Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CFBA: False Pretenses by Kathy Herman

Song Stuck on the Brain: You Are So Beautiful by Joe Cocker

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

False Pretenses

David C. Cook (March 1, 2011)


Kathy Herman


Wow, this book kept me on the edge till the very last sentence. Just when you thought it couldn't get more intense, she'd turn up the heat. Great story telling with a fantastically woven plot. I loved the culture, the drama and the suspense. I even enjoyed reading about the food, although you'll never find me eating crawfish or shrimp. I think I might be craving beignets now.


Zoe Broussard loves the life she and her husband Pierce have built in her beloved Louisiana hometown. She owns a thriving Cajun eatery in South Louisiana and is married to the love of her life. But it’s about to become hell. One day, out of the blue, she receives a series of anonymous notes that sends her life into a tail spin. Five simple words, “I know what you did.” Zoe has a secret so terrible it could leave the business in shambles and tear her marriage apart. Unbeknownst to anyone, even Zoe’s husband, Pierce, she has a past—a past she had covered so well she never thought she would have to confront. How could anyone know what she did? Can she find the courage to face her past? If you would like to read the first chapter of False Pretenses, go HERE.


Suspense novelist Kathy Herman is very much at home in the Christian book industry, having worked five years on staff at the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and eleven years at Better Books Christian Center in Tyler, Texas, as product buyer/manager for the children’s department, and eventually as director of human resources. She has conducted numerous educational seminars on children’s books at CBA Conventions in the U.S. and Canada, served a preliminary judge for the Gold Medallion Book Awards of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association , and worked as an independent product/marketing consultant to the CBA market. Since her first novel, Tested by Fire, debuted in 2001 as a CBA national bestseller, she's added sixteen more titles to her credit, including four bestsellers: All Things Hidden, The Real Enemy, The Last Word, and The Right Call. Kathy's husband Paul is her manager and most ardent supporter, and the former manager of the LifeWay Christian Store in Tyler, Texas. They have three grown children, five almost-perfect grandchildren, a cat named Samantha. They enjoy cruising, deep sea fishing, and birdwatching—sometimes incorporating these hobbies into one big adventure.

Friday, March 25, 2011

CFBA: Vicious Cycle by Terri Blackstock

Song Stuck on the Brain: Yesterday by The Beatles

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Vicious Cycle
Zondervan (February 22, 2011)


Terri Blackstock


I don't think I'll ever get tired of reading a Terri Blackstock novel. She's one of my all time favorites, and this book is a good example of why she's so well loved. She has a real gift for creating suspense and tension in a story that's emotionally connected and also relevant to the issues in current events. Drugs, teen pregnancy, abuse... things we see on the news everyday, true. But they're also becoming rampant enough that they are touching individuals lives in a much more personal way. Where once you may have thought those were issues you heard about but never experienced or witnessed personally, that's no longer true. Terri presents a story that is exciting and entertaining, but also makes the reader think. More importantly, I feel like she opens the door for the reader to see hope. Hope that these things can be changed and sense of purpose in that we all have a way to touch someones life and make a difference.

Vicious Cycle is a fast paced and compelling read. No doubt another hit in Terri's long list of successes.


When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of a car, he knows she's the newborn daughter of a meth addict he's been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse.

His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan---the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own. Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies.

In this latest novel of suspense and family loyalty, bestselling author Terri Blackstock offers a harrowing look at drug addiction, human trafficking, and the devastating choices that can change lives forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Vicious Cycle, go HERE.

Watch the Book Video:


Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.

Besides entertaining her readers, Terri tackles issues that she hopes will change lives. Her recent book, Predator, was inspired by her experiences on Facebook and Twitter, and her concern that people posted too much personal information about themselves. The book deals with an online predator who uses social networks as his playground. She hopes the book will change readers’ online habits. Her New York Times best-seller, Intervention, was inspired by her own personal struggles with a daughter on drugs. In the book, a mother hires an interventionist for her drug-addicted daughter. But on the way to treatment, the interventionist is murdered, and the daughter disappears. Barbara, the mother, sets out to search for her daughter. Terri modeled Barbara after herself, and poured many of her own emotions and experiences into that character. As a result, many families experiencing drug addiction have written to thank her for telling their story and giving them hope. Vicious Cycle, Book Two of the Intervention Series, releases February 22, 2011. She’s currently working on Book Three.

Other recent books include a stand-alone novel called Double Minds, as well as Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn’s Light (from her acclaimed Restoration Series). She is also known for her popular Newpointe 911 Series and Cape Refuge Series. Terri makes her home in Mississippi, where she and her husband Ken are enjoying their empty nest after raising three children.

Terri has appeared on national television programs such as “The 700 Club” and “Home Life,” and has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CFBA: No Safe Haven by Kimberly and Kayla Woodhouse

Song Stuck on the Brain: You Are Worthy of My Praise by Jeremy Camp

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

No Safe Haven
B&H Books (March 15, 2011)


Kimberly and Kayla Woodhouse


This mother/daughter duo make a great writing team. I was holding my breath through at least half of this book. Just when you think you have a chance to catch your breath, they whirl you away in another avalanche of suspense.

