Book Review: “Drop Dead Punk” by Rich Zahradnik

July 8, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Books | 2 Comments
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Rich Zahradnik in his new book, “drop dead book coverDrop Dead Punk” Book Two in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series published by Camel Press gives us another adventure with Coleridge Taylor.

From the back cover:  Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, “Drop Dead.” Taylor’s situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.

A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood’s stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It’s hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That’s not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha—a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop—he realizes he’s too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor’s standing between her and some mighty big guns.

I still enjoy listening to the old radio shows, especially where there was a mystery investigation. Coleridge Taylor reminds me of the heroes of those old shows.  “Drop Dead Punk” is a highly intriguing mystery. A cop and a street kid are dead but they did not kill each other. Possibly another cop is involved but Taylor doesn’t think so. Now the investigation is on. I think Coleridge Taylor not only has a highly interesting job, newspaper reporter, but is one of the most interesting characters to come along in quite a while. Mr. Zahradnik has written a story that will keep you going in circles as Taylor tries to sort through all the clues. “Drop Dead Punk” is quite an engrossing book. Don’t start this book late at night as it will cost you sleep as you try to finish it before you go to bed. I am looking forward to more from Mr. Zahradnik and this wonderful series.

If you would like to listen to interviews with other authors and professionals please go to www.kingdomhighlights.org where they are available On Demand.

To listen to 24 hours non-stop, commercial free Christian music please visit our internet radio station www.kingdomairwaves.org

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Partners In Crime.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Razed by Paula Wiseman

November 28, 2012 at 8:37 am | Posted in Books | 1 Comment
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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:
Paula Wiseman
and the book:
Razed
Mindstir Media (July 12, 2012)
***Special thanks to Paula Wiseman for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After working several years as research chemist, Paula Wiseman was blessed with the opportunity to stay home with her children and follow the writer’s path. Her bestselling Covenant of Trust Series, including Contingency, Indemnity and Precedent was recognized by Indie Excellence Awards, a Readers Favorite Gold, and Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and featured on Lifetime Television. When she isn’t working on new projects, Paula blogs on matters of life and faith at www.paulawiseman.com.
Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Doug Bolling lost his wife of twenty years just as their stormy marriage was beginning to thrive, and he bitterly blames God. He tries to reconnect with his son, but it seems Mark is only interested if the relationship comes wrapped in religion. Mark claims he’s just following God when he moves his family, including Doug’s grandsons, further away, first to pastor, then to attend seminary. With frustrated resignation, Doug turns his attention to building a new life and a new home for himself and interior designer, Cassandra Grayson. The conflict erupts as Mark is preparing to leave for the mission field in Kenya. He delivers an ultimatum, cutting off all contact between his kids and their grandfather. God may have ripped away his wife and his son, but Doug draws the line at his grandchildren. Mark’s attempt to force him to choose between the woman he loves and the grandkids he adores, drives Doug to one fateful desperate act, even if it means destroying his relationship with his son.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 390 pages

Publisher: Mindstir Media (July 12, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0985365099

ISBN-13: 978-0985365097

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

SIXTEEN YEARS AGOThursday, July 29

Doug Bolling clutched the small bag of cookies in his left hand. His right hand rested on the door handle to his wife’s hospital room. No matter how many times he’d done this, it never got any easier.

He took a deep breath, pushed the door open slowly, and stepped inside. Images flickering across the screen of the muted television gave the room its only light. Judy’s eyes fluttered open as he got closer, and she gave him her best smile. “Hey, Babe,” he whispered, and leaned down to kiss her, wishing her cheeks were still full with the almost babyish roundness they used to have.

“You just missed the doctor.” She pulled at the bedrails and managed to prop herself up.

“There was a line at Schnuck’s.” He held the bag up for her to see.

“What’d you bring?” She stretched her arm forward, revealing her narrow wrists. Would she have enough strength to hold the bag?

“Those cookies. The white chocolate and macadamia nut ones.”

“Bless your heart.”

She labored to open the bag, and he fought the urge to do it for her.

She inhaled deeply. “They smell wonderful. I can’t wait to have one.”

“Why can’t you have one now?”

“I’m not hungry yet. I’d rather be hungry.”

“You want me to set them on the table?”

“No, I want them close.” She held out her hand, and he cradled it in his. “Almost as close as I want you.”

“So what’d the doctor say?”

Her smiled faded and she hesitated. Not good. “He’s sending me home, Doug.”

Home. Not “home” home. Home to die. “There’s not anything—?”

She shook her head. “He suggested some, uh, some hospice care providers.”

“How, how much—” He swallowed and tried again. “How much time?”

Her gentle smile returned. “He’s too slippery to give me anything definite. Christmas is probably, I mean, Christmas was his best-case estimate. He said I should think in terms of weeks . . . not months. I’m sorry.”

The grief in her eyes tore at him most of all. “Don’t be sorry.”

“I hate for you to have to go through this.”

“Me? Don’t worry about me. I’m a tough guy.”

“The toughest,” she said, and he felt the slightest squeeze. “I have a request.” She raised her eyes to his. “I want to be the one to tell Mark.”

