FIRSTWildCard: Call of the Prairie
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!
VickiMcDonoughHS2 Short Bio & Author Website: Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 30 works and a founder of the Christian Fiction Historical Society (www.christianfictionhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com). Book 1 in her Pioneer Promises series, Whispers on the Prairie, was chosen by Romantic Times as a top “recommended read” last summer. A member of ACFW, Vickie served as treasurer for three years and treasurer for her local chapter. She and her husband, Robert, live in Oklahoma and have four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter. When she isn’t writing, Vickie enjoys reading, shopping for antiques, watching movies, and traveling. The final book in her Pioneer Promises series, Song of the Prairie, releases the summer of 2014.
Visit the author’s website.
In her 22 years, Sophie Davenport’s overprotective parents have taken every possible measure to keep her from exacerbating her asthma—she feels like a prisoner in her own house with her activities limited to reading and needlework. Yet Sophie longs for adventure and love, so when an aunt living in Windmill, Kansas, falls ill, she volunteers to travel from St. Louis to help out. Sophie’s new role brings her into contact with two children boarding at her aunt’s home, along with their handsome uncle, Josh Harper. Josh has worked for his family’s stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail for most of his life, but he’s far more bookish than his brawny brothers. It’s his book smarts that recently landed him a job in Windmill managing his uncle’s bank. Josh also looks after his niece and nephew who are living in Windmill to attend school. Josh loves spending time with them, but yearns for a family of his own.
List Price: $12.99
Series: Pioneer Promises (Book 2)
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Davenport held back the curtain and peered out the front window, her heart
jolting as a handsome man exited the carriage. He paid the driver, then turned
and studied her house. He was taller and nicer looking than she’d expected. She
dropped the curtain and stepped back, hoping he hadn’t seen her spying. She
pressed her hands together and tapped her index fingers against her lips,
unable to hold back her grin. Blake had finally arrived!
knock of confidence, not apprehension, sounded at the main entrance. Sophie
hurried to her bedroom door, which opened onto the main entryway, then held her
breath and listened. Blake stood on her porch, introducing himself to the
butler. Sophie could barely hold back her giddiness. She bounced on her toes as
Blake told the butler he had an appointment with her. His voice, deeper than
she’d imagined, floated through the open transom window above her like a
beautiful cello solo at the symphony.
patted her hair, hoping the humidity of the warm day hadn’t sent it spiraling
in rebellious curls. The swish of silk accompanied her as she hurried across
the room to the full-length oval mirror that stood in one corner. Pressing a
hand over her chest to calm her pounding heart, she surveyed her deep purple
gown. Was the fabric too dark? She’d chosen the violet silk taffeta because her
brightly colored day dresses made her appear younger, but today, she wanted to
look the twenty-two-year-old woman she was. Turning sideways, she checked her
bustle and bow, making sure they were straight. Everything was as orderly as it
could be. Would Blake like what he saw? Would he think her too short? Her light
brown hair too nondescript?
a piece of lint off her bodice, she turned and faced the door. She would know
soon enough. After more than a year of correspondence, Blake knew everything
about her, and he had adamantly insisted that none of it mattered. He’d fallen
in love with her through her enchanting missives, and he wanted her for his
vicious knock rattled the glass in the transom, and Sophie jumped. The
apprehension racing through her was less about meeting Blake and more about the
fact that she hadn’t told her parents about him. They would have cut off her
correspondence faster than their gardener could lop off the head of a snake.
But it was too late now. She attempted to swallow the lump lodged in her
throat, but it refused to move.
mother walked in, her whole face pinched like a prune, and quickly closed the
door. She stood there facing it for a long moment, her head down, then heaved a
loud, exaggerated sigh.
a good sign.
her mother turned. “You have a guest, Sophia—a male guest.” One eyebrow lifted.
“Would you care to explain to me how you are acquainted with this man,
especially since neither your father nor I have ever met him?”
pressed a hand to her throat. She knew this wouldn’t be easy. “His name is
Blake Sheppard. He and I have been corresponding for over a year.”
mother’s brown eyes widened. “A year? But how? I’ve never seen a letter from
him in the mail.”
her head, Sophie stilled her hands and held them in front of her. “Ruthie sent
and received them for me. Blake is her cousin—and a gentleman.”
gentleman doesn’t go behind the backs of a young woman’s parents to contact
her.” Maintaining her stiff stance, her mother puckered her lips. “So, you’ve
been deceiving your father and me?”
Sophie turned toward the front window. “Would you have allowed me to correspond
with Blake if I’d told you about him?”
ladies don’t exchange letters with men they’ve never been introduced to, and
certainly not without parental approval.”
a steadying breath, Sophie turned to face her mother. She’d known this would be
a battle. “Mother, please. Blake is a good man. Ask me anything about him.”
no need. We will go out to the parlor, share a cup of tea, and then you’ll make
excuses that will send him on his way. Is that clear?”
gasped. “But he’s traveled so far, and I’ve waited so long to meet him.” She
despised the pleading in her voice. Why couldn’t her parents let her grow up
like her sister? A wheeze squeaked out of her throat. She had to stay calm. The
last thing she wanted was to have an attack in front of Blake.
mother moved closer, her expression softening. She took Sophie’s hand. “You
know how things are, dear. You had no business getting that young man’s hopes
young man is my fiancé, Mother.”
that’s absurd! You know you can’t lead a normal life.”
her eyes, Sophie fought back tears. Why did her parents seek to limit her?
