Book Review: The Kings Trial

Many have died traversing the King’s trial, but Yosyph has only one chance to save his people from the Queen’s wrath.

Many have died traversing the King’s trial, but Yosyph has only one chance to save his people from the Queen’s wrath.

After years of staying up at night and telling stories to her sister, M.L. Farb enters the world of fantasy with her newest book The King’s Trial. A story filled with adventure, royalty, heroes, and a smidgen of romance, this is a tale lovers of fantasy won’t want to miss.

My Thoughts about The King’s Trial

Though I write women’s fiction and read several genres, fantasy stands as one of my favorites. Don’t spend a second longer wondering why; it’s because I can’t fathom the amount of talent it takes to create worlds and abilities, let alone understand the finer points of swordplay. I’ve enjoyed it for several decades, and still do, when it’s written well.

Amazon is riddled with poorly written fantasy. In fact, as a past product review blogger, I eventually refused indie books in the genre. However, having read a few other stories of Farb’s and knowing her writing ability, I decided to give The King’s Trial a chance, and I’m glad I did.

Farb clearly paints a picture of the kingdoms where this story takes place. The abilities given to characters are not overdone and there are no ridiculous monsters. Swords, honor, courageous fair maidens, and a clearly stated evil exists. The main character fights his way through personal demons while exerting himself physically. The characters are well-rounded and easy to like – or not.

As in many fantasy stories, the main character in The King’s Trial has to trust a higher power. Obviously based on Christianity and the idea of faith, The King’s Trial is perfect for all ages. Those who are not Christian will find the same integral standard we all desire in ourselves and for our children: honesty, kindness, and selflessness.

Written in first person, from the perspective of two characters, readers enjoy two adventures and are rewarded with the desired suspense as they wind together. Plenty of twists and turns exist, and at no point will one become bored. I sure didn’t.

The official blurb

In a land where stories of the Shadow Demon keep children shivering in bed and tales of the Yorel bring hope to the commoner, Yosyph is both the reason for their fear and their hope.

By day Yosyph appears nothing more than a mute tavern-hand. By night he plans a revolution and slips through shadow, rescuing those marked for death by the xenophobic queen.

When he learns that thousands of his people will be sent as slaves to the mines, he must choose—fight the royal army with an ill-prepared rebellion or journey to the land of his ancestors through the deadly King’s Trial. If he succeeds, he’ll win his kins’ loyalty and their help.

His journey grows complicated when he rescues a maiden and enrages a prince, but if he doesn’t return with help in time, the people he’s loved and secretly served will be gone.

More Info

The King’s Trial is available on Amazon beginning July 16, 2019.
Enjoy your free e-copy if you pick it up July 16-17, 2019.
Enjoy it for $0.99 July 18-22, 2019

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Pining Picnic

After Noelle loses her husband to war, Gran takes her on a picnic.

Noelle held the flag to her chest, pleading with herself to not cry. Not again. Months had passed since Dave had returned home in a box draped by the flag in her arms. His dream of serving the nation through military service had been realized. So had her greatest fear. Now she spent her days wishing his arms still wrapped around her.

A knock on her bedroom door brought her glassy-eyed gaze into focus. “Come in.”

As the door swung toward the wall, Gran peeked from behind it. “I thought I’d find you in here.”

Noelle pulled her knees to her chest and folded her arms around them—the flag ensconced by her body.

“Why don’t we go visit our men?”

Eyeing her grandmother, Noelle shook her head.

“Come on, I’ve got a special day planned.”

Gran held out her hand, and Noelle eased hers into it. “Can we pick up some flowers?”

“They’re waiting for us in the car.”

Shuffling outside, Noelle slipped into the passenger’s seat and stared out the window. She’d knelt at Dave’s grave several times, but words always refused to come. Why would they? It wasn’t like Dave listened. What purpose was there in visiting a grave and whispering to someone who couldn’t hear? Still, she kept trying. Hoping.

“What a beautiful day to remember our husbands,” Gran said as they drove to the cemetery. “I married your grandfather before Vietnam started. A private first class in the army. He was so proud of his enlistment, wanted to serve the country he loved.” Gran smiled wanly. “We had two children by the time the conflict bubbled over. Vietnam brought nothing but ugliness. And the day they told me he’d died, I did too.”

Noelle turned toward Gran without making a sound.

