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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 (April 5, 2011)
Laura V. Hilton is a pastor’s wife, mother of five, author, and book reviewer. Although for her formal education she studied business, books have long been Laura’s passion. Her first two novels, Shadows of the Past and Hot Chocolate, were published by Treble Heart Books; she’s also a contributor to Zondervan’s It’s The Year Life Verse Devotional. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Laura reviews primarily Amish fiction for the ACFW ezine Afictionado. She also serves as a staff reviewer for the Christian Suspense Zone. At last count she’d published over 1,000 reviews appearing on her book review site, http://lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com/, as well as Dancing Word, Faith Webbin, A Romance Review, and Christian Review of Books among others. A stay-at-home mom who home schools her children, Laura lives in Arkansas with her family.
Visit the author's website.
Since returning from her rumspringa pregnant and unwed, Becky Troyer has been a pariah in her Seymour, Missouri Amish community, shunned by her peers. Her world changes when Jacob Miller arrives from Pennsylvania to work at her family’s farm for the summer. What Jacob doesn’t know is that his father, who disapproves of Jacob’s sweetheart, Susie, sent him away with the hopes he’ll find a more suitable mate.
List Price: $6.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (April 5, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Could he say, “I quit”?
Could he say, “Stop this ride, I want to get off”?
No, to both questions.
Despair roiled in his gut as the van passed a McDonald’s on the right, then pulled off the southbound lane of Highway 60, turned left at the light, and continued down a road covered with snow. The ice-laden trees, while beautiful to behold, did nothing to settle his inner turmoil. The heat from the van’s air vents only dispelled the outer chill. This was possibly the worst thing that ever happened to him—having to leave his girl as he was tossed out like an old copy of the Amish newspaper, The Budget.
Jacob leaned forward, his black felt hat clutched in his hands, as the vehicle lurched over a bump. Or something. Seymour, Missouri, wasn’t too far from Springfield, which the driver called the “Queen City of the Ozarks.” But the trip dragged by as if in slow motion. Maybe because he’d been dreading it for so long.
Having nightmares about it.
Mama’s fourth cousin twice removed lived somewhere in this rural Missouri town. What would his family be like? Would Cousin Daniel be a harsh disciplinarian like Daed? Or would he be more easygoing, like Mamm? Jacob blinked hard, remembering Mamm’s tears when he’d boarded the transport driver’s van for a ride to the bus station.
He wished he could use his contraband cell phone to call home to talk to Mamm. But his parents didn’t own a phone; there was only the community one in a shack a couple of miles down the road.
Jacob grimaced as the van rumbled past several small businesses and then turned down a narrow dirt road.
“Not too far now. A bit anxious, are you?” The driver glanced at Jacob in the rearview mirror, then reached forward and adjusted the heat. “Getting a mite warm in here.”
Jacob made a noncommittal grunt and looked away. The driver had made a couple of attempts at conversation since picking him up at the bus station, but with nausea clogging his throat, he didn’t want to risk opening his mouth to speak.
How could Daed do this to him? It seemed wrong in so many ways.
Instead of building his farm in Pennsylvania, Jacob would be working the rocky red clay of southern Missouri. If he were home, he could be drinking a mugful of hot apple cider made from the family’s orchard and then going out to prune the fruit trees, working alongside his brothers—something he’d always imagined himself doing for life.
Jacob pushed that thought away. Better not to think of what might have been.
Instead of marrying sweet Susie during wedding season, he’d be spending a year helping out a distant cousin he’d never met. Susie’s warm, brown eyes flashed in his mind. Her quick laugh. Her willingness to try new things, never content to settle for the old. Ach, he already missed her. He reached for his cell phone to send her a text message but couldn’t get a signal. No coverage.
Well, if Daed thought this would destroy their love for each other, he had another thing coming. Jacob couldn’t imagine living without Susie for a week, let alone a year.
Bare trees dotted the edges of someone’s property, and in the distance, the rolling hills made a rather hazy background picture. Pretty, though not at all like home.
Would he be able to get past the homesickness—and this streak of bitterness toward Daed—to embrace this as an adventure? A chance to learn about another part of the country, to expand his boundaries, and, more important, to minister to this needy relative and his family?
Too bad his pep talk wasn’t working. He didn’t like his bad attitude, but it seemed impossible to get rid of it.
All too soon, the van arrived in the gravel driveway of a large two-story farmhouse. The trees surrounding the house would provide plenty of shade during the hot summer months, though now they were decorated with dripping icicles. Jacob imagined the wide front porch would be a good place for shelling peas or shucking corn for the womenfolk during the harvest. A porch swing hung at one end, possibly a silent testament to a courtship from days gone by.
A whitewashed barn stood sentry several yards away. With a casual glance around, Jacob noted cows, horses, chickens, goats, and pigs, plus the usual array of dogs and cats.
The driver pulled to a stop in front of the house. Almost immediately, the front door opened, and a woman appeared, her honey-blonde hair pulled back into a bun and tucked under a prayer kapp.
She peered out at the van, then disappeared behind the door before reappearing with a wrap tossed over her slim shoulders.
Jacob opened the sliding door and clambered out of the vehicle as the driver went around to the back to get his luggage.
“Hello, Tony.” The woman stopped on the porch. She spoke to the driver, but her blue eyes were fixed on Jacob.
