Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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:

Realms (January 3, 2012)

***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach; a popular speaker at writers’ conferences, workshops, and women’s groups; and the author of numerous published books, including the Seasons of Redemption series: Unwilling Warrior, Uncertain Heart, Unexpected Love, and Undaunted Faith.

Visit the author's website.


Kristin Eikaas has her hopes set on a new life in America.

The year is 1848, and Kristin Eikaas has traveled from Norway to Wisconsin with dreams of a new life. But when she arrives, she finds one disappointment after another. Worse, her superstitious uncle now believes that his neighbor’s Oneida Indian wife has put a curse on Kristin. Everyone knows the Sundbergs put spells on people…

Everyone except Kristin. Her run-ins with Sam Sundberg only prove that he is a good man from a Christian family. But when her uncle discovers she’s been associating with Sam, his temper flares. To escape his wrath, Kristin gratefully accepts a job as the Sundbergs’ house girl, finding solace at the family’s spinning wheel.

In the time Sam and Kristin spend together, their friendship develops into much more, and Sam prays about a match between them. But opposition threatens to derail their newfound love. Will they have the courage to stand up for what is right—even against their own families?

Product Details:

  • List Price: $13.99
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Realms (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616384972
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616384975


    September 1848

    It looks like Norway.

    The thought flittered across nineteen-year-old Kristin Eikaas’s mind as Uncle Lars’s wagon bumped along the dirt road. The docks of Green Bay, Wisconsin, were behind them, and now they rode through a wooded area that looked just as enchanting as the forests she’d left in Norway. Tall pine trees and giant firs caused the sunshine to dapple on the road. Kristin breathed in the sweet, fresh air. How refreshing it felt in her lungs after being at sea for nearly three months and breathing in only salty sea air or the stale air in her dark, crowded cabin.

    A clearing suddenly came into view, and a minute or so later, Kristin eyed the farm fields stretched before her. The sight caused an ache of homesickness. Her poppa had farmed . . .

    “Your trip to America was good, ja?” Uncle Lars asked in Norwegian, giving Kristin a sideways glance.

    He resembled her father so much that her heart twisted painfully with renewed grief. Except she’d heard about Onkel—about his temper—how he had to leave Norway when he was barely of age, because, Poppa had said, trouble followed him.

    But surely he’d grown past all of that. His letters held words of promise, and there was little doubt that her uncle had made a new life for himself here in America.

    Just as she would.

    Visions of a storefront scampered across her mind’s eye—a shop in which she could sell her finely crocheted and knitted items. A shop in which she could work the spinning wheel, just as Mor had . . .

    Uncle Lars arched a brow. “You are tired, liten niese?”

    Ja. It was a long journey.” Kristin sent him a sideways glance.

    “I am grateful I did not come alone. The Olstads made good traveling companions.”

    Her uncle cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “But you have brought my inheritance, ja?” He arched a brow.

    Ja.” Kristin thought of the priceless possession she’d brought from Norway.

    “And you would not hold out on your onkel, would you?”

    Prickles of unease caused Kristin to shift in her seat. She resisted the urge to touch the tiny gold and silver cross pendent suspended from a dainty chain that hung around her neck. Her dress concealed it. She couldn’t give it up, even though it wasn’t legal for a woman to inherit anything in Norway. But the necklace had been her last gift from Mor. A gift from one’s mother wasn’t an inheritance . . . was it? “No, Onkel.”

    She turned and peered down from her perch into the back of the wooden wagon bed. Peder Olstad smiled at her, and Kristin relaxed some. Just a year older, he was the brother of Kristin’s very best friend who had remained in Norway with their mother. She and Peder had grown up together, and while he could be annoying and bad tempered at times, he was the closest thing to a brother that she had. And Sylvia—Sylvia was closer than a sister ever could be. It wouldn’t be long, and she and Mrs. Olstad would come to America too. That would be a

    happy day!

    “You were right,” John Olstad called to Uncle Lars in their native tongue. “Lots of fertile land in this part of the country. I hope to purchase some acres soon.”

    “And after you are a landowner for five years, you can be a citizen of America and you can vote.” The Olstad men smiled broadly and replied in unison. “Oh, jaja . . . ”

    Uncle Lars grinned, causing dozens of wrinkles to appear around his blue eyes. His face was tanned from farming beneath the hot sun, and his tattered leather hat barely concealed the abundance of platinum curls growing out of his large head. “Oh, ja, this is very good land. I am glad I persuaded Esther to leave the Muskego settlement and move northeast. But, as you will soon see, we are still getting settled.”

