Friday, September 24, 2010

Whisper in the Wind; A Very Private Grave

4 stars, Romantic Times
The suspenseful climax kept me on the edge of my seat! -Lynn Austin

Whisper on the Wind
By Maureen Lang

Once there was a young man who came of age just as war erupted, a war reaching farther than the world had ever known. His country, his home, his parents, his very future-all were threatened by an enemy whose power stretched wide. He shared only one belief with his oppressors: that the written word is the immortality of speech. Because of the oppression, he could not roar as they did, but found a way to join a whisper so incessant that even his enemies stopped to listen.


Edward Kirkland kicked through the ashes, staring at the black dust as if seeing what it had been just yesterday: his home. All that was left was a pile of charred ruins amid the shell of the hotel his father had managed. And there, not far in the distance, was the university. He could see the vestiges of the library from here, with nothing but rubble in between. Compliments of the German Imperial Army. There wasn't a thing Edward or all of Belgium could have done to stop it. Not that they hadn't tried, but a mouse couldn't fight an eagle.

Edward turned to leave. He shouldn't be out anyway, with German soldiers still roaming the streets, keeping the peace they'd broken with their arrival. He needed to return to his mother and brother in hiding at the church.

Something on the ground glimmered in the faint afternoon light. Though he stopped to investigate, scraping away fragments with the tip of his shoe, Edward knew nothing of value was left. Before they set the fire, the Germans had carried anything of worth out to a waiting cart to be shipped to Germany as spoils of war.

Then he saw the rose and a flash of silver light. With a lump in his throat, Edward bent and picked up the picture frame. He saw that the glass was broken and most of the photo burned away . . . except for the middle, where a shard held it intact. And there, smiling as if the world were a happy place, was Isa Lassone's face.

Isa, his mother's young charge, who'd fled with her parents before the invasion. She was safely ensconced in peaceful, prosperous America. She had both her parents, both her silly, selfish parents, while his father lay dead and the remains of their home smoldered.

The picture might have fallen without the glass holding it down. Bracing the photo in one hand, with the other he brushed away the broken pieces. He should let it go, let it join the wreckage of his home.

But Edward's thumb pressed it back into place, firmly within his grip.

Slipping the frame into the pocket of his coat, he made his way through the brightening streets. The ground was strewn with debris-bricks, glass, even a stinking dead horse here and there, the carcass oozing under the early August sun. Half the city was gone, along with Edward's father. Shooting and looting had lasted all night, but he'd had to see the hotel and university himself before he'd believe that they, too, had succumbed to the fires.

Something inside told Edward he should pray, reach out to God to help him face this day. That was what his father would have done, what he would have wanted his son to do.

Edward turned up the collar of his coat against an ash-laden breeze and walked away, trying not to think at all.


Edward did so because to refuse a soldier's orders was to be shot. He'd seen it done.

"You will come with me," came the awkward command, followed by a firmer, "Es ist ein Befehl!"

Edward raised his hands, sorry for only one thing: his death would multiply his mother's grief.

Chapter One

"Oh, God," Isa Lassone whispered, "You've seen me this far; don't let me start doubting now."

A few cool raindrops fell on her upturned face, blending with the warm tears on her cheeks. Where was her new guide? The one she'd left on the Holland side of the border had said she needed only to crawl through a culvert, then worm her way ten feet to the right, and there he would be.

Crickets chirped, and from behind her she heard water trickle from the foul-smelling culvert through which she'd just crept. Some of the smell clung to her shoes and the bottom of her peasant's skirt, but it was Belgian dirt, so she wouldn't complain. The prayer and the contents of her satchel reminded her why she was here, in this Belgian frontier the occupying German army strove to keep empty. For almost two years Isa had plotted, saved, worked, and defied everyone she knew-all to get to this very spot.

Then she heard it-the chirrup she'd been taught to listen for. Her guide had whistled it until Isa could pick out the cadence from any other.

She edged upward to see better, still hidden in the tall grass of the meadow. The scant mist cooled her cheeks, joining the oil and ash she'd been given to camouflage the whiteness of her skin. She must have grown used to its unpleasant odor, coupled with the scent she had picked up in the culvert, because now she could smell only grass. Twigs and dirt clung to her hands and clothes, but she didn't care. She, Isabelle Lassone, who'd once bedecked the cover of the Ladies' Home Journal with a group of other young American socialites, now crawled like a snake across a remote, soggy Belgian field. She must reach that sound.

Copyright Maureen Lang/Tyndale House
Please do not reproduce without permission.

Maureen Lang is the author of several novels, including Pieces of Silver (a Christy finalist), The Oak Leaves (Holt Medallion Award of Merit, finalist in ACFW's Book of the Year and Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence contests) and Look to the East (Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest winner and Carol Award finalist). She is also the recipient of RWA's Golden Heart and ACFW's Noble Theme Award (now the Genesis). Maureen lives in the Midwest with her family and their much-loved dog, Susie. for the story behind Whisper on the Wind

To purchase Whisper on the Wind

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Happy Reading!

