Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Note: A complimentary copy was received from Lightening Book Promotions. Other review can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/

Title: Rebirth, Based on Actual Events

Author: Dave Longeuay

Publisher: Seven-7 Publishing

Pages: 357

Year: 2011

What a story! From the first few pages, I couldn’t put it down; it is that riveting! Rebirth is based on actual events in relation to Israel and several different nationalities that were involved during a tumultuous historical period. The novel begins in the year 1945 and ends in May 1948. In between intrigue with other threads included, this novel is based on the years leading up to Israel becoming a nation. This was something that was prophesied about in the Old Testament and just beginning to become a reality in 1948.

It is about Israel and how her people have been misunderstood, ridiculed, killed, rejected and the ability to withstand more than most people even are aware of today. While most have heard of the Holocaust, one begins to grasp the wide range of events that make up Israel’s history. The novel is simply an eye opener. Though fictional, the story is based on historical facts. The characters are believable; the scenes very vividly described. Also included are a multitude of plots and themes. Each character has decisions to make; they all face death in innumerable ways. We are introduced to those characters who want to ally themselves as friends of Israel and assist to make her become a nation. Opposition to this becomes a reality. The reader gets a flavor as to the distance her enemies will go to make sure Israel never is a nation. On the author’s website, readers can view pictures, a newspaper and a short History Channel documentary to aid understanding of the historical events.

Included in this novel is the theme of faith and believing God, believing the Scriptures or for some it is the Torah. The main character, David, has a past he would rather anyone not know about as it is so painful for him to relive while telling the story. He meets a girl who has also endured pain in a different situation and nation, but she must come to grips with it and tell her story as well. Will they? Who will they tell? Can they trust anyone? These fictitious people are dealing with learning to continue to love though fear of losing someone again is so real to them. As you read you can imagine real people with real feelings just like those in Rebirth. What is so awesome is that once you finish this book, you get excited for the sequel that is to come out soon. The book is more than just a novel; it is an experience leading to a decision. It is not a matter of who to love and who to hate--not at all. It really is about loving God, His chosen people and His special nation called Israel.

Author website: www.rebirthofisrael.com

Monday, February 27, 2012

Novel: Lonely Tree

Title: The Lonely Tree

Author: Yael Politis (http://yaelpolitis.wordpress.com )

Pages: 443

Year: 2010

Publisher: Holland Park Press (www.hollandparkpress.co.uk )

Note: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. Read other reviews of various books at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/

Do you like to read historical novels? Have you ever read any that were placed in the time before Israel was a nation? Can you imagine living in a community of people, sharing everything, and fighting with unyielding belief in a future yet unseen? While the author notes that the story here is totally fictional, it is hard when one reads the story to conceive that it is just fiction. The title “THE LONELY TREE” is based on a tree located in Etzion Bloc in Israel. It is the only tree there--a huge oak with roads that go around its base on both sides.

Yael Politis has written an extremely moving portrait of a nation, her people, her enemies and the lives lived there. While the main characters are the Shulman family, there are many other players who come in and out of their lives. It is like reading with a microscope and a telescope at the same time. For within this family’s many adventures, there is nation in birthing pains. The Shulman family has three children, two girls and one boy. The reader walks alongside each of the family members as days, months and eventually years pass.

We witness the many possible horrors, sorrows, joys, surprises, hills and valleys the family traverses in these pages. For a time we focus on Josef, the father, but we lose sight of the mother and children. Josef believes that the Jews are meant to have a land and be a nation, though at that time, he is struggling to survive in the day-to-day challenges as well as fighting with a gun to hold off those who seek to take the land from him and many others who believe with him. We see him struggle to help his wife understand as well as try to be a father to his children.

We see the mother having to let her husband go fight, while seeking to know what happened to her parents and extended family. While in a camp with her husband, word comes of what has become of her family. The reader is engulfed with feelings, watching as this woman hears of the events that are happening to those she loves.

There are the lives of the children growing up amid a war, with all the horror and sorrow included. We see life goes on and the courage it takes to do so when young people want to get married while others want to go to university. Our hearts are tugged at while we read this novel. It has many adventures, romance, war, death, marriage, babies, and even one fleeing to what she thought she wanted--to live in a different nation.

There are, whether purposely or not, many questions that seem to enter the reader’s mind as he/she travels through the story. Many may wonder if this work of fiction isn’t actually a true story. Though fiction, one cannot help but look at the issues that are raised in the novel. I could discuss the issues, the story, even the ending. Yet, that would not only ruin it for you, but would also take away the fun of thinking and enjoying this book.

I will say that one must place themselves in the shoes of many characters, to wonder if the reader would do what he/she sees the character choosing to do. All of us may be surprised to see themselves in the thoughts and actions of the characters. We all have enemies, but not like Israel. We have people who don’t like us because of how we look, our beliefs, our stand for what we believe to be right.

This is the second novel about the Jewish nation that I have read. I have always loved the Jewish people, perhaps more so because of the novels I have read. Anyone who reads this novel can’t help but appreciate what the Jewish people and nation have gone through. Even if this is a work of fiction, there is historical fact in it, which makes it all the more possible that the characters may have experienced what the writer has put to paper. Read it and see what you think.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Some People Lost in WW2

Title: The Navajo Code Talkers

Author: Doris A. Paul

Year: 1973, renewed in 2003

Pages: 169

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc. 701 Smithfield Street Pittsburg, PA 15222

Note: I received a complimentary copy of “The Navajo Code Talkers” as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to learn how you can become a member of the Book review Team.

Become a follower of blog at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/

World War II was brought about with such a striking force that to this day most people can quote what our President said in response to the Japanese strike at Pearl Harbor, “a day that will live in infamy.” While this is not all that was said at this time, it is true that most know December 7, 1941, whether they know someone who fought in the war or not. As with all history there is more than what is known unless one continues to read and learn throughout life.

I was first introduced to the “Navajo code talkers” in a movie called, Wind Talker starring Nicholas Cage. In all my years of schooling, and not being a history fan then, I don’t remember reading or hearing about these people. It is with sadness that only now, many years later, I learn of such brave men and their families. It is true that no one person or event single-handedly won any conflict, but it is true that when all the armed forces worked together victory was achieved. As with all conflicts there are dangers, fatalities, heroes and forgotten people.

Here is an excellent resource that brings to the forefront and introduces a new generation to those who helped bring about a code that the enemy at that time couldn’t break. Never before had a program of this magnitude been undertaken to include those who were the “first” Americans. This was started by a man, Philip Johnston, who was raised with the Navajo Indians as his father was a Protestant missionary to the Navajo. Mr. Johnston learned the language and customs of the people as he grew up, beginning at age 4, while he also learned English. Mr. Johnston could fluently speak the Navajo language, which was amazing considering the level of difficulty in learning to speak it. He presented the idea for the code, wrote a plan, and waited for that plan to be accepted and begun. What was he doing before then? Mr. Johnston was a civil engineer and a very patriotic individual. He, however, was not the only patriot as you will learn how the Navajo felt about America, worked in the Marine Corp and served America with distinguishing abilities.

Included in this book are many interviews with the “code talkers”, letters written and more history about these Marines. There is a bibliography included to learn more about the “code talkers” as well as how our nation finally recognized these distinguished individuals. I highly recommend reading this book to get a starting place to learn about actual historical events that took place during WWII. The readers may also be surprised as to how the Navajo nation was run at this particular time in history and may wish to research more to find out where this nation of people is today.

My rating is 5-star for the author in taking time to put historical fact to print and remind future generations of those brave men who fought for our country so we could be free today. Also, to the Navajo nation, my sincerest heartfelt thanks for your service and sacrifice for my freedom.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

India Was One Review

Title: India Was One

By: An Indian

Pages: 244

Published by author: www.shashwords.com

Year: 2011

I contacted this author on Book Blogs to learn more about his book. I then did a short interview with him to help me understand the author, India, and more. The following is what I learned and now share with you.

Is this based on a real or factual event?

It is a fiction; however, it is based a lot on my experiences.

The words that are itialized in the book, is that to help explain things to English readers and others not familiar with India's customs and such?


