Saturday, August 31, 2013

2013 Cruisin’ Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge

January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013

Welcome to the third annual Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge! I'm still loving the cozies and this is one of the few challenges I plan to continue hosting.

To find out exactly what a cozy mystery is, check out This site is dedicated to cozy mysteries and does a great job of defining them as well as giving a list of cozy mysteries. This challenge is NOT restricted to what is on their list, it's just to be used as a guideline in case you need some hints on what to read.

So, here are the rules...

1. Choose the level you wish to participate:
Level 1 - Snoop - Read at least 6 books - this is the level I'm picking
Level 2 - Investigator - Read 7-12 books
Level 3 - Super Sleuth - Read 13 or more books

2. The challenge runs from January 1, 2013 and ends December 31, 2013.

3. You don't have to choose your books in advance. If you do, you can change your list at any time during the year. Books can overlap with other challenges.

4. Books can be in any format - paper, audio, all counts!

5. You don't have to post a review, but I'm sure others would love to know about the books you are reading and may even want to add it to their reading lists.

NOTE: If you don't have a blog and want to participate, that's fine. You don't have to have a blog, just post in the comments section as you finish books. If you belong to a site like Goodreads and review the books there, that's fine too. Just leave us the link.

6. Take the button above, put it on your blog and post about the challenge. Then add your name to Mr. Linky below. Just click here. Please use the link of your challenge post, not the link to your home page.

7. I'm going to have one link for signing up, one link for completed reviews and one link for your wrap up posts. I won't be having a monthly link, just one for all reviews read for this challenge.

I'm not going to be using the Cruisin' thru the Cozies blog I started last year. I'm going to keep it simple with everything at this blog. Too many blogs was getting confusing :)

This reading challenge is hosted by Socrates’ Book Review Blog. For more information and to sign-up, please see this post.

1 Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M C Beaton - 7/10/13
2 Plum Pudding Murder by Joanna Fluke (Audio) - 7/12/13
3 Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke (Audio) - 7/25/13
4 Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor by M C Beaton - 8/9/13
5 A Spoonful of Poison (Agatha Raisin, #19) by M C Beaton (Audio)- 8/29/13

M.C. Beaton Cozy Mystery Challenge

M.C. Beaton Cozy Mystery Challenge

M.C. Beaton Cozy Mystery Challenge (Perpetual)
(I'm Starting January 1, 2013 - ??????)

Here are the challenge details:

1. This is a perpetual challenge, which means there is no end date. You will finish the challenge whenever you finish both series! Take as much time as you need.

2. The challenge will begin on December 9, 2012. You can join the challenge at any time, whether you haven't yet started either series or are already halfway through.

3. This challenge can cross-over to your other reading challenges.

4. You do not need a blog to participate! If you are not a blogger, you can post your reviews at Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing and link them up here.

5. All formats of books are acceptable: Bound copies, e-books, and audiobooks (as long as they are unabridged).

6. There will be a link-up for your reviews, which will be posted on THIS page.

7. There will be a link for your challenge progress at the end of each year (starting in 2013).

8. Create a sign-up post and link back to this post. Sign up with Mister Linky below! Be sure to use the direct url to your sign-up post and not the url to your blog.

9. Grab the challenge button and post it in your sidebar.

This challenge will include both the Agatha Raisin series and the Hamish Macbeth series. Because there are so many books, I have decided to make this a Perpetual Reading Challenge, which means that there is no ending date! Take as much time as you need to finish both series!

The books in the Agatha Raisin series are:
1. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death
2. Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet
3. Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
4. Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley
5. Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage
6. Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist
7. Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death
8. Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham
9. Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden
10. Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam
11. Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell
12. Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came
13. Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate
14. Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House
15. Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance
16. Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon
17. Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor - 8/9/13
18. Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye - 7/10/13
19. Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison - 8/29/13
20. Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride
21. Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body
22. Agatha Raisin: As The Pig Turns
23. Agatha Raisin: Hiss and Hers
And for the enthusiast: The Agatha Raisin Companion

The books in the Hamish Macbeth series are:
1. Death of a Gossip
2. Death of a Cad
3. Death of an Outsider
4. Death of a Perfect Wife
5. Death of a Hussy
6. Death of a Snob
7. Death of a Prankster
8. Death of a Glutton
9. Death of a Travelling Man
10. Death of a Charming Man
11. Death of a Nag
12. Death of a Macho Man
13. Death of a Dentist
14. Death of a Scriptwriter
15. Death of an Addict
16. A Highland Christmas
17. Death of a Dustman
18. Death of a Celebrity
19. Death of a Village
20. Death of a Poison Pen
21. Death of a Bore
22. Death of a Dreamer
23. Death of a Maid
24. Death of a Gentle Lady
25. Death of a Witch
26. Death of a Valentine
27. Death of a Sweep
28. Death of a Kingfisher

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cover Reveal: Forty Nights by Stephanie Parent

Forty Nights (Neima's Ark #2)
Release Date: September 2013
Cover Designed by: 
Najla Qamber Designs

Summary from Goodreads:
Neima, her family, and her grandfather Noah have found themselves trapped aboard an ark as a great flood destroys all life in the world. As their time aboard the ark lengthens, food begins to run out, wild animals grow restless, and family tensions become as much of a threat as the flood outside. In the second and final installment of Neima’s Ark, the stakes are higher, the conflicts are greater, and Neima finds herself facing a choice as impossible as the destruction all around her.

Forty Nights is a continuation of the story begun in Forty Days, and it’s recommended that you read Forty Days first for the best experience. Forty Nights does, however, contain a character guide to refresh readers’ memories. The Neima’s Ark series is a historical, feminist reimagining of the story of Noah’s Ark rather than a religiously oriented one, and the novels are best suited for readers who are comfortable with new interpretations of biblical stories.

Book One:
(Linked to Goodreads)
Forty Days is currently FREE!  Get your copy!
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About the Author
Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major. She moved to Los Angeles because of Francesca Lia Block's WEETZIE BAT books, which might give you some idea of how much books mean to her. She also loves dogs, books about dogs, and sugary coffee drinks both hot and cold.

***Author Links***
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Promo Blitz : John Smith by Roland Hughes

John Smith - PROMO Blitz
By Roland Hughes

Dystopian / Sy Fy
Date Published: 5/3/2013

What if the Mayans got the start of the end correct because they had survived it once before? What if our written history was just as accurate as the old tale about three blind men describing an elephant? What if classic science fiction writing and television shows each got a piece of it correct, would you know which ones? If your eyes can only see a tiny portion of a collage do you know it is a collage?

