Saturday, May 30, 2009

Evolution: The Grand Experiment by Dr. Carl Werner

What I Thought:

First off, I have to say how much I love New Leaf Press books. They are always extremely creative as well as fun to view. This book in particular smells sooo good. Don't you just love that? When I received this book, I was in awe. It is a full high school level science text book. Wow. We actually got the second in the series first, and I was so excited that I asked the publisher if we could tour the first one as well. I opened up a Saturday on the FIRST calendar for this book so that we could tour it before the second one. The second one will be on Monday.

Anyway, I decided that I would use this and the next book as a science class for my 13 year old son next school year. Keegan found it on my book tour shelf and took it to his room. He devoured it in two days! It is that well written. The photography is phenomenal. The author's wife, Debbie Werner, was the principal photographer for the book. She is so talented.

I sighed and said, "Keegan, that was supposed to be your science class for 8th grade."

He replied, "I don't mind going over this again. I know I'll reread it anyway!"

What better recommendation can you have?

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Evolution: The Grand Experiment

New Leaf Publishing Group (October 8, 2007)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. Carl Werner received his undergraduate degree in biology with distinction at the University of Missouri, graduating summa cum laude. He received his doctorate in medicine at the age of 23. He was the recipient of the Norman D. Jones Science Award and is both the author of Evolution: The Grand Experiment book and executive producer of Evolution: The Grand Experiment video series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 262 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group (October 8, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892216816
ISBN-13: 978-0892216819

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Origin of Life:

Two Opposing Views


What Are We to Believe?

How did life begin? One view is that an all-powerful God created the universe and all forms of life. Another view proposes that the universe began billions of years ago as a result of the big bang. Later, life in the form of a bacterium-like organism arose spontaneously from a mixture of chemicals. Subsequently, this single-cell organism slowly began to evolve into all modern life forms. A third view is that life evolved, but God formed the first living organism and then helped the process along.


The Origin of Life

How life came about has been the subject of debate for almost as long as mankind has existed. Did life originate as a result of the intervention by a supernatural deity? Or did life come about as a result of natural laws acting over time? Scientists continue to search for definitive answers to these questions.

The publication of Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859 was a significant catalyst in propelling man’s search for a natural understanding of past and present life. Unraveling the mystery of how life began and how life may have changed over time has been the focus of many scientists. Since Darwin’s theory first made public, scientists have collected over 200 million fossils, described the structure of DNA, and identified how genes are passed on to the next generation. These major scientific developments provide us with relevant and thought-provoking information. They lead us to pause and examine our ideas in view of today’s ever-increasing and heated debate over the history of life on earth.

The purpose of this book is to address these important scientific discoveries and present the reader with rare and remarkable facts concerning the origin of life — from spontaneous generation, through Darwin’s ideas on evolution, to the present-day understanding of mutations and natural selection


Americans Are Split on Their Beliefs.

According to a Gallup poll taken in 2006, many Americans believe that God created man in the last 10,000 years. This is surprising given the fact that scientists have been teaching evolution for more than a century.

Do most Americans not believe the theory of evolution because it is implausible? Do they not believe evolution because of their religious views? Or, do they not believe in the theory because they are unfamiliar with its concepts?


What do you think?


(chart showing many Americans surveyed don’t believe Darwin’s theory)


Do You Believe in Evolution?


CON:

“No, I don’t believe in evolution at all. I think if you just look at the facts, it’s pretty clear, it just can’t be.”


“Did we come from monkeys? I don’t know. There is evidence for it, but there is also some stuff missing, so making that leap with a missing link there, I have some problems with that.”


“From what I’ve seen and heard, we have not evolved from apes for the simple fact that apes are still around. I mean, if we evolved from them, why are they still here?”


PRO:

“Yes, I do believe in the theory of evolution because I think that we had to come from some place and you know from ape to man to what we are today. I definitely believe in evolution.”


“I think it’s a very sad thing that we’re getting religious views mixed up with governmental involvement with education. I think it’s a sad comment on how people are trying to fix what they see as social problems in today’s world by falling back on religious dogma.”


Evolution: Scientists Can’t Agree

Ever since Darwin’s time there have been scientists who strongly disagree with the theory of evolution. But since the middle of the twentieth century, there have been a growing number of scientists who reject the theory of evolution based on the discovery of processes and structures of which Darwin was unaware. These scientists cite multiple “lines of evidence” that evolution did not occur, including gaps in the fossil record, problems with the big bang theory, the amazing complexity of even the simplest organisms, and the inability of scientist to explain the origin of life using natural laws.

Scientists who support evolution state that the evidence for the theory is clear and overwhelming. They offer observations of natural selection in action, the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, the evolution of man from apes, as some of the most convincing proofs for evolution.


Con: “Life could not have created itself. Theories on the origin of life, that is the evolutionary origin of life, are modern-day fantasies; they are fairy tales.” – Dr. Duane Gish, Biochemist, Institute for Creation Research.


Pro: “You really have to be blind or three days dead not to see the transitions among these. You have to not want to see it.” – Dr. Kevin Padian, Paleontologist, University of California, Berkeley.


Evolution and Education

Recent Gallup polls reveal that the majority of Americans want both evolution and creationism taught in public schools. This is somewhat surprising given the fact that the majority of scientists believe in evolution and dismiss supernatural creation theories as myths.

There are different reasons parents want both theories taught to their children. Some refer to a sense of fairness. They want their children to learn both sides of the issue and then decide for themselves.

The problem of how to teach students such a controversial topic is challenging for educators. Some fear that teaching two opposing theories would confuse the students while some believe this approach would encourage students to think critically and openly about the world around them. Others believe that creation is a religious idea and should not be taught in government schools.


(Poll asking, “Do you think creationism should be taught in public school science classes?” 54%, yes; 22% no; 24% unsure)


What Should Be Taught?

“I believe it is good for students to get a balance of both sides so that they can make up their minds for themselves without being forced into one way or another. I know that if I went to school and they taught all evolution, that I would feel somehow a little gypped.”

“I do feel that everyone is capable of making their own decisions, and I think that students, even at a young age, should be respected enough to be given various kinds of information, various amounts of information, and let to make their own decisions.?

“I really don’t have a problem with evolution being taught in the schools just so long as all the information is given and it is shown that it is not quite fact. And it needs to be very scientific in its presentation as far as listing its faults and its strengths. I think that science that only lists strengths, and not weaknesses, in not science at all.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

City of the Dead (Seven Wonders Series) by T. L. Higley

What I Thought:

I LOVED this book! What a grand idea T. L. Higley has, doing a series of historical fiction suspence books on the Seven Wonders of the World. Seriously, don't you just dig the idea? And the writing is 'wonder'ful as well. If you like mystery, Egypt, and romance, I think you would really enjoy City of the Dead. I sure did.


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


City of the Dead (Seven Wonders Series)

B&H Books (March 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



From her earliest childhood, there was nothing Tracy loved better than stepping into another world between the pages of a book. From dragons and knights, to the wonders of Narnia, that passion has never abated, and to Tracy, opening any novel is like stepping again through the wardrobe, into the thrilling unknown. With every book she writes, she wants to open a door like that, and invite readers to be transported with her into a place that captivates. She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and Jordan to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as the Seven Wonders series continues. It’s her hope that in escaping to the past with her, readers will feel they’ve walked through desert sands, explored ancient ruins, and met with the Redeeming God who is sovereign over the entire drama of human history.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447318
ISBN-13: 978-0805447316



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

In my dreams, it is often I who kills Amunet. Other nights it is Khufu, in one of his mad rages. And at other times it is a great mystery, destined to remain unknown long after the ka of each of us has crossed to the west.

