Thursday, August 30, 2012

House of Mercy by Erin Healy

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Thomas Nelson (August 7, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Erin Healy is an award-winning fiction editor who has worked with talented novelists such as James Scott Bell, Melody Carlson, Colleen Coble, Brandilyn Collins, Traci DePree, L. B. Graham, Rene Gutteridge, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Robin Lee Hatcher, Denise Hildreth, Denise Hunter, Randy Ingermanson, Jane Kirkpatrick, Bryan Litfin, Frank Peretti, Lisa Samson, Randy Singer, Robert Whitlow, and many others.

She began working with Ted Dekker in 2002 and edited twelve of his heart-pounding stories before their collaboration on Kiss, the first novel to seat her on "the other side of the desk."
Erin is the owner of WordWright Editorial Services, a consulting firm specializing in fiction book development. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Academy of Christian Editors. She lives with her family in Colorado.



Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Beth has a gift of healing-which is why she wants to become a vet and help her family run their fifth-generation cattle ranch. Her father's dream of helping men in trouble and giving them a second chance is her dream too. But it only takes one foolish decision for Beth to destroy it all.

Beth scrambles to redeem her mistake, pleading with God for help, even as a mystery complicates her life. But the repercussions grow more unbearable-a lawsuit, a death, a divided family, and the looming loss of everything she cares about. Beth's only hope is to find the grandfather she never knew and beg for his help. Confused, grieving, but determined to make amends, she embarks on a horseback journey across the mountains, guided by a wild, unpredictable wolf who may or may not be real.

Set in the stunningly rugged terrain of Southern Colorado, House of Mercy follows Beth through the valley of the shadow of death into the unfathomable miracles of God's goodness and mercy.

Genre: Christian Fiction | Suspense


Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Language: English
ISBN-10: 140168551X
ISBN-13: 9781401685515


