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The Monson Month of Jubilation Giveaways

Celebrate June with eight chances to win a digital copy of When Love Is Lost by Kameo Monson.

During the month of June, my family celebrates from start to finish! With so many exciting days how can we not? Birthdays, anniversary, Father’s Day, Flag Day, we celebrate them all. This year, we invite you to join the fun by entering the Jubilation Giveaways to win a digital copy of When Love Is Lost.

Cleaning, cooking, volunteering, attending church . . . Deb lives a monotonous life. Stuck in a loveless marriage, she doesn’t know where to turn or what to do. One day, out of the blue, a mysterious man enters her life, and her once boring existence is born anew. As he fills her heart with love, joy, and hope, she must decide whether her marriage is worth saving.

Betty’s life is nothing but fun, glamour, and shopping, especially where Deb is concerned. But can she continue hiding her torturous past from her best friend? When her past comes back to haunt her, Betty struggles to survive in a world where no one knows the truth of her reality.

A young, pregnant mother of two, Mariah makes new friendships with Deb as she continues her blissful journey through motherhood. But while her husband is recovering from an accident, new terrors threaten to destroy the happiness she’s worked so hard to build.

Can all three women come together to fight the battles of life? Find out in WHEN LOVE IS LOST. A novel that shines a new light on love and friendship, and keeps readers yearning for more as they cheer for three incredible women journeying through the ups and downs of life.

Giveaway Dates:

June 3rd: Kameo’s Birthday
June 9th: Kameo and McKay’s 24th Wedding Anniversary
June 10th: Jesse’s 17th Birthday; Uncle Kevin’s Birthday (2 copies)
June 13th: Mary’s 13th Birthday; Cousin Caia’s 20th Birthday (2 copies)
June 14th: Flag Day
June 16th: Father’s Day
June 19th: Dad’s Birthday
June 29th: Anne’s 15th Birthday

Giveaway info:

No purchase necessary. Ages 18 and up. For each event, one digital copy will be emailed to the winner(s). Winner(s) has the option to receive a MOBI or EPUB. Dates with multiple winners are listed above. Each giveaway will run for 24 hours. Winners of one giveaway are excluded from the remaining June 2019 giveaways. Total number of copies available is ten. Value/per copy is $2.99. Chances of winning are determined by the number of entries. This giveaway is run by Kameo Monson in Maricopa, Arizona.

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Book Review: Love From Left Field: A Billionaire Romance

After losing her husband to PTSD, Cambria Henshaw searches for a way to start over in Love From Left Field: A Billionaire Romance by Jenny Rabe.

Jenny Rabe, author of three sweet romance novels, has a knack for bringing love to life, especially in the beginning stages. Perhaps that’s because she experienced 150 first dates before getting married. Either way, Love From Left Field will cause your skin to tingle and your heart to flutter, just like when you first met the love of your life.

My Thoughts on Love From Left Field

While I often explore love in my writing, I’m not always so keen on reading romance novels that don’t delve deeper into the raw parts of the experience. And love is an experience. We feel it, yearn for it, seek it, and revel in it once we have it. It’s no wonder so many books are filled with it. But it takes an understanding, a connection to oneself and others, to create a romance story that doesn’t come off as ridiculously cheesy. Rabe has that understanding.

Love From Left Field explores love after loss, love after betrayal, PTSD, and grief. It honors those who have served and those who are serving in the military. The characters come across as real human beings, albeit, one is incredibly rich. It’s the kind of book you read on the beach because it’s easy to follow, and the kind you read in the library because you want to digest the whys and what fors.

This incredibly clean read won’t drag you down, but it will help you better appreciate your life and the lives given to keep you free. Enjoy splatters of paint, dusty baseball fields, good looking people, and dutiful dogs.

The Official Blurb

After losing her husband to PTSD, Cambria Henshaw desperately needs to start over, so she packs up her paints and moves to Harker Heights, Texas. Inspired by welcoming surroundings and friendly people, Cambria begins to paint one portrait after another, with one small problem: haunted by survivor’s guilt that keeps everyone at a distance—and her heart safely guarded—she can’t bring herself to finish any of them.

Brian Davidson thinks he’s finally put his past behind him. As an anonymous CEO billionaire, he’s sure this small Texas town will be his refuge from the spiteful ex who smeared his name through the mud in the national papers. But when someone starts stalking his baseball practices, threatening to expose his identity, he worries his ex is back for more revenge.

When Cambria and Brian are thrown together during a service opportunity through their grief group, the attraction is undeniable, but so is their hesitation. As the two of them battle their inner demons and their real-life enemies, they must both decide what they’re willing to risk for a 9th-inning chance at “home-run” love.

More Info

Purchase your e-book or print copy of Love From Left Field on Amazon.

Follow Jenny Rabe on Facebook   Twitter   Goodreads
Visit Jenny’s website and her newsletter.


I ordered this book free from Amazon. All opinions are my own.

The Boatswains

The Boatswains captures events that took place in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, on the USS Arizona. And was written in remembrance of those who died serving our great nation.

USS Arizona, Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

John climbed from below to the deck of the USS Arizona still drowsy from the night ashore Oahu with his twin brother, Jake. Being assigned to the same battleship made his time in the service more endurable. The two had enlisted together, and although they hadn’t always served on the same ship, a sailor on the Ellet had provided the means for John to return to the Arizona a year ago.

The sun pelted John’s eyes with light, and he squinted as they adjusted to the open sky. After strolling to the fantail deck, he pushed a broom over the wooden planks, his mind filled with memories of his night on the town. A dull scratching reached his ears as a vibration buzzed at his hands. Pausing, he bent down and pocketed the small screw picked up by the straw bristles. He always found something.

Glancing up, John casually waved to the burly sailor who nodded as he strolled past, probably on his way to the mess hall.

Grabbing chairs, John’s crew quickly worked to set up for church services. His stomach growled at the thought of breakfast, and he looked forward to eating his scrambled eggs and ham next to his brother. Luckily, with enough people, setting up chairs took little time.

Moments later, a few beads of sweat formed on John’s brow from the humidity gathered in the mess hall. Maybe he could snag a table near a fan. Either way, his tray, overflowing with eggs, ham, and hash browns, called to him, and his stomach growling again as he searched the room for his brother. Perhaps Jake was running late.

As John approached a table, the sky rumbled, and apprehensive sailors jumped toward tiny windows, pointing and yelling about smoke from Ford Island darkening the sky.

John’s heart lurched into his throat.

Planes with painted red balls on the underside of gray wings buzzed in the sky. He cursed. “The Japs are attacking!”

Dashing past the men not yet to their feet, he ran through the hatch, flinging his hand into the alarm button. Before the shrill wailing had a chance to sound, an explosive crack broke, throwing him to the floor.

Ignoring the pain now pounding in his head, elbows, and tailbone, John laid hand over fist and climbed up the ladder, rushing to his station at gun turret four. An explosive cacophony rang through the sky as the USS West Virginia, berthed next door, sank—the men who hadn’t died now swimming toward the safety of Ford Island. Black smoke from the Nevada also stained the horizon on the other side of the Arizona.

