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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:
Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)
Penny Zeller is the author of four books and numerous magazine articles in national and regional publications. She is an active volunteer in her community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader and co-organizing a woman’s prayer group. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom. When she’s not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and volleyball. She and her husband Lon reside in Wyoming with their two children.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $6.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Clutching the envelope that had just been delivered to her home, McKenzie Worthington walked into the parlor and closed the doors behind her. Sitting down, she ran her finger over the familiar, hasty penmanship on the outside of the envelope. There was no return address, but McKenzie already knew who had sent the letter. Bracing herself for the words on the pages within, she carefully opened the seal and unfolded the tattered, soiled piece of stationery.
My dearest sister McKenzie,
I write this letter with a heavy heart and a fearful spirit. I am convinced that Darius is not the man I thought him to be when I married him. He drinks almost continually, and when there is no more money to purchase his whiskey, he places the blame on me. He used all the money in my trousseau long ago, and we are constantly on the run to avoid the law. His threats are many if I dare turn him in to the local sheriff.
We are without food much of the time, but Darius always finds funds for his alcohol. All the money sent to me in the past, he has found a way to spend. I wish more than anything that I could find a way to leave this place and return home. However, Darius has threatened my life if I leave and has arranged for several of his friends at the saloon to keep an eye on me. One of his friends, Bulldog, lives nearby and watches my every move. He scares me to death, McKenzie.
Please, help me get away from Darius. He is such a mean man with a horrid temper. I fear for my life, at times. If Darius knew I was writing to you, I know he would kill me. I ask again that you please not tell Mother and Father the seriousness of my situation, since they will surely say that I deserve it for running away with Darius. But please come, and come quickly.
With much love,
When she had finished reading the letter, McKenzie clutched it to her chest. She could feel a tear threatening to fall, and she diverted her attention to the mantel above the fireplace. A large, three-foot-square oil painting hung proudly in the same place it had for the past ten years. McKenzie stared at the three people in the portrait and suddenly yearned for things to be as they had been then. Time had passed so quickly; the years of her childhood seemed barely a whisper in the conversation of life.
On the left-hand side of the painting, McKenzie’s younger sister, Kaydie, posed in her pink satin gown. Her long, blonde hair flowed over her shoulders, and her brown eyes seemed to hold a sparkle that McKenzie knew was long gone due to Kaydie’s present circumstances.
Sitting on a higher stool in the middle, McKenzie’s older sister, Peyton, emphasized her role as the eldest and most favored Worthington daughter. Beneath her dark, rolling locks, her large, green eyes held the look of arrogance and superiority that she continually flaunted over her less-preferred sisters.
On the right-hand side, her head tilted toward Kaydie’s, sat McKenzie, then fourteen years old. Her long, strawberry blonde hair was pinned up at the sides, and she wore her favorite turquoise gown. The smirk on McKenzie’s face had caused her mother great disturbance. “Proper ladies never smile in a portrait. Your father will be so disappointed,” her mother had scolded her. “We shall have to insist the painting be redone.”
The artist had been paid a reduced fee for failing to change McKenzie’s smile to a look of solemnity and had never been asked to paint any further portraits for the Worthington family. So, the portrait of Arthur and Florence Worthington’s daughters had never been repainted.
Once the servants had hung it above the mantel, there it had remained, serving as a memory in different ways to the different members of the Worthington household. To Peyton, it was a reminder that she was the eldest and the most obedient. To McKenzie and Kaydie, it was a reminder of enjoyable days past, when they would secretly embark on adventures that were considered unbecoming for young women from families of prestige and wealth. To McKenzie’s mother, the portrait was a disgrace because of McKenzie’s smirk, and to her father, it was the observance of a costly tradition that had been carried on from generation to generation.
McKenzie scanned the portrait again, her focus stopping on Kaydie’s face. Hang on, my dear Kaydie. I promise I will figure out a way to save you from Darius. Please don’t give up hope, she silently begged her sister. I don’t know how I will do it or when, only that I will. This much I promise you.
McKenzie sat for a moment longer in the quietness of the parlor. She recalled her parents’ disturbance when their youngest daughter had eloped with Darius Kraemer and moved West with him.
McKenzie’s mother had covered her mouth with her left hand and fanned herself with her right, clearly indicating her dismay at the situation. “I am so distraught by Kaydie’s marriage that I can barely manage day-to-day living,” she’d lamented.
