Monday, March 30, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is sponsored by Marcia at The Printed Page.

My mailbox was full again this week. I got browsing Bookmooch one day, and entered a bunch of books into bookmooch, so had plenty of points, so now, I have a stack of books! My bookmooch haul included Rachel Hauck's New Hampshire Weddings, which is a collection of three Christian Harlequin-style romances; Emilie Richards' Iron Lace, which is about a wealthy New Orleans woman with a secret; The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Real is one in a series about a women's prayer group that has Black and white members, rich and poor---and they become involved in each other's lives and, at least in other books, also deal with racial issues. I got three trashy romance novels--Victoria Alexander's The Lady in Question, and Suddenly You and Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas. New Hampshire Weddings, Suddenly You and Stranger in My Arms are reviewed here.

I also got Go Back and Be Happy for a First Wildcard tour. It is a true story about a woman who is paralyzed after a car accident and recovers to the point of being able to run again. It deals with physical healing and spiritual healing. Check back to read the first chapter and a review. Finally, I had Flickering Pixels--How Technology Shapes Your Faith from Blog Tour Spot. It is for a tour that will take place April 6-10. Check back then to learn more about this book.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fifty Is Not a Four-Letter Word--My review

I'd like to thank Miriam Parker at Hatchette Books for sending this book to me for review. In it, Hope, a stereotypical "have it all" British career mom turns fifty. She is the editor of a fashion magazine, the mother of a son who is graduating from high school, the daughter of a distant mother and the wife of a physiotherapist, with whom she has not had sex in months. Right after her birthday she loses her job. She becomes aware of the problems in her marriage. Her mother announces she is dying and her son makes plans for his "gap" year. Her best friend announces that she is pregnant at 43. Hot flashes start. She becomes self-absorbed and depressed.

I've heard it is often easier to see other's sins than your own. Throughout this book I had the desire to take Hope by her shoulders and shake her and tell her to quit being such an idiot--if she could run a magazine surely she could run her life. Its funny though, even though I'm only a couple years younger than Hope, I felt like I was reading about an older woman, and yet at times she seemed so childish. Hope was a woman whose lack of self love caused her to be self-absorbed; it isn't until she focuses on others that her mid-life funk resolves.

I enjoyed the book. It contains non-marital sex and favorable treatment of a homosexual relationship. While there are a couple of sex scenes, there aren't long descriptions of who does what to whom. Hope is Jewish but her faith, or lack thereof, doesn't really play a part in the story.

Weekend Romances--Short Reviews

I was in the mood for romance novels this weekend and like someone presented with a too-big box of chocolate, my Bookmooch haul allowed me to gorge myself.

I started with New Hampshire Weddings by Rachel Hauck. This collection of three Christian short romance novels (like Harlequins without the explicit sex and with scripture quotes) was set in a small town in New Hampshire and involved members of the Lambert family, which owned the local furniture factory. In the first story, Elizabeth, who has just graduated from MIT is there for the summer working at the family business and living with her grandparents. Her dad had arranged the summer to give her a taste of the real world before she headed to graduate school to study nuclear engineering. Even though her goal for the summer is to get through it, and to earn some money, she meets this guy..... Guess how the story ends. The second story is and isn't a romance. The couple is already married. He is a Lambert and is into his job and sports. He is his wife and a musician. They married right out of high school and had a miscarriage shortly thereafter. Since then they haven't been able to conceive; and early in the book are told that she will never have a baby. The book deals with the months after that disclosure. In some ways it is as predictable and trite as this type of book usually is, but Hauck does manage to show how infertility can affect a marriage. The third story is about the CEO of the furniture factory and a local girl who left town for a fabulous career in New York. They had fallen in love many years ago, but went their separate ways. Now she is home to regroup after quitting a job she hated--but she is determined to get back on the fast track and out of town. Guess what happens.

Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas is set in the 1800's. Lara is a widow, her husband, whom she did not love and who did not love her, went to India and was later killed in a shipwreck. Then he came home; he had lost weight but looked remarkably like her husband and knew things that only he would know. The only problem is that this man is loving and attentive, and while he clearly wants to bed her, he takes no for an answer. Is he really her husband? The sexual tension between these two positively crackles, and the book has lots of vivid sex scenes but it is a good story if those things don't bother you.

Suddenly You is about Amanda, and starts on her 30th birthday. She is a spinster and decides that what she wants for her birthday is to know a man, in the Biblical sense. She goes to the local high-class madame and arranges for one to show up at her house on her birthday. Jack, the man the madame sends, isn't in that business; rather he is a publisher who happened to mention to the madame (whose book he was publishing) that he needed to meet with Amanda, who happened to be a novelist. Anyway, Amanda gets what she wants for her birthday (and it is described in detail) and then, later, learns who he is. They have their ups and downs in the book, but guess what happens in the end.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday

Here is Amy's Question this week: (I linked to my reviews of the books I've read)

The 2009 Christy Award Nominees were recently announced. Today's assignment is to look at the list of nominees and share with us whether or not you have read any of them. If you haven't read that particular novel, have you read anything by that author? Have you read all of the books in any category? What are your favorite books on the list? Are there any books you haven't heard of?

And, I'm just throwing this out there, but I think one year there was a Christy challenge. A reading challenge is basically when you choose books off a pre-set list or around a theme to read within a certain time frame. Does anyone know if this is still going on? If it's not, would anyone be interested in joining in on one? I'd be willing to host it. And lastly, I'm working on Faith 'n Fiction Saturday having our own awards for books!

The Christy Nominees:
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren • Tyndale House Publishers
Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney • David C. Cook

Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group (I haven't read this one, but I've read and enjoyed several of the Sisterchick books)
Summer Snow by Nicole Baart • Tyndale House Publishers
You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman • FaithWords

Dogwood by Chris Fabry • Tyndale House Publishers
Embrace Me by Lisa Samson • Thomas Nelson
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas • Moody Publishers

Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake • David C. Cook
Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler • Bethany House Publishers
Safe at Home by Richard Doster • David C. Cook

Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley • B&H Publishing Group
Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin • Bethany House Publishers
Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser • Bethany House Publishers

Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy • Barbour Publishers I haven't read this, but loved the sequel, Gingham Mountain.
From a Distance by Tamera Alexander • Bethany House Publishers
The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen • B&H Publishing Group

By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer • Tyndale House Publishers
The Rook by Steven James • Revell
Winter Haven by Athol Dickson • Bethany House Publishers

The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka • Harvest House Publishers
Shade by John B. Olson • B&H Publishing Group
Vanish by Tom Pawlik • Tyndale House Publishers

The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina • FaithWords I didn't read this one; I read an earlier one in the series and hated it.
I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke • Moody Publishers
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Friday, March 27, 2009

First Wildcard: Yesterday's Embers

Click here for my review

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:

Yesterday’s Embers

Howard Books (March 24, 2009)


Deborah Raney is the author of several novels, including Nest of Sparrows and the RITA Award-winning Beneath a Southern Sky. Her novel A Vow to Cherish was made into the highly acclaimed Worldwide Pictures film of the same name. She lives with her husband and four children in Kansas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416593098
ISBN-13: 978-1416593096


The parade of taillights smoldered crimson through the patchy fog hovering over Old Highway 40. Mickey Valdez tapped the brakes with the toe of her black dress pumps, trying to stay a respectable distance from the car in front of her.

The procession had left the church almost twenty minutes ago, but they were still barely two miles outside Clayburn’s city limits. The line of cars snaked up the hill––if you could call the road’s rolling incline that––and ahead of her, the red glow of brake lights dotted the highway, flickering off and on like so many fireflies. Cresting the rise, Mickey could barely make out the rows of pewter-colored gravestones poking through the mist beyond the wrought-iron gates of the Clayburn Cemetery.

She smoothed the skirt of her black crepe dress and tried to focus her thoughts on maneuvering the car, working not to let them stray to the funeral service she’d come from. But when the first hearse turned onto the cemetery’s gravel drive in front of her, she lost it. Her sobs came like dry heaves, producing no tears, and for once, she was glad to be in the car alone.

