Friday, September 24, 2010


Masquerade by Nancy Moser is the story of Charlotte Gleason, a wealthy English heiress who has known nothing but pampering and luxury, and her ladies' maid Dora Connors, who has known nothing but a life of service to others. Dora is only a year older than Charlotte and they have grown to be friends.

The year is 1886 and Charlotte's parents have arranged a marriage between Charlotte and a wealthy young American man named Conrad. It is decided that Dora will accompany Charlotte as she sails to America but she will go as her companion rather than her maid.

While on the ship Dora has her first taste of life as a "lady" and Charlotte gets a glimpse of how the "lower classes" live.

Charlotte is not altogether pleased with the purpose of her journey. She wants to fall in love and marry rather than marry a man her parents chose for her.

Before the ladies reach America Charlotte comes up with a plan. Dora will assume Charlotte's identity and marry Conrad while Charlotte will live out what she feels will be an adventure in a new land finding a man to love. It's not an altogether selfish plan on Charlotte's part. Dora will have a secure future as a lady.

So when they reach America Dora goes to Conrad's home and Charlotte begins her adventure. But things aren't quite what she hoped they would be. Immediately she lands in trouble. Will she change her mind about switching places?

Historically accurate and richly detailed. Ms. Moser even includes a section in the back of the book that reveals some of the parallels of her story and real life events as well as pictures and descriptions of some of the fashions described in the book.

Great characters, believable situations and wonderful story-telling make this a book you won't want to put down.


My thanks to Bethany House for my copy of Masquerade for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Heart of the Lonely Exile

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:

Heart of the Lonely Exile (Book Two in The Emerald Ballad series)

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736927891
ISBN-13: 978-0736927895


Friends Old and New

Youth must with time decay…
Beauty must fade away…
Castles are sacked in war…
Chieftains are scattered far…
Truth is a fixed star….

From “Aileen Aroon” GERALD GRIFFIN (1803–1840)

New York City
August 1847

It was a fine summer evening in the city, the kind of sweet, soft evening that made the young delight in their youth and the elderly content with their lot.

On this evening Daniel Kavanagh and Tierney Burke were indulging in one of their favorite pastimes—stuffing themselves with pastries from Krueger’s bakery as they lounged against the glass front of the building. As usual, Tierney was buying. Daniel as yet had no job and no money. But Tierney, with a week’s pay in his pocket from his job at the hotel and a month’s wages due from his part-time job at Patrick Walsh’s estate, declared he felt rotten with money and eager to enjoy it.

It had been a good day, Daniel decided as he polished off his last sugar kucken. His mother was visiting, as she did every other Saturday, delivered as always by one of the Farmington carriages. Every Saturday without fail, a carriage either brought her to the Burkes’, or came to collect Daniel for a visit at the Farmington mansion uptown, where his mother worked.

In truth, Daniel thought he preferred the Saturdays he spent at the Farmingtons’, for then he could visit with his friend, Evan Whittaker, and the Fitzgerald children, as well as his mother. He enjoyed his temporary living arrangement with Uncle Mike and Tierney, but often he found himself missing the daily contact with his mother and the Fitzgeralds—especially Katie.

The thought of Katie brought a smile to his face and a sting of worry to his mind. Katie was both his friend and his sweetheart; they would marry when they were of age—that had been decided long ago.

So committed to their future plans was he that Daniel paid little heed to Tierney’s relentless teasing about his “lassie.” The fact was that Katie Fitzgerald had been his girl from the time they were wee wanes back in the village, and he did not mind who knew it. But Katie had ever been frail, and the famine and the long, horrific ship crossing had taken a fierce toll on her.

Daniel could not help but fret about her health. He would have thought the good, plentiful food and proper medical attention she was receiving at the Farmingtons’ would be enough to have her feeling fit by now. Instead, she scarcely seemed improved at all.

Still, as his mother had reminded him just today, three months was not really so long a time—not with all the troubles Katie had been through. “You must be patient, Daniel John,” she had cautioned him. “You must be patient and faithful with your prayers.”

He was trying to be both, but it was hard, all the same, not to worry.

Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Daniel turned his attention to Pearl Street. Although darkness was gathering, most of the neighborhood seemed to be in no hurry to return to their cramped living quarters. The sultry August atmosphere carried the sounds of children playing, mothers scolding, dogs barking, and men arguing. Most of the voices were thick with Irish brogue, although German and an occasional stream of Italian could also be heard.

Almost as thick as the cacophony of immigrant voices were the odors that mingled on the night air. The ever-present stench of piled-up garbage in the streets had grown worse with the recent warm temperatures; the fumes from sewage and animal droppings were more noxious than ever.

Still, there was no spoiling the pleasure of such a fine evening. Besides, Daniel was growing accustomed to the aroma of New York. Indeed, the smell rarely bothered him at all these days; it was negligible compared to the stench of Ireland’s rotten potato fields and the countless dead bodies lying alongside the country’s roads.

“So, then,” Tierney said, downing a nut kipfel in one bite before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, “will they tie the knot soon, do you think? Your mum and my da?”

It was a question Tierney seemed bent on asking at least once a week, a question that continued to make Daniel feel awkward—almost as if his mother were somehow under an obligation to marry Uncle Mike. More and more Tierney’s prodding put Daniel on guard, made him feel the need to defend his mother—never mind that he secretly harbored the same question.

“I don’t suppose it’s for either of us to guess,” he muttered in reply. “Sure, and Mother does care a great deal for Uncle Mike.”

Tierney gave a curt, doubtful nod, turning the full intensity of his unnerving ice-blue stare on Daniel. “If that’s so,” he said, “then why is she still holding out?”

Daniel bristled. “It’s not that she’s holding out,” he protested. “She just needs more time, don’t you see? They haven’t seen each other for more than seventeen years, after all! She can hardly be expected to jump into marriage right away!”

Tierney regarded him with a speculative look, then shrugged. “You’re right, of course,” he said cheerfully, shoving his hands into his pockets. As if no friction whatever had occurred between them, he tilted a quick grin at Daniel. “I expect I’m just impatient because I’m wanting to see them wed.”

Not for the first time, Daniel found himself disarmed by his quicksilver friend. The older boy had a way of making abrasive, outrageous remarks, then quickly backing off, as if sensing he had caused Daniel discomfort.

Tierney had an incredible energy about him, a tension that sometimes made it seem that any instant he might leap from the ground and take off flying. He was impatient and blunt, decisive and headstrong. Yet he had an obvious streak of kindness, even gentleness, that could appear at the most unexpected moments.

Living with him was akin to keeping company with a hurricane. Wild and impetuous one moment, eager and conciliatory the next, he was entirely unpredictable—and a great deal more fun than any boy Daniel had ever known.

He liked Tierney immensely. In truth, he wished his mother would marry Uncle Mike so they could be a real family.

“If they do get married,” Tierney was saying, watching Daniel with a teasing grin, “you and I will be brothers. How do you feel about that, Danny-boy?”

Daniel rolled his eyes, but couldn’t stop a smile of pleasure. “Sure, and won’t I be the lucky lad, then?”

Tierney wiggled his dark brows. “Sure, and won’t you at that?” he shot back, perfectly mimicking Daniel’s brogue.

Avoiding Michael’s eyes, Nora stared at the flickering candle in the middle of the kitchen table.

The silence in the room, while not entirely strained, was awkward, to say the least. Nora had sensed Michael’s impatience early in their visit. She thought she understood it; certainly, she could not fault the man for wanting more of a commitment than she’d been able to grant him thus far.