* * *


Book 1, The Monastery Murders
An Ecclesiastical Thriller by
Donna Fletcher Crow

"Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries."--Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters

"History and mystery and murders most foul keep the pages turning in A Very Private Grave. . . . A fascinating read." --Liz Curtis Higgs, bestselling author of Thorn in My Heart

Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood .

A Very Private Grave is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ageless truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Fr. Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the-way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.

An Excerpt from Chapter 1

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

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

(Felicity's annoyance dissolves when she sees that her visitor is Father Dominic, her favorite monk, whom she had thought was still on pilgrimage. They visit over tea- taken black by Fr. Dominic since it's Ash Wednesday, a fast day for the community- and before he leaves he gives her a small parcel wrapped in brown paper, which she sticks in her pocket before returning to her studying.)

Two hours later the insistent ringing of the community bell called her back from her reading just in time to fling on a long black cassock and dash across the street and up the hill to the Community grounds.

The spicy scent of incense met her at the door of the church. She dipped her finger in the bowl of holy water, crossed herself and slipped into her seat.

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

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

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

She forced her attention back to the penitential service with its weighty readings, somber plainchant responses, and minor key music set against purple vestments. Only when they came to the blessing of the ashes did she realize Fr. Dominic wasn't in his usual place. Her disappointment was sharp. He had definitely said he was to do the imposition of the ashes and she had felt receiving the ashen cross on her forehead from that dear man would give the ancient ritual added meaning.

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

"Amen," she responded automatically.

The final notes of the postlude were still echoing high overhead when Felicity rose from her seat and hurried outside. Dinner, a vegetarian Lenten meal, would start in the refectory almost immediately and it wouldn't do to be late. If she hurried, though, she could just dash back to her flat and pick up a book of Latin poetry for Fr. Dominic.

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

Felicity picked her way through scattered papers, dumped files, ripped letters. Dimly she registered that her computer and CD player were still there. Oh, and there was the Horace book still by her bed. She pulled her purse from under a pile of clothes. Empty. But its contents lay nearby. Credit cards and money still there.

Not robbery. So then, what? Why?

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

Well, whatever it was, she would show them. If someone in the college thought they could scare her off by flinging a few books around she'd give them something new to think about. She stormed out, slamming her door hard enough to rattle the glass pane and strode up the hill at twice the speed she had run down it, her mind seething. If those self-righteous prigs who posed as her fellow students thought they could put her off with some sophomoric trick-

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

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 35 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning GLASTONBURY, The Novel of Christian England is her best-known work, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history. A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series is her reentry into publishing after a 10 year hiatus. THE SHADOW OF REALITY, Book 1 The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries, is a romantic intrigue available on Ebook.

Donna and her husband have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic rose gardener and tea-drinker. To see the book video, to order A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, or to see pictures from Donna's research trips, go to

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Formula for Danger


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.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Perfect Blend, Book One in The Tea Shop Series; Seeking His Love

The Perfect Blend, Book One in The Tea Shop Series

By Trish Perry

Harvest House Publishers

Steph Vandergrift left everything to elope with Middleburg attorney Rick Manfred, who then stood her up at the altar. Too embarrassed to return home, Steph hopes to earn enough to get by until she can decide what to do next. Tea Shop owner Milly Jewel hires her and appreciates the extra help at the tea shop.

Also appreciative of Steph is Kendall James, one of the kindest, most eligible bachelors in the area. But by the time Steph feels able to consider dating again, her run-away fiancé returns and tries to win her back. Steph is wary, but she and Rick always blended so well.

Christie Burnham, the frank-talking equestrian from whom Steph rents a room, and her frillier sister Liz become fast friends and confidantes to Steph. Between the two sisters, there isn't much any man is going to pull over on Middleburg's newest bachelorette and tea shop employee.

Chapter Three

Steph walked into the buttery-smelling kitchen more quietly than she first realized. As engrossed as an artist at a canvas, Milly didn't turn from her work to acknowledge her.
While Milly wielded her spatula to move pastries from a large cookie sheet to several three-tiered serving trays, she muttered to herself. It sounded as if she were giving herself instructions about what to do next. She didn't look frazzled, exactly, but she was obviously more pressed for time than she had let on with Steph.

"I thought so," Steph said, and Milly jumped so abruptly she flipped a pastry across the room.
"Oh, my stars!" She clapped her hand over her chest and laughed at herself. "You're very light on your feet, young lady!"

"Sorry, Milly. I meant to come help you, not make you throw food all over the kitchen." Steph set her dishes on a table and retrieved the biscuit from the corner where it landed.

Milly waved away the comment, already composed again. "Don't worry. It's part of the creative process. You can toss that in the sink with your dishes. The side with the disposal."

