Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review ~ Murder, Plain and Simple by Isabella Alan (Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries #1)



First in a new series!

When Angela Braddock inherits her late aunt’s beautiful Amish quilt shop, she leaves behind her career and broken engagement for a fresh start in Holmes County, Ohio.


With her snazzy cowboy boots and her ornithophobic French bulldog, Angie doesn’t exactly fit in with the predominantly Amish community in Rolling Brook, but her aunt’s quilting circle tries to make her feel welcome as she prepares for the reopening of Running Stitch. 

On the big day, Angie gets a taste of success as the locals and Englischtourists browse the store’s wares while the quilters stitch away. But when Angie finds the body of ornery Amish woodworker Joseph in her storeroom the next morning, everything starts falling apart.

With evidence mounting against her, Angie is determined to find the culprit before the local sheriff can arrest her. Rolling Brook always appeared to be a simple place, but the closer Angie gets to the killer, the more she realizes that nothing in the small Amish community is as plain as it seems.

My Review

Murder, Plain and Simple by Isabella Alan is my first book by this author and I can say for sure it won’t be my last. Not often do I find a book that mixes the Amish and English ways of life as well as this author has done. Angie Braddock inherits her late aunt’s quilt shop, located on Main St, in the quaint Amish town of Rolling Brook, in beautiful Holmes County, Ohio. After a failed engagement in Texas, Angie thinks inheriting the shop is a sign from God. Little does she know there are some serious undercurrents running through the town and its citizens. 

Martha is an Amish friend of Angie’s aunt and has been running the shop for several years. When Englischer Angie shows up eager to become the proprietress, there are some tension-filled moments between the two.

Joseph is an Amish shop owner across the street and alleges to be the rightful owner of the quilt shop. He claims Angie’s aunt never had a deed to the building. Is his assertion legitimate? Angie needs to find that deed if she wants to assume legal ownership but where did Aunt Eleanor put it? The hunt is on.

Sheriff Mitchell enters the scene when Angie finds a dead body in the storage room of the quilt shop. There are a lot of suspicious characters and I was kept guessing to the end. Each time I thought I had the murderer figured out, I was wrong.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book that contained enough compelling mystery and intrigue that an intense romance wasn’t needed to carry along the story. Don’t get me wrong. It’s clear that Sheriff Mitchell and Angie are attracted to one another but I think we are going to see this relationship develop slowly through several books. Theirs is a light romance entwined within the story.

Isabella Alan (aka Amanda Flower) has written an intricate and multi-dimensional mystery that captivated me from beginning to end. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it to any mystery aficionado. I received an ARC from the author and publisher for review purposes. Only my honest opinion of the book was required. No compensation was received.


About the Author



Isabella Alan is the pseudonym for Amanda Flower Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel. Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland.

You can purchase a copy at Deeper Shopping by using the widget below. 
I make a small commission off the sale of the book. 
Thanks!





Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly


I was so excited to get this photo! I have tried for months to capture a butterfly without the image being blurry but they are just too quick for me. But today, I was in the right place at the right time! While I was photographing my huge white Crepe Myrtle tree, this gorgeous Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly landed beautifully and stayed long enough for me to get this shot!!!

Isn't it something? 
The butterfly, that is. J

Sharing with 
Tuesday Muse


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

 Jessica Dotta is celebrating the release of her new book, Born of Persuasion.
Each day during August is a new giveaway. 
Today's offering: a fabulous Jane Austen Pillow!!!
You don't want to miss this one so enter through the form below ONLY.

Day 25- -Jane Austen Pillow!


Join the fun!
Visit Jessica on her website and Facebook page.


31-Days of Giveaway



About the Book


The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

 





Read an Excerpt

“I am quite vexed with you.” Mrs. Windham placed a slice of lard cake on a plate. She eyed my dress hanging loosely over my frame, then added another sliver alongside a gooseberry tart. “Why did you not tell us your mother was ailing? Had I knowledge, I would have visited before she passed; indeed, I would have.”

My hand faltered as I reached for the plate. While I’d known the topic of Mama’s death was unavoidable, I had not expected it so soon.


“Mama.” Elizabeth cast her mother a disapproving look over the rim of her teacup. “You can scarcely blame Julia for it.”

“Blame Julia?” Mrs. Windham dabbed her eyes with the corner of her gardening apron. “What a notion, child.” Then to me, “Did she linger in much pain? Did she send me remembrances? Did she call for me in her deep despair?”


Tightness gathered in my chest as I sought for an explanation, knowing full well the Windhams wouldn’t be fooled into believing Mama had pined herself into an early grave over my father’s death. I placed the plate on my lap, then set about tearing the cake into bite-sized pieces. “She called for no one. The cholera took her quickly.”


Elizabeth froze, midsip, as if detecting my lie. Mrs. Windham frowned, but I wasn’t certain whether she sensed deception or simply disliked being robbed of the notion that Mama had died crying out for her.


Mrs. Windham turned toward the window, pressing her lace handkerchief against her mouth. “Well, if you’re going to try to spare me, I am sure there is nothing I can do.” Her voice trembled. “I have lost my dearest friend, but why should anyone consider me?”


A long silence ensued, during which Elizabeth frowned and I twisted my cup in its saucer. We both knew trying to start a new conversation would be useless until her mother had been properly indulged.