    Ja, how’s that, Lars?”

    Kristin heard the note of curiosity in Mr. Olstad’s voice.

    “I purchased the land and built a barn and a cabin.” He paused and gave a derisive snort. “Well, a fine home takes time and money.”

    “Oh, ja, that way.” Mr. Olstad seemed to understand.

    And Kristin did too. One couldn’t expect enormous comforts out in the Wisconsin wilderness.

    Just then they passed a stately home situated on the Fox River. Two quaint dormers peered from the angled roof, which appeared to be supported by a pair of white pillars.

    “That is Mr. Morgan Martin’s home. He is a lawyer in town.”

    Uncle Lars delivered the rest of his explanation with a sneer. “And an Indian agent.”

    “Indians?” Kristin’s hand flew to her throat.

    “Do not fret. The soldiers across the river at Fort Howard protect the area.”

    Kristin forced her taut muscles to relax.

    “Out here the deer are plentiful and fishing is good. Fine lumber up here too. But the Norwegian population is small. Nevertheless, we have our own church, and the reverend speaks our language.”

    “A good thing,” Mr. Olstad remarked.

    “I cannot wait for the day when Far owns land,” Peder said, glancing at Mr. Olstad. “Lots of land.” The warm wind blew his auburn hair outward from his narrow face, and his hazel eyes sparked with enthusiasm, giving the young man a somewhat wild appearance. “But no farming for me. I want to be rich someday.”

    “As do we all!” exclaimed Mr. Olstad, whose appearance was an older, worn-out version of his son’s.

    Kristin’s mind had parked on land ownership. “And once you are settled, Sylvia will come to America. I cannot wait. I miss her so much.”

    She grappled with a fresh onset of tears. Not only was Sylvia her best friend, but she and the entire Olstad clan had also become like family to her ever since a smallpox epidemic ravaged their little village two years ago, claiming the lives of Kristin’s parents and two younger brothers. When Uncle Lars had learned of the tragic news, he offered her a place to stay in his home if she came to America. Onkel wrote that she should be with her family, so Kristin had agreed to make the voyage. Her plans to leave Norway had encouraged the Olstads to do

    the same. But raising the funds to travel took time and much hard work. While the Olstads scrimped and saved up their crop earnings, Kristin did spinning, weaving, knitting, and sewing for those with money to spare. By God’s grace, they were finally here.

    Uncle Lars steered the wagon around a sharp bend in the rutty road. He drove to the top of a small hill, and Kristin could see the blue Lake Michigan to her left and farm fields to her right.

    Then a lovely white wood-framed house came into view. It didn’t look all that different from the home they’d just past, with dormers, a covered front porch, and stately pillars bearing the load of a wide overhang. She marveled at the homestead’s large, well-maintained barn and several outbuildings. American homes looked like this? Then no wonder Mr. Olstad couldn’t wait to own his own farm!

    Up ahead Kristin spied a lone figure of a man. She could just barely make out his faded blue cambric shirt, tan trousers, and the hoe in his hands as he worked the edge of the field. Closer still, she saw his light brown hair springing out from beneath his hat. As the wagon rolled past him, the man ceased his labor and turned their way. Although she couldn’t see his eyes as he squinted into the sunshine, Kristin did catch sight of his tanned face. She guessed his age to be not too much more than hers and decided he was really quite handsome.

    “Do not even acknowledge the likes of him,” Uncle Lars spat derisively. “Good Christians do not associate with Sam Sundberg or any members of his family.”

    Oh, dear, too late! Kristin had already given him a little smile out of sheer politeness. She had assumed he was a friend or neighbor. But at her uncle’s warning she quickly lowered her gaze.

    Kristin’s ever-inquiring nature got the best of her. “What is so bad about that family?”

    “They are evil—like the Martins. Even worse, Karl Sundberg is married to a heathen Indian woman who casts spells on the good people of this community.”

    “Spells?” Peder’s eyes widened.

    Ja, spells. Why else would some folks’ crops fail while Karl’s flourish? He gets richer and richer with his farming in the summer, his logging camps in the winter, and his fur trading with heathens, while good folks like me fall on hard times.”

    “Hard times?” Peder echoed the words.

    Ja, same seed. Same fertile ground. Same golden opportunity.”

    Uncle Lars swiveled to face the Olstads. “I will tell you why that happens. The Sundbergs have hexed good Christians like me.” He wagged his head. “Oh, they are an evil lot, those Sundbergs and Martins. Same as the Indians.”

