Archive for the ‘FIRST Wild Card Tour’ Category

FIRST Wild Card Tour: F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire by M.C. Pearson

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

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

Today’s Wild Card author & illustrator is:

and the book:

FIRST Wild Card Press (December 5, 2011)

***Special thanks to M. C. Pearson of FIRST Wild Card Press for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M. C. Pearson graduated from San Jose State University with a B. A. in art, served as a multi-media illustrator in the United States Army, earning the rank of sergeant, and spent four years as a house parent for at-risk youth. Now married over 20 years, she homeschools her two children, volunteers with her church youth group, and runs a book review blog alliance (FIRST Wild Card Tours) while writing and drawing. F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire is her first novel.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Unwittingly chosen to join an army of fairies, who fight for the Light of the One, a teenaged girl learns about spiritual warfare as she attends a military academy with fantastical beings.

FROM THE BACK COVER:

Here lies a most precious treasure,
Awaiting one Chosen to deliver.
Seek out the red cousins in the East,
For on this your greed mustn’t feast.
The wealth of a species now in your hands,
Do with it as the light demands.
Give them your gift to unite,
For it is the darkness we all must fight.

EDITORIAL REVIEWS:

“Imagination runs wild in F.A.I.R.I.E.S. Pearson brings young readers through a looking glass and into a world bursting with adventure, heroism, and fascinating creatures. Readers will be inspired to be true to the One and left with anticipation of more to come.”
–Jill Williamson, award-winning author of
By Darkness Hid, and other books

“Sprinkled with delightful illustrations, and brimming with a full bestiary of magical creatures, F.A.I.R.I.E.S. is a fun, clever romp through the alternate landscape of the most magical world of all, our own. Read, and take up the call: ‘Defend and Emancipate!'”
— D. Barkley Briggs, author of
The Book of Names, and other books

F.A.I.R.I.E.S. will appeal to readers who love the interplay of fantasy and reality. A rich cast of eccentric characters and exotic settings make this a fun addition to the folklore of the battle between good and evil.”
–Mike Hamel, author of
YA fantasy series: MATTERHORN THE BRAVE

F.A.I.R.I.E.S. is one of those rare gems I want to tell everyone about. It’s highly imaginative, packed with adventure, and full of hope. A must read for kids and for kids at heart. Even better than Narnia! I was thinking about Pearson’s wonderfully memorable characters for days.”
–C.J. Darlington, author of
Thicker than Blood

“Ms. Pearson’s extravagant and imaginative F.A.I.R.I.E. kingdom will surely delight the young and the young-at-heart in this tale of good and evil, light vs. darkness. The fantasy-loving reader will not be disappointed!”
–Linore Rose Burkard, award winning author of
Before the Season Ends, and other books
GIVEAWAY:

I interviewed M.C. Pearson and am giving away a copy of  F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire by M.C. Pearson. Giveaway is open internationally!!!

Product Details:

  • List Price: $17.99
  • Paperback: 482 pages
  • Publisher: FIRST Wild Card Press (December 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615530222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615530222

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Four thousand seasons shall pass while our swords grow rusty.

Where once one chose to divide, another shall be chosen to unite.

One changed the past, the other shall change the future.

One must emancipate the other to allow the light its dominion.

The realm, now torn, allows the shadow to abide, as humanity lies blind to its peril.

The bond of friendship must endure, for the army of shadows awaits another tear.

Dust off your swords.

Unite the realm.

Destroy the strongholds.
Foretelling of Didasko Gnome Digdeep
†

PART ONE


MANY ARE CALLED
BUT
FEW ARE CHOSEN



†

CHAPTER ONE

Off and Running

t was an accident!” Mellie yelled, not caring who heard or stared. Tears streaked her face as she fled down the Santa Cruz coastline, away from her family.

You don’t need them, a voice hissed in her ear, Escape. Run away.

Scorching sand burned at her feet and bitterness ate at her heart. Mellie pumped her legs as fast as they would go. Her feet pounded with the rhythm of her emotions, beating a tempo with the crashing waves. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Adrenaline pulsed through her veins, quickening her step.

Why did I have to be the youngest? Only 12 years old. Never smart enough. Never athletic enough. I just wish they loved me.

Once, just once, she wanted to do something that would make her sisters see that she wasn’t the stupid, awkward, ugly, little baby sister.

As she ran, she wiped away some tears with the palm of her hand. Her fingers settled on her large nose, a gift from her dad’s Hungarian ancestry.

Chelsea got the ski-slope shaped nose. I had to get Half-Dome. It just isn’t fair.

Her hand dropped to her side and she pinched at her stomach. It still had some of its baby fat.

Ugh, why are my sisters so perfect? What happened to me?

Pushing her short bangs from her forehead in disgust, she mumbled, “Maybe I’ll find treasure. I’ll be the rich one, and then they’ll have to accept me.” But she knew better. California didn’t hold any more undiscovered treasures.

The sand, hot and coarse, cut at her feet. I wish I had remembered my shoes. She wore only a black, one-piece swimsuit and a San Jose Sharks sweatshirt tied tightly around her waist.

Breathing rapidly, she began to tire. She slowed her pace to a walk and looked back across the beach. The sand was so hot that waves of heat rose from it and blurred her view. A lone seagull screeched overhead.

Her sisters were nowhere in sight.

Man, I thought for sure that Chelsea was going to chase me down and kill me.

She had to admit that it was a little gratifying to see the sand fly from her foot, covering Chelsea’s sub-sandwich and freshly oiled stomach. Grinning slightly, the tears stopped flowing. She rubbed her eyes.

Mellie looked in the direction of her sisters. “You guys can never take a joke.” Flipping her golden hair, she turned her head back toward her chosen path. She no longer smiled as she stomped her feet in the cold surf, remembering the hateful words that had been said.

“Oh, waa waa, you stupid cry baby! Go tell mommy! Maybe she’ll feel sorry for her ugly, fat baby. Why don’t you grow up? We don’t want you near us. Can’t you understand English? You are so dumb. Look at her mouth open. Oh wait, here she goes…come on, baby…cry!”

Mellie knew she couldn’t go back. They would only ridicule and torment her further. Her mom would never believe it was Chelsea’s fault. No, the evidence was on Chelsea’s side. Who was the one with the sand all over her oily, coconut-smelling body? Who was the one who had a sandwich full of sand? Mellie walked on.

After her temper finally cooled, it occurred to her that she had never walked so far alone.

How far have I gone?

A shadow passed over her, and she looked up. Nothing was there. A cool breeze from the ocean created a stark contrast to the scalding sand. She shivered but kept walking, lost in her loneliness.

