Thursday, February 28, 2013

Secrets of Willow Shade by Jean Thompson Kinsey

Maddy Kennedy is divorcing her unfaithful husband when she learns he has a secret more devastating than adultery. Jenny, Maddy's mother has taken the identity of the biological father to the grave with her. With a madman stalking the family, attempting to uncover hidden bank robbery money dating back to the days of the infamous Jesse James, Maddy's only hope is to find the answers to these secrets--to find her biological father before she loses her sanity or possibly her life. Can she do this without endangering the "daddy" who has raised her as his own? Maddy goes back to Willow Shade, the family farm in Logan County, Kentucky in quest of the truth.

Even though this novel is totally fiction, you will laugh, cry, reminisce and recognize characters, rivers, bridges and caves of Logan County, Kentucky, especially "Daddy," patterned after the author's own dad


Chapter One 

     Her knees pressed into the cold earth, Maddy's nails splintered as her bare fingers dug in the hard cemetery dirt. It was buried with Momma, and she had to find it.
     Heart racing, Maddy bolted upright in bed, switched on the bedside lamp and picked up her water glass. After appeasing her Sahara thirst, she placed the tumbler back on the crochet coaster and once again reached to grasp the intimidating document. It read the same as it had a hundred times before.
NAME: Madelyn Jennifer Beech 
MOTHER: Jennifer Marie Beech 
 FATHER: Unknown. 

