Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry

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:


Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 20, 2012)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings – The B&B Media Group – for sending me a review copy.***


As a child, Chris Fabry wrote stories, songs and poems. The creative process invigorated him. He may not have been a fast reader, but the words on the page had a deep effect. So he vowed that if he ever had the chance to write, he would take it.

After high school, Fabry attended and graduated from the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. After graduation, Fabry and his wife felt a desire for biblical education, so his pastor suggested they check out Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. At Moody, Fabry met Jerry Jenkins who learned of his desire to write and encouraged him to pursue his dream. In 1998, Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye hired him to write Left Behind: The Kids series. He wrote 35 books in that series over the next six years. He later collaborated with Jenkins on the Red Rock Mysteries series and The Wormling series, and in 2008 he worked solo on the NASCAR-based RPM series.

Since then he has published four novels for adults: Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven and his newest novel, Not in the Heart. Each of his first three books was nominated for a Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone Category, winning in 2009 for Dogwood and in 2011 for Almost Heaven. In addition to his fiction work, Fabry also collaborated on two best-selling football biographies with Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Altogether, Fabry has published more than 70 books for children and adults.

Fabry’s other passion is broadcasting. As part of the DECCA program in high school, he worked at WNST Radio in Milton, WV. During his senior year at Marshall University, he worked for WSAZ-TV as a weekend reporter. In 1985, he began hosting Open Line, a national call-in show which he hosted until 1997. In 1993, he began a six-year stint as co-host of Mornings with Greg and Chris on WMBI in Chicago. Then in May of 2008 he began Chris Fabry Live! which received the 2008 Talk Personality of the Year Award from the National Religious Broadcasters. He can also be heard daily on Love Worth Finding, featuring the teaching of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers.

Chris and his wife of almost 30 years, Andrea, are the parents of nine children.
Visit the author’s website.


Truman Wiley used to report news stories from around the world, but now the most troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work, out of touch with his family, out of his home. But nothing dogs him more than his son’s failing heart.

With mounting hospital bills and Truman’s penchant for gambling his savings, the situation seems hopeless . . . until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline—the chance to write the story of a death row inmate, a man convicted of murder who wants to donate his heart to Truman’s son.

As the execution clock ticks down, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that points to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? Truman’s investigation draws him down a path that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 20, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414348614
ISBN-13: 978-1414348612


30 days before execution

The trouble with my wife began when she needed Jesus and I needed a cat. Life can be that way. That’s part of the reason I was on Sanibel Island in the cottage I had always dreamed of owning and she was in Tallahassee tending to the sick son of our youth. But it’s more complicated. There was more troubling me than religion or people who think problems can be solved with a leap of faith.


Said cottage was a tiny house that seems to be the rage among those who believe we are warming the planet with each exhale. I didn’t buy it because of that, but I recycle my Coors Light cans. My little contribution to the cause. Lately it’s been a hefty contribution. There was one bedroom in the back and a little bathroom, a walk-through kitchen, and a living area that I used as an office. Murrow usually sat in the window looking out at the beach with as much interest as I have in paying both of my mortgages. It’s not that I don’t want to pay. I can’t.
I was on the bed, surfing news sites, fueling the ache about my lack of direction and lack of a job. The satellite TV company disconnected me a few months ago, so I got my news online from the unprotected network of a neighbor who can’t encrypt his wireless router.


I could see the downsizing coming in every area of the conglomerate media company. I knew it would hit the newsroom, but I always thought when the music stopped, I would have a chair. What I got was severance, a pat on the back, and a shelf full of awards I stuffed into a suitcase that sat in the attic of a cottage I couldn’t afford.


I closed my laptop and told Murrow I’d be back, as if she cared, and walked barefoot out the front door and down the long, wooden stairway to the beach. I bought this cottage for these long, head-clearing walks. The sound of the waves crashing against doubts and fears. The smell of the ocean and its salty cycle of life and death.


A mom and a dad dressed in white strolled along the beach with two kids who squealed every time the water came close.


I walked the other way.


The phone rang as I passed a dead seagull. Not a good omen.


“Tru, it’s me.”


The woman of my dreams. The woman of my nightmares. Everything good and bad about my life. The “I do” that “I didn’t.”


“Ellen. What’s up?”


“How are you?” She said it with a measure of compassion, as if she weren’t holding back years of boiling anger. As if she didn’t have something else she wanted to ask me and wasn’t just setting the stage for the coup de grâce.


“I’m good. Just taking a walk on the beach.”


Wish you weren’t here. Wish you weren’t still in my head. Wish you hadn’t called. Wish the last twenty years were something I could bury in the sand. What were you thinking marrying a guy like me? My life is a sand castle and my days are wind and water.


“Hear anything back yet? Any offers?”


“There’s nothing plural about my job prospects. Not even singular. I did hear from the Fox station in Des Moines yesterday. They went with somebody with longer hair and bigger lungs.”


She spoke with a wry smile. “It’s only a matter of time; you know that.”