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1
It wasn’t every day that an old saddle could improve a horse’s life.
That was what Beth Borzoi was thinking as she stood in the dusty tack room that smelled like her favorite pair of leather boots. In the back corner where the splintering-wood walls met, she tugged the faded leather saddle off the bottommost rung of the heavy-duty rack, where it had sat, unused and forgotten, for years.
Her little brother, Danny, would have said she was stealing the saddle. He might have called her a kleptomaniac. That was too strong a word, but Danny was fifteen and liked to throw bold words around, cocky-like, show-off rodeo ropes aimed at snagging people. She loved that about him. It was a cute phase. Even so, she had formed a mental argument against the characterization of her- self as a thief, in case she needed to use it, because Danny was too young to understand the true meaning of even stronger words like sacrifice or situational ethics.
After all, she was working in secret, in the hidden folds of a summer night, so that both she and the saddle could leave the Blazing B unnoticed. In the wrong light, it might look like a theft.
The truth was, it was not her saddle to give away. It was Jacob’s saddle, though in the fifteen years Jacob had lived at the ranch, she had never seen him use it. The bigger truth was that this saddle abandoned to tarnish and sawdust could be put to better use. The fenders were plated with silver, pure metal that could be melted down and converted into money to save a horse from suffering. Decorative silver bordered the round skirt and framed the rear housing. The precious metal had been hammered to conform to the gentle rise of the cantle in the back and the swell in the front. The lovely round conchos were studded with turquoise. Hand-tooled impressions of wild mountain f lowers covered the leather everywhere that silver didn’t.
In its day, it must have been a fine show saddle. And if Jacob valued that at all, he wouldn’t have stored it like this.
Under the naked-bulb beams of the tack room, Beth’s body cast a shadow over the pretty piece as she hefted it. She blew the dirt and dander off the horn, swiped off the cracked seat with the flat of her hand, then turned away her head and sneezed. Colorado’s dry climate had not been kind to the leather.
She wasn’t stealing. She was saving an animal’s life.
The latch on the barn door released Beth to the midnight air with a click like a stolen kiss. The saddle weighed about thirty-five pounds, which was easy to manage when snatching it off a rack and tossing it onto a horse’s back. But it would feel much heavier by the time she reached her destination. She’d parked her truck a ways off where the rumbling old clunker wouldn’t raise questions or family members sleeping in the nearby ranch house. She’d left her dog at the foot of Danny’s bed with clear orders to stay. She hoped the animal would mind.
Energized, she crossed the horses’ yard. A few of them nickered greetings at her, including Hastings, who nuzzled her empty pockets for treats. The horses never slept in the barn’s stalls unless they were sick. Even in winter they stayed in the pasture, preferring the outdoor lean-to shelters.
The Blazing B, a 6,500-acre working cattle ranch, lay to the northwest of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The region was called a valley because this portion of the state was a Rocky Mountain ham- mock that swung between the San Juans to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east. But at more than seven thousand feet, it was no low-lying flatland. It was, in fact, the highest alpine valley in the world. And it was the only place in the world that Beth ever wanted to live. Having graduated from the local community college with honors and saved enough additional money for her continuing education, she planned to leave in the fall to begin her first year of veterinary school. She would be gone as long as it took to earn her license, but her long-term plan was to return as a more valuable person. Her skills would save the family thousands of dollars every year, freeing up funds for their most important task—providing a home and a hard day’s work to discarded men who needed the peace the Blazing B had to offer.
On this late May night, a light breeze stirred the alfalfa growing in the pasturelands while the cattle grazed miles away. The herds always spent their summers on public lands in the mountains while their winter feed grew in the valley. They were watched over by a pool rider, a hired man who was a bit like a cow’s version of a shepherd. He stayed with them through the summer and would bring them home in the fall.
With the winter calving and spring branding a distant memory, the streams and irrigation wells amply supplied by good mountain runoff, and the healthy alfalfa fields thickening with a June cutting in mind, the mood at the Blazing B was peaceful.
When Beth was a quarter mile beyond the barn, a bobbing light drew her attention to the west side of the pasture, where ancient cottonwood trees formed a barrier against seasonal winds and snows. She paused, her eyes searching the darkness beyond this path that she could walk blindfolded. The light rippled over cottonwood trunks, casting shadows that were indistinguishable from the real thing.
A man was muttering in a low voice, jabbing his light around as if it were a stick. She couldn’t make out his words. Then the yellow beam stilled low to the ground, and she heard a metallic thrust, the scraping ring of a shovel’s blade being jammed into the dirt.
Beth worried. It had to be Wally, but what was he doing out at this hour, and at this place? The bunkhouse was two miles away, and the men had curfews, not to mention strict rules about their access to horses and vehicles.
She left the path and approached the trees without a misstep. The moonlight was enough to guide her over the uneven terrain.
“Wally?”
The cutting of the shovel ceased. “Who wants to know?” “It’s Beth.”
“Beth who?”
“Beth Borzoi. Abel’s daughter. I’m the one who rides Hastings.” “Well, sure! Right, right. Beth. I’m sorry you have to keep telling me. You’re awfully nice about it.”
The light that Wally had set on the ground rose and pointed itself at her, as if to confirm her claims, then dropped to the saddle resting against her thighs. Wally had been at the ranch for three years, since a stroke left his body unaffected but struck his brain with a short-term memory disorder. It was called anterograde amnesia, a forgetfulness of experiences but not skills. He could work hard but couldn’t hold a job because he was always forgetting where and when he was supposed to show up. Here at the ranch he didn’t have to worry about those details. He had psychologists and strategies to guide him through his days, a community of brothers who reminded him of everything he really needed to know. Well, most things. He had been on more than one occasion the butt of hurtful pranks orchestrated by the men who shared the bunkhouse with him. It was both a curse and a blessing that he was able to forget such incidents so easily.
Beth was the only Beth at the Blazing B, and the only female resident besides her mother, but these facts regularly eluded Wally. He never forgot her father, though, and he knew the names of all the horses, so this was how Beth had learned to keep putting herself back into the context of his life.
“You’re working hard,” she said. “You know it’s after eleven.” “Looking for my lockbox. I saw him take it. I followed him here just an hour ago, but now it’s gone.”
Sometimes it was money that had gone missing. Sometimes it was a glove or a photograph, or a piece of cake from her mother’s dinner table that was already in his belly. All the schedules and organizational systems in the world were not enough to help Wally with this bizarre side effect of his disorder: whenever a piece of his mind went missing, he would search for it by digging. Dr. Roy Davis, Wally’s psychiatrist, had curtailed much of Wally’s compulsive need to overturn the earth by having him perform many of the Blazing B’s endless irrigation tasks. Even so, the ten square miles of ranch were riddled with the chinks of Wally’s efforts to find what he had lost.
“That must be really frustrating,” she said. “I hate it when I lose my stuff.”
“I didn’t lose it. A gray wolf ran off with it. I had it safe in a secret spot, and he dug it up and carried off the box in his teeth. Hauled it all the way up here and reburied it. Now tell me, what’s a wolf gonna do with my legal tender? Buy himself a turkey leg down at the supermarket?”
Wally must have kept a little cash in his box. She could under- stand his frustration. But this claim stirred up disquiet at the back of her mind. Dr. Roy would need to know if Wally was seeing things. First off, gray wolves were hardly ever spotted in Colorado. They’d been run out of the state before World War II by poachers and hos- tile ranchers, and their return in recent years was little more than a rumor. Wally might have seen a coyote. But for another thing, no wild animal dug up a man’s buried treasure and relocated it. Except maybe a raccoon.
A raccoon trying to run off with a heavy lockbox might actually be entertaining.
“Tell you what, Wally. If he’s buried it here we’ll have a better chance of finding it in the morning. When the sun comes up, I’ll help you. But they’ll be missing you at the bunkhouse about now. Let me take you back so no one gets upset when they see you’re gone.” Jacob or Dr. Roy would do bunk checks at midnight.
“Upset? No one can be as upset as I am right now.” He thrust the shovel into the soft dirt at his feet. “I saw the dog do it. I tracked him all the way here, like he thought I wouldn’t see him under this full moon. Fool dog—but who’d believe me? It’s like a freaky fairy tale, isn’t it? Well, I’d have put that box in a local vault if I didn’t have to keep so many stinkin’ Web addresses and passwords and account numbers and security questions at my fingertips.” He withdrew a small notebook from his hip pocket and waved the pages around. It was one of the things he used to keep track of details. “Maybe I’ll have to rethink that.”
Beth’s hands had become sweaty and a little cramped under the saddle’s weight. She used her right knee to balance the saddle and fix her grip. The soft leather suddenly felt like heavy gold bricks out of someone else’s bank vault.
“Well, let’s go,” she said. “I’ve got my truck right on down the lane.”
“What do you have there?” Wally returned the notebook to his pocket, hefted the shovel, and picked his way out of the under- brush, finding his way by flashlight.
“An old saddle. It’s been in the tack room for years.” She expected Wally to forget the saddle just as quickly as he would for- get this night’s adventure and her promise to help him dig in the morning.
He lifted one of the fenders and stroked the silver with his thumb. “Pretty thing. Probably worth something. Not as much as that box is worth to me, though.”
“We’ll find it,” Beth said.
“You bet we will.” Wally fell into step beside her. “Thanks for the ride back, Beth. You’re a good girl. You got your daddy in you.”
With Jacob’s old saddle resting on a blanket in the bed of her rusty white pickup, Beth followed an access road from the horse pasture by her own home down into the heart of the Blazing B.
The property’s second ranch house was located more strategically to the cattle operation, and so it was known to all as the Hub. The Hub was a practical bachelor pad. Outside, the branding pens and calving sheds and squeeze chutes and cattle trucks filled up a dusty clearing around the house. Inside, the carpets and old leather furniture, even when clean, smelled like men who believed that a hard day’s work followed by a dead sleep—in any location—was far more gratifying than a hot shower. The house was steeped in the scent stains of sweat and hay, horses and manure, tanned leather and barbecue smoke. The men who slept here lived like the bachelors they were. If their daily labors weren’t enough to impress a woman, the cowboys couldn’t be bothered with her.
Dr. Roy Davis, known affectionately by all as Dr. Roy, was a lifelong friend of Beth’s father. Years ago, after the death of Roy’s wife, Abel and Roy merged their professional passions of ranching and psychiatry and expanded the Blazing B’s purpose. It became an outreach to functional but wounded men like Wally who needed a home and a job. Dr. Roy brought his teenage son, Jacob, along. Now thirty-one, Jacob had never found reason to leave, except for the years he’d spent away at college earning multiple degrees in agriculture and animal management. Jacob had been the Blazing B’s general operations manager for more than five years.
Jacob and his father shared the Hub with Pastor Eric, who was a divorced minister, and Emory, a therapist who was once a gang leader. These men were the Borzois’ four full-time employees.
The other men who lived at the Blazing B were called “associates.” They occupied the bunkhouse, some for a few weeks and some for years. At present there were six, including Wally.
When Beth stopped her truck in front of the Hub’s porch, Wally slipped off the seat of her cab, closed the rusty door, and went directly around back to the bunkhouse. She pulled away and had reached the end of the drive when a rut jarred the truck and rattled the shovel he’d left in the truck bed.
In spite of her hurry to take Jacob’s saddle to the people who needed it, she put the truck in park, jumped out, and jogged the tool up to the house. The porch light lit the squeaky wood steps, and she took them two at a time. Jacob would see the tool in the morning when he came out to start up his own truck and head out to what- ever project was on the schedule. She’d phone him to make sure.
She was tipping the handle into the corner where the porch rail met the siding when the Hub’s front door opened and Jacob leaned out. “Past your bedtime, isn’t it?”  he said, but he was smiling at
her. Over the years they had settled into a comfortable big-brother- little-sister relationship, though Beth had never fully outgrown her adolescent crush on him.
“Found Wally digging up by the barn,” she said.
Surprise pulled his dark brows together. “Now? Where is he?” “Back in bed, I guess. He said he followed a wolf up to our place. You might want Dr. Roy to look into that. Your dad should know if Wally’s . . . seeing things.”
Jacob nodded as he stepped out the door and leaned against the house. He crossed his arms. “Coyote maybe?”
“Try suggesting that to him. And when was the last time we had a coyote down here? It’s been ages—not since Danny gave up his chicken coop.”
“I’ll mention that to Dad. It’s probably nothing. What had you out at the barn at this hour? Horses okay?”
“Fine.” Beth’s eyes swiveled down to her truck, to Jacob’s saddle, both well beyond reach of the porch light. She tried to recall all her justifications for taking the saddle, but in that moment all she could think was that she should get his permission to do it. She’d known this man more than half her life. He was kind. He was wise. He’d say yes. He’d want her to take it.
But she said, “I’m headed out to the Kandinskys’ place. They’ve got a horse who injured his eye, and it’s pretty bad. They let it go too long, you know, hoping it would correct itself, maybe wouldn’t need a big vet bill.”
“The Kandinskys have their own vet on the premises. Who called you out?”
“It’s not one of their horses, actually. It’s Phil’s. Remember him?” “Your friend from high school?”
“He’s been working there a year or so. They let him keep the horse on the property. One of the perks.”
“But he can’t use their vet?”
Beth looked at her feet. “Phil’s family can’t afford their vet. You know how that goes. We couldn’t afford him. His family doesn’t even have pets, you know. They run a grocery store. The horse is his little sister’s project. A 4H thing.”
“Well, tell Phil I said he called the right gal for the job.”
“I don’t know, Jacob. It sounds really bad. These eye things— the horse might need surgery.”
She found it unusually difficult to look at him, though she was sure he was studying her with a suspicious stare by now. But she couldn’t look at the truck either. Her eyes couldn’t find an object to rest on.
“All you can do is all you can do, Beth. That’ll be as true after you’re licensed as it is now.”
“But I want to do miracles,” she said.
He chuckled at that, though she hadn’t been joking. “Don’t we all.” He uncrossed his arms and put his hand on the doorknob, preparing to go back inside. “I heard some big-shot Thoroughbred breeder is boarding some of his studs there,” Jacob said. “Some friend of theirs passing through.”
“I heard that too.”
“Maybe that’ll be Phil’s miracle this time—an unexpected guest, someone with the right know-how or the right resources who will come to his horse’s rescue.”
“Angels unaware,” Beth said. “Something like that. Night, Beth.”
Beth didn’t want him to go just yet. “Night.”
She lingered at the door while it closed, hoping he might intuit what she didn’t have the courage to say.
When he didn’t, she committed to her original plan. She descended the steps in a quiet rush, wanting to whisk the saddle away before he could object to what he didn’t know. She wanted to be the one who did the good works, who made the incredible rescue. She couldn’t help herself. It was her father’s blood running through her heart.
On the driveway, her smooth-soled boots skimmed the dirt, whispering back to her truck.
“It’s not your right to do it,” Jacob said. Beth gasped and whirled at the sound of his voice, unexpected and loud and straight into her ear, as if he’d been standing on her shoulder. “It’s not your gift to give.”
But the ranch house door was shut tight under the cone of the porch light, and the bright window revealed nothing inside but heavy furniture and cluttered tabletops. At the back of the house, a different door closed heavily. Jacob was headed out to the bunk- house to check on Wally already.
Beth let her captured breath leave her lungs. She looked around for an explanation, because she didn’t want to accept that the words might have been uttered by a guilty conscience.
At the base of the porch steps, crouching in such darkness that its black center sank into its surroundings, was the form of an unusually large dog. Erect ears, broad head, slender body. A wolf. She had passed that spot so closely seconds ago that she could have reached out and stroked its neck.
She took one step backward. Of course, her mind was dreaming this up because Wally had suggested a wolf to her. If he hadn’t, she might have said the silhouette had the outline of a snowman. An inverted snowman guarding the house from her lies. In May.
Beth stared at it for several seconds, oddly unable to recall the landscape where she’d spent her entire life. She was distressed not to be able to say from this distance and angle whether that was a shrub planted there, or a fence post, or an old piece of equipment that hadn’t made it back into the supply shed. When the shape of its edges seemed to shift and shudder without actually moving at all, she decided that her eyes were being tricked by the darkness.
Convincing herself of this was almost as easy as justifying her saddle theft.
She turned away from the house and hurried onward, looking back only once.

