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Friday, January 31, 2014

Litfuse Publicity Book Tours Presents: The Calling (Inn at Eagle Hill #2) by Suzanne Woods Fisher




TheCalling

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Two grand prize winners will receive:
  • An iPad
  • The Letters and The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Four second place winners will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX or a Nook HD—winner’s choice!
  • The Letters and The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 8th. All winners will be announced February 10th at Suzanne’s blog.

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Suzanne’s blog on the 10th to see if you won one of the great prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Book Two in the Inn at Eagle Hill series.
Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher delivers her trademark twists, turns, and tender romance in this delightful and exciting visit to the deceptively quiet community of Stoney Ridge.
Twenty-year-old Bethany Schrock is restless. Her love life has derailed, her faith hangs by a thread, and she is spending the incredibly hot summer days wading through a lifetime’s accumulation of junk at the home of five ancient Amish sisters. About the only thing that holds her interest is the spirited and dangerously handsome Jimmy Fisher–and he seems bent on irritating her to no end.
When the sly old sisters and a guest at the Inn get Bethany involved in running the local soup kitchen and starting a community garden, she suddenly finds herself wondering, Shootfire! How did that happen? Despite her newfound purposefulness, a gnawing emptiness about a childhood mystery continues to plague her. Encouraged by Jimmy Fisher, she will seek out the answers she craves–and uncover a shocking secret that will break her heart, heal it, and point her to love.


Purchase a copy here.
Read an excerpt.
Learn more at Suzanne’s website.


About The Author



Suzanne Woods FisherSuzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Inn at Eagle Hill series, Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including “Amish Peace.” She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit suzannewoodsfisher.com and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your mobile device!
 Download the Free App! http://bit.ly/10Tygyi

Find out more about Suzanne at http://suzannewoodsfisher.com/.




My Review:


t took me a little bit to get back in this story, but as I continued I was happy to be reunited with some dear friends. We are reunited with the Schrock family, among others. There is still the romance of Rose and Galen, but they are not primary this time.
We find with Bethany that some bad decisions, keep coming back to haunt her. Will she ever be free of Jake Hertzler? Some of the things that happen made me gasp...."No". We find that Jimmy Fisher is still working for Galen, but his mother wants him to take over the chicken business. Can he give up his dream of being a horse trainer. Does he have a chance with Bethany, she has sworn off men.
Then there is sweet Mem, she is still trying to be Mrs Miracle. How will that work out? These and more questions are answered in this book, but we are really left with a lot of unanswered. I can't wait for the next book, I want to know what happens.

I received this book through Litfuse Publicity Book Tours, and was not required to give a positive review.


Pump Up Your Book Presents Guardian on Hire Virtual Book Publicity Tour





Title: Guardian for Hire
Genre: Romance
Author: Christine Bell
Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
Pages: 149
Language: English
Format: Ebook

Sarabeth Lucking's life is turned upside down when the couples’ retreat she works for winds up embroiled in the biggest scandal of the year. With her reputation in tatters, she can’t imagine things getting worse, until her former co-workers are rubbed out, and a bad-ass, ex-Army Ranger shows up hell-bent on protecting her. She shows him the door, perfectly content with letting him go find someone else to brood over. Right up until her car explodes into a ball of flames...
Gavin McClintock grew up on the streets of Edinburgh, so protecting Dr. Stick-Up-Her-Rear isn't on his bucket list. Still, a promise is a promise, and, after her brush with death, he’s going to do whatever it takes to keep Sarabeth safe. When she finally gives in and shreds her librarian-in-mourning look in favor of a sex kitten, the revealing clothes and sexy new hairdo unleash the spitfire she’s been hiding beneath that shell of propriety.
Maybe the doc isn’t the only one in need of protection…

PURCHASE AT AMAZON

Pump Up Your Book Presents The Tempest Murders Virtual Book Publicity Tour

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The Tempest Murders

By P.M. Terrell


About the Book

Detective Ryan O'Clery has always had dreams of a beautiful woman he'd loved and lost but when he discovers his ancestor's journals from his native Ireland, he realizes his dreams are really the other man's memories.
Now he is working a series of murders in North Carolina that are eerily similar to cases Rian Kelly was working when his soul mate was murdered during one of Ireland's most horrific storms, in which the Atlantic Ocean swept over the island all the way to the Irish Sea.
As Hurricane Irene barrels toward the North Carolina coastline, Ryan discovers the serial killer's real target is a reporter who bears a striking resemblance to the woman of his dreams-a woman with whom Ryan O'Clery is falling deeply in love.
Is history destined to repeat itself? Or can Ryan save Cathleen Reilly from a killer intent on destroying everything he ever loved?
You can follow her blog at www.pmterrell.com.com.

P.M.-TerrellAbout the Author

P.M. Terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 18 books in 4 genres. A full-time author since 2002, she previously opened and operated two computer companies in the Washington, DC area. Her specialties were in the areas of computer crime and computer intelligence and her clients included the Secret Service, CIA and Department of Defense as well as local law enforcement. Computer and spy technology are two themes that recur throughout her books. She is the co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation, whose mission is to raise awareness of the link between high illiteracy rates and high crime rates. And she founded the annual Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair which takes place each February. She is also an animal advocate and helped to start the New Leash on Life program in which dogs destined for euthanasia are rescued and paired with prison inmates in Robeson County, North Carolina, who train them. The dogs are then adopted into loving homes.
Purchase your copy here.


Excerpt

They were bites away from finishing their meal when the sky opened up. There might have been a warning, had he been by himself and able to observe his surroundings; but by the time he noticed the trees bending deeply and the gray clouds roiling, the rain had descended on them in a torrent. Within seconds, their food was floating.
A tiny shriek escaped Cathleen's lips as she vainly tried to keep the rain off her head.
Ryan jumped up, grabbed her wrist and in one fluid movement, had her on her feet. They raced for the back door, managing to rush inside just as a wicked clap of thunder sounded, followed almost instantly by a white streak of lightning.
Once inside, he closed the door, plunging them both into relative silence. He turned around, an offer to get her a towel on his lips. But when he laid eyes on her, the words froze. She was completely drenched. Her hair was hanging in folds from which water streamed until it formed a puddle on the hardwood floor. Her thin blouse was plastered to her body and seemed to highlight the black lace bra beneath. It further accentuated a slender waist before giving way to jeans that she now appeared to have been poured into. Her feet were soaked and as he took in the petite toes peeking out, he found himself staring at the pink polish and a Celtic toe ring before his eyes moved back up her body.
By the time they reached her eyes, he felt as if he was on automatic pilot. His mind was completely blank, his emotions swept away. He stepped toward her at the exact moment he reached out and pulled her to him, the wet blouse teasing his chest. He didn't look in her eyes but closed his as his lips locked onto hers.
They were everything he'd dreamed about; full and moist and soft. But she wasn't kissing him.
He stopped and took a step backward, separating them. She stood perfectly still and stared at him with eyes that had grown round and huge. Her face had lost its color and as she continued staring at him, he realized she was in shock.
Horrified with his own boorish behavior, he stumbled over his words. "I am so sorry. I've never done anything like that in my life-"
She rushed at him and for the briefest of moments, he didn't know if she planned to slap him or pummel him or push him to the side to rush out the door. He staggered backward to get out of her way but when she descended on him her arms encircled his neck, pulling his head down to hers.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer Presents: The Complete Amish Wedding Series

