Sunday, January 31, 2010

Geaux Saints

It was too cold for me to go out today and enjoy the Men in Dresses march.  What is the Men in Dresses March?  Well, for many years there was a sportscaster here in New Orleans whose name was Buddy Diliberto. Buddy loved the Saints but wasn't afraid to call it like he saw it, and at one point managed to get himself banned from the team plane.  Buddy said that if the Saints ever got into the Superbowl, he'd put on a dress and march through town.  Unfortunately, Buddy died a few years ago, but his replacement, former Saints (and Falcons--but we try to forget about that part)quarterback Bobby Hebert has kept the dream alive.  Well, last Monday morning the local paper ran a picture of Buddy D in a dress and today Bobby, and from what I can tell hearing the radio, far more people than they ever expected, showed up to march through town in dresses.  This town is happy, and between Mardi Gras and the Saints, we are going to have too much fun for the next two weeks.  Who DAT!  


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Where is the Grown-up: Book Review of Spring Breakdown by Melody Carlson

Spring Breakdown (Carter House Girls)  I've read and reviewed two other books in this YA series by Melody Carson.  The Carter House girls are a group of girls who live in a boarding house not far from New York City.  They are ostensibly under the care of DJ's grandmother, but in reading this book I've finally realized what it is that has made me uncomfortable about all these books.  Oh, they are enjoyable reads that deal with real issues faced by teens.  They show that being a Christian doesn't mean you don't have fun, it means that you respect yourself and others.  They show that coming to Jesus can be a life-altering experience.  What they don't show is an adult in charge.

In this story, a friend of Grandmother's wants the girls to model swimwear in Florida over Spring Break.  They all head south to stay in a vacation home owned by Grandma's gentleman friend (who doesn't join them until later in the trip, and when he does, Grandma moves to share a room with one of the girls). Before they leave there is a school dance and during the festivities surround it, several of the girls get drunk, which is a relatively normal occurrence.  When Grandma find out, she reads them the riot act, and tells them there will be none of that in Florida, but she doesn't up the supervision level.  They go to Florida, and sure enough, the same girls get drunk.  The same girls make bad decisions about boys, but no one is there to direct them.  The inmates are running the asylum.  DJ is a level-headed Christian girl who seems to be the leader of the pack, but good grief, she's a high school senior, she shouldn't have to supervise her friends, that's what adults are for.  When a crisis erupts, it is the teens, not Grandma who seem to know what to do.

This is series fiction and it is obvious in reading the book that there is missing backstory.  There are characters who are mentioned who seem to have no part in the book, it just seems that we are being "updated" on them. The end of the book is a set-up for the next one.

Grade:  C

My reviews of other books in this series:  New York Debut  Lost in Las Vegas

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

WHO
DAT!!!!!!!!

(Disclaimer--the above rendition "Who Dat", a New Orleans colloquialism, is not intended to draw your mind to any particular business or trademark holder, particularly one that plays professional football in New Orleans)

I'd like to welcome you to Sunday Snippets--a Catholic Carnival.  It  is a chance for Catholic bloggers to share their best posts with others. It doesn't matter if you blog exclusively about things Catholic or just do so sometimes (like me), you are welcome to join us. Go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--a Catholic Carnival and in it, highlight one or more of your posts from this week, with links to the posts. Then come back here and leave a direct link to that post on Mr. Linky. Then go visit the other participants. If you don't post often, you can leave a direct link to a post on Mr. Linky, but your blog should have a link back to this post. Sunday Snippets is a two-way link-up. The idea is to share readers.

If you'd like to sign up to get a weekly reminder to post, subscribe to our yahoogroup.

This week I mentioned some Sunday Snippets participants in my weekly Link Love feature.
I also shared a pro-life video we saw at mass this week.

Sign Mr. Linky and give us a link to your post.  


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Link Love

I'm going to continue my Link Love feature and keep working my way through my followers. If you are a follower of me and have a blog that is not offensive to me you'll get your turn to be featured here as a thank-you for reading my blog.

Who is up this week?

Booklogged writes A Reader's Journal, which is a book blog. I love her layout.

Amy Steele is a feminist and a book reviewer.

Chris Workman is a Catholic single man. His blog looks like it has potential, maybe a few readers and comments would encourage him.

Colleen is a Sunday Snippets regular. Her blogs are: Thoughts on Grace, Simple Reflections , A Gift of Blueberry Muffins, and Surviving By Grace.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First Wildcard: Courteous Cad

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:


Courteous Cad

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (December 3, 2009)

***Special thanks to Christy Wong of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Catherine Palmer lives in Atlanta with her husband, Tim, where they serve as missionaries in a refugee community. They have two grown sons. She is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University and holds a master's degree in English from Baylor University. Her first book was published in 1988. Since then, she has published more than 50 novels, many of them national best sellers. Catherine has won numerous awards for her writing, including the Christy Award—the highest honor in Christian fiction—and the Romantic Times BookClub Career Achievement Award for inspirational fiction. Total sales of her novels number more than 2 million copies.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (December 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0842375554
ISBN-13: 978-0842375559

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Otley, Yorkshire

1817

“I shall never marry,” Prudence Watson declared to her sister as they crossed a busy Yorkshire street. “Men are cads, all of them. They toy with our hearts. Then they brush us aside as if we were no more than a crumb of cake at teatime. A passing fancy. A sweet morsel enjoyed for a moment and soon forgotten.”

“Enough, Prudence,” her sister pleaded. “You make me quite hungry, and you know we are late to tea.”

“Hungry?” A glance revealed the twitch of mirth on Mary's lips. Prudence frowned. “You think me silly.”

“Dearest Pru, you are silly.” Mary raised her wool collar against the cold, misty drizzle. “One look at you announces it to all the world. You're far too curly-haired, pink-cheeked, and blue-eyed to be taken seriously.”

“I cannot help my cheeks and curls, nor have they anything to do with my resolve to remain unmarried.”

“But they have everything to do with the throng of eligible men clamoring to fill your dance card at every ball. Your suitors send flowers and ask you to walk in the gardens. On the days you take callers, they stand elbow to elbow in the foyer. It is really too much. Surely one of them must be rewarded with your hand.”

“No,” Prudence vowed. “I shall not marry. I intend to follow the example of my friend Betsy.”

“Elizabeth Fry is long wed and the mother of too many children to count.”

“But she obeys a calling far higher than matrimony.”

“Rushing in and out of prisons with blankets and porridge? Is that your friend's high calling?”

“Indeed it is, Mary. Betsy is a crusader. With God's help, she intends to better the lives of the poor women in Newgate.”

