Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Juliet" Virtual Book Tour & Review - Author Anne Fortier

Juliet banner

Author: Anne Fortier
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 9780345516107
Genre: fiction, romance, suspense

About the Book: (from publisher)

"Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?

From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers."

My Thoughts:

What a fantastic story! I found it difficult to put the book aside. It held my interest from the first page all the way to the end. Being a "chunky" read of over 450 pages, it wasn't a quick read, but the way the story pulled me in and I found that I had finished it in no time.

The story goes between past and present, so one could probably consider this a historical fiction. It deals with a lovely character, Julie Jacobs (Giulietta) who has a mystery dropped in her lap. After her Aunt dies, she leaves her estranged twin sister and goes to Siena, Italy - following her aunt's "last wish". There she finds secrets of her past, along with danger and a very interesting puzzle to put together.

This is a wonderful story that will keep you on the edge of your seat! For those that love romance, history, and mysteries, this is a must read. I've heard it said the storyline is like "Romeo and Juliet" meets Dan Brown. I love the story of "Romeo and Juliet" and I enjoy Dan Brown, so I guess it was perfect for me.

About the Author

Anne Fortier grew up in Denmark and emigrated to the United States in 2002 to work in film. She co-produced the Emmy-winning documentary Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia and holds a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas from Aarhus University in Denmark. The story of Juliet was inspired by Anne Fortier’s mother, who always considered Verona her true home … until she discovered Siena.You can visit Anne Fortier’s website at

This book was supplied through the Pump Up Your Book Program for me to honestly review.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Again" by Diana Murdock - Book Review

Author: Diana Murdock
Publisher: Diana Murdock
ISBN: n/a
Pages: 242
Genre: fiction, romance

About the Book (from Lulu):

"LADY CATHERINE has it all, including a handsome knight whose love for her knows no bounds. Though secretly holding out for passionate love, she consents to wed this knight, a man she loves no more than she could a brother. But a chance meeting with a devastatingly handsome merchant shakes the foundation of her world, causing her to act and think in ways she never thought possible. ERYN REXFORD has a fairy tale life. Passionate love, though, she learns to live without, until dreams spark memories of a life lived long ago and of a man whose love promises to follow her through time. Eryn recognizes a whisper of that promise in the eyes of a handsome stranger who stays close enough for her to notice, but not close enough for her to remember. TWO WOMEN, born centuries apart, accept their lives without passion. Until, that is, a chain of events complicates things in ways they never imagined, all because of one man’s love for a woman…a love that crosses through centuries to find her again. "

Read the First 2 Chapters!!!

Chapter 1

Eryn scrubbed vigorously at the residue baked on the casserole pan, as if doing so would uncover some sort of hint. Her head ached from the tight knit of her brow, and still she was no closer to an explanation.

For the fourth time that week, the date on her computer was off. Way off. Hell, by like 500 years. January 1501 to be exact. It didn’t matter that she kept changing the computer clock to the right date and virus scans kept coming up empty. January 1501 would be there every time she turned on the computer.

It was too big a coincidence that the glitch had started the day before the dream. Unlike her other easily forgotten dreams, this one was different. This dream wouldn’t let her forget. It invaded at will, regardless of what she was doing. It would press against the back door of her mind, pushing until the door gave way.

The mundane task of washing dishes was certainly no match for the dream now. It merely nudged everything out of its way and played center stage again, as if it had a life of its own.

She and Bryce were sitting at a table somewhere. His words were a simple request. “Look at his eyes,” Bryce said. “They look like stars.” Eryn studied the calm face of her husband. Normally so jealous and possessive, it was totally unlike him to ask her to look at another man - and even stranger for him to make such a poetic statement - so she could hardly resist. Eryn turned to face the stranger sitting next to her. But he was no stranger. Well, she didn’t know him in the conventional sense, but he was familiar somehow. She knew him from…where? She couldn’t be sure. A slight shift in the air around them whispered his name…Jonathan. She let the name brush across her lips as her gaze slid over his clothes. His shirt, she thought, was the kind that a pirate would wear. It hung loosely over his broad shoulders and tucked into black pants, and the shirt’s billowing sleeves flowed down his arms and closed snugly around his wrists. The sun-darkened skin of his face, chest, and hands contrasted sharply against the whiteness of the shirt. Thin laces across his chest were lazily tied, granting her a glimpse of the strong muscles underneath. Her nails bit deep into her palms as she fought the urge to trail her fingertips down his chest. Somehow she knew exactly what it would feel like. Smooth and powerful. Her gaze slid upwards. She loved the way his dark brown hair fell freely, a little past his shoulders, brushed back from the smooth skin of his face. His hair had a bit of a wave to it, adding to the thickness of his locks. The curve of his lips was kind, and at the same time, so sensual. His amber eyes, fringed with thick, long lashes, were warm and gentle. And they sparkled. Yes, she thought, definitely like stars. He sat there quietly while she looked into his eyes. He didn’t have to say anything. She could feel he loved her - and she loved him back. She just wanted to stay there forever, looking into those depths. There in those eyes she felt at home, safe and accepted. Those eyes held so much, almost as if they were keeping memories for her, things he wanted her to remember. But he would be patient, she knew, until she was ready.

And one of those memories managed to find a way into her mind. Just one. Like a seed dropped into fertile soil, it grew quickly. A dawning of sorts gave way to realization. She drew in a quick breath as it became clear. He was the one she had given her soul to so many centuries ago and it was in that moment she realized that he still had her heart. His smile grew wide as he saw that she understood. She suddenly felt embarrassed to stare so long. She dropped her gaze for a moment and when she looked up again, he was gone.

Tom Petty’s music rattled her cell phone to life behind her and Eryn’s attention jerked back to the bright-lit kitchen. She stood at the sink, her limp hand now barely hanging onto the soapy dishrag. Outside the bay window, the sun was breaking over the rooftops across the street, throwing long shadows across the grass, the rich blue skies deepening in color with each passing moment.

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Eryn dropped the dishrag and dried her hands on the back of her shorts. She yanked on the knot holding her hair from her face and let the long, soft strands cascade down her back in a downpour of bronze before picking up the cell phone. Her brows pressed together into a frown. With her mind still saturated with the dream, it was hard to focus on the incoming phone number. She gave up and flipped the phone open.

“This is Eryn.”

She held her hand out to touch Bryce’s when he walked into the kitchen. A hint of a smile managed to find its way to the corners of his lips, but only after she mouthed good morning to him.

Silence on the other end of the phone, begging for some kind of response, drew Eryn’s attention back. She had no idea what had been said.

“Can you just fax that to me and I’ll look it over?” Eryn asked.

Their fingertips brushed lightly as Bryce walked past her. She sighed. Their marriage seemed solid enough, but there were definitely things about it that lacked. It was too hard to explain, even to herself. It was nothing tangible, just some underlying current she couldn’t quite grasp.

Eryn absent-mindedly adjusted the strap of her tank top. “I’m sorry, what was that?” She pressed the phone hard against her ear. “Yeah, that’s fine. Hey, when do you have the decorating crew coming out?”

Her attention wandered again as she watched her husband pour his coffee. Where Eryn’s beauty complemented any space she stood, Bryce’s body completely possessed the room. Strong, yes. Silent, yes. Commanding, definitely. And he looked good. Today he wore his jet-black hair slicked back, the ends loose. His black button-down shirt hugged his impossibly strong shoulders and rode the line down his slim waist and disappeared into gray pants. The role of the successful, most sought-after young architect suited him well. He handled everything in his personal life like he did his work - deliberately and calculated. Even the task of pouring his coffee. Always in control.

A big breath escaped her again. Too much control, she thought. “I’m sorry. I was distracted. What was that again?”

Bryce turned his head slightly as he locked onto her conversation.

She grabbed a pencil and paper and turned to the counter before Bryce could see her face. “Ten o’clock. Friday. Great. Okay. Thanks. Bye.” She scribbled a few more notes while things were still fresh in her mind, trying in vain to focus on something other than Bryce. During the entire time they’ve been together, she always felt like he harbored some kind of resentment, maybe some anger towards her, but for what, she hadn’t the slightest idea. She did whatever she could to make him happy, but it never seemed enough.

Two deep breaths later, she turned to face him. She knew he would be standing exactly as he was now, leaning against the counter, one hand in his pocket, the other holding his cup to his lips. He looked at her as if she was a jigsaw puzzle and he was trying figure out where to place the next piece. She hated it when he did that. It made her feel uncomfortable, like maybe she did have a piece missing.

Intent on distracting him, she gestured across the kitchen. “Your breakfast is warming in the oven.”

He made no attempt to move or even look away. “Going to have to pass today. Meeting with some builders this morning.” A perfect mix of blue and gray, his eyes refocused.

An exasperated breath rushed over her lips. “You passed on breakfast yesterday.” She walked back to the sink and resumed scrubbing the casserole pan with a vengeance. “And the day before and the day before,” she mumbled under her breath. She didn’t mean for him to see how annoyed she was, but she couldn’t help it. He never asked for breakfast. She just wanted to make it for him. But this was the third time in a row he refused it. Still, as annoyed as she was with herself, she knew she’d probably do it again.

“I did, didn’t I?” He took a few swallows of his coffee before pushing away from the counter. “I’m sorry.” He reached around her and placed his cup in the sink.

Her mood sagged a notch to resignation in one heavy breath. “You don’t need to apologize.” She dropped the dishrag into the sink and turned to face him. Her pale blue eyes held no challenge to his gray ones. “Really, you don’t. It’s my fault.”