Not until she stubbed her toe on a large broken clamshell did she look at the beach. A chill snaked up her back. Nothing appeared familiar. The sounds of the surf were still there, yet something was decidedly different. She felt dizzy. Looking around, she could not quite pinpoint the change. Then it struck her.

No people.

Where did everybody go?

Even though she could see no one, Mellie could swear that she felt eyes staring at her.

She looked inland across the sand, saw movement near some eucalyptus trees, but decided that the wind must have caused it.

Trees? So close to the beach?

Something shook the trees again, causing goosebumps to stand out on Mellie’s arms. Alarmed, she checked the skyline. The sun was close to setting. She hoped that the police weren’t out looking for her.

Suddenly cold, she pulled at the arms of the sweatshirt still tied around her waist. It fell to the sand. Bending to pick it up, she once again saw a blur of movement, except this time it came from a rocky outcrop by the waves. She shook the sand out of the sweatshirt and hurriedly tugged it over her head.

“Okay, I’m seeing things.” Mellie yanked at her hair, pulling it out of the sweatshirt. She stared at the sinister rocks. “Hel-lo?” Her voice cracked as she spoke louder. “Is someone the-ere? Hello?” No answer. The shadowy rocks seemed to quiver with excitement, beckoning her closer.

Hmm…probably just a seagull.

Even if it was a bird, she did not want to see it.

There’s no way I’m going over there.

The wind picked up and blew her hair into her eyes. The sand spun with the wind.

Yes, definitely time to move. I need to find a road.

She turned back toward the sweet smelling, oddly placed trees.

Mellie arrived at the base of the first, colossal eucalyptus tree. Without warning, one of the branches fell in front of her, then seemed to get up from the ground and pose its bottom stems in a military-like stance.

Mellie screamed and jumped back. “Branches don’t stand.”

“They do if they are walking sticks.” The eucalyptus branch chuckled, stretching to its full height, considerably taller than Mellie’s meager five feet.
She gasped, grabbed the branch, and threw it like a javelin, as hard as she could.

As she took off running, she heard a bark and halted. Turning, she saw a golden retriever bounding toward her with the stick in his mouth. The dog dropped it at her feet. She watched the dog run into the grove of trees and disappear before she fearfully turned back to the possessed stick.

It had already gained its footing again and stood over her. Mellie was too frightened to move this time.

A face emerged from the skinny twig and took on the characteristics of a male human, but none like Mellie had ever seen. He had hair made up in rolls as if it were a powdered, green-silver wig, the same color as the leaves that grew all around his skinny body. His face was long and his forehead high. The twiggy man smiled and said in a distinctly British, albeit breezy, accent, “Do not worry, you are safe.”

Mellie couldn’t answer.

“Ahh…I love new recruits. They are so easily addled.”

Feeling more confused than threatened, Mellie found her voice. “What? What do you mean, new recruits?” She rubbed her eyes, shaking her head. “Okay, I’m talking to a stick now. Yes, I have lost it. I have gone totally mental.”

“Oh, I say, am I to understand that I am the first to be revealed to you?” With round, leathery leaves, the branch resembled a toddler toy with rings stacked on one another.

She dropped open her mouth and nodded.

“Well, let me do this properly, then. Ahem. Mortal, made of clay, you have been Chosen to join the Fantastical, Aerial, International, Reasonably Inconspicuous, Emancipation Squads.”

“What? What are you? You look like a stick…but you can talk.”

“Yes, child,” the stick replied with a sigh. “But, I think we are quite past that by now. Have you not heard me? You have been Chosen.”

Mellie opened her mouth wider, closed it, frowned, and opened it once more. “Chosen? For what?”

“You did wish to be different? To change who you were? ’Twas an especially strong desire, yes?” The branch crossed its arms and tapped its twiggy foot.

“Umm…”

“Dear me, this is highly unusual. You made a choice to run away from a miserable life and asked to be set free? Correct?”

“Well, I, ah…yeah. I guess so. What did you say about recruit for some squad?”

“Humph. I see that I was not understood. Yes? Let me elucidate. The Fantastical, Aerial, International, Reasonably Inconspicuous, Emancipation Squads , or shall I say F.A.I.R.I.E.S.? have accepted you into their organization. You asked. You were answered.” The branch attempted a smile, but looked impatient instead.

“Fairies? I don’t believe in fairies.” Mellie winced, half expecting him to fall down and writhe in pain until she clapped her hands.

“Quite right. You are not supposed to. If humans truly believed we existed, we would never get anything accomplished.”

Mellie laughed and looked around for a hidden camera, thinking this must be a joke. “Right. Ah…heh…okay, bud, brilliant costume,” she said, imitating the branch’s accent. “Where’s the zipper?” She reached toward him and touched a soft leaf.

The branch slapped her hand away and stamped its foot with a loud cracking noise. “I beg your pardon. I have not been a bud for over 800 springs!” He paced, his leaves crumpling, mumbling to himself about humans and why, in the One’s name, did he listen to that confounded gnome who told him that he needed to stand gate duty. With his rank!

“I’m sorry I upset you. Please, I’m very confused. I’m lost, and I just want to go home.” Mellie bit her lip.

The branch stopped mid-pace. “Home? Earlier, did you not wish for a new life? And riches? I know you wished for treasure, hmm?”

“How do you know that?” Mellie furrowed her brow. “Have you been reading my mind?”

The twig man didn’t answer her questions, asking his own instead. “Ahh, so, you admit this, yes?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Yes, but…well, this really isn’t what I had in mind.”

The branch threw up its twiggy fingers. “Oh, well, of course you did not have this in mind. After all, we are reasonably inconspicuous, especially to humans. How could you have this in mind? However, is it not superior of the One to think that this is what you would have chosen had you known about us? Anyway, ’tis irrevocable now. So, if you would just follow me, we shall get you signed in and enrolled for training.”

The branch marched off between the trunks of two large eucalyptus trees.

Mellie slid uncontrollably after the walking stick. She planted her feet firmly, refusing to budge, but she slid after him anyway. Grasping at branches of nearby trees, she panted heavily as she struggled to resist following the branch. Some kind of invisible tie connected her to him. He seemed to pull her along with his every step.

Mellie thought about her sisters and how mad they were at her. I’m dead meat if they find me. Mellie quickly gave up her battle and ran after the eucalyptus branch, barely keeping up with his stride.

†

The sand changed to coarse dirt, with pebbles and sticks. More and more trees filled Mellie’s vision. Bushes scraped against her bare legs and slapped her face as she moved deeper inside a forest of eucalyptus and redwood trees. She winced in pain as a razor-sharp rock sliced her foot. Stopping to nurse it, she wished once again for her forgotten shoes.

