Book review/recommendation: Violet’s Vow by Jenny Knipfer

Jenny Knipfer has a way of melodically weaving a story through well-written prose that takes you into the past, a world she easily strolls through in her latest historical novella Violet’s Vow.

The story of Violet takes the reader on an emotional journey as Violet navigates loss, anger, and love after the unexpected death of her husband, Roger. Violet knows how her husband died but throughout the book, she feels she must find out why her husband died. Was it truly an accident, or was there something more sinister at play? No matter the reason behind his death, his loss has left Violet insecure and unsure of her future, which she thought would involve running the flower shop she and Roger owned together, into their old age.

When Violet begins to receive love notes I was pulled into the mystery of who has feelings for her and why they aren’t telling her in person. As I continued the journey with Violet, I also began to wonder which man in her life I wanted to have written the letters, since each one seemed to have something suspect about their past. As in her other books, Jenny uses poetic language to create a story worth following to the end. There is heartbreak yet hope within the pages of each book she writes, and Violet’s Vow is no different.

You can purchase Violet’s Vow on Amazon, or read it through Kindle Unlimited starting Friday, May 6.

Book Review His Road to Redemption by Lisa Jordan

Book title: His Road to Redemption

Author: Lisa Jordan

Genre: Inspirational Romance

Published by: Love Inspired

 

Description:

A veteran in need of a fresh start
will get more than he bargained for…

Veteran Micah Holland’s scars go deeper than anyone knows. An inheritance from his mentor could be a new beginning—if he shares the inherited goat farm with fiercely independent Paige Watson. Now the only way they can keep the farm is to work together. But first Micah must prove he’s a changed man to keep his dream and the woman he’s falling for.

My review: When you read a lot of romance books, they can sometimes become stale and predictable (though Love Inspired books are not usually this way) so when I picked up His Road to Redemption, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at the way this story was laid out and the unique characters Lisa created. I absolutely loved Micah and his complexity. I loved his tenderness, hidden sometimes under a tough veneer, and I loved how he worked through the challenges of his life without being overly dramatic about it all.

 

When a character with a physical challenge is written about in some books, too much attention is focused on that challenge. In this book, Micah’s physical challenge was mentioned once or twice but didn’t need to be reiterated several times. This made his injury seem normal and part of his every day, which it was. Yes, he was injured at war, but he moved forward through his life and didn’t let it stop him from reaching his goals. Very often, an author tries too hard to push the idea of inclusivity instead of simply making the challenge part of who the person is.

 

After reading this book I will definitely be looking for more Love Inspired books, but especially more by Lisa Jordan. As someone who has met Lisa (but who was not asked to read or give a review of this book), I can tell you that her kind, caring and faith-filled personality comes across in this book. When I put it down, I not only felt good inside but satisfied and for a reader, a satisfying read is everything.

Special Fiction Saturday: A New Chapter Chapter 25

Here is a special extra chapter from Beauty From Ashes, or A New Chapter for the sake of the blog. We are almost to the end! I mentioned yesterday that the book releases April 26. If you want to pre-order it, you can do so HERE, or HERE but I am also going to be offering to send a copy to my blog readers for free once I have the final version.

If any of you are interested in being on the launch team for the book, you can sign-up HERE. Signing up doesn’t require a large commitment. I just ask that you share the information I will send you about the book on your social media sites leading up to the release of the book and afterwards. In exchange for your help, you will receive a free ebook copy of the book. If you have the opportunity to leave a review of the book on the various sites it will be on sale on, that would be nice too.

Feel free to let me know what you think about this latest chapter in the comments.

Chapter 25

The crisp morning air was helping to wake Matt up, but he knew a cup of coffee from the Community Cup coffee shop would help even more. Sure, he’d had coffee at home, but not with the fancy foam on top that made everything better. Maybe the barista, Wendy, would even swirl a heart into the whip cream for him like she normally did.

Liz’s comments about him being beloved by the town snuck into his mind as he walked. He’d never considered himself someone women flirted with and it had never occurred to him that maybe Wendy had been flirting all this time until now. Oh. He probably shouldn’t have winked all those times and told her she was his favorite barista ever. He’d have to be more careful about sending mixed signals from now on. The only one he wanted to send signals to was Liz.

“Matt!”

He turned at the sound of Stan’s voice from across the street and raised his hand in a greeting. Stan waved him over. Looked like the coffee would, unfortunately, have to wait.

“Hey.” Stan stepped aside to allow Matt into the real estate office, the other desks in the main office empty. “You got a minute?”

“Sure. I’m sure you’ve heard that I have more than a minute these days.”

Stan winced. “Yeah. When I first heard about it, I thought it was because we’d been sneaking around that building.” He gestured toward his office in the back. “Coffee?”

It wasn’t Community Cup coffee, but — “Sure. I could use another cup.”

Stan poured two mugs from a coffee pot that looked like it had seen better days. “Hate to say this, but in a way I’m glad you decked that Martin guy. No one deserved it more than him. I know it’s not the Christian thing to say, but sometimes I feel like if some of these kids had been paddled more as children they wouldn’t have turned out to be such awful adults.”

Matt took the mug of coffee and sat in a chair across from Stan’s desk. “You might be right.”

“Speaking of Martin, I have some news about who owns the abandoned building.” Stan slid a sheet of paper across his desk as he sat down. “Terry ‘Buck’ Simms.”

Matt made a face. “Who?”

“Buck Simms was a business owner who used to live here.” Stan sipped from his coffee and winced, then stood and poured creamer into the sludge. “Owned several buildings, warehouses, a few stores and essentially became a small-town slum lord. All those houses they tore down on the other side of the tracks last year were once his. He never took care of them, didn’t help the tenants, charged them crazy rent. He moved away from here about ten years ago. The deed is still in his name.”

Matt nodded. “Okay. That’s great. Once the property is released from the police, maybe you can track him down and he’ll sell the land.”

Stan leaned forward on the desk, shoulders stooped. The sunlight streaking in through the window hit his face and Matt noticed the puffy skin under his eyes, and the pale pallor to his skin for the first time.

“That could be a problem. No one has been able to find Buck in ten years. The council tried to track him down years ago to get those buildings either fixed up or torn down. They finally seized them through a court order after Buck never responded to all the messages sent to his last known address somewhere in Montana.” He took the paper again, pondered it and sat back in his chair. “Here’s the other thing. Some of Buck’s family still lives here in Spencer.”

Matt took a longer sip of the coffee. He didn’t know what brand Stan was brewing but it was certainly waking him up. “So maybe we can track them down, find Buck, and get the property signed over.”

“Again, might be a problem. It took me a bit, but I finally remembered who Buck was related to. Gabe. On his mom’s side. He’s Gabe’s great uncle.”

Matt set the mug down on the desk. “Oh. Okay, well that does change things.”

“Yeah, it does.”

It also makes Bernie’s story a lot more believable, Matt thought as he stared into the coffee mug.

The opening of the front door startled both men.

“Must be Emily. I gave her the morning off. Her mom’s been sick, and she’s been taking care of her.” He looked at his watch and quirked an eyebrow. “She’s a little early, though.”

It wasn’t Stan’s secretary who stood in the doorway of Stan’s office a few seconds later, though. Mud streaked across Bernie’s cheek and dark circles marked the skin under his eyes. A hole was ripped in the knee of his jeans, and he was breathing hard.

“Matt, I need to talk to you.”

Matt set his coffee mug down. “Yeah, I need to talk to you too.” He stood and gestured toward the door. “Let’s talk outside.”

Bernie shook his head, stepped into the office, and shut the door. “No way. The cops are looking for me, but I’m guessing you know that by now.”

Matt glanced at Stan whose coffee mug was half to his mouth, his eyes focused on Bernie.

“Why don’t we let Stan head out then?”

Bernie shook his head. “No. I don’t want him calling the cops. Not until I talk to you.”

Bernie sat in the chair across from Stan’s desk. Matt remained standing, leaning back against a bookcase on the far wall. “Why did you run, Bern? Were those drugs yours?”

Bernie shook his head vigorously. “No. No. They were planted. I’m telling you the truth, Matt, just like I was telling you the truth about Gabe. I’ve got proof now too.”

Matt folded his arms across his chest. He wasn’t sure he was buying this story. “Where?”

“On my phone.” Bernie thrust the phone toward him. “I also emailed it to myself and uploaded it to the cloud for safe keeping. I ran because there was a meet up with Gabe and another dealer and I knew if I told the cops they wouldn’t believe me. I heard the other guy talking about it when I was leaving after I dropped that package off. I didn’t know if it was still going down but I needed to try. I had to get the proof, get myself off the hook. Gabe saw me, though, and now they’re all after me — the cops, Gabe and the other guy he was with. At this point it’s just a matter of who gets to me first.”

