Thursday, April 30, 2009

The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard

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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!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The House in Grosvenor Square

Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Linore Rose Burkard is the creator of Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the English Regency (ca. 1800-1830). With a unique blend of Christian faith, romance, and well-researched details of the period, Linore's stories will make you laugh and sigh, keeping you glued to the page to the very last word. The House in Grosvenor Square continues the Regency Series which began with the wildly popular Before the Season Ends. Once again readers are invited to experience a romantic age, where timeless lessons apply to modern life, and happy endings are possible for everyone! Linore grew up in NYC, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children. A longtime fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Linore delights in bringing Regency England to life for today’s reader.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925651
ISBN-13: 978-0736925655

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Mayfair, London

1813

Inexplicable. There was no other word for Mr. Mornay's behaviour to her that morning, and Ariana Forsythe could think of naught else unless it changed. Soon.

She looked at him challengingly, where he sat across from her in his expensive, plush black coach. Faultlessly handsome, Phillip Mornay was dressed stylishly in a twin-tailed frock coat, buff pantaloons and polished black boots. His beautifully tied cravat puffed lightly out from an embroidered white waistcoat, and his dark hair and famously handsome features were framed by a top hat. Everything he wore looked new, his clothing always did; and yet he might have worn it a dozen times, so comfortable did he appear in his attire.

But he had barely looked at Ariana for more than a fleeting second since he had come for her

this morning, and it was beginning to grate on her nerves. She had to think of something to say.


“Tomorrow is the day I shall see the full of your house, is it not?” She had been in Mr. Mornay's house in Grosvenor Square before, but this time she and Aunt Bentley were to get a tour, top to bottom, so she would feel more at home after the wedding. She and Mr. Mornay were betrothed to be married in two weeks.

The dark eyes flicked at her, and she felt a fleeting twinge of satisfaction.

“It is.”

She wanted to hold his attention, and began a smile, but he looked away, abruptly. What could be wrong? Mr. Mornay often studied her when they were together; she was so used to finding the dark-eyed warm gaze upon her, in fact, that she felt somewhat abandoned to be deprived of it, now. Had she done something to displease him? When he usually attended to her so deeply as though he could read into her soul?

They were on their way to the London Orphan Society, in Mr. Mornay's upholstered coach-and-four, with its fashionable high-steppers and liveried footmen on back, to attend a special service at the Society's Chapel. A lady was giving a dramatic reading from Scripture; a most celebrated dramatic reading. Ariana and Mr. Mornay had received invitations for the event, with encouragement to invite anyone of their acquaintance. Thus, there were also four other occupants in the carriage this morning, and seating was snug.

On either side of Ariana was a relation. Her younger sister, Beatrice, just turned twelve, was to her left, and her aunt and chaperon for the season, Mrs. Agatha Bentley, sat on her right. The ladies faced the gentlemen sitting across from them; first, Mr. Peter O'Brien, a future cleric, at Beatrice's particular request; then Ariana's future husband, Mr. Mornay, silent and unapproachable, and finally, the agreeable Mr. Pellham, her aunt's betrothed. (She and her aunt were betrothed at the same time. A most fortuitous turn of events; Ariana ought to have been in raptures of joy.) But unless Mr. Mornay's demeanour changed, Ariana could not enjoy herself. His inattentiveness was such a contrast to his usual behaviour that it was impossible for her to ignore it, or shrug it off as mere ill humour.

It seemed ironic now that when all had been uncertain about the wedding, (when Ariana had held out against her desire to marry Mr. Mornay because she would only marry a man who could share her spiritual life in God,) that up to then, his love and affection were painfully clear. And now, after Mr. Mornay had undergone a stark change in his religion; that is, when he came to believe in a personal, loving God, and the betrothal was settled, suddenly he was behaving as though he wished it were not.

Sitting across from her, he should have been engaging her with his usual intent gaze, smiling slightly at her remarks when she amused him or spoke to others; instead, he sat staring out the window (a thing he never did) and appeared to be morosely preoccupied in his own thoughts. It pricked against her nerves. She would bring him out of this brown study if it took all her ingenuity!

And then he suddenly turned and spoke: “Did I mention I shall be occupied for the rest of the day? After leaving you at your house, following the morning's service?”

Her large, tan eyes sparkled into bluish-green as they tended to do whenever her feelings were stirred. “No, sir; you mentioned nothing to me.” She gave him a look laden with perplexity, which he responded to only with a brief, “Haven't I? Well, I've done, now.”

Oh, dear. He is utterly not himself! Or has he taken a disgust of me?

The carriage fell silent. Mr. Mornay had thick, dark hair which tapered to the tip of his collar; short, dark sideburns, and handsome, strong-boned features. His eyes were deep, dark, and expressive, and his manner of dress, the height of manly perfection. Though he would not deign to discuss good style, he had a faultless sense of it, and many an aspiring buck or beau modeled their choice of attire after his. Like Ariana, his neatness appeared effortless. And he was universally approved of in the best houses, (save for those of the staunchest Whigs, who had still not forgiven Prinny or his pals, of which Mr. Mornay was one, for abandoning them for the Tories).

Even Ariana, who had little patience for matters of dress, found herself in awe of his presence at times. All told, he was an imposing character; a man one did not ignore or take lightly. Ariana was not happy with his tone of address, nor that she would not be seeing him after the morning service, but while she decided whether to make an answer to him, Beatrice broke the silence instead. “Achoo!” The twelve-year-old folded her handkerchief and looked about apologetically.

