Saturday, August 28, 2010

Formula for Danger: The Bridge of Peace

Formula for Danger

by Camy Tang

Someone wants dermatologist Rachel Grant's latest research, and they'll do anything to get it. Including trashing the plants needed for her breakthrough scar-reducing cream—and trying to run Rachel down. Desperate for help, she turns to Edward Villa, the only man she trusts. But the greenhouse owner knows too much about Rachel's research, and now he's a target, too. Break-ins, muggings, murder…the would-be thief is getting desperate—and getting closer. Edward vows to protect Rachel at all costs. Yet with time ticking away, Edward knows they have to uncover the madman shadowing Rachel before their chance for a future is destroyed.

Chapter One

Dr. Rachel Grant had walked only a few feet out the back door of her family's Sonoma day spa, Joy Luck Life, when the patter of running footsteps behind her made her turn.

She had only a glimpse of a dark hoodie and a tall, lanky figure before a shove sent her sprawling onto the sidewalk. Thwack! Her left cheekbone collided with the cement, sending pain lancing through her head.

Snow clouded her vision and she struggled to open her eyes. Her heart pounded in her throat, making it hard for her to breathe. Frantic, she opened her mouth wide but no sound came out.

She glanced up. The backsides of dirty sneakers filled her field of view as they trotted away from her. Then a hand scooped up the bag strap of her sister Naomi's laptop computer, which had flown from Rachel's grip to land on the edge of the pool of light from the parking lot streetlamp. The sneakers hustled away.

Breathe! Rachel forced her wooden lungs to fill and tried to scream, but only a harsh croak came out. Where were the security guards? They should have seen the attack thanks to the outside video cameras. How long would it take for them to run out here?

Even worse, Naomi would be devastated to lose that laptop, which she'd bought barely five hours ago.

She heard the creak of the spa's back door, then more footsteps. "Rachel! Rach, are you okay?" Naomi fell to her knees beside her, hands on Rachel's shoulders. "I was talking to Martin, and we saw it all on the security camera." Martin, one of the security guards, raced past them, pursuing the stranger and the laptop.

In the distance, a woman's voice screeched, "What are you doing? Don't leave me!" It sounded as if it had come from the front of the spa.

Who was that? What was going on?

Rachel pushed herself up, her cheekbone throbbing as she rose. She squeezed her eyes shut to the wave of pain and paused on her knees, her head bowed.

Naomi put her arm around her. "Where are you hurt?"

"Just my cheek."

Naomi pulled Rachel's hair away from her face to look at her. Rachel had a hard time opening her eyes again as the pain splashed across her forehead, trickling back inside her skull. "How bad is it?"

"You'll have a black eye, that's for sure. We need to get you to the hospital."

"No, I'll have Monica look at it first. If the family nurse says so, then I'll go to the hospital." Just the thought of all the people in a crowded emergency room made Rachel cringe. She only wanted a quiet place to lie down and recover. "I'm sorry about your laptop."

"Forget the laptop, I'm worried about you."

"I only took a fall, nothing worse. But that laptop was new—"

"I can buy a new one. Besides, I'm almost glad it was new because it didn't have anything on it, so the spa didn't lose any sensitive information. That would have been worse." Especially since Naomi still managed the spa while their father recovered from his stroke. Naomi had bought the computer to help her with the spa's accounting.

"We should call the police and report it stolen."

"We should call Dad and Aunt Becca first." Naomi dug her cell phone out of her pocket.

"Call Aunt Becca. Aren't she and Detective Carter out to dinner tonight?" The two of them were dating again after an argument that had kept them apart for a few months. It was almost 10:00 p.m., but they might still be together at a movie.

As Naomi talked to Aunt Becca—who indeed was with Detective Horatio Carter—Rachel managed to sit up, although the evening sky spun around her. She clutched her hands together, trying to stop their shaking. She'd been attacked in the spa parking lot!

Clicking heels made Rachel look up. Gloria Reynolds, one of Naomi's massage clients, tripped toward them. "Dr. Grant, are you all right? Did that man hurt you?"

"Ms. Reynolds, you're still here?" Not the most tactful thing to say, but her headache was making it hard for her to be polite.

"Ms. Reynolds was my last client for tonight," Naomi told Rachel as she ended her call with Aunt Becca.

Gloria flipped her highlighted hair with a manicured hand. "The security guard was walking me to my car when he saw that person running away. Miss Grant," Gloria said to Naomi, "you really should talk to that guard. He ran after the person and left me by myself. Even when I called to him. And it was obvious the other guard was after the man, too, so there was no need for him to give chase."

Naomi smiled politely and responded with amazing courtesy when Rachel knew she must be rolling her eyes inside.

A flash of car headlights made Rachel wince as a vehicle headed down the spa driveway.

Then alarm jolted through her. The spa was closed, and the security guards, running after the thief toward the drive way, would have stopped the car from entering. Were the guards okay?