Tonight, as I lay abed, my dreams reveal all the truth that I know.

Merit is there, like a beautiful lotus flower among the papyrus reeds.

“Hemi,” she whispers, using the shortened form of my name in the familiar way I long for. “We should join the others.”

The tufts of reeds that spring from the marsh’s edge wave around us, higher than our heads, our private thicket.

“They are occupied with the hunt,” I say.

A cloud of birds rises from the marsh in that moment, squawking their protest at being disturbed. Merit turns her head to the noise and I study the line of her jaw, the long curls that wave across her ear. I pull her close, my arms around her waist.

Her body is stiff at first, then melts against mine.

“Hemi, you must let me go.”

Some nights in my dreams I am a better man.

“Merit.” I bury my face in her hair, breathe in the spicy scent of her. “I cannot.”

I pull her into my kiss.

She resists. She pushes me away and her eyes flash accusation, but something else as well. Sorrow. Longing.

I reach for her again, wrapping my fingers around her wrist. She twists away from my grasp. I do not know what I might have done, but there is fear in her eyes. By the gods, I wish I could forget that fear.

She runs. What else could she do?

She runs along the old river bed, not yet swollen with the year’s Inundation, stagnant and marshy. She disappears among the papyrus. The sky is low and gray, an evil portent.

My anger roots me to the ground for several moments, but then the potential danger propels me to follow.

“Merit,” I call. “Come back. I am sorry!”

I weave slowly among the reeds, searching for the white flash of her dress, the bronze of her skin.

“Merit, it is not safe!”

Anger dissolves into concern. I cannot find her.

In the way of dreams, my feet are unnaturally heavy, as though I fight through alluvial mud to reach her. The first weighted drops fall from an unearthly sky.

And then she is there, at the base of the reeds. White dress dirtied, head turned unnaturally. Face in the water. My heart clutches in my chest. I lurch forward. Drop to my knees in the marsh mud. Push away the reeds. Reach for her.

It is not Merit.

It is Amunet.

“Amunet!” I wipe the mud and water from her face and shake her. Her eyes are open yet unfocused.

I am less of a man because, in that moment, I feel relief.

Relief that it is not Merit.

But what has happened to Amunet? Khufu insisted that our royal hunting party split apart to raise the birds, but we all knew that he wanted to be with Amunet. Now she is alone, and she has crossed to the west.

As I hold her lifeless body in my arms, I feel the great weight of choice fall upon my shoulders. The rain pours through an evil gash in the clouds.

Khufu is my friend. He is my cousin. He will soon wear the Double Crown of the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt. And when Khufu is Pharaoh, I will be his grand vizier.

But it would seem that I hold our future in my hands now, as surely as I hold this girl’s body.

I lower Amunet to the mud again and awake, panting and sweating, in my bed. I roll from the mat, scramble for a pot, and retch. It is not the first time.

The sunlight is already burning through the high window in my bedchamber.

The past is gone. There is only the future.

And I have a pyramid to build.




1

In the fifth year of Khufu, the Golden Horus, Great in Victories, Chosen of Ra, as the pyramid rose in the desert like a burning torch to the sun god himself, I realized my mistake and knew that I had brought disorder.

“Foolishness!” Khons slapped a stone-roughened hand on the papyri unrolled on the basalt-black slab before us, and turned his back on the well-ordered charts to study the workforce on the plateau.

I refused to follow his gaze. Behind me, I knew, eight thousand men toiled, dragging quarry stones up ramps that snaked around my half-finished pyramid, and levering them into beautiful precision. Below them, intersecting lines of men advanced with the rhythm of drumbeats. They worked quickly but never fast enough.

My voice took on a hard edge. “Perhaps, Khons, if you spent more time listening and less blustering—”

“You speak to me of time?” The Overseer of Quarries whirled to face me, and the muscles in his jaw twitched like a donkey’s flank when a fly irritates. “Do you have any idea what these changes mean?” He waved a hand over my plans. “You were a naked baboon at Neferma’at’s knee when he and I were building the pyramids at Saqqara!”

This insult was well-worn, and I was sick of it. I stepped up to him, close enough to map every vein in his forehead. The desert air between us stilled with the tension. “You forget yourself, Khons. I may not be your elder, but I am grand vizier.”

“My good men,” Ded’e interrupted, his voice dripping honey as he smoothed long fingers over the soft papyrus. “Let us not quarrel like harem women over a simple change of design.”

“Simple!” Khons snorted. “Perhaps for you. Your farmers and bakers care not where Pharaoh’s burial chamber is located. But I will need to rework all the numbers for the Giza quarry. The timeline for the Aswan granite will be in chaos.” Khons turned on me. “The plans for the queen’s pyramid are later than grain in a drought year. A project of this magnitude must run like marble over the rollers. A change like this—you’re hurling a chunk of limestone into the Nile, and there will be ripples. Other deadlines will be missed—”

I held up a hand and waited to respond. I preferred to handle Khons and his fits of metaphor by giving us both time to cool. The sun hammered down on upon the building site, and I looked away, past the sands of death, toward the life-giving harbor and the fertile plain beyond. This year’s Inundation had not yet crested, but already the Nile’s green waters had swelled to the border of last year’s floodplain. When the waters receded in three months, leaving behind their rich silt deposits, the land would be black and fertile and planting would commence.

“Three months,” I said. In three months, most of my workforce would return to their farms to plant and till, leaving my pyramid unfinished, dependent on me to make it whole.

Khons grunted. “Exactly. No time for changes.”

Ded’e scanned the plateau, his fingers skimming his forehead to block the glare, though he had applied a careful line of kohl beneath his eyes today. “Where is Mentu? Did you not send a message, Hemiunu?”

I looked toward the workmen’s village, too far to make out anyone approaching by the road. Mentu-hotep also served as one of my chief overseers. These three answered directly to me, and under them commanded fifty supervisors, who in turn organized the twelve-thousand-man force. Nothing of this scale had ever been undertaken in the history of the Two Lands. In the history of man. We were building the Great Pyramid, the Horizon of the Pharaoh Khufu. A thousand years, nay, ten thousand years from now, my pyramid would still stand. And though a tomb for Pharaoh, it would also bear my name. A legacy in stone.

“Perhaps he thinks he can do as he wishes,” Khons said.

I ignored his petty implication that I played favorites among my staff. “Perhaps he is slow in getting started today.” I jabbed a finger at the plans again. “Look, Khons, the burial chamber’s relocation will mean that the inner core will require less stone, not more. I’ve redesigned the plans to show the king’s chamber beginning on Course Fifty. Between the corbelled ascending corridor, the burial chamber, five courses high, and the five relieving chambers that will be necessary above it, we will save 8,242 blocks.”

“Exactly 8,242? Are you certain?” De’de snorted. “I think you must stay up all night solving equations, eh, Hemi?”

I inclined my head to the pyramid, now one-fourth its finished height. “Look at it, De’de. See the way the sides angle at a setback of exactly 11:14. Look at the platform, level to an error less than the span of your little finger.” I turned on him. “Do you think such beauty happens by chance? No, it requires constant attention from one who would rather lose sleep than see it falter.”