On the other hand, she didn’t know how she could have handled things between them any differently. From the day of their reunion—Nora’s first day in New York City—she had done her best to be entirely honest with Michael. She had told him then—and on other occasions since—that she cared for him deeply but could not marry him for a time, if ever.

In the weeks and months that followed her arrival in New York, Nora’s life had changed radically. All that she had once held dear, everything familiar, had been mercilessly torn away from her. She had lost her home and her entire family except for Daniel John. Yet much had been given to her as well.

God had been good—and faithful. Daniel John had a home with Michael and Tierney, and she and the orphaned Fitzgerald children were safe and snug in the Farmington mansion with Lewis Farmington and his daughter, Sara—people who must be, Nora was certain, the kindest human beings God ever created.

Aye, she had fine lodgings—even a job—and she had friends, good friends: Michael, Evan Whittaker, Sara and Lewis Farmington, and Ginger, the Farmingtons’ delightful housekeeper. There was more food on her plate than she could eat, and a fire to warm her bones for the coming winter. Had any other penniless widow-woman ever been so blessed?

Yet when it came to Michael, something deep within her warned her to wait, to go slowly. There were times when she wanted nothing more than to run to the shelter of the man’s brawny arms and accept the security he seemed so set on offering—the security of a friendship that dated back to their childhood, the security of marriage and a home of her own. But in the next instant she would find herself drawing back, shying away from the idea of Michael as the solution to her problems.

She needed time, perhaps a great deal of time. Of that much, at least, she was certain. Time to heal, time to seek direction for her life. God’s direction.

And time to forget Morgan Fitzgerald…

“The Farmingtons seem more than pleased with your work for them,” Michael said, breaking the silence and jarring Nora back to her surroundings. “They cannot say enough good things about you.”

Struggling to put aside her nagging melancholy, Nora smiled and made a weak dismissing motion with her hand. “Sure, they are only being kind,” she said. “ ’Tis little enough they allow me to do. I suppose they still think me ill, but in truth I’m feeling much stronger.”

“I can believe that,” Michael said, studying her with open approval. “You’re looking more fit each day. I think you might have even gained a bit at last.”

Surprised, Nora glanced down at her figure. She did feel stronger physically, stronger than she had for months. “Indeed. Perhaps with all this fine American food, I’ll grow as round as Pumpkin Emmie,” she said, trying to ease the tension between them with reference to daft Emmie Fahey, one of the terrors of their youth.

“You’ve a ways to go, there,” Michael said, meeting her smile. “But you are looking more yourself, lass, and that’s the truth.”

Unnerved by the way he was scrutinizing her, Nora glanced away. “Our sons are becoming good friends, it seems.”

Michael, too, seemed relieved to move to safer ground. “Aye, they are,” he answered eagerly. “And I couldn’t be happier for it. Your Daniel is a fine boy—a good influence on that rascal of mine.”

“Oh, Michael,” Nora protested, “I think you’re far too hard on Tierney! He doesn’t seem nearly the rogue you paint him to be.”

With a sigh, Michael rose from the table to put the kettle on for more tea. “I’m the first to admit Tierney’s not a bad boy. Nevertheless, he can be a handful. And unpredictable—” He shook his head as he started for the stove. “Why, I don’t know what to expect from the lad one minute to the next, and that’s the truth.”

“It’s not an easy age for him, Michael. Don’t you remember how it was, being more grown-up than child, yet not quite either?”

Nora could have answered her own question. Michael had never seemed anything but a man grown, had never appeared to know the meaning of childishness or uncertainty, at least not in the time she had known him.

Returning with the kettle, he offered Nora more tea. When she declined, he proceeded to pour himself a fresh cup. “What I remember most about being a boy,” he said with just the ghost of a smile, “was trying to keep you and our lad, Morgan, out of the soup.”

Nora glanced quickly away. “Aye, you were like a brother to the both of us,” she said quietly.

“It wasn’t a brother I wanted to be to you, Nora,” he said pointedly, pausing with the kettle suspended above his cup. “That was your choice, not mine.”


He looked at her, setting the kettle down between them. “Is it still Morgan, then?” A muscle at the side of his mouth tightened. “Is he the reason you cannot bring yourself to marry me?”

“No! No, Michael, it is not Morgan! I’ve tried to explain all this before. I thought you understood…”

His gaze on her didn’t waver. “Nora, I have tried. But I’m not blind, lass. I see the way things are.”

Nora looked away, but she could still feel his eyes on her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that Morgan Fitzgerald still occupies a large space in your heart—perhaps so great a space there will never be room for another.”


He waved away her protest, saying nothing. Instead, he went to stand at the window, his back to her. He stood there for a long time in silence. At last, he drew in a deep sigh and said quietly, “We’d be good together, I think. We could build a fine life, a good home—watch our boys grow to manhood.” Stopping he turned to face her. “Perhaps we could even have more children…”

He let his words drift away, unfinished. As he stood there, his gaze fixed on her face, the frustration that had hardened his expression earlier faded, giving way to a rare tenderness. The grim lines about his mouth seemed to disappear, and his eyes took on a gentle smile.

“We go back a long way, you and I,” he said softly. “And our boys—why, they’re well on their way to being brothers already. Ah, it could work for us, Nora! You must see that.” Shoving his hands down deep into his pockets, he stood watching her. “I know I cannot offer you much in the way of material things just yet, but we’d have enough, enough for us all. And things will improve, I can promise you that. I have prospects on the force—”

“Oh, Michael, you know none of that matters to me!”

With three broad strides he closed the distance between them. Bracing both hands palms down on the tabletop, he brought his face close to hers, his eyes burning. “What, then, Nora? What does matter? Tell me, lass, for I’ll do whatever I can to make this work for us. I swear I will! Tell me what I can do to convince you to marry me.”

Nora remembered he had asked her that same question once before, when he was still a young man preparing to go to America. He had done his best then, too, to convince her to be his wife.

That had been seventeen years ago. Seventeen years, and her answer was still not what he wanted to hear.

“Michael, you know you have ever been…special…to me.”

He said nothing, simply went on searching her eyes, his large, blunt hands now clenched to fists atop the table.

“I do care for you…” She did. She was not immune to Michael’s appeal, his almost arrogant handsomeness, the strength that seemed to pulse from him. But more than that, and far deeper, were the memories that bound them, the friendship that even today anchored their affection for each other. She could not bring herself to hurt him, but neither could she lie to him!

Suddenly, he stunned her by grasping both her hands in his and pulling her up from the chair to face him. Holding her hands firmly, he drew her to him. “And I care for you, Nora,” he said, his voice gruff. With one hand he lifted her chin, forcing her to meet his relentless gaze. “I have always cared for you, lass, and that’s the truth.”

Trembling, Nora held her breath as he bent to press his lips to hers. Irrationally, she almost wished Michael’s kiss would blind her with love for him, send stars shooting through her. Instead, she felt only the gentle warmth, the same sweet, sad affection she had felt for him all those years so long ago when he had kissed her goodbye, regret brimming in his eyes, before sailing for America.

He knew. He said nothing, but she felt his knowing as she stood there, miserable beneath those dark, searching eyes that seemed to probe her very soul. Gradually he freed her from his embrace, setting her gently away from him with a sad smile.

“You have been through a great sorrow,” he said huskily. “And I am asking too much of you, too soon. I’m sorry, lass. Perhaps it’s just that I’m anxious for you to realize that when you’re ready, I will be here. I will wait.”

