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!
and the book:
Realms (May 3, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***
Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as Write-To-Publish, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Oregon Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is cofounder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.
Visit the author’s website.
When Pastor Luke McCabe begins paying extra attention to her, Bethany takes his fine-sounding words with a grain of salt. She’s heard sweet talk before. This time she is going to keep her mind on the Lord and on her new teaching job in the Arizona Territory. But when her reputation is accidentally soiled by the rakish town sheriff, Luke steps in with a marriage proposal to save Bethany’s good name. Luke is certain their marriage is God’s will…but Bethany is just as certain God must have someone else in mind to be Luke’s wife. Someone sweet and spiritual, who knows the Scriptures better than Bethany does. Someone like Luke’s old friend from home.
This was definitely a wonderfully written book. I like that I was able to read it independently from the other books in the series. I really loved the characters. I was definitely swept away in the story. I felt like I was right there besides them in Silverstone.
I definitely want to go back and read the first three books. Just so I can learn more about the different characters. Hopefully, there will be more books in this series!
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 3, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Journal entry: Monday, April 1, 1867
I, Bethany Leanne Stafford, am writing in a leather-bound journal, which my dear friend Mrs. Valerie McCabe gave me for a going-away gift. She suggested I write my memoirs of my impending journey West and about my new life as a schoolteacher in the wild
Arizona Territory. Valerie said she wished she’d have kept a diary of her escape from New Orleans and a loveless marriage from which her husband Ben had rescued her.
For continuity’s sake, I shall back up from the day I left Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In September of last year, upon leaving the city, I took the train to Jericho Junction, Missouri. My traveling companions were Pastors Luke and Jacob McCabe and Gretchen Schlyterhaus, a German widow. Mrs. Schlyterhaus had worked as a housekeeper for Captain Brian Sinclair, who, at the time of our departure, was declared dead—drowned in a boating accident on Lake Michigan. Mrs. Schlyterhaus felt her livelihood had ended too, until Pastor Luke convinced her to go West with us. Weeks later, the captain was
discovered alive in a Chicago hospital. Mrs. Schlyterhaus had been certain that he would insist upon her returning to her duties in his household; after all, she’d signed a binding contract with him. But to her surprise, the captain allowed her to resign and even sent her a bonus (a tidy sum, I heard). Richard and Sarah brought it with them when they came for the Christmas holiday. Uncharacteristic for the captain, but Sarah said he’s a changed man. He found the Lord—and a good woman, whom he married—and he’s living happily
in Milwaukee where he owns a shipping business and a store. Richard is now his business partner and an equally important man in Milwaukee.
But I digress. After a full day’s train ride, we arrived in Jericho Junction, where I’ve lived for the past seven and a half months and earned my teaching certificate. In that time I’ve gotten to know Sarah’s relatives. How I wish I were part of this family! Pastor Daniel McCabe is a thoughtful, gentle man, unlike my own father who is a hard, insensitive soul. Mrs. McCabe has been more of a mother to me than I’ve ever known. My own mother died when I was eight. My father remarried, and my stepmother is as lazy as she is lovely (and she’s beautiful!). My half brother Tommy was born when I was nine, and nearly every year since my stepmother bore another child for me to look after in addition to my chores on the farm.
Forever, it seemed, I dreamed of escaping the drudgery of my life by marrying Richard, except God had other plans. Richard married Sarah. At first I felt jealous, but seeing how much Richard loved her, I couldn’t begrudge them their happiness. I did fear, however,
that I’d be forever trapped on my father’s farm caring for my brothers and sisters and working my body to the bone. I couldn’t bear the thought of dying as a spinster who’d never accomplished anything meaningful.
So when Luke McCabe offered me this chance to teach in the Arizona Territory, I jumped at it. In spite of my father’s protests, I packed my meager belongings and stayed next door with the Navises until the day of my departure. Needless to say, I left my family on a sour note. My father said he never wanted to see me again. I can’t say as I give a whit. I’m glad to be gone!
And as for the trip itself, we will depart in just a few short hours. We will follow the Santa Fe Trail along with other migrants—most of them families whom we met last night in the hotel’s dining room.