The line of cars came almost to a standstill as the second hearse crept through the gates.

The twin black Lincolns pulled to the side of the gravel lane, parking one behind the other near the plots where two fresh graves scarred the prairie. The drivers emerged from the hearses, walked in unison to the rear of their cars, and opened the curtained back doors. Mickey looked away. She couldn’t view those two caskets again.

When it came her turn to drive over the culvert under the high arch of the iron gates, she wanted desperately to keep on driving. To head west and never turn back. But Pete Truesdell stood in her way, directing traffic into the fenced-in graveyard. Mickey almost didn’t recognize Pete. He sported a rumpled navy double-breasted suit instead of his usual coveralls. How he could see through the tears welling in his eyes, Mickey didn’t know.

Her heart broke for the old man. She wondered if he was related to the family somehow. Seemed like everybody in Clayburn was related to at least one other family in town. Everybody but the Valdezes.

Pete waved the car in front of her through the gates and halted her with his other hand.

Maybe if she stayed in the car until the procession left the cemetery. She didn’t want to walk across the uneven sod. Didn’t want to risk the DeVore kids seeing her…risk breaking down in front of them. What would she say? What could anybody say to make what had happened be all right?

She didn’t know much about carbon monoxide poisoning, but she’d heard that Kaye and Rachel had simply drifted off to sleep, never knowing they would wake up in heaven. She wondered if Doug DeVore found any solace in that knowledge. Maybe it was a small comfort that his wife and daughter had left this earth together.

But on Thanksgiving Day? What was God thinking?

She’d never really gotten to know Kaye DeVore that well. They’d exchanged pleasantries whenever Kaye dropped the kids off at the daycare on her way to her job at the high school, but usually Doug was the one who delivered the children and picked them up at night when he got off work at Trevor Ashlock’s print shop in town.

The DeVore kids were usually the last to get picked up, especially during harvest when Doug worked overtime to keep his farm going. But Mickey had never minded staying late. It wasn’t like she had a family of her own waiting for her at home. And she loved those kids.

Especially Rachel. Sweet, angel-faced Rachel, whose eyes always seemed to hold a wisdom beyond her years. Mickey had practically mourned when Rachel started kindergarten and was only at the daycare for an hour or two after school. Now she forced herself to look at the tiny white coffin the pallbearers lifted from the second hearse. She could not make it real that the sunny six-year-old was gone.

Through the gates, she watched Doug climb from a black towncar. One at a time, he helped his children out behind him. Carrying the baby in one arm, he tried to stretch his free arm around the other four kids, as if he could shelter them from what had happened. How he could even stand up under the weight of such tragedy was more than Mickey could imagine. And yet, for one shameful, irrational moment, she envied his grief, and would have traded places with him if it meant she’d known a love worth grieving over, or been entrusted with a child of her own flesh and blood. She shook away the thoughts, disturbed by how long she’d let herself entertain them.

She dreaded facing Doug the next time he brought the kids to the daycare center. Maybe they wouldn’t come back. She’d heard that Kaye’s mother had cancelled her plans to winter in Florida like she usually did. Harriet Thomas would remain in Kansas and help Doug out, at least for a while. Wren Johanssen had been helping with the kids and house, too, when she could take time away from running Wren’s Nest, the little bed-and-breakfast on Main Street. Wren was like a second grandma to the kids. Thank goodness for that. Six kids had to be—

Mickey shuddered and corrected herself. Only five now. That had to be a handful for anyone. The DeVores had gone on vacation in the middle of April last year, and with their kids out for a week, the workload was lighter, but the daycare center had been deathly quiet.

Deathly. Even though she was alone in the car, Mickey cringed at her choice of words.

She started at the tap on the hood of her car and looked up to see Pete motioning her through the gates. She put the car in gear and inched over the bumpy culvert. There was no turning back now. She followed the car in front of her and parked behind it next to the fence bordering the east side of the cemetery.

A tall white tombstone in the distance caught her eye and a startling thought nudged her. The last time she’d been here for a funeral had also been the funeral of a mother and child. Trevor Ashlock’s wife, Amy, and their little boy. It would be five years come summer.

As if conjured by her thoughts, Trevor’s green pickup pulled in beside her. Mickey watched in her side mirror as he parked, then helped his young wife climb out of the passenger side. Meg walked with the gait of an obviously pregnant woman, and Trevor put a hand at the small of her back, guiding her over the uneven sod toward the funeral tent.

Mickey looked away. Seeing Trevor still brought a wave of sadness. Because of his profound loss, yes. But more selfishly, for her own loss. She’d fallen hard for him after Amy’s death—and had entertained hopes that he might feel the same about her. That she might be able to ease his grief. But he was too deep in grief to even notice her.

Then Meg Anders had moved to town and almost before Mickey knew what happened, Trevor was married. He and Meg seemed very much in love, and Mickey didn’t begrudge either of them an ounce of that happiness. But it didn’t mean she was immune to a pang of envy whenever she saw them together.

This day had to be doubly difficult for Trevor. It must be a comfort to Doug having Trevor here––someone who’d walked in his shoes and still somehow managed to get up the next morning––and the next and the next.

Again, she had to wonder what God was thinking. Where was He when these tragedies struck? How could He stand by and let these terrible things happen to good men…the best men she knew, next to her brothers? None of it made sense. And the only One she knew to turn to for answers had stood by and let it all happen.

click here for my review

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whittaker Family Reunion: My Review

I'd like to thank author Shirely Roe for sending me this charming book to review. I like historical fiction because it can give me a feel for an era that history books usually can't. This novel about a woman, who after her abusive husband dies, moves to St. Louis and opens what becomes "the" place to get clothes, is full of detail about the fashions of the day.

As the title implies, the characters in the story are all gathering for a family reunion. The year is 1881 and family members gather from England, Mississippi and St. Louis. Unfortunately, an uninvited guest is also present. His relationship to the family is revealed at the end. The book is full of romance, and most are happy at the end of the book, but not all.

The story concept is good. I cared about some of the characters. I enjoyed the historical detail. The cover is attractive, and sets the ominous mood that is maintained throughout the story. Unfortunately, the writing could have been tightened up a lot. There were grammatical errors. The first lines of paragraphs were indented seven spaces; which is more than generally seen in books and which I thought made it more difficult to read.

This is book two in a series. Book three will be published this summer. For more information, check the author's website: An interview with her is at

My Review: In the Footsteps of Paul

In the Footsteps of Paul is a beautiful coffee table (or as the publisher refers to it, “gift book”) which combines photography and scripture. The author follows the journeys of St. Paul using the Act of the Apostles as his source material. The two page spreads generally begin with a quotation from Acts and have two (but sometimes one, or more) photographs showing the area referenced. There is also usually some narration by the author or a quote from someone famous.

The photography is absolutely gorgeous. Either Photoshop did a great job or the blue of the Mediterranean is like no water I’ve ever seen. It matches the sky in places. Of course the photos were recently taken so they can’t completely illustrate the world as St. Paul knew it, but many of the pictures are of ancient ruins. Being from someplace as new as the United States, it is interesting to see those ancient aqueducts going through modern cities.

One thing I found helpful in the book was the maps showing Paul’s journeys and naming the towns discussed in Acts. I’ve seen the maps in Bibles, but these maps were followed by pictures of the places, making it easier to get a mental picture of what they must have been like at that time.

If you are trying to learn more about St. Paul during this Pauline year, but aren’t looking for heavy-duty reading, this book may be for you. I enjoyed it and it is landing on my keeper shelf, not in the giveaway box. Thanks to the Thomas Nelson Book Blogger program for sending me the book. Their product page, which will allow you to look into the book, is here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Contest Time!

Since one item in the news last week was an updated picture of Charles Manson, I thought this would be the perfect time to start this contest. Thanks to Valerie at Hatchette Books, I have five copies of Sway to give away.