     Father Unknown. Had Momma not known who Maddy's father was, or had she chosen to keep it her secret? For whatever reason, the skeleton in Momma's closet threatened Maddy's sanity. Nightmares promised to inhibit her sleep or put her in a mental institution if she didn't find a name to replace that unknown. There was only one thing left to do--go back to Willow Shade and find her biological father.
     Refolding along the blue creases, Maddy stuffed the birth certificate back into its crisp envelope and dropped it into her brocade Hobo Bag. What secrets lay buried back in Logan County? Surely, in such a small community, there was someone who had known Momma thirty-eight-years ago--someone who still remembered--someone who refused to let Momma take her secrets with her to the grave. Early the next morning she dialed Ashley's dorm number, scratching the last item off her to-do list before taking her bags out to the garage. Like always, no answer from her daughter before noon. As she laid the phone back on the receiver, the ringer startled her. "Hello," she answered. 
    "Mrs. Kennedy, I know where you live. You can't hide from me." Click. Maddy held the silent phone, staring at it for a second before placing it back in the cradle. What secret? She had nothing to hide. Just a prank call. I bet every Kennedy in the phone book got the same call. She continued packing, ignoring the eerie, gravelly voice of the caller. 
    Bumping her hip against the door, luggage in hand, Maddy caught her balance as her husky bound into the garage first. The chime from the front doorbell caught her ear. She had no time or patience for visitors or salespeople. She'd hide in the garage until whoever it was gave up and left. No way did that work. Kenneth scurried around the house and poked his curly, chestnut brown head in the garage entrance.
    "Hey, Maddy, glad I caught you. We need to talk." 
    "I believe we said all we had to say before I filed for divorce. I'm on my way to Logan County." Why did she go and tell him? Well, too late now. He'd find her at the farm anyway if he tried. Maddy turned her face away from the scrutiny of his gaze. She might choke on her heart when she heard his voice, but refused to let him see pain in her eyes.
     Lifting a large piece of luggage, Kenneth started toward her Pinto wagon. "I want you to know if there's ever anything I can do…" 
     She shoved his hands off her bag, heaved it into the hatch, and slammed it shut. "There's nothing. Come on Welby, quit sniffing at him and get in this car. You're my dog, remember?" 
     As soon as the station wagon cleared the garage, Kenneth turned and pulled the overhead door down. She hoped he the daggers shooting from her voice stabbed him where they hurt. At the end of the driveway, she stopped, stuck her head through the open window and yelled with a fake calmness, "If you want to talk, try chatting with your bimbo, because your wife is leaving." She drove away and headed down Kentucky Turnpike at seventy miles per hour. Windows rolled down, her long hair tangled by the warm wind, she let the tears flow. They would dry before she hit the county line. Heading south, I'm going home. 
    Recollections of the past year unfurled before her eyes. Maddy shook her head, slinging the niggling thoughts into outer space, turned the radio up and tapped the steering wheel to the beat of Mel Tillis and "Southern Rains." When had she last listened to country music? She didn't know, but driving past rolling green fields, inhaling the fresh country air floating across soy bean patches, it seemed appropriate. 
     After two hours driving, she was almost home to Willow Shade Farm. Knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel, she flexed her fingers. She hadn't been back since Momma's funeral. Not for almost a year. Was she ready to do this? Could she accept the truth if she found it? 
     She exited I-65 onto the gravel State road. White-faced Herefords dotted fields of sweet clover. Corn tassels nodded and tobacco stalks waved green arms in the wind. Maddy pulled the Pinto over, slid out of the car, and stepped onto the Jasper River Bridge. 
     "This is it, Welby." She shifted her eyes to the passenger seat, patted the dog's head and loosened his collar. "If I had a dime for each time I've played under this bridge, I'd be rich now." 
     Leaning on the paint-peeled guardrail, her teeth chewed on the tip of her left forefinger. Lacy white foam collected on the banks of the swollen stream below. It had rained yesterday. 
     Maddy sighed and summoned her courage. Willow Shade Farm spread across the sloping fields beyond. She swept her hand in the direction of the old plantation diminished to ordinary farm. "When I was a young girl, I made believe I was Scarlet O'Hara and the farm was Tara." She surveyed the scene before her. The red roof of the main house dwarfed the smaller buildings like the owners had once dominated the slaves who subsisted in them. She took a deep breath, got back into the car, and followed the winding drive up to the farmhouse. Yeah, I know. Now it's more like Tara, post bellum. That old verandah's going to collapse one of these days. She shielded her eyes from the morning sun with her hand. "Look, there's Daddy on the porch."
     Daddy leaned against a tall, white column, one thumb hitched into a strap of his bib-overalls, scrutinizing the car pulling into his drive. Howard Livingston would always be her real daddy even after she found the man who sired her. She wasn't looking to replace him; she only wanted to find her heritage. Daddy met her at the end of the walk. Weathered hands pulled a red handkerchief out of his hind pocket and blotted the tears from his eyes. "Maddy, you've come home. I been praying you'd show up. Been worried about you. Going through a divorce has to be hard. On Kenneth, too, I reckon."
     "I'm fine. Really I am. Wouldn't know about Kenneth." Daddy opened his arms and Maddy stepped into them. She hadn't meant to snap at him.
     "I'm sorry, Daddy." She should've come sooner. "Been busy at the shop." Her gaze dropped to her feet. Swallowed. "Rachel said she hasn't been able to sort through Momma's things in the attic. I can do that while I'm here. Plus, you and I need some time together."
     She hated telling Daddy half-truths. But couldn't tell him she came back to Logan County searching for something pointing her in the direction of finding her biological father. If he didn't know about Momma's past, the truth could destroy him, and the last thing Maddy wanted was to hurt her daddy.
     "Well, come on in, Junebug." His pet name brought her back to the present. Her birthday in June, she'd always be his little Junebug. "How's Ashley? She's not still in school is she?"
     "She decided to stay on campus for the summer and pick up a few extra classes. Sends her love to you and says she'll see you Christmas."
     "I'll be looking forward to that." 
     Maddy inhaled the country air. The smell of flowering alfalfa entwined with the sweet scent of fresh-cut hay wafted across the fields. "It's good to be home. Will Welby be okay out here?"
     "Nothing he can hurt. He's used to the outside, ain't he?"
     "Except when he's lying on the floor by my bed at night," Maddy's eyes smiled.
     Daddy had never kept dogs in the house, especially big ones like Welby.