Beatrice had only recently joined Ariana in London, and both girls were staying at Mrs. Bentley's town house in Hanover Square.

Mrs. Bentley gave her younger niece a severe look, which Ariana did not fail to notice. Their aunt was a wealthy widow with a good soul at heart, but the lady was too prepared, Ariana felt, to make the worst of anything or anyone who posed a threat to her plans, her schedule, or her expectations.

Alarmed at the hint of an ague in her niece, Mrs. Bentley's delicately lined face wrinkled in disapproval while she pulled her gloves more tightly onto her hands.

“How long have you had that nasty sneeze?” she asked. “Do you have an ague?”

“No, no, I assure you!” And yet, the young girl had to stop even now, quickly covering her mouth and nose with her handkerchief to allow a second “Achoo!” to escape.

“Bless you,” said Mr. O'Brien, bringing a blinking smile to Beatrice's young face.

“Humph!” murmured Mrs. Bentley, deciding immediately to send the girl at the soonest convenience back to Chesterton and her family. She would not allow Ariana to contract a cold. Not with the wedding this close. Goodness knew, Mrs. Bentley had seen enough threats to this marriage—a coup d'etat, to be sure—and desired that nothing further could imperil the thing. With the ceremony so close, she was finally beginning to relax. The marriage was certain to take place. But she couldn't help remembering it hadn't always been that way. No, indeed! Why, since the day Mr. Mornay had asked for her niece, there had been one vexation after another, each more threatening than the last, each liable to ruin the man's hopes—and her own, for she wanted nothing more than to see the couple wed.

Her own niece, after all, fresh from the country, had unwittingly captured the heart of London's most famous bachelor—Mr. Phillip Mornay, known in Town as the Paragon. He was called the Paragon because he possessed three of the highest virtues of the English upper class: sartorial elegance, figure, and (most importantly) a fabulous fortune. Besides the family seat in Middlesex with a large tenantry and the house in Grosvenor Square, he owned small holdings and properties throughout the British Empire, all of which added to his income. His match to the debutante Miss Forsythe—a beauty in her own right, and rumoured to be an heiress, (a thing which Mrs. Bentley had fostered by putting up enough blunt for Ariana's Season that no one thought to credit her for doing so) was famous. Not since the Regent himself wed Caroline of Brunswick had there been such a general anticipation of a marriage (though one might rightly call the prince's an infamous match, she reflected!).

In any case, it was too wonderful a happenstance to let such a thing as a young chit like Beatrice put a damper on it with an ague. If Ariana were to fall ill, the marriage would still take place, of course; but why imperil the older girl? Why give her the least excuse to raise an objection? (Ariana was far too liable to raise objections—that had been the trouble from the beginning!) What if she were to wish for a postponement? Mrs. Bentley's nerves couldn't stand for it.

No, with the assurance that Ariana was finally settled upon her fiancé, there was nought to hinder the event—and she, Mrs. Bentley, would do everything in her power to see that it remained that way. Casting her eyes upon her niece, she had to acknowledge a twinge of satisfaction (for not the first time) at how the girl wore the expensive clothing she herself had bought her-- like a queen. Ariana was dressed in the same modish style as her aunt, not because she could afford it or had the slightest interest in cutting a wave, but for the reasons that Mrs. Bentley could, and did.

She was decidedly happy to have been so generous with the girl, for it had helped, she was certain, to catch the eye of Mornay, and indeed, of the ton. Was not her niece toasted at every evening supper she attended? Had not the Regent himself approved of her? True, Ariana did have to endure the occasional jest from Mornay's circle of aristocratic wags on account of her well-known piety, but even these men were gentler to her than was their usual habit concerning women.

And now she, Mrs. Bentley, had been enjoying her most successful Season since her own come out, decades earlier. Routs, card parties, soirees—the sort of things she adored, were crowding her calendar as the chaperon of Miss Forsythe, and she was going to marry Randolph-- it was indeed an annus mirabilis! Just then a sudden nasty odour pulled her from her thoughts.

“Oh, dear,” she murmured, turning to the Paragon. “Where is this Orphan Society? We are getting into neighborhoods that I cannot like.” The dignified streets of Mayfair were behind them, and now they were in roads that were muddy and crowded with carts and working-class people. Child vagabonds could be seen huddling in doorways. Pedestrians stopped what they were doing to watch the shiny black coach with its high-steppers, and try to get a glimpse of the dignitaries who must be inside such a vehicle.

Ariana sat back. She had seen enough of the poor and indigent in London to know that compassion alone was worthless as far as helping anyone went. Further, she had no wish to seem pitying or condescending. The poor were entitled to dignity like anyone else. She had welcomed today's invitation precisely because of her wish to help London's less fortunate citizens. (This had been a desire of her heart since coming to London earlier in the year. Her world had become a disheartening juxtaposition of unbelievable wealth against a backdrop of the ever-present poor.)

Looking across at her suitor, she suddenly wondered if it would jar with his disposition to become a philanthropist? Certainly it was expected of the wealthy, wasn't it? Even in her little town of Chesterton, it was the wealthiest families, those with the huge estates, who held the Annual Balls, the Harvest Home, the Christmas Hall festivities. Mr. Mornay was part of this wealthy class. She hoped it would fall to her to organize charitable events as his wife.