"Sure. Actually, I had something else in mind."

"Mmm? Something else?" Milly had already refocused on the little biscuits, heaping little scoops of strawberries onto each one.

Shortcake! They were mini individual strawberry shortcakes for the ladies out front. Wow, what a way to start your morning. Certainly better than getting left at the altar.

"Let me help you today, Milly."

It took Milly a moment to react, to look away from the shortcakes. But when she did, Steph saw genuine interest in her eyes.

"Help me?"

"Yes, to thank you for rescuing me from a full-blown meltdown out there in front of Rick's office. It looks as though you could use some help, and I've waited tables before."

"Well, aren't you lovely, Steph?"

Steph shrugged. "It's the least I can do. And it's not as if I have anywhere else to be. I don't want to go back to Maryland, not under these circumstances. And I don't want to go back to the inn and sit there alone. I'll probably spend the whole day and night crying if I do that."

"You're staying at the inn? Which one? The Fox and Hounds?"

"Yeah." She sighed. "Rick reserved it for a few nights. It was as close to a honeymoon as we were going to have for now."

She stopped short of her next comment: That empty hotel room was still as close to a honeymoon as she could expect. She studied her hands. They were cold, and the modest engagement ring Rick gave her felt loose enough to lose.

"I'd love to have your help today, Steph." Milly's voice was so gentle Steph thought she said something even more kind than she had.

They smiled at each other and both said the same thing at the same time. "Thanks."

Several hours later Steph glanced at her watch. The time had passed quickly, and before this moment she hadn't thought of Rick once. Milly and her tea shop were obviously God's answer to her brief prayer this morning. The distraction was a blessing.

But her feet were sore, thanks to her impractical heels. Waiting tables had been the furthest thing from her mind when she dressed this morning. As the last of the lunchtime customers walked out the door, she sank onto one of the chairs to rest for a moment.

The shop door opened, and in walked Mr. Distraction himself, the handsome blond from this morning. He was reading something in his hand as he entered, so he didn't immediately notice Steph. Like a flash she pictured what he would see when he looked up. She hadn't really repaired her appearance since this morning. Rather, she had rushed about, delivering trays of tea and food and doing dishes without a thought to her appearance. She hadn't even combed her hair. And because it was layered, she knew it could look pretty wild when she neglected it for too long.

She wiped under her eyes for the fiftieth time today, hoping to erase any mascara she might have cried off. Then she remembered doing that earlier and spreading raspberry preserves under one eye. Did she just do something similar? For hygienic reasons alone, she must have washed her hands and cheeks more times than an obsessive compulsive germaphobe since she saw this guy last.

His opinion about her appearance didn't matter, of course. Except…well, to be honest, it did. She got like this around stunning men, and she knew she'd act stupid if she didn't have a bit more confidence than she felt at the moment. He was striking enough when he looked down. She stood abruptly. She needed to make a quick dash to the bathroom to freshen up before he looked up at her with those dark eyes of his—

And that's just what he did. A smile of recognition lit his expression. "Weren't you here when I dropped by this morning?"

She panicked and blurted out her most recent thought. "I need to go to the bathroom."

His smile wavered for the briefest of moments.

Had she actually told him she—

His genuine smile came right back, all the way to his eyes. "And you've been waiting here for permission all this time?" He tsked and looked toward the kitchen, as if Milly were standing right there. "That Milly can be awfully proprietary about her facilities." He headed toward the kitchen and spoke over his shoulder just before he walked through the swinging door. "You hang in there. I'll put in a good word for you."

She heaved a huge sigh. "I need to go to the bathroom?" She tried to find a silver lining, other than the fact that the guy obviously had a good sense of humor. She had to settle for this: Things could only look up from here.

Copyright 2010.

The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry can be found at,,, and fine book stores everywhere.

* * *

October Love Inspired

By Carrie Turansky

When a student falsely accuses Rachel Clark of having an inappropriate relationship, she moves to Fairhaven, takes a new job, and tries hide her past; but those accusations eventually come to light, and she must face the repercussions of keeping them secret. With the help of handsome frame shop owner, Cam McKenna, she learns the value of honesty in relationships and the blessings of grace and forgiveness.

Chapter One

Rachel Clark stepped into the dark auditorium of the old Fairhaven School, and a shiver of

anticipation raced up her back. Cool air ushered a dusty smell toward her, teasing her nose. With only the dim glow of the Exit signs to show her the path, she walked down the sloping aisle toward the stage.

The house lights came up. She blinked at the sudden brightness and took in the scene. Rows of padded folding seats in three sections filled the cavernous hall. Two carpeted aisles led to a large stage with a plush burgundy curtain.

Warmth and wonder tingled through her. "This is perfect." She turned and searched for Hannah Bodine.

