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 (June 7, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***
Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.
Visit the author’s website.
“Summer Dream is a sweet, heartfelt, and well-written story about faith in action and a love that never fails. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.”—Andrea Boeshaar, author of Unexpected Love and Undaunted Faith
A Heart in Need of Redemption. An Unlikely Love. And a God Who Can Bring Them Together.
As the daughter of a small-town minister in Connecticut, Rachel Winston fears that the only way she’ll ever find a husband is to visit her aunt in Boston for the social season. But when Nathan Reed arrives in town, she can’t help but wonder if he could be the one.
Although attracted to Rachel, Nathan has no desire to become involved with a Christian after experiences with his own family. What’s more, until he resolves his anger with God and his family, he has no chance of courting her.
When Nathan is caught in a devastating blizzard and lies near death in the Winston home, Rachel and her mother give him a lesson in love and forgiveness that leads him back to his home in the South. Will he make peace with his family and return before Rachel chooses a path that takes her away from him?
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (June 7, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Why did Papa have to be so stubborn? Rachel Winston stared at the gray clouds outside her window and fought the urge to stomp her foot like a spoiled child. However, young women of twenty years must behave as befitting their age, as Mama so often reminded her. Perhaps she should have shown the letter to her mother first. Too late for that now; Papa would tell Mama as soon as he had the opportunity.
The back door closed with a thud, and Rachel shuddered. Papa had left for the church. His departing meant she needed to finish dressing or she’d be late, and then Papa would be even more upset with her. It wouldn’t do for the preacher’s family to be late for the services.
The paper in her pocket crackled when she moved toward the bed to retrieve her boots. Rachel fingered the crumpled edges of Aunt Mabel’s letter. There was no need to read it again, for she knew the words by heart. Her aunt’s invitation to come to Boston for an extended visit had arrived at a most inopportune time with the winter weather in the northern states at its worst. Even so, she shared the letter with Papa, hoping he might be agreeable to the visit.
A metallic taste soured her mouth, and she swallowed hard in an attempt to squelch it. Papa argued that the unpredictable weather of February made travel from Connecticut to Boston dangerous. If only one of the many Boston trains came to Briar Ridge. Aunt Mabel meant well, but her timing left something to be desired. Papa didn’t even want her going to Hartford or Manchester to board a train. It took over three hours by horseback to make the journey to Hartford—longer in bad weather.
She grasped the wrinkled letter in her hand and pulled it from its resting place. “Oh, Auntie, why did you wait until now to invite me for a visit?” she said to the letter, as if Aunt Mabel could hear her. “Last spring when I graduated from the academy would have been perfect, but you had to travel abroad.” A deep sigh filled her, then escaped in a long breath and a slump of her shoulders.
Aunt Mabel believed that a young woman should go to finishing school before she thought of marriage and had offered to pay for Rachel’s tuition. Papa had frowned on the idea, but her mother finally prevailed. For that, Rachel was most grateful, and she wouldn’t have traded those years at the academy for marriage to anyone. But now that she was twenty, she found that the pool of eligible bachelors in her area was slim to nonexistent.
Going to Boston would have provided the opportunity to meet more young men.
Rachel sat on the bed to ease off her slippers and bent over for the winter boots that would protect her feet from the slush. The frozen ground outdoors called for them, but they were not the choice she would have liked to wear to church this morning. Rachel shoved her feet down into the sturdy boots designed for warmth, not attractive appearance.
Of the eligible young men in Briar Ridge, only one came to mind, but then Daniel Monroe didn’t count. His sister had been Rachel’s best friend since Papa came to be pastor of the Briar Ridge church nearly seventeen years ago. Daniel treated her more like his sister anyway. Two years older, and just starting out as a lawyer, he was far more knowledgeable than she, and keeping up a conversation with him took more effort than she deemed it to be worth. Rachel had finished at the seminary with good marks, but Daniel’s conversation interests leaned more toward science and new inventions like electricity and the telephone than things of interest to her.
Rachel’s anger subsided as she pulled on the laces of her boots. As she reflected on her father, she remembered that he loved her and wanted only the best for her. He had promised that when spring came, he’d talk to her about the trip. Until then she would be the obedient daughter he wanted her to be and dream of the trip ahead. The Lord would give her patience, even though that was not one of her virtues.
She smoothed her skirt down over her hips and picked up the letter to place it on the table beside her bed. A response to Aunt Mabel would go out with tomorrow’s mail to express her regrets in not being able to accept the invitation. Papa would probably write to her as well, but Rachel wanted her aunt to know how much she appreciated the invitation.
If Seth were here now, he could give her good counsel. He’d always been the one she’d turned to when things didn’t go well with Mama and Papa. She loved her older brother and missed him, but he’d be home from the seminary in May, and she could talk with him then. Since he studied to be a minister like Papa, he’d most likely leave Briar Ridge if his ministry took him elsewhere after his graduation.
She’d met a few young men while at school, but the strict rules and regulations set forth at Bainbridge Academy for Young Women in Hartford had given her few opportunities to develop a relationship. Not that she would have considered any of them, but she would have appreciated the chance.