I am ever so excited about my adventure. Still, I’m quite aware that traveling by oxen-drawn, covered wagons may, indeed, prove to be a hardship, but both Mrs. Schlyterhaus and I are ready and eager to face each new challenge. As required by the United States, more than one hundred wagons are signed up to leave this morning. Due to the threat of Indian attack no less than a hundred can travel the trail.
But I must cease my writing now. Luke is knocking at the door. It’s time for breakfast…and then we’ll be on our way!
Journal entry: Wednesday, June 12
There has been no time for me to write. It’s been a long and exhausting journey thus far. During the daytime I walk beside the wagon while Luke and Jake take turns driving and scouting the trail ahead by horseback. After we make camp I prepare dinner, and then we clean up and get some sleep. But this evening by lamplight I simply had to pen what occurred today. I saw, for the first time in my life—a rattlesnake! On the farm in Wisconsin, I never saw anything larger than a pine snake, and even though they can bite, pine snakes are not poisonous. But I happened upon this deadly reptile quite accidentally as I unloaded our wagon this evening. I nearly stepped on the horrid thing and it poised, ready to strike me. In those seconds that passed I was sure I’d be bitten and die. But Luke saw the snake the same time I did. He pulled out his rifle and shot it dead before it attacked me.
Afterward I just stood there, gazing at the creature’s lifeless, beady black eyes. I burst into tears, realizing how frightened I had really been. Luke put his hand on my shoulder and said, “There, now, Beth, that buzzworm’s dead as a doornail. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
Luke saved my very life that day, and I thank God for him.
Journal entry: Friday, June 14
Yesterday a horrible thing happened involving another rattlesnake, but this time it resulted in a tragedy. A five-year-old boy named Justin McMurray got bit. His passing was the saddest thing I ever witnessed. The strike happened during the day, but the McMurrays didn’t want to make the entire wagon train stop because of Justin. By the time several men and one doctor went by the McMurray wagon to see if they could be of help, it was too late. The poison had gotten into the boy’s system, and he had a raging fever. Then Luke and I went over and talked to Justin. Despite the fever and chills, he was coherent and in a tremendous amount of pain. My heart immediately went out to him, but also to Mrs. McMurray. She looked so sad and helpless as she held her child whose life was slipping away with each passing second. Instinctively, I put my arm around the woman’s shoulders in an effort to comfort her while Luke talked to the boy about heaven. Justin listened intently. I choked back a sob and glanced at Mrs. McMurray, who had tears rolling down her cheeks. Luke’s eyes looked misty too, but instead of weeping, he started singing. He knew so many songs about rejoicing in heaven
that Mrs. McMurray actually smiled, and Justin even laughed a couple of times.
Finally the Lord took the boy home, and while I was happy that Justin is in the Savior’s arms, I felt a bit sick inside. I still do.
Journal entry: Sunday, June 30
For the past two weeks since little Justin McMurray’s death, I’ve been having nightmares. Each time I doze, I envision rattlesnakes everywhere—in the wagon, even
in my hair! I awaken with a start, and Mrs. Schlyterhaus hushes me, since we both sleep inside the wagon while Luke and Jake make their beds on the ground below us.
My fear of rattlesnakes grew along with the exhausting desert temperatures to the point where I refused to get down from the wagon and stretch my legs during the day. At night I begged Mrs. Schlyterhaus to start the fire and make supper. I did not have any appetite and would lie down inside the wagon and pray for some peaceful sleep . . . which never seemed to come. Finally last night Luke said, “Bethany Stafford, you climb down off that wagon this minute!” I told him I would do no such thing. He asked me why, but I could
not admit how afraid I was to leave the wagon and have a rattlesnake kill me. However, Luke guessed the trouble. He said, “There’s no snakes around, so come down now or I’ll climb up and get you myself.”
Still, I refused, but I tried to be polite about it. Next thing I knew Luke had his arm around my waist, lifting me out of the wagon. Then he announced we were taking a stroll around the wagon train encampment.
I begged to stay back, but he would not be dissuaded. I went so far as to threaten him, saying if I died of snakebite, it would be all his fault. He said, “I’ll take my chances.”
So I pleaded with him to at least carry along his rifle. Luke replied, “No, ma’am, we’re only taking the Lord with us tonight.”
