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!
Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.
Visit the author’s website.
Once childhood friends, Ben Haynes is taken with Amelia Carlyle when he runs into her at her sister’s wedding. Although he will be returning to Kansas and life on his father’s ranch, Ben calls on Amelia several times, and they find they have more in common than they first realized. As he leaves for Kansas, they promise to write.
Back in Kansas, Ben begins to save money toward a home for Amelia even though he has not made his intentions known. He’s relying on God to make a way. Meanwhile, Amelia is presented to society and has several young men vying for her attention.
Although Ben has captured Amelia’s heart, her parents make every effort to discourage the relationship, even forbidding Amelia to correspond with him. Amelia tells Ben that she will wait for him as long as it takes, but will the love and loss they experience along the way bring them closer or drive them apart forever?
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (January 3, 2012)
Saturday, August 19, 1876
Amelia Carlyle’s face ached from the smile pasted on
Uit for the last three-quarters of an hour. Would this
ceremony never end? She balanced first on one foot and then the other to relieve the pain caused by the white satin pumps Amanda had insisted Amelia must wear.
Amanda’s face glowed with the radiance of the love she had for Charles Scott Bishop, the man who became her husband today. If that love ever happened to Amelia, and she decided to marry, it’d be a small and simple wed ding without all this pomp and circumstance.
At last the minister pronounced them husband and wife, and Charles leaned forward to kiss his bride. Amelia’s thoughts went immediately to the buffet to be served at the reception. Mama and Papa had spared no expense for their oldest daughter’s wedding, and Amelia anticipated the spread of lobster, roast beef, croissants, and wedding cake.
Amanda and Charles made their way back up the aisle, and Amelia dreaded walking even that short distance in her shoes, but she put on another smile and made it to the front steps of the church where carriages waited to take them to the hotel for the reception.
Once they arrived, guests mingled and greeted the bride and groom, but Amelia found the closest table and sat down to slip off her shoes. Her white-stockinged toes wiggled in great relief to be free of their bindings. She turned her back to the room to hide her most unseemly behavior, but comfort won over decorum. She lifted her skirts to run her fingers along the arch of one foot, which relaxed in contentment. Of course if anyone asked her to dance later, she may not be able to squeeze her feet back into the slippers, but she had seen no one with whom she cared to dance anyway.
“Excuse me, Miss Carlyle?”
Amelia snatched the hem of her skirt and yanked it down to cover her legs and feet. She whirled around to find herself looking up into eyes so dark brown, they were almost black. The man towered over her with broad shoul- ders that blocked any view of the room behind him. A tingling started in her toes and progressed its way to her heart. Why had she not noticed this handsome young man before? “Yes, I’m Miss Carlyle, but I do believe you have the advantage.” His smile sent even more tremors through her bones. “I . . . I don’t recall having met you before.”
“Of course you don’t. You were twelve, and I was a skinny fourteen-year-old. Neither of us paid much attention to the other when we last met at my grandparents’ home for dinner after church one Sunday. My name’s Benjamin Haynes.”
Benjamin Haynes, of course, the son of her parents’ best friends of school days, but what was he doing in Boston? His family lived in Kansas. “Oh, yes, that was a few years ago. Have you moved back here?”
He grinned, and his eyes sparkled with amusement. “No, but my parents found your sister’s wedding to be the perfect opportunity for a return trip, and I must say now I’m glad I came along.”
Heat rose in her cheeks, and her tongue turned to mush. She simply stared back at him with what she hoped was not a stupid smile. What if he asked her to dance? Her feet crossed and rubbed against one another beneath her dress. She’d never get her feet back into those shoes.
“May I get you some refreshment?”
Amelia nodded. “A . . . a cup of punch would be nice.” As he turned to carry out the request, she groaned. Another thing she’d forgotten, no buffet table without her shoes. If she dared walk across the floor without them, her skirt would drag and give away her secret. As if in protest, her stomach grumbled and sent a wave of hunger pangs to her brain. All that food so near, yet it may as well be in another town for all the good it did her seated across the room.
Her gaze landed on Benjamin at the serving table. Although she vaguely remembered him from his last visit, he appeared much taller and was certainly more hand- some than he had been then. His dark brown hair even curled slightly at the neckline. Of course she hadn’t been truly interested in boys at that time. Being noticed by him created a bit of delight in her now.
