It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***
Penny Zeller is the author of McKenzie, first in her Montana Skies Series, along with several other books, numerous magazine articles and her blog, A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author: https://pennyzeller.wordpress.com. She’s committed to nurturing women and children in their Christian walk, through a women’s prayer group, as a Bible study leader, through the organization she co-founded, “The Sisters in Christ Community Girls Night Out,” and as a frequent speaker. She desires to use her gifts of writing and storytelling to glorify God and draw others closer to Him. When she’s not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family, camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball. She and her husband Lon, along with their two children live in Wyoming.
Visit the author’s website.
Since the death of her abusive husband, Kaydie Kraemer’s life has been easier, but she’s wary of men and builds a wall of protection around her, staying with her sister McKenzie as she awaits the birth of her baby. Haunted by her painful marriage, , Kaydie is determined never to fall in love again, and it will take the grace of God to change her mind—the same grace that works in the heart of ranch hand Jonah Dickenson, a confirmed bachelor who has unhealed wounds of his own to overcome.
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (April 5, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Pine Haven, Montana Territory
“No, Darius, I’m not going with you!” Kaydie Kraemer winced in pain as her husband, Darius, grabbed her arm and pulled her out the door of her sister’s house toward his waiting horse. She tried to pull her arm loose from his tight grasp, but her efforts were futile.
Darius then reached around and grabbed her other arm, squeezing it so hard that Kaydie could already see the bruises he would leave behind. “You don’t have a choice, Kaydie. You’re my wife, remember?”
“No, Darius. I’m staying here. I don’t want to be married to you anymore.” Kaydie fought back her tears, hating that they would be sign of weakness to her callous husband.
“You don’t have a choice,” he snarled. “Now, you can either come willingly, or I can carry you. Which will it be? Because I ain’t leavin’ without you.” He turned his head to the side and spit on the front porch.
“I thought—I thought you were dead,” Kaydie stammered.
Darius threw back his head with an evil laugh, which caused the nostrils on his prominent nose to flare in and out. His mouth was open wide, revealing more missing teeth than Kaydie remembered. His stringy brown curls bounced from his collar, and he removed a hand from Kaydie only long enough to slick back the few strands of greasy hair that had fallen over his forehead. He narrowed his eyes, which were already too small for his large face, making them appear even smaller. “I had you fooled, didn’t I? You’re a foolish woman, Kaydie. Ain’t no way I’m gonna die and let you go free! When you said ‘I do,’ it meant that you were bound to me forever!” He gritted his teeth and gripped her arm even tighter.
“No, Darius! No!”
Kaydie’s eyes popped open, and she stared into the darkness. She could hear her heart thumping in her ears, a sound loud enough to rival cannon fire. She placed her hand over her heart and felt it thudding wildly. Sweat poured down her neck; her hands were damp with moisture, and her forehead was covered in beads of perspiration. It was just a nightmare, she told herself, still breathless with terror. The vision had seemed so real.
Her heart continued to pound as she reached with her other hand and rubbed her belly. “I think it was only a nightmare, little one.” She sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and stood to her feet. Groping in the dark, she made her way to the window and looked outside. The moon and the stars were the only things she could see. Darius and his horse were nowhere in sight.
“Thank You, Lord, that it was just a dream,” Kaydie whispered, then turned around and went back to her bed. Burying her face in her pillow, she whimpered softly, not wanting to wake McKenzie, Zach, and Davey. “Thank You, God, that Darius is not coming back,” she prayed, her voice muffled by the pillow. “Thank You that You are my ‘refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’”
You are safe here, My child, she felt the Lord say to her.
“I know, Lord, but I don’t feel safe—not with the memory of Darius,” she whispered. Turning over on her back, she gazed up at the ceiling, and the words of Psalm 91 filled her heart: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”
Tears of joy slid down Kaydie’s face and onto the pillow. “We’re going to be all right, little one,” she whispered to the baby within her. “We’re going to be all right, because the Lord will keep us safe.” She gently rubbed her belly again, thankful that God had been there when her husband had been tormenting her and had delivered her from him.