     "What's his name? What kinda dog is he anyway? Looks like a friendly sort."
     "I call him Welby. He's a Siberian Husky. Thinks he's my guard dog but wouldn't bite a tick."
     "You can give me a good hound dog any day." Daddy winked at her. "You can bring him in at night if he don't bark."
     The warmth of Daddy's arm wrapped around her shoulder told her she was truly home again. They went inside, leaving the husky sniffing around the yard. Daddy led the way into Momma's kitchen where close friends and family congregated. Momma said the living room was for company. Daddy greased the iron skillet in the kitchen, letting Maddy escape to freshen up.
     The smell of fried corncakes and jowl bacon met her halfway down the hall on her way back into the kitchen. "Daddy, you remembered. My favorite since I was big enough to eat it."
     "Of course, I remembered." 
    They ate until Maddy felt guilt creeping up her esophagus. High cholesterol here we come.
     "That was good." She wiped the crumbs from the table while Daddy put the dishes in the sink. "But I can't eat like this every day."
     "Why not?"
     Laughing, she patted her tummy, "This is why."
     Daddy pumped his biceps. "Won't hurt if you work it off."
     "Well I don't intend to work that hard and neither should you."
     The grandfather clock standing proudly in the nook between living room and kitchen chimed one time. "Say, it's still early in the day. You don't have to milk for a long time yet. Let's take a drive through the back roads like we did after church when we kids were little. I'll do the dishes and you do whatever you need to do before we leave." Maddy looked forward to the camaraderie with her daddy, but also hoped he might point out where some of Momma's old acquaintances lived.
     "Now that's a good idea. Your car or mine?" Howard Livingston beamed at his daughter.
     Maddy had a quick recollection of Daddy swerving around the curves since he'd gotten older. Once, she'd told Kenneth to be careful because he might meet Daddy coming from the opposite direction. "I'll drive, but you'll have to show me where."
     Maddy, Daddy and Welby loaded into the Pinto and headed for an afternoon excursion. Daddy scrunched his neck to get into the compact car.
     "Seems like old times, doesn't it?" Maddy said.
     "Yep, we did have some good times back then. Didn't have the money for nothing else. Stopped at the store, bought baloney, bread and a few cold drinks. Then we headed out. Parked the car at the first good shady spot along the side of the road to picnic. Me, Jenny Marie, and you younguns." Daddy stared out the window. "Been a long time since them days."
     Welby, put his paws on the back of the seat and swiped his tongue on Daddy's neck. Ducking his head, Daddy pushed the dog off him. "What'd you say his name was?"
     "Welby. I got him the same day "Marcus Welby, MD" left the air. Couldn't stand doing without my weekly dose of my favorite doctor, so I named my dog after him."
     Daddy turned his head to the back seat. "Welby, ole boy, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop tickling my neck."
     "Welby!" Maddy reprimanded, trying not to giggle.
     As they traveled the vaguely familiar roads, Daddy talked. "I don't get back to these parts much. Especially since your momma died, but my buddies keep me informed." Soon Maddy knew what Daddy had heard via his friends gathered around the courthouse square--who had moved away, who'd died and who moved in.
     "Can we drive past where Momma lived when she was growing up?" She needed to get Daddy talking about the past.
     "Yep, it's not too far from here." Daddy pointed out directions and Maddy followed them.
     It didn't take much cajoling to get Daddy reliving the "good ole days." His leathery face dropped away the years. "Junebug, when I met your momma, she lived 'bout a mile down this road, just around the next two bends and on top of that hill." He extended his ruddy arm through the open window and pointed up the road. "We courted for four months, and then we married. Didn't bother her none at all, me being ten years older'n her. We just went down to the court house and got ourselves hitched. Of course her pap had to sign the papers, her being under twenty-one."
     How many times had he told this story? She loved it as much today as ever.
     A tear brimmed in Daddy's eye, but the smile remained on his lips. "Lord knows, I loved that woman. And I know she cared a right smart about me." He glanced at Maddy. "I thought you and Kenneth had that kind of marriage. Thought you'd be together forever."
     Her eyes remained on the road in front of her as she drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. "Guess we never found the right stitch to sew our marriage together like you and Momma did. It just raveled away at the seams."
     "Junebug, Jenny Marie and me had our ups and downs like all married people. And Kenneth seemed genuinely sorry for what he did. He was by your side every minute of the funeral. I just thought…"
     "I know all of this, Daddy. He says he's sorry and I believe him, but a marriage needs more than sorry. It needs trust, and I'll never trust Kenneth again." Maddy blinked the water out of her eyes. "I don't want to talk about Kenneth. We're getting a divorce and that's it." A rabbit scampered through the ditch. "Let's just enjoy our day."
     They rounded the second curve and climbed to the top of the hill where vestiges of the little unpainted tenant house remained in the center of a bare dirt yard. "This is where Jenny Marie lived when I first met her."
     "I remember Grandma Beech. I loved to go there when I was little." Maddy smiled as she recalled all the cousins, aunts and uncles gathering at her grandparents' home, children playing kick the can, ante over, and all the kid games. "I wish I'd lived closer when my Ashley was growing up. She missed out on a lot of family time."
     Reliving old memories was good but this trip headed nowhere as far as new information about the past. She prodded a little deeper. "Do any of Mama's friend still live around here?"
     "As I said, some done moved away or died. It's been a long time. Don't know what happened to the most of 'em." Daddy put his fist under his chin. "Hmmm. Wait just a minute now. The Widow Hensley. I'd plum forgot about her. She still lives over yonder." He gestured toward a stately old two story house nestled under an umbrella of two huge oak trees. "Yep, like a second momma to Jenny Marie, she was. She must be more than ninety-years old by now. Probably more like a hundred. Still lives by herself 'ceptin' her youngest girl comes by twice a day to check on her."
     "I remember Mrs. Hensley. Momma took me there when I was a little girl." Goosebumps covered her skin. An old friend of her mother's. Someone who knew her when she was young. Plans gusted like a whirlwind around and through her brain. Tomorrow, bright and early, she'd be pecking on this lady's front door with a list of questions.
     Daddy's top dentures over-bit his bottom lip as he hesitated for a second. "People say she's crazy as a loon. Don't know daylight from dark." He shook his head. "Such a shame."
     Maddy hit her brakes as the words struck her. Crazy as a loon. Mrs. Hensley was senile?