Fans of Babylon 5, Star Trek TNG, Battle Star Galactica (the new one) and classic science fiction writing will enjoy the bountiful Easter Egg hunt contained within. When you were a child you learned to connect paper clips or thread beads together to make a necklace. Sit back and watch the beads you’ve had all your life form the picture you could not see. Consider for one second the possibility of the story, then hang onto your mind with both hands while you take the ride.

Roland Hughes

Author Bio:

Roland Hughes is the president of Logikal Solutions, a business applications consulting firm specializing in VMS platforms. Hughes serves as a lead consultant with over two decades of experience using computers and operating systems originally created by Digital Equipment Corporation (now owned by Hewlett-Packard).

With a degree in Computer Information Systems, the author's experience is focused on OpenVMS systems across a variety of diverse industries including heavy equipment manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, stock exchanges, tax accounting, and hardware value-added resellers, to name a few. Working throughout these industries has strengthened the author's unique skill set and given him a broad perspective on the role and value of OpenVMS in industry.

Mr. Hughes' technical skill sets include the following tools that enable him to master and improve OpenVMS applications: DEC/VAXC, DEC/VAX C++, DEC BASIC, DCL, ACMS, MQ Series, DEC COBOL, RDB, POWERHOUSE, SQL, CMS/MMS, Oracle 8i, FORTRAN, FMS, and Java, among others. Being fluent in so many technical languages enables Hughes to share his knowledge more easily with other programmers. 

To read Roland's non-fiction books, please visit

To read Roland's blog, please visit

This Promo is brought to you by Reading Addiction Blog Tours

Reading Addiction Blog Tours

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Blitz/Giveaway : Aberrant (Aberrant ) by Ruth Silver

Aberrant (Aberrant )
Release Date: 04/17/13

Summary from Goodreads:
In the
future Dystopian society of Cabal, the government instills equality for all and
offers its citizens the perfect system. There is food, shelter and jobs for
everyone. The one requirement is to follow the rules without question,
including the government's match in marriage and "The Day of the Chosen",
a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children as natural means
hasn't existed in generations. Following her eighteenth birthday, Olivia Parker
accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend, Joshua Warren, and
is eager to start her work assignment and new life when it all comes abruptly
to an end as she's arrested and thrown in prison. The only crime committed, her
existence. Olivia is unlike the rest of the world born not from "The Day
of the Chosen." The truth haunts the government and puts her life in grave
danger as one simple fact would destroy the perfect system.

With Joshua's help, Olivia breaks free of prison and is forced on the run.
Together they set out to find the promised rebel town in search of a new home
and new life together. Their situation seems less than promising as they reach
the town of Haven. New rules and customs must be adhered to in order to stay.
Leaving would mean most certain death in the large expanse of the Gravelands.
Time is running out as the government mounts an attack to destroy Olivia and
bury her secret with her. Thrown into a world unlike their own, they must
quickly adapt to survive.

Available from:
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Excerpt 1:

...I sighed softly and did something I'd only read about in forbidden novels. I leant in, brushing my lips against his. The kiss was soft and chaste. It lasted no more than a mere second before I pulled back.
"What was that, Olive?" He gave me a horrified look and all I could feel was my stomach somersault. I knew romance and love weren't ever spoken of in Genesis. There was no need when the government knew who was perfect for one another, and children were won by lottery and conceived in a lab. Intimate acts were considered unnecessary.
"I read about it in a book," I whispered, afraid I'd done it all wrong. "It was a kiss," I breathed, chewing on my bottom lip nervously. I’d never kissed anyone before and worried he thought it was terrible. I’d never seen two people share a kiss, I didn’t quite know what it was supposed to look like, but I thought I’d done it right after reading about it. My hand reached out, grabbing his arm. "Please don't be mad at me." I breathed. "You have to swear you won't tell anyone!" Joshua hesitated for only an instant before he leaned in, taking another taste from my lips trying again. The second kiss was softer and satisfied both of our curiosities. My heart raced and my skin warmed to his touch. "I thought today was going to turn out so much worse," I confessed.
Joshua laughed as he pulled back slightly, staring at me. His eyes had darkened a deeper richer shade of blue. I'd never seen his eyes change colors before. His fingers moved to tickle my stomach with a grin. "Worse? Really? You're not happy you married me? You're just relieved it wasn't someone worse?"
"No!" I shrieked, "That's not what I meant!" I tried to catch my breath, but he hardly gave me a second more than necessary. I pulled from his ticklish grasp, jumped from the couch and ran across the room in a fit of laughter. He quickly followed, jumping over the sofa as he was just inches from me. He was close now, smiling and trailing behind me as I ran toward the bedroom. It was probably the worst place I could go, trapped between Joshua and a mattress. I felt him tackle me down onto the plush bed, his hands skimmed my stomach but he was no longer tickling me. The laughter still hadn't subsided.
"Breathe," Joshua said, staring intently at me.
"Trying," I gasped between fits of laughter. Lying down helped settle the feeling of my racing heart, and after a moment I shifted along the mattress, reaching out to him. "I want to tell you a story," I insisted as my fingers found his cheek. "One I read in a book." I wanted him to learn the things I had about love and romance. I couldn't help but feel my body stir with a strange fire and warmth as he loomed just above me. Staring up at him I froze on the mattress hearing the latch click on the front door. I knew it had been locked.

About the Author

Ruth Silver first began writing poetry as a teenager and reading heaps of fan fiction in her free time. She has written under three unique pseudo names and penned well over a hundred stories.

She attended Northern Illinois University in 2001 and graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication. While in college she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, "Deuces are Wild", which she self-published in 2004. Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.

Her love of writing, led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia. Silver enjoys reading YA novels and sharing her favorite books with other readers. She runs her own book blog and also enjoys photography and traveling.

Her favorite YA genre is a mix of Dystopian & Fantasy which is evident in the upcoming release of her latest book, Aberrant. Slated for release April 2013 by Lazy Day Publishing, it is the first in a trilogy.
***Author Links***
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1 signed paperback of Aberrant (US only)
3 scrabble tile necklace charms & signed
bookmark (INT)
3 bottlecap keychains & signed bookmark (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz
Organized by:

Book Promo : Shattered: Finding Hope and Healing Through the Losses of Life by Rita A Schulte

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:

Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***


 Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is the host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This radio programs. Her show airs on several radio stations as well as the Internet. Rita writes for numerous publications and blogs. She resides in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


Shattered explores how unidentified or unresolved loss impacts every area of life, especially our relationship with God. The long-range impact of these losses is often obscured, buried beneath the conscious surface in an attempt to avoid pain. This book calls the reader to “notice” the losses of life, and fight the battle to reclaim and reinvest our hearts after loss through faith-based strategies.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.11

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0891123822

ISBN-13: 978-0891123828


The Necessity

of Brokenness

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

—Tina Turner

I have come to bind up the brokenhearted.