Where did you get the idea for this book and will there be another one?

The idea of this book/story had been playing in my head for several years. I finally decided to pen it in January 2010. It took me less than a week to pour down my initial thoughts and over a year to expand them.

Is there anything you want readers to know about you, your writing, India, etc?

I guess I want people (who don’t know much about India) to see it from my point-of-view, to see what it’s like to live there, it’s culture, heritage, etc…, it’s day-to-day life told in a simple story.

Are you currently writing another book or have plans too?

No, I am not currently writing anything nor do I have plans for any. I just have a few ideas floating around in my head.

www.IndiaWasOne.com; www.facebook.com/IndiaWasOne; www.twitter.com/IndiaWasOne

India was One is a very instructive read. Within the pages of this novel, the reader is assisted in understanding the culture, customs, religion and more of India. The story scenes are placed both in India and the United States. The audience is also told about the various foods that are served and the festivals of India.

The novel is a love story and more. There are five people who meet at a college area that several students from various universities visit in between classes and for other reasons too. The author focuses on the choices that these five individuals make and how their choices as well as lives intersect at more than one point in time.

The descriptions of sights, smells, foods and clothing help the reader picture in their mind as if they are really a part of the story. Some of the words are not easy to pronounce such as different areas, languages, names of food and the like. However, don’t let any of this cause you to miss reading an excellent story.

At the end of the novel, the writer shares his experiences by telling what is fictional, giving a short biography, facts and a poem. People who choose to read this novel will be the richer for it, as it gives understanding of a nation and her people. I rate this book a 5-star, and hope you will read it very soon for enjoyment as well as education.

I thank the author for giving me a complimentary copy so I could read and review this excellent book!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

1 Peter: Lesson 7

Title: 1 Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times

Author: Sue Edwards

Year: 2011

Publisher: Kregel Publishers

Review posted at the following address: http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/

Lesson 7 (pages 58-64) Stand Strong when Wronged

1 Peter 3:13-4:6

The lesson for this week focused on a few different concepts. The first was how we should respond when we are wronged. The second concept was about evangelizing. The third concept was to keep a clear conscience. Out of all the lessons in this study, this one was too focused on “abstracts” and not enough meat of the Word. While application is good for us to bring what we learned into practice, there must first be a good amount of time spent in the Word.

First, how should we respond when we are wronged? Well, how do we define being “wronged”? Do we define it by feelings, words, actions, or by someone else? If we focus on Jesus, I think our being “wronged” doesn’t even come close. He went through being mistreated by his own family. Just remember at one time they thought He had lost His mind! Let us go even further back in biblical history and ask why would the Son of God, the Son of Man, leave heaven to come as a baby to be “wronged” by sinful man, to save sinful man? I know for me this is the biggest challenge. I get lost in the horizontal day-to-day events. I tend to react before I come close to responding. So before I consider myself “wronged”, I look at Jesus and I can’t help but feel sorrow at the petty things that I let bother me, when He really suffered “wrongs” for me. Perhaps, the Body of Christ should do as Peter does in this passage--encourage each other while going through a time or season, stay faithful, seek God. Peter exhorts his readers to look at the bigger picture in our lives. People will wonder how we can have hope when there is no earthly reason for us to have it.

Second, the author gives questions and scenarios so that we can perhaps “prepare” ourselves to give an answer defending our faith. The author makes a valid point that the person who is asking for us to give a reason is the “other” person in our conversation. While this is helpful, wouldn’t it be wise to know Him, the one whom we are giving as the reason for our hope? Perhaps the reason most believers fear sharing their faith is rejection, but it is also the fear of not having the “right” answer. We should allow ourselves to be stretched to find the answers to questions to which we don’t know the answer. It is okay to say, “Good question, I don’t know the answer to that one. Let me do some research and get back to you.” We won’t always have the answer, but we know Who has the answer.

Third, a clear conscience is one thing Peter talks about us having. Here is what the whole passage states as written in the HCSB:”13 And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the •Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. 19 In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison 20 who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few —that is, eight people —were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 22 Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.

Chapter 4 Following Christ 1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve —because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin — 2 in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will. 3 For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the pagans choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living —and they slander you. 5 They will give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged by men in the fleshly realm, they might live by God in the spiritual realm.”

In really pouring over this section and looking up some words to find the original meaning, I was struck by the fact that how our conscience affects our Christian life. It is worded differently in the NIV, “keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” I wonder if we feared the Lord more than man, would our actions be different? Would our consciences be more “tender” as we live our day-to-day lives? I personally believe mine would. I will let you answer those questions for yourselves.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Title: A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH (Monastery Murder Series Book 2)

Author: Donna Fletcher Crow

Publisher: Monarch

Pages: 365

Year: 2011

Note: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel. Follow future reviews and read past reviews on my Blog, Seeking Him with all Yur Heart: http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/

Have you ever watched a movie, TV series or read a book looking forward to the upcoming action? How about starting a sequel of the original be it a movie, television or a book only to not finish it because you were disappointed? Let me tell you, this series written by Donna Fletcher Crow seems to only get better with each book. Mrs. Crow is a writer who not only researches for her stories from various sources; she actually travels to where her stories take place.

In this second book, Antony and Felicity are back on the track of another murder? Not in this well written, highly intriguing story. Each of the characters is battling his own thoughts and fears, all the while looking for where they belong, a question real people ask all the time. What keeps the reader from putting the book down is that the path each main character takes is not the same one, yet they are intertwined in a way the reader seeks to grasp.

While most authors put the height of the story in the middle, Donna does a masterful job of placing action right near the latter portion of these novels. She takes care to lay the groundwork from a historical perspective for the story, and then she brings characters her readers can identify with into the story. There seem to be multiple stories happening simultaneously with the characters, though it isn’t hard for the audience to follow at all. There are many themes woven in the tapestry of the story. The players in the story relate to each other in some way, but that way is not revealed too early in the action.

The backdrop for the story takes place in London, and there are flashbacks to the years spent in America. I don’t want to tell you who this affects though. In this setting there is murder, past and present. There are historical church icons involved, thieves, forgiveness, fear, love and so much more. I give this sequel a 5-star rating as the brilliance of storytelling is evident in each page. Donna Fletcher Crow ends her book with a chapter preview of her third book in this series. Trust me, even without that added tidbit; you will want to read other writings that Donna has done as she has written many novels.

Visit her website at http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/. I can attest this author loves to hear from her readers!

Grab a soft comfortable place to sit, something to drink and curl up for the adventure of a lifetime!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Interview with Donna Fletcher Crow

Donna: Lisa, thank you so much for inviting me to stop by Seeking With All Your Heart for a chat with you and your readers.

Lisa: Welcome, Donna. Why don’t you tell us first when and why did you started writing? Donna: I suppose the why all comes down to one word: love. Love of books, that is. I was an only child living on a farm and my mother was unwell, so books were my companions. And when I wasn’t reading stories I was telling myself stories in my head. I started writing seriously when I was drama minister for our church and we needed new material to produce. Starting out as a playwright was very helpful because it taught me to think in terms of constructing scenes. I wrote my first novel BRANDLEY’S SEARCH (reissued as WHERE LOVE BEGINS) when the hero got in my head (he had been a minor character in a Georgette Heyer novel I read) and demanded that I tell his story. It was like being pregnant. That story had to come out.

Lisa: Why British history instead of something else?

Donna: I always tell beginning writers to “Write from your passion.” My passion is to encourage British Christianity. I didn’t understand it myself until one time I heard a missionary speak and I realized her feelings for Africa were the same as mine for England, so I realized then that it was really a spiritual calling.

Lisa: What started you writing GLASTONBURY? Where did the research for this book take you and why so long to write it?