“Right. It’s always been a matter of time, hasn’t it?”


She let the irony hang there between us, and I could picture her in her wedding dress and without it. Then the first time we met in the university newsroom, big glasses and frilly blouse. Hair that smelled like the ocean and felt like silk. A sharp wit, infectious laugh, and the tenacity of a bloodhound on every story she covered. I thought we were always going to be on the same page, but somehow I kept chasing headlines and she moved to the Life section.


“I have something that might interest you,” she said.


“How old is she?” I’m not always a smart aleck with the people I love. When I’m asleep, they tell me I don’t say much of anything.


“It’s not a she. It’s a he with a pretty good story. A great story. A life changer.”


“Not into guys.”


She sighed and plowed ahead. “Have you heard of Terrelle Conley?”


That was like asking a history major if she’d ever heard of Alexis de Tocqueville. “I know he’s facing the needle.”


“Right. Next month.”


“Wonder what his last meal will be. How do they choose that anyway? Shrimp and steak or lobster bisque? Macaroni and cheese? How can you enjoy a meal knowing you only have hours left? Or what movie to watch? What would you choose?”


“I know his wife, Oleta. She wants somebody to write the story from his perspective. The whole family does.”


I laughed. “In thirty days or less.”


“They’ve scraped up some money. Not much, but it could probably help.”


“How much is ‘probably’?”


“I don’t know exactly, but I was thinking you could call Gina and find out if—”


“I’m not with Gina or the agency anymore. She dropped me. Said it was a hard decision on their part. I guess they took a vote.”


“I’m sorry.”


“Just another bump in the literary highway. I don’t think writing is my thing, anyway.” I said it halfheartedly, coaxing some kind of compliment.


“You’re a great writer,” she obliged. “You haven’t had as many opportunities lately, but . . .”


“I haven’t had any politicians who want to be president or sports stars who’ve been accused of steroids approach me in a few years. That’s what you mean,” I said. “Where did you meet Olatha?”


“Oleta. I met her at church.”


Groan. How did I know that was coming?


I paused at a sand castle that had been constructed with several five-gallon buckets. Towels and chairs had been abandoned for the moment. Water filled the moat, and I heard laughter from a bungalow perched like a lighthouse above. A couple in love.


“You must have some idea of how much.”


“A few thousand. We didn’t talk about that. The important thing . . . it’s not just an opportunity for you. It’s for Aiden.”


“Now you’re really getting cryptic. You want to back up?”


“Terrelle’s wife is in a study group with me. She’s known about Aiden’s condition for years. Always asks for updates. Terrelle came up with the idea—he wants to be a donor. A second chance for Aiden.”


I should have been doing cartwheels. Our eighteen-year-old son could get a new lease on life? Instead, I was skeptical, like any good journalist. “Ellen, there’s no chance. Do you know how long something like that would take?”


“It’s been in process for a while.”


“Why didn’t you tell me?”


“You haven’t exactly been available.”


“The prison system, the authorities, they’ll never let this—”


“The governor is taking it seriously. I’ve heard he’s working with the legislature. It’s not a done deal, but there’s a chance.”


The governor. The hair rose on the back of my neck.


“Ellen, there’s some law firm in Tallahassee salivating at all the appeals and counterappeals that are going to happen. This is less than a long shot.”


“Yeah, but right now it’s looking like a pretty good long shot.” There was emotion in her voice and for the first time I noticed noise in the background.


“Where are you?”


She swallowed hard and I imagined her wiping away a tear. My wife has had plenty of practice.


“At the hospital again,” she said. “ICU.”


I cursed under my breath and away from the phone. Not just because of all the hospital bills I knew were coming my way, but also because this was my son. I’ll be honest—the bills were the first thing I thought of, but picturing him hooked up to tubes and needles again crushed me.


“How is he?”


“Not good. They’re monitoring him. Same story.”


“How long have you been there?”


“Since late last night. He was having trouble breathing. Lots of pain. He asks about you.”


Guilt. She had to get that in there, didn’t she?


“Tell him to hang in there, okay?”


“Come see him. It would mean so much.”


“Yeah. I will.” I said it fast, though I knew I’d have to launder all the cat hair from my clothes because Aiden’s deathly allergic to cats just like I’m allergic to the inside of the death chamber.


Someone spoke over the intercom near her and the sound took me back to those first days when I wasn’t as scared of hospitals. Back then I could watch a movie or a TV show with a medical setting. Now I can’t even watch the TV promos. My chest gets tight and the smell of alcohol and Betadine and the shape of needles invades, mingling with the cries of a young child in pain and another memory of a man on a gurney.


We discovered Aiden’s heart malady by accident. Ellen was into natural food, natural medicine, whole-grain seaweed sandwiches and eggs that came from free-range chickens who had bedtime stories read to them each night before they settled into their nests. Natural childbirth with a midwife. All that stuff. She was convinced antibiotics were the forbidden fruit, so she didn’t run to the HMO every time our kids were sick. But something told her to take Abby in for some chest congestion she couldn’t get rid of. Aiden was with her, and on a lark the doctor placed the stethoscope on his chest.