The Winds of Change

It was a rainy Virginia day, warm enough to sit outside with a cup of tea but  too dark and dreary to really enjoy it. Just the kind of day that surrounds  one in melancholy. And that morning I had a reason to be sad. My faithful  companion—my dog Spanky—had died the week before. Wait . . . Am I really going to open a book about grief and loss by talking about my dog? I am. In the pages that follow, I will share more of my story, about the seasons of heartbreaking loss that led me to write this book. But loss comes in many forms, and that morning on the porch, my sadness was about more than the loss of a pet. Spanky’s death represented the loss of an era, a snapshot of my life that I would never fully reclaim.

Sometimes we don’t notice how loss affects our hearts. It can happen slowly; yet before we realize it, the effects of our grief have become catastrophic and the death of our hearts inevitable. Loss throws us offbalance, sometimes causing us to lose our way. If too much time goes by before we repair the distance between what we know intellectually about our grief and what we feel deep within our souls, we’ll find that along the journey we will have sacrificed something precious in order to protect ourselves from pain. That something is our heart.

The closing of one chapter of life gives way to the birth of another, offering us hope and promise—but not without cost and certainly not without a glance backward and a twinge of sorrow. Which brings me back to Spanky.

We brought Spanky home as a puppy, a gift to our son on his seventh birthday to comfort him after the death of his grandmother. Michael is grown now, a young man beginning his own journey. Our home is quiet, void of the cacophony of children’s voices and the sense of security provided by my parents’ presence. Another twinge of sadness. There was a time not so long ago when my soul was in mortal agony over the very thought of losing them. Where did the years go, and how could the pages of my life turn so swiftly?

Telling the Story

Everyone loves a good story. Stories are full of adventure, passion, love, and mystery. But the stories of grief and suffering aren’t usually happy, and they are not always easy to tell. So we don’t. We bottle them up, push them down, and close up shop. And our pain sits, sometimes for decades. We don’t pull it out or look at it, and so we miss the opportunity to really understand the event or series of events that were responsible for breaking our hearts.

Yet we must tell the story to walk the healing path. That is why I wrote this book—to help you understand your own story where loss and grief have affected your journey and, more importantly, to show you where those losses will help you find and connect with the heart of God. The choices you make will be difficult ones, but if you stay the course, freedom is possible.

How do I know? Because I have walked a journey of loss myself that has spanned twenty years.

The first real tragedy in my life, the one event that broke my heart, started one morning when my children were still young. The day started as usual with my morning devotions. I opened my Bible randomly, as busy moms are prone to do, and I read John 11:25–26, where Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” For some reason, I kept thinking about it all day.

The phone rang late that night—always a bad sign. My dad said something was wrong with Mom; it seemed like she had had a heartattack. At the hospital, the doctors said it was a massive seizure brought on by a malignant brain tumor; she wouldn’t live through the night. My mother had been battling cancer for four years at that point. There was nothing else they could do. So we prayed.

My mom didn’t die that night in the hospital. God granted us two months with her, calling her home on my son’s birthday. Holding her in my arms as she lay dying felt like someone was pouring boiling acid over my soul. Tragic events do that. Try as we may to come up for air, we often find ourselves drowning in fear and overwhelming sorrow, questioning everything we believe.

That verse in John 11 haunted me, gnawing at my soul and pushing me to find answers. Did I really trust that “he who believes in me will never see death” (John 8:51)? I thought I knew the answer—but this loss brought me to a crisis of belief, hammering me to the core of my faith.

Over the next twelve years, the losses piled up. My children suffered a near-fatal parasail accident. Close friends and family died—eight in just one painful year. My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. And then my dad was diagnosed with bone cancer—and that was when the bottom dropped out.

My parents were a secure and comforting presence in my life. After my mom’s death, my dad became an idol. And God will have no idols in our lives. He would use my loss to begin a process that would ultimately shape and redirect my life, but not without even greater suffering.

Caring for my dad in our home for two years was difficult—not because he was difficult, but because so much happened to him. I couldn’t ever leave him alone. His illness consumed my life, and as I watched him stripped of what he once was, it broke my heart. My world became very narrow and isolated. So many dear friends and relatives I loved were dying, and in the process I was losing heart.

The Place of Brokenness

If we are honest, we know that suffering and sorrow are inevitable parts of life. Loved ones die. Dreams crumble. We lose things that were once important to us. The happily-ever-after life we dreamed of is often a far cry from the reality we live.

How we respond to loss and change determines what happens to our hearts. It also determines if we live—really live—the life that Christ has called us to. If I am honest, I will admit I let a lot of living go by trying to make life work, struggling to figure out, make sense of, and answer all the questions. Perhaps loss was a necessary part of my journey; it certainly caused me to see suffering as a necessary ingredient in my life, whether

I had all the answers or not.

As I mentioned, God will have no idols in my life. The place I tried to avoid—the place of suffering—was the very place he led me to so that he could evidence himself right in the midst of it all.

Brokenness must have its way in each of our lives in order to move us from death to life. Every spring, tree leaves come to life as tiny new shoots; they grow and flourish, showing us signs of life and hope, only to die each fall. Life gives way to death, but from death something wondrous occurs. The leaves produce a majestic display of bold and resplendent color. They become most vibrant as they are dying.

Jesus makes a similar analogy in the Gospel of John when he says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24; italics mine). This is the power of rebirth through the process of death and dying. Jesus, the immortal seed of the Father, chose to take on mortality. His glory, hidden and buried beneath the earth, like the seed, breaks forth from the dust of death to display a bold and resplendent life.

Shall we expect the Master to work any differently in our own lives?

While most of us won’t be fighting for a place in the suffering line, I hope there is comfort in knowing we can move through this journey of brokenness to find healing and wholeness. We need only to change our perspective on loss and suffering. If we are willing to allow them to become our tutors, they can and will produce in us that same bold and resplendent life that Jesus is calling us to. If we have the eyes to see, we will come to know and understand that brokenness purifies our vision and chisels away all that keeps us from fully knowing the heart of God.