The car maneuvered into the staff parking lot, then stopped right next to them. A door opened and slammed shut. "Rachel!"

Edward Villa's voice made her heart leap into her throat, then settle back down in her chest, racing. Edward was here. Suddenly everything seemed okay.

No, she had to stop reacting this way to him. He didn't think of her as anything other than a client.

"Are you all right?"

She smelled him—pine, a hint of the orchids he worked with at his greenhouses and earthy musk—before her eyes registered that he was crouched in front of her, edging out Ms. Reynolds.

"The guards told me what happened when I drove in."

Copyright © 2000–2010 Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous romance series (Sushi for One?, Only Uni, and Single Sashimi) and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. Formula for Danger releases in September. Originally from Hawaii, she worked as a biologist for 9 years, but now she is a staff worker for her San Jose church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She has coordinated the ACFW Genesis contest for 5 years and runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in online classes and book doctoring. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Visit her website at

Visit this page on Camy's website for links to buy Formula for Danger at your favorite online store:

The Bridge of Peace

by Cindy Woodsmall

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Love and lies abound in Dry Lake, Pennsylvania.

Is love enough to overcome the obstacles?

An excerpt from chapter one~

Quiet hung in the air inside the one-room schoolhouse as the children waited on Lena's next action. The curiosity she loved to stir in her scholars now filled their minds in ways she wished she could erase. The hush wasn't out of respect or desk work or learning.

Staring into defiant eyes, she stood. "Return to your seat, Peter."

With his back to the other students, he leaned across her oak desk. "Make me." The threat in his voice was undeniable. She'd spoken to his parents about his behavior, but they'd believed that their son was only kidding and that she was taking his words and actions all wrong.

Nothing about the conduct of this six-foot man-child hinted at humor. He wasn't teasing, but he was toying with her—like her barn cats did with field mice before killing their prey.

Feeling as unsightly as a wounded rodent was part of daily life for her. It even slipped into her dreams on a regular basis. But Lena was no mouse. When dealing with Peter, her will battled with her emotions. The teacher in her wanted to find a way to reach inside him, to get beyond the prejudices and surliness and find something of value. The rest of her simply wished he'd never moved to Dry Lake.

Still, she believed that most people had hidden wealth, good things within that made them more worthy than they appeared on the outside. For reasons that had nothing to do with Peter, she had to hold on to that belief.

She offered a teacher-friendly smile. "The assignment stands, and it's due tomorrow. Take your seat, please."

He slid her well-organized papers onto the floor and crawled onto her desk and sat. At fifteen he was the oldest student she'd ever taught—or tried to teach. He should have graduated sixteen months ago from an Amish school in Ohio, where he'd lived before moving to Dry Lake. Although she had no idea what happened to put him so far behind in his studies, he seemed to think she was the problem.

It would be easier to tap into his better self, or at least better behavior, if there was someone to send him to when he got this bad. During her rumschpringe, her running-around years, she'd used her freedoms to attend public high school. When her public school teachers faced a difficult student like Peter, they sent him to another teacher, a counselor, or a principal. If there was another adult nearby, Peter probably wouldn't consider it a game to try to take control of her class. Maybe she needed to talk about this situation with her Englischer friend Samantha. Surely with her degree in psychology and her working this year as a school counselor, she would know some helpful tips.

"At your desk, Peter."

"I'm not doing the work, and I better not get a zero."

She swallowed and drew a breath, refusing the temptation to scream at him. "You have the right to decide your actions, or maybe a better word is inactions, but you do not have the right to insist on what grade I can give." Hoping to continue with class, Lena walked around the desk and settled her attention on the first-grade students.

"Who has their penmanship papers done?" Her three first-grade scholars raised their hands. "Good."

She could feel Peter behind her, seething with anger that had little to do with her. Wondering if she should face him or keep her focus on teaching, she took Marilyn's spiral-bound notebook in hand and began looking over the young girl's work. "To your desk, Peter," she repeated as she made a smiley face at the top of Marilyn's page.

His breath was hot on the back of her neck as he whispered, "You won't win, so don't even try."

The threat unleashed her anger, and suddenly she became its slave. Even while telling herself to ignore him as he was finally making his way toward his desk, she spun around. "You're a bully, Peter. Do you understand that about yourself?"

His face and eyes became like stone. "I'll convince the school board you're the problem. They're already whispering behind your back about how to get rid of you. I bet they only hired you because they felt sorry for you. I mean, what else would someone like you do, marry?"

His personal attack caused a storm of insecurities about her looks to rise within. But that aside, she was sure he was wrong about the school board wanting to get rid of her. She'd made one good-sized error they'd not been pleased with, but surely…

He slapped the side of his face really hard and laughed. "Look, I'm making my face blotchy like Teacher Lena's."

The younger students looked horrified as he mocked her. Some of the older boys laughed, but most were clearly embarrassed for her. Peter kept smacking the side of his face, egging on the class to laugh at his antics.