“Ariana!” She was torn from her thoughts by her aunt's strident tone. “Did you say which street the Orphanage is on?”

“The Society is on Folgate Street, Spitalfields. Just north of Spitalfields Market,” replied Mr. Mornay, in her stead. Ariana was looking at him, and he met her eyes, adding, “I own a property on the street, you know.”

“Do you?” She was greatly surprised. It was not a fashionable part of the city. “A house?” she asked, trying to prolong the conversation. Finally he was at least giving her his attention.

“A tenement.”

Mrs. Bentley's curiosity got the best of her. “You own property there?”

He gave a rueful smile. “Won it in a wager, I'm afraid. My man of business sees to letting it and so forth. I've never laid eyes on it, actually, though I've been meaning to give it a look.”

Mrs. Bentley fished an expensive, lace-edged handkerchief from her reticule, and held it now over her mouth and nose, as if the mere fact of passing through the neighborhood might result in being exposed to noxious vapours.

Mr. Pellham took her other hand and patted it soothingly.

Beatrice, all eyes, extended her own hand out towards Mr. O'Brien. “Would you like to take my hand, Mr. O'Brien?” she asked. His eyes opened rather wide, but before he could say anything, Mrs. Bentley chided, “Hush!” and, reaching across Ariana, landed a harmless “slap” to the girl's outstretched hand with her handkerchief. Why did youngsters have to do the most foolish things imaginable? Wasn't it enough that she had had to steer Ariana clear of the future cleric? Now would she have to do the same for her younger niece when she came of age?

Mr. Peter O'Brien, meanwhile, smiled shortly at the girl to be kind, but he was much more concerned, despite his best efforts, with her elder sister. He could never become quite inured to the striking figure Miss Forsythe presented, and he smoothed his coat lapels and adjusted his cravat. He'd been taking as many glances at Ariana as he could safely do while trying to conceal his admiration of her—he had lost her to Mornay, there was no way around it. But it was a difficult pill to swallow, and he still got choked up by it on occasion.

Mr. O'Brien had entertained hopes of forming a betrothal with Ariana himself. He was not wealthy, and he was Irish—both of which were not in his favour, particularly with the standards that Miss Forsythe's aunt seemed to demand from any would-be suitor of her niece's. He was mildly ill-at-ease, therefore, despite his being firmly included on Beatrice's account. (The girl had taken an instant partiality to him, insisting on his company as often as possible.) He could not rid himself of his still strong admiration for her elder sister, however, and that, coupled with a touch of pique—he'd had such hopes of her—moved him to join her company whenever possible. Miss Forsythe had been too, too friendly for him to think she felt nothing more than mere friendship for him!

But it wasn't becoming in a man of faith to nurse a grudge-- his calling was in the Church, which, even if he had not been a third son, he would have chosen in any case as he had strong religious leanings—and he had no wish to rub salt in a wound—but he could not resist the chance to be in her company. So he tried to avoid looking at her, having no wish to make a jackanape of himself, but it was difficult indeed, with such proximity to her sweet, radiant beauty.

Furthermore, it was decidedly unusual for him to be welcomed into the presence of the Paragon, a man he felt more than a little antipathy towards. To be seated beside him now struck him as extraordinary, and he was mute with a mixture of caution, jealousy, and surprise. He had always scoffed at the man's reputation for excellent taste, but seated next to him, he could not deny a feeling of reluctant admiration. Mr. Mornay's clothing made a stark contrast to Mr. O'Brien's less costly attire, and the man's dark double-breasted tailcoat with tapered sleeves made his own frock coat, though sturdy, appear plain, indeed.

At that moment Beatrice unhelpfully exclaimed, “Your coach is ever so pretty, Mr. Mornay! It is far more comfortable than my father's!” She fingered the dark burgundy velvet of her seat. “I wish my mother and father could see it!”

“Hush!” Ariana said, not without affection.

“Do you not fancy the coach? I could ride in it for days!” she exclaimed, wide-eyed.

“Of course I fancy it, only it doesn't signify.”

“Is your carriage as agreeable as this one, Mr. O'Brien?” the girl asked, making him shudder inwardly. He thought of the single family equipage he used when taking his mama and sisters about Town. Compared to Mornay's gleaming, springed and upholstered vehicle, his was shabby, indeed.

“No,” he answered, trying to smile with the word.

Just then everyone's attention was diverted as they pulled up outside a large Palladian style building fenced in by black iron gates. The London Orphan Society was a stately institution. Mr. Pellham exclaimed, “Undoubtedly the work of Mr. Nash, wouldn't you say, Mornay?”

Mr. Mornay, observing the building as best he could from the interior of the coach, nodded his head. “Very likely.” All was quiet and neat on the outside. A gateman opened the way for them, and the coach moved ahead into a circular drive which brought them round to the front entrance.


******


Stepping into the building, Mrs.Bentley raised her ankle-length pelisse as though it might drag on the tiled floor, while Ariana straightened her dark-blue French-style canezou. It had a deep flounce along the shoulders and neck-line and around the empire waist. Beneath a bonnet which sported two round puffs of pale, gathered fabric at the top, little ringlets of blond hair were just visible around her face—owing to her having endured a night with curling papers beneath her cap—and she was bright with youthful beauty this morning, as most days. She happily accepted Mr. Mornay's arm, still searching his countenance for a clue to his feelings, but he maintained a stony disregard of her. If not for his past effusive reassurances of love, she might have been exceedingly disconcerted. But she refused to believe anything of moment was behind his distant manner, and she tucked her arm into his with the added touch of her other hand, placing it upon his coat sleeve with feeling.