My Thoughts:

Suspenseful, mysterious and at times, heartbreaking, this gripping novel showcases what a brilliant and talented writer Erin Healy is. She grabs the reader with the air of mystery and suspense while tugging at their hearts with wonderful characters like Beth and Garner.

Fans of Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti or those that enjoy a suspenseful story with a supernatural flair, will love "House of Mercy". It is well written, emotional, and powerful with a strong message of faith and forgiveness. One of my favorite quotes came from a discussion between Beth and her father (page 101). "My faith isn't in good outcomes, Beth, only in the goodness of God."

"House of Mercy" was a fantastic novel that really deserves to be noticed. Make sure to add it to your must-reads list today!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley

Eye of the Sword
The Angelaeon Circle Book 2
Author: Karyn Henley
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
ISBN-13: 978-0307730145
Paperback: 256 pages

About the Book:
Where angels walk the ground and the future is told in song, does a man of low rank have a chance at love with a princess?

In Camrithia, a land of shadows and mystical secrets, Trevin lives to serve King Laetham. But his heart belongs to the princess, Melaia. When the King sends Trevin on on a dangerous quest to find the missing comains—captains in the king’s army—he must leave Melaia to the advances of a swaggering Dregmoorian prince.

Challenged to prove his worth, Trevin throws himself into his quest. Striving to prove his love, Trevin undertakes a second mission—find the harps Melaia seeks in order to restore the stairway to heaven. Through fire caves, rogue winds, and murderous threats, Trevin remains steadfastly dedicated to his quest—even when he is falsely accused of a heinous crime. As Trevin’s time runs out, he realizes he must face the shame and horror of his own past and the nightmare that has come to life. Will he have the courage to finish what he has started?





My Thoughts:

Karyn Henley's first book of the Angelaeon Circle series, Breath of Angel,was amazing and made my favorites list (see my review here). With that said, you can only imagine how excited I was for the opportunity to participate in CSFF's tour with the second one.  Karyn had set the bar high with Breath of Angel and she didn't disappoint with Eye of Sword! In fact, this one may have been even better - if that is possible.

In this novel, we pick up pretty much where Breath of Angel left off. Melaia has one of the harps and needs the other two build the stairway for the angels. Trevin still loves Melaia, but finds that his ranking may ruin his chance of a relationship with her. He must carry out his task and return in time to prove his worthiness of Melaia, and he only has a short time to complete it. Will he succeed?

Karyn has done a brilliant job of continuing the series and sucked me right into the mystical world of Camrithia. Full of royality, magic, treachery, evil, angels, and immortals, this suspenseful fantasy kept me on the edge of my seat and quickly turning the pages because I needed to know how Trevin was progressing. The characters in this series have won my heart - I love some and love to hate others. And the surprises that spring up along the way... AH!! I hadn't a clue that Trevin... (oh, you'll just have to read it to find out)

Although this book could be read as a stand alone, we deal with many of the characters from the first novel and only get a glimpse of the back story and what truly drives Trevin on this mission. One will not understand the full nature of Trevin and Melaia's relationship or the vileness of Lord Rejius. The main focus of this story is around Trevin and we don't really get much about the other characters - something I believe is necessary to truly enjoy this novel. I highly urge one to start with book one.