"Mandy and Rachel,"—Lena looked to the oldest girls in the class—"please take everyone outside for a brief recess."

Peter sat on her desk again, but at least he'd hushed. Smirking, but silent. The room filled with the sounds of desks shifting slightly and the rustle of clothing and soft, padded shoes as her scholars went outside. Willing her irritation to calm, she took several deep breaths and focused her thoughts on what could be accomplished with patience and effort. Good memories of teaching moved into her mind.

To read the rest of chapter one of The Bridge of Peace, go to


Excerpted from The Bridge of Peace; copyright © 2010 by Cindy Woodsmall. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. If you wish to use this excerpt or any part of it please contact Barbara Putrich via email: She will be glad to assist you with obtaining permission.

The Bridge of Peace releases August 31, 2010. For store and ordering information, go to

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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Bridge of Peace

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall

Releases date Tuesday, August 31, 2010!

Headstrong schoolteacher Lena Kauffman finds herself at the center of controversy in her Amish community when a young man in her classroom refuses to submit to her authority. As her friends and family rally around her, especially longtime friend Grey Graber, things go from bad to worse when Grey’s wife, Elsie, becomes an accidental target in trouble meant for Lena. As the present unravels around them, each must find their own way through their private pain in order to find peace and a brighter future.

The Bridge of Peace is the second novel in the Ada’s House series and it returns to Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, and the beloved characters from The Hope of Refuge. The Hope of Refuge—Christy finalist, Inspirational Readers Choice Contest finalist, and a Carol Award finalist.

To read the first chapter of The Bridge of Peace or see a list of places to order it online, go to

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She’s coauthor of an upcoming spring release, Plain Wisdom, which is a nonfiction book of touching and humorous life events written with an Old Order Amish friend.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Abigail: A Novel


Jill Eileen Smith

What price must she pay for true love?

Her days marked by turmoil and faded dreams, Abigail has resigned herself to a life with a man she does not love. When her husband Nabal's foolish pride angers David and his men, she boldly steps forward to save her family—and David, the would-be king, takes notice.

Circumstances offer Abigail a second chance at happiness with the handsome David, and she takes a leap of faith to join his wandering tribe. But her struggles are far from over. How can she share his love with the other women he insists on marrying?

Abigail follows the bestselling Michal and continues Jill Eileen Smith's rich story of David's wives.
"A rich tapestry of an era filled with love and longing that rings true across the centuries."
—Siri Mitchell, author of Love's Pursuit

A hawk screeched overhead, a foreboding sound. Moments later male voices accompanied the march of steady feet coming closer. She looked up to where the road bent in a wide curve. Her donkey reached the bend as the marching men drew near with their leader in front, fierce and determined.

David. It had to be.

The sight of the king's son-in-law was nothing like she'd imagined. In the stories she'd heard of him, he was the shepherd and the singer and the man who would kill to marry the woman he loved. The last thought should have warned her of the fierce warrior who strode down the hill, gaze angry and proud. He was more handsome than Nabal, but his expression was as dark as Nabal's had been the night he assaulted her the first year of their marriage.

Adonai, help me!

Her knees grew weak, and she wasn't sure they would hold her, but she reined in her donkey just the same and slipped from its back. David's pace never slowed until he stopped within an arm's length. She sucked in a startled breath. He was so close she could feel the strength of him, smell his sweat. Unable to stand without swaying, she fell to her knees and lowered her face to the dust.

"My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please, let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say." She stopped and waited for his response, her pounding heart sounding louder than her breath.

Silence spanned between them like a wide chasm. She felt his touch on her head. "Rise and speak." His voice was quiet and hoarse, as though he didn't trust himself to say more.

She pushed to her knees and leaned back on her heels, her gaze focused on his feet. "My lord, please pay no attention to this man, Nabal. His name means `fool,' and folly goes with him. But I, your servant, did not see the men my master sent." She pressed sweaty hands along the folds of her robe as the sound of marching came to an abrupt halt behind David. She ignored the muffled sounds of grumbling men.

"My lord," she said, lifting her voice above the din, "since Adonai has kept you from avenging

yourself and from shedding innocent blood, may your enemies and all who seek your life be as Nabal."

At his startled intake of breath, she looked up briefly to meet his gaze. Where had such a curse on her husband come from? But the words had been on her tongue before she could stop them. Her hands trembled at the thought. She twisted the sash at her waist, looking once again at his dusty, sandaled feet.

"And now, my lord, may this food your handmaid has brought," she said, hurrying her words lest he stop her before she could finish, "let it be given to the young men who follow you. Please forgive your servant's offense. Adonai will surely make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight Adonai's battles. May you never be found guilty of wrongdoing. Though your enemies pursue you and seek your life, the Lord your God will protect you, and the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as out of the pocket of a sling. When Adonai fulfills all the good that he has promised you and has appointed you ruler over Israel, my lord will not carry the grief of having avenged yourself or shed blood without cause."