Sway by Zachary Lazar

Three dramatic and emblematic stories intertwine in Zachary Lazar's extraordinary new novel, SWAY--the early days of the Rolling Stones, including the romantic triangle of Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith Richards; the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; and the community of Charles Manson and his followers.

Lazar illuminates an hour in American history when rapture found its roots in idolatrous figures and led to unprovoked and inexplicable violence. Connecting all the stories in this novel is Bobby Beausoleil, a beautiful California boy who appeared in an Anger film and eventually joined the Manson "family."

With great artistry, Lazar weaves scenes from these real lives together into a true but heightened reality, making superstars human, giving demons reality, and restoring mythic events to the scale of daily life.

"One hypnotic tone poem.... It is not the now-historic acts of violence that make Sway so riveting, but its vivid character portraits and decadent, muzzy atmosphere, all rendered with the heightened sensory awareness associated with drugs and paranoia.

The near miniaturist precision with which he describes Keith Richards's attempts to master his guitar, Brian Jones's acid trips and Anger's obsessive desire for Beausoleil bring this large-scale tableau into stunning relief." --Liz Brown, Time Out New York

Reading Group Guide available

How to enter:
1. One entry for leaving me a comment, with an email address, giving your favorite Rolling Stones song (or saying you don't have one)
2. One entry for following my blog or subscribing to it. Leave me a comment telling me you did so, or that you already do.
3. One entry for blogging about this contest, and leaving me a comment with a link to your post.
4. One entry for everyone who enters, and tells me you sent them.

Contest will run through April 13. Restricted to US and Canada, and no PO Boxes. Good luck to all!

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Maricia at the Printed Page. Check out who got what this week and from whom!

My mailbox runneth over, again.

I got You Turn: Changing Directions in Midlife from the author, Dr. Nancy Irwin, via Bostick. It contains stories of over forty people who changed the direction of thier lives, generally starting new businesses, after they were forty years old. Click here to read my review. You may also want to check out the author's website. She also is on You Tube.

Yesterday's Embers is a First Wildcard book, a Christian romance novel. I reviewed it here. The tour post with the first chapter will be later this week.

Like a River Glorious came via Bookmooch. It will be a while before I get to it since I have a backlog of review books, but I've generally enjoyed Blackwell's books.

East Garrison came from Phenix & Phenix. It appears to be part environmental, part romance and part parent/child relationship. It is working its way to the top of my stack.

Bon Appetit is Christian chick-lit and came from a Bookmooch buddy. It was hand-delivered rather than mailed, but it still counts, right?

Katt's in the Cradle is a novel about four preacher's wives who meet forty miles outside of town to commiserate with and support each other. The tour post, with a few comments is here, and a more complete review, here.

My Review: Yesterday's Embers

I enjoyed this romance novel. It basically followed the usual romance sequence: Boy meets girl, they fall for each other, something separates them and then they come together to live happily ever after. In this case, he is a newly widowed father of six,oops, make that five (one died with his wife). She is the daycare provider, thirty one years old, loves kids and doesn't know any single men. What comes between them is his memory of his first wife. The only variation from the usual sequence is that they marry before the problems come up, and that's one of the reasons for the problems. In short, this was a sweet and enjoyable book but very predictable.

The book is Christian fiction but pretty low key. He is a member of a generic church; she was raised Catholic but only attends mass once a month, when she joins her brothers for mass and a family dinner. When discussing marriage it is mentioned that they discussed what they believed and decided they agreed. She wanted to get married in the Church but he didn't. He didn't want to quit going to his church (and he was in a hurry to get married) and he didn't want to have to raise the kids Catholic. During the conflict, he gets counselling from his pastor and while a line of scripture is quoted in one of their sessions, there really isn't anything preachy about the book. In short, I think even someone hostile to Christianity who likes clean romance novels would like this one.

This is a First Wildcard book. The first chapter will be posted later this week.

My Review: Katt's in the Cradle

As noted in the tour post, this is a story about four minister's wives who have become friends and who meet forty miles from their small town to give each other support and friendship.

I enjoyed the book. While I didn't particularly identify with any of the women, all four seemed real. The book dealt with problems suffered in many marriages like infertility, mental illness in the family, the decision to have (or not have)another baby, illegitimate children and alcoholism. It also focused on problems unique to those married to those in ministry, like the feeling of living in a fishbowl, jealousy between and among church members and making time for a spouse.

A couple of things I'd like to point out. One of the wives suffered from infertility. While that wasn't a big part of this book, evidently it was in one of the earlier books. She sought counsel from the local Catholic priest at that time, and they have remained friends.

Also, at one point in the book, the wives are at a larger meeting of preacher's wives and the following is read: "80% of pastor's wives feel left out an unappreciated by church members. 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend....1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.... 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living....a majority of pastors' wives said the most destructive even that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day thier husbands entered the ministry." I am assuming the authors quoted real studies here; that they did not make up these figures for the sake of the story. If true, they support thet contention I made in the last post; that substituting married clergy for celibate doesn't eliminate problems, it just changes them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

You Turn Changing Directions in Midlife: My Review

You Turn was sent to me via Bostick, an email list that offers bloggers books for review.

You Turn, written by Dr. Nancy Irwin, is the story of over forty people over 40 who made major life changes. Most of them went from normal jobs to being motivational speakers, lifestyle consultants or other similar jobs. The book, and stories of the people in it, are filled with encouragement and advice on making changes to your life and doing things you find fulfilling. It is very much a "you can do" book, but it isn't a book for everyone. The new careers of some of the people are very new-age, and there is one coming out story by a self-proclaimed lesbian. This is definitely not a "find Jesus and find happiness" book; rather it is a "you can be happy if you choose to be" book.

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday

Here is Amy's question this week:
Today's Question
While books and bookstores in general are suffering, Christian bookstores are suffering even more in this economy. Do you have a Christian bookstore that you shop at? Why don't you tell us about your local Christian bookstore and the benefits that if offers. If you don't shop at a Christian bookstore, then please tell us where you get your books, music, and other Christian gift items.

Well, sometimes I'll wander through the Christian bookstore at the mall, but most of my purchases are made from either Pauline Media or Mule's. Pauline is run by the Daughters of St. Paul and has branches all over the country and an on-line store. The Daughters of St. Paul known as the Pauline Sisters, are an international Congregation of women consecrated to God, in the Church, for evangelization with the means of social communication. Click here to learn more about them.

Mules is a small locally owned store. They used to be strictly an office supply store but as the big boxes moved into the area, that business dried up. About that time the owners made a pilgrimage and felt called to add religous items to their inventory. Now over half the store is dedicated to them, and there is a small chapel in the back. Obviously I don't know their bottom line but they are still open, so they must be doing something right. God is good.

I review books for The Catholic Company and get their catalogue as well. Besides books, they carry gift items and such things as first communion dresses

All of these books carry good Catholic material consistant with the beliefs of the church.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First Wildcard: Katt's in the Cradle

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:

Katt’s in the Cradle: A Secrets from Lulu's Cafe Novel

Howard Books (February 3, 2009)


Ginger Kolbaba is editor of the award-winning Marriage Partnership magazine. An experienced columnist and public speaker, she lives in Chicago with her husband.

Visit the author's website.

Christy Scannell is a college instructor, freelance editor and accomplished writer who lives with her husband in San Diego.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (February 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416543899
ISBN-13: 978-1416543893


Meet the Pastors’ Wives of Red River, Ohio

Lisa Barton is an at-home mom with two kids: Callie, sixteen, and Ricky, fourteen. Her husband, Joel, has pastored Red River Assembly of God for nearly five years. Lisa’s parents pastor the Assembly of God in nearby Cloverdale.

Felicia Lopez-Morrison’s husband, Dave, pastors the First Baptist Church. They have one child, Nicholas, who is five and in kindergarten. Once a high-powered public relations executive with a top national firm, Felicia now works from home for the company’s Midwestern clients. The Morrisons came to Red River three years ago from Los Angeles.