This series comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

To learn more about Karyn Henley or to view her works, please visit her web site at: http://www.karynhenleyfiction.com/Karyn_Henley_Fiction/welcome.html
Karen's Blog can be found at: http://www.maybeso.wordpress.com/
Don't forget to like her Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Karyn-Henley/140411189331787?v=wall

See what others on the tour have to say about "Eye of the Sword"

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jackie Castle
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Theresa Dunlap
Cynthia Dyer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Mirriam Neal
Nissa
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler


In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. In no way was I required to write a positive review, but instead, an honest one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Digital Winter by Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky

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:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Mark Hitchcock is the author of nearly 20 books related to end-time Bible prophecy, including the bestselling 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World. He earned a ThM and PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the senior pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He has worked as an adjunct professor at DTS, and he and his wife, Cheryl, have two sons.


Alton Gansky is the author of 30 books—24 of them novels, including the Angel Award winner Terminal Justice and Christy Award finalist A Ship Possessed. A frequent speaker at writing conferences, he holds BA and MA degrees in biblical studies. Alton and his wife reside in Southern California.

www.altongansky.com



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Prophecy expert Mark Hitchcock and novelist Alton Gansky provide a suspenseful and fast-moving story of life after a massive cyber attack. Surgeons find themselves operating without electricity. The military can’t use its computers… This gripping story of darkness and heroism highlights prophetic themes and the danger of a cyber attack.


Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736949127
ISBN-13: 978-0736949125


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Stanley Elton

January 20, 2014
Shadow, shadow on my right,
Shadow, shadow on my left,
Shadow, shadow everywhere,
Shadow has all the might.
Stanley Elton emerged from the bedroom at precisely 7:10 a.m., his favorite mug in his hand containing his favorite African blend of coffee. Truth was, he had seven favorite mugs, one for each day of the week. He had seven favorite blends of coffee as well, seven favorite dress shirts, seven chosen suits of varying shades of gray, and seven power ties.
T he morning sunlight had already pushed back some of the thick clouds that covered the parts of San Diego closest to the Pacific. His part of San Diego was called Coronado Island, although it wasn’t a true island. Situated on a stretch of land called the Strand, the small community rested on a jut of property that looked from the air like an arthritic thumb sticking into the blue waters.
Founded in 1860, the city of Coronado was home to the elite. North Island Naval Air Station took much of the prime real estate, but there was still plenty of room for retired admirals, CEOs, and entrepreneurs who made sudden wealth in the digital age. A stroll through the city streets sometimes allowed tourists a glimpse of a celebrity.
Stanley Elton was no celebrity or entrepreneur; he wasn’t a retired admiral or a man of old money. He was, however, the CEO of San Diego’s largest CPA firm, a company whose client list included scores of the top companies in the country. He was on a first-name basis with people often mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. For thirty years he worked for OPM Accounting. Most people assumed OPM stood for the founders of the firm, people who died a generation ago. It didn’t. Insiders knew OPM stood for Other People’s Money. A bit tongue in cheek, but it drew hearty laughs for the few who knew the joke.
“Nice day.” Stanley moved to the open kitchen and kissed his wife on the top of the ear.
“You know that gives me the shivers.” Royce Elton pulled away and tried to rub her ear on her shoulder, her hands busy flipping eggs and turning bacon. A pot next to the frying pan cooked down some oatmeal. Instant oatmeal wasn’t good enough for her son, Donny. At least he ate something close to healthy.
“My presence has always made you shiver.” Elton slurped his coffee.
“Shudder is more like it.” Her tone was playful.
“Shiver, shudder; potato, patahto.” He moved from the kitchen and took his usual spot at the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the rolling Pacific. T he $3.5 million condo was on the top floor of one of the fifteen ten-story structures on the Strand. Built in the 1960s, the luxury buildings caused such a stir that a city ordinance was passed forbidding similar towering structures in Coronado. Too late and too little.
From the wide living room, Stanley could look to the left and see the Pacific Ocean or look right and see the calm waters of Glorietta Bay. “Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
“Good thing we have plumbing and coffee.” Royce dropped two pieces of bacon (well done) and two eggs (over hard) onto a scalloped-edged green plate. A moment later, she added two pieces of rye toast.
He stepped to the dining table. “Dining room” would be inaccurate. T he only real rooms in the open floor plan were the bathrooms and bedrooms. Royce set the plate on the glass top. She sat next to him, sipping a chocolate diet shake.
“Eating real food while watching you suck on that stuff fills me with guilt.” He stuck a piece of bacon in his mouth.
“You’re a man. You’re supposed to feel guilty. It goes with the Y chromosome.”
“T his is what I get for marrying a geneticist.”
“Brains are sexy.”
“Really? I hadn’t heard.”
Royce raised an eyebrow. “You know, I can poison your breakfast.”
“T hat’s why we have Rosa cook our other meals. Cuts down on your opportunity to cash in on the life insurance.” He cut one egg in half and scooped it into his mouth. Stanley didn’t like wasting time on trivial things like breakfast. “Busy day?”
“Usual classes at the university, and then I have about four hours in the lab. I’ll be late. I have to grade test papers after that. Rosa has something planned for you and Donny.”
“She’s as good a cook as she is a nurse.” Down went the second half of the egg.
“She’s a jewel. We should pay her more.”
It was Stanley’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Really? She makes good money now.”
“I’m not sure it covers all she does. Dealing with Donny isn’t easy.”
Stanley contemplated the comment while gnawing on the bacon. “What do you mean? He sits in his room and doesn’t cause any trouble. He’s as passive as someone with his condition can be.”
Royce frowned. She hated it when Stanley referred to Donny’s challenges as his condition.
“Sorry,” he said. “You know what I mean. Other people like him can be high maintenance.”
Another frown. “He requires a lot of care, Stan. You know that.”
“Of course. I do my share.”
She touched his arm. “I know, dear. I didn’t mean that. You do more than any other father would. You provide an income that allows us to get all the help we need. My professor’s salary wouldn’t pay for one room in this place. I’m just saying we should reward Rosa. She’s been with us since Donny was ten. T hat’s twelve years.”
“She’s a trooper. Did you have something in mind?”
“I thought of a paid vacation, but I don’t think she’d leave Donny for more than a few days. She’s so devoted to him. I know that her car is getting a little long in the tooth. She had to take it into the shop. Cost her a pretty bundle to get the transmission fixed.”
“You want to pay for the repairs?”
“No, I want to buy her a car.”
Stanley lowered his fork. “You’re kidding, right?” He could see she wasn’t. “You mean like a Porsche or Ferrari or—”
“Of course not. I was thinking of a Prius or some other hybrid. It would save her some gas money.”
Stanley furrowed his brow, narrowed his eyes, and clinched his jaw, but he couldn’t maintain the pretense. He had never been angry at his wife and couldn’t imagine starting now. T he forced frown gave way to the upward pressure of a smile.
“You’re working me, aren’t you?”
“Yep.”
“Okay, but it’s going to cost you another cup of coffee. I’ll let you make the arrangements. Take the money from the house account.” He paused. “We are talking just one car, right?”
“For now.” She rose, kissed him on the forehead, and took his cup to refill it. “Speaking of Rosa, she said something yesterday that seemed…”
“What?”
“I don’t know what word to use. Unexpected.” She filled the cup and returned to the table. “She said Donny spoke.”
“Spoke? You mean more than one word?”
“She meant sentences.”
“You’re kidding. I’ve never heard him link words together. I thought it was beyond his ability.”
“We don’t know that.” Royce the geneticist was talking now. “His condition is a mystery. T here are only a handful of savants in the world. We don’t know what goes on in his brain.”
“What did he say?”
“She told me she couldn’t make out all the words. He stopped when she entered the room. Something about shadows.”
“Maybe she was hearing something from one of his computers.”
“Maybe, but she didn’t think so.”
Stanley checked his watch. “Why didn’t you tell me this last night?”
“Um, because you didn’t come home until nearly midnight and you were half asleep.”
“Oh, yeah.” He rose. “T hanks for breakfast. Good as Rosa is, food cooked by my wife always tastes better.”
“I manipulate the alleles in the eggs.”
“T hat’s more science talk, isn’t it?”
“You going to say goodbye to him?”
“Just like every day for twenty-two years.”
“T hanks.”
Stanley started the most difficult task of his day. He loved his son, but he would rather face off against a bunch of IRS attorneys than turn the doorknob to his boy’s bedroom.
As his hand touched the brass knob, he heard a voice from the other side of the door:
Shadow, shadow on my right,
Shadow, shadow on my left,
Shadow, shadow everywhere,
Shadow has all the might.
....
Donny Elton sat in his chair as he did every hour he wasn’t sleeping. T he chair was an expensive, well-padded iBOT designed by inventor Dean Kamen. It was powered and could raise Donny to the eye level of any adult not playing in the NBA. A series of gyros and a robust computer program enabled it to climb stairs without tipping. T he invention had been a boon to wheelchair-bound consumers.
But Donny wasn’t bound to the wheelchair. He could walk if he wanted, jump if he desired, and even sprint if he had a mind to, but he never did. At least that was what the doctors said. Under heavy sedation, Donny had endured MRIs, CAT scans, X-rays, muscle conductivity studies, and other medical tests. All came back negative.
“T he problem isn’t with this body,” the doctors said. “T he problem is in his mind. He doesn’t want to walk.” T hat had been the end of their assessment. No one could offer any ideas of how to make a healthy twenty-two-year-old who was monosyllabic on his best day and mute on his worst and who possessed an IQ above 200 do what he didn’t want to do. “You simply cannot make a man walk if he doesn’t want to.” T hey had been united in that assessment.
Stanley, in the few quiet moments he allowed himself, wondered why his son refused to walk or engage with humanity. Yes, his savant condition was probably due to autism, but research had yet to come to a consensus on that.
Stanley stood in the open door with a bowl of hot oatmeal in one hand and wondered if he had heard what he thought he heard.
“Hey, buddy. Mom whipped up some oatmeal for you.” He moved to the long desk that took up all of one wall in the place they called Stanley’s bedroom. It looked more like a NASA control center than a place to sleep. A series of four 27-inch monitors lined the table, and two computer towers sat nearby. T hey were never turned off. More than once, Stanley had awakened in the night to hear Donny’s fingers tapping on the keyboard.
“Oatmeal. Food. Oatmeal. Good.”
Stanley set the bowl and spoon on an unoccupied spot of the table. “Whatcha working on, pal?”
“Oatmeal. Good.”
Stanley was thankful Donny could feed himself. He needed help dressing and using the bathroom, but at least he could manage to put a spoon in his mouth or hold a sandwich. Small blessings.
T he large window of the bedroom overlooked the Pacific side of the Strand. T he thinning cloud cover allowed the morning sun to paint sparkles on the gentle swells and surf. A short distance from the shore, surfers waited for the ocean to offer more waves. Although Stanley couldn’t see them from this window, he knew that new Navy SEALs were training there. Such was Coronado: home to the wealthy, a mecca for sun worshippers, a training ground for the Navy, and a magnet for tourists.
Donny knew none of this. Stanley doubted his son had ever noticed the beauty outside his window, the kind of view that made the 1700-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath condo worth $3.5 million. T he only things Donny seemed to notice were on the computer monitors. Stanley doubted the young man even knew him. T he last thought brought pain, as it did a dozen times every day.
Line upon line of code filled the monitors. For a few moments, Stanley considered having a programmer look at it, but he dismissed the idea. What difference would it make?
“I’m headed to work, son. I’ll be home late again, but I’ll look in on you. Mom will be here until Rosa arrives.”
“Rosa. Oatmeal. Good.” Donny took a bite of the pasty meal.
Stanley ran his fingers through his son’s hair. He loved the boy even if he had never caught a baseball or watched a football game. “Take it easy, champ.”
“Bye. Later. Oatmeal.”
Stanley turned when something appeared in the corner of his eye—something dark, indistinct. He snapped his head around but saw nothing.
Closing the door, Stanley paused and tried to push back the gloom that draped his mind. T hen he heard Donny’s voice again.
Shadow, shadow on my right,
Shadow, shadow on my left,
Shadow, shadow everywhere,
Shadow has all the might.