amish wedding

 The Complete Amish Wedding Series This boxed set features all six books in the Amish Wedding series including:
Amish Wedding Rebecca Lapp has her life back together after a tough break up. She's found a new man and is finally happy once again. But when her ex comes back into town wanting her back, Rebecca will be forced to make a decision that will change her life forever.  
An Amish Widower's Heart Two years after Henry King loses his wife in a freak accident, he's still trying to cobble his life back together. But he knows that if he doesn't stop lingering on the past, he'll have no future. But can he love again? And just how far is the journey back to happiness?  
The Amish Late Bloomer Almost all of Elizabeth Stoltz's friends are married with kids. Elizabeth meanwhile finds herself back on the dating scene again after a crushing heartbreak. And she quickly finds out that being single at twenty-one year old leaves few options for finding the perfect guy. But Elizabeth is determined to find the love of her life. Will Elizabeth be able to find the love she's been looking her whole life for, is it already too little too late for her?  
Beachy Amish Romance After a rough break up, Benjamin Stoltz moves from Lancaster to the Florida Amish community of Pinecraft looking for a fresh start. But Benjamin soon realizes that finding romance in Florida has some unique problems of its own.  
This Side Of Heaven Mary Stoltz has a clear idea in her head of what she wants her dream man to be like. But her romantic reality has fallen far short of her dreams. Not to mention she is at the tail end of her rumspringa with seemingly not a single good suitor in sight. But when Mary finally meets a handsome and interesting man, will her love life finally live up to the dreams in her head?
Amish Homecoming David Lapp has his rumspringa in the city cut short when he finds out that his mother has been in an accident. But when he returns to Lancaster to take care of her, secrets from the past come to light that will change the direction of his life forever.





Praise for The Complete Amish Wedding Series
"I had trouble putting the book down. I enjoy the stories about the trials in their lives and the way they rise above them with a little assistance from Gott. Nice clean romances are a great to get away and relax. Thank you for the Great read." ~Teresa Thornock (Goodreads)

Excerpt
 "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," Samuel remarked. That was a bold statement from an Amish man. But Samuel's feelings were undeniable. Samuel knew that modesty was the Amish way. He'd been brought up on the plain life. Simple service to God. And while Samuel's feelings about himself were humble in nature, his feelings for Ruth were anything but. Ruth meanwhile was no fan of attention. She was naturally shy. Samuel had managed to coax her out of her shell though. Still, Ruth was hardly comfortable in the spotlight. It was a mystery to everyone else why Ruth was such a wallflower. She had so much going for her, she just didn't seem to realize it. "Now Samuel, there's no need to exaggerate," Ruth replied, modestly. "Who says I'm exaggerating?" Samuel continued. "I've waited my whole life to meet a woman like you. And now that I have, it would be a shame not to appreciate you." "Are you trying to make me blush?" Ruth wondered. "No. I'm just trying to make you feel as good as you make me feel," Samuel said. "I'd be careful with your expectations. If you let them get too high, you're bound to be let down," Ruth replied. "It's too late. My expectations are already through the roof," Samuel admitted. "But don't worry, I can't imagine getting let down by you." "It must be interesting looking at life through your eyes," Ruth remarked. "What can I say? Love brings a rose colored tint to everything," Samuel replied. "Don't you agree?" "Just because I'm not as vocal, doesn't mean I love you any less," Ruth said. "How much do you love me?" Samuel wondered. "So much that it scares me sometimes," Ruth admitted. Samuel was confused. "What's there to be scared about?" "Are you kidding? You know the road it's taken us to get here. So after all the bumps, to finally be with you, to finally turn my heart over, to let my feelings be exposed is both exciting and terrifying," Ruth explained. It was true. Ruth and Samuel had found the most roundabout way of getting together. They had been friends for the longest time. Part of a tight knit group of friends that had grown up together in Lancaster. So Ruth and Samuel didn't want to do anything to jeopardize their friendship. They'd seen two of their close friends date in the past. But when their relationship went south, the friendship was ruined as well. Ruth and Samuel didn't want the same thing to happen to them. So Ruth and Samuel dated other people. They did not have much luck finding love though. There were a lot of first dates, but very few second dates. After a while, Ruth and Samuel started to lose hope that they'd ever meet their match. That's when after a lot of hemming and hawing about risking their friendship, Ruth and Samuel finally gave in to the feelings they had for each other. Ruth and Samuel's first date was the best either one had ever experienced. They were a great match. With so much in common. And they made a wonderful couple. It was hard to believe they'd been so afraid to get together. In the end, their friendship only added to the relationship they were building. And ever since then, Ruth and Samuel had been nearly inseparable. Now almost a year in, Ruth and Samuel couldn't imagine being with anyone else. They made each other happier than they ever thought possible. But that didn't mean Ruth was without her worries. Samuel was always there with optimism abound though. "That's how I know we're meant for us each other. Because we know what else is out there. And none of it compares to being with you." Ruth smiled. "You're the sweetest man I've ever met."  
Excerpt 2
"I don't ever want this moment to end," Hannah King said. "Neither do I," Henry King replied. It was a brisk fall day. The kind that made you want to snuggle close to someone you loved. For Hannah and Henry, that was easy. They lived for each other. They were a match made in heaven. And when they were together, it felt like paradise. Hannah and Henry had been married almost two years. And yet the honeymoon phase was far from over. They still had that glow about each other. An undeniable chemistry. The couple had heard that marriage was work. That everything wouldn't go as smoothly as they expected. They didn't find that to be true though. For Hannah and Henry, the married life was amazingly simple--even for an Amish couple. After work, they always tried to watch the sunset together. It was a tradition, carrying over from their first date. And Lord willing, they caught a glimpse of the sun dancing across the sky as much as they could. "Do you think it's always going to be like this?" Hannah asked. "Gott is the only one that knows for sure. But I sure hope so," Henry remarked. "You know, I've been thinking a lot about the future," Hannah said. "Only good things I hope," Henry replied. "Are you kidding? I have you. What could go wrong?" Hannah asked. "That's my line," Henry joked. "I figured you wouldn't mind me borrowing it," Hannah replied. "You can borrow it anytime you want if you're going to use it on me," Henry said. "Why don't we go back to talking about our future?" Hannah joked. "It's funny. My parents always brought me up to stay in the present. To just appreciate what was in front of me," Henry explained. "Well, I certainly like what's in front of me," Hannah interrupted. "Thanks to you though, I've found myself starting to look to the future," Henry admitted. "Look at you, living dangerously," Hannah joked. "I wish I could be more like you. Looking at the world with nothing but hope in my eyes. But I was raised to keep my feet on the ground. To not let my head drift into the clouds. So optimism is all new to me," Henry said. "Don't worry. I'm with you every step of the way," Hannah replied. "I can't think of a better guide," Henry remarked. "But now that I'm changing your mind about the world, how does the future look now?" Hannah asked. "As bright as can be," Henry said. There were certain memories that Henry could never forget. That became burned into his brain. For Henry, that conversation with his wife was one of them. And although the conversation happened over a year ago, it was still as fresh in Henry's mind as ever. It was the last good memory he had of his wife. The next day she died of a freak brain aneurysm. It was all such a shock. Completely out of the blue. There were no warning signs. No symptoms. In the middle of a conversation a blood vessel in her brain just blew and she collapsed to the ground. There was no way to prepare for the a tragedy like that, especially when it was such a freak occurence. Henry turned to Gott for an explanation, but received none. And he'd been trying to cobble his life back together ever since. It was all such a complete tragedy. The best thing in Henry's life was taken from him in an instant, without warning and without reason. Not to mention that Hannah was only twenty-three years old. She had so much to look forward to. So much in her future. There should have been children on the way. Glorious days spent in the park. Vacations at the beach. And holidays with relatives. It would be a simple life. But it would also be a joyful one. It just wasn't meant to be though. Even a year after her death, Henry woke up in disbelief that Hannah was gone. And despite having the whole bed available to him, Henry only slept on his side. He never dared to inch his body to Hannah's side. It was just a force of habit. He knew that it defied logic. That Hannah wouldn't be returning to claim her side of the bed. Still, it was the little routines that gave Henry