Stan set his mug down. Matt could tell he was bewildered, maybe even a bit anxious, but he was hanging in there. He looked less freaked out than when they’d found the drugs at least.

Matt took the phone and pushed play on the video.

Great. That was definitely Gabe with another guy at a building that looked similar to the abandoned one. He couldn’t make out every word they were saying but Gabe was gesturing toward packages that looked a lot like heroin and the man across from him was shouting back, something about “It’s not my fault if your mules are incompetent!”

He kept his eyes on the screen as Gabe took a stack of cash from the man. “We need to get this to the state police.”

Gabe turned toward the camera seconds before it went black. “How did you get away?”

Bernie ran his hands along his jeans, letting out a breath. “I had a head start. It was dark where I was, I didn’t think he saw me, just heard the twig break under me when I stepped back. I was in my car and part way down the road when I heard him yelling. There was a couple of gunshots, but I kept driving. I hid out at Lover’s Valley until about 3 a.m. and then I walked to your place and waited behind your woodshed but fell asleep.” He laughed softly, dragging a hand through his hair. “Some criminal I am, huh? Anyhow, when I woke up you were pulling out, so I took the risk and followed you to town. I knew you’d listen.”

Matt glanced out the window. “You think anyone followed you?”

Bernie leaned back in the chair, shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know. Like I said, I’m not really very good at this criminal stuff. You should know that better than anyone.”

Matt huffed out a small laugh. He was right. Professional criminal Bernie was not. Nailing him for the burglary and all the other petty crimes he’d committed had been fairly easy all those years ago.

Stan stood and separated the blinds with his fingers. “I don’t know if Bernie was followed by Gabe or the other guy, but there’s a trooper pulling up across the street.”

Matt stood behind him, looked over his shoulder. “That’s Dan. He’s probably looking for me to see if we found out any more about who owns the building.”

Behind them Bernie stood, shifting his weight anxiously from one foot to the other. “Is he coming here? He can’t come here. I can’t get caught.”

Matt turned to face him. “Bern, you’ve got proof.”

“Not that those drugs aren’t mine.” He slid his hands behind his back and when he pulled them in front of him one was holding a 9 mm. “I’m also not supposed to have this. I’m on probation.”

Stan scowled, his hands still on the blinds. “Then why do you?”

“For protection.” He tipped his head up toward the ceiling, sucking in a breath. “It was my dad’s. I know it was stupid, but I didn’t know what I was going to face when I got to that meet up.”

Matt watched Dan climb out of the police vehicle and head across the street toward the office. “We don’t have much time here. We need to make a decision. Pretty sure Dan knows I’m in here. Not sure about you.”

Bernie paced in the small office space between the chair and the bookcase, the gun in his hand. “He’s not going to listen. I know he’s not. If I keep you guys in here, maybe then he’ll stop long enough to listen.”

This situation was going to bad to very bad in a very short amount of time. “Bernie, you’re not thinking clearly. It’s just Dan looking for me to discuss the case. You’ve already run from the state police and now you’re going to hold me and Stan hostage? If we have any chance of getting you out of all this and keeping you out of jail, then I’d advise you not to even think of that scenario.”

Bernie stopped pacing and looked at Matt. “Yeah, I know. It’s stupid. I don’t want to do that. I just need some time.”

Matt walked toward the door. “I’m going to stop him in the front of the office. We just need to talk to him, show him the video. We’ll figure the rest out later. If he can get to Gabe, then maybe he can get him to fess up to trying to set you up for the fall.”

Bernie clutched at the hair at the top of his head, chewing on the inside of his cheek. “I don’t know, man. I don’t think this is going to work.”

Matt held his hand up. “Stay calm, Bern, and put that gun away. You’re not helping your case right now.”

Bernie’s eyes flicked toward the gun, and he nodded, stashing it in the back of his jeans again.

Matt stepped out of Stan’s office, pulling the door closed behind him, at the same moment Dan stepped in.

“McGee.” Dan nodded in the curt way the way state troopers do, which always made Matt wonder if the hat made their heads too heavy to nod normally.

“Trooper McCallister.”

“I thought I saw your truck down the street and took a hunch you might be meeting with Jefferies. Has he got anything on the building owner?” He propped one hand on his duty belt and leaned his hip against Emily’s desk with the other.

“He does, but I’m finishing up another meeting in here. Can we meet at the coffee shop in a few minutes?”

Matt caught a flash of suspicion in Dan’s eyes as he glanced at the closed door over Matt’s shoulder, but he nodded that curt node again. “Sure. Ten minutes?”

Matt tried the curt nod and had to admit it was a bit more efficient and easier on the neck in some ways. “Yep. Perfect.”

Dan turned toward the front door, hesitated and turned back toward Matt again. “Everything okay in here?”

Matt smiled. “Yeah. Totally fine. Just some private real estate business.”

He hated lying but he needed a couple more minutes to convince Bernie it was in his best interest to talk to Dan.

Dan narrowed his eyes but he reached for the handle of the front door. “Okay, then, see you in a bit.”

He walked out but Matt could tell he didn’t believe him. A good cop wouldn’t, and Dan was a good cop. His instinct had kicked in, which meant Matt didn’t have long to talk Bernie into turning himself in and working out a deal with the staties.

When he entered the office Bernie was pacing again, rubbing his fingernails across his front teeth, looking at the floor. Stan was sitting at his desk watching him, his arms folded across his chest, his brow furrowed. Matt was sure this wasn’t how he’d expected to spend his morning. He’d already looked exhausted before Bernie walked in. He was looking completely beat down now.

Matt sat on the edge of the desk. “Okay, Bern, here is the deal. I’m meeting with Dan down at the coffee shop down the street in ten minutes. I want you to come with me and talk to him. It might mean you being taken into custody for a short time but —”

Bernie looked up sharply and shook his head. “No. I can’t go back to jail.”

Matt held up his hand. “Calm down. They’ll just need to question you. I’m going to vouch for you, show Dan the video and convince him that you’re not involved other than delivering that one package.” He leaned forward slightly, returning his hand to a position in the crook of his arm. “That’s all you did, correct.”

“Yes!” Bernie’s tone denoted his frustration and he tossed up his hands. “That’s it. I swear to you.”

Matt crossed one ankle over the other, doing his best to appear relaxed, even if he didn’t feel it. “Then you’ll be fine. We’re going to walk down there together and work this out. I’m going to have your back, okay?”

Bernie had been lied to a lot in the past. Matt was sure of that. He also knew that trust was a hard thing to have when so many had broken that trust before. “I know it is going to take a huge leap of faith for you to trust the guy who arrested you in the past.” He tipped his chin up to keep his eyes focused on Bernie’s. “But I need you to trust me that want to help keep you on the right track and bring you home to your kids. Let me help you, okay?”

Bernie let go of the hair he’d been clutching on the top of his head and stopped packing. He looked up at Matt, locked eyes with him, and inclined his head in agreement. “Okay.” His Adam’s apple bounced as he swallowed hard. “I trust you. Let’s go do this.”

Matt gestured toward the door, tipped his head toward Stan. “Wish us luck. I’ll be in touch about what I find out about the property.”

Stan nodded back, concern clouding his eyes. “I’d appreciate it.”

Matt set his shoulders back, hoped he looked more confident than he felt at the moment. Would Dan accept Bernie’s explanation? Or would he slap the cuffs on him before Bernie could even speak? He held the door for Bernie and then followed him out onto the sidewalk.

He slid his sunglasses on as the sun came out from behind a cloud and then zipped his jacket up to his chin when a cool breeze brushed across his skin. The coffee shop was only a block away and Bernie wasn’t enough of a wanted man they couldn’t walk that far in broad daylight.

The round of gunshots that exploded beside and around him in the next second sent a bolt of shock through him and left his ears ringing. He grabbed Bernie’s shoulder and shoved him to the sidewalk, reaching for the handgun gun strapped to his ankle. The revolver was his personal gun and the only one he had since he was on suspension. He clutched the back of Bernie’s shirt and dragged him backward into the doorway of Millie’s bakeshop, frantically scanning the parked cars and the second story windows in the buildings across the street.

Two people walking out of the diner down the street, ducked back inside and he watched the front window fill with curious, and frightened, onlookers. A groan next to him pulled him from his surveillance and he looked down to see Bernie crouched over, clutching his stomach, red dripping through his fingers and staining the concrete doorway of the bakery.

Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 19

For those who are new here, this is a novel in progress. I post a chapter each week and there may be typos, plot holes, inconsistencies, etc.

I have been busy working to finish this story and hope to start working on the second draft the week after next, to get this book ready for an April 26 release to Amazon.

To catch up with the story click HERE.

If you would like to read the first books in this series, you can find them HERE.

Chapter 19

“Liz? You here?”

She heard her mom calling from the front of the apartment and groaned, covering her head with the pillow.

