Goodbye Nauvoo: A Book Review

Based on real events Goodbye, Nauvoo by Marie Woodward tells the story of three women who battle their fears as Latter-day Saints prepare to leave their beloved homes behind.

Marie Woodward introduced her first book, Goodbye, Nauvoo, to the public in November 2019. A dramatized history of her pioneer ancestors, Woodward relates the stories of three women who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These women traveled to Illinois during the height of threatening mobs and before the martyrdom of Joseph Smith Junior in the mid-19th century.

My Thoughts on Goodbye, Nauvoo

As a teenager, I’d walk into my parents’ bedroom and search the shelves for something new to read. Oftentimes, I looked for Latter-day Saint historical fiction. Mom occasionally suggested one of the books on the shelves, and like most genres, I’d digest it quickly.

Those of us with ancestors who lived during the birth of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ often feel closer to them when reading their stories and other stories from their time. Much of our religious knowledge and culture come from that time period.

And our ancestors didn’t simply form a church and worship together. In a country that touts religious freedom, they lived through threatening mobs. Mobs who beat, robbed, and killed many of them before chasing all of them from their homes because of their religion… and the government turned a blind eye.

Being a Latter-day Saint wasn’t easy. Those of us who are their descendants are grateful for the sacrifices they made and the faith they instilled in their children. It provided us with the gift and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Memories of these feelings surfaced when I discovered Goodbye, Nauvoo, and I chose to read it. Woodward set the story in Nauvoo at a time when the Saints prepared to leave the city for what later became Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Good

Goodbye, Nauvoo includes some lesser-known historical facts. It touches on the sentiments after founder Joseph Smith Junior’s murder. And mentions certain groups, such as the Rigdonites, who broke away from the Church after the Prophet’s death. Readers learn of the hardships Saints faced when selling their property as well as how they thronged to the Nauvoo Temple and feared the mobs while holding to their faith.

The book flows well. Woodward did a good job of mirroring one true story with a fictional one–Giving the book a nice lift and creating my favorite part. When she used fiction to fill in the blanks, she chose appropriate-to-the-time situations.

The Okay

Today’s authors tend to repeat the mantra “show don’t tell.” It reminds us that people want to immerse themselves in the story. While reading Goodbye, Nauvoo, I was an outsider looking in. The book tells readers how each character felt, the thoughts that they had, and why. I struggled to connect to the characters because of this. A certain amount of “telling” is good, even necessary, but I prefer less than what is found in Goodbye, Nauvoo.

I believe Woodward, whether accidentally or on purpose, set the characters apart from the audience in order to stay as true to her family history as possible–something she explained in the back-matter as important to her. Readers who expect that will receive better enjoyment from the story.

Knowing the history

While some details of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are given, Goodbye, Nauvoo glosses over much of it. Readers who know the history will better appreciate this book. Woodward hasn’t set out to explain all of what happened to this religious group. To cover such a great amount of history would take volumes upon volumes.

People who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should still be able to understand the basics of the story. In fact, they may find themselves wanting to learn more about this rarely known tidbit of American history. Afterall, Latter-day Saints were chased from the early United States, then helped settle much of the west. But Goodbye, Nauvoo won’t provide more than a basic insight into that history.

The official blurb of Goodbye, Nauvoo

Goodbye, Nauvoo is based on the lives of three real women from a pioneer family: Martha, a young mother who wants nothing more than to see the completion of the Nauvoo temple and to keep her family together; Lydia, who doesn’t believe she could ever let herself love again after the death of her husband Danny; and Lucy, who wrestles with her own past demons as she struggles to parent her daughters. All three women learn about love, family, and forgiveness in a town they can no longer call home.

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One Minute to Midnight: A Book Review

Louis Finley wants to get married, but first, he must overcome his family’s unseemly reputation in town. Can he? Read One Minute to Midnight to find out.

One Minute to Midnight by Jessica Marie Holt continues the Unsung Legacies collection as a stand-alone story that includes characters you’ve come to love in the other books.

My thoughts about One Minute to Midnight

I originally read One Minute to Midnight, not for review, but as a beta reader. Beta readers share their opinions about a book with the author, make small suggestions, and sometimes catch minor typos.

The experience can be both daunting and wonderful. In some cases, you read books that need months to years worth of work. Other times, you read stories so well-written from the start that you immediately fall in love. Those are the kinds of beta-read books you’ll see reviewed here.

Basics of the Story

If you’ve read Sunlight and Shadows, then I only have to mention that One Minute to Midnight follows the Finley family – mainly Louis Finley. Of course, you’ll also recognize Big Jim, Betty, Dottie, Jesse, and other favorite characters from the collection.

