Thursday, 30 August 2012

High Desert Haven

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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Lynnette Bonner via CreateSpace (DATE)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***


The daughter of missionaries, Lynnette was born and raised in Malawi, Africa. After graduating high school from Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya, she attended Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington where she met her husband, Marty. They married in 1992 and moved to Pierce, Idaho a few years later.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.

Visit the author's website.


Is Jason Jordan really who he says he is?
Everything in Nicki's life depends on the answer.

Oregon Territory, 1887

When her husband dies in a mysterious riding accident, Nicki Trent is left with a toddler and a rundown ranch. Determined to bring her ranch back from the brink of death, Nicki hires handsome Jason Jordan to help. But when William, her neighbor, starts pressing for her hand in marriage, the bank calls in a loan she didn't even know about, bullets start flying, and a burlap dummy with a knife in its chest shows up on her doorstep, Nicki wonders if this ranch is worth all the trouble.

To make matters worse, terrible things keep happening to her neighbors. When her friend's homestead is burned to the ground and William lays the blame at Jason's feet, Nicki wonders how well she knows her new hand - and her own heart.

A desperate need. Malicious adversaries. Enticing love.
Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.77

Paperback: 334 pages

Publisher: Lynnette Bonner via CreateSpace

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1477586482

ISBN-13: 9781477586488




Desert Haven

Copyright © 2012 by Lynnette Bonner. All rights

Cover design by Lynnette Bonner, images ©,
File: # 9303865 Cute Bride.,
File: Bringing in the Herd, Jeanne Provost #2658808.,
File: Old Map of the US Pacific Northwest #5998922.
created with Photoshop Swirls by Obsidian Dawn,

Author photo © Emily Hinderman, EMH Photography

Scripture taken from the New King James
Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All
rights reserved.


Desert Haven
a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments,
organizations, or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity
and are used fictitiously. All other characters, incidents, and dialogue are
drawn from the author’s imagination.

in the U.S.A.




 A truer example of walking in God’s
Grace and Mercy would be hard to find.






 I love you all and am so glad I can call
you family twice—once through our own blood, and once through Christ’s.



again, I owe much thanks to my English-teacher mother. I can honestly say I
wouldn’t be here, writing this sentence, if it wasn’t for her encouragement
along my writing journey.

Lesley, my crit-partner-extraordinaire,
thanks for all your input. I’m so thankful God brought you into my life. I
truly appreciate you (even when I’m grumbling through a rewrite).

Psalm 23



The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

 He restores my soul;

 He leads me in the paths of
righteousness For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no

For You are with me;

 Your rod and Your staff, they comfort

 You prepare a table before me in the
presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow
me All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.