    Indians? Curiosity got the better of her, and Kristin swung around in the wagon to get one last glimpse of Sam Sundberg. She could hardly believe he was as awful as her uncle described. Why, he even removed his hat just now and gave her a cordial nod.

    “Turn around, niese, and mind your manners!” Uncle Lars’s large hand gripped her upper arm and he gave her a mild shake.

    “I . . . I am sorry, Onkel,” Kristin stammered. “But I have never seen an Indian.”

    “Sam Sundberg is not an Indian. It is his father’s second wife and their children. Oneida half-breeds is what we call them.”

    “Half-breed, eh?”

    Kristin glanced over her shoulder and saw Peder stroke his chin.

    “Interesting,” he added.

    “How very interesting.” Kristin couldn’t deny her interest was piqued. “Are there many Indians living in the Wisconsin Territory?”

    Ja, they trespass on my land, but I show my gun and they leave without incident. Sundberg brings his Indian wife to church.” He wagged his head. “Such a disgrace.”

    “And the Territory officials do nothing?” Mr. Olstad asked.

    Uncle Lars puffed out his chest. “As of three months ago, we are the State of Wisconsin—no longer a territory.” Uncle Lars stated the latter with as much enthusiasm as a stern schoolmaster. “Now the government will get rid of those savages once and for all.” He sent Kristin a scowl. “And you, my liten niese, will do well to stay away from Indians. All of them, including our neighbors, the Sundbergs. You hear, lest you get yourself scalped.”

    Ja, Onkel.”

    With a measure of alarm, Kristin touched her braided hair and chanced a look at Peder and Mr. Olstad. Both pairs of wide eyes seemed to warn her to heed Uncle Lars’s instructions. She would, of course. But somehow she couldn’t imagine the man they’d just passed doing her any harm. Would he?

    Sam Sundberg wiped the beads of perspiration off his brow before dropping his hat back on his head. Who was the little blonde riding next to Lars Eikaas? Sam hadn’t seen her before. And the men in the wagon bed . . . he’d never seen them either.

    After a moment’s deliberation he concluded they were the expected arrivals from the “Old Country.”  Months ago Sam recalled hearing talk in town about Lars’s orphaned niece sailing to America with friends of the family, so he assumed the two red-haired men and the young lady were the topics of that particular conversation. But wouldn’t it just serve Mr. Eikaas right if that blonde angel turned his household upside down—or, maybe, right-side up?

    He smirked at the very idea. Sam didn’t have to meet that young lady to guess Mr. Eikaas would likely have his hands full. Her second backward glance said all Sam needed to know.

    The word plucky sprang into his mind. He chuckled. Plucky she

    seemed, indeed.

    But was she wise enough not to believe everything her uncle said?

    Sam thought it a real shame. Years ago Pa and Lars Eikaas had been friends. But then Pa’s silver went missing, insults were traded, and the Eikaases’ prejudice against Ma, Jackson, and Mary kept the feud alive.

    The Eikaas wagon rolled out of sight, leaving brown clouds of dust in its wake. A grin threatened as Sam thought again of that plucky blonde’s curious expression. Maybe she did have a mind of her own. Now wouldn’t that be something? Sam thanked God that not everyone around here was as intolerant of Wisconsin Natives as the Eikaas family. There were those who actually befriended the Indians and stood up to government officials in their stead. Like Pa, for instance. Like Sam himself.

    The blistering sun beat down on him. Removing his hat once more, he wiped the sweat from his forehead. He started pondering the latest government proposal to remove the Indians from their land. First the Oneida tribe had been forced out, and soon the Menominee band would be “removed” and “civilized.” As bad as that was, it irked Sam more to think about how the government figured it knew best for the Indians. Government plans hadn’t succeeded in the past, so why would they now? Something else had to be done. Relocating the Menominee would cause those people nothing but misery. They’d stated as much themselves. Furthermore, the Indians, led by Chief Oshkosh, were determined not to give up their last tract of land. Sam predicted this current government proposal would only serve to stir up more violence between Indians and whites.

    But not if he and Pa could help it.

    In the distance he heard the clang of the dinner bell. Ma didn’t like him to tarry when food was on the table. Across the beet field, Sam saw his younger brother run on ahead of him. He wagged his head at the twelve-year-old and his voracious appetite.

    With one calloused hand gripping the hoe and the other holding the bushel basket, Sam trudged toward their white clapboard home. Its two dormers protruded proudly from the second floor.

