up front explaining what happened in Quinn’s life, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment.  Great pacing, great plotting, great read!

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Full DisclosureFull Disclosure by Dee Henderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For two reasons, I could not wait for this book to be released.  First, I am a huge Dee Henderson fan.  In fact, I feel I started my writing career mainly after reading her O’Malley series and wanting to create characters with such depth and charisma, others would want to read about them and fall in love with them.  Second, my first published book was called FULL DISCLOSURE so the title alone intrigued me.  Unfortunately, like many other Dee Henderson fans, I found myself sadly disappointed with FULL DISCLOSURE for many reasons.

1.I had a hard time believing all of Ann’s accomplishments, complexities, and that she was considered a self-proclaimed introvert.  Many of her attributes seemed to contradict her personality.  She was portrayed as a super cop who knew people in the CIA, FBI, Marshall’s office, and Secret Service.  Yet, she hates being the center of attention and shies away from publicity.  But, how could she be labeled an introvert when she has seamlessly integrated herself into social circles that included the former Vice President, and every high ranking official in the law enforcement world?  She is wealthy and loves to pilot her own flights, but doesn’t own her own plane.  She is an acting MHI, a published author, a ghostwriter, and sheriff of a small town, and above all else, she is a dedicated and fiercely protective friend to so many.  With all this, how is it she could even be considered an introvert?  Sure, she loves her private time and protects it very well.  Complex, yes.  Introvert, no.

2.The book was too long.  I felt it could’ve easily been a hundred pages shorter.  The back and forth in Paul and Ann relationship became irritating, and I felt Henderson belabored the intricacy that made up Ann’s character.

3.FULL DISCLOSURE was labeled a romance, but I felt it really fell short of the mark.  Ann almost became unlikeable because she constantly pushed Paul away.  A few times, I wanted Paul to either shake her good and hard, or put such a lip lock on Ann that she would finally have to admit her feelings for him.  Instead, in the end, she conceded to a relationship, something I don’t feel a person like Paul would’ve been satisfied with.

4.I did not like the fact that we find out Ann is the author of the O’Malley series and other Dee Henderson books.  I felt this was a blatant attempt at marketing and self promotion.

5.As the book continues, you find out Ann and Paul have numerous friends in common.  But, somehow, their paths have never crossed.  And for the amount of people who think Paul is just the balance Ann needs in her life, why did they never introduce the two before?

Even with all that said, I still enjoyed the book on other levels.  The psychological side of the book in solving the two main crimes was very intriguing and kept my interest.  I did figure out the great ah-haa moment before it was exposed but that did not minimize my interest in seeing how it played out.  Overall, the book was an okay read.  Unfortunately, the last three releases from Dee Henderson have fallen short of the wow factor associated with the O’Malley series.  But, I will continue to read any books released by Dee Henderson in hopes that one day she will recapture the distinction she created in The O’Malley Series.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

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:

Digging Up Death

StoneHouse Ink; 1st edition (November 28, 2012)

***Special thanks to Gina Conroy for sending me a review copy.***


Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she’s learning to embrace life’s detours. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction titles, including Cherry Blossom Capers and Digging Up Death. As founder of Writer...Interrupted, Gina encourages busy writers on their road to publication. A self proclaimed social media enthusiast, Gina assures her family an intervention for her near daily overdose of Twitter (@GinaConroy) and Facebook (Author Gina Conroy) is not necessary and that her social media habit is under control since using Hootsuite. Readers are encouraged to contact her and test this alleged social media addiction.

Visit the author's website.


Archaeology Professor Mari Duggins is adjusting to life as a single mom and trying to balance a television career, but gets caught between the pull of her former flame, a field archaeologist, and her ex-husband who is wanted by the FBI on an antiquities crime. Then her colleague is murdered, and she gets in over her head as she searches for truth in a desert of lies. Mari Duggins’ life caves in as she tries to excavate the truth, but realizes only God can dig her out of the hole she’s created. Will Mari sort through her muddled feelings and put her trust in someone else before her world caves in? Or will the truth bury her alive?