Mimi Plaisance is a former teacher who now stays home with her four children: Michaela, eleven; Mark, Jr. (MJ), nine; Megan, six; and Milo, fifteen months. Mark, her husband, is senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Jennifer Shores is married to Sam, pastor of Red River Community Church, where she is the church secretary part-time. They have been married twelve years and have one adopted daughter, Carys, who is eleven months old.

Chapter 1

Lulu’s Café

Tuesday, March 18

12:05 p.m.

“I can’t believe it!” Felicia Lopez-Morrison waved as she ricocheted through the tables, heading toward her three friends seated in their usual booth in the back right-hand corner of Lulu’s.

“Did you hear the news?” she asked breathlessly, sliding into the seat next to Jennifer, who pushed her leather purse against the wall and scooched over to give Felicia room.

Mimi laughed. “You mean about the scandal?”

“Who hasn’t heard?” Jennifer leaned over and gave Felicia a side hug.

“When Dave told me, I thought he was kidding,” Felicia said. “Kitty hasn’t even been in the ground a year.”

Lisa nodded. “Well, Norm was probably just lonely. He needed the companionship.”

“Then buy a dog,” Jennifer suggested. “Of course,” she said, getting tickled, “then people would talk about dogs and a Katt living together!”

The women groaned.

“It would have to be for companionship.” Felicia shouldered Jennifer playfully. “He just met the woman. He couldn’t love her, could he?”

“From what I heard,” Mimi said matter-of-factly, “she’s more like a girl.”

“Ladies!” Lisa smiled but looked a little uncomfortable.

Jennifer knew Lisa was construing this turn as gossipy. Sweet Lisa, Jennifer thought, looking at her friend, seated across the table from her. Always taking the high road. You’d think after four years of us all being friends, we would have picked up some of her good traits.

“Well, well.” A loud, brassy voice interrupted Jennifer’s thoughts. Their plump, gruff-sounding waitress, Gracie, was standing over their table, pulling out the order pad from thewhite apron strapped around her ample thighs. “Glad to see little Miss Señora made it today.”

Felicia pulled back in mock offense. “Hey, I’m only five minutes late!”

“Yeah, yeah.” A slight smile crossed Gracie’s face. She jutted her chin out toward Felicia. “I’m likin’ you without all the high-and-mighty outfits and shoes and whatnot.”

Everyone at the table laughed. Felicia spread her arms in show and bowed her head, as if accepting a standing ovation. Gracie threw back her head and guffawed.

Felicia certainly had changed in the last year she’d been working from home, Jennifer recognized. Her silky black hair, once curled and neatly laying across the top of her shoulders, was now pulled back in a ponytail. And her high-powered business suits and designer shoes had been replaced by a black pair of jeans and a mauve hoodie sweater. Jennifer glanced under the table—Well, her boots are still designer, she thought good-naturedly.

“I like you girls.” Gracie pulled a pencil from behind her ear. “You’re always the highlight of my every-other-Tuesday.”

“Well, thank you, Gracie,” Mimi said. “And you’re ours.”

“All right, enough with the chitchat,” Gracie said. “Are we all having the regulars?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jennifer and the others chimed in.

Gracie harrumphed. “I don’t know why I keep taking out my order pad and pen for you all. OK, PWs, I’ll be back with your drinks.”

Jennifer watched Gracie plod off to her next table of customers several booths toward the front of the café. Jennifer really liked their waitress—and knew her three friends did too. Underneath all Gracie’s gruffness lay a heart as big as an ocean. And it was Gracie who had given the women their official group nickname—the PWs.

When Jennifer, Mimi, Lisa, and Felicia had started secretly meeting at Lulu’s nearly three years before, Gracie had been their waitress. She’d overheard them talking about God and their churches, figured out that they were all pastors’ wives, and nicknamed them. She’d gotten a big kick out of the fact that the women—all hailing from the southwest Ohio town of Red River—would drive forty miles out of their way every other Tuesday to nosh and chat in this little nothing-special dive. Although the PWs never had explained to Gracie that they met that far from home to avoid nosy townsfolk and church members overhearing their business, their now-seventy-year-old waitress hadn’t taken too long to figure out what was going on.

Now Gracie ambled slowly behind the front counter to the rectangular opening between the restaurant and the kitchen. She pounded a bell sitting on the ledge and yelled, “Order in!”

Felicia unfolded her paper napkin and laid it on her lap. “I just can’t believe it,” she mused, shaking her head. “Norm Katt remarried. To a woman half his age.”

“Whom he just met,” Mimi reminded everyone.

Jennifer pulled her eyes from watching the cook grab their order ticket and start to read it. Gracie had interrupted a very important news-sharing moment, and Jennifer didn’t want to miss any of it.

“And did you hear her name?” Mimi asked.

“Allison.” Lisa shook her head, looking as if she were trying to suppress a laugh. “Ally.”

As if in chorus, the women said, “Ally Katt.”

“Does the man never learn?” Felicia laughed. “First, he marries Kitty. And now Ally.”

“Oh, if they have children!” Jennifer said. “They could name one Fraidy.”

Felicia nodded. “Twins, of course, would be named Siamese and Tiger.”

“Of course.” Jennifer smiled.

“You all are so terrible!” Lisa pushed back her thick, reddish-brown-highlighted hair and fluffed it.

Mimi sighed and patted Lisa on the arm. “Oh, we all know it’s just in fun. We really don’t mean anything by it, do we, ladies? But you do have to admit, it is funny.”

Lisa rolled her eyes and shook her head as if to say, You silly kids. “Has anybody seen her?”

“Not that I know of—I mean, except for their church,” Jennifer said. “I guess Norm and his new bride only came back to town a couple weeks ago.”

“Well,” Mimi said, “that kid’s got a tough act to follow. As much as Kitty drove us all crazy, her church adored her. Wonder how they’ll take to a new pastor’s wife?”

“I don’t know,” Lisa said. “But they’ll definitely talk. I hope she knows what she’s gotten herself into.”

“Did any of us know that when we married pastors?” Mimi asked.

Lisa smiled. “I guess not.”

“I sure didn’t!” Jennifer said, thinking back to when she and Sam married twelve years ago. She had been attending the church as a relatively new Christian when Sam arrived on the scene as pastor. “Being a church member and being a pastor’s wife are two entirely different things.”

“I didn’t marry a pastor,” Felicia said. “If you recall, I married a businessman, who decided several years into his career that he was called to be a pastor. I didn’t get that vote.”

Gracie walked toward them, carrying a tray of drinks. She set it down on the edge of their table. “I’m getting too old for this. Can you believe they still make me carry my own trays? And my shoulder all messed up from that fall back in December?”

Gracie had taken a tumble on some ice outside Lulu’s one evening after work several months back and hurt her shoulder and hip.

“Is that still bothering you, Gracie?” Felicia asked.

“I still go to therapy for it, but you know those doctors. You can’t trust ’em.” She handed Mimi a glass of milk and passed Lisa an iced tea. Felicia grabbed the remaining two glasses, each filled with Diet Coke, and handed one to Jennifer.

“Hey!” Gracie said. “You trying to deprive me of my hard-earned tip?”

“Sorry!” Felicia joked. “But you know I’m working from home now. I need all the money I can get.”

“Well, you’d better find a better table. These girls are tighter than a duck’s behind with their money.” She pulled four straws out of her right apron pocket and plopped them in the center of the table.

“I’ll be back.” She winked, then pulled up the tray against her chest and trudged away.

“Can you believe it’s been a year since Kitty died?” Lisa tore the paper off her straw and crumpled it before dipping the straw into her drink.

“I know,” Jennifer said. “I kind of miss her. All the snarky comments about how insignificant our churches were compared to hers. The patronizing tone. The condescending looks.”

“I’m serious!” Lisa said. “It was tragic.”

“I know.” Jennifer sipped her soda. “Believe me, I wish she hadn’t died. It wasn’t a piece of cake for me—going through that miscarriage and being considered a murder suspect in her death—all in the same weekend.” There I go again, making everything about me, she told herself and inwardly winced.