Donna: Many of those stories I told myself as a child involved knights saving ladies from dragons, so I’ve always had a fascination for the Arthurian stories. GLASTONBURY really came into focus for me when Carole, my editor at that time, and I visited Glastonbury on a research for my series The Cambridge Collection, of which BRANDLEY’S SEARCH was a part. Carole bought a pamphlet that told the legend of Joseph of Aramathea taking Jesus to Glastonbury as a young child. I laughed so hard cried, then I realized, “Wait a minute, that’s a wonderful story!” The research was great fun! All the Arthurian sites: Tintagel (Merlin’s cave); Dozemary Pool (The Lady of the Lake); Cadbury Castle (Camelot), and, of course, Glastonbury itself (the Tor, Chalice Well, Wearyall Hill). Then there was the research for each of the book’s six sections. Arthur is the centerpiece, but I cover; Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Tudor England as well. The Roman sites are especially wonderful to visit: Caerleon, Bath, York, Hadrian’s Wall. I cherish a picture of my two youngest children at a museum on Hadrian’s Wall wearing Roman armor. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have done all of that and that I was always able to take some of our children along on my research trips, so it enriched their lives as well. Three years of actual writing seems about right for an 876-page book that covers 1500 years. But when you consider I wrote my first Arthurian story in the 3rd grade, you could say I was rather late getting around to it. And then, I did have to take some time out in the middle to do some ghostwriting because, frankly, we needed the money.

Lisa: Where did the inspiration come from for your latest series The Monastery Murders?

Donna: I had wanted to tell the stories of British saints, beginning with St. Cuthbert, for years. When our daughter, who had studied classics at Oxford and discovered she didn’t like teaching school in London went off to a monastery in Yorkshire to study at a theological college run by monks I had the opportunity to visit her often, get acquainted with their way of life and very special style of Christianity and to know many of the monks personally. I realized then that I had the perfect setting for the stories I wanted to tell.

Lisa: Will you share what you are working on now and what readers can look forward to in the future?

Donna: Love to, Lisa! Just yesterday I finished the rough draft of AN UNHOLY COMMUNION, Monastery Murders 3. First, let me tell you about the research: Last April I met up with writer friend Dolores Gordon-Smith with whom I had become friends over the internet. Dolores, who lives in Manchester, is a lady of faith and writes charming murder mysteries set just after World War I. She escorted me the length and breadth of Wales, most of the time laughing at me because I simply couldn’t get over how hard it rained in Wales! Well, I do live in a desert. Then I spent 10 days as a considerably over-age pilgrim on a youthwalk with a group of teens and 20-somethings from all over England and Wales— and one girl from Texas— walking the 126 miles from London to Walsingham. Which just goes to prove that there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for research for a novel. Well, except for the murders, you understand. So, as you’ve probably figured out, Felicity and Antony are off to lead a youthwalk pilgrimage across Wales. They follow in the steps of Aaron and Julius, two of England’s earliest martyrs; St. David, who Christianized Wales; and the early 20th century revivalist Evan Roberts. It all sounds peaceful, bucolic and relaxing— right? But if I tell you that the theme of the book is the reality of evil, you’ll know not to plan on relaxing too much.

The author welcomes all inquiries, and she can be contacted through her website: http://donnafletchercrow.com/ You can reach Lisa Johnson through her email (lcjohnson1988@gmail.com) or blog: http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/
The author welcomes all inquiries, and she can be contacted through her website: http://donnafletchercrow.com/ You can reach Lisa Johnson through her email (lcjohnson1988@gmail.com) or blog: http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wild card tour #2

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:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Murray Pura earned his Master of Divinity degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and his ThM degree in theology and interdisciplinary studies from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more than twenty-five years, in addition to his writing, he has pastored churches in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta. Murray’s writings have been shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award, the John Spencer Hill Literary Award, the Paraclete Fiction Award, and Toronto's Kobzar Literary Award. Murray pastors and writes in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife Linda have a son and a daughter.

Visit the author's website.


Lovers of Amish fiction will quickly sign on as fans of award-winning author Murray Pura as they keep turning the pages of this exciting new historical romance set in 1917 during America’s participation in World War I.

Jude Whetstone and Lyyndaya Kurtz, whose families are converts to the Amish faith, are slowly falling in love. Jude has also fallen in love with flying that new-fangled invention, the aeroplane.

The Amish communities have rejected the telephone and have forbidden motorcar ownership but not yet electricity or aeroplanes.

Though exempt from military service on religious grounds, Jude is manipulated by unscrupulous army officers into enlisting in order to protect several Amish men. No one in the community understands Jude’s sudden enlistment and so he is shunned. Lyyndaya’s despair deepens at the reports that Jude has been shot down in France. In her grief, she turns to nursing Spanish flu victims in Philadelphia. After many months of caring for stricken soldiers, Lyyndaya is stunned when an emaciated Jude turns up in her ward.

Lyyndaya’s joy at receiving Jude back from the dead is quickly diminished when the Amish leadership insist the shunning remain in force. How then can they marry without the blessing of their families? Will happiness elude them forever?

Welcome a powerful new voice to the world of Amish fiction!

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736948775
ISBN-13: 978-0736948777