 Chapter Two 

     Maddy snuggled under Momma's handmade quilts into the same bed she'd slept in as a child. Welby tapped his tail on the floor beside her. She snapped her fingers. "Boy you gotta be quiet or Daddy'll put you outside with the coon hounds. Old Riley and Jake might not appreciate your company, and I know you wouldn't like theirs."
     Thinking how hard life had been for Daddy and how hard he'd worked to overcome the hand life had dealt him made Maddy proud. He didn't have much education because a tree had fallen on Peepaw Livingston's back while working in the log woods. All seven of the children had to quit school and go to work alongside of Big Granny in the fields. They didn't have disability or welfare back then. They worked at any job they could find to survive.
     Lack of education didn't stop Daddy from providing for his family. He worked for local farmers from before sun-up to past dark and eventually bought his own farm. There were many things Maddy wanted as she grew up and didn't get, but never did she remember being in need of anything. Daddy saw to it.
     No sooner had she burrowed into the covers than her eyes popped open. She reached down to scratch Welby's ear and her thoughts went to Kenneth. Why, after eighteen years of marriage, did he decide to be unfaithful? And why did she still miss him? "Miss him or not, divorce is the only answer. There's no excuse for infidelity is there, Welby?" The dog banged his tail on the carpet. "I'm glad you agree, boy. But why does it hurt so much when I think about him?"
     She stroked Welby's head and traded thoughts of Kenneth to ones about Mrs. Hensley. "Just my luck. The only living soul who might know Mama's secret has to be ready for the insane asylum. Well mad or not, Mrs. Hensley's all we got. Come tomorrow, you and I are going to call on a certain old lady. According to what I've read, the elderly aren't as senile early in the morning." Maddy chewed on the tip of her finger. "And besides, Daddy has only heard about her instability through neighborhood hearsay. He doesn't really know. Tomorrow, we'll find out for ourselves."
     The full moon peeked through the window. Crickets chirped and tree frogs croaked. Occasionally, a whippoorwill sang. Familiar sounds of home lulled her eyes heavy. The echoes and restless dreams which kept her awake until late at night also responded to the calm summer night.