Felicia rubbed Jennifer’s back. That was sweet, Jennifer thought, realizing her friends remembered how difficult that time in her life had been. She’d wanted that baby so badly. And to suffer a miscarriage, have an all-out argument with Kitty, threaten her, then have her up and fall down a ravine and break her neck…. It had been devastating.

“Let’s be honest.” Mimi dabbed at a trace of milk at the corner of her mouth. “We didn’t like her. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. But life has been calmer and more sane and relaxing since she’s been—”

“It was a year ago yesterday,” Felicia said. “St. Patrick’s Day weekend. At the pastors’ wives’ retreat.”

“That reminds me!” Mimi brightened and reached under the table. She pulled up her large purse/diaper-bag and dug into its depths. In her hands appeared two shamrock-and-cross-covered eggs that were the brightest kelly green Jennifer had ever seen. She laid them on the table and reached back in, producing one more. “From Megan. She wanted me to make sure to give these to you. We combined two holidays in one—St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, since that’s this weekend.”

“Carys will like this.” Jennifer picked one up and set it on top of her purse.

“I wonder what she looks like?” Felicia took another of the eggs and placed it by her drink.

“Who?” Lisa asked.

“Norm’s new wife.”

“I wonder if she’ll come to the next pastors’ wives’ meeting at New Life next month?”

“I already called and invited her. She’s coming.” Lisa tore into a packet of sugar and dumped it into her tea.

The table fell silent as Jennifer, Mimi, and Felicia all stared open-mouthed at their friend.

“What?” Lisa asked.

She really doesn’t know, Jennifer realized.

“You’ve been holding out on us, girlfriend!” Mimi said.

“Spill it,” Felicia said.

“What? There’s nothing to tell, really.” Lisa fidgeted a little in her seat. “I called her last Friday. We didn’t talk that long. I just congratulated her on her wedding, welcomed her to Red River and to being a pastor’s wife, then invited her to next month’s meeting.” She looked around the table. “OK. She did sound young . . . and very perky. And . . . she giggled a lot.”

Jennifer, Felicia, and Mimi eyed each other knowingly. Yep, this is going to be a fun meeting next month. How in the world did Norm go from hard-edged, superior Kitty to an early twenties cheerleader?

“Wonder what Kitty would think?” Felicia asked.

Lisa shrugged. “I’d hope she’d be glad that Norm found someone who loves him and is going to take care of him.”

Before Jennifer could say anything, Gracie arrived with their food.

“All right, PWs, quit your yakking and help me unload this thing.” Gracie pulled the first plate off the tray and handed it to Mimi. Mimi looked at the tuna melt and strip of cantaloupe and passed it on to Lisa. Jennifer’s was next with her chicken strips and fries. Then Felicia took her Caesar salad. Last was Mimi’s hamburger.

They got their food situated, passing the ketchup and salt, then Felicia offered grace.

Mimi shoved a fry in her mouth and savored it. “I love Milo, but I gotta tell you, it’s nice to eat a full meal without messy little fingers showing up, grabbing something on my plate.”

Felicia poured the dressing over her salad. “I know what that’s like. Oh, the peace and quiet—and adult conversation!”

Jennifer smiled as she thought of eleven-month-old Carys doing that same thing. But her thoughts drifted back to Kitty and the week following her death. Jennifer had been considered—although not officially—a murder suspect and had had to endure the detectives following her around, treating her like a criminal, until they determined Kitty’s death had been an accident.

“Remember last year when those detectives were following me around?” Jennifer asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

With their mouths all full, the others could only nod and say, “Mmm-hmmm.”

“Well, it’s happening again. At least I think it is.”

“What?” Mimi half-choked and plopped her burger onto her plate. She pounded on her chest with her fist as if trying to move the meat down her esophagus. “Detectives are following you around?”

“I don’t know who it is. But I keep seeing this black town car everywhere I go. Just glimpses of it, really. But . . .” Jennifer knew the whole thing sounded crazy. And verbalizing it made it sound even more outlandish. Maybe I’m just making this up. “Never mind. It’s . . . probably nothing.” She tried to laugh it off. “Just my overactive imagination. You know, with all the sleep deprivation and everything.”

“Oh, yeah, I can relate,” Mimi said. But she tilted her head toward Jennifer. “You OK? I mean, if somebody is following you . . .”

“Why would somebody follow you?” Felicia asked.

“That’s just it.” Jennifer swirled her chicken strip in a sea of barbecue sauce. “I don’t know. I can’t think of one plausible explanation.”

“Maybe it’s a church member trying to dig up dirt on you.” Felicia smiled and patted Jennifer’s arm.

Jennifer laughed. “No, that would be Lisa with that problem.”

Lisa lifted her napkin to hide her face, then let it droop just below her eyes. Wide-eyed, she looked around the diner frantically. They all laughed, but Jennifer knew Lisa was trying to put up a good front. Lisa had lost fifteen pounds in the last six months, and the sparkle in her hazel eyes had lost its shine. Poor Lisa. God, take care of this situation at her church. They don’t deserve this. They’re good people.
“What’s going on with your church?” Jennifer asked, partly to take the focus from her, and partly because she hadn’t heard the update in a while.

Lisa dropped the napkin back to her lap and shrugged. “Same old, same old. At least Joel is still the pastor—though I don’t know for how much longer. He’s meeting with the head troublemaker next week to confront him.”

That’s not going to be easy. Although Jennifer and Sam had had their share of church member issues, they’d never gone through major conflict, as Lisa and her husband, Joel, were now. She ached for them.

Lisa continued. “I just wish . . . you know, if these people are so upset, why do they cause such trouble? Why not just leave? Why make it into a huge power struggle?”

“Because—” Mimi leaned over until her shoulder was touching Lisa’s—“and you should know this better than any of us, Miss Assemblies of God, this is called spiritual warfare. The enemy doesn’t want the church to be vibrant and powerful in the community. He’d rather take down a church from the inside out than have it succeed.”

“Oh, sure, look at it from a spiritual perspective, why don’t you?” Felicia smiled gently.

“It’s hard to do that, though, isn’t it?” Jennifer asked. “Especially when the hurt is so physical and emotional.”

“Well, sweetie, you know you’re in our prayers.” Mimi wrapped her arm around Lisa and squeezed.

Lisa just nodded and looked down. Jennifer could tell her friend was embarrassed, because she’d quickly wiped at her eyes.

“How are things in your life?” Jennifer asked Felicia, trying to take off some of the pressure from Lisa.

“Actually, can’t complain right now.” Felicia swirled around some more dressing in her salad but didn’t look anyone in the eyes. “My clients are happy. I mean, there are challenges working at home. Mostly because everybody thinks that since I’m home, I’m, you know, sitting around watching Dr. Phil and just waiting for someone to put me to good use.”

“Oh, yes.” Mimi laughed. “Been there. Everybody thinks that we live to serve, huh? OK, well, we do, actually—at least that’s what my kids tell me—but still!” She laughed again.

“So that’s been a bit of a challenge. But other than that, things are . . . good.” Felicia held up crossed fingers. “Enjoy the peace while I can, right?”

Jennifer waited to see if Felicia would say any more. She got the sense something else was going on with Felicia but knew her friend would speak up when the time was right.

Lisa must have thought the same, because she turned to Mimi. “And how about you? How’s Dad doing?”

“Awwk.” Mimi rolled her eyes. “As ornery as ever. One of the conditions for Dad staying with us is that he’s supposed to attend his AA meetings. He’s still attending, but he’s also still drinking. He does it on the sly, like he thinks we don’t notice. I don’t know what to do, honestly. We can’t kick him out; he’s got no place else to go.”

“Where’s your mom?” Felicia asked.

“She’s down in Kentucky, staying with her sister. She’s definitely not interested in taking him back. And I don’t blame her. Life with my father has never been easy. But when he ran off to California with that woman . . . I can’t say I’d take him back either, if he were my husband.”