Product Details:

List Price: $2.99

File Size: 558 KB

Publisher: StoneHouse Ink; 1st edition (November 28, 2012)

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Language: English


Text-to-Speech: Enabled

X-Ray: Not Enabled

Lending: Enabled


Monday, 7:42 a.m.

Texas, Lyndon University Basement
When I stepped out of my dressing room into the dim hallway, I should have heard death’s gentle taunting. I should have seen it hovering in the glow of the flickering lights. I should have felt it drawing me closer to the abyss. Instead, I rushed through the hall toward the campus television studio, my heels clicking on the tile like a ticking time bomb.

I dug in my red Coach bag, found my compact mirror, and held it on top of my latte while I dabbed my shiny forehead. It would have to do. I couldn’t be late for the biggest show of my career.

The intoxicating aroma of fat-laden pastries wafted my way, tantalizing my taste buds. Mental note: Find the Einstein who put the breakfast buffet between my dressing room and the green room and have him lobotomized. At thirty-two, I had a hard enough time maintaining my weight to please that mother-in-law of a camera. An impossible feat for anyone over a size two, I know. But my stubborn Sicilian heritage kept me in denial.

I dropped the mirror in my leather bag and slowed enough to take a clumsy sip of nonfat, sugar-free caramel latte, then gulped the creamy liquid, trying to appease my appetite.

It didn’t work.

The allure of the forbidden fat grams assaulted my senses, my stomach growling with Eden temptation. I glanced at my watch. 7:43. My heart lurched, then sprinted along with the rest of me. Seventeen minutes to D-Day.

Pulling the note cards from the inside pocket of my oversized tote bag, I got blindsided by the slender intern as she flitted from the ladies’ room opposite the buffet table. I gasped as my latte erupted through the spout, missing my crimson top, and landing on the jacket of the black power suit I bought especially for this show. I dropped the cards in my bag and fumbled for the Tide stick.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Duggins.” The intern’s sapphire eyes pooled with regret, or was that an undermining glint in her eyes? I shook off paranoia and told myself nothing was going to ruin the show today.


The intern gnawed on her fingernail, watching me rub at the stain. Miracle of miracles, it vanished. Now if only my luck held until the end of the show.

  “No harm done.” I mimicked the tone I used on my sensitive child and held up the stain eraser in a tube. “I could have used this when my kids were little. Spit up and designer suits really clash.”

A timid smile emerged from her full lips, then retreated.

“You haven’t worked here long. What’s your name?”

“Cherilyn St. Jean.” Avoiding my eyes, she tucked her silky blonde hair behind her right ear, sending an exotic floral scent my way. The intern’s exquisite beauty reminded me of an orchid in full bloom. Unfortunately, flowers sent me into a sneezing frenzy. Didn’t she know about our fragrance-free policy?

Before I could grab a tissue from my bag, a sneeze spewed. Thankfully, Cherilyn stepped back or she’d be wearing Eau de Mucous. My nasal membranes swelled, the airways shrinking. No, no, no. Widening my eyes, I suppressed the tears threatening my mascara.

Cherilyn stared at me as if I had grown a third nostril. “Um … Tyler needs to do an audio check.”

I found a tissue and caught the next three blasts. “Thanks, I’m headed there now.” Rubbing my nose, I watched Lyndon University’s Next Top Model sashay through the hall, head raised as she skirted the buffet table with ease and vanished into the green room. A grumble betrayed me, oblivious to the threat to my hips.

Focus, Mari.

But I couldn’t. Beyond the green room, outside the studio door, Professor Peter Kipling hounded the Archaeology Department’s alpha male. Department head Theron Henderson, my first guest.

Tension weighed down my shoulders. What was Peter doing here? Didn’t he have an eight o’clock class?

After a quick glance around, I swiped a donut hole from the buffet and popped it in my mouth. I was about to break the streusel top off a blueberry muffin when Cherilyn emerged from the green room. The dull pang in my chest deepened, most likely the hydrogenated fat clogging my arteries. I waited five seconds then followed her toward the studio.

“Stay away from her.” The empty hallway echoed Peter’s bark.