Molly had taken Bella to her parents today, telling Liz to sleep in and try not to think about what had happened the day before at the restaurant. She didn’t have a class until the afternoon today, so she’d agreed to it. She’d already answered a call from Ginny, checking on her, asking if she needed anything. Texting back that she was fine hadn’t been a lie, not really. She was fine, in some ways. At least she hadn’t had a full-blown panic attack. Yet. Somehow.

The entire town probably knew what had happened by now. People who had been closer to Gabe and Matt by the bar, like she had been, heard exactly what Gabe said that set Matt off, but she hoped most of the restaurant didn’t.

“Liz?”

She tossed the covers off her and stepped out of her room, squinting in the sunlight blasting in through the apartment’s floor to ceiling front window.

Marge set her purse on the couch and stepped toward her. “Oh, hon’.” Liz bristled at the pity in her mother’s voice. She was not in the mood for pity. How had she even heard about it? And how much did she know?

Liz folded her arms across her chest, avoiding eye contact with Marge who was standing with arms outstretched, and headed for the bathroom, locking the door behind her. She splashed her face with cold water, choked down bile and willed her stomach to calm down.

Had that really happened yesterday? Maybe she was dreaming, and her ex-boyfriend hadn’t told an entire restaurant, or at least the bar section, that he’d practically forced her into sleeping with him the night she conceived her child.

She dried her hands and face quickly and pinched her arm. That hurt, so clearly she wasn’t dreaming. Unfortunately.

The anger she’d seen flashing in Matt’s eyes when he dragged Gabe through the front doors of the restaurant and tossed him onto the sidewalk had been real, even though it felt like a nightmare as it was happening. The moment he’d slammed Gabe onto the hood and cuffed him hadn’t been a figment of her imagination, but she wished it had.

Her face had burned with embarrassment as Gabe hissed his confession at Matt. She’d kept her eyes downcast at the floor, dreading looking up and seeing expressions of pity or disgust being cast her way. She knew it was stupid, but she felt like they were all judging her for being weak and pathetic.

In reality, most of the people in the restaurant didn’t know her and those who did probably didn’t care as much as she thought they did. The world didn’t revolve around Liz Cranmer and her many failings. People had much more important issues in their lives to deal with. She probably wasn’t even a dot on their radar. There had been a few whispers, though. A few looks cast her way. She’d caught them after she’d grabbed her purse, gave Ginny a curt, “I need to go,” and walked swiftly to her car.

Luckily the fundraising meeting had been almost over anyhow. The shouting had drawn the gazes of her and the rest of those in attendance toward the noise. It was only when she saw the face-off between Gabe and Matt that she’d stood and walked to the doorway to get a closer look. Ginny had stood behind her, a hand on her shoulder, asking in silence if she was okay.

She wasn’t, but she’d nodded her head once.

Now, here she was with her mother outside her bathroom door, pacing, ready to pounce and ask her about what Gabe had said. Mary Landers was on the library board. She was also in Marge’s Bible study. Ah. That’s how her mother knew.

Liz groaned and wiped a hand across her mouth, regretting her decision to stay in a small town where everyone knew everything about you and if they didn’t, someone would tell them.

“Liz, are you okay?”

Liz had to give her mom credit, she at least sounded concerned. When Liz opened the door, Marge looked concerned too. Kudos for effort.

“Mary Landers called this morning to ask if you were okay. I had no idea what she was talking about.”

Liz brushed past her mom without answering and headed for the kitchen.

Marge followed. “What in the world did Gabe say to Matt to cause him to act like that? Do you have any idea?”

So, Marge didn’t know the full details. Yet anyhow. Liz reached for the carton of milk and the bottle of chocolate syrup in the fridge. It was a heavy on the chocolate syrup kind of morning.

“I’m not totally sure, no.” It wasn’t a lie. She hadn’t heard everything Gabe said. She’d heard enough to know he’d spared few details about how she’d ended up pregnant.

“I would have never expected that out of Matt. Have you talked to him? Is he okay? Did he say anything to you?”

Liz stirred the syrup into the milk, the spoon clanging against the glass. “No, I haven’t talked to him and hasn’t said anything to me because he didn’t even know I was there.”

Marge sat at the kitchen table and shook her head. “It is just so out of character for him.” She chewed at her bottom lip. “Gabe must have said something awful about you. Why else would he do that?”

Liz sat down across from her mom and took a swig of the milk. “I don’t know, Mom.” She stared at the glass. “I don’t really want to talk about it. Is that the only reason you stopped by?”

Marge looked up sharply. “There’s no reason to be snippy, Liz. I came here to check on you.”

Liz’s eyes narrowed, her jaw tightened. “I’m fine. You don’t need to check on me.”

“Liz, if you have something to say to me then just say it.” Marge’s sharp tone brought Liz’s gaze up to meet her mother’s. “I’m tired of the way you talk to me, the way you treat me like I’m some evil ogre. I even wonder what you’ve told Ginny Jefferies about me.”

Liz quirked an eyebrow. “The way I treat you? Really? That’s rich.”

Marge’s eyebrows dipped into an angry scowl. “I told you I was sorry for what I said about you sleeping with Gabe and Matt at the same time. I should never have said that.”

“You also shouldn’t have even thought it.”

Marge took a deep breath. “Fine. I shouldn’t have even thought it. You were in a dark place back then. Did I really think you would do that? No, but I didn’t know. People do awful things when they aren’t in their right mind and for a while there I don’t think you were in your right mind.”

Liz emptied the glass in one long gulp, then stood and set the glass in the sink. “Which time? When I was living with Gabe or all the years before that when I still couldn’t do what was right in your eyes.”

Marge stood, setting her hands at her waist. “I never said you were doing anything wrong when you were young, Liz. I don’t know where you get the idea that I was always criticizing you. I was not. You were always criticizing me. It didn’t matter what I said, I was always wrong, and you were always right. I can’t even remember how many times I expressed concern for you, and you somehow decided I was being critical or controlling.”

Liz held up her hand. “I’m not in the mood for an argument, Mom.”

Marge’s voice lowered into a strained tone. “You’re never in the mood for a discussion and that’s what this is. I’m not trying to argue, I’m just trying to find out what Ginny has that I don’t.”

Confusion furrowed Liz’s eyebrows. “What? What does Ginny have to do with this?”

Marge folded her arms across her chest, lifting her chin slightly, focusing her gaze somewhere across the kitchen. “You talk to Ginny like I always wanted you to talk to me. I just want to know, why is she the person you can talk to? Why don’t you come to me when you are upset or down? I’m your mother.”

Liz scoffed. “Maybe because she doesn’t judge me. She doesn’t suggest I try to act more like my sister or tell me I’m not living the way the Lord would want me to.” She stood and flung a cupboard door open, reaching for a mug. “She listens to me, she tells me it’s going to be okay. She offers to pray for me, not tells me to pray about it. She doesn’t look at me like I’m the biggest disappointment in the world to her.” She slammed the mug on the counter and reached for the package of hazelnut coffee.

Marge’s expression fell, fading from angry to clear hurt. “I don’t — I —” Her lower lip quivered, her eyes glistening. “I pray for you, Liz. I’ve always wanted the best for you. I —” She closed her eyes, shaking her head slowly. “I’ve never thought of you as being a disappointment. I’m the disappointment. I’m the mother who did such a horrible job that you would have rather died than tell your father and me you were pregnant.”

Liz drew in a ragged breath. She turned around, stepped back against the counter. “What — how — you knew? All this time?”

Marge laid a hand against her chest, nodding as tears streaked her cheeks. “Of course, I knew.”

“Did someone tell you?”

Marge shook her head. “No. No one told me anything. I just felt something was off when you said you accidentally took too many pills. I don’t think you’d do that. You’re too bright to make that mistake.” Marge swiped her index finger under her eye, across the moistness there. “I just kept thinking I was such a bad mother that you couldn’t even come to me in your darkest moment. I could never bring myself to ask you to the truth, though. It was too hard for me to face that it was my fault you’d tried to kill yourself.”

Liz reached for the tissue box on the counter, took one and held the box out to her mom. “Mom, it wasn’t your fault.” She let out a shaky sigh. “It was my messed up thinking that took me there. It was my fault. You can’t take responsibility for my decisions.”

Marge took a tissue and dabbed the corners of her eyes. “But if I had been less critical when you were growing up, more warm, more open, more — more, well, like Ginny.” She pressed the tissue against her eyes as she spoke. “I wanted the best for you and instead of encouraging you, I criticized. I don’t know why I did that. I wish I could go back and change how I acted, how I projected my fears on to you through my critical spirit.”

