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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Warm, Life-affirming Historical Novel!

CONGRATULATIONS TO Sherrinda Ketchersid FOR WINNING A COPY OF THE PREACHER'S WIFE!!!

This month, I'm delighted to present The Preacher's Wife by Cheryl St. John. Cheryl is one of my fellow Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical authors. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. No wild chases or explosions, just a solid story of how God works in those who surrender their lives to Him. Here's the story:
There was nothing remotely romantic about widowed father Samuel Hart's marriage proposal. Yet Josie Randolph said yes. The Lord had finally blessed the lonely widow with the family she'd always dreamed of. And she was deeply in love with the handsome preacher, whose high ideals inspired everyone. Surely during their long journey across the western plains to his new post her husband would grow to love her. Each mile brought them closer to home, yet drove them further apart. Samuel didn't seem ready to open his heart again. But Josie was determined to be not just the preacher's wife, but Samuel's wife.

An excerpt from The Preacher’s Wife, Cheryl St.John
READ CHAPTER ONE
CHAPTER ONE
Durham, Nebraska, June 1869


Only her husband's physical body lay beneath the lush grass in the fenced-in cemetery behind the tiny white church. His spirit had gone on to be with the Lord, but her mother-in-law insisted that Sunday afternoons were for paying respects to the dead. Josephine Randolph knelt and pulled a fledgling weed from beside the flat piece of granite engraved with her husband's name.

Margaretta slipped a lace-edged hankie from the hidden pocket of her emerald-green dress and dabbed her eyes. "He was too young," she said for the thousandth time. "Too young to lose his life."

Josie nodded. It had been three years, and while she had mourned her husband's death and missed his company, there were no tears left. She had loved him. She had been a good wife. But in his affections she had always taken second place to her mother-in-law. She hastened to remind herself that losing a son or daughter was devastating. Margaretta had lost her only child. Of course the woman was still suffering.

"It would be easier if I could take comfort in the fact that he'd left behind a living legacy."

Knowing and dreading what was coming next, Josie got up and brushed her palms together.

Margaretta sniffed into her hankie. "Your inability to give me a grandchild is almost more than I can bear."

Josie turned her gaze to the countryside, spotted an orange and black butterfly and watched it flutter on the breeze as she steeled herself.

"A child would have been a part of him I could hold on to. If only right now I could be caring for a little boy or girl with Bram's features. I would have so loved to watch him grow. His child would have been such a comfort to me."

Josie wanted to cry, too. She wanted to rail at the woman who made her feel every inch as insignificant as her son had. Didn't Margaretta think a child would have been a comfort to her, as well? Didn't she know that Josie's loneliness was eating her up on the inside? Didn't she think Josie wanted more out of life than… than… this?

Momentarily, she closed her eyes against the painfully blue summer sky. She'd never wanted anything more than a family of her own. She'd spent her entire childhood waiting for her circuit-judge father to return home. The times he had, he'd spared her only meager attention before leaving again.

Because Bram Randolph had been a local newspaperman, she'd known he wouldn't be a traveler. She'd married him with the hope of a secure future. Time had proven Bram more concerned with the whims of Margaretta than the needs of his young wife, however. And that was the simple fact.

"You are coming to the house for dinner, aren't you?"

And be exposed to yet another opportunity for Margaretta to pursue her weekly harangue about Josie's barrenness? Josie opened her eyes. "I'm fixing a stew for Reverend Martin," she replied matter-of-factly. "I'll stay and keep him company."

"He seems to be recovering well." Margaretta smoothed the fingers of her beaded gloves. "Whatever you're doing must be working."

Josie managed a smile. "God's doing His part, too."

Margaretta gathered the hem of her voluminous skirt and walked across the thick spring grass toward the street.

Josie glanced down and read the headstone again. "Beloved son and husband." Not father. Sometimes she felt so incomplete, so alone. She hadn't given her husband children, and for that glaring inadequacy, Margaretta would never forgive her.

"Have a good afternoon!" she called after the woman.

Margaretta delivered a tepid wave and continued marching toward her home a few blocks away. Josie experienced the same relief she always did when her obligatory mourning session and weekly dressing-down was over. At least she'd had a good reason to forgo lengthening the torment by joining the woman for a meal. Margaretta's house had a cold, depressing atmosphere that matched the woman's attitude.