After a minute, Mrs. Windham’s mouth puckered. “Humph. Well, do not think yourself cleared on all accounts. I am even more outraged you agreed to have this . . . this guardian. I scarcely believed my own ears when I heard the tidings. Nothing, no, nothing, could have made me believe you would choose this person over me. Whatever are you thinking?”
I tore the cake into yet smaller pieces.


Elizabeth darted an apologetic look at me, wrapping her hands about her cup. “Mama, you can scarcely blame Julia for whom her parents selected as her guardian.”


“What else am I to think? Especially when Lucy wrote me a mere month before her death begging me to care for Julia should this very thing happen. Well, all I can say is that Julia has certainly made it clear whom she prefers. Surely this person has no tie, no claim over you. I never heard of such an odd thing in all my life. Not give a name, indeed! And that man who came. That rude man! Is it so unreasonable to assume your guardian would have taken it into account that I have a daughter, and as such made allowances? See if I merit approval. Of all the insults.” She snorted into her half-empty cup.


I shot Elizabeth a questioning look. She’d not written anything about my guardian sending someone to Am Meer. Instead of meeting my eyes, her gaze drifted to the open windows.


“I never met such a rude man as that Simon.” Looking at my untouched food, Mrs. Windham fluttered her handkerchief at it. “Indeed, I wish we’d begun dining amongst higher spheres before I listed our acquaintances. That would have swept the smug look off that Simon’s face.”

Elizabeth let out a short sigh. “His name was Simmons, not Simon.”


“I think I should remember better than you, missy. I tell you it was Simon, and I cannot imagine a more disdainful or trying butler.”


“Butler?” I asked, more perplexed than ever. “Are you saying my guardian’s butler came here?”


“He was no butler; trust me,” Elizabeth said. “He dressed the part of a gentleman. I think he was a solicitor.”


“You can hardly expect a butler to wear his black tie when travelling. Take my word, the man is a servant, one who holds much too high an opinion of himself.”


“But, Mama, think upon it. What sort of person sends a servant to make those types of inquiries? Who would run the household during his absence?”


“Are you never to tell me of what you are speaking?” I finally said. “What does this man and his lists of acquaintances have to do with my guardian?”

Elizabeth gave her mother a look that plainly asked if she was satisfied now that I was upset. “Well, we were not supposed to mention the visit.” She glared a second longer at her mother. “Three months ago he arrived, stating he’d come to make certain Mama was a suitable chaperone for a visit.”


“Very rude, he was, too. I should not have thought there was such a rude man in all of England.”


Elizabeth took a sharp, annoyed intake of breath. “He gathered the names of all our acquaintances—”

“He dared to ask what we required as compensation for keeping you here for a month or two. The very idea, expecting to be reimbursed for keeping Lucy’s child! He made it sound as though you were living on—” Mrs. Windham stopped suddenly and eyed the patch on my threadbare dress. The tinkling of the wind chimes was the only sound filling the space for a half minute.


“I heard nothing about this visit,” I said, forcing an even tone. “Pray, did he happen to mention the name of my guardian?”


“No, indeed. This is all very strange.” Mrs. Windham spooned more sugar into her tea. “I think your guardian must be very ill-mannered. What sense can there be in keeping one’s identity hidden, I ask?”

She paused, eyeing me for all she was worth. But I had no suitable answer. I no longer even wanted to know about the man who’d been sent here. His visit only increased my unease, making it harder for me to find the nerve to do what I must. If I succeeded in accomplishing my goal, then this Simon or Simmons person mattered little.


A soft knock on the door interrupted us.


"Yes?” Mrs. Windham sank back into her chair, glaring. “What now?”


“I beg pardon.” Their stout housekeeper managed to open the door and curtsy at the same time. “Only the room’s ready, and Miss Lizbeth asked me to come fetch her.”


“Thank you, Hannah.” With undisguised relief, Elizabeth stood. “Mama, poor Julia must be exhausted. Surely you will excuse her.”

Mrs. Windham waved me away with her handkerchief. “I have no wish to talk further regardless, what with her upsetting the household. My poor heart is pounding after such a distasteful tea. When you wake, I insist you write your guardian. Tell him this whole affair upsets my digestion, and that you wish to be transferred into my care. For I cannot conceive he wishes such vexations upon me. And—”


“What shall we do about a lady’s maid for Julia?” Elizabeth had the mercy to interrupt. “Betsy scarcely has time in the mornings to arrange our toilette, much less someone else’s. What about that girl Nancy?”


“Yes, yes, anyone will do,” agreed Mrs. Windham, picking up her teacup. “I am quite certain Julia shall not mind."

About the Author

Born in the wrong century–except for the fact that she really likes epidurals and washing machines–Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.

She resides lives in the greater Nashville area—where she imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London. She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding school, and then she goes home to write and work on PR. Jessica has tried to cast her dachshund as their butler–but the dog insists it’s a Time Lord and their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why the dog won’t cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you can’t win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to emulate.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Road Signs


Just a few we have seen while driving around rural NC.

Sorry the quality isn't better but they were spotted and taken quickly :)

What interesting names have you seen on road signs?