 July 1883

s Dominique Noel Vasquez
methodically scrubbed clothes in the tub of soapy water, she listened to the
quiet, strained tones of her parents who sat against the shady side of the
afternoon sun shone on the hard-packed, earth yard of the small adobe hut. Heat
waves, radiating from every sun-baked surface, turned the landscape into a
shimmering sepia blur. Dead brown land lay in every direction; the only hint of
green life was the small scraggly plot of corn that would hopefully feed the
family for the year to come. Even the wheat struggling to grow added to the
dull brown vista. A solitary chicken, scratching for a meager meal, sent small
puffs of dust filtering across the yard and a lonely cow, the children’s only
source of milk, rested her head on top of her split-rail fence and let out a
low bellow.
this heat everyone should have been down for a siesta, but on this day only the smallest children of the household
were resting. Tension rode the heat waves.
plunged harder and glared at the clothes. The creditors had come again this
morning. Last year Papa had been forced to borrow money for seed, and now for
the second season in a row the rains had failed them. There were no crops; they
were down to their last chicken; the one cow’s milk was needed by the children;
and the creditors were howling for their money like a pack of hungry wolves hot
on the scent of lame prey.
tossed an angry glance at the sky. “Lord, where are You when we need You?”
Sweat trickled down her temple and she rubbed it roughly across one shoulder as
she shook out a little skirt with more vigor than necessary and tossed it
across the line. Gentle conviction washed over her. She was throwing a bigger
temper tantrum than two-year-old Coreena did when Papa told her “No.”
anger eased. “Forgive me, Lord. You alone know and care about our plight. But
if there were anything I could do to help Mama and Papa, You know I would do
it.” She paused in her prayer, thinking, then continued, “What is there to do,
Lord? Show me what I can do to help.”
called across the yard, interrupting her prayer. “Nicki, you work too hard.
Sit! Rest! We will finish the washing when it is cooler.”
done, Mama. Then I will rest.”
girl!” Mama turned to Papa but the rest of her words were drowned in a dry, hot
smiled. Mama often castigated her for working too hard, but with twelve children,
nine of whom were still at home to feed and clothe, Mama needed and appreciated
all the help she could get.
reigned for a time. The only sounds filling the afternoon air were the soft
swish, plunge, and gurgle of Nicki’s washing and the giggling of her two
younger sisters splashing each other with cool water by the well. Nicki gave
the last small shirt a snap and deftly flipped it onto the line where the
laundry was drying. Dumping the soapy water in front of the door, which helped
keep the dust down, Nicki hung the wooden bucket on its nail and moved to
carefully empty the contents of the rinse bucket on the one small rosebush at
the corner of the hut.
please!” Juanita Vasquez called from the shadow of the house to Rosa and Juna,
who were getting a little wild and loud with their splashing game. “I have just
gotten Manuel to sleep. Quiet!”
sent the girls into another gale of giggles. Their mother’s voice had been
twice as loud as theirs. But when Papa tipped his sombrero back and glared at
his two wayward offspring, the giggles ceased immediately.
shook her head fondly at her sisters’ wayward ways and sank to the ground next
to Mama, suppressing a groan of satisfaction as she leaned back against the
cool adobe wall. She was tired. All morning she had helped Papa haul water from
the well to carefully water their acre of wheat and corn. A large enough plot
to hopefully get them through another year. Later they would repeat the
process, because watering with buckets did not soak the ground like a good rain
would, and the crops needed plenty of water if they were to produce well.
closed her eyes, trying to ignore Mama and Papa’s furtive conversation.
chicken, Carlos?”
the chicken will not bring in enough to get us through one day, much less pay
the money we owe.”
You are right, of course, and it has stopped laying, so we don’t even have the
eggs from it anymore.” Mama sighed. “Ahhh, maybe we should have chicken
tonight, sí?”
sighed at Mama’s little joke. “We could sell the cow.”
she is the only milk for the children. I would like to keep her if we could.”
tears pressed the back of Nicki’s eyes, and she leaned back against the wall.
What were they to do? Papa would be taken to jail if he didn’t come up with the
money by next week, and then they would all die for sure. The creditors would
take their meager crops to recoup as much of their money as they could. They
wouldn’t care that they’d be leaving a woman and her nine children to starve to
death. Where was Juan when they needed him? Were he here, he’d think of some
way to make the money they so desperately needed.
slight breeze rustled the dried grasses, and Nicki pulled her skirt up around
her knees, not caring that Mama would chastise her for such an unladylike
action. The small breath of fresh air was worth it. Reaching up, she brushed at
the long wisps of black hair that had escaped her braid and rubbed the
perspiration from her upper lip. She wanted a drink of water but felt almost
too tired to get up and get it. Eventually the thought of the cold water won
out. She shifted forward. Mama and Papa could surely use a drink as well.
“Child, you don’t sit still for even a minute! What are you heading to do now?”
drink, Mama,” Nicki said lovingly. “Would you like one as well?” She pushed
herself up from the wall.
voice turned tender. “What would I do without you, child?”
chuckled. She was hardly the child her mother kept insisting she was. At seventeen
she more than carried her weight, but Mama didn’t like to see her children grow
up. Nicki remembered Mama calling Roberto “my little man” on the day of his
wedding! Those had been happier times, Nicki thought as she walked to the well.
The rains had been good in those years, and debt had not hung over the little
adobe hut and its occupants.
Nicki cranked the lever that would pull the bucket up from the depths of the
well, she scanned the horizon and stiffened. “Papa.” Her tone held a soft
warning. Someone was coming on the trail.
rose and stood by her side. Nicki pulled the bucket toward her, filling the
dipper with cool water. If the creditors had come to take her papa away, he
would go having just drunk his fill from the chilled water of his own well. She
handed the dipper to her father. He drank, never taking his eyes off the rider
heading their way, then handed the dipper back. Nicki filled it and moved
toward her mother, who still sat in the shade, tears filling her eyes.
said not until next week.” Mama’s words stabbed a knife of pain through Nicki’s
heart. Whatever happened, Nicki knew Mama would die a slow death once Papa was
taken. Not from starvation, but because the love of her life would be gone.
determination filled Nicki as she marched with the empty dipper back toward the
well. Tossing back a gulp of water, she wiped the droplets from her chin and
pivoted to glare at the man coming into the yard.
froze. He was not the man who worked for the bank.
The man tipped back his dusty, black hat and smiled down at Carlos. The smile
didn’t quite reach his eyes. His gaze flicked past Papa and came to rest on
Nicki. Considerable interest flamed in their depths. He nodded to her, the
smile now reaching his eyes, and touched the brim of his hat in a one-fingered
salute. “Ma’am.” He ignored Papa and spoke directly to her. “I was thinking how
nice a cool drink of water would be. I’d sure be appreciating it if I could
light a spell.”
stepped between Nicki and the newcomer, effectively blocking his view. “Draw
fresh water, Dominique.” He stretched his hand toward the man, indicating he
could dismount. “Welcome.”
Nicki could hear an edge in his voice. This man could mean trouble.
He nodded and swung from his saddle. The man was tall, had graying hair, steely
blue eyes, and a wad of chewing tobacco stuffed in his cheek. He stretched his
hand toward Carlos as Nicki pulled up a fresh bucket. “Name’s John Trent.”