The little group followed a lady by name of Mrs. Gullweather, who was the headmistress, and two female servants down a long, wide stone hall which ended at the chapel. A man-servant led them to seats in a front row. Ariana was impressed with the massive interior and its circular ceiling and long, stained-glass windows, beautiful against the light of morning outside. The benches around and behind them were full of children of all ages, who emitted only a low murmur from their ranks.

She sat down cognizant of the pleasure of being next to Mr. Mornay. She glanced at him now, but he continued to study the area ahead, where Mrs. Gullweather was preparing to speak. She felt as though he was somewhere else today, far distant from the proceedings, from her. But she turned her attention to the front of the room, just as he had. She would think no more on it for now.

“Before we begin,” Mrs. Gullweather said, with a smile, “We have arranged for the children to entertain you. We do try to educate them profitably. Most of our graduates, when they leave us, go on to lead productive lives in society. We have had dozens of young people go off to be missionaries in foreign lands, and furnished a good many governesses, cooks, and housemaids for people of quality,” she said, speaking to the guests, who, in addition to Ariana and her party, took up the first two rows of seats across the chapel. “Many of our young gentlemen, it must be added, who do not choose the mission field, go on to find apprenticeships, or serve as footmen or grooms in the best households.”

With a wave of her hand, she added, “These are the same children who are brought to us destitute, and with nothing but poverty, death, or a life of crime facing them. It is only by the generous help of our patrons,” she smiled benignly towards them, “that we are able to effect such changes for society. And now—the children.”

The sight of the young orphans erased all other concerns from Ariana's heart. How glad she was to have come, today! She so wanted to make a difference somehow for children like these! God knew each by name and loved every one of them. The children sang an old hymn, “Ye Holy Angels, Bright,” and by its end, Ariana was thoroughly satisfied that the London Orphan Society was a worthy cause, indeed.

When the dramatic actress, Mrs. Tiernan, finally stood before them, silent, even grave of countenance, a hush fell over the audience, including its youngest members. Her gown was of the classical Roman style, more like gowns that were in vogue a decade ago (as Ariana knew from her mama's old fashion catalogues). Expecting her to begin, the audience waited. But she kept her eyes fixed on a spot overhead, towards a window.

When she continued to stare like a statue at that fixed point against the opposite wall, people began to look at it, too. Was it supposed to mean something?

Then, just when everyone despaired of her ever doing anything other than staring at the window, she turned and faced the assembly. This time she stared down the main aisle, as though she were in a trance. Then, suddenly, with a dramatic flourish of her arm, she cried, “Hear the Word of the Lord!” Her voice rang out loud and piercing as it cut into the silence.

Then, in a quieter tone, “A dramatic reading from the Book of Revelations, Chapter One, verses ten through twenty.” She slowly moved her gaze to take in the onlookers. Her eyes were calm and yet seemed to blaze from within, settling to flicker momentarily upon Ariana and her companions.

Again the hush grew deep with anticipation. Mrs. Tiernan dropped suddenly to her knees, her arms raised high, and then turned her head as if listening. In a clear tone which carried an authoritative quality, she began in earnest.

“On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit. And I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” She added measured movements of her arms and even her body, so that she made a captivating sight.

“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me; And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands....”

...“His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace! ”

“...And his voice,” she lifted her head to listen, “was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” She made a motion as if taking a sword from its sheath, and then, magically, a small leather book was in her hand! How had she done it? Ariana didn't know. But there it was, a concrete allusion to the “double-edged sword” being the word of God.

And then the book was gone, vanished, like it had never been there. The audience gasped, and she continued, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance...”

When the reading was ended, Mrs. Tiernan froze, statue-like, except that her head was bowed. In a minute, people began to applaud, led by Mr. O'Brien, which would have been rather amazing except that he had the impetus of knowing the presentation had ended for he alone had been following along out of his little leather Bible. Mrs. Tiernan remained with her head bowed as the clapping slowly grew stronger. Finally, when the applause ceased, the lady bowed low once more, so that everyone had to clap again, and then she said, “Thank you! Thank you!” and swept out of sight, leaving from a hidden exit behind the pulpit.

Soon the guests were led to a small breakfast room, where a light repast was waiting. While they ate, they shared thoughts on what they'd seen.

“I daresay she cast a spell on us,” chuckled Mr. Pellham, tugging on his moustache thoughtfully. Mrs. Bentley added, “Rather a bit of a trickster, I should think. Making that little book appear and disappear as if by magic. And in a chapel!”

Mr. O'Brien cleared his throat. He hated to disagree with anyone who was socially superior to him, but he had to correct what he saw as near-blasphemous thinking.

“But ma'am,” he managed to say, “it was only for effect; to heighten the power of her presentation, which, I thought, in all honesty, to be quite...quite good.”

“I thought it was wonderful!” put in Beatrice, loyally—and loudly. “Did you not think so, Ariana?”

Ariana smiled. “I was impressed.” She glanced at Mr. Mornay and felt a fresh concern when, instead of finding the warm eyes and gentle smile she loved, was met with a blank expression. It was an expression she recognized as being his “tolerant” look; he was merely enduring the proceedings, she realized. But he turned to the faces around the table and added, “It was interesting, and,” he chose his word, “Worthwhile.”