Henderson, who had thirty pounds and six inches on Peter, cocked his head to the right and chuckled. He crossed his arms over his black Versace jacket, revealing a gold nameplate bracelet. When did Henderson start wearing jewelry?

Peter pressed in, fists balled at his side. The stress in my shoulders spread and ballooned in my chest. I needed my first guest in one piece. There was no way I’d lead with Fletcher.

Approaching my colleagues, I gulped the latte, savoring the sweet, liquid calm that usually worked better than Zoloft. Only today I wished I hadn’t given up that baby blue pill.

Cherilyn’s posture drooped as she passed Henderson, and I couldn’t help but notice the way his blue eyes glared at her. It wasn’t his usual you’d-go-well-with-a-bottle-of-Cabernet leer that fell on the coeds at LU. Instead, he turned up his nose and discarded her like rancid ground beef.

I checked my watch. 7:49.

Stay out of it, Mari. This isn’t your fight.

With trembling hands, I removed my note cards.

“Your tenure can always be revoked.” Peter’s terse words redirected Henderson’s focus.

“On what grounds? Professional incompetence? Neglect of duty?” Henderson peered down his Roman nose and stroked his trimmed salt-and-pepper beard.

“How about lack of professional integrity? Or sexual harassment.”

“That’s a risky move, Peter. Don’t you remember I’ve already captured your queen?” A calculating sneer betrayed Henderson’s benevolent tone, his look far more menacing than any scowls my sixteen-year-old brother had in his arsenal.

Peter yanked off his glasses, the vein in his neck throbbing. He tried to jab a wiry finger at Henderson’s chest, but Henderson snatched it, his eyes narrowing. Peter stepped closer; left arm raised and fist threatening. “I’ll. Make. You. Pay. For. What. You. Did.”

Breath caught in my throat. Fumbling to unzip the outside pocket on my Coach bag, I inched toward the studio door. My hand found my iPhone. The storm that had been building between the two of them for years threatened to peak. Though Peter surged out of control, I predicted Henderson, even with his health issues, could cause more destruction.

Henderson let go of Peter’s finger, shook his head, and stepped away.

I sighed, my inner turbulence calming as I reached the studio door. But before the air stilled, something thudded behind me. I whirled around. Peter’s forearm pressed against Henderson’s massive torso, shoving him into the wall.

Caught in a vice of uncertainty, I felt every muscle in my body tense. I punched in the number for security.

Henderson whispered to Peter, flicked him off like a dead fly, and disappeared into the green room. I closed my mouth, staring at Peter who stomped past as ruffled as his brown suit.

A reprieve and a close call.

Too close.

Part of me wanted to dismiss it as another round in the continuing saga of the Archaeology Department at Lyndon University. Another part of me knew this time Peter had overstepped, and I couldn’t brush aside the premonition that someone was going to get hurt.

Focus, Mari.

Smoothing my hair, I slapped on a smile and entered the set.


My Review - Digging Up Death

Digging Up DeathDigging Up Death by Gina Conroy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a hard time initially with DIGGING UP DEATH.  I felt the author was straddling between genres.  Though labeled a Mystery/Romance, the first several chapters read like a chick-lit novel.  The characters were described as if they were quirky caricatures, and over-the-top descriptions were given to the simplest of things.  A pastry was described as “forbidden fat grams, assaulting my senses, my stomach growling with Eden temptation”.  I am not a chick-lit fan, so these first several chapters were a struggle to get through.  I would’ve stopped if I didn’t feel compelled by the obligation of writing a promised review.  But, as I continued, I felt like the writing style slowly changed to a more serious tone, more like that expected in a suspense novel.  I began to get involved with the characters, feeling Mari’s desperation as she tried to piece together how those around her fit into the puzzle of the unsolved murder.  I felt her heart torn between Jack, her ex-husband, and Fletcher, her former flame.  I felt nothing but contempt for Susan, a user and schemer.  So, in the end DIGGING UP DEATH drew me in.  Though I did feel the many overlapping secrets that tied so many people together was a bit far reaching, I enjoyed the twists and turns, red-herrings, and obstacles Gina Conroy created.  I would recommend DIGGING UP DEATH to anyone who likes a good mystery, but doesn’t mind the quirkiness associated with a chick-lit novel.