The fear inside of me increased. My heart pounded and my legs shook with every anxious step. At last Luke said folks were going to get the wrong impression about us if I did not begin to walk in a ladylike fashion. To my shame, I realized I was stepping all over him in order to keep away from the rattlesnakes that I knew lurked beneath the sands of the Cimarron.
Luke’s voice became very soft and gentle. He said, “Beth, God does not give us the spirit of fear, so don’t be afraid. Our heavenly Father was not surprised when Justin McMurray got bit by that snake. That home-going had been planned since the beginning of time.”
I knew he was right, and somehow his straightforwardness caused me to relax. Then he mentioned what a nice evening it was for a stroll, and for the first time I realized the sky looked clear and the air felt cool and clean against my face. Amazingly I even felt hungry then. I loosened the death grip I had around Luke’s elbow. He chuckled as though he was amused. I felt horribly embarrassed, and he laughed again. I like the sound of his laugh, so slow and easy. And it’s a funny thing, but with God and Luke right there with me, I didn’t fret about rattlesnakes the rest of the night.
Journal entry: Sunday, July 21
After walking in oven-hot temperatures for ten to fourteen miles every day, except Sundays, we finally arrived in Santa Fe. I’m not sure what I expected, but I’m ever so disappointed with what has met my weary eyes thus far. Santa Fe is not at all lush and green like Wisconsin during the summer months. Everything is a dismal brown. Most houses are single-story adobe structures with dirt floors. There is a telegraph office, and we learned that Sarah gave birth to a healthy baby boy. His name is Samuel Richard. I must say that Luke and Jake seem quite proud of their youngest sister and newest nephew. I’m genuinely happy for Richard and Sarah.
As for myself, I am bone-thin, and the traveling dresses I made for the journey hang from my shoulders like old potato sacks. Luke is worried about me, and so we will remain here for a couple of weeks while I regain my strength.
On the last leg of our journey we escaped both Indian attack and bad weather. But we did encounter a buffalo stampede, the likes I hope to never witness again! The ground shook so hard my teeth rattled. That same day we saw abandoned wagons and fresh graves, which proved an almost eerie forewarning. Days later, a strange fever made its way around our wagon train, and several people died, including four small children.
Although both Luke and Jake gave encouraging graveside messages, having to leave the little bodies of their children behind, coupled with the fear of animals discovering them, proved more than the three young mothers in our camp could bear. They wept for days,
and my heart broke right along with them.
Luke soon enlisted my services, and I prayed with the mourning women and helped with their daily chores. Luke said I was a blessing to them. Oddly, in assisting them, my own heart began to heal. When Mrs. Schlyterhaus took ill with the fever, I nursed her back to health as well. Both Luke and Jake said they didn’t know what they’d have done without me.
As for Mrs. Schlyterhaus, Jake has decided that, although her health is improving, she will remain here in Santa Fe permanently. He has arranged for her to stay with a missionary family and work as their housekeeper. Mrs. Schlyterhaus is very accepting of this arrangement, although I will miss her. She has softened considerably since leaving Milwaukee and has come to realize how unhappy she has been since her husband’s death. But she said the thought of another four weeks traveling through Indian territory frightens her senseless.
In truth, it frightens me also. But, as Luke is fond of saying, God does not give us the spirit of fear, and from the human standpoint, he and Jake have taken precautions to ensure our safety. He hired a guide— a physician named Frank Bandy, one of the few white men who have made peace with the Apaches. The Indians allow him passage through their territory because he has been able to minister medically to their people.
But, alas, I must stop writing for now as there are numerous tasks I would like to accomplish—although if Luke discovers I am not resting, I may have some explaining to do.
Journal entry: Monday, October 7
I have discovered I keep a poor journal. Truth is, I forgot about my diary these past months as it has been tucked away in my trunk of belongings. However, this morning I shall do my best to bring the events up to date. I fully recovered from my journey and now spend much of my time becoming familiar with my surroundings and the people here. We arrived in Silverstone on August 27, and I had only a few days to prepare the classroom as school began on Monday, the second of September. I have thirteen children in my class, ranging from first to eighth grades. Three of my students are from one family. They lost their mother just a few short months ago in childbirth. I hope to be able to help them deal with their loss as they might prove to be the brightest children under my tutelage this year.