While they continued eating, Mrs. Gullweather approached their table with a little bald man who wore spectacles and carried a small, bound leather book in which he was jotting information.

“I hope you have enjoyed our little entertainment,” she began, after thanking them for coming.

“And now we must rely upon your patience and goodness a little longer, while we beg you to consider making our orphanage a grateful recipient of the generosity that so distinguishes your class among men.” Ariana wished devoutly that she had the means to be as generous as possible, but knew that within her reticule lay a single crown. It was the last of her money.

Mr. Mornay, meanwhile, had no wish to listen to any flummery, and spoke to the man with the book. “Are you recording donations?” The man looked up, startled to be addressed, but quickly replied, “I am, sir!”

He rounded the table to where Ariana and Mr. Mornay were sitting, across from one another. He waited, pencil poised and ready to enter an amount in his account book. Meanwhile Mrs. Bentley offered the woman a few guineas, which she accepted gratefully. Mr. Pellham followed with a bank note of an unknown sum. Beatrice solemnly gave sixpence, and Mr. O'Brien just a little above that, as this unfortunate time of the month always found him in low water .

Mr. Mornay, meanwhile, had turned to Ariana. “I should like you to propose the amount.” It was an embarrassing moment, as the topic of money was considered ungenteel. One did not discuss it, as important as it was. She blushed.

“I dare not think of it.”

With surprise, he asked, leaning in towards her for privacy, “Do you not wish to support the place?”

“Oh, I do, of course. I mean to give my last crown...”

“I've no doubt. But tell me the amount you should like to give if you had the means. Only name it, and it is done.”

She eyed him uncertainly. Suddenly his distance-keeping seemed to have fled, and he was himself again. And he loved her. He was asking her to make a financial decision for the two of them!Many a woman would have been astounded at it. Perhaps Ariana was astounded at it, for she could only reply, “I think perhaps that you ought to--”

“No, it must be you. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you, and I am certain you will be more generous than I.”

“But that is what I fear!” She hissed in a whisper. “What if I name a sum that is too high?”

He smiled, and she instantly smiled back. “Name it.”

“Oh, dear! Very well,” she said, bringing her two hands together in thought; but she was enormously pleased to have received that smile. It was the first she'd seen him wear all morning. “Would...twenty-five pounds per annum be appropriate?”

He said nothing but turned to the recorder. “Send the bill to my house,” and he went on to give the information necessary while the appreciative clerk scribbled in his book.

Ariana watched, with a spurt of elation. A heady delight. A feeling of unexpected....power. She found herself staring at Mr. Mornay as if realizing his great wealth for the first time.

“Stop looking at me like that. 'Tis only money.”

Only money! She knew of widows who lived on little more than what she had just been able to procure for the orphanage. With a few words, she had made a difference for the children. It was a marvelous new feeling, heady and intoxicating. Of course it was Phillip's money, not her own, but hadn't her aunt told her numerous times that all he had would soon be hers? That Mr. Mornay had offered her everything that was his? Any amount of pin money she wanted? She had never paid the least attention to the thought of sharing in Phillip's wealth, but suddenly it presented a world of possibilities to her.

She barely noticed the rest of the proceedings, the thank yous and goodbyes. Only the parade of orphans, waiting to wave and cheer them off as they pulled away in the coach brought her fully alert to her surroundings. She looked at each child in a new way. What if she could afford to give them all a new article of clothing every year? Or new shoes? What if she and Phillip were to –to—start their own Society? There were still hundreds and hundreds of hungry, cold children on the streets. More orphans than this one asylum could house. As the carriage exited the iron gates of the grounds, Ariana was lost in a world of new thoughts and ideas. It seemed as if she'd been waiting all her life to have such thoughts. She'd never had the means to have them, before.

As Mrs. Phillip Mornay she would have the means.

As Mrs. Phillip Mornay she could do much good.

Her eyes wandered to her silent, handsome future husband. Studying him, she felt a strong wave of love. She recalled wrapping her arms around his neck, and the wonderful feel of his arms firmly about her. The night of their betrothal he had taken her into his coach and put her upon his lap and they'd kissed.

He was listening to Beatrice's absent chatter just then or she would have bestowed upon him a most adoring smile. As she studied the handsome face, strong nose and chin; the rich, neat attire, her heart swelled with love and pride—but also a slight discomposure. She was appreciating his circumstances in a way she had never done. Was it wrong? Was it selfish? To be happy that she would be married to a rich man? But she thought of all the charities she could support, the good works she could do, and her qualms dissipated. Mr. Mornay had been only too happy to let her name the sum for the Orphanage. Surely he would always be that way, wouldn't he?

During the drive home, she dreamed of the future benefactress to the poor which she would become. The usually deflating scenes of needy children on the streets did not affect her as usual.

“Soon, soon, my dear children,” she thought, “Mrs. Mornay will come to your aide!” At that moment her beloved turned his gaze upon her and her inner musings came to an abrupt halt.

Once again, there was nothing of warmth in his eyes, nothing of the affection she usually found in them. Would the future Mrs. Mornay be a benefactress to the poor?

Or was he having a sudden change of heart? Did he wish to—to cry off from the wedding? Had he allowed her to name the sum for the Orphanage to lessen the blow of his change of heart? Her thoughts of helping the poor paled in light of this disturbing notion. Was he re-thinking their wedding plans? Why else the coldness of his manner, the absence of meaning in his looks to her? She would need to find a way to speak with him, privately. Perhaps his distracted behaviour had nothing to do with her at all. She frowned. If it did not, there was something else on his mind that was troublesome. In either case, she must seek to help.