Book provided for review purposes.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 30, 2012

My Review - Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall

Veil of PearlsVeil of Pearls by M.L. Tyndall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the longest I’ve had to wait to read a MaryLu Tyndall book.  But, with a very hectic summer, prior commitments, and family matters, I wasn’t able to pick up VEIL OF PEARLS until yesterday.  And as always, I couldn’t put it down.

Adalia Winston has escaped slavery in Barbados and has begun a new life in the port city of Charleston.  Her light skin allows her to hide her heritage, and she quickly finds herself putting her knowledge of herbal medicines to use as a doctor’s assistant.  When she catches the eye of Morgan Rutledge, she thinks nothing of quickly dispatching of him and his persistent advances.  Though he is quite handsome, he is one of the wealthy elite and travels amongst the upper crust of society, a circle she will clearly never be a part of. 

Rutledge Morgan can’t get Adalia Winston out of his mind or thoughts.  Though he knows she is not in the same station as he and his prominent family, it does little to quell his interest.  He pursues her relentlessly, and all the more when he sees her defenses waning. 

Adalia and Morgan continue to fool themselves into thinking they can rise above the many obstacles plaguing their relationship.  Adalia knows she will have no future with Morgan once he finds out about her heritage and that she is nothing more than a runaway slave.  Morgan knows his powerful father will never allow him to court a commoner like Adalia. 

But somehow, they continue to fall farther in love.  A love neither of them will admit.  A love that will never be fulfilled when Adalia’s identity is discovered, and her wicked owner comes to claim her as his own.  Morgan must decide for himself what it is he wants.  Adelia and the freedom to pursue his passion of sailing, or wealth and his family name.

Like all of MaryLu’s books, I absolutely loved VEIL OF PEARLS.  MaryLu’s writing is so smooth and fluid, you can’t help but turn page after page.  Her characters are so well fleshed out, and her imagery so tangible, your heart breaks with the circumstances that befall Adalia and Morgan, and you can almost feel the spray of the ocean mist as Morgan turns to the sea for solace.

Another favorite in my library.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 29, 2012

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:

Lynnette Bonner

and the book:

Spring Meadow Sanctuary

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***


Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.

Visit the author's website.


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.

Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.77

Paperback: 286 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1480156949

ISBN-13: 978-1480156944


Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.

Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.

She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.

The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.

For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.

Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.

A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.

Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.

Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.

All her life she’d wanted only one thing.

Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.

Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.

Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.

She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”

Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!

Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.

Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.

“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.

“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”

“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”

“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”

“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.

Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?

She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.

Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”

The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.

A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.


Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.

The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.

He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.

“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.

“Whiskey. Make it a double.”

The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.

Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.

The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.

Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”

Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”

Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.

Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”

Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.

Good. He had the man’s attention.

“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”

Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”

The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.

Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.

Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.

One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”

No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.

Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”

Judd cleared his throat loudly.

Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”

Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.

Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”

"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”

Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.

The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.

Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.

They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.

Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.

Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.

Lord I hope we were right on that count.

He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”

Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”

Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”

“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.

Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”

Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”

Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.

Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”

Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”

Judd glowered at him.

Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.

Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”

Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”

Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.

Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.

“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.

Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.

Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.”  He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.

“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”

Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.

The report was a little loud, but about right.

Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.

Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.

Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”

Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.

Rocky’s eyes narrowed.

“Four… three…”

“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.

This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.

He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”

Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”

Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.

Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”

Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.

Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”

Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.

Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.

A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.

My Review - Spring Meadow Sanctuary

Spring Meadow SanctuarySpring Meadow Sanctuary by Lynnette Bonner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SPRING MEADOW SANCTUARY is the fourth installment in The Shepherd’s Heart series, but easily enough can be read as a standalone novel.  I have not read the previous three and was able to keep up without having too many questions.

Sharyah Jordan had her heart broken by Cascade Bennett.  But that is the past.  She is now a school teacher in Beth Haven, and even though she is counting the days until the year is over, she convinces herself she is better off there than anywhere Cade Bennett might be.

