Friday, September 30, 2011

with Susan Page Davis

Welcome back to the Barn Door Book Loft, Susan!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

Before I wrote fiction, I wrote nonfiction, so it wasn’t all that different. I wrote for a daily newspaper, working at home, and homeschooled my six children.

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
The Amish Midwife, by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould. Now I’ve got the sequel, The Amish Nanny, ready to read.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
Yell for my husband—that’s what I do when I see a spider.

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
In May I got to watch my two youngest (of six) children march down the aisle to receive their high school diplomas. After eleven years of home school, they took their senior year at a Christian school. Their dad and I were extra proud of them.

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
Stop revising and hand in the manuscript!

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
I’m not very important. It’s something I have to relearn quite often.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
The Lady’s Maid will release October 1. Two English ladies go to America in 1855, to search for Lady Anne’s uncle. He has inherited the title of earl, but he doesn’t know that yet. Their search leads them to Independence, Mo., where they join a wagon train in hopes of finding him in Oregon. It’s a lot of fun and adventure, with a bit of mystery thrown in.



You can purchase Christmas at Barncastle Inn from Amazon.

Susan is giving away a copy of Christmas at Barncastle Inn. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Susan Page Davis' Christmas at Barncastle Inn

Susan Page Davis is an award-winning author with thirty-six published novels and novellas. A Maine native, she has also lived in Oregon and recently moved to western Kentucky.

In January, 2011, she was named Favorite Author of the Year among readers of Heartsong Presents books. She’s a member of Women Writing the West and American Christian Fiction Writers and a past winner of the Carol Award (ACFW’s Book of the Year) and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award.

Susan has six children and eight grandchildren and loves to spend time with them. She loves animals, puzzles, reading, and genealogy.

You can find Susan online at
www.susanpagedavis.com,
www.texastrailfiction.com,
www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Page-Davis.

Christmas at Barncastle Inn

Each Christmas, the Barncastle family’s sprawling Victorian B&B becomes a fantasy world where guests can rent the entire inn and celebrate the season in whatever historical period they choose.

Jayne Barncastle is anxious to prove her big idea won’t break the bank by re-creating a medieval Yuletide for the wealthy Dillard family. But will the Dillards be less than pleased when Jayne falls for their widowed son-in-law, Luke? Other families in the other stories celebrate a World War II Christmas, a Pirate Yule, and the First Christmas. Will four bygone Christmas seasons bring timeless forgiveness and love?

Here's an excerpt of Christmas at Barncastle Inn:

Jayne faced the newcomers with her brightest smile.

“Welcome to Barncastle Inn.”

“Hi.” The man smiled and looked down at his companion.

Instead of the twenty-something couple she had expected, a boy of six gazed up at his father, shivering with excitement. Jayne couldn’t tell if he was glad to be inside the fairytale inn, or if he wanted to turn and bolt.

She extended her hand. “I’m Jayne Barncastle.”

“I’m Luke Gilbert, and this is my son, Andy. We have a reservation.”

“Yes, you do.” Jayne bent forward and smiled at the boy. He stared at her with round blue eyes. His blond hair lay tousled over his forehead, sun-bleached a shade lighter than his father’s. “Hello, Andy. I’m glad you and your dad came to stay with us. Do you like this house?”

“It’s cool,” he whispered.

“I think so, too.” Jayne straightened. “Let me check you in, Mr. Gilbert, and then I’ll take you and Andy up to your room. We put you in the Squire’s Room. It’s a beautiful room, with a balcony and a gorgeous view of the lake. But I have to confess, I thought a married couple was coming.”

Jayne quickly completed the check-in. She’d have to clue Mom in as soon as possible to nix the candles and romance at dinner. The couple staying in the Library Suite was going out to eat, so Luke and Andy Gilbert would be the only ones in the dining room. They’d probably rather not have dim lights, soulful music, and open flames on the table. And Andy might not go for the crab bisque and prime rib Mom had taken so much trouble to prepare.

“Do you have other luggage?” she asked as she closed the computer check-in program.

“No, this is it,” Luke said.

Andy held on to the straps of his backpack, as though afraid she would try to take it from him.

“Right this way, then.” She led them to the stairs.

“Do you have any armor?” Andy’s plaintive voice wrapped itself around her heart. She’d told her father at least a thousand times over the years that the house cried out for a suit of armor.

“We don’t.” She turned to face him on the landing where the stairs turned. “But I’ve always thought this corner would be the perfect place for a suit of chain mail.”

He nodded, his eyes huge.

Luke smiled at her over Andy’s head. “Next he’ll be wanting a steed.”

Jayne caught her breath. “That’s not a bad idea.” Plans whirled through her mind as she continued up the stairs. If this little boy wanted knights and armor, the Barncastle Inn was up to the task.



You can purchase Christmas at Barncastle Inn from Amazon.

Susan is giving away a copy of Christmas at Barncastle Inn. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

with Jody Hedlund

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Jody!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

There wasn’t ever a time “before writing.” I’m pretty sure I was born with a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other! Since my earliest days, I loved making up stories and writing them down. The passion followed me into adulthood. And after many twists and turns along the path, I’ve finally been able to channel that passion into a full time writing career.

I did take a hiatus from writing for many years when I was busy having my babies. When I came back after the time off, however, I was able to pick up right where I left off. The Preacher’s Bride was the first book I wrote after my long break. And it was my first published book (Bethany House, 2010).

I believe that the hiatus helped me grow both emotionally and spiritually, so that when I came back to my pen and paper, I was ready to pour out my heart and soul.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
Of course I’d have to be something chocolatey since that’s the kind of sweet I crave most often! I’d probably want to be something rich, gooey, and very sweet—because that’s how I like to think of my stories!

Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite chocolate desserts:

O Henry Bars:
4 cups oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup melted butter
½ cup Karo syrup
1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
½ cup peanut butter

Mix the first 4 ingredients. Press into a well-greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake 15 minutes at 350° and cool slightly. Melt together the next 2 ingredients. Spread over warm bars. Refrigerate.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
First, I’d make sure that the monster hadn’t gotten into my big pot of coffee. If so, I’d have to thoroughly chide the purple pilferer. And second, I’d ask the monster if she’d be willing to make a big batch of cinnamon rolls for breakfast. After all, what could be more pleasant than sitting down to breakfast with a purple polka-dotted monster and enjoying freshly baked cinnamon rolls together?

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
The one household task I always put off is ironing. In fact, I’ve been known to wear wrinkled clothes in preference of spending the time ironing. Or you might find me attempting to iron something while I’m wearing it. I even go out of my way to avoid buying clothes that need to be ironed! Fortunately, my husband doesn’t have the same ironing-fetish. And once or twice a year, he’ll tackle the to-be-ironed pile.

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
Over the past several years, the Lord has been teaching me not to be afraid to try new things and brave dangerous prospects in the pursuit of my dreams. When we go after the things that matter, we’ll have to take risks and we’ll experience setbacks and obstacles. But if we persevere, we can reach our destination and do great things along the way.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
In 2012, my next historical romance releases. I’m really excited about this story because it’s set in my home state of Michigan. It takes place during the 1880’s at a time in history when the lumber era was at its height. Although the story isn’t inspired by a true person the way my first two books have been, I do include several real people, particularly a real villain by the name of James Carr who was notorious in central Michigan for his violence and for introducing white slavery into the state.

The heroine of the story is a young woman, Lily Young, who is looking for her sister who’s caught up into the degradation of lumber camp life. While Lily searches for her missing sister, she fights against the evil that runs rampant around her, and she fights not to lose her heart to the lumber baron who turns a blind eye to the lawlessness of the lumber business.



You can purchase The Doctor’s Lady from Amazon.

Jody is giving away a copy of The Doctor’s Lady. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jody Hedlund's The Doctor’s Lady

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher's Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her next book, The Doctor’s Lady releases in September 2011.

You can find Jody online at
www.jodyhedlund.blogspot.com,
www.jodyhedlund.com,
www.twitter.com/#!/JodyHedlund,
www.facebook.com/AuthorJodyHedlund.

The Doctor's Lady

They vowed to keep their marriage in name only.

But when the unexpected happens on the grueling journey west . . .

Their carefully constructed partnership will be put to the ultimate test.


Priscilla White knows she’ll never be a wife or mother and feels God’s call to the mission field.

Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs.

Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

Here's an excerpt of The Doctor’s Lady:

Chapter One

February 1836
Angelica, New York

Indians!”

The sharp call from the back of the sanctuary jolted Priscilla White. She sucked in a breath and twisted in the pew.

“Two of them!” shouted someone else.

Additional cries of alarm erupted around her, and Priscilla strained to see the entrance of the church above the heads of the congregants behind her.

Mary Ann’s fingers bit into her arm.