She drew in a deep breath, willing herself to calm down, but she could not stop her body from trembling. Clasping her hands into a tight ball, she looked at him boldly but dropped her voice to a whisper. "When Adonai brings all these good things to pass for you, my lord, then remember your maidservant." She quickly dropped her gaze then and placed both hands on her knees, but not before she caught the hint of a smile on his lips. His anger had been assuaged, her words heard.

Thank you, Adonai. Relief flooded her, and a shiver passed over her.

"Praise be to Adonai, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me." David bent to touch her shoulder, and when she looked up at him again, he offered his hand. "May you be blessed for your good judgment, for keeping me from bloodshed this day, and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak."

She placed her hand in his and let him pull her to her feet. She swayed from the sheer relief of his smile, and he quickened his grip on her hand. Heat filled her face at his touch, however innocent, and when she looked into his eyes she read his frank appreciation that spoke more than he dared say. She quickly dropped her gaze as he released her hand.

"Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request." He stepped back from her and clasped his hands behind his back.

The action made her look up again. His smile had faded, but his eyes never left her face. She nodded in acknowledgment, and the impact of all that had just happened rushed in on her with a force that nearly knocked her to her knees again. David was accepting her gift but sending her home. Home to Nabal her husband. Nabal, the foolish son of Belial.

And come morning she would have to tell him everything.

Jill Eileen Smith

Copyright 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

Masquerade; Within My Heart

Excerpt from Masquerade

By Nancy Moser

1886, New York City: Charlotte Gleason, a rich English heiress travels to America to marry the even wealthier Conrad Tremaine. But she has second thoughts, and persuades her maid, Dora, to take her place. What begins as the whim of a spoiled rich girl wanting adventure becomes a test of survival. As for Dora, she lives a fairy tale complete with gowns, jewels, and lavish mansions--yet is tormented by guilt and the presence of another love that will not die. Will the switch work? It's the chance of a lifetime.

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Chapter One

Dornby Manor
Wiltshire, England
Early autumn 1886

"I've told you, Father, I won't marry him."

Thomas Gleason held a matchstick to the bowl of his pipe and puffed repeatedly, luring the tobacco to ignite. "It's a good match, daughter. Everyone has heard of the Tremaines, even here in England."

Heard of their money, perhaps . . .

Lottie remembered the whispered rumors about the Tremaines. She knew her parents hated gossip—or pretended to for propriety's sake—but now was not the time for her to be timid. "Some say the Tremaines are nouveau riche. The elder Mr. Tremaine is but one generation away from those who peddled their goods on the streets of New York City."

Her father pointed his pipe at her. "Perhaps. But Tremaine's Dry Goods has grown to encompass a five-story building, taking up an entire city block."

Mother shook her head and said beneath her breath, "A glorified shopkeeper."

Father shot her a glance.

Mother nodded to the maid, Dora, to pour the tea. "We are the ones doing the Tremaines the favor. You are Sir Thomas Gleason," she said. "The Gleasons have ties to Richard the Second. Our name is listed in Debrett's."

A puff of smoke billowed in front of Father's face. "Now, now, Hester. By seeking a goodly match for our daughter, we're not negating our own roots. It's a blessing the Tremaines have shown interest in our Charlotte, especially since they've never met any of us. And considering . . . "

Lottie interrupted. "You act as if meeting me might cause them to change their minds. I may not be a ravishing beauty, Father, but I've been complimented many times regarding my appearance."

"No, no," her father said. "Don't take offense. You're a lovely girl. I was merely pointing out the odd circumstances of . . . our situation."

Hester coughed and put her ever-present handkerchief to her mouth.

Lottie tried unsuccessfully to squelch her annoyance at her mother's cough. Hack, hack, hack. Perhaps if Mother spent more time outside, walking the grounds of their Wiltshire estate, her health would improve. But Mother prided herself on indoor pursuits, namely her needlepoint chair cushions. Best in the county, she bragged. Lottie didn't care for such nonsense. To go to so much work only to have someone sit upon it was absurd.

As was this conversation.

Lottie set her teacup down, rose from her chair, and moved to the windows that overlooked the front lawn. "I don't see why we have to talk about this now." Or ever. "It's my birthday and my friends will be arriving for my party soon and . . . " She turned to her mother directly. "Speaking of my party, why aren't you bustling about? A dozen of my friends will arrive in just a few hours, yet if I didn't know better, I'd think the party was next Tuesday rather than today."

The handkerchief rose once again. "You said you didn't want an extravagant soiree, dear, just a light repast with cakes and sweets for your friends. Mrs. Movery is quite busy with the food preparations, I'm sure." She glanced at Dora. "In fact, toward that end . . . Dora, why don't you go see how things are coming along in the kitchen."

Dora said, "Yes, ma'am," and left them.