My Thoughts:

If you are a longtime follower of this blog, you know that I enjoy the writing style of Alton Gansky (especially when he teams up with Maj. Jeff Struecker). He has a way of captivating the reader and keeping them interested throughout the whole novel - to the very last sentence. "Digital Winter" is another one of his books that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning until I could not keep my eyes open a moment longer. (Yes, I'm giving fair warning - don't start this book at night as you won't be able to put it aside!) The story line and the characters are quite believable and you'll find yourself thinking about the scenario and wonder if it could actually happen.

Written in a dystopian/end times style, this suspense filled thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat and will give you an ending you didn't expect! If you enjoy dystopia or end of times novels, "Digital Winter" is an absolute must read!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Healing Love by Laura V. Hilton

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:

Whitaker House (September 3, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

LVHilton1210Laura V. Hilton, of Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, is a pastor’s wife, mother of five, author and book lover. She’s got a degree in business but her passion has long been the mission of Christian fiction. Her first series, The Amish of Seymour from Whitaker House (Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another) earned praise from critics and fans for originality and authenticity, thanks in part to Laura’s Amish grandmother who taught her Amish culture at a young age, and her husband Steve’s family ties to the Amish community in Webster County, Missouri, which has been helpful in her research. Laura is the author of two novels for Treble Heart Books and a contributor to Zondervan’s It’s The Year Life Verse Devotional. She’s a member of  ACFW for whom she writes Amish reviews for the magazine, Afictionadoand a long time reviewer for the Christian Suspense ZoneLaura is a stay-at-home mom, homeschooler, breast cancer survivor and avid blogger who posts reviews at:  www.lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Shane Zimmerman, a young veterinarian and widower, is first person on the scene of a serious buggy accident buggy in Webster County, Missouri. He rushes Amish midwife Kristi Lapp, been badly injured in the crash, to the nearest hospital. The two discover they’re next door neighbors and a friendship develops as Shane helps Kristi with her high-energy Siberian husky, Chinook, for whom she can’t properly care because of her leg injuries. Shane hopes to further develop their relationship, but Kristi is leery and discourages him at first -- Shane isn’t Amish (although his grandparents were) and Kristi’s father would prefer she marry any aged Amish widower rather than an Englischer – even one with ties to the community who is close to her age. Despite the forces that would keep them apart, the strong attraction Kristi and Shane have for one another grows stronger. As their on-again, off-again relationship persists, Shane must come to grips with his identity and reevaluates why he’s Englisch.