Grasping for a single formed thought, horror banded John’s chest as a bomb struck the gun turret where he stood then careened below deck before exploding into flames.

John bolted for his turret captain yelling, “We can’t just watch this, we have to do something!” He grabbed his captain’s arm. “My brother’s on the anti-aircraft batteries. They need help, and I know what to do!”

His captain waved him off, granting permission.

Mayhem shot through the ship as two more bombs struck the USS Arizona on the port side. How was she still floating? No signs of anti-aircraft fire lit the charred sky. Nothing.

A wall of hot air struck John in the chest, deflating his lungs and stealing his voice as he rose into the air and then plummeted to the deck thirty feet away. His body flailed on the marred planks he’d swept only minutes before.

Crawling to his knees, another blast sent a scorching orange and black cloud into the sky. Wooden planks scratched at John’s legs as he slid across the deck. A fourth bomb had exploded the battleship’s store of gunpowder, thrusting the ship into the air.

Tears, oiled with soot, trailed down his face as he ran back to the gun turret. Commander Fuqua swung a dripping water hose through the air as he attempted to extinguish the flames surrounding himself and other men. The injured fell to the deck in front of John, their odorous skin sluffing to the ground.

“Get them to the boat!”

Fuqua screamed the order, and John twisted in confusion until his gaze landed on the captain’s gig. Hoisting the closest man over his shoulder, he worked to control his own shaking.

One after another, John helped men onto the boat. Each of the faces seared into his mind. And though he could no longer recognize most of them, he knew none of them were Jake.

“Abandon ship! Get off this ship!” Fuqua called, but John ignored him. “Do you hear me, sailor? Now!”

John shook his head and threw his shoulders back. “I’m not going. My brother’s on this ship.”

“You’ll go now!” Fuqua shoved John and the man he carried onto the boat. “Now!”

Trying to fight the strength of the acting captain quickly became impossible, the weight of the other sailor heavy on his shoulders. John slumped down to the floor of the boat, his chest heaving as he held back tears.

He no longer attempted to lift his gaze to the sky. The once beautiful, sunny day now oozed with nightmares. Thoughts of his brother rammed his skull. The walking corpses around him proof of what he might find. But he had to search. He had to go back. He couldn’t leave Jake.

Dropped off at Ford Island, John stumbled to a bunker where other unfortunate survivors stood. They watched the Arizona as it burned, black clouds hiding the ship itself from view. Smaller boats floated through the attack, attempting to rescue men from the water. Other, less fortunate men, swam the distance to shore. Some stepped straight from the USS Arizona into the water that lapped at their scorched toes.

John formed fists, his broken and grimy fingernails still able to pierce his skin as his knuckles whitened. “I’m going back.”

He whispered the words at first, his throat raspy from smoke inhalation. Then he raised his head, meeting the eyes of the one willing to meet his. “I’m going back!”

The words exited his lips with force. The burly sailor who’d passed him on the deck stared back at him. A boatswain.

“You?” John asked.

The tall man, with formed muscles under his burned uniform nodded. “Yeah.”

“I’m John.”

“Chester. Friends call me Chet.”

They didn’t bother to shake hands, choosing to walk toward the fight instead.

“Boatswain?” John eyed Chet from the side.

“Seven years and counting.”

“Four for me. You have someone back home?

Chet lifted his head, scanning the destruction before them. “Wife and baby girl.”

Silence pervaded as John thought about Jake.

“How’d you get ashore?” he finally asked.

“Fuqua forced evacuations, didn’t he?”

Seeing an adrift boat near the incapacitated USS Nevada, John and Chet entered the water. Once so inviting, it now burned John’s skin as much as the flames. Debris and bodies filled the waves and shoreline around him. He focused on rescuing his brother.

As the men reached the abandoned dinghy, they lifted their arms from the water. With slicks of oil sticking to each limb, both climbed on board.

Splintered planks knocked against the side of the boat as they steered toward the Arizona. Billows of smoke covered what remained of the deck, obscuring their view of survivors. John watched the water for survivors, but none surfaced.

As John met Chet’s eyes, the man looked away. Turning, John focused on where the man had been gazing. The main mast and tower—and Jake’s station—were gone, tilted in a mass of flame. At least Chet hadn’t tried to deter him.

The tiny boat skidded against the rear of the sinking ship, its deck beginning to submerge.

“I’ll wait so we can leave fast.” Chester looped a rope to a groaning scrap of metal. “Make it quick.”

Jumping out of the skiff, John stepped onto the abandoned deck. Nothing but noxious, black fog, curled by the rising heat, moved. As he gazed toward the mast, his body shook. He knew. Jake was gone.

But John wouldn’t leave alone.

Dashing through the fog, he searched the rear of the Arizona until he came across three sailors struggling to breathe—struggling to move. Their charred skin sluffed from burned backs. One by one, he carried them back to Chet, who helped load them in the dinghy and pushed off the second John climbed aboard.

The three rescued men lay coughing and lethargic. Unable to scream away their pain. John saw it in their eyes and in the stunted rise and fall of their chests. He moved toward Chet.

“We got to get outta here.”

The words left his mouth in time with the buzz of aircraft.

“More Japs!” John dove down, covering his head.

Gunfire rained around them, Hospital Point visible, but so distant. The ruins of the sunken West Virginia and the capsized Oklahoma were now dwarfed by the flames jumping from the other ships and the oil-slicked harbor.

The racket around them still couldn’t cover the crackling of their craft as it exploded. Coughing out the water and oil he’d swallowed, John frantically writhed in the thick liquid as he searched for the others. Minutes passed, gunfire continued, his body tired. Nothing but debris surrounded him. They were gone. Chester was gone.

Stroke after agonizing stroke, he swam toward Ford Island. The sky, basted in black, gave no sign of the time. Finally, he pulled himself to shore, oil covering his body. An abandoned rifle with two bandoliers of ammunition appeared to wait for him near a tree.

They’d taken his brother, his friends…Chester. Diving into a crater formed during the raid, he hunkered down, ready to take any Jap that came his direction.

The next day, as accounts came in, John learned that the USS Arizona had been hit by four bombs in fourteen minutes. By the end of those fourteen minutes, much of the Pacific battleship fleet burned in unglorified flames.

The U.S. entered the war and John fought. He fought for his brother and for Chet and for the others that were lost, but most of all, he fought because it was his job.

USS Arizona

Facts

More than 2000 American’s died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1,177 of them served on the USS Arizona. Only 335 men from the USS Arizona survived. One of them was John Anderson, who died November 14, 2015, at the age of 98. Commander Samuel Fuqua, then acting captain, also survived. He died on January 27, 1987.

John Anderson
Commander Samuel Fuqua
Chester Clay Rose, 1941

Works Cited:

McKinnon, Shaun. AZ Central. 5 February 2015. 21 May 2019. https://www.azcentral.com/story/life/az-narratives/2014/12/04/uss-arizona-pearl-harbor-attack/19788571/.