Meanwhile, the Arizona heat has been ghastly. Rain compounded the misery by turning everything to mud. I doubt I shall ever get used to this place. I find myself looking forward to my cool baths every morning at the break of dawn when several of us women go down to the riverbank, as is the custom of the Mexican women here. The muddy water looks red and the river’s current is swift; however, after wilting in the previous day’s heat, it is a welcomed respite. Silverstone itself is located twenty miles north of Arizona City and the Yuma Crossing on the Colorado River. Beyond the town the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. The majestic mountaintops seem to touch an ever-azure sky, and the swirling red river water flows beneath them. But the town is an eyesore by comparison. It’s a hot, dusty, unpainted freight town. The people here are an odd mix of prospectors, ranchers, freighters, Mexicans, and Indians, and they keep Main Street (if it may be called such a thing) lively with regular brawls, which I abhor.
On one side of the rutted, unpaved road there is an adobe government building, which houses the sheriff and a jail. Ironically, right next door, there is a rickety wooden saloon called Chicago Joe’s and, above it, a house of ill repute. On the other side of Main Street is the Winters’ Boardinghouse, in which I am presently residing. The Winters also operate a dining room and the post office. Beside their place is a dry-goods store and next to it a freight office and a bank. Luke maintains the church at the end of the thoroughfare and delivers the Sunday morning message each week. Jake does carpentry work when he is not riding the circuit and preaching. Beside the church there stands a small one-room schoolhouse, where I teach.
As one might guess, the two sides of Main Street are largely at odds with each other. Mrs. Winters says we are the “good” side, and those across the way (particularly the women in the brothel) are the “bad” side—all save for Sheriff Paden Montaño, of course. Silverstone’s sheriff has been commissioned by the United States Army and oversees the shipping and receiving of government freight landed in Silverstone by river steamers. Then it is transported across the Territory by wagon. Sheriff Montaño’s father was a rugged vaquero (cowboy), and his mother was a genteel woman from back East.
I think the sheriff seems to have inherited traits from both parents; however, he is a sight to behold. He is a darkly handsome man with hair so long it hangs nearly to his waist. One would never see such a man in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
At first glance, he resembles a fierce Indian, but his actions are polite and refined. Like his vaquero father, he is a capable horseman and masterful with a gun. Like his mother, with whom he was raised, he is well educated. Some say Sheriff Montaño is a Mexican and Indian sympathizer, out to use his status as a United States lawman for his own purposes, but Luke says he’s a fair man. I must admit I have found the sheriff to be charming.
And then there is Ralph Jonas, who is quite the opposite. He claims to be a Christian man, but he can be quite disagreeable. His wife died during childbirth just before we arrived in town, and Mr. Jonas is desperately trying to replace her—just as he might replace a mule. I was insulted when he proposed to me, and I find his philosophy on marriage highly distasteful. Thankfully, Luke had a talk with him. I don’t know what he said, but now Mr. Jonas keeps his distance for the most part.
I must admit that I hate it here in Silverstone. I want to return to Jericho Junction. I’m praying the McCabes will find something for me to do there, but first an opportunity will have to present itself. But worse is the next wagon train won’t depart for Missouri again until next spring.
Six months. Six long months.
Will I be able to survive that long, here in this Godforsaken land?
A knock sounded once. Then again, more insistent this time.
“Coming.” Bethany set down the quill and capped the inkwell. Closing her journal, she stood from where she’d been sitting at the desk Jake had crafted for her use. Then, before she could open the door, Trudy poked her round, cherubic face into Bethany’s bedroom.
“Mama says breakfast is ready.”
“Thank you, Trudy. I’ll be down shortly.”
A grin curved the flaxen-haired girl’s pink mouth. “Reverend Luke and Reverend Jake are already here. Sheriff Montaño is too.”
Bethany wasn’t at all taken aback by the familiar way in which Trudy referred to both Luke and Jake. Because the men shared the same surname, the townspeople called them by their first names.
“I’ll be down shortly.” Walking to the looking glass, Bethany brushed out her long brown hair. It had dried from her earlier bath in the river.
Thirteen-year-old Trudy stepped farther into the room and closed the door behind her. “I’ll bet we’ll hear some lively conversation. Something about cattle stealing. Papa said the Indians have been causing trouble again.”
“Oh, dear.” Bethany tried not to show either her discontent with this town or her unease with the natives of this land.