Liz let out a breath and sat at the table again. She pushed a hand back through her hair, pushing it back from her face. “I know, Mom. I do. I wish I could go back and change how I acted too.” She shrugged a shoulder. “But can’t go back.” She rested a hand on the table, looked at her mom still crying into the tissue. She thought about Matt’s words all those weeks ago, about not letting a root of bitterness take hold. Watching her mother cry, she saw her in a different light. She saw a brokenness from a woman who’d done what she thought she should do and failed. In that moment she saw herself in her mother.

She stretched her arm across the table, laid a hand over Marge’s. “But we can move forward.”

Marge looked up, eyes red and swollen. “I want to do that. I really do.” She squeezed Liz’s hand. “I’m sorry. I really am. I can’t promise I’ll be completely different, but I’ll try. Old habits are hard to break, but the Bible says they can be broken.”

Liz looked at her hand in her mom’s and thought about all the years she’d pushed her parents away, especially her mom. The rebellious teenage years had stretched into the early 20s and now here she was nearing 30 and she still had the same rebellious spirt rattling inside her. “I’m sorry too, Mom. I’ll try too.”

The women smiled at each other and then Liz sat back and finished wiping her face with a tissue. “I never wanted my life to go this way, you know. I didn’t. I wanted to do it the right way. Find a man to marry, date him, get engaged and then get married and have children. I just don’t know how I ended up where I am now.”

Marge snatched a tissue from the box and leaned over, dabbing it against Liz’s cheeks. “Life happens, honey. What’s done is done. Isaiah 61:3 . . .to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.” Marge smiled. “You still being here, and our Bella are our beauty from the ashes.”

Fresh tears burned Liz’s eyes. She cleared her throat and pulled her gaze from her mom’s, not used to so much tenderness between them. She stood and took a couple of steps to the counter. “Have you had breakfast yet? I could make us some pancakes and bacon. Molly brought some of that bacon from Murphy’s Farm home from the store last night.”

Marge blew her nose. “Oh my, yes. That sounds wonderful.” She laughed softly, a foreign sound for Liz, at least for the last few years. “Having a breakdown really works up an appetite.”

Liz laughed as she opened the fridge. “Yeah, it does. Trust me. I should know. I’ve had enough of them.”

Marge stood and opened the cupboard next to the stove. “Where are your pans? I can help.”

Liz gestured to the cupboard next to the sink. “The griddle is in there and the frying pan is in the drawer under the stove. Not a lot of room in this little place.”

Marge retrieved the griddle and set it on the counter. “No, but if there was more room you’d just collect a bunch of things you don’t need like I have over the years.” She smiled, nudging Liz in the arm with her elbow. “You know what I mean. All those dutch ovens and baking pans I’ve collected.”

A small laugh came from Liz. “Or all those rolling pins.”

“Well, two of them were passed down from your great-grandmother.” Marge opened a drawer and then another before retrieving a spatula. Liz poured the pancake mix in a bowl as her mom found a frying pan for the bacon. It had been years since they’d worked together like this, without Marge ordering Liz to do so, and Liz had to admit it felt nice. It was how a mother and daughter should be, working together, laughing together. Well, they weren’t quite to laughing, but close enough.

Marge layered the bacon in the skillet. “Listen, I know it’s really none of my business and maybe I shouldn’t bring it up right now, but —”

 “Matt and I are friends, Mom. Really. That’s all.” She stirred the water and pancake mix together, smiling. “He’s been good to me, and I care about him, but we’re just friends.” She looked over at her mom, the smile. “And, Mom, I promise you, I have never slept with anyone other than Gabe. I wish I hadn’t even done that.”

Marge turned the burner on, nodding. “I believe you, honey. I do.”

A few moments of silence followed, filled only with Liz pouring and flipping pancakes and bacon sizzling.

“But, about Matt, you don’t have any romantic feelings for him at all?”

Liz bit the inside of her lip as she flipped a pancake. Seriously, Marge? Come on! She’d just told her mom she’d try to be better, and one way to do that was to stop being dishonest. Still, she didn’t really know how to answer that question without opening up several other cans of worms. While she was debating, though, her mother spoke.

“Because he loves you, Liz.”

“Mom, come on. We’re just —”

The seriousness of her mom’s expression made Liz swallow the familiar response.

“He does. I can see it in his eyes when he looks at you.” She moved her hand across an imaginary sky. “Like you hung the moon. That love doesn’t come along very often, you know.”

Liz returned to mixing the batter. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you. Really. It’s just —” She shook her head, not sure how much of herself she wanted to share with her mom right now. “I’m not good enough for him. Matt’s amazing and everyone loves him, rightly so. He’s like fine wine and I’m a cheap beer.” She winced. “Sorry. I know I shouldn’t have made an alcohol reference considering my past issues. It was just the first analogy that popped into my head.”

Marge flipped the pieces of bacon. “Oh, Liz, that’s not true. You are worthy of happiness, and you are worthy of him. Let him love you.” She leaned over and kissed Liz’s forehead. “Let down some walls and just let us all love you.” Liz’s smile was faint. She knew her mom was right, but how did she let her walls down with a man who hadn’t even told her the truth about where he’d been the night she’d tried to kill herself?

Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 16

Welcome to Fiction Friday where I post a chapter from my current work in progress. There are often typos, plot holes, etc. in these chapters that I will fix in the future before I self-publish the book.

To catch up with the story, click HERE.

Chapter 16

Keith slid his sunglasses back on as they stepped outside the community hall.  “Well, that was fun. I’ll have to try this again sometime.”

Ginny tossed her art bag into the passenger side of her car. “It was. I haven’t sketched a live model since college.”

Ginny looked across the parking lot for Liz as she closed the car door. She saw her driving out of the parking lot and raised her hand in a quick wave. Her brow furrowed when Liz kept driving, looking straight ahead.

“I hope everything is okay with Liz,” she said, watching the car turn out of the parking lot. She turned and watched Matt climb into his truck. Had something happened between them? She’d have to ask Liz later.

Keith straddled his motorcycle and zipped up the leather jacket. “Ginny, I’d love to get together with you and Stan for dinner sometime.”

Ginny turned away from watching Liz’s car to look at Keith, trying to picture him and Stan sitting next to each other at a table. The thought made her a little woozy. “Oh, that would be nice.”

Keith winked before he slid his helmet on. “I’ll give you a call and we can find a day that will work for all of us. Tell ole’ Stan I said, ‘hey’.”

Ginny nodded then watched him drive away before sliding behind the steering wheel and letting out the breath she realized she’d been holding. How would that go down? Telling Stan her ex-boyfriend sent his greetings? She hadn’t even told Stan that Keith was back in town. Then again, Stan didn’t seem to hear much she said these days so it probably wouldn’t matter.

It had been nice to see Keith and even nicer how he’d noticed her haircut and complimented her. She knew she shouldn’t have enjoyed the dimple in his cheek when he smiled at her or the jokes they’d shared during the class, but she had. It was the most — how could she explain it?

Noticed. That was the word.

It was the most noticed she’d felt in years.

Her phone rang as she pushed the key in the ignition.

“Sorry I didn’t say goodbye before I left.” Liz sounded tired. “I guess I was preoccupied.”

“I wondered what was going on. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just — yeah. It’s fine really.”

“Well, I tried to catch you before you left. I was wondering if you have time to stop by the house before you head home. I wanted to talk to you about a job idea.”

“Sure.” Liz sounded a little more cheerful now. “I have time.”

Ginny’s phone rang again as she pulled out onto the road. She tapped the speaker button.

“Hey, hon’. Just letting you know I won’t be home for dinner. I’m meeting Matt out at that property the commercial company is interested in.”

Ginny bit her tongue. How was this any different than any other day lately? “Okay.” She clipped the word out. She didn’t feel like saying much else.

“Talk later. I’m running into a dead zo—”

Ginny scowled at the phone and tossed it on to the seat next to her. Pulling into her drive a few moments later, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She really needed to pray about her attitude toward Stan. Having this much anger for one’s spouse wasn’t healthy or what God would want.

“Lord, help me calm down,” she whispered as she shut off the engine. “Or I might just smack him.”

She noticed the inside screen door was open as she walked up the front sidewalk and she knew she hadn’t left it open. Maybe it had been Stan.

Walking inside she glanced around the living room for anything out of the ordinary and all appeared well until she spotted a suitcase on the floor by the doorway leading to the dining room.

She recognized the black and brown case as the one they’d given Olivia when she’d left for college the year before.

Before she could call her daughter’s name, she heard the clink of glass against a countertop. She found Olivia in the kitchen pouring lemonade over ice in a tall glass.

“Olivia! What are you doing here?”

Olivia raised an eyebrow as she listed the glass. “Well, thanks, Mom. What a nice way to greet your daughter.”

Ginny embraced her youngest and stepped back. “Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie.” She took in Olivia’s blond hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, her heavy eyelids and make up free face. “I just wasn’t expecting you for a few more weeks. Is something wrong?” She didn’t need to ask really. She knew the answer.