WW2HQ. 2015. 21 May 2019. http://worldwar2headquarters.com/HTML/PearlHarbor/shipsPearlHarbor/ship-positions-pearl-harbor.html.

The Mother

This story is dedicated to my sister, who has always had a mother’s heart.

Papers slid into a folder before Allie secured them in her bag. The assignment she’d given her students always took forever to finish grading, but she loved reading the stories of their mothers. At home, she’d make a few comments on each story; the kids liked that. The rest of the week, they’d work on the handmade gifts. This year, she’d chosen paper flowers in paper mache vases. Each story would be copied to a small scroll and hung with ribbon on a painted vase.

She stepped through the classroom door to the outdoor walkways they called halls. The emptiness of the school, eerie to some, always brought her comfort. Laughter and smiled filled them during the day. Designed with outdoor entrances, sunshine brightened each room, and nothing darkened the halls she walked now, not with the echoes of life lingering so close.

Pushing a graying hair behind her ear, she studied the ground. Home was different.

Within a few minutes of leaving work, she opened the door to her small house and slipped off her shoes. Tension relaxed in her shoulders as her toes wiggled from their pinched positions. Quickly piling a few cookies on a plate and pouring a glass of milk, Allie settled down on the couch with the thirty stories.

Erik’s story fit him perfectly. A day spent racing dirt bikes through the sand. Every time his mom wobbled on her bike, he zoomed over and helped steady her. Allie smiled and attached a dirt bike sticker to the top. She’d spent days searching for those stickers after realizing how much he loved dirt bikes. Encouraging him to learn with dirt bike word problems had made a difference too. Once behind, his work in every subject now showed promise others said he’d never achieve.

A few minutes later, she swallowed some milk, barely containing a snorting giggle. In class, Allie had explained that some children didn’t live with their mothers. Some lived with grandmothers, aunts, foster moms, or their dads. Shelly was one of those kids. After losing his wife, Shelly’s dad continued to raise her alone. Shelly’s story included a lavish tea party where her dad dressed up in a skirt and boa. She took special care to roll curlers in his hair and call him Mrs. Smootsworth.

As she continued to read, her emotions flooded through her as she thought of each student. People tended to think a room full of kids meant someone getting left behind, but not in her classroom. At least she hoped not! With no children of her own, she had to dote on someone.

Sometimes the process left a hole in her heart. Parents sent teacher appreciation gifts, and students drew her pictures and left her notes. But none of that was the same as being a mother. Not this week. This week she prepared all of her students to recognize their own mothers. And they should. After all, Mother’s Day was Sunday. Still, she had never gathered her own baby in her arms in the middle of the night for a feeding. And when she visited the park, no child ran to her crying because they fell. No one called her mama, mommy, or mom. It stung.

Standing to carry her plate and glass back to the kitchen, she stopped when a soft knock sounded at the door. Who could that be?

On her tiptoes, she peeked through the peephole, glad she’d remembered to turn on the porch light. Wendy?

“Well, hello? How’s my favorite niece and grand nephew?”

Tears fell from Wendy’s swollen eyes as she carried a young baby in a carrier through the open door. “Aunt Allie…”

The flustered mother fell into her arms, sobbing as she tried to speak. Only incoherent mumbles reached Allie’s ears, and she wrapped her arms around her niece and walked her to the couch.

Wendy and Allie had a special bond. One they’d developed when Allie opened her home to her sister, Ruth, years ago. For three years they’d lived in the same house. During those years Allie often played with Wendy and her brother after work. Though she never disciplined the children outside of her authority as homeowner, she did had fond memories of late-night conversations and lots of ice cream bars.

“You take that cute little boy out of that seat and curl up on the couch. I’ll get the ice cream bars.”

The corners of Wendy’s mouth rounded up slightly with a grateful sigh.

“Don’t leave me waiting. What brought you to my porch this late at night.” Allie asked. “I thought you were coming Saturday morning.”

“I was. I am,” Wendy stuttered, then bowed her head. “Matt’s out of town on business and…”

Tears filled her eyes again as she accepted the ice cream bar from Allie.

“And?”

Wendy’s chin quivered as she struggled to blink back the tears, staring at the baby. Adam. “He just cries.”

“He’s not crying now.”

“He will.” She twisted her fingers around each other in a continuous movement. “I haven’t slept in days, not really, and I can’t do it alone anymore. Can we stay here tonight?”

“Is that all!”

Allie reached for Adam, whose little body pulled into a tight ball before letting out a wailing scream. Wendy’s eyes glazed over, but Allie never slowed, easing her hands under his head and pulling him close.

“Grab yourself some cotton to plug your years, then get yourself to bed,” Allie said.

“I can’t leave him with you.”

“I won’t hurt him.”

Wendy stared at Allie, who shooed her away as she bounced Adam in her arms.

Allie stared at her great nephew. “Your mama needs to sleep. What have you been doing keeping her up all night?”

He continued crying, and she swaddled him in a blanket, binding his arms and legs.

“I know, life if hard. God plops us here on Earth and everything’s different. Bright then dark. Bodies that hurt. And you’re so little, you don’t understand any of it, do you? Well, you just sit here with me, and we’ll figure it out together.”

A couple of hours later, Allie slid between the sheets she’d laid out on the couch, a sleeping Adam next to her in his carrier. Any crying from a hallway or bedroom promised to wake up Wendy, and Allie would not have that.

The next morning, she scrabbled some eggs and fed Adam a bottle before knocking lightly on Wendy’s door. Her groggy niece opened the door, looking better rested.

“I see you got some sleep. Eggs are on the stove, and Adam’s been fed. You can stay as long as you’d like, but I think your mom might like a visit.”

Wendy pulled a face, her nose crinkling. “Yeah. I wasn’t ready to listen to her nagging.”

“Nagging.” Allie shook her head. “Your mother doesn’t nag, she worries.”

“Worries about what?”

“About you. About Matt and Adam. She’d have done the same thing I did last night.” Her voice softened as she smiled. “I’m glad you came here, though.”

Wendy’s shoulders lowered, the tension leaving. “Me too.”

When Allie returned that evening, Wendy was gone. She ambled through the lonely house to the kitchen and ate a cookie, then cracked open a book. It had been a while since she’d had time to read, and she planned to enjoy it, especially after the day in the classroom.

Billy’s vase broke into a crumpling paper mache heap, similar to his sad, crumpled face. Jane called for her to examine her work’s progress every few minutes, reveling in the praise. On top of that were the usual behaviors, an unintentional pencil stabbing, a couple of scraped knees, and three gabbing girls.

Saturday passed quicker than Allie had hoped, and once again, she woke up to Mother’s Day. After dressing for church, she walked into the building and sat in her chair where she smiled at the people walking past. Some mothers wore corsages, others boasted about breakfast in bed, while more whispered scathingly about how their family never did anything for them.

No one knew how much she wanted children. They didn’t understand that her dreams of a family had never been realized. How could they?

The sermon revolved around motherhood. A godly purpose. At the end of the service, children handed out small potted plants to all of the women. Each bloom emphasized the idea that every woman was a mother in her own right. Even if she had no children, she helped raise others.