Somehow she had to speak to him alone, and soon. Something was most definitely wrong.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the Extended Regency in England (circa 1800 – 1830). Ms. Burkard’s novels include Before the Season Ends and The House on Grosvenor Square (coming April, 2009). Her stories blend Christian faith and romance with well-researched details from the Regency period. Experience a romantic age, where timeless lessons still apply to modern life. And, enjoy a romance that reminds you happy endings are possible for everyone.


For more information, visit: www.LinoreRoseBurkard.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Walking Taylor Home by Brian Schrauger

Tour Date: May 1, 2009

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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!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Walking Taylor Home

Monarch Books (February 10, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Brian Schrauger works as a research and marketing consultant. He and his wife, Debbie, live near Nashville with their sons, Christopher and Jonathan.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.69
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (February 10, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825462916
ISBN-13: 978-0825462917



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

Almost always, especially early on, I told each of my three sons, “I can tell. Someday you are going to be an awesome dad.”


Then, almost every night after hugs and kisses, I turned off the lights and said, “Good night! I love you! See you in the morning.”


Each repeated back the words exactly as I said them. Except for Taylor, who with dyslexic echo said, “See you in the morning! Good night! I love you!”


Curious twist, I thought.


All throughout their younger years there was a quiet voice inside my mind, my heart, whispering but clear, Be sure to say this every night. Because it is a promise from both of us. No matter what life brings, you and your sons will always and forever see each other in the morning.


When I heard the voice, I shuddered, then quenched it with the thought, This is nothing more than what all parents fear. Of course the worst is possible. But we are careful. The worst is far from likely. Stuff like that only happens to people who are not careful or the unlucky few. And after all, worst-case odds are very, very slim.


And so my mind, confident in the odds, told the worry in my heart to just shut up.




Chapter One: Hard News (Nashville, Thursday, June 3, 1999)

Hi. This is Brian, Taylor’s dad. I’m using Taylor’s e-mail because his address book is more up-to-date than mine. After Taylor finished chemotherapy last February, he was given a battery of tests, including an MRI and CT Scan. Since then he’s had monthly x-rays of his chest. Two days ago, he was given a second round of scans. Yesterday, at about three in the afternoon, one of Taylor’s doctors called. He told us that new scans show four nodules on the left lung and another on the right. The cancer is back.


The Tumor Board at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is meeting as I write. They are mapping out a strategy for the renewed battle that lies ahead. Immediately after yesterday’s call I went home, cried with Debbie, then exercised and showered. I also shaved my head. Again.


And all the while I wept and raged, shamelessly pleading with God.


About an hour later, while Debbie worked the phone calling friends and family, recruiting prayers, I went to find Taylor. He was at his best friend’s house just down the block. The two of them were playing on Nintendo 64. Standing at the front door of our neighbor’s house I said, “Hey, buddy. I need to talk with you. Would you walk home with me?”


“Well… okay, sure! See ya later, Trey.” He was happy as a lark.


Skipping at my side down the middle of the street, he suddenly noticed. “Hey Dad, you shaved your head again! How come?”


Silently I prayed for help. “Yeah. Kinda felt I had to.”


Unfazed by my elusive answer, Taylor chose to tease. “So why’re you out here? Shouldn’t you be doing something with Mom? After all, today is your twentieth wedding anniversary!” His question was full of impish innuendo. And he seemed to sense a need to make me smile. I tried to comply, but knowing his skill at reading my heart, I quickly changed the subject.


While we walked I made an impromptu promise. “Guess what? Just today I made a decision. We’re gonna get you a brand-new, state-of-the-art laptop, one with all the bells and whistles—like tons of memory and a DVD-drive!” The laptop he’s used for a year doesn’t belong to us. And at the ancient age of four, it’s a technological dinosaur. Taylor was thrilled with the news.


“Yes, yes, yes! So when’re we gonna get it? Huh? Huh?”


I chuckled, pleased with his euphoria. “Pretty soon. Prob’ly in the next two or three weeks.”


“Yahoo!”


When we reached our house, instead of going in, I directed him to a seat in the front yard. Underneath a large shade tree, we sat atop a green metallic box shielding an electrical transformer for our neighborhood. Still excited by the promise of a new computer, Taylor looked at me, curious by my silence, by the dissonance he felt. Finally I spoke. “Well, buddy, I’ve got news. Good news and bad news. The good news is what I just toldja about the new laptop…”


O God! Help me do this…


“The bad news is that one of your doctors called this afternoon…” I paused and said no more. I didn’t have to. His jaw dropped.


“It’s back, isn’t it?” he whispered.


I didn’t say a word. Instead I just moved closer and put my arms around him. Taylor buried his face in my chest and bawled while I baptized his head with large, hot drops falling from my eyes.


Taylor’s birthday is tomorrow, on Friday, June 4. He turns eleven. A huge party is planned. On Saturday and Sunday, Taylor is supposed to be on TV helping host a telethon in a local effort to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network. And for at least a month he’s counted down the days until his Hickman catheter will come out. He’s had these tubes dangling from his chest for a year. With the Hickman gone and treatment over, Taylor’s summer is full of plans: uninhibited swimming, three camps, and a nostalgic visit with old friends in Dallas—a school-free time when they can really play. Then after summer ends, he’s thrilled about going to a new school where he knows the work will be harder.