 comfort. BeccaAuthor Becca Fisher I'm Becca Fisher and I write sweet Amish romances featuring simple people with complex love lives. I'm devout in my faith, relish time with my family, and seek to bring joy to as many lives as possible. I would love to have you as a reader. God bless.





      BookBlast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 2/28/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pump Up Your Book Presents Suddenly Cinderella Bundle Virtual Book Publicity Tour

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Title
: Suddenly Cinderella Bundle
Genre: Romance
Author: Hope Tarr
Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
Pages: 420
Language: English
Format: Ebook
Operation Cinderella
Magazine editor Macie Graham devises a plan to masquerade as a modern-day Cinderella and get her revenge on infuriating Texan Ross Mannon. She’ll do anything to uncover the dirt on the famous radio personality but when she finally uncovers a secret that could destroy Ross’s reputation, she faces losing her job or losing the fairy-tale ending she didn’t even know she wanted.
The Cinderella Makeover
Chic fashion photographer Francesca St. James agrees to work as a “fashion fairy godmother” on a new reality TV show, but she doesn’t agree to falling for one of the contestants. Tech company CEO Greg just needs some help transforming himself enough to find his happily ever after, and butting heads with his high-and-mighty fairy godmother isn’t in his plan. The two couldn’t be more different, but as Greg transforms into the smoking-hot, confident guy he was always meant to be, will his makeover find him his one true love?
The Cinderella Seduction
Four months ago, Nick’s bachelor-style life was turned upside down. Now the sole parent to a seven-year-old daughter he never knew existed, Nick doesn’t have time for pleasure. But he hadn’t factored in Stefanie or the intense attraction he’d feel for her. As her seduction heats up, so do the stakes, both professionally and romantically. Can he let business go long enough to allow Stefanie into his heart?

7777

AMAZON



Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE.



ABOUT HOPE TARR



Hope Tarr 315Ret_rounded_corners Award-winning author, Hope Tarr earned a Master’s Degree in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Education before coming to grips with the tough truth: she wasn’t especially interested in analyzing people or teaching them. What she wanted was to write about them! Today Hope is the author of more than twenty historical and contemporary romance novels for multiple publishers including THE CINDERELLA SEDUCTION, the finale to her Suddenly Cinderella Series for Entangled Publishing. Hope is also a co-founder and current curator of Lady Jane’s Salon®, New York City’s first—and still only—monthly romance reading series now with satellites in eight U.S. states. The Romance Writers of America’s New York City chapter recently honored Hope as their 2013 Author of the Year. She lives in Manhattan with her real life romance hero and their feline family members. When not writing, she enjoys running, hiking, martial arts—and browsing restaurant menus.

TWITTER * FACEBOOK PROFILE *FACEBOOK PAGEWEBSITE *GOODREADS




Pump Up Your Book and Hope Tarr are teaming up to give you a chance to win a $50 Gift Card (Reader’s Choice Amazon/B&N etc)!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $50 Gift Certificate
  • This giveaway begins January 13 and ends on February 7.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on February 8, 2014.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

Pump Up Your Book Presents My Whispers of Horror Virtual Book Publicity Tour – Win a Kindle Fire HDX!



My Whisper of Horror Revised

ABOUT MY WHISPERS OF HORROR

Women search for happiness no matter where they live. They want to build a life, family, career in order to insure a wholesome future. But in much of the world the patriarchal cultures women are born into simply nip at a woman’s potential and brutally guards the slave-like position that women occupy.
Women struggle as they are bought and sold as property. Their inheritance of an unequal and corrupt system that works against them. All while being enforced by domestic violence which women must deal with alone.
These issues, and so much more, are addressed by the voices of real women in ex-USSR nations. We included anonymous letters that will touch and terrify you on a personal level, while learning what women still have to deal with today.




ABOUT BRINE BOOKS

We are an activist publishing company established as a partnership by a husband and wife in Ontario, Canada. The mission of this business is bring awareness for serious human rights issues around the world, while raising funds to expand our capabilities and to help fund non-profits and charities whose purpose is to better the world.

Our main purpose as a company is to find ways to better the world. We feel that if we fail in this mission then we fail as a business, so we will not give up on our goal. The release of our books and the profits that we raise are meant for this very purpose.

View their site at http://brinebooks.com

Foreword

The screams of many women around the world are often forced into nearly silent whispers. But if one listens closely enough, one can hear the horrors these whispers behold. Many women are screaming through these hushed voices every single day, often due to the bloodied hands of their own husband, or even father.

This is an extremely significant issue that continuously pervades all around us today. It is within our neighbor’s home, potentially a family member’s residence, and everywhere else all around the world. It is still a significant problem within western society, but it is nothing compared to the rest of the world. If we want our women to be safe and not live under oppression, then we are required to combat it everywhere. Not only here, but in other parts of the world as well.

This book is about her, my, and even your “personal problems.” Or perhaps, they are not so personal? Interesting, because women need to realize this is an issue for them as a whole, and men must take notice that it is something rotten within society. Today it is your neighbor, but tomorrow it may end up being your daughter. So maybe it is time to turn back, see what is wrong, and find the right path for women.