    Entering the mudroom, he fetched cold water from the inside well, peeled off his hat, and quickly washed up. Next he donned a fresh shirt. Ma insisted upon cleanliness at the supper table. Finally presentable, he made his way into the basement where the summer kitchen and a small eating area were located. The cool air met his sun-stoked skin and Sam sighed, appreciating the noonday respite.

    Next he noticed a cake in the middle of the table.

    “That looks good enough to eat,” he teased, resisting the urge to steal a finger-full of white frosting.

    Ma gave him a smile, and her nut-brown eyes darkened as she set the wooden tureen of turkey and wild rice onto the table. “Since it’s Rachel’s last day with us, I thought I would prepare an extra special dessert.”

    Sam glanced across the table at the glowing bride-to-be. In less than twenty-four hours Rachel Decker would become Mrs. Luke Smith. But for the remainder of today she’d fulfill her duties as Ma’s hired house girl who helped with the cooking, cleaning, sewing, washing, and ironing whenever Ma came down with one of her episodes, which were sometimes so intensely painful that Ma couldn’t get out of bed without help. Rachel had been both a comfort and an efficient assistant to Ma.

    “I helped bake the cake, Sam.”

    He grinned at his ten-year-old sister, Mary. “Good job.”

    They all sat down, Mary taking her seat beside Rachel. Sam helped his mother into her place at the head of the table then lowered himself into his chair next to Jackson, who’d been named after Major General Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of this great country.

    “Sam, since your father is away,” Ma began, “will you please ask God’s blessing on our food?”

    “Be glad to.” He bowed his head. “Dearest Lord, we thank Thee for Thy provisions. Strengthen and nourish us with this meal so we may glorify Thee with our labors. In Jesus’s name, amen.”

    Action ensued all around the table. The women served themselves and then between Sam and Jack, they scraped the bowl clean.

    “Good thing Pa’s not home from his meetings in town,” Jack muttered with a crooked grin.

    “If your father were home,” Ma retorted, “I would have made more food.”

    “Should have made more anyhow.” Jack gave her a teasing grin. “No seconds.” He clanged the bowl and spoon together as if to prove his point.

    “You have seconds on your plate already,” Ma said. “Why, I have never seen anyone consume as much food as you do, Jackson.”

    His smile broadened. “I’m growing. Soon I’ll be taller than Sam.”

    “Brotherly competition.” Sam had to chuckle. But in the next moment, he wondered if his family behaved oddly. Didn’t all families enjoy meals together? Tease and laugh together? Tell stories once the sun went down? According to Rachel, they didn’t. The ebony-haired, dark-eyed young woman had grown up without a mother and had a drunkard for a father . . . until Ma got wind of the situation and took her in. She invited Rachel to stay in the small room adjacent to the kitchen and offered her a job. Rachel had accepted. And now, years later, Rachel would soon marry a fine man, Luke Smith, a friend of Sam’s. 

    Taking a bite of his meal, he chewed and looked across the table at Mary. Both she and Jack resembled their mother, dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and graceful, willowy frames, while Sam took after his father, blue eyes and stocky build, measuring just under six feet. Yet, in spite of the outward dissimilarities, the five Sundbergs were a closely knit family, and Sam felt grateful that he’d known nothing but happiness throughout

    his childhood. He had no recollection whatsoever of his biological mother who had taken ill and died during the voyage from Norway to America.

    Sam had been but a toddler when she went home to be with the Lord, and soon after disembarking in New York, his father met another Norwegian couple. They helped care for Sam and eventually persuaded Pa to take his young son and move with them to Wisconsin, known back then as part of the “Michigan Territory.” Pa seized the opportunity, believing the promises that westward expansion touted, and he was not disappointed.

    He learned to plant, trap, and trade with the Indians, and he became a successful businessman. In time, he saved enough funds to make his dreams of owning land and farming a reality.

    Then, when Sam was a boy of eight years, his father met and married Mariah, an Oneida. Like her, many Oneida were Christians and fairly well educated due to the missionaries who had lived among them. In time Sam took to his new mother, and she to him. Through the years Ma cherished and admonished him as though he were her own son. She learned the Norwegian language and could speak it fluently. As far as Sam was concerned, he was her own son—and Mariah, his own mother.

    They were a family.

    “Was that the Eikaas wagon driving by not long ago?” Mary asked.

    Sam snapped from his musing. “Sure was. It appears they have relatives in town.”

    “Mr. Eikaas didn’t stop and visit, did he?” Mary’s eyes were as round as gingersnaps.

    Sam chuckled. “No, of course not. I can’t recall the last time Lars Eikaas spoke to me . . . or any of the Sundbergs, for that matter.”