His hands slid down the length of her arms until he held her hands in his. Stooping a little to level his face with hers, he said, “Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you did.” He took her silence as understanding. “I don’t always have time to sit around and eat.”

“You could take some time off,” she suggested, but she knew it was pointless to have said it. He seemed perfectly content to immerse himself in his work. “Sorry. Stupid thing to say,” she mumbled, and turned away.

He cupped her chin in his hand, turning her back, giving her no choice but to look at him.

She hated it when he gave her no choice.

Intense focus darkened his eyes. “I’m doing this for you. For us.” He held her face until she nodded in acknowledgment. “Good.” Releasing her, he grabbed his keys and wallet from the counter and headed towards the garage. “Don’t forget about Montgomery this morning,” he said over his shoulder. The door slammed behind him, sharply cutting off his reality from hers.

It never ceased to amaze her how quickly the atmosphere around him could change so fast. Predictably unpredictable.

With her lips pressed together in a tight line, she tried to reel in her thoughts. Don’t do it to yourself. Don’t do it. Eryn closed her eyes tight against the tears that burned. I’ll never get used to this, she thought.

She never knew exactly where she stood with him. A long time ago she convinced herself she was willing to wait, but now she finally had to admit defeat. Defeat in a battle that would continue as long as their marriage did. What went wrong? She pressed her fingers to her temples. Were we not meant to be together? Where did the love go? She straightened up and turned to the kitchen window. The brightness of the morning was starting to fade. The fog was rolling in like a smoke screen, eating up everything in its path, turning everything of which she was so certain of into gray shades of nothingness.

She now dared to think of the one thought she had been denying for so long. Maybe the love had never been there in the first place. Maybe this was all a big mistake.

For the second time that morning, Tom Petty yanked her thoughts back to the kitchen. Snatching up the phone and flipping it open, she answered. “This is Eryn.”

“Hello, this is Sonja from Mr. Montgomery’s office calling to confirm today’s photo sitting for Mr. Montgomery.”

Eryn tried to picture the type of person Sonja was. Perfectly composed face, impeccable makeup, long nails that were painted red. Probably a silk blouse smoothed over a nylon-mix fabric skirt. Older, trying to look younger. Eryn rolled her eyes at the image she conjured up in her head.

Corporate. Ugh.

“Yes,” Eryn dug her planner out of her purse and flipped the pages. “Let’s see. Tuesday. Right. I have him down for 1:00 this afternoon at my studio.”

Sonja reconfirmed the address before expressing a perfectly polished goodbye.

Biting her lip and drumming her fingers on the counter, Eryn stared hard at her planner, trying to concentrate on her schedule. She finally gave up and turned to face the thick gray that was drifting past the bay window. She shivered just thinking about being in the fog. The way it muffled and distorted everything, always gave her the sense of dreariness and gloom. Despite that, though, she loved living at the beach. Something about it just kept her there.

She glanced at her watch. Good, she thought. She’d have time to get in a run. The dishes can wait. She needed to get outside.

Her bare feet felt cool on the tile that stretched from the kitchen into the living room. The house, designed by Bryce, reflected his preference for open space and windows. Lots of windows. To Eryn, it lacked intimacy and had a certain coldness about it. The cream-colored furniture that dominated the house was broken up with blotches of bold color in the paintings, lamps, and sculptures scattered throughout the rooms. Bryce spared no expense. She felt guilty for not appreciating how much work he put into the construction and the elaborate furnishings, but sometimes she thought it was just too much. If she had her choice, she would be happy with a little cottage on the beach, something plain and simple.

Running her hand along the smooth mahogany rail as she slowly climbed the stairs, she remembered how often Bryce said he wanted her to have the best in life. The best of the tangible things, she thought, dryly. What about the things you can’t touch? Like unconditional love. Romantic love. The kind of love that makes your insides rage like an inferno only to be quelled by the waves of passion. The kind where you can’t wait to see each other again. When every touch and every glance means something. The same kind of love in my dream. She smiled as it drifted in and swirled around her mind again. She sighed. I could get used to a love like that.

She took the rest of the stairs two at a time to get her blood pumping. Only slightly winded, she breezed to her room and sat in the middle of the floor, stretching her long, toned legs in front of her, reaching well beyond her neatly manicured toenails.

Forming a mental checklist, she planned out her day. After her run she would take the portrait of Montgomery, grab some salmon from the store on the way home, edit the pictures and get them out in time for corporate approval so they could hang it up on the board members’ wall. He would be just one of a handful of board members she would be photographing this week. They were the heavy hitters at World Commerce Bank and her pictures would document their status for the world to see. Well, maybe not the entire world, but their world anyway. New pictures for a new building. The very building that Bryce designed. He worked hard to prove himself, but whether he wrapped himself around his work for her or because of her, she wasn’t completely sure.

She got up and stripped off her clothes. Brushing past the line of designer clothes she rarely wore, she headed for the back of the closet where her chest of drawers stood in the corner. This was where she placed her stash of favorite clothes - soft, worn, comfortable clothes. She pulled out a pair of black sweat pants, a sports bra, and a bleached-out sweatshirt.

“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” she said out loud. After she quickly threw on her running clothes, pulled on a baseball cap, and slipped into her old running shoes, she ran down the stairs.

A glitter of light caught her attention as she dashed past the kitchen, compelling her to slow her pace and stop. She knew what it was. She had seen it a hundred times. But since her dream, it had become another reminder. She looked over her shoulder at the crystal hanging in the kitchen window. It had taken hold of a few shards of determined sunlight and threw out flashes of white across the room. Like bursting stars. Like his eyes. Eryn let the delicious warmth of her dream run over her for only a moment before she stopped herself.

Chapter 2

The Year of Our Lord 1501

Emelie stopped short, catching her breath.

Lady Catherine turned and stared down at her maid. “What is it?” she demanded. The afternoon sun was too warm, putting Catherine in a slightly foul mood.

Not put off by her mistress’ tone, Emelie stood with fists clenched to her stomach, her whisper strained with excitement. “’Tis him, milady. The merchant Elizabeth and I spoke of.”

Catherine rolled her eyes at Emelie’s melodramatic air.

At fourteen, Emelie was perched on the edge of womanhood, and she took notice of any and all males. Compared to Catherine, one would consider Emelie plain. Where Catherine’s thick auburn tresses fell heavily over her shoulders down to her waist, Emelie’s fine, pale blond hair was braided and wound tightly about her head. Emerald green eyes adorned Catherine’s beautifully delicate face, while her maid looked at life through eyes of muted brown. Emelie’s still developing shape was flat in places where Catherine, at 17, had developed curved hips, rounded breasts, and long, shapely legs.

To humor the girl, Catherine turned her attention to the groups of village folk milling busily around the port where merchants regularly came and went to sell their wares, restock goods, or to wait out foul weather. Catherine often came here for the diversion it held as well as the variety of goods the many merchants brought with them from lands Catherine had never dreamed existed outside her world. It was here that her hunger for the finer things in life was often sated.

Lady Catherine and Emelie now stood on the fringes of a circle of village women crowded around one merchant in particular. Catherine followed her maid’s gaze to the man who stood alone before the titillated throng. Without effort, he lifted bulky rolls of fabric and displayed them for the women who stood shoulder to shoulder, two or three deep, constantly shifting themselves for a better view.

He reminded Catherine of the traveling performers who visited the castle from time to time - animated, carefree, playing to the crowd. The air about him was charged with energy. Standing a full head above everyone, but without a hint of superiority about him, his mere presence commanded attention.

Twittering laughter assaulted her ears. Catherine’s lip curled in annoyance as she looked upon the women before her. None of them seemed the least bit interested in this merchant’s goods. Young or old, it made no difference. All of them openly ogled this man and giggled like nervous girls. Some clung to each other as they swooned. Others blatantly adjusted their dresses in hopes of enticing him. It all seems incredibly carnal, Catherine thought contemptuously.

The merchant’s deep laugh drew Catherine’s eyes back to him as he leaned closer to one of the women, a large-breasted blonde. The woman looked at him from under lowered lashes, twirling a strand of hair around her finger. As he leaned closer to her, his dark, rich brown hair flowed easily across his broad shoulders while his unlaced white shirt with its billowing sleeves, revealed a well-muscled, smooth chest, with skin darkened by the sun. Catherine strained to hear his words, but they were smothered by the chatter.

One voice suddenly rang out above the others, “What of payment with a kiss?” Shouts of approval welled up from the crowd.

His smile broadened as he raised his voice to be heard, “A fine payment, indeed.” His eyes now focused on the one who stood on her toes in order to be seen. “But as tempting as that is, my good woman, these lips are for another.” A mix of laughter and groans of disappointment rippled through the air.

Catherine’s eyebrows arched. A merchant with scruples? She might not be well versed in what happened between men and women in the bedchamber, but she was not so naïve as to be unaware of what occurred when the merchants came into port. She had heard stories of late night gatherings and most questionable behavior. Could this man be different than the rest? Could he possibly be loyal to only one woman?

Mirroring her thoughts, the villager beside Catherine leaned toward her and said, “Whoever his mistress is, she must be awfully good for a toss in the hay!”

Catherine turned sharply to face her, her eyes narrowed. “You dare speak to me in that manner?”

The crowd fell silent as Catherine’s words cut through the gaiety.

The woman’s face drained of all color and her eyes widened, her hand flying up to stifle her quick inward breath. Stumbling backwards, she dropped into a deep curtsey.

“Forgive me, milady!” Her voice quivered. “I meant no disrespect!”