Mama called to her, and Rachel hurried to the front hall. She noted the firm set of Mama’s jaw and braced for the scolding that would be in order. “I’m sorry to take so long, Mama.” She grabbed her cloak from its hook.
“You know how your father hates for us to be late to church. It is unseemly for the minister’s family to be the last to arrive.” Mama turned and walked outside, her back ramrod straight.
Rachel breathed a sigh of relief. No time for a scolding now. She set a dark blue bonnet firmly over her hair and fastened the ties. She followed her mother out to the carriage, where the rest of the family waited. As usual, Papa had gone on ahead to open the church and stoke the two stoves to provide heat on this cold winter morning. Rachel climbed up beside her sister, Miriam, and reached for the blanket.
“What delayed you, Rachel? There’s no excuse for not being ready with everyone else.” Mama settled in her seat beside Noah, who had taken over his brother’s responsibilities until his own departure for college next fall.
“Time slipped away from me.” No need to tell her everything now. Rachel tucked a blanket around her legs and glanced at Miriam beside her. Miriam’s eyebrows lifted in question, but Rachel shook her head.
Micah piped up from the front seat. “Did you make Papa angry?”
“Micah! Of course not.” Rachel glanced at her brother Noah and noted the smirk on his face. She frowned to let him know she didn’t approve.
His gaze slid to her now. “Oh, then why did he stomp through the kitchen and ride off without a word to anybody?”
Mama clucked her tongue. “Now, children, it’s the Sabbath. Papa was late and in a hurry to get to the church.” But the look in Mama’s eyes promised she’d speak to Rachel about it later, especially after Mama learned the real reason for the tardiness.
Even though his decision disappointed her, Papa simply wanted to protect her from danger. She should be grateful for his love and concern, not angry because he said no. The promise of a trip to Boston when the weather improved would have to be enough to get her through the remainder of winter.
A recent snowfall still covered the frozen ground. Most of it in the streets had melted into a hodgepodge of brown and black slush caused by carriages and buggies winding their way toward the church. Rachel breathed deeply of the clean, fresh air that seemed to accompany snow in winter and rain in the spring.
If not for the inconveniences caused by ice and snow, she would love this time of year, even when the leafless branches of the trees cracked and creaked with a coating of ice. She gazed toward the gray skies that promised more snow before the day ended. If it would wait until later in the day, she might manage a visit with her best friend Abigail this afternoon.
However, a warm house, a cup of hot tea flavored with mint from Mama’s herb garden, and a good book might entice her to stay home on this cold, winter afternoon. Tomorrow would bring the chores of keeping the woodpile stocked and the laundry cleaned. She enjoyed the winter months, although this year she wished them to hurry by.
Miriam snuggled closer. Rachel smiled at her sister, who had recently turned thirteen. “I see you’re wearing your Christmas dress today. Is there a special occasion?”
Miriam’s cheeks turned a darker shade of red. “Um, not exactly.”
“Then what is it . . . exactly?”
Miriam tilted her head to one side and peered up at Rachel. She whispered, “Jimmy Turner.”
So her little sister had begun to notice boys. “Well now, I think he’s a handsome lad. Has he shown an interest in you?”
Miriam nodded and giggled. Rachel wrapped an arm around her sister as the buggy slowed to enter the churchyard. She stepped down onto the snow-covered ground muddied by all the wagons crossing over it. Now she was thankful for the thick stockings and shoes she wore to protect her toes. She then reached up for Micah while Miriam raced ahead.
The little boy pushed her hands away. “I can get down by myself.”
Rachel couldn’t resist the temptation to laugh. At seven, her younger brother expressed his independence and insisted on doing things for himself. He jumped with his feet square in a pile of snow and looked first at his feet then up to Rachel. She shook her head and grabbed his hand to go inside the building. How that little boy loved the snow. He’d be out in it all day if Mama would let him.
When she entered the foyer with Micah, she spotted Miriam already sitting in their pew with Jimmy Turner in the row behind her. Rachel hastened to sit down beside her sister. Miriam stared straight ahead but twisted her hands together in her lap.
When had Miriam grown up? Even now she showed signs of the beauty she would one day be. Thick, dark lashes framed her brown eyes, and her cheeks held a natural pink glow. Papa would really have to keep an eye out for his younger daughter.
Rachel glanced around the assembly room and once again admired the beauty of the old church built not long after the turn of the century. Instead of the quarry stone and masonry of the churches in Boston and even New Haven, Briar Ridge’s church walls were of white clapboard with large stained-glass windows along the sides. On bright days, sunlight streamed through them to create patterns of color across the congregation.
Brass light fixtures hung from the high vaulted ceilings, and the flames from the gaslights danced in the breeze as the back doors opened to admit worshippers. As much as she loved her church here in Briar Ridge, she remembered the electric lights she’d enjoyed in Hartford, one of the first cities to have its own generating plant. How long before electricity would become as widespread in Briar Ridge as it was in the larger cities? Probably awhile since Briar Ridge wasn’t known for its progress.