“Better the lives of soiled doves, pickpockets, and tavern maids?” Mary scoffed. “I should like to see that.”

“And so you will, for I have no doubt of Betsy's success. I shall succeed, too, when God reveals my mission. I mean to be an advocate for the downtrodden. I shall champion those less fortunate than I.”

“You are hardly fortunate yourself, Pru. You would do better to marry a rich man and redeem the world by bringing up moral, godly, well-behaved children.”

“Do not continue to press me on that issue, Mary, I beg you. My mind is set. I have loved and lost. I cannot bear another agony so great.”

“Do you refer to that man more than twice your age? the Tiverton blacksmith? Mr. . . . Mr. Walker?”

Prudence tried to ignore the disdain in Mary's voice. They were nearing the inn at which they had taken lodging in the town of Otley. Their eldest sister, Sarah, had prescribed a tour of the north country, declaring Yorkshire's wild beauty the perfect antidote to downtrodden spirits. Thus far, Prudence reflected, the journey had not achieved its aim.

Now, Mary had raised again the subject of great torment to Prudence. It was almost as though she enjoyed mocking her younger sister's passion for a man she could never wed. Whatever anyone thought of him, Prudence decided, she would defend her love with valor and tenacity.

“Mr. Walker is a gentleman,” she insisted. “A gentleman of the first order.”

“Nonsense,” Mary retorted. “He has no title, no land, no home, no education, nothing. How can you call him a gentleman?”

“Of course he has no title--he is an American!” Annoyed, Prudence lifted her skirts as she approached a large puddle in the street. “Americans have no peerage. By law, they are all equal.”

“Equally common. Equally ordinary. Equally low.” Mary rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Pru, you can do far better than Mr. Walker. Sarah and I hold the opinion that her nephew, Henry Carlyle, Lord Delacroix, would suit you very well indeed. She writes that he is returned from India much improved from their last acquaintance. Delacroix owns a fine home in London and another in the country. He is wealthy, handsome, and titled. In short, the perfect catch. Leave everything to your sisters, Pru. We shall make it all come about.”

“You will do nothing of the sort! Delacroix is a foolish, reckless cad. I would not marry him if he were the last man in England.”

Annoyed, Prudence stepped onto a narrow plank, a makeshift bridge someone had laid across the puddle. Attempting to steady herself, she did not notice a ragged boy dart from an alleyway. He splashed into the muddy water, snatched the velvet reticule at her waist, and fled.

“Oh!” she cried out.

The plank tilted. Prudence tipped. Her balance shifted.

In a pouf of white petticoats, she tottered backward until she could do nothing but unceremoniously seat herself in the center of the dirty pool. Mud splattered across her blue cape and pink skirt as she sprawled out, legs askew and one slipper floating in the muck.

“Dear lady!” A man knelt beside her. “Are you injured? Please allow me to assist you.”

She looked into eyes the color of warm treacle. A tumble of dark curls fell over his brow. Angled cheekbones were echoed in the squared jut of his jaw. It was the face of an angel. Her guardian angel.

“My bag,” she sputtered. “The boy took it.”

“My man has gone after him. Have no fear on that account. But what of you? Can you stand? May I not help you?”

He held out a hand sheathed in a brown kid glove. Prudence reached for it, but Mary intervened.

“You are mud from head to toe, Pru!” She blocked the stranger's hand. “You must try to get up on your own. We are near the inn, and we shall find you a clean gown at once.”

“Hang my gown!” Prudence retorted. “Give me your hand, sister, or allow this gentleman to aid me. My entire . . . undercarriage is wet.”

At this, the man's lips curved into a grin. “Do accept my offer of assistance, dear lady, and I shall wrap my cloak about you . . . you and your damp undercarriage.”

The motley crowd gathered on the street were laughing and elbowing one another at the sight of a fine lady seated in a puddle. Prudence had endured quite enough derision and mockery for one day. She set her muddy hand in the gentleman's palm. He slipped his free hand under her arm and helped her rise. Before she could bemoan her disheveled state, he swept the thick wool cloak from his shoulders and laid it across her own.

“My name is Sherbourne,” he said as he led her toward the inn. “William Sherbourne of Otley.”

“I am Prudence Watson. Of London.”

Utterly miserable, she realized a truth far worse than a muddy gown, a missing slipper, and a tender undercarriage. She was crying. Crying first because she had been assaulted. Second because her bag was stolen away. Third because she was covered in cold, sticky mud. Fourth and every other number because Mr. Walker had abandoned her.

He had declared he loved Prudence too much to make her his wife. He kissed her hand. He bade her farewell. And she had neither seen nor heard from him since.

“You will catch pneumonia,” Mary cried as she hastened ahead of them to open the inn's door. “Oh, Pru, you will have a fever by sunset and we shall bleed you and care for you and you will die anyway, just like my dear Mr. Heathhill, who left me a widow.”

“Upon my word, madam,” William spoke up. “I would never lay out such a fate for a woman so young and lovely. Miss Watson is hardly bound for an early grave. Do refrain from such predictions, I beg you.”

“Oh, Mary, his rose was in my reticule,” Prudence moaned. “The rose Mr. Walker gave me. I pressed it and vowed to keep it forever. And now it is lost.”

“Your husband?” William asked. He helped her ascend the stairs and escorted her into the inn. “Give me his name, and I shall alert him to your distress.”

“She has no husband,” Mary informed him. “We are both unmarried, for I am recently a widow.”

“Do accept my sincere condolences.”

“Thank you, sir. But we have not been properly introduced. I am Mrs. John Heathhill of Cranleigh Crescent in London.”

“William Sherbourne of Otley, at your service.” He made a crisp bow. “You are Miss Watson's sister?”

“Yes,” Prudence cut in, “and if she will stop chattering for once, I shall welcome her attention. Mary, come with me, for I am shivering.”

“Heavens! That is exactly how the influenza began with my dear late husband!” Mary took her sister's arm and stepped toward the narrow staircase. “Thank you, Mr. Sherbourne. We are in your debt.”

“Think nothing of it,” he replied. “I wish you a speedy recovery and excellent health, Miss Watson. Good afternoon, ladies.”

“Such a gentleman!” Mary exclaimed as she accompanied her sister up the stairs and into their suite. “So very chivalrous. I wager he is married. Even so, I should be happy to see him again. You have his cloak still, and on that account we are compelled to call on him. What good fortune! He is well mannered indeed. And you must agree he is terribly handsome.”

