Bookish Musings, Banter & More
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!
About the Author:
Christy Award winner Angela Hunt writes books for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected. With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of The Tale of Three Trees, The Note (which became a Hallmark holiday film), and more than 100 other titles. Angela has won gold and silver medals from ForeWord magazineâ€™s Book of the Year Award and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from a major readersâ€™ magazine. (ISBN#9781414332956, 228pp, $13.99)
She transferred her gaze to the computer monitor and fluttered her fingers over the keyboard. Some days the magic worked and the words flowed. Other days she might as well be typing gibberish.
She skimmed the half-completed column on her screen and tried to focus her thoughts. Last week a reader had written that she was afraid to trust a brother-in-law who had stolen from her in the past. Peyton had answered that forgiveness was important, but experience could not be ignored. And when it came to matters of the heart, caution should always trump passion. Dozens of readers had e-mailed, filling her in-box with responses, most of them supportive.
Now she was working on a recap that included reader comments, but everything sheâ€™d written so far looked like extended self-congratulation. She needed a corroborating opinion . . . and any column could be improved with an appropriate quote, couldnâ€™t it? She reached for her dictionary of popular quotations, scanned the index, and jabbed her finger at an appropriate entry. Smiling with satisfaction, she propped her reading glasses on the end of her nose and worked the quote into her piece:
And so, dear readers, when it comes to dealing with relationships, perhaps we should keep the words of Eumenides in mind. That venerable sage once wrote, â€œThere are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heartâ€™s controls. There is advantage in the wisdom won from pain.â€
Perhaps a happy heart is, at its core, a cautious heart.
There. She leaned back and clicked the word count tool. Seven hundred wordsâ€”not bad. The dragon lady shouldnâ€™t have to cut any of this column.
After a quick proofread, Peyton clicked Send and addressed the file to Nora Chilton, senior features editor. Another click and away it went.
She turned as something slapped the surface of her desk. Mandi Hillridge, an overenthusiastic intern from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, stood in the aisle, her arms filled with folders. Peyton picked up the envelope Mandi had tossed her way and studied the return address. â€œAm I supposed to know this Eve Miller?â€
Mandi shifted her burden from one arm to the other. â€œI doubt it. I think sheâ€™s a reader.â€
Peyton ran her fingertip across the ragged edge. â€œWhy has this letter been opened?â€
â€œBecause Phil Brinker didnâ€™t check the address before he tore into it. Our stellar mailroom staff mistakenly delivered it to him while he was in New York working on that story about the media covering the media. He just got back and told me to bring it to you.â€ Mandi stepped closer, her eyes gleaming. â€œYou want me to go fuss at the guys in the mailroom? One of themâ€™s kinda cute.â€
Peyton glanced over the short walls of the reportersâ€™ cubicles and saw Nora stepping out of the elevator. â€œNo.â€ She propped both elbows up on her desk. â€œI want you to get me two Tylenol. Extra strength.â€
â€œYou have a headache?â€
Mandi turned in time to see Nora approaching, a folded newspaper in hand. Even from her desk Peyton recognized the distinctive banner that contained her byline and staff photo. Had Nora come down to complain about a column that had already run? She wouldnâ€™t, unless one of the higher-ups sent her to confront Peyton about some obscure point.
â€œAbout that headacheâ€”â€ Mandi lowered her voiceâ€”â€œIâ€™ll bring the bottle.â€
The young woman hurried away as Nora approached Peytonâ€™s desk. The editor waved the paper before Peytonâ€™s anxious gaze and nodded. â€œBy the way, about this column last week? You were absolutely right.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a nice change.â€ Peyton managed a smile. â€œAbout what?â€
â€œPassion. It should always be tempered with caution. Especially when it comes to affairs of the heart.â€
Peyton straightened in her chair, not certain why the editor had felt compelled to personally deliver this bit of elaboration. â€œYou speaking from conviction or firsthand experience?â€
Nora managed a coy smile. â€œNone of your business. Anyway, youâ€™ve been doing really good work lately. I had my doubts at first, but youâ€™ve grown into the job.â€
â€œYou came all the way down here to pat me on the back?â€
â€œActually, I came down here to tell you that in addition to writing the Heart Healer, Iâ€™m going to need you to handle a feature or two for the Lifestyles section. We got the call last night; Marlo Evans had a baby boy, so sheâ€™ll be out on maternity leave for the next several weeks.â€
Peyton dropped her head to her hand and groaned. â€œWhy not use freelancers?â€
â€œBecause I donâ€™t have the patience or the finances to deal with neophytes. The budget cuts have made it necessary for all of us to pick up the slack now and then. Besidesâ€”â€ her mouth curved in a wry smileâ€”â€œyouâ€™re fast and youâ€™re good at researching. A feature or two shouldnâ€™t be a problem for you.â€
â€œBut Iâ€™m swamped withâ€”â€ Peyton swallowed the rest of her complaint as sports editor King Danville moved into her line of vision. A warm feeling settled in the pit of her stomach and brought a smile to her lips. Would she ever stop feeling all gushy and girly whenever King approached her desk?
