Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner

Just in time for Mother's Day...


A Vivid Story of a Private Grief, a Secret Painting
and One Woman’s Search for Hope.

Coming May 5th, 2009

Pre-order Rose House now at your preferred online bookstore.

“With Rose House, Tina Ann Forkner paints a breathtaking canvas of lush prose brushstrokes. Don’t get lulled into a sense of calm; the storyline casts suspenseful shadows on this masterpiece of women’s fiction. Delightful!”
Patti Lacy, author of An Irishwoman’s Tale and What the Bayou Saw

“Captivating, mysterious, and romantically enticing, Forkner’s Rose House keeps the pages turning.”
Alice J. Wisler, author of Rain Song and How Sweet It Is

“ The unique setting and her lyrical descriptions enticed me into the scene, where I was captivated by the appealing characters and the story’s underlying mystery. I couldn’t put it down.” –Ane Mulligan, Editor and Co-Owner of Novel Journey

“Just as the Rose House itself sits within a mass of beautiful, entwined roses and vines, so is the story nestled in a masterful weaving of secrets, betrayals, hope, and healing.”
Allison Pittman, author of Stealing Home and Saturdays with Stella


Also by Tina Ann Forkner

See where it all began in Ruby Among Us, a stirring tale of remembrance and redemption.

Purchase Ruby Among Us or Rose House at your favourite local bookstore or preferred online store. Ruby Among Us and Rose House are published by Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House.

* Information taken from

New York Debut by Melody Carlson

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:

New York Debut (Carter House Girls)

Zondervan (May 1, 2009)


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past ten years, she has published more than a hundred books for children, teens, and adults, with sales totaling more than 2.5 million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List.

Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards including The Gold Medallion, The Christy, and The Rita Award. And most recently she is in the process of optioning some of her books for film rights.
She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714931
ISBN-13: 978-0310714934


“Where is Taylor?” asked Grandmother as she drove DJ home from the airport.
”Is she coming on a later flight?”

DJ hadn’t told her the whole story yet. In fact, she hadn’t said much of anything to Grandmother at all during the past week, except to leave a message saying that she’d changed her flight and planned to be home two days earlier than expected. Obviously, Grandmother had assumed that Taylor had changed her plans as well.

“Taylor’s in LA,” DJ said slowly, wishing she could add something to that, something to deflect further questioning.

“Visiting her father?”


“Touring with Eva?”

“What then?” Grandmother’s voice was getting irritated as she drove away from the terminal. “Where is the girl, Desiree? Speak up.”

“She’s in rehab.”

“Rehab?” Grandmother turned to stare at DJ with widened eyes. “Whatever for?”

“For alcohol treatment.”

Grandmother seemed stunned into speechlessness, which was a relief since DJ didn’t really want to discuss this. She was still trying to grasp the whole strange phenomenon. It was hard to admit, but the past few days of being mostly by herself in Las Vegas had been lonely and depressing and one of the reasons she’d been desperate to change her flight and come home early. She had really missed Taylor. The hardest part was when she discovered that Taylor wasn’t allowed any communication from outside the rehab facility. This concerned DJ. No cell phone calls, email, or anything. It seemed weird. Although DJ was praying for her roommate, she was worried. What if it wasn’t a reputable place? What if Taylor never came back? What if something bad happened to her? Not only would DJ blame herself, she figured everyone else would too.

Finally Grandmother spoke. “Did you girls get into some kind of trouble in Las Vegas, Desiree?”


“I want you to be honest with me. Did something happen to precipitate this?”

“The only thing that happened is that Taylor came to grips with the fact that she has a serious drinking problem. If you’ll remember, I tried to let you in on this some time ago.”

“Yes, I remember the vodka bottle. I simply assumed it was a one-time occurrence.”

“I told you otherwise.”

“Well, I know that girls will be girls, Desiree. You can’t have spent as much time as I in the fashion industry and not know this.”

“Were you ever like that?” asked DJ. “I mean that girls will be girls bit?”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “I wasn’t an angel, Desiree, if that’s what you’re hinting at. However, I did understand the need for manners and decorum. I witnessed numerous young women spinning out of control. Beautiful or not, a model won’t last long if she is unable to work.”

“Isn’t that true with everything?”

“Yes…I suppose. How long is Taylor going to be in…this rehabilitation place?”

“I don’t know. You should probably call her mom.”

“Oh, dear…that’s something else I hadn’t considered. Certainly Eva Perez won’t be blaming me for her daughter’s, well, her drinking problem.”
“Eva is fully aware that Taylor had this drinking problem long before she came to Carter House.”

“Good.” Grandmother sighed and shook her head. “I just hope her treatment won’t prevent her from participating in Fashion Week. That would be a disaster.”

“Seems like it would be a worse disaster if Taylor didn’t get the help she needs.”

“Yes, of course, that goes without saying. But I would think that a week or two should be sufficient. Goodness, just how bad can a problem get when you’re only seventeen?”

DJ shrugged, but didn’t say anything. The truth was she thought it could get pretty bad, and in Taylor’s case it was bad. And it could’ve gotten worse. To think that Taylor had been drinking daily and DJ never even knew it.

“It’s just as well you came home early, Desiree,” said Grandmother as she turned onto the parkway. “Already Casey and Rhiannon are back. And Kriti is supposed to return tomorrow. Eliza will be back on New Year’s Eve.”

“I’m surprised she didn’t want to stay in France for New Year’s.”

“As am I. If I were over there, I’d certainly have booked a room in Paris. Nothing is more spectacular than fireworks over the City of Light. But apparently Eliza has plans with her boyfriend. Imagine—giving up Paris for your boyfriend!”

Of course, DJ knew that Eliza’s life of lavish luxury didn’t mean all that much to her. Like a poor little rich girl, Eliza wanted a slice of “normal.” Well, normal with a few little extras like good shoes, designer bags, and her pretty white Porsche.

“It’s good to be home,” DJ proclaimed as her grandmother turned into the driveway.

“It’s good to hear you say that,” said Grandmother.

And it was the truth. After a week in Vegas, DJ was extremely thankful to be back. Maybe for the first time, Carter House did feel like a home. She couldn’t wait to see Casey and Rhiannon.

“Welcome back,” called Casey as she opened the door, dashed out onto the porch, and hugged DJ. “Need some help with those bags?”

“Thanks.” DJ studied Casey for a moment, trying to figure out what had changed. “Your hair!”

Casey picked up one of DJ’s bags then grinned as she gave her strawberry blond hair a shake. “Like it?”

“It’s the old you—only better.”

“My mom talked me into it. The black was a little dramatic, don’t you think?”

“I think you look fantastic. And that choppy layered cut is very cute.”

“Your grandmother approved it too. And I got highlights.”

DJ touched her own hair. “Taylor had been nagging me to get mine redone. But it was so expensive in Vegas. I figured I’d do it here.”

Casey lowered her voice. “So how’d your grandmother take the news about Taylor?”

DJ stopped at the foot of the stairs and stared at Casey. “Did Rhiannon tell you everything?”
“Yeah, is it supposed to be a big secret?” Casey made a hurt face now. “I was wondering why you told Rhiannon and not me. I thought we were friends, DJ.”