“Dave joined for the same reason, didn’t he?” Gran asked.

“Yeah.”

“Except the business in the Middle East was already full-blown.” Gran raised a brow. “Not much of a question he’d end up there.”

Noelle looked at Gran. “None.”

Gran nodded. “They both protected us and this nation. Same as all the others.

“My father spent his time in France after being drafted during World War II.” Gran tightened her grip on the steering wheel.

“Why do people do this?” Noelle asked as she glared Gran. “Join the military to die?”

“They never join to die. They join to serve and protect.”

“I’m not sure that’s what’s going on now.”

“Maybe not, but that doesn’t change their sacrifice.”

Noelle took a deep breath as they pulled up to the cemetery. Clasping her hands together, she begged her heart to quiet and the pins to stop pricking her lungs. Neither did.

As she stepped out of the car, she turned to help Gran, who shoved a blanket into her arms.

“What’s this for?”

“Our picnic.”

Noelle’s eyes widened.

“It’s an old tradition my mother taught me, used to be a fairly common practice. Some cemeteries don’t allow it anymore.”

“Wonder why?” Noelle’s voice dripped with sarcasm, and she tried again. “So, we go sit on the graves and eat?”

“Something like that,” Gran said with a smile as she smelled the flowers.

The walk from the car to the gravesites invited the sun to burn Noelle’s shoulders. A picnic on a grave in the heat—fun. At least Grandpa had a tree next to him that shaded both headstones.

As Gran set the flowers on top of Grandpa’s tall marker, Noelle dropped the blanket to the ground.

“Spread it out, would you?” the older woman asked.

Gran started dividing the flowers between the two graves. Red, white, and blue carnations. The blanket flicked to the ground with a flourish, just in time for Noelle to see her grandmother post a small flag next to each of their loved ones’ graves. The older woman whispered soft words Noelle couldn’t hear as she traced the edge of Grandpa’s headstone with her fingers. Tears gathered at the edges of her creased eyes, worn from years as a single woman. Noelle startled as Gran broke out into a peal of laughter.

How could she laugh? Pain like this never subsides, it couldn’t, could it?

A moment later, Gran lowered herself to the blanket, her knees popping on the way down. “I can get down, but you might have to help me up later.”

Gran studied her husband’s headstone, then patted her knees and faced Noelle. “Your grandpa wasn’t one of those poster-child soldiers. ”

She paused and smiled at what must have been a memory.

I remember one day he showed up at home with his uniform ripped in several places, buttons missing, mud covering him from the top of his head to the end of his boots, and the biggest dumb grin on his face I’d ever seen. After I pushed him into the backyard and told him to strip down before coming in my house again, he took the hose and sprayed it right at my backside.

Next thing I knew, we were wrestling for control of the hose. In the end, he wrapped his arms around me, his shirt off and his pants dripping with water, and told me he’d fought the grizzly and won.

“What do you mean, you fought the grizzly?” I asked.

His deep voice thundered next to my ear. “You don’t know about the grizzly?”

I’d heard about a lot a different antics with the boys, but nothing about fighting a grizzly, so I shook my head.

“Well, let me tell you, it’s the scariest bear you’ve never seen. The boys took me up the mountain, blindfolded me, and set me in the middle of a field. Next thing I knew, a claw swiped across my back. Tore my shirt, right there.”

He held up his shirt, his fingers wiggling through four sharp-cut slits in the back. I whipped him around fast, but he just threw his head back and hooted, “It doesn’t hurt.”

Four shallow scratches lined his back. I searched the rest of his torso and arms. Little pricks appeared on his forearms, and he had a decent scratch along one of his hands.

“No bear did this.” I eyed him until he slowly shook his head.

“Not a bear. Three men with razors attached to broom handles.”

“What?” The scream left my mouth before I could reign it in. I smacked his arm. “How do you get involved with this stupidity?”

“There was no harm. Only I was blindfolded, and they were careful.”

“Careful?” I huffed. “Those scratches and your sliced uniform say different.”

“Nah, it’s just an initiation of sorts.”

“Into what?”

“The squad. I’m the new guy, remember?”

“Hazing.”

“Hazing or not,” he said as he sidled back up to me, “I took that grizzly down faster than anyone else. Beat the record.”

Gran shook her head, laughing as she stared at the headstone. “Crazy coot!”

Noelle leaned her head back. The sunlight spread over her face as her body filled with laughter too.