Lyyndaya Kurtz straightened her back and looked up at the blue and bronze evening sky. It was that strange sound again, like a large swarm of bees at their hive, and it grew louder and louder. She leaned the hoe against the picket fence her father had built around the garden. Her mother, whose hearing was no longer very good, continued to chop at weeds between the rows of radishes and lettuce. She glanced at her daughter as Lyyndaya shielded her eyes from the slowly setting sun.
Was ist los?” she asked, using Pennsylvania Dutch.
“Can’t you hear them, Mama?” Lyyndaya responded. “There are aeroplanes coming.”
Her mother stood up, still holding the hoe in her brown hands, and squinted at the sun and sky. “I don’t see anything. Is it a small one?”
“No, it’s too loud for just one aeroplane. Do you see, Mama?” Lyyndaya pointed. “Coming out of the west. Coming out of the sun.”
Now her mother shielded her eyes. “All I am seeing is spots in front of my eyes from looking into the light.”
“Look higher. There are—three, four, six—there are half a dozen of them.”
The planes were not that far from the ground, Lyyndaya thought, only a thousand feet, not much more. Each with two wings, the top wing longer than the bottom one, each plane painted a yellow that gleamed in the sunlight. As she watched, one of them broke away from the others and dropped toward them. It came so low that the roar of the engine filled the air and children ran from their houses and yards into the dirt road and the hay fields. They were soon followed by their mothers and fathers and older brothers and sisters.
Lyyndaya laughed as the plane flew over their house. A hand waved at her from the plane’s open cockpit and she waved back with all her might. “Can you see the plane now, Mama?” she teased.
Her mother had crouched among the heads of lettuce as the plane flashed past. “Ach,” she exclaimed with a cross look on her face, “this must be your crazy boy, Jude Whetstone.”
“He’s coming back!”
The plane had banked to the left over Jacob Miller’s wheat field and was heading back over the farmhouses while the other five planes carried on to the east. Its yellow wings dipped lower and lower. Lyyndaya’s green eyes widened.
“He’s going to land in Papa’s field!” she cried. “Where the hay was cut on Monday!”
She lifted the hem of her dress in both hands and began to run. The black kaap that covered her hair at the back, left untied, flew off her head.
“Lyyndaya! This is not seemly!” her mother called after her.
But the young woman had reached the old gray fence around the hay field, gathered the bottom of her navy blue dress in one hand, and climbed over, and with strands of sand-colored hair unraveling from their pins, she was racing over the stubble to where the plane’s wheels were just touching the earth. Others were running toward the plane from all directions, jumping the fence if they were spry enough, opening the gate to the field if they were not.
The aeroplane came to a stop in the middle of the field and when the propeller stopped spinning a young man in a brown leather jacket and helmet pushed his goggles from his eyes and jumped from the cockpit to the ground. He was immediately surrounded by the several boys and girls who had outrun the adults in their rush toward the craft. He mussed the hair of two of the boys who came up to him and tugged the pigtail of a red-headed girl.
“Jude!” Lyyndaya exclaimed as she ran up to him, the tan on her face flushed. “What are you doing here?”
“Hello, Lyyndy,” the young man smiled, lifting one of the boys up on his shoulders. “The whole flying club went up and I convinced them to come this way to Paradise. I wanted to see you.”
“To see me? You fly a plane from Philadelphia just to see me?”
“Why not?”
“But you were coming back on the train in a few days.”
“A few days. I couldn’t wait that long.”
Lyyndaya could feel the heat in her face as neighbors looked on. She saw one or two frown, but most of the men and women smiled. A very tall man in a maroon shirt wearing a straw hat laughed. She dropped her eyes.
“Bishop Zook,” she murmured, “how are you?”
Gute, gute,” he responded. “Well, Jude, what is all this? Why has a pigeon dropped out of the sky?”
Bishop Zook was not only tall, at least six-foot-nine, but broad-shouldered and strong. He shook Jude’s hand with a grip like rock. The young man pulled his leather helmet off his head so that his dark brown hair tumbled loose. Lyyndaya fought down an overwhelming urge to take Jude and hug him as she had done so many times when they were nine and ten.
“I wanted the children to see the plane, Bishop Zook,” said Jude.
“Only the children?”
“Well—” Jude stumbled. “I thought perhaps—I might ask Miss Kurtz—”
“Ah,” smiled the bishop. “You want to take her up, as you flying men say?”
“I thought—”
“Are you two courting?”
“You remember what is courting, my boy—you have not been among the English in Philadelphia that long, eh?”
Everyone laughed, and Lyyndaya thought the heat in her face and hands would make her hair and skin catch on fire.
Bishop Zook put an arm like a plank around Jude’s slender shoulders. “You know when there is the courting here, we let the boy take the girl home in the buggy after the Sunday singing. You remember that much after a week away?”
“So your horse and buggy are where?” the bishop said.
Jude continued to hunt desperately for his words. “In the barn, but I wanted—” He stopped, his tongue failing him as the whole colony stood watching and listening.
The bishop waited a moment and then walked over and touched the top wing of the plane. He ran his hand over the coated fabric and nodded. “A beautiful buggy. Pulled by horses with wings, eh? How many, Master Whetstone?”
Jude was trying not to look at Lyyndaya for help, but did anyway, and she was making sure she did not look at him or offer any by keeping her eyes on the stubble directly in front of the toes of her boots.
“There are—” Jude stepped away from the crowd pressing in on him and Lyyndaya and turned around to look at the plane behind him as if he were seeing it for the first time—“there are—” He stood utterly still and stared at the engine as if it did not belong there. Then he looked at Bishop Zook’s thick black beard and broad face. “Ninety. Ninety horses.”
The bishop nodded again and kept running his hand over the wing. “More than enough. There is the problem however—if God had meant us to fly, Master Whetstone, wouldn’t he have given us wings, hm?”
He took his hand from the plane and looked at Jude directly. Several of the men and women murmured their agreement with the bishop’s question and nodded their heads. Most remained silent, waiting for Jude’s answer. Jude stared at the bishop, trying to gauge the look in the tall man’s blue eyes. He thought he saw a flash of humor so he went ahead with the answer he had used a hundred times in their own Amish colony as well as in dozens of the ones around it.
“Bishop Zook,” he responded, “if God had meant us to ride a buggy he would have given us wheels and four legs.”
“Ah ha!” shouted the bishop, slapping his huge hand against his leg and making most of the people jump, including Lyyndaya. “You have it, Master Whetstone, you have it.” He clapped his hands lightly in appreciation and a smattering of relieved laughter came from the small crowd. “So now take me up.”
“As bishop, I must make sure it is safe for Miss Kurtz, ja? After all, who has ever had such a horse and buggy in our colony, eh?” He gave his hat to one of the men and climbed into the front of the two cockpits.
“I only have a little time before I must head back to Philadelphia—” Jude began, again glancing at Lyyndaya for help, who had gone so far as to raise her gaze to stare fixedly at the bishop and the plane, but still refused to make eye contact with the young man.
“Five minutes,” said the bishop with a gleam in his eye. “That is all I ask. I am not the one you are courting, eh?”
The people laughed again. The thought passed through Jude’s head that the bishop was enjoying a lot of laughter at his expense. Then he shrugged and climbed into the rear cockpit. He saw his father in the crowd and gestured with his hand.
“Papa, will you give the propeller a turn?” he asked.
“Of course, my boy.”
As Jude’s father, a tall, slender man with a short beard and warm brown eyes, walked toward the plane, Bishop Zook leaned his head back and asked, “Now, before the engine noise, tell me, what is the name of this aeroplane and where do they make such things?”
Jude handed the bishop a leather helmet and goggles. “It’s a Curtiss JN-4, the Jenny, and they’re usually made in Buffalo, New York. But our flying club outside of Philadelphia was able to purchase these at a very good price from our Canadian friends just across the border. They are built there by Curtiss’s Canadian associate, the Canadian Aeroplane Company, so we call them the Canuck.”
“But they are the same as the New York ones?”
“Almost. They have one great advantage. I use a stick, a joystick, to control the aeroplane in these. The old American ones have a wheel that is not as good.”
“Why don’t we put the stick in ours then?”
“We will. The next model has the stick, the JN-4D. But they have only brought it out this month. There are not enough of them. Besides, it’s 1917 and they are all going to the army. Civilian clubs will not be able to purchase them while the war is on.”
Jude’s father, in his brown summer shirt and straw hat, was standing in front of the plane and smiling. Jude played with a switch on the control panel in his cockpit. Then he pulled down his goggles and smiled back at his father and made a circle in the air with his hand. His father nodded, put both hands on the top blade of the wooden propeller, and swung it downward. The engine coughed twice and roared. His father’s hat went spinning into the sky with the prop wash.
“Contact,” Jude said loudly. “Please buckle on your harness, Bishop Zook.”
“Ah. So we truly do have something in common with the horses.”
Jude’s father had caught up with his hat. He looked back at his son and pointed east. Jude turned the plane in that direction.
“What is your father telling us?” shouted Bishop Zook.
“The direction the wind or breeze is coming from. We take off into the wind.”
“It gives us lift to help get the aeroplane off the ground.”
The craft moved ahead, slowly bouncing over the field, then gathering speed and rising into the air. Jude took it to a thousand feet and made sure he flew over the entire town of Paradise and especially the bishop’s dairy farm on the west end. The sun was still an hour or two over the horizon and covered the plane in light. The bishop began to laugh and slapped one of his hands against the side of the Jenny.
“Too beautiful, too beautiful,” Jude heard him call out. “Mein Gott, what a gift you have given the birds, such a gift, such a world.”
When they landed again and the propeller had spun down to a stop, Bishop Zook climbed out, pumped Jude’s hand like an excited boy, and then beckoned to Lyyndaya.
“Come, come, my dear,” he smiled, “your buggy awaits.”
Feeling every eye on her, the skin of her face burning, she stepped up to the plane and the bishop helped her into the front cockpit. She used one hand to manage her dress and the other to grab onto parts of the plane. When she was finally in her seat, the bishop gave her the helmet and goggles and showed her how to tighten the buckles of the shoulder harnesses. Then he walked to the front of the plane and bent his head at Jude’s father.
“May I?”
Jude’s father stood back from the propeller. “Of course.”
“I just pull it downward?”
Ja, just a sharp tug and then let it go. Do not hold on.”
“Yes, yes, all right—when?”
“My son will tell you.”
Lyyndaya sat in her cockpit feeling an odd mixture of embarrassment, excitement, and fear. Suddenly Jude’s hand squeezed her left shoulder from behind.
“You will be all right, Lyyndy Lyyndy Lou,” he said.
She could not turn all the way around to see him, but she knew he would be smiling just as his use of the childhood nickname had made her smile as well. Now, ten years later, without having had a chance to discuss it between themselves, the plane ride had become a buggy ride and they were courting, thanks to Bishop Zook. Well, it would give them something to talk about besides the weather and the crops when he came back to Lancaster County from Philadelphia in a few days.
She could not see what Jude was doing, but the bishop all of a sudden nodded, swung down on the propeller with his enormous hands and arms, and the engine burst into life. They began to roll across the ground faster than she had ever traveled in anything before, faster than galloping her mare, Anna, bareback. She felt her heart hammering and her mouth go dry.
“Hang on!” shouted Jude.
The wind was rushing against her face and body. The earth streamed past brown and green. The sky was a streak of blue and silver. Then the plane lifted into the air and her stomach seemed to turn inside out and upside down. She looked down and the men and women and children were like dolls and the wagons like toys and the houses like tiny boxes. Suddenly the plane banked to the right and she felt herself falling out of her seat. The leather flying helmet, unfastened, was torn from her head, her hair exploded in the rush of air, and as her arms dropped over the side into empty space she could not stop herself and started to scream.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wild Card Tour!