Now, at best, these things are uncertain. Most are dreams destroyed. And all in less than sixty seconds. As our tears subsided, still sitting in the front yard underneath a tree, Taylor started asking questions.


“Will I still be able to go to my summer camps?”


“Don’t know. Prob’ly not all of ‘em, anyway.”


“What about school this fall?”


“Don’t know. We’ll just have to see what happens.”


“What will the doctors do now?”


“I have a few guesses, but… I don’t know. We should find out tomorrow.” We prayed, then went inside the house and cried with Mom. As Debbie hit the phones, dialing for defenders who would pray, Taylor and I went upstairs and lay down on his bed. I put my hand on his chest and sometimes stroked his new blond hair. I knew his too would soon be gone. Again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New York Debut (Carter House Girls) by Melody Carlson

Tour Date: April 30, 2009

Book Title & Author: -New York Debut by Melody Carlson (Carter House Girls series)

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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!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


New York Debut (Carter House Girls)

Zondervan (May 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past ten years, she has published more than a hundred books for children, teens, and adults, with sales totaling more than 2.5 million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List.

Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards including The Gold Medallion, The Christy, and The Rita Award. And most recently she is in the process of optioning some of her books for film rights.
She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714931
ISBN-13: 978-0310714934

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“Where is Taylor?” asked Grandmother as she drove DJ home from the airport.
”Is she coming on a later flight?”

DJ hadn’t told her the whole story yet. In fact, she hadn’t said much of anything to Grandmother at all during the past week, except to leave a message saying that she’d changed her flight and planned to be home two days earlier than expected. Obviously, Grandmother had assumed that Taylor had changed her plans as well.

“Taylor’s in LA,” DJ said slowly, wishing she could add something to that, something to deflect further questioning.

“Visiting her father?”

“No…”

“Touring with Eva?”

“No…”
“What then?” Grandmother’s voice was getting irritated as she drove away from the terminal. “Where is the girl, Desiree? Speak up.”

“She’s in rehab.”

“Rehab?” Grandmother turned to stare at DJ with widened eyes. “Whatever for?”

“For alcohol treatment.”

Grandmother seemed stunned into speechlessness, which was a relief since DJ didn’t really want to discuss this. She was still trying to grasp the whole strange phenomenon. It was hard to admit, but the past few days of being mostly by herself in Las Vegas had been lonely and depressing and one of the reasons she’d been desperate to change her flight and come home early. She had really missed Taylor. The hardest part was when she discovered that Taylor wasn’t allowed any communication from outside the rehab facility. This concerned DJ. No cell phone calls, email, or anything. It seemed weird. Although DJ was praying for her roommate, she was worried. What if it wasn’t a reputable place? What if Taylor never came back? What if something bad happened to her? Not only would DJ blame herself, she figured everyone else would too.

Finally Grandmother spoke. “Did you girls get into some kind of trouble in Las Vegas, Desiree?”

“No…”

“I want you to be honest with me. Did something happen to precipitate this?”

“The only thing that happened is that Taylor came to grips with the fact that she has a serious drinking problem. If you’ll remember, I tried to let you in on this some time ago.”

“Yes, I remember the vodka bottle. I simply assumed it was a one-time occurrence.”

“I told you otherwise.”

“Well, I know that girls will be girls, Desiree. You can’t have spent as much time as I in the fashion industry and not know this.”

“Were you ever like that?” asked DJ. “I mean that girls will be girls bit?”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “I wasn’t an angel, Desiree, if that’s what you’re hinting at. However, I did understand the need for manners and decorum. I witnessed numerous young women spinning out of control. Beautiful or not, a model won’t last long if she is unable to work.”

“Isn’t that true with everything?”

“Yes…I suppose. How long is Taylor going to be in…this rehabilitation place?”

“I don’t know. You should probably call her mom.”

“Oh, dear…that’s something else I hadn’t considered. Certainly Eva Perez won’t be blaming me for her daughter’s, well, her drinking problem.”
“Eva is fully aware that Taylor had this drinking problem long before she came to Carter House.”

“Good.” Grandmother sighed and shook her head. “I just hope her treatment won’t prevent her from participating in Fashion Week. That would be a disaster.”

“Seems like it would be a worse disaster if Taylor didn’t get the help she needs.”

“Yes, of course, that goes without saying. But I would think that a week or two should be sufficient. Goodness, just how bad can a problem get when you’re only seventeen?”

DJ shrugged, but didn’t say anything. The truth was she thought it could get pretty bad, and in Taylor’s case it was bad. And it could’ve gotten worse. To think that Taylor had been drinking daily and DJ never even knew it.

“It’s just as well you came home early, Desiree,” said Grandmother as she turned onto the parkway. “Already Casey and Rhiannon are back. And Kriti is supposed to return tomorrow. Eliza will be back on New Year’s Eve.”

“I’m surprised she didn’t want to stay in France for New Year’s.”

“As am I. If I were over there, I’d certainly have booked a room in Paris. Nothing is more spectacular than fireworks over the City of Light. But apparently Eliza has plans with her boyfriend. Imagine—giving up Paris for your boyfriend!”

Of course, DJ knew that Eliza’s life of lavish luxury didn’t mean all that much to her. Like a poor little rich girl, Eliza wanted a slice of “normal.” Well, normal with a few little extras like good shoes, designer bags, and her pretty white Porsche.