Brokenness is not only a necessary process in the life of the believer—it is a gift. I bet that’s not an easy line to swallow, as you read this book ravaged by the effects of loss. I certainly didn’t accept it easily. Early in my Christian walk, surrounded by pain, the idea that God was offering me gifts through my suffering made me angry. Maybe there was something wrong with me, I reasoned, because I didn’t have enough faith to want to walk through a towering inferno with a smile on my face and a song of praise in my heart.

But somewhere along the journey of loss, I began to consider that if God was good, he was not out to break me. Instead, he was out to break my confidence in all the ways I was trying to make my life work apart from him. Loss was simply the vehicle he used to get my attention.

It was then that I began to see suffering and pain in a new light. I could accept this process of brokenness as a gift from my heavenly Father, much like adults who grow to appreciate the discipline they received as children from their parents. Discipline is not pleasant at the time it’s received, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, but it is necessary in the molding and shaping of character, producing righteousness in all who are trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

If you and I want to recover from the losses of life, we must catch a vision for the greater role that we were designed to play and see a bigger purpose beyond ourselves and our losses. In other words, we must slowly begin to see with eternal eyes that which is so difficult to see when loss first assaults our hearts—the story isn’t finished yet. This is a journey, not a race.

How to Use This Book

In many ways, the chapters in this book have written themselves, as the pages of my own life and the stories of others around me have unfolded. To live again, really live, we all had to find the courage to reinvest our hearts into what stirs our passions. The heart of that passion flows from our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is not a traditional book on grief. Our time together will focus on the heart and the phases it must traverse through this journey. We won’t explore the process of dying, nor will we formally address the traditional stages of grief. I won’t list tasks the griever must accomplish to achieve closure or provide a nice, neat formula for recovery. That’s all important information, but “stages” can suggest a sequential order to our movement through life and loss that for many is not experientially true.

The heart can’t always follow rules, so instead many find themselves revisiting these stages or experiencing them in a random order. My own journey with loss has shown me that still, many years later, I have not moved beyond the struggle with some of these feelings. In fact, there are some days I actually feel as if I am falling backward. I don’t understand the “whys” of some of the things that have happened, and some days

I still find it hard to accept them. But through the years, the stages of grief have helped guide me toward the path of acceptance. Anger has thankfully given way to forgiveness, and depression is now an infrequent guest. Sadness, however, still remains, forever standing guard at the doorway of my soul and reminding me that to love deeply always requires something of the heart.

But in order to experience healing, we must be willing to pass through these stages of grief. We must be careful that our work doesn’t become intellectual, mechanical, or task-driven. This is a very real possibility if we are not willing to examine what lies beneath—how loss affects our hearts.

Being sensible or practical about loss will not accomplish this. Attending to the matters of the heart is elusive and abstract, sometimes barely visible even to the griever. Therefore, somewhere along this journey we must develop an awareness of the heart by learning to notice it. We must shift our focus from being rational and intellectual about our losses to practices that will sustain long-term healing. For such healing to be accomplished, we must be willing to crack open the hard shell we have built around our hearts, explore our brokenness, and expose our wounds. Only after that difficult work is complete can we allow Christ to revive our hearts through his healing power. Just as the sculptor carefully chisels through layers and layers of stone to uncover a precious form, so the griever must lend careful time and attention to rediscover the music of the heart buried under the weight of grief.

Our work will not be without task or toil. In the following chapters, we will attempt to find strength and meaning in the midst of our pain.

Part One of the book will help you identify your losses, consider their affect on your heart, look at the defenses you’ve built to protect yourself from pain, and evaluate your concept of God. Part Two will help you fight the battle to reclaim your heart by exploring the healing tasks necessary to move forward: dealing with anger and unfinished business and learning how to surrender. Part Three will help you to rekindle the desires of your heart and reinvest them into the grander redemptive story God is telling.

You will find various exercises throughout the book to help you uncover and process your losses so that through thought, prayer, and meditation you can press into the heart of the Savior.

Be intentional and deliberate with your work, and set aside a time each day to be alone with God, for it will be in those intimate moments that the real healing work of grief will be accomplished.

Cover Reveal : The Darkest Joy by Marata Eros


Title: The Darkest Joy

Author: Marata Eros

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Expected release: February 18, 2014

Genre: Dark Romantic Suspense

Age Group: New Adult

A sexy and poignant new adult novel from New York Times bestseller Marata Eros, about two lost souls who find each other in the wake of tragedy, only to learn that love may not be enough to heal the wounds of a dark and tortured past...

Twenty year-old Brooke Starr has escaped the aftermath of a brutal tragedy by abandoning her music studies and moving north to take a summer position as a part-time deck hand on a deep-sea fishing boat. When her survivor’s guilt becomes unbearable, Brooke realizes there's only one thing she can do to finally erase the pain.

Deep sea fisherman, Chance Taylor, has just wrapped his guitar set at the local saloon when he sees the silhouette of a young woman in repose, the full moon highlighting her shadow as she plummets from a pier too high for diving... into water too cold to survive. Without thinking, he plunges in after her, saving Brooke from drowning.

As Chance works to save her from her own emotional fragility, Brooke finally begins to learn how to save herself. But when their chemistry begins to consume them, Brooke withdraws. She’s determined to be the master of her own destiny... until the past catches up with her in a cataclysmic plan so dark, so final... it threatens their love and their very lives.
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About the Author

Marata Eros is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of dark, romantic new adult novels, including A Terrible Love and its companion novel A Brutal Tenderness. A passionate writer who loves interacting with her readers, Marata lives in South Dakota with her husband.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Blast: DiSemblance by Shanae Branham




Jason Tanner’s life has always been different from the ordinary citizen’s. It started when he was an infant and his parents were only teenagers. A computer science prodigy, Lloyd attended MIT but left a pariah in the eyes of the school’s dean—but a computer physics genius in the eyes of his primary investor. Then his theories and ideas created a holographic machine and their world shrunk as contact with the outside world became less and less frequent. A computer prodigy now himself, Jason is about to learn that the world never waits for you if you have the ability to change it: it will come for you.

Detective Bruce Durante has been handed the case of the Comfort Killer, a serial killer so named because he appears to abduct terminally ill patients before returning their corpses to their families in refrigerated coffins. When he picks up the trail, it leads straight to the home of Lloyd Tanner.