“Oh, Michael, please—don’t…”

He put a finger to her lips to silence her. “Enough sober talk for tonight. Why don’t we have us a stroll? We’ll go and find the lads and see what they’re up to.”

Relieved, Nora nodded, managing a smile. “Aye, I’d like that.”

Michael smiled, too, watching her with infinite tenderness. Framing her face between his calloused hands, he brushed his lips over her forehead. “Remember that I am still your friend, Nora Ellen. No matter what happens—or does not happen—between us, I will always be your friend.”

Nora could have wept for gratitude at his understanding, his gentleness. “Thank you, Michael,” she whispered. “Thank you for being the man you are. And thank you,” she added fervently, “for being my friend.”

An intriguing second book in the series. Nice to revisit the characters from book one and meet some new interesting characters to continue the series.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Song Of The Silent Harp

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:

Song of the Silent Harp (Book One in The Emerald Ballad series)

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736927883

ISBN-13: 978-0736927888



Write his merits on your mind;

Morals pure and manners kind;

In his head, as on a hill,

Virtue placed her citadel.

William Drennan (1754–1820)

Killala, County Mayo (Western Ireland)

January, 1847

Ellie Kavanagh died at the lonesome hour of two o’clock in the morning—a time, according to the Old Ones, when many souls left their bodies with the turning of the tide. A small, gaunt specter with sunken eyes and a vacant stare, she died a silent death. The Hunger had claimed even her voice at the end. She was six years old, and the third child in the village of Killala to die that Friday.

Daniel kept the death watch with his mother throughout the evening. Tahg, his older brother, was too ill to sit upright, and with their da gone—killed in a faction fight late last October—it was for Daniel to watch over his little sister’s corpse and see to his mother.

The small body in the corner of the cold, dimly lit kitchen seemed less than human to Daniel; certainly it bore little resemblance to wee Ellie. Candles flickering about its head mottled the ghastly pallor of the skull-like face, and the small, parchment-thin hands clasping the Testament on top of the white sheet made Daniel think uneasily of claws. Even the colored ribbons adorning the sheet mocked his sister’s gray and lifeless body.

The room was thick with shadows and filled with weeping women. Ordinarily it would have been heavy with smoke as well, but the men in the village could no longer afford tobacco. The only food smells were faint: a bit of sour cheese, some onion, stale bread, a precious small basket of shellfish. There was none of the illegal poteen—even if potatoes had been available from which to distill the stuff, Grandfar Dan allowed no spirits inside the cottage; he and Daniel’s da had both taken the pledge some years before.

All the villagers who came and went said Ellie was laid out nicely. Daniel knew their words were meant to be a comfort, but he found them an offense. Catherine Fitzgerald had done her best in tidying the body—Catherine had no equal in the village when it came to attending at births or deaths—but still Daniel could see nothing at all nice about Ellie’s appearance.

He hated having to sit and stare at her throughout the evening, struggling to keep the sight of her small, wasted corpse from permanently imbedding itself in his mind. He was determined to remember his black-haired little sister as she had been before the Hunger, traipsing along behind him and chattering at his back to the point of exasperation.

Old Mary Larkin had come to keen, and her terrible shrieking wail now pierced the cottage. Squatting on the floor beside the low fire, Mary was by far the loudest of the women clustered around her. Her tattered skirt was drawn up almost over her head, revealing a torn and grimy red petticoat that swayed as her body twisted and writhed in the ancient death mime.

The woman’s screeching made Daniel’s skin crawl. He felt a sudden fierce desire to gag her and send her home. He didn’t think his feelings were disrespectful of his sister—Ellie had liked things quiet; besides, she had been half-afraid of Old Mary’s odd ways.

Ordinarily when Mary Larkin keened the dead, the entire cottage would end up in a frenzy. Everyone knew she was the greatest keener from Killala to Castlebar. At this moment, however, as Daniel watched the hysterical, withered crone clutch the linen sheet and howl with a force that would turn the thunder away, he realized how weak were the combined cries of the mourners. The gathering was pitifully small for a wake—six months ago it would have been twice the size, but death had become too commonplace to attract much attention. And it was evident from the subdued behavior in the room that the Hunger had sapped the strength of even the stoutest of them.

Daniel’s head snapped up with surprise when he saw Grandfar Dan haul himself off the stool and go trudging over to the howling women grouped around Ellie’s body. He stood there a few moments until at last Mary Larkin glanced up and saw him glaring at her. Behind the stringy wisps of white hair falling over her face, her black eyes looked wild and fierce with challenge. Daniel held his breath, half-expecting her to lash out physically at his grandfather when he put a hand to her shoulder and began speaking to her in the Irish. But after a moment she struggled up from the floor and, with a display of dignity that Daniel would have found laughable under different circumstances, smoothed her skirts and made a gesture to her followers. The lot of them got up and huddled quietly around the dying fire, leaving the cottage quiet again, except for the soft refrain of muffled weeping.

Daniel’s mother had sat silent and unmoving throughout the entire scene; now she stirred. “Old Dan should not have done that,” Nora said softly. “He should not have stopped them from the keening.”

Daniel turned to look at her, biting his lip at her appearance. His mother was held in high esteem for her good looks. “Nora Kavanagh’s a grand-looking woman,” he’d heard people in the village say, and she was that. Daniel thought his small, raven-haired mother was, in fact, the prettiest woman in Killala. But in the days after his da was killed and the fever had come on Ellie, his mother had seemed to fade, not only in her appearance but in her spirit as well. She seemed to have retreated to a place somewhere deep inside herself, a distant place where Daniel could not follow. Her hair had lost its luster and her large gray eyes their quiet smile; she spoke only when necessary, and then with apparent effort. Hollow-eyed and deathly quiet, she continued to maintain her waxen, lifeless composure even in the face of her grief, but Daniel sometimes caught a glimpse of something shattering within her.

At times he found himself almost wishing his mother would give way to a fit of weeping or womanly hysteria. Then at least he could put an arm about her narrow shoulders and try to console her. This silent stranger beside him seemed beyond comfort; in truth, he suspected she was often entirely unaware of his presence.

In the face of his mother’s wooden stillness, Daniel himself turned inward, to the worrisome question that these days seldom gave him any peace.

What was to become of them?

The potato crop had failed for two years straight, and they were now more than half the year’s rent in arrears. Grandfar was beginning to fail. And Tahg—his heart squeezed with fear at the thought of his older brother—Tahg was no longer able to leave his bed. His mother continued to insist that Tahg would recover, that the lung ailment which had plagued him since childhood was responsible for his present weakness. Perhaps she was right, but Daniel was unable to convince himself. Tahg had a different kind of misery on him now—something dark and ugly and evil.

A tight, hard lump rose to his throat. It was going to be the same as with Ellie. First she’d grown weak from the hunger; later the fever had come on her until she grew increasingly ill. And then she died.

As for his mother, Daniel thought she still seemed healthy enough, but too much hard work and too little food were fast wearing her down. She was always tired lately, tired and distracted and somber. Even so, she continued to mend and sew for two of the local magistrates. Her earnings were less than enough to keep them, now that they lacked his da’s wages from Reilly the weaver, yet she had tried in vain to find more work.

The entire village was in drastic straits. The Hunger was on them all; fever was spreading with a vengeance. Almost every household was without work, and the extreme winter showed no sign of abating. Most were hungry; many were starving; all lived in fear of eviction.