The silver-haired curator of the local historical museum poked her head out from the sound booth at the back. Dressed in a flowing tropical-print blouse and coral Capri pants, she stepped into the aisle. "Do you like it?"

"Yes, it's exactly what we're looking for." Rachel hurried forward and mounted the steps. Waltzing to the middle of the stage, she scanned the auditorium. "Do you know how many seats there are?"

"Let's see." Hannah strolled forward, counting the rows of burgundy chairs. "Looks like almost four hundred."

Rachel smiled and nodded. "That's a hundred more than we have now." With a larger house they could increase their ticket sales and income, something she and her small staff desperately needed if they were going to hold on to their jobs.

"I think this would be a good home for your group," Hannah added. "Why don't I take you to meet Cameron McKenna, and you can make arrangements to speak to everyone at the co-op meeting tonight."

"That would be great." Rachel ran her hand along the velvet curtain as she crossed the stage, memories of past performances making her smile. She descended the wooden steps and met her friend down in front.

"Thanks, Hannah. This is really an answer to prayer. I was beginning to think we were going to be a homeless theater company." Rachel crossed her arms and rubbed away a chill at that thought.

"It works out well for all of us. The school district is raising our rent." Hannah sighed and shook her head as she led the way up the aisle. "You'd think they'd be happy to receive any income from this old building. It sat empty for two years before we got together to rent it. We've made a lot of improvements, but if we want to hold on to it, we have to rent the remaining space."
Rachel nodded. It sounded like the Fairhaven Artists' Co-op needed her as much as she needed them. She blew out a deep breath and tried to relax her tense shoulders. This would work. It had to.

Finding the position as director of Northcoast Christian Youth Theater had been a miracle. She didn't want to think about disbanding and looking for another job. Returning to teaching wasn't an option, not after everything that had happened. She pushed those painful memories away and followed Hannah into the main hallway.

"That's Cam's frame shop." Hannah motioned toward the open door across the hall. "He handles all the finances for the co-op. He can give you the particulars about renting with us. He might be a bit resistant to the idea. He's a little . . ." She bit her lip. "Well, I suppose I should let you make up your own mind."

Rachel smiled and nodded, certain she'd have no trouble winning him over. Persuasion was her middle name. Her exasperated mother used to say she could sell a dozen umbrellas to a desert nomad with no trouble at all.

She entered the shop where framed prints, photos, and original artwork lined the walls. Rows of mat and frame samples hung in a neat display on the back wall.

A tall man with broad shoulders and blond curly hair leaned over a workbench at the rear of the

shop. He held a pair of needle-nose pliers in his hand. The muscles on his forearm rippled as he twisted a sturdy wire to create a hanger across the back of a large frame lying facedown on the workbench. He looked up, and his piercing blue gaze connected with hers.

A shiver of awareness traveled through her. She straightened and returned his steady gaze. He looked about thirty-five, with a strong chin and Roman nose. No doubt he'd be handsome if he didn't wear such a scowl.

"Good morning, Cam." Hannah crossed to the workbench and Rachel followed.

"Morning." He nodded to Hannah. "This is Rachel Clark. She's interested in renting space with us." His scowl softened, and he lifted his golden brows. "What kind of artwork do you do?"

"I'm the director of a theater group. We're interested in renting the auditorium, two classrooms, and an office."

"That's a lot of space." He laid aside the pliers. "Is this a new group, or are you already


"We're about four years old." Uneasiness prickled through her. She'd only been working as the director since the beginning of March, a little over two months. But she had six years of teaching high school drama and three summers with NCYT as the assistant director. So she wasn't stretching the truth too far when she included herself in that four year history.

He looked her over more carefully. "Where are you meeting now?"

"We use Grace Community Church in North Bellingham, but they're opening a preschool soon."

He wiped his hand on a cloth. "So what kind of shows do you do?"

"They're all musicals. Our last two were Annie and Oklahoma. This summer we're doing Anne of Green Gables."

He continued to appraise her with his sharp gaze. "What do you call yourselves?"

She hesitated a split second, sending off a silent prayer. "Northcoast Christian Youth Theater."
His eyes widened, and a stormy expression broke over his face. "Youth? As in children?"

"Yes. Our students are ten to eighteen. We hold after school drama classes September to May, and morning drama camps in the summer, along with afternoon and evening rehearsals for our musicals."

He gave a swift shake of his head. "That would never work here."

A shot of panic skittered along her nerves. "But you have the space. And from what Hannah said, you need to rent it."

He sent Hannah a disapproving glance, then turned back to Rachel. "We're serious artists. Our

shops are filled with expensive pieces. We can't have kids running all over the building."

Heat flashed into Rachel's face. "I can assure you my students are well- supervised."

"Sorry. I can't take that risk."