took his hand. “Carlos Vasquez.”
Trent studied her over the dipper as he drank his fill. Nicki averted her eyes
but held the bucket for his next dipperful. She had received more than her
share of such looks and knew what he was thinking. For although this man would
say nothing to her in front of her father, the men down at the cantina showed
no such qualms whenever Mama found it necessary to send her there. The thought
of their suggestive remarks burned a blush across her cheeks. John Trent lifted
the dipper again and raised his eyebrows in amusement.
made small talk about the long hot spell as Nicki pulled buckets of water from
the well for the man’s horse, but Nicki didn’t miss the looks John Trent kept
throwing her way.
he mounted up to ride out, Mama, still seated in the shade, gave an audible
sigh. Nicki couldn’t deny she felt plenty relieved as well.
as he arrived at the crest of the trail, the man paused, and Nicki stiffened.
John Trent rubbed a hand across his face and said something to himself, then
swung his horse once again toward their adobe. His eyes raked her more boldly
this time as he pulled to a stop in their sun-baked yard.
his arms casually on the horn of his saddle, he spat a stream of tobacco into
the dust, turned toward Papa, and brazenly asked, “How much for the girl?”
and Mama gasped in unison.
bucket in Nicki’s hands crashed to the ground, splashing water over her feet.
Quickly she bent and picked it up. She spun on her heel and marched toward the
well to return the bucket to its hook. The
spoke with authority. “The señorita is
not for sale.”
Trent’s eyes scanned the small house and the scraggly field beyond, then
traveled pointedly to seven of Nicki’s brothers and sisters who had gathered in
a little clump to watch the goings-on. Then he stared into Papa’s face before
spitting another stream of brown sludge. “I think everything’s for sale as long
as the price is right.”
daughter is not for sale, Señor. I have to ask you to leave us now.”
him, Trent reached into the pocket of his vest and pulled out a coin. He tossed
it to the ground near Papa’s feet.
            A twenty dollar gold piece! Nicki had
not seen Mama move, but the audible click of a cocking shotgun cracked into the
afternoon stillness. All eyes turned toward the door of the house to see her
there, the gun aimed squarely at John Trent’s chest.
eyes dropped to the money on the ground. That little piece of gold could save
Papa’s life. It would get him out of debt and even give them enough to start
over somewhere. Remembering her earlier prayer, she started to step forward.
Papa beat her to it. Picking up the offensive gold, he threw it toward John
Trent as if it were too hot to touch. “She is not for sale!”
deftly caught the coin, pulled two more pieces just like it from his pocket,
and tossed all three on the ground. “I want that girl. Now I am trying to go
about this in a civilized manner, but if I have to, I will take her by force.”
He sat up straight and casually rested a hand on his thigh near his gun.
felt dizzy from the sheer shock of this proposition. Her eyes flashed from
Mama, bravely holding an unloaded gun on the man insulting her daughter, to
Papa, stooping to pick up the offensive coins, to the hand of John Trent
inching toward his holster. She surprised even herself by what happened next.
wait!” She stepped forward. Sixty
“I will go with him.” Her hands trembled as she smoothed the
material of her skirt.
NO!” Mama screamed.
por favor! The money! You will be
free from all this trouble! I will be all right. God, He will go with me, sí?”
don’t do this.” Papa’s words were thick with restrained emotion. “We will work
something out with the bank. You take too much on yourself for one so young.”
Nicki wrapped her arms around his neck. “You are the one who taught me to be
strong, ? Take care of Mama and
make Rosa help her now.” Nicki pulled back, gazing deeply into his dark eyes,
so much like her own, and rested a hand on his stubbly cheek. “She would have
died without you, Papa.”
spun toward her mother, throwing herself into her arms, before the threatening
tears could overflow. “Mama, te amo!” The
choked words were all she could squeeze past her constricting throat. Would she
ever see her beloved mama again?
hugged her brothers and sisters in turn, giving them each a piece of advice on
how to be helpful to Mama and Papa, drying their tears with her skirt and
promising she would see them again someday. Going into the house, she ran her
fingers across the baby-soft cheek of little Manuel, the only member of the
household still sleeping through all the commotion.
then, head held high, she walked out into the searing sun and allowed herself
to be pulled up onto the horse behind John Trent’s saddle.
Mama ran toward her, carrying the family Bible. She pressed it into Nicki’s
hands, making the sign of the cross and blessing her daughter one more time, as
she had done every day since her birth.
didn’t let her family see her cry, but as she rode away from the only home she
had ever known, part of her felt like it died. She allowed herself the small
luxury of quiet tears.
rode north for several days. Nicki was thankful that John Trent seemed to be a
kind man. A justice of the peace married them in his dusty office in a small,
one-street town that Nicki didn’t even know the name of. By evening, they were
moving north again.
had been traveling for more than two weeks, making mostly dry camps at night,
when Nicki heard her husband utter an oath of awe. It was mid-afternoon and
Nicki, her forehead pressed into John’s back, was almost asleep when she heard
his exclamation. Lifting her head, she blinked into the sunlight, almost unable
to believe the sight before her.
lush valley stretched before them. A small creek meandered through its center,
merging with the Deschutes River at one end. The Deschutes was normally
inaccessible due to its steep canyon walls, but here the descent to the river
was simply a long, smooth slope. Here and there a cluster of evergreen trees
could be seen, but the verdant meadow was what had drawn John’s eye.
was like a vivid oasis dropped in the middle of the high-desert sagebrush they
had been traveling through for the last week. The swaying grass was belly high
to a good-sized horse.
that moment, Nicki knew she was looking at her new home. The valley was a
rancher’s paradise, and John had talked of nothing else since their journey
began. He wanted to become a rancher. A rich rancher. And this was where he
would make his start.
made camp early, and Nicki sighed in satisfaction as she waded into the creek
for her first bath in a week. She rolled her head from side to side, rubbing
her neck, working out the kinks of knotted muscle.
waded in as well, and she stiffened as he slid his arms around her waist from
behind, pressing a kiss to her neck.
sensing her tension, he sighed. “I’m gonna make you a good husband. You’ll see,
Dominique. We’re gonna have one fine spread across this valley. One day you’ll
wake up and realize what a good life we’ve had, and you’ll no longer regret the
day you first met me.”
bit her lower lip, hoping he was right. She didn’t think she’d be able to live
with this dreadful despair all her life. She closed her eyes, missing Mama and
the family. Willing herself not to cry, she stepped out of his arms and turned
to give him a tentative smile, but her heart did not lighten.
found the soddy later that evening. There was also a run-down barn, a partially
erected bunkhouse, and a corral all clustered on the lee side of a knoll just
tall enough for the soddy. But the spread had long since been abandoned. The
windowless house was dark, and when they lit John’s lantern, Nicki saw the
spiders scurrying to escape the light. She shivered and went in search of some
brush to use as a broom. Soon the room was cobweb-free, and they made a bed on
the floor for the night.
was still dark the next morning when she heard John saddling the horse. She
roused herself and set about making coffee. He only took the time for one cup
before he rode out with a terse, “I’ll be back soon as I can.”
was gone for two weeks. When he came back, he informed her they would be