Priscilla patted her younger sister’s hand and rose from the hard bench just enough to get a glimpse of the wide-open double doors. Sure enough, two Indian boys stalked inside.

“What shall we do?” Mary Ann tugged her. “Should we hide?”

“Oh, shush now.” Priscilla squeezed her sister’s hand and tried to stop the trembling of her own. “They’re just boys.”

The two lean youth started down the aisle with long, confident strides. Their braids dangled with beads and shells that clinked together. The fierce blackness of their eyes captivated her, and she couldn’t look away, even though staring broke the rules of etiquette.

With each step they took, they drew nearer the front pew where she sat with her family, and her heart pattered harder against her chest. Why were they here? What could they possibly want?

Next to her, Mary Ann shrank into the wooden seat as much as her hugely pregnant frame would allow.

The boys’ fringed leggings swished and their breechcloths flapped in cadence.

Priscilla forced herself to sit straighter, to not shrivel like her sister. The taller boy’s dark eyes slid to Priscilla for the briefest instant, and she was sure he could hear the rapid thumping inside her.

The air in their wake carried the scent of melted animal fat and charred meat. She pressed a gloved hand against her nose and drew in a deep breath of the sweet mint that lingered in the satiny material.

When the Indians reached the pulpit, they spun abruptly and faced the congregation. Almost on cue, they splayed their legs and folded their arms across their chests.

A hush descended over the meetinghouse. The babbling of a baby several rows back reverberated through the eerie quietness. Reverend Lull stood unmoving, like a wood carving, his mouth partly open and his hand raised.

For a long moment, Priscilla held her breath and, like everyone else, stared at the spectacle. There hadn’t been a single Indian in Allegany County during the twenty-six years of her lifetime. Who knew how long before that?

And now there were two. What was Providence planning for them?

The decisive step of boots at the doorway echoed through the silence.

Once again, Priscilla shifted in her pew. This time she took in the tall form of a broad-shouldered man. With the brim of his battered hat pulled low, she could see nothing but the shadowed stubble on his jaw.

A twinge of trepidation wove through her stomach.

His boot heels clunked on the wooden floor, and with each step forward, the thread pulled taut until, finally, when he reached the front and turned to face them, her stomach was as tight as the stitches in her sampler.

With a flick of his finger, he tapped up his hat and gave them a clear view of his face. Blue eyes the color of a winter sky peered at them from a tanned, weathered face. “Forgive me, Reverend, for disrupting your service,” he said, not bothering to look at Reverend Lull. Instead, his gaze swept across the
congregation.

There was something intense and passionate in his eyes, something that spoke of adventure and of daring deeds about which Priscilla could only dream.

Mary Ann’s fingers dug through Priscilla’s gloves and pinched her tender skin. Priscilla absently patted her sister’s hand, wishing Mary Ann’s fear didn’t mirror her own.

Standing next to the savage Indians, the man seemed fierce — from the pistol at his waist to the scar that cut a thin white path from the corner of his left eye to his cheek. Who was this man? And what did he want with them?

Priscilla pressed the knot in her middle. Yet even as she tried to still her quivering, she couldn’t keep from trembling with the thrill of the unknown.

“I’m Dr. Eli Ernest, and I’ve just returned from exploring Oregon Country.”

A doctor? Priscilla sat back against the hard bench. This fearsome, rugged man a doctor? She’d met with plenty of doctors over the past several years, and none had looked like this man.

And none of them had been able to offer her any hope. . . .

An ache of emptiness swelled through her middle. She slid her hand away from her barren womb and tucked it in her lap. She forced herself to not think about the pain, about the fact that she’d never be a good and fruitful wife to any man. How many times must she remind herself to embrace God’s plan for her life, even if it never included marriage and children?

“John and Richard” — Dr. Ernest nodded toward the two Indian boys —“ agreed to come back with me so I could show everyone just how kind and civil the Indians truly are.”

The boys stared straight ahead, their expressions stoic. In their Indian attire, they looked anything but kind and civilized.

The taller boy’s eyes flickered to her again, and she caught a glimpse of curiosity in their depths before he glanced away.

For an instant, she could almost picture him as one of her students. With a proper haircut and appropriate wearing apparel, perhaps he could grow to be more civilized. With the right teacher, he could quite possibly learn many things.

Her heart quickened. Soon, very soon, she would have the opportunity to change lives for the sake of the gospel. She would get to teach heathens like this boy, only in India, where the need was greater than any other place on earth.

Any day now, for she was long overdue to hear back from the Mission Board.

“They are of the Nez Perce tribe, a peaceful and generous people,” Dr. Ernest continued. “I’ll be traveling back to Oregon Country in a few weeks’ time, returning John and Richard to their home.” His voice had a rugged quality that matched everything about him, from his oil-slicked cloak and faded trousers to his scuffed boots.

“This time I won’t be coming back. The Nez Perce have asked me to set up a mission among them.”

A mission? Her heart skipped forward, each beat tripping over the next, just as it did every time she thought about life on the mission field and the millions of heathen still needing the gospel.

“John and Richard’s father wants to help his people. They’ve seen the benefit of the white man’s medicine and knowledge, so they’ve agreed to let me buy a portion of their land and build a clinic.”

A mission in the far West? Everyone knew the land in the West was unfit for civilized life. It was a place inhabited by fur trappers, wild animals, and Indians. The rugged terrain made it nearly impossible for self-sufficiency.

India, on the other hand, already had established missions and schools. They desperately needed more workers.

“I’ve come today on behalf of the Board of Missions,” Dr. Ernest said, “to ask for your commitment of support. I’ve spent the winter visiting churches, raising funds necessary for our return travel and building of the mission. Now, with your support, I could raise the last of what I need.”

A chorus of whispers broke the stunned silence that had prevailed since the appearance of the two Indian boys.

Reverend Lull finally moved. “Well, welcome, Dr. Ernest. You’ve come to the right place. We certainly are a missionminded congregation. We already support several missionaries. The women of our congregation have formed a Female Home Missionary Society.” He cleared his throat and directed his attention toward Priscilla, his face aglow with pride. “In fact, we have one of our own, my dear sister-in-law, who is planning to leave us to teach in India.”

Mary Ann beamed at her husband, while Priscilla nodded and straightened her shoulders.

The doctor gave her the briefest of nods, skimming over her with obvious disinterest before turning to survey the rest of the congregation again.

She sat back in surprise and reached for the cameo pinned at her throat. Patting the twisted knot at the back of her head, she fought a strange sense of uncertainty. Had her hair come loose? Did she have something unseemly upon her face?

Dr. Ernest cocked his hat back further on his head, revealing overlong dusty brown hair with sun-bleached streaks. “As I’ve repeatedly told the Board, we Americans willingly pour our money and time into lands and people beyond the seas, but we neglect the need right on our back doorstep.”

Did he think so highly of his own calling that he could dismiss hers so easily?

“The natives of the North American continent need our generosity just as much, if not more, than any other group in the world.” Dr. Ernest rested a hand on the shoulder of the Indian boy closest to him.

“The Nez Perce are a wandering tribe and live only on the food they can hunt or scavenge, and often they go hungry. They’re vulnerable to attacks by the fierce Blackfoot tribe, who kill their people or enslave them. They’re being exposed to the white men’s diseases through the fur trappers but don’t have white men’s medicine to help fight them.”

His words elicited murmurs of sympathy.

He nodded at the Indian boys, and they smiled back at him, as if they knew they were getting the response they wanted.

Indignation shimmied up Priscilla’s spine. Did he think being a missionary to the West was more noble and important than being one to India?

“Perhaps in holding out the hand of friendship to one tribe” — he squeezed the Indian boy’s shoulder — “we’ll begin to repair the damage we’ve done to so many others.”

“Amen,” called several brothers and sisters.

Priscilla pressed her lips together, wanting to speak but forcing herself to raise her hand and wait for recognition.

Dr. Ernest averted his gaze to the other side of the sanctuary.

“Miss White?” Reverend Lull held out a hand to her. “I’m sure we would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.”

She stood and nodded her thanks to the reverend. Then she bestowed her sweetest smile on Dr. Ernest. “What you are telling us is all well and good, Dr. Ernest. But how can we justify focusing our attention on one tribe when there are six hundred million heathen throughout foreign lands who are perishing in sin and require our immediate help?”

Mary Ann yanked Priscilla’s dress, and Mother cleared her throat. They only meant to urge her into the silence and submission that behooved a woman of her status. Yet how could she stand back without defending the place and people she would serve until the Lord called her heavenward?

“When those in foreign lands are already receptive and eager,” she continued, “I don’t see how we can do anything but pour our time and money into overseas missions. Especially when others have already tried to share the gospel with the Indians and have failed to see any results.”