Jason has been living life through the world of Lloyd’s invention and wishing he could carry on a relationship with Boston, the beautiful girl next door. When his father is murdered and framed as the Comfort Killer, he is brought back to reality in a hurry. He is forced to destroy all of the planted evidence—and finds he is being targeted as the killer’s new fall guy. But the secrets of his father’s invention run deep and Jason, his brother Isaac,Boston, the Comfort Killer, and Detective Durante hurtle towards one another on a deadly collision course that leaves everyone’s life hanging in the balance.

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Author Shanae Branham

I am a professional writer with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a minor in grammar. I have also attended several years of classes and workshops in screenplay writing at the Los Angeles Screenplay writer’s Expo.

I love suspense thrillers and am a master at plot and character development. I enjoy stories with happy endings. I promise all my readers that when they put one of my books down or walk away from one of my movies, they will be enthused with excitement and joy. This does not mean there will not be some sad parts, because you have to feel the bitter in order to understand the sweet. In fact, I have struggled with Dyslexia my whole life, so you can imagine how overjoyed I was when DiSemblance won a Silver metal in the fantasy/science fiction category at the eLit awards in 2012.


Website * Twitter * Facebook


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BookBlast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 9/13/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.


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First Chapter Reveal/Book Spotlight : Seeds of Beauty: Defining Your Beauty from the Inside Out by Lakeysha-Marie Green

The Burning Ship

On the journey to becoming our better selves, there is always a risk. In essence we are leaving behind the only way we have ever known, however self-destructive it may be. The best analogy I could use here is a burning ship.

Negative thoughts have a way of gaining momentum like a fire stoked by a fiercely moving wind until they quickly surround us with smoke so thick it is hard for us to see through the haze. No matter how much others love us, how many admire us, or how successful our lives may be, we find it harder and harder to breathe.

Trapped on the burning ship that is our inner self, the only way to escape the engulfment is to jump into the water waiting below. The choice to jump can stem from a variety of reasons. It could be a life-changing illness, a divorce from an unhappy marriage, or simply waking up to the fact that we want more for ourselves. Tentatively, we cross the deck and are ready to take the leap. Then, screaming from the abyss of our souls, we take the leap off the ship and land safely into the cool, refreshing waters.

Relieved, we feel the intense sensation of a new start, a new beginning. Happily we laugh as ripples of freedom break through the surface of the water with our every movement. And then the inevitable happens.

We look to the shore and suddenly realize how far away it is. Can we swim that far?

Panic sets in.

We look back at the burning ship and begin to desperately rationalize. Maybe if we splash water on the deck, the flames will retreat and it won’t be so bad. Sure, the boat isn’t in the best condition, but maybe, just maybe, despite all the holes, it will still make it to shore.

Change can bring a sense of vulnerability to anyone experiencing it. It can be very frightening to step out into new waters. Instinctively, we retreat to what makes us feel safe and secure even if it’s a burning ship. Then without realizing it we, like the burning ship, sink back into the same negative patterns of the past. We try to reassure ourselves that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway, but in truth we never know because we were too scared to venture beyond our fear.

As you work to better yourself both internally and externally, you may feel the fear that often accompanies change. Like many before you, you will see the distance to the shore and look back to the burning ship. This is a natural reaction that does not indicate weakness.

But instead of returning, you have to make the conscious decision to swim away from the burning ship. With each stroke you will fight the currents of doubt, and each kick will strengthen you and propel you toward your goal. You will tire as everyone inevitably does. But instead of letting yourself sink into the depths of naysayers, float on your back and rest for a bit. Let the waves of hope and the belief in yourself carry you toward shore. And when you are rested and feel strong again, roll over and start to swim again, and don’t stop the journey until you reach the shore.

There have been many burning ships in my life from which I have been forced to jump—bad relationships, dead-end jobs, and self-destructive behavior, to name an attractive few.

And because I have the tendency to be stubborn, I have experienced the pain of repeat voyages. How did I learn to stop setting my ships on fire? I began to look for the warning signs. There is always smoke before the flames. When you smell the smoke, which can appear in the form of self-destructive thoughts, insecurities, or pressures to conform to someone else’s ideals, stop what you are doing and look to see where the smoke is coming from.

Is this self-induced? Are the people with whom you associate healthy for your well-being? Has someone in the past told you that you weren’t good enough, and though buried in the years of your past, the heat of it still burns subconsciously?

If you follow the smoke, you will find the source of your fire. And once you locate it, you possess the ability to squelch it before it turns into a rampant blaze. In doing so you will not only gain insight about yourself, you will also strengthen yourself for the future…

What’s the real secret to radiant beauty? It may come as no surprise that how we look on the outside is directly connected to the beauty deep inside us. What’s more, when we are burdened with the weight of low self-esteem, it’s all-too-visible in our physical appearance. That’s why a truly successful makeover begins by reconnecting with who we are at our very core—long before the swipe of the credit card or snip of the shears.

Now, fashion stylist Lakeysha-Marie Green has written a groundbreaking new guide to developing show-stopping beauty from the inside out. Inspirational and easy to use, The Seeds of Beauty seamlessly joins the key elements of inner beauty with savvy, expert style advice on making the most of your own physical attributes. Addressing both of these all-important parts of true beauty, this gorgeous resource comes together in one illuminating journey that looks as fabulous as it feels. In Part One, “Beauty Within,” you’ll learn to build a foundation of self-love, exploring subjects such as acknowledging your value, developing resilience and finding the courage to move forward. Part Two, “Beauty Reflected,” offers you practical advice on wardrobe fundamentals to bring out your beauty and create a winning style, such as working with your body type, selecting your best colors, choosing a swimsuit, and even building a shoe wardrobe. Unlike other fashion and beauty makeover books on the market, The Seeds of Beauty challenges you to discover just why you are uniquely beautiful on the inside. Once you have embraced your own brand of beauty, you’ll be truly motivated to master the building blocks to accentuate your appearance—and glow with your own exquisite beauty from the inside out.


Author Lakeysha-Marie Green is no stranger to tackling style dilemmas. A fashion stylist and former women’s fit technologist, her extensive experience in the fashion industry taught her the importance of fit, fashion, and effortless style. Her penchant for creativity led to her work in editorial magazines, international film premieres, and advertising. Passionate about helping women to look their best, Lakeysha-Marie has contributed her style expertise on television and in print publications. Inspired by her own roller coaster ride to self-discovery, Lakeysha-Marie began writing to illustrate the potential for transformation that lies within us all. She holds a degree in fashion design & merchandising, with continued coursework in styling & photography from the London College of Fashion.