He nodded. She’d do it better than he would anyway. He hooked his boot around the leg of the bedside chair and dragged it closer without ever letting go of her hand. Home. Hospice. Christmas. They knew it was close. But hearing it, having a doctor pronounce that . . .”Are you afraid?” He hoped she’d say yes, because he was terrified.

“No. I don’t have any pain, really.”

“I mean to die.” He regretted the words as soon as he heard himself say them. He shifted in the chair. “I shouldn’t have said that,” he mumbled.

“It won’t be as frightening if we talk about it.”

Which meant she knew he was terrified, so she would pretend she was, too. “But you’re not scared.”

“You remember when you asked me to marry you?”

“Like it was yesterday. I think it was just yesterday.”

“Seems like it. My parents were so worried. All they could see was this punk who barely graduated high school.”

“They still see that.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand again. “They never heard you say that you’d take care of me, and that you’d never, ever leave me.” She twisted and pulled herself up a little straighter. “I know this makes no sense to you, but God’s made those same promises to me, so I’m not afraid. I trusted you. I trust Him.”

He dropped his head and hoped she couldn’t see his jaw clench in the low light. The God she trusted was a fairy tale, a happy story to help her sleep better at night. A real God, a good God wouldn’t kill a wife and mother in the prime of her life.

“I see that line of discussion is a dead end.”

He smiled at the spark of attitude. “I’m glad your, uh, your faith helps you.”

“I wish it helped you.”

“It does. When I see you optimistic and brave and—” He had to look away again. If he didn’t shut up, he’d lose it in front of her. “So where’s that doctor? I need to get you out of here.”

*******

For Mark Bolling, three-thirty was the best part of the day, and his favorite thing about working for Bolling Developers. He didn’t hate construction work exactly, even though he missed the air conditioning at his grandfather’s car dealership. His dad was rarely on-site and the guys were okay to work with. He liked being able to see progress when he left every day.

His mother smiled with quiet approval any time he mentioned working for his dad. That was the main reason he was doing it. Plus, it was her idea. Right after she got sick last summer, she suggested—no, insisted—he ask his dad for a job. His father said, “So help me, if you pull an attitude and embarrass me, you’ll wish you were shoveling horse barns for a living. Am I clear?”

“Crystal.”

“You need work boots. Pack your own lunch and be ready to leave by six-thirty in the morning.”

That was his orientation talk.

The first two days she was in the hospital this time around, it looked like this was her last trip, but she rallied once more. He planned to grab a quick shower then spend the evening there with her.

His father’s truck was in the driveway. That meant his parents were home—both of them. They’d sent her home. Great!

The stillness in the house sucked that optimism right out of him. He walked as carefully and quietly as his clunky, steel-toed boots would allow, checking the living room and the kitchen. Outside? He peeked out the back door and saw his dad fussing with the charcoal grill.

Charcoal. The guy was a million-dollar-a-year homebuilder, but he was too cheap for a gas grill. Not only that, they still lived in the same three-bedroom place he built the first year Bolling Developers was in business, and he still drove the pick-up truck he bought that year.

Mark slipped off his boots and left them by the back door, then he took the stairs two at a time, doubly anxious to talk to his mother. He heard the television. Hopefully that meant she was awake. He knocked gently as he pushed the door open. “Mom?”

“Mark? Is it that late already?” Her voice was soft, but her eyes shone. She reached for the remote and clicked off the television set. “Come and sit with me and tell me about your day.”

“I’d rather hear about yours.” He eased himself down onto the edge of the bed.

“Oh, it was about what I expected.” She tugged at the sleeve of her warm-up jacket, pulling it toward her wrist. The sicker she got, the more athletic her preferred attire became. She thought the bulky clothes hid things better. She was mistaken.

Her eyes fluttered, hardly daring to rest on his. “I shouldn’t have to go back.”

“No more treatments?” he asked, knowing exactly what that meant.

She shook her head. “The doctor said . . . well . . . his primary concern from here on out . . . is that I’m comfortable.”

Here on out. The death sentence. The air in the room thickened until it was like trying to breathe syrup. Hot, smothering syrup.

She put a hand on his knee and winked with an impish grin. “I can have all the morphine I want.”

He had to smile at her. “How did . . . ?” Mark swallowed hard and wiped his eyes. “How’s Dad?”

Her smile faded. “That’s what hurts me. Watching him.” She smoothed the comforter. “He’s so lost. He needs you more than he will ever admit, more than he understands even.”

His father didn’t need anyone, least of all him. “Excuse my cynicism.”

She took his hand and spoke with urgency. “I want you to remember this when I—” She shook her head gently. “Your dad, he carries everything inside, and he’s going to need someone he can vent to. Someone who can take it.”

“You mean someone to yell at?”

“Yell at, yell to. It’s all the same to him.”

“Then I’ve been there for him for years.”

“I’m not explaining this right,” she said. “There’s much more to your dad than the blustering guy in the hardhat. Give him a chance. Be patient and he’ll come around. Promise me you will.”

“Have you given him this speech?” he asked, carefully avoiding the promise.

“Not yet. He’s on my schedule.” She smiled. “If only I could have a few more years with him.” She blinked away her own tears. “He just needs someone who will love him.”

She wanted, expected, him to be the one—a worshipful son to take the place of the smitten wife. He was in so much trouble.

