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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Help! My Blog's Been Hijacked!

Hello!  My name is Violet Emerson, er, Violet McCallum.  I’m not used to my married name yet.  Elaine told my story and that of my husband Matt in her book A New Dream.  Matt and I decided that since Elaine works so hard we’d do her blog for her in December.  We have all kinds of things planned, don’t we, Matt?

We sure do.  We might even offer a contest or two.  If you should see Elaine, please tell her that everything is going just fine.  She’s a little worried about leaving the blog for so long. 

Well, Matt, she needn’t be.  Let’s start off by sharing some cute, inexpensive Christmas gift ideas.

Gift ideas?  Are you hinting about what you want for Christmas?

(Violet giggles.)  Nope.  You’re on your own there.  Here’s the first gift I like.  It's so colorful and fun.  These Raja salad servers are from French Bull and only cost $15.


Uh, Violet, since you run a catering company, you would like the salad servers.  What do you have for us guys?

Well, you’re getting a Kindle Fire as soon as possible, right?

Yep.

Then, how do you like this extreme sleeve?  It’s supposed to protect your Kindle from drops and falls.

(Matt kisses her forehead.)  I love it, baby.  How much does it cost, and where do we get it?


(Matt kisses her again.  He has a hard time NOT kissing her.)  Readers, can I pick a woman or what?  Honey, I’d like to share the last gift idea.

(Violet looks doubtful.)  Okay, what is it?

Why not get a copy of Elaine’s Christmas story The Table in the Window?  It’s only $1.99 at http://www.astraeapress.com.  It should be released in the next few days.

Oh, Matt, what a good idea!  Readers can’t ever have enough books! 

(Matt laughs.)  The readers might even like to buy our book.  Now that’s a great gift.  It’s on the bestseller list at Astraea Press.  Check back on Friday, folks.  Violet’s taking over Elaine’s Fashionista Friday post.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

AP Christmas Story Blog Hop Winner

Thanks so much for participating in the AP Christmas blog hop. The winner of The Best Selling Toy of the Season is Rachel C.  Rachel, thanks so much for playing, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

Friday, November 25, 2011

AP Holiday Story Release Party Blog Hop Nov 25-27, 2011

Welcome to the Astraea Press Holiday Story Release Party Blog Hop!  Astraea has a great lineup of holiday stories to thrill your heart.  My own story is called The Table in the Window.  Don't you just love my cover?  Many thanks to our wonderful cover artist Elaina Lee.  Here's a blurb to tell you what the story is all about.

Being dumped by your gorgeous fiancé is bad enough no matter when it happens, but he did it at Christmas time! Marley thinks she’ll never get over it, but Rob Travers disagrees. He sets out to win Marley’s heart, well aware that when she finds out about his past she may turn her back on him forever.

Here's a short excerpt from the story.


Robert offered them a menu, but Michael waved it away.  “I’m not having lunch.
Marley’s eyebrows shot up.  As the waiter left the table, she said, “I thought you wanted to have lunch.”
“No, I said I wanted to talk to you.”
“Okay, talk.”  Marley reached for his hand, but he drew it away and put it in his lap.
“Uh, Marley, I have something to tell you.”  He cleared his throat, and this time he stared at some point right behind her left shoulder.
Marley’s heart thumped.  “What is it, Michael?  What’s wrong?”  Was he ill?  Had he lost his job? 
He stared at a burned spot on the rustic table as if it had come to life and was about to bite him.  “I..I’ve met someone.”
Marley cocked her head.  “Who did you meet?”
His voice was so low she had a hard time hearing him.  “Her name is Heather.”
Everything clicked.  He wouldn’t hold hands with her.  He wouldn’t look at her.  Cold more intense than that outside settled into her veins and almost took her breath away, but she clung to the hope that she was wrong.  “I..I don’t understand.”
His eyes briefly met hers before they slid away.  “Yes, you do.  I’m sorry, Marley, but I can’t marry you after all.”

Readers, leave a comment and your email for a chance to win a copy of my first Christmas release The Best Selling Toy of the Season. And while you're here, check out my Fashionista Friday post just below this one.  Have a great holiday season!

Your next stop is http://kimbowmanauthor.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fashionista Friday: Evening Purses

I love cute evening purses.  They're so delicious!  You'll need a new one for Christmas parties, so what do you think of these?