Ellen cried when she tried to explain the look on the woman’s face. They’d missed it when he was born.


That sent us on a crash course of congenital heart defects and a series of surgeries and treatments that would change our lives. Ellen hates hospitals as much as I do, but you do what you must for your kids.


“Terrelle has the same blood type,” Ellen said. “He’s about the same size as Aiden, maybe a little smaller, which is good.”


“Ellen, you know this is not going to happen, right? There are so many hoops and holes. They don’t let doctors execute people.”


“There are guidelines, but they don’t have a problem harvesting organs from an already-deceased donor.”


“Anybody who’s pro-life will howl. I thought you were pro-life.”


“I am, but this is something Terrelle wants.”


“Doesn’t matter. They harvest organs from prisoners in China, but we’re not in China.” Though you wouldn’t know it by shopping at Walmart.


“I know all that. But I also know my son is going to die. And Terrelle and his wife want something good to come out of their tragedy. They asked if you would write his story. I got to thinking that maybe . . .”


She broke a little and hearing her cry felt like some lonely prayer drifting away and hitting the empty shores of heaven. Not that I believe there is one, but you know, metaphorically speaking.


“You were thinking what?” I said.


“Maybe all of this is not really for Aiden. Maybe all we’ve been through in the last eighteen years is for somebody else. If they deny Terrelle’s request and Aiden doesn’t make it, maybe writing this story will make a difference for someone down the road.”


Her altruism was more than I could handle. “Look, I don’t care about all the people with sick kids. I don’t care about prisoners who want to make up for their crimes. I don’t care about protesters or the politicians who’ve found a wedge issue. I just want my son to live. Is that asking too much?”


The emotion surprised me and I noticed the family in white had changed direction but now quickly herded their children away from me.


It was Ellen’s turn to sound collected. “Do you have time to work on something like that in the next thirty days? It would at least pay a few bills.”


“If they’re trying to get a stay of execution, they need to go straight to the press. Forget a book deal, forget a magazine exposé—it’s already too late. Get somebody at one of the local stations to pick it up and run with it—”


“Tru, they don’t want a stay. He wants to give his heart to Aiden. And somebody has to get the story down before it’s over. No matter how it goes, this will make a great story.”


I was already mulling titles in my head. A Heart from Death Row. Change of Heart. Pitter-Pat. Life in Vein. Aorta Made a Better Choice.


She continued, “They know your history. What you’ve seen. How you’re against the death penalty and why. For all your faults, Tru, you’re the best reporter I’ve ever known. You get to the heart of the story like nobody else. I think you should consider it.”


The Heart of the Story. Another good title. I could tell she was buttering me up. I love being buttered up by lovely women. But I hate the complications of life with beautiful women.


“I don’t write evangelical tracts.”


“Why are you so stubborn?” she whisper-screamed at me. Her voice had an echo like she had moved into the bathroom or stairwell. “Why do you have to look at this as some kind of spiritual conspiracy against you instead of a gift? This is being handed to you on a platter. Don’t push it away. I don’t care if you agree with them about God. You didn’t agree with every sports figure or politician.”


“The only way I know how to do this job is to ferret out the truth and tell it. Flat out. The way I see it. And if you’re expecting me to throw in the third verse of a hymn every other chapter and quote the Gospel of Terrelle, I can’t do that. Call somebody from the Christian right.”


“Tru, it’s because of who you are and how you tell the story that they want you. Just talk with her. Let her explain. If you don’t like the situation, they’ll go somewhere else. But they have to act quickly.”


The sun was coming down behind me and the wind picked up off the water. I could smell the first hint of an impending storm. Or maybe I forgot my deodorant.


“I’ll think about it.”


I hadn’t been gone that long, but as I walked up the stairs, I heard a vehicle pulling away from the house. The taillights had disappeared into the distance by the time I made it to my front door.


Murrow was still in the window, looking down on me with that superior look. Humans are such a waste of oxygen, she seemed to say. Maybe she was right. Maybe we are a waste of oxygen and the best thing would be for us to be wiped from the planet. But something inside said that wasn’t true. Something inside pushed me to keep moving, like an ant dragging a piece of grass along the sidewalk until a strong wind blows it away. The ant picks up another and starts over. I get exhausted just watching them.


On the front door was a legal document stating that whereby and forthwith said mortgage company had begun said process with an intent to foreclose and otherwise vacate said occupant’s tail onto the street to wit and wheretofore so help them God, amen. I had received several such letters in the mail, filing them carefully, hoping the rising tide of foreclosures would save my little cottage until I got a new job.


I ripped the notice down and used it to wipe the sand from my feet. And then a thought struck. A horrible, no-good, bad thought. The newspaper. They published my name with each intent to foreclose. That meant others would know where I was. Others, as in people I owed. Bad people.


Another car passed, slowly. Tinted windows. A low rumble of expensive metal and fuel.