Friday, August 23, 2013

Awakened Love by Laura V Hilton - FIRST Wild Card Tour

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:


Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Laura V. Hilton, of Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, is a pastor’s wife, mother of five, author and book lover. Her Amish fiction series books have sold thousands of copies and garnered praise from readers and critics for originality and authenticity. This is thanks, in part, to Laura’s Amish grandmother from whom she learned Amish ways, and her husband Steve’s family ties in Webster County, Missouri, who served as invaluable resources in her research. Laura’s previous Whitaker House books include The Amish of Seymour series: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another; and The Amish of Webster County: Healing Love and Surrendered Love.  Awakened Love is the final book in the series. Laura is also a homeschooling mother, breast cancer survivor and avid blogger who posts reviews at:  www.lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Katie Detweiler is excited when she’s hired to bake for a local bed-and-breakfast, especially because the shy young Amish woman will be able to work alone in the kitchen doing a job she loves.  Circumstances change, however, and the job requires she also wait on customers, including a private investigator who tells her she is adopted and has a biological sister in need of a bone marrow transplant. She also meets 22-year-old Abram Hilty, an Amish man who has fled the drama of his community in Shipshewana, Indiana, for Seymour, Missouri, where he’s staying with his cousin Micah Graber. Abram is immediately attracted to Katie, but pursuing a relationship with her would be complicated because he’s come to the Amish of Webster County to hide from a girl he no longer cares about—and also from a cold-blooded killer.


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Series: Amish of Webster County (Book 3)

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603745084

ISBN-13: 978-1603745086


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



“Today I met the bu I’m gonna marry….” Patsy Swartz’s singsongy voice was too chipper. Bracing herself for an afternoon with the bubbly girl, Katie Detweiler climbed out of her daed’s buggy and turned to lift the cooler from the back. Her not-exactly-a-friend bounced up beside her, still singing away.

Katie’s heart ached with a stab of envy.

Would she ever marry?

Daed snorted, in apparent disbelief. “Bye, Katie-girl. Have fun at the frolic.” He clicked at the horse and then pulled the buggy around the circle drive.

“The new bu in town!” Patsy squealed, as if Katie had asked. “He is sooooo cute! I’m going to marry him. I’m thinking Valentine’s Day. Will you stand up with me? I’m asking Mandy, too.”

Marriage? The new bu in town? Why was she the last to know these things? Katie hadn’t even known that Patsy had a beau. Wait—she didn’t. Just yesterday, she was bemoaning the lack of interesting men in her life.

Katie shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. “Stand up with you? On Valentine’s Day? Jah, I can do that. What new bu in town?”

Patsy huffed. “Where have you been, Katie? There is a world outside that bed-and-breakfast, ain’t so?”

“When did you two meet? You didn’t mention him yesterday.” She adjusted her grip on the cooler handles and started toward the haus.

“He’s visiting the Grabers…a cousin or something. He’s here, right over—ach, I see Mandy! I’ll tell you about him later.” She turned away and glanced over her shoulder. “You’re still standing up with me. Valentine’s Day. Write that down, Katie.”

Patsy ran across the driveway to where Mandy Hershberger stood by the open barn doors.

Valentine’s Day? Was Patsy serious? Most weddings happened between November and January—never February, when the fields need to be prepared for planting. And wouldn’t the bishop have some reservations about Patsy’s marrying a man she’d known for, what, half an hour?

Valentine’s Day was still a long ways off. It was only August. And Patsy probably would’ve moved on three times by then.

But he was here, this mystery man Patsy planned to wed? Katie turned around and scanned the buwe playing volleyball, looking for a face she didn’t recognize. She didn’t see anyone new. Or maybe he just didn’t stand out. Patsy? Getting married? If Katie knew her at all, she’d be promised to this new bu in a short time. What Patsy wanted, she usually got. Even if they ended up calling it quits several weeks into the relationship.

Katie sighed. It’d be nice if someone noticed her. And wanted her as a permanent part of his future.

She headed for the haus to deliver the food. A long row of tables was set up inside the kitchen, already piled full. Katie set the cooler down next to the door, opened the lid, and took out a plate of chocolate chip cookies. She carried them to the table and set them down among the other desserts, then stepped back and surveyed the array of cookies and fried pies. Maybe she should’ve made something else besides cookies. But Daed wouldn’t mind if she brought the entire plateful back home again.

“Hi, Katie.” Micah Graber’s mamm, Lizzie, came into the room. “Glad you made it. Micah’s playing volleyball, if you want to join in. His cousin Abram is visiting from Indiana.” She smiled. “I’m sure you’ll want an introduction.”

Katie wasn’t so sure, except maybe to see what Patsy found so special about this mystery man. It was probably nothing more than that she hadn’t yet been courted by him, since she had gone with almost every other bu in the district.

Oops. That was unkind. Katie found a smile. “Danki. I’ll find Micah.” Later. Their paths would probably cross sometime that afternoon. He usually made a point to say hi to her.

Katie went to get the rest of the food out of her cooler when the door burst open. She gazed into knock-’em-dead blue eyes belonging to the most handsome someone she’d never seen. She stared at the stranger, her mouth open.

He raked his fingers through his brown hair, dislodging his straw hat, and backed up. “Micah sent me to get the coolers and the big picnic jugs.”

Lizzie Graber laughed. “Ach, you walked right past them. They’re out on the porch.”

His eyes met Katie’s again, and he nodded in greeting. Her heart pounded so loud, she worried he’d hear it. “Sorry, Aenti Lizzie. Don’t know what I was thinking.” He shook his head and backed out of the room, his gaze still locked on Katie, then turned and shut the door.