I like this satin clutch.  It's trimmed with crystal, and it does have a chain hiding inside if you want one.
Buy it at Cinderella's Pumpkin for $34.00.



This little satin/tulle number comes in a myriad of colors and is so beautiful it makes me melt.  Buy it at Light in the Box for $23.69.

This silk shell with rhinestones is also from Light in the Box and also comes in various colors.  Buy it at Light in the Box for $79.99.  Notice the design on the front?  You can use the handle or not as you please.



Purple is popular this year so I thought I'd show you this one.  It has satin roses on both sides and also has a shoulder strap if you like.  Buy it at Cinderella's Pumpkin for $45.00.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why I Love Wednesday: Famous Families

Do you have a favorite literary family?  I'm particularly fond of the Ingalls family from the Little House series.  Ma and Pa provided for their kids and set a good example for the family to follow.  From the first book until the last the children felt as if they were surrounded by love.  This gave them strength to face all kinds of problems from blindness to crop failure and Indian trouble.  They're one of the best examples I know of what a family ought to be.

And I have to tell you about the family I created in my books. The Lovinggood family.   I do love them too even though they aren't much like the Ingalls.  Senator Lovinggood and his wife have two children, Joan and Richard.  The senator has more power than you can imagine, and he's ambitious for his children.  Sometimes he goes overboard, like when he interfered with Richard's relationship with the woman he loved, but in the end, just like with the Ingalls, the children know that their father loves them and has their back.   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Save A Turkey Blog Hop Winners

Thanks to everyone who participated in the blog hop!  Here are the names of my winners.

A copy of A New Dream goes to Inga.  The earrings to go Patsy, and the copy of The Table in the Window goes to Kathryn Merkel.

What did I do when the cat got the turkey.  First, I screamed loud enough to be heard ten miles away.  Then I removed the top layer of the turkey and dumped the rest in a big pot of turkey broth and boiled it like crazy.  We served it like nothing was wrong!  I figured boiling would kill any germs.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

Hello and thanks for stopping by.  Today's excerpt comes from The Best Selling Toy Of The Season which is available at Melange Books.

Nikki watched as Tommy shrugged his coat off. She must have lost her mind. Why had she accepted help from this man? Only a fool depended on a man to take care of her. Her own father had never done anything for her and look at the kids’ father. No, she knew about men and the trouble they brought to women, but in the space of less than an hour she had allowed Tommy Price—golly but he was handsome—to replace the broken toys and help her with her tree.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sweet Saturday Sample

Hello and welcome to my blog.  Today's sample comes from my very soon to be released Christmas novel The Table in the Window.  We're hoping for a Black Friday release.  The book will be available at http://www.astraeapress.com

He reached for Marley’s hand as they got off the elevator. “Did you have a good time tonight?”

Marley ducked her head and blushed when she saw the hot light dancing in his eyes.  "You know I did."

He gently raised her chin and stared into her eyes. “You have beautiful eyes,” he whispered.

Marley’s heart took off in a mad gallop. Every single nerve ending in her body sang with his nearness. He slowly bent his head and grazed her lips with his own. “Kissing you takes my breath away,” he muttered.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fashionista Friday: Little Black Dress

You've heard it before, and most women agree: you need a little black dress, especially during the holiday season.  I've looked at so many that it's hard for me to say which one is my favorite, but I do like these.

First, look at this strapless chiffon dress.  It has raw edge floral detailing on the skirt, a shirred bodice, and an empire waist. Buy it for $198 at Nordstrom.



I also like this dress.  If you're a full figured girl this might be for you.  I like the retro styling and swingy skirt.  I also like the vintage looking broach which adds a little sparkle.  If you don't like the sash you can take it off. and removable satin sash. A vintage-inspired brooch adds just a hint of sparkle.  I like the scalloped hem too.  Buy it for $168 at Kiyonna.



I love this elegant dress from Valentino.  It has a feminine sheath cut with a high round neck and long sleeves.  Notice the decorative bow around the neck?  Buy it for $1,315 at StyleBop.com.

   

My last choice is this faux sarong dress which would flatter curves without being too fitted  It's made of jersey with a scoop neckline and side draped sarong skirt.  Buy it at Dress Barn for $39.99. 