Lottie wished she would have stayed. Dora was her lady's maid and her best friend in the entire world. But lately, her parents had started asking Dora to do other tasks, even helping out in the kitchen, which was unthinkable. Lottie had noticed a few of the housemaids and parlour-maids were no longer in service with the family, but that didn't mean Dora should suffer. "I don't understand why Dora is suddenly being asked to expand her duties. She's my maid. I assure you I keep her very busy."

"I'm sure you do, daughter," her father said. "But . . . well . . . "

Mother continued the thought. "With the preparations for your party this afternoon . . . "

Something wasn't being said. Lottie wished her parents would tell her what was going on. She had a good mind. She could practically recite the novels of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters by heart. Didn't that prove she had an intellect worth utilizing? Sometimes Lottie thought she would scream from lack of purpose. To sit in the house all day, reading or doing needlework, waiting for someone of consequence to call was silly. She would happily trade two women of means for one person who could offer amusement or witty conversation. Odd how those attributes were sorely lacking in polite society, among people who were far too polite to be of interest.

But now, looking out upon the front drive and the vista of the green that carpeted the house to the road, she abandoned her worries for the anticipation of seeing carriage after carriage arriving for her party. Guests laden with presents—for her. Perhaps purpose was overrated. In all her nineteen years she'd found it quite acceptable—pleasant, really—to let the world beyond their country home dip and spin without her. What did she care of labor acts or problems in Ireland or whether Queen Victoria became Empress of Burma? Where in the world was Burma?

Lottie preferred experiencing life through novels where the characters were always enjoying a lovely ball or romp through the countryside that would lead them to their one true love. Her copies of Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Little Women were threadbare. Lottie especially enjoyed stories about sisters—perhaps because she had none. Conversely, she did not enjoy the books of Elizabeth Gaskell or Charles Dickens with the same zeal, finding their stories too driven by social inequities. She didn't want to read about the world's problems. She wanted romance, diversion, passion, and a happy ending—in her books and in real life . . .

Copyright 2010: Nancy Moser

Bethany House Publishers

By it at Christian Book or your favorite bookstore

* * *

Within My Heart


Tamera Alexander

"Tamera Alexander paints scenery with the written word, and makes characters, stories, and insights linger long after the book is read."
–Cindy Woodsmall, New York Times bestselling author

"Break out the tissue box for this one! Book three in the Timber Ridge Reflections series is an entertaining romance that will warm your heart and stir your faith. Without being preachy, Alexander guides readers to the foot of the Cross. The reminder that life holds no guarantee on happiness, but we must continue to keep our hearts open and trust God will resonate with readers."

-- Romantic Times, 4 star review

About the book:

Sometimes the greatest step of faith is taken neck-deep in fear.

Determined to fulfill her late husband's dream, Rachel Boyd struggles to keep her ranch afloat with the help of her two young sons. But some days it feels as though her every effort is sabotaged. When faced with a loss she cannot afford, she's forced to trust Rand Brookston, the one man in Timber Ridge she wishes to avoid. And with good reason. He's a physician, just like her father, which tells her everything she needs to know about him. Or so she thinks . . .

Dr. Rand Brookston ventured west with the dream of bringing modern medicine to the wilds of the Colorado Rockies, but the townspeople have been slow to trust him. Just as slow in coming is Rand's dream to build the town a proper clinic. When a patient's life is threatened, Rand makes a choice—one that sends ripples through the town of Timber Ridge. And through Rachel Boyd's stubborn heart.


Dusk, hours following the Battle of Nashville

December 17, 1864

Half hidden beneath the bare-limbed canopy of a dogwood tree, the gravedigger kept a reverent distance, patiently waiting for the last whispered prayers to be uttered and for the final mourner to take her leave. Only then did he step into the fading light, a worn spool of string clutched tight in his gnarled hand. Not much time left. It would be dark soon. And the last grave still needed tending before the pewter skies let loose their winter white.

The distant squeak of wagon wheels and the clomp of horses' hooves faded into the night, leaving only the faint chirrup of crickets to companion the silence. Jessup Collum lifted the lid of the oblong pine box and with painstaking care, his arthritic fingers numb from the cold and marred with time and age, he tied a trailing length of string around the soldier's right wrist. Mindful not to tie the string overtight, he looped the other end through a tiny bell.

He stared for a moment at the soldier's face—the fallen Confederate a mere boy judging from his features—then he glanced around at the freshly covered graves. Deep in his bones he knew what he was doing was right, even if a bit out of the ordinary. There was no malice in his actions, and no sin, most certainly. Nothing that would bring serious offense. Though folks would surely think him a touch senile, if they saw. If they knew . . .

So many ways for a man to die, yet only one was needed for the earth to cradle a body back from whence all life had come. Jessup turned that thought over in his mind as he'd done countless times before, not indifferent to the shadows stealing across the graveyard as the December sun hastened its retreat. Nightfall brought bitter cold, but not a breath of wind stirred, and each snowflake lofted downward from heaven, unhindered in its journey. He worked hurriedly to cover the last grave, mindful of the trailing string.