Josie glanced at the bright blue sky with a longing that was rising up so swift and strong that the ache took her breath away. She'd prayed for contentment, but she needed more than this. When she didn't keep busy enough, she daydreamed of impossible things.…

Taking a deep breath, Josie made her way with renewed purpose to the shaded two-story house beside the church. She climbed the back porch steps and let herself in. She'd started a stew earlier, and now checked the savory broth, adding water and salt.

"It's Josie!" she called, removing her bonnet and sweeping along the hallway toward the front of the house.

"Who else would be banging pans in my kitchen?" came the good-natured reply.

She found Reverend Martin in his study, seated where she'd left him, on an overstuffed chair with a plaid wool blanket tucked around his legs. He closed his Bible and removed his spectacles, setting both aside. Last March he'd fallen from the roof of the church while replacing shingles, and had broken several bones, including his collarbone and ribs. A particularly severe break in his leg had become infected, and he'd been bedridden with a fever for weeks. Eventually he'd recovered, and was only now able to move from his bed to the study. The town doctor said it would likely be several more weeks before he'd be strong enough to resume his duties.

She'd always considered him a mentor, but these past weeks had made them friends, as well. "The fire's died down," she said. "I'll get a few logs."

"I can't seem to get warm." He was paler and thinner than before the accident, and the change in such a vital, life-loving man was heartbreaking. The man was probably only in his late thirties, but these past weeks had taken a toll. Josie had dedicated herself to seeing him recover to his former self.

"The stew will warm you from the inside out," she assured him. She took two split logs from the box beside the fireplace and knelt to add them to the fire, then used the poker to adjust the wood until the flames caught and licked up around the sides. The bark snapped in the blaze. Warmth spread from the hearth to where the reverend was sitting.

"That's nice," he said with a grateful smile. "I barely have time to realize a need before you've seen to it."

"It's a privilege to help."

"And a help you are. I don't know what I would do without you."

"God would send someone. But I was available."

He chuckled. "You're a woman of great faith, Josie, but you count yourself a little short."

She seated herself on a nearby ottoman.

"A lot of people are available," he told her. "Few are willing."

She never doubted that God was taking care of the reverend. It was when she thought of her own needs that her confidence got a little shaky. "How about a game of checkers before dinner?" she asked.

He gave her a mock frown and flicked his hand as though shooing away a fly. "Do you think I enjoy your kings chasing my last disk around the board, delaying the inevitable?"

She laughed. "Oh, come now. You win sometimes."

"Only if you feel particularly sorry for me and deliberately pass up chances to jump. We need a new game, one I have a hope of winning."

"Based on chance, rather than skill, Reverend?"

"Didn't I see you and James setting up the board the other evening?"

James, a fatherless lad of about fourteen, came by a few times a week to split wood and perform a few other chores. Josie had quickly sensed that, because his mother worked evenings at the café, James was lonely. She'd offered to teach him the game. "You did. He's fast becoming an apt opponent."

The reverend's enormous calico leaped from its spot on the divan to run through the doorway into the nearest bedroom.

"Must be a caller," the reverend said.

Most everyone knocked at the back door and then walked in, but a rap sounded at the front. Josie and the reverend exchanged a puzzled glance before she got up.

A broad-shouldered man in a brown hat and buckskin jacket stood in the dappled sunlight that filtered through the leaves of the twin maple trees. She had a sudden, swift impression of troubled intensity as his gaze bored into hers.

"Good afternoon, sir," Josie greeted him.

He removed his hat, revealing thick chestnut hair in need of a cut. "Ma'am," he said in greeting. "I'm Samuel Hart. The preacher sent by the First Christian Alliance."

Behind him, three girls of varying ages waited in the street near a dusty team attached to a canvas-covered wagon.

His name registered immediately. "Of course! Come in."

He turned and summoned the girls, the fringe of his jacket swaying as he gestured. The girls she assumed were his daughters were wearing clean but wrinkled clothing, and their hair was neatly tucked beneath stiff-brimmed bonnets.

He handed her his hat, still warm from his head, and she laid it on the hall table before ushering the little troupe into the study. "The interim preacher is here," she said.

Samuel strode forward and shook the elder man's hand. His size and his sun-darkened face and hands made the reverend seem even sicklier in comparison. "Pleased to meet you, sir. These are my daughters. Elisabeth."