     Maddy parked Welby and the Pinto in the shade of a giant elm and knocked on the front door. No answer. She walked around to the back. Chickens cackled and fled to the other side of the yard, then continued pecking for grit and bugs. A dwarf-size lady in her starched paisley housedress stood at the screen door wrapping strands of curly, cotton ringlets around her finger. Pasty eyes looked past Maddy and stared into space as though remembering a vision of some faraway place in another time. Her hand raised, Maddy stood, ready to knock on the door, but hesitated to break into the lady's dream world.
     After a minute, a glint of recognition lit up Mrs. Hensley's face. "Why, it's Jenny Marie. Child, come on in here." The white haired lady opened the screen door. "It's so good to see you. It's been such a long time."
     Tempted to go along with the charade, Maddy stepped inside the kitchen. It might mean she wouldn't learn anything at all, but she couldn't do it. She wouldn't deceive the lady. "Mrs. Hensley. I'm not Jenny Marie. I'm her daughter, Maddy. Momma died from a heart attack several months ago."
     "Jenny Marie is dead?" Mrs. Hensley buried her face in her hands, walked to the window and pushed back the yellow, daisy print curtains, letting in sunbeams bright as the buttery fabric. "She's too young to die. She's only a child. Such a sweet little thing." Mrs. Hensley sniffed into a cotton handkerchief with embroidered flowers in the corners.
     Cupping the lady's frail, thin fingers in her trembling hands, Maddy forced a calm front. "Mrs. Hensley, please don't be upset. Jenny Marie wasn't a little girl when it happened. She was almost sixty-years-old, still too young to die, I agree, but she wasn't a child."
     "She was?" Like a light bulb switched on, Mrs. Hensley returned to reality. "Of course she was, it's 1977 isn't it dear?"
     Maddy breathed a sigh of relief and reached for the hand Mrs. Hensley had removed A once genteel hand, now wrinkled and with prominent blood veins, yet still a trace of proper refinement. The lady appeared lucid. "I need so badly to speak to someone who knew Momma back then. Would you talk to me about her? Please."
     Mrs. Hensley seized Maddy with a big hug. "My goodness, child, come on in the sitting room and let me see Jenny Marie's daughter. Well, I do declare, you're almost a spitting image of her. Dark hair and gray eyes, only Jenny Marie was skinny as a rail."
     Whiffs of Ben Gay tingled Maddy's nostrils as she followed the minute woman down the hall past an open bedroom door into a sitting room filled with early American furniture. Bona fide antiques. Mrs. Hensley nodded for her to sit in a Chippendale rocker, as the lady graciously lowered herself into an identical chair and eagerly carried the conversation. "I've known your mother since she was a little tyke. Your grandmother was an angel, but your grandfather wasn't a very good family man. Jenny Marie was scared of him."
     Maddy didn't respond to the accusation. Grandpa Beech wasn't much of any kind of man. But she wasn't here to discuss her drunkard grandpa. She eased back into the original conversation. Even though Mrs. Hensley no longer appeared senile, she hesitated to push the lady too hard. "Tell me about Momma." Maddy prodded. "She was so pretty, did she have many boyfriends?"
     "There is one man. Jenny Marie sure is lucky to find him. He was a nice man--good to her, too." Little goose bumps raised all over her skin. Maddy leaned forward until the Chippendale nearly tilted from under her. Grasping the old trunk covered with a crocheted spread to right herself, she said, "Please tell me about him."
     Her voice a whisper, the tip of her forefinger flew to her mouth. Mrs. Hensley pushed her chin into her fist. "I think his name is Harold, Howard, or something like that. I believe she married him."
     Maddy's heart submerged to the bottom of her chest, but she managed to continue without showing her disappointment. "Yes, she married Howard Livingston. But can you think back before him? Maybe a year or so? Did she have another boyfriend?"
     Mrs. Hensley's eyes wandered. She pulled at a stray curl and spun it around her finger. "Jenny Marie, I'm sure glad you came by, but I must lie down now. I'm getting tired. It's nap time, dear. Do you take afternoon naps?"
     It was still early morning. Daddy had warned her Mrs. Hensley was senile, but she wanted information so badly she'd dared to hope.
     "Why honey, don't you act so disappointed now. You can come back another day." The elderly lady swiped Maddy's eyes with the embroidered handkerchief. "It'll be all right. You be a good girl, Jenny Marie, and run along. Tell your ma I said hello."
     Time had run out today. Maybe Mrs. Hensley would be more coherent another time. Maybe not. She got up to leave, and instinctively kissed the lady on her cheek.
     "I won't tell anybody. I promise." Mrs. Hensley shook her head from side to side.
     "Tell them what, Mrs. Hensley?"
     "You know. The boy in the mirror. I promise. My lips are sealed." She ran two fingers across her lips.
     "Please tell me. What about the boy-the one in the mirror?"
     Her eyes became cloudy again and her head bobbled. "I got to go to bed now," she mumbled as she turned her back and walked into the Ben Gay fumed bedroom.
     The boy in the mirror. What did it mean? Momma had a boyfriend, but in a mirror? Was Mrs. Hensley so senile she was making this up in her head? There couldn't be a real boy in a real mirror. It sounded like a fairy tale. Alice in Wonderland?
     "Come on, Welby." She patted the dog's head as she let him in the front seat with her. "What do you think, boy? Should I hang onto this tidbit of information and accept Mrs. Hensley may never answer my questions? Probably. But I intend to come back another morning. Maybe she'll be more responsive in a few days." Maddy started the car. "Welby, you know, I still got the attic. I'm hoping to get in there later this afternoon. I have a feeling about that attic."
     She left the Hensley home and drove to Four Springs to look for a good location for a shop, then returned to Willow Shade, parking at the end of the long winding drive. Daddy put lunch on the table as she came through the back screen door into the country kitchen. "Thanks, Daddy. But I planned to make lunch. I'm here to help you, remember? She crumbled some cornbread in her bowl. But I can't make vegetable soup like this."
     "Don't know what anybody can do to help me. I'm just passing time till I go to meet your momma." Daddy put the pan in the sink and wiped the crumbs off the counter.
     This wasn't like the Daddy she knew. "What's wrong? Wanta talk?"
     "Naw, I'm okay. Just went to the bank. Jim says I need to come in one day and go over tax records and stuff. Jenny Marie always helped with things like that. I can't read much and ain't too wise when it comes to business. I'm a farmer. I only know about crops and cows. Barely know how to sign my own name, let alone banking matters."
     "Daddy, I'll be happy to help if you want me to. Just you say when."
     "That'd be good Junebug, but you don't have to."
     "Yes, I do. You saw I received an education. Now the least I can do is use it to help you."
     Maddy had planned to search the attic but that would have to wait. "Caught any fish lately? Get your gear and let's go to the river." Fishing would cheer him if anything would.
     "You really want to go fishing? We ain't been fishing in a coon's age."
     "Well, speaking of coons, can Riley and Jake still tree a coon? We can give it a try one night, too." She finished wiping down the white chrome table top. She'd go coon hunting if Daddy needed her to, but she sure hoped he wouldn't take her up on the offer.
     Daddy stood speechless in the center of the kitchen floor. A twitch moved the right side of his mouth. "Now I know you're just trying to make me feel good."
     "Well, maybe I am, but I need the pick me up, too." Maddy walked around the table and put her arms around the man who had been a father to her for as long as she could remember.
     "You convinced me. You go on up and get out of them city clothes while I dig around in the worm bed and get us some bait and poles."
     Like two children in identical straw hats, Maddy with her rod and reel and Daddy with his cane pole jumped into the farm pick-up and bumped across the field toward the back waters of the Jasper. Maddy held onto her hat with one hand and clenched the dashboard with the other.
     "Junebug, I hope you'll stay on awhile at Willow Shade." Daddy's hat tipped to the back of his head as they bounced over a rut in the field. "You know you can stay right here on the farm and you won't have to look for your own place. This house is big enough for the both of us. The dog'd be welcome too. He seems to be well behaved. Better than some of my grandkids." Daddy laughed through his nose, making a scratchy sound kin to a giggle. Maddy had always been amazed a macho man like her dad would actually giggle, but that was the only thing she could call it--a man-giggle.
     A smile crept across her face. "I'll probably stay here for a while anyway. I scouted around for a good location to open a store while I was out this morning. Think I found one. I wanted to ask your opinion on something. There's not too much around here to draw historical attention. I was thinking about not only opening an antique and quilt shop but have some kind of memorabilia. Something different. Something with a piece of Logan County history."
     "Sounds good but not much ever happens here. We're born, live and die. That's about the size of it. Kentucky didn't even join the North or the South in the War Between the States. However, people round here seemed to be partial to the South so all the saying goes." Daddy pulled the truck into a shady spot near the river. "What about here? Used to be our favorite fishing hole." They scampered down the bank. Over the years she and Daddy had spent hours under the shade of these two willow trees, Daddy telling tall tales and pulling out bluegills.
     "Gonna be good fishing today." He retrieved two buckets from a thicket and turned them upside down to sit on after walking around and staring into the river.
     They cast their lines into the stream where Daddy swore he could see little circles in the water telling him bluegills were close to the top looking for food. She didn't argue, because he always came home with a string full of them. Welby lay silent with his nose in Maddy's lap, as if trained to respect the fishing hole.
     She looked out over the river, tightened her line and turned back to her earlier conversation about the shop. "You know Jesse James' family lived here in Logan County before moving to Missouri. I'm not too fond of building up an outlaw gang but if they're part of our history…"
     "Lotta folks don't consider them outlaws. They think James was a hero. You know, like that Robin Hood fellar." Daddy scratched his head. "Think they lived somewhere around Adairville. The daddy was a preacher. Went to college up in Georgetown."
     There wasn't much about Logan County Daddy didn't know. Actually, he knew pretty much about every inch of Kentucky. She wondered if he knew who her father was. But she couldn't ask. Not now anyway.
     Daddy turned somber again. "Junebug, I been thinking. It's best if you don't go cleaning up the attic. I'd kinda like it to stay just the way it is. Jenny Marie kept all her stuff up there you know. I think I'll just leave it like she left it."
     Now what was she supposed to do?