Come back next week for a look at some cute evening purses.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Delectable Thursday

Welcome to Delectable Thursday.  I hope you're enjoying the wonderful recipes my author friends are sharing with you.  Today's recipe comes from April Gardner.  April has been a military brat, missionary's kid, and military spouse. After 21 years in various countries overseas, she happily resides in Georgia with her USAF husband and two sweet kiddos. In her free time, April enjoys reading, music, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

Librarian, reviewer, and avid reader, April adores anything books. She writes a regular column for the joint blog, Reflections in Hindsight, and is the founder and senior editor of the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She is the author of the historical romance series, Creek Country Saga and the children's adventure series, the Channel Islands Resistance.

And now here's April's recipe.

Holiday Green Beans with Bacon

1 package (16oz) frozen cut green beans
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp butter
7 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Cover and microwave on high for 6 minutes or until the beans are crisp-tender. Sprinkle with bacon.
Note: Works great with canned beans too!
 
April's book Lizzie and the Guernsey Gang released on November 15, and on November 30 is has another book coming out.  The title of that one is Warring Spirits.  And now let's look at an excerpt from Lizzie and the Guernsey Gang.  If you like what you read, you can buy the book at http://www.astraeapress.comhttp://www.astraeapress.com
 
Blurb:
Lizzie Browning loves nothing more than her tiny, island-home of Guernsey, but when German troops invade, she knows nothing will ever be the same again. For Lizzie, younger brother Andre, and cousin James, the time to escape is now, and they know just how to do it. But Lizzie soon learns that God doesn’t always answer prayers in the way she expects. He might actually plan for them to live under Nazi rule…forever.
Excerpt:
The Attack
I had just carved out a door for my sandcastle when a plane appeared on the horizon. Like a giant bumblebee, it hummed and buzzed toward where we’d dug a medieval village in the sand.
            The buzzing increased, and Andre pointed. “Look, here comes another one.”
            Yesterday we had seen a plane making lazy circles overhead. Bold black, crooked crosses marked its wings. It had come and gone as harmless as a butterfly.
            “If he comes close enough, let’s wave this time,” my brother suggested.
            On our feet now, we trotted down the beach toward the airplane. “There’s another. And another,” I said. “Just look at them, will you? They’re so shiny.”
            The planes raced toward us. Their droning grew louder. One broke away from the group and made a sharp turn east.
            James grabbed my arm, jerking me to a stop. “Lizzie, wait.”
            “What is it?” I asked.
            “I think we ought to go home.” His voice grew quiet and hesitant.
            Andre shaded his eyes with his hand and squinted into the sky. “Aren’t they friendly?”
            Like a hawk preparing to dive for a rabbit, moving in unison, the planes dove toward the earth. I could see their wheels now. Their noses pointed toward the ancient fort set on a nearby bluff.
            My gaze shot to James. I found fear in his eyes. One more glimpse at the planes, and I understood. At once, the whine of their powerful engines became the sound of the enemy. The sound of Germans.
            I clutched Andre’s hand and ran. James was just ahead, leading us home. He dashed over the stony ground in a straight path toward the seawall and the road just beyond.
            Rocks dug into my feet. The racket of the planes swelled behind me. From across the island, more great rumbles reached my ears.
            “They’re bombing St. Peter Port,” James cried.
            My legs picked up speed, as if trying to keep time with my heart pounding in my chest. Andre struggled to keep up, but I refused to let go or slow down.
            The seawall loomed ahead. In one leap, James mounted it. He turned and thrust out his hand. “Come on, hurry.”
            Still running, I stretched my arm toward him. A resounding blast shook the earth under my feet. With a cry, I tumbled forward and slammed into the stone wall. Disoriented, I looked for my brother. He wiggled beneath me.
            I crawled off him. “Are you hurt?” Half my words were drowned in another violent roar. Before my ears had time to stop ringing, a third deafening blast rattled my chest.
            My head hurt and my thoughts jumbled inside my brain. Crouching at the base of wall, I covered my ears and pressed myself against Andre. He trembled beside me, eyes squeezed shut.
            James slid down the wall and huddled beside us. “Cover your head,” he shouted into my ear as the scent of smoke reached my nose.
            I obeyed.
            Just days ago our parents had been given an opportunity to send us away to safety. Mum was even invited to follow after and join us in England. But she had refused both offers. Why? Hot tears streaked my face.
            As my head clattered, I couldn’t vanquish the thought: The Germans are coming, the Germans are coming. The Germans are coming!
            Two more concussions rocked the ground. I quaked from the inside out. Baffling thoughts assailed me. What was happening? What had we done to deserve this?
As the sounds of explosions filled the air, a new thought tumbled around in my mind—one I’d never had before. For the first time in my life, I wanted to leave my beautiful island and never look back.