Still, poor as they were as tenant farmers, Daniel knew they were better off than many of their friends and neighbors. Thomas Fitzgerald, for example, had lost his tenancy a few years back when he got behind in his rent. Unable thereafter to get hold of a patch of land to lease, he barely managed to eke out an existence for his family by means of conacre, wherein he rented a small piece of land season by season, with no legal rights to it whatever. The land they occupied was a mere scrap. Their cabin, far too small for such a large family, was scarcely more than a buffer against the winter winds, which this year had been fierce indeed.

Daniel worried as much about the Fitzgeralds as he did about his own family. His best friend, Katie, was cramped into that crude, drafty hut with several others. She was slight, Katie was, so thin and frail that Daniel’s blood chilled at the thought of what the fever might do to her. His sister had been far sturdier than Katie, and it had destroyed Ellie in such a short time.

Katie was more than his friend—she was his sweetheart as well. She was only eleven, and he thirteen, but they would one day marry—of that he was certain. Together they had already charted their future.

When he was old enough, Daniel would make his way to Dublin for his physician’s training, then come back to set up his own practice in Castlebar. Eventually he’d be able to build a fine house for himself and Katie—and for his entire family.

There was the difference of their religions to be considered, of course. Katie was a Roman and he a Protestant. But they would face that hurdle later, when they were older. In the meantime, Katie was his lass, and that was that. At times he grew almost desperate for the years to pass so they could get on with their plans.

A stirring in the room yanked Daniel out of his thoughts. He glanced up and caught a sharp breath. Without thinking, he popped off his stool, about to cry out a welcome until he remembered his surroundings.

The man ducking his head to pass through the cottage door was a great tower of a fellow, with shoulders so broad he had to ease himself sideways through the opening. Yet he was as lean and as wiry as a whip. He had a mane of curly copper hair and a lustrous, thick beard the color of a fox’s pelt. He carried himself with the grace of a cat-a-mountain, yet he seemed to fill the room with the restrained power of a lion.

As Daniel stood watching impatiently, the big man straightened, allowing his restless green eyes to sweep the room. His gaze gentled for an instant when it came to rest on Ellie’s corpse, softening even more at the sight of Daniel’s mother, to whom he offered a short, awkward nod of greeting. Only when he locked eyes with Daniel did his sun-weathered face at last break into a wide, pleased smile.

He started toward them, and it seemed to Daniel that even clad humbly as he was in dark frieze and worn boots, Morgan Fitzgerald might just as well have been decked with the steel and colors of a warrior chief, so imposing and awe-inspiring was his presence. He stopped directly in front of them, and both he and Daniel stood unmoving for a moment, studying each other’s faces. Then, putting hands the size of dinner plates to Daniel’s shoulders, Morgan pulled him into a hard, manly embrace. Daniel breathed a quiet sigh of satisfaction as he buried his cheek against Morgan’s granite chest, knowing the bond between him and the bronze giant to be renewed.

After another moment, Morgan tousled Daniel’s hair affectionately, released him, and turned to Nora. The deep, rumbling voice that could shake the walls of a cabin was infinitely soft when he spoke. “I heard about Owen and the lass, Nora. ’Tis a powerful loss.”

As Daniel watched, his mother lifted her shadowed eyes to Morgan. She seemed to grow paler still, and her small hands began to wring her handkerchief into a twisted rope. Her voice sounded odd when she acknowledged his greeting, as if she might choke on her words. “ ’Tis good of you to come, Morgan.”

“Nora, how are you keeping?” he asked, leaning toward her still more as he scrutinized her face.

Her only reply was a small, stiff nod of her head before she looked away.

Daniel wondered at the wounded look in Morgan’s eyes, even more at his mother’s strained expression. The room was still, and he noticed that the lank-haired Judy Hennessey was perched forward on her chair as far as she could get in an obvious attempt to hear their conversation. He shot a fierce glare in her direction, but she ignored him, craning her neck even farther.

Just then Grandfar Dan moved from his place by the fire and began to lumber toward them, his craggy, gray-bearded face set in a sullen scowl. Daniel braced himself. For as long as he could remember, there had been bad blood between his grandfather and Morgan Fitzgerald. Grandfar had carried some sort of a grudge against Morgan for years, most often referring to him as “that worthless rebel poet.”

“Sure, and that long-legged rover thinks himself a treasure,” Grandfar would say. “Well, a scoundrel is what he is! A fresh-mouthed scoundrel with a sweet-as-honey tongue and a string of wanton ways as long as the road from here to Sligo, that’s your Fitzgerald! What he’s learned from all his books and his roaming is that it’s far easier to sing for your supper than to work for it.”

Now, watching the two of them square off, Daniel held his breath in anticipation of a fracas. A warning glint flared in Morgan’s eye, and the old man’s face was red. They stared at each other for a tense moment. Then, to Daniel’s great surprise, Morgan greeted Grandfar with a bow of respect and, instead of goading him as he might have done in the past, he said quietly, “ ’Tis a bitter thing, Dan. I’m sorry for your troubles.”

Even shrunken as he was by old age and hard labor, Grandfar was a taller man than most. Still, he had to look up at Morgan. His mouth thinned as they eyed each other, but the expected sour retort did not come. Instead, the old man inclined his head in a curt motion of acknowledgment, then walked away without a word, his vest flapping loosely against his wasted frame.

Morgan stared after him, his heavy brows drawn together in a frown. “ ’Tis the first time I have known Dan Kavanagh to show his years,” he murmured, as if to himself. “It took the Hunger to age him, it would seem.”

He turned back to Daniel’s mother. “So, then, where is Tahg? I was hoping to see him.”

Nora glanced across the kitchen. Tahg lay abed in a small, dark alcove at the back of the room, where a tattered blanket had been hung for his privacy. “He’s sleeping. Tahg is poorly again.”

Morgan looked from her to Daniel. “How bad? Not the fever?”

“No, it is not the fever!” she snapped, her eyes as hard as her voice. “ ’Tis his lungs.”

Daniel stared down at the floor, unable to meet Morgan’s eyes for fear his denial would be apparent. “Nora—”

Daniel raised his head to see Morgan searching his mother’s face, a soft expression of compassion in his eyes. “Nora, is there anything I can do?”

Daniel could not account for his mother’s sudden frown. Couldn’t she tell that Morgan only wanted to help? “Thank you, but there’s no need.”

Morgan looked doubtful. “Are you sure, Nora? There must be something—”

She interrupted him, her tone making it clear that he wasn’t to press. “It’s kind of you to offer, Morgan, but as I said, there is no need.”

Morgan continued to look at her for another moment. Finally he gave a reluctant nod. “I should be on my way, then. The burial—will it be tomorrow?”

Her mouth went slack. “The burial…aye, the burial will be tomorrow.”

Hearing her voice falter, Daniel started to take her hand, but stopped at the sight of the emptiness in her eyes. She was staring past Morgan to Ellie’s corpse, seemingly unaware of anyone else in the room.

Morgan shot Daniel a meaningful glance. “I’ll just be on my way, then. Will you walk outside with me, lad?” Without waiting for Daniel’s reply, he lifted a hand as if to place it on Nora’s shoulder but drew it away before he touched her. Then, turning sharply, he started for the door.

Eager to leave the gloom of the cottage, and even more eager to be with Morgan after months of separation, Daniel nevertheless waited for his mother’s approval. When he realized she hadn’t even heard Morgan’s question, he went to lift his coat from the wall peg by the door. With a nagging sense of guilt for the relief he felt upon leaving, he hurried to follow Morgan outside.

