Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shattered: Finding Hope and Healing Through the Losses of Life by Rita A. Schulte

Tour Date: August 29th

When the tour date arrives, copy and paste the HTML Provided in the box. Don't forget to add your honest review if you wish! PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WHEN THE TOUR COMES AROUND!

Grab the HTML for the entire post (will look like the post below):


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:

Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***


 Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is the host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This radio programs. Her show airs on several radio stations as well as the Internet. Rita writes for numerous publications and blogs. She resides in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


Shattered explores how unidentified or unresolved loss impacts every area of life, especially our relationship with God. The long-range impact of these losses is often obscured, buried beneath the conscious surface in an attempt to avoid pain. This book calls the reader to “notice” the losses of life, and fight the battle to reclaim and reinvest our hearts after loss through faith-based strategies.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.11
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891123822
ISBN-13: 978-0891123828


The Necessity
of Brokenness

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
—Tina Turner

I have come to bind up the brokenhearted.

The Winds of Change

It was a rainy Virginia day, warm enough to sit outside with a cup of tea but  too dark and dreary to really enjoy it. Just the kind of day that surrounds  one in melancholy. And that morning I had a reason to be sad. My faithful  companion—my dog Spanky—had died the week before. Wait . . . Am I really going to open a book about grief and loss by talking about my dog? I am. In the pages that follow, I will share more of my story, about the seasons of heartbreaking loss that led me to write this book. But loss comes in many forms, and that morning on the porch, my sadness was about more than the loss of a pet. Spanky’s death represented the loss of an era, a snapshot of my life that I would never fully reclaim.

Sometimes we don’t notice how loss affects our hearts. It can happen slowly; yet before we realize it, the effects of our grief have become catastrophic and the death of our hearts inevitable. Loss throws us offbalance, sometimes causing us to lose our way. If too much time goes by before we repair the distance between what we know intellectually about our grief and what we feel deep within our souls, we’ll find that along the journey we will have sacrificed something precious in order to protect ourselves from pain. That something is our heart.

The closing of one chapter of life gives way to the birth of another, offering us hope and promise—but not without cost and certainly not without a glance backward and a twinge of sorrow. Which brings me back to Spanky.

We brought Spanky home as a puppy, a gift to our son on his seventh birthday to comfort him after the death of his grandmother. Michael is grown now, a young man beginning his own journey. Our home is quiet, void of the cacophony of children’s voices and the sense of security provided by my parents’ presence. Another twinge of sadness. There was a time not so long ago when my soul was in mortal agony over the very thought of losing them. Where did the years go, and how could the pages of my life turn so swiftly?

Telling the Story

Everyone loves a good story. Stories are full of adventure, passion, love, and mystery. But the stories of grief and suffering aren’t usually happy, and they are not always easy to tell. So we don’t. We bottle them up, push them down, and close up shop. And our pain sits, sometimes for decades. We don’t pull it out or look at it, and so we miss the opportunity to really understand the event or series of events that were responsible for breaking our hearts.

Yet we must tell the story to walk the healing path. That is why I wrote this book—to help you understand your own story where loss and grief have affected your journey and, more importantly, to show you where those losses will help you find and connect with the heart of God. The choices you make will be difficult ones, but if you stay the course, freedom is possible.

How do I know? Because I have walked a journey of loss myself that has spanned twenty years.

The first real tragedy in my life, the one event that broke my heart, started one morning when my children were still young. The day started as usual with my morning devotions. I opened my Bible randomly, as busy moms are prone to do, and I read John 11:25–26, where Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” For some reason, I kept thinking about it all day.

The phone rang late that night—always a bad sign. My dad said something was wrong with Mom; it seemed like she had had a heartattack. At the hospital, the doctors said it was a massive seizure brought on by a malignant brain tumor; she wouldn’t live through the night. My mother had been battling cancer for four years at that point. There was nothing else they could do. So we prayed.