Louis has a lot to overcome after his older brothers and depressed father created an unseemly reputation for his family. But his desire to marry the girl of his dreams fills him with determination to make a living. Unfortunately, nearly every business owner in town turns him away, despite their advertisements for needed help. In the end, Louis looks to Big Jim for work, the man hurt most by his missing brother Walter.

Set in the late 1800s, this book takes you to the South where hardworking men struggle to see people for who they really are. A trip north shows city men aren’t much different. But sometimes, when everything seems convoluted and impossible–and maybe it is–those same men discover the truth.

Only Good

Toward the end of my reading, I had to wait for Holt to write chapters as I read. That was hard–way worse than waiting for your favorite TV show. The characters attached themselves to my heart. Even better, Holt managed to twist the story just right, and it didn’t end as I expected. I definitely approved!

One Minute to Midnight comes filled with perfect sentiment and well-rounded, imperfect characters who love their family and have the desire to forgive. Holt includes some amazing and accurate descriptions of New York from this time period. But it’s the story that captured my heart.

If historical fiction with a riveting emotional pull and a touch of sweet romance (but not too much) makes you turn the pages before doing the dishes, you’ve been warned. This book will have your heart like it has mine. So, if you can manage a sink full of dirty dishes, then I highly recommend this exceptional book!

Official Blurb

North Carolina, 1875–With one brother in the grave, another on the run, and his father’s farm failing farther and farther into disrepair, twenty-year-old Louis Finley must do what he can to secure his own future and save the family he has left. But first, he has to face the past, and find out what he’s really made of.

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Book Review: Sunlight and Shadows

Just as Betty’s life comes into focus and all she wants is almost within reach, tragic circumstances rip it all away in Sunlight and Shadows by Jessica Marie Holt.

Jessica Marie Holt, one of my favorite short-story authors, has released her first novel Sunlight and Shadows. Set in 1870 in North Carolina, this wonderful story whisks you away to where power tools don’t exist and the characters still remind you that some tribulations echo throughout time.

My Thoughts on Sunlight and Shadows

While technology advances and knowledge increases, some aspects of society never change. Secrets, jealousy, responsibility, and insurmountable pain lives within the pages of history similar to the way they exist in most of our digital journals.

Sunlight and Shadows allows us the benefit of another time period with horses and hand-built furniture as it deals with some of the same hardships we have today. The author provides us with another benefit by creating relatable characters with certain talents and undeniable faults.

I started this book and then struggled to put it down. It delves into the life of fictional character Elizabeth (Betty) Everleigh as everything she knows nearly tumbles into a pile of unrecognizable fodder. But as time continues and her life’s story becomes clearer, she finds it easier to relate to those that hurt her most.

Sunlight and Shadows includes some sweet romance and deals most with parent-child and sibling relationships. You’ll also find wholesome themes such as faith and forgiveness as Betty finds her way through life’s trials.

Well-written and edited, this book is a dream for lovers of period fiction as well as general fiction. As a historical fiction piece, this book includes that which is necessary for the story; however, the story is not based on historical events. Don’t let it stop you from reading it, though. It is phenomenal from start to finish.

The official blurb

At seventeen, the only thing Betty Everleigh wants for her future is what she’s always had–a cozy home, a loving family, and a quiet life just outside of town.

Just when her dream is in reach, a sudden tragic event shatters her simple existence. As she picks up the pieces, she learns that her idyllic life was just a façade, and the truth beyond it is more complex and heartbreaking than she ever imagined.

To pull herself and her family together, she must find grace enough to forgive, faith enough to let go, and courage enough to move forward.

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Book Review: Hearts Unshackled (Royals of Andorvia Book One)

Princess Katherine wants two things in life: to care for the subjects of her kingdom and find a way to be with Naithanal. Can her dreams be realized? Find out in Hearts Unshackled.

Author Amy Klaus introduced her first novel to the world on July 15, 2019, and it isn’t one you’ll want to miss. Hearts Unshackled, the first book in the Royals of Andorvia series, brings romance and action together in a way that keeps you reading through the night.

My thoughts about Hearts Unshackled

Last year, I had the opportunity to beta read Hearts Unshackled for Klaus. The story immediately captured my heart. As she prepared to publish, I jumped at the chance to review the finished product for her. And it is, of course, even better.

Set in a fictitious kingdom, it deals with the immoralities of slavery and the difficulties that come with uniting various cultures. While it is plain to see that the author has strong feelings against slavery and sees value in caring for others, I wouldn’t label this a political book by any means. The intent is entertainment, and it entertains well. Given the choice, I wouldn’t have put the book down during the second reading any more than I would have through the first.

The main characters, Princess Katherine and Naithanal, as well as most of the side characters, are well-rounded, and I found myself cheering and chastising them regularly–sometimes at the same time. As with any good romance, readers experience the ups and downs that come with love. The push for Katherine to become queen isn’t easy for her or Naithan, and the immoral slave trade that infiltrates her kingdom only makes the situation trickier.