“Excuse me, sir?” Mellie looked around. She could not see the branch anywhere.

“Do not call me ‘sir’, I work for a living.” The branch peeked out from around one of the gigantic trees. “And please, try to keep up. We need to reach the gateway.”

Mellie limped up to him. “Sorry, sir…I mean…umm, what should I call you then?”

“Oh, well, we did skip that. Did we not? Yes, all right, an introduction then.” The branch man seemed to enjoy formal etiquette for he gave an elaborate wave and bowed. “My name is Regnans, family of Myrtaceae, born member of the F.A.I.R.I.E.S., Britannia Wing, rank of Master Nymph Dryad.”

“Nice to meet you, Reg…Reg?” Mellie chewed on the inside of her mouth. Never good at remembering names, she knew she would offend him with her lack of manners.

Sure enough, the dryad raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips. “Regnans.” He gave a hurt sniff, then drolly sneered. “If you find that a difficult name, you should meet the rest of my family, all seven-hundred thirty-four of them.”

“Sorry, I just…well, it is a lot to remember. It’s a nice name, though. My name is Maryellen Goodwin of Bret Harte Middle School, San Jose, California. But everyone calls me Mellie.” She stuck out her hand, intending to shake. Regnans stared at her.

“That is a strange curtsy. However, I guess ’twill do. We must get moving now. The shadows abound, you know.” Regnans made an about face and marched off faster than before.

Another hour passed, and still they strode along the forest floor. Mellie’s feet were now cut, blistered, and bleeding. She kept up as best she could with Regnans’s long stride. Whenever she tried to stop, he would pull her on with that invisible force of his.

Stupid, pompous, magical Star Wars freak.

She whimpered as she limped. Darkness and mist now covered the woods. As she was about to plead for a break, Regnans stopped. Except for her heavy gulps of air, all seemed quiet.

Regnans stiffened even more than usual. Nothing on him moved, apart from his eyes, which darted around quickly.

“All is safe, we may proceed.” He held up a twiggy finger to his woody mouth. “Please do not speak, and try not to breathe so abominably loud.”

Mellie nodded with a disgusted frown. Sweat dripped from her bangs. She tried to calm her breathing, even though her vision blurred, and her legs wobbled. Her blisters had popped by now and oozed wetness.

Regnans moved again, yet this time he took slow, deliberate steps, all the while scanning his surroundings. He walked up to a massive redwood tree and stroked its bark.

A breeze stirred up, rattling the leaves, sounding almost like spoken words. Mellie thought herself crazy again. However, the longer she stood there, the more she sensed that it really was the tree’s language, as if she had never listened to trees properly before. It said, “If you love, you will say the one true love that leads the way.”

Regnans whispered in a leaf rustling voice, “Ah-gaw-pay.”

A loud grumbling sound, as if someone awakened after a long sleep, shook the grove. The redwood tree opened two eyes, each the size of Mellie’s head, and blinked. A great fissure erupted below the eyes in the shape of a crescent, and redish-brown wooden teeth emerged. A long, knobby branch pushed its way out above the mouth and inhaled deeply.

The tree chuckled. Instead of the whispering leaves, a low, rumbling utterance of human speech came from the redwood tree. “Regnans? What brings you to my neck of the woods?” He blinked again. “And who is this? A new recruit? A human? A Chosen?”

Mellie knew she looked silly, standing there with her mouth in an ‘O’ shape, but she couldn’t move. This was simply impossible. There is no such thing as fairies!

“Yes, yes. Please open the gate, we must not dawdle here…they may be watching.” Regnans looked agitated.

A deep laugh resounded from the redwood. “Oh, Regnans. There are none who watch here.”

Regnans mumbled something about hamadryads and their pride, then proclaimed in a slightly louder voice to the tree, “We must be sober, be vigilant, because the shadow walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom it may devour.”

The hamadryad looked chagrined. “You speak true, dryad. Forgive me for acting like an arrogant seedling.” He glanced at Mellie, and with a lowered voice asked, “And what is your name, little human?”

Mellie managed to squeak out, “Mellie Goodwin.”

“Ah, ’tis always nice to have a Good Wind.” The hamadryad laughed heartily.

“Sorry to interrupt this lovely tete-a-tete,” Regnans said, “but would you please open the gate? I left Westside completely unguarded.”

An annoyed creak came from the base of the redwood, followed by a sigh. “Yes, Regnans. Agape you said, and agape it is. Go with the light, my friends.” The large, joyous eyes closed, and the hamadryad whispered in his leaf rustling voice, “Until we meet again, Good Wind.” His face disappeared, and his roots lifted and pulled apart, exposing a tunnel within his trunk.

Regnans grabbed Mellie’s hand with his rough, wooden one, and pulled her inside the opening. The tree closed itself abruptly and left them in total darkness.

Regnans cleared his throat and said, “Let there be light.”

A burst of dazzling brightness sparkled from the tunnel’s wall. Mellie glanced around and noticed a long, winding stairwell leading down into the ground.

“Shall we, then?” Not waiting for a reply, Regnans started down the steps.

Available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

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FIRST Wild Card Tour: The 365 Most Important Bible Passages for You by Jonathan Rogers

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

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

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

FaithWords (November 10, 2011)

***Special thanks to Sarah Reck, Web Publicist | FaithWords & Center Street | Hachette Book Group, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

No matter what he is writing, Jonathan Rogers is motivated by the astonishing reality of God’s transforming grace in the lives of human beings. He is passionate about seeing the truths of Scripture bear fruit in the lives of students – lives of integrity, purpose, and joy. That passion is reflected in his books, including Words to Live By for Teens, What Really Counts for Students, and his Wilderking Trilogy of adventure novels – The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking. Jonathan holds a PhD in English literature from Vanderbilt University. He lives with his family in Nashville Tennessee.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This year-long devotional is both unique and simple by targeting the general reader, both men and women. Features include:

–A comprehensive overview and accompanying meditation for each passage;

–Daily encouraging and engaging scriptures that focus on the Bible passages that reveal the divine character of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit; and

–Insightful comments and applications to daily life.

My Thoughts:

I think this is a great book to have on those days when you only have 5-10 minutes for devotions. I would have liked it even more if it would have been KJV instead of one of nine versions (CEV, ESV, HCSB, Message, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, and NLT), a random version everyday. Overall, I would recommend it.