My mom didn’t die that night in the hospital. God granted us two months with her, calling her home on my son’s birthday. Holding her in my arms as she lay dying felt like someone was pouring boiling acid over my soul. Tragic events do that. Try as we may to come up for air, we often find ourselves drowning in fear and overwhelming sorrow, questioning everything we believe.

That verse in John 11 haunted me, gnawing at my soul and pushing me to find answers. Did I really trust that “he who believes in me will never see death” (John 8:51)? I thought I knew the answer—but this loss brought me to a crisis of belief, hammering me to the core of my faith.

Over the next twelve years, the losses piled up. My children suffered a near-fatal parasail accident. Close friends and family died—eight in just one painful year. My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. And then my dad was diagnosed with bone cancer—and that was when the bottom dropped out.

My parents were a secure and comforting presence in my life. After my mom’s death, my dad became an idol. And God will have no idols in our lives. He would use my loss to begin a process that would ultimately shape and redirect my life, but not without even greater suffering.

Caring for my dad in our home for two years was difficult—not because he was difficult, but because so much happened to him. I couldn’t ever leave him alone. His illness consumed my life, and as I watched him stripped of what he once was, it broke my heart. My world became very narrow and isolated. So many dear friends and relatives I loved were dying, and in the process I was losing heart.

The Place of Brokenness

If we are honest, we know that suffering and sorrow are inevitable parts of life. Loved ones die. Dreams crumble. We lose things that were once important to us. The happily-ever-after life we dreamed of is often a far cry from the reality we live.

How we respond to loss and change determines what happens to our hearts. It also determines if we live—really live—the life that Christ has called us to. If I am honest, I will admit I let a lot of living go by trying to make life work, struggling to figure out, make sense of, and answer all the questions. Perhaps loss was a necessary part of my journey; it certainly caused me to see suffering as a necessary ingredient in my life, whether
I had all the answers or not.

As I mentioned, God will have no idols in my life. The place I tried to avoid—the place of suffering—was the very place he led me to so that he could evidence himself right in the midst of it all.

Brokenness must have its way in each of our lives in order to move us from death to life. Every spring, tree leaves come to life as tiny new shoots; they grow and flourish, showing us signs of life and hope, only to die each fall. Life gives way to death, but from death something wondrous occurs. The leaves produce a majestic display of bold and resplendent color. They become most vibrant as they are dying.

Jesus makes a similar analogy in the Gospel of John when he says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24; italics mine). This is the power of rebirth through the process of death and dying. Jesus, the immortal seed of the Father, chose to take on mortality. His glory, hidden and buried beneath the earth, like the seed, breaks forth from the dust of death to display a bold and resplendent life.

Shall we expect the Master to work any differently in our own lives?

While most of us won’t be fighting for a place in the suffering line, I hope there is comfort in knowing we can move through this journey of brokenness to find healing and wholeness. We need only to change our perspective on loss and suffering. If we are willing to allow them to become our tutors, they can and will produce in us that same bold and resplendent life that Jesus is calling us to. If we have the eyes to see, we will come to know and understand that brokenness purifies our vision and chisels away all that keeps us from fully knowing the heart of God.

Brokenness is not only a necessary process in the life of the believer—it is a gift. I bet that’s not an easy line to swallow, as you read this book ravaged by the effects of loss. I certainly didn’t accept it easily. Early in my Christian walk, surrounded by pain, the idea that God was offering me gifts through my suffering made me angry. Maybe there was something wrong with me, I reasoned, because I didn’t have enough faith to want to walk through a towering inferno with a smile on my face and a song of praise in my heart.

But somewhere along the journey of loss, I began to consider that if God was good, he was not out to break me. Instead, he was out to break my confidence in all the ways I was trying to make my life work apart from him. Loss was simply the vehicle he used to get my attention.