“It’s blasphemy.” Khons’s voice was low. It was unwise to speak thus of the Favored One.

I exhaled and we hung over the plans, heads together. Khons smelled of sweat and dust, and sand caked the outer rim of his ear.

“It is for the best, Khons. You will see.”

If blasphemy were involved it was my doing and not Khufu’s? I had engineered the raising of the burial chamber above ground and, along with it, Khufu’s role as the earthly incarnation of the god Ra. It was for the good of Egypt, and now it must be carried forward. Hesitation, indecision—these were for weak men.

“Let the priests argue about religious matters,” I said. “I am a builder.”

Ded’e laughed. “Yes, you are like the pyramid, Hemi. All sharp angles and unforgiving measurements.”

I blinked at the observation, then smiled as though it pleased me.

Khons opened his mouth, no doubt to argue, but a shout from the worksite stopped him. We three turned to the pyramid, and I ground my teeth to see the workgangs falter in their measured march up the ramps. Some disorder near the top drew the attention of all. I squinted against the bright blue sky but saw only the brown figures of the workforce covering the stone.

“Cursed Mentu. Where is he?” Khons asked the question this time.

As Overseer for Operations, Mentu took charge of problems on the line. In his absence, I now stalked toward the site.

The Green Sea Gang had halted on the east-face ramp, their draglines still braced over their bare shoulders. Even from thirty cubits below I could see the ropy muscles stand out on the backs of a hundred men as they strained to hold the thirty-thousand-deben-weight block attached to the line. Their white skirts of this morning had long since tanned with dust, and their skin shone with afternoon sweat.

“Sokkwi! Get your men moving forward!” I shouted to the Green Sea Gang supervisor who should have been at the top.

There was no reply, so I strode up the ramp myself, multiplying in my mind the minutes of delay by the stones not raised. The workday might need extending.

Halfway up the rubble ramp, a scream like that of an antelope skewered by a hunter’s arrow ripped the air. I paused only a moment, the men’s eyes on me, then took to the rope-lashed ladder that leaned against the pyramid’s side. I felt the acacia wood strain under the pounding of my feet, and slowed only enough for safety. The ladder stretched to the next circuit of the ramp, and I scrambled from it, chest heaving, and sprinted through the double-line of laborers that snaked around the final ramp. Here the pyramid came to its end. Still so much to build.

Sokkwi, the gang supervisor, had his back to me when I reached the top. Several others clustered around him, bent to something on the stone. Chisels and drills lay scattered about.

“What is it? What’s happened?” The dry heat had stolen my breath, and the words panted out.

They broke apart to reveal a laborer, no more than eighteen years, on the ground, one leg pinned by a block half set in place. The boy’s eyes locked onto mine, as if to beg for mercy. “Move the stone!” I shouted to Sokkwi.

He scratched his chin. “It’s no good. The stone’s been dropped. We have nothing to—”

I jumped into the space open for the next stone, gripped the rising joint of the block that pinned the boy and yelled to a worker, larger than most. “You there! Help me slide this stone!”

He bent to thrust a shoulder against the stone. We strained against it like locusts pushing against a mountain. Sokkwi laid a hand upon my shoulder.

I rested a moment, and he inclined his head to the boy’s leg. Flesh had been torn down to muscle and bone. I reached for something to steady myself, but there was nothing at this height. The sight of blood, a weakness I had known since my youth, threatened to overcome me. I felt a warmth in my face and neck. I breathed slowly through my nose. No good for the men to see you swoon.

I knelt and placed a hand on the boy’s head, then spoke to Sokkwi. “How did this happen?”

He shrugged. “First time on the line.” He worked at something in his teeth with his tongue. “Doesn’t know the angles, I suppose.” Another shrug.

“What was he doing at the top then?” I searched the work area and the ramp below me again for Mentu. Anger churned my stomach.

The supervisor sighed and picked at his teeth with a fingernail. “Don’t ask me. I make sure the blocks climb those ramps and settle into place. That is all I do.”

How had Mentu had allowed this disaster? Justice, truth, and divine order—the ma’at—made Egypt great and made a man great. I did not like to see ma’at disturbed.

On the ramp, a woman pushed past the workers, shoving them aside in her haste to reach the top. She gained the flat area where we stood and paused, her breath huffing out in dry gasps. In her hands she held two jars, brimming with enough barley beer to allow the boy to feel fierce anger rather than beg for his own death. The surgeon came behind, readying his saw. The boy had a chance at life if the leg ended in a stump. Allowed to fester, the injury would surely kill him.

I masked my faintness with my anger and spun away.

“Mentu!” My yell carried past the lines below me, down into the desert below, perhaps to the quarry beyond. He should never have allowed so inexperienced a boy to place stones. Where had he been this morning when the gangs formed teams?

The men nearby were silent, but the work down on the plateau continued, heedless of the boy’s pain. The rhythmic ring of chisel on quarry stone punctuated the collective grunts of the quarry men, their chorus drifting across the desert, but Mentu did not answer the call.

Was he still in his bed? Mentu and I had spent last evening pouring wine and reminiscing late into the night about the days of our youth. Some of them anyway. Always one story never retold.

Another scream behind me. That woman had best get to pouring the barley beer. I could do nothing more here. I moved through the line of men, noting their nods of approval for the effort I’d made on behalf of one of their own.

When I reached the base and turned back toward the flat-topped black basalt stone where I conferred with Khons and Ded’e, I saw that another had joined them. My brother.

I slowed my steps, to allow that part of my heart to harden like mudbricks in the sun, then pushed forward.

They laughed together as I approached, the easy laugh of men comfortable with one another. My older brother leaned against the stone, his arms crossed in front of him. He stood upright when he saw me.

“Ahmose,” I said with a slight nod. “What brings you to the site?”

His smile turned to a smirk. “Just wanted to see how the project proceeds.”

“Hmm.” I focused my attention once more on the plans. The wind grabbed at the edges of the papyrus, and I used a stone cubit rod, thicker than my thumb, to weight it. “The three of us must recalculate stone transfer rates—”

“Khons seems to believe your changes are going to sink the project,” Ahmose said. He smiled, his perfect teeth gleaming against his dark skin.

The gods had favored Ahmose with beauty, charm, and a pleasing manner that made him well loved among the court. But I had been blessed with a strong mind and a stronger will. And I was grand vizier.

I lifted my eyes once more to the pyramid rising in perfect symmetry against the blue sky, and the thousands of men at my command. “The Horizon of Khufu will look down upon your children’s grandchildren, Ahmose,” I said. I leaned over my charts and braced my fingertips on the stone. “When you have long since sailed to the west, still it will stand.”

He bent beside me, his breath in my ear. “You always did believe you could do anything. Get away with anything.”

The animosity in his voice stiffened my shoulders.

“Khons, Ded’e, if you will.” I gestured to the charts. Khons snorted and clomped to my side. And Ded’e draped his forearms across the papyrus.

“It must be gratifying,” Ahmose whispered, “to command men so much more experienced than yourself.”

I turned on him, my smile tight. “And it must be disheartening to see your younger brother excel while you languish in a job bestowed only out of pity—”

A boy appeared, sparing me the indignity of exchanging blows with my brother. His sidelock identified him as a young prince, and I recognized him as the youngest of Henutsen, one of Khufu’s lesser wives.