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:

Vinspire Publishing, LLC (November 30, 2011)

***Special thanks to April Gardner for sending me a review copy.***


April W Gardner has been a military brat, missionary's kid, and military spouse. After 21 years in various countries overseas, she happily resides in Georgia with her USAF husband and two sweet kiddos. In her free time, April enjoys reading, music, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

Librarian, reviewer, and avid reader, April adores anything books. She writes a regular column for the joint blog, Reflections in Hindsight, and is the founder and senior editor of the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She is the author of the historical romance series, Creek Country Saga and the children's adventure series, the Channel Islands Resistance.

Visit the author's website.


In 1816 Georgia, escaped slaves control the land just beyond the American border in Las Floridas. Lost somewhere between white and black worlds, Milly follows hope to the only place that can offer her refuge—the place Georgians are calling Negro Fort. The first, sweet taste of freedom convinces Milly that surrender is not an option. Death would be more welcome.

Major Phillip Bailey has orders to subdue the uprising and return the runaways to their masters. Forced to fight alongside Creek warriors—the same who etched the scars into his mind and flesh—Phillip primes himself for battle. But inside, a war already rages—return for the woman he thought lost to him or concede her to the enemy she loves; follow orders or follow his heart.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC (November 30, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098341985X
ISBN-13: 978-0983419853


Warring Spirits
April Gardner
Vinspire Inspirations
A Division of Vinspire Publishing
Ladson, South Carolina

Warring Spirits
Copyright ©2011 April Gardner
Cover illustration copyright © 2011 Elaina Lee/For the Muse Designs
Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval
system-except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a
review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Web without
permission in writing from the publisher. For information,
please contact Vinspire Publishing, LLC, P.O. Box 1165, Ladson, SC 29456-1165.
All characters in this work are purely fictional and have no existence
outside the imagination of the author and have no relation
whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not
even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the
author, and all incidents are pure invention.
ISBN: 978-0-9834198-5-3