Like a ripple through water, the other women curtsied and quickly stepped back, distancing themselves from Catherine, some managing to slip away. Catherine’s scathing look raked those who remained. No one dared look at her - save one. And now Catherine met his gaze, her chin set, challenging him.

His eyes held hers briefly before his gaze traveled down the length of her, clearly enchanted by what he beheld.

“Milady,” he said, bowing deeply. “You grace me with your beauty.” When he looked at her again, his eyes sparkled with a light that shone like the brightest stars in the night. Their depths were as intense as their color rich, amber with flecks of gold adorning the borders. They beckoned her to come closer.

A chill ran the length of Catherine’s spine, causing her to stiffen. Blinking several times, she could not stop the way the noise of the village or brightness of the sun dimmed when her eyes locked with his. This stranger reached out and enveloped Catherine without so much as touching her. Her pulse quickened and her skin tingled as if his fingertips traced the very curves of her body. She caught her breath as her body responded in a way she didn’t understand, tightening in some places, weakening in others.

The sound of Emelie clearing her throat finally broke Catherine’s gaze. She looked around at the village women who stood unmoving, staring, waiting in anticipation.

Catherine squared her shoulders and stepped closer, ignoring the whispers that followed in her wake. Uncertain if her knees would continue to hold her were she to look at him again, Catherine instead tried to focus on the jewelry, brushes, trinkets, and fabrics that lay before her.

Be not a fool, Catherine! Remember who you are! She was legendary for the number of her potential suitors who called on her, all of whom she rebuffed. This was partially due to their boorishness and partially because Galen, her companion since childhood, intimidated them. His size and possessiveness was enough to send them scampering away.

Not one man has ever done so much as to give Catherine pause, let alone enrapture her in the way she was experiencing right now. Why was this man so different?

She gave into her curiosity and let her gaze wander upward. Her eyes touched upon his trim waist and moved their way up to his broad chest barely concealed by the shirt that clung to his wide shoulders. She nervously licked her lips as she imagined sliding her arms around his bronzed neck, kissing the strong line of his jaw. She closed her eyes abruptly and clenched her jaw hard.

Fabric, she chided. Look at the fabric. Not him.

Eyes still held tight, she said, “I could not help but notice your magnificent fabric.” Her words were strained, struggling against the tightening of her throat.

She opened her eyes to the fabrics that lay before her and gasped in astonishment. For the moment all else was forgotten. The fabric was truly something to behold. There were layers of brilliant, vibrant colors glowing in the sunlight, with textures so soft and shimmering, like nothing she had ever felt before. The rich-colored fabrics of blood red, deep green, royal blue, and pale lavender glistened under her touch. She could almost feel what it would be like to be wrapped in a dress made from such exquisite material.

“Magnificent,” she whispered.

“Milady recognizes fine quality.”

She looked up and met his eyes that were studying her so intently. Control slipped and her pulse quickened. She fought to focus once again on the fabric spread out before her. She then looked to the sky. By the saints, how can one shiver when it is so impossibly hot in the sun?

“Might I suggest the jade? It matches your eyes.” His voice was soft. Though the other women still lingered around them, he spoke to her as if she was the only one in his world that mattered.

She chided herself for being weak. It was so unlike her to allow her feelings to have free rein. This situation in which she found herself truly chafed her to the core. Taking a deep breath, she tried to look at him again, this time with cool assessing eyes, free of emotion.

He stood with his hands on his hips with an impossibly contagious smile curving his lips.

Her resolve faltered as an unfamiliar feeling of surrender muddied her thoughts. Like a caged bird, her heart fluttered desperately in her chest, rising to her throat. She struggled to maintain an impassive expression as a battle raged within her. How could this merchant, with one look, take away her control? Ire gripped at her now as she realized this man who stood before her was not even trying to win her favor, that just his presence alone caused her body to betray her mind.

“Milady?” His voice was questioning.

Oh, how this one made her feel so vulnerable. Her soul felt naked under his gaze. Somehow he managed to erase the line between their social classes. They were man and woman, not lady and merchant.

Fighting the urge to settle herself in his eyes again, her gaze flickered here and there, focusing on nothing in particular. She wanted to press her hands to her ears to shut out the pounding of her heart.

“Yes, yes, of course. I would like the jade. All that you have.” She felt the words rushing out. “Have it delivered to Elderidge castle.” Catherine fumbled in her purse and held out a stack of coins, horrified to see her hand shake ever so slightly. She still refused to look at him.

The merchant glanced at Catherine’s maid questioningly.

Emelie, who had been staring at him unabashedly, giggled. “May I present the Lady Catherine, sir. Daughter of Lord Roberts.”

Once again his eyes took in Catherine’s entire form, but unlike the lust she saw too often in other men’s eyes, this man held open appreciation, sincerity, and genuine interest in something other than her wealth.

“The fair Lady Catherine. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” He bowed low. “I am Jonathan.”

His eyes spoke words not heard, but felt, as they penetrated to her soul. She sensed that not only did he understand the way she was feeling, but that he was drawn to her as she was to him.

She released a breath of impatience as she continued to hold out the coins, her control sorely tested.

He lifted his hand to take what she offered. Though she steeled herself against further assault of unbidden feelings, she was unprepared for the sensation of his touch as he took the coins from her hand. A shock like a lightening bolt sent a flame through her body, and she recoiled in surprise, swallowing hard. How could she be such a fool? She was not some commoner who crumbled at the feet of a man! So why was it that with a simple look, an innocent touch, this man had the power to take all that away?

Jonathan smiled.

And she shivered. Again. Oh, that smile will surely be my undoing.

He turned around and called to a man not far off.

For the first time Catherine took notice of the men working behind Jonathan who were organizing, sorting, and tending to his ship. In sharp contrast to Jonathan’s refined and confident presence, the crew was haggard and weather-worn. A certain camaraderie flowed in and out of their conversations, but it was clear Jonathan was the master.

“Will there be anything else, milady?” Once again, he turned to address her. His brows arched with encouragement and perhaps a bit of hope. “You have only but to ask.”

“No.” She shook her head, suddenly wishing she was anywhere but where she stood. “Nothing.” It unnerved her that she couldn’t trust herself, yet she made no attempt to stop him when he reached down and placed her hand in his. Ivory white against bronzed skin met with a sizzling burn. Time meant nothing to her as she watched him bring her hand upwards, his lips branding her knuckles with a mere whisper of a kiss.

“Perhaps then, we shall meet again?” His easy smile triggered a fluttering in her stomach.

Catherine withdrew her hand quickly and stepped back, bumping into Emelie. “I doubt that. Good day, sir.”

Walking quickly through the marketplace, Catherine hardly noticed the other merchants and villagers. She walked past those calling her, waving perfumes, gems, and cloths. She rubbed the place on her hand where Jonathan’s lips kissed her. The softness with which he held her hand, the tenderness of his kiss upon her skin, the warmth that spread through her body as he looked at her, fogged her thinking. This is madness. ‘Tis a blessing Galen is not here to see me falter this way.

She sighed. Galen had been her champion since they were children, swearing an oath of loyalty to her when they were but eight years old. How could she be so shallow as to already forget the devotion he had shown her this morning? He had been so pleased when he presented to her a small sapphire brooch with diamonds circling the gem.

Catherine trailed her fingers along the contour of the brooch that was now pinned to her dress. Solid like the gem, Galen had been her rock, her pillar of strength, and as close to her as if he were her own brother, but for months now she knew his affections for her were growing far deeper than that. Everyone expected them to wed, being as close as they were, and they should have by now, but it was Catherine who begged to wait. She was still waiting for that spark, the telltale sign that love was true. She wanted the same kind of love that permeated the castle when her mother was alive, a soul-searing love that bound together her mother and father. Theirs was a love that knew no bounds. And yes, they had shared lust, too. Catherine’s mother never hid her shivers of desire when Lord Roberts brushed his lips against her cheek or atop her hand. Much like the desire Catherine, herself, felt today with…

A ripple of uneasiness swept through Catherine as she realized her mind refused to dismiss this merchant. She shook her head. At this moment she was no different from the women in the village. The same heated desire ran through her blood as did theirs, only she needed to escape those eyes and the touch that would have her stay.

“Enough!” Catherine said, shaking her head.

“Milady?” asked Emelie, running along at her side, trying to keep up with Catherine.

“Nothing, Emelie.” She released a ragged sigh. “I have had enough for today. Let us fetch our horses.”

“There you are, Catherine!”

Catherine turned to the sound of Galen’s voice. Relief washed through her. Galen’s presence would make it easier for her to control her wandering thoughts, so she did not object when he put his hands around her waist and drew her to him. Catherine felt Galen’s strong arms through his tunic as he held her close. She tensed with agitation, finding herself wondering if the merchant’s arms were as strong. She simply could not help but compare the two men - Galen so fair with his blond hair framing high, strong cheek bones, a slender nose and strong chin, serious eyes, and lips that promised passion; the merchant, with dark locks that flowed freely, softer, yet oh-so-masculine features, and laughing eyes that showed no trace of regret, sadness, or pain.

Galen held her at arm’s length and searched her face. “Catherine! Is anything amiss?”

He knew her only too well. She forced the thoughts of Jonathan back and mustered a smile.

“No, of course not, Galen.” She rested her forehead on his chest, hiding her face. “I merely wish to go home.”

He lifted her chin. His eyes narrowed with suspicion. “You are certain you are well? Has anyone upset you?”

The memory of Jonathan’s eyes hung in her mind as she looked back at Galen.