“So instead,” Jennifer said, feeling a little bitter, “you, the daughter, have to take him in and parent him.”

Mimi half-chuckled. “Yep. My sister made it clear she wasn’t interested. So I’m it.”

“Doesn’t that tick you off?” Jennifer said.

“Sometimes, yes. But you know, I’m the responsible one.” She tucked her short, blond hair behind her ears—something she did whenever she was stressed or frustrated about something. “Plus, Mark and I have been trying to look at it from a spiritual perspective. He’s my dad—and he needs the Lord.”

Just like my mother. Jennifer tried to push the thought aside.

“Is he going to church with you yet?” Felicia asked.

“No, that’s one thing he refuses to do. But we keep working on him. It’s really cute to see Megan reprimanding him about not attending.”

Jennifer could picture Mimi’s precocious six-year-old giving her grandfather a lecture about loving Jesus and getting saved.

Gracie reappeared and dropped the check on the table. “Here’s your parting gift, ladies. Hope you have a good week and those preacher husbands of yours treat you all right.”

“Hey, how’s your sister doing, Gracie?” Lisa asked as Gracie started to turn away.

Gracie grimaced and a shadow crossed her face. Jennifer knew Gracie’s sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago and had gone through surgery and chemo.

“Not good. She just went to the doc last week. It’s back and vicious.”

“I thought she had it beat,” Jennifer said.

“We thought so too, but when she went in for a checkup, they found it. It’s in her bones and I don’t know where all.”

“Oh, Gracie, we’re so sorry.” Mimi touched Gracie’s hand. Gracie squeezed it and held on.

“Oh, Gracie,” Jennifer murmured.

“That’s terrible,” said Lisa.

Felicia just shook her head, her face heavy.

“I’m flying down there to Florida next week to be with her,” Gracie said. “So I guess I won’t see you next time.”

“We’ll be praying for your sister—and for you,” Lisa said.

Gracie nodded and let go of Mimi’s hand. “I know you will. If God hears anybody, I know it’s you four women. Pray hard, will ya? Maybe he’ll take pity on an old, crotchety woman and her sister.” She winked, then turned and walked slowly away.

Jennifer and the others looked at one another but didn’t say anything for a moment.

“I had no idea.” Felicia’s eyes followed Gracie as she tended to her other customers on the other side of the restaurant.

“She didn’t let on at all that something was up,” Mimi said, looking amazed at how well Gracie had covered up her pain.

“Maybe we should pray for her and her sister right now,” Lisa suggested.

Jennifer and the others agreed. There was no better time and place to pray.

My comments:

I just got this book yesterday so I'm only half way through it. In some ways it is like a lot of other "group of women" books like The Red Hat Club, Debbie Macomber's yarn shop books or the Potluck Club books. In this case the characters are four minister's wives who have taken to meeting in a cafe about forty miles from thier town to offer each other support and caring. These women are real, not Barbie dolls. They have kids and parents who aren't perfect, they get angry at thier husbands and they even gossip about other preacher's wives.

The book is the second in a series and much of the first chapter is spent giving the backstory.

Some people seem to think that allowing priests to marry would solve all the problems in the Catholic church. In some ways this book is a wonderful argument for priestly celibacy. At the beginning of the book one of the husbands does something (the right thing) that angers a prominent member of the congregation. As a result, this person starts spreading vicious rumors about the preacher's whole family. All these women live in a fish bowl with their lives and thier children judged by their husband's congregation. One's husband likes to include stories about his family in his sermons. I know there are many pastor's wives (including these fictional ones) who are happy and feel called to their vocation just as their husbands are called to thiers, but it seems to me that having a married clergy just substitutes one set of problems for another.

Yes, I'm enjoying the book. Faith is defintely an element in this book, but I guess a book about preacher's wives isn't going to be neutral about religion

Thursday, March 19, 2009

First Wildcard: Red White and Blue

Click here for my review
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:

Red, White, and Blue

Tyndale House Publishers (February 5, 2009)


Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Laura Hayden began her reading career at the age of four. By the time she was ten, she’d exhausted the children’s section in the local library and switched to adult mysteries. Although she always loved to write, she became sidetracked in college where differential equations outweighed dangling participles. But one engineering degree, one wedding, two kids, and three military assignments later, she ended up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she met people who shared her passion for writing. With their support, instruction, and camaraderie, she set and met her goal of selling her first book. She has now published ten novels and several short stories.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (February 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414319401
ISBN-13: 978-1414319407


Kate Rosen sat on the edge of the stage, the large hotel ballroom stretching beyond her, long emptied of people. The only things left behind were the detritus of a grand night of celebration—balloons skimming over the carpet, trampled paper streamers, discarded signs, and swags of limp bunting that sagged against the walls.

No more cameras, no strobe lights, no cheering throng.

The exuberant but exhausted audience had finally faded away hours earlier, the journalists following suit shortly afterward. America had finally gone to bed, either celebrating or lamenting the fact that that they’d just elected their first female president.

Kate cherished the silence. She needed someplace where she could collect her thoughts, which had been shattered tonight. She’d discovered things she could hardly believe even still about her best friend. And she’d been disillusioned in a way that nobody, even a politician’s top aide, was prepared to be. Her headache and heartache had been made worse by the oppressive crush of supporters commemorating their candidate’s—her candidate’s—triumph. Once Emily and her entourage, minus Kate, went upstairs, the party had finally broken up and the ballroom's capacity crowd started to stream home for their own private celebrations.

But Kate’s ears still rang with the sound of more than a thousand people cheering, screaming their support of their candidate.

“Benton! Benton! Benton!”

Emily Rousseau Benton, former governor of Virginia, Kate’s best friend, had been elected president of the United States, in no small part due to Kate’s hard work. Emily’s race for the White House had dominated both of their lives for the past four years. Everything Kate did, every action she took as Emily’s campaign manager, had been done solely in support of her friend’s bid for the presidency.

And now that Emily had won, Kate was alone, horrified at the prospect that she might have made a terrible mistake.

She slipped down from the stage riser and kicked idly at the balloons in her path, creating a slight rippling effect across the bubbled mass of them. An occasional balloon still floated down from the ceiling, a day late and a dollar short.

Kate’s most recent revelation had been like that, one day too late. . . .

“Hey, Kate.”

A lone voice penetrated the silence. She stiffened in surprise and raised her hand to shade her eyes and get a better look at the person standing on the balcony. Her mood lightened and her shoulders relaxed when she realized who had spoken.

“Hey, Wes.”

“Y'all all right? Need some company?”

She nodded.

It was a classic Southern salutation, and the familiarity of it was oddly comforting. Then again, Wes Kingsbury always knew what to say—he was equal parts her friend and her spiritual mentor. Disappearing into the shadows, Wes emerged a few moments later from the staircase leading to the balcony box.

Kate glanced at her watch and stifled a yawn—3:46. That was a.m. Too early to be called morning, too late to be called night. The true dark hours of the human soul, when body rhythm and spirit were at their lowest point.

“I can’t believe you’re still here,” she said. The man had a wife and a small child, a real world and home to which he could return. He hadn’t closed his life down to a single obsessively sought goal. That had been her mistake.

“And I can’t believe you’re not upstairs. M’s still up in the suite, partying hearty.”

She kicked at a balloon, stirring up a small whirl of color. “I know. I’m not in much of a party mood.”

“So I see.” He fell into step next to her. “What’s going on? I would have thought you’d be thrilled. This was the goal, right?” He pointed to an abandoned placard: Benton/Bochner ’08.

“It was. It is.” She couldn’t help but shiver. “It’s complicated.”

“It’s Emily. It’s always complicated.” He chuckled, then sighed. “Okay, what has she done now?” At Kate’s hesitation, he added, “It’s got something to do with Talbot, doesn’t it?”

Charles Talbot had been Emily’s opponent in her race for the White House. As such, he’d pulled out all the stops to find all the dirt he could on his challenger. Kate, as Emily’s friend and ally for more than twenty years, had been positive there was no dirt to be found.