Thanks for reading this excerpt from Seeking His Love. Please visit my website for more information or to purchase this or any of my books. It's also available at,, and fine bookstores everywhere. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Murder by Mistake; Petra: City in Stone

Veronica Heley

Ellie Quicke, once a tearful widow, is now comfortably remarried to her best friend Thomas.
However, having been on her own for so long, she is inclined to act hastily, not always consulting him on matters which affect them both. When she took in a young rape victim, she guessed that the commitment might become a burden, but she didn't expect it to be an invitation to murder.
Publishers Weekly: `Intrepid Ellie injects this high-octane cozy with endearing humor and enduring style.'

Chapter One

Monday afternoon

They weren't expecting trouble. The interview at the solicitor's office was the only thing on their minds as they walked along the pavement. They took no notice of the passing traffic until . . .
Woosh! A roar from a powerful car engine, a squeal from mistreated tyres. A woman's scream. A man's hoarse shout.

Ellie staggered, cannoned into from behind. She fell. A heavy weight pressed her down, squeezing all the breath out of her.

Someone screamed.

The weight upon her was removed and she managed to lift herself enough to
see a car speed off and turn left into the traffic on the main road ahead.

Mia! Where was the girl? Was she all right? Ellie looked around, pushing herself up onto hands and knees with an effort.

Oh, thank the Lord. Mia was all right. At first glance, anyway. The girl had been thrown against the wall, was crouched there. Bewildered. Frightened.

Ellie tested her arms and legs. Everything seemed to work, after a fashion. She tried to stand and didn't make it. Went down on her knees again, with both hands on the pavement. Her pretty blue dress was no longer pretty. She'd scraped the skin down both forearms. A pity it had been a hot day, because she hadn't worn a coat. If she had, she might have saved herself grazed arms. She was trembling, but she was all right. She told herself.

Someone was screaming. Well, it wasn't her, and no, it wasn't Mia, who'd been walking on the inside of Ellie, nearer the wall. `Mia, are you all right?'

Mia nodded, over and over. Like a puppet. Speechless. In shock. Someone was still screaming. A child was crying, thinly, hopelessly.

A big black man towered over Ellie, offering a helping hand to get her to her feet. She made it, somehow. Gave him a reassuring smile. He had blood on his T-shirt and jeans.

A youngish woman clad in Lycra cycled up. She got off her bike and looked beyond Ellie and the man to where a woman lay sprawled . . . the buggy beside her, wheels spinning . . . Don't look, Ellie. Don't even think about it for the moment. Concentrate on getting yourself to stand unaided.

A car came by, slowly. Drew to a halt. Another car came up behind the first car, tooted its horn. Why the hold-up?

The man who'd saved Ellie from being run over asked, `Are you hurt?' A deep voice, reassuring.
Rough clothes, torn jeans. A workman? Big hands.

`Did you get their number?' The cyclist had a high, thin voice. She hauled her bike off the road and onto the pavement.

A man, a businessman, got out of his car. `What . . .? Are you all right, missus?'

Ellie nodded. She was, sort of. More or less. Blood was dripping off her chin onto her dress. She checked that she still had her handbag – which she'd worn across her body to deter muggers - and scrabbled inside for some paper tissues. Used them.

The child was crying, hopelessly. Ellie wished it would stop.

The businessman got his mobile phone out. The car behind him tooted again, then swung out into the road and went round him. The driver of the second car then saw what had happened and slowed right down. Traffic began to pile up behind him.

The cyclist leant her bike against the wall and bent over, retching. Ellie didn't want to look. Mia had her eyes closed. Just as well.

Two large women in their forties panted up. Dyed blonde hair strained back into unbecoming pony tails. Both were overweight, bursting out of tight sleeveless tops and even tighter jeans.

That was a prayer, not an obscenity. Please God, don't take it the wrong way. The women might or might not go to church, but they knew when God was needed in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Veronica Heley

Murder by Mistake, Severn House.
ISBN 97807278 69111

From , libraries and good bookstores everywhere.
Please do not reproduce without permission.

* * *

Petra: City in Stone

By T.L. Higley

"As compelling as Francine Rivers' A Voice in the Wind!"
-Colleen Coble, best-selling author

She believed the city hidden in rock would protect her from the past – until it threatened to destroy her future.

Cassia, a destitute young woman in need of hope, seeks refuge for her little boy in Petra, home of his dead father's estranged family and capital of the flourishing Arabian empire. Surely this rock-carved city, hidden away between towering sandstone cliffs, can protect them from their past and provide for their future.But the boy's father was not the man she believed, and when a murderous queen plots to take Cassia's son, her hopes of security are ripped away.As the plot against the young Alexander unfolds, Cassia finds unexpected allies in the mysterious followers of The Way, who sacrifice everything to help Cassia rescue her son from the queen and her pagan gods. But it will take more than these new friends to save her son.It will take a power beyond any Cassia has known—and a faith that can save a city.