“His Majesty Khufu, the king, Horus,” the boy said, “the strong bull, beloved by the goddess of truth—”

“Yes, yes. Life, Health, Strength!” I barked. “What does Khufu want?” I was in no mood for the string of titles.

The boy’s eyes widened and he dragged a foot through the sand. “My father commands the immediate presence of Grand Vizier Hemiunu before the throne.”

“Did he give a reason?”

The prince pulled on his lower lip. “He is very angry today.”

“Very well.” I waved him off and turned to Khons and Ded’e, rubbing the tension from my forehead. “We will continue later.”

The two overseers made their escape before Ahmose and I had a chance to go at it again. I flicked a glance in his direction, then rolled up my charts, keeping my breathing even.

Behind me Ahmose said, “Perhaps Khufu has finally seen his error in appointing you vizier.” Like a sharp poke in the kidneys when our mother wasn’t watching.

“Excuse me, Ahmose.” I pushed past him, my hands full of charts. “I have an important meeting.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn

What I Thought:

This is a really fun book. I love adventures, and this is on the scale of Indiana Jones and National Treasure. If you like treasure hunting stories, this one is for you.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Gold of Kings

Howard Books (May 12, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Davis Bunn is the author of over nineteen national bestsellers, and his books have sold over six million copies in sixteen languages. The recipient of three Christy Awards, Bunn currently serves as writer-in-residence at Oxford University.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (May 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416556311
ISBN-13: 978-1416556312

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The rain pelting Seventh Avenue tasted of diesel and big-city friction. Sean Syrrell stared out the limo’s open window and let the day weep for him.

Sean gripped his chest with one hand, trying to compress his heart back into shape. His granddaughter managed to make the end of the block only because her aunt supported her. They turned the corner without a backward glance. Not till they were lost from view did Sean roll up his window.

Storm’s survival demanded that she be cut loose. He had fired her because it was the only way he could protect her. Sean knew the enemy was closing in. He had felt the killer’s breath for days. Storm was his last remaining hope for achieving his lifelong dream, and establishing his

legacy.

But the knowledge he had been right to fire her did little to ease the knife-edged pain that shredded his heart.

The driver asked, “Everything okay, Mr. Syrrell?”

Sean glanced at the young man behind the wheel. The driver was new, but the company was the only one he used ever since the danger had been revealed. If the enemy wanted a way to monitor his movements in New York, he’d handed it to them on a platter. “Why don’t you

go for a coffee or something. I’d like a moment.”

“No can do, sir. I leave the wheel, they pull my license.”

Sean stared blindly at the rain-streaked side window. He could only hope that one day Storm would understand, and tell Claudia, and the pair of them would forgive him.

Unless, of course, he was wrong and the threat did not exist.

But he wasn’t wrong.

“Mr. Syrrell?”

Sean opened his door and rose from the car. “Drop my bags off at the hotel. We’re done for the day.”

Sean passed the Steinway showroom’s main entrance, turned the corner, pressed the buzzer beside the painted steel elevator doors, and gave his name. A white-suited apprentice grinned a hello and led him downstairs. Sean greeted the technicians, most of whom he knew by

name. He chatted about recent acquisitions and listened as they spoke of their charges. The ladies in black. Always feminine. Always moody and temperamental. Always in need of a firm but gentle hand.

Among professional pianists, the Steinway showroom’s basement was a place of myth. The long room was clad in whitewashed concrete. Beneath exposed pipes and brutal fluorescent lights stood Steinway’s most valuable asset: their collection of concert pianos.

All but one were black. The exception had been finished in white as a personal favor to Billy Joel. Otherwise they looked identical. But each instrument was unique. The Steinway basement had been a place of pilgrimage for over a hundred years. Leonard Bernstein, Vladimir

Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leon Fleisher, Elton John, Glenn Gould, Alfred Brendel, Mitsuko Uchida. They all came. An invitation to the Steinway basement meant entry to one of the world’s most exclusive musical circles.

Sean Syrrell had not been granted access because of his talent. As a pianist, he was mechanical. He did not play the keys so much as box with the music. He lacked the finesse required for greatness. But fifteen years ago, he had done Steinway a great favor. He had located and salvaged the grand that had graced the White Palace, summer home to the Russian czars.

After the Trotsky rebellion, the piano had vanished. For years the world believed that Stalin had placed it in his dacha, then in a drunken rage had chopped it up for firewood. But Sean had found it in a Krakow junk shop the year after the Berlin Wall fell, just one more bit of communist flotsam. He had smuggled it west, where Germany’s finest restorer had spent a year returning it to its original pristine state. It was now housed in the Steinway family’s private collection.

The basement was overseen by Steinway’s chief technician. He and an assistant were “juicing” the hammers of a new concert grand. Sean spent a few minutes listening and discussing the piano’s raw tones. Then he moved to his favorite. CD‑18 was more or less retired from service after 109 years of touring. Occasionally it was brought out as a favor to a special Steinway client. The last time had been for a voice-piano duet—Lang Lang and Pavarotti. For fifteen years, Van Cliburn had begged Steinway to sell him the instrument. Yet here it remained.

Sean seated himself and ran through a trio of exercises. His hands were too stubby for concert-quality play, his manner at the keys too brusque. Added to that were his failing ears, which had lost a great deal of their higher-range tonality. And his strength, which these days was

far more bluster than muscle. And his heart, which still thudded painfully from firing Storm.

This time, it took a great deal longer than usual to leave the world behind. He hovered, he drifted, yet he was not transported. The tragic elements of his unfolding fate held him down.

When peace finally entered his internal realm, Sean switched to an √©tude by Chopin. It was a courtly dance, even when thumped out by his bricklayer’s hands. The instrument was bell-like, a radiant sound that caused even his antiquated frame to resonate.

Between the first and second movement, his playing transported him away from the realm of business and debt and his own multitude of failings. He knew others believed he harbored an old man’s fantasy of playing on the concert stage. But that was rubbish. He was here because twice each year, for a few treasured moments, an instrument brought him as close to divinity as Sean Syrrell would ever come. At least, so long as he was chained to this traumatic ordeal called life.

Sean detected a subtle shift in the chamber’s atmosphere. He was well aware of what it probably meant. He shut his eyes and turned to his favorite composer. Brahms was so very right for the moment, if indeed he was correct in thinking the moment had arrived.

Brahms above all composers had managed to form prayer into a series of notes. Yet Brahms had always been the hardest for Sean to play. Brahms required gentle eloquence. Normally Sean Syrrell played with all the gentleness of a drummer.

Today, however, Sean found himself able to perform the melody as it should be performed, as a supplicant with a lover’s heart.

Then Sean heard a different sound. A quiet hiss, accompanied by a puff of air on his cheek.

Sean opened his eyes in time to see a hand reflected in the piano’s mirrored surface, moving away from his face. It held a small crystal vial.

Sean’s cry of alarm was stifled by what felt like a hammer crashing into his chest. He doubled over the instrument, and his forehead slammed into the keyboard. But he heard none of it.

His entire being resonated with a single clarity of purpose, as strong as a funeral bell. He had been right all along.

Sean did not halt his playing. Even when his fingers slipped from the keys, still he played on.

His final thought was of Storm, which was only fitting. She was, after all, his one remaining earthbound hope.