     A disheveled man wearing a green John Deere hat, scuffed cowboy boots and baggy jeans barely covering the top of his under shorts, stood in the shadows. That's Jenny Marie Beech's daughter. Just talked to her this morning in Louisville. Wonder what she's doing down here and how much she knows. Hope I don't have to kill her to find out.

About the Author

Jean Thompson Kinsey resides near Louisville, Kentucky. Her short creative writing can be found in various periodicals, newspapers, and anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Jean began writing novels in 2005 after becoming a widow at the age of sixty-five. Her first novel was published in 2012 by Desert Breeze Publishing. She enjoys reading, writing, teaching Sunday school and traveling, but mostly she enjoys her three children and eight grandchildren.

Purchase Secrets of Willow Shade at:

Jean Thompson Kinseyl is giving away a copy of Secrets of Willow ShadeTo be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your e-mail address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More Weekly Winners

Welcome to the Bookshelf of the Barn Door Book Loft.

Before we announce our three winners we’d like to offer a special thanks to Johnnie Alexander Donley who offered her book Where Treasure Hides.
Thanks to Lena Nelson Dooley who offered her book Catherine’s Pursuit.
And thanks to Dr. Rita Hancock for offering her The Eden Diet.
And now: We're pleased to announce this week’s winners:

Sonflower (Karen) has won Johnnie Alexander Donley’s book Where Treasure Hides.
Merry has won Lena Nelson Dooley’s book Catherine’s Pursuit.
Patsy has won Dr. Rita Hancock’s book The Eden Diet.

Winners, it's your responsibility to contact me  sharonalavy {at} gmail {dot} com) with your address so the author can send you a book. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Welcome to Cheri Swalwell

Cheri, your book certainly sounds intriguing. Hopefully, we'll learn about it in this interview!

Tell us, is there a story behind A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level?

This devotional is a collection of posts from my blog which was created in October 2011. Because of the positive feedback I received, and the suggestion to compile some of the devotions into a book, in November 2011, God allowed the doors to open and my first book was released.

That's interesting. What started you on your writing journey? 

God did. I had been writing off and on for almost twenty years, and had partially written my second fiction book, but laid it aside, when three years ago, God plainly told me, “Finish your book.” I argued with Him several times and then finally agreed to just obey. I have been walking the path of obedience ever since and am amazed at where it is taking me. 

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?  

I love to read almost more than I love to write. I love nonfiction inspirational books (Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic is one I just finished reading and couldn’t put down), as well as most Christian fiction: Amish, contemporary, suspense, medical drama - to name a few. Sharon Shrock is a relatively new author and has written Callie and has Terri, the second in the series releasing soon. I was hooked with Callie and can’t wait to read all four in the series. Candace Calvert (medical drama), Jordyn Redwood (suspense), Mary Ellis (Amish) are also authors that I love. I could keep going - I have learned so much from reading each genre and enjoy each

What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud? 

My children. I absolutely love being a wife and mother and thoroughly enjoy all of their differences. We have so many inside family jokes - it would take me hours to explain them all. 

I agree. What is your favorite season of the year? 

Fall - even though I’m not fond of winter and cold weather that soon follows; I absolutely love everything about fall. The colors of the leaves, the cooler temperatures at night but still warm during the day, the smell of burning leaves or woodburners in the air, apple cider, pumpkin farms and apple orchards. I even love raking leaves together as a family. We have so many great memories that we celebrate each year as a family.

Fall is my favorite although I love spring too. Where do you escape for some quiet time to reflect, pray, read, etc? 

With three very active kids in our home and two jobs working from home, there isn’t much time (or many places) to escape to myself. However, when I’m really stressed out and need time to refocus on God and the important things in life, our family will pile in the car and go for a long hike. We have a few favorite places close to where we live and after a couple of hours of communing with nature, communicating with my family, and having a running dialogue with our Heavenly Father about the beauty that He gives through nature, I come home much more relaxed and ready to tackle whatever needs to be accomplished. I’m happiest in the fresh air surrounded by God’s beauty and my family. 

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)  

I have so many, but one I would love to share is Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV) I used to just focus on the end of the verse (the part where God gave me something) but as I get older, I love the beginning too. I love to take delight in God. To me that means obeying Him with every area of my life - standing before Him as blameless as possible, showing Him with my actions how much He truly means to me. And “the desires of my heart” to me now means that if I truly love God as much as I claim, then He will either grant me the desires that I already long for or He will change my desires to be what He wants for my life. I have experienced times of both, and they are equally rewarding because they come with His peace which is priceless. 

