Friday, August 30, 2013

Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold








Title:  Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold
Author:  Joyce Magnin             (http://joycemagnin.blogspot.com/)
Pages:  320
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Zondervan
Reading this novel, which is the second in a series, was absolutely delightful!  The first novel Harriet Beamer takes the Bus, which I haven’t read yet, starts the Harriet Beamer series written by a very talented author.  Joyce Magnin has written other adult novels as well as those for middle grades children according to her website.  She also does editing, speaking and teaching in addition to raising her son, Adam, who is still at home.  You can visit her site to learn about her various novels published and about herself as she shares in a way that is sure to make you laugh.
In Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold, I was introduced to a lively widowed senior citizen character that collects salt and pepper shakers and has recently moved in with her son and his wife.  She has had to leave behind her best friend, pack up her stuff and move to a place where everyone is a stranger to her.  She has a wonderful sense of humor, faith, and longs for adventure every day.  While realizing she is older, she can’t think about getting old as it brings her down.  Instead, she looks for ways to do new things and one day hopes to become a grandmother.
As Harriet learns about the history of where she is now living, her interest in gold mines peaks.  From here on out, Harriet is on one adventure after another while learning to change and adapt to her new environment while making friends.  When her best friend, Martha, comes to join her for a couple weeks, the two of them discover even more. 
I liked that I could laugh at what this character Harriet said and did.  While I am not in this particular season of life, I couldn’t help but envision myself being like her when I get there.  Harriet didn’t want to focus on growing old or letting moss grow under her feet just waiting for her time.  Nope!  The character seeks life, adventure, God’s hand, and all the while with her Basset Hound, Humphrey, in tow who likes warm glazed donuts to eat.  Harriet is created to show us how no matter what age we are there are new lessons to learn, people to know and places to see.  I guess I want to be like Harriet Beamer “when I grow up” is what I am saying.  When you read the book, I hope you catch the sense of living every day to its fullest.
My rating is 5+ stars.  Oh, I am buying the first novel to read as soon as this review is written J!
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/ .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457

Memory's Door








Title:  Memory’s Door (A Well Spring Novel #2)
Author:  James L. Rubart
Pages:  368
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Books are a wonderful invention that can lead the reader into worlds filled with action and adventure.  While it is true some readers enjoy the electronic versions available, I love the feel of book in my hands with the sound of pages turning.  I enjoy seeing the personal library of books being shelved and shared with my family that one day will pass on to the next generation. 
There are many genres, authors, publishers, editors and such.  Each can bring something to the reader that can be relaxing, engaging, emotional, thought provoking or unfortunately once in awhile a book that has to be thrown out.  Gladly, I can state this one novel, a sequel to Soul’s Gate, is one to share and repeatedly read.  As I started the story, it took me a few chapters before my mind remembered where the plot had left off from the first book.  It wasn’t long before the pages were turning faster and my eyes were just racing to see what was coming next.
James L. Rubart has written a series of novels that probe the heart, mind and soul of readers.  Scripture is shared liberally through the pages, which helps the imagination picture the characters engaged in battle.  Though the battle is mainly spiritual, it is more.  Plus, the writing reminds me of how John wrote the book of Revelation.  We cannot fully comprehend or see what yet lies ahead in future, whether it is the next day or years from now; however, we can know within our hearts the One who holds all things together with a word!
A warrior is an apt description placed upon the characters that face the evil that is bent on destruction, not temporary but permanent.  It reminds those who continue in the adventure throughout this work of fiction that there really is a battle that cannot be seen with the eyes of flesh.  A spiritual battle rages around the characters in Memory’s Door, but it also is true in reality.  The author shares words of encouragement from the heart at the end that will help stir people beyond just enjoying the writing.  His desire is that we all come to know the Truth so that we can be free to live as He has meant us to live.
While I haven’t told you much of the plot, themes or other information most reviews tell you, I do hope it has stirred you to grab book one, Soul’s Gate, then its sequel, Memory’s Door.  Though what the author shares is purely fiction, it is a challenge to know the Truth of the Word of God, who we are in Him, who we battle and how we are to fight.  Are you ready to engage yourself into a work that is very different than perhaps something else you have read?  I sure hope so because you will never regret it!
My rating is 5+ stars!
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/ .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On DIstant Shores