Prudence was in no humor to discuss anyone's merits. “Find my blue gown, Mary. The one with roses. And ask the maids to bring hot water. Hot, mind you. I cannot bear another drop of cold water. I am quite chilled to the bone.”

While Mary gave instructions to the inn's staff, Prudence began removing her sodden gown. She shuddered at the memory of that boy snatching her reticule. Thank heaven for Mr. Sherbourne's kindness. But Mr. Walker's rose was gone now, just as the man himself had disappeared from her life.

“Did you like him?” Mary asked as she sorted through the gowns in her sister's trunk. “I thought he had nice eyes. Very brown. His smile delighted me, too. He was uncommonly tall, yet his bearing could not have been more regal. If he is yet unmarried, I think him just the sort of man to make you a good husband.”

“A husband?” Prudence could hardly believe it. “You were matchmaking while I sat in the mud? Honestly, Mary, you should wed Mr. Sherbourne yourself.”

“Now you tease me. You know my mourning is not complete. Even if it were, I am certain I shall never find another man as good to me as my dear late Mr. Heathhill.”

“If you will not marry, why must you make such valiant efforts to force me into that state? I have declared my intention never to wed. You and Sarah must respect that decision.”

“Our duty to you supersedes all your ridiculous notions, Pru. You have no home and no money. Society accepts you only because of your excellent connections.”

“You refer to yourself, of course. And Sarah. With such superior sisters to guide me, I can never go wrong.”

When the maids entered the room with pitchers of steaming water, Prudence gladly escaped her hovering sister. She loved Mary well enough, but the death of Mr. Heathhill had cast the poor woman into a misery that nothing could erase. Mary's baby daughter resided in the eager arms of doting grandparents while she was away, but she missed the child dreadfully. With both sisters mourning lost love, their holiday in the north had proven as melancholy as the misty moors, glassy lakes, and windswept dells of Yorkshire.

Not even a warm bath and clean, dry garments could stop Prudence from shivering. Mary had gone to the inn's gathering room with the hope of ordering tea. The thought of a cup of tea and a crackling blaze on the hearth sent Prudence hurrying down after her sister.

Amid clusters of chatting guests, she spotted Mary at a table near the fire. Two maids were laying out a hearty tea--a spread of currant cake, warm scones, cold meats, jams, and marmalade. A round-bellied brown teapot sent up a curl of steam.

Prudence chose a chair while Mary gloomily cut the cake and served it. “Not enough currants,” she decreed. “And very crumbly.”

“I have been thinking about your observations on my situation in life,” Prudence said. “I see you cannot help but compare my lot to that of my siblings. Thanks to our late father, Sarah has more money than she wants. You inherited your husband's estate and thus have no worry about the future. But I? I am to be pitied. You think me poor.”

“You are poor,” Mary corrected her. “Sarah is not only rich, but her place in society was secured forever by her marriage into the Delacroix family. She is terribly well connected. Surely you read Miss Pickworth's column in last week's issue of The Tattler. She reported that Sarah's new husband is likely to be awarded a title.”

“Miss Pickworth, Miss Pickworth. Do you read The Tattler day and night, Mary? One might suppose Miss Pickworth to be your dearest friend--and not some anonymous gossip whose reports keep society in a flutter.”

“Miss Pickworth keeps society abreast of important news.” Mary poured two cups of tea. “I value her advice, and I welcome her information.”

“Unfounded rumors and hints of scandal,” Prudence retorted. “Nothing but tittle-tattle.”

“Oh, stir your tea, Pru.”

For a moment, both sisters tended to their cups. But Prudence at last broached a subject she had been considering for some time.

“I am ready to go home,” she told her sister. “I want to see Sarah. I miss my friends, Betsy most of all. Anne, you know, is dearer still to me, but she is rarely at home. I do not mind, really, for the thought of Anne only reminds me of Mr. Walker.”

“Please forgive my interruption.”

A man's deep voice startled Prudence. She looked up to find William Sherbourne standing at their table. He was all she had remembered, and more. His shoulders were impossibly broad, his hair the exact color of strong tea, his hands so large they would circle a woman's waist without difficulty. She had not noticed how fine he looked in his tall black riding boots and coat. But now she did, and she sat up straighter.

“May I trouble you ladies for a moment?” he asked.

“Mr. Sherbourne, how delightful to see you again.” Mary's words dripped honey. “Do join us for tea, won't you?”

“Thank you, but I fear I cannot. Duty calls.” He turned his deep brown eyes on Prudence. “Miss Watson, my man retrieved your bag. I trust nothing is amiss.”

He held out the velvet reticule she had been carrying. So delighted she could not speak, Prudence took it and loosened the silk drawstrings. After a moment's search, she located her small leather-bound journal and opened it. From its pages, the dried blossom fluttered onto her lap.

“Sister, have you nothing to say to Mr. Sherbourne?” Mary asked. “Perhaps you would like to thank him for his kindness?”

“Yes, of course,” Prudence said, tucking the rose and notebook back into her reticule and rising from her chair. “I am grateful to you, Mr. Sherbourne. First you rescued me from the street, and now you have returned my bag. You are very gallant.”

He laughed. “Gallant, am I? I fear there are many who would disagree with you. But perhaps you would honor me with the favor of your company for a moment. There is someone I wish you to meet.”

Prudence glanced at her sister, who was pretending not to notice anything but the few currants in her tea cake.

“Do run along, Pru,” Mary said. “I am quite content to take my tea and await your return.”

William held out his arm, and Prudence slipped her hand around it. “I hope you do not think me forward in my request,” he remarked. “You know nothing of my character, yet you accompany me willingly.”

“I have called you gallant,” she replied. “Was I mistaken?”

“Greatly.” His brown eyes twinkled as he escorted her toward the door of the inn. “I am so far from gallant that you would do well never to speak to me again. But it is too late, for I have taken you captive. You are under my spell, and I may do with you as I wish.”

Uncertain, Prudence studied his face. “What is it you wish, sir?”

“Ah, but if I reveal my dark schemes, the spell will be broken. I would have you think me courteous. Noble. Kind.”

“You tease me now. Are you not a gentleman?”

“Quite the opposite. I am, in fact, a rogue. A rogue of the worst sort, and never to be trusted. I rescue ladies from puddles only on Tuesdays. The remainder of the week, I am contemptible. But look, here is my man with the scalawag who stole your bag. And with them stands a true gentleman, one who wishes to know you.”

Feeling slightly off-kilter, Prudence turned her attention to a liveried footman just inside the inn, near the door. In his right hand, he clasped the ragged collar of a young boy whose dirty face wore a sneer. Beside them stood a man so like William Sherbourne in appearance that she thought they must be twins.