“Really, Galen, I am well,” she said, pushing herself from his arms. “I believe I have spent far more time in the sun than I should have.” Hooking her arm through Galen’s, she tugged him in the direction of the horses. “I have arranged for my purchase to be delivered to the castle, so we need not dally here any longer.”

“But I am here now. I will fetch your goods myself.”

“No!” she said quickly.

Galen’s raised eyebrows invited an explanation from her.

She thought quickly. Had he any knowledge that another man filled her senses the way Jonathan had, he would put an end to it. It would take but one word from her and Galen would see to it that the merchant maintained a fair distance from her, but no such hint passed her lips.

“Emelie will fetch it.” She turned to her maid and gestured in the direction of the ships. “Quickly, Emelie,” she hissed.

“Wait but a moment, Emelie.” Galen turned to Catherine. His words were deliberate and measured. “I shall accompany Emelie to make certain that your purchase is handled properly. These merchants cannot always be trusted.”

Catherine’s mouth went dry as she squirmed under his gaze. She knew that her eyes, nay, her entire body, was betraying her. The heat in the air was palpable as a bead of sweat trickled agonizingly down her spine. It helped her not that Emelie’s own face had gone pale, her lips pressed into a thin line.

“Aye, that would be best,” Catherine whispered.

“I pray you wait for us here, then,” Galen said.

He looked at her a moment longer before turning and motioning for Emelie to lead the way.

Catherine could not still the frantic beating of her heart as she made her way to her horse. She would not wait. She could not face Galen until she could once again gather her wits. Feeling like a coward, Catherine mounted her horse and spurred the mare homeward, anxious to once again be safe within the castle walls.

My Thoughts:

I found "Again" to be an enjoyable read. It held my interest and with the 2 stories running parallel, made it one where I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know what happened next in both "worlds".

Eryn's story takes place in the present. She struggles to work for her marriage and yet has a nagging feeling that something (or should I say someone) else is out there waiting for her. It all started with a dream, and yet, to consider a love so powerful that it would carry through time... could it be real?

Catherine lives in the 1500's and knows that she is to wed soon. Her 18th summer is coming and she will be required to chose a husband. Although she is expected to wed Galen, her lifelong friend, when she meets Johnathan, she knows that she has met the man for her. She outclasses Johnathan and marriage would be forbidden, but can that stop them?

I liked both Catherine and Eryn and adored Johnathan. I found this book to be a great romance with a fascinating twist.

**Parental note** Book contains some objectionable language and descriptive sex scenes.

If you would like to read more stories from Diana, you can visit her author page at Smashwords. There you will find 2 free short stories that you can either read online or download to your e-reader. You will also be able to purchase "Again" in e-book format from there as well. You can also purchase Diana's book in either Kindle or paperback from Amazon or paperback format from Lulu.

About the Author:

Diana Murdock grew up in Southern California, and just recently transplanted her roots in the mountains of Northern Idaho. A sharp contrast from the busy freeways of Los Angeles, she welcomes the serenity that the mountains and lakes offer. She shares her days with her husband, a professional photographer, two dynamic boys, ages 15 and 11, and two dogs, a Labrador and an Australian Shepard.

Diana began writing in her childhood, writing mostly poems and short stories. She started her first novel about eight years ago, but still chose to put her family before her writing. As the boys got older and more independent, she decided to buckle down and complete her novel. With the completion of Again, it opened the gates for more story ideas. She is currently working on her second novel, a young adult paranormal, with a women’s fiction, a children’s book, and a young adult fantasy lined up and ready to go.

The first two chapters of "Again" are copyright by Diana Murdock and were used with her permission. 

E-book was supplied by the author through the Library Thing Member Giveaway program for me to honestly review.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Diana Murdock- Author Interview

Diana Murdock, author of "Again" is back today with an interesting interview. If you missed yesterday's post, make sure to check it out, as Diana shared a great guest post about a family outing. Be sure to stop back tomorrow when we have a look at her new novel, and I post my review.

I met Diana on the Library Thing boards after I had won a copy of her book from the Library Thing Member Giveaway. She was there answering questions about her book, so after reading some of her answers, I approached her and asked if she'd be interested in posting a few things for us. Diana is an exceptionally easy person to work with! I'm so very pleased that she had agreed to do this interview.

Tell us about yourself.
I'm a mother of two incredible boys who push me to be a better person all the time. I grew up in California and have been living in Northern Idaho for the last four years. I've been writing for a long time, but it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I got serious about my writing. I wanted to show the boys that it is so important to go after our dreams and not give up.

In one sentence, describe "Again."
The heart of the novel is the concept that unresolved issues in one’s past life can have a far-reaching emotional impact on one’s current life and that true love, it seems, can follow us from one century to another.

What inspired you to write this novel?
I had a dream - the same dream I used in the opening chapter. It was so vivid and so real, I woke up the next morning and wrote it down. The story developed in my mind when I took my runs on the beach every day. I've studied reincarnation for a long time and so it just took its natural course from there.

Who or what was your biggest influence in your decision to become a writer?
I don't think I ever had a choice. As a child I wrote a lot. Mostly poetry. I seemed to have a lot of pent up emotions when I was growing up, so that was my outlet. I have always loved the way words can be linked together to evoke an emotional response or to conjure up a mental image.

If you could spend one day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I can think of two people, actually. One would be Michael Jackson. He was such a talented person and I would imagine pretty complex with a lot of layers that probably no one ever fully understood. Another choice would be Diana Gabaldon. I'd like to poke around in her head and pick up a few writing tips from her! She is an incredible writer.

I know some authors have strange rituals when they write. Some have to have a certain food, lock themselves in a room, only work at night, etc. What's yours?
I have to have complete silence to be able to step into the characters' shoes and walk their walk. I like to work in the early, early morning, at about 4:00 a.m. That is when I'm rested and it's still quiet. Once in awhile I'll put on some mood music to fine tune the details. When I'm feeling stuck, I like to munch on something crunchy. Pretzels or cereal work well for that.

How does writing work with family life?
It really doesn't. That's why I work in the mornings. Once the family - dogs included - catch sight of me, I'm fair game. Sometimes I have to go into the bedroom and lock the door because just a door that is shut isn't enough.

What things do you enjoy doing when you aren't writing?
I like being outdoors. I love to mountain bike, run, hike, go hang out at the lake, gardening. I also like to do anything creative. Eventually I’d like to learn to play the piano and the violin.

Would you share one thing most people don't know about you?
I'm a tree-hugger, I meditate every morning, and I am a health fanatic. But when confronted with an old-fashioned buttermilk donut….yikes. I usually give in.

Tell us about your next project.
I am about halfway done with my next novel, a young adult paranormal. I wanted to write a book that my boys would enjoy. So far it's been a lot of fun. The characters are really taking over. I still have a lot of research to do, but I'm looking forward to that part of it. I am also co-writing a women's fiction with a writer-friend of mine. That novel, I believe, will hit home for a lot of women. I have big plans for both of them.

Thank you so very much for your time, Diana!! I had a really great time working with you and I'm really looking forward to this next novel! It sound exciting and something a bit different since most YA paranormal novels seem to be geared towards girls.

If you would like to read more stories from Diana, you can visit her author page at Smashwords. There you will find 2 free short stories that you can either read online or download to your e-reader. You will also be able to purchase "Again" in e-book format from there as well.

About the Author:

Diana Murdock grew up in Southern California, and just recently transplanted her roots in the mountains of Northern Idaho. A sharp contrast from the busy freeways of Los Angeles, she welcomes the serenity that the mountains and lakes offer. She shares her days with her husband, a professional photographer, two dynamic boys, ages 15 and 11, and two dogs, a Labrador and an Australian Shepard.

Diana began writing in her childhood, writing mostly poems and short stories. She started her first novel about eight years ago, but still chose to put her family before her writing. As the boys got older and more independent, she decided to buckle down and complete her novel. With the completion of Again, it opened the gates for more story ideas. She is currently working on her second novel, a young adult paranormal, with a women’s fiction, a children’s book, and a young adult fantasy lined up and ready to go.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Author Spotlight: Diana Murdock

 I'm very excited to be able to introduce to you a new author, Diana Murdock! She will be with us for the next three days. Today you will get to know her through her guest post. Tomorrow, she will be back with an interview, and on Wednesday, we'll finish up with a look at her new book, "Again" including a sneak peek and my thoughts on the book. Diana has been a great person to work with, and I'm sure you are going to enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.

It was all so perfect…the qualifications, the opportunity, and most importantly, the timing.

We were offered a chance to audition for a commercial. Not just a local spot, but nationwide. Big brand. They were looking for a family of four with children approximately the same ages as my two boys, so I went ahead and attached our photos to the email and clicked the send button.

Every once in awhile I get notifications of auditions, but for the most part I pass on them, choosing to stay close to home. I need routine around here with all the comings and goings, because it helps to keep my writing on track.

But this opportunity was different. It wasn’t just about me anymore. It was for all of us. Too many months pass us by without the opportunity for the family to do something together, and sadly enough, we had fallen into a slump…again. So, this was the ultimate family experience - fame (sort of) and fortune (a nice paycheck would come with it).

Two days later I received the email that our family had been chosen to go to Seattle for the actual audition. I’m certain our whoops of excitement woke up the neighborhood. A thrill of excitement grabbed hold of me before I could think. In hindsight, I am glad for that. Had I thought about it, I would have probably come up with a hundred reasons not to do it. It would interfere with my day job, my writing, the kid’s school, and my husband’s work. Then we had to think of the dogs, the cost of travel, and the wear and tear on the car. But at the time I had total tunnel vision, thinking only of the fun.