This book is about something that everybody knows about, and yet some of us appear to still be in some kind of blissful denial. Something many of us see on a daily basis, but would prefer to be ignorant about. In the ex-USSR countries, the issue has such deep roots that to dig it out will take a long time and a substantial amount of effort. This issue is so significant and prevalent that when brought to the surface the resulting shock will knock you over. But of course you must keep quiet about it, or else…

Only, we don’t want to keep quiet. Sorry, but we won’t shut up. Not today, and not ever. We still have our sympathy and our compassion, along with what is vitally important: our understanding that this is not right.

In Eastern countries, the word woman has so often been associated with a lack of rights, with oppression and abuse as if intertwined with cultural traditions. But what kind of decent culture oppresses women with traditions such as these?

The unequal beliefs that a woman shouldn’t receive adequate support from the government, where a husband can abuse her emotionally, fiscally, and physically while controlling her every move and decision! Basically, she lives a life of everlasting work, abuse, experiencing slut-shaming, having him decide everything about her body in regards to abortion or anything else. Welcome back, knitting needles and coat hangers! But of course if she were to protest, then he can easily shut her mouth thanks to the male privileges society bestows upon him.

It is the Slavic nations where men believe they have found the answer to the eternal question ‘What is the purpose of her life?’ The answer: it must be to serve men, raise children, and restrict her spiritual growth within the kitchen. Women must be domesticated and preserved, as if they are nothing more than trained mutts. Equality, respect, and equal opportunities? Forget about it.

As you will read within the letters of this book, this reality has gradually stifled many women’s spirits. It is for this reason we contacted women from a part of the world that we understand well—the ex-Soviet region. We have family that still live in Russia and Ukraine, which provides us with a certain understanding of all these women encaged within their own private little hell.

So we collected a series of letters from women from across both countries, in which they express the problems that they face every day. Anything from employment issues to domestic problems, although of course the majority of the focus is on the abuse the women receive day to day. Employment issues, while important, are not the focus of this book, rather the book focusses on issues such as human trafficking, domestic violence, rape, and child abuse.

What do we aim to do with all of this? Of course to raise awareness, but also to raise funds for non-profit organizations that help with human rights abuses around the world. With this book, we are particularly hoping to raise funds for a specific organization within Cherkassy, Ukraine called the “Young Cherkassy Region Coalition,” an organization that helps women battered down by the society and culture around them. We have looked into the Coalition and are certain they are doing well in regards to their help of women, which is why we are pleased to partner with them.

There was a strong desire to focus on the troubling issue of gender inequality within Russia and Ukraine. While this isn’t exactly the most positive of books, it is our belief that it is vital that awareness is raised concerning what women go through. Naturally, these are not positive stories, highlighting just how many of the world’s women are persecuted, both within and outside ex-USSR countries. Not exactly rosy pictures.

Women are often equated to being nothing better than child bearers and housewives, and that there is nothing more important for them to aspire to in their lives. Women are told to be subservient to their men, instead of being a partner in life. None of this is right.

It is our hope that you walk away from reading these letters with a better understanding of the problems that Russian and Ukrainian women face. And it is our hope that more can be done once enough people know about what these women face.

To help provide more facts on the issue, we have also included our own letters at the beginning of this book. Please keep this information in mind while reading the letters, as it will help in understanding why a woman cannot just pick up everything and leave. Unfortunately it isn’t so simple.

Across much of the world, there is this strange way of thinking that in cases of domestic abuse and women’s issues it is best to keep quiet. Well, we refuse to keep quiet. We are, in fact, choosing to shout from the rooftops about as many issues as we can. Hopefully, many ears will hear us join these women’s screams. Then we can finally do something to save our wives, mothers, daughters, and all of the other forgotten and beaten down women.
Valentina
Ukraine

My name is Valentina. I have three children and am currently living safely in Germany. While waiting for my next interview with the government, my hope is that luck will finally smile upon me so that I can receive permanent residency.

I would like to tell you the story about my life. Possibly it will help you in figuring out what to do in your own. Perhaps it will help you figure out how to change these strange sexist stereotypes. Or maybe it will at least help you to change the habits or fears in which we live and with which we struggle that make a terrifying hell out of a woman’s life.

The most disgusting part is that we are nurturing children into this despicable life. We educate them so that they will share the same future while duplicating our fears, similar misunderstandings, and the same indoctrinated values. So as a result, we will end up raising even more victims that are, of course, mostly women and children. But this is about my own story not theirs. And my own life story begins in the central part of Ukraine.

I was brought up by my father, who was a construction worker, and by my mother who was a milkmaid. They raised three girls along with our older brother. My father, despite being a hard worker, was an alcoholic. Honestly, in the beginning he didn’t drink a lot, but eventually he was drinking all the time. Drinking a ton of alcohol appeared to be a tradition for Ukrainian men, although I have no idea why it is this way. To be an old man in Ukraine it was expected to drink, and to live in a smaller village it was thought that they needed to drink a significant amount of liquor. It is a very strange way of thinking.

He was often jealous of my mother over nearly everybody and everything. It wouldn’t take much to set him off and the result was always the same. My mom was often walking around covered with bruises, her head held low, a depressed-like state in her eyes.

But in truth, the real horror didn’t introduce itself until my brother had moved away to study in another city. This left us without anyone in the role of our bodyguard. By then I had reached the age of seventeen, with my youngest sister only nine.

A horrific event occurred on the fateful day my sisters and I returned home from our Easter holiday. We had left to exchange presents with our relatives as is our cultural tradition. Upon our return home, we were greeted with only silence at our front door. We knocked and called out for our parents. Yet nobody came to greet us. All that was heard was the sound of our fists against the door and our cries on the front steps. Otherwise, there was nothing.

For a long time we had sat near those stairs to our home while waiting for our mother. We thought maybe Mom was hiding somewhere from our drunk father; we had a nice home in the village with a large garden where we could have easily missed her. We all agreed to wait for her. But we sat there until the sun began to set. So then afterward, out of concern over the situation, we decided to ask our neighbors for assistance. We asked for help to maybe break down the door, or at the very least break a window, so that then finally we could be home and find out what was going on. But the neighbors understood my father’s temper, including how he was the very opposite definition of calm. They said no. Nobody would help us. So with no idea what we should do, we cried.

Finally, though, we had found a phone so we could at least call the police. It took a few hours but they responded to our request for help, breaking down the door to our home. And then this was our moment of terror!

Lying in her own blood was our mother. Above her, was our alcoholic father dangling with a noose around his neck. The police explained to us that he had kicked her until her liver, spleen, and many other organs gave out. Then he decided to take his own life in reaction. So this is the story how, during the Easter holidays, we became orphans.