I highly recommend Hearts Unshackled. The perfectly clean read offers no swearing and has no inappropriate relationship scenes. While it deals with slavery, the main characters fight for humanity, and the violence involved during the action scenes is not described in gory detail. I would have no problem with my junior-high schooler reading Hearts Unshackled, and I can guarantee I’ll be reading it again.

The Official Blurb

A princess. An outcast. A fate worse than death.
Will their love triumph, or will they be torn apart before it ever has a chance?

Princess Katherine has never questioned her duty as the heir to the throne of Maledonia. Never, that is, until she meets a hunter named Naithan and her entire life is thrown into disarray – blissful, dangerous disarray. But in spite of her attraction to the young hunter and his simple lifestyle, as the Crown Princess, betrothed since childhood, bound by her duty, she will never be free to love.

Duty takes on an entirely new meaning for Katherine and Naithan when a fledgling slave trade threatens to divide and destroy Maledonia … and their families. Will they have the courage to risk everything they love to save innocent lives from a fate worse than death? Or will they become the slavers’ next targets?

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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.

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Book Review: The Governess

Despite an abusive husband and rumors circulating through top society, Jane finds a position in the home of society’ finest, in The Governess.

Despite being thrown out of her precious home by an abusive husband and the terrible rumors surrounding her name, Jane finds work in one of the finest households in Berkshire in The Governess.

Noorilhuda, a debut author, has written a story filled with personal trials. Characters overcome grief, abuse, and gossip. The storyline carries through The Governess well, but it is one book with several areas that require readers' caution.

My Thoughts on The Governess

I picked up a copy of The Governess after receiving a review request from Noorilhuda through email that included dates the book would be free on Amazon.

Touted as a well-received, and well-reviewed by such organizations as The Historical Novel Society and Midwest Book Review, I expected more than I should have from The Governess.

Instead of a well-edited and researched story, I found the shell of a novel, that with a little work, could have been a wonderful read. Sadly, the editing felt non-existent. Lines of dialogue were clumped together in single paragraphs, one speaker on top of another. And without proper formatting and few dialogue tags, there are still some lines my mind has not assigned to a specific character. Though editing was the biggest problem, it was far from the only one.

Descriptions of orange trees and mangoes growing in the cold England climate immediately caught my attention, as did the use of certain words within characters' thoughts that were non-existent in during the 1830s, such as peeved. They stood out. Other times, words with similar phonetics were found instead of the correct words, reminding me of such phrases as for all intensive purposes.

Suggested as a clean book, The Governess mentions the main aspect of sex several times in one line zingers that sometimes come out of nowhere. The most memorable comes when John Lockwood is lamenting the death of his wife, which occurred more than five years earlier—the deed, which is described in one line quite crudely—is what comes to his mind instead of her true characteristics and his purpose for loving her. It struck me as odd. That said, there is no explicit sex scene or scenes that required skipping pages, just lines that I wanted to black out with a Sharpie.

The shell of the story is decent. A woman, accused of having an affair, who has been thrown out on her ear by her husband and society, becomes the governess to children of one of society's elite. Something much of society finds egregious. Moreover, the children's widowed father has an affair with a married woman who is also well-respected in society, despite everyone's knowledge of their fraternizing.

Through the slow-moving story, the governess affects the household and changes within the home weave their way into the pages. A great deal about Mr. Lockwood's mistress could be left out. But other than that, the pacing is reasonable for the genre.

Though The Governess intended Jane to be the main character, I struggle to say that she is. I find John Lockwood, the widowed father, struggles most with inner turmoils and that he is the character who shows the most growth. Whereas Jane tends to stand her ground through every bit of turmoil. She shows strength despite her nasty plight. Most of her growth takes place in the backstory, enabling her to be the moral beacon in the Lockwood home.

Obviously, this is not a book I recommend. However, if you choose to pick it up, I hope the information found here enables you look past the errors and enjoy the storyline.

The Official Blurb

“You make it seem like the cross was yours to bear, alone, do you really think you are brave? Let me tell you, who the brave one is, it’s each and every member of your family who didn’t slap you silly the first time you went awry, the first time you brushed your children aside for merriment. It’s your children, Mr. Lockwood, they are the courageous ones. Not you, you are nothing but a coward. And all for what? For your own selfish needs and whims, your own desire to be alone and free. Free from pain, was it? Or do you really want to leave a debauched legacy? Well, are you free Mr. Lockwood? I don’t see any shackles on you; Are you free from the pain and happy, truly happy?……No passion is great enough for you to lose sight of what’s your duty, and the right thing to do. For that is not passion, but madness. You’re mad Mr. Lockwood, completely, utterly, mad.”