My husband, forever the pessimist, pointed out the flaws in my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach to the matter and I, being the hopeless optimist, shot down his arguments. So, we packed up the dogs, booked a hotel, and the next night began the 350-mile drive to Seattle, Washington.

The audition itself took about one minute and then it was over. So then what? Since we had paid for two hours of parking, we decided to do some quick looking around before heading home. The activity, the people, the outdoor marketplace was incredible - such a contrast to the slower pace of our small town at home. Unfortunately, it ended all too soon, leaving us with a yearning to do it all over again.

I hadn’t realized how badly we all needed that break in the routine. After we got home, I was able to jump back into writing with a fresh mind, with new ideas that had been spinning in my head on the drive home. My boys got to play hooky from school for one day and had a great story to tell their friends.

Routine can be comforting until, though, it turns into stagnation, and I fear that is where we were headed.

We still don’t know for sure the outcome of the audition, but whatever it is, I’m grateful for what it gave us. Yeah, I think we’ll have to take another road trip - really, really soon.

About the Author:

Diana Murdock grew up in Southern California, and just recently transplanted her roots in the mountains of Northern Idaho. A sharp contrast from the busy freeways of Los Angeles, she welcomes the serenity that the mountains and lakes offer. She shares her days with her husband, a professional photographer, two dynamic boys, ages 15 and 11, and two dogs, a Labrador and an Australian Shepard.

Diana began writing in her childhood, writing mostly poems and short stories. She started her first novel about eight years ago, but still chose to put her family before her writing. As the boys got older and more independent, she decided to buckle down and complete her novel. With the completion of Again, it opened the gates for more story ideas. She is currently working on her second novel, a young adult paranormal, with a women’s fiction, a children’s book, and a young adult fantasy lined up and ready to go.

Friday, September 24, 2010

"It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know" by Rachel Olsen

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:

It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Groupfor sending me a review copy.***


Rachel Olsen is a writer, editor, and speaker on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of their online devotions, “Encouragement for Today,” with a readership of more than 375,000. She also writes for and serves on the editorial board of the P31 Woman magazine. Olsen is a national women’s speaker who enjoys interacting with audiences at women’s retreats and conferences from coast to coast.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765377
ISBN-13: 978-1434765376


Always RSVP

Revealing the Secret to Responding to God

Everyone has a story. Everyone chooses to ignore God, (re)define God, or search for God and respond to Him as He truly is. I’ve done all three.

When I was growing up, my family attended church in a brown brick building with stained-glass windows and bright red carpet. The sanctuary smelled faintly of wood. I’m surprised I remember the smell; we weren’t there often—a few times a year.

I don’t remember much about going to church other than feel­ing embarrassed by my mother’s singing. We rarely went, but each time we did Mom sat us front and center, and then she sang as loudly as she could. She sang with passion, but she couldn’t carry a tune with a U-Haul. Being from the South I’m required to follow that criticism with “bless her heart.” (So let it be noted here that I blessed my momma’s can’t-sing-a-lick heart.)26 It’s No Secret

I listened to the pastor’s sermons, but I didn’t understand much about the subject matter. From what I could gather, God was good and He didn’t do bad things. So I concluded that if I wanted God to like me I, too, needed to be good and not do anything bad. Being a proper Southern girl, I very much wanted God to like me.

I thought believing in God and trying to do the right thing was what church was all about. I didn’t realize that—because Jesus lived, died, and rose—I could have a dynamic relationship with the God of the universe and He would delight in empowering me to live well. Instead, I assumed it took willpower. Like a diet or a marathon.

Glimpses of Revelation

When I was twelve, my mother called me into her room and patted the edge of the bed. I sat down beside her. With an unsettled look on her face, she revealed she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. The room started to spin, splintering my carefree world within its centrifugal force.

She explained something about cells and masts. Then she braced me for the likelihood that the treatments would cause her hair to fall out. That did it. I ran from the room crying inconsolably. My momma, sick, without her pretty auburn hair? It was too much for a tweenager to take in. I might have been only twelve at the time, but I understood the importance of big hair to Southern women.

During the months of cancer treatments that followed we went to church more often. About this time our church employed a new minister, and I really liked him. I understood more of his sermons, perhaps because I was desperate, or maybe because I was growing Always RSVP 27

up. All I know is I sensed something stirring in a dormant chamber of my heart.

I asked Mom to buy me a Bible; she did. I sat on the floor one Saturday, sunlight streaming through my window, and read through Genesis. (OK, I might have skimmed a little bit.) Then I skipped to the middle—because I’d never read a book this long—and read through Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke. Then I skipped to Revelation to find out how the book ended.

I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in Revelation, but it isn’t exactly light reading material. Challenging concepts make it difficult to grasp, especially for a clueless tween with no decoder ring. I closed the book, remembering the stories about Jesus. He lived doing good, which reconfirmed my notion that I had to be good and do good to make heaven’s invitation list. I’d finally made a Jesus-sighting, but I was still missing His point. I didn’t hear His message of mercy.

I set out to be and do good. I unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. I invited less-popular kids to sit at my lunch table. I even said “yes ma’am,” and “no sir” to my teachers. But inevitably something would happen to throw me off my good game. Someone would insult me, something would depress me, or some boy would pass a note my way.

After a year or so of mastectomy recovery and radiation treat­ments, my mother’s cancer went into remission. Things returned to normal around our home. Sadly, the preacher I liked so well left to pastor another church, and my interest in the things of God faded as my interest in the things of my peers grew. I didn’t give God much thought during my high school years, preferring to focus on fashion, sports, boys, and music.28 It’s No Secret

Halfway through my freshman year of college, my brother called to tell me Mom had again been diagnosed with cancer. This time, it was a brain tumor. His words sank into my own brain, creating a mass of stress and fret.

One night, I lay alone in my dorm room trying to sleep when I thought I saw Jesus standing in the corner. He didn’t say anything; He just looked at me, His arms extended toward me. He looked just as He did in the statues you see in old churches—long brown hair and white flowing robe. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or hallucinat­ing, but I decided it meant that my mom was going to be OK.

Turned out, the tumor was inoperable. The doctors resorted to chemotherapy and radiation, but I could tell they didn’t think it’d work. I spent my spring semester driving the two hours back and forth between college and home. By exam week I was sick with a sinus infec­tion, probably stress-induced. I’d take an exam, drag myself back to my room and sleep, then stagger—coughing and sniffling—to the next test. At the end of the week, I lugged myself home.

Hope Deferred

That Sunday, Mother’s Day, I visited Mom at the cancer center, determined to keep a smile on my face and do my best to cheer her up. I didn’t want her worrying about me. I purchased a sweet card and wrote, “Thank you for being my mom.” When I arrived, the nurse told me I couldn’t enter her room because I was sick.

I still remember the sterile feeling of the cold, hard floor in the hall outside her room, where I sat and cried. But it’s Mother’s Day, my mind protested between sobs, but she’s dying anyway…. Even today, the memory stings my eyes with tears.Always RSVP 29

A few days later I was better, but Mom had worsened. She came home from the cancer center with hospice care. A couple days after that, she couldn’t respond to me beyond raising her eyebrows at the sound of my voice. Panic set in as I realized I was losing contact. She was sliding away, and I was powerless to stop the inevitable.

Later that evening, my dad and I went out to grab dinner, leav­ing Mom under my grandmother’s watch. As we returned, I spotted a police car parked out front—and I knew. I ran to the bedroom to find my beautiful, vibrant mom lying lifeless.

She was gone. I was seventeen.

That night my life passed before me. Not my history with my mom, but my future without her. Where my prospects once looked promisingly bright, I now saw a haze of uncertainty.

I cried on the shoulder of a family friend. Gasping for breath and wiping away tears, I questioned, “What will I do when it comes time to graduate and my mom isn’t there to pin on my cap and clap? Or when I set out on my own and I don’t have my mom to advise me? What happens when I get married, and have babies, and I don’t have a mom to help me?”

Placing her hands on my trembling shoulders, she stared into my moist eyes. “When those times come, Rachel, God will make sure you are taken care of.” She spoke the words with enough cer­tainty that I resolved to believe her.

Filing that promise away in my heart, I held on to the hope that God would somehow become a mother to me. I had nothing else to cling to. My dad and brothers argued over Mom’s will, then went their separate ways. I didn’t just lose my mom; I lost my whole family that May.30 It’s No Secret

Coming Undone

In the fall I headed back to college, where I majored in journalism. I spent weekends trying to drown my sorrows at fraternity parties. I recall stumbling home one evening and walking into my closet, where I caught sight of one of my mom’s sweaters. My knees buckled beneath me as heavy sobs ensued. I realized the party life wasn’t fixing anything; it was an insufficient distraction. But I didn’t know how else to find relief.

My junior year I met a corduroy-clad young professor with uncommon wisdom and peace. He taught two of my classes, sched­uled back-to-back. As the weather turned cool and leaves crunched underfoot, we’d walk across campus together from one class to the other. I learned he was a Christian. He felt like a safe place. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that way around anybody.

I found myself telling him about my mom, my fractured family, and my uneasiness about the future. I asked him questions about his faith. He answered convincingly, and when the semester ended, he invited me to his church.

Inside that prefab metal building I witnessed vibrancy. Those people possessed hope, joy, and peace, all of which I coveted. I learned about Jesus and how His shed blood washes away my sin and unites me with God—even though I don’t deserve such kindness.