Lots of history, great characters, rich descriptions. Great beginning to a series. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Out Live Your Life

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado is a story of living in difficult times.

In his signature style Max shows us how as much as things chance, they stay the same.

Max brings the Bible alive in simple human terms. He explains things that have mystified me in ways that I can understand. I have been enjoying and learning from his books for at least fifteen years - and this book is a welcome addition to my library.


Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for my free review copy of this book.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Hope For Hannah

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:

A Hope for Hannah

Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


As a boy, Jerry Eicher spent eight years in Honduras where his grandfather helped found an Amish community outreach. As an adult, Jerry taught for two terms in parochial Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. He has been involved in church renewal for 14 years and has preached in churches and conducted weekend meetings of in-depth Bible teaching. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736930442
ISBN-13: 978-0736930444


Hannah Byler awoke with a start. She sat up in bed and listened. The wind outside the small cabin stirred in the pine trees. The moon, already high in the sky when she and Jake went to bed, shone brightly through the log cabin window.

Beside her she heard Jake’s deep, even breathing. She had grown accustomed to the comforting sound in the few short months since they’d been married. She laid back down on the pillow. Perhaps it was just her imagination. There was no sound—nothing to indicate something might be wrong.

But her heart beat faster—and fearfully. Something was wrong—but what?

“Jake,” she whispered, her hand gently shaking his shoulder. “Jake, vagh uff.”

“What is it?” he asked groggily. He spoke louder than she wished he would at the moment.

“I don’t know,” she whispered again and hoped he would get the hint. “I think there’s something outside.”

Jake listened and sat up in bed with his arms braced on the mattress.

“I don’t hear anything,” he said, a little quieter this time. “There are all kinds of noises in the mountains at night.”

“I think something is outside,” she insisted.

They both were silent a moment, waiting and listening. Hannah half expected Jake to lower his head back to his pillow, tell her the fears were a bad dream, and go back to sleep. Instead he pushed back the covers and set his feet on the floor.

Just then a loud snuff outside the log wall stopped him. They both froze. Hannah didn’t recognize the sound. No animal she knew ever made such a noise.

“It sounds like a pig,” Jake said, his voice low. “What are pigs doing out here at nighttime?”

“It’s not a pig,” Hannah whispered back. No stray pig, even in the nighttime, could create such tension. “It’s something else.”

“But what?” Jake asked, the sound coming again, seemingly right against the log wall.

Hannah lay rigid, filled with an overpowering sense that something large and fierce stood outside.

“I’m going to go see what’s out there.” Jake had made up his mind, and Hannah made no objection.

Jake felt under the bed for his flashlight and then moved toward the door. Somehow Hannah found the courage to follow but stayed close to Jake.

Their steps made the wooden floor creak, the only sound to be heard.

Jake slowly pulled open the wooden front door, his flashlight piercing the darkness as he moved it slowly left and then right.

“Nothing here,” he said quietly and then stepped outside.

Hannah looked around Jake toward the edge of the porch. “It was around the corner,” she whispered.

Jake walked slowly toward the corner of the house, but Hannah stayed on the porch near the front door.

Jake stopped momentarily and then stepped around the corner of the house. Hannah could only see a low glow from the flashlight. In the distance by the light of the moon, the misty line of the Cabinet Mountains accented the utter ruggedness of this country. During the day, the sight still thrilled her, but now that same view loomed dangerously.

For the first time since they’d moved into the cabin after their wedding, Hannah wondered whether this place was a little too much for the two of them. Was a remote cabin, a mile off the main road and up this dirt path into the foothills of the Cabinet Mountains, really what she wanted?

“It’s a bear!” Jake’s voice came from around the corner. “Come take a look—quick—before it’s gone.”

“Gone,” she whispered.

“Come see!” Jake’s urgent voice came again.

Again Hannah found courage from somewhere. She stepped around the corner of the house and let her gaze follow the beam of Jake’s flashlight, which now pierced the edge of the clearing around their cabin. At the end of the beam, a furry long-haired bear—as large as the one she’d seen once at the zoo—stood looking back at them, its head raised and sniffing the air.

“It’s a grizzly,” Jake said, excitement in his voice. “See its hump?”

“Then why are we out here?” Hannah asked, nearly overcome with the urge to run and desperate for solid walls between her and this huge creature.

“The men at the lumberyard said there aren’t many around,” Jake said in her ear. “Mostly black bears down in this area.”

“Shouldn’t we be inside?” she asked the question another way, pulling on his arm. “It’s not going away.”

“It will leave sooner if we stay in sight rather than go inside,” he told her, his light playing on the creature whose head was still in the air and turned in their direction.

“Well, I’m going inside,” she said, her courage now wholly depleted.

“It’s going,” Jake announced, and so she paused. They watched, fascinated, as the great creature bobbed its head and disappeared into the woods.

“It’s gone,” Jake said, a bit disappointed. “That was a grizzly.”

They turned back to the cabin, Hannah following Jake’s lead. As they stepped onto the porch, Hannah considered their front door. Suddenly the solid slat door—so bulky before—now looked thin, an unlikely protection against the hulk that had just disappeared into the dark tree line.

“What if it comes back?” she asked.

“It won’t. It’s just passing through,” he assured her. “They don’t like humans. They’re wanderers anyway. It’ll probably not come this way again—ever.”

Not reassured, Hannah shut the door tightly behind them and pushed the latch firmly into place.

“Bears hang around,” she told him. “This one could come back.”

“Then we’ll deal with it. Maybe the game warden can help. I doubt it will return, though.” Jake was fast losing interest and ready for his bed again.

Jake snuggled under the covers, pulling them tight up to his chin. “These are cold nights,” he commented. “Winter’s just around the corner. I have to get some sleep.”

Hannah agreed and pulled her own covers up tight. Jake’s job on the logging crew involved hard manual labor that required a good night’s sleep. She didn’t begrudge him his desire for sleep.

“I sure hope it doesn’t come back,” she said finally.

“I doubt it will,” he muttered, but Hannah could tell he was already nearly asleep.

To the sounds of Jake’s breathing, she lay awake and unable to stop her thoughts. Home, where she had grown up in Indiana, now seemed far away, a hazy blur against the fast pace of the past few months.

What is Mom doing? she wondered. No doubt she’s comfortably asleep in their white two-story home, secure another night just like the night before and ready to face another day just like the day before.

Thoughts of her earlier summers in Montana—tending to Aunt Betty’s riding stable—pushed into her mind. This country had seemed so glorious then, and she had dreamed of her return.

The wedding had come first. She smiled in the darkness while she remembered the special day. After a flurry of letters and Jake’s visits as often as he could, Betty got her wish for a wedding in Montana. Hannah’s mother realized it was for the best. Because the plans for Hannah’s wedding to Sam Knepp ended in a disaster back home in Indiana, Roy and Kathy decided they couldn’t have the wedding there and possibly face that embarrassment again. Even Jake was in favor of the wedding in Montana—here where they had met.

Their hearts were in Montana now—close to the land and the small Amish community in the shadow of the Cabinet Mountains. But lately Hannah asked herself if living out here in the middle of nowhere was really for their best. Then she was thankful that at least she was with Jake—better here with Jake than anywhere else without him.