“Randolph Sherbourne, eldest of three brothers,” William announced. “Randolph, may I introduce Miss Prudence Watson?”

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance, madam.” He made her a genteel bow.

She returned a somewhat wobbly curtsy. It was one thing to meet one man of stature, elegance, and wit, but quite another to find herself in the presence of two such men.

“Miss Watson, you are as lovely as my brother reported,” Randolph said. “His accounts are so often exaggerated that I give them little notice. But in your case, he perhaps did not do you justice.”

“I believe I called her an angel, Randolph. There can be no superlative more flattering. Yet I confess I did struggle to give an adequate account of Miss Watson's charms.”

“Please, gentlemen,” Prudence spoke up at last. She had heard too much already. These brothers were men like all the rest, stumbling over themselves to impress and flatter. “My tea awaits, and I must hasten to thank your footman for retrieving my reticule.”

“But of course,” William agreed. “Harris, do relate to Miss Watson your adventures of the afternoon.”

The footman bowed. “I pursued this boy down an alley and over a fence, madam. In short order, I captured him and retrieved your bag.”

“Thank you, Harris.” Prudence favored him with a smile. “I am most grateful.”

“What shall we do with the vile offender?” William asked her. “I have considered the gallows, but his neck is too thin to serve that purpose. The rack might be useful, but he has already surrendered your reticule, and we need no further information from him. Gaol, do you think? Or should we feed him to wild hogs?”

Prudence pursed her lips to keep her expression stern. “I favor bears,” she declared. “They are larger than hogs and make quick work of their prey.”

The boy let out a strangled squawk. “Please, ma'am, I'm sorry for what I done. I'll never do it again, I swear.”

She bent to study his face and noted freckles beneath the dirt. “What is your name, young man? And how old are you?”

“I'm ten,” he said. “My name is Tom Smith.”

“Tom Smith,” she repeated. “Does your father own a smithy?”

“No, ma'am. My father be dead these three years together.”

“I am sorry to hear it. Tell me, Tom, do you believe your father would be pleased that you have taken to stealing?”

“He would know why I done it, for he would see Davy's sufferin' and wish to ease it--same as all of us.”

“And who is Davy?” she asked.

“My brother. We're piecers, ma'am. And all our sisters be scavengers. Davy was crippled in the mill.” Tom's large gray eyes fastened on William Sherbourne as he pointed a thin finger. “His mill.”

“Impossible,” William said. “My family built our mill, in fact, with the express purpose of providing honest and humane labor for the villagers of Otley.”

“Take this, Tom.” Prudence pressed a coin into the boy's grimy hand. “Please use it for your brother's care.”

“A shillin'?” He gaped at her.

“Yes. But you must promise to turn from crime and always be a good boy.”

“I promise, ma'am. With all my heart.”

“Run along, then.” She smiled as he pushed the shilling deep into the pocket of his trousers.

“You are an angel,” Tom said. “Truly, you are.”

With a final look back at her, he slipped out of the footman's grasp and flew through the doorway and down the street.

“Now that is an interesting approach to deterring misbehavior,” William addressed his brother. “Catch a thief, then pay him. What do you think, Randolph? Shall you recommend it to Parliament on your next appointment in the House of Lords? Perhaps it might be made a law.”

Prudence bristled. “I gave the shilling to aid Tom Smith's injured brother. Perhaps you should recommend that to Parliament. I have heard much about the abhorrent treatment of children who work in the mills.”

Randolph Sherbourne spoke up. “My family's worsted mill, Miss Watson, is nothing like those factories of ill repute.”

“I believe young Davy Smith might argue the point. His brother blames your mill for the injury.”

“Do you take the word of a pickpocket over that of a gentleman?” William asked her.

“I see you call yourself a gentleman when the situation requires one, Mr. Sherbourne. Only moments ago, you were a rogue.”

“I fear William's first account of his character was accurate,” Randolph told her. “We have done our best to redeem him, but alas, our efforts always come to naught. He is bad through and through, a villain with a black heart and no soul whatever.”

“As wicked as that, is he?” Prudence suddenly found it difficult to fan her flame of moral outrage. “Then I am glad our acquaintance will be of short duration. My sister and I soon end our tour of the north country. Perhaps as early as tomorrow morning we shall set off for London.”

“But I have hardly begun to abuse William,” Randolph protested. “My brother deserves much worse, and you must know the whole truth about him. My wife and I should enjoy the honor of your company at dinner today. You and your sister are welcome at Thorne Lodge.”

“You will never persuade Miss Watson to linger in Yorkshire,” William assured his brother. “Her heart hastens her toward a gentleman who has been so fortunate as to win the love of an angel.”

“Ah, you are engaged, Miss Watson,” Randolph said. “I should very much like to congratulate the man who prevailed over all other suitors.”

“His name is Walker,” William informed him. “With a single red rose, he secured his triumph.”

“You assume too much, sir. I am not engaged.” Prudence looked away, afraid the men might see her distress and mock it. “Marriage is not the object of my heart's desire.”

“Yet your pain upon losing Mr. Walker's rose was great indeed,” William observed. “What can have parted you from him?”

“Upon my honor, Mr. Sherbourne,” Prudence snapped, “I think you very rude to intrude on my privacy with such a question.”

“Yes, but rudeness is the hallmark of my character. I give offense wherever I go.”

“Indeed,” Randolph agreed. “William is always impolite and discourteous. I should urge you to ignore him, Miss Watson. But in this case, I am as curious as he. How dare anyone object to a gentleman of whom you approve so heartily?”

“Mr. Walker is an American,” she told the brothers. “He is a blacksmith. And poor. With so many disadvantages, society decreed a match between us unconscionable. We were parted, and I do not know where he has gone.”

“An American, did you say?” William asked. “Is he an older man? rather tall with a stocky build? black hair?”

“Mr. Walker's ancestors were native to America,” Prudence said. “Of the Osage tribe. He is more than twice my age. Sir, do you know him?”

“I hired the man three months ago. He is the blacksmith at my mill.”

Prudence gasped. “Mr. Walker is here? in Otley?”

“Perhaps she will not be leaving Yorkshire quite so soon,” Randolph commented. “I believe Miss Watson has found a reason to stay.”

“She may find reason to go when she learns that Mr. Walker is soon to be married.” William's brown eyes softened. “I am sorry to bear unhappy tidings. Dear lady, you look quite pale. May I bring you a chair?”

“No,” she said, holding up a hand. “I am unmoved by your news. It is right and proper that Mr. Walker has found a wife. I am very happy for him. And now if you will both excuse me, my sister has long been wishing for my company.”