It was then that I began to see suffering and pain in a new light. I could accept this process of brokenness as a gift from my heavenly Father, much like adults who grow to appreciate the discipline they received as children from their parents. Discipline is not pleasant at the time it’s received, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, but it is necessary in the molding and shaping of character, producing righteousness in all who are trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

If you and I want to recover from the losses of life, we must catch a vision for the greater role that we were designed to play and see a bigger purpose beyond ourselves and our losses. In other words, we must slowly begin to see with eternal eyes that which is so difficult to see when loss first assaults our hearts—the story isn’t finished yet. This is a journey, not a race.

How to Use This Book

In many ways, the chapters in this book have written themselves, as the pages of my own life and the stories of others around me have unfolded. To live again, really live, we all had to find the courage to reinvest our hearts into what stirs our passions. The heart of that passion flows from our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is not a traditional book on grief. Our time together will focus on the heart and the phases it must traverse through this journey. We won’t explore the process of dying, nor will we formally address the traditional stages of grief. I won’t list tasks the griever must accomplish to achieve closure or provide a nice, neat formula for recovery. That’s all important information, but “stages” can suggest a sequential order to our movement through life and loss that for many is not experientially true.

The heart can’t always follow rules, so instead many find themselves revisiting these stages or experiencing them in a random order. My own journey with loss has shown me that still, many years later, I have not moved beyond the struggle with some of these feelings. In fact, there are some days I actually feel as if I am falling backward. I don’t understand the “whys” of some of the things that have happened, and some days

I still find it hard to accept them. But through the years, the stages of grief have helped guide me toward the path of acceptance. Anger has thankfully given way to forgiveness, and depression is now an infrequent guest. Sadness, however, still remains, forever standing guard at the doorway of my soul and reminding me that to love deeply always requires something of the heart.

But in order to experience healing, we must be willing to pass through these stages of grief. We must be careful that our work doesn’t become intellectual, mechanical, or task-driven. This is a very real possibility if we are not willing to examine what lies beneath—how loss affects our hearts.

Being sensible or practical about loss will not accomplish this. Attending to the matters of the heart is elusive and abstract, sometimes barely visible even to the griever. Therefore, somewhere along this journey we must develop an awareness of the heart by learning to notice it. We must shift our focus from being rational and intellectual about our losses to practices that will sustain long-term healing. For such healing to be accomplished, we must be willing to crack open the hard shell we have built around our hearts, explore our brokenness, and expose our wounds. Only after that difficult work is complete can we allow Christ to revive our hearts through his healing power. Just as the sculptor carefully chisels through layers and layers of stone to uncover a precious form, so the griever must lend careful time and attention to rediscover the music of the heart buried under the weight of grief.

Our work will not be without task or toil. In the following chapters, we will attempt to find strength and meaning in the midst of our pain.

Part One of the book will help you identify your losses, consider their affect on your heart, look at the defenses you’ve built to protect yourself from pain, and evaluate your concept of God. Part Two will help you fight the battle to reclaim your heart by exploring the healing tasks necessary to move forward: dealing with anger and unfinished business and learning how to surrender. Part Three will help you to rekindle the desires of your heart and reinvest them into the grander redemptive story God is telling.

You will find various exercises throughout the book to help you uncover and process your losses so that through thought, prayer, and meditation you can press into the heart of the Savior.

Be intentional and deliberate with your work, and set aside a time each day to be alone with God, for it will be in those intimate moments that the real healing work of grief will be accomplished.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vanishing Act (Charm & Deceit series #2) by Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon

Tour Date: August 28th

When the tour date arrives, copy and paste the HTML Provided in the box. Don't forget to add your honest review if you wish! PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WHEN THE TOUR COMES AROUND!

Grab the HTML for the entire post (will look like the post below):


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.***


Veteran authors Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson have combined their considerable skills to create the action-packed historical romance series, Charm & Deceit, for Whitaker House.

Jennifer AlLee is the bestselling author of The Love of His Brother (2007) for Five Star Publishers, and for Abington Press: The Pastor's Wife (2010), The Mother Road (April 2012), and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (November 2012). She’s also published a number of short stories, devotions and plays. Jennifer is a passionate participant in her church’s drama ministry. She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Visit the author's website.