Lizzie laughed again. “Those buwe are all the same. They see a pretty girl and have to kum check her out.”

Pretty? Lizzie believed he’d kum inside because he thought she was pretty? But he hadn’t stayed long enough to say hi. Or to ask her name. Not that it mattered. She probably would’ve been tongue-tied, anyway. Katie straightened, willing her heart rate to return to normal. A gut-looking bu she didn’t know. Micah’s cousin. He must be Patsy’s…whatever she’d call him. Maybe “her intended,” since she’d said she wanted to marry him. So, why did it matter what he thought?

It didn’t.

Her insides deflated like a popped balloon.

Katie studied the dessert selection again. Disappointingly, other than the chips in her cookies, there wasn’t any chocolate in sight—unless some of the fried pies were filled with the delicious comfort.

***

Abram Hilty shut the door behind him and took a deep breath to calm his pulse. He hadn’t even talked to the girl in the kitchen, didn’t know the sound of her voice, but there was something about her that his heart had recognized.

“She’s pretty, jah?” Micah hoisted a cooler in his arms and started down the steps.

“Very.” Abram lifted one of the big yellow picnic jugs and fell into step beside him. “And you can’t get her to pay attention to you?”



Micah shook his head. “Nein. Not at all. But her best friend, Janna Kauffman, told me Katie’s really shy. Maybe I’ll offer to drive her home tonight. Her daed dropped her off.”

Abram chuckled. “You do that. I’ll ask her out, too, and tell her how wunderbaar you are. Between the two of us, we’ll get her talking.”  That would at least give him an opportunity to spend time with her.

Micah raised his eyebrows. “You’d do that for me?”

“That, and I’m currently between girls.” Abram winked. “I told Marianna I want a break.” Sort of. He did owe her some sort of explanation for his silence. After all, they’d been practically engaged—and he’d essentially stood her up.

Of course, he hadn’t revealed where he’d gone. Instead, he’d left a vague note: “Need some time off. Sorry.”

In hindsight, Ouch. But she’d been hounding him to make a commitment, dropping hints he couldn’t help but get. He could do worse, he’d supposed. And yet he’d fled. He needed to think. And that was impossible with her bringing him lunch every day, staying to eat with him, and getting into his buggy after every singing and frolic—without his even asking.

He shook his head. What else could he have done?

“What if she falls in love with you, not me?” Micah’s forehead creased as his eyebrows drew together. “I mean, talking me up is kind of cliché.” He snickered. “And it usually works in reverse.”

Abram shrugged. He wouldn’t complain if it did. “How could she not fall in love with you, with me singing your praises?” Of course, he’d try hard not to sing his own. Not that he had much to sing about. He frowned. How long before he was found out?

Micah set the cooler on the ground next to a table with some stacks of paper cups, then straightened. “I’ll go say hi to her, then, while you get the other picnic jug.”

“Works for me.” Abram set the picnic jug down on the table, then reached for a cup, held it under the spigot, and pressed the handle for a splash of iced tea.

“Hi, Abram,” cooed a feminine voice.

Abram cringed. Not another pushy female. He looked up at not one but two girls—a redhead he’d seen earlier that day, who beamed at him, and another with reddish-brown hair. He preferred Katie and her dark blonde hair.

“Welkum to Missouri!” said the redhead. “I’m Patsy Swartz, and this is Mandy Hershberger.”

He found a smile. “Nice to meet you. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get the other—”

Micah punched his arm. “I’ll get it, after I greet Katie. You stay here and talk.”

“Danki, cousin”—Abram hoped the girls wouldn’t pick up on his sarcastic tone—“but I’ll get the jug myself.”

***

“May I borrow a pair of tongs?” Katie asked Lizzie Graber. “I need to mix up the taco salad I brought.”

“Of course.” Lizzie slid a pan of brownies into the oven and then retrieved the utensil from a drawer.

“Danki.”

Lizzie opened the refrigerator, took out a can of 7-Up, and popped the top. “I need to go check on Emily. She isn’t feeling well.”  She poured the fizzy liquid into a glass.

“Sorry to hear that.” She liked Micah’s little sister.

“When the brownies are done, would you take them out, please?”

“Jah.”

“Danki.” Lizzie left the room.

Katie looked around. Maybe she could find some other way to assist. Helping would give her an excuse not to socialize. An alternative to standing beside the barn, ignored.

At this point of her life, she was part of the scenery, the part no one looked at. Patsy said it was because she was too quiet. Because she wouldn’t cross the room to talk to any of the buwe; she waited for them to kum talk to her. And they wouldn’t. They had enough girls willing to chase them that they didn’t need to pursue the quiet ones.

If that was the case, she’d be alone forever. A painful thought.

But her best friend, Janna, had said that if a bu really liked her, it would be obvious, because he’d be hanging around. Janna should know. Her beau, Troy Troyer, hung around her plenty, and he’d even started baptism classes, so he could join the church—for her.

Abram’s handsome face flashed in her mind. His heart-stopping grin. His easy confidence.

Nein. She wouldn’t think of this—of him. It meant nothing. He was in Patsy’s sights.

Katie opened her cooler and lifted out the salad bowl and a big bag of Fritos. She always waited to add the chips so that they wouldn’t get soggy before the salad was served.