From Chapter 1

The streets of Rome lay barren and empty, sucked dry by the colossal Flavian Amphitheatre that had swallowed seventy-five thousand Roman citizens in a single gulp, and would hold each one captive until they had enjoyed the horrors that Julian now raced to prevent.
More time. He needed more time. Already the crowd inside the four-story rim of stone cheered for the first event.

Julian's sandals smacked the black basalt road that led toward the amphitheatre. The blistering Roman sun pounded the moisture from his skin and left him panting. He had run most of way, since an old servant in Vita's house had pointed a gnarled finger toward the east, toward the Forum, toward the arena of death.

Eighty arches ringed the outside of the theatre on each of its first three stories. The bottom arches provided access to the public, and the second story's niches held statues of the gods and emperors, who now looked down on Julian as he sprinted across the large travertine slabs that paved the arena's edge.

He ran toward one of the four main entrances and fumbled for the tessera, the stone tile he wore around his neck. The designatores at the entrance would insist on examining it, to see the sector, row and seat to which he was assigned.

Indeed, the usher at this entrance was full of his own importance, and held a palm to Julian's oncoming rush as though he could stop him with only the force of his arm.

"Too long in your bed this morning, eh?" His smug smile took in Julian's hastily-wrapped toga and sweat-dampened hair.

Julian thrust the tessera before the man's eyes. "Here, here, look at it."

Still the amused smile. The usher opened his mouth to speak again.

"Look at it!"

Daunted, the man let his eyes travel over the tile, then took a tiny breath and stepped back. His grin faded to a look of regret over his own impudence, and he bowed his head. As if that were not enough, he bowed at the waist and extended a hand to invite Julian to enter.

Julian did not wait for an apology. He pushed past the usher and under the vaulted entrance, then straight through the arena's outer corridor and up a ramp that led to the cavea, the wedge-shaped sections of marble seats. This main entrance led directly to the central boxes reserved for the elite.

He exploded from the dimly lit ramp onto the terrace. The morning sun slashed across half the seats, the height of the amphitheatre leaving the other half in shade. The red canvas velarium, the awning used to shade the spectators, would be raised before it got much hotter, but for now, thousands of bleached togas on white marble blinded the eye and the smell of the masses assaulted the nose.

Julian crossed the terrace in two strides, slammed against the waist-high wall that separated him from the arena, and saw a figure dash at him from the shadows.

His mother's hands were on his arms in an instant. "Julian, what are you doing?" Her words were frantic, as clipped and terror-filled as his every movement.

"They have Vita, Mother!"

She wrenched his body fiercely to face her. Julian stood nearly a cubit taller than his mother, but Ariella had retained all the strength of her youth, along with the beauty. "There is nothing that can be done, my son."

He yanked his arms from her grasp. "Do not say that!" Julian searched the cavea behind him, full to overflowing with the purple-edged togas of senators. "Where is Father? Is he here?"

"Julian, think! You must think." Ariella's voice was urgent and low and her clutching fingers again slowed Julian's restlessness. "You will bring more harm – "

"I do not care!" His voice snagged with emotion, and he fought to harden the feelings into action.
"I must end this."

"You cannot, son."

He turned flashing eyes on Ariella. "It is my fault! Do you not understand? I should be down in those cages."

Ariella's eyes misted. "I would not lose both my son and his betrothed on the same day."
Betrothed. The word washed more guilt over Julian's stricken soul.

A senator, one of his father's friends, walked past and paused to hold out an arm in greeting to Julian. "Fine day for the games, is it not?"

Julian straightened at once, resuming the noble bearing trained into him since childhood, and returned the man's grip. He nodded once in agreement, but did not speak. The senator moved on, and Julian dropped his shoulders, ashamed that he had not made a statement.

Ariella seemed to read his thoughts. Her dark eyes held his own. "It will take more than a day to change the Empire."

Julian looked out over the yellow sand of the arena. "But this day, Mother, this day we must!" He slapped a hand against the top of the marble wall. "I am going to find Father."

"Julian, you know that he can do nothing – "

He spun on her. "No. I am tired of both of you, always moving about your circles quietly, behind closed doors, the truth spoken only in whispers." He lifted his own voice as an example. "There is a time to speak!"

Ariella's nostrils flared, but she said nothing. Turning from her, Julian stalked to the nearest break in the seating and ascended the tiers alongside his father's section. Here, the nobility did not sit on wooden planks as the rest of the citizens, but were given cushions or even chairs for comfort. He scanned the rows of seats for his father's graying head, and instead met his dark gray eyes.

Julian shook his head and opened his mouth to shout across the intervening seats, but his father held up a hand, then stood and excused himself from his colleagues. He slid along in front of a dozen other senators, and emerged at the end of the row beside Julian.

Quietly, he spoke into his son's ear. "I have just now heard. It is outrageous."
Julian's hands balled into fists at his side. "You must do something."