Given the chance, she was certain she could be a proper wife and mother, but
her parents just wanted to coddle her and keep her close. “You have to face the
fact that I’m grown up. I want to live a normal life.” She hurried past her
mother and reached for the door handle.
you are not normal, dear. Your father and I only want to protect you. We
couldn’t bear to lose you, and you know we’ve come close to doing that very
thing on several occasions.”
shuddered at the declaration. Her mother’s words rang in her ears: You are not normal. Yes, she had a
breathing problem; but, as she’d gotten older, the spells had happened less
often. Maybe in time, they’d go away altogether. Her parents were afraid to let
her live as her sister did. If she didn’t get away from them, she’d become a
spinster—if she wasn’t one already. She stiffened her back and pasted on a
smile, trying to ignore the pain of her mother’s chastisement. Blake was
opened the door and stepped into the entryway, her gaze searching for the man
she’d dreamed about so many times. Blake stood in front of the parlor sofa,
speaking with her father. He hadn’t noticed her yet.
sorry you’ve wasted your time traveling all this way, Mr. Sheppard,” her father
said. “But, as I’ve already stated, my daughter is not in the habit of
receiving male visitors.”
eyebrows drew together, his shoulders slumping, as he looked down at the
carpet. Sophie blew out several breaths and tried to calm herself, then hurried
through the entryway into the parlor, avoiding her father’s glare. Her gaze
latched onto Blake’s, and she saw the confusion in his hazel eyes. He offered a
tentative smile. “Miss Davenport, a pleasure to finally meet you.”
smiled, her cheeks warming, as she curtsied. “I’ve looked forward to this
moment for a very long time.” She waved a hand toward her father, and noticed
that her mother had followed her into the room. “I apologize, but I failed to
tell my parents about your arrival.” Because
I knew just how they would respond. “I fear they are both a bit surprised.”
An understatement of mammoth proportions, if ever there was one.
gathered her courage and turned to her father. “I see you’ve met Blake,
Father.” Her throat tightened at his stern stare. Another wheeze squeaked out.
“B-Blake is my fiancé.”
father’s eyes widened, and his mouth dropped open. A pomegranate color climbed
up his neck, turning his ears red. He turned his fiery gaze on Blake. “You
presume a lot, young man. Did Sophie not inform you that she is not fully well?
She is not in a position to accept an offer of marriage.”
cleared his throat and straightened, as if he wasn’t ready to give up the
battle. “Yes, sir, she told me, but I thought—” His gaze captured Sophie’s, and
then he glanced at the floor again. He shuffled his feet, as if he were trying
to figure out a new dance step. “I thought Sophie—uh, Miss Davenport—was free
to make her own decisions, sir. I’m sorry that she failed to inform you of my
interest in her.”
me?” Her father puffed up like a tom turkey whose hens were in danger. “A
daughter doesn’t ‘inform’ a father that she is planning to marry a stranger. A
decent fellow seeks permission before
approaching a man’s daughter.”
swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “I’m sorry, sir.”
if an angry fist clutched Sophie’s throat, she felt it closing. She expelled a
wheeze, and Blake shot a glance in her direction. Her father’s tirade blended
with the words her mother had uttered, causing an ache within her so painful,
she didn’t know if she could bear it. She was losing Blake, and they’d only
just met. Was she doomed to live with her overprotective parents the rest of
fight for Blake. He was worth it.
opened her mouth to defend her fiancé, but the sound that came out more resembled
the bleat of an ailing goat than her own voice. Humiliation blistered her
took a step backward, away from her, his handsome face drawn in a scowl.
see, Mr. Sheppard, the slightest excitement can set off one of my daughter’s
attacks.” Father turned to Sophie’s mother. “Ring for some coffee, if you will.
It seems to help our Sophie’s spells.”
held out her hand to him. Instead of taking it, he cast another worried glanced
at her father. She sucked in another wheezy breath, struggling to stay clam in
the midst of such turmoil. The room tilted. Sophie closed her eyes until the
spinning stopped. All was silent for several long moments, except for her
her eyelids fluttered open, Blake met her gaze with an apology in his eyes. She
knew in that moment she’d lost him.
sighed. “Perhaps I have been too hasty. I sincerely apologize, Miss Davenport,
but I must withdraw my offer of marriage. I hope you and your parents can forgive
me for troubling you so.”
stung Sophie’s eyes. She held out her hand again, hoping—praying—he’d take hold
of it. “No, please—”
skirted around her as if she were a leper, nodded to her mother, then snatched
his hat off the hall tree and rushed out the door.
collapsed in the nearest chair and watched her dreams march down the sidewalk
and out of sight. Tears blurred her vision as all hope of a future with Blake
died. How could her parents be so cruel as to not even allow Blake to express
his interest in her? How could they embarrass her so?
father walked to her and leaned over. “Try to calm down, Sophia.”
jumped up so fast, her head almost rammed his chin. He stumbled backward. The
room swerved as she struggled for a decent breath. “How c-could you, Father?”
wave of guilt washed over his face. “It’s for your own good, you know.”
clutched the end table for support for a moment, then stumbled past him.
took her arm. “Here, let me help you, precious.”