Product Details:

  • List Price: $15.99
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: FaithWords (November 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446574996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446574990

AND NOW PRESS THE OPEN BOOK WIDGET TO READ THE FIRST CHAPTER:

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FIRST Wild Card Tour: The "What’s for Dinner?" Solution by Kathi Lipp

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

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

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For many women, dread turns to panic around 4:00 in the afternoon. That’s when they have to answer that age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Many resort to another supermarket rotisserie chicken or—worse yet—ordering dinner through a drive-thru intercom.

In The “What’s for Dinner” Solution, popular author and speaker Kathi Lipp provides a full-kitchen approach for getting dinner on the table every night. After putting her 21-day plan into action, women will

* save time—with bulk shopping and cooking
* save money—no more last-minute phone calls to the delivery pizza place
* save their sanity—forget the last-minute scramble every night and know what they’re having for dinner

The book includes real recipes from real women, a quick guide to planning meals for a month, the best shopping strategies for saving time and money, and tips on the best ways to use a slow cooker, freezer, and pantry.

With Kathi’s book in hand, there’s no more need to hit the panic button.

MY THOUGHTS:
‘The “What’s for Dinner?” Solution’ has so many helpful hints to make planning dinner easier. I haven’t tried any of the recipes, so I can’t say whether or not they are any good, but the tips and tricks this book provides are great. This is a book that I will definitely be using a lot!

Product Details:

  • List Price: $12.99
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0736938370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0736938372

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Girl Meets Kitchen, or Not

Necessarily a Love Story

“Happy and successful cooking doesn’t rely only on know-how;
it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.”

Georges Blanc, from Ma Cuisine des Saisons

I was not the kind of kid who grew up at my mom’s knee, helping her chop carrots for Sunday night’s chicken soup. I never really helped with any meal preparation, preferring to turn my attention in the kitchen to baking. There was always some social event with friends or a youth group party where I needed to bring brownies. The one memorable time I tried to make instant potatoes? Instead of the specified one-quarter tablespoon of salt, I used a quarter cup salt. That incident happened over twenty-five years ago, and I have yet to stop hearing about it from my loving and encouraging family.

Suffice to say, I was a bit ill-prepared for the cooking adventures that lay ahead as I lived on my own for the first time. And to complicate matters? My first apartment was in Uji, Japan, approximately seven thousand miles from my mother’s loving embrace and her pot-roast recipe (as if I could afford beef in Japan).

The recipe cards were stacked against me. No cooking skills to speak of, living in a foreign land where most of the time I couldn’t identify what I was eating much less figure out how it was prepared, a kitchen the size of my coat closet back home, and an oven so small it made me long for the Easy-Bake one of my childhood.

I was terrified going to the supermarket without an escort and a translator. I didn’t speak the language (as a short-term missionary teaching conversational English, speaking Japanese was actually a disadvantage in my job), and as unfamiliar as I was with food shopping in the U.S., shopping in Uji was like watching a foreign movie without subtitles and then having to write a paper on the plot.

Oh, and eating out? So not an option. While my cooking skills were limited, my food budget was near nonexistent.

A few things were easy to recognize. The bread in Japan was amazing. It was buttery and flaky and perfect. And there was some really lovely cheese and ham. So, for the first three months of exploring this exotic new culture, I ate ham and cheese sandwiches every single night for dinner.

As I started to get to know some of my students and coworkers better, I had this urge to invite them over to hang out with me. But I had a sneaking suspicion they would want to be fed. I knew that my students would love some authentic American dishes. The question was, Who would I get to cook them?

Another short-term missionary, Diana, had a cookbook called More-With-Less. This wonderful little book produced by the Mennonite community had tons of recipes that used simple ingredients most cooks would have in their kitchen. While I didn’t have a lot of pantry staples in my four-story walk-up, I was now armed with a grocery list as well as an English-to-Japanese dictionary for my trips to the store.

I started to look for simple things I could make: salads, sandwiches, curries, and mini-pizzas out of English muffins and ketchup. (I promise, my culinary skills and taste have gotten better over the years.) As I grew braver in all things cuisine, I started to ask my mom to send some of my favorite recipes from back home.

In fact, when I threw a Christmas celebration with my friend Spenser in my micro-sized apartment, we managed to make a fondue-potless version of my mom’s Pizza Fondue. Shopping for the ingredients proved challenging, even for Spenser who spoke near-fluent Japanese. After several attempts to translate cornstarch into the native language (One would think corn + starch = cornstarch, right? Wrong. It’s pronounced korunstarcha.), we headed back to my kitchen and made one of the best meals I have ever eaten—lots of tomato sauce, some ground beef, loads of cheese, and just the right amount of korunstarcha.

Pizza Fondue
(Connie Richerson)

½ lb. ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

2 10½-oz. cans pizza sauce (I use marinara sauce)

1 T. cornstarch (or korunstarcha, if you prefer)

1½ tsp. oregano

¼ tsp. garlic powder

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 loaf French bread

Brown the ground beef and onion; drain. Put meat, sauce, cornstarch, and spices in fondue pot. When cooked and bubbly, add cheese. Spear crusty French bread cubes, then dip and swirl in fondue. This is also delicious with breadsticks. Serves 4 to 6.

From that point on, I was hooked on collecting my favorite recipes. I bought my own copy of More-With-Less when I got back to the States, and when I got married a few months later, I received my very first copy of everyone’s favorite red-and-white-plaid Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, with every recipe an emerging home cook could want.

I think most of us home cooks have a similar story to tell. OK, you probably didn’t have your first significant cooking experience in Uji, Japan, but I bet the first few times you got dinner on the table all on your own, you might as well have been in a different country.

Maybe your mom had you peeling potatoes before you could walk. Maybe you have a rich heritage of recipes passed down from your grandmother. None of our cooking histories are going to look the same, but we do have one thing in common: We all need to get dinner on the table.

I am not a professional cook. Tom Colicchio will never be critiquing my braised kale and chocolate with bacon foam on Top Chef. But over the past twenty years I have put dinner on the table almost every single night. And while my family still likes a pizza from the neighborhood shop, our kids who have left home really look forward to coming back for a home-cooked meal.

That is all the reward I need.

Why This Book?

So, you discovered my deep dark secret—I’m not a professional chef. I don’t have my own show on Food Network, my own brand of spatulas, and I’m not going to be appearing on any morning show making a frittata for Kathie Lee Gifford.

Still, I’m required to feed our large family almost daily. So when I come across a cookbook, I have an unnatural need to own it. I’m always looking for new recipes to keep dinner interesting at our house. I have an entire bookshelf in my kitchen for my ever-growing collection.