He was carried along with notes that rose and rose until they joined in celestial perfection, transporting him into the realm he had prayed might find room for him. Even him.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Making Work at Home Work by Mary M. Byers

What I Thought:

An essential book for anyone (man or woman!) working from home. It covers topics that I hadn't even considered before, like how to keep your sanity when juggling the responsibilities of your business, home, and children. Now that my husband has read it, he is much more knowledgeable about what I will be doing and how to support me through the process.


About the book:

Making Work at Home Work shows moms how to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set without sacrificing their families. It covers important topics such as developing a successful business philosophy, balancing time between work and family, setting realistic goals, and handling the challenges of being both "Mommy" and "CEO" while running a profitable home-based business.

In addition to including her own experiences, author Mary Byers profiles real moms with home-based businesses who offer their hard-won advice.

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Revell (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800732758
ISBN-13: 978-0800732752

About Mary:

Mary M. Byers successfully juggles both a freelance corporate writing and speaking business and her responsibilities as a wife and mother of two school-aged children. She is the author of The Mother Load: How to Meet Your Own Needs While Caring for Your Family and How to Say No . . . And Live to Tell about It.

Visit her website to learn more or her blog


Contest:

Contest! Win a copy of Making Work at Home Work (or another one of Mary’s books--your choice) AND a $25 Amazon gift certificate (for some WAHM essentials – Day Planner, bubble bath, funky file-folders, toddler DVDs)!

There are three ways to win:

* Leave a comment on this post

* Sign up for Mary’s quarterly newsletter where she offer tips and advice about all facets of a women's life: WAHM, mothering, women's issues. More info here!

* Join the Work at Home Blog Ring. More info here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard

What I Thought: I thoroughly enjoyed reading House in Grosvenor Square even more so than Linore's first book in the series, Before the Season Ends (which I loved!). It delighted me to no end. There were no boring spots! I'm usually a great puzzle solver and can predict plot twists, but Linore actually surprised me a few times. I love that! The action kept pace all the way until the end...didn't lull out for the conclusion. I highly recommend this series...especially if you are a Jane Austen fan.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The House in Grosvenor Square

Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Linore Rose Burkard is the creator of Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the English Regency (ca. 1800-1830). With a unique blend of Christian faith, romance, and well-researched details of the period, Linore's stories will make you laugh and sigh, keeping you glued to the page to the very last word. The House in Grosvenor Square continues the Regency Series which began with the wildly popular Before the Season Ends. Once again readers are invited to experience a romantic age, where timeless lessons apply to modern life, and happy endings are possible for everyone! Linore grew up in NYC, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children. A longtime fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Linore delights in bringing Regency England to life for today’s reader.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925651
ISBN-13: 978-0736925655

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Mayfair, London

1813

Inexplicable. There was no other word for Mr. Mornay's behaviour to her that morning, and Ariana Forsythe could think of naught else unless it changed. Soon.

She looked at him challengingly, where he sat across from her in his expensive, plush black coach. Faultlessly handsome, Phillip Mornay was dressed stylishly in a twin-tailed frock coat, buff pantaloons and polished black boots. His beautifully tied cravat puffed lightly out from an embroidered white waistcoat, and his dark hair and famously handsome features were framed by a top hat. Everything he wore looked new, his clothing always did; and yet he might have worn it a dozen times, so comfortable did he appear in his attire.

But he had barely looked at Ariana for more than a fleeting second since he had come for her

this morning, and it was beginning to grate on her nerves. She had to think of something to say.


“Tomorrow is the day I shall see the full of your house, is it not?” She had been in Mr. Mornay's house in Grosvenor Square before, but this time she and Aunt Bentley were to get a tour, top to bottom, so she would feel more at home after the wedding. She and Mr. Mornay were betrothed to be married in two weeks.

The dark eyes flicked at her, and she felt a fleeting twinge of satisfaction.

“It is.”

She wanted to hold his attention, and began a smile, but he looked away, abruptly. What could be wrong? Mr. Mornay often studied her when they were together; she was so used to finding the dark-eyed warm gaze upon her, in fact, that she felt somewhat abandoned to be deprived of it, now. Had she done something to displease him? When he usually attended to her so deeply as though he could read into her soul?

They were on their way to the London Orphan Society, in Mr. Mornay's upholstered coach-and-four, with its fashionable high-steppers and liveried footmen on back, to attend a special service at the Society's Chapel. A lady was giving a dramatic reading from Scripture; a most celebrated dramatic reading. Ariana and Mr. Mornay had received invitations for the event, with encouragement to invite anyone of their acquaintance. Thus, there were also four other occupants in the carriage this morning, and seating was snug.

On either side of Ariana was a relation. Her younger sister, Beatrice, just turned twelve, was to her left, and her aunt and chaperon for the season, Mrs. Agatha Bentley, sat on her right. The ladies faced the gentlemen sitting across from them; first, Mr. Peter O'Brien, a future cleric, at Beatrice's particular request; then Ariana's future husband, Mr. Mornay, silent and unapproachable, and finally, the agreeable Mr. Pellham, her aunt's betrothed. (She and her aunt were betrothed at the same time. A most fortuitous turn of events; Ariana ought to have been in raptures of joy.) But unless Mr. Mornay's demeanour changed, Ariana could not enjoy herself. His inattentiveness was such a contrast to his usual behaviour that it was impossible for her to ignore it, or shrug it off as mere ill humour.

It seemed ironic now that when all had been uncertain about the wedding, (when Ariana had held out against her desire to marry Mr. Mornay because she would only marry a man who could share her spiritual life in God,) that up to then, his love and affection were painfully clear. And now, after Mr. Mornay had undergone a stark change in his religion; that is, when he came to believe in a personal, loving God, and the betrothal was settled, suddenly he was behaving as though he wished it were not.

Sitting across from her, he should have been engaging her with his usual intent gaze, smiling slightly at her remarks when she amused him or spoke to others; instead, he sat staring out the window (a thing he never did) and appeared to be morosely preoccupied in his own thoughts. It pricked against her nerves. She would bring him out of this brown study if it took all her ingenuity!

And then he suddenly turned and spoke: “Did I mention I shall be occupied for the rest of the day? After leaving you at your house, following the morning's service?”

Her large, tan eyes sparkled into bluish-green as they tended to do whenever her feelings were stirred. “No, sir; you mentioned nothing to me.” She gave him a look laden with perplexity, which he responded to only with a brief, “Haven't I? Well, I've done, now.”

Oh, dear. He is utterly not himself! Or has he taken a disgust of me?

The carriage fell silent. Mr. Mornay had thick, dark hair which tapered to the tip of his collar; short, dark sideburns, and handsome, strong-boned features. His eyes were deep, dark, and expressive, and his manner of dress, the height of manly perfection. Though he would not deign to discuss good style, he had a faultless sense of it, and many an aspiring buck or beau modeled their choice of attire after his. Like Ariana, his neatness appeared effortless. And he was universally approved of in the best houses, (save for those of the staunchest Whigs, who had still not forgiven Prinny or his pals, of which Mr. Mornay was one, for abandoning them for the Tories).

Even Ariana, who had little patience for matters of dress, found herself in awe of his presence at times. All told, he was an imposing character; a man one did not ignore or take lightly. Ariana was not happy with his tone of address, nor that she would not be seeing him after the morning service, but while she decided whether to make an answer to him, Beatrice broke the silence instead. “Achoo!” The twelve-year-old folded her handkerchief and looked about apologetically.