She’d been so wrong. . . .

Talbot’s investigators discovered that Emily’s family had illegally won important highway construction contracts in Virginia while Emily was the state’s governor.

When Kate learned his camp was prepared to release this information, the only way she could stop him was to explain to him exactly the unsavory facts that her own investigations had uncovered on him—details she’d kept out of Emily’s hands.

The last thing Kate had wanted was her friend to strike an ill-timed and unnecessary first blow—using a nuke when a nudge would have worked just as well. She’d learned the hard way that Emily, though a talented politician, wasn’t exactly good at being subtle when she had a bigger weapon handy. But when Talbot made his big, bold move to not only discredit Emily but take down her family by attempting to dismantle the entire Benton legacy, Kate had intervened by threatening to use her opposition research.

Talbot had killed . . . and Kate felt that she had no choice but to remind him of the lengths to which he’d gone to cover up his own crimes. She had the bloody proof that he’d been criminally negligent, if not morally responsible, in the grisly death of his college girlfriend. Talbot might have maneuvered his way out of the scandal, but Kate had the goods on him—incontrovertible evidence.

If released to the public, her evidence would have been sufficient to end his campaign, destroy his reputation, and possibly land him in jail for a long, long time. Talbot saw the light and backed down from his threats.

So Talbot had been stopped. The situation had served to cement Kate’s resolve that Emily Benton would make a far better president than her opponent. Emily was a policy wonk who knew her stuff, she was talented at getting things done, she worked hard for the people she represented, and she was charismatic enough to persuade even those who opposed her to allow time for her ideas to have a chance to work. In other words, Emily was the best politician of her time.

However, Kate soon learned not only that her actions had made Talbot her enemy for life, but also that no one ever wins in a competition of “who has the best blackmail” because the games like that never end. She’d felt sickened, soiled, and finally betrayed.

Kate drew a deep breath. “Emily found out.”

Wes straightened for a moment. He’d been one of only two confidants who knew the sins of both candidates, other than the candidates themselves.

“About . . .” Wes paused and glanced around as if gauging the likelihood of being overheard. Even though no one was in sight, he kept his voice low. “About the ammunition you had? How?”

“I told her I’d stopped Talbot, but I refused to tell her how. I didn’t think she needed to know. So in the middle of the night, my best friend M sent one of her protégés to ‘borrow’ the report from me.”

“‘Protégés’?” Wes’s gaze narrowed. “Maia,” he said in a flat voice.

Kate nodded. “Our very own ingenue in training.” She stared across the vast ballroom, watching a piece of bunting as it slipped from the balcony railing and wafted gently to the floor. “Though apparently she’s more iron maiden than ingenue. Scruples don’t seem to concern her. I rip my heart out every day, trying to find the right balance between my Christian convictions and loyalty to my country and to my friends—especially Emily. I want to make a difference in the world, make people’s lives better. I don’t always like how I do it. Maia didn’t have a second thought when Emily asked her to steal the reports from me in the middle of the night. She made copies, then replaced the originals so I wouldn’t know. Then Emily had Maia contact Talbot with what you’d call a very thinly veiled threat.”

Wes read between the lines. “Destroying any hope of the campaign staying out of the gutter.”

“Yeah. But then came the weird part. It did—stay out of the gutter, I mean.” A shiver coursed up her spine and she crossed her arms in an effort to combat it. “Buttoned up tighter than Fort Knox. Maybe my way wasn’t effective enough. Maybe Emily’s decision to send him a second threat was the only real way to stop him.” A second tremor joined the first, and Kate knew it wasn’t because she was cold. “Maybe I was wrong. Or maybe I’m in the wrong business. Or maybe I’m simply overreacting.”

“Or maybe not.”

They took several more steps through the remains of the revelry before Kate stopped. She reached down and rescued a placard bearing Emily’s likeness.

“In any case, I don’t know . . .” She hated how her voice broke when she spoke. “I don’t know if I can stay. If I can continue working with her. She lied to me, stole from me. Maia actually expected me to be impressed by their cleverness. Emily knew better. But she set it up anyway.” She studied the picture plastered across the placard. Emily’s resolute smile looked effortless despite the fact it’d taken the photographer over two hours to capture the perfect expression.

“You have very high standards for your behavior.” Wes took a few more steps, then stopped, pivoting to face her, his hands jammed in his pockets. “Emily’s a lot more flexible; she’s a big proponent for ‘the end justifies the means.’ You know that. I know that. The question is, can you tolerate that? Jesus himself said, ‘Render unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s.’ But there have to be consequences when a person crosses the line. Nobody’s above the law, not even Emily—though she’d probably argue that point. The big question you have to answer here is what is the right thing for your faith and the right thing for the world. Think hard about that and then move forward. I’ll pray for you. I know it’s going to be a tough decision.”

Kate looked up from Emily’s compelling expression, the look in her eyes that said, You know you can trust me. “A decision I was hoping you’d help me make.”

To her utter surprise, Wes shook his head. “Nope.”


He raised his palm to stop her. “Hear me out. I’m always willing to offer advice, lend a hand or even a shoulder, but when it comes to something like this, you need to work with a higher authority.” He pointed upward.

Kate managed to conjure up a tight smile. “Somehow, I don’t think you mean President-Elect Benton in the penthouse suite.”

“Nope. A lot higher.”


They rode up the elevator in silence. It wasn’t until they reached the door to the suite, flanked by Secret Service agents, that Wes hesitated.

Kate fought the urge to say, “You’re going in with me, aren’t you?” She realized she needed to speak to Emily in private. If any of the campaign entourage still hung about, Kate would have to bide her time, smile, make nice with the natives, and wait for her chance after all the hoopla finally ended. It had been relatively easy to have the candidate’s ear in private, but getting the attention of the next president would be more complicated.

She practiced her smile on the two agents, whose names she needed to learn. Then she stopped herself.

Or maybe after tonight it wouldn’t matter.

“This is where I say good-bye.” Wes leaned over and kissed her forehead. “And good luck. Let me know what happens.”

“Thanks. I will,” she whispered. Drawing in a deep breath, Kate reached for the doorknob, but the agent on the right beat her to it.

“Allow me, Ms. Rosen.” He opened the door.

It was a testament to the construction of the hotel that she heard little in the way of sound from the suite until the door opened. Then a cacophony of laughter and voices met her, the celebration evidently still in full swing. The crowd had dwindled some, but an impressive number of folks still lingered, including several of Washington’s biggest power players, senior members of the party, a large assortment of Benton family members, and some of the key campaign staffers.

Kate didn’t see Emily at first but finally spotted her in a corner of the room, holding court. They made eye contact and Emily raised her hand as if saying, Over here and motioned Kate over. In response, Kate began to pick her way through the clusters of people. She was stopped every foot or so to be congratulated, hugged, and offered a drink.

She felt odd accepting the accolades, but she had no trouble waving off the libations. The last thing she needed was the muddle of alcohol. She could only hope that Emily had kept a clear head as well.

Before Kate could reach Emily’s position, she bumped into a rather solid male form. Before she could recover her balance, a hand grasped her elbow and she was hit in the face with a cloud of whiskey breath.

“Katie-girl!” Emily’s old family adviser Dozier Marsh pulled her into an awkward embrace. He might have looked like someone’s sainted grandfather, but it was as far from what he really was as the North Pole from Antarctica. He was the ultimate political fixer—a devious, dangerous old power broker with a fondness for hard liquor and Emily, though not always in that order. And right now, he was acting like a lecherous uncle.


“Where you been, darlin’?” he wheezed. “Hard to have a party without Emily’s right-hand gal!” He tried to swing her around. The move would have made them both fall over had the young aide standing next to him not reached up and steadied him.

“Sir, perhaps you’d rather sit,” the aide said.