Elisabeth was the tallest and oldest, with blue eyes and a full face. Her weary smile was hesitant.

"Abigail." The middle daughter had hair a paler blond than the other two, blue eyes, a narrow face and a prominent chin.

"And Anna." The youngest of the trio possessed wide hazel eyes and a charming smattering of freckles.

A look of confusion wrinkled Reverend Martin's brow. "Josie, didn't the letters say that Samuel was traveling with his wife and family?"

Josie had recalled the same thing. Before she could answer, Samuel Hart said, "My wife died on the way."

The snapping fire was the only sound for a moment.

Anna slipped her hand into Abigail's and the three girls huddled closer, their expressions somber, the pain of their loss evident.

"I'm deeply sorry," Reverend Martin said.

Samuel nodded curtly, the subject apparently closed.

"This is Josephine Randolph." The reverend indicated Josie with a nod. "God sent her to me. She cooks, takes care of the house, does my laundry—she even handled my bills and mail while I was laid up."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, ma'am."

It was inappropriate that she should notice his well-defined cheekbones or his recently shaved, firm, square chin, but she had. Even his deep, rich voice arrested her attention. But his eyes…she'd never seen so much suffering in a person's eyes, and the sight carved a confusing ache inside her chest.

Samuel turned his gaze to look pointedly at his daughters.

One at a time, they said, "Pleased to meet you."

Glad for the distraction, she said, "You've arrived just in time for dinner. I trust you're hungry. Would you like to help me make biscuits?"

" I would," Abigail said with a bright smile.

Watching his daughters' hesitation and discomfort pained Sam. He hoped the pretty young woman's friendly welcome made this day a trifle easier than the rest. The past weeks had been grueling, both physically and emotionally. "All of you will help Mrs. Randolph," he called after them.

Over her shoulder, Anna cast him a wide-eyed glance, her expression so much like his late wife's that it made his breath hitch in his chest.

Reverend Martin indicated the settee. "Have a seat."




If you would like to win a copy of The Preacher's Wife, please leave a comment AND your email address so I can notify you if you win.

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36 Comments:

Blogger CherylStJohn said...

The blog looks awesome, Louise! Thanks for posting about my June release.

May 27, 2009 3:41 PM  
Blogger Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Cheryl. Nice to see you hanging around with Louise. Good company. :)

Don't pick me for the drawing. I'll get my copy when I see you.

May 31, 2009 3:28 PM  
Blogger Missy Tippens said...

What a wonderful excerpt! I'm hooked already!! :)

June 1, 2009 8:58 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

The book sounds very interesting and I would love a chance to win it. Please enter me in the drawing.

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

June 1, 2009 9:05 AM  
Blogger Karen Witemeyer said...

I'm always on the lookout for a good historical, and this one looks like a perfect match for me. Please enter me in the drawing.

~Karen Witemeyer
kwitemeyer(at)hotmail(dot)com

June 1, 2009 9:48 AM  
Blogger Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I missed out on this blog tour on my blog, and I'd love to win a free copy of the book.

Lena Nelson Dooley

June 1, 2009 9:53 AM  
Blogger CherylStJohn said...

Definitely GREAT company! Thanks so much to Louise for posting about my book and even reading it for a review.

I am blessed!

This is my first LIH and I'm still discovering new and awesome places to talk about books, so thanks to all.

June 1, 2009 10:10 AM  
Blogger Carly Kendall said...

This really sounds like a great book. I have only recently been introduced to the Steeple Hill books, and I love them. I would love to win a copy of this book. Thank you.
carlyberd[at]yahoo[dot]com

June 1, 2009 10:54 AM  
Blogger Edwina said...

I loved the excerpt, so I'm sure I will enjoy the entire book! Please enter me in the drawing!

Edwina

edwina.cowgill@yahoo.com

June 1, 2009 11:18 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

That looks like a great story! I'd love to be entered.

jessica_nelson7590 (at) yahoo (dot) com

June 1, 2009 11:22 AM  
Blogger Carmen7351 said...

The heart-breaking death of his wife, a marriage to Josie, a heart shut down. Josie has her hands full in reaching down into his heart and reawaken him. Great story. Please enter me in the contest. Thank you.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

June 1, 2009 12:04 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

I would love to win this book, thank you for giving me a chance.
May God bless


mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

June 1, 2009 1:44 PM  
Blogger James, Stephanie & Kayley said...