I discovered God doesn’t just want me to be good, He wants me to be in Him—hand in hand, heart to heart. I realized it isn’t just a matter of willpower and proper performance He’s after, but a grow­ing relationship through which He’ll shoulder most of the burden to make me vibrant. Yahweh so desires that I bear His image, I learned, He will transform me into His likeness through His Spirit. He can Always RSVP 31

make the most tarnished Southern belle glorious. In fact, in Him my purpose is found and fulfilled. In coming to Him I’d become a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a bride. All in Him, and all to Him.

After attending church two Sundays, I responded to this divine truth. I walked to the front, acknowledged my need for Jesus, and handed Him the jumbled mess of my broken heart. I asked Him to forgive me, clear the haze, and untangle my knotted-up hopes and dreams.

Inside a priceless decoder ring, God inscribed my initials with an eternal beam of light. In the instant I responded to Christ’s call, I became a beloved daughter of the Most High God and a member of His Yahweh Sisterhood.

The Favor of a Reply Is Requested

You and I need a jeweler’s loupe of sorts to see the secrets Yahweh wants to reveal to us—indeed to see Yahweh Himself. Our basic eye­sight needs some spiritual amplification. We need a divine ointment to anoint our eyes for the task.

Remember that Greek word musterion, meaning a sacred secret revealed by God? Its root word is muo, which means locked up or shut, as in eyes that are closed. In Revelation 3:17–18 Jesus told the people of the church at Laodicea that, although they didn’t realize it, they were spiritually blind. Their eyes were locked shut and could not see God. They were neither seeing nor responding. Jesus counseled them, “Buy from me … salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (v. 18 ESV). Jesus affords us the ability to see, hear, understand, and respond to God. Only Jesus can provide that divine salve we need.32 It’s No Secret

In Matthew 5, we find Jesus perched on the side of a moun­tain near the ancient city of Capernaum to preach. Massive crowds gathered to watch and hear what He had to say. Some in the crowd followed Jesus; they had already opened themselves to His teach­ing. Others desperately sought a miracle or healing. A few counted themselves Jesus’ enemies. Others showed up out of curiosity. They’d heard the rumors and came to decide for themselves if Jesus was a fake, a prophet, or a Savior.

Jesus gazed across the mountainside at the congregation of people. Many eyed Him skeptically, wondering if they would see something that proved a connection to God. He told them, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8 NIV). A pure heart; an authentic heart; a humble, believing heart open to Jesus’ teaching—that’s the currency that buys the salve to allow our eyes to see God. That’s what enables us to respond to God. Lacking it, many heard Jesus’ words without understanding Him or watched His moves without realizing they were staring into the face of Yahweh.

God’s gals understand that only Jesus can open the eyes of a woman’s heart, cleansing them pure enough to see and respond to Yahweh. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Did you catch the secret Jesus reveals here? He said He’s the only way to God, the full embodiment of truth, and the only source of vibrant, lasting life. Jesus is the way we want to go, the truth we need to know, and the eternal life that we crave. You just can’t get to God without going through Jesus. Jesus is our way to God, and God’s way to us.

Jesus is who God wants us to respond to.Always RSVP 33

All religions do not lead to heaven, despite popular opin­ion (John 3:3). God is wise beyond wise and has a purpose for everything He does, and He designed salvation in such a way that believing in God is not sufficient. We must also believe in His Son, who ushers us to Yahweh and shows us how to live His way.

So our membership in the Yahweh Sisterhood—our becoming a daughter of God—happens at Christ’s invitation to follow Him. You cannot buy, earn, or bluff your way in. You must be invited—and you have been. God’s own hand addressed your invitation some two thousand years ago, at the desk of the cross, on the parchment of Christ’s body, in the ink of His blood.

Have you RSVP’d?

A year of high school French enables me to inform you RSVP stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît.” It means “please respond” … don’t put it off … don’t wait and see … say you’ll join me!

If you’ve never responded to Jesus’ invitation to come to God through Him, now is the time. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t put it off until you get your act together—RSVP right now through prayer. Receive the gift of forgiveness offered through Jesus, and ask God to take charge of your life and future. Receive your divine decoder ring. Tomorrow may be too late. Be Jesus’ guest today.

Guest List

In Jesus’ day, a person throwing a soiree sent out servants to issue invitations to the guests and gather their responses. Invitations noted the day of the gathering but not the hour. The hour depended on when everything was ready. 34 It’s No Secret

Once everything was ready on party day, servants again went out to call in the guests. Those who’d said they’d come were expected to be dressed, ready, and waiting that day. When the ser­vant knocked on their door, they were to head immediately for the banquet room.

This scenario mirrors what happens in the spiritual realm. God sent His Son and Servant Jesus to issue our invitation on the cross. Those who accept are born anew spiritually—then expected and empowered to live in such a way that they are ready for the day Jesus will return, calling us to God’s heavenly banqueting table.

Though we don’t know the day or the hour, we will be ushered to a great wedding feast, the marriage banquet for Jesus and His bride. Jesus’ bride is the church, meaning you and me—all who have RSVP’d to His invitation.

I read about this feast in the book of Revelation that day in my room. What I couldn’t grasp fully back then now sets my heart aflutter in a way that nothing else can. I am loved, chosen, adopted, prepared, and betrothed—to the King of Glory. You are too! The wildest thing about this Yahweh Sisterhood? We’re all engaged to the same Man—Jesus—yet no one seems to mind.

You and I must RSVP and ready ourselves for our heavenly wed­ding day. The rest of the divine secrets in this book will purify and prepare us to take our Groom’s hand as He replaces our decoder ring with a wedding band. I don’t want to miss it. Nor do I want to get there and find myself underdressed and unprepared.

Understanding and responding to the twelve divine secrets that follow—internalizing and enacting them—will keep us dressed Always RSVP 35

and ready for the future party. While simply responding to the cross secures our seat at the grand banqueting table, keeping these secrets assures us that our heavenly Groom will look on us with utter delight.

My fellow belles, have you saved the date? Because a wedding feast looms on the celestial calendar. It’s part of your story. And savvy Yahweh Sisters are always dressed and ready for a party!

A Garden Wedding

Twenty days after I graduated college, I had my own wedding feast. I married that young professor, Southern style, in a garden surrounded by azalea bushes in full bloom, three-hundred-year-old oaks drip­ping with Spanish moss, and swans swimming on the lake behind. It was gorgeous.

God not only adopted this lonely girl into His heavenly family, He placed me into Rick’s earthly family. He presented me with three sisters-in-law and countless Sisters-in-Christ. I learned the truthful relevance of Psalm 68; it became the story of my life:

Sing praises to God and to his name!Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.His name is the LORD—rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

God places the lonely in families;he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. (Ps. 68:4–6) 36 It’s No Secret

He’s a Father to the fatherless, and I can testify He’s a mother to the motherless as well. God has guided me, protected me, com­forted me, taught me, and provided for me. He also untangled my hopes and fears and brought me the joyful desires of my heart.

So now you’ll find me in church each week, singing praises to Yahweh and His great name. Oh, and I sing rather quietly when I praise Him in public. It’s not that I’m not extremely thankful—I am. It’s not that I don’t like to sing—I do. And it has nothing to do with embarrassing memories from my church past in that brown brick building with the red carpet.

Truth is, I sing every stinkin’ bit as off-key as my momma did.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Sisters stick together, right?

But you can go ahead and bless my heart over that vocal deficit. I need all the help I can get.


1. Check out this parable Jesus told about a man throwing a feast:

A man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this illustration: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, Always RSVP 37

he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was angry and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.’” (Luke 14:15–24)

What struck you when the people in Jesus’ story made excuses for not being prepared to attend? List the things that preoccupied them.38 It’s No Secret

What excuses do you make for not responding to Christ, or not living “dressed and ready”?

2. Read about the coming wedding feast in Revelation 19:6–10. What does it say about the bride (you) and her wedding dress?

3. Next time you throw a bash at your plantation, Jesus offers this advice for planning the guest list:

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” (Luke 14:12–14)

That’s precisely what God did when He created the Yahweh Sisterhood. He sent out invitations welcoming every one of us to His supper club. The glass slipper fits each gal here. Everyone gets the rose. The King of Glory doesn’t require Always RSVP 39

designer gowns or shiny black limos for us to dine with Him. What a relief!

In the space below, write a thank-you note to your King.

Dear Jesus,


My Thoughts

I really enjoyed Rachel Olsen's writing style. It's engaging and makes you feel like she's having a personal conversation with you. A nice "girl talk" type of conversation. This book is very readable and easy to understand.

Doctrinally, though, I had problems. The doctrine I was taught was different than the way it is taught here. For example, Ms. Olsen states WE are the Bride of Christ. I was taught that the Bride in Revelation is the city and that Israel is the Bride. That's quite a difference. Because of this reason, I won't comment on the lessons. What I will say is that the book is nicely laid out, there are questions for a Bible study at the end of each chapter and Ms. Olsen is a wonderful and engaging writer.

This book uses the New Living Translation unless otherwise quoted.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Jazz, Java & Jesus" by Aleysha R. Proctor - Blog Tour & Review

Jazz, Java & Jesus: Christian Devotions to Soothe Your Soul
Author: Aleysha R. Proctor
Publisher: Xlibris
ISBN: 9781441574350
Genre: Christian, nonfiction, devotional, studies

About the Book

Twenty-four Christian devotions and puzzles about jazz, java and Jesus. The perfect book to take to a coffee or tea house, or anywhere, and meditate on the promises of God.