At first, the change in point of view between characters was a little unusual. Andi's 12 year old point of view was loud and clear in first person, where Jenna and Cole were the more traditional third person. But after the first chapter, it catches a rhythm that works really well. It felt right to have Andi's perspective be told in a different voice, because her reality and her view of life IS different. She's dealing with a unique disorder that few could even imagine and she's thriving. It's inspiring.

The Woodhouse team was well researched, too. I kind of feel like if I ever get faced with a plane crash in the mountains, I'll be just a little bit more prepared. However, as real as it felt reading it, I think I'll be avoiding flying around mountains anytime soon. :)


Jenna and Andi Tikaani-Gray are hoping for a fresh start. Though twelve year-old Andi has long struggled with a rare medical disorder, she and her mother have finally received good news from out-of-town specialists. It's news they desperately needed, especially after the recent death of Jenna's husband (Andi's dad) in a car accident.

But as they are flying home to Alaska, ready to begin again, the unthinkable happens. The pilot sabotages their small plane and crashes into Sultana, one of the most remote and dangerous mountains in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Even worse, a winter storm is headed their way along with someone who doesn't want to save them, but to kill them.

Only one man can keep them alive: Cole Maddox, the mysterious last-minute passenger who joined them on their flight. But trust doesn't come easy to Jenna or Andi and they both sense Cole is hiding something.

A relentless tale of survival and suspense unfolds, involving military technology designed by Jenna's late husband that some would do anything to possess.

Watch the Book Video:

If you would like to read the first chapter of No Safe Haven, go HERE.


A devoted wife and mother, Kimberley Woodhouse is a third generation Liszt student, she has passed down her love of the arts to hundreds of students over the years.

About fifteen years ago, Kimberley began writing seriously. Songs, plays, short stories, novels, picture books, articles, newsletters - you name it - she's written it. It wasn't until a dear friend challenged her to "do something with it", that she pursued publication.

Kimberley and her family's story have been on the front page of newspapers, in magazines, articles, medical journals, and most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They were also asked to share their story on The Montel Williams Show and Discovery Health Channel's Mystery ER. She has recorded three albums, and has appeared at over 700 venues. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and their two children in a truly "Extreme" home.

Thirteen-year-old Kayla Woodhouse’s zest for writing comes not only from her natural ability, but also from her love of the written word as witnessed by her voracious reading appetite. One of only a few dozen cases in the world, Kayla was born with HSAN, Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy, an extremely rare nerve disorder. Unable to sweat, or feel pain, she’s also been through brain surgery. But even through a life of extreme hardships, her ever-present smile encourages others to pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles. In addition to being homeschooled and writing with her mom, she’s an amazing swimmer, and spends up to thirty hours a week in training. No Safe Haven, her first release from B&H Publishers in 2011, written with mother, Kimberley, makes her the youngest author to have a full-length novel published by a royalty paying publisher.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Céad míle fáilte romhat! A hundred thousand welcomes to you!

(If you'd like to hear it pronounced, I found a fun site where you can learn to pronounce Irish phrases.)

Happy St. Patrick's day. In honor of the holiday, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite authors.


This was a fantastic and well researched book. I loved learning the real story behind the man and moving past the traditional, although fun, corniness of the holiday. Lawhead really brings Patrick to life as a real man that wasn't always so saintly, but grew to become a beloved icon in history. There's plenty of action, drama and love to keep the story compelling. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend it.

A young nobleman is captured by raiding pirates and spends seven painful years a slave to an Irish chieftain. At last he escapes, betraying his friends and the woman he loves, and makes his way to Gaul. He becomes a soldier, rises in the ranks, and achieves a life of promise in Roman society. Yet he is haunted by his memories of Ireland and comes to believe that he has a special mission there: to convert the Irish people to Christianity.

If you want to read an excerpt, visit Stephen R. Lawhead's website, HERE.

Slán agus beannacht leat. Goodbye and blessings with you.

CFBA: The Caregiver by Shelley Shepard Gray

Song Stuck on the Brain: That Should Be Me by Justin Bieber Feat. Rascall Flatts

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

The Caregiver
Avon Inspire; Original edition (March 8, 2011)


Shelley Shepard Gray

I didn't request to review this book, but I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read it yourself.


Two lives converge one stormy night on a train headed to cleveland

Lucy is traveling by herself via train to Jacob's Crossing to help care for her cousin Mattie, recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Trying to overcome the sudden death of her husband, she's glad to get away and focus on someone else for a while.

The only other Amish people on the train are Calvin Weaver and his little sister, Katie. When their train breaks down outside of Cleveland, Calvin and Lucy band together to face the outside world. But Calvin also carries the weight of past hurts. When an altercation brings both their wounds to light, they question whether they can trust each other.