    “Erik is nice to me at school.” Mary took a bite of her meal.

    “Glad to hear it.”

    “I can’t wait to begin school next week.”

    Sam grinned at his sister’s enthusiasm. He’d felt the same way as a boy.

    “Sam, what made you assume Mr. Eikaas transported relatives in his wagon today?”

    He glanced at Ma. “A while back I’d heard that Lars’s niece was coming to America, accompanied by friends, and since I didn’t recognize the three passengers in the wagon this morning, I drew my own conclusions.”

    “Is she pretty?” Jackson’s cheeks bulged with food.

    “Is who pretty?”

    “Mr. Eikaas’s niece . . . is she pretty?”

    Sam recalled the plucky blonde whose large, cornflower-blue eyes looked back at him with interest from beneath her bonnet. And pretty? As much as Sam hated to admit it, she was about the prettiest young lady he’d ever set eyes on.

    Jackson elbowed him. “Hey, I asked you a question.”

    Sam gave his younger brother an annoyed look. “Yeah, I s’pose she’s pretty. But don’t go getting any big ideas about me courting her. She’s an Eikaas.”

    “You’re awful old to not be married yet.” Jack rolled his dark eyes.

    “What do you know about it? I’m only twenty-one.” Sam grinned. “Hush up and eat.” It’s what the boy did best. “So . . . did everyone have a pleasant morning?” He forked another bite of food into his mouth, wondering why he tried so hard to shift the subject off of Lars Eikaas’s niece.

    Kristin looked around the one-room shanty with its unhewn walls and narrow, bowed loft. Cotton squares of material covered the windows, making the heat inside nearly unbearable. 

    Disappointment riddled her being like buckshot. Although she knew she should feel grateful for journeying safely this far, and now to have a roof over her head, she couldn’t seem to shake her displeasure at seeing her relatives’ living quarters. It looked nothing like her uncle had described in his letters nor the homes she’d glimpsed on the way.

    “Here is your trunk of belongings,” Uncle Lars said, carrying the wooden chest in on one of his broad shoulders. With a grunt, he set it down in the far corner of the cabin. “Where is my inheritance? Let me have a look at it.”

    “Right now, Onkel?”

    Ja, ja . . .” Impatience filled his tone.

    Pulling open the drawstring of her leather purse, she reached inside and extracted the key. She unlocked the trunk and opened its curved lid. Getting onto her knees, Kristin moved aside her clothes and extra shoes until she found what she searched for. Poppa’s gold watch. She held the black velvet-covered box reverently in her hands for one last, long moment before she stood and presented it to her uncle.

    “This belonged to my poppa.”

    “Ah . . .” Uncle Lars’s face lit up with delight as he opened the box. Looking to Aunt Esther, he nodded. “This will bring a fair price, do you think?”

    Disbelief poured over her. “But . . . you would not sell Poppa’s watch, would you?”

    “None of your business!”

    Kristin jumped back at the biting reply. Her opinion of her uncle dropped like a rock into a cavern.

    “Anything more?” Her uncle bent over the wooden chest and quickly rummaged through it, spilling clothes onto the unswept floor.

    Onkel, please, stop. My garments . . .”

    “Does not seem to be anything else.” Uncle Lars narrowed his gaze. “Is there?”

    “No.” The necklace Mor had given her burned against her already perspiring skin. Still, Kristin refused to part with the gift. “Nothing more. As you know, Poppa was a farmer. He supplemented his income by working at the post office, but no money was ever saved. After my parents died, I sold everything to help pay for a portion of my passage to America. I earned the rest myself.”

    “Any money left?”

    Kristin shook her head as she picked up the last of her belongings, careful not to meet her uncle’s stare. A little money remained in the special pocket she’d sewn into her petticoat. For safety, she’d kept her funds on her person throughout the entire voyage. The last of her coinage would purchase muchneeded undergarments. She’d managed to save it throughout the journey for the specific purpose of buying new foundations when she reached America. It wasn’t inherited. She’d worked hard for it.

    With a grunt Uncle Lars turned and sauntered out of the cabin.

    “You will sleep in the loft with your cousins.” Aunt Esther’s tone left no room for questions or argument. Wearing a plain, brown dress with a tan apron pinned to its front, and with her dark brown hair tightly pinned into a bun, the older woman looked as drab as her surroundings. “Your uncle and I sleep on a pallet by the hearth.”

    “Yes, Tante. I am sure I will be very comfortable.” Another lie.