*******

Doug sat at the kitchen table sorting through the latest stack of bills. Doctor, doctor, hospital, ambulance, radiology. What a mess. He wrote check after check, stuffed them in the envelopes, and dropped the keep this portion in the box at his feet. He didn’t have time for this. He should be in there with Judy. Christmas. Christmas was only five months away. He couldn’t be ready in five months.

If she didn’t eat any more than she did today, he didn’t see how she could last that long. She used to have this metabolism most people would give anything to have. She could eat whatever she wanted, and still keep a cheerleader’s figure. He teased her about out-eating him.

She was never what anyone would call beautiful. Judy was cute. Petite and youthful, she never seemed to age. She’d never let herself get old, she said. Terminal cancer took care of that for her.

Mark strode into the kitchen and pulled a glass from the cabinet. “She’s asleep.” The teenager got a two-liter bottle from the refrigerator and it hissed loudly when he twisted off the cap. “You want a Coke or something?”

“No.” Doug laid down his pen and pushed his chair back from the table. He’d dreaded this conversation all day, especially the part where he’d ask the center of the universe to relinquish his position. “Listen, I think you need to sit out this semester coming up.”

“Why?” Mark gulped the Coke, then set the glass on the counter, clinking it against the sink.

“Really? I have to explain this to you? Your mother is dying, Mark. It’ll be a miracle if she lives past Christmas. Don’t you think you belong here with her instead of some frat house somewhere?”

“I’m not even gonna respond to that.”

Doug had seen the same condescending sneer on Judy’s face more times than he cared to remember.

“Mom specifically said not to drop out of school. She told me to go on with my life.”

“I bet she did,” Doug muttered.

“Fine! You want me to stay home? I’ll stay.”

“Oh no. I’m not taking the blame for bullying you into dropping out of college.”

“You bully me into everything else.”

“And Mommy always rescues you, doesn’t she?”

“Again, I’m not going to respond. You’re just ranting at me, and I’ve learned not to try to reason with you when you’re like this.”

“I’m unreasonable?”

“Right now, yes.”

Doug jerked himself out of the chair and stood inches away from his son. The boy, the man now, straightened himself until he stood half a head taller than Doug, with a look of annoyed indifference he inherited directly from Judy’s father.

Then Doug stopped himself. He waved his hand and stepped back. Mark couldn’t understand, and he didn’t have the strength or the words to explain it.

“Go ahead and say it, Dad.”

This time it wasn’t a challenge. Mark was inviting him, the way Judy did. Maybe the long talks with his mother were paying off. Maybe he was listening.

“Just . . . you better pray to that God of yours that you never have to stand by and watch your wife . . . watch her go through something like this.”

“He’s your God, too.”

“I have no God.”

“That’s your problem.”

*******

Tuesday, August 3

“What do you think you’re doing?” Doug leaned against the kitchen doorframe, his arms crossed against his chest as he watched his wife rummage through the kitchen cabinets.

“Making your dinner.” Judy hugged a skillet close to her body.

“You have no business—” He gently took the skillet from her hand and set it on the counter.

She huffed like an angry teenager. “Will you please, please, let me do as much as I can for as long as I can?”

“But you shouldn’t be wasting your energy—”

“It’s not wasting it if I’m doing what I enjoy.”

“You enjoy making my dinner? Since when?”

She pulled the skillet toward the stovetop. “All right, all right. There have been times when making dinner was not my favorite thing.”

“Like the first nineteen years of our marriage,” Doug teased.

“Get out the spaghetti, smart aleck.”

“That’s more like it.” He handed her the box of pasta and watched her brown the ground beef. He wasn’t joking, though. She had begrudged everything she did for him until she got sick.

“You know, this reminds me of the time we were at Disney World and Mickey or Goofy or somebody sat down beside Mark and begged for his spaghetti.” She smiled as she stirred. “He wouldn’t walk close to the characters any more after that. Do you remember?”

“No.”

“Oh, sure you do. Mark was about . . . five . . .”

“Judy, I wasn’t there. You and your parents took Mark. I couldn’t get away.”

“Or wouldn’t.”

“That’s not fair.”

She sighed with a heavy sadness. “Why did we treat each other that way for so long?”

“We were young. We didn’t know what we were doing.”

“I was selfish, Doug.” She struggled to pull a heavy pot from the cabinet, so he steadied it for her. “I married you because it infuriated my father.” She slid the pot into the sink and turned the water on. “You deserved a woman who loved you for you.”

“I have one.”

“But I’m not gonna be around to finish the job.” She turned off the faucet and held out a hand. He slipped in beside her and put an arm around her waist. She was so thin now. “Can you forgive me?”

“For what?”

“For being such a horrible wife.”

“That’s crazy.” He dropped his hand and stepped away. “You were, I mean, are, you are a perfect wife.”

“Now who’s crazy.” She arched an eyebrow at him, and he smiled. “I know better.”

“At least we had the last couple of years when things were good. Some people don’t have that.”

“It has been good, hasn’t it?”

He nodded and lifted the pot from the sink, then set it on the stove for her. “I think we both learned what was really important.”

“I learned what love was. I couldn’t give you what I didn’t have.”

Doug braced himself. He recognized the set-up for another Christianity commercial from her.