But as she lay in the darkness unable to sleep, she found herself wishing for close neighbors. She wished she could get up now and walk to the front door, knowing that someone else lived within calling distance—or at least within running distance if it came to that. Now, with a bear around, a night wanderer with mischief on his mind, there was nowhere to go. She shuddered.

She wondered if she could outrun a bear and reach a neighbor’s house. She pictured herself lifting her skirt for greater speed. How fast can bears run? Can they see well at night to scout out their prey?

Hannah shivered in the darkness and listened to Jake’s even breathing, wondering how he could sleep after what they had just seen. A grizzly! Jake had been sure it was a grizzly they’d heard sniffing around their cabin just outside their bedroom wall. Why was Jake not more alarmed? He had even seemed fascinated, as if it didn’t bother him at all.

She had always thought she was the courageous one, the one who wanted adventure. After all, she had come out to Montana on her own that first summer. The mountains had fascinated her, drawn her in, and given her strength. But tonight those same mountains had turned on her and given her a bear for a gift—a grizzly. Even the stately pine trees, with their whispers that soothed her before, now seemed to talk of dark things she knew nothing about, things too awful to say out loud.

She turned in the bed, hoping she wouldn’t disturb Jake. She thought of his job on the logging crew, really a job of last resort. Yes, at first it was a blessing because they needed the income, but now it had become more and more of a burden. Jake didn’t complain, but the burden was apparent in the stoop of his shoulders when he came home at night. It revealed itself in his descriptions of how he operated the cutter, navigated the steep slopes, and worked with logs that rolled down the sides of the mountains. She also heard it in his descriptions of Mr. Wesley, his boss. She had met Mr. Wesley once when he had stopped by the house to interview Jake for the job. He operated the largest timber company in Libby, and his huge, burly form matched his position, nearly filling their cabin door that day. She had been too glad Jake had gotten the job to worry much about Mr. Wesley, but after he left she was glad she wouldn’t see him every day.

Hannah shivered again, feeling the sharp chill that seeped into the log house—the same one that seemed so wonderful in summer. Winter would come soon to this strange land, and neither she nor Jake had ever been through one here.

Hannah willed herself to stop thinking. Now she knew for certain. There had been something she wanted to tell Jake but had wanted to wait until she was sure. Now on this night—the night the bear came—she was certain. The strangeness puzzled her. How could a bear’s unexpected visit and this wonderful news have anything to do with each other?

Wonderful follow up book to A Dream For Hannah. Don't miss the continuing story.


DIVAS of the Divine

DIVAS of the Divine, How To Live As A Designer Original In A Knock-Off World by Donna McCrary and Sherri Holbert is a strategic plan for improving your spiritual walk and gaining a confident outlook on achieving life aspirations including
•steps for discovering purpose
•intimate prayer time
•goal accountability
•weekly devotions
•group challenges

DIVAS' Top 10 Necessities for a Fulfilled Life

1. A Great Bra! (Prayer Foundation) – Even though many women don’t enjoy wearing this undergarment, it is the most critical aspect of any DIVA’S outfit! Why? It is the foundation—just like a relationship with God that offers support and is always uplifting.
2. Mirror (Real Beauty) – A DIVA looks into the mirror to check hair and lipstick but more importantly to make sure what she sees is real—to make sure her beauty is reflected from within, transparent and authentic.
3. Shoes (God’s Purpose) – The perfect designer shoes guide her daily walk with Christ. Must fit her style as an individual and accentuate the relationship that is uniquely hers in order to make every step count. Little steps help her go the distance.
4. Sunglasses (Priorities) – Oh, how important to filter the harmful rays and the worldly view of the sunlight so she is only exposed to the pure Son and all of His benefits!
5. Chocolate (Time Out) – Every DIVA’S little piece of heaven! It may be small but it’s sweetness, it’s creamy comfort, and its AHHHH factor, is enough to sustain her until she gets to experience the wonder of heaven. It’s the little pick-me-up that will remind her to sustain her eternal perspective no matter the circumstance.
6. Wrinkle Cream (Forgiveness) – It is the hottest thing on the market for any DIVA who wants to remove lines and wrinkles. The Spirit-inspired ingredients are key to erasing the fine lines of stress, worry, and bitterness to help her let go of the past. This cream is full of the healing power of forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love.
7. Watch (Commitment) – Every DIVA has a favorite watch. This piece of bling pulls every outfit together. She feels lost when she forgets to wear it. Time! Time requires commitment and every DIVA chooses wisely how she spends it.
8. Girlfriend (Accountability) - The most important necessity for all true DIVAS. She’s caring and fun to be with. She is the “speak the truth in love” kind of friend that will hold the DIVA accountable to being the true Designer Original she was created to be.
9. Purse (Balance) - Whether it’s top-of-the-line or a bargain-deal, the DIVA’S purse must be perfect to keep all her most important things close—flexible to bend when in tight spots but sturdy enough to withstand day-to day-use. Her purse contains the necessary items to stay balanced and “keep it all together.”
10. Lipstick (Positive Words & Attitude) – Positive words and a polished tone flow from her lips in pretty colors and a high-gloss shine. Her words inspire others.

About the Authors:

Donna McCrary
From high top basketball shoes to high heels, each step of Donna’s life has equipped her for a Life Coaching career. She is a challenging facilitator whose “tell it like it is” approach always incorporates a call to action from her participants.
Donna draws from her background as a recreational therapist to create dynamic outcome-oriented keynotes, retreats, and curriculums. Her greatest passion and deepest joy is to “coach” women in realizing God’s plan for their lives and in discovering for themselves the source of genuine joy.
Donna is a wife, mother of two, and beloved friend. Donna’s hobbies include hiking, vacationing at the beach, and trying projects from popular HGTV home improvement shows... much to her husband’s dismay!

Sherri Holbert
Sherri invested many years with companies such as Biltmore Estate, Chick-fil-A, and Chimney Rock Park in developing new and creative programs to excel these corporations to higher levels of success.
Sherri is founder and CEO of Power-Up!, a coaching company whose mission is to take individuals and corporations to the next level of success. She works as a coach, facilitator, and speaker for a variety of clients ranging from corporate executives to stay-at-home moms. Sherri’s passion is unlocking the untapped potential within others to help them gain fresh perspectives, develop clear vision, and establish action steps that will make their dreams reality.
Sherri is a wife, aunt, and friend to many. She has a self-proclaimed addiction to shoes, purses, and Starbuck’s coffee. One of her life goals is to be on Survivor (her favorite TV reality show!).

Blog Tour
Grand Prize!

• Turquoise purse/tote
• Silver flip-flops
• Purse and shoe picture frames
• Box of Godiva truffles
• DIVAS of the Divine book & journal

Sherri: If life for you is like driving 100 mph in a convertible, make sure you have a map to your dream destination and a friend to keep you focused on the plan so you don’t get sucked into the tourist traps along the way. Don’t be Thelma and Louise! Allow your passion to drive you to the mountain top of success instead of driving you off the cliff with no purpose.

Donna: The shopping mall is full of new shoes but they can only be enjoyed if you take off the old,
try on the new, and then commit to pay the price.

For more information visit the DIVAS website:
or view their information at Docstoc or Google Docs.

DIVAS of the Divine is a wonderful workbook with lots of ideas and suggestions, plenty of places to make notes and plans.

If you would like a chance to be entered into the grand prize drawing, simply leave me a comment by September 16th. I will choose one winner and forward that name to the publisher to be entered into the drawing.