Olivia sighed, sipping the lemonade. She shrugged a shoulder. “I just don’t fit in in California anymore, Mom.”

Ginny tipped her head slightly and looked at her daughter quizzically. “But you love California.”

Olivia shrugged her shoulder again. “Maybe not as much as I thought.”

Ginny tossed her bag onto the kitchen island and slipped easily into mom-mode, without realizing what she was doing. “Livvie, have you dropped out of school?”

Olivia opened her mouth to speak at the same moment Liz called from the front of the house.

“Ginny, are you here?”

Ginny kept her gaze on Olivia as she answered. “In the kitchen, hon’”

She didn’t miss the quirk of her daughter’s brow when she called Liz hon’.

Liz stepped into the kitchen with the car seat looped over one arm. Ginny took it from her and set it on the island in front of her. “Hello, little Bella. Did you have a good nap at our art class?”

She began unhooking the safety harness, anxious to hold the little one she’d come to love. “We were just at an art class. Bella’s mama and I have been taking art classes and today we had to sketch a live model.” She cradled Bella in her arms and smiled, delighted to see Bella trying to smile back. “Olivia, you know Liz.”

Oliva nodded. “Yeah. Hey, Liz. Nice to see you. I heard you had a baby. She’s beautiful.”

Ginny thought she heard slight tension in her daughter’s words, but she didn’t have the mentally energy to deduce the reason.

“How has California been?” Liz asked sliding onto a stool. “Your mom says you love it.”

Oliva sighed and reached for a cracker from a box open on the counter. “I think love is in past tense now. Honestly, I think I made the wrong decision.”

Liz winced. “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”

A brief silence settled over the room as Ginny continued to talk to Bella. Olivia munched on a cracker and Liz pretended to straighten the books sitting on the edge of the island.

Olivia cleared her throat. “Well, I don’t want to interrupt you two. I’m bushed from the trip anyhow. I’m going to head up and crash for a bit.”

“You don’t have to leave.” Ginny turned her attention away from the baby to Olivia. “I just wanted to talk to Liz about a job opportunity at the library.” She stretched one arm out to hug her daughter. “I’m so glad you’re home, Olivia. We can talk about everything else later, okay?”

Olivia nodded and walked toward the stairs, carrying her glass of lemonade. “I’m sure we will. I’d better rest up for this one. Where’s Dad?”

The muscles in Ginny’s face and neck tightened at the question and she hoped neither of the women noticed. “He’s looking at a property and then I’m sure he’ll be home.”

Oliva snorted on her way up the stairs. “Some things never change. That man is a workaholic.”

Ginny let out a slow breath and sat on a stool next to Liz. “That was certainly a surprise. I had no idea she was coming home. I’m happy to see her, but . . . Well, anyhow, you don’t need to hear about all that.” She winked at Liz. “I wanted to talk to you about a possible job at the library. It would only be part time for now, but we need someone for the childrens’ story hour. You’d help create programs for the story hour and other special events during the month and then fill in on Sara’s day off. What do you think?”

Liz made a face. “Oh gosh. I don’t know. I’m not good with children.”

Ginny laughed. “You’d better start practicing. You have one, you know.”

“Yeah, but she’s mine.” Liz laughed. “I just don’t like other people’s children.”

Ginny sat Bella back in the seat and walked to the cupboard for some tea. “At least think about it. It probably won’t be enough to support you and Bella, but it could help until you can find a full-time position.”

“I’ll definitely think about it. I really appreciate the offer.”

Ginny pulled out a box of tea and two mugs. “It will have to be approved by the board, of course, but they had already asked me to start putting out my feelers for someone. They asked about a month ago, but I got distracted with planning the fundraiser. That’s next weekend, if you want to come. It’s an afternoon tea and silent auction. Not the most adventurous event I’ve ever planned but I am still resisting the wine tastings they want me to do.”

She dropped tea bags into the mugs and filled the kettle. “The board thinks a wine tasting is a hip and progressive fundraiser, but they haven’t thought ahead to what can happen when some of the members of the community decide to do a little too much tasting, if you know what I mean.”

Liz sighed. “I definitely know what you mean.”

Ginny bit her lower lip, mentally chiding herself for bringing up the topic of drinking. Liz had already mentioned to her that alcohol had been a vice for her when she’d been living with Gabe. Time to change the subject. “So, everything okay with you and Matt?”

Her back was to Liz, but she desperately wanted to turn around and gauge Liz’s expression when she asked that question.

“Yeah. It’s fine.”

Ginny knew that defensive tactic well.

It’s fine. Code words for, “Things are not fine.”

She turned and slid a plate of cookies toward Liz. “You seemed upset when you left today. Are you sure things are fine?”

Liz took a bite out of a cookie and chewed slowly, her gaze focused on the window over the kitchen sink. It took a few seconds for her to answer. “Matt’s as nice as can be and I guess that’s the problem right now. He seems nice but he lied to me about something, and it’s really been bothering me. I just haven’t had a lot of time to figure out how to address it since I started classes.”

Ginny sat back on the stool while she waited for the water to boil. “What did he lie about?”

Liz glanced at her then at the stack of books in front of her. She hesitated a few seconds before speaking. “He never told me he was the responding officer that night in my apartment.”

Ginny’s eyes widened as she realized she was the one who had spilled those beans. “Oh, Liz. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“I would have found out eventually. What bothers me is that Matt never told me. He let me believe another officer had responded. I mean, I should have guessed. Spencer only has six officers and Matt works the night shift a lot. The odds that he would be there were pretty good.”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching Bella kick her feet and smile. “I didn’t have just have a fall that night. I know it’s what a lot of people think, but it wasn’t a normal medical emergency.”

She bit her lower lip, her eyes glistening. Ginny’s chest constricted. She’d known there was more to Liz’s story, but she’d never wanted to ask. The pain etched on Liz’s face was evident and while Ginny felt honored that Liz wanted to share the truth with her, she also wanted to blurt out that Liz shouldn’t feel the need to confess anything, that whatever happened that night wasn’t as important as how Liz was trying to live her life now.

“I tried to kill myself.”

Even though Ginny had already started to fill in the blanks, it didn’t make hearing the words any easier. She decided to not be a mother and pepper Liz with questions or pull her into an embrace, instead letting her share as much or as little as she wanted.

“I took five pregnancy tests. I couldn’t believe it. I thought about all I had done in the last year and a half that had gone against who I was, how disgusted in me that my parents already were, how disgusted I was in myself. I panicked.” Tears slipped from the corners of Liz’s eyes, rolling down her cheeks. “I just wanted to make it all stop. The shame. The voices in my head telling me I was horrible, and I’d always be horrible. I knew I couldn’t have a baby. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I took a handful of the painkillers I’d had left over from my knee surgery and waited to fall asleep, but within seconds of swallowing them I was panicking again.”

She let out a shaky breath and looked at Ginny. “I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want the innocent life inside of me destroyed. I tried to throw the pills up while I called 911. I threw up some but not enough and I was already blacking out when I heard pounding on the door.”

She closed her eyes and gasped in a breath. “I’m so ashamed Ginny. I’ve never told anyone else what happened that night. I lied to my parents, to Molly and to Matt and after awhile I even started to believe the lie myself. I’ve tried to pretend that I didn’t do any of that, but I can’t pretend anymore. It’s all unraveling and what I don’t understand is why Matt keeps sticking around. I’m messed up. He knows that. Maybe he just pities me.”

Ginny shook her head. “No. I don’t believe that. He cares about you, Liz. We all do. I’m so sorry you’ve held on to this for so long.”

Liz wiped at the tears on her cheeks and then accepted the tissue Ginny handed her and blew her nose.

The whistle of the kettle brought Ginny back to her feet. She pulled the kettle from the burner and poured the water in the waiting mugs. “The way you need to think about it is that Matt knows all these things about you, yet he still cares for you. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It’s kind of like how God cares about us despite our failings.”

Liz narrowed her eyes, a small smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. “Ginny Jefferies, did you just compare Matt McGee to God? Seriously?” She laughed through her tears. “I mean, I know half the town thinks he’s a saint, but come on. Let’s not push it.”

Ginny laughed loudly, her hand against her chest. “Oh no. I didn’t even realize how that sounded. No, of course I am not comparing Matt to God. Matt is a man. He’s not perfect and he was wrong to lie to you about that night, but Liz.” She leaned forward and covered Liz’s hand with hers. “You need to talk to him about it. I’m sure he had a good reason. He loves you. You may not believe it, but I can see it. He loves you and if he doesn’t tell you soon, I’m going to kick him in his behind as motivation.”

Liz mocked gasped. “Ginny! I thought you were a sweet Christian woman and here you are talking about kicking people in the butt.”