Lisa Karon Richardson has led a life of adventure — from serving as a missionary in the Seychelles and Gabon to returning to the U.S. to raise a family—and she imparts her stories with similarly action-packed plot lines. She’s the author of Impressed by Love (2012) for Barbour Publishing’s Colonial Courtships anthology, The Magistrate’s Folly, and Midnight Clear, part of a 2013 holiday anthology, also from Barbour. Lisa lives with her husband and children in Ohio.

 Visit the author's website.


Pinkerton detective Carter Forbes returns in Book Two of the Charm & Deceit series. Set in Washington D. C. during the Civil War the action revolves around Juliet Button who does not believe in ghosts! She does believe in supporting her makeshift family of misfits. Having spent years as assistant to her illusionist uncle, Juliet possesses skills to make an audience believe the impossible and launches a career as “Miss Avila,” a medium. She wants nothing to do with agent Forbes who has the power to destroy the life she’s built. But when President Lincoln’s youngest son is kidnapped, and the first lady comes to her for help, she can’t refuse, even if it means facing Forbes, who knows far too much about her already.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Series: Charm & Deceit (Book 2)
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749063
ISBN-13: 978-1603749060


May 6, 1862

Washington, D.C.

Juliet palmed the thin stack of note cards on the table and slid them up her sleeve. Her fingers trembled as they always did before a “show.” No matter. They’d be steady when it counted.
Grandmotherly Miss Clara smoothed Juliet’s pale skirts. “You’ve got a new sitter. A young fellow.”
“Do we know anything about him?”
“Artie’s checking now.”
Juliet pressed the heel of her hand against her stomach. The queasiness would pass, too.
“This is all I found. It was in the lining of his hat.” Miss Clara passed her a folded ticket stub for Ford’s Athenaeum and a battered-looking letter with countless creases.
Juliet accepted the offerings and opened the letter. No, not a letter. She raised an eyebrow and looked at Miss Clara. “This is a pass that allows the bearer to move through Union lines.”
Miss Clara glanced up from her examination of a tiny stain on Juliet’s hem and met her eyes.
“So, he’s doing war work?”
“Apparently important work. It’s signed by President Lincoln.”
Miss Clara took the paper from Juliet’s trembling fingers.
Why would anyone carry such a document in a place as obvious as a hatband? Though ostensibly he was in the heart of Union territory and it wouldn’t be required, the pass granted access anywhere. That meant he’d come from beyond Union lines, in rebel territory. But, in rebel territory, who would want such a pass on him? Juliet sat down at the kitchen table. Something about this man felt dangerous. The pass identified him as Carter Forbes. The name meant nothing to her, and yet something niggled at the back of her mind. She should know about him.
Artie clattered down the stairs, his brown hair disheveled as usual, and leaped over the last few steps, landing with a thump. “Nothing.”
“Did you try to cross-reference him?”
Artie tilted his head and scowled in response.
Juliet held up a hand. “I had to ask. It seems that I should know the name.” She rubbed the furrows from between her eyebrows. She hated blind readings; they were so tricky. “Did he say how he learned of my sittings?”
Artie shook his head. “I don’t think so. The Professor never said anything.”
The Professor entered at that moment. “They’re all ready for you.”
“Do you know anything about this Carter Forbes fellow?”
The question seemed to pain the old gentleman, and Juliet winced at her own callousness. The Professor used to draw enormous crowds through the power of his observations about people; but now, his eyesight was shrouded by milky white cataracts, which meant he noticed very little.
“He came to the front door and asked if he could attend today’s sitting. He spoke well, and when I took his hat, I noted it was of fine felt. I asked if he had been referred by one of your clients, and he said no. He didn’t seem to want to offer any further information.”
It wasn’t an unusual reaction. Many new clients were hesitant and wanted her to prove her skills by astonishing them with information about themselves.