Once in Jacob's Crossing, Lucy is occupied with caring for Mattie, while Calvin does his best to run his family's farm. But they can't stop thinking about those special hours spent together. Will the bond they formed last? And will Lucy and Calvin be able to put away the pain in their pasts to recognize the happiness that is suddenly in their grasp?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Caregiver, go HERE.


Shelley Shepard Gray is the beloved author of the Sisters of the Heart series, including Hidden, Wanted, and Forgiven. Before writing, she was a teacher in both Texas and Colorado. She now writes full time and lives in southern Ohio with her husband and two children. When not writing, Shelley volunteers at church, reads, and enjoys walking her miniature dachshund on her town's scenic bike trail.

Monday, March 14, 2011

CFBA: In the Shadow of Evil by Robin Carroll

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

In The Shadow of Evil
B&H Books (March 1, 2011)


Robin Carroll

I didn't choose to review this book, but please let me know if you've read In the Shadow of Evil, what your thoughts are.


Informed by the real-life fallout of the U.S. economy plus devastation caused by multiple hurricanes along the southern coast, In the Shadow of Evil casts the modern day story of a building rebound scam exposed. It begins when the body of a property inspector is found among the ashes of a burnt out Homes of Hope house. Wrapped up in this mounting case of unethical practices, supply shortages, and murder, top Louisiana homicide detective Maddox Bishop is losing his heart to a charitable contractor, Layla Taylor, whose own sister is under suspicion. He’s also about to discover a deep secret about his tragic past.

If you would like to read the first chapter of In The Shadow of Evil, go HERE.

Watch the trailer:


Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage—two aspects Robin weaves into each of her books. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty years, her three beautiful daughters, one precious grandson, and their four character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else?

Robin gives back to the writing community by serving as Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as RT Reviewer's Choice, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year. An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

FIRST: A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr

Song Stuck on the Brain: Until the Whole World Hears by Casting Crowns

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:

A Trail of Ink: The Third Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon

Monarch Books (February 28, 2011)


Hats off to Hugh de Singleton. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in 14th century England. Hugh has a fantastic voice that captures from the very beginning. You can't help but be drawn into his life and pursuits. Intriguing take on a mystery novel. I'm wishing now I had read the first 2 books in the series. I didn't feel as if I'd missed any important details to the plot, it was comfortable as a stand alone read, but I think I would have enjoyed reading them in order. I'm a little anal that way. :) So, I suppose it's my turn to hunt down missing books from my library - The Unquiet Bones and A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel.


Some valuable books have been stolen from Master John Wyclif, the well known scholar and Bible translator. He calls upon his friend and former pupil, Hugh de Singleton, to investigate. Hugh's investigation leads him to Oxford where he again encounters Kate, the only woman who has tempted him to leave bachelor life behind, but Kate has another serious suitor. As Hugh's pursuit of Kate becomes more successful, mysterious accidents begin to occur. Are these accidents tied to the missing books, or to his pursuit of Kate?

One of the stolen books turns up alongside the drowned body of a poor Oxford scholar. Another accident? Hugh certainly doesn’t think so, but it will take all of his surgeon’s skills to prove.

So begins another delightful and intriguing tale from the life of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon in the medieval village of Bampton. Masterfully researched by medieval scholar Mel Starr, the setting of the novel can be visited and recognized in modern-day England. Enjoy more of Hugh’s dry wit, romantic interests, evolving faith, and dogged determination as he pursues his third case as bailiff of Bampton.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (February 28, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1854249746
ISBN-13: 978-1854249746


I had never seen Master John Wyclif so afflicted. He was rarely found at such a loss when in disputation with other masters. He told me later, when I had returned them to him, that it was as onerous to plunder a bachelor scholar’s books as it would be to steal another man’s wife. I had, at the time, no way to assess the accuracy of that opinion, for I had no wife and few books.

But I had come to Oxford on that October day, Monday, the twentieth, in the year of our Lord 1365, to see what progress I might make to remedy my solitary estate. I left my horse at the stable behind the Stag and Hounds and went straightaway to Robert Caxton’s shop, where the stationer’s comely daughter, Kate, helped attract business from the bachelor scholars, masters, clerks, and lawyers who infest Oxford like fleas on a hound.

My pretended reason to visit Caxton’s shop was to purchase a gathering of parchment and a fresh pot of ink. I needed these to conclude my record of the deaths of Alan the beadle and of Henry atte Bridge. Alan’s corpse was found, three days before Good Friday, near to St Andrew’s Chapel, to the east of Bampton. And Henry, who it was who slew Alan, was found in a wood to the north of the town. As bailiff of Bampton Castle it was my business to sort out these murders, which I did, but not before I was attacked on the road returning from Witney and twice clubbed about the head in nocturnal churchyards. Had I known such assaults lay in my future, I might have rejected Lord Gilbert Talbot’s offer to serve as his bailiff at Bampton Castle and remained but Hugh the surgeon, of Oxford High Street.