“Dave’s squad dropped him two miles from base with a gallon of water and a pink camo T-shirt they’d picked up from who knows where.” Noelle rubbed her hand across her husband’s headstone. “Luckily, he ran into a 24-hour-fast-food joint and talked some soldier-smitten girl into letting him call me. When I picked him up, he turned my angry glare into a fit of giggles.”

She turned and patted the grass below her. “You always knew how to make me smile.”

Tears ran down her face, and she rolled to her belly, facing his headstone, but away from Gran. “I miss you. You whisked me off my feet and then left me alone. I love you for who you were and hate you for dying.” She brushed the dirt away from his name. “I’ll get over that last part.”

She sniffed and let out a little giggle. “I found all those notes you left me. The one behind the toilet—it’s a good thing I love you.”

Her words continued, and as they did, the tension that had roiled through her muscles and stiffened her joints eased.

She picked up the sandwich Gran had set next to her and ate it as she talked about her life. The way people at work looked at her and stopped talking when she walked by. The old women at church who took her hand and held it while studying her with sad eyes before shuffling away in silence. She mentioned crying herself to sleep. Then she told him how his squad members stopped by one at a time.

“They loved you.”

Stories of their past together slipped from her lips as she ate the apple pie Gran had packed. These she shared with Gran, and Gran shared others with her.

Decades that had once divided the two widows collided. Styles changed, technology advanced, but grief and loss seemed to transcend time.

The day slipped by, as they walked, cried, hugged, and shared. Soon, the sun dipped in the western sky, and Noelle exhaled peacefully, a smile reflecting nothing but tranquility on her face. “Thanks, Gran.”

Gran clutched her hand. “It won’t go away—the pain. Tears return. But holding it inside yourself only hurts more.” She nodded toward Dave’s grave. “He’s stronger now than he ever was. Let him carry it with Christ. You can do that, right?”

Noelle wrapped her arms around Gran. “Next time I’ll pack the lunch.”

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Book Review: Sea of Strangers

Jeanette leaves Topeka, Kansas, and her fiance, Dr. Phillip Wayment, to attend nursing school in New York, in order to escape her Uncle Rod.

Amelia C. Adams, author of the bestselling Kansas Crossroads series, also brings us the Nurses of New York series. Book one, Sea of Strangers, follows Jeanette from Topeka, Kansas, to New York, where she will study to become a nurse under Dr. Frank Russell, a friend of her fiance Dr. Phillip Wayment.

My Thoughts on Sea of Strangers

Well-researched with perfectly formed sentences and immaculate editing, not to mention a high rating on Amazon, I struggled to pinpoint the reason I didn’t connect with Sea of Strangers better.

I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction, especially those that take place in the mid to late 19th century in the United States. Pioneers, the gold rush, early politics, Coal miners, North versus South, it all interests me. I was the middle-schooler who wanted to know the stories of the Oregon Trail characters, especially the banker. I usually connect well with the stories, but this time I felt something was lacking.

I easily dismissed the problem as coming from poor editing or a lack of writing skill. As stated before, the technical aspects of the book were great. But I still found myself wanting to put it down.

In the end, I determined I didn’t connect with the characters. To me, they felt flat. Jeanette has no fault. Sadie, her friend, sweetly rambled. It was the same with every character, though, one characteristic, but nothing more.

On top of that, we know nothing about Uncle Rod, the antagonist, except that Jeanette chased him away with a gun at some point not featured in the book. Perhaps that lack of knowledge comes from not reading the Kansas Crossroads series, in which case, more information should have been provided in this series.

The story follows Jeanette, but the action, especially the rise and fall of the plot is minimal. I as read, I continued to feel as if I were listening to a Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake cartoon. The book consists of mostly dialogue, which often comes across as wordy as opposed to natural. I struggled to picture the characters’ movements. Even when they were described they seemed stiff or cartoon-like in my mind.

Still, I find value in the book. I know. How can I write such a slanted review and then turn and say I find value? As an adult, this book isn’t for me. It doesn’t capture my attention. However, a middle grader or early high schooler interested in historical fiction (and I was greatly interested in historical fiction at that age), may find the book has great merit. It’s short enough to be read quickly. It has plenty of easily-read dialogue. The action isn’t graphic, and there is no swearing. Even more, the end has a great moral to it.