After giving the briefest of curtsies, she turned away and made for the fire as swiftly as her feet would fly. She would not cry. She would not reveal the slightest emotion. No one must guess she felt anything but contentment and perfect ease.

“Whatever is the matter with you?” Mary asked as Prudence sank into her chair. “You look as if you might faint dead away!”

“Mr. Walker is here,” Prudence choked out. “In Yorkshire. In this very town. And he is engaged to be married.”

Mary offered her handkerchief. “Shocking,” she whispered. “Shocking and sad. But dry your eyes before you make a scene, Pru, for I have just had the most wonderful news from the lady at the next table. Do you not wish to hear it?”

Prudence could barely form words. “No, Mary. I am quite undone.”

“You must hear it anyway, for this news concerns you.” Mary leaned across the table and lowered her voice. “Mr. William Sherbourne, who rescued you from the puddle and has paid you such extraordinary attention, is a proper gentleman with excellent connections. His eldest brother is a baron and owns a great estate in Yorkshire. His second brother is a clergyman who lives in India. He himself is a most distinguished officer in the Royal Navy, and he has just returned from sea after many months fighting the Americans . . . or was it the French? I can never recall.”

“Nor can I,” Prudence murmured.

“Never mind, because he has quit the Navy and is now settled in Otley for good. He owns a large worsted mill and is worth five thousand pounds a year. Think of it--five thousand a year! And best of all--he is unmarried. Quite unattached. How wonderful for you!”

Prudence swallowed against the growing lump in her throat. “I do not care if he is worth ten thousand a year and owns five worsted mills, Mary. I do not want him. I do not want him at all.”

“Quick, dry your eyes, Pru, for here he comes. And his brother. You may win his heart yet, and what happiness awaits you then. Oh, heavens, why did I not wear my good bonnet?”



Not the book for me.

Katy's New World: My Review

Katy's New World (Katy Lambright Series, The)Katy's New World is YA Mennonite fiction (as opposed to Amish romance).  The Mennonites are religious cousins to the Amish, and like the Amish, the Old Order Mennonites eschew many modern conveniences, have strong community ties and dress in a manner most modern Americans would consider odd.  Katy has finished ninth grade at her Mennonite school in rural Kansas, but she wants to go to the pubic high school.  No other child from their community ever has, but the elders allow Katy to go, warning her not to be conformed to the ways of the world.  

Of course her modest dress and prayer cap make her stand out and earn the titters of some kids.  A Baptist minister's daughter befriends her and draws her into her circle of friends.  Katy is torn between her new life and new friends and her forever best friend and life in her Mennonite community.  Can she fit in both places?

Belonging is an important thing for most teens.  Katy realizes she is different than the kids she grew up with, but she isn't rejecting the Mennonite lifestyle.  I know this is a 200 page YA novel, and that fact limits the amount of character development but I thought the characters in this book were on the shallow side.  Katy had some depth to her; we see it reflected in the poetry she writes and we see her struggle to bridge her two worlds.  However her friend the minister's daughter is pretty much too good to be true, and the problem child in the circle of friends isn't really.  This is the first book in a series so maybe the characters will be more fully developed as the series goes on.  It was a pleasant quick read, though honestly I doubt my teen daughter would care for it.  She doesn't plow through books like her mom does, but actually prefers more substance when she does read.

First Wildcard will tour this book next week.  Stay tuned to read the first chapter.
Grade: B-

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review: Prevailing Love

Prevailing Love: 3-in-1 Collection: Sealed With a Kiss, the Wedding Wish, Montana SkyPrevailing Love: 3-in-1 Collection: Sealed With a Kiss, the Wedding Wish, Montana Sky
Its funny sometimes how your mood can influence whether you enjoy reading a book, or not.  Prevailing Love: 3-in-1 Collection: Sealed With a Kiss, the Wedding Wish, Montana Sky is three Christian romance novellas in one.  The first is about Ethan, a jet-setting rich bachelor who inherits his best friends' eleven-year-old daughter when they are killed in a car accident.  He takes her to see a Christian counselor and guess what happens?  The second is about a woman who is dying.  She has a baby daughter, but her husband recently died.  However, she has two best friends from high school, one male and one female, both of whom she knows love the other--but neither of whom knows the other loves them.  Guess what happens.  The third is set in Montana ranch country and pits a rancher against a wolf-loving vet.  Guess what happens.

I knew I wasn't getting any literary classic when I picked this book up, but what I wanted were some short fun light reads.  Well, they were short and light, and last nite I was able to roll my eyes at the writing style and excessive scripture quotes and just go with the stories.  I started the third one tonite, and just couldn't take it.  Maybe it is like dessert--too much and you get sick.  Unfortunately the first two story lines were reasonably good, given the genre, but the writing was just to sweet, and the characters were unrealistic.  There was no real conflict, and no sexual (or romantic if that word makes you feel better) tension.
Grade D+ (I did make it through 2/3 of them)

First Wildcard will tour this book next month; check back then to read the first chapter.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jenna's Cowboy: My Review

Jenna's Cowboy: A Novel (The Callahans of Texas)My Mom (may her soul rest in peace) used to say "If you can't say something nice about someone, then keep your mouth shut".  Lately you may have noticed that I've published press releases or blog tour posts on some Christian romances, without reviews.  That's because it is tough to write a nice review of a book that you hate by the time you've read the first chapter.  I was beginning to wonder if it was me--if I just needed to find some other type of book to read.  I've never held any illusions that romance novels, either the Christian or mass-market versions, were great literature.  I just like happy feel-good books and romance novels usually fill that bill nicely, but lately I've gotten a bunch that have turned me off by their saccharine sweet, overly pious heroines, preachy heroes or unrealistic plots.  I'm pleased to say that Jenna's Cowboy: A Novel (The Callahans of Texas) isn't one of those.I started reading it about 7:30 p.m. and now it is 12:30 a.m. and I had a wonderful evening.

The hero is Nate, who is back in his hometown, a small West Texas town where football is king and ranchers are royalty, after serving in the Army in Iraq, where he was injured saving others.  The heroine is Jenna, daughter of a rancher and ex-wife of a local football hero who is now in the NFL.  Jenna and Nate were sweet on each other in high school but her dad didn't think he was good enough for her.  She is getting over having her heart broken and being told that her broken marriage was her fault; he is suffering from PTSD.  It is a romance novel so I'll bet you can guess how it ends, but getting there was fun.