“What can we expect from the natives we’ve forced to relocate?” Dr. Ernest said as he slowly pivoted until he faced her. “Of course, the central plains tribes are hostile to the whites and anything they might offer.”

Finally he looked at her. His eyes flickered with irritation, as if he was weary of rebuffing comments like hers. “Thankfully, most of the tribes of the Northwest are still on friendly terms with the whites. And it’s my desire to keep it that way.”

“Yes, but why would we want to gamble on a mission in the West with savages when the Mission Board is desperate for qualified candidates to work in the missions they’ve already established overseas?”

He studied her in calculated measures, starting at the tips of her soft leather boots, moving to the shiny muslin of her meeting dress, until he reached the intricately carved cameo at her throat.

She tried not to squirm under the intensity of his crystal blue eyes. Instead, she forced herself to stand taller.

He met her gaze squarely. “What would such a fine lady like you know of the harsh realities of mission life?”

The bold question stole away her ready answer. What did she know? Except what she’d read and heard secondhand? “I may not know everything, but I am quite prepared to give my life in service to the Lord’s work.”

The words of the Missionary Herald echoed in her mind: A generation of heathen lives no longer than a generation of Christians. She might be a fine lady, but how could she sit back in comfort and ease when so many were heading for the everlasting torments of hell?

Besides, many women of her status and background had already gone. Didn’t the Mission Board continually say the most important qualities were the candidate’s character, piety, and commitment?

She lifted her chin. “Fortunately, the Mission Board is quite adept in choosing their candidates. They use the utmost care to pick only the most qualified. Wouldn’t you agree, Dr. Ernest?”

How could he dare to disagree without casting doubt upon
himself?

His eyes narrowed, deepening the permanent crinkles at the edges. “The Mission Board needs to reevaluate its list of qualifications for women. They need to have stricter guidelines, especially for ladies like you.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Priscilla Jane White,” Mother whispered, “enough.”

“Every single letter of reference I obtained applauded my spiritual fervor, talent, education, and industriousness.” Irritation gave liberty to her tongue, even though she knew she would suffer Mother’s rebuke later. “I am physically fit, energetic, and young. I’m eager to serve the Lord and save the lost. What more is necessary?”

A shadow fell across Dr. Ernest’s face, and clouds flitted through his eyes. “My friend and fellow medical student, Dr. Newell, applied for a mission in India. He took his young bride — a delicate and refined lady like you. He’d been on the foreign shore less than a month when he had to send his bride back home . . . in a coffin.”

Priscilla’s breath rushed in, echoing the startled gasps of those around her. She stifled a chill that threatened to crawl over her skin and shook her head, unwilling to let this stranger scare her from her calling. “I’ve heard similar tales. The Missionary Herald doesn’t hide the perils of mission life from its readers.”

For the first time, Dr. Ernest’s lips cracked into a semblance of a smile, only it was stiff and almost contemptuous. “Ah, the glorious Missionary Herald. What would we do without it and all its glamorous reports of mission life?”

Her confidence faltered, and for a moment she couldn’t think of a rebuttal. She grew conscious of the fact that everyone in the congregation was watching their exchange and she was making a scene unbefitting a lady.

“Sit down, Priscilla.” Her mother’s angry hiss pulled on her.

Priscilla lowered herself but couldn’t stop from uttering one last word on the matter. “Dr. Ernest, I’m sorry your friend lost his wife. But she died in a glorious cause and surely went on to receive an unfading crown.”

His eyes widened, almost as if he were seeing her for the first time. “There’s a good chance any missionary — man or woman — could end up a martyr,” he said slowly. “Unfortunately, the glorious cause seems to be partial to martyring inexperienced young ladies.”

Her mother pinched her arm, and Priscilla pressed her lips together to refrain from further discourse. Let him have his morbid views of women missionaries. There was no sense arguing with a man she’d never see again—especially since they were headed to opposite ends of the earth.

Why, then, did she feel compelled to prove herself to him?

* * *

“My husband is giving Dr. Ernest a portion of the offering,” Mary Ann whispered, peeking around the doorframe.

“I certainly didn’t mean to imply that we should shun him altogether.” Priscilla stacked the Sunday school materials. “Do you think everyone thought I was uncharitable toward him?”

The question had plagued her all through the children’s lesson,
and the satisfaction she normally drew from teaching had
deserted her.

Mary Ann ducked into the small room. “Well, I’m sure if you were uncharitable, it was only because he deserved it.”

Priscilla slid the bench against the wall. “You’re right. It was his fault. If he hadn’t been disparaging, I wouldn’t have needed to rise to my defense.”

Mary Ann grimaced and grasped her bulging middle.

Priscilla spun away, searching for something else to tidy, trying to ignore the sudden pang of longing in her chest.

“Don’t worry about me,” Mary Ann said. “This happens all the time lately. Dr. Baldwin tells me I’m just having false labor pains.”

Priscilla’s gaze slid involuntarily to her sister’s stomach, to her fingers splayed there, to their slow circular caress.

“I guess it’s pretty common.” Mary Ann stuck a fist into the lower part of her back and then arched. The waist of her dress pulled tight. “Enjoy your girlish figure while you still have it. I’ve heard that it’s gone forever after the birthing.”

The sting in Priscilla’s chest swelled into the base of her throat. Once again, she glanced around the room, needing something else to look at — anything besides her sister’s swelling body. If she could give up her girlish figure, she certainly would.

She shook the thought from her mind and tried to muster a smile for the two young girls who’d stayed behind to help her pick up. “What would I do without my helpers?” She forced cheerfulness to her voice.

The girls smiled.

“If I could, I’d pack you in my trunks and take you to India with me.”

They giggled.

“Teacher! Miss White!” A young boy’s urgent call sent her heart into a dash. She rushed across the room. When she stepped into the sanctuary, she averted her eyes from the adults still meeting for their class. She pressed a finger against her lips, signaling for the boy, one of her Sunday school students, to be mindful
of disturbing the question-and-answer time the congregation was having with Dr. Ernest.

“Miss White!” The breathless boy dashed toward her, wiping his red nose across his coat sleeve. “It’s my brother, Rudy. He’s hurt bad.”

“Oh dear.” Anxiety put a hustle into her efforts to retrieve her heavy winter cloak and follow the boy outside.

Clutching fistfuls of her dress, she strode across the wide lawn, her boots squishing into the February mixture of old snow and new mud.

When she reached the boys surrounding Rudy, she was puffing. “I shouldn’t have let you children out early,”

They hung their heads and moved back to let her approach the boy sprawled upon the ground.

She stepped into the circle, took one glance at Rudy’s face, and gasped. She could only stare with a sickening roll of her stomach at the smears of blood.

But when his eyes opened, she read the pain in them and dropped to her knees beside him. “Rudy, what happened?”

The boy managed a groan, the white of his eyes bright against the grime. Blood oozed from a gash above his eyebrow.

She slipped her hand under her cloak to her pocket. Her fingers fumbled at the drawstring, trembling in her haste to retrieve the handkerchief she kept there. “Tell me what happened, boys.” She swallowed a swell of bile.

“We were having a snowball fight,” Rudy’s brother offered. “I guess some of the snowballs ended up having a few rocks in them.”

“Ended up?” She gripped the crisply pressed cloth with its perfectly creased edges and hesitated for only a moment before lowering it against the boy’s gash.

Rudy winced.

Priscilla jerked back. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“No. Press it hard.” Dr. Ernest’s command was soft and accompanied a rustling next to her.

She glanced sideways, and the clear eyes of Dr. Ernest met hers.

“We need to stop the blood flow.” He knelt next to her. “Once we slow the bleeding, I’ll be able to take a look at the damage.”

She nodded and dabbed the handkerchief against the gash.

“Harder.”

She pushed.

Rudy squirmed and clenched his teeth together.

“Keep pressing,” Dr. Ernest said calmly.

At the blood, the dirt, the loose flesh on Rudy’s head — her stomach rolled, and she wanted to drop the cloth and scramble away before she embarrassed herself. But she forced her fingers to stay in place until a splotch of bright red seeped into the linen and spread like the fringes of a web.

Dr. Ernest combed strands of hair away from Rudy’s forehead. “Guess you boys learned a lesson.”

They nodded mutely.

Priscilla took a steadying breath, knowing she had to stay and prove that even though she was a lady, she could withstand the discomfort of viewing an injury. And if she could stay poised during the situation, she could surely withstand the harsh realities of missionary life.

Dr. Ernest’s long fingers wove through Rudy’s hair and then moved to his face, brushing at the mud and pebbles.

She tried not to stare at the multitude of white scars that slashed across the tanned flesh of Dr. Ernest’s hands, but the puckered lines drew her attention. He’d certainly suffered incredible trauma to acquire so many lacerations.