I hurried to the back of the little house and pulled out every suitcase I could find and stowed everything of value. Books. Pictures of me with newsmakers. Cloudy memories of trips abroad, war zones, interviews with generals and dignitaries who went on to fame or perished in motorcades that didn’t make it through IEDs.


It was hard not to sit and absorb the memories, but the passing car gave urgency. I jammed every journal and notebook in with the pictures, then put one suitcase with clothes in the trunk of my car and took the rest on my shoulder down the sandy path to the Grahams’ house. Sweet people. He retired from the Air Force and they moved for the sun and salty air.


Both should have died long ago from arthritis and other maladies, but they were out walking the beach every day like two faithful dogs, paw in paw.


Jack and Millie were on the front porch, and I asked if I could borrow some space in their garage for a suitcase or two. “I need to take a trip. Someone new will be living in my house.”


“Relatives coming?”


“No, someone from the Bank of America wants it.”


Millie struggled to get out of her rocker and stood by a white column near the front door. “If you need help, Truman, we’d be glad to.”


Jack nodded and the gesture almost brought tears to my eyes. “How much are you short?” he said.


“Just a spot in the garage is all I need.”


“What about your cat?” Millie said.


“Murrow’s going with me.”


“If we can do anything at all . . . ,” Jack’s voice trailed.


“I appreciate it. I appreciate both of you. Thanks for your kindness.”


“We pray for Aiden every day,” Millie said.


The garage was spotless. Everything hanging up or neatly placed on shelves. I should have joined the Air Force. In the back I found an empty space near some gardening tools. I shook Jack’s hand gently and gave Millie a hug. I only turned and looked at them once as I walked back to the house. They stood like sentinels, the fading light of the sun casting a golden glow around them and their house.


When Murrow saw the cat carrier, she bolted under the sofa and I threatened to sell her to the local Chinese restaurant. An open can of StarKist and my tender, compassionate voice helped coax her into the carrier, and we were off.


I texted my wife: Will call your friend tomorrow. Can I use Abby’s room?


The phone buzzed in my shirt pocket as I drove along the causeway into darkening clouds. Key under frog. No cats. The next text gave Oleta’s number and a short message. You were made for this story.


Maybe she was right. Maybe I was the one for this job. One loser telling the story of his kindred spirit. I sure didn’t have anything better to do. But with the window down and my hand out, being pushed back by the cool air, it felt less like the start of a new chapter and more like the end of one.


Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Into the Free
David C. Cook (February 1, 2012)
Julie Cantrell

A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and currently teaches English as a second language to elementary students. She has been a freelance writer for ten years and has published two children’s books. Julie and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm.

Julie served as contributing editor to MOMSense magazine and wrote content for Mothers of Preschoolers, Intl. for nearly a decade. Additionally, she has contributed to more than a dozen books. Into The Free is her first book.


Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key which unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

Watch the book video:

If you would like to read the first chapter of Into the Free, go HERE.

Learn more about Julie and her books on her Website.


Into the Free was a beautifully haunting but gritty novel that pulled no punches about telling it like it is yet was restrained in its descriptions of brutal events. This novel is a story of despair that is countered by a misguided hope for much of the story.

Millie has grown up in a household with a rodeo father who is rarely at home but who beats her mother when he is around. Her mother has found an escape through opiates and spends much of her time in what Millie thinks of as the “valley”. The only stable influences in her life are “Sloth”, an old man who watches out for her and makes sure that she is fed and the town librarian. It is no wonder that she has spent years looking forward to the spring arrival of the gypsies and dreaming of escaping with them “into the free”. In particular, she dreams of spending her life traveling with her gypsy friend River who she is convinced she loves. Tragic events quickly change everything in her life and Millie soon finds new people who seem to care for her but her unstable background makes it difficult for her to trust others or to believe that she is deserving of a better life.

Into the Free is a good example of the resiliency of the human spirit when confronted by misfortune and tragedy, especially when that person begins to rely on the Lord. At times this book was hard to read because of the overwhelming circumstances that Millie had to face but her story was so compelling and well written that I just had to see how things would turn out for her.

It is difficult to believe that Into the Free is Julie Cantrell’s very first book. It has the stamp of an established author. I look forward to reading future novels by her – hopefully soon.

When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason


“When the Smoke Clears” is another fine example of why books by Lynette Eason have a reserved space on my shelves. I can always count on her to provide me with an attention grabbing, heart-stopping suspense with just the right amount of romance mixed in for good measure. Eason’s characters are realistically portrayed with a believable mix of flaws and strengths. Even the heroes have their foibles and many of the villains exhibit some positive traits. That is probably the reason it is so difficult for the reader to discern the perpetrator(s) before the author is ready to reveal them.