Oregon, in the Willamette Valley
 January 1887

he tepid January sun
struggled to warm the day, but this winter had been one of the Northwest’s
worst in a number of years. The temperatures barely reached the teens.
the knock on the door, Brooke Jordan rose from scrubbing the kitchen floor and
dried her hands on a towel. Pressing a hand to her aching lower back and
resting one hand protectively on her rounded belly, she moved to see who it
do you suppose would be knocking on our door at this time of day?” she asked
the unborn child.
had become her practice to talk to the baby during the day to ease the
loneliness of Sky’s absence. Since they had moved back to Sky’s childhood home
from the Idaho territory where they had met, Sky had gone to work as a deputy
sheriff for his father and was gone most of the day. She missed him terribly
but couldn’t bring herself to tell him, knowing how much he loved his new job,
even though it kept him away from home for hours at a time.
the door wide, Brooke gasped. “Jason!” She pulled the blond man, almost the
spitting image of her husband, into her cumbersome embrace. “Come in! Sky and I
were just talking about you last night, wondering where you might have gotten
smiled as his eyes dropped to her midsection. “I see I’ve missed some news of
my own while I’ve been gone.”
grin broadened. “This isn’t the only news you’ve missed. Just let me send the
neighbor boy to call Sky, and I’ll be right in. Make yourself at home.”
waved him inside and headed for the house next door.
entered the little house, noting the bucket on the kitchen floor and the line
delineating the clean side from the dirty. Hanging his black Stetson on the
back of a chair, he bent down and took over where Brooke had left off.
Jason,” Brooke said as she came back into the house, “get up off that floor and
sit down!”
grinned at her. “Not on your life. You just plant yourself in that chair right
there,” he pointed toward the dining table, “and start filling me in on all the
news I’ve missed.”
sank into the indicated chair. “First I want to know all about what you’ve been
doing. My, you’ve lost a lot of weight.”
hated the heat he felt wash his face. “Most of my weight was due to the fact I
drank too much. Now that I’ve given that up, I can’t seem to keep the pounds
smiled tenderly. “We are so proud of you, Jason.”
nodded but did not look up. His life had changed because of his relationship
with the Lord, not because he was so great a person. There was no reason for
Brooke to be proud of him, but knowing she hadn’t really meant the words
exactly as they sounded, he kept this thought to himself.
tell me what you’ve been up to,” she prodded.
not much. I’ve punched a few cows here and there, but I thought it was time I
came home to see how all the family was doing. I’ve really missed Marquis,” he
said of his sister. “I would have stopped by there first, but your house was on
the way, so I wanted to stop and say hello.”
we’re all doing fine. As you can see—”
front door opened. “Jason!” Sky strode in. “Where’ve you been? Brooke and I
were talking about you last night.”
and Brooke exchanged amused glances.
Jason extended his wet, soapy hand, but Sky pulled him into a manly embrace.
Then the cousins stepped back and eyed one another.
are things?” Sky asked.
Jason grinned. It was good to be home.
mean with your relationship with the Lord,” said Sky.
grinned at Brooke again. “He sure knows how to get to the point, doesn’t he?”
smiled in response, but her eyes held the same question.
swallowed and fiddled with the scrub brush. “I’m doing good, Sky. I’ve had my
struggles, especially giving up the bottle, but I haven’t given in so far. God
has given me the strength I needed every time.”
God! We haven’t given up praying for you even for a minute.”
The one word could never express his deep gratitude. He tapped the scrub brush
against his palm. “Brooke told me I’ve missed a bunch of news.”
sat next to his wife and took her hand. “Have you ever.”
bent to continue scrubbing the floor, curiosity filling him. “Well?” he asked,
see. First, you can see Brooke is expecting. We’ll have an addition to the
family sometime around the end of this spring.”
sooner than later,” Brooke said, reaching one hand to her lower back.
continued, “Then there is Sharyah. She’s finished her schooling and plans to
find a teaching position for this fall.”
rocked back on the balls of his feet, letting the scrub brush hang between his
knees. “Sharyah. Wow, I seem to only remember her as the little pig-tailed
beauty who drove all the boys at the church picnics crazy ’cause she only had
eyes for Cade Bennett.”
smirked. “Well, she still drives all the boys crazy, but I don’t know about her
having eyes for Cade Bennett anymore. He’s been seeing a lot of Jenny
honey!” Brooke voiced exasperation. Turning back to Jason, she rolled her eyes.
“Men are so blind! Of course she’s still in love with Cade, but he doesn’t have
a brain in his head where Sharyah is concerned. If he had a thimbleful of
wisdom, he would have snapped her up a long time ago!” She emphasized her point
with a snap of her fingers.
chuckled. “As you can see, Brooke and my family don’t get along very well.”
a mock frown, Jason agreed, “Yes, I can see that.”
went on. “Rocky is still a deputy in town. He, Dad, and I keep the town running
criminal-free.” A twinkle leapt into his eyes. “And I guess that’s about all
that’s new.”
Brooke spun, wide-eyed and incredulous, in Sky’s direction, Jason surmised that
Sky had been teasing her and the largest piece of news would be forthcoming. He
swiped his cheek against his shoulder and returned his concentration to the
last section of the kitchen floor. Someday,
Lord, if You’re willing, I’d like to have someone to love that way
giving Sky a friendly punch, Brooke said to Jason, “Your cousin is deliberately
withholding information from you, but maybe we shouldn’t ruin her surprise.
You’d better go visit Marquis right away, though. She’d be terribly
disappointed if you heard the news from anyone else.”
she all right?” Jason asked, tension crawling through his chest. “She’s fine,”
Sky assured.
shoulders relaxed, but a niggling worry still clung to the back of his mind.
“Maybe I’ll mosey on over that way.” He stood and picked up the scrub water.
“Can I empty this for you somewhere, Brooke?”
to one side out the back door is fine.” Brooke waved him through the kitchen.
he made his way back to the front of the house, Jason grabbed his hat, trying
not to let his worry over his sister’s news show on his face. He’d always been
a little overprotective of her, since a childhood illness had robbed her of her
sight. He had been gone for several years when he headed to the Idaho territory
to exact revenge on a man that he blamed for their mother’s death. But he’d
known that, since Marquis was living with his grandmother, she was in good
hands. Since his return to the Lord, finding work had forced him away from his
family, but he had faithfully sent Marquis money every month. Now he wondered
what news Marquis could have that she wouldn’t have told him in her last
head on over to Gram’s, then. It’s good to see you both…and congratulations.”
embraced him once more. “Thank you for stopping by. On Sunday everyone is
getting together at our place for lunch, so come on by and join us.”
do that.” Jason settled his Stetson and headed down the street to Gram’s house,
which sat on the edge of the snow-bound little town.