Kate promised to prepare a fresh pot of ink, which I might have next day, and when she quit the shop to continue her duties in the workroom I spoke to her father. Robert Caxton surely knew the effect Kate had upon young men. He displayed no surprise when I asked leave to court his daughter.

I had feared raised eyebrows at best, and perhaps a refusal. I am but a surgeon and a bailiff. Surgeons own little prestige in Oxford, full of physicians as it is, and few honest men wish to see a daughter wed to a bailiff. There were surely sons of wealthy Oxford burghers, and young masters of the law, set on a path to wealth, who had eyes for the comely Kate. But Caxton nodded agreement when I requested his permission to pay court to his daughter. Perhaps my earlier service to mend his wounded back helped my suit.

I left the stationer’s shop with both joy and apprehension. The joy you will understand, or would had you seen Kate and spent time in her presence. I was apprehensive because next day I must begin a thing for which I had no training and in which I had little experience. While at Balliol College I was too much absorbed in my set books to concern myself with the proper way to impress a lass, and none of those volumes dealt with the subject. Certainly the study of logic avoided the topic. Since then my duties as surgeon and bailiff allowed small opportunity to practice discourse with a maiden. And there are few females of my age and station in Bampton.

I made my way from Caxton’s shop on Holywell Street to Catte Street and thence to the gate of Canterbury Hall, on Schidyard Street. As I walked I composed speeches in my mind with which I might impress Kate Caxton. I had forgotten most of these inventions by next day. This was just as well.

Master John Wyclif, former Master of Balliol College and my teacher there, was newly appointed Warden of Canterbury Hall. Several months earlier, frustrated at my inability to discover who had slain Alan the beadle and Henry atte Bridge, I had called upon Master John to lament my ignorance and seek his wisdom. He provided encouragement, and an empty chamber in the Hall where I might stay the night, safe from the snores and vermin at the Stag and Hounds.

When I left him those months earlier he enjoined me to call when I was next in Oxford and tell him of the resolution of these mysteries. At the time of his request I was not sure there ever would be a resolution to the business.

But there was, and so I sought Master John to tell him of it, and seek again his charity and an empty cell for the night. The porter recognized me, and sent me to Master John’s chamber. I expected to find him bent over a book, as was his usual posture when I called. But not so. He opened the door to my knock, recognized me, and blurted, “Master Hugh… they’ve stolen my books.”

The greeting startled me. I peered over the scholar’s shoulder as if I expected to see the miscreants and the plundered volumes. I saw Master John’s table, and a cupboard where his books were kept. Both were bare. He turned to follow my gaze.

“Gone,” he whispered. “All of them.”

“Who?” I asked stupidly. Had Master John known that, he would have set after the thieves and recovered the books. Or sent the sheriff to do so.

“I know not,” Wyclif replied. “I went to my supper three days past. When I returned the books were gone… even the volume I left open on my table.”

Master John is not a wealthy man. He has the living of Fillingham, and the prebend of Aust, but these provide a thin subsistence for an Oxford master of arts at work on a degree in theology. The loss of books accumulated in a life of study would be a blow to any scholar, rich or poor.

“The porter saw no stranger enter or leave the Hall while we supped,” Wyclif continued. “I went next day to the sheriff, but Sir John has other matters to mind.”

“Sir John?”

“Aye. Roger de Cottesford is replaced. The new high sheriff is Sir John Trillowe.”

“He offered no aid?”

“He sent a sergeant ’round to the stationers in the town, to see did any man come to them with books he offered to sell. Two I borrowed from Nicholas de Redyng. He will grieve to learn they are lost.”

“And the stationers… they have been offered no books?”

“None of mine missing. And Sir John has no interest, I think, in pursuing my loss further.”

The colleges have always wished to rule themselves, free of interference from the town and its government. No doubt the sheriff was minded to allow Canterbury Hall the freedom to apprehend its own thief, without his aid or interference.

“How many?”

“My books? Twenty… and the two borrowed.”

I performed some mental arithmetic. Master John read my thoughts.

“The books I borrowed from Master Nicholas… one was Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica, worth near thirty shillings. One of mine was of paper, a cheap-set book, but the others were of parchment and well bound.”

“Your loss is great, then. Twenty pounds or more.”

“Aye,” Wyclif sighed. “Four were of my own devising. Some might say they were worth little. But the others… Aristotle, Grossteste, Boethius, all gone.”

Master John sighed again, and gazed about his chamber as if the stolen books were but misplaced, and with closer inspection of dark corners might yet be discovered.

“I am pleased to see you,” Master John continued. “I had thought to send for you.”

“For me?”

“Aye. I have hope that you will seek my stolen books and see them returned to me.”

“Me? Surely the sheriff…”

“Sir John is not interested in any crime for which the solution will not bring him a handsome fine. Rumor is he paid King Edward sixty pounds for the office. He will be about recouping his investment, not seeking stolen books.