“You’re doing fine,” he said to Rudy.

After another minute, he spoke again. “Let’s have a look at the damage now, shall we?”

She hesitated, and then lifted the bandage, making a point of focusing on Dr. Ernest’s face and not the oozing wound.

His wrinkled forehead framed tender but probing eyes. “Son, you’ll need a handful of stitches, but other than that, it’s safe to say you’ll live.”

Rudy gave the doctor a tremulous grin.

“I’ve got my supplies at Dr. Baldwin’s house.” He pushed a clean portion of the handkerchief back against the wound. “Hold this tight and head on over there so I can stitch you up.”

Dr. Ernest hefted himself to his feet then reached a hand toward Priscilla. He towered over her. He’d neglected his cloak, and his shirt stretched against the hard strength of his arms and shoulders.

If she hadn’t witnessed the gentleness of his hands, she wouldn’t have believed a man of his magnitude capable of it. She placed her hand into his. And when his fingers closed around hers, she drew in a sharp breath. His touch was gentler than she’d imagined.

Without any effort, he drew her upward until she stood. This time when his gaze met hers, a hint of humor crinkled the corners of his eyes.

“You did a good job holding yourself together.”

Was he mocking her?

The tiny crook of a grin answered her question.

“I’m a teacher, Dr. Ernest. Not a doctor’s assistant.” She tugged her hand out of his grip.

“Eli, you and Miss White make a good team.” Dr. Baldwin clapped Dr. Ernest on the back.

“Well, you know me. I prefer working by myself.”

Priscilla glanced at the crowd that had gathered, and a rush of embarrassed heat pulsed through her. She was making another spectacle with Dr. Ernest.

Taking a step away from him, she shook the folds of her cloak and brushed at the mud clinging to the embroidered edges.

Mother moved next to her and narrowed her eyes at Dr. Ernest before handing Priscilla the gloves she’d dropped in her haste to leave the building. “You’re a mess.” Mother tucked a strand of loose hair behind Priscilla’s ear.

“I’m fine.”

“And you’ve soiled your dress.” Mother frowned at the soggy spot on her skirt.

“Hate to be the one to tell you this, ma’am —” Dr. Ernest’s grin crooked higher — “but a little mud and blood is hardly the worst of what your daughter will experience when she gets to India.”

Mother lifted her nose and peered at him over the top, evaluating him from his head to his boots. Then she sniffed and clutched Priscilla’s arm. “Come now, dear. Let’s get you home and cleaned up.”

“Speaking of India,” Dr. Baldwin said, stepping toward them, “I’ve got a letter for you, Miss White.”

Priscilla froze. Even her heart floundered to a stop.

“I’ve just returned from a Board meeting in Prattsburgh with Dr. Ernest.” The old doctor handed her an envelope. “The Board asked me to deliver this to you.”

Excitement clutched her middle and twisted it. She took the letter and tried to stop the sudden shaking of her hands. Finally the Board had made its decision. She had no doubt they’d approved her for mission work. Everyone had told her she was an ideal candidate for one of the rare teaching positions they assigned to unmarried females.

The Board had made it clear they preferred sending married couples to the mission field. But she’d explained in her correspondence that she would never marry. If they wanted to use her, they would have to take her as she was.

Now, after months of waiting and raising support, she needed only to find out exactly where in India they were sending her and when she would leave. Mrs. Wilson’s school for girls, perhaps? She’d just read an article in the Missionary Herald about how proficient the young heathen girls were becoming in their needlework.

“Thank you.” She smiled at Dr. Baldwin. But instead of returning her smile, he glanced at his shoes.

She stared at the letter, and her heart lurched. Was she really ready for this? Once she read it, she might as well kiss Mother and Father good-bye.

“Go on, open it!” someone called.

Of course she was ready. Past ready. She’d wanted to go since God had laid a calling upon her heart at the revival meeting when she’d been a girl of fifteen.

She pressed her finger into the seal, broke it, and then unfolded the crisp paper. God had given her the burden and desire to use her gifts to help save depraved souls. And now it was finally time. . . .

“Read it aloud,” another voice said.

Eager eyes watched her. “Very well.” She lifted the paper and cleared her throat. “‘Dear Miss White,’” she began, but the next words stuck in her throat. She scanned the sheet, and her chest constricted painfully until she could hardly breathe.

Quickly she folded the letter. “I think I shall wait —”

Mother snapped the sheet from her hand. “Priscilla Jane White, you’ll do no such thing.” Before she could think to react, Mother unfolded it. “These people are your biggest supporters. They deserve to share in your excitement.”

“Mother,” she murmured, “I’d rather read it in private—”

“My dear, stop being so modest.” Mother stepped out of her reach and settled her spectacles upon her nose.

“Perhaps Miss White is right,” Dr. Baldwin said.

“Nonsense.”

“Mo-ther . . .” Priscilla’s whisper contained all the agony roiling through her heart.

Mother adjusted her spectacles. “‘Dear Miss White.’”

Dr. Baldwin’s eyebrows drooped together over sad eyes. Even though he was on the Board, she knew their decision wasn’t his fault. He was the only other person in Angelica, besides Mother and Father, who knew the truth. He’d been the one to give her the diagnosis.

He’d known how important this position was to her — one of the few positions for a single woman. He knew just how much she longed to leave Allegany County and all the friends and family who would never understand why she couldn’t get married.

“‘We regret to inform you that at this time we cannot accept your application . . .’” Mother’s voice trailed off.

An awkward silence descended over the gathering. Mother read silently and then creased the letter back into its original fold. “Well.” She pursed her lips together. “I’m sure there must be some mistake.”

Each beat of Priscilla’s heart spurted pain and confusion into the rest of her body. Her mother was right. The Board had made a mistake. Surely once she informed them the unmarried teacher position was her only option, they’d reconsider.

Dr. Baldwin shook his head. “They’ve finally made the resolution that they will not — absolutely cannot — accept unmarried candidates.”

“But why?” Priscilla’s confusion added a tinge of desperation to her tone. “I thought they were beginning to see the value in single female missionaries —”

“Miss White,” Dr. Ernest cut in. “It won’t do you any good to argue with Dr. Baldwin or the Board. Over the past few days I’ve talked with them until I was hoarse, and they haven’t budged on their requirement.”

“Oh pishposh,” Mother said. “They’ll make an exception for my Priscilla.”

Priscilla shivered and pulled her cloak tighter.

Dr. Baldwin’s eyes held hers, and the sorrow in their depths did nothing but make her shiver more.

“Now, Dr. Baldwin,” Mother said, turning to leave, “you must visit us this afternoon and clear up the misunderstanding.”

“Of course.” Priscilla nodded, pushing aside her fears. “It’s just a misunderstanding.”

“You’ll be wasting your breath,” Dr. Ernest muttered.

Mother didn’t acknowledge the young doctor’s words and instead slipped her hand into the crook of Father’s arm and tugged him forward.

Priscilla knew she should follow her parents, that it would do her no good to spar words with Dr. Ernest. And yet, there was something about his face — a roughened, rugged appeal that drew her attention again.

“I’m afraid you don’t understand the first thing about my situation or my qualifications.”

“Then go ahead and argue with the Board.” His lips cocked into a half grin. “But sooner or later you’ll have to accept their decision. And maybe even accept it as God’s will for you to stay home.”

His words dug into her, and she couldn’t keep back her retort. “I find it strange that you’re the only one who has questioned my qualifications. And since your opinion doesn’t matter in the least, I’ll continue to look to the One whose opinion matters the most. He’s called me to mission work. I’ll continue to trust that He’ll provide a way for me to go.”

She spun away from the doctor and forced herself to walk away, evenly and calmly, just as a lady should, even though her heart quavered and stumbled with each step.

Would God indeed provide a way? And if so, how?


Chapter Two

You’ve turned into a good doctor, Eli,” Dr. Baldwin remarked between puffs on his pipe. “Too bad you’re not as good when it comes to women.”

Eli pulled the silk thread up through the boy’s forehead and made the last suture. His fingers flew over one another to make a tight knot. With his small scissors in hand, he squinted in the dim lighting of Dr. Baldwin’s home office and snipped the loose thread.

“Oh, I’m not all that bad, Dr. Baldwin.” He pressed a clean cloth against the stitches and wiped away the last traces of blood. “I’ve had to chase away plenty of women in my days.”

The boy stared at him with wide pain-filled eyes. Traces of tears lingered on the pale face. The older brother squeezed the boy’s hand.

“I’ve had more women hang on me than I can count.” Eli winked at them.

His young patient braved a small smile.

Harrumph,” Dr. Baldwin half snorted, half laughed. “Too bad you don’t have any of those countless women hanging on you lately.”