Ginny winked. “Well, sometimes even sweet Christian women reach their limits.”

Liz shook her head and laughed softly. “Matt and I are friends, Ginny. That’s all. He’s a good friend. He’s been there for me when I’ve needed him the most and that’s why it bothers me so much that he was there that night and didn’t say anything. It’s just yet another humiliating experience of mine he’s witnessed.”

Ginny smiled as she watched Liz blow her nose again and accept another tissue to wipe the tears from her cheeks. Someday this young lady was going to wake up and realize what she had right in front of her and Ginny hoped it didn’t take years for it to happen.

Dropping a spoonful of honey in her tea, Ginny stirred it slowly and thought about how she’d reached her limit with more than just Matt McGee not admitting his feelings for Liz. She knew she should practice what she’d preached to Liz and tell Stan how she was feeling. Unfortunately, Stan hadn’t been very open to conversations lately and telling him how she felt might have to be done during a full-on blow-out argument at this point.

Book Review with CelebrateLit: Saving Mrs. Roosevelt

Celebrating Saving Mrs. Roosevelt

About the Book

Book: Saving Mrs. Roosevelt

Author: Candice Sue Patterson

Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical/Adventure

Release date: December 2021

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt World War 2 Fiction

Shirley Davenport is as much a patriot as her four brothers. She, too, wants to aid her country in the war efforts, but opportunities for women are limited. When her best friend Joan informs her that the Coast Guard has opened a new branch for single women, they both enlist in the SPARs, ready to help protect the home front.

Training is rigorous, and Shirley is disappointed that she and Joan are sent to separate training camps. At the end of basic training, Captain Webber commends her efforts and commissions her home to Maine under the ruse of a dishonorable discharge to help uncover a plot against the First Lady.

Shirley soon discovers nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust? Why do the people she loves want to harm the First Lady? With the help of Captain Webber, it’s a race against time to save Mrs. Roosevelt and remain alive.Click here to buy your copy (Celebrate Lit Affiliate Link)

My Review

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt is a great book to get yourself lost in. The story carries you along easily, so easily don’t notice it’s 1 in the morning and you should have been asleep hours ago. It had me biting my nails until the very end.

The characters are intriguing, captivating and people I, for one, would be honored to get to know.

Patterson does a great job of dropping breadcrumbs of information related to the mystery of the book, keeping readers guessing throughout as to who might be involved in a plot to harm Mrs. Roosevelt. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, she sends you down another path full of questions that you know you need the answers to

There is romantic tension in the book, but it isn’t overdone or makes you want to roll your eyes and gag at all. It is subtle and sweet.

If you like historical fiction, light and sweet romance, and intrigue, then this is the book for you.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Celebrate Lit. I was not required to write a positive review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author

Candice Sue Patterson studied at the Institute of Children’s Literature and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons in a restored farmhouse overtaken by books. When she’s not tending to her chickens, splitting wood, or decorating cakes, she’s working on a new story. Candice writes Modern Vintage Romance—where the past and present collide with faith. Her debut novel How to Charm a Beekeeper’s Heart was a 2012 ACFW First Impressions finalist and made INSPYs Longlist for 2016.

Candice Patterson Author of Saving Mrs Roosevelt

More from Candice …

The idea for Saving Mrs. Roosevelt literally came overnight. I had just finished writing a contemporary romance set in Maine, centered around a harbor town where lobstering is prevalent. My agent called me and told me about the Heroines of WWII series and asked if I’d be interested in writing a WWII novel. If so, I needed to come up with a story and proposal fast because spots were limited and filling quickly. My mind was so consumed with research of the lobster industry that I felt I couldn’t clear my brain fast enough to come up with another story on such short notice. That’s when I started wondering how I could take the knowledge I already had and make it work for a WWII novel. I googled Maine during WWII, came across an article that mentioned the SPARs, and the idea for Saving Mrs. Roosevelt was born.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the Nancy Drew deep inside me figured out a unique way to merge lobstering with espionage.

Though the plot is purely fiction, there are some characters and events that are historically accurate that were fun to include as well. I love Maine, but I’m Hoosier born and raised, and in my SPAR research, I discovered that Dorothy C. Stratton–the woman the Coast Guard asked to direct the SPARs–was the Dean of Women at Purdue University in Indiana. She was a woman of true character, grace, and strength. I knew right away she needed a cameo in my story.

Within twenty-four hours of receiving my agent’s call, I had plotted the entire story and sent a proposal. Weeks went by, and as fall ushered in its beautiful colors, my husband surprised me with a trip to Monhegan Island, Maine. We walked the trails, ate amazing seafood, and took in the gorgeous view. While on the island, my agent called again, this time to let me know that Barbour had contracted Saving Mrs. Roosevelt. What a special moment it was to be standing on the very shoreline where the book is set when I received the good news.

Since the book is set in Maine where the heroine works on a lobster boat with her father, I wanted to share my favorite recipe for Maine blueberry pie.

Maine Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

2 Pie crusts

1 quart of fresh Maine blueberries

1 ½ tbsp lemon juice

Freshly grated nutmeg

¼ c light brown sugar

¼ c white sugar

¼ c flour

2 tbsp tapioca for thickening (if the berries are juicy)

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the berries into a large bowl, add lemon juice, and toss. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until the berries are well coated with the flour and sugars mixture. Line the pie plate with one crust. Put the berries into the pie plate and top with a solid or lattice-top crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the berries are bubbly and the crust is golden brown.

Giveaway

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt Amazon gift certificate giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Candace is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.Click here to enter the giveaway

Book Review: Songs in the Storm. A story of love, trust, and triumph over trials

Book: Songs in the Storm

Author: Kathy Geary Anderson

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

My rating: 5 out of 5



Songs in the Storm is a moving story about a newly married couple struggling with a difficult diagnosis for the husband. The story walks the reader through the ups and downs, triumphs, and trials in an emotional way.

The characters of this book are so well written that I immediately fell in love with them and wanted to be sure their lives turned out okay. Yes, there was some heartbreak for both of the main characters, but they walked through the heartbreak together. This isn’t a book where the book shows the main characters meeting and falling in love. They are already in love when the book begins but their happiness is threatened when a medical tragedy strikes.

The reader is pulled into Anderson’s story through the vivid characters but also through vivid details which capture the atmosphere of the time period.

I’m not someone who reads a ton of historical fiction, but I have read some, and the books in this genre which capture my interest the most are those which immerse me in the time period they are set in. Anderson did this in such a flawless way and none of the information about the time frame or the characters seemed forced or awkward.

Be prepared to feel a range of emotions in this book but don’t let that deter you because underlying beneath it all is a comforting, sweet buzz of hope that only God can bring even in the moments we think he has left us.

I was provided with a  complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter. Chapter 11

To catch up with other parts of this novel in progress, click HERE.

Chapter 11

Encounter Church wasn’t only the largest church in the area when it came to congregation size. Its building stretched much further than any other church structure in Spencer Valley and anywhere in a 60-mile radius.

The building housed a full-size gym with a basketball court, a moderately large sanctuary set up stadium-style, a state-of-the-art sound system, and separate rooms that stretched down long, well-lit hallways and served as a spacious nursery, two conference rooms, and six adult Sunday School rooms.

In the lower level, there were rooms for Sunday School from kindergarten to high school, as well as a kitchen stocked and furnished as if it was in a culinary school.
This wasn’t the church Matt had grown up in and it wasn’t the type of church he ever saw himself being a member of up until a couple of years ago.

Now, though, he couldn’t imagine attending anywhere else. The music was outstanding, the pastor’s sermons were electrifying, and the congregation had become like family to Matt, even more so after his dad passed away.

“Matt! Good morning!” Jake Landers stood from the table he’d been sitting at in the Sunday School room and held out a hand.

“Glad to have you with us tonight.”

Matt took the older man’s hand and shook it firmly. “Glad to be here. I finally got a Wednesday night off.”

Jake shook his head as he sat. “I don’t know how you do it, kid. You go 1,000 miles an hour all day every day and still look refreshed.”

Matt laughed as he sat his Bible down and reached for an empty mug by the Keurig machine. “I might look refreshed, but I don’t often feel it.”

He waited for the mug to fill with the hazelnut cream flavored coffee he had chosen and then stirred in a dash of creamer and a packet of sugar. By the time he was done, the room was filling up with more men and they were seating themselves in the comfy chairs set up in a circle around the room.

He had been trying to attend this men’s group for a couple of months now. He needed this pick-me-up, the reminder that he wasn’t alone in his struggles and in sometimes feeling emotionally and spiritually drained.

The session turned out to be exactly what he needed and when it was over, he felt a renewed energy as he walked toward the gym to meet with a group of teenage boys he had agreed to mentor through a bi-monthly youth Bible study.