Hogwash.

At home, Allie placed the plant on the mantle and snuggled onto the couch with her book. Sentences floated through her mind as she read the words, but Mother’s Day had stolen her focus. Was there something wrong with her? No chance of marriage. No children. Is that what God thought of her, that she wasn’t good enough? That she wasn’t worthy of such love? The thoughts stung, and the burning in her eyes increased. Why not her? Had she not given enough? What had she done wrong?

A knock at the door brought her head up. She turned the knob and found Wendy holding a bouquet of flowers. “Happy Mother’s Day!”

This time Allie scoffed.

“Aunt Allie?”

“Have you had a good day?” Allie asked.

“Matt got home last night and made me pancakes this morning. It’s been nice.” She studied her aunt’s face. “How about you?”

“Normal, I guess. I get all the gifts and appreciation, but none of the children. Win-win, right?”

Wendy ignored the comment and scanned the kitchen cabinets for a vase. Once the ends of the flowers were trimmed and the flowers brightened the table, she pulled Allie to the couch.

“Have you never paid attention to all the children you have?”

Allie rolled her eyes. “Students are not the same thing.”

“Maybe not, but you helped raise me. How old was I when we lived with you?”

“Nine.”

“As I recall, you made me lunch, took me to school, hugged me when I struggled, and listened when I needed to talk. That’s a mother. When I think about raising my children, you’re as much an example as Mom.”

“What else was I going to do. Ignore you while you lived in my house?”

“Aunt Allie, you did so much more, or I wouldn’t have come here earlier this week. I love Mom, but I needed you and your mothering. Can’t you see that?”

Allie shrugged.

“Maybe God didn’t give you children because he knew how much the rest of us needed you.”

Allie reached over and patted Wendy’s knee. “Never looked at it that way before.”

“Well, I have, because I continue to need you.” She grinned at her aunt.

“Motherhood doesn’t determine who you are. You determine what motherhood is.”

Allie lifted herself to her feet. “Stay for lunch. I think I’d like to hear more about Adam while we enjoy our much-needed break.”

Book Review: The Trouble with Prince Charming

With a little help from her fairy godmother, Nikki Baker got it all: the boy and the kiss. But dating the hottest guy in school comes with more than magical butterflies, and wading through the gossip, lies, and betrayal has her mind doing backflips in The Trouble with Prince Charming.

With a little help from her fairy godmother, Nikki Baker got it all: the boy and the kiss. But dating the hottest guy in school comes with more than magical butterflies, and wading through the gossip, lies, and betrayal has her mind doing backflips in The Trouble with Prince Charming.

Kimberly King, author of The Trouble with Fairy Godmothers, has added to the Magical Troubles Collection with book two: The Trouble with Prince Charming. It may not have as many spinning wands, but the magical story brought a lot of purple sparkles into my life.

My Thoughts about The Trouble with Prince Charming

Usually, when I review middle-grade books, I have children in mind, and I try to read through with their perspective. But when King asked if I wanted to review The Trouble with Prince Charming, I said yes for me. If you can’t tell, I wasn’t disappointed.

King wraps this fun story together with such incredible humor; I hardly stopped laughing. Perhaps walking down memory lane caused some of that, but most of it came from her writing abilities.

The story isn’t exactly new. An average girl has snagged Prince Charming and still struggles to fit in. When she does (if she truly does), she looks back at her life and realizes what it’s really all about. It’s a coming of age book set in a humorous background where fair godmothers exist. Who doesn’t love this trope?

In The Trouble with Prince Charming, Nikki’s godmother only makes a couple of appearances, but she’s there when Nikki needs her. I liked it this way. After all, the story of her fairy godmother is over. This story is about Nikki and the boy. What makes Prince Charming Prince Charming, anyway?

Squeaky clean, this is a book I highly recommend to everyone. If you don’t generally pick up indie books and pass by this one, you’re missing out. The Trouble with Prince Charming comes with a best-seller quality and an indie price tag!

The Official Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Nikki Baker finally has everything she’s always wanted: confidence, popularity, and the hottest guy at Forest Hills High. Thanks to her fairy godmother’s help, happily ever after is hers for the taking. But being at the top of the food chain is a dangerous place to be. Gossip, lies and betrayal lurk at every corner while she struggles, holding onto a boyfriend everyone wants for themselves. Expectations run high with a guy who’s used to getting what he wants, but Nikki’s not so sure she’s ready to meet his demands. She must decide whether to trust her own heart, or rely on the fairy godmother who got her there in the first place.

More Info

Purchase The Trouble with Prince Charming for Kindle or in print on Amazon, or read it on Kindle Unlimited.

Follow Kimberly King on Facebook

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Dreamland by Nick Clausen

Everyone has reoccurring dreams, but Louie’s weren’t reoccurring, not exactly. You see, Louie’s dreams always had the same setting, but instead of repeating, they continued.

Everyone has reoccurring dreams, but Louie’s weren’t reoccurring, not exactly. You see, Louie’s dreams always had the same setting, but instead of repeating, they continued.

Nick Clausen is no ordinary horror story author. After having 30 books traditionally published in Denmark, he decided to independently publish them in English. And unlike some foreign books, his translation of Dreamland reads as if it were written in English first.

My Thoughts about Dreamland by Nick Clausen

After attempting to read a couple of books written by authors who speak American or British English as a second language, I stopped considering most of them for review. Language is a tricky thing, and certain nuances can’t be learned. But when I received Clausen’s review request, I decided to consider it. 30 traditionally published books is no small feat, and he promised the book had been proofread by a native-English speaker.

The book sounded interesting enough: a boy visits his dead father in Dreamland. Besides that, a lot of my ancestors came from Denmark. I can even tell you where to find it on a map, so it’s like Clausen and I are family or something. OK, that might be taking things a little far. Either way, I decided to review the book.

It didn’t take long for me to immerse myself in the story. The main character, Louie, is a twelve-year-old boy who has strange dreams. They’re strange because they always happen in the same place, but they aren’t always the same. He eventually figures out that the man in the blue suit is his father, who died when he was one.

In time, Louie discovers that Dreamland isn’t only about desires and hopes. Nightmares also come from Dreamland. And as his two worlds merge, catastrophe lurks around the corner waiting to strike.

I quite enjoyed the translation of Dreamland. The words and story remained vivid, and though there were one or two places where I giggled at an error, there were much fewer errors in Dreamland than what I regularly read in books written by native speakers. I call that a win!

The story kept me well-entertained and supplied me with moments to stop and think. Then I could feel both for Louie and for his mother.

Had I realized Clausen wrote horror, I may have stayed away from this book; however, Dreamland has very little horror, in my opinion. In reality, it seems more like suspense and paranormal. I have no problem with either of those.

I enjoyed Dreamland and easily recommend it to those who enjoy suspense and paranormal, with a tiny bit of horror thrown in.