Juliet inhaled and held the breath for a long moment before letting it out in a rush. She could do this. She had to do this. If she turned away clients, it wouldn’t be long before she and her makeshift family were turned out of their home. She just couldn’t go back to the vaudeville circuit. Not if she was to have any hope of keeping them all together. One day, she would find a better way to support them. But for now, well, she had no choice.
Carter covertly examined his companions around the smooth oak table: a half dozen well-dressed ladies, most of them older than he, all but one of whom were in mourning; and a tall, rickety man with a snowy beard that reached his waist. The individuals in the group appeared to have at least a nodding acquaintance with one another, and they sat in companionable silence as they waited for Miss Avila.
The peaceful hush proved to be too much for a twittery sort of elderly lady to Carter’s right. She wore a full dress of black bombazine that looked far too warm for the summer heat. Her hair was frizzled into the semblance of ringlets that wilted on either side of her cheeks. She leaned closer to him and smiled kindly. “I don’t think I’ve met you before. Is this your first visit to Miss Avila?”
One of the ladies sniffed at this breach of social etiquette, but the others looked interested and friendly, as if the mere fact of their gathering in this room conferred a special kind of privilege.
Squelching the desire to educate them on the certainty they were being duped, Carter pasted on a smile for the lady and nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Is she as impressive as they say?”
“More so, I think.” She beamed at him. “Miss Avila has such a way about her. She’s so mystical and otherworldly. I completely see why the spirits choose to seek her out.”
The bearded gentleman cleared his throat. “She’s not like some as you’ll find—them show-offs with their painted-up faces and tricks. She’s a good little gal, the kind my Emmeline would have taken under her wing. The kind I would have wanted for my boy.” His words choked off, and he blew his nose into a large handkerchief.
Carter wanted to pat him on the shoulder or offer some reassurance, but he couldn’t allow himself the liberty. The fellow was austere and proud in his grief. Any expression of pity would likely inflict further hurt. How could someone take advantage of these poor people?
The door opened, and a slip of a young woman entered. Her dark hair was pinned up in a neat chignon. She wore a simple cotton day dress with stripes of soft white and pale purple, unadorned except for a strip of lace edging the collar and running from the bodice to the belt line. The sleeves were certainly long, and roomy enough to hide all sorts of goodies. But he didn’t see any telltale bulges. He and the other gentleman stood at her entrance.
“I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting.” Her voice was well-modulated and cultured. There was a whiff of foreign climes beneath the excellent English, but Carter couldn’t quite place the accent.
She circled around the table to the only available seat. Carter had engineered matters so that she would be seated right beside him. Miss Avila lightly touched the elderly gentleman’s arm as she passed. “Mr. Greenfield, how are you today?”
If Carter didn’t know better, he would think she was genuinely concerned.
“Thank you for asking, my dear. I am much as usual.”
“You haven’t had bad news from the War Office about Ben, have you?”
Aha. She was fishing for information.
“No, I’ve had no word. Been at least four months since his last letter.” His voice cracked.
Miss Avila reached out and squeezed his hand. “We will pray for his safekeeping. But, in this case, no news is good news. Keep up your faith.”
She approached her seat but stopped in front of Carter. “You must be Mr. Forbes,” she said pleasantly.
“I am.”
“I am Miss Avila.” She smoothed her skirts as she lowered herself delicately into the chair. “Is there someone in particular you are hoping to reach today?”
“I thought you’d be able to tell me that, and all the mysteries of the world besides,” he shot back.
A sharp gasp came from the lady on Carter’s other side. The disapproval in the room radiated toward him in waves.
Miss Avila, however, maintained her calm. “I’m afraid I cannot read your mind. I suppose there are some who may be able to do so, but my gifts do not lie in that direction. If you wish to get the attention of those on the other side, it would be best for me to know whom to ask for.”
“My father, Jonathan Forbes,” Carter blurted out. Immediately, he regretted it. He didn’t want to sully Father’s memory with anything this woman might say about him. But another idea sprang to mind. “And my sister, Emily.” He smiled then, trying not to bare his teeth in the process. Just let her try to get out of this one.