Product Details:
List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 3, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603745068
ISBN-13: 978-1603745062




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1


October


Kristi Lapp flicked the reins impatiently. “Kum on, Samson. ‘Slow’ isn’t the only speed you’re capable of, ain’t so?” She needed him to pick up the pace. Silas Troyer had banged on her door earlier to alert her that his frau, Susie, was going into labor, and then he’d raced down the lane in his horse-and-buggy to notify their family members of the imminent birth. 


Kristi was especially excited about this boppli. Susie had four girls, all of them a year apart, and she’d been expecting to have a boy this time, based on how different it had felt carrying him. Mamms usually sensed these things. And Kristi predicted she was right. 


Several deer stepped onto the road right in front of Kristi, none of them even glancing her way. Smiling, she pulled the reins slightly to the right to direct Samson away from them, over to the side of the road. A similarly sized herd had meandered its way through her family’s backyard the other day, and she’d always admired the animals for sticking together as they did.


She tightened her grip on the reins and gave them another flick, hoping to encourage Samson to move more quickly. 


As the deer were crossing the center line into the other lane, the powerful roar of an engine broke the serenity of the setting. A red sports car crested the hill up ahead, barreling in Kristi’s direction at a speed she’d never witnessed on this road. She heaved a breath of exasperation. Any idiot would have noticed one of the several signs that read, “Watch for Buggies.” They were impossible to miss, and Kristi had passed four of them in the last mile alone.


As the car whizzed toward her, the herd of deer scattered, darting in different directions. The driver swerved sharply into Kristi’s lane to avoid them, and she gasped, frantically trying to steer the buggy over toward the shoulder. A chill ran up her spine at the sight of the steep embankment and deep ditch below.


One of the spooked deer pivoted. Made a mad dash straight toward her horse. Samson reared and immediately took off at a run, straight toward the ditch.


“Whoa, Samson!” Kristi planted her feet against the front of the buggy and pulled back on the reins with all her might. Leave it to Samson to shift into high gear at the worst time.


The car sped past, but Samson wouldn’t slow down. He was heading straight for the side of the road. Panic surged through Kristi, constricting her breath. Should she try to jump out? She dropped the reins and scooted to the edge of the seat. 


She was too late. The buggy lurched as Samson ran headlong over the embankment. As the vehicle tipped, she was propelled out the side. Hours seemed to pass before her body collided with the ground and pain engulfed her.


Teetering on the edge of consciousness, she thought briefly of Susie. How desperately she wanted to be there to assist with the birth of her boppli! Especially considering the problems she’d had with her first delivery…. And then she blacked out.


***


Shane Zimmerman flipped on his fog lights to illuminate the low-lying clouds, which created interesting shapes and shadows against the dark backdrop of woods lining the rural Missouri highway. He scanned the area for deer ousted from their natural habitats by hunters. Of course, rutting season also brought them out of hiding. Not that he hunted. He did treat many a pet that had been injured accidentally by a hunter, such as the Great Dane boarding at his clinic while she recovered from the surgical removal of an errant bullet. 


Shane reached inside the console for a CD—the latest release from LordSong—and slid it into the player. As the uplifting music filled the car, he flexed his shoulders in an effort to relieve the tension of the busy day behind him. He looked forward to getting home and kicking back to read his Bible and watch the evening news. 


As his Jeep crowned the hill, he tapped the brakes at the sight of a wrecked Amish buggy. He scanned the area, but there was no sign of horse or driver. The animal must have been released and carted home. Or put down, if its injuries had been severe enough. 


Returning his gaze to the highway, he slowed. A young buck lay on the road, still alive yet struggling. 


Shane pulled his Jeep to the shoulder, put it in park, and clicked on the hazard lights. Leaving the keys in the ignition, he got out, his heart pounding in time with the obnoxious dinging sound of the car. Cautiously, he approached the deer. Its brown eyes fixed on him, wild with fear. The animal lurched to a standing position for a second but quickly collapsed again on the hard pavement, where it remained. Its labored breaths intensified. Whoever had hit it had driven off, leaving it to die. Was the same person to blame for the buggy accident? He’d probably never know.


“It’s okay,” Shane spoke softly.


The deer flicked its ears and struggled to its feet again. 


“I’m here to help you.” Shane stepped closer, keeping a wary eye on the rack of antlers. It was hardly the biggest he’d seen, but even small antlers could do hefty damage.


With another flick of its ears, the buck struggled to a semi-standing position and limped off to the edge of the road and into the forest. It would surely die, but Shane couldn’t do anything about that. He wasn’t about to chase an injured wild animal through the woods. He didn’t carry much medical gear in his Jeep, anyway, aside from a few larger tools used for treating farm animals. 


He started back toward his vehicle, but a glance at the buggy lying on its side gave him a strong urge to check it out. No point in hurrying. He rubbed his eyes, weary after a long day at the clinic, and surveyed the scene. The buggy appeared to be abandoned. 


Then, he moved to the edge of the embankment and gazed down the leaf-covered slope. Something caught his eye. A woman? Shane squinted. Sure enough, there was an Amish woman, wearing a maroon dress and a black apron. Gold hair peeked out from underneath her white prayer kapp, and a black bonnet hung loosely around her shoulders. “Hello?” 


No answer. His breath hitched. Had she hit the deer? Or had the deer hit her? He frowned. Accidents caused by deer affected more cars than buggies, by far. Where was the horse?


Heart pounding, he scrambled down through the brush into the ditch. As he crouched beside the woman, his nose caught the metallic odor of blood. The brilliant red on her dress wasn’t part of the fabric. He lifted the hem just enough to spot the injury. Her left leg lay at a weird angle, with a bone protruding from the skin. Definitely broken. 


His heart sank. He couldn’t help her. His expertise was limited to animals. 


But he was the only one there. And she needed help—urgently.


“Hey.” He touched her left hand. It felt warm. He noted the shallow rise and fall of her chest. His fingers moved down to her wrist, feeling for her pulse. Alive but unresponsive. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his cell phone, and dialed 9-1-1. When the dispatcher answered, he said, “I’d like to report a buggy accident. We need an ambulance. The woman is unconscious and bleeding with a badly broken leg. Looks like a serious injury.” He added their approximate location. 


Glancing again at the bone sticking out of her skin, Shane shuddered. Animals, he could handle. Humans were too easy to identify with; their injuries hit too close to home. He leaned down and gently pushed her hair away from her neck. Her pulse was extremely rapid and weak. He breathed a prayer that help would arrive quickly. 