Thus begins the fiery odd relationship between Jane, the governess, and her employer, the widowed landowner John E. Lockwood. But Jane has her own crucible as well, and it's hers to bear alone. Find out what Jane, The Governess, is made of. After all, True Worth has no regrets and takes no detours. Should you?

A movingly passionate and introspective character analysis of lonely people living through emotional abuse, grief, and guilt.

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Book Review: Devil of Gilding

After the death of his wife, nobleman James Blake cares little for anything other than his son Toby. But life changes when Toby goes missing in the book Devil of Gilding.

After the death of his wife, nobleman James Blake cares little for anything other than his son Toby. But life changes when Toby goes missing in the book Devil of Gilding.

Book Review: Devil of Gilding

December Knight, lover of counting to three in several languages, superfluous facts, God, and searching for Big Foot, has also brought us a great story, Devil of Gilding. The story, filled with mystery and convoluted plans by more than one villain, kept my attention from page one to page done.

My Thoughts on Devil of Gilding

Set in the time of carriages and corsets, Devil of Gilding begins with the birth of Toby and the death of his mother, Leah. A tender-hearted boy, Toby grows into a loving thirteen-year-old under the hand of his father, James, uncle Clemit, and caregiver Adelaide until he goes missing.

The exciting book includes wonderful descriptions, intricate plans, gypsies, criminals, and someone we only know as D, short for Devil. The well-developed characters drew me into the story, as did the perfect descriptions.

Devil of Gilding is written in a third-person omniscient point of view. Knight, however, does not project the narrator’s voice well, so occasionally the bounce from one character to another is jarring. I also found myself re-reading several sentences due to missing commas. That said, I didn’t find either too difficult to look past.

As much as these weaknesses exist, the story is well worth the read and the writing, itself, is quite engaging. I enjoyed the story immensely and cannot iterate strongly enough that the weaknesses should not dissuade anyone from reading the book.

Now, if you don’t like cliffhangers, you may want to wait a few weeks until the second book comes out, but add the Blake Duology to your list of series to keep your eye on. I know I’ll be waiting for the second book.

The official Blurb

Despite their troubled past, the Blake family have found their own kind of perfect. James, a nobleman, and his less than reputable brother Clemit discovered something to live for in James’s son, Toby. When jealousy enters their lives in the form of a new personality, all hell breaks loose. 

In a single instant, all of their lives change for the worst. A new greedier villain enters their world wrapping tightly around the one thing that kept everything together, Toby. Toby is forced to fight for his life, as James and Clemit desperately try and find him while avoiding the other villain that is still hungry for more. 

Will the Blake’s survive this trial or will they be pulled apart by the hands that have taken hold?

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A Decision of Love

Benny’s saved his money, and the pups are ready for homes. But unforeseen circumstances threaten his deepest desire.

Man's Best Friend

Benny sauntered down the street, money jingling in his pocket and the snow crunching under his feet. Hound pups, born late-December, weaned and ready, waited for him to choose the best of them. He had his eye on the one with the keen nose and perfectly dropped ears. Every time he visited, the pup had his nose to the ground. And when Benny hid a treat, he always scouted it out first. A couple quickened steps, put him that much closer, his excitement barely contained.

“You off to get that pup of yours today, Benny?” Mr. Jansen waved from his shop, broom in hand.

“Sure am. Best of the litter.”

“That’s what Kyle said. With all the work you done, you deserve him. Stop on your way home so I can lay my eyes on him, ya hear!”

The words from the shop’s owner flitted to his ear, but he had no time to acknowledge him. Not in his mind, anyway. As the town’s buildings spread further apart, Benny’s feet struck the frozen ground sooner, picking up speed. What boy could wait for his very first hound? He sure couldn’t.
Jumping the log that lay across the trail, he watched as the Kyle barn peeked through the dense trees, calling him closer. The movement of boots smaller than his and the bottom of a dingy gray skirt caught his eye. Emiline ran toward him. “Hurry, Pa’s got the pups out, ready to go. You gonna get Dozer?”

“I told you that’s not his name.”

They fell in step with each other and hurried toward the farmhouse.

“Well, what is it then?” Her eyes, blue as fine china, blinked, waiting for his answer.

“Don’t know yet. But not Dozer.”

“Okay, but he already answers to Dozer, comes real good when called.”

“He’s a pup, he’ll learn a new name fast enough.”

Emiline shrugged as they continued in silence.

When the trees fell away, Benny took off, no longer able to wait. The snow crunch under his feet became lost as tiny snowballs flew into the air before crashing back down behind him. Emiline’s shorter legs pumped but eventually slowed. Benny was fast.

“I’m here, Mr. Kyle. I’m here.” His heart pounded erratically as his lungs panted for breath.