“And you are skilled at solving mysteries,” Wyclif continued. “You found who ’twas in Lord Gilbert’s cesspit, and unless I mistake me, you know by now who killed your beadle and the fellow found slain in the forest. Well, do you not?”

“Aye. It was as I thought. Henry atte Bridge, found dead in the wood, slew Alan the beadle. Alan had followed him during the night as Henry took a haunch of venison poached from Lord Gilbert’s forest, to the curate at St Andrew’s Chapel.”

“Venison? To a priest?”

“Aye… a long story.”

“I have nothing but time, and no books with which to fill it. Tell me.”

So I told Master John of the scandal of the betrayed confessional of the priest at St Andrew’s Chapel. And of the blackmail he plotted with Henry atte Bridge – and Henry’s brother, Thomas – of those who confessed to poaching, adultery, and cheating at their business.

“I came to Oxford this day to buy more ink and parchment so I may write of these felonies while details remain fresh in my memory.”

“And what stationer receives your custom?”

“Robert Caxton. It was you who sent me first to Caxton’s shop. You knew I would find more there than books, ink, and parchment.”

“I did? Yes, I remember now telling you of the new stationer, come from Cambridge with his daughter… ah, that is your meaning. I am slow of wit these days. I think of nothing but my books.”

“You did not guess I might be interested in the stationer’s daughter?”

“Nay,” Wyclif grimaced. “I surprise myself for my lack of perception. You are a young man with two good eyes. The stationer’s daughter…”

“Kate,” I said.

“Aye, Kate is a winsome lass.”

“She is. And this day I have gained her father’s permission to seek her as my wife.”

Master John’s doleful expression brightened. The corners of his mouth and eyes lifted into a grin. “I congratulate you, Hugh.”

“Do not be too quick to do so. I must woo and win her, and I fear for my ability.”

“I have no competency in such matters. You are on your own. ’Tis your competency solving puzzles I seek.”

“But I am already employed.”

Master John’s countenance fell. “I had not considered that,” he admitted. “Lord Gilbert requires your service… and pays well for it, I imagine.”

“Aye. I am well able to afford a wife.”

“But could not the town spare you for a week or two, until my books are found? Surely a surgeon… never mind. You see how little I heed other men’s troubles when I meet my own.”

“All men think first of themselves. Why should you be different?” I asked.

“Why? Because my misplaced esteem tells me I must. Do you not wish the same, Hugh? To be unlike the commons? They scratch when and where they itch and belch when and where they will and the letters on a page are as foreign to them as Malta.”

“But… I remember a lecture…”

Wyclif grimaced.

“… when you spoke of all men being the same when standing before God. No gentlemen, no villeins, all sinners.”

“Hah; run through by my own pike. ’Tis true. I recite the same sermon each year, but though we be all sinners, and all equally in need of God’s grace, all sins are not, on earth, equal, as they may be in God’s eyes. Else all punishments would be the same, regardless of the crime.”

“And what would be a fitting penalty for one who stole twenty books?”

Wyclif scowled again. “Twenty-two,” he muttered. “My thoughts change daily,” he continued. “When I first discovered the offense I raged about the Hall threatening the thief with a noose.”

“And now?”

Master John smiled grimly. “I have thought much on that. Was the thief a poor man needing to keep his children from starvation, I might ask no penalty at all, so long as my books be returned. But if the miscreant be another scholar, with means to purchase his own books, I would see him fined heavily and driven from Oxford, and never permitted to study here again, or teach, be he a master.

“Both holy and secular wisdom,” Wyclif mused, “teach that we must not do to another what we find objectionable when done to us. No man should hold a place at Oxford who denies both God and Aristotle.”

“You think an Oxford man has done this?”

Wyclif chewed upon a fingernail, then spoke. “Who else would want my books, or know their worth?”

“That, it seems to me, is the crux of the matter,” I replied. “Some scholar wished to add to his library, or needed money, and saw your books as a way to raise funds.”

As it happened, there was a third reason a man might wish to rob Master John of his books, but that explanation for the theft did not occur to me until later.

“I am lost,” Wyclif sighed. “I am a master with no books, and I see no way to retrieve them.”

I felt guilty that, for all his aid given to me, I could offer no assistance to the scholar. I could but commiserate, cluck my tongue, and sit in his presence with a long face.

The autumn sun set behind the old Oxford Castle keep while we talked. Wyclif was about to speak again when a small bell sounded from across the courtyard.

“Supper,” he explained, and invited me to follow him to the refectory.

Scholars at Canterbury Hall are fed well, but simply. For this supper there were loaves of maslin – wheat and barley – cheese, a pease pottage flavored with bits of pork, and tankards of watered ale. I wondered at the pork, for some of the scholars were Benedictines. Students peered up from under lowered brows as we entered. They all knew of the theft, and, I considered later, suspected each other of complicity in the deed.