She wrinkled her brow at him. “All right. I won’t say anything else.”

“No, say it. I don’t want to leave anything unsaid between us.”

She faced him and spoke with urgency. “You’re a good man, Doug. You’ve made your own way. You work hard, and you have great integrity. I love all those things about you.”

He smiled, trying to diffuse the heaviness in the moment. “Tell me more.”

“Those things aren’t going to be good enough. The only thing, the only thing that scares me is an eternity without you. Mark finally came around, and I pray every day you will, too . . . and I pray I’ll get to see it.”

He saw the tears in her eyes, and guilt washed over him. Why couldn’t he simply say he believed whatever she wanted him to, make her happy, let her have peace these last few months?

Because he couldn’t lie to her.

“Babe, here’s how it looks to me. God . . . I don’t trust Him. He could fix all this and He won’t. He’s holding out.”

“But He’s not like that!”

“Not to you.”

“Let me find somebody who can explain things better than I can—”

“I don’t want to talk about it with somebody else. I only talk about it with you because—”

“Because I’m dying. You’re patronizing me.”

“I’m not patronizing you. I’m trying to be supportive.” He sighed deeply at the hurt in her eyes. “Just save your religion talk for Mark.”

“You hate that, too.”

“I don’t. ” He turned his back to her, paced away, and took a deep breath. If she saw his eyes, she’d know he was lying.

“You resent every minute I spend with him.”

It was a soft declaration, not an accusation, but she still knew how to cut into his very soul. He faced her again. “Can we compromise on this?”

“Can we?” The light in her eyes faded, and her hair seemed to gray before his eyes. She’d spent all her energy on him.

“Talk about your religion, your faith. Tell me all about it, but I don’t want to hear how much I need it. No hard sells, no sob stories, nothing.”

“And you won’t give Mark a hard time?”

“Mark and I will be fine.”

*******

Wednesday, September 22

Mark met his father at the top of the stairs outside his mother’s room, and to his utter surprise, his dad held out a hand. Mark shook it as grieving fear took hold of him. “Is she . . . ?”

“They said it was a matter of days now.” His father glanced back toward the door. “She’s on a lot of medication. She’s kind of in and out.”

Mark nodded. “You tell her I was coming?”

He shook his head. “She didn’t want me to call you. Afraid your schoolwork would suffer.”

As if he had anything more important to do.

“I’m gonna grab her a glass of water and throw a load of her things in the laundry. Did you get the mail on your way in?”

“It’s on the table.”

“Thanks.” His dad stepped around him and headed down the stairs.

“Dad?”

“What?”

“We’ll get through this.”

His father shook his head and shuffled into the kitchen.

Mark pushed the bedroom door open, and his breath caught when he saw his mother, ashen-faced and motionless, propped up against a pillow. “Mom?”

“Mark? It’s not Friday, is it?”

“No, it’s Wednesday.”

“Your dad doesn’t listen.” She managed a smile.

“I’m glad he called me.”

She reached for his hand. “Your dad, he reads my Bible to me. I wish you could hear him.” Her eyelids drooped until they were only half open. “It’s the most beautiful thing. Mark.” She let out a dreamy sigh. “Would you let him read at your wedding?”

“My wedding?”

“You’re still dating the preacher’s daughter, aren’t you?”

“Well, yeah.”

“You love her?”

“I do.”

“See, you’re already practiced up on the ‘I do.’” She smiled again and rolled her eyes to look at him. “Don’t wait, Mark. Don’t wait until you’re older . . . or you’re more settled . . . or you have more money. There are no guarantees.”

“Mom, it’s a little—”

She managed another smile. “Your dad doesn’t know about her, does he?”

“It’s not like I’m trying to keep it a secret. It just never seemed like the right time to bring it up.”

“Practice then. Tell me about her. Tell me what you love about her.” She settled back against her pillow, her eyes drooping shut again.

“Um, well . . . She’s, uh, she’s pretty, of course, and smart. She listens to me.”

His mother nodded slightly. “Mmmm. You need that. Men need that. They need someone who believes in them . . . then they can do anything.”

“Did you believe in Dad?”

“Not like I should have. Look what’s he’s accomplished in spite of it. What if I’d been what he needed? What could he have done?” She reached for his hand and squeezed it gently. Her fingers were soft and cool. “With, uh, tell me her name again.”

“Julie. Julie Hammell.”

“With Julie behind you, there’ll be no stopping you. I wish I could have met her. I’m sure she’s wonderful.”

Mark smiled and nodded. “She is.” Julie Hammell was his ticket to respectability, acceptance, and purpose, and it didn’t hurt that she was crazy about him. “Does Dad know you want him to read?”

“He promised me today.”

“You pick out the passage?”

“First John, chapter four. Where it talks about love, God’s love for us. He read it today.” She sighed and closed her eyes. “‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.’ It was beautiful. He has a beautiful voice . . . and he read it slow so he didn’t stumble.”

“Are you getting tired? I should let you rest.”

“No, stay. I have one for you too.”

“Something to read at my wedding?”

“No, a promise. I want you to make me a promise.” She squeezed his hand weakly again. “Promise me you won’t give up on him. Promise you’ll make sure your dad becomes a believer.”

“Mom, I can’t. He has to make that decision.”