The Prineville bank was
stuffy and hot. The teller had obviously forgotten to turn down the damper on
the wood stove. The heat had felt nice to William Harpster for a few minutes
after coming in from the single-digit temperature outside. Now, sitting across
from the banker, Tom Roland, he frowned.
his desk, Tom mopped his sweaty brow and tossed an occasional irritated glance
at the teller.
paid no attention to the teller. His eyes were fixed solely on the short,
paunchy, balding Roland seated across from him. “I told you it would take some
been over two years!” The words were forceful but voiced low so as not to reach
the ears of the clerk. “The Association is going to be running us off if we don’t come up on the good
side of this deal. We guaranteed them we’d have the small-timers gone by next
month. You said you could get the job done!”
eyes narrowed. “Do you think I don’t know that? You’re the one who said he was
the perfect man for our plan! It’s not my fault he’s welching on his end.” His
voice became a little too loud and drew a look from the curious teller.
at that moment a patron entered the building, taking the man’s interest off
their conversation. When it was once again safe to resume, Tom’s pale blue eyes
flashed. “Keep it down, would you? This is not my fault. First,” the banker
held up one short finger, “his wife isn’t nearly as timid and withdrawn as you
said. She’s made friends with over half the country, for goodness’ sake!
Second, he’s no longer willing to go along with our plan. And now…” A third finger
joined the first two. “You’re telling me you think he might have a herd of
horses back in those hills that could pay off his loan?”
rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know. Things just don’t add up. He’s been
making his payments?”
on time, every time.”
sighed. There was only one way to ensure their plan would work. “We know what
the Association thinks. But how badly do you want your share of that land?”
Tom Roland
dabbed at his glistening pate with a handkerchief. Then, leaning back, he lit a
cigar and blew a ring of smoke in William’s direction. He wanted that land. The
original owner had given up on ranching and moved back to Chicago, leaving the
land up for sale. Tom had been tempted to buy the land himself, but then John
Trent had walked into his bank. The only reason Tom had loaned John the money
was that he was almost assured the gambler wouldn’t be able to come up with his
payments. Then the land would revert to the bank, where Tom could discreetly
snap it up at a lower price. That and the fact The Stockman’s Association had
needed a scapegoat for their dirty work. But then John had developed a
conscience. And, on top of that, he hadn’t missed one payment.
ran his handkerchief across the back of his neck. Five thousand acres of the
finest range land in central Oregon, and half of it was to be his. Well, maybe
more than half, but he was careful to keep that thought off his face. Yes. He
wanted that land very much. But a couple of things bothered him. “What about
his wife?”
smiled sardonically. “Let me worry about the little woman. Once John is out of
the way, she’ll give up. There’s no way she’ll be able to make a go of it.
They’ve only got two hands.”
Stockman’s Association will break loose with all the fury of Hades if this
doesn’t pan out,” Tom warned. “They were plenty upset that I let him buy that
land in the first place. And if things don’t work out for me, you know they
certainly aren’t going to work out for you, right?”
couldn’t be clearer. Have I ever let you down before?”
blew another ring. “No, William, you haven’t. But let’s make sure this isn’t
the first.”
gaze hardened. “Tom, this better be the last time you need my services. A man’s
patience can only be stretched so far.”
do your job, William. Do your job and let the future take care of itself.”
men glared at each other across the desk. Tom didn’t want to be the first to
look away. Finally William conceded the battle.
looked down at his desk, pulling in a deep drag on his cigar. “Now, back to the
job at hand. I think we both know there is only one way to solve this little
two men’s eyes locked. A silent understanding passed between them.
stood, straightened his cowhide vest with a tug, and placed his hat carefully
on his head. He shook Tom’s fleshy hand and said loud enough for the teller to
hear, “Thanks. You won’t regret making me this loan, Mr. Roland.”
that, he moved toward the door, stepping out into the cold. He took a cleansing
breath of the refreshing air, then headed toward the livery, his boots thudding
loudly on the boardwalk. He had a job to do back home. And maybe, just maybe,
if he played his cards right, by the end of the year he’d be owner of some of
the finest range land in Oregon, not to mention the husband of one beautiful,
desirable Mrs. Dominique Trent. A smile lifted the corners of his mouth at the
thought. Yes, indeed, now that was a dream worth chasing.




High Desert Haven is the 2nd book in this series, The Shepherd's Heart, so I wondered if I would be lost... I am happy to say, I wasn't!

This is the first time I've read author Lynette Bonner and WOW! She is AMAZING and I enjoyed this book and all the characters soo much!!

Nikki is incredible! Her Faith unshakable, and her love for her family is so deep! She gives of herself to help her family, and does so with such a willing heart! Leaving her home and family in California, Nikki begins her new life in Oregon. When her husband dies, Nikki must face her uncertain future.

High Desert Haven is so inspiring! It has it all ~ Love, Romance, Heartbreak, Mystery!
I HIGHLY recommend this series, "The Shepherds Heart"

Book 1 is titled, "Rocky Mountain Oasis"

Heart of a Bookworm gives High Desert Haven....

5 BIG ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥'s!

House of Mercy

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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson (August 7, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Erin Healy is an award-winning fiction editor who has worked with talented novelists such as James Scott Bell, Melody Carlson, Colleen Coble, Brandilyn Collins, Traci DePree, L. B. Graham, Rene Gutteridge, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Robin Lee Hatcher, Denise Hildreth, Denise Hunter, Randy Ingermanson, Jane Kirkpatrick, Bryan Litfin, Frank Peretti, Lisa Samson, Randy Singer, Robert Whitlow, and many others.

She began working with Ted Dekker in 2002 and edited twelve of his heart-pounding stories before their collaboration on Kiss, the first novel to seat her on "the other side of the desk."

Erin is the owner of WordWright Editorial Services, a consulting firm specializing in fiction book development. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Academy of Christian Editors. She lives with her family in Colorado.

Visit the author's website.


Beth has a gift of healing-which is why she wants to become a vet and help her family run their fifth-generation cattle ranch. Her father's dream of helping men in trouble and giving them a second chance is her dream too. But it only takes one foolish decision for Beth to destroy it all.

Beth scrambles to redeem her mistake, pleading with God for help, even as a mystery complicates her life. But the repercussions grow more unbearable-a lawsuit, a death, a divided family, and the looming loss of everything she cares about. Beth's only hope is to find the grandfather she never knew and beg for his help. Confused, grieving, but determined to make amends, she embarks on a horseback journey across the mountains, guided by a wild, unpredictable wolf who may or may not be real.