Eli forced a grin —for the sake of the boy —but it didn’t reach his heart. If Dr. Baldwin’s comment hadn’t been so pathetically true, he could have laughed.

Truth be told, he’d never had much time for the fairer sex. He’d always counted himself too busy, too devoted to his work to pay attention to the girls who’d shown him interest.

That was before he’d begun making plans to open a clinic in the far West. When he’d approached the Mission Board with his idea, he’d had to work hard to convince them of the validity of such a post. When they’d finally agreed to support him, they’d given him one stipulation: He had to take a wife.

He’d argued long and hard about the fact that a white woman had never made a crossing overland to Oregon Country, that taking a wife along would only slow him down, perhaps even threaten the entire trip.

But the Board had insisted he go with a wife or not go at all.

“You don’t need countless women.” Dr. Baldwin leaned back in his chair and blew a cloud of smoke into the dusky air. “You just need one.”

Eli helped the boy sit up. “I had one.”

“Yes, had,” Dr. Baldwin said.

Eli steadied the boy on the edge of the examining table. “And it’s not my fault she married someone else while I was on my exploration trip.”

His gut twisted, as it did whenever he thought about his first glance at Sarah Taylor during the Sabbath meeting the day after he’d arrived home. When she’d stood to greet him, first her eyes, then her very rounded abdomen had told him all he needed to know.

It had only confirmed the foolishness of the Board’s stipulation. Sarah hadn’t really wanted to go. She had deserted him at the first opportunity. And there weren’t too many other women excited about the idea of traveling where no other white woman had gone.

He couldn’t blame them.

“The Board knows I tried to find a willing partner. And now they need to just let me go.”

Dr. Baldwin shook his head.

Eli had tried to overlook his wounded pride, tried to make excuses for Sarah. The truth was that her rejection had stung — it had hurt a lot more than he cared to admit. And he wasn’t ready to face the possibility of another rejection anytime soon.

“How are you feeling?” Eli asked his young patient.

Tears pooled in the boy’s eyes.

“Still hurts more than the worst whoppin’, huh?”

The lad nodded.

Careful not to touch the wound, Eli wrapped a strip around the boy’s head and covered the stitches. Then he nodded at the patient’s brother. “You take him straight home and tell your ma to give him another dose of laudanum. It’ll take the edge off the pain for a little while.”

He helped the boy from the table. “And tell her to keep the wound clean.”

“Thank you.” The older boy slipped an arm around his brother. He hobbled with him to the door, stopped, and looked back. “Oh, Doctor, if you need a real good woman, you won’t find a better lady than our teacher.”

“That so?”

“Yep. Teacher . . . well, she really cares for us. And I just know she’d make a great ma someday.”

“Thank you, son.”

The boy nodded solemnly, as if he’d just done Eli the greatest of favors.

Dr. Baldwin coughed. And once the boys were gone, Eli turned to look at his old friend. “What?”

“Oh, nothing.”

Eli dipped his hands into the basin on the bureau near the examining table. The ice cold water rushed over the calluses he’d gained during the past year and reminded him of the mountain springs he’d washed in not many months past.

He scrubbed at the blood on his fingers and glanced around at the dark paneled walls of Dr. Baldwin’s office. Was this to be his fate? A tiny office? And the never-ending bumps and bruises of the neighborhood children?

Keen longing flashed through him. What he wouldn’t give for a ceiling of blue skies and four walls of endless mountains. And the beautiful brown eyes of the natives who were still open to the gospel and untouched by the hate of the whites.

“You might want to take the boy up on his advice,” Dr. Baldwin said.

Eli took a deep breath of the stuffy, tobacco-spiced air. What he wouldn’t give for just a whiff of the fresh, wind-tossed air of the prairies.

“She’s one of the best young women I know,” Dr. Baldwin continued.

“Who?”

“The teacher.”

Eli’s stomach pinched. “I just don’t want a wife.”

“Eli, now, we’ve been over this before, and you know as well as I do that most of the single missionaries we’ve sent out have ended up fornicating with the native women or marrying among them.”

He nodded. He couldn’t fault the Board’s logic. After many long months traveling with the fur trappers, he’d seen enough abuse of the native women to realize the depths to which a man could sink when he was lonely.

He shook the water off his hands and reached for the towel. But still, the Board could have given him the benefit of the doubt, especially after all the work he’d already put into planning for the mission.

Frustration contracted the muscles in his chest.

He wiped his hands and tossed the towel onto the table. He knew it would do him no good to argue about the matter any further. The American Board of Missions had made their decision. He must find a wife or he couldn’t go.

The trouble was, he only had four weeks left before he needed to be in Pittsburgh, where he’d arranged to meet the missionary couple that would be joining him.

“You want some help finding a wife?” Dr. Baldwin peered at him through narrowed eyes. “Or are you going to let a little pride stand in the way of your plans?”

Eli read the kindness in the depths of the man’s gaze. “Apparently you’ve got the perfect woman picked out for me.”

He shrugged. “Of course no one is perfect. Not even you.”

Eli stared at the doctor, then finally sighed. “All right. Take me to meet this teacher.”

“I’m headed to her house right now.” Dr. Baldwin sat forward in his chair. “Why don’t you come with me?”

“It had better not be Miss White.”

“And what exactly is wrong with Priscilla White?”

With a growl, Eli reached for his leather roll-up surgical case. “Come on, Doctor. If I have to take a wife, I want a strong one. Not a woman who’ll blow away like tumbleweed at the first hard gust.” He wiped the blood from the scissors and stuffed them into the case. “I won’t take a woman like her—not after what happened to Dr. Newell.”

“Priscilla White is a hard worker.” Dr. Baldwin tapped his pipe in the ashtray on the side table. “There’s no other young woman who works the way Miss White does. Every time the church opens its door for a prayer meeting or a revival, she’s the first there, helping however she can.”

“Then let her stay here and do her part for missions on the home front.” Eli stuffed the silk thread into his surgical case and folded it together.

Dr. Baldwin pushed himself out of his chair. “Eli Ernest, you’re exasperating me.”

He grinned. “I’ve been told that’s one of my best qualities.”

“You mean worst.”

“That too.”

Dr. Baldwin finally smiled. “Let’s go, then. We’ll speak to Priscilla together. The two of you can get married. And you’ll both be able to fulfill your callings.”

Eli stared at his friend and wished it were that easy. Even if she’d been the right type of woman to handle the rigors of missionary life, it was obvious they were worlds apart. “Her mother already turned up her nose at me. And now you expect that woman to agree to let her precious daughter marry me once she finds out I’ve got nothing but the hard-earned shirt on my back?”

“She’ll come around.”

Eli could only imagine the humiliation he’d have to suffer first. “No thanks.”

“I guarantee it.”

Something in the doctor’s tone stopped Eli.

Dr. Baldwin lowered his voice. “Priscilla White had a severe case of mumps a few years ago.”

Suddenly Eli knew what the older doctor was telling him, even before the words were out.

“She lost her monthly courses, and she’s been infertile ever since.” Dr. Baldwin’s brows drooped. “I’ve done everything I can for the poor girl. But the fact of the matter is, she very likely can’t —won’t— ever be able to have children.”

Eli stared at his friend, surprised at the weight that pressed on his chest.

“I’m telling you with the understanding you’ll keep this confidential, one doctor to another.”

“’Course I will.”

“No one in this community knows except me. And they want to keep it that way. They don’t want the disgrace of their oldest daughter becoming known as the barren wife of the community or the town’s old spinster.”

Eli shook his head. “There’s no disgrace in not being able to have children—”

“You know as well as I do the stigma that follows women who can’t conceive.” Dr. Baldwin pinned him with a sharp glance.

“So she’s using mission work as an escape from embarrassment?”

“See? There you go.” The older doctor pursed his lips. “Exasperating me again.”

“Doesn’t seem like the right motivation for getting involved in missions.”

“Priscilla has always had an interest in missions. Her family has encouraged her. And when she learned of her infertility, it served to strengthen her resolve toward the high calling already placed upon her heart.”

“Priscilla White might have good intentions,” Eli said, “but she’d never last a day on the trip west.”

Dr. Baldwin heaved a rattling sigh. “I take it that means no, you won’t marry her?”

Eli hesitated. He didn’t want to ruin his chances of going west, but he wasn’t so desperate that he’d willingly marry the wrong woman.

“Dr. Baldwin, I’m sorry to let you down. . . . I’m not partial to sending wives back in coffins. So I’ll just keep praying the Almighty finds me a better option . . . and soon.”

* * *

“You must go back to the Board and convince them of their mistake.”

Priscilla cringed at her mother’s demand.

“They won’t be swayed.” Dr. Baldwin squirmed in his highbacked chair by the parlor door.