“I didn’t mean to, but I sort of spilled the beans with Rhiannon because I was so desperate and didn’t know what to do at the time. But then I felt bad. I mean it was possible that Taylor wanted to keep it private, you know?”

Casey nodded somberly. “Yeah, I guess I do know.”

“You should.” After all, it had only been a few months since they had intervened with Casey in regard to her pain pill snitching.

“So, are you saying mum’s the word?”

“Until Taylor comes back. Don’t you think it’s up to her to say something or not?”

“Yeah. I can just imagine Eliza with that tasty little morsel of gossip. It’d be all over the school in no time.”

“Speaking of Eliza, that means Kriti too.”

“Kriti just got here about an hour ago.” Casey paused, nodding toward the room that Kriti and Eliza shared. The taxi dropped her and she went straight to her room. But something seems wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure. She just looks different. Kind of unhappy. I mean she didn’t even say hello or anything.”

“Maybe she was missing her family.”

“Maybe, but my guess is it’s something more.”

“We should probably try harder to reach out to her and make her feel at home.”

“You’re here!” Rhiannon burst out of the room and threw her arms around DJ. “Welcome home!”

“Man, it is so good to be back. Vegas—for more than a day or two—is a nightmare.”

“At least you got a tan,” observed Rhiannon. She glanced at Casey. “Both of you, in fact.”

“It’s that California sun.”

“Don’t make me envious,” said Rhiannon.

“Hey, look at you,” said DJ as she noticed that Rhiannon had on a very cool outfit. “Is that new?”

“Old and new. My great aunt gave me some of her old clothes and I’ve been altering them.” She held out her hands and turned around to make the long circular skirt spin out. “Fun, huh?”

“And cool,” said DJ.

“She’s got all kinds of stuff,” said Casey. “Hats and costume jewelry and scarves and things. I told her she should open a retro shop and get rich.”

“Maybe I will someday.”

“Or just sell things here in Carter House,” suggested DJ. “Between Eliza and Taylor’s clothing budget, you could clean up.”

“Oh, yeah, DJ, Conner just called,” said Rhiannon. “They just got back from their ski trip and he said he tried your cell a few times, but it seemed to be turned off.”

“More like dead. My flight was so early this morning, I forgot to charge it.”

“Well, I told him you’d call.”

Casey set DJ’s bag inside her door. “Speaking of boys, I think I’ll check and see how Garrison is doing—find out if he missed me or not.” She touched her hair. “Do you think he’ll like it?”

“How could he not,” said Rhiannon. “It’s so cool.”

“Later,” called Casey as she headed for her room.

“So, how’s Taylor?” asked Rhiannon quietly.

“You didn’t tell Kriti, did you?” whispered DJ, pulling Rhiannon into her room then closing the door.

“No, why would I?”

“I just wanted to be sure. I think we need to respect Taylor’s privacy with this.”

“Absolutely. So, have you talked to her?”

“They won’t let me. They have this no communication policy. No email, cell phones…nothing. It’s like a black hole. Weird.”

Rhiannon nodded. “Yeah, it was like that with my mom at first. I think they wanted to keep her cut off from any bad connections. Then after a while, you earn communication privileges.”

“Oh, that’s a relief. I was really worried.”

“I still can hardly believe Taylor went willingly.”

“Yeah, our strong-willed wild child…putting herself into rehab.” DJ shook her head.

“That remind me, Seth has called a few times too. He wanted to know why Taylor’s cell was off and where she was.”

“What’d you say?”

“That I didn’t know.” She shrugged. “Actually, that was the truth.”

“But nothing else?”

“Good. I mean it’s not like we need to keep it top secret, but until we hear from Taylor, let’s not talk about it.”

“Sure.” Rhiannon put a hand on DJ’s shoulder. “And don’t worry about her, DJ. She’ll be fine.”
“I know.” DJ nodded as she put her bags on her bed and started to unzip them. But as soon as Rhiannon left, DJ wasn’t so sure. What if Taylor wasn’t fine? What if something had gone wrong? And what if it was all DJ’s fault?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stop the Traffik: People Shouldn't Be Bought & Sold

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:

Stop the Traffik: People Shouldn't Be Bought & Sold

Lion UK (April 1, 2009)


Cherie Blair is a human rights lawyer and campaigner on women's rights and empowerment, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of Speaking for Myself. Steve Chalke is UN.GIFT special advisor on human trafficking, and founder of Stop the Traffik. He is the author of several books, including Change Agents, Intelligent Church, The Lost Message of Jesus, and Trust.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Lion UK (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0745953603
ISBN-13: 978-0745953601


Wihini, aged nine, and her brother Sunni, aged seven, loved on Thane train station in Mumbai, India with their parents—both alcoholics. Wihini and Sunni went to a day centre where they learned to read and write and were given the chance to play.

One day Sunni and Wihini simply didn’t turn up. Street children often tend to disappear for days, as they try to scrape a living sweeping long-distance trains, but they had been attending the center daily for three months, so when a week or so went by the project staff became worried, and went in search of their parents. The workers found the father lying drunk on the station platform. When they roused him and asked about the children, he admitted that a man had come to him one morning offering money for them. He needed money for alcohol, so he agreed. The trafficker had taken Sunni and Wihini away for the equivalent of just 20 British pounds (currently equivalent to $30 US dollars). The father was angry because he had never received his money. Their mother wouldn’t speak about it. The children were never seen again.

What happened to Sunni and Wihini? Nobody knows. In that area of Mumbai, children often disappeared. They are kidnapped or sold into prostitution, forced labor, adoption, or even child sacrifice. The workers at the Asha Seep center had seen this before. But this was once too often.

Wihini and Sunni’s story proved to be a catalyst. The story was picked up and passed on and as evidence gathered we realized this is happening on a huge scale, around the world—and even on our own doorsteps. Not 200 years ago. Not even fifty years ago. It was—and is—happening today. And so STOP THE TRAFFIK was born.

Human Tafficking—A Definition

Human trafficking is the dislocation of someone by deception or coercion for exploitation, through forced prostitution, forced labor, or other forms of slavery.

-800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year (US State Department)

-It is estimated that two children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation. This amounts to an estimated 1.2 million children trafficked every year (UNICEF)

-In 2004, between 14,500 and 17,500 people were trafficked into the United States (US State Department)

-Human trafficking generates between 10 and 12 billion dollars a year (UNICEF)

-Total profit from human trafficking is second only to the trafficking of drugs (The European Police Office; Eurpol)

The numbers tell you the huge scale of this problem. But behind each number is a sea of faces. Behind the statistics are mothers and father, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, torn apart by trafficking; these are innocent lives ruined by abuse. These are human rights violations on a grotesque scale. And the problem is getting worse.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Learning to Live Financially Free

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:

Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Marriage & Your Money

Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)


Marybeth Whalen is a speaker and contributing writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. The author of For the Write Reason, Marybeth has also written for Parent Life, Money Matters newsletter, The Old Schoolhouse, Hearts at Home magazine, and Homeschooling Today. She contributes regularly to the daily online devotions of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and Curt are the parents of six children, which has taught them much about how to stretch a dollar.