Cascade Bennett doesn’t see a problem infiltrating the Rodale Gang.  He’ll go in, get proof of their rustling, convince Sam Perry’s sister, Katrina, to come with him, and get out.  What he doesn’t anticipate is that to get Sam Perry’s attention, the Rodale gang plans on kidnapping the new teacher in Beth Haven, knowing Sam’s sweet on her.  But, Cade is utterly shocked to find out the teacher is Sharyah.  Kidnapping Sharyah isn’t a problem.  Keeping her safe will be.

As Sharyah and Cade struggle with their feelings for each other, Sharyah continues to be the target of the Rodale Gang and Cade has to go to extremes to keep Sharyah alive.  Sharyah refuses to fall for the cowboy that already broke her heart once.  But Cade now realizes he made a mistake pushing Sharyah away.

SPRING MEADOW SANCTUARY was an enjoyable book.  Never reading anything by Lynnette Bonner before, I didn’t know what to expect.  But, since SPRING MEADOW SANCTUARY had all the key ingredients I look for in a book- cowboys, romance, and suspense, I gave it a try.  I’m glad I did.  The characters were warm and likable.  A few situations I felt were a bit over the top, but overall, a good read.

Electronic book provided for review purposes.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Roses
By Amanda Cabot
Amanda Cabot invites readers to cozy up with a romantic, heartwarming tale of the greatest gift of all--love.
Celia Anderson doesn't need anything for Christmas except a few more boarders, which are hard to come by in this small mining town. She certainly doesn't have a husband on her Christmas wish list. But when a wandering carpenter finds lodging at her boarding house, she admits that she might remarry if she found the right man--the kind of man who would bring her roses for Christmas. It would take a miracle to get roses during a harsh Wyoming winter. But Christmas, after all, is the time for miracles . . .
Amanda Cabot is an accomplished author under various pen names and a popular speaker. The author of Paper Roses, Scattered Petals, Tomorrow's Garden, and Summer of Promise, she is also a charter member of Romance Writers of America, the cofounder of its New Jersey chapter, a member of the ACFW, and an avid traveler. She lives in Wyoming.
Praise for Amanda Cabot
“Amanda Cabot’s characters and storytelling create the extraordinary out of this Texas tale. I’m in love with her books.”--Laurie Alice Eakes, author, Lady in the Mist

Praise for Promise of Summer

“This is a lovely and romantic read that I highly recommend!”—

"In Cabot's Westward Winds series starter, readers will enjoy reading through the story's twists and turns.  The characters are an interesting bunch; some of them are quirky, some are serious, but all have a story to share.  With each book, Cabot writes something new and fresh."—RT Book Reviews

Praise for Paper Roses

“Memorable characters and beautiful prose makes this a unforgettable work of Christian fiction.”—Libraries Alive

Praise for Scattered Petals

“Cabot weaves a powerful story of healing”—RT Book Reviews

My Review - Christmas Roses

Christmas RosesChristmas Roses by Amanda Cabot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

CHRISTMAS ROSES by Amanda Cabot is as charming as the title. 

The recently widowed Celia Anderson prays for a miracle when her infant daughter develops a violent cough.  In walks Mark Williams, a traveling carpenter, looking for a room to rent.  When he helps Celia see to Emma’s cough, Celia is sure he’s saved her daughter’s life.  And, the fact that he wants to rent a room at a time when money is tight is yet again another answer to prayer.

Mark Williams is on a quest.  He is in search of the father that abandoned him as a child, and his last lead has brought him to the town of Easton.  With his talented woodworking skills, Mark decides to set up shop in Easton until he finds someone who might know where his father has gone.  But, the more time he spends with Celia and Emma, the more he daydreams about what life would be like if he would just settle down and let the past be the past.

CHRISTMAS ROSES is pretty predictable but that doesn’t minimize the enjoyment.  This is a simple, old fashion story with warm characters and the backdrop of the holiday season adds to its endearing charm. 

Book provided for review purposes.

Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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My Review - Sofia's Secret

Sofia's SecretSofia's Secret by Sharlene MacLaren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SOFIA’S SECRET by Sharlene MacLaren–book three in the River of Hope Series–was a very enjoyable read that I was able to finish in one sitting.

Sofia Roger’s can barely keep her head above water.  After the death of her parents, she has struggled to take care of Andy her brother, maintain a home, and work nights in order to keep food on her table.  When the unspeakable happens and she finds herself pregnant, not only is Sofia at her wits end on how she will provide for a baby, but she also becomes the victim of town gossip.  Sofia is unable to set the record straight in town because she fears her life and that of her brother’s is in danger from the person who attacked her.  With her head up, shear guts, and determination she sets out to prove that she doesn’t need anyone’s help, especially that of the new doctor in town.

Dr. Elijah Trent is all set to take over his grandfather’s private practice.  When Andy wakes him and his grandfather in the middle of the night because Sophia has collapsed at home, Eli gets his first glimpse at the determined woman who insists on making her way in the world without the interference of others.  At first, Eli doesn’t know what to make of the young woman, and why she won’t talk about the baby’s father.  When he finally put together the pieces of the puzzle, he tries to convince Sofia to go to the police but she won’t budge.  Knowing he feels something more for Sofia than a doctor-patient relationship, Eli does his best to break down the walls Sofia has built around her.

SOFIA’S SECRET was a well paced novel with rich characters, good subplots, and the underlying story of God’s faithfulness, even when we are faithless.  Sofia is the epitome of spunk and self-sufficiency, while Eli is determined and protective.  The reader pretty much knows from the beginning where the story is going, but the ride to get there is no less enjoyable.

Book provided for review purposes.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Review - A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman

A Heart RevealedMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

A HEART REVEALED, book two in the Winds of Change series, was like a carnival full of emotional roller coasters.  While the heights were breathtaking, some of the twists were more jarring than entertaining.

Emma Malloy had spent ten years trying to put the violent and tragic events of her past behind her.  With friends like the O’Connor’s, she has thrived in Boston, pushing the events that happened in Dublin to the recesses of her mind.  What she didn’t plan for was her deepening feelings for Sean O’Connor.  But, feeling she is not available to anyone because of the person who waits for her in Dublin, she chooses to put her emotions aside and learns to appreciate Sean as just a friend.

Sean O’Connor treats Emma as a sister and a dear family friend.  He’s protective of her because of the violence that has scarred her both physically and emotionally.  When his feelings for Emma grow and he expresses those feelings, he is dumbfounded that Emma would feel such a responsibility to honor the vow she made to her husband, the husband that abused her.  He decides he will respect Emma’s wishes for now, but isn’t sure how long his self-control will hold up.

I really enjoyed A HEART REVEALED but there were a few story lines that I felt were a bit out of character.  Without giving much away, I really didn’t like the ‘Rose’ character.  I feel Sean–being the standup guy that he was– would not of allowed himself to be so controlled by Rose.  I also didn’t like the revelation regarding Emma’s marriage.  For a woman wanting to start a new life for herself, so much so that she put an ocean between her and her former life, I think she would have handled things differently regarding her vows.  She seemed so willing to cling to God and his promises, but ignored forgiveness for herself.  Other than that, a good read, with great characters.  I like the fact that Lessman allows the married couples in this series to have passion and desire for each other, and doesn’t ignore the fact that even Christians can have passionate thoughts and faltering self-discipline.  Nothing was over the top, but it wasn’t ignored either.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Christmas Pony
By Melody Carlson
The queen of the Christmas novella, Melody Carlson pens another magical tale of expectation and excitement as one little girl dreams big and the impossible becomes possible.
Eight-year-old Lucy Turnbull knew better than to wish for a pony that Christmas in 1937. Her mother had assured her in no uncertain terms that asking for a pony was the same as asking for the moon. Besides, the only extra mouths they needed at their boarding house were the paying kind. But when an interesting pair of strangers comes to town, Lucy starts to believe her Christmas wishes might just come true after all.
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, The Jerk Magnet, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books in 2010 and won the award in 2011. She and her husband live in central Oregon. For more information about Melody visit her website at