“You have to tell him. You have to. It’s like in Ezekiel. You’re the watchman. If you don’t tell him . . . if he dies in his sins, Mark, we’re accountable. Maybe not responsible, but . . . Please tell me you won’t let that happen. I have nightmares—”

“I won’t, Mom. I’ll take care of it.” How could he not promise?

She relaxed against her pillow, apparently exhausted, and guilt closed off his throat. He couldn’t make his dad become a believer. He’d just lied to his mother on her deathbed.

“Talk to me,” she said without opening her eyes. “I love hearing you. I’m listening.”

Mark talked about his classes, his homework, the drive home, whatever he could think of, but the promise hung in the back of his mind. I’ll take care of it. How?

The more he talked, the more each word came with a keen awareness of every breath she took. If she passed without his father there at her side . . . God help them all.

*******

Friday, September 24

Doug rubbed his eyes and shifted in his chair. In the pale early morning light he squinted, trying to make sure Judy was still breathing. Finally, he reached his hand to her chest. It rose and fell in a slow, shallow rhythm. That reassurance was costly. Now he was afraid to pull his hand away for fear he’d miss the last one.

Ellen and Russell Carson had passed the night with him here, hovering over their only daughter. Of course they belonged here, had a right and a need to be here, but Doug hated it. When Ellen slipped out to get a quick shower, at least Russ left to make coffee, giving Doug these precious few moments alone with Judy.

“You’ve never answered anything I’ve ever asked,” he whispered. “But . . . I’ll do . . . anything. Or take me instead . . . Just . . . Don’t . . . You can fix this. I read those stories to her, I know what You can do . . . I need her. Take anything else of mine . . . Just not—”

Judy drew in two quick breaths and opened her eyes. “Doug?”

“I’m right here.” He slipped his hand around hers. “Right here.”

“I love you.” She labored to draw the corners of her mouth into a smile. “Mark . . . ?”

“He’s down the hall. He’ll be right here.”

“Were Mom and Dad . . . ?”

He nodded. “Your mom’s down in our bathroom getting a shower and your dad’s making a pot of coffee. They’ve been here the whole time.”

She closed her eyes. “You need . . . that.”

“Need what? Coffee?” he asked, daring to tease her in this moment.

She blinked slowly in place of a smile. “I heard . . . you pray.”

He felt himself flush with the shame of desperation. “I don’t think it did any good.”

“I pray . . . for you . . . and Mark. You need . . .”

You, he wanted to say. I need you, Judy.

“You need someone . . . someone who deserves to have you.” She squeezed his hand. “You . . . I love you. We will meet again. I have that peace.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I can let go. You’ll . . .” Her hand relaxed, and everything inside Doug Bolling died.

Promised To Another (Amish of Seymour County series #3) by Laura Hilton

March 1, 2012 at 9:45 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
Tags:

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:
Laura Hilton
and the book:
Promised To Another (Amish of Seymour County series #3)
Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura V. Hilton is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mother of five, breast cancer survivor, author and book lover. Although her educational background is in business, reading is Laura’s lifelong passion, and writing a gift she’s developed to the delight of her growing fan base. Laura’s reputation for the authenticity of her Amish settings is no accident – it’s in her blood as she learned as a child from her Pennsylvania Amish grandmother. Besides her Amish of Seymour Series for Whitaker House, Laura published two novels for Treble Heart Books, contributed to a Zondervan devotional, and has written hundreds of book reviews for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Christian Suspense Zone, and a variety of Internet publications. She also posts reviews on her book review blog: www.lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com. Laura and her family live in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.

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SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Annie Beiler is a spunky, spirited schoolteacher, but she’s struggled ever since the man she was promised to “jumped the fence” and left the Amish of Seymour. She needs a man who is committed to his Amish beliefs. And now, she’s struggling to regain the trust of the school board members and the parents of her pupils for taking her class on an unauthorized field trip to a nearby Civil War battlefield. She’s put on probation, and one wrong step could cost her the position permanently.

Joshua Esh of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, moved to Missouri ostensibly as part of the man swap meant to bring new blood into the community. Annie Beiler caught his attention the moment he arrived in Seymour, but he’s disheartened to discover that she is promised to another man–Luke, who left the Amish but vowed to return one day and claim “his” Annie. So, Josh fills his social calendar with singings and frolics, taking a different girl home from every event–with the exception of Annie, since she is already committed to someone.

When Luke comes home, Annie pushes him away, and Josh Esh comes to her rescue. But the situation becomes awkward, since Josh is staying with Luke’s family. An awareness of each other’s attraction to Annie causes the awkwardness to escalate, and Annie’s father soon invites Josh to stay with his family. But not all of the Beilers are happy about this new arrangement.

Soon, a buggy accident ends in a shotgun wedding after the bishop witnesses a kiss between Josh and Annie and insists they get married right away. The two protest, but the bishop is adamant. He later tells them why: he’d overheard some talk about a scheme Luke was launching to force Annie to marry him.