Curt Whalen is a trained financial counselor through Crown Financial Concepts. He has years of experience helping couples establish budgets, solve financial problems, and learn to communicate more effectively. He has written articles for TEACH Magazine and Money Matters Newsletter and has contributed to books by authors Lysa TerKeurst and Melanie Chitwood.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.69
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825441889
ISBN-13: 978-0825441882


Finding Hope


Several years ago, my husband, Curt, and I traveled to Florida to visit my stepsister, Becky, and her husband, Chuck. Curt and I enjoyed a few days away from our kids and reconnected with family members we don’t get to see very often. One evening the four adults snuck away for a nice, leisurely dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s at Pleasure Island in Disney World. The environment was festive and fun, and all of our spirits were light as we sat around the table enjoying the sights, sounds, and delicious smells.

At one point during the conversation, we got on the subject of struggles we’d experienced in marriage. Curious as to the low points of other couples (we’ve certainly had our share!), I asked Becky and Chuck what their lowest point had been. Without even pondering, Becky blurted out, “When we didn’t have any money. Chuck had just taken a job with his dad and wasn’t making much as a starting salary. I can clearly remember one time when I went to the grocery store and my card was declined because it was maxed out. I’ll never forget having to leave my groceries behind. I felt like every eye in the store was watching me. That was the lowest point in the history of our marriage—and it took awhile for it to get better.”

Becky and Chuck’s financial situation did change. They became financially independent and now enjoy a lifestyle few people do. Yet as they sat at dinner that night—years after that difficult time—Becky could easily recall the humiliation of struggling with money. That period still haunted them and still counted as the roughest trouble they had ever faced—beyond the divorce of his parents, issues related to children, cross-country moves, and several health problems. Not having enough money and struggling to pay for basic needs had left an indelible mark on their marriage.

I never forgot that moment with Becky and Chuck. I think of it often, as it is a telling commentary on the power that financial issues can have in a marriage. Marriages break up every day over money. Mismanagement, miscommunication, and misunderstandings drive a wedge between husband and wife. Instead of getting in the ring and fighting for their finances together, many couples throw their hands up and walk away—from the problems, but also from each other. In a study done by Money magazine, 84 percent of those surveyed said that money causes tension in their marriage, and 13 percent said they fight about money several times a month.1 Another study cited that 37 percent of couples say that debt is the number one issue that will spark a fight. “Numerous studies have shown that money is the number one reason why couples argue—and many of the recently divorced say those battles were the main reason why they untied the knot.”2

Curt and I teetered on the edge of throwing in the towel on our marriage many times. We’ll tell our story throughout this book, and we’ll also share the lessons we learned during our time in the ring as we literally fought to get our finances under control. Our prayer is that this book will help other couples find the freedom that can result from living financially sound lives. The truth is, money is not an isolated issue within a marriage—it infiltrates every other area of the marriage. From the kitchen to the bedroom, money problems will follow you. Once you get a handle on this area of your marriage, you’ll find that other problems seem to evaporate into thin air. It’s been our experience that the stress of money problems adds an air of negativity to the marriage as a whole. Working together to eliminate those problems can breathe fresh hope and life into what seemed like a lifeless, hopeless situation.

If you’ve picked up this book, then chances are you need to make some changes in your finances. And you’re not alone. Our country as a whole is in a downward financial spiral that is picking up speed with each turn of the calendar page. “On average, today’s consumer has a total of 13 credit obligations on record at a credit bureau. These include credit cards (such as department store charge cards, gas cards, or bank cards) and installment loans (auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans, etc.). Of these thirteen credit obligations, nine are likely to be credit cards and four are likely to be installment loans.”3 “Revolving consumer debt, almost all from credit cards, now totals $957 billion, compared with $800 billion in 2004, according to the Federal Reserve. Average car loans are up, too, to $27,397, from $24,888 four years ago. Home mortgages total $10.5 trillion, compared with $7.8 trillion in 2004.”4

Our personal financial choices are now being reflected on a national level. As we write these words, our nation is experiencing one of the hardest economic challenges since the Great Depression. For decades we have lived beyond our means, using debt as a tool to obtain our wants. And now our house of cards is crumbling around us. We find ourselves with a national debt that has surpassed the ten-trillion-dollar mark, a banking system that is undergoing radical change, and billions of dollars of value that has been lost on Wall Street as the Dow plummets from over 14,000 down to lows we never thought possible. Economists have stopped asking if we’re going to be in a recession and started asking how bad and how long it will be.

The national climate of anxiety and uncertainty is also the climate of many homes.

A Commitment to Change

The reality of our poor financial choices hit Curt and I one night four years ago, a few days before Christmas. What should have been a time of festivities and celebrating became just another cause for stress. We didn’t know how we were going to afford the expensive presents on the kids’ lists. We didn’t want to tell them no, yet to buy gifts meant adding to our already overwhelming debt load. Because of our faith, we took God at His word when He said that nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37). And yet, from where we sat, our situation looked impossible.

For years, we’d been trying to do something to change our financial picture, to no avail. We desperately wanted to stop using credit cards, yet financial emergencies always cropped up that drove us back to credit card purchases. We wanted to begin tithing and saving, yet there was never any money left over to do that. We wanted to begin chipping away at our debt, and yet we saw no way to do so. We felt trapped at every turn. We’d gotten ourselves into a financial mess. Never before that night had we felt more strongly about getting out of our mess.

As we sat in our parked car at a shopping center near our home. I watched as the other shoppers bustled past us, intent on their lists and last minute errands. I vaguely wondered how many of them were slipping deeper into debt as they charged purchases they couldn’t really afford. Meanwhile, Curt and I talked for over an hour, working through what it would take for us to change our spending habits and take steps toward achieving our dream of being debt free. Though neither of us realized it yet, that night was the beginning of a major change in our lives. We were embarking on a journey that would enable us to escape the bondage of debt and begin to enjoy financial freedom. It would be a journey of many years as we endeavored to live differently from the rest of the culture and swim against the current on money issues.

I’ve often wondered why that night was different than our many other conversations throughout our marriage that had begun, “What are we going to do about our money problems?” Although some of our past efforts had resulted in temporary changes, nothing we did ever stuck. We quickly slipped back into our old ways and debt always seemed to creep back in. Even if we closed a door, debt seemed to find a window. So what made this night—this conversation—different?

First, just a few days before, we’d learned we were expecting a baby. This news had prompted us to evaluate how we could become more financially stable as we prepared for this additional responsibility. In short, it was time to get serious. Second, this impending life change and the urgency we both felt resulted in a unity of purpose that we’d never had before. In the past, our convictions about getting out of debt and making hard changes were usually separate, with one person not as sold on the necessity of the plan. We had never been on board at the same time.

Finally, and most importantly, God met with us that night in the car, allowing Curt and me to feel the same conviction and urgency. God went before us and prepared our hearts, as He is faithful to do. We looked across that car at each other and decided that, not only could we do this, but that together we would do this. Whatever it took. In our ignorance we were actually excited about working together to slay this debt monster and change our financial picture. God created unity where once there had been anger and blaming.