Mind you, one of the worst parts of all of this was what the police themselves were saying. “Why didn’t she just leave him? He probably was a schizophrenic. It is almost as if she was asking for this!” These words angered me as I knew very well it wasn’t true. She had tried to save us from him many, many times. But it didn’t matter who we went to, be it neighbors or friends. Nobody wanted to help us, so as a result we were always left with returning home. Everyone was afraid that out father would take revenge, and to them our situation was normal. Also, many witnesses to the violence toward his wife and children told our mother crazy things, like:
         “You must stand it because you are a woman.”
         “It is your destiny!”
         “If he is hitting you at all, it means that he loves you.”
         “Who else will take care of a woman with four children?”
         “You will die of hunger alone.”
         “Nobody needs you.”
         “Nobody could be interested in you as a woman.”

When I was nineteen, I finally got married. He was a very quiet boy with absolutely no self-confidence. It was noticed right away that there was something wrong with him. Even so, I was happy that he appeared to be the complete opposite of what I had seen in my father while growing up. Plus, on hearing about my history he had promised he would never touch me, not even with a single finger.

Then I gave birth to our daughter. While I was still in the hospital he was drinking a boatload of alcohol during the week I was away. And he didn’t stop. He was confident that I couldn’t run anywhere as we now had a small child. So this drunken boat never had a cork put in it. He also told me at last that before me he always drank like this. That is, he was drinking until he finally realized he needed a family, which forced him to only sober up until he had the protection of a young child.

But it wasn’t enough protection for him. I went to court and applied for a divorce. So then all of my neighbors were looking at me like I was the devil, as it was strange thought that one should leave her husband. We had a small baby, we were only married very recently; so then no matter what, there was the expectation to stay with this man. I became the outcast of the village. Not him—me.

[…]

Alisa
Russia

Lesbianism is a crime in itself in traditional Russian village life. To be somebody’s perfectly eligible, family pride-inheriting daughter who identifies as a lesbian is considered to be like Satan’s right-hand lover. And if I am his lover, Satan took the form of a girl named Marina. Yes, I succumbed to Satan: “he” happened to be my one true love, and my entire world. And I must be quite addicted to this senseless evil I am carrying out while living in a world of hellfire and devil’s horns, because I can’t possibly imagine living without this woman. What would rouse the most shock and horror from others is stating that it actually isn’t all that different from a man and woman being in love. Imagine that!

At thirty-two, I live in Moscow now. Though it seems that the world of Satan would be miserable (at least to the outside world), it’s actually quite magnificent. It’s invigorating, romantic, satisfying—that’s just what Marina and I have when we’re together. And the only real trail of pain in this satanic world of mine only lies behind my hometown we left behind. Our sin was too great to bear for them, the only real hellish aspect of my evil world. Memories of old, smiling faces become twisted in disgust and damnation, tainted with consequence and the connotations of what I’d sacrificed. Yet, my sacrifice and Marina’s sacrifice was simply for the ones we love—each other.

My life would be a fleeting and beautifully simple normalcy had Marina been granted male anatomy—why is that? Regardless of my private actions, I would be considered healthy, one to carry integrity and dignity, and pure with a man by my side. Heaven would be easily in sight! But Marina is not a man, therefore I’m automatically tossed into the flaming pits of hell, and I am a symbol of shame, regret, and failure for my parents. Worse—I no longer exist. My value as a woman is dependent on a man’s love; therefore I am faceless, valueless…dead.

Four months: the longest relationship I’d ever had with a man, as of five years ago. Four measly months—you can imagine it hadn’t worked out very well. Four months of emptiness; what the two of us had (or lack thereof!) felt like a farce, a soulless front. I pranced with a plastered-on smile throughout life, fulfilling the ignorance and conformity that is “normalcy.” During those four measly months and in other involvements with men, this “normalcy” didn’t cause me to swoon with dreamy images of marriage and happiness. Who did swoon with these images of grandeur, however, was my mother.

“She’s finally found her future husband!” she’d say of that four-month farce. By this time, she’d told everyone including our neighbors! He was tall, dark, and handsome; muscular, handy around the house, and had an amazing job—the ideal recipe for a financially and socially comfortable life for the perfect, obedient, successful wife and daughter. Blah, blah, blah! None of that talk ever considered what I wanted. She didn’t care. It’s possible that she’d internally acknowledged my unusual attractions, that dark hole in my soul void of “normalcy.” Maybe she was excited that I could end up with a man after all. Maybe she was excited that I could be saved.

In my experience, feeling normal apparently doesn’t equate to fulfilling what the world expects of you to be considered “normal.” I’ll tell you why—of all things, that relationship was the most abnormal feeling I’d ever had! Even walking beside him, I felt uncomfortable. Walking in front of him or behind him had connotations of inequality; what kind of couple were we? And we did try to make it work, but it was like fitting puzzle pieces together that did not belong. It felt wrong, unnatural! My balance of being, my sense of fitting into place…it was corrupted, and I often cried myself to sleep. Yet, there was no option for me but to try. In our country, it’s almost entirely considered unnatural to be a homosexual. And if such tendencies were out in the open, this type of love could very well receive responses that are disheartening, dehumanizing, dangerous…perhaps even deadly.

And then, it happened. Satan had come to sweep me away from the dark world! Or rather, a woman named Marina; the very opposite of the devil, in fact. A vision of perfection, true beauty! Upon getting to know her, for once I felt at peace; my love felt natural. And just as in heterosexual relationships, it didn’t take long for the chemistry to take wing—I quickly learned she felt the same way I felt about her. My world was spun in the right direction, and I had found my true happiness. My everything! My soul mate, whose essence could put me to sleep without sobbing and made me feel as though all was right in the world.

Just like my four-month relationship being a farce, keeping the relationship between Marina and I quiet felt like a farce as well. Though we’d initially decided to remain silent, living a lie and not being able to freely express our love was a hindrance. At this point, I’d already ended the relationship with my old boyfriend. My poor mother was downright devastated—it was as though he was her own son! Like she’d loved him more, or at least the peace of mind he brought.

We decided to approach my parents first. How did it go? Well, to say “it didn’t go well,” would be like saying the genocide in Rwanda “didn’t go well.” An odd comparison, but on an emotional level for me, it was unimaginably traumatizing and destructive. The explosions, the lines immediately drawn between and against the family. How quickly and unforgivingly relationships, memories, and commitments were broken—it was as though a vacuum had sucked it all away from my body. My entire soul, scared out of its wits and having succumbed into the swirling void of hatred and ignorance.

Throughout my young life, I never really wanted much—I’ve always liked it simple. There were three things at that point I desired in earnest: One, I wanted to marry Marina and live the rest of my life by her side. Two, I wanted to raise three beautiful adopted children. And three, I wanted to remain in close contact with my parents, carrying out a continued inclusive and “normal” relationship. I’d never done drugs, never hurt anyone, nor taken advantage of them—I was never greedy or malicious. However, for my parents finding out they now had a “hell-raising” lesbian daughter on their hands was hardly comforting for such traditional minds. Even so, I hoped they’d wish for me to just be happy. My dream life wasn’t ideally “normal,” but it wasn’t harmful. Why couldn’t I just be happy?