As he studied her face for the first time, recognition nearly knocked him off balance. This woman lived right next door to him. What were the odds of that? Her backyard was overrun with weeds, a stark contrast to her meticulously maintained garden in the side yard. He’d seen her working there many a time. She had the most beautiful dog he’d ever seen, a Siberian husky. And the thought had dawned on him, more than once, that the dog’s owner was more than usually beautiful, as well. 


She wasn’t married, as far as he knew. The only other people he’d spotted next door were an older couple, presumably her parents. Their last name was Lapp, if the stenciling on their mailbox was current. 


Shane would have to stop by the house to let her family know about the accident. They would probably be worried sick when she didn’t return. 


The young woman moaned, drawing Shane’s attention. He saw her eyelids flutter slightly, and then her eyes opened.


“It’s okay,” he said, gazing as calmly as he could into her grayish-green eyes. “Help is coming.” 


“The pain…my head…my leg….” She winced as tears filled her eyes. “Who are you? I’ve seen you before.” 


“I’m Shane Zimmerman. Your next-door neighbor.” He reached for her hand, hesitated, then folded his fingers gently around hers. As their skin connected, he was startled by the jolt that shot through his fingertips and gained intensity as it traveled through his hand and up his arm. He had no explanation, other than his being overly tired. “You’ll be fine,” he assured her.


She only moaned again and closed her eyes. 


Shane stared down at her bloodstained skirt and saw that the fabric was saturated. He grimaced. She needed help fast, or she’d bleed out. Animal or human, he didn’t want death on his hands tonight.


God, help me. Shane let go of her hand and yanked his sweatshirt up and over her head. He lifted her skirt again and pressed the garment against her wound, knowing he could be introducing harmful germs. But there wasn’t a choice. He tried to make her as comfortable as he could without letting up the pressure. Even though she didn’t rouse again, he explained every measure he took, from applying pressure to strapping his belt as a tourniquet around her leg. Then, he sang a couple of Amish songs, the ones he remembered learning from his grandparents. His father had left the Amish as young man, choosing to marry Shane’s mom, who wasn’t Amish. But Shane had often spent entire summers with his grandparents. 


Time hung in the air as he waited for help to arrive. 


Finally, there was a screech of brakes and a rumble of gravel on the road above, followed by the sound of a vehicle door opening. 


“Down here!” Shane called. 


Seconds later, an EMT carrying a medical bag peeked over the embankment. “Ambulance is right behind me. You didn’t move her, did you?”


“No. But she’s bleeding profusely. I did what I could to slow it down.” 


The man half climbed, half slid, down the slope toward Shane. “I’ve got some emergency flares in the back of my truck. Mind setting them out while I take a look at her?”


“Not at all.”


Shane did as he’d been asked, then walked over to the buggy to inspect it more closely. The leather harness straps dangled with frayed ends, indicating that the horse had broken free, possibly when the buggy tipped. He checked the immediate area and even wandered a ways into the woods for signs of a wounded animal, but no clues turned up. The roar of sirens in the distance beckoned him back to the site of the wreck. 


In his Jeep, he found a rag and wiped off his bloody hands while he thought out the statement he’d make to the police. 


An ambulance screeched to a stop beside the pickup, lights flashing, and a police cruiser pulled up alongside. It wasn’t long before the ambulance wailed away again, spiriting its nameless passenger toward the hospital in Springfield.


After Shane had finished answering the police officer’s questions, he started the two-mile trip home, keeping his eyes peeled for an injured horse. He passed his own small plot of land without any sign of the animal. 


He pulled into the driveway next door, hurried up to the house, and pounded on the front door. No response. After several moments, he knocked again. He knew that the Amish generally kept their doors unlocked, but he didn’t feel comfortable opening the door and hollering into the hallway of a stranger’s house. He rapped one more time, just to be sure. 


“Hey!” 


Shane turned around and saw a man on the front porch of the house across the street. 


The man started down the steps. “Can I help you?” 


“I’m looking for Ms. Lapp’s family. She was in a buggy accident.”


The man came closer. “She hurt bad?”


Shane nodded. “Bad.” Would she survive the trip to the hospital? His heart clenched.


“Donald Jackson. Me an’ the wife live here.” 


Shane stretched his mouth into a tight smile. “Shane Zimmerman. Neighbor on the other side.”


“Oh, the new guy. Vet, right? Welcome to Seymour.” 


“Thanks.” It hardly seemed appropriate to exchange pleasantries when someone’s life was hanging in the balance. Shane shifted his weight. “Does she have any family?”


Donald shrugged. “Everyone has some. See her parents and other people around from time to time. Sometimes lots of buggies over there. Besides, ain’t the Amish all related? Heard that somewhere.”


“Seems that way sometimes.” Okay, this man was no help. A howl from the backyard reminded Shane about the Siberian husky. “I’m going to check on the dog.” He strode down the porch steps and made his way around the side of the house. 


Donald trailed him. “Barn’s always unlocked, I’m pretty sure, so you could get the dog’s food. I never see her lock it, anyway. But then, I don’t watch her twenty-four-seven or anything.” 


Shane raised an eyebrow. This Donald apparently watched her often enough to know about the barn door and the dog food. “Nice meeting you, Donald. I’ll just make sure the dog has fresh water, and then I’ll go.” He needed to find someone Amish to notify.


Seeing the red and white Siberian husky in a large kennel in the backyard, Shane opened the gate and went in, shutting it behind him. The dog whined and jumped up, wrapping him in a sort of canine embrace. Shane hugged her back. This breed was so affectionate. He rubbed her neck, then stepped back, picked up her metal water dish, and headed for the outside spigot, which he’d spotted on his way to the backyard. The dog followed closely at his feet, growling in a friendly way, as if she carried on a one-sided conversation. At the spigot, Shane filled the dish with cold water, then checked the barn door. It was unlocked, as Donald had said it’d be. 


Shane stopped and scratched the dog behind her ears. “I’ll be back later to get you some food.” He hesitated. “No, I’ll do it now.” He turned back to the barn and slid both wobbly doors open, going into the darkness. He paused, wishing for his flashlight, then remembered that his Amish grandfather had always kept a lantern near the door. He turned back and groped along a shelf, finally feeling the familiar metal base of a lantern. Next to it was a book of matches, one of which he used to light the wick. It didn’t seem right, being in a stranger’s barn, but the dog would be hungry. 


He found the dog food and bent down to scoop some into the dish. Then, he straightened and looked around. This was an Amish farm. There’d be other animals to bed down. Cows. Chickens. Horses. He sighed. 


A nicker sounded, and Shane turned to the door. Ah, the prodigal buggy horse, dragging the frayed strands of a harness. Shane spoke softly to the animal as he grabbed hold of one of the harness straps, and then he led it back to an empty stall. The dog followed, whining all the way. Shane gave the sweaty horse a rubdown, checking it for injuries. Nothing seemed amiss, other than the wild look in its eyes and the way it kept tossing its head, probably responses to the trauma of the accident. 


When Shane had calmed the horse as best he could, he glanced around again. He knew the basics of managing an Amish farm, thanks to the years he’d spent helping his grandparents, but it was more than one person could handle alone. Another Amish family would probably take on the rest of the chores.


Still, he wanted to go to the hospital to check on Ms. Lapp. Why did she still weigh so heavily on his mind? He’d done his duty to her, a stranger. 