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Pump Up Your Book

Book Promo : Vanishing Act (Charm & Deceit series #2) by Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon

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:

Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

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


Veteran authors Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson have combined their considerable skills to create the action-packed historical romance series, Charm & Deceit, for Whitaker House.

Jennifer AlLee is the bestselling author of The Love of His Brother (2007) for Five Star Publishers, and for Abington Press: The Pastor's Wife (2010), The Mother Road (April 2012), and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (November 2012). She’s also published a number of short stories, devotions and plays. Jennifer is a passionate participant in her church’s drama ministry. She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Visit the author's website.

Lisa Karon Richardson has led a life of adventure — from serving as a missionary in the Seychelles and Gabon to returning to the U.S. to raise a family—and she imparts her stories with similarly action-packed plot lines. She’s the author of Impressed by Love (2012) for Barbour Publishing’s Colonial Courtships anthology, The Magistrate’s Folly, and Midnight Clear, part of a 2013 holiday anthology, also from Barbour. Lisa lives with her husband and children in Ohio.

Visit the author's website.


Pinkerton detective Carter Forbes returns in Book Two of the Charm & Deceit series. Set in Washington D. C. during the Civil War the action revolves around Juliet Button who does not believe in ghosts! She does believe in supporting her makeshift family of misfits. Having spent years as assistant to her illusionist uncle, Juliet possesses skills to make an audience believe the impossible and launches a career as “Miss Avila,” a medium. She wants nothing to do with agent Forbes who has the power to destroy the life she’s built. But when President Lincoln’s youngest son is kidnapped, and the first lady comes to her for help, she can’t refuse, even if it means facing Forbes, who knows far too much about her already.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Series: Charm & Deceit (Book 2)

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603749063

ISBN-13: 978-1603749060


May 6, 1862

Washington, D.C.

Juliet palmed the thin stack of note cards on the table and slid them up her sleeve. Her fingers trembled as they always did before a “show.” No matter. They’d be steady when it counted.

Grandmotherly Miss Clara smoothed Juliet’s pale skirts. “You’ve got a new sitter. A young fellow.”

“Do we know anything about him?”

“Artie’s checking now.”

Juliet pressed the heel of her hand against her stomach. The queasiness would pass, too.

“This is all I found. It was in the lining of his hat.” Miss Clara passed her a folded ticket stub for Ford’s Athenaeum and a battered-looking letter with countless creases.

Juliet accepted the offerings and opened the letter. No, not a letter. She raised an eyebrow and looked at Miss Clara. “This is a pass that allows the bearer to move through Union lines.”

Miss Clara glanced up from her examination of a tiny stain on Juliet’s hem and met her eyes.

“So, he’s doing war work?”

“Apparently important work. It’s signed by President Lincoln.”

Miss Clara took the paper from Juliet’s trembling fingers.

Why would anyone carry such a document in a place as obvious as a hatband? Though ostensibly he was in the heart of Union territory and it wouldn’t be required, the pass granted access anywhere. That meant he’d come from beyond Union lines, in rebel territory. But, in rebel territory, who would want such a pass on him? Juliet sat down at the kitchen table. Something about this man felt dangerous. The pass identified him as Carter Forbes. The name meant nothing to her, and yet something niggled at the back of her mind. She should know about him.

Artie clattered down the stairs, his brown hair disheveled as usual, and leaped over the last few steps, landing with a thump. “Nothing.”

“Did you try to cross-reference him?”

Artie tilted his head and scowled in response.

Juliet held up a hand. “I had to ask. It seems that I should know the name.” She rubbed the furrows from between her eyebrows. She hated blind readings; they were so tricky. “Did he say how he learned of my sittings?”

Artie shook his head. “I don’t think so. The Professor never said anything.”

The Professor entered at that moment. “They’re all ready for you.”

“Do you know anything about this Carter Forbes fellow?”

The question seemed to pain the old gentleman, and Juliet winced at her own callousness. The Professor used to draw enormous crowds through the power of his observations about people; but now, his eyesight was shrouded by milky white cataracts, which meant he noticed very little.

“He came to the front door and asked if he could attend today’s sitting. He spoke well, and when I took his hat, I noted it was of fine felt. I asked if he had been referred by one of your clients, and he said no. He didn’t seem to want to offer any further information.”

It wasn’t an unusual reaction. Many new clients were hesitant and wanted her to prove her skills by astonishing them with information about themselves.

Juliet inhaled and held the breath for a long moment before letting it out in a rush. She could do this. She had to do this. If she turned away clients, it wouldn’t be long before she and her makeshift family were turned out of their home. She just couldn’t go back to the vaudeville circuit. Not if she was to have any hope of keeping them all together. One day, she would find a better way to support them. But for now, well, she had no choice.


Carter covertly examined his companions around the smooth oak table: a half dozen well-dressed ladies, most of them older than he, all but one of whom were in mourning; and a tall, rickety man with a snowy beard that reached his waist. The individuals in the group appeared to have at least a nodding acquaintance with one another, and they sat in companionable silence as they waited for Miss Avila.

The peaceful hush proved to be too much for a twittery sort of elderly lady to Carter’s right. She wore a full dress of black bombazine that looked far too warm for the summer heat. Her hair was frizzled into the semblance of ringlets that wilted on either side of her cheeks. She leaned closer to him and smiled kindly. “I don’t think I’ve met you before. Is this your first visit to Miss Avila?”

One of the ladies sniffed at this breach of social etiquette, but the others looked interested and friendly, as if the mere fact of their gathering in this room conferred a special kind of privilege.

Squelching the desire to educate them on the certainty they were being duped, Carter pasted on a smile for the lady and nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Is she as impressive as they say?”

“More so, I think.” She beamed at him. “Miss Avila has such a way about her. She’s so mystical and otherworldly. I completely see why the spirits choose to seek her out.”

The bearded gentleman cleared his throat. “She’s not like some as you’ll find—them show-offs with their painted-up faces and tricks. She’s a good little gal, the kind my Emmeline would have taken under her wing. The kind I would have wanted for my boy.” His words choked off, and he blew his nose into a large handkerchief.

Carter wanted to pat him on the shoulder or offer some reassurance, but he couldn’t allow himself the liberty. The fellow was austere and proud in his grief. Any expression of pity would likely inflict further hurt. How could someone take advantage of these poor people?

The door opened, and a slip of a young woman entered. Her dark hair was pinned up in a neat chignon. She wore a simple cotton day dress with stripes of soft white and pale purple, unadorned except for a strip of lace edging the collar and running from the bodice to the belt line. The sleeves were certainly long, and roomy enough to hide all sorts of goodies. But he didn’t see any telltale bulges. He and the other gentleman stood at her entrance.