Please.” She yanked away. “I can…take care of…myself. I’m a grown woman, and
you both need to f-face that fact.” She inhaled a decent breath and then
charged on, by pure willpower. “I’m twenty-two and not your little girl
anymore. Stop sheltering me…let me live my life. It’s mine to live, not yours
flash of pain in her father’s eyes only made her feel worse. Her shoes tapped
across the entryway as she hurried back to her room—the former library, where
her parents had relegated her, as if she were a pariah. She shut the door and
collapsed on her bed, wanting to cry but knowing that doing so would only make
breathing harder. She slammed her fist against her pillow. “Why, God? Why can’t
my parents let me grow up?”
had such hopes. Thought that when her parents met Blake, they’d see what a
quality man he was. But they hadn’t even given him a chance. Could she have
been mistaken about him? She smacked the bed, a futile outlet for her
frustrations and disappointments. Blake hadn’t bothered to fight for her one
bit; he’d fled out the door the first chance he’d gotten. She’d tried to
prepare him—to warn him about her episodes—but she must have failed.
barked a cough that sounded like a seal she’d once seen at the menagerie in New
York City’s Central Park. Sophie pushed up into a sitting position, in order to
breathe better. Blinking, she attempted to force away her tears, but new ones
came like the spring rains that flooded the banks of the Mississippi River. Why
had God cursed her with this hateful condition?
door opened, and her mother entered, carrying a tray. Coffee. She despised the
foul-tasting stuff, but it was thought to be helpful to people with asthma, as
were garlic, whiskey, and a number of other nasty-tasting concoctions.
are you, dear?”
slid back down on the bed and turned to face the wall. She didn’t want to
be that way. You need to drink this coffee.”
shook her head.
over, Sophia.” Her mother’s tone left no room for refusal.
obeyed but didn’t look at her mother. Instead, she started counting the thin,
blue lines in the wallpaper—all nine hundred sixteen of them—as she’d done a
thousand other times. Focusing on the task would keep her from weeping and from
lashing out in anger.
mother blew out a loud breath, then held out the coffee cup. “Drink this.”
shook her head. “Doesn’t help.” She sucked in a breath, thankful that this
episode was a mild one and already beginning to pass, in spite of the day’s
mother set the cup back on the tray with a loud clatter and stared across the
room. “Whatever made you do such a thing? Don’t you know that young man must
have spent hard-earned money to come here? Taken time away from his job,
assuming he has one? You gave him false hopes, Sophia, and now he’s wasted a
year of his life pursuing a woman he can never have.”
clenched her eyes shut, losing count of the lines. Did her mother not care that
her heart was breaking?
nibbled its way into her mind like a mouse in a sack of grain. She hadn’t
thought how things would affect Blake if they turned sour. She’d been so
certain everything would work out in their favor. So certain that she could
persuade her parents to let them marry, that she hadn’t considered the negative
side. But her mother was right about one thing. Blake had taken leave from his
job as bookkeeper for a shoe factory in Chicago so that he could travel to St.
Louis to meet her. He had wasted his time and money to come here.
it was all her fault.
sucked in a sob.
mother patted her shoulder. “There, there. Things will work out.”
her father would go back to running his company. Her mother would attend her
social clubs and church functions. Her sister would continue as a happily married
wife and soon-to-be mother, while Sophie would continue her boring existence as
a lonely spinster living in her parents’ home.
bed lifted on one side as her mother stood and quietly left the room. After the
door closed, Sophie sat up and stared out the window, at the very place she’d
first seen Blake. She hated feeling sorry for herself, and she normally didn’t,
but today, her emotions were raw.
rose from the bed and crossed the room to her desk, where her Bible lay. She
picked it up and hugged it to her chest as she gazed out at the garden. Bright
yellow butterflies flitted from flower to flower. A big bumblebee disappeared
in a clump of pink azaleas. The beauty of God’s creation never failed to cheer
her, even on the saddest of days.
blew out a loud sigh. “Forgive me, Lord, if I’ve been selfish.” She hugged the
Bible tighter. “But please, Father, make a way for me to break free from my
parents. To prove to them—and to myself—that I can stand on my own. That I can
take care of myself. And please, Lord, if it be Your will, send me a man
someday who will love me for the woman I am and overlook my…flaws.”
pooled in her eyes, and her throat tightened. “But if it is Your will for me to
remain in my parents’ home and to never marry, help me to accept that and to be
that was the Lord’s will, He certainly had a monumental task ahead.