Title:  On Distant Shores (Wings of the Nightingale #2)
Author:  Sarah Sundin
Pages:  420
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Revell
Georgie Taylor is the baby of her family and has always been pampered by her family and her boyfriend, Ward.  They have always made decisions for her.  Now, Georgie faces a decision about whether or not to continue her nurses training or fail her test so she can marry Ward, get pregnant and be discharged from the service.  This just doesn’t feel right to her, but is she really strong enough to continue as a flight nurse?  She froze up once before during a crisis.  Will this happen again?  Will lives be lost if she does so?  Hutch has given her the advice to be unwavering.  Can she stay the course?  Can she and Hutch have a future together or should she go home to Ward?
John Hutchinson or “Hutch” joined the enlisted men to make a difference in patient care as a pharmacist.  Now, he is tired of being disrespected and having doors to advancement shut in his face.  His main goal is to pass the officers test and gain a commission.  Then, everyone will respect him.  It is all he’s been working for the past three years, right?  As incidents pile on each other, Hutch becomes more and more angry and bitter.  Soon he lashes out at Georgie, she reacts childishly and their brief romance is ended.  His bitterness costs him his love, his friend and is starting to cost him his health.  What will it take to bring Hutch peace?
Fantastic!  That is one of many words I could use to describe this story.  Sarah Sundin is a very talented author, who makes the people of this story come alive right off the pages.  Georgie and Hutch both have changing and growing to accomplish on their own before they can be in a relationship together.  They both recognize they are content to be where God has placed them.  How many of us can say that?  They both must face their fears and are bolstered by their relationship with each other, but more importantly by their relationship with God.  I liked all the details of Army hospital life, the different locations of parts of the story, the history, and I fell in love with Lucia.  This story will make your heart swell with love and joy as Georgie and Hutch fall in love with each other and learn their God-given roles.
My rating is 5 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/ .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vanishing Act (Charm & Deciet Book #2)



Title:  Vanishing Act (Charm & Deceit #2)
Author:  Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson
Pages:  243
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Whitaker House
This is a charming mystery and romance set during the Civil War in Washington, D.C.  The main characters are Juliet Button and Carter Forbes.  Carter is one of the supporting characters from the first book in the series, Diamond in the Rough.  Now, the series continues with his story.
Carter now has access to President Lincoln through his boss Allan Pinkerton.  When Lincoln’s young son Tad is kidnapped, Lincoln wants the best Pinkerton agent on the case, which is Carter Forbes.  Carter enlists the help of a spiritualist, Juliet Button, to help him investigate clues to Tad’s kidnappers.  Carter doesn’t want to be attracted to Juliet as he objects to her profession and thinks her a swindler of honest and innocent people.  However, he is attracted to her more and more.
Juliet Button or Miss Avila as her clients know her has to support her family.  Her family actually is a group of outcasts and not related to her biologically.  Juliet has a compassionate heart and is known for helping others.  She grew up as a magician’s assistant, illusionist, makeup artist and is used to performing so she has put her only professional skills to work to earn a living for her family.  She “speaks” to the dead for a fee; she is a medium.  Her “family” helps her with her parlor tricks unbeknownst to her clients.  When she is forced to help Carter defraud another medium, she is unwittingly involved in another mystery.  She likes Carter and wants to help find little Tad.  She has experience with the seamier side of life in Washington, D.C. so her help to Carter is invaluable.  Can there be a future between a con artist and a Pinkerton agent?  Juliet thinks surely not, but decides to trust the Lord for her future.
I really enjoyed the mystery in this story.  The kidnapping of Tad Lincoln and the subsequent search for clues created great tension and kept me turning the pages to see what was going to happen.  I liked the short chapters, which I thought gave a good, quick pace to the plot.  The characters were well-developed with good dialogue for easy reading.  I recommend this book and am looking for to the next book in the series.
My rating is 4 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/ .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457
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.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

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


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

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.”
“Certainly.”
“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.