“You run all the way?”

“No Sir, just from the trees.”

“Hmm.” Mr. Kyle straightened his hat and narrowed his eyes. “Got the money? Ten dollars, right?”

“Yes Sir, I mean… I got the money, but you said seven, not ten.”

“Did I now?” A new gleam shone in the man’s eye. “Well, tell you what, you muck out that stable, and I’ll make it five.”

“Yes Sir, but you won’t give him to no one else, will you?”

“Pay now, just muck that stable good, or you’ll pay those two dollars, too.”
Benny’s grin spread across his face as his shaky fingers dug the coins he’d saved for so long. As he counted out the money, a dime fell to the ground and he dove after it, unwilling to lose a precious cent, let alone ten. “Five dollars.”

Mr. Kyle eyed the coins. “So it is. Top pick goes to you.”

Everything slowed as he stared at the pups. Each one wagging a short tail and ready to trip over their long ears. No question as to which dog he wanted crossed his mind, but he focused on building a memory. The scent of freshly fallen snow mixed with the mustiness of the barn. He picked up the pup Emiline had called Dozer, fresh puppy breath joining the other aromas as the pup licked his chin. “This one.”

“Dozer’s a fine pup. Great tracker. He’ll train easy for you if that’s what you want.”

Benny nodded, then turned toward the stable. “I’ll get all four stalls real good and clean for you, Mr. Kyle. Don’t you worry.”

Turning, he buttoned his new pup into his jacket, then picked up the shovel. The work promised to take most of the day, but he didn’t care. Not now that he had his pup.

“So what are you going to name him?” Emiline straddled a low wall nearby.

“I’ll think of something.”

“Something like Spot?”

“No. Something that makes him sound special.”

“Whatcha gonna do with him, anyway?”

“Train him to hunt. Help feed my family, maybe make some money from furs.”

“Dozer’ll be good at that. Pa breeds the best.”

“Name’s not Dozer.” With the first stall finished, he moved on to the next.

“ What should I call him, then?” Emiline questioned.

He stared into the pups eyes, still gray on their way to brown. “Major. I think I’ll call him Major.” He scratched behind the pup’s ear. “You like that, boy?”

A young bay rumbled in the dog’s throat.

Giggling, Emiline ambled toward Benny. “Guess he likes it. But I’d let him down, or he’ll wet you good.”

Benny nodded, lowering Major to the ground.

About the time he finished the third stall, a thump on the side of the barn lifted his head. “Jed, what are you doing here, scaring me like that?”

“Gotta come home, Pa’s had an accident.”

“Is the doctor there?”

“No. Ma says we can’t afford him. His leg’s real messed up. Come on!”
Benny looked at the pup. “You go ahead. I’ll be there quick.”

After his brother left, he sank to the floor of the barn and picked up Major. Tears filled his eyes and he lifted the pup and himself off the floor of the barn and looked to Emiline. “Where’s your Pa?”

“Out at the fence, fixing it, I think. Why?”

“This pup’s no good. I’m returning him.”

She grabbed at his arm, but he pulled away as she said, “What do you mean he’s no good? He’s the best there is.”

“No, he ain’t.” He yanked his arm away again and rushed to Mr. Kyle.
Mr. Kyle stopped hammering at the fence and gazed at the boy’s blotchy face. “You all done?”

“No Sir. I’m sorry. I can’t take the pup.”

“Well why not, you paid for him?”

“He’s just not right, that’s all. You gotta take him back.”
The man straightened his hat and eyed his daughter and Benny. “If that’s what you want.”

Benny’s voice broke. “Yes, Sir.”

“Did you want to look at the others?”

“No, Sir. I mean to get home as soon as you give me my money back.”

Mr. Kyle dug in his pocket and pulled out the five dollars. “How much of the stable you finish?”

“Three stalls.”

Another dollar fifty fell into Benny’s hand. That’s for the work you did today.

“Thank you!”

Head hung low, Benny took off toward town as fast as he could, and minutes later banged on the doctor’s door.

“Something happened to my pa’s leg. You gotta come.”

The doctor grabbed his bag. “Get my horse saddled, boy.”

Benny did as he was told, and the doctor soon appeared at his side. “Your family able to pay?”

“I have eight dollars and fifty cents. Is that enough?” His teary eyes met the doctor’s, hoping.

The doctor sighed. “Today it is, I suppose.”

A breeze colder than Benny remembered it chaffed his face as he rode home on the doctor’s extra horse—a service rarely afforded to customers. The pounding of his heart matched the galloping of the horse’s hooves. Tears traced his cheeks at the thought of returning the perfect puppy he’d just named Major. No longer could he help feed his family. Momma didn’t want him helping anyway. The memory of the sweet puppy breath caused his face to crumble.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get your Pa all fixed up.” The doctor’s words scratched at his ears.