Heart Attitudes

Since that night, I’ve learned that getting out of debt requires allowing several basic attitudes to take root in our hearts. Notice I did not say in our minds. The Bible points to the heart as the center—the very essence—of who we are. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” All of our thoughts and actions flow from our hearts. It’s funny how we seem to relate money to our heads and not our hearts. But we miss the mark when we do that. Without allowing these attitudes to take root in our hearts—at the very center of our being—our plan for debt reduction would have quickly fallen by the wayside as unexpected expenses and “opportunities” came our way. By presenting a united front in our battle with debt and allowing these attitudes to determine our actions, we’ve been able to stick with our plan. Though we’ll go into the specifics of our plan in other chapters, I first want to cover these four heart attitudes.

An Attitude of Commitment

Because we saw the necessity of reducing our debt and were committed in our hearts to doing that at all costs, we were not tossed about by the waves (Eph. 4:14) when real life hit. We set a goal and held each other accountable to reaching that goal. We are committed to God and to each other as a team. Our plan to become debt free was a long-range plan. In a world of fast food, microwaves, and instant access, it’s not easy to walk out every agonizing step in a long-range plan. We knew that results would be long in coming and that we had to fix our eyes on the goal, not the circumstances, and hang onto the Lord to get us through. We’ll spend all of chapter 4 talking about how to become a team.

An Attitude of Obedience

A key to obedience is recognizing God’s ownership of all things. We were both convinced that God would help us get out of debt if we were obedient to Him. This obedience required me especially to obey not only God, but my husband as well. Though submission is a dirty word in most circles, it was essential on our journey. I had to let my husband lead—even when I doubted his decision and even when he made mistakes. I couldn’t step out of the chain of command, and at first I had to continually confess this struggle to the Lord. The good news is, it got easier for me, and my husband became a natural leader for our family. The more power I handed over to him, the more I saw him grow. I am the direct beneficiary of the blessings of obedience. Through this journey, I’ve had many opportunities to show my husband my respect, trust, and honor as our provider and leader of our home.

An Attitude of Surrender

This period of getting out of debt hasn’t been all rosy, as we’ll relate later in this book. Obedience has required sacrifice. I’ve had to surrender my wants and reduce my expectations. I’ve had to learn to go without, to trust God to provide, and to lay down my desires. We’ve both had to make adjustments in our spending and truly “count the cost” of every spending decision. We’ve learned to surrender our desires in the name of honoring God’s plans for our family, trusting Him to continually bring about the best outcome possible—more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

An Attitude of Prayer

As we’ve laid down our wants, we’ve had to go to God and cast all our anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He has shown Himself to be a great listener and comforter. We are learning to go to Him with our specific financial concerns and to give Him all the praise when He meets our needs in miraculous ways. Our time of financial readjustment has truly increased my prayer life as I’ve become more intimately acquainted with Jehovah-Jireh, my provider. I have learned what a detail-oriented, personal God He is. This experience has deepened my faith—a benefit I did not expect.

As we’ve walked through this time of going to God for everything we need, I’ve learned to trust in Him more completely. Though I’ll talk about this in more detail later, I want to share some things that happened just last summer that illustrate how God answers even what most would call silly, insignificant prayers. Know, though, that nothing we pray is silly and insignificant to God!

• In past summers, we’d gone to a farm and picked buckets of blueberries. But it was not cheap to buy the blueberries—and I knew that we didn’t need to spend the money. So I told the Lord about how I wanted blueberries. I didn’t really ask Him for blueberries, per se, I just told my Daddy how I was longing for some blueberries for making pancakes, muffins, cakes, and other dishes. Just a few days later, I was talking with a woman I barely knew, and she mentioned that she and her family would be going out of town for a few weeks. She said that she worried about their large blueberry bushes with no one to pick them—and would we like to come and help ourselves while they were gone? Would we! We were able to pick bags of blueberries—for free!

• My son needed a new bike to ride up to our neighborhood pool because his had been stolen. We simply did not have it in the budget to buy the new bike—and yet the mother’s heart in me broke every time I saw him walking up to the pool while all the other kids rode past him. I told God how much it hurt and asked Him to provide my son with a bike when I could not. Just a few days later I was at a children’s consignment store and there, for a very inexpensive price, was a bike that looked almost new and was the perfect size for my very tall son. Why was this bike at a children’s consignment store that day? Because God orchestrated it so that I would find it. At least that’s what I believe, and that’s why I praised Him that day for answering this mother’s prayer and taking care of yet another detail in my life.

• One day I was craving a good, old southern tomato sandwich, a staple of my summer diet. But we had no tomatoes. I was just about to get in the car and drive to a produce stand to buy the tomatoes when I felt God tell me not to go, but to wait for the tomatoes. What a strange response, I thought. But I obeyed, wondering what God was up to. Within the hour, my son ran in from the neighbor’s house with several large, juicy ripe tomatoes in his hands. “Mom,” he cried. “Miss Joyce had too many tomatoes and I told her you’d love to have some!” I didn’t miss that opportunity to let my son know how God had used him to answer his mom’s prayer.

• A new necklace was all the rage and caught my eye several times as I saw it on the necks of other women. Usually I’m not much of a jewelry person, but there was something different about this particular necklace. I even found one for a reasonable price at a little home jewelry show and had it in my hand to buy it when I felt God nudging me to put it back. “But it’s a great price,” I told God—as if He didn’t know that. Again, I felt Him telling me to put it back. I will provide, I heard Him say. The following month we were visiting my stepsister, Becky, in Florida and I noticed that she was wearing that same necklace. I told her how much I liked it. “Oh,” she replied. “Do you want one? Because I got one for a gift and certainly don’t need two!” And just like that, I was the proud owner of a necklace I really wanted. And I didn’t have to spend a dime.

These are a few just examples of the countless times that God has shown us that He hears our prayers, He cares about the details, and He will move on our behalf. Sometimes we just have to be patient. And sometimes we have to learn to take no for an answer. Because I’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways, I’ve learned that when He says no, there has to be a good reason. And I must accept his no and move on instead of brooding over it. This process has taught me much about holding the things of this earth lightly—and has drawn me closer to the Father’s heart in the process. Through it all, we’ve indeed found hope in what could have been seen as a hopeless situation.

Do you need to find hope for your finances? The God of hope (Rom. 15:13) is waiting to show you the way out of debt and into freedom.


Read Genesis 6:5; Luke 2:19; and Hebrews 4:12. How do these verses relate our thought lives to the condition of our hearts?

Reflect, Discuss, Plan

1. Was it a different concept for you to think of money as being tied to your heart attitude instead of your thought life?

2. What heart attitude do you struggle with the most—commitment, obedience, surrender, or prayer? Is there a part of you that still wants to control the situation and is hesitant about involving your heart in the process?

3. In the car that night prior to Christmas, we took a big step toward getting out of debt, as we verbally committed to each other to do whatever it took to get out of debt. Has there been a time when you’ve taken this step with your spouse? Does there need to be?

