Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Simple Secrets: The Harmony Series: The Gunsmith's Gallantry

Simple Secrets: The Harmony Series
by Nancy Mehl
From Coffee Time Romance:

Nancy Mehl's descriptions bring the small town to life, and I found myself wanting to visit and get a taste of the simple life. Sam is a strong, very likable hero, whom you cannot help but be a little sweet on. Watching Gracie fall for the town and its people, especially her next door neighbor, is so realistic it is like witnessing your friend falling in love. The mystery had balance of tension and levity without being too easy or hard to solve. Overall, I found this to be a delightful suspense story with just the right amount of romance.

Simple Secrets
Can graphic designer Gracie Temple have it all: the big city life and a job at a successful advertising firm? Just when she feels life coming together she receives an unknown uncle's inheritance in a quiet Kansas Mennonite community. The house comes with a dark legacy. A letter left for Gracie from the uncle she never met reveals a secret that could destroy her family.

As Gracie struggles with what to do, she meets a cast of interesting neighbors, including farmer Sam Goodrich. Sam is everything she doesn't want. So why does she feel drawn to him? Will Gracie find a way to save the people she loves, or will Harmony pull her into its web of secrets?

Excerpt from Chapter Four: Gracie has come to the small town of Harmony, Kansas, to sell the property her Old Order Mennonite uncle left for her. In her uncle's house, she finds a letter addressed to her stuck in an old Bible.

My eyes rested on the letter lying on Benjamin's desk. Might as well get it over with. Funny how I dreaded reading it even more now that I knew about the similarities I shared with my uncle. Would my opinion of him be altered? And if so, which way would it go? I scolded myself for trying to anticipate something I couldn't possibly know anything about unless I actually got enough gumption to open the envelope. I moved the lamp to a small table next to the rocking chair, picked up the letter, and sat down. With trembling fingers, I pulled out the sheets of paper, unfolded them, and began to read:

Dearest Niece Grace,

It is difficult to write this letter for many reasons. First of all, I am unsure that you have even honored my bequest.

I am aware that this letter might fall into different hands than yours. I placed it within our family Bible, believing that only a family member would discover it. I pray my assumption proves correct. However, since I cannot be sure of the outcome, it is with great trepidation that I pen these words.

First of all, I must tell you that although my family believes I have rejected them, I assure you I have not. I love them deeply and miss them. It is true that they have chosen to leave the old ways, but I cannot judge them right or wrong for this. God's love transcends our habits and choices. The reason for my separation from them is for motives they have never been made aware of. However, as I am dying and will not be able to protect them much longer from a terrible secret that has held me captive all these years, I have no choice but to pass it to someone else. And unfortunately, that person, my dear niece, must be you.

I cannot see into the future, and I don't know you, so I have no idea if you will be able to discover and navigate a path never found by me. However, my conscience will not allow me to die with this secret buried beneath years of deceit and lies. I have asked God's forgiveness for keeping it to myself—and for my part in it. But even with that forgiveness, justice has still not been served. Perhaps it never will. Unfortunately, you will now have to decide the matter.

I pray your choices will be better than mine have been.

Reading by the light of the old lamp proved difficult, and my uncle's cramped script wasn't easy to read. His words filled me with a sense of dread. Either I was about to find out something I was pretty certain I didn't want to know—or I would discover that my poor deranged uncle had fallen way off his wooden rocker. With a sense of misgiving I turned the letter over and once again held it near the flickering lamplight.

Many years ago, an evil man lived in Harmony. Maybe you think I am being dramatic by using the word evil, but I assure you that this man epitomizes the term. On the night my brother, Daniel, your father, planned to leave town with Beverly Fischer, the young woman who would become your mother, Jacob Glick was killed. No one in Harmony knows this. They believe he left town because he was so disliked. All these years I have been the only person who knew the truth. Now I must pass it on to you. Sadly, it is yours to bear alone.

You see, I found Jacob's body that night. He'd been struck on the head with a large rock that still lay near his feet. The force of the blow took his life. I buried his body, the bloody rock, and a suitcase filled with his belongings amid the grove of trees on our property. His body lies there still.

I had to read the last paragraph several times to be certain I understood its meaning. My uncle had buried a body—here? A feeling of cold fear moved through me. I tried to tell myself that he was sick and that this letter was the result of his illness. But the thoughts seemed so well constructed and clear of confusion. With dismay, I continued to read.

You are probably asking yourself why I would do some-thing like this. Why would I bury the body of a man who obviously lost his life by the hand of another and spend the rest of my days separated from my family, afraid to leave this property because the truth might be revealed? The answer will shock you, my dear niece, but I cannot keep the matter hidden any longer. It is because the man who killed Jacob Glick was my brother—your father, Daniel.

"This isn't true," I whispered into the dark corners of the room. "My father would never do something like that." My fingers trembled so much as I attempted to refold the horrible letter, I dropped it on the floor. All I could do was stare at it. It couldn't be true. It had to be the rantings of a man sick not only in his body but also in his soul.

You can buy "Simple Secrets" at your local bookstore. It is also available at or For more information about Nancy Mehl and to see a trailer for "Simple Secrets," visit Nancy's Web site at Do not reproduce without permission.

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The Gunsmith's Gallantry
By Susan Page Davis

The feisty ladies of Fergus, Idaho are back to protect their own and promote romance.
The second book in the Ladies' Shooting Club series is a fast-paced, laugh-out-loud-funny love story. The characters are lovable, quirky and fun to read about. Davis has scored another hit!