 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SAVE A TURKEY: GOBBLE A BOOK BLOG HOP TOUR (NOV 14-21)

Blog Hop Rules

1)     HAVE FUN!!!                                                                                                                                                                               

2) INVITE ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS!!! SPREAD THE WORD!!!


3) THIS TOUR STARTS: Monday, November 14, at Midnight (Arizona Time)

THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, November 21, at Midnight (Arizona Time)
Winners will be drawn and posted November 22nd! ***

4) MEET AND MINGLE WITH ALL THE AUTHORS & BOOK PAGES! EXPERIENCE A NEW DESTINATION AT EVERY STOP! PARTICIPATE IN EVERY BLOG CONTEST AND BE ENTERED FOR CHANCES TO WIN MULTIPLE PRIZES! EVERY BLOG VISITED IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO WIN!!


5) PARTICIPATION AT ALL BLOGS IS RECOMMENDED, BUT NOT REQUIRED. REMEMBER, THE MORE BLOGS YOU HOP, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING PRIZES. EVERY AUTHOR & BOOK PAGE IS WAITING TO MEET AND INTERACT WITH YOU, SO PLEASE BE SURE TO SHOW THEM SOME LOVE!


6) DID I MENTION TO HAVE FUN? WHOO! HOO!! HERE WE GOOOOOOOOOOOO!
***Authors & Book Pages have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this blog hop tour is subject to these rules***


Now for the good stuff...
                                                                             
Imagine that its Thanksgiving morning.  You’re in a good mood because for starters you aren’t working.  You’ve also gotten a head start on your Thanksgiving dinner by cooking a lot of stuff on Wednesday.  The good china even got washed because you ought to use it at least once a year.  The turkey’s in the oven, and it smells delicious. 

Dinner’s at one so the turkey comes out of the oven at eleven.  That should give you plenty of time to get it sliced.  (We don’t carve turkeys at the table.  We slice them beforehand.  Well, to tell the truth my husband slices them beforehand.) 

You give him the special platter that you use on Thanksgiving and Christmas and run upstairs to change your clothes.  It’s such a perfect day that you even like the way your hair turned out.

You run back downstairs and put the finishing touches on the table.  You add the spare leaf because you have close to twenty people coming for dinner.  Then, your husband joins you in the dining room.  “I finished the turkey,” he says, so you go into the kitchen to check on it. 

Gasp!  What horror!  The cat Elizabeth is sitting in the turkey eating her fill!  Oh, no!  Oh, no!  Now what? 

Readers, this really did happen to me.  When I announce my winners, I’ll tell you what I did.   To enter my contest, follow my blog and leave a comment telling me that you followed.  If you’re already a follower, tell me that too.  Now there’s only one thing left to do.  Tell me what you would have done if your cat was sitting in your turkey. 
Here are the prizes:

Prize 1 an ecopy of my new Christmas release The Table in the Window.  (available on Black Friday at http://www.astraeapress.com  The photo of the cover is only the proof, not the finished product.

Prize 2 a set of black and silver earrings by my favorite designer Lucy O.

Prize 3 a PDF copy of my novel A New Dream (available at http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2676585 )

Would you like to read an excerpt from The Table in the Window?  This is from Chapter One where my heroine's fiance breaks up with her right before Christmas

Robert offered them a menu, but Michael waved it away.  “I’m not having lunch.”

Marley’s eyebrows shot up.  As the waiter left the table, she said, “I thought you wanted to have lunch.”

“No, I said I wanted to talk to you.”

“Okay, talk.”  Marley reached for his hand, but he drew it away and put it in his lap.

“Uh, Marley, I have something to tell you.”  He cleared his throat, and this time he stared at some point right behind her left shoulder.

Marley’s heart thumped.  “What is it, Michael?  What’s wrong?”  Was he ill?  Had he lost his job? 

He stared at a burned spot on the rustic table as if it had come to life and was about to bite him.  “I..I’ve met someone.”

Marley cocked her head.  “Who did you meet?”