“I’ll go with you.” Mother paced in front of the wide fireplace. The high flames crackled but couldn’t bring warmth to Priscilla’s fingers. “And Priscilla will come too.”

“Now, Mrs. White, that’s enough.” Her father rubbed his mustache, circling his fingers around his chin.

“We’ll leave on the morrow.” Mother didn’t bother to look at Father. “Once they see Priscilla and hear from her, they won’t be able to say no.”

“Mrs. White, I said that’s enough.” Father’s voice boomed. Even though the room had bright green molding and vibrant gold wallpaper with pink florets, the shadows were dismal in the late winter afternoon. “Sit down and listen to what the man is saying. For once.”

Priscilla plucked at the braided trim of the settee and wished she were still small enough to crawl underneath and hide.

Mother glared at Father. “Mr. White, am I to understand that you don’t care what becomes of our daughter?”

“Listen to the doctor. He’s told you a hundred times now that the Board won’t change their decision.”

“Judge White is right.” Dr. Baldwin pulled at the top button of his double-breasted waistcoat. “Everyone has agreed she’s an ideal candidate. And they’ll willingly send her anywhere. But . . . she must get married first.”

Priscilla clutched her hands in her lap. “Doctor, that’s precisely the problem—”

“I have in mind a missionary who is in desperate need of a wife. If you marry him, you’ll both get what you want. It’s the perfect situation.”

Mother stopped pacing. “Who?”

“He’s an adventurous, hardworking, resourceful fellow. If I were going to the mission field, I’d want a man just like him by my side.”

“And just who is this fellow?” Mother asked, her brow disappearing into her hairline.

Dr. Baldwin cleared his throat. “Dr. Eli Ernest.”

“Absolutely not!” Priscilla’s rejection came just as quickly as Mother’s. “We’re headed to opposite ends of the earth.”

“My daughter will never marry a man like that,” Mother said. “It’s obvious he is of the lowest rank and would be unsuitable for her.”

“There you go putting on airs again.” Father rolled his eyes. “You’re not the Queen of England. Your father was a chair maker. And I was only a carpenter when we got married.”

Priscilla had only a vague memory of the log cabin she’d lived in as a little girl when Allegany County had been considered New York’s western frontier. Father hadn’t had anything but his enterprising spirit. He’d staked out a claim of eighty acres. Over the years, he’d steadily acquired more land and wealth until
he’d moved the family to a fine wood-framed house, only a half mile from the center of town, in the better part of Angelica.

Father continued. “I’m sure the doctor is about as decent a man as our daughter can find.”

“He studied at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, which is where I met him,” Dr. Baldwin added. “He got a real degree.”

“See, Mrs. White. That’s more book learning than I ever got.” Father smoothed a hand over his bulging stomach. His title of judge had come only after the townspeople had elected him to various local offices, certainly not because he’d earned a law degree.

Mother only shook her head. “If we are going to consider marriage for Priscilla, then we need to find a man devoted to the ministry.”

“But I’m not considering—”

“I said if.” Mother shot her a censuring glare.

Dr. Baldwin studied Mother. “Very well, Mrs. White. I understand the prestige associated with the ministry. But if you pass up this opportunity for Priscilla to marry Dr. Ernest, you will miss even greater prestige.”

“How so?”

Dr. Baldwin stood and situated his black top hat onto his head. “I think the woman Dr. Ernest marries will easily become the most famous American woman of this generation.”

Mother straightened. “Famous? What do you mean?”

Father snorted. “You got her attention now, Doctor.”

“The woman who travels to the far West with Dr. Ernest will be the first white woman ever to make the overland trip to Oregon Country and cross the Continental Divide. I have no doubt the eyes of every single person in this country will be watching her with great interest.”

A light fanned to life in Mother’s eyes — a light that made Priscilla’s heart thud with despair.

Dr. Baldwin sidled around his chair and exited into the front hallway. “It’s too bad you aren’t willing to consider him,” he called. He appeared back in the doorway, having retrieved his greatcoat from the coat stand.

“Now, wait a minute, Dr. Baldwin.” Mother stepped after him. “You’ve misunderstood me. He may not be the ideal candidate for marriage, but we are still willing to consider him.”

Priscilla jumped from the settee. She couldn’t sit back and listen to any more. “Dr. Baldwin, I’m sorry. But I can’t possibly consider going to Oregon Country with Dr. Ernest. It’s out of the question. I’m going to India.”

“I realize you had your heart set on India,” Dr. Baldwin said slowly, as if choosing his words carefully. “But the far West is in need of teachers too.”

“Even if I agreed to go to the wilderness of Oregon Country — which I won’t — I think everyone is forgetting something very important here.” She took a deep breath to ease the strain in her back. “I can’t get married. I’m unable to . . .”

She couldn’t get the words past the tightness of her throat.

Mother was quiet for a moment. “We don’t need to tell him,” she finally said.

Priscilla gasped. “Mother!” They’d agreed those many years ago on that fateful day that they would never deceive a suitor, that it was their Christian duty to inform a prospective spouse of her condition before marriage.

Once they’d made their decision, they’d also resolved that she would remain single, that it was too risky to share the news with any man. They couldn’t chance his spurning her and then spreading rumors about her and ruining her reputation.

Dr. Baldwin cleared his throat. “You won’t need to tell Dr. Ernest anything.”

Her gaze, like her parents’, swung to the old man.

The sympathy in his eyes reached out to touch her. “You won’t need to tell him, because . . . I already have.”

“You have?” A strange tremor of anticipation rippled through her. “You told him about . . . that I can’t . . . ?”

The doctor nodded.

“And what did he say?”

“Well . . .” He fidgeted with the brim of his hat. “Let’s just say I got the impression your infertility was the least of his concerns.”

“Then he’ll marry our Priscilla, even though he knows of her condition?” The hope in Mother’s voice fanned the anticipation flickering inside Priscilla.

Dr. Baldwin’s brow crinkled.

His hesitation was just enough to snuff out her glimmer of hope. She rubbed her arms, suddenly cold, as if a frigid breeze had blown through the cracks in the big parlor windows.

“He didn’t exactly say he would marry Priscilla,” the doctor said.

This was ridiculous. She refused to marry Dr. Ernest, and she had absolutely no inclination to go west. What kind of ministry could she have there compared to what she’d have in India? She started to shake her head, but Mother’s fingers dug into her shoulder and squeezed her rebuttal to the back of her throat.

“Let’s not be so dramatic about it.” Her mother smiled. “If God has ordained our Priscilla to become one of the first women to cross to the West in her quest to serve Him and save the heathen, then He’ll most certainly protect and provide for her each step of the way.”

Father shook his head. “Doctor, I’m amazed at how quickly and smoothly you convinced this woman to marry off our daughter.”

Dr. Baldwin gave a faint smile, but the light in his eyes wavered.

Priscilla tried not to squirm under her mother’s grip. “He may have convinced Mother. But there’s just one very major problem.”

“Of course there’s no problem,” Mother said quickly.

“Yes, Mother, there is.” She pushed aside that familiar helplessness— as if she were caught in a river current, trying to swim for the shore but never quite making it. “The problem is that Dr. Ernest hasn’t agreed to marry me. And I most certainly haven’t agreed to the union either.”

“He’ll be at the prayer meeting tonight, won’t he, Dr. Baldwin?” Mother’s tone was less of a question and more of a command.

“Yes,” the doctor replied, stuffing his arms into his heavy coat. “I’ll do my best to see that he comes.”

Mother bent over and looked Priscilla in the eyes. “Then we’ll dress our Priscilla up and fix her hair becomingly. All she’ll need to do is be her usual charming self.” The sternness in the depths of Mother’s gaze warned her not to disobey.

“No man has ever been able to resist Priscilla,” her mother said. “And I’m sure if she makes a little effort to win Dr. Ernest, he won’t be able to resist her either.”

Here's the book trailer for The Doctor's Lady:




You can purchase The Doctor’s Lady from Amazon.

Jody is giving away a copy of The Doctor’s Lady. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Friday, September 23, 2011

with Vannetta Chapman

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Vannetta!
Is there a story behind this book?

I see a lot of people who are disconnected from the community they live in. When you contrast that to the Amish community, it's no wonder Amish books are so popular. We long for that sense of belonging. I thought I'd plop a Texas gal down in the middle of an Amish community, throw in a murder and see what happened ... but the larger story is one of finding your place, and following the path God has set out for you.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I read everything! I did read The Help (Kathryn Stockett) recently and found it to be charming and well written. I'm also re-discovering Terri Blackstock and am reading Last Light which I think is just marvelous.

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
I enjoy playing the piano -- mostly I play classical and gospel.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Driving over tall bridges, doing my accounting, and cleaning the toilets.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
Ordering pizza (no recipe required, but it tastes so good!)