Thanks for posting an excerpt! Now I am all worried about what is going to happen... Can't wait to read it!
Maybe I'll win? If not, I'll have to run out and buy it ASAP.
Thanks!
Stephanie

fannyloo@msn.com

June 1, 2009 3:12 PM  
Blogger Barbara Phinney said...

It sounds like a very touching story. I'd love to win a copy.
Barbara Phinney
barbarap@eastlink.ca

June 1, 2009 3:45 PM  
Blogger sherrinda said...

Being a preacher's wife, I love the title of your book! I read the excerpt and would love a chance at winning a copy of it!
sherrinda(at)gmail(dot)com

June 1, 2009 8:36 PM  
Blogger Mickey said...

The book is wonderful and once you start it you will not be able to put it down. I had so many feelings from reading it.
I don't need to be in the drawing I have the book and read it and I am telling all my friends to run out and get it.
Cheryl is such a special person

June 1, 2009 8:59 PM  
Blogger Pam Hillman said...

Okay, the buckskin and fringe reeled me in! lol

phillman(at)netdoor(dot)com

June 1, 2009 10:58 PM  
Blogger CherylStJohn said...

Wow, what an impressive turnout!

Thanks for telling everyone about my book, Mickey!

June 1, 2009 11:31 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Cheryl,

Ooohh! I love the new story. I want more! I just love historical romance.
weisser4@gmail.com

June 2, 2009 9:36 PM  
Blogger Elaine said...

You have a nice blog. I found it by reading Milton Dykes' blog. I'd love to have the story you featured. elaines44@juno.com

June 5, 2009 10:24 AM  
Blogger The Short Family said...

I love it! I would love to be entered to win. I am Kelly and my email address is theshortfam@gmail.com!

June 6, 2009 5:51 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

As a Pastor's wife I would love to read "the rest of the story." Your first chapter has me hooked.

June 6, 2009 10:37 PM  
Blogger peachykath said...

This sounds like a wonderful book and I would like to be entered in the drawing for this book.
Thanks
Katherine

peachykath79[at]yahoo[dot]com

June 9, 2009 3:19 PM  
Blogger Carolynn W. said...

This book sounds wonderful, I would love to read it! Thanks for the chance to win!
carolynnwald[at]hotmail[dot]com

June 13, 2009 6:29 PM  
Blogger peachykath said...

This book sounds really interesting. Please enter me in the drawing for this book.
Thanks
Katherine

peachykath79[at]yahoo[dot]com

June 18, 2009 3:20 PM  
Blogger Debra E Marvin said...

Cheryl's beginning really pulled me in. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks Louise

Debra
debraemarvin@yahoo.com

June 18, 2009 3:22 PM  
Blogger writes said...

I can hardly wait to read it! Thanks for the opportunity to be added to the drawing.
Sheila Covey
want_adventure_write@yahoo.com

June 18, 2009 6:36 PM  
Blogger CherylStJohn said...

I'm encouraged by all the feedback - and I'm working on Sam's daughter Elisabeth's story right now!

June 18, 2009 10:49 PM  
Blogger Ramona Cecil said...

Wonderful blog, Louise! Chapter one of The Preacher's Wife has me hooked, Cheryl. Please enter my name in the drawing for a chance to win a copy.

June 18, 2009 11:58 PM  
Blogger Martha A. said...

It sounds so good! I want to read it now!
martha(at)lclink(dot)com

June 19, 2009 2:02 AM  
Blogger Susanne Dietze said...

I'm hooked! This story sounds wonderful, and as a pastor's wife, I am drawn in just by the title! Please enter me in the drawing.

Thank you!

Susanne Dietze
srdietze@sbcglobal.net

June 19, 2009 12:05 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

I'd love to read this! Thanks, Louise! sdmcnear AT gmail DOT com

June 19, 2009 10:14 PM  
Blogger Write Pathway said...

Being a preacher's wife makes be want to read this book.

Ann

June 20, 2009 2:05 AM  
Blogger Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I would really love to win this book.

June 21, 2009 7:06 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

This post has been removed by the author.

July 3, 2009 9:16 PM  
Blogger A J Hawke said...

The Preacher's Wife, I'm ready to read the rest of it!
Enter me in the drawing.

A J
ajhawke[at]ajhawke[.]com

July 16, 2009 12:38 AM  

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