Katie set the bowl down on the table and tugged on the top of the Frito bag to open it. A warm breath tickled her ear. Abram? Her heart jumped, and her hands jerked in opposite directions, ripping the bag and sending Fritos high in the air. A few of the chips landed where they were supposed to, in the taco salad, but most of them now decorated the floor and the savory dishes nearby, including the egg salad sandwiches Patsy always brought.

Katie’s face burned. She spun around, the almost-empty bag clasped in her hands.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Micah said. He stood too close. Why couldn’t it have been Abram breathing in her ear? Admittedly, the end result would’ve been the same.

A chatter of voices neared outside, and feet tromped on the porch. The latch clicked on the door, and the hinges squeaked. Katie resisted the urge to run from the room. It seemed everyone was coming inside to witness her humiliation. Abram entered, followed by Patsy and Mandy and a dozen or so others. Everyone looked at her.

“I was hoping you’d be here,” Micah continued.

There was someone who’d wanted to see her? Some member of the male species? Katie stared at him in shock.

Patsy came over to the table and started picking Fritos off of her sandwiches. The hard kick to the shin she gave Katie was all it took to find her voice.

“Ach, I scare easy. It’s okay, really.”

She had spoken to a bu. Using multisyllabic words. Would miracles never cease?

Patsy shook her head, evidently disappointed in her attempt at conversation. If only she would step in and speak on her behalf. But nein luck. With another shake of her head, Patsy dumped the Fritos in the trash and joined the group of females huddled around Abram. His harem.

Katie frowned. She didn’t want to compete with so many for the minute possibility of a relationship with a man. Maybe it’d be better to find someone steady who paid attention to her alone. She glanced at Micah. He stared at her as if she’d sprouted antlers. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the kind of attention she wanted.

“Janna told me you’re shy. She told me not to give up on you. I’d like to get to know you better. Are you seeing someone?” He lowered his voice. “Maybe I could give you a ride home today. We could stop for a milkshake.”

A milkshake? Was he kidding? Katie glanced at the table, laden with the usual assortment of cookies and fried pies. Brownies still baked in the oven. With all these treats, who in his right mind would offer that incentive?

He hadn’t given her a chance to answer the courting question before asking her out. Maybe he figured that someone as tongue-tied as she couldn’t possibly have a beau.

Still, Katie didn’t know how to answer his questions. Would it be easier to talk just one-on-one? Daed would encourage her to accept a ride from him. If that meant downing a milkshake, too, then so be it. She swallowed. “A milkshake sounds gut.”

He grinned. “I’ll look for you afterward. Sorry about your chips. I hope I didn’t ruin your”—he glanced at the bowl—“salad.”  He turned away and started talking to Natalie Wagler. At least she could carry on her side of the conversation.

Katie frowned. Were there books available for this disorder? She needed to check at the library. See if they had a section called “Basic Communication with the Opposite Sex.”


A buggy ride with a man who wasn’t Daed…. Sighing, she glanced at Abram. His attention seemed to be focused on Patsy, whose hand rested on his upper arm. Katie swallowed and turned away. Micah wasn’t the Mr. Right of her imagination. But maybe he was the Mr. Right of her reality.

Her very first date. Excitement washed over her.

Maybe her life was about to change.


Random 5 Friday


1. We got our FIRST EGG this week! 
It wasn't laid in the nesting box but in the coop, right near the feeder. This has continued all week now. Not good. Doesn't she know how much trouble we went through to build a proper labor & delivery ward? 


2. Isn't this cute material? I made nesting box curtains out of it but so far they have not encouraged our wayward girl to give birth in privacy. Hmph! 

3. The scissors are solid cast iron and heavy. They were made in Germany more than 60 years ago and my mother always used them for her sewing scissors. Woe to anyone who dared use them for any other purpose! Except my dad. He used them once but that's a story for another day. 

4. My oldest is in his first full-time semester of college and loving it. Of course, it just started on Monday but he has two very cool Art classes in 2 and 3 dimensional design. His supply list was daunting. Can you say coupons?!

5. Oh yeah! Did you know that Chick-fil-a has a Mocha Cookies and Cream milkshake?! It is sooooo delicious. It tastes just like coffee and ice cream....YUM!!!

Do you have a favorite milkshake flavor?

Hop on over for some more Random 5 Friday fun at A Rural Journal.
Random 5 Friday

I'm way behind on visiting everyone this week but I'm trying!

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review ~ A Plain Disappearance: An Appleseed Creek Mystery by Amanda Flower



About the Book

It’s Christmastime in Amish Country, and Chloe Humphrey has begun settling into her life in Appleseed Creek excited to see where her new relationship with Timothy Troyer will lead. Unfortunately it leads to murder when the couple discovers the body of Amish teenager Katie Lambright while on their first date.
Near the scene there is evidence that Timothy’s friend and auto mechanic Billy Thorpe is involved with the crime. The police reveal Billy is not really who he said he was and has been living the last decade in Knox County under a stolen alias. Now, Chloe and Timothy must find Billy, bring him to justice, or prove his innocence.

About the Author

Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel. Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland. She also writes mysteries as Isabella Alan.

Amanda is represented by Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency.


Visit Amanda Online


My Review
An enticing blend of Amish and English cultures, A Plain Disappearance gives an intimate look into the lives of Amish young people who are searching for their place in community and not necessarily among their own.