I soon found that the happiness I wanted would come with a price. I’d not only lose my parents’ acceptance, love, and support but also apparently rot in the flaming pits of hell with “that” satanic woman. My mother first attempted to calmly sit me down. She scolded me, bartered with me, and assured me—I was a child all over again. “If you don’t find an ideal partner by your age…when you are nearing your thirties…it doesn’t mean that you like girls. You know, I know a few friends that have single sons. Good boys too. They don’t drink too much either. I can show you that this is just a temporary hobby of yours. Don’t worry, you can find a man! You will not be an old maid.”

What did it mean that I was thirty and hadn’t found a partner? And why would I be an old maid? I had plans! Marina and I were now conceptualizing a life together. My relationship with her wasn’t a fleeting, useless fling to cope with my failure with men, but a commitment! I just wanted nothing more but to share that with my parents. And to my greatest hopes and dreams, the plans to finally settle down and revel in my greatest salvation of love…They laughed.

And when they stopped laughing, they told me it was an illness. “You must be sick!” they said, and vaguely that they could find me some place through the church that could cure me of this habit. But even if I were sick, I didn’t want the cure—I didn’t wish to be with a man. What I was doing felt right for me; it felt important.

Realizing their failure, my parents snapped. My father especially—he called me a “dirty whore,” selfish, that I blamed my issues on my family with no self-responsibility. And since lesbianism wasn’t a natural human tendency, I must have chosen to do it because I was spoilt too much. He should have beaten me when I was younger, he said.

[…]

Ekaterina
Russia

I want to first thank you for providing this outlet for us women to speak. In my part of the world it is often complicated when a woman reaches out for any kind of help. When we, as women, reach out toward those around us after going through the kind of thing I did, often there is only silence. But of course, when men see these women, it is perfectly okay to still welcome them in! But for the women to be even forced into anything apparently sinful, then they are damned to hell.

Even the court system will often not provide any kind of justice for a woman. Even though my situation was one of the greatest horrors that a woman can face, they didn’t help me a whole lot either. And yet, it is a real problem here in Russia, but my own government care neither about my plight nor that of any other woman that experience the same.

Little do many men seem to understand: when you buy a prostitute you’re not actually paying her. You’re paying the pimp to bring in more slaves for his sexual prison called “prostitution.” Many women are not there by choice. Whether they were being tricked through a promising career option overseas, or through being sold by a friend of your family, they are often forced into it under threat of death—either theirs or their family’s back home. They’re also often beaten and tortured into such a submissive state that many of these rapist purchasers of women do not know that they are in fact participating in perpetual rape. For those that do know what they are doing though, well, it makes their act of payment that much more despicable. The money they pay to these women is never kept by the women; it’s handed to the pimp either under threat or the suggestion that they have an endless debt for repayment.

I was one of these unfortunate sexually enslaved victims.

My life started out not being so bad, though I was growing into the typical victim, even if I didn’t know it. My childhood was rather happy, though. Even in my adulthood my life was that of a young beautiful housewife with a newly born baby girl, whose father seemed a decent man. A good man is difficult to find in my part of the world and even harder in our village. We understood this, seeing the men enjoying drinking significant amounts of liquor, before then beating their wives.

So, I counted myself fortunate that he chose to resolve differences with discussion rather than fists, and treat his depression with comfort from me rather than vodka. And best of all, he always tried to be an active part of our child’s life, despite his endless work hours. That is, endless work hours until he lost his job with no explanation provided.

My husband was having very little luck finding work. I ended up noticing an advertisement in the paper for a job that was available though. It was out of the country for a year of touristic work, and was for the level of pay a westerner usually receives. For a young Russian family out of work, it sounded like an amazing opportunity. But this touristic job was specifically looking for young hard-working women. So after much discussion with my husband, along with comfort for his inability to provide at the time, we decided that I would apply.

The interview seemed mostly typical and standard. They asked me about my experience in the service sector, which included jobs waitressing and volunteering at the local museum. They had asked me questions on how I’d handle various difficult situations. I did find it a bit odd, though, that they also asked me some rather personal questions about my marriage and child, thrown in here and there. But they appeared, at the time, to be minor, and I had thought nothing of it during this interview. Perhaps I was naive or stupid.
But looking back, I now know it was a warning sign. They were trying to analyze me to see if I would be the perfect little victim for their web of deceit and rape. And unfortunately, I fit into their perfect little picture. They offered me the job on the spot.

While I was reluctant to leave my newborn child alone, I knew that my husband would be a good father, so I reluctantly said yes. Work is scarce over here, after all, so we needed to do what we could to feed and provide for our family. We needed food on the table and diapers for our baby girl.

They explained that the job would be in the United States. I would be working for a touristic company in New York City that required young Russian women. While they did not go through a lot of details regarding my “duties,” they did specify that it would be touristic in nature and that I’d be interacting with many Russians, Americans, and Europeans. They explained it’d take a couple of weeks to complete the paper work for the visa, and then they could place me on a flight to my new employment for the next year. It was good that I had taken English lessons in university, I thought. That would come in use during my employment overseas.

The next couple of weeks were filled with many somber moments of tears and sadness. I didn’t really want to leave my family for a year, nor was my husband very happy to see me go. But we completely understood the opportunity of this job prospect. I would save every penny earned, and then when I returned our home, we would move to Moscow, set up a business together, and build a better way of life for our family. At least, that was the plan.

But plans change when extreme tragedy happens. And this tragedy resulted in tremendous consequences all our lives, especially my own.

Even so, during our final goodbyes, our families and my husband exchanged many kisses, hugs, and tears with me before I finally departed. They all mentioned how they loved me, would miss me, and how they respected my sacrifice for our family. Everyone was there for the goodbye: my parents, my grandparents, his parents, his grandparents, my two brothers, and his sister along with his brother. They were all there as one supportive family to show their love and care for me and their support for our family’s decision. I even received a few little gifts and many pictures to take with me, along with my favorite thing of all: a photograph of my husband holding our small baby.
All mothers I’m sure understand the kind of pain involved in leaving behind a child. They must understand how difficult that is. To leave my husband and my baby girl! It brought me to tears countless times during those weeks.

I finally arrived in the United States, the land supposedly for the free; well, maybe anyone but me. After retrieving my bags, I found my boss, an older woman of obvious Russian decent. She explained to me that she had been in the same position as me, and that if I was obedient and good at my work, much success could come my way. Believe me, I tried to find out more about my duties on the way from the airport, but all she’d do was just smile that charismatic smile and then tell me that I’d be fine and learn in good time. Plus, she explained, there was no rush. It was best to enjoy the sites on this drive as I might be too busy to see much of them for a while.

And, that I did, as it was my first time seeing any city outside of Russia. The city was beautiful and, truthfully, I was charmed by the new and different culture along with the surrounding architecture. Not even for a moment did I question what was about to happen. Who would ever think that anyone could do anything so cruel to, well, anyone else?