But to be honest with you, most of the money I’ve spent on those cookbooks could have been better spent on a good set of knives or a heavy iron skillet.

I have found that most cookbooks are aimed at the fantasy life many of us aspire to—entertaining regularly, having unusual and exotic ingredients on hand, and hours and hours in the kitchen to create these masterpieces, from scratch.

And then there is my reality. Yes, sometimes I like to spend a Saturday afternoon cooking up a big feast for friends and family. But most days? I want to get a delicious, healthy meal on the table quickly.

My test when I’m purchasing new cookbooks? I flip to a half dozen or so recipes throughout the book and ask myself, Can I imagine cooking this recipe in the next couple of weeks? If most of the recipes fail the test, the book stays at the store.

I want the reality. I want dinner on the table every night without being seduced by pictures of stylist-arranged food that—let’s be honest—I’m never going to prepare.

While those books offer up a lot of grilled-chicken-in-a-peanut-sauce-in-the-sky dreams, I need some reality. It’s not just about the recipe; it’s about all the aspects of getting dinner on the table.

By the end of this book, my hope for you is that you will be able to:

save time, money, and energy when it comes to
preparing meals
have less stress when it comes to shopping
get your kitchen prepared for battle
learn some stress-free ways to get dinner on the table
get out of your cooking rut
This book is all about the process, the how of getting dinner on the table. It reflects the collective wisdom of hundreds of women who don’t have prep cooks or a crew of interns trying out new recipes. We are the women who spend a significant part of our days thinking about, shopping for, and preparing dinner. And all these wise, wonderful women are going to show you a better way to get dinner on the table no matter what your cooking background or skill level.

This is the book I wish I’d had when I first started cooking, as well as when I was raising my brood of pint-sized food critics.

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of recipes. We all love to find that one recipe that is going to become a family favorite! But this book has much more than that. My hope is that you will be able to use the recipes you already have, the ones in this book, and the new ones you find along the way to set a big, bountiful table for your family.

Blogaholic Designs”=

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Weddings and Wasabi by Camy Tang

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

 

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

 

 
Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 
and the book:

 
WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
***Special thanks to Camy Tang for sending me a review copy.***
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 

 

Camy Tang grew up in Hawaii and now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious mutt, Snickers. She graduated from Stanford University and was a biologist researcher for 9 years, but now she writes full-time. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. On her blog, she ponders knitting, spinning wool, dogs, running, the Never Ending Diet, and other frivolous things. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ to read short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.

 

Visit the author’s website.

 
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 

 

After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work for her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family blowout, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life—a tall, dark, handsome biker, in form-fitting black leather, and Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

 

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle—a Harley Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?

 

And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

 

Product Details:

  • List Price: $13.99
  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1414120591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414120591

 

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

 

 

 
The goat in the backyard had just eaten tonight’s dinner.

 

Jennifer Lim stood on her mother’s minuscule back porch and glared at the small brown and white creature polishing off her basil. She would have run shouting at it to leave off her herb garden, except it had already decimated the oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and her precious basil, which had been slated for tonight’s pesto.

 

Besides, if it bit her, she was peeved enough to bite back.

 

“Mom!” She stomped back into the house. Thank goodness the pots of her special Malaysian basil were sectioned off in the large garden on the side of the house, protected by a wooden-framed wire gate. Jenn was growing it so that she could make her cousin Trish’s favorite chicken dish for her wedding, which Jenn was catering for her. But everything in her backyard garden was gone. The animal was welcome to the only thing left, the ragged juniper bushes. Were juniper bushes poison? If so, the animal was welcome to them.

 

“Mom!” Her voice had reached banshee range. “There is a goat—”

 

“You don’t need to yell.” Mom entered the kitchen, her lipstick bright red from a fresh application and her leather handbag over her arm, obviously ready to leave the house on some errand.

 

“Since when do we own a goat?”

 

“Since your cousin Larry brought him over.” She fished through her leather purse. “His name is Pookie.”

 

Jenn choked on her demand for an explanation, momentarily distracted. “He has a name?”

 

“He’s a living being. Of course he has a name.” Her mother fluttered eyelashes overloaded with mascara.

 

“Don’t give me that. You used to love to gross me out with stories of Great-Uncle Hao Chin eating goats back in China.”

 

Mom sniffed and found the refrigerator fascinating. “That’s your father’s side.”

 

Jenn swayed as the floor tilted. You are now entering … the Twilight Zone. Her parent had evoked that feeling quite often in the past few weeks. “Where did Larry get a goat and why do we have it now?”

 

“They were desperate.”

 

Actually, Jenn could have answered her own question. That goat was in their backyard right now because everyone knew that her mom couldn’t say no to a termite who knocked on the door and asked if it could spend the night.

 

And outside of physically dropping the goat off at someone’s house—and she didn’t have an animal trailer, so that was out of the question—Jenn wouldn’t be able to get anyone else in the family to agree to take the animal, now that it was here. That meant leaving a goat in a niece’s backyard because no one else wanted to go through the hassle of doing anything about it.

 

Mom said, “You wouldn’t have me turn away family, would you?”

 

“Uncle Percy knows, too?”

 

“No, not Percy.”

 

“Aunty Glenda?” No way. Even if Larry were thirty-one instead of twenty-one, Aunty would still dictate to her son the color underwear he wore that day—how much more his choice of pet?

 

“No.” Mom blinked as rapidly as she could with mascara making her short, stiff lashes stick together, almost gluing her eyes shut.

 

The tiger in Jenn’s ribcage growled. “Mother.” Her fist smacked onto her hip.

 

“Oh, all right.” Mom rolled her eyes as if she were still a teenager. “It belongs to Larry’s dormmate’s older brother, but really, he’s the nicest young man.” Burgundy lips pulled into what wanted to be a smile, but instead looked hideously desperate.

 

Jenn tried to count to ten but only got to two. “I know Larry’s a nice young man. If an abundance of immaturity counts as ‘nice’ points.”

 

“Jenn, really, you’re so intolerant. Just because you’re smart and went to Stanford for grad school …”

 

The name of her school—and the one dominant memory it brought up—made her neck jerk in a spasm. It had only been for two years, but that was enough. Desperately lonely after spending her undergrad years living with her cousins, Jenn had only formed a few friendships among the other grad students, none of them close. There was only one she’d never forget, although she vowed she would every morning when she got up and saw the scar in the mirror.

 

“Why. Do we have. A goat.”