Of course, he wanted the best for his pa, but anguish batted him from both sides.

Once home, the doctor rushed in the house, Benny trailing slightly behind. A moment later, Momma quietly slipped into the rocking chair behind him on the porch as she held her rounded belly. “Where’s your pup? Jed said you got him.”

“Gone.”

“The doctor said you paid him.”

“Yeah. Mr. Kyle paid me to muck out his barn, but I didn’t finish.”

“He didn’t pay enough to hire a doctor, did he?”

“No.”

Silence permeated the porch until Momma’s soft whisper reached Benny’s ears again. “Thank you. You and me could’ve set the leg, but not well. And I wouldn’t know what to do about the gash from the bone.”

“What happened, Momma. How’d he break his leg like that?”

“Removing a tree, I think. Don’t really know. He’s not talking much yet.”

“Pa’s downed hundreds of trees!”

She stood and squeezed his shoulder. “I know.”

His whole life, all he’d wanted was a puppy, a coon hound. His whole savings was gone. But he held the pup for those few hours. Major—a strong name for a strong dog. Tears fell to the wood below his feet and he wiped them away before traipsing into the house.

Darkness soon turned to dim light, and Benny’s swollen remained closed as his momma’s voice entered his consciousness.

“Coming… Just a minute.” Her feet shuffled from the door to where he lay in bed, and her hand swept at his hair. “Benny, you have visitors.”

Stepping onto the porch, Benny gazed at the wet nose and soft fur resting in Emiline’s arms. Mr. Kyle stood next to her. “Benny, you’re right. This pup’s not right. Fact is, I’ll never sell him. Feeding him takes a lot too.”

Benny stared at the pup. “I lied. He’s a great pup, should be the first to go.”

Mr. Kyle pushed his hat back. “No, you were right.” His eyes narrowed. “I know you wanted a good hunting dog. This one’s no good for that, not good at all, but well, if you want him…”

Emiline held Major out, who wagged his tail, his gray eyes bright and eager. Benny extended shaky hands that wrapped around the pup. Holding him close, he nuzzled his face against the fuzzy ear. The fall of tears sparkled in the rising sun as Benny’s tongue tripped over the short, raspy words. “Thank you.”

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Flash Fiction: Mrs. Wilhelm’s Thanksgiving Gift

Mrs. Wilhelm's Thanksgiving Gift

The sun warmed Jon’s shoulders as he strolled through the frozen town to Mrs. Wilhelm’s home. Never before had he considered the difference a little sun could make. The wind whipping through his shack the previous night bit every inch of his skin, fulfilling its promise to keep him awake. It sure was different than he was used to. Still, moving to a colder climate had always been his dream. He figured nothing was worse than being raised on a desert ranch only to lay track in the middle of August. Not a thing.

That past summer, he’d finally saved enough money to move and landed in the north where he bought himself a little plot. The dilapidated shack he’d once intended to shore up and improve had become his permanent residence. The farm required too much refining and hoeing to find time to fix what was only partially broke.

Warm breath tickled his fingertips as he blew into his cupped hands. Better than the desert? Yeah, it was better. The frost and snow might numb his toes, but at least he couldn’t feel them.

He shyly tipped his hat at the oncoming passersby.

Aggie, covered in a warm shawl, giggled into her friend’s ear, then smiled at him, a gleam in her eye. “Why, Jon, aren’t you cold? You got nothin’ round your neck or coverin’ your arms.”

“It’s a mite chilly, I guess.”

His eyes followed the girl as she passed. Since their first meeting, he’d hoped to court her. Mrs. Wilhelm and her friends’ willingness to provide him with some additional winter work provided a means—if he could manage it all. Today, the women wanted their Thanksgiving turkeys slaughtered. Each slaughter promised a dollar, and if the women wanted their turkeys plucked and dressed, he’d get another dollar and a half per bird. It meant a long day’s work, but Aggie was worth it.

Entering Mrs. Wilhelm’s yard, Jon blew into his cupped hands again and rubbed at his arms. Perhaps he’d use one of those dollars and buy a coat. He’d never needed one in the desert, but he didn’t live there now. Mrs. Wilhelm swung her door wide, and Jon picked up his feet.

“Jon, those birds are drivin’ me crazy. Opal got herself a tom, and he’s been puffed and struttin’ all night.”
“I’ll hang him first for you, Mrs. Wilhelm. Don’t you worry.”

She patted him hard on the back. “I knew you would. They’s out back. I got one o’ those nice metal barrels out there on the fire heatin’ the water now.”

Jon grinned as he met the widow’s eyes. “How d’you manage that?”

She scowled at him. “I might be old, but that don’t make me useless. I can still haul water and build a fire.”