The Official Excerpt

“Dreamland is merely a small part of the dreamworld,” his dad said. “All around us is this. I call it the outskirts. That’s where nightmares come from.”
     Louie stared out into the wasteland and felt a growing discomfort.
    “Something lives out there,” his dad went on, his eyes searching the horizon. “Once in a while, they come close enough to the border to be glimpsed. And if you listen carefully, you can hear their voices.”
    Louie held his breath and listened. The silence on this side of the edge was deep and calm, only interrupted by bird song now and then. On the other side, a cold wind howled.
     “Do you hear them?” his dad asked.
     “I only hear the wind.” But as he said it, he realized the wind was the voices. It was a chanting choir of faint fragments; whispering, giggling, alluring.
“… hi, Louuuuie …”
“… how sweet he is …”
“… come out here …”
“… we’ve been waiting for you …”
“… visit us, Louuuuie …”
    They kept saying his name. The sound made him shiver. The voices seemed to rise and fall with the wind, but at the same time, it seemed like they came from inside his head. There was something drawing, almost hypnotic about them. Louie wanted to step closer, just so he could hear them a little more clearly …
     “Louie?”
     Dad’s voice pulled him back, and he looked up.
     “Don’t listen anymore. If you listen for too long, you end up taking the bait. The reason I show you this is so that you can understand where the voice you heard is coming from. It’s the creatures out there who have been trying to reach you through your dreams.”
     Louie stared out into the darkness and tried to see the creatures. He thought he saw a group of glowing, wavy figures in the dark. They stood side by side, twisting in a hypnotic dance. He stepped a little closer to his dad. “What do they want with me?”
    “They want to drown you in bad dreams until your mind breaks down. They will try to lure you any way they can. They will lie and tell you anything to make you follow them. And if you do …” Dad caught Louie’s eyes. “There’s no way back if they catch you …”

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Pulled Under by Rimmy London

Ella lived a normal, happy, single life. But all that changed the day her car refused to start, and she found herself inches from death.

Ella lived a normal, happy, single life. But all that changed the day her car refused to start, and she found herself inches from death.

Author of several books, Rimmy London keeps us entertained with sweet romance and romantic suspense novels. Pulled Under, book one of her romantic suspense duology, sends your heart reeling as you fight the urge to look over your shoulder. I discovered Pulled Under through a Facebook group and purchased it for $.99.

My Thoughts on Pulled Under:

It’s been a few books since I’ve struggled to put one down. Some of my recent choices begged me to stop reading. In fact, I’ve contacted a couple of authors and explained my decision to not publish a review.

Just a little aside: If you write a book, take the time and spend the money to have it edited professionally.

The minute I picked up Pulled Under, I was pulled in. The action and mystery start in the first chapter. And London’s writing entered my mind like a breath of fresh air. Easy to read, strong, and well-edited, this book never caused me to shake my head in despair. Thank you, Rimmy London.

Ella works for a company that uses her more like a secretary than the financial adviser she was hired to be. And it’s a bit frustrating, but as most of us would, she sticks it out, determined to show her boss she can handle anything thrown at her… including his car keys. That’s what he throws at her when her car doesn’t start.

It doesn’t take long for Ella to start wondering what kind of company she works for, especially when Givanni, her boss’s nephew and the company’s CEO, starts hanging around and saving her life.

In time, Ella ends up in Italy where she meets Givanni’s family and his ex-fiance, all while pretending she’s his.

This wild ride is one everyone can enjoy. Sauve Italians, supermodel-like ex-girlfriends, and a down-to-earth country girl. I enjoyed every minute of reading Pulled Under, and the proof is in my unfinished housework!

The official blurb:

Pretending to be in a fake engagement might fool his family, but it doesn’t convince others. And they’re coming…

Ella is left fighting to keep them together in a world that’s falling apart. 

Givanni, the company CEO and nephew to President Ginetti, seemed the genuine good guy. But there was something hiding behind his emerald eyes. 

When Loriel borrows her new boss’s car, it nearly costs her life. Now, she wants to know why. But her determination to uncover the truth only pulls her deeper into a world with a level of crime she didn’t believe existed. And she’s quickly in over her head. 

But, suddenly bound for Italy pretending to be in a fake engagement is going to be hard. Everything quickly becomes tangled until her heart isn’t certain what’s real or fake. And even while pondering their relationship, it’s clear that Italy was less of an escape than they thought. Because facing a group as powerful as the Italian Mafia is impossible.

Bruised and defeated, they’re faced with a future where they might not make it out alive, let alone together.  

More Info:

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Book Review: The Queen of Moloka’i Book 1

From before the Great War to after, Julia Wright yearns for romance, but romance often leads to hardship.

From before the Great War to after, Julia Wright yearns for romance, but romance often leads to hardship. With two young boys born out of wedlock, she soon realizes it isn’t romance she seeks but love in The Queen of Moloka’i.

The Queen of Moloka’i, written by Kirby Michael Wright, is based on the true story of Julia Wright, the author’s grandmother. Winner of the 2018 Redwood Empire Mensa Award for Creative Nonfiction, Wright’s story-telling brings this creative memoir to life.

My Thoughts on The Queen of Moloka’i

The Queen of Moloka’i contains the story of Julia Wright, a teenager during the Great War who reached womanhood as the roaring twenties approached. At sixteen, Julia finds herself pregnant by an Englishman who promises to send for her but abandons her instead. Then, a rebound relationship leaves her pregnant a second time, and she finds herself with two young boys and no husband.

Julia loved life and dreamed of settling down with someone willing to love her in return. Chipper, a boy she’d admired as a youth, returns from the war divorced and interested in her. And soon she finds herself living in the country while trying to prove herself capable of a cowboy wife’s life, without her children and still unmarried.

Julia and Chipper circa 1921.

This book starts by running through a bit of genealogy. We learn of Julia’s mother an grandmother and their marriages. Some details are given, but not much. We do learn that Julia’s grandmother was Hawaiian which, during Julia’s lifetime, was not the desired bloodline for someone looking to be successful. However, Julia’s Caucasian appearance usually allowed her to mix with either cultural group.

The story of Julia is quite impressive. In the early 20th century giving birth outside of marriage painted an unwanted picture, and Julia experienced two such pregnancies. The way her family handled the situation tells readers about their love for her and each other.

At the same time, I really got the feel for the way men treated women. Julia’s independence brought smiles to my face, even as I wished she could find more.

I found the story interesting but realized quickly that the writing suffers from what I call itinerary syndrome. Most of the sentences started the same way and were similar in length. To me, it felt as if I were reading bullet points. Eventually, I found myself noticing this style-choice less. Especially, once Julia and Chipper found themselves working on a ranch. I often found myself wondering if the writing-style was intended to imitate the patterns of speech found on the islands, but having never been there, I couldn’t say for certain.

I also found the dialect features Wright included difficult, yet fun. I liked reading written dialect and hearing what people sounded like. There is a good amount of native Hawaiian in the book, and a glossary is found in the back. Those reading digital copies may struggle flipping back and forth more than those reading print copies. For this reason, I suggest print copies over digital, which I almost never say.