When the family first came to town, Rachel had been three years old, so this was the only home and church she could remember before leaving for school. Familiar faces met her everywhere she gazed. A nod and smile greeted each one as she searched for her friend Abigail and the Monroe family.
Unexpectedly a new face came into view a few rows back. A young man with the most incredible brown eyes stared back at her. Rachel’s breath caught in her throat, and the heat rose in her cheeks.
She felt her mother’s hand on her arm. “Turn around, Rachel. It’s not polite to stare.”
With her heart threatening to jump right out of her chest, Rachel tore her gaze away from the stranger seated with the Monroe family. Papa entered from the side door and stepped up to the pulpit. The service began with singing, but Rachel could barely make a sound. Everything in her wanted to turn and gaze again at the mysterious person with the Monroe family, but that behavior would be unseemly for the daughter of the minister.
However, her thoughts refused to obey and skipped to their own rhythm. Rachel decided that whoever he was, he must be a friend of Daniel’s because Abigail had never mentioned any man of interest in her own life. In a town like Briar Ridge, everyone knew everyone’s business. She hadn’t heard any talk of a guest from Daniel or her other friends yesterday.
A prickling sensation crept along her neck as though someone watched her. She blinked her eyes and willed herself to look at Papa and concentrate on his message. However, her mind filled with images of the young man. Who was this stranger who had come to Briar Ridge?
Nathan Reed contemplated the dark curls peeking from beneath the blue bonnet. When she had turned and their eyes met, his heart leaped. He had never expected to see such a beauty in a town like Briar Ridge. His friend Daniel’s sister was attractive, but nothing like this raven-haired girl with blue eyes.
When she turned her head back toward the front, he stared at her back as if to will her to turn his way again. When she didn’t, he turned his sights to gaze around the church, so much like others he’d once attended. He wouldn’t be here this morning except out of politeness for the Monroe family. He’d arrived later than intended last evening and welcomed Mrs. Monroe’s offer to stay the night with them. The least he could do was attend the service today.
Nathan had no use for church or things of God. He believed God existed, but only for people who needed something or someone to lean on. God had forsaken the Reed family years ago, and Nathan had done quite well without any help these four years away from home.
He shook off thoughts of the past and concentrated once more on the blue bonnet several rows ahead. Perhaps Daniel would introduce him. She would be a nice diversion from the business he must attend to while in town. He blocked the words of the minister from his mind and concentrated on the girl’s back.
The little boy seated next to the young woman seemed restless, so she lifted him onto her lap. The child couldn’t be her son. She didn’t look old enough. Then the older woman next to them reached for the boy and settled him in her arms. In a few minutes the boy’s head nodded in sleep.
Nathan resisted the urge to pull his watch from his pocket and check the time. Surely the service would end soon. Potbellied stoves in the front and back of the church provided warmth, and the additional heat of so many bodies caused him to wish he had shed his coat. He fought the urge to nod off himself. Oh, to be like the young lad in his mother’s arms.
Finally the congregation rose, and the organ played the final hymn. It was none too soon for Nathan, for he had grown more uncomfortable by the minute. Long sermons only added to his distaste for affairs of the church. The singing ended and people began their exit, but he kept his eye on the girl in blue until the crowd blocked her from view.
He stayed behind the Monroe family, who stopped to greet the minister. Mrs. Monroe turned to Nathan. “Reverend Winston, this is Nathan Reed, our houseguest from Hartford this week and a friend of Daniel’s.”
The minister smiled in greeting and shook Nathan’s hand. “It’s very nice to have you in our services today, Mr. Reed. I hope you enjoy your stay in Briar Ridge and that we’ll see more of you.”
“Thank you, sir. I look forward to my visit here.” But the minister wouldn’t be seeing any more of him unless they possibly met in town.
When they reached the Monroe carriage, Nathan turned and spotted the girl coming down the steps. He watched as Daniel waved to the young woman and she waved back. Abigail ran to greet her, and the girls hurried over to where Nathan stood with Daniel. Abigail tucked her hand in the girl’s elbow.
“Nathan, this is my best friend, Rachel Winston. Rachel, this is Daniel’s former roommate in college, Nathan Reed.”
Rachel Winston? Nathan’s hopes dashed against the slushy ground on which he stood. Could she be the preacher’s daughter? He didn’t mind a young woman being Christian, but he drew the line at keeping company with one so close to the ministry.
When her blue eyes gazed into his, a spark of interest flamed, and it took him a few seconds before remembering his manners. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Winston.”
Her cheeks flushed red, and she glanced away slightly but still smiled. “Thank you. I’m pleased to meet you too, Mr. Reed. Perhaps we’ll see each other again if you’re in town long.”
Rachel’s smile sent a warmth into his heart that caused him to swallow hard. Although the length of his stay was uncertain, his desire to see the lovely Miss Winston again might just override his pledge to avoid anything or anyone with ties to the church.