His voice was so low she had a hard time hearing him.  “Her name is Heather.”

Everything clicked.  He wouldn’t hold hands with her.  He wouldn’t look at her.  Cold more intense than anything outside settled into her veins and almost took her breath away, but she clung to the hope that she was wrong.  “I..I don’t understand.”
His eyes briefly met hers before they slid away.  “Yes, you do.  I’m sorry, Marley, but I can’t marry you after all.”
To return to the blog hop list click here.












Six Sentence Sunday

Hello!  Thanks for dropping by.  I appreciate your feedback very much.  Today's excerpt comes from my Christmas story The Table in the Window.  Astraea Press is publishing it, and they say it'll be out on Black Friday if all goes well.  The cover is only a proof.  In this excerpt, my hero who works at a restaurant finally gets the chance to talk to the girl he's admired for a year.


“Uh, is there anything else?” she asked.
He smiled at her.  “My shift’s over.  If I’m not bothering you, I wondered if you’d like some company for lunch.”  His eyes twinkled.  “In case you’re wondering, you’re the first customer I’ve made that offer to.”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sweet Saturday Sample

I'm so glad to see you!  Thanks to everyone who drops by to check out my sample.  Today's excerpt is from my Christmas release The Table in the Window.  The story is published by Astraea Press and will be released on Black Friday.  I'm sharing the cover even though it's only a proof.  Hope you like it!

Robert offered them a menu, but Michael waved it away.  “I’m not having lunch.”
Marley’s eyebrows shot up.  As the waiter left the table, she said, “I thought you wanted to have lunch.”
“No, I said I wanted to talk to you.”
“Okay, talk.”  Marley reached for his hand, but he drew it away and put it in his lap.
“Uh, Marley, I have something to tell you.”  He cleared his throat, and this time he stared at some point right behind her left shoulder.
Marley’s heart thumped.  “What is it, Michael?  What’s wrong?”  Was he ill?  Had he lost his job? 
He stared at a burned spot on the rustic table as if it had come to life and was about to bite him.  “I..I’ve met someone.”
Marley cocked her head.  “Who did you meet?”
His voice was so low she had a hard time hearing him.  “Her name is Heather.”
Everything clicked.  He wouldn’t hold hands with her.  He wouldn’t look at her.  Cold more intense than anything outside settled into her veins and almost took her breath away, but she clung to the hope that she was wrong.  “I..I don’t understand.”
His eyes briefly met hers before they slid away.  “Yes, you do.  I’m sorry, Marley, but I can’t marry you after all.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fashionista Friday

I’m a catalog junkie.  Yep, no doubt about it.  I look at them both online and in print.  I’ve wasted countless hours studying them, and if I find one I like I’ll revisit.  The other day I ran across one website that I liked.  You can find it at www.catalogfavorites.com

I picked several things at random that I thought were cute to show you.  The first is this fleece trimmed jacket.  I think it adds a nice touch to traditional denim.  Buy it at http://www.catalogfavorites.com/itemdy00.asp?ID=1,402&GEN1=What's+New&T1=NA268+S&dispRow=0&srccode=    for $59.95


I also like these little lace jackets.  Wouldn’t they look cute with Christmas dresses?  Buy it at http://www.catalogfavorites.com/itemdy00.asp?T1=P82241%20BK%20S&source=igodigital&pagetype=Product for $69.95.


I also like this little button coin purse.  Buy it at http://www.catalogfavorites.com/itemdy00.asp?ID=1,402&GEN1=What's+New&T1=RA1134&dispRow=0&srccode=   for only $19.95.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Delectable Thursday: From Our Table to Yours

Since the holidays are upon us, some of my favorite authors have agreed to share recipes from their kitchens with us.  Maybe you'll see something you'll like and impress your guests this holiday season. 

First up is Meg Mims.  Here's a bit about Meg if you don't know her. 

Meg Mims may have been born in the wrong century. Her love of historical fiction started early, with visits to Michigan’s Greenfield Village and the Streets of Old Detroit at a museum. She was first published in children's magazines, is a staff writer for a real estate business and for Lake Effect Living, a West Coast of Michigan on-line magazine, and is also a watercolor artist and photographer. From a young age, she had a taste for classics such as Jane Eyre and Gone With The Wind, books by A. C. Doyle and Agatha Christie, along with J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula LeGuin. Now Meg devours historical, cozy and PI mysteries. Her award-winning fiction always has a dead body or two, plus an independent-minded heroine and a sense of justice being served in the end. She lives with her husband, a drooling black cat and a make-my-day Maltese-Poodle, and enjoys games and visits with family and friends far more than housework. 