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
If you look on the CBD site you'll see that my favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11, and it's true that I have often clung to those words. But lately I'm spending a lot of time studying Job. Most of Texas is in a state of extreme drought and we've struggled with massive wildfires, so I'm going to share Job 38:37-38. "Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?" I envision those water jars every day, and it does bring me a lot of comfort.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
A Perfect Square is due out in March of 2012. Amish-English sleuthing duo Deborah Yoder and Callie Harper set out to solve a murder. But more than an innocent man’s future is at stake. In book two of the Shipshewana Amish Mystery series, God’s grace touches the long-lost past as well as lives shaken by current tragedy.



You can purchase Falling to Pieces from Amazon.

Vannetta is giving away a copy of Falling to Pieces. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vannetta Chapman's Falling to Pieces

Vannetta Chapman holds a BA and MA degree in English and has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving over two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. Her first Amish novel with Abingdon Press, A Simple Amish Christmas, quickly became a Christian Books Distributor bestseller. Her first Shipshewana Amish Mystery, Falling to Pieces (Zondervan), will release in September of 2011--the first in a three book series. She has also signed a contract for a three book Amish romance series with Harvest House. A Promise for Miriam: Pebble Creek Series will release in June of 2012.

You can find Vannetta online at
www.VannettaChapman.com,
www.facebook.com/VannettaChapmanBooks,
www.vannettachapman.wordpress.com.

Falling to Pieces

In this first book of a three-book series, author Vannetta Chapman brings a fresh twist to the popular Amish fiction genre. She blends the familiar components consumers love in Amish books—faith, community, simplicity, family—with an innovative who-done-it plot that keeps readers guessing right up to the last stitch in the quilt.

When two women—one Amish, one English—each with different motives, join forces to organize a successful on-line quilt auction, neither expects nor wants a friendship. As different as night and day, Deborah and Callie are uneasy partners who simply want to make the best of a temporary situation. But a murder, a surprising prime suspect, a stubborn detective, and the town's reaction throw the two women together, and they form an unlikely alliance to solve a mystery and catch a killer.

Set in the well-known Amish community of Shipshewana, Falling to Pieces will attract both devoted fans of the rapidly-growing Amish fiction genre, as well as those who are captivated by the Amish way of life.

Here's an excerpt of Falling to Pieces:

Daisy stood in the center of her garden, admiring the chaos of flowers. May rains and warmer days had brought a burst of color. Brilliant orange flowers dotted with butterflies spread across the ground, white false indigo had grown waist-high, and the purplish—pink blossoms of Joe-pye-weed fought for their place in the sun. Unfortunately grass and common weeds had also shot up with extra zeal. Her garden looked almost like a thing abandoned.

She glanced back toward the quilt shop. Paperwork waited for her there. The garden beckoned her here. And where was Max? As if he could read her thoughts, the sixty-pound yellow Labrador bounded past her, practically knocking her on her keister.

“Catch a ground squirrel and I won’t be bandaging your wounds,” she called after him. Of course she would. She loved the dog more than she would have thought possible—she supposed turning seventy-six last March had softened her a bit. Also, she had no family in the area. The Amish community had accepted her, and the Englishers—like herself—were as close as neighbors could be. But Max, well, Max was her constant companion; he protected her, he played with her, he listened to all her problems without judgment, and he loved her unconditionally.

“Wonder where I left that hand rake. I had it last time I fought these weeds.” Daisy circled left, then right, finally spying the red handles of her tool set by the fence which bordered the alley running behind her shop and little side yard. With a sigh, she hustled back along the brick walk, aware that she was already losing the day’s light. She’d just reached down to pick up the bucket of tools when she saw movement in the alley—a flash of color in the gap between two of the six-foot bayberry shrubs that lined the fence.

Most folks stuck to the main street, and Daisy was curious. Peeking through the evergreens, she glimpsed a man rounding the corner of the deserted alley. She didn’t recognize the editor of their small town newspaper at first. It wasn’t until he’d crept closer and stopped next to the dumpster behind Pots and Pans, a shop that sold old-fashioned kitchenware to tourists, that she was sure it was Stakehorn.

Just as Daisy was about to call out, he opened a Shipshewana shopping bag and peered down into it, as if he wasn’t sure what he’d find. He pulled an item out, studied it in less than the amount of time it would have taken her to sew a whip-stitch, and dropped it back into the bag. Then he examined his hand, as if it had bit him.

“Now that has to be the oddest—”

Before she could complete her thought, Stakehorn turned and darted between Pots and Pans and the new floral shop which had been taken over by Georgia Stearn’s sister. The place didn’t even have a name yet, which Daisy thought was a shame. Every store needed a name, or how would you look it up in the yellow pages?

She reached down and picked up her bucket of garden tools. When she did she felt a tightening in her chest, that uncomfortable pressure she’d been meaning to talk to Doctor Pat about. Could be indigestion. She’d had one of those new microwave sandwiches for lunch and sometimes they didn’t sit well. With one hand she rubbed her chest and with the other she turned toward the flowers, but the sleeve of her blouse caught on the evergreen. She reached to loosen it, which was when she saw the second person enter the alley.

This person she didn’t know. Must be from the market. He wasn’t from Shipshewana. She’d lived here long enough to know everyone, and a man like that? She would remember if she’d seen him before. He scanned the backs of the buildings as if he couldn’t decide where he was going. As he walked, his attention moved to the ground. Twice he squatted down and touched the dirt. When he stopped outside Pots and Pans, at the same place Stakehorn had stopped, Daisy saw him pull something out of the inside of his jacket.

It took her a moment longer to realize it was a gun.

Here's the book trailer for Falling to Pieces:





You can purchase Falling to Pieces from Amazon.

Vannetta is giving away a copy of Falling to Pieces. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

with Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Shellie and Lisa!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

Shellie: Life before writing involved tax code and IRS newsletters unless it was the “off-tax season,” then it involved dangerous power tools and poorly constructed HGTV knock-off projects. My husband begged me at the close of one tax season to find some activity that didn’t involve his drill and power screw driver (he was afraid I’d screw through my thumb—again). What I didn’t realize was how addictive and enjoyable writing could be. And so much safer!

Is there a story behind this book?
Lisa: I saw the call for more four-in-one stories from Barbour and that sparked an idea for a generational tale. I had recently met Shellie through ACFW contacts and I had a little nudge to ask her if she’d consider writing something with me. I had tried only once to write with someone else and the experience, while a good one, didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped. Shellie and I live in rural communities, so we drew from our experiences. When Barbour didn’t accept our submission, we turned around and immediately sold it elsewhere.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Shellie: Recently I loved reading Roxanne Henke’s, After Anne. I laughed and cried till my family thought I’d lost it. Couldn’t put that one down—such a beautiful story of reticent friendship and a relationship with God that is second to none.

Lisa: I love to read a little of the genre I write, but mostly the type of stuff I don’t write, like espionage and thrillers. I’m very “in to” Steven James right now, and all set to review his next book in his Patrick Bowers series that’s titled from chess pieces. We’re up to the Queen now, so I suppose there’s only one more. ): I just bought Jill Williamson’s third in her debut fantasy series, From Darkness Won and will take the next weekend off to read it, so don’t call me. I love all of Deb Baker’s cozy series as well.

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
Lisa: Good grief…let me go look and see what I have in my dusty tiny little collection. Tossing aside hubby’s country stuff, looks like a lot of pop from the 70s. Okay, don’t hate me, but Neil Diamond and the Eagles have it. There’s Steven Curtis Chapman in there too and Phillip, Dean and Craig.

I agree, Lisa, the Eagles are pretty good. If you were a dessert, what would you be?
Shellie: Anything cheesecake is my favorite. Of course, since I don’t cook my favorite recipe comes from the kitchens of Olive Garden. Their Black Tie Cheesecake is worth a late night trip to the restaurant on any weekend night!

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
Lisa: Nice, marinated venison steak on the grill with lots of fresh veggies just picked from the garden, homemade bread and fruit for dessert.

My marinade is minced onion and garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, fresh ground pepper and chives, turn over meal several hours before grilling. I prefer raw or steamed vegetables and will make homemade puddings in the winter with thawed raspberries or strawberries. Betty Crocker has my fav puddings. The breadmaker machine is also my friend. We tend to treat those loaves like snacks, though.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
Shellie: Hmm, a purple polka-dotted monster, eh? I’d shift it to the side and call the nearest child to get their critter off my counter top. If that didn’t work, I’d offer to keep it and considering the menagerie of pets we’ve had, it would fit right in—as long as my girls didn’t take care of it. They haven’t cleaned their fish tank in a year! Then again, if I threatened our purple friend with their care, it may run of its own accord—I know I would.