A watery autumn sun struggled to rise above the forest and water meadow east of Oxford when I awoke next morning. Wyclif bid me farewell with stooped shoulders and eyes dark from lack of sleep. I wished the scholar well, and expressed my prayer that his books be speedily recovered. Master John believes in prayer, but my promise to petition our Lord Christ on his behalf seemed to bring him small comfort. I think he would rather have my time and effort than my prayers. Or would have both. Prayers may be offered cheaply. They require small effort from men, and much from God. The Lord Christ has told us we may ask of Him what we will, but I suspect He would be pleased to see men set to their work, and call upon Him only when tasks be beyond them.

I thought on this as I walked through the awakening lanes of Oxford to Holywell Street and Robert Caxton’s shop. Was it really my duty to Lord Gilbert which prevented me from seeking Wyclif’s stolen books, or was I too slothful to do aught but pray for their return? I did not like the answer which came to me.

As I approached the stationer’s shop I saw a tall young man standing before it, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. The fellow was no scholar. He wore a deep red cotehardie, cut short to show a good leg. His chauces were parti-colored, grey and black, and his cap ended in a long yellow liripipe coiled stylishly about his head. The color of his cap surprised me. All who visit London know that the whores of that city are required by law to wear yellow caps so respectable maidens and wives be left unmolested on the street. He was shod in fine leather, and the pointed toes of his shoes curled up in ungainly fashion.

The fellow seemed impatient; while I watched he strode purposefully past Caxton’s shop, then reversed his steps and walked past in the opposite direction, toward my approach. I drew closer to the shop, so that at each turn I could see his face more clearly. His countenance and beard were dark, as were his eyes. The beard was neatly trimmed, and his eyes peered at my approach from above an impressive nose – although, unlike mine, his nose pointed straight out at the world, whereas mine turns to the dexter side. He seemed about my own age – twenty-five years or so. He was broad of shoulder and yet slender, but good living was beginning to produce a paunch.

I slowed my pace as I approached the shuttered shop. Caxton would open his business soon, and I assumed this dandy needed parchment, ink, or a book, although he did not seem the type to be much interested in words on a page.

I stood in the street, keeping the impatient coxcomb company, until Robert Caxton opened his shop door and pushed up his shutters to begin business for the day. The stationer looked from me to his other customer and I thought his eyes widened. I bowed to the other client and motioned him to precede me into the shop. He was there before me.

The morning sun was low in the southeast, and did not penetrate far into the shop. But dark as the place was, I could see that Kate was not within. He of the red cotehardie saw the same, and spoke before I could.

“Is Mistress Kate at leisure?” he asked.

Caxton glanced at me, then answered, “Near so. Preparing a pot of ink in the workroom. Be done shortly.”

“I’ll wait,” the fellow said with a smile. “’Tis a pleasant morning. And if Kate has no other concerns, I’d have her walk with me along the water meadow.”

He might as well have swatted me over my skull with a ridge pole. My jaw went slack and I fear both Caxton and this unknown suitor got a fine view of my tonsils.

Robert Caxton was not so discomfited that he forgot his manners. He introduced me to Sir Simon Trillowe. A knight. And of some relation to the new sheriff of Oxford, I guessed.

When he learned that I was but a surgeon and bailiff to Lord Gilbert Talbot, Sir Simon nodded briefly and turned away, his actions speaking what polite words could not: I was beneath his rank and unworthy of his consideration.

“We heard naught of you for many months, Master Hugh,” Caxton remarked.

This was true. I had neglected pursuit of Kate Caxton while about Lord Gilbert’s business in Bampton. And, to be true, I feared Kate might dismiss my suit should I press it. A man cannot be disappointed in love who does not seek it.

“No doubt a bailiff has much to occupy his time,” the stationer continued.

Sir Simon doubtless thought that I was but a customer, not that I was in competition with him for the fair Kate. He would learn that soon enough.

The door to Caxton’s workroom was open. Kate surely heard this exchange, which was a good thing. It gave her opportunity to compose herself. A moment later she entered the shop, carrying my pot of promised ink, and bestowed a tranquil smile upon both me and Sir Simon. I smiled in return, Trillowe did not. Perhaps he had guessed already that it was not ink I most wished to take from Caxton’s shop.

“Mistress Kate,” Sir Simon stepped toward her as she passed through the door. “’Tis a pleasant autumn morn… there will be few more before winter. Perhaps we might walk the path along the Cherwell… if your father can spare you for the morning.”

With these words Trillowe turned to the stationer. Caxton shrugged a reply.

“Good.” Sir Simon offered his arm and, with a brief smile and raised brows in my direction, Kate set the pot of ink on her father’s table and took Trillowe’s arm. They departed the shop wordlessly.

Caxton apparently thought some explanation in order. “You didn’t call through the summer. Kate thought you’d no interest. I told her last night you’d asked to pay court. But Sir Simon’s been by a dozen times since Lammas Day… others, too.”


“Aye. My Kate does draw lads to the shop. None has asked me might they pay court, though. But for you.”