After the last shovel of dirt, he straightened, slowly, his crooked spine bearing the brunt of forty-two years of tending this hallowed ground—and of the last few hours of burying the bloodied remnants the Federal Army had abandoned following their assault. If the once-valiant Tennessee Army had been crippled in the battle at Franklin two weeks ago, then the past two days of fighting had delivered a mortal wound.

Jessup lit a torch and stared over row after row of mounded earth, the light casting a burnished glow around him. Too many and too young were those who lay here, going before their time. Before their lives had been lived out. He thought again of the young woman earlier who'd been last to take her leave. Dark-haired with skin pale and smooth as cream, she'd knelt for the longest time at the grave on the far end, one he'd taken care in covering not two hours earlier, as he'd done the one at his feet just now.

She'd huddled close by that grave, weeping, arms drawn around herself, looking as if she'd wanted to lay herself down and mark an end to her own life, what little she had left after losing the man buried there—"a decorated lieutenant from the Tennessee regiment, and my only brother," she'd whispered through tears.

The wound on the lieutenant's neck had told Jessup how the man had died, and the sutures and bloodstained bandages told him how hard some doctor had fought to save him. Shame how fast these soldiers were buried. No proper funeral. No time for one—not with the Federal Army bearing down hard, void of mercy, bent on conquering what little was left.

He tugged the worn collar of his coat closer about his neck and begged the Almighty, again, to intervene, to put an end to this war. Surely it couldn't go on much longer.

A heavy mist crept over the rise from the creek, shrouding the stone markers. The fog seemed to deepen the pungent aroma of upturned earth, and a beguiling trace of honeysuckle clung to the cool night air, despite the wild vine not being in bloom. Jessup took a deeper whiff and could almost taste the sweet summer nectar. A smile pushed up his whiskered cheeks. Maybe folks were right. Maybe he was a touch senile after all. These days recent memories skittered off about as quickly as he reached for them, while others that should have been long gathering dust inched closer as the years stretched on. He sat down against an ancient poplar, borrowing its strength.

Still no wind, and the snow had ceased falling. He imagined the boy's face again, able to see it clearly in his mind's eye as he stared at the bell, willing it to move. Even the slightest bit.

He put his head back, resting his eyes, only for a moment. But the moments lengthened and gathered and pulled taut, coaxing him along on a gentle wave, absent of the throb in his lower back and the ache across his swollen knuckles. He was a boy again, running through fields knee-high with summer grass, the sun hot on his face, sweat from a humid Tennessee afternoon beading on his forehead and matting his hair to his head. Someone called to him in the distance. A voice so sweet . . .

A lifetime had passed since he'd heard that voice. Mother . . .

He ran, youthful legs pumping hard, trying to reach her, wanting to see her again. But the faster he ran, the farther away her voice seemed to—

Jessup awakened with a start, his breath coming in sharp staggers. An uncanny sense of presence crowded the darkness around him, and he realized the torch had gone out. He sat straighter, head cocked to one side, and listened, straining to hear his mother's voice again.

But her voice was gone.

He wiped the telling moisture from his cheeks and rose, the joints cracking in his knees. In all his days, he couldn't recall so still a night. So loud a hush over the graves. With a sinking feeling, he looked down at the grave of the young boy. It was late now. Too late.

He prayed the boy was at peace, wherever he was. Same for the decorated lieutenant down the way. He didn't know much about the afterlife—not like folks expected him to—but he reckoned if God was as kind as he believed Him to be that there was some sort of special welcome going on right now for those men who'd laid down their lives in this terrible—

The distant tinkling of a bell brought Jessup upright.

A skitter shimmied up his spine. The air trapped viselike in his lungs. Praying he wasn't still dreaming, he searched the darkness at the end of the row where the woman had knelt earlier, and his skin turned to gooseflesh. If this was what some folks felt when they visited this place late at night, he knew now why they never ventured back.

He also knew why he would never leave.

Tamera Alexander is the bestselling novelist of Rekindled, Revealed, Remembered, From A Distance, and The Inheritance, Women of Faith's first historical novel. Her deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose resonate with readers and have earned her multiple industry awards, among them the 2008 and 2009 Christy and the 2007 and 2010 RITA. After living in Colorado for seventeen years, Tamera has returned to her Southern roots. She and her husband now make their home in Franklin, Tennessee where they enjoy life with Tamera's father, Doug, and also with their two college-age children who live nearby. And don't forget Jack, their precious—and precocious—silky terrier.

Visit her Web site at
Visit her Blog at
Enter to win a copy of Beyond This Moment at:

Within My Heart is available at bookstores everywhere, on,,, and at your local Christian bookstore.