Dozier gave Kate a grin and leaned heavily against his aide. “I suspect you’re right, Percy. The room is definitely leaning to one side.” He dropped heavily into the nearest chair, managing to spill two drinks that were abandoned on the nearby end table. He stared blearily at the mess. “Would you be a dear, Kate, and get me a couple of cocktail napkins so I can clean up behind my sorry, drunken self? I’d ask Perry here, but he’s playing a key role in supporting me.”

“Now, Dozier . . .” Emily’s voice knifed neatly through the chatter, instantly commanding the attention of the room. “You’re not asking the future White House chief of staff to be your fetch-it girl, are you?”

Dozier’s ruddy complexion deepened. “Of c-course not, Emily. . . . I mean . . .” He pulled awkwardly to his feet, away from his aide, and managed a small stiff bow without falling over. “Madam President.”

The room went silent, no one quite sure what direction Emily’s response might head next.

“I’ve never really liked being called ‘madam.’” After a tense millisecond, Emily allowed a smile to spread across her face. “But I guess I’ll get used to it, if president gets to follow.”

Dozier, freed from the sharp conversational hook on which he’d impaled himself, offered a weaker version of her smile and lifted the drink he’d never lost grip of. “Hear, hear.”

With the momentary tension broken, the room went back to its earlier state—celebrating people clustering in small discussion knots. Dozier’s aide, a young man whose name was neither Percy nor Perry but Zack, distracted Dozier with something shiny, giving Kate a chance to escape. Once again, Emily gestured for Kate to follow her and led to the bedroom portion of the suite.

Once the door was closed behind them, Emily gave her a warm hug. “I was starting to get worried about you.” She gave Kate a close scrutiny. “Honey, you look like the weight of the free world is still on your shoulders. But the campaign’s over. We won. You can afford to relax now.”

“No. I can’t.” Kate said. She bit her lip before her words started pouring out, uncontrolled and bitter. She wanted to be completely in control of her emotions before she confronted Emily.

Emily sighed, obviously ignorant of the battle brewing inside Kate. “I know. I feel the same way. Campaigning is hard work, but nothing compared to running a country.” She dropped to the bed. “If I allowed myself a chance to stop and think about what I’m taking on, I’d probably run out of this hotel screaming like the Madwoman of Chaillot.

“Remember when we went to New York on spring break back when we were in school? How we jumped on our beds at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and had a pillow fight? Mom was horrified, but Dad told me that he hoped I’d never get too old to bounce on the bed.”

“Yeah,” Kate said. Decades of memories came crashing down upon her. Room service, going to plays, Emily’s genuine pleasure at sharing the treat with her friend. The phrase had become an inside joke, a motto for that trip and later, the watchwords for those times when the responsibilities of law school—and beyond—threatened to drag them down.

When Nick and Emily got married, their gift to each bridesmaid included a sterling silver box engraved with that motto. Kate still had that box sitting in a place of honor on her dresser.

“Well?” The next president of the United States, the Honorable Emily Rousseau Benton, took off her shoes and took a few experimental bounces on the bed as if to test the bed’s recoil potential.

“Not today.” Kate tried to smile, desperately wanting to recapture that same sense of giddy accomplishment that Emily evidently felt. Kate had indeed expected to feel a sense of joyous triumph when thinking ahead to this day. But now her heart was too heavy, her mind too burdened with the difficult decision that lay ahead of her.

Emily stopped jumping, the bed undulating in her wake. “Why not?” she said. The confusion that initially filled her face dissolved into an expression that Kate couldn’t quite understand. Then it passed almost immediately to a tight, guarded smile. “You have a point. I need to be dignified. Somehow, I don’t think the White House curator is going to let anyone jump on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom. Not you. Not even me.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Emily locked eyes with her for a moment. Then she turned away, unable to hold the contact for long. A Benton never crumbled under pressure. A real Benton dodged it. The president-elect slid off the bed, pulled on her heels, and straightened her skirt. She didn’t meet Kate’s gaze.

“You’re right. We’re both exhausted. You’ve always dealt with exhaustion in different ways than I do. Why don’t you take off a—”

“I’m exhausted. But that’s not the problem. I’m confused. Angry. And I’m disappointed in you.” Kate’s heart took the extra beat it always did when she made the final decision to confront her best friend. “You didn’t need to send Maia to steal the files from me. You should have talked to me about it.”

“Oh.” Emily spoke in a low, even voice. “You found out about that?”

Kate nodded.

“I didn’t send her,” Emily said. “She did that on her own, trying to curry my favor.”

Kate didn’t know whom to believe. She knew Emily better than she knew herself in some ways. Emily was brilliant, capable, the best person imaginable to have around in an emergency. She was a born leader. But part of that leadership tool kit was that she would also stop at nothing when she wanted something. Of course, Maia was cut from the same cloth. Emily’s words were plausible. “So did the favor currying work?” She tried to keep any emotion out of her voice. “Did she make a big impression on you?”

“Yes, but it was a mixed bag. I thought Maia showed a remarkable amount of initiative, but I told her that she’d chosen the wrong person to cross.”

“But that didn’t stop you from reading the reports, did it?”

“Of course not. I’d have been a fool to lose that unexpected opportunity. I’m no fool. You know that.”

“Yes, I do. And I guess that’s why you instructed her to send the threatening e-mail to Talbot. Were you just taking advantage of another unexpected opportunity?”

“Sure. It seemed the wise thing to do at the moment. He was a loose cannon. He needed to be locked down.”

“And now? Are you still glad you did it?”

Emily collapsed on the bed, her ice queen facade shattered. A single tear trickled down her face, leaving a glistening trail through her perfect makeup. “No. I regret it more than you’ll ever know.” She bent her head, trying desperately to hide the additional tears, but a sob tore through her, making her shoulders shake.

Kate almost gaped at her friend. She’d seen Emily’s crocodile tears before. But they didn’t look anything like this. This was the real thing.

Real emotion. Real regret. . . .

Emily continued. “Mind you, I didn’t hate what I did to Charles Talbot. He’s a pariah, an abomination. A murderer. He should never have been able to get away with driving that car while drunk, and leaving that poor girl behind, still clinging to life, to take the rap for his actions. Had he gotten her help at the time of the accident, she might have survived the crash as something other than a vegetable. But no, he had to save face, run away, pretend nothing had happened. He left her to die in that car. It took hours for anyone to discover the wreck. Then he had the audacity to bribe and threaten people into giving him an alibi. He had to make everyone think she’d been the one driving while intoxicated, even if it killed her. He’s the lowest of scumbags. I won’t apologize for pricking whatever fragments he has left of his conscience. I’m pretty sure all I did was dent his enormously bloated and unconscionable pride.”

Emily’s flare of anger dissipated quickly, as if she suddenly felt guilty of failing to be remorseful for her own actions. Kate knew that, for Emily, anger was an emotion easier to understand and embrace than remorse. Especially when she felt that anger was righteous. Emily could move mountains when she had on a full load of righteous anger. Kate had seen her shame an entire state legislature into voting for health insurance for disadvantaged children, all because she’d vented her anger into a biting five-minute speech to them.

Kate gave her friend a steady stare. “What he did and what you did are separate issues. And you know it.”

“I’m sorry.” Emily’s voice dropped to a whisper. “You’re right. When Maia gave me those copies, I did exactly what you were afraid I was going to do.” She looked up, naked emotion filling her face, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I allowed my need for revenge to overwhelm my sense of honor. I’m so sorry.” She stood, her arms at her side. Her voice broke in a show of raw emotion that Kate had never seen from her before.

“Kate, can you forgive me?”

Kate felt tears forming in her own eyes.

Could she forgive Emily? Of course she could. Christ was clear on the responsibility to forgive a repentant sinner. Kate could do no less.

But could she trust Emily enough to continue working for her? That was another question entirely.

For now, she reached over and hugged her friend. The two of them cried together for what seemed like hours.

But the big question—whether Kate would stay on after this—hung over them. No matter how often Emily asked it, Kate refused to answer.

Finally Emily said, “Take some time, go home, cool off, and then we’ll talk.”

As was often the case, Emily was right.

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