On a disciplinary leave of absence from her firefighter position, Alexia Allen reluctantly returns to her hometown for her ten year class reunion and to check on her mother who has been hospitalized. Immediately upon her arrival at her mother’s home, Alexia stumbles onto a murder victim. From that point on, her life becomes a continuous whirlwind of danger as it becomes evident that someone either wants her dead and/or to take the blame for everything that has happened since her arrival in town. Fortunately, Alexia has handsome detective Hunter Graham squarely in her corner despite the overwhelming evidence against her. Can the two of them discover the guilty parties before another person dies?

“When the Smoke Clears” has an abundance of riveting action laced with enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing. I did guess the guilty party about halfway through the book but there were enough conflicting clues that I was never totally sure about my suspicions. Loved this book and highly recommend it to all who love a good clean mystery/suspense novel. Pick up a copy soon – you won’t be sorry.

This book was provided for review by
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

• Readers will be on the edge of their seat as a female firefighter tries to keep a long-held secret in the face of threats on her life
• Readers of Brandilyn Collins will appreciate Eason’s intense style and Dee Henderson fans will love the romance
• Book 1 in an explosive new series from a bestselling author

As a member of the North Cascades Smokejumpers, Alexia Allen always takes care of the equipment that keeps her safe. So when she nearly dies in a fire due to equipment failure, she knows something is up. Ordered to take time off while the investigation continues, Alexia makes a last-minute decision to recuperate at her mother’s home and attend her high school reunion.

Yet trouble seems to be following her, and within hours of arriving home she’s involved with murder, arson—and a handsome detective. But the conflicts ahead are nothing compared to the ghosts of her past. As she strives to remember and forgive her family history, she must also decide if the secret she’s been guarding for the last ten years must finally come to light.

Chock-full of the suspense and romantic tension readers have come to expect from Lynette Eason, When the Smoke Clears is the explosive first book in the Deadly Reunions series.


“Get out, Alexia. Now!”

“Got to check the closet first, sir.”

“Get your tail outta there. Immediately!”

She needed air. How had her oxygen run out? She should have had at least another five minutes. Reaching up, she disconnected the hose from her tank and shoved it up under her heavy turnout. The coat would protect her as much as possible from smoke inhalation. And she wanted to minimize the blast of hot air that would fill her lungs. She caught a breath. The dizziness receded. The countdown was on. The decision: leave or check the closet?

She scanned the imaging device over the door. Bingo. “I’ve got something. Definitely a child.”

“Alexia! Get out!”

“She’s here, sir. Can’t leave without her.”

Alexia went to the door and turned the knob. A little girl. The child looked up at her, eyes wide, stark terror stamped on her tear-streaked features. Then she coughed and her eyes rolled back. Alexia slung the imager over her shoulder and leaned in to pick up the little girl.

Alexia took another breath and coughed. Dizziness returned full force and she went to one knee. Vaguely, she felt the sweat roll down her back. “I’m in trouble,” she said into her radio, keeping her cool, refusing to panic. Help was just a second away. “Where’s RIT? No air.”

She pulled in a lungful of smoke this time. Coughing, sputtering, she turned with the child, frantic to get her out before the flames caught up with the smoke. And then the spots before her eyes merged into one big black dot. Then nothing.


Lynette Eason is the author of several romantic suspense novels, including Too Close to Home, Don’t Look Back, and A Killer Among Us. She is a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master’s degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.

“Available February 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Amelia’s Journey by Martha Rogers

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:


Amelia’s Journey:

A prequel to the Winds Across the Prairie series

Realms (January 3, 2012)
***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***

Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author’s website.


For Ben Haynes it is love at first sight, but can a Boston socialite find true happiness with a cowboy from Kansas?

Once childhood friends, Ben Haynes is taken with Amelia Carlyle when he runs into her at her sister’s wedding. Although he will be returning to Kansas and life on his father’s ranch, Ben calls on Amelia several times, and they find they have more in common than they first realized. As he leaves for Kansas, they promise to write.

Back in Kansas, Ben begins to save money toward a home for Amelia even though he has not made his intentions known. He’s relying on God to make a way. Meanwhile, Amelia is presented to society and has several young men vying for her attention.

Although Ben has captured Amelia’s heart, her parents make every effort to discourage the relationship, even forbidding Amelia to correspond with him. Amelia tells Ben that she will wait for him as long as it takes, but will the love and loss they experience along the way bring them closer or drive them apart forever?

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (January 3, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616385820
ISBN-13: 978-1616385828


Saturday, August 19, 1876
Amelia Carlyle’s face ached from the smile pasted on it for the last three-quarters of an hour. Would this ceremony never end? She balanced first on one foot and then the other to relieve the pain caused by the white satin pumps Amanda had insisted Amelia must wear.

Amanda’s face glowed with the radiance of the love she had for Charles Scott Bishop, the man who became her husband today. If that love ever happened to Amelia, and she decided to marry, it’d be a small and simple wedding without all this pomp and circumstance.

At last the minister pronounced them husband and wife, and Charles leaned forward to kiss his bride. Amelia’s thoughts went immediately to the buffet to be served at the reception. Mama and Papa had spared no expense for their oldest daughter’s wedding, and Amelia anticipated the spread of lobster, roast beef, croissants, and wedding cake.