Sometimes we look at books and think only of what they are to us. We can’t do that. Most well-written and moral books have a place in society; we just have to find it. I truly believe this is the case with Sea of Strangers. Though I’m unsure, I believe Adams wrote this story with all audiences in mind, but for adults more than children. Nothing on the Amazon or her website deters from that surmisal, but I suggest Sea of Strangers be read by middle graders.

The Official Blurb

Jeanette Peterson left behind the man who loves her to go to nursing school in New York, promising to come back in six months and marry him. His love is the only thing that sees her through the trials ahead. When the time comes to make the toughest decision of all, will she choose justice or mercy out of many shades of gray?

From Amelia C. Adams, bestselling author of the Kansas Crossroads series, comes this novella about one girl’s desire to follow her dreams and the man who encourages her from miles away.

More info

Purchase your copy of Sea of Strangers on Amazon.

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Book Review: The Rift Between Us

When Dad died. Maria, Lauren, and Avery figured they’d never see each other again. Why would they? They hadn’t spoken to each other in two years. But even from the grave, Dad plans to see them become a family again, in The Rift Between Us.

Rebecca L. Marsh, author of When the Storm Ends, now gives fans a second novel: The Rift Between Us. Another wonderful women’s fiction piece, none of my followers will want to miss this great story, filled with life-like characters and real-life problems.

My Thoughts on The Rift Between Us

We look across the auditoriums, restaurants, and church pews at all the people who have life figured out and wonder what’s wrong with us. We’ve gained so much weight our shoes don’t fit, our kids fight nonstop, and the dog has yet to find the patch of grass in the backyard. When is it our turn? When do we get to live a perfect life? And with each question we ask, we refuse to let anyone in on our secrets. After all, what would they think if they knew the truth?

The preface isn’t new. If anything it’s timeless. We listen and enjoy stories with such themes because no matter how much we try to remind ourselves that no one has a perfect life, we forget.

Marsh takes this simple theme and builds her story around it. A widowed father of three daughters raised them into adulthood. Unfortunately, as adults, the secrets they keep from each other are too heavy for any one of them to carry alone. They need sisters, but only Dad knows it.

When trying to bring his girls back together in life fails, this dad gives it one more shot after death. If they want their lofty inheritances, they have to fulfill a difficult task.

The climax of The Rift Between Us comes earlier than in most books, and Marsh spends a good amount of time wrapping up the resolution. In most stories, I find a long resolution boring. However, this wasn’t the case this time around. It’s during the resolution that the characters grow, similar to how we grow in real life. And considering the genre, I find this acceptable and even necessary for this story.

Readers of The Rift Between Us follows the points of view of sisters Maria, Lauren, and Avery. Marsh’s exceptional writing brings depth to each woman, as we experience their anger, fears, and passions. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with tears in your eyes searching for a box of tissues. These characters are sure to touch your heart. They sure touched mine.

Official Blurb

After a family dinner turns into a bitter fight, sisters Maria, Lauren, and Avery decide to go their separate ways. Their father warns them that someday they will need one another. When he dies suddenly, they learn that he intends to make sure that they do. He’s left them a substantial inheritance, far more than any of them ever imagined.

There’s just one catch. If they want the money, they will have to spend two weeks together at a secluded lake house and follow all of their father’s instructions—no matter how strange.

Their task seems simple enough, but each one is holding onto painful secrets and old grudges the others know nothing about. But if they can learn to trust each other again, they might be able to mend the rift between them and give their father his dying wish.

More Info:

Watch Amazon for The Rift Between Us. Coming July 2019

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Book Review: My Fault

After Cleo runs over Grayson when she shouldn’t have been driving, all she wants to do is make amends. But he’s so darn cute, leaving him alone becomes nearly impossible in My Fault by RJ Conte.

RJ Conte may have written nine novels, but she’s only kissed one boy, and she married him! Perhaps that’s what leads her to write such entertaining love stories as My Fault. This humorous love story takes readers into the mind of Cleo Stanton, who after 30 days in the clink, wants nothing more than to make it up to the guy she ran over with her car.

My Thoughts on My Fault

Cleo Stanton is the type of character you love to watch annoy others. The sweetest, quirkiest gal who has absolutely no clue about social graces. The girl in the back of your college English class who dressed in loud, mismatched clothing and talked her neighbor’s ear off but still managed to know all the answers, has nothing on Cleo. Nothing.