From beginning to end this story is full of mystery and intrigue. Chloe and Timothy are only two of many fascinating characters with problems that seem genuine. Not only is there a murder mystery that kept me glued to the pages but since I haven’t read the first two books, my curiosity was piqued to see what choices these young adults would make that impact their future together.

The easy dialogue makes this is a fast read. Humor comes into play at just the right moment, blending in naturally with the flow of the story. I think anyone who enjoys a good mystery series will delight in this one. Hopefully, there will be another installment to find out if Becky stays in the English world or goes back to the Amish, and does Chloe reunite with her dad?
I was provided a copy of A Plain Disappearance: An Appleseed Creek Mystery by the author, Amanda Flower, and B&H Publishing Group for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review nor have I received any other compensation from them for this review. 


                            
Have you read any books by Amanda?



If you would like to purchase a copy, they are available from the following online retailers:

Deeper Shopping - $9.74  (if you use the widget below to purchase a copy, I make a small commission on the sale of the book)


                                 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'll be {missing} you...

in all the old familiar places.

I really miss seeing the cows dotting the landscape 
but the view is fabulous anyway!
textures used: kk - august trio, jamalnc - painted skies1


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Tuesday Muse


Rurality Blog Hop #28



Sunday, August 18, 2013

{Sunday}


Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”


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SUNDAY STILLNESS

Friday, August 16, 2013

Random 5 Friday


1. There are just some strange things out in the country! While driving down a road we had actually never been down (GASP!)  my husband and I came upon this building at a commercial chicken house. No matter how cute it is, I still feel sorry for the chickens that are housed in the upper buildings. I could never be a commercial chicken keeper. Never. And before you ask, Yes I buy chicken in the grocery store. But that's not what this comment is about. That's for another day :)

2. I'd better get out and take pictures like a mad woman. I'm pretty sure I won't be getting out for awhile after I have foot surgery. I certainly won't be able to drive :(

3. Needles in the ankle hurt. Badly. 'Nuff said.

4. When my husband went down to the chicken coop the other morning (it was still dark) to open the door from the coop to the enclosed area, there was a skunk. Thankfully, it didn't spray! But now we have to set the trap again and try to catch the stinky bugger. Can I just say...eeeeew!

5. If you could hop in a time machine and go anywhere...

Where would you go?


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Random 5 Friday

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Whispers from the Shadows by Roseanna White ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

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:


Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Roseanna M. White is the author of several novels, as well as the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, and the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing.


Visit the author's website.




SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


When Gwyneth Fairchild flees London to save her life, she ends up under the care of Thaddeus Lane in Baltimore. Though their hearts turn to each other, Gwyn and Thad are on opposite sides of the War of 1812. What is God’s plan for them when the war is over?




Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Series: Culper Ring Series (Book 2)

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736951016

ISBN-13: 978-0736951012


My Thoughts

I’m so sorry I haven’t had time to write a full review but I did jot down a few thoughts.

Sometimes I read a book by an author because I know it will be humorous and give me a break from the reality of life. But when I choose a Roseanna White book to read it is for so much more. Her stories are deep; spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. I come away having grown in my faith and knowledge of things spiritual. The prayers she writes that her characters pray are such a blessing to my soul. Not to mention the historical and adventurous aspects of the story. Anticipation is always high from the first page to the last. Spellbinding would be a good description of Whispers from the Shadows.

I highly encourage anyone who enjoys accurate historical fiction with a strong faith element to pick up a copy of this book, or any of Roseanna's books for that matter. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

I'll be making a separate post at a later date with my review and featuring the book again. 


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



London, England

April 1814

The servants hefting her trunks onto the carriage might as well have been loading her coffin. Gwyneth Fairchild pulled her pelisse close and gazed across Hanover Square with a sick feeling in her stomach. Surely she would awaken from this nightmare and walk down to the breakfast room to find Papa smiling at her. He would speak and say something that actually made sense.

Not like yesterday.

She shut her eyes against the image of all that was familiar, all that she might never see again. What if the Scribe went down? Was attacked by a renegade French ship or those dreadful American pirates? What if, assuming she made it to Annapolis, they killed her the moment she stepped ashore?

Annapolis. Had Papa not looked so sorrowful, so determined when he said that word yesterday, she would have thought he had gone mad.

His hand settled on her shoulder now, warm and large. Those hands had steadied her all her life. Capable, that was what General Isaac Fairchild had always been. Capable and steady and so very noble. All that was worthy of love and respect. So surely she could trust him now when logic and reason said she couldn’t.

“I know it makes little sense to you, dear heart.” He touched her chin, a silent bid for her to look at him. She found his eyes gleaming with moisture he would never shed. Not when anyone could see him, though she had heard his heartrending sobs when Mama died last fall. “I wish there were another way, but there is not.”

Another way for what? He hadn’t said, wouldn’t say. Gwyneth drew in a tremulous breath and tried to stand tall and proud, the way Mama had taught her, the way Papa himself had instilled. To convey with her posture that she was the great-granddaughter of a duke, the granddaughter of two earls, the daughter of a general.

A daughter sent into exile for no apparent reason. Separated from all those she loved, the only people left in the world who mattered. “Papa—”

“I know.” He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I do. But I cannot entrust you to anyone but the Lanes.”

A light mist descended, heavier than fog but too tame to be called rain. At this moment, a thunderstorm would have better matched her confusion. “Please tell me what is happening. Why must you entrust me to anyone? And if you must, why not Aunt Poole or Aunt Gates?”