"What can I do, Julian? The emperor has ruled, and Trajan is not a man to be defied."
Across the arena, Julian watched as a trapdoor slid upward and a huddled band of men and women were prodded onto the sand at the end of Roman spears. Julian's heart pounded with the shortness of the time left and he turned on his father with the frenzy of desperation. "She is out there, Father!"

Read the first three chapters, watch video trailers, and dive into Tracy's new adventure,
NoPassportRequired, at

Petra: City in Stone can be purchased at Amazon,, and wherever books are sold.

© 2010 T.L. Higley

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Prarie Christmas Collection, Shelter of Hope

A Prairie Christmas Collection

from Barbour Books
by Tracie Peterson, Deborah Raney, Tracey Bateman
and other favorite Christian authors

Settling the vast open prairies, weathering winter storms, and finding joy to celebrate during Christmas epitomizes the pioneer experience. In a unique collection of nine Christmas romances, Barbour Publishing brings readers A Prairie Christmas Collection where they can relive a prairie Christmas with all its challenge and delights as penned by multi-published authors, including Tracie Peterson and Deborah Raney. Featuring deckled-edge pages and a foil-stamped cover with fold-under flaps, the collection makes an ideal gift for the romance reader.

In this holiday romance collection, the warmth of Christmas will radiate new love from the high plains of Minnesota and Dakota Territory, across the rolling hills of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, and down into the flats of Kansas. Filled with inspiration and faith, each story will become a treasure to be enjoyed again each year. Along with Peterson and Raney, other contributing authors include Tracey Bateman, Pamela Griffin, JoAnn A. Grote, Maryn Langer, Darlene Mindrup, Janet Spaeth and Jill Stengl.

Excerpt from "A Circle of Blessings"
by Deborah Raney

Chapter One

Dakota Territory 1871

Stella Bradford hurried across the campus of St. Bartholomew's Academy, a stack of textbooks in arm and a bulging drawstring bag looped over one shoulder. The petticoat beneath her long-sleeved cotton dress clung to her legs, and with her free hand, she dabbed beads of moisture from her brow with a crumpled handkerchief. One should not have to perspire in October! If she didn't hurry, she was going to be late for class, and it would be the second time this week. She was having enough trouble with this infernal English grammar class as it was. It certainly wouldn't help matters to be late again.

The tower clock in the center of the campus quadrangle began to chime the hour, and Stella lifted her skirts above her ankles and broke into a very unladylike trot. She rounded the ivy-draped corner of Andrews Hall at top speed but was halted in her tracks when she bumped headlong into a broad masculine chest. The only thing that kept her from stumbling to the brick walk beneath her feet, was the strong pair of hands that reached out to grab her by the shoulders.

"Whoa, Miss! Watch where you're going there." The voice was as deep as the brown eyes that looked down into hers.

"Oh, p-pardon me," she stuttered, "but I'm about to be late for class." She took a step backward, out of the man's grasp.

The last chime of the carillon clock died away on the still autumn air, and Stella gave a little gasp of dismay.

"It looks to me as though you are late," the gentleman told her. "And at the reckless speed you were going, I'd venture to say you would have arrived so out of breath that you might as well not have bothered going at all."

"Please," she pled impatiently. "Let me pass. I simply can't miss this class again."

"Oh, I see," he said, a rather wicked gleam in his eyes. "So, you make a habit of tardiness? And let me guess--you are not exactly a candidate for honors in this particular class?"

She stamped her foot and took another step backward. Of all the impudent-- She did not have time for this. Donning her most patronizing smile, she told him, "I do appreciate your concern, Mister--"

"Collingwood."--he tipped an imaginary hat--"James Collingwood."

"I appreciate your concern, Mr. Collingwood, but I cannot waste my time standing here arguing about either my habits, nor my grades--as if it were any of your business!"

"Neither," he said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"The correct word is `neither'. Neither my habits, nor my grades. It's `either, or' and `neither, nor'."

Of all the nerve! How dare this complete stranger stand here and correct her grammar!

He folded his arms across a broad chest and stepped back to gaze at her. "And let me guess," he said. "English Grammar is the class you're tardy for?"

"For which you are tardy," she shot.

He raised an eyebrow. "Pardon me?"

"The correct phrase is `the class for which you are tardy'. It is not proper to end a sentence in a preposition." She bobbed her chin for emphasis, crossed her arms and glared at him, pleased beyond words to have beat him at his own game.

The corners of his lips curled in a slow smile. "Touché, Miss. I stand corrected."

Do not reproduced without permission.
Available in bookstores everywhere, or order online at, or other bookstores online.

* * *

Shelter of Hope, Love Inspired Romance

by Lyn Cote

1st in New Friends Street series
Steeple Hill
# ISBN-13: 978-0373876211

The House that Love Built

Struggling single mother Rosa Santos is deeply touched when volunteers band together to build her a home. With a waitressing job, community college and church, Rosa barely has time to help, let alone dream about a husband and father figure. But when handsome volunteer Marc Chambers hands her withdrawn young son a little hammer, her heart swells. Suddenly, her son is blossoming. But the closer she and Marc get, the more he pulls away. Why? He's built her a shelter of hope. One she-and her son-pray he'll take refuge within..