Marriage brings some dark secrets to the surface, and Annie and Josh must confront their issues and deal with the past if they plan on a future together.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603742573

ISBN-13: 978-1603742573

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“May I take you home from the singing?”
Annie Beiler’s breath hitched, and her gaze shot from the dusty toes of her powder-blue tennis shoes to the drop-dead-gorgeous man standing not three feet in front of her. Unfortunately, his tentative smile wasn’t aimed in her direction.
Nein, Joshua Esh’s hazel eyes were locked on Rachel Lapp. Annie had to admit Rachel was cute, with her strawberry blonde hair and green dress that perfectly matched her eyes.
Joshua was what her Englisch friends called a “player,” for sure. Everyone talked about how he never took the same girl home from singings twice. And Annie couldn’t help hoping that he would eventually make his way to her.
Rachel’s face lit up. “Danki, Joshua. I’d love a ride.”
Annie scowled. If and when he got around to asking her, she’d turn him down. Someone should have the willpower to say nein. Just that evening, Rachel had been talking with Annie and some other girls about Joshua’s flirtatious ways. It appeared that she’d merely been jealous since he hadn’t asked to take her home.
Okay, to be honest, Annie did feel a bit envious, too. Make that more than a bit. And it wasn’t just because of Joshua, although he had played a big part in it. The truth was, none of the buwe who’d come from Pennsylvania in the man swap had ever offered to give her a ride. Not a single one.
She didn’t consider herself that unfortunate-looking.
Annie brushed past Joshua and Rachel and left the barn. Immediately, she regretted having gone outside, because she did need to find a way home—unless she rode along with another couple. But she didn’t think she could stand there alone by the barn doors, hopeful, when all the buwe she noticed didn’t seem to know she was alive.
Like Joshua Esh.
Especially Joshua Esh.
Annie kicked a rock and winced when it didn’t budge.
“Annie? Is that you?” A familiar male voice sounded from out of the darkness ahead of her.
She jumped. She hadn’t expected to hear that voice. Not in a month of singings. She frowned. “Luke?”
“Jah.” He moved into the circle of light from the lanterns hanging around the barn.
Annie planted her fists on her hips. She wouldn’t make the mistake of falling for Luke Schwartz twice—not that she’d really fallen for him the first time. It was just that he’d asked. And a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, right? Okay, she’d realized he wasn’t what she wanted—he wouldn’t make her top-ten list of the dreamiest Amish men—but he was better than nothing. She pulled in a deep breath, steeling herself. “What are you doing here?”
“Ach, that’s a wunderbaar way to welkum me. I’ve kum home.”
She stilled, her hope building, despite her internal warnings. “For how long?” She didn’t want to spend her life alone. Didn’t want to rely on the kindness of other couples for rides. Didn’t want to be the only girl left unattached, unaccepted, unwanted.
Unloved.
But, then again, she didn’t want to settle for just anyone, either.
Luke didn’t quite meet her eyes. “You wound me.”
Ach. Not for gut, then. The pencil fell from behind her ear, and she stooped to pick it up, careful not to glance at him as she rose.
“Never without that ever-present pencil, I see.”
She winced, hating that he mocked her. It wasn’t common to take a pencil to singings, she knew, but what if she wanted to write something down? The name of a book she’d like to read, perhaps, or something she wanted to mention to her students the following week. Maybe even the initials of her number one dream guy, who stood somewhere nearby but didn’t pay any attention to her. Who didn’t know she was alive. “Sarcasm doesn’t suit you.”
He sighed. “May I give you a ride home? Looks like things are breaking up.”
She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, but I already have a ride. Maybe another time.”
Luke laughed. “Right. I heard how popular you are. Having to beat the buwe off with a stick, ain’t so?”
Annie stiffened. “So, you couldn’t pay rent on that run-down trailer and ran home to your parents, jah?”
Someone moved up beside her, and she turned her head. Whoever it was didn’t register. What she did notice was that others were gathering around her and Luke, watching their exchange.
She was in enough trouble already, having nearly gotten dismissed from her teaching post. The school board had permitted her to continue teaching, provided she was put on probation. All she needed was for one of these eavesdroppers to go home and tell his or her folks. She’d be out of a job so fast, a racing horse and buggy wouldn’t be able to keep pace. She searched for something to say, something to defuse the situation.
Luke’s glance slid from her to whoever had stepped up to offer wordless support. He sneered, then backed up a space. “Well, since you have a ride, I’ll just catch you later, then. Gut to see you, Annie.”
She forced a smile. “Glad you’re back, Luke.”
He turned and disappeared into the darkness.
***
Joshua stood beside Annie for a moment. Silent. Wishing he could say something to salve the hurt she must feel. He sensed the pain radiating from her as she watched the redheaded man walk away.
The whole situation confused him. He’d been attracted to Annie the moment he’d met her, but when he’d fished for more information about her, he’d found out she was taken. Off limits. All but engaged to Luke Schwartz, who had vowed to return for her someday. Apparently, that day was now.
Yet Annie hadn’t been waiting with bated breath.
Joshua didn’t know exactly what that meant.
He knew only what he wanted it to mean.