“It’s good to be home,” DJ proclaimed as her grandmother turned into the driveway.

“It’s good to hear you say that,” said Grandmother.

And it was the truth. After a week in Vegas, DJ was extremely thankful to be back. Maybe for the first time, Carter House did feel like a home. She couldn’t wait to see Casey and Rhiannon.

“Welcome back,” called Casey as she opened the door, dashed out onto the porch, and hugged DJ. “Need some help with those bags?”

“Thanks.” DJ studied Casey for a moment, trying to figure out what had changed. “Your hair!”

Casey picked up one of DJ’s bags then grinned as she gave her strawberry blond hair a shake. “Like it?”

“It’s the old you—only better.”

“My mom talked me into it. The black was a little dramatic, don’t you think?”

“I think you look fantastic. And that choppy layered cut is very cute.”

“Your grandmother approved it too. And I got highlights.”

DJ touched her own hair. “Taylor had been nagging me to get mine redone. But it was so expensive in Vegas. I figured I’d do it here.”

Casey lowered her voice. “So how’d your grandmother take the news about Taylor?”

DJ stopped at the foot of the stairs and stared at Casey. “Did Rhiannon tell you everything?”
“Yeah, is it supposed to be a big secret?” Casey made a hurt face now. “I was wondering why you told Rhiannon and not me. I thought we were friends, DJ.”

“I didn’t mean to, but I sort of spilled the beans with Rhiannon because I was so desperate and didn’t know what to do at the time. But then I felt bad. I mean it was possible that Taylor wanted to keep it private, you know?”

Casey nodded somberly. “Yeah, I guess I do know.”

“You should.” After all, it had only been a few months since they had intervened with Casey in regard to her pain pill snitching.

“So, are you saying mum’s the word?”

“Until Taylor comes back. Don’t you think it’s up to her to say something or not?”

“Yeah. I can just imagine Eliza with that tasty little morsel of gossip. It’d be all over the school in no time.”

“Speaking of Eliza, that means Kriti too.”

“Kriti just got here about an hour ago.” Casey paused, nodding toward the room that Kriti and Eliza shared. The taxi dropped her and she went straight to her room. But something seems wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure. She just looks different. Kind of unhappy. I mean she didn’t even say hello or anything.”

“Maybe she was missing her family.”

“Maybe, but my guess is it’s something more.”

“We should probably try harder to reach out to her and make her feel at home.”

“You’re here!” Rhiannon burst out of the room and threw her arms around DJ. “Welcome home!”

“Man, it is so good to be back. Vegas—for more than a day or two—is a nightmare.”

“At least you got a tan,” observed Rhiannon. She glanced at Casey. “Both of you, in fact.”

“It’s that California sun.”

“Don’t make me envious,” said Rhiannon.

“Hey, look at you,” said DJ as she noticed that Rhiannon had on a very cool outfit. “Is that new?”

“Old and new. My great aunt gave me some of her old clothes and I’ve been altering them.” She held out her hands and turned around to make the long circular skirt spin out. “Fun, huh?”

“And cool,” said DJ.

“She’s got all kinds of stuff,” said Casey. “Hats and costume jewelry and scarves and things. I told her she should open a retro shop and get rich.”

“Maybe I will someday.”

“Or just sell things here in Carter House,” suggested DJ. “Between Eliza and Taylor’s clothing budget, you could clean up.”

“Oh, yeah, DJ, Conner just called,” said Rhiannon. “They just got back from their ski trip and he said he tried your cell a few times, but it seemed to be turned off.”

“More like dead. My flight was so early this morning, I forgot to charge it.”

“Well, I told him you’d call.”

Casey set DJ’s bag inside her door. “Speaking of boys, I think I’ll check and see how Garrison is doing—find out if he missed me or not.” She touched her hair. “Do you think he’ll like it?”

“How could he not,” said Rhiannon. “It’s so cool.”

“Later,” called Casey as she headed for her room.

“So, how’s Taylor?” asked Rhiannon quietly.

“You didn’t tell Kriti, did you?” whispered DJ, pulling Rhiannon into her room then closing the door.

“No, why would I?”

“I just wanted to be sure. I think we need to respect Taylor’s privacy with this.”

“Absolutely. So, have you talked to her?”

“They won’t let me. They have this no communication policy. No email, cell phones…nothing. It’s like a black hole. Weird.”

Rhiannon nodded. “Yeah, it was like that with my mom at first. I think they wanted to keep her cut off from any bad connections. Then after a while, you earn communication privileges.”

“Oh, that’s a relief. I was really worried.”

“I still can hardly believe Taylor went willingly.”

“Yeah, our strong-willed wild child…putting herself into rehab.” DJ shook her head.

“That remind me, Seth has called a few times too. He wanted to know why Taylor’s cell was off and where she was.”

“What’d you say?”

“That I didn’t know.” She shrugged. “Actually, that was the truth.”

“But nothing else?”
“No.”

“Good. I mean it’s not like we need to keep it top secret, but until we hear from Taylor, let’s not talk about it.”

“Sure.” Rhiannon put a hand on DJ’s shoulder. “And don’t worry about her, DJ. She’ll be fine.”
“I know.” DJ nodded as she put her bags on her bed and started to unzip them. But as soon as Rhiannon left, DJ wasn’t so sure. What if Taylor wasn’t fine? What if something had gone wrong? And what if it was all DJ’s fault?