4. Have money problems been the lowest point in your marriage? If so, why do you think that is?

Take Action

Are you facing a particular situation that feels hopeless? (A bill that’s due, large amounts of debt to pay off, a purchase that needs to be made but no money to make it, etc.) Write down Romans 15:13 and then spend time praying that verse aloud. If you’re working through this book with your spouse, pray together.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Enduring Justice

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:

Enduring Justice (Defenders of Hope Series #3)

Multnomah Books (April 14, 2009)


Amy Wallace is the author of Ransomed Dreams and Healing Promises, a homeschool mom, and self-confessed chocoholic. She is a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and a contributing author of several books including God Answers Moms’ Prayers and Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Diabetes. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (April 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420145
ISBN-13: 978-1601420145


The wall she’d built with years of secrecy started to crack.

Hanna Kessler wrapped trembling arms around her waist and stared through the glass door into her parents’ backyard. A place she’d avoided her whole stay. Sunlight danced in the still water of her mother’s koi pond and highlighted all the landscaping changes Dad had made since Mom’s death.

Hanna closed her eyes against warring memories of past and present. As a child, she’d loved feeding the beautiful orange fish and hearing Mom laugh as the koi swarmed to the food. Now the little pond area was the only bit of her mother remaining. Maybe that was why she’d glanced outside and then stood transfixed. She needed her mom now more than ever.

Swallowing hard, she opened her eyes and focused on Mom’s teakwood dolphin statue and the white rocks around the water, glinting in the late afternoon sun. She reached out to touch the warm glass but couldn’t force herself to open the door. Goose bumps trailed her arms and she shivered.

She couldn’t go outside.

But she had to do something. Had to get away. So she stumbled into the rustic living room, her favorite place in the house. The surrounding family snapshots reminded her of simpler times. Boating on Kentucky Lake. Thunder over Louisville. Playing at Iroquois Park. Times when Mom and Dad and her brother, Steven, had wrapped her in their protection and love.

The front door rattled, then creaked open. “Anyone home?” A man’s deep voice carried through the safe place she’d escaped to months ago. It wasn’t safe anymore.

But her frozen feet refused to move. Where could she hide? Footsteps thundered through the front hall, drawing closer. She had to get out.

Choking down the lump of panic in her throat, she ran back to the sliding glass doors and forced her feet to move outside, onto the concrete patio. She could get to her car from there. The keys! Turning back to the house, she focused on the tall form stepping out of the house and walking toward her.

“Hanna-girl, what’s gotten into you?”

Her brain snapped to attention. The man in front of her was no threat.

“Daddy!” She ran into his outstretched arms.

Andrew Kessler kissed the top of her head and chuckled. “You looked like you’d seen a ghost. Didn’t you get the message I left this morning?”

Heartbeat still pounding out of her rib cage, she inhaled a few deep breaths before answering. She hadn’t checked messages today. And no way could she admit she’d listened to most of the messages her family had left, never intending to return the calls. “I…I must have missed it. Sorry, Daddy.”

Try as she might to hide it, calling her father Daddy only happened when she was terrified. Or hiding. And she’d done a lot of hiding.

Dad stepped back and tilted his head, still holding her in his arms. “Well, I’m in Louisville for the weekend and had to see my girl. I miss you. So does everyone back in Alexandria.”

Even Michael? She wouldn’t ask. She had no right. Not after ignoring all the calls and letters he’d sent. The ones declaring his love even though she’d run away from everyone after her brother’s wedding. She couldn’t meet Dad’s eyes.

“Hanna, look at me.” He tilted her chin up. She fought to not pull away. “Steven asks about you every day. I’m surprised your brother and Clint and the rest of their FBI friends haven’t hightailed it up here to drag you home.”

“They wouldn’t.” Especially not Michael. Not after almost two months of her frosty silence.

Dad laughed again. He had no idea the pain his questions, his presence here, caused. “Steven’s planned it. So has Michael. But they’re waiting for you to come back, on your terms.” As if that would happen. “Susannah’s birthday party is a week from Saturday. Clint and the rest of us are praying you’ll come. Take pictures. Let us show you how much we love having you in Alexandria.”

A week from Saturday. The twenty-fifth of August. She wouldn’t be there. Couldn’t face Clint Rollins. Not after her negligence had nearly cost Clint’s son his life.

Tears slipped past her clenched eyes.

“Oh, honey.” Dad gathered her back into his arms. “No one blames you, Hanna. No one. You need to let the past go. Everyone is safe now. All the Rollins clan. Even Conor.”

So Sara’s baby was still alive. Just like Steven’s and Clint’s messages had said. Relief rushed through her, causing her knees to wobble. But other guilt arrows pierced her heart. All the lies she’d told Steven and Michael. Dad too. Clint’s son wasn’t the only reason she’d fled Alexandria.

“You’ll be there for Susannah’s party, right?” His hopeful blue eyes begged.

She pulled out of his arms and walked back into the house. Dad followed. “I…I need a Kleenex.” Searching through the oak cabinets in the kitchen didn’t produce any tissues. So she grabbed a paper towel from the counter. “What brings you in town? During our phone calls last week, you never mentioned coming home.”

“If I had, would you have been here?”

Ouch. “Yes, Daddy.” Another lie. “So are you here to check on the Mall St. Matthews coffee shop? I’ve been working there every day, just like you arranged. It’s going well.” And she was babbling.

“I’m here to meet with some old friends on Friday and talk about upcoming business opportunities.”

Old friends. The memories rushing in unbidden surfaced more tears. And more cracks in the wall of secrecy. She needed to get out of the house, out of the neighborhood. Now. Maybe then she could exhibit some self-control.

“Why don’t we grab a late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory? After your long drive you’re bound to be hungry, right?” She forced a smile.

“Okay, Hanna-girl.” He wiped away one of her stray tears. “On one condition.”

Please don’t ask about the party, Daddy. Please.

He lifted his bushy graying eyebrows. “Promise you’ll come back to us and take pictures at Susannah’s birthday party next week.”

The very thing she couldn’t do. How would she get out of this without telling more lies or spilling everything? She had to avoid that. Maybe one last fib would get her though the weekend with Dad.

Then she could find somewhere else to run.

Excerpted from Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace. Copyright© 2009 by Amy Nicole Wallace. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. First Two Chapters of Enduring Justice Dark Chocolate Suspense Newsletter

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Designer Women by Ruth Conard

When Submission Starves the Soul

Finding Freedom as a Woman in Christ

DW bk coverDallas/Ft. Worth, TX—This Sunday, a woman somewhere in America will don the literal head covering of 1 Corinthians 11 and depart for church, where she will be expected to remain silent. In another church, a woman will stand before the congregation to deliver the sermon. Most of us will fall somewhere between these two extremes—no head covering required and free to teach children or other women or to accompany the church choir, as long as we remember that some spiritual gifts are off-limits to us. In this climate, many women are spiritually suffocating, unique giftings and God-given callings crushed by a male-dominated church culture determined to keep them in their place—regardless of what God is doing.

For author, ordained minister, and international speaker Ruth Conard, these feelings of rejection and confusion are all too familiar. “I have been in all kinds of churches, and it seems God is pretty consistent for men,” she says. “They don’t have to change their clothes, all offices are open to them, and they have been redeemed from everything. The truth is that for women, the verdict on these issues changes from church to church.” Despite the contradictions in opinion within the church, Conard believes that God is consistent in His love and His plan for women. In her new book, Designer Women: Made by God, Conard inspires women to rise up and embrace God’s unique design and purpose for them by examining the biblical accounts of women who were mightily used by Him.