When the taxi dropped us off at an old apartment building, that was when I began to feel unease wave over me. This place didn’t look as charming as the rest of the town. The apartment building didn’t appear appealing at all.
And, that was when things started to go downhill.  The older woman, Helga, took me into the building where there appeared to be vacant halls, though it looked like there was a lot of use not long ago.

I was brought to one of the flats, and there were two men already there. They offered me a drink, which I had at first declined, but after some pressure I reluctantly accepted their offer. One of the men, along with Helga, sat with me at the table, while the other man stood by the door as if he were some kind of security. They were discussing with me about my home and family. All seemed quite normal at first, until he finally said, “And, you better do as we say... if you care for their wellbeing.”

I stood up to try to leave, but the other man moved in the way of the door. I was also beginning to feel very odd. My drink! Drugged with some kind of substance to make me more obedient. It was then that I slipped and fell to the floor. The man at the table was quickly on his feet, only to push me down further toward the ground as I tried to get back up.

“You will learn to love this, bitch. You will love being a whore.”

And then he had proceeded to rape me.

[…]

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams Book 1) by Sharlene MacLaren

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

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Award winning romance author, Sharlene MacLaren has released 13 novels since embarking on a writing career in 2007. After a career teaching second grade “Shar” says she asked God for a new mission “that would bring her as great a sense of purpose” as she’d felt teaching and raising her children. She tried her hand at inspirational romance, releasing Through Every Storm to critical and popular acclaim in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. She quickly became the top selling fiction author for Whitaker House, has accumulated multiple awards, and endeared herself to readers who can’t get enough of her long, luscious and often quirky tales – both historical and contemporary. Her novels include the contemporary romances Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; and three historical series including Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma); The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann) and River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret).

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age and was only 16 when her father was killed in a brawl sparked by a feud with the Connors family that spans several generations. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, Mercy is devastated, but finds comfort in caring for their two sons, who survived thanks to a heroic rescue by Sam Connors, blacksmith in the small town of Paris, Tennessee. Yet the judge is determined to grant custody only if Mercy is married. Mercy loves the boys as her own, and she’ll go to any lengths to keep them—but what if that means marrying the son of the man who killed her father? Set in the 1880’s, Heart of Mercy is the first book in MacLaren’s new Tennessee Dreams series.


Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: Tennessee Dreams (Book 1)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749632
ISBN-13: 978-1603749633