His decision made, he returned the dog to her kennel. Before closing the door, he gave her another rub behind the ears. “I’ll be back.” 


The dog flopped down on the ground with a reproachful whimper, as if he were abandoning her in her time of greatest need.


“Your master was in an accident, but she’ll be okay,” Shane explained. “I hope.” He crouched down to the dog’s level. “I’m going to the hospital right now to check on her.”


With another whine, the dog lowered her head to rest on her front paws. Apparently, she had resigned herself to his departing. 


Shane drove home for a quick shower, then got back in his Jeep to head to the hospital. First, though, he stopped by the farm on the other side of his property. The mailbox there also said “Lapp,” and he figured the residents had to be relatives of the injured woman.


Seconds after he pulled into the driveway, a man came out into the yard. Shane introduced himself and asked for confirmation that this family was related to the other Lapps, specifically the young woman with the Siberian husky.  


The man frowned. “Jah, we’re family. I’m Kristi’s onkel. Timothy. I’m caring for their livestock while her parents are visiting family in Sarasota. I was getting ready to head over there.” 


Shane proceeded to tell Timothy about the accident. For a relative of Kristi’s, he processed the information rather stoically, Shane thought.


“Can I give you a lift to the hospital?”


Timothy took a step back. “Nein, I’ll contact the bishop, and he’ll get the word out. And I’ll make a call down to Florida to tell her parents.”


Timothy headed back to the barn, and Shane drove away, wondering why was he was taking the time to go to the hospital and check on a woman he didn’t even know. He probably wouldn’t find out anything, thanks to the strict privacy policy. But still, something drew him.


At the hospital, Shane went directly to the emergency wing and approached the front desk. “Kristi Lapp, please.” 


The receptionist nodded and checked something on her computer. Then, she looked up with a sympathetic smile. “If you’ll take a seat in the waiting room, a doctor will be out to talk with you in just a few minutes.”


She must be in more serious condition than he’d thought. Shane went down the hall to the waiting area, where he was relieved to find a coffeemaker. He poured himself a coffee and watched several minutes of the sitcom playing on the TV mounted on the wall overhead.  


As the only person in the room, he had his choice of seats. He selected a chair in a corner and picked up a magazine from the end table next to it. However, the contents didn’t appear to be any more interesting than the drama he was caught up in, so he put it back. Instead of reading, he prayed for Kristi and for the doctors working on her. It felt strange praying for a woman he didn’t know and waiting for an update from the doctor, as if she meant something special to him. But it seemed she did, even though he’d just met her. Did their brief interaction even count as a meeting? He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he hadn’t felt this strong a connection with a woman since Becca. Immediately he dismissed the thought.


He was glad he’d found out her name. Calling her “Ms. Lapp” seemed so wrong. Plus, he probably wouldn’t have been permitted to see her if the hospital staff thought he was a stranger.


Several people came into the waiting room and exited again during a period of time that felt like hours.


At last, a doctor came into the room. “Family for Kristi Lapp.” 


Shane blew out a breath. Family he wasn’t, but he was the only person there for her. Hopefully, the doctor wouldn’t ask how he was related. He got up, feeling a twinge of guilt at his act of impersonation. 


The doctor led him into a private conference room and gestured for him to sit down. “She’s in recovery. We’ve given her a blood transfusion, and we’ll be monitoring her hemoglobin and hematocrit—that is, blood values. As soon as we’re sure they are in the normal range, she’ll be referred to an orthopedic surgeon for a procedure we abbreviate as ORIF: open reduction internal fixation.”


Shane nodded. He was familiar with the procedure, but the doctor was probably accustomed to having to explain it, so he continued.


“Open reduction—that’s how we put the bone back in the position it’s supposed to be. And internal fixation is how we stabilize it—with a rod down the center of the bone and plates on either side, to keep it in the position it’s supposed to be in until nature takes her course and it heals completely. The plates may be removed later, as long as the bone heals well. Also, her femoral artery was nicked, but she’ll be fine. Lost a lot of blood. We had to give her three units. She’s going to have substantial bruising and probably be in considerable pain.”


“Has she regained consciousness?”


“Not yet. But brain activity is normal, and we expect no complications.” 


“Thank you.” Shane stood up and started for the door. 


“If you want to wait, I’ll have a nurse come and show you to her room.”


Shane stopped in the doorway. “I’ll come in tomorrow.”


The doctor frowned. “I’m sure your wife will want to see you when she wakes up.”


***


Kristi woke up in an unfamiliar room filled with odd beeping noises. Straight ahead, a television was mounted on the celery-green wall. To her right was a beige-colored curtain; to her left, a big, dark window. The hospital. How did she get here? Someone must have found her. What about Samson? What had happened to him? 


Had Susie birthed her boppli? Kristi groaned and shifted on the bed, noticing the bedside table with a plastic pitcher of water and an empty tumbler. And…flowers? She smiled at the vase holding six pink rosebuds, a cluster of baby’s breath, and some other greenery. Who would have sent a bouquet? Maybe the person who’d found her.


With great effort, she reached with her right arm toward the table, pain washing over her anew. It seemed every part of her body ached. Despite the discomfort, she extended her arm just far enough to snatch the white envelope from the plastic forklike thing tucked into the bouquet. 


Her left hand had an IV needle stuck in it, taped down. She grimaced at the sight. She’d have a bruise there, probably, but that would be the least of her injuries. Even with her pain-blurred vision, which made it seem as if the room was spinning, she could tell from the shape of the blanket that covered her legs how swollen they were. Her left leg, in particular—that’s where most of the pain radiated from. Wincing with effort, she tore open the envelope and pulled out a plain white card. The message written inside was simple:


You’re in my prayers. 


Shane Zimmerman


Sweet, but it must have been intended for another patient. She didn’t know anybody by the name of Shane Zimmerman. Or did she? Her head pounded as she tried to figure it out. No one came to mind. 


Maybe this mystery man would come to the hospital to see her. 


She pressed the card to her chest and closed her eyes, imagining a tall, handsome Amish man. Hopefully, when she fell asleep, he would visit her in her dreams.



My Thoughts

Kristi Lapp, an Amish midwife, is involved in a terrible accident when she is run off the road by a careless driver. She is found by Shane Zimmerman who is not only the local veterinarian, but also her neighbor. Shane administers first aid until help arrives and saves Kristi's life. As time passes, Shane finds himself drawn to Kristi, but also knows it is not possible to act on his feelings because of the differences in their beliefs. Or can he?

Get ready to curl up for a nice cozy read as Laura V. Hilton gives the reader a realistic glance of the struggles of an Amish woman and her attraction towards her Englisch neighbor. As the story unfolds, one will be drawn into the struggles, achievements, faith, healing and hard choices that Shane and Kristi face.

When I started this novel, I had expected to only read a couple of chapters, but found that I was half way through the book when I could no longer keep my eyes open. This story kept me involved and interested but frustrated me at times (in a good way). I struggled with the "creepy" neighbor and wanted something done about him as well as some of the attitudes all the way around.

Recommended for those that enjoy reading Christian fiction, Amish fiction, or just a nice clean romantic read.

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