“These women, as leaders and strong examples in varied facets of life, did not act because there were no good men, but rather because they were good women, created in God’s image, gifted by God, and working in obedience with their Maker,” Conard states. “These women of strength were pillars in home, society, and faith communities. And they are my foremothers and your foremothers with much to teach us.”

Designer Women was written for the average woman in the pew trying to make sense of her calling and function in God’s kingdom. As she shares some of her own past struggles in ministry, Conard offers special encouragement to those who have been told that who they are—the woman God designed them to be—is not acceptable. In the process, she takes on the foundation of the patriarchal society (a result of sin, not an expression of God’s perfect plan, she says), the misogynist writings of certain church fathers, and the “problem passages” in the Pauline letters. Grounded by well-researched theology, Designer Women challenges the domineering attitudes that have been passed down for generations. Conard also includes biblical examples of the negative female tendencies that women should avoid.

Conard’s own journey to spiritual freedom was over thirty years in the making. After serving on the mission field in Peru and Mexico, she finally enrolled in seminary at the age of 53, working as a secretary for two university presidents by day and graduating after five years of night classes with a Masters of Divinity. Two years later, she was ordained. At age 60, she preached her first sermon. Since that time, she has travelled the world as a speaker and mentor encouraging women in their gifts.

“You are a designer item, one of a kind,” Conard proclaims. “No one can tell you that the way you were made is wrong. That is an insult to the Designer.”

Designer Women by Ruth Tuttle Conard

Authentic Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-934068-75-5/238 pages/softcover/$14.99


Designer Women is an excellent book and I believe it would be perfect for a women's group study . Conard uses the stories of women in Scripture to show us our worth as women in God's kingdom. She uses tons of Scripture. Her chapters are easy to read and follow and understand. Designer Women is packed full of truths women of God need to hear. I definitely recommend this book.

Q & A with Ruth Tuttle Conard

Author of Designer Women: Made by God

Condard PhotoThis Sunday, a woman somewhere in America will don the literal head covering of 1 Corinthians 11 and depart for church, where she will be expected to remain silent. In another church, a woman will stand before the congregation to deliver the sermon. Most of us will fall somewhere between these two extremes—no head covering required and free to teach children or other women or to accompany the church choir, as long as we remember that some spiritual gifts are off-limits to us. In this climate, many women are spiritually suffocating, unique giftings and God-given callings crushed by a male-dominated church culture determined to keep them in their place—regardless of what God is doing.

For author, ordained minister, and international speaker Ruth Conard, these feelings of rejection and confusion are all too familiarDespite the contradictions in opinion within the church, Conard believes that God is consistent in His love and His plan for women. In her new book, Designer Women: Made by God, Conard inspires women to rise up and embrace God’s unique design and purpose for them by examining the biblical accounts of women who were mightily used by Him.

Q: Designer Women examines the lives of several women in the Bible, including some who are often overlooked. Why is it important for Christian women today to study these stories?

A: Throughout the Old Testament, God’s initial, redeeming plan continued to emerge through the lives of women who rose above the constraints of custom, the body-centered mania, and the fear of men. These women, as leaders and strong examples in varied facets of life, did not act because there were no good men, but rather because they were good women, created in God’s image, gifted by God, and working in obedience with their Maker. These women of strength were pillars in home, society, and faith communities. These are the foremothers of all the women we celebrate within the pages of the New Testament: Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Dorcas, Priscilla, and a myriad of others. And they are my foremothers and your foremothers with much to teach us.

Q: What is the biggest question that Designer Women was written to answer?

A: The big question is this: Do we have a consistent God for women? I have been in all kinds of churches, and it seems God is pretty consistent for men. They don’t have to change their clothes, all offices are open to them, they have been redeemed from everything, etc. For women, the verdict on these issues changes from church to church. One issue I struggled with was the head covering of 1 Corinthians 11. In some churches, I had to wear it if I sang or played the piano. In others, no. In some places, I had to wear it if I spoke, even if speaking only to women. In some, I had to wear it even though I was expected to sit quietly, not permitted to say a word. In other churches, what was on a woman’s head had nothing to do with anything at all. Then there were the questions that always plagued me regarding spiritual gifts, as well as the part women could, would, and should play and had played in the church.

DW bk coverQ: How did your treatment as a woman affect your passion and enjoyment of your faith?

A: Over the years, I began to ask ministers and male church leaders these difficult questions. The answers I received, along with divergent church practices, became like huge bars on which I slipped and slid. Eventually, the struggles filled my mind with an enormous, resounding No! No! to the questions. No! to what I sensed were the gifts God had given me. No! to the exuberant joy I had felt in walking with Christ since childhood. And, oh so sad, No! to the missionary spirit God had sewn into my very being. Why, I reasoned, should I invite other intelligent, gifted women into the church only to have their fervent, creative, God-given hopes squelched?

Q: Who was Designer Women written to reach?

A: I wrote this book simply for the woman in the pew. I want her to get a little shaken up. I want her to look into these issues. I know only too well the pain, frustration, and loneliness that come when your God-given gifts are squished out of you simply because you are female. I want women to see that, yes, God is consistent in His love for women. We were designed exactly the way He wanted us to be—no matter what kind of treatment we have received from others in the church. I believe there is hope for us.

Q: Isn’t the Old Testament full of laws against women? With laws like these, doesn’t it seem like God prefers men over women?

A: We must continually remind ourselves that between the foyer of God’s original plan (Genesis 1-2) and the vast outlay of the Old Testament lies the narrow, dark hallway of Adam and Eve’s sin. Their choice taints all the rest of Scripture’s pages, as well as our own lives today. The results of their choice, described by God in Genesis 3, are carried out within the context of the patriarchal system that formed the parameters of their society. It’s true, the language used in the Old Testament law supposes a patriarchal society. The household belonged to the man. The man initiated a divorce. Property, family name, and children were all owned and given from the father to sons, not to daughters. However, the law does not depersonalize women. Women were held responsible for criminal actions. Mothers, as well as fathers, were supposed to receive honor. In fact, many of the Mosaic laws which may seem ridiculous to modern readers were actually for the protection and health of nomadic women and their families in the severe desert conditions. The main point to remember is that the law was not developed to make a statement about male-female relationships. The patriarchal system and male domination did not exist because God favored one sex over the other. The law was given so that the Israelites would be recognized as God’s people, no longer belonging to Pharaoh.

Q: What are your feelings regarding the ongoing debate about the roles of women in the church?

A: What is extremely fascinating to me is that this continual battle over women in the church does not seem to have caused any problem for God and how He has designed his daughters. The reading of church history shows that in every century since the beginning of time, and in every land where Jehovah God has been acknowledged and the gospel has reached, women have always carried the good news of salvation, have always served God with whatever gifts He has given (whether quieter gifts or more visible gifts), and, alongside their brothers, have died for the cause of Christ. It’s happening today, even as I was in the process of writing Designer Women. And God is still creating baby girls, all over this world, who grow, confess Jesus as Savior, and are given spiritual gifts from the complete list of gifts, as the Spirit wills, even while men and women continue to say that it just isn’t possible!