    “Come, let us eat.” Aunt Esther walked toward the hearth where a heavy black kettle sat on top of a low-burning fire. “There is venison stew for our meal.”

    “It sounds delicious.” Kristin’s stomach growled in anticipation. She’d eaten very little on the ship this morning. Excitement plus the waves on Lake Michigan made eating impossible. But after disembarking in Green Bay, her stomach began to settle, and now she was famished.

    Aunt Esther called everyone to the table, which occupied an entire corner of the cabin. Her three children, two girls and one boy, ranging in ages from seven to sixteen, came in from outside, as did the Olstads. After a wooden bowl filled with stew was set before each person, the family clasped hands and recited a standard Norwegian prayer . . .

    I Jesu navn gar vi til bords,—We sit down in the name of Jesus,

    Spise drikke pa ditt ord,—To eat and drink according to Your


    Deg Gud til are, oss til gavn,—To Your honor, Oh Lord, and

    for our benefit,

    Sa far vi mat i Jesu navn.—We receive food in the name of



    Having said grace, hands were released, and everyone picked up a spoon and began to eat. Kristin noticed her cousins, Inga and Anna, eyeing her with interest. They resembled their father, blonde curls and blue eyes.

    “What do you like to do on sunny afternoons such as this one?” she asked cheerfully, hoping to start conversation. After all, Inga’s age was close to hers. Perhaps her cousin would help her meet friends.

    “We do not talk at the table,” Aunt Esther informed her. “We eat, not talk.”

    “Yes, Tante.” Kristin glanced at Peder and Mr. Olstad who replied with noncommittal shrugs and kept eating.

    Silently, Kristin did the same. The Olstads always had lively discussions around their table.

    When the meal ended, the girls cleared the table and the men took young Erik and ambled outside.

    “May I help with cleaning up?” Kristin asked her aunt.

    “No. You rest today and regain your strength. Tomorrow we are invited to a wedding, the day after is the Sabbath. Then beginning on Monday, you will labor from sunup to sunset like everyone else in this place.”

    “Except for one,” Inga quipped. No one but Kristin heard.

    “Who?” Her lips moved, although she didn’t utter a sound.

    Far, that is who.” Disrespect seeped from Inga’s tone, which was loud and clear.

    Hadn’t Aunt Esther overheard it?

    Tante suddenly whirled around and glared at Kristin. “Do something with yourself. We are working here.”

    With a frown, Kristin backed away. Her aunt’s brusque manner caused her to feel weary and more homesick than

    ever. She missed her parents and her little brothers. Why did God take them, leaving her to live life without them? And Sylvia . . . how she longed for her best friend!

    Kristin knelt by the trunk and carefully lifted out a soft, knitted shawl that had once belonged to her mother, Lydia Eikaas. Mor had been an excellent seamstress, expert in spinning wool into yarn and thread, as well as in weaving and sewing garments. She’d taught Kristin everything she knew about the craft. Surely Kristin could now put her skills to good use in this new country, this land of opportunity.

    She sighed and glanced over to where her aunt and two cousins continued straightening up after the meal. Inga and Anna barely smiled, and her aunt’s expression seemed permanently frozen into a frown. Is that what this country really afforded . . . misery?

    Allowing her gaze to wander around the dismal cabin once more, Kristin began to wish she had not come to America.

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Experience a closer relationship with your Savior in the pages of Mornings with Jesus 2012. Each page of this all-new devotional begins with a Scripture quote, followed by an uplifting devotion that demonstrates how Jesus’ life and teachings apply today. With humor, humility and grace, the seven writers share insights and reflections that you can relate to. You’ll also find “faith steps” that you can practice throughout your day, to help you carry the words of Jesus with you and make them real in your life.

    When you read Jesus’ words and think about His lessons and miracles, you’ll feel your relationship to your Savior grown richer and deeper. You’ll find more strength, courage, joy and peace to meet the challenges of each day.

    litfuse tour
    Mornings with Jesus 2012 is out now. its a devotional that has been written by quite a few authors they are Judy Baer, Gwen  Ford Faulkenberry, Tricia Goyer, Sharon Hinck, Keri Wyatt Kent, Erin Keeley Marshall and Camy Tang. some of those authors write amazing novels, the others i have never read or heard of.

    regardless this is a great devotional to go through, it is specific for 2012 as it is a leap year. and its very well thought out and great. i love the cherry blossoms on the cover. sometimes its hard to review a devotional cause you can't just read it straight through. but it would definitely be a good one to add to your collection. they did provide me a giveaway copy but because i do not have funds for shipping i will donate mine to the library so it can bless someone there too!

    thanks to litfuse and guideposts for the review copy. it is out now if you'd like to buy it go here!