Set in the stunningly rugged terrain of Southern Colorado, House of Mercy follows Beth through the valley of the shadow of death into the unfathomable miracles of God's goodness and mercy.

Genre: Christian Fiction | Suspense

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 284 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Language: English

ISBN-10: 140168551X

ISBN-13: 9781401685515


Chapter 1
It wasn’t every day that an old saddle could improve a
horse’s life.
That was what Beth Borzoi was thinking as she stood in the
dusty tack room that smelled like her favorite pair of leather boots. In the
back corner where the splintering-wood walls met, she tugged the faded leather
saddle off the bottommost rung of the heavy-duty rack, where it had sat, unused
and forgotten, for years.
Her little brother, Danny, would have said she was stealing
the saddle. He might have called her a kleptomaniac. That was too strong a
word, but Danny was fifteen and liked to throw bold words around, cocky-like,
show-off rodeo ropes aimed at snagging people. She loved that about him. It was
a cute phase. Even so, she had formed a mental argument against the characterization
of her- self as a thief, in case she needed to use it, because Danny was too
young to understand the true meaning of even stronger words like sacrifice or
situational ethics.
After all, she was working in secret, in the hidden folds of
a summer night, so that both she and the saddle could leave the Blazing B
unnoticed. In the wrong light, it might look like a theft.
The truth was, it was not her saddle to give away. It was
Jacob’s saddle, though in the fifteen years Jacob had lived at the ranch, she had
never seen him use it. The bigger truth was that this saddle abandoned to
tarnish and sawdust could be put to better use. The fenders were plated with
silver, pure metal that could be melted down and converted into money to save a
horse from suffering. Decorative silver bordered the round skirt and framed the
rear housing. The precious metal had been hammered to conform to the gentle
rise of the cantle in the back and the swell in the front. The lovely round
conchos were studded with turquoise. Hand-tooled impressions of wild mountain f
lowers covered the leather everywhere that silver didn’t.
In its day, it must have been a fine show saddle. And if
Jacob valued that at all, he wouldn’t have stored it like this.
Under the naked-bulb beams of the tack room, Beth’s body
cast a shadow over the pretty piece as she hefted it. She blew the dirt and
dander off the horn, swiped off the cracked seat with the flat of her hand,
then turned away her head and sneezed. Colorado’s dry climate had not been kind
to the leather.
She wasn’t stealing. She was saving an animal’s life.
The latch on the barn door released Beth to the midnight air
with a click like a stolen kiss. The saddle weighed about thirty-five pounds,
which was easy to manage when snatching it off a rack and tossing it onto a
horse’s back. But it would feel much heavier by the time she reached her
destination. She’d parked her truck a ways off where the rumbling old clunker
wouldn’t raise questions or family members sleeping in the nearby ranch house.
She’d left her dog at the foot of Danny’s bed with clear orders to stay. She
hoped the animal would mind.
Energized, she crossed the horses’ yard. A few of them
nickered greetings at her, including Hastings, who nuzzled her empty pockets
for treats. The horses never slept in the barn’s stalls unless they were sick.
Even in winter they stayed in the pasture, preferring the outdoor lean-to
The Blazing B, a 6,500-acre working cattle ranch, lay to the
northwest of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The region was called a valley because
this portion of the state was a Rocky Mountain ham- mock that swung between the
San Juans to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east. But at more than
seven thousand feet, it was no low-lying flatland. It was, in fact, the highest
alpine valley in the world. And it was the only place in the world that Beth
ever wanted to live. Having graduated from the local community college with
honors and saved enough additional money for her continuing education, she
planned to leave in the fall to begin her first year of veterinary school. She
would be gone as long as it took to earn her license, but her long-term plan
was to return as a more valuable person. Her skills would save the family
thousands of dollars every year, freeing up funds for their most important
task—providing a home and a hard day’s work to discarded men who needed the
peace the Blazing B had to offer.
On this late May night, a light breeze stirred the alfalfa
growing in the pasturelands while the cattle grazed miles away. The herds
always spent their summers on public lands in the mountains while their winter
feed grew in the valley. They were watched over by a pool rider, a hired man
who was a bit like a cow’s version of a shepherd. He stayed with them through
the summer and would bring them home in the fall.
With the winter calving and spring branding a distant
memory, the streams and irrigation wells amply supplied by good mountain
runoff, and the healthy alfalfa fields thickening with a June cutting in mind,
the mood at the Blazing B was peaceful.
When Beth was a quarter mile beyond the barn, a bobbing
light drew her attention to the west side of the pasture, where ancient cottonwood
trees formed a barrier against seasonal winds and snows. She paused, her eyes
searching the darkness beyond this path that she could walk blindfolded. The
light rippled over cottonwood trunks, casting shadows that were
indistinguishable from the real thing.
A man was muttering in a low voice, jabbing his light around
as if it were a stick. She couldn’t make out his words. Then the yellow beam
stilled low to the ground, and she heard a metallic thrust, the scraping ring
of a shovel’s blade being jammed into the dirt.
Beth worried. It had to be Wally, but what was he doing out
at this hour, and at this place? The bunkhouse was two miles away, and the men
had curfews, not to mention strict rules about their access to horses and
She left the path and approached the trees without a
misstep. The moonlight was enough to guide her over the uneven terrain.
The cutting of the shovel ceased. “Who wants to know?” “It’s
“Beth who?”
“Beth Borzoi. Abel’s daughter. I’m the one who rides
Hastings.” “Well, sure! Right, right. Beth. I’m sorry you have to keep telling
me. You’re awfully nice about it.”
The light that Wally had set on the ground rose and pointed
itself at her, as if to confirm her claims, then dropped to the saddle resting
against her thighs. Wally had been at the ranch for three years, since a stroke
left his body unaffected but struck his brain with a short-term memory
disorder. It was called anterograde amnesia, a forgetfulness of experiences but