Q: Why did women choose to follow Jesus during His earthly ministry? What does that mean for us today?

A: Jesus was countercultural, especially in the area of gender. No off-color jokes, no demeaning attitudes, and no avoidance of women. He never abused them in action, word, or thought. When they raised questions, He never said “not goin’ there!” and then snickered with His male disciples. He respected them and their actions toward Him, even when others in His party scorned them. He listened to women, dialogued with them, and sought them out. He didn’t define the parameters of their lives. He was not afraid to touch them in public, accept their worship, commend their faith, and heal them. He talked straight to them about their sin and how to do right. Nor was He backward in treating them as full-blown, intelligent, competent adults. It’s no wonder women followed this man. This same Jesus walks beside you and me today!

Designer Women by Ruth Tuttle Conard

Authentic Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-934068-75-5/238 pages/softcover/$14.99

*Interview taken from The B&B Media Group -

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Brides of Gallatin County review

About the Book (taken from Tracie Peterson's website)

Gwen, Beth, and Lacy Gallatin fashion a life for themselves in the Montana wilds, operating a roadhouse that is located at the crossroads of two major stage lines. When their father is accidently killed, the oldest sister, Gwen, reasons that she's cursed. After all, death seems to haunt her: her mother, now her father…and she was married for a mere ten days before her husband died from a bout of measles.

As Gwen and her sisters struggle to maintain the inn on their own, an unexpected visitor adds to the mayhem. Hank Bishop claims to be searching for something in the possession of Gwen's late husband. But mayhem of another sort builds in Gwen's heart as she finds a growing attraction to this man. Can she dare to hope that love might again be hers?

About the Book (taken from Tracie Peterson's website)

She dreamed of
A Love to Last Forever...

Beth Gallatin has always wanted to settle down in one town, with one man, and raise a family. But with her father's roaming ways, she found solace in reading romances instead. The passing of her father, however, means that Beth and her sisters can, for the first time, dare to claim the rugged Montana frontier as their home.

Nick Lassiter has loved Beth since she first came to town, but she's always seemed to think of him more as a brother. Just when he finally gets Beth to consider him, an unexpected arrival from Nick's complicated past threatens the affection growing between them.

As a past fraught with unwise choices and guilt invades their world, will Nick and Beth find the courage to embrace love?


I am enjoying this series so far. Peterson is a great "Old West romance" storyteller. Both books were very easy to read. The storylines of the two books fit together beautifully without the second book having to repeat half of the first book to keep the reader up to date. The Christian themes are prevalent but not preachy and overpowering making the story more believable. Peterson does an excellent job of introducing the reader to her characters- both main and supporting characters. I found it easy to picture the story as I was reading. If you like historical romances than you will love these books :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

God Only Knows by Xavier Knight

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:

God Only Knows

Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)


Xavier Knight is the Christian fiction pen name for C. Kelly Robinson. He is a native of Dayton, Ohio and magna cum laude graduate of Howard University and Washington University in St. Louis. Robinson is a marketing communications manager by day and has a long record of volunteer experience across organizations including United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mentor St. Louis, and Student Venture Ministries. Author of five previous novels including the best-selling No More Mr. Nice Guy and the critically acclaimed Between Brothers (Random House), he lives outside Dayton with his wife and daughter. He is hard at work on his next novel and on a nonfiction project.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446582395
ISBN-13: 978-0446582391


Two Decades Later

Chapter One

For the first time she could remember in years, Cassandra Gillette felt like a woman fulfilled. Freshly showered, she sat before the laptop PC in her spacious dressing room, checking email. She had another hour at least before her newly-built luxury home would be overrun by her family; her husband Marcus had gone to pick up their twelve-year-old twins, Heather and Hillary, from a friend’s birthday party out in Middletown. In addition, her seventeen-year-old son, Marcus Jr., was still seven hours away from his midnight curfew.

“There is so much to be thankful for,” Cassie whispered to God, letting her words ring through the quiet of her master suite. This was not the average lazy Saturday afternoon; for the first time in nearly four months, Cassie had made love to her husband.

Their separation had gotten off to a fiery start, but as tempers cooled and nights passed, God had brought Cassie and Marcus back together. Marcus had quickly tired of Veronica, the twenty-something news anchor who had welcomed him into her condo, and Cassie’s eyes had been opened. When her best girlfriend Julia confronted her, she had finally realized how her actions in recent years had starved Marcus of the respect and affirmation that even the strongest man needed.

So it was that after several late-night telephone calls and a Starbucks “date” hidden from their children, Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Gillette had decided to get up off the mat and keep the promises they made before God seventeen years earlier, a few months after M.J.’s arrival. They had agreed to surprise the children with news of their reconciliation tonight, but with the house empty this afternoon, the couple had started a private celebration. The house was new enough that aside from the master bedroom, their frisky activity had “christened” the kitchen’s marble-topped island, the leather couch in the finished basement, and the washing machine in the laundry room.

As she dashed off an email to the staff at her real estate agency, sharing news of the latest deal she had closed – a four hundred twenty thousand dollar sale, their thirtieth property sold for the quarter – Cassie nearly shuddered with delight as she recalled Marcus’ smooth touch. Although she had lost thirty pounds over the past year, she was still nearly twenty pounds heavier than she’d been on their wedding day, and she had been pregnant then. Nevertheless, Cassie’s Marcus knew and loved her body, in exactly the way that frank scriptures like those in Song of Solomon encouraged. Like most everything else in marriage, the Gillettes’ sexual relationship had experienced ups and downs, but Cassie licked her lips unintentionally as she mentally applauded her man: when he’s good, he’s GOOD.

An instant message popped up on her screen: Julia, her best friend. “I heard a rumor,” she IM’d.

Cassie smiled as she typed back, “No idea what you mean.”

Julia’s IM response popped up. “They say a handsome, bulky brother tipped into your crib this afternoon.”

Cassie smiled as she typed, “Girl, I am too old to be kissin’ and tellin’.”

“And I’m too old to be listening to such filth,” Julia typed. As a PhD and superintendent of schools at their shared alma mater, Christian Light Schools, Julia let her words communicate their humor; Cassie’s friend was above the use of those corny emoticons. Julia sent another missive: “You are coming to my Board of Advisors meeting Monday, right? I need help saving this school system, child.”

Cassie stuck her tongue out playfully as she entered her response. “Still not sure how I fit in with this crew. You said you’re pulling together the ‘best and brightest’ Christian Light alumni? Don’t see how I count, given that the school expelled me when they realized why my belly was swollen.”

“Stop it,” came Julia’s response. “Besides, you have what matters most to a struggling school system: Deep pockets!”

Cassie shook her head, her laughter easing any guilt she might have felt about throwing the painful memory of her expulsion – accompanied by the school principal’s labeling her a “girl of loose morals” – in her friend’s face. Julia alone had led a student protest in Cassie’s defense at the time, marching on the school’s front lawn and even calling local media in a vain attempt to embarrass the school into reversing its decision.