When it concluded, he challenged the seven boys to a pick-up game of basketball while they waited for their parents. The game reminded him he wasn’t young as he used to be and despite being a police officer, he also wasn’t as in shape as he should be.

“See you next week for a rematch, old man,” Trevor Banks called to him as he left the gym.
Matt grinned and waved back. “Challenge accepted, Stretch. I’ll be ready for you next time.”

He collected his Bible and notebook from the floor against the wall and as he looked up, he saw the head pastor Taylor Jenson strolling toward him, his charismatic smile firmly in place.

“Matt. Good evening.” He spoke in his familiar, smooth Southern accent that hadn’t faded in the least in the ten years since he’d lived in the north. He stuck out his hand and once again Matt was struck with how tall the man was and how the cowboy boots he wore with his crisp blue jeans and polo shirts made him even taller and even a more imposing figure.

“Pastor. How’s it going?”

“Good. The Bible study go well?”

Matt nodded and filled the pastor in on the young men and how each one was doing.

“That’s great, Matt.” Taylor slid his hands in his front pockets and propped his side against the gym wall. “Listen, I need to talk to you about something.”

Matt propped his Bible under his arm, hoping the pastor wasn’t asking him to take on another commitment. His schedule was completely booked.

Taylor looked at the floor and tugged at his earlobe, a move Matt had seen before, usually when Taylor was about to bring up a tough subject he really didn’t want to address. “I had a couple calls today from some members of the congregation. A couple of them were parents, a couple weren’t. They had some concerns about you leading the youth after what they read in the paper this week.”

“What they read in the paper?” Matt wasn’t following. What had been in the paper that might — “Oh. The birth announcement.”

Taylor winced and brought his gaze back up. “Yeah. That.”

Matt’s words about not caring what others thought about the announcement echoed back in his mind. Maybe he hadn’t thought this all the way through.

“They’re just a bit concerned about you leading the youth, being an example to them if you’ve had a child out of wedlock.”

Taylor was rubbing the back of his neck now, then held his hand there. “I didn’t know what to say to them. I didn’t even know you’d had a baby until someone showed me the announcement. I mean, I had seen you with Liz, taking her to some appointments, but I had no idea you were even dating.”

Matt blew out a breath and chewed on the inside of his bottom lip for a few minutes. “We’re not.”

“Oh.”

“No, I mean — it’s just. Liz and I are friends. I’m not her baby’s father. I told the nurse I was to keep Liz from having to connect her baby to the real father. I asked the nurse not to send the announcement to the paper, but I guess there was some kind of mix up.”

Taylor whistled, his hand still on the back of his neck as he tipped his head back. “Oh, man. That’s crazy.” He tipped his head back down and laughed softly. “I had a feeling there was a bigger story here. Sounds like you were trying to do the right thing.” He kicked at the gym floor with the tip of his boot. “It’s put us in a tough spot here at the church, though. I don’t want to reveal your private business but at the same time, I don’t know how to answer the parents without doing that very thing.”

Matt pushed his hands into his jean pockets and shook his head. “I don’t want to put the church in a difficult position. Why don’t I just step down for a bit, until I figure out how to handle this? I told Liz we should just ignore it, go on with our lives, and maybe I should explain it to some people, but I don’t know how to do it without making Liz look bad.”

Taylor sighed. “I really hate to do that to you, Matt. You’re an important part of this church, a leader to these boys.”

“But I’ll also be gone in a couple of weeks. You’ll have to find someone new to step in anyhow. I’ll just step down a little early.”

Taylor nodded. “That’s true. I guess that will save us both from the awkwardness.” He rubbed his hand across his chin. “I really am sorry about this. You’re a good guy, Matt. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. Can I pray for you at least?”
“Of course. Prayer is always welcome.”

Taylor took the time to pray for Matt left and then men shook hands. A few minutes later Matt was behind the steering wheel of his truck, laughing to himself. If he wasn’t leaving for the academy in a couple of weeks that conversation would have caused him more concern. He easily could have been offended that the church members who had a concern hadn’t approached him before they approached the pastor. At the same time, their concern made sense. Who would he be to tell a group of boys that waiting to have sex before marriage would protect their hearts and their bodies if he himself had been sleeping with a woman he wasn’t married to?

It did feel a bit like a betrayal that part of the congregation had made up their mind about him without even asking about the situation, but he wouldn’t have been able to ask someone about something so personal either.

He could just imagine approaching a person whose name had been listed as the father of someone’s baby when no one even knew they were in a relationship. “Hey, so . . .um . . . About this baby thing . . .”

Yeah. It would definitely be an awkward conversation to have.

He turned the radio on and tapped his hand against the steering wheel to a Christian song playing on his favorite radio station.

It was his decision to tell that nurse he was Bella’s father. No, he hadn’t thought it through, but he had to live with it and in the end, it would be worth it, as long as it meant Bella and Liz wouldn’t have any official ties to Gabe Martin.

***

“I can’t believe I did it.”

Ginny turned her head and tilted it to get a better look at her hair. While it had previously fallen across her shoulders when she let it down, it now stopped at ear level. She blew out a slow breath, tilting her head up again. What was Stan going to think about this impulsive move? She truly wasn’t sure.

Liz stood behind her, admiring her own shorter cut. “It looks fantastic, Ginny. Seriously. You’re drop-dead gorgeous. Just wait until Stan sees you. He won’t be able to keep his hands off you.”

Ginny’s chest tightened. Wouldn’t he, though? He was certainly able to keep his hands off her a lot these days. She couldn’t even remember the last time he’d hugged her, let alone held her in his arms.

“Well, I don’t know about that, but your cut certainly came out great. It will be a lot easier to manage for you, which will be great for when you start back next week.”

Liz pulled her lower lip between her teeth, still looking at her hair in the bathroom mirror, pulling the strands against her jawline. “I can’t believe my maternity leave is already over. It was nice of Linda to even give it to me. I don’t think it was easy for her to give me that much time off.”

She ruffled her hair and pouted. “Look, I look like a brunette Taylor Swift that time she chopped her hair. Well, the haircut does at least. Not the rest of me.”

Ginny cocked an eyebrow. “Who?”

Liz snorted. “A pop singer whose music I don’t even like.”

“Oh. Well, I’m old. That’s probably why I’ve never heard of her.”

“Be glad. You’re not missing much other than a lot of sappy songs about broken hearts.”

Ginny touched her finger to her chin. “Oh wait. Is she the one who breaks up with men and then writes songs about her breakups?”

Liz laughed as she picked up a brush and pulled it across her hair. “Yes. That’s her. Maybe I should have written a song after I left Gabe. I might could have made a few bucks.”

She turned and looked at Ginny, at the way Missy had angled her hair so it was short in the back and longer along the sides. Ginny looked ten years younger, if not more. Her entire persona seemed brighter now. Maybe this would help raise the heaviness the woman had around her some days. Maybe her husband would see her and whisk her out the door for a fancy dinner, bringing a bright spot to her day. She certainly deserved it.

“Is Stan going to be home tonight?”

Ginny shook her head. “No. We’re going to a real estate banquet together. He’s up for real estate agent of the year for the region.”

Liz’s eyebrows raised. This was a change from Ginny’s usual answers to questions about Stan. Most of the time he was away on business or not home at all. “That’s awesome. He’s finally taking a night away from work and taking you out to boot. Way to go Stan.”

Soft pink spread along Ginny’s cheekbones as she hooked an earring in. “Yeah, it should be a nice night out. We haven’t been out in —” The pink darkened to crimson. “Well, a while anyhow.”

Liz leaned back against the dresser behind her and gnawed at her thumbnail, pondering the color along Ginny’s cheeks. Was it brought on by anticipation or something else?

“Do you think he’ll win?”

“He has before and he’s been even busier this year so I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.”

Liz didn’t hear the excitement in Ginny’s voice she thought she should. She studied the woman for a moment then let her gaze drift across Ginny’s bedroom to the lightly -colored dresser and the mirror attached to it, the queen-sized bed set up high off the ground, covered in what looked like a handmade quilt of various colors, to the peach-colored walls and pillows that matched the walls. The headboard and armoire against the wall near the bed matched the dresser she was leaning against and a walk-in closet was open on the other side of the room.

“This is a beautiful house, Ginny.”

“You’ve never been in here?” Ginny turned her while adjusting her other earring. “I thought you were here for the engagement party.”

Liz shook her head. “Just the backyard. I was so focused on feeling out of place and left out I barely noticed even that.” She walked toward the walk-in closet. “I would say I’ve matured since then but it’s a work in progress, as you know. Hey.” She reached for a black gown hanging in the closet. “This is lovely. You should wear this tonight.” A white blouse with a silver sheen caught her eye and she reached for it too. “Oh, and you could put this over it. It would set off your eyes.”