King glanced at the features editor before returning Peytonâ€™s smile. â€œHello, Nora.â€
Noraâ€™s chin dipped in a stiff nod. â€œKingston.â€
Like a flower seeking the sun, Peyton shifted to face the man who had recently brought new joy to her life. â€œI was just telling Nora that these days I donâ€™t have time to keep up with my column and write a weekly feature, no matter how occasional it is.â€
Nora glanced from Peyton to King and then arched a brow. â€œPerhaps if you temper your newfound passion, youâ€™ll find the time.â€
King grinned as the editor smiled and moved toward the elevator; then he pulled a white bottle from his jacket pocket and shook it. Peyton placed the familiar rattle within seconds: Extra Strength Tylenol, as requested.
â€œRan into Mandi in the coffee room,â€ King explained. â€œShe said you were going to need these.â€
â€œShe was right.â€ Peyton sighed. â€œNora seems to think I can sit down and whip up a decent feature while Iâ€™m outlining my next column. I donâ€™t know where she got the idea that Iâ€™m some kind of writing machine.â€
â€œMaybe from the fact that you write so fast you make the rest of us look like weâ€™re moving backward.â€
Peyton shook her head, unwilling to accept praise she didnâ€™t deserve. She knew the truthâ€”she could turn an assignment around quickly because outside the newspaper office she had no life. While other writers struggled to work amid the pressures of family schedules, childrenâ€™s homework, school events, sporting activities, and the needs of a spouse, Peyton only had to take care of herself and her two cats.
At least thatâ€™s the way things were before King and Christine came into her life. The situation was a little different now, and she was feeling the pressure.
â€œIâ€™m not that fast,â€ she insisted. â€œAnd Iâ€™m not that versatile.â€
â€œThen donâ€™t cave so quickly, MacGruder. Just because Noraâ€™s your boss doesnâ€™t mean you have to let her push you around.â€
â€œI was ready to push back until she played the guilt card. When she mentioned the budget cuts, I realized how lucky I am to even be employed. How can I not agree to write whatever she wants?â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I like about youâ€”youâ€™re a solid team player.â€
â€œIâ€™m a pushover.â€
King smiled and stepped to the side of Peytonâ€™s desk. â€œIn that case, Iâ€™d better prescribe two of theseâ€”â€ he held up the bottle of pain relieversâ€”â€œor one of these.â€ Before Peyton could point out that they were surrounded by coworkers in cubicles, he bent and pressed a kiss to her lips. She closed her eyes, ready to forget about an audience of staff reporters, clerks, and copy editors, but the kiss didnâ€™t last.
She looked up at him, unsatisfied.
â€œDo any good?â€ he asked.
â€œNot sure. Try again. Maybe increase the dosage.â€
He bent, his lips warming hers with more passion this time. When he finally pulled away, Peyton exhaled a long sigh of happiness . . . and the writers around her erupted into applause.