“Miz Becky.” The driver bumped his hat in what Jacob took as a greeting. “Brought your cousin by.”
Becky nodded. “Jah. That I see. Welkum, Jacob.”
She didn’t smile, and her eyes remained somber. Distant. As cold as the wind that howled around the corner of the house.
Jacob hoped the rest of the family wasn’t as distant. Maybe she wanted him here as much he wanted to be here.
Not so much.
Jacob straightened his shoulders. Like it or not, he was here. He pulled in a deep breath, trying to get the nausea under control. “Hello, Becky.” He hoped that the smile he aimed in her direction would convey excitement about this new venture. Might as well turn on the charm and start making the best of a bad situation.
Becky Troyer didn’t want to look at this Jacob. She didn’t want him here. Not now. Not ever. Besides, she thought the bishop had said that they were sending several boys—not just one—down from Pennsylvania to settle in this area, bringing new blood to the small district. And not the middle of February. In the spring, sometime. Or maybe early summer.
Maybe the rest were coming later. Or maybe not. All Becky knew was that Mamm had gotten letters from her family in Pennsylvania saying that they were sending Jacob out. Now. In February. Made her wonder what this man did to make his family send him away so soon. And did they really want him here, potentially defiling the community?
Ach, her attitude. Becky thought she’d gotten it all worked through, but seeing this stranger brought it all back.
Still, she couldn’t keep her eyes off this man. He was tall, even standing next to Tony, and she’d thought Tony was big. Jacob stood at least half a head higher. And he was very handsome, with sandy blond hair and eyes that were so blue, he might have fallen straight from heaven and soaked up the color from the skies as he passed through on his way to earth. He was clean shaven, too, a sign he wasn’t married. Broad shoulders. A dimple in the left cheek.
Her stomach flipped.
There was a spark of something in his eyes, a glint that reminded Becky of the mischievous boy who used to sit across from her at the one-room schoolhouse when she was young enough to go, right before he reached forward and stabbed Lindy Beuler’s braid to the wood desk with his pocketknife.
Jah, this one was trouble. Too cute for his own good, and dangerous underneath.
Becky straightened, realizing she was being rude, staring like she was. The driver had unloaded the van of luggage, along with a blue bicycle, and now he and Jacob stood there next to the vehicle, both of them staring up at her. Behind her, her younger sisters jockeyed for position, trying to move her out of the doorway so they could see.
Becky forced herself to move and felt the hem of her skirt brushing against her bare ankles. “Ach, sorry. Please, welkum, welkum. Won’t you kum in? Daed is in the barn, and Mamm has gone to a quilting, but she should be home soon.” She gripped the shoulder of whichever sister was pressed up against her and looked down. “Abbie, run to the barn and tell Daed that Jacob has kum.”
Abbie twirled a lock of hair around her finger, stared at Jacob for a second longer, then took off at a run toward the barn.
Jacob reached down and picked up some of his bags with one hand while removing his felt hat with the other. “Nice to meet you, Becky.” His accent was different from those around here. As he climbed the steps, Becky moved further from the door, allowing him access to the house. He’d be sleeping in the dawdi-haus next door, in the spare room upstairs across from Grossmammi and Grossdaedi’s room, but Grossmammi had gone to the quilting bee with Mamm, and Grossdaedi had taken the buggy to the store an hour ago. She didn’t feel comfortable sending him over there for the first time when no one was home.
It was getting hard to breathe with Jacob standing so close to her. She backed up another step and noticed that her fourteen-year-old sister, Katie, held the front door open. “Go on in. I’ll make you some tea. Or coffee. Whichever you’d like.” She looked back at Tony, who had followed Jacob with another bag. “Can you stay for lunch?” she asked him.
“Oh, no, no. Have to get back to the missus. Thanks for the offer. We’ll be seeing you, Miz Becky.” He placed the rest of Jacob’s luggage inside the door.
Following Abbie, Daed approached from the barn, so Tony turned away to speak to him. Becky followed Abbie, Katie, and Jacob inside to the warm kitchen. The scent of bread baking filled the air. Pans of cookies waited to go into the oven as soon as the bread was done. Daed’s sweet tooth always expected a couple cookies when he came in from the fields, and their supply had run low.
Katie had already seated Jacob at the long table and had filled the kettle with water, putting it on the stove to heat. Becky grabbed some potholders, peeked inside the oven, and checked the bread. It was nicely browned, so she opened the door and removed the five pans one at a time.
“Care for a crust, Jacob?” Katie lifted a knife.
“Jah, sounds good.”
Becky glanced around in time to see his nod. But his eyes weren’t on Katie. Instead, they were locked on her.
Her heart pounded. Could he feel the strong attraction that made her almost forget to breathe? She told herself to concentrate on the cookies so that she wouldn’t drop them or burn herself on the hot oven rack. But she couldn’t look away. Instead, she wished she could pull up a chair, plunge into his friendship, and delay the inevitable.
The door banged open. Cold wind swirled in with her father.
“So, Jacob. You have arrived. You had a gut trip, jah?”
“Jah.” Jacob’s jaw lifted, his gaze still holding Becky’s. Then he glanced away. She looked at the open oven door and silently slid the tray of cookies inside the oven. She knew Daed had seen the whole exchange. And she knew what he thought.
She didn’t turn to check. After all, he’d be wrong. No man would want her. Not when he learned the truth.