“Not Sir Simon?”

“Nay. Second son of the sheriff, and a knight. He’ll not ask leave of one like me to do aught.”

“And Kate returns his interest?”

Caxton shrugged. “She’s walked out with him three times now. A knight, mind you. And son of the sheriff. Can’t blame a lass for that.”

“No,” I agreed.

“Can’t think how his father’d be pleased, though. A stationer’s daughter! A scandal in Oxford Castle when word gets out, as it surely has, by now,” Caxton mused.

“Aye. What lands his father may hold will pass to his brother. The sheriff will want Sir Simon seeking a wife with lands of her own.”

I hoped that was so. But if a second or third son acts to displease his father, it is difficult to correct him. How can a man disinherit a son who is due to receive little or nothing anyway? So if a son courting Kate Caxton displeased the sheriff of Oxford, such offense might escape retribution. This thought did not bring me joy.


Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications and Noelle Pedersen, Manager, Lion Hudson Distribution, Kregel Publicaitons for sending me a review copy.***

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

CFBA: A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell

Song Stuck on the Brain: God is God by Steven Curtis Chapman

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

A Heart Most Worthy
Bethany House (March 1, 2011)


Siri Mitchell


One of the things I enjoy most about Siri Mitchell's writing, is the depth of insight placed in every story. A Heart Most Worthy is really 3 novels carefully woven in to one grand story. Each girl has their own story. Their own hopes, dreams, fears and struggles. Luciana, Julietta and Annamaria are 3 very different personalities, and yet they share so much in common. Siri Mitchell has done an amazing job of sharing all of the girls personal journeys set against the very realistic background of 1918 Boston.

Anarchy, Spanish Influenza, bigotry and racial tension; common and invasive to the time period. But with practiced hand, the author shines a light on a past that looks very much like a time we live in now. The terrorists may go by another name and the illnesses have changed, but it's an eye opening look at where we've been as a nation and where we could go again if we aren't careful.

Lest I leave you thinking the story is all terrorism and hate, remember that there are three beautiful love stories woven into the fabric of this tale. That means three times the happy endings. Definitely worth the read.


The elegance of Madame Fortier's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream--and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times.

Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Fortier's most important client.

Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Heart Most Worthy, go HERE.


Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi.

But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters.

Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.

Her ninth novel, A Heart Most Worthy, follows prior Bethany House releases: A Constant Heart (October 2008), Love's Pursuit (June 2009), and She Walks in Beauty (Apr 2010). She Walks in Beauty won the inaugural INSPY Award for Historical Fiction in Dec 2010. Two of her novels, Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door were Christy Award finalists. Love's Pursuit was a finalist for the ACFW Carol Award.

Publishers Weekly proclaimed, "Mitchell delivers the historical goods."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

CFBA: Hearts Aglow by Tracie Peterson

Song Stuck on the Brain: You Are More by Tenth Avenue North

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Hearts Aglow
Bethany House (March 1, 2011)


Tracie Peterson

I didn't choose to review this book, but I wanted to share the information with all of you. If you've read this book, let me know what you thought.

The future should be bright for Deborah Vandermark, who is now pursuing her interest in medicine alongside Dr. Christopher Clayton, who is courting her. But the lumber town is resistant to the idea of a woman physician, and she feels thwarted at every turn.
A more devastating blow occurs, however, when Christopher breaks off their relationship to return home to his troubled family. Despite her own love life going awry, Deborah is still intent to be a matchmaker for both her widowed mother and her brother, who has caught the eye of the spit-fire daughter of the local pastor.
But what will Deborah do when faced with the truth about Christopher's family? Is there hope for the two of them...or will Jake Wyeth's attentions finally catch Deborah's eye instead?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Hearts Aglow, go HERE.


Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 85 novels.

She received her first book contract in November, 1992 and saw A Place To Belong published in February 1993 with Barbour Publishings' Heartsong Presents. She wrote exclusively with Heartsong for the next two years, receiving their readership's vote for Favorite Author of the Year for three years in a row.

In December, 1995 she signed a contract with Bethany House Publishers to co-write a series with author Judith Pella. Tracie now writes exclusively for Bethany House Publishers.

She teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research.

Tracie was awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for 2007 Inspirational Fiction and her books have won numerous awards for favorite books in a variety of contests.

Making her home in Montana, this Kansas native enjoys spending time with family--especially her three grandchildren--Rainy, Fox and Max. She's active in her church as the Director of Women's Ministries, coordinates a yearly writer's retreat for published authors, and travels, as time permits, to research her books

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

CFBA: A Bond Never Broken by Judith Miller

Song Stuck on the Brain: Do You Believe In Magic by The Lovin' Spoonful

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

A Bond Never Broken
Bethany House (March 1, 2011)


Judith Miller


For many years, Ilsa Redlich has helped her parents run a hotel in South Amana, but as the United States enters the Great War, she can feel her world changing. The residents of the towns surrounding the Amana Colonies used to be accepting of their quiet, peaceful neighbors, but with anti-German sentiment running high, the Amana villages are now plagued by vandalism, threats, and insults.