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?

I am almost finished with a nonfiction book tentatively titled, Empy Arms, Heavy Hearts, offering hope through Christ after infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or death of a child. It’s a compilation of thirteen different people, men and women, who have somehow felt the loss of a child but yet offer hope to those who are walking that path presently. God laid this book on my heart six years ago when we lost a child ourselves, and I promised Him then I would someday write the book that I needed to read back then. God is showing me now is the time.

Sounds like a winner, Cheri! Thanks for chatting with us.


To buy the book, go here:

If you purchase my book through the above link, I will receive a small commission. Thank you ahead of time. Or:


About the Author:
Cheri Swalwell is a wife, mother, and avid reader, but first and foremost she is a Christ follower. She has a degree in Psychology and has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including, Circle of Friends, and She is a regular contributor to Book Fun Magazine. She enjoys reading and reviewing a variety of fiction books in genres of Amish, women’s fiction, mystery, suspense, medical drama, contemporary, and historical to name a few. She also enjoys many nonfiction titles including devotionals and other inspirational type books.

If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective as well as read reviews from various new and well-known authors, feel free to “like” her on:


She loves to interact with her readers, so she would love to connect at:

Cheri is giving away a copy of A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Monday, February 25, 2013

A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level? by Cheri Swalwell

About the book:

Do you ever feel like life is out of control and you just need a chance to stop and catch your breath?

If you wrestle with questions such as fear versus faith or how to find balance in such a fast paced society, then A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level is a great solution.

Get ready to relax with a series of forty devotionals taken from the author’s blogs where she just talks to you, friend to friend, about life’s challenges with a spiritual perspective. It’s small enough to fit in your purse or briefcase, great to give to a friend who needs some encouragement, and reasonably priced so you can pick one up for yourself at the same time. Available at

To read a bit of the book, go here:


This book originally began as various posts for a blog that I created in October 2011. When I started receiving such positive feedback and someone suggested I take the posts and turn them into a devotional, the idea was born and God graciously opened the doors to allow it to happen. Below is the very first post that was created for the blog while I was hanging out laundry, thinking about the suffering of some of my friends. I pray it will touch your life and you will want to read the whole devotional.

Give or Allow?
James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Quite a few of my friends lately have been going through some really rough times. I mean, real, gut-wrenching, 'don't want to get out of bed' struggles.

I overheard someone tell one of them, "God doesn’t give you more than you can handle." Even though that message was meant to encourage, I personally couldn’t agree with that statement, and here’s why. That implies that God is the one giving us the bad times, the hardships, the pain; and the God that I know and have come to believe in doesn’t do that.

Instead, I like to think in terms of this sentence, "God doesn’t allow more than we can handle." That statement conjures up an image of God and Satan fighting head to head; Satan and his cronies being the ones that are trying to make life miserable and God only allowing them to go so far before He steps in and says, "Enough is enough."

Another way to look at it would be seeing the picture of loving parents who willingly allow their child to suffer natural consequences of the sinful world, either through a mistake their child made himself or because of someone else's mistake. The loving parent stays in the background, watching, monitoring; waiting for the child to cry out, "Help me!" before stepping in. Does this mean the parents don’t love their child? No, just the opposite. The parents love the child so much that they are willing to allow a little bit (or a lot) of hurt to help the child grow into the mature, responsible, independent person that child needs to become in order to reach his full potential.

Does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Yes, that’s what free will is all about (which is a topic for another day). Do I believe that God purposefully gives people hard times, pain, and suffering? No, that belongs to sin and the Bible states very clearly that God hates sin and all that sin represents.

Having said that, will my friends' lives be free from the pain they are suffering right now by saying "God doesn’t allow more than we can handle?" instead of "God doesn’t give more than we can handle?" No, not really. Their circumstances won’t change overnight. However, instead of picturing a God who is purposefully causing pain, as comes to my mind with the wording in the second sentence, I instead picture God as a loving father, keeping the enemy from completely destroying my friends' lives (or mine) when reading the first sentence. I picture God protecting, sheltering, and only allowing so much; enough to help them (or me) grow and reach their (my) potential instead of being completely destroyed by the enemy who is trying to do just that. In addition, the God I love provides ways of escape for His children. It doesn’t always look the same for everyone, but it’s always the best as God ultimately has the best in store for His children.

I hope this encourages not only my friends who are going through some rough times, but anyone else reading this who needs extra hope today. God isn’t the enemy; He’s the One keeping us from being completely destroyed when the bad times inevitably come. And, as you trust fully in His plan, you’ll see how He provides for you during the pain, in His time.

To buy the book, go here:

If you purchase my book through the above link, I will receive a small commission. Thank you ahead of time.

About the Author:
Cheri Swalwell is a wife, mother, and avid reader, but first and foremost she is a Christ follower. She has a degree in Psychology and has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including, Circle of Friends, and She is a regular contributor to Book Fun Magazine. She enjoys reading and reviewing a variety of fiction books in genres of Amish, women’s fiction, mystery, suspense, medical drama, contemporary, and historical to name a few. She also enjoys many nonfiction titles including devotionals and other inspirational type books.  