It is a Christian romance.  The characters are chaste.  They say grace before meals.  They go to church.  When Nate gets help for his PTSD, his psychiatrist prays with him, and he also talks to his pastor.  Nate mentions being glad his doctor will pray with him, and how he doesn't know how anyone can deal with this without Jesus, but it really isn't a book about his spiritual life.  Nate's conflict isn't with God; it is with his memories.

One thing I like better about Christian romances than the mass-market version, if they are well done, is that the characters, as a general rule, act more like they love each other in the Christian version.  All too often in the mass-market version, people who barely know each other end up in bed together.

I'd like to thank Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for sending me a complimentary review copy.  Jenna's Cowboy: A Novel (The Callahans of Texas) is available in January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a divison of Baker Publishing Group (and if you buy it by clicking on the links in this post, I get a small commission from Amazon).  Jenna has two handsome single brothers and I can hardly wait to read their stories!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

MAILBOX MONDAY

WHO DAT!

Yes, I'm a New Orleans girl now, and I'm loving it.  Geaux Saints!  Finish Strong!

Books??  You came here to read about books, not football?  I may be excited about my mailbox, but I doubt that's the reason I'm hearing fireworks tonite.  I doubt it is the reason everyone will be in a good mood at work tomorrow.  However, it does make me almost as happy as the game tonite.

The Cougar Club: A NovelThe Cougar Club: A Novel is about three women in their forties who were best friends in high school.  The book opens with Kat being fired from her New York advertising agency job, and then deciding that her boy toy boyfriend has no long term potential.  She goes back to her hometown near St. Louis to find herself.  While there she reconnects with high school chums.  One is a news anchor who feels threatened by a  younger woman, who just happens to be sleeping with the boss.  The other is a dermatologist whose husband has been having a lot of after-hours business meetings.  I'm participating in a TLC book tour February 15, so catch my review then.

Swinging on a Star: A Novel (Weddings by Bella)Swinging on a Star: A Novel (Weddings by Bella)This laugh-out-loud romantic comedy follows wedding planner Bella Rossi as she juggles an elaborate Renaissance-themed wedding, a terrific boyfriend and a cast of colorful relatives. It is for a blog tour February 14.
The Little Giant of Aberdeen CountyThe Little Giant of Aberdeen County was a win from A Circle of Books.There are lots of reviews out there and I've been wanting to read it.

Thanks for Marcia at The Printed Page for hosting.  Check out her blog to see what everyone got this week.

This Is My Body

This morning at mass, in commemoration of Roe v. Wade, a video was shown on the system they usually use to project hymn lyrics. The presentation was followed by Father pointing out that the second reading reminds us that we are all one body, and that what hurts one part hurts the other. He pointed out that it wasn't for us to judge those who may have made the wrong choice and that healing was available through the sacrament of reconciliation. Anyway, here is the video.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival


WHO
DAT!!!!!!!!


The most popular Saints in town now are Drew, Reggie, Sean and company.  Hopefully everyone will be happier tomorrow than they are today.  My college roomate is stopping in tomorrow on her way from Mississippi to Houston; since she was in Mississippi she said she wanted to watch the game in NO, and since I live here... This place is Saints crazy right now, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if our closing hymn tomorrow was When The Saints Go Marching In, and I'll bet Father will set a speed record at 6 pm mass,which I'm betting will be most empty.  When I was at the grocery store today, they were trying to convince everyone that they needed to stock up on stuff to watch the game, and they were selling the latest craze--black and gold king cakes, which come with footballs in them rather than babies. It's been a fun run, hopefully it will continue.

I'd like to welcome you to Sunday Snippets--a Catholic Carnival.  It  is a chance for Catholic bloggers to share their best posts with others. It doesn't matter if you blog exclusively about things Catholic or just do so sometimes (like me), you are welcome to join us. Go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--a Catholic Carnival and in it, highlight one or more of your posts from this week, with links to the posts. Then come back here and leave a direct link to that post on Mr. Linky. Then go visit the other participants. If you don't post often, you can leave a direct link to a post on Mr. Linky, but your blog should have a link back to this post. Sunday Snippets is a two-way link-up. The idea is to share readers.

If you'd like to sign up to get a weekly reminder to post, subscribe to our yahoogroup.

So what did I blog about this week?  If you are thinking about a Bible study for Lent, here is one I recommend.  If you are a blogger, and a reader, I'd suggest you sign up for The Catholic Company's blogger program.  They have a list of books from which you can choose.  You request one, you read it, you post a review on your blog and report it to them.  Chris sends a nice thank you and then  you can request another book.  Sometimes Chris' thank-yous are the nicest part of the process!

I passed out a little Link Love to a couple of Sunday Snippets participants, and if you are looking for something about which to write, join that feature too!  I'm not going to send out weekly emails, but I am thinking of making Link Love a regular Friday feature.

Well, that's it from me.  Sign Mr. Linky with a link to your Sunday Snippets post.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Link Love

I have a secret to tell you---I've never been all that crazy about all those awards that float around the blogosphere where you are then asked to pass it on to 4, 5, 10 or 20 other people.  Despite the fact that you are asked to give them to people who exhibit certain traits, I can't say I've ever really been able to connect the blogger with the award.  However, I will say they are a good way to share a little link love--to call other blogs to the attention of your readers.  I like to think I do a a certain amount of that by my sidebar.  I try to limit the number of blogs shown there, and give my readers a taste of what is being published.  My "From My Reader" posts also give me a chance to tell the world how wonderful your blog is.  Still, I notice that as long as I've been doing "From My Reader" some of my favorite blogs don't get mentioned.  Also, I'll admit I've gotten curious about my slowing increasing number of followers.  Who are they?  Those are some of the reasons I started my Link Love posts, and this week I'm going to ask you to join me.  If you have a blog, go there, create a list of 2-10 blogs you enjoy, are curious about or even hate.  Tell us a little about them and give us a link.  The blogs can be random, or have some unifying theme; I don't care.  Then come back here and sign Mr. Linky so we can go see your list.  If you don't have a blog, leave a few links in a comment.  Thanks!
My links this week are to followers of my blog:

The Suburban Jungle is a mommy blog--cooking, saving money, gardening, and more.
Kevin is a Catholic blogger from the Bahamas.
Patty is a regular participant in Sunday Snippets and she as two blogs:  Contemplative Catholic Reflections and St. Monica's Tears.