Things get even worse when Ilsa finds out her family won't be allowed to speak German in public--and that Garon, the childhood friend she's long been smitten with, has decided to join the army. Jutta Schmidt is shocked when several members of the Council of National Defense show up on her family's doorstep. Sure, the Schmidts once lived in the Amana Colonies, but that was years ago. She's even more surprised when the council demands that she travel to Amana and report back on any un-American activities.

Not daring to disobey the government agents, Jutta takes a job at the South Amana hotel, befriends the daughter of the owners, and begins to eavesdrop every chance she gets. When Jutta hears Ilsa making antiwar remarks and observes Garon assisting a suspicious outsider, she is torn at the prospect of betraying her new friends.

But what choice does she have? And when Garon is accused of something far worse than Jutta could imagine, can the Amana community come to his aid in time?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Bond Never Broken, go HERE.


A Word from Judith:

Most readers want to know how authors 'got started' writing. My first novel, Threads of Love, was conceived when I was commuting sixty miles to work each day. I wanted to tell the story of a pioneer girl coming to Kansas and the faith that sustained her as she adjusted to a new life. When the book was completed, I tucked it away. I had absolutely no idea how publication of a book occurred and had given no thought to the concept. However, through a co-worker, I was directed to Tracie Peterson who, at that time, worked down the hall from me. Having never met Tracie, I was totally unaware of her writing career, but God intervened. The rest is, as they say, history...

With a graciousness that continues to amaze me, Tracie agreed to read my story, directed me to a publisher, and gave me information on a Christian writers conference. Since that first encounter many years ago, I have been blessed with the publication of numerous books, novellas and a juvenile fiction book. Joyously, Tracie and I had the opportunity to develop a blessed friendship. In fact, we have co-authored several series together, including The Bells of Lowell, the Lights of Lowell and The Broadmoor Legacy. In addition, I have continued to write several solo series.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

CFBA: When All My Dreams Come True by Janelle Mowery

Song Stuck on the Brain: One Fine Day by The Chiffons. I don't know where I picked this up, but I've been singing it ALL day long. Good song though.

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

When All My Dreams Come True
Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2011)


Janelle Mowery


"I'll be dead in a minute. Maybe less." Great opening lines like that hold a lot of promise for the coming story. Janelle Mowery didn't disapoint, either. She held up that promise and delivered an action packed, sweet romance with a strong message. Just when you think you can take a breath and relax someone's getting shot again. I really enjoyed Bobbie and Jace's story and I look forward to reading book two in the Colorado Runaway Series when it releases. If you enjoy western romances with spunky, independent females, this is a great choice.


Bobbie McIntyre dreams of running a ranch of her own. Raised without a mother and having spent most of her time around men, she knows more about wrangling than acting like a lady. The friendship of her new employer awakens a desire to learn more about presenting her feminine side, but ranch life keeps getting in the way.

Ranch owner Jace Kincaid figures the Lord is testing his faith when a female wrangler shows up looking for work. Bobbie has an uncanny way of getting under his skin, though, and he’s surprised when she finds a home next to his heart. But when his cattle begin to go missing and his wranglers are in danger from some low-down cattle thief, can Jace trust God, even if it may mean giving up on his dreams?

An adventurous novel of faith, hope, and love in the Wild West.

If you would like to read the first chapter of When All My Dreams Come True, go HERE.


Beginning in 1998, Janelle Mowery coordinated and wrote for the Children’s Ministry of a Christian website called The Invisible Connection. When the holder of that site discontinued the ministry and website in the year 2000, she began writing inspirational fiction romance novels.

Janelle became a member of American Christian Fiction Writers in the year 2002 and is an active member and leader in one of their critique groups, which has provided many opportunities for growth and development. In 2003, she entered her first novel in the Noble Theme contest and was named one of the top ten finalists in the historical category. In 2004, she had a short story titled ‘A Fair Chance’ published in the e-magazine, Romancing the Christian Heart. In 2005, her third novel, entered in the San Gabriel Writers’ League ‘Writing Smarter’ Contest, won first place. Also, Janelle’s fifth novel made it to the top ten finalists in the Noble Theme contest.

In 2006, she signed her first contract with Barbour Publishing in their Heartsong Presents Mysteries line. The novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Elizabeth Ludwig, released in spring of 2008. The second and third mysteries of the series, Died in the Wool and A Black Die Affair, is set for release in 2011.

Janelle has signed with Harvest House for a historical series set in Colorado. Release of the first book is set for early 2011. She has also signed with Summerside Press. Her novel, Love Finds You in Silver City, Idaho, released in October 2010.

Janelle has been married twenty-one years and is the mother of two sons. She is a member of Sandy Point Bible Church and serves as Treasurer. She also assists in the church’s teen program.