Chapter 1

Phillip knew it was a dream. He told himself again, though it did little good. The children’s shrieks grew louder. The flaming pickets roared with new life, as though fueled by his denial of their existence.
His legs churned, but he couldn’t free his mind of the constant nightmare. At least this time, he reasoned, he wasn’t awake. Small blessings.
And then, he saw her.
Arms dangling at her sides and skirt undulating in the waves of heat, she stood across the compound. Her lips were motionless, but her voice echoed through his mind. “Phillip.”
He rushed toward the vision, and she reached for him. “Phillip, love, you must wake up.”
With a cry, he bolted upright.
The silhouette of a woman hovered over him. He stared at her, unblinking, afraid to move and frighten her away.
Sweat poured down his chest—sweat as real as the shadow seemed.
“That’s better,” she whispered. “You’ll be alright.”
He disagreed, but if he spoke, he might shatter her. He’d done it before.
Her loose hair swayed as she moved so near, he should feel her heat.
Taking in the comfort of her presence, he held his breath until his lungs burned with need. Refusing to be contained any longer, air exploded from his mouth. The sound ripped through the cabin, and in one blink, Adela vanished.
A moan built in Phillip’s throat, and he buried his head in his trembling palms. When his fingers collided with the jagged flesh on his face, he recalled again why Adela was no more to him than a mocking shadow, a figment of his deluded, half-crazed mind.
She had turned him down.
Familiar nausea haunted his gut. With a growl, he threw his damp pillow across the room. The sound of splintering glass sent him scrambling for the musket by his bed. He had the unsteady barrel aimed toward the source before he realized he’d been the cause of the commotion.
He dropped the weapon and backed away from it as though it were a copperhead. Blood pounded in his throat. He swallowed hard, terrified of his own mind.
It had been nearly two years. One more night of this and he would prove the gossip correct. He would go mad.
There had to be a better way.
“Help me.” His voice shivered, and for once, he was thankful to be alone. “Sweet Jesus, show me a better way.”
Sitting as poised as possible in the bouncing buckboard, Milly rearranged her skirt then tugged her bonnet over her ears. Another rut in the road sent her stomach flying.
“You look fine, Miss Milly.” Isum transferred the reins to one hand then wiped a palm against his dingy, knee-length trousers. A sideways glance topped his crooked smile. “As fine as any white lady in stole clothes.”
Milly squirmed inside her stuffy petticoats. “Borrowed clothes, and don’t call me that. Milly will do.”
“No, miss. It won’t. Best make a habit of it now, before we’re needin’ it.”
“I hate admitting when you’re right.”
Isum chuckled, but Milly pressed her lips and snatched a peek over her shoulder.
“We’ll hear somebody comin’ before we see ‘em.” Isum’s voice remained steady, his demeanor casual, and his shoulders relaxed. His death-grip on the reigns told another story.
Three years ago, he had been as short and wiry as a plucked cotton bush. Now, his muscular, mahogany frame left little room to spare on the wagon seat. According to plantation gossip, the field girls took to nervous giggles whenever he came around. The master had perked up as well and taken to accepting bids.
There was only one thing Master Landcastle needed more than strong field workers. Cash.
The moment whispers in the big house revealed that Isum had been sold and would leave by dawn, Milly took action. There was no way she would let them take the only true friend she had, so ignoring the consequences, she loaded the buggy with vegetables. And one lady’s day gown.
As was their weekly custom, she and Isum set off toward town. Only this time, instead of stopping at the market, they went straight through.
Six miles of red, Georgia clay stretched behind them. Seventeen more before they ran into Spanish Florida. Sixty beyond that, Negro Fort, and safety.
It had been done many times before. It could be done again. But in broad daylight?
Escape stories ran through Milly’s twenty-four years of memory. Had there been a single one where a slave had taken to the road while the sun was at its highest? She shook her head.
But I have an advantageso long as I’m not recognized.
The July sun beat down on her with mocking strength. She pressed a palm across the back of her stinging neck.
Isum reached to the floorboard then passed her the borrowed parasol. “You’ll be burnin’ if you don’t.”
Since he first came to the plantation as a skinny tyke five years her younger, Isum had been her responsibility. She had cared for him as meticulously as she did her own flesh. About the time his gaze tilted downward in order to look her in the eye, they swapped roles, and his protectiveness had grown in proportion to his towering height.
She frowned, opened the frilly contraption, and settled it against her shoulder. Immediately, her neck cooled. It did nothing for the bile rising in her throat.
Gripping the side of the bench, she failed to tamp down the regret that swelled within her.
The timing was wrong. They would be caught, and he would be sold. She dare not consider her own fate.
They should turn back. It wasn’t too late.
She swiveled and squinted at the road behind them. What options did she have? Mr. Grayson’s features, twisting with his customary, terrifying rage, flashed before her mind’s eye. It’s too late. We can’t turn around.
They should be moving faster.
Isum pulled on the reins.
“Why are you slowing?” Milly sat forward, resisting the urge to yank the whip from its holder and spur the mare to a gallop.
He swiped the floppy hat from his head and mopped his brow with his sleeve. “We ain’t alone. Best we not seem in too much of a hurry.” He indicated with his hat then settled it back in place before taking up a deliberate, relaxed posture.
A horseman topped the next slope.
“Oh God, help us.”
“What you worried about, Miss Milly? You’s armed with the most beautiful smile this side of the Chattahoochee. Ain’t no gentleman gonna see past it to doubt your word.”
But what if he wasn’t a gentleman? Milly forced a wobbly smile then swept her hand under her bonnet, securing any strays.
Within minutes, Isum pulled the buggy to a halt as the gentleman came alongside them. The creaking brake nearly sent Milly scrambling for the trees lining the road. Instead, she angled the parasol to shield her face, presumably, from the sun.
“Good afternoon.” The man’s unfamiliar voice released her pent-up breath.
Easing back the shade, she peered through the lace edging. Long seconds passed before Isum shifted beside her and nudged her back.
Milly lowered the parasol and forced her gaze to the stranger’s eyes. She found them friendly and unsuspecting. “Good afternoon to you, sir.” Tucking her trembling hands into the folds of the closed parasol, she tried for that beautiful smile but feared she fell short of Isum’s expectations.
The man studied her, never once glancing at Isum.
A cold sweat broke out on her upper lip. Like venom, fear coursed through her, poisoning her confidence. Her gaze slipped to the dirt where it belonged.
“You’re a might far from civilization. It’s not exactly safe out here, even with a strapping young buck such as yours.”
Milly’s line of sight skittered to the man’s chest, then, weighted by years of training, fell back to the ground. “I plan to trade with Creek in the next village. I hear they’ll give anything for a little food.”
“So they will, poor devils.” The man laughed, making Milly’s skin crawl. He sidled his horse close to the buggy, and the smell of his cologne wafted down. “I appreciate a woman with a tender heart.”
“If you don’t mind, we best be moving along. I wouldn’t want to be caught out after dark.”
The man’s silence lured Milly’s hesitant gaze. A smile crept up his face. “There they are, those pretty brown eyes.” He tipped his hat, bowing slightly at the waist. “It would be my pleasure to escort you, miss.”
“No.” The discourteous refusal popped out of its own volition. “Thank you, but that’s not necessary. We’re accustomed to the road.”
Eyes darkening, the gentleman reined his horse around, pointing its nose toward the road behind them. “As you wish. Good day.”
Milly nodded but doubted he noticed. “Let’s move, Isum,” she whispered, anxious to leave the man’s dust behind.
A brisk mile later, Milly’s gloved hand still clutched the parasol in her lap. Tears burned her eyes at the thought of what might have happened. She blinked them away to find Isum grinning from ear to ear.
“We done it. We fooled that dandy.”
A strangled chuckle escaped her. “Yes. I supposed we did. He never suspected a thing.” Milly laughed, full and long. It unwound the knotted cord in her gut, and suddenly, the road opened before them and filled with possibilities.
Possibilities of a future. With Isum? He had offered as much, and she hadn’t exactly rejected him. Neither had she accepted. She found it difficult to move past the years of near-mothering to feel something more toward him. And yet, she couldn’t imagine another man on earth who would willingly wed her. And from all indications, he was more than willing.
Taking in a deep, cleansing breath, she turned and found his steady brown eyes on her. All joviality had fled. “Isum? What is it?”
“For half a minute, I thought I was gonna have to kill me a white man, the way he was lookin’ at you. Like you’s a Sunday pastry.”
It was always the same with men. Many women longed for beauty, but for Milly, it was the key to her shackles. Perhaps today would commence the end of her nightmares. Even if it did, it certainly wouldn’t erase what had already been done to her. She tucked her chin against the nagging shame.
Isum grunted and slapped the reins across the mare’s rump. “Ain’t nothin’ you can help.”
At the sound of thundering hooves, she felt the blood drain from her face. A glance behind them revealed four riders closing in fast.
She gripped Isum’s arm, words lodging in her throat.
Jaw clenched, he focused on the horse as he pulled them to a stop. Running was futile. With quivering resignation, she removed her gloves and folded them neatly, just as the mistress had taught her. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Isum, to see hope shattered across his face.
“It ain’t ova,” he mumbled, as Master Landcastle’s men surrounded them.
Milly coughed in the horses’ dust, and probed her mind for a reasonable excuse.
“I thought you were smarter than this, Milly.” Grayson, the overseer, laid one hand across his legs, loosely aiming a pistol in their direction. “A shame what’ll become of you now.” His false sympathy grated on her ears.
Two of the others dismounted and dragged Isum from his seat. He struggled against their attempt to shackle him and was rewarded with a swift kick to the gut.
Milly jumped from the buggy and scrambled to the side of Grayson’s horse. Her nails dug into the leather of his riding boot. “Please, it was my fault. I didn’t tell him I planned to run.”