 

“It’s only for a few days—”

 

“We don’t know a thing about how to take care of—”

 

“They’re easy—”

 

“Besides which, this is Cupertino. I’m sure there are city laws—”

 

“It’ll be gone before anyone notices—”

 

“Oh, ho, you’re right about that.” Jenn strode toward the phone on the wall. “I’m calling the Humane Society. They’ll take it.” Although they wouldn’t provide a trailer to transport it. How was she going to take the goat anywhere, much less to an animal shelter?

 

Mom plopped onto a stool and sighed. “That boy was so cute. His name was Brad.”

 

There went her neck spasming again. But Brad was a common name. She grabbed the phone.

 

“Such a nice Chinese boy. Related to the Yip family—you know, the ones in Mountain View?”

 

The phone slipped from her hand and bungee-jumped toward the floor, saved only by the curly cord. She bent to snatch it up, but dizziness shrouded her vision and she had to take a few breaths before straightening up.

 

“Oh, and he went to Stanford. You two have something in common.” Mom beamed.

 

No. He wouldn’t.

 

Yes, he would.

 

“Brad Yip?”

 

Mom’s eyes lighted up. “Do you know him?”

 

Sure, she knew him. Knew the next time he came for his goat she’d ram her chef’s knife, Michael Meyers style, right between his eyes.

 
Blogaholic Designs”=

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Pirate of My Heart by Jamie Carie

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

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

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

B&H Books (September 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, B&H Publishing Group, A Division of LifeWay Christian Resources for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jamie Carie is the author of Snow Angel, a ForeWord magazine Romance Book of the Year winner, USA Book News National “Best Books 2007” Awards winner, and 2008 RITA Awards® Best First Book finalist. Her third novel, Wind Dancer, was a 2010 Indiana State Library Best Books of Indiana finalist. She lives with her husband and three children in Indianapolis.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION: 

When her doting father dies, Lady Kendra Townsend is given a choice: marry the horrid man of her cold, money-grubbing uncle’s choosing or leave England to risk a new life in America with unknown relatives. Armed with the faith that God has a plan for her, Kendra boards a cargo ship and meets American sea captain Dorian Colburn. But the captain has been wounded by a woman before and guards his independent life. A swashbuckling man doesn’t need an English heiress to make him slow down, feel again, or be challenged with questions about his faith-or so he thinks. It is not until Dorian must save Kendra from the dark forces surrounding her that he decides she may be worth the risk.

I GIVE THIS BOOK:1 star1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS: 

This is the first book by Jamie Carie that I have read, but it definitely won’t be my last. She has a way of writing that immediately drew me into the story and never lost my interest. ‘Pirate of My Heart’ is an excellent story, that I highly recommend reading – you won’t be disappointed.


Product Details:

  • List Price: $14.99
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Books (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805448152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805448153

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

PROLOGUE

Arundel, England 1777

The grey clouds of dawn shivered against the paned glass of the castle, shrouding the three figures at the side of the four-poster bed in an eerie light. The raging storm of the night before had settled into a dreary misting rain though an occasional jagged flash of lightning flaunted its power, not yet ready to relinquish its right to ravish the leaden sky. Dim light clung to the faces of those inside the bedchamber where the very walls seemed to echo the anguish felt inside the room.

All that could be heard in the chamber was the shallow, labored breathing of the one abed. A frail creature, now, pale and lifeless after the travails of childbirth. The others included the old family doctor, Radley, who hovered beside his patient and friend of many years with a strained look in his eyes. Hovering in the shadows was Bridget, the lady’s long-standing nurse and companion. But their suffering was not to be compared to the tall, handsome gentleman who knelt at the woman’s bedside, her hand clasped in his; a haunted look in his eyes that attested to the fact that he too feared the end was near for his beloved.

He gazed down at the limp form of his wife. She lay so still, so pale, sunk into the feather mattress as if she’d become a part of it. In a matter of hours she’d become a shallow breathing shell of the bright and glorious women she had once been. How was he to live without her? His heart spasmed with the thought.

He held his breath as her thin, white eyelids opened to reveal pain-racked eyes the color of bluebells. She exerted a small strength in squeezing his hand while a serene smile played at her lips. Her voice was a weak whisper. “I will not be leaving you forever, my darling. Our daughter will grow strong and always be a symbol of the love we shared.”

“No.” Edward groaned in anguish, his head falling forward, his hand clasping tight as if to force his strength into her. “I will not let you go.”

“Love her, Edward, love her with all that you are.” Lady Eileen closed her eyes seeming to gather what little strength she had to continue speaking. A small, whimpering sound came from the shadows of the room where Bridget held the newborn babe to her bosom. Lady Eileen opened her eyes at the sound. “Please, let me hold my sweet child.”

The nurse skirted around the bed with the tiny bundle, her eyes bright with tears. “She’s the mos’ beautiful of babes, my lady, truly she is.” She laid the wee babe in her mother’s fragile arms.

His wife stared down at their daughter and then looked up at him. Her voice became fierce but still so quiet Edward had to lean in to catch the words. “This one has a special purpose in life and I expect you all to care for her as I would have.”

Edward could only nod, mute and staring, aching with grief.

“My greatest joy in life has been you. I want her to find love, someone to share her life with who is as kind, as loving and wonderful as I have had in you.” She rested a moment before continuing. “Let her choose, Edward, do not make a match for her. I know it is right.” She gasped for a final breath. “I’ve made provision. In my will . . . no entailments, Edward. Give her the dragonfly brooch as a promise from me that I will be looking down from heaven to keep her safe.”

“Of course, my darling, anything you ask I will do.”

A small smile touched Eileen’s lips as she gazed at their beautiful child for the last time. With a single tear sliding down her cheek she kissed the light fuzz on the child’s head. “I love you.” She breathed the words with her last breath, barely audible, and then she went still.

Edward collapsed over her limp hand still clutched in his strong one. “No,” he cried with ragged breath. He brought the hand to his check, soaking it with his tears, willing her to come back to him.

CHAPTER ONE
Arundel, England – 1796

Kendra stopped halfway down the path that led to the stables, happiness lifting her heart at the autumn scene. The leaves had turned into a crimson, sunny yellow and carroty riot of color, as if a magician had waved a wand during the night and created a new world. She stepped across the lawn, feeling the kind of happiness that burst against the walls of her chest, stopping long enough to turn in slow circles so to watch the waving leaf show. She closed her eyes, still slowly twirling and smiled up toward heaven, humming a simple song of praise to God. The notes of her song danced around her and made a happy knot form in her throat. There was nothing she loved more than singing praises to God. Her father had instilled his love for God in her since she was a child – always making sure they had a curate in the village residence for weekly services at St. Nicholas Parish Church, praying with her each night before bedtime and teaching her scriptures and hymns. Most of all, he’d been an example of someone who was temperate, kind and patient. They had memorized the scripture about the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – and often reminded each other of the one they should practice when the occasion called for it. She wished so much to be like him but sometimes her best intentions went awry and she fell short, far short of her father’s shining example.