Miss Avila had a knack for giving a person her full attention. When she turned her lovely dark eyes to her manservant and motioned for him to close the curtains, it was as though a lighthouse beacon had moved away from his soul.
As the room darkened, she leaned forward to light the single taper in the middle of the table. The manservant departed through a noticeably squeaky door. The candlelight flickered, casting grotesque shadows on the walls around them.
“We must now join hands.”
It took all of Carter’s self-control to keep from rolling his eyes. Of course, if they held hands, no one would be free to catch whoever might cavort about in the darkness beyond the edge of the candlelight to help the woman create her weird effects.
He took the hand she offered in his and held it tightly, to be certain she could not pull away. She made no attempt to do so. Her small, soft hand rested warmly in his, neither grasping nor trying to break free of his grip. Her eyes drifted closed.
Carter sat rigid, straining every sense to discover her means of trickery. Except for the occasional tiny pop from the candle, there was no sound in the room. The silence allowed the sounds outside to press inward—a city symphony of rumbling carriage wheels, clip-clopping hooves, and shouting street hawkers. Somewhere across the street, a piano played a popular ditty. The world was going on all around them, but, shut away in this dark and silent room, they were set apart.
At last, Miss Avila began to speak. She brought a message from the dead to each of the ladies in turn—words of enduring love, whether from a parent, husband, or child, that made them dab at their eyes with lace hankies. Finally, she asked for Catherine Greenfield.
The old fellow shifted, sitting taller. “Catherine? Catherine, are you there?”
“I’m here, Harlan.” Miss Avila now spoke with a slight Southern accent.
“My Catherine. I’ve longed to hear your voice again.”
“We talked before I left. You promised you wouldn’t grieve like this.”
“I know. But I’m just not sure how to get on without you. And now, Ben’s gone off, and…and I’m scared he won’t come back.”
“You must live on, Harlan. Ben’s children need a man about to help keep them in hand. Look to the living, my dear. Look to the living.”
Carter raised an eyebrow. That was not the message he’d expected.
Mr. Greenfield leaned toward the candle, his features taut with anxiety. “Are you telling me Ben is there with you?”
“No, dear.”
“You’re sure?”
“Harlan Greenfield, I think I’d know my own son.”
Tears glistened on the old fellow’s face. “Oh, thank God. Thank God.”
Miss Avila spoke again. “Catherine is gone. Is there an Emily Forbes there who will speak with me?”
Carter searched the woman’s face, but it gave away nothing. She waited patiently as the silence in the room again allowed the outside world to intrude.
At last, she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Forbes; the woman you seek is not on the other side.”
Carter clamped his lips together. She was cunning, he had to hand her that. He had counted on her revealing herself as a fraud by claiming to talk to Emily, who was very much alive and well.
He forced himself to continue the charade. “And my father?”
Once again, Miss Avila appeared to consult with an invisible host.
“He is there but unable to speak to me directly.”
Carter hid a sneer. “He suffered so much during his final illness. I want to make sure he is no longer in pain.”
“There is no illness or suffering in the other world. He says you should not worry about him.” Though she didn’t open her eyes, Miss Avila’s delicate brow furrowed emphatically. “Nor should you be concerned about your disagreement prior to his passing. It was a small matter, and you must not allow it to prey on your mind.”
Carter nearly let go of her hand. How could she possibly know about that?
Miss Avila’s frown deepened, and she shook her head a couple of times. Then her eyes popped open. “They are gone.”  She began to tremble from head to foot and slumped slightly, as if the contact with ghosts had sapped her strength.
She clapped her hands lightly, and the door opened again with another squeal. Carter was nearly convinced that was by design, for all the other appointments in the establishment were in perfect taste. Why would she abide a squeaky door, unless it was a deliberate flaw designed to reinforce the idea that the sitters were entirely alone—that no one else could have entered or exited?