She rambles. Rambles in text messages. Rambles out loud and in her mind. Nothing stops her. But I found I didn’t mind. Her rambling made my nights more enjoyable. I laughed. My husband looked at me funny, and I laughed some more.

Cleo knows how to connect topics too. Wombats, head-babies, and uvulas all come into play, and even though I don’t dress like Cleo or talk like Cleo, somehow, I relate to Cleo.

My Fault is filled with humor, page after page of it, and most doesn’t come from unusual situations, but from the thoughts running through Cleo’s head. They’re fantastic! But it’s not all humor. Toward the end, RJ Conte takes the story through a twisty tunnel and a couple of serious topics appear. Don’t worry, she tackles them with grace and brings the story together stupendously.

As a Christian rom-com story, you know God comes up. Cleo has a knack for praying. I’d consider it irreverent, but knowing Cleo as I do, for her, it’s classic. Besides, God may not be fictional, but Cleo is. More importantly, we see where God’s hand plays a part in Cleo and Grayson’s lives and, hopefully, can relate to such miracles ourselves.

This short book will have you laughing and maybe crying. Maybe both. Either way, I’m certain you’ll love Cleo as much as I do.

Official Blurb

“I realized his eyes had lost that wary look. They were the bluest blue. Bluer than my favorite coffee mug. Bluer than the Solonaise County Public Pool when it’s actually been cleaned at the beginning of the summer before all those little kids in their floaties come and pee in it.”

Quirky Cleo Stanton has a problem: she’s falling for the guy she ran over with her car when she should not have been driving.

A devout Christian and quietly mysterious, Grayson Fox is as cute as he is kind, begrudgingly putting up with Cleo and her motor mouth. But will he ever forgive her for crushing his leg? Can she break him out of his shell? And what hilarity will ensue when the flamboyant Cleo tries to draw him out?

More Info

Purchase your copy of My Fault on Amazon

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Book Review: The Stationmaster’s Cottage

When Christie Ryan attends her Gran’s funeral against her fiance’s wishes, she’s suddenly faced with an unexpected inheritance in The Stationmaster’s Cottage by Phillipa Nefri Clark.

Phillipa Nefri Clark, an Australian author of women’s fiction, released a new edition of The Stationmaster’s Cottage in April. Newly edited, this novel from the River’s End series stands alone with ease and brings to life characters from two generations with overlapping love stories.

My Thoughts on The Stationmaster’s Cottage

We look at our families and their histories and wonder at our ancestors’ lives. How did they live? Were they happy? Are there aunts or uncles we know nothing about? What about cousins? As we dive into boxes left behind and find pictures, documents, and keepsakes we know nothing about, mysteries unfold before our eyes. Can we put aside those mysteries? When I discovered my own family history mystery, I couldn’t, and neither can Christie.

Christie Ryan finds her own family history mystery, and it’s a doozy! Moreover, it seems to include the moody artist that lives on the beach. Add to that a fiance that asks her to spend more time with him, and then seems interested in everything but her, and the story of the stationmaster’s cottage lines up.

It sounds like a romance, but there is plenty more to this novel. Christie struggles to find herself and determine what she really wants in life. She also finds herself yearning for more information about the great-aunt no one told her about. In the meantime, she deals with contradicting emotions over Gran’s death.

This book is written exceptionally well. The characters come to life and draw you in. Where one-dimensional characters are often used by authors, Clark adds just the right amount of dimension.

The Stationmaster’s Cottage is easy to recommend and is a book you’re sure to love.

Official Blurb

“There are secrets in that cottage. Questions needing answers.”

Those words gave Christie Ryan a reason to stay in River’s End, when she should have gone home after Gran’s funeral. Inheriting a rundown cottage, far from her jet-setting life, she is drawn into a fifty-year-old mystery.
Who wrote the letters hidden in the attic, an outpouring of love to a woman Christie suspects she is related to? What is the significance of a damaged painting kept by Gran but clearly painted in this seaside town?

Local artist Martin Blake may have the answers she seeks, but refuses to help. His dog adores Christie, but Martin keeps his feelings locked away.

As Christie faces difficult decisions about her own future, will the consequences of righting old wrongs be too high a price to pay?

More Info

Purchase your copy of The Stationmaster’s Cottage on Amazon.

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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.

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

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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.”

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