From My Reader

I've done a pretty good job of keeping up with my reader this week, so let's see what catches my eye today:

MakeUseOf is getting to be one of my favorite blogs.  It lacks the charm and personality of some of my other favorites, but I'm always finding neat stuff there.  If you didn't get enough of college when you were there; this article tells you how to find on-line college lectures.  If information in general is more your thing, they have 5 Captivating Sites for Information Junkies.    I need a new digital camera, and this articles talks about how to compare models.  If I preferred exercise to web-surfing I wouldn't have a weight problem.  This post is about motivating you to exercise.  Finally they have an article on a math site for kids. 

You'd think that with all the review copies that show up at my door, I wouldn't need to enter contests to get more books, but then I'd miss the fun, right?  A Sea of Books is giving away The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks. So is Kristi at Books and Needlepoint. A Sea of Books has a list of giveaways.  Booking with Bingo is giving away Sabrina Jeffrey's latest.  Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Breakfast in Bed. Julie is giving away Coupon Mom's Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half.

After I do all that exercise that post will motivate me to do, I'm going to make a Chocolate Fudge Cake.or maybe Coca-Cola Cake

All Blog Tools writes about some new tricks with Blogger

Amy reviewed a Western romance that I want..

Kathy changed her look, but she still has her usual great link list

Well, time to head out.  Hope you enjoy these as much as I did..

Plain Pursuit by Beth Wiseman

Plain Pursuit (Daughters of the Promise, Book 2) I enjoyed Beth Wiseman's other two Amish novels, Plain Promise and Plain Perfect (Links are to my reviews), so I was glad to be able to review Plain Pursuit as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers program.  Like the other two books, this one features an outsider finding peace and God in Amish country.  Unlike the other two books, she doesn't find it by becoming Amish.

Carley is an old friend of Lillian, the heroine of Plain Perfect, comes to visit Lillain when her boss gives her a choice between a month-long vacation or losing her job.  Carley is a newspaper reporter whose work has not been up to par since she and her mother were in a car accident that robbed her mother of her life and Carley of something important as well. Carely decides to visit Lillian, who has become Amish, and to write a story about the Amish while she is there.  Shortly after Carley arrives, Lillian's family faces a medical crisis which brings them into contact with Lillian's brother-in-law who was raised Amish but left the church after baptism.  I'd put "Spoiler Alert" in big letters, but I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn that everyone lives happily ever after.

Basically this is a quick easy heartwarming read that uses the Amish culture as a backdrop for a romance between two non-Amish people.  I do have one complaint about the book.  The author, Beth Wiseman makes it a point to say that Carley was "a confirmed Catholic" but that she abandoned churchgoing after high school.  Carley notes that she has only a distant relationship with God, and that it is her fault.  I thought Wiseman would redeem herself on this point, because when Carley finds God again, Wiseman mentions that she returned to her Catholic roots.  However, at the end of the book when Carley marries (I said it was a romance novel; this can't be a spoiler) it is done quickly and not in the Catholic Church.  I don't know whether Wiseman meant the wedding to be an indication that she was leaving the Catholic Church for her fiancee's; or if Wiseman is just ignorant of the fact that Catholics have to marry in, or with the consent of, the Catholic Church, and that, in most places, six month engagements are required.  Grade:  B-

Thomas Nelson Product Page.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Catholic Company Book Review: Come and See Catholic Bible Study Wisdom



About the Book:  "Come and See Catholic Bible Study" Wisdom covers the wisdom literature of the bible found in the Old Testament -- Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, Wisdom and Sirach. This study uses modern study tools -- inductive and deductive learning, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the writings of popes and saints—to unlock an ancient treasure and show its current application.
Laurie Manhardt holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Detroit and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She led an interfaith Bible study for ten years, which convinced her of the need for quality Catholic Bible study resources. “Come and See” Catholic Bible Study is the result.
Fr. Jan Liesen, S.S.D., is librarian and professor of New Testament Exegesis, Biblical Theology, and Hebrew Bible at the Seminaire Rolduc in Kerkrade, Netherlands. He received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome.

My Thoughts:  I listen to the scriptures weekly at mass.  I read them on my own--one year I even read the whole Bible cover to cover, and I pray with them, but I've never seriously studied any part of the Bible so I thought this book would be an interesting new experience, and I was right.  The book is designed to be used as the text for a group study, but it can also be used alone.  The introductory section indicates that the best way to use the book is to pray, read the passages for the chapter of the week, read the commentary in the book, use the Bible and Catechism to write the answers to the home study questions, share your answers with the group, view the video that goes with the book and end with a wrap-up lecture or prayer.  It also gives ideas about how to organize a parish Bible study.

This study covers the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom, and Sirach.  If you don't recognize the names of those last two books, then you probably aren't Catholic.  We recognize a different Old Testament Canon than Jews and Protestants do--and this book explains why.

The book itself is divided into 22 chapters, and the number of books covered per chapter varies.  For example, chapter 1 covers Job 1-2, chapter 2 covers Job 3-21 and chapter 10 covers Proverbs 22:17-31 (yes, less than a whole book).  The chapter begins with a citation to the chapters to be read and some some representative verses. Next are several pages giving the historical background, a discussion of the literary forms used, and themes explored.  Cross-references are given to related scripture.  This is followed by several pages of study questions.  The questions in Chapter 1 include asking you to describe Job's personal character and to list the blessings he received from God (references are given to proper verses).  You are then asked to find and describe some righteous people in the Bible, explain some New Testament uses of the term "son of God", and tell what you can learn about Satan from the given passages.  The questions are followed by citations to the Bible or to the Catechism of the Catholic Church--and the citations aren't just to Job, but to other books as well, showing Scripture as an integrated whole. In all, Chapter 1 has twenty questions, and they took me well over an hour to complete.  I guarantee if you answer all those questions (think open-book test) you'll KNOW about the first two chapters of Job and how they relate to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I'd like to thank The Catholic Company for providing a review copy of this book.  You can purchase it at their website.  I also noted that there is a whole series of these books, so if another part of the Bible interests you, see if they have one about it.

Grade:  A


Giveaway: A Black Tie Affair

A Black Tie Affair Romance novels are perfect mind candy and short romances even more so.  They can be read in a few hours and they leave you smiling, not pondering.  My latest romance read was A Black Tie Affair (read my review)and the nice folks at Hatchette are letting me give away five copies.  Here are the rules:  For one entry, leave me your name and email addresss.  For a second, follow me, or leave a comment saying you do.  For a third entry, post a link to your latest romance read (either on a bookstore site, or a link to a blog review).  For a fourth, blog about this contest and leave me a link.  Contest ends February 8 and is open to US and Canada only, no P.O. boxes.  Good Luck!