Peyton grinned as her cheeks warmed. â€œThey approve.â€
â€œI donâ€™t give a fig about them. What did you think?â€
â€œUm . . . better.â€
â€œOnly better? Well, you know what they say about practice making perfect . . .â€
As the other reporters hooted and King leaned in for yet another kiss, Peyton pressed her palm against the center of his chest. â€œYou know, itâ€™s this kind of temptation that led to Marlo Evansâ€™s maternity leave. And in turn, to my impending headache. So maybe we should get back to work.â€
With a roguish grin, King straightened and stepped away from her chair. â€œYes, maâ€™am.â€
â€œBut after workâ€”â€ Peyton squinted at himâ€”â€œwould you want to go for a jog with me and Christine? We wanted to run the paths down by the shoreline.â€
King shook his head. â€œEnticing offer, but Iâ€™ve got to run out to the university after I finish up today. David needs to talk to me about something. He says itâ€™s important.â€
Peyton nodded, once again reminded that their relationship was not as simple as it would have been if theyâ€™d met in their twenties. She had Christine to consider, and King had David. Both children, hers and his, were nearly grown, and both had been forced to deal with the aftermath of their parentsâ€™ unwise decisions.
â€œMacGruder.â€ Kingâ€™s voice, warm and insistent, drew her from her thoughts. â€œMaybe Iâ€™ll stop by your place later.â€
â€œIâ€™d like that.â€ Peyton offered him a forgiving smile. â€œIâ€™ll be waiting.â€
King took two steps toward his office, then halted. â€œHeyâ€”â€ he turned, propping his arms on the cubicle wallâ€”â€œI found an interesting e-mail in my in-box this morning. A friend in New York said my name recently came up in a board meeting at the Times.â€
Peyton felt a frigid finger touch the base of her spine. â€œThe New York Times?â€
He chuckled. â€œHard to imagine, huh? Moving from the Middleborough Times to the Gray Lady?â€
â€œYour name came up in a board meeting? What does that mean, exactly?â€
He shrugged. â€œI donâ€™t know, but Iâ€™ll keep you posted.â€
As he walked away, exchanging gibes with other writers as he passed their desks, Peyton felt fear blow down the back of her neck. Any other journalist would be salivating at the thought of writing for the Times, but King never seemed to get ahead of himself. Contentment was one of his primary virtues, and Peyton hadnâ€™t realized how much sheâ€™d been counting on his ability to remain satisfied with the status quo.
What would she do if she lost him?
The thought struck like a blow to the chest, stealing her breath. Until recently, she had managed to keep herself detached from complicated personal relationships. But then the tragedy of a horrific plane crash taught her about the brevity of life and the importance of connection. Now she was desperate to understand two precious people, but understanding took time, and time was something she no longer possessed in abundance.
She forced herself to take a deep breath and steady her pulse. No one was abandoning her; the world had not shifted on its axis. Her imagination was simply working overtime, a tendency that nearly always resulted in needless worry and borrowed trouble.
With her gift for imagining disaster, maybe she should have been a novelist.
When she swiveled toward her computer, determined to set her fears aside and tackle her e-mail, her gaze fell again on the envelope from Eve Miller. The postmark was five days in the past, so by now the womanâ€™s comments were old news. And in an electronic society, old news was dead news.
Peyton tossed the envelope into a bin filled with unopened letters and turned her attention to her in-box.
Peyton slid behind the wheel of her car, tossed her purse into the empty passenger seat, and fumbled with the buckle of her seat belt. When she was certain the carâ€™s computer wouldnâ€™t scold her for forgetting some vital procedure, she turned the ignition switch and waited for the automatic seat to slide forward, tilt, rise, and whatever else it did to adjust to her frame.
King had talked her into buying this vehicle last weekend, insisting that her old car was only a few miles away from imploding. â€œNinety-eight thousand miles?â€ he exclaimed after glimpsing her odometer. â€œGood grief, MacGruder, are you going for some kind of endurance record?â€
She had to admit the new vehicle was nice, but its myriad bells and whistles bewildered her. She hadnâ€™t taken the time to read the manual, and she barely managed to sit through the salesmanâ€™s demonstration. â€œI donâ€™t have time to fuss with fancy gadgets,â€ she told the desperate young man who had greeted her and King at the auto dealership. â€œSo just point me toward something safe and inexpensive. Something I wonâ€™t have to give up chocolate to afford.â€
Like a village matchmaker, the salesman grinned and fixed her up with this sleek blue machine, which he kept calling a crossoverâ€”a cross between a sedan and an SUV. She had a feeling the vehicle was too big to be economical or politically correct, but since an entire row of similar vehicles waited behind a fence at the dealership, the manager was probably eager to move his inventory. Regardless, the car earned good crash ratings, it used less gasoline than a tank, and it had the one accessory she couldnâ€™t live without: a CD player.
