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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!
and the book:
OakTara (July 17, 2009)
LYNNETTE BONNER, the daughter of missionaries, was born and raised in Malawi, Africa, graduated high school from Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya, and attended Northwest University in Washington, where she met her husband, Marty. A few years after their marriage, they moved to Pierce, Idaho. While studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin The Shepherd’s Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $18.95
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: OakTara (July 17, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Evening shadows stretched long as Sky placed the last of the supplies onto his pack mule. The leather of the packs creaked as he settled them into place, cinching them down and making sure everything was in proper order. He stood in front of Fraser’s Mercantile for a moment scratching the mule behind its long gray ears, surveying Main Street.
A lone pine tree stood in the middle of the dusty street at the south end of town, its shadow falling due east. Summer crickets chirped lustily from the bushes nearby, and he could hear the occasional tink of bottle on shot glass emanating from Roo’s Saloon across the street.
From an upper story window in the Joss house, a Chinese woman emptied a pail of water onto the street, splattering mud on Gaffney’s Pioneer Hotel next door and leaving a small muddy patch in the alley between the buildings.
“Sky! You comin’ in here? Food’s gonna be cold ‘fore you ever set down to table!” A rough gravely voice interrupted his perusal of the town. He glanced up at the friendly, round face of Jed Swanson who leaned over the rail in front of his boarding house. “Food ain’t gonna be fit for hogs if’n you don’t get in here,” Jed complained, rubbing a plump hand down the front of his greasy, apron-clad belly.
A smile lit Sky’s face. Jed’s food always fell somewhere between cardboard and leather, but Jed invariably claimed that was because it had been left sitting too long.
“Your food? Fit for Hogs?” Sky asked sarcastically, unable to pass up the opportunity to tease his old friend.
“Hmmph!” Jed shook his wooden spoon at Sky and continued, “Mind your manners or you won’t be gettin’ any o’ my fine fixin’s.” He turned away, slamming the door as he went inside.
Giving the mule a friendly slap on the neck, and leaving him tied to the rail, Sky made his way up the steps to Jed’s Boarding House, the building next door to Fraser’s Mercantile. The rough wooden door opened on squeaking hinges as Sky entered, hanging his black Stetson on a peg in the wall. He ran his hands through blond curly hair as he scanned the room.
The light in the gloomy confines of the rugged log building emanated from a small oil lamp set in the middle of the dining table and a brightly burning fire in the fire place on the back wall. The stone and mortar hearth, stacked high with logs on one side, held the wrought-iron hook by which the coffee pot could be swung into the heat of the fire. Off to the left, on the back wall, he could see the dark shadow of the doorway that led to the rooms Jed rented out. As Sky turned to the right he could see several men already seated around the coarse plank table, shoveling food into their mouths as though it might disappear before their eyes, their forks clanking loudly against tin plates. Sky’s dark brown eyes glinted as he noticed his cousin, Jason, sitting in the dim light at the end of the table, his back to the wall. Jason looked as surly as ever.
Sauntering casually to an empty chair Sky sat down, his back to the room, and began to serve his plate listening to the conversation around him.
Fraser was speaking. “This boy is a lunatic, I tell you and he wants to court my Alice. She’s only fifteen and I sent her down to Lewiston to get an education not to court boys. So I just told him straight out, when I was down to Lewiston last, that he had better stay away from her. Now, with her being over seventy-five miles from here, that in itself wouldn’t give me a whole lot of comfort, since I wouldn’t trust that boy as far as I could throw him. But I also told Judge Rand that the boy was not to come around anymore and if anyone will make sure he don’t, it’ll be the judge.”
Sky’s mind wandered to the face of Sharyah, his blonde little sister back home. He wondered if the boys were coming to call on her already. She was just about the same age as Alice Fraser. Sky smiled to himself. Knowing Sharyah and her beautiful sunny smile, the boys were lined up for a mile outside of the little white farmhouse back in Shilo. Sharyah had me wound around her little finger for years. What would be different with the boys her own age? I’ll have to write Dad to keep a special eye on her for me.
Coming out of his reverie he tuned into the conversation around him, realizing that Fraser had moved on to a new subject.
“So I went to Chang and confronted him about this bogus gold.” He paused to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand, chewing for a moment. He glanced around the table, knife and fork held vertically by his plate in suspended animation. “Do you know he had the gall to admit to the whole thing? No remorse whatsoever!” He shrugged, speaking around the food in his mouth. “I just don’t know what else I can do.” He looked back down at his plate and continued to saw through the black slab that passed as a piece of meat.
Sky listened thoughtfully as he ate. He knew Lee Chang. His character was questionable at best and downright despicable at worst.
“Hmmph,” growled Jed, “that there Chinese is one man this here town could do ‘thout. He shorly is a cussed buzzard, that’n.”
A low snort came from the other side of the table and Sky looked down to the shadows at the end. The sound had come from his cousin Jason, a large man with unwashed blond curls covering his round head. A large belly, the result of his love of beer, protruded over his huge silver belt buckle, bumping the table. He belched loudly, then spoke. “This town would be better off if we got rid of all the Chinks. I tell you, I’ve never met a respectable Celestial. Not one. Always sneakin’ and spyin’. Lazy cusses, too.” He swiped his greasy mouth on his shoulder, the stain there proof that he did so often. Max, the miner sitting next to him, made no sound but nodded his head emphatically as he shoved a huge forkful of potatoes into his mouth.
“This town wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the Chinese, Jason.” Sky’s voice was nonchalant. He picked up his glass and took a drink of water, his dark eyes looking over the rim fixed on his burly cousin.
Jason snorted again, blowing through his nose. “You always were too partial to them Celestials, Sky. If you had any sense you’d realize the type of scum they really are.”