The Queen of Moloka’i reads like a memoir, but Wright informs readers that the storyline has been changed in some places for literary purposes. Though I believe the majority of the story remains factual, It would be nice to know what isn’t.

Overall, I found this book to be a worthwhile read. Those who enjoy creative nonfiction books will probably enjoy it quite a bit.

More Info:

Purchase The Queen of Moloka’i on Amazon.
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I received a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

The Healing

Sarah daydreams about the Resurrected Christ and the multitude and discovers her own miracle.

Sarah, holding her mother’s hand, stared at the marble Christus. The hands spread wide, welcoming her closer, the facial expression gentle. Her tight curls bounced across her head as she leaned back and gazed at the large statue. She wondered at the shiny white surface. Sunday school stories of Jesus calling for the children, children like her, sowed a simple peace in her heart. Her mother squeezed her hand.

“I’m going to look at the pictures on that wall. Stay in this room.”

Sarah nodded, resting her hands at her side, careful not to touch the velvet rope that separated her from the Christ. Her focus landed on the soft hands, where carved marks of the nails rested, then to his feet and side. Her heart thrummed in her chest, soft but apparent, as she wondered what it was like for Thomas to feel the nail prints in his hands and the sword print in his side.

As she focused on the statue’s palm, the marble appeared to change, white darkened, a warm golden tone taking its place. Sarah’s eyes widened, but recognizing the signs of a daydream, she remained in place.

Seconds later, she discovered herself surrounded by people. Children rested on fathers’ shoulders. Babes cooed in mothers’ arms. Clothing of every color blurred as it pushed past her, yet happiness and peace filled her soul. Those around her fell to their knees, heads bowed. But she remained, staring into the soft eyes.

With his finger and a wink, he motioned Sarah toward him. Her slippered feet carried her closer. His strong arms ensconced her, bringing her face to his eye level. He smiled. After the gentle hug, he held his hand in front of her, and she reached her fingers toward it. Pulling back slightly, she eyed him from the side.

He nodded.

The mark swallowed her finger as she lightly caressed it. The softness of the skin nothing like the hardness of the nails that had pierced it.

“It hurt?”

“Yes.”

“You could have stopped it, saved yourself?”

He nodded, a twinkle in his eye.

“But you didn’t.”

“No.”

“Why?”

“For you.”

He leaned toward her ear and whispered more. A smile rushed across her face, and she wrapped her arms around his neck before he placed her back on the ground. Moments later, she joined the crowd, the cool ground contrasting the warm feeling coursing through her.

The Savior called for the people to come forward, and Sarah watched as, one by one, men and women, the young and old got to their feet and stepped forward. A warm smile and welcoming arms greeted each one as they received the personal time they desired with the Savior, just as she had. Their fingers touched his hands, feet, and side. Some women cried as they kissed his feet, wiping away tears with the hems of dresses. Men unabashedly wept as they embraced him.

Time passed slowly, but children never fought and babes never cried. Adults talked of miracles and knelt in prayer. No one pushed or shoved to the front. Patience and love intervened, the procession one of reverence.

When the last returned, the Savior called the sick, disabled, and those otherwise in need of healing. The man standing next to her lifted a woman in his arms and carried her forward. Standing with his arms outstretched, Jesus motioned all the afflicted forward.

Pebbles poked at her knees as Sarah knelt on the ground, and she brushed them away. She suffered no ill but thought of her father, who lay in a hospital room ravaged by cancer. Even as young as she was, she knew the harsh treatment he received left him weak for days at a time. Just as he felt a little strength return, it was always time for another round. Prayer after prayer had been said on his behalf. Her mother wept every night for his relief. For her own, too. Tears came to her eyes as she watched the Savior lay his hands on the afflicted, healing them one by one.

As the last of the afflicted leaped from his bed, Jesus instructed the people to pray. Together, they bowed their heads and lifted their voices as he knelt a distance away.

“Hosanna, blessed be the name of the Most High God,” cried the people.

Tears streamed down Sarah’s face as she joined them. Though people often assumed age affected one’s ability to recognize God, she knew the truth. She might not understand everything, but she understood he loved her. She understood he loved those who hung him on a cross. She even understood he loved that mean guy who lived down the street and shouted at her every time she stopped to look at his pretty flowers.

When the Savior returned, warmth from her heart rippled through her arms as he spoke to the crowd. The day had passed, and the people still focused on him, but their eyes appeared tired, and their shoulders drooped with similar strains. Tears filled his eyes as he scanned their faces.

“You’re tired. Rest.”

No one moved. Sarah’s own heartbeat strengthened. She didn’t want to leave either. It couldn’t be time.

Brushing a tear from his eye, Jesus called for the little children. Parents carrying babies and holding the hands of their little ones helped them forward. Boys and girls sat on his lap, and he held a babe in each arm. Sarah’s lip quivered when he called her to join the others.

As she stepped forward, a bright light opened above him. People dressed in white, as beautiful as the Savior, surrounded the children, blessing them. One took her by the hand and walked with her.

“Child, you do not have a wish for yourself, do you?”

Sarah shook her head, eyes wide.

“But Jesus whispered to you. What did he say?”

“Not to worry. That everything would be okay.”

“Have you been worrying?”

Sarah nodded, her lip quivering again. “My daddy’s sick.”

“Do you know who Jesus is?”

“Yes.”

“Can you tell me what he did for you?”

“He helps my sins go away, and he died for me so I can return to Heavenly Father.”

“That’s right.”

“Do you think he can heal your daddy?”

Sarah bowed her head and studied her feet.

The angel squeezed her hand, then lifted her chin, encouraging her to answer.

“If it’s the best thing he can. Mama says it depends on God’s will.”

“That’s right. It’s time…”

The daydream faded at the sound of her mother’s voice.

“Sarah. It’s time to go.”

One more glance at the Christus in front of her and Sarah hurried to her mother.

“Where are we going?”

“To the hospital. Daddy had a scan today, and he wants us to hear the results with him.”

“What’s a scan?”

“The scan tells us whether or not the cancer is gone.”

She tugged on her mother’s arm, trying to run faster. “It is. It’s gone.”

Her mother pulled her back and crouched beside her. “We don’t know that Sarah. Most of the scans haven’t been great.”

“He’s better. I know it.”

“I hope you’re right, but if you’re not, it’s okay. God will take care of us and Daddy.”

“I know. He already has.”

Biting her lip, her mother rose from the ground and clasped Sarah’s hand. Tears floated in her eyes.

The quick drive to the hospital soon delivered Sarah and her mother, and they hurried to her father’s room.

“Where’s the doctor?” Sarah eased onto the foot of the bed with her mom’s help and stared at her dad.

“I’m right here.”

She turned in time to see the doctor walk into the room.

“My daddy’s better right?”

The doctor raised a brow, then quickly furrowed them. “Well. Let’s take a look. The last scan showed an increase, correct?”

Her parents both nodded.

A picture of her dad’s insides appeared on a lighted board, and the doctor pointed here and there, talking to her parents. Their faces crumpled, and Sarah stared from one to the other.

“He’s better, right?” A little butterfly entered her belly even though she’d been so sure.