His jaw moved for a moment but no words came. Nay, he simply looked past her, his eyes searching for something unseen. Then he sighed. “The Lanes will welcome you and take care of you, Gwyn. I will follow as quickly as I can. A month at the outside. No more.”

Exactly what he said yesterday too. He would give no explanation as to why he was sending her to a nation with whom they were at war, across the Atlantic to a family she had met only once, when she was but a tot.

“Papa, your words hint at danger, but what could threaten me here more than the sea and its pirates? The French, the Americans?”

“The French ought to pose no threat now that we’ve subdued them.” He reached inside his coat of blazing red and pulled out an envelope. “In all likelihood your ship will reach harbor safely, but if by chance you do encounter American privateers, offer them this.”

She frowned as she took the envelope. It was too thin to contain anything but a single sheet of paper. “What—”

“Trust me. ’Twill suffice.” Chatter from the house grew louder, and Papa looked away again, to the nearing housekeeper and gardener. “There are the Wesleys. Time to go.”

A million arguments sprang to her tongue. She didn’t want to leave. Not her home, not him, not all she held dear. Not her first Season, the one that had been put off because of Mama’s illness last year. Not her friends.

And what about Sir Arthur? She hadn’t even spoken to him to tell him she was leaving, hadn’t dared send a note. “Papa, Sir Arthur…”

“It isn’t to be, Gwyn, not now. Perhaps when this has passed, when it is safe for you to return.”

Tears burned, begging to be set loose, but she clenched her teeth and blinked. How had it come to this? Promise had finally shone its light again. Shopping with Aunt Gates had made it feel as though Mama were with her still. Making the rounds with her friends had finally distracted her from the loss. Getting vouchers for Almack’s, and then Sir Arthur’s court—she had, at long last, looked forward to the future.

“Please don’t cry, dear heart.” Papa thumbed away a wily tear that escaped her blockade and kissed her forehead again. “Up with you, now. You must be at the docks soon.”

Instead, she surged forward and wrapped her arms around him. “I don’t want to leave you, Papa. I can’t. Don’t make me go. Or come with me.”

He held her close. “Would that I could. Would that I didn’t have to bid goodbye, yet again, to the one who matters most.” He gave her another squeeze, another kiss, and then he set her back. His eyes were rimmed with red. “I love you, Gwyneth. Go with God.”

He let her go and pivoted on his heel, all but charging back into the house. She almost wished she could resent him, but how could she, seeing his struggle? Whatever his reasons, they must be valid.

And whatever his reasons, they must be dire. A shiver coursed up her spine and made the mist seem colder. Isaac Fairchild was a respected general, a man loved by all. A man of considerable sway in London and beyond. If there were something frightening enough that he must send her away, was planning on leaving himself—

And for America, no less. Would he be going there to take command of troops? Possibly. Though why would he be secretive about it? But then, there was much about Papa’s work he could not discuss. Secrets, always secrets.

“All’s secure, Miss Fairchild,” the driver called down from the bench.

She slipped the envelope into her reticule and took a step toward the Wesleys. They, at least, would provide familiar faces for the journey. They would be an anchor on the foreign seas.

Quick hoofbeats snagged her attention. “Miss Fairchild!”

Her eyes went wide when she saw the dashing figure astride the horse. Sir Arthur reined to a halt beside the carriage and leaped down, fervor ablaze in his eyes.

“Miss Fairchild.” He gripped her hands as he searched her face with his gaze. He had the loveliest brown eyes, so warm and beckoning, the perfect fit to his straight nose and sculpted mouth. “Is it true, then? Broffield just told me that Miss Gregory said you were leaving Town.”

“I…” He was holding her hands. Sir Arthur Hart, Knight of the Order of Saint Patrick, presumed heir to a viscountcy, the most sought-after bachelor in England, grasped her fingers as if he never intended to let go. The mass of confusion inside twisted. “Yes, it is true. My father…”

He eased closer, his gaze so compelling she feared she might drown in it. “Something to do with military business, then? You will return soon?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think Papa knows.”

“Dear Miss Fairchild. Gwyneth.” His fingers tightened around hers, much like the band around her chest. Never before had he spoken her given name. Hearing it in his rich tenor, spoken with such affection, made her fear her tears would overcome her after all. “Why must you go with him? Can you not stay here with your aunt?”

Her attempt at swallowing got stuck in her throat. “I am all Papa has now since my mother passed away, and he is loath to be separated.” True, so true. Why, then, was he sending her an ocean away to a hostile land?

“But surely there is a way to convince him. What if…” He paused and then swallowed before using their joined hands to pull her closer. “What if you were betrothed?”

Her heart quickened inside her, beating a desperate tattoo against her ribs. Would that change anything? Could it? “I…don’t know.”

“Gwyneth.” Oh, he made her name into music. The breeze toyed with his honey-colored hair under the brim of his hat, making her itch to touch the curls. “My darling, I have such a love and admiration for you. If you would feel inclined toward accepting my hand, I will speak with your father this very moment.”

At first all she could think was He proposed! Then she drew in a quick breath and nodded with too much enthusiasm. “Of course I am inclined if he agrees. Only…” She drew away when he moved closer still, recalling Papa’s discomposure mere minutes before. “Let me speak with him first, as he was out of countenance.”