Jon’s eyes widened as he stared at the barrel of water that was surrounded by plenty of burning wood. “Yes ma’am, you can.” A small path was left for him to use when the time came to dunk the turkeys.

“Well, I’ll let you to it. I know you wanna earn that money, so you can court that pretty Miss Aggie.” She leaned in toward him “You gettin’ close?”

“You haven’t told no one, have you?”

“No,” she scoffed. “I can keep a secret.”

Jon sighed in relief. “I got a ways to go, but every bit helps.”

Once alone, Jon strung the ten turkeys on the wooden frame he’d built the day before. Kneeling down, he thanked God for giving the women turkeys and him work, then asked God for strength to finish the task. That done, he drew his knife.

The turkeys hung with their wings outstretched, not even the tom making noise. The eerie silence from the turkeys sent shivers up Jon’s spine. They never made noise after being strung. He took the tom’s head in his hand and tried to avoid looking at the single eye staring back. “It’ll only hurt a minute.”

The knife pushed raggedly through the neck, and Jon threw the head into the pig’s pen. As he worked the knife quickly through the other nine, the tips of his fingers warmed. Stepping away from the birds, he checked the water, which wasn’t quite boiling and went to wash at the pump.

“I heard you was here.”

A giggle sounded and Jon turned round, feeling a flush of warmth cross his neck—not the kind of warmth he wanted either. “A-Aggie.”

“Jon. Ma sent me to wait for our turkey.”

He nodded. “I just started. I can dunk it first if you tell me which one it is.”

“The one with the light tawny feathers.” She pointed.

“Might take some time.” He stepped to the barrel of water and added a few more pieces of wood. “Water takes a while to boil in the cold.”

She sat in a chair on the back porch and smiled, causing his heart to beat wildly in his chest.

“That’s okay,” she said, “gives us time to chat.”

Jon had spoken to Aggie one other time—a short conversation several months ago. He’d stumbled over his words then, and his tongue felt just as thick now. “You wanna talk while I slaughter turkeys?”

“Looks like the slaughterin’s done.” Her infectious laugh would‘ve brought a smile to his face had he not been so weak-kneed.

“Do you have plans for Thanksgiving?” He asked, then dropped his head and shook it. Had he really asked that?

“I’m here to pick up a turkey, remember?”

“Yeah. I just meant… Do you have o-other family comin’ or is it just you, your ma and pa?”

“Just us.”

“Well, that turkey’ll be plenty big for ya’ll.”

“That’ll make my pa happy. He loves turkey. I think he’d eat it all year-round if he could.”

The water started spitting from the barrel and Jon hurried to the turkeys. Holding the feet of the light-tawny bird with one hand and dunking it in the barrel, he brushed at the condensed steam gathering on his forehead with the other. With the scalding done, he walked back toward Aggie.

“Ma wants it plucked and dressed too.”

“All right.”

Standing at a table, Jon pulled at the feathers as quick as he could, but there wasn’t much fast about plucking a turkey.

“You goin’ to the Christmas Ball?”

Aggie’s voice floated to his ears, and he turned, gazing at her a little longer than intended. His hand missed the turkey and grabbed at a pile of already plucked feathers.

She giggled. “Well, are you?”

He shrugged as he looked down at his work. “I hadn’t thought much on it.”

“I have, and I’ve turned down four boys.”

His head twisted in her direction again. “How come?”

“They’s not the one I wanna go with.” She dropped her head, a bright pink coloring the bridge of her nose.

He brushed the feathers onto the ground and examined the turkey. “I’ll have this dressed in a few.”

“Then what will you do?”

The question hung in the air as he drew his knife.

Aggie swayed back and forth, clutching at the sides of her dress. “Pa says I make real good pies. I plan on makin’ one for the ball. What’s your favorite pie, Jon?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I like pumpkin pretty good.”

“Me too.”

Jon shook his hands and pushed the turkey mess away. Turning toward the pump, he almost forgot to take the bird with him. Luckily, he remembered while Aggie’s head was turned. The water ran cold over the plucked bird and his fingers, none of which helped quiet his pounding heart. The Christmas Ball? Did she want him to ask her?

Mrs. Wilhelm clamored down the stairs of the back porch and hurried over to him—a determined look on her face. “Ask her!”

Any warmth in his neck and face drained away. “What?”

“My house is gettin’ cold with that open window. Ask her already.”

Jon scrunched his face together as muddled thoughts ran through his head. Open window? Then he understood. “I don’t have enough money yet.”

“Money,” she grumbled. “You ain’t askin’ her to marry you, just to go to the dance.”

He studied the old woman’s face, unsure she was right. “I can’t do that, Mrs. Wilhelm. I-I…”

“O’ course you can! March up there and say, ‘Miss Aggie, will you accompany me to the Christmas Ball?’ She’ll say yes, and you hand her the turkey.”