Amanda and Charles made their way back up the aisle, and Amelia dreaded walking even that short distance in her shoes, but she put on another smile and made it to the front steps of the church where carriages waited to take them to the hotel for the reception.

Once they arrived, guests mingled and greeted the bride and groom, but Amelia found the closest table and sat down to slip off her shoes. Her white-stockinged toes wiggled in great relief to be free of their bindings. She turned her back to the room to hide her most unseemly behavior, but comfort won over decorum. She lifted her skirts to run her fingers along the arch of one foot, which relaxed in contentment. Of course if anyone asked her to dance later, she may not be able to squeeze her feet back into the slippers, but she had seen no one with whom she cared to dance anyway.

“Excuse me, Miss Carlyle?”

Amelia snatched the hem of her skirt and yanked it down to cover her legs and feet. She whirled around to find herself looking up into eyes so dark brown, they were almost black. The man towered over her with broad shoul- ders that blocked any view of the room behind him. A tingling started in her toes and progressed its way to her heart. Why had she not noticed this handsome young man before? “Yes, I’m Miss Carlyle, but I do believe you have the advantage.” His smile sent even more tremors through her bones. “I . . . I don’t recall having met you before.”

“Of course you don’t. You were twelve, and I was a skinny fourteen-year-old. Neither of us paid much attention to the other when we last met at my grandparents’ home for dinner after church one Sunday. My name’s Benjamin Haynes.”

Benjamin Haynes, of course, the son of her parents’ best friends of school days, but what was he doing in Boston? His family lived in Kansas. “Oh, yes, that was a few years ago. Have you moved back here?”

He grinned, and his eyes sparkled with amusement. “No, but my parents found your sister’s wedding to be the perfect opportunity for a return trip, and I must say now I’m glad I came along.”

Heat rose in her cheeks, and her tongue turned to mush. She simply stared back at him with what she hoped was not a stupid smile. What if he asked her to dance? Her feet crossed and rubbed against one another beneath her dress. She’d never get her feet back into those shoes.

“May I get you some refreshment?”

Amelia nodded. “A . . . a cup of punch would be nice.” As he turned to carry out the request, she groaned. Another thing she’d forgotten, no buffet table without her shoes. If she dared walk across the floor without them, her skirt would drag and give away her secret. As if in protest, her stomach grumbled and sent a wave of hunger pangs to her brain. All that food so near, yet it may as well be in another town for all the good it did her seated across the room.

Her gaze landed on Benjamin at the serving table. Although she vaguely remembered him from his last visit, he appeared much taller and was certainly more hand- some than he had been then. His dark brown hair even curled slightly at the neckline. Of course she hadn’t been truly interested in boys at that time. Being noticed by him created a bit of delight in her now.

Benjamin returned, not only with a cup of punch, but also with a plate filled with some of her favorites from the buffet array. “I thought you might not want to cross the floor to the serving table without your shoes, so I brought it to you. I hope you like what I selected.”

Heat again filled her face. He’d noticed her shoeless feet and had sought to save her further embarrassment by being so polite. For that her stomach thanked him. “Thank you, Mr. Haynes. This will do quite nicely, but what about you? When will you eat?”

“If you’ll allow me, I’ll get my plate and rejoin you.” “I’d like that very much, thank you.” Her heart beat in double time as he returned to the buffet and made his own selections. His broad shoulders hinted at the muscles and strength that must be hidden beneath the sleeves of the black suit he wore. The evening took on a whole new interest, and Amelia tucked her feet well beneath her skirts to keep them hidden from view.

When he returned, he sat in the chair next to hers. Miracles of miracles, no one asked to join them, and they remained alone. Her father may have a few words about that later, but for the time being, Amelia planned to enjoy every minute she could have with Mr. Benjamin Haynes.

He spread a napkin across his lap. “Tell me, Miss Haynes, what have you been doing since the last time I saw you?”

It had only been a little more than five years ago, but it may as well have been a lifetime for all Amelia could remember. Her mind a blank, she could only stare at him.

He must think her to be a complete ninny. She cleared her throat. “In school, but of what interest could that possibly be to you? I would imagine your life has been much more eventful and interesting.”

Benjamin grinned at her and sipped his punch. He set the cup back on the table and cocked his head to one side. “My life has been herding cattle and getting them to market as well as bustin’ broncos to have horses to ride.”

“Now that sounds a lot more exciting than going to school, taking piano lessons, and learning to embroider.” She pictured him herding cattle or riding a bucking horse. An appealing image.

A young man approached the table, and Amelia cringed. The last person she wanted to see wore a deter- mined expression on his face. Rudolph, Charles’s brother, wanted to dance, but his surly attitude the night before at a family dinner had frightened Amelia in a way she couldn’t quite explain.

He stopped beside Amelia and Benjamin. “Miss Carlyle, may I have the honor of this dance with you?” His dark eyes held nothing but malice even though his words were polite.