Darius was dead, and he wasn’t coming back to take her away. Kaydie had been there. She’d seen it happen. Now, here she was, staying with her beloved sister McKenzie, McKenzie’s husband, Zach Sawyer, and their young son, Davey. Never would Kaydie have guessed that McKenzie would move to the Montana Territory and marry a rancher. For one thing, McKenzie had always despised hard work; for another, she’d had her eye on a wealthy doctor from Boston for years. Yet, from everything Kaydie had seen in her first month at the Sawyer Ranch, McKenzie was happy and wouldn’t trade her life there for anything.
McKenzie had told her that God had changed her heart. Kaydie smiled at the memory because He had changed her heart, as well. She had learned about the Lord from Ethel, the woman who had taken her in after Darius’s death and given her a steady dose of God’s Word. That solid foundation had stayed with Kaydie, and she yearned to know more about her Creator day by day. Yes, she had grown up knowing there was a God, but she hadn’t truly experienced Him until Ethel had helped her begin a relationship with Him.
Kaydie turned from one side to the other, unable to fall asleep. In a few short hours, it would be dawn, and she would join the Sawyer family and their hired help at the kitchen table for breakfast. The day she’d met each of the members of McKenzie’s new family filled her mind, and she recalled asking McKenzie in private about each one of them. Fearful of placing herself and her unborn baby in danger again, Kaydie had felt it necessary to find out as much as she could about the people with whom she would be living as long as she stayed with her sister. She felt safe around Zach—and, of course, precious Davey. But the others she wasn’t so sure about, especially the hired man named Jonah, who had met her in downtown Pine Haven and driven her to the Sawyer Ranch the day she’d found McKenzie….
“Thank you, McKenzie, for taking me in like this,” Kaydie said as she sat with her sister on the front porch, sipping tea. The late September air was chilly, but the fresh breeze felt good.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” McKenzie said. She leaned over and put her arm around her sister. “I have missed you something horrible, Kaydie. I thought for a while that I might never see you again.”
“I thought the same thing, myself,” said Kaydie. “I never dreamed you would go to all that trouble to find me. I hoped that you would, but I knew better than to count on it.”
“It happened thanks only to the Lord,” McKenzie said. “Montana Territory is a huge place. I could not have imagined how big it is until I arrived here, and I’ve seen barely a fraction of it. To have found you within its borders is a miracle, indeed.”
“Yes, it is,” Kaydie agreed. “I must have thanked the Lord more times than I can count for rescuing me through you.”
“And I must have thanked the Lord more times than I can count for rescuing you and bringing you to me,” McKenzie said with a giggle.
Kaydie giggled then, too—something she hadn’t done for a long time. Oh, how she had missed her sister! “I think you were the only one in our family who didn’t give up on me,” she said, growing serious again.
“Well, Mother did come out here to take me back to Boston—”
“Thank you, McKenzie.”
“You are more than welcome. Besides, I couldn’t let ‘my baby’ stay lost somewhere in the uncivilized Montana Territory forever!”
Kaydie giggled again. “I think Mother feared you would call me ‘my baby’ as long as you lived!”
“Mother feared a lot of things,” said McKenzie. “However, I don’t think she ever counted on my leaving our home in Boston to become a wife on the wild frontier and then falling in love with a rancher!”
Kaydie smiled and shook her head. “No, I don’t believe she did, or her worst fear would have come true.”
“I think the worst thing, though, would have been for Peyton to have done the same thing we did—follow a man to the ends of the earth and forsake our privileged upbringing.”
“Oh, Peyton never would have done such a thing.” Kaydie rolled her eyes. “Perhaps she isn’t our true sister. She’s so different from us.”
“She’s our true sister, just unique. I pray for her daily that she will someday find true joy.”
“It would take a completely different outlook on her part—as well as the part of Maxwell—for that to happen,” Kaydie said. She thought of her oldest sister’s uppity, prudish husband. “Speaking of husbands, Zach seems like a good one,” she said, choosing to change the subject to something more positive.
“He is. I’m blessed beyond belief, Kaydie. It took me so long to see the gem that he is. Someday, I’ll have to share the entire story with you. To think that I could have missed out on him because of my own pride and stubbornness….” She shivered.
“I’m happy for you, McKenzie.”
“Someday, God will give you a love like that, Kaydie.”
“Oh, I think the days of courtship and marriage are over for me. I have my little one to think about now.”
“I know marriage is the furthest thing from your mind right now, especially in light of the horrid circumstances in which you found yourself while married to Darius. Still, I have faith that someday God will bless you with the husband He’s planned for you all along.”