The crowd around them thinned as the pairs began to make their ways to their buggies. Joshua became conscious of Rachel standing on the other side of him, twisting her apron in her hand while she waited on him to do something. He wasn’t sure what.
He swallowed the lump in this throat and turned to face the brunette schoolteacher. “Um, Annie. I’m going right past your haus. I can give you a ride, if you’d like.”
The expression in her dark eyes could have withered a lesser man. “I couldn’t possibly impose on a courting couple.”
“Ach, you know gut and well Rachel and I aren’t courting.” He couldn’t commit to anyone. Not when his attention had been caught and held by one certain Amish schoolteacher. But he wouldn’t approach her—not until he knew for sure what was happening between her and Luke. Or seeing if he could somehow catch her eye. Choosing a future frau was a serious thing. After all, he’d be spending the rest of his life with her.
It wasn’t like God would point her out with a bright-neon light, one that he’d be sure to notice in this quiet, rural community. Then again, maybe He had. Joshua had certainly sat up and taken notice of Annie.
“I’m going right past your haus,” he repeated, tucking his thumbs into his suspenders to keep from reaching out and touching her arm, grasping her hand, or otherwise physically imploring her to just hush up and come along.
The good Lord certainly hadn’t made Annie Beiler into a submissive maidal. Not like Rachel Lapp, who still stood silently on his other side, waiting for him to finish. She’d probably be a docile, obedient frau. Unfortunately for her, he liked a bit of spunk.
Spunk was something that Annie Beiler possessed in abundance, if what he’d overheard during the school board meetings was true.
Ignoring him, Annie turned around and headed for the barn. He watched her go, torn whether to follow or not. Rachel still waited quietly by his side, so he straightened and faced her. “Shall we?”
She met his gaze, her green eyes wide. “Maybe we should wait to see if Annie needs a ride first. Her sister left with a beau, and her brother isn’t here.” She looked around. “Neither is her best friend.”
“Jah.” Joshua swallowed, then glanced back at the barn. “I’ll ask again.”
“Has Luke returned home for gut?” Rachel asked before he’d taken a step.
Joshua shrugged. “He was at the haus when we came back from church this afternoon, and he said he’d kum home.”
“His parents must be so happy.”
Joshua nodded, but the truth was, he didn’t know. The Schwartzes had both seemed rather skeptical when they’d found Luke on the porch after church. Already, the whole community seemed to know about his homecoming. Who needed a phone when the grapevine was so effective? Annie had looked surprised to see him, however, so perhaps the news hadn’t spread as quickly as Joshua thought.
“I’ll go see if I can find Annie. Be right back.”
Rachel smiled. “I’ll wait at your buggy.”
Joshua gave a brief nod, then headed back inside the lantern-lit barn, where he breathed in the scents of animals, dust, and hay. He skirted the table, still laden with sandwiches, vegetables, and cookies left over from the singing, and walked toward a far corner where he thought he saw a brown dress in the shadows. Annie always wore brown, as if she wanted to go unnoticed. Hidden from view. Invisible.
Of course, given the recent conflicts with the school board, maybe flying low was the best thing for her.
With a sigh, Joshua paused, backtracked, and grabbed a couple of peanut butter cookies off the table. Taking a bite of one of the crumbly cookies, he retraced his steps toward the corner where he thought Annie was hiding. He swallowed. “Annie?”
No answer.
He rounded a pile of hay bales and saw her, crouched low. “Hey. You’ll never find a ride hiding back here.”
She jumped up and straightened her shoulders. “I wasn’t hiding. I was….” She looked around and picked up a piece of straw, poking it back into the bale. “Cleaning. They missed this corner.”
Joshua raised his eyebrows and silently watched her pick up more straw for several moments. Fighting a grin, he leaned against another bale of hay.
Annie balled her fists and planted them on her hips. “Aren’t you going to go? Take Rachel home?”
“It’s more fun watching you pick up straw. And I’m sure the Stoltzfuses will appreciate that you took so much time cleaning this part of their barn. By hand, no less. I’ll be sure to tell Shanna.”
“You’re insufferable. Nein wonder your community swapped you out.”
Her comment couldn’t have been farther from the truth, but he didn’t mind. That was just what he wanted everyone to believe—for now, at least. But it didn’t matter. The temptation to grin won out. “Jah. I’ll just be the thorn in your side, here. Now, quit being so stubborn and admit you need a ride home.”
“I’ll admit nein such thing.”
***
She needed a ride, of course, but the thought of imposing on Joshua and Rachel—that wasn’t right. How could she? Besides, she didn’t want a ride as an act of charity. Yet that was the only way she’d get one. She thought about walking, but she refused to give Luke and Joshua the pleasure of seeing her reduced to setting out on foot.
“I’ll wait until you have a ride, then. Or till you accept one from me.” Judging by the obstinate set of Joshua Esh’s jaw, refusing was no longer an option.
She pulled in a deep breath and then nodded. “I guess I can let you drive me. Danki.” It hurt to say that. If only he had asked her first, because he wanted to, instead of asking out of a sense of obligation. As if she was a charity case.
Annie followed him outside and climbed in the backseat of the buggy behind Rachel and Joshua. His was an open buggy, not one for courting, and the two sat with a good foot between them—a respectable distance. Annie reached for the folded quilt on the seat beside her and pulled it close, wanting the comfort. The security.
Joshua glanced over his shoulder at her. “Cold?”