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    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:

     Thomas Nelson (January 3, 2012)

    ***Special thanks to
    Audra Jennings – The B&B Media Group –  for sending me a review copy.***


    Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

    Visit the author's website.


    Shay Brandenberger has built her entire life on the shifting sands of what others think. Constantly seeking the approval of others, she has struggled through a rocky childhood, a failed marriage and single parenthood. Now it looks like she’s losing the ranch that has been in her family for three generations, a surefire way to mark her as a failure in the eyes of the community. When Travis McCoy, the high school sweetheart who very publicly broke her heart fifteen years before, returns to Moose Creek, she is less than pleased. Not only does his re-appearance dredge up a deluge of painful memories, it also reminds everyone in town that it was he who left her, not the other way around. To make matters worse, Shay and Travis are unwittingly paired to play bride and groom in the annual Founder’s Day wedding re-enactment where, much to her chagrin, she discovers he still has the power to take her breath away. 

    Product Details:

    List Price: $15.99

    • Paperback: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 3, 2012)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1595548025
    • ISBN-13: 978-1595548023


    The bell above the diner’s door jingled
    and—despite her most valiant effort—Shay Brandenberger’s eyes darted toward the
    entry. An unfamiliar couple entered—tourists. She could tell by their khaki
    Eddie Bauer vests and spanking-new hiking boots. Look out, Yellowstone.

    When her heart rate returned to normal,
    she checked her watch and took a sip of coffee. Five minutes till she met Miss
    Lucy at the Doll House, forty till she met John Oakley at the bank. What if he
    said no? What would they do then?

    “Mom . . . Earth to Mom . . .” Olivia
    waved her hand too close to Shay’s face, her brown eyes widening.

    “Sorry, hon.” The one bright moment of
    her Saturday was breakfast with her daughter, and she couldn’t enjoy it for the
    dread. “What were you saying?”

    Olivia set her fork on her
    pancake-sticky plate and heaved a sigh worthy of her twelve-year-old self.
    “Never mind.” She bounced across the vinyl bench, her thick brown ponytail
    swinging. “I’m going to meet Maddy.”

    “Right back here at noon,” Shay called,
    but Olivia was out the door with the flick of her hand.

    The diner buzzed with idle chatter.
    Silverware clattered and scraped, and the savory smell of bacon and fried eggs
    unsettled her stomach. She took a sip of the strong brew from the fat rim of
    her mug.

    The bell jingled again. I will not look. I will
    not look. I will not—

    The server appeared at her booth, a new
    girl, and gathered Olivia’s dishes. “On the house today.”

    Shay set down her mug, bristling. “Why?”

    The woman shrugged. “Boss’s orders,” she
    said, then made off with the dirty dishes.

    From the rectangular kitchen window,
    Mabel Franklin gave Shay a pointed look.

    So Shay had helped the couple with their
    foal the week before. It was the neighborly thing to do.

    Fine. She gave a reluctant smile and a
    wave. She pulled her wallet from her purse, counted out the tip, and dragged
    herself from the booth, remembering her daughter’s bouncy exit. Lately her
    thirty-two years pressed down on her body like a two-ton boulder.

    She opened the diner’s door and peeked
    both ways before exiting the Tin Roof and turning toward the Doll House. She
    was only checking sidewalk traffic, not hiding. Nope, she wasn’t hiding from
    anyone. The boardwalks were busy on Saturdays. That was why she hadn’t come to
    town for two weeks. Why their pantry was emptier than a water trough at high

    She hurried three shops down and slipped
    into the cool, welcoming air of Miss Lucy’s shop.

    “ ’Morning, Miss Lucy.”

    “ ’Morning, dear.” The elderly woman, in
    the middle of helping a customer, called over her rounded shoulder, “It’s in
    the back.” Miss Lucy’s brown eyes were big as buckeyes behind her thick
    glasses, and her white curls glowed under the spotlights.

    “Okeydoke.” Shay forced her feet toward
    the storeroom.

    A musty smell assaulted her as she
    entered the back room and flipped on the overhead fluorescents. She scanned the
    boxes of doll parts and skeins of yarn until she found what she was looking
    for. She approached the box, lifted the lid, and parted the tissue.

    The wedding gown had been carefully
    folded and tucked away. Shay ran her fingers over the delicate lace and pearls.
    Must’ve been crisp white in its day, but time had cast a long shadow over it.
    Time had a way of doing that.