Cassie was typing a light-hearted response when her front doorbell rang, the chime filling the house. Changing up, she shot her friend a quick, “Doorbell – call you later,” before taking a second to tuck her blouse into her jeans. Padding downstairs to the foyer, she chuckled to herself. She would have to help Julia save the world later.

When she peered into her front door’s peephole, Cassie’s heart caught for a second at the sight of a tall, blonde-haired gentleman flashing a police badge.

M.J.’s fine, said the voice in Cassie’s head as the badge stirred anxiety over her teen son’s safety. She wasn’t sure whether it was the Lord or simply her own positive coaching. For years now Cassie had combined her faith in God with affirmative self-talk meant to power her through life’s stresses and adversities. In her youth, she had crumpled one time too many in the face of indifference, prejudice, sexism and just plain evil; by the time she and Marcus walked the aisle of Tabernacle Baptist Church, where each had first truly dedicated their respective lives to Christ, Cassie had vowed to never be caught unaware again. That same spirit of resolve propped her up as she confidently unlocked and swung back her wide oak door.

As strong as she felt, Cassie’s knees still flexed involuntarily when she saw M.J. standing beside the plainclothes policeman. At six foot one, her son was every inch as tall as the policeman and stood with his arms crossed, a sneer teasing the corners of his mouth. Though relieved to see he was fine, Cassie sensed an unusually defiant spirit in her boy, so she locked her gaze onto the officer instead. If her man-child had done something worthy of punishment, she wouldn’t give this stranger the pleasure of witnessing the beat-down. She unlocked her screen door and, opening it, let the officer make the first move.

“Mrs. Gillette?” The man held out his right hand and respectfully shook Cassie’s as he spoke in a deep, hoarse voice. “I’m Detective Whitlock with the Dayton PD. I’m really sorry to bother you, but I was hoping we could help each other this evening, ma’am.”

Cassie opened her screen door all the way, one hand raised against the fading sunlight in her eyes. “Please, come in,” she said, focused on editing the airy lilt out of her tone. She didn’t mind letting her naturally fluttery voice out when among family and friends, but now was no time for it. “Why don’t we have a seat in the living room.”

“Again, I apologize for showing up unannounced. A neighborhood this nice, one of those draws a lot of eyebrows probably,” Whitlock said, nodding toward the sleek police car parked out front. “Marcus Jr. and I had an unfortunate confrontation this afternoon. The more I talk to him, I’m convinced we can handle this without a trip downtown.”

Cassie nodded respectfully. Who can argue with that? She thought as she motioned toward the expansive living room. “May I take your suit jacket?”

“Oh, no thank you,” Whitlock replied. He slowed his gait and allowed M.J. to first follow Cassie into the room. The detective stood just inside the doorway, peering at Cassie’s expensive sculptures and paintings as M.J. reluctantly took a seat beside his mother. Once they were settled, Whitlock strode to the middle of the living room, his hands in the pockets of his dress slacks. “Marcus, why don’t you tell your mother how we crossed paths?”

M.J. stared straight ahead, his line of sight veering nowhere near Cassie and shooting over the top of Whitlock’s head of wavy blond hair. “I was minding my business, Mom. Officer Whitlock here–”

“Detective Whitlock, son,” the policeman replied, a testy edge betraying the professional, placid smile on his tanned, leathery face. Cassie found herself admitting he was a relatively handsome man, one who even reminded her of the male cousins on the white side of her family. The policeman was probably her own age, she figured, somewhere between thirty-five and forty.

Grimacing, M.J. continued. “The good detective here pulled me over on 75. Said he clocked me at seventy-eight in a fifty-five.”

“Oh I see,” Cassie said, a wave of relief cleansing her tensed insides. She placed a hand on her son’s shoulder but kept her eyes on the detective. “If that’s all that’s involved, my son should certainly pay whatever fine is required by the law. You’re not doing him any favors giving him a simple talking-to.” She nearly chastised herself for fearing the worst. This was probably just a case of her super-jock son–a varsity star in Chaminade-Julienne football, basketball and track–getting special treatment for his local celebrity, a celebrity nearly as big as the fame that had first attracted her to Marcus Sr. back in the day.

Holding Cassie’s smile with calm blue eyes, Whitlock reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a manila envelope. “Asked and answered. The state trooper wrote this ticket up for your son during the traffic stop.” He walked over to the loveseat and slowly extended the envelope to M.J. “I agree that Marcus needs to pay his speeding ticket, Mrs. Gillette. If that’s all that was involved, I would have never been called to the scene.”

Everything is fine. My son has done nothing illegal. Cassie fingered the gold locket around her neck but prayed she was otherwise masking the dread pulsing back into her. “Then get to the point please, Detective.”

Whitlock paced quickly to the corner of the adjacent couch. When he plopped down, he was less than a foot away from Cassie. “You see,” he said, his elbows on his knees and his faintly yellowed teeth glinting as he seemed to smile despite himself, “I was called in because Marcus had a convicted criminal riding with him, the sort of character who can make even this fine young man look guilty by association.”

“Please tell me,” Cassie said, pivoting rapidly toward M.J., “that you weren’t riding around with him again.” When M.J. bunched his lips tight and shrugged, Cassie couldn’t stop herself from popping him in the shoulder. “Boy! You promised me! You promised me, M.J.!”

Whitlock had removed his cell phone from his suit jacket. His eyes focused on the phone as he punched its buttons, he asked, “By ‘him,’ are you referring to Dante Wayne?”

“Yes,” Cassie said, her forehead so hot with rage it scared her. She wasn’t sure whether to be more upset at this white stranger lounging on her couch, or her increasingly disobedient son.

Whitlock stared straight into Cassie’s eyes. “And you’re familiar with Mr. Wayne how?”

Cassie sucked her teeth angrily. “He’s my cousin’s oldest son.” Donald, Dante’s father, ran a small taxi service and was the first relative on her father’s side of the family – the Black side – who had reached out to Cassie when they were both struggling teen parents trying to figure life out. Though they didn’t talk often these days, Cassie still counted Donald a personal friend, and her loyalty to him through the years had led her to foster M.J. and Dante’s friendship from the time they were toddlers. That was before she realized that Dante would adopt the morals of his mother’s family, nearly all of whom had died in their twenties or spent significant stretches in prison.

“So M.J. was straight with me, they are cousins.” Whitlock stroked his chin playfully as he observed mother and son. “Marcus insisted that was the only reason he was riding around with Dante in tow. Dante took up for him too, insisted there was no way Marcus was hip to the drugs we found in the car.” He nodded toward M.J. “Why don’t we discuss this one adult to another, ma’am. Marcus, based on your exemplary reputation in the community – as well as your parents’ – I’m willing to assume you had no knowledge of your cousin’s activities. If you’ll just excuse us.”

M.J. looked between his mother and the detective, the first signs of a growing son’s protective emotions on his face as he tapped Cassie’s knee. “You okay with him, Mom?”

“Go down to your room,” Cassie said through clenched tooth, “and shut the basement door after you.” As her son rose, she punctuated her words. “Don’t even think about coming up until your father and I come down for you.”
Design by Deluxe Designs
all rights reserved. 2011