“I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting.” Her voice was well-modulated and cultured. There was a whiff of foreign climes beneath the excellent English, but Carter couldn’t quite place the accent.

She circled around the table to the only available seat. Carter had engineered matters so that she would be seated right beside him. Miss Avila lightly touched the elderly gentleman’s arm as she passed. “Mr. Greenfield, how are you today?”

If Carter didn’t know better, he would think she was genuinely concerned.

“Thank you for asking, my dear. I am much as usual.”

“You haven’t had bad news from the War Office about Ben, have you?”

Aha. She was fishing for information.

“No, I’ve had no word. Been at least four months since his last letter.” His voice cracked.

Miss Avila reached out and squeezed his hand. “We will pray for his safekeeping. But, in this case, no news is good news. Keep up your faith.”

She approached her seat but stopped in front of Carter. “You must be Mr. Forbes,” she said pleasantly.

“I am.”

“I am Miss Avila.” She smoothed her skirts as she lowered herself delicately into the chair. “Is there someone in particular you are hoping to reach today?”

“I thought you’d be able to tell me that, and all the mysteries of the world besides,” he shot back.

A sharp gasp came from the lady on Carter’s other side. The disapproval in the room radiated toward him in waves.

Miss Avila, however, maintained her calm. “I’m afraid I cannot read your mind. I suppose there are some who may be able to do so, but my gifts do not lie in that direction. If you wish to get the attention of those on the other side, it would be best for me to know whom to ask for.”

“My father, Jonathan Forbes,” Carter blurted out. Immediately, he regretted it. He didn’t want to sully Father’s memory with anything this woman might say about him. But another idea sprang to mind. “And my sister, Emily.” He smiled then, trying not to bare his teeth in the process. Just let her try to get out of this one.

Miss Avila had a knack for giving a person her full attention. When she turned her lovely dark eyes to her manservant and motioned for him to close the curtains, it was as though a lighthouse beacon had moved away from his soul.

As the room darkened, she leaned forward to light the single taper in the middle of the table. The manservant departed through a noticeably squeaky door. The candlelight flickered, casting grotesque shadows on the walls around them.

“We must now join hands.”

It took all of Carter’s self-control to keep from rolling his eyes. Of course, if they held hands, no one would be free to catch whoever might cavort about in the darkness beyond the edge of the candlelight to help the woman create her weird effects.

He took the hand she offered in his and held it tightly, to be certain she could not pull away. She made no attempt to do so. Her small, soft hand rested warmly in his, neither grasping nor trying to break free of his grip. Her eyes drifted closed.

Carter sat rigid, straining every sense to discover her means of trickery. Except for the occasional tiny pop from the candle, there was no sound in the room. The silence allowed the sounds outside to press inward—a city symphony of rumbling carriage wheels, clip-clopping hooves, and shouting street hawkers. Somewhere across the street, a piano played a popular ditty. The world was going on all around them, but, shut away in this dark and silent room, they were set apart.

At last, Miss Avila began to speak. She brought a message from the dead to each of the ladies in turn—words of enduring love, whether from a parent, husband, or child, that made them dab at their eyes with lace hankies. Finally, she asked for Catherine Greenfield.

The old fellow shifted, sitting taller. “Catherine? Catherine, are you there?”

“I’m here, Harlan.” Miss Avila now spoke with a slight Southern accent.

“My Catherine. I’ve longed to hear your voice again.”

“We talked before I left. You promised you wouldn’t grieve like this.”

“I know. But I’m just not sure how to get on without you. And now, Ben’s gone off, and…and I’m scared he won’t come back.”

“You must live on, Harlan. Ben’s children need a man about to help keep them in hand. Look to the living, my dear. Look to the living.”

Carter raised an eyebrow. That was not the message he’d expected.

Mr. Greenfield leaned toward the candle, his features taut with anxiety. “Are you telling me Ben is there with you?”

“No, dear.”

“You’re sure?”

“Harlan Greenfield, I think I’d know my own son.”

Tears glistened on the old fellow’s face. “Oh, thank God. Thank God.”

Miss Avila spoke again. “Catherine is gone. Is there an Emily Forbes there who will speak with me?”

Carter searched the woman’s face, but it gave away nothing. She waited patiently as the silence in the room again allowed the outside world to intrude.

At last, she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Forbes; the woman you seek is not on the other side.”

Carter clamped his lips together. She was cunning, he had to hand her that. He had counted on her revealing herself as a fraud by claiming to talk to Emily, who was very much alive and well.

He forced himself to continue the charade. “And my father?”

Once again, Miss Avila appeared to consult with an invisible host.

“He is there but unable to speak to me directly.”

Carter hid a sneer. “He suffered so much during his final illness. I want to make sure he is no longer in pain.”

“There is no illness or suffering in the other world. He says you should not worry about him.” Though she didn’t open her eyes, Miss Avila’s delicate brow furrowed emphatically. “Nor should you be concerned about your disagreement prior to his passing. It was a small matter, and you must not allow it to prey on your mind.”

Carter nearly let go of her hand. How could she possibly know about that?

Miss Avila’s frown deepened, and she shook her head a couple of times. Then her eyes popped open. “They are gone.”  She began to tremble from head to foot and slumped slightly, as if the contact with ghosts had sapped her strength.

She clapped her hands lightly, and the door opened again with another squeal. Carter was nearly convinced that was by design, for all the other appointments in the establishment were in perfect taste. Why would she abide a squeaky door, unless it was a deliberate flaw designed to reinforce the idea that the sitters were entirely alone—that no one else could have entered or exited?

Miss Avila bid her guests farewell, shaking their hands and giving each one a few personal words. She asked about family members and various ills. Took notice of a new bonnet and complimented a handsome necklace. The sitters seemed to brighten under her attention, as if she’d lit a lamp within them.

At last, Carter alone remained with her. He realized afresh how small she was; how her eyes, though dark, were bright and…kind. Once again, she surprised him, and he fumbled for words.

With practiced ease, she stepped in to save him from embarrassment. “Thank you for coming today, Mr. Forbes. I hope you found it enlightening.”

“To be honest, I had hoped for more.”

“Perhaps you are unaware that a sitter’s attitude can affect the ability of the spirits to communicate clearly. Tell me, did one of my clients refer you?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

She cocked her head prettily, waiting for an answer.