Beatrice had only recently joined Ariana in London, and both girls were staying at Mrs. Bentley's town house in Hanover Square.

Mrs. Bentley gave her younger niece a severe look, which Ariana did not fail to notice. Their aunt was a wealthy widow with a good soul at heart, but the lady was too prepared, Ariana felt, to make the worst of anything or anyone who posed a threat to her plans, her schedule, or her expectations.

Alarmed at the hint of an ague in her niece, Mrs. Bentley's delicately lined face wrinkled in disapproval while she pulled her gloves more tightly onto her hands.

“How long have you had that nasty sneeze?” she asked. “Do you have an ague?”

“No, no, I assure you!” And yet, the young girl had to stop even now, quickly covering her mouth and nose with her handkerchief to allow a second “Achoo!” to escape.

“Bless you,” said Mr. O'Brien, bringing a blinking smile to Beatrice's young face.

“Humph!” murmured Mrs. Bentley, deciding immediately to send the girl at the soonest convenience back to Chesterton and her family. She would not allow Ariana to contract a cold. Not with the wedding this close. Goodness knew, Mrs. Bentley had seen enough threats to this marriage—a coup d'etat, to be sure—and desired that nothing further could imperil the thing. With the ceremony so close, she was finally beginning to relax. The marriage was certain to take place. But she couldn't help remembering it hadn't always been that way. No, indeed! Why, since the day Mr. Mornay had asked for her niece, there had been one vexation after another, each more threatening than the last, each liable to ruin the man's hopes—and her own, for she wanted nothing more than to see the couple wed.

Her own niece, after all, fresh from the country, had unwittingly captured the heart of London's most famous bachelor—Mr. Phillip Mornay, known in Town as the Paragon. He was called the Paragon because he possessed three of the highest virtues of the English upper class: sartorial elegance, figure, and (most importantly) a fabulous fortune. Besides the family seat in Middlesex with a large tenantry and the house in Grosvenor Square, he owned small holdings and properties throughout the British Empire, all of which added to his income. His match to the debutante Miss Forsythe—a beauty in her own right, and rumoured to be an heiress, (a thing which Mrs. Bentley had fostered by putting up enough blunt for Ariana's Season that no one thought to credit her for doing so) was famous. Not since the Regent himself wed Caroline of Brunswick had there been such a general anticipation of a marriage (though one might rightly call the prince's an infamous match, she reflected!).

In any case, it was too wonderful a happenstance to let such a thing as a young chit like Beatrice put a damper on it with an ague. If Ariana were to fall ill, the marriage would still take place, of course; but why imperil the older girl? Why give her the least excuse to raise an objection? (Ariana was far too liable to raise objections—that had been the trouble from the beginning!) What if she were to wish for a postponement? Mrs. Bentley's nerves couldn't stand for it.

No, with the assurance that Ariana was finally settled upon her fianc√©, there was nought to hinder the event—and she, Mrs. Bentley, would do everything in her power to see that it remained that way. Casting her eyes upon her niece, she had to acknowledge a twinge of satisfaction (for not the first time) at how the girl wore the expensive clothing she herself had bought her-- like a queen. Ariana was dressed in the same modish style as her aunt, not because she could afford it or had the slightest interest in cutting a wave, but for the reasons that Mrs. Bentley could, and did.

She was decidedly happy to have been so generous with the girl, for it had helped, she was certain, to catch the eye of Mornay, and indeed, of the ton. Was not her niece toasted at every evening supper she attended? Had not the Regent himself approved of her? True, Ariana did have to endure the occasional jest from Mornay's circle of aristocratic wags on account of her well-known piety, but even these men were gentler to her than was their usual habit concerning women.

And now she, Mrs. Bentley, had been enjoying her most successful Season since her own come out, decades earlier. Routs, card parties, soirees—the sort of things she adored, were crowding her calendar as the chaperon of Miss Forsythe, and she was going to marry Randolph-- it was indeed an annus mirabilis! Just then a sudden nasty odour pulled her from her thoughts.

“Oh, dear,” she murmured, turning to the Paragon. “Where is this Orphan Society? We are getting into neighborhoods that I cannot like.” The dignified streets of Mayfair were behind them, and now they were in roads that were muddy and crowded with carts and working-class people. Child vagabonds could be seen huddling in doorways. Pedestrians stopped what they were doing to watch the shiny black coach with its high-steppers, and try to get a glimpse of the dignitaries who must be inside such a vehicle.

Ariana sat back. She had seen enough of the poor and indigent in London to know that compassion alone was worthless as far as helping anyone went. Further, she had no wish to seem pitying or condescending. The poor were entitled to dignity like anyone else. She had welcomed today's invitation precisely because of her wish to help London's less fortunate citizens. (This had been a desire of her heart since coming to London earlier in the year. Her world had become a disheartening juxtaposition of unbelievable wealth against a backdrop of the ever-present poor.)

Looking across at her suitor, she suddenly wondered if it would jar with his disposition to become a philanthropist? Certainly it was expected of the wealthy, wasn't it? Even in her little town of Chesterton, it was the wealthiest families, those with the huge estates, who held the Annual Balls, the Harvest Home, the Christmas Hall festivities. Mr. Mornay was part of this wealthy class. She hoped it would fall to her to organize charitable events as his wife.

“Ariana!” She was torn from her thoughts by her aunt's strident tone. “Did you say which street the Orphanage is on?”

“The Society is on Folgate Street, Spitalfields. Just north of Spitalfields Market,” replied Mr. Mornay, in her stead. Ariana was looking at him, and he met her eyes, adding, “I own a property on the street, you know.”

“Do you?” She was greatly surprised. It was not a fashionable part of the city. “A house?” she asked, trying to prolong the conversation. Finally he was at least giving her his attention.

“A tenement.”

Mrs. Bentley's curiosity got the best of her. “You own property there?”

He gave a rueful smile. “Won it in a wager, I'm afraid. My man of business sees to letting it and so forth. I've never laid eyes on it, actually, though I've been meaning to give it a look.”

Mrs. Bentley fished an expensive, lace-edged handkerchief from her reticule, and held it now over her mouth and nose, as if the mere fact of passing through the neighborhood might result in being exposed to noxious vapours.

Mr. Pellham took her other hand and patted it soothingly.

Beatrice, all eyes, extended her own hand out towards Mr. O'Brien. “Would you like to take my hand, Mr. O'Brien?” she asked. His eyes opened rather wide, but before he could say anything, Mrs. Bentley chided, “Hush!” and, reaching across Ariana, landed a harmless “slap” to the girl's outstretched hand with her handkerchief. Why did youngsters have to do the most foolish things imaginable? Wasn't it enough that she had had to steer Ariana clear of the future cleric? Now would she have to do the same for her younger niece when she came of age?

Mr. Peter O'Brien, meanwhile, smiled shortly at the girl to be kind, but he was much more concerned, despite his best efforts, with her elder sister. He could never become quite inured to the striking figure Miss Forsythe presented, and he smoothed his coat lapels and adjusted his cravat. He'd been taking as many glances at Ariana as he could safely do while trying to conceal his admiration of her—he had lost her to Mornay, there was no way around it. But it was a difficult pill to swallow, and he still got choked up by it on occasion.