“I suppose I might reconsider marriage—when I’m forty-five,” Kaydie said, laughing. But she wasn’t kidding. Never again would she trust a man, especially with her heart. She now had not only herself to consider, but also—and more important—her baby. How many times had she thanked the Lord that her baby hadn’t been born while Darius was alive? She shuddered at the realization that her survival—and her baby’s survival—would have been unlikely, at best, if she had remained with Darius. No, never again would Kaydie be so foolish as to fall in love. Things like true love happened only to others, like McKenzie, and not to her. Such a thought might have in the past bothered her, but not now. She was content in the thought of being reunited with the sister she loved and of soon becoming a mother.
“I will tell you whose marriage is a wonderful model: Asa and Rosemary’s,” McKenzie said. “They both have taught me so much about a marriage that’s centered on God, and they’ve been married pretty close to forever.”
“Yes, it was so nice to meet them yesterday,” Kaydie said. “They seemed quite friendly and charitable.”
“They are. I wasn’t fond of Rosemary at first, and I didn’t really know Asa, since he works with Zach outside most of the time, but once I became acquainted with them, I realized the treasures they are. They have both taught me so much—especially Rosemary. She’s like the mother we never had. No offense to Mother, for I know she tried the best she knew how to raise us, but Rosemary…she’s different. She has always been so accepting of me, even when I didn’t accept her. She taught me how to cook and stitch and how to survive in a home so different from anything I had ever known. She and Asa are like grandparents to Davey, and I believe Zach has all but adopted them as a second set of parents, even though he speaks very well of his parents, who, as I told you, are deceased.”
“I think I shall like Rosemary, too,” Kaydie said. “And Asa does seem like a good father figure.”
“That he is. His Irish accent makes him unique in these parts. I think Rosemary confided to me once that was one of the things that drew her to him when they began courting so many years ago.”
“They live just down the road, right?” Kaydie asked.
“Yes, they do. It’s nice having them so close. I know you’ll come to love Rosemary as much as I do.” McKenzie paused. “And then there’s Jonah Dickenson, the other hired man. He’s a hard worker, always willing to help. He lives alone in the bunkhouse.”
“He makes me nervous,” Kaydie admitted.
“Jonah?” McKenzie asked. “Why do you say that?”
“When he brought me here from town yesterday, there was just something about him…I can’t place my finger on it, exactly, but it was odd.”
“I’m not sure what it could be, Kaydie. He’s never been anything but polite, and Zach doesn’t know what he would do without him. I think the two of them have become brothers, in a way. When Davey’s father, Will, died, I think Jonah slipped into the spot he’d had in Zach’s heart.”
“I think it’s wonderful that Zach adopted Davey after his parents died,” Kaydie said.
“Yes. A man who accepts another’s child as his own is a special man, indeed. Of course, who wouldn’t want Davey for a son? I loved him almost immediately.”
“So, you don’t think I need to be afraid of Jonah?”
“I honestly don’t, Kaydie, but if he makes you uncomfortable, you are within your rights to keep your distance. If he ever does anything….” McKenzie paused. “If he ever lays a hand on you or anything else, tell Zach or me right away. Promise?”
“I promise,” said Kaydie.
“But, again, I don’t see any reason to fear him. He’s a godly man with a heart the size of the Montana Territory. I think you’ll discover that for yourself once you get to know him.”
Kaydie nodded but still wasn’t convinced.
Historical fiction, along with Amish fiction, is my most favorite of genres, so I love jumping at the chances to read new ones and travel back in time. So, that’s what I did with this one and boy, was I pleased! While McKenzie, book 1 in the Montana Skies series, needed some improvement, Kaydie did not. Penny Zeller’s second novel shows that her talent is better than before and really captured me this time! I really enjoyed the feeling of having the chance to travel back to the time of train travel and horses.
Kaydie’s story picks up exactly where McKenzie’s left off. I fell in love with her character instantly and prayed for her through out the novel. I really loved having the chance to watch her grow in trusting more and more people after being an abused wife. God’s guidance and love spoke volumes in this sweet story, especially as Kaydie finds a friend in the God-fearing man, Jonah (of course, I am partial to characters named Jonah since that is my sons name ;-)!).
All in all, Zeller’s work was fantabulous this time around. I definitely recommend this book to all with 5 star praises. I’m looking forward to many more books from this new author, especially another installment in this sweet series!