And now, here's her recipe.



Harvest Loaf

1 3/4 cups Flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin - pure not pie filling
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

3/4 cup dried cranberries
(Can triple the recipe to use the largest size can of pumpkin)

Combine first 7 ingredients. Cream butter and sugar till light . Blend in eggs. Beat well. Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin, beginning and ending with dry ingredients Then stir in cranberries and nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan or muffin cups. Bake 350 50-60 minutes. Test with toothpick, invert onto wire rack, cool and either freeze or enjoy warm.


Would you like to read an excerpt from one of Meg's books?  Try this one.  I just love it.  If you like it as well, you can get it at http://www.amazon.com/Double-Crossing-ebook/dp/B005GWEMCO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1313430768&sr=8-6



Chapter One

Evanston, Illinois: 1869

I burst into the house. Keeping the flimsy telegram envelope, I dumped half a dozen packages into the maid’s waiting arms. “Where’s Father? I need to speak to him.”

“He’s in the library, Miss Lily. With Mr. Todaro.”

Oh, bother. I didn’t have time to deal with Emil Todaro, my father’s lawyer. He was the last person I wanted to see—but that couldn’t be helped. Thanking Etta, I raced down the hall. Father turned from his roll-top desk, spectacles perched on his thin nose and hands full of rustling papers. Todaro rose from an armchair with a courteous bow. His silver waistcoat buttons strained over his belly and his balding head shone in the sunlight. I forced myself to nod in his direction and then planted a quick kiss on Father’s leathery cheek. The familiar scents of pipe tobacco and bay rum soothed my nervous energy.

“I didn’t expect you back so early, Lily. What is it?”

With an uneasy glance at Todaro, I slipped him the envelope. “The telegraph messenger boy caught me on my way home.” My voice dropped. “It’s from Uncle Harrison.”

Father poked up his wire rims while he pored over the brief message. His shoulders slumped. “I’ll speak plainly, Lily, because Mr. Todaro and I were discussing this earlier. My brother sent word that George Hearst intends to claim the Early Bird mine in a Sacramento court. Harrison believes his business partner never filed the deed. He needs to prove our ownership.”

“Hearst holds an interest in the Comstock Lode, Colonel.” Todaro had perked up, his long knobby fingers forming a steeple. The lawyer resembled an amphibian, along with his deep croak of a voice. “His lawyers are just as ambitious and ruthless in court.”

Father peered over his spectacles. “Yes, but I have the original deed. I didn’t plan to visit California until next month, so we’ll have to move up our trip.”

“Oh!” I clasped my hands, a thrill racing through me. “I’m dying to visit all the shops out there, especially in San Francisco. When do we leave?”

“We? I meant myself and Mr. Todaro.”

I stared at the lawyer, who didn’t conceal a sly smirk. “You cannot leave me behind, Father. I promised to visit Uncle Harrison, and what if I decide to go to China?”

“Lily, I refuse to discuss the matter. This trip is anything but a lark.”

“It’s a grueling two thousand miles on the railroad, Miss Granville. Conditions out west are far too dangerous for a young lady,” Todaro said. “Even with an escort.”

“The new transcontinental line has been operating all summer. Plenty of women have traveled to California. I’ve read the newspaper reports.”

“I’m afraid the Union and Central Pacific cars are not as luxurious as the reports say. You have no idea. The way stations are abominable, for one thing.”

I flashed a smile at him. “I’m ready for adventure. That’s why I’ve considered joining the missionary team with Mr. Mason.”

Father scowled. “You are not leaving Evanston until I give my approval.”

“You mean until you dissuade me from ‘such a ridiculous notion.’”

“Need I remind you of the fourth commandment, Lily?”

“No, Father. We’ll discuss this later.”