She turned to see Ginny blushing again. “You think so? I don’t know. Maddie bought that for me two years ago and I just — well, I never — I didn’t have anywhere to wear it. I thought about wearing it to last year’s banquet but it seemed a little too . . .” Her voice trailed off and she shrugged. “Revealing? Sexy? I don’t know.”

Liz laid the dress and blouse on the bed. “It’s hot is what it is and you will look hot in it. Stan isn’t even going to want to go to the banquet when he sees you in it. He’s going to want to get you right back out of it again.”

The blush had spread to Ginny’s neck and chest now and she laid a hand at the nape of her neck as if to stop it.
“Oh — well, I don’t know about that but I — I mean, I could wear it, I guess.”

Liz walked to the dresser and flipped open the jewelry box. “I bet you have a necklace that would go great with this.” She shut the box abruptly and turned away from it. “Oh, my word. What am I doing? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be getting into your things like that.”

Ginny laughed and opened the box again. “Actually, I would appreciate your advice and opinion. I haven’t really dressed up in a while. I do have a couple necklaces that might work.”

The women looked through the necklaces for a few moments. Liz pulled her gaze away when her phone dinged. She reached for it and checked the message.

She sighed. “It’s McGee. Asking what to bring for dinner.”

Ginny swung around with a gold necklace in her hand and placed a hand on her hip. “Dinner, eh?”

Liz scowled playfully. “Calm down. It’s like a potluck dinner. Molly, Alex, Ellie, and Jason are all going to be there too. Then we’re going to watch Ellie and Jason’s wedding video.”

She texted a response and tossed the phone onto the bed. “Matt and I are just friends. Like I told you.”

Ginny held the necklace up in front of her while she looked in the mirror. “A friend who is clearly in love with you. I get it.”

Liz scoffed. “He is not in love with me. He’s just a good friend. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s a very good friend. He’s been there for me in the worst moments of my life and in the best. He brought me food when I was too big and sick to get around when I was pregnant. He drove me to a few appointments when my car broke down. He, well, obviously delivered Bella. He’s also stopped by plenty of times and held her while I cleaned the apartment or took a nap. He’s just a good guy. You know that. He’s good to everyone.”

Ginny held up another necklace, narrowing her eyes as she studied her reflection in the mirror. “He’s not as good to everyone as he is to you, and I can’t say I’ve ever heard him say he was in love with you, but I do know that he was very upset when you had that fall at your apartment last year.”

Liz’s chest constricted and a lump pushed up into her throat. Her hand trembled as she straightened the dress she’d lain on the bed, averting her eyes from Ginny. “What do you mean?”

“Stan said Matt asked for prayer for you during the men’s Bible study a couple nights after you were taken to the hospital. He didn’t give any details, but said there had been an accident and he’d arrived before the ambulance.”

The room suddenly seemed small and tight as Liz sat on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. Matt was at her apartment that night? She’d known there was an officer there, but she’d been told it was Tom Landry, Matt’s older partner. If

Matt had been there, why had he never told her?

The idea of him seeing her, barely conscious, at the worst moment of her life. Bile clutched at her throat and she gagged.
Ginny whirled to look at her. “Uh-oh. Are those tacos we stopped for causing an issue?”
She shook her head against Ginny’s concern then changed her mind and nodded. “Actually, yes, they are a little. Will you excuse me?”


She found the bathroom down the hall, doubled over the toilet as she shut the door, and gagged again. She closed her eyes tight, desperate to remember the voices that night. Had Matt’s been one of them? She couldn’t remember. She needed to remember.

Dear God . . . Please no.

So when she’d first lied to him, said she’d accidentally taken too many pills from a prescription for painkillers for her knee, he’d known all along. He’d most likely even known she was pregnant. She wretched into the toilet bowl, grasping the seat as colors played across her vision.

Reaching for a piece of toilet paper, she wiped it across her mouth and shook her head. He’d never said a thing. He hadn’t told her he already knew. That had been almost a year ago. And he’d never said a thing. She couldn’t believe it.
He had now twice seen her at her most vulnerable. If the earth opened up right now and swallowed her whole she wouldn’t have been totally fine with it.

“Really God? How much more do you need to punish and humiliate me for what I did?”

She stood and turned the sink on, cupping a handful of water to wash her mouth out with. She pictured herself in the bathroom floor of her apartment that night, desperately trying to get the pills to come back up again. She hadn’t wanted to die. Not really. She’d simply panicked. She hadn’t wanted the baby to die either. She hadn’t even really accepted there was a baby yet.

In those moments when she shoved those pills in her mouth, she had told herself it was the best way to keep her parents from finding out how she’d been living, from Molly being disappointed in her, from feeling the same day after day. But at the moment she stuck her finger back against her tonsils a different kind of panic had set in. A panic that she might actually die, that she’d never had a chance to say goodbye to Molly or her sister.

There was a baby to think about. The baby hadn’t done anything to deserve a death sentence. She had to stop the pills from taking effect and there was no way they wouldn’t. She’d downed half a bottle of opioid painkillers.

Praying to God, she had begged while vomit trickled down her chin. It obviously wasn’t enough vomit to bring the pills back up because blackness had encroached across her vision quickly. She had chased the darkness away with a deep breath that was more like a gasping scream.

“Jesus! Save me!”

She couldn’t even feel the phone in her hand when she’d hit the 9 and collapsed against the cool linoleum.

A knock on the bathroom door ripped her from the memory and back to the present. She tried to gather herself, remind herself she wasn’t in her old apartment, begging to live. She was at Ginny’s and she needed to get it together already. She splashed her face with water and snatched the hand towel to dry herself off.

“Liz? Honey? You okay in there.”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll be right out.”

There she went again, lying. How many times in her life was she going to tell everyone she was fine when she clearly wasn’t?

No matter.

She smoothed her newly cropped hair back, took a deep breath, and forced what she hoped was a natural-looking smile on her face.

Faking happiness had become like breathing to her.

This time would be no different.

Book Review The Rhise of Light by Max Sternberg

Book: The Rhise of Light

Author: Max Sternberg

Genre: Christian Fantasy

Description: This is not your typical Christian Fiction story…

The entirety of living civilization stands on the very brink of death. Undead hordes have rampaged across the world. Determined to do his part, Leon Rhise left his wealthy father’s estate and chose to defend the last living kingdom by joining the military. It had seemed to be a good idea at the time.

After his career in the airship navy came to an abrupt end Leon arrived home, hoping for a warm reception. Instead, he was abruptly tossed out. Disowned, unemployed, and friendless. All hope seems lost. Then Leon discovers a mysterious relic, which opens up the possibility of him becoming a Judge: a hero of legend. One that has not been seen for centuries.

As Leon travels the road less taken his destiny converges with newfound companions, each one surrounded by mystery. Advised by strange beings in dreams and visions, Leon learns that the undead onslaught the world has suffered is part of a much larger problem. A solution can be found by learning about the forgotten being known as Adonai. But the world is ending, and time is running out.

Delve into a world that brings a unique twist and interpretation to faith-based high fantasy. With emotional highs and lows, certain peril, dysfunction, and humor; tough questions are asked, and answers will come to light.

My Review

Let me get this out of the way first: I don’t read fantasy, Christian or not. I just don’t do it. But I’d met the author of this book in an online writing group, and he seemed nice so I thought I should read it to support him. I dragged my feet on it. I did. I cannot lie. I was like a little child. I folded my arms across my chest, slouched down on the couch and pulled my hood down over my face.

I pushed my lower lip out. “I don’t like fantasy books. All those ridiculous names and magic and sword battles with fantastical creatures.”

I huffed out a breath and grabbed my Kindle. “Fine. I’ll try it, but only because Max is a nice guy.”

Now, after reading The Rhise of Light, I can’t say that I will keep reading fantasy, but I can say I will read more fantasy written by Max Sternberg.

The Rhise of Light is not only full of well-written prose and dialogue and good, smart fun. It is also deeply theological, thought-provoking, and spiritually moving.

I fell in love with the main characters, Leon, Miala, Duame, and Kelleren but then there were even more characters to fall in love with as the book went on.

Creative well-developed characters and his descriptions make you feel like you are right there and all the characters are alive and real – whether they are human, elf, dwarf, dog, or an undead zombie.

Sternberg paints a vivid image of the world Leon and his friends live in, so vivid that sometimes it is a bit scary, considering that when people die they immediately become undead zombies who want to kill everyone else, no matter how nice they were in life or how they died. The only way to kill them for good is to dispatch them a second time and often in a grisly way.

Sternberg doesn’t pull any punches in fight scenes, but he also isn’t overly graphic. He weaves humor in the midst of heavy and serious and touching in the midst of heartbreaking.

Perhaps you’re not a fan of fantasy either. Don’t overlook this one because of your preconceived notions. You might just be as surprised and as enchanted as I was with Sternberg’s debut novel.