Miss Avila bid her guests farewell, shaking their hands and giving each one a few personal words. She asked about family members and various ills. Took notice of a new bonnet and complimented a handsome necklace. The sitters seemed to brighten under her attention, as if she’d lit a lamp within them.
At last, Carter alone remained with her. He realized afresh how small she was; how her eyes, though dark, were bright and…kind. Once again, she surprised him, and he fumbled for words.
With practiced ease, she stepped in to save him from embarrassment. “Thank you for coming today, Mr. Forbes. I hope you found it enlightening.”
“To be honest, I had hoped for more.”
“Perhaps you are unaware that a sitter’s attitude can affect the ability of the spirits to communicate clearly. Tell me, did one of my clients refer you?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
She cocked her head prettily, waiting for an answer.
Carter decided it wouldn’t hurt to let her stew. He smiled back wolfishly but didn’t elaborate further.
Miss Avila stilled like a rabbit scenting a nearby predator.
Juliet didn’t dare move for fear she would give away her agitation. Mr. Forbes was even more than she’d bargained for. A tall man with neatly combed light brown hair and a well-groomed mustache of the same color, he was the sort who might be dismissed if one were fool enough not to notice the intelligence in his gray eyes and the muscular build beneath that stylish coat.
Juliet was no fool. She would not underestimate this man. He wasn’t the type to approach a medium. That meant he’d had a very definite purpose in seeking her out. If that purpose had anything to do with the work that had earned him a pass signed by President Lincoln, she could find her goose cooked.
On the other hand, it could very well have to do with his not-so-dearly-departed sister. As soon as he’d mentioned Emily, Juliet had made the connection. No wonder the name Carter Forbes was so familiar. But did he know of her acquaintance with his sister? At that moment, Juliet remembered something else Emily Forbes had mentioned about her older brother: He was a Pinkerton agent working for the government.
That certainly explained the pass. What it didn’t explain was what he wanted with her.
“I always like to get to know my new clients,” she finally said. “Would you care to join me for tea in the sitting room?”
His smile was thin-lipped. “I’d be delighted.”
Juliet led the way. “Please have a seat. I just need to speak to my housekeeper a moment.”
Once out of sight, she all but ran for the kitchen. Miss Clara and Professor Marvolo were seated at the table.
“All done, dear?” Miss Clara slid a tray of cookies toward her.
“Forbes is a Pinkerton and he wants something. I know it.”
Professor Marvolo turned his clouded gaze toward her. “Describe him.”
Juliet had spent years under the professor’s tutelage. As quickly as she could, she described everything the Pinkerton had said and done, in addition to his appearance. “I had a bad feeling about him from the beginning, so I kept the sitting very simple. No spirit writing. I didn’t want to do anything that he could seize upon.”
“Very wise.” The professor nodded over his fingertips, which he had pressed together as if in prayer. “He’s here on a personal matter.”
“Are you sure? How can you tell?”
“If this were an official investigation, he wouldn’t still be fooling around with tea and verbal sparring. Besides, the Pinkertons are all working for the war effort, in one way or another, and we don’t have a thing to do with that.”
“What should I do?”
“You have to go back in there and talk to him. Find out what he wants. This could be a good thing. Having a Pinkerton on our side might be beneficial.”
Miss Clara patted her arm. “I’ll bring in tea directly.”
Juliet clenched her hands into fists. She could do this. She had to do this. They were counting on her. And while she was not certain they would benefit from having a Pinkerton on their side, it would be a total disaster to have a Pinkerton as an enemy.
She returned to the sitting room. Once again, Mr. Forbes stood as she entered.
“I apologize for the delay. Tea will be brought directly.”
“That sounds good.” He sat as she did. “I’m curious, how long have you had this gift of being able to talk to spirits?”
She smiled. “Anyone can talk to spirits. They are the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us. The real trick is being able to hear them talk back.” She decided to press her luck. “Mr. Forbes, now I must ask you a question.”