PODCAST 1 - About the Book

MP3 File

PODCAST 2 - For Readers

MP3 File

PODCAST 3 - Excerpt

MP3 File

My Thoughts:

With a catchy name like "Jazz, Java & Jesus", how can one not resist picking this book up? Because of that title, I decided to have a look at this book. I'm not a big one for devotionals - they seem all "fluff" and a quick thought of just getting that Bible reading in for the day with no real substance. Yes, I'm a real hard sell when it comes to this category of book.

"Jazz, Java & Jesus", although listed as a devotional, is so much more. I found Ms. Proctor's writing style engaging and personal. She starts with a forward that explains how the title of the book came about, and then settles down to deliver a nice message with each entry. Each entry is thought provoking with quite a bit of scripture, and will start you off to want to continue on studying your Bible. At the end of each section is a place for notes - a very nice addition to the book!! One of my favorite sections concentrates on the names of Jesus and I'm planning on spending a lot of time on that section. Another nice bonus are the puzzles at the end of the book. Unfortunately, the printer didn't do as good of a job on them as I'd like to see. They are a bit fuzzy and not crisp like the print in the rest of the book and look more like they had inserted a scan.

This is a wonderful book and I will be using it a lot in the future. Unlike other devotionals that I've tried that sit around on my shelf collecting dust, this one will be written in, creased, and will probably find a coffee stain or two before I'm done using it.

Note: I cannot find what version is used for scripture - nothing is noted. I only found a couple of places where a credit to a particular version is used. I have compared this to my King James Bible, and the scripture wording is different.

About the Author:

Aleysha Proctor is an award winning Christian inspirational author & entrepreneur. She’s the author of three books; “With Style & Amazing Grace”, “He’s the Keeper of My Soul” and “Jazz, Java & Jesus”. Her passion in life is helping to inspire people to use their potential now. To learn more about Aleysha, you can visit her online at

Purchase the Book Online at:

• Amazon -

• BarnesandNoble –

• Books A Million –

For More Information

View the blog tour schedule at

I received a copy of this book from Tywebbin Creations LLC for me to honestly review.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday

Psalm 92:1
Colorful Inspirational Bible Verses

See more WFW at
Internet Cafe Devotions

A Very Private Grave (Book 1: The Monastery Murders) by Donna Fletcher Crow

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:

A Very Private Grave (Book 1: The Monastery Murders)

Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Donna Fletcher Crow for sending me a review copy.***


Donna Fletcher Crow is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, primarily novels dealing with British history.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1854249681
ISBN-13: 978-1854249685


Felicity flung her history book against the wall. She wasn’t studying for the priesthood to learn about ancient saints. She wanted to bring justice to this screwed-up world. Children were starving in Africa, war was ravaging the Middle East, women everywhere were treated as inferiors. Even here in England—

She stopped her internal rant when she realized the crash of her book had obscured the knock at her door. Reluctantly she picked up the book, noting with satisfaction the smudge it had left on the wall, and went into the hall. Her groan wasn’t entirely internal when she made out the black cassock and grey scapular of her caller through the glass panel of the door. She couldn’t have been in less of a mood to see one of the long-faced monks who ran the College of the Transfiguration which she had chosen to attend in a moment of temporary insanity. She jerked the door open with a bang.

“Father Dominic!” Felicity was immediately sorry for her surly mood. Fr. Dominic was an entirely different matter. She was always happy to see him. “I didn’t realize you were back from your pilgrimage.” She held the door wide for him as he limped down the hall to her living room.

“Just returned, my dear. Just returned.” As he spoke he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes that belied his 85 years, but he couldn’t quite suppress a small sigh as he lowered himself stiffly onto her sofa.

“I’ll put the kettle on.” Felicity turned toward her small kitchen. “I’m so sorry I don’t have any scones.”

“No, no. Just tea today— black.”

She looked at him, puzzled for a moment, then remembered. Oh, yes— today was Ash Wednesday. Solemn fast and all that. Felicity mentally rolled her eyes as she filled the kettle with water and clicked it on.

A few minutes later she filled his cup with a steaming, amber stream of his favorite Yorkshire Gold tea. The Community had a year or two ago started serving a cheaper blend of tea and donating the money saved thereby to the African Children’s Fund Fr. Dominic chaired— a worthy cause, but the tea was dreadful.

He raised his cup, “Oh, who could ask for more? The nectar of the gods.” Still, she knew he was missing her scones for which he sometimes provided little jars of quince jam from the community kitchen. And at Christmas he had brought her favorite— slices of dark, rich fruit cake encased in marzipan an inch thick.

And yet today she wondered if he noticed what he was or wasn’t eating at all, he was so animated with his plans for the major funding drive the Children’s Fund was set to launch. “If one puts together abortion, infant mortality, AIDS and traumatic deaths, South Africa’s daily death toll is appalling. Thousands die in a matter of months. If this were a war, such troop causalities would not be acceptable. The entire future of that nation— the whole continent, really— is at stake. They simply cannot afford to lose so many of their people— especially the children who are the future. If you don’t maintain health and keep order, instability, violence and poverty tear a country apart.”

Felicity nodded vigorously. Yes, this was more like it. This was what she wanted to hear about, not some useless church history nonsense. Fr. Dominic had spent his life working in South Africa, and today his passion made every word strike her heart. “And it isn’t just South Africa, the rest of the continent looks to them— to us— for stability. If South Africa fails, millions of Africans will curse us— we who stand by and let it happen.”

Still, there was hope, Dominic had talked to key people while on pilgrimage and had secured a source for a vast amount for the fund, although he didn't say what that source was. “This will be enough to build a first rate hospital for AIDS babies in Africa and fund a research wing for prevention and cure. There are good leaders in the government. There are people working for justice. If we can just give the people hope to hold on— "

His eyes took on a dreamy look and a little smile played around his mouth. "Hope. That’s what it’s always been about. Through the centuries . . . At last, the treasure to be put to a truly worthy use. . ." He ducked his head and took a quick sip of tea. “Forgive me, I’ve said too much.” He became suddenly thoughtful and lapsed into a most uncharacteristic silence. All Felicity’s best efforts couldn’t coax any more stories from him. Perhaps it was just the solemnity of the day, but Felicity did miss his stories— even the ones she had heard multiple times.

He drained his cup and set it down. “Ah, thank you my dear. Always a pleasure to be in your bright company. But now I must be getting back up the hill. Father Superior has asked me to do the ashing at mass, so I must prepare.” He struggled to his feet, his broad-shouldered, once-muscular frame revealing gauntness under the weight of his black woolen cassock, as did the folds of flesh that hung beneath his square jaw.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” he patted the canvas scrip which hung at his side from a strap slung across his chest. “I thought this might interest you.” He held out a small parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied up with old-fashioned string. His hand shook ever so slightly as Felicity took it from him. The gesture was so endearing: his shyness charming; his eagerness humbling. If the circumstances had been vastly different he could have been a suitor offering jewels to his beloved, or perhaps in an earlier age a troubadour bestowing an ode to his lady. And oddly enough, Felicity had the distinct impression that he hadn’t at all forgotten, but rather that delivering this small package had been the sole object of his visit. One might almost say his mission.

Felicity couldn’t help herself. She stepped forward and kissed him on his cheek. “Thank you, Father.”

Unexpectedly he placed his hands on each side of her forehead. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.” She felt a warmth from his hands that infused her whole head and radiated toward her body as if she were being bathed in warm oil. She almost fancied a faint scent of spice as he made the sign of the cross over her.

Moving inside a bubble of hushed awe, she held the door for him and he walked out slowly, as if reluctant to leave, stepping carefully to avoid limping. “I’ll see you at mass, Father.”

She shut the door behind him and turned to the window to watch his slow progress down the uneven sidewalk, his grey scapular blowing in the wind. Somehow she wanted to call out to him, to cling to the moment, but already it was passing, the normality of the day moving in on a holy moment. Yet even as she turned away from the window, the warmth of his touch remained on her head. She turned back one last time, her hand held out to him, but no one was there. Only a fleeting shadow brushed the corner of her eye. She shivered, but when she blinked the sky was clear.

"Right. Back to the real world." Felicity spoke aloud to make herself focus. She looked longingly at the small brown package in her hand. It felt like a book. A very slim volume. Had Father D. found a publisher for his poetry? Her fingers plucked at the string. No. If this was a collection of her friend’s poetry perusing it must not be rushed. Reading it would be her treat when she finished the work she had set for herself for the day. Lectures had been cancelled to mark the solemnity, but essays would still be due when they were due. With a sigh she slipped the gift into one of the copious patch pockets of her skirt and returned to the tome on the Anglo-Saxon church Fr. Antony had assigned, forcing herself to concentrate on its obscure irrelevancies.

That had been the hardest thing she had found about adjusting to her first year at theological college— the constant pressure for work, the lack of time to pursue her own interests— and that in a monastery, even. You really would think, living with a bunch of monks and future priests you'd have all the time in the world. Felicity shook her head.

And besides that, there was no margin for error on her part. As one of only four women among the student body of forty-some— and the only American— Felicity felt a double burden to reach the highest standards possible. This was the first year the Anglo-Catholic College of the Transfiguration had accepted women as ordinands, although they were still housed off campus awaiting alterations to the dormitories. Before "the Great Change" a few women enrolled as students, but were not allowed equal status with the male ordinands. Last year, however, the college had submitted to the winds of change and the powers that be, so now the women had full status— and double pressure.