My face flushed hot. Annoyed by being reprimanded in front of Todaro, I ignored the rest of the conversation. I’d always wanted to see the open prairie and perhaps a buffalo herd chased by Indians, the majestic Rocky Mountains and California. California, with its mining camps, lush green meadows and warm sunshine, the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco that had to be as exhilarating as downtown Chicago. I’d pored over the grainy pen-and-ink drawings in the Chicago Times. Uncle Harrison, who’d gone west several years ago to make a fortune and succeeded, for the most part, would welcome me with open arms. I plopped down on an armchair and fingered the ridges of the brass floor lamp beside me. Somehow I needed to persuade Father to allow me to tag along on this trip.

When Mr. Todaro’s bulky form disappeared out the door, Father glanced at me. “All right, my dear. Let’s discuss this business about California.”

Heart thudding, I stood up. “Why do you need Mr. Todaro, Father? I don’t trust him one bit. Uncle Harrison has a good lawyer in Sacramento.”

“He insisted on accompanying me. Emil has a quick mind in court.”

“Maybe so, but—”

“I wouldn’t be alive if not for his help. He pulled me out of a heap of bodies at Shiloh, remember. I know you don’t like him, Lily, but I will keep him as my lawyer.”

Frowning, I swallowed further protest. True enough, I disliked him. Something about the bulbous-nosed, oily man sent shivers up my spine. I crossed to the window, remembering the time I’d seen Todaro aim a kick at my pet lizard in the garden. Telling Father about the incident now would make me sound childish and petty.

Etta carried in a silver tray of refreshments and set them on the table between the desk and the leather sofa. I sank into the soft cushion with a whoosh. My feet still hurt from my downtown shopping venture and several hours of errands.

“I bought the handkerchiefs you wanted, Father, and that brass letter opener. I found a pearl brooch at Marshall Field. The silver setting looked inferior, though.” I plucked up a golden-crusted pastry filled with creamed chicken and dill. “My seamstress had no open appointments today, and I couldn’t find one straw hat that I liked at any of the millinery shops.”

“If you’re serious about China, you’ll have to give up your notions of fashion.”

“I suppose,” I said, licking a spot of gravy from my thumb.

“That young man has filled your head with nonsense, in my opinion.”

“Charles is dedicated to God. The China Inland Mission has accepted him, did I tell you? Now he’s raising funds for his passage.”

“You’ve never been dedicated to working in Chicago among the poor. Charity begins at home,” Father said. “Your mother was devoted to the Ladies’ Society at church.”

“Her charity circle sewed clothing and quilts. I can’t even thread a needle.”

“So we agree.” Father snagged a handful of candied almonds. “You need to gain valuable skills here in Evanston, or at a finishing school, before you run off to China.”

“I’m too old for school! I’ll be twenty in a month—”

“Ripe for marriage, then, and giving me grandchildren. I’d rather dandle a baby on my knee than read letters about you starving in a foreign country. I’m not going to allow you to wed Charles Mason, either. He might be full of the Spirit, but he’s more interested in using your inheritance for his own purposes. I never detected any love in him for you.”

His final words stung. I couldn’t protest much, either. Charles was a decent man, a hard worker, dedicated to his calling, but admiration wasn’t the best foundation for a love match or a lasting marriage. Father might be right about Charles’ interest in my inheritance, too, which nettled me. I changed the subject.

“Tell me about the Early Bird mine, Father. Is it like the Comstock Lode?”

“Your uncle is set on new technology, hydraulic mining. It uses high pressure jets of water and quicksilver. It’s quite expensive. He knows more about it than I do.”

I chose a toast point topped with cheese, tomato and spinach. “Then I’d better travel with you to California so I can ask him myself.”

“You need to stay here where it’s safe.”

“But you cannot protect me from the world forever, Father. I must choose a path—”

“Keep praying, Lily. The Lord will show you the way.” Father bit into an apple cinnamon tart. “If you truly loved Charles, you’d have accepted his marriage proposal right away.”

After gulping some chilled lemonade, I set down the glass. I’d prayed on my knees every night and morning, waiting for some sign, but nothing changed. I didn’t love him, and didn’t share his missionary dream. If I rejected him, I might be stuck in a loveless marriage to someone else. If I married Charles, perhaps my inheritance money would come to good use once I turned twenty-one. But I’d be thousands of miles away from home, among foreigners, and might never see Father again. Neither choice led to happiness.

Tiny dust motes danced in a ray of late sunshine beaming through the window’s lace curtain. Cicadas droned outside among the trees. The mournful sound, buzzing low and then high, sent a shiver down my spine.