Mr. O'Brien had entertained hopes of forming a betrothal with Ariana himself. He was not wealthy, and he was Irish—both of which were not in his favour, particularly with the standards that Miss Forsythe's aunt seemed to demand from any would-be suitor of her niece's. He was mildly ill-at-ease, therefore, despite his being firmly included on Beatrice's account. (The girl had taken an instant partiality to him, insisting on his company as often as possible.) He could not rid himself of his still strong admiration for her elder sister, however, and that, coupled with a touch of pique—he'd had such hopes of her—moved him to join her company whenever possible. Miss Forsythe had been too, too friendly for him to think she felt nothing more than mere friendship for him!

But it wasn't becoming in a man of faith to nurse a grudge-- his calling was in the Church, which, even if he had not been a third son, he would have chosen in any case as he had strong religious leanings—and he had no wish to rub salt in a wound—but he could not resist the chance to be in her company. So he tried to avoid looking at her, having no wish to make a jackanape of himself, but it was difficult indeed, with such proximity to her sweet, radiant beauty.

Furthermore, it was decidedly unusual for him to be welcomed into the presence of the Paragon, a man he felt more than a little antipathy towards. To be seated beside him now struck him as extraordinary, and he was mute with a mixture of caution, jealousy, and surprise. He had always scoffed at the man's reputation for excellent taste, but seated next to him, he could not deny a feeling of reluctant admiration. Mr. Mornay's clothing made a stark contrast to Mr. O'Brien's less costly attire, and the man's dark double-breasted tailcoat with tapered sleeves made his own frock coat, though sturdy, appear plain, indeed.

At that moment Beatrice unhelpfully exclaimed, “Your coach is ever so pretty, Mr. Mornay! It is far more comfortable than my father's!” She fingered the dark burgundy velvet of her seat. “I wish my mother and father could see it!”

“Hush!” Ariana said, not without affection.

“Do you not fancy the coach? I could ride in it for days!” she exclaimed, wide-eyed.

“Of course I fancy it, only it doesn't signify.”

“Is your carriage as agreeable as this one, Mr. O'Brien?” the girl asked, making him shudder inwardly. He thought of the single family equipage he used when taking his mama and sisters about Town. Compared to Mornay's gleaming, springed and upholstered vehicle, his was shabby, indeed.

“No,” he answered, trying to smile with the word.

Just then everyone's attention was diverted as they pulled up outside a large Palladian style building fenced in by black iron gates. The London Orphan Society was a stately institution. Mr. Pellham exclaimed, “Undoubtedly the work of Mr. Nash, wouldn't you say, Mornay?”

Mr. Mornay, observing the building as best he could from the interior of the coach, nodded his head. “Very likely.” All was quiet and neat on the outside. A gateman opened the way for them, and the coach moved ahead into a circular drive which brought them round to the front entrance.


******


Stepping into the building, Mrs.Bentley raised her ankle-length pelisse as though it might drag on the tiled floor, while Ariana straightened her dark-blue French-style canezou. It had a deep flounce along the shoulders and neck-line and around the empire waist. Beneath a bonnet which sported two round puffs of pale, gathered fabric at the top, little ringlets of blond hair were just visible around her face—owing to her having endured a night with curling papers beneath her cap—and she was bright with youthful beauty this morning, as most days. She happily accepted Mr. Mornay's arm, still searching his countenance for a clue to his feelings, but he maintained a stony disregard of her. If not for his past effusive reassurances of love, she might have been exceedingly disconcerted. But she refused to believe anything of moment was behind his distant manner, and she tucked her arm into his with the added touch of her other hand, placing it upon his coat sleeve with feeling.

The little group followed a lady by name of Mrs. Gullweather, who was the headmistress, and two female servants down a long, wide stone hall which ended at the chapel. A man-servant led them to seats in a front row. Ariana was impressed with the massive interior and its circular ceiling and long, stained-glass windows, beautiful against the light of morning outside. The benches around and behind them were full of children of all ages, who emitted only a low murmur from their ranks.

She sat down cognizant of the pleasure of being next to Mr. Mornay. She glanced at him now, but he continued to study the area ahead, where Mrs. Gullweather was preparing to speak. She felt as though he was somewhere else today, far distant from the proceedings, from her. But she turned her attention to the front of the room, just as he had. She would think no more on it for now.

“Before we begin,” Mrs. Gullweather said, with a smile, “We have arranged for the children to entertain you. We do try to educate them profitably. Most of our graduates, when they leave us, go on to lead productive lives in society. We have had dozens of young people go off to be missionaries in foreign lands, and furnished a good many governesses, cooks, and housemaids for people of quality,” she said, speaking to the guests, who, in addition to Ariana and her party, took up the first two rows of seats across the chapel. “Many of our young gentlemen, it must be added, who do not choose the mission field, go on to find apprenticeships, or serve as footmen or grooms in the best households.”

With a wave of her hand, she added, “These are the same children who are brought to us destitute, and with nothing but poverty, death, or a life of crime facing them. It is only by the generous help of our patrons,” she smiled benignly towards them, “that we are able to effect such changes for society. And now—the children.”

The sight of the young orphans erased all other concerns from Ariana's heart. How glad she was to have come, today! She so wanted to make a difference somehow for children like these! God knew each by name and loved every one of them. The children sang an old hymn, “Ye Holy Angels, Bright,” and by its end, Ariana was thoroughly satisfied that the London Orphan Society was a worthy cause, indeed.

When the dramatic actress, Mrs. Tiernan, finally stood before them, silent, even grave of countenance, a hush fell over the audience, including its youngest members. Her gown was of the classical Roman style, more like gowns that were in vogue a decade ago (as Ariana knew from her mama's old fashion catalogues). Expecting her to begin, the audience waited. But she kept her eyes fixed on a spot overhead, towards a window.

When she continued to stare like a statue at that fixed point against the opposite wall, people began to look at it, too. Was it supposed to mean something?

Then, just when everyone despaired of her ever doing anything other than staring at the window, she turned and faced the assembly. This time she stared down the main aisle, as though she were in a trance. Then, suddenly, with a dramatic flourish of her arm, she cried, “Hear the Word of the Lord!” Her voice rang out loud and piercing as it cut into the silence.

Then, in a quieter tone, “A dramatic reading from the Book of Revelations, Chapter One, verses ten through twenty.” She slowly moved her gaze to take in the onlookers. Her eyes were calm and yet seemed to blaze from within, settling to flicker momentarily upon Ariana and her companions.

Again the hush grew deep with anticipation. Mrs. Tiernan dropped suddenly to her knees, her arms raised high, and then turned her head as if listening. In a clear tone which carried an authoritative quality, she began in earnest.

“On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit. And I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” She added measured movements of her arms and even her body, so that she made a captivating sight.

“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me; And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands....”

...“His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace! ”

“...And his voice,” she lifted her head to listen, “was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” She made a motion as if taking a sword from its sheath, and then, magically, a small leather book was in her hand! How had she done it? Ariana didn't know. But there it was, a concrete allusion to the “double-edged sword” being the word of God.

And then the book was gone, vanished, like it had never been there. The audience gasped, and she continued, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance...”

When the reading was ended, Mrs. Tiernan froze, statue-like, except that her head was bowed. In a minute, people began to applaud, led by Mr. O'Brien, which would have been rather amazing except that he had the impetus of knowing the presentation had ended for he alone had been following along out of his little leather Bible. Mrs. Tiernan remained with her head bowed as the clapping slowly grew stronger. Finally, when the applause ceased, the lady bowed low once more, so that everyone had to clap again, and then she said, “Thank you! Thank you!” and swept out of sight, leaving from a hidden exit behind the pulpit.