She stuck a shoeless foot out from under her dress. “I’m sorry, Mr. Bishop, but I don’t have my shoes on and have decided not to dance this evening. I’m sure you under- stand I can’t be on the dance floor in my stocking feet.”

He glared at her for a moment, then, without a word, swiveled on his heel and strode across the room. Amelia shivered, thankful she had removed her shoes.

“I must say, that was rude.” Benjamin frowned after the man.

Amelia nodded then smiled at Benjamin. “He’s Charles’s brother, and I’m glad I didn’t have to dance with him.” She picked up a pastry. “Let’s enjoy ourselves and not think about rude men like Rudolph Bishop.” Indeed, she wanted to know everything she could learn about Benjamin Haynes.

Ben wanted to know more about this intriguing young woman he’d known in childhood. Until his father decided to pick up stakes and head west to start his own ranch, the Carlyle and Haynes families had spent many week- ends together as his father and Mr. Carlyle had been close friends and schoolmates.

How thankful he was now that he had not insisted that he be left behind to help the ranch hands with the herds. If he had, he would not be sitting across from the lovely young woman in a pink dress.

“Amelia, do you remember the week my family left for Kansas? Your parents gave a wonderful farewell party for us. Of course you were only five, but I hoped you might recall that night.” If she did remember, he might find him- self in trouble as he had delighted in pulling her golden brown curls more than once just to see her reaction, and she hadn’t disappointed. She had stomped her foot and hit him each time until his mother corralled him the third time and made him stay by her side.

Amelia chewed a piece of pastry and narrowed her eyes at him. She swallowed and pursed her lips. “Was that the time you kept pulling my curls?”

Heat rose in his face. “You do remember. I apologize for my awful behavior that evening, but you looked so cute with those long curls hanging down from that big yellow bow.”

Amelia laughed. “I forgive you, but it hurt that last time, and I wanted to cry. I wasn’t about to let you see me in tears, and I believe your mother took care of you. Mary Beth and I had fun after that.”

“Yes, Mama made sure I stayed by her side, and I didn’t have much fun the rest of the evening. I’m glad you did though. Then your family came to the railway station to see us off on our adventure westward.” That had been some scene with both their mothers crying and their fathers promising to keep in touch.

“Oh yes, I recall how afraid I was of that big engine with its smoke and loud whistle. When it started up and began rolling on the track, I hid behind Mama’s skirt, but I saw you wave at us from the window. I thought you were so brave to move away like that with your family.”

“It was quite the adventure.” And one he would never forget. He held no regret at all for leaving Boston all those years ago.

He glanced up to see his sister headed their way. He didn’t often get to see her so dressed up with her dark hair piled on her head. He grinned when she squealed and grabbed Amelia, her brown eyes dancing with pleasure. “I’ve been looking all over for you. I should have known Ben would have you all to himself.”

Amelia hugged the girl in return. “Mary Beth, I’m so glad to see you. I spotted you at the church when we went back up the aisle. Sit down and join us.”

Benjamin shook his head and glared at Mary Beth, but she paid him no mind and plopped down in the chair on the other side of Amelia. “I’d be delighted. What has my big brother been telling you? I could reveal a few of his secrets if you’d like to hear about some of his antics.”

“We were just talking about one on the night we had that party before you left.”

“Oh, yes, that was some fun watching him get into trouble.” Mary Beth grabbed Amelia’s hands. “How I wish you could have come out to visit us, and I wish we could have come back to Boston more often. Ben almost didn’t come with us, but Pa persuaded him. I’m really sorry we haven’t kept in closer touch.”

Amelia glanced at him and grinned in a way he could only call wicked. “To think we might have missed reminiscing about old times if you’d stayed back with the cows. What a shame that would have been, Mr. Haynes.”

Again heat rose in his cheeks, but he would not let her teasing get to him. “Since we’re such old friends, call me Ben; everybody else does.”

“All right, Ben it is.” Then she turned back to his sister. “Now, tell me what it’s like living on a ranch with all those cattle and horses.”

Ben groaned. Once Mary Beth started, he’d never get a word into the conversation. He may as well just enjoy his food and listen to their prattle. At least he could sit back and show interest in what Amelia had to say without being obvious with his attraction to her.

Her chestnut hair sat piled on top of her head in an elaborate arrangement that must have taken hours to accomplish. Two long curls like those of long ago hung down in the back from the curls amassed atop her head. His fingers itched to reach over and pull one of them as he had when she was five. Now seventeen, she had become a beautiful young lady with a sense of humor and a smile that could melt the heart of any man in her presence.

He blinked his eyes and shook his head as Amelia squealed with delight and clapped her hands. He stared at his sister. “What was that you said about staying in Boston?”

“Ma and Grandmama talked with me last night, and Pa agreed. I can stay here for the social season this fall.” “Isn’t it wonderful, Ben? Mary Beth and I can do so many things together and have fun, and I’m sure there will be lots of parties.”