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1890
Paris, Tennessee
“Fire!”
The single word had the power to force a body to drop his knees and call out to his Maker for leniency. But most took time for neither, instead racing to the scene of terror with the bucket they kept stored close to the door, and joining the contingent of citizens determined to battle the flames of death and destruction. Such was the case tonight when, washing the dinner dishes in the kitchen sink, Mercy Evans heard the dreaded screams coming from all directions, even began to smell the sickening fumes of blazing timber seeping through her open windows. She ran through her house and burst through the screen door onto the front porch.
“Where’s the fire?” she shouted at the people running up Wood Street carrying buckets of water.
Without so much as a glance at her, one man hollered on the run, “Looks to be the Watson place over on Caldwell.”
Her heart thudded to a shattering halt. God, no! “Surely, you don’t mean Herb and Millie Watson!”
Mercy Evans and Millie Watson, formerly Gifford, had been fast friends at school and had stuck together like glue in the dimmest of circumstances, as well as the sweetest. Millie had walked with Mercy through the loss of both her parents, and Mercy had watched Millie fall wildly in love with Herb Watson in the twelfth grade. She’d been the maid of honor in their wedding the following summer.
But her voice was lost to the footsteps thundering past. Whirling on her heel, she ran back inside, hurried to extinguish all but one kerosene lamp, snatched her wrap from its hook by the door, and darted back outside and up the rutted street toward her best friends’ home, dodging horses and a stampede of citizens. “Lord, please don’t let it be,” she pleaded aloud. “Oh, God, keep them safe. Jesus, Jesus….” But her cries vanished in the scramble of bodies crowding her off the street as several made the turn onto Caldwell in their quest to reach the flaming house, which already looked beyond saving.
Tongues of fire shot like dragons’ breath out windows and up through a hole in the roof. Like hungry serpents, flames lapped up the sides of the house, eating walls and shattering panes, while men heaved their pathetic little buckets of water at the volcanic monster.
“Back off, everybody. Step back!” ordered Sheriff Phil Marshall. He and a couple of deputies on horseback spread their arms wide at the crowd, trying to push them to safety.
Ignoring his orders, Mercy pressed through the gathering mob until the heat so overwhelmed her that she had no choice but to stop. Besides, a giant arm reached out and stopped her progress. She shook it off. “Where are they?” she gasped, breathless. “Where’s the family?”
The sheriff moved his bald head from side to side, his sad, defeated eyes telling the story. “Don’t know, Miss Evans. No one’s seen ’em yet. We been scourin’ the crowd”—he gave another shake of the head—“and it don’t appear anybody got out of that inferno.”
“That can’t be.” A sob caught at the back of her throat and choked her next words. “They were at my place earlier. I made supper.”
“Sorry, miss.”
“Someone’s comin’ out!” A man’s ear-splitting shout rose above the crowd.
Dense smoke enveloped a large figure emerging—staggering rather like a drunkard—from the open door and onto the porch, his arms full with two wriggling bundles wrapped in blankets and screaming in terror. Mercy sucked in a cavernous breath and held it till weakness overtook her and she forced herself to let it out. Could it be? Had little John Roy and Joseph survived the fire thanks to this man?
“Who is it?” someone asked.
All stood in rapt silence as he passed through the cloud of smoke. “Looks to be Sam Connors, the blacksmith,” said the sheriff, scratching his head and stepping forward.
“Sure ’nough is,” someone confirmed.
Mercy stared in wonder as the man, looking dazed and almost ethereal, strode down the steps, then wavered and stumbled before falling flat on his face in a heap of dust and bringing the howling bundles with him.
Excited chatter erupted as Mercy and several others ran to their aid. Mercy yanked the blankets off the boys and heaved a sigh of relief to find them both alert and apparently unharmed, albeit still screeching louder than a couple of banshees. Through their avalanche of tears, they recognized her, and they hurled themselves into her arms, knocking her backward, so that she wound up on her back perpendicular to Mr. Connors, with both of the boys lying prone across her body. In all the chaos, she felt a hand grasp her arm and help her up to a sitting position.
“Come on, Miz. You bes’ git yo’self an’ them chillin’s out of the way o’ them flames fo’ you all gets burned.” She had the presence of mind to look up at Solomon Turner, a former slave now in the employ of Mrs. Iris Brockwell, a prominent Paris citizen who’d donated a good deal of money to the hospital fund.
Mercy took the man’s callused hand and allowed him to help her to a standing state. By the lines etched in his face from years of hard work in the sweltering sun, Mercy figured he had to be in his seventies, yet he lifted her with no apparent effort. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.”
Five-year-old John Roy stretched his arms upward, pleading with wet eyes to be held, while Joseph, six, took a fistful of her skirt and clung with all his might. “Come,” she said, hoisting John Roy up into her arms. “We best do as Mr. Turner says, honey. Follow me.”
“But…Mama and Papa….” Joseph turned and gave his perishing house a long perusal, tears still spilling down his face. John Roy buried his wrenching sobs in Mercy’s shoulder, and it was all she could do to keep from bolting into the house herself to search for Herb and Millie, even though she knew she’d never come out alive. If the fire and smoke didn’t kill her, the heat would. Besides, before her eyes, the flames had devoured the very sides of the house, leaving a skeletal frame with a staircase only somewhat intact and a freestanding brick fireplace looking like a graveyard monument. Her heart throbbed in her chest and thundered in her ears, and she wanted to scream, but the ever-thickening smoke and acrid fumes burned to the bottom of her lungs.
With her free hand, she hugged Joseph close to her. “I know, sweetheart, and I’m so, so sorry.” Her words drowned in her own sobs as the truth slammed against her. Millie and Herb, her most loyal friends. Gone.
Sheriff Marshall and his deputies ordered the crowd to move away from the blazing house, so she forced herself to obey, dragging a reluctant Joseph with her. At the same time, she observed three men carrying a yet unconscious Sam Connors across the street to a grassy patch of ground. Several others gathered around, trying to decide what sort of care he needed. Of course, he required medical attention, but Mercy felt too weak and dizzy to tend to him. Best to let the men put him on a cart and drive him over to Doc Trumble’s. Besides, she highly doubted he’d welcome her help. He was a Connors, after all, and she an Evans—two families who had been fighting since as far back as anyone could remember.
She’d heard only bits and pieces of how the feud had started, with a dispute between Cornelius Evans, Mercy’s grandfather, and Eustace Connors over property lines and livestock grazing in the early 1830s. There had been numerous thefts of horses and cattle, and incidents of barn burnings, committed by both families, until a judge had stepped in and defined the property lines—in favor of Eustace Connors. Mercy’s grandfather had gotten so agitated over the matter that his heart had given out. Mercy’s grandmother, Margaret, had blamed the Connors family, fueling the feud by passing her hatred for the entire clan on to her own children, and so the next generation had carried the grudge, mostly forgetting its origins but not the bad blood. The animosity had reached a peak six years ago, when Ernest Connors had killed Oscar Evans—Mercy’s father.
“That man’s a angel,” Joseph mumbled into her skirts.
“What, honey?”
“John Roy was wailin’ real loud, ’cause he saw somethin’ orange comin’ from upstairs, so he got in bed with me, and after a while that angel man comed in and took us out of ar’ bed.”
She set John Roy on the ground, then got down on her knees to meet Joseph’s eyes straight on. His were still red, his cheeks blotchy. She thought very carefully about her next words. “Where were your parents?”
Joseph sniffed. “They tucked us in and went upstairs to their bedroom. John Roy an’ me talked a long time about scary monsters an’ stuff, but then, after a while, he went to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I got up t’ get a drink o’ water, and that’s when I heard a noise upstairs. I looked around the corner, and I seed a big round ball o’ orange up there, and smoke comin’ out of it, and I thought it was a dragon come to eat us up. I runned back and jumped in bed with Joseph and tol’ him a mean monster was comin’ t’ get us, and I started cryin’ real loud.”
John Roy picked up the story from there. “And so we waited and waited for the monster to come after us, but instead the angel saved us. I think Mama and Papa is prolly still sleepin’. Do you think they waked up yet?”
Mercy’s throat burned as powerfully as if she’d swallowed a tablespoonful of acid. Her own eyes begged to cut loose a river of tears, but she warded them off with a shake of her head while gathering both boys tightly to her. “No, darlings, I don’t believe they woke up in bed. I believe with all my heart they awoke in heaven and are right now asking Jesus to keep you safe.”
“And so Jesus tol’ that angel to come in the house and get us?” Joseph pointed a shaky finger at Sam Connors. The big fellow lay motionless on his back, with several men bent over him, calling his name and fanning his face.
Mercy smiled. “He’s not an angel, my sweet, but that’s not to say that God didn’t have something to do with sending him in to rescue you.”
“Is he gonna die, like Mama and Papa?” John Roy asked between frantic sobs.
“Oh, honey, I don’t know.”
She overheard Lyle Phelps suggest they take him over to Doc Trumble’s house, but then Harold Crew said he’d spotted the doctor about an hour ago, driving out to the DeLass farm to deliver baby number seven.
A few sets of eyes glanced around until they landed on Mercy. She knew what folks were thinking. She worked for Doc Trumble, she had more medical training and experience than the average person, and her house was closest to the scene. But their gazes also indicated they understood the awkwardness of the situation, considering the ongoing feud between the two families. Although the idea of caring for him didn’t appeal, she’d taken an oath to always do her best to preserve life. Besides, the Lord commanded her to love her neighbor as herself, making it a sin to walk away from someone in need, regardless of his family name.
She dropped her shoulders, even as the boys snuggled close. “Put him on a cart and take him to my place,” she stated.
As if relieved that his care would fall to someone other than themselves, several men hurried to pick him up and carried him to Harold Crew’s nearby buggy.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
The sheriff stepped forward and made a quick study of each boy. “You can stay out at my sister’s farm. She won’t mind adding a couple o’ more young’uns to her brood.”
Joseph burst into loud howls upon the sheriff’s announcement. Mercy hugged him and John Roy possessively. “Their parents were my closest friends, Sheriff Marshall. I’d like to assume their care.”
He frowned and scratched the back of his head. “Don’t know as that’s the best solution, you bein’ unwed an’ all.”
“That should have no bearing whatever on where they go. Their parents were my closest friends. They’re coming home with me.” She took both boys by the hands, turned, and led them back down Caldwell Street, away from the still-smoldering house and the sheriff’s disapproving gaze. Overhead, black smoke filled the skies, obliterating any hope of the night’s first stars or the crescent moon making an appearance.






My Review:

 So sad all this hate and feuding between families, and in the end, they can't remember why. Decades go by and things get worse, but the hearts of two people joined together for convenience. When Samuel Connor enters a burning house, and saves the lives of two young boys, Joseph and John Roy, their lives and his become entwined with Mercy Evans.
Can you imagine being so desperate that you need to marry within thirty days, and your not even dating. That is what the judge did to Mercy. The old thing about woman not being capable without a man? Anyway feuding family members are against a union of Marcy and Samuel...a marriage of convenience??
Some cruel things happen, in the name of keeping on with the feud, but to hurt innocent children...ugh! Seems both Mercy and Samuel have grown up without much parental love. They instinctively seem to do better with children, than either experienced themselves.
Be ready for a great experience of a small town living in late 1800's Paris, Tennessee. I loved my visit here and can't wait for the next book in this series.

I received this book through First Wild Card Book Tours, and was not required to give a positive review.