Felicity, however was never one to let such barriers discourage her. She could rise to any challenge and her determination to succeed in this male-dominated world knew no limits. Anyway, she had few complaints. She had been warmly welcomed— by most. A handful of ordinands and perhaps two or three of the monks or lay teachers were less warm— whether because she was female or because she was American she wasn’t sure.

Two hours later the insistent ringing of the community bell called her back from her reading just in time to fling a long black cassock on over her shetland sweater and dash across the street and up the hill to the Community grounds. Her long legs carried her the distance in under three minutes— she had timed it once. Once inside the high stone wall enclosing the Community she slowed her pace. It never failed. No matter how irritated she became with all the ancient ritual and nonsense of the place, there was something about the storybook quality of it all that got through to her in her quieter moments.

The spicy scent of incense met her at the door of the church. She dipped her finger in the bowl of holy water and turned to share it with the brother just behind her. Shy Br. Matthew extended a plump finger without meeting her eyes. They each crossed themselves and slipped into their seats in the choir.

“Miserere mei, Deus. . .” The choir and cantors had practiced for weeks to be able to sing Psalm 51 to the haunting melody composed by Allegri. The words ascended to the vaulted ceiling; the echoes reverberated. Candles flickered in the shadowed corners. She had been here for six months— long enough for the uniqueness of it all to have palled to boredom— but somehow there was a fascination she couldn't define. “Mystery,” the monks would tell her. And she could do no better.

What was the right term to describe how she was living? Counter-cultural existence? Alternate lifestyle? She pondered for a moment, then smiled. Parallel universe. That was it. She was definitely living in a parallel universe. The rest of the world was out there, going about its everyday life, with no idea that this world existed alongside of it.

It was a wonderful, cozy, secretive feeling as she thought of bankers and shopkeepers rushing home after a busy day, mothers preparing dinner for hungry school children, farmers milking their cows— all over this little green island the workaday world hummed along to the pace of modern life. And here she was on a verdant hillside in Yorkshire living a life hardly anyone knew even existed. Harry Potter. It was a very Harry Potter experience.

She forced her attention back to the penitential service with its weighty readings, somber plainchant responses, and minor key music set against purple vestments. Only when they came to the blessing of the ashes did she realize Fr. Dominic wasn’t in his usual place. Her disappointment was sharp. He had definitely said he was to do the imposition of the ashes and she had felt receiving the ashen cross on her forehead from that dear man would give the ancient ritual added meaning. Instead, Fr. Antony, one of the secular priests who lectured at the college, not even one of the monastic community, stood to hold the small pot of palm ashes while Fr. Anselm, the Superior of the Community, blessed them with holy water and incense.

Felicity knelt at the altar rail, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes were cold, a sooty mark of grief, gritty on her forehead.

“Amen,” she responded automatically.

She was back in her seat, turning ahead to the final hymn, “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” when she heard the soft slapping of sandals on the stone floor. Oh, there’s Fr. Dominic. She relaxed at the thought, putting away her worries that he had been taken suddenly ill. But her relief was short-lived when Fr. Clement, the Principal of the college, and Jonathan Breen, a scholar making a retreat at the monastery, slipped to the altar for their ashes.

The final notes of the postlude were still echoing high overhead when Felicity rose from her seat and hurried outside. Dinner, a vegetarian Lenten meal, would start in the refectory almost immediately and it wouldn’t do to be late. If she hurried, though, she could just dash back to her flat and pick up a book of Latin poetry for Fr. Dominic. She had a new volume of Horace, and she knew Fr. D loved the Roman's half Stoic, half Epicurean philosophy. He would have time to enjoy what he called his “guilty pleasure” while he recuperated from his indisposition.

She bounded up the single flight of stairs, flung open her door and came to a sudden halt. “Oh!” The cry was knocked from her like a punch in the stomach. She couldn’t believe it. She backed against the wall, closing her eyes in the hope that all would right itself when she opened them. It didn’t. The entire flat had been turned upside down.

Felicity stood frozen for perhaps a full minute, trying to take it all in: books pulled from shelves, drawers pulled from her desk, cushions flung from chairs. Hardly breathing, she rushed into her kitchen, bath, bedroom— all chaos— sheets and duvet ripped from her bed, clothes pulled from her wardrobe. She picked her way through scattered papers, dumped files, ripped letters. Dimly she registered that her computer and CD player were still there. Oh, and there was the Horace book still by her bed. She pulled her purse from under a pile of clothes. Empty. But its contents lay nearby. Credit cards and money still there.

Not robbery. So then, what? Why?

Was this an anti-women-clergy thing? Had she underestimated the extent of the resentment? Or was it an anti-American thing? The American president was widely unpopular in England. Had he done something to trigger an anti-American demonstration? Felicity would be the last to know. She never turned on the news.

Well, whatever it was, she would show them. If someone in the college thought they could scare her off by flinging a few books around she’d give them something new to think about. She stormed out, slamming her door hard enough to rattle the glass pane and strode up the hill at twice the speed she had run down it. Not for nothing her years of rigorous exercise at the ballet barre. When she reached the monastery grounds she keyed in the numbers on the security lock with angry jabs and barely waited for the high, black iron gates to swing open before she was speeding up the graveled walk.

Felicity's long blond braid thumped against her back as she charged onward, her mind seething. If those self-righteous prigs who posed as her fellow students thought they could put her off with some sophomoric trick—

She approached the college building, practicing the speech she would deliver to all assembled for dinner in the refectory: “Now listen up, you lot! If you think you can push me around just because your skirts are longer than mine. . .”

She punched a clenched-fist gesture toward her imaginary cassock-clad audience, then saw the Horace book still clutched in her hand. Oh, yes. First things first. She would have missed the opening prayer anyway. She would just run by Father D’s room— then she would tell them.

She hurried on up the path beyond the college to the monastery, ran her swipe card through the lock, and was halfway down the hall before the door clicked shut behind her. She had only been to Dominic’s room once before, to collect a poetry book he was anxious to share with her, but she would have had no trouble locating it, even had the door not been standing ajar.

She pushed it wider, preparing to step in. “Father D— ” she stopped at the sight of a man in a black cassock standing there praying. He jerked around at the sound of her voice and she recognized Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer.

She took a step backward when she saw the look of horror on his sheet-white face. “Felicity. Don’t come in.” He held up a hand to stop her and she saw it was covered with blood.

“Father D! Is he hemorrhaging?” She lunged forward, then stopped at the sight before her.

The whole room seemed covered in blood. Bright red splotches on the pristine white walls and bedding, on the open pages of a prayer book, on the statue of Our Lord, forming lurid stigmata on His hands extended in mercy. . .

And in the center of the floor, in a pool of red, his battered head all but unrecognizable— her beloved Father Dominic. The smell of fresh blood clogged her nostrils. Gorge rose in her throat.

“Felicity— ” Fr. Antony extended his reddened hands to her in a pleading gesture.

“No!” She screamed, wielding her Latin book as a shield against the blood, a red haze of shock and horror clouding her vision.

She couldn’t believe Antony's face could get even whiter. “Felicity, wait. Listen—”

She dimly registered his words, but the voice in her head shouted with far greater force. No! It can’t be. It's a mistake. She was in the wrong room. Must be. She shook her head against the nightmare she had seen yet couldn't accept that she had seen. Blackness rolled toward her.

She staggered backward into the hall and slumped to the floor as the room spun before her. She closed her eyes against the darkness as her mind reeled, groping for a coherent thought. How could this be?

Only a short time ago she had been reveling in the peace of this remote holy place. Where could such violence have come from? How was it possible here? In a place of prayer? To a holy man. Why?

If Fr. Dominic wasn't safe who could be?

And even as the questions tumbled, half-formed through her head, even as her mind denied the act her eyes saw, she knew she had to find an explanation. How could she continue studying— believing in— purpose and justice if such senseless irrationality reigned free?

Focusing on the questions gave her strength to get her feet under her again.

Antony was still standing dazed in the gore-splattered room looking as though he could collapse in the middle of the pool of blood. Felicity grabbed his arm, jerked him into the corridor, and shoved him against the wall where he stayed, leaning heavily. He held his hands before his face as if unbelieving they were his own. “When he missed mass I came to check on him. . . I felt for a pulse— ”

“We must get help!” Felicity looked wildly around.

“Yes, of course.” Her energy seemed to galvanize Antony. He pushed himself forward unsteadily. “Forgive me, I feel so stupid. It was the horror. I— we must tell the Superior. He’ll call the police.”

“Police? You mean an ambulance.” Felicity started toward the room again. Yes, that was it— how could she have dithered so when they must get help. “He’s lost so much blood, but maybe—”

“No!” Antony gripped her shoulder with more strength than she realized he was capable of. “Don’t go in there again, Felicity. It’s useless.”

She knew. She had seen the blood.

My Thoughts:

I adore mysteries, especially those that take place in the present but all the clues are centered around the past. "A Very Private Grave" is one of those mysteries! It had me spellbound from the very first page. Centered around church history, Ms. Crow spins a tale of a young American who is one of the few females that is studying at a monastery in England. Her dearest friend is murdered, and the clues left behind take us into the past to focus on St. Cuthbert.

The travels, the red herrings, the history... all combined to make this a most delicious book to read. Don't expect to figure this one out quickly - it will have you guessing all the way to the end. "A Very Private Grave" is book one of the Monastery Murders Series and sets up the series nicely. I'm looking forward to the second book "A Darkly Hidden Truth". This is definitely a series I don't want to miss!

This is the first book I've read by Donna Fletcher Crow, and certainly won't be the last. According to the back of the book, she is the author of more than 35 novels - so how did I miss such an amazing author?! She has made my MUST read author list.