“Nein.” It was a bit breezy. The scent of autumn filled the air, though only a few leaves had started to turn. There was no good reason for wanting the quilt, other than her insecurity. She wrapped her arms around it, cuddling it like she would one of Mamm’s quilted throw pillows when company came, and she wanted to hide but had to be physically present. Not that the pillow hid her, but it made her more comfortable. And this quilt certainly wouldn’t hide her either. She glanced down at it. Maple leaf pattern. It was beautiful.
Joshua turned around once more and studied her, open concern in his hazel eyes. The horse snorted and tossed its head, as if to show its impatience to be off. Annie squirmed, again wishing someone else had asked to take her home. Well, someone had. Luke. She winced, her stomach suddenly churning. An ex-beau or Joshua and his girl of the day: a lose-lose decision.
“I’ll take Rachel home first, then you,” Joshua said. He clicked his tongue to the horse.
“Nein, take me home first.”
Joshua shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense. We’ll kum to Rachel’s haus before yours. If I take you home first, I’ll have to backtrack to drop her off and then again on the way to the haus where I’m staying.”
Annie frowned. “But—”
“I hate backtracking.”
She pulled the quilt closer, crossing her arms over it.
Joshua glanced at Rachel before looking ahead at the road again. They hadn’t spoken, but Annie was sure they’d communicated nonverbally. Probably a mutual acknowledgment of the unwelcome third party in the buggy. She’d never know.
“We got a lot done at the Kropfs’ haus last week, ain’t so?” Rachel turned sideways in the seat so that she faced Joshua and could see Annie. “You did a great job painting in the kitchen, Annie. It looks so much brighter with a fresh coat of white paint. Those brown water stains on the wall were nasty.” She glanced at Joshua. “You were working upstairs, ain’t so? Helping the other men put on a new roof?”
He nodded.
Annie sank into the back seat, glad that Rachel filled the silence with chatter. But still, she didn’t need any more proof that her presence had put an awkward spin on things. What would she have to say to Joshua after Rachel was gone and they were alone? She supposed she could apologize for ruining their evening. She studied Joshua’s profile when he glanced at Rachel, wishing for the thousandth time that he’d asked to take her home because he wanted to. She hugged the quilt closer.
Rachel still chattered nonstop. “I heard that the floorboards upstairs were rotted, too.”
“Jah. We had to be careful where we stepped. Should be as gut as new now.”
“I think it’s a shame that Amos Kropf let his haus fall into such a bad shape. Don’t you?”
Joshua voiced appropriate responses to her comments, and, soon, their conversation was a vague drone in Annie’s ears. Yet, all too soon, he pulled the buggy into the drive that led to Rachel’s haus. It was a tidy stone place that looked hardly big enough to house her entire family. It didn’t need to, of course, since all of her siblings but one were grown and married. Her younger brother, Esau, was fourteen, so this was the last year Annie would have him in class. He was one of the big buwe, but he hadn’t caused her any trouble. He was as sweet as his sister. She’d actually miss him, she realized.
“I’ll be right back.” Joshua glanced at Annie, then vaulted out of the buggy and came around to walk Rachel to the door. They talked too quietly for Annie to make out what they said. All she heard was the muffled sound of voices.
The horse raised its tail and made a deposit. Annie glanced away, readjusting the quilt on her lap.
Too soon, Joshua was back. He climbed into the buggy and twisted around to look at her. “Move up here by me. I’m not a chauffer.”
“Jah, that’s exactly what you are.”
He hesitated, studying her. “Either that or a taxi service, jah?”
She smiled, in spite of herself. “Jah.”
He grinned back. “Get up here.”
After a moment, she laid the quilt where she’d found it, smoothing the wrinkles. Then, she climbed over the buggy seat, settling in next to him. Closer to him than Rachel had sat. “Danki for taking me home.”
His grin liquefied her knees. Good thing she wasn’t standing. Had he smiled at Rachel that way? He reached for the brake, released it, and clicked his tongue. Seconds later, they were back on the road.
“Did you have fun at the singing?”
“Jah.” It had been okay, until Luke had showed up.
“Gut. You haven’t kum to many singings in the past few weeks. Just on occasion.”
He’d noticed her? Annie fought the urge to smile. “You’re new in town. I go to all the singings. Well, almost all of them.” She had missed a good number after Mamm’s accident.
“I’m not that new. I’ve been here since the end of June. Four months. And I would have noticed if you were there all the time. Believe me.”
He’d noticed her enough to miss her? Then, why hadn’t he asked…?
“Sorry I tagged along on your ride with Rachel.”
He glanced at her. “I don’t mind giving you a ride. It’s a pleasure. As for ruining the evening with Rachel, don’t worry. I might decide to visit her later this week.” He shrugged as if it didn’t matter.
Annie’s heart sank. She leaned back in the seat, shifting away from him as far as she could. Not that she’d been sitting indecently close. She did have a reputation to uphold. Such as it was.
He glanced at her again. “So, heard that you are meeting with the school board on Monday to discuss some things.”
Tomorrow. She shut her eyes briefly. “News does get around.”
“Heard you rented a van to take the students on a field trip to a Civil War battlefield. Without permission.”
She fought the urge to bow her head in shame. Instead, she held steady, tightening her lips, glad that he didn’t have any kinner in school, and would have no reason to attend.
But then, he lived at the haus where the meeting would be held. With Luke’s family.
Jah, he’d be there, to witness her humiliation firsthand.

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