(Patsy Glans, RT Book Reviews )

The shy gunsmith has problems—women problems! Hiram Dooley's sister Gert is about to leave

him to get married—if Sheriff Ethan Chapman would ever propose; his sister-in-law, Rose, thinks Hiram should marry her, since they're both widowed; and the woman he truly loves, Libby Adams, is blind to his regard. Schoolmarm Isabel Fennel has a different problem—a man claiming to be her uncle came to town…and then disappeared. Can Hiram and the sheriff, along with Libby and the other members of the Ladies' Shooting Club, discover what's behind the mysterious events in Fergus?

About the author: Award-winning author Susan Page Davis is a mother of six who lives in Kentucky with her husband, Jim. She worked as a newspaper correspondent for more than twenty-five years in addition to home-schooling her children. She's published thirty novels in historical romance, cozy mystery, and romantic suspense.

"Wait, Hiram!"

The gunsmith paused on the board sidewalk and turned around.

Maitland Dostie left the doorway of his tiny office and shouted at him, waving a piece of paper. "

Got a message for ya."

Hiram arched his eyebrows and touched a hand to his chest in question.

The gray-haired telegraph operator smiled and clomped along the walk toward him, shaking his head. "Yes, you, Mr. Dooley. Just because you haven't had a telegram in the last five years and more doesn't mean you'll never get one."

Hiram swallowed down a lump of apprehension and reached a cautious hand for the paper.

"What do I owe you?"

"Nothing. It was paid for on the other end."

It still seemed he ought to give him something, but maybe that was only if a messenger boy brought the telegram around to the house. Hiram nodded. "Thanks. Where's it from?"

"Whyn't you look and see?"

Hiram wanted to say, "Because if it's from Maine, it's probably bad news." His parents were getting along in years, and he couldn't think of a reason anyone would part with enough hard cash to send him a telegram unless somebody'd up and died.

But Hiram rarely spent more words than he had to, and Dostie had already gotten more out of him than usual. Besides, if someone in the family had died, the telegraph operator would know it, and wouldn't he look a little sadder if that were so? Hiram nodded and tucked the paper inside his vest, so it wouldn't fly away in the cool May wind that whistled up off the Idaho prairie. He walked home, stepping a little faster than previously, certain that Dostie watched him.

At the path to his snug little house, between the jail and a vacant store building, he turned in and hurried to the back. Maybe he'd ought to look. If it was bad news, he'd have to tell his sister, Trudy. Undecided, he mounted the steps and opened the kitchen door. A spicy smell of baking welcomed him, along with Trudy's smile.

"Just in time. I'm taking out the molasses cookies and putting in the dried apple pies." She bent before the open oven.

The woodstove had warmed the kitchen to an almost uncomfortable level. Hiram hung his hat on its peg and headed for the water bucket and wash basin. No use trying to get cookies from Trudy unless he'd washed his hands.

"Did Zachary Harper pay you?"

"No, he says he'll come by next week."


Hiram shrugged. Trudy got a little mama-bearish on his behalf when folks didn't come forth with cash for his work on their firearms, but he knew Zach would pay him eventually. It wasn't worth fussing over. As she peeled hot cookies off the baking sheet with a long, flat spatula, the soap shot out of his hand and skated across the clean floor. Thankful it hadn't slid under the hot stove, he walked to the corner and bent to retrieve it. The paper in his vest crackled.

"Oh, I 'most forgot." He corralled the soap and returned it to its dish. After a good rinsing, he dried his hands, fished out the folded yellow sheet of paper, and laid it on the table.

"What's that?" She stopped with the narrow spatula in midair, a hot, floppy cookie drooping over its edges.


"What's it say?"

He rescued the crumbling cookie and juggled it from one hand to the other. "Don't know." He blew on it until it was cool enough that it wouldn't burn him and popped half into his mouth. The warm sweetness hit the spot, and he felt less anxious.

Trudy set the cookie sheet down and balled her hands into fists. She put them to her hips, though she still held the spatula in one. "What's the matter with you? Why didn't you read it?"

He shrugged. How to tell his younger sister that he hadn't wanted to be smacked with bad news while the telegraph operator watched him?

"It's windy out."

She scowled at him.

"I didn't want it to blow away. Read it if you want." He reached for another cookie. "Is Ethan coming over tonight?"

"What do you think?"

Hiram smiled. The sheriff spent a disproportionate amount of time at the Dooley house these days, but he didn't mind. Ethan Chapman was a good man.

Trudy still eyed the telegram as though she expected it to rear back and sprout fangs and a tail rattle.

"Go ahead and read it," Hiram said, feeling a little guilty at putting the task off on her.

"If it's addressed to you, then you do it."

He sighed and laid his cookie aside. It would be better with milk, anyway. He wiped his hands on his dungarees and picked up the paper. As he opened it, he quickly scanned the message for the "from" part and frowned. Why on earth would Rose Caplinger send him a message all the way from Maine?

"What?" Trudy asked.

He held it out to her. "It's Rose."

"Violet's sister?"

Hiram nodded. "She wants to visit, I guess." He should have read it more closely, but the idea of his opinionated sister-in-law descending on them was enough to make a bachelor quake. He and his bride, Violet, had traveled West twelve years ago, in part for the opportunities that beckoned them, but also in part to escape her pushy family. If Rose hadn't bothered to come after Violet died, why on earth would she take it into her head to visit a decade later? "We'll have to tell her not to come."

Trudy's eyebrows drew together as she studied the paper. "Too late, Hi. She's already in Boise."

Copyright 2010 by Susan Page Davis.
Visit Susan at her Web site: Her books can be purchased Christian Book Distributors (, Barnes & Noble (, Amazon (, and fine bookstores everywhere.

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