Copyright © 2010 by Tamera Alexander

ISBN 978-0-7642-0391-6

Bethany House Publishers
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Missing Mabel; The Weight of Shadows

Missing Mabel: A Curl Up and Dye Mystery

By Nancy Mehl

Hilde Higgins knows hair, and she knows the hair on her client doesn't match that of the person originally identified as Mabel Winnemaker. How can she make the funeral director acknowledge the mix-up when they think she is creating a distraction to cover for stealing for stealing Mabel's diamond ring? Now her reputation and career are on the line. The only way to salvage her future is to find the missing Mabel. Can an old boyfriend be of help, or will he just add to the complications in her tangled life?


I glanced at my watch. I was supposed to meet my mother at one o'clock. Just enough time to do Mabel's hair and get to the restaurant. Lunch with Mother. Not something I looked forward to. My mother still couldn't understand why I'd left college to go to beauty school and ended up working on "dead people's hair, for crying out loud." Mom is a successful neurosurgeon who is absolutely horrified by my career choice. I'd tried once to explain to her how it happened, but her dazed look told me that she was either taking a quick, open-eyed nap, or she was thinking about the next skull she planned to crack open. At least we were both concentrating on the same end of the body.

No matter how I tried to express myself when it came to my present job, she couldn't understand it. To be honest, I wasn't exactly certain myself how it happened. Fresh out of beauty school and accepted into one of the top salons in Wichita, I was in a position to make good money while doing something I thought I would really enjoy. I knew my mother had pulled some strings to get me hired by Monsieur Maximilian, who owned Maximilian's Salon de L'Élégance. Although it's the premier salon in the city, I was L'Miserable. Most of my clients were rich, older women who wanted to look like Julia Roberts. When they stared into a mirror and saw crow's feet, double chins, and loose skin, somehow it was always my fault. My hairstyles were supposed to perform miracles, it seemed. Unfortunately, God didn't see fit to fill my combs and brushes with miracle-working power.

My life changed one afternoon about a year ago when Monsieur Max grabbed the back of my coat and screeched, "Ah, ma petite chérie, you must grab your combs and go right now!"

Assuming I was fired, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. However, that was followed by a rush of terror when I understood that I was being sent to a local funeral home to fix the hair of a recently departed patron. The family insisted that their dear mother's hair be styled by the same salon that had been taking care of her for years. Surprisingly, no one else wanted to go.

Feeling that my career, such as it was, was hanging by a thread, I drove to The Sweet Slumberland Funeral Home, shaking like a leaf. I was scared stiff (no pun intended) as I was led down the hall to my client. But once we were alone, something happened to me. I felt a real

peace in that room, and before long, Gertrude's hair was beautifully coiffed.

A couple of days later, I slipped quietly into the back of the church where her funeral was being held. Because she and her family were well known in the community, the church was packed and no one noticed me. After the service, I followed the procession of mourners who filed past her

open casket. Two women in front of me stopped to stare at their late friend.

"Oh my goodness," one whispered to the other. "She looks lovely. She always had the most

beautiful hair."

"Yes she did," the other acknowledged. "Her daughter was worried that her mother wouldn't look right. Gertie was very fastidious, you know. But I understand Carol was so comforted when she saw her mother at the funeral home, she broke down and cried with relief. I'm glad she'll be able to remember Gertrude this way."

Anyone seeing me would have thought Gertrude Maitland and I were close friends. Maybe the tears I wept weren't from a relationship with the elderly woman while she was alive, but we still had a bond. She had needed me to help her say good-bye. As I stood over her casket, I realized that I'd found something I wanted to do. I could use my skills with clients who wouldn't be voicing silly complaints, while I brought comfort to grieving families. I'd accidentally found my calling. I hurried back to the salon and quit my job that very afternoon. After listening to a stream of French phrases I'm pretty sure were dancing on the edge of profanity, I said good-bye to Monsieur Max, who was actually raised in Boise, Idaho, and set off on my new venture.

Within two weeks I had work. After a couple of jobs, the word spread quickly throughout the mortuary community. Even homes with their own cosmetologists called me. Applying makeup to the faces of the deceased was one thing. Fixing their hair was quite another. It took a level of skill most mortuary employees didn't have. One thing that helped me tremendously was that I always asked for a picture of my client so I could style their hair the same way they'd worn it when they were alive. I still remembered my great-aunt Edna's service. Her long hair, which was always worn in a bun, had been cut and tightly curled. She didn't look at all like herself. My grandmother was devastated.

"I don't know who that is," she'd declared at the viewing, "but that is certainly not my sister!"

I was determined that would never happen at one of my funerals.

Do not reproduce without permission.

Nancy Mehl is the author of "Simple Secrets," book one in The Harmony Series - Mennonite romantic suspense mixed with mystery. "Missing Mabel" is book one in her Curl Up and Dye mystery series. Book two, "Blown Away," will be released in the fall of 2010.

Her Web site is: and her blog is located at:
Her books can be ordered on , Barnes and Noble , - or

can be found in local bookstores.