    Her fingers lingered on the thin fabric.
    She remembered another time, another dress. A simple white one that hung on her
    young shoulders, just skimmed the cement of the courthouse steps. The ache that
    squeezed her heart had faded with time, but it was there all the same. Would it
    ever go away?

    Shaking her head, Shay turned back to
    the task at hand. The gown seemed too pretty, too fragile to disturb.

    Oh well. She’d promised.

    She pulled it out and draped it over the
    box, then shimmied from her jeans. When she was down to the bare necessities,
    she stepped carefully into the gown. She eased it over her narrow hips and slid
    her arms into the long sleeves. The neckline was modest, the gathered skirt
    fuller than anything she ever wore. Here in the air-conditioning it was fine,
    but she would swelter next Saturday.

    Leaving the button-up back gaping, she
    hitched the skirt to the top of her cowboy boots and entered the store.

    Miss Lucy was ushering the customer out
    the door. When she turned, she stopped, her old-lady shoes squeaking on the
    linoleum. “Land sakes.”

    Shay took two steps forward and dropped
    the skirt. It fell to the floor with a whoosh.

    “Fits like a glove,” Miss Lucy said.
    “And with some low heels it’ll be the perfect length.”

    Shay didn’t even own heels. “My boots’ll
    have to do. Button the back?”

    Miss Lucy waddled forward, turned Shay
    toward a small wall mirror flecked with time, and began working the tiny pearl

    Shay’s breath caught at her image. She
    forced its release, then frowned. Wedding gowns were bad luck. She’d sworn
    she’d never wear another. If someone had told her yesterday she’d be wearing
    this thing today, she’d have said they were one straw short of a bale.

    Miss Lucy moved up to the buttons
    between her shoulders, and Shay lifted her hair. The dress did fit, clinging to
    her torso like it was made for her, wouldn’t you know. Even the color
    complemented her olive skin.

    Still, there was that whole bad luck

    And what would everyone think of Shay
    Brandenberger wearing this valuable piece of Moose Creek heritage? A white
    wedding gown, no less. If she didn’t have the approval of her closest friends
    and neighbors, what did she have? Not much, to her thinking.

    She wanted to cut and run. Wanted to
    shimmy right out of the dress, tuck it into that box in the storeroom, slip
    back into her Levi’s and plaid button-up, and go back to her ranch where she
    could hole up for the next six months.

    She checked the time and wished Miss
    Lucy had nimbler fingers. Of all days to do this, a Saturday, when everyone
    with two legs was in town. And she still had that infernal meeting with John

    Please, God, I can’t lose our home . . .

    “I’m obliged to you, dear. I completely
    forgot Jessie was going out of town.”

    “No problem.”

    “Baloney. You’d rather be knee-deep in
    cow dung.” The woman’s marionette lines at the sides of her mouth deepened.

    “It’s one hour of my life.” A pittance,
    after all Miss Lucy had done for her.

    Miss Lucy finished buttoning, and Shay
    dropped her hair and smoothed the delicate lace at the cuffs.

    “Well, bless you for being willing. God
    is smiling down on you today for your kindness.”

    Shay doubted God really cared one way or
    another. It was her neighbors she worried about.

    “Beautiful, just beautiful. You’ll be
    the talk of the town on Founders Day.”

    “No doubt.” Everyone in Moose Creek
    would be thinking about the last time she’d worn a wedding gown. And the time
    before that.

    Especially the time before that.

    Third time’s a charm, Shay thought, the corner of her lip
    turning up.

    “Stop fretting,” Miss Lucy said,
    squeezing her shoulders. “You look quite fetching, like the gown was made for
    you. I won’t have to make a single alteration. Why, it fits you better than it
    ever did Jessie—don’t you tell her I said so.”

    Shay tilted her head. Maybe Miss Lucy
    was right. The dress did make the most of her figure. And she had as much right
    to wear it as anyone. Maybe more—she was born and raised here, after all. It
    was just a silly old reenactment anyway. No one cared who the bride and groom

    The bell jingled as the door opened
    behind her. She glanced in the mirror, over her shoulder, where a hulking
    silhouette filled the shop’s doorway. There was something familiar in the set
    of the man’s broad shoulders, in the slow way he reached up and removed his

    The sight of him constricted her rib
    cage, squeezed the air from her lungs as if she were wearing a corset. But she
    wasn’t wearing a corset. She was wearing a wedding gown. Just as she had been
    the last time she’d set eyes on Travis McCoy.