Soon the guests were led to a small breakfast room, where a light repast was waiting. While they ate, they shared thoughts on what they'd seen.

“I daresay she cast a spell on us,” chuckled Mr. Pellham, tugging on his moustache thoughtfully. Mrs. Bentley added, “Rather a bit of a trickster, I should think. Making that little book appear and disappear as if by magic. And in a chapel!”

Mr. O'Brien cleared his throat. He hated to disagree with anyone who was socially superior to him, but he had to correct what he saw as near-blasphemous thinking.

“But ma'am,” he managed to say, “it was only for effect; to heighten the power of her presentation, which, I thought, in all honesty, to be quite...quite good.”

“I thought it was wonderful!” put in Beatrice, loyally—and loudly. “Did you not think so, Ariana?”

Ariana smiled. “I was impressed.” She glanced at Mr. Mornay and felt a fresh concern when, instead of finding the warm eyes and gentle smile she loved, was met with a blank expression. It was an expression she recognized as being his “tolerant” look; he was merely enduring the proceedings, she realized. But he turned to the faces around the table and added, “It was interesting, and,” he chose his word, “Worthwhile.”

While they continued eating, Mrs. Gullweather approached their table with a little bald man who wore spectacles and carried a small, bound leather book in which he was jotting information.

“I hope you have enjoyed our little entertainment,” she began, after thanking them for coming.

“And now we must rely upon your patience and goodness a little longer, while we beg you to consider making our orphanage a grateful recipient of the generosity that so distinguishes your class among men.” Ariana wished devoutly that she had the means to be as generous as possible, but knew that within her reticule lay a single crown. It was the last of her money.

Mr. Mornay, meanwhile, had no wish to listen to any flummery, and spoke to the man with the book. “Are you recording donations?” The man looked up, startled to be addressed, but quickly replied, “I am, sir!”

He rounded the table to where Ariana and Mr. Mornay were sitting, across from one another. He waited, pencil poised and ready to enter an amount in his account book. Meanwhile Mrs. Bentley offered the woman a few guineas, which she accepted gratefully. Mr. Pellham followed with a bank note of an unknown sum. Beatrice solemnly gave sixpence, and Mr. O'Brien just a little above that, as this unfortunate time of the month always found him in low water .

Mr. Mornay, meanwhile, had turned to Ariana. “I should like you to propose the amount.” It was an embarrassing moment, as the topic of money was considered ungenteel. One did not discuss it, as important as it was. She blushed.

“I dare not think of it.”

With surprise, he asked, leaning in towards her for privacy, “Do you not wish to support the place?”

“Oh, I do, of course. I mean to give my last crown...”

“I've no doubt. But tell me the amount you should like to give if you had the means. Only name it, and it is done.”

She eyed him uncertainly. Suddenly his distance-keeping seemed to have fled, and he was himself again. And he loved her. He was asking her to make a financial decision for the two of them!Many a woman would have been astounded at it. Perhaps Ariana was astounded at it, for she could only reply, “I think perhaps that you ought to--”

“No, it must be you. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you, and I am certain you will be more generous than I.”

“But that is what I fear!” She hissed in a whisper. “What if I name a sum that is too high?”

He smiled, and she instantly smiled back. “Name it.”

“Oh, dear! Very well,” she said, bringing her two hands together in thought; but she was enormously pleased to have received that smile. It was the first she'd seen him wear all morning. “Would...twenty-five pounds per annum be appropriate?”

He said nothing but turned to the recorder. “Send the bill to my house,” and he went on to give the information necessary while the appreciative clerk scribbled in his book.

Ariana watched, with a spurt of elation. A heady delight. A feeling of unexpected....power. She found herself staring at Mr. Mornay as if realizing his great wealth for the first time.

“Stop looking at me like that. 'Tis only money.”

Only money! She knew of widows who lived on little more than what she had just been able to procure for the orphanage. With a few words, she had made a difference for the children. It was a marvelous new feeling, heady and intoxicating. Of course it was Phillip's money, not her own, but hadn't her aunt told her numerous times that all he had would soon be hers? That Mr. Mornay had offered her everything that was his? Any amount of pin money she wanted? She had never paid the least attention to the thought of sharing in Phillip's wealth, but suddenly it presented a world of possibilities to her.

She barely noticed the rest of the proceedings, the thank yous and goodbyes. Only the parade of orphans, waiting to wave and cheer them off as they pulled away in the coach brought her fully alert to her surroundings. She looked at each child in a new way. What if she could afford to give them all a new article of clothing every year? Or new shoes? What if she and Phillip were to –to—start their own Society? There were still hundreds and hundreds of hungry, cold children on the streets. More orphans than this one asylum could house. As the carriage exited the iron gates of the grounds, Ariana was lost in a world of new thoughts and ideas. It seemed as if she'd been waiting all her life to have such thoughts. She'd never had the means to have them, before.

As Mrs. Phillip Mornay she would have the means.

As Mrs. Phillip Mornay she could do much good.

Her eyes wandered to her silent, handsome future husband. Studying him, she felt a strong wave of love. She recalled wrapping her arms around his neck, and the wonderful feel of his arms firmly about her. The night of their betrothal he had taken her into his coach and put her upon his lap and they'd kissed.

He was listening to Beatrice's absent chatter just then or she would have bestowed upon him a most adoring smile. As she studied the handsome face, strong nose and chin; the rich, neat attire, her heart swelled with love and pride—but also a slight discomposure. She was appreciating his circumstances in a way she had never done. Was it wrong? Was it selfish? To be happy that she would be married to a rich man? But she thought of all the charities she could support, the good works she could do, and her qualms dissipated. Mr. Mornay had been only too happy to let her name the sum for the Orphanage. Surely he would always be that way, wouldn't he?

During the drive home, she dreamed of the future benefactress to the poor which she would become. The usually deflating scenes of needy children on the streets did not affect her as usual.

“Soon, soon, my dear children,” she thought, “Mrs. Mornay will come to your aide!” At that moment her beloved turned his gaze upon her and her inner musings came to an abrupt halt.

Once again, there was nothing of warmth in his eyes, nothing of the affection she usually found in them. Would the future Mrs. Mornay be a benefactress to the poor?

Or was he having a sudden change of heart? Did he wish to—to cry off from the wedding? Had he allowed her to name the sum for the Orphanage to lessen the blow of his change of heart? Her thoughts of helping the poor paled in light of this disturbing notion. Was he re-thinking their wedding plans? Why else the coldness of his manner, the absence of meaning in his looks to her? She would need to find a way to speak with him, privately. Perhaps his distracted behaviour had nothing to do with her at all. She frowned. If it did not, there was something else on his mind that was troublesome. In either case, she must seek to help.

Somehow she had to speak to him alone, and soon. Something was most definitely wrong.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the Extended Regency in England (circa 1800 – 1830). Ms. Burkard’s novels include Before the Season Ends and The House on Grosvenor Square (coming April, 2009). Her stories blend Christian faith and romance with well-researched details from the Regency period. Experience a romantic age, where timeless lessons still apply to modern life. And, enjoy a romance that reminds you happy endings are possible for everyone.


For more information, visit: www.LinoreRoseBurkard.com