The sound of wheels crunching over dead leaves gave her pause. She stopped, turned toward the horse-shoe drive at the front of the castle and saw a shiny black post-chaise carriage. Who could it be? They had not seen visitors in so long. Kendra hurried toward the entrance to meet their guest, then came to an abrupt stop and clasped her hands in front of her dress. She held her breath as a tall, handsome man sprang from the carriage. He was dressed in a waist-coat of navy wool with an intricately knotted necktie at his throat, cream colored breeches and matching hose. She lifted her gaze to his face. Her jaw dropped with surprise. The face staring back at her looked like the one in her bedchamber mirror each morning . . . except for the color of his eyes.
Andrew Townsend matched his nieces startling gape as he found himself looking into the younger, female version of himself. Surely this was not Edward’s daughter! She could have been his own child. Recovering from his shock with more effort than he’d exerted in months, Andrew questioned the young lady. “And who might this lovely creature be? A relative of mine, perhaps?”

She curtsied and smiled up at him. “I’m Kendra Townsend sir, and who might you be?” Her smile was soft and contagious, so irresistible that Andrew found himself thawing in her presence.

“I am Andrew Townsend, your uncle, my dear.” He held out his hand in greeting. “I am most pleased to finally meet you. It seems we bear a striking resemblance to one another.”

“You’re very handsome.” She stated with bold faced honesty.

Andrew let out a bark of laughter. “Well. Thank you, I’m sure. Now, would you be so kind as to show me to your father? I have some business to conduct with him.”

“Of course, sir.” Kendra replied as she reached for his arm. “Your papa’s brother, his twin, aren’t you?” Her eyes lit up as she led him through the front door, past their astonished looking butler, and down the wide corridor, the elegant carpet making silence of their footsteps. Just as well, the surprise element couldn’t hurt to gage how his dear brother was going to react to his request. “Father will be in his study with his solicitor this time of day.” At her knock they heard a preoccupied “come in.”

The Earl of Arundel sat behind an ancient desk with stacks of documents in front of him. Facing him was Mr. Walcott, the trusted family solicitor. As they walked into the study, Edward’s face lit up with joy. Then, as he looked beyond her, his eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.

“Andrew?”

Andrew put on his best smile and chuckled, walking forward toward his brother. He needed Ed to accept him back into the family fold and that might require some persuasion. “Great heavens, man, is it really you?” Edward came from behind the desk and greeted him with a handshake and an awkward hug that turned into a haphazard slapping against his shoulder. “You remember Parker Walcott.” He motioned to the man who had risen, eyes round behind his spectacles.

“Yes, of course, how’s the family, Parker? Dorothy and the children doing well?” Andrew felt the smooth mask of charm take hold of his being and hoped Parker would take the hint. He looked as if he’d seen a ghost.

“Oh, very good, my lord, yes indeed. And yourself?”

“After meeting my lovely niece here, I couldn’t be in better spirits.” Andrew replied. “Ed, why have you failed to mention our likeness in your letters? It nearly frightened us both out of our wits when we clapped eyes on one another.” The laughter in his voice was real this time.

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.” Edward hastened to explain. “Until this moment I didn’t realize just how much you resemble each other.” He glanced from one to the other, astonishment and something disapproving, consternation perhaps in his eyes before continuing. “Your eyes are more blue than her unusual shade of violet, but you’re quite right, you resemble twins more than you and I ever did. It’s remarkable, isn’t it?”

Edward motioned for Andrew to have a seat. “Please, join us.” They both looked up at Kendra to find her staring at Andrew. Andrew winked at her as he plopped down in the chair beside Parker. Edward cleared his throat and frowned at his daughter. “Kendra, go down and have Willabee bring up some refreshments please.”

Kendra nodded but clung to Andrew’s side before she left. “How long can you stay Uncle Andrew? You should stay at least until the end of the week.” Her eyes were bright with excitement.

“And what, pray tell, happens at the end of the week?” Andrew asked with a half grin that he’d been told sent the ladies into a swoon.

“I’ve persuaded papa to have a garden party.” Her eyes slid to her father before she continued. “He hates to entertain you know, but I’ve been so forlorn for company my own age since my friend, Lucinda, moved away that he’s feeling guilty and has agreed. Please say you’ll stay. Lady Willowbee’s girls will be absolutely speechless for once.”

“I seem to recall a Lady Willowbee, lives down the way, only other gentry around here, eh?” At Kendra’s nod Andrew chuckled with the memory. “A bit of a sour puss. Are her girls as malicious and back-biting as she and her sisters used to be?”

Kendra put her hand to her mouth in an attempt to suppress a horrified giggle.

“Can’t offend them though,” Andrew continued with grave mirth, “must do our duty and invite the only other cream de la cream in the area, even though it is soured cream, is that the dilemma you find yourself in, my dear?”

“Papa says I must love them as the Bible says.” Kendra raised her brows in beseeching charm that he recognized as one of his own trademark moves. “But if you were there it would be ever so much easier. They will be nice in hopes of an introduction. Please say you’ll stay.”

Andrew caught his brother’s gaze and asked in a soft voice. “Can you deny her anything?”

Edward looked down and cleared his throat, a red flush filling his cheeks. “Very little, I’m afraid.

Swinging back to Kendra’s expectant gaze, Andrew mused. “I will have to give you your answer later, moppet, but I promise I’ll try.

That seemed to satisfy her as she gave him a happy nod and turned to leave the men to their business.

“You’re going to have a devil of a time fighting off all the suitors at your door, Edward. She’s amazing.” Andrew remarked as he watched the whirl of Kendra’s skirts around the door as she left.

Edward sighed. “I’ve already had my share of offers, but she’s just nineteen. I’m not ready to see her betrothed to anyone yet.”

“I can understand why, she brightens up the old place.” Pausing, Andrew ran his fingers through his blond hair and added. “I was truly sorry about Eileen, Edward. I would have attended the funeral had I not been out of the county.”

“I won’t pretend I was anything other than devastated. But time has a way of taking the edge off the grief and Kendra has taken care of the rest. I don’t know how I would have gone on if she had died with her mother.”

Andrew didn’t know how to respond to his brother’s heart-wrenching revelation. Edward had aged in more than the receding hairline and creases around his mouth it would seem. Andrew cleared his throat and looked down at the floor.