Arms wrapped around her as her mother picked her up and swung her in a circle. “He’s better!”

She eyed her daddy. “You feel better, right?”

The room broke out with laughter.

“No, pretty, I don’t feel better yet. Cancer and my treatments hurt me a lot, but the doctor says my cancer has gone away.”

“I know that.”

Lifting her to stand next to her dad, Sarah’s mother met her gaze. “How did you know?”

“Jesus told me not to worry.”

“He did, did he?”

Her father poked her side, and she giggled.

“Yup.”

“When did he tell you that?” her mother asked.

Sarah looked at her. “Today, at his statue.”

Tears swept into her mother’s eyes. “She stood by the Christus the whole time.”

“What else did Jesus say?” her father asked.

The Resurrected Christ

My Redeemer

Danielle wants nothing more than to win the Young Composers Competition, but at what cost?

My Redeemer

The eraser gouged the paper, bits of dirty white scoring joining the rubber crumbs on Danielle’s lap. Another measure that hadn’t worked the way she’d intended. Notes—full chords—flew off the page faster than they landed. Only the piece’s title space remained empty on the entry form. Two thousand dollars would go a long way toward next semester’s supplies. She had to win, but she still had no entry.

Ignoring Abigail as she slid into the chair across from her, Danielle ran her fingers over the tiny keyboard used to compose her assignments and supposedly her piece for the Young Composers Competition, a university-run contest. A raucous chord pelted her eardrums, and she dropped her hand to her side as her head hit the table.

“It can’t be that bad.” Abigail scooted her chair around and gazed at the crumpled staff paper. “They really should make gentler erasers.”

“Yeah.” Danielle lifted her head. “I don’t know why I’m trying, anyway. You’ll win.”

“You have to enter to win, right?”

“It usually helps.”

Danielle stared at her friend, who crinkled her nose.

“Why not?”

Abigail shifted in her chair. “Don’t feel like it. Besides, I’m not as good as you think.”

“Sure. Tell you what,” Danielle pushed the keyboard to the right, “I’m gonna give this to you, and you can write mine.”

“No. You’re doing great, but you should try an F instead of an E.”

“Thanks.”

Danielle’s cheek dropped to her waiting fist as she returned to the keyboard, a dull pencil between her teeth. If she could come up with a melody, the rest might fall into place, but her mind, usually filled with unwritten melodies, continued to fail her. It wasn’t empty. It was a traitor, filled with Bach, Mozart, and the chiming notes of NBC. If only no one recognized My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean. She might have a chance then.

As she plucked notes, Abigail would call out composers. Ritter, Beebe, Wolfe. Contempt churned within Danielle, and she struggled to keep her eyes from narrowing. “I wrote that.”

Abigail alto voice intoned the next few notes, and a visceral growl howled from Danielle’s throat.

“Maybe you should take a break.”

“No time. I need a melody.”

Abigail stood up. “I have conducting class. Will you be here a while? Watch my other books?”

“Sure, why not?”

Abigail patted Danielle’s shoulder as she sauntered out of the room.

Danielle glared at her third piece of destroyed staff paper and pulled out another sheet. When the staves started dancing, she pressed her forefinger and thumb against the corners of her eyes. The blank page with ten groups of five straight lines taunted her. Of course. Beethoven’s Fifth.

Danielle flung her head backward and stared at the fluorescent light above. Two thousand dollars slipping through her fingers because the only melodies floating through her head weren’t her own. She needed some kind of inspiration. Something never heard before to help set her mind at ease.

Her gaze fell on Abigail’s books. Underneath Vocal Solos for the Intermediate Singer and Music Theory III, was the notebook Danielle had seen her friend scribbling melodies in day after day. A peek wouldn’t hurt. The carpet massaged the bottoms of her bare feet as she shuffled to the other side of the table and opened the notebook. Flipping through the pages, she landed on one and grabbed the keyboard. She played through the eight-bar melody and shrugged. It wasn’t bad. One after another, she played through Abigail’s scribbled notations. Some had been for Music Theory, others appeared to be for herself.

Another page turned, and Danielle’s eyebrows crumpled as she worked to decipher the notations under the giant X. Carefully, she placed her hand on the tiny keyboard and played the first few measures. A warmth eased into her chest, and she continued. In the middle of the page, a line from Handel’s Messiah entwined with Abigail’s melody. I Know That My Redeemer Liveth. The famous oratorio’s line had often been used in other pieces, but not like this. Danielle closed the notebook.

Nothing spoke to her as much as what Abigail had written. The notes had floated off the page into the air with such tenderness. Sure there were a few rough patches, but not many. She eased the book open again.

A copy wouldn’t hurt. She only wanted to consider it as she worked on her own composition. Abigail wouldn’t mind that at all. Pencil in hand, she copied the melody onto her blank page. The dancing lines disappeared, and countermelodies with harmonies drifted through her mind. She left them off the paper but mentally grasped at them, noting the ones she liked, and the ones that scratched painfully at her ears.

The paper slipped into her folder as Abigail swayed into the room humming the waltz the classes used to practice conducting. Danielle joined in the humming for a moment, then smiled.

“I take it things are better now.” Abigail gathered her books.

“They will be. I hope you don’t mind, I looked at some of your melodies.”

“They’re not much to look at.”

“That’s not true, but it was hard to ignore the big X across the one.”

Abigail groaned. “That was a bad day.”

“I guess so.”

That night, Danielle lay on her bed with her personal keyboard. Full-sized keys made such a difference. Still, the only song in her head was Abigail’s. Unwritten vocal parts now added more warmth. Ignoring it was impossible.

Several sheets of staff paper fell to the mattress as she prepared for what was unavoidable. Chord after chord soon adorned the page. Eraser marks wore some areas thin, but only a few. It was as if the song had always existed in her mind, just without the melody. She worked through the night, unable to rest. Once she finished it, she could put it away and work on her own piece.

When her roommate came in, she donned a set of earbuds and continued her work. Complaints of the annoying light eventually sounded, and she switched to the softer flashlight on her phone. She’d heard of composers finding themselves unable to stop but never imagined it happening to her.
By morning, dark circles had formed under her eyes, and her hand, now stiff, cried out in pain with every movement. But she held a choral piece worthy of at least some sort of accolade. She had to show it to Abigail. Maybe they could enter the Young Composers Competition together.

A hurried frenzy ensued as Danielle grabbed clothes from the basket of unfolded laundry near the end of her bed. The only item given care as she got ready for the day: the composition. With her backpack strapped to her bike, she pedaled toward the music building. She and Abigail both had Class Piano—the perfect class to show her what she’d done with the melody.

The soft clacking of students practicing on the digital pianos while wearing headphones welcomed her to the room, and she looked for Abigail. Where was she? Abigail never missed class, and not a single tardy bone existed in her body. It didn’t matter today, but entries for the Young Composers Competition were due at the end of the week. Danielle shrugged. She’d be back in time.