A big thanks to Kathy Carlton Willis Communications for my free copy of this workbook.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Dream For Hannah

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:

A Dream for Hannah

Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


As a boy, Jerry Eicher spent eight years in Honduras where his grandfather helped found an Amish community outreach. As an adult, Jerry taught for two terms in parochial Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. He has been involved in church renewal for 14 years and has preached in churches and conducted weekend meetings of in-depth Bible teaching. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736930450
ISBN-13: 978-0736930451


Outside Hannah Miller’s upstairs window, springtime had come. The earth was finally awakening from what had been a worse than normal northern Indiana winter.

Breakfast was finished, and her mother would soon call from downstairs for help. Her cousins were coming to visit this evening, and there was a lot of work to do.

As she secured her dark hair beneath the head covering she wore for work, Hannah glanced down at the paper on which she had scribbled the words of the poem. Surely she had time for another quick read, and that would have to do. Her almost seventeen-year-old hands trembled as she held the writing in front of her.

The words of the poem by E.S. White, written in 1908, gripped her again.

A Ballad of Spring

It’s Spring, my Love.

Bowed down with care,

Your branches are stripped and bare.

Old Winter’s past.

Its snow and cold

Have melted long and lost their hold.

The earth it waited

With bated breath for something more,

For life renewed called from its core.

It opens wide its arms.

For strength, for vigor, for its best,

It stirs its creatures to their nests.

All around it lies the warmth

Because the sun has drawn near,

Touching, caressing, there and here.

Arise, it calls.

The pomegranates bloom.

They yell that life has room.

Will you come, my Dear,

Hold my hand, touch what I bring?

Because, my Love, it’s Spring.

Hannah paused as thoughts raced through her head. Can this be true? Is there really such a feeling? Is this something I could really feel…this thing called love?

Then, from downstairs she heard the urgent sound of her mother’s voice, “Hannah, time to start the day.”

“Yes, I’m coming,” she called as she quickly placed the poem on the dresser, smoothed the last wrinkles out of the bed covers, and then rushed out of her room and down the stairs.

“The wash needs to be started right away,” her mom said as she busied herself with the dishes in the kitchen sink.

“Yes, right away,” Hannah said. After making one last check for dirty clothes in the bedrooms, she made her way down to the basement. The sparse room seemed dingy and damp, in stark contrast to the fresh spring day she had seen from her upstairs window. She’d much rather be outside, but the laundry must be done.

Hannah ran the water into the tub from the attached hose. When the water reached the fill line, she turned off the water and tossed in the first load of dirty clothes. With a jerk on the starter rope, the old tub started vibrating. The motor changed its speed and sound as the center tumbler turned, dragging the load of pants and shirts through the water.

As Hannah reached inside the washer to check the progress, the memory of the poem returned to her. Then she thought of James back in seventh grade. His grin had been lopsided but cute. He was a sweet boy—his eyes always lit up whenever Hannah looked at him. Was that the first stirrings of whatever this thing called “love” was?

Surely not. Such ideas! If someone could read my thoughts… “A dumm-kopf, that’s what they’d say,” she spoke aloud, smiling at her youthful memory.

Her hand dodged the tumbler’s wrath, but still the tumbler caught a piece of cloth and whipped water in her direction.

Then her memory moved up to eighth grade. Sam Knepp. A thirteen-year-old girl just had to have someone to like. The other girls would have thought her a true dummkopf if she had no one. And so she had picked Sam at random. What other choice had there been? Sam sat across the aisle from her. He was sort of cute. He had freckles, red hair, and a good smile. But there was that horrible habit he had of opening his mouth when he was puzzled or surprised.

When Hannah told the other girls she liked Sam, they reacted with admiration. So she had made the right choice. Maybe she was not a dummkopf. Her friend Mary stuck up for her choice. Mary was blonde and sweet on Laverne, who was truly a wonder in the world of Amish eighth graders. He was easily the best-looking boy in the district. In fact Hannah would have picked Laverne had he not already been taken by Mary. For some reason, it didn’t bother her that Annie, who was in the sixth grade, had her attention on Sam; blushing every time he walked by, but saying nothing.

No, Hannah decided, Sam didn’t fit for her. Not really. Maybe Laverne would have been a good choice, but not as long as he was Mary’s choice. Hannah supposed even now that Laverne and Mary would soon be dating.

“Hannah,” her mother called from upstairs, “are you done yet?”

“Coming,” Hannah called out. “This old washer is going as fast as it can.”

“Well, hurry up. The clothing needs to be on the line soon. The sun is already well up.”

“Yes,” Hannah called out again, “I’ll get it out as soon as I can.”

Minutes later the cycle was finished, and Hannah quickly loaded the basket with the heavy wet laundry and made her way up the steps and out to the clothesline.

Outside, the glorious spring day greeted her brightly. Hannah turned her face skyward and almost lost her grip on the basket as she soaked in the warm sunshine. What a glorious spring it was going to be! It felt so good to be young and alive.

Hannah began pinning the wet clothes onto the line till they stretched out, heavy in the still morning air. Later the breeze would pick up and dry the clothes as they flapped in the wind. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Hannah hoped the wind would stay gentle until the last piece was fully dry, but with spring days, one was never sure. The wind could have a mind of its own.

She stood back and watched with approval the first of the wash begin to move slightly in the breeze. Yes, this is going to be a wonderful spring, she decided as she picked up the basket and turned to go back inside.

The sun was still out when the first buggies arrived for the evening’s family gathering. Two buggies came in, one right after the other, and then two more arrived fifteen minutes later. Among the guests were Ben and Susan Yoder—Susan was Hannah’s mom’s cousin. Also in attendance were Leroy and John, brothers on her dad’s side, and Mose, Leroy’s brother-in-law. Other people who were in some way connected to the Millers had also been invited. Having a few outside guests allowed for some spontaneity while maintaining some of the structures formed by the natural family. Sam Knepp came that night because one of the cousins had taken the notion to invite him.

It amused Hannah to see Sam again, having just thought of him that morning. She noticed that he still had that habit of occasionally allowing his mouth to drop open almost randomly.

After a hearty supper, all the young people went outside to play. Since so many younger children were involved, they had to choose a simple game. The game they chose was Wolf, which caused Hannah to consider whether or not she might be too old to join in. The game involved races run at full speed in the darkness. When all of the cousins and Sam announced they would play, Hannah decided to join in. After all, Sam and she were the same age. If he could play, so could she.

With that decided, the game was called to order, and the first “wolf”—her cousin Micah—was chosen. He picked the big tree beside the house for his home base, hollered loudly that the game had begun, and began to count. The children scattered to find hiding places before he counted to one hundred. Hannah decided to try to bluff the wolf by hiding just around the corner of the house.

At the count of a hundred, the wolf silently moved to the edge of the house, stuck his head around the corner, spotted Hannah, and howled with glee. He easily beat her back to the tree trunk.

“That was stupid of me,” Hannah muttered as she joined Micah at the tree.

“They try that on me all the time,” the wolf crowed in triumph. “Now let’s get the rest of them. You go around the house that way, and I’ll take the side you hid on.”

Hannah imitated the wolf’s trick, now that she was one herself, but the corner of the house produced no hidden sheep. The moon had already set by now, and the only light came from the stars. This corner of the house was particularly dark, absent of any light beams from the gas lanterns in the living room and kitchen.

Hannah felt her way along the house and, hearing a noise, she turned toward the front porch where she flushed someone out of the bush and found herself in a race back to the tree trunk. Hannah wasn’t sure who she was chasing, but that didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was who got to the tree first.