Chapter One

Out of the clear blue August morning without warning, danger barreled onto New Friends Street. Glancing over his shoulder, Marc Chambers saw the cement truck take the corner a little fast. At the same moment, he glimpsed a boy running toward the street. Not looking.


The cement truck brakes squealed like a trapped animal. Marc raced for the kid. Scooped him up. The wheels of the cement just feet away jumped, skipped-trying to stop in time.

People were screaming. Marc wrapped himself around the small body. Threw himself into a roll.

I can't stop in time. The horrible wrenching sound of metal chewing into metal churned through his flesh like the grinding of some vicious machine. His heart pounded in his ears--

"Marc," a familiar voice came through the din in Marc's head. "Marc, it's all right. You and the boy are safe. The truck missed you both."

Marc blinked. His mind repeated his grandmother's words, tried to grasp them and hold them. What had just happened to him?

Marc looked into his grandmother's soft round face, surrounded by her wavy white hair and straw hat. Her kind blue eyes were dark with concern. He realized suddenly that other people were crowded around him. Staring at him.

Then he heard, felt the boy in his arms sobbing. He released him. Marc shook his head as if that could shake off what had just happened or what had just flashed through his mind.

A pretty young woman claimed the boy and encircled him with her arms. "You could have been killed, Johnny!" she cried out. "You could have been killed!" She sank to her knees, clutching the boy to her.

Marc slowly pulled himself up till he was sitting with his back against the new curb. He held his head in his hands, not trusting himself to speak or to try to rise. His stomach sloshed back and forth in a giddy tide. A deluge of memories wanted to saturate him with fear and carry him back to January, back to that awful day.

"Man," someone with a deep gruff voice said loudly. "Man, am I glad you were able to get to him. I couldn't have stopped in time."

Marc glanced toward the voice.

It came from a man in gray work clothes. He was sort of leaning limply over the back fender of the cement truck. "I don't know what I would have done. I got kids of my own."

I don't know what I would have done. The man's words sent shivers through Marc. And from the corner of his eye, he saw the same shivers go through the young denim-clad woman. Life was so fragile-he'd learned that this year painfully. He put out a hand and patted her slender shoulder awkwardly, briefly.

A horn honked and then another. Awaking to the larger picture, Marc looked around at the crowd in the middle of the street and the cars that had halted on either side of them.

A new brisk voice, a woman's voice, intruded. "Let's all get out of the street. We're blocking traffic."

The people around Marc moved away, returning to the dedication at the Habitat site--only reluctantly. Many kept casting glances back at him. Marc tried to avoid their gazes, and calm the roiling in his mid-section. The truck driver climbed into his rig and drove off much slower.

Marc's grandmother lingered protectively beside him. That bothered him. He didn't want her worrying again. With a mouth as stiff as steel, he forced his lips to curve into what he hoped was a smile and glanced up. "Go on. I'll be all rght. It's just the heat and running like that. The excitement-that's all." I thought I'd put it behind me. What just happened?

Another older woman with salt and pepper hair was standing by the young mother who was still on her knees. "Rosa," she began, "por favor."

He couldn't follow what she said after that; it sounded like Spanish, sounded worried.

"No, abuela, grandmother," the young woman said, shaking her head. "You go. I'll come. soon."

His own grandmother tucked her hand into the Spanish-speaking grandmother's elbow. "Come. We'll go and let them have a few moments to compose themselves."

"Si," the woman agreed in a pleasantly accented voice, "yes, I must represent la familia." Still, the woman looked concerned.

The two grandmothers walked together across New Friends Street to watch the dedication of the Habitat for Humanity house that was being built in their little town of Hope, Wisconsin.

August heat, dripping with humidity, wrapped around Marc. It made it harder to breathe, harder to calm his racing heart.

The mother of the boy looked at him and then slid from her knees to sit beside him against the curb. The little boy sank between them, leaning against her. "I'm Rosa Santos." She offered him her hand. "And this is Johnny."

She still looked shaken. He bent his stiff lips upward again trying for a reassuring smile. He gripped her small hand in his for a brief moment, comforted by touching her soft palm. "Marc Chambers."

"Thank you so much," Rosa said, feathering the boy's bangs with one hand. "Thank you for saving my Johnny." Her voice caught on the boy's name.

He looked into the woman's pretty face, her olive skin smooth and lightly tanned. Her eyes-large eyes so brown they were almost black--captured him. Not only because they were beautiful, but fear blazed there.

He had experienced that kind of flaming, consuming fear. Evidently it still lived him in. I thought I got over all this.