not skills. He could work hard but couldn’t hold a job because he was always
forgetting where and when he was supposed to show up. Here at the ranch he
didn’t have to worry about those details. He had psychologists and strategies
to guide him through his days, a community of brothers who reminded him of
everything he really needed to know. Well, most things. He had been on more
than one occasion the butt of hurtful pranks orchestrated by the men who shared
the bunkhouse with him. It was both a curse and a blessing that he was able to
forget such incidents so easily.
Beth was the only Beth at the Blazing B, and the only female
resident besides her mother, but these facts regularly eluded Wally. He never
forgot her father, though, and he knew the names of all the horses, so this was
how Beth had learned to keep putting herself back into the context of his life.
“You’re working hard,” she said. “You know it’s after
eleven.” “Looking for my lockbox. I saw him take it. I followed him here just
an hour ago, but now it’s gone.”
Sometimes it was money that had gone missing. Sometimes it
was a glove or a photograph, or a piece of cake from her mother’s dinner table
that was already in his belly. All the schedules and organizational systems in
the world were not enough to help Wally with this bizarre side effect of his
disorder: whenever a piece of his mind went missing, he would search for it by
digging. Dr. Roy Davis, Wally’s psychiatrist, had curtailed much of Wally’s
compulsive need to overturn the earth by having him perform many of the Blazing
B’s endless irrigation tasks. Even so, the ten square miles of ranch were
riddled with the chinks of Wally’s efforts to find what he had lost.
“That must be really frustrating,” she said. “I hate it when
I lose my stuff.”
“I didn’t lose it. A gray wolf ran off with it. I had it
safe in a secret spot, and he dug it up and carried off the box in his teeth.
Hauled it all the way up here and reburied it. Now tell me, what’s a wolf gonna
do with my legal tender? Buy himself a turkey leg down at the supermarket?”
Wally must have kept a little cash in his box. She could
under- stand his frustration. But this claim stirred up disquiet at the back of
her mind. Dr. Roy would need to know if Wally was seeing things. First off,
gray wolves were hardly ever spotted in Colorado. They’d been run out of the
state before World War II by poachers and hos- tile ranchers, and their return
in recent years was little more than a rumor. Wally might have seen a coyote.
But for another thing, no wild animal dug up a man’s buried treasure and
relocated it. Except maybe a raccoon.
A raccoon trying to run off with a heavy lockbox might actually
be entertaining.
“Tell you what, Wally. If he’s buried it here we’ll have a
better chance of finding it in the morning. When the sun comes up, I’ll help
you. But they’ll be missing you at the bunkhouse about now. Let me take you
back so no one gets upset when they see you’re gone.” Jacob or Dr. Roy would do
bunk checks at midnight.
“Upset? No one can be as upset as I am right now.” He thrust
the shovel into the soft dirt at his feet. “I saw the dog do it. I tracked him
all the way here, like he thought I wouldn’t see him under this full moon. Fool
dog—but who’d believe me? It’s like a freaky fairy tale, isn’t it? Well, I’d
have put that box in a local vault if I didn’t have to keep so many stinkin’
Web addresses and passwords and account numbers and security questions at my
fingertips.” He withdrew a small notebook from his hip pocket and waved the
pages around. It was one of the things he used to keep track of details. “Maybe
I’ll have to rethink that.”
Beth’s hands had become sweaty and a little cramped under
the saddle’s weight. She used her right knee to balance the saddle and fix her
grip. The soft leather suddenly felt like heavy gold bricks out of someone
else’s bank vault.
“Well, let’s go,” she said. “I’ve got my truck right on down
the lane.”
“What do you have there?” Wally returned the notebook to his
pocket, hefted the shovel, and picked his way out of the under- brush, finding
his way by flashlight.
“An old saddle. It’s been in the tack room for years.” She
expected Wally to forget the saddle just as quickly as he would for- get this
night’s adventure and her promise to help him dig in the morning.
He lifted one of the fenders and stroked the silver with his
thumb. “Pretty thing. Probably worth something. Not as much as that box is
worth to me, though.”
“We’ll find it,” Beth said.
“You bet we will.” Wally fell into step beside her. “Thanks
for the ride back, Beth. You’re a good girl. You got your daddy in you.”
With Jacob’s old saddle resting on a blanket in the bed of
her rusty white pickup, Beth followed an access road from the horse pasture by
her own home down into the heart of the Blazing B.
The property’s second ranch house was located more strategically
to the cattle operation, and so it was known to all as the Hub. The Hub was a
practical bachelor pad. Outside, the branding pens and calving sheds and
squeeze chutes and cattle trucks filled up a dusty clearing around the house.
Inside, the carpets and old leather furniture, even when clean, smelled like
men who believed that a hard day’s work followed by a dead sleep—in any
location—was far more gratifying than a hot shower. The house was steeped in
the scent stains of sweat and hay, horses and manure, tanned leather and
barbecue smoke. The men who slept here lived like the bachelors they were. If
their daily labors weren’t enough to impress a woman, the cowboys couldn’t be
bothered with her.
Dr. Roy Davis, known affectionately by all as Dr. Roy, was a
lifelong friend of Beth’s father. Years ago, after the death of Roy’s wife,
Abel and Roy merged their professional passions of ranching and psychiatry and
expanded the Blazing B’s purpose. It became an outreach to functional but
wounded men like Wally who needed a home and a job. Dr. Roy brought his teenage
son, Jacob, along. Now thirty-one, Jacob had never found reason to leave,
except for the years he’d spent away at college earning multiple degrees in agriculture
and animal management. Jacob had been the Blazing B’s general operations
manager for more than five years.
Jacob and his father shared the Hub with Pastor Eric, who
was a divorced minister, and Emory, a therapist who was once a gang leader.
These men were the Borzois’ four full-time employees.
The other men who lived at the Blazing B were called “associates.”
They occupied the bunkhouse, some for a few weeks and some for years. At
present there were six, including Wally.
When Beth stopped her truck in front of the Hub’s porch,
Wally slipped off the seat of her cab, closed the rusty door, and went directly
around back to the bunkhouse. She pulled away and had reached the end of the
drive when a rut jarred the truck and rattled the shovel he’d left in the truck