What is your strangest habit?
Lisa: My husband says “washing the dishes before I go away on a trip,” but…but then I’d come home to moldy stuff. If I have to pick only one, it would be a slightly OCD complex of making sure all the cupboards and drawers are firmly closed before I go to bed. Not sure if I fear something getting in…or out.

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
Shellie: One of my favorite memories is a recent one. My kiddos and I went to the beach and for some ordained reason; none of their friends could join us. It was just our family—and the rest of the strangers at the beach, but for now we’ll pretend it was just us. My eighteen-year-old daughter carried my ten-year-old daughter like a baby doll as they traipsed through the deeper section and my son hunted them both like a starved shark. They giggled and shrieked as I watched from the sand and I wondered if this would be one of the last times they would play like this. Rachael is off to college soon and the others would wander in their own directions. But for now, I had them in one place, laughing and enjoying the moment. I wanted to freeze the day (sometimes pictures just aren’t enough, you know?), but all too soon a storm rolled in and sent us packing. I’m so glad we had that moment.

What's one of your dreaded things to do? Do you put things off if you dread them?
Shellie: Oooh. Easy question. I hate cooking. While my husband, our resident gourmet chef, is away my kids are treated to frozen dinners and breakfast-for-dinner. The whole cooking thing makes me grateful God put my husband and me together. My kids would be malnourished without him.

Lisa: If I dread something, I try to get to it pronto, then reward myself with reading time. I put things off because I usually am more effective when I can do like things together, so if time allows, I save stuff up, then make a run at it. Then I read something.

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
Shellie: As our family prepares to move to a new state, transition two children out of our home, all while trying to sell one home and buy another, I’m struck by how important it is to remind myself of God’s promises. To recall and re-study those precious Bible verses that show His caretaker-type traits, the ones I really need to hear about while I’m left without the ability to control many of the events occurring around me. I’m also reminded how grateful I am that I love a God who cares for me and my family. I don’t know how folks live this crazy life without that reassurance.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
Lisa: My theme verse is Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” The verse reminds me that I have responsibilities too – I should hold on, and I should profess, because of the great gift I have been given.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Shellie: In February 2012, my mid-grade chapter book, The Wishing Ring, is due to be released. The Wishing Ring was written in conjunction with my youngest two children so it’s a wild adventure through a mythical world on the back of a creature that’s part greyhound, part polar bear, and part eagle. If the Creator’s Wishing Ring isn’t found in time, a country may be destroyed, a family left broken, and a Princess ostracized.

Lisa: Nice! Thanks for asking. Although A Summer in Oakville is coming soon, I signed a contract to have my former Barbour cozy mystery series resurrected, which I’m very excited about. It’s been three years since The Gold Standard came out, so those who have been waiting to see what Judy and Hart and Carranza’s son, Pancho Villa, are up to next can find out when The Map Quilt comes out next April. It’s possible that The Gold Standard will be reissued as well, so if you missed it, you have another chance to read it then in electronic form.




You can purchase A Summer in Oakville from Amazon.

Shellie and Lisa are giving away a copy of A Summer in Oakville. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel's A Summer in Oakville

Married for over 20 years, Shellie and her husband have four wonderful kiddos and two goofy greyhounds. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, she went on to acquire an early childhood education certificate. Shellie also served in youth, children’s, special needs and family ministries for over twenty-two years. Now she enjoys teaching her teens how to drive and chauffeuring her preteens across the Wisconsin countryside. And once in a while, she loves to read big people books (you know the kind without pictures).

Shellie writes because it keeps her away from her husband’s power tools and because every now and then, she doesn’t have the choice, it just takes over. Her best inspiration comes from God and the occasional walk along a country road with her greyhounds.

You can find Shellie online at
www.shellieneumeier.com,
www.facebook.com,
www.twitter.com/#!/shellie_c.

Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and loves to encourage new authors. Lisa also is an avid book reviewer, a freelance editor, an editor at Port Yonder Press, a writing mentor, and blogger.

You can find her online at
www.LisaLickel.com,
www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/A-Summer-in-Oakville.

A Summer in Oakville

One Magical Summer in Oakville, Wisconsin,
Love Finds its Way through Four Entwined Lives.

Meet Tessa, Lindsay, Art and Andy.


Tessa Hasmer Murphy has a secret. Estranged from her husband, will she let a past love and a fight to save the family farm destroy her marriage and daughter Lindsay's happiness?

Lindsay Murphy plans to live on her grandparents' farm until she can find a job, but developer Brandon Calloway has other plans for the property. As she wages war against him, will she lose her heart and the farm both?

Widower Arthur Hasmer's life and that of his son, Andy, spiral out of control. When old friend, Dana London, reenters the picture, she might be the key to help them all back to love, joy and faith—until he learns of her betrayal.

Andy Hasmer has the ultimate bummer life. No mom, not much of a dad, no future. When he's sent to the farm and wrecks the truck, nothing could be worse than the lousy job he takes to pay Grampa back-except maybe putting up with the pastor's daughter, Ella.

Here's an excerpt of A Summer in Oakville:

Tessa’s Story
Psalm 84:3 “Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. ”

Chapter One

Contessa Marie Hasmer Murphy closed her eyes and inhaled the scents of her summer kingdom. First hay cutting—sweet and fragrant alfalfa from Janssen’s across the road—cress, and mint
that she had just walked on. A cardinal’s peculiar trilling keen and artesian water bubbling from the spring a yard in front of her rock throne seemed magnified in the leafy glen. Tessa wiggled against her backrest, the channeled bark of the century oak a solid comfort behind her.

Whiny mosquito! Tessa scrunched her brows and batted the insect from her ear. She sighed and sat up. Where’s a good slave with a palm fan when you need one?

Who was she trying to kid? At age forty-eight all she’d been her whole life was a slave to her family, to Oakville. And unappreciated went her efforts to keep the family together. First, Robin. Married and moved so far away. Having grandbabies Tessa couldn’t hop in the Land Rover to visit. Skype was just not the same. Phil. Good riddance. He hadn’t thanked her for anything in the past decade anyway. Lindsay … her baby girl coming home after earning her master’s degree. But not home to mom. Home to grandma.

Tessa leaned over and plucked a small white lady slipper. Everything seemed to bloom earlier each spring. Even though she knew the flower, a member of the orchid family, had no fragrance, she brought it to her nose, always hoping something might have changed.

Something shimmied the leaves. A muffled step? Tessa stayed still, hoping to see a doe and maybe a fawn. When a large human hand thrust aside the leaves of her willow curtain, she stiffened. Her husband Phil had been gone three months and likely wasn’t coming back. Her father was too weak to walk this far from the house.

“This is private property,” she called.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” a man’s voice called. He entered her domain despite her warning. Tessa glanced around for a weapon, a stick, something. Crime was rare in rural Oakville, Wisconsin, but that didn’t mean it was non-existent.

Hoping he was a hiker wandering off the nearby popular Ice Age hiking trail that meandered through this glacier-gouged part of the state, she asked, “Can I help you? Are you lost?”

The stranger, a young man perhaps her daughter’s age, straightened. “No, ma’am. I believe this is the Hasmer farm.”

Tessa raised a regal brow. “The house is a quarter-mile east. Do you have an appointment?” As if her father was in shape to see anyone, anyway. “Are you looking for someone?” My daughter, maybe? Lindsay hadn’t mentioned a beau. Such a handsome fella too, with lovely wavy hair and showing buff under his off-white polo. They’d certainly make a cute couple. Already tan, must work outdoors. Huh—or played a lot of golf. Like her husband.

“I’m just out for a walk. Sorry to disturb you.”

He didn’t look in the least like he was sorry as he scanned her special hideout. Hideout? A grown woman needed a place to hide? Tessa went on the defensive and rose from the comfy rock where she spent so many hours reading and dreaming and watching nature. “I’m Tessa Hasmer Murphy, and this is my father’s farm.” She stood in front of him and folded her arms. “Private property.”

The young man’s knowing little smile seemed to indicate that introductions hadn’t been necessary. She changed her mind from her first impression. Hopefully he wasn’t here to see Lindsay. She tilted her head to look up at him. Did he … his deeply grooved mouth sent her back a couple decades, to college, and … but no. Why bring up old dead memories now?

“Sorry again. I didn’t mean to disturb you.” He turned and left the way he’d come before she could make her lips ask for his name.

Tessa slowly turned to survey her secret place. The ambiance had been ruined. No birds called. Janssen had started spreading manure on his field.

Still clutching the lady slipper, Tessa climbed out, ready to go back to her empty house in town. She walked across a field that hadn’t been worked in ten years and was as tangled as her lonesome life.



You can purchase A Summer in Oakville from Amazon.

Shellie and Lisa are giving away a copy of A Summer in Oakville. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

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