“Why did you try to make me believe your sister was dead?”
He slid back in his chair. “I think you know the answer.”
“It was a test, then?”
He nodded. “You passed that one with ease.”
Juliet watched him warily. “That one? Was there another test?”
“Oh, yes,” he said smugly. “My father didn’t die of a lingering illness. He was murdered.”
Now Juliet settled back in her seat. “Perhaps you should think over the conversation again. I merely said that there was no illness on the other side, and that he said not to worry about him.”
Artie entered, carrying a tray of tea things.
Alarmed, Juliet sat forward again. She didn’t want him anywhere near this man. “Artie?”
“Miss Clara asked me to bring this to you.” With his back to the agent, he gave her a broad wink.
Juliet refrained from making a face at him.
“And who is this strapping young lad?” Mr. Forbes asked in a too jovial voice.
“This is my son,” Juliet said evenly. “Artie, make your bows.”
Forbes looked from her to Artie and back again.
Juliet answered the unasked question. “He is adopted.”
“I see. It must be difficult, supporting such a large house, as well as a family.”
Juliet felt as if a hand had tightened around her windpipe. “Artie, go on back to the kitchen and help Miss Clara.”  Her eyes warned him not to argue.
When he was gone, Mr. Forbes stood. “Miss Avila, I grow tired of sparring with you. We both know you are a fraud. If I have to, I will send agents by the dozens until someone exposes you. Then I will smear your name in every salon and parlor in the capital. You will never have another client.”
Mouth dry as parchment, Juliet tilted her chin up a notch. “May I know what I have done to earn your enmity?”
“I have a young person I am responsible for, as well. My sister, Emily, whom you introduced to spiritualism.”
Juliet frowned. “Emily sat for me only once, and she was brought by a neighbor.”
“Once was far more than enough. She now believes that she can, in a way, resurrect our parents and keep them close at hand. She’s been taken in by a spurious English nobleman who claims to have powers remarkably similar to your own.”
Juliet knew immediately of whom he spoke. “Lord”  Shelston was gaining quite a following in the area, but he could be cruel and exceptionally greedy, as well, draining his clients of their resources and then discarding them.
“If your worry is with Shelston, why come after me?”
Carter shook his head. “I am not a complete idiot. If I attack her pet directly, Emily will simply consider me too protective. I must tackle this problem at the root.”
“And you believe I am the root of the problem?” She laughed roughly. “Mr. Forbes, my influence is nowhere near as great as you take it to be.”
“Not at all, Miss Avila. I realize your clientele is small, by most standards. But, by shutting down your operation, and those like yours, it lights a fire under Shelston’s feet. He’ll soon find Washington a very inhospitable place.”
Mind awhirl, Juliet sought a way out of this dilemma. “I know Shelston, and I agree with you as to his basic character. I don’t want to see your sister involved with him any more than you do. So, I have a proposal.”
Carter raised a questioning eyebrow, so Juliet rushed on.
“I’ll go with you and tell Emily all I know about him and how he achieves his illusions.”
“And what do you want in return?”
“Your word that you will leave my family and me in peace.”
She could imagine Forbes’s thought process: weighing the pros and cons; deliberating what his sister’s well-being was worth to him; contemplating whether he could live with himself if he let a small fish swim free in order to catch the larger fish he was after.
Finally he held out his hand. “You have a bargain, Miss Avila.”
She grabbed it before he could change his mind and pumped it forcefully. The deal had been struck.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Awakened Love (Amish of Webster County #3) by Laura V. Hilton

Tour Date: August 23rd

When the tour date arrives, copy and paste the HTML Provided in the box. Don't forget to add your honest review if you wish! PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WHEN THE TOUR COMES AROUND!

Grab the HTML for the entire post (will look like the post below):


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.***


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.


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


“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.


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?”


“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.