“Certainly. Yes. Anything.” He laughed and raised her hands to kiss her knuckles. As if surprised she had said yes. “I will take a turn through your garden to try to calm myself.”

“Perfect.” If only she could be sure Papa would agree. If only she could be sure that, if not, Sir Arthur would wait for her. She pulled away, but he snagged her hand again.

“Gwyneth. Darling.” He smiled, so bright and handsome it made her doubt trouble could exist. “I will make you very happy.”

A smile stole onto her lips. It melted away again in a moment, but he had turned toward the garden by then.

Mrs. Wesley snagged her attention with a shooing motion toward the door. “You had better hurry, love. If the general does not change his mind, we must hasten on our way.”

Gwyneth flew through the mist up the steps to the door and back into the house. For a moment she paused to breathe in home, but she hadn’t time to savor it. If her mission went well, she needn’t say goodbye to it at all.

Please, Lord. Please let him relent.

She sped down the hallway and around the corner toward Papa’s study. He always ended up there, either busy at work or staring at the picture of Mama she’d painted for him. A professional portrait hung in the drawing room, but he said she had done the better job. Praise which always made her heart expand.

The study door was before her by the time she realized voices spilled out. Two of them—though when had anyone else arrived? Surely no servant would dare speak over Papa like this.

“Isaac, listen to yourself!”

Gwyneth froze a step from the door. It was open a crack, letting her look in, though only the corner of the desk was visible, and just behind it, where Papa stood. But she recognized Uncle Gates’s voice.

“‘Isaac’ now, is it?” Papa’s laugh sounded dry. “Odd how you only remember our familial ties when we disagree. Otherwise it is always my rank to which you appeal.”

A loud bang made Gwyneth jump. Uncle’s fist connecting with wood, perhaps? “Blast it, Fairchild, it’s your rank you are abusing!”

“No! ’Tis my rank I honor. Someone, Gates, must do what is right. Someone must stand for justice rather than—”

“Hang all that noble rot.” A nasty curse spilled from Uncle Gates’s lips as glass shattered. Gwyneth recoiled, staring in horror at the sliver of room. What keepsake had he destroyed? The vase Mama had chosen two years ago? The small porcelain figure Gwyneth had given Papa for his birthday when she was fifteen? Something precious, for only the most special pieces gained a place of honor on Papa’s shelves.

And why? Why would Mama’s own brother do such a thing?

He sent something else toppling. “You are undermining years of careful work! The Home Office—”

“The Home Office, you say?” Papa leaned forward onto his desk, a look of deathly calm upon his face. “Nay. The Home Office has decent men in it yet. A few, at least, though you are not one of them. This evil must be stopped, Gates. You must be stopped.”

There came a shuffling sound, one Gwyneth couldn’t comprehend but which made Papa snap upright. Made him lift his hands, palms out, and make a placating motion. “Gates—”

“I am through reasoning with you, Fairchild. Tell me where they are. Now.”

One of Papa’s hands lowered toward his desk drawer, but another shuffle made him pause. “I am only—”

“You think me so great a fool? I already removed that, dear brother.” More curses exploded from Uncle Gates. Closer now, as though he were rounding the desk, just out of her view. “Tell me where they are!”

Papa’s sharp inhalation was clearly audible. “Gone.”

“Gone? Gone? What do you mean, gone?”

“Just that. Out of my hands and on their way to those who can put a stop to this before you destroy two nations in the name of avarice.”

A cry tore through the room, guttural and animalistic. Light flashed on something metallic as her uncle charged into view, the gleaming length held before him. Still, she had no idea what he wielded until she saw the silver stained red.

She pressed her hands to her mouth to hold back the scream, hold back the horror, but it didn’t help. Uncle still hissed words of hatred. Papa still staggered back, away from the blade. Then he crumpled and fell.

Gates followed him down, muttering, “You couldn’t have, not yet. You must have it.” His hands shoved into Papa’s jacket and searched.

Papa, fight back! But he didn’t. He gasped, seemed to struggle for a moment, and then went lax. No. No, no, no, no, no!

Did she bleed too? She must. She couldn’t move, couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t be. Not anymore.

When Papa’s head lolled to the side, he blinked and his gaze focused on her. There was life yet in those familiar depths, but it flickered. Sputtered. “Gwyneth.”

She didn’t hear it. She just saw the movement of his lips. But her uncle, tossing Papa’s case of calling cards into the wall, snarled. “Now you worry about your darling daughter? Oh, have no fear, Fairchild. Dear Uncle Gates will take care of our precious girl.”

Bile burned her throat.

Papa blinked again as he tried to pull in a breath that choked him. Again his gaze sharpened, caught hers. This time when his lips moved, he made no sound whatsoever. Run!

Then it was gone, all the light in his eyes. Extinguished like a flame left before an open window.

And she ran. She turned on silent slippers and fled back around the corner and down the hall. Out the doors and straight into the waiting carriage.

“Gwyneth? Miss Fairchild?”

All she noted of the voice was that it wasn’t Uncle Gates’s. Nothing else mattered. Seeing that the Wesleys were already seated, their eyes now wide, Gwyneth pulled the door shut herself. “Go!”

An eternal second later, the driver’s “Yah!” reached her ears, and the carriage jolted forward.

When she closed her eyes, all she could see was darkness yawning before her.