Before putting the car in gear, Peyton punched the button of the stereo system and relaxed when the professional readerâ€™s voice poured through the surround sound speakers. Sheâ€™d bought this audiobook about mothers and daughters shortly after telling Christine the truth about their relationshipâ€”yes, they were reporter and reader, but they were also biological mother and daughter. Eighteen years and difficult circumstances had kept them apart, but a series of newspaper columns had brought them back together.
Now Peyton wanted nothing more than to be the mother she would have been if tragedy hadnâ€™t intervened. A heaven-sent miracle had restored the child sheâ€™d been forced to surrender for adoption, and Peyton didnâ€™t want to forfeit this second chance to love. And parent. And occasionally nag.
She and Christine were still in the midst of that awkward getting-to-know-you phase, but Peyton felt theyâ€™d made great strides in their relationship. They tried to talk every day, even if only briefly, and though Christine still lived in the house sheâ€™d inherited from her adoptive parents, she felt free enough to drop into Peytonâ€™s home unannounced, as any daughter naturally would.
Still, Christine rarely called Peyton â€œMom.â€ When necessary, she called Peyton by name . . . or she didnâ€™t call her anything at all.
â€œBy late adolescence,â€ a confident voice intoned as Peyton put the car in gear and backed out of the parking space, â€œmost daughters can be placed in one of three categoriesâ€”distant, dissatisfied, or dependent. Do any of these words remind you of the young woman in your life?â€
Peyton shook her head and shifted into drive. The author needed a fourth category for Christineâ€”maybe delightful. They were still in the honeymoon phase, each of them unbearably grateful to have found the other. They might have disagreements laterâ€”in fact, they probably wouldâ€”but for now Peyton was thrilled to be able to know and love the young woman who had never been far from her thoughts and prayers.
â€œOutstanding mothers devote most of their time to their children, instilling healthy values into daughters who will become outstanding mothers themselves,â€ the reader continued, â€œbut unsuitable mothers abandon and abuse.â€
Peyton winced at the authorâ€™s use of the word abandon.
â€œBottom line, if you provide your child with what she needsâ€”clothing, shelter, food, affectionâ€”you, concerned mother, are off the hook if your daughter makes unwise decisions. After you have taught your child right from wrong, your daughter has the freedom to choose . . . right or wrong. Do not blame yourself if she chooses to learn lifeâ€™s lessons through negative experiences.â€
Peyton frowned as she pulled out of the parking lot and into traffic. Over the years, sheâ€™d covered dozens of stories involving teenage delinquentsâ€”wayward boys who got mixed up with guns and drugs, runaway girls who ended up on the street or in the hospital because they went looking for love in all the wrong faces. Behind every sad teenagerâ€™s story, Peyton found a distraught mother who couldnâ€™t seem to understand how her child ended up in such a deplorable state.
She hated to admit it, but every time she interviewed one of those mothers, sheâ€™d walked away feeling resentful and slightly smug, convinced that she would have managed better if only given a chance. But now that she was being given an opportunity to mother a teen, she had no idea what she was supposed to do.
To make matters worse, her time of greatest influence would be limited. After the plane crash in which her father died, Christine had taken time off to grieve, but soon sheâ€™d go back to school and get busy with her studies. Sheâ€™d probably meet a young man on campus and want to settle down. Then sheâ€™d center her world on her husband and her children, and sheâ€™d expect Peyton to focus on being a doting grandmother, not a mom. So this precious opportunity to parent her daughter would be relatively short-lived.
Peyton pulled up to the red light at an intersection and snapped off the CD player. The bookstores were loaded with books about how to parent newborns, toddlers, middle schoolers, and teens, but no one had much advice for brand-new parents of young adults.
No one even seemed to be able to answer Peytonâ€™s most basic question: at eighteen, which did Christine need most: an authority figure or a friend?
Copyright Â©2009 by Angela Hunt. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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