Ben narrowed his eyes. “I’m sure there will be.” This was the first he’d heard of any desire from Mary Beth to come back here. She loved the ranch, or at least he’d thought so.

“What will Ma and Aunt Clara do without you?” She’d been such a big help to them that he couldn’t imagine life without her around.

“They’ll get along just fine. After all, there aren’t any more babies to care for. Gideon, Grace Ann, and Billy are old enough to care for themselves, so they don’t need me looking after them all the time.”

That was true. With his youngest brother now eight years old and in school, no more children stayed at home needing care. Ma and Aunt Clara would manage just fine. Still, he had a difficult time believing his pa would let his oldest daughter live so far away.

Amelia and Mary Beth sat with heads close together discussing all the things they wanted to do in the coming months when Mary Beth would be presented to society just as her mother and grandmother had been before her. Then a bright side occurred to him. With Mary Beth here, that could mean Ma taking more trips to see her. Pa wouldn’t want to leave the ranch, so that would leave Ben to accompany Ma on such trips.

More trips to Boston meant more opportunity to see Amelia Haynes. Of course, he’d have to gain permission from her parents, but that shouldn’t be a problem since their families were longtime friends. The future began to look brighter and brighter. This had been the best trip he’d taken in a long time, and he looked forward to many more like it—that is, if Amelia agreed to his calling on her.


Amelia’s Journey is a well written historical romance that I believe would particularly appeal to teen girls. The featured couple are both quite young with traits common to those their age. Much of the story describes the angst suffered by the two who are madly in love but are separated by not only hundreds of miles but by parents who do not approve of their relationship. I personally grew a little tired of their distress but then I am an old woman by comparison. I can remember  those long ago days when I experienced similar yearnings so I am sure that younger readers would sympathize with Amelia and Ben’s predicament.

The plot was well paced and dialogue and character interaction was natural. The spiritual theme emphasized prayer, especially for decision making and the importance of forgiveness was also stressed. All in all, Amelia’s Journey was a good book that parents should have no reservations about buying for their daughters to read.

Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Sixty Acres and a Bride
Bethany House (February 1, 2012)
Regina Jennings

A Word from Regina:

See me laughing. That’s what I do when someone calls me an author. Yes, it’s always been my dream, but I still can’t keep from giggling over it.

Other things I am – a Christ-follower, a wife, a homeschooling mother of four, a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, and a voracious reader.

Getting reading time isn’t easy. Seems like my family does more than our share of traveling. My husband is an insurance adjuster (I know, save the hate mail) and travels with the catastrophe team often. That’s allowed us to see a lot of the United States. True many times it’s in the middle of a hurricane or blizzard, but after spending three weeks in a hotel room with six people, you’ll brave anything to get out and see the sights – no matter how damaged they might be.

We also serve on the Missions Team at an amazing church, so we break out the passports frequently. Highlights include singing at a leper colony in India, holding church inside a Mexican prison and showing the Jesus film to a tribe in Senegal who’d never heard the gospel.

But I don’t have to go far away for unusual. My family provides plenty of colorful material with their love for practical jokes, pithy observations and strong agricultural roots. Because of the family business, a significant chunk of my life has been spent at sale barns and auctions – often behind the scales where I weigh pigs. I like to think of myself as a “redneck bluestocking” but I brought an entire marketing team’s discussion to a screeching halt when I said those words, so you didn’t hear it from me.

When I have spare time I love to talk books and quirky characters (real and fictional).


With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to Texas and the family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have only three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa can’t keep herself from falling in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. Learning the American customs is not easy, however, and this beautiful young widow can’t help but catch wandering eyes. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, to what lengths will Rosa go to save her future?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Sixty Acres and a Bride, go HERE.

Learn more about Regina on her Website.


For me, one of the perks of being a member of CFBA (Christian Fiction Blog Alliance) is the opportunity to discover new authors that I may not have found on my own. I cannot tell you how many authors have been added to my list of favorites since I have been involved with CFBA but I can say that Regina Jennings has just been added to that list. I sincerely hope that  I will not have to wait too long for her next novel.

Sixty Acres and a Bride is a retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz, the kinsman redeemer with a historical Texas setting. Imagine that Rosa, a young Mexican woman moves back to the family ranch in Texas with her mother-in-law Louise after the deaths of their husbands. There she meets her husband’s cousin Weston, a successful rancher who soon appoints himself as her protector. Enough said – no spoilers here. If you want to know more, do yourself a big favor and pick up a copy of this book as soon as you can.

I absolutely adored the author’s style that pulled me in and kept me reading until I found the end had come much too soon. The interaction and dialogue between characters was perfect. Each of them was so well defined that it was easy to picture them in my mind. The plot was well paced with just the right amount of drama, danger, humor, and romantic tension. And of course with a story based on a well loved Bible story, the spiritual thread was excellent. As I mentioned earlier, the only thing I could find wrong with this book was the fact that I reached the end much too quickly.

I also recommend that you check out Regina’s blog for the three-part story about how she came to write Sixty Acres and a Bride.