He furrowed his brows.

“Go on. There’s brown paper for the bird on the table. Wrap it up good.”

Stumbling toward the porch, his muscles tightened over stiffened joints, and he tripped on a clump of dead field grass. The turkey jumbled into the air with him running to catch it, his clumsy feet barely underneath him. The bird landed in his arms and against his chest. He eyed the ground, all semblance of dignity now gone.

Wrapping the turkey in the brown paper, he handed it to Aggie.

“Thank you.” The smile at the corners of her eyes dropped as she turned to leave.

“A-Aggie?”

She stopped.

“W-would you like to go to the ball with me?” His hands tangled together as his foot dug into the frozen dirt. All his dreams hinged on her answer, and the wait dragged on forever.

Jumping toward him, she kissed his cheek. “Yes!”

“Yes? Really, yes?”

She nodded at him, a big smile across her face as she waved goodbye.

Running back to the turkeys, Jon grinned at Mrs. Wilhelm, who added more wood to the fire. He swung the dead tom into the barrel. “Give me all the work you got, Mrs. Wilhelm. I’m goin’ to the ball!”

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Meet the Author: Gordon Buttars as he tells us about himself

Meet the Author: Gordon ButtarsThe Farmer

My name is Gordon Buttars and I live in Rexburg Idaho with my wife, our daughter, and two young grandsons. I grew up on a farm in Burley, Idaho, and graduated from Burley High School in 1973. After attending one year at Ricks College and a serving in the Colorado Denver Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I settled into what I thought was a life of farming. Two years after returning from my mission I married my wife, Bonnie and eleven months later our first son was born. Farming wasn’t easy, but I loved it. Then a bad crop put an end to my dream job. At the same time our daughter was born, my father died, and I had to find a new career.

Computer Programmer

After getting some vocational training in computer programming, I got a job in Rexburg and have been here since 1983. While engaged in my second career, we had two more children, one of which lived only 26 hours. As things go, after eighteen years I was laid off and at 46 no one wanted to take a chance on me.

Job Loss

The next few years were desperate, but by the grace of God we made it through. I had hopes of opening a bookstore here in Rexburg, but one obstacle after another got in my way and it never happened. Then about 15 years ago, I developed a neurological disorder that severely limited my abilities. Here again, the Good Lord has seen us through.

Gordon Buttars the Author:

Six years ago I decided to try my hand at writing after watching my son write a 50,000 word novel for the National Novel Writers Month challenge, I decided to try my hand at writing and after several revisions and having a professional proofreader/editor go through it, I am wrapping up my historical novel series and hope to find someone willing to publish it.

Flyboy:

Flyboy is a twelve-volume historical novel of one man’s journey through life, interwoven into the times in which he lived. It is a tale of love and life, tragedy and war. Sheffield “Curly” Brason always seems to be in the right place as he relies on his faith in God to get him through, whether it was his family or his career as a naval officer and aviator. The events and occasions throughout his life prepare him and lead him to eventually find the gospel and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and put him on a path of faithful service for the remainder of his life.

Volume One

Geannie is a look back at Sheffield “Curly” Brason’s early life between 1898 and 1926. He grows up in Roanoke, Virginia, next door to Geannie, the love of his life, who was born on the same day. Growing up, they are playmates, buddies, and best friends. Then one day, he discovers that she is a young woman and they become sweethearts ever after.

Both Curly and Geannie grow up in religious homes, which establishes a pattern of living for the rest of their lives. More than anything else, Curly wants to fly and become a pilot. To accomplish his goal, he follows in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle and attends the United States Naval Academy. After he graduates and receives his commission in the United States Navy and Geannie graduates from Hollins College with a teaching certificate, they are married on their twenty-third birthdays.

Rather than begin their lives together, Curly departs on a nine-month round-the-world-cruise with his ship. Even after he returns, Geannie remains in Roanoke where she teaches school while he is stationed 250 miles away in Norfolk, Virginia.

After two years of sea duty, Curly is accepted into flight school and they move to Pensacola, Florida, where they learn to live together and start a family and where their daughter, Sandy, is born. Once he receives his wings, the real adventure began when they moved clear across the country to San Diego, California, where he is assigned to a squadron stationed at North Island Naval Air Station.

As Curly and Geannie settled into living in Southern California, they explore their new surroundings, including a trip to Ensenada, Mexico. Together they face the challenges put before them and grow. It is while living in Mexico that they establish life-long friendships with Shorty and Wilma Sharp, Freddy and Susan McGowan, who Curly flew with, and particularly Ramona North and Harvey Morrison. Ramona, especially, becomes an integral part of their lives.

Volume one culminates with a harrowing experience that Geannie has to go through and how she comes to forgive the perpetrator.

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