* * *

The Weight of Shadows

By Alison Strobel

The Weight of Shadows is, "moving," "engrossing, "complex," and "impossible to put down." After a difficult childhood, Kim finds everything she needs in Rick---including a way to pay for her sins. A gripping, gritty novel, The Weight of Shadows explores how the choices we make and the risks we take for those we love can touch the lives of others forever.

Is it truly a birthday party when the guests don't even know it's
your birthday? Kim pondered the question as she slipped on the
slacks she'd borrowed from her roommate Corrie. Certainly it was
an improvement over eating a store-bought cupcake alone in front
of reruns. She'd done that more times than she cared to remember.

Corrie's voice rang out over the stereo, welcoming whoever had
arrived and bringing Kim back to the present. She bit her lip, de-
bating whether or not to go out yet. These weren't her friends, she
wasn't good at small talk, and with only one guest there was no
way for her to disappear into the crowd or avoid interacting. Three
strikes. She'd better wait.

A pair of black flats, their toes and heels repaired with a marker,
were the finishing piece to her ensemble. She gave her red blouse a
tug at the bottom and examined herself in the mirror, happy with
what she saw. It was possible she wouldn't talk to anyone all night,
but at least she looked nice. In fact, part of her hoped no one would
talk to her - she'd met a few of Corrie's friends before, and they
were all out of her league. The thought of trying to hold a conver-
sation with any of them resurrected the butterflies. She frowned at
her reflection as the familiar self-doubt crept in. The less she said
tonight, the better.

Kim hated battling the voice of inadequacy that resurfaced
whenever she met new people. She reminded herself of the same
things she told her Club girls and gave her head a shake to dislodge
the negative thoughts. Your roots may form you, but they do not define
you. You are not less of a person because you lack the things most people
have. Your worth as a person is not determined by what you have, but
by who you are. When she talked to the girls, she was referencing
money, social standing, academic success, the perfect body - the
things teen girls usually stressed over. When she gave herself the
pep talk, though, she was thinking of family.

Six people had arrived, an equal mix of men and women who
had the same casual sophistication as Corrie, though two of the
women had a sort of polished hippie look that Kim envied, know-
ing she lacked the fashion sense to be like them. Her coordinating
abilities ended with slacks and blouses.

Corrie propped open the front door and returned to her conver-
sation. Kim walked to the snack table and began to load a plate with
some veggies and dip. She really wanted the chocolate chip cookies
Corrie had baked the night before, but she wanted to make a good
impression, and these folks looked like veggie people.

The next wave of guests entered, and instantly the party felt
more like a party. More talking, louder calls of "Hello!" across the
room, and, to Kim's great relief, less sophisticated dress. The last
one in shut the door behind himself and handed his scuffed leather
jacket to Corrie as he greeted her. Kim couldn't peel her eyes away
from him. He doesn't seem to belong with these people any more than I
do. Who is he?

The guest who had entered with Scuffed Leather Jacket intro-
duced him to Corrie. Kim was too far away and the room too noisy
for her to hear any of what they were saying, but Corrie, ever the
gracious hostess, made the universal mi casa es su casa arm-sweep
with a bright smile before carting the coats to her bedroom.

He stood with his hands half-jammed into his pockets and
looked around the room. When his gaze neared Kim she ducked
her head, though what she really wanted was to look him in the eye,
smile and welcome him, and commiserate. When he appeared at her
side, she almost couldn't breathe.

"The snack table is my favorite place to hide at a party too," he
said. She couldn't tell if he was sympathizing or making fun of her.

But his face, when she glanced over at him, was open and honest-
looking. There was no twinkle of teasing in his green eyes nor the
tug of a smirk at his lips. She laughed faintly and searched in vain
for something clever to say.

"My name is Rick, by the way."

"I'm Kim. Nice to meet you."

"You too. How do you know, um . . ."


"Yeah, Corrie."

"She's my roommate."

"Oh!" His face brightened. "Wow, this is your place?"

She slid her eyes back to her plate. "No. I wish. I just rent a room
from her."

"Oh, that's cool." He leaned in a little closer. "It's a nice place,
but not my style, you know? A little too . . ." He waved the hand that
wasn't holding a snack plate. "Calculated. Like those model homes
that are so decorated it's like walking into a design magazine."

"I've never thought about it, but you're right." She swirled
a carrot stick in a puddle of dip. "It's not really my style, either, but
I'll take it over just having a room any day."

They crunched on their respective vegetables in silence for a few
minutes before Kim got up the courage to speak again. "So who did
you come with?"

Rick pointed to the couch with a celery stick. "Guy I work with.

Adam. I think he knows Corrie from college or something like that.

Life has kinda sucked lately, so he invited me to cheer me up."

"That's a shame. I hope it works."

"It already has."

Kim felt her cheeks heat. She smothered the smile that stretched
across her face with a long sip from her soda. the Weight of Shadows at Amazon, ChristianBook, or your favorite bookstoreCopyright Alison Strobel 2010