Benjamin returned, not only with a cup of punch, but also with a plate filled with some of her favorites from the buffet array. “I thought you might not want to cross the floor to the serving table without your shoes, so I brought it to you. I hope you like what I selected.”
Heat again filled her face. He’d noticed her shoeless feet and had sought to save her further embarrassment by being so polite. For that her stomach thanked him. “Thank you, Mr. Haynes. This will do quite nicely, but what about you? When will you eat?”
“If you’ll allow me, I’ll get my plate and rejoin you.” “I’d like that very much, thank you.” Her heart beat
in double time as he returned to the buffet and made his own selections. His broad shoulders hinted at the muscles and strength that must be hidden beneath the sleeves of the black suit he wore. The evening took on a whole new interest, and Amelia tucked her feet well beneath her skirts to keep them hidden from view.
When he returned, he sat in the chair next to hers. Miracles of miracles, no one asked to join them, and they remained alone. Her father may have a few words about that later, but for the time being, Amelia planned to enjoy every minute she could have with Mr. Benjamin Haynes.
He spread a napkin across his lap. “Tell me, Miss Haynes, what have you been doing since the last time I saw you?”
It had only been a little more than five years ago, but it may as well have been a lifetime for all Amelia could remember. Her mind a blank, she could only stare at him.
He must think her to be a complete ninny. She cleared her throat. “In school, but of what interest could that possibly be to you? I would imagine your life has been much more eventful and interesting.”
Benjamin grinned at her and sipped his punch. He set the cup back on the table and cocked his head to one side. “My life has been herding cattle and getting them to market as well as bustin’ broncos to have horses to ride.”
“Now that sounds a lot more exciting than going to school, taking piano lessons, and learning to embroider.” She pictured him herding cattle or riding a bucking horse. An appealing image.
A young man approached the table, and Amelia cringed. The last person she wanted to see wore a deter- mined expression on his face. Rudolph, Charles’s brother, wanted to dance, but his surly attitude the night before at a family dinner had frightened Amelia in a way she couldn’t quite explain.
He stopped beside Amelia and Benjamin. “Miss Carlyle, may I have the honor of this dance with you?” His dark eyes held nothing but malice even though his words were polite.
She stuck a shoeless foot out from under her dress. “I’m sorry, Mr. Bishop, but I don’t have my shoes on and have decided not to dance this evening. I’m sure you under- stand I can’t be on the dance floor in my stocking feet.”
He glared at her for a moment, then, without a word, swiveled on his heel and strode across the room. Amelia shivered, thankful she had removed her shoes.
“I must say, that was rude.” Benjamin frowned after the man.
Amelia nodded then smiled at Benjamin. “He’s Charles’s brother, and I’m glad I didn’t have to dance with him.” She picked up a pastry. “Let’s enjoy ourselves and not think about rude men like Rudolph Bishop.” Indeed, she wanted to know everything she could learn about Benjamin Haynes.
Ben wanted to know more about this intriguing young woman he’d known in childhood. Until his father decided to pick up stakes and head west to start his own ranch, the Carlyle and Haynes families had spent many week- ends together as his father and Mr. Carlyle had been close friends and schoolmates.
How thankful he was now that he had not insisted that he be left behind to help the ranch hands with the herds. If he had, he would not be sitting across from the lovely young woman in a pink dress.
“Amelia, do you remember the week my family left for Kansas? Your parents gave a wonderful farewell party for us. Of course you were only five, but I hoped you might recall that night.” If she did remember, he might find him- self in trouble as he had delighted in pulling her golden brown curls more than once just to see her reaction, and she hadn’t disappointed. She had stomped her foot and hit him each time until his mother corralled him the third time and made him stay by her side.
Amelia chewed a piece of pastry and narrowed her eyes at him. She swallowed and pursed her lips. “Was that the time you kept pulling my curls?”
Heat rose in his face. “You do remember. I apologize for my awful behavior that evening, but you looked so cute with those long curls hanging down from that big yellow bow.”
Amelia laughed. “I forgive you, but it hurt that last time, and I wanted to cry. I wasn’t about to let you see me in tears, and I believe your mother took care of you. Mary Beth and I had fun after that.”