Sky changed the subject. “How have you been, Jason? Haven’t seen you for awhile.” His tone was friendly but Jason glared at him.
“You been pinin’ away for information on your beloved cousin?” he asked, his expression caustic.
Sky, accustomed to his cousin’s recent foul moods, shrugged his shoulders and turned back to his food, praying silently that one day his relationship with Jason would be restored.
Jed looked back and forth between Sky and Jason. He had known both men for a number of years and still couldn’t see how they could possibly be related. Jason was slovenly and rude, always ill-tempered and crass, but Jed had never known Sky to be any of those things. Sky had moved into the area five years ago and had been coming to Jed’s place faithfully ever since. Jed’s mind wandered back to the first time he met Sky.
While out hunting, he had shot and wounded a large cow elk. The cow had run off and Jed had followed the trail for several miles before he lost it. He was wandering about in the brush trying to recover the trail when he looked up and saw Sky standing before him. Never in all his born days had he been so surprised. Jed prided himself on being a woodsman with ears as keen as a fox, but he hadn’t heard Sky’s approach.
Clean shaven, Sky wore buckskin pants, soft leather moccasins and a beaded rawhide vest over a white, open-collared shirt. In one hand he held a long-barreled rifle. The hilt of a large knife protruded from a leather sheath at his hips, its polished deer-horn handle glimmering in the sunlight.
Sky grinned and tipped his black Stetson back on his head, revealing clean-cut curly blond hair. His dark, twinkling eyes scanned Jed for a moment before he spoke. “Lost it huh?” Switching the rifle to his left hand, he held out his right in Jed’s direction. “Name’s Skyler Jordan.”
Jed took his hand. “Jed Swanson.” Gesturing to the brush, he said, “She bled for quite a ways, but now,” he shook his head glancing around, “cain’t seem to pick up the trail.”
Sky nodded settling his hat back on his head. “Heard your shot. I was coming to lend a hand with the packing. Mind if I have a look around?”
Jed shook his head, his hand sweeping the area around them. “She’s all yours.” He figured Sky wouldn’t find anything, but he had been wrong. Within an hour they had gutted and skinned the cow and were headed back to town. Each of them packed a quarter of the animal with the other half strapped to Jed’s mule.
Jed shook his head at the memory. He had never met as skilled a woodsman as Skyler Jordan.
Bringing his mind back to the present, Jed fixed his eyes on Jason. “Ain’t you gonna tell ol’ Sky here about yer plans?” he asked sweetly, knowing full well that Jason didn’t want Sky to know what he was talking about.
The venomous look that Jason sent Jed piqued Sky’s interest. A smile twitched the corner of Jed’s mouth as Sky looked at his cantankerous cousin, one blond eyebrow raised in question.
Jason ignored him and went back to shoveling food into his mouth.
Sky turned his questioning eyes on Jed, continuing to eat calmly.
Jed spoke around a mouthful of meat. “Your cousin is soon gonna be married. Or so he’s been boastin’ all over town.”
Sky’s fork stopped half way to his mouth and he turned his brown eyes back to his cousin. What woman in her right mind would marry Jason?
Jason growled, throwing his fork onto his plate with a clatter. “Jed, some day I’ll teach you to keep yer yap shut.” He turned belligerent eyes on Sky. “That’s right. I got me a mail-order sweetheart comin’ in on tomorrow’s stage to Greer’s Ferry. I’m going to have me a purtty little wife to cook for me...and keep me warm at night.” He jabbed his elbow into Max’s ribs, a dissolute leer on his face.
Sky set his fork down quietly, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Pushing away from the table, he stood and walked over to the blackened coffee pot that sat near the fire, pouring himself a cup, movements deliberate and casual. His heart went out to the poor girl. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been so surprised.
“You got a picture of this woman?” His voice was nonchalant. He hooked a thumb through his belt loop, and watched Jason through the steam drifting up from his mug as he took a sip of coffee.
Jason gave his habitual snort. “Like I’d show it to the likes o’ you. Purtty little thing though. And young, too. Means she probably ain’t never been had before.” The lewd grin was back for a moment before he stuffed a large piece of meat into his cheek.
Sky’s expression did not change but he said, “Well, let me be the first to offer you my congratulations.” He lifted his coffee mug in a toast. “To the happy groom.” No one in the room responded; he had not expected them to. Turning back he looked into the fire, its reflection dancing in his dark eyes. The silence in the room was palpable, only the crackling of the fire and the clatter of silverware disturbed the stillness.
Quietly Sky prayed. Lord what should I do? I wouldn’t give a dog I liked to Jason. You know I care for him, Lord, but.... His prayer trailed off as he tried to think of a solution. Nothing came to mind. Remembering that he still had to travel home tonight, he set his cup down.
Turning to Jed he placed a hand on his stomach and grinned, “Best hog swill I’ve had in a long time, Jed.”
Jed glared at him, waving his fork in dismissal.
Turning to Fraser he said, “Been a pleasure, Fraser. See you again soon.”
Fraser turned to him with a friendly smile as he wiped the corners of his mouth with long slender fingers. “Sky, always good doing business with you.” Sky nodded his head and Fraser’s eyes held Sky’s for a moment, questioning what he was going to do about the situation before he turned back to his food.
Sky spoke to the rest of the men at the table. “Goodnight, gentlemen.” He pulled his hat from the peg by the door and pushed it back on his head as he exited onto the now-darkened street.
His boots making no sound in the soft dust of the road bed, he walked over to the rail in front of Fraser’s Mercantile and untied his mule, leading it further down the street toward the livery. Retrieving his stallion, he mounted up and cantered the horse out of town, leading the mule behind