When Abigail didn’t show up the next day, Danielle started inputting the song into the computer. While some notation software worked with a keyboard, recognizing notes and rhythms, hers didn’t. Mouse click by torturous mouse click, she prepared the manuscript. By the second day, simple words that fit with the line from the Messiah accompanied musical notations.

It was due.

If Abigail didn’t show up today, Danielle would lose her chance. She’d already adjusted to losing a thousand dollars of the prize money by entering with Abigail. Something about that didn’t seem fair since she’d done all the work except the melody—the melody Abigail described as a bad day. But what happened if her friend didn’t appear? In three days, she hadn’t answered phone calls, texts, or emails. Danielle had tried everything to contact her. If she didn’t come…

Abigail’s seat in choir remained empty for the fourth day in a row. Scores were due by 3:00 PM. Ten minutes. Danielle’s chest tightened painfully. She couldn’t let this opportunity pass her by. She pulled out a pen and froze, holding it above the co-composer line. In the process of writing the harmonies and countermelodies, some of the original had changed, and Danielle had done all of that plus the words. Two thousand dollars. She could win. Abigail showed no interest. Setting the pen down, Danielle slid the composition and the entry form into the manila envelope.

“Dr. Caltrez?”

The older gentleman looked up from his desk and held out his hand. Danielle placed the envelope in his palm but didn’t let go.

“Are you planning to keep it, or to enter?” He asked pointedly.

She swallowed as she released the pages. “Enter.”

“Consider it done.”

“Thank you.”

She exited the theory professor’s office and leaned against the wall, clenching her eyes shut. Air rushed into her lungs, her eyes flying open, and she dashed out the door to her bike. She needed to tell Abigail what she’d done, but what would she say? No, she couldn’t tell Abigail. She’d left her name off the entry form. What did it matter? She probably wouldn’t win anyway, then no one would know.

The winners would be announced in three weeks. The week of Easter. How fitting that her composition accompanied such a holiday. She tried to swallow, but her muscles refused. If she won and Abigail heard the song, Danielle had no hope of absolution. The thought of expulsion struck her. Was that in the rules? She pushed the thoughts from her mind. Abigail didn’t care about the contest. She had no interest in it, or she would have entered. She’d said as much herself.

Three weeks had never dragged on so slowly for Danielle. Each day the clouds surrounding her darkened, especially when Abigail’s pleasant smile greeted her with kindness. Time after time, Danielle attempted to tell her friend of her iniquity—her plagiarism. But a lump always formed in her throat, and she bit her lip until the opportunity passed. Shared classes with Abigail attacked her senses; fiery darts clung to her soul. Finally, the day came, and Danielle rushed to the theater.

Most of her classmates had already entered the auditorium, and Danielle scanned the room for Abigail but didn’t see her. As others settled into their seats, she thought about the process. Judges invited a small group of students to learn the winning compositions, which could be choral or instrumental.

When Dr. Caltrez approached the microphone, Danielle took her seat and exhaled. She didn’t see Abigail anywhere.

“Welcome, students and faculty to the annual Young Composers Competition. We received over two hundred entries this year. Our judges, comprising Joseph Goodwin with the Mountain Madrigals, Judy Houston with the Littlemonte Orchestra, local composer Venice Royce, and myself, have poured over your work and are quite impressed.” He cleared his throat. “But, as must happen every year, we’ve narrowed it down to three winners.”

The third-place winner was announced.

Danielle swallowed, but her mouth felt dry, leaving her throat without relief. Her hands slid around her middle as she tried desperately to still her shaking body. The work she’d put into the project had to count for something, but… She couldn’t think about that. She had to focus on the present, not the past. Not her theft. She rocked back and forth. Some people clapped. Most copied her swaying motion with their fingers crossed.

Abigail isn’t here. Abigail isn’t here.

The second place winner was announced. She let out a little sigh. Two down.
Abigail isn’t here.

“Before we announce the first place winner, I want to tell you why this composition won. This piece includes a countermelody that functions beautifully within it, and the harmonies entwine with each other as if individual melodies, each voice standing alone, yet supporting one another.”

It was hers. Danielle knew it; it was hers. And her countermelody and harmonies were the reason. She deserved…

“But this composition works well because of how the melody integrates rhythm and the known with the unknown. “He raised his eyes and scanned the crowd, his gaze falling on her. “Our first place winner is My Redeemer by Danielle Needles.”

A painful thumping beat against her sternum as the curtains opened. She’d won. No, Abigail had won. It was Abigail’s melody, her rhythm, her use of Handel. But Abigail didn’t know. Besides, Danielle reminded herself, she’d changed some of the melody, making it her own.

The piano played the short introduction, and Danielle closed her eyes, focusing on the harmonies. As the altos took over the melody, her eyes opened. That voice. Abigail stood on stage, tears running down her face as she focused on Danielle.

Danielle sank further into her seat as nausea set in. Not only did Abigail stand on the stage with knowledge of her depravity, but she’d known for days and said nothing. She’d attended rehearsals, learned the music, and had every opportunity to turn Danielle in, yet she hadn’t. The tears running down her friend’s face proved she cared. Why hadn’t she made an accusation? The pit in Danielle’s stomach deepened.

As the song ended, and the room erupted in applause, Dr. Caltrez invited Danielle onto the stage to accept a plaque. Each step promised to throw her to the ground. Her mind collapsed inward as she considered her unworthiness. Nothing could make this better. The pain of her fraud beat in her chest, her feet, her mind. Who would carry her when she fell?

Dr. Caltrez held out his hand, but she kept hers by her side, her head bowed.

“I can’t accept this.”

The aging professor leaned closer. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

A rhythmic tapping sounded on the black floor of the stage, and Abigail appeared beside Danielle. Her friend grasped her hand with a smile. “Dani, take the award.”

The words were soft, but they echoed through Danielle’s mind as if shouted.

She met Abigail’s gaze. “I can’t.”

“You can. I want you to. Accept it.”

Tears pooled in Danielle’s eyes, then fell to her feet, and she reached out and shook Dr. Caltrez’s hand, thanking him. Turning, she flung her arms around Abigail, hugging her.

They walked off the stage together, and in the wings, Danielle clasped both of Abigail’s hands as tears traced lines down her own face. “The money’s yours. The whole award should be yours.”

“No. You took a piece of me and created what I couldn’t.”

“But I stole it.”

Abigail nodded.

Danielle shook her head. “I could have added your name.”

She nodded again.

“I didn’t. Abby, why aren’t you mad?”

Abigail met Danielle’s eyes with a steady gaze. “How can I be forgiven, if I don’t forgive?”

“What forgiveness do you need? You did nothing wrong.”

“Maybe not this time.” She smiled softly. “Just don’t do it again, okay?”

Later that night, Danielle marveled at her friend’s grace, trying to understand her kindness. She’d provided mercy without thought of justice. Dust floated off the book as Danielle blew on it, then took it in her hand and turned to the marked chapter. Only one person had lived capable of honoring both justice and mercy. He’d chosen to serve both. Slipping to her knees, Danielle uttered the words prodding her heart: Though unworthy, he will forgive me. I know that my Redeemer liveth.