My Lady: Book Review

My Lady

Since I started blogging, I've generally made it a practice to finish books sent to me for review, and then to write a review that might help the book find an audience, without actually saying I liked books I hated.  Recently though, I've adopted a formal policy that you can read by clicking the menu at the top of the blog.  In short, if I hate a book, I offer to run a press release in lieu of a review; however if asked to do a review, the reader will have no doubt that I didn't like the book.  Rebecca at Glass Roads, from whom I got my complimentary review copy, asked that I write a review.

First of all, I have to confess, I stopped reading on page 43.  Another recent decision is that if I get 40-50 pages into a book and I'm not enjoying it, I quit.  I have to read what lands on my desk at work; this blog, and the books about which I write are a hobby, and are supposed to be fun.  Plowing through 300 pages of stuff I'm not enjoying isn't fun.

My Lady is the story of Jolene and the men in her life.  The prologue has her riding on the back of a Harely with Dexter.  Next, the story goes back to when she was in high school.  She was raised on a ranch and loved it.  One day her parents were killed in an accident and even though her ranch-dwelling uncle and aunt wanted her, she ended up in the custody of her grandmother, who boarded her with a family in town.  It is there that she meets Dexter, who she learns was her mother's high school sweetheart.  Dexter is a hairdresser and a girl dresser.  All the girls in town bring their prom dresses to show him, so he can approve.  Jolene refuses to join in the ritual, but then he comes to the house and insists.  Of course her dress is all wrong and he has one for her that is all right.  Dexter also recruits fashion models and tries to recruit her.  She refuses.  Later, when she is getting married to an Air Force officer Dexter picks out her gown and she agrees to allow the photos to be used commercially. Jolene and her husband move to Germany where shortly they are joined by his brother, who soon marries the single mother next door.  I quit reading just as they were about to return to Denver, which is where Dexter was, and Jolene knows that is not a good thing.

When I accepted this book I figured it would be ranch girl learns to live the life of an Air Force wife.  At the time I abandoned the book Jolene and her husband were already miserable, but I really had no idea why.  I found Dexter to be creepy, but other than that, the characters were very flat.  The story was told, it didn't open up in front of me.  There were a couple of passages that brought the story into the "Christian fiction" fold, and I thought they were overdone and out of place.  They just didn't fit.

Maybe I didn't get far enough into the storyline for it to really develop, but the writing style turned me off enough that I did abandon the book after page 43 and I don't plan to pick it up again.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Review: A Black Tie Affair

A Black Tie Affair I live in suburban New Orleans, and this time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras is Carnival.  I read somewhere that more tuxedos and ball gowns are purchased here, per capita, than anywhere else in the country.  Most cities have a certain "set" that does the charity balls, d├ębutante balls or other formal black tie affairs, but the average person doesn't don formal garb other than for weddings, once his/her senior prom is history.  In New Orleans, however, Mardi Grad balls are for everyone.  Sure, there are the clubs that are only for the rich blue-bloods but there are plenty of krewes that are more interested in your ability to pay dues than anything else.  Most people have been to at least a couple of balls in their lifetime.

So why am I writing about Mardi Gras balls when A Black Tie Affair is set in Chicago?  Because this book, like Mardi Gras, is full of formal wear, Greek names and fun.  Like Mardi Gras, it is tough to take A Black Tie Affair seriously.  It is a short romance novel--only 220 pages, and what sets things off is the heroine, a museum curator and part-owner of a vintage fashion shop, examining a dress that the hero's family is donating to the museum.  The dress releases some sort of toxin that causes her to hallucinate.  The hero was her first love, and something separated them.  Under the influence of the toxin, she kisses him, and flame is re-lit.  After she is released from the hospital they discover that the five vintage dresses which were to be donated have been stolen. Athena and Drew set out to find them, and during the course of the search come to grips with what separated them years ago, as well as with a modern  problem that could keep them apart.

There is something about the way the book is written that feels fast, breezy, almost breathless.  It is quite a ways into the book before we learn what separated the couple originally, though the fact that something did happen is discussed almost from the beginning.  Also, Athena's father was recently fired by Drew, but no one knows why.  The book is almost over before we learn the reason, yet it doesn't seem like a mystery; it is almost more of an annoyance, like a kid saying "I have a secret, and I'm not telling". Once revealed the secrets provide motive for some of the behavior, but the climax has nothing to do with these secrets.

  There are a couple of bedroom scenes and they happen before marriage.  They aren't the most vivid ones I've ever read, but this isn't the movie where the bedroom door closes and we are on the outside.  The ending of the book seems to be a set-up for another, and Athena has two sisters, so I suspect we haven't seen the last of her.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Anna at Hachette Books.  Thanks, it was a fun read.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday


The mailman has been good to me this week.  Beth at Guideposts sent me this 18th book in the Home to Heather Creek series.  It's a sweet feel-good read and my review will be up soon.
A Black Tie AffairA Black Tie Affair is from the folks at Hatchette.  Stay tuned for a review and giveaway.
My LadyMy Lady is from Rebeca at Glass Roads.  It is a Christian romance about a woman raised on a ranch and the men in her life.
Prevailing Love: 3-in-1 Collection: Sealed With a Kiss, the Wedding Wish, Montana SkyPrevailing Love: 3-in-1 Collection: Sealed With a Kiss, the Wedding Wish, Montana Sky is a 3-in-one collection of contemporary Christian Romances.  I hope I like them more than I did the historical  collection by the same author, Loree Lough.  It is for a First Wildcard tour.

Thanks to Marica at the Printed Page for hosting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Choice: My Review




As might be surmised by the title:  The Choice, this is a book about a young woman who has to make a choice between the Amish lifestyle and a normal one.  In fact, she isn't the only one who has to make that choice, and it is somewhat surprising who makes which choice.  Carrie is in love with a boy she has known all her life, only he is planning to leave the Amish community to play pro baseball.  They plan to leave together until her father dies, leaving Carrie and her brother with her stepmother.  Because of the way her stepmother treats her brother, she doesn't want to leave him, so she stays, and marries another.  That choice sets into motion the rest of the plot.

I read Amish Peace a non-fiction book by the author, Suzanne Woods Fisher a few months ago (click here to read review). Fisher works many of the details covered in that book into this one.  The stress on community, the opposition to competition, and family ties are especially stressed.  One detail I found interesting is that when an Amish couple bought a farm that had been owned by non-Amish, they proceeded to remove the modern improvements including window screens.  I can't imagine why anyone would want to live without either air conditioning or window screens, especially on a farm.

I found The Choice to be a well-written book with characters who seemed true-to-life.  If you like Amish fiction, you'll probably like this one; if  you like clean romances, you might.

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