“She never should have married a man so far beneath her. Now we’ll likely never hear from her again,” Peyton had said, sipping her tea. “Of course, Kaydie was always the one who thought she could do whatever she pleased and face the consequences later.” Peyton’s voice had done little to hide her smugness. “I would never do such a thing. Not only was it an unwise decision to marry someone without a pedigree and move far from civilization, but it has brought nothing but shame to the Worthington family. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to make up stories to explain her absence in order to preserve our family’s impeccable reputation.”
McKenzie had glared at her older sister. “Now, Peyton, not everyone can marry such a fine gentleman as Maxwell Adams,” she’d said with more than a hint of sarcasm, thinking of how grateful she was that she herself hadn’t married Maxwell, or anyone like him. While he was polite and treated Peyton well, he was also stuffy and prudish, and he seemed incapable of doing anything for himself. It had been Peyton who had secured his position at their father’s law office. Maxwell hadn’t even been able to apply for the job himself. In McKenzie’s opinion, Maxwell was a helpless, spineless, sorry excuse for a man.
“At least I am married,” Peyton had said, glaring at her sister, “unlike some people I know.” Peyton never missed an opportunity to rub in the fact that McKenzie, as an unmarried woman, was an oddity in a society that held marriage as the highest priority for women—marriage to a man from a wealthy family and with a thriving career, of course. The fact that Peyton had been successful on both accounts gave her an edge over a sister who in most other respects won the competition war.
“Now, girls, please. This bickering between the two of you must stop,” their mother had said, wringing her hands.
“You’re right, Mother. It is a shame that McKenzie doesn’t conduct herself in a manner more in line with our upbringing,” Peyton had said, smiling smugly at her mother.
McKenzie shook her head now and pictured her mother. With the exception of her long, gray-blonde hair and the age difference, she and Peyton could be twins. Her mother’s large, emerald eyes made her look as though she were in a constant state of surprise. Her pert, upturned nose further conveyed the air about her that she knew she was from one of the wealthier families in the Boston area, both by birth and by marriage.
“Marry a man of wealth, have children, attend social gatherings, and busy yourself with acceptable volunteer work” were the maxims McKenzie’s mother sought to instill in her daughters. Kaydie had managed to fulfill one of those wishes—she’d married. Yet, it had been in defiance of her parents’ desire, for Darius was hardly wealthy. Yes, they had met while doing volunteer work, but, based on what McKenzie knew now, it had probably been a ruse.
The chiming of the tall, mahogany clock in the corner brought McKenzie back to the present, and she again focused her attention on Kaydie’s predicament. She knew that mailing money to Kaydie to secure her fare to Boston would be impossible, as she had no access to any funds; the money in her dowry would be passed to her husband alone.
Poor Kaydie had thought her normally calm and complacent life would be so full of adventure when she’d agreed to marry the wayward Darius. He’d captured her heart and taken her from security and wealth to the dangerous, uncivilized Wild West. Granted, he was an attractive man with allure brimming in his erratic personality. He’d even said all the things Kaydie had longed to hear, making the men of Boston pale in comparison. Only after it was too late had Kaydie discovered that Darius made his living by swindling and robbing. When things didn’t go according to plan, he took out his fury, both verbal and physical, on Kaydie, essentially holding her hostage in her own marriage.
Now, Kaydie was suffering because she’d fallen in love with what had turned out to be a mere façade. Her dowry, which Darius had been after from the beginning, had been spent while Kaydie had been blinded by the love she’d thought she had found.
McKenzie had always been closest to Kaydie and knew that there must be a way to help her. Besides, she knew Kaydie would do the same if the situation were reversed. She reached up to twirl one of her tendrils between her finger and her thumb, as she habitually did when she was in deep thought. Not one to allow discouragement to defeat her, McKenzie knew she had to be the one to concoct a plan to rescue her sister. Kaydie’s life depended on it. No one else knew of the four letters Kaydie had mailed intermittently to McKenzie. McKenzie had been sworn to secrecy regarding Kaydie’s predicament, and, besides, her parents would no doubt have no shortage of words regarding their judgment of their youngest daughter’s poor choice. No one else knew the way her life had taken a turn for the worse. No one else knew of Kaydie’s desperation. McKenzie was the only one who knew and the only one who could help. But how would she afford the trip west? And, once she got there, where would she stay? Who would protect her while she searched potentially dangerous towns for her sister?
Just then, it came to her—an idea so crazy, she thought that it just might work.