Just as she passed the corner of the house, Hannah’s world exploded into a deeper darkness than the evening around her. Sam, the one she had flushed from the bush, somehow collided with Hannah. He flew backward, and Hannah flew off into complete darkness in the other direction. Two other racers just missed her fallen body and dodged Sam who had now crawled slowly to a sitting position.

Young cousin Jonas, one of the children who had to jump to avoid Hannah’s body, immediately ran to the kitchen door, stuck his head in, and yelled in his loudest little-boy voice, “Someone bring a light! There’s been a hurt!”

Roy Miller, Hannah’s father, reacted first. He grabbed the kitchen lantern from its hook and ran outside.

“What’s going on?” he called from the porch, holding his lantern aloft, the light reaching out in a great circle.

“She’s hurt! Over here!” Sam called. He now rested on his left elbow and pointed toward Hannah’s still body.

As Roy approached, Sam slowly huddled closer to Hannah, both hands wrapped around his head. “Hannah,” he whispered, “are you hurt?”

By the light of Roy’s approaching lantern, Sam saw that Hannah was not moving. He took his hands off his head and gently pushed her arm but got no response. “You okay?” he asked again, tilting his head sideways to look down at her.

“Oh no, I hurt her!” Sam yelled as he jumped to his feet. He then stood speechless, his mouth wide open.

With the lantern in hand, Roy was now standing over the two young people. Glancing briefly at Sam, Roy reached for Hannah’s hand and then focused his attention on Hannah’s head, which had obviously taken the brunt of the hit as evidenced by a deep gash and wound to her left eye. Roy gently gathered Hannah in his arms and spoke to his brother, Leroy, standing beside him.

“Better take a look at Sam,” Roy said with a motion of his head toward the boy, and then he headed to the kitchen with Hannah.

Hannah’s mom met them at the door. “How bad is she hurt?” she asked, holding the kitchen door open.

“I don’t know,” Roy told her. “Let’s get her to the couch.”

Roy placed Hannah down gently and then stepped aside as Kathy got her first good look at Hannah’s head.

“We have to take her to the doctor—now,” Kathy said. “This looks serious.”

“Are you sure?” Roy said. “Is it that bad?”

“Roy, just look at her eye and that cut on her head!”

Roy, for the first time, carefully studied his daughter’s injury and then nodded. “Can someone run down to Mr. Bowen’s place and call for a driver?” he asked.

“I’ll go,” Ben said as he headed for the door.

Hannah had become alert enough to barely moan but nothing more.

Ben returned minutes later, a little breathless but with news. “Mr. Bowen said it wasn’t necessary to call for a ride. He’ll take her himself.”

“Da Hah be praised,” Roy said, worried about his daughter.

Old Mr. Bowen drove his car up to the front porch. Roy helped the groggy Hannah into the backseat.

“Why don’t you ride in the back with her?” Roy suggested to Kathy.

Kathy nodded, slid in next to Hannah, and held her upright against her own shoulder. With Roy in the front seat, Mr. Bowen pulled out of the driveway.

“Is she hurt badly?” Mr. Bowen asked.

“I can’t tell,” Roy said. “Her head seems to have…quite a gash in it. And her left eye doesn’t look normal.”

“I’ll get you there as fast as I can.” Mr. Bowen accelerated slowly on the gravel road and hung tightly onto the steering wheel. Once they reached the blacktop, he sped up considerably.

They reached Elkhart without incident, and Mr. Bowen pulled into the hospital parking lot. Roy quickly got out, opened the back door, and helped Hannah out of the car. He and Kathy took Hannah’s arms and made their way into the emergency room reception area.

The attending nurse took one look at Hannah, brought a wheelchair for her, and then took her to an examining room to wait for the doctor.

An hour later Roy and Kathy were seated in the waiting room.

“Did they say how bad she is?” Roy asked again.

“The nurse said she’ll be fine. That’s all she said,” Kathy repeated.

“Will she lose the eye?”

“No, surely not,” Kathy said, though with some uncertainty.

“We’ll just have to trust,” he said, attempting a smile and squeezing her hand.

“I’ll wait for you folks. Whatever time this takes,” Mr. Bowen assured them.

“That awful nice of you,” Kathy said. “We can call when we’re done. This could take much of the night.”

“The Mrs. understands,” Mr. Bowen said. “I don’t need much sleep myself anyway.”

“It’s still nice of you,” Kathy said with a smile as she took a seat beside Roy.

A few minutes later, the attending doctor walked into the waiting room and motioned for Hannah’s parents to follow him.

“I’m Dr. Benson,” he announced to the couple as they walked down the hall. “Your daughter is resting now. There isn’t much more we can do other than keep her under observation. We can’t let her sleep for a while, of course.”

“What happened?” Kathy asked.

“A bad concussion, that’s all, from what I can tell. The bone structure of her skull has actually been damaged where the impact occurred. That’s also what caused her left eye to protrude. We patched her up as best we could. Now nature will have to take its course. The eye, I believe, will return to normal now that we have taken the worst of the pressure off. We’d like to keep her here under observation for a day or two just to be sure.”

“Yes, of course,” Roy said. “I appreciate the prompt attention. She had us really worried. Will we be able to see her now?”

“Yes, the nurse will take you back. Do you have any questions?”

Roy and Kathy looked at each other, and Kathy said, “No, doctor, I don’t think so. Thank you for all you’ve done.”

The couple then followed the nurse into the elevator and two floors up.

Hannah lay in the bed, covered with white sheets and kept awake by a watchful nurse. The bed beside Hannah was occupied by another girl whose face was turned away from them. She moved slightly when they walked in but didn’t turn in their direction.

“You’re in good hands,” Kathy whispered and squeezed Hannah’s hand.

Hannah blinked slowly but made no other response.

“A little groggy,” the nurse said and smiled. “We gave her something for the pain.”

“We’d better leave, then, I suppose,” Kathy whispered. “They’ll take good care of you, Hannah. I’ll come back tomorrow first thing.”

Hannah nodded, and Kathy brushed her hand across her cheek.

At the doorway, Kathy glanced back quickly before she followed Roy out.

“She looked okay,” Roy assured her.

“But here—all night by herself.”

“They’ll watch her. You can come back in the morning. Half the night’s gone already the way it is.”

“I suppose so,” Kathy agreed.

Roy pushed the elevator button. They stepped inside when the doors opened and arrived at the waiting room to find Mr. Bowen had nodded off, his chin on his chest.

“We’re back,” Roy whispered into his ear.

He awoke with a start, grinned, and promptly bounced to his feet.

“How is she?” he asked as they walked outside.

“She’ll be okay,” Roy said, “but she’s staying for a day or two.”

“Sounds good for how she looked,” Mr. Bowen commented. “So let me get you folks home. I suppose you’re ready?”

“That we are,” Roy agreed.

Mr. Bowen drove slowly on the way home, taking his time around the curves. When he pulled into the Miller’s graveled driveway, he turned to Kathy in the backseat. “What’s your driver situation for tomorrow?”

“I have no one,” Kathy said, “and I have to go first thing in the morning, but I’ll call around from the pay phone.”

“No, just count on me as your driver until this is over,” Mr. Bowen said.

“That’s awfully nice of you,” Kathy said, “but we don’t to want to take advantage.”

“Think nothing of it,” Mr. Bowen assured her. “I’m more than glad to help out.”

I simply loved this book. It was a departure from the usual Amish setting of Pennsylvania. A fun read and highly recommended.