Carter decided it wouldn’t hurt to let her stew. He smiled back wolfishly but didn’t elaborate further.

Miss Avila stilled like a rabbit scenting a nearby predator.


Juliet didn’t dare move for fear she would give away her agitation. Mr. Forbes was even more than she’d bargained for. A tall man with neatly combed light brown hair and a well-groomed mustache of the same color, he was the sort who might be dismissed if one were fool enough not to notice the intelligence in his gray eyes and the muscular build beneath that stylish coat.

Juliet was no fool. She would not underestimate this man. He wasn’t the type to approach a medium. That meant he’d had a very definite purpose in seeking her out. If that purpose had anything to do with the work that had earned him a pass signed by President Lincoln, she could find her goose cooked.

On the other hand, it could very well have to do with his not-so-dearly-departed sister. As soon as he’d mentioned Emily, Juliet had made the connection. No wonder the name Carter Forbes was so familiar. But did he know of her acquaintance with his sister? At that moment, Juliet remembered something else Emily Forbes had mentioned about her older brother: He was a Pinkerton agent working for the government.

That certainly explained the pass. What it didn’t explain was what he wanted with her.

“I always like to get to know my new clients,” she finally said. “Would you care to join me for tea in the sitting room?”

His smile was thin-lipped. “I’d be delighted.”

Juliet led the way. “Please have a seat. I just need to speak to my housekeeper a moment.”

Once out of sight, she all but ran for the kitchen. Miss Clara and Professor Marvolo were seated at the table.

“All done, dear?” Miss Clara slid a tray of cookies toward her.

“Forbes is a Pinkerton and he wants something. I know it.”

Professor Marvolo turned his clouded gaze toward her. “Describe him.”

Juliet had spent years under the professor’s tutelage. As quickly as she could, she described everything the Pinkerton had said and done, in addition to his appearance. “I had a bad feeling about him from the beginning, so I kept the sitting very simple. No spirit writing. I didn’t want to do anything that he could seize upon.”

“Very wise.” The professor nodded over his fingertips, which he had pressed together as if in prayer. “He’s here on a personal matter.”

“Are you sure? How can you tell?”

“If this were an official investigation, he wouldn’t still be fooling around with tea and verbal sparring. Besides, the Pinkertons are all working for the war effort, in one way or another, and we don’t have a thing to do with that.”

“What should I do?”

“You have to go back in there and talk to him. Find out what he wants. This could be a good thing. Having a Pinkerton on our side might be beneficial.”

Miss Clara patted her arm. “I’ll bring in tea directly.”

Juliet clenched her hands into fists. She could do this. She had to do this. They were counting on her. And while she was not certain they would benefit from having a Pinkerton on their side, it would be a total disaster to have a Pinkerton as an enemy.

She returned to the sitting room. Once again, Mr. Forbes stood as she entered.

“I apologize for the delay. Tea will be brought directly.”

“That sounds good.” He sat as she did. “I’m curious, how long have you had this gift of being able to talk to spirits?”

She smiled. “Anyone can talk to spirits. They are the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us. The real trick is being able to hear them talk back.” She decided to press her luck. “Mr. Forbes, now I must ask you a question.”


“Why did you try to make me believe your sister was dead?”

He slid back in his chair. “I think you know the answer.”

“It was a test, then?”

He nodded. “You passed that one with ease.”

Juliet watched him warily. “That one? Was there another test?”

“Oh, yes,” he said smugly. “My father didn’t die of a lingering illness. He was murdered.”

Now Juliet settled back in her seat. “Perhaps you should think over the conversation again. I merely said that there was no illness on the other side, and that he said not to worry about him.”

Artie entered, carrying a tray of tea things.

Alarmed, Juliet sat forward again. She didn’t want him anywhere near this man. “Artie?”

“Miss Clara asked me to bring this to you.” With his back to the agent, he gave her a broad wink.

Juliet refrained from making a face at him.

“And who is this strapping young lad?” Mr. Forbes asked in a too jovial voice.

“This is my son,” Juliet said evenly. “Artie, make your bows.”

Forbes looked from her to Artie and back again.

Juliet answered the unasked question. “He is adopted.”

“I see. It must be difficult, supporting such a large house, as well as a family.”

Juliet felt as if a hand had tightened around her windpipe. “Artie, go on back to the kitchen and help Miss Clara.”  Her eyes warned him not to argue.

When he was gone, Mr. Forbes stood. “Miss Avila, I grow tired of sparring with you. We both know you are a fraud. If I have to, I will send agents by the dozens until someone exposes you. Then I will smear your name in every salon and parlor in the capital. You will never have another client.”

Mouth dry as parchment, Juliet tilted her chin up a notch. “May I know what I have done to earn your enmity?”

“I have a young person I am responsible for, as well. My sister, Emily, whom you introduced to spiritualism.”

Juliet frowned. “Emily sat for me only once, and she was brought by a neighbor.”

“Once was far more than enough. She now believes that she can, in a way, resurrect our parents and keep them close at hand. She’s been taken in by a spurious English nobleman who claims to have powers remarkably similar to your own.”

Juliet knew immediately of whom he spoke. “Lord”  Shelston was gaining quite a following in the area, but he could be cruel and exceptionally greedy, as well, draining his clients of their resources and then discarding them.

“If your worry is with Shelston, why come after me?”

Carter shook his head. “I am not a complete idiot. If I attack her pet directly, Emily will simply consider me too protective. I must tackle this problem at the root.”

“And you believe I am the root of the problem?” She laughed roughly. “Mr. Forbes, my influence is nowhere near as great as you take it to be.”

“Not at all, Miss Avila. I realize your clientele is small, by most standards. But, by shutting down your operation, and those like yours, it lights a fire under Shelston’s feet. He’ll soon find Washington a very inhospitable place.”

Mind awhirl, Juliet sought a way out of this dilemma. “I know Shelston, and I agree with you as to his basic character. I don’t want to see your sister involved with him any more than you do. So, I have a proposal.”

Carter raised a questioning eyebrow, so Juliet rushed on.

“I’ll go with you and tell Emily all I know about him and how he achieves his illusions.”

“And what do you want in return?”

“Your word that you will leave my family and me in peace.”

She could imagine Forbes’s thought process: weighing the pros and cons; deliberating what his sister’s well-being was worth to him; contemplating whether he could live with himself if he let a small fish swim free in order to catch the larger fish he was after.

Finally he held out his hand. “You have a bargain, Miss Avila.”

She grabbed it before he could change his mind and pumped it forcefully. The deal had been struck.