Edward leaned across the desk, his hands clasped together. “Enough about me, what have you been doing with yourself these last fifteen years?”

“A little of everything, I dare say. Traveled around a good bit.” The rake’s smile slide across his lips and he shrugged. “Been enjoying life with good drink, fine horseflesh and beautiful women.”

Edward shook his head in an older brotherly way. “I know only too well of your love for the worldly passions. It’s a life that will never satisfy you, you know. I have to hear of your exploits every time I’m in London. When will you settle down? Start a family of your own?”

A bark of laughter escaped Andrew’s throat. Not here ten minutes and he was already getting the lecture. “Now is not a good time for thinking of that, Ed. I – uh, seem to have gotten myself into a bit of a jam.” Glancing at Parker Walcott, Andrew girded up his courage and rushed out the rest before his nerve failed him. “I was hoping to have a word with you, big brother. I have some business I would like to discuss.”

Parker rose rather abruptly for one keen to the family’s business dealings. Andrew smothered a chuckle as the solicitor beat a hasty path to the door. “I will bid you both good day, my lord. You and your brother have much catching up to do.” Andrew suppressed a chuckle as he scurried from the room.

After the door was closed silence descended upon the room. Andrew braced his arms on his legs and pressed his sweaty palms together.

Edward broke the silence with a voice both grave and guarded. “What can I do for you, Andrew?”

Shifting in the chair, Andrew ran a well-manicured hand though his blond hair, took a deep breath and plunged into his story.
It would seem Andrew had heard, through a reputable source, about an investment that was sure to make him a very wealthy man. The Brougham Company had been started to finance several voyages of trade to America with goods the colonist desperately needed. Five great ships had set sail over six months ago to deliver their goods. Andrew had invested all that he had and was given a great deal of credit as he bore the Townsend name.

The first two ships to sail had been attacked by pirates and overtaken. The following ship did not survive a great storm, and of the two that made it to America, one had perishables on it that were ill-packed, causing the contents to spoil, while the other had cheaper goods that even when sold at an exorbitant price did not come close to making up for the expense of the trip. “I’ve lost everything and my creditors are threatening Newgate Prison if I don’t come up with the funds.”

Edward listened with sinking despair. It seemed fate would never grant his twin the power he so desperately coveted. “Of course I will help you, Andrew. Have your creditors send me the contracts and I will take care of them.” He paused before continuing in a fatherly tone. “I understand you want to handle matters on your own, but please consider consulting me or even Walcott before plunging into a scheme like this in the future.” Edward pressed his lips together with that eagle-eyed stare that always made Andrew squirm in his chair. “I could have had the company investigated for you, at the very least.”

“Of course.” Andrew shook his head, eyes downcast. The act was growing tedious but pressed on. “It’s just that I was so excited. I wanted to surprise you and mother with my good fortune. I realize the family thinks me a spoiled dandy so I wanted to do something to make you all proud. Instead I proved what an idiot I am.”

“Now don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve been through worse and we’ll come through this together.”

“I can’t thank you enough, Ed, just the thought of that prison sent me fleeing here on wings. There is just one more thing,” Andrew rushed out, fidgeting with his fingers. “I was wondering if the creditors could go through old Parker instead of you. That way it won’t become common knowledge that my brother had to pay off my debts. It’s a matter of pride you see.” He raised his brows and gave Edward a shrug of his shoulders.

“Of course. There’s no need for our business to become something for the gossip mills.”

Andrew stood up, gave his brother a quick, firm hug, and hurried from the room.
Edward gazed at the closed door, sadness and bewilderment weighing down his shoulders like a heavy blanket. He had not seen his brother for years, and then when he finally did come home, it was only because he was in trouble and needed money. Would they ever be close?

Dear God, help me reach him.

He let his thoughts drift back to their childhood, a good and proper upbringing he had always thought, but not without its animosities. Animosities that led all the way back to their birth.

They had heard the tale countless times. Edward had been the first-born twin, the heir to the earldom, but it had come about by a strange quirk of fate. His mother, who now lived on her own estate miles from Arundel, had pushed for hours with no sign of the babies coming.

The midwife, in an effort to feel the baby’s position, placed one hand on the extended abdomen and the other inside the womb. She pulled back in surprise. “Your ladyship, I do believe you are having twins. There’s a head and feet near the opening.”

His mother gasped and her face whitened. “Twins! I shan’t be able to do it.”

The contractions continued though, strengthened instead of daunted by the thought of two.

Hours dragged by as they all wondered if Lady Lenora would be able to deliver the babies. In a wondrous moment, a hushed moment between pushes, a tiny foot poked out of the womb. The midwife didn’t say anything but knew the importance of the firstborn’s place so she tied a scarlet thread around the tiny ankle. Gently slipping the foot back up, she concentrated on delivering the baby in the head-down position. The child seemed ready to cooperate and after several more minutes emerged from the womb.

“A boy, my lady.” One of the servants rushed to take the child to clean him before he was presented to his mother. After another hour, Lady Lenora held two healthy sons. She noticed the thread and looked up at the midwife. “But what’s this, Ida?”

The midwife told the story of how that child had poked his little foot out first and thought to tie the yarn around his foot in the event that Lord Townsend would regard him the first born.

And he had. Lord Albert Townsend named the babe with the string around his ankle Edward Alexander Townsend, and proclaimed him the rightful heir. Lenora named his twin brother, Andrew Richard Townsend and thought that son cheated.

Edward’s knuckles whitened with the memory as he clinched his hands into fists. They’d been so close when they were boys! Inseparable until the day Andrew heard the story of his birth bluntly put by a stable hand. Andrew had changed then, pulling away and becoming distant and ever more brooding. After awhile it seemed they had little in common and less to like about each other. And that wasn’t even the worst of it. The resentment his mother held destroyed their marriage. Lenora devoted herself to spoiling her younger son which forced the earl to take Edward’s causes.

Edward sighed, his head dropping forward, sadness pulling at his heart. They were so different in every way. Andrew was strikingly handsome with his fair hair and pale blue eyes, so much like their mother. Edward supposed he was the epitome of an Englishman with his dark brown hair, aristocratic nose, and hazel eyes. And that was only their outward differences. Inwardly they couldn’t be more distant. He a long-grieving widower and Andrew a financially destitute dandy in dire straits. But he was back.

His brother had come home.

Maybe if he loved him enough, if he showed it and gave him all the attention and praise and . . . well, whatever it was that Andrew needed, maybe he could, uptight Englishman that he was, humble himself and shower his brother with love.

Father, help me love him the way he needs it. Help me show him You.

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