If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective as well as read reviews from various new and well-known authors, feel free to “like” her on: 


She loves to interact with her readers, so she would love to connect at:

Cheri is giving away a copy of A 40 Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses.  To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Amazing Love, by K. Dawn Byrd

Back Page Blurb:

Gabe Knight, a pastor in a small coastal town, finds his life is turned upside down when Dee Dillow arrives and hires him to remodel an estate she's inherited from her aunt. Dee dashes his plans for wedded bless when on a drunken binge, she divulges that she's the highest paid call girl in Nevada and part-owner of the ritziest brothel in the state.

Gabe falls in love with her, but can't believe he's hearing the voice of God when a still, small voice tells him to marry her. After much questioning, they marry and he is deliriously happy. Until, Dee betrays him.

Gabe soon discovers just how hard it is to have the unconditional love God calls him to have for his wife, the kind of love God has for his children. When faced with losing her, Gabe realizes what true love is, how much it hurts, and just how much God loves and is willing to sacrifice for his children.




Dee signed the letter with a flourish and then read it aloud.


For the longest time, I blamed myself. There must be something terribly wrong with me, something so bad that even a mother couldn't love me. After years of therapy, I've learned that it's not me, it's you, Maggie. You're not capable of loving anyone. That's a terrible thing to say about a mother, but it's true.

Even here at Carpe Diem, I've continued therapy via technology. Today was a hard day because it's my birthday. As was expected, I never heard from you. Like my therapist said, it's not my fault you didn't call. It's a choice you made, Maggie, like so many other bad choices.

I used to dwell often on the things you allowed to happen to me. You had to have known that John was visiting my room almost nightly. You chose to ignore it even though he was your husband. And then, he sold me to his wealthy friends and you stood back and allowed it to happen. Whoever had the most money. That wasn't the life I would have chosen if given a choice. Even now, I long for a life of normalcy. A husband, a couple of children, and a picket fence is just a dream.

There are times I hate you, but I realize you have demons of your own. Something has happened to you to cause you to be so selfish and full of anger. That's why I try to overlook your hostility and lack of love toward me. You need a good therapist.

My therapist recommends that I write letters to you when I'm angry. It helps. This is letter 642. I've kept them all. You'll probably never read them, but they're not really for you. They're for me.

Your daughter, Dee


K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational novels in several genres, including historical, suspense, romance, and young adult. Some of her favorite things are chocolate, sports cars, and her pets. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and riding down country roads in the passenger seat of her husband's Corvette Stingray. When asked why she writes, her response is, "For the simple joy of placing words on the page!"

Connect with K. Dawn Byrd at:

Purchase Links:

K. Dawn Byrd is giving away an ebook copy of Amazing Love.
To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address.You can enter the book giveaway twice—but once on each spotlight post.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Please Welcome K. Dawn Byrd

I'm so happy to introduce you to our Spotlight Author today, K. Dawn Byrd. Following is an interview we conducted. Be sure to read everything and leave a comment for your chance to win an ebook copy of AMAZING LOVE.

Is there a story behind Amazing Love? One day, I was reading the story of Hosea and Gomer in the Bible and thought about how much fun it would be to write a modern-day version of the story. Amazing Love was born.

What’s the first thing you ever wrote that you still have? 
My first book was called, "Swarm of the Butterflies." After several revisions as I learned to write, it eventually went on to be published as "Mistaken Identity" by Desert Breeze Publishing.

What’s your favorite genre of writing?
I love thrillers and romantic suspense.

Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes, I do believe in writer's block. This is going to sound odd, but when it hits, I take a nap. Somewhere between being awake and falling asleep my mind relaxes and the next step in the story comes to me.
Do you type or write by hand?
I write  on a Macbook Air. I use a software program called Scrivener and am having great fun with it.

Do you archive everything you write? 
Everything I write is saved to dropbox.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it? 
I have several novels that are about half-way finished. Eventually, I will go back and complete them.

What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will? 
Science fiction. I just can't wrap my brain around it.

How many writing projects are you working on right now? 
Two. My June young adult release, called Hotline Girl and a thriller.
How do you find the time to write? 
I write all of my books in thirty days. Since I work a full-time job, I have to be very motivated. My normal writing schedule is 2,000 words per day. After 30 days of writing, I'll put the book away for a week or two and then go back flesh it out.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Hotline Girl, another young adult release, will be out in June. It's about a high school senior who is asked by her mother, who is the school counselor, to work the new school hotline for teens who need someone to talk to. She eventually figures out that they guy she's loved forever is the same mysterious guy that she fell in love with in the hotline chat room. She's come to know some personal things about him and his family and she's given him advice on his relationship with his girlfriend. When he starts to fall for her, she wonders if he'll want her when he figures out who she really is...the somewhat unpopular geeky girl who's never had a date.

K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational novels in several genres, including historical, suspense, romance, and young adult. Some of her favorite things are chocolate, sports cars, and her pets. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and riding down country roads in the passenger seat of her husband's Corvette Stingray. When asked why she writes, her response is, "For the simple joy of placing words on the page!"

Connect with K. Dawn Byrd at:

Purchase Links:

K. Dawn Byrd is giving away an ebook copy of Amazing Love. 
To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address.You can enter the ebook giveaway twice—but once on each spotlight post.

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