In spite of her hurry to take Jacob’s saddle to the people
who needed it, she put the truck in park, jumped out, and jogged the tool up to
the house. The porch light lit the squeaky wood steps, and she took them two at
a time. Jacob would see the tool in the morning when he came out to start up
his own truck and head out to what- ever project was on the schedule. She’d
phone him to make sure.
She was tipping the handle into the corner where the porch
rail met the siding when the Hub’s front door opened and Jacob leaned out.
“Past your bedtime, isn’t it?”  he said,
but he was smiling at
her. Over the years they had settled into a comfortable
big-brother- little-sister relationship, though Beth had never fully outgrown
her adolescent crush on him.
“Found Wally digging up by the barn,” she said.
Surprise pulled his dark brows together. “Now? Where is he?”
“Back in bed, I guess. He said he followed a wolf up to our place. You might
want Dr. Roy to look into that. Your dad should know if Wally’s . . . seeing
Jacob nodded as he stepped out the door and leaned against
the house. He crossed his arms. “Coyote maybe?”
“Try suggesting that to him. And when was the last time we
had a coyote down here? It’s been ages—not since Danny gave up his chicken
“I’ll mention that to Dad. It’s probably nothing. What had
you out at the barn at this hour? Horses okay?”
“Fine.” Beth’s eyes swiveled down to her truck, to Jacob’s
saddle, both well beyond reach of the porch light. She tried to recall all her
justifications for taking the saddle, but in that moment all she could think
was that she should get his permission to do it. She’d known this man more than
half her life. He was kind. He was wise. He’d say yes. He’d want her to take
But she said, “I’m headed out to the Kandinskys’ place.
They’ve got a horse who injured his eye, and it’s pretty bad. They let it go
too long, you know, hoping it would correct itself, maybe wouldn’t need a big
vet bill.”
“The Kandinskys have their own vet on the premises. Who
called you out?”
“It’s not one of their horses, actually. It’s Phil’s.
Remember him?” “Your friend from high school?”
“He’s been working there a year or so. They let him keep the
horse on the property. One of the perks.”
“But he can’t use their vet?”
Beth looked at her feet. “Phil’s family can’t afford their
vet. You know how that goes. We couldn’t afford him. His family doesn’t even
have pets, you know. They run a grocery store. The horse is his little sister’s
project. A 4H thing.”
“Well, tell Phil I said he called the right gal for the
“I don’t know, Jacob. It sounds really bad. These eye
things— the horse might need surgery.”
She found it unusually difficult to look at him, though she
was sure he was studying her with a suspicious stare by now. But she couldn’t
look at the truck either. Her eyes couldn’t find an object to rest on.
“All you can do is all you can do, Beth. That’ll be as true
after you’re licensed as it is now.”
“But I want to do miracles,” she said.
He chuckled at that, though she hadn’t been joking. “Don’t
we all.” He uncrossed his arms and put his hand on the doorknob, preparing to
go back inside. “I heard some big-shot Thoroughbred breeder is boarding some of
his studs there,” Jacob said. “Some friend of theirs passing through.”
“I heard that too.”
“Maybe that’ll be Phil’s miracle this time—an unexpected
guest, someone with the right know-how or the right resources who will come to
his horse’s rescue.”
“Angels unaware,” Beth said. “Something like that. Night,
Beth didn’t want him to go just yet. “Night.”
She lingered at the door while it closed, hoping he might
intuit what she didn’t have the courage to say.
When he didn’t, she committed to her original plan. She
descended the steps in a quiet rush, wanting to whisk the saddle away before he
could object to what he didn’t know. She wanted to be the one who did the good
works, who made the incredible rescue. She couldn’t help herself. It was her
father’s blood running through her heart.
On the driveway, her smooth-soled boots skimmed the dirt,
whispering back to her truck.
“It’s not your right to do it,” Jacob said. Beth gasped and
whirled at the sound of his voice, unexpected and loud and straight into her
ear, as if he’d been standing on her shoulder. “It’s not your gift to give.”
But the ranch house door was shut tight under the cone of
the porch light, and the bright window revealed nothing inside but heavy
furniture and cluttered tabletops. At the back of the house, a different door
closed heavily. Jacob was headed out to the bunk- house to check on Wally
Beth let her captured breath leave her lungs. She looked
around for an explanation, because she didn’t want to accept that the words
might have been uttered by a guilty conscience.
At the base of the porch steps, crouching in such darkness
that its black center sank into its surroundings, was the form of an unusually
large dog. Erect ears, broad head, slender body. A wolf. She had passed that
spot so closely seconds ago that she could have reached out and stroked its
She took one step backward. Of course, her mind was dreaming
this up because Wally had suggested a wolf to her. If he hadn’t, she might have
said the silhouette had the outline of a snowman. An inverted snowman guarding
the house from her lies. In May.
Beth stared at it for several seconds, oddly unable to
recall the landscape where she’d spent her entire life. She was distressed not
to be able to say from this distance and angle whether that was a shrub planted
there, or a fence post, or an old piece of equipment that hadn’t made it back
into the supply shed. When the shape of its edges seemed to shift and shudder without
actually moving at all, she decided that her eyes were being tricked by the
Convincing herself of this was almost as easy as justifying
her saddle theft.
She turned away from the house and hurried onward, looking back
only once.


Mercy is defined in many ways:

compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.
the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing: an adversary wholly without mercy.
the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty.
an act of kindness, compassion, or favor: She has performed countless small mercies for her friends and neighbors.
something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing: It was just a mercy we had our seat belts on when it happened.

Erin Healy's "House of Mercy" is a great read! Filled with Suspense, and the up and downs in the life of Bethesda Borzios. Beth faces many trials and as she embarks on the journey to "Fix" things, she begins learning many of life's lessons and the true meaning of Mercy.

Healy does an excellent job as she takes the reader on the quest of good and evil, as well as the gift of healing and miracles. I really enjoyed "house of mercy" and am sooo hoping for a sequel!

Happy Reading!