“Yes, Mama made sure I stayed by her side, and I didn’t have much fun the rest of the evening. I’m glad you did though. Then your family came to the railway station to see us off on our adventure westward.” That had been some scene with both their mothers crying and their fathers promising to keep in touch.
“Oh yes, I recall how afraid I was of that big engine with its smoke and loud whistle. When it started up and began rolling on the track, I hid behind Mama’s skirt, but I saw you wave at us from the window. I thought you were so brave to move away like that with your family.”
“It was quite the adventure.” And one he would never forget. He held no regret at all for leaving Boston all those years ago.
He glanced up to see his sister headed their way. He didn’t often get to see her so dressed up with her dark hair piled on her head. He grinned when she squealed and grabbed Amelia, her brown eyes dancing with pleasure. “I’ve been looking all over for you. I should have known Ben would have you all to himself.”
Amelia hugged the girl in return. “Mary Beth, I’m so glad to see you. I spotted you at the church when we went back up the aisle. Sit down and join us.”
Benjamin shook his head and glared at Mary Beth, but she paid him no mind and plopped down in the chair on the other side of Amelia. “I’d be delighted. What has my big brother been telling you? I could reveal a few of his secrets if you’d like to hear about some of his antics.”
“We were just talking about one on the night we had that party before you left.”
“Oh, yes, that was some fun watching him get into trouble.” Mary Beth grabbed Amelia’s hands. “How I wish you could have come out to visit us, and I wish we could have come back to Boston more often. Ben almost didn’t come with us, but Pa persuaded him. I’m really sorry we haven’t kept in closer touch.”
Amelia glanced at him and grinned in a way he could only call wicked. “To think we might have missed reminiscing about old times if you’d stayed back with the cows. What a shame that would have been, Mr. Haynes.”
Again heat rose in his cheeks, but he would not let her teasing get to him. “Since we’re such old friends, call me Ben; everybody else does.”
“All right, Ben it is.” Then she turned back to his sister. “Now, tell me what it’s like living on a ranch with all those cattle and horses.”
Ben groaned. Once Mary Beth started, he’d never get a word into the conversation. He may as well just enjoy his food and listen to their prattle. At least he could sit back and show interest in what Amelia had to say without being obvious with his attraction to her.
Her chestnut hair sat piled on top of her head in an elaborate arrangement that must have taken hours to accomplish. Two long curls like those of long ago hung down in the back from the curls amassed atop her head. His fingers itched to reach over and pull one of them as he had when she was five. Now seventeen, she had become a beautiful young lady with a sense of humor and a smile that could melt the heart of any man in her presence.
He blinked his eyes and shook his head as Amelia squealed with delight and clapped her hands. He stared at his sister. “What was that you said about staying in Boston?”
“Ma and Grandmama talked with me last night, and
Pa agreed. I can stay here for the social season this fall.” “Isn’t it wonderful, Ben? Mary Beth and I can do so
many things together and have fun, and I’m sure there will be lots of parties.”
Ben narrowed his eyes. “I’m sure there will be.” This was the first he’d heard of any desire from Mary Beth to come back here. She loved the ranch, or at least he’d thought so.
“What will Ma and Aunt Clara do without you?” She’d been such a big help to them that he couldn’t imagine life without her around.
“They’ll get along just fine. After all, there aren’t any more babies to care for. Gideon, Grace Ann, and Billy are old enough to care for themselves, so they don’t need me looking after them all the time.”
That was true. With his youngest brother now eight years old and in school, no more children stayed at home needing care. Ma and Aunt Clara would manage just fine. Still, he had a difficult time believing his pa would let his oldest daughter live so far away.
Amelia and Mary Beth sat with heads close together discussing all the things they wanted to do in the coming months when Mary Beth would be presented to society just as her mother and grandmother had been before her. Then a bright side occurred to him. With Mary Beth here, that could mean Ma taking more trips to see her. Pa wouldn’t want to leave the ranch, so that would leave Ben to accompany Ma on such trips.
More trips to Boston meant more opportunity to see Amelia Haynes. Of course, he’d have to gain permission from her parents, but that shouldn’t be a problem since their families were longtime friends. The future began to look brighter and brighter. This had been the best trip he’d taken in a long time, and he looked forward to many more like it—that is, if Amelia agreed to his calling on her.