He guffawed and kicked her hand away. “He doesn’t answer to you, girl. And he’ll pay for his own foolishness. Just as you will.” He jerked the pistol. “You’re riding with me.”
The thought of being pressed against the man for seven miles of rough roads sent Milly back a step. He lunged forward, grappling for the fabric at the front of her gown, but he missed and scratched her neck instead.
She barely registered the burn.
His nostrils flared. “Get over here.”
Milly shied away from his curses then risked a glance over her shoulder.
The other three struggled against a willful Isum. “Hold him down,” one bellowed.
“I’m tryin’!” Metal clinked and rattled as Isum kicked, sending the shackles skidding across the road.
One of the men swore and went after them.
Too late, Milly noticed Grayson’s hand as he swiped for her again. She swayed back and away, but he compensated, stretching farther away from his horse. Fisting her blouse, he yanked her toward himself.
With a cry, Milly locked her knees, sending her lower half sliding under the horse’s belly. She clung to Grayson’s arm, her weight tugging him down with her.
“Let me loose.” His breath puffed hot in her ear.
The horse skittered, its hooves striking the ground so close she felt the vibration through the dirt. It bolted away from them, sending Grayson tumbling from his perch.
Just in time, Milly flipped to the side, avoiding his descending bulk.
He landed beside her with a grunt, his pistol coming to rest inches from her hand.
“Merciful, Lord,” she whispered through dusty lips.
“Grab it!” Isum screamed. Two held him belly-down, while the third locked one cuff on his ankle. His eyes bore into her, begging her to take action.
Grayson’s gaze darted to the pistol the instant her fingers wrapped around the handle. Before he could pull himself to a sitting position, she had the barrel pointed at his head. “Make them stop.” Her voice trembled in time with her hands.
He snorted. “You wouldn’t kill me.”
No, she wouldn’t, but she could cripple him. In a way he’d never hurt another woman again. Without a word, she redirected her aim.
Steady. Keep it steady. She scooted back, further of his reach. “You heard me.”
Grayson glared at her, his jaw working circles.
From the corner of her eye, she noted the stillness that had settled on the opposite side of the road. Isum flailed once more and managed to dislodge himself from under his captors.
“Unshackle him,” Milly called, her eyes never leaving Grayson’s.
“I’ll find you, and you know it.” His voice was gritty with hate.
“Maybe. But not today.”
“Grayson, what do you want us to do?”
“Let him go.”
The manacles clinked to the ground.
Isum pushed up and trotted to her side, lip bleeding and jaw swollen, but looking better than such a struggle should afford. “I got this here.” He took the weapon from her. “Think you can get the buggy into them trees?”
She nodded. If required to get them out of there, she could sprout wings and fly.
The sun had barely moved by the time Isum had all four men bound, gagged, and lashed to the wagon, which Milly had taken as far into the undergrowth as she could.
While he secured the men’s bonds, Milly changed back into her comfortable, plain brown frock then scattered all the horses but two. Leading one to Isum, she smiled. On horseback, they could cut through the forest and make better time. At least until the ground grew too swampy.
He gave her a boost then adjusted the stirrups with a swiftness that spoke of a lifetime in the master’s stables. Giving her foot a pat, he winked. “Now who’s the mastah of himself?”
She fingered the bonnet’s ribbon tied beneath her chin and shook her head. “It’s a bit soon to be so confident. We have a long trail ahead of us.”
Mounted, Isum directed his horse alongside hers. With a quick yank, he loosened her bonnet’s ribbons. “You don’t need that no more. From here on, we’ll be exactly like the Almighty created us to be.”
One hand pressed to the top of her bonnet, Milly leaned out of his reach.
He clucked his tongue. “Your feet can run, but your heart, it gotta stop chasin’ after lies. It’s time you be who you’s meant to be.”
Who I’m meant to be? “And what exactly am I?”
“A child of the King. And my girl. Nothin’ else mattuh.”
Milly snorted, as he took her mare by the bridle. “We ain’t leavin’ ‘til you know it.”
“I know it.”
“Then take it off.”
She fingered the edge of her bonnet, while Grayson’s gaze gouged her back. She was more terrified to remove it than to turn the mare toward Florida. Heart running wild, she lifted the bonnet until a breeze tickled the hair on her forehead.
With a smile born of unending patience, Isum released her horse.
She set the cap in her lap and ran a hand over the braid worked in a circle around her head, its coarse, frizzy texture accusing her of her tainted heritage.
Her line of sight traveled to Grayson. From where he sat tied to the wagon wheel, the hatred emanating from his eyes scorched Milly’s weak resolve.
“I can’t.” With a jerk to the reins, she twisted the horse’s bit out of Isum’s reach. Gripping the saddle with her thighs, she settled the bonnet back in place. A swift kick of her heel set the mare on the backwoods trail to Spanish Florida.
Isum might be doomed every day to face their reality, but Milly had been blessed with the option to hide.
What slave in her right mind would choose otherwise?
For the third time in an hour, Major Phillip Bailey checked that his musket was properly primed and loaded. The Apalachicola River wound along on his right, and Creek warriors fanned out on the left. He was trapped. It had only been two years since many of these same warriors had surrendered to General Jackson at the conclusion of the Red Stick War.
The sight of them now, wild in their feathers, piercings, and tattoos, set the hairs on the back of his neck on end. For every one of the hundred and sixteen, blue-coated regulars on the march to Prospect Bluff, there were two—supposedly ally—Creek warriors who slogged across the boggy ground next to him.
The odds were far from comforting. Sweat pasted his silk neck-stock to his throat.
He scanned the surrounding pines for any sign of danger, whether from runaway slaves or friendly Creeks turned hostile. Downriver a ways and set back into the forest, the outline of a dwelling took shape. Like the many other slave-owned shacks they’d come across, the place appeared abandoned, but that didn’t mean the owners weren’t lurking in the shadows, waiting to ambush them.
Silent as ghosts, a group of warriors split off and swarmed the farmstead. Within minutes, they rejoined Phillip’s column empty-handed.
If what was said about the runaway’s leader proved true, Chief Garcon wouldn’t allow Phillip and his men to waltz into the area without a dandy of a fight. It was no secret the Americans intended to neutralize the fort on Prospect Bluff, the stronghold they called Negro Fort. Its name alone struck fear in the hearts of southern Georgians.
General Jackson had jumped at Spain’s approval of his crossing the Spanish-American border to defuse the tension and reclaim American property—the slaves. With its swamps, alligators, and prowling Seminoles, Las Floridas was wild country. Toss in three hundred armed and desperate runaways, and the place became hell on earth.
Phillip had been the first to volunteer to invade that hell. Alligators and runaways, he could handle. Creek warriors were a different matter altogether. Running into them on the southerly trail had been a surprise to both parties. It just so happened that, this time, Creek and American objectives ran parallel. Or so the Indians said…
Without warning, a regular stepped out from behind a tree blocking Phillip’s path. His rifle arm jerked. “In the name of all that’s holy, Corporal Higgins, get back in line.” Phillip spoke from between clenched teeth.
“Yes, sir. Just taking care of business, sir.”
Phillip noted a smirk on the nearest warrior. He scowled back.
The natives might see him and his men as a bunch of untrained idiots, but Phillip knew better. When not attacked on the sly and when properly prepared, there was no equal to Phillip’s army anywhere in the Americas. Hadn’t they proved it two years earlier by crippling the Creek Confederacy?
He passed Higgins’ scrawny frame as he busily fastened his broadfalls. “Didn’t mean to scare you, sir.” A poorly contained leer plucked at the man’s freckled cheeks.
Phillip opened his mouth to refute the charge and put the private in his place, but the gravelly voice of Sergeant Garrigus beat him to it. “Idiot. You can’t rattle the major. He’s got nerves of iron.”
“Is that right?”
“After what he’s seen? You bet.”
Garrigus’s praise sounded sincere enough, but Phillip knew the truth and prayed every day no one else would discover it. “Enough chatter back there. Keep your mouths shut and your eyes peeled.” He cast a sideways glance at longtime friend and surgeon, Captain Marcus Buck.
Marcus returned it with a faint smile that raised his flawless cheeks. Eyes, nose, mouth—each feature lined up perfectly. He might be a favorite with the ladies, if he took his nose out of medical books long enough to notice.
Involuntarily, Phillip’s jaw twitched, tugging the taut skin around his scar.
“Where’s Enoch?” Marcus’s gaze skimmed the area.
“Are you enjoying the quiet too?” Phillip subdued a grin and jerked his head toward the end of the loosely formed column. “I put him to work keeping Cook company.”
“Indians making him nervous?”
“Him and me both.” It wasn’t the only thing Phillip and his young slave had in common.
Moisture sucked into his boot as he stepped into another pocket of muck. Swamp water soaked his half-gaiters and spattered his dirty white breeches. He shook his foot, longing for a pair of clean, dry stockings. An arduous, two-day trek behind them, Camp Crawford might have been nothing more than tents and pickets, but right now, it seemed pretty near to heaven.
An Indian, head shaved on the sides, loped from the front of the line toward Phillip. His black hair, collected into a long tail, flipped through the air behind him. His face was a solemn, purposeful mask, and he clutched a tomahawk, as if ready for battle.
A drumbeat sounded from nearby. Or was that the blood pounding Phillip’s eardrum?
He strengthened his stance and gripped the musket barrel, ready at any instant to swing it into position. Sweat dripped into his eye, but he refused to blink and miss even one of this warrior’s breaths.
The Indians had caught him unawares before. Never again.
As the man neared, the path cleared before him. Ahead, a commotion scattered the column.
This was it. The moment Phillip had been anticipating. One swing of this warrior’s blade would be the signal for the rest to attack. By sundown, every last American scalp would dangle from a pole.
Unless Phillip did something to stop it.
The drum increased its tempo. In his mind, he was back at Fort Mims, the fires licking at his heels. The world narrowed to the warrior streaking toward him. Phillip had known better than to trust these savages, but Colonel Clinch hadn’t listened.
Phillip should give some sort of call to battle, but his brain went numb. Breath ragged, he raised his weapon to his shoulder and pointed the muzzle at the warrior’s chest. His stiff collar dug into the base of his head and his sweaty finger trembled against the cool trigger as he waited for the red man to raise his tomahawk.
Instead, ten paces away, he came to a halt, his brown eyes boring into Phillip. The warrior lowered his weapon and slipped it into a loop on his waistband. Arms limp, his lean body visibly relaxed as he stood before Phillip.
Except for the drum in his ear, silence surrounded them,
Why didn’t he attack? Indians never surrendered. Surely, it was a trick.
Phillip blinked, then allowed his gaze to flick to the side.
Marcus laid a hand on Phillip’s arm, and he flinched.
“Easy, now,” Marcus sounded as though he were calming a terrified child instead of addressing a superior officer. His voice rose barely above a whisper. “The men are watching. There’s no call for this. Not this time.”
A massive vulture soared above them, pulling Phillip’s focus back to the man before him. As much as Phillip searched, he found not a hint of malice in the warrior’s steady gaze.
He dropped the tip of his musket and sensed two dozen warriors lowering their bows in response.
As realization of his error took hold, heat crawled up Phillip’s neck, burning his scar. He focused on the black ostrich plume trembling in the air above Marcus’ bicorned hat as he turned to the warrior.
“It’s nothing personal, you see. Major Bailey fought at Mim’s place. Next time you’re careless enough to run up on him that way, I’ll let him have at you,” Marcus stated with a half-grin.
The Indian stared at Phillip, long and probing, until his eyes softened and mystified Phillip with their sudden depth.
“No, best stop me, Captain Buck. No sense creating more work for yourself.” Phillip’s attempt at humor fell flat. He cleared his throat and turned to the Indian. “You have a message for me?”
The warrior nodded. “A white man. We found there.” He gestured toward a sandbar in the middle of the river.
Phillip’s pulse slowed. He swallowed and willed his voice not to tremble. “One of ours?”
“A seaman. Wounded here.” He tapped his shoulder.
“One of Sailing Master Loomis’ men?” Marcus asked, his voice rising with disbelief.
Phillip resumed walking at a quick pace. “My thoughts exactly, although it was my understanding that no vessel from the naval convoy was to enter the river until we’d arrived.”
“They weren’t,” Marcus confirmed.
The warrior took up a limping step beside them. “There is more,” he said, halting Phillip in his tracks. “Two dead. This side of river.”
“Sailors, as well?” Phillip asked, hoping the dead were runaways.
“Perhaps. Their white bodies lie naked.”
Marcus hissed a curse, while Corporal Higgins’ face lit with anticipation. “We gonna see action?”
“Never mind that,” Phillip said. “Did you hear the Indian’s report?”
“Yes, sir. I heard.”
Phillip pointed two fingers downriver. “Take it to Colonel Clinch, on the double.” At the sound of Higgins’ scurrying footfalls, Phillip turned to Marcus. “Surgeon, you’re with me.”
A silent crowd gathered ahead—around the wounded sailor, Phillip surmised. “Clear out,” he called as he shouldered his way through the throng. “Give the man space to breathe.”
Marcus followed, bumping into Phillip’s back when he stopped short. His breath caught in his lungs. Scalped and brutally stabbed, two stripped men lay in a puddle of blood, their features frozen in twists of agony.
Soldiers shifted, allowing the doctor room to press his fingers to each neck. He stood, retrieved a kerchief from his pocket, and wiped his hands, staining the cloth red. “Give me someone I can help, for heaven’s sake.”
As Marcus stepped over the bodies, a tremble began deep inside Phillip. The quiver grew, moving into his stomach with a painful shudder. “We camp here. Private Davidson, inform Major Collins. Garrigus, set up a perimeter.” He tore his eyes from the grisly scene, stepped back, and then turned to Marcus. “Captain Buck, see to the wounded sailor, wherever he is. I’ll find you shortly. I’m going to look for tracks before we lose daylight.”
Night was falling fast and with it, his composure. The skirts of his coatee slapped the backs of his legs as he quick-stepped toward the shelter of the woods.
He pressed his lips tight and willed his stomach to cease its rebellion. Eyes riveted to a massive cypress twenty yards in, he forced certain images from his mind. Images of Fort Mims, of the dead and dying, of the corpses he had trampled in his fight for life.
Satisfied the cypress hid him, he rested his hands on his knees. His head swam, and the world tipped. Closing his eyes, he focused on keeping his breath even and his army rations where they belonged.
At last, he regained a measure of control—enough to be presentable to his men.
These memories should not hold such power over him. And yet, they did. With more ferocity each passing month.
Furious at himself, he ripped the bicorn from his head and hurled it into the shadows.
A soft cry followed, emanating from the darkness beyond.
Every muscle in Phillip’s body froze, as he strained to pierce the obscurity of dusk. He saw nothing, heard nothing—besides voices carrying from the riverbed. Had he imagined the sound? If he had, the fact wouldn’t astound him. Not anymore.
The cry had possessed a human quality. Would he go so far as to say feminine? His mind replayed the sound. Yes, he would. Had there been a female with the sailors? Phillip knew of no situation where that might be permitted.
Unwilling to believe he was hearing voices in his head, he set out in the direction his chapeau bra had landed. Musket going before him, he proceeded with carefully placed steps and peered into the ever-darkening forest beyond. This could be a trap, but it was worth the risk if it squelched the notion he was indeed mentally disordered.
Ears finely tuned, he crept toward his cap which lay before a scanty shrub.
The bush shook violently. Phillip jerked his musket up then back down as a woman sprang from concealment.
Her skirt snagged, abruptly halting her flight. As her hands battled to extricate the fabric, she lifted her bonneted head, exposing large, fearful eyes and a face which glowed pale in the waning daylight.
Unless the encroaching night was playing tricks on him, this woman was white. Not the midnight skin of a runaway or the smooth olive of a Spaniard, but white. Nearly as white as Phillip.
He settled the butt of his musket at his feet. “Ma’am? What are you doing out here?”
Her struggle grew more desperate until the sound of ripping preceded her tumble. Mostly hidden by palmettos, she scooted backward on the ground.
Still many yards distant, Phillip reached a hand to her, unable to imagine why she might be afraid of him. “I won’t hurt—”
A black man, large as a bear, darted from behind a thick pine to Phillip’s right. His sprint carried him across Phillip’s path and directly toward the woman.
“No! Get away.” Her words came out a garbled croak.
“Halt!” Phillip flipped the weapon back into position and aimed it at the slave’s chest.
Unfazed, he kept moving and would have intercepted the woman except for the stone she hurled. It thudded off his shoulder and stopped him dead in his tracks.
He swiveled to face Phillip, who had shortened the distance between them, his eye never leaving the musket’s sites. “One more step, and before the night's out, I’ll bury you where you stand.”
The man’s shoulders rose and fell with each rapid breath, but his stony face showed no fear. “Then you bettah do it. Otherwise, it’ll be you what's buried. See, I plan to make it to that fort, and losin’ my life to do it is no mattuh to me.”
Phillip’s brother, Dixon, had often said that a man who didn’t value his own life made the most dangerous of enemies. This one wouldn’t live long enough to become that. Phillip leveled his musket’s barrel at the big man’s heart.
In response, he took a single step forward.
“Don’t shoot!” The woman stumbled forward, placing herself between the runaway and the iron-tipped muzzle.
Reflexively, he skipped to the side to maintain his aim on the man. “Step away, ma’am. Don’t want you hurt.” What was she thinking?
She mirrored his movements, keeping herself between them. “No one needs to get hurt.”
“Move away from him, and let me handle this.”
She faced Phillip, her large brown eyes pleading. “Let him go. Please.”
“Woman, are you crazy?” The black man voiced Phillip’s own thoughts.
She was either insane or suffering from over-exposure.
Weapon still trained on the runaway, Phillip took a quick step forward and flailed at her, trying to grab her by the arm.
She skittered to the side, and he swiped nothing but air.
“Get out of the way,” he snapped. Not one of his men would have dared defy his command, yet this woman stood her ground.
She backed further away from him and dangerously close to the black man. “He didn’t run a hundred miles just to be shot down defenseless in the woods a day away from the only chance at freedom he’ll ever have.” Her voice shook, but her rigid back told Phillip she wouldn’t give in any time soon.
With his mind concocting a way to move the woman and save both their necks, Phillip was only half-listening. “What are you talking about?”
Although shadows fell across her face, Phillip didn’t miss the softening of her eyes or the quiver of her lips. Her passion for this slave’s freedom furrowed Phillip’s brow.
“If you were fighting for your life, wouldn’t you want a fair shot at it?” she asked.
Like a Red Stick’s arrow, her soft-spoken question pierced him, immobilizing his thoughts to anything beyond one image—his brother’s doom-stricken features and the blood-thirsty warriors that swarmed him.
“Yes,” he rasped.
Surprise widened her eyes and parted her lips—a lovely image to return to after his disturbing trip to the past.
For one instant, Phillip would have done anything she asked. He lowered his musket and stretched a hand toward her, but before he could even shift his stance, the slave lurched forward.
He encased the woman in his arms, lifting her and covering the lower half of her face with a massive hand. “Hush, now, or you’ll call ‘em all down on us.” Her startled cry preceded the man’s swift backward steps. He hurled a steely glare at Phillip. “You ain’t seen nothin’. Ain’t talked to nobody. You hear, soldier?” The ferocity in his voice chilled Phillip’s blood.
One quick twist of the man’s hand was all it would take to snap the woman’s neck. Berating himself, Phillip released the barrel of his weapon and let it drop to the ground with a soft thud then splayed his hands in front of him. “No need to hurt her. Let her go, and I’ll never breathe a word I saw you. You can go right—”
The slave flipped the woman’s legs into the air and caught them under his arm in the same instant that he took flight.
Three seconds into Phillip's pursuit, common sense won out, and he came to a quick stop. If he were going into the wilds after an unpredictable giant, he had better have a squad backing him.
Within moments, the only